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Saga Exile (AU two years after AotC, eventual Anakin/Obi-Wan) Updated 08/17/15

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by skygawker, May 27, 2015.

  1. skygawker

    skygawker Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2014
    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.
     
    Agent M likes this.
  2. Agent M

    Agent M Jedi Padawan star 2

    Registered:
    May 13, 2015
    Ohh, this is good, lemme bookmark it. =D=
     
  3. taramidala

    taramidala Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 18, 1999
    I believe I've read most, if not all, of this elsewhere. I find it haunting to think of a world without Padmé especially, since that really means no Luke and Leia. Still, I'm looking forward to re-reading it here!
     
  4. skygawker

    skygawker Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2014
    Glad you like it! :)

    It's still an unfinished WIP, but yes, you may have read the first few chapters elsewhere. I was very sad to kill Padme off, since I love her a lot as a character, but it had to be done. Anyway, thanks for reading! :)
     
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  5. skygawker

    skygawker Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2014
    Chapter 2

    "Good luck may you have on your journey, young Obi-Wan," Yoda told him. "And may the Force be with you."

    "And with you, Master. Masters." Obi-Wan nodded at the group of assorted Council members who had come to see him off. Or, see them off, technically, but Anakin had boarded the ship a good half hour before their departure time and hadn't come out for farewells. Obi-Wan was somewhat grateful for that, and he suspected the other Jedi were as well.

    "Keep in touch," Mace Windu reminded him. Obi-Wan had agreed to comming the Council every week or so to check in, supposedly so that he could keep up-to-date on Jedi affairs and the Council could advise him on any problems that came up with Anakin. He half-wondered if it wasn't really because the Council wanted to make sure Anakin hadn't killed him in his sleep, which he personally found rather unlikely. But then again, he clearly didn't know his former apprentice as well as he thought he did.

    He bowed deeply to the Council, and walked up the ramp, unable to stop himself from glancing back over his shoulder as he left. How long would it be before he saw these people again? Would he ever see them? There had been no decision made on how long Anakin might need a warden.

    Anakin was in the cockpit when he arrived, going through all the pre-flight checks. "Everything ready?" Obi-Wan inquired. Anakin nodded, and stood up from the seat. "You don't want to fly?" asked Obi-Wan, surprised, and received only a shake of the head in response.

    Somewhat exasperated, Obi-Wan sighed as Anakin left the cabin. He sat down in the pilot's seat. Getting a read on Anakin's emotional state was necessary for him to judge how much he did need to be wary around the young man, and even more so if he wanted to help him. But it was going to be nearly impossible if Anakin kept up this refusal to communicate.

    The fact was, Anakin hadn't spoken a single word—as far as anyone knew—since he had found Padme Amidala's dead body in the lower levels of Coruscant. Oh, he'd written out a confession after being arrested, as well as letters of apology to each individual member of the families of his eight innocent victims, but he hadn't actually said anything. And while Anakin was just about as expressive as a person could be in his body language and gestures, not to mention his perpetual inability to fully shield his emotions in the Force, there was simply no way that Obi-Wan was going to be able to get through to him if they couldn't actually discuss what had happened.

    He maneuvered the ship into the air, through Coruscant's busy traffic lanes to the outer atmosphere. The planet below him buzzed with the activity of a trillion lives, a far cry from the sparsely habitated planet they were headed towards. Lumencras was a small, temperate planet in the Outer Rim, and even its largest city had a population of just under thirty-thousand. Hopefully, the peaceful atmosphere would let Anakin relax at least to the point where he was able to talk about what he had been through. What he had done.

    And yet...was talking truly going to do any good? In the past, though Obi-Wan himself tended to shy away from discussing emotional issues, he'd come to realize that Anakin seemed to need to talk about his feelings in order to work through them. But did he really understand Anakin as well as he'd assumed he had? The person Obi-Wan had thought he known had been a Jedi who was yes, emotional and prone to attachment, but devoted to his calling nonetheless. Who could get angry, but only at those who violated his overly black-and-white view of morality. Who was almost too open about his emotions and beliefs, wearing his heart on his sleeve.

    But now, Obi-Wan's best friend, his Padawan, his partner, had shown himself to be a killer. Anakin had kept a marriage secret for three years, flagrantly breaking the Code with not a hint of remorse and Obi-Wan never suspected a thing.

    He just couldn't reconcile the two images. And what else might Anakin be hiding?

    ***

    Anakin sat hunched on his small bunk in the ship's sleeping quarters, arms wrapped around his knees. A few weeks ago—a lifetime away, it seemed—he would have jumped any chance to fly, even for something as straightforward as this. Today, though, he just didn't have the energy.

    Padmé had always told him he had too much energy.

    He pressed his hands against his eyes, fighting back the tears that threatened to overwhelm him every time he let thoughts of his angel creep into his mind. For the past two weeks, he'd at least had the trial and the question of what was to become of him as a distraction from his grief. Now, there was no escaping it. His entire life stretched in front of him, empty and miserable and desolate.

    Though Padmé had always been insistent that he not let their relationship interfere with his duty, he'd always secretly imagined that after the war, after his destiny had been fulfilled, he'd be able to be with her openly. To start a family, even. Now, all of that was gone.

    There was Obi-Wan, of course, but who knew how long he would be around before the Council decided to recall him? He could be gone in an instant, abandoning Anakin to a lifetime of loneliness in order to fulfill his duty. And Anakin was sure that he'd sensed some annoyance when he'd slipped past Obi-Wan on his way out of the cockpit. It was entirely possible—likely, even—that Obi-Wan was here purely out of obligation to the Council, and to diffuse the fire of public anger that Anakin's actions had brought down upon his head.

    He lay down on his side, staring at the blank wall in front of him, trying not to think. He was exhausted, eyes heavy even though it was barely midafternoon, but sleep was as elusive as it had been for the past two weeks.

    For how long he stayed like that, seeking mental oblivion, he didn't know. Eventually, though, he was jarred back into the harshness of reality by a knock on the door. Rolling over onto his other side so that he could see the door, he watched his former master enter the room.

    Obi-Wan walked over to him, pausing a few feet from the bed. He pulled something out of his pocket and offered it to Anakin. "Your comlink," he explained hesitantly. "They made a copy of Padmé's message, so it was no longer needed in evidence, and I thought you might want it back."

    Padmé's message. The last words that his love had ever spoken for him. Yes, he wanted it back. Anakin reached out to take the device from Obi-Wan's hand, clutching it in his own.

    Obi-Wan looked at him somewhat pityingly. "Anakin, if you want to talk about this..."

    Anakin's throat clenched, his chest tight and his eyes suddenly burning. He couldn't talk about it, he just couldn't. Rolling back over to face the wall, he curled up on his side with the comlink gripped closely against his chest. From somewhere behind him, he heard Obi-Wan sigh. A few seconds later, the door opened and closed and he was left alone.

    He thumbed a button on the comlink without looking at it, and let the sound of Padme's voice flow over him.

    "Anakin. Are you there? It's important; I need to talk to you."

    He'd been asleep. After nearly two months fighting almost nonstop in the Outer Rim, he'd been weary enough to fall asleep in the middle of the day, even three days after his return home.

    "Listen. I've found something out, about Palpatine. I know—I know you trust him, but Anakin, I think he might be involved with the Separatists."

    No one knew how she'd figured it out, not for sure. When they'd searched the Chancellor's office, they'd found a hidden comconsole with evidence of a call to Serenno a few minutes before Padmé had contacted him—one theory held that she'd overheard Palpatine talking to Dooku. But Padmé hadn't lived long enough to explain what she'd discovered.

    "He just left his office. I'm going to look around inside and see if I can find any evidence. I was hoping you would come with me, but I guess you're busy, and I don't know how long he'll be out. Um, I'll call you later to let you know how it goes."

    If he had been sleeping a little less deeply. If he had woken up earlier, in time to go with her. If he'd been brave enough to face his nightmares and forced himself to get more rest during the mission.

    "Anyway, I'll see you later, Anakin. I love you."

    So many ways he could have saved her. But he'd never gotten the chance to return the sentiment. Squeezing his eyes tightly shut against the tears that threatened to start and never stop if he let them, he was unable to stop himself from hitting replay. Padme's voice washed over him once more, at once a balm and an accusation.

    "Anakin. Are you there? It's important..."


    ***

    Obi-Wan dropped the ship out of hyperspace as soon as it crossed the Republic border. They weren't at their destination, not yet, but he had one quick obligation to fulfill.

    It took only a few moments to establish a link to Coruscant, and the shimmering form of Bail Organa soon appeared before him. "Obi-Wan," the man greeted him warmly.

