Part Six Three's a Crowd
"Go up to the cockpit and make sure we have launch clearance," Alema said to Jacen, when they reached the ship. "I want to have a word with Tahiri."
"Alema?" Jacen asked.
"Trust me?" she grinned.
Jacen answered with a meek nod, and disappeared up the ramp, his gait and his presence in the Force steady and quiet like an obedient slave.
Alema grinned, and swung towards Tahiri and Anakin.
You do the talking, Tahiri said. Please?
"What was all that about," he asked.
"I think you know as much as I do," she smiled, spinning round and slinking quickly closer. "It's good to see you again."
Clumsily, Tahiri let Alema embrace her, and Anakin saw the smile as she ruffled Tahiri's hair no, his hair.
"I like the new look, Anakin. It suits you."
Anakin blanched, and took a step back.
"Uhh," he said, raising his hands to chest-height, palms flat towards her. He looked where his hands were hovering, and felt colour flare in his cheeks.
"Ah," he sighed.
"Don't even try to pretend that's not you in there, Anakin Solo," Alema teased, lifting his arms away, and moving closer. Anakin looked at where she was holding his wrist, and saw the blue of her skin against Tahiri's tan.
Then he looked at her aware a moment that too late that she had used her grip on his wrists to lever herself in far too close. She smiled at him, showing white teeth.
"Hey!" Tahiri interrupted, her out of Alema's grip, jabbing her finger hard against the Twi'lek girl's chest. "For your information, this is still my body. Anakin's just... um, attached and last I looked, which was about five seconds ago, in case you forgot already" she glanced up the ramp "you were kinda entangled with my... ah, his, um, brother ..."
"Jacen and myself aren't an item like you two would seem to be," Alema grinned. "We're just friends who happen to share a bunk most nights."
"Um, item," Anakin said. "Yeah."
He wished he'd sounded more convinced. Or at least, more convincing. He tried to think of what to say next.
He didn't have to worry.
"Listen, Rar," Tahiri snapped. "I may be with Anakin in here, but this is still my body."
"And he has the right to make up his own mind. You going to keep him locked up in there with only the memory of your teenage fumblings to get by on?" She cocked her head to the side, and looked past her, at him. "How about it, Solo? I'm sure Tahiri would enjoy it, too ... you and me just need to persuade her a little."
"Well, um," Anakin said, feeling the flush rise in her cheeks. "I'm not sure Tahiri would be ... ah."
"You could watch," Alema smirked, wrapping one arm around Tahiri's waist, the other around her neck. "I mean, poor Tahiri here must be getting slightly frustrated with an invisible boyfriend."
Anakin could only gape in outrage, feeling Tahiri's anger. The sheer Force-strength of Alema's mischievous mood. Neither of them could move. It felt like paralysis.
Alema just grinned.
Okay, he frowned. This is complicated ...
It's very simple, Tahiri corrected him, untangling.
We need her and Jacen to get us out of here!
There are other ships, she answered, calm and cool. Anyway, I could take them.
"I'm waiting," Alema grinned, looking.
That's different! Tahiri protested. I love ... at least, I like him a lot. That's not fair. He reminds me of you, Anakin. This Twi'lek hussy just wants sex and she's not picky which of us she has it with!
Point, Anakin agreed. You should be flattered, y'know?
"Jeedai!" a voice called out, and they spun round to see another cadre of hunters appear in the hatchway of the docking-bay. "Stay where you are Sekot wants neither harm nor dishonour to come to you!"
Something tells me I'm going to get really tired of hearing these guys say that, Anakin sighed.
Alema grimaced, glancing expectantly at them. Anakin glanced back, wondering why she was looking at them.
No weapons allowed in the spaceport, Tahiri sighed, unclipping Anakin's lightsaber and tossing it to her.
"This is Anakin's, right," Alema grinned, thumbing forward the catch.
"Yeah," Tahiri nodded, pulling out her own hilt and squeezing the supple surface between her fingers, grinning as the throbbing purple blade ignited in her hands. "I figured you might enjoy mine a little too much."
"Cute," Alema grinned, as both of them squared off against the Yuuzhan Vong.
I'll just stay out of the way, then, Anakin noted. Let you two handle them.
Might be a good idea, Tahiri agreed, leveling her eyes.
Well, Alema did say I could watch the two of you, he smiled, as the first rank of warriors charged into the attack.
There was no time for Tahiri to think of a retort. She just reacted, dropping low into the Force, a symphony of supple thoughts and deft, deadly movements. The hilt of her 'saber into the jaw of the first warrior, the blade across the eyes of the second.
Anakin watched, his responses to her actions smoothing into wordless fluency, until he was no longer aware of where she ended and he began. He was simply moving with her movements, his presence a fluid, perfect echo the Force-guided grace of her gliding body and her sparkling thoughts.
A sharp yell, and he saw Alema go down on the right, stunned but not seriously hurt. A movement on the left, another hunter lunging. Without thinking, Anakin brought the 'saber up to block, feeling the jarring impact.
Lightsaber snarled against amphistaff, and Anakin felt Tahiri's lips peel back in a snarl of feral satisfaction, a growl of agreement rising in her throat. They wrestled down the blade, wrenched it away, and switched the 'saber across the warrior's wrist, then stabbed him through the thigh, leaving him writhing on the ground.
