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Suicidal Misunderstandings

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Ben sat in his lonely hovel, anxiously waiting for the spice to kick in. Should he take more? He had been rather too embarrassed to ask whether he was supposed to smoke or snort the substance...

Oh wait, there we go, he was beginning to feel...odd...a little...relaxed...he could see his body! oh he did not look so good at the moment did he...he could see his hut drifting away...

he could see...He could See, he Could S E E 

- T - I - M - E -

Cody had just started to enjoy his extremely rare 'off-duty' time with Ghost Company when the General abruptly passed out, scarcely four drinks in. He woke almost immediately, looking around wildly. 

"Sir? Sir are you alright?" Cody asked, concerned.

"I'm...not sure. This is all...this is much more vivid than I was expecting. Am I dead?"

General Kenobi suddenly grew worried. "You're not dead, right Cody? I—Oh dear, maybe this was a mistake..."

He spun in a circle, staggering. 

"Is this Coruscant? How strange..."

Cody exchanged an alarmed look with Waxer.

"I'll get him to the Speedervan—you get Hotfoot," he ordered. Waxer nodded, slipping to the side.

They were nearly at the van when Obi-Wan stopped mumbling under his breath and turned to speak clearly to Cody.

"I don't blame you for trying to kill me, you know."

Cody stumbled and Waxer made an alarmed noise. 

"Sir!" Cody tried to protest, but Obi-Wan cut him off with a finger pressed to Cody's lips.

"I mean it!" he said, as they clambered together into backseat. 

"I'm just happy to see you all!"

"We're happy to see you too, General," Waxer replied dutifully, activating the protective forcefield for the backseat.

Hotfoot pulled into the air and began the harrowing task of navigating numerous levels directly upwards to the temple. Fortunately, the General's clearance allowed them access to priority lanes, but if the Jedi kept up like this it was going to be a very long journey.

“Truly Cody, I know you would never fire at me if you were you; I think Palpatine must have been controlling your minds somehow. I swear, I’ll—I’ll try and find you—I—I’m so sorry,” he said leaning into Cody’s space, starting out earnestly and becoming increasingly unsettlingly intense.

“Sir?” Cody responded nervously, but Obi-Wan was distracted by the view out the speedervan’s window.

“Are you taking me to the temple?” he asked hollowly. 

"Yes sir, I think you’ve had a few too many drinks, you’re—to be blunt, you’re not making any sense and it's a bit alarming. I think it would be best if you slept things off in your personal quarters for a bit,” the commander answered tensely.

Obi Wan was quiet for several minutes, growing increasingly subdued the higher they travelled. 

“Will he be there? Will—will—Anakin be there?” he finally asked.

“I believe the 501st is still on leave as well. I can comm him if you wish?” he offered, slightly relieved at the prospect of passing whatever the kriff was going on with his General to someone with more specialized intel on the subject.

Obi-Wan grew quiet again. “Yes,” he whispered suddenly. “I want to see him, force help me, I still want to see him. I—I miss him.” And, at that, to everyones horror, he began tearing up.

Cody fumbled to activate his comm. “Commander Cody to General Skywalker. General Skywalker, I am requesting immediate response. I repeat, Commander CC-2224 to General Skywalker, I am requesting—”

“This had better be life-or-death Cody. I’m on leave. You’re on leave. Why are you contacting me and not Obi-Wan?” General Skywalker whined over the audio channel.

“It’s about General Kenobi, sir.”

“Is he injured?” General Skywalker responded sharply, suddenly laser focused.

“He’s—he’s crying, sir.” And he was. The sound of General Skywalker’s voice had turned the trickle of tears into full blown sobs. He was clinging to Waxer; both looked on the verge of a panic attack.

“He’s what

“He’s crying, and he said he missed you. Please tell me you’re at the temple, sir,” Cody all but begged.

“Is this supposed be a practical joke?” Skywalker replied, annoyed. “Did Rex put you up this?”

“This is not a joke. He blacked out in the bar, started rambling about forgiving us for trying to kill him, and now he’s crying.” For additional proof he held out the comm to General Kenobi, who just continued to sob incoherently.

“Is he drugged?” Skywalker asked. There was the sound of rapid shuffling in the background, hopefully him moving to meet them at the temple gates.

“Unknown, sir. I only saw him consume alcohol, but not enough to fully account for his…altered state.” 

“Are you recording him?” Skywalker’s voice was muffled by…the sound of traffic? Dank farrik, was he not at the temple?

“Am I what,” the commander replied indignantly. 

“Kidding!” Anakin quickly shot back. “Anyway I’m 5 minutes out from the temple, you?

