Jedi Temple Quarters
Tara sat cross legged on her bed, looking at the image currently playing on the holoprojector sitting on the table near the door. She normally kept it offline when she was in a troubled frame of mind, finding it a distraction during those times. But she realized that the news she had heard was likely to be a much bigger distraction, so she decided to keep it on, choosing to replay, ever since it was first transmitted, the most recent transmission from the Galactic Senate. This was the twelfth time Tara had seen the recording that day, and it still tore open a hole in her soul each time she watched it.
The holocams of the Senate focused their image on the Supreme Chancellor, whose face was not the kind and gentle one that he often presented to the media, and that Tara had come to recognize during the past ten years. Given the seriousness and importance of his position, Palpatine was not a man who smiled often, so any instance in which he did was regarded by others as a noteworthy occasion, especially giving the current times. His expression had made Tara concerned when she had first saw it, and upset upon subsequent viewings. After all, this was a man that popular rumor said went without sleep for days on end. There seemed to be little that could trouble him.
His words did a great deal towards crumbling that fantasy down around her.
"I have just received some tragic and disturbing news. Senator Amidala of the Naboo system...has been assassinated!"
When she had first heard those words, Tara had felt as if someone had blasted her straight through the heart, and had, on reflex, tenderly rubbed the spot where she had inflicted such a wound years before. As one of the few people who shared her vision of a galaxy governed by those who preached peace and freedom over subterfuge and selfishness, Padmé Amidala had been the closest thing Tara could consider a friend, though they had never spent any time together. Her honest desire to do something about the growing discord in the galaxy, while most of the other Senators put their own interests before others, made the young woman the perfect image of what a Senator should be: someone who could look past the potential for credit vouchers lined with the money of the people and the backhanded deals that often went towards obtaining them and do whatever was necessary in order to make the galaxy a little bit safer for the average person.
It was the same mission that she, as a member of the Jedi Order, had been ordained to accomplish since birth. But Tara had often felt that she was no better at attempting to maintain the peace than the Senate was at attempting to enforce it.
There were Jedi, of course, who truly appeared to have the best interests of the galaxy at heart, but their methods usually treaded the line of the Dark Side, which, not surprisingly, went against the Council's orders. Of course, there were often varying degrees to which this presented itself. On one side of the argument was the famed Master Jorus C'baoth, who had long preached that the Jedi were inherently superior to others. Tara had often listened to him talk that way, realizing that while he had the right idea, his application of it had been seriously misguided. Though they were superior, they should use that power to help others reach their full potential and be better people, not use that power to rule over others, as C'baoth often preached.
She had not shed any tears when she had found out that he, along with five other Masters, twelve Knights and fifty thousand men, women and children, had been lost during the unsuccessful Outbound Flight mission five years ago, though she had done so for the others. From what Master Kenobi had said, they had suffered a great deal under C'baoth's leadership, and though what happened to them remained as much a mystery now as it did back then, it didn't make what those who had suffered all the less painful to deal with.
Tara watched as the Senators bickered at the announcement, most of their complaints, not surprisingly, focusing on the continued debate over the creation of an army that had been going on for months and how this incident served as the perfect justification to do so. Of all of their comments and shouted accusations, one particularly stood out and stung her greatly.
"Why weren't the Jedi able to stop this assassination? We are no longer safe under their protection."
The Jedi Code preached that there was no emotion, only peace. But there was no way that Tara could feel at peace when she heard that. One thing that the Senators seemed to have gotten accustomed to was that the Jedi were meant to be the Republic's personal police force, a view undertaken by the fact that, for much of the past century, they had been called upon to deal with all sorts of planetary disputes and isolated conflicts. Tara had always believed solving the problems of others in such a heavy handed manner was not what she believed the Jedi Order was meant to do.
But on the other hand, if she hadn't been sent on one such mission ten years ago, then she never would have admitted to herself how much she truly cared for Willow.
The thought of her former Padawan brought a smile to Tara's face, though it was soon replaced with a look of contemplation as she thought about Willow's new place in the Jedi Order. She had yet to choose a Padawan of her own, though she was not required to do so unless she wanted to become a Master. Though she was rather impressive as far as her studies were concerned, there were still areas in which she lacked the proper disciplines and training in order to be able to successfully teach another.
