Characters: Jaina Fel, Saria Fel, Jagged Fel, Zekk
Summary: As a friend's condition grows steadily worse, Jaina becomes disillusioned, despite others' forced optimism. Although her husband and friends try to help her, it is only during a late night stake-out of her sick daughter's room that Jaina finds her faith once again.
I'm too tired to listen
Jaina unzipped her coat wearily as she entered her home. She had just recently returned from Zekk and Aarie's house, and the sight of her ill friend had taken its toll. Though she focused all her energy on avoiding it, she still saw the sickly pallor - ashen even for her old friend - of his face and the sheen of sweat that covered him as he fought back his thus far anonymous disease. He hadn't recognized her in his fevered state, calling out for Peckhum and even his parents. He hadn't felt the tight grip in which she held his hand as she sat with him, should he wake up.
Aarie's strength had finally failed her after so many months of perseverance, and she was unable to stay with her husband. Instead, the task had fallen to Jaina, his best friend since childhood. Jaina had accepted Aarie's plea immediately and without hesitation, but…
Jaina choked back a sob as, through the Force, she felt pain slice through Zekk's body. She hadn't wanted to close down her bond with him; what if he needed her? But it was stretching her thin. Just hold on; he has to pull through soon, she reassured herself almost desperately. When he was well, it would be all right to relax.
Jag looked up from his tea when he heard her come in. She smiled faintly, though surprised. "You didn't have to wait up for me," she scolded quietly, careful not to wake Saria, whose her room was nearby. "You have a long day tomorrow, after all; you should get some more sleep."
The soon-to-be general studied his wife carefully, noticing the fatigue lines that changed her prettiness into something more like the beauty of her mother. "Saria wasn't feeling well; I wanted to stay up until the medicine kicked in."
Jaina glanced at her daughter's open bedroom door and leaned over to kiss her husband. "Your mind needs to stay clear for tomorrow; you wouldn't want to forget your promotion day, would you? Go on; I'll stay with her."
Jag stood, but paused before leaving. "Jaina… Are you alright? I know Zekk's - "
"I'm fine," Jaina maintained impatiently.
The man's concern was not so easily assuaged. "Maybe you should let Jacen or Aarie take a turn… You're liable to become ill yourself, at this rate."
Jaina's face was stony. "I'm fine," she snapped.
Jag sighed, but too many conversations like this had gleaned the knowledge that she wouldn't be swayed. "Zekk will heal, Jaina; the scientists have discovered enough to know it is not fatal."
She looked down to hide her pained eyes. "But they know so little…how can we trust what they say?" She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "He gets worse everyday," she admitted, almost to herself. "He doesn't even recognize me anymore."
Jag reached out to comfort her, but Jaina's momentary lapse in bravado was of the past. "Goodnight, Jag."
There was a bleakness in her eyes that frightened Jag, but he knew a dismissal when he heard one. "Don't stay up too late," he murmured, kissing her cheek before leaving.
She nodded distractedly, paying his words little heed. He knew as well as she that her sleep was restless and only an act. The few times she stayed asleep, Jaina was plagued with nightmares of Zekk's death.
"Mommy?" a sleepy voice called.
Jaina rose and looked into Saria's room. "What is it, sweetheart? Are you feeling better?"
The seven-year-old's silhouette was barely visible, but the condition of her health was obvious in the Force. "My tummy doesn't feel so good," she moaned.
The Solo daughter reached out until she found the light controls and turned them so that a soft glow filled the room. Saria was pale, her face scrunched in pain, and holding her stomach.
Fear clawed at Jaina's heart; what if she had somehow transferred Zekk's disease to Saria? Her soul screamed at the thought. Not my daughter! she cried silently.
"Mommy?" Saria managed to squeak pitifully.
Brought back to her senses, Jaina took in Saria's symptoms: a fever and stomach illness, but Saria had been fine when Jaina last saw her; Zekk had shown signs of weakness for months before the disease hit him. It was just the flu; it had to be. "I'm sorry, honey," she murmured, crossing the room.
Perhaps Saria had sensed her mother's fear, because she snuggled deep into Jaina's embrace. "It's okay, Mommy," she said.
Jaina shook her head with vague amusement. Saria was picking up on her father's habit of comforting - or apologizing - even if she was unaware of the crime. She couldn't, however, find the strength to agree with her daughter. "I'll go get a bucket," she told Saria in a soft voice.
Jaina found a large pail quickly, in the bottom shelves where the things not used for cooking were kept. Before returning to her daughter, she grabbed a few books, in case Saria wanted to hear a story. A glance labelled the stories as fairy ones - Saria's latest obsession being the one on top: Pietr Pan, the child who never grew up, and who could fly thanks to pixie dust.
Jaina shook her head cynically; normally, she thought it was sweet that Saria was so attracted to fairy tales. Now, she couldn't help but feel that allowing the childhood trust was just setting the girl up for a big disappointment.
With a sigh, Jaina returned to her daughter's room, just in time to evade a small disaster. Saria's dinner came up and only barely into the bucket. A few tears escaped the normal strong mother as she felt the pain of Zekk and her daughter combined. Oh, sweetheart, what would I ever do if I lost you? she wondered. Zekk's death was something she could survive, if she had to. The loss of her daughter, however… Jaina would never recover from that.
