I can freely admit that I never knew my father: educator, diplomat, swordsman, and Jedi. I have little knowledge of the first, the vaguest notion of the second, and the bare fact of the third. As for the fourth? Not being one myself, I can only truly state that he wore the clothes. Other than that, I know nothing at all.
And now, as the flames rise higher, it's safe to say that I never will. For the life of me, I can't seem to regret that. I'm supposed to after all.
It would be easy to blame this lack of regret, and yes, this lack of grief on him. He was a Jedi diplomat after all, always away saving someone else's corner of the galaxy and never in mine. Surprise, surprise, the Republic's most respected deadbeat dad. But that wouldn't be wholly honest on my part. It's not as if he ignored me, or pretended I didn't exist, or never tried to know me or spend time with me. He did. And he was a Jedi; Jedi don't try you know. They 'do'. So he 'did'. He came to visit me and my sister after Ma left his intermittent marriage for a bartender and divorce papers. I can't blame him there. He did get his visits, he did come for them, and Ma never denied him the right, even though all my friend's mothers always put up a fuss over their ex's visits. She even let him stay... on the couch. Always made Leni, her bartender, jealous, but my father never tried anything. I stayed up some nights to check, so I know he didn't. Not even when Ma did. Maybe that's why they got divorced.
I don't know why he bothered to marry Ma, because he sure didn't try very hard to get her back. He never demanded she return, he never asked her where she went, he never grilled us kids as to who she was seeing. Maybe with all his Jedi ability he just knew. But if he did, why marry her? Was it foolish youth? I doubt it. They were married for a while before I was born. Was it for that all-important love? I doubt that more. I don't think Jedi are capable of feeling love, much less allowed to. Was it so me and my sister would be born, to increase the ranks of the exalted Jedi? Ha, well that didn't happen.
It was funny, but I was told he was never surprised when my sister and I didn't have high enough midi-chlorian counts to follow in his footsteps. He just nodded and asked after the rest of our health apparently. As if he already knew. Or as if it was because we were really Leni's children, or whoever came before him. I still don't know the truth about that one. Isn't the Force supposed to run in families? Sure doesn't seem to run in ours.
Maybe that's why I can't regret it. Maybe because he isn't really my father. Because no one ever had the guts to tell me if he really was. Because I never bothered to find out for myself.
And because of him.
He's standing there, off to the side. My opponent. My rival. My replacement.
He stands over there, among the inner circle, a place only occupied by some members of the Jedi council and my father's other Jedi friends. Among the privileged few. His little whelp of a student, the one who received my father's time and attentions as the Jedi saw fit. Yet despite his drastically different upbringing, he doesn't look all that different from me. Dark hair, dark eyes, straight nose. And an utter lack of grief.
Like me, he hasn't even cried. Not when they all filed in and started that dull, emotionless chanting. Not when they stood there in silence, and the rest of us tried to emulate them and failed. Not when they lit the pyre. He just stood there, as if he were watching duracrete dry. He didn't even flinch when my father's hair began to burn, and the smell hit the crowd. I know I did.
As the flames flicker and my father's body is gratefully reduced to shadows between them, a man separates himself from the group. A short man, wide and stocky, but familiar. Emotionless and brusque. I have never liked him. My father's master.
I raise an eyebrow as I see him leave the circle, wondering how hollow Jedi must be if they receive the honor of the inner circle and don't even bother to stay the whole time. I quickly look away as I realize he isn't leaving. He has gone to speak with my mother.
I remember asking my father about his master the first time he brought his padawan on a visit. I remember asking him what he knew about being a father, considering he was raised by this man who wasn't even the same species, mind you. I asked him what he knew about children my age when the only one he knew was that padawan robot. I wanted to ask him why he spent his days with that other boy instead of with his flesh and blood son that he was supposed to love. I wanted to ask why he loved that boy instead of me, if he even could love. I wanted to ask why he bothered to visit if he didn't really love me. He answered me anyway.
I think that may have been the only time he almost got angry with me. He was definitely disappointed, and said as much, which is the closest I ever got to an emotional response out of him. It was such an unusual occurrence, that I still remember exactly what he said. Of course, everything he said was unusual.
He told me that there are some things you just know. And there are some people you just love. And that blood is thicker than water. And love is thicker than blood. And that is why you do the things you do. And that is why you are who you are. I still don't know what he meant.
A hand on my shoulder startles me, and I turn around to face the man who intrudes on my thoughts. Mister, no-Master Emotionless.
"You came," he says. I furrow my brow. If I didn't know better, I'd say he was being pretentious. He never speaks without reason, and observing that I came to my own father's funeral certainly isn't it.
"This is a day every master dreads to see," he continues. "You work so hard to raise them, it's hard to let them go. And they give so much. They have so many dreams. The Force is mysterious indeed to take one so young." I wonder why he is telling me this. It wasn't the Force that killed him. It was just some blaster bolt he was too slow to stop. "How are you holding up?" he asks finally.
I decide to be diplomatic. "As well as can be expected." He may be able to read my mind anyway, so he probably knows I don't like him, but I have enough manners not to be rude. Besides, if I can't grieve for my father, the least I should do is humor his master.
I turn back to face the flames again. The automaton is still staring at them. He doesn't look sad. He doesn't look angry. He doesn't even look mesmerized. He just stares at them, with all the emotion of a droid.
I turn back and start as I realize he's not the only Jedi with a staring problem. The master is staring also, but not at the flames. He's staring at me.
"I remember the first day your father brought you home," he says. I try to look interested. "You were such a tiny thing, so lonely and frightened. It took him hours to make you smile." I stare at him in confusion now. I have no idea what he is talking about.
