Eye of the Storm: Alchemy
First of all, my everlasting gratitude to SerendipityAEY, who tackled the monumental task of beta-ing this story. Please do yourself a favor and take a look at her incredible writing.
This was originally written as one of the epilogues, but it didn't really fit with the others, so I decided to push it to the front of the story. The next chapter will technically be the beginning of Alchemy, and will contain more information, author's notes, disclaimers, etc. For now, I hope that you enjoy this little "teaser." :P
I will say that I plan on bi-weekly updates for this fic, so be on the lookout every Monday and Friday from now until...
The song lyrics are from Nickel Creek's, "Sabra Girl."
Please leave a review if you are so inclined. Thank you.
"Lonely the life that once I led.
Strange the paths on which we tread;
Led me to you, unlikely but true.
Sabra girl, clouding my view."
While the Jedi Knight, Jonas Ki, waited for his shuttle to land at the Temple on Coruscant, he considered the future of his daughter.
Even from within the padded interior of the ship, the hiss of extending hydraulics was loud, and for a few moments Kalinda stirred in his arms, her face squinting up in a mewl that thankfully didn't turn into anything more. Even so, Jonas peered down at her, reaching a tentative hand to stroke her cheek with his forefinger, calculating how long it had been since she'd last eaten, and trying not to let himself be overwhelmed by the press of sorrow that threatened to consume his whole heart
While the shuttle settled against the hangar, he brushed his daughter's mind with the Force and took solace in her bright presence, in the shining energy that she exuded which filtered through his dark thoughts and darker memories. He heard the pilot announce their arrival, then felt the rush of displaced air brush his cheek once the hatch opened, but even as he carefully gathered his pack and stepped off of the sleek shuttle, Jonas didn't really believe he wasn't on Mundali any longer.
No more birds, at least, he thought, his mouth twisting into a wry grin as he exited the empty hangar and made his way to the Temple's interior. I won't miss them.
It was better to try and dwell on mundane things, as he knew that his experience on the Outer-Rim world would affect him for the rest of his life. As if reminding him of the fact, Kali shifted in his arms and he sighed. "You're hungry, aren't you, little one?" She burbled a reply and he chuckled despite his bone-deep weariness. "I promise you'll get some dinner, soon."
"Breakfast, I should think." The familiar voice of his friend, Qui-Gon Jinn, made Jonas pause in his tracks. Glancing over his shoulder, he noted the large frame of his fellow Knight step away from the hangar's edges and cross the smooth floor to greet him. It only took Qui-Gon a few strides before he met Jonas, and for a moment the two of them stood in silence while they each regarded the bundle in the blond Jedi's arms. There was a gentle prodding of the Force against Jonas' awareness from his friend, as if the taller man was assessing his mental state before asking the questions that were certainly on his mind.
In response to all this, Jonas sighed. "I must get her some food, regardless of the time of day. We can speak afterward." He turned to make for the entrance to the hangar, gripping Kali just a little tighter as he did so.
"You're exhausted, Jonas," Qui-Gon replied, his voice quiet and filled with compassion. "You should take the child to the creche."
But the blond man only shook his head and continued his stride, hugging the bundle even closer to his chest and trying not to think of her mother, of Kamala. "Not now, Qui."
In his fashion, Qui-Gon said no more as they headed to Jonas' quarters. Once the door to his room slid shut behind them, Jonas all but sagged against the panel, as if the weight of the past year or so had finally settled upon his shoulders. I can't do this, he thought as Kali gurgled and began to squirm, hunger causing her to grow restless. I never should have let myself-
The sound of his daughter's wail cut off the thought and he looked down at his feet, wondering where he'd dropped his pack.
"Is this what you're looking for?" Qui-Gon was holding a bottle of the formula that Jonas had acquired from Master Altis. With a nod, Jonas took the bottle and offered it to his daughter, feeling the muscles in his back loosen as she quieted and began to eat. The next thing he knew, Qui-Gon was steering him towards the small couch in the center of his quarters, and soon he felt himself sinking into the padded cushions.
Jonas cast an apologetic look at his friend, who stood by, arms crossed behind his back in a non-confrontational manner, watching the Jedi and the infant with an unreadable look on his face. "You're growing a beard?"
This made Qui-Gon chuckle as he ran his fingers across the newly-grown hair on his chin. "I'm trying. Does it look bad?"
"It looks...dignified," Jonas replied, adjusting the bottle so Kali could get a better angle. "Very Jedi-masterly."
