I Thought I Was Tough ... Rating: PG

Anakin sat at the bar and twirled the small golden band on the bar top. With every rotation, the light would get caught in the two small corusca gems on either side of the Krayt dragon pearl and flash a rainbow light in his eyes. He glanced over at the tumbler with its splash of Corellian Ale as it just sat there, taunting him to pick it up and drown his sorrow and pain. In the air around him, he could smell the carcinogens and smoke, as well as the slight antiseptic tinge of Bacta from the new skin on his arm, face and back.

The ring rattled to a stop, and without thinking he picked it, set it on its edge and once again gave it a twirl. He watched as it revolved around. Flash. Pearl. Flash. Pearl. It was almsot hypnotic and comforting, yet ultimately, it just fueled his despair.

A large hand landed on his shoulder, snapping him out of his reverie and making him jump. He glanced over his that shoulder, his eyes tracking the arm encased in a flightsuit to find himself staring up at Corran Horn.

Corran sidled up to the bar, beside him, and raised his finger towards the barkeep. A few minutes later, a tumbler with Corellian Ale is placed in front of him.

"So kid, what's bothering you?"

Anakin sighed, as the ring came to a stop. "If I said 'nothing,' would you go away?"

Corran chuckled. "Not likely. Your dad sent me down here to talk to you, said something about how I had experience in this sort of thing."

Anakin glanced over at the elder Jedi, and smirked. "Imagine that, CorSec taking orders from a smuggler."

Corran raised his ale to his lips and took a swallow. "Who would've thought it, huh?" He set the tumbler back onto the bar. "So, what's bothering you?"

Anakin sighed, and set the ring to spinning again. Then he picked up his own glass, raising it to his lips. Just as suddenly, it vanished, and reappeared on the bar.

He looked at his hand, and then the glass and then over at Corran who was smiling at him.

Shaking a finger in Anakin's face, Corran said, "No drinking for you until you tell me what happened. You try and pick it up again, I'll make you think it's at your mouth so you'll dump it on yourself."

"Fine," Anakin ground out between clenched teeth. "What's bothering me is Tahiri."

"Tahiri?" Corran asked, startled.

"Yeah, you know. Cute, short, blonde, refuses to wear shoes," he replied watching as the ring once again clattered to a stop. "One kriffing large pain in the neck."

Corran chuckled. "Yeah, I know who Tahiri is, what I don't know is why she's bothering you so much. Or why your dad thinks I have so much more experience in this than he does."

Anakin sighed again, once more setting the ring to twirling on its edge. Then he looked over at Corran. "Uncle Luke sent me on a mission last week. It was supposed to be a simple trade dispute."

Corran nodded his head. "Yes, I know. The Council still isn't sure just how you managed to uncover that slavery ring on Itheria. They're firmly in the Colony regions, where slavery has been outlawed for at least two millennia."

"It's not my fault," Anakin said, as the ring rattled to a stop. "I ... heck, I'm not sure myself. I start the day like normal, and by the end of it, I'm facing a dozen slavers all pointing blasters at me. Yet, somehow, Tahiri thinks this is all my fault."

"Let me guess," Corran replied, chuckling once again. "She said something about you liking to spend time in Bacta?"

"I wish," Anakin responded, picking up the ring again, and sending it whirling on the bar. "I think I could have handled that. When I got decanted, she was there, and then she hugged me. Then she slapped me. Then she told me she never wanted to see me again, because I was reckless and stupid and always trying to get myself killed."

Corran laughed, and Anakin looked up at him, scowling. "It's not that funny."

Corran's laughter resolved itself down to slight chuckles. "I know, I'm sorry, but it is kind of funny. In a few years, with a bit more life experiences under your belt, you'll see it that way as well."

The ring rattled to a stop, and Anakin picked it up and set it spinning once again.

Corran watched the ring for a moment. "Is that for what I think it's for?"

Anakin nodded. "Well, it was, but if she doesn't want to see me again ..."

