Time, Time, and Again   Rating: NC-17, slash
Diana DeRiggs

"You and he have some weird stuff going on, it's true," Mirax Terrik was in bed with her fiancé, cradling his head in the crook of her shoulder, "but there's something there, I know it."

Corran Horn had been weeping in a controlled manner, trying not to break down fully. He'd confessed to Mirax that there was something about Tycho Celchu that bugged him, needled his brain, even though it was now clear that the man from Alderaan was not an Imperial spy. Even though Tycho had publicly and privately forgiven him for the false accusations, Corran was not at ease with himself. He knew the guilt would eat at him for a long, long time -- perhaps for all time. Corran had nearly caused an innocent man to be executed, he hated being wrong. But more to the point, he felt like he'd done something like this before, and it terrified him.

Mirax wiped the silent tears off her lover's cheeks, "You've been obsessive and angry. Now, I'm not mind-droid, but I'd say these are symptoms of depression. Would it make you feel better if I told you Tycho has changed? He's really a very different person than before."

Corran's voice was husky, but very small, "Not a surprise. I think I hurt his mind."

"Corran Horn, you have such a big ego! I meant from before his stay on the Lusankya. You didn't know him then, he was more like Wes and Hobbie, but with morals. Now he barely says anything, and his demeanor has changed radically." Mirax felt tears form in her eyes. She admired Winter for still being with him; would she be so willing to take Corran back into her life, after such a change?

As if reading her mind, Corran responded, "But Winter is still with him. I think it means whatever his essence was, it's still there. Maybe the old him wasn't really him?"

Slapping his cheek lightly, Mirax laughed, "There goes your ego again, Corsec! As if you know anything."

Flipping his body slightly so he could put his arm around her ribs, nuzzling closer he moaned, "Stop it. I like that."

* * * * *

Tycho Celchu was pretending to sleep, knowing that if he opened his eyes, he might not see Winter's loving face by him. She might be pulled away from him on assignment, or she might have been a dream. Or worse, she'd be an illusion, like the ones he thought he remembered from his time on Lusankya.

It disturbed him that he almost remembered the nightmare. He's apparently become catatonic after having been tortured by Ysanne Isard, the former Director of Imperial Intelligence, and he couldn't recall anything clearly from his experience. Perhaps it was a protective mechanism that kept him from fully recalling what had been done to him. Maybe knowing the truth would force him into that insane area of his brain.

So he'd lie in bed, listening for her breathing, for her movements, confirming with his other senses that she was there. Then when he was certain, he'd slowly open his eyes, and hope to see his love.

But sometimes, he didn't see her, even when the rest of his senses told him she was. It was very disturbing.

If he told this to the mental health medicos, they might put him under "observation" again -- a polite way of saying "house arrest," where every move you made was observed and analyzed. They even recorded him in the refresher, and concluded that he had been in a prison of a certain sort, just from the way he stood and pee'd!

Knowing more about his prison term was not the part that bothered him. He knew that not seeing Winter would be analyzed as part of the damage his mind had endured. Admitting this might help him unlock those memories and free his mind. Of course, unlocking them might unleash the means by which he'd kept his sanity, and make things much, much worse.

And Tycho was not sure why, when he opened his eyes, he saw someone else's face. It would be uncomfortable enough to see his former girlfriend Nyiestra, or his mother, or even Ysanne Isard. He simply could not understand, however, why he saw the face of Corran Horn.

The worst part of it: it felt so familiar ...

* * * * *

Back at work, Corran knew someone was behind him, staring at him. The feeling was familiar, but always uncomfortable. In general, the beings associated with the Squadron made noise, everywhere they went. It could be talking, the clacking of boots, the swishing noise of the flight suit fabric as they walked. But this presence was entirely silent, and any time Corran turned around to confront the being, Tycho would be there. They'd stare at one another for a moment, then as if on a signal, they'd both turn away. It had become a personal ritual with them. Anyone else who'd observed it just assumed it was a remnant of shared experience or of some bad blood residual left between the two men.

As well, Corran found himself staring at Tycho from across the hangar bay, sometimes absentmindedly. The case is closed, Corsec, he admonished himself, Stop digging for clues that no longer matter! But he couldn't stop. He knew his obsession would be classified as "unhealthy," so he didn't tell anyone about it, though Mirax had seemed to know.

