Title: For Better or Worse (sequel to Following Your Heart)
Genre/Rating: Romance/Adventure--- PG
Disclaimer: Of course, no infringement upon the rights of George Lucas are intended. This is just fan appreciation! Enjoy!
"Not again, Master!" Anakin Skywalker pleaded as he wiped the sweat dripping from his brow before it could trickle into his eyes.
"You'll do it until you get it right, Anakin," his master stated firmly.
The two Jedi set up for yet another training match. Anakin knew that handling a light saber was an area of weakness for him and that practice would only make him better. However, he doubted he would ever be as graceful and skilled with the ancient sword as was Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Ever since Obi-Wan's return from the planet Teemar two months before, he had been a merciless taskmaster to his teenage padawan. Countless saber matches, hours upon endless hours of meditation--- it was pure torture! Anakin was beginning to think his master had gone over to the dark side.
The two began their parry in typical fashion with Obi-Wan pointing out Anakin's few strengths and many weaknesses in the art of light saber dueling.
"Anakin, you're swinging too wide."
"Anakin, you're leading with the wrong foot."
"All right! All right!" the young man yelled as he stopped moving and powered down his saber. "I get the point! I'm no good with the saber. Geez! Give me a break!" Anakin turned away and mumbled under his breath. "No wonder you haven't heard from Sari. She probably doesn't want to have all of her flaws pointed out by a grumpy old nerfherder."
The minute the words were out of his mouth, Anakin could see the damage they had done by the pained look on Obi-Wan's face. The master stared off into space and shut down his saber.
"That's all for today. The rest of the afternoon is yours to do with as you please."
Anakin felt two inches tall.
"Obi-Wan, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to--"
"No," Obi-Wan cut him off. "You're right. I shouldn't be taking out my frustrations on you, padawan. It's an unfortunate situation that cannot be helped."
Obi-Wan turned and walked several feet away from Anakin. The boy couldn't help but notice how his master's demeanor had changed completely at the mention of Sari Zendar's name. The older man had not shared all of the details of his experience involving the teacher from Teemar, but Anakin knew that she had carved a very special place in Obi-Wan's heart..... and that his life without her was the cause of his unpleasant disposition of the last two months.
Obi-Wan lowered his head and sighed deeply as the thought of her entered his mind for the millionth time. Not a day went by that he didn't think of her and her beautiful smile. Despite his attempts at calming his emotions, that all too familiar lump in his throat swelled once again, and he had to get away from Anakin.
"Excuse me," he said, trying to avoid his padawan's eyes as he passed the boy on his way out of the exercise arena. "We'll meet later for meditation."
"Yeah, okay," Anakin conceded as he watched the retreating form of his master-- his friend. Seeing Obi-Wan like this broke Anakin's heart as well, for since he had left his mother, Obi-Wan had become his only family. Seeing the man's unhappiness lay heavily on the boy's mind.
"There's got to be something I can do for him," Anakin Skywalker determined. "If anyone deserves a little happiness, he does."
"Hmm? What? Oh, yes, I'm sorry! You were saying?"
Sari Zendar forced herself to focus on the young man behind the ticket monitor as he rattled off her travel options one more time. Her mind kept wanting to drift away to thoughts of what she had heard last night at the school. By chance, she had found out that Chairman Calder, the principal of the school she taught at, had been involved in the kidnapping of many of her non-human students in an effort to sell them into slavery. Along with the new knowledge that he was planning on getting rid of her, she had also uncovered a plot to assassinate Jedi knight Obi-Wan Kenobi. Driving her now was the motivation to somehow get to Coruscant and warn him of this plan.
"... and would be leaving in about twenty minutes at docking bay 94," the young man concluded.
"Sounds great. I'll take that one," Sari replied. She handed over her credits, took the ticket card from him and stashed it in her pocket. "And how do I get to docking bay 94 exactly?" she asked sheepishly.
The young man rolled his eyes in exasperation and pointed to his left. "It's all the way at the end of this corridor. You can't miss it."
Sari glanced in that direction. To her dismay, she couldn't even see the end of the corridor. Picking up her bags, she took off at a brisk pace pushing her way through the throngs of other travelers, unsure of how long it might take to find the right bay.
