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'If Yoda Can Meddle' Interludes

Chapter Text

Anakin would swear to anyone who might ask later that he hadn’t meant to do it, that it was an accident. But once he was there, once he saw it, he couldn’t turn away. He was rooted in place.

He’d been in the Room of a Thousand Fountains, waiting to meet Obi-Wan and catch up after a particularly ‘involved’ mission of the Councilor’s (Obi-Wan’s word, not his). He knew Obi-Wan would get Ahsoka settled in their quarters to rest and clean up, and probably wouldn’t leave until Plo arrived. Knowing that, he was content to wait for a while.

Happening to glance at a shaded path on the far side of the Room, he suddenly noticed his friend Master Magd, and thought he’d go say hello and catch up while he waited. Not wanting to shout across the Room and disturb others, he began in her direction while she disappeared around a bend in the path.

He was nearly at the far boundary of the Room when he caught sight of her again, realizing he’d taken a different fork of the path and ended up on a level overlooking the small tree-encircled, stream-bisected clearing she’d stopped in. Someone else was with her.

He’d gone a bit farther on his path to be more visible and call a greeting down, and then he froze.

No, Anakin thought. They couldn’t seriously- They’d never-

Master Trento Magd had her arms wrapped around Master Mace Windu.

His brain skidded to an absolute stand-still.

What.

But there they were, outer robes divested, Trento kneeling behind Mace as he sat facing the stream, one of her scaled arms draped over one shoulder and one wound underneath the other, pressed against the Korun Master’s ribcage. Both of their eyes were closed.

This was beyond a shadow of a doubt the most intimate Anakin had ever seen two Jedi be with one another.

And the two Jedi in question…

With Trento he could understand, in a roundabout way; she was unconventional (even if this kind of unconventional was deeply jarring to see). She’d never expressed personal objection to his relationship with Padme, but he’d never really considered why. But Windu… Everything he knew of the man (which he had to admit was honestly very little) was suddenly being called into question. He was the last person Anakin could picture breaking the Code. It went against everything the man presented himself to be. Had the Master of the Order really been living the same kind of double-life (lie, a part of his mind hissed savagely) as Anakin himself had?

And yet…

That wasn’t it.

This intimacy before him was oddly… chaste. Still and quiet.

Mace’s hands rested on his knees as though he were meditating, palms up and fingers curled loosely. Trento’s arms around him were curiously… practiced, her hands folded over the dark-skinned man’s sternum with an almost ritualistic precision. She seemed to be holding Mace against her quite snugly, but this embrace showed no caresses, no wandering or teasing touches. Their Force presences were both quite sombre.

And when Mace leaned his head back to rest against Trento’s shoulder, his expression was twisted not with physical passion (Anakin would try to mind-wipe himself if he ever saw that), but with… anguish? When Trento tightened her hold on him a bit more, the breath he released was hitched not with ecstasy, but with grief.

And then Anakin understood.

This was not the embrace of lovers. He knew better than anyone that when it came to the strongest, most intense (and usually negative) emotions, standard meditation only worked so well and for so long. Eventually, the walls would crumble under the weight of stress and trauma, and Master Windu was fighting on the front lines of war, a war the Jedi Order was not evolved for.

And as it turned out, Mace Windu was just as vulnerable as the rest of them.

This was one person trusting another to literally hold them steady, and try to press the pain out of them with the comfort of physical contact.

He wasn’t sure if it was a practice kept just between the two of them as friends, or if Master Magd’s work in the Order was even more intense than he’d previously thought.

“It’s very unbecoming of a Jedi to spy on their fellows. And rude.”

Anakin only jumped a little, for the whispered voice was as familiar to him as his own. He turned to face his former Master, motioning him to follow him out of earshot of small the clearing.

“Did you know about this?”

“Not in regards to Master Windu specifically, though I’m not surprised. She’s used this method for other Jedi in the past.” Anakin paused at that, gazing at his mentor thoughtfully.

