A Destiny Renewed Missing Scene A: Shouldn't Have Done That (Chapter 13)
Author's Commentary: The Luke/Jenny subplot was designed as a red herring from the start. One aspect of the AU Jedi Padawan personality I've created for Luke is the "Heartbreaker" moniker, which is based partly on his string of romantic disasters in the EU and partly on a parallel to his father's path in "A Bumpier Road." Jenny became the obvious inappropriate romantic foil for Luke. As the story wound down, I wanted to keep the readers guessing about Luke and Jenny without giving stronger signals than were warranted. So in the story's main text I decided to leave only hints and ambiguities until the final Luke/Mara scene of chapter 16.
This is a perfect Missing Scene – it would have been overly distracting in the main story, but it's fun as an extra afterwards.
Luke pulled off his helmet and sat for a moment in the cockpit of his X-Wing, now docked again in the main hangar bay of the Invictus. The battle was over. The Republic had won. His father had shot down the Sith ace. Although four Jedi in Red Squadron had been killed, those close to him had survived. And it was his attack on the bridge of the Hand of Justice that had made the difference for everyone.
It was the first time in his life his accomplishment overshadowed his father's.
He took a deep breath and tapped the button to raise the transparisteel canopy, pushed off from the sides, and swung his legs around to the boarding ladder. He heard the shouts before he reached the bottom.
He dropped gently to the floor and turned around. His mother, Sarré, and Jenny were rushing toward him through the crowded hangar. They were smiling broadly and wiping their eyes as they ran.
Padmé got to him first. She slammed him into a rough embrace. "Oh, Luke. Luke. Oh, Luke."
"It's okay, Mom," he said quietly. "I'm fine. I'm fine."
"I know," she sighed. "I was so scared. I thought you…"
"But I didn't, Mom. I'm here." He hugged her firmly and stepped back. "It's over."
"For now, it is," his mother smiled. Then she laughed. "Right now, I need to go find Leia. I need to have a talk with her about her recklessness."
As she departed, Luke raised his eyebrows at Sarré. "What did she do now?"
Sarré hugged Luke too. "I'll tell you later," she chuckled.
Sarré met his eyes. "Thank you, Luke. Thank you for saving all of us."
"You're welcome." It felt so strange to hear her say that. No one ever had thanked him for doing his duty before. Sarré jogged off to catch Padmé, and he realized Jenny was standing in front of him and crying. "What's wrong?"
"I was… I was…" She reached up and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "I was so scared I was going to lose you."
Her phrasing caught his attention immediately. "Well, I'm fine," he said curiously, trying to read her emotions in the Force.
"I don't want to lose you," she said again as she stepped into him, wrapping her arms around his back and resting her head against his chest.
Luke put his hands on her back and ran them slowly up and down reassuringly. He could feel the heat of her skin through the soft fabric of her light blue flight suit, and it sent shivers of excitement down his spine.
Jenny's hands began to move on his back too, and it wasn't just a reassuring pat. It was a caress. Definitely a caress. Then she leaned against him even more, pressing her chest against his and tentatively touching her thighs to his too.
Luke barely managed to stifle a gasp. He matched the gentleness of her touch with his hands, lightly running his fingers along her back.
A moment later she pulled away and looked up into his eyes. "We should go with the others," she said quietly. The reluctance in her voice was apparent.
"Yes," he croaked. "Yes, we should."
It didn't take them long to find the crowd by the Lady Vader. Padmé and Leia were engaged in an animated conversation, Anakin and Obi-Wan were laughing together, Mara was talking to Captain Solo, and Danaé was standing to the side with Bryon and Sarré. Luke immediately headed toward his Master, and Jenny went to rescue Leia from the lecture.
Eventually the family made its way to the guest quarters on the destroyer, and Luke didn't know what to think. Jenny seemed to be avoiding him now. She had stayed on the other side of group the entire time. He was beginning to wonder if he had misinterpreted her actions completely. It was possible, he supposed, that she was trying to hide her emotions from his father and Danaé. But it seemed more likely he simply had mistaken her joy about the victory for feelings for him.
