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Episode 2: A Trio (Apart) Save the Galaxy Anyway

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i.

Padmé is leaving an exhausting session of the Senate, mind filled with glacial negotiations and stomach rumbling with hunger, when she is intercepted by Mace Windu.

“Senator Amidala,” he says sourly, sweeping out in front of her. She doesn’t think he’s ever liked her all that much, but now he looks positively furious. “Could you spare a moment of your time?” He sounds polite enough, at least.

She thinks of her lunch, but like a dream long past.

“Master Jedi,” she says. “Of course.” She tries not to smile, because the last time she said the words Master Jedi, it was in a very different, very pleasant context.

Mace Windu leads her to an alcove where they have some relative privacy. “I was hoping to speak to you about something a little bit--delicate.” His expression says that delicate means unpleasant. “As you probably know, the Council was recently made aware of your...relationship.” And relationship also means unpleasant.

Padmé keeps her manners and says, without either too little or too much inflection, “Yes, Anakin relayed the pertinent details.”

Mace wrinkles his nose. “I see. Yes, to us as well.” He clears his throat, clearly wishing he were anywhere but here. So why is he here? “You were...exclusive?” he asks.

Padmé isn’t sure how to interpret any of that question. But she’s hardly going to tell Mace Windu the exact dimensions of her exclusivity.

“I am married,” she says. “But I’m not sure your line of questioning is appropriate.”

“Believe me,” he says with feeling, “if I didn’t think I had to ask, I wouldn’t. But in our questioning of Palpatine, some issues have been raised that I need resolved.”

“Palpatine?” she says sharply. “What does Palpatine have to do with anything?” Aside from the everything he has to do with. “What issues?”

“It’s a Jedi matter for now,” Mace says uncomfortably. “But it’s directly related to Anakin, and I’m not going to ask him about it. How long have you been married?”

She’d rather tell him nothing, but this won’t do any harm, so she gives it to him. “Since not long after the battle on Geonosis,” she says.

Mace nods, looking pained. “That matches what Anakin said. Look, I know it’s an offensive question, but I do need to know. Is Anakin involved with anyone else?”

Padmé, trying not to look as if she’s lost her composure, says, “All I know is that Anakin has never broken faith with me. Even if you feel differently for yourself, that’s no reason for me to believe he’s cheating.”

“I hope I don’t sound cold when I say that I don’t really care whether he’s cheating or not,” Mace says. “What I care about is whether he--and anyone else--might be breaking the code in any other, more serious ways than they already have.”

Oh, she realizes. Oh, he knows about Obi-Wan. Palpatine told them about Obi-Wan. Padmé could kick Anakin--but it’s not his fault he trusted Palpatine, is it? Oh, this is shaping up to be a disaster.

“Perhaps you’d better stop intimating and start explaining what you want from me in plain language,” she says.

Maybe he realizes that if he tries the line about Jedi business again she’ll get really angry, because he seems to relent a little. “This isn’t really about Anakin,” he says. “It’s about Obi-Wan. If what Palpatine is saying is true...What can you tell me about him and Anakin?”

“Obi-Wan is a good teacher and a good friend,” Padmé says, but it feels like a crumbling bridge even as she says it.

“And what else?” Mace presses. He looks like he wants to hear the truth even less than she wants to say it.

Faithful, she wants to say. Kind.

She says, “What did Palpatine say to you?”

He looks more uncomfortable than ever. “I hope it’s just a rumor, for all our sakes. Don’t take it as anything other than that. But he said Anakin and Obi-Wan have been involved.” He says it like it’s the worst thing he can imagine.

Padmé considers her options, which are few.

“Master Windu,” she says, “I don’t know what you’re trying to do, asking me this. I’m the only one of the parties you claim to be ‘involved’ who doesn’t fall under your mandate. You must trust your jedi very little if you don’t even trust that you can ask them difficult questions to their faces. Unless you’re trying to undermine the marriage you disapprove of so much? Or unless you think by asking me, you can avoid their finding out you suspected them, if you’re wrong?”

Mace looks as if he's eaten something sour. "I'm trying to deal with this with the minimum amount of disruption. I can see that's not going to be possible. But you're right. I was hoping to avoid asking them."

“I’m afraid you’ll have to,” says Padmé, “because I can’t help you.”

"I understand," Mace says, stiffly and unhappily. He probably does. "Thank you for your time, Senator." He turns on his heel and marches off, robes swirling furiously.

Padmé presses a hand to her stomach and tries to catch her breath. Then she comms Anakin.

“Anakin, is Obi-Wan with you?” she asks.

"Of course," Anakin says. "Why, what's wrong?"

“Are you at my apartment?” she says. “If you’re not, can you get there? Quickly?”

"We are," Anakin says. "Padmé, what's going on? You feel all...wrong."

“Stay there,” she says. “I’ll tell you when I get home.” She signs off and hurries to meet them. She’s wary about talking too much in an open place, like this, but she has to get to them before Master Windu decides to pay a call.

ii.

Anakin isn't sure what kind of disaster Padmé can have to offer. She's not hurt, and Obi-Wan is with him. He wonders briefly if Palpatine could have escaped. He paces back and forth while he waits for Padmé to get back. Even Obi-Wan is quiet, anxiously waiting.

Obi-Wan has just stirred himself, said, “There are plenty of things it can’t be or we would have heard from the temple,” when the door opens and Padmé comes in. She looks pale and businesslike.

“Threepio,” she says, “I don’t think I’ll need your services just now, would you mind powering down for awhile in the other room?”

“To be quite honest, my Lady, I could use the rest,” Threepio says, and shuffles off to the kitchen.

Padmé meets their eyes.

"What is it?" Anakin says, grabbing her hands. "What's wrong?" He can feel his heart thudding in his chest.

Padmé glances at Obi-Wan as if she wishes he wasn’t here. He can practically see her choosing her course--but all the questions that arise in him are extinguished when she speaks.

She says, “Mace Windu asked me if the two of you are having an affair.”

"What?" Anakin says sharply, adrenaline coursing through him. So stupid. He really thought they'd gotten away with it. He can't bear to look at Obi-Wan. "Did he say why he was asking?"

Padmé says, “He told me a source had come forward.” She meets his eyes, as if daring him to understand.

Obi-Wan says, “Well, that’s it, then. If they’re asking you, they must be reasonably sure. They must--oh, damn.” He sounds almost breathless.

"We could deny it," Anakin says. It's a wild idea. Of course they already know. There would be no point. Then it hits him that this is his fault, and he has to sit down quickly.

