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A Mind Always Free

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"Observe. Learn what you can. Keep everything secret. Don't be emotionless, but don't allow your emotions to show. And most importantly, take what you can get when you can get it, but let it go when it is taken away from you," Shmi Skywalker said softly, caressing the face of her son.

"Will it be taken away from me?" Anakin asked, looking up at his mother with wide, innocent, blue eyes.

"Yes, Ani. Everything will eventually be taken from you," Shmi responded. Anakin frowned.

"Why?"

"Because that's the way the universe works," Shmi sighs. "Nobody can hold on to anything forever. Beings die or leave and there is nothing we can do to stop that. The only thing we can do is accept it when it happens. We can mourn, but we must accept or we will never find any happiness."


* * * * *

 

"I can't do it, mom. I just can't do it," Anakin moaned with a frown, his pack slipping off his shoulder.

"You must do it, Ani," Shmi said, caressing his face.

"Will I ever see you again?"

"I think that is up to you, Ani. Now, be brave. Take what you can get when you can get, but let go when it is taken from you. And remember, your mind will always be your own."

"I will come back and free you, mom," Anakin swore, meaning every word.

"I know. Now go. And don't look back," Shmi responded, standing and turning Anakin. "Don't look back." Anakin nodded and ran back to Master Qui-Gon.


* * * * *

 

Anakin was angry. He had left his mother, had allowed himself to be taken away, for this? The Jedi didn't want him because he was too old. Too old? That was dumb. And besides, that wasn't the real reason. He could tell. It was in their eyes. The Jedi didn't want him because he felt.

"Your thoughts dwell on your mother," the Cerean had said.

"I miss her," he had responded because it was true and he didn't see why he shouldn't tell the truth (this time anyway).

"Afraid to lose her, I think," the little green troll had responded.

Anakin was not afraid to lose his mother. He had already lost her and he had accepted that, much as he disliked it. No, he was afraid that he would never see her again.

Anakin knew better than to let his anger show. An angry slave was a dead slave. So, he pushed his anger down and wiped it off his face.

He didn't allow himself to hope. There would be no point. If the Jedi didn't want him, then he wouldn't be a Jedi. That was okay.

He knew the Jedi wouldn't just throw him out on the streets. They weren't like that. They would train him for something. Piloting or mechanics. That's what Obi-Wan Kenobi had said anyway.

That was okay. He'd always wanted to be a pilot. He'd always wanted to go see all the stars, see all the planets that accompanied said stars. He had accepted that he would not be a Jedi Knight and he was okay with that.

He just wished they would say the real reason they didn't want him and not this bullshit about him being too old.

 

* * * * *

Master Qui-Gon was dead. Anakin's heart ached because Master Qui-Gon was dead. He couldn't even imagine what Obi-Wan was feeling.

Anakin reached over and grasped the young Jedi's wrist. He looked up at him and saw a heavy sorrow in the man's eyes. "Are you alright?" He asked, softly.

Obi-Wan looked down at him. "I'm fine," he said. Anakin didn't believe him. "The council has given me permission to train you. You will be a Jedi, I promise."

He was going to be a Jedi. Anakin's heart swelled with happiness, but he pushed that down because that didn't matter right now. What mattered was that this young man was sad and had yet to mourn.

Anakin stepped close to Obi-Wan and wrapped his arms around the man's waist. "It's okay to not be okay," Anakin said, squeezing him tightly. Anakin heard a choked off noise that sounded like a sob and Obi-Wan wrapped his arms around Anakin, finally allowing himself to mourn his fallen teacher.


* * * * *

 

Anakin scowled when he found the darkness in his mind. How had it gotten there? Why was it there? His mind was his own. Why was there darkness in his mind that was not his?

Obi-Wan was teaching him to shield his mind. He was pretty good at it. He had to be. If he wasn't, he was bombarded by the force on all sides and it was almost painful. But, apparently, he wasn't good enough.

He sat on his meditation cushion and worked to rid himself of the darkness that was not his. Then, he worked on his shields, reinforcing them until he was satisfied. Then, he went to his master who smiled and helped Anakin find the weak spots so he could reinforce those parts.

At the end of the day, Anakin felt much better about his shields.