Luke was standing in the middle of his small bedroom, staring at the wall and thinking, when the door buzzer sounded. In his distracted state, he simply waved off the lock.
They were alone in his bedroom.
And the feelings in her Force presence now were anything but ambiguous. "Jenny?"
"Luke," she murmured, rushing to him and embracing him again. "Luke."
At first he held his hands in place on her back, but her caresses resumed just as she had left them off. After a moment he began to stroke her sides tenderly. Jenny moaned quietly and pressed into him sensually. He tilted his face down to look at her.
She leaned her face up very closely to his and gazed intensely into his eyes.
His heart was pounding. He could feel her warm breath tickling his jaw, and he knew exactly what she was going to do.
She lifted her face the last tiny distance and brushed her lips against his.
It sent a rush of heat blasting through his body. He pressed his lips into hers. Then they separated for a moment and stared into each other's eyes again. It didn't last long. Their lips met, softly and sweetly.
She pulled away, just a little. Her hands were clutching his tightly. Her eyes were full of longing and affection. "I love you."
He swallowed hard. "I… I…"
She silenced him with another tender kiss. "Shh," she whispered seductively. "Don't talk."
Suddenly he sensed something in the Force. "Dad's coming," he gasped.
She sprang back from him, her face flushing and her eyes filled with fright. "I… um, I think," she stammered. "I think I should go."
"Yeah," he gulped.
And within a heartbeat she was gone.
He collapsed on the bed and stared at the ceiling. In the hallway outside his father passed by without a pause. Luke didn't move for a long, long time.
A Destiny Renewed Missing Scene B: The Princess' New Clothes (Chapter 15)
Author's Commentary: An important character development point in chapter 15 is Leia's announcement that she's ending her period of mourning, which sets up her emotional willingness to ask Han to stay in chapter 16. I wanted to do something more than merely have her say it, though, and I decided that buying new clothes (colors instead of black) was a good illustration. It also indirectly would remind everyone of Mara's honorary membership in the family – Leia asked her to come along instead of waiting for Sarré to return. All of this could be established with a handful of lines and an "offscreen" scene with Leia and Mara.
Mara fidgeted outside the closed door of the dressing room. She didn't like this attire, not one bit. The simple gray tunic and black leggings seemed entirely too thin. She was so accustomed to wearing her Jedi robes she felt almost naked in the outfit. Despite the fact that this particular clothier was famous for its discretion, Leia had insisted they dress as nondescriptly as possible to minimize the chances of being recognized by other patrons.
Absentmindedly she reached down and patted her lightsaber handle through the fabric of the tunic. A small holster on her thigh concealed the weapon and the tunic hung low enough to cover most of the holster. Nonetheless, not having her blade clipped to the usual place on her belt made her anxious.
The dressing room door swung open and Leia emerged. The tight bodice of the bright red dress flaunted her figure, and the dip of the neckline stopped exactly at tantalizing. The narrow sheath reached all the way to the floor. It was attractive but not excessively sensual, Mara thought. She was about to say as much when Leia strode forward.
Mara gasped. "Leia," she asked tentatively, "does the slit on the side really go as high as I think it does?"
Leia grinned, crooked her knee forward, and pointed with her finger. "It goes to here."
"Oh dear," Mara said. "That's even worse."
"What? You don't like it?"
"No, I do," Mara replied sincerely. "It just… I mean… Where do you plan to wear this?"
Leia laughed happily. "Not for any official Senate business, if that's what you're getting at!"
"In about three weeks there's going to be a ball for all the delegations in our sector. And I was planning…"
"Hold on," Mara interrupted. "A ball? Isn't that a little inappropriate right now, with the Vyhrragian crisis?"
"I'm sure some people will think so," Leia admitted. "But we all really need to get our minds away from work for one night. The Bestine delegation proposed it, and everyone supported it."
"So anyway," Leia persisted, "I was planning to wear this to that."
