The Jedi students anxiously filed into the Great Temple auditorium one by one in the late afternoon, breathlessly chatting among themselves as they took their seats. By now, word had spread that the Skywalkers were leaving the Academy, though Luke and Callista had made no formal announcement. As they poured into the grand hall, they looked towards their departing Master and Mistress, and Luke could feel their curiosity, their apprehension, as he met their quick glances.
His mouth formed a small wistful smile as he observed them whispering to each other; the sound of their soft chatter reminded him once again how much he would miss being here with them.
"Ready to do this?" he said to Callista, giving her a knowing glance. In her face, he saw his own melancholy reflected back at him.
She nodded, letting out a husky laugh. "Now or never, right?"
Luke released her hand and made his way to the podium. He hadn't quite expected to be this overcome at the sight of all of them gathered in front of him. For the first time, he became aware of just how much they had been able to accomplish together. Because of him, because of Callista, and the others who had helped them, they had rebuilt the Order.
He cleared his throat awkwardly and smiled at them. "I know that all of you have been aware for some time now that Callista and I have decided to leave the Academy to reestablish the Council in Coruscant," he began, feeling a mixture of their sadness and his own.
"Even though we're both thrilled to undertake this new mission, it's with heavy hearts that we leave you here today. I think you all know how much this place means to the both of us, and how much you are all a part of our lives. You will always be members of our family."
He turned to Callista and motioned her forward so she could address the students as well. She nodded, slowly walking up the steps to the stage to join Luke.
"I wanted to say a special thank you to all of you today," she said, fighting hard to keep her emotion from overwhelming her. "Five years ago, you welcomed me with open arms and allowed me into your lives. You gave me the opportunity to share my knowledge and my passion with you, and made me a better Jedi because of it."
Luke smiled at her and addressed the students again. "Of course, I know most of you have been speculating for the past few weeks about how who take over at the Academy once Callista and I go to Coruscant..." He saw them shift in their seats and glance at one another, their curiosities piqued. "We know the Academy will continue to thrive and grow even when we're gone. Tionne and Kyp will make certain of that." He met their shocked gaze and offered a reassuring smile. "Tionne and Kyp," he told them, "Callista and I want to leave the Academy to you."
The students responded with deafening applause, as Tionne and Kyp stared incredulously at each other, speechless at Luke's announcement. As the students began to disperse, they approached Luke and Callista, anxious to express their gratitude.
"Master Luke, Mistress Callista, I don't know how to thank you for this..." Kyp stammered, not quite sure what to say, but wanting to somehow tell them what this meant to him.
"You've earned it, Kyp." Luke said as he placed a hand on his shoulder. There was no doubt in Luke's mind that the younger man deserved to finally be recognized for what he had managed to do to turn his life around, and he wanted him to know so. "In case I've never told you this before," he said, sounding much like a father talking to his son, "I am proud of you. I know it wasn't easy for you to battle back from the dark side's grip. I know how deep the abyss was that you had to climb out of. But you found your way back out of it. And you've become a stronger Jedi because of it."
Kyp smiled at his approval. For years he had felt shame at letting Luke down, at nearly destroying everything he had held so sacred by giving in to the temptation of the dark side. There wasn't a day that had gone by that he didn't regret his foolish actions, and the devastating, deadly consequences that followed because of them. But like any truly devoted teacher, Luke had refused give up on him. He fought for his soul, and thanks to him, Kyp eventually regained his sanity and found his way to the good side of the Force once more.
Still, it had stunned him when Luke announced that he and Tionne that they would be their successors at the Academy. Choosing Tionne was understandable. After all, Luke had always entrusted her with the Academy when he was called away. Her gift for teaching was never in question, and she would seem to be the logical choice to succeed Luke and Callista.
But him? He was someone who had faltered. Someone who had failed his master. He was touched that the Skywalkers had that much faith in him, that they believed in him this much -- enough to bequeath the Academy to him.
He was determined to live up to their expectations.
"I promise you, I won't let you down again, Master," he told Luke, his voice resonating with renewed strength and confidence. "Tionne and I will make sure the Academy carries on the way you would have wanted it to. We won't forget the ideals you've instilled in us."
"The Jedi here will continue to thrive, Master, we promise you," Tionne added.
"We know we're leaving the Academy in the right hands," Callista told them with unwavering certainty. "You'll both be wonderful."
"Thank you, Mistress Callista," Tionne replied. "May the Force be with you both. I know you have quite a big task ahead of you now with the Council."
"But Mommy, why do we have to go?" Cray asked her mother plaintively.
