It was split second decision. Darra Force-leapt towards Ferus to protect him just as Anakin leapt to protect her—lightsaber at the ready.
The bolts—which would have hit her in the chest and probably would've been fatal—only grazed Darra's leg as Anakin pushed her out of the way and blocked the blow with his lightsaber.
They hit the ground hard, Anakin's body protecting her. He heard a crack and realized that a few of her ribs were broken. She was unconscious and he vaguely registered Obi-Wan and Ry-Gaul following Omega. All he was focused on was keeping her safe.
Ever since the incident on Haariden, Anakin and Darra had forged a powerful friendship. He still felt guilty about what he had done, but she assured him that he was forgiven.
It started when she got out of the med clinic and showed up at his quarters in the early hours of the morning.
"I can't sleep. It's too quiet." She had told him.
He understood that as, "I need someone to talk to." She always talked when she was restless.
They sat there talking about everything and anything. He spoke of his mother and how much he missed her. She talked about growing up at the Temple her whole life.
Anakin quickly learned that Darra didn't like to be alone, especially after what had happened, and they subsequently made a habit of talking for long periods of time once or twice a week when neither had a mission. Darra would usually fall asleep in the early hours of the morning, and since the talks usually happened in her quarters, Anakin would slip out quietly and return to his own room.
Their talks started out as random; humorous topics that Darra would throw out there—such as speculations as to why Master Nu was so incredibly uptight. But as the years went on they talked about more serious issues.
Darra recounted her latest mission and her concerns with the Intergalactic war she was witnessing, and he told her he still thought about his mother every once in awhile and it pained him to not know how she was doing or if she was even still alive.
Now as he crouched over her, covering her body with his cloak and checking for a pulse—all he could think about was keeping her alive. He couldn't lose her; she understood him better than anyone else he knew. Better than Obi-Wan even. Compared to Darra, Obi-Wan was but an acquaintance. Darra never judged him, yet kept him in line at the same time. She let him rant about Ferus and didn't give him a lecture about how Jedi didn't judge.
After what he did on Haariden, he felt an unusual urge to protect her, even though she was perfectly capable of taking care of herself. But somehow she didn't mind.
When the battle was over, he was reluctant to let her go so that Master Antana could take a look at her.
She checked for a pulse. "It's strong, she'll be fine."
"I think she has a few broken ribs," Anakin said, remembering how Soara had accused him of wanting to boost his own ego rather than help a friend when Darra had gotten hurt on Haaridan. He was afraid of what she would say this time. Was it his ego again? Should he not have helped her?
Soara surprised him. "I was wrong about you, Anakin. Any doubts I had before this have been proven false," she said, referring to what she had told him during his lessons with her. She took a deep breath and turned away from her padawan to look at him. "Before Haaridan, you would have rushed to help Obi-Wan catch Omega without a second thought. And Darra would probably be…" She trailed off and closed her eyes, unable to think of what would've happened. Her relationship with her padawan was close to that of a mother and daughter.
"Darra is one of my closest friends," Anakin said truthfully. "If anything had happened to her because of something I did…" Now he couldn't finish his thought.
Soara nodded. "I know. She often talks about her friendship with you." She chose not to comment on how Jedi did not deal with "what-ifs" because that would make her a hypocrite. Instead, she turned her attention back to her unconscious padawan and instructed, "Hand me the med kit. The bolts hit her in the same leg as last time."
Tru and Ferus wandered over as Soara started applying bacta to the wound. "Is… is she okay?" Ferus asked, a bit shaken up. After all, the blaster bolts had almost hit him as well.
Anakin, for the first time that he could remember, was not annoyed or intimidated by Ferus. In fact, he really didn't care about the older Padawan at all at the moment.
"She's fine," Soara said. "She has a few broken ribs but the blaster shot is the real concern." She glanced up at all three of the Padawans, who were crowding around her, trying to assess the harm done to their friend.
The wound was cleaned and bandaged but Soara didn't turn away from her Padawan when she said, "I've done everything I can. Can you carry her to the transport?"
Anakin knew Soara was talking to him, but Ferus moved towards Darra instead. Soara stopped him. "Actually, I'd rather if Anakin did this. Tru, go with Siri and find Obi-Wan and Ry-Gaul."