    "Hello, Bail," Obi-Wan said. "Anakin and I have passed into non-Republic space."

    Bail nodded. "Yes, I can see where the transmission is coming from. I'll let the rest of the Senate know Anakin is fulfilling the terms of his exile."

    "Thank you." There was a moment's awkward silence. "How are you doing? Are you recovered?"

    Bail shrugged. "I'm fine. Far better than I could have been, I suppose."

    That was true. Only luck and quick reflexes had saved Bail from the fate of his fellow Senators

    "Sometimes I wonder, though," Bail continued. "If there's anything I could have done differently. Maybe Anakin would have ignored the rest of us if I hadn't started firing at him. God knows it's not as though protecting Palpatine was worth it."

    Obi-Wan stared at him. "Bail, you can't blame yourself for what happened; there was nothing you could have done. Anakin had already killed Palpatine's secretary just for telling him he'd have to wait until the Chancellor's meeting was over to see him." The security recording of that particular moment had been played more than once at Anakin's trial, until it was burned into Obi-Wan's mind. "He wasn't going to spare anyone who stood in his way."

    Bail sighed. "You're right. Survivor's guilt, I suppose, and part of me knows that. Still, I can't stop reliving that afternoon, thinking I should have known something was off. You know Padmé was supposed to be at the meeting? It wasn't like her to miss something like that—I assumed she was home sick."

    Obi-Wan did know—he'd heard all this in Bail's testimony at the deposition—but he stayed silent, letting him speak."

    "And then Anakin came in," Bail said, his eyes focused somewhere in the middle distance over Obi-Wan's shoulder. "I could tell there was something wrong just by looking at him. I'm not sure how. But when he ignited the lightsaber, I just knew that he was there to hurt someone, not to defend. There was something in his eyes, something broken..." He trailed off, shaking his head. "It was foolish to fire at him. My blaster was never going to hurt a Jedi."

    "It saved your life," Obi-Wan pointed out. Bail's shots had never come close to harming Anakin, had been deflected back at him easily. But the blaster had had been set on stun, and Bail had only been left injured and unconscious by his own bolts.

    The other Senators had met their far more gruesome ends on Anakin's lightsaber, collateral damage in his rampage against Palpatine.

    "True," Bail agreed. "By the time I woke up, Anakin had surrendered. And everyone else was...in pieces." He shuddered. "Are you going to be all right out there with him, Obi-Wan?"

    "We'll be fine," said Obi-Wan, with more confidence than he felt.

    Bail looked dubious. "If you say so," he replied. "Good luck, Obi-Wan. And be careful."

    "Thank you, my friend."

    Obi-Wan cut the transmission and, after setting the coordinates for the next jump, leaned back in his seat. Though it was nice to talk to a friendly face, the harsh reminder of Anakin's deeds was somewhat less welcome.

    They were only a few hours from Lumencras, now, and what would he do once they got there? Technically, his only orders from the Council were to watch over Anakin and ensure that he didn't hurt anybody else. And while his first impulse was to try to help Anakin, to give him the benefit of the doubt that what had happened in Palpatine's office had been a one-time fluke of grief and not a lasting turn towards the dark, he had to question his own motives.

    He had never dreamed Anakin could do what he had done. Was he biased? Had his affection towards Anakin blinded him into missing warning signs? Had that affection led him to be too lenient with Anakin's anger and attachments?

    Could he have prevented this, if only he'd been a little bit stricter? More importantly, would being more firm prevent it from happening again? Obi-Wan wasn't sure he'd be able to bear it if Anakin snapped and killed again, knowing he'd been given a wake-up call and ignored it.

    It would almost be easier if he could look at this as a choice between Anakin and his duty, between his attachment and his vows to the Order. But Anakin was his duty, and his duty was to Anakin. For once, the two priorities coincided.


    He just didn't have any idea where to start.
     
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  6. JadeLotus

    JadeLotus Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 27, 2005
    What a unique and interesting concept! Obi-Wan and Anakin's shared regrets and what-ifs are heartbreaking, but I'm looking forward to reading their journey together.
     
  7. Agent M

    Agent M Jedi Padawan star 2

    Registered:
    May 13, 2015
    Loving it. =D=
     
  8. skygawker

    skygawker Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2014
    I'm glad you're enjoying it! Thanks for reading.
    Thanks! :)
     
  9. skygawker

    skygawker Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2014
    Chapter 3

    Though not part of the Republic, Lumencras had received assistance from the Jedi Agricultural Corps in the midst of a famine some decades prior, and the planetary government had been willing enough to help Obi-Wan find a place where he and Anakin could take residence. Well, the willingness may have had something to do with the fact that Obi-Wan was almost entirely certain that the price he'd been given for the small house was far more than it was actually worth. But the pockets of the Jedi Temple were deep, and he'd not had the energy to argue.

    Pulling up to the cottage in the groundcar he'd rented after landing in Melioramo, the smallest of the planet's three largest cities—if they could indeed be called that—Obi-Wan was able to look at his purchase for the first time. It was certainly small, and had quite obviously seen better days. Still, Jedi did not care for luxury, and the place was far enough in the outskirts of Melioramo to be peaceful while close enough that going into town if necessary would not be too much of an ordeal.

    Yes, it would do. "Well, here we are, then," he announced to Anakin unnecessarily, more to break the silence than anything else. For all that he'd complained about his partner's endless chatter in the past, it was disconcerting to need to be the one filling the air with talk.

    He strode up to the front door and pushed it open, Anakin trudging quietly at his heels. He was immediately hit by the smell of dust, and a quick surveyal of the cottage revealed that it had likely not been inhabited for a very long time. A small kitchen, a sitting room, and two bedrooms, it was precisely what they needed and nothing more.

    But Jedi did not care for luxury. Returning to the groundcar for their meager belongings, he prepared to face the uncertain future.

    ***

    Obi-Wan spent the first few days keeping up on Council reports on the political situation while Anakin hid in his room. Aside from an initial trip into town for food, he quickly found that he had very little to do on Lumencras: the cottage was so small that cleaning it up until it was inhabitable hadn't occupied him for long, and he didn't dare leave Anakin alone, unsure if the young man might be a danger to himself or not. So hard to read him, these days.

    So Obi-Wan read about what was going on back home—how they had found a lightsaber hidden in Palpatine's office, confirming his identity as the Sith Lord. How rumors were spreading amongst the public that the weapon had been planted as part of a cover-up, and that Padme's wound had been inflicted by a Jedi. How the Senate had been in contact with Dooku, who was apparently offering peace talks with the Republic now that his master had been killed, but that the Council was highly suspicious that he was up to something. How they were putting as many resources as possible into finding General Grievous, who was apparently determined to cause as much destruction as he could before the war officially ended.

    He read up on Lumencras itself. How the planet had been settled by humans millennia before and had existed quietly ever since, with few wars or major natural disasters, which was why they'd been so ill-prepared for the famine when it had come. How the largest problem its inhabitants seemed to face were occasional attacks from the native wolf-cats. How agriculture dominated its economy, and it traded little with other planets nearby.

    He scrubbed the cottage from top to bottom until it was not just inhabitable but needlessly immaculate. He cooked food for himself and for Anakin, and then retrieved the younger man's barely-touched plates. He worried.

    He meditated, but he could not find peace.

    ***

    Padme stood amongst the wildflowers of a Lake Country meadow, face angled up to look into the sky. She looked radiant in the sunlight, golden rays illuminating her skin and playing in her hair.

    Truly, she was an angel. Anakin could have stood there and watched her forever, and perhaps he already had.

    A figure dressed in black came up behind Padme. Anakin opened his mouth to shout a warning, but no sound came out. He began to run towards her.

    Oddly, he didn't seem to be getting any closer, but the dark figure had moved to stand just inches behind her shoulder. Padme, oblivious, smiled sweetly.

    Anakin tried again to scream, and if any noise came out, it was drowned in the humming of the sunlight. A scarlet lightsaber blade sprung into existence in the figure's hand. Running faster and faster, all Anakin seemed to do was end up farther away.

    Padme's smile dropped off her face as the red blade impaled her through the stomach. She glanced down and then her eyes met Anakin's, full of confusion and betrayal. Why didn't you save me? they asked. How could you have let this happen?

    As she exploded into pieces, the dark figure lowered its hood, and Anakin found himself staring into the glowing yellow eyes of his own face.

    Silently, he screamed.


    ***

    Anakin jerked awake, curling himself around his pillow to muffle the rest of his cry. Sitting up shakily, his sweat-dampened sleep clothes clinging to his skin, he let his face fall into his hands. He tried to get his rapid breathing under control and failed, feeling as though there were a tight band compressing his chest. Padme, oh Padme. His fingers curled into his hair, twisting and tugging. My fault, my fault.

