The door to Anakin and Obi-Wan's shared quarters bangs shut behind them as Anakin storms in, trailed by an apologetic-but-not-quite-apologetic-enough-apparently Master. "Of course you'd take the rest of the Council's side," Anakin says, fuming. "Since you care about what they think so much more than you do about me!"
"Anakin," Obi-Wan sighs, "that's not true. You know I care for you very deeply-"
"But you don't love me!" Anakin says, stabbing a finger at him. "I thought, we're finally together, maybe now he'll actually let go of some of that Jedi frigidity-"
"Frigidity?" Obi-Wan says incredulously. "How can you think that? Is it not fully evident how thoroughly I am breaking the code with regards to my feelings for you? 'There is no passion, there is serenity'," he quotes, and Anakin snorts derisively. "Perhaps I am not so uncontrolled and demonstrative as you, but I thought you understood."
Anakin just shakes his head. "The Chancellor was right. You'll never really love me."
His mouth is already opening to retort when what Anakin actually said registers with Obi-Wan. "The Supreme Chancellor of the Republic said that to you about me?"
"Yeah." Anakin looked at him like he didn't understand why that was really fucking weird.
"The. Supreme Chancellor. Knows about our relationship," Obiwan says jerkily. "And...feels qualified to comment on it, and on my feelings for you, or perceived lack thereof."
"Of course," Anakin confirms, his anger and resentment already fading.
He scrubs a hand over his face. "Anakin," he says, "I have refrained from asking you too much about your friendship with Palpatine for years now, but I am afraid that since I obviously have some personal stake in it, I need to know more."
"What do you need to know?" Anakin says confusedly.
"Just...just what do you talk about, and do together? For years now, you've been running off to his office, or going on little excursions..." Obi-Wan frowns at him. "I would appreciate some details. I truly don't wish to pry, but if the Chancellor is casting aspersions upon our relationship..."
"That's not what he's doing," Anakin says, hotly, automatically.
"He says I'll never love you," Obi-Wan points out. "He is wrong, by the way. And I do believe that is the very definition of casting an aspersion upon our relationship."
Anakin huffs. "Well, you'd know, Mister Thesaurus."
He rolls his eyes. "Please tell me, Anakin."
In apparent agreement, Anakin rolls his shoulders to relax them, and launches into his twelve-year-long story.
It is not what Obi-Wan expects.
"And then when I was 18 the Chancellor took me to-" Anakin continues, still not noticing that over the course of this enlightening conversation, Obi-Wan's facial expression has grown flatter and flatter as he prevents it from showing the pure horror suffusing his soul. "And he said to me-"
"Anakin," Obi-Wan interrupts him.
Anakin just blinks at him. "Yeah, Master?"
"Anakin," he repeats slowly, "I would like you to think about what I am about to ask you very carefully."
Obi-Wan takes a deep breath. "What would you do if you learned that someone had been behaving this way with Ahsoka?"
His former Padawan is silent for around 45 seconds. There is a slight furrowing of his brow.
And then his lightsaber flies into his hand and the blue blade ignites.
"Yes, that's what I thought," says Obi-Wan mildly. "So you can imagine how I feel at the moment."
"Obi-Wan..." Anakin chokes out. "Palpatine, he-!"
"I am so sorry, dear one." He closes his eyes. "I should have fought harder to protect you."
"I- I remember-," he mutters, "you tried to say no when I was a kid- but the Council always-" They always overrode Obi-Wan's objections, and even their own qualms, for the purpose of bending over backwards to please the powerful Chancellor, even before he was voted the dozens and dozens of "emergency powers" afforded to him by the Clone Wars.
"Yes. They feared the political ramifications of refusing," Obi-Wan confirms quietly.
"Of refusing him unrestricted, unsupervised access to a child?!" Anakin explodes, for the first time seeing his own past "adventures" with Palpatine in the harsher light of reality. For all that he'd been flattered and pleased that the Chancellor had singled him out- thought him deserving of such special attention- he now realizes that even if he had been worthy of it, Palpatine's behavior was wrong. And it was wrong of the Council to allow it, especially against the wishes of Anakin's actual guardian- his best friend, and the one person in the galaxy who had always had nothing but Anakin's best wishes motivating him.
Obi-Wan, seeing these thoughts play out across Anakin's face in addition to sensing the rising turmoil through the Force, can only nod grimly.
A new, even more horrible possibility strikes Anakin, perhaps even more horrifying for how easily it could have happened. "But what if Palpatine- he could have-" -he was just a child, like so many children on Tatooine- he had been lucky that Watto found him useful, or else he could have been sold to the brothels that specialized in-
He shudders in revulsion. There were also slave masters who took such advantage for themselves. Palpatine could have been like them, so easily. In a different way, he already was. He'd taken advantage of Anakin's trust and naivete, his need to feel special- he was the Chosen One, but the Council only used that as another reason to mistrust and chastise him. Obi-Wan had always strove to treat him as a normal Padawan, within the confines of his outside upbringing, and while Anakin had often balked at the lack of preferential treatment, he now finds himself profoundly grateful. It wasn't as if his Master had ever truly held Anakin back- quite the contrary. He treated Anakin as any Master would treat a normal Padawan who also happened to excel and advance in his Jedi training at a more-than-prodigious rate.
