In the end, it was no choice at all.
Jaina heard the beloved voice of her brother for which
she had been longing for. She heard him speak to her, and she gathered her waning strength in order to answer. With difficultly,
she pushed past the pain and coldness that cut through her and concentrated solely on Jacen’s voice. She could feel
the soft touch of fingers on her cheeks, and she knew from within herself that the touch that caressed her was her brother’s.
She struggled to reach his safe harbor, and as she let go of her unconsciousness, she felt her pain grow even stronger and
tear at her in its anger.
Jaina did not care. She fought harder and harder and forced her eyes open with her will.
could not see for several moments, but then the brown eyes she knew so well met her own. With frozen and cracked lips, she
whispered, “Jasa?” She could barely manage the name that none used for Jacen saved she, the name that belonged
to the two of them only.
“I’m here, Jaya. Jasa is here.”
Jaina heard the sweet names of their
childhood, and they were a comfort to her. She looked up at her brother, whose eyes shone with unshed tears. Here would Jaina
die or live if she must as the Force willed. Here was her home and safety. Her own strength might fail, but her brother’s
would hold her. Jaina would not die alone.
Her strength began to fade, and she fell again into the comfortless sleep
of her pain.
They had always been close, the two of them. It was just... things got in the way. Life
got in the way.
Jaina had lived her entire life looking outwards, always journeying towards the horizon. Jacen had
spent his time looking inwards, more interested in the journey within. And as they grew older, their paths crossed less and
less. Then the war happened, and Chewbacca and Anakin died.
The day came when Jaina understood that her place was near
home, where she could protect those whom she loved. Jacen understood that he did not understand enough and that he would have
to distance himself from the force. Jaina had known this and had not cried when he left. But Uncle Luke wrote in his messages
that Jaina sometimes cried in her sleep.
Jacen had meant to return after a year, but as the months passed, he delayed
the trip home by another month.
He had been faithful in corresponding to Jaina. He was too far to use the Force to
communicate, though he did allow Jaina to sense his presence at times. And every few month he sent her a holo-message, and
though the messages had grown shorter with each passing year, every month he would faithfully sit down and comm a message
But as faithful as he had been in keeping Jaina up to date, she had not done the same. It had taken another
message from Uncle Luke.
His sister was dying.
Stay, or go back home.
In the end, it was no choice at
Leia Organa-Solo covered her daughter more securely with a blanket. “She’s unconscious
again, Jacen, but she now knows you’re here. She’ll fight to reach you.” Jacen nodded, his face controlled.
composure, and efficiency. Like armor. Hard. But hard was such a small step away from brittle, and he could feel the cracks
Jaina had been his best friend and protector, had kept him away from those well-meaning people who
did not know the meaning of anything. During his captivity, thoughts of his sister had pulled him out of a nightmare and into
something he could never even have imagined. A chance. Hope. He owed his sister more than just a life. He owed her a dream.
tense, mind screaming in circles, Jacen stared at Jaina as the clock ticked into the night. And for the first time in years,
ever since he’d grown up into himself, he allowed himself the luxury of three little words.
It isn’t fair.
dignified older man, his uncle, greeted Jacen as he entered Jaina’s room in the medical center. Luke Skywalker sat on
the other side of the bed while his parents wept silently nearby. “She’s...”
Jacen shook his head,
and the Jedi Master acquiesced reluctantly. Jacen did not want to know because if he asked, he could no longer keep pretending.
He could live with a lie, but only as long as it was unspoken because then he could maintain his uncertainty.
being sure that scared him the most.
Jaina lay in her bed, her body so thin now that it scarcely raised
the blankets they had placed over her for warmth. She had not spoken for hours, for her strength was too far gone. She seemed
at peace somehow and almost beyond pain.
Now her head lay quiet upon the pillow, and she had ceased the soft moaning
that had so torn at their hearts. Instead, she lay still with her arms by her side. Her eyes were half-closed and seemed far
too large for the thin and sunken face.
Jacen sat by the bedside holding his sister’s slender hand in one of
his own and stroked the unbound brown hair on the pillow with his other. In a soft voice, he sang the songs of their childhood
as he counted each shallow breath his sister drew.