    He froze when the door slid open and quiet footsteps padded into the room. In the five days since they had arrived, this was the first time that his nightly terrors had woken Obi-Wan up. The older man hesitated when he reached the side of the bed, and Anakin wasn't surprised. If this had been ten years ago—hell, five years ago—back when his frequent nightmares had been merely from his own imagination, he could have expected some form of comfort. A gentle inquiry into what the dream had been about. A warm hand on his shoulder. A reassurance that it would pass. An offer to meditate with him, which he'd eventually come to realize was just code for an offer to sit with him until he fell back asleep.

    But now the dreams were memories, and would pass in time no more than his visions about his mother had. Anakin was no longer a child—he had gotten himself into this situation, and both he and Obi-Wan knew it. What comfort could there be in that?

    Finally, Obi-Wan spoke. "Are you ever going to talk about it?" he asked, and Anakin was sure he wasn't referring to the dream. He shook his head, not even certain that the dim light from the hallway was enough for Obi-Wan to see the gesture. Padme was dead. What was there to talk about?

    Obi-Wan sighed-it seemed to Anakin like he'd been doing that a lot, lately. "I'll be here when you're ready," he said shortly, and left the room.

    Anakin lay back down on his bed. He was still awake when the dawn came.

    ***

    Two days later, Obi-Wan found himself sitting in a grassy patch outside the small house late in the evening. He'd originally come out to see if the change of scenery would make it easier to meditate; now, though, he simply breathed in the fresh air and took in the quiet hum of life around him. Though they were quite isolated from any human form of life, he could sense various animals in the woodlands nearby. It was quiet, peaceful.

    When the door opened and Anakin walked out, Obi-Wan was tempted to pinch himself to make sure he wasn't actually dreaming: he was quite sure the younger man hadn't left his room except to use the refresher in all the time since they'd arrived. Barefoot, Anakin shuffled over to him and dropped to the ground, sitting cross-legged a few feet away.

    For a moment, they sat in silence. Obi-Wan looked at Anakin; Anakin, silhouetted in the cold moonlight, looked off into the distance.

    "This would be easier if you would talk to me, you know," Obi-Wan told him. Anakin lowered his gaze to the ground and remained silent. "I only want to help." It was true, the decision only crystallizing as he voiced it aloud. It has been not connecting with Anakin, not knowing what was going on with him that had led them to this point, and only by actively engaging with him could Obi-Wan hope to prevent such a thing from happening again.

    But Anakin, it seemed, was not willing to cooperate with his epiphany. Rather than respond, he simply wrapped his arms around his knees and stared up at the stars.

    Obi-Wan, too, glanced up at the unfamiliar constellations. "I remember when you used to be determined to visit all of them," he commented. He also remembered what he'd said the first time his charge had voiced this ambition: "There are billions and billions of systems in the galaxy, my young Padawan. Far too many for any person to visit in one lifetime." And Anakin's reply: "I know it's impossible, Master. That doesn't mean I can't try." Despite anything Master Yoda might have taught about the value of trying, Obi-Wan had been unable to contradict the notion, and from then on he'd kept a list of all the planets he and Anakin visited so he could answer the frequent inquiries of how many have I been to now?

    It occurred to him that he couldn't remember how old Anakin had been when those questions had stopped. "I kept the list, you know," he said aloud. "For as long as you were my apprentice." Had updated it faithfully after every mission long after Anakin's persistent requests had ceased. "It's still in my room on Coruscant, I think."

    Anakin shifted slightly toward him, turning his face away from the night sky until they were facing. He was looking at Obi-Wan with an inscrutable expression, eyes glinting in the darkness. After a moment, he leaned forward, reached out with one hand and rested the tips of his fingers on the sleeve of Obi-Wan's robe.

    For reasons Obi-Wan couldn't quite explain, an odd shiver ran through him at the light touch, and he nearly pulled away. Then reality reasserted itself and he remembered that this was the first gesture of contact with anyone that Anakin had made in more than three weeks. It wasn't much, but it was certainly better than nothing. Internally shaking off his own queer reaction, and mindful not to make any sudden movements, he carefully lifted his other arm to cover Anakin's hand with his own.

    For how long they sat like that, he didn't know. When Anakin rose abruptly and headed back into the cottage—he had disappeared back into his own room again by the time Obi-Wan himself entered—Obi-Wan was left with a peculiar pang of regret.

    It took him a long time to fall asleep that night.

    ***

    The next morning, Obi-Wan decided to take a trip into Melioramo. They were running low on food and other supplies, and while it would probably be possible to subsist on nothing more than the frozen mealpacks and dried cereal that they still had left for a few days longer, he would have to go at some point and to be honest, he was starting to get a little bit stir-crazy.

    He poked a head into Anakin's room to ask if he wanted to come along and was unsurprised, if slightly disappointed, when he received only a shake of the head in reply. Whatever had happened the night before, whatever had given the younger man the energy to finally surface from his isolation for however brief a moment, seemed to have worn off, and Anakin had withdrawn into himself once more.

    "I should be back in a few hours," Obi-Wan told him when it was clear he wasn't going to emerge again. Anakin only nodded.

    With one last glance over his shoulder, Obi-Wan took his leave.

    ***

    It took less than an hour from the time Obi-Wan left for Anakin to start feeling restless. In theory, he knew, there should be no difference between sitting in his room when Obi-Wan was in the house and sitting there when he wasn't, and yet there was. He couldn't sense Obi-Wan's presence, soothing even from another room. More than that, just knowing he was alone was...discomfiting.

    He wandered out of his room, taking a good look around the place for the first time since he'd arrived. It was easier now that Obi-Wan was away, despite the loneliness, because he didn't have to hide. Didn't have to avoid the piercing gaze and impassive face that could be hiding either judgment or gentleness. Didn't have to brush off imploring requests that he talk, because he couldn't. Talking about anything would inevitably lead to talking about Padme, and he wasn't sure he could face having that discussion. It would lead to talking about what he'd done in Palpatine's office, and more importantly, why he'd done it. And he didn't know. He just didn't.

    Killing Palpatine, that had been a straightforward act of revenge, and not one he regretted. But killing the others on his way to Palpatine, the secretary and the Senators...it had been like killing the littlest of the Tusken children. He had just been so angry and they had been right there in front of him; he had felt like glass was shattering behind his eyes and he had to make the universe feel the force of his agony.

    But he didn't know how to explain that to Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan didn't get that sort of angry; he was stable and sane and had been foolish enough to assume that Anakin could be trusted. So not talking to him was just better for both of them.

    His examination didn't take long. Although he'd spent the past week almost constantly in a single room, and the two weeks before that in a cell that hadn't been self-imposed, he was suddenly starting to feel like the cottage was too small. Too confining. Its pristine walls—had they been that clean when they'd gotten here?—were beginning to close in on him now that he was alone.

    A few quick steps took him out of the door to the grass area where he'd sat with Obi-Wan last night. And what he'd felt then was still just confusing, so he moved on, over towards a trail that headed into the trees. He didn't know where it went, because he hadn't been paying enough attention on the ride here to notice whether the town was in that direction or not. It didn't matter, though, because the urge to move and get away was beginning to overwhelm him.

    He began to walk along it, and then broke out into a jog, and then into a run. Being active had always helped him escape from the pressure of his own mind—he had no droids to fix or lightsaber to spar with now, though, so instead he sprinted along the unkempt trail with no particular destination in mind.

    But no matter how fast he ran, the pounding of his feet against the dirt couldn't seem to drown out the noise in his own head. Wind rustled the leaves of the trees, whispering to him as he fled past them. Anakin. Are you there? It's important...I guess you're busy...I'll see you later, Anakin...I love you...I truly, deeply love you...I kept the list, you know...The boy is dangerous...You're not all-powerful, Ani…

    The world around him began to blur as his eyes and throat began to sting; he couldn't see, he couldn't breathe for the sobs that were once again making their way out of him as he ran and ran and ran.

    He tripped. Crashing to the ground a few feet in front of the tree root protruding onto the path that he'd failed to notice, Anakin couldn't help but wonder if this wasn't some sort of sign from the Force meant to summarize how his life was going lately. Nice balance, Chosen One, he sneered internally as he picked himself up, angrily wiping away his own tears.

    It was only as he brushed himself off that he noticed...something. A tickling in the back of his mind, a warning. Closing his eyes, he opened himself to the Force. Now that he was trying, he could sense three presences: slightly wary, hostile, definitely non-sentient. Probably the wolf-cats that Obi-Wan had warned him about earlier in the week, he surmised. He could probably influence their minds pretty easily to get them to leave him alone if he had to.