Obi-Wan also knows exactly what fear had just struck Anakin, because it has already been flitting around in his head like a moth around a flame, unable to look away but afraid to get too close and burn up. "You have no idea how profoundly relieved I am to know he did not," he says, reaching out to grip Anakin's shoulder, more tightly than usual.
"He may as well have!" Anakin snaps, anger overcoming horror as it usually did for him. "I have no idea how you're still so calm, Master. If he really had done all that to Snips I'm pretty sure I would have stormed the Senate building by now." After all, it's only thinking of the past events in the context of having happened to his daring, vivacious Padawan that's opened his eyes to the true nature of his interactions with Palpatine.
"I would like to, believe me," Obi-Wan replies, sincerity ringing in his emphasis of the last words. "But I would like to protect you from him in the future even more, and that would be difficult if i were arrested for assassinating the Chancellor of the Republic."
Anakin goes still suddenly. "Do we have a choice, Master? The Senate has voted him so many emergency powers he's practically-"
"I know," he agrees heavily. "And learning about his behavior with you, I am now questioning all of his political decisions as well as his..."
Obi-Wan pauses, and his calm Jedi Master facade finally cracks.
"No," he gasps out, barely a breath of sound. "No, he can't be."
"What, Master?" Anakin asks anxiously.
Obi-Wan closes his eyes for just a moment. "We know the Sith Master has a lot of power in the Senate." He reaches out again and grips both of Anakin's shoulders, needing the support for his own sake. "What if he has all of it?"
Anakin only stares at him for a moment. "...Oh, no."
"Yes," Obi-Wan says.
"Nonononono..." Anakin moans, burying his face in his hands.
Still muffled by his hands, Anakin says, "Obi-Wan, what do we do?"
Obi-Wan reluctantly lets go of Anakin to reach up and stroke his beard, trying to think like a Jedi Master instead of a terrified man. "Before anything else, we must bring our discovery before the Council."
Anakin suddenly looks up, eyes burning in his face. Shocking himself, Obi-Wan finds he is grateful to see they are still blue.
"And what if," he snarls, "they decide it's more politically advantageous to leave a Sith Lord in office?"
Obi-Wan freezes. "...Oh."
Rage fading as quickly as it comes, like always, Anakin says slowly, "Master... You realize what this means his behavior with me has been aiming at, don't you?"
It is Obi-Wan's turn to stare at him.
And then he reaches out without thought, not to grab his shoulders again, but to wrap Anakin in a tight embrace, protective and possessive in equal measure.
More fiercely than Anakin has ever heard him, Obi-Wan growls, "No. Never."
Terrified and practically shaking in his Master's arms, Anakin wails, "But that's what he wants, isn't it? Me as his apprentice? And he's spent over ten years working to make it happen!"
Anakin buries his face in Obi-Wan's neck, unable to look at him now. "And I've- I've felt it, Master. I've felt the Dark Side. More than you know."
Obi-Wan sighs, cheek resting against Anakin's soft curls. "Anakin, in war we have all-"
"I slaughtered the entire village of Tusken Raiders who killed my mother," Anakin says flatly. His words come out crystal clear despite his attempts at hiding in Obi-Wan's robes. "Not just the Raiders themselves but everyone, even the children."
Obi-Wan stiffens for only a moment, and then his hand still settles tenderly on the back of Anakin's head. "And I used the Dark Side to defeat Darth Maul after he killed Qui-Gon."
Anakin jerks in his hold but Obi-Wan does not let go. "You- you did?"
"Moments of weakness do not mean falling to the Dark Side, dear one," he murmurs. "Yes, yours was rather egregious, but... it didn't feel good, did it?"
Anakin shudders. "No. I was horrified as soon as I realized what I'd done. That's why I never told anyone, except-"
They both freeze.
"Palpatine," Obi-Wan finishes. "You told Palpatine." Despite his best efforts, he cannot keep some of the hurt out of his voice.
"Obi-Wan..." Anakin says, slow and shocked. "I think he knew. After it happened, I think he could tell that I'd touched the Dark. And that's why it felt like- like he already knew what I'd done, somehow, and that's why I could tell him. But you, Master-" He clutches him closer. "I couldn't bear to disappoint you."
"Oh, Padawan," he says softly. "You could never truly disappoint me. I am so immensely proud of you. Pride is not the Jedi way, but to learn of all that Palpatine has done to you, and to know that you are still as Light as you are- because you are Light, dear one- I am prouder than I can say." And this is not the first time he has felt that way about Anakin, nor even the first time he has told him so, but this is when it matters most.
Anakin can only rasp out, "Obi-Wan..."
"Even if I failed you for years, Anakin, you have not truly failed yourself." For the first time during this long conversation, Obi-Wan smiles. Buried as he is, Anakin does not see it, but he can still feel it against his temple.
"But the Raiders-" he protests.
