In order to read this story you really need to have read Conquest and Rebirth. This story begins just after Rebirth ends.
Tahiri collapsed on her bunk, and sighed a huge sigh of relief to be back in the comfort of her own room and at finally being able to climb out of the ungainly vac suit she'd been forced to wear for the past few days. It had been true freedom to throw the thing in the corner and leap under the warm jets in her small refresher unit. The next thing would be to eat and then, hopefully, to curl up in a set of cool, clean sheets and sleep for as long as she could. No doubt Corran would expect both Anakin and herself to contribute to any debriefing Booster or Master Luke might order, but until they came to find her, she intended to lie low -- literally. She'd had more than enough action to last her a few weeks at least.
A familiar presence appeared at the edge of her consciousness matched by a knock at her door.
"Door's open," she called pushing herself up into a sitting position against the bolster.
"Hi," Anakin poked his head around the door. "You OK?"
"Feeling vaguely human again," she grinned, adjusting her position to sit cross-legged. "How about you?"
"Glad to get out of that vac suit," he replied, pushing the door closed behind him. "And looking forward to a decent meal."
"Situation normal in other words. How's Mara?"
Anakin sat down on the other end of the bunk and glanced at her briefly before turning his attention to his boots. He'd been studying them a lot lately she had noticed, and the floor and the walls -- that's when he hadn't been engrossed in the complexities of the starfighter they'd taken from the Givin space station. But there again she was the same -- anything to avoid having to lock gazes with him. It was weird, too, because she knew deep inside she did really want to lose herself in his ice blue eyes -- it was just that when she did, she felt as if someone had knocked the wind out of her. And it wasn't just because of the kiss in the locker on the space station. The awkwardness had started way back -- about when Anakin had turned up on Yavin 4 to rescue them from the Peace Brigade.
"She's OK," he said hesitantly. "Worn out, still looks a bit sick, but in the Force she looks ... great. Happy -- really happy." He glanced at her again fleetingly, but long enough for Tahiri to see his relief. She understood how much Anakin respected Mara, and how fond he was of her. She also knew the feelings cut both ways.
She nodded. "I'm glad everything's turned out all right. What does it look like -- the baby I mean?"
"Um, sort of ... wrinkly. I mean it's OK and everything," his blue eyes flickered towards hers again with a look of reassurance, "but um . . . I guess I thought it -- he -- would look more ... like a person."
Tahiri stared at his profile for a moment. "Anakin," she said seriously, "you didn't tell Mara that, did you?"
"Um, no ... well, not exactly." He glanced up again sheepishly. "Well I, um, think I did say he was a bit scrunched up, but I uh ... "
"Anakin!" Tahiri said heatedly. "You don't go telling new mothers their babies are scrunched up -- it's like saying they're ugly." She stopped, and an amused expression passed over her face. "Still, as you're still alive, I assume Mara wasn't too upset. Either that or she's still too sick to actually kill you."
He threw her a lop-sided grin. "Yeah. Sort of a bit of both I think."
"Oh well," Tahiri sighed. "I guess she would have been too pleased to see you to get all worked up about it. I'm just relieved she's OK. When you said you thought she was dying, I was really worried."
"Me too." He nodded and studied the wall for a moment. Tahiri was just beginning to feel that the silence had become awkward when he turned towards her. Their eyes met and she felt the familiar ionic jolt, accompanied by flutterings in the pit of her stomach. Tahiri swallowed awkwardly and would have felt silly if she hadn't noticed Anakin doing the same. He smiled a little uncertainly, and she saw a faint flush of red darken his cheeks, matching the warmth she could feel infusing her own. He stretched his hand out to her, and she took it in hers; then she felt a moment of panic as she wondered what to do next. Tentatively she squeezed his fingers. Warmth flooded through her as he squeezed back, and, suddenly confident, she slid towards him. He ran his fingers gently down her cheek and then bent his mouth down to hers. It was several minutes before Tahiri became aware they had let go hands and were pressed tightly together, arms around one another.
"Wow," she breathed.
"Yeah," he murmured in reply.
"You're getting better at that already."
"That's encouraging. But I'd sure hate to think I was getting worse."
"It was all right the first time," she reassured him. "In fact it was nice. It just surprised me, that's all."
"Surprised me too," he grinned slightly. "And scared me a bit."
"You -- scared? Of what?"
"Oh, you know. Once I'd engaged lips, so to speak, I thought 'what if I start dribbling or something, or want to sneeze.'"
Tahiri giggled. "Well, don't worry. It was so dark, I doubt I would have noticed. Are you still glad you did it?"
