Les lay sleeping in a hospital bed in a private room. Across the room Janet sat curled in a chair with a blanket around her, looking outside, though there was little to see; the sky was as blank and gray as the walls. It was sitting in the quiet, with the rain streaming down the window, that all those emotions that she had been keeping at bay conspired to overwhelm her, as well as the questions that troubled her…was Jinx right? Even if you get him away from here today he’ll turn again. Les has tasted the power, he’s let it in Janet…you can’t change that. Was he lost to them, for good? Repeatedly she defied that question. Les had the benefit of family and friends who loved him, no matter what he had become…surely that counted for something. Wasn’t love stronger than hate, light than darkness? There was hope, always hope. By the Raven, there had to be. Where there’s life, there’s hope, as her father had been fond of saying. Yet that scared, lost and alone feeling endured as she wondered what to do from here. How do we handle this? How do I handle this?
She missed Mark terribly, wishing more than anything in the world to feel his arms around her, his breath in her hair as he spoke sincere assurances that everything would be okay. Even if it wasn’t true.
Yes, she had found their son. No, things weren’t exactly all right, but he was alive, and they would come back to them soon. Through the relief he expressed, there was suspicion that there was much he wasn’t being told, but mercifully he did not press the matter. She was thankful for the trust he put in her, for she couldn’t bring herself to tell him anything more – not only because she didn’t think he could handle it right now, but that she barely could herself.
It kept playing through in her mind, the scene she had come upon, of Jinx holding Kal’or in his arms; the grief, the rising fury – and her son coming out from around those flames with lips curled back from gritted teeth, his eyes themselves like live coals of burning hatred – not her son at all; the terrible battle between Jinx and a Jedi fallen into darkness – yes, her son. The terrible realization of what was going on, of what was about to happen; trying to stop it, knowing that when it was all said and done, there would be no winners; the accusations, the pain. Then, finally, the thing she had to do.
Jinx, forgive me, she thought again for the umpteenth time. With his last breath he had told her that he understood, but it did little to alter the facts and the feelings that went along with them.
She had pulled the trigger.
Her son, whom she loved more than life itself, yet lived, lay recovering just a few feet from her….
She had pulled the trigger.
Covering her mouth with her hand, tears welled unrestrained in her eyes.
Fear. Anger. Hatred. Suffering.
They swirled around in his head like some dark and torturous soup, taking turns tormenting him. He wished they would leave him in peace. Maybe he was dead and it would go on forever.
Struggling to rise from whatever orbit of unconsciousness he was suspended in, he became aware of things around him. The sound of rain hitting a window, the rumble of thunder. Where was he? Had the images going through his head really happened?
He felt weak, spent. Feebly he reached out with the Force, exploring the room. A familiar figure shared the space with him – no, two. Their presence was comforting, soothing. He tried to open his eyes.
In the dim light he sensed someone sitting by the window, obscured as a silhouette in a darkened room. Next to that person stood the other, more prominent, as though standing beneath the room’s only light. He felt his eyes on him, watching him as he lay there.
Closing his eyes tight, he shook his head, opened them again. He was still there, though fading, now gone altogether. A dream? He pressed his head back into the pillow. Conscious now, he went through the checklist. Toes, wiggling. Both feet. Good. Fingers, okay. He stopped. Fingers, right hand, check. Fingers, left hand….
Lifting his left arm, he found it intact. A thrill shot up his spine and ricocheted through his chest – maybe it had all been a dream, a vision, and he was back home on Atad, in his own bed. He flexed his hand, made a fist, examining it closely. It looked and felt natural, but somehow not.
The scar on his forearm – it wasn’t there. The one from when he had fallen from a speederbike as a kid, and Dad had run – run, in spite of the pain it caused him – over to him and scooped him up in his arms, carried him inside. Asya, crying hysterically at the sight of her brother all bloody and hurt, Mom comforting her while at the same time cleaning and dressing the wound.
All evidence of it was gone. Clean slate, empty canvas. His, a part of him, yet new and foreign.
So it was all true. His master was dead. He reviewed the clash again, and wondered how it could have gotten so far out of control. He was just going to talk to him, show him what a mistake he had made in both underestimating him. Guess he did show him, after all.
How powerful he had been, how good it had felt to let loose with all those feelings he’d been denying himself for years. Anger: such a formidable tool, one disallowed in the Jedi arsenal. They were limiting themselves. Fools. Heck, he would’ve defeated a Jedi more powerful than himself, had that Jedi not given in to his own anger following Kal’or’s death – that was the Mandalorian’s fault, he shouldn’t have interfered.
The icy breath of hard truth sent a chill through him.
He hadn’t set out to kill anyone. But had he? How much was justification for what he’d done, and what was reality?
He had gone against everything he’d been taught, and two people were dead; his mother put in a place of decision that never should have been.
But he had it coming – he hurt me so bad!
A sound of weeping from across the room. Les looked up. There was his mother, sitting in a chair by the window, rain pelting against it, trailing downwards in tiny rivulets. She was sobbing, alone, with no one to comfort her.
Tears filled his eyes.
What have I done?