Unchained Melody
Rating: PG

Author’s Note: This is a companion piece to Here Without You that I wrote about 3 or 4 years ago. (Crikey has it been that long?) That songfic was written from Anakin's POV, and was based on the Three Doors Down song of the same name. This piece is from Tahiri's POV. The song I have used for her is "Unchained Melody" by Hy Zaret and Alex North. There are many versions of the song. Personally I like the one by The Righteous Brothers, 1965, and also the rendition by Gerry and the Pacemakers.

Anyway — in this songfic I have tried to create the same tone and sense of hope and timeless love that are in the song itself. You may need a tissue — but hopefully that won't put the guys off.

I would like to dedicate this to Wraith6 as a thank you for the beautiful art work he did for me recently — and also because I know how strongly he feels about Anakin and Tahiri.

I miss you, Anakin, she thought. More now than ever.
The Final Prophesy, p. 10

"I miss you." Such simple words you might think, words that roll around in the mind as easily as they might slide off the tongue — uttered from habit perhaps, a fond mantra, the kind a girl might use to reassure herself and to validate a connection that once existed ... like whistling in the dark. But those who know this girl with the blonde hair and serious expression know otherwise. They know that her simple statement of fact is framed within a complex syntax of pain, that its brevity is the punctuation of loss — lost hopes and dreams, one young life cut short and another changed forever. They know that her childhood self, the one that babbled non-stop like a brook tripping its merry way over stones, was reborn — baptised by grief and bitter experience — into a courageous young woman whose words bear a weight of integrity and wisdom.

And so it is that as she climbs the cable-like roots of the gnarltrees, reading the Force-laden landscape of Dagobah for signs of the threat she senses lurking on the periphery, the context shifts and transports her back through time. And suddenly, in an instant, she is a nine-year-old girl, standing in trepidation on the mulched soil of this vibrant world, waiting for her best friend to return from his trial — his confrontation with the meaning of his name.

The wind soughs amongst the contorted branches, and the song echoes in her ears like the ballads Tionne would sing to them — the legends and parables of the Jedi of old intended for their instruction. But all that matters here is the music, the music of the wind as it ebbs and flows in its eternal cycle around the planet — the same wind that whispered comfort to her while she waited for her friend, the same wind that caressed and refreshed him when he returned weary but at peace. The same wind whose notes now reach into the deepest corners of her memory and touch the tender places in her heart as she remembers the touch of his fingers, the comfortable pressure as they twined into hers celebrating his triumphant relief. That touch — fond, supportive — that grew to become a language of love and friendship that was all their own. That touch that she remembers now like a starveling.

Oh, my love, my darling
I've hungered for your touch
A long, lonely time
And time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much
Are you still mine?

I need your love
I, oh I need your love
God speed your love to me

She finds it impossible to count time, like others do, in hours and days and years, for such units have no meaning to her any more. Time is simply spaces — spaces that expand and contract depending on where she is standing. Sometimes when she fingers the worm-like scars on her forehead she would swear that it was mere months since the terror of violation she endured while Mezhan Kwaad attempted to transplant a Yuuzhan Vong identity in her mind. Other times she rests so comfortably with her Yuuzhan Vong nature that she could almost believe a lifetime has passed since she came to be Riina of Domain Kwaad. She has days, months even, when the six years she spent with the Tusken Raiders register as nothing more than a grain of sand in the rolling dunes of her life. And then some memory will flare, and that segment of her life will light up into an epic sequence that she could believe only ended yesterday.

Yet no matter how many spaces she can divide her life into, how many different ways of categorising her life she can find, it always comes back to one thing — or in her case, one person. Anakin. Anakin whom she befriended and then loved. Anakin who, she realised way back when she was nine, was always destined to be part of her life, sharing dreams and adventures, triumphs and disappointments; sharing hopes for the future — naïve now when she considers all that has happened to them, and yet strangely beautiful with a purity that makes her smile ... warmly, wistfully. Little did she know, in her childish certitude, that the Force would decree their togetherness should be spent longer in the spirit than in the flesh.

