torch, August 1999

Disclaimer: owned by some guy with a beard. Contains spoilers for Phantom Menace. (It's set during That Scene; what do you expect?) Feedback is welcome. Do not archive this story without permission.

Left undone

Serenity isn't something you can turn on and off like the beam of a lightsaber. It is something that, once achieved, becomes part of you, so that you don't have to think about calling on it any more than you have to think about raising your hand or blinking your eye. Serenity is... neither quite a state nor an ability, something all Jedi strive for, an ideal surprisingly often realized. And once it is realized it doesn't need to be sustained by special meditations, or mental exercises, or something as childish as a physical posture meant to teach concentration to beginners. It just is.

I don't have it.

Kneeling here before a shimmering unbreakable wall, still and silent, my body echoing the first meditation exercise Master Yoda ever taught me, I reach once again for that inner peace, and fail. It will not come. I have tried often enough during my sixty years, and it will not come now, I don't know why I think it would come now, as my breathing slows and my enemy waits before me and my padawan paces behind me. Serenity cannot be forced. Illumination chooses its own moment, and although I have striven to be chosen, I have also striven for so many other things, my focus on doing rather than being. The knowledge that the two are one and the same has never quite taken root in my soul, much as I have wished for it.

Wishing is not enough. The calm control I do have has served me well, but my flaw has always been, and will always be, passion. It has been feeling rather than reason that has led me time and again to voice a dissenting opinion or commit an impulsive act. I believe in those feelings, and I still stand by those opinions, and I am content to be more warrior than mystic, more rebel than sage, and now is not the right moment to worry that I have taught my padawan by example not to listen enough to that inner voice which will lead him to true, dispassionate, serene detachment. I can feel him, though, behind me. I can feel him.

When he is still, it is as a candle flame is still in a room before the wind comes in again through the open window.

Too often, we use meditation as a tool and an exercise, something functional rather than spiritual. I'm doing it now, and it will not help me. If I opened my eyes I would see my enemy's face, projecting rage as I try to project calm, and being more successful at it. When the wall between us disappears, I will find my calm in fighting, and he will find...

The wall is gone, and my lightsaber is in my hand, and I am moving. There is freedom in this, the simplicity of acting and reacting, more relaxing to my mind than any meditation ever has been. Freedom in motion. A lonely freedom, now that I dance only with my enemy, and have left my partner behind. I dance with my enemy and with the living force. He is a fool; the dark side cannot taste this sweet. My muscles burn.

My padawan is impatient. I used to think it due to his age, but he is old enough now to know a little more about the nature of time, and it seems to make no difference. He would throw himself through that wall if he could, to catch up, to fight at my side once more. He sees what I see: this creature of darkness, this Sith sunk deep in the misery of hatred, is stronger than I am. The air is thick with anger, wielded as expertly as the double red blade.

I parry. Inside. Outside.

The dark side is not about loss of control. There is discipline in this enemy I face, discipline and absolute dedication. I am a warrior, but he is a weapon. Unimaginable to willingly lead such a narrow life, to turn away from peace and beauty, from humor and companionship. The thought repulses me, much as I try not to let it. I can't let him frighten me, I can't let myself hate him as he hates me. But his hatred is stronger than my calm, his anger a living thing more powerful than my non-existent serenity. He will kill me.

Knowing that, I can live fully in this moment. I can feel the force, feel my own movements and his, the glare of the lights, the flat recycled air. Hear the gritting scrape of lightsaber against lightsaber. There is no fear, not even in the moment when his blade slides into my body, setting fire to what remains of my life. No fear, but regret, regret, as I fall, as I hear my padawan scream.

The lights have dimmed for me, the world beginning to fragment. But I see him come, I feel him fight, I can sense his footsteps as he dances with speed and grace and urgent sadness. My enemy, our enemy, moves like a perfect piece of machinery, with an economy of effort that wastes nothing. My apprentice, my padawan, moves like a tree branch in the wind... but grief weighs him down, grief beginning to shade into anger, and then he falls and I would scream, but I know I must not.

I touch his mind with the part of me that isn't pain. Saying nothing, conveying nothing except that he is not alone, and there is more to the universe than this fight and this opponent, and the living force is in him and with him and part of him always. And my weapon comes to his hand as easily as his own. In that moment, he is everything I ever wanted him to be.

I have never had the necessary detachment. I don't have it now. The air grows darker and darker around me as I sense the final fall, our enemy's fall. And then I look up into a face I know better than my own, and I try to keep the regret in my eyes from blending with the sorrow in his as we speak for the last time. He doesn't need to know. My flaw has always been passion. I touch his face, feeling his life against my fingertips.

So beautiful.

I'll never know what his skin tastes like.

Perhaps I will find serenity, illumination will find me, once I am one with the force. But in this moment, all I know is that darkness falls. I am leaving him. I lied to him.

From now on, he will have to dance alone.

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