Willow and Tara had decided to make their way deeper into the forest. It was highly unlikely, Tara had thought, that the Trade Federation would make a move into the area, given the fact that it held little to no strategic value to them. In addition, given the fact that the droid army would, at this moment, be spreading out from Theed to occupy any other area that would be considered a safe haven, it made no sense to try to go anywhere else.
Still, they needed to try to contact some allies. The mission briefing they had been dealt before leaving Coruscant had indicated that Naboo held two indigenous races: the human colonists that arrived from Grizmallt over four thousand years ago, and an amphibious race that lived in the swamps. Willow had sensed Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan underground, before their flight from the planet; perhaps they had contacted the reclusive people. And she knew that, even though the Naboo were a peaceful race, they would mount some form of resistance. They would have to try to find it.
But it would have to wait till the morning. The sun was about to go down, and between the dangerous animals that lived in the forest combined with the likelihood of droids patrolling the area, skulking about in the dark didn't seem a good idea.
And at any rate, it had given the two to think about what had occurred during the past several hours.
Tara really couldn't understand what it was about the situation that was making her worry. Ever since she had first encountered Willow, she had always had a special connection to her, and she had always figured that it was more along the usual lines of a Master looking out for the best interests of her Padawan, but lately she had begun to wonder if it was something more.
Ever since they had escaped from the Trade Federation ship, Tara had felt more...complete. She couldn't really explain why. She had always been a studious Padawan, and had been considered among the most talented of her time. She had progressed quickly, becoming one of the youngest Jedi Masters in the history of the Order. But still, there was always something she felt was missing from her life. Given that the Jedi were not supposed to form attachments to anyone or anything, she had tried to dismiss those feelings as something that would only distract her.
Then came the day she had decided to choose Willow as her Padawan. Given that the two would be student and master, she felt that the feeling of loneliness she had always felt would be lifted. Granted, Willow's lightsaber skills were not up to where Padawans her age would normally be, and she did have a tendency to be more independent and spontaneous than most Jedi had any right to be, but Tara knew that she would eventually become a great Jedi, perhaps even having a seat on the Council.
For her part, Willow was retracing the steps that had brought her to this place. When she had encountered Tara for the first time, she had figured that she was some criminal who would abandon one easy mark for another. And certainly, that thug whom she had gotten the drop on was nothing compared to a ten year old girl with no comlink or means to defend herself. Of course, she should have realized that a being with a lightsaber was friendly, but she had heard tales from other Padawans about Jedi who had been killed and their lightsabers stolen and used as trophies.
She had felt a kinship with Tara then, and was overjoyed when she was selected to become her Padawan learner. At first their relationship was one of mutual respect, with Willow looking up to and hoping to make her Master proud, but as she grew older, she began to feel something more for her Master. Of course, being taught all her life to not hold attachments, she knew she shouldn't think that way.
Then again, she did have a nasty habit of doing things she wasn't supposed to. And so she had always carried a secret love for her Master. She had long suspected that Tara knew about her secret love, given the fact that with her Force abilities, there was no such thing as secrets between them.
The question was...why didn't she want to talk about it?
Willow was determined to find out.
They had set up camp near a fallen tree trunk some time later, Willow using her cloak as a makeshift blanket as her head rested on the ground, while Tara sat cross legged in front of a fire she had managed to start using the old reliable way of rubbing two twigs together. Willow had laughed at the sight of her using such old techniques when it could have been just as easily accomplished with a little judicious use of the Force, but Tara reminded her that the Force wasn't a commonplace tool to be used for whatever reason a Jedi wanted.
Willow sat up, gently discarding her robe beside her and inched closer to Tara. Once she got there, she wrapped her arms around her knees and tilted her head to look at the fire.
"Master," she said. "You've been awfully quiet."
Tara turned to look at her. "I've just...I've...been thinking."
Willow's eyebrows rose ever so slightly. "About?"
Tara hesitated. "I think you know, Willow."
Willow was taken aback by how forward sounding Tara's comment had been. She certainly hadn't meant to imply that she was ignorant as to her Master's feelings, but she so rarely opened up that she had come to accept it, even though she had wished her Master would be more open.
"I'm...," she began, but the words got caught in her throat, failing to pass through her lips, no matter how much she tried to do it.
"It's OK, Willow," Tara said, turning away to look at the fire. "I know that it's not something that we should..."
"But we should," Willow interrupted, placing a hand on Tara's leg. "I mean, I don't mean to be disrespectful, Mast...Tara, but we've never been able to...well, you know, talk about things like that."
Tara gently nodded, and Willow noticed that her eyes had begun to well up in tears. "I'm s...ss...sorry about that, Willow. I want to...but..."
