Ahsoka knelt in the unlit holoroom, drained and yet still fighting to get a hold of her maelstrom of emotion. She’d been completely unsettled in the days since the marathon retelling of her life to Daedalus. Loathe as she was to gift her personal history to such an unsavory individual and conflicted as she was about him being the one to reveal Anakin’s true story to the annals of history, at least she’d been able to retrieve R2. Saving him from Daedalus was worth a minor personal sacrifice.
After falling into an immediate dreamless sleep of exhaustion that first night, she hadn’t really slept since. The scenes from R2’s memory wouldn’t stop running through her mind. Every time she closed her eyes there they were, hitting her anew. She almost wished she could forget. Not knowing and wondering had been easier. Despite the certainty of what she’d seen, her heart and mind continued to reject it, unable to come to terms with the truth.
She’d spent years alongside Anakin and Padme. Anakin had been her family. No one else had ever managed to get so deep within her defenses. Padme had been one of her most trusted friends. In all that time, she’d never suspected a thing. She’d wondered who a bit when she’d learned of Padme’s pregnancy, but had respected the Senator’s refusal to comment on the father. It had never even occurred to her that it could have been Anakin.
And after what had happened to the two of them, she couldn’t even be angry. There was only room for overwhelming grief. If she’d thought learning that Anakin had become Darth Vader was painful, it was nothing compared with seeing it. A nightmare that she couldn’t wrap her mind around. Unbearable.
Her heart squeezed so hard in her chest that she couldn’t breathe. He’d fallen so hard. Because of love. How could a mistake borne of love have left such a cold, emotionless monster in its wake?
Her mind flicked to and shied away from Padme’s death. Could such a thing be survived without killing the part of yourself that could feel? She didn’t know. What could have possibly remained of her master when she’d met him on Malachor? After seeing his fall, she was inclined to say nothing. But Padme had believed to the very end, despite everything that he did.
Oh no, the temple. The younglings. She closed her eyes against a fresh wave of pain.
And yet Padme believed. And at the cost of his life, he’d saved his son from the Sith Emperor. Maybe.
Her head pounded as she struggled to understand. To accept. To not let the knowledge devour her.
Deep, slow breaths. Eyes closed. Seeking out and finding her center, calm in the eye of the storm, she stood, running smoothly through one of her unarmed combat forms. Then another. And another. Finding momentary peace in the practice.
The door whooshed open and she spun around, opening her eyes to find herself in a holographic jungle setting with Mikey stepping in, a shy grin reaching towards his freckles. Music began playing around them.
His grin widened. “It’s my playlist of Disney favorites.”
“I usually train to it on my own, since my brothers would totally tease me about it.” He rubbed the back of his head self-consciously. A voice began belting out lyrics to the beat. It’s the circle of life…
She raised an eyebrow. “You train to this? How?”
He laughed. “Music gets me in the zone.”
She shook her head, finding it hard to believe. But then again, Mikey really was something else. A truly extraordinary individual. She could genuinely say that she’d never before met his like.
“If you’d like to work out, I can…” She started towards the door when he raised his hands signaling her to halt.
“It’s not as much fun alone. And it looked like you were back up to speed.”
She should probably have been cross with him for spying on her. And for herself for not sensing it. But it was hard to be angry in his presence, like attempting to remain chilled while basking in sunlight. It could be done, but seemed to go against the natural order of the universe.
“All right then.”
He started bouncing around and she had to fight not to laugh. Despite his carefree demeanor, she was surprised to find that he was quite good. But there was more to it than skill. His speed, grace and intuition were off the charts.
Probing deeper, she could feel it in him and around him. With everything that had been going on and his lack of consciously using it, she hadn’t notice before. The Force hummed through him, strong and deep, seemingly fused with his nature. He didn’t seem aware of it and yet it was a natural part of who he was, infusing everything he did on instinct. No wonder he had such a knack for understanding others.
In almost any other circumstances, finding a person with such a strong connection to the Force with an utter lack of awareness of it would have been cause for concern. But it was as though he was made of pure light, joy and kindness. As though darkness had no place in him. She’d never met anyone quite so pure and would not have thought such a person could exist were she not presently witnessing it. Remarkable.