He quickly conferred with Hotfoot, dutiful designated driver and, based on his white knuckles, focused with mission-level intensity on the singular goal of navigating traffic. 

“We’ll arrive at the secondary temple gate in 10. Any orders on how to…mitigate the situation?” A quick glance at Kenobi revealed that Waxer had proceeded to patting him on the back like an overwhelmed cadet. It was unclear whether it was helping or not.

“Oh, I have no idea,” Anakin answered, overly gleeful. “I can’t even remember the last time he cried. And his alcohol tolerance is unfairly ridiculous so I have no idea if this is normal for him when he’s drunk!”

With that piece of unhelpful intel the vehicle lapsed mostly into silence, broken only by the sound of Kenobi’s hiccuping sobs. 

Anakin called to confirm he was waiting in the top entry bay at the secondary temple gates. He paused for a moment, empty static coming over the comm. “Did he really say he missed me?” 

Cody closed his eyes for a moment. He was not designed to deal with this dammit. He just wanted to go drinking with his—his fellow officer and maybe see the man he—he respected relax a little. He knew the Jedi were stressed by the war but if this is what a Jedi dealing with feelings looked like then—then forcedammit this is what a Jedi relaxing looked like!

They should be honored that the Generals trusted them enough to let their guard down. Clearly Obi-Wan needed his younger vod’s support beyond what he had realized. He should have known, considering they were, in a way, a squad of two for over a decade. He would have to do his best to support Obi-Wan now the best he could.

“Yes sir. When he realized we were bringing him back to the temple he asked if you would be there. I offered to comm you, he confirmed audibly that he wanted to see you, and that he missed you. That's—that’s when the crying began. We made contact immediately after.”

“Oh.” Skywalker left the channel open between them. Cody could distantly hear the sound of pacing on the other end.

Obi-Wan was staring at the commlink in Cody’s bracer with an unreadable expression. He swallowed a few times, and, hand shaking visibly, reached out to pull Cody’s wrist close. “Anakin? Is that Anakin? My Anakin?” Obi-wan’s voice shook along with the rest of his body.

Your Anakin huh?” came the retort, in a reflexively teasing tone. “What happened the ‘dangers of possessiveness and attachment’ you’re always lecturing me on?"

Obi-wan responded, to Waxer and Cody’s mixed emotions, by shifting bodily over to Cody, clinging onto his arm for dear life and bending over to press his  forehead to the comm unit, letting out a keening sob.

“Um, Master? Was that you?” Anakin squeaked out with characteristic helpfulness.

“I don’t want to see the temple burning” Obi-Wan rasped into Cody’s bracer, “I want to see you but I don’t want to see the bodies in the temple, not again, please Anakin I don’t want to look at them again. Anakin I just want to see you not—not—not—” and it was almost a relief when the chilling words broke down into dry sobs. Cody attempted to platonically pat him on the back with his free arm, but considering how he was clinging to Cody’s comm unit, it turned into an awkward full body hug that Obi-Wan absolutely melted into.

“Oh kriff, did you have a vision, Master? Is that what this is about? The temple’s fine, I’ll show you when you get here, there’s no bodies here, I promise.”

Obi-Wan just shook, curling up halfway onto Cody’s lap.

Chapter Text

By the time the hovercar reached the temple, Obi-Wan’s tremors had mostly quieted. He seemed to be dealing with everything by refusing to open his eyes. Cody awkwardly manhandled his General out the vehicle door, mostly succeeding in standing him upright.

Obi-Wan didn’t really resist. He appeared to lack the energy.

“Master?”

As Skywalker approached, Cody absently noticed that his robes were tied overly modestly, with no other layers peeking out underneath. Wherever he was before Cody called, he had left half-dressed and in a hurry.

Obi-Wan started shaking again, burying his face in Cody’s pauldron.

“Yeesh—you’re really a wreck,” Anakin observed bluntly, with a twinge of audible sympathy. “Honestly, you’re taking all the fun out of the situation. What’s the point of getting drunk if you act so pathetic that your smug padawan can’t even mock you afterwards?” The young Knight hesitantly laid a hand on his master’s shoulder.

It was uncertain whether it was the words or the touch that succeeded in garnering a positive response, but finally Kenobi made an effort to pull himself together. With a deep breath, the High General straightened up, opening his eyes to look Skywalker in the face. He continued to hold eye-contact, expression gradually shifting from steely resolve to open delight.

“ANAKIN!” Obi-Wan flung himself at his former padawan with obvious joy. “OH ANAKIN! IT’S YOU! IT’S REALLY YOU!” They staggered under the force of Obi-Wan’s over-powered bear hug.