In all honesty, Tara was glad about that. As Willow's own training had been haphazard at best, it would not do her any good to impart what knowledge of the Force she did know to an impressionable youth who could misinterpret the redhead's enthusiasm at doing so for something else.
And as much as they had tried to spend time together in the last month, it had proven rather impossible to accomplish given the mess the galaxy seemed to have created for itself. Tara had often wondered if they would ever be able to recapture the atmosphere they had shared when on that mission to Naboo. Whether or not they could was still a question very much in doubt. But regardless of that, the image of her former Padawan at that time would be one that would remain with Tara for the rest of her life. She had great feelings for Willow, and would forever love her, even if the Jedi Code and the crumbling galactic situation prevented them from proving it as much as she wanted.
The holorecording had reached the point at which Amidala had made her unexpected appearance before the Senate, surprising the assembled Senators, and Tara brought her attention back to it. Despite the somber mood of the message as a whole, it was this point that truly stood out for her, making her smile each time she heard it.
"Less than an hour ago, an assassination attempt was made against my life. One of my bodyguards and six others were ruthlessly and senselessly murdered. I was the target but, more importantly, my opposition to the security measure before you was the target. I have led the opposition to build an army, and there is someone in this body who will stop at nothing to assure its passage."
The majority of the Senate had erupted in a chorus of boos at that moment, which was not at all surprising to Tara. After all, Amidala had just publicly stated that she had nearly been the victim of a brutal attack against her own life. And as one of the few Senators opposed to the creation of an army, a position that the majority of her contemporaries and peers vehemently supported, it didn't surprise Tara in the slightest to find them accusing her of using the incident to justify why the critical decision such as that should not be allowed to occur.
"Wake up, Senators! You must wake up! If we offer the Separatists violence, they can only show us violence in return! Many will lose their lives! All will lose their freedom! Vote down this security measure, which is nothing less than a declaration of war! Does anyone here want that? I cannot believe they do."
Tara certainly didn't want the situation to come to that. But as she reached to switch off the image, she knew that when it came down to it, it didn't matter what she wanted. She could preach to the Council and to others much like Amidala had done, and it wouldn't make a difference. When the time came, and war against the Separatists was officially declared, she would be forced to join her fellow Jedi in leading the attack against them.
It hadn't been the first time. Going back over the history of the Jedi Order, Tara could recall many instances when they had been forced to defend the Republic against some threat to its existence. And every time, the Jedi had been hurt badly, barely being able to recover from the harm one battle inflicted upon it before the next occurred. Tara really hoped that this situation would not turn out that way, mostly for Willow's sake.
As she shut off the image and moved to shut down the machine itself, Tara noticed a blinking message on the machine's display panel. Moving to activate it, she saw Willow's face appear in front of her.
"Hi, Tara. I know we haven't had a chance to talk recently, what with having my own missions and all, but I hope that things will change. I'm on my way back to Coruscant. I should be there tomorrow. And I'm bringing a surprise with me. I hope that you'll enjoy it."
The image disappeared, and Tara lay down on the bed, wondering just what surprise Willow could be giving her. It couldn't be anything that she could keep, of course. They both knew they couldn't do anything that would ever cross that line. Even ten years after it had happened, the Council still debated with her the merits of frowned upon the merits of using Temple credits to purchase a broken down astromech droid, even if Willow had managed to put it back together and get it working far better than it had before.
As she closed her eyes, Tara's curiosity at what Willow's gift might be gradually dissolved into a warm sense of happiness, knowing that, regardless of what she was doing, what she had gotten, and whether or not they could get away with it, Willow still found the time to think of her and give her something special.
Willow walked down the ramp of the civilian transport freighter that she had taken from Mon Calamari. It was not the way that she usually traveled, but it helped her to connect to the citizens that she felt morally obligated to protect. After all, as a Jedi, she could consider herself above ordinary people. But she didn't. There were those who certainly did, of course, but Tara had taught her that it was not power or the Force that would win her the respect of others.
