Part One Awakening
It felt like death itself.
He know longer knew how long he had been climbing for, no longer remembered how he had got there.
All he knew was that the light was above him, ahead of him, and he had to climb. Climb, or fall back into the darkness, and die.
For long stretches, he was aware of nothing except the simple need to move, the pain that it took to inch his way onwards, the appalling weight that seemed to weight him down and drag him back. He was surprised by the rare moments of lucid awareness, how detached his physical sense of self was from the agonizing pain that defined every nerve and muscle in his body, and the automatic movements by which he was hauling himself up the sheer, impossible face.
Towards the light.
One heartbeat at a time.
Occasionally, the pain would escape in a slow, wordless roar that seemed to roll on for ever like dry thunder, and somehow, he knew, he was calling out a name.
She was there, he knew. She was in the light. She was waiting for him, even if he could no longer remember how, or why, or even who she was.
All he remembered was that he loved her.
Then, one day, he tumbled unexpectedly over the edge, and back into the light. Gravity seemed to shift around him and before the memory of clambering into the gun-turrets aboard a battered old freighter could straighten itself out in his head, he was flailing forwards into space and brilliance, surprised by the sudden weightlessness and even more surprised when he realised how small and warm and dark the space he'd fallen into was, especially when he shared it with someone else someone curled next to him in awkward comfort, sleeping lightly.
A heartstoppingly familiar presence.
His heart knocked.
Her eyes opened.
"Anakin?!" he heard her ask.
"Tahiri?" he answered, his voice sounding odd. He blinked in horror, and scrambled, panicked, crabwise across the sheets.
"Anakin?!" she repeated, tumbling off the side of the bed, rolling to her feet.
They stood up, awkward. Anakin looked around, acutely aware of her embarrassment. They were standing in a small prefab, in the sleeping area of a neat, comfortable little bungalow. A darkened landscape was visible through the unshuttered viewports.
Immediately in front of them, a double bed. A lean young Yuuzhan Vong sprawled asleep beneath the tangled sheets, snoring innocently.
Kaeer, she explained, her thoughts apologetic. Rueful.
"It's okay," he whispered, trying to calm her. Somehow, through the Force, he managed to approximate the effect of a reassuring embrace. "I'm ..." I'm here.
"That ... is kinda the problem," she pointed out, blinking in disbelief. "This is ... weird."
"Um," he agreed. "Yeah."
"This can't be real," she muttered. And then, before he could reply "Anakin's dead."
For a long time, neither of them said anything.
Anakin kept very quiet, stunned disbelief mingling with an irrational terror inside him. Inside him inside her.
I'm dead, he realised, keeping the thought to himself but he couldn't stop it sending a shiver through her body. This isn't good.
All the same, he was having to fight a strong urge to smile. He wondered what his smile would look like on her face, but the smile faded when he felt the surge of despair inside her, awful memories she thought she'd forgotten welling up like tears. He retreated into the back of her mind, made himself as small and quiet as he could.
"Just a dream. This can't be happening to me ..."
He watched in a daze as Tahiri wandered round the room, then through to the 'fresher. She was starting to wonder if he was really there at all, he realised if it hadn't all just been some sort of bizarre nightmare.
So was he.
That way, it might be easier, for both of them.
Then, the hatch folded shut behind her, and she turned inside her mind to look straight at him, the two of them rearranging awkwardly around each other.
"Anakin?!" she hissed, her voice acquiring an edge like an amphistaff snapping straight. "Tell me this is a dream. That's not really you. Tell me I've just gone insane."
Um, he said, remembering not to speak out loud this time. Yeah. Hi. It's me. Then he caught sight of her in the mirror, and saw her gasp.
You're all grown up, he said, studying the reflection in surprise. Her hand reached out, touching the mirror, tracing the contours of her face in disbelief. How long ...?
"Seven years," she breathed. "Too long." She looked away, her guilt and tears and joy and fear made no easier to sort out by the way his emotions were tangling with her own. Then she turned back to consider her reflection again, accusation in her eyes. "What happened to you?"
"Seven years," he echoed, disturbed by how his own words sounded, carried on her voice. I have no idea.
"Great," she frowned. "Now what do we do?"
Well, it's cozy in here, he said, smiling at her. Remind you of anywhere?
"I ... I'm ... Anakin, this is never going to work ..."
Ah, he conceded. For what it's worth, I didn't really plan this ....
"Did you ever?"
Sorry, he shrugged. I'll ... um, think of something, I guess ...
Yeah, she conceded, with an odd little grin. That was something they could share, he realised, joining her in the smile. I'll bet you will.
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