    As the presences drew closer to him, another thought wormed its way into his head. He could get them to leave him alone, or he could just...not.

    No one would know, if he didn't try to defend himself. Obi-Wan wouldn't have to feel guilty about not stopping him, as he certainly would if Anakin made any more active attempt on his own life. A tragic accident, that's all it would look like, except maybe even not so tragic.

    And then he'd be with Padme. It was what he'd wanted, what he'd expected, after his trial, wasn't it? He'd been spared execution because of his 'mental state,' but after the people he'd killed, wouldn't this just be what he deserved? He'd let Padme die; he'd let his mom die; he'd repaid all Obi-Wan's kindness by hurting him.

    The galaxy and the people in it would be better off without him. Obi-Wan could go back to his life and his friends on Coruscant. No one would know what he'd done.

    But even if Obi-Wan didn't know he'd chosen it, would his death just cause even more pain?

    Anakin hesitated, torn. The first wolf-cat appeared and began slinking towards him, apparently having decided he looked like good prey. He tensed, balled his hands into his robes, forced himself not to respond. The other two appeared behind it and begin to circle in from either side.

    Frozen, unable to make himself choose, Anakin stood rooted to the spot. Fight back. Let them attack. Fight back. Let them have their prey. Fight back…

    And then the first one lunged, and the decision was made as his survival instincts kicked in and he threw a hand up in front of him without thinking. The wolf-cat was thrown into the tree behind it with a sickening thwack and Anakin backed up enough that he could see the other two as they began to close in.

    Adrenaline pulsed through him—was he doing the right thing?—but then a second one was leaping forward and he raised his hand to grip it by the neck without making contact, raising it into the air as it struggled. His fingers tightened and the wolf-cat went limp the Senator went limp and dropped to the floor as Anakin released him, but there were still so many in his way and all of them were here to talk to the person who'd killed his beloved and shattered his galaxy. He lashed out with his lightsaber and lopped off the head of Garm Bel Iblis; he managed to shove the blade into and through Palpatine's surprised-looking face, but it wasn't enough, she was still dead, he was still breaking. He rounded on Nee Alavar, the last Senator standing, and cut her in half. Panting, he stood in the middle of the room and surveyed the carnage, furious that none of it had helped.

    As the rage drained out of him, he sank onto the floor of the office. Padme was dead. Padme was dead, and now he was surrounded by death just like he always had been and always would be. It was his fault, all his fault-

    "Anakin. Look at me. Anakin, are you all right?"

    Anakin slowly became aware of himself. Someone was shaking him, saying his name in a concerned voice. Obi-Wan. Disoriented, he blinked to find himself back in the woods on Lumencras, curled onto his side on the forest floor.

    "-all my fault, all my fault, all my fault-" Was that himself muttering, sobbing? He couldn't seem to stop.

    As Obi-Wan helped him into a sitting position, he noticed the gashes on his own arms and chest. Something on his face stung; when he raised a hand to touch it, it came away scarlet.

    Glancing around, he flinched at the sight of a wolf-cat cut neatly in half less than a meter away from him. The other two, the ones he'd killed, were laying further away.

    "It was attacking you when I came looking," Obi-Wan said, clipping his lightsaber back onto his belt and gripping Anakin's shaking shoulders with both hands. "You—you weren't fighting back."

    He'd been too far out of it, drowning in his own memories, to even notice being attacked. But the conclusion Obi-Wan had presumably jumped to wasn't exactly wrong, either. "It was all my fault," he repeated by way of explanation, and it was only after the choked words had left his mouth that he realized he had said them aloud. "I should have saved her."

    "You can't save everyone, Anakin." Face clouded with worry, Obi-Wan grasped his hand and pulled him to his feet. "There was nothing you could have done. You made mistakes, and you were responsible for the deaths of innocents, but not Padme. Palpatine fooled all of us; there was no way for you to know what was going to happen."

    "I still should have...should have done something," Anakin whispered hoarsely. "Anything."

    Obi-Wan shook his head. He pulled Anakin closer, rubbing circles into his back as he trembled. "Let's get you back," he said eventually. "We need to put bacta on those cuts; you don't need any more scars."

    Anakin wasn't entirely sure he agreed with that statement, but he leaned on Obi-Wan's shoulder and let the older man lead him back along the trail.

    Together, they made their way home.
     
    Agent M likes this.
  10. JadeLotus

    JadeLotus Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 27, 2005
    Oh, Anakin's pain is heartbreaking, but I'm glad Obi-Wan was able to get through to him in the end. It's interesting to see Anakin without Padme but also without any other purpose to keep him going, especially with all of his guilt and regrets and memories. He really is broken, and it's going to take a while to put himself back together again, if it can be done.
     
    Agent M likes this.
  11. skygawker

    skygawker Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2014

    Yeah, Anakin is definitely not in a good place in this fic. In canon, even as Vader, at least he had Palpatine to provide him with a sense of purpose, and I think he's pretty lost without that. Thanks for reading and commenting!
     
  12. JediMaster_Jen

    JediMaster_Jen Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2002
    The pain and heartbreak both of the are feeling is so palpable in your writing. Very well done.^:)^ Sure hope Anakin can find a way to come to terms with what happened, his role on it and move on.

    Definitely watching this one. :)
     
  13. skygawker

    skygawker Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2014
    I'm glad you're enjoying it! Anakin definitely has a long way to go before he can really move on, but he's trying. Thanks for reading!
     
  14. Agent M

    Agent M Jedi Padawan star 2

    Registered:
    May 13, 2015
    Damn, I came running in here thinking that you had updated! [face_laugh]
     
  15. skygawker

    skygawker Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2014
    Sorry :p. I probably will put up a new chapter later today or tomorrow, though!
     
  16. Agent M

    Agent M Jedi Padawan star 2

    Registered:
    May 13, 2015
    Can't wait!
     
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  17. skygawker

    skygawker Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2014
    Chapter 4

    In the small cottage in rural Lumencras, life went on.

    It still wasn't a comfortable situation, by any means, but at least Anakin was talking again. Not much, and not…happily, but at least Obi-Wan felt reassured he'd have some warning if his best friend again decided to cope with his grief by extinguishing (or attempting to) his own life or those of the people around him. He still wouldn't say a word about what had happened in the Chancellor's office, but he returned Obi-Wan's good mornings and answered questions about what he wanted for dinner, which was progress.

    Obi-Wan sighed. There had been a time when Anakin's progress had been measured in missions succeeded, difficult skills mastered, impossible tasks completed. Not…two-word sentences uttered. He shook his head. Focus on the present. Nostalgia for what had been before would only distract him.

    A new routine had been established in the days since Anakin's suicide attempt (for Obi-Wan was almost certain that was what it had been, though Anakin was silent on the subject), not so different from the first week. Anakin still spent the majority of the time in his room; Obi-Wan on keeping the cottage clean and functional, and on reading the news from the Republic both via the HoloNet and the reports sent to him by the Council. But now Anakin joined him for meals, usually once or twice a day. And on occasion—such as the present moment—he would emerge with no obvious purpose.

    Obi-Wan glanced up from where he was sitting on the couch as Anakin exited his room. "Good afternoon, Anakin."

    "Afternoon, Obi-Wan." The young man crossed over to the couch where Obi-Wan was seated, hesitated for a moment, then sat down at the other end of it. He nodded at the datapad in Obi-Wan's hands. "What's that?"

    Two two-word sentences this time, miracle of miracles. "A report on the war situation," he replied carefully. "Would you like to hear about it?"

    Anakin shook his head, and curled up against the arm of the sofa. His face was pale and drawn, and the ever-present dark circles under his eyes were more noticeable than usual. Obi-Wan bit back another sigh—he had to believe that the fact Anakin was now speaking and seeking him out with some regularity was indicative of some sort of desire to communicate, yet his friend was still refusing any sort of prolonged conversation. It was one thing when Anakin came out for lunch, or dinner—at least then Obi-Wan knew what he wanted. But what in the blazes was Anakin expecting from him now?

    Even more unsettling was that, out of the corner of his eye, he could see Anakin staring at him. It wasn't the first time he had noticed Anakin doing so, and he knew that if he tried to look over Anakin would only drop his gaze. It was frustrating.

    What do you want from me, my former Padawan? I cannot give it to you if you do not ask.

    Anakin didn't want someone to talk to—he'd made that clear enough; every time Obi-Wan tried to strike up a conversation that touched upon what had happened on Coruscant, he'd simply gotten up and left. Even after Obi-Wan had cleaned his wounds after the wolf-cat attack, he'd stopped proclaiming his own guilt for Padme's death (ironically enough, the one thing he truly wasn't accountable for) and simply sobbed quietly as Obi-Wan held him. And when Obi-Wan tried to ease into a conversation by talking about unimportant things, random topics from the news he'd seen on the HoloNet that didn't touch on anything related to Anakin's own actions, he simply sat and listened without responding.

