Soon Then

The same spoiler warnings apply to this story as to the previous two in this series. This one is set within the events outlined in Rebel Dream.

Jedi Refuge, The Maw

"Corran?" Mirax said uncertainly, addressing the dark shape sitting with its face in its hands at the table.

"Sorry," the hands slipped away, revealing the familiar contours of her husband's face, and he threw her an apologetic smile. "Couldn't sleep."

"Corran," she repeated comfortingly and reached over to take one of his hands. "What's the matter?"

He quickly rubbed his eyes with his free hand, and she noticed in the half-light that they were red-rimmed. "It's Anakin. Now that we're here, and I actually have time to function normally again, I can't seem to stop thinking about him."

"It's extra hard when it's just a kid," she said softly.

He nodded. "Yeah." Then after a pause he added. "Although I didn't think of him as a kid so much."

"Mmm, well you'd had a lot more to do with him than me, what with the business on Ithor, and that trip to Eriadu."

Corran nodded his head and despite his seriousness his mouth turned up in a wry smile. "Eriadu. Now that was an experience I'll not forget in a hurry." He gazed at Mirax pensively for a moment, and then chuckled softly. "At the time I could have cheerfully strangled both him and Tahiri." He paused and shook his head with a sigh. "It just doesn't seem right somehow."

"No, it doesn't. I feel for Leia and Han, of course -- the thought of losing a child is ... well, it's something I'm afraid to contemplate -- but I really feel more for Tahiri. Han and Leia at least have each other, but Tahiri has nobody. And last time I saw her she was still so locked up with grief, it was almost impossible to do anything to help her."

"Leia was keeping an eye on her until she left Borleias. But yeah, she'll find it tough. I think she and Anakin might have been a bit closer than we all thought."

Mirax raised her eyebrows. "What, you mean ...?"

"Don't know," he replied frowning slightly, "but there was definitely something fairly intense going on. I mean, how often did you see them apart?"

"True," Mirax nodded thoughtfully, and then a soft smile turned up the corners of her mouth. "Actually I thought they were kind of sweet. Sometimes when they didn't think anyone was watching they'd just reach over and touch hands, or he'd stroke her cheek." She sighed. "Amidst all the current horror it was so nice to have something normal -- some sort of affirmation that life was going to go on."

"Yeah," Corran murmured.

Mirax studied him closely for a moment, noting the pensive expression and the slight frown. "Corran," she said, "what are you thinking? You don't think there's any chance Tahiri could be pregnant do you? Is that what this is about?"

Corran jerked upright in his seat and blinked at her in surprise. "Well, actually no, I wasn't thinking that at all. But now you mention it, I did have a word with Han a few months ago, before you and I left the Errant Venture, and suggested it might be time to have a chat with Anakin about the sort of things most fathers of teenage boys do need to have a talk about."

"How did he take that?" asked Mirax wryly.

"Surprisingly well -- for Han. But I did back it up by telling him that there'd been a lot of interesting body language between the two of them when they were with me, and after we got back, I noticed they were spending an awful lot of time off on their own. I also pointed out that if Anakin was as gung-ho and unconventional in his love life as he was in everything else, they'd probably have a whole troop of little Solos running around before he could say Thrawn."

She smiled. "Wow. I'm surprised you're still alive." She studied her husband again. "So, what were you thinking?"

Corran's green eyes flickered over her face, and she noticed a rare expression of uncertainty in them. The pause extended into a longer silence, until finally Corran took in a deep breath.

"There's a lot that doesn't add up," he said, and then stopped as if he'd said more than he wanted.

"What do you mean?" Mirax found she was replicating Corran's perplexed frown.

He let out a frustrated huff. "It sounds silly now I say it out loud, but there are a number of things that have been bothering me, and it hasn't been until now that they've all sort of ... come together, so to speak. I've been sitting here for a while." He glanced up again quickly, and Mirax suddenly realised that the redness around his eyes was not caused by tears, but by weariness. "On the one hand there's all the warnings I, and others, gave him about being reckless, about biting off more than he could chew. I mean if anyone was heading for a fall it would have to have been Anakin. He knew it, too, but it didn't stop him doing it, almost as if he had some sort of fatalistic desire to play with death. He practically said so himself. When we were on Stalking Moon, I warned him that one day his luck would run out and he'd get a nasty surprise."

"What did he say to that?"