Don't even think about it, Solo, she reprimanded herself. It's a simple flu bug. Saria will be annoying you with her incessant questions within a few days. This is not Zekk's could-be-fatal disease.
Jaina held her daughter closer, rubbing the small girl's back as she heaved through miserable cries. She wanted to reach out and soothe Saria, but knew that her mind was too chaotic to help; she would only hurt the girl. The thought caused Jaina almost physical pain.
At last, the spell was over, and Jaina left her daughter to empty the pail's contents in the 'fresher. When she returned, her daughter's miserable tears and pained eyes met hers. "Mommy…" she croaked, pleading for respite from the pain. But her mother could do nothing, only hold Saria close and murmur soothingly.
It took nearly a half hour for Saria to gather herself enough to ask, "Mommy? Can you read me a story?"
"Of course, sweetie." Jaina didn't have to ask which story the child wanted, but it didn't mean she wanted to look at it. No, she was definitely not in the mood to attempt to convey a realistic existence of pixie dust and children who flew.
There's no such thing as pixie dust, she thought wearily. Why should I set her up for disappointment?
Because she is still a child, came the answer. And because fairy tales can help us survive. Resolutely, the Sword of the Jedi opened the story book with the flying boy on the front cover.
Saria listened raptly - or, at least, as much so as she could while her "tummy" rebelled every few moments - as Jaina gave life to the words on the page. However, near the end of the story, Saria's stomach heaved once more.
It was less severe this time, and Jaina knew the medicine was beginning to work its magic, but when the burst finished, Jaina would not pick up the hardback. "Why don't we read a different story, Sari?" she asked tiredly, snapping the book shut.
Saria's hazel eyes were reproachful, despite her weakness. "But we haven't finished Pietr Pan!"
Jaina's eyes closed momentarily before reopening. "Saria… I'm tired. If you want me to read to you, it'll have to be a different one." I can't pretend I believe in fairy tales tonight, darling.
Saria's face twisted in frustration, stubborn in her desires even when she could barely sit up. "ThenI'll read it," she said defiantly. "Out loud."
Well, at least I'll know she's my daughter if I ever get amnesia and forget that day of labour, Jaina thought somewhat cynically. "Fine," she surrendered, leaning against the wall as she held her daughter into her side.
" 'Then'," Saria read, concentrating on the words, despite how many times she had heard it. " 'Pietr Pan gave them some…pixie dust and they flew off to stop the Capta-in… Captane…Captain'," she corrected at Jaina's murmur. " 'The…Captain and his crew wear - were no match for Wendi, Pietr and the Lost Boys be…be-kay-you-zuh' - "
"Because," Jaina prompted, brushing a lock of sweaty hair out of the girl's pale face.
" 'Because Tink had helped them fly. After the Captain was eaten by an…al-lih-gat…alligator'?" Jaina nodded, distracted by the gleam in Saria's eyes. " 'Wendi 'n' Mac 'n' Pat knew they had to…leave. So they said goodbye and Wendi kissed Pietr…' Yuck!" Saria's disgust made her mother chuckle, which Jaina quickly stifled with her hand.
But Saria's thirst for Pietr Pan wasn't put off by something as icky as kissing - yet. " 'And Wendi said, I'll never stop believing in you, Pietr Pan and I'll never give up on pixie dust.' And Pietr gave Wendi some fairy dust to keep forever, if she needed it.
" 'Then they flew home, and Wendi grew up, but she always held onto her pixie dust!' " Saria finished triumphantly.
"You've got it memorized," Jaina commented, her voice catching just a little. "Maybe it's time you pulled a Wendi and graduated to a new book."
"I don't have it all memorized!" Saria protested with wide eyes, clutching the book protectively. "Just the last part, 'cuz it's my favourite!"
Jaina sniffed as she moved Saria out of her lap and under the covers. "We'll talk about it tomorrow," she conceded. "But your stomach appears to have settled some, so right now you should try to get some sleep. I'll stay in the kitchen until you're asleep."
If Jaina had doubted that the medicine was kicking in, Saria's lack of resistance closed the case. The girl's eyes were already beginning to close, but snapped open one last time. "Mommy? It's gonna be okay - you'll see." Jaina blinked, and her daughter continued, sounding older and yet innocently her own age, if not younger. " 'All you need is a little faith and pixie dust'."
Jaina kissed and thanked Saria, barely aware of her movements, the child's words ringing in her ears. Faith - it had been her oxygen over the past months. But when Jaina peered into her daughter's eyes, she found that sparkle of Pietr Pan's magical aid and almost began to cry right there and then.
"I think you're right," she replied, hoping Saria's closing eyes wouldn't notice the tears that traced her mother's face.
Jaina exited swiftly and prepared for bed, knowing Saria's flu wouldn't be back until the next day.
The next day. Jaina smiled for the first time in a while. Tomorrow she would wake up to Saria's flu and Jag's promotion, but when she went to see Zekk she knew it would be alright. As long as there was that glimmer of pixie dust, living in Saria's hazel eyes, how could she doubt it? Some childhood beliefs are meant to be maintained and cherished the Sword of the Jedi conceded with a teary smile.
I can finally see it