"Now, you can't just consider how I look in this, you understand," Leia continued. "You have to imagine me standing next to an officer in dress whites about, oh, this tall." Her hand marked off a height just a bit shorter than her father's.
"Are you going to say anything other than 'I see' or do I have to come over there and shake more words out of you?"
"Sorry," Mara chuckled. "It's perfect. Really. It's perfect."
"Great!" Leia chirped. She bounded back into the dressing room and closed the door. "You seem surprised that I'd be wearing something like this," she said from inside.
"I guess I am," Mara admitted.
"I'm delighted for you, don't get me wrong. It's just happened so fast."
"Like I said before," replied a voice muffled by fabric, "the rescue and the battle made me realize that I have to move on with my life. I can be happy again if I'd just let myself try to be."
"You just met him, though," Mara noted as Leia launched from the dressing room in an outfit just like hers. "And won't he have to deploy to his ship pretty soon?"
"One second," Leia said. She held the dress folded in her arms. "Threepio!"
The golden protocol droid hobbled through the portal from the main display area. "Yes, Mistress Leia?"
"Add this to the pile, please," she instructed, tossing the garment to him as she turned back to Mara.
Mara kept her chuckle to herself when the droid nearly toppled over as he lunged to catch the dress before it hit the floor. She was pretty sure he was muttering to himself in consternation about what he must have done to deserve this treatment while he walked out again.
"As for Han's deployment," Leia started up without missing a beat, "I have an idea already for taking care of that."
Mara laughed. "You're certainly a woman who knows how to get what she wants, Leia. But you did just meet him. Don't you think you're rushing into things?"
"Walk with me," Leia waved, leading her toward another part of the establishment. "I would like to point out," she said mischievously as Mara caught up, "that you nearly invited him to your room yourself after you'd known him only a few days."
"That's completely different!"
"It just is!"
Mara stopped in her tracks and crossed her arms over her chest. "I'm the one asking the questions!"
"I knew it!" Leia crowed triumphantly as she spun around. "You're just jealous because you're still in a drought."
"Drought implies the absence of something necessary," Mara snapped.
Leia shook her head and started walking again. "I still don't see the difference."
"You're talking about asking him to stay for you. About inviting him to a ball. But it would have just been a physical thing for me, Leia, okay? That's why I didn't. I'm not like Lu…" She swallowed the thought instantly, but it was too late.
"Like my twin brother?" Leia looked intensely into her eyes. "I never said you should be. I think it's admirable that you're waiting for the right time with the right man. I wish I had." She paused for a moment, gazing off indistinctly across the room. "I certainly never would have sent Bryon and Sarré away last night if I didn't know how deeply they love each other."
"Listen, Leia, I was only trying to tease you about him," Mara said. "I know what you said earlier. If you're ready to move on, you should do it. And if you want to close your eyes and jump into the river and see where the current takes you, I'll support you."
"Thank you," Leia smiled warmly. "And what about you?"
"I've been focused on preparing myself for the Trials. I'm not even thinking about that kind of thing right now. I can't afford to be distracted by some silly fling, and I certainly don't have time for love."
"Who ever does?" Leia laughed. "Just don't be stupid about it."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means, don't get so involved in your training and preparation that you'd miss the moment if it comes. Right now, I'm not sure you'd recognize love if it walked up and slapped you in the face."
"I would," Mara insisted defensively.
"For your sake I hope so," Leia said. "Here we are."
"We were here already. What did you forget?"
"Nothing," Leia announced calmly. "We're getting something for you this time."
"Yes, for you." Leia rummaged through the skimpy silk items laid out on two tables. "This one," she said after a moment. "It's your size. Try it on."
"Why? I don't have any credits on me. I can't pay for it."
"Daddy's paying," Leia winked.
"No way," Mara exclaimed, throwing up her hands. "My Master is not paying for lingerie!"
"It's not Jedi money, Mara, it's Skywalker money."
"I'm not sure I see the distinction, and I doubt he will either."
"He never checks my receipts," Leia laughed. "And even if he did, he'd be far too embarrassed to read through the sizes on these items to see that one of them isn't mine."