"'Everyone gets a nasty surprise,'" Corran found himself mimicking the matter-of-fact tone of Anakin's voice, and for a moment he was back with him in the fissure on the asteroid they later discovered to be a Yuuzhan Vong scout ship. "'I'd prefer to get mine standing up.'"

Mirax was silent for a moment, thoughtful. "To be fair though, Corran, most of that impulsiveness was a result of him leaping in to save someone," she said.

"Oh, I agree. He was completely committed to the idea of Jedi as preservers of life, to the extent of totally disregarding his own. And from that point of view his death makes sense -- he was saving the Jedi from the voxyn, and by preserving the Jedi he was saving the galaxy. He assumed the injury to his spleen would kill him anyway, so he would have seen it purely as a matter of logic. He was the logical one to sacrifice himself, plus he was the only one with the fighting skills to do it. All perfectly sensible ... it's just that there's a lot that doesn't make sense, and that brings me back to why I'm sitting here thinking when I should be asleep."

Mirax found herself rubbing her own eyes, partly out of tiredness and partly from bewilderment. "OK," she said gravely, "give me the facts."

"I'm probably clutching at straws," Corran warned her.

"Do you think you are?"

Corran exhaled loudly again and his gaze wandered off to focus on some distant equation he couldn't quite seem to grasp. After a moment or so, it returned to his wife's brown eyes. "I really don't know," he said in all honesty. "But here goes. Perplexing fact number one -- why didn't I feel his death? I was pretty close to him, gotten to know him well in fact. And I'd been thinking about all those young people and had even been reaching out to them regularly. But I didn't feel him go, and I tell you something else, neither did Mara, and there's no way you can say she wasn't close to him, or he to her. I'd almost go so far as to say that he was her favourite; and when she was having Ben, Anakin felt it." He glanced up at Mirax as if daring her to refute him, but she nodded.

"That's right -- I remember that." She smiled fondly. "He thought she was dying."

"Kyp didn't feel it either," Corran continued. "And although it's tempting for me to say that that's proof that Kyp, regardless of his high opinion of himself is often wrong -- I'm not so sure in this case. Unfortunately," he added the last comment wryly.

"But didn't you say that Kyp had felt Jacen die?"

"Well, this is where it all gets interesting," said Corran. "Kyp felt Jacen go; Leia claims she hasn't. Jaina either hasn't felt it, or, as Luke thinks, has cut herself off from it to protect herself. Some people have felt one or other of them go, or have felt their pain, but nobody's accounts seem to quite match up -- which seems to suggest that either some of us were more clued in than others to either Jacen or Anakin, which is possible, or that ..." he paused, and then continued more slowly, "or that someone's playing tricks on us or muddling us somehow."

"But how could that happen?" she looked, as he had expected, doubtful.

"We're not infallible, Mirax. Even though most of us would deny it, our emotions do actually get in the way of our perceptions quite a bit. And to be fair to Luke, since Mara's been pregnant and especially since she's had Ben, he's become more subject to emotion than he'd be willing to admit."

"That's true," she slowly. "And I don't think I'd be exaggerating to say that he hadn't exactly been exuding the sort of powerful Jedi Master persona that many would have liked."

"No, and without being silly I think most people would say that the one who was doing that was Anakin."

"Some might have said Kyp," Mirax reminded him.

"Some -- although since Duro and Yavin the vote swung more and more towards Anakin. I don't know how much you've heard about his Yavin experience, but it was an amazing example of survival and resourcefulness. He did things he'd never done before -- even used my trick of transforming energy to escape a bushfire. And I'll bet you he barely raised a sweat to do it. That's the thing with Anakin -- put him in any situation and he seems to have some intrinsic ability to call up whatever skill he needs to get out of it. I honestly believe that boy is more powerful than Luke." He stopped because Mirax was gaping at him. "What?"

"Is ... is more powerful ... Corran, are you suggesting he's alive?"

"I don't know what I'm suggesting, Mirax. All I know is I've seen Anakin in action. He doesn't panic and he's rarely scared. I've heard about some of the near death experiences that Luke has got himself out of, one on Dathomir in fact where he was to all intents and purposes just about dead. He got himself out of that by drawing on the energy of the insect and plant-life around him, or as he tells it, he opened himself to the Force and it did the work for him. Desperate stuff. But I also know that if he can do it, so can Anakin."

Mirax was silent for a while. "The others saw him die, Corran," her brown eyes engaged his, sympathetic but sad.