“If the Council asks, we can’t lie,” says Obi-Wan. He sounds confused, like someone has hurt him but the pain hasn’t set in yet.

“I wanted to tell you so you’d have time to prepare,” says Padmé. “If there is any way to prepare.”

"Blame me," Anakin says viciously. "We can tell them it was all my idea." If it comes down it, it was. He can't stand the idea of Obi-Wan being blamed. Anakin is already in trouble with the Council. It's hard to care about what they think anymore.

“No, that isn’t right,” Obi-Wan says. He reaches up and slowly scratches his ear. “You’re the apprentice. If they’re going to blame anyone, it should be me.” Obi-Wan would say that. The infuriating thing, of course, is that Anakin doesn’t think there’s anything to blame anyone for.

"It shouldn't be you, but it will be," he says with feeling. "I wouldn't be as good as I am if you didn't love me."

“I appreciate the sentiment,” says Obi-Wan. It sounds cavalier, but Anakin can see that it’s not.

“I’m so sorry,” Padmé says.

“No indication of who the informant is?” Obi-Wan says. “No--it doesn’t matter. I’m sorry. I just wondered.”

Anakin feels his chest constrict with panic and guilt. He knows exactly who. "We need to decide what to tell the Council," he says. "They'll be calling for us at any minute."

“Maybe,” Padmé says. “Maybe not. I’m not sure they want answers. I think he only spoke to me so that I would let him off the hook by giving an outright no.” Her expression bends unhappily. “I should have lied. They couldn’t do anything to me for lying. Oh, I should have--I’m so sorry.”

"No," Anakin says. "No, it doesn't matter. If you'd said no, they would have had to keep digging. They wouldn't have been able to let it go, even if they wanted to." He can practically feel the waves of misery coming from Obi-Wan. This is my fault, Anakin thinks again.

“Then there aren’t really any good options, are there?” Obi-Wan says.

"We can deny it," Anakin says. "It won't work, maybe, but we can try."

“Maybe,” Obi-Wan echoes, but he doesn’t sound convinced.

Padmé says, “Afternoon session starts soon--I have to get back. I’m so sorry. Anakin, can you come see me out?”

Anakin nods mutely. With a glance over his shoulder at Obi-Wan, he takes Padmé's hand and walks her to the door. Whatever she has to say to him in private will probably hurt more than anything she's willing to say in front of Obi-Wan.

Sure enough, as they stop in the doorway, she says quietly, “I know you know who told them.”

"They're going to say it to Obi-Wan," Anakin says. "He's going to hear it from them."

“Yes. Tell him first,” Padmé says. “You have to.”

"Now," Anakin agrees. "Oh, Padmé, how am I going to do this?" Obi-Wan has trusted him so much.

She reaches up and kisses his temple. “Bravely,” she says. “It’s better if it’s you.”

He closes his eyes and tries to absorb some of the calm she always radiates. "Thank you," he murmurs. "I'll see you soon."

“Very soon,” she promises. She leans around him to smile at Obi-Wan, and then she’s gone.

iii.

Obi-Wan witnesses Padmé’s strategic exit recognizing it for what it is, without being sure he wants to let her go. She’s clever and level-headed; if anyone could figure out a way to get them out of this, it would be her. But maybe, he realizes, he can’t get out of this. Maybe he shouldn’t even want to. The thought chills him. He’s a Jedi, isn’t he? He belongs to them. He’s been cheating the code the whole time. He’s not allowed to want anything.

He’s so distracted that it takes him a moment to see the way Anakin is looking at him.

“What?” he says. “What is it? I don’t have a solution, if that’s what you’re hoping.”

"No," Anakin says. He sits heavily on the couch. "Obi-Wan, this is my fault." His voice is dark with emotion.

Obi-Wan thinks of several ways to answer, most of which will start an argument. Instead of saying any of them, he asks, “What is? Breaking the rules? We’ve both chosen that. Getting caught? It was inevitable.” He winces internally at how harsh it sounds. He doesn’t mean it harshly. He means he loves Anakin, and they’re in a terrible position.

"It was," Anakin says, "but only because I'm an idiot. They wouldn't have looked into anything if someone wasn't shoving it in their faces." He pauses. "If Palpatine wasn't."

All of Obi-Wan’s thoughts--his guilt, his futile attempts at getting out of this situation, his fatalistic visions of what’s to come--still, and fall silently away from him. Something small and plaintive replaces them. It says, You should have known this.

“Was Palpatine their source?” he asks. He sounds so mild. He wonders what Anakin will think he feels, hearing that mild voice.

Anakin looks up at him, his expression agonized. "Yes," he says. "And I was his source." He sounds disgusted.

“You told him,” Obi-Wan says. “On purpose?” It begins to sink in more fully, what Anakin is telling him.

"I don't know," Anakin says softly. "He had a way of getting me to say more than I ever meant to. He asked so many questions, and I thought--Well, he wasn't a Jedi, he wouldn't care. He knows I love you. He knows…" He chews his lip, an uncharacteristic expression. "I asked him for sex advice."

Obi-Wan flinches.

“But it was secret,” he finds himself saying, but that isn’t what he means. Not just a secret. Private. Jedi only ever had scraps of privacy and Obi-Wan had been clinging to theirs for years. And the whole time--

Sex advice. The implications choke him. Obi-Wan thinks of being tortured in Palpatine’s office, feels the shame and the terror and the agony. And Palpatine had been laughing at—everything. Every hidden part of him.

Sex advice. The words creep up on Obi-Wan and he nearly retches.

"I'm sorry," Anakin says quickly. "I know it's horrible. I was hoping it would just never come up. I trusted him with so many stupid things--" He buries his face in his hands, looking sick.

Obi-Wan can’t bring himself to care that Anakin feels sick. He can’t believe--everything he thought belonged to them. Everything he thought was his.

“You didn’t even tell Padmé,” he says. “But you told him.”

He thinks of a hundred times that he’s been naked in Anakin’s grip.

"I know," Anakin says. "I know, Obi-Wan. I ruined everything."

“Why couldn’t you have come to me?” Obi-Wan says unevenly. “If you needed to talk, if you were uncertain—Oh, no, I know. This was all that time when you couldn’t trust me. When you thought I was the enemy and you were sleeping with me anyway. Did you tell him that, too?”

Anakin winces. "I don't remember what I said and didn't say. And there were things he guessed that I didn't deny. I don't know, Obi-Wan."

Obi-Wan is hurt, but something about the wretchedness in Anakin’s voice wakes him up. Of course. What is he thinking?

“You’ve never told anyone else, though, have you?” he asks quietly.