He tried to figure out what Mirax meant by there's something there between him and Tycho. He thought she meant they may have had homosexual feelings for each other, and he knew it might be true ... but it wasn't the whole answer. In his life as an undercover security officer, he'd had to fake who he was, and do things against his nature. He had gotten into the brain of a homosexual man in order to crack a case. Corran had even let latent desires surface, to help with such assignments. This feeling with Tycho was not the same, even though he admitted to himself that there were many similar elements.

He tried to shake it off. He knew he was happy, and that Mirax Terrik was the woman he wanted to marry and be with in this lifetime. He had never been so happy as when she agreed to his proposal.

This "thing" -- whatever it was -- with Tycho was not marring his happiness with Mirax. But there it was, bugging him and making him feel that there was something important he was missing. He thought Mirax hadn't noticed, but she had. So ... he wondered if Tycho felt the same way?

* * * * *

They were eating lunch together, one of the few times Tycho and Winter knew they'd have to themselves. Of course, either could be called on assignment with no notice, and over the years they learned to relish any spare moments together. Thus, it wouldn't do for Tycho to discuss this obsession he seemed to have with Corran -- it would be a waste of their time as a couple. But Winter, being the intelligent, loving soulmate of Tycho, knew everything. She didn't want to bring it up either, wanting to selfishly have Tycho -- mind and body -- entirely to herself when she could. But today, she had a solution and wanted to offer it to him.

"You know I love you, and I wouldn't mention it ... but ... well, I understand you went through things you don't remember and I don't realize ... but I think -- more and more -- that you are going through something else." Winter had her hand on his forearm, as if the physical contact would be comforting to him.

Tycho tried not to convey his hurt and anger through his eating, but he jabbed at the food and stuffed it into his mouth, chewing slowly. It was a good way to give your partner a reason for not answering her immediately. He knew she knew, but he knew she respected his need to think. "You think I'm crazy?" he finally asked, after swallowing.

"No," Winter was not one for empty endearments, or for sugar-coating his situation, so if she said he wasn't crazy, he believed her. "But I think you are depressed, but not in a manner that's physically treatable. I have information about cases like yours, and most -- to be brutally frank -- are considered life-long maladies, not medicatable. But I seem to recall one or two cases where unorthodox treatments put light on the situation, even if they don't cure the condition."

If Winter said she "seemed to recall" something, she was just being polite. The woman had perfect recall; and if she "read something somewhere," then she had. It wasn't hearsay. Being equally polite, Tycho calmly responded, "Was the treatment onerous?"

"It could be ... it depends on the results and process. Can I talk about it with you? I'm not necessarily saying it's for you, I love you for you, regardless. But I've been giving it a lot of thought, and I want you to ... get better." Winter took a sip of her caf and looked into the cup. Tycho was stricken, realizing that his mental anguish was much more obvious to her than he'd supposed. Out of love and respect for her, he'd have to at least listen to her, even if it did turn out to be, indeed, onerous.

"I'm sorry, Winter. I didn't mean to hurt you. Or Wedge, or anyone for that matter." He knit his brow, trying to explain himself, "It's like I have a cloud surrounding me, I keep hoping it will dispel someday." He put his hand over hers on the table and lowered his voice, "There didn't seem to be any benefit in telling the NR anything more than they already surmised. They'll only hold it against me, and it's not like I'm unfunctioning ..."

With a small smile, Winter lifted his hand to her mouth and planted small kissed along his knuckles. "I accept you as you are, regardless. I mean it. What I'm going to tell you, please understand, I want only for you. If you say no, I will still be here for you. Always, I swear it."

He smiled back, feeling the tingling in his body when he had sexual/sensual contact with this lady. He'd often wondered if he'd done something in a past life to deserve everything he had in this life. Long ago, he'd thought he must've been an awful person for all of Alderaan to be destroyed, and to endure imprisonment and torture on behalf of the Rebel Alliance; but then he knew he must have been noble and wonderful, too, because this life had given him Winter. With her beside him, he felt that overall, his personal gains overwhelmed his personal losses.

