Vague and Absolute
Rating: PG
Diana deRiggs and Wraith6

Tahiri dropped her bag and swore to herself. She'd been dropping things a lot lately, since she was "re-normalized." She'd spent time with the Vong, though she wasn't sure for how long. Maybe a few days. Maybe a lifetime or more.

She was rehabilitated ... mostly. Rather, she satisfied the medicos and intelligence types that she was all right, that she was fit to return to the galaxy and re-take her place in it. She'd slot right back as a Jedi, but with Vong traits and intelligence. That would make her valuable to the New Republic, moving on from where she'd left off.

Still, something was empty inside of her, and Tahiri felt her mind drifting away — more than now and again. However, it wasn't nearly as bad as before, when she could recall details of the day her beloved had died, complete with the explosion that seared his flesh and rended him asunder. Those memories were blurred now, for she had learned to deal with such things during her time within the Embrace of Pain, sequestered with the Yuuzhan Vong shapers.

In fact, she couldn't remember how long she'd been away. She knew that Anakin had rescued her from the Vong ... but how could that be, if he was now not alive? Vast periods of time seemed to be blank, as if she might have left her body and entered a sort of hibernation. Tahiri had a vague notion that her sense of time had been churned, so sequences didn't always make sense anymore. She knew that Anakin was gone, but she didn't clearly remember any more other than that absolute fact.

She did have feelings, which seemed clearer, even if they didn't make total sense. Some of Tahiri's feelings had to do with those blank places in her mind. Sometimes she could understand the feelings that should have been there, but they still felt like they didn't exactly belong to her.

"Spit," she muttered, dropping her bag again. She had an inkling that she had some muscle pains or spasms, when she couldn't quite grip things. Have to remember to get a clip for that, she told herself, referring to a way to attach the bag around her body, as she bent down to pick up the bag for the umpteenth time.

As she straightened up, something collided into her, and she dropped the bag again. She also fell onto her butt and found herself splayed on the sidewalk. Fortunately, the repulsorlifts were working properly and there was no rocking of the platform, so she didn't slide off of it this time.

The man who'd walked into her looked stunned, then he remembered himself. "Gee, I'm ... I'm sorry! Let me help you u—"

He was stopped from saying more because Tahiri launched herself upon him and wrestled him to the ground. He definitely felt at a disadvantage here, and wondered if he should summon the police. She had her hands around his throat and was pushing him into the ground ... with her lips!

Tahiri stopped forcibly kissing the man because he wasn't responding. "Why are you looking so frightened, Dummy," the girl demanded.

Nearly catatonic, the man let out a strangled sound.

She peered at him, "Dummy?"

His eyes were glazing over before she realized he couldn't breath. Bystanders were trying to intervene now, talking to her to let go of him. None of them seemed willing to touch her. She was demonstrating her physical strength, after all ... though everyone was concerned that the young man's flailing was getting weaker.

She loosened her grip and repeated, "Dummy?"

The pinkish and blackish miasma that was the remainder of his consciousness cleared as oxygen was sucked into his lungs. Breath out, he reminded himself, as his body struggled to take in enough air. Eventually, he started to cough and his vision started to clear. Blinking, a woman's face came into focus. She was talking, but he couldn't really hear, yet.

She looked incredulous, as if something she was so sure of was simply not to be. And that was exactly what Tahiri was feeling.

Tears prickled in her eyes. "I'm ... I'm so sorry ... I thought you were someone else ..." Ridiculous! You know he's dead!

She helped him up, simultaneously babbling to explain, "I once knew a young man who resembled you in nearly every way. Just for ... just for an instant, I thought he was you ...!" The tears formed large drops which fell directly onto the sidewalk platform as her head bowed down in shame. "I'm so sorry, I just got so excited ... it was a crazy time in the wars and all ..."

He smiled at her wanly, "I am flattered, ma'am." He coughed a bit and took some more deep breaths. "He must have been quite a man to incite such a reaction."

"Can I make it up to you ... can I buy you a caf, maybe ...?" Tahiri didn't really know what to say, but she was still not so sure this man wasn't Anakin. He can't be ... Anakin loves you, he'd be kissing you back!

"No, thank you," the man smiled again. He held out his hand, "It was nice to have met you. I hope you find the young man who resembles me. But I'm afraid I'm late for an appointment now, so I need to go."

Holding his hand limply and letting it drop away from him after a cursory shake, she watched him turn away and walk — mostly steadily — away from her. He was lost in the crowed in a few short moments, and Tahiri felt more alone in this crowded city than she'd felt in a long time. Worse, she felt her mind clouding over and she knew she'd have to learn to forget this, too ...

* * * * *

Anakin groaned, So close!

"You did well to keep your promise," said Lumiya.

"Yes," panted Anakin, more fatigued from having to block his Force signature from Tahiri than from surviving her physical attack upon him. "Thank you."

"Tell me, boy ... you were tempted?"

Anakin murmured — more to himself — as a reply, "I died when we parted. I knew I was dead. I put her out of my mind every day ... every damned day."

"You failed, Anakin," Lumiya's voice didn't attempt to hide her smile. "Tell me how you failed."

His head hung down, "No ... I failed, because I couldn't have stood it ... losing her every day ... if I didn't have the certainty that she'd be back with me ... every day ..."

"You failed," she repeated.

"I am weak," confessed the young man. Kill me ... or let me see her! he'd demanded. Lumiya had played at doing one or the other for a long, long while.

"Was it worth it?" Lumiya was mocking him.

"Yes ... no ..." Anakin's tears poured forth. Being able to see her — and even touch her! — had been a reward for his discipline and progress. And the punishment, to show my weakness, he sighed to himself. Even so, seeing her — knowing she still loved him and wanted him — tore open his emotional wounds. It felt kind of good.

And it also gave him his reason to stay alive. For that, he needed to learn from this dark creature who stalked the Skywalker clan. "Thank you, my master," Anakin said, genuinely and fully. "I am ready to continue my training ..."


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