"No," Anakin says. "I knew how much trouble we could get in." He seems to realize that it's the exact amount they're going to get in, and his face falls further.

Obi-Wan swears, causing Anakin to give him a startled look, and says, “Palpatine. That monster. Everything he could wring out of you, he did. I can’t imagine what he thought he’d use this information for, when you were supposed to be friends, but he’s certainly made it work for him now.”

Anakin swallows and rubs his face. "He always had contingency plans, I think. If I wouldn't do what he wanted, or if I needed a push...Obi-Wan, I can't believe I got us into this."

Obi-Wan is so furious for a moment that he has to shut his eyes. He reaches for the Force almost desperately, until his blood is no longer boiling. Then he opens his eyes and looks at Anakin.

“You didn’t force me into anything,” Obi-Wan says. “And you’re no sith. Don’t place blame where it isn’t needed.”

"I know how you're feeling," Anakin says. "You don't have to hide it from me."

“I’m not angry at you, Anakin,” Obi-Wan says. “I’m angry at the man who took advantage of your ambition and your loneliness and your fear and tried to turn you inside-out. I’m angry at him.”

"And you're the one who's going to pay," Anakin says bitterly. "I don't care what they do to me--but you care."

Obi-Wan swallows. “It might go well,” he says. “More likely, though, that they send us to opposite ends of the galaxy. And certainly they’ll never give me another Padawan.”

Anakin looks alarmed. "Don't," he says. "They know how good you are. They'll be more upset with me."

Obi-Wan says, “I imagine they’ll manage to be upset enough for both of us.” He tries not to think about what the future will be, without Anakin or Padmé or the Jedi’s trust.

"I don't want this," Anakin says, his voice rising. "I want to make it right for you. I don't know what to do."

“Anakin, I don’t think there’s anything to do,” says Obi-Wan. “We’ve made our bed. Palpatine’s revelations aren’t lies, no matter how cruel they feel. All we can do now is face up to the Council and hope for--something.” He looks at Anakin a little helplessly.

"What are we supposed to do?" Anakin asks.

“I don’t know, Anakin, I don’t know anything,” Obi-Wan says. He truly doesn’t. It’s an unfamiliar feeling, an unmooring one.

"I know," Anakin says, and now his voice is thick, as if he's about to cry. "I wish I hadn't told him. I've ruined our lives. Some Chosen One."

“I probably shouldn’t have let you grow up knowing that damn phrase,” Obi-Wan says with a weak smile. “Bad mentorship.”

"Qui-Gon told me, anyway," Anakin says. "Before he...You're right. Nobody should have said it. Because I'm not, and I've done this to you. I'm sorry."

Obi-Wan brings himself to a halt. He breathes, and feels the Force around him, and tries to let his feelings flow out into it, and let it take their place.

“We got here together, Anakin,” he says. “I’m not going to pretend you haven’t made some--rather drastic mistakes. But you mustn’t discount Palpatine’s part in that, and I’ve made a few of my own. And no one forced me to sleep with you. Whatever your doubt has told you, no one forced me to love you, either. We’re here together.”

"And we'll get through it together?" Anakin says uncertainly. "Because they can't make me leave you or Padmé. Nothing could." His bravado is less convincing than it has been in the past. The Council could make him.

And Obi-Wan isn’t sure that Anakin would disobey the Council in this, if push came to shove. He isn’t sure what he would do himself. He loves Anakin to his bones, but the Jedi are the blood in his veins. Without them, who would Obi-Wan even be? Well--he won’t know what he’d do until they order him to do something he doesn’t want. And whatever answer he gives, he can’t know how bearable it will be until he’s trying to bear it.

But the goal is to make sure it never comes up.

He says, “I think we’d better find a way to get ahead of all this. We’re behind by a few crucial paces, but--maybe we can catch up.”

Anakin gives him a wan smile. "You're feeling better, I see."

Obi-Wan rubs hard at his eyes and says, “You know I’ll fall apart without you, I can’t possibly sit back and let it happen.”

Anakin tilts his head with a bemused expression. "Would you fall apart? If you'd said these things before--Well. I might not have been so stupid." He takes Obi-Wan's hand. "We'll be all right. All three of us." He almost sounds like he means it this time.

Obi-Wan wonders if it is his fault, for not doing better, for not saying more. He says, “I’ll make it so. I’ll make it so.” And lets the Force buoy him, because he doesn’t feel put together at all. “I’ll talk to Master Windu myself.”

"I'd offer to help," Anakin says darkly, "but he does hate me."

Obi-Wan laughs, startled into real, warm good-humor.

“Anakin,” he says, except there’s nothing else he wants to say. Just that, to hold onto it.

iv.

Actually asking for a meeting with Mace and Yoda is horribly daunting, but as soon as there’s a time set for it, Obi-Wan finds himself in a grimly good mood.

“Who knows?” he says to Anakin, as they wait out the clock. “They let your marriage go. They could get shockingly confused about this as well. It could all be fine.”

Anakin eyes him dubiously. "Maybe," he says. "If it isn't, just remind them that we saved the galaxy. That should be good for a few more transgressions."

Obi-Wan says, “We shouldn’t wish for favors to repay something well done, you know that.” But a small part of him wishes they’d think like Anakin. Obi-Wan wouldn’t know what to make of the Jedi, but he’d still be here. Still--it’s like he’s said. It might not be that bad.

"I could come with you," Anakin says. "Sometimes you just fold when you're talking to them." Obi-Wan isn't sure what Anakin thinks he'd be able to do differently. In most cases, he only frustrates the Council.

“No,” he says. “I’ll talk to them. I think it will be better if I come to them as a peer, rather than as a--team. A small rebellion. Whatever you’d like to call it.”

"You know what I'd like to call it," Anakin says. "But have it your way. I never do know what they want."

“No,” Obi-Wan agrees, amused. He doesn’t feel afraid, only uncertain. And he is certain that he has to go. “Ah, it’s about time. Any other words of advice from you? Any particular habits you think I should break for the occasion?”

"Don't be self-deprecating," Anakin says. "They're already going to be hard enough on you." He leans in and gives Obi-Wan a firm kiss that feels more protective than romantic.

Obi-Wan leans back, only an inch or two so that he can see Anakin’s face. He tucks Anakin’s hair back behind his ear.

“Who let you become so ill-groomed, hm?” he says softly.

"I can think of at least two people," Anakin says. He gives Obi-Wan a very brave smile. "Go on. Don't make them wait for you."

Obi-Wan finds his hand and squeezes it, then turns to walk into whatever fate his friends and mentors have in store for him.

v.