"There is a procedure I've been studying, that uses -- among other things -- electricity and hypnosis." Noting the startled look in Tycho's eyes, she gripped his hands in hers, "I know ... it sounds like torture. To some, it can be, but to others ... it has been therapeutic." Her whole body language was unmistakable, and she pleaded with him not to panic.

Keeping his calm, he tried to control his voice, "What is the best case scenario for such ... treatments?"

He felt her stroking his palm, "Resolution of the problem ... the ability to address the real problem ... one patient described it as 'being able to go on.' No cure is promised, but it provides a real pathway to resolution."

Something hurt the back of his eyes. The idea of using electricity and hallucinations ... it was familiar and Tycho thought it must be one of the things he experienced while in custody of Ysanne Isard. "And the worst?" He couldn't help the quivering of his voice.

Winter hesitated, so he knew the answer immediately. "Insanity ... death ... nontherapeutic recollection of suppressed -- or false -- memories ..."

Tycho's chest felt tight and he could feel the muscles start spasming. It was something he could almost remember ... he remembered it like seeing dim, soft-edged shadows on a wall. Suggestions of the memory, without actually seeing it. But he breathed deeply and the feeling passed in time.

"I'm sorry, Tycho," Winter stood up and moved closer to embrace him, "I only want ..."

To her surprise, he smiled up at her, "It's not a bad tradeoff, don't you think? If I don't get better, you're saying I won't know it, eh? Either option, to be honest, would be better than being in this limbo ..."

She hugged him closer, "I will never leave you."

He pulled her onto his lap and held her, "I know it. And I will do this for us. Where and when do I check in?"

Winter kissed him and let her lips linger on his. "It's too risky ... we can't let the government know, or they could arrest you again. Tycho, do you trust me?"

"I'm rather hurt you'd even ask." As selfish as it sounded, if he came out of this a twisted mass of flesh with no memory, he would want Winter stay with him. "You promised not to leave me, and it gives me courage to face anything. So tell me more about what you've found?"

"I talked to Leia ... don't worry, I didn't tell her anything about you . You know she has some abilities as a healer, and she knows when someone is in mental pain. She has been able to ... well, the way she said it, 'realign the molecules in the victim's brain' through manipulation of the Force. In the process, she receives signals that give clues about the source of the anguish. It's how Han was able to recover so soon after he was released from carbonite, back on Tatooine. She absorbed the pain, gave it a place to go, and she understood, she said, almost at the molecular level, how he had suffered. He had someone who knew what he knew, and she said it helped him." Winter was sitting on the floor now, looking up at him, her head on his knee.

"Will Leia do this to me?" The surprising description of what his monarch had done for the man she loved made sense to Tycho.

Winter opened his hand and kissed his wrist, tickling him more deeply than on skin-level, "She doesn't know you so well ... from my understanding, it works best when a deep emotional bond is made between healer and victim. And she is too high-profile, she would never be able to sneak time away for this ... procedure. For your sake, I don't want anyone knowing that you are undergoing what is a risky and untested procedure -- not even Leia."

He was confused, "Then who? Luke? He's too high-profile, too." He looked down at her pleading eyes as she replied, "It doesn't have to be a completely positive bond ..."

Tycho discerned who she meant and firmly replied, "No."

"Please, Tycho, think about it ... he's strong in the Force. Luke says so! And I know you two don't agree on many things ... but you can't deny a strong emotional connection."

"Not Corran!" He surprised himself at the intensity of his denial, "I forgive him, I do. I understand why he did as he did to me. But my personal feelings undergo a lot of control. I don't know that I trust hi--"

But even as he said the words, he saw her eyes grow shiny and bright, and he knew he would allow it.

* * * * *

"Why did you say yes to Winter?" Corran wished he had a hangover, so he could have a valid reason to still be in bed. I need to remember to take up abusively heavy amounts of drinking, he noted to himself. It would save him these types of interactions with others.

Mirax pushed her forefinger up between her boyfriend's eyes and pushed his head up, "Look at me. It's because I think it's a good idea, and you have told me yourself that you owe many people. This is a good way to start your penance."

"Penance?? What are you, into religious freakdom now?" Corran was immediately sorry he let that insult slip. To his surprise, Mirax simply looked at him with deep pity.

