Somewhere between twelve and twenty-four hours after leaving the Jedi Order, Obi-Wan Kenobi walked into the Galactic Senate building.
The universe hardly stopped moving.
In fact, no-one seemed to notice, which wasn’t that surprising for several reasons. Firstly, while she was by no means late, Padme had arrived after all the other senators that actually did their job, but still about an hour before all the senators that didn’t.
Secondly, it was still ridiculously early in the morning for people who were not Jedi, fitness fanatics, or suspiciously productive.
And finally? Obi-Wan was sure that neither himself, nor his former padawan were nowhere near as famous as Anakin liked to make them out to be. In fact, outside of the context of the Order and the War, it would be a surprise to Obi-Wan if anyone recognised either of them at all.
All of which meant that Senator Padme Amidala, Mr Obi-Wan Kenobi, and a small army of political aides made it to her offices with no fuss whatsoever.
Obi-Wan barely had a chance to glance around checking for bugs before Padme beckoned him into her inner office. She closed the door after him, and smiled. “Take a seat, give me a moment.”
Obi-Wan stood, fiddling with the ends of his jacket, and missing his robes, as Padme opened the door again and asked someone to bring her a mug of caff and some tea. She glanced back at Obi-Wan.
“Black tea.” She called through, “Thank-you.” She said, before closing the door again. “I know I have the intercom, but that seems more polite. Take a seat.” She set her bag down behind her desk and sat down.
Obi-Wan looked around the room, noting the sofa and instead perching on one of the chairs in front of Padme’s desk. “So, Senator.”
Padme held up one finger, then retrieved a black cylinder out of her bag and set it on the desk, pressing the button on top, setting the jammer running. “Sorry, and it’s Padme, please. I’ve told you enough times.”
“Padme,” He smiled, tight-lipped and cautious. “What can I help you with?”
Padme looked at him for a few long moments, then sighed. “Today the results of Ahsoka’s trial is finally going to hit the news cycle. They can’t sit on it any longer. Almost certainly at the same time everyone is going to find out about the three of you leaving the Jedi. At which point they are going to question everything they know about the Order, and about yourselves.”
“I hadn’t realised it hadn’t broken.” Obi-Wan replied.
“Well, they are going to rip you to shreds, and both of us could use the company while that happens.”
“No-one is going to care enough for that to happen.” Obi-Wan insisted. “Chances are it’s already out on a small article on the holoweb.” He stopped before reconsidering. “It’s been longer than it should have been since I last did this, but was there anything you wanted a second pair of eyes on?” It seemed by far the most likely explanation for why Padme had really taken him to the senate.
Either that or she felt sufficient pity to try to help the man she hated.
It was possible. This was Padme.
She studied him for a moment, then closed her eyes for a moment. “If you’re offering. I wouldn’t mind a fresh set of eyes on these.” She passed a tablet with a short list displayed. “I’ve been through them all, as have Bail and Mon, but we could always do with another take on some of the additions. “
“Of course,” Obi-Wan took the tablet, and began skimming through the first of the listed papers.
Unseen, Padme looked at him for a moment, taking in the hung head, and the absolute concentration that clearly wasn’t, before getting on with her own work.
A few moments later a mug of caff was placed on her desk. Padme thanked the aide absent mindedly.
Obi-Wan took a sip of the tea, winced slightly, and put the mug down. After he’d finished this bit then…
When he finally remembered his now stone cold tea Obi-Wan had finally finished his first general overview of the first proposed amendment. He downed the cup, then glanced to see if Padme was busy.
He found her staring at the chrono.
“Yes.” Padme blinked, then continued in a much less curt tone, “Sorry Obi-Wan, just a little tense at the moment. What was it?”
“Just letting you know I’ve finished going over the first of the amendments you asked me to look over, if you’d like to compare notes.” Obi-Wan said.
She glanced back at the chrono. “Sure, we should have time. Let me bring it up.”
She’d barely gotten more than a few paragraphs in before there was a knock at the door. One of the aides opened it. “Excuse me Senator, Sir, but the session’s being moved up.”
Padme sighed. “I was expecting something like this.” She closed her tablet and gathered a few things into a bag. “Do you want to come with us, Obi-Wan?”
Obi-Wan considered the prospect of being in cramped quarters with Padme for hours on end. He considered having the eyes of the senate skate past him, of hearing their inefficiency and corrupt nature first hand. He considered not being able to say or do anything. Looking down at the list of papers Obi-Wan still had to go over, he made a decision. “I think I’d be more useful here.”
Padme looked at him for a moment, then forced a smile. “If I could avoid full senate sessions, I would too.”