So Obi-Wan knew that that she’d used it before. And Healer-patient confidentiality was a Jedi policy unless it threatened the safety of the patient or others. But at this point in his life, Anakin had gotten past the need to point something like that out.

“What happened?” Because by the seriousness and sympathy on his face, Obi-Wan knew that too.

“It’s Mace’s business, and not for me to tell,” he replied evenly, but with a very clear underlying firmness. “If it becomes a concern for the rest of the Order, a notice will be made.”

Anakin nodded. By now, he wouldn’t judge, even if he’d had the right.

Some time later, rustling foliage alerted them to an approaching presence, and they turned to see Mace striding toward them. His hands were folded in his sleeves in the typical Jedi fashion, and his eyes were tellingly red and irritated, but his head was held level. He bowed and greeted them succinctly, not bothering to pretend he didn’t know what they’d seen. He wished them well, and went on his way.

Anakin figured it probably wouldn’t be something he’d ever hear about again. And that was ok.

A few moments later, Trento approached from the same path Mace had come from. Her face was wet, as though she’d splashed it with water from the stream. She saw Anakin first.

“Good afternoon, Anakin. Are you doing alright?”

It was the most subdued he’d ever heard her voice.

“Good afternoon, Master Magd. I’m pretty good.”

“I’m glad to hear it.” Her smile was small but sincere. She turned to his old Master.

“Good afternoon, Obi-Wan.” He bowed his head to her.

“Good afternoon, Trento.” Then, thick silence.

Ah. Let it never be said he wasn’t learning subtlety.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Obi-Wan - after the Shii-Cho class?”

“That’s alright, Anakin. I’ll just be a moment. Can you wait for me at the exit?”

That surprised the younger Master, but he didn’t comment. “Of course.” And he went.

The Councilor turned to the Healer. “Trento, I actually came to tell you I think we can stop again.” She peered at him closely.

“Can you give me a solid reason to believe you’ll be alright if we stop? I don’t want to find out this was a ‘I can stop taking care of myself because I’m about to go on a more-lethal-than-normal mission so there’s no point’ situation.”

He shook his head with a self-deprecating sort of chuckle. “No, nothing like that. It’s just, well… I think I’m getting to the point where I can… manage it myself. Away from the Temple. My men, they- they often have to bunk close in the field, for space or heat conservation. They understand. And they know the boundaries.”

She nodded, plainly relieved.

“That’s good Obi-Wan. I wish you didn’t have to work in so much situational stress all the time, all of you. But I’m glad you’re making something good of it, and I’m especially glad you’re opening up to your men when you can. If you feel you can get the same or better benefits in the field, we can suspend our meetings. And you know you can always start again if you need to.”

“Of course. Thank you for your understanding, Trento.” The reptilian Master flashed him an exasperated smile.

“Thank me by staying alive and in some semblance of decent health.”

He grinned back. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Chapter Text

Jedi Master Plo Koon was particularly skilled in lightsaber technique, no Knight worth their rank who’d seen him in action would question that. And it was certainly a skill that was keeping him alive right now… now, in a circle of those who’d casually decided their lives were worthless, surrounded by machines programed solely to kill… However, his proficiency did not blind him to the danger the lightsaber posed - not only to those it was wielded against, but to the Knight - or Master - who wielded it.

Not in the sense of accidental injury to the self from carelessness, though an inexperienced or over-confident Jedi was certainly at risk from that. No, the risk he saw was the risk posed against the wielder’s spirit.

Though the enemy young Kenobi slew on Naboo was the first Sith uncovered in a thousand years, he was certainly not the first Dark Force user the Order had encountered in that time. In fact, the passed Master Jinn’s second Padawan, Xanatos, was not the first Jedi to Fall just in Plo Koon’s career. A number of Jedi either experienced a terrible and lasting fall to the Dark side, or a temporary if deeply frightening brush with it. Virtually all of those Plo knew of had been exemplary at wielding the blade. And he considered there to be very little true coincidence in the universe.

