Author's Note: This fic is inspired by the slightly-off timelines in the Jedi Quest and Last of the Jedi series. Since Ferus is supposed to be about 12 when he begins his Padawan training, and Siri Tachi, who will become his Master, is still a Padawan herself at that time, I came up with this scenario.
by Argenteus Draco
Siri was used to finding her apprentice awake long before she was. She would hear Ferus moving through the apartment, and was generally glad that he kept himself busy with quiet tasks while she dozed: showering, watering the small plants they kept in the sitting room, setting out breakfast for the two of them. It was an easy routine, and a good way to begin a peaceful day.
That was why she knew something was wrong when she awoke that morning to complete silence. Slowly extricating herself from her blankets, she reached out through the bond she shared with her Padawan. Ferus, it seemed, was lost in his own thoughts, and not responding to her. She sighed quietly as she began dressing herself. Almost four years now she'd been Ferus' master. She knew what these days were like.
Just as she'd suspected, her Padawan was standing near the one large window in their sitting room. His back was to her, but she could tell by his stance how tense he was, and she could make a good guess as to the pained expression that would be written over his face. He did not appear to have noticed her; he was too preoccupied with watching the ships come and go off the landing pad. Siri sometimes passed the time this same way. She liked to analyze the other pilots, the little dips and turns they made that turned such a simple task as flying into an art form. She also knew, however, that Ferus never watched them for the same reasons she did.
"Padawan?" She crossed the room so she was standing behind him, though this still elicited no response. She put a hand on his shoulder; his gaze did not leave the path of the fighter that had just taken off. "Ferus?"
"I dreamed about it again."
She did not need to ask what "it" was. There was only one reason for Ferus to be watching the landing pad, and she'd never been quite sure how to broach the exact topic with him, so she tended to just avoid it altogether when she could. His continued silence, however, told her that if she wanted to draw out any more of a reaction from him, she'd need to push her luck a little. "The same dream?" she asked quietly.
He nodded. She waited, giving him a chance to elaborate, before trying again. "Did you... ah, see him this time?"
She'd gone too far and she knew it. He turned to face her, jerking away from her hand as he did so. "No," he said, feigning indifference. "It's fine, Master. Can I help you with anything before I go to class?"
She could feel him consciously closing off their bond, attempting to block the powerful emotions he was still trying to reign in. She sighed again. "No. I'll make you some tea before you go."
He disappeared into his room, presumably to change and to collect whatever datapads he'd need for the morning. As she boiled the water and pulled packets of tea leaves down from the shelves, Siri probed at the reopening bond. He was still blocking his emotions from her, no doubt trying to bury them under the persona he thought he had to live up to. She did not think it was the smartest action he could take, but then again, if that was how he dealt with his grief--
By the time he took the steaming cup out of her hand, he appeared to be back to his usual self. Still, Siri could tell it was a façade.
The residents of the Kenobi-Skywalker apartment, it seemed, were much later risers even than Siri. When she knocked on their door, the first thing she heard was the sound of something being dropped, and then an exasperated, "Master, someone's at the door for you."
"How do you know it's for me, Padawan?"
Siri could just picture the glare Anakin would be giving Obi-Wan. "Because all my friends know better than to come looking for me at this hour."
There was a rather drawn out sigh, and then the door slid open to revel a still bleary eyed Obi-Wan. "Siri," he said, blinking at her. "To what do we owe the pleasure of this early visit?"
She used the time that it took to step over the threshold and shut the door again to appropriately phrase her request. "I need your council, Obi-Wan."
"Now?" he asked, sinking down onto one of the couches and indicating for Siri to take the place next to him.
"It's important," she insisted. "It's about Ferus."
Anakin suddenly poked his head into the room, looking much more awake and alert than he'd sounded a minute ago. This did not escape Obi-Wan's notice either, so what he told Siri was very simply, "I'm busy this morning; I promised Anakin I'd show him some new katas. Why don't you come by later, after lunch." He gave her one of his silly, slightly lopsided grins. "I should be a bit more awake by then."
"Alright." Siri was glad for her friend's quick thinking; it would give her time to gather her thoughts as well. "I'll come back around 1300."
Obi-Wan nodded. She got up to leave. The last thing she heard before the door slid shut behind her was Anakin whining from the kitchen that he'd be in class by then, and Obi-Wan's quiet response that that was the point.
The first thing Obi-Wan did when they reached the training salle was to roll out some of the softer mats. Anakin liked to insist that he didn't need them, but Obi-Wan knew his accident-prone apprentice too well to listen.
"We're going to work on a partner kata today," Obi-Wan told him, straightening up again and facing Anakin. "It's very important that you realize that we are not opponents here."
