Refuge and Relief (Des and Malissa)
Desbre went out like a light, curled around a pillow in the medical ward of the Temple. It was merciful darkness, but one that was soothing and comforting, rather than alone and isolating. Most of the time she didn’t dream, or if she did it was processing information and experience. Or picking up on the background “noise” through the Force of the area around her. The activity of her mind made it difficult at times.
When she’d turned to alcohol for a time to cope, it knocked her out, but she always felt worse for the wear. The grip of depression on her mind and soul did nothing to help. When she slept in its grip, it was a lot. But it never seemed to provide the right amount or balance of rest.
She hovered somewhere between conscious and unconscious here. Resting in the dark. Comforted, almost like being back in the womb. The noise had turned down for mind and spirit. But so too was she aware of herself, able to take stock. Internally she was covered in wounds and scars, and after a time, studying them, she realized they weren’t physical, but on her spirit and psyche.
A bowl of fresh clean water seemed to appear in the darkness, and soon she began to clean herself and the wounds. In her sleep she wept, shedding a tear now and again, in the mixture of that cleansing and release. But there was no distress. It was a slow, steady renewal. Soon after she found cloth to bandage with and fresh, pristine clothes to put on, and a comfortable place to rest.
She drifted deeper in that place between worlds, without light or dark. Floating in the amniotic void.
In the waking, physical world, Ann brushed the younger Jedi girl’s hair back out of her face as she worked to clean up her face and hands. It had taken very little to guide Desbre into sleep, and making contact with her mind, guide her into a healing state. It wouldn’t be a deep or fast repair, and as she kept contact, she saw the terrible wounds and scars. Most of them self-inflicted. Torture. Punishment, and it tore the woman’s heart in half when she realized it. Des thought she’d committed some terrible wrong or crime. Or a set of them and relentlessly tormented herself. As far as she knew, there was nothing further from the truth. Nothing she could find in any record.
Ann would have left the girl to rest alone, save for the sense that she shouldn’t. Desbre was in a dark place, floating on the edge of despair. She needed more than just for her physical body to repair. Mending the body was easy. Mending the spirit was harder, and a much longer process sometimes. Sometimes one could turn a corner in an instant.
One of the other healers approached to see if she needed aid, but Ann waved her way, and took Desbre’s hand in her own and smoothed her hair back again. When she was satisfied the girl was a little more stabilized she did take the time to get up, make rounds, visit the ‘fresher, but then returned, sitting by the side of the bed. She’d relayed her findings to Mal while Des had sunk into that deep sleep. Normally, patient confidentiality was as close to absolute as one could get. But if Malissa was taking her on as a student, and putting her through more training, she was responsible for Desbre. She was required to know.
Anne thought she would be out for a few hours, but the girl passed into a deep sleep, bordering on a coma. The body’s natural healing process. A Jedi could enhance it a great deal, but for now, she wasn't in any serious health problems. And she remained that way for a day and a half. As she started to resurface, she reached out to Malissa. “I think she’s waking up,” she offered over the comlink. “I think you should be here when she comes awake.” Her tone was gentle but firm. “I think you’ve got about fifteen minutes to a half-hour,” she finished over the comlink.
Soon after, Des made a small sound. It was little more than a moan but it was more like an attempt at speech, though she was not fully conscious yet. She stirred a little, then more, tossing and turning, fighting with the covers drawn over her, before her large gray-white eyes fluttered open. She quickly slammed them shut once more, not used to the light. Trying again, she let them flutter open slowly as she cast her gaze about to see…
Malissa had come in less than ten minutes, not wanting the girl to wake up alone. As she sat reading a tone Lady Tessa had given her, she felt Dex start to rise to the surface of consciousness just before she stirred physically. When she thrashed in her covers, Malissa moved to sit on the side of her bed, soothing and calming her and keeping her arms free so she wouldn't feel trapped.
When Des started to open her eyes a second time, she would hear a soft calm voice beside and slightly above her. "Easy, lovey... easy... you've been asleep a long time. Give it a moment." There wasn't a way to cut the ambient light coming thru the windows, but the teacher did slip her body so she shaded the girl's face from the worst of the light. "Easy... let it happen in your own time. No rush..." She stroked her hair and rested a hand on her chest so she wasn't trapped in a hand hold but still felt a familiar presence.
