Actions

Work Header

Nine Reasons Why

Chapter Text

 

Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi ran a shaky hand through his auburn locks as he stood leaned against the door jamb of his former Master's room, watching silently as the older man slept.

The Jedi Council had urgently recalled him from a mission, desperate for help with Qui-Gon Jinn who they believed was wavering on the edge of the Dark Side. Obi-Wan was astonished to receive their comm, but he was not at all shocked to hear of his Master's condition. Barely a month had passed since Anakin Skywalker, the youngest of Qui-Gon's former Padawans, had taken his own life mid-battle after revealing himself as a Sith. The Jedi Master had been there; he'd been part of the fight and had no choice but to watch as the terrible event unfolded. Traumatized and heartbroken, Qui-Gon had hidden himself away, unwilling to speak to anyone as he, once again, sank into the darkness of depression. Obi-Wan was the first person the devastated man had allowed into his apartment and even then he had done so reluctantly, with an unimpressed scowl on his face.

Knowing better than to try and coax his Master to talk when he was in such a dark mood, the Knight hadn’t bothered with words. There was nothing he could say that would help the tall Jedi's heart heal any faster, so instead of trying to counsel he did what was needed. Silently, he'd made the dead-eyed Master tea and sandwiches, then glared until most of it was gone. With a hand on the man's shoulder, he'd led him to the 'fresher where he left him to have what must have been his first shower in days. He wordlessly remade Qui-Gon's bed and cleared away the numerous empty liquor bottles that he found around the room. And, when the older Jedi finally reappeared, he pressed a steady hand into his back, guiding him across the room until he was laying down under the crisp sheets.

“Sleep, Master,” he ordered, his tenor both firm and gentle, as he turned out the bedside lamp. It was the first thing he'd said since arriving, and the use of the honorific tore a sob from the man’s throat. The sharp sound made him squeeze his eyes shut as grief surged in his chest.

“Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon rasped. The devastation, guilt and sorrow evident in the man’s broken baritone threatened to pull him down into dark, tainted depths where his Master had been left to dwell for far too long. 

“Sleep!” Obi-Wan barked hurriedly, loading the word with a strong Force suggestion that quickly dragged the exhausted man into a dreamless slumber. The Knight then stumbled to the doorway, fighting away tears.

The news of Anakin's death had hit him just as hard as it had his old Master. The bright young man and he had grown close over the years; their friendship beginning with a shared distaste for their Master’s cooking and ending with a desperate need for each other’s words, touch and love. In some ways, they knew each other better than anyone... but in other ways, they didn’t know each other at all.

The circumstances of Anakin’s death had come as a terrible shock. The High Council had waited until he returned to the Temple to tell him the horrible details, watching his reactions with a critical eye, probably wondering if he had known something. Obi-Wan had been the only one to keep in contact with the young man after he had left the Order to live a different life with Padme Amidala, the young Senator of Naboo. But, as he had informed Council, a few comm calls snuck in between back-to-back missions was hardly going to enlighten him to his friend’s mental state. How and why Anakin had fallen to the Dark Side was as much a mystery to him as it was everyone else. 

Pulling away from the door with a sigh, he walked into the kitchen and promptly turned on the kettle. Picking out a generic, ceramic mug from the cupboard that hung above the bench, he placed it on the counter next to the rumbling appliance as he waited for the sharp whistle. As he stared down into it, he decided that its emptiness was all too like how he felt in a galaxy without his friend. Then he swallowed nervously as a memory flashed before his eyes of them standing in that very kitchen, cleaning up after one of the so dubbed "family" dinners that Qui-Gon hosted after Anakin was knighted.

"Another mission -- so soon?" Obi-Wan questioned, his eyes darting over to where Anakin's Padawan was asleep on the couch.

"I thought you would be glad to get rid of me," Anakin teased.

"Don't be ridiculous, Anakin, you know I enjoy your company," he shot back.

The former Knight’s bright smile flashed before his eyes and suddenly his cheeks were damp with tears. Shaking his head and running a sleeve across his face, he let the piercing hiss of the kettle steal away his memories, returning to the here and now, where his focus belonged. He wasn’t brought back to lose himself in his own despair; he was here to pull his Master out of his. It was yet another mission. Not as formal as the ones he had thrown himself into after he had watched Anakin leave, but just as important.

The Order couldn’t afford to lose another Jedi to the dark, and he wasn’t sure he could survive losing anyone else he cared for. The Clone Wars had taken so much from them. So many Jedi had fallen, so many civilian lives lost… so many clones. The galaxy stank of death and pain and suffering, and he no longer knew how to keep it at bay. The fighting had stolen that strength, along with so much of what he believed in, of what the Order believed in. It had made them the ultimate hypocrisy, warriors for peace, which threatened to shatter his home at its core.

It shouldn't be possible. With all the years behind it and all those who supported it, the Order should be stronger than it was. Unfortunately its foundations were already weakened by a sprawling spider web of hairline cracks that had remained unseen for far too long. There was no blame to lay. They weren't so easy to spot.

Not unless you knew Anakin Skywalker.

The now passed former Jedi was what Master Windu called a shatterpoint in the Order. He was a weak spot that even more fractures spread from, winding and weaving their way through the Temple, threatening to bring it crashing down. It was never his intention, and certainly not his fault.

Anakin was brought to the Order at an age considered too old, wielding unmatched power too easily and labeled the prophesied 'Chosen One' too soon. It had been too much for the Temple-raised Jedi to cope with, and ultimately became too much for Anakin.

"I can't be here anymore, Obi-Wan!"

Blinking out of his thoughts and memories, Obi-Wan slowly realized the boiled water had cooled, and the bottom of his mug was still as dry and empty as it had been when he pulled it from the cupboard. He let out a small sigh. The blanks and blurs of time happened a lot when he was at home. There were too many triggers in the Temple. On missions he could forget. They hadn’t been permitted to partner too often, especially after the war started, as they were needed on separate fronts. Though, strangely, they were often on leave in the Temple concurrently, thus it was here that the shadows and echoes of what was haunted him.

Obi-Wan had tears streaming down his face from laughing as he looked up from Qui-Gon's and his half-made teas at the Knight who was stood on the opposite side of Qui-Gon's bench. "Only you could accidentally poison yourself, Anakin!"

"You guys are being so unfair. I mean, how was I supposed to know that there wasn't supposed to be blue granules in the tea? I don't like the stuff, and it's not like either of you let me make yours..."

Taking a long breath in, he forced himself to focus and glanced around, once again taking in the disgraceful state of the apartment with disgust. The tables were cluttered with bottles, half-full tea cups, and dusty, untouched data pads. The ground was strewn with clothes that hadn’t made it to the laundry and shoes that hadn’t made it to the cupboard. Plates with half-eaten, unhealthy snacks sat forgotten and festering on the lounge and side tables and the once vibrant potted plants were withering, long forgotten.

Foregoing the tea, he resigned himself to the mindless task of cleaning, hoping it would exhaust him to the point that he too could fall into a dreamless sleep.

 

Obi-Wan awoke the next morning to light and warmth streaming across his face through the cracks in the vertical blinds that dressed the apartment's large windows. Stretching himself out on the couch like a lothcat (he hadn’t been able to bring himself to sleep in Anakin’s old bed, even though it had once been his own), he groaned at the sharp pain that flared in his neck and back. While his Master's couch was vastly more comfortable than some of the other places he had slept recently, his body wasn't thanking him for spending yet another night away from his bed.

“You’re awake." Qui-Gon's voice rang out, abruptly interrupting his thoughts.

The words startled him so much that he fell off the couch. A loud "oomph" escaped his lips as he landed awkwardly on the floor.

The silence that followed was eerie; it wasn’t that long ago that his folly would have, at the very least, brought a quiet chuckle to the older man’s lips. “I am,” he grunted into the plush carpet. Pushing himself up with muscled arms, he knelt, sitting back on his heels.

Obi-Wan raised his gaze to meet his old Master’s, dutifully taking in the improvements in the Jedi’s appearance; fading bags under his midnight blue eyes, brushed and braided long hair, and the better color of his skin. Yet, he was certain it would still take time before the man resurfaced, which was to be expected, no matter what the Masters thought.

The tall Master was standing in the kitchen, meticulously brewing two cups of tea. It was so normal that Obi-Wan could have tricked himself that everything was as it should be... if not for the agony that whispered behind his Master's shields and the utter sadness that lingered in the apartment.

“How--” Obi-Wan stopped abruptly, knowing it wasn’t the right question. “Are you feeling any better?” he asked instead, using the couch to drag himself up to his feet. He didn’t need to say anything, but the silence was starting to bother him. Since Anakin had become Qui-Gon’s apprentice, the apartment had been loud. Whenever he visited, even after Anakin had risen to Knight, the place was bustling with energy, noise and life.

There was a long pause before Qui-Gon replied, leaving Obi-Wan to watch as the man dropped lemon into their tea, then slid one mug across the island bench, wordlessly asking Obi-Wan to join him.

“I don’t feel worse, which is an improvement,” he admitted quietly.

Obi-Wan canted his head to the side, noticing a wariness in his Masters eyes he had never seen before, something that seemed out of place, even considering the circumstances. “I’m glad,” he said honestly.

The taller man frowned and took a long sip of his tea, all the while staring at him with a look a deep contemplation on his face. “Are you?”

Obi-Wan’s brow furrowed. “Of course I am,” he replied, startled by the question. There was a long pause before he gave into his curiosity. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“You loved him,” stated Qui-Gon matter-of-factly, as he lifted his cup to his lips.

Obi-Wan blinked. "Love" wasn't a word often used by the Jedi, even if it was felt, and he certainly never expected to hear it from his Master's mouth. “Well, yes. He was my best friend,” Obi-Wan pointed out, feeling utterly confused, and a little wary. They had never told Qui-Gon... He was sure Anakin had never said... Shaking his head he guessed at other reasons why his Master was suddenly acting so out of character and added, “I don’t blame you, if that’s what is worrying you. An--Anakin. He made his own choices.”

A growl ripped from his Master’s throat, and he found himself taking a step back, putting more space between him and the Jedi Master. Without thought, his eyes slipped to Master’s hip where he was relieved to find the man was unarmed.

“I don’t need a weapon to hurt people,” the older Jedi snarled bitterly, catching his gaze.

Obi-Wan considered Qui-Gon’s tormented midnight eyes for a long moment, wondering if he was too late. Fear twisted mercilessly in his stomach at the thought of having to fight the man who had raised him, the man who was his Father in all but name. “Master--”

“Don’t call me that!” Qui-Gon snapped at him. “I don’t deserv--”

“Don’t you dare,” Obi-Wan hissed, cutting in as an old anger suddenly took hold of him. “Don’t you dare do to me what you did to Feemor! Not after our start. Not now, not in Anakin’s name!”

The silence that followed felt like ice, not only bitterly cold, but frozen, nothing moving but the slow second hand on the ancient chrono-meter that hung on Qui-Gon’s wall. Obi-Wan closed his eyes, waiting for the man to strike him. It wasn’t something that Qui-Gon had ever done, unlike other Masters he had never used pain as a punishment, but he could almost taste the larger Jedi’s desire to hurt him now. Thankfully, it never came and when he dared to open his eyes again the weary man had a hand across his own face and tears were rolling down his cheeks.

“Oh, Qui-Gon,” he sighed, choosing not to tempt fate by using his title. He rounded the bench and approached carefully, then pulled his Master into a hug.

It was… odd.

Qui-Gon was not at all tactile when it came to displays of affection. Actually, displays of affection were a rarity, and were often so subtle they were easy to miss. Coupled with the fact that he could easily be blind to other people’s feelings, it wasn’t surprising that Obi-Wan had spent most of his apprenticeship and much his Knighthood wondering if the man cared for him at all. It wasn’t until recently, not long after Anakin left the Order, when he had been feeling particularly needy, that he had dared to straight out ask the man. The shocked “Of course, Obi-Wan!” made him wish he had found the courage years ago.

“I wish you’d told me,” Qui-Gon said quietly.

Obi-Wan frowned. “Told you what?”

Qui-Gon sighed sadly. “You honestly haven’t watched them yet,” he muttered, and Obi-Wan could feel his relief, and his frustration. Though, he didn’t understand what he had - or hadn’t - done to cause such a mix.

“Watched what?”

Qui-Gon took hold of his shoulders and pulled back, holding him in front of him as he searched his face with his eyes. Sighing again, the man looked down. “You need to go back to your apartment, Obi-Wan,” he told him, his voice breaking.

Obi-Wan stared at Qui-Gon blankly for a moment, before hurt burned through his chest. Once again, he wasn’t wanted. Not even after the help he had given so freely. Nodding, he dropped his gaze to the ground. “I-I apologize for the intrusion then, Master." It came out colder than he meant it too, but maybe he could be allowed this moment of caring for himself first.

“No- Obi-Wan, you've got it wrong. Just… You’ll understand once you have seen them. You are welcome here if you wish to see me afterwards… Padawan.” Obi-Wan’s brow creased as the man led him towards the door. “My advice to you is to get some rest first, because there is little sleep to be had after you start,” he added regretfully.

Qui-Gon’s hand left his shoulder as he exited the apartment, and by the time he had turned to ask what his former Master meant he found the door closed, the name plaque, which read “Jinn” glaring at him, reminding him of his place.

Shaking his head, he set off towards his own apartment wondering what in the blazes was going on.

 

It didn't take Obi-Wan long to get back, but as he opened the door he remembered why he preferred to be away. Returning to his quarters was anything but comforting. The air was cold and stale, and the layer of dust that had settled over everything made his eyes water and his nose twitch. Plus, everything reminded him of what was missing.

Ghosts of memories appeared before his eyes, reminding him of those treasured times when the small apartment felt like home, when it was a place filled with love and laughter. His gaze wandered around the room, until it landed on the enduring, spiky succulent on the bookshelf that Ahsoka, Anakin's Padawan, had once put on Anakin’s seat beginning a prank war between the two that had lasted two hilarious months. Tacked to the side, just above the plant, was the triangular flag from an underground pod race that Anakin had dragged him out to watch. It was where, hidden among the roaring crowd, the younger man had first kissed him. He closed his eyes briefly as he was overwhelmed by the memory of the charged atmosphere, the excitement and dismay that echoed in the Force, the smell of exhaust fumes mingling with vinegary fast food and cheap perfume... the feel of that warm mouth on his own...

“An-Anakin!” he gasped, eyes blown and cheeks flushed.

Anakin cracked a grin, his hands still on the sides of Obi-Wan's face. “That was even better than I thought it would be!"

Forcing himself to breathe as his chest seized, he blinked his eyes open, to find himself looking at his infamous favorite teacup which was painstakingly glued back together by an apologetic Anakin. Above that, on the highest shelf was an old photo that rested against a row of books. It was of Queen Amidala, young Anakin and himself on Naboo during the peace celebration.

“Do you think we could be friends now? Or am I still too dangerous?” Anakin asked him, while they waited for Qui-Gon.

“Well, technically we’re brothers now… so I suppose I will just have to keep you in line, hm," he teased as he mussed blonde locks.

Obi-Wan wrapped his arms around himself tightly as he fought the urge to walk to the nearest console and list himself as available for missions. This was why he didn’t come home. This was why he had taken mission after mission since Anakin left the Order. He couldn’t stand it here before, but now - now! - it was worse! Before he had been running on a log in the middle of a shallow pool, now he was in the middle of the ocean and he had stopped, and there was nowhere to go but down.

A sudden bang in the distance - a door slamming up the hall - snapped him back to reality. The wispy memories vanished leaving him alone and trembling, standing in the middle of his apartment. One deep breath after another steadied his hands as he painstakingly broke his promise to Anakin once again.

“ ...you promised me you wouldn’t let this go, that you would feel this no matter what…”

Trying not to feel guilty, he gave the emotion to the Force, watching it float away like a bunch of blue balloons that had torn themselves from the small hands of a child.

As his awareness sharpened he moved, silently chiding himself for standing aimlessly for so long. He walked into his kitchen, which was just a bench and series of cupboards tucked into the back corner of the small, rectangular living space. It was missing the large island bench the Master-Padawan suites boasted but the earthy coloring and the stone bench top was the same as the one in the apartment where his Master lived.

After a brief look in the cooler and pantry, he decided he wasn’t hungry and settled with munching on a bland ration bar, but only because his Medic had threatened to go to Vokara Che if he got any thinner. There wasn’t much time for eating on the battlefront, and he would often put aside his hunger. But he had to admit it wasn't the only reason; lately, he simply did not feel hungry.

A single glance at the door across the way was enough for him to decide not to enter the bedroom; he didn't want to have to break his promise twice in one night and the memories there would probably break him. Instead, he chose to drop onto to his couch and sink down in the cushions that, despite being newer, weren’t nearly as comfortable as Qui-Gon’s.

The Knight was pulling off his second boot when it caught his eye. Sitting on his small kitchen table, was a neatly wrapped box. Curious, he stood up and slowly approached it. With the enemies that he had, it could be anything and it wasn’t worth taking any risks. Carefully he probed it with the Force, hoping to get some sort of indication- then abruptly froze when he sensed a whisper of Anakin’s Force presence on it.

Caution flew out the window and he hurriedly tore it open. There was no letter or card, just nine tiny circular disks and a small, slotted mechanical device that he had never seen before, but it looked as though it could play the-. Obi-Wan gasped and almost dropped the device when a holo of Anakin came to life in his hands after he pushed a disc into the slot. The projection of the handsome Knight, stared at him for a moment, then it - no - he spoke.

“Hi... not what you were expecting? I guess I can’t blame you for that. Doesn’t change that it’s me, Anakin Skywalker, the former Jedi who passed into the Force just the other day. So get a snack, settle in, because I’m about to tell you the story of my life and, more importantly, why I decided to end it.

"And if you’re one of the lucky recipients of the holovids, then you are one of the reasons why.”

Obi-Wan did drop the player this time, and as it landed on the table a small compartment cracked open, releasing its battery. He stared at the now silent device, as he slowly lowered himself into the cold, unforgiving seat that sat next to his table. His chest was so tight that he just. Couldn’t. Breathe. His stomach twisted into knots and his head just hurt with the effort he was putting in to understand why? What had he done? They had ended things amicably hadn’t they? They were still friends the last time they had spoken, weren’t they?

His hand hovered over the device for a long moment before he put it back together, trembling fingers struggling to get the battery in place. Then, he squeezed his eyes closed and listened to the familiar tones of his friend.

“I won’t tell you which recording you’re on, but if you received the box then your name will pop up, I promise. The rules are as follows. One: you listen. Two: you pass it on. That’s it, pretty simple huh? Once you’ve listened to all the discs, put them back in the box and pass it on to the next person. You, number nine, can take the box to your pick of the nine Corellian Hells. 

“In case you’re thinking of breaking the rules, you should know that I have left a copy of the vids with a trusted person who has been instructed to release them to the Jedi, the Senate, and to the Republic in a very public way. This wasn’t one of my usual plans. It wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. I’m not making this up as I go. So, don’t take me for granted."

The holo of Anakin seemed to look straight into his eyes when he firmly added, “Not again.”

Chapter Text

 

 

“You are being watched.”

Obi-Wan felt a shiver travel down his spine at the cold warning in Anakin’s tone. He glanced around nervously, almost expecting to find the young man's ghost sitting across from him. He knew that wasn't what the Knight meant; though, somehow, the idea of a living person watching him go through this was even worse.

Feeling overwhelmed, he hit the pause button then dropped his head into his hands, carding his fingers through his hair. Anxiety was winding its way around his chest, squeezing tightly, constricting like a dragonsnake around its prey. He knew he needed to focus on breathing, that he needed to calm down, but he was too lost in the maze of his memories to concentrate on the now.

“Why me, Anakin?” he gasped at the small silver device where the hologram had been seconds before.

Slowly, his hands dropped from his head to his lap. He took in long, drawn-out breaths as his gaze followed them, entranced by the sparkling droplets of water that fell into his open palms. For a moment, he wondered if the roof was leaking again, until his hazy mind caught up and he realized they were his tears.

Obi-Wan hadn’t given into his grief when he had first heard, or when the Council had explained the brutal details of what happened that awful day. The closest he had come to falling to pieces was earlier, in his Master’s quarters, when he felt just how broken the elder Jedi was. So, he supposed, it wasn’t so surprising that he now had a steady stream of tears rolling down his cheeks.

The fear, anger and overwhelming regret he felt at losing his friend, at not being there when the younger man needed him – needed someone – made it even harder to breathe. And to be listed as a cause… a reason… that the man who had once been his everything, had fallen to the dark side and taken his life, was utterly devastating. The pain, longing and heartbreak that had long haunted the dark corner of his heart was suddenly dragged into the light, and it burned, red and black.

The pain entwined with adrenaline and anxiety, making him want to run. The urge to return to the Outer Rim, where he could hide in his duty and do his best to forget, was very tempting. It was so easy to pretend everything was fine when he was light years away and so involved in work that he didn't have time to think.

But. Anakin had promised to have the discs revealed to the public if he didn't listen and he didn't know what was on them yet. It would be selfish of him to damage the Order, and possibly others, simply because he did not want to hear what the Knight had to say. Despite not agreeing with everything they did, the Jedi were still his family and the Temple remained his home. Plus, he knew Anakin would want him to stay, to feel, and he hadn’t ever been good at saying no to the handsome Knight. Not in life, and apparently not even in death.

Anakin had always believed the Jedi were wrong to purge their emotions; that they couldn’t truly be compassionate when they didn’t let themselves feel. He hated when Obi-Wan let go, especially if the emotion pertained to him. Words had never been enough for the Knight; promises were too easily made and broken, and lies were too easily told. To believe, he had to feel. But he never came to realize, possibly because no one ever pointed it out to him, that feeling everything was mentally exhausting for a Force-sensitive. While “good” emotions felt amazing, all warm sunshine and delighted singing, the “bad” ones could be dark and cold and threatened to swallow you up, much like if one were to tumble down, and become trapped in, an ancient, cylindrical well; which, he decided, was what must have happened to Anakin.

And he was a reason why.

Wiping away tears that refused to stop, he dragged himself back into the kitchen and stood on his tiptoes so that he could pull a bottle of almost-rancid alcohol and a small glass from the top cupboard. He poured himself a shot, and threw it back, relishing the distraction of the burn as it made its way down his throat. It had been so, so long since he had indulged in a drink...

Obi-Wan! Please- you have to stop doing this to yourself. It’s not healthy and it's not what Satine would have wanted… and it's definitely not what I want!” Anakin snapped, angrily, sweeping the almost-empty bottle of spirits off the table. The blue-eyed Knight ignored the ear-splitting crash as it shattered, instead grabbing Obi-Wan’s face with two hands. “No more, do you understand!” he growled before leaning in and roughly capturing Obi-Wan's lips with his own, demanding the older Knight’s promise in the kiss...

He couldn’t bring himself to pour another, but it didn’t matter. One was enough to give him the courage to take himself back to the table, it was enough to press play.

The eerie blue hologram of Anakin Skywalker lit up, looking weary as he opened his mouth to continue.