    The idea that he was looking for someone to meditate with, as Obi-Wan might have done in an emotionally stressful situation, was laughable. A shoulder to cry on? Anakin had used him as such after his breakdown in the woods, but Obi-Wan no longer sensed the sharp grief and bone-deep despair that he had then. Right now, he couldn't sense anything—Anakin had apparently recovered enough to start bothering with his shields again. Whether that was a good sign or not remained to be seen.

    He turned his head to the side. Sure enough, Anakin jerked his head away and turned to stare at the wall instead, but not before Obi-Wan had gotten a glimpse of his gaze: intense, desperate, expectant, pleading.

    Anakin, what do you want?

    ***

    The next day when Anakin wandered out of his room late in the evening, Obi-Wan had a plan. He wanted—and was sure Anakin needed—more than simple pleasantries, yet talking about directly about Padme's death and the massacre that followed was apparently too painful. It was time to try a different tack.

    He waited until Anakin sat down on the far end of the couch, then got up and sat down next to him only about a foot away. For a brief moment, Anakin appeared alarmed by the sudden proximity, and Obi-Wan wondered if he'd made a mistake. But then Anakin too shifted slightly closer, still looking slightly wary, tilting his head to the side expectantly.

    "So," he said, then cleared his throat awkwardly. "You know, I always suspected there was something between you and Padme."

    Anakin stared at him incredulously.

    "I never suspected marriage, though," Obi-Wan forged ahead. "How did that end up happening?" He was sure that the attempt to evoke a response was painfully transparent, but at least Anakin was looking bemused rather than running away.

    "Just did," Anakin responded. "I love her. Wanted to be with her. She said the same. So we married."

    Five words. "I see," he said. "This was right after Geonosis, yes?" Anakin had said as much in his written confession. In another lifetime, it might have been a shocking revelation. But coming so close on the heels of Anakin's mass homicide, it would have taken more to shake Obi-Wan in any significant way than a confirmation that Anakin had acted on his badly hidden feelings.

    Anakin nodded, but didn't say anything.

    Obi-Wan tried again. "You hadn't known each other for long," he mused aloud. "You must have been…very certain of your feelings."

    "I was." There was more feeling in Anakin's voice than he'd heard since that day in the woods. "Been in love with her since I was nine. I'd dreamed of her for years. I would have married her the day we reunited, if she'd've let me."

    That sounded…slightly unhealthy, that sort of obsession with no real basis behind it. But something real must have developed, if Padme had gone along with it; Obi-Wan couldn't picture her as carrying a torch for a child she'd met ten years previously. At any rate, there was no point critiquing the relationship now, any more than there would be any point in chiding Anakin for breaking the Code. On the other hand, it must have been that same obsession that had driven Anakin to react to her death the way he had… "And was she the same as she had been in your dreams?"

    Anakin turned to face him fully. "Better," he said fervently. "More beautiful. Radiant in the Force, and soothing. And she's—she was so strong. She wasn't afraid of the assassins. She offered to go with me to Tatooine. And when my mom died, she—" He broke off suddenly.

    "Yes?" Obi-Wan prompted, curious. Anakin had never talked about his mother's death other than to say that she'd been killed by Tuskens, and he'd always sensed that there was more to the story.

    Anakin closed his eyes. "She took care of me," he continued quietly. "Calmed me down. If she hadn't been there, I would have—" he waved his hands around, as if trying to physically grab the right words, "I wouldn't have—I might have—things could have gone bad a lot sooner."

    Obi-Wan still got the sense that there was something he wasn't saying, but didn't want to press too hard now that he'd finally gotten Anakin talking. "I'm glad she was there for you," he said instead, and after a moment's hesitation—physical comfort had never been his strong suit—placed an arm around Anakin's shoulders.

    Anakin tensed at the touch, then relaxed into it, looking up at Obi-Wan with that same intense yet uninterpretable expression. "I'm glad she was there too," he whispered.

    "Ah," responded Obi-Wan, for lack of anything better to say.

    "I'm glad you're here now," Anakin continued before he could come up with something more eloquent, twisting around to face Obi-Wan directly, their legs brushing together as he did. Anakin stared at him with visibly more concentration than he had even the moment before.

    "Ah?" It was more than a little uncomfortable to be the object of such close attention, especially given their physical proximity - which Obi-Wan himself had initiated, he reminded himself. "Well, I am," he responded when Anakin didn't say anything more, feeling horribly awkward. "Here, I mean. If you want to talk about it or...or something." Brilliant, Kenobi, he scolded himself. No wonder they call you the Negotiator with that sort of eloquence.

    "Thank you, Master," Anakin said quietly, reaching up a hand to touch the side of Obi-Wan's face. And then he leaned just slightly closer, and Obi-Wan found himself freezing in place, heart racing for reasons he couldn't possibly justify.

    The moment stretched out. Anakin's other hand came to brace against his shoulder; he was just inches away from actually sitting in Obi-Wan's lap, and his face was near enough that Obi-Wan couldn't help but be trapped by his fierce, exhausted blue eyes. Obi-Wan didn't move. Couldn't.

    And then Anakin was pulling away, not looking at him, standing up and turning his back. Within moments he had ducked back into his bedroom without so much as a backward glance, the door swinging shut behind him.

    Obi-Wan calmed his breathing, but despite himself, his pulse continued to race beneath his skin. And despite himself, he couldn't quite convince himself that nothing had happened.

    He leaned back against the couch, rubbing his eyes, trying to focus on the matters he should be paying attention to. Anakin wasn't the only one who hadn't been sleeping well, and he was sure he would be better equipped to deal with all this—whatever, precisely, it was—if he was a little more rested. Trying to help Anakin with his problems was one thing, but attempting to tease out what the root of those problems were…

    His commlink chimed. Obi-Wan started in surprise, then mentally counted the days—no, he hadn't lost track of time; this wasn't one of his regular weekly check-ins with the rest of the Council. The frequency was a Temple one, though, so he supposed he should be relieved he'd already read the war reports he'd been sent to look over before the next meeting.

    Taking a deep breath and attempting to compose himself into at least a facade of Jedi serenity, he answered the call. To his surprise, only two holographic figures flickered into existence. Not a meeting of the whole Council, then.

    "Master Yoda. Master Windu," he greeted them. "Good evening." Actually, it would only be late afternoon Coruscant time, he realized after the words had already passed his lips. "How are things at the Temple?" If they were calling at an unusual time due to some sort of emergency...honestly, he wasn't sure whether to be concerned, or grateful for the distraction.

    "Things are as they are, young Obi-Wan," said Yoda. "Continued to function the Jedi Order has in your absence; concern yourself over that, you need not."

    That was the thing about Yoda; it was always so difficult to tell when he was joking. "I didn't mean—"

    Mace, thankfully ever the straightforward one, cut him off. "Things at the Temple are fine, Obi-Wan," he told him. Then, evidently reconsidering slightly: "No better or worse than they've been at any other point in the war, at least."

    "And the war itself?" Obi-Wan asked. "From the reports, I got the impression that the Separatists have been less aggressive than usual." Not that that necessarily meant anything—there was always an ebb and flow to the conflict, and a temporary lull was no promise of a longer one. Especially if all it signified was that the enemy was planning something, gathering their forces…

    "You've interpreted them correctly," Mace said. "It seems that most of the Separatist Council and the Trade Federation were shaken by the loss of Sidious. For the moment, they're off the offensive, and there are talks of opening up negotiations."

    Obi-Wan nodded, rubbing his beard. "That's good news, I suppose." But good news rarely came alone, these days. "Isn't it?"

    Mace grimaced, glancing over at Yoda before returning to meet Obi-Wan's eyes. "Count Dooku," he said, "is less willing to compromise than the rest of his allies. By all reports, he's not pleased with the situation—and the Separatist military still follows his lead. I doubt this respite will last for long."

    Knowing Dooku, Obi-Wan doubted it as well. "We'll have to be prepared," he murmured. "With his master dead, he'll be planning something." Whatever the Siths' plan had been, it had almost certainly depended on Palpatine's place in the Republic government. If Dooku was desperate to keep control, there was no telling what he might do.

    "Indeed," said Yoda. "But a topic for tomorrow's Council meeting that is. Called you for a different reason, we did."

    Mace leaned forward, nodding. "We want to know how things are going with Skywalker," he told Obi-Wan. "Does he still seem...well, dangerous?"

