Kom’rk eased Aaray into the co-pilot’s chair, watching her ankle.
“You sure you’re okay, cyar’ika? Do you want me to fix that?”
“No, I would love to let it remain broken for the rest of my life.”
“Fine then.” He turned, then looked back to her. “Let me see what I can do.”
She nodded slowly, her face holding a hint of nervousness.
He knelt and grabbed some bandages from his first aid kit under the console
“On second thought, I realized I have a medical droid. Dos?” She rolled her eyes.
The mechanized sigh of pistons propelling the spindly droid along announced his presence.
--“What do you want, Master?”-- He noticed the Kiffar. --“Oh. It’s you again. And you told me she was dead, Master?”--
“You sound almost disappointed there.”
--“If you want, I can make it quick...”--
“Go ahead.” She nodded again. Her face was solid, but her stare quivered.
Dos set to work, his metal appendages deftly setting the bone in place and wrapping a bandage around a splint. He glanced at her face.
--”This doesn’t hurt, does it?”--
She shook her head, “Not like what I’ve felt recently.”
He wrapped the leg in more bandages and finished.
“I’ll handle the rest myself thank you.”
“One of these days he will kill you, you know?” Kom’rk said, a smug look on his face. His helmet rested on the console. The weariness on his face was plainly evident, and the misery of caring for a stress-plagued sibling took its toll on his body. He had lost weight, even over three weeks, simply due to either crying, or denying his needs to placate Shushai’s. He wondered briefly if he was being exploited, but then, after seeing his sister’s agony and the sudden mood of anathema toward everyone, he realized that he was only being a figure of authority; and thus. an object of her wrath.
“Thank you, Dos.”
The wiry droid turned its head to glare at Aaray, then pantomimed a nod and toodled out.
“He has it out for you, Aaray. I’m worried about him. If you hear a noise like that of a bone saw in the middle of the night, run.”
“I can take care of a droid. So you thought I was dead?” She turned to face him.
“Maybe. I mean, when you think about it, you did face a shebs-load of stormtroopers.”
“So how’s Shushai? Did both of you make it?”
“...Yes. Yes, we’re both perfectly sane. I’m not dealing with a psychopathic sibling.”
“Of course not.” She stared at him. “Work on your denials.”
“She’s withdrawn from the world. I’m not sure what is going on inside that head of hers, so I can’t pin down a cause, or a cure. I broke down, because I felt I couldn’t deal with the pressure. I genuinely needed someone to help me cope.”
“I’ll help, but I don’t know how much I can do.” She held his gaze.
“I just don’t know what to do. She won’t talk to me, won’t let me get near her, won’t let anyone talk to her. Even if you try, it’s an improvement from what it is now.”
She nodded her head and took a cloth and some bacta from the first aid kit. She wet the cloth with the healing chemical and pressed against her hand. She gasped in pain; the wounds were reacting with the bacta.
She gritted her teeth, “It’s not working.”
“There’s not much else you can do, though...can Dos help, much? It’s been a long time since he’s done an amputation.”
“It has to be some chemical the wounds are laced with. I’ll handle it.” The pain showed on her face.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes! I’m sure! This is nothing! I will be fine!” She was almost yelling, the strain in her voice was apparent.
“Alright then.” He walked to the door. “You want to move to a bedroom? I doubt you want to sleep in the cockpit.”
She didn’t answer, her face showed how much pain she was in, almost to the point of being sick.
“Fine then. I’ve put us into hyperspace. It’ll be several hours.”
“Fine.” Her voice came through clenched teeth. Her breaths were short and shallow.
* * * * * * *
Several hours later, Victory’s Revenge II landed at the Parjai’Kote residence. Kom’rk helped Aaray down the ramp, and waved to Dos to shut the ship down.
When the door opened, the eerie feeling of quiet descended. The sense of a tortured soul hung in the air.
“Hmm. Shushai must be here. Shall we see if you can talk to her?”
“Sure.” The days without sleep were taking their toll on her.
He guided her toward the bedroom where Shushai had taken up residence. They rounded the corner.
“She’s...she’s gone. You do see that, right? She’s...gone. Umm.”
“Yes, I can see.”
“Okay. I’m not crazy. Err...where could she have gone? Hm. This is a problem.”
He set Aaray down on the bed, and began nervously pacing back and forth.
“Ideas? She’s got problems, so it’ll be hard to find her.”
She ran her hand across the pillows, “She didn’t sleep here last night. Hmm, what did you do to her to make her think that?” She raised one eyebrow as she got an old memory.