“I think it’s best we start at the beginning – my beginning. I suppose you think you already know all about my start. You might have already heard whispers of it in the halls of the Temple. Or maybe you got the details straight from the man who found me. Or maybe you were there. The how doesn't really matter, what does is there isn’t one of you who knew all of it, and there were too few who understood what my past, and my new beginning, meant to me.”

Obi-Wan closed his eyes, and dropped his forehead onto the table, no longer able to look at the young man while he listened.

“I was a slave,” Anakin continued, his usually pleasant tenor momentarily laced with bitterness as the last word rolled off his tongue. “That’s what you heard, right? A slave boy from Tatooine that Master Jinn, the almighty Maverick Master, freed and then fought the High Council for. The one he pushed aside his Padawan for… A slave boy who was too old to be a Jedi, but had become one anyway because Qui-Gon Jinn thought he was the Chosen One…” he trailed off, and Obi-Wan peeked up to find the holo running a shaky hand through his hair and taking in a long breath to calm himself. Without taking his eyes off Anakin, Obi-Wan shifted so that he was sitting with his elbows on the durasteel table, his chin resting in the palms of his hands and his fingers curled at his lips as he waited for the young Jedi to continue.

“Well you’re not wrong, but that’s not even half the story! It tells you nothing about how I felt before, during and after my arrival at the Order, which was something that few beings in the Temple ever worried about. Of those who did, there was only three who did more than remind me to “let go” of my past. Only three who recognised that the change was a significant one. That I had left my home... That, unlike "normal" Jedi younglings I had already suffered a significant amount of trauma.

"It was unfortunate that the person who was directly responsible for my well-being during my first days at the Temple was not one of the three as things might have turned out differently... Which is why this is your holo, Master Qui-Gon. I hope you’re ready for a trip down memory lane because that's where we're going. You see, there’s some things I need to explain, and some questions I want to ask. Starting with, at what point did you decide to bring me back to the Temple?

"You didn’t notice me when you first visited my owner’s shop. I was right there, and you walked past me, twice. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame you for that. You were hardly the first customer of Watto’s to look over the small slave who helped run the shop. I just wondered what it was that made me visible, because, if by some miracle, I get the chance to go back in time, I want to make sure it can’t happen again.

"So, when was it, Master? When I offered you shelter from the deadly sand storm in that sandy hovel that I called home? Or was it when you met my incredible, kind and loving Mom? Was it during dinner, when I volunteered to help you again? Or was it when I was finishing off the pod racer so I could fly it… for you? Wait—No—I know. It had to be when we spoke on the balcony after dinner, when you took my blood, testing me for ‘viruses’,” Anakin reproached, his jaw set and hands clenched into fists at his sides. Obi-Wan closed his eyes, knowing the accusation coming and feeling terrible for his involvement in it, even if he hadn’t known what his Master was up to in Mos Espa all those years ago.

“You did a midichlorian count, didn’t you? That’s what convinced you that you had to take me back to the Order. ‘Higher than Master Yoda’s’, right? ‘The Chosen One!’” Anakin spat the last words, his body starting to tremble as his anger coursed through it.

“I get it, like I think everyone did, eventually. I was too powerful to be left behind. Untrained I could have been a danger to myself and others. I understand that, while I didn’t fit the Jedi, I couldn’t be left behind. And honestly I—I still… I still look back on the moment you freed me, and offered to make me a Jedi, as one of the happiest moments of my life. I felt so alive, so excited, so happy. It’s just unfortunate it was all consecutively followed by misery.

“But before we skip forward to how I left behind my mother, and how well my introduction to the Order went, I think it would be good for everyone to know how you acquired me, don’t you? Because, as you told me so many times, Jedi can’t just go around freeing slaves. Not unless the Senate tells us to, which, you might have noticed, it never does. So, Master Qui-Gon? How did you free me?” he asked.

Obi-Wan had never been told how Qui-Gon obtained Anakin, but based on his own experience with the Master he could guess at what happened, and the holo of Anakin confirmed it.

“You bet on me!” he cried.

“Yeah, that’s right everyone, the Maverick Master made a bet to secure a child’s freedom. Even better, the bet he made was on me! If I won the Boonta Eve Pod Race, Watto was to free me. And while I truly was that amazing – at age nine, I was the first human to ever win that race – it was a huge risk. Did you have a plan B, Master? Was there another “solution” if I died during the meet? And, what exactly did you offer as collateral? I never did ask what exactly was I worth to you in that moment. Did you risk the lives of the people you were protecting? Was it the ship? Or was it a person?”

Obi-Wan shuddered. He was hanging on every syllable, surprised at this articulate Anakin. He wondered if the man had written it out first, if he had meticulously planned each word; he had never been this good at ad lib… but then, this was his life. He supposed that he would speak about it better than any other.

“I guess it doesn’t matter. You won—no wait—you didn’t, I did. I won my own freedom! Was that your plan, did you want me to own my freedom? If that’s the case, why didn’t you ever point out to me that I had earned it? Did you forget? Or did you just think it was unimportant? Like all those other petty little things… Master.

Obi-Wan squeezed his eyes shut as the title slid off Anakin’s tongue like it was poison. It seemed so obvious now that asking him to use the honorific back then was wrong.

“That’s what it comes down to. I know some of you will scoff at the reasons I throw at you. You will judge them as insignificant, minor, maybe even pathetic," Anakin spat, his eyes narrowed into a sharp glare, “but none of you can deny when small things are stacked together in towering piles, they can come crashing down. And believe me, when you’re standing surrounded by the shattered remains of all that mattered, it’s hard- it's so hard - not to fall into despair."

Obi-Wan absently reached out with one of his hands, only to feel his heart shatter when the blue light flickered, distorting as he interrupted the feed. Slowly, he lowered his fingers to the pause key, barely able to see it due to the salty tears that blurred his vision. Dragging his sleeve across his eyes once again, he let out a long, regretful sigh. It was too late. He should have been there before . He should have been there from the beginning. He had been so distracted by his own feelings, so hurt by Qui-Gon, that he had needed to be away from the Temple as much as possible and he hadn’t considered how that might impact on Anakin. From his point of view, they hardly knew each other back then. From Anakin’s, he was one of the few Jedi who had time for him.

And then a memory appeared in his mind’s eye. It was long forgotten, but it was as clear and sharp as though it had only happened yesterday…

“Obi-Wan—Knight Kenobi!”

Obi-Wan halted in his stride, turning to look at who had called him. “Anakin?” he queried, “is something wrong?”

“Um- I- I was wondering if you could help me with some of my homework – it’s hard.”

Obi-Wan frowned, “I’m sorry, Anakin, I am due to fly out in an hour and I need to pack. Have you asked Master Qui-Gon to go through it with you?”

Anakin shook his head. “I don’t want to bother him too much, Sir- I mean… Knight Kenobi.”

“I told you it was okay to call me Obi-Wan,” he reminded the youth. Warning bells were ringing in the back of his mind, something was wrong. “We’re technically brothers remember,” he added, because as jealous as he was of the child who his Master wanted – chose – he couldn’t lay blame on the innocent.

The blonde Padawan perked up a bit at that, his lips quirking upwards and his eyes brightening.

“I’m certain Master Qui-Gon will help you, young one. I know he can be difficult to read, but he is rather invested in your learning.”

Anakin nodded. “Okay… thanks Obi-Wan…”

Obi-Wan had left Anakin with a fleeting, somewhat insincere apology, selfishly running away. He hadn’t sought out Qui-Gon and told him what had occurred, hadn’t ever checked in to see if Anakin had found help, he’d just… walked away, washing his hands of any responsibility for the well-being of young Anakin Skywalker.

Sighing, he accepted the penance for his choices, and pressed play once again.

“I guess, if it just was the little things, I might have been able to pull through. But it wasn’t. There were big ones too. The first was when I walked away from my Mom, the woman who selflessly let me go. The second happened the moment I stepped inside the High Council Chamber for the first time.

“You have to understand how happy I was, how excited - how driven - I was to impress the Jedi Masters. And you, you encouraged that excitement, despite knowing that my future was yet to be decided. So, at the age of nine, I stood alone in the middle of the ring of chairs, trying not to think of how it reminded me of the slave selling pits on Tatooine. I answered questions, I completed a test and then I waited to be told I could stay… But that confirmation never came. Instead, Master Yoda quizzed me about my Mom, who I missed so much, and proceeded to tell me that my attachments would lead me to the dark side…

“Turns out he was right,” Anakin stated darkly, his tone ice cold and his gaze hard. “But it didn’t have to be. I can't tell you how much a positive start to my time at the Order might have changed things. We set off on the wrong foot, and honestly, we never recovered. Because from there, things didn’t get much better. The other Padawans, upset that I stole one of the few available Masters, segregated and bullied me, the Masters begrudged me and my way of dealing with all this was to lash out at everyone; to get angry. And that scared you, didn’t it, Master?" he sneered, his mouth curling and his hands balling into fists at his sides.

"It reminded you of Xanatos and you instantly distanced yourself from me!" Anakin growled, the memories clearly causing him pain. "You were the only person I had, you were my fa— Master and I didn’t know how to cope without you..."

Anakin sighed sadly. "I—I was eleven when I first nearly ended it, you know. I stood on the balcony one night for a very long time, thinking how much easier everything would be if I ‘fell’. But, that was the night that Obi-Wan came home on extended leave. He’d been told by the Council to return, that he needed a break, and I still remember how tired he felt as I cried in his arms.

"I never explained why I sobbed for so long, and he never asked, he just held me until I was so exhausted I fell asleep. And then he helped you, and everything improved. The three of us were a family, and even though the Order still made everything so hard for me, during that time I felt safe and loved and relatively happy. Obi-Wan and you worked together to help me with my studies and I finally caught up with the other Padawans, and we were finally cleared for missions," Anakin recalled, a gentle smile momentarily lightening his features, reminding Obi-Wan of a different Anakin.

"We were both so excited about the prospect of getting out of the Temple. You had felt trapped there for years while I was grounded, and I had come to loathe all but our apartment and the dojo. Without the added stresses that our home strapped to our shoulders, we should have grown closer… but we didn’t. Every single day we spent together one-to-one you realized how like Xanatos I was, and I realized how unlike my Mother you were.

“You’re holding me back!” I spat at you after a mission failed because you wouldn't trust me. “I will not let you advance while you are still so impulsive, reckless, untrustworthy and dangerous,” you growled back. I was never able to unhear those words, and I started spiraling down, and this time, I took you with me," he said darkly.

"When we returned to the Temple, after that mission, there was another of those invitations from the Chancellor that I used to get. They had been coming for years, ever since I was dubbed the Hero of Naboo, but never once did you allow me to open them. “Sorry Anakin, but politicians are not to be trusted,” you’d say. Anakin snorted and shook his head, a small, twisted smile on his face. “That day, though, just after I had turned fourteen, you handed it over. I don’t know why. I guess you didn't have the energy for another argument. And it was both the best and the worst thing you could have possibly done.

"That day stands out in my memory as one of the best I had during that period. The Chancellor treated me like the grandson he didn’t have, but had always wanted. He had ice-cream brought to his office, just for me, and we played pod-racing games on the holonet. And we talked for hours – mostly about you, Master, but also about the Jedi, and how much I missed Obi-Wan," the Knight admitted.

"You know that’s the real reason why the Senate requested him for the rest of that rotation. I mean his amazing negotiation skills didn’t hurt, but truthfully, an old man was making a carefully planned powerplay, one which guaranteed him my friendship and my loyalty for years to come."

Anakin paused, then let out a long sigh.

“I never understood how Palpatine knew my heart after one conversation, when you, the man I thought of as my Father, didn’t seem to understand or care how I felt. So when Palpatine suggested it was because you were a Jedi - because how could a Jedi possibly understand someone else’s emotions when they didn’t allow themselves to feel - I latched on to the idea and, over time, it made the gap between us wider. I stopped going to you when I felt sad, scared, disappointed, anxious, angry, regretful, and depressed because I was sure you wouldn’t understand. You stopped asking because I lied, making you believe I was okay… happy even… that I had found my place. But really, I was mess, so lonely, so angry and so lost.”

Obi-Wan let out a whimper and willed his fingers to press stop before burying his face in his hands. He recalled when Anakin had wept for hours in his arms, he remembered how contented they were after that, during those four standard months he was on forced leave, and he could summon up the image of Anakin’s bright smile when he saw them off for their first mission. And, he remembered the troubled young man he had met up with years later, when the Senate had requested his help with in-house negotiations…

Obi-Wan shuddered as he watched Anakin’s training ‘saber tear through yet another droid. It looked as though the fourteen-year-old had activated every training bot that the Temple owned to complete his practice, which had him confused. “Don’t you have any friends, young one,” he had wondered out loud, in barely a whisper. His confusion was quickly replaced with concern when he saw how much anger the boy was calling on during his fight. He was not one with the Force, not even close, he was a blur of rage as he drew on his own dark emotions to destroy. Metal twisted as it melted, the eerie red lights in the droid’s eyes flickering out as they fell to a heap on the ground with.… and frankly, it was terrifying.

“ANAKIN! THAT IS ENOUGH!” he snapped eventually, no longer able to stand and watch while the boy danced along the edge of the darkness. The words were so loud, and so strong, the Padawan jumped in surprise, and barely managed to duck in time as a droid swung at him.

“End duel!” Anakin growled at the droids, which immediately halted. “Initiate return and run diagnostics. Then shut down,” he added, watching as the droids that still worked instantly turned and rolled back into the dojo’s storeroom in a single line. Then he turned to look at Obi-Wan, a twisted frown on his face and his eyes narrowed into a glare. “What do you want?” he spat.

Obi-Wan’s eyes widened and he let his hurt and shock leak through his shields and into the Force. “I believe I promised to seek you out as soon as I returned,” he replied quietly.

It was like someone flipped a switch in the boy’s brain, how quickly the anger was pushed aside by his shame, self-loathing and misery. He hung his head, his eyes trained on his boots as the Force began to vibrate with emotion.

“I-I did… I’m sorry-- I didn’t mean…” he stuttered, trailing off when he couldn’t find the words to say what he wanted to.

“Anakin, you need to let go.”

Anakin’s head whipped up, revealing wild eyes and lips curled into a snarl as the anger returned as quickly as it left. “No—NO! I won’t! You can’t make me! You’re not my Master!”

The real meaning of that last sentence hadn’t been obvious back then, but it was glaring at him now. And Obi-Wan hated himself for missing it. It had taken hours to get Anakin to calm down, he’d had to drag him to the hangar and practically invent a new form of meditation to help him find peace.

Talking to Qui-Gon about it afterwards had been even harder. The stubborn man had not wanted to hear what he had to say. And of course, Anakin just happened to return to the apartment in time to hear Qui-Gon confirm years-old words.

“He is just a youngling, Master, he still has time, I was angry at his age, remember…”

“No, Obi-Wan. You were right, Anakin is dangerous. I was a fool not to listen to you...”

The tremor that rolled through the Force, almost knocking him over, was what made them spin around to find Anakin standing in the doorway with tears in his eyes.

“Perhaps I should have taken him on,” Obi-Wan murmured to himself, carefully considering what might have happened if he had been bold enough to offer. He shook the thought from his head, knowing that pondering what-ifs would only make this harder. Stretching out his fingers once again, he clicked the play button, and his heart ached as the holo of Anakin appeared before him once more.

“I remained that way, sometimes worse, sometimes better, for years. Our bond slowly faded away as I turned to Palpatine for help with my feelings, and Obi-Wan and his friends for help with my studies. The time we had to spend together, mostly when we were on missions, was tense and quiet, almost strictly professional. I was no more than your student, and you were no more than my teacher. And, kark, it hurt so much,” Anakin admitted.

“I tried, once more to reach out to you, when I was older and a little wiser. It wasn’t long before Geonosis, before the war. I was having nightmares, do you remember? I came to you, for the first time since I was fourteen-years-old. I told you I was seeing my mother, suffering alone on Tatooine and you replied, ‘dreams pass in time...’

"You weren’t wrong, they did pass.They ended the day my mother died from the injuries she suffered at the hands of Sand People on Tatooine!

“THEY TORTURED HER UNTIL SHE DIED, MASTER!” he yelled suddenly, making Obi-Wan jump in his seat, his heart suddenly racing. He watched as Anakin dragged the sleeve of his robe across his face to stop the tears. It didn’t work. He was every bit the mess he had admitted himself to be, bruised and broken by life.

“You were meant to be so much more to me!” he choked out, his tears turning into sobs. “You freed me, you brought me back here, you fought for me… and then as soon as I showed-“ Anakin’s voice broke and he closed his eyes, “that I was dangerous, you didn’t want me! I suppose I should be grateful that you didn’t throw me away like you did others, but then again, that might have been better. That might have hurt less…” The holo trailed off, his eyes re-opening as he found some semblance of calm.

“It wasn’t until I was a Knight, ‘til you had shed all responsibility for me, that we reclaimed something of the happiness we had when I was eleven. Though, it only existed when Obi-Wan was at home, and it shattered into pieces far beyond repair when I left the Order."

Anakin sighed sadly. “I think what's worst of all is I still miss you. Even though our relationship was never a healthy one, I still wish you would be the Father I longed for. That I could go to you and talk about how I feel right now. I wish we could sit down for just one more of our “family dinners” in the apartment, with Obi-Wan and Ahsoka. That we could all laugh one more time as Obi-Wan shooed you out of the kitchen grumbling about your hopelessness. That Ahsoka would give me that sly smile of hers, once more, her eyes twinkling with delight as you launched into a horrible story from my training. That Obi-Wan and I could talk freely, again, until the early hours of the morning, long after Ahsoka had drifted off on the couch and you had disappeared into your room. But I, well, it’s too late now, isn’t it?”

Obi-Wan looked down at his hands mimicking holo Anakin who hung his head. “I know what most of you are probably thinking. I know you’ve realized I was - possibly still am – attached. That I still think of him as my Father, despite his attempts to hold me back. And you’re judging me because if I was a proper Jedi I wouldn’t be like this, I would have let all the emotion go. But that wasn’t me, remember. I might have been a slave, but I spent the first nine years of my life in a home full of selfless love. My mother, who I so willingly left, who I wasn’t able to - wasn’t allowed to – save, gave me that gift; that bright warmth that holds you close and chases away the dark, no matter what. I missed it, I needed it …

“But you never trusted me with your heart, so I didn’t find it during my years with you, Master," he revealed miserably.

Obi-Wan blinked away more tears as his heart and soul cried out for his old friend, but it hushed and an icy chill traveled down his spine the moment the holo of the young man lifted his head and snarled.

“And while I was desperately searching for it elsewhere, the darkness crept in.”

 

Chapter Text

 

Obi-Wan threaded his fingers into his hair, dreading the idea of moving on to the next disk. None of them were labelled and after the agony of listening to his Master’s he wasn’t sure that he could survive watching his own. Seeing him, hearing him, all the while knowing he would never be there again, made Ventress’ mental and physical torture on Rattatak seem like a walk in the park. And honestly, he wasn’t sure that he was strong enough to endure that much suffering.

Closing his eyes, he barked out a sadistic laugh as the last word echoed in his own mind. Perhaps he could; infinite saddness was his destiny, after all.

Deciding he needed a break, Obi-Wan dropped his hands to the table and used them to push himself up. Halfheartedly, he went through the motions of making himself presentable – showering, trimming his beard, cleaning his teeth and redressing in new robes. After making himself a bitter caf in a disposable, take-away cup, he stepped out of the apartment with vague plans to eat some lunch and maybe meditate. But instead, he found himself traipsing towards his old Master’s apartment, desperate to talk with someone who understood.

The handsome Knight was halfway there when he realized he could feel someone watching him. Lifting his gaze from his feet, where it had been fixed since he left his rooms, he glanced nervously around the ancient halls. It was a relatively busy time of day in the Temple. Classes recessed for mid-day meal so the halls were filled with initiates and young Padawans who were making their way to and from the refectory. Numerous sets of eyes met his. Some wide and curious, others squinted and warm, but none held the accusation he expected to find in the gaze of Anakin’s chosen watcher.

Speeding up his pace, he tried to let go of his guilt at not watching all the holovids sequentially and his fears regarding his stalker. But his efforts were futile and he was left feeling all the worse for trying. Thankfully, it wasn't long before he was stood before the door marked 'Jinn'.

Groaning inwardly when he noticed that his Master had disabled the door bell, he knocked loudly and hoped that the Maverick would answer quickly. He shifted nervously on his feet as he waited, wondering what he would do if his old Master had decided to hide away from him too. Panic began rising in his chest, but it was quickly squashed when he finally heard feet shuffling towards the door. And when it opened, he understood why Qui-Gon had taken his time.

A growl ripped from the Knight’s throat as he pushed past his inebriated Master.

“Not that I blame you, but this is not the answer,” he snapped, ignoring the voice in his head that told him the statement was slightly hypocritical of him. Scanning the room, he quickly found the bottle of Corellian Liquor on the kitchen counter and made a beeline for it, promptly throwing it in the trash receptacle along with his caf cup. Then he moved to the table and sat down with his head in his hands.

“I see you found them,” Qui-Gon murmured as he followed, stopping to fish the bottle out of the bin before joining him at the table.

“Did you leave them for me?” Obi-Wan asked.

Qui-Gon sighed and drained the glass of amber liquid that must have been in his hand the entire time. Obi-Wan’s eyes flashed with anger when his Master reached out for the bottle to pour himself another. Lifting his hand, he Force pushed both the bottle and the glass across the room, regretting nothing when they shattered.

The Jedi Master glared at him. “Of course not, you’re one of the last disks,” he informed Obi-Wan. “You would know that by now if you were where you should be: watching them.”

Obi-Wan frowned. “Were you able to watch them all in one sitting?” he asked, curiosity lacing his, now, gentle tones.

“Twice,” Qui-Gon admitted, his gaze flicking to the shattered remains of the bottle on the ground.

“Karking hell,” Obi-Wan swore, earning himself a raised eyebrow from his Master. “I can’t- I just can’t do it. Seeing him like that...” he trailed off, his gaze dropping to the table.

“I know,” Qui-Gon croaked. “I’m surprised you came here. I didn’t expect you to come back… not after watching my…mine.”

“Oh Master,” Obi-Wan sighed. He picked up a stylus that was sitting on the table and began twisting it with his fingers, channeling his nervous energy into the repetitive action. “I’m as much to blame for what happened on Naboo, and thereafter. I saw so much and I never said anything to you or anyone else.”

Silence was his response and when he looked up to find out why, he found Qui-Gon staring at him pained and pale, his eyes a bottomless pit of guilt.

“He said you’d do this,” he rasped.

Obi-Wan blinked. “What?”

“Anakin!” Qui-Gon hissed in reply. “He said you would blame yourself, even when there was nothing you could have done. For Force sakes, Obi-Wan, go home and watch them ALL!”

Obi-Wan’s frown deepened as he tried to decide whether the foreboding feeling that twisted in his stomach was because leaving Qui-Gon in this state was a terrible idea, or because he didn’t want to return to his apartment. He decided to cover his bases.

“I will, if you promise to stop drinking,” he negotiated.

His old Master’s face twisted into a snarl, his eyes silently berating him.

