Author's note: After writing a Clone Wars bit for an OC prompt on livejournal's swficchallenge comm, I was feeling sort of inspired. Not sure how I feel about this one. It might end up being an alternate version to something included in the longer story, but since I'd typed it out, I decided to go ahead and share it. Feedback is very welcome, whether you've been following the Freefallverse or not.

Disclaimer: Turns out, I don't own Star Wars. Shocking, right?

BRAIDED

She's on the other side of the galaxy when the Council holds his Knighting ceremony, but of course she hears about it. He isn't quite selfish enough to use Temple resources on a personal transmission just to gloat to his best friend, but it isn't complete until they meet again, in a briefing room on a Republic cruiser, and he sees her eyes register the absence of his Padawan braid, thumping at his shoulder. There's pride in her eyes, and pleasure for him, a sort of wistfulness, too - not quite loss, maybe closer to nostalgia. A touch of bittersweetness. But she flicks him a grin that is genuine - because Ryn always is - and a quick Lorethan gesture that he knows means "well done."

It's hours before they can tear themselves away from their myriad duties at the same time and wrench out a few minutes for themselves, which really means for each other.

Ryn meets him at the bottom of a ladder, grinning again. "Knight Skywalker."

Anakin doesn't even roll his eyes, too elated still to needle her back. "That's me," he agrees cheerfully.

"So it is." Her smile is warm, although it's definitely for him and not for the Jedi Order. She leans into him and then away, an old familiar gesture. "How does it feel?"

She already knows how it feels: good enough he wants to share.

He babbles about it for a few minutes, gushing pointlessly, but Ryn is happy for him rather than irked.

They sit together at the bottom of the ladder, protected from interruption by the general unpleasantness of this corner near the engine room - no one would be hanging around down here by choice.

Except, of course, one newly-minted Jedi Knight and his illicit best friend.

They talk, in spurts, over the thrum of the engines ... but mostly they just fall together again. shoulders touching, grinning at nothing, sharing the sense of triumph.

Ryn doesn't ask what he did with the braid, and Anakin guesses that she must suspect it's with Padmé.

She's always so careful not to pry into that intensely private space.

It's Obi-Wan who finally finds them, dropping down the ladder and shaking his head at them in fond exasperation.

Ryn hugs her knees tighter and ducks her head to hide a grin at his expression, but Anakin doesn't bother to hide his good mood.

"You two," Obi-Wan says, but he wouldn't have been looking for them down here if he hadn't guessed, and he wouldn't have been trying to hide a smile of his own if he really minded. Ryn's purported corruption of Anakin hasn't proven itself so awful after all, and together they make such a good team that even the most orthodox Jedi cut them some slack.

Usually.

"Master Kenobi," Ryn says solemnly; but her eyes are dancing.

"Hmph. You're both wanted on the bridge fairly soon." He make an attempt at severity, but his obvious pride in Anakin and pleasure at seeing Ryn again undermine the effort pretty seriously. "And you ought to be resting while you can, instead of snuggling in dark corners."

"Not that dark," Ryn drawls, her voice lazy with ill-concealed humor.

"Not snuggling, either," Anakin objects.

Obi-Wan raises an eyebrow. "And what would you consider snuggling?"

Anakin puts an arm around Ryn's shoulders and draws her ostentatiously close; she laughs and swats his arm.

Obi-Wan snorts. "Yes, well. See that you are on your best behavior by the time you get to the bridge. This Pellaeon chap doesn't strike me as the understanding type."

They separated, sobering at the reminder that the hyperspace journey was just a reprieve, a brief catch in the headlong plunge of their lives, and at the end of it they would fight and maybe they would die.

Someone always died.