So this morning my mother offered to do my hair since we both had to get up early and usually I can't be bothered to do anything fancy, and so I agreed and she put it in a pair of braids. And I remembered that I had this idea way back when that Sayn-Linn used to have long hair before the Clone Wars, she just cut it after Geonosis, and used to put it up in braids. And this was born.

When I thought about it back then, there was less agnstyness, but I like this better. A single braid is a very plain style; two is a very girly style. I knew for a fact just about everyone went through something of a baptism-by-fire with Geonosis, especially my dears, and I wanted to show that in a neat way. I needed a good beginning, and thought of the vases, and from there Sals took me in her own direction and let me tell her tale. I hope I did it justice.

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Many people fail to notice the comparisons between themselves and flower vases. They are the ones who go along through life fairly content, half-filled with water and a nice bouquet and sitting on the table or by a lonely bedside, bringing some amount of cheer to someone else, someone who just needs to know that they are loved enough for bouquets. Yes, the water can grow tepid, and the flowers will wilt; perhaps they will feel empty when those flowers are tossed aside and they are put away for a few days or weeks until the next arraignment comes along, but they are usually tucked safely into a cupboard and duly wiped down for comfort. Even when not in use, they are not completely disregarded and rarely tossed aside like a flimsi cup.

Then there is the other vase. The vase so delicately painted by a child's hand and given to a loving mother, one who never fails to make certain both the plants and their sustenance are fresh, and occupies a place of honor on a shelf up high, above the chaos and perils of domestic life, it seems a god among vases. Never being in a position where it is liable to shatter, the vase thinks highly of itself, even if the thought is not a conscious one—it knows that it will always be admired and loved and pointed at when guests parade through the dining room, and is convinced that such admiration and love must continue in exactly the same way which the vase has always known it to be.

But we must all grow up one day, and when that time comes—perhaps the child who first made it as a gift has moved out of the house, perhaps another baby has come and now is presenting his own vase to be treasured, perhaps it is simple circumstance—the vase is quite unready for the feeling of not having anything pressing from within for more than a few minutes. Certainly it does not expect to be shoved down among other purposeless pottery pieces and left to gather dust in a corner as years go by and it is not loved or even looked at with a fond eye once. It is enough to make a container want to cry in frustration and abandonment, and when finally removed it is a very bitter and slow-trusting piece indeed.

Sometimes, perhaps once out of every hundred or so cases, the vase in question will not be kept empty. Instead knickknacks and small toys will worm their way in; crumpled sheets of flimsi from a desperate late-night planning session will find themselves stuffed in there as if it is a rubbish bin, and are quickly joined by styluses and sweatbands, broken hardware, forgotten game pieces mingling with equally forgotten dreams, despair sneaking a ride on bits of useless medical prescriptions, anger jumping in with the wings of flying beer bottle glass. And slowly, the vase will fill up to the brim. If nothing is taken out, not a single jot of emotion or squick of an item, one day, everything swirling around inside will become too much to hold in, and the addition of, say, a single wire from a beloved cybernetic pet, will cause the bursting of the whole.

So the porcelain shatters then, shards flying.

And as it lies there, broken and scattered, all it can think of is how much it hurts to be torn apart, how inevitable the explosion was in the long run but if it could do it over it would've found some way of holding on until someday it was emptied because hurting like this and cutting into those who used to care so deeply was not worth relieving the desperate pressure building inside and nothing will ever be okay anymore since it is now useless and harmful and really it's better if they just sweep it up and dump it out.

But every now and then, after cuts are bandaged and shots are given and all the trash is declared trash and the useful things are declared useful and all that's left is to put the remains in their place, there is someone willing to help pick up the pieces and make it whole again.

Sayn-Linn Swiftwater couldn't help but think of this, flower vases and shattering, as she lay on her bed in tears.