“It’s a cop out, Qui-Gon!” Obi-Wan snapped in reply, startling the man. He never would have done this before. He held his Master in high regard and it was in his nature to keep the peace, so he understood why his Master recoiled at his words. But, keeping his mouth shut hadn’t helped Anakin and it was sure as hell not going to help Qui-Gon. “You’re allowed your grief, but shutting yourself away every time you are hurt – or scared – is a big part of what got you on that holovid in the first place. I know Anakin means – meant – to hurt. He was always good at projecting his feelings onto others, but I think that… I think he hopes we’ll change. So, do better.”

Obi-Wan watched as his Master was, for probably one of the few times in his life, left speechless. He had never seen Qui-Gon look so chastised, and it made Obi-Wan wonder what else Anakin had revealed about him.

The man must have sensed his thoughts because his next words cut deep into Obi-Wan’s heart. “Enough to know that I should be grateful that I haven’t had three Padawans take their lives due to my foolishness.”

Obi-Wan felt the durasteel walls he had built around himself shudder as the words sank in. He stood, swallowing back tears that threatened to fall and began to leave.

“No!” his Master growled, grabbing his wrist as he walked past and pulling him back so they faced one another. “You said to do better. I know you don’t want this now, that it it’s too much… but - small gods - I am sorry Obi-Wan! I’m sorry I didn’t choose you. I’m sorry I repeatedly pushed you away. And I’m sorry that I made you feel as though you weren’t enough… because you are.” Tears poured down Qui-Gon’s cheeks and his body shook, vibrations spreading through Obi-Wan's arm from where the man gripped it. “You always have been, I’ve just been so… blind,” he added in barely more than a whisper.

Obi-Wan trembled, his own tears streaming down his face. He didn’t trust himself to speak. He was overwhelmed; Qui-Gon was right, it was too much. Anakin’s death, his return to the Temple, the memories, the holovids and now this…

“I-I need-“ he rasped, stopping when he realized that he didn’t know what he was going to say next. Space? Time? To meditate? To let go? He brought his free hand to his face and covered it, then focused all his energy, once again, on just breathing. Calming, he lifted his hand from his face and placed it on top of his Master’s. “Damn-it, Qui-Gon!” he cried, his voice breaking. “I didn’t come here to throw any of this in your face. The choice was Anakin’s alone, even if there were contributions… I would never- I may not have felt like I was enough but deep down I knew I was loved. So, if you are looking for forgiveness for how you made me feel throughout my apprenticeship, my Master, you already have it.”

Qui-Gon broke. He let go of Obi-Wan and brought his hands to his face, hiding it from view. Relief, regret and pride resounded in the Force as the man’s shields slipped away, revealing his usually heavily guarded heart.

“Stars, Qui-Gon!” Obi-Wan exclaimed at the darkness rushing into the Force as his Master finally let go, sobbing relentlessly.

“Please- Obi-Wan,” his Master cried desperately. “Please, I know you aren’t as balanced as you normally are, but I need help and there isn’t anyone else I can ask…”

Obi-Wan disagreed, but he acquiesced none-the-less. He collected two meditation pillows from the hall cupboard and placed them by the window. Silently noting that the blue sky was now splashed with pinks and oranges, he smoothly sat down on one of the cushions as his teary Master sat on the other. Mirroring each other with palms pressed together, they closed their eyes and sank deep into the Force. And for a time, that was all there was.

 

 

It was late when they both arose from the calm, quiet depths. While he felt better, returning to reality was a bit like waking to a slap in the face. The war was still being fought, he still had a mountain of reports to complete, there were still holovids to watch, and Anakin was still gone.

Sighing, he rose and handed his cushion to Qui-Gon. “You should have some dinner and try to sleep. I will check on you tomorrow,” he told his former Master.

The older Jedi nodded, his lips twisting into a shadow of a smile. “Thank you, Obi-Wan.”

The Knight nodded, his eyes softening. “You are welcome, Master mine,” he replied. “You should talk to someone… a mind healer, or Master Yoda. You need more help than I know how to give.”

Qui-Gon held his gaze. “I disagree,” he said pointedly, “but I will consider it, Padawan.”

Satisfied that his Master would be alright, Obi-Wan made towards the door.

“Good night, Obi-Wan,” the man whispered behind him.

Obi-Wan sighed inwardly and sent the same well-wishes back, even though he knew that there would be very little that was good about their nights. Palming the door, he walked out into the now silent halls, his foot falls echoing in the still night air as he strode quickly back to his room.

Blue-gray eyes flicked around nervously as he walked. He couldn’t help but wonder if the watcher had waited for him and was now lurking in the shadows, making sure he returned to do as Anakin instructed.

Obi-Wan wasn’t a stranger to being stalked. On missions, eyes often followed him as he carried out his duty. He had been tailed hundreds of times over the years, and had never felt so spooked. A part of him hoped that the watcher revealed themselves soon, another part didn’t want to know.

Due to a combination of his focus and his fast pace, the trek back to his apartment went far quicker, and before long he was tapping out the access code and entering the small space.

Before doing anything else he headed for his top cupboard, pulled down the rancid alcohol and poured it down the sink. He refused to be more of a hypocrite and it was just too tempting having it in the apartment. Besides, the stuff was so old it would possibly make him ill, and, Anakin wouldn’t have wanted him to drown his sorrows in a bottle.

After realizing that he had missed both mid and late meal, he forced down a ration bar, then made himself a cup of tea. Cradling it in his hands, he let the warmth spread through his fingers as he sat down at the table and stared down at the player.

“Stars, Anakin,” he muttered as he realized, for the first time, that Anakin must have built it. Setting his tea down on a coaster, he picked up the device to inspect it. Something inside him cracked at the idea of his friend building the contraption that would carry the words he needed to say. Carefully placing it back on the table he pressed in the next disk, holding his breath as the holo of Anakin came to life, continuing where he left off.

“When I was fourteen, my Master, or maybe Obi-Wan, decided that I needed a friend,” he started slowly, crossing his arms over his broad chest.

“After being cleared for missions, Master and I were rarely back at the Temple for longer than a week or two, and during that time I mostly kept to myself. I'd been burned attempting to make friends among my agemates in the first months after my arrival so I'd stopped trying,” Anakin explained regretfully. “It was because of this that I wasn’t exactly friendly when we first met. Do you remember? We had been left to spar, our Master’s disappearing off to have a "caf" at the commissary. I thought it was weird, but you acted like your Master did it all the time, so I went along with it. You were a little older than me, and your reputation in the dojo was already well known so I figured it was a test of some sort. Not wanting to fail, I treated the first hour of our time together with the seriousness that my Master expected of me, and became more and more frustrated as you teased and laughed and behaved as though we were playing some sort of game. I didn’t understand and eventually I snapped and threatened to leave.

But you stopped me, rushing apologies, telling me to relax, that we were supposed to be having fun.” A smile lit up his handsome face as he fondly remembered the moment, and despite everything Obi-Wan found that he was smiling too.

“At the time, I only associated that word with the Chancellor, and, when he was home, Obi-Wan. It took me a stupidly long amount of time to process what you were saying and I think, in that moment, you saw the loneliness that I had been fiercely guarding, and decided to do something about it.

Aayla Secura, welcome to your holovid.”

Obi-Wan hit the stop button and brought his hand to his mouth, squeezing his eyes closed. It had been his idea to introduce the two Padawans. He too had seen the loneliness that Anakin spoke of and had convinced his friend Quinlan to talk to his old Master about letting the two Padawans spar. Aayla was friendly and compassionate, and had made a name for herself as a force to be reckoned with in the Dojo, making her the perfect friend for the lost and powerful young Padawan Skywalker. And Anakin and Aayla had obviously agreed as he remembered them spending time together during those years before the war. Before Aayla, and then Anakin, were Knighted. What happened afterwards he didn’t know, but he wished he had asked.

Truthfully, he had assumed that their friendship had fizzled away, like so many of his own, due to time. Being a Jedi Knight had never been busier. They were the lowest on numbers that they had been in years and the war kept them stretched thin. And keeping up with friends fell to the wayside…

“You can comm me anytime, you know,” Anakin whispered into his shoulder.

Obi-Wan gently pulled back from the embrace, but didn’t let go. He hung on to his friend’s elbows, a small part of his mind registering how smooth the cloth of his new, civilian tunics felt under his fingertips.

“I promise to comm when I can,” he replied, wishing he could vow more.

“You- you understand, right?” Anakin asked for what was probably the hundredth time since he had surprised Obi-Wan with the news that he was leaving the Order.

Smiling warmly, the auburn-haired Knight nodded in reply because he knew what Anakin was really asking was: ‘We’ll still be friends, won’t we?’

“Because I can explain it again,” Anakin added, biting down on his lip.

“Anakin, I wouldn’t be here to see you off if I thought that you were walking away from me, as well as the Order.” He slid a hand onto the blonde’s cheek, his fingers carding into silken locks and smiled when Anakin leaned into it. “I understand... but I will miss you.”

“I’ll miss you too…”

Taking a sip of his cooling tea, he reached out with quivering fingers and pressed play.

“I guess you’re surprised. In the end, I- I didn’t know whether you ever thought of me as a friend at all. I thought we were close. I looked forward to time spent with you, and you always seemed happy to spend time with me. We laughed and we had fun. Plus, you got stuff. You understood the life of a Jedi Padawan and could relate to the hardships of our path. And you did it without discounting my past.

“You made an effort to understand where I came from, and you helped me understand what it was like to be raised in the Temple. You explained why most in the Order found my sudden acceptance and instant apprenticeship to Qui-Gon so difficult to accept, giving me perspective on my peers. You justified the Orders rules and structures without trivializing my disagreements… and in doing all that, you made my life in the Temple so much better.

“But you know what they say about good things,” Anakin sighed, dipping his head.

“I suspected things would change after you were Knighted. Obi-Wan often walked back into the Temple for a matter of days only to walk out and not return for months. Up until I was Knighted I was sure that this was because being away from the Temple was better. That you and the other Knights asked for more missions because you didn’t want to come back. And on the darkest of days I would wonder if part of the reasons you disliked returning was me,” he admitted softly.

“It was during one of those dark days that our friendship ended abruptly. It had been a rough week for me. I’d failed one of my courses – diplomacy I think – and the mission that Master and I had just returned from had been particularly traumatic. So, being the restless Padawan I was, I was aimlessly wandering the halls trying to find some peace… until I spotted you.”

Anger burned in Anakin’s eyes as he stared hard and his hands balled themselves into fists at his sides. “I could hardly believe it. I’d left a comm message for you, letting you know that I was back, just like always, but you hadn’t send any sort of reply! I was furious – but I decided to give you the benefit of the doubt. Technology wasn’t infallible. There was a chance that you didn’t get it.

“But when I approached you, when I called your name… I know you heard me... but you didn’t even glance back. You just- you just ignored me! Like I was nothing… like I wasn’t worth… like I was still a... It hurt, Aayla! It karking hurt! You were supposed to be my friend!” he choked out.

“I got myself into trouble then, catching up and roughly grabbing your arm. I spat stupid questions and angry words at you, none of which you replied to before Master Tholme dragged me back to Master Qui-Gon. I got the talking to of my life… they were cruel… possibly rightly so but what stood out was that neither of them asked me why I acted the way I did. It became all about my anger and how I wasn’t letting it go!” he spat bitterly. But then his eyes dropped to his feet and the anger left his tones. “Then I was given a formal reprimand by the Council...

“In the weeks following I was miserable. As I saw out my punishment, I came to realize how much I needed you. Even if you weren’t home, just knowing I had a friend – that I had someone who cared about me – had been comforting and grounding. It had been a reason to walk the lighter path, and once it was gone… well, it made it a heck of a lot easier to walk away-“

The doorbell chiming made Obi-Wan jump out of his seat. He hastily pressed ‘stop’ and frantically threw the player and the disks back into the box they came in before rushing them into his room and dropping them on the bed. Then, he briskly strode back to the entrance, took a deep breath, and palmed the door.

A long sigh left his lips when he found a messenger droid facing him.

“Good morning, Knight Kenobi,” it said politely.

Obi-Wan’s eyes darted to the closest window and was astonished to see the sun rising in the distance. He hadn’t thought it had been that long.

“Good morning,” he replied distractedly, his gaze sliding back to the non-sentient.

“This arrived for you yesterday,” it said, handing him a flimsiplast envelope. As he accepted it he wondered who in the galaxy would have sent him a letter. Flimsi was rarely used for sending messages. “And Master Windu has requested you meet him in Dojo thirteen at oh-eight-hundred to discuss your current mission.”

Obi-Wan’s eyebrows rose, it suddenly seemed wrong to call the support he was offering his Master a 'mission'. “Right,” he muttered. "Thank you."

“Have a good day, Master Jedi,” said the droid, before it rolled away on its single wheel.

After closing the door, Obi-Wan slumped against it, pressing his back into the cool metal as he blearily wondered, once again, what he had done to deserve all this.

Chapter Text

Two hours. He had two hours before he needed to drag himself through the menial, everyday task of making himself presentable so he could be in time for his ‘meeting’ with Master Windu. That gave him enough time to watch the end of Aayla’s vid, and possibly even the next one (if he dared). Of course, that was assuming that the envelope that he was unconsciously twisting his hands wasn’t another request for his time

Obi-Wan looked down at it, studying the unfamiliar, flawless calligraphy which gave him few hints about the sender. Turning it over, he slipped it open and pulled out the note inside.

Dear Knight Kenobi,

I hope you will forgive my breach of protocol in contacting you this way. I have attempted to follow standard procedures but the Temple offices have not been forthcoming in granting my requests to speak with you. As the matter is of great importance to me I felt I had no other choice but to seek out other avenues in order to get this message to you.

You see, I have in my possession some items that belonged to our mutual friend, Anakin Skywalker, that I believe he would want you to have. I realize your time on Coruscant is limited so I have painstakingly reshuffled my schedule to make myself available to dine with you tomorrow night in my offices. I have taken the liberty of organizing a speeder to pick you up from the Temple Hangar at 1900hrs.

I am very much looking forward to finally meeting you, Knight Kenobi. Anakin always spoke highly of you.

Kind Regards,

 Sheev Palpatine.

Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic

Obi-Wan frowned and glanced up at the top cupboard, all of a sudden regretting his decision to pour the only alcohol he had down the drain. “Blast it, Anakin!” he cursed while scanning the words for a second time, chewing nervously on his lip.

The letter raised numerous questions, many of which did not sit well with him. Like: why wouldn’t the Temple offices allow them to speak through normal channels? Why didn’t the Chancellor just send the possessions he mentioned with the droid? What exactly did he have? And what made him think that Obi-Wan would want them?

Worse than the questions, however, was the lack of way to respond. The Chancellor hadn’t exactly ordered him to attend, but he hadn’t invited him either, and the audacity of it implied one of two things. Either the Chancellor believed the role of the Jedi was to serve him, and expected any and all Jedi to jump when he said so. Or he was aware of how much Anakin meant to Obi-Wan and felt confident that the Knight would race to find out what the politician had.

Both reasons were unfortunately perfectly reasonable. The war had blurred the lines between the Order and the Senate and it wouldn’t surprise him if the Chancellor had come to expect the Jedi to act like they served him instead of the Force. However, it was more likely that Anakin had once spoken with the man about Obi-Wan. The Knight had always struggled being discreet, and the Chancellor was a close friend of Anakin’s. There were far fewer secrets between them than those that had always haunted the air between Anakin and he.

“I trust the Chancellor more than the Jedi!” Anakin snapped at him, only backpedalling when he sensed Obi-Wan’s hurt along their bond. “I don’t mean you, Obi-Wan, I trust you, I do,” he corrected.

Obi-Wan sighed sadly as he rose from his seat. “I wish that were true, Anakin,” he said quietly before slipping on his robe and heading out of the Knight’s apartment.

Obi-Wan shook away the memory, trying not to think about how that moment had been the beginning of the end of their relationship.

Turning his thoughts back to Palpatine, it suddenly occurred to him that there was also the chance that politician had viewed the discs. He couldn’t fathom why one of Anakin’s greatest supporters would be a reason for his suicide, but he knew how two-faced politicians could be. Things may not have been as they seemed, or, at least, as Anakin had perceived them to be.

“I’ll find out tonight, I suppose,” he murmured, frustrated.

Pushing off the door, he moved to the kitchen and dropped the letter on the bench. Then he glanced at the table and his heart sank as he recalled why the discs and player were no longer sitting on top of the smooth, silver surface.

They were in his room.

The room he had been doing his best to avoid.

Obi-Wan scrubbed his face with both hands and despite Anakin’s once-plea that he was finding more and more difficult to ignore, he let go. He was a Jedi who had been brought up in the Temple. Who had spent his whole life being taught to put emotion aside. He couldn’t- he just couldn’t keep holding on. Though, this time, instead of finding peace he felt numb, like he had been given an anaesthetic for an untreated wound.

With another glance at the chrono on his wrist, Obi-Wan decided that he didn’t have time to stress over this. If he moved fast enough, if he remained focused on the task, it would be okay. That was how he had survived thus far, no point in changing strategies now.

Committed, Obi-Wan darted into his room to collect the box. Keeping his eyes fixed on it, he picked it up, turned and exited, unintentionally slamming the door behind him. Then he hurriedly put it on the table and began unpacking, setting up the vid player as he did so. He had to watch more. Whoever was supposedly watching had been patient thus far, but he couldn't be sure they would react kindly to him spending yet another day moving in and out of his apartment without having made much progress in his viewing. Besides, he wanted to check in with Aayla today, to ask her for her side. The Twi'lek Jedi had never been cruel – not like Anakin had described. He was sure the Knight had missed something.

Slowly, Obi-Wan dropped into the chair (which he really needed to find a cushion for) then clicked play. The holo of Anakin burst back to life, his gaze slowly lifting from his feet and his expression changing as he breathed through his anger and suffering in order to explain.

“You have to understand that unlike the majority of you, I have never considered the Temple to be my home. So beyond the beings who cared about and supported me during my apprenticeship and Knighthood, I had very few ties to it. And that day an important one was lost,” Anakin croaked regretfully. He took in another breath. “I was so angry with you and with myself that I sought out the one man who had always seemed to be able to put me back together. The Chancellor reminded me that day how special I was - how powerful I was - and he sympathized instead of condemning me for my actions. He also suggested I look for some friends outside of the Order, and when I desperately embraced the idea, he offered to help me reconnect with Padme Amidala.” A sad smile appeared on Anakin’s face at the mention of the woman he had married and he brought his hand to his eyes to wipe away the tears that were budding in the corners.

“The former Queen of Naboo and I met on Tatooine when I was a still a slave, and during our time together I had come to greatly admire her,” Anakin went on, “So I agreed, and shortly after Master Qui-Gon and I were given a mission to protect the new Senator of Naboo.”

Obi-Wan’s eyebrows drew together and a pensive frown graced his lips. Twice now Anakin had mentioned that the Chancellor had been able to manipulate the way Jedi assigned missions. He remembered the recall that Anakin had spoken of on the first disc, he remembered being frustrated... He had been so close to closing the negotiations. But surely it wasn’t possible? The Chancellor had that power now, yes, but back then he shouldn’t have been able to have a Jedi pulled from a mission.

Anakin gave a strained smile. “Maybe if the galaxy hadn’t been thrown into war I eventually might have found time to repair our friendship Aayla. I might have given you time to explain and we might have become friends again. But it didn’t happen. I didn’t know how to reach out to you, and you washed your hands of me. So I did what everyone seems to think I am unable to do. I let you go, and in doing so, I let go of a reason to stay.”

Obi-Wan only vaguely registered that the disc had ended. Holo Anakin's last words had triggered the return of an unwanted memory that he had buried away long before Anakin had taken his own life.

“Oh, hey,” Anakin said quietly, guilt splashed across his face, “I didn’t know you were back.’

Obi-Wan’s eyebrows lifted, but he didn’t reply. He could feel eyes watching him, and he didn’t want the whole Temple learning about Anakin and his time together. “Aren’t you going to invite me in?” he asked curtly.

Anakin frowned then shrugged. “Sure, I guess” he sighed before moving out of the way, revealing the half-packed state of his apartment.

Obi-Wan forced himself to walk inside, despite the fact that he wanted nothing more than to run. The sight of the scattered boxes and bags that were mostly filled with mechanical bits and pieces, were more heart-wrenching than Qui-Gon’s drunken declaration that Anakin was leaving the Order.

“Were you going to tell me?” he asked, as soon as the door was closed. “Because finding out that you had resigned from the Order from Qui-Gon was a bit of a shock, Anakin.”

“I was going to contact you…”

“When?” he snapped. “Before or after you’d left?”

“I-I”

“Be honest, Anakin!”

“I- After. Alright! I’m- I’m sorry but It’s not like I haven’t- It’s not like this hasn’t been a long time coming. I told you I couldn’t be here anymore!” he argued, “It’s not you, Obi-Wan. I’m not leaving because of you… I just can’t stay for you anymore! I- I’m just-”

Obi-Wan blinked back tears. “Stay for me?” he croaked, cutting Anakin off. “Anakin, I’m not- Surely I’m not the only reason you are here, that you’re a Jedi.”

Anakin turned away as a rough sob escaped his lips, and Obi-Wan found himself at a loss for words as he watched the imposing all-powerful Knight slowly fall to pieces in front of him.

All of sudden he was overwhelmed by the desperation he had felt that day. He had rushed to take the man into his arms and held him tightly, just as he had when he had found him standing on the railing of Qui-Gon’s balcony years earlier. But he’d known it wasn’t enough to make the man stay, and it hurt.

Deciding he needed to get out, he abruptly pushed back his chair, stood, grabbed a spare robe from the rack by the door (he must have left the one he was wearing yesterday at his Master's) and practically ran out of the room. Ignoring the concerned looks from passing Masters who no doubt sensed his inner turmoil, he made his way quickly through the winding halls. He considered going to his Master’s apartment, but decided that he would find similar solace in Aayla’s company, and, if he remembered correctly, her rooms were closer.

Obi-Wan jolted as a something slammed painfully into the back of his legs. He turned suddenly, his robe sweeping around him and the palm of his hand reaching for his lightsaber, only to find himself looking down at a tiny mouse droid. The non-sentient was beeping furiously at him, as though he was the one who had run into it! He watched on with raised eyebrows as it reversed a short way then darted around him continuing on with its errands.

“Blasted droids,” he muttered, annoyed. Quickly, he returned his lightsaber to his belt and began walking again. Although, he stopped short when he noticed that he had already arrived.

“Secura,” he read, his eyes glued to the silver plaque on the door next to him. A shiver travelled down his spine and he looked up and down the long hall in the search of the mouse droid. It's just a coincidence. That's all.

Hesitantly, the Knight reached out and pressed the doorbell, wincing as a shrill ring cut through the silence of the hall. A few passer-bys turned to look at him and he flashed them a sheepish smile. Then he turned back to the door in time to see it slide open and find himself face to face with the stunning, blue Twi’lek.