“I did nothing. I mean, she asked me how close we got, and I told her...she took it in stride, but then she got on my case. I went to sleep, and when I woke up, she was missing. I found her curled up right here,” he said, pointing to the corner.
Aaray limped over. The look on her face changed as she ‘heard’ the thoughts imprinted on the wood , “She’s leaving, she’s leaving now. She doesn’t care where to, she doesn’t have a goal, she just needs out. But she’s scared. It’s all happening again. This is what happened last time. It’s all a circle.”
“I don’t know anything anymore. I feel like I’m just trying to catch up and hold on to the good things,” he said, leaning on the wall.
“Well that sounds like a problem.” She remained seated on the floor.
“I’m just...drained.” He stood up straight again and walked to the bed, crashing and spreading onto it, enjoying relaxation after so much anxiety. The feeling of happiness meagerly afforded to him by being able to simply stay in one place for a fleeting moment. An idea hatched in his mind again. He knew what to do this time.
He got up and ambled toward her. He extended his hand down to her.
She hesitated, for a moment it seemed like she wasn’t going to move at all. But then with one sudden movement she reached and grabbed his hand.
He pulled her up and wrapped his arm around her, pulling her close to him. He gazed into her eyes, reveling in the ocean of her eyes. He asked a question with a glance: “May I?”
At first she revealed nothing, hiding within herself, but eventually another look crept up, the essence of it was simply waiting.
He grabbed onto that look, and leaned forward, their lips meeting again. This time was different though. No anxiety, just a longing for togetherness. He savored every time they kissed. It was bittersweet this time: Shushai had just left, out of spite; but the feelings radiating through his body right now outweighed them all. He knew this was what he wanted.
In an instance all the feelings she had hidden, the longing and pain, the fear and horror, all came rushing back to her. She pushed into him harder, trying to find some way to let him know. She let her heart take over for a moment, desperate to get rid of these unwanted feelings, to drown them in what she felt now.
He noticed she pushed into him; he pushed back slightly and closed his eyes, embracing both her and this new wave of feelings. He knew. He could tell what she was thinking. He didn’t know if it was the proximity, or the fact that they were thinking on the same basic level.
She dug her hands into his shoulders and pressed up against him even harder, heart racing and mind blurred. She was going to hold onto this moment for as long as she could.
He felt the nails dig in behind his shoulder plate; he felt her body against his. One of his hands moved to the small of her back, the other to her neck and he pulled her in ever closer--he wondered if he would have room to breath if they kept up this game. But he enjoyed it.
She waited, reveling each second until this ended. She could almost feel what he felt. In this moment nothing else in the galaxy mattered, the hurt was lost to the past.
No words could describe his feelings at this point. The fact they could feel each other’s feelings and think each other’s thoughts made it sweeter. He didn’t remember when they had backed into the wall--things happened when you were in ecstasy. He gasped as a tortured soul reached out to him and pulled his thoughts away; he broke the kiss.
“What happened?” She fought to get her breath back under control.
“She grabbed my thoughts. She reached out to me.” He regretted having to end their embrace.
“Why?” As her thinking process returned she shied back.
“I don’t know. Maybe she realized...frak. I just...I’m sorry.”
She touched her hand to her temple, “What was all that anyway?”
“Oh, that. Probably my connection to the Force going haywire. The fact that I’ve been on edge the past few days probably affected it as well.”
“Why is it affecting me then?”
“I think the Kiffar physiology is in tune with certain aspects of the Force more than other races, so I found one aspect. I suppose. I can’t be certain.”
“That makes sense.”
“I try. So do you want to try and find Shushai, or could you be less concerned?”
“I have a serious feeling of deja vu right now.”
“I’ve had a feeling of deja vu since I woke up this morning.”
“I haven’t woken up in what is it? Two days? I don’t know anymore...”
“There’s a bed right there. I’ll sleep in this chair.”
“There’s no way I’m sleeping.”
“You sure? You can, I’m not stopping you. In fact, I’m staying awake until you go to sleep. Your ankle is broken, you’re bruised and scarred from head to toe, you’re exhausted--you need to go to sleep.”
“I am not going to sleep.” Her tone was shaky but forceful.
“You need sleep, Aar’ika.”
“I’ll be fine, just give it up already.”
“I’m staying awake then. I will,” his voice smooth yet cracked, in a mind-bending paradoxical manner.
She shrugged, “Your choice.”