Then, in silent amazement, they stepped back, and looked around for the next attack minds totally tangled, shared body sheened with sweat, chest heaving.
Stinger bolts, the blade switching up and no more time to try to think. Anakin and Tahiri danced as one, the purple-bladed lightsaber singing for them both. They cut, blocked, spun, and stopped.
There was nothing between them, now. Together, they stared down the hunters.
"Jeedai Kwaad," the tallest of the hunters leered and Anakin felt an odd flicker of recognition. "Jeedai Solo. Sekot was right. Together, you are the ultimate warrior. Now, come back with us, and complete your shaping become one."
So did Anakin.
"Uhh ... no."
Then, the hunters moved, and there was no time to worry. The blade spoke for them.
Then, as the lightsaber switched back to catch the cadre-leader's amphistaff, it cut out.
Anakin flipped back, feeling Tahiri's panic. He frowned momentarily, kneaded the handle between his fingers and the hilt of his thumb, switched the blade up into guard, and grinned at the warriors.
"Always was good with machines," he quipped, and the momentary sense that the planetary consciousness was watching them lifted like haze in the dawn.
The snap-kick caught his wrist by surprise, and he skidded back as a punch connected with his belly, limbs flailing.
The lightsaber lay out of reach on the dusty ground, and he didn't have enough focus in the Force to call it to him especially not when he was dealing with a Sekotan biot.
"Anakin!" Alema yelled, throwing his own lightsaber to him. He caught the familiar metal of the hilt, and Tahiri called her own weapon back to her other hand. The Twi'lek girl was on the ramp now, snapping shots at the Vong with a Hunter's stinger.
"Take off!" he yelled, as Tahiri sprung to her feet, a blade in either hand, grinning at the Yuuzhan Vong.
The Vong paused.
Anakin laughed an odd laugh and Tahiri vaulted backwards, landing half-way up the boarding-ramp. The ship rocked beneath them as the drive kicked in.
Time to go.
Anakin spared one glance for the bodies strewn in the dust, and then they darted through the hatch, Tahiri slamming the lock-button as she passed.
Nothing happened. The Wandering Star lurched in the air. The remaining Yuuzhan Vong paused.
Then they surged forward at the charge.
"Take off!" he yelled. "The hatch won't shut."
"Jacen!" Alema howled. "You told me you'd fixed that!"
"I thought I had!" his brother cried.
"Just take off!" Anakin yelled. "We'll handle this!"
He skidded around on his bare feet, and snapped his attention back to the hunters. Three of them had leapt onto the ramp as the ship rose up, and two were already closing in along the corridor, their stingers leveled.
Anakin tensed, but the deck bucked suddenly beneath them, and Tahiri's feet shot out from under her.
She dropped to her rump, the 'sabers springing from her grip and snapping out, bouncing down the corridor towards the Yuuzhan Vong.
"Sorry!" Jacen yelled.
Anakin and Tahiri could only stare up at the advancing Yuuzhan Vong, betrayal in their eyes.
"Relax, Jeedai," the leader whispered, hauling himself to his feet on the ramp behind his warriors, clutching the hydraulic strut for support as the ship lurched in mid-air. "We're not going to kill you. You should know by now that the pain is a truth to be embraced. We wish Sekot wishes merely to complete you."
Anakin shivered, the words teasing out memories that were not his own memories of Tekli's shaping, of Tahiri soothing her friend, whispering reassurances, brushing the sweat from her forehead.
One Vong had his stinger leveled at her own head now. The other one was leaning forward to grab her.
Anakin felt surge of anger and fear, which he didn't recognize as either his own or Tahiri's, and heard another animal snarl rise in her throat. He saw the anger reflect as fear in the hunter's eyes.
"Do-ro'ik vong pratte!"
Jagged forks of emerald lightning lanced from her fingertips, and caught the Vong in a barbed coil of energy sweeping them back down the corridor and off the ramp screaming, writhing and falling. The Wandering Star yawed, and Tahiri saw clouds, and sky, and flailing, falling Yuuzhan Vong.
Middle Distance was a long way below them, now.
Tahiri stared down at her hands in disbelief, then at the empty corridor.
Did I ...?
"Riina," came back the answer, a disbelieving breath. That was Riina.
Oh, great, Anakin groaned, trying to pick himself up. How many of us are there in here?
"Just the three of us," she shrugged, rolling to her feet, stumbling down towards the hatch, and scooping up the 'sabers from where they lay against the bulkhead sill.
The ramp settled shut, the hatch finally slammed down, and Anakin and Tahiri settled against the bulkhead, slumping to a sitting position, as the Wandering Star punched out of orbit.
She slipped her own weapon in her pocket, buckled the hilt of Anakin's to her belt, and breathed.
"Hey," Alema called, bouncing back from the cockpit. "Nice Penumbra-of-the-Dark-Side moves! Which of you was that?"
Anakin and Tahiri shared a groan, then started to laugh.
"We made it," she said, smiling. "No more nasty surprises, Anakin."
Anakin smiled, and chuckled softly.
I'm not so sure about that, he whispered to her, laughing in her mind.
What? Tahiri asked, blinking and frowning. What is it?!
His grin just grew bigger, and he guided her hand to her belly, brushing light fingers across the smooth surface of her tanned, supple skin.
"I'm pregnant," he told her.
To Part 5 | The End
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