A long moment passed where they simply stood staring at one another, taking in the minutest of details that hinted at their true state of being. Obi-Wan was sure she could see how bloodshot his eyes were, his untamed hair and the dishevelled state of his tunics. Just like he could see the dark bags under her eyes that she had tried to hide under make-up, her bitten nails, and how her headband wasn't sitting quite right.

“I thought you would come by sooner or later,” Aayla told him in barely more than a whisper. She held open the door so that he could enter. “Have you finished them?”

“No, I- I’ve only just finished your- the second disc,” he replied, stammering a little. He moved right into the living area then turned so he could see her face.

One of her aeyebrows was lifted. “I thought- Didn’t you get back yesterday?” she asked, closing the door and moving into the kitchen.

“I- I did. I’m finding it… hard.”

Aayla’s pretty eyes suddenly filled with understanding. “Of course,” she replied shortly, moving so she could collect to glasses from a cupboard and then filling them both with water at the tap.

Obi-Wan groaned. “I didn’t mean-”

“I know, Obi-Wan.” Walking to him, she pushed the water into his hand and the guided him to the table where they both sat down. “It was always going to be hardest for you.”

“I cared deeply for him Aayla,” Obi-Wan admitted, seeing no point in hiding it (he had viewed enough to know that Anakin must reveal the true nature of their relationship on one of the vids). “But you did too, once.”

Aayla nodded sadly. “I let him down though. I should have sought him out after the confrontation and explained…”

Obi-Wan frowned, suddenly acutely aware of Aayla’s discomfort as it flowed into the Force. Her hands gripped her glass of water so tightly he thought it might break and she refused to meet his eye.

Obi-Wan gently placed his hand atop one of hers. “Aayla, please don’t feel as though you have to explain. I- I am curious, but I if you would rather not, I won’t hold it against you.”

The Twi’lek gave him a weak smile. “Thank you Obi-Wan, but I want to. I want you to understand the circumstances that led to the moment Anakin spoke about because there was far more to it than he knew.“

“I didn’t think you-“

“It doesn’t absolve me, not entirely,” she rushed, predicting his words. “I was angry when I finally understood everything that had happened, and despite knowing better, I never let it go. If I had, we might not be sitting here…

 “Please know that he day Anakin called for me in the halls I was not of sound mind,” she told him quietly, her accented tones somber. “I had just been rescued by Master Vos after being kidnapped, and my time in captivity had almost destroyed me. I was suffering from glitteryl withdrawal and amnesia, as well as an imbalance that was caused by-“ Aayla took in a shaky breath. “using the dark. I- I fell- I was tricked into it- I-"

“It’s alright,” Obi-Wan reassured, sensing her distress. "I understand." It was the truth. Vos had told him some of what had happened, once.

Aayla forced another weak smile. “My state at the time was why I didn’t respond. I barely recognized my name let alone Anakin or his part in my life, or if what he was saying was true or false. Worst of all, was that he didn’t give anyone a minute to explain. He just let his own insecurities take control of him, caused a scene, then pulled away.”

“Anakin’s signature move,” Obi-Wan muttered.

Aayla nodded in agreement. “I know. That’s where… That’s how I failed him, Obi-Wan. Once I remembered everything and was able to make sense of what had happened, I couldn’t find it in myself to forgive him. I was furious! He called us friends and yet, as soon as something seemed amiss, he assumed the worst of me! He thought I would turn on him - that I would abandon him - just like that, instead of suspecting that something might be wrong. He never even considered that I…

Aayla rubbed her forehead, closing her eyes for a minute and letting go of the anger which had flared while she was speaking.  “I tried so hard but I was never really able to let go of that anger, and as a result, I never approached him to make peace. Not even when I could see that he was struggling.

“Obi-Wan, if I had just reached out to him... If I had talked to him about what had happened, about falling to the darkside and being put back together by the Council! Maybe he wouldn’t have…” A sob escaped her lips and she turned away..

Obi-Wan was finding a little hard to breathe. “I’m guilty of the same thing.” He too hadn’t done nearly enough despite knowing that his friend had been on the edge once before. He had foolishly thought that the years had healed the boy who he’d found sitting on the balcony railing with tears running down his cheeks.

Aayla barked out a laugh. “You knew then? That he was miserable with Amidala?”

Obi-Wan blinked. “What? No- No… He told me he was happy! He told me...” Lies. He lied. Obi-Wan should have known that, considering he’d done the same. “How did you know?”

“He was here, about a week before he… died. I don’t know who he came to see but we passed each other on his way out. He was so unbalanced, and he was- he was broken Obi-Wan, and I- I did nothing but nod my head. I couldn’t find it in me to reach out to him. Not after he abandoned me at my time of need…” Her hand covered he mouth, tears running freely down her cheeks now. “It took me far too long to realize that I had let my emotions rule me that day. And that, by doing so, I had been just as unkind to Anakin as he had been to me. “

“Aayla, you can’t- you don’t even know if he would have accepted your help.”

“You didn’t see him!” Aayla exclaimed. Her disgust at her own actions was written all over her face. “And you haven’t finished them-“ Another sob tore from her throat, “He was so desperate that day, Obi-Wan, that he would have accepted help from anyone!”

“Aayla-“

“He said so, Obi-Wan! On the Discs!”

Obi-Wan swallowed thickly as guilt – both hers and his own – wrapped itself around his chest and throat. Maybe if he had been here, instead of hiding from his heartbreak on the outer rim… He lifted his hand to his face and rubbed at his eyes which were starting to hurt from all the damned crying. Then he forced himself to be the voice of reason, because someone had to be.

“He might have said it Aayla, but you can’t be certain that it would have been enough,” he responded softly as he dragged his hand away from his face.

Aayla was now staring down into her glass, watching as the water's surface was disturbed by the tears that slipped off her cheeks. “Yes,” she whispered, “but it doesn’t...”

“I know.”

Eyes still focused on the glass, she nodded, her mind obviously elsewhere. He dropped his gaze to his own glass, as his own regrets spun like a whirlpool in his mind.

Obi-Wan squeezed the broken man’s shoulder. “You don’t have to do this alo-“

“I’m marrying Padme,” Anakin snapped, cutting him off.

Shock, anger and horror tore along their bond, and it took Obi-Wan a moment to realize that it wasn’t just his own. Confused and blindsided, he quickly buried his hurt, then stumbled through a reply and ran. “Oh I- I see. Well, Congratulations. I… I am supposed to be teaching a class- I’ll let myself out.”

Obi-Wan blinked out of the memory thinking that he should have done more. He should have fought for him. He should have left anyway. He should have... done something.

“Is everyone the same? Was it all terrible choices and inaction that made Anakin…” He trailed off as a dark look descended onto Aayla’s face that made a shudder travel down his spine.

“No.”

“I see.”

Aayla stood, walked back to her kitchen counter and set her glass on her sink, even though it was still more than half-full.

“You should go home and finish them,”she told him while turning back to face him. She settled against the counter, looking slightly more relaxed now the topic of conversation was shifting away from her.

Obi-Wan glanced at his commlink, noting that he probably didn’t have enough time to start a new one. “I know,” he sighed. “I’ve got to attend a meeting soon, but-“

“With Master Windu?”

“Yes…”

“Postpone it.”

Obi-Wan raised his eyebrows. One doesn’t just raincheck on the Master of the Order without a-

“Inform him that you have not yet finished the discs. He won’t want to meet with you until you have," she told him matter of factly.

“Oh.” He wouldn’t admit it out loud, but he was disappointed. He had secretly hoped that Master Windu wasn't on the discs (as unlikely as it was) and that the reason for their meeting was because the man had a mission for him that would take him far away from the Temple. "Why?" he asked quietly.

“It’s complicated - you have to watch the discs,” Aayla replied.“Go home, Obi-Wan. If you want to talk when you’ve seen it all comm me, okay.”

Nodding, Obi-Wan rose from his seat, placed his glass on the counter and headed towards the door. He paused upon opening, and turned his head to look back at the Twi’lek who hadn’t moved. “Thank you, Aayla, for explaining what happened.”

Aayla shook her head. “Thank you for asking - you're the only one who has.”

 

Chapter Text

Obi-Wan locked the door to his apartment as soon as it closed behind him. He didn’t want whoever or whatever it was that was following him to be able to slip in without him knowing.  He reasoned it was unlikely; whatever it was had had ample opportunity to approach him already, but he had been bitten before and he wasn’t in any state to deal with an ambush of any sort.

Taking a breath, he walked over to the table and sat back down in the seat he had vacated earlier. Carefully, he reached forward and pulled out the disc labeled with a scrawled number three. After pushing it into the player, he folded his arms on the table, rested his head on them and closed his eyes.

“You know, I nearly didn’t include this one. I didn’t think it was necessary because I have already succeeded in paying back this monster for what he put me through. But then it occurred to me that, in order for you all to really understand, you need all the pieces. And Count Dooku… well, he was one of the biggest.”

A shiver traveled down Obi-Wan’s spine and he peeked up at the hologram of Anakin, who looked every bit as dark and dangerous as Obi-Wan had once predicted he would be. Tears stung the corners of his eyes as he took in the sight of the Sith the man he had once cared for had become. It was just a glimpse, the holo of Anakin quickly calmed, but it was enough to bring home everything that had happened. 

“I’m so sorry,” Obi-Wan whispered as he reached out to the holo, letting the blue light dance on his fingers. Holo Anakin’s eyes were hard and filled with hate, and for a brief moment, it felt like a response to his apology... until the man spoke.

“Master Dooku hated me before we even met,” Anakin growled, coldly. “I don’t know who told him about me. I always assumed it was Windu, but I’m not really sure about that anymore. Probably won’t ever know now…” As the words trailed off, the corners of his lips lifted into a smirk, and Obi-Wan felt ice slide down his spine for a second time. He couldn’t quite align this dark version of Anakin with the one that featured in so many of his memories. Because even though much of Anakin’s youth had been hard, their time together had been mostly happy. Anakin had been happy. They’d been happy. Even though they’d had to keep it all secret. Even though the war raged around them when they were together. Somehow everything had been… right. But eventually, they hadn’t been allowed any time together. They were too busy with the war, with their duty, and it had all fallen apart.

“We could meet up on Scarif . You're not too far from there, right?"

"Anakin, we can't. It's at least a day travel for both of us. What if there's an attack and we're not here. The clones are relying on us. And, I’m tired Anakin - I’ve been planetside for a month. I need a decent sleep.”

For a moment Anakin seemed angry, but it was quickly replaced with defeat. "I get it- I do. I just- I miss you, Obi-Wan."

"And I, you, Dear One. We will get our time," he promised. 

But they hadn't and Anakin had laid much of the blame for that on Dooku. 

“I was nine when the man first walked into Qui-Gon’s Apartment, the space that I had just started calling home. He didn’t introduce himself, he just sneered at me, like I was still a slave, then proceeded to question Qui-Gon’s decisions in front of me. He told him he was a fool, which I... I sort of get now. I understand that what my Master did to Obi-Wan was awful, but back then I didn’t, and it stung. He knew it too. He knew his words were cruel and he didn’t care. As far as he was concerned, it was as much my fault as it was Qui-Gon's. Like I should have known better than to try and seek out something better. Like I didn’t deserve the opportunity to be a Jedi.”

Anakin’s gaze dropped to the ground and he kicked at something there. The simple action reminded Obi-Wan how young he was, which made yet another wave of sadness wash over him. 

“You know, at first I was actually pleased when he revealed himself as a Sith. I convinced myself that it was okay to hate him as much as I did, now that he was the enemy and it was a relief not to have to hide it. It wasn’t okay though. I should have learned that after our fight on Geonosis but I didn’t. Instead, I let that hate grow. It was more than reasonable. He had betrayed the order, cut off my arm, started a war! But, I had other reasons too – like how his change of sides had pained Obi-Wan.

Anakin ran a shaky hand through his head and took in a breath.

"Where he had failed me, Dooku had been Obi-Wan’s savior. After Naboo, he quickly took Qui-Gon’s spot as Obi-Wan’s guide and provided him with the friendship and support he needed to navigate his early years as a Knight. So when Dooku turned his back on the Order, it hurt Obi-Wan.” A guilty look flashed across his face and he hung his head, his gaze fixated on his feet. “Obi-Wan didn’t show it - he never shows it - but we were close then...

Anakin’s lips thinned into a line, and he looked pained for a moment but it passed and he continued. “I suppose I can thank Dooku for that. You see, after the Sith sliced off my arm it was Obi-Wan who helped me with my rehabilitation and during that time... we fell in love."

Obi-Wan squeezed his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose. Qui-Gon and Aayla did know, then. And Mace and whoever else had seen the damned vids. 

Obi-Wan wasn’t surprised. Not really. Between the hints from Qui-Gon and Aayla and Anakin’s brutal honesty on the vids thus far, he had known this was likely. Anakin had never liked keeping their relationship a secret, but he had done it so they could remain Jedi...

Obi-Wan felt his chest begin to tighten with panic, but he quickly reasoned his way back to calm. He doubted the Council would do more than give him a warning. The relationship was long over, and they couldn't afford to lose any more Knights with the war still raging on.

"I know that by Jedi standards it was wrong.” Anakin continued. “Jedi don’t fall in love or have relationships, and to be honest we both struggled with breaking the rules. We didn't even act on our feelings until later, after I was knighted. But stars, that time, when we were together, it was incredible. Despite everything that was happening, it was the happiest time of my life.” Anakin revealed softly, his eyes brimming with tears. 

Obi-Wan stared at the hologram as he reached out and pressed the pause button. 

“Why didn’t you just say something?” he asked the image in front of him. “Then, before, while you were making this?! If not me then- Surely you could have found someone to help you... Padme was right there-” 

Obi-Wan broke off, choking on a sob. All of a sudden he was painfully sure that Anakin had gone to Padme for help and that she hadn’t been able to give him what he needed. Anakin was a complex being and for all Padme knew him better than most, she lacked the full picture because she didn’t have access to the Force. She didn’t understand how powerfully he felt things, or how unstable such dark emotions could make a Force-Sensitive. He’d needed someone who did. She had, too. Because for all Anakin could be the light and love of one’s life, he could also be a burden, and Padme had no doubt suffered during the days leading up to Anakin’s death.

Obi-Wan let out a sad sigh when he realized that he should have gone to visit her as soon as he returned. He should have offered condolences and been there to reassure her that it wasn’t her fault. He had no doubt that she would have done everything she could to help, which was a whole lot more than he had managed! Silently he swore that he would visit soon. He owed it to Anakin, and to her. They had all been friends once.

Obi-Wan narrowed his eyes at the holo. "We were still friends!" he shouted, his fists coming down onto the table, making the device jump. "That's what you wanted! You made me promise we would still be friends! We kept in touch! You could have reached out! You could have asked for help! I- Force Anakin, if you had just said how desperately you needed help… I would have come back…" 

The anger trickled away, leaving him feeling defeated and exhausted. He wanted to run, to go back to the Outer Rim, but he knew he couldn't. He wanted to be angry about that too, but he didn't have any energy left.

He got up, walked over to the couch and collapsed on to it. He curled up, his arms wrapped around himself and his legs folded underneath him.

As he gave into sleep he wondered tiredly if Anakin had known the toll that this would take on him… if Anakin had thought he deserved that toll.

 

Obi-Wan woke up an hour later with tears in his eyes. He had dreamed of Anakin; of the day that they had finally admitted the depth of their feelings. It was months after their first kiss at the pod races on Coruscant. Anakin had been Knighted and they had been on a mission together. A mission for the Chancellor. He didn’t remember the name of the planet but it was cold. He had barely noticed it though, the battle had been so intense from start to finish in the heat of battle. He had been high on it. The speed, the adrenaline, the synchronicity. And afterward, after all the droids had fallen, when they had been so far in front of the clones - alone, breathing hard, with snowflakes fluttering around them it - Anakin just blurted it out.

“I- I’m in love with you,” Anakin stuttered, a rosy blush spreading over his cheeks. “I love you, Obi-Wan.”

Obi-Wan smiled warmly, “I love you too.”

It was a good memory. One that he would always treasure, even though it would forevermore be touched by sadness. He just wished it could have stayed buried in his subconscious for a little longer. He could have used more sleep.

In saying that, while he didn't feel particularly rested, he did feel slightly better than he had before his nap. After a shower and a bowl of stale cereal, he was ready to face the rest of Dooku's disc. He still had a couple of hours before he was due to meet Palpatine and he figured the more insight he had, the better.

He slipped into his seat at the table, took a deep breath and pressed play.

Anakin’s gaze returned to the floor and he kicked at the ground. “Unfortunately the happiness Dooku unintentionally gave me was quickly overwhelmed by the heartbreak of being constantly separated from Obi-Wan... Then by the pain of the wounds inflicted by his droids, by the echoes of the cruel words he threw at me, by the hurt he caused the ones I cared for, and by the nightmares of death and destruction, of war, that plagued my sleep. I was so lonely, so tired and so angry. Nothing was right anymore. I couldn’t find happiness anywhere! I couldn’t find peace anywhere!

“Eventually everything fell apart and I didn’t know how to fix it on my own. I sought help, but I went to the wrong people and they gave me the wrong advice. And, and, I followed it. I left Obi-Wan and, eventually, the Jedi.”

Anakin dragged his sleeve over his eyes and took a breath, calming slightly. “I thought it would help. They all said it would. Getting away from the battlefield, from Dooku… I needed space and time to heal, to make things better again. But it didn't. Being away hurt more. The battlefield was still there but I couldn’t help the way I wanted to. I missed Obi-Wan and even the Order – it had been my home.  And Dooku, well Dooku still managed to make me suffer.

“I know now that he was pointed at me, deliberately torturing me from afar, deliberately pushing me towards my breaking point.

“He attacked Naboo again the day after my wedding day. He tried to murder my wife, and when that didn’t work, he tried to kidnap her, and whenever he couldn’t reach us, he went after Obi-Wan again and again and again. ”

Obi-Wan sighed. That hadn’t been entirely Dooku’s fault. He had taunted him... after the attacks on Naboo and Padme, he had made it his mission to keep Dooku away from Anakin... He hadn’t realized that Anakin knew, or that he cared. The man never talked with him about the war afterward. He always checked how Obi-Wan was and then he would launch into anecdotes about his new life.

“It was all part of the plan... He knew what I still felt for the Knight. He always knew what he was doing.” He shook his head. “Nearly always. I don’t think he foresaw the part where I took his life and his place.”

Obi-Wan froze. "What?"

Anakin closed his eyes and swallowed roughly. “I hate that even now I’m not sorry that I killed him. It wasn’t necessary. I'd subdued him, he could have stood trial, been imprisoned, but I executed him anyway. I know- I know some of you listening will be horrified, but I will always believe deserved it."

Anakin paused for a moment. He looked as though he was debating what he was going to say, but then he looked firmly resolved. "I am sorry that I kept it a secret though… I tried- I-" he closed his eyes for a second then opened them. "I hate myself for my silence, for not telling the galaxy that he's dead, that the war's over, because it means he was right. I never did deserve to be a Jedi."

Obi-Wan stared at the space where the hologram of Anakin had stood long after the image had faded away. His brain was still processing what had just been said, stuck on the question: 'If Dooku is dead, why hasn’t the war ended?'

He rose slowly as he tried to connect the dots between what he knew and what Anakin had just revealed, and when he found he couldn’t draw the lines, he was flying out of his apartment once again. Stalkers be damned.

Before he had even decided who he wanted to visit, he was banging on his Master’s door and he was seething with rage. “Let me in or, Force help me, I will break down this door!” he yelled, ignoring the startled looks he was getting from passing Jedi.

The door swung open to reveal a miserable looking Qui-Gon. “Where are you up to?” he asked as he moved aside.

“Dooku,” Obi-Wan snapped in reply as he barged past.

The man nodded as he swung the door shut behind them.

“Why hasn’t the war ended!” Obi-Wan demanded to know. “Aayla told me Mace has seen them. What the hell is he waiting for? Why aren’t you in his ear ensuring that he tells everyone that we’re fighting no one! At the very least we could withdraw. The Clones don’t need our help with the Sith gone! Stars, Master! Someone else dies every day and it’s-“

He stopped abruptly when he noticed his Master was holding up a hand, palm forward. “I know, Obi-Wan,” he whispered, clearly pained. 

“But?” Obi-Wan prompted, as he struggled to gain control of his anger.

But we decided that everyone on the vids needed to see them first,” he replied before turning to head over to sit on the couch that Obi-Wan had recently slept on. 

The Knight frowned. Had he been anyone else, he was sure his Master’s cool tone would have been enough to stay any argument, but he knew his Master, and right now Qui-Gon’s expression and body language screamed disapproval. He may have agreed to the decision, but he didn’t like it.

“Who is ‘we’, exactly? Because Dooku isn’t around to have a say, and Aayla would never have-“

“Mace and myself and one other, whom you would already know if you would just-“

“Don’t put this on me!” he snarled, suddenly furious. ”I would have suffered through it all faster if I’d known I was holding up the end of the war!”

His old Master was looking at him as if he had struck him, agony splashed across his face.  “You’ll understand once you’ve seen it all,” he muttered, seemingly mostly to himself, before his head fell into his hands.

“Oh for Force sakes! Why can’t you just tell me? Skip straight to the end. Tell me what is on there that has Mace – yes Mace because you obviously aren’t in any state to protest - sitting on information that will bring about the end of the war!” 

The silence between them was thick and heavy as he waited for a reply.

“The Sith Master,” Qui-Gon replied finally, his gaze dropping to the ground. “Anakin reveals who the Sith Master is.”

Obi-Wan felt his breath leave him. “But I thought - that was Dooku wasn't it? He said he replaced Dooku…"

“Dooku didn’t train Anakin. No one did, really. They didn’t get the chance. It was… the beginning.”

"The beginning, so Anakin became the apprentice? Dooku was the apprentice?”

Qui-Gon stared up at him for a moment, then he rubbed a hand over his face. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the information didn’t make it out to the Outer Rim considering how compromised we are,” he muttered. He dropped his hand to his lap and sighed. “I discovered that Dooku was actually Darth Tyranus, the Sith Apprentice, on a mission a couple of months ago, before… all this."

Obi-Wan was gobsmacked. "Are you saying that for most of the war we were chasing the wrong person?”

“Yes, and worse, the Sith Master has been pulling all the strings on our side since the beginning”

Obi-Wan felt his blood run cold because he didn’t have to be told who. He’d had the information the whole time. Dooku had tried to tell him back on Geonosis. And stars, the headaches! “Force, no!” he stammered, his eyes closing and his hand lifting to cover his mouth as he thought about what he knew - about what Anakin had already revealed already, about the meeting that he would soon attend. “Why is he still there? Why hasn’t anyone done anything about him?”

His old Master didn’t reply straight away and when Obi-Wan reopened his eyes he found the man regarding him with unconcealed confusion.

“How did you solve it so quickly?” Qui-Gon asked, clearly flabbergasted. “We weren’t completely blindsided - we’d worked out that the Sith Master had to be in a position of power, but we didn’t pick him. If not for Anakin’s vids… we might be still trying to find the Master”

Obi-Wan gave his Master a pained smile. “Back at the beginning, when Dooku caught me on Geonosis, he had a lot to say. He tried to convince me to join him, to become his apprentice. He told me that the Republic was under the control of the Sith and that the only way we would win was by taking the path he took. I didn’t believe him, I thought he was just trying to shock me into joining him. I should of. He never once lied to me.”