"Jedi don't wear lingerie," Mara said lamely.
"Right. And they don't get married or have children or live in penthouse suites in the capital district or own their own starships named after the wife they don't have. Give me a break. You can wear whatever you please under those robes. No one will know but you."
"What if I was injured? I'd be taken to the infirmary and…"
"Really, Mara, cut it out," Leia groaned. "You're trying this on whether you like it or not and if it fits I'm buying it for you and there's nothing you can do about it."
"I have a bad feeling about this," Mara grumbled.
"Get over it," Leia chuckled. "Try it on. Now. I mean it."
Mara snatched the tiny green garment from Leia's hand and stormed to the nearest dressing room. After pulling it on, she looked at herself in the room's tall, narrow mirror. It was unlike anything anyone ever had offered to buy for her before. The color matched her eyes perfectly. She looked stunning. And she felt that way too.
"So?" asked Leia's voice from outside.
"I'm not coming out there, if that's what you're suggesting," Mara laughed. "You can come in here."
"Very well." Leia flung open the door and marched inside. "See? You look fabulous."
Mara ran her hands along her sides and over her hips. "Yeah, I guess I do."
"I knew you'd like it if you just tried it on," Leia smiled as she put a hand on her shoulder. "Do you want a few more? There's plenty of money on my chip."
"No," Mara shook her head. "This is fine for now. One small step at a time."
"Hey, I take my little victories when I can get them," Leia winked. "Get dressed and let's go. We should grab something to eat."
"Okay," Mara replied distractedly as Leia left.
She gazed at herself in the mirror again and traced her fingers along her shoulders. "Small steps and little victories."
She changed back into the tunic and leggings. She paused at the mirror and held the scanty green garment up against the gray fabric. "Would you notice," she whispered to herself, "if it slapped you in the face? Would you?"
Mara balled the silk into her hands and turned to leave. If I'm wearing this, I will.
A Destiny Renewed Missing Scene C: Late-Night Confessions (Chapter 15: Extended Scene)
Author's Commentary: The original version of this scene was short. Its purpose was to highlight the close bond between the twins by showing them turning to each other for support and comfort. In the context of chapter 15, it was obvious they would talk about Han and Jenny. But actually showing the conversation would have spoiled the endings I wanted to save for chapter 16, so the scene cut away as soon as the "deal" was struck.
This is another ideal Missing Scene because there's no longer anything to spoil – you've already read chapter 16.
It was the middle of the night, and Leia found herself wandering aimlessly through the residence. She simply felt the need to talk to someone, anyone, about anything. A profound sense of loneliness she couldn't shake off hung over her.
She pondered her options as she walked. After dinner Sarré had left for her parents' home, where she finally would have her long-awaited reunion with Sabé, Alain, and Nalé. Leia also knew Jenny wasn't here; a short time after dinner she had seemed very upset when she had departed for her own apartment. On her circuit Leia had passed by a series of bedrooms only to find in disappointment the red indicator light activated at each one; Danaé, Bryon, Mara, and her parents all were soundly asleep. She actually caught herself considering finding Threepio for some companionship as she approached her twin brother's room last.
To her delighted surprise the indicator light on his door panel was green. She tapped the button and waited. He must have sensed her presence in the Force – the door swished open without a hail to identify whom it was.
Luke's room here was even more spartan than his quarters in the Jedi Temple; it contained only his bed, a small storage locker, and a closet with a modest selection of non-Jedi attire. Tonight he was sitting cross-legged on the floor near the bed, but he did not appear to be meditating. He looked up at her and laughed. "Clearly you're not going out in public tonight!"
She glanced down at herself. She wore a very simple, unadorned white nightgown and had drawn up her long brown hair into two tight buns on either side of her head. Admittedly it was not the most flattering look of which she was capable. "Not that you're one to talk, wiseguy," she chuckled.
He conceded the point with a nod; the white sleeveless nightshirt and sleepshorts were about as mundane as it got. "So," he asked quietly, "why are you awake?"
"I couldn't sleep. I just feel… I don't know… Lonely."