She could recall ten years ago when she had foolishly asked her Master why she was resorting to the seemingly ridiculous method of rubbing two sticks together to create a fire. Tara had said that the Force wasn't a tool to be used to make life easier. That had really struck a chord in the redhead, who, given her lack of fighting skills at the time, had usually resorted to using the Force in order to protect herself.
Since then, however, Willow had improved in her training, making her weaknesses, particularly lightsaber combat, important areas for her to improve in. And she had grown as a person, realizing that the galaxy truly needed her if it was going to survive the coming crisis. That alone made what she was doing worthwhile.
Heading towards the public transportation system hub, she paused and looked out at the skyline, seeing the sun rising over the distant Senate Building. Smiling as she continued on, Willow took solace in the fact that she was bringing her former Master something special.
She only hoped that it would arrive in time.
Tara stood on the steps leading into the Jedi Temple, waiting for Willow to arrive. The cool morning air prompted her to keep her cloak on, hood raised over her head. It had been like this a lot lately, and it was something that she was beginning to become quite worried about.
Willow was coming home after a two week trip to Mon Calamari, helping a team of Jedi diplomats mediate the dispute between the planet's two races in the recent conflict. The Mon Calamari were staunch supporters of the Republic, while the pragmatic Quarren were leaning towards siding with the Confederacy. In fact, the recent defection of their representative in the Senate to the Separatists all but confirmed that a conflict between the two races was inevitable.
That was why Willow had been assigned to help the team. They were already on the planet mediating the dispute and had requested additional support upon hearing that Senator Tikkes had escaped the planet following his house arrest. The Council had decided to send Willow to help, knowing her finely honed diplomatic skills would be an asset.
The time that Willow had spent away, however, had made Tara feel uncomfortable. It wouldn't have been that difficult for her had the event not occurred shortly before everything on Coruscant had begun to unravel. For being the most heavily protected world in the galaxy, the planet had been the location of several major terrorists attacks in recent times, including the attempted assassination of Senator Amidala the previous day.
And, she had learned earlier this morning during the Council session, another attempt on her life during the night. Thankfully, that attempt had been curtailed thanks to the efforts of Obi-Wan and Anakin. Tara couldn't help but chuckle at hearing how they had managed to catch up to the assassin. Somehow she just couldn't picture Obi-Wan hanging on for dear life from a small security droid miles off the planet's surface or watching him walk into a bar and sampling the local lum.
In all seriousness, however, the situation was important enough for the Council to order Anakin to escort Amidala back to Naboo and keep her safe while tasking Obi-Wan with the mission to investigate who was behind the attempts on the Senator's life. Tara was confident that both of them would succeed in their tasks, though she did harbor doubts as to whether or not the end result of their actions would be worth the expenditure they underwent.
The hum of repulsorlifts cut into her thoughts, and Tara became aware of an approaching air taxi, recognizing its passenger instantly. Lowering her hood, Tara walked down the steps as Willow left the taxi and headed towards her. Enveloping her former Padawan in a hug, the two allowed themselves the opportunity to take in the touch of the other in as proper a manner as they could, given that they were out in the open where anyone could see them.
"I've missed you, Willow," Tara said.
"I know, Tara," Willow replied. "But it couldn't be helped. As one of the best diplomats in the Order, I go where I am needed in order to put out the brushfires that could threaten to burn away the forest that is the Republic." She smiled. "I guess you trained me a bit too well in dealing with the problems of other people."
Leaning her head on Tara's chest, Willow managed to miss the look that crossed the face of the blonde, indicating her uneasiness at hearing that. As much as she wanted to see Willow improve, Tara didn't like that her newly improved skills would keep the redhead away from her. Of course, she had always known that Willow would not remain under her care forever, but that didn't make it any better to deal with the times they were separated.
"I got your message," she said as she let go of Willow. "You said you had a surprise to give me?"
Willow nodded. "I did, Tara. And if I'm right, it should be arriving in orbit right now." Running up the steps to the Temple entrance, Willow beckoned Tara to follow her. The blonde followed, her curiosity growing by the moment.
Walking into one of the Temple's hanger bays, Willow and Tara watched as one of the new Delta-7 Aethersprite Jedi interceptors land on the platform outside. As the ramp retracted back into the hanger, the canopy of the fighter opened and a figure emerged, a figure that Tara recognized immediately.