Obi-Wan let his gaze be drawn out the window at the stunning fiery sunset. He wondered how much suffering could have been avoided if he had listened? If he had investigated? Would the war be over by now? Would Anakin still be alive?

“Don’t go down that path, Obi-Wan. Hindsight is perfect. You made the right decision based on what you knew at the time.”

Obi-Wan nodded slowly as he turned back to his Master. “So what information does Anakin reveal that has us all staying this hand that we’ve been dealt. Because I for one would like to do what I can to make this right. And honestly, taking down Palpatine seems like an excellent way to start.”

“I don’t disagree, Padawan, but there are complications. I can’t - you need to hear it all from Anakin in order to understand the decisions that have been made up until now.”

Obi-wan’s lips formed a thin line and he folded his arms across his chest. “I will endeavor to watch the rest as quickly as possible then. However, if at the end I still don't understand, I expect you to stand beside me when I go after him."

Qui-Gon simply sent him a sad smile. “I will follow your lead, Knight Kenobi.” It was a promise, one that carried a huge amount of weight that he wasn’t quite sure he was ready to have on his shoulders. “Just, in the meantime, please be careful. There is a lot at play here and I-” he broke off but Obi-Wan heard the ‘can not lose you too’ that floated between them.

“I’ve never been very good at that, I’m afraid,” he replied as he glanced at his chrono to find that he was due to meet Palpatine's speeder. "But I'll do my best." 

Qui-Gon sighed. "Just, I’m here to help, if you need it. Don't feel like you have to go through this alone."

Obi-Wan, who had already started towards the door, froze in place. He thought back to Palpatine's letter and although the implication was there, it didn't explicitly state that he had to attend alone. And, if he was completely honest with himself, he was sick of being alone.

"I don’t suppose you’d want to attend dinner with myself and the Chancellor."

Qui-Gon squeezed his eyes shut and brought his hand to his face. "Sith Hells, Obi-Wan. When?"

"Right now. The speeder he was sending should have arrived a couple of minutes ago.”

“And refusal isn’t an option.”

“You were the one who just told me he was the Sith Master.”

Qui-Gon groaned as he rose from the seat and collected his robe from where it was folded on the kitchen counter. He shook it out and threw it over his shoulders before making his way to Obi-Wan’s side. “How was this being careful?”

“I was planning to try and be careful throughout the whole damned affair,” he replied as they headed out the door. “Still am, honestly. Although I’m not sure how he’s going to react to your presence – we might need a plan B.”

Qui-Gon sighed. “You have three minutes to tell me everything I need to know.”

Obi-Wan smiled. “Challenge accepted,” he responded before explaining the letter, and what little information he knew to his Master.

“Does he know? Does he know about you and Anakin?” Qui-Gon asked once he was finished, as they were approaching the expensive looking speeder.

“I don’t know for sure, but I suspect so.”

Qui-Gon studied him and it took Obi-Wan a minute to realize that it was because he had responded to the question, rather than dodging it.

“It’s a relief,” he admitted. “Even after it ended, it wasn’t an easy secret to keep.”

His Master reached out and squeezed his shoulder in a rare display of comfort. “I’m sorry you felt you had to.”

“So am I, Master.”

“I was told that I was to collect one guest,” the chauffer snapped coldly, glaring at them both.

Obi-Wan shared a look with his Master before replying, “You must be mistaken, you were to collect us both.” with a wave of his hand.

The man stilled. “I must be mistaken. I was to collect you both,” he repeated before he moved to open both doors.  “Please hurry. You are already late and the Chancellor dislikes tardiness.”

“Of course,” Qui-Gon replied and they both quietly slipped into the speeder.

Before they took off, Obi-Wan caught Qui-Gon’s eyes and nodded, because he knew how hard this was for the grieving man. Because the fact that he was here despite that showed just how much the man cared for him, and he wasn’t about to take that care for granted.


Chapter Text

"I must ask you to leave your weapons with me, Master Jedi," one of Palpatine's guards asked as Qui-Gon and he entered the Chancellor's suite. Obi-Wan cringed, he hated leaving his lightsaber in the hands of others at the best of times, and he could hardly call this one of those.

"We have never been required to do so before," Qui-Gon pointed out, his eyes alight with suspicion.

The uniformed man nodded. "It is a new security measure. The Chancellor recently received a threat and we are taking no chances."

"Of course," Obi-Wan sighed, handing over his weapon, despite being reluctant to do so. "We understand." 

Qui-Gon followed his lead, even though he was just as displeased as Obi-Wan about it. Neither of them wanted to walk into their enemy's lair without their weapons, but it wasn't worth alerting Palpatine that they knew he was, in fact, their enemy. 

The guard accepted their lightsabers and locked them in a secure box, then ushered them down the wide corridor to a set of wood-paneled double doors, one of which was held open by Chancellor Palpatine himself.

"I do hope it was alright to extend an invitation to Master Qui-Gon," Obi-Wan said as the Chancellor watched his old Master follow him to the door with a barely hidden scowl.

"It's fine, Obi-Wan," Palpatine replied, quickly covering the look of displeasure on his face with an apologetic smile. "It has been far too long since I have spoken with either of you… A failing really, considering the… tragedy."

Obi-Wan felt his Master tense beside him, but he was quietly relieved that they wouldn't be talking around Anakin all night. This dinner was going to be hard enough, knowing what they did. He didn't want to be tiptoeing around every topic. Especially now he could feel one of his tell-tale headaches coming on. 

"I'm afraid I needed some time before I faced a Jedi again. I've found myself quite angry with the Order as I've struggled through my grief," Palpatine continued. He moved to pull open a door on the right side of the entrance. "Please," he said, ushering them forward, "the dining room is this way."

"I understand your anger," Obi-Wan replied quietly as he waited for the Chancellor to close the doors behind them and take the lead again, guiding them through the lavishly decorated rooms. 

"Yes, I imagine you do. Anakin spoke of how close you were. You must know of the struggles he had with the Order."

"He certainly struggled," Obi-Wan agreed, eyeing Qui-Gon who had tensed again at the words. He hoped his old Master was able to make it through this. In his want for an ally, he hadn't considered how hard would be for the man... Especially if Palpatine was going to continue faulting the Jedi.

"It's such a shame that he didn't leave sooner. He was so very broken. The Jedi made some very poor -"

 "With all due respect," Obi-Wan snapped, causing Palpatine to turn to look at him, "If you intend to spend tonight blaming the Jedi for Anakin's choices then we'll take our leave now."

Palpatine blinked. "Forgive me, Knight Kenobi. I am being insensitive. Perhaps I should have allowed myself more time... I- I have been greatly burdened by his loss and it is difficult not to lay blame. But I promised dear Anakin I would do this, so I must.

"You promised you would do what?" Qui-Gon asked slowly, a frown on his lips.

"Look after Knight Kenobi. Protect him. The last time we spoke he made me swear… I should have realized that he wasn't himself."

Obi-Wan's blood ran so cold that he was sure that he must have physically paled. He had no idea if what the Chancellor admitted was true or not, but either way, he did not like that he was now a concern of the Sith Lord.

"That sounds like Anakin," Qui-Gon admitted quietly, and there was a look in his eyes that communicated quite clearly to Obi-Wan that Anakin had done what the Chancellor said, and that he would know this if he had seen all the vids.

"He was very dedicated to those he loved," Palpatine agreed, his dark eyes meeting Obi-Wan's for a split second before turning his attention to the room they'd just entered. "Here we are, please, sit." He gestured at the small table which was, already, set for three. 

"Thank you," Qui-Gon said and he echoed, as they each took a seat. Staff appeared from nowhere, placing food in front of them, and filling their glasses before disappearing as quickly as they came.

"Your staff is efficient," Obi-Wan noted as he looked down at the steaming soup in front of him.

Palpatine smirked, looking pleased. "They are, indeed," he agreed. "I am not surprised you noticed. After all, I have heard the same said about you and your men, Kenobi. And I must admit, your progress on the Outer Rim certainly reflects such praise."

Obi-Wan blinked, unsure how to take the compliment. It was so… sincere. He swallowed. "I- well, thank you. I suppose. But I only seek efficiency because I am trying to keep as many beings alive as I can - clones, soldiers and civilians. I've found well-laid routines and plans result in fewer casualties"

"A noble goal," Palpatine commented. "If only the same could be said for all Jedi. Krell for example... I remember Anakin was most upset by his inefficiency."

Obi-Wan stiffened as the memory of Anakin's anger flashed before his eyes. "He didn't care if they lived, Obi-Wan. Hells, it was as if… it was like he wanted them to die." 

"We were all affected. We have learned much about our brethren since the war began. Some things have been hard to face," Qui-Gon replied honestly.

"Like your former Padawan's death?" Palpatine lashed out cruelly.

The table clattered and shook as Obi-Wan quickly stood, his body insistent he should run. He swallowed, struggling to regain control of himself as Palpatine frowned at him from his seat. Qui-Gon was staring hard at his plate. "I said I would not stay if blame was to be laid, I also refuse to tolerate any cruelty you feel the need to lay in misguided retribution." he snapped, knowing full well that the man's words had nothing to do with retribution. Could a Sith even care about another as Palpatine would lead them to believe he cared about Anakin? Stars, for all Obi-Wan knew Anakin might have taken his own life because he found out what this man really was.

The Chancellor looked at him with calculating eyes for a moment, then, surprisingly, relented. "My apologies to you both," he said with the perfect amount of regret and repentance in his tone.

Obi-Wan clenched his teeth, but he nodded once and sat. "Forgive me but I no longer wish to pass the time with pleasantries. In your invitation you said you had some belongings of Anakin's that you wished to pass to me," he prompted, using what Anakin had once named his 'War General Voice.'

Palpatine frowned. "Yes, I do," he replied slowly. He placed his fork next to his plate and slid back in his seat, assessing them both. "But I feel that I would be breaking my promise to Anakin if I were to do so in front of Master Jinn. If I could speak with you privately for a moment, perhaps after we have eaten. It would be a shame to waste such lovely food…"

"I am no longer hungry," Obi-Wan responded evenly.

Palpatine's frown deepened. "Very well," he said, lifting his napkin to his mouth and pressing it to his lips before dropping it on the table and standing. "Master Jinn, I will have someone escort you back to the speeder if you would be kind enough to wait there for Knight Kenobi."

Obi-Wan turned to look at his Master to find him already looking at him. His mouth was twisted into a frown and his eyes were hard, but the slight lift to his eyebrows said silently that it was Obi-Wan's call.

"I will be there soon."

His old Master's lips were a thin line, but he nodded reluctantly anyway. "I will collect your lightsaber."

Obi-Wan met his Master's eye steadily and nodded once, hoping that it would be enough to reassure him. "Thank you."

Obi-Wan watched as Qui-Gon was led away by a staff member of Palpatine’s until the door swung closed, blocking his view. He swallowed and looked over at Palpatine who was now moving towards a door on the other side of the room. He turned back to Obi-Wan before opening it.

"Anakin's belongings are stored in my study. Considering how dangerous one of them is, I am reluctant to ask a staff member to collect them." The Chancellor didn't say it, but Obi-Wan could tell he expected him to follow, so he stood again and walked over to the older man.

"Lead the way," he said, carefully keeping any fear or anger from his voice. But instead of opening the door, the Chancellor reached out and touched his shoulder.

 "I am sorry I have upset you. It was not my intention," he said extremely gently, as though he was talking to a wounded animal. Obi-Wan looked at where the man's hand touched him, suddenly feeling ill. "Have the Jedi-" Palpatine began but seemingly stopped because he realized his words would not be welcome.  "Have you spoken to anyone since Anakin died?" he asked instead, adding "I can recommend a good grief counselor."

Obi-Wan wasn't sure who the person in front of him was anymore, but he suspected this was the Palpatine that Anakin had always told him about. But unlike Anakin, he didn't like him at all. Everything about the situation screamed of wrongness and he found himself wondering if Anakin had ever felt the same, or if it was because Obi-Wan knew that the man was a Sith, and this new persona did not fit.

"That-" he started, but stopped, trying to gather his thoughts and find the right words. "Thank you for apologizing. And, your offer is kind but quite unnecessary. I've spoken with others and I will continue to do so."

Palpatine smiled gently, then took his hand away, moving to finally open the door. "I'm glad to hear it. Of course, if you change your mind, please come to me, Obi-Wan. My behavior tonight may have revealed to you the extent of my pain, but your reactions have revealed yours."

Obi-Wan struggled to squash the flame of anger that rose at that comment. "All things considered I think it would be more concerning if I wasn't hurt," he snapped before he could stop himself. Immediately regretting the words, he slowed his step and closed his eyes, taking in a deep breath and quelling the fire. He couldn't lose control of himself, not here, not now.

"A fair point," the Chancellor agreed as they moved down another grand hallway and into a large, private study. There was a majestic wooden desk in the center of the room with two plush seats on either side. One side of the room was entirely roof-to-floor windows, and the other three walls were hidden by overflowing bookshelves, all apart from directly behind the desk where a huge, old cabinet stood proudly, displaying an assortment of strange items.  As Obi-Wan's eyes darted over them he felt his headache worsen and his breath hitched.

Obi-Wan was distracted from his observations by the sound of a lock clicking. Finding Palpatine still standing at the now closed and locked door, he stepped further into the room, putting more space between them, and narrowed his eyes.

 "I don't mean to trap you here, Obi-Wan, I simply don't want anyone barging in on us. You are free to leave if you wish."

Obi-Wan looked at the lock on the door, noting that it need only be twisted to be undone. Still. He wasn't exactly reassured enough to feel at ease. But then, considering the true identity of the man opening one of the cabinet's drawers, he would be foolish to let his guard down.

"I am sure you will appreciate my desire for privacy when you see what Anakin has left for you," he said turning away from the cabinet with a box in his hands. He placed it on the desk between them and lifted the lid.

Shocked, Obi-Wan stumbled forward when Palpatine pulled out Anakin's lightsaber. His first one. His green one.

Look, Obi-Wan! Isn't it beautiful! Anakin said, grinning up at him as he held his new lightsaber out for Obi-Wan to inspect.

"It's very well made, Anakin. You should be proud of yourself," he replied, smiling warmly back. "Shall we see how well it stands up in a duel?"

Anakin beamed. "You're on."

Obi-Wan felt his heart race as Palpatine pushed it into his hands. "Is that all?" he croaked, turning it over, wondering how long it had been now since it had been used. Wondering when Anakin had decided to replace it with one that glowed red. 

"No. He also wanted you to have this. I'm not sure what it is, but he said it's important."

Tearing his eyes away from Anakin's lightsaber, he looked up to find himself being presented with a Sith Holocron. His headache immediately flared white-hot, blinding him for a moment, and he almost tripped over in his haste to move away from it.

"I can't take that!" he snapped. He hadn't had any tolerance for items imbued with the Darkside since his trip to Zigoola. He wondered if Palpatine knew that. At the very least he must have known that Obi-Wan couldn't have returned from that mission unscathed. He was probably surprised Obi-Wan had returned at all.

Palpatine frowned, and feigned ignorance. "I had thought the Jedi had a whole library of these things."

"You-" Obi-Wan caught himself before he called the Sith out on his lie. "No. They're different. That is… different. I can't accept that."

"You can't or you won't?" Palpatine countered, "Anakin was under the impression that you would know how to use it. He wanted you to have it. He said it would explain some things… I was quite curious. But, of course, I am not going to force you to take it if you do not want it.

Obi-Wan clenched Anakin's lightsaber tightly in his hand, wondering if he was fast or strong enough to kill Palpatine on his own. He doubted it, but it would almost be worth it to try. Almost

"If you would kindly put it in the box, I will take it with me," he replied, his tone clipped.

Palpatine smiled, his eyes flashing with something that Obi-Wan couldn't place but did not like the look of. "Of course, Obi-Wan."

"Is there anything else?"

"Just this," he said breezily as he slid a holo of Anakin across the desk. It took a second for him to realize that he was in it too, but when he did, he instantly recognized the moment it captured. Ahsoka had taken it in the infirmary on the Negotiator, after a particularly awful battle. He had been injured. They all had been, but he, according to Anakin, had nearly died. Obi-Wan felt his breath catch when he spotted Anakin's scrawled 'Always' at the bottom. 

"Oh, Anakin," he whispered as he picked it up. He closed his eyes, willing away the tears as he remembered.

"Oh, thank the Force!" Anakin cried, peppering kisses on his face.

"Honestly?" Obi-Wan laughed croakily, his throat sore and dry. It hurt to talk and laugh, in fact, everything hurt. He groaned, taking in the sights and smells of the infirmary and concluding that he had been hurt, badly this time.

"I am so sorry," Anakin blubbered, his tears splashing onto his cheeks. "The plan was bad - You said it wouldn't work and I- I didn't listen and you nearly died! Hells, Obi-Wan, you did die. If it wasn't for --.

Obi-Wan blinked up at him, dazed but aware enough to notice how beautiful the other man was, even with his tear-stained cheeks and shadowed eyes.

"Sorry, dear one" he rasped. 

Anakin closed his eyes and leaned forward to press his forehead against Obi-Wan's. "It's not- It's not your fault! I should have listened- I should have- Oh god I'm so sorry. Please don't hate me."

"Oh, Anakin. It's alright, dear one," he whispered, his throat still sore. "No matter what happens. No matter who's plan it was or what's been said. No matter where we are or what's between us, I will always love you."

Obi-wan swallowed, moving so he could place it in the box with the Sith Holocron. 

Palpatine's hand rushed out and grabbed his wrist, latching tightly, before Obi-Wan could pull it away. Obi-Wan grit his teeth and slowly lifted his eyes to meet the Chancellors. 

"Before you leave, I must… I feel I owe you another apology," he admitted, waiting for Obi-Wan to nod his assent before letting go and continuing. "You see my behavior tonight has been partly due to my guilt."

Obi-Wan took a step back, putting distance between them again. He clung to Anakin's lightsaber as though it was a lifeline, unsure of what was about to be thrown at him.

"When Anakin came to me with his struggles years ago, I did not realize you- I did not think that such a committed and efficient Jedi would put aside his beliefs forever."

Obi-Wan's frown deepened but he didn't say anything. He was too busy thinking of Anakin's words from Dooku's vid. "I sought help, but I went to the wrong people and they gave me the wrong advice. And, and, I followed it," the holo of Anakin had said. Of course, he'd gone to Palpatine. And of course, Palpatine had told him to leave.

"I'm afraid I thought his feelings for you were misguided. I advised him that you would always put him second to the Order, and for that reason, he should leave you, and the Jedi. That he should pursue a peaceful life elsewhere."

Obi-Wan had to stamp down hard on the anger that tore through his being like wildfire. The thought of Palpatine using him to hurt Anakin, to manipulate him! His thumb slid down and brushed over the activation button on the lightsaber hilt...

Palpatine's eyes glowed as he continued. "I thought I was right but now I can see that you loved him just as much as he did you and I am truly sorry I intervened."

Anakin's 'saber burst to life in his hands, startling him out of his rage. He quickly deactivated it, mumbling a half-hearted apology, trying to ignore the unusually pleased look on Palpatine's face.

"I think I should take my leave. Thank you for these, Chancellor."

Palpatine seemed caught off guard. "Oh, I- I thought you would deny it."

"What? Why? It seems rather redundant..." 

"I- Well. You understand that as Chancellor I am obligated to tell the Order of any transgressions I am aware of..."

Obi-Wan nearly huffed out a laugh when he realized that this was what the Chancellor had been working towards. Blackmail. "Do what you must, Chancellor. I should inform you, though, that the Order already knows of Anakin and my transgressions." It wasn't exactly a lie. Mace and Qui-Gon and Aayla knew... and whoever else had seen Anakin's vids. 

Palpatine frowned. "Oh? Anakin did not mention that others knew. I am surprised you were not stripped of your duties."

"Anakin was the one that told them… After he left," he replied, reveling in barely contained anger that settled on the hidden Sith's face. "Seeing as he was the object of my affections, and it had ended, the Order didn't believe there was any need to intervene," he lied. Honestly, he had no idea what the masters would say about his relationship with Anakin when it finally came up, but being asked to leave, well, it wasn't so terrible. But, all things considered, he doubted that would be the outcome. "Besides, Chancellor, if you have not noticed we are fighting a war and our numbers are thin. We just don't have the numbers to stand down Jedi for past mistakes."

Palpatine looked shocked. "I did not expect the Order to-"

"Overlook my actions? They haven't. The Jedi are not quite so ignorant as you may think, Chancellor. They have simply accepted that I deviated from the Jedi path for a time." Obi-Wan explained. 

"But-" The Chancellor tried; except he was quickly cut off.

"There is much peace to be found in forgiveness, and Jedi seek peace... But you will have to forgive me, Chancellor, because despite your apology I don't believe I can find it in me to forgive you. Frankly, I don't believe that the advice you gave Anakin was as selfless as you say." 

Palpatine's face soured but he did not betray himself. He said nothing, which made Obi-Wan wonder what he was thinking. Obi-Wan had tiptoed close to the Chancellors secret, but he didn't think he'd given anything away. He had never hidden his disdain for politicians and he was sure that Anakin would have mentioned it to Palpatine at least over the years. But if not that then what? Maybe he had hoped for this? Perhaps he wanted Obi-Wan to be angry or to prove himself flawed? Or maybe once the opportunity for blackmail was lost he had decided to leave things be... for now.

"If that is all, I will take my leave."

"Of course, Knight Kenobi," Palpatine replied coolly. "A member of my staff will see you out."

"May the Force be with you," Obi-Wan muttered as he unlocked and opened the door. 

"Knight Kenobi," Palpatine called just before he exited. He turned to find the man's face had relaxed and his eyes were once again kind. "I always honor my promises. If you change your mind or need anything at all, my door will always be open to you."

Another shiver slithered down Obi-Wan's spine, but he managed to stay still. He nodded once, then left the building as quickly as he could. 



It was late when Obi-Wan finally got back to his apartment. Once they had arrived back at the Temple, Qui-Gon had bribed him into another meditation session (which he admittedly had needed) and he had stayed for a late cup of tea afterward. It had helped settle his nerves after their dinner, and he was glad to help his old Master find some semblance of calm after suffering Palpatine’s viciousness. The only issue was that it was just past midnight and he was wide awake as his body was accustomed to replacing sleep with meditation.

It wasn’t so terrible as he had already resolved to listen to the rest of Anakin's story. He was hoping to avoid meeting with anyone else (except, perhaps Padme- who he felt rather guilty about his lack of contact with) until he understood it all. He certainly didn’t want to see Palpatine again. Not unless it was to avenge all those who he had hurt...

After doing a quick clean-up of his apartment, Obi-Wan settled down at the table with a glass of water. Obi-Wan spun the vid player that was still sitting on the table to face him. After inserting the new disc, he took a deep breath and pressed the play button.

Anakin appeared again with a dark smile on his face. "Master Mace Windu,” he started, his tone cold. “Revered Jedi Master, Jedi Councillor, and former Master of the Order. But more importantly the forth reason for my fall.”

