Maybe he'd hoped somewhere else would be there: Padmé, or Ellé, or Darra. But the place was completely empty. When Anakin had first been taken as a Padawan, that would’ve been remarkable, but it wasn’t now. He sat alone on the shores of the Shallow Pool, then took his boots off and let his feet dip into the water, because he knew now plenty of Jedi did that, and the life in the pool survived it. He wished his strongest memory of Tru by that pool hadn’t been the part where they’d argued.
He’d brought a wrist comm with him, which buzzed. Bracing himself for what he now had to face down, he turned it on, “Master Jinn?”
But the voice which answered instead was Master Windu’s. “Where have you gotten to, Padawan Skywalker?”
“The Water Garden,” he said. He considered apologizing. If it had been Master Jinn on the comm, he would have. But he didn’t want to apologize to Master Windu.
Even when his heard his own Master’s voice next, gentle as it said, “Of course. Stay there; Master Windu and I will come to you.”
That meant he wasn’t going to see Padmé that day, Anakin feared. Which made him aware of how badly he wanted to, how much that was one of the few things he knew would make him feel a little better. He supposed Master Windu hoped he’d regret running out and losing his chance to meet with her, but he wasn’t going to assume he’d even brought her with him anyway. He was more sorry he hadn’t gotten the chance to talk with Knight Kenobi either.
He wondered if Master Windu realized just how far away he still was when Anakin could sense him approaching. Of course he would’ve been able to tell anyway, since Master Jinn was with him. He pulled his feet out of the pool, wiped them dry on his cloak as best he could, and then put his boots back on. He didn’t need Master Windu saying anything to him about the whole feet in the water thing.
Master Jinn initially entered the garden alone, leaving Master Windu to wait outside. Anakin was grateful for that. “How is Knight Kenobi?” he asked, because it was proper to ask, and he did want to know.
“How do you expect?” his Master sighed, and even he was visibly shaken and sad, though maybe more for his former Padawan’s sake than for Tru’s; the two of them were still surprisingly close. “This affects us all very badly, of course. But you have lost friends before, Ani.” Indeed, he had. It fueled his wish to help take down this Sith. “You cannot run away from your grief every time.”
“I’m not,” Anakin protested. “I just…I needed to…” He didn’t even know. Tru had been the closest friend he’d lost yet. In fact, he thought the only person who meant more to him besides his Master was Padmé (oh, stars and galaxies, his soul cringed at that very thought). “I’m sorry I was rude to Knight Kenobi?”
“I think he understood,” said Master Jinn gently, and pulled his Padawan into a hug, which made Anakin feel better, even though he knew he wasn’t off the hook yet. “But you acted without thinking just now. You are lucky this time; Obi-Wan was not hurt or offended, and nor have you caused anyone any real trouble. But this is not the last loss you will suffer. Indeed, I fear our lives will be marred by loss even more than those of Jedi have typically been, even if we do take down Darth Maul. You must learn to deal with them.
Ideally, of course, you would simply rejoice for Tru’s having become one with the Force, and you would neither mourn nor miss him. But few are the Jedi who are able to do that. The rest of us who cannot must learn instead to cope with our grief, and to not let it dictate our behavior to us, for decisions made in grief are rarely rational ones, and cannot be relied upon to be the right ones. They must learn to think before they act. I know this is hard to bear, Anakin, but you must learn how to do it. That is necessary for everyone in the galaxy, and even more so for a Jedi.”
“I’m sorry, Master,” Anakin said, and, strangely enough, it was Qui-Gon’s soothing voice, more than anything else, that brought several tears to his eyes; he pressed his face into his Master’s tunic and let it take them. “I’ll try to do better.” It would be okay, he thought. So long as he didn’t lose either of the two people most important to him. Anyone else he could deal with.
“Come,” said Master Jinn, already pulling him toward the Rushing Pool. “Wash your face off, and then sit down. I’ll get Master Windu.”
