I don't own Star Wars. Pity. :)

Just before you start though, it's only fair to warn you that this is a work-in-progress. So unfortunately, there will be long breaks between updates. Ideas and suggestions will always be welcome though. :)


Chapter 1. Homecoming

Artoo Detoo swivelled on the hinges of its dome as it calculated the jump. Ordinarily, a point error would be negligible but not in this case. Traffic in the space lanes of the destination planet was tedious at best. An error might cause a collision of severe magnitude.

Co-ordinates confirmed, R2 initiated the count down on the nav computer. The lone pilot in the one-man vessel reached up for the hyperdrive switch without lifting his glance from the multi-coloured starlines that streaked past the viewscreen. At the zero count, he threw the switch. The starlines mottled and disappeared.

The vessel, though small, was cunningly built and it barely rocked as it made the jump. As it dropped into one of the outer lanes circling the planet, the pilot switched off the autopilot and took over the controls. He steered into the closer, smaller lanes as the vessel progressed on its course towards the city-planet.

With the busy traffic circling it like tiny worlds, the planet might have been a star in the centre of its own system. It certainly gleamed like one - white and silver, winking haughtily at the approaching craft. The analogy was not far off from reality. Coruscant was the centre of the known galaxy.

"The prodigal son returns..."

Anakin Skywalker barely glanced over his shoulder. He refused to dignify that comment with a reply.

Obi-Wan laughed softly over his Padawan's shoulder. "At least, you know better than to argue a lost case. You certainly did a good imitation of the opposite in Kartik."

"If you are trying to goad me, then you should choose a better argument. I settled the dispute in Kartik, in case you failed to notice."

"Oh, I'm not arguing that," Obi-Wan said calmly. "Only that it seemed to take an incredibly long time for a man of your skill to realize that he was going about a relatively simple assignment from an entirely wrong perspective." He grinned at the other man.

Anakin was silent. He steered into the lane closest to the planet's atmosphere and started keying in his flight code to Ground Control.

"It looked," continued Obi-Wan deliberately, "like if you were deliberately prolonging your assignment in order to avoid finishing in time to return to Coruscant. But perhaps, I was mistaken."

They were still awaiting a response from ground control. The astromech droid had switched off the propulsors and the vessel was merely orbiting the planet now.

The silence only lasted for a few minutes but it seemed to stretch indefinitely and petrify the air with acridity. When it was broken, its bitterness poured out of Anakin's mouth.

"So you believe I would have missed his Knighting deliberately?" he spat. "Have the years only served to lower your opinion of me?"

As soon as he spoke the words, he regretted them. It was an old, unresolved argument and it would bring neither of them pleasure or profit to resurrect it. And he was ashamed that he was still so vulnerable to this man that he would allow himself to be provoked this way.

Obi-Wan sighed deeply.

"I wasn't trying to goad you, Anakin," he said softly. The other man's face hardened. Oh, really, by now you should be a little used to it, Obi-Wan thought silently with some irritation. "My jokes never go down well with you, do they?"

Anakin's face softened marginally. "I don't mind all your jokes as much as I mind when you make them far too personal." But that's the problem, he could almost hear Obi-Wan say, you shouldn't be vulnerable to personal jokes because you shouldn't have any personal weaknesses.

R2 whistled. Anakin returned his attention to the console; ground control was feeding in their co-ordinates and an affirmation. A few seconds later they were pulling out of orbit and entering the glittering, artificial world of Coruscant. Anakin switched on the autopilot and the two men watched the swift approach of spires and domes. They were changing air traffic lanes very rapidly. Within a few seconds of entering the atmosphere, the silver spire of the Jedi Temple was already in sight.

"You have a lot of confidence in that droid, don't you?" Obi-Wan managed weakly as they cut sharply in front a large speeder.

Anakin did not smile. He had not for a very long time and perhaps his face muscles did not remember how they needed to move. But there was a twinkle in his eyes when he glanced at his former Master.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Master. I forgot you don't like to fly."

An open-cockpit speeder with an irate Dug cut in front of them. The Dug stalled his vehicle long enough to utter an expletive and zoomed away.

Anakin switched off the autopilot and took off after the speeder and the one-man vessel sewed a crazy tatoo in the morning sky. Obi-Wan resisted the urge to clench his fists and reminded himself that he, at least, really had nothing to worry about.

TBC