"I know," the blond Jedi replied, closing his eyes tight, just once, as if he could shut out the worry and sense of bitter regret. As if remorse would make any excuse for his actions. Kali continued to work at the bottle, her enthusiasm for the formula belying any earlier crankiness. After another moment, Qui-Gon took the seat next to him and leaned forward, elbows on his knees, emanating a mixture of curiosity and worried anticipation at the story that was about to unfold.
Another few minutes passed, then Jonas took a deep breath and recounted the sequence of events that had brought him to this point. It took him the better part of an hour, by the end of which Kali had fallen asleep in his arms. Once he'd finished, he shot a look at his friend, who'd listened without speaking, only asking for clarification on a few points. "Master Altis – Djinn, I suppose I should call him, now – helped a great deal. Once I managed to make contact with him, he picked us up and provided...her with the necessary care."
His face clouded and he was silent for a moment while his mind was cast back to Mundali. It will never leave me, he thought, closing his eyes once. Or perhaps I left a part of myself behind when she died.
There was a gentle noise from Qui-Gon which made Jonas lift his head in a single nod, then he continued speaking. "Since I knew nothing of infants, after Kali was born Djinn provided me with the items I'd need until we reached the Temple." His daughter shifted in her sleep and he touched her mind again, marveling at the kaleidoscope of light and colors that made up her presence in the Force, and wondered if it was so for all babies, or if his was special.
"And her mother is...gone?"
Kamala. Jonas felt his throat tighten at the memory of the dark-eyed woman who'd captivated him so completely in such a short span of time. Kali stirred and nestled her face into the blanket he'd wrapped her in, just a breath away from his own heart beneath his chest. Were we brought together to create her? I can think of no other reason for such a thing. Nodding, he reached a slender finger to stroke his daughter's forehead and found that he was able to smile despite his sorrow.
Qui-Gon was silent again. Though his eyes were on Kali, Jonas could feel that his friend's attention was far away, and for a moment he was relieved to have someone else nearby, someone who could – not take on his burden for him – but perhaps share it upon occasion. When Qui-Gon spoke, his voice was careful. "She's strong with the Force. You wish for her to be trained as a Jedi?"
"It's one of the few things her mother asked of me," Jonas replied, thinking of Kam's insistence. "But I won't..." He frowned and looked at his daughter again. "I can't let anyone else train her."
This made Qui-Gon's brow lift. "You know that the Council will never allow it, Jonas." His mouth quirked, then straightened. "I'm the one that's supposed to give them trouble, remember?"
Jonas smiled at this, but the expression widened when he caught a trace of his daughter's dreams through the Force. They were nebulous and strange, but they were beautiful. She will be beautiful, he thought as he grew lost again, looking at her. And strong. And brave. She will be a great Jedi, one day.
For now, though, she was a baby, and her peaceful sleep reminded him how tired he was. "Altis has...offered to provide a suitable back-story to explain her presence," he said at last, thinking over his conversations with the Jedi Master in the days following Kali's birth. "I will say that her mother died in childbirth, and I brought Kali here to be trained. It's the truth, from a certain point of view."
"And you will offer to train her?" It was a credit to his tact that Qui-Gon allowed no skepticism to seep into his words.
Tilting his head down, Jonas breathed in the new, soft scent of his daughter's skin, thinking that there was nothing else in the universe that he loved nearly as much as the fragile person in his arms. "I won't offer – yet. She's too young, anyway. But once she's old enough I'll take her as my Padawan." A memory made his throat tighten. "Kamala also asked me not to tell her about...what happened. She figured that Kali will have enough trouble in her life as a Jedi without knowing about Mundali."
Qui-Gon dipped his head; it was an acknowledgment of the truth of the statement as much as a sign of respect for the request that Jonas was going to honor. "It is a heavy burden for anyone to bear," he said, studying his friend. "Even a grown Jedi Knight."
"I have no other choice," Jonas replied, eyes still on his daughter as if nothing else existed. "And I won't tell her about our...connection." A flare of agitation rose from Qui-Gon at these words, which made Jonas meet his friend's gaze. "For as long as I can. She doesn't need...that, too."
"I wish it was easy to know what another person needs, but often it's not for us to say," Qui-Gon said, shifting on the couch to study the baby for a moment. He was quiet for a few minutes before he spoke again. "She is beautiful, Jonas."
In her sleep, Kali stirred in his arms and made a soft gurgle of sound that he hoped meant she was happy; in that moment, Jonas felt his heart swell again with love and that fierce, protective urge he'd never experienced until the first time he'd laid eyes on his daughter. One day, he thought as he watched her. One day you'll be an adult and a Jedi Knight, and have all of the trouble that comes with both of those things. But right now, you're just my little Kali.
"I know," the blond Jedi replied at last, his voice filled with awe as he continued to gaze at his child. "She's perfect."