As far as Anakin Skywalker knew, the Jedi Temple had three cafeterias. The largest remained open for all hours to serve Jedi Padawans, Knights and Masters that didn't have time to cook in their own private quarters. The smallest was rarely open, reserved for special occasions, such as visiting senators or the rare Council dinner. Anakin could remember using both during his previous experience as a Jedi. The third area had scheduled hours of operation as it had been built for the initiates and creche children. As such, he had only seen the third cafeteria, but had never actually used it.
And as far as he was concerned, the pleasure could have been indefinitely postponed. He'd decided almost immediately that he didn't care for it. The various robots and creche teachers would watch the childrens' nutrient intake like a Hut watched their bank accounts. When one child wasn't eating up to standard, he would be strongly encouraged to add something to the plate, or to not take as much.
Still, Anakin couldn't quite bring himself to complain about the entire experience...especially the food. After all, anything was better than being force-fed through tubes and wires in a special chamber created specifically for him. Suppressing a mild shudder and pushing those memories to the side, Anakin took another sip of his pleasantly tangy drink and glanced around the large room.
It had a typical 'Jedi' feel to it, albeit slightly more colorful. The somewhat brighter decorations came in the form of encouraging wall-hangings and signs that Anakin hadn't ever seen elsewhere in the Temple. However, the base colors of the walls and carpets consisted of neutral creams, browns and grays that most Jedi rooms sported.
The children themselves moved in slow, lazy patterns that gave off a sense of peace and confidence no adult could ever truly possess. It was an atmosphere of naivete, and Anakin found he actually enjoyed that one facet of his recently established Jedi lifestyle despite himself, even if the classes were...difficult to endure in just about every other aspect.
Learning with children from the creshe had been trying for Anakin the first time. Between the condescending teachers, jealous or awe-struck peers and being either incredibly behind or extremely advanced in just about every subject, it was a wonder he'd passed any classes at all. Now, with his superior knowledge in every single subject, the whole situation tended to border on infuriating.
And he didn't have Obi-wan to support him this time around. As a matter of fact, Anakin rarely saw the knight as he was often gone on missions like any normal Jedi. The only person who could give Anakin any backing at all happened to be a little green troll that was far too busy to actually help more than occasionally.
Not that he needed that support. After all, they were just a bunch of children that he could best at practically anything with the exception of stupidity. He would not let them intimidate him. He would not!
Yet, as he sat during their shared free hour at lunch at the lone table he'd chosen, he couldn't help but think that his life at the Temple was fated to always be miserably boring when it wasn't utterly maddening. He hadn't expected much different, but he'd truly forgotten how cruel and exclusive children could be without even realizing it. For a second time in his life, he'd been completely ostracized. And why not? The other children had long since formed their cliques and groups, and because of their reclusive upbringing, they were not accustomed to letting newcomers in.
Actually, the only other high point of his placement was the fact that he didn't seem to have any classes with...a few sentients his own age that he really wasn't ready to deal with yet. He knew he'd have to face Ferus and...the others, but he really wasn't sure how to handle them. Part of him wanted to forget they ever existed, but at the same time, he knew they could be very handy in a hard situation and he knew he needed allies still. He'd have to choose whether he would allow them into his life this time around, and he appreciated that it was his choice to make, but he'd decided to put it off for now. He had the time to be patient after all and rushing into a decision with so much baggage attached...well, he wanted to know he could handle the decision, whatever he chose.
Absently, he stuck a slice of a random sweet but slightly spicy fruit he didn't know the name of into his mouth and couldn't help a small smile. He would never take the ability to taste anything for granted again.
He opened his eyes and resumed his study of his current fellow classmates. No one watched him, no one looked at him, and no one seemed to care that he was there. Oh, that had not been the case for the first few days, but unlike his previous lifetime, it hadn't lasted. Now he seemed to be more invisible than anything.