He believed the power of wielding the lightsaber, likely the most dangerous of all close range weapons, was its own risk of corruption. The means to take life so swiftly and easily was not a tool to use lightly, and he felt that ease and power in using it in combat could lead to satisfaction in the same, and in turn to taking joy in taking life itself. The very antithesis of the ethical rule of the Jedi.

It was because of this that he’d come to use the saber only as a true last resort, and in his earlier years of knighthood had welcomed the opportunity to take more inconspicuous missions with a number of Jedi Sentinels, as had his old friend Master Magd. He valued their focus on developing a balanced range of skills, and not relying on the Force or the saber to solve their dilemmas.

He stood by that belief now, sensing the buildup in aggressive and ferocious energy in the Force. He pushed back a wave of droids and turned, but he already knew which Jedi was the source.

Mace Windu. The Vaapad creator was battling the bounty hunter Kenobi had been pursuing, and the fight was rapidly getting not only one-sided, but alarmingly out of control.

The Korun Master swiftly destroyed Fett’s arm-mounted weapon, then destroyed his jet pack as he tried to escape. Then the aggressive energy surged, built, and Plo reached into the Force before it was too late for both combatants.

Mace Windu was quite surprised when Jango Fett was suddenly shoved backward, and out of his reach, by a Force push - because that push was certainly not his own. No matter, he had the advantage, the violet blade sang in his hand, and he charged forward, it was time to neutralize the threat Fett posed-

“Stay your blade, Master Windu!”

It was one of the few moments Mace would confess to being completely dumbfounded.

Stay his blade? Why in the Force would Master Koon say such a thing? Fett was dangerous, he needed to be dealt with-

Finally he realized.

Plo Koon was deflecting blaster bolts with one hand, and holding Fett in place against the wall with the other. He gradually made his way to Mace.

“He is contained, Master Windu. The proper thing is to bind him and arrest him to stand trial.”

Trial. Yes. Questioning. Prison. Mace shook his head, clarity rushing back in, and with it alarm that he had not been thinking of those things in the last few moments of his combat with Fett. He needed to meditate on that. If they survived this day.

This hour.

Together the two Masters had the bounty hunter’s hands and feet secured in short order, and confiscated all remaining weapons.

It was about then that a number of ships were descending into the arena, and Master Yoda was arriving on the scene with a battalion of cloned soldiers to make things even more chaotic, but at least in a way that gave the Jedi still standing hope of living another day. Blaster bolts were now flying even more thickly through the air, but now more in the direction of the droids than the Jedi. Separatist leaders were fleeing the wall to the inside, only to be cornered by troopers and - were those Sentinels? They must have been, for the unassumingly-garbed newcomers wielded blasters and lightsabers alike. Kenobi and Padawan Skywalker were boarding a gunship with Yoda to pursue Dooku, and the clone troopers were providing cover for most of the remaining Jedi to board ships and escape as well.

Then as the arena was beginning to clear, a sound rang out that neither the bounty hunter nor the remaining Masters expected.

The cry of a young boy.

Mace wasn’t sure he’d ever seen a human head whip around so fast.

“Jango Fett!” Nute Gunray bellowed (as much as his thin voice was capable) from the arena stands.

He had one arm holding Boba Fett tightly against his body, and the other holding a disruptor to the young boy’s temple. Using him as both shield and insurance.

The small, detached part of Mace’s brain not devoted to this new emergency was mildly surprised that a man of Fett’s complexion could suddenly be so pale.

“You made a mistake getting yourself captured, Fett!” Gunray shouted. “I trust you know what mistake you shouldn’t be making in Republic custody if you want the boy to be kept alive!” There wasn’t any point in throwing around phrases like “he won’t be hurt,” since there was already a trickle of blood dripping from Boba’s forehead onto his cheek, and Jango looked like he deeply wanted to rip Gunray’s head from his shoulders with his bare hands.