Rushing forward, Tara enveloped her former Master in a hug, one that the Corellian Jedi Master returned. Willow watched the sight with a smile on her face. During her time on Mon Calamari, she had contacted him over the Holonet, telling him how much it would improve her former Master's mood if he were to come back to the Temple. By coincidence, he had said that he was returning to the Temple to face the Council after recently failing a mission and to accept a new one the Council would be giving him as a consequence of his actions.
Willow didn't know what this new assignment was, or how long it would be before he would have to leave. But for the moment, she was happy that Tara had the opportunity to converse with her old Master.
Hours later, Willow, Tara and Nejaa sat in Tara's quarters, each of them going over events of the recent past, though no mention of Nejaa's recent incident involving the Scarlet Thranta was made by either woman, who didn't feel the need to break with the happy atmosphere that had been established. For Willow, it was certainly the most animated she had seen Tara in their time together. Though hints of a vibrant and extraverted personality had often manifested themselves before, they were almost always completely just as quickly buried afterward, and treated as aberrant to her true stoic personality. It wasn't until after Naboo that Tara had begun to let those instances occur more often, for far longer and with less hesitation. Despite that, there had still been times when she kept to herself, especially in situations when her emotions would have been detrimental to the situation.
But as she watched Tara talk to her former Master now, it was hard for Willow to imagine that Tara had once been so closed off from the world that she appeared to be no different than a droid. It was a happy sight, and one that she hoped would last forever.
After a few moments of further conversation, Nejaa got to his feet and made his way to the door. “I'm sorry I can't stay longer, Tara. But the Council has requested my presence, and I don't think it would be a good idea to keep them waiting."
Tuning to look at Willow, Tara smiled faintly. “Oh, I don't know. Sometime's it's worth it to be late. Just a little, mind you." Willow smiled back, but said nothing.
Catching the look that passed between them, Nejaa chuckled slightly. At the nose, the two looked away, and Nejaa could tell that they looked...ashamed? Deciding that it wasn't terribly important for him to figure that out now, he stepped out of the room.
As soon as he left, Willow got up and moved to sit down beside Tara, wrapping one arm around the blonde's slender waist. “Enjoy your gift?"
“Very much," Tara whispered in response, before asking, “How did you get into contact with him?"
Willow shrugged. “I got a message from him while I was on Mon Calamari. He told me that he was coming back to Coruscant to meet with the Council about the failure of his mission to...well, to deal with the crew of the Thranta. So I decided to contrive an excuse for me to return to Coruscant so that I would get here before he did and be able to..."
Willow continued to explain her actions to Tara, though the blonde was no longer paying attention. When she had asked that question, she knew that Willow would give her an answer. After all, Willow always had a reason for doing what she did. But it did concern Tara a great deal that reason involved contriving an excuse in order to get away from the situation on Mon Calamari. Not that Tara really believed that Willow would have made any real difference in the situation there. For all of her skills as a diplomat, not even Willow could patch up all of the galaxy's problems. It struck her rather ironically then that the two of them had pledged themselves to defend a galaxy that seemed all too willing to tear itself apart.
Realizing that Willow had finished speaking, Tara got to her feet and straightened her robes. “I'd better go, Willow. The Council will be meeting soon to give Nejaa his new assignment."
Willow nodded. “When you come back, do you think that we could spend some time together before...?"
Tara smiled. “I promise, Willow. We'll spend some quality time together. I'll make sure of it."
Tara stepped out of the room, and Willow took some comfort in hearing that before beginning to actually think about it. The tone in which Tara had said them had sounded neutral, but Willow could detect a faint glimmer of anger in them through the Force, something that was highly uncharacteristic of her former Master. Though it was rare, Tara did become heated and often flustered when things got too confusing for her to try and deal with, and especially if things did not turn out the way she envisioned them, though she often felt regret about doing so.
Something told Willow, however, that things would not turn out so differently this time.
Nejaa Halcyon stepped into the High Council chamber and looked at those who would be judging him. He knew that his failure to stop Slayke and those who stole the Scarlet Thranta would be on the forefront of their minds, and that he would find no mercy in their words.