Mace Windu and Yoda are waiting for him at the Temple. They walk with him to one of the smaller meditation rooms, silent and serious. Mace keeps glancing at him while they walk.

"Sit, Obi-Wan," Yoda offers once they're inside. He's floating on his hoverchair next to Mace, who looks stormy.

Obi-Wan lowers himself to the ground, and waits for Mace to find a seat across from him.

Then he says, “I suppose you knew that it wouldn’t take long for anything you said to Senator Amidala to make its way to my ears. Anything relevant, I mean.”

"I took that chance when I spoke to her," Mace says. Then he falls silent, watching Obi-Wan. Maybe relishing his last few moments of ignorance.

“So I know what you want to know,” Obi-Wan says quietly. And, he reminds himself, every hour that he leaves this unsaid, he gives more of their lives to Palpatine, to twist and exploit and make puerile. He inhales. He exhales. “You want to know if Palpatine told the truth.”

Yoda makes a thoughtful noise and closes his eyes. "Yes," Mace says, "And whatever you tell us, we'll believe it. We trust you." Is he offering Obi-Wan a chance to lie?

Anakin would consider it. But Obi-Wan can’t. Even the smallest voice in him that says, You can be safe if you do this, he doesn’t believe and he doesn’t listen to. Lying at this stage would be an entirely new breach of faith.

“I’m sorry,” he says. Sorry for what he’s about to say, sorry for their faith. He can’t look quite at either of them, so he stares between them. “I don’t know what Palpatine has said to you, so I don’t know what part of that is true. But--one thing is true. Before he had Padmé, Anakin had me. And he still does.”

Yoda exhales, sounding pained. He opens his eyes. "A shame this is, Obi-Wan."

"A shame," Mace says, exasperated. "It's more than that. He was your padawan."

Obi-Wan swallows, but it doesn’t wash away the sudden bright guilt. “I know,” he says. “Not--it wasn’t--it wasn’t when he was young. That’s not--” He’s tongue-tied, horrified, and he knows if Anakin was here he’d be shouting about how it’s his doing, his idea.

"No?" Mace says. "Let me guess. It was when he was old enough to start pushing boundaries with everyone. I just didn't think you'd let him."

"Trust you we did," Yoda says.

“I know,” Obi-Wan says, quaking deep inside. He can’t apologize, because he isn’t sorry for doing it. But he’s afraid, now.

"Bring this to the Council we must," Yoda says.

Mace nods. "We should have dealt with this when Skywalker told us he was married. Then we might not have had to…"

So it’s fine as long as it’s kept the right kind of secret? Obi-Wan has to bite his tongue hard, to stop himself from saying it. He’s afraid, but he’s angry. It’s hypocrisy.

"Not that it matters now, but it was his idea, wasn't it?" Mace says.

Obi-Wan’s anger sparks. “No one was coerced,” he says.

"Just convinced," Mace says a little nastily. "I know how you can be about him."

"As you say, Master Windu, it matters not," Yoda says sharply. "Thank you, Obi-Wan, for your honesty."

Obi-Wan nods, but his heart is racing. He doesn’t know what’s going to happen. All he knows is that the entire Council will know about this, and whatever Yoda and Mace do will have to account for their feelings.

"We'll convene as soon as possible," Mace says. "I don't want anyone to be able to say we let this lie. I wish it wasn't about people's perception as well as a violation of the code."

Obi-Wan says, “And for now?”

"For now," Mace says, "of course we'll have to keep you and Skywalker separate. There's no question that you can't be in charge of his training."

Obi-Wan feels a rush of panic as it hits him afresh that this confession means not only that they are found out, but that it’s over. One of the two great things he cares about in the universe is over. He thinks of Anakin saying sometimes you just fold when you’re talking to them. He says, “Surely we’ve proven ourselves as a team.”

Yoda lowers his ears in displeasure. "A problem, hm? Too close a team."

"We should have seen this," Mace says. "Our respect for you blinded us."

Obi-Wan grasps his courage, or his foolhardiness.

“You made an exception for Anakin and Senator Amidala,” Obi-Wan says. He gropes for the Force but he can’t be soothed. “If it matters so much, why let them carry on?”

"She is not his master!" Mace snaps. "You seem to be having trouble understanding the seriousness of this situation, Obi-Wan."

Obi-Wan shuts his mouth. He looks to Yoda, but he can feel Yoda’s judgment from here. He thinks maybe all this time he has managed not to know how serious it is. Too busy worrying about love, which he shouldn’t have had at all.

“Don’t punish Anakin,” he says. “I understand--keep us apart. But please, don’t punish him.”

That seems to have been the wrong thing to say. "Your choice it is not," Yoda says sharply.

"You're not in a position to dictate either of your punishments!" Mace says. "This is--truly unbelievable."

It’s incredible how quickly years of being their equal can wash away into nothing. He’s lost their respect. He could lose his seat on the council, they could expel him from the order altogether. He could lose everything. But regardless of he’s left with...Anakin will be gone.

He squeezes his hands together in his lap and doesn’t say anything.

"Discuss this, the council must," Yoda says gravely.

"Palpatine is going to get his wish," Mace says. He sounds disgusted. "This is going to turn public opinion against us."

It’s worse than anything else they’ve said, and Obi-Wan knows it’s true.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I’ll do what it takes to--I’m sorry.”

"Sorry isn't an especially useful sentiment," Mace says coldly. "Of all the Jedi--I never would have worried about this with you. Ever."

“I understand,” Obi-Wan says. He can barely hear his own voice. He wants, childishly, to beg them to move past this part and tell him what they want from him. Maybe this is what they want--a moment to grieve, furiously, a person they thought they knew.

Yoda clears his throat. "Dwell on the past we must not. Move forward we will." He stirs himself and moves his hoverchair closer to the door. "Go, Obi-Wan. Wait for the council's decision you must. And meditate on what you can learn from this."

“Master,” Obi-Wan says. He gets up from the floor somehow, bows to them both, and flees. He feels like his body is nothing but an object he is piloting, from a thousand miles away.

They didn’t say he couldn’t go back to Anakin, so he does.

vi.

Anakin tries to think of other things while Obi-Wan is gone, but the living Force around him feels too unsettled. He tries to remember exactly what Yoda said about the traditions when he was talking about Anakin and Padmé.

After what feels like years, Obi-Wan comes back. Anakin can feel the disturbance even more strongly than before. He moves his legs off the couch to make room for Obi-Wan.

"Well, Master?"

Obi-Wan glances at Anakin’s legs, then the couch. He sits. He moves with all his usual gestures, but something is wrong.