He didn’t get the chance.

The disruptor suddenly flew from Nute’s hand, followed immediately by the arrival of at least three Jedi. One of whom, a blond human male of truly disarming height and build, hooked an arm around the young Mandalorian and carted him into the building’s interior and out of view.

“BOBA!”

The sheer, raw emotion in that roar vibrated in the Force, seeming to somehow rattle Mace’s bones.

Jango spun back around to face Mace. “Don’t hurt him.” The Korun Master could tell the man at least partially wanted to intimidate him, but bound as he was, his voice and face also held notes of… pleading.

“I know I broke your laws. To me it was just business but you’re tied to the Republic and have to be its hand. I know I’m outnumbered. I know you need to punish me, but…” He was clearly pained by something, something he was steeling himself for-

Jango Fett slowly dropped to his knees in front of the Jedi Master.

“…But please, Jedi, don’t hurt him.”

This day kept getting stranger and stranger.

It was bizarre enough to see a proud Mandalorian warrior kneeling before a Jedi, pleading with them, but - Mace tilted his head, frowning in the ‘trying to puzzle something out’ manner.

Don’t hurt the boy? In retribution for the elder Fett’s crimes? Why did he even feel the need to ask that? Mace knew very well of the generations-long bad blood the Mandalorians had for the Jedi (which he would admit was at least partially deserved, at times), but did Fett really believe a Jedi capable of hurting a child in revenge?

Was that the sort of reputation the Order had made for itself?

That was a question that could not be meditated away.

And now, with the creation of the clone soldiers, and war clearly imminent… how would the Order mold itself in the coming months and years?

They had to stay true to the peace and compassion that was the foundation of their creed. And the renewal of it would have to start with him.

“Do not fear for your son, bounty hunter.” He deactivated his lightsaber, clipping it to his belt. “To harm a child for the crimes of his father is not the Jedi way.”

Jango’s brow remained furrowed, his face tense as clearly he was wary of taking Mace at his word. Yes, the Jedi clearly needed to examine their collective actions over the past years, if so obvious a premise was difficult to believe.

The same massive Knight who had grabbed Boba from Gunray was now leading him into the arena from one of the side entrances, a hand on his shoulder. Not in threat or control, but in reassurance, and the boy already had a small batcta patch on the gash on his head.

“Fett, one would think that a man of your circumstance would know well that a sentient life is never just business.” Jango spun back around on his knees.

“Boba!” The Knight moved his hand to the boy’s back to nudge him forward with silent permission, and the younger Fett dashed toward his father.

“Dad!”

“Boba-“ Jango raised his bound hands so his son could duck underneath and into his arms, clutching him close. He rocked the boy back and forth slightly, seemingly without realizing it, his relief and residual fear palpable in the Force.

Mace stared.

He never wanted to be that attached - that vulnerable - for anyone.

But then, that’s what most Jedi tell themselves. It often gets acutely tested when they take on a Padawan… among other times.

Perhaps they were not so different in some ways, and wasn’t that an alarming thought?

“Well done, Knight Feemor. Who got you here from your work in the Outer Rim?” Plo Koon asked.

“I did,” Healer Hoft-Tam replied, stepping forward behind the mountainous Knight. “Trento messaged me, said you and the others were coming to rescue Kenobi. Figured it would behoove you to have a Healer nearby. I was close, so I passed the word on and asked if anyone in the sector was willing to come with me. Feemor stepped in and rendezvoused with me and some of the Sentinels and medics. Everyone else is loaded onto the last ship and ready to head off to deal with the rest of this crap storm.”

Mace nodded. “Then we mustn’t keep them waiting any longer.” The Jedi turned as one to the bounty hunter and his progeny.

“It’s time, Fett. Your son will be allowed to stay with you until we reach Coruscant. He’ll then be placed under our supervision until your trial is complete. He’ll be treated kindly. None will start trouble with him if he does not attempt trouble himself. You have our word,” Plo reassured.