    Obi-Wan considered, unsure how best to respond. "He's still emotionally unstable," he said, choosing his words carefully. "He hasn't been violent toward others, but I'm the only person he's interacted with since we arrived." He hesitated, then admitted, "I fear he may be a danger to himself more than to others."

    The two more senior Jedi exchanged an unreadable look, and Obi-Wan wondered if he'd said the right thing. They hadn't discussed, when he'd first asked for this assignment, how long he'd be staying as Anakin's warden. If it was a long-term assignment, or only until the bad publicity surrounding Obi-Wan himself blew over. Would they recall him to Coruscant if they believed Anakin was no longer dangerous to the public?

    He didn't like the idea. Yet nor could he stay out of the Republic forever. Unlike Anakin, he was still a Jedi.

    But then Mace said, "I see, Master Kenobi. Thank you for keeping us updated on the situation," and Obi-Wan breathed a sigh of relief. That decision, at least, could be put off for a little longer.

    "Was there anything else you wanted to talk about?" he asked.

    Yoda shook his head. "For now, focus on your own mission, you must. Your help young Skywalker needs."

    I'm trying, Obi-Wan thought, but he knows what Yoda's response to that would be, and he had the sense that asking for advice from other Jedi wasn't going to help Anakin in the slightest. "I understand, Master," he responded.

    "We'll talk more tomorrow," Mace said. "May the Force be with you."

    "And you."

    Obi-Wan cut the connection, sighing. As if he needed anything else to worry about.

    ***

    Across the galaxy—far from Lumencras, and ever farther from Coruscant—Count Dooku paced back and forth in his residence on his homeworld of Serenno.

    More than ten years of planning gone, shattered in a single instant by a boy who could control neither his love nor his hate. He'd never understood what his Master had seen in Anakin Skywalker—raw power, yes, but so awfully unsophisticated and untamed. Well, Sidious's pretty little pawn had destroyed him, biting the hand that had so carefully fed and shaped him.

    And had left a crater in the path to Dooku's ambitions in his wake.

    Oh, Sidious would have had to be removed at some point, that was true. Treachery was the way of the Sith, and it would have been only tradition for Palpatine to die at his apprentice's hands eventually. But not yet. Not until after the war was over and the Jedi weakened, not until the power of the galaxy was so concentrated in a single office that it could simply be taken and used to create a mighty, Sith-run Empire. Not until he and Palpatine had oh-so-generously extended olive branches to one another, uniting to form a single front as the rulers of a government that had no need for a system so corrupt and inefficient as democracy.

    Only then would he have eliminated Palpatine. Only once he had the backing of the galaxy, and only once the Jedi were no longer a threat.

    Somehow, Dooku guessed that the recently-elected Chancellor Mothma wouldn't be obliged to give him any such power. He gritted his teeth. Being left with only the Separatists as his base of power had never been his intention. A movement composed mostly of subhuman species from systems far from the political core of the galaxy? It was built on a foundation of dirt; a tool, rather than a goal.

    Very well. He'd need a new goal, then, and a new plan. Two in particular came to mind as places to begin, and he rather suspected that they could both be taken care of with a single stroke.

    The first was vengeance. Revenge against the one who had so carelessly spoiled his plans, revenge that would ensure that Dooku himself did not meet the same end of his Master.

    As for the second...well, Dooku had planned on killing Palpatine himself, but in the end it didn't truly matter. The fact was that the Master had been killed, and the apprentice had taken his place. There was a rule about this sort of thing. A Rule of Two, in fact: one Sith to embody power, the other to crave it.

    It was Dooku's turn to embody the power. And that meant he needed an apprentice of his own. Someone clever and powerful enough to help him rise to supremacy, yet unlike Skywalker, not so very powerful that Dooku would meet his own premature end. Someone with poise, someone with control, someone already trained in the Force so that Dooku would not have waste time doing it himself. Someone, perhaps, who knew the inner workings—the inner weaknesses—of the Jedi Order, yet who was currently away from its influence.

    Someone who was, in a peculiar way, already heir to Dooku's power.

    Yes. Both goals could be taken care of together. The news reports had no information as to the whereabouts of the planet of Skywalker's exile, only that it was outside the borders of the Republic and that he had been joined there by Kenobi, but that was no matter. The dark side would guide Dooku where he needed to go.


    And then his own plans could begin.
     
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  18. Child_of_a_Jedi

    Child_of_a_Jedi Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    May 11, 2015
    Dooku? Uh-oh![face_nail_biting]
     
  19. skygawker

    skygawker Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2014
    He'd been getting better.

    The first turning point had come when he'd been sitting out on the grass with Obi-Wan. When it had hit him, suddenly and for the first time in weeks, that he hadn't lost everything that mattered and that, somehow, Obi-Wan still thought he was worth trying to talk to, despite everything he'd done. The second had been after the wolf-cat attack, when he'd come to in the middle of the forest to find Obi-Wan defending him, comforting him, cleaning his wounds, and he'd realized that he no longer wished for death.

    Two moments in the span of twelve hours, and after them, he'd been getting better. Able to go for longer without flashbacks or crying jags that came out of nowhere, able to venture out of his room for short periods at a time without feeling painfully exposed. He'd even been able to be around Obi-Wan without being gripped by crushing guilt for being the reason the other man was on this isolated planet in the first place.

    But now the guilt was back again, though for a different reason, and he didn't think he'd be leaving his room again anytime soon. One step forward, three steps back.
    The encounter kept replaying in his head, over and over again no matter how much he wished he could stop it. So innocent at first: Obi-Wan engaging him in conversation, the realization that he was talking and thinking about Padme without having a breakdown. And it had felt good. Too good.

    Even now, several hours later, he could recall the gentle look on Obi-Wan's face as though the older man were still sitting right in front of him. If he closed his eyes, he could practically feel the warmth of Obi-Wan's body underneath his hands as he'd reached out to touch his face and shoulder. And the memory of how quickly his heart had beat at their closeness, of the feeling of security that had spread throughout his body at the way Obi-Wan's arm had wrapped around his shoulder—that was as vivid as if it had just happened moments before.

    And it made Anakin hate himself every time he relived it. But he did relive it, had been thinking about it obsessively ever since it had happened.

    Padme had been gone for less than a month.

    Anakin had never thought of himself as fickle. It wasn't as though he loved or missed Padme any less now than he had before—she was still constantly on his mind, either consciously in his guilt and grief or as part of the daydreams and nightmares that occupied the majority of both his waking and sleeping hours. And yet…

    And yet now Obi-Wan, too, was pre-occupying his thoughts.

    Anakin buried his face in his hands. Why couldn't his life ever just be simple? A quick execution after he'd been found guilty, or even a long life alone in exile as punishment, and he wouldn't have needed to worry about this.

    It would be easier, too, if he could just hate himself for his disloyal thoughts the way he hated himself for letting Padme die. At least then he'd know what to feel. But every now and again, the guilt and self-loathing that came when he thought about the vows he'd made to Padme would fade, and other memories would take their place.

    One night in bed, lying in each other's arms while he'd been forced to tell her that he was being re-deployed three days earlier than scheduled because a strategically important planet in the Mid-Rim had been besieged and the Council had decided he was needed to deal with it. Will Obi-Wan be there? she'd asked. And then, good. I always feel so much better when I know you're with him. At the time, he'd resented slightly the implication that he couldn't take care of himself. Now, though...

    He'd always been the jealous one. Not her. Oh, his anger over Rush Clovis had been misplaced, and he knew she would have never have cheated on him any more than he would have on her. But she'd teased him so lightly on their honeymoon, asking him if he'd ever been with anyone else—and had seemed confused at the vehemence of his denial.

    In the ten years they'd been apart, he'd only wanted her. Evidently, though, she hadn't shared the knowledge which used to be instinctive to him: that they were meant for each other, for only each other, and even separated for nearly a decade with no promise of seeing each other again there could never have been anyone else.

    Now, it wasn't the lack of a promise that he had to worry about keeping them apart. It was a more final separation, a cold, hard, unalterable fact of the universe: she was gone.

    And Obi-Wan was here.

    Kriff.

    ***

    Once upon a time, Obi-Wan might have thought it a relief to have some time away from the war. After two years of leading men into battle—and, almost always, fewer of them out of battle—the chance to recuperate away from the constant death and never-ending deployments should have felt like a blessing.

    And, to be sure, there was far less immediate stress here in their quiet cottage on Lumencras then there was on a battlefield. No legions of men awaiting commands from him, no planets to liberate, no civilians' lives in the balance. No politics, even, to navigate in an attempt to influence the battles being fought half a galaxy away.

