Disclaimer: I do not own Star Wars! I am not making any profit from this work of fanfiction!
Author's note: Here it is at last, the final chapter of FLAWED. I'll be posting the first chapter of the sequel - which I am calling Tangle - later today or early tomorrow. It's already written, but needs some editing. I would, as always, really love some feedback - whether you've been with this story since the beginning or just dropped by. And a very special thanks to those of you who have taken the time to leave a review each chapter. I stand in awe of your generosity and thoughtfulness. :)
The transport that took them back to Coruscant was larger and more posh than the one that had been attacked on the way to Borsana Prime. It included quite a few amenities, among them a cramped little library with so few 'pads it was seldom used.
It was the perfect place to find a little privacy.
Ferus found her anyway.
Ryn was sitting on the floor behind a bookshelf with her face pressed into the knees she hugged to her chest. For a long moment she just sat there, holding her breath to see if Ferus would just give up and go away.
Then he spoke.
"I wouldn't have expected Evinne to be so ... selfless. Heroic."
Ryn lifted her face from her knees in resignation. "Ri-rigna. That is what she does."
Ferus braced one hand against the wall, looking down at her. "I'm not sure I understand your concept of nobility very well."
Ryn shrugged, pulling her knees in tighter. "Maybe it's something you have to live with."
"Maybe." Ferus didn't sound convinced, but since Ryn had offered no supporting evidence, she couldn't really blame him. "So what's your history with Makesh?"
Remembering meant thinking about Kit; Ryn tried not to wince. "His father disowned him some years ago. My brother gave him a military commission. He left the Militia about a year and a half ago to become a mercenary. He is an excellent gunner."
"That's the history of Makesh," Ferus said, "but not the story of your involvement with him. Try again."
Ryn toyed with the sleeve of the plain narrow dress they'd found for her at a consignment shop in Borsana Prime's spaceport. "I was very young when Makesh joined us. Being at war is ... difficult for a child, even one who has grown up with it. Makesh was kind to me." She paused. "He spoke to me like a person in my own right, not an extension of my brother. That was nice."
Ferus nodded. He shifted his weight nervously, swallowed hard a couple of times, and finally came out with, "I seem to remember that I owe you a conversation."
Ryn shook her head to clear it and refocused on him. "You do?"
Something like panicked embarrassment flared in Ferus's eyes. "On the transport, before the sabotage. You said ..."
We are not done discussing this.
"Oh," Ryn said, remembering, and found the ghost of a smile for Ferus. "I did say that, didn't I?"
"Yes," said Ferus. "So I was thinking: we could have that conversation after we get back to the Temple. Maybe over dinner. Maybe tomorrow night?"
Huh? "Okay," Ryn said cautiously. "I can meet you in the -"
"No!" Ferus said quickly. "I mean, I'll come pick you up. I know a place. Um ... nineteen hundred hours?"
"Nineteen hundred," Ryn echoed. "Sure."
"Great," Ferus said, although he sounded more nervous than pleased. "See you later."
He fled around the corner as though bounty hunters were chasing him.
When Anakin tracked Ryn to ground in a corner of the liner's tiny library, he found her sitting on the floor with her arms wrapped around her knees and a puzzled expression on her face.
As expressions went, he'd take it over the vacant look she'd been wearing since Borsana Terce, but he asked anyway: "What's going on?"
Ryn stirred, as though coming out of a deep sleep, and eyed the hatch Anakin had just come through reflectively.
"I'm not sure," she said slowly. "I think I have a date with Ferus."
There were a lot of things wrong with that statement. Anakin picked one. "You think?"
Ryn shrugged slightly. "I guess I'll find out when I get there."
Anakin's first impulse was to object: No, you don't want to date Ferus. But he squelched that thought and slid down the wall to sit next to her.
Deep breaths. Think about what's best for her. "Is that what you want?"
Ryn glanced up at him, her green eyes clear and bright and free of recrimination. "I can't have what I want, can I?"
He knew what she meant.
Anakin swallowed, but he couldn't make his voice more than a whisper. "I don't think so."
Ryn looked back at the doorway, but Anakin wasn't sure she was really seeing it; there was a distance in his sense of her, as though she weren't really here at all. "So we'll see where it goes."
Nowhere, Anakin thought, because Ferus was too much the perfect Jedi to ever unbend for her, even if he did care about Ryn in his appropriate, detached way. But Ryn had to know that. And he was more worried about the numb sense of distance in her Force signature right now.
He put two fingers under her chin and tipped her face up to his. "Ryn, what's wrong? Tell me."
It took Ryn a long time to answer. Anakin could feel her struggling with something inside.
Finally she said, "I killed them."
"Who?" Anakin said. "The resistance fighters?"
Ryn didn't quite flinch; it was more like she drew inwards. "They weren't fighters. Not mostly. They were just rioting kids."
"They were trying to kill you," Anakin pointed out.
"They were trying to kill Imram," Ryn said. "They didn't even know who I was." She hesitated for just a second before adding, "They had a right to be angry."
"Anger leads to the dark side," Anakin said, trying not to agree with her.
"Hate leads to the dark side," Ryn corrected him. "And right now I am hating myself quite a lot."
She sounded so lost: Ryn, who was always so grounded, so sure.
Anakin said, "What could you have done differently?"
"Not gone to the opening with Imram," Ryn said dully. "Left the planet yesterday. Minded my own damn business."
"That wouldn't have saved anyone."
"At least it wouldn't have been my fault."
"It isn't your fault now," Anakin said. "They were trying to kill a boy just because they hated his father. That's wrong. Of course it had an unhappy ending."
Ryn leaned back against the wall and rolled her head against it to look at him. "Is everything always so black-and-white for you?"
That wasn't exactly complimentary for a Jedi. Anakin wondered, briefly, what it might mean to a Lorethan. "Not everything," he answered her. "But this is. Let it go, Ryn."
Ryn's soft exhalation wasn't quite a sigh. "I'll try."
Anakin brushed her cheek with his fingers. "There is no try."
Ryn smiled faintly at him. "Sure there is."
Yoda himself was waiting for them on the steps of the Temple with three women Anakin immediately identified as Lorethan: tall, pale, and athletic.
They were solemn and imperturbable, but Anakin could feel Ryn's spike of alarm at seeing them, and guessed that they wouldn't have come for good news.
He couldn't hold Ryn's hand because the Jedi were watching, but he gave her a quick squeeze on the shoulder for comfort as they stepped out of the airspeeder.
Yoda nodded to the Jedi as they filed onto the duracrete floor, but he spoke only to Ryn.
"Visitors from home you have, hmm?" he announced, pointing to her with his gimer stick. "Sit down, perhaps you should."
Ryn was so still she could have been frozen, an ice maiden carved in fragile beauty.
"No," the ice maiden said, her lips barely moving. "I'll take it standing."
Yoda nodded, accepting her decision, and stepped back a pace.
The oldest of the Lorethan women threw back her cowl and took a step forward, taking Yoda's place.
"Areth'ryn Orun," she said. "We have come to bring you home. Your brother is dead."
So ... another cliffie ending! I love those! First chapter of Tangle up soon! :)