“Were you expecting someone else?” Anakin managed to get out, shocked by his Master’s uncharacteristically loud (not to mention emotionally intense) greeting, as well as slightly breathless from the unyielding embrace. Obi-Wan held him tighter, not answering. 

“Man, what did you drink?” He tried to ask instead, deciding to return the hug fully and deal with any later consequences later.

Obi-Wan shifted back enough to make eye-contact again. His brow furrowed in thought. “Just some Jawa beer, to get rid of the spice aftertaste.”

“SPICE?!?” Cody and Anakin  shouted in alarm. Anakin grabbed at Obi-Wan’s face, examining the man’s pupils before pulling back his lip to look at the gums. “You don’t look like you’re mined out. And the only thing you smell like is alcohol.” He sniffed doubtfully. “Middle shelf alcohol. “Are you sure that’s what you took?”

Obi-Wan paused to think before answering, “The Jawas that sold it seemed pretty confident. I would be more likely to entertain the possibility that I was ripped off were you not standing here, with me.”

“I—what—where—when would you have even bought spice from Jawas?” Anakin asked, exchanging confused looks with Commander Cody. 

“They seem to like stopping by my hut, even when I don’t have anything to steal or buy. I suppose there’s not many opportunities for sentient contact out on in the wastes,” he mused.

Anakin only looked more bewildered, reasonably confident that he would have known if Obi-Wan had a home on what sounded like Tatooine. 

“Heart rate was slightly elevated to normal on the ride over, sir.” Cody added dutifully. “Well within average human normal, and not consistent with spice use or alcohol poisoning.”

“His presence in the force is…closed off,” Anakin said, while patting Obi-Wan's back soothingly. “I’d have to take him to the healers to confirm, but my best guess is he’s having a bad reaction to something he drank. There are certain alcohols that can cause side-effects and unexpected reactions in force-sensitives. Though I can’t believe that after all the lectures he’s given me, he would be stupid enough to drink one.”

“He…did have an unknown mixed drink a bartender gave him on the house,” Cody said with a sinking sense of failure. “Could this have been a targeted attack?”

Skywalker looked pissed, “If it was, then that bartender committed an act of treason.” Only the fact that he was supporting Ob-Wan’s weight (in what was rapidly approaching the second-longest hug they had ever shared!) kept him from taking command of a battalion to sieze a cantina at the very suggestion.

“Sir, do you want me to accompany you to medical and make a report?” Cody asked.

Anakin hesitated, thinking while Obi-Wan rested his head against his former padawan’s heart. As amusing as the idea was in theory, he didn’t actually want to humiliate a vulnerable, emotional Obi-Wan by dragging him through the heart of the temple to be gawked at and judged.

“No.” He finally decided, “Even if he somehow managed to miss the fact that he was being poisoned in a civilian bar, he’s more than capable of processing toxins on his own, and I’m more than capable of monitoring him overnight. We’ve got a full field med-kit in our quarters—I can take a blood sample tonight, and ask him what he wants to do with it once he sobers up in the morning.”

Obi-Wan readjusted slightly as Anakin shrugged, “It is also possible that he just, you know, overdid it drinking, which isn’t anyone’s business but his own. I mean, he hasn’t exactly had the opportunity to cut loose when he’s a High Council Member all the time; his tolerance might not have been where he was expecting.”

Cody saluted in acknowledgement of the command decision. He ruthlessly quashed any doubts, reminding himself that General Kenobi had, in fact, asked for General Skywalker by name, and Skywalker was likely to better informed on Jedi responses to alcohol. 

“Master, let’s get you to our quarters so you can sleep this off,” Anakin reluctantly pulled back from was now officially the longest hug Obi-Wan had ever given him (by over a minute!). “Can you walk by yourself, or do you want me to help?”

The unusually peaceful smile Obi-Wan was wearing started to slide away. “Our quarters? Our quarters were destroyed. There’s nothing to find there now but ash,” he stated, as if gently reminding Anakin of a known tragedy.

Cody, still standing by, sucked in a breath.

“Besides,” he continued mater of factly, “You were barely ever in them at this point anyway. Even for a dream, it would be a lot more realistic for me to go to my quarters and sit in the dark trying to memorize casualty lists, while you’re out somewhere unknown, carousing with Padme presumably.”

“Carousing with Padme?! I—why would you—Master!” Anakin fumbled out, addressing the last point first, before processing the rest.

“And is that seriously what you do when you have time off? Just sit and memorize the names of everyone who died during the war? That’s—that’s seriously sad Obi-Wan, we are talking about that when you sober up.” Not giving Obi-Wan the chance to defend his extremely miserable hobby, Anakin plowed on. 