    Only Anakin. Endless hours of wondering if this would be the day Anakin attempted to take his own life again, of trying to plan for a future where Anakin might never leave the cottage and Obi-Wan would be forced to stay close by, of trying to figure out what he'd say if Anakin finally decided to open up to him about that fateful day on Coruscant. Of wondering whether he'd misinterpreted Anakin's intentions earlier, the look in his eyes—agonizing over whether he should say something about it, because if he was wrong, he could push Anakin away even further, and if he was right

    Was it a desire to keep the fragile peace they'd established in the last few days that kept him from wanting to have that discussion, or his own too-strong attachments? Was it kindness, to leave unspoken what could not be spoken, and unanswered questions whose only possible answers would hurt both of them? Or was it cowardice?

    He'd retreated to his own room after the encounter with Anakin and was sitting, legs folded underneath him. He'd planned to meditate before going to sleep for the night, but even opening his mind to the Force hadn't managed to dispel the thoughts and anxieties flitting through his mind. He could, perhaps, call Yoda and ask for guidance, as he—like so many Jedi—had done since he'd been a youngling.

    That route would require explaining the situation. The fact that he was so hesitant to do it was possibly the strongest argument for why he should.

    But even with the time difference between Lumencras and Coruscant, it would be late at the Jedi Temple. Late enough that he wouldn't want to call and interrupt the Grand Master's sleep for anything less than a life-or-death situation, and probably not even for that.

    Better to get some rest himself, Obi-Wan decided, and send a prayer into the Force that things would look clearer in the morning.

    ***

    Sitting on top of his bed in his room at the Jedi Temple, Anakin glared at his comlink as if the power of his mind were enough to make Padme answer his calls and explain what, exactly, was going on. Head still clouded from the three-hour nap he'd just woken up from, he was having a difficult time processing the accusations in her message. Palpatine, working with the Separatists? Ridiculous.

    And Padme had apparently decided to break into his office. Had she gone space-crazy? That was across the line, not to mention probably illegal. What if she were to be caught?

    More worrying still: the call was timestamped over an hour before, and despite her promise to call him later and let him know how it goes, he had no further messages. And Padme wasn't picking up her comlink.

    What if she'd been arrested? The bad feeling he'd had since the moment he'd woken up wasn't abating; if anything, the cold sensation in his chest was intensifying to the point where he was beginning to feel nauseated.

    Trying to ignore the cold sweat breaking out across his skin, Anakin decided it was time for a more active approach.

    He stood up, and found himself in the office of the Supreme Chancellor.

    "Senator Amidala?" Palpatine was saying. "Why no, I haven't seen her today." He smiled kindly at Anakin. "Would you like to stay and have some tea, my boy?"

    Anakin shook his head, grateful that Padme apparently hadn't managed to get herself in trouble but increasingly confused. "No thank you, sir." He wondered if he ought to tell the Chancellor about the slanderous new rumor which was being cast at him—without mentioning Padme herself, of course—and decided it could wait until he'd tracked down his wayward wife.

    He turned to exit, and stopped suddenly when the Force prickled the back of his neck and the bad feeling from earlier returned in full force. Sweating and swallowing hard for reasons he couldn't explain, Anakin tried to shake the feeling off, and left.

    Exiting the office, he stepped out into the streets of Coruscant. Turning his head from side to side, he scanned for Padme. But here there were no Senators in fine robes or fancy dresses; of the beings scurrying along on either side of him, flowing into and out of bars and nightclubs and shops selling wares of dubious legality, certainly none were his beautiful wife.

    He wondered for the first time why he'd gone to the lower levels before even looking in Padme's apartment or her office in the Senate. Those were, after all, the two obvious places for her to have gone had she left Palpatine's office undetected. But the thought to check either of them had not even occurred to him until now, and he had no idea why.

    No idea, until the tug he'd been following consolidated into a sense of look there that felt so strong as to be almost tangible, and he turned into a dark alley to see something lying in the shadows.

    Even when he raised his lightsaber to cast a blue light on the shape that had caught his attention, he refused to believe what he was seeing. It wasn't until he crouched down next to her, feeling frantically for a pulse that he saw the unmistakable mark of a lightsaber wound, a burned crater of flesh on her chest just above her heart.

    And then he knew.

    He didn't remember what happened after that. There had been the sick feeling of grief, the sudden shock of anger and understanding…

    a secretary; at some point, there was a secretary, and she tried to stop him and make him wait, so he ended her forever

    and then he was in Palpatine's office, lightsaber swinging

    unable to duck his own reflected blaster bolt, Bail Organa fell to the floor

    he saw red; the world tainted with blood and darkness, spinning wildly around him

    it was both incredibly satisfying and nowhere near satisfying enough to see his blade sticking through Palpatine's forehead

    his cry of rage echoed through the room as he beheaded Garm Bel Iblis—

    there was so much screaming, and some of it was his

    and as he huddled on the floor, afterwards, surrounded by bodies and parts of bodies, a finger hooked itself under his chin and tilted his head backwards. Padme stood in front of him, regal and terrifying, clothed in the same dress she'd been wearing the day they'd been reunited two years previously. Her face was incandescent with anger. "How could you?" she demanded. "How could you do this, Anakin?"

    "I did it for you. All of it for you, Padme."

    Padme shook her head, a blaster appearing in her hand. She pointed it at him. "I wish I'd never met you," she told him. "I wish none of us had ever met you. You clearly aren't good enough to be a Jedi. We might as well have left you on Tatooine."

    "Padme," he begged. "Padme, please. I love you."

    Padme turned the blaster to point at her own head. "I can't live with a murderer for a husband," she said, and pulled the trigger.

    Anakin woke screaming.

    ***

    Obi-Wan was out of bed before he fully processed what he was hearing, blinking sleep out of his eyes and padding down the hallway to Anakin's room. He paused outside the door, noting that the screaming had ceased, then rapped on it sharply with his knuckles. "Anakin?"

    There was no response. Obi-Wan reached out with the Force and winced, strengthening his mental shields against the whirlwind of tangled emotions that accosted him. Over the course of Anakin's apprenticeship, he'd become familiar enough with the sensation to know that he didn't envy Anakin's dreams tonight.

    It was what he'd expected after hearing the shouts. What was unexpected was the fact that the turmoil didn't seem to abating, as it usually did once Anakin had woken up. Frowning, Obi-Wan placed his hand on the old-fashioned doorknob and twisted, pushing the door open and entering the room. The light from the hallway was barely enough to illuminate the figure huddled on the bed.

    Obi-Wan moved closer, close enough to see that Anakin was curled tightly into a ball in a tangle of sheets, and close enough to hear his indecipherable muttering. Crossing the rest of the room in a few quick strides, Obi-Wan sat down on the edge of the bed and shook Anakin by the shoulder, saying his name aloud. After a few moments, he was rewarded by a shift in the Force: spikes of confusion were edging out the terror that had been burning at the edges Obi-Wan's shields, enough to assure him that Anakin was awake and disoriented rather than still in the throes of the dream.

    A small flash of warning was enough for Obi-Wan to take his hand off of Anakin's shoulder and lean back just in time to avoid being hit by the flailing arm which lashed out in his direction. He caught it, then pulled himself fully up onto the bed to grab Anakin's other arm as well and force the younger man to stop thrashing. "Anakin," he said. "Anakin. It's me."

    Anakin's eyes were wet and wild, and he was staring off into the middle distance over Obi-Wan's shoulder, breath coming in short gasps. He didn't respond.

    "Anakin," said Obi-Wan. He gripped the younger man's shoulder more tightly and pressed his other palm to Anakin's tearstained cheek, forcing his head to swivel until they were facing. "Anakin, say something." This time he saw recognition in Anakin's eyes, and for a moment he relaxed, a knot in his stomach loosening for the first time since he'd heard Anakin's scream.

    Then Anakin leaned forward, grabbed him by the shoulders, and kissed him.

    At first, Obi-Wan was too surprised to do anything but let him, overwhelmed by the crash of Anakin's mind against his, the turmoil of Anakin's Force-presence burning star-bright in his awareness. A dozen imaginary protests raced through his mind as Anakin's trembling body pressed against his. It's against the Code, he thought, followed swiftly by you used to be my Padawan; it wouldn't be proper and I can't take advantage of you when you're this upset.

    The thoughts were discarded just as quickly; none passed through his lips because not one, he knew, would have any meaning to the man in front of him.

    Anakin pulled away slightly, gasping for breath, and Obi-Wan registered the tears still glistening on his face. It was enough to break through the shock that had frozen Obi-Wan in place, and this time when Anakin leaned in again, he managed to turn his head to the side to avoid the other man's lips. And when he opened his mouth, the imaginary protests he'd been composing fled from his mind, and he found himself saying, "I will not be your rebound, Anakin."

