The first time Ahsoka sees Anakin, she doesn’t know who he is. He just looks like one of the younger Padawans, maybe ten or eleven, talking to one of the bigger kids from the crèche in a corner of the room.
It’s fingerpainting day. Fingerpaints are the best, so duh, everybody’s there just hanging around. Usually visitors on fingerpainting day get pounced but there are some really wizard colours and Ahsoka had this idea last night and she can’t wait to try it out.
But she gets the same tickling feeling she gets from Master Plo in the back of her head and it’s not funny-bad (like anything about Master Plo could be funny-bad) but it is kinda funny-itchy and funny-awesome too so she grins at him.
And he stares at her for a few seconds, then does the thing some of the adults back home used to do when she said something really interesting - the mean staring thing, except everybody here was a Jedi and they always said interesting things so what was the staring about? - and then he leaves with his friend quickly.
Jeila Vin is only a little shorter than Ahsoka and she’s been way better at not getting cranky during the day since the first week Ahsoka was at the Temple (Jedi Temple, so wizard), so Ahsoka doesn’t mind so much when Jeila manages to pounce on her while they’re in the little library.
“You looking for books too, Jeila?”
Jeila giggles. “No. Shhh. Hunting.” Ahsoka blinks, and Jeila grins. “Teya’s here,” she says by way of explanation and Ahsoka blinks again, wishing she had a facemask just like Master Plo’s so that nobody could see what she was thinking on her face so easily.
“Who’s Teya and why are we hunting… whatever Teya is?”
“Because it’s a game, silly!” Jeila grins and takes her hand. “You wanna come help me look in the garden, 'Hso?”
“Ahsoka,” she corrects because while Jeila at least manages to say more of the name, she really doesn’t like being called ‘so’, it just leads to her being called ‘so what’ later.
“A-hso-ka,” Jeila repeats dutifully and tugs her along, heading for the nearby garden. Ahsoka decides she doesn’t really want to wonder why Jeila had been in the library looking for Teya if she thought Teya was going to be in the garden.
“So what does Teya look like anyway?”
“Like a big black cat?” Jeila replies, and her tone says ‘of course’ and ‘how don’t you know who Teya is?’ all in one go.
“Hey, I was only asking. So whose cat is it?”
“Teya’s his own cat. But he lives with Master Obi.”
Oohhhh. Well that all made a lot more sense now. “And why are we hunting him?” Ahsoka asks, crouching low because of course cat-hunting required stealth, and right there was a black ball of fluff over on the other side of the garden.
Jeila turns shining eyes on her. “Because Master Obi’s far away and Master Qui and Rillian and Anakin are going to see him and it’s nice to know that Teya’s okay before they do.”
“Well that makes sense.” Anakin. Ahsoka takes a second to turn the name over in her mind a few times slowly. It didn’t sound more familiar than any other name she might have heard around but it kinda sounded a little important. Like how Master Plo’s name sounded.
There’s a tiny little ‘meff!’ sound and Jeila is off like a shot so Ahsoka heads for the cat from the other way around.
But it’s a cat, so Teya darts off in a completely different third direction and comes to a halt in front of the Padawan she’d seen a couple of weeks ago. He looks way older now, especially since he’s up close, but also kinda shorter too, which Ahsoka thinks is pretty great because that means she’s gotten bigger. Maybe that means she'll get to grow up to be just as big as Master Plo?
“Anakin!” Jeila looks thrilled to bits. “Anakin!”
Anakin picks up the cat and spends a few moments with his face as the centre of a black purr before the cat decides to settle on his shoulder and then he looks at Jeila and Ahsoka and Ahsoka feels that funny-itchy feeling again.
“Hello there, tiny replacement. Were you looking for Teya for me?”
Jeila gives his leg a hug and Anakin ruffles her hair. “Did you want to introduce me to your friend who was helping you?” he asks softly, and Jeila shakes her head against his leg.
“Don’t need to.” She looks up at Anakin, hair newly messed up and Anakin tugs at the braid that Jeila’s taken to wearing (and for some reason hasn’t been told off for doing so yet by the other Masters who usually tell them that braids are okay but they’re meant to be for when you’re a Padawan).
Anakin sighs and nods. “Has anybody ever told you that you’re very perceptive for somebody so tiny?”
Jeila giggles and Anakin looks right up at Ahsoka.
“Hey s- Ahsoka.”
“How’d you know my name?” Ahsoka stares at him because she was pretty sure they hadn’t met. After all, she’d tried to make a point of remembering everybody she’d actually gotten introduced to, because it was polite, and because being at the Jedi Temple and getting to meet loads of Jedi was so totally awesome.
“Well, you’re important, so I’ve got to know your name, right?” Anakin keeps his voice gentle and kind but the itchy-funny feeling in the back of Ahsoka’s mind suddenly feels… It feels kinda sad and kinda happy and a little kinda lost all at the same time.
“I’m not that important,” Ahsoka replies, and thinks of how dismally she’s been doing in her mathematics classes and suddenly Jeila lets go and looks at her.
“Everybody’s important,” Anakin says firmly and just like that Ahsoka finds herself stepping forward and giving Anakin just as much of a hug as Jeila was earlier.
He freezes for a split second like he hadn’t done with Jeila but then he puts one hand between her lekku on her right side and it’s okay, it’s like she’s meant to be there.
“Hey tiny replacement? Can you do me a huge favour while we’re gone?”
“Sure Anakin!” Jeila pipes up. Ahsoka hears her only distantly, the funny-itchy feeling in the back of her mind settling into something light and tickly and really really warm like the best warm blanket ever.
“Can you look after Ahsoka for me? And Ahsoka, can you look after Jeila for me?”
“So we’re looking after each other?” Jeila asks, wrinkling her nose, and Anakin nods.
“Okay,” Jeila decides and just like that it is.
“Okay,” Ahsoka mumbles and Anakin runs the fingers on his right hand along the top of where her right montral’s going to grow and down to where her Padawan beads are going to hang and it’s really surprising like his right hand is surprising to be there.
She looks up at him awkwardly and Anakin gives her the oldest smile she’s ever seen on another kid’s face. Then he takes a really shaky breath and grins at her widely. “Don’t go leading each other into trouble, okay?”
He steps back and Jeila gives her a hug from behind.
“Thanks both of you for finding Teya for me. He has to put fur on everything before he lets us leave.”
Teya washes his paw, utterly unconcerned at the idea of being jostled as Anakin starts walking back.
“…Wanna go see if we can find a game of hide-and-find?” Jeila asks after a moment of silence, and Ahsoka looks down at her.
“Doesn’t that kinda ruin the point of the game?” she asks and they start walking off like a funny-looking four-legged beast thing.
Hide-and-find sounds just wizard.