"Right," Anakin replied impatiently. "Partners. Like a dance. Can we start now?"
Obi-Wan eyed his apprentice. "I mean it, Anakin. We can't just go through the motions here. This is--"
"--about trust," Anakin finished. He'd already heard this speech several times. "I get it. Now can we try it, please?"
Obi-Wan shook his head, but a small smile still tugged at the corners of his mouth as he motioned his Padawan forward. Anakin stood in front of him, hands at his sides. They bowed to each other.
He walked Anakin through the moves one at a time, gradually adding speed as they went. First was a series of punches and blocks, which Anakin performed extremely well. They added the kicks, and Obi-Wan had to pause to correct a few of Anakin's stances. He could sense his Padawan's mounting frustration with what he viewed as beginner moves.
"Come on, Master," Anakin complained as Obi-Wan adjusted the height of one of his blocks. "I've known how to do this since I was five."
"Yes, but that doesn't mean you learned proper techniques, Padawan." Obi-Wan settled back into the ready stance. "Let's go from the beginning."
They went through the sequence again, this time including footwork exercises that carried them back and forth across the room as they exchanged strikes. When they could finally move seamlessly through the first two phases, Obi-Wan approached his Padawan and prepared to teach the third.
"Easy, Anakin," he said, allowing the boy to grip his shoulder and forearm so that he could throw Obi-Wan over his hip. Normally, this sort of move would not be practical against someone of substantial height and weight difference, but as this was for demonstration purposes, Obi-Wan followed the push that Anakin gave him, falling onto the mat and rolling gracefully back to his knees. They did this three times, and when Obi-Wan was satisfied that Anakin had the movement down, he moved on to the second throw.
This one involved Anakin going headfirst over Obi-Wan's shoulder. As soon as he put his hand on Anakin's back, he felt the muscles underneath them tense. He looked very seriously up into his apprentice's blue eyes.
"You need to trust me, Padawan." He put a bit more pressure on Anakin's back, and started to pull his arm forward. "Now, tuck your chin down..."
Anakin began the fall perfectly. Then Obi-Wan felt a flash of panic echo across their mental link, and before he could respond Anakin had pulled his arm out of his master's grasp and twisted away to land improperly on his shoulder. Obi-Wan was now very glad he'd laid the mats out; even with the cushioning, he heard a sickening crack and felt the sting of Anakin's pain.
"You did not trust me," he said, as he helped Anakin into a sitting position. He was going to continue, but whatever other reprimands he'd had in mind died on his tongue when he saw that Anakin was biting back tears.
"Come on, Padawan." He pulled Anakin gently to his feet. "Let's get you to the healers."
Anakin could not remember ever being in so much pain. Each step he took jarred the bones on his right side, and now Bant was poking and prodding at the area he'd impacted. Even trying to be gentle, her touch sent sparks of pain shooting along his nerves. He grimaced, trying to block it out.
"It's the clavicle," she finally announced. "Clean break, straight and simple."
"Is that good or bad?" Obi-Wan asked.
"He'll live." Bant opened a drawer and pulled out a small jar and a length of cloth. "But there isn't much I can do to speed the healing."
"But broken bones take months to heal on their own," Anakin complained. "What am I supposed to do if I can't use my arm."
"Work on your studies?" Bant suggested. She showed Anakin the salve in the jar. "This is a bacta-infused numbing cream. It will help with the pain." Gentle motions spread the salve over his shoulder, and a cool, tingling sensation settled over the area. He almost felt like smiling until Bant jerked his collar bone again, sending shock waves coursing through his body.
"Sorry," she said, holding the bone steady with one hand and beginning to wrap the cloth with the other. "I had to reset it. This will hold it while it heals." She finished securing the sling, and stepped back so she could fix him with the sort of Masterly stare he only expected to see from Obi-Wan. "Six weeks. Come back and see me then."
Anakin looked pouty at the idea of not being able to practice for so long. In fact, he looked dangerously close to one of his infamous moods, so Obi-Wan thought it wise to intervene before he became too melodramatic. "Don't look so down, Padawan," he told him. "I'll make it up to you. We can go out to Dex's tonight, provided you promise you'll eat something healthy for lunch."
Anakin looked marginally happier at the idea of food, and left the med-ward in reasonably good spirits. As soon as he was out of earshot, Obi-Wan turned to Bant.
"So tell me," he said, glancing sidelong at his friend, "why aren't you knitting the bone back together?"
"I'm getting tired of seeing you and Skywalker up here every other week," Bant replied, a twinkle in her dark eyes. "Maybe this will finally teach him to be more careful."