    He felt Anakin go still against him and wondered if he'd said the wrong thing. After a few seconds, though, Anakin seemed to relax: his head fell against Obi-Wan's chest, and his hands slipped from their death grip on Obi-Wan's shoulders into the folds of Obi-Wan's sleeves.

    Obi-Wan held him, and searched for something further to say. The last time he'd been woken by one of Anakin's nightmares, pressing for details had only made the younger man clam up further. But Anakin had been coming out of his shell every so often these past few days—an indication, perhaps, that this time Anakin might be more receptive?
    Regardless, the position they had frozen in was starting to get uncomfortable. One of his legs was folded beneath him at an awkward angle, and Anakin's weight on the other was threatening to cut off his circulation. Obi-Wan shifted, settling himself to sit with his back against the headboard, and pulled Anakin along with him. Anakin didn't protest, apparently content to let Obi-Wan arrange his limbs until he was sitting between Obi-Wan's legs instead of on top of them, legs tucked to his chest. He leaned in to rest his head on Obi-Wan's shoulder.

    It suddenly occurred to Obi-Wan that his earlier hope that things would seem clearer in the morning had come to pass, if not in the way he'd expected: it was the morning, in the sense that it was after midnight, and he could no longer pretend to be confused about Anakin's intentions. The Force had granted his wish…from a certain point of view. Be careful what you wish for—you just might get it. It was an adage that predated even the wisdom of Master Yoda.

    Finally, after several minutes, Anakin lifted his head from Obi-Wan's shoulder. Obi-Wan noted with some relief that Anakin was no longer crying, no longer shaking. His eyes were closed, and his breathing was beginning to steady. The only remaining sign of his distress, apart from the tear-tracks still visible on his face, was the way his hands clutched tightly at Obi-Wan's arms. And then that too was gone as he lowered his hands to his sides, adjusting himself to put a foot or so of space between them.
    "Sorry," Anakin said quietly. "About, um." He gestured vaguely in the direction of Obi-Wan's face, and Obi-Wan could see his cheeks reddening as a blush crept up his face. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."

    Obi-Wan, who in his decades of being a Jedi had been the recipient of any number of romantic overtures, many in forms more objectionable than a single not-entirely-unexpected kiss which had seemed more like a plea for comfort than anything else, suspected Anakin was feeling more awkward about it than he was. Jedi weren't required to be celibate so long as no dangerous attachments were formed, and while some chose to be, Obi-Wan wasn't one of them. It was the fact that it was Anakin in front of him, whom he had raised and who he couldn't claim even to himself to be unattached to, rather than the kiss itself, that made giving in a dangerous prospect.

    "It's—" not fine, because it wasn't, not entirely, and he certainly didn't want to encourage that sort of behavior. Not when he wasn't sure he'd have the willpower to turn Anakin down again, in other circumstances, when the younger man wasn't quite so vulnerable. "It's forgotten." Also not true, but Obi-Wan was a Jedi, and he was willing to act as if it were so as long as Anakin would. With time and meditation, the words might even become the truth, he told himself. "Do you want to talk about your nightmare?" A safer topic, if only marginally.

    Anakin looked as relieved as Obi-Wan felt at the change of subject. "It was a memory," he said. "Of the night Padme died. Or—it started out as the memory." Anakin frowned, biting his lip and looking down at the bedspread. "But then things went wrong."

    Considering that the night in question had ended with ten people dead in reality, Obi-Wan was having a hard time imagining how much more "wrong" it could have gone.
    He brought a hand up to rub his beard, knowing better now than to say dreams pass in time, but not sure what other comfort to offer. "If it wasn't real, then it wasn't real. And as for the memories…" He hesitated. "The past is past, Anakin. All you can do is let go and move forward."

    Anakin pulled back, a flash of annoyance crossing over his face as he looked Obi-Wan in the eyes again. After weeks of apathy, grief, and mixed signals, the familiar sight was almost reassuring. "Let go? She was my wife. She died a month ago. And she was killed because I was too stupid to figure out that a man I'd been friends with for over a decade was a Sith Lord and a traitor." He folded his arms tightly across his chest. "I failed her, and then I failed you by killing a bunch of innocent people!"

    Obi-Wan rubbed his face. He'd had barely three hours of sleep before Anakin's nightmare had woken him, and he was beginning to feel it. "I didn't mean that you should forget her, or your actions," he said, forcing his voice to remain calm. "But there was nothing you could have done to prevent her death with the information you had. None of us recognized Palpatine for what he was."

    Anakin shifted to his knees. "But I was the one closest to him." He paused, then continued in a low voice. "And I notice you're not denying that I failed you."

    Obi-Wan shut his eyes, searching for an internal peace he couldn't quite grasp. After a moment, he opened them again. "What do you want me to say, Anakin?" He ran a hand through his own hair. "I don't want you to self-destruct in your own emotions. But yes, you killed eight innocent people. And you did it because of a relationship you knew to be against the Code, something which, as I taught you, is forbidden to Jedi for very good reasons."

    Anakin made a sound of annoyance. "You shouldn't talk about my relationship with Padme like that. It's not her fault I killed those people. I loved her, and I probably would have done the same thing even if she'd never agreed to marry me."

    Obi-Wan resisted the urge to bury his face in his hands.

    "Anyway, I'm not even a Jedi anymore," Anakin continued. "The Code doesn't matter."

    Obi-Wan stared at him. "Well, when your attachment leads you to murder people, perhaps you should consider that it might be unhealthy whether you're a Jedi or not!"

    "Look, I know what I did wrong, okay, Master? I don't need hear your lecture on attachment for the thousandth time."

    Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow. "All evidence to the contrary?"

    Anakin dropped his gaze, turning his head to the side. "Can we not? Can we just...not do this right now?"

    Obi-Wan sighed. Anakin was right. They did need to have this conversation, that much was clear, but this wasn't the time or the place for it. Both he and Anakin were exhausted, and Anakin was clearly still shaken from whatever nightmare had disturbed his sleep. "All right," he said. "Fine. We'll talk about it later." Later. Blast it, but he seemed to be telling himself that a lot lately. Was he doing more harm than good by constantly allowing Anakin the space he seemed to demand? Patience was required of a Jedi, but not as an excuse to avoid uncomfortable conversations.

    "Fine," Anakin muttered, his face twisted into a frown. The silence stretched between them for a few uncomfortable moments.

    "Well, I'll leave you to get your rest, then," Obi-Wan said eventually. And Force knows you're not the only one who needs some.

    Anakin's head snapped sideways to look at him, something vulnerable flashing across his eyes before a neutral mask dropped back over his expression. "Right." He looked away quickly, settling his weight back on his heels. "Goodnight, Obi-Wan."

    Obi-Wan knew he'd said something wrong. "Anakin," he said, then his voice faltered as he searched Anakin's face. Anakin's expression remained downcast, and it occurred to Obi-Wan what he wanted to hear. "Do you want me to stay?"

    He knew that he'd guessed correctly when Anakin looked up at him. Even if he hadn't been able to sense the relief leaking into the Force, Anakin's face had always been an open book. "If you want," Anakin said, his offhanded tone belied by his fidgeting, by the way his fingers twitched and curled into his sleeves.

    Obi-Wan sighed. He didn't want to encourage Anakin's advances, and even if it was purely platonic comfort his friend was seeking, Anakin wasn't nine anymore. The man in front of Obi-Wan was no longer a child and shouldn't have a problem sleeping alone at night, even after a nightmare. To stay would be foolishly unJedilike, would do nothing, for either of them, to solve the problem of attachment. It was his responsibility to set down that boundary—keeping Anakin's poorly regulated emotions in check was, after all, why he'd been assigned here. The correct answer was obvious.

    He met Anakin's eyes and knew that he'd already lost. "Yes," he answered. "Of course I'll stay."
     
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  20. Agent M

    Agent M Jedi Padawan star 2

    Registered:
    May 13, 2015
    I read the update on Archive Of Our Own. I loved it, it's amazing. I was waiting for you to post it here to leave a comment! ;)
     
  21. JadeLotus

    JadeLotus Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 27, 2005
    Great insights into Dooku and the situation he's found himself in - I gather he will pursue as his apprentice, since he doesn't seem inclined to Anakin.

    And then Obi-Wan's confusion, Anakin's guilt, the nightmare leading to the kiss was all very well done, and then the emotional and much-need conversation, all fantastic work.
     
  22. skygawker

    skygawker Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2014
    I'm glad you enjoyed it! And thanks for leaving a comment. :)
    Yeah, Dooku definitely has very different ideas than Sidious did about who would make a good apprentice. Thanks for reading and commenting!