"Not for me, stupid. It's for YOUR soul. You have been carrying around more than a big load of guilt since you came back from Lusankya. But even before that, you hounded after Tycho like a man obsessed. What is it between you two, anyway? Have you ever thought of that?" Mirax's stare seemed to drill through his mind into it's core, right through the spot she'd poked him in the forehead.

His heart skipped, She knows ... She knows what? Why am I frightened?

"You need to do this as much for yourself as for Tycho. Winter explained it to me, she'll explain it to you and Tycho, too. It's a combination of electroshock therapy and a mind probe, to detect deviations from proper molecular alignment. Leia did it without thinking on Han ... Winter says a strong emotional bond is needed ... she's desperate for Tycho's sake ...."

When Mirax put it that way, Corran saw he really had no choice. But he didn't want to do it, "What about Luke? Why can't he do it?"

Mirax glared at him, "Stop being a jerk, Corsec. You're not stupid, you know why he can't."

He didn't remember nodding his consent, but he knew he had to do it.

* * * * *

The four individuals had taken care to have alibis in place for their apparent absences. In a forgotten bunker, equipment had been sterilized and powered up. Both Tycho and Corran had been, at their request, strapped down to prevent injury. A medical 'droid was present, who's memory would be wiped before returning it back to the medcenter from which it had come. No one asked where it had come from.

Tycho looked through mostly closed eyes at Corran, without moving his head. While he was in prison, charged with murdering Corran, he had had a lot of time to think. He wondered at this connection between them; he had long ago noticed that they had some similar life experiences. They'd both attended Imperial military/security institutions, he to the Academy on Prebsvelt IV and Corran to Corsec; both had lost their families tragically, and used that anger to try and make big changes in society. They were elite pilots, trusted by the same men and women. And more recently, both had found themselves blessed with friends who believed in them wholly, and with women willing to sacrifice everything for them.

We must be special men, indeed. Tycho was comforted by this thought.

Likewise, Corran was thinking about how precipitously -- and deeply -- his and Tycho's lives had come together. Just a few months ago, he hadn't even known he existed. Now they were intertwined, and not always in a good way. Like it or not, his aggressive, energetic, investigative nature suspected Tycho of many things. Corran was humbled as he thought about how his attitude, cultivated by his training in CorSec -- of which he had been proud -- had nearly deprived the galaxy of a good man. Corran himself was a good man under the veneer of "bad cop" he wore proudly, and the error of his hubris hurt him deeply.

This is why he allowed himself to be talked into 'diving' into Tycho's brain. That's how Winter described it, and her words made sense. The theory was to put Tycho in a state of pain that simulated the level of torture where the mind was 'opened.' The effect was similar to forcing open a door, where information could spill in both directions: suggestions could be implanted, and deeply held secrets pried out. It was through such means that NRI thought that Isard might have made an inadvertent spy out of former prisoners.

People had whispered that Tycho could have been implanted by Isard during his torture, and that's why he had become so different from the man he had been before. Corran -- who had fueled such rumors himself -- realized that this very fear was in both Winter's and Tycho's minds. His senior officer had once said he wasn't sure he could trust that he wasn't affected like other unvoluntary spies had been, thus he had allowed himself to be put under house arrest. He saw it as protecting himself as well as those around him. And now he allowed himself to be tortured and mind-probed, to see if such an implantation had taken place. Corran marveled at the level of fear and desperation Tycho must be living with to undergo such a thing.

As Mirax soothed him, Winter pulled the binding straps taut. Corran panicked briefly, his gut reaction to being tied down like this a vastly negative one. But he saw Mirax there, smelled her scent, felt her touch, and forced himself to calm down.

He concentrated at the task at hand: the dive into Tycho's mind. He didn't know how he'd do it, but he supposed he'd know when the opportunity came. What would it be like? Would it be like walking around a file-stacked office, opening drawers, searching through holos and flimsis? Or would it be like a virtual reality nightmare, with unspeakable monsters representing the awfulness of a man's mind and soul? He tried to ignore the possibility that taking part in this "therapy" for Tycho might do his colleague irreversible harm.

Corran also tried to ignore the very real possibility that it might make him insane ... he didn't voice this fear, but what could he expect if he actually saw things in Tycho's mind that Tycho himself hadn't even been able to identify and articulate? If his mind was hiding it from him, what right did it give Corran to dive into that and see what only the Maker would know?

