“I’m sorry... what?” Anakin stared at Obi-Wan’s back, mouth agape. The other man ignored him as he grabbed an assortment of tunics, leggings, and extra odds and ends to shove in his pack. Well, not shove. Obi-Wan had too much care for all his belongings to treat them so reckless. He was not packing lightly, though, either. When Anakin made no move to get up, Obi-Wan finally threw down the object he was holding to turn to him.
“We’re leaving,” Obi-Wan repeated.
Anakin knew, logically, that he had heard Obi-Wan, but he couldn’t have heard him correctly... Hell not five minutes ago he’d been blinking drowsily as he levered himself up on his elbows with a near frantic Obi-Wan hovering over him. He’d been sleeping and to be woken by Obi-Wan shaking him roughly, telling him they were leaving when Anakin knew he had two weeks of relaxation to look forward to was... mind boggling. A spark of anger at the council fizzled on his tongue and died a short life as he sighed.
Duty was duty.
And Anakin liked to bitch as much as Voss but he did what was required of him with little argument. Usually.
“... Another mission?” He grumbled with a yawn hidden behind his hand.
“No,” Obi-Wan said, and Anakin just picked up on the strain in its owner's voice. “We’re leaving.”
“Uhm... so not a mission but we’re leaving?”
“Where are we going?”
The entire time Obi-Wan just kept packing. His foot tapping out a rhythm that was one part anxious and one part restless. Anakin watched for a few seconds more before rising to the bait.
“Alright, alright.” He levered himself into a seated position as he ran a hand through his hair. With an amused huff, he started with the questions. “I’ll bite. We’re leaving what? Where? When?”
“The Order. Don’t know. And now.”
Anakin froze in a stretch.
I must not have heard that right, Anakin thought to himself with a snort and a wry grin. Obi-Wan could not have - Oh it must be a joke!
“Sure thing, Obi-Wan,” Anakin smiled at the elder man’s back, but that smirk quickly faded as he noticed Obi-Wan for the first time that morning. Really noticed his Master.
Years as his Padawan had taught him all his Master’s tells...
He was fully dressed in his travel clothes, hair and beard groomed, yet that was same-old-same-old, what really caught Anakin’s attention was the way his former master's shoulders were tensed, how he held himself loose as if awaiting an attack. As he turned to Anakin, the younger man noticed his eyes were crinkled at the edge, from exhaustion or stress or something else, Anakin hadn’t a clue but one thing was clear:
Something had changed.
Where was his sure and sane Master? Where was his Master that could stand in front of the Council, or a death squad, in equal measure? In equal deference?
“You’re not serious,” Anakin demanded with wide eyes.
Obi-Wan said nothing. Which clued Anakin in more than anything else.
“I assure you,” Obi-Wan finally turned his eyes to Anakin’s. “I’ve never been so serious about anything in my life.”
Well. That was a loaded statement. Anakin frowned but watched as Obi-Wan continued packing.
Anakin said, “We’re leaving the Order.”
This time, a statement.
A tight nod greeted his incredulous tone.
Anakin knew Obi-Wan like he knew his mechanical hand, front-back, and side to side. Add the extra sense of the Force Anakin allowed his mouth to drop open as he straightened severely. Obi-Wan was being truthful, clear in the force like a beacon unlike anyone had been in a long, long time, not since the war had started.
“You’re serious.” He whispered with a blink.
Thinking quickly, Anakin tried to piece together the story, but he was woefully under-prepared. He didn’t have enough of the pieces. Hell, he barely had a piece! What had happened? Who had pissed Obi-Wan off? Why was Obi-Wan deciding now, today, this morning, as the timeframe he was going to drop this bombshell? And most importantly... how long as Obi-Wan been thinking this?
Only one question came out of Anakin’s lips in a burst that was nearly static and just as loud.
Obi-Wan’s hand clenched. It didn’t escape Anakin's notice.
“Obi-Wan,” Anakin warned, telling him without words that he would be getting the story - no shortcuts so help the Force.