"They saw him go down. Some people here felt his pain and other feelings we've interpreted as his death. He warned Jacen and Jaina away because he was going to blow the cloning grashal with a thermal detonator. Everyone, including Nom Anor apparently, scarpered because they didn't want to get blown sky high. That left him alone. Now put that alongside this. According to Zekk, Jaina had a go at Jacen for not trying to retrieve Anakin's body. Jacen said he couldn't because the Vong were all over him. Why would they be so interested in a dead body to the extent of being 'all over it?'"

Mirax frowned. "Well," she said after a long pause, "perhaps they perceived him as a warrior on equal terms with their own, and wanted to give him whatever rites they give their own."

Corran nodded thoughtfully. "I would accept that as a possibility," he said, "especially after what happened on Yavin where he did actually team up with a Vong warrior. However, in the situation on the worldship, Anakin had killed nearly all the other warriors in the vicinity, and the others ran off when he armed the detonator. So who was it that was all over him?"

"I haven't a clue," replied Mirax.

"They'd just made their way through a city full of Shamed Ones to get to the cloning facility. Now, some interesting things about the Shamed Ones: Anakin himself said that the Shamed One he worked for on Yavin had implied that she regarded the Jedi in some sort of positive light, and, more interestingly, that the Shamed Ones see themselves as having different aspirations and prophecies to the rest of the Vong. On Stalking Moon, Tahiri and I learned from one of them that Anakin is a sort of legendary figure amongst them because of what he did on Yavin. The Shamed Ones seem to think that the Jedi are going to be their salvation, and as Anakin proved beyond doubt that Jedi and Shamed Ones can actually help each other, I'm wondering if ..." "They realised who he was and have managed somehow to save him, so he can save them," finished Mirax, her expression suddenly quite animated.

Corran was silent for a moment, watching her guardedly. "It is a possibility. One I'm not discounting."

An expression of hope flickered for a moment longer and then her face fell. "But they had his body, Corran. They gave it a Jedi funeral."

"They had a body. Remember that the Vong have a pretty formidable biotechnology. Who's to say they can't produce masquers to look like specific people -- and there were plenty of slaves Anakin's size around from whom they could have chosen a substitute, and then chopped him up to have wounds like Anakin's. What if the Shamed Ones grabbed his body, pulled it clear from the thermal detonator blast zone, and then replaced it with another so the warriors wouldn't be suspicious. Anakin said that there was some bad feeling between the Shamed Ones and the warriors."

"Yes well from your experiences with Shedao Shai, and what I have heard about Anakin's time on Yavin, it certainly sounds like there's quite a bit of conflict between the castes."

"Definitely," agreed Corran. "The warriors don't like Nom Anor either. Tahiri picked up on that and used it to get us away from the Givin space station." He paused. "The only problem with my idea is that it presupposes that the Shamed Ones would have to be working with Shapers, or at least someone with Shaper technology, and that they would have had a masquer already prepared. But I guess that's symptomatic of my argument. For every point for it, I can think of a point against, but the overall doubt is still there. In more ways than one, nothing about Anakin's death seems right."

"Maybe that's the issue -- why it's bothering you so much -- the fact that it just doesn't seem fair, and so you've converted it unconsciously into a problem of logic."

Corran sighed in frustration. "Denial, you mean. I admit that is a possibility. Anakin had begun to make some really useful connections based on his experience, and it seems now like they're lost to us. I do find that hard to cope with. As I also found it hard to cope with Luke saying Anakin died for a reason. I couldn't help thinking at the time that that sounded trite -- it still seems like nothing more than a tragic waste to me. He constantly impressed me with his abilities, and not just his Jedi ones -- he would have made a damn good intelligence agent, too. But apart from all that, I was fond of him, and I see now that I believed that Anakin was the one who was going to make a difference."

"Yeah. A lot of us thought that."

"Jaina did, too. Zekk said she'd told him she believed that, after Yavin, Anakin had begun to figure out our true relationship to the Force, and in losing Anakin, the Jedi have lost something terribly important; something ... and her next words were odd, he thought ... something we lost a long time ago. She couldn't explain what she meant, just that that was what she felt."

"That is an odd thing to say." Mirax pondered it for a while, and then shook her head. "Do you have any idea what she meant?"

"Sometimes I think it's there at the corner of my vision, but when I try and concentrate on it, it's gone."

"That sounds even odder," she said, bemused.

