"I've been here since the beginning," Senator Organa explains to the Jedi while Rex watches from the side. "I was having talks with the christopheans, I was hoping to change their minds about joining the Confederation before it was too late – but then the blockade started. I was there, the Governor's house, when Kenobi landed."
"Did you see him?" General Vos asks sharply.
"I did, several times," Organa agrees with a sigh and runs a hand over his neatly trimmed goatee. "I was right in the thick of it until Governor Calleisa permitted Kenobi to land his troops and ordered me to leave. Obviously I didn't – I hoped to establish a relief effort pre-emptively, in case worse came to worse."
Vos folds his arms while Skywalker eyes the Senator silently from under his hood. "Tell me about Kenobi. What did he do, what moves did he make? Did you see his forces?"
"At first, he argued me more than anything," Organa admits and then explains, "The christopheans were still divided on the matter of the Confederation – the blockade of their planet didn't exactly make them happy, and as far as I can tell no one here looked forward to any sort of land warfare. Kenobi argued that it would be inevitable, as long as they wanted their independence. We butted heads about it until finally… the Governor took his side."
"And his troops?"
"I saw the drop ships land, I saw some of the barricades being made. I couldn't tell you exact numbers, though, I'm sorry – I only saw them afar. One of the buildings downtown was fortified and secured heavily for what I assume was to be some sort of command centre, but…" Organa trails away. "Soon after they started securing the streets and I had to move further and further back. Unfortunately I can't really tell anything more about their forces – nothing you don't already know."
"Hmm," Vos hums, frowning.
Skywalker clears his throat. "Can you tell us anything else?" he asks. "About him?"
Organa glances at him, looks him over, and judging by the look on his face, recognizes him. "He wasn't alone," he says then. "He had a woman with him – Commander Asajj Ventress she was introduced as. Dathomirian, I believe, judging by the tattoos. I suspect she's his second in command. She… has a set of two lightsabers."
That catches both of the Jedi's attention. "Lightsabers," Vos says and folds his arms. "Red?"
"I couldn't tell – they were never used. I just know she has them," Organa says apologetically. "They were obviously designed as a set, though."
"Did Kenobi have a lightsaber?" Vos asks.
"Not that I ever saw," Organa says with a shake of his head.
Skywalker looks down at the floor while Vos thinks about it, looking grim. "Could be a new apprentice," he muses, casting a look at Skywalker. "Strange, though, for her to carry lightsabers – but not him."
Skywalker says nothing, folding his arms into his sleeves.
"Well, we'll deal with it when it comes down to it," Vos says and looks up at the Senator. "Thank you, Senator Organa. I don't think it's an option for you to leave the planet now – it'll be a while before the orbit is safe again. Stay here, at the base camp – it's safest here."
"Thank you, Master Jedi," Organa says and bows his head. "I am still hoping to reach the christopheans, maybe even Kenobi himself and perhaps bring some order to this chaos, but… hopefully I will be of some use in the meanwhile."
"I'm sure you will be," Vos says and glances at Skywalker. His eyes narrow a little and then he turns to Organa again. "You think you could reach Kenobi?" he then asks.
"We talked briefly in private. He seemed reasonable, if… ideological opposed," the senator muses and looks away – not so surreptitiously, at Skywalker. "Peace might yet be an option, if an avenue of communication can be established."
Vos narrows his eyes for a moment, glancing at Skywalker, and the silence that stands between the two Jedi is charged with unspoken spoken meaning that Rex can't begin to tangle – but can very well imagine. And Vos' next words certainly put them into perspective.
"Well, Skywalker?" the elder Jedi asks, the skin around his eyes tight. "Could you reach your Master?"
Skywalker turns, his face impassive in the shadows of his hood. "The communications are cut," he says, his voice very level.
"I'm sure you could figure out another way," Vos says and makes a sort of roundabout motion with his hand. "You and Kenobi went on number of undercover assignments – I'm sure you have means to communicate beyond mere comlinks."
Skywalker looks away.
"Think about it," Vos orders and turns to Organa. "Come, Senator. Let me show you around the base camp."
He leads the alderaanian Senator away, leaving Skywalker alone with the few clones about, most of whom hover about awkwardly and then head back to their tasks. The younger General doesn't even try to follow his fellow Jedi or the Senator, looking away instead.
"Sir," Rex says quietly.
"Yeah," Skywalker agrees and bows his head for a moment. "Open lines of communication. Very diplomatic."