Obi-Wan sighed as he collapsed onto the bed across from Anakin, he swiped a hand down his face and leaned his elbows heavily against his knees as he took a breath. It was the most aggravation Obi-Wan had shown to Anakin in months, he usually was better at hiding it. Even exhausted. Even starved. Wounded. Obi-Wan was a master for a reason. Controlling his emotions, his facial ticks, and the Force was like breathing to him. But this was Obi-Wan without his guard up. This was Obi-Wan trying to connect with Anakin and tell him all he could.
Anakin's heart clenched.
It had been a long time since he had been allowed his Master's confidence so surely. Him being on the Council had limited their conversations to missions, life, and the war at large.
“It started with the Council meeting this morning.” Obi-Wan began to explain. “As you know the Council and I have been having our... disagreements as of late but, for the good of the Republic, for the good of our Soldiers, I have held myself in check.”
Anakin nodded, of course, he knew this. He was one of the only people Obi-Wan would bitch to about the council. Well, after a few drinks, anyway. How the man could put those drinks away, too. Obi-Wan kept his true feelings close to his chest at all times, ready and unwilling to play such a card. Getting Obi-Wan to reveal anything was a test in patience like trying to endear oneself to a frightened Nundu, a large feline like mammal from Naboo.
“Today they crossed a line,” Obi-Wan admitted.
His Master looked his age then. Not old, but ancient, way past his years, past his prime. Anakin got up and crossed over to sit next to Obi-Wan. The elder wasn’t one for physical displays of affection but he didn’t protest Anakin pressing himself as close as he could, nor the hand on his forearm, nor the gentle fuzzy feeling Anakin sent him through the bond they shared. He didn’t so much as flinch. Anakin was worried. There were very few things that would set his Master off completely without recourse or a moment to argue.
“What’d they want you to do?”
Obi-Wan was silent for a long while.
Anakin, for once in his short life, realized this was a time to be silent as well.
When Obi-Wan started speaking, Anakin still wasn’t sure what was going on.
“They wanted to fake my death. I was to go undercover in the heart of the Separatists territory and find why they have been so silent. Espionage and spying.”
That seemed... extreme but not horrible. Anakin frowned. It didn’t warrant a threat to leave the Order, but Anakin knew there had to be more to the story than that. Obi-Wan’s entire life was the Order. Duty above all else. To abandon that...
“Faking your death seems a little... excessive,” Anakin admitted but was still confused. It must have shown. “Doesn’t Voss do that on a weekly basis?”
That got a snort from Obi-Wan and a swift upturn of his lips, no more than a twitch. Obi-Wan gave Anakin a disapproving frown but Anakin just smiled wide. Shaking his head fondly, Obi-Wan patted Anakin’s hand, the cold sadness back in his Force presence.
It made Anakin itch to hug him.
Obi-Wan finally admitted. “You were not to know.”
Frowning, Anakin didn’t get it.
“Not know what?”
Obi-Wan looked at him then. His eyes sad, but furious, an equal measure of tightened control but leaking feelings.
“That I wasn’t really dead. They wanted your... reaction to sell it. They wanted you to believe I had died.”
That made Anakin react.
Stiffening, he stared at Obi-Wan. The sheer magnitude of what Obi-Wan was confessing to him didn’t even breach his mind for the first second.
What? Anakin couldn’t help but think. How? Why...?
He would have been lead to believe that Obi-Wan was dead. A pit opened in his stomach as he realized that the Council had wanted to make one of his worst nightmares come to life. A recurring nightmare, even. He had dreamt of his Mother’s death, and Padme’s death, and Obi-Wan’s death in equal measure and each stabbed his heart with a rusty shiv. He imagined it from the Council's eyes and knew exactly what they wanted him to sell. Obi-Wan dead, assassinated, and him unable to do anything. Only to live on as Obi-Wan laid dead. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to handle it. Not alone.
And who else would he have but his Padawan to turn to?