Normally, he hated being invisible and even now it irked him somewhat. But, if he were to be perfectly honest with himself, he would have to admit that he did not feel as unaccepted as he had in his previous life. Whether that was due to his own maturity, his lack of attachment to the 'Sith Killer' (as some of them had called Obi-wan), or the fact that no one seemed to know of his background this time, he couldn't tell. Truthfully, he didn't much care to find out. It was amusing enough at the moment to watch the groups from afar—which wasn’t exactly a new circumstance for him. Anakin had always felt like an outcast of some sort. Besides, with his knowledge of strategy, mechanics and even advanced lightsaber theory, he doubted it would last.
He was almost surprised that rumors hadn't already begun to circulate. He didn't trust the Council to keep his supposed Dark Side training or his title of 'The Chosen One' secret for long. There were always leaks, but it hadn't happened yet, and he found that he could actually enjoy anonymity for a little while. For once, he found he was happy enough to be patient and wait.
That thought amused him. Obi-wan...well, his Obi-wan from his timeline, would have probably had a heart attack at Anakin choosing to be patient over something like this. In his previous life, he would have done everything he could to not be invisible. Any attention was better than no attention. As an adult, he realized that that was just how a former slave would think...and that was exactly why he had decided not to do anything openly rash or drastic this time around if he could help it.
Despite being mostly content though, his decision annoyed him enough to be a bother. It boiled down to the fact that he just wasn't a man of thought. He was, and always had been, a man of action. Then again, maybe that had been his biggest problem.
Finished with his lunch, he gathered his things and put the plates together, heading for the drop off area. A few children noticed him as he passed, either glancing, nonchalantly casual, or sending him a small smile or a scowl. Strangely enough, the latter were few and far between. He only barely remembered half of the initiates names. Most of them had been killed in the clone wars before he'd turned, so thankfully he didn't have that kind of baggage on his conscience. In return to their cursory glances he would simply nod politely back and move on.
As he meandered through the room, he couldn't help but eavesdrop on their conversations. He found them interesting to overhear simply because they all seemed so whimsical. The girls would talk about the different knights or their idols and their latest exploits as much as the boys did, but the conversations seemed fundamentally different. The boys would get excited and insistent, while the girls would usually use a quieter argument as to who was best. Sometimes he would catch snippets of different class assignments while other times, he would find people quietly discussing homework. Every now and then, he'd even overhear different groups arguing over the recent interactive games and other such things of equal importance. He liked overhearing those the best. It entertained him to think of all the stalwart Jedi he used to know discussing computerized games and holo vids as children. The Chreche children weren't allowed much in the way of media, but they tended to obsess over what they did have.
One particular conversation caught his ears as he passed one of the tables closest to the dish drop-off.
"I can't believe he actually left," a girl with long, dark hair whispered to a boy with dark blue skin that shimmered in the light. Anakin couldn't place the species, strangely enough. That had happened quite a bit recently. He knew he didn't know all of the species in the universe, but he would have thought he'd have at least a good chunk down-
"Why would Master Dooku leave?" the boy whispered back. Anakin froze, eyes widening. The next moment he'd rushed up to the table with the two initiates, his dishes clattering onto the table between their plates.
"What did you say?" he asked, uncaring that his voice had turned harsh. Startled, the two jumped. For a moment he wanted to scoff at their lack of training, but the moment passed quickly as he needed to make sure he'd heard correctly.
The girl and boy exchanged glances before the boy looked up with blue, slitted eyes. "I-it's been all around the Temple. Master Dooku left the order about a week ago. There are rumors that he'll be added to the list of 19."
For a moment, all Anakin could do was stare at the two not-yet-Jedi. Then he nodded to them. "Thank you," he muttered politely and started walking back towards his previous destination with one thought on his mind: For the first time in his life, he'd waited too long. Well, he'd have to rectify that.
He didn't remember the cleaning droid taking his dishes, nor did he really remember those initiates at the table staring after him as he left. He only vaguely recalled sprinting down the hall and up a flight of stairs. Entering the Jedi Library, it wasn't difficult to gain access to one of the computers stationed there, and he sat down quietly. For now, he needed information.
He typed "Dooku" into the computer and waited for the results to come up on the holographic screen.