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May 21, 2022 1:49 PM
people really should learn to knock before traveling between universes
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Nod.

"Will you be watching over me, though? In case - I have trouble finding my way back?"

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"Always."

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Grin. 

"I wanna take a few days first, but - I'll be ready soon."

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"In your own time."

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Nod.

"Can we go back to our rooms? I want to rest properly before my friends start congratulating me..."

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"The healers said you were free to leave once you woke."

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"Let's get going, then."

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Then off to their apartment.

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Where Anakin very determinedly flops - curls up on their couch, snuggles Elesse where they're in the privacy of their own rooms.

(Where Anakin quietly turns the temperature up and the humidity down on the climate control, and keeps it that way over the next few days. She doesn't seem to be otherwise bothered long term by her Trial, though.)

She celebrates with her friends once she feels more alert and in the mood - brings them back to her bedroom for certain celebrations - and within a few days, approaches Elesse to say, "I'm ready for the last Trial."

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"Very well. Follow me."

Elesse leads Anakin down to the lower levels of the Temple, to a chamber where the Force seems to pulse in time to her heartbeat. There's a power here, one that always has been and always will be.

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Deep breath. 

And she settles in the middle of the chamber, legs crossed, hands on her knees, and closes her eyes to meditate. 

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Elesse takes a position at the edge, waiting for Anakin to finish.

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And she sinks into her own mind. 

 

There isn't much here she hasn't already explored. Anakin's mind is a strange beast, prone to turning against her. The mind healer, her therapist, Elesse - all have helped her find nearly every odd corner of who she was and who she currently is. They had to, for Anakin to come out sane.

There's corners they can't easily explore, though. Who she will be, who she could have been

Anakin thinks, then, of those visions she had years ago on Ilum. The other hers - the other worlds. 

They've found nothing in the years since, no hint of what happened, no way to investigate more. Anakin's feelings about those visions are complex still, a strange twisting nexus of thoughts in the back of her mind that changes every time she glances away. 

The nexus feels deep - threatening at times - and normally it doesn't bother her, doesn't interact much at all with her day to day stability. 

It's something about who she is, though, at a deeper level than her experiences could ever define - and she's drawn to it in this moment - 

Anakin sinks back into her memories of those visions, and she opens herself to the Force.

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And the Force drags her into its currents - into the vision of that strange, sad, dark her - beyond - 

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Anakin's getting tired. 

Not physically. She sleeps well, rests well. Keeps her body in peak condition. Eats an officer's portions, even when they're on stricter rationing. (Her girls refuse anything else.)

But the war's been raging for three months already, and Anakin's already sick of it. Her mind aches - her being still unused to stretching herself over thousands of people, nudging their minds and movements with gentle whispers, bolstering their confidence and smoothing out their teamwork. It's a major boon to her legion, and there's talk of getting her to where she can coordinate multiple legions at once. 

Never mind that she doesn't want to. The war demands what it will.

 

She's just.  Tired. 

She hopes the war ends soon. Everyone does...

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There's a murmur through the Force, a ripple - a senseless skim of days and battles without end, of deaths - entire ships lost - quick flashes of scenes. Anakin quiet as a woman in white armor speaks for her. Her women hazing shinies with rumors she's deaf. Submitting reports in writing, declining opportunities to speak to the High Council in person because she's tired, and speech is more exhausting every day - 

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A moment of focus. 

Anakin's sitting on Elesse's bed, her knees tucked into her chest, her arms wrapped around them, her gaze distant. The bed is made, rumpled only by her movements, and the apartment is - empty. Quiet.

One could be forgiven for thinking it's unlived in. 

Anakin's having a debate with herself, an ongoing negotiation, her mind spiraling and eating itself and struggling to get away, to live -

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If Elesse walks through that door before the morning, I won't kill myself.

I can't kill myself before talking to her. That'd be stupid.

I have to leave a note before I kill myself. I need to decide what it says. I don't want to blame her. (I want to blame her.) I can't just - leave her without any reason why. 

I should either get off her bed or figure out a way that won't leave a mess. (There's a lot of ways. I'd hate to die - alone - here's the next best thing to held - )

(I have sleeping pills, you know. I have the Force. This line isn't really a delay.)

I need to give her a chance. I sent her a message asking to talk. I should wait for her to respond, even if I don't wait to see her. 

(But what could she do, anyways? She can't stop the war. She can't pull me out. I'm too useful, everyone says. My requests for leave are already granted only with reluctance. No one has time to rest.)

If I warn her I'm this desperate, she might stop me. 

If I warn her, she might fix it, she has always fixed it - 

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Morning comes, mercilessly, relentlessly, and Anakin's comm goes off. 

It isn't Elesse.

Her brief gasp of leave is up, and she has a mission. 

Anakin stands, and she walks numbly to her duty. 

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(Somewhere else, somewhen else - Anakin looks at her other self, and tries to let her compassion overcome her horror. It's difficult, and defining herself separately from the powerful currents of this vision is - )

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Difficult. 

That's what Anakin knows she's being. That's what she knows she is. 

She hasn't said a word in - she can't remember. She hasn't spoken to Elesse in longer.

She's their best, most useful general. The missions come from the High Council - many of them signed by Elesse, though Elesse like all of the Council members is doing her part on the battlefield. 

Anakin has no excuse for dragging her feet lately. No excuse for poor performance. 

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(She can't even scream. Can't even break. Can't let herself, and she moves through the days in a numb haze. Thinks about killing herself a lot, gets close several times - tries once, then again - )

(She doesn't die, and she leads her women faithfully, even if in the back of her head she sometimes considers killing not just herself but everyone, herself and the hundreds of thousands of people - of soldiers - that Anakin's mind can stretch to contain.)

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The war has raged for nearly four years, and Anakin thinks she might be pregnant. 

 

She never completes her thoughts on that. Her misery grows overlaid with a constant sickening panic - her thoughts fuzz every time she tries to terminate the pregnancy, every time she thinks about telling someone, every time she tries to kill herself - 

 

There's a path in front of her, and Anakin only now realizes she can't stop herself from walking it. 

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A fuzz, a blur of the vision - 

Anakin's standing before the High Council. Elesse isn't there, is on campaign, but this can't wait -

Anakin's voice cracks as she speaks for the first time in over a year, and her throat feels like it's bleeding. Her voice wavers, falls to a whisper. 

(She knows who the Sith Lord is. She's known for months, somewhere deep inside, but she's just now found the strength to say it - )

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"Let me help," she whispers, chest tight and painful.

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