As his gaze continued to crest the room, Nejaa found his eyes meeting Tara's, who looked back at her with comforting support. Though he was caught off guard for a moment at seeing his former Padawan on the Council, he knew that, at least as far as she was concerned, he would indeed have some support on this issue.
“Step forward please, Master Halcyon."
At Mace Windu's command, Nejaa took his place at the center of the circle, prepared to hear whatever the senior members of the Council had to say, and knew that it would not be pleasant.
“The Council has decided that, though you were not inherently responsible for the situation regarding the Scarlet Thranta, that excuses you from any wrongdoing in the situation. Many on the Judicial Department force has sought to blame you for this incident?"
“Yes, Master Windu."
Mace nodded in understanding before continuing, “You are aware of the current situation involving the Separatists?"
Nejaa nodded. “Yes, Master Windu."
“Then you are aware of the fact that it would be a mistake to keep you here during this time," Mace clarified, his voice taking on a dark edge. “If others were to become aware of the fact that we have not punished you for your transgressions, the public would consider us to care more about protecting ourselves than them. Therefore, it is the judgment of the Council that you be sent on a mission that will...keep you out of the way until such time as the current crisis resolves itself."
“Thank you, Master Windu."
“Heard you the rumors of the escape of Kieran Maclay?" Yoda asked.
Out of the corner of his eye, Nejaa could see Tara twitch slightly at the mention of her father's name, and the Corellian suddenly felt ill at ease, wondering about what the mission he had just agreed to.
“Yes," he replied in as neutral a tone as he could manage, and hoping that the anger he was beginning to feel wouldn't be that noticeable.
“Rumored to be on Nar Shaddaa, he is," Yoda continued. “Familiar with that sector, you are. To recapture him, your mission will be."
Nejaa heaved a sigh, and turned an eye towards Tara, seeing his former student clearly distressed by what was happening. From the look on both Master Yoda and Master Windu's faces, they clearly knew of this as well. He knew that they would confront her about this, and he prayed that they went easy on her when doing so. It wouldn't do him much good for them to realize that the reason for her distress was the fact that she was afraid of her own father, a man that, by all rights, she shouldn't even know about.
But perhaps there was a way to dissuade Tara's fear. “Master, perhaps there would be someone else more...suited to the task."
Mace raised an eyebrow. “Perhaps there is, Master Halcyon, but there is no one among us who knows him better than you." He purposefully cast his glance towards Tara, a look that could mean one of several different things, none of which made Nejaa feel any more comfortable.
“A refugee transport is scheduled to depart in a few hours for Bothawui," Mace added. “That planet is the closest to Hutt Space, yet still within friendly territory. I'm sure you'll be able to make your way to Nar Shaddaa from there."
Nejaa nodded. “I understand. I'll leave immediately."
“May the Force be with you," Yoda replied with a wave of his hand.
Willow continued to sit cross legged on the bed, using the time before Tara came back in order to meditate, something she rarely had the time to do these days. Too often she was dealing with bickering Senators and squabbling diplomats in order to truly relax.
She never could seem to relax, especially when she was younger. And the more Willow thought about it, it seemed that as she got older, the less time she had to truly be at peace with herself.
It made her wish to be ten years younger, when she could truly enjoy being not so much relaxed as having less weight of the galaxy placed on her back. But at the time, she was too infatuated with her own Master and trying to convince her to reciprocate those feelings to pay much attention to her own wants and desires. Not that she was supposed to have them, being a Jedi and all. But there were times when she just wanted something that she could claim as her own, without having to share it with anybody.
Her mediations were interrupted by the sound of the door chime. Opening her eyes, Willow got up off the bed and went to the door, a smile on her face and in her heart.
Her happy mood was dashed somewhat when she opened the door and found, instead of Tara, Master Halcyon waiting for her. While it did disappoint her somewhat, she knew that Tara would be back soon, so there was no real need to be concerned.
That is, unless whatever it was Nejaa wanted took a long time. If Tara came back while he was here, and he started asking questions, Willow was going to have a difficult time trying to explain things.
“Hello, Willow," Nejaa said. “May I come in?"