Tru nodded once and then ran off to find Siri.
Ferus just looked at Master Antana. "I can carry her."
Both she and Anakin looked at Ferus. He wasn't one to question orders—that was normally Anakin's role. It was a strange turn of events.
Soara gave the older Padawan a long, hard look before saying, "Anakin and Darra are close friends. If she were to wake up along the way, I think she'd be more at ease knowing it was him carrying her. Thank you though."
She nodded at Anakin and he bent down and picked up Darra as gently as he could. She stirred a little, but didn't regain consciousness. Just as he was getting ready to carry her back to their transport, Tru emerged with the other three Jedi masters.
"What happened?" Obi-Wan asked and Soara filled him in as they started heading back to their transport.
Anakin was walking behind Obi-Wan and Soara with Tru, Ferus, Ry-Gaul, and Siri bringing up the rear. He could hear Tru talking in hushed tones to Ferus from behind him.
Darra regained consciousness once they were in hyperspace and grimaced at the pain in her side. "What happened?" She asked groggily. Her breathing was shallow, due to the pain in her side.
"Anakin saved you," Tru said, still a little in shock. "When you jumped to protect Ferus, Anakin pushed you out of the way of the blaster." He looked over at Ferus warily, remembering his reaction when Anakin was asked to carry Darra back to the ship. Tru had an idea of why. Ferus was used to everyone admiring and loving him; so hearing that Darra might feel safer with someone like Anakin—impulsive, rash Anakin Skywalker—made no logical sense to him. Darra had almost died the last time Anakin tried to help her!
Anakin was sitting quietly in a corner of the room and Darra turned her head to look at him, hissing at the pain.
She didn't say anything. But he could see in her eyes that she was saying thank you.
After about another hour, he, Tru, and Ferus noticed that she had started to drift off and one by one they got up and left.
But a hand gripping the sleeve of his tunic stopped Anakin. "Don't go," she mumbled. "Stay with me."
He smiled gently and eased down to the floor right next to her head like he had all those years ago in the med clinic. Darra turned her head just the slightest bit so it was resting against his own and a few minutes later, she had drifted off into a restless sleep.
Anakin went to visit her in the med clinic a few days later. There were no current missions for him to deal with and the Jedi Council had rescinded its decision to speed up the knighthood process. He still wanted desperately to become a Jedi Knight, but he had learned to accept the council's decision.
Darra was asleep with the covers pulled up to her chin and a peaceful look on her face. She had changed so much since their first mission together. She was older, wiser—and he noticed that she was more somber nowadays. He remembered her eagerness on their first mission; now she has seen too much war, too much suffering. But in sleep, her problems seemed to melt away and she was relaxed.
Anakin smiled and sat down on the floor next to her head. It had become a habit. He usually visited while she was asleep and he always stayed until she woke up—usually about an hour or two later.
"Anakin?" She mumbled later. "Is that you?"
He grinned, though she couldn't see him. "Of course. Who else would it be?" He turned around to face her and she flashed him a tired smile. Her ribs were still recovering and she was still a bit shaken up from the whole experience.
"How're you feeling?"
She grimaced. "I've been better." She paused. "My ribs hurt."
He looked down. "I'm sorry about that. I didn't mean to hurt you."
She chuckled lightly and then hissed in pain. "Anakin, you saved my life. I can handle pain as long as I'm alive to experience it. Thank you." She was silent for a few seconds before adding jokingly, "Besides, this makes up for what happened last time."
Anakin could almost laugh about the incident now and said, "I couldn't just let my best friend die."
"I'm your best friend?" He didn't know why she was so surprised by this.
You're much more than that, he thought. But he said, "Of course."
He went off on another mission that night. It was nothing of desperate importance; he was only gone for three days. He learned that Darra was released from the med clinic last night from Tru as they passed by each other.
It was late and he was meditating in the middle of his quarters when he sensed, rather than heard her presence.
He stood up and opened the door. Darra was standing there, looking nervous and fidgety. She didn't look like the confident young woman she'd grown up to be that he knew so well. She looked… scared.
"Darra, what's wrong?" He asked, concerned. She was always so strong and brave. This was unlike her.