Corran hit Anakin on the back of his head. "I know you Skywalker boys are dense, but I didn't think it was this bad. You're Corellian too, you know. Go to her, and fight for her. I seem to remember your mother told your father that she didn't want to see him again, right before he kidnapped her and got her to agree to marry him."

Anakin sighed as the ring rattled to a stop once again.

Anakin watched it, as it lay there, unmoving, then he glanced towards his glass of ale. Finally, he shook his head, and dropped it to the bar top. "I'm not reckless or stupid. I don't try to get myself killed, besides the Force is with me, I'm tougher that that. Why can't she see that?"

Corran looked at him for a moment, and then drank the final swallow of his ale. "I used to think I was tough, too. I thought I was one of, if not the, best pilot in Rogue Squadron. The cream of the crop. I thought I was great. And Wedge backed up those delusions, sending me on the hardest and toughest missions. But you know what?"

"What?" Anakin muttered, keeping his head on the top of the bar.

"I was wrong. Utterly, totally, hopelessly wrong," Corran said, as he raised his glass towards the barkeep. "And I didn't know it, I couldn't know it, until I married Mirax."

"What?" Anakin asked, lifting his head slightly to look at Corran. The barkeep placed a new ale in front of Corran and took his old glass away.

Corran chuckled again, and took a swallow of his ale. "She's amazing. It's that simple. She runs her import/export business, plus all the shady things that goes along with it. She moonlights as an intelligence operative, though everyone involved will deny that. She raised Valin and Jysella, while doing both the business and the moonlighting. Then she keeps the house clean, and prepares meals on a regular basis. Then she also keeps track of our finances, and all the trappings that go along with that. Plus she still finds time to spend with me and the kids."

Anakin blinked his eyes slowly. "Wow, she's busy."

Corran laughed. "But it gets better."


"A few years ago, she was diagnosed with cancer. The doctors said she'd most likely survive, but she would have to fight for life. When they told us that, I kind of broke down. I didn't know what to say or do. So, I cried. She ... she took my hand and comforted me, telling me that 'everything would be fine.'"

Corran took a sip of his ale, then set the tumbler down on the bar. "So, you see ... despite how tough I thought I was, despite everything, in the end, it's nothing compared to Mirax."

"But ..." Anakin said, trailing off as he stared down at the ring again.

"But?" Corran prompted.

Anakin looked up at him. "But, that doesn't make sense. We're.. we're supposed to go out and do these stupid, reckless things. We're Jedi. It's our job."

"She's a Jedi, too. Would you be happy if she came back from every mission and had to spend at least a day in the medward?"

Anakin frowned. "No ... but that's different."

"How?" Corran asked as he laughed.

"It just is. I ... I couldn't stand to see her hurt that often or like that. Or at all."

Corran picked up the ring, and set it to spinning. "Then how do you think she feels seeing you in the medward after every mission? And let's be honest here, when was the last mission that you didn't get injured on?"

Anakin sighed, frowning down at the spinning ring. "I ... you're right. I ... what should I do?"

Corran shrugged his shoulders. "That's for you to decide." He tossed back the rest of his drink and then stood up, dropping a few coins onto the bar. "Just remember what I told you, no matter how tough you are, she's tougher. But in her own way she's weaker than you as well. The hard part is figuring out just where her weaknesses and strengths line up with yours."

Anakin nodded his head, and watched as Corran walked out of the bar. He glanced at his ale, still sitting there untouched and then at the ring, laying on its side, glittering in the spotlight where it had fallen to a stop.

He snatched the ring off the bar, and shoved it into a pocket. Then he stood and pulled out his comlink and a few coins of his own. Throwing the later onto the bar, he flipped open the comlink and punched in Tahiri's number.

Her voice came out of the small speaker, sounding tiny and hurt, and made his heart ache. "What do you want, Dummy?"

He felt a grin tug at the corner of his mouth. "I'm coming over to see you. I have something I need to talk to you about."

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