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            “Enter,” he said without looking up from the differential motivator he was working on. He squeezed his eyes shut when the door opened and flooded his work area with light. He wasn’t exactly sure how long he’d been working on the stupid device in front of him, but as far as he was concerned, any amount of time focused on it was less time he had to think about anything else. And frankly, Obi Wan was the last person he wanted to see right now, but he was here, and he couldn’t exactly ignore him.

            “We need to talk, Anakin,” his former master said without so much as a hello first. Wonderful. This was never good news. It usually meant he was in trouble for who knew what at this point? Probably something stupid. Something insignificant, not even worth the effort to lecture him on. But if there was one thing Obi Wan was exceptionally good at, it was useless lectures.

            He sighed and dropped his head down on his arms feeling decidedly defeated. There was nothing Obi Wan could say at this point that could hurt him more. He was already a fraction of the man he’d once been. In fact, he really had no idea what to strive for at this point. Recently being knighted was great, he supposed. But even it felt empty now.

            “I know what happened on Geonosis was rough on you, Anakin, but you can’t spend the rest of your life hiding in a dark room running from your problems.” He didn’t even have to look at him to know he’d crossed his arms. If he was that tired of dealing with him, why did he even bother? “I’m worried about you.” Right... of course he was. “You’ve barely spoken a word since. When was the last time you ate? Or got a decent night’s sleep? There’s a war going on out there now, we need you at your best.”

            “I’m fine master,” he said stubbornly and went back to working on the motivator. Obi Wan wanted him to talk huh? Well why should he? He never listened when he did. He didn’t hear anything he said to him. Besides, the things ravaging his insides like a storm right now, were things Jedi weren’t allowed to feel, so it’s not like his master would have any useful advice for him if he talked about it anyways.

            “You’re most certainly not fine, and I won’t leave until you tell me what’s going on.” He got to his feet, threw the part he’d been working on at the far wall and left the room without saying another word. What was the point anyways? Words were useless. Words would never fix what was broken inside. He took one glance at his new mechanical hand and shoved it deep inside his robes, so he didn’t have to see the abomination. 

            First, he’d lost his mother, then Padmé, whom he’d been dreaming about for ten years, and then his arm. There were no words that could fix him now. As if saying any of that to Obi Wan would do anything at all. First, he’d spend at least three hours lecturing about the dangers of attachment and that the fate of his mother was ‘unfortunate’ and of course, that people die... He ground his hand into a fist. After the way it had felt to lose her, he was almost certain he would punch his master in the face if he talked about her death in such a lackadaisical way. 

            Secondly, whether the Jedi allowed attachments or not, it didn’t change the fact that he had been craving the former queen of Naboo for ten years. Dreaming about her, about a future with her, had been one of the only things that had brought him comfort in this new, cold, lonely world. But instead, all the feelings he’d nursed for her had been brushed aside as though they meant nothing. She’d adamantly refused his advances, claiming she could not and would not have a secret relationship with him. On top of that, she’d denied having any feelings for him whatsoever. He’d been too in shock to know if she was speaking the truth or just hadn’t really considered it. But the stabbing pain from her rejection had sliced his heart into pieces, never to be whole again. He still could not believe that the things he’d felt for so long didn’t mean anything. Surely, somewhere deep inside she harbored feelings for him too? But when he’d pressed it further, the more distant and colder she’d gotten. He hadn’t even seen her since she fell out of the gunship. There was no reunion, no communication, no nothing. Just emptiness and darkness where once dreams had lived. 

            And lastly, his arm. He stopped walking long enough to squeeze his eyes shut and will the tears to go away. He’d already cried over it too much. To be so... incomplete... Losing his mother had shattered his soul. Losing Padmé, his greatest dream, had shattered his heart and losing his arm had shattered his body. Was there no end to the suffering he was destined to endure? It was as though he’d been made only to suffer. That’s what it felt like now anyways. 