She sighed and said, "This is ridiculous, I shouldn't even be here."
She was hiding something, he could tell. She was putting up a front.
He stepped aside and ushered her into his quarters. "What's wrong? You can tell me." That was the unspoken agreement between them—they didn't judge one another.
She rolled her eyes. "I can't believe I'm even saying this, but I'm scared."
He knew she didn't want to be seen as weak, but he sympathized with her because he knew she had a reason. Now that he was really looking at her up close, he noticed that she had dark circles under her eyes and she looked exhausted.
"You haven't been sleeping well lately," he remarked. It wasn't a question, but a statement.
At once, her shoulders sagged and she sighed. "I was hoping you wouldn't notice. Can I just… stay here for awhile?"
He nodded and she moved past him to sit on the sleep couch.
He joined her a few seconds later and sat there—concerned—waiting for her to speak. She toyed with the corner of the blanket nervously and he noticed that her foot was tapping incessantly.
As if she sensed his gaze, she pulled her long legs towards her and moved to sit cross-legged.
She still didn't talk and switched from toying with the blanket to fidgeting with her padawan braid—an old nervous habit.
Anakin was wondering if he should say something, or if she even wanted to talk about what was bothering her. But he had to ask, "Are you okay?"
She shook her head. "This shouldn't bother me so much, but it does. I… I've almost died twice. Once, I could live through. But twice?" She turned to look at him. "Normally, I would go to Soara about this. But I know what she'll say. All I would get is a lecture about how fear leads to the dark side and all that."
Anakin had heard this lesson many times since he came to the temple. Obi-Wan told him, Master Yoda told him… but he knew Darra didn't need to hear it from her friend, even if it was true.
He sighed. "I never really agreed with that," he admitted. "Fear is a natural emotion, and in your case, I think it's well deserved."
She smiled half-heartedly. "Thanks. I'll probably get over this fear eventually, but right now, I just needed a friend."
"You know you can always talk to me, right?"
She nodded and scooted closer to him.
They were silent for several minutes before Darra said, "You know what, Anakin?"
He turned to look at her. "What?"
She smiled, her bright eyes shining. "You're my best friend, too."
He laughed, and tried to not to think about her the way he had been lately—how beautiful she was, how much he wanted to kiss her sometimes. It wasn't the way of the Jedi; attachment was forbidden. Besides, Darra would never go against the rules of the Jedi Order—she'd never think about him like that.
With that laugh, the tension was broken, and before Anakin knew it, they were debating about wookies and why they were so much better than ewoks (he said wookies, she said ewoks).
Several minutes later, Darra was clutching her sides because she was laughing so hard. "But," she tried to say in between laughs, "Ewoks are so cute and cuddly!"
Anakin was laughing right along with her as he argued, "But wookies are just… cooler!"
She snorted. "That's not an argument!"
He just stuck his tongue out at her.
It took several minutes for them to calm down but eventually Darra was down to the occasional giggle and Anakin could finally breathe again.
Darra turned to him and smiled. "I miss this—just the two of us goofing off. When did all of our conversations get so serious?"
Anakin shrugged. "When we grew up, I guess. Can you believe it? We're almost nineteen now."
The giggles had officially stopped. "Do you remember our first mission together? That was five years ago!"
Anakin laughed. "Yeah, I remember. You were so excited."
"It was my first mission. Give me a break."
He smiled. "You probably stopped me and Ferus from killing each other."
Their conversation turned to more serious topics as the hours ticked by, and Anakin could feel the tension and fear Darra was feeling dissipate.
Pretty soon, he noticed that she was fighting to keep her eyes open.
"You should go to sleep. You haven't been sleeping well." It had been several weeks since their mission on Korriban and he suspected that she hadn't had a good night's sleep since then. Jedi were used to functioning on little sleep, but sometimes it got the best of them.
"I'm not tired, though," Darra insisted, even as she let out a huge yawn.
"Really?" Anakin asked with an amused grin.
She sighed and rolled her eyes. "Okay, so maybe I'm a little tired." Her demeanor changed suddenly, and she looked at him and asked shyly, "Could… Could I maybe sleep here tonight?" She tensed slightly and seemed prepared to hear the worst. As if he'd say no.