Breath. In. Out.

Both men noticed their breathing patterns were matching. The monitors hooked up to them beat out synchronized heartbeats.

The two women kissed their respective men, murmured their "I love you"s and private promises. They had procured the necessary drugs, and injected them simultaneously. Both men felt a pinch in their muscles, then a burn as the illegal fluids entered their bloodstreams. Their muscles slowly relaxed to a point where they no longer had conscious control of their physical bodies. Electrodes were lubricated, inserted and taped on. Experimental electrical surges forced the muscles to work and contract, as if their bodies were possessed by spirits. The vivid analogy was not lost on any of them.

Both men were fitted with sensory deprivation headgear, so that light and sound would not interfere with the experiment. Breathing apparatus was likewise fitted so that they would have enough oxygen at all times, and so that additional gases could be mixed in as needed. Both women looked at one another, hoping for the best, fearing the worst. There would be no "safe signals" this time.

Winter had received medical training in her various roles as Intelligence operative and infiltration specialist, and so she headed the procedure. Mirax had basic emergency medical training, and was anxious to assist. The Two-OneBee 'droid stood at the ready ...

Though Corran was fitted with the sensory deprivation device, he could swear he felt Tycho scream ...

* * * * *

Expanding his 'Force sphere of influence,' the insertion point was surprisingly easy to find, and Corran's consciousness slipped along a slick curve deep into Tycho's brain. He found himself in a field; it was night. He saw a barn-like building and realized he was on a farm. By the old-fashioned wooden building was a tall, handsome man with broad shoulders, undoubtedly the farmer.

My name is Lueva. A voice echoed in his brain, I am married to Mocy. We have many children, and we live on this property, many fields away. I am well respected in our community, for I work for that man standing by the barn; I have his favor. I have come to meet secretly with Porati, my boss and my master. But why in the middle of the night? Had he done something wrong ..?

Lueva realized he shouldn't be here, but something pulled him here. He took off his hat and respectfully nodded to the big man before him. The language was unfamiliar, but he understood the meaning behind the words. He genuflected and bowed his head submissively while the bigger man undid the fastenings on his trousers and pulled out the bulbous, circumcised member. Lueva hungrily stuck out his tongue to guide it into his open mouth ...

He heard an enormously loud sound, smelled burned flesh and suddenly Porati's penis was dragged out of his mouth. It took a moment for Lueva to realize his master had fallen, and several more moments before his mind registered the shouting and the sight of men running toward him. He felt fear that they would kill him, then realized he should appear grateful, as if they had saved him. He understood that the others thought Porati was taking advantage of his foreman; best to let them continue thinking so.

Lueva felt numb, trying not to remember the smell of his lover as his body was desecrated and burned by the mob. I'm sorry, Porati, my love, he knew he must not weep, or the crowd could turn on him, I'm sorry I broke my promise never to leave you ... I'm sorry ... tell me we'll be together again ... He felt unworthy to be with his lover, and prayed for worthiness as he threw himself onto the flames ...

* * * * *

He felt himself slip along that curve he knew he'd felt before. He felt confused. Who was he? Was he Corran Horn, of Corsec and of Rogue Squadron? Or was he Lueva Koyte, foreman and lover of Tycho Celchu?

Tycho? Who was Tycho? Wasn't his name Porati Gris?

* * * * *

Their world was at war, and they had been taken as prisoners. They had made a wrong turn somewhere, their intelligence had failed them, and now the cluster of men huddled together, expecting the worst. The braver among them hoped the end would come quickly. The cowards wept and wailed till the others beat them into silence.

Dunlee Smot chose silence. Their captors were rumored to be barbarians and sadists, taking pleasure in a dark ritualistic process they apparently favored, seeing prisoners as a source of entertainment. At least they would not be held as hostages to be bartered.

They had had no food for several days, just buckets of filthy water dumped over them from time to time. As the time passed, the men grew silent, then started dying around him as their bodies purged. There seemed no system for taking the men away, just that they'd be taken. The guards would come, poke them with rods and kick them, then drag one or more of their number out the door, slamming it not-quite shut so they could hear the howling and pleading of the suddenly animated men as they were taken away to their fates. They didn't bother taking the dead ones away; it seemed they only wanted the ones that were still alive and able to resist.