Once on board the transport and settled in her small seat, it didn't take Sari long to fall asleep. The past night had been spent packing and making arrangements to leave. She had thought about contacting her parents to let them know where she would be, but she didn't want to put them in any danger. She decided she would call them when things quieted down. She hadn't contacted the school either. It crushed her to leave the children behind, but right now, alerting Obi-Wan was first priority.
So many conflicting emotions had weaved their way in and out of her mind and heart over the past several hours. She had been ready to forget all about Obi-Wan Kenobi and the fact that they had been bonded together. The marriage had never been consummated anyhow, and Sari had never told anyone about it. However, in light of the recent events, Sari's insides were a total mess all over again.
//Will he be happy to see me? What will I say? How will I act?// The questions kept playing over and over and over. Sleep was her only respite from the confusion. The trip to Coruscant would give her plenty of time to rest. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The call summoning him to the council chamber took Obi-Wan Kenobi by surprise. He couldn't help but wonder if this request had anything to do with his keeping a low profile around the temple. Since his return from Teemar, he had not slacked off in his Jedi duties, but he was more distant to the other Jedi and tended to spend much more time by himself. He did feel a bit guilty about his treatment of Anakin and thought that this meeting might be related to his young charge. Anakin Skywalker was the 'chosen one', after all, and Obi-Wan's was a huge responsibility. However, no matter how hard he tried, his heart just wasn't allowing his mind to concentrate on much of anything except a short brunette with huge blue eyes.
He was ready for the reprimand.
Standing before the council door, he took a deep breath and absent-mindedly rubbed his chin in thought. His beard had grown back, and the short haircut he had gotten when with Sari was longer as well. A lot had changed in two months.
// I wonder if she's changed?// The thought had surfaced before he could stop it. He shook his head as if to empty out the thoughts of Sari, then took a deep breath before entering.
The twelve council members sat in their usual places with their usual serious scowls etched in stone on their faces. //They never seem to change,// he thought. //Do they even know how to smile?// Again memories of Sari smiling and laughing as she shared stories of her childhood crossed his mind.
"Come in, Obi-Wan," spoke Master Yoda. "Wish to speak with you we do."
The Jedi knight came all the way into the circular room and stood in the midst of the twelve council members. He was very aware of his own thoughts and knew the Jedi masters could easily read him if they so desired. Suddenly, he felt very vulnerable and hastily put up a Force block in his mind.
A slight raise of Yoda's eyes let Obi-Wan know the master realized what the younger man was doing, yet the ancient Jedi did not pry any further. Instead he quickly began speaking.
"Called you here to make a request, we have." The anticipation was building inside Obi-Wan, even though he knew that such an emotion was very un-Jedi-like.
"Two months ago you completed a mission on the planet Teemar." Obi-Wan turned his head to face Mace Windu who was now speaking. "You reported on the involvement of Gustaf Perrin in the attempted kidnapping of non-human children."
//Where was this going?// Obi wondered. He could feel his face crinkle into the typical Jedi frown of concentration as Mace continued.
"This man, Perrin, has finally been apprehended and is being extradicted here to Coruscant for further prosecution."
A slight flood of relief washed over Obi-Wan. Sari's students would be safer with this man out of circulation.
"What we request of you is your cooperation with the Coruscant authorities. They will be sending a legal prosecutor here to interview you in an effort to collect evidence against Perrin."
"Of course," Kenobi offered willingly. "Anything I can do." This wasn't so bad. He could handle this.
Yoda and Mace looked at each other, and unspoken words passed between them. Hesitantly, Yoda continued. "More complicated it is. We have word that Supreme Chancellor Palpatine has taken an interest in this case." The Jedi master paused before continuing. "A bad feeling I have about this, Obi-Wan. Be on your guard."
"Yes. Of course," Obi-Wan replied. An uneasy feeling began to creep into his body. For Yoda to feel the need to give him a warning certainly couldn't bode well for this situation. "Is that all, master?"