Rex says nothing for a moment. It's not like he's blind, it's not like Vos has made any efforts to hide his agenda. He doesn't care about Christophis, beyond duty – what he wants is Kenobi. If Skywalker came up with means to communicate with Kenobi, Vos would try to use it to lay a trap.
"Sir," Rex says quietly. "General Kenobi is our enemy."
Skywalker's shoulders slump a little, and for a moment Rex imagines he can actually see the pressure the man is under as the Traitor's Padawan. For all that their superiors had expounded on the importance of Christophis, it's obvious that his whole engagement has been planned from the first to get at Kenobi specifically. Vos, Skywalker, 212th – they'd all been diverted to this place the moment they'd known for sure Kenobi was present.
And Skywalker is the bait in their trap-to-be. A very awkwardly positioned bait, teetering on the edge of loyalties. Skywalker puts a good front, he acts beaten in the face of Vos' anger – but there is steel in his core. He might hide in his cloaks – but his back is always straight.
The Jedi Order seems suspicious of Skywalker's allegiances is Vos is anything to go by and in Rex' opinion, it's not without cause. Would the man join his Master on the enemy side, if given the chance?
"Yes," Skywalker finally says, his voice low. "He is the enemy. He's the enemy."
Rex says nothing, clasping his hands behind his back and waiting on him, as good soldier should. When Skywalker turns to head further into the cruiser, look of grim determination on his shadowed face, Rex quietly follows.
"I am terribly sorry to inform you that General Kenobi isn't available to walk into your obvious trap at this moment, General Skywalker," the bald woman in Separatist uniform says, bowing theatrically in the hologram recording. "If you're serious about wanting to parley, however, you're welcome to come to the city centre. So as long as your intention really is to parley, you won't be harmed and you will be returned to your fellows once the parley is done."
She lifts her head and smiles, the tattoos on the corners of her lips stretching. "Come on foot and unarmed and you will walk safely. You may bring one other, Skywalker – but not another Jedi," she adds sharply. "I'll look forward to hearing your answer."
The little astromech droid carrying the message peeps sadly as the hologram sputters and cuts off, leaving them all staring at nothing for a moment before they exchange looks.
"Skywalker?" Vos asks, eyes narrowed.
The younger Jedi reaches forward to rest a hand on the droid's dome head. "I told you it was obvious," he says, though he's frowning.
"Yes, but you also said he'd come anyway, that's what he does, he walks into traps," Vos says dangerously while Organa folds his arms, eying the droid thoughtfully.
"Obviously something's changed," Skywalker says and crouches down. "Did you see him, R2? Did you see either of them?" The droid beeps and whirs and spins his head from side to side. "Just droids. Hm."
"Kenobi is military head of the Confederation," Organa comments. "Naturally his priorities are a little different than those of a Jedi."
Vos scoffs and paces back and forth a few steps while Skywalker tinkers with the droid, checking something. He bows his head a little and then stands up, running a hand over his chin. "I should go," he then says.
"Out of the question," Vos snaps.
"Master, I invoked the rule of parley," Skywalker says carefully. "It's an archaic rule from bygone era, but Obi – the enemy is deploying lot of archaic rules. We can't make use of it, we can't use it to trap him, but if we fail to live up to our own demands now – then the rule becomes void. And no one will be able to use it again."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Vos asks, frowning.
"These rules are informal," Skywalker explains. "They aren't laws, there's nothing out there enforcing them – they only apply for as long as we live up to them. If we now invoke it and then waste it and turn it meaningless –" he trails off, pressing his lips together.
"He's right," Organa says, running his fingers around goatee. "It is an informal rule – but if we can make it standard… it can be invoked again. It might be invaluable in future, to have this avenue of communication available. And it is, it was, designed for active combatants to try and reach some sort of settlement in wartime. Isn't that exactly what we should be trying to do?"
"Parley," Vos mutters with a scoff but he's thinking about it, frowning at mid distance. Then he looks at Skywalker, eyes narrowed. Skywalker stares back, holding the man's gaze longer than he usually does.
Rex clasps his hands tighter behind his back, to keep himself from giving away his thoughts. The other clones in the room are similarly standing stock still and immobile as they watch the silent battle of wills take place. Rex thinks Gregor, who has now taken CC-2224's place in the 212th Battalion, is probably looking at him.