“It didn’t go well,” he says.

Anakin feels cold. "What do you mean? How bad?" Are they out of the Jedi Order? He never should have let Obi-Wan go.

“The Council has to discuss,” Obi-Wan says slowly. “But I was right that they’d split us up. They’re going to split us up.”

Anakin's anger catches him by surprise, knocking the breath out of him. It rises in his like lava, white-hot and searing. "They said that?" It doesn't sound like a question when he hears himself say it.

“I’m not your teacher anymore,” Obi-Wan says. He won’t look at Anakin, which is like them stealing him already. “We’ll be sent on--different assignments. Assuming they don’t expel us. Far ends of the galaxy. Just like I said.”

"We won't," Anakin says, flat and furious. "I don't accept that, Master." He often uses Obi-Wan's name, but he's going to call him Master every chance he gets to make him understand.

“You have to, Anakin,” Obi-Wan says. “There’s no choice involved.” He won’t raise his voice, he won’t look at Anakin.

"Master," Anakin says through gritted teeth. "You can't just accept this." But it's Obi-Wan, of course he can. Anakin wants to shake him.

“What was I supposed to do, Anakin? Fight them bodily? There was nothing I could say to make them see it as right. It’s not like with you and Padmé, Anakin, and they don’t care that we uncovered Palpatine. I could have destroyed everything and it wouldn’t have made a difference.” He’s rubbing his face with his right hand, spouting nonsense.

"If it had been me," Anakin says forcefully, "I would have done all of that. I would have done anything, rather than let this happen." He can't imagine being away from Obi-Wan. He hasn't been, not really, since he was nine years old.

“Well, I’m sorry, but if you think it would have ended any better than this, you’re a fool,” Obi-Wan says.

"Don't," Anakin says, getting to his feet. "If we're really going to be separate, don't be like that." He has a thousand visions of screaming in Yoda's face, of flinging his lightsaber down on the floor of the Council chambers, of riding away in a speeder with Obi-Wan and Padmé and nothing else.

But Obi-Wan couldn't stand that.

“There wasn’t a choice, Anakin,” Obi-Wan said. Why does he keep saying things so reasonably, as if they don’t hurt him at all? “There was never any choice. This was always going to happen, and I should have known that from the beginning.”

And now he's rewriting their history, making it into something shameful. Well, Anakin refuses to feel ashamed. "I guess you'd better go, then."

Obi-Wan looks up at him, suddenly pale. Or maybe he’s been pale the whole time. How would Anakin know, when Obi-Wan wouldn’t look at him until now?

“Please don’t do that,” Obi-Wan says in almost a whisper.

Anakin reaches out for the Force, trying to put his anger aside. He's not angry at Obi-Wan. Not really. "I'm sorry, Master," he says. "I'm just very upset."

“I know,” Obi-Wan says. “I know you are. I thought it would be different. I didn’t think--”

"You didn't think we'd finally get in trouble for acting like we're above the law," Anakin says unhappily. "I know. Neither did I."

“I don’t know why they let me come back,” Obi-Wan says. “I didn’t think they would.”

Anakin clenches his fists and forces himself to breathe. "I want to fight them," he says. "But I know you'd hate that." He tries to imagine the rest of his life without Obi-Wan and feels sick.

“I almost wish you would,” Obi-Wan says. “But if you’re going to do anything rash, can it wait?” His voice breaks. “Can it wait until I’ve gone?” Before Anakin can even respond, Obi-Wan buries his face in his hands and starts to cry.

Horrified, Anakin sits by Obi-Wan and puts an arm around him. "Master, don't," he says. He can't think about what it means to lose Obi-Wan. It's too big. "It's going to be all right." It isn't.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do without you,” Obi-Wan says. His voice is raw. Anakin thought he was done hearing Obi-Wan’s voice do new and terrible things for awhile, but he was wrong. This is almost worse than with Palpatine.

If Anakin ever doubted Obi-Wan’s love, he can’t doubt it now.

"We'll find ways to communicate," Anakin says, but he can't say it with conviction. Obi-Wan seems convinced to take their punishment for what it is.

“They won’t let you out of their sight,” Obi-Wan says. “I--I’m sorry, I didn’t even ask who would teach you. It happened so fast.”

"Forget it," Anakin says. "I'm sure I'll find out." He's sure he'll make the person's life a living hell. He hugs Obi-Wan close. "Just don't think about that right now, Master."

“Oh, naturally, I’ll put it all out of my mind,” Obi-Wan says, but it doesn’t sound like a joke, it sounds like grief. He touches Anakin’s face. “Don’t do anything stupid,” he says. “All right? You’ve done so much. And things might change.” He doesn’t sound as if he believes it.

"They will," Anakin says, because if he can't do anything else for Obi-Wan, he can keep hoping. Then he remembers the other thing. "Oh, Padmé's going to be crushed."

Obi-Wan smiles faintly. “Not over me, I think.”

"She likes you!" Anakin says. Now Padmé is never going to get the chance to find out if she more than likes Obi-Wan. It feels devastating and insurmountable.

Obi-Wan must feel the same way, because he just nods and doesn’t answer.

Anakin grips Obi-Wan's hands. "I just want to spend every minute with you until then." He can hold Obi-Wan and plan at the same time.

“Yes,” Obi-Wan says. He laughs uncomfortably. “And know that the entire Jedi Council is imagining it.”

"Well, I hope they enjoy it," Anakin says savagely, pulling Obi-Wan into a kiss. Obi-Wan’s arms wrap around him and squeeze, more and more tightly, until it hurts. Until Anakin can barely breathe, and Obi-Wan is shaking, and they still don’t pull away.

Anakin pushes Obi-Wan down on the couch, still pressed against him, hands touching Obi-Wan wherever he can. He doesn't know what he's showing him, except that this isn't over; he won't let it be over.

Obi-Wan releases him long enough to start undressing, fingers quick and awkward (on both hands, on both). His eyes are on Anakin, sweeping up and down his chest and face, looking like he’s trying to scan him in three dimensions, to store away for emergencies.

If the council has their way, every day is going to be for emergencies.

Anakin fumbles through helping Obi-Wan undress, fighting not to feel numb and removed from the situation. He doesn't need to store away memories of what Obi-Wan looks like; he'll never forget. He wants to capture the way Obi-Wan's skin smells, though, and he way he feels when Anakin bites down on his shoulder. Anakin makes sure to leave a mark.

Obi-Wan is panting under him, face pressed against Anakin’s collarbone, when he says, “Bedroom. Please. I want to do it right.”