"And you wanted to talk to someone."
She nodded. "And you? Why are you awake?"
"I can't sleep either. I'm… well… hurting tonight. A lot."
Leia sat down on the floor across from him, tucking her legs under herself and leaning on an arm. She wasn't sure who else had figured it out, but she had. "About Jenny, right?"
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"Not really. But I should." Luke flashed her a weak smile. "You go first, though. Tell me what's bothering you."
"Okay," she said quietly, then paused. "I don't know where to start."
"How about with Captain Solo?"
He laughed happily. "If I'm going to talk about Jenny, you're going to talk about Han."
She grinned broadly too. "Deal."
"I have to say, Leia," he said more seriously, "I think it was pretty stupid of you to go out into the battle with him. Not because it was with him, mind you. In the little time I've known him he's certainly proven his capabilities as a pilot to me." He sighed deeply. "It was just too dangerous. Period. What in the blazes possessed you?"
"I don't know," she admitted with a shake of her head. "When you rescued me from Xixus, and we fought our way out, I just felt… so… so alive. Invigorated. Energetic. I felt like I finally got my life back."
"Ending your mourning. You thought a lot about Jarren while you were their prisoner, didn't you?"
"All the time," she said softly. "All the time. I know the Jedi investigators haven't reached a definitive conclusion yet, but after seeing those two Sith first hand, I'm convinced they killed him. I know they did. Not that I have any idea why, obviously, but I just know it."
"So how did fighting brownshirts make you feel differently?"
"I wish I could explain it," she said. "These last six months without Jarren, I've felt so empty. So broken. Like I'd never be happy again." She reached up a hand to wipe away the teardrops forming in her eyes. "But fighting our way out, I felt like me. I guess it's because all the while they held me I was convinced they were going to kill me. That I'd never see any of you again. That I'd die alone, like Jarren did."
"And when we came to rescue you, you didn't."
"Exactly," she nodded. "It made me realize that I'll always treasure my time with Jarren, but he's gone. I'll never be the same person I was before I knew him or while I was with him. But I need to live my life. I could have died there on Xixus, Luke, and I didn't. I got a second chance. And I knew I couldn't waste it."
"That's what Jarren would have wanted, you know."
"I know," she smiled sadly. Then her face brightened again. "Of course," she laughed, "I can't explain why wanting to not waste my life would lead me to think that flying into a massive battle with a man I'd just met was an especially good idea."
Luke laughed heartily too. "You're reading my mind again, my dear sister. A few years ago it wouldn't have surprised me much at all. But I thought you'd outgrown those kind of ridiculous impulses."
"I did too," she winked. "I really did. I haven't done anything that reckless in years. But Han has this flair about him. Being around him… it's… intoxicating."
"I see," Luke grinned deviously. "You're pinning this all on him. Maybe he used a Corellian mind trick on you."
"Very funny," she glowered. "It's just… After the briefing, when Mom was so anxious, I really was going to go with her and Jenny and Sarré to the bridge. I really was. But then the whole turbolift ride up, all I could think about was all the customized features of their freighter that he'd pointed out on the little tour he gave me. And I just had to see them in action. I had to."
"If you say so," he chuckled. "I'm not sure what you see in him, though. He's nothing like any man you've ever shown interest in before. And he couldn't be more the opposite of Jarren."
"Don't you see?" she grinned. "That's precisely the point. He's so… natural. He's not polished to perfection like these high-society gentlemen at the Royal Court or the Senate. He's not a fork-tongued politician. He's… genuine."
"That and he's completely crazy. He brings out your mad streak. And you like it."
"Yes," she admitted as she felt her cheeks flushing. "I guess I do."
"What's more," he said in a mischievous voice, "it's been almost two days since you've last seen him, and you're feeling inexplicably lonely. I wonder if there could be a connection?"
"Don't get carried away," she lectured with false sternness. Then she cleared her throat and changed the subject. "Let's turn the tables, my darling brother. I could say the same thing. Jenny? What in the blazes possessed you? Both of you, for that matter?"