The little girl had been unusually quiet in the last hour or so, diligently helping with the packing, following Threepio and Artoo to and fro, watching her parents get everything set for the journey ahead. Normally, she would have thrived in the hectic goings on of the last few hours, running around, skipping, singing, trying her best to engage everyone in some form of a game. But Callista had noticed that she had been remarkably restrained, so unlike the energetic, exuberant child she was.
She walked over to her daughter and bent down to look into her big gray eyes. She simply looked at her for a brief moment, giving her a comforting smile as she smoothed the stray blond ringlets that had spilled out of Cray's once neat ponytail. It amazed her sometimes, how much Cray reminded her of Luke. The little girl had her father's face -- the same radiant smile, the same dimpled chin, the same way of looking at Callista with wonder and awe in her expressive eyes.
But at the moment, the wonder and awe in her eyes were nowhere to be found. Instead, Cray seemed upset.
"What's wrong, baby?" Callista asked her gently, gathering her in her arms. Cray responded by instinctively wrapping her arms around her mother and snuggling in closer to her. "You don't want to leave Yavin?"
"Uh-uh," Cray answered, shaking her head. Callista felt her hold on even tighter to her for security. "I've lived here all my life, Mommy. What's it going to be like on Cor... Cor..."
"Coruscant? Well... it's going to be a little different, honey," Callista told her, "But it's going to be really wonderful."
"How different, Mommy?"
"It won't be quite as hot there, that's one good thing, right?" Callista said, laughing as she saw Cray nod enthusiastically in response. "And we'll get to live in one of those really tall buildings you saw last time, like the kind Aunt Leia and Uncle Han live in. We'll get to see Aunt Leia and Uncle Han all the time, and you'll get to play with Jaina, Jacen, and Anakin a lot more. Doesn't that sound great?"
The four year old tilted her head as if to think about it for a moment. Callista tried not to laugh as she watched her daughter in deep thought, her forehead scrunched, lips pursed in great concentration.
"You and Daddy will be there with me and Owen, right, Mommy?"
Callista blinked back in surprise at her daughter's statement. "Of course we will, sweetheart!" she answered immediately, before Cray could even have a chance to think otherwise. Callista watched her closely, wondering what could have brought on such a strange question.
"Daddy and I would never leave you, baby," she assured the little girl. "So you see, even though I know it must be a little scary going to a new place, we'll all be together, so it won't seem so different." She gave her another affectionate squeeze, trying to get her to smile.
But Cray just sighed in her arms. "Mommy," she said softly, "I... I still don't feel very good about Cor... Coruscant... But I'm glad you and Daddy will be there to watch us."
Callista said nothing for a moment, still puzzled by Cray's apprehension. It was likely the result of a child's natural reluctance to leave a familiar place, but something about what she said made Callista vaguely uneasy. She and Luke were well aware of their children's naturally strong ability in the Force, and she had learned never to take anything for granted when it came to things they did or said. Cray especially was becoming more in tune with her instincts as she got older.
"Sweetie, what exactly is it that you're feeling about Coruscant?" Callista asked her gently, careful not to frighten the little girl. "Can you tell me what it is?"
Cray looked at her mother, trying to focus like she had taught her. "I don't really know, Mommy..." she stammered, then sighed in frustration, sounding alarmingly like someone far older. "I just... I just wish we didn't have to leave..."
Callista held her tighter. "It's okay, baby," she whispered, stroking her hair affectionately. "We'll figure it out later, don't worry..."
Luke entered the room carrying Owen on his hip, inadvertently interrupting mother and daughter. "You girls all set? Threepio and Artoo have already gotten the ship ready, and this little guy finally woke up, so if you're ready..."
"'I guess, Daddy'?" he echoed, playfully grabbing her from behind and tickling her into laughter.
"There's that sweet laugh of yours!" he teased. He spun her around to face him. "What's wrong, princess? You're not looking forward to the space travel?"
She giggled as he continued to tickle her. "No, Daddy," she managed between fits of giddy squeals, "I'm just going to miss Yavin, that's all."
"Oh, I see..." Luke nodded, looking up at Callista briefly, eyebrows raised in curiosity. She met his glance and shrugged slightly.
So maybe it was only that after all, Callista thought, quietly breathing a sigh of relief. Still, she couldn't help but be a bit uneasy. Cray had sounded so worried before...
She reached over to Luke to take Owen into her arms. "Are you ready, Owen?" she asked him, as he nodded in response. "All right, everybody, let's get going, then!"
I hope that's all it is , Callista told herself. But she made a note to talk to Luke about it as soon as possible. If Cray was sensing something, anything... They would need to find out what it was...
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