Obi-Wan watched with a heavy heart as Ahsoka started towards, then stopped and shifted awkwardly, clearly unsure. She looked the same as he remembered, except sadder, more tired. “So. Um- how have you been?” she asked, looking at a loss for what to say or do.
“Ahsoka- I don't- For goodness sake, come here, young one,” he told her, opening his arms.
The Togruta flew into his embrace then, a small sob escaping her as he wound his arms around her, and she tucked her head into his shoulder.
“I'm so sorry,” she cried, tears soaking into his tunics as she let go. “I didn't want to- not to Padme, and not to you, but Anakin...”
Obi-Wan squeezed just a little tighter, offering what comfort he could. “It's all right, Ahsoka. I am not mad at you.”
“You don't know what I've done.”
But Obi-Wan did. He had worked it out as soon as he had laid eyes on her. She was the watcher. She was the one who ensured the discs were seen by those Anakin left them for.
“I do now,” he said softly. “And I am not angry at you. How could I be? When I'm so pleased to see you alive and well. I've missed you, Ahsoka.”
“I’ve missed you too,” Ahsoka choked out through her tears. “I wish I’d chosen you. Master Plo tried, he’s got a good heart, but he didn't – he didn't know Anakin, and it made everything hard because I was trained by Anakin,” she rambled. “And then I was accused of Murder and I- No-one from the Order- None of the Council...”
“I'm so sorry, Ahsoka,” he whispered, closing his own eyes as tears began to well in them.
The light and shadows that poured through the windows shifted slowly as they clung to one another, letting tears of grief and sorrow, anger, and regret fall freely. It was exhausting, and it made his eyes sting and his face ache, but once they stopped, he felt a little lighter.
“I know you found out too late, about the trial,” Ahsoka told him quietly when they finally stepped away from each other and Obi-Wan moved to try and find them both something to drink.
“How?” he asked distractedly, as he searched the dusty, filthy cupboards for a pair of glasses that were relatively clean.
“Cody told Rex.”
Obi-Wan paused in his search to look up over the bench at the Padawan, smiling sadly as the memory echoed in his ears.
“Sir- Sir you need to calm-
“She is a child Cody! What could they possibly have been thinking! They sentenced her to-“ He broke off, turning away from his Commander and hanging his head, tears stinging his eyes. His fists were clenched at his side and he couldn’t even bring himself to grasp for peace. He was furious… and he was horrified. If only he had been there…
“Sir-“ Cody repeated, reaching out to grab his shoulder.
The small offering of comfort was all it took to break him. The tears falling as he asked in a small voice, “Why didn't they protect her?”
“Of course, he did. The poor man bared the brunt of my anger towards the Jedi and Senate that day,” he recalled. “I'm still sorry. I made a lot of bad calls in the wake of Anakin's leaving.”
“It's hard to think straight when we're hurting,” she said, understanding shining in her eyes. “You weren't the only one making bad decisions.”
Obi-Wan finally found two clean glasses at the back of the cupboard and, after filling them with water, handed over one to Ahsoka. “If it helps, I forgive you, for any wrongs you feel you've done to me. I don't- I never blamed you for choosing someone else. I understood the need for distance.”
“Yeah, but look where we both are now. It was stupid,” she grumbled. “Thank you, though, and I forgive you too – for not being there, for not knowing.”
Obi-Wan sighed, grateful for the forgiveness, but unsure if he would ever be able to forgive himself. “And I you for carrying out Anakin's wishes, despite the hardship...”
Another small sob escaped Ahsoka then and she forced her eyes shut. “Thank you,” she croaked, then she opened them again and took a few sips of water. “Not everyone has been so understanding.”
“Padme?” he hazarded, because Ahsoka had mentioned her earlier.
“Yeah. I was staying with her, before...” Ahsoka replied quietly. “I understand why she wanted me to leave, but I- I'm worried about her. That's why I sent Artoo to come and find you. Someone needs to help her, Obi-Wan.”