Corran sighed. "Oh well, you know us Jedi -- always talking in riddles. If I had to try and put it into words, I think it might be something to do with what we lost during the days of the Empire, maybe even earlier, because it seems that the Jedi were weakening even before Palpatine came to power. Maybe the Force is only part of something bigger that we all lost sight of. Maybe Anakin made a connection, in the same way he managed to connect himself to the Vong through that lambent in his lightsaber. I don't know. Whatever, I think us older Jedi are too entrenched in the old ways to be able to think sufficiently far outside the set."

Mirax echoed her husband's sigh. "Well, I guess until someone fathoms it out, we can at least look on the good things that he did do for us. I don't know about you, but somehow seeing him and Tahiri together, and knowing they still had the courage to start out on a relationship even in the current circumstances -- that gave me hope."

"Yeah," Corran nodded wearily. "I accept that. I guess you could also say that losing Anakin has spurred Luke into becoming more proactive, although I can think of a million better ways to achieve that." He paused. "Plus, I know Anakin was always haunted by his name, as if he felt a responsibility to redeem it in some way. He's certainly done that."

"I'm scared to say this. But I wonder if Leia has ever questioned why she named him after her father, and if she might regret it."

Corran caught her troubled gaze and held it for a while. "I've wondered the same thing," he murmured finally. "I keep thinking about the theories I've heard about Anakin's grandfather and why he fell to the Dark Side. Some reckon it was just the seduction of power, but I'm more inclined to believe the legends that see it as more complex than that, more a case of frustration and selfishness. A case of someone who wanted it all and who hadn't learned to temper his own desires. The more I've heard about Anakin Skywalker, the more parallels I see with Anakin Solo: precocious ability, strength, over-confidence, recklessness; each wanting in their own way to save the galaxy from the mess it had gotten itself into; each willing to break the rules. The difference is in their methods. Unlike his grandfather, Anakin acted out of total selflessness. He was willing to give up his own life and the people he loved -- his family and Tahiri, all of us in fact -- for a greater good. Whatever Leia did intend by naming him as she did, we'll never know, but the name Anakin now certainly stands tall."

"I don't understand as much about the Force as I would like," said Mirax, "but maybe that was Anakin's destiny: to balance his grandfather's deeds. Maybe it was something that had to be done, and he was the only one strong enough to do it."

Corran considered this thoughtfully. "It's certainly possible." He was silent for a while. "I wish now I'd taken more time to listen to Master Ikrit. He was very fond of Anakin, and he understood him well. I remember him telling me once that he felt he'd been preserved all those years so that he could help keep an eye on Anakin and Tahiri because they were special. He never told me why exactly, but he did say they were exceptionally strong when they worked together."

Mirax considered this for a moment. "Maybe ..." she began and then faltered.

"What?" said Corran.

"One thing I did get out of Tahiri in the brief chat I had with her was that she was berating herself for letting Anakin order her to leave him and go with Tekli instead of going with him to destroy the cloning facility. Maybe ... maybe if she had gone with him and they'd been together ... and he'd had her strength as well, he'd have been all right." Her eyes met with her husband's, holding them for a while before sliding back sadly to contemplate the table.

"Food for thought," murmured Corran. "To Anakin it would have been a question of protecting her, of course."

"Yeah," whispered Mirax.

"But there again, he did assume he was dying anyway with or without her, so it was probably a moot point."

"True. I see what you mean about confusion."

Corran shrugged hopelessly. "I've been going round and round in ever increasing circles like this for several days, and this is only scratching the surface. There's still the issue of the Dark Jedi and what Anakin was worrying about on the Stalking Moon concerning Tahiri."

"Do I want to know about all this?" said Mirax wryly, but she settled herself more comfortably in her chair.

"What would I do without you?" Corran smiled gratefully.

"You'd be lost, Corsec," she grinned.

He reached over and squeezed her hand. "I would," he agreed. "How about I make us some caf?"

"Probably not a bad idea. In fact, maybe you should just make us breakfast."

"Let's not get too carried away here. The night is still young."

"Yeah, but we're not. However, I'll settle for the caf in the hope we may still get a few hours sleep. What was Anakin worrying about on Stalking Moon?"

"Unfortunately I never found out, but I could sense he was quite concerned." Corran raised his voice slightly so she could hear him from behind the small servery unit in the room. "I got the impression that he was on the verge of asking me something about it, but then he changed his mind and said he'd discuss it with her first." He bent down to search in the cupboard for some sweetener.

"And did he?"

"I don't know. She went over to him not long afterwards -- this was when we were in that cleft on what we thought was an asteroid. They definitely had a bit of a heart-to-heart about something, but they'd switched their comm units off so I couldn't hear what they were saying."