It's actually something of a theme in traditional Sifleean stories, about a pot that was broken because there was too much pressure and it was getting old and no one had looked to see the cracks forming over the years; the idea of it being a young vase, with so much to live for and so little to stop it until the shattering, was entirely new symbolism out of darker and more recent novels she had spent the last month devouring. She couldn't get enough of Sifleean culture, even doing her hair in two typical braids besides the slip of hair required to symbolize her apprenticeship.

She was once painted with a crude flower and stuck on a table in a sort of flea market. She was made by a child and donated kindly to a craft fair where all proceeds went to help someone, somewhere. She was in row after row of untested pots that looked almost as young and childish as she did, and she had watched indifferently as others were sold. She didn't care too much, figuring life in a home couldn't be much different from life as a display with fake greenery stuck inside her opening.

And then she had been chosen, and bought, and taken home, and filled with water and flowers and set on a desk that had never known the cheer fresh flowers brought. It was just as well, for she did not know the joy of feeling something living within instead of the pale emptiness of false blossoms, or the wonders of knowing you had a place and were in that place and belonged to those around your place just as they belonged to you. Happiness and contented feelings were all she had then, with the desk underneath supporting her until she should pass to a table, for example, and be loved in a different way she couldn't yet imagine but that thrilled her all the same. The desk tried to teach her things, too, warning mildly that she had seen other vases treated less kindly than she was, and should something happen it shouldn't be a surprise. She hadn't listened, of course, until one day the desk was moved and she, without her support, tumbled from her place and fell hard on the floor.

The fall was what had already been dubbed by Master Yoda as the start of the "Clone Wars". The desk was her Master, naturally, who wasn't there beneath her anymore and suddenly she felt everything just leaking out until, if she were to be dropped again, she would make a frighteningly loud ringing sound instead of the thud that said "I am here, I am full, I must matter somehow."

To keep from feeling so empty she tried to fill herself up with work, with treating and helping all the injured men, all those in pain; maybe if she could take care of them she would feel full again, and that would be one problem solved. In a way she was indeed full—full of that pain, sorrow, anger, frustration, fear that had formerly occupied her patients, and she was near bursting with those agonies. But she held it in, because shattering would push away any who might want to like her, might want to take her home and give her someplace to rest again with another desk below her, a desk just blank enough to imagine that it was her old desk, and then she'd be alright.

That childish flower painting gave away her structural integrity, for she was sculpted by a child as well, and it was a miracle she had not come down with a crack instead of a thud. She did not break until she was well past what should have been her breaking point, and while she had then shouted at that nice medic (what was his name? Catch, no, Patch) from the transport (Lartie, had they called it?) whom she had hoped to befriend, no doubt scratching him more than was necessary, she had held the worst of the blast in until she got to her assigned quarters. (Already they had given her a room, how efficient.) There she screamed and railed and ranted and let out a burst of Force energy that needed some release, and found one in turning over both of the mattresses and bedspreads and swinging the duffel bags across the room, before collapsing on her bare bedsprings and wailing for some time.

When she had cried for a good ten minutes and thought about that stupid, naïve flower pot that had just splintered all over the room and in the hall and its cutesy drawing of a cheery daffodil that belied her and her utter foolishness, she got up and looked in the mirror at herself and those two smiling braids that always hung there. She had always liked the way they looked, how adorable they made her seem, the picture of youthful innocence, but right now they mocked and sickened her, reminding her of the whole pot she once had been and couldn't be and so desperately wished she still was, and suddenly she couldn't stand them anymore. So in one hand she grabbed her lightsaber while the other held those pigtail wannabes, and with one swoop she had loped them both off, leaving a short mess of blond hair that sizzled at the end, and Sayn-Linn swore to keep it that length forever as she sunk to the floor and cried some more, this time dragging herself away and curling up in a pitiful ball on top of one of the sheets, and sleeping.