“So back to the matter of Shushai. Do you think she’ll come back?”
“Maybe, in time. She needs to sort things out. She’s lost.”
“True. So you’re saying I should abandon her. I don’t know...”
“No, that she’s grown and wants to find out for herself what she can do. I’ve been in her thoughts, she can take care of herself. ”
“Maybe you’re right. I need to let her experience life for herself. But what about me? It’s in my nature now to dote on people.”
“Have you ever heard the saying, ‘If you love something, set it free’?”
“I’m sure that doesn’t apply to siblings. I’m pretty sure.”
“She thinks you’re suffocating her. You’re forcing ideals you don’t follow yourself on her. She hates it and is quickly hating you.”
“So what do you think I should do?”
“I don’t know!” She turned to face him, frustrated. “I don’t know okay!”
“Okay, just wondering if you had an epiphany and were all of a sudden a deep well of wisdom...”
“No, I’m not! I can’t think of everything, okay!”
“Shame. I can’t either. I blame the fact that we’re not omnipotent.”
She almost yelled, “Then stop acting like it!” But by the time she had said her piece she had moved to almost crying.
“Was I? Hmm. Sorry about that. I’m not trying to keep my cool when my sister is currently shell-shocked and is sliding away from me. I’m sorry.”
“And I’m trying to help! But I can only do so much! And maybe if you didn’t force everyone away there wouldn’t be a problem!”
He sighed, figuring this was what he deserved. “I told you my situation, right? I told you my parents died, and I’ve raised myself and Shushai; as a consequence, I’ve learned that anyone who won’t help me needs to be pushed away. I want to be different. I want to change. But I’m not sure I can.”
“You’ve told me. But do you even bother figuring out which people help?”
“I try. But most people don’t help me.”
He didn’t respond; he thought about her, what he was trying to accomplish. He knew there was a connection between them, but how far was he willing to take this? Was he comfortable with a full-fledged relationship after so many years of rejecting so many advances?
She murmured under her breath in the Kiffar tongue. “This argument is pointless. I can leave now if you want me to.” She knew if he said to leave she was fully prepared to find the shabuir who started all this on her own, kill him, and never look or come back.
He could understand basic thoughts--his grandmother had taught him that much. He understood the antagonism she was radiating from her thoughts. He decided to pre-emptively answer
“I don’t want you to leave, Aaray. I would never want that. Not now.”
She narrowed her eyes, “Then what do you want?”
“I just want you,” he gazed at her, unsure of what to say next. He knew his life was in some sort of peril if he answered in the way she didn’t want.
“I don’t know if I believe you.” she turned her back to him. She didn’t know where he was going, she didn’t even know how far she could go herself.
“Why don’t you? I don’t want to hurt you. I’m too emotional to want to hurt you. And I have no reason for it, anyway. You’ve given me hope, Aaray: hope I haven’t had since my mother and father were alive. You’ve helped me through some pretty difficult times.” He was done joking around with her, he resolved in his mind. Whatever he was doing wrong, he was going to fix. It would take time and patience. But he would be a better person because of Aaray.
“You weren’t there for those three weeks I went through haran. If you were you’d understand why I can’t trust people now.”
“I know. I wish it had been me in your position and not you.”
“Do not ever say that. Ever. Make it worth something. Don’t ever wish that on yourself.”
“You didn’t deserve that kind of animosity. I’m sorry I put you in that position.”
“Don’t apologize either. I picked that fate myself. No one else. My fault.”
“So what am I supposed to do then? Dump all of the blame on you? I would never do that. I’ve come too far to do that.”
“Shut up about it. Move on. Forgot it happened. Just do that.”
He changed the subject. “Are you sure you don’t want some sleep? After your predicament...”
“I can’t sleep anymore.” Her voice faltered, “I just can’t.” She let herself slide down the wall and into a sitting position. She buried her face in her hands.
He sat down next to her, glanced at her, and then wrapped an arm around her.
“It’s alright. I understand.”
She laid her head on his shoulder, “I’m going to kill him. I really am.”
“It’s fine. I’ll help you. He doesn’t deserve to live after what he did to you.”
She didn’t say anything, just shivered in his arms. She kept shaking even after she finally fell asleep. This time no monstrosity awaited at the edge of her consciousness.
He smiled as he felt her shiver. He knew what was coming. Then it happened. She fell asleep. He held her until he fell asleep as well, with a smile on his face and a woman he admired in his arms.
A/N: The near future.