Anakin obeyed, grateful for the chance to clean up before Master Windu saw him. He also took a moment to feel sorry for Padmé. She being who she was, she was probably just as cut up about Tru, even though she hadn’t been nearly as good friends with him as Anakin had been, but he doubted Master Windu would be understanding about it like Qui-Gon. He was tempted to sit on one of the lone rocks, but in the end was a good boy and sat at the table, and made sure not to slouch.
To his surprise, the first thing Master Windu said to him, after his initial greeting was, “I offer you my condolences over the death of Tru Veld, whom I understand was a very good friend to you when you were both Initiates and after.”
“Thank you, Master,” he said. This was probably Padmé’s influence, he thought. Master Jinn kept saying she had some on him, after all.
When both Masters had sat down, Master Jinn said, “As you know, Anakin, I just talked with Obi-Wan, who has only newly returned to the Temple; he’s gone to give his report in right now. We also talked with Master Windu here over the comm. The willingness of Darth Maul to attack Obi-Wan and his Padawan when none of the rest of us were with him makes us think even more we might be able to defeat him without getting you or Padmé involved; if the first attempt fails, we might even petition the Jedi Council for a second.”
“That’s good,” said Anakin, “but, um, aren’t you worried that he only went after Obi-Wan because it was only him and Tru?”
“We have talked over that concern,” said Master Windu. “Indeed, one worry of your Master’s was that Darth Maul might only next come out if his targets were him and you, or possibly myself and Padmé, but of course she’s older and we would both be less ideal targets for him.”
“You’re not going into danger yet,” Master Jinn hastily added. Which Anakin had already figured, but never mind.
“Our plan right now,” said Master Windu, “is first, the Council grounds the five of us for a month, possibly two. Nobody’s going to want Knight Kenobi anyway, and we’ll come up with some excuse for while Master Jinn and I aren’t getting sent out either. We may create for ourselves some endeavor here, perhaps even one the five of us can actually do, so as to make ourselves useful during the time. We can hope this gets the Sith Lord impatient, or at least makes him think of taking the opportunity we will then offer him, out of a belief it may be his only one.
That opportunity will be this: after a suitable amount of time, the Council will send the two of us on a mission; our timing of when we do this may in fact depend on when a suitable one comes up. We may even try to give out the impression you and my Padawan are with us, though of course you won’t be. We will then stage the ship breaking down in a suitable location, and comm for help, possibly for Obi-Wan.”
“All three of you,” grinned Anakin. “Even if he doesn't think we're there, he won’t be able to resist, will he?”
“We hope so,” said Qui-Gon, but he looked grim-faced, and Anakin feared he might be lectured later about his attitude towards this.
But this was different. This was waiting, and as she woke up the morning after Knight Kenobi’s return to the Temple, Padmé was starting to realize she did not like waiting. Especially not when a fellow Padawan, Anakin’s friend, had been murdered, and nobody was able to do anything about it immediately, or even before the person who killed him was more likely than not to kill more people. She was aware that Master Windu was already awake, though she couldn’t tell anything else, which made her think he was probably meditating. She’d do the same herself, but she was pretty sure it wasn’t going to get rid of the itch under her palms.
She wanted to see Anakin. She wanted to see his face, and hug him, and talk to him, and gauge for herself how he was coping with Tru’s death. When she’d asked her Master how he was coping the previous night his only response had been, “Not well,” which really didn’t tell her much. She was sure he wanted to see her even more. But there was no point in even bothering to ask Master Windu if she could take the time out. He was never easy with it when the boy was on his best behavior, and Padmé doubted he had been the previous night. She didn’t even feel comfortable sending him any messages. She hoped he would understand that.
There was one thing in her current schedule that might bring them into company anyway. She was really hoping Master Windu wouldn't takes measures to make sure it didn't. There was always the chance he wasn't even aware of it.
So she lay in her bed, blankets pulled close, and wondered if she could get her shields up enough to safely masturbate, because that might help, or even if Master Windu would say anything if he detected it. She would’ve preferred to sleep more. It was strange how she felt tired, even just after waking up, when there was no logical reason for her to Yet her mind buzzed too much to make going back to sleep a likely prospect.