Her intended roommate had wandered off for tea and contemplation and wouldn't return for some time. This fiasco, or rather, the more hairy bits of it, concluded around the thirty-six hour mark of her rescue from Geonosis, so the roommate didn't know what had happened when she returned. At this point it was around two in the morning, Coruscant Standard Time, and seeing as she had actually been up for more than two days straight the good doctor let her be the second she ran off. He didn't know much about women but guessed this was merely part of her coping method. He sure wouldn't mind screaming about everything that had happened in that short time, but it would be better for him to finish his rounds and then drown his troubles in angrily scrawling in patient files and then, if he was still upset, getting sleep himself and maybe going to shoot some if caf didn't finally calm his nerves when he got up. Some people would go to the shooting range immediately, and while he understood that urge he was a doctor on duty and other people's needs came first.

He didn't know how to put it, but he was very much someone who wanted to pick up the pieces of that sad little ruined pot. All she had to do was show him where they were.

When she had slept for several hours she found herself in an almost meditative state, drifting in and out of hallucinations and visions of the shining metal floor below her, thinking I wonder if this is what attachment is and little else. She was numb, couldn't feel any of her minor physical wounds or major emotional scarring, just the cool, thin sheets and the regular thrumming of the hyperspace engines sending shivers through the ship and making her head kind of bouncy. Now that she thought of her head she remembered other things to think of, like how suddenly it was that the rope connecting her to Master had been torn right out of her heart, and thinking of her heart reminded her to feel that sudden loss in the Force again, and as long as she was in the Force she might as well meditate for real, so she did.

The Force was still there. It was something of a shock; when that figurative "desk" had been removed it felt like the room and house had come crumbling down with her, but really the house was still here, just a bit different. And she was still here, too, just a lot different; but that was a part of growing up, she supposed, and it wasn't really that bad just yet, in the later aftermath. She could be someone else for awhile, if it turned out to be herself.

Slowly the Padawan got to her feet, and took another good look in the mirror, this time with the strength of the galaxy at her back if she needed it. Her head looked funny without so much hair, and all disheveled and ugly now that it was uneven and burned. She frowned at herself and decided to change it.

It took her some time to find the scissors in her duffel. It did not take her very long to start setting herself to rights, in more ways than one. After all, it wasn't a good idea to cut hair without washing it, so she went into the refresher off of the small room and took a shower until she'd washed away all of the blood and dirt and sweat she'd acquired in the last fifty-five hours. As long as she was clean, it would be nice to wear something clean, and since pulling on clothes tugged on her scabs and broken ribs she checked those and changed bandages first. Then she turned to her hair, clipping it closer, measuring its length carefully, making sure it wasn't a complete mess, and when she was done and had brushed it she looked again at the glass and tried to figure out who she was now.

The person staring back at her still looked tired and weary, but a more dignified weary than the I'm-a-complete-wreck weary she had been not so long ago. She looked smarter, and self-reliant, and far more sensible than she had ever been.

It was an older look, yes, but not so old as to lose all sense of youth. She was twenty-two, soon to be twenty-three, anyway—the little braids had to go. Carefully the green-eyed girl tilted her head and decided that she could grow into her look, after all, and the woman in the mirror was someone worth becoming. She nodded as if sealing a deal, and said quietly, "Alright."

Then as she walked away from the glass and set the room to rights as well, she recalled the end of the more traditional pot story. It was read like this, in a kind and Aesop-y voice: "The pot had been so useful and so well-loved that its shards were picked up and mixed into the clay for a new pot, a stronger one. A pot that lasted even longer than its parent, because it was made of bits that had been sturdy enough to stick together even when it broke." Yes, she had shattered; yes, she was made of sterner stuff, and so she supposed she'd last longer now, since she'd already pulled out what was strongest in her before. She just had to see what kind of clay the new pieces were made from.

And the reforged Sayn-Linn Swiftwater walked out into the wide world again, wondering only if there were others she could talk to who needed new clay, and whether or not there were pancakes in the mess.

Well, why not?