Obi-Wan frowned. “I- I don't know if I'm welcome there, Ahsoka. I have told myself I should go see her but I- I was never invited after Anakin moved in, and I suppose I don't know how happy she'll be to see me,” he admitted guiltily. “Especially now. I still haven't seen Padme's holovid. Nor have I watched mine, but Anakin has already revealed enough that she would know the ins and outs of Anakin and my relationship.”
Ahsoka smiled sadly. “I don't think there was anything on your vid that she didn't know already, Obi-Wan.”
Obi-Wan exhaled slowly, both relieved and unsure. “I certainly hope that he was more forthcoming with his wife than he was with me, but I dare not assume. Anakin kept much to himself.”
“Too much,” Ahsoka agreed, moving to the table and taking a seat. Then she sighed. “He didn't even admit to all of it in the vids.”
Obi-Wan frowned. “What did he leave out?”
Ahsoka sighed. “Padme is pregnant, Obi-Wan.”
Obi-Wan closed his eyes as pain ripped through his chest. He couldn't imagine how lost Padme must be knowing she would have to bring up her child without their father, knowing that she and her child weren't enough to make him stay.
Tears stung the corners of his eyes, but they didn’t fall. He wasn’t sure that they could – he wasn’t sure he had any tears left.
“I will go see her,” he promised, and he meant it. No more excuses, no more hiding.
“Watch her vid first,” Ahsoka advised quietly.
Obi-Wan nodded. “What are you going to do with yourself now?”
Ahsoka shrugged. “Stay here until everyone on the vids watch them, I guess.”
Obi-Wan frowned looking around, once again taking in the decrepit furniture, the dust and listening to the loud arguing that was coming from the floor below. He shook his head. “I know we’ve stayed in some horrible places before Ahsoka, and that you are more than capable of defending yourself, but surely there is somewhere better, somewhere safer?”
“I'm a wanted criminal Obi-Wan. It's not like I can check in to a hotel,” she reminded him, a small smile growing on her lips and warmth lighting up her eyes.
“Then, you're welcome to stay with me. It won't be the first time you've camped on my couch, and I – I could probably do with the company.”
For a moment, all he saw in Ahsoka's eyes was regret, and he understood because he felt the same. “And when the Jedi find out you are harbouring a criminal?”
“If not when, Young One. If they find out, then I will deal with it. I think it's about time I found my voice, don't you?”
Ahsoka sent him a pained smile. “Thanks. I’ll take you up on that, but I’ll only stay until it's done. I want to- I had started to find my own way before the vids found their way to me.”
Obi-Wan nodded, his gaze shifting to the nearest window. It was dirty, blurring the view of the fire-like sky.
“I can sneak in later. I remember the code- if you haven't changed it.”
“I haven't,” Obi-Wan said, “Do you have another copy of the vids here? If I watch Padme's, I’ll visit her this evening.”
Ahsoka nodded before standing and moving across the room to a sideboard, on top of which sat a large backpack. She scrounged around in it for a minute or so, before producing another vid player and a vid labeled with the number nine.
“Don't,” Ahsoka snapped, not able to meet his eye. “It’s going to hurt.”
Obi-Wan closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then let it go slowly. When he opened them again, Ahsoka had moved back over to her backpack and was tidying it up
“Thank you for the warning,” he said softly, looking down at the small disc that he held with a frown on his lips.
Quickly, he set up the vid player and placed it on the table. Then he sat down and pressed play.
Once again the holo of Anakin appeared on the table in front of him. He looked more tired than he had in the others. He looked sadder too.
“I- I'm not sure how to start this time. You weren't like the others, you didn't mean- You never meant to hurt me, and because of that I need to start by saying I'm so sorry. I couldn’t leave you off the list, because you are so tied up in the story, and because, like me, you have misplaced your trust, and I don’t want you to learn too late as I did. You're a good person. One of the best I've ever known. So I’m sorry Padme, but this one is for you.