Jango finally stood, letting Boba down but keeping his hand between his. He held his head high.

“Lead the way, then.”

Indeed. There would have to be a great deal of leading soon, Mace was certain. And no one knew what outcome they’d be leading to, but they had to start somewhere. If the path they’d come from was bloody and in decay, then perhaps they’d have to chart a new one.

It might be the only way for them all to survive.

Chapter Text

Anakin thought he might have a problem.

Scratch that, he knew he had multiple problems - he was too angry, too sensitive about his background, didn’t work hard enough in meditation, didn’t pay enough attention in the boring classes - but this wasn’t something a classmate or an instructor could point out.

He’d be freaked out if they’d looked closely enough to notice, to be honest.

This was personal, non-academic. It was a quiet question that had been taking up residence in the back of his mind since he and the bulk of his peers had begun their puberty years, and growing stronger after the rather intense shift in his personal life.

He knew the Jedi Code did not demand celibacy - just rejection of attachment. When he was younger, he hadn’t quite understood the difference. Later, he’d seen many of his peers start to make eyes at some of their classmates or even slightly older Jedi when they thought no one was looking, and he’d noticed the way the occasional civilian teenagers he’d encountered on missions interact with each other. He came to understand that a fair number of Jedi partook in sexual dalliances, sometimes with outsiders, sometimes with each other, and just kept themselves from getting caught in emotional entanglement.

And for the longest time, he just… didn’t get it. Didn’t understand the need.

He’d been aware of sex as a concept since he was a child - Mos Espa certainly wasn’t a nurturing environment that shielded you from the realities of life. He understood sex as something with specific functions - service rendered for money, procreation, or recreation (or a weapon of even worse oppression than the tracking chips - but his mother had tried to shield him from that knowledge as long as possible). But Jedi would never engage in prostitution, would NEVER use sex to control others, and were not allowed to have children of their own so they always used some variety of protection. That just left recreation.

But to him, there were plenty of better ways to spend what little free time a Jedi had - mechanical tinkering, seeing what holonet accounts he could hack for kicks, gaining more lightsaber skills, being able to eat until he wasn’t hungry anymore… And he was sure Knights who had more autonomy had even more interesting things they could do for recreation. It had been a question in his head, but not at all consequential or particularly relevant.

Now, though.

Now, he was secretly married to an intelligent, passionate, kind, gorgeous woman who had captured his mind and heart, the person he knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with, devote himself too…

And he still didn’t get it.

He was perfectly able to perceive Padme’s exceptional beauty, and he found comfort and contentedness in her arms, and enjoyed the feel of her smooth skin, and the way his insides jumped and danced when they kissed.

But he could feel the burning of hunger, of desire in her toward him. He thought that maybe now that he was with someone so luminous and remarkable, he would feel that fire too.

But he didn’t.

And being unable to return Padme’s obvious desire was now a problem for him. He could tell she was sometimes confused when one of them had to put in more… effort for him to be able to play his part during their rare moments of intimacy. He could tell she would feel a slight twinge of disappointment when he made no move to initiate such intimacy when he came home to find her in one of her more sensual outfits. She never said anything about it, but he sensed it. It made him feel lesser. Unworthy.

He wanted to correct it, wanted to be what she deserved. But who could he even approach for assistance with this? It wasn’t like he could go to any Jedi, including how own former Master (which was his own fault, he reminded himself ashamedly). Who did he know outside of the Order well enough to trust with this topic? It was useless to even think about it.

Of course, as was always the case, eventually Padme picked up on his distraction and distress. After hemming and hawing briefly, he confessed.

A few tense seconds of silence reigned, and then his wife inexplicably laughed.

“Oh, Ani. There’s nothing wrong with you! Goodness, and here I thought it was something bad.” He shook his head.

“I don’t understand. It’s a problem, I can’t give you what you want, not really. How is that fair to you?”

Here she fixed him with a particular look.

