Author's note: You will find out pretty quickly how this is an AU, but one thing that you may want to know is that in this version, Ahsoka does not die sometime during the Clone Wars as I anticipate that she will. So, as this story opens, Anakin Skywalker still has an apprentice. Entry 1 My first order of business after checking in with the Council should have been to visit the Healers. I have never been proficient in the healing aspects of the Force--at least where injuries more severe than a flimsiplastcut are concerned--and the duel with Count Dooku left me with a few injuries that made it uncomfortable to sit through a Council meeting. I have enough experience, however, to know when I have a concussion and this was not one of those times. I made my way to my quarters, meeting only a few familiar Jedi, and had what Master Qui-Gon affectionately referred to as a "meditative lie-in." That involved sleeping for most of the night and lying on an icepack while I trusted the Force to help the healing process when I was conscious and feeling very old. I was under orders to only concern myself with the war when I gave my formal briefing the next day. Anakin, as usual, had other ideas. He was polite enough to knock this time--in the past, he's been known to override my door's locking mechanisms when he felt the situation warranted it--and I let him in shortly after dawn and five hours before I was to present my update on the Outer Rim sieges. I invited him in without asking if this could wait until a decent hour. Anakin has never been one to confide in me and that has not changed much since he took an apprentice. If anything, he has wanted to prove that he can stand on his own. My larder has never been very well-stocked, so I knew that he was not here to borrow a cup of sweetener. It could only mean that he wanted advice and the hour meant that it was urgent. I was too tired to offer him tea or a scone or anything other than the spare armchair and a listening ear. He didn't sit. That was the first bad sign. I sat because I felt that my knees might go out at any rate. And then he told me what was bothering him. I'm not sure what dismayed me most. If I had been less worried about my former Padawan's well-being and more concerned with his actions, I would have immediately felt deeply betrayed by the news of his secret marriage. My first thought had been that I'd raised him to know better, but I held my tongue. I could not look him in the eye when he explained his exact reasons for telling me now--I could not witness his instinctive paternal pride and I did not want him to see near-paternal shame in my eyes. I wanted him to continue to trust me and I could not say for a surety that he would have done so if I had reacted exactly as he expected me to. I was once told that mercy is not receiving what you deserve. I had mercy on Anakin Skywalker this morning and did not condemn him immediately. When he told me, in an uncharacteristically respectful voice, that he needed my help, I assured him that he would have it. When he asked me not to tell the Council, however, I told him I would have to think about it. At 0900, the Council learned that Chancellor Palpatine had requested for Anakin to visit him. At noon, Chancellor Palpatine informed the Jedi Council that it would be receiving a political appointee. At 1500, I visited Anakin in his assigned quarters. It was a relief to find that Ahsoka was still in the classes that she usually missed due to the war. Anakin and I sat at the kitchenette table and this time, I looked him in the eye. I told him the Council was well aware of the Chancellor's offer. I told him that I had not told the Council of his infractions because I was not sure that it would be the best course of action. And then I told him the price of my help. He will not sit on the Council--not for a few years yet--and I will be representing the Chancellor in his place. Anakin argued, of course. His loyalty to the Chancellor is not absolute, but it is fervent. He sees Palpatine as more of a friend than I have ever been. He came to me for help, not the Chancellor and that, for now, is my bargaining chip. When all was said and done, Anakin knew my reasons for taking the post intended for him: I love Anakin too much to ask him to choose between the Jedi and the Republic.