Then she heard the comm beep in her Master’s room. After a split second of hesitation, she got out of bed and went to the wall to listen in. He’d know, probably, but she didn’t care. Not when this might be about the Sith. Of course, the walls were supposed to be soundproofed, but in the rebuilt parts of the Temple they often weren’t.
“Master Jinn,” she heard him say. “Any particular reason for calling this early?”
“I want to talk to you about this before we get any more orders from the Council,” was Master Jinn’s response. “By the way, I don’t suppose you’d be willing to tell me anything more about what they’re discussing?”
“Not this morning, Master Jinn.” If he’d been anyone else, Padmé would’ve thought he’d be smiling. But the warmth in his voice faded on his next words, “This is about our Padawans, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is,” said Master Jinn. “We never really came to a resolution on that conversation we had about them after that Council meeting…” What conversation?!?
“If you’ve really got an idea, I’m willing to hear it out. Although maybe you should be aware I think Padmé’s listening in on us right now?” That did not surprise or even startle Padmé; there was no way her current feelings weren’t screaming through the Force.
“Good,” said the other Master. “It’ll be easier if one of our Padawans knows about this from here on in. Because the more I think about it, the more I am mystified about how the Sith knew Obi-Wan and Tru were going to be on Muus. The only public announcement we made was that we were sending a Jedi; we said nothing about which one. I asked Obi-Wan last night, and he said he and Tru had contact with no one during the trip besides the people they’d been planning to mediate between. Their channels had basic encryption, which means that while the Sith probably could have decoded them if they’d obtained them, finding them among most the galaxy’s encrypted traffic…it’s not likely they would have managed it unless they’d had at least some idea of where to look first. The only people outside the Temple who knew they were the ones being sent were Chancellor Palpatine, his office, and the sector’s Senator and his office, and I’m not sure the Chancellor would’ve even bothered look at the names for such a local Outer Rim matter.”
As the implications of what he was saying sunk in, Master Windu called through the wall, “Come in here, Padmé. This is turning into a conversation you should participate in outright, if you’re going to be listening at all.”
Still in her sleeping tunic (she hoped Master Jinn wouldn’t mind), she came in, mildly surprised to find her Master was already fully dressed in his day tunic and leggings. She wondered how much he’d slept the previous night, if indeed he’d slept at all. She sat down next to him as he said, “So you believe the Sith may have a spy either somewhere in the government, or...or even in the Temple?” The second possibility sure was a scary one.
“I think it more likely than not. But any of the three of us start looking around, they’ll notice.”
“You think they wouldn’t notice it if our Padawans did it?” Master Windu asked skeptically. “I would think they would just find that more suspicious.”
“Maybe not,” said Padmé, “if it was just Anakin. It wouldn’t the first time he got curious about things that aren’t his business, remember. You arrange for him to ‘accidentally’ wander into some part of the Temple he shouldn’t be in…” But she had to stop there, because this was not an idea she actually liked. If the wrong person came across him there, even if they didn’t get suspicious about his motives, they might go so far as to kill him anyway.
“We’d want to keep you as close to the situation as possible to back him up,” said Master Jinn, which made it sound a little better. “Maybe even ourselves. If we do this while trying to deal with Darth Maul, of course, Master Windu and I wouldn’t be there, but if we did after the two of us left the Temple but before Obi-Wan did…”
“It could still put Padawan Skywalker in considerable danger,” said Master Windu. “And is he even suited to this? He is a little more reckless than he ought to be, we all know that.”
“I can try to get him to be cautious,” said Master Jinn. “I talk about it to him enough, I probably have a good chance of succeeding. And your Padawan actually might have an even better chance than me. You know he likes upsetting her even less than he likes upsetting me.”
“That is true,” said Master Windu, his voice very neutral.
“We have time to discuss it further. The four of us, I think; now that you’re here, Padmé, you might as well stay in; you’re certainly old enough for that.” Master Windu said nothing to this, which meant he agreed. “Obi-Wan probably doesn’t have a set schedule yet. I am free tomorrow afternoon. You two?”
“After lunch we have a sparring session with some of the older Initiates, but after that we have nothing. We will continue this discussion then?”
“Agreed. Force be with you both until then.”