At the head of the bed stood their family. As much as it grieved
them, they had kept Jaina's illness secret from her beloved twin brother. She did not want to worry him or pull him away from
his journey of exploration. Her death was certain, she had explained, for not even the Force could heal an untreatable brain
tumor. It was her last wish, and her family loved her too much to refuse.
Using the last of her strength, she had kept
out her pain from the bond shared with her brother - a task made much easier due to the distance Jacen had placed between
He was lying in the sun, and he was happy.
Coruscant winters were the same as the summers
- climate controlled for optimum temperature. Nice days such as this on Ossus were a blessing.
And now, he could lie
in the sun. For as long as he wanted. Get a sunburn maybe.
It was tradition that Jacen would get a sunburn on the first
day of summer. Before the war - the last time he had the luxury of getting a sunburn, his first of the summer was so bad,
he hadn’t been able to sleep that night for the pain. Grinning in the darkness, he had lain awake until dawn.
hated nothing more than controlled climates.
His ears picked up the rhythmic tapping of footsteps.
been expecting visitors.
“Jaina tells me you’re going away. We need you, Jacen.”
The sun beat
down on his closed eyelids, and he was full of joy because this burn was so different from the cold burning of frostbite.
“What for? I’m useless here. The only thing I can do is talk to some animals.”
your only gift, Jacen. There’s always a place for you.”
“Don’t flatter me, Uncle Luke. I don’t
“What are you going to do, then?”
He shifted, skin warm. “Go somewhere. Far,
Footsteps moved away as Jacen began to crisp.
Hanging around the past, or a new life.
the end, it was no choice at all.
Jaina forced her eyes open – the last time she would see these
beloved faces. “I love all of you so much.”
“Hush, Jaya. There’ll be time when you get better.
Lay still now, sister. We’ll have all our lives for words.” Her heart tightened as she saw his brown eyes fill
with tears. “I’ll never leave you again, Jaya.”
She had never permitted her twin brother to show
fear, never. Nothing had ever angered her more. And now Jaina held tight to her own courage. For Jacen, she would have borne
any pain, and now, in her time of need, as she found strength in his eyes, she gave him her courage.
The sight of her
pale and sunken face was driving Jacen to the point of madness, she knew, and it must end. She must end it, and she was afraid.
you left, I knew you wouldn’t come back. I gave you my love and set you free. That’s all I ever wanted.”
The words hurt her throat, and more that anything, her body ached for peace. But Jacen still needed her. “Use everything,
Jacen. Survive for me. You’re special.”
Jaina’s eyes fluttered shut.
“The Force made
you special,” she whispered.
And then there was no more Jaina.
"I hate being like this,
Jaya. I shouldn't say this, but I do. I hate feeling this way about the Force. I want to be like you and Anakin. Be able to
use it without thinking of the consequences." He was having a moment of insecurity.
“Don’t be silly, little
brother. I wouldn't want you any other way. Who else would keep Anakin and me from getting into trouble?”
kicked a stone lying on the ground. “Kyp Durron's people say I'm weak.”
Jaina looked shocked. “The
Force made you special. That’s what Uncle Luke said when you were born. Besides, what does Kyp Durron know? He was too
aggressive, and look what happened to him.”
He was leaving, and he was happy. He checked
over his ship one more time, with care because he still wasn’t entirely used to the way the world moved differently
now. But he liked it better this way. Like the blurring jaggedness at the edge of his vision sometimes.
The ship was
good to go. He was good to go. Bag was packed and stored inside.
He was pulling on a flight jacket when he heard the
hanger bay doors open behind him. He didn’t turn too fast; Didn’t turn at all until he heard his voice: “So
you’re really leaving.”
Then he looked carefully back at his Uncle Luke. “That’s right.”
sighed and pushed his hair back behind his ear. “This is sithspit, you know that. She wouldn’t have wanted this.”
turned away. “Uncle Luke, don’t.”
He kept talking. He was like that. “It wasn’t your
Jacen walked up the ramp. “I know.”
Luke followed him into the ship and to the bridge.
“She was dying even when you left.”
His teeth clenched. He heard the engines thrum to life with a liquid
But he could still hear his uncle. “There was nothing that you could have done.”
turned his head and looked straight at him with eyes that could see now. “I know. That’s why.”
Luke shook his head and walked away.
Staying in this world, or running away.
In the end, it was no choice at