* * * * *

 

Anakin used to think the Jedi were emotionless. It didn’t take him long to figure out how wrong he had been. The Jedi were far from emotionless. He could see it in their eyes, in the way they looked at each other, in the way they reacted to situations.

He saw it first in Obi-Wan and Master Tachi. He saw the longing and the desire in their eyes when they looked at each other. He saw the way they held themselves back because it was against the Jedi code.

After Master Obi-Wan and Master Tachi, he began to see it everywhere. He saw it in the way Master Muln and Master Reeft danced around each other, trying to pretend like they didn't want each other. He saw it when Master Windu and Master Gallia cracked and looked at each other. He saw it in the way Master Fisto pretended not to notice Aayla Secura.

He figured it made sense. Of course the Jedi weren't emotionless beings. He's pretty sure it was impossible for anybody to truly be emotionless. He smiled because he felt closer to the Jedi now. They were slaves, too. Not like he used to be. They were slaves to a code, to something that could be changed. He would need to be patient and, one day, he could help change the code, so these beings didn't have to be slaves anymore.


* * * * *

 

He found darkness in his mind again and he was so angry he almost flipped his desk. Who was in his mind? Whoever they were, they had no business being there and Anakin would figure it out eventually.


* * * * *

 

Anakin squeezed his eyes shut and allowed a tear to leak from his eye. His mother was dead and he ached. There was anger and sorrow and pain like nothing else. For a moment he entertained the thought of killing every being that had hurt his mom, but he decided against it.

Revenge was not the Jedi way.

Instead, he stood, clutching his mother to his chest, and snuck from the Tusken Raider camp. He mourned her because there was nothing left for him to do. He had lost her years ago. This was just an affirmation that she was gone, that he would never see her again.

He ached.


* * * * *

 

Padmé was his angel and he made sure she knew it. He also made sure that she knew that what happened between them was entirely up to her. He made sure she knew that he would take whatever she was willing to give him.

She gave him everything. She gave him love and she gave him a wedding. It was a secret wedding, witnessed only by two droids and a priest. And he was so happy. She was his angel and she proved that every day he was allowed to love her.

 

* * * * *

A war started. A war that he was a soldier in. He hated the whole idea of it. Jedi were not supposed to be soldiers. They were peacekeepers and negotiators, not soldiers.

They fought along clones. Anakin wanted to strangle whoever came up with the idea of clones. No man should be born to die, especially not these good men.

With the introduction of the clones, came more emotions. Master Fisto and Aayla Secura had stumbled their way into a relationship. (Anakin was glad to see he wasn't the only one.) They had added Bly, Aayla's clone commander, into their relationship not long after the war started and became a triad.

Master Windu and Master Gallia were still dancing around each other. Master Koon had practically adopted his entire legion. Master Reeft had died pretty early on and Anakin could remember wrestling Master Muln into a ship and taking him a couple of systems away from Coruscant so the older man could do something he loved while he began the grieving process.

Some of the clones often found themselves in relationships with one of their brothers and Anakin turned a blind eye to it. He would not deny these men the comfort he did not deny himself.

Anakin could see the fear in Master Vos' eyes that accompanied having a wife (and maybe a child) during wartime. His own eyes mirrored that fear. He hoped nothing would happen to Master Vos' lover or Anakin may have to do something he didn't really want to.


* * * * *

 

Master Obi-Wan and Master Tachi went on a mission together. Obi-Wan came back alive, but hollow-eyed and bearing Master Tachi's corpse. Anakin allowed Obi-Wan to push down his grief for a couple of days before he dragged the man to his room. He stripped Obi-Wan down to his leggings and pushed him down in bed. Anakin joined him a moment later, after discarding his own tunics.

Anakin pulled Obi-Wan into a tight embrace and wrapped his master in his force presence, going for comforting, and apparently succeeding because Obi-Wan began to cry softly. Anakin didn't comment on the tears. He knew his master would be put out that he had cried in front of Anakin.


* * * * *

 

He found darkness in his mind, again. He held back an angry snarl and reinforced his shields then helped his padawan do the same.


* * * * *

 

Obi-Wan went out with Master Gallia to defeat Darth Maul. He came back battered and beaten, but alive. The same could not be said for Master Gallia.

