Part 4: Fixing Things Rating: PG
Tahiri sipped another spoonful of carrot and tomato soup, and glanced around the table, smiling.
It was a minor miracle that they'd been able to fit everyone in there was barely enough room to breathe, even before they started trying to get at the food piled high in front of them; but everywhere she looked, she saw joyous movement, like a dance of sound and light, a leaping ballet of happiness Jacen and Jag ducking around each other's elbows as they helped themselves to bread and cheese, Han and Leia's bright, smiling faces, Luke and Jaina laughing at each other's jokes, Mara and Ben switching smart remarks back and forth like new-born blaster-bolts bouncing off playful lightsabers.
Anakin, across the table grinning back at her as he ripped a chunk of bread in half between his teeth.
"I'm hungry!" he protested, to her mock outrage. "I haven't had a proper meal in years!"
The laugh that followed round the table was awkward, uncertain but bright, and utterly genuine.
Tahiri shook her head, held his gaze a moment longer, and went back to her soup still grinning.
Anakin didn't look away, so she looked back, and they leapt into each other's eyes, blue-grey and tiger-gold.
"Tahiri," Jacen asked. "You couldn't pass me the low-fat spread?"
"Sure," she said, still smiling across the table at his brother, wondering who except Jacen ate that stuff. But she lifted her eyebrows in understanding as she reached out, and Uncle Luke quickly moved the butter-knife back from his own plate.
"No trouble, Jace," she smiled.
No-one spoke the idea out loud, but everyone gathered around the table in the Falcon's galley knew that the soup and bread they were sharing was a celebration meal, every bit as much as the feast the night before had been a reunion. For the first time in too many years, the entire Solo-Skywalker clan was together in the same place, literally rubbing shoulders, and wrists, thighs and shins as well, tangling their feet beneath the table.
She cocked her head, and noticed the awkwardness that seemed to fall between Anakin and Luke; but it was deflected away with easy switches of the metaphorical wrist, adding to the kinetic life of the family, and Tahiri smiled, happy even for the little niggles that enriched their life.
They were having too much fun to worry.
Her eyes tracked back across to Anakin again, and she puckered him a teasing grin. An afternoon alone together sounded like a very good idea.
She even grinned at his sudden twinge of discomfort, laughing aloud at the face he pulled.
Off you go then, dummy, she wrote on him with her eyes, reaching out to stroke his shin with her big toe. I'm not going anywhere.
Anakin made his excuses Sorry, but I can't hold off a visit to the toilet any longer and the conversation settled back comfortably around the temporary absence.
Tahiri smiled again, followed him into the next room with her thoughts, their minds murmuring affectionately back and forth.
Master Skywalker's departure a little later was unobtrusive a touch to Mara's wrist, traded glances with her, a smile for the rest that disguised the fact that he was slipping away.
Tahiri frowned as Mara tried to catch her eye, distracting her but then Ben's strawberry-malt mop popped up between her thighs, and her eleven-year-old adoptive nephew was babbling away happily, and telling her about Anakin, and what they'd talked about the nights he'd babysat when he'd been little.
"You remember that?" she asked, with the indulgent, automatic affection of an aunt towards a small child and then a growing sense of wonderment as his words unfolded their meaning in her mind.
Anakin had been there. He was there all along.
He really was.
"Tell me more," she said, gripping Ben tightly by the shoulders, surprised by her own strength. "Tell me everything."
Anakin was wandering in the ring-corridor, not really sure what he was looking for. It was just nice to be aboard the Falcon again, with the echo of familiar voices through the bulkhead.
He took a hefty breath, breathed out, and rested his hand against the cool metal. He felt complete. The family felt complete again.
"It's good to be back," he grinned.
"Anakin," a voice said, and turned, to find his uncle leaning against the bulkhead behind him. He opened his mouth to speak, then paused, hovering between Uncle Luke and Master Skywalker.
"Hi," he said, awkwardly. Then, "Uncle Luke."
"Not 'Master Skywalker'?" Luke asked, pushing off the wall and looking up at him with a hopeful smile. In answer Anakin looked down, suddenly aware how much taller and bigger he was than him now, how much more powerful.
He knew the words were inadequate this was Luke Skywalker, the man who had single-handedly saved the Galaxy on every important occasion in the past forty years; but he also knew that there was a fact in there as well.
"We need to talk," Luke said. "Anakin ..."
"It's okay," he said, holding up his hand. "I know what you're going to say and my answer's no."
"I thought you might say that," the Jedi Master sighed. "You don't want to talk about it, do you?"
"I think I'd just cause trouble, Uncle Luke," Anakin sighed. "We see things too differently. But that's just perception. The words don't help"
"The Jedi Order ..."
"I'm not a Jedi. I've not been a Jedi in a while." Instinctively, he patted the place at his hip where his lightsaber should have been.
"You've been dead for eleven years," his uncle reminded him.
"I think I quit before that, Uncle Luke. I'm sorry. I know this might hurt you." He grimaced. "But I'm not a Jedi."
"No," Luke said, smiling. "No, in fact. This is what I hoped for from the start. Just not ... not quite how I'd expected it."
He took two paces away, then paused, as Uncle Luke went back into the galley.
Behind him, the doors opened again, and a familiar shape slipped out.
"You finished, dummy?" Tahiri asked, and he felt warm arms slide round his waist, her chin perch up on his shoulder. "I was wondering where you'd got to."
"You knew I was fine," he answered, clasping her linked hands with his own, feeling the smoothness of her sun-browned skin, the warmth underneath. "I was ... talking to Uncle Luke, I guess." He frowned, and stared through the bulkhead at something beyond infinity. "It's strange, there are parts of me I wouldn't like if they were separate, but that seem ... powerful, when I hold them inside. I ... I feel okay, Tahiri. Thanks."
"You're thinking something," she asked. "I know that feeling, Anakin."
"I am," he nodded. "I'm thinking we need to get our own ship, and get as far away from the Jedi and the Alliance as possible."
"What!?" she asked, and he spun in her arms, clamped down his hands on her shoulders. Grinned.
"That was harsh," he frowned, eyes still dancing with guilty pleasure.
"Maybe," she nodded. "But maybe you're right. Maybe ... maybe we should have done this a long time ago."
"Gone somewhere we could be useful to the people who really need us not to governments and the military-industrial bigwigs."
"You sound like Jacen."
"Blame the company I keep," she chuckled, gripping him by the lapels of his tunic, and pulling him close. "Jacen just talks. Help me get away."
"Always," he grinned back.
They just folded into each other, and held together in silence for a while.
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