And so Obi-Wan was left alone in the office. In a way it was vaguely reminiscent of his time as a Jedi Councillor. Except the office was plusher, and not his, and the work… Obi-Wan looked at the bill he was circling the sub clause of. The work was largely less important. Although who was trying to sneak in budgeting changes into a spaceport beautification bill? Not unsubstantial ones at that? He sighed.
He could leave. The thought had occurred to him. He could just get up, walk out of the senate, head down to the lower levels and go. Dex would probably know someone who could help him get off planet. Well, Obi-Wan re-evaluated, Dex would definitely know someone who could help him get off planet. He would probably introduce them. A week ago Obi-Wan wouldn’t have been worried. But a week ago…
He inspected the cold dregs of tea left in the bottom of his cup. Then he discarded it, instead picking up the tablet again and circling another suspect part of the spaceport beautification bill. He was beginning to think this was why so many of them were introduced, none of the sections had anything to do with Spaceport beautification.
He could leave.
He’d promised Padme one day. Maybe it was politeness, but he owed her that at least. To see this through. And then to get out of her life forever.
Wait a moment.
Obi-Wan froze then reread the part of the bill he’d just circled. He was so used to dealing with Legislation to do with the Jedi- He almost hadn’t noticed.
Surely that couldn’t be legal.
He began annotating frantically, before double checking everything he’d done so far.
A while later there was a brief knock on the door, Padme entered bringing in-
“Senator Organa,” Obi-Wan stood up as Bail shook off decorum and protocol to embrace his friend.
“I just heard. How are you doing?” The senator sat down next to Obi-Wan, discarding the tablet onto the table.
“It was the right thing to do.” Obi-Wan hoped, then added “it’s good to see you.”
Padme looked at them for a moment, then picked the cold cup up. “Do you want a fresh one? Bail, drink?”
Padme nodded and went to see about the drinks herself, leaving the two men alone for a few moments.
“I had no idea” Bail said the moment the door shut, “Before Padme told me that is. The Jedi have done a really good job of keeping this from the press. Especially after the whole trial affair. What-“
“Happened?” Obi-Wan finished the question that Bail seemed unwilling to ask. “Anakin found the real culprit, we all acted like fools, pretended we’d done nothing wrong, then asked Ahsoka back, she said no, Anakin did what he’d always intended to do and left after her and I couldn’t pretend that I was okay with any of this, that it could be fixed later, and followed them out.” Undoubtedly disappointing them both. At least he’d managed to do something for the men.
It had been the right- no. It hadn’t been the right thing to do. It had been the better thing. It was the best of the options he’d seen at that moment and then… Obi-Wan forced himself to maintain a neutral face. Going by Bail’s expression, he wasn’t succeeding very well.
Bail studied him for a moment. “You know there’s always room for you on Alderan right? Breha and I will always be delighted to see you.”
Obi-Wan weighed it up. Politeness or sincerity? Real or fake offer? It was Bail. He wanted it to be real, he wanted the offer to be real so badly, to know he had a place to land, a friend in the universe. He really wanted it to be an honest offer. But was it?
“The staff would probably prefer you didn’t bring half the swamp or a quarter of the army with you. But I mean it, you are welcome, press be dammed.”
Everything in the force told Obi-Wan that this was real. Did he trust the force? Absolutely. Did he trust his perception of it? A lot less. But this- this couldn’t be that much worse.
“I might just have to take you up on that offer.” Obi-Wan let himself say.
Bail hid his surprise well, but didn’t bother to try with his pleasure as he relaxed into a smile. “I’m going home-home tomorrow. The transport’s leaving very early from the senate’s hanger.”
“Very early I’m afraid.” Bail brought the schedule up on his personal comm and showed Obi-Wan.
“I’ll be there.” Obi-Wan promised. Alderan wasn’t the transport hub Coruscant was, but he should still be able to catch a transport to a major way station and change to wherever he wanted to go. It wouldn’t hurt to have a few days off. Get his head together, centre himself, evaluate the options and then go.
And the offer was genuine.
He had a friend!
He had a friend.
Bail talked over a few more details, before gentling steering the conversation in the direction of more neutral topics. Unfortunately for that aim, the talk of transports reminded Obi-Wan of the bill he’d been looking over.
“Are they usually like this?” Obi-Wan asked as he scrawled through his notes to find the section.
“The space beautification bills?” Bail said, “Usually, although this one is on the worse side. There’s a reason so many of these get proposed and so few passed.”
“Welcome to politics,” Padme said, putting a pair of steaming cups down.
“So far it’s been proving me right.” Obi-Wan accepted the cup, wrapping his hands around it.
Padme picked her notes up from her bag where she’d left them. “Are you ready to compare notes?”