“Fuck!” Anakin snarled as he stood quickly, yet he didn’t move. He just stared at the wall. Fists clenching around air. Force . He would have reacted like a raging krayt dragon, like a mortally wounded bantha protecting the herd; just the thought of Obi-Wan dead was abhorrent to him. He shook it away like he would water on his cloak, dismissively.
Anakin had enough self-awareness to know he was quick to anger, prone to outbursts, and easily held grudges for the smallest of slights. It wasn't Jedi like, but Anakin wasn't always the best Jedi. He could imagine how he would react. Leaving the Order behind as he went on a mission for vengeance and swamped in anger, the Force sparking around him like the powerhouse he could be. He could image toeing the line of the dark-side, hearing the whispered sickly-sweet sound of pure-power, the power to do what needed to be done, for who needed to be avenged.
For all the Councils wisdom, they surely had to understand how close to Falling Anakin would shuffle towards.
Did that mean... did that mean they just didn't care? Or did they think him strong enough? Or did... Force, they didn't trust him an iota.
Everything dawned on him in a second. The truth tore at him, but it was a healing kind of wound. It bled because it was fresh, but it would heal. And it would only heal because Obi-Wan had refused to betray his trust, had refused to force him to believe such a horrible, oily lie. Anakin was not currently contemplating murder and anarchy and Falling because of the simple matter of Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan and his trust.
It hadn’t happened.
It wasn’t going to happen, either.
And Obi-Wan was the reason it wasn’t going to happen. His relationship with Anakin was too important. He had chosen Anakin over the Order.
Anakin felt himself soften up. Instead of betraying him, Obi-Wan had chosen him. Over the Order. Over his duty. Over... over the entire war effort.
“What’d you tell them?” Anakin asked, feeling unendingly tired.
Obi-Wan’s lips quirked. “I didn’t say anything. I.. I just left.”
He stared at Obi-Wan. Then, without prompting he started chuckling.
Anakin’s anger and ire was quickly smothered as he imagined the faces of every single being of the Council outlining their plan, watching Obi-Wan to see if their obedient little soldier would do as commanded, only to watch as Obi-Wan turned on his heel, giving them a good view of his backside, as he walked off. His chuckle turned into a laugh. He couldn’t help it.
“Oh to be a fly on the wall of that meeting!” Anakin laughed uproariously as he collapsed onto the bed. “Oh, Force, I can just see Master Yoda’s face! And Mace’s!”
And he could. The pinched lips, the frown, the brow dip - unruffled but also angry. Maybe someone had called out to him, too, to try and stop Obi-Wan from leaving. Maybe they had all been so shocked, too shocked, to call out.
Obi-Wan chuckled as well, running a hand through his hair nervously.
Anakin allowed his laughter to trail off, but this was certainly going to stay with him for a long while yet - it would be a nice memory to visit when he was angry at the council. Which would happen in probably the next hour or two.
Then it was silent, but it was cracked.
The tension wasn’t as bad, it bled, the humor of the situation was quickly leaving, just as it had come, but Anakin felt that the proverbial door had been opened to better conversation. Like, conversation on what the hell Obi-Wan had meant about leaving the Order.
Anakin felt his heart skip a beat.
“And this was the last straw?” Anakin asked, not allowing that spark of hope within himself to be flattened.
Obi-Wan leaving the Order first... well, where one went the other had to follow. It was logic. It was mote. It was... it was destiny. Obi-Wan and Anakin; they were as near as one as two. Obi-Wan had understood that, just as Anakin did. There was no question that he wouldn't be leaving the Order with his Master. He had stayed because it was his duty to see the war through, but if Obi-Wan was giving them both an out...
Anakin would take it. He would take it and run with it.
“It’s been building,” Obi-Wan confirmed. “First the clones. Finding them. Using them. Then us taking positions as Generals in the Army. The losses we’ve suffered. I barely recognize the Order of my youth. I thought if we could just make it through the war...”
Anakin nodded. He understood, a little, perhaps less than everyone else, but he got it.