It was easy for Anakin to find Master Windu. He was in a private salle, pounding on one of the practice droids and was practically leaking anger and sorrow. Anakin cleared his throat and Master Windu turned to him, ready to pound Anakin into the ground.

"How about a spar, Master Windu?"

Master Windu gave a jerking nod and they spent the next several minutes dancing around each other, their lightsabers crashing against each other. Finally, Master Windu performed a Vaapad move that sent Anakin sprawling, then he collapsed to his knees, tears leaking from his eyes. Anakin sat up and moved closer to the older man. He didn't say anything, just sat there and pretended he didn’t notice Master Windu's tears.

"You knew?" Master Windu asked, not a trace of his tears in his voice.

"I did."

"How?"

"I used to be a slave, Master Windu. To survive being a slave, one must be able to see and observe and learn as much as they can about other beings so they can know what to do and say that will not anger their owners. If they don't learn quickly, they forfeit their lives," Anakin said, running a hand through his hair. "It's okay to not be okay. What isn't okay is allowing your emotions to hinder you," Anakin added then stood and left the salle.


* * * * *

 

His padawan was in a relationship with his captain. Anakin didn't say anything to either Ahsoka or Rex. He wanted her to have as much comfort as she could get in this time of war.


* * * * *

 

Obi-Wan went to Mandalore by himself and came back hollow-eyed. Anakin didn't allow his master to wallow in his self-hate for even a moment. He wrestled the man into his bed and laid down beside him.

"It's all my fault," Obi-Wan murmured, his voice muffled by the pillow.

"Did you kill her?" Anakin asked, running a hand up and down Obi-wan's back.

"I might as well have," Obi-Wan responded.

"That wasn't my question. Are you the one that performed the fatal blow?" Anakin asked, his voice gentle and careful. Obi-Wan didn't say anything, but he did shake his head. "Then it wasn't your fault."


* * * * *

 

"She didn't do it," Anakin announced, stepping forward to stand beside Master Windu at the window.

"How do you know?" Master Windu responded, his voice hard, but still more considerate than it used to be.

"It's in her eyes. There's fear and desperation and anger. She's afraid no one will believe her and that she'll be kicked from the order. She's desperate to find out who it was so she can prove her innocence. And she's angry somebody would do this to her," Anakin explained.

Master Windu turned and stared at him then sighed several minutes later. "I believe you. So, what are we going to do about it?"

"Give me some time. I'll find the true culprit and we can prove her innocent."


* * * * *

 

"It is the council's opinion that Padawan Barriss Offee has committed sedition against the Republic and, thus, she will be expelled from the Jedi order."

"Your padawan status will be stripped from you and you shall forfeit all rank and privileges within the Grand Army of the Republic. You will be turned over to the Republic courts to await your trial and whatever punishment they will set for you. Henceforth, you are bound from the Jedi Order."


* * * * *

 

Obi-Wan and Cody were making like bunnies and Anakin thought it was the most ironically hilarious thing ever.

"Master," Anakin said, stepping up beside Obi-Wan. "I know I have no ground to lecture you, but as your friend, I thought I should give you some advice. Tell Cody to aim lower down on your neck." Obi-Wan clapped a hand over the hickey on his neck and Anakin chuckled as he walked away.


* * * * *

 

Anakin killed Dooku. He hadn't meant to. He'd just been trying to capture him, but one of his moves ended with his lightsaber buried in Dooku's chest. The Chancellor was proud of him. Why was the Chancellor proud of him for killing someone? Anakin sure wasn't proud of himself.


* * * * *

 

Padmé was pregnant!

Fuck!


* * * * *

 

Padmé was going to die.

Anakin ached because Padmé was going to die. His angel was going to die in childbirth and he had no idea if their baby was going to be okay or not.

He clenched his jaw, trying not to let out any cries as he watched the sun rise over Coruscant. What was he going to do without her? He didn't know how to raise a child.

"Ani?"

Anakin turned and saw Padmé walking over to him, her nightdress showing her belly. He walked over to her and wrapped her in his arms, holding her as tight as he could without hurting her or their baby.

"Ani? What's wrong?"