“Sure,” Obi-Wan said, “Shall we start with this mess?”
“Mess is the right word for it.” Padme scrolled to the right page. “The first issue I’ve got is, somewhat unsurprisingly in section 0.4.”
“I’ve got it, yes.” Bail agreed. “It looks a fairly standard financial adjustment clause, the only question is, is it worth fighting about it?”
“That depends,” Obi-Wan said, scrolling down to THE Section, a couple of pages down, “If this is what I think it is?” He passed the pad to Padme instinctively.
She read the tapped paragraph. “That wouldn’t do anything on its own. It’s a whole load of nonsense about- “ She broke off, picking up her pad and scrolling desperately for something. “Oh -”
She passed it to Bail who’d snatched Obi-Wan’s pad out of her hands.
“That’s not a good combination.”
“I. would. Say. That. Was. An. Understatement.”
“Padme,” The anger might have been cold instead of hot, but Obi-Wan got a sudden new insight into just how well matched her and Anakin really were.
“Not here.” Padme stood up. “Not here.”
Bail stood up. “I’ll get the others, Obi-Wan, will you join us? I might not be able to go home until this is resolved.”
Obi-Wan stood, and took his pad back, then set it to onto screensaver. He held it for a moment, fiddling for a moment, before looking back up. “I wouldn’t have expected you to. Given I take it you don’t want me at the meeting, if you’ll excuse me, I should check in with Dex.”
He held the pad out to Padme who took it automatically before realising. “Obi-Wan!”
The man stopped his approach to the door and turned around, scarcely believing. A sliver of hope wormed in despite all attempts to banish it. Instead of letting it show, Obi-Wan smiled politely, and simply said: “Yes?”
Padme smiled and walked over to him. “Sorry if this is a bit much, I know how little you like this sort of work.”
“I’m glad to have helped,” Obi-Wan said, itching to get out of there. If he stayed much longer….
“Thank-you,” Padme swayed a little, then lent in and kissed Obi-Wan gently on the cheek. She then tried to hide the face she made at the bristles.
Obi-Wan caught the gesture and almost laughed, saying before he could help himself. “Now I know why Anakin stayed clean-shaven, despite the teasing.”
Padme blushed slightly, “It wasn’t just that…”
“Ah,” Obi-Wan smiled, genuinely this time, with shared amusement and understanding. Maybe he had overreacted, maybe it was nothing. After all it was Anakin’s home too. He was perfectly entitled to keep the braid, it didn’t necessarily mean he hated him, just that – Just that he didn’t care about him, or the Jedi Order, and had lived a full hidden life away from them for years.
The smile slid off his face.
He coughed. “I’ll let you know if Dex has any relevant information.”
“Thank-you,” Padme said before Bail looked around from being very absorbed in the window.
“See you later,” Padme said
“Goodbye.” Obi-Wan looked directly at Padme for a moment, then looked down. “May the Force be with you both.” And with that he turned around, walked the final few steps to the door and left the office before they could stop him.
He’d wanted to stay. He’d wanted to go with Bail, but he’d wanted to stay more. But he couldn’t. If stayed any longer he’d have said something he’d regret for the rest of his days.
It was fortunate, he thought as he walked down the corridor, that his memory was good enough to remember not only how he got in, but where the service exists were. Obi-Wan smiled politely at the aide as he turned the corridor. He was grateful for the clothes Padme had lent him as well, he was attracting enough double looks as it was.
The lower in the senate building Obi-Wan got, the more people seemed to stare. He was barely a floor above where he needed to be and the last group of people he passed had actually stopped to gawk, before resuming talking.
He sighed. Clearly he needed to get used to what life was like living outside the Order, and the brothers.
Finally he reached the door he was looking for, and slipped out onto the street.
Two hour later, he walked into the diner, ordered the appropriate special, and sat down in the appropriate booth.
It was always so soothing to come here, the place hadn’t changed. Sure somethings had been replaced, but, if not for the hygiene improvement, well, he wouldn’t have noticed. But then, he hadn’t always been the most observant Padawan, or Knight, or Jedi Master, and now… Now he glanced up at the new lightshade and wondered if he was going to be a more perceptive civilian. He’d certainly had a good start.
A familiar Besalisk sat down. “You’re all over the news.”
Ah, that explained the glances. “What are they saying?”
Dex shrugged. “Depends on the channel. Your Order’s not coming out good.”
“It’s not my order anymore.” Obi-Wan said quietly.
“So that bit’s true. Some channels are reporting half the order having stormed out and gone to the separatists.”
“As far as I know, it’s just me, A- Skywalker, and Ahsoka Tano. And none of us are going to the Separatists.”