"Yes... for now. Talk about the rest later we will," Yoda added. Obi-Wan caught the hidden message and knew he would have to face the music eventually. He bowed courteously, then spun around and exited the chamber. As he walked back to his quarters, he got a sense of impending danger and change.... and also felt a familiar presence approaching, although still some distance away. He chuckled to himself.
"You're losing it, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Now you're imagining her presence. You've got to snap out of it."
A young female padawan passing him in the hall looked nervously as he continued to argue with himself. She quickly increased her pace and put as much distance as she could between herself and the strange Jedi still mumbling to himself behind her.
The tall, slender, blonde sat impatiently in the private office of the Supreme Chancellor. She could feel the gaze of the guards on her and had to stifle a chuckle. It was something she was used to. Everywhere she went, men of every species always stared admiringly at her. Her feminine attributes had served to escalate her position in life, and she wilingly used them at every opportunity. Men wanted her. Women wanted to be her. It was a burden she happily bore.
Now all of her hard work was coming to a head. She had been sought out by the Supreme Chancellor himself for a job she was sure would be her big break.
Purposely, she shifted her position in the chair and softly flipped her long locks over her shoulder with a shake of her head. Then she offered a flirtatious smile to the two guards standing outside of the Chancellor's door.
"Do you by chance have the time?"
Both men hastened clumsily to look at their chronos, wanting desperately to be the one to answer first. Again, Adara Lon stifled a laugh. These men were supposed to be the elite of the elite. They were trained to stand silent and unmoving for hours at a time, yet one glance from her and their training was thrown out of the window. She sighed. Power was intoxicating.
Just then, the Chancellor's door opened and there stood the most powerful man in the galaxy. The men tried to appear at attention, but he knew instantly that they had been distracted. They would be.... reprimanded later. He offered a smile to Adara and invited her into his office.
She stood to her full height, quite tall for a human female, straightened her tight-fitting dress, then walked past the guards offering a wink that left each of them thinking it had been just for him. Palpatine had to admit... she was good, which is exactly why he had chosen her for this job.
"Please sit down, Miss Lon," he offered as he pulled out a chair for her.
"Thank you, Chancellor."
He took a seat behind his large desk and paused before continuing. He studied her as she gazed around his office and took in all of its details. If he were a normal man, her beauty would render him helpless, he was sure. However, he was not just any man, and women offered little satisfaction for him. Ultimate power was his desire, and she would simply be one more tool to help him gain more control over the galaxy and all its people.
"I am sure you are wondering why I have summoned you here, Miss Lon," he began.
"Please, call me Adara," she interjected with another winning smile.
"Yes... Adara. I am in need of someone with your... abilities as a prosecutor."
"Anything for you, Chancellor," Adara replied as she leaned back in her seat. They were always in need of her 'abilities.'
The Chancellor went on to inform her of the case against Gustaf Perrin and his impending trial. Adara couldn't quite read the Chancellor's true feelings on the matter, so she kept listening intently for a clue.
"I want you to lead the prosecution against this man, Perrin. To do so, you will have to work closely with Obi-Wan Kenobi, a Jedi knight who was involved in the downfall of the accused." He paused.
"I can do that, sir. However...," she leaned forward, "... why do I get the feeling there's more to this than you're telling me?"
Palpatine was shocked by her aggressiveness, yet he couln't help but admire her boldness. If she were a man or any other woman, her blatant assertions might have earned her a quick dismissal. He chuckled, and Adara thought it sounded like an evil cackle. A chill ran up her spine.
"You do not disappoint, Adara," he said. He had carefully researched her background and knew she was very ambitious, stopping at nothing to further her own purposes. Just his type. "I am trusting you with this case because it is of utmost importance to me. If you fail me, you'll be finished... and I don't just mean your career. Do you understand?"
The cards were on the table. There was no turning back.
She nodded her head in agreement. "Yes. I understand completely."
Supreme Chancellor Palpatine then proceeded to reveal his true purpose for her assignment.
A bit shaken after their meeting, she quickly recovered and offered one last flirtatious grin to the two guards as they held the doors open for her on her way out. For the first time, Adara was a bit frightened by a man. Palpatine's plan both invigorated her and scared her to death all at the same time. As long as she could stay on his good side, she would have no worries. It was the fear of failing him that left her uneasy.