They'd all heard of the… argument by now. And it isn't as if they needed it to know what Vos was thinking about Skywalker's state of alliances. But surely Vos wouldn't start giving Skywalker a dressing down about it in company, right?
"And what's to say you won't just… slip away during it?" Vos asks dangerously. "You want to, Skywalker. I can feel it on you, it echoes in everything you touch. You want to go to him, don't you?"
Skywalker's eyes widen and then narrow and his hands clench. He takes a breath and releases it slowly. "I want to demand answers from him," he says very clearly. "I want to hear his reasons. That's all."
"You hate that he didn't take you with him," Vos says with a disgusted scoff and turns to face him fully. "You feel betrayed. If he asked you to go with him, now, would you?"
Skywalker glares. "No, I wouldn't and no… he won't," he says, very firm. "Because he didn't before – and there's a reason for that."
"And that reason is?" Vos asks sharply.
Skywalker presses his lips together and doesn't answer.
"Gentlemen," Organa says quietly, looking between them awkwardly. "I understand there are some standing issues here, but…"
Vos glances at him and then looks back at Skywalker for a long while. "Hand me your lightsaber," he then demands, and holds out his hand. "And Kenobi's, too."
Skywalker hesitates just for a moment and then wrenches the two lightsabers from his utility belt, holding them out. Vos summons them to him with his Jedi tricks and catches them from the air, one in each hand. He glares at Skywalker for a moment longer and then closes his eyes, concentrating.
Rex frowns. Now what the hell is this?
For a moment, nothing happens. Skywalker stares at the elder Jedi in silent anticipation and Organa looks just as confused as Rex feels, but neither seems willing to break the strange, charged silence. It stretches on, growing tighter by the moment.
Finally, Vos releases a breath and looks up. Without word, he hands the lightsabers back over to Skywalker, who accepts them slowly. "Captain, go with him," he orders, glancing at Rex. "And make sure you have recording devices with you. I want to know every word spoken there, you hear?"
"Yes, sir," Rex says, standing in attention.
Without another word, Vos nods, turns and leaves, leaving Skywalker and Organa staring after him. Rex keeps his eyes up front – on Skywalker.
"Might I ask what that was about?" Organa asks, glancing at the remaining Jedi.
"Psychometry," Skywalker says and slowly clips the lightsabers back to his side. "Master Vos' particular talent – he can sense the history of objects, the emotions of those who handled them… that sort of thing."
"Hmm," Organa says, looking him over and then looking away. "Seems like you're in a difficult position, my friend," he says. "You have my condolences."
"Yeah," Skywalker mutters. "Thanks."
"Do you know what you're going to say to him?" And they all know he's not talking about Vos anymore.
Skywalker says nothing for a moment and then tugs his hood further down. "I have a pretty good idea."
Hour later, they leave the safety of the base camp. It's one of them tensest walks Rex has had, to leave the shelter of the cannons and barricades, and all without so much as a hand blaster. Skywalker doesn't have his lightsabers and though Rex normally doesn't pay much attention to the things – it seems off, to see Skywalker without them.
In Geonosis, the Jedi had fought in the field. Rex hadn't ever seen it in person, but he'd seen vids of it – Jedi going against a cacophony of blaster fire, reflecting it back to the shooters or just sending it careening off to the sky safely. He'd seen droids mowed down by swings of glowing blades, he'd even seen one particularly impressive shot of a Jedi – General Windu, judging by the colour of the blade, though the video had been taken at considerable distance and it's hard to be sure – tearing through a whole tank with a lightsaber.
Now Jedi don't fight on the field, never might again. Rex knows why, but it's bit shame. Never mind the fact that Skywalker is right – it makes them bit useless.
Well, right now both of them are a bit useless.
"We're coming in to parley," Skywalker calls to the droids across the street. "We've been invited to by Commander Ventress – we're unarmed. Don't shoot."
The clankers mill about for a moment, exchanging looks before one of them turns to a communications unit to get further orders from it's superiors. Then they turn to look at them again. "Stay right where you are," one of the battle droids calls. "Check them out," it then orders another of its fellows, who nods twice, and heads forward, approaching them without hesitation.
Rex itches to punch the clanker in it's metal face, but holds it back, settling to glare at it through his helmet instead. Beside him Skywalker spreads out his cloaks to show that he's not carrying a lightsaber, and after checking him over, the droid checks Rex as well, checking his belt, where Rex has nothing, not even a grenade pack.
"They're clear," the droid finally pronounces.