“And you.” The screen blinked off, and her Master said to Padmé, “We will breakfast here today.”
They did that sometimes, keeping some very basic grain foods in their quarters specifically so they could. Usually it meant he wanted to have some serious discussion with her, though; there had been a time where those words had always left her anxious to know what it was she’d done. At least the reason was obvious here.
Or so Padmé thought, until after they had sat down and started eating, and he asked her, “What will you do for the next day and a half?”
Confused by the question, since he’d already set her schedule for most of it, she said, “I’ll be reading up on Coruscanti history for most of this morning, then this afternoon I go to the salles to work with Master Gallia.” That was when she was hoping to see Anakin, since he often worked with her too, but she could wait until he asked her directly before admitting to that. "Before the Council meeting we meditate briefly in the Rock Garden, then I come back here and return to my reading; we’re eating lastmeal late tonight. I was hoping to see Darra before I go to bed tonight.” That had been her idea, but he’d already approved it; nobody ever saw any harm in Darra. “Tomorrow morning we teach the younger Initiates basic history, and then meet with Master Rancisis to further develop the lesson plans there. Then, as you told Master Jinn, after lunch we have the sparring session.”
“How well do you think you will do that, Padmé?” was his next question, and she was getting the feeling she knew where this conversation was going.
“As well as I can,” was what she had to say to start, before getting honest: “But I don’t know how well that’s going to be. Although I can promise you I will be there completely for all the teaching we’re doing tomorrow.”
“That never concerned me,” he said, matter-of-factly. “I can sense a great deal of restlessness in you, and that’s not something I’ve seen in you before. You’ve always seemed to understand that what we should want is quietness and knowledge, even though we choose to lead lives that give us so little of the former.”
“I value peace,” said Padmé. “I don’t feel much of it right now. Without peace, quiet is almost a menace, an arrangement that means suffering is going unheeded.”
“Suffering need not be shouted about from the top of the Temple to be heeded. You know we are doing everything we can about Darth Maul. Can you trust in that?”
Padmé drew in her breath to say yes, but she was suddenly filled with doubt. Having a Master on the Council had left her all too aware of that body’s failings. And if there was even someone there who didn’t even mean well…she didn’t want to believe the spy was there. She had grown to know all of her Master’s colleagues, and she liked them all. If there was a spy among them, how was she to tell who it was? She knew her Master was not it, like she knew she herself was of the light, would have even if it wasn’t for the detail about Darth Maul having targeted him along with the rest of their little quintet, and she had almost as much faith in Master Yoda, but not in any of the others. And yet...
“New thoughts plague you,” said her Master softly, almost as if he could see right into her, at least until he said, “Tell me what troubles you now, Padawan.”
Her first response was a noise of resistance; her suspicions felt too terrible to be expressed. His response to that was to lean himself forward slightly, folding his arms down on the table and resting his upper torso on them. That firm, quietly cutting stare of his, that close to her, broke through like a lightsaber. A minute of it and her thoughts were spilling out,
"...and yet I cannot think but the spy must be on the Council."
He drew back at that, and visibly considered. “It is possible I may be able to eventually identify the spy through the Force, if her or she is indeed on the Council, although he or she would have to be a master at hiding it for none of us to have detected him or her-but perhaps if I am actively looking, it will be different.
But until then, Padmé, remember to keep dark thoughts from your mind as much as possible. Remember especially that fear is of the dark side. That has always been where you have been most vulnerable, and while your fears have often been far more for others than for yourself, now I sense much fear in you, especially for myself, and even more so for Anakin, is that right?” When Padmé nodded while avoiding looking at him, he said, “You understand, Padmé, that I have the greatest respect for your compassion, and I believe many a Master could learn from observing it. But I worry about how much your mind focuses on Anakin. Be careful of your feelings towards him. You cannot let them dictate how you view the rest of the universe, and especially how you behave towards others.”
Don’t get angry, don’t get angry, don’t get angry. It surprised Padmé that she had to think that to herself. But she had never liked these lectures from Master Windu. This had always been the topic where she simply could not agree with him, and she couldn’t help but think he was just turning this conversation to talk about what he wanted to talk about, especially in the face of her and Anakin now to be brought together by duties.