"I had a dream, Padmé, like the ones I used to have about my mother," He admitted, burying his face in her hair and taking deep breaths, relishing in her scent and the way she felt in his arms. "But, this time, it was about you."

"What happened?" Her voice was so soft and so scared.

"You die in childbirth."

"And the baby?" She sounded strangled and terribly sad.

"I don't know," He admitted. "I'm trying not to worry about it. Master Yoda and Master Obi-Wan say the future is always in motion. I'm praying to whatever gods will listen that this won't come to pass. I don't want to lose you."


* * * * *

 

"You're the Sith Lord!" Anakin accused, igniting his lightsaber.

"I know what's been troubling you. Listen to me. Don't continue to be a pawn of the Jedi Council," Palpatine said. "I can help you save your wife from certain death."

"How do you know about that?" Anakin asked, the tip of his lightsaber dropping an inch in his surprise.

"I know everything," Palpatine responded, turning his back on Anakin. "Are you going to kill me?"

"I would certainly like to," Anakin admitted, anger at Palpatine's betrayal rearing its head in his chest. He raised his lightsaber back to a ready stance.

"I know you would," Palpatine whispered. "I can feel your anger. It gives you focus, makes you stronger."

"I'm going to turn you over to the Jedi Council," Anakin announced, deactivating his lightsaber.

"Of course. You should. But do you truly know their intentions?" Palpatine said. "You have great wisdom, Anakin. Know the power of the dark side, the power to save Padmé."


* * * * *

 

"Master Windu, I have learned a horrible truth," Anakin sighed, walking up beside Master Windu.

"What is it, Skywalker?" Windu asked, concern coloring his voice.

"Chancellor Palpatine is the Sith Lord we have been looking for. He admitted it to me. I think..." Anakin trailed off and sighed. "I think he wants me to be his apprentice."

"If this is true, we face an uncertain future. I will gather Master Fisto, Master Tiin, and Master Koth and we will confront Palpatine. Wait for us in the Council Chamber. If this is true, you will have my complete trust," Windu said. Anakin could see fear beginning to leak into his eyes.

"Can I not go with you, Master?"

"I do not wish for you to face a conflict of interest, Skywalker. Please, wait for us."

"Master," Anakin said, pushing his anger firmly behind his shields. "I no longer see Palpatine as a friend. He has betrayed my trust and used me for many years now and I will no longer stand for it.  Allow me to go with you, Master. Not for revenge, but so that I can help bring justice down on a man that has not just used me, but many others, over the years."

Master Windu did not say anything but nodded his head in acquiescence.


* * * * *

 

"Master Windu. I take it General Grievous has been destroyed then. I must say you're here sooner than expected," Palpatine said, still acting the part of friendly Chancellor. Anakin stood tall beside Master Windu and Palpatine noticed. Anakin saw a flash of anger and of Sith amber in the man's eyes before it disappeared once again.

"In the name of the Galactic Senate of the Republic. You are under arrest, Chancellor," Windu announced and the five Jedi ignited their lightsabers.

"Are you threatening me, Master Jedi?"

"The Senate will decide your fate."

"I am the Senate," Palpatine growled.

"Not yet," Windu snapped, barely holding back his anger. Palpatine stood and his own lightsaber descended into his hand.

"It's treason, then," Palpatine said, igniting his lightsaber and jumping forward, starting the fight.


* * * * *

 

For the third time in his life, Anakin was minus his right arm. Master Tiin and Master Koth were dead, and Master Fisto was down with a lightsaber wound across his chest. But Palpatine, Sidious, was dead. And Anakin had managed to record the whole fight so the Senate couldn't accuse them of performing a coup.

Master Windu knelt beside where Anakin had fallen after Palpatine had taken his arm. He helped Anakin sit up and placed his hand on Anakin's shoulder.

"Well done, Master Skywalker."


* * * * *

 

Padmé was alive and would remain that way. At least, that's what the doctor had told him. Anakin chose to have hope and believed him. He did need Padmé, after all. Especially since she gave birth to twice the amount of babies they had been expecting. 

Anakin sat beside his wife's bed, cradling his son, his precious little Luke, close to his chest. There was a smile on his face and for the first time ever, Anakin felt serene.