Astounding revelation aside, one of the few welcome ones today, she was still better. Years of her own training and experience provided her a step up on him. He gave her quite the workout, helping her feel more like herself than she’d had since waking up, but ultimately she won, pinning him beneath her.
He didn’t look put out though. “Smooth moves. Took me down like a boss.”
Figuring exactly what he meant when he spoke sometimes was another matter.
“Another round? Or do you want to talk about it now? I’ll listen.”
Her eyes blurred with tears as she sat up and he pushed himself upright. She was only vaguely aware that the music had become slow and soft.
Talk about it. No, she didn’t want to talk about it. She was tired and hurt and wasn’t ready to dig into the emotional quagmire yet, if ever. What she wanted was solace.
Her tears blinked away as his arms closed around her.
“Or I can just be here.” He whispered in her ear.
She considered pulling away, knowing that he’d let her, but that wasn’t what she wanted. She wanted to stay and be healed, to take all the comfort he offered and blanket herself in it. With a sigh, she relaxed into his hold, leaning her head against his chest, listening to each heartbeat through his natural armor.
With the foundation of her past broken and stripped away, she needed to start rebuilding herself anew. Could she start here? Now? Everything had been wrong since she’d awoken. No, not since she’d awoken. For much longer than that. She was tired of being lost. Of shouldering the burden alone. She wanted to be free of all of it. One moment outside of her life. To let everything go, if only for a little while.
She craned her head to look up at him and he smiled down at her, unconditional kindness reflected in his wide blue eyes. Beautiful. Present. For her. She wanted to lose herself and he was right here.
Stop. He’s so young and innocent. But wise too.
As though magnetized, her chin tilted upwards.
Was this how Anakin started to lose his way? No more thinking. It hurts too much. Let it go and be. Here and now, only.
His eyes widened in momentary surprise, but after the slightest hesitation, he bent his head to meet her halfway. His lips brushed across hers as part of her mind processed the lyrics of the currently playing music.
Can you feel the love tonight? The peace the evening brings? The world for once, in perfect harmony with all its living things?
The realization that it was a romantic piece almost made her laugh, but in truth, she liked the words. They did capture the moment as she pressed deeper, abandoning tentative for bold, feeling it both cleanse and exhilarate her as he cupped her head and tilted her back, following his intuition to flood every fiber of her being with sizzling light. Forget the past. Forget the future. This moment was theirs and theirs alone.
Images came and went flashing in and out. Things he both knew and didn’t recall. Dathomir. Mother Talzin, her red robes contrasting against the black and white markings of her gaunt face. Count Dooku’s treachery. His mother’s scream as she sacrificed herself to throw him to his ship. Saving his life with her own as that bastard Grievous drove his lightsabers into her chest.
The scene transitioned to a dark temple with a young, blue-eyed, human boy illuminating the place with his light. A light he twisted with the pain that lay just beneath. Ezra. His would-be successor. Falling. Collapsing stone. It all ran together. Capped off with Sidious’s dark chuckle.
Maul jerked upright as he snapped awake, pulling fully out of the dream. Dreams or memories? He’d been having them more and more frequently, since waking up from stasis. Broken pieces of his past, slowly sifting back to the surface. Knowing there was more to his life that he couldn’t quite grasp. How had he lost it? He didn’t know.
With a growl of frustration, he rose and swept onto the empty bridge, reviewing the computer’s scans. He was tired of waiting. He wanted his empire. He wanted his birthright. He wanted his apprentice, who would suffer a hundred-fold for every indignity he’d endured at the hands of Darth Sidious. It was all meant to be his and he was tired of waiting. He wanted it now.
Selecting the nearest structure, a derelict research facility, abandoned in the void of space, he directed his ship there. No more waiting. It was time to move things along.
Parking his craft open, empty hanger, he made his way down to the brig, where his captive glared at him with undisguised hostility. Ignoring her completely, he activated the stunner, dropping her with a strangled scream. Making sure to reactivate it every few seconds, he used the Force to lift twitching body and carried her deeper into the outpost.