There’s not a right or wrong, but Anakin thinks what he means is comfortable. Safe.

Anakin pulls him into the bedroom by the arm, ignoring Obi-Wan's bruises. He strips off his own tunic and pushes Obi-Wan down on the bed, pressing a knee between his bare legs.

There are marks on him from Palpatine, fading but still visible. Anakin realizes he won’t see them heal.

Obi-Wan drags him down and kisses him.

“I love you,” he says, between one kiss and the next. “I love you, and I’m proud of you, I’m so proud of you, Anakin.”

Anakin takes a sharp, involuntary breath. He would have killed to hear that, a month ago. Now Obi-Wan's giving it up so easily. "I love you," he says thickly. "Don't act like this is goodbye." He kisses Obi-Wan so he can't answer him.

It only works until Obi-Wan pulls away to breathe. Right on the tail of the breath, Obi-Wan says, “I have to imagine it is.”

Anakin doesn't work like that. Only furious hope keeps him going. He only stops touching Obi-Wan long enough to finish undressing. He wants to feel every inch of Obi-Wan's skin against his.

Obi-Wan watches him, leaning back on his elbows. Anakin can trace all the scars and freckles on him by memory. Even the new ones.

Obi-Wan says, “There’s oil in the drawer, isn’t there?” Which is another way Anakin can tell they’re in a nightmarish situation. Obi-Wan doesn’t ask for things. Not even as sideways as that.

"Yes," Anakin says. His voice sounds harsh in his own ears. He could use the Force to call the little vial of oil to him, but he doesn't. Instead he fumbles in the drawer for it. "Hold still," he tells Obi-Wan. He doesn't want this over fast, but he wants to be close to Obi-Wan now.

Obi-Wan slides a little further down the pillows and settles in, making room for Anakin between his legs.

“Be nice, all right?” he says.

"I am," Anakin says, feeling heartbroken for the first time. He should have been nicer when he had the chance. He kneels between Obi-Wan's legs and slicks his fingers with the oil, getting it all over the bedspread. He spreads Obi-Wan's legs and pushes a finger inside, bending over him to kiss his stomach.

Obi-Wan inhales sharply and grabs at Anakin with his right hand--his neck, his arm, his shoulder. He settles with his hand twisted in Anakin’s hair. Anakin can feel his fist clench with the motion of Anakin’s fingers, clench and then release quickly, because Obi-Wan is stupidly conscientious.

"You're all right," Anakin says under his breath. He bites down on Obi-Wan's hip and works his finger in and out until he can add a second one. Fist tight in his hair. Good.

Anakin works until Obi-Wan is sweat-soaked and shaking. He makes noise when Anakin does something very right, but mostly, Obi-Wan’s breathing is the loudest thing in the room.

Eventually, Anakin reluctantly withdraws his fingers. "Do you want me?" he whispers. He feels like they should be whispering.

“Do you have to ask?” Obi-Wan says back, just as quietly. “Yes, Anakin, always.”

Anakin wishes the room was dark, because he's crying with anger and frustration when he slicks himself with oil and slides his dick inside Obi-Wan.

They hit a rhythm, but it doesn’t feel right (of course it doesn’t, none of this is right). Obi-Wan says breathlessly, gently, “I didn’t mean to render you toothless.”

"I don't want to hurt you, Master," Anakin says. He's done that so much without meaning to. But he reaches up and drags the fingers of his mechanical hand down Obi-Wan's chest.

Obi-Wan makes a noise, frustrated and stricken. He drags Anakin in until their bodies meet, until he’s kissing Anakin so hard it bruises.

Anakin bears down on Obi-Wan with all his weight and presses his palm, the one slick with oil, to Obi-Wan's chest, pinning him to the mattress. He kisses him and kisses him, only breaking away to kiss his neck, his shoulders, his collarbone.

Obi-Wan’s knee presses into Anakin’s side. His breath catches into near sobs, and he clings to the bed as Anakin fucks him faster and harder.

Anakin grabs Obi-Wan's hair in his fist and yanks his head back, biting his throat. He can feel his whole body humming with frantic energy as he fucks him. He can feel the Force all around them both, binding them together. They have to be together.

Obi-Wan is begging under his breath, eyes screwed shut, his nails cutting across Anakin’s back.

Anakin doesn't bother telling him it's all right. He just shuts his eyes and wraps his mechanical hand around Obi-Wan's cock.

Everything is dizzy and hot and wild, absolute focus on finishing something Anakin doesn’t want to end. Obi-Wan comes yelling, with his face buried in Anakin’s shoulder, arms tight as a vice around his shoulders.

Anakin breathes, gasping, and comes, not letting go for an instant. For a long, long moment, he can't move. He just kneels, chest to chest with Obi-Wan, feeling the heat of his skin. His face is still wet with tears.

When his legs start to ache and he has to move, he whispers, "Sorry, Master," and rolls over so he's next to Obi-Wan.

“Oh,” says Obi-Wan, panting. His hand finds Anakin’s and he squeezes without letting go. “Are you crying now? Oh. What a mess we are.”

"Sorry," Anakin says, but something about the way Obi-Wan sounds so much like himself reignites that terrible, violent feeling of hope inside. Obi-Wan may need this to be goodbye, but Anakin won't let it be. "I'll always be with you, Master," he says. Obi-Wan can take that however he wants.

Obi-Wan is quiet for a minute. Then he says, “Are you going to listen to me for once and let this lie?”

"I'm going to let them send us wherever they send us," Anakin says. "That's all I can promise you."

A squeeze of his hand. Obi-Wan makes a grumbling noise.

"Love you, Master," Anakin says brightly. He still feels awful about the whole situation, but he doesn't feel hopeless. It's a big galaxy. They'll make a way to find each other again.

vii.

Mace Windu is furious. He knows that's not an appropriate emotion for a Jedi, but every time he schools his emotions into something more acceptable, he remembers all over again that Obi-Wan and the Skywalker boy have made fools of them all. He feels in some way personally responsible for it, as if he should have known. Then again, nobody knew. Not about this or the Sith or apparently anything else.

He calls an emergency session of the Council, and when they arrive, he still hasn't decided how to tell them.

It’s an incomplete membership that he has to address, with six of them present and two calling in. Not to mention Obi-Wan, waiting to be summoned. That leaves three masters missing, and Mace can’t decide if that’s better or worse. No--it means he’ll have to fill them in later, and go through all of this again.

When all the attending Council members are seated, Master Plo says, “An emergency session with no clue as to its purpose is most disturbing, Masters. Please, tell us what has happened. A matter of war, I presume?”