"I wish I knew," he sighed. "I wish I knew."
"Don't tell me the great Heartbreaker of the Jedi Temple got a taste of his own medicine?"
"Yeah, he did. A little, anyway."
"Fess up, Luke," she persisted firmly. "I was forthcoming. Time to fulfill your half of the deal."
"Let's make one thing perfectly clear," he began. "She kissed me, got it?"
"Okay, okay, okay. When did this happen?"
"After the battle, when we all got back to the guest quarters. She came to my room and kissed me. I didn't take it that far. I wouldn't have. But she did. And she said she loved me." He blew out a deep breath. "I could read her emotions in the Force. She was going to… spend the night with me if I hadn't panicked when I sensed Dad walking by. It really shook her up, I guess, because the next time I saw her, earlier tonight, she told me there could never be anything between us."
"Did you want there to be?"
"That's the thing," he grumbled. "I don't even know. It all happened so fast."
"Can I stop you for a second? What about Ralli? I mean, don't you still have an… arrangement… with her?"
He threw up his hands and laughed in complete defeat. "I know! We do. As far as she knows, yes."
"As far as she knows?"
"When we were searching for the frigate that had you, and then when we were rescuing you from Xixus, I realized I don't love her. As more than a friend, I mean. When I thought about what was at stake, and all the things I care about in my life, she just didn't make the list. Once I'm back at the Temple I'm going to call it off with her."
"If you feel that way, it's the only fair thing to do," Leia nodded. "But Jenny? Where did that come from?"
"The night we got back, after we'd found the frigate and had to let it get away, I was really angry with Dad. Totally enraged. More angry that I've been in years. I really thought you were going to die, and it would be his fault for not letting me rescue you." He met her eyes. "I know in retrospect he was right, of course. But at the time I was almost out of control."
Leia smiled. "And she came to you. She calmed you down."
"Yeah," he whispered. "She's always had that effect on me. You know that as well as anyone. And I was just so worried and upset, I guess I started to think about Mom and Dad, you know? How he needs her that way. At the time it really seemed to make sense that maybe Jenny was like that for me."
"I suppose I can understand that," she said. "Rationality is elusive in tense times. We've already been over my own evidence of that point."
Finally he laughed again. "Very true. And I can only think that she must have felt the same way. After Xixus, she was very shaken from flying cover in that X-Wing. I guess it really drove home to her how serious the crisis is, how dangerous everything has become. And that we might die. I found her sitting alone and tried to make her feel better, and I thought I felt something between us then. But I didn't do anything."
"And then after the battle she threw herself at you?"
"Yeah, pretty much," he laughed. "Hard to believe, I know, but she did. She said she didn't want to lose me. And I believe that. She's like our big sister; she always has been. I would be devastated if she died. So maybe somehow in the stress of everything that happened she let her fears manifest themselves in a physical way."
"Or maybe it's just a family curse," Leia chuckled. "The Antilles girls fall hard for men they're destined never to have."
Luke nodded, and they sat silently remembering the tragic story. Jenny's older sister Ellina, whom Jenny had never known, had been a Jedi Padawan with whom their father had ended a brief relationship a few weeks before his reunion with their mother two decades ago. Along with Obi-Wan and two of Anakin's other friends she had been part of the strike team sent to capture Dooku during the Battle of Geonosis, only to be slain by the Sith Lord. In combination with other factors her death nearly had pushed Anakin to the dark side.
"That could be it," Luke sighed after a moment. "I certainly hope she has a happier fate in store for her."
"So do I," Leia agreed somberly. "So do I."
"I really messed this all up," he groaned. "With everyone."
"So what if you did?" She reached over and took one of his hands. "You and Jenny will get past this. You'll probably laugh about it together sooner than you think. And Ralli, well, she's a resilient girl. Just give yourself some time, and before you know it you'll be out there breaking hearts all over again."
"Thanks," Luke smiled weakly. "I needed to hear that."
"You're welcome. I really needed this too. Thank you."
Leia rose to her feet. "Good night, Luke. Sleep well."