“And our quarters are fine, I know that, uh, I know I haven’t been around a lot, but I was just in there earlier today, they look practically the same as they did when I was a padawan. Whatever you saw, here and now—I promise you—here and now the temple is fine. We’ll talk about your vision or your hallucination once you sober up, I promise.” Anakin finished emphatically, gripping Obi-Wans shoulders and staring directly into his eyes.

The miniature rant seemed to work. 

“That sounds nice,” Obi-Wan said smiling, “I would love to see our old rooms—I know it didn’t really matter either way to you, but I always took comfort in the fact that you never bothered with requesting a new room after you were knighted. I know, I know. Between how rarely we were temple based and Padme, it probably just didn’t cross your mind, but it was nice to have some tangible reminder of our connection, even as the war and the growing darkness stole everything else.”

Anakin truly didn’t know how to respond, the raw sentiment somehow even more crushingly painful than the hug. Obi-Wan reached up and gently smoothed back his hair like he was still a youngling, then walked a few steps to face the extremely out-of-depth Commander Cody.

Not hesitating, Obi-Wan pulled Cody into a tender hug which he couldn’t help but lean into. The commander brought his arms up and around but hesitated to actually make contact, instead ghosting his hands along the general’s back.

“I always wanted to do that,” Obi-Wan whispered into Cody’s ear. “I can never thank you enough for all you’ve done; I never would have gotten through the war without you. I wish…I wish I could tell you that I consider you one of the best of men, and one of the best of friends. But… I can’t. Even if I abandoned my last mission to search you out, even if I succeeded in finding you, you would never allow me close enough to do this.”

Cody’s heart raced, trying to decode the General’s words over the ringing white noise in his ears. He stoped breathing entirely as Obi-Wan shifted to press their foreheads together, allowing him to focus entirely on the feel of the general’s breath, the sight of tears trickling again from red-rimmed eyes. “Goodbye, Cody.” he finally exhaled.

And with that he turned and walked away, not looking back.

 

Chapter Text

As soon as he turned the bend, Obi-Wan staggered to a halt, clinging to a wall sconce for support.

“Do you need me to carry you?” Anakin teased.

Obi-Wan thought for a moment. “Actually, that sounds quite lovely.”

“I—wait, really?”

“You did offer. It’s been years since I had anyone care enough to carry me when I’m struggling, and I can’t imagine anyone will ever care enough to carry me again. So. Yes. That sounds nice. But if you’re planning on, I don’t know, dissolving into a pile of sand, or melting into a pool of lava, then I’d just as soon walk.” Obi-Wan smiled weakly at Anakin’s wide-eyed shock.

“Walking it iii—” Obi-Wan had scarcely turned away, accepting the limitations of this daydream, when Anakin defiantly scooped him up and began marching quickstep to their quarters.

“I’ve carried you before.” Anakin said stiffly. “On Aargonar, remember?

“Aargonar…force, that was the back in the first year of the war, wasn’t it? I can’t say I remember you—or I suppose Anakin—ugh—can I just call you Anakin?”

“...Yes master, you can call me Anakin.”

“I don’t remember you carrying me on Aargonar, but so much has happened since then. I suppose the memory might have been buried.” Obi-Wan mused.

“You were unconscious for most of it.”

“Ah. That would do it.”

“And it wasn’t that long ago.”

“No,” Obi-Wan replied quietly. “I suppose it wasn’t.”

“Obi-Wan—what did you mean before…about…you know.”

Obi-Wan blinked, staring up into Anakin’s (thankfully) blue eyes. “What do you mean what did I mean?”

Anakin made a low frustrated noise, then ducked down a side passageway at the sound of footsteps.

“Where are you taking me?” Obi-Wan asked curiously.

“To our quarters—I’m just taking a roundabout way. I assumed you wouldn’t want anyone to see me carrying you, but correct me if I’m wrong, Master.”

“Oh. That’s—I guess I wouldn’t? It’s a bit of an odd situation but I suppose depending on who we ran into… yes I could see that being awkward.” Anakin’s former Master sighed heavily.

“Obi-Wan, what did you mean that you didn’t have anyone who cared about you enough to carry you?” Anakin asked in a rush of words, attempt to frame the question casually failing before it had begun.

Obi-Wan closed his eyes. “That’s not a very nice question,” he choked out. “I thought you were being nice.”

“I am being nice!” Anakin replied quickly, biting back panic. “I’m carrying you! I—I care about you! Obviously!”

Obi-Wan made a soft, sad noise.

Anakin stopped in place, voice growing suspicious and angry. “I swear to the force if this was some sort of attempt to trick me into admitting attachments—you—I—I’m going to drop you on the concrete and—“

“You hate me!”