He sensed it, of course. “Please be careful, Padmé,” he urged. “I will not forbid you to see him these next couple of days, at least if you can do so without shirking any of your set tasks. I know you are hoping to see him along with Master Gallia, and indeed, I think his Master may even send him there. I know Master Jinn would be grateful for his having your company. I will not interfere with that. But please, keep what I have just said to you in mind. Also, I will ask you not to breathe a word of any of what the three of us discussed this morning. In fact, I will suggest that if he even brings up the possibility of you two working together, if his own Master has brought that up to him, you change the subject. Ask him about how he is dealing with Padawan Veld’s death; I think,” and here he hesitated, before saying, “I think it will do you both good for him to receive comfort from you over that.”
When they were finally dismissed, Padmé’s arms sore, if in a good way, and Anakin looking very tired, she asked him his next destination. On hearing it was the Archives, she said, “Mine’s the Rock Garden. They’re in the same direction. Want to walk together until we reach the Archives?”
“I don’t know how to feel about Tru," Anakin said when they had left the salles behind them. "I mean, I’m sad, obviously, and it hurts, and I can’t make it not hurt, and Master Jinn, at least, seems to think that’s okay, even if it’s not ideal. But…it makes me want to destroy the Sith all the more. That’s not good, is it?”
Most Jedi, including her own Master, would have absolutely said yes. But Padmé found herself saying, “Maybe you could focus on making sure the Sith don’t kill any more of us. That’s what Tru would want, I think. To be the last Jedi who dies at his hands.” Never mind that they weren’t being allowed make that so, but remembering her Master’s instructions, she didn’t take the conversation that way.
“I do like that idea,” said Anakin thoughtfully. “But what if they don’t let us do anything? I know if our Masters kill Darth Maul without us we should just be glad…”
“And you will be,” said Padmé hastily. “Because if nothing else, you know I’ll be safe, right? And believe me, Ani, nothing would make me happier than to know that he won’t be around to come after you, either. It’ll be like the threat to us never existed.”
He smiled at that, but sighed, “But the threat did exist. It existed long enough to kill Tru. And also, what if it kills Master Jinn?”
“I think then Knight Kenobi might take you,” said Padmé. “Even if he didn’t, surely someone else would.”
“That’s not what I meant, Padmé!” he protested, sounding honestly shocked. “I mean, I don’t know how I could deal with it, if he killed him, and he’d be dead, and it would hurt so much, and all I could do then is meditate and hope when I was done I wouldn’t feel angry anymore, and I don’t think I would.
I’m not like you,” he continued, before Padmé could think of what to say to that. “You have such a big heart. I think if anyone killed your Master you’d forgive them, unless they were the Sith, of course, but even then you’d just kill them if it fell to you to do that and not think about them afterwards. Of course you’d still be upset,” he hastily added when she opened her mouth. “You’d probably grieve even more than I would if Master Jinn was killed. But you still wouldn’t be like me, would you? You’re stronger than I am that way.”
“I don’t know that,” she said. “Really, I’m not sure any Padawan knows for sure what they would do, unless their Master is actually killed. Let’s just hope neither of us ever gets the chance to find out.”
She would be angry, though, she thought. Maybe she wouldn’t be taken by the same urge to do something that Anakin was struggling with, especially if she was in the position he was in now, where there was basically nothing to be done. And with time, she knew she could eventually let the anger go. But if he was killed by someone she was not supposed to kill, and she found herself in front of them with lightsaber drawn, and even the tiniest excuse…well, she hoped she never ever got into that particular situation.
The salles and the Archives were pretty close together; they were already coming up on the latter. “Going to see Master Nu today?” she asked.
“Don’t know,” said Anakin. “Maybe if she’s not too busy she’ll find me and say hello. She’s running out of things to tell me about my mother, I think.”
“I see,” she said, and then on impulse she pulled Anakin into a second hug, which he returned, his arms tight around her. “Be strong, Ani,” she urged him. “Please, try to be strong.”