I always knew he was capable of it. Anakin Skywalker, no matter what others have tried to say, was no innocent angel. His tough upbringing on Tatooine, combined with his unusual heritage and his painful separation from his mother, provided some insight into the situation.
That didn't make it any more acceptable, or any less of a shock.
It started out ordinarily enough. We were seated at the kitchen table in our quarters, munching on a quick dinner before an "unannounced" visit from Mace Windu. I knew the Jedi Master was coming; Anakin was unaware that the dreaded man was stopping by. But despite that, it was still an average day. There was nothing bizarre about broiled nerf, stewed tubers, sweet rolls, and a fruit salad. The meat was a tad too tough, and the tubers a little mushy, but like all examples of my cooking, it was tolerable.
Then it happened: Anakin's abominable act. I still look back on the event with a kind of fatherly dismay.
My Padawan was impatient as usual, plowing through his meal like he used to speed through Beggar's Canyon "back home." I had attempted to slow his consumption rate a few weeks earlier, but my efforts were met with a ten-year-old's obstinacy. I eventually decided that if he wanted to inhale his food and risk the chance of choking to death, that was his choice. A possibly deadly one, but it didn't bother me.
Anakin grabbed the basket of rolls and tried to stuff a slab of nerf in his mouth at the same time. Naturally, something had to go wrong. His elbow connected with the open bottle of hot-sauce, and the container flew off the table, shattered on the floor, and sent glass shards and dark oily liquid flying against the pristine white wall.
It was a disaster. And the dialogue that followed was even more devastating. The boy stared at the mess, then opened his mouth...and swore. "Shavit! Stupid, kriffin' thing!"
My jaw must have been hanging somewhere around my waist, because he quickly turned the same hue as a Sith blade, and those big blue eyes widened to the size of my fists. "Oops."
I regained my composure, and simply glared at him coldly. "Where did you learn those words?"
Anakin looked at me guiltily, and scrunched his face up into a phony expression of confusion. I wasn't fooled. "Huh? What are you talking about?"
I sighed, and moved to clean everything up. Only last week, Anakin had gauchely broken a Sluissi sculpture that Adi had given to me; at least I knew how to use the powerful cleaning agents hidden under the refresher sink. I had a feeling, though, that scouring this spill was going to be worse than picking up shards from a crystalline figure. This might take some time. "You know what I mean, my young Padawan. I'm referring to those two curse words that you uttered a moment ago."
"Oh. Well, everyone says them."
I raised a questioning eyebrow. "Everyone? That is not true. The Jedi Code specifically says that we should be 'pure, and free of the influences of the outer world.'"
"Come on. You've swore before," he sputtered, agitatedly shredding his napkin into tiny fragments. "When you were in a hard situation, or faced with some scary problems, you had to have said a few bad words."
I scrubbed floor viciously, and searched the white surface for any stray crimson specks of sauce. Anakin was being cheeky, and I wasn't about to unfold my whole life history over a plate of over-cooked meat and soggy roots. He knew enough of my past for the time being. Besides, I had the feeling he wasn't being absolutely upfront with me. My Padawan was hiding something behind those inquisitive eyes; why else would he be so interested in whether I'd cursed or not? Looking him straight in the eye, I shook my head sternly and moved on to cleaning the wall. "Jedi do not use profane language."
"But you didn't answer my question!" He eyed me curiously, and I could visualize the gears turning inside his childish mind. He gasped, and looked at me slyly. "You have cussed! You just don't want to admit it."
"You didn't ask a question, my impatient Padawan. You merely stated that I've used foul language in the past. I had no room to answer." I wiped the wall one last time, then stood slowly. Dinner was not the time to discuss the ethics behind moral behavior. Anakin and I would talk about this some other time, when I would be prepared for all his inquiries. "This conversation is over."
Groaning, he slumped in his chair and began to pout. I always hated when he did that. It was such an immature, selfish gesture, and it grated on my nerves. He knew it annoyed me, and yet he persisted on utilizing it to his benefit. I couldn't stand his dearth of self-control, his absence of anything and everything that the Jedi have always stood for. When I was his age, I would have never goaded my Master into such a predicament. But then again, I wasn't even apprenticed to Qui-Gon at ten years old. I was still a lowly youngling, lacking an authority figure to guide and direct me onto the path of true servility. Oh wait. There was Yoda, and Mace Windu. And that irritatingly serious Jedi Master, who had an unpronounceable name and one eyebrow. He's probably dead now. Most of the taciturn members of the Jedi Council have fortunately passed on to the other side. May they rest in peace, and help my neglected brain cells focus on something important.
Anakin continued to make that infuriating expression, his bottom lip extended several centimeters out from the upper and his eyes containing an odd mixture of sorrow and humor. Couldn't he find something else to do than annoy his wise Master? My famous composure was beginning to crack, so after five minutes of mind-boggling wanderings, I gave in. "Fine. I have cursed a few times. But only because I was in a very dangerous place, and didn't have any other way to express my emotions. That doesn't mean you are allowed to use inappropriate language, though, my young Padawan."
He sat up swiftly, a silly smile spreading across his freckled face. "Ha!" he crowed triumphantly. "I knew it! Tru owes me five credits."
I felt an uncomfortable twisting in the pit of my stomach. A ten-year-old Jedi apprentice had tricked me. The whole story began to make sense to me, and I winced at my own stupidity. I had much to learn about the sneakiness of children. "You did that on purpose, just to find out if I've ever used bad words, so you could win a bet with another Padawan?"
"Yep," he said, grinning widely, but with a hint of realization entering his face. "I really had you going for a bit."
"Undoubtedly," I remarked wryly. I didn't know what was hurting worse: my maturity or my pride. "But I do know something that you don't."
Anakin looked up, his attention piqued. He looked so innocent, so silly at that moment. I tried not to smile evilly, and barely succeeded. "What?"
Mace couldn't have entered at a better time. I rose to my feet slowly, and headed for the door. "Oh, good day, Master Windu! Padawan Skywalker and I were just finishing dinner. I believe he has some questions to ask you concerning the Jedi Code's restrictions on gambling and inappropriate behavior."
As the man approached, I leaned forward and muttered a few words in his general direction. But I also took care to ensure that Anakin could understand the whole conversation. "My apprentice needs a good lesson on how provoking one's master can only lead to trouble. I remember in particular the tale of Master Hallep, who was dismissed from the Jedi Order after she...unorthodoxly...disposed of an unruly Padawan," I said, hoping that this chat alone would lessen the pain of humiliation at the hands of a ten-year-old. Mace stared at me steadily, attentive but otherwise expressionless. "So take your time."
The horror-struck look on Anakin's face as I walked into the hall was payment enough.
Original cover by LianaMara. HTML formatting copyright 2003 TheForce.Net LLC.