"No funny business now, Jedi," the droid from across the street – a higher ranking one, apparently – says. "Get a speeder."
Moment later, a droid driven speeder careens towards them down the street and pulls to a halt not far away. It's a local vehicle, judging by the colour and make – Separatist things are rarely painted with crystal patterns.
"Well, at least we don't have to walk the whole way," Skywalker mutters. "Come on, Captain."
"Sir," Rex answers and follows him. "I would like it to be noted that I don't like any of this."
"It's been noted," Skywalker agrees, and jumps onto the speeder, Rex following close behind. The droid barely checks to see that they've seated before spinning the speeder around, and then all but blasting down the main street, over the barricades and cannons and tanks. As they do, Rex tries to press all their locations to his mind as quickly as he can – but the speed they're going to makes it difficult. Probably on purpose.
In seemingly no time at all, they pull to a sharp, stomach jerking stop in front of a slightly grander green crystal building. All around them there are droids and tanks and even more droids, and on the steps of the grand building there is a bald woman in black and red uniform, hands clasped at her back and droids flanking her at both sides.
"General Skywalker," she greets and smiles. "I have to admit, I'm pleasantly surprised. I didn't think you'd take it."
"Your bait?" Skywalker asks, eyes narrowed.
"The high road. Considering we did not spring your trap as it was, I was quite honestly expecting you to let the whole parley thing pass," she says and looks at Rex. For some reason, she bows her head at him briefly, before turning back to the Jedi General. "This way," she says and motions behind her.
Skywalker jumps down from the speeder, and again Rex follows. Immediately after the speeder careens away again, leaving them alone surrounded by legions of battle droids, and this woman, with her lightsabers.
She smiles, sharp and satisfied, and turns. The droids don't move – not until Skywalker moves to follow her between them and Rex follows him. Then the droids fall into order around them, like an honour guard – like a prison guard. Great.
Rex watches Commander Ventress closely, gauging her. It's impossible to say how capable she is, but as far as he can tell, she's not perfectly at ease with them – her shoulders are little too straight, her chin held high little too forcefully. Nervous or at least tense. Even surrounded by her battle droids, her armies and all her forces, she's still on her guard as she leads them inside.
"I took the… liberty of providing some refreshments. I hope you're hungry," Ventress says into the increasingly tense silence, and pushes open a set of intricately carved double doors. Inside there is some sort of meeting room with enormous crystal windows in the back, and long table dominating the middle of the room. The table is covered in plates and trays, all of them full of local food stuff.
"We didn't come here to eat," Skywalker says tightly.
Ventress glances at him. "No, I suppose not," she agrees, amused. "What you did come here for then, Skywalker?" she asks and walks over to the tables, to pick up a strange looking, diamond shaped fruit. "To tell us to lay down our arms, to give up our, what is it you call us, invasion?" she hums inquisitively and turns the fruit in her fingers. "Attacker parleying with the defender – I've looked into the rules of parley and that's a little unusual, you know."
Skywalker frowns. "It happened," he says and then steps forward. "And we all want to end this conflict peacefully."
"No, you don't. You want to end this conflict in your victory," Ventress says and bites into the fruit. "And after that you want to put a delightful little spin on the story – how you… liberated the poor unfortunate christopheans from their terrible invaders, those terrible, evil Separatists."
Skywalker's cheek flexes. "We just want to preserve as many lives as we can," he says.
Ventress smiles at that, almost pityingly. "Funny, I almost think you actually believe that," she muses. "Or maybe you want to believe it. Tell me, how many casualties so far? I can tell how many we have. It starts and ends with a zero."
"What casualties we got you caused," Rex mutters under his breath.
Ventress' eyes slide over to him, pale and perceptive. "By defending ourselves – and this city – from your attacks, Captain," she says sharply. "Our droids shoot to disable and stun, it doesn't always work how we intend to, you ships don't always have a clear landing site when they come down, and I am sorry for that. But this is still war and we will defend ourselves. Surely you can't blame us for that, Captain."
Rex's frowns a little behind his helmet.
Skywalker's sleeves twitch and after a moment of clenching his hands, he lifts them and pushes his hood down. "How many prisoners have you taken?" he asks then, his eyes narrowed.
"Now that would be telling," Ventress says and offers him a sly smile. "Ransom demands will be delivered upon first ceasefire, that's the rule. You'll have a list of all the captured prisoners of war then."
