There were no images at first. Only darkness--a suffocating, choking blackness that surrounded him and seeped into his core. Luke Skywalker knew instantly that he was dreaming. But somehow the realization did little to ease his disorientation, or quiet the faint whisper of panic that was beginning to rise up inside him.
Nothing leapt out at him from the shadows. Nothing cried out to him in the darkness. He had no reason to sense that anything was out of place. And yet, the cold feel of dread knifed into him, and his heart pounded wildly in his ears as if already aware of something he could not yet discern. He fought to steady his breathing and to quiet his mind, but even as he drew on the Force to compose himself, the first hint of peril only grew more insistent.
Let go, Luke...
Ben's gentle voice tugged on his mind as he inched forward in small, deliberate steps.
Stretch out with your feelings...
His feelings... What were his feelings trying to tell him? Anticipation, dread--they stirred in the pit of his stomach though he had no tangible proof of danger.
Still no hint of light. His eyes had not yet adjusted to the darkness, but now at least, he seemed to have gotten a sense of direction, however vague or unsure it was. Cautiously, he continued to walk forward, one foot in front of the other. He reached his hands around him. If there were only something to touch, to hold on to... But he could feel nothing but thick, dense air--nothing of substance, nothing solid. No texture, no shape, no form.
Panic began to trickle in his bones again, too strong to ignore this time. With a deep breath, he summoned the Force and expelled the growing anxiety within him. Relax, he reminded himself, it's only a dream... He'd had nightmares before. At times, he'd even had premonitions that left him gasping for air when he awoke. On Dagobah, he had many of them--the disturbing visions of Leia and Han on Bespin that had invaded his sleep, assaulting his senses in the daytime, haunting him again and again until he finally had to take action.
But this... This was different. This was as chilling a premonition as he had ever gotten. And he was sure it was a premonition. Though no images had revealed themselves to him yet, the certainty of impending doom was undeniable. He had never been this certain of anything.
Every fiber of his being was whispering it to him.
He tried to walk again. Even without the benefit of sight, he managed to keep his balance as he maneuvered through the blackness, with only the Force as his guide. Gravel and rock crackled and popped underneath his boots--the only sound other than the hush of his smooth, steady breath in the otherwise tense stillness.
And then he heard it.
His breath stalled in his throat. Was it real? He stood frozen in his spot, waiting for a sign he hadn't just imagined that voice.
"Luke..." she said again.
He'd know that voice anywhere.
It can't be... It can't be....
"Where are you?" she called out. She sounded just as unsure of herself, as if trying to make her way through the darkness as Luke was. "You're here, I can... feel you..." There was surprise in her voice, her words laced with unexpected joy. Pure, unadulterated joy. "I can feel you," she repeated, laughing shakily.
Luke shut his eyes and heard his breath turn ragged--short choppy sounds that barely escaped his mouth. His heart thrashed against his ribs, and he turned his head toward the lone voice, trying to sense the direction from which it came.
"Luke, where are you..."
The familiar sweet, husky alto at once infused him with warmth and struck fear in him. She was scared. He could feel her dread as her voice grew louder, and he knew instantly that she was coming closer to him.
"Callista?" he whispered in the darkness, still unsure whether to trust his ears, not quite able to fathom that she was here with him--even if it was only a dream.
"Is that you?" He strained his eyes to focus, and a shape began to form before him: the tall, slender, graceful figure he knew so well. Gradually, he saw the smooth oval of her face in the darkness, the halo of malt-brown curls that fell past her shoulders, the clear, slate-colored eyes that met his in disbelief.
If I could ask for only one thing, one thing in my entire life...
"Luke...?" Her voice shook as she saw him, and relief flooded her eyes. She started to run towards him, arms extended in anticipation of embrace. But she got no closer. Something kept her from advancing... Luke watched her struggle to reach him, drawing all of her energy to move in his direction.. "I can't," she cried, looking up at him, her eyes wild with panic. "I can't move..." She was on all fours now, having stumbled to the ground in a vain effort to move her paralyzed legs.