Luke stood up and embraced his twin. "You too."
A Destiny Renewed Missing Scene D: On the Hot Seat (Chapter 16)
Author's Commentary: One function of the space battle in chapter 13 was to illustrate that despite their considerable strength in the Force, Luke and Mara still are Padawan learners without the full maturity and self-awareness necessary to become Jedi Knights. In a short series of lines, Anakin and Obi-Wan noticed this and agreed to discuss the matter with their apprentices back at the Temple. For purposes of the overall story, I think this character development point was established fully in this small way.
Anakin slammed the drives on his airspeeder to maximum capacity and soared through the late evening sky of Coruscant at top speed. With the roof opened the brisk air whipped through his hair and Jedi robes.
If he didn't hurry, he was going to be late.
He and Padmé were having dinner with Bryon and Sarré, the first time ever that only the four of them would share a meal together. Considering it had been only a few days since the youngsters had confessed their love for each other on the Lady Vader, this was a significant event indeed.
If he was late, Padmé was going to kill him.
And if he incurred her wrath tonight, it was going to be very difficult to stop himself from making his Padawan's life miserable because of it. The meeting with Luke and Mara to discuss their cavalier attitudes during the Battle of the Trade Spine had not gone at all as he had expected and had lasted far longer than anticipated. Even worse, it had left him with an unshakeable sense that something was different. Something he would have to figure out quickly and work around. But he had no idea what it was.
In the few remaining minutes of solitude as he sailed through the buzzing lines of traffic with reckless abandon, he went over the meeting in his mind once again.
He and Obi-Wan had arrived at the appointed spot in the Room of a Thousand Fountains to find their Padawans seated next to each other on the stones at the edge of a small pool at the base of a short waterfall that splashed gently downward from a formation of rocks a few yards tall. They hadn't been talking or meditating or even really looking at one another; they had seemed simply to be comfortable and calm in each other's presence.
Anakin had begun the discussion. "You know why we have asked you here?"
"Yes, Master," Mara had said quietly. "To discuss the Battle of the Trade Spine."
"And what about the battle in particular?"
"Our demeanor during the fighting, Master."
Obi-Wan had nodded and continued. "And what is there to discuss?"
"We killed a lot of enemy pilots, Master," Luke had shrugged. "And you think we don't take it seriously."
"Well," Obi-Wan had said, "do you?"
Anakin was getting frustrated with the congested line of speeders in front of him. He wasn't going as fast as possible any more and he didn't have time for this.
He wrenched the speeder into steep climb, then launched the drives to top speed again as he charged in the wrong direction through the next highest lane. He ignored the outraged honks and hollers and weaved in and out of the oncoming vehicles. After a few more heartbeats he passed most of the troublesome area and prepared to zoom down into the proper lane again.
It was a good thing Padmé couldn't see what he was doing, because she would kill him for that too. With any luck, though, he'd be home in time and she'd be none the wiser.
"Of course I do, Master," Luke had insisted. "I don't like to kill."
"Why don't I like to kill?" Luke had shaken his head incredulously. "What kind of a question is that?"
Anakin simply had looked to Mara without saying a word.
"All life is precious," she had intoned in a defeated voice filled with the monotony of lessons learned by rote. "A Jedi must kill only when necessary and only in defense. Aggression is of the dark side. Taking a life, even when done to serve a noble end, is a tragedy."
Anakin had frowned; she had not seemed to appreciate the gravity of the lesson any more than the horrible nature of the battle in which they had participated. "Certainly our actions in the battle were defensive and necessary," he had noted patiently. "And we fought for a noble end. Yet we nonetheless took the lives of other sentient beings. Fathers, sons, brothers, cousins. They died at our hands."
"And if we are not troubled by their deaths," Luke had continued in similarly disenchanted voice, "then it will become too easy for us to kill without ensuring that causing death is truly necessary and justified."
"That is correct," Obi-Wan had affirmed with a hint of approbation in his voice.
Mara had signed in frustration. "If you think we acted without appropriate compassion during the battle, then why," she had asked harshly, "did you place a wager on who would destroy the greater number of enemies?"