Apparently he has no idea that I have no idea what he is talking about, because he keeps going. "You didn't want to take a bath, you didn't want to eat your dinner, you didn't want to sleep all alone, and you wanted to go back to your brother. I never saw him so happy as when you finally fell asleep on his lap. He stayed up the whole night, watching your dreams."
I start to wonder if the old man has finally reached his species' equivalent of senility, or if the thick smoke of my father's pyre has finally got to him. What in the galaxy is he talking about? I don't have a brother. My eyes travel the crowd and settle on my counterpart's head. The dark hair. Dark eyes. Blank face. Of course. He must have me confused with someone else.
"I'm sorry, Master-" I pause, but for the life of me I can't remember his name. My sister would know, but she was so hysterical about my father dying that we had to leave her at the hotel. He doesn't notice the lapse, or takes the nameless title as a sign of familiarity, so I continue. "You must be confusing me with someone else. I have a sister, not a brother. And all my species pretty much does is sleep when they are first born."
He stares at me, and I straighten unconsciously, trying not to squirm since he's probably probing me. It's not like he can catch me in a lie, since I haven't told him any, but the whole seeing-in-my-head thing has always creeped me out. Finally he looks at me like a normal hu--, like a normal whatever he is.
"He never told you, did he? You don't remember." I turn away from the pyre to face him completely.
"I'm supposed to remember something?" That came out a little harsher than I intended, but this confused alien Jedi is really starting to worry me. He's giving me the Jedi frown, the Jedi stare. I just hope he isn't carrying his Jedi lightsabre, because something is definitely not right here.
He... sighs. I don't know why. "When you were just a toddler, you came with your brother to the Temple."
"Master, I don't have a bro-" his mere glance silences me, the words dying on my lips. He may be many strange things, but senile isn't one of them. This Jedi is clearly in charge of his faculties.
"The Council accepted your brother into the training program, but you did not possess the Force potential he did. The Force runs in families, but it is not absolute. Your homeworld was impoverished and recovering from war and would not take you back. The Jedi had no choice but to send you to an orphanage."
I stare at him open-mouthed. "I... I've never been in an orphanage." He continues as if I haven't uttered a word.
"My former padawan knew you didn't have the Force, but he didn't want to take your brother and leave you behind. When the Council confirmed his suspicions, he talked it over with his wife. She couldn't have any children of her own, so she agreed to adopt you. Your father knew your brother would be trained as a Jedi, and he didn't want you to live your life without having him as a part of it."
I shake my head in denial. I never really thought he was my real father, but this... this is ridiculous. Some kind of twisted psychological game Jedi play. Maybe they take bets to see how long it takes me to start screaming at the man, or I'm supposed to be some sort of exhibit for the young padawans on what Emotional People look like when they... emote.
This is ridiculous.
I force a laugh. "I'm sorry Master." I still can't remember his name. "You really must be mistaken. Even if what you say is true, and I was adopted, you must still have me confused with someone else. My parents have another child, my sister. She couldn't come this evening, so perhaps that is why you are confusing her with this brother I don't have."
His piercing look never wavers. "I remember your sister. I remember the day she was brought home too." I open my mouth to protest. "Do you ever remember your mother ever being pregnant?"
My mouth stays open. I don't. She must have been. I was only about four at the time, but she must have been. Had to have been. Of course she was. He can't be right; it can't be true. She must have been. Because if she wasn't, then my sister must be-
I must be...
I turn to him, a snarl of rage and confusion on my face. "If all you say is true, old... Jedi, than answer me this one thing. If my father only adopted me so I could get to know my brother, where is he now?"
He looks at me for a long moment, before turning back to the pyre. "He should have told you. You're father adopted you because he thought you were a gift from the Force. A child he and his wife could never have. He loved you and your brother from the very first time he laid eyes on you both, huddling together in a crib in a refugee center. Unfortunately, his marriage fell apart and he was never able to give you the home he strove for. As for your brother, he told me you stated your opinion on the matter, and I see that hasn't changed in all your time together, or you would be with him now instead of with me."
What does he mean, 'with him now'? I follow his gaze down toward the pyre in the pit at the center of the hall and I see-
My hair, my eyes, my nose. My own mask of a face. Mine. On him.
On his padawan.
He's my brother? I turn to him, incredulous. "You're lying! It's impossible! Get away from me..." My words die away as I realize he's not even listening to me. He staring off into space, sensing something I have never felt, much less understood.
"No..." he almost whispers to himself, then he turns and practically runs down toward the pyre. For a split second I stare after him until I hear it.
"Nooooooo!" Screaming. Terrible screaming. "Noooo! Let me go!" Like everyone else in the room, I turn toward that terrible sound, tracking it to that spot within the privileged circle. That spot where my-where his padawan stood. I can't see him, nor can I see the person who's screaming, but it seems at least six Jedi have wrestled someone to the ground and are pummeling him with fists and rolled up cloaks. It seems like hours before they seize his robe and continue to beat it and I realize they are not trying to kill him, but are instead trying to put out a fire.
"Let me go!" The man on the ground rises up, the skin on his arms and face burned red, but I know his face. I know his hair. I know his eyes.
His padawan was on fire.
He was on fire. There's only one fire in the room. There's only one way he could have caught on fire. Only one way.
"Let me go!"
I stare, unable to turn away, as my father's master finally reaches him, other padawans and masters holding him down as he struggles, still reaching his flame-kissed hands toward my father. Toward his master. Toward the fire.
The older Jedi pulls him into an embrace and he stops struggling, his voice breaking, but still unbearably loud to my ears as I watch helplessly.
"It should have been me! He was protecting me! It should have been me!"
My father once told me that there are some things you just know. And there are some people you just love. And that blood is thicker than water. And love is thicker than blood. And that is why you do the things you do. And that is why you are who you are. Only now do I know what he meant.
And I have no one to blame but myself.
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