Without hesitation, he bolted towards her. "I'm right here, Callie," he called out to her. He could feel the fear in her rising, permeating the air, enveloping the both of them. What was she so afraid of? What was it that he was sensing? What was this all trying to tell him?
Fear leads to the dark side, Callista... Hold on, I'm coming for you...
Suddenly he felt her terror subside, replaced by calm--almost as if she knew what was about to happen to her, and she had ceased to resist.
"Save yourself..." she whispered, and her words sent icewater running through Luke's veins.
"Hang on!" he shouted. "Hang on for me, please..."
But before he could reach her, she started to fade into blackness--as if she had never been there in the first place. "Callista!" he screamed. He tried to touch her, but all he could grasp was air. "No!!!!" Frantically he clutched at the emptiness where she had stood, trying in vain to feel her flesh. "No... No..."
"Save yourself, Luke," she said once again--a disembodied voice in the stillness, as she had once been when Luke first encountered her on the Eye of Palpatine. He squeezed his eyes shut at the memory.
"No, Callista... Please... Not now... Don't you do this to me again..."
It was no use.
She was gone again.
Luke woke with a violent shake as his body jolted upright in an unfamiliar bed, and as he began to come out of the fog of the dream that had seemed all too real, he began to remember where he was: on Coruscant, in the guest room of Han and Leia's apartment. Beads of cold sweat gathered on his forehead, trickling down his temple. He wiped them away and buried his weary head in his hands, still shaking from the ordeal.
He knew there'd be no one to answer, but somehow he needed to say her name out loud.
The images lingered in his mind--her outreached arms, her frantic cry, the dread in her frightened eyes... The memory of them sent chills up his spine.
"Where are you... What were you trying to tell me?"
He sat in bed for a few awkward moments, trying to assimilate the jumbled images that were beginning to slip away from him as he moved further into consciousness. But it seemed the more he tried to remember them, the more they ran away from him.
Ghosts that couldn't be chased.
Finally, moved by frustration, he flung his blanket aside and rose from the bed. The silence in the room was maddening, and yet, he supposed he should be thankful for one small miracle: at least he was here on Coruscant, with his family--not alone in his apartment on Yavin, where memories of her permeated every centimeter of every room, like a trace of a fragrance that lingered in the air.
Had he dreamed this in his room--in the bed he had once shared with her--the agony of waking would have been all the more unbearable.
He slipped through the doors as quietly as he could, and made his way towards the kitchen in the darkness. At least here, he thought, as he rummaged through the cupboards to fix himself a cup of jeru tea, I can see in the dark. The memories invaded his mind again, and once more, the frustration rose up in him, like acid in his lungs.
He let out a heavy exhale and brought the cup to his lips. The shock of the tea's sweetness awakened him further, and out of nowhere, a soft laugh escaped his lips.
He had once hated the taste of this particular drink. He had even teased Callista for her almost unnatural affinity for it--and for her continual attempts to get him to like it as well, though he would always resist.
Now he found himself drinking it often, as if in some sort of tribute to her.
It was Leia.
He saw her face emerge from the shadows. She stood there for a moment before she approached him slowly, still dressed in a floor-length white robe that shined like silver in the fragmented light of the moon outside, her heavy, unbraided hair falling past her shoulders.
"I'm sorry," he said, straightening as she came closer. "I didn't mean to wake you, I just... I couldn't sleep..."
"It's all right," she said. She extended a hand towards the light switch behind him, and the skylight above them came to life. "Han heard something out here, but I had a feeling it was you, so I came to see if you needed anything."
"No, I'm fine... I didn't wake the kids, did I?"
She shook her head. "They could sleep through a sonic boom," she said, laughing. "I see you can't sleep very well when you're not in your own bed."
Luke smiled. They both knew that that wasn't the real reason he was still awake.
They were as close as two people could be, and yet, something stopped him from telling her why he couldn't sleep. Part of him wanted to--the part of him that knew that she of all people would understand, and would know that this had been no ordinary dream. Still, he couldn't tell her.