Rex's fingers twitch and then he clenches them into fists. He knows that CC-2224 was taken alive and relatively healthy when his armour was disabled. That's a good indication that he's still alive and well. It's more than they know for sure about most of the MIA clones.
Still, knowing for sure would've been appreciated.
"Is that going to be before or after you ship them off world?" Skywalker asks grimly.
Ventress smiles wide enough for her cheeks to dimple. "You're almost cute," she says. "Flailing about, no idea what to do."
"Excuse me?" Skywalker asks.
"You know we won't stand down and you're not going to stand down either – and considering this meeting was a sham originally, you have no actual demands to make, no offers, nothing. Nothing to negotiate with, nothing to really negotiate about…" Ventress says amusedly and shakes her head. "You're just wasting both our time because… Why exactly?"
Skywalker scowls at her.
"Because you want to meet our esteemed General?" Ventress asks and pouts exaggeratedly. "I see where I rate."
"Is he coming?" Skywalker asks.
"What if I say no?" Ventress muses, tilting her head. "Will you turn around and leave? How very rude that would be, to demand parley and then just walk out of it, all high and mighty just because you didn't get to see –"
"Is he coming?" Skywalker demands again.
Ventress' lips press together for a moment and then she takes a bite of her fruit. "Careful, Jedi," she says, somehow both amused and threatening all at once. "That's quite bit of aggression in your voice. You might watch out for that – has bad connotations for your lot, I hear."
"Well, you seem to have a skill at bringing out the best of me, Commander Ventress," Skywalker mutters.
"Not just you, I think," Ventress says and tilts her head to the side, to look past Skywalker entirely. "Lovely of you to join us, darling."
"You, my dear, are a headache and a half," another voice says, behind them, and Rex automatically reaches for a blaster that isn't there as he and Skywalker both spin around.
General Kenobi is… not as tall in real life as Rex had assumed. Not exactly short – but shorter than he is, shorter than Skywalker is. Though physically not quite as imposing as all the recordings made him out to be, there is something about him that goes beyond stature – sharpness in his eyes, a cunning and determination, that makes the hair in the back of Rex's neck stand on edge.
This man will walk right through him if he gets in his way.
Then the General smiles, and it's odd, warm and fond. "Hello, Anakin," he says gently.
"Obi-Wan," Skywalker says, his voice rough.
"This should be interesting," Ventress muses, leaning her hip onto the meeting table and watching with great interest.
Kenobi's eyes don't move from Skywalker. "Yes, quite," he agrees dryly. "You invited them here? I wasn't expecting that."
"Well, I wasn't expecting them to come, so we're agreed there," Ventress agrees. "But you did give me free rein to spring the trap how I chose – I chose this way. Infinitely more interesting than walking right in and getting yourself captured like an idiot."
"So harsh, my dear," Kenobi says and then steps fully into the room. The doors close behind them, and Skywalker's chin lifts slightly. Kenobi searches his face for a moment and then smiles. "You look terrible," he comments.
"You look worse, you look five years older," Skywalker answers. "At least."
"War ages you like nothing else, I'm afraid," Kenobi says and runs a hand over his neatly trimmed beard. "It's all the stress, you see."
"Well perhaps you shouldn't have run off to fight for the enemy side."
Kenobi arches an eyebrow at that and smiles amusedly. "Come now," he says, admonishing. "You can do better than that, Anakin."
"Can I," Skywalker mutters and his fingers twitch and curl into fists. "How about why?"
Kenobi smiles and lowers his face a little. "Well, that is a little better," he muses and turns away, glancing at Ventress and then at Rex and then back to Skywalker. "Shall we take a seat?
The moment of hesitation is tense, but Kenobi brushes through it without care, walking past them to the long table, and taking a seat. Ventress, giving him a look, sits beside him – neither of them sitting quite at the head of the table, but along the side, obviously leaving the other side to Skywalker and Rex.
"Why I left the Republic and joined the Separatists, hm?" Kenobi asks, as Skywalker finally takes a seat. "Because I want to save the galaxy, of course."
"That's bantha shit," Skywalker says with a scowl.
"No, sadly it isn't," Kenobi says and crosses his hands on the table in front of him, smiling. "You will believe it is, though, and so will everyone you ever tell about it – everyone who gets the good Captain Rex's recordings of this meeting," he nods to Rex briefly, smiling wider. "They will call me delusional and megalomaniacal and any number of things that will make them feel better and more justified. But it won't make it less true. I left the Republic and joined the Separatists because I want to save the galaxy."