“It just never stopped. The death. The destruction,” Obi-Wan sighed hand dragging and mucking up his hair. “We’re only two people and everyone seems to think we can save everyone.”
“It’s was always just one more day, one more battle - but it never ended,” Anakin agreed. "We were promised an end, but there's no end in sight."
It wore on a person. That’s what they are. People. Just... people. People with a duty bigger than themselves that crushed them, that weighed on them, that suffocated them.
And it was about to stop for Obi-Wan and him right now. With a smile, Anakin finally unclenched his fist and started to put together his own pack. Life as a Jedi meant few personal items, but what he had was quickly tossed in a bag. The image of his and Obi-Wan after his braid was cut, a rock from Ryloth, an extra glove for his cybernetics.
“Alright, I’m in. When do we leave? Can I at least put together a letter of resignation?”
"Letter of... resignation?"
"Padme told me about those," Anakin said, with a careless shrug. "When you leave a place, you tell them on paper, for... administrative purposes? I don't know. I wasn't listening very well."
Anakin didn't mention the reason why he wasn't listening very, well, perhaps later...
Obi-Wan blinked at him before grinning wryly. “I guess I should have asked you first rather than just coming in and telling you we were leaving?”
Anakin shrugged, unperturbed.
“You knew I’d say yes,”
"Anakin," Obi-Wan huffed, exasperated with his quick acceptance. "This is not a decision made lightly - "
"Obi-Wan," Anakin said in that same patronizing tone. Which shut the man right up. "Where you go, I follow."
"I do not want to push you into anything."
Obi-Wan shook his head, but Anakin could tell that a weight at been lifted from his shoulders. This war had done a number on all of them, but it had especially been hard for the two of them. From the Council graduating Anakin without Obi-Wan’s permission to meddling in their missions and separating them, to giving him a Padawan without consultation, to this - it was time for them to take a break.
Especially if that break was forever.
“... So how do we do this?”
Obi-Wan blinked. “Uhm.”
“Tell me you have an idea, at least,” Anakin said, with a raised brow.
Obi-Wan at least had the decency to look ashamed.
“I have no idea.”
They stared at each other a moment before Obi-Wan blushed. Then Anakin busted a lung laughing incredulously. Obi-Wan following a scant second behind. Laughter filled the small cramped space as Master and Former-Padawan both doubled over, laughing until they had tears streaming down their faces. Had anyone been eavesdropping they would have assumed the amazing-duo was just releasing some tension after a battle.
Nobody knew what was going to hit them.
Nobody knew the effect this simple decision would make on the war effort.
Not until it was too late.
“So we’re in agreement?” Obi-Wan asked after they finished outlining their plan. Which was less a plan and more an ‘if they say this then we say this’ kind of thing. Their duo worked more as a... spring the trap kind of partnership rather than plan for all contingencies. And they didn’t have anything planned any further than going into the Council room and then leaving.
“We’re in agreement,” Anakin said, nearly bouncing out of his skin.
Anakin and Obi-Wan’s bags were packed, their quarters tidied up to the same blank slate it had been in when they’d moved in. It had only taken them an hour if that, but they were ready. All that was left was to actually go to the council and tender their resignation from the Order. Which Anakin was still a little fuzzy on how they were going to go about doing.
The last person to leave the Order had been Dooku after all.
That sent a shiver down Anakin's spine. Look at what had happened to him... the darkside had eaten the man alive. And there was still a Sith Master around somewhere if the rumors were to be believed.
“Are you ready?” Obi-Wan asked because, of course, he wouldn’t ask what he really wanted to.
Are you okay with this?
Are you sure you’re okay with this?
Tell me in no uncertain terms you’re not just following me out of duty to your Master, Anakin.
Tell me you want this as much as I do.
The younger man heard every uncertain note in his former master's voice and he allowed himself one deep breath, one last breath as a true Jedi before he turned to Obi-Wan and smiled. If there was one thing he was good at, it was recklessly going where no one had gone before. Especially with his Master at his back.
“I’m ready, Master.”