Obi-Wan chuckled. "A noble effort, my friend, but I doubt it."
When Obi-Wan returned to his apartment, he was slightly surprised to find someone inside, sitting on the couch and looking rather anxious.
"Door was open," Siri said when he entered. "I figured you were just in the 'fresher or something, so I came in. What happened? I've been waiting for a half-hour."
"Must have forgotten to lock up," Obi-Wan replied, feeling slightly flustered. "I'm sorry, Siri. Between your surprise visit and some... medical training I didn't plan on, it's been a rather trying morning."
She cocked an eyebrow at him, and he explained how his training session with Anakin had turned into a visit to Bant. He could tell she was suppressing laughter, which vaguely annoyed him, so he hastened to change the subject. "What was it you wanted to talk about?"
Siri's expression changed instantly. "It's... do you remember Master V'Mar?"
"Yes," Obi-Wan replied slowly. "I think he was one of my philosophy teachers. A little odd, if I recall correctly. Dyed his hair sort of blueish."
Siri nodded. "He was also Ferus' Master before he died."
"Ah." Obi-Wan leaned back against the couch. "I'd almost forgotten that you were his second teacher. You work so well together, it's hard to picture either of you with anyone else."
"Yeah, well..." Siri stumbled over her words, trying to pick the right ones. "I think he's still... grieving." She looked over at her friend. "Is that normal, after so much time has passed?"
Obi-Wan thought for a moment. "I think so."
They sat in a slightly tense silence after that, during which Siri decided whether or not she aught to push ahead with her next question. "Obi-Wan," she finally ventured, "how long after Qui-Gon died did you stop thinking about it?"
"Never." He gave Siri a small smile before directing his gaze out the window. "I'm sorry, I know that isn't the response you wanted to hear, but it's true. I think about Qui-Gon every day. What I've had to learn is how to think about his life without thinking about his death; I have to, if I'm going to be as good a teacher to Anakin as Qui-Gon was to me."
There was another long silence, more comfortable this time, before Obi-Wan prompted, "What brought this on, if I may ask?"
"He told me he dreamed about it again this morning." Siri let out an exasperated sigh. "He blocks me out when he's thinking about that. And I can't help him if he won't let me in. I don't like feeling like I can't talk to my own apprentice."
"It's not easy," Obi-Wan replied solemnly. "Believe me, I know. But if Anakin and I can work through these sorts of things, I'm sure you and Ferus will be able to as well."
Ferus was very tempted to laugh when he noticed Anakin in the hallway, his right arm bound up in a sling. It had been a very serious and altogether difficult morning for him, and seeing Skywalker's latest injury was so normal and mundane, it made him smile. Anakin, of course, scowled in return; Ferus caught the briefest glimpse of it before they passed each other, Anakin going to the academic halls and Ferus heading for the Room of a Thousand Fountains.
It wasn't uncommon for Ferus to take the hour or so in between his classes and his combat training for meditation, but he did not often go anywhere except his room. A quick brush of his senses around the area told him that Siri was there, waiting for him. As much as he didn't want to offend his Master, or make her feel like he was avoiding her, he didn't much feel like talking to Siri either.
He needed to clear his mind. All day he'd been thinking about Master V'Mar, remembering the last mission they'd taken together. He knew it was not appropriate to dwell on such things. The Jedi Code advocated living in the moment, not the past.
But this... this wasn't a memory he could just shake off.
Ferus tucked himself into a corner behind one of the waterfalls. He did not know how long he stayed there. First he tried to think about the Code, which usually brought him some semblance of peace. When that didn't work, he tried emptying himself of all thought, loosing himself to the Force, but that did not bring much comfort either. He realized that some part of him did not want to release the emotions that surrounded his memories of V'Mar, despite the pain they caused him.
He must have fallen asleep at some point, because when he became aware of a voice speaking to him he also realized that it was growing dark, the artificial lights inside mimicking the movement of the sun. He blinked wearily, trying to orient himself and catch the end of what the speaker was saying.
"...found a good hiding spot. Mind if I join you?"
Ferus didn't respond, but he did slide over enough for another person to sit with him on the ledge. A moment later, he was able to identify the shadowy form moving on the other side of the water as Master Kenobi. He kept his eyes averted as the older Jedi sat down, the edges of his tunic getting damp from the spray.
"Siri is looking for you."
"I know." Although he was still keeping most of his emotions hidden from his master, he could feel her concern as strongly as if it were his own. He waited for some sort of reprimand, and when it didn't come, he bit out a rather sharp, "Well?"