Willow nodded and watched as Nejaa stepped inside, making his way to the bed. She could feel through the Force that the elder Corellian Jedi Master was distressed about something. “Master, what is wrong?"
Nejaa looked up into Willow's eyes. “I've just come from the Council, Willow. They said that they wouldn't be punishing me for...for an incident that recently occurred, but that, in order to make sure those involved don't resort to...dangerous acts, that I should be kept out of the way."
Willow didn't know what it was that Nejaa was talking about, but decided not to ask, given how upset he appeared to be. “Well, that's great...isn't it?"
“No, Willow," Nejaa replied. “It's not. The mission...involves going after Tara's father."
This brought Willow's good mood to a complete halt. She remembered the way in which Tara had described the man, and recalled how upset she had been when she had, rather carelessly, blurted that out in polite conversation during one of their brief times together.
“How does Tara feel about that?"
“She didn't say anything," Nejaa answered. “But she didn't need to. The entire room could tell how she felt." Seeing Willow's horrified expression, he quickly added, “But I'm sure that there's nothing to worry about."
“I hope you're right," Willow said, clearly not satisfied with what she had been told. Then, as if surprised by the sound of her own voice and realizing what she had said, quickly added, “Not that I have anything to be worried about. After all, we haven't done anything wrong. I mean, yes, there have been times that I've gone off the path of a Jedi, but Tara has always been there to pull me back, so there was never any harm done..."
Realizing that she may have let out more than she intended, Willow suddenly clammed up, hoping that he didn't pick up anything that shouldn't have been revealed in casual conversation. Luckily, he didn't say anything, and she couldn't pick up any hint through the Force that he had come to any sudden realizations.
“Willow," Nejaa smiled warmheartedly, getting to his feet. “Tara needs to feel comfortable, and she won't be unless someone deals with her father. And the Council is right. There is no one better suited to the task than me."
He looked at the redhead's sparking green eyes, and added, “But I don't have to go alone."
Willow realized what it was that Nejaa was asking her...or rather, what he was not asking her. “You...you want me to go with you?"
“No," Nejaa insisted. “I don't want you to come with me. I'm asking you. The Council has ordered me to go, but said nothing about whether or not I could ask for assistance. And knowing Tara as you do, I do believe that you'll be able to put your best effort into helping me if it means apprehending a man that could very much do her harm."
Willow had to think over the decision she had just been given. Tara had promised that they would spend as much time together as they could. And yet there was an opportunity before her to do a great service to the well being of her former Master. Both would be helping to make Tara feel better, but which one would truly do more for her in the long run?
“All right," she said after what felt like an eternity. “I'll come with you."
“Excellent," Nejaa said. “The transport that will take us part of the way there will be leaving in a few hours. We'll need to get everything that we'll need together." As he moved to the door, Nejaa looked back to find Willow sitting down on the bed.
Looking up, Willow noticed the expression on his face, and said, “I'm coming, Master. I just...I just need to take care of something...before I do."
Nejaa nodded. “Go right ahead, Willow. But don't take too long."
As soon as Nejaa left, the door closing behind him, Willow moved to the holoprojector, activated it, and began to recite the most heartbreaking message she would ever have to make in her life.
As Tara left the Council chambers, she hoped that she could avoid a confrontation with Master Yoda or Master Windu. When they had mentioned her father's name, she couldn't help but feel frightened. The news that he had broken out of prison had shocked her, and the fact that he had made no overt attacks on Republic territory made her nervous. What if he had been gearing up for a major attack? If he had the backing of the Confederacy, he could pull off something disastrous to some innocent beings. What could she do if he did that to the population of a neutral planet? What would she do if he did it to Coruscant?
What if he did it to Willow?
A tug at the hem of her robe prevented her from answering this question, and she turned to look down at the diminutive form of Master Yoda. “Master Maclay, I would like to speak to you for a moment."
Getting down on one knee to look at Yoda, Tara swallowed, knowing that something bad was about to happen. “Of course, Master Yoda. Is...is something wrong?"
Yoda let out a sigh, an act that Tara knew meant that whatever he had to say would be unpleasant, yet necessary for her to hear. “Sense I could your feelings earlier, Tara. This is unfortunate, as I know you have felt this way for quite some time. Admit I must my concern about this. Now be honest with me, Tara. Are you afraid?"