Dex patted his outstretched arm gently.
“That being said, I was wondering if you knew of any ships going to the midrim looking for a general workman, or-“ Obi-Wan pulled a face- “A second pilot. Doesn’t matter if it’s a conflict zone.”
Dex looked at him for a moment. “I know a few. Just you?”
Obi-Wan nodded. “Just me.”
Dex frowned, then said: “There’s one going to Lothal, running supplies, tonight, and another one heading that direction tomorrow. It’s hardly the centre of the action, but there’s a ship going to a place called Tatooine tomorrow, if you’re looking for a break.”
“Lothal will be fine, thank-you.” Obi-Wan forced a smile, “Who should I contact?”
Dex gave him a comm number.
“Thank-you.” He entered into his comm unit for later. “What do I owe you?”
Dex shook his head. “For you, nothing.” He paused for a moment, looking around the diner over Obi-Wan’s head, then looked back at him, pausing as if going to say something.
Obi-Wan frowned, it didn’t seem like Dex to be so out of sorts, in all his years here, he’d seen very few things faze the former-smuggler.
“I haven’t heard anything about the politics, if you were going to ask. Other than you Jedi are going to have a recruitment problem.”
“hmm.” Obi-Wan considered it, and his own experiences within the Order. But he didn’t think of his own childhood. He didn’t think of his Padawancy, or Anakin’s padawancy. He didn’t even think of the Trial.
He thought of Lothal, and of Tatooine. He thought of Naboo, and of Serento, barely touched by the war, but irreplaceably changed nonetheless. He thought of Coruscant, and Alderan, were the upper crust considered the war merely political, but the general population had been feeling it for years. He thought of the friendships torn apart, of the families. Briefly he wondered what his own family would have been like.
He didn’t say: “good”. Instead, he muttered, “I think they already did.”
Dex nodded at that, and they exchanged a few more pleasantries, before he hurried away, leaving Obi-Wan to finish his meal alone.
Alone and in silence as it turned out. As Obi-Wan finished off the last few bites, and tried to pay for it, he leant what he could from the diner’s other patrons.
Apparently Chancellor Palpatine was having an affair with Mace Windu, and that was why the Jedi were able to get away with so much. Somehow Obi-Wan doubted it. The fact that he and Asajj Ventress were partners in every sense was new to him as well. He thought he’d have noticed.
Either way Obi-Wan Kenobi left the diner only a little the wiser as to what was going on in the shady underworld, but with passage off world, and better yet, it was passage to somewhere where he was needed.
This was going to be fine, he thought passing through the door onto the deck. There it was, the complete rust bucket of a ship.
He looked at it for a moment, and considered how likely it was that the antenna on the top was going to fall off.
Then he decided it didn’t matter.
The antenna wouldn’t effect whether or not they made it to Lothal, with the state it was in, it wouldn’t even affect whether or not they landed on the surface. It really didn’t.
Obi-Wan sighed once more, turned around and took one last look at the city that had been his home for as long as he could remember. The city where Anakin, Padme, Bail, Ahsoka, Vos and Garen lived. The only place he’d ever felt safe.
Obi-Wan turned around and walked onto the ship. He wouldn’t see Coruscant for a long time.
Padme Amidala got home from a very long day of work to discover that not only had her husband finished the upgrade on Threepio, but that he and Ahsoka had started work on another droid. Supposedly to do the cleaning.
Padme didn’t buy it.
“So what does Obi-Wan make of all this?” She asked looking at the mess that was usually their living room.
“Why don’t you ask him? He went into work with you.”
“He came home hours ago, before I went onto extra meetings.” Padme frowned. “He can’t still be at Dex’s.”
Anakin frowned, “He went to the undercity, and isn’t back.”
“It’s Ma- Obi-Wan.” Ahsoka said. “He’ll be fine right?”
“Of course,” Padme said, ignoring the nag in her mind,
“Yeah,” Anakin agreed, not meaning it at all. There was no doubt in his mind. Obi-Wan Kenobi was missing.
And if Obi-Wan was missing, he was in trouble, and if he was in trouble… Anakin itched for his lightsabre.
It wasn’t there. But that didn’t mean that he wasn’t going to do anything.
Padme caught the look on his face. “Give him until the morning.”
“It’s more than possible Dex had a contact for him or something, and he’s fine. Let’s give him until the morning before mounting a rescue operation.” Padme said, putting a gentle hand on her husband’s arm.
Anakin brushed it off.
But he no longer seemed about to charge out the door.
“The morning, we’ll go and find him in the morning.” Anakin swore.
It didn’t matter what trouble he was in, they’d always been a team, and, as far as Anakin was concerned, they always would be.