Maybe, Anakin thought, this teaching thing won’t be so hard after all.
He raised his lightsaber as Ahsoka flew at him with a cry, deflecting her blow easily and sending her arcing back. She landed on her feet, graceful as a lothcat, and sprang back in, swiping low. He parried and countered, leading her to block him high as he spun and brought his blade to her side. “Gotcha.”
Ahsoka made a small sound of frustration, then shook out her arms and got back to a ready position. She was clearly itching for another round. The afternoon light lent Coruscant a golden glow, and suddenly he realized how late it had gotten.
“Hold up, Ahsoka. Don’t you have your pre-mission physical soon?”
Her eyes widened. She’d been reminding him about it all morning, before they’d started on the saber work. It was the appointment to make sure she was fully healthy and ready to join her master in the field — the final check that every padawan had. “Oh kriff! Yes! I need to get to the med bay — can we spar again later?”
Anakin couldn’t help but chuckle. “I don’t see why not. After you run through your katas again.”
She broke into a grin. “All right! See you later, master!” She headed off for her physical, humming a song he didn’t recognize.
When she returned to the training grounds a couple of hours later, she wasn’t humming. She wasn’t bubbling about the mission or talking about some bit of Jedi trivia she’d learned.
She didn’t seem sad, exactly, or even less cheerful. She responded to his greeting in kind and nodded when he told her to start working her katas.
She seemed...quiet. Almost pensive.
He walked around her, observing her form, and trying to figure out if something was wrong. Finally, he broke the silence.
“Physical went well?”
She shook her head as if in a slight daze. “Hm? Oh, yes, it went fine.”
Something was off. “Healer signed off?”
Ahsoka nodded, but the excitement she showed earlier was being tempered by something else. “Yes. I’m all set to go.”
Neither subtlety nor tact had ever been Anakin’s strong suit, and he was no expert in reading people beyond what they leaked into the Force. Ahsoka gave nothing away there, at least in the moment, and he struggled to read her now. After a couple more attempts to engage her in conversation — something that usually took no effort, chatterbox that she was — he went for a more direct approach.
“What’s the matter with you, Snips? Did —“ a horrible thought struck him. He lowered his voice. “Did you get bad news?”
Her eyes widened, and she shook her head. “Oh! No, nothing like that. It’s just...” she trailed off, and Anakin struggled in his new role as teacher to stay patient. She clearly was trying to find what she wanted to say, and for all her usual chatter, was failing. He reached out to their burgeoning bond and gave it a gentle sway, trying to impress trust and safety along it. They didn’t know each other well yet, but if there was something wrong, as her master he needed to know now, before the mission.
She finished the form, doused her saber, and sat down on the bench at the edge of the sparring ring. After a long moment, she started speaking again. “At my physical — when the healer was going over everything I’d need to go off-world on regular missions, she gave me all the usual inoculations and the like. And then she gave me a new one I hadn’t had before. It — ahh.” She trailed off again, clearly weighing whether she should tell him. He nudged the bond again, as gently as he knew how. Her shoulders squared.
“It was a contraceptive.”
Anakin tilted his head, not quite comprehending. “Wh-why? What do they think you’ll be doing on missions?!” As he tried to parse this and her reticence, another horrible thought crossed his mind, and anger flared tight in his chest. “They don’t think I would—“
Ahsoka shook her head frantically. “No, NO! Nothing like that! It’s...it’s standard, they said. For all female personnel being sent into combat zones.” She met his eyes now. “In case of capture.”
Now it all made sense. Terrible, painful sense. It had not been something he’d had to concern himself with, or that Obi-wan had had to guide him through — and in the past that he tried to forget, he and his mother had been spared that particular atrocity. The anger that had risen in him a moment prior changed targets. No one would touch his padawan. No one.
But now said padawan was waiting for him to say something, and he desperately wished that Shaak Ti, or Aayla, or even Luminara were there to help. He could feel a growing anxiety from Ahsoka— towards him. She was wondering if she’d made a mistake in telling him what was weighing on her mind, as if he’d take her off the mission or think she was being weak or-or-or-or...
Anakin immediately tamped down the blossoming anger at the imagined assailants and returned to the present. He sat down next to her and placed what he hoped was a comforting hand on her shoulder, trying to project reassurance.
“I won’t let anyone hurt you, Ahsoka.”
She looked up at him and smiled. The anxiety lessened, and he felt a light touch on the bond, like another strand twining into it. Strengthening it.
“I can take care of myself, you know! I’m not upset, or afraid. I’m still excited for the mission. It’s just...not something I’ve ever had to think about before.” Having gotten it off her chest seemed to have brought her out of her reverie somewhat. “I’m fine, master, really! I think...I think I just needed to tell someone.” She smiled again, and it was genuine. He smiled back, reinforcing his shields, hoping that she couldn’t tell how forced it was.
“Glad to have you along, Snips. Hungry? I heard there’s t’surys tonight.”
She hopped up. “Let’s go!”
As they walked towards the dining hall, Ahsoka seemed in much lighter spirits. She animatedly ran through the checklist for the mission as Anakin nodded along.
What he was actually turning over and over in his mind was that his padawan, at fourteen, had to consider that if she were captured she might be violated. Turning over the fact that she—or any other fresh padawan—was on a battlefield at all. But then, how old had he been at his first battle?
He was only nineteen now.
And here was his padawan, fourteen and having to receive an injection of contraceptive just in case she became a prisoner of war.
Not for the first time, he questioned the wisdom of the Jedi Council. But for the first time — he wondered how they possibly squared using child soldiers. Of course — heavy losses had caused shortages of Jedi knights, and so they needed all capable hands. But the Jedi were never meant to be a military force, and now—
“You okay, Skyguy? Now you’re the one going all quiet on me.”
Anakin snapped back to the present. They were at the temple, not the front lines, and they were going to dinner. He took a deep breath. “I’m fine, Ahsoka. Now come on, let’s get to the mess before all that’s left is proteinloaf.”
She laughed, like a bell pealing, and turned down the walkway. “Race ya!” With that, she took off. Anakin quickened his pace, glancing around, glad there wasn’t anyone around to see General Anakin Skywalker, Jedi knight and the Chosen One, running through the courtyard.
But then, he thought, maybe sometimes it’s all right to act your age.
And he took off after her.