"Aren't you going to lecture me?" Ferus asked. "Tell me that everything will fade with time and that I should just forget it already?"
"Of course not," Obi-Wan replied calmly. "I would never expect you to forget Master V'Mar. If I thought people had really expected me to forget Qui-Gon--" he broke off suddenly, and Ferus got the impression that he hadn't actually intended to let that thought run as far as it had. He sighed. "I know you may think Siri doesn't understand, but I do."
"Did she ask you to say that?"
To Ferus' surprise, Obi-Wan actually laughed. "She may have. Actually, I think the exact phrase was 'impart some wisdom.' You know how articulate she can be."
Very fortunately, Obi-Wan seemed to realize that his jokes were not having their desired effect. He put a hand on Ferus' shoulder, and continued much more soberly, "Look, I won't make you talk about it. That's got to happen on your own terms, without someone pushing you into it."
"I don't want to talk about." Ferus felt a sob begin to choke his throat and, ashamed, he looked away again.
"You don't want to talk now," Obi-Wan replied evenly. "I can understand that. Just know that, when you decide you're ready, my door is always open." He started to leave. Then, with a very slight smirk on his lips, he looked back over his shoulder, and added, "Oh, and if Siri asks, you and I had a very deep, meaningful conversation."
Two weeks into the six that he was supposed to rest, Anakin was more than bored. He made it another three days before he had to go and see Bant again. She gave him a rather lengthy lecture on responsibility (apparently, even practicing with his left arm could damage his bones while they mended), checked his shoulder, and sent him back to his room with a tighter sling and more of the numbing cream.
He found Ferus outside the apartment door, apparently hesitating over whether or not to knock. The older boy started when he heard Anakin approach, but, to his credit, he recovered well. "What are you doing?" he asked, using a tone that made Anakin bristle.
"I live here," he replied icily. "What are you hanging around here for?"
"Don't you have class during the afternoon?" Ferus asked.
"Don't you have practice?" Anakin spat back. "And you didn't answer my question."
Ferus hesitated a second, then said simply, "I was looking for Master Kenobi."
Anakin tried to cross his arms over his chest, but the gesture lost some of it's effectiveness due to the sling. He scowled instead. "Obi-Wan's supposed to be meeting with the Council. I don't think he's back yet."
For a very brief moment, Anakin thought he saw disappointment flash across Ferus' face. "Oh," he said. "Well, I guess just let him know I stopped by." He started to turn away, eyes cast down toward the floor, and rounded the corner right into Obi-Wan.
"Easy, Padawan." Obi-Wan put his hands on Ferus' shoulders to steady him before he fell. He caught Anakin's eye as well, then said, "Get your things together. We have a mission."
Anakin gave an excited Whoop! and just barely restrained from punching his good hand into the air before he remembered how that would pull on his right side. Momentarily forgetting that Ferus was still standing there, he entered the passcode and bounded into the apartment, dropped the things he didn't need on his sleep-couch, and started shoving his travel gear into the various compartments on his belt. He was only half listening to the conversation going on in the sitting room, but was reasonably sure he could make out the gist of it.
"Master Kenobi," Ferus started, sounding unusually uncomfortable, "I was hoping I could speak with you--"
"I'm afraid it's going to have to wait just a little while longer, Ferus. We need to be on the loading dock in twenty minutes if we're going to make the next transport. Go on; Anakin and I won't be far behind you. Siri is supposed to meet us in the hanger."
He heard footsteps leaving, the door sliding shut, and then Obi-Wan going to gather his own equipment. Anakin finished his preparations and followed him. "So what did Olin want?"
"Nothing you need to concern yourself with, my very young apprentice," Obi-Wan replied. He tossed Anakin an extra tunic out of the closet. "Fold that for me, would you?"
Anakin dutifully obeyed, and commented idly, "This is something to do with Master Siri, isn't it? That's why she's been here so often lately."
Obi-Wan looked up and gave Anakin a joking, good-natured smile. "I should never have taught you to be so observant."
"Yeah, well, now you're stuck with it." He tossed the tunic back to Obi-Wan, using the Force to hold it's shape. "So what's going on that I'm not being told about?"
His master merely threw a pair of leggings at him in response. Anakin rolled his eyes. "Alright, point taken. Will you at least tell me about the mission?"
"Strictly diplomatic. I would tell you not to even bring your saber--"
"But that would be hypocritical to everything you've ever taught me," Anakin finished with a grin. He levitated the leggings back as well, and watched Obi-Wan toss a final few items into a shoulder pack. "Are we ready?"
Obi-Wan looked at him with a curious expression. "That's it?" he asked. "No more questions? You're giving up your query far too easily."