“You’re not surprised, are you? I bet if you wanted to, you could even figure out why… But you don’t, do you? Why should you? You knew this was my path from the moment we met. There was nothing you could have done better that would have changed that… right? Because you always knew that I was meant to shatter…”  Anakin’s smirk fell away and there was a hard look in his eyes. “You came to that conclusion sometime during our first meeting and no matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried, you never saw beyond the too-old boy that stood in the Council Chamber with fear and anger in his heart," he paused, torn. "The irony is that if you had, I might not be who I am today."

Anakin seemed to drop his guard for a moment, running a shaky hand through his messy locks and looking at the ground. But after a deep breath, he lifted his eyes again and they narrowed again, into a glare. 

“Your fear of the shatter point that I was, or at least, that I became, had a huge influence on who I am. Your continued disdain towards my training - the quick judgment and the lack of trust - hurt. And, because I was never very good at letting go of my emotions, that pain became frustration, and then anger. And I struggled to let it go.

"Many Masters, including you, expressed that I needed to change, that I needed to put out the fury that simmered under my skin. But I didn’t know how…

“I think you did though. Everyone seemed to think you did. My Master sought you out for advice, Master Yoda spoke to you keeping an eye on me. Obi-Wan argued that you should help me… But you wouldn't teach me, would you? 

Anakin smiled wryly. "Unfortunately for you, Master Windu, I think the decision you made might just become one of your greatest regrets."

 

Chapter Text

 

 

"So dramatic, Anakin," Obi-Wan murmured as he pressed the pause button on the vid player. He leaned back in his seat considering what the ex-Knight had revealed about Master Windu so far. He could not argue that Mace had been anything but unkind to Anakin over the years. And it was possible that his unkindness stemmed from fear. 

Anakin had told Obi-Wan long ago about his interview (for the lack of a better word) with the Order. Obi-Wan had been surprised to hear of their coldness, but not their caution. He could hardly fault that when he had felt the same way in the beginning. Still, they were supposed to be older and wiser than he had been… They should have afforded Anakin more kindness considering his youth and the abnormality of the situation.

Obi-Wan should have too, but he had been young himself and had had very little experience with younglings. Plus, he had been rather overwhelmed by jealousy then, when his Master had made unusually clear just how much he wanted young Anakin as his student. If he had known what he knew now though, Obi-Wan would have done better to put all that aside. Anakin had been but a child, and despite the Order's thinking, not yet old enough to be set on a path to either side of the Force.

Perhaps if I had come around earlier, I would be sitting here with Anakin, rather than his holo

Obi-Wan shook away the thought. He was wandering down the road of what-ifs again, and if Anakin was anything to go by, it was a dark path to take. The Knight took another couple of sips of his water before he reached out and pressed the button that allowed holo Anakin to continue his tale. 

"The only good that came from your refusal to help me learn, was that Obi-Wan became more committed to do so. He tried harder than anyone to keep me grounded, to show me the right way to walk the Path of the Jedi," Anakin paused contemplatively, then quietly added, "Well, up until I managed to drag him off it… but that's a story for another vid."

Anakin frowned for a moment, likely collecting his thoughts. He seemed thrown by his own words, just as thrown as Obi-Wan felt. As far as the Knight knew neither he nor Anakin had seen what their relationship as a deviation from the Jedi path, not back then. The Code, in Anakin's opinion, had always had certain flexibility and he had, eventually, talked Obi-Wan around.

“I don’t care what they say, Obi-Wan,” Anakin growled, before stealing a soft kiss. “This isn’t dark. What we feel, it’s not dark!”

“No, it’s not,” Obi-Wan had agreed quietly, lost in the blue of Anakin’s eyes. He didn’t say it aloud, but a traitorous part of his mind whispered that no, this feeling, here and now, wasn’t dark, it was further down the road, when this ultimately fell to pieces, that the Darkside would find them.

Obi-Wan jumped when Anakin’s voice snapped him out of the memory. “Maybe I should thank you for that, Windu” the holo of the Knight said slowly, “Because Force knows, I wouldn't have persevered after the battle of Geonosis if not for Obi-Wan. Not with Yoda and your frowns, and Qui-Gon's overwhelming disappointment!" Anakin spat the last word with a look of his face that made Obi-Wan think of Palpatine. It was horrible and made Obi-Wan's stomach turn uncomfortably. Thankfully, it quickly fell away, replaced with Anakin’s usual frown.

"I had been through a huge trauma – losing my hand the way I did – and I had failed a major trial, letting everyone down... But Obi-Wan refused to let me fall into the depression that I find myself in now," he revealed, dragging a sleeve over his eyes. "Every day he made me get up and out. He helped me get used to my prosthetic, showed me that I could still be a Jedi, and taught me that losses were a part of life. He made me laugh again…” Anakin smiled a true smile, lost for a moment in the happy memory, and Obi-Wan’s heart practically leaped out of his chest. Stars, he had loved that smile.

Then, Obi-Wan’s eyes budded with tears, because seeing the happy warmth in the former Jedi's face was worse than seeing the man miserable. This was hope that no longer existed. This was a chance that was already lost.

Anakin continued to smile as he carried on. "Padme started showing up then too and, encouraged by Palpatine, I made the effort to build a close friendship with her. I will never regret that I did. She cared- she cares about me. But better than that, she has always been easy to speak to. I didn't know it then, but I recognize now, that it is because she hadn’t been brought up in the Order. She didn’t know it’s ins and outs, and she wasn’t close with many of its members. As a result, she was one of the few people I'd met since leaving Tatooine that I’d been able to talk to without filtering my thoughts. She was one of the few people who listened to my gripes and got angry at you and the Order on my behalf, rather than trying to explain.”

Obi-Wan winced, knowing that Anakin was talking about him. He hated thinking that the younger Knight may have felt he couldn’t tell him everything, but he could see how he had brought that on himself. He had excused the Order for too much over the years. He had tried to explain the thinking and actions of Yoda, Mace, and the Council even when he didn’t agree which was, in hindsight, ridiculous. It hadn’t helped Anakin or the Order, for that matter.

Angrily exchanged words whispered in his memory and Anakin’s face swirled into view. It was not long after Anakin had approached Mace about Krell. Obi-Wan had been on the other side of the galaxy at the time and hadn’t known that the other Knight was going to argue with the former Master of the Order again.

“Don’t tell me you truly believe they did the right thing, Obi-Wan. I know you. You do everything in your power to keep the Clones alive… I know you can’t possibly condone this!” Anakin had spat at him as he paced back and forth in Obi-Wan’s small quarters on the Negotiator.

Obi-Wan had watched Anakin, feeling exhaustion and defeat settle over him. “You’re right I- I don’t, but you know we don’t have enough Jedi and the war doesn’t look to be ending any time soon… “

Obi-Wan scrubbed his face with his hands. He should have been angry with Anakin, calling out the Master, not defending him. Hells, he should have gone to Mace with Anakin!

“With Padme as a confidant and Obi-Wan as a friend, I was the happiest I’d been since I’d first arrived… Unfortunately, it didn't last,” Holo Anakin continued, pulling Obi-Wan from his wandering thoughts once again.

“You separated me from both of them before I was ready. Don't deny it, Master Windu. Don't rattle off that the war waits for no one, because I could have gone to war and still had a friend to lean on. I overheard the conversation you had with my Master. The argument. I heard him beg you to put me on the Negotiator with Obi-Wan. But you instantly told him no. You didn’t even take a moment to consider it. You just barked that I was his Padawan and his responsibility - not Obi-Wan's. Master Qui-Gon argued then that they'd talked about it. He said Obi-Wan was happy to have me with him, but you still denied the request! Even when my Master said that it would be beneficial to my healing…

“At that moment, the world I had been building for months came crashing down around me.”

Obi-Wan paused the vid and dropped his forehead to the smooth, cool tabletop, tears slipping down his cheeks. He remembered offering to take Anakin with him following months of helping the Padawan heal. A few days after the battle of Geonosis, Qui-Gon had left a broken Anakin, while he went off to begin the fighting. Obi-Wan had been in hurt as well so it made sense for them to stay and heal together. It had been good for them, solidifying their friendship as almost-equals rather than the strange not-quite-siblings relationship they'd had prior. And once they were friends, well, it hadn't taken him long to fall for the then eighteen-year-old.

Obi-Wan remembered the moment he realized. They'd ended up on the roof of the Temple after a mad ego-driven race had come to a draw there. Exhausted, they'd sat, both caught by the beauty of the twilight. He remembered thinking how beautiful Anakin was. He remembered thinking he had never been as happy as he was at that moment. And, he remembered the horror that had followed when he identified what he was feeling towards the other man. He didn't sleep for days afterward, unable to accept it or let it go.

Eventually, though, Obi-Wan found the strength to bury the feeling which brought the semblance of peace but was a struggle to keep hidden in Anakin's presence. It was suddenly difficult to be the role model and friend that Anakin needed because he had to be ever so careful not to give away how he felt. And, as a result, their time together became a hardship.

Because of this, Obi-Wan had expected their eventual separation (to head off to fight the war) to be a relief. But when they finally received the order, he'd been overwhelmed with pain and desperation. He had tried, but he wasn't able to resist quietly asking his Master if Anakin could accompany him when they were finally shipped off to fight. But as Anakin said, it wasn’t to be.

Obi-Wan had been surprised, if not a little concerned, when Qui-Gon had returned with Mace's no. He had wondered if the Master somehow knew of his feelings for Anakin and if he had refused to allow their proximity to take away the temptation. It was the only reason he'd been able to think of at the time for Mace to so adamantly deny what was a reasonable request. But then, he’d hadn’t accepted that Mace distrusted Anakin back then.

Folding his arms on the table and lifting his head so that his chin rested on them, he used a touch of the Force to start the Vid again.

"I panicked,” Anakin admitted quietly. “I panicked because the happy life I was building was being torn apart! I-I couldn’t let that happen, but I didn’t know what to do. If you wouldn’t hear my Master, why would you listen to me? I knew Obi-Wan respected you too much to fight your decision, and Padme would only remind me that we all had to make sacrifices for the war effort. So, I went to the most powerful person I knew, someone who might be able to help me fix the mess you were making. And he didn’t let me down.

“Palpatine reminded me again how strong I was, that I was the hero of Naboo and that if I could fight and survive the next few months, I would surely be Knighted. He reminded me that once I was Knighted, I would have my own ship, my own soldiers, and he promised he would send me on missions with Obi-Wan if that was what I wanted. And of course, I would be the only Knight acceptable to guard Senator Amidala if she needed to travel…

"It wasn't right... I- I know that now. Palpatine… I paid no attention to his motives because his promises brought me the hope and calm I needed. I came to regret it, much later, but not back then. Then, I took the words and I succeeded the way he told me I would.

“I dominated the battlefields. I found friends among the Clones. I made a strange peace with my Master which gave him renewed confidence in my training, and he put me forward for the trials. And I passed!” he said with a smile, “and it was one of the best days of my life.”

Obi-Wan squeezed his eyes shut, remembering. 

“Welcome back, Obi-Wan!” Anakin said, reaching out to grasp his shoulders.

Obi-Wan had to look up to meet the younger man’s eyes. “Stars, Anakin! When did you get so tall?” Obi-Wan asked with a pout.

“Yesterday,” Anakin snarked. He was uncharacteristically happy, and it made the older Knight pause.

“You seem different- “ then his eyes widened, “Your braid is- you passed the trials!”

Anakin beamed at him. “Yep. One hundred percent Knight.”

“That’s wonderful news, Anakin,” Obi-Wan laughed warmly as he dropped his bag and pulled the younger man in for a congratulatory hug. “I’m so proud of you,” Obi-Wan whispered as he pulled back, silently pondering the blush that appeared to be rising in Anakin’s cheeks. “So, how are we going to celebrate?”

Anakin’s smile turned into a mischievous smirk. “I have an idea… if you’re free tonight?”

That was the day that Anakin had taken him to the illegal podrace. That was the day he realized he wasn’t the only one who had fallen. That was the day they first kissed. 

Obi-Wan smiled wryly and forced himself to focus on the holo’s words. “Despite everything you did to see me fail, Master Windu, I made it. But I should have known better than to expect that would earn me your respect.

“You and I butted heads about several things during the war. Some seem petty now, but others still make me seethe when I think about them,” Anakin admitted coldly. “Like the battle of Umbara… I still can’t believe how many men were lost during that Battle. I had been at war long enough by then to know that sacrifice was a part of it. But to hear my men recount Krell’s complete disregard for their lives… Kriff, it made me sick. Krell was a Jedi. He was supposed to be a protector of beings not… that. And when I found out it had happened before. That you and the council knew the casualty rates of his battles were too high, that you sent him anyway! I couldn’t believe it! 

“I know it’s a bit unfair to blame you alone for decisions that were made with others. But you were the one I came to with my concerns, and you were the one that told me there was nothing that could be done. I know now that there was more to it than I knew, that you weren’t really in control of that decision… But you still made me feel insignificant, belittled, and unsupported. It was also you who was condoning something so blatantly against the Code Jedi are meant to live by when you never accepted me because I constantly pushed its boundaries. Your hypocrisy was infuriating.

Anakin suddenly looked pained. He swallowed harshly. “I thought that was the worst of it. I thought that was the lowest the Council could go. Not only did the Jedi have slaves now, because let’s call the Clones what they actually are, but you made them expendable!  But then…” Anakin swallowed again. “Ahsoka.”

Obi-Wan froze at the name of Anakin’s former Padawan. “Oh, stars, no” he muttered as he felt his heart-breaking. He and Anakin had never got to have this conversation.

“I couldn’t believe it when I was informed that the Council, in all its great wisdom, let a Jedi Padawan be tried by the Senate. I thought that the Jedi would protect its own… I thought they would protect their younglings. And kriff she was so young. She was too young…” Anakin squeezed his eyes shut and looked away for a moment. Obi-Wan could tell he was barely holding himself together and it made tears spring back into his own eyes.  “Palpatine told me, you know. Not you or the Order, even though she had been my Padawan. Even though I had contacts that could have helped. My wife is a Senator for kriff’s sake,” Anakin rambled angrily.  “But you and the Council saw no reason to get me involved, so I had to find out when she had been found guilty! WHEN SHE HAD BEEN SENTENCED TO BE EXECUTED!” Anakin roared so loudly that Obi-Wan flinched back. 

He wondered if he would bear some of the grunt of this anger in his vid. He hadn’t known either, he’d been on the Outer Rim at the time. But he should have. He should have stayed in touch with Ahsoka after Anakin left. She should have been able to reach out to him then.

Obi-Wan blinked out of his self-flagellation just in time to catch the holo of Anakin dragging his sleeve across his face. “The moment I found out I boarded a ship for Coruscant. You should remember, because I commed you, Windu. I spoke with you saying I was coming back to Coruscant, and I begged you to do whatever you could to delay her sentence. But again, you said no. You told me there was nothing you could do! Worse! You cruelly pointed out that I had chosen to leave her, and that I needed to let her go!” Anakin exclaimed. “SHE WAS A CHILD AND WAS GOING TO BE EXECUTED!”

Anakin raked his fingers through his hair.  “I can never forgive you for that because even if you honestly believed that there was nothing you could do, you could have given me a quiet go-ahead to do what I could… Even my old Master managed to do that much!” He shook his head and his hands fell back to his sides. “But you probably think it’s all irrelevant. Ahsoka escaped, and the Order was able to withstand the fallout… just. There is no point dwelling on something that didn’t happen, no matter how close we came to losing- you- you came to losing one of your own.

“But what you don’t know is that I sold what was left of my soul to allow her to run.”

The holo of Anakin disappeared as the vid ended leaving Obi-Wan feeling ill. “He went to Palpatine. Palpatine helped her escape for Anakin!” he exclaimed, knowing that was the case even though the Knight hadn’t explicitly said it. “Oh, Anakin,” he whispered sadly.  What had Palpatine asked from him, he wondered. Was that when he found out that the Chancellor was a Sith? Did he blackmail Anakin into kneeling before him? 

“Kriff,” he swore. He was tired now, but he wanted to know. It all still hurt to hear, to learn that Anakin had been hurting for so long in so many ways and he hadn’t realized, but there was more to the vids than that now. This story was going to have an impact on the future, on his future, in one way or another. So, he carefully opened the vid player and took out Mace’s disc, replacing it with the one labeled as number five.

Obi-Wan leaned back in his chair as the blue-tinged holo of Anakin flickered back into view. He was wearing a different outfit this time, a regal set of dress robes that made him look every part a Senator’s husband.  

“This vid is... short. Unlike the others I listed, this being didn’t have a large presence in my life. They didn’t distrust me for a decade, or force me to live without love,” Anakin began. “This person simply made a decision, one that had nothing to do with me, but one that had a huge impact on my life. This being, like Dooku, is already dead, but I couldn’t exclude her. This being, reason number five, was named Bariss Offee.



Chapter Text

 

 

Obi-Wan was surprised to hear a name that he hadn’t expected. Admittedly, he had not spent a large amount of time attempting to guess who would feature on the discs, but he hadn’t been shocked by anyone up until now. As Anakin mentioned, everyone so far had played a prominent part in his life. Obi-Wan hadn’t been aware that Anakin knew Master Unduli’s Padawan, Barriss Offee. He himself had only met her once or twice.

More shocking, though, was to hear that she was dead. He had not heard that particular detail in among the rumors about her sudden disappearance. It was all hearsay, but his understanding was that she'd left a note for her Master explaining that she could no longer follow the path of the Jedi, which made Anakin's admission rather concerning. 

“Did you kill her too and cover it up somehow?” he muttered. He supposed Palaptine would help the former Jedi hide a murder. In fact, the Chancellor probably had a hand in the dissapearance of Dooku's body.

“I didn’t know you very well,” Anakin started, drawing Obi-Wan from his thoughts. “I wish I did. We were more alike than I knew, and I think I might have been able to help you. Or at least steer you in a different direction than the one you took.

“Don't get me wrong. I'm still angry with you. Your actions were unforgivable. You hurt people, you lied, and you left someone else to take the punishment for your crimes. Hell, you were willing to trade their life for yours.” Anakin swallowed. “But I understand. Not the last part. But before the... incident. I understand what you were thinking, how the beings you had followed unerringly your whole life were letting you down, how everything you believed in seemed lost. I understand that you just wanted to make things better and so you did, the only way you knew how.”

Anakin ran a hand up his forehead and into his hair. “I'm not sure anyone in the Order knows your whole story as I do. It's possible they don't even know you're dead yet, which I- I regret now. You see, I made sure they wouldn't look for you, leaving a simple note that said you didn't want to be a Jedi anymore.

“I'm sorry for that now. At the time, when I found you, I was so angry and disgusted by you that I didn't think you deserved to be found by them. But now... Well, I wouldn't wish it on anyone I guess.” Anakin’s lip curled, and he let out a frustrated sigh. “If whoever is listening wants to find her, she is in an abandoned building in the lower quarter, across from Keiv's Cantina. She's probably a bit... The body has probably decomposed by now,” he said, his lip curling in disgust and his eyes hard and... Obi-Wan couldn't quite pick what, but there was something wrong with them. There was something very wrong with all of It.

The Knight suddenly felt ill. He hit stop, stumbled across the living area, barged through his room, and to the bathroom and was promptly sick in the sink.He stayed there, hung over it, heaving, tears budding in the corners of his eyes, and his mouth and throat burned.

"Dear Force, Anakin, what happened to you?” he rasped as he turned on the taps and let the water wash away the mess. Grabbing the glass that was sitting on the bench he rinsed his mouth out twice and brushed his teeth to get rid of the remaining acid. Then, he sunk to the floor and put his head in his hands.

“You were a lot of things, but you were not evil,” he muttered before falling apart. "She was just a child!" He pressed his fingers into his face as quiet sobs racked through his body. “Oh Stars, I’m sorry, Anakin, I'm so sorry,” he chanted in barely more than a whisper as he curled in closer and let out his grief and guilt.

Obi-Wan didn't know how much time had passed when he just couldn't cry anymore. He was exhausted. His eyes stung and his lips were dry and sore.

Without thinking he picked himself up, splashed his face, and forced down a glass of water. Then he walked into his room, pushed away the memories of Anakin, collapsed on his bed, and promptly fell asleep.

 

 

Obi-Wan groaned when he awoke to a pounding headache. He dragged his second pillow over his head and pushed it into his forehead and eyes, where the pain was the worst. Then, he attempted to will himself back to sleep, not yet ready to face the day. Unfortunately, it didn't work.

Sighing, he pulled the pillow away from his face and slowly sat up. The light of the morning that crept through the cracks of his Venetian blinds made his sensitive eyes water and the thumping in his head increase. Grimacing he squeezed his eyes shut, then lifted his hand to feed a touch of Force healing into what seemed to be the epicenter of the pain. He wasn't very good at healing, but he knew enough to keep migraines at bay.

Obi-Wan gasped a little as relief swept through him. He let himself fall back onto the soft mattress, marveling at just how much he preferred sleeping in his bed. For a split second, he wondered why he hadn't been taking advantage of this small luxury since he had returned, then he remembered.

Suddenly, everything around him reminded him of Anakin. The abstract pictures on his walls that the younger Knight had thought were ugly, the dresser that drowned under Anakin's clothes and toiletries when he came to stay. The window that they'd watch the city through after... The bed that they had fallen into each other on, again and again...

Obi-Wan forced himself to breathe, feeling overwhelmed. But not just that, he felt unsettled, because the side of Anakin he had seen in his room was so completely different from the one he'd seen on the video last night.

A wave of nausea swept through him and he sat up again to keep it at bay, but the new position only gave him a wider view of the room that Anakin and he once called home. A weighty sadness settled over him. It all seemed so long ago. So much had changed and not for the better.

“I shouldn’t have given you up. I should have fought for you, or left with you,” he sighed, looking down at the space next to him where the light of the morning was casting shadows over his duvet. He closed his eyes, his heart aching in his chest, “I miss you...” he whispered, and a memory came forward, unbidden.

Obi-Wan writhed in pleasure, his fingers tangling themselves into the soft sheets as Anakin kissed his way down his neck and collar bone. The younger man’s mouth was hot and wet on his cool skin, sending shivers through his body.

“An-akin,’ he moaned softly as he fought to keep his eyes open and on the beautiful man above him.

The red-orange light that came with the dawn was streaming in through the half-pulled blinds, painting Anakin’s skin and bouncing off the beads of sweat that trickled down his broad, muscular shoulders. It created a halo of golden light around the man, and Obi-Wan couldn’t quite believe that he could be so lucky.  Anakin could have anyone and yet, he was here with him.

 “Need you,” Anakin murmured against the skin of his chest, where he softly, gently licked at taut nipples. “Missed you,” he added as his free hand traced over Obi-Wan’s toned abdominal muscles, his mouth following.

It always amazed Obi-Wan how gentle he was, for someone so large, powerful, so deadly, he was such a tender and considerate lover. It was comforting. Obi-Wan knew he was safe here – Anakin would not hurt him or let any harm come to him. After weeks of fighting battles, Anakin's caresses felt like the first rain after a long drought, blissful relief.

