Vader never thought he was that good at meditation. It was one of the few things he had little control over. Often, he would try to meditate to find some vision of the Force, as other Jedi would… or so what Master Kenobi had told him.
Taking deep breaths and exhaling them, Vader did his best to himself steady. The few masters at the Temple taught him how to control his breathing. So, he practiced his breathing, whenever he had the time. Vader’s had been practicing for half of the journey to wherever it was Master Kenobi was taking him, and his attempts had been less than satisfying.
Then, just like now, Vader sat in his quarters aboard Master Kenobi’s ship. And the only thing he saw was darkness.
A frustrated breath left Vader. He needed to learn more. He wanted to be a good Jedi. He needed to perfect it, if he was going to be that. So, Vader continued with his meditations. He did as he was taught and slowed his breathing. Everything seemed to fade away, until there was nothing left but his breathing, so he focused on that. In, and out. In, and out. In, and out. In…
Explosions rang out as great warships fired at one another.
A dark figure stood victorious with a red lightsaber in hand.
By the dark figure’s feet were the bodies of Jedi. Masters, knights, even students. A face stood out from the dead, and it was…
“Barriss!” Vader cried with an audible gasp.
Moments passed, and he realized he was back in his quarters. A cold sweat ran down his unmasked face, and if anyone came in as he was he, they would have seen the complete and utter fear. Vader did not even wonder how much time had passed, as every bone in his body shook with fear.
A hand over his chest, Vader inhaled and exhaled to calm his thumping heart. He knew what he saw. A vision. He had a vision. Why though? Why happen now of all times?! So many questions ran through Vader’s mind he barely try to process them all.
The chime on his comm made Vader jump from his sitting position. Reaching for it, he answered, “Yes, master?”
“Are you alright, Vader? I sensed something…”
“No!” Vader cried out, then said with less excitement, “No, it’s nothing. Just a nightmare, that’s all.”
There was silence on the other end before Kenobi said, “Very well… Just to let you know, we’ve arrived.”
Looking out the window in his quarters, Vader saw that he and his master. Outside was a giant dustball of a planet, and filing through his implanted memories, Vader could only sigh at the sight of sand. The course, rough, and irritating sand.
Welcome to Tatooine.
It had been some time since Anakin last visited the Room of a Thousand Fountains. Taking a seat by one of the meant fountains, he took in the scenery. The chamber itself was a garden inside the Jedi Temple, with literally a thousand fountains all over to provide an aura of peace and serenity. Many Jedi came in to meditate and study. Anakin just wanted a place to sit, especially after the events of the past few weeks. It was the peace he needed.
Well, it would have been if not for a Togrutan youngling, who called out, “Hey, Skyguy!”
Anakin turned to the little menace running into the Room of a Thousand Fountains and right towards him. “Hey, Snips,” Anakin waved back.
“Ahsoka?! Ahsoka!” Barriss’ voice called out as she came in after the Togruta.
Anakin raised his eyebrows at the Mirialan. “When did you get back? I thought you were with your master?”
“I… was…” Barriss managed to say between breaths. “… she wanted me… to come back… while she talked… with the masters…”
“I see,” he nodded, then jabbed a finger at the Togrutan girl. “And this little one?”
“Hey! I have a name!” shouted the girl, to which Anakin pretended to ignore.
“I’m sorry Anakin,” Barriss apologized with more air in her lungs. “Ahsoka wanted to see you as soon as I told her you were here.”
“You don’t say…” Anakin said as he eyed the girl in front of him. “Well, Snips, you’re definitely taller than the last time I saw you.”
Snips, or rather Ahsoka, merely replied with a grin on her orange face, “I’m growing up too quickly for you, Skyguy. The next time you’re away, I might be even taller than you!”
“Pssh, like that will ever happen!” Anakin grinned back, putting a hand atop Ahsoka’s headdress.
As Ahsoka tried to free herself from Anakin’s ‘wrath,’ Barriss could only sigh. “Ahsoka, you can’t bother Anakin, right now. He’s been busy.”
“Don’t worry, Barriss. I just want to ask him something,” Ahsoka assured her, then asked Anakin, “Why can’t Jedi marry?”
Anakin’s lips thinned. Oh boy. That discussion again. “Why do you want to know?”
“Well, I asked Master Jocasta, she gave me the same answer-love leads to the Dark Side-but when I mentioned you, she didn’t say anything.”
“Well, I guess I’m an exception,” Anakin said vaguely. “Not the first time it’s happened.”
Ahsoka’s confusion remained glued to her face, so Barriss took it upon herself. “Ahsoka, there have been instances yes, but it is not permissible for a Jedi to have attachment.”
“Why not?” asked Ahsoka.
“Because of the danger,” Barriss explained, repeating what her master had told her. “When attached to another, you risk leaving yourself open to pain. That person you care can be gone the next minute, and you will susceptible to the Dark Side. That is why Jedi, myself included, try to not attach ourselves with others.”
“What about you and Vader?” Anakin shot back with a grin.
Barriss was unable to come up with the right words. “Well… I…” sputtered out of her mouth.
“Oooooh, someone has a cruu-uush!” Ahsoka said in a sing-song voice.
“Careful, emotion leads to the Dark Side,” Anakin chuckled.
“Please, don’t encourage her!” Barriss told Anakin, who laughed at her.
“But it’s so cute, isn’t it?”
“Adorable, even!” squeaked Ahsoka.