Dunlee thought of his parents, who would never see him again, but he couldn't weep. He thought of the woman to whom he was betrothed, and didn't weep at the thought that he'd never hold her again. He wondered if his heart had hardened, and perhaps he was no longer human. He should just give himself over to the guards, begging them to finish his suffering.

But then he thought of his best friend, Yamma Tov, whom he had known since they were tykes. The fair-haired man was several years his senior, but Dunlee felt closer to Yamma than to anyone else. He wept, wasting precious fluids, at the thought of never seeing his friend and mentor again. He would have to survive; he promised to himself that if he survived, he would see Yamma again.

So he played sick for as long as possible, and they passed over him. This could only last for so long before he was the only one left in the hole. Was it better to perish in this prison? Or to subject himself to the unknown. He had little strength left, and he knew he'd never know the answer to that question.

The lid to the prison opened again, and the stick came down and poked him. He tried not to flinch, but the guard must have detected some life still in him and pulled him out of the pit with a grunt. The other men -- silent, still -- were left there; perhaps they were all really dead. He refused to scream, hoping they might abandon him if they thought he was close to death. Instead, he felt himself first being stripped, then immersed in a tub of chemicals, and he wondered if he was going to be drowned? He was held down to the bottom of the tank by the prodding stick at his neck, like a nerf being dipped for vermin control. He was hauled up, sputtering and coughing, then he felt a blast of hot air scalding his skin. It was hot enough to singe the hairs on his body, and he had to admire their efficiency in preparing and sanitizing their prisoners. Perhaps he would be fed to an animal that didn't like getting hairs in it's teeth?

He was clapped in chains and irons and made to shuffle forward as best he could. They didn't drag him, instead the guards opted to poke him with their rods, goading him forward. When he fell, they'd lever him upward with the rod so he was upright again. They had no regard for his weakness, hunger and dizziness

He ended up in a small, darkened room. When his eyes finally adjusted to the dimness, he saw two others there, one man standing over the other. The one crouched on the ground had been sucking the penis of the one standing, so that the latter's penis was engorged and fully upright. Dunlee backed away was the stander stepped behind the croucher and penetrated him. To his surprise, the man on the ground made no sound, keeping his forehead on the floor as he was sodomized.

Exclaiming disgust, the stander made a signal toward the croucher, whom that guards grabbed and suspended upsidedown from clamps fitted into the walls. The same guards poked Dunlee toward the man. The prisoner was ordered to suck on the mounted man's member. He refused and felt a lash across his back ... then he felt a mouth take his penis and start to gently suck. He looked down ... he recognized the poor man who's spirit had obviously been so broken. It was Yamma Tov! He was surprised, when had Yamma been conscripted?

His thoughts were disturbed by someone pulling at the singed stumps of hair left on his head, directing him toward the other man's penis. How perverted, Yamma upside down, sucking on him; Dunlee doing likewise in a standing position! And though the situation was horrifying, Dunlee felt Yamma putting all his efforts into the act, as if he was enjoying it.

Moaning lightly, Dunlee realized he was indeed enjoying himself, too. Relieved to escape the horrors around him, he pulled on the other man's member with his lips, furtively trying to time the other man's climax with his own. Yamma had apparently had quite a bit of practice, and Dunlee tried to mimic him. Both men sucked furiously and like a miracle, both orgasmed simultaneously, dizzying waves of pleasure spiking their tortured bodies. Dunlee had never felt so alive as when he tasted Yamma's fluids on his tongue ...

The man in charge yelled out something. Apparently the two men were not supposed to enjoy the experience, and the guards beat them apart with their rods, breaking skin, shattering bones. Dunlee heard Yamma's footbones crack and saw his dear friend actually slip right out of the bindings that held him to the wall. His tortured friend's head lay at an unnatural angle, and his body was crumpled and still.

Dunlee realized at that terrible moment that he was in love, and he tried to move toward the other man to protect his broken body. He heard a crunching sound and was then not able to feel his legs. The last thing he remembered was being placed upsidedown in the wall irons that Yamma had been in just moments before. He would follow his friend's fate, and he wept ...