“I know that this all might seem selfish and unnecessarily cruel, but I promise I'm not punishing you. I promise that by the end of the vids you’ll see I was just protecting you, the only way I knew how.”
Obi-Wan sucked in a breath, and let it go, preparing himself for another round of pain and suffering.
The holo of Anakin smiled bashfully up at him, making his heart stutter, then break all over again. “Do you remember when we first met? I asked you if you were an angel, and you called me a funny little boy. It seems like a lifetime ago, but right now those first assessments still feel true. You are still an angel, despite what life has thrown at you, and I am still young and naive, despite what I've lived,” he said, a sad smile on his face. “I'm so glad I met you, I am thankful for the time we've had together, and, Force Padme, I am so lucky to have been loved by you. You have been a source of light during my darkest days and you don't know, you don't know how many times you’ve walked me back from the edge.
“Before that day, the day I left you, when things were the worst they'd ever been, you did everything in your power and more. It’s not your fault, what’s happened. You didn't, you couldn't, know what I was going through,” he admitted sadly. “Because I refused to tell you.”
Anakin hung his head. “I couldn’t because I knew that if I let you understand, you would have tried to take me back to the Temple... Because I knew that if I fought you, you would go to see Obi-Wan or Qui-Gon or Ahsoka and drag them back to our apartment to see me, to help me.”
Anakin looked up again and tears were streaming down his cheeks. “I didn't tell you because it would hurt you, it would hurt all of you more than you could bear. I had made my choices... I had burned bridges and walked away for the chance of a better life. But when it wasn't... When everything in my “better” life started to spiral out of control...”
“It- I-“ he stammered unable to get the words out. He closed his eyes again, pained, and his whole body sagged. “It started with Ahsoka.”
“The trial came close to destroying me. I lost the little faith I had left in the Jedi and the Senate. I lost faith in us too. Up until then, I thought we could do anything! I thought we were more powerful than any Jedi! I had found so much freedom with you, but Ahsoka's case made me realize that I was powerless, more so than I had ever been as a Jedi. It was the moment I realized the grass was not greener, in fact, afterward, everywhere I looked it was dead.
“I didn't get much opportunity to talk to Ahsoka after I managed to help her escape. I told her I missed her, and she said thanks to me for getting her out. We were rushed and tired and it was all too much. But I did make time to ask her about Obi-Wan. I needed to know why he wasn’t there. Why he hadn’t fought for her, and when the Senate proclaimed her guilt, why he hadn’t been there with me to help her escape.
“It had bothered me since I learned of her trial. I think I mentioned it to you, and you suggested that maybe he had been injured in the bombings. It made me worry. I- I still loved him – you knew that – you knew it better than I did…” Anakin swallowed. “And the thought of him being hurt, of him dying because I wasn't there, haunted me until I heard her reply.”
Once again, Anakin held up a small holoprojector in his hand. This time the blue light created Ahsoka when he lit it, and, somehow, her holo looked more tired and sad than she did in the here and now.
“Obi-Wan is still on the Outer Rim, Ma- Anakin. I- don't think he knows. You know how long it takes for core news to get out there.”
“But why aren't you with him? Why isn't he with you?” an echo of Anakin crackled from somewhere beyond the small holo projecter in holo Anakin’s hand.
Ahsoka looked pained when realization dawned on her. “He's not my Master, Anakin. The Council gave me a choice and I- it was too much so I chose Master Plo.”
There was a pause. “But- why? Obi-Wan was practically already your- I don't-"
“It was hard, Anakin,” Ahsoka explained, not unkindly, but not softening the blow either. “Did you think we just go on like you didn't ab- leave?! Did you think that after everything we wouldn't grie-...” she shook her head. “I don't want to get into this. It doesn't matter anymore anyway. Thank you for helping me, Anakin. Tell Padme thank you too.”
