“There’s some kind of cave system here!” The shout went up from the first trooper to sight the half-hidden hole in the ground, and Anakin bolted ahead of the pack of troopers escorting him, paying no heed to their concern at their master’s reckless actions. She was down there. Time was critical.
I will not lose her. Anakin snarled and leapt through the opening, kicking up sandy dust when he landed some twelve feet below. He gritted his teeth, pushing his senses outward into the tunnels. They had lived on the coast for more then a year, they should have known these were here. Old lava tubes from the days when Mount Acheron had been young still crisscrossed the surface, but years and forced terraforming had made them an invisible lattice hidden under the ground. And somewhere in these caves his soulmate was dying.
He pushed through the settling dust, igniting his sabers as a reflex. A figure approached him from one of the tunnels, it’s decaying form held together by Sith Alchemy. The furious black haired boy didn’t even bother with his sabers; he reached into the glowing lines in the force that held the gory contraption together and tore them out. Meat sloughed off and the undead monster was no more.
Anakin pressed on, heedless to the obstacles in his path, tearing his way to the central cavern where her life force flickered alarmingly. When the ceiling arched overhead, he rushed again; lights were set about the walls to provide illumination to what has clearly been a torture chamber. On the far side of the room he could see a crumpled form on the floor. His heart plummeted and he raced to her side, obliterating a Sith Zombie that stepped into his path without even seeing it.
He stopped above her, and gently knelt, assessing the damage. A normal human would have long since been dead; Halley clung to life like a sailor in a storm swept near overboard would cling to the railing, refusing to let the sea claim them. The bones of her forarms were battered, one completely shattered as if she’d been warding off blows. The damage was nothing next to the cracks running through her scull like starbursts. The weapon had been blunt; the skin was unbroken but the damage underneath was extensive. There was a good chance she’d never regain higher brain function. Never think, never laugh, never smile again… He gulped hard, fear and pain rising till it hit the indomitable black wall of consciousness that was Vader. For a moment the personalities warred for control, Anakin terrified that the dark half of himself would leave her to die in a quest to stop Maul’s escape.
~Anakin.~ The other’s voice was laced with a thick Coruscani accent, certain and resolute. ~You don’t have the control; you don’t have to focus to help now. Your panic will kill her. I can do this. I will do this.~
~She is my wife. My love, my other half, my soul mate. I CAN’T-~
The otherself pushed HARD, his physical body locked in place as they battled. ~She is mine too.~ Anakin’s will crumpled; Vader’s voice betrayed two things. Love and fear, the latter directly tied to the potential loss of the former. Anakin yielded, and the black wall took over.
With their inner struggle done, Vader gently settled his hands on either side of her head, focused on the shards of bone that were scrambled below her skin like a dashed puzzle made entirely of pieces in the same rough color, shape and size. He slowly reassembled them one at a time, carefully fusing them back into place. Time was running out; her heart faltered and breathing slowed to almost nothing, but he could not afford to rush the job. If she died in his arms, he would force her body to live again, whatever it took.
Behind him there were footsteps and shouts as the troopers filed into the room, finally catching up. Obi-wan was with them, and Vader could feel his horror at the sight of the little woman laying in a pool of blood , body broken like a child’s discarded toy. Her hair, normally crisp white, was stained every color from orange to red-black from the other injuries she’d suffered. Kenobi doubted she even still lived; Vader snarled when that feeling reached him and the lights closes to him dimmed. The air wavered like a heat-mirage, and everyone close to a reflexive step away from the enraged Sith.
Finally the last pieces of the puzzle fitted in place, and Anakin gently ran his senses along them to make sure the fuses were clean. It was satisfactory. In her chest, her heart gave one last fluttering beat before it surrendered to the massive strain of carrying on life in a body to broken to survive. Vader gathered her up in his arms, looking into her soul at the very core; a tiny flickering flame left. As he looked in it died, nothing left but a tiny glowing ember fading into darkness. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and gently blew on the ember. He fed it with the force, slow and steady. It didn’t work. There was just too little left, too much damage.
“NO.” He growled it, loud and furious. Vader, the monster half, wept tears of frustration at his shortcoming. He’d fixed the worst of it, it couldn’t end like this. Not in a cold damp hole in the ground, not by Maul’s hand.
~My turn.~ Anakin usurped control in an explosion of will, hold on the woman in his arms gentling, cuddling her close. “Halley…” He whispered it, lips pressing to her forehead. He didn’t bother trying to heal, he just poured love into their bond. Memories, thoughts, and wishes for the future all blended to form the call back from the other side. “…if you don’t come, I WILL cross to the other side and drag you back.” The ember brightened, spread. In the force he watched her reignite like tinder, heart sluggishly beginning to beat again, lungs expanding to fill with air. His eyes stung with tears, infinitely thankful to the Force. He stood and turned to those watching, stepping up to one of Halley’s angels. The trooper was visibly shaken to see her so badly hurt; she had a very special bond with her personal guards.