“Anakin Skywalker, you don’t seriously think I married you for sex, did you?”

“Well, no, of course not. But you deserve to have those feelings returned with enthusiasm. I’m depriving you of that.”

She giggled again.

“Anakin, you really think I wasn’t taking care of what I needed before I married you? Sometimes I wonder if you see me as less flawed and weird and human than I am.”

She might be on to something there, to be honest.

“No. I love you, and I want to spend my life with you, and this absolutely doesn’t change that, because this isn’t something that needs to be fixed. I only need to know what you’re comfortable with, because I never want to make you feel obligated to go beyond that. As for the rest, well… we’re creative people. We’ll make it work.”

And Anakin smiled, relieved, because he knew she was telling the truth. Together, they could make anything work.

Chapter Text

Cody had been carefully weaned off of the sedative, all of it now out of his system along with the chip’s presence. And still in bed as he was, he was also nearly beside himself with horror and remorse.

“General, I’m so sorry! I would have-“

“No, Cody. You have nothing to be sorry for. You didn’t do anything.”

“But I WOULD have! I-“

“You wouldn’t have done anything, my friend. The Sith’s command in your mind would have. It wouldn’t have been you. No matter what that monster would have made your body do, I wouldn’t have blamed you.”

This seemed to ruin what was left of Cody’s composure. He reached down for Obi-Wan’s hand and drew it to his face, trying to control his breathing.

“Cyare,” he whispered, almost without realizing it.

Anakin hadn’t spent nearly of a fraction of the time with the clones his Master had; he didn’t speak their language. But he felt certain that word was important.

Judging by Obi-Wan’s caught breath and wide open eyes, he knew he was right.

“You shouldn’t, you know,” the Councilor whispered thickly. “For your own good, you really shouldn’t.” His discouraging words were betrayed by the tender way he rested his hand on the clone Marshal’s crown, smoothing the thick black hair.

Oh. Oooooh.

So THAT was what he’d sensed from the Commander when this whole nightmare had started.

Honestly, some days Anakin still wondered how he had managed to become an educator, with his observation skills.

“You’ve always trusted me to make my own decisions about who I am, Obi-Wan,” Cody pointed out. The General nodded.

“You’re right. I have. I do.” Cody smiled up at him.

“Well, if there’s one thing I know about the man I am, it’s that he’s someone who loves you. You claim the people you care for… pass into the Force well before the end of their natural lives. That’s a pattern I’m happy to accept the challenge of breaking…that is, if it would apply to me…”

Obi-Wan let out a short and tearful laugh.

“Of course it applies to you, you fool.”

And he wasted no more time in pulling the clone soldier into his arms and burying his face in his shoulder, Cody only too happy to do the same.

“Watch the skull!” Healer Che hissed awkwardly from across the room. “It’s still tender, and the incision’s only just barely healed!”

Anakin laughed freely.

Chapter Text

Master Magd had found him alone in a training room, taking his fear and frustration out on many, many undeserving droids. He didn’t need her to tell him that his Force presence stuck out like a burning gas leak in a serene garden, more than it had in months - years now, really. She could probably sense his agitation from across the Temple.

“Let me guess: you needed advice on something personal, something Force or Code related, and your old Master’s off planet, so you tried to get it from Yoda.” He put off turning to look at her, but he did end the program and deactivate his saber.

“A vision I had. Nightmares.” She processed that.

“About something bad happening? To someone close to you?” He turned partially to face her, nodding tersely. Her eyebrows rose in comprehension.

“Ah, someone who you deliberately didn’t specifically name to Yoda, I bet,” she questioned seriously. He nodded again, and she sighed, turning to sit on a bench by the wall.

“You know that I know about you and Padme. Tell me everything you can about this vision.” He moved to join her on the seat, wearily.

“She’s… she’s dying in childbirth. She’s screaming, crying out to me, and I’m powerless to help her… just like with my mother.” Here she sat up even straighter, leaning toward the young man intently, trying to keep up with the information from now and match it to the past.