"Yeah." He kissed her again. "Mmm, definitely. Even though it's made things a bit weird."
"Awkward you mean?"
"Yeah," he nodded.
"Yeah, which is stupid, considering how long we've known each other, and how well we know each other. I guess it's just that it makes things different."
"Do your legs go funny?" he asked curiously.
"Sort of. Mine feel like sponges."
"I feel like I've got a small mynock flapping around inside me."
"Yeah, me too. Wonder if it's the same mynock, or if it has a friend."
They both chuckled. "Well mine's gone now. It only seems to come when you look at me."
"Same here. Perhaps we should start wearing blinkers."
"That'd look funny."
"Yeah." The lop-sided grin returned.
"Maybe now we know that we both feel the same, we'll stop feeling it."
"Possibly. At least we know we DO feel the same."
Anakin unwrapped an arm from around her and smoothed the blond bangs away from the scars on her forehead. He kissed them lightly, and then nestled her against him, resting his chin against her hair. Presently her voice arose muffled from down near his shoulder.
"Anakin. If we stop having these feelings ... I mean, if it doesn't work out for some reason -- can we promise each other to still be friends." She pulled away slightly so she could look up at him. A lock of dark brown hair had fallen on to his forehead, as it often did. It occurred to Tahiri that a few years ago she probably wouldn't have noticed such a minor occurrence, and if she had, it would have only been as an opportunity to tease him for forgetting to comb his hair. Now it seemed that anything connected with Anakin had a whole new clarity and meaning: the way one eyebrow would tilt up when he was being sardonic; the interesting triangle shape you could superimpose on the tapering lines of his torso; and the way his hair flopped on to his forehead when he was busy, or concentrating on something. It was amazing how someone so familiar could suddenly become so incredibly ... interesting.
"I can't imagine us not being friends," he said frowning thoughtfully. "Not after all we've been through together."
"Me neither. But things do change; people sometimes change. Maybe this has happened because of what we've been through -- you know, only having each other to depend on."
Anakin gazed into her green eyes, once again feeling the tingle deep in his core, a disturbance he as yet had no name for, but one which was becoming a regular feature in his sensory array. Ikrit's words about togetherness came back to him, and he remembered the old Jedi Master's comment about something new being born in Tahiri and himself, and how the words had moved him. Is this what Ikrit had been preparing him for? Was this destiny at work? He knew in reality he had already begun to see Tahiri differently even before Ikrit had spoken to him, but would he have been so willing to listen to his heart if he hadn't had such a conversation?
It was hard to answer definitively from his current standpoint, but it was possible that without Ikrit's words he might have let their relative youth sway him into believing that he shouldn't take his feelings seriously. As it was now, he knew it felt right when he held her, when he kissed her. Where their present vector was leading he had no idea, but he had the feeling that as long as they remained on it together, the destination would eventually declare itself.
"I don't think so," he replied. "I think this has happened because it was meant to, and I have a feeling it started a long time ago. It's just that neither of us noticed it, or if we did, we didn't know what it was."
"You know, you're becoming quite a philosopher."
"That's a scary thought," he chuckled. "You'll be telling me I'm like my brother next."
"No, no. I'm saving that one for when we have our first argument," she smiled sneakily.
"Great. Already into the emotional blackmail, are we?"
"You bet. You forget -- I already know all your weak points."
"Well, unfortunately for me there's plenty of those, so I might as well just concede defeat now. Speaking of weak points, are you starving?"
"Is the Errant Venture red?"
Anakin grinned and bent down to give her a quick kiss, but it turned into something more lingering.
Tahiri sighed. "This could become a major habit, you know."
"Too late, it already has."
"Yeah. I'm glad though."
"Me too. I'm also glad we've sorted it out. I was beginning to feel really stupid trying to avoid looking at you. My boots are really very boring."
"The walls aren't very interesting either. I much prefer looking at you."
"Wow. Is that a compliment?"
"Yeah, but don't let it go to your head. It's only because I can see your inner beauty."
"Oh, that. In that case we'd better go find some food. I can feel my inner beauty calling out for sustenance." He grinned, planting a kiss on her nose, then he chuckled fondly and enfolded her tightly in his arms. "Ready?" he asked when he released her a moment later.
"Ready as rockets, Hero Boy," she grinned.
As they stepped out into the corridor, Anakin took her hand in his. The conversation with Master Ikrit echoed again in his mind, and he could almost hear the creaky voice of the old Jedi. Remember, Anakin. Together.
Don't worry, Master, Anakin silently replied. I did listen. That's what it'll be from now on. Together.
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