The glow panels overhead were a little much, and then combined with the light pouring in from outside made her eyes hurt, but then Mal shielded it with her body. She didn't' say anything but gratitude came off her in a gentle wave. Mal gave off a deep warm red glow in the deepest shadows from the infrared coming off of her body, but it was much easier to handle for her sensitive vision.
The hand on her head, in her hair, she found more soothing and welcome than she could have imagined. The hand on her chest over her heart might have felt like being held down at any other time, and maybe it was. But it conveyed a different set of meanings that didn't fully register on a conscious level, but she felt neither trapped or anything but at ease. Save or someone in her personal space, but Malissa had more than permission to be there. She was entirely welcome.
"I'm okay," she croaked, a side effect of a terribly dry throat. Working up some moisture she swallowed and tried again. "I'm alright," she said and pushed herself slowly to sit up. She was a little stiff, and was sore from head to toe. It felt like she'd been tenderized with a bat, but it was a side effect of all the micro-tears in her muscles swelling and repairing, and maybe the tiniest of cracks in bones complaining. She felt empty, but otherwise alright on the inside. And hungry. Her tummy made a demanding rumble. Reaching out she pulled a glass of water to her and took a long drink to give it something to do.
Turning her attention back to her would-be teacher, she adjusted so she could sit up straight, then stretched with a low groan, but it was of approval and waking up rather than misery. She felt overall... alive... and better in some regards than she had a couple days ago.
"I guess I needed that," she said with a small but faint and slightly sardonic smile. Taking a moment she glanced at her hands, then frowned. They were chapped and the skin was cracked in a couple places or had been. They'd been wrapped while she lay passed out. It felt good, comfortable, pleasantly warm. She flexed her grip. They didn't restrict much at all. Depending on how it worked out, she had a mind to keep it. it would protect her hands when wielding a saber or flying her ship.
Malissa smiled as Des thanked her. Helping to brace her as she sat, adjusting the pillows and such, she then handed her a small glass of water from the bedside stand. "Sip slowly. You've been out almost two days." She smiled softly waiting for it to sink in. The girl *had* needed it. So Malissa had allowed the nurse to let her sleep as she suggested.
"I don't want you to think of anything for the rest of today but letting yourself get clear headed again. Prolonged sleep, especially healing sleep, can take its toll as well as the reason for the sleep in the first place. There is soup and soft bread coming up for you in a few minutes. So you can eat as you are ready. All right?" She slowly settled back in her seat and smiled. It was good to see Des wasn't fighting at the wraps on her hands. She had needed them. Malissa would eventually help her find or make a nice pair of lined gloves. But for now, the skills of the nurses and healers was sufficient.
Seeing Mal's eyes go to her hands, she held one up and waggled it in a so-so fashion. Then she cast her gaze about, looking for her lightsaber. It sat off to the side atop a clean and fresh set of clothes to change into. Relief washed over her but was glad they hadn't left it with her where she could roll over on it or accidentally turn it on. It wasn't just a training saber, but the one her grandfather gave her. It was fully functional with variable power settings, so it could still be used for training safely. But she hardly needed it. She'd spent three years training endlessly with it. It was a part of her hand, a part of her now.
At the comment about her getting clear-headed, those eyes landed on Malissa with a razor-sharp intensity and focus most others found intimidating. But there was no hostility from her, only focus. And reading her purely visually and taking her in with that same bright intelligence. "I'm alright as far as that goes. Though calories and carbohydrates will help," she admitted. The idea of food made her stomach only complain louder.
Under the sheets, she crossed her ankles, legs still outstretched, but getting comfortable in the auto-conforming bed. "Two days," she asked as she reviewed. "I would believe it. My internal clock is a little off. There must have been a period where I was truly unconscious." Reaching over she picked up a small chronometer and took in the time and date. She watched it for an entire minute, until the digits changed at least twice, with that same focus. Internal clock reset. She never spoke it aloud, but it was a feeling, a set of concepts with it, so clear and intense they were almost words for Malissa.