Obi-Wan nodded once, sharply, before exiting, Anakin in tow.
“Back I see, Obi-Wan, you are,” Yoda greeted them both with shrewd eyes that were nearly... sad. “Brought, too, Skywalker you did.”
Anakin wondered if he had seen this coming to pass. If he knew what they were here for. It was clear that the others didn’t. Not an angry or fearful or smug face was in the audience. Every single council seat, save Obi-Wan’s, was facing them with blank, Jedi clear-facades. They were Masters for a reason, they wouldn’t show their hands early.
“You told Anakin didn’t you, Obi-Wan?” Mace asked, somehow managing to sound even more disappointed than usual.
“I did,” Obi-Wan confirmed.
Narrowed eyes greeted that statement. Murmurs surrounding them both. Yet the Force was calm, no turbulent waters. Not yet. This was an option that everyone had known could happen. It was a slim chance of it happening, for they had asked more of Obi-Wan before, but this was the last straw? Lying to Anakin?
Anakin was glad this would be the last time they would be in these exact positions.
“I didn’t appreciate my feelings and emotions being used like that,” Anakin told them, his voice curt. “Or planned to be used in such a way.”
“Skywalker, we are trying to end this war as quickly as we can,” Saesee Tiin said, peaceably. “It was decided as the best course of action. If there had been a better person for the job, we would have chosen them.”
There was a beat of silence.
“And lying to me was the only way to sell it?” Anakin demanded, feeling anger spark and quickly releasing it into the Force. He felt a little bereft without it, but clearer headed.
“It was the best course of action.” He was told.
This would be the point where either Anakin or Obi-Wan took that as the only apology they were owed and then it would be onto other business. Not today, of course. Today Anakin and Obi-Wan stood side-by-side and said not a word.
The first flickering of unease came from their right, but by then it was too late.
“I - We have put up with much this council has decided,” Obi-Wan began, too good to sneer, but Anakin knew his inner-sneer was raging. “I have stood by while we have gone to war. While we have used clones, nothing more than slaves, to fight our battles for us.”
“That’s not true!” Someone cried, but if Kenobi heard he did not stop.
No one else interrupted, and Anakin knew that was because they agreed. Even if it was just a little bit. Deep down the Council knew their directions were not right.
“I have allowed Anakin and I to be sent on separate mission when everyone in this council room knew the probability of success would have been far better had we both gone. I allowed you to knight my Padawan early because I felt it was a necessary evil. I have allowed you to sway me to your thinking, I have allowed you to do what you must, because we needed to win this war. But we haven’t won this war. We aren’t any closer to winning this war then we were a month ago, a year ago.”
Obi-Wan let that stand for half a second. The statement he spoke the truth.
“We have fallen far from where we should be. As Jedi. As citizens of the Republic,” Obi-Wan proclaimed. “I cannot in good consciousness, nor with the blessing of the Force, continue.”
Anakin felt the room’s temperature drop. Watched the flicker of emotions crack through masks nigh-impenetrable. Saw disbelief, saw sadness, saw fear, saw confusion. It blossomed across faces like a slap. Quick, fast, one blink and he would have missed it.
“As of this moment, I am renouncing my vows for my council seat.”
The council looked pained, but nothing compared to when Obi-Wan continued. Yoda looked even older than before, sinking into himself as he sat silent and listened.
“Furthermore, as of today," Here, Obi-Wan took a calming breath. "I am leaving the Jedi Order.”
Though all present had understood what was coming, the gasp of disbelief as Obi-Wan followed through with his threat rippled through the crowd. Yoda’s ears had drooped. Mace’s hands on his chair dug deep in the steel. Depa stared, mouth agape. And many more of the Council sat in shock, the wave of confusion in the Force would have sent a lesser Jedi to their knees. But Obi-Wan and Anakin were exceptions to the rule; always.
Then, nearly as one, they all looked to Anakin.
Were they really going to ask him if he was going to stay? He had followed Obi-Wan all the way here.
Yet, still. It was Depa who asked, voice faint.