Rex stares at the man, his mouth falling slightly open under his helmet.
"If you wanted to do that, you should've stayed," Skywalker says harshly and leans in. "Have you even seen the Separatists?! The Trade Federation is part of them!"
"True," Kenobi agrees. "As is the Banking Clan and the Commerce Guild and the Techno Union and number of other evil corporations. But so is Christophis," he points out. "And so was Geonosis, before the Republic invaded and all but destroyed it."
"They were building an army!"
"So was the Republic," Kenobi points out and motions to Rex. "And they started way ahead of the Separatist movement. And you know that, Anakin. I know you do, because I'm the one who told you about it."
Skywalker leans back, looking frustrated and conflicted. Kenobi watches him calmly while Ventress chews on her fruit, look of gleeful fascination on her face, like she was watching a show. Rex watches on silence, his mind drawn blank and empty.
"I'm sorry, I can't offer you a black and white war to feel justified in," Kenobi says. "The Separatist cause has greedy beginnings, perhaps, but when it is the greedy and the wealthy that feel impoverished under governmental rule – isn't that a proof that something is very wrong with it? Look at how many worlds are turning neutral now, when they might just as well stay within the Republic? Dozens of worlds already. And quite a number have joined the Confederation of Independent systems, and it's only racking up speed."
Skywalker draws a breath. "They're just following example of others," he mutters. "Jumping off a cliff because others are."
"And why would people content and happy in their situation in life do such a thing?" Kenobi asks. "No one jumps off a cliff willingly, Anakin, unless the cliff is crumbing down under them."
"Tch!" Skywalker answers and reaches for a fruit. "That's a shitty metaphor."
"Yes, but if it gets the message across…" Kenobi says and smiles. "You really do look terrible. You haven't been sleeping much, have you?"
"I wonder why that is?" Skywalker asks and takes a vicious bite of the fruit. "I mean it couldn't have possibly been a bit awkward for me to be left hanging around at loose ends while my Master goes and betrays everything our Order stands for, and I can't even tell them why or how or when? Do you have any idea what that did, what implications you left me with?"
"Do you know what they call me now?" Skywalker asks cuttingly. "The Traitor's Padawan. Almost makes me miss all the Chosen One nonsense."
Kenobi frowns now. "They... really call you that?" he asks, sounding uncertain, even hurt. "They couldn't possibly."
"Well, not to my face, but they do," Skywalker scoffs at him. "They look at me and wonder why I didn't go with you. Did you leave me behind because I'm useless? Or because I'm your spy in the Order? Am I going to switch sides at drop of the hat, when I can do most damage to Republic cause? Why the hell they knighted me at all, I don't know – most of them want to lock me up."
Kenobi runs a hand over his face, covering his eyes for a moment. Then he sighs. "I didn't know they'd do that," he says quietly. "I'm sorry, Anakin – I didn't think my actions would reflect that badly on you."
"You – you spent ten years shielding me from the Jedi Order and now you're blind to it?!" Skywalker demands. "They've been waiting me to slip for years, you know that – this is just a damn fine proof for all their suspicions of me, only now you're not there to –" he stops sharply and abruptly, looking frustrated.
"I thought that by now we'd proved them wrong," Kenobi murmurs. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry – tell me why," Skywalker demands and slams his hand on the table, hard. "Why, Obi-Wan? Why didn't you ask me to come with you?"
The Separatist General looks at him seriously. "You know why," he says quietly and glances at Rex.
Skywalker does the same and straightens his back. Like through a fog, Rex pulls his mind into order again. The recording – whatever they want to talk about, they don't want it to get back to the other Jedi. So there is something going on.
Shit, he'd completely checked out for a moment there, hadn't he?
For a moment Skywalker is quiet, and then he lets out a frustrated breath. "No," he says and shakes his head. "No, see, that – that just makes me more useful. I'm influence – with me you have a bargaining chip against –"
"I have never used you to my advantage, Anakin, and I never will," the General snaps back. "You're not a bargaining chip, you're not a plaything on anyone's game board and least of all mine. I told you – that's a decision you can only make for yourself. I will never try to persuade you one way, or the other."
Skywalker inhales, holds it and then let's out another frustrated breath. Rex watches him with a strange sense of detachment – there's a lot going on here and he's having hard time keeping up with all the unspoken signals and bitten off sentences. More is being said than is actually being said, though.