“But- no, Anakin, not like your mother. On the surface, yes, but you have to look deeper. What do you know?”

“What do you mean, what do I know? She’s going to die if I can’t stop it!” She took hold of his shoulders.

“No, break it down. What do you KNOW? Breathe. I know you’re scared, and I know you’re frustrated, and that’s ok. But the most dangerous thing you can do right now - for Padme and for yourself - is to make assumptions. You have to look at what you know. Break it down.

“Think about it carefully - this vision is of the birth, right?” He nodded, certain of that much, and mildly impressed in a distant corner of his mind at how well his friend was taking the revelation that his secret wife was pregnant. “That means it’s of the future, and a future with a approximate time frame, which means it will make you get more panicked as you go on because you have less and less time to act. Compare that to the nightmares you were having of your mother. Did you see her actually dying? Did you feel her body in your arms?”

He thought back carefully, trying to get his breath regulated. Clarity of recall came to his face, and tears fell with it.

“No,” he whispered. “All I saw was an image of her suffering over and over; I just heard her screams and calls for help, for mercy.” Trento nodded in understanding.

“So the impressions you were getting were of the present, as it was back then. Real time,” she rephrased quietly. He nodded.

“And though you didn’t see it in your nightmares, your mother’s death had concrete causes,” she pointed out gently. “Injuries at the hands of the Tuskens, dehydration, starvation, infection most likely. There were explicit factors behind her death. But how is Padme’s health?”

This gave him pause. “That- that’s just it. She seems completely healthy. She said her physician said everything was normal. She’s glowing, really.” He couldn’t stop a small if teary smile from showing at that. It didn’t last long.

“But there must be something we don’t see, then. Or something will change.” She sighed.

“Well, the easiest way to start a process of elimination would be to bring her in. The Healers here can sense things civilian physicians can’t.” This brought a familiar anxiety back to his face.

“What about the Council?” She shook her head.

“Health matters are private if the patient wishes unless there’s a danger to others or inability to perform a duty involved. All the Healers need to know is that you happened to be near the Senator for whatever reason and you sensed danger connected to her health. Your child will most likely be Force sensitive. Any Healer would be able to sense it. Her health may be compromised, possibly by something Force related. That’s all any Healer in this Temple needs to know. If she wants to come in, I know Vokara won’t turn her away. Make sure Padme is alright now. Figure out what to do about the Council later.”

Even just the option of being able to turn to Jedi Healers, even if he would have to bring about his own expulsion later, seemed to give Anakin a tremendous amount of relief, so much that the transition left him trembling. He ran his flesh hand over his face in exhaustion.

“Thank you, Trento, thank you so much. You don’t know how much it means…” She shook her head ruefully.

“I’ve got an idea.” They stood up to leave training room, but Anakin still seemed to be mentally wrestling with something.

“What is it?” He shook his head.

“I just don’t understand it. You’ve helped me so much, just by acknowledging what I’m afraid of and saying it’s understandable, that it’s ok, and working from there. Master Yoda just says to ignore my fears, to let go of the ones I’ma afraid to lose, to be happy when they ‘rejoin the Force.’ How can he say that? What’s the point of trying to save people if we’re supposed to be happy when we fail and they die?” He’d turned to face away from her, out the nearby window to the cityscape beyond. Behind him, he heard the reptilian Master sigh.

“Let me tell you something, Anakin. Master Yoda is over eight hundred years old.” He let himself huff.

“I know that.” She patted his shoulder from behind.

“I know you do, but think about what that means. Think about how you’d feel if Master Obi-Wan were to die today, tomorrow.” The sharply drawn in breath told her everything she needed. “Yoda’s own Master has been dead for centuries. Some of his Padawans have been dead for centuries. Others have been dead for decades, and others in between. He’s been losing people he cares about almost as long as he’s been alive, and that’s longer than most of us can really process. Master Yoda has to be that detached in all his relationships, for his own sake. He has to be able to let people go easily, and frame it as optimistically as he can. He wouldn’t be able to handle the burden of such a long life otherwise. It would drive him mad.” She let him sort through that for a few moments.