Ahsoka disappeared, leaving Anakin with his head bowed, his eyes staring sadly at the portable comm. “I realized during our rushed exchange that I had made a huge mistake. What I had known would happen once I left, hadn't. Obi-Wan and Ahsoka were alone.”
Obi-Wan looked over his shoulder at Ahsoka. The Togruta looked seconds away from another wave of tears, so he paused the video and focused on her.
“It's not your fault,” he told her. “This picture he had in his head of what it would look like if he left, he could have communicated it. I would have fought harder for you if I knew it was what he had wanted. I wasn't able to say no to him.”
“He didn't tell me either- I mean, I guess he said you would be there, but not that you would be my Master.”
Obi-Wan sighed. “I'm going to assume that everything somehow connects back to Palpatine. That whenever we get to his vid, I'm going to see his filthy fingerprints all over Anakin's leaving, all over the break down of his relationships, all over your trial.”
Ahsoka bowed her head. “Yes.”
“And when Anakin figures it out?”
“Yes,” the Togruta breathed, her eyes still on the floor.
Obi-Wan stared at her for a long moment, then he sighed. “I'll stay with the Jedi until Palpatine is dead,” he started watching as Ahsoka's chin slowly lifted and her eyes widened. “But afterward, I think I'd like to come with you if you'll have me. I can finish your training if you'd like that. Or we can simply find our own path.”
Ahsoka stared at him for a moment, then she strode across the room, fell into the seat next to him, and pulled him into another tight, thankful hug.
When they let go, she didn't move away. Instead, she let him get comfortable and then leaned into his side, like she had when it had been the three of them, after some of the worst missions they had suffered through. He was grateful for the support she was offering and pleased that she was still willing to lean on him too.
Before he pressed play again, he raised an eyebrow at her to which she nodded.
Anakin’s voice filled the quiet space again, sending yet another shiver down his spine. “I didn't know what to do. I had relied on them to take care of one another, and now Ahsoka was in the wind and Obi-Wan was fighting in the war effort alone!
“It wasn't what was supposed to happen. I had it all wrong!
“And I started to wonder what else I had been wrong about. I began to wonder if I had been wrong about us.”
Anakin scrubbed his hands over his face. “I started to obsess over it, questioning everything. You were so patient with me, even though my constant searching for everything that could be, or was, wrong, was probably hurting you. I didn't trust you anymore. I didn't trust myself anymore... And the only person I did trust was throwing fuel onto the fire. Hinting at transgressions that never happened, telling me that you had complained about me – how difficult I was being. Gods Padme, I would have understood if you did! I was being unfair and cruel… Kriff, but he didn’t stop at you. He told me rumors about Obi-Wan – how he was recklessly endangering himself, how he had been caught by the separatists, how Dooku and Grievous seemed to be targeting him and the Temple weren’t sending him help. And I- I felt like I was being ripped in two. Worse, the more I hurt, the angrier I got. Mostly I was angry at myself, for my choices, but I couldn’t see it then because I had latched on to his words. So instead I blamed the Jedi, I blamed Obi-Wan and Ahsoka, I blamed you.
“It wasn’t fair, but I wasn’t being fair or rational. I had gotten so kriffing lost, and being what I am… you had no chance of ever understanding,” he croaked, tears streaming steadily down his cheeks. “I hadn't shared enough about the Force for you to know that was what I was struggling with was what made Dooku the monster he was. That it was dangerous and that there were very few beings who could help me manage it. Force, I didn't even do you the courtesy of explaining that there were beings you could go to if I succumbed to it.
“I was so overconfident. I was so sure I wouldn't hurt you, that I couldn't hurt you, even when I knew that I was struggling. Even when I was so angry at you that my mind jumped to the darkest of places.”