The words burst painfully out of Obi-Wan, cutting them both to the quick.

“I what? Obi-Wan—I—how can you think that?”

“You told me! You yelled it at me.”

Anakin stared down slack-jawed at his Master, who he had never seen look so upset, his tired eyes scrunched shut. Anakin's hands clenched convulsively around one of the few people he genuinely loved. He leaned against the wall, his mind racing backwards furiously.

He had been…13? 13 and a half? Obi-Wan had been furiously lecturing him over...something. Something that really wasn’t his fault. He couldn’t even remember. A broken practice droid? A fight with Ferus? And he had yelled…a lot of things. Just trying to shatter his Master’s stupid neutral expression. And…he had succeeded. For a moment, Obi-Wan looked…really upset. Then Anakin ran off, feeling guilty. They didn’t talk for the day. Then they just sort of—moved on. Like they always did when they fought. Like they always did when one of them hurt the other. He had thought Obi-Wan had been upset by Anakin bringing up Qui-Gon, but for him to still remember all this years later…

“I—I didn’t mean it” Anakin whispered. “I—Obi-Wan, look at me, please.”

Obi-Wan stared up, slightly wet eyes wrinkled fearfully.

“Master…I was angry. I didn’t mean it. I could never mean it. You’re—you’re too important. I’m sorry. Of course I care about you. You’re my, you’re...I...” Anakin hesitated, not wanting to go too far, even now. “You’re my best friend.”

“You’re my best friend, too.” Obi-Wan said, smiling sadly. “I’m sorry I never told you that but—you’re my best friend in the whole galaxy. Even if you hate me.”

“I don’t hate you,” Anakin repeated helplessly. “I didn’t mean it.”

Obi-Wan sighed. “You should probably keep walking. I feel a little dizzy and your metal arm actually makes this a bit uncomfortable.”

Anakin continued forward. “Is there…anything else you're sorry you never told me?” He asked hesitantly, a bit scared but not really capable of letting the opportunity simply slide by.

“Oh, so many things,” Obi-Wan groaned. “I suppose I should say them now, shouldn’t I?”

“If you want,” Anakin said nervously.

“Well for a start, I’m sorry about giving you that dreadful old-fashioned haircut right before the parade on Naboo. It really wasn’t strictly necessary, but you seemed so excited at looking like a ‘real’ jedi padawan…”

Anakin snorted. “I made that haircut look good, come on. If nothing else, our lineage is single-handedly responsible for bringing it back in style, and I for one, am proud of that.”

Obi-Wan laughed.

“I always knew about you and Padme.”

Anakin stumbled but quickly resumed his stride.

“You—you do?” Anakin stuttered.

“Well not everything, but for Kriff’s sake you practically made out right next to me on Genosis. And you’re not the most subtle, in general.”

“Why didn’t you ever say anything.”

“I suppose I was hoping you’d come to me first. Maybe I was a little scared if I confronted the situation, you’d leave the order, leave me. I don’t know.” Obi-Wan rubbed his eyes. “It hardly matters.”

“And you’re not mad? About…attachment and ‘carousing’ and…stuff?”

“I’m not exactly a shining role model for attachment. And ‘stuff’ isn’t actually against the Jedi code. Though for force sake I suppose I should have sat you down and done a refresher ‘safe sex’ talk, honestly Anakin.”

The young knight blushed crimson and Obi-Wan grinned. “See? That right there. I can’t believe I pointlessly missed out on so many teasing opportunities. I—nothing I say about it really matters but... I know I fretted over you… I think, ultimately, I just wanted you to be happy. I never knew how to say that and it all just feels so stupid now.”

Anakin smiled, almost overwhelmed with relief and amazed joy, but Obi-Wan… looked upset. Really upset.

Anakin cleared his throat. “We’re at our quarters.”

“Oh!” Obi-Wan squirmed out of his padawan’s arms, gently touching the nameplate. “It looks just like I remembered.”

He rushed inside and turned in a slow circle. “Oh. Oh my.” His eyes were brimming with tears. “I really missed this place.”

“…I’m going to take a blood sample now, ok Master? It’s probably fine but—just in case. We can deal with things after you get some sleep.”

Anakin hustled his very distractible best friend (in the whole galaxy!) through drinking water and getting ready for bed.

“Anakin—” Obi-Wan called out as he turned to leave.

“Yes, Master?”

“One more thing before I go to sleep—”

Obi-Wan pulled the very vivid hallucination in for a warm hug. “I’m sorry I didn’t hug you more. There were times I wanted to so badly—you were so small. But Qui-Gon only ever hugged me if I was about to die, but maybe that’s just because I can’t imagine Dooku every hugging him, and maybe its Yoda’s fault for being so unattached. Anyway. I regret not doing it more. Just for no reason. Maybe its silly, but the more time I've been spending by myself, the more I've thought about it.”