Willow, as adept as she was with the Force, didn't need to use it in order to know that her Master was attempting to hide some terrible pain from her. "Tara, we've know each other for the better part of ten years, almost. I would like to think that we know each other enough by now to be honest with each other."
Tara didn't turn around, but Willow could feel that some of her natural defenses had lessened. "It's...I know that you've always had the deepest respect for me, Willow. But I always feared that you would...would...lose that respect...if you found out...who I really am."
Willow couldn't really believe what she was hearing. "But I know who you are. You're Tara Maclay, accomplished Jedi Master, hero to many..."
"...and an accident," Tara interrupted, bringing Willow's tirade to a sudden halt. "I'm...I'm not...I'm not..." Her finely trained Jedi calm and resolve finally broke and she buried her face in her knees, crying softly.
Willow inched closer and wrapped her arms around Tara, gently at first, then with more firmness when she showed no signs of resisting. "I...I don't want to pry, Master. I've always wanted to know more about your early life, but if it's that bad..."
"No," Tara's voice came back muffled, her head still buried in her knees. She lifted it and tried to brush her tears away. "You deserve to know, Willow. Especially since we might end up dead very soon."
Willow didn't like the new defeatist attitude her Master had adopted, but she kept herself from commenting about it. She didn't want to appear ungrateful that she was finally opening herself up to her.
"As you know, infants with Jedi potential were identified from birth and brought to the Temple," Tara began. "This makes them less likely to be susceptible to fear, hate and anger. I was...different."
Willow couldn't help it. Her curiosity was piqued. "How, Master?"
Tara swallowed. "I was...given to the Temple at an early age, but older than a Jedi trainee should be. And my mother...was a Jedi."
Willow's eyes widened. "A...Jedi? But I thought..."
"That Jedi weren't allowed to marry?" Tara asked, a small smile cracking her features. "You're right. My parents...were never married."
"Then how...?" Willow began, and then the realization hit her. "Oh."
Tara nodded. "It was on a mission to Corellia. She was sent to investigate the murder of a high ranking Republic official who was a liaison to the Diktat. What nobody knew at the time was that the official had been bribed to fake his own death by a gang of smugglers in order to bring a Jedi to Corellia."
"And they captured her?" Willow asked cautiously.
"Yes," Tara replied with a slight nod to her head. "Oh, she put up a brave fight, of course. Or at least, that's what I hear. I was only told about the details by my own Master when he thought I was old enough to understand. Like most Jedi, I had no idea about who I was before I had come to the Temple."
Willow's eyes took on a curious gleam. "And what did your Master say?"
Tara's smile grew. "My mother was an accomplished Jedi, at least until that incident. But after that..." She hesitated. She had come this far, she might as well tell Willow everything. "One of the smugglers who had captured her had taken a fancy to her, and decided to take her as his property. At first she resisted, but she eventually relented, especially after she learned that she was..."
"Pregnant." Willow finished.
Tara nodded, placing her hands in front of the fire to warm them. "After she learned she was pregnant, she knew she had to find a way to escape. She couldn't let me be born in such disreputable company, so when the smuggler's ship hit port at Duro, she escaped and caught a transport to Alderaan. She gave birth to me there. I stayed there until I was three, then she took me to the Temple. Despite my age, I was accepted and soon began my training."
Willow nodded, her respect for Tara having grown a great deal during her tale. "What happened to your mother?"
Tara's voice grew softer, so soft that Willow had to strain to hear her words. "She left the Jedi Order and boarded a passenger liner to Alderaan. But...she never made it there. The ship was brought out of hyperspace in a remote system and assaulted by pirates."
Willow paused, unsure of what to say. It was obvious that Tara had taken a great risk in telling her what she did, and she didn't want to do anything that would shake her Master's confidence.
"How come you've never told me this before?" she asked.
Tara shrugged. "I'm...mm...I'm not e-exactly...well, it's no surprise I haven't accomplished as much, as a Jedi, as maybe I should-"
Willow smiled and wrapped her arms around Tara's waist. "Master, no offense, but that's what makes you a dummy. You might not think so, but I think you're special. You may think that you're not the perfect Jedi given what's happened to you, but your mother obviously knew, because she was willing to risk bringing you to the Temple because she knew the type of Jedi her child could be. And I know that if she were alive today and could see you now, she would be proud."
Tara was surprised that Willow had said this, and even more surprised that she had allowed herself to make her Padawan's words make her feel better. "Perhaps she would. But at any rate, I'm glad you think so."
She got up and waved her hand across the fire, using the Force to create a gust of wind that blew the fire out. "But I think that we need to get some sleep. We have a long day tomorrow."
Willow nodded, and moved back to the fallen tree trunk. She put her back to it and wrapped her cloak around her. "Good night, Master."
"Good night, Padawan."