Star Wars belongs to George Lucas. I am not him.
Kindness and Compassion
"For you know, once even I was a
little child, and I was afraid
but a gentle someone always came
to dry all my tears, trade sweet sleep for fears
and to give a kiss goodnight."
"Lullaby for a Stormy Night" by Vienna Teng
Coruscant, Jedi Temple, 34 BBY
The darkness had caught her. She thrashed and struggled, trying to free herself from its grip. But the darkness was sticky; it clung to her like cold sweat, like a second skin. It was slimy and cold and it pressed against her.
She opened her mouth to scream, to call out for help, but the darkness flooded over her face. It slid into her nose, her mouth. It made its slow, excruciating way down her throat. It meant to smother her, to drown her in its oily essence.
She tried to claw her way out, to tear the darkness from her, but it stuck to her stubbornly. She cried then. She was all alone in the dark.
Ro woke with a sudden start, her mouth open in preparation to scream, as her dream-self had not been able to. Her hands flew to her mouth and held the scream in, keeping it locked behind her lips. She looked around frantically. Her small room was dark, completely dark. Her nightlight, the little heart-shaped illuminator she kept on her nightstand, had gone out.
Ro shook with terror, her hair clinging to her face in wet, sweat-soaked strands. There were tears on her face. She had to get out. She had to leave this dark place right now, this very instant. She had to find the light.
And for Ro, there was only one place to go.
Despite the late hour, Garett was awake. Sitting cross-legged on his bed, his hands resting on his knees, the boy meditated. He had a lot to think about and meditation helped him sort through his thoughts.
So much had happened these past few months. Master Eeth Koth had selected him as a Padawan, though Garett was only ten. He was still unused to the weight and feel of his new Padawan braid, but he was coming to enjoy it. Master Koth was a renowned lightsaber dualist and already Garett had learned more about lightsaber combat than he ever could have dreamed of. And he was allowed to accompany Master Koth on some of his missions. The privilege made him stand a little taller every time his new Master called to meet him in the hangar.
But there were other lessons as well, lessons about the Jedi Code and it were these lessons that caused the boy to remain awake this night, trying to sort through his feelings.
"A Jedi eschews all forms of attachment. Attachment clouds the judgment and distracts from duty. Attachment can lead to fear, hate and jealousy, which are the first steps to the dark side."
Garett breathed in and out, in and out, to the steady rhythm of his heart. Master Koth's words echoed in his mind. His Master was a firm believer in the Code and had chosen today to discuss this particular aspect of it with his young Padawan. Because there was one rather significant attachment in Garett's life, one most of the other Padawans never had to concern themselves with.
"A Jedi is the living instrument of the Force. We are servants of the Force. It is a great honor to be chosen as such and to be worthy of this honor we must dedicate ourselves completely to our duty. There can be no distractions in a Jedi's life."
No distractions. No attachments. A Jedi's life was one of dedication, duty and responsibility.
He breathed in the words, let them soak into his being, then released them with his next breath; out, into the air and into the Force.
Sudden terror pierced his consciousness, made his mouth open in a silent scream. His eyes flew open and he hectically scanned his small room for the source of his fright, even as his skin broke out in goosebumps as something oily seemed to slither over it. But of course, the room was empty except for his bed, nightstand, desk and closet. The candle on his nightstand flickered, as if agitated by a sudden breeze. It cast weird shadows on the walls, but Garett didn't notice. His attention was drawn back to the Force. Ro. Of course it would be his little sister; it had to be. There was no one else in the Temple, not even Master Koth, with whom he shared a deeper bond than with her. A bond deep and strong enough to let him become aware of her every mood and well-being.
Talk about problems of attachment, he thought sourly. He knew of course what the problem was. Ro had had another one of her nightmares. Or rather, she'd had the nightmare. It was always the same, some nameless darkness trying to drown her. Garett rubbed at his temples. He also knew what would happen next and it had nothing to do with Force-visions.
Sure enough, a few minutes later there was a hesitant knock on his door. For a moment, Garett considered simply ignoring the knock and going back to his meditation. He couldn't do that though and not just because Ro didn't deserve it. She would probably start crying and wake the entire Temple.
Wearily, he got up and palmed open his door. As expected, Ro stood in the hallway before his room, feet bare, her nightdress damp at the collar with sweat, her long blond hair a gnarled mess. She should really get that cut, he thought and tucked self-consciously at his own, neatly kept Padawan braid.
"You can't keep doing this Ro." He told her.
She sniffled, watery teal eyes looking up at him, pleadingly. "Please Garett, can I come in?"
"No Ro, you can't." He forced himself to remain firm. "It's late and you should be asleep. In your own bed."
Her bottom lip began to tremble and new tears came to her eyes. "I can't Garett. It's dark."
"Of course it's dark Ro, it's after midnight."