* * * * *

He was screaming out the other man's name, Tycho! Don't leave me ... I'm coming ... I'm following ... Don't go ... Yamma! Tycho ... no ... He was falling, falling ...

* * * * *

He looked at his bride, so beautiful, so trusting. She was wearing a hgscan, the dress of her tribe signifying her surrender to a new man in her life. He had raided her village and kidnapped her from her father's house. It was not a real raid; it was a tradition among their peoples. It was said that a man would not value that which he did not steal from another. Love bought at too low a cost as in danger of being discarded for it's cheapness. Abducting Potimaya was expensive, but he knew it was worth the cost. In turn, she knew that her new man valued her, and that she was precious to him. For that, she was loving and grateful.

Luedunva carried his trussed up bride to their home, where she would care for his every need forever after -- as long as she would live, and beyond. If she died first, she would prepare the way for him, and look after him, currying favor with the gods and deities. If he died before her, she would honor his memory, make sure he was respected, before sacrificing herself to the gods so that she may follow him to care for him in death. She was this man's first wife, and thus in a position of honor. Other wives might cost him less, or even be given to him in trade or as a gift, but they would never be as valued as highly as Potimaya.

As custom dictated, he did not unbind her as he laid her down on the soft animal hides and pelts he had prepared. He knew this part of the ritual would hurt her, but it was necessary for her screams to be heard by those outside, so they no man could lay claim to her.

He forcefully broke through her maidenhead, heard her sigh as she caught her breath, then heard her scream into the night. He knew the scream was for show; she was a good wife already, ensuring that the gods and the tribe knew to whom she now belonged. Even if her displeasure at this onslaught was not real, she made sure he would garner respect for this performance.

As he moved within her, she tore her hgscan with her own hands, symbolizing that her connection to her father's trip was torn; she had nothing left from her maiden's life, and now belonged wholly to Luedunva. In the morning, it would be cut up and given away to the women of the village, to be used as decorative or utilitarian baubles, except for the piece that had absorbed her blood of surrender. That piece would be buried, so that the ancestors would know that the ritual was complete. Potimaya would then be presented to the village wearing the clothing of her new husband, signifying that she had surrendered everything.

The rite over, he cut the ties, demonstrating her how much he valued her, to destroy good rope to get at her body. Future wives would have to wait as he carefully unreeled the cords from them, to save for other uses. Only Potimaya would be worth wasting good rope. He would scatter it in front of his home in the morning, as further evidence of his love.

The two had fallen in love when they first saw one another just days before, as their two tribes met and traveled together through the plains. They seemed to recognize each other, as if they had been waiting for one another all their lives. It was fated, they decided. The gods had brought them together, and they would never be apart from that moment forward.

Luedunva had approached Potimaya's father, who demanded certain concessions in compensation for the loss of his daughter. These were haggled and agreed upon; those witnessing congratulated the girl's father on a good price, then congratulated Luedunva on his good fortune on winning such a valuable wife.

But Luedunva realized the father was not satisfied with the bargain. It wasn't that he looked angry; instead, the man looked infinitely sad. This happens sometimes, when men make the mistake of becoming overly attached to their daughters. For this reason, Luednuva insisted the ceremony and rituals happen immediately, that very night. He did not want the old man to change his mind. He had to hurry to make Potimaya his own, without delay. Till then, her father could -- though with difficulty -- claim a revocation of the contract.

The required rape complete, the two new lovers slept in each other's arms, sated and exhausted from the night's events: the abduction, the ceremony, the rituals. They slept peacefully in the home they shared, dreaming of their future together and apart ...

Luedunva awoke, as if from an unpleasant dream, and he couldn't breath. He choked with smoke and heat for many seconds before realizing the danger -- his home was on fire! He tried to wake up his woman, but she didn't stir. Panicked he tried to carry her, but he realized he was lying on smoldering embers ... He was lying on a funeral pyre!

Where was his home?

When had Potimaya died?

He remembered, and he screamed, Don't go without me!

He vainly tried to smother the flames that were devouring his dear wife. Don't leave me ... take me with you ... I will follow you ...