A quick survey of the place provided him with a general layout. It was arranged like a spoked wheel. The generator was seated at the center with hallways reaching out to stations on the rim, more curved hallways linking the circumference. The hanger was situated on the edge and led to the mess hall, that led to the personal quarters that lead to a series of labs and back around to the hanger in a giant circle.
He started with the power core in the center, needing only to flip a series of switches to ignite the dormant fusion generator back to life, restoring power throughout the station. Then he moved on to seek out an appropriate location to hold his bait. Among the sequence of labs, he located a testing room full of barrier pedestals, almost eight feet in diameter. Whatever they’d been researching hear, this place had obviously been intended for the scientist to safely test potentially dangerous or explosive prototypes or experiments. It would serve.
He unceremoniously dropped her body onto the nearest platform and examined the controls. They seemed fairly straightforward. With the press of a few buttons, he raised the energy barrier around her. If she was foolish enough to throw herself against that, she’d be ricocheting around like colliding asteroids. It would serve stubborn salamander right. Once he had the turtle, he’d have time to direct his attention towards breaking her.
Closing his eyes, he took a breath, reaching out to the Force and projecting his will outward, strengthening the call with all his pent up rage, frustration and resentment. Come save her if you can. Time runs short. Delay and she will suffer until there is nothing left to hurt. The intended recipient would understand.
With a cruel smile, he started back to the control center. It was time to put his prospective student to the test.
Raph sat cross-legged on the floor in the rec room, mirroring April’s posture. Eyes closed, gripping her hand as she held onto her Aeon talisman with the other, he could not possibly have felt more awkward. This was stupid.
How long had they been sitting here? It felt like forever. How was she even supposed to be able to do this. Badass psychic or not, Mona could be anywhere in the whole freaking universe. And he was sitting here like some new-age, tree-hugging hippie, playing séance with April while demon-boy was doing who-knows-what to his girl. This was a load of crap. Donnie and Fugitoid should have been able to find him. In fact, they shouldn’t have lost him in the first place.
“Focus on Mona.” April’s voice held a hint of irritation that warned him not to snap back at her.
With a sigh, he complied. It was worth it to Mona to at least try. If there was even a tiny chance that this BS worked, he’d take it. Taking a deep breath, he let the world slip away as he brought to mind every touch, nuzzle and hit he’d shared with his Salamandrian warrior queen. Oh shell he was starting to sound like Donnie. Ugh. Focus.
With renewed effort, he tried again, reliving every memory shared with her. The exhilaration of fighting at her sight. The flush of joy and peace each time he lost himself in the gentle press of her snout. Even the pain of her betrayal on Dregg’s homeworld. It was all a part of him. Of them. Reaching out, he sought her with every fiber of his being, looking for that place where he could always feel their shared love, no matter the distance that separated them. Maybe it was all in his head, but it felt real to him.
In seeking, he seemed to expand beyond himself, linking into the everything that waited outside of the boundaries of his physical being, barely aware of April’s gasp as she piggy backed along for the ride. He’d only ever reached a state like this once or twice while meditating with his father, but never this completely. It felt like he was everywhere at once.
Gathering the focus he’d worked hard to acquire over the years, he honed his awareness, calling out to Mona, knowing that she was out there somewhere. And she was. He could feel her presence as though she were right in front of him. Involuntarily extending his soul, they linked together with an inaudible click. He hadn’t known it was possible to be so connected to another person.
For a moment she filled his being and he was flooded with stress and adrenaline as he shared her pain, burning electric shocks searing through his body. What was that bastard doing to her?
“Got it. I know where they are.” April’s exclamation was soft and breathy.
Good. He had a Sith Lord in need of a good pounding.
Just as he was starting to stand, it hit him. Hard enough to stagger and he gripped the couch in an effort not pass out as anger and hatred, strong as physical blow buffeted his mind and scorched his spirit.
Come save her if you can. Time runs short. Delay and she will suffer until there is nothing left to hurt.
Snapping his eyes open and forcing his body to remain on his feet, his eyes narrowed in steely determination, all doubt and worry driven aside.
Oh he was coming alright. And Maul would be sorry he’d every laid eyes on him and his family. He was bringing it this time.