It was more than that, though. Because here with Anakin he felt loved and he loved in return, and there were no words that could truly describe the intensity of that.

“I missed you too, dear one,” he croaked, “I love you.”

Obi-Wan opened his eyes, took another deep breath, and pushed the memory away. Once it would have had him blushing, but now it only brought heartache and he was to exhausted to deal with that just yet.

Deciding that he may as well get on with the day, he swung his legs over the side of the bed and started towards the dresser. He paused when he caught sight of his face in the dresser's mirror. His eyes were still red and puffy, and his lips were swollen and dry. Anyone who took one glance at him would know exactly how he'd spent his evening, and he had no desire to deal with anyone who might want to find out why.

Obi-Wan dragged himself in for a shower and afterward used a little more Force healing to reduce the swelling around his eyes. Then he headed into the kitchen. He pointedly ignored the vid player on his table and the box from Palpatine that sat on his kitchen counter, drank two large glasses of cold water, and then searched the pantry. After finding nothing appealing, he pulled on his cloak, pulling up his hood in hope that it would make others leave him alone, and headed to the commissary.

Obi-Wan knew he was doing exactly what he had promised not to, but he reasoned that he had to eat because, well, one, the healers had told him to, and two, once Anakin had said everything he had to say, Obi-Wan was either going back to war or fighting a much bigger battle here so he needed to keep his strength up. Despite his reasoning, he couldn't help but feel a little guilty about avoiding the vids once again.

Obi-Wan barely repressed a groan when he spotted Master Mace Windu sitting across from his usual spot in the commissary. He weighed up the pros and cons of sitting somewhere different while he collected a large bowl of porridge from the servery and added a touch of honey. But, as he collected a spoon and napkin, he decided that the stubborn Master would probably simply move to join him. So, he sat down in his preferred seat and wished Mace a good morning.

The stoic Master lifted an eyebrow as his eyes darted over Obi-Wan's face. “You look like you haven’t slept a wink, Kenobi”

Obi-Wan countered by raising both eyebrows. “All things considered, does that honestly surprise you? It didn’t seem to surprise anyone else who had seen…” he trailed off, glancing around warily then adding in a whisper, “Them.

Mace sighed. “I wasn't sure how much of it was true and how much of it was Skywalker's... interpretation of events.”

Obi-Wan blinked, his spoon frozen on its path to his mouth. “You thought he was- Wait- You didn't know? Before? Honestly?”

“No.”

Obi-Wan wasn't sure what to make of that. He had been so convinced that he must. He ate his spoonful of porridge, enjoying the sweetness, before asking, “So then, why? You must have seen that I was good for him.”

Mace pursed his lips, sat back in his seat and folded his arms into his robes. “I assume you're talking about the day I refused to let Anakin go on the Negotiator with you. Just after the War started.”

Obi-Wan nodded as he popped another spoonful of his breakfast in his mouth.

“There were two reasons. The first was that Jinn often palmed his Padawan off to others when times were challenging. I picked his request as another of those times and responded accordingly.”

“Alright,” Obi-Wan said, accepting that as fair. “And the second reason?”

“He was a danger to you.”

Obi-Wan choked on a spoonful of porridge. “I beg your pardon?”

“He wasn't wrong, on the vid, when he said he was a shatterpoint. He was the biggest and most volatile I had ever come across!”

“Which made you fear him?”

The Master's expression darkened. “It was worrying, especially combined with his past and his power.”

His disapproval must have shown on his face because the Master challenged it with a lifted eyebrow. “Can you honestly say that there weren't times when he didn't scare you Kenobi? Times where he would make you pause and wonder and worry?”

Obi-Wan frowned. “Yes, there were times when I worried,” he admitted, thinking of the day he had found Anakin fighting the training droids with an anger that he had never seen. “But it seems as though you never stopped worrying. You let fear beget fear.

“I was given the impression that you picked him as dangerous from the first moment you met.”

“I was young, and for all my experience I didn’t realize exactly how dangerous I could be. My judgment at that moment was as unfair as yours was, as was how I used it as an excuse to hide my insecurities. I very much regret how I treated him in the beginning – I have done for a long time.  Surely you do too. If not before, then now, after seeing the vids?”

The Master of the Order looked both surprised and bothered by the words, as if he hadn't expected to hear them from Obi-Wan. His reaction stoked the anger that was burning in his gut and he had to grit his teeth to stop himself from expressing how appalled he was by Mace's assumption. Had the Master not spent hours reflecting, as he, Qui-Gon, and Aayla had? Could Mace not see the part he played in this mess, the prejudice he was guilty of?

“I haven't finished them so I don't entirely understand what Anakin was hoping to achieve in making the Vids, but it will us no good if we don't recognize where we failed him,” Obi-Wan chastised, trying to keep the accusation out of his voice. The man was his superior after all.

“We didn’t fail him! Skywalker failed himself!” Mace snapped harshly.

Obi-Wan gaped at the Master, more than a little startled. He studied the man for a moment, wondering if perhaps he felt far more guilty than he wished to acknowledge.

“He was never good at taking responsibility for his actions and those discs are just another example of it.” The Master continued, quieter, and slightly gentler. “I refuse to take responsibility for his suicide.”

“Nor should you,” Obi-Wan said quietly, “That wasn't what I said.”

They held each other's gaze in a silent battle of wills for far longer than was comfortable before the Master dragged his eyes away.

“I could have been kinder,” he admitted, his tone even.

“I agree,” Obi-Wan said coolly.

There was another uncomfortable silence before Mace broke it with a slight change of subject. “Did you say you hadn't finished them?”

“Yes, I- I’m about halfway through Barriss' and-" he stopped as Anakin's admission came to mind, making him feel sick again. “Did someone find her?”

“Yes. Funeral preparations are underway. She-" He sighed. “He didn't kill her. She had taken her own life.”

Obi-Wan froze as horror twisted in his gut. He tried to tell himself it was better than if Anakin had murdered her, but it wasn't, not really.

“You heard about the bombings, here at the Temple...” The Master questioned quietly, glancing around to make sure no one else was paying any heed to their conversation.

“The ones Ahsoka was found guilty of?”

Mace looked pained. “Yes,” he rasped. “It turns out Barriss was the actual culprit behind them. Anakin found out the truth after the trial and was closing in on her, and we don't think she knew that Ahsoka had escaped.”

“Oh,” Obi-Wan said sadly. “I’m not surprised she didn't know. It wasn't widely reported.”

Mace's frown deepened. “Explain.”

“I heard about Ahsoka's trial out on the Outer Rim late. I was on a planet that had disabled outside communications, and it wasn't until I got back to the Negotiator that I heard the report that she'd been sentenced to death. I did quite of bit of digging then, to try and find out what happened.”

"Out of curiosity, did you believe it?”

Obi-Wan's lip twitched but he managed to hold back a snarl. “Of course, I didn't. I knew Ahsoka, and she was no murderer. Anyway, I found nothing. There were no reports that the sentence had been carried out but there were none to say it had been appealed, and there certainly weren't any to say she had escaped. When I found out the truth on my last visit to the Temple, I was so very relieved.” He looked down at the small amount of porridge in his bowl and stirred it absently. “I regret not doing more for her when Anakin left. It may not have changed the course of the future, but someone may have reached out to me if we had been closer.”

“What else would you have done? I know she turned down your offer of an apprenticeship.”

Obi-Wan's eyes widened. “How- “

“She was a promising student, so when Skywalker left, she had numerous offers. She came to Yoda and me for guidance which was when we learned she was only seriously considering two: Master Plo and you. She agonized for days over that decision. We had never seen her meditate so much. I don't know what made her decision in the end, but honestly I was surprised. I thought she was leaning towards you."

Obi-Wan smiled sadly. He remembered.

Obi-Wan sighed when he saw Anakin's lost young Padawan sitting in the same place she was yesterday, looking unusually disheveled and extremely tired.

“Ahsoka,” he said softly, pulling her gently from her meditation she was drifting in and out of. “This isn't healthy, young one.”

The Togruta blinked back to awareness then abruptly yawned. “You're one to talk, Master,” she tried, but the sass was lost when she yawned again.

“I’m not at all sure of what you mean. You'll find I sleep solidly when we're back at the Temple,” he said with a smile, pulling her up.

“Or when Master is in your- Oh. Shavvit.

“It's alright, Ahsoka,” he said softly. “Come on, you'll be able to think more clearly once you've rested...”

“And once she made her decision, it was up to Plo to- “

“I still could have been a friend, Mace,” he cut in.

The Master gaped at him for a moment, then he let out a breath and seemed to sink a little. “It's a shame foresight isn't nearly as good as hindsight,” he muttered, "Perhaps if we'd all been friendlier..." He shook his head. “Look, Thank you for speaking with me this morning, even if it was not quite what I planned to discuss with you, it has been illuminative. I should let you get back to the vids. I hope to speak with you again, once you're done with them.”

“Some of the more interesting details have already been revealed to me,” he said carefully, catching the Master's eyes as the man rose from his seat.

Mace stilled, but he didn't sit back down. “But you haven't watched it all, so you don't understand,” he said shortly.

Obi-Wan frowned but he accepted it. Aayla and Qui-Gon had held a similar sentiment after all. Then, it occurred to him that there was still something he didn't understand.

“Before you go, you mentioned that Anakin was a danger to me. You meant me, specifically,” he realized aloud.

The Master nodded. “I did.”

"Why?”

“Because you are a shatterpoint too.”

“I- What?” Obi-Wan stuttered. “What?”

“You're a shatterpoint. And back then I was worried what it meant that you kept finding each other. Your friendship made me nervous, and hell when Palpatine pushed us to partner the two of you... I didn't sleep for days.”

“But that... changed?”

“Yes. During the war. You were unstoppable, together. The Hero with No Fear and the Negotiator. I started to think that maybe you were meant to be together. That maybe the two of you would bring about the end of the war... You tempered him somewhat. Anchored him. Things started to turn in our favor. Then he suddenly expressed his intent to leave and I didn't know what to think. I was torn between being pleased, and being worried about what he would do if he didn't have you to keep him whole,” he explained, his words ringing with honesty. He sighed again. “For what it's worth, Obi-Wan, I am sorry.”

Obi-Wan didn’t reply as Mace turned away, leaving the table and then the Commissary without another word. The Knight let out a small sigh and looked down at his bowl. He wasn't exactly surprised to find it empty, but he was a little disappointed. Shaking his head, he rose from his seat and took it over to the servery window where dirty dishes were collected to be cleaned. On his way out, he picked up some fruit and a couple of packaged meals that he could store for later. Then, he quickly walked back to his apartment.

After storing the food, Obi-Wan sat straight down at his table, braced himself, and pressed play.

“I know what you’re all thinking,” Anakin continued. “I don't even blame you after what I revealed on disc three, but I didn't do it. I didn't murder Barriss.” There was a long pause before he added, “but that doesn't mean I'm not partly responsible for her death.

“You see, just like most of you watching, I forgot to consider how some of my actions might affect someone else when they were in a fragile state. I even failed to realize she, as someone who bombed the Temple, might be more than a cold-blooded killer who threatened the people I care about. I forgot she was just a girl who was likely as traumatized by the war as I was and, just as I have, made some terrible decisions.

“Don't get me wrong, it doesn't make what she did right. Nor does it mean she shouldn't have been held accountable for the crimes she committed. But she did deserve to be heard, and I... Well, I wasn't listening.”

Anakin looked at the ground for a moment, his face marred by guilt. But not a second later, he took in a shaky breath and lifted his chin, his resolve returned.

“Barriss and I didn't cross paths until I returned in the aftermath of the Temple bombings. In the last vid, I mentioned that I involved myself in the court case that followed, desperate to help my former Padawan who I knew had been wrongly accused of committing the crime. Being as late as I was, I didn’t have enough time to figure out what had happened in time to save Ahsoka from being found guilty, so I had to find another way to rescue her from the death sentence she was given. It took time that I had to negotiate for, and a sacrifice that I came to regret, but I succeeded. It took more time, but once Ahsoka was finally free and safe, far away from Coruscant, I resumed investigating the bombings, obsessively.

“I wasn't allowed in the Temple anymore, but I had always been friendly with the pilots and hangar workers, and they were willing to talk to me. They recounted what happened, and told me about the man the Jedi believed had committed the crime. They said he had begun to question the War and the Jedi and the Republic, like many others. They also hinted that maybe I should have a word with his wife as she was often present among the protesters that staked the Temple,” Anakin revealed sombrely. “I followed their advice and it didn't take me to long to find her. She was, as they had said, anti-Jedi and the War, which, unfortunately, made her somewhat of a fan of mine. She praised me for leaving the Jedi and the fight... It was uncomfortable because I- I hated myself for it. I agreed though, and she- Force. She started to talk to me about Padme and how she knew what it was like when the person you loved worked for the other side. She... She told me she could help me with that, and after I pushed,” Anakin took in a steadying breath, “She revealed that she had fed her husband the nano-droids. That she had turned the man she loved into the bomb!”

“I was ready to hand her in at that point, I was going to march her to C-Sec with all the information she'd given me. But then, she said had more droids, and that she had help... She had someone inside the Temple. A Jedi.

“Not knowing exactly which Jedi, and not having many people left in the Temple that I felt I could go to, I said I was interested in knowing more, that I could-" Anakin swallowed roughly and shifted, wrapping his arms around himself. “that Padme trusted me, and that a bombing in the Senate would send as powerful a message.”

A shudder ran down Obi-Wan's spine at the very suggestion. "Dear Force," he muttered softly.

“It worked; Letta excitedly agreed to set up a meeting with the Jedi for me. But I've never been very good at espionage and I didn't think to tell her not to mention my name. So, my plan backfired.

“I realized that I'd made a mistake when no one showed for the meeting. I guessed that Letta must have said who I was and that Barriss had told her I couldn't be trusted. I felt something then, a familiar, cool uneasiness that had me racing to Letta's home. She was long dead when I got there, she'd been choked. I knew instantly the murder was the Jedi she mentioned. And that it was my fault she was dead.”

“I didn't leave her there, not like-“ Anakin’s eyes darted away, “I uh, I sent in an anonymous tip to C-Sec. Said I'd heard a fight and left it with them. They found her. It was reported on the holonet a few days later. I am sorry I couldn't have done more for her. I understood how she felt. I didn't agree with her actions, but I understood. The Jedi should be keeping the peace! Not fighting in the War! Not leading the fight! But that is not going to be stopped with more violence. It's not going to be stopped with more deaths either.” Anakin shook his head, frowning.

“Before I left Letta's apartment, I searched it, and I managed to find some of the Nano-droids that had been used in the attack. They were all I had to work with, now Letta was dead, so I reached out to Palpatine, told him what I knew, and asked if there was anyone, he knew that might be able to find a dealer for them. That was another mistake.”

“Oh, Anakin,” Obi-Wan whispered, his heartbreaking for his old friend.

“But I didn't know it then. I didn't know that these favors were all...” Anakin trailed off again and shrugged. “I'm getting ahead of myself again.” He sighed.

“Palpatine did know someone, and that being was able to led me to an arms dealer which led me to another, who told me a rumor that they'd heard which, eventually, led me to an abandoned warehouse.”

Anakin closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “After such a lengthy search I could hardly believe it when I opened one of the scattered crates to find it full of the tiny droids. I stood there in shock for, Force, I don't even know how long, right up until I was startled by the sound of a door opening. I immediately hid, but when I saw who it was that had entered, well, I did say I wasn't good at espionage.

“I confronted her – Barriss. I was so angry. She had been a friend of Ahsoka's! What sort of being left their friend to be put to death for their crimes? I yelled at her. I fought her – I had my lightsaber. I'd been carrying it ever since I'd started the investigation. And, while she was good, I was better. I won.

“I was so angry. I wanted to kill her. I told her I would – for what she'd done to Ahsoka. I told her that she had fallen – she must have done if she was able to do that to her friend. If she was able to attack the Jedi – to kill those that had raised her! I screamed at her that she should have just left!”

“Then,” he croaked, his anger dissipating, “She asked if I had left so that I wouldn't. She asked if I had left so that I wouldn't fall to the Darkside!”

“It caught me off guard. I didn't know the answer and I- She ran. She used my surprise and swept my feet from under me, knocking me down and she escaped. I chased her but she managed to jump on to a speeder that took her out of my reach. My rage returned as I watched the distance between us increase. I screamed after her that I wouldn't stop hunting her and that when I found her, she would pay for her crimes.” Anakin looked down. “She heard me. I see the terror on her face now every time I close my eyes.

“That was the last time I saw her alive.

“There was a message on her, when I found her. A suicide note. I didn't relay it in the note I left for the Jedi because it was addressed to me. It was mostly about me, blaming me, questioning me. But there is a part that you should all hear,” Anakin admitted. He fished around inside his pocket and pulled out a small comm. With a press of a small button, a holo projection of Barriss Offee appeared in his hand.

“I did it,” she began “Because I've come to realize what many people in the Republic have come to realize, that the Jedi are the ones responsible for this War. That we've so lost our way that we have become villains in this conflict, that we are the ones that should be put on trial, all of us! And my attack on the Temple was an attack on what the Jedi have become: an army fighting for the dark side, fallen from the Light that we once held so dear. This Republic is failing! It's only a matter of time...”

A cold chill shivered down his spine as he watched Anakin watch the holo of Barriss flicker away. A small pained smile pulled at the corners of his lips as he lifted his gaze, almost meeting Obi-Wan's. The intensity made him shudder again

“She was right,” Anakin said softly. “Far righter than she knew.”

Unsettled, Obi-Wan waited until Anakin disappeared then he pulled the player closer so he could change over the discs, putting disc five safely back in the box and yanking out number six.

“Four more,” he told himself quietly as he carefully set up the new disc. He took a deep breath, then hit play.

“I- I'm not sure how to start this time. You weren't like the others, you didn't mean-"

Two bangs on his door made Obi-Wan vault out of his seat and slam his hand down on the device controls, stopping the vid.  His head whipped around to look at the door, his heart racing in his chest.  “Hello?” he said, just loud enough that anyone standing at the door would here.

A series of familiar, energetic beeps answered him, making his brow furrow.

“R2?” he questioned, louder this time.

A happy whistle told him that he had guessed correctly so he strode across the room and pulled open the door.  Even though he was annoyed at being interrupted again, he couldn’t help but smile when the little droid whirred gleefully at him.  He’d never been as apt at translating the droid as Anakin had been, but he could tell it was happy to see him.

“Well, hello there,” he said softly, bobbing down so he could speak at its level. “It’s been quite a while since I’ve had the pleasure of your company.”

The droid whistled and beeped its agreement, then rolled forward, gently nudging him.

The droid had been a constant once, back when Anakin was healing, and afterward.  Padme had gifted it to him for his valor on Geonosis, or at least that was what she said. He had suspected at the time that it was more of a pick-me-up at a time when Anakin was so low. Either way, R2 had been a good friend to Anakin throughout the war and went with him everywhere. As a result, they had spent plenty of time together over the years.

“I don’t suppose you’re just here to say hello,” he sighed. “Did Senator Amidala send you?”

The droid blinked, then it moved its head from side to side in a way that was clearly a no. Obi-Wan frowned and his brow furrowed with his confusion. He had assumed wrong then. “Someone else sent you?”

The little droid beeped affirmatively. It nudged into his shoulder again, then reversed, spun around, and started heading down the hall.

Obi-Wan stared after it. “You want me to follow you?” he half-asked, half-stated. It was obvious that was what the R2 unit wanted from him, but he was hesitant. The last invitation he had received from a droid hadn't ended all that... well. And while it hadn't been wholy unpleasant, he would have happily lived without his earlier conversation with Master Windu.

Obi-Wan glanced back into the apartment at the box of Anakin's things sitting on his kitchen counter and Then over at the vid player. He bit his lip.

“I'm sorry but I'm rather busy right now,”

The little Droid stopped in its track and spun its head around. It let out a series of beeps and whirs and whizzes, which Obi-Wan somehow translated into ‘You have to come, hurry up.’

Obi-Wan sighed, surrendering. He grabbed his robe and threw it on. Then he pulled the door shut behind him and let the little droid lead him out of the Temple.

The sun’s height told him it was early afternoon, which was why it was still busy out and about on the streets, and the day was quite lovely. It conflicted with his feelings. He rather thought that it should be rainy and cold.

Almost an hour later, Obi-Wan had begun to think that the droid had lost his way, taking him up and back and around as he did, but finally, they arrived at a run-down set of apartments that made Obi-Wan's lip curl. It was a dump of a place, dirty and dilapidated, and the beings hanging around the front were most definitely spice users and or dealers.

“Lovely,” he commented as the droid swung right, heading down the little lane that led to the complex's entrance. He paused, looking up at the building to see if he could spot anyone who might be looking out for him. Unfortunately, most of the windows appeared to be tinted, revealing nothing.

R2 whirred at him quietly, likely prompting him to hurry up, but he didn't feel like rushing. He didn't like that he didn't know who was waiting for him. He couldn't really imagine Padme wanting to meet here, nor could he imagine Palpatine, Sith or not, in a place like this. And, he dared not think that somehow Anakin was alive, because he wasn't sure he could endure it.

The droid whirred at him again. He nodded, tight-lipped, then moved to follow it in the building. R2 efficiently hacked the elevator and took them to the thirteenth floor, beeping at him merrily as they rose, even though it was a rickety old thing that was likely to fail at any moment.

Thankfully it didn't. Upon reaching the thirteenth floor, the elevator shuddered to a stop and the doors opened (most of the way). R2 whistled in a way that could only be translated as ‘Go on.’

Obi-Wan nodded at the droid and stepped out to find himself in a narrow corridor that was lined with doors. Most were boarded up, but there was one that was held open by a doorstop and a bright, warm, light poured out of it. Cursing droids under his breath, he walked forward and entered.

“Hi, Obi-Wan.”

Obi-Wan blinked, then smiled, relief and warmth flooding through him as his eyes landed on a familiar face.

“Hello, Ahsoka.”

 

Chapter Text

 

 

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.

“Thank-

“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.

“Yes.”

“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… .”

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

“Knight Kenobi! Oh! It is good to see you!” C3PO rushed as he opened the door. “And your timing couldn't have been better. I have been most worried about Mistress Padme!”

Obi-Wan frowned. “Is she-"

“Through here,” the droid said as he pushed open the door further and waved him in. “She's just in the sitting room. I'm afraid she's fallen asleep on the sofa again, she has not said, but I think she may be ill.”

The gold droid quickly led him into a light, airy living room. It was decorated beautifully without being lavish, but the colors and styles felt more Padme than Anakin.  

“Padme?” He called as he moved across the room to the two cream lounges. He found the lovely woman sleeping fitfully on the larger of the two. She was on her side, the swell of her belly pillowed by the seat cushions.

“Padme?” he questioned softly. “Padme?”

When she didn't reply he gently placed his hand on her forehead and was surprised to feel how warm she was.

“C3PO,” he called.

“Yes?”

“Has she been here long?”

The gold droid looked over at Padme and then at him. “For just over an hour.”

Obi-Wan frowned. “I think you had best get a medi-droid. Just in case.”