Something wrong here.
"I made my decision," Kenobi says, a little calmer now. "And I tried my best to only make it for myself and not for you too. I'm sorry how it reflected on you, I truly, honestly am, it was never my intention to put you in such position. I thought better of the Jedi Order. But no, I would never ask you to come with me. I would never ask you to make that choice, not for me."
They fall silent, Kenobi watching Skywalker with a look that twists something in Rex's gut while Skywalker just – shakes. Whether it's frustration or grief or what is hard to say, but it looks – difficult. Kenobi says nothing and even Ventress has stopped chewing beside him, letting the silence stretch.
"I saw vids," Skywalker then says. "Dooku's speeches. You wrote some of them – I recognise the wording."
Kenobi leans back in his chair and says nothing, just sighs.
"Is – is that what you really believe?" Skywalker asks, looking at him. "And if – why didn't you –" he grits his teeth, glancing at Rex.
"I asked the Order, you know. Again and again," Kenobi says, looking at Rex and then away. "I petitioned for funds, I made pleas... but I was forbidden from acting. You'd already been singled out with enough special treatment, and it was an attachment too dangerous to encourage."
Skywalker bows his head. "Another thing you never told me," he mutters. "She's dead, you know? Happened just before the start of the war."
Across from Rex Ventress arches her brows with interest but says nothing, merely reaches for another fruit.
Kenobi sighs. "Too late then. I'm very sorry, Anakin."
"Yeah," Skywalker mutters. "But you're not sorry about walking away, are you?"
"I'm sorry about the way I did it – but no, not about doing it," Kenobi says apologetically "I'm afraid I believe in my cause, and I'm going to keep fighting for it, as much as it hurts."
Skywalker nods and stares down at the table in silence. "You're not going to stand down," he then stays.
"I'm afraid not," Kenobi agrees. "And you can't stand down either, can you?"
Skywalker shakes his head. "A day's worth of ceasefire," he says. "That sound agreeable for you?"
"That's entirely up to you," Kenobi says. "Try and advance on the city and the ceasefire will end. Try and land more troops and the ceasefire will end."
"I can agree to that," Skywalker says and sighs. "Same goes for you too, though. No landing more troops."
"Agreed," Kenobi says, watching him sadly.
Skywalker nods, looks at him desperately and then looks away. "I heard you named that Dreadnought on orbit the Abolitionist," he says suddenly. "The Abolitionist. Really."
"Yes, well. It's a bit sinister perhaps to the uninformed, but better than the Malevolence certainly," Kenobi muses somewhat sheepishly. "And your Star Destroyer? The Resolute, hmm?"
"The Negotiator, actually," Skywalker says and stands up while Kenobi stares him in astonishment. "Thanks for talking with us. I guess we can assume that parley rules will be honoured from now on?"
"So as long as you honour them, we will honour them," Kenobi says and stands slowly. "Anakin..." he starts to say and then trails off. "Take care," he settles on saying, his voice heavy. "May the Force be with you."
"Yeah – you too," Skywalker says, hesitates, and then turns away.
"Will you send them on their way, my dear?" Kenobi asks and Ventress stands again.
"Right this way, gentlemen," she says, her voice thoughtful and turns to lead them out, the droid guard outside quickly standing in attention, red to escort them back.
Rex hesitates momentarily at the door, looking back at Kenobi who is now leaning onto the table, his head bowed.
"General Kenobi," Rex says.
"Captain Rex," the General answers, glancing up, forcing a calm expression back to his face.
Rex's head throbs with the first pulse of an oncoming headache. He hadn't imagined it then – Kenobi really did call him by name. The name which he had yet to ever say out loud, never mind tell anyone. Was it some sort of Jedi mind trick? Reading minds? They always said it's impossible and yet...
Kenobi is watching him and Skywalker is waiting on him – he needs to speak. Rex inhales sharply through the sudden dizziness. "There was a clone commander, CC-2224, captured –"
"Commander Cody is fine," Kenobi says gently. "I'm sorry I can't tell you more than that."
Rex's vision blurs momentarily, darkening at the edges and then he nods. "Thank you, sir," he says and turns away, Kenobi watching him go with an unreadable expression.
Cody, Rex thinks through the headache as he joins the distracted General Skywalker and Ventress, who is frowning curiously at him. He ignores them both and thinks, Commander Cody. It sounds right.
Somehow, Kenobi knows their names. He knows their names.