Anakin fisted his hands into Obi-Wan’s robes, feeling...safe. Like a little kid again, before he realized his Mom couldn’t really protect him. Or before Obi-Wan seemed to drift away.

They stood there for a long while, Anakin at a loss for words.

“I miss you,” Obi-Wan whispered.

Anakin just squeezed harder, trying to put all his feelings into a form his surrogate father and best friend might be willing to accept.

Chapter Text

Cody stood frozen as the Generals disappeared around the corner. Waxer, in his first verbalization since Obi-Wan had begun his melt down, let out a obnoxious, whistling cat call. Cody spun around to glare at him.

“Seriously?”

Waxer put his hands up defensively. “What? Relax—so the General got drunk and lost grip on the stick up his ass. We have to be serious about it? I admit, I was freaked out by the way he was talking on the ride over. But, honestly, which of us haven’t had messed-up nightmares about the war? Isn’t that why we were getting drunk in the first place? We’re not going to actually hold anything that made him all sad against him, right?”

“What? Of course not! That’s not what I—”

Hotfoot cut Cody off indignantly, “Of course not!”

Waxer plowed ahead, not giving Cody time to marshal his defenses. “And quite frankly, I’m delighted to have been in the room when he hugged his vod’ika while finally verbally expressing an actual emotion towards him. Maybe now that that’s out there they won’t feel the need to show their feelings by pulling insane rescue attempts.”

“Dare to dream,” Hotfoot sighed.

“But what I’m really excited to be a witness to, not to mention what Boil and the ranks are going to be pissed they missed—”

“Yeah we should probably get back to the cantina and pick everyone up.”

“—was the General giving our very own, poor, besotted Commander Cody a kriffing Keldabe, while whispering sweet nothings in his ear,” Waxer finished with satisfaction.

“Gotta say, not where I thought this night was going when the General was crying earlier, but I think, on the whole, we can agree it was all totally worth it,” Hotfoot mused.

"Absolutely." Waxer’s smile slid away as Cody’s irritation increased. “Come on, he kissed you! Why do you look so upset?”

Cody struggled for a moment before answering, “It wasn’t…he wasn’t whispering sweet nothings.”

“More terrifying nightmare ramblings?” Hotfoot sighed.

“Not—not exactly.” 

The two gently pulled him into the hovercar so they could sit down.

“Didn’t he say anything good?” Waxer asked.

“It wasn’t bad—the words would have actually been…nice. If they were phrased a little differently. And if he realized he was saying them to me.” Cody dropped his head into his hands. 

“Ohh, he said someone else’s name? That’s rough, buddy.” Waxer said with a sympathetic pat on the shoulder.

“No, I think…I think he thought I was a hallucination. He was saying ‘I wish I could tell you’ and stuff like that.”

There was a beat, and then the two started laughing. 

“For force sake,” Waxer said wheezing, “He admitted that he daydreamed about confessing to you and you’re upset about it. I’m trying to be supportive but you are not making it easy.”

The sick feeling in Cody’s gut kept getting worse, because that was what he had thought at first, but—

“He talked like he was making a dying confession,” Cody whispered, instantly killing the mood. “He thanked me like he was apologizing and then he told me goodbye.” 

The cab was quiet for a long pause.

“He really didn’t know what was going on,” Hotfoot offered hesitantly. “That’s definitely messed up, but when he wakes up in the morning and sees that things are ok—”

“Are things ok?” Cody asked. “Isn’t that why ‘we went drinking in the first place’, because things aren’t good? What if he had a vision and he knows he’s going to die! Or what if—what if—” Cody couldn’t even finish the thought.

“It’s the General,” Waxer interrupted confidently. “If he had some kind of Jedi-prediction-nightmare than we’ll just have to make sure it doesn’t happen. And he would never abandon us on purpose.”

Hotfoot nodded in agreement and Cody took a deep breath. He was letting his thoughts spiral into something crazy. Waxer was right.

“Just—let me talk to him before you mention any of this to the troops, ok? How we was acting, the stuff he said. Even the…Keldabe.” Cody managed to say that last word without his face heating up too badly.

Waxer looked like he was going to protest, but Hotfoot smacked him in the back of the head before he could get a word out. 

“We’ll run silent until you give the all clear,” he promised. Waxer eventually muttered an agreement.

They reclaimed their previous seats and finally pulled back into Coruscanti night traffic, Waxer starting to chatter inanely about what the guys might have been up to while they were gone.

