Disclaimer: George Lucas owns Star Wars. I am not making any profit from this work of fanfiction.
1)This is the final chapter of Tangle - partly because it seemed a natural place to end, as two of the characters become disentangled, and partly because the story is so darn long. The Life in Freefall saga will continue with Hunters, which picks up more or less where Tangle leaves off - because, after all, they still have to find Obi-Wan. I hope you've enjoyed the ride.
2)Special thanks to regular reviewers pronker and Kelaria, and also special thanks again to Kelaria and to attanagra on lj, both of whom gave me the benefit of their expertise at especially difficult points in the narrative. It's been a better story for their input.
3) For the final chapter of this installment in the series, I'm returning to the Stover-style present tense narration that I've been experimenting with and telling the story in fragments - I hope you like it.
This is Anakin Skywalker: a talented Jedi. An exceptional pilot. A gifted, if inexperienced, warrior. But right now, he is failing as a friend.
He knows it –– he can feel it, in the way Ryn doesn't quite trust him any more, in the way his presence brings her pain instead of comfort.
He can't quite remember how they got here. The easy answer is that Ryn is right and everything went wrong when he fought so hard to save her from the injuries she'd gotten, saving him. If he concentrates, he can remember a different kind of friendship, one not stained with tears and unrequited love.
If she's right, it's all his fault.
Ryn might be wrong, but ... against his will, he is beginning to believe her.
He misses their easy camaraderie with a burning hollow ache that won't let him rest. Gunryth wants to attribute this to the dispersal of his annam, whatever that means, and says they'll both be fine if the healers can restore them to their natural state, but Anakin knows better.
He'll never be all right until he's made things right with Ryn.
This is Ryn Orun: a hero of her people. A model of self-sacrifice and commitment. A lonely young girl painfully in love with the only real friend she's ever known.
She's afraid to be with him, and afraid to be alone. She's afraid of everything –– but most of all, the unknown.
She walks straight into it anyway. That's what heroes do. But inside, she's already falling apart.
Gunryth explains the situation to the acolytes at the Temple. It takes a while, but once they get the gist of what she's saying, they gather the healers and usher Anakin and Ryn into a little chamber in the upper reaches of the Temple, carved from the living stone. They light incense burners along the walls and form a circle about the two weary travelers and begin to chant.
It does't hurt as much, this time around. There is no rending grief, and the gaping absence where Ryn should be can't actually get any worse. It's uncomfortable, in the sense that the whole process is just really invasive and he doesn't like to be touched like this by strangers.
Mostly he can't visualize this tangle they keep murmuring about; he doesn't have the right kind of training, and it's all just a metaphor anyway. But he feels it, hard, when the last snarl pulls out and something comes unknotted inside and for the first time in weeks he can breathe.
The healers let him go, gently: it feels like a slow fall, and when he touches down he opens his eyes.
Then it's just him, and Ryn, facing each other crosslegged in the middle of a circle of strangers. Ryn opens her eyes, too, slow and deliberate, and looks straight into his. There's a smile lurking somewhere beneath her still surface, but the best part, the thing that makes Anakin smile back, is that she is fundamentally unchanged. She's still Ryn, the Ryn he remembers. But the shadows of pain he's gotten used to seeing in her eyes are gone.
The sense of relief is dizzying.
"You okay?" she asks softly.
Anakin has to clear his throat before he can answer. "Yeah." He doesn't have to ask if she's okay too; he can feel it.
Her smile breaks through then, just a glint at the corners of her mouth. "Let's go find Obi-Wan."