Putting the device down she folded her hands in her lap. She already felt the need to move, to stir. She didn't feel like running, but movement, that she needed. Just walking would do. And she had a growing need to visit the 'fresher. "When can I go for a walk. And also I need to visit the 'fresher. Ideally, before the food gets here," she said. Two days without going was a very long time, and if she didn't quickly, there'd be a rather embarrassing mess to clean up.
Malissa smiled and stood up. "I'll let the nurses help you with getting ready. When you are, I'll meet you in the garden over there," she nodded to a door on the far side of the room. "It's near the back of the Keep and pretty private. I'll have food brought there. The walk to get around and get there will be enough till you have eaten."
She stroked the girl's shoulder in reassurance and had the nurse come assist her with getting herself comfortable and presentable. Once she felt herself, some food would go a long way. "Take your time. It's going to be hard for a bit." The words weren't just meant for this moment, but for the days to come.
Desbre shook her head slightly as Mal called for one of the nurses to help her, then slipped away to the outside. By the time they arrived, she had shifted to her feet hanging off the bed and dropped to the floor.
A soft hiss passed through her teeth as her feet complained. Thankfully the blisters she used to get had turned to callouses now, which she kept trimmed down. But the training was still hard on them. Having been off her feet for a couple days, they protested at the new activity. They’d loosen up in a few steps though. The cool floor felt wonderful, and by the time the nurse came through the doorway, she was halfway to the refresher.
Without looking she stretched one hand behind her, using the Force to tug on the clean clothes. They shot to hand with no effort or thought. Looking to the nurse, she held up a hand. “I’m alright. Malissa is just…” being a little overzealous “worried I will injure myself,” she said with a small smile. “You can wait while I take care of some business. But I gotta gooooo.” With that, she slipped inside.
Fifteen minutes later she slipped back out into the room, this time wearing a pristine uniform done in whites and pastel blues. Gone was the grime, filth, and sweat from training. Her hair was wrapped up in a towel. The aches and pains were mostly gone or were easily bearable.
Padding barefoot on the floor she slipped over to the edge of the bed and pulled on socks, then slipped into the lightweight brown light gray-blue boots. Slipping her saber onto her belt, she drifted out to sit across from Malissa.
The lines and shape to her uniform, the ones she’d made anyway emphasized the curve of her hips, waist, and shoulders, but managed to also lengthen her form, lending her a slender grace. She said nothing as she moved to sit, at least at first but she did look refreshed.
Licking her lips she pressed them together briefly. “I have my doubts about how things will go, and their difficulty. The most difficult, painful thing, has come from abandonment. From nobody wanting me. Wanting me around.” As she spoke she rested her elbows on her knees, her hands loosely placed together. She spoke frankly, and with clarity. And at that moment there were far more years behind those eyes than her face would suggest.
”Brandyn taught me a lot. Others have too. And I’m still struggling with some things. Going through things. There are things I wish I could take back. But I can’t go back. Can’t fix them. So I can only press on. So that’s what I’m doing. And maybe one day, I’ll make a difference for someone. Or a lot of people.” She picked idly at one nail as she spoke slowly, as though a flower opening it’s petals. “But slowly, ever so slowly, I am finding that I am not as fragile as I’ve felt. And stronger than I would guess.” The strength she referred to had nothing to do with the Force, but strength of character, strength of mind, and strength of heart.
”And I’m not going to fall to pieces because I stubbed a toe,” she finished with a small but growing smile that blossomed into a grin. it made her face light up like a thousand lights and went all the way to her eyes.
Malissa was sitting in the garden sipping a cup of tea when Des arrived. She smiled and watched the girl with more than just her eyes. She knew Des still hurt, but was doing better than before. It pleased her the child wasn't a whiner.
As Des opened up and confessed many things Malissa guessed had been a long time coming, she sat silently, almost deathly still, and listened. She was afraid to move and startle the girl into realizing just how much she was voicing out loud. When Des was done, she lifted the dome over the food and revealed lightly scrambled eggs, fruit, bread and juice as well as tea. "You need to eat," she said to begin with before serving her own plate.