Cody hesitated over his Comm before typing out a message to General Skywalker. 

‘Watch G. Kenobi’s 6 until he’s back with 212th. Uneasy with goodbye. Seemed to be subtly indicating potential danger, but message was garbled. Please keep me informed.’

It was well over two hours later when he received a reply. 

‘Roger. Hes asleep and I am keeping an eye on the situation. Ty for delivering him to temple.’

Slightly less uneasy, and confident that the Cantina was well monitored by several enthusiastic troopers (just in-case), Cody finally attempted some shuteye.

- - -

Several klicks away, Obi-Wan lost the last battle of his war with unconsciousness, grip on his dutiful former padawan’s hand growing slack. Anakin kept careful watch over his Master’s breathing for several more minutes before gently pulling the blankets up and flicking off the light.

Chapter Text

Obi Wan woke with a dry mouth and a moderate headache. A fairly typical morning these days. 

He peered around his bedroom confused. Wasn’t he just with Cody? Shouldn’t he be on the Negotiator? No wait, the war was over, Cody tried to kill him, and his ship was a part of the Imperial Armada, of course he wouldn’t be there. He closed his eyes, snuggling back under the covers. Before he could drift back to sleep, his sluggish mind processed that last thought. 

He bolted upright in bed. The temple had been razed, his personal chambers scorched with particular thoroughness. Just being on Coruscant was an automatic death sentence. Faint tendrils of panic began to curl around his throat before he remembered his decision to give Spice a try. He had reasoned that he should probably find at least one pleasure in his new life, instead of focusing incessantly on what was lost. 

So what if he lost a few brain cells? Good riddance. 

Obi-Wan had been a bit nervous, but this had ended up being his best decision in years. His goodbye to Cody had been painful, but deeply cathartic. Spice Hallucination Anakin didn’t scream like Nightmare Anakin, and the color of his eyes was perfect. Far better final memories to cling to than reality—a reminder of the good times. Comforted, he relaxed backwards in bed, pulling his blankets back around him.

He lurched out of bed, covers tossed aside, movement a blur.

He was still hallucinating?! Spice shouldn’t last in the system this long! Method of consumption aside, it was a well-known fact that its exhaustive but rapidpassage through the body was half what made it so addictive. If nothing else, his well-restedness and thirst indicated it had been at least six hours. He looked frantically around the room, searching for some thread of unreality to pull at.

This…was not good. Hadn’t the subconscious manifestations of his friends mentioned drugs that interacted poorly with force users last night? He had dismissed it at the time but…

He clearly was stuck in some sort of drugged fantasy combined with force-enhanced memory recall. Kriff, he had to wake up in the real world before he died of an aneurysm. Or just dehydration.

He sat on the ‘temple floor’ to meditate. This could be tricky as he couldn’t risk lowering his outer shields to reach out to reality. It would be deeply embarrassing as well as profoundly horrifying if the Emperor managed to find him and, by extension, Luke because he got stuck on a bad spice trip.

The 'door' to his 'room' clicked open quietly. 

“Oh! You’re awake. Sorry to come in without knocking, Master.” Anakin—as he remembered him from—from before—smiled softly from the doorframe, the image even clearer than last night.

“You’re still here.” Obi-Wan remarked, dumbfounded but amazed.

Anakin rolled his eyes. “Obviously. I’ve been trying to be quiet while sending comms, but I’ve been checking on you pretty much constantly to make sure you were still, you know, breathing. You were…pretty out of it last night and I would be a pretty bad ‘best friend in the whole galaxy’ if I let you choke on your own vomit, right?” his blue-eyed Padawan explained with a grin.

Obi-Wan just stared. Oh this—this hurt. It was easier last night, when the whole fantasy had a kind of drunken blurriness. Sleeping and waking had brought sober clarity to the dream world. He could see the bags under Anakin’s eyes as well as the sheepish slouch of his shoulders as he instinctively ducked at the door frame. It was just so real.

Obi-Wan? Are you feeling ok? Are you still drunk?” Anakin asked concerned.

Obi-Wan shook his head. He hesitated, before deciding to just go along with the interaction. He didn’t want to risk ignoring this hallucination only for his subconscious to retaliate by throwing a less idylic scene at him. And besides, last night had been, all totaled, a huge relief—an unburdening of things left unsaid. This was probably the closest thing to therapy available to him these days, he might as well take advantage.

“I’m just…processing. Not to mention dealing with some mild dehydration.” He finally answered.

“Processing, huh? So does that mean you, uh, remember last night?” Anakin asked nervously.