“Ahsoka, I’m telling you, if you don’t stop this…”
“Vader and Barriss sitting in a-”
“That’s it!” Barriss shouted, lunging for the Youngling. Ahsoka dodged, and in moments, the two were running about the place.
Anakin’s laughter rang out in the chamber as he watched Barriss chase after Ahsoka. Apprentice and youngling ran all over the place until they headed for the entrance, where a shadow of a female figure strode through. By the time Ahsoka noticed, she had already bumped into the figure’s legs, and she stared up at a pair of glaring blue eyes.
An annoyed Asajj Ventress put her hands on her hips. “What’s going on, here?”
“Knight Ventress! We’re sorry!” Barriss apologized.
“Right, we are,” Ahsoka nodded frivolously.
“You didn’t answer my question,” Ventress said.
Ahsoka started. “Well, Barriss confessed she has a crush on Vader…”
“I did not!” cried the accused.
“On second thought, I don’t want to know,” Ventress interrupted, rubbing at her temples. “Get out of here, you two. Take your gossip somewhere else.”
“Right!” Ahsoka gave a mock salute. “We’ll talk about Barriss’ crush on Vader elsewhere.”
“Why you-!” Barriss cried, as she chased Ahsoka past Ventress.
“Watch it!” Asajj said, but the two were already gone. She sighed in defeat before noticing Anakin. “Hey, Anakin.”
“Asajj,” Anakin waved. “How has the life of a knight been?”
“Riveting. Fifteen minutes of nothing but talking to the masters,” Ventress replied dryly as she sat next to Anakin and sighed. “You know, I thought when I was knighted, I thought I would be going on missions and helping others. Instead, I’m just stuck here.”
“Be glad you’re not out in the field.”
The words came out a bit bitter than Anakin wanted. Asajj heard them and replied sympathetically, “I am. Just thought I’d be doing more for the galaxy.”
“Maybe when your saber skills are as good as mine.”
“Is that a challenge?” Asajj’s eyes pierced Anakin, who grinned back. She stood and grab hold of her two sabers, one in each hand. “Well, why don’t we take care of this the old way?”
Anakin stood himself and grabbed his own saber. “You sure? Last time, I checked our scorched was four for me and two for you.”
“That can change,” Asajj smirked, activating her yellow blades. “This time, I’ll try not to damage that face of yours.”
“Careful, wouldn’t want my fiance to see us. She might get jealous,” Anakin quipped before he lit his saber.
“I don’t think she has to worry. As humans go, you’re a bit dull.”
“Hey! I’m pretty handsome. Just ask the other female pupils!”
“Like that’ll prove anything,” Ventress waved it off as she crouched down and launched herself at Anakin.
“Master,” Vader inquired as he trailed behind Kenobi in the hot desert, “why did we land so far out here? Why not at a spaceport?”
“Because the nearest ine is a hive of scum and villainy,” answered Obi-Wan, who led the trail. “We’re here for a short visit, and any troubles we’ll have will only delay us.”
Obi-Wan heard a small huff of disapproval from behind him. Vader, so used to more regulated and cooler temperatures, had never experienced anything like Tatooine. It would give him nice experience, or so Obi-Wan thought.
After some time, Obi-Wan set his sights ahead. There it was, a small dome of a homestead with the moisture vaporators dotted all about the sand. Next to the homestead was a pit, that no one would notice from afar. Outside, by one of the droid helpers, a young man, blond and in thick desert robes, worked diligently on that appeared to be broken wires and circuitry.
As he and his student approached the homestead, Obi-Wan called out, “Need a hand?!”
The robed man was surprised that he almost jumped. He whirled around to glare at the interloper, when he stopped, his eyes now wide with surprise. “Ben?” the man uttered.
“Hello, Owen,” Obi-Wan smiled. “I hope you don’t mind, if I drop in for a bit.”
“No, not at all,” the man, Owen, said in his shock. Turning back to the homestead, he called out, “Beru! We have some visitors! Why don’t you come on up?”
A few moments later, a young woman with a short haircut and purple robes came out. “Who is it?” she asked, but her question was answered when she set her sights on the Jedi in front of her. “Ben?!”
Before Obi-Wan could open his mouth, the petite woman laughed herself and entrapped the Jedi Knight in a tight hug. “Aha, it’s so good to see you!” she exclaimed.
“You too, Beru,” Obi-Wan managed to wheeze out as he returned the hug.
Once Beru released her grip and stood with Owen, she took notice of Vader. “So, who’s your mysterious friend here?” she inquired with a toothy smile.
“This is my other apprentice, Vader. Vader, say hello to Owen and Beru Lars.”
“Hello,” Vader greeted.
Seeing the curious stares from Owen and Beru, Obi-Wan was glad Vader wore a mask. No doubt, his face would shock and surprise Owen and Beru, and Obi-Wan preferred to avoid a case of mistaken identity. Also, ever since he awoke from the vat, Vader had knowledge, memories of Anakin’s past. Mere bits and pieces though. Vader was still as much of a stranger to the couple.
“What happened to Anakin?” Owen asked, bringing Obi-Wan out of his thoughts.
“He’s on Coruscant,” Obi-Wan replied. “He’s taking care of something for me while I’m away.”
“How long do you plan to stay?”
“Not long. Just a day or two.”
“Oh, Owen stop interrogating him. The two must be boiling out in this weather!” Beru exclaimed before she grabbed Obi-Wan’s hand and dragged him back into the homestead. “Now, why don’t you come inside? We have some blue milk, if you’d like.”
Obi-Wan smiled at the warmth he hadn’t felt in some time. “I think that would be terrific.”