Title: Exile Author: skygawker Timeframe: Two years after AotC Characters: Anakin, Obi-Wan Genre: Action/Adventure, Angst, AU Summary: Two years into the Clone Wars, Padme Amidala and Chancellor Palpatine are dead, and Anakin Skywalker is sent into exile as punishment for actions he took in the heat of his grief and his anger. Pairings: Eventual Anakin/Obi-Wan Twenty-two-year-old Anakin Skywalker stood motionless atop a podium in the Grand Convocation Chamber of the Senate. He was surrounded by nearly a dozen guards. It was a useless gesture; even handcuffed and stripped of his lightsaber as he was, he knew he could have taken them all out if he wanted to. He didn't. He didn't want much of anything, except perhaps that the Senate stop deliberating and announce their decision. It wasn't as though the verdict was anything but a foregone conclusion. It wasn't as though he didn't deserve what he knew he was about to get. Mon Mothma, newly elected Supreme Chancellor of the Republic, stepped forward. Finally. "Anakin Skywalker," rang her voice throughout the chamber, "by a unanimous vote, you are found guilty of treason and nine counts of murder in the first degree." So the evidence against Palpatine hadn't been enough to drop the treason charge, then. Anakin continued to stare at the floor of his dais, but he didn't need his eyes to sense the emotions radiating from the other occupants of the room. He could feel their accusatory stares, their satisfaction. It didn't matter. There was only one Senator whose opinion he had ever cared about, and her life had been ripped away from her nearly two weeks ago. "The traditional punishment for treason is the death penalty," Mon Mothma stated. Anakin closed his eyes, his breath quickening. "However, given the mitigating circumstances—your mental state at the time of the incident, and the situation surrounding the late Chancellor Palpatine that is still under investigation—it has been decided that you will receive a more lenient punishment." What? Anakin's head snapped up. Leniency? He didn't want leniency; he wanted this all to be over with. With Padme torn from him, the death penalty would have been a kindness. And he knew that half the galaxy had been clamoring for his execution; besides, with the Citadel still in the hands of the Separatists, it wasn't as though there was any prison that could hold him. Almost involuntarily, his eyes slid over to where Obi-Wan stood in the witness box next to the one survivor of his actions a fortnight ago, Bail Organa. It had likely been his former Master's testimony that had swayed them—though Obi-Wan's defense of him had produced a backlash among many in the Senate and public alike, he knew that there had been at least some who were still willing to listen to the famed Jedi Master. Obi-Wan turned his head slightly, meeting his eyes. Anakin's gaze dropped quickly back to the floor. "You are hereby sentenced to banishment from the Republic," Mon Mothma continued. "You have twenty-four hours to get to non-Republic space and are, upon pain of death, forbidden from ever returning." Numb with surprise, Anakin was barely aware of being dragged away by the guards. Banishment. Was it really supposed to be a kinder punishment, or had they decided that he deserved to rot in his misery more than he deserved a quick death? They were soon met in the foyer by a small group of Jedi Masters, those who had been present at the trial. Obi-Wan stepped forward. "We'll take him from here," he told the guards, who acquiesced and stepped silently away. He turned towards Anakin and asked lightly, "You're not going to try to escape, are you?" Anakin shook his head. There was so much he wanted to say to Obi-Wan in that moment. Were you the one who convinced them to let me live? Did you defend me because you care, or because the Council didn't want to let the person who killed the Sith Lord for them die? Do you hate me, for what I did? Do you understand? I'm sorry, Obi-Wan. But he couldn't say any of it, not when they were surrounded by so many other Jedi, so he remained silent as Obi-Wan unlocked his cuffs and lead him out to the waiting speeder. *** The ride back to the Temple was uncomfortable, to say the least. Obi-Wan was busy flying, but the other Jedi kept glancing warily at him, though none would look him straight in the eye. Perhaps they were torn between gratitude for bringing balance to the Force and fear, disgust even, for what else he had done. He couldn't tell. "You may go collect your belongings," said Ki-Adi-Mundi once they had landed. "A ship will be prepared for you to take beyond the border." With that, he and the others departed, leaving Anakin alone with Obi-Wan. Was this it? Was Obi-Wan staying behind to say goodbye to him? With Anakin in prison, they hadn't had the chance to talk since before the incident with Palpatine. And now, they might not have it ever again. A burst of panic blossomed in Anakin's chest, but his throat constricted and he was unable to find the words to express anything of what he felt. "Go pack your things," Obi-Wan said, and Anakin's stomach