“Crèche duty? Master, do I have to?” Whined Anakin Skywalker, 15 year old Jedi Padawan. He and his master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, 31 year old Jedi Knight, had just exited the Jedi Council’s room. They had just delivered their mission report, the good and the bad.
"Yes, Anakin. You heard the council, and you must take responsibility for your actions, and their consequences.“ Obi-Wan told Anakin, with a scowl on his face and exhaustion in his eyes.
"But it wasn’t even my fault! How was I supposed to know that giving the little girl some chocolate was bad! Nobody told me that she was allergic!”
"One, you weren’t supposed to have chocolate with you in the first place, my young Padawan. Two, her allergy was listed in the family details. You were tasked to read them-“
"I did read them!”
"-and memorize them. Which clearly, you didn’t. Might I remind you that it is a Jedi’s responsibility to always be prepared to the best of their ability?“
"You might” Muttered Anakin under his breath, but there was no heat in his words. He knew his master was right, and he felt responsible for what happened to the girl.
“Crèche duty will do you some good, Anakin. Taking care of the children will remind you to take your duties seriously, especially when there are innocent lives involved. Don’t look at this as a punishment, look at this as a learning opportunity.”
"Easy for you to say, Master. You don’t have to do this.“
"Yes, however I do have something else that I must be doing. You must be at crèche in an hour, Anakin. Until then, please behave, and don’t give anymore children some chocolate.” With that, Obi-Wan left his apprentice and walked away in the other direction.
"Oh, haha, very funny, master.“ Now left to his own devices, at least for an hour, Anakin wasn’t sure what to do. There wasn’t much he could do in an hour, and not get to crèche duty late. He didn’t need another scolding from his master, or any other master for that matter.
Directionless, he let his feet and the Force guide him on his way. Anakin had to prepare himself mentally for the task ahead of him.
It’s been a long time since he had to take care of smaller younglings. Back on Tatooine, he had to help his mother all the time with babies and small children. Since Shmi Skywalker was the midwife for all the slaves of Mos Espa, Anakin was made to help with the deliveries once he became old enough. And occasionally, those same babies, and later toddlers, were dropped off at the Skywalker hovel while the mother had to perform certain…duties. So, Anakin knew how to take care of younglings, for the most part.
But, taking care of younglings was something he always associated with his mother. He knew, if he let himself, he would be thinking about his mother non-stop during his crèche duties. He wasn’t supposed to, he was supposed to have let go of his attachments to his mother by now, but he hasn’t and he doesn’t think he ever will. He is a failure in this, and he would rather not have been reminded of his being a failure.
Breaking out of his train of thought, Anakin looked up to see where he was led. He sees that he is at crèche, more than fifty minutes early. Now even more irritated than before, Anakin was about to turn around when a voice interrupted him.
“Oh, young Skywalker! You’re early!” Said Amila Roncha, the Twi’lek 65 year old crèche master. From where Anakin is standing, he can see more than a dozen small younglings behind her. Just a little bit panicked, Anakin said the first thing to come to mind.
“Um, haha, yeah. Well, you see, I was, um, hoping to get here early! Yeah! To, um…” Anakin trailed off, he could see a few younglings giggling.
“Well, we were just on our way to the cafeteria, it’s lunch time you know! Why don’t you join us, get something to eat as well!”
“Yeah, okay. That’d be great!” Anakin forced himself to smile. Master Roncha smiled back, and walked forward, beckoning Anakin to join her. Once at her side, Anakin walked forward, making sure to not look at the younglings that were behind him.
The walk to the cafeteria contained much small talk between the two eldest members of the group. Master Roncha talked the most, but Anakin was able to relax after a few minutes and added more to the conversation. The younglings were engaged in their own conversations, he was able to catch snippets of “what are you going to eat?” to “I wanted to play more” and “who is the padawan?”. Soon enough, they were at their destination, and nothing traumatic happened. Master Roncha (“Please, call me Amila!”) turned around to address the younglings.
“Now, remember, get in a nice straight line and don’t be disruptive. Many Jedi come here to eat and relax and we don’t want to make them uncomfortable, do we?” A collective “no” was heard. “Good, now come along, younglings- oh! Where are my manners! Younglings, this is Padawan Anakin Skywalker,” she made a gesture at him with her hand, “ he will be joining us for the week. If you have any concerns, please go to young Skywalker before coming to me, okay?”
“Yes, Master Amila!”
“Good, now, for real this time,” giggling could be heard, “come along, younglings!” Master Roncha led the younglings into the cafeteria.
The cafeteria had two different lines, one was for smaller beings (youngling or species) and another for taller beings. There was a basic array of foods displayed by the cafeteria cooks, a wide variety for many species. Before the lines were many tables scattered all around the large room. There were many Jedi sitting around and having lunch, some were with others, some were alone. All were well within their own world with minimal alertness in their posture. There was a section that was empty, as it is reserved for the younglings during this time.
Once the group neared the lines, Master Roncha stepped out of the line to allow the younglings to continue toward their line, Anakin followed her. Once the two older Jedi were in line to get their food, a small comfortable silence fell between them.
“So, you didn’t read about Senator Gamgora’s daughter having an allergy to chocolate?”
Anakin looked at her in surprise, and opened his mouth to defend himself, but then closed it and looked down. He had read the mission details, the first page of the flimsiplast, anyway. He skimmed over the rest of it. Feeling even more ashamed, Anakin kept his silence.