After a moment, she continued. "All of us go thru hardships. Sometimes the hardest ones coming from this very place," she waved her hand to include the Keep and grounds. "Mentors come and go. Friends come and go. Lovers come and go. People die." Her voice wavered slightly as she tried to swiftly tamper down her own memories of loss. At least Jacob had come back to her. It was something... a big something. She hoped Des would find that in someone, some day. "But we have to take every moment, failure and success, as a trial of Fate's making. The Force moves in mysterious ways." She laughed then. "It's cliche, I know, but it's true. All of us are on roads and those roads criss cross with other roads. I can't make any promises that things won't go sideways while you are here as well. But I can promise as long as we share the same road, I will be here to help teach and guide you to the best of my abilities." She was sure Jacob would be willing to help as well. But she didn't want to say so and raise the girl's hopes only to see Jr tossed off planet on some mission for the Jedi.
The smell of food hit her full-on in the face. She was already starving but had the control not to really show it. But with a meal hitting her like that she almost doubled over from the rather loud demand her tummy made for it. She found her near alabaster features flushing some then and set up her own plate.
It all smelled like heaven and looked just as good. In the back of her mind, she knew the mix of carbohydrates, sugars, and easy-to-use proteins were exactly what the doctor ordered. Lots of quick to ignite fuel but with enough to power her for hours, and get her to running quite efficiently.
Digging in, it was just as good as it looked and she let out a low groan of enjoyment, even though she knew it probably wasn’t any better than usual. But when one was starving, everything was great.
When Mal began to speak, she focused on the woman, slowing some in her eating. At the mention of a lover, her eyebrow shot up. “I thought that was forbidden. Jedi are supposed to at most be celibate. ‘There is no emotion, there is peace’ and all that.” Of course, there was a question in there. She tried not to look too interested or hopeful. “I’ve met one or two other Jedi kids, but I thought that was just for reproduction only kind of thing."
A deep echo of loneliness beneath the surface, and mostly quiet had been with her for such a long time. She’d had a couple of lovers back home, on Arkania. And while she wasn’t looking, the idea of never being able to enjoy the comfort and touch of another in that way had been eating at her. She didn’t like it. Didn’t agree with it.
Malissa pushed the serving plates closer to the young lady and smiled. "Dig in..."
She waited and ate her own small serving as she watched Des slowly begin to settle down. When the girl mentioned celibacy, she almost choked on her bread. "Those lessons are for when you are using the force. 'No emotion, only peace' pertains more to keeping your mind calm and not allowing rage, anger, or even love to be the driving force behind your defensive, or offensive posture. Jedi are most definitely allowed to love. It makes it all the more sweet if you find a 'Force Bond' with that person." This time it was her turn to blush as she looked at her plate a moment.
Then she smiled once more and looked at Des a moment before reaching to touch the girl's hand. "Never think you can't love. Whether you choose to love many, or one... men or women or both... the Jedi don't judge. And love, in any form, makes you stronger. Not weaker. Always remember that." She was absently rubbing her thumb over the back of Desbre's hand as she smiled. She hoped it would help calm the girl and give her a reminder that solitude wasn't the way to go.
Slender fingers wrapped around Mal’s hand delicately but with surprising strength. The girl spent most of her life with labor-intensive work, and her training went beyond that. All the wear patterns on her hands told that much, but now it came to light. She only latched on as an anchor though, rather than doing harm.
A whirl of emotions and responses passed over the surface of her thoughts, her heart. Relief and gratitude were most chief among them. The prospect of perpetual isolation had been like staring into a black void.
While she didn’t need to validate her existence through the existence of anyone else, in the last few years, it had truly stuck with her what it was to be alone. She could be. She knew that without a doubt. But she didn’t want to be.
Feeling that thumb at the back of her hand, it drew her back to the moment and present company. Mal’s face actually glowed in the infrared spectrum and Des tilted her head. “I see you’re talking from personal experience,” she said. “I’d even go so far to say by the look on your face and in your eyes, you’re in loooove.” There was a little mirth, a little teasing, but nothing more than a friendly, if not an affectionate jab, never to cause pain.