"How did they manage to communicate without comlinks?"

Corran handed her a steaming cup. "By getting really close and touching helmets," he grinned. "When the conversation developed into a hand-holding session, I decided my presence was probably unnecessary. After all, not much you can get up to in vac suits, even for someone as enterprising as Anakin."

"Maybe they'd had some tiff, and had just made up," she suggested.

"Nooo, don't think Anakin would have bothered me with anything like that. I got the impression it was related to something that had happened on Eriadu, because I'd noticed him looking a bit thoughtful from time to time ever since then. I wish now I'd pursued it, but we were all so preoccupied with surviving, that I forgot about it." He paused. "I'm just guessing, but it may have had some connection with the work that shaper did on Tahiri's brain. That's why Anakin stayed with her on the Venture even when you could see he was itching to get out into the action again. So it seems logical that it would be something to do with that that would concern him."

"Mmmm." Mirax sipped her caf thoughtfully, allowing the steam to warm her face. "We can't really tackle Tahiri on it either. She's far too fragile, plus she's not here."

"Exactly. But that whole thing still worries me. I mean how much do we actually know about the Shapers? They're the ones, after all, that produce the weapons and the masquers, and what's more they seem to be able to come up with new surprises pretty quickly. When they altered her memories, did they take any part of her brain tissue away? And if so, can they use it to build some creature, or some other means of deceiving us? And here's an extreme thought -- could they do anything with any traces of Anakin he left behind when he was rescuing Tahiri? I'd say he'd have left them enough blood, and possibly tissue, samples to work with."

Mirax rested her mug on the table. "Corran, that is a very frightening thought. Especially as a lot of the Vong's tactics involve deception."

"Divide, deceive and rule. It's working well," he replied grimly.

"Didn't you tell me that Tahiri killed the Shaper that tortured her?"

Corran nodded as he swallowed. "Yep. But apparently there was another one, an adept, Tahiri called her. And it's quite likely that she escaped. If she did, she could be drumming up all sorts of horrors for us."

"Oh," Mirax sipped her caf again, in silence.

"And the other thing that worries me is the issue of the Dark Jedi that Anakin's group encountered on the worldship. Zekk said that the Vong had had a group of Jedi there, and they'd been using them to teach the voxyn to hunt. He wasn't sure if the two Dark ones were still there because they were better at avoiding the voxyn, or if the Vong were preserving them for some reason. If the latter, then we might be in trouble. For instance, what if they have other Dark Jedi and are using them to muddle our perceptions."

"Which gets us back to what you were saying earlier," finished Mirax.

"Yeah," Corran met her gaze. "Am I crazy?"

Mirax laughed. "Of course you are my darling. Why else do you think I've stuck with you all this time?"

"You're welcome," he grinned wryly.

"I can't argue with your reasoning," she said after a pause. "But part of me still says you're just living in hope -- concerning Anakin that is. I wouldn't call what you were saying about the Vong's abilities hopeful -- more terrifying."

"True. Although it's a terror we've lived with for several years now."

"Have you told anyone else about this?"

Corran shook his head vigorously. "Nor do I intend to," he said firmly. "If I'm going to be condemned as insane, I'd prefer the accusation to come from you. Imagine what someone like your father could make out of this conversation?"

Mirax snorted back a chuckle. "Don't worry. I'd still prefer you mad, to doing without you altogether. However, on a more serious note, I do think I'll ask someone, maybe Mara, to keep an eye on Tahiri, just in case."

"You mean keep an eye on her for bulges, or keep an eye on her behaviour?"

"Both, I suppose," Mirax grimaced. "Although I'd be more worried about the latter."

"Obviously spoken by someone not her mother," said Corran drily. "I'd be interested to hear how you'd respond to that if it was Jysella we were talking about."

Mirax smiled, but her eyes softened. "I guess it's just that it would seem like there was part of Anakin still with us."

"Yeah," her husband sighed. "Hardened, conservative old fogey that I am, I'm surprised to find myself agreeing with you. But don't ever let Valin know I said that. It's hard enough now to convince him not to keep trying to emulate Anakin."

"It's a deal," said Mirax. She paused and her brown eyes gazed across at his. "Assuming there's going to be a future in which I can tell him."

Corran reached over the table and took her hand, and she noticed the emerald glint in his eyes. "There will be. Now that we have Wedge back in the equation, they're going to start experiencing the unpleasant taste of defeat."