* * * * *

Corran had no idea how he had come to be in this room, and he didn't recognize the woman looking down at him. He wondered if Potimaya had miraculously risen? But, no, it wasn't her ... she was dead ... he cried out at the memory.

At first he thought it was that woman. Not Yamma, the other woman who had taken his love away from him. Her name, what was her name? Ysanne, who was Ysanne? Did he mean Yamma, after all?

But ... wasn't Yamma a boy? Who was this girl?

"Corsec, oh please, oh please ... Corran, please ..."

He heard the female voice at the end of a long, long tunnel. Who is calling me?

* * * * *

The voice was a whisper, "Come ... it's all right. It was quite a ride, Lueva." It sounded like the voice had been traveling through water.

Porati? I'm sorry ... I ...

"Shhh ... yes, it's okay now. It's okay. We're all okay now. Yamma is here, too."

And ... Potimaya?

"I'm here, too. We're all here. We're all together again. Not whole, but here again. Come with us, Dunlee ... Lueva ... Luedunva ... it's okay. I made it, I'm here. I need you here ..."

But ... when we are together, they always pull us apart ... I can't bear it again ...

"I know ... I know ... but we have to ... remember, I will always love you. I love you enough to do it again and again. No matter how often, no matter how they separate us ..."

I will follow you forever ...

"Yes, I know. We will never be separated. Now come to me, Corran Horn. Follow me, you must follow me now ..."

Opening his eyes, Corran looked on the beautiful face of Tycho Celchu. He had seen that soul time and time again, throughout eternity. He reached up, Yes ... this is why ... we are-

The Alderaanian man interrupted the thought, as he leaned down and pressed his lips gently on the Corellian's parched mouth. "Thank you for never leaving me ... even when you couldn't save me ..."

Feeling the tears come to his eyes, Corran dared not believe ... anything. Was it real? Were they hallucinations that had been implanted in him during his time at Lusankya? Had Isard been so cruel?

Tycho wiped the tears from Corran's cheeks, "Do you feel strong enough to sit up? You've been out for quite a long time ... we were so worried that you didn't follow me out that last time ..."

Supported by his fellow Rogue, Corran wept silently. Had it been real? Oh ... I hope so ...

* * * * *

No one knew what had happened, but Wedge had noticed that Tycho was no longer so morose, and Corran had been behaving less guilt-ridden. At their mission party, Wedge announced that he was glad to see the two men recovering well; perhaps killing Ysanne Isard together had been a catharsis. "I'm no head doctor, but I'm sure it wasn't BAD for you!"

Everyone laughed, and toasted the two heroes, who smiled in reply to the cheers and congratulations.

They didn't understand what had happened the days they had been held on Lusankya, but information trapped in Tycho's and Corran's memories had been released, like screaming banshees ... they had left an impression, a sort of hollow where the secret and suppressed memories had eaten through the hearts of the two men. But like an abscess that needed to be cut open to let the fester drain, the fear that haunted them was gone. They were left only with the painful echoes.

Tycho still could not remember what had happened to him in the terrible prison, but he understood now that it wasn't important. He could heal now.

Neither man could ever be sure if the memories had been implanted during torture, or if they could have been real. But either way, the experience they shared explained the connection they had to each other. Real or not, the bond was there. To both men, the bond was something tangible and understandable.

Neither Mirax nor Winter asked the men what they had discovered during the ordeal. They were curious, but Winter had reminded all of them that the point of the procedure was to help Tycho come to terms with his depression. They had agreed to this before it had started, so left it to him and to Corran to reveal things at their own pages.

True, Tycho did not return to the man he was before he was imprisoned and tortured, but he seemed at peace now, and they were content with that. An added bonus was that Corran was likewise less edgy and nervous. Both women were simply grateful that the illicit treatment had seemed to work, and both men had come out of it okay. Even if their men couldn't speak of what happened, Mirax and Winter agreed it had been worth the risks.

The two men had not discussed anything since the therapeutic experiment had taken place. But it wasn't necessary; it wasn't even worth wondering about. The memories, which seemed so clear during the treatment, blurred and became less absolute when they tried to make sense of it all. It was frustrating, but also soothing ...

But never mind ... they didn't know or understand why, but they would be together again, and again. One following the other, over and over. And that was all that mattered.

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