by Argenteus Draco
Three days ago, Siri Tachi had cut her Padawan braid. At first she had reveled in her newfound freedom, but that had faded fairly quickly, and roughly seventy-two hours later Siri was still wandering the halls of the Jedi Temple without any real direction or purpose. She hadn't realized before how much she had come to rely on Adi Gallia to give her instruction, to keep her on the right path toward knighthood. She'd never considered what she would do when she reached that point; where she would go now that she was finally alone.
Once or twice, she'd considered asking her friends for advice, but that seemed too much like taking the easy way out. And besides, she already knew what they would tell her. Bant would suggest that Siri fill her days with busy work until the Council assigned her a mission. There were a number of places that an extra pair of hands was always appreciated, not least of which was the med ward.
On the converse, Obi-Wan would suggest quiet meditation. The Force would, eventually, offer her guidance. The problem was, she was not the kind of person who could sit around and wait. Now, if the Force were to point her toward something to do immediately, that was another thing entirely.
There was too much noise to mediate anyway. Siri suspected that it might be one of the youngling's birthdays. It seemed like ages since she'd had the time to do something as menial as celebrate a birthday. Without thinking, she walked toward the source of the sound.
It was indeed leading her toward one of the crèches. The Katarn Clan was fully immersed in celebration for a boy who appeared to be one of their senior members. Master Fay looked up when she spotted Siri standing the doorway, and offered the newly appointed Knight a wide smile as she waved her inside.
More than ten years had passed since Siri had last been in this room, but nothing had changed. The same paintings of pastoral scenes still hung on the walls, the same fountain splashed merrily in the center, and Siri was sure that if she turned off the lights, the same hologram stars would appear over the ceiling. She smiled in return; she'd missed this place.
The youngest of the children were the first to notice her, and they ran forward to investigate the new visitor. Siri ruffled the hair of a few, and offered around a handful of the cardellian mints she always kept in her pockets. Next thing she knew, a dozen little hands were gripping her sleeves and the hem of her tunic, pulling her toward the party.
The boy who was celebrating rose and bowed respectfully as she approached. Siri returned the gesture, though she couldn't help but feel that she was intruding on something. While the other children returned to the game they'd been playing, the boy sat solemnly on the fountain's edge and watched.
"I'm turning twelve, you know," he said suddenly. "Next year I won't get to celebrate with the clan."
Siri's first impressions of the boy were confirmed. Although he was the picture of youthful innocence – dark hair hanging into large brown eyes, slightly sunburnt cheeks, a soft smile – he was a serious figure. She also realized that his first impression of her was probably wrong.
"I'm not here to choose a Padawan, kid," she said. "I only just finished apprenticeship myself."
"Oh," the boy replied. "Then why are you here?"
Siri thought for a moment before she responded. "Honestly, I'm not sure. I suppose you could say the Force just led me here."
"Then how do you know you're not looking for a Padawan?"
Siri laughed. "I told you, I was only knighted three days ago."
The boy nodded slowly. "That makes sense. There were a lot of Masters around that day. Probably for your ceremony."
"See?" Siri chided gently. "I'll bet you have Masters lining up to teach you."
"I did." The boy's serious expression darkened even further, and he stared down at his folded hands. "I was the best in all my classes, and I only wanted the best teacher. Master Windu, Master Yoda… they must have known I was too proud. I learned my lesson, but… no one came back when I did."
Siri was reminded strongly of Obi-Wan. He had been proud and arrogant too when she'd met him, and she knew he had learned a similarly bitter lesson when he'd been seeking a Master. It was a shame that Obi-Wan already had an apprentice. She was sure he'd get along great with this boy, as opposed to Anakin, whose personality clashed so often with Obi-Wan's that it was a wonder to Siri they accomplished anything productive.
As soon as the thought occurred to her, she realized how silly it was. Obi-Wan and Anakin worked so well together because they had so much to teach each other. Obi-Wan had even joked with her on occasion, saying that if he could learn to handle Anakin's impulsive nature, he could come to understand her.
So perhaps if she was like Anakin and this boy was like Obi-Wan, then the suggestions that she was getting from the Force meant that maybe she had come to find a Padawan; she just hadn't known at the time.
Of course, she could not tell the boy yet. Politely excusing herself, she rose and bowed again. The boy did the same, and they locked gazes briefly as they both straightened again. Siri could read calm and acceptance in his eyes, and… hope? She did not dare to think that he knew, the same as she did, that they would be a team.
Three days ago, Siri Tachi had cut her Padawan braid.
And three days later, with the blessings of her former Master and the rest of the Council, she would dutifully sit beside Ferus Olin while he wove a thin lock of hair behind his right ear.