At the same time, her mind went back to Brandyn, her first teacher. She’d found him interesting. He was a mystery, a puzzle, but there was more to it. A tension there. She wondered if it was her imagination, or if he’d felt the same. Was that why he’d left, she’d wondered for years. And she’d not seen him again. Thinking about him now brought up some old pains, but Des decided she might never know the answers to that.
Turning her attention back to Mal, she tucked her hair behind one pointy ear. “So who’s the lucky sentient,” she asked, still holding on with one hand while picking up a piece of fruit and taking as big a bite as she dared.
As Des teased her, Malissa blushed fully into a crimson cherry cheeked woman. Sitting back, she laughed and pulled her hand from Des' with a bit of a stammered response. "Umm... well, you got me. I am in love. We are actually Force Bound and the one I owe my life to." She realized that except for her last Master and those in the Council, and now the ones in Medical, no one else knew of the bond between her and Jr. Everyone else just figured they were just an ordinary couple.
"It's Jr., ummm Jacob," she corrected. "The bond was nearly instant between us and we have been together practically since I got here. It was our bond that let him reach me when I was healing that brought me back to the surface when not even the Healers could reach me." She didn't hide her cane or her limp. It was a horrible accident and had nearly killed her. But since that wasn't the topic, she mentally shook it off. "He has taught me a lot. He returned from his first Trial recently and was there to see me return from mine. So it's nice to go thru this together as we grow our Bond. We are hoping to be a formidable team and a pair that can handle about anything by the time we finish our training." She was proud of the goals they had set and was even more proud to see them accomplishing it.
Des smiled as her simple assessment, which was as plain as day to her, seemed to catch Malissa off guard. It was endearing. Her flustered state was amusing, but she could sense the way she felt about her bond mate. It was pure and clean, and that alone was a bright spot in an otherwise dark and unforgiving galaxy.
And more than anything she wanted just the teensiest tiniest fraction of that. And like a cloud passing in front of the sun her expression dimmed and her eyes turned just a little misty. Focusing on food for moment she tried to keep it from showing too much on her face. But that was hopeless. If her face didn't show it, she knew Mal would pick up on it, if she paid any attention empathically. And the image of Mal and her mate, or partner, lover, fighting back to back on some mission somewhere. That she wanted to. It stung too.
She couldn't bring herself to feel any sort of jealousy or resentment toward Mal. Even after all the things she'd dealt with over the years it never seemed to enter her soul. Maybe there was a little here and there. But clinging to it never served a purpose she'd ever found.
Finally she gave Mal a smile that was bright, but her gray-white eyes still showed at least a little bit of sadness and loneliness. Not that she desired Mal in any way other than her friendship, companionship, and knowledge she saw fit to share. But she wanted something similar to what Mal had. And she'd probably never have it.
"Well you just finished your trials," she said. "So that part is over. Right? I mean, you'll have further training you do. The journey doesn't stop there, but you're done with ... " she trailed off, while looking around. She wasn't quite sure what to call training at the temple. It didn't feel like it. She often found herself questioning so many things. Did they know how inefficient they were?
She sighed and began to eat in earnest, and though she was ravenous, she barely tasted any of it then as she ate mechanically.
Malissa was acutely aware of the emotions flowing in and around Des. It wasn't the first time she had seen or felt them. In time, perhaps she could offer the student some of the healing that came with physical comfort from another. Malissa was open to that and Jacob wouldn't mind. He knew where her heart resided, so if her body occasionally comforted another or brought pleasure to them both, he was all right with it.
As Des mentioned the Trials, Mal smiled. "Well, Trials were the easy part. It's the getting there that's hard. I won't lie. There is a long way to go. For us both to progress." She smiled and slip another piece of fruit onto the girl's plate. She had already done it twice and the half starved student hadn't even noticed.
"But I have faith in you, and in myself. And if you don't," she winnked, "well, I have enough for us both." She laughed and pulled out a padd. Sliding it across the table she spent the next several minutes going over the upcoming trainings for Des. From which skills she already had, to those she wanted to learn.
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