“I need you to take her to the surface. Carefully. Meet up with Imma, fly her to the hospital up north.”
Obi blinked. “If you bamf-”
“-it would kill her.” Anakin cut him off, eyes gold and rimmed in jagged lines of crimson. He turned back to the trooper. “Believe me, you hold my reason for living in your arms, guard her well.” The trooper nodded, filled with apprehension and pride from Anakin’s faith in him.
“Where are you going?” Kenobi sounded more concerned.
“This will never happen again. He will NEVER touch her again.” Anakin looked up into the sky through several meters of rock, up into space where Maul’s ship was trying to reach enough distance to jump to hyperspace.
“What are you going to d-”
He bamfed before Obi could finish the question. The older Jedi would not approve.
If one knew what they were doing, a hyperdrive engine could be disabled with little difficulty. Causing the entire thing to explode took a little more work, but the angrier Anakin got, the more the Force bended to his will. He appeared inside the ship’s engine room, and put a hand on the hyperdrive. A simple nudge to a tiny critical system started a chain reaction. The ship would blow soon; but that would not be Maul’s end. He deserved far worse.
Anakin staked towards the forward cabin just as Maul was walking back to see why his hyper drive was suddenly screaming for attention. The red and black skinned Sith balked at the sight of Anakin in his path, but the younger of the two snapped out an arm, metal hand closing about Maul’s throat. He bamfed them off the ship before it could blow, and in the span between two heartbeats they were standing on the northern pole of Astrum, on the edge of a glacier that was slowly expanding it’s way down a mountain range.
Or rather, Anakin was standing. Maul appeared with his feet off the ground, held out over the edge. The once glossy black and red tattoos had faded since his death; parts of his body that had near rotted off had been stitched back into place to reduce the draw on the undead Sith’s willpower. Holding his form together after death was difficult, only his hatred made it possible.
His hatred, however, was as insignificant beside Anakin’s as a candle to the sun on a clear summer afternoon. There was no division between light and dark; Anakin’s disparate personalities were fused in the resolve of what MUST be done.
“Find her yet?” Maul’s voice was the hiss of air forced through dead vocal chords, barely conveying his smug attitude.
Anakin pushed him out a meter from his body, palm out, suspending the Sith in midair, spread eagle. “Yes. And saved.”
“I won’t waste words debating with a dead man.”
“Death? Death is NOTHING.” Maul cackled, fighting the restraints of the force as snowflakes slowly drifted down around them. Nothing he did mattered; Anakin’s will was as immovable as the mountain under them. “What is it the Jedi say? There is no death, only the force.” He laughed harder, Anakin’s lack of facial expression becoming unnerving. “Go ahead and destroy this form, I will return. Another day, another body, maybe I’ll possess one of your own children, murder you behind the eyes of your own flesh and blood.” He sneered.
“No.” It wasn’t a denial out of fear; there was no emotion to be had. Anakin’s voice was as cold as the glacier. He spoke from absolute surety.
Dead eyes showed a flicker of doubt. “You can’t stop me.”
“I made a black hole once, did you know that? It was an accident. I almost got sucked in myself. I looked into the heart of it, raw power, and do you know what I saw?”
“Nothing.” Anakin smirked. “I saw matter, and light, and the force sucked in and pulverized into absolutely… nothing.” He sobered, and shook his head lightly. “You are too dangerous to me and mine; you will be a threat as long as you exist. I cannot allow that, therefore you cannot exist.”
“What, you’ll throw me into a black hole?” Maul sounded incredulous.
“Of course not, that would be a waste of effort.” He shrugged, and his fingers spread. Around them the snow stopped falling; it hung in the air on invisible strings as if the whole world paused to watch the spectacle presented to it. Maul jerked, and looked to his hands, one after the other. Watching one’s physical form pulled apart atom by atom was a horrific sight, though it wasn’t terribly gory. There was an elegance in it; as his body expanded from his extremities inward into an ever expanding cloud of molecules. He looked at Anakin, shocked by the raw power.
Anakin focused on the will animating the already dead form, separating it from the Force around it like a doctor cutting out a cancer from a living body. He isolated it, pressed his thoughts inward, and unraveled it.
Maul’s first reaction to the violation was shock that Anakin could do such a thing. Second came fear and the desperate attempts to flee, but there was nothing he could do, nowhere he could go. And Anakin’s power ripped into him like a black hole eating the dying remains of a star. His terror was shrill; realization of death was far less frightening then the realization that one was being UNMADE. Vader savored the taste of his horror like a well aged wine; revenge was sweet and he would share the memory with Halley when she awoke. It would be one of the greatest gifts he’d ever given her.