Knowing it was useless to lie to the head of the Council, Tara nodded. “Yes, Master."
“About your father, does your fear arise? Are you afraid at the prospect of having to confront him?"
Nodding slightly, Yoda leaned against his walking stick. “I am not surprised that you know about him, yet admit I must that I am disappointed that you allow yourself to be easily overcome by fear. That is why I hoped that this day would never come."
“So did I," Tara mused.
Yoda sighed. “I have discussed the matter with Master Windu. Feel we do that until Master Halcyon apprehends your father, of no use you are to the Council."
“You mean...?" Tara said, her tongue catching in her throat. “I'm...I'm going to be...going to be..."
Sensing Tara's rising concern about her position on the Council, Yoda moved to lay a hand on her shoulder, the touch comforting Tara enough to allow her fear to slowly dissipate. “No, Tara," Yoda answered. “You have truly earned the right to sit amongst us. Of great service to the Republic, you are. That is why Master Windu and I believe that until this crisis is resolved, you not subject yourself to having to deal with the pressures that being a member of the Jedi Council brings." Turning to head down the corridor, Yoda concluded by saying, “Suggest I do that you spend time doing something that would help to calm your mind, Tara. A Jedi must be at peace at all times, lest he or she become too emotionally involved to think clearly."
Despite the severity of what had been said, Tara could not help but feel happy. The thought of having to deal with the potential threat her father represented while being part of the Council did not need to haunt her anymore. What was more, she would now be free to spend as much time with Willow as she wanted, making sure that the redhead would be all right in whatever situation she managed to find herself in.
“Thank you, Master Yoda."
Getting to her feet, Tara walked calmly down the corridor to her quarters. The minute she knew she left Yoda's eyesight, however, she broke out at a run, heading as fast as she could towards her room. Arriving at the door moments later, she walked inside expecting to find Willow waiting for her.
Instead, she found the room deserted.
“Willow?" she called out needlessly. Searching the room, Tara came to the holoprojector, seeing one message waiting for her. Despite fearing what she would find in that message, she pressed the transmit button.
A quarter sized image of Willow appeared in front of her, her head turned down. "Hi, Tara. If you're reading this, you've discovered that I'm not here. I'm not anywhere inside the Temple. I've...I've gone with Master Halcyon to...to help deal with your father."
Tara's eyes widened in a mixture of shock and fear as the image of Willow continued, "I've taken R5 with me, and Master Halcyon has assured me that nothing bad will happen to me while I'm gone. Don't worry my beloved. I'll return soon. And when I do, I'll make sure that we can spend as much time together as you want. No restrictions, no prior commitments, nothing. It will be just you and me, however we can manage."
Willow reached out of sight, and her image disappeared, leaving Tara alone in her room, with nothing to comfort her but the growing fear she felt for Willow's safety growing in the pit of her stomach.
How could she? Didn't Willow realize that by doing what she was doing, she was putting herself in needless danger? Regardless of the reasons, there was nothing in the galaxy that could justify that. Sadly, this was not unlike Willow, who often went around the rules if it meant that she could get what she wanted. It was a lesson Tara had accepted in limits, but had always attempted to try and temper.
Obviously those efforts had not worked as well as she liked.
Getting to her feet, Tara was glad that Master Yoda had effectively given her a free pass from dealing with the responsibilities of a Council member. It was the only way she was going to be able to get away with what she knew she must do.
As she moved to the door, Tara recalled the words Yoda had spoken to her mere moments earlier.
"A Jedi must be at peace at all times, lest he or she become too emotionally involved to think clearly."
It was clearly apparent to Tara that she was too emotional about what had just happened to think clearly, and that it was clouding her judgment. It also became obvious that she couldn't make this decision on her own in her current state of mind. And given the nature of her problem, there was no one among the Jedi she could turn to for help.
But perhaps there was one who could help without having to reveal the secret of her relationship with Willow. One who felt as she did towards the nature of the universe, and could understand what it meant to do what needed to be done for the greater good.
Stepping out of her quarters, Tara made her way towards the Temple entrance, hoping that it was not too late for her to gain an audience with Senator Bail Organa.