Mirax grasped his hand firmly and threw him a determined look. "True," she said. "And boy, am I going to enjoy the payback." The sly grin she intended to give him turned into a yawn. "However, just for now I think I'll settle for sleep -- you coming?"

"I'll be there in a minute. I'll just clean these dishes up." Corran bent down and gave her an affectionate peck on the cheek on his way past.

"Such dedication to duty," she laughed as she left.

Corran smiled in response, but as the door to their bedroom closed on his wife's retreating figure, his expression changed. Something had brushed his consciousness -- a thought, an impression? He wasn't sure, but whatever it was, he could feel it hovering, tantalising him from the outward edges of his perception. What had Jaina meant? He knew somehow it was connected to that. Something to do with what Anakin had discovered on Yavin 4, and yet also connected to what Master Ikrit had said. Togetherness -- Anakin and Tahiri, and the Jedi as a group.

He rested his elbows on the benchtop, frowning. We're not really together, he thought. In fact, ever since Luke began seeking people with Jedi abilities, he's struck nothing but problems -- Jedi wanting to go their own way, everyone disagreeing and dividing into factions.

"Together they're stronger than the sum of their parts." Ikrit's words echoed in his mind. The same could be said of all of us. Look at what Anakin, Jacen and Jaina accomplished at Dubrillion, and what the Barabels achieved when they worked in unison. Maybe what we've lost is unity -- overall unity -- something which we can now only achieve occasionally and then only for limited periods. Maybe that's what we lost long ago.

He thought about the different Jedi traditions Luke had told him about: how some prohibited attachments, and yet others didn't, and how some belonged to the Dark, and yet were still predicated on the existence and use of the same Force that gave its energy to the Light. All of us are so frightened of falling to the Dark, and yet those of us who have dabbled with it have come away stronger. Is there a sort of middle ground -- a balance? And is that something we Jedi began with, but have since lost? He shook his head in frustration. It was like there was a barrier preventing him from being able to form a large picture from the limited snippets he could see. Luke had said that all futures exist in the Force, and yet hadn't Tionne told him about Nomi Sunrider and her ability to shape a specific future simply by visualising it? No matter what vector he ventured out on, the destination always seemed to match the starting point.

Anakin and his lightsaber -- he felt somehow that was important. Anakin had melded a connection with the Yuuzhan Vong, thereby proving that such a connection was possible. Was it also possible therefore that the Vong and their philosophies and those of the Jedi were not as antithetical as everyone thought. Was there some greater, universal truth that they were all missing? Was this what they had all lost touch with long ago? The feeling that Anakin might have had the answer to this made his death, if he was dead, even more tragic, and wrong.

Corran heaved a great sigh, and pushed himself almost angrily away from the bench. He did manage to overcome the sudden desire to slam the cupboard shut. Another minor triumph against the Dark Side, he thought grimly, although sometimes I think that the greatest threat is pride rather than anger. Anger is situational, whereas pride is far more pervasive. It makes folks start believing that they're the only ones questioning, and blinds them to the fact that others may be on the same route but simply using a different path. If we were unified, we'd accept the differences as all part of a greater whole.

A muffled voice called out from the next room. "What are you doing in there, Corran -- a full vacuum and mop job or something?"

"Sorry, love," he called back.

"No, don't apologise. Just don't forget to steam-clean the walls while you're at it."

Corran's mouth turned up in an affectionate smile, and he began to move towards the door. Halfway there he stopped, and a series of snapshots from the recent past flashed though his mind -- Anakin challenging Yuuzhan Vong warriors on the Givin space station by threatening to carry their names as cowards to the gods; Anakin carefully controlling his anger when Corran destroyed a practice droid he had spent weeks perfecting; Anakin repeatedly having to endure admonishments about how his anger or his actions would lead him to the Dark Side. Yet Anakin had never fallen. If anything, Anakin more than any of them seemed to be able to walk the fine balance line between Light and Dark. If only he -- Corran -- had had the humility to sit and listen to Anakin instead of going off at him all the time. If only any of the adults had. If only ... two of the most hopeless, regretful words in the language.

"I hope we can do it without you, kid," he murmured. "But it's not going to be easy. Wherever you are -- we miss you. And if you can come back -- make it soon!"

He turned and took another step, and then felt the faintest touch of something like a faint breeze inside his mind. He stopped as if he'd struck a durasteel wall. No, he thought, it's not possible. But at the same time he knew it was. The touch faded, but two words sounded inside his head.

"Soon, then."

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