And so she remembers ... the promises they made to each other, the way they challenged each other and made each other better, stronger. She remembers the silly, loving conversations they would have sometimes about children they might have, and the ludicrous names they would never call them. And most of all, as she nestles her back into the niche she has found in the gnarltree and draws support from its smooth solidity, she remembers how it felt to be with him ... standing beside him, standing within the loving circle of his arms ... curled warm and content against him as he slept.

Her eyes close — just for an instant — for the memories hover ever within easy reach; and she’s beside him again in the cleft above the pool on Yavin, sheltering from the Peace Brigade, aware perhaps for the first time of the magnetism in his proximity, ionic charges stirring an unfamiliar sensation deep inside. She’s in his arms in Mezhan Kwaad’s ship, and the raw strength of his determination to prevail is raging through her like the river in their shared childhood dream ... and his grip on her hand as they hurl the ancient Massassi trees at their pursuers is steadfast, exhilarating, all-empowering. She’s pressed against him in a small locker on the space station near Yag’Dhul, rendered breathless by the caress of his fingers on her skin, astonished by the juxtaposition of strength and gentleness ... awakened by his kiss, his lips soft, searching, finding and naming that unknown feeling and matching it with his own ... hunger, desire ... completion ... love.

The touch of his mind soothing her, provoking her: her rock to cling to and yet also her greatest competitor.

Resting beside him in the midst of innumerable perils aware only of his warm body against hers and the reverence of his touch, and the caress of his mind pulling her into the sleepy depths to bask golden together in the moonlight.

Memories, so substantive ... and yet when she reaches out for him all she touches is the space where he used to be. And she can’t help wondering ... where is he, and what is it like there? Is he with others who have become one with the Force?

Does he remember like she does ... and if she went to him now, would he remember her?

Sometimes the divide seems beyond comprehension, greater than the void between galaxies, even between universes. And sometimes the space between now and the end is an ocean with no horizon.

Lonely rivers flow to the sea, to the sea
To the open arms of the sea ... yeah
Lonely rivers sigh, wait for me, wait for me
I'll be coming home, wait for me

Her eyes open again, the instant evidenced only in the moisture glistening on her lashes, and faint rivulets leaving the taste of salt on her lips. She knows that the space between now and the end is one she must travel alone. She accepts this fact because there is simply no other alternative, and she knows she will do her utmost to make it mean something. Just like her Anakin did.

But oh to know for a certainty ... does he yearn for her the way she does for him? And when her course is run, will he be waiting?

And somewhere within the vibrant patterns of Dagobah’s web of life she feels his reply like an echo, like an imprint within the Force itself. And her smile as she turns her face up to the sky is the sun shining through a shower of rain.

Oh, my love, my darling
I've hungered, hungered for your touch
A long, lonely time
And time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much
Are you still mine?

Time slips away like the tide, and one day she looks back and is once again astounded at its fickle nature, the way its ebb and flow can turn a moment into a lifetime, and reduce a lifetime to a mere instant — a space filled with many spaces. And it surprises her to realise that at the end of her long journey she is still asking the same questions, still occasionally hovering on the borders of uncertainty, even now after a long life spent serving the Force with all the integrity she could muster. Always true to her faith, ever true to the one whose love saved her and made her whole.

Would he find it amusing to know that she’s the one who now tortures herself with doubts? Or can she say — will he find it amusing?

Slowly the minutes tick past, and she feels the burden of living beginning to lift away from her. She notices that the light outside is fading, and yet, curiously, inside it is growing stronger and warming her ... warming her in a way that she remembers from long ago ... resting safe within the protection of his arms, her nostrils filled with the musky scent of his skin, the faint rasp of his chin as he nuzzled her forehead.

The seconds tick past, so slowly, the gap increasing between each pendulum swing as the memories come flooding back, memories that have borne her through trials of courage and loneliness. Memories that are so tangible she can touch them ... touch ...

I need your love
I oh need your love
God speed your love to me

... the hand she now sees reaching towards her and drawing her gently over the void, the fingers twining with hers ... his lips smiling, erasing all doubts. And his love warming her ... and their smiles like a binary star illuminating the infinite corridors of time.

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