Yoda frowns, his ears flattening outwards. “Afraid I am that this is not the case, Master Plo. An inward matter, this is.”

"We've had some disturbing information from Palpatine," Mace says. There's no sense dragging this out, distasteful as it is. "He told me that Master Obi-Wan is romantically involved with Skywalker."

There's a brief silence. Then Adi Gallia says, "So he's trying to poison our minds and destroy us from within."

“From Obi-Wan’s own mouth, a deception this is not,” says Yoda.

Mace sees Plo Koon grip the arms of his chair.

"What?" Adi says sharply. "That's not possible."

Mace remembers perfectly well going very quickly through denial and into the realization that it should have been clear from the start. He can feel all of their confusion--Kit feels aghast. Master Luminara frowns into the distance, plucking invisible dust from her skirt.

Master Mundi, in blurry blue, says, “How long has this been going on?”

"Years," Mace says.

Kit looks sick. "Years? Since Anakin was his padawan?"

"Yes," Mace says, "but long after Skywalker was a grown adult capable of making his own mistakes."

"If so, there are worse things than the two of them sleeping together," Shaak Ti says carefully. "Anakin has to put all that energy somewhere."

“A fine line it is,” Yoda says. “But strong is the attachment between them. That they betray the code, no doubt can there be.”

"How could Obi-Wan do this?" Kit says, as if to himself. Too emotional, that one.

"More importantly, how is this going to look?" Adi says briskly. "Our two heroes? It's awfully convenient for Palpatine."

“Yes, clever of him,” Ki-Adi says, grim. “And cruel, too.”

“Is his cruelty really what we should be worried about?” Master Luminara asks quietly. “After all, what must matter is that they’ve broken the code.”

“And put us in an impossible position,” Plo Koon says. “Heroes. With the eyes of the Senate on us, how can we possibly respond? I have respected Obi-Wan for many years, but this is an offense that would normally necessitate expulsion. Yet we can’t expel the two Jedi who apprehended Palpatine without making it look as if we doubt their honor and Palpatine’s guilt.”

"It's what he wants," Mace says. He doesn't plan to say anything too leading. As one of the elder members of the Council, he should watch this play out.

"But doing nothing isn't an option," Adi says.

"Obi-Wan is training Anakin again," Kit says uneasily. "Surely that can't continue."

“Continue it will not,” Yoda says. “Of that there will be no question. To their own paths, each must look. Apart they will be. But for what direction those paths may take, we ask you for your wisdom.”

Luminara says slowly, “Master Plo is right, that to punish them now would be very bad for us politically. But should we be guided by politics that way? What they’ve done is--” She looks around the circle, inviting someone else to express exactly what it is.

"Horrific," Kit says.

"That's a little strong," Shaak Ti says. "I agree it's a breach of the code, but it's one that hasn't done as much damage as some. The fact that we didn't know should tell us something."

Mace privately believes that they should have known. Why else would Obi-Wan have been blinded to Anakin straying from his path?

“We didn’t know,” Plo Koon says sharply. “But Palpatine did. And what was Obi-Wan doing the entire time that Palpatine was grooming his apprentice? Keeping out of the way to avoid looking jealous?”

"Yes, what about Palpatine and Anakin?" Shaak Ti asks.

"This is beside the point," Mace says. "The question is, what can be done?"

“Is it beside the point?” Master Luminara asks. “Is it possible that the whole thing is Palpatine's fault somehow?”

“Master Luminara,” Ki-Adi says, “I think you are trying too hard to pretend that people aren’t sometimes just besotted with one another. For better or worse,” he adds.

"Jedi are supposed to be above that, though," Adi says. "And whether or not that's right--and I strongly believe that it is--they knew they were breaking the rules. We have to respond."

“Like I said,” Plo Koon says, “if these were normal days, they would both be expelled in a heartbeat. But as these are not normal days--what can we do?”

“Little more than what Master Yoda has already mentioned. I wouldn’t even recommend removing Obi-Wan from the Council,” Ki-Adi says. “It doesn’t look good.”

So the tide is turning as Mace knew it would. They care more about how it looks to those outside the Order than about what is right. He can't argue. He agrees with them.

"So we give Skywalker another Master," he says. "I don't suppose any of you is interested in taking him on."

There is a telling silence. Yoda stirs himself.

“Very well,” he says. “Watch over Skywalker, Master Windu will. And keep our peace with Obi-Wan, this Council will.”

“It seems to me we are letting ourselves down,” Master Plo says. “If this is how it must be, I feel, emphatically, that the boundaries must be strict. They cannot behave like Jedi? Then they have given up all right to one another’s company.”

“You mean to keep them from ever seeing one another?” Master Luminara asks. “That seems impracticable.”

"But not impossible," Mace says. This, he feels strongly about. "We won't send them on missions together. They won't be master and padawan. They won't have any reason to see one another, and if they have any shame, they won't make a point of it."

“And if they seek one another out? We have very little recourse,” Plo Koon says.

“Retribution our purpose is not,” Yoda says sharply. “Deal with such things as they pass we will. For now, assume we will that they will behave as Jedi. Do this we must.”

Kit clears his throat. "Are we going to have a chance to speak to Obi-Wan about this today?"

“When we are in agreement, then he will be called,” Yoda says. “But remember: understandable, your unhappiness is; but rage, the Jedi way is not.”

"I'm not angry," Kit says, and truly, he doesn't sound it. "I'm just--" He shakes his head. Mace can feel the disappointment, confusion, and betrayal.

"I think we're all quite shocked," Adi says. "We thought he knew better."

“I would have thought he would be better,” Plo Koon says. “But as he isn’t. We may as well deal with him as he is. I believe we are ready, Master Windu.”

"Mm," Mace says. Plo is being even harsher than he is. It's helping him temper his own responses. One of many ways in which having the Council there is helpful. He rises and goes to the hallway to summon Obi-Wan.

Obi-Wan sits in the hall, back straight, his right hand resting over the left one in his lap. He’s looking down the hall when Mace comes out, but he turns quickly, searching. He is a smaller, paler version of his usual self.

"Master Kenobi," Mace says. "We're ready for you." There's no way to make this less difficult, even if he wanted to--and at the moment he finds that he does. He leads Obi-Wan back in, only hoping that the others can behave like Jedi, even if Obi-Wan hasn't.

All the eyes in the room hit Obi-Wan at once, and he stops and starts. Moving to sit down automatically, Mace guesses, before realizing what a terrible misstep that is. Obi-Wan stops in the center of the circle, and as Mace sits, he is alone.

“Masters,” Obi-Wan says. It’s like all the sound has been sucked out of him.