Still not on a fast enough pace despite maintaining his extreme speed, Anakin scanned the flow of traffic ahead and made a decision. He tore the speeder into a gut-wrenching arc that brought him around the nearest skyscraper and into a new line of traffic.
In his mind's eye he plotted another series of swift turns toward his destination. After a quick adjustment to his plan he jerked the controls into another arc.
This shortcut would work. At least he thought so.
"It is clear you do not understand the nature of the wager," Anakin had responded.
"Explain it to me, then," Mara had demanded.
He had held his tongue about the conspicuous absence of his title from her recent statements. "When you killed enemy pilots during the battle, you sensed the pain of their deaths in the Force?"
"And as you killed more and more of them, what did you feel?"
Mara had furrowed her brow. "I don't understand."
"I don't either," Luke had interjected with exasperation in his voice.
Obi-Wan had glanced thoughtfully at the tumbling water behind the two apprentices. "When the cruisers were destroyed, you sensed a great loss of life, did you not? One that was stronger and more painful than the loss of a single starfighter?" They both had nodded. "When you have a full appreciation for the nature of our duty and the terrible price we pay when we kill, you will feel such pain accumulate over the course of the battle as you kill more and more individual pilots. But it seems as though you did not."
Reluctantly Luke and Mara had shaken their heads.
Anakin still couldn't figure out what it was that seemed odd about the meeting. But fortunately his shortcut was a success and he was nearly to the residence now.
He weaved in and out of traffic, zipping effortlessly past the slower taxis and speeders around him. Even without his Force-guided piloting abilities, his personal customizations to the speeder gave it velocity and maneuverability features far superior to the average vehicle on Coruscant. In fact, he wasn't entirely sure whether all the modifications – especially the drives and the shifter – were even legal. Not that anyone could catch him to find out, of course.
He raced by a lumbering transport and whizzed toward home.
"Our wager did not in any way make light of the killing that was required," Anakin had explained. "Instead, it served as a necessary distraction from the terrible nature of what we were doing. Without such a distraction, the loss of life involved could have been overwhelming. By focusing on the wager, we were able to do our duty without losing our concentration on the moment. The wager was not a means of enjoying the battle; it was a means of tolerating an otherwise intolerable situation."
Mara had raised her eyebrows. "And you think we enjoyed the battle?"
"I didn't," Luke had glowered. "You know I didn't."
"I am confident you believe that to be the case," Obi-Wan had acknowledged. "But you must search your feelings for the truth. Do not be so certain that the motivations you assume guide your actions are in fact the true ones. Subconscious anger or hatred – or even lack of compassion – can quickly rise to become conscious desires if left unresolved. A Jedi Knight must have complete self-awareness."
From their visible flinches, it had been clear the pointed reference to the possibility of impending Trials had not been lost on the Padawans.
"Meditate on the battle," Anakin had instructed when the discussion finally had concluded a long time later, "until you have certainty about your own motivations and emotions. Then we will discuss this matter again."
"Yes, Master," Mara had nodded, but her green eyes had flickered with defiance.
"Understood, Master," Luke had agreed while his blue eyes had looked conspicuously at the tiled floor.
As the towering skyscraper that housed the residence came into view in the distance, it finally dawned on Anakin what was troubling him about the conversation.
Until now he and Obi-Wan always would play one apprentice off the other to teach lessons. They could be counted on to identify their respective flaws and point them out with considerable flair. But this evening they had not done so. They had defended themselves against their Masters rather than critiquing each other. This was without question the first time this had happened.
It was almost as if Luke and Mara had signed a truce. Or had reached a kind of understanding.
Anakin swerved the speeder into its docking station on the exterior of the building and slammed on the repulsors to bring it to a stop just short of the wall. The chrono on the console told him he had arrived with a few minutes to spare after all. He leaned back in the seat and ran his fingers several times through his short gray hair. Then he took a deep breath and blew it out slowly.
"If this continues," he said quietly to himself, "it's going to make things a lot more interesting."