Anakin shrugged with his good shoulder. "At this point, Master, I don't care much. I just want to get outside the Temple for a while."
Siri was waiting for them in the hanger as promised, looking over one of the new courier ships that had been delivered for flight tests. Anakin, personally, could not wait to get inside one. They were reported to be the smoothest handling ships of their kind, featured state of the art communications and navigational systems, and were capable of hyperspace travel without the aide of a separate ring. "Please tell me we are taking those to Noixxarb," he said longingly.
"I wish," Siri replied. "But these ships are only equipped to handle two people, and we're a team of four."
"So we'll take two. Me and Obi-Wan, and you and Ferus."
"Just a moment, Padawan," Obi-Wan interjected. "First off, much as that sounds like a lovely plan, I think you're forgetting something." He glanced meaningfully at Anakin's sling. "Despite popular rumor, you can't actually pilot with one hand tied behind your back."
"In front," Anakin corrected. "And I can co-pilot easy enough."
"And secondly, I'm not flying a ship I barely know how to control halfway across the galaxy. And I'd appreciate if you did not interrupt me in the future, Padawan."
Anakin made a face, and for a moment looked like he might back down. Then a new thought occurred to him. "Well, since I can't pilot and you refuse to, how about you go with Master Siri, and Ferus and I can follow you."
Since he was watching Obi-Wan for some sign that he might agree to this compromise, Anakin missed the fact that Ferus turned momentarily pale. He did, however, notice the worried look that Siri threw in Obi-Wan's direction, and the pensive look that crossed Obi-Wan's face. Finally, he said, "You know, I think that might be a good idea for both of you."
Ferus made a slight strangling noise behind him, which might have bothered Anakin more if he hadn't been so confused by Siri's reaction. "Kenobi," she said briskly, "Could I talk to you for a moment?"
Obi-Wan allowed her to pull him behind one of the ships, and motioned at Anakin and Ferus to begin loading their things. Anakin did so half-distractedly, trying to make out the exchange between the two Masters. He could only catch bits of the whispers though.
"Do you have any idea what you're asking him to do?"
"He can't hide from it forever."
"He's not ready."
"He was ready to talk earlier."
"I thought you talked to him weeks ago!"
Anakin accidentally knocked his head on a ceiling which was slightly lower than he'd thought, and missed the end of whatever they'd been saying. He thought about it for another brief moment, but since he was now even more confused than he had been, he gave it up for the time being, and resolved to confront Ferus about it directly while they traveled.
The pairs confirmed their rendezvous coordinates, and then Anakin turned his attention back to pre-flight preparations. He watched Obi-Wan and Siri take off, admiring Siri's skillful command of speed and maneuverability. Then he turned back to Ferus, and stared.
"What are you doing?" he asked, even though the direct response was rather obvious. The older boy was sitting stone still in the pilot's seat, except for his hands, which were shaking. His eyes were a bit glazed, as though focused on something Anakin couldn't see. "Hello," he drawled, snapping his fingers in front of Ferus' face. "Ground control to Olin. You in there?"
Ferus shook his head and blinked a few times. He glanced down at the controls, then out the viewport again.
"Let's go," Anakin said impatiently. "Siri and Obi-Wan just left. What are you waiting for?"
"I..." Ferus trailed off. His next question caught Anakin completely off guard. "Have you ever crashed before, Anakin?"
"Sure," he said, wondering what this had to do with anything. "Loads of times, when I used to pod race."
"I'm not talking about that," Ferus replied. "When you crash a pod, most of the time it just breaks apart, and you get a few bruises and scratches and maybe a scolding from whoever has to pay to fix it." He paused and swallowed heavily. "Crash something like this, and you're lucky if you miss the engines and escape without an explosion."
Anakin felt his jaw slowly falling open, and was glad that Ferus wasn't looking at him. It occurred to him that maybe this was what Ferus had hoped to talk to Obi-Wan about, though that only answered one of his myriad questions, and it created even more. "Have you ever crashed?" he asked slowly.
"Yes." Ferus was staring straight ahead again, and his voice had taken on a flat, even tone. "I was almost thirteen. Master V'Mar -- he was my Master before Siri took me, I don't know if you knew him -- he let me pilot as we were landing. I was... over confident. I didn't expect for the atmosphere to be so unpredictable on that planet. I came in too steep, and then I tried to pull up too hard. I lost control, and we hit one of the cliffs." He sighed. "I don't remember much very clearly after that. Just fire, and noise. I wanted to get away from it as fast as I could."
"Well that's normal, isn't it?" Anakin asked. "Or am I missing some important detail."