Leia, of course, was not the type to pry. Though at times it seemed as if thoughts flowed naturally between them, she had always made a conscious effort not to probe her brother's mind. Not that she needed to. Something about the way she was looking at him told him that once again, he must have been wearing his heart on his sleeve.
"Callista's favorite drink," she finally said, gesturing towards his cup.
She nodded and smiled. "At nights it would get really cold on Nam Chorios--you remember that. She would make this for us to keep warm." She laughed at the memory. "I don't know how she could stand drinking it. It was always too sweet for my taste."
Luke let himself smile as well. "I didn't like it too much myself in the beginning," he said. "But, amazingly enough... she got me to like it."
Just the thought of it was enough to bring on small tear into his heart.
Leia came closer and took him by the hand. "Come on," she said, leading him towards the balcony. "Come take a look at this view. It's absolutely breathtaking at night."
"You mean early morning," Luke teased.
She glared at him. "Hey, I already married a smart-aleck--I don't need one for a brother too, thank you."
They stepped out into the cool, crisp air. There were a million lights out in the skyline, a city-planet still alive and thriving long after most of its inhabitants had gone to sleep. Together, they stood there beside each other in silence.
After a while, Leia said softly, "You're not the only one who misses her, you know."
Somehow, Luke wasn't surprised at the accuracy of her words.
"I never told you this," she went on, as if sensing that even in his silence, his consent was understood, "but when I was on Nam Chorios with her... she trained me for a while. She helped me see that it was foolish of me to keep running away from my destiny, that I had to embrace this power that I didn't think I could ever understand--or would even want."
He looked at her, but she was no longer looking at him. Instead, her eyes were focused somewhere out in the distance, towards the countless skyscrapers before them.
"That's what made me finally finish my training with you," she said. "That's why I finally walked away from my job--from everything that had been holding me back from my calling, and... my family."
He knew that somewhere in all of this, she was trying to tell him something, and guilt kept him from meeting her gaze.
"I know," he finally said.
He knew what she was going to say.
"Please don't shut us out... I love you--we all do. Whatever this is you're carrying inside of you... I hope you can let it go when the time is right..." She took his hand again. "I know how much it killed you when she left," she said softly, "and believe me, I would have given just about anything to have made her stay. But drowning yourself in your work isn't going to solve anything. I know that all too well."
She reached up to kiss him on the cheek and before she turned to go back in, she said, "Think about what I said, all right? Good night, Luke."
"Good night, Leia." He squeezed her hand before she left, a silent thank you.
She was right, of course, however he hated to admit it.
Life had consisted of a routine for him since Callista left. It had been the only way to dull the pain of her absence--the only way to fill the void; to make sense of the haze of the last five years without her.
His life had made sense once. He had felt exquisite joy and light, the feeling that he no longer needed to walk alone on his journey. Callista had given him that. But just as quickly as she came into his life, she was gone once again, leaving him alone in his grief.
He grimaced, the riptide of troubling visions once again flooding his memory, and he leaned forward and gripped the edge of the balcony rail.
He dreamed of her every night. That her ephemeral, elusive image appeared to him tonight--that was no surprise. But this dream was. His dreams of her never contained so much dread and utter darkness as tonight's had.
What had she said to him as she was fading?
Save yourself, Luke...
"Save yourself," he murmured, trying to focus on the now-distant images of the dream, though they laughed at him as they slipped further away. He shook his head in frustration. Save himself from what? The gnawing ache in the pit of his stomach intensified--whatever it was, he thought as he swallowed hard, it might have already gotten to Callista.
Yoda's wizened face came to him. "Do not underestimate your dreams," he had told Luke. Even a fully trained Jedi couldn't always let go of the conscious self, and the Force could weave dreams out of grains of truth.
Luke raised his head to the heavens again, to the stars strewn across the clear, onyx sky. Callista was out there somewhere. And she needed him--he was sure of that.
"I won't let anything happen to you," he whispered.
Wherever she was, and whatever she was doing, he would find her.
Before it was too late...
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