"And you, Skywalker? What do you say?"
“Where Obi-Wan goes, I follow.”
Her eyes darkened and Anakin felt a flash of pain, almost as neatly slicing as betrayal, that was quickly released into the Force.
It was the last straw. The mood in the room was nearly chaotic. In the span of five minutes, they had lost two of their most accomplished Jedi Knights, so Anakin understood it would be. But this was almost suffocating. Obi-Wan took a step back from where he had stepped forward to speak and was now side by side with Anakin. The distance between the Council and further together made the emotions... shareable.
It was Mace who rose, the only one who seemed able.
“This is preposterous Obi-Wan,” The man said. “You’ve disagreed with the Council before. You are angry. Please reconsider.”
“I’ve reconsidered too many times to back off this time.”
Mace seemed to understand Obi-Wan wasn't the weak link.
“And what of your Padawan?”
Anakin at least had an answer for this. He had thought of it last minute, but he had sent her a message telling her what was happening. It was only right.
“Ahsoka is a fine Padawan, she can make her own decisions,” He told the Council. “I’ve informed her of my decision. If she wants to follow she is more than welcome. I would hope that her Master's decisions would not be held against her should she want to continue training and come back to join the Jedi.”
It wasn't a threat, but Anakin knew it was a promise. If the Council so much as tried to use his Padawan as a bargaining chip they'd see the Anakin Skywalker the rest of the world saw.
Ki-Adi-Mundi stood. Mace inclined his head, allowed him the floor.
"Do you do this out of spite, Obi-Wan or to truly be heard? Because we are listening. What would you have us change, to have you stay?"
Anakin wondered, faintly, if they even hoped to keep him. If they thought Obi-Wan was the catalyst. If Obi-Wan taking back his words would make him want to stay too. It hardly mattered, but Anakin realized it did. They had betrayed him before they had even consciously decided it.
Palatine's words echoed in his head: The Jedi Order doesn't appreciate you, dear boy, and I find that a gross injustice.
His friend was right.
"You think I have made this choice on a whim?" Obi-Wan asked, with an amused upturn of his lips. Anakin recognized it for his politician-face. The one he wore when he was dealing with a particularly nasty person who refused to see reason. "You think I have not been meditating on this decision, begging for a different option, for a different fate?"
The council room was once again silent.
"I did not make this decision now, I made it long ago. I am just finally acting on it." Obi-Wan said, bone weary, once again. "There is nothing you could say to make me change my mind, no."
Depa called out, this time. “There nothing we can do to convince you to stay?”
Anakin realized it was aimed at him. He jolted back to the conversation and blinked owlishly.
"You can hardly imagine I'd stay without Obi-Wan?"
No, they all seemed to concede. They hadn't.
"Nothing, hmm?" Yoda questioned, for the first time. "Much anger I feel in you. Hasty, this decision is. Sleep on it, you should."
It was good advice, and had Obi-Wan been less tired he might have taken it. As it was, Obi-Wan had made up his mind and wasn't about to backtrack now.
Obi-Wan’s mouth was a firm line. “No, I’m afraid not Master Yoda.”
“Where will you go?” Depa asked those deep soulful eyes of hers saddened.
Anakin was the one to answer with a wry grin. “You don’t need to be a Jedi to be a General in the Republic army.”
"You wish to continue in your capacity as Generals?" Mace questioned. There was a feeling of relief, as if they really thought they would shirk on all their duties so easily.
Anakin shrugged. “We’ve already discussed staying on for the war, but we do not want to be associated with the Jedi Order any longer.”
Obi-Wan nodded with him.
“This was the last straw.”
There was nothing new to say. Nothing that had not already been hashed out. Nothing they can take back.
:Off we go, I think,: Obi-Wan sent to Anakin. He sent an affirmative and after waiting a moment, they turned away. In that eerie synchronicity that had created their legacy, they walked away, backs to everything they had known. One foot in front of the other until they were outside the room and the door closed behind them with an ominous whoosh.