Ferus was silent a long moment. Then, staring down at his hands, he said, "Master V'Mar died in that crash."
For the first time in a long time, Anakin was completely lost for words, and he knew his mouth was hanging open in that stupid looking 'o' shape again. It took him a while to realize that Ferus was still speaking, partially because he was still processing information, and partially due to the fact that the other boy's words were now barely more than a whisper.
"I haven't been able to even think about piloting since. I know it's stupid, and Siri's done everything she can to try and help me; I'm pretty sure she took me as a Padawan because she knew I was afraid to fly, and she loves it so much."
"But I've seen you fly," Anakin said, still not fully comprehending.
Ferus shook his head. "You've seen me co-pilot. You've never seen me have to be in charge. That's what I'm afraid of. I don't want to screw up again... kill anyone else."
"I guess I can see where that would kind of loom over you." Anakin franticly searched his mind for something deep and reassuring to say, but, finding nothing, continued, "But it wasn't as though you intended to kill him or anything. I mean, if you had intentionally murdered him... Well, I'd feel pretty awkward about being on a ship with you at the controls." He tried a grin, but it quickly melted into a more apprehensive expression. "Sorry," he finally said. "I know I'm not very good at this whole 'comforting words' bit."
Ferus snorted. "No, you're not," he spat out bitterly. "You have no idea--"
"You think I don't miss Master Jinn too?" Now it was Ferus' turn to stare, and Anakin gave him another strained smile. "Thought didn't occur to you, did it Olin?"
"No..." Ferus directed his gaze back down to the controls. There was a long, drawn out silence, and then the older boy muttered a rather indistinct. "It doesn't matter."
"Nothing." He started entering coordinates and warming up the engines, leaving Anakin to scramble to catch up with his own responsibilities. "Let's go."
The engines roared to life, the courier hummed as it idled, the wind rushed by them as they finally sped out of the hanger, and Anakin redirected his focus to these sensations, because that was a lot easier for him than trying to sort out his thoughts.
They did not speak again until they were safely in hyperspace. Anakin, as though he had completely forgotten their earlier conversation, leaned back in his chair and folded his good hand behind his head. "See?" he ventured, "Piece of cake."
"It's the landing I'm worried about." But even Ferus could not deny that some of the tension had been drained out of him, and it felt good to finally release it. After a while he even felt good enough to look over at Anakin (who was blatantly avoiding eye contact and attempting to feign indifference by staring at the ceiling) and tell him, "Thank you."
Anakin glanced at him and arched an eyebrow.
"Oh." Anakin looked up again, paused, and then said, "I never talked about Master Jinn much either, except with Obi-Wan, and then it was always 'Qui-Gon taught this,' or 'Qui-Gon favored the Living Force.' I mean, I know I didn't know him all that long, but he was important to me. I missed him too."
Having no answer to that revelation, Ferus allowed the conversation to fade into a long silence again. He thought that Anakin might have fallen asleep until he heard the younger boy murmur, "We're not all that different, are we, Ferus?"
"No, I don't think so."
"Except that I'm the Chosen One."
The response was so easy, so nonchalant, that at first Ferus thought he'd heard it incorrectly. One look at Anakin's face, however, told him that his companion was being completely serious. "And what difference does that make, exactly?"
Anakin shrugged again. "Dunno."
"You don't think before you speak, do you, Skywalker?"
"Nope." Anakin gave Ferus a lopsided grin. "Takes way too much time."
Ferus sighed. "And that, Anakin, is the difference between us. You think about nothing, and I overthink everything." Then, after a brief pause, he added, "I wonder if that's why I have so much trouble flying."
"Ease up on the throttle. You're pushing the engines."
"Shut up, Skywalker."
"And watch your course, you're starting to drift."
"Shut up, Skywalker."
"Pressure's not adjusted--"
"Skywalker. For the last time. Shut. Up."
Anakin rolled his eyes. "Relax, Olin. I'm just trying to help."
There was a long, tense moment, during which the planet they were approaching started to come into view. Greens, blues, and even a bit of purple were visible in the atmosphere. If he'd been in a different seat, Ferus thought he might have appreciated the scene a bit more.
"It looks so peaceful," Anakin said after a minute, and Ferus wanted to growl with frustration at his even tone.
"Of all times for you to be calm, it has to be now, doesn't it, Skywalker?"
"Yup," Anakin replied. "Nothing's wrong, so I'm not worrying yet."
As soon as the words had left his mouth, a light started blinking insistently over Anakin's head. "What's that?" Ferus asked.
Anakin shrugged, and Ferus felt a good deal of color drain from his face. "I thought you knew about these ships?"