"Of course. Take the sleep couch. I'll sleep on the floor.
Without warning, Darra leaned in and wrapped her arms around him tightly. "Thank you, Anakin," she said into his shoulder. "I don't know why, but you make me feel safe."
He tried his hardest not to notice the different shades of copper in her hair and how good her arms felt around him. He tentatively wrapped his arms around her thin frame and smiled.
They sat like that with their arms around each other for several minutes and it dawned on Anakin that Darra's breathing had slowed down and evened out considerably.
Looking down, he confirmed that Darra had fallen asleep on him.
He couldn't help but smile as he shifted slightly so he could lay her down gently on the sleep couch and tuck the blanket around her.
She stirred but didn't wake up, moving her hand to rest near her head on the pillow. It was something she did that Anakin had noticed on countless missions and late nights spent in her quarters.
He tried to disturb the sleep couch as little as possible as he stood up and then set to work on setting up a makeshift bed on the floor with a spare pillow and two thermal blankets.
Being a Jedi, he was used to sleeping in uncomfortable places—the floor would be nothing in comparison.
He glanced back at Darra and once again marveled at how peaceful she looked as she slept. Her mouth was upturned into a slight smile and he noticed the light smattering of freckles on her pale face—something she often jokingly complained about.
Before he could talk himself out of it, he leaned down and pressed a kiss to her forehead. "Good night, Darra."
She stirred again and rolled over onto her side, but again, didn't wake up.
With that, Anakin changed into more comfortable sleep attire and crawled into his makeshift bed before falling asleep.
Darra woke with a start, disoriented.
She had no idea how long she had been out and the intense darkness in the room was making it hard to think straight.
She took a deep breath and tried to focus. After a minute of letting her eyes adjust to the darkness, she could make out the various silhouettes of half-finished droids and other mechanical parts and she remembered that she was in Anakin's quarters.
With that little bit of information, she looked down at the floor and could see Anakin's sleeping form and hear his deep breathing.
Darra sighed and slumped back onto the bed, but she couldn't get back to sleep. She had been woken up by a night terror—no recollection of what she had been dreaming about, only the resulting fear.
She remembered drifting off to sleep in Anakin's arms. She felt… safe there.
But now, even though he was only a few feet away, she couldn't get back to sleep. It was like Anakin kept the fears from resurfacing when he was near her.
Darra sighed again and tried her hardest to get back to sleep. The only thing that happened was that the anxiety she had been feeling steadily increased and before long she was afraid to go back to sleep. A nightmare was likely to follow.
She rolled over and looked at Anakin's sleeping form. She couldn't see the details of his face. But she could hear his steady breathing and it helped to calm her nerves. Not enough though—she still couldn't get back to sleep.
This is stupid. It was just a dream! Her mind told her. But she couldn't let go of the irrational fear she felt.
Finally, after realizing she wasn't getting to sleep anytime soon, Darra knew what she had to do.
She folded the blanket back and swung her feet over the side of the sleep couch. Being as quiet as possible, she moved to where Anakin was sleeping on the floor and slipped under the blanket next to him. She made sure to keep her distance in order to avoid waking him up and having to face the awkwardness of why she couldn't sleep alone.
Being closer to him relaxed her. She listened to his breathing and felt the warmth of his body, and she could finally close her eyes and sleep.
Anakin woke up the next morning with a warm weight on his chest. Picking his head up, he saw it was Darra.
He was aware that she had joined him on the floor last night (and he certainly wasn't complaining) and sometime during the night, she had rolled over.
She was curled up against his side with her head on his chest and her hand was fisted in his tunic.
None of her fears were present in the peaceful look on her face—far from the anguish she had experienced last night.
She looked beautiful. It was time to face the facts—Anakin Skywalker was in love with Darra Thel-Tanis.
The sleep was clearing from his head when Darra's eyes fluttered open.
She blinked up at him sleepily and before he could stop himself, he leaned over and pressed his lips against hers.
Darra tensed up as her brain went into shock. Anakin was kissing her. Anakin was kissing her! Her brain fired off a million questions. Should she kiss back? Push him away?
She felt him start to pull back at her lack of response and that's when something clicked in her brain.
Her eyes fluttered closed and she began kissing Anakin back.