"Were a failure, yes," Obi-Wan says sharply, "but you have risen above it, and I still trust that you will never sink so low again." And he hugs him a little tighter.
Anakin mumbles something unintelligible.
Obi-Wan, somewhat absently stroking Anakin's hair, murmurs, "What was that, darling?"
The endearments are obviously coming out totally unconsciously on Obi-Wan's part, but Anakin notices, and it gives him the courage to repeat what he said.
"I came pretty close when I thought you died, Master. And if Ahsoka hadn't been there, I'm afraid I might have Fallen completely."
Obi-Wan sighs heavily. He should have guessed this would come up- it always seems to, whether Anakin is angry or whether he is teasing. Either way, it seems he will never live down that one time he faked his own death. But he can still bring some peace to Anakin's mind about the whole damned affair. "...Anakin, I regret the Hardeen debacle more than I can ever express. But you have to know... I did it because I had faith that you would retain yourself, and I wanted to prove that to the Council."
"Oh," Anakin says, faintly.
"And I did," Obi-Wan says, proud again. "You did. You hung on, Anakin, and did not Fall. I must confess..." At the slight tremor in the Master's voice, Anakin finally looks up, though he does not move away even one inch. "If you died, I believe I would surrender to the Dark Side immediately."
Anakin gapes at him for several moments, then swallows and looks away. "No faking my own death to get even, got it."
Obi-Wan gently nudges Anakin's gaze back up to him. "I do not believe faking it would work for you."
"...What?" He blinks his blue eyes at Obi-Wan, who feels his heart swell in response.
"You shine so brightly in the Force, dear one," he murmurs warmly, "more than any other Jedi. And we are so deeply bonded, no matter how tightly you shield, I can still feel that you are there." Indeed, there are moments, in war and out of it, when Obi-Wan knows that if he could not feel Anakin's supernova presence in the Force even when they are separated, he would go mad.
For his own part, Anakin is silent again. And then he confesses, "I think I could still feel you, too. I didn't know what it was until I knew you were still alive, but I felt a connection to Hardeen. And that also fuelled how much I... well, I hated him."
Obi-Wan smiles again, just slightly, but this time when Anakin can see it. "Your love for me, turned inside-out."
At the word "love," Anakin turns away bashfully. "Not quite. I think then I would have hated Hardeen a lot more, and probably actually tried to kill him."
Suddenly, Anakin whips his head back around to stare at him with all of his intensity, which is what the kids call a metric fuckton. "Are we doing this or what, Master?"
"...I suppose we are," Obi-Wan pretends to merely concede, lips twitching again. He reluctantly unwraps his arms from around Anakin only to cup his face in his hands.
"I love you, Anakin," he murmurs.
And Anakin beams, both his blinding smile and his presence in the Force, surging with his joy and returned feelings. "I love you too, Obi-Wan."
They both lean in and, buoyed by all their confessions, good and bad, share a soft, tender kiss. It's brief and chaste, but when it ends, neither of them moves far, and their foreheads press together.
When they do, there is another surge in the Force, more than just Anakin's powerful emotions. It is the two of them and the connection they share, the unbreakable bond that they know is almost unique to them. Where other Master-Padawan pairs share threads or even ropes, they have always had a durasteel chain linking them. And now, it shines like gold in the Force and seems to grow even stronger, binding them together with love and loyalty. It'll probably make them act even more like married people sharing a brain, but what can ya do. Hopefully Mace Windu's forehead vein can take it.
Obi-Wan's only reaction is a sharp inhale. "Oh."
Anakin, well-accustomed to such intense overtures from the Force, only grins as he feels how strong they are now. "Palpatine isn't gonna know what hit him."
Obi-Wan suppresses a smirk of his own, eager in a rather un-Jedi manner for revenge upon the man who would try to take his Padawan away from him, would try to hurt him and twist his good heart into something alien.
Anakin adds, "Remind me to hug Snips extra hard when I see her tomorrow, would you?"
Obi-Wan snorts. He is equally horrified by the prospect of such abuses being visited upon the young girl, though he had been rather overwhelmed by learning that they actually were done to Anakin. "I will remind us both."
"If you hugged her I think Snips would faint from shock," Anakin says, amused.
"Come now, our Padawan is tougher than that," Obi-Wan replies airily. "And she'll have to get used to it. I am coming to appreciate hugs."
He wraps his arms around Anakin again and squeezes him. Anakin wriggles in his hold happily, twining his own arms around his Master's neck.
Teasingly, he says, "What will the rest of the Council say, Master Obi-Wan Kenobi doling out such un-Jedi-like things as hugs?"
Obi-Wan scowls at the mention of the Council. "I don't think I'll ever trust their judgement again. What they let Palpatine do with you... I should have fought harder to protect you, yes, but they didn't even try."
"Do or do not, there is no try," Anakin reminds him sardonically.
He huffs. "Next time I see Master Yoda, I'm punting the little green troll across the Temple. He has failed the entire galaxy."
Across the galaxy in question, Master Yoda feels a disturbance in the Force, as if someone has just requested that he come to the Jedi Temple in ten galactic standard minutes if he wants an asskicking.