"I know as much as anyone," Anakin responded. "These are still being tested. No one knows everything about them."
Ferus turned, if possible, even paler. "Try to raise Siri and Obi-Wan on the comm."
Anakin fiddled with the controls. There was some static, but no response. "They might still be in hyperspace," he speculated, "or they could have landed already."
"Perfect," Ferus muttered. "Check the other channels. See if you can find anyone--"
"Forget it." Anakin reached across Ferus and flicked a switch. "In case you've forgotten, there's a planet approaching."
Ferus considered swatting Anakin's hand away, but decided against it. Instead, he took the moment to draw in a deep breath, and reset his hands on the controls. "Alright. Keep an eye on the trajectory. I'll just... try to keep us steady."
Another light went off, this one accompanied by a blank, buzzing siren. Ferus' knuckles turned white over the throttle.
"Relax," Anakin said again. "Nothing's wrong yet."
The courier suddenly gave a violent shudder. Ferus glared at Anakin. "Nothing's wrong?" he repeated sarcastically.
"We're reentering atmosphere," Anakin replied. "That's normal." He paused. "I think."
"Normal. Right." It took all of Ferus' will not to reach over and smack Anakin. "So how do we go back to the normal we had before?"
"Um, land the ship?" Anakin suggested.
The courier lurched again, and Ferus jerked forward in his seat enough to hit his chest against the control panel and knock the wind from his lungs. It took another moment for him to center himself, and by that point, he was aware that the temperature was climbing rapidly.
"And you might want to put up the heat shields," Anakin added, voice still far too calm for Ferus' tastes.
"One thing at a time." Ferus pushed the necessary buttons, but still kept an eye on the thermal gauge over the next few minutes. "It's going down," he finally muttered, and returned his gaze to the viewport. "Why hasn't that buzzing stopped?"
"No idea." There was a brief pause, then, "Hey, Ferus, what were the coordinates of our landing pad again?"
"Point-five-two-six by point-zero-eight-four," Ferus replied. "Why?"
"We're off. And I don't think we have enough time to re-calibrate the computer. You'll have to go in on manual."
This time, Ferus did hit his co-pilot, earning an indignant huff in response. "You're not helping, you know," Anakin muttered ruefully.
"Neither are you." Ferus started punching more buttons. "Switching off autopilot."
Anakin gave the usual repeated response and continued talking, but Ferus refused to listen anymore. His focus had narrowed down to the control panel, memories of the hours he'd spent training in flight simulators, and the ground that was now looming up to meet them. He heard what he thought was Master Siri's voice over the comm. unit, but didn't respond to that either.
Methodically, he opened each of the landing flaps. They slowed considerably; too quickly for him to respond in time for the soft touch down he'd intended. He jerked the controls to the left, and they narrowly avoided landing in one of the lakes. Nose first, the ship bumped into one of the rolling hills. A few of the electronics were crackling a bit, crash foam was beginning to hiss out of its pressurized containers, and Anakin gave a little 'oof' next to him, but other than that, the period following the landing was silent. Even the siren had stopped. Ferus let out a long, slow breath.
"Good job," Anakin told him, releasing his seat restraint and opening the landing ramp.
Ferus was still a bit too dazed to really take in the compliment. "We didn't crash," he said, voice wavering slightly.
"Yeah," Anakin said. "So, you know, we can get off now."
Ferus blinked a few times before he finally released his own restraint and followed Anakin outside. Aside from some smoke and some scorch marks on the hull, nothing appeared wrong. It was almost unbelievable, and Ferus nearly sank to his knees with relief.
Siri's voice finally cut through his thoughts, and he looked up to find her and Obi-Wan racing toward them. "We saw you two come down from the landing pad," she explained when she'd reached them. "Is everything alright?"
Ferus could only nod silently, so it was Anakin who answered, "Fine, Masters. We just had a few technical difficulties."
"Technical difficulties?" Obi-Wan repeated, eyeing the ship. "Looks like you had a bit of a rough landing."
"With all due respect, Masters," (Ferus had finally managed to find his voice) "I'd really rather not talk about it right now."
Siri's gaze darted a few times between the ship and her apprentice before she finally said, "Fair enough. Come on; our guide is taking us out to the city."
Ferus allowed himself to be lead along by Siri's firm grip on his shoulder. By the time they reached the docking bay where they were supposed to have come down, there was a smile spreading across his face.
The negotiations went smoothly, the two political parties finally reaching an agreement after a week and a half of bargaining. When they weren't in the capital, the Master and Padawan pairs traveled around the surrounding countryside, completing whatever small training exercises they could think of.