“Oh dear!” the droid blustered in his usual panicked fashion before turning and hurrying away.

Obi-Wan shook his head at the droid, then focused back on Padme, using a touch of force healing to lower her temperature. It was enough to awaken her.

“Anakin?” Padme whispered dazedly, blinking open her eyes.

“No, Padme, it's Obi-Wan,” he replied softly as he picked up the dry cloth that was scrunched up on the seat next to her head and moved to the kitchen sink to dampen it again. While there, he pulled out a glass and filled it with water, and found a straw that she could sip it through. He was worried. He couldn’t remember where he had learned it, but he knew that such a high temperature was especially dangerous for pregnant women.

“Oh... It's been a long time since you visited,” she said tiredly.

Obi-Wan gently placed the cloth on her forehead. “I know. I'm sorry, Padme.”

Tears leaked from the corners of her eyes. “Me too,” she whispered. “For everything.”

Obi-Wan sighed and knelt next to the couch so that he wasn't looming over her.  Sitting back on his heels he placed his hand on her wrist. “I see Anakin did a wonderful job of convincing you it wasn't your fault.”

Padme squeezed her eyes shut. “I know he said that I wasn't allowed to take the blame, but in the end, I couldn't help but think that if I hadn't been so naive that things would be different.”

“He loved you, Padme.”

“Just not enough.”

“You know it's more complicated than that.”

“No, Obi-Wan. He didn't love me enough before,” she whispered. “He was convinced he did, but what we had, it wasn't what you-" she broke off and took in a shaky breath. “He couldn't let me go. Not even to protect me, Obi-Wan.”

Obi-Wan had never considered that Anakin's leaving could have been an act of love. The former-Knight had been so desperate to get out, it had seemed more like he was protecting himself than others. But maybe Obi-Wan had been wrong. Maybe Anakin had left for him.

His confusion must have shown on his face because when he refocused, Padme was studying him, looking far more awake than she was before. “Have you not... You said-"

“I have a few more to go,” he admitted quietly.

A tear escaped Padme's eye and rolled down her cheek. “I found them hard too.”

Obi-Wan reached out and wiped it away. Touching her too-warm skin reminded him again that she was unwell. “Here,” he said, lifting the water and straw that he was still holding so that she could drink from it. “Are you able to take anything to lower your fever?”

Padme took a few sips then nodded slowly. “There is some paracetamol in the cupboard above the sink. I meant to get some before but I was so tired.”

Obi-Wan frowned, and glanced at the door, wondering how far away the droid was. “I had C3PO go get a medidroid but perhaps it would be best to go straight to the medcenter,” he suggested.

Padme choked on her sip. “No. Please. The galactic media will be all over me and I just can't, Obi-Wan. They've been so cruel since Anakin passed,” she cried, tears now falling freely.

Obi-Wan frowned. He understood that the reporters could be terrible but she was fading and that was far more important right now. It did reveal how hurt she was though because the Padme he had known didn't stress about what was said in the tabloids. “What if I took you to the Temple? The Jedi healers could help you..”

The mention of the Temple seemed to light an angry fire inside her. “It's a little late for the Jedi to be helping me, don't you think?” she bit back, unnecessarily cruelly.

“That's unfair, Padme. They- I didn't know you needed help before. You didn't reach out. Nor did Anakin.”

“How could we? You weren't easy to get in touch with on the outer rim.”

Obi-Wan flinched, but then resolve overtook him. “I know my failings. I'm trying not to repeat them but all I had left once Anakin went was my duty so I threw myself into it. You know better than most how terrible the fronts on the Outer Rim are. If not me then who? How many people would we have lost? Not that- I did opt to go there because I was hurt. But I don't want it forgotten that I stayed because I care.”

Padme looked pained like she wanted to argue but couldn't because she knew him well enough to know his words were the truth.

A silence settled between them so Obi-Wan moved to get the medication she had mentioned. When he returned to the couch he carefully helped her sit up and gave her the capsules which she took with a few more sips of water. 

“He didn't want to, anyway,” she revealed softly. “He wouldn't go to the Order and he wouldn’t talk to you. I begged him to at the end and he finally did, only to find it was too late at the Temple and run away before speaking to you, before asking for help. He says it in the vid – he didn't want to hurt you.”

“He never thought things through,” Obi-Wan muttered, somewhat angrily. “I mean honestly, what did he think this would do to me? To us?”

“I know,” she whispered. All of a sudden her arm shot out to grab the arm of the chair. “Oh, I-"

“Padme?” He moved to help her as she lowered herself down so that she was lying on her side again. He knelt next to her again.

“Just a dizzy spell. I've had them a lot throughout-" she waved at her stomach.

He gave her a strained smile. “For what it’s worth, congratulations.”

Padme closed her eyes and sent a devastated smile back. “Is it terrible that I-“

Obi-Wan felt his heart break. He gently reached out and squeezed her shoulder. “No, not terrible. And it's your right and choice. But I think if you wanted them before...”

The beautiful woman started to nod, then her face scrunched up and she began to sob uncontrollably.

“Padme,” he sighed, letting her shift into him so that her face was pressed into his chest. He awkwardly but gently ran his fingers through her soft curls, hoping it was affording her some comfort. “Padme, it will be all right,” he whispered.

“How?” she sobbed, forcing him to close his eyes to hold back his own tears. He moved his hand to her back and traced soothing circles.

It was then that the door flew open and C3PO hurried in with a medi-droid and, of all the beings in the universe, Palpatine.

Obi-Wan swallowed the strangled cry that was on the tip of his tongue when he first spotted the man. He looked worried, and Obi-Wan was suddenly horrified by the thought that he might want Anakin's child. Anakin's children will be strong in the Force.

“The medi-droid is here,” he said softly to Padme, then his tone shifted to one he would use with his men on the battlefront. “We should move you to your room,” he stated, slipping his arms under her waist and her knees.

Padme noticed the change. She blinked a few times, clearing her eyes from tears before gaping up at him.

“Are you alright, dear girl?”

Padme stiffened. Then she gave Obi-Wan the slightest nod, who carefully lifted her, bridal style.

“Apologies Chancellor, Senator Amidala is feeling poorly. I'll just get her set up with the medi-droid and we could perhaps have a cup of tea?

“I will put the kettle on,” the Chancellor said moving into the kitchen as the house was his second home. It made Obi-Wan feel sick.

“This way, Knight Kenobi,” C3PO said, motioning for him and the medi-droid to follow out of the living area and down a long corridor to the master bedroom at the back of the house.

“Be careful, Obi-Wan,” Padme whispered as he gently put her down on her (and Anakin's) bed.

He moved out of the way so the medi-droid could move in and begin its checks.

“You just worry about you and the little one,” he told her softly, before turning and heading back to the living area and Palpatine.

Obi-Wan approached the island bench that divided the kitchen from the rest of the large open plan space, and stood in the space between to stools, opposite the Chancellor who was pouring boiling water into two cups. He watched in silence as Palpatine added tea leaves to the water and shuddered when he noticed the man had chosen his favorite, wondering if he had known or if it was a coincidence.

“I did not realize that you and Senator Amidala were so close,” Palpatine said, not hiding the implication in the slightest. It was obvious he was seething, and Obi-Wan wasn’t sure if it was feigned, if the man was keeping up his facade of being Anakin's biggest supporter, or if he truly was angry.  To have found Obi-Wan here having an influence where he should not be welcome must have been unsettling for a man of clever strategy.

Suddenly, the thought he'd had early whispered in his ear: Anakin's child would be strong in the Force. If Palpatine's plans did involve the child then finding Obi-Wan, a Jedi, at Padme's side would likely be the cause of the Chancellor’s anger.

“We were good friends once, all three of us,” Obi-Wan replied honestly, thinking ‘before you destroyed us.’ “And Padme needs a friend right now.”

“She needed one before,” Palpatine lashed out harshly. “So did Anakin.”

“Yes, they did,” Obi-Wan agreed, refusing to take on any more guilt. Padme and he had already discussed this. And considering Palpatine’s part in everything he would not afford the man the satisfaction. Plus, if Palpatine was the character he played, he could have been a friend too.

The Chancellor sighed. “It is getting us nowhere, all this flinging back and forth of accusations. And I cannot fault you, should you want to take Anakin's place. Senator Amidala is a beautiful woman, and you would make a fine couple.”

Obi-Wan felt his cheeks color and he was so taken aback by the comment, he didn't have the willpower to stop it.  “I- no. Padme is not- She is beautiful but she is not my...” he trailed off, utterly embarrassed, both by the topic and his loss of words.

“That's... a shame. It would be nice if Anakin's child could be brought up by the two people that Anakin loved the most.”

Obi-Wan couldn't stop that comment from stabbing into his heart. Dear Force, he needed to regain some of the control in this conversation.

“That's what Padme and I were just saying,” he lied when he recovered. “I feel I owe to Anakin to protect Padme and the children from anyone who might try to cause them harm.”

Palpatine tapped the teaspoon once on top of his cup, signaling that he had finished, then slid the other cup across the bench to him.  Picking up his own, he took a few sips. It was all a ploy to buy him time while he considered his counter-argument. Obi-Wan had used the same techniques, himself.

“Would you leave the Order?”

“Yes,” he said without hesitation. It was the truth. If Padme asked for his help now, he would not be able to say no.

The man's eyebrows rose just slightly for a moment. Then he smiled softly, and Obi-Wan felt sick. “You could keep it a secret, you know, like Anakin and your relationship.  I could help you.”

“Keeping our feelings a secret didn't help Anakin… Or me.,” Obi-Wan pointed out. “I wouldn't want to repeat our mistakes. I would try to appeal to the Council, but if that fails, I would do what needs to be done.”

“As someone promised to protect you, I am pleased,” he said kindly. Obi-Wan felt a cold shiver go down his back. He had momentarily forgotten Anakin's appeal to the Chancellor. He supposed that would be on his vid too. “But as Chancellor, your leaving the Jedi presents a great deal of problems which will be tedious to address. You are one of our greatest Generals and losing you would be a significant blow to the war effort.” Palpatine took another sip of his tea. “I must admit, I am surprised the Council hasn't ascended you to Master. After all you've done in the war surely you deserve it.”

“I haven't had a Padawan. It would not be right.”

“Ah yes. Anakin mentioned you refused to take a student during the war, that you would wait. He did not understand. Not when young Padawan Tano brought him so much joy.”

“But you would be an amazing master. Ahsoka loves learning from you. I loved learning from you – I still do!”

“Let it go, Anakin. I'm not choosing a Padawan now. Perhaps when the war is over.”

“But you're alone out there. If you have a Padawan at least I know someone is looking out for you.”

Obi-Wan looked at Anakin, thinking, not for the first time, that he had been knighted too young. “I think you're supposed to be looking out for them, Knight Skywalker.”

Anakin looked sheepish. “Yeah well, it goes both ways.”

“I think he came to understand my wariness in the end, Chancellor. War is no place for children.”

“But didn't you take on much of Anakin's training, and much of Padawan Tano's. It was part of his complaint – how good you were at teaching. He always thought it was such a shame. I’m sure he was shocked when you didn't take on Padawan Tano after he left. I certainly was.”

Obi-Wan didn't reply, instead, he stared down into his teacup, feigning that he was lost in memories again. It was better than the alternative. He couldn't risk Padme's life or his. Not when all that stood between Anakin's children and Palpatine was Padme and him.

“I was sorry to be part of her trial,” Palpatine continued, with the perfect amount of remorse in his tones. “I knew she had to be innocent, as Anakin insisted, but all the evidence... Such a waste.”

Obi-Wan’s hand went to his lightsaber without permission, but he managed to stop himself from lighting it this time. Unfortunately, Palpatine caught the movement. He smiled sadly. “You do tend to let people down, don't you Knight Kenobi,” he said before finishing his tea in a final gulp. “I do hope you do better this time,” he added, looking pointedly towards Padme's room.

It was then that the medi-droid burst out the doors. “Sirs we must get the Senator to a medcenter now. I have called for an ambulance. One being may accom-

“I’ll come,” Obi-Wan volunteered quickly. He knew it was the right thing to do when he saw the frustration, and underneath that, fury, on Palpatine’s face.

“C3PO do you remember where my apartment is in the Temple? “

“Yes, of course, Knight Kenobi.

“I need my bag, just in case I have to stay at the center. If you could go and get it, I would appreciate it. I have a droid who can assist you when you get there.”

“I'll go right away, Knight Kenobi.”

“Thank you, C3PO.”

Obi-Wan froze when he felt a hand land on his shoulder and squeezed.  The Knight turned his head to look at Palpatine whose expression had shifted, he was back to being the caring grandfather that Anakin believed him to be “Is there anything I can do, dear boy? I can come to the medcenter if you-“

“No, it is alright,” Obi-Wan cried quickly, cutting him off. “Your time is valuable and I have nothing more pressing to do.”

“Helping you will never be time wasted,” Palpatine told him with a kind smile. “But I do have some tedious responsibilities that I should return to. Comm me when you know more?”

“Of course, Chancellor,” he said as he pulled away, following the medi-droid as it pushed Padme on a stretcher towards the exit.

 

 

Padme was rushed into the maternity wards ICU and quickly hooked up to a multitude of machines. According to the nurses along with her high temperature, they had found her blood pressure to be much too high and they suspected pre-eclampsia, if not eclampsia. They hadn't explained exactly what that would mean but he could tell from their concern, heartbreak, and sympathy that it was going to be touch and go from here.

Obi-Wan had refused to leave her side, determined to do the right thing this time around, even though it tore him apart. He felt so powerless sat next to Padme's bed watching as she slept while the medicines and fluids running into her through fine veins. Under the harsh white lights, she looked so very tired, even as she rested with dark shadows under her eyes and a frown on her lips. But at least he was here this time. He was present and doing everything he could which was more than he could say he had done for Anakin and Ahsoka.

Speaking of his two friends, C3PO had bustled back in with a bag from his apartment which had undoubtedly been packed by Ahsoka. It contained what he needed, along with the discs. He had felt uncomfortable with the idea of watching them here at first but as the hours ticked by he found it harder and harder to resist them. He wanted to finish them. He wanted to bring all of this to an end.

Eventually, he gave in and rifled through the pack. He pulled out the player and the next disc and set it up on the bedside table. Of course, he had been just about to press play when he was interrupted by a nurse and doctor who came in noisily, quickly studied Padme's vitals, and told him that “we'll have to wait and see.”

Since then, he'd been struggling to tear his eyes away from the Senator, afraid that she might drift off without him watching, and that he might miss out on the chance to save yet another one of his friends. But as he carefully learned to read the data being collected by the different machines he was eventually able to reason that they would beep furiously if anything went wrong. So he held his breath and clicked play.

 “Like Master Windu, you, number 7, decided I was not to be trusted at age nine,” Anakin started, which prompted Obi-Wan to sigh in relief. “Not once did you offer me help, not even when I sought it, and it had an impact on many of my choices. I don't understand what made me so unworthy when you had so much time for others. I'm not sure if it was something I did or the way I asked. I wish you could have told me, so I could’ve just fixed it and we could have both been more settled. But you didn't, and it was your unwillingness to help that makes you, Master Yoda, a reason why.”

Yoda had not been pleased when Anakin had been first brought to the Temple and he'd never hidden the fact that he wasn't happy with him remaining either. Between them for a short time after Anakin had been knighted, but the moment Anakin announced he was leaving, Yoda returned to being cautious and critical. It had been difficult to watch, and there had been numerous times when he wished he had said something to the Master.

“Unlike Master Windu, who I'm sure has ignored what I said in his vid, putting it down to me being my usual painful self, I think you'll listen and I hope you will learn something from my plight. If you don’t, well, I’m sorry to say there is little hope of the Jedi Order surviving. I'm replaceable, you see. There will be another me in however long it takes Palpatine to groom and mold someone else into the apprentice he wants. Maybe they won't be as devastating as I might have been... Maybe they will be worse. I'll never know now, but I hope for your sake, for the good Jedi, the ones like Obi-Wan, Ahsoka, and Master Plo who truly care, the ones who give and give and give even when they shouldn't, I hope it survives. They deserve a bright future, not one that is steeped in darkness.”

Anakin looked so solemn and his words were spoken clearly and concisely. The pained and angry Anakin that Obi-Wan had left on the last vid without finishing was gone, replaced by an eerily calm one that reminded him of the quiet before a storm.

“Those first years I was at the Temple, all I really knew about you was that you were always watching. Every time I turned around you seemed to be there, your thoughtful eyes looking at me full of worries. I don't think I'll ever know what you were looking for, but I knew what you saw. You saw Qui-Gon and I clash, and you saw him neglect me. You saw the other Padawans tease me and make me feel unwelcome.  You saw me fail and fail and fail because no one helped me succeed; because no one seemed to want me to succeed. Not until Obi-Wan stepped in. Then you watched as Obi-Wan picked up the pieces of me and put them back together, over and over and over again. You watched as he helped our Master and how that in turn helped me. You saw him help me make a friend, and you spied him supporting me as I healed after the fight with Dooku. You watched on with fear when I was knighted with the galaxy falling into war around us. You frowned when I took on a Padawan. And you closed your eyes when you realized that I was "attached” to Obi-Wan, to Aayla, to Ahsoka.

“But that was better, wasn't it? It was better when I was attached to three Jedi who were so light because I couldn't possibly get lost in the dark.

“I know you'd say that that isn't how it should be. I know I'm supposed to stand in the light on my own. I’m not sure why I couldn't. Maybe you were right, maybe I was too old or too scared when I arrived. Or maybe it was because the Order destroyed my light with its cold cruelty. Or maybe it was Palpatine's dark influence. But I didn't seem to be able to find it on my own...

“Except, I did get close once, didn't I.

“That's why you turned a blind eye to Obi-Wan and me, even though you had seen that too. Because I wasn’t attached, was I. Obi-Wan loved me like my mother did, selflessly, and slowly, I learned to love him the same way. I suppose the comfort it brought made you conflicted. Knowing that the giant shatter point in your Temple was being held together by emotion, not peace, had to be unsettling. But it was worse when you saw me give it up. That I was letting go of the angel on my shoulder that kept me in check. The being who, with a bit more time and a little less interference, might have managed to mold me into the savior that Qui-Gon had once thought I was. But still, you didn't say anything.  Not to me, not to Obi-Wan who would have listened to you more carefully than I might have, not to my Master who despite our differences, would have at least have tried to get me to listen.

“So, I didn't see what you did until it was too late.

“I didn't even realize there was a too late, you know. Not until you turned me away that day. The day I came to the Temple, desperate for help. I honestly would have accepted any, from anyone. The smallest gesture of kindness might have been I needed... I was such a mess...

Anakin was shaking slightly as he spoke and the tears were back in his eyes. “Maybe not though, because barely an hour before I came to you I almost- I only just managed to stop myself from murdering my wife not an hour before. I didn't know what I would do next if I didn't get help. So, marched through the Temple until I found you and I dropped to my knees, broken and penitent, and I begged...

“But you wouldn't hear me! You said that it was impossible for me to turn back! You tried to kill me!”

Obi-Wan hit the box so hard that the holo stopped and for a moment he was scared he had broken it

“I didn't like that part either,” Padme commented weakly from next to him, snapping him out of his horror.

He whipped around so he was facing her properly. “Padme! Are you-?”

There were tears in her eyes. “I- No, I don't think I am.”

He took her hand and squeezed because there weren't any words that could help.  “The doctors say you are pregnant with twins,” he told her softly.

Padme opened her eyes, surprise splashed across her lovely face. “Twins,” she echoed, amazement in her voice. “Two boys?”

“A boy and a girl.”

Padme smiled. “Anakin and I were both right then.”

Obi-Wan hoped his smile didn't look too pained as a picture of Anakin and Padme curled up together, discussing their future children, popped uninvited into his mind’s eye. He imagined it was a special moment for both of them, but it just stirred a symphony of feelings in him that he wasn’t sure he would be able to ever silence. Thankfully, Padme changed the subject before he could get lost in it.

“Why wouldn't Yoda help Anakin?”

“I don't know,” he replied honestly. “But Anakin has misconstrued things before. Perhaps there’s more to it than we know.”

“And if there isn't?”

Obi-Wan shifted uncomfortably. “I don't know,” he admitted, slowly lowering his gaze to the floor. “The Order- We- I failed him.”

“Maybe you did. But he failed you first, Obi-Wan” she sighed. “He says in the vids that he only sought happiness, but what he needed to be happy was complex.”

“He needed everything.”

Padme gave a strained nod. She looked so very ill.

“Obi-Wan,” she whispered suddenly, tears in her eyes. “If I don't- Can you make sure they're safe. You don’t have to raise them, just make sure they are safe.”

“Of course, I will,” he whispered, knowing he would have, even if she hadn't asked.

Padme let out a breath and relaxed back into the pillows, closing her eyes. “Thank you,” she rasped, then after a pause. “You should finish the vids, Obi-Wan.”

He took her hand and gently squeezed it, watching as she fell back into sleep. He sat quietly for a time, before shifting forward so he could reach the player that sat on the bedside table.

Turning down the volume, so it wouldn't disturb Padme, he braced himself for more pain and pressed play.

“I know I hurt you- badly - when I was escaping. I suppose that's why you haven't done anything with the information I gave you yet. Or at least, I hope that's why.

“I thought that Master Windu might have attacked by now if he knew. He hasn't come after me yet either which is strange. I'm not sure if that means you're leaving it to me. I was never very good at working out when I was being tested. If that was the case then I'm sorry. I'm just not strong enough. Maybe I have the power, the midichlorians, but I can't face him alone again. He will break what’s left of me and I will be lost to the dark forever.”

Anakin ran his sleeve over his face, but it didn't wipe away the brokenness or stop the tears from spilling down his face.

Obi-Wan felt them burning his own eyes. He knew what regret felt like.

“I'm sorry for other things too,” Anakin croaked. “I should have been better than this. I should have been able to protect Padme from me. I should have seen Palpatine for what he was. I should have done better at keeping in touch with Obi-Wan, with the Order. I should never have left. I should have sought help earlier, so, so much earlier...

“But it's too late for me to fix things. That's why I came to you, Master Yoda. Because all I can do now is try pass on the baton, try to find someone else who can save the galaxy from a dark fate.”

The image blinked away and Obi-Wan found himself hurriedly reaching for the bag C3PO had sent across for him. Desperately he rummaged through it, looking for his comm. Then, when he finally had it in his hand, he stood and walked out onto the room's small balcony and made a call.

“Oh thank the Force,” his Master answered. “I was starting to wonder if something had happened to you.”

“Plenty has, but it’s not...” he trailed off when he realized he was about to say it wasn't important because that was a lie. It was just- “I just need to know why Yoda hasn't done anything!” He exclaimed. “Why is he waiting?”

Silence answered him, and it carried on so long that he wasn't sure if the line had dropped out. “Master?”

Qui-Gon let out a strangled cry. “Anakin he- he didn't mean to-"

Horror strangled him as he jumped to what he hoped were impossible conclusions. “He didn't mean to what?!” he demanded, needing to know.

“Anakin killed him, Obi-Wan,” Qui-Gon whispered. “Yoda is dead.”