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Precious Illusions

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Vader hasn't allowed himself to dream for years, so he knows that this is something more than a mere dream. 


He's standing in a lush meadow, sunlight warming his skin. The air is crisp and sweet.


"Hi!" comes a very familiar voice, and he turns around to see Ahsoka smiling brightly at him.


"How?" he asks, because he knows that this isn't some phantom of his imagination. Ahsoka is actively constructing this "dream".


"I've run into a lot of interesting people over the years," she says, eyeing him. "Gotta say: It's more difficult to take that 'I killed Anakin Skywalker' line seriously when your idealized self looks like that."


He looks down to find himself whole, dressed in a familiar tunic. When the wind gusts past him, he feels hair tickling his forehead and ears. "Believe what you wish," he says.


"Also, you didn't kill me." She moves closer to him, expression still open and pleasant. "Not that I appreciate being marooned on a Sith hellhole, mind you."


"Don't confuse prudence for mercy," he says, crossing his arms. "I was too damaged to face you after the explosion; you will still die."


She sighs, a fond sound, and smiles softly. "I love you too, Anakin." 


Through the swell of sudden, visceral joy, some instinct almost makes him say, then you're a fool. But he's too taken-aback to formulate much in the way of words. He tries to tamp down the reaction by tapping into his anger and hatred, but it just isn't working the way it normally does. Ahsoka is walking even closer, now, reaching up to touch his face, and he can't bring himself to step away. When the contact finally happens, it feels as though his entire being is awoken -- tingles skittering through flesh he no longer has.


"Is it selfish of me to be glad you're still alive, even knowing what you've done?" she asks, tracing her fingertips over his cheek. 


"Foolish," he rasps out, leaning into the touch like a feline.


"I probably would've given in and returned to the Order, if you and your master hadn't destroyed it." She steps in closer still.


He closes his eyes and shivers. "What do you hope to accomplish with this illusion?" he asks. 


"I just wanted to see you," she says, sliding her arms around him and pressing her cheek against his chest. He can feel the warmth of her body through the material of his tunic. "Force, I've missed you."


He returns the embrace, more fiercely than is strictly dignified. "You left me," he snarls, even as he pulls her closer.


"I know." She's shaking. "But I won't leave you again."


She'd said as much on Malachor, and he'd told her then what the consequences would be. But, in this dreamscape, killing her isn't an option. "What does that even mean?" She won't join him, he knows. She certainly won't turn to the Dark Side, or betray her rebellion. 


He can feel her smirk in the Force, even if he can't see it. "It means that you're stuck with me, Skyguy -- whether you like it or not." Her hands trace patterns up and down his back, offering comfort...along with the promise of something more. "Even if you kill me." She pulls away from him, then, and he has to restrain himself from moving to stop her. The contact isn't broken for long, though.


She kisses him.


But it's so much more than just a kiss. All of her feelings pour into him from that single point of contact: sorrow, longing, disappointment. It is her love that shines brightest, however -- burning through him like an ecstatic mockery of the lava that had consumed him on Mustafar. It's too much, and not enough, and he can feel it tearing at the walls he's spent years so carefully building within his mind.


He shoves her away, panting harshly. "This changes nothing," he says, even as he shakes in the aftermath of her onslaught.


This time, he can see her smirk. "Whatever you say, Master."


With that, the illusion crumbles to dust around him.


When his eyes open, the world is cold and grey.