Beta: Huge thanks goes to Cariel
Disclaimer: Not mine. None of it.
Author's notes/Warnings: This is an AU fic and I apologize in advance if my portrayal of Ferus is considered inappropriate. I've never read the novels or the comics so I'm just going why what the good olde wookipedia says ;)
Staring at himself in the mirror Anakin's fingers gingerly touched the patch of hair that now stuck out in defiance. One ratty tuft of hair against so many cowlicks and he knew only an hour ago it had been a part of his padawan braid. He never thought he'd ever miss the annoying, stringy braid, but now that it was gone he couldn't help but wish he could take it back.
Things were just simpler when responsibilities and duty belonged to others, when one was just following orders instead of making and giving them. Anakin suddenly wondered if that was one of the many reasons that Ferus Olin had chosen to leave the Order when he had. It then occurred to Anakin that since the young man's departure, he had not once thought about his competitor and sparring partner.
It had been years since Ferus left and yet only now on this auspicious day did Anakin realize just how much he missed the annoying young knight. It wasn't as though they had ever even close friends –at least not in the usual sense of the word. They were more competitors, duellists or so Anakin once believed, skilled fighters seeking supremacy in the Order they served. In fact at one point, Anakin had even been convinced that he hated the young knight because of his noble persona and pure heart. He made Anakin look bad and that alone was something he couldn't tolerate.
Looking back, Anakin realized that the young man was also something he had never known before, a true friend. Now Anakin was left wondering if Ferus knew just how much his departure from the Order had affected them all, if Ferus even thought of the Order anymore, or if he was happier now that he was free of the responsibilities and duties demanded of them.
Anakin suspected the young warrior had found new innocents to save and even more demanding duties to claim as his own. It wouldn't be like Ferus to shirk away from his destiny; he wasn't a coward after all, not like Anakin. The thought forced his mind forward and soon Anakin was splashing cold water against his face before lathering his skin up with soap. The suds made his freshly shaven skin sting, a strangely satisfying feeling as though a part of him understood that it was deserved.
Skywalker could still remember the young man's silent sorrow, the tears Ferus was never really able to shed for a woman he loved and who he believed had died saving his life. The silent, unspoken understanding that the two young men never shared before was something he couldn't easily forget. Now what Anakin remembered most was the strange feeling of guilt, an emotion he had never known until he saw the young Jedi knight struggling to let go of his sorrow in order to meditate.
It was hard to forget the sight of the young knight sitting poised, alone in the dimly lit gardens, his expression troubled and his pained-eyes tightly closed as a single tear found its way down his cheek. The young man's emotions were a careful mix of sorrow, love, and a desperation that only one struggling to move on could understand.
Anakin had intended on admitting his crime to Ferus. After witnessing the young man in such a vulnerable state, Anakin couldn't bring himself to face him. He might have been convinced that Ferus was an enemy, but even Anakin knew enough to respect the young man's privacy.
Ferus never was the same after Darra Thel-Tanis's death, and neither was Anakin.
He never spoke of what he had seen to Ferus. He was never given the chance. By morning, the young warrior was speaking to the Council. By evening, he had left the Order.
Anakin buried the memory of the events, of what he had witnessed in the garden and of the admittance he should have given. He never thought of it again, that was until tonight.
Towel drying his face, Anakin met his reflections gaze and found he was unable to look away.
When did he get so old? So weary and tired? When did it all become so complicated?
Anakin imagined that Ferus was bound to learn of Darra Thel-Tanis's murder, or rather the true reasons for it. The truth always had a way of surfacing and Anakin wondered if the rogue Jedi knew just how pointless his departure from the Order had been.
Did Ferus know that it was his former friend's fear that destroyed the budding love Darra and he shared? Or that it was Anakin's jealousy that cost Darra her life and Ferus's future with the Order?
No longer able to maintain his gaze, Anakin frowned as he tossed aside his towel, narrowly missing the basket he was meant to get it in. Burying the thought once more, Anakin muttered a curse under his breath as he reminded himself that was a Knight now and above such doubts.
Departing from the fresher, Anakin caught sight of his reflection from the corner of his eyes. With it came a painful revelation, one he had never allowed himself to consider and one he would not consider again.
If Anakin couldn't forgive himself for what he had done, how could he possibly expect his only friend to ever forgive him?