dropped. Obi-Wan couldn't even bear to be around him. Then Obi-Wan continued, "There's something I need to discuss with the Council, but I'll come up and find you afterwards, before you leave. All right?" The Council. Of course. The Council always came first for Obi-Wan, apparently even when they had so little time left. Anakin nodded mutely, and Obi-Wan turned and walked away without another word. Collect his belongings. Jedi didn't even have belongings. Anakin looked around his quarters, feeling somewhat lost. Deciding what to bring would be easier if he could picture himself in exile, but he just...couldn't. Couldn't even begin to imagine what he might do with his life with Padme dead, with no family or friends or even the Jedi to give him some sort of structure and direction. He couldn't envision a future for himself, at all. *** The datapads with starship blueprints scattered around his quarters, the clothes left carelessly draped over a chair, the wires and droid parts from half-finished projects he'd been so excited to work on only a few weeks ago...none of it seemed to matter. He found himself wandering aimlessly, searching for something, anything that he actually cared about. Finally, it hit him. Anakin went into his bedroom and knelt by his bed, reaching underneath it to pull out a small box. Inside it was his wedding ring. He slipped it onto his finger for the first time since the day he was married, knowing it was the one thing he could never leave behind. He remained kneeling, lost for anything else to do, until the door chime rang and soft footsteps came up behind him. "Hello there, Anakin," Obi-Wan said quietly. Anakin didn't respond. He wondered with no small amount of bitterness if Obi-Wan had figured out whatever was so important with the Council. Obi-Wan sighed. "I'm coming with you." Anakin's head snapped around, and he scrambled quickly to his feet. Surely he'd misheard; Obi-Wan was what? Apparently, his confusion was evident on his face. "I'm going with you into exile," Obi-Wan repeated drily. "For the time being, at least." Anakin stared at him, torn between hope and guilt. Obi-Wan was going to leave his life behind to come with him to some planet on the very edges of the galaxy. Why?! Then Obi-Wan continued, "The Council feels it would be a good idea if I were, ah, to keep an eye on you for a little while," Now, Anakin understood. They thought he might snap again, that he needed a babysitter, and since he was Anakin's former master, Obi-Wan was the unlucky bastard to be stuck with the job. He turned away from Obi-Wan, unable to look him in the face, blinking rapidly against the sudden stinging in his eyes. Perhaps he should apologize, but how did you say sorry for wrecking the life of a man just by being associated with him? A gentle hand came to rest on his shoulder. "Don't feel guilty. Er, not for my situation, at least." As if Anakin needed the reminder that there was so much else for him to feel guilty about. "I volunteered to go; there were a number of factors that made this a good decision. I thought—and the Council agrees—that it might be worth it for me to keep a low profile for a little while, given that public opinion is, well, you know." Anakin did know. They want to get Obi-Wan out of the public eye because of him. Because he and Obi-Wan were—had been—a team, and people thought that Obi-Wan should have been able to stop him, or that he was guilty too just because he defended Anakin in court. So now Obi-Wan was being sent away, too, even though it wasn't his fault. And it was all because of Anakin. No, the reassurance didn't do much to assuage Anakin's guilt; Obi-Wan was too kindhearted to voice blame for the situation aloud even if he did deserve it. First he had let Padme die, and now he was responsible for essentially ruining Obi-Wan's life. Why couldn't he ever protect the people he cared about? Some all-powerful Chosen One he'd turned out to be. Still, despite the renewed feelings of shame his arrival had brought on, Obi-Wan's familiar presence was comforting, and Anakin found himself breaking out of the grip of his earlier despair. He was still far from enthusiastic about the situation, but he was at least able to summon the energy to join Obi-Wan in packing clothes and sorting through their meager possessions to decide what was worth bringing. It didn't take long; as Jedi, neither of them had many belongings to start with. After a few minutes, Obi-Wan broke the silence. "Have you thought about where you want to go?" Anakin shook his head wordlessly. He'd briefly considered Tatooine, but he didn't think he could face those memories at the moment. He just wanted to go...somewhere far away. Somewhere no-one would know who he was; somewhere he could escape from the horrible speeder-wreck his life had become. Let Obi-Wan choose where they spent their banishment; it didn't matter. Not really. Warm or cold, heavily populated or not, desert or tropical forest, no planet could return to him what he had lost. Whom he had lost. Deep down, the dragon inside Anakin Skywalker whispered to him that there was no escape.