Maul’s terror faded as he lost cohesion, thoughts became confused and transparent. Anakin felt no sympathy for the last shreds of his own enemy; the elder Sith had condemned himself the moment he’d brought his decaying frame to Astrum with his sights set on Halley. He’d spent the Sithling’s early years hurting her to get to Anakin, this was the inevitable conclusion of his sins.
Anakin shredded the last of Maul’s consciousness, allowing the completely harmless inert Force blend with the field around it. Nothing of Maul remained apart from the atomized dust cloud still hanging in the air in front of him. He frowned and pulled it back together into one hard, small rock, and dropped it into the gulf before him. It was nothing, now; just another lump of carbon to be swallowed up by the advancing glacier. Anakin closed his eyes, and turned his thoughts back to the living. He bamfed silently away, and the snow began it’s leisurely fall once more.
He reappeared on a ship in flight, Halley’s body on a repulser sled, lightly held in place an inch above it by gentle cushioning fields of energy. No jolt or turbulence from the ship would have any effect on her; she was essentially in freefall above the table. Her forearms were splinted; the shattered one carefully reassembled. Imma sat beside the table, eyes closed and hands over her charge, pouring healing energy into the young woman. Anakin took the seat on the opposite side; dizzy from the aftermath of using so much power. “How is she?”
“I don’t want to lie to you.” Imma frowned softly. “Her chances of survival are good, but the damage to her brain…” She closed her eyes a moment, drawing in a deep breath. “Pouring force into her right now is like pouring water into a sieve, nothing is sticking. Her chances of ever waking up again are incredibly slim.”
“She’ll live.” Anakin nodded with absolute certainty, ignoring exhaustion to help add power to Imma’s healing.
“I can’t pr-”
“SHE. WILL. LIVE.” Anakin’s eyes sparked gold, the power passing through him increasing to the point that Imma cringed back from the darkness. Anakin ignored her retreat, taking over healing Halley. She was more responsive to dark side healing anyway.
Getting Halley off the ship, into the hospital and into a bacta tank passed as a dizzying blur. Anakin vaguely registered outrage when they shoved the tube down her throat and attached the mask to breathe for her; only Obi-wan’s calm voice stopped him from crushing the droids and doctors alike. He had to admit once the worst of it was passed that she was breathing far better with the tube, and it increased the effectiveness of the bacta when they could easily change her air supply to pump accelerants into her lungs.
She was receiving the best care the universe had to offer, on most levels he could recognize that. What he was unwilling to admit was that his inability to reach out and touch her, inability to stroke her hair back and whisper encouragements to heal faster, inability to hold her…
It was enough to drive him to the edge of sanity.
He slept in a chair by her tank; refused to leave her side. Obi-wan came and went, trying to convince his former Padawan to lay down in a proper bed for a few hours, but Anakin only snarled at the suggestions.
Anakin woke three days after they had put her in the tank, back aching incessantly. A hand was on his shoulder, a hunk of bread placed in his hand. He blinked, and looked up at his old master. “I’m not hungry.” In truth his stomach was a sharp ache, one that had been getting worse over time.
“Eat it. And move, they’re taking her out of the tank.” Anakin jolted to his feet, moving back to allow the droids to pull the tall tank out of the wall and tilt it on its side. It slowly drained, glass cracking over her and smoothly sliding down into the back of the cylinder. Her silvery hair pooled in a slick mass over the back of the tank, moved about a bit as they carefully slid the tube out of her throat and let her breath on her own.
Anakin nibbled the bread, trading that spike of pain in his gut for a wave of nausea. He ignored the physical discomforts to follow the repulser bed as they took her to one of the large personal hospital suites. He watched stoically as a nurse gently wiped her down, washing off the goey bacta left over. She caught his eyes, and smiled sympathetically.
“You’re the husband?” Accent was Naboo, though the pudgy little woman didn’t look familiar. Anakin didn’t know if she was one of the refugees he and Halley had personally met. If her mind was still in there somewhere, Halley would know. He gulped hard, eyes stinging.
“You wanna help, sonny? Even if she’s in a coma, I believe having loved ones close helps us find our way home…”
Anakin blinked, and slowly nodded. It helped, being able to touch again, helping get her cleaned, dried and in hospital pajamas. Once she was settled on a soft, comfortable bed, he climbed in with her, nuzzled close. He was so, so tired, even grief couldn’t keep his eyes open. He fell asleep with Halley in his arms and slept like the dead.
He wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but something changed, and his mind charged back to consciousness. He blinked, the diffused light coming in from the window enough to see by, but not blinding. Her looked down at the form in his arms.
Cobalt blue eyes stared back.
Anakin barely dared to breath, lips parted a little. How did one ask if their lifemate remembered them? How did one ask if the brilliant mind they loved so dear was still there? How-
“Force, Anakin, you look like hell.”
And all of a sudden, all Anakin could do was grin.