They were heading out of the city for what Anakin assumed was another meditation session when Obi-Wan suddenly turned the speeder off it's course and out toward the area where their ship still lay. "What are we doing, Master?" he asked as they approached.
"I did a bit of poking around out here the other day," Obi-Wan explained, setting the craft down lightly a few meters from the courier. "I checked the ship's computer log to find your 'technical difficulties.' I was curious, since Siri and I didn't experience any problems. Turns out a simple pass code would have turned off those warning lights."
Anakin hopped out and kicked a nearby rock down the hill. "Really?" he asked, trying to sound disinterested.
"Yes." Obi-Wan's voice was steady, his expression unreadable. "I could only think of one reason why someone would program a pass code into the warning lights, so I tried a few likely possibilities. Want a take a guess at what the code was?"
Anakin shrugged in response.
"Tatooine." Obi-Wan watched his apprentice's face carefully for any change in expression, but Anakin was blatantly avoiding eye contact. "I don't suppose that was your handy work, was it, Padawan?"
Sullenly, Anakin kicked another stone and watched it roll away. "I thought, you know, it might help him get over everything. I wasn't trying to traumatize him or anything, if that's what you think."
They sat in what Obi-Wan had hoped would be a companionable silence, but Anakin kept fidgeting nervously. Finally, he looked up again, and asked, "You're not going to tell him, are you? 'Cause he might be pretty mad, and it's not that I'm afraid of Ferus, but..." he chewed his lip and looked at his boots again, "Master Siri might kill me if she thought I'd done anything to endanger her Padawan."
Obi-Wan, who had been on the receiving end of Siri's wrath more than enough times to understand, chuckled a bit at Anakin's fear. "No, Padawan," he said, "I think we can keep this between us. Now," he stood, and offered Anakin a hand up as he did so, "if you're feeling up to it, what do you say to trying that kata again?"
Ferus woke up early the day they were to return to Coruscant. At his request, they were taking a general transport back to the Temple; the couriers would be picked up and flown back to the research facility by the developers, so that they could find and correct whatever computer glitch had messed up his and Anakin's controls.
The room he shared with Siri was small, so Ferus crept outside and up to the rooftop garden where he could move around. He walked several circuits as the sun rose over the city, admiring the native flowers and the artful designs they'd been arranged into. When he felt sufficiently dizzy, he climbed over the railing and sat with his legs dangling over the edge. The wind picked up, whipping his hair around his face, and he leaned back, enjoying the feel of the cool metal on his neck.
Thinking about the wind led him to thinking about flying, and flying, as always, led him to thinking about Master V'Mar. For the first time though, the memories of his first master actually brought him peace. He imagined that the old man would have been proud of him, would have smiled in that way that Ferus had come to love in the two years that he'd known him. If he concentrated hard enough, he could even hear V'Mar's voice speaking to him.
Well done, Padawan.
Ferus smiled to himself. Four years had gone by, but he could still remember the exact tones and inflections that his master would have used. It was distinct in his memory, comforting.
"I hope you weren't planning on jumping?"
Ferus turned his head. "I didn't even hear you come up, Master."
Siri came to stand at his back, arms braced on the railing just above his head. "Have you been up here long?" she asked.
"No." He knew that his response probably sounded trite, but he had a pretty good suspicion as to what it was Siri wanted to talk about, and he still didn't think he was quite ready.
To his surprise though, Siri's next words had nothing to do with V'Mar. "I think when we get back, I'd like to start your flying lessons again. Don't you think you've progressed past the simulators?"
"Maybe." Ferus caught a brief flash of annoyance over their bond, so he quickly amended, "We'll see. What time is it?"
"You're trying to change the subject," Siri accused.
"We should probably get going though. We'll have to wake up Skywalker and Master Kenobi, and we both know how long that can take." He gave her what he hoped was a charming smile as he climbed back over the railing. She still looked rather worried, so he added, "I'm fine, Master, really."
Finally, Siri smiled in return. "Alright, Padawan, if you say so. But I still want to--"
"I know." He held her gaze for a long moment, and then she nodded slightly, letting him know she understood.
Before Siri could begin formal lessons with him again, Ferus took one of the Jedi starfighters from the hanger and spent an entire day flying, on his own, without any clear direction. By sunset, he had reached the Manarai mountains. He stopped briefly to refuel, and bought a small dinner at one of the floating restaurants before getting back into the cockpit.
He still did not find flying enjoyable the way Anakin did, or appreciate the artfulness that Siri often spoke of. He treated it methodically, as though he were still twelve years old and awaiting the instruction of his Master. And the twelve year old did not think about the crash landing that it would eventually endure, so he didn't either.