“But people from species like yours or mine, we like to make the most of the much shorter time we have, don’t we?” He sighed.

“Yeah.” With that bit of illumination, they resumed walking. She hesitated a moment, before continuing.

“That being said, as ineffective as he obviously can be at conveying the concept, he’s not entirely wrong.” Anakin frowned, some of his earlier anxiety returning to his already tense face.

“Which part?”

“Well, as much as we sometimes hate to admit it, death is a inherent consequence of life. The Force is life AND death together. No can escape it, not forever. Not even a Jedi.”

He paused, on guard, before letting it down, sighing.

“I know. Mentally, I know that. It’s just- Just, why does it feel like it always comes much too early? Dying because you’ve grown old is one thing, but Mom, Qui-Gon, they both had decades ahead of them. Kids I knew, other slaves like me, who got really sick or too badly injured and weren’t ‘worth’ medical treatment… they didn’t have to die when they did, none of them. Why does the Force take good people so early, and leave scum to live for ages? Why have the power to use the Force if we can’t save people?”

She bowed her scaled head. “Exactly because of what you said, Anakin.” He stepped back, aghast.

“What?”

“Because none of us are impartial, as much as Jedi aim to be. Well all have people we perceive as good and people we perceive as scum. I think the Force itself doesn’t quite work like that. It’s separate from our concepts of just and unjust. At least, that’s how it seems to me. Can you imagine how it would be if we all had more power, power to keep alive indefinitely those we deem worthy, and condemn to horrible death without a thought those who had wronged us specifically? Can you imagine the chaos?”

Anakin stared at her, and in the very core of him, he felt the icy chill when he’d first ventured into space as a child. It gripped him far deeper now than it did then, because he realized.

He’d felt that way before.

He’d wanted that power before. When he’d been a slave, when his mother died. He’d killed those raiders, and in those horrible moments, he’d wanted to kill more.

He’d wanted to kill all of them, those who weren’t present. Even those who weren’t responsible. Other people’s partners and children.

And now, he was trying to keep his own small family. Now he was responsible for other people’s children.

He was gasping before he’d even realized he was crying again, putting a hand to the wall for stability, sliding down the wall when his knees wouldn’t hold him and his torso bowed in on itself. He wrapped his arms around his ribs, and tried to keep his head above the filth he felt was drowning him inside.

With what little remained available of his external senses, he felt Trento kneel behind him, placing one hand gently between his shoulders, the other gently gripping his arm. She gave him a line to cling to in his own mind.

“Breathe,” she reminded quietly, and he fought to do just that. “Remember, you’re not the first person to feel this way. Nor the last. Not even the first Jedi. It’s all a matter of choice. What do you do with these emotions? You can move forward from here. You just have to decide how.”

He knew what he wanted to do. He knew what he was afraid to do. Perhaps more importantly, he also knew what he could do, and what he absolutely must do in order to keep facing Padme, his younglings, and himself.

Slowly, the filth seeped away, like pus draining from a wound. The wound remained. He would always know what he did and what he felt. But beyond that, he knew what was important. If the Force was not fair, it was up to him, as it was up to all Jedi, to use it fairly. To be not only strong, but just. To be compassionate when the universe could not be. Even if he would have to leave the Jedi, it was still his duty and his right to be a good man. To let his mother and the raiders remind him of that duty, without letting himself be drawn back into that mental trap of blame and hate. He had let his burning rage at the raiders take control of him. They had, to their own misfortune, driven his actions as surely as Watto had. And he had let them.

And it had been not only his duty, but his own deep desire to never be a slave to anything again.

Not even to his own (surging, roaring) feelings.

Maybe under it all… maybe this was what Yoda had meant about letting go.