At the Oasis: My Oasis Rating: PG

The idea for this little story came to me while listening to a local jazz group's version of "Caravan". This is AU (alternate universe), although hopefully the characters are familiar. I haven't written an AU before -- so here goes.

The caravan rises eerily out of the desert haze like a line of phantoms materialising from the sand. You'd swear the front riders were levitating silently on repulsors because the shimmering waves of fierce heat energy mask the banthas beneath them. I watch and wait, knowing it'll be a while before they reach the village. No point in hurrying in this heat, and no doubt they'll be tired. These tribal conflabs are tiresome affairs -- everyone wanting to have their say, the elders demanding they all stick to the old protocols. I'll bet they would have left here before dawn, too. Pity they won't take my advice and upgrade to speeders -- but, hey, what do I know about tribal tradition?

I used to hate this place -- the desert concentrates the heat of the twin suns so you end up feeling like a piece of desiccated bantha hide. Sucks you dry, in other words. Saps your energy, fills every orifice with grit and then tops it off with a headache that makes a Spice hangover feel like a therapeutic cranial massage. I first came here when I was a student learning the ways of the Force. I came back ten years later. Since then I've found the place growing on me, sifting its way grain by grain into my soul. The cool clarity of the stars at night, the Jundland thornbush with its vivid orange leaf-tips that look like desert candles, the tortured landscape tattooed with canyons and scarred by sand storms. Now when I visit the teeming city planet where I grew up, or even the Jedi institute surrounded by its protective mother jungle, I feel like a myrmin stuck in a specimen jar. This is home for me now. My place. My oasis.

Something shimmers suddenly and I peer at the plodding line of banthas, shielding my eyes from the slanting rays of the suns. Behind the sentry riding point and the two guards, I can see the tribe's leader swaying like a supple dancer from side to side. The movement exposes her anklets so the gems in them reflect the light. Like the other Tuskens she's swathed in long robes to protect her from the blistering gaze of those two infernal eyes in the sky, but you'd still be able to pick her out. Something about her bearing tells you, something about the way the guards turn to her every so often and dip their heads deferentially.

Once the caravan enters the confines of the village, the guards dismount and lead her animal off to be fed so she can meet with some of the elders and anyone else who wants to see her. It's not always easy to get an audience with her. You often have to wait a while -- especially if you're just an ordinary Joe Tusken. Not that I consider myself in that category, but hey, I wait anyway. My question may take a while to answer, so I'd prefer to hang on until she can give it her full attention.

Eventually my turn comes and I enter the tent. She's still wearing her cloak and turban, and she looks tired.

"And how can I help you?" She studies me primly from behind her long lashes.

"I'm looking for my wife," I tell her.

"Your wife." She looks pensive. "Describe her to me."

I hold my hand up to my chin. "About up to here. Long blonde hair, green eyes, legs to kill for. I've just got back from Corellia and I really want to find her. I've missed her badly."

"I see. Her hair -- is it the same colour as this?" She pulled off her pale green turban releasing a silk curtain of blonde hair.

"Yeah -- looks about right. Actually now I come to think of it -- her eyes are the same colour as yours too."

"That's interesting. How about these?"

She unwraps her cloak and lets it slip to the floor, poking one tanned leg forward. I run my eye up from her bare foot to the hem of her shift.

"Identical," I nod.

"It looks like you've found her then doesn't it." She smiles, and her eyes crinkle.

"You know, I'm impressed. That's pretty good finding. Ever thought of becoming a detective?"

She shakes her head, and tucks her hair behind one ear. "I think I'll leave detective work up to my husband. I've heard he's very good at it -- among other things."

Yeah, I know she's teasing -- but it's good for the ego. And anyway, when you return home unexpected it's nice to know your other half is as pleased to see you as you are to see her. Especially at this time of year when the tribal leaders are busy discussing hunting rights. Long tedious meetings -- boring as hell. No wonder she looks weary. I reach out for her so we can begin to test out the rumours she mentioned.

"I've missed you, too, Anakin," she says when the need for oxygen forces a break in the proceedings. "Next time I see Corran I'm going to convince him we need you here full time. I don't like the way he always calls on you when they get difficult cases."

"Well, you have to admit he hasn't called me in for a while."

"Only because things are quiet at the moment."

"It goes with the job -- you know that. Anyway -- I'm home now, and what's more I've cooked us a meal, and I've coaxed enough out of the pump for a long soak in the tub."

I watch her eyes widen. Even after two years of marriage those eyes can still create ionic storms inside me.

"Has anyone ever told you you're the best husband in the galaxy?"

"Yeah -- I hear that a lot actually. I try not to let it go to my head though."

She laughs as we walk arm in arm from the tent to the entrance of our home under the cliffs. You'd be surprised how cosy it is. Cave dwelling is grossly underrated, believe me.

Later as I watch the water glistening in droplets on her soft skin I think about what she said. It's not difficult being a good husband when you have the most beautiful woman in the galaxy as your wife. I reach over and touch her cheek, and the quiet trickling of the water punctuates our silent communion. Water -- life-giving, energising. That's what Tahiri is to me.

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