The kisses were tentative but full of passion. Darra hadn't realized how much she wanted this.
There had always been something about Anakin that captivated her. His dark blue eyes that never revealed clearly what he was thinking, his aloofness. Among the other Jedi students, he was the most different. He didn't make friends easily and Darra suspected that a part of him would always be the slave boy from Tatooine. He had a past, he had a mother he remembered, he lived a completely different life by a completely different set of rules before coming to the Temple. And because of that, while other students, like Ferus, learned Jedi values easily, Anakin had a harder time and Darra would often see him revert back to his old habits when arguing with Ferus. It was harder for him to let go of things, and Darra understood that.
Rather than judge him, she took the time to get to know him. He told her about how his life had been as a slave and how frustrated he got whenever he allowed himself to be that slave boy again and let Ferus get the best of him.
She broke the kiss when air became a necessity.
They were both breathing hard, and Darra could feel the heat in her cheeks.
"Wow," was all Anakin said, his blue eyes shining brightly.
She could only grin and nod. Wow was right.
Yet, despite how good the kiss felt, she couldn't ignore the nagging voice at the back of her mind.
Attachment was forbidden in the Jedi Order.
"What's wrong?" Anakin asked as Darra frowned.
She just shook her head and stood up. "We can't do this, Anakin."
Her back was turned to him but she could feel his presence behind her.
"We could keep it a secret," he suggested softly as he snaked his arms around her waist.
Darra couldn't help but lean into his embrace. She knew this was wrong, so why was it so hard to let him go?
She sighed. "I just… have to think about this."
She pulled away from him but just as she was about to walk out the door, she heard a quiet voice behind her say, "Darra?"
She stopped but didn't turn around. "Yes, Anakin?" She tried to say it as evenly as possible, but she heard the tremor in her voice.
"I love you."
Darra closed her eyes and told herself, Don't look at him. Don't look at him.
Her efforts were in vain. She couldn't resist glancing back at him one last time. "I think I love you, too," she said, before turning and heading back to her quarters.
Darra spent the next few days holed up in her quarters, thinking about had transpired between her and Anakin.
Luckily, she didn't have any assigned missions and her Master was doing lightsaber training with the younglings while Darra recovered from her second near-death experience. Soara didn't hover.
By day four, she had made her decision and marched over to Anakin's quarters.
Anakin was tinkering with one of his unfinished droids and trying to distract himself from thinking about Darra. He could still remember the way her lips felt on his.
He heard a knock on the door and put down the servodriver he'd been working with before answering it.
He'd expected it to be Obi-Wan, informing him about a new mission. Instead, he was surprised to see Darra on the other side of the door.
He stepped to the side wordlessly and let her into the room.
She turned to face him. "We'd have to keep it a secret."
His brain seemed to freeze up as he processed that statement. "Are… Are you saying what I think you're saying?"
Darra nodded and took a tentative step closer to him. "No one can ever find out about it. I know what my Master would say."
Anakin knew exactly what Obi-Wan would say too. "Of course we'd have to keep it a secret. But you're willing to risk it?"
Darra smiled and took one step closer until she was directly in front of him.
He rested his hands on her hips tentatively and she slid her arms around his neck, rising up on her tiptoes to reach. "I've been doing a lot of thinking about it, and I've concluded that, even though it goes against the rules, I—" She took a deep breath and continued. "I can't picture a life without you."
And with that said, she leaned up and kissed him. His arms tightened around her waist as he deepened it.
When they broke apart to breathe, Darra rested her forehead against his and said with a gentle smile, "I love you, Anakin."
A/N: Okay, so... well, I got this idea like four months ago and it's been so hectic that I didn't get around to finishing it until this weekend. As you can tell, it's Anakin/Darra, because I've been thinking these two would be kinda cute together. =] And since the only fics about them so far have been either friendship or cute fluff, I figured the fandom needed a Ani/Darra fic that was a little more serious. This is my first fic in anything Star Wars related so hopefully I did it justice. Anyways, read, review, and lemme know what you guys think!
Disclaimer: George Lucas owns Star Wars and Jude Watson owns, well, I guess anything George Lucas doesn't. Haha. And the title was taken from the Green Day song of the same name...