Title: Trust Author: anakinfan Era: The Clone Wars Characters: Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Padme Amidala Summary: Anakin deals with losing Ahsoka. Author's notes: I had a lot of trouble giving this one a title so hopefully it works. Also this is not a one-shot but I don't know how long it will be either, it depends on whether I decide to pursue Anakin seeking Ahsoka out. ********** As he watched her walk down the steps of the Temple, Anakin Skywalker felt as if part of him were dying, as if a magnaguard had taken an electrostaff and jolted him with it, knocking the wind from him. The impact made him want to sink to his knees; he couldn’t breathe. Her padawan braid remained clenched in his fist, pressing against his palm. All he had left of her. No. She isn’t gone. She couldn’t really be gone. Not now, not after all we've been through. He wanted to follow her, to chase her down the steps just as he had chased her out of the Council chambers, to beg her, one more time, to stay. But he knew he had done all the begging that he could, all the pleading that she was willing to hear. Nothing he could say at this point would make her change her mind. Chasing her, learning where she went, would have to come later. When she had a chance to cool off, to think things over. The Council doesn’t trust me. How can I trust myself? Snips, he thought. I believed in you. The landing platform in front of the Temple was empty. He turned and walked slowly back inside, one fist clenched around her braid, the other fist involuntarily clenching around itself. The Council’s lack of trust in her had driven her away. And once again, he had failed. His own faith in her could not keep her here. He had believed in her—but not enough, he had not been encouraging enough. And he was her teacher. What kind of teacher was he anyway? The door to the Council chambers opened and he walked in, facing several pairs of eyes. Only Obi-Wan spoke. “Anakin…” he said. He looked at each of them, his eyes setting on his own teacher at the end. “Obi-Wan,” he said. “Thank you for believing in her. For standing up for her.” When he looked at the rest of them, his jaw clenched and he glared. “Which is more than I can say for the rest of you,” he snapped. His eyes set on Plo Koon. “You, of all of them, you should have known. You should have known she wouldn’t do this. You have known her since before she arrived at the Temple. Yet you wouldn’t say a word in her defense. Not one word.” He looked at each of the Masters again. “This is all your fault. It was more important to you to kiss up to the Senate than to stand up for one of your own, one whom you knew was innocent. We weren’t even on planet!” Anakin yelled. “Anakin,” Obi-Wan repeated, stepping forward. But Anakin turned and walked away, out of the chambers, out of the Temple, and into his own speeder. He gunned the speeder, heading for 500 Republica. Padme was smiling when she greeted him. “Ani,” she said. “We prevailed. Ahsoka was proven innocent. I’m assuming that the Council…Anakin?” Her husband’s pale face, stooped shoulders, and empty eyes frightened her. “She’s gone,” Anakin said. “Gone?” Padme repeated. “What do you mean, gone?” “She left,” Anakin said. He held out his left hand, opening it to reveal the padawan braid, staring at it as if he had never seen it before. “She said that she…could no longer be part of the Order. That they didn’t…they didn’t trust her.” “Oh,” Padme said. Her smile faded quickly. “Oh, Anakin…” She ran her fingertips over the braid, saying nothing for a minute, then she kissed Anakin’s cheek. “I’ll be back,” she said. She left the room and returned a moment later, carrying a decorative oblong box, which she opened to reveal Anakin’s padawan braid. Once again she ran her fingers over Ahsoka’s braid in her husband’s palm, then gently took it, placing it in the box. “It fits,” she said. “Right next to yours. When she returns…” Anakin shook his head and closed his eyes, a tear sliding down his cheek. “No,” he said. “She won’t come back. And I…I don’t blame her, really.” Two more tears escaped. “I think she will. She just needs some time.” He shook his head again. “No,” he said. “The Council. The…Council! They were so…” Anakin turned away, his fists clenched. Padme put her hands on his shoulders, turning him to face her again. Anakin’s eyes squeezed shut, then he opened them again. “They…they…drove her from me,” he said. Padme shook her head. “Oh, Ani, no. It’s sad but I'm sure she came to this decision on her own.” Anakin hung his head, shaking it furiously. “No. They did this. They…” He could not finish, overcome by sobs. Padme held him.