War makes strange bedfellows, Anakin Solo mused, as his wife shifted up alongside him in the bed, her hand stroking his chest, bright hair tumbling and bouncing on his shoulder like a sunrise spilling across the surface of the sea.
It was a long time since he had seen a real sunrise, or a real ocean, but that was still what her hair reminded him of, a lustrous dance across the spectrum from blood-red to bright gilt bronze, with flecks of silver now to add to the illusion.
He could, he decided, ignore the fact that the silver meant she was starting to go grey.
But he couldn't ignore her hand, drifting downwards across his stomach on a path a that was lazy and playful but very definitely premeditated gently brushing the curls above his belly-button, then disappearing beneath the rumpled sheet that guarded his modesty.
"That tickles!" he laughed. "He-ey!"
"I know," she murmured, nibbling the side of his neck for emphasis. Then she paused, and lifted her head to look at him, propping herself up on the elbow of her artificial arm. "What are you going to do about it?"
Anakin pursed his lips, looking at her armoured elbow and flexing the fingers of his right hand in reply. They had both lost parts of themselves in the long years of war and more than that, much more.
But, he reflected, they still had each other, and their children.
"I asked you a question and when I ask, I expect an answer."
"Oh?" he said, frowning up at her. "Um, sorry."
There were laughter lines crooked round the corners of her smile now, and more at the edges of her dark green eyes but she still looked as beautiful and deadly as the day he'd first realised he was in love with her.
"What did you ask again?" he blinked. "I'm sorry you distracted me. Um ..."
"I asked what you were going to do about it," she said. "And as a General to a Commander, I expect an answer."
"You keep refusing me promotions!" he protested.
She started to laugh, then paused, and scowled at him.
"You were supposed to kiss me," she sighed, her hand sliding forward again onto his chest.
"Sorry," he swallowed, seeing the hurt in her, wanting to help. "I ruined the mood, didn't I?"
"Yes," she answered, heaving off him cross and serious.
Perhaps she's right to keep me where I can't do much harm, he thought, sighing as she rolled out of bed, and began to put on her uniform. She started briskly enough, but then slowed, and began to take her time about it taunting and torturing him, allowing him to savour the sight of tight, tailored black fabric sliding over her dusky skin.
Long, lean legs; arms that still seemed surprisingly muscular after twenty years of marriage; and a torso still trim and taut after two sons and a daughter.
She caught his thoughts in the Force, and lifted her head, smirking back at him.
"That's right," she nodded. "I'm putting on my uniform, and going on duty."
"Love," he sighed. "Come back to bed."
"Why?" she countered, wrapping her belt around her waist and clipping on her ligtsaber. "Unlike you, Anakin, I have a sense of responsibility. That's why I'm a Jedi Master, and you're still just a knight after all these years. That's why I have a command to hold together here, and you ... what do you do, again?"
Commander Anakin Solo, executive officer of Eclipse Wing in Mitth'raw'nuruodo's Household Phalanx, watched his wife march out of the room, then sighed and lay back on the bed, defeated.
She's right, he thought, frowning no, grimacing.
Twenty years they'd been stuck here at in the Maw. Twenty years of scouting and skirmishes, watching the Yuuzhan Vong take down everyone that stood against them; twenty years in which the Household Phalanx's secret reserve of pilots and ships had gone from being a last line of defence to being the only surviving infidel group with any sort of interstellar organization or sustainable tech-base a few hundred Chiss and humans in a handful of hidden fortresses in the darkest corners of the Galaxy.
Perhaps Thawn knew all along, he mused. Perhaps the Grand Admiral had foreseen that the Yuuzhan Vong would never be beaten, and sent his Phalanx into hiding to ensure that something would survive to preserve the memory of the Chiss, the Empire, and the Jedi Knights.
The Yuuzhan Vong would never be beaten, Anakin repeated to himself, whispering the words. Not now.
Any chance to beat them had been lost with the Third/Fifth Fleet at Bothawui, fifteen years ago. The officers of the Household Phalanx kept watch, of course, and did what little they could precious little.
But they knew that they would never win. Not now.
They either had their dedication to duty, their loyalty to the pattern and discipline of military life, or like him, they had nothing at all.
At forty-two, Anakin Solo had shocks of grey hair at his temples, and he was still just a Commander. He had a solemn-eyed eldest son who was already a colonel with his own squadron, a daughter and younger son who spoke better Chiss than Basic, and barely thought of themselves as human any more.
He had a wife who was passionate, strong and phenomenally organized, but she couldn't overlook his weaknesses all the time. The arguments were getting more frequent, and more bitter, again.
But, he already knew that his wife his Tenna would forgive him, this time and every other time.
If only because there was no-one else.
Once, she had been Ereneda Tenel Ka Chume Djo Jai a Jedi Knight, a proud daughter of Dathomir, and sovereign queen of the sixty-three worlds of the Hapes Star Cluster. Now, she was just Lieutenant-General Tenna Solo, and all she had was a rusting space-station in the black heart of the Maw, with the seventeen surviving Clawcraft of Eclipse Wing, their pilots and groundcrew, and the children.
Because she needs me as much as I need her.
But if you were who you were meant to be, you wouldn't need her.
It wasn't the first time he'd had this conversation with himself with his conscience.
War makes for strange bedfellows, he thought again, and sighed.
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