“I don’t think you are a bad kid, Anakin.”
Anakin looked up at the sudden change of subject. A bad kid? Where did that come from? No other words were exchanged as they got their food. Once they had their food, Master Roncha instructed Anakin to go sit at the table behind her’s, one half of the class will sit with him.
Once Anakin got to the table, he was that there were already some younglings sitting there and eating. Among the already seated kids were two girls, a Human and a Togruta, and a Twi'Lek boy. They looked up when Anakin sat down. Anakin gave them a small wave, and the younglings returned it with small smiles scattered among then, and then went back to eating.
Anakin looked down at his food, a bantha steak and mixed vegetables, pressured by his conscious to get something healthy while eating with younglings. He thought back to his first bantha steak, a week into his stay at the Jedi Temple. He had never had it before on Tatooine, they couldn’t afford it. Bantha were more useful as transportation than as food. Any meat they eat came from small creatures, and even then it wasn’t a common occurrence; meat was expensive. So, he was surprised when he got to the Jedi Temple and there were all kinds of meats of better quality. Bantha steak was considered common and inexpensive. How different things were in the Core.
Anakin was snapped out of his thoughts by a small, hesitant voice. He looked up to see all the younglings under his care were already seated. And looking at him, why were they looking at him?
“You’re not eating, your food is getting cold.” Said the small human girl, her eyes big in worry about his food. How cute.
“Thank you, um, youngling. I got lost in my thoughts.” His smile wasn’t as forced as it was before. She smiled back, happy that she had helped him. And with that, Anakin started to eat. The steak was good, but it was nothing compared to his mother’s cooking. She was so talented, able to turn even the most disgusting thing into something edible. A most valuable skill that she had taught Anakin. He missed her.
He stopped himself there. He couldn’t let himself get distracted on thought of his mother. Not right now (Not ever, says a voice that sounds suspiciously like Obi-Wan).
Once he finished the steak, he started in with the vegetables. He glanced up and noticed that quite a few of the younglings were still looking at him. Some had even started to pick at their vegetables as if to eat them. Ignoring them, he went back to eating, but he couldn’t get their eyes out of his mind. He finally put down his utensils and looked at the younglings.
“What is it? Why are you guys looking at me like that?”
They started to shuffle around a bit, looking between themselves. Finally, the small Togruta girl spoke up.
“You were sad.”
“What? No, I wasn’t!”
“Yeah you were! You were sad and we felt it through the Force!”
The other younglings all nodded in agreement. Anakin was shocked. How were they able to feel his emotions? He was sure that he had his shields up. He looked forward, toward Master Roncha, but she was eating in peace, giving away no indication that she felt what the younglings felt.
“Why are you sad?”
Anakin looked back towards the younglings, the little human girl from before had spoken up again. She looked sad, as if he was sad for him. All the younglings looked concerned, they stopped eating and were looking at him for an answer.
“I’m not sad, kids. I was just thinking about something from when I was a kid.”
“When you were in crèche like us?” Asked a small human boy, his brown eyes wide with wonder and questions.
“Um, actually… I wasn’t raised in crèche. My mother raised me until I was found by the Jedi when I was nine.” Anakin gave a simplified version to the younglings, no need to give his entire life story. The younglings went quiet. Then the same boy spoke up.
“You knew your mom?” All the younglings looked at Anakin in wonder, as if they have never seen anything like him. In a way, they were right.
Anakin wasn’t sure how to handle this. They were only small children, surely this was too complicated of a topic for discussion, right?
“Yeah, I knew my mom.” He wasn’t sure what else to say. He can’t talk about his attachment to her to the younglings, surely.
“That’s why you were sad? Because you miss your mommy?”
Anakin looked up to see that it was the Togruta youngling from before who had spoken. She looked at him with tears in her eyes. Tears and understanding.
“I was brought here two years ago, I still remember my mommy, a little. She used to give me hugs and then kiss me goodnight. I miss my mommy, too.” She started to cry softly, as to not bring too much attention to herself.
Anakin didn’t know what to do. He looked at the other younglings for some hint of direction, but all of them seemed close to crying. Were they all brought in around the same time? Do they remember their families, too?
Then, it hit Anakin. They were just younglings. They were Jedi younglings, sure, but still just younglings. They still remembered their families, they still needed their families. But they didn’t have their families, they only had each other. Other younglings that were given up, just as they were. Given up to a society that wanted them to let go of the attachments they had formed to their birth family. If it was hard for him, after almost six years of training, it must be hard for the younglings. Regardless of how long they had their family before they were taken away from them. They were in the same boat that he was in, and they needed someone who understood them.
With that, Anakin stood up and walked to the small Togruta girl (she was so small) and hugged her. He felt her tense up in surprise, but then she relaxed again. Anakin looked at the other younglings and opened his right arm, the one not currently around the little girl. Some of the younglings came to him instantly, others were more hesitant. But, in the end they were all in Anakin’s embrace (and he was so glad for his recent growth spurt). Anakin stayed quiet, but he let his emotions reach the younglings, and hoped that it soothes them and makes them feel better.
After a few minutes, no need to raise alarm (luckily the cafeteria was much emptier than earlier), Anakin let go of the now calmed down younglings. He smiled at them, and they all smiled back at him.
Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad, after all.