Ro hunched her shoulders, as if afraid he'd might hit her. "Why are you being so mean Garett?"
Garett rubbed at his temples again, trying very hard not to feel as if he were kicking a puppy, trying to block out the emotions coming off of his sister. "I'm not being mean Ro. I'm being practical. It's late and you shouldn't be wandering through the Temple at this hour, let alone by yourself."
"But Garett," her voice was starting to waver and rise in pitch. "The dream…."
"Was just that Ro, a dream. And keep your voice down, or you'll wake Master Koth." He quickly eyed the door next to his, testing the Force to see if the apartment's occupant was awake. No, he could only sense the presence of a sleeping mind. Garett wanted to keep it that way. The last thing he needed was Master Koth coming to investigate and finding Ro in front of his Padawan's room. Especially after their little talk today.
"Garett, please. Pretty please. Just this once. My nightlight went out and I-I can't…" Her voice hiccupped a little and she came closer, tugging at his sleeve pleadingly.
Garett looked down at his little sister and regarded her carefully; the teal eyes so like his own, now bloodshot and red-rimmed from little sleep and crying, the pale skin and red blotches on her cheeks, her runny, red nose. He resolved to remain firm. He would not give in. It was for the best, for both of them. He extracted his sleeve from his sister's frantic fingers and literally held her at arms length.
"I want you to listen to me, Ro and I want you to listen very carefully. No. No, you can't come in here and sleep in my bed tonight. No, you can't keep coming to me every time you have a nightmare. You're six years old now Ro and learning how to be a Jedi. A Jedi cannot keep crying and loosing sleep over a single nightmare. A Jedi has to be strong in order to do his duty and that means finding the strength to deal with his problems on his own. That means without a big brother and without a nightlight. Just like the other Initiates. You don't see any of them standing late at night in front of other people's doors, crying to be let in, do you?"
Ro was looking at him now as if she'd never seen him before. As if he were some big, two-headed monster that had just bitten off the head of her favorite stuffed toy. More tears were running down her face now, dripping off of her chin and onto the floor. He felt like the biggest creep in the Core, but this had to be done and done now.
"You're a big girl Ro and I want you to start acting like one, do you understand?"
There was a long, drawn-out sniff, then she wiped both sleeves of her nightgown over her eyes. She nodded, looking fixedly at her bare feet. "Yes, Garett," she whispered and Garett tried very hard to ignore how utterly crushed she felt at that moment.
There is no emotion, there is peace. Garett drew the words around him like a protective shield. There is no ignorance, there is knowledge. There is no passion, there is serenity. A Jedi can't afford attachments.
"Good," he said and was pleased to find his voice sounded very grown-up. "Now go to bed, Ro. Goodnight."
"'Night," came the whispered reply and Garett watched as his sister shuffled back down the hallway to the Initiates wing, hugging herself as if for dear life. Or comfort.
Garett closed the door behind him and settled himself once more on his bed. He was sure that he had handled the situation to his Master's satisfaction. He had placed reason over attachment and had, in the process, freed Ro from the same restraints. This is for the best. He repeated his earlier thought and crossed his legs once more, placing his palms on his knees. They both needed to learn to function without the other. They were Jedi and being a Jedi came before being either a brother or a sister.
Through their Force-connection, Garett could feel Ro's apprehension and fear as she reentered her dark room and stumblingly found her way back to bed. He grit his teeth and concentrated on his meditation, trying to ignore his sister's distress, even as she tried to be a big girl and keep it from him.
Ro huddled under her blanket. Her fist in her mouth, she tried to stifle the sobs. She wanted to be a big girl, just like Garett had told her to be, but it was so dark and she was just so very afraid. Jedi weren't supposed to be afraid. Jedi were supposed to be big and brave, just like Garett, but at this moment, Ro had never felt smaller or more scared. The nightmare haunted her even now and she pulled the blanket tighter over herself. It was dark under the blanket, but it was a good dark, a small dark. The bad dark was out there, outside of her little blanket cave and when it came for her, she didn't want to see it.
There was a nearly silent swish as the door to her room opened, then the mattress of her bed dipped as something heavy came to rest on it. Ro nearly screamed in terror, but a hand on her shoulder and a familiar voice calmed her.
"Shush, Ro. It's just me."
"Garett," his name was nearly a cry, as she crawled from beneath her blanket and flung herself at her big brother.
"It's okay Ro. I'm here." He readjusted the blanket around them and Ro cuddled up to her brother, feeling safe and warm. Garett reached past her head and put something on her nightstand. A small light illuminated the otherwise dark room. Ro smiled. It was a small illuminator stick, the kind found in every survival pack. The kind most Jedi carried with them on their missions.
Garett too closed his eyes, his arms around his little sister. He knew that what Master Koth had said was right. A Jedi could not have attachments. But a Jedi could be kind, and he could be compassionate.