Part 1: Reality Bites Rating: PG
Five days after the destruction of the Kzo'zz's Singularity, the Millennium Falcon pulled Tahiri Veila from the dead hull of her improvised escape pod, well out in the darkness of Katun's Oort cloud. She was far gone in a deep hibernation trance, a tiny human knot curled up in the cramped cage of the life-support cell, her skin already pale and cold from the slow carresses of the icy night.
Jaina and Leia did what they could to prompt her back towards realising she was still alive, and left her to rest.
She woke just in time for dinner the the next day and the post-mission meal in the old forward cabin was suddenly transformed into a joyful reunion.
One minute, Tahiri was wandering round the ring corridor towards the promise of noise, trying to work out how she'd gotten back aboard the Falcon and just who and where she'd been since the last hazy whenever that she could remember and the next heartbeat, she'd suddenly skipped and stumbled into a dizzying spin of light and noise and voices leaping up to greet her.
Good food, old friends, and too much Whyren's Reserve all followed, far too fast. Disoriented and happy, she grinned at Jacen's jokes, mussed Lowie's fur, kissed Tez squarely on the snout, flirted outrageously with Han and Master Skywalker ... and was amazed to realise that the carefree girl with the delighted laugh was her.
She was twenty-six, tall and tan and blonde and barefoot, with eyes that shone like jungle fever. And she was alive.
Some time about 0200, she vaguely remembered making her way back to the sleeping cabins with someone and crashing out on Anakin's old bunk.
She woke in the morning, fuzzy. Frowning. The bunk still echoed faintly with a once-familiar savour in the Force. She had dreamed of him just feelings, really. Memories.
But the aftertaste in her mouth, that was real; the memory of a kiss and a whispered discussion in the corridor outside. The weight and heat and human musk of someone else, sprawled on top of her. Here, here, right now.
She blinked, and groaned, and squinted sharply at an unfamiliar head and shoulder. Hair that might be dark or light depending on the light, curls or just wavy, unkempt hair. No-one she thought she knew.
Her head swam as she tried to remember who else had been at the party.
"Umm ...?" she asked, squirming nervously, reaching one hand to his whoever he was shoulder. "Hello?"
"Uhh?" a stranger's voice answered, deep and sleep-roughened and the man's head lifted up from her shoulder; blinking twice, looking sleepily at her, and grinning casually. "Ah, hi, Tahiri."
"Ah," she said a quiet gasp, quick as a whip, but so much spilled out of her in it fright, fear, disbelief, hope, and a thousand more emotions she didn't have a name or god or throb or Tusken song for.
She gripped him, heard both their hearts racing against their coupled chests, stared into his eyes, felt his breath catch in her throat ... knew that he was doing all the same, the same simple, impossible, mutual things that she'd dreamed of since ... since ...
This wasn't possible.
But it was real.
She watched the same realisation dawn on Anakin's face brows lifting, eyes widening, making a vain attempt to say something. This older, grown-up Anakin had a lot of his father about him, a lot of his father's looks and manerisms and a few that were obviously all his own.
His eyes narrowed suspiciously, and he squinted back at her, smiling slyly.
"Umm, what just happened?"
She felt a Veila grin spreading slowly across her face, by way of reply.
"Tahiri ...?" Anakin asked, sounding wary half Han Solo, all himself.
She took several deep breaths, trying to muster an answer then just flung herself around him in a hug, and squealled in delight and joy and brimming bright-light wonderment beyond description.
Happiness is infectious, especially among Jedi, and Anakin was already tackling bodily back into her embrace, and laughing even if he couldn't know why. They tumbled out of the bunk and rolled half-way across the deck, sprawling into a crazy tangle on top of each other as the door thrust open and everyone else stumbled in from wherever they'd been sleeping off the party.
Tahiri saw Jag's black boots, and Jaina, puzzled and then awed. Jacen, strangely still, and disbelieving. Han, his angry snap trailing away to nothing in mid-sentence.
But it was Leia who she was looking at, Leia who held her attention Aunt Leia, more steel than chesnut in her unbound hair now, one pale hand gasped to her mouth, dark eyes brimming bright with tears.
"Uhh, hi, Mom, Dad," Anakin said, looking at them, face to face, a puzzled frown forming as he saw their expressions, sense their pain and questions the Force. In the Force, she felt him flinch, his arm gripping tight around her shoulders. "Jasa, Jaya ... Colonel Fel ... what's, uh, what's going on here?"
He looked back at her, and something level and steady settled like a sword-blade in his gaze.
She found the matching look immediately.
"Tahiri?" he asked. "Whah ...??"
"Just shut up, dummy," she said, snake-rolling on top of him with all her vicious warrior speed. She saddled herself tight around his stomach, hooked her fingers up under his tunic lapels, and hauled his face up close to hers.
"Tahiri!?" His eyes juked in their sockets, like X-wings looking for support. Behind her, suddenly, the others were laughing.
"You came back," she told him laughing herself, smirking, puckering her lips.
"Tahiri ...? There are, uhh, people here." He waved helplessly at his parents. "Hi ... help?"
Her smile quirked at him, like his father's.
She didn't care who saw this. It deserved to be public. He was back, and he was hers.
She grinned, in triumph and anticipation.
"You owe me a kiss," she claimed.
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