Felix Iresso had no attention to spare for the commotion in the distance - until the door to the experiment room slammed open and his Jedi stood there.
‘Oh,’ he thought, ‘I've passed out.’ It had been a long time since he'd dreamt this particular dream. Everything here repeated itself eventually, but he hadn't expected this again.
Light shone around his wife, a nimbus of glory. She flung out her arms and invisible walls pushed his tormentors back. His pain ebbed as their instruments clattered to the ground. She ran to the rack where he was chained and spoke his name in a shaking voice. After a moment, she swept off her outer robe and draped it over his nakedness. The cloth smelled of her.
(He'd thought he'd never see her in a dream again. Her eyes. Her lips. Her poise. Her grace. It must have been a year since she'd appeared to his mind's eye... Longer still since he'd been able to recall the precise cadence of her voice or the scent of her hair. He didn't know why the walls of his memory had chosen this moment to fall down. In truth, the reason for this fever-dream didn't matter. It was just so good to see her.
Early in his captivity, he'd dreamed of her often. At first, it had given him solace. But by the time he'd endured four courses of experiments, the dreams had twisted into nightmares. She would appear from nowhere, come to save him, and a wave of relief would crash over him. Then alarms would blare and his joy would curdle to panic. He'd tell her to run - leave him behind and save herself - but she wouldn't abandon him. So they'd find her, bind her, hurt her... He'd beg them to turn their attention back to him, but his pleading wouldn't make any more difference than it ever had. Since then, dreams of her always ended in pain and despair. It was scarcely any wonder that he'd eventually stopped being able to call her image to mind, even waking.
But now... now it seemed the years had changed him in more ways than he'd guessed. Because he couldn't make himself tell her to run. Couldn't fret that she needed to be gone before they made her a prisoner too. It had been too long. He wanted to see her, hear her, feel her. Even if it all ended the same way. After all, it was only a dream. How much harm could it really do?)
He tried to say her name, but his throat was scraped raw. He managed a rasping cough instead. Some things didn't change, even in dreams. He wanted to laugh at that, but it only would've hurt more.
Pain flashed across her face. “My soldier,” she whispered. Soft radiance began to gather at her fingertips. She glanced away briefly and said in a very different tone: “Jorgan, get those criminals out of here.”
Felix barely had time to think ‘Jorgan?’ before a gruff “Yes Commander” echoed in that unmistakable voice. A flash of Cathar officer moved past in the blurry distance, followed by other humanoid shapes. What was Aric Jorgan doing in this dream of his wife? Then, without warning, a wave of soothing energy took his breath away. Oh. This. This was how he used to feel when she healed him. Unless they were in dire danger, she always started by easing the pain, then addressing its source. Somehow, in this strange corner of his mind, she was slowly making him feel better.
He hadn't taken his gaze off her the whole time, so he saw when the brightness in her eyes finally spilled over. He thought he might be able to speak now. He tested the words in his mind, then shaped them with his lips. “Sweetheart. Don't cry. It's good to see you.” His voice was rough from disuse, but clear enough even so.
“Felix.” Her smile was brave, but it kept wobbling. “I'm strengthening you enough to get you out of this. Then you're coming home.”
He knew what happened in dreams when she tried to free him. “You... don't have to say that. Just... let me look at you.” Reluctantly, he added: “When I tell you to run, run. 'Til then... stay with me.”
“I'll never leave you.” Then, gradually, horror transformed her face. “Wait. Have they put some kind of trap inside you? A cranial bomb? I don't sense it. Felix, please-!”
“Don't worry about me,” he said as gently as he could. “Just protect yourself.”
A wordless wail escaped her. The light around her hands died. She threw her arms around him and clung tightly, as if she never meant to let go.
Her distress hurt his heart so much, he didn't even notice the pain from her embrace. He murmured her name softly, tried to tell her it was all right.
Another figure stepped through the edge of his awareness. He heard a female voice with a crisp Imperial accent: “Commander, I'll conduct a scan.”
His beloved Jedi eased her hold on him only a little. “What if that triggers the trap...?”
“Passive detection,” the Imperial said. “Without an active signal, a scan shouldn't trigger anything.”
“That... makes sense. But wait.” His wife tilted her head up towards him. She was already recovering the serene look she wore so well, but he could see what lay beneath it. “Please, Felix. Why are you talking like this is the end?”
“It isn't yet,” he said, trying not to think about what would happen when that time came. He still had a while to drink in the sight of her, free and well, before it all took a turn for the worse or he woke. But no. Already her eyes were full of fear. To calm her, with an optimism he didn't really feel, he said: “Maybe this time is different. Maybe it won't go the same way.” The suggestion wasn't totally unjustified. Jorgan and the Imperial hadn't been in his other dreams, after all.
She stared at him. “‘This time’?”
“After all the other times you came for me.” He smiled sadly. “If I spell it out, I'll probably wake up.”
She let out a slow breath. It was echoed more quietly by her companion. “Felix,” his sweetheart said, one veneer of calm replacing another, “this is real.”
Something trembled within him. Was it... possible? He had to at least consider it, didn't he? Except, if he believed and it all turned out the same as before, he didn't think he could rise again from such a fall. And he had to rise. Had to see her again, truly face to face.
“I promise,” she said, “I'm really here to free you at last.” A pause, then she turned to the Imperial. “Conduct that scan anyway.” A murmur of assent from her subordinate, then she gathered light in her hands and began healing him again.
A glow like dawn passed over Felix. As slowly and reservedly as his wounds eased, his hope grew.