“Pleased the Council is not, Obi-Wan,” Yoda says.

"What were you thinking?" Adi asks. "Honestly? Skywalker?" Not, to Mace's mind, the crux of the problem.

“Your own padawan,” Plo Koon says. He’s minding Yoda’s warning about anger, but his disdain is no less obvious. “And because of that, we are in a most difficult position. A jedi should be cast out of the order for doing what you’ve done.”

Obi-Wan says, “And are we?”

“To Anakin’s fate, no mind will you give,” Yoda says. “On your own be focused. Penitence, Obi-Wan. And discipline. Find these things within yourself, you must.”

"We have no desire to remove you from the order, or even from the council," Mace says, bending the truth liberally. "But we do want to make sure your mind is where it needs to be."

Obi-Wan looks like he knows there’s a lie in there, and from the way he looks around at the Council, Mace suspects he also has some guesses about who would happily kick him out. He doesn’t contradict him, though. He only says, “Thank you, masters, for your generosity of spirit. I will do what is necessary.”

To Mace's surprise, now that Obi-Wan is in the room, Kit isn't saying anything. He's just watching Obi-Wan with something like horror. Not all of them are so reticent, though.

"And don't feel like you've gotten away with something," Adi says. "You should plan to keep yourself away from Anakin. Master Windu will be training him from now on." Mace could swear she gives him a triumphant look. Yes, he's aware that he drew the short straw.

Obi-Wan shoots a glance Mace’s way, laced with both surprise and something more complicated and painful. He says, “I promise you, Adi, I don’t think I’ve gotten away with anything.”

"You may find that it's pleasant to be released from having him as your padawan," Shaak Ti says gently. "And he may do well with a master who is less...beholden to him."

“No one could doubt Master Windu’s abilities,” Obi-Wan says.

“Rules there will be, Obi-Wan, although on the Council you remain,” says Yoda. “With Anakin you will not work or speak for any purpose.”

Obi-Wan stares at him. “But surely in the course of everything we do I must be able to at least--”

"No," Mace says sharply. "If he isn't your padawan and you're not working together, why should you speak to each other? There are plenty of Jedi you never speak to."

"You would think, after all this, that you'd be more interested in proving that you can do the right thing," Adi says.

For a moment Obi-Wan is silent. Mace waits to feel something from him, a rush of distress or protest. But there’s nothing.

“You’re right, of course,” Obi-Wan says quietly. “I understand, and I will comply with what the Council requires.”

"That easily?" Adi asks. "Then how did you end up in this position in the first place?"

Mace has no questions there. If you know anything of Anakin and Obi-Wan's relationship, you can extrapolate.

Obi-Wan, still completely unreadable, looks back to Yoda.

“A trial this is not,” Yoda says. “Admitted his wrongdoing, Obi-Wan has. Now the consequence he accepts. Agreed, you have, upon what that consequence is. More do you require?”

Adi is smart, and she knows when to stop. She inclines her head toward Yoda and sits back in her chair. Kit is still miserably silent.

"I hope we can all move forward from this," Mace says. "We have a number of more important things to deal with in the coming weeks."

Master Mundi stirs. “We’ve already determined that Obi-Wan is no less one of our number than he was this morning. I suggest that he takes a seat and we move on to other matters.”

Mace allows himself a smile at Master Mundi. He should have known he could count on him. "I agree. We do still have a war to be wrapping up."

Obi-Wan hesitates, but at a nod from Yoda, he takes his usual seat. He doesn’t look happy or comfortable, but Mace can’t sense his feelings.

Mace forces himself to focus on the matter at hand--largely, Count Dooku--and soon he's almost forgotten the disruption to their routine. Almost. Obi-Wan remains so quiet that nothing feels quite normal. Mace tells himself it will just take time.

Obi-Wan does speak up eventually. He isn’t fully healed from his encounter with Palpatine, and sending him on strenuous offworld missions is still out of the question. He offers to spend some time in the library.

“It’s never hurt before,” he says.

"Whatever you find, let us know first," Shaak Ti says. "I'm sure I don't have to tell you that we don't need you running off on one of your unauthorized missions again."

“Of course, Master Ti,” Obi-Wan says. Mace finds himself waiting for the joke, but there isn’t one.

"Everyone else, you know what to do," Mace says, pushing away his discomfort and disappointment. "We need to find Dooku. Put out enough fires and we will find him."

Everyone stirs, signing off or getting up, breaking into small groups to talk about what comes next--or whatever else. Mace watches to see not only what Obi-Wan will do, but what everyone else will do around Obi-Wan.

He hears Luminara say, “Do you want to eat with us?”

Obi-Wan, politely, says, “Thank you, but no. I think I’ll wait on lunch. I have a--few ideas to start on.”

He extricates himself from that conversation and manages to slip out of the room before anyone else--including Mace--can stop and talk to him further.

When he's convinced that everyone is where they should be, Mace asks Yoda to walk with him. When they're out of earshot of the others, he says, "How do you think that went?"

“Depends it does on what you hoped for,” Yoda says. “Happy I am not. Concerned for Obi-Wan, I am. But the Force moves in ways--unexpected. For better or worse, no clear outcome do I see.”

Mace's brown furrows. Not really what he was hoping for, but Yoda is rarely satisfying. "I just wanted to bring things back into balance. What does any of us want? I certainly didn't want to end up training Skywalker."

“Ah,” says Yoda, and Mace detects the slightest amount of glee in his expression. “A challenging time for all, this is. A challenge for you as well. Learn to control your anger, perhaps you will. Learn to improve your patience.”

"I understand that we're all still learning," Mace says testily, "but did it have to be like this?"

“Hurt, are you?” Yoda asks.

"Concerned," Mace says. "I feel that it's going to be a disaster. As if it's not already bad enough with Obi-Wan." That, he is hurt about.

“For Anakin, trust the Force,” Yoda says. “It will guide you, and a good teacher you will be. And for Obi-Wan--remain clearsighted you must. Do not let your feelings hinder your actions, or lose yet more, we may.”

Mace nods, trying to take the advice as it's meant. "I'll do my best. I can't speak for the others." Kit and Plo are on his mind, in particular.

Yoda’s ears shift, in a way Mace can’t quite interpret. “Yes. Yes. A challenge to all of us, this will be.” He sighs. “Meditate, Master Windu. And if fail you, that does--lunch.”

"Ugh," Mace says, disgusted. Yoda always manages to be infuriating to the last. "Yes, I'll take you up on that."

“Mm,” says Yoda. “This way. This way!” And off he goes, letting Mace come following behind.