He shook his head, his face twisted with self-loathing. “Somehow, you recognized that my trips to see the Chancellor weren’t helping my moods. You tried to stop me that last time, telling me to go see a doctor, telling me to go and see anyone else instead. I wish now I had just listened. Maybe if I had I wouldn't have fallen.”
“I was such a mess, Palpatine barely had to try. He told me that Obi-Wan had been injured on the front, and was fighting for his life in the medbay on the Negotiator. It wasn't true, I know that now, but I- I trusted Palpatine then and I instantly fell to pieces. I dropped to my knees and begged him to save him, just like he had saved Ahsoka for me, just like he had saved me with all his allowances over the years.
“He grabbed my chin and forced me to look at him, and told me that if I just stopped fighting if I gave in to the darkness, would have the power to do it myself. “
That was when I realized I had been wrong about everything.
“And I broke.”
There was a long silence as Anakin breathed, trying hard not to fall to pieces once again. “He's a Sith, Padme. He’s the Sith. The Chancellor of the Republic is the Sith Master the Jedi and we have been so desperately looking for. And so, when I gave in, at that moment, I became one too.
“I should have stayed away after that, but I couldn't. I was, I am, attached to you and I couldn't, wouldn't let you go. I was out of control – high on the new power that was roaring through my veins. You remember don't you, when I arrived home that night and instead of being a mess, I was a monster.”
Obi-Wan stopped the Vid, unsure if he wanted to watch what happened next.
“Did he hurt her?” he asked in barely more than a whisper.
“Yes. He spat angry words at her, then when she suggested – she cried and begged – they go to you or me or Qui-Gon, he strangled her, with the Force. Thankfully, he seemed to snap out of it somehow before he killed her. It was the last time he saw her. He ran away and when he didn't find any way to fix himself he made the vids and then, well...”
“Where did he go? Where did he go to try and fix himself?”
Ahsoka's eyes filled with tears again and her bottom lip quivered. “He went to the Order first but it didn't go well, so then he-“
Obi-Wan waited quietly knowing he wasn't going to like whatever she had to say next.
“He found you.”
Obi-Wan blinked, then he looked over at the small box where he knew the last three discs were. For the first time since receiving them, he itched to watch his Vid.
While he was almost sure that Ahsoka would tell him the rest of the story if he asked, he didn't want to put her through any more distress. She had suffered enough. Still, there was one thing that he wanted to know.
“He didn't reach out if he found me… He didn't approach-“
“No, he didn't,” she agreed before he'd finished. “I wish he had.”
Obi-Wan sighed. He did too.
He shook his head and let some of the pain trickle into the Force. It was time to think about the living.
“Have I seen enough to go see Padme?” he asked quietly, not particularly wanting to hear any more of her vid.
“Right, then you should head back. There is, by some miracle, food in the cooler that you are welcome to, and there are blankets in the linen closet. Please try and get some rest.”
Ahsoka barked out a laugh. “Sure, Master.”
Obi-Wan smiled at her, even as guilt filled his heart. If he had been better before, Anakin would be the one reminding her to take care of herself, not him.
“Can R2 stay with us too?”
Obi-Wan sighed, glancing over at the little droid. “If he must.”
R2 tweeted happily in the corner. It turned out he didn't particularly like Ahsoka and his accommodation either. Anakin really did manage to pick the quirkiest of droids.
Ahsoka pulled on her backpack and gave him one last quick hug. “Tell Padme, I’m sorry,” she whispered, “and be careful over there. Palpatine often visits Senators, so he may be in the building...”
Obi-Wan shuddered. “I promise to take care”, he said as he stood and began walking out off out of the apartment. He was just approaching the lift when her reply reached him.
“See you soon, Obi-Wan,” she called. The words rang with warmth but they made him pause as a sick feeling settled in his gut.
“Ahsoka!” he yelled, holding the door of the lift to stop it from descending.
“Yeah?” she said sticking her head out the door.
“You be careful too,” he told her. “I have a bad feeling… .”