            Obi Wan would never understand this. Obi Wan would tell him the force worked in mysterious ways or that it was a trial of some kind that he was meant to overcome. Obi Wan would brush it aside as though it were hardly as life destroying as it felt and expect him to command armies as though nothing in the world were wrong. 

            He opened his eyes with the strongest urge to turn and punch the wall only to freeze before he could move. In front of him stood a youngling, she was tiny but probably older than she looked. Her blue eyes were bright and huge and seemed to take up most of her face. She was staring at him with a mixture of concern and pity and he had the strongest urge to tell her to mind her own business and get lost. But before he could say a word to her, she took off running down the hallway and didn’t look back.

            He stared after her in confusion, completely distracted by her sudden appearance he’d forgotten for the moment everything else that was weighing him down. He didn’t care about the younglings, but he’d never seen this one before. Never noticed her. For whatever reason though, he couldn’t shake her from his brain as he finally continued down the hallway. Why did he care about her? He had no reason to, he didn’t even know who she was. 

            But... there was something in her eyes. Something about the way she’d been looking up at him. He was suddenly sure it hadn’t been an accidental meeting. She’d either sought him out or had seen him standing there and come to investigate. He knew he hadn’t been so distracted that he’d almost bumped into her or something dumb like that. Why would she seek him out though? Why would she care? How could she possibly know what he was going through or think that she could help? He didn’t even know her! This was insanity!

            His comm went off and startled him out of his thoughts. He was surprised he’d made it this far before he’d heard from Obi Wan. He glanced around unsure exactly where in the temple he was since he hadn’t really been paying attention to where he was going. Then he brought up his left hand and clicked the button. “Yes, Master?” he said tiredly.

            “Please report to the briefing room immediately,” Obi Wan replied and then ended the call. He stared at his wrist for a moment. He hadn’t said even one thing about him walking away from him like that? And now he was being called to a mission despite his attitude? They must really be desperate. He took a deep breath and turned around, trudging his way towards the briefing room. 

            He wasn’t sure why, but that youngling’s face kept popping into his brain. Not only did it seem to push out the cloud of other stuff, it also kept him from wondering about what he was being called to do. Why couldn’t he forget about her? He shook himself and sidestepped just in time, so he didn’t collide with someone else and entered the briefing room.

            He stopped next to Obi Wan and crossed his arms, trying to refocus his messed-up brain. A mission didn’t really excite him right now, but he supposed it was better than being stuck here with too much time to think. At the very least, it would give him something else to focus on for awhile. With that, he shoved the storm in a box and tried to pretend it wasn’t there as the council started speaking. 

            When the chancellor appeared above the holotable, he gave a respectful bow. At least someone in the room, even if he was just calling in, seemed to be more understanding of his feelings. If he was going to talk about everything that happened, maybe that was who he should go to. Chancellor Palpatine might not know the Jedi ways, but at least he treated him like a person and never made him feel ashamed of his emotions. Though from the sound of the briefing, it might have to wait until he returned from Christophsis. 

            “Anakin.” He glanced at Obi Wan. “You will be leading your own legion of clones now that you’re a General. Do you have a preference, or do we need to assign one to you?”

            “Can I have Rex?” he asked quickly. Maybe if he got the 501st, the best legion there was, maybe things wouldn’t seem so bad. Captain Rex was legendary already. The clones were still new to them though. A month ago, nobody had even known they existed and now there were millions ready to go to war at a moment’s notice. And though he didn’t really like the idea of clones as being the Republic’s army, he couldn’t ignore how well trained they were. Nor could he help but notice the feats of one particular captain that seemed a cut above the rest.

            “If you want him,” Obi Wan said a little softer and set his hand on his shoulder.

            “I do.”

            “I had a feeling you would and had them assembled for this mission.” He felt a rush of gratitude towards his master. Maybe Obi Wan didn’t understand everything, but at least he understood some things. It didn’t change all the other stuff, but at least it gave him something to look forward too. It was a small consolation he supposed.