“I do.” Obi-Wan smiled gently. As heart-wrenching as this was, it was also adorably sweet. Maybe it was worth it to push off waking for a little while. He could get some closure, maybe even work through some of the past to see where the two of them had gone wrong. It might even be helpful for Luke! Force willing, he would probably end up training Anakin’s son someday.

(the boy wouldn’t have many masters to choose from)

If this dream world could help him figure out specifically how he had failed as a Master, then he owed it to—to the galaxy to see it through!

Satisfied, he resolved to let the fantasy play out. At least for a few more more hours. And…he had missed what Anakin had said. Wonderful start.

“I’m very sorry, Anakin would you mind repeating that? I was still a little distracted, but I promise, I’m focused on you now.”

Anakin shuffled nervously. “It’s nothing.”

Obi-Wan tried to project reassurance without actually projecting. “Please Anakin, I’d like to hear what you have to say. I know I wasn’t the most observant or approachable Master, and I’m sorry for that. But I have always cared about your thoughts and feelings.” It was a struggle and the words caught in his throat, but the raw burn of the apology was cleansing in an almost addictive way.

Anakin flushed. “Did you mean everything you said?” he asked nervously.

“I’d…rather not talk about seeing the destruction of the temple, seeing you… Maybe later…but please, I just don’t want to focus on it while I’m sitting here, looking at you,” Obi-Wan said quietly.

“That actually wasn’t what I was talking about,” Anakin responded quickly. “I mean, I do want to help you with that at some point, but I get not wanting to talk about visions, even if you know you probably should. Of course, if you do want to talk about that, that’s more important, but since you don’t we can talk about the other stuff you mentioned. I was more referring to, you know, us, and what you said about our friendship?” his voice got progressively higher the longer he rambled. 

Obi-Wan thought back. “Well some of it is a little hazy, but overall yes. I…for a very long time I’ve considered you my best friend, and it's not so easy for me to let go of my affections. I miss spending time with you; there are moments I turn to say something and am still shocked you’re not there. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, with real words, how much I cared. I’m sorry I didn’t hug you as much as I wanted, looking back that was a nonsensical Jedi custom. It’s not in the code; it’s just an affectation of dignity. All things considered, the fact that you often snuck out to see Padme doesn’t really bother me.” He paused. “Was that everything?”

“Um.” Anakin shifted. “That pretty much covers everything worth remembering. I mean, you talked about some ancient history but all things considered...Obviously now that you're sober you know I wasn’t ever actually angry in an important way about random little kid stuff, right?”

Obi-Wan smiled slightly at the thought of that foolish haircut, a nearly-forgotten guilt. In the peace of this dream, the whole aching memory was once again painted rosy with gentle nostalgia. “Right,” he agreed out-loud.

“Yeah…” Anakin looked embarrassed, but happy. “I wasn’t sure if you were just saying that, you know, best friend stuff because you were drugged, or really drunk or something.”

“No, I meant what I said. I suppose it just took something extreme for me to actually say it instead of just thinking at you and assuming you would know. I must admit, it’s...a little difficult for me to maintain this emotional honesty without actually feeling drunk, but I think it’s necessary. It’s good. This is good.” Obi-Wan took in a deep breath. 

“Ah, that’s…wow. So you weren’t drugged? Cody was concerned you seemed too off for much you actually drank.”

Obi-Wan frowned. Hadn’t that been unexpected? Vision blurring from desert hovel to some nameless Cantina he once visited with Cody. It was so random at first, but the continuity since then was almost unsettlingly level. But, then again, Obi-Wan always did have a remarkable talent for self-delusion, didn’t he. He waved away the concerns.

“My substance consumption was entirely deliberate and exactly what I needed. There might be some… unforeseen after-affects, but like I said- I’m not drunk. I’m clear minded and in full control right now and I knowingly accept the current fallout from whatever I took. I could meditate and force purge to completely recenter, but I think it would be far wiser, not to mention more pleasant to just relax and see how long this lasts. I think I’ve earned a little break. Do you disagree?”

Anakin grinned widely. “Whatever you say, Obi-Wan. Just remember this is your idea. Also, I’m taking you to the healers tonight if you’re not completely back to yourself.”

Obi-Wan signed, “If I’m not back to myself in 12 hours, then I fully agree that’s a problem worthy of the halls of healing.”

“Right,” Anakin nodded decisively, “I’ll go get you some water, then comm Cody to tell him you’re still alive."

Obi-Wan smiled weakly in response. This wasn’t just a hashed-up memory; the responsiveness was so much more elaborate than that. He quickly got dressed, hands lingering over soft fabrics and sand-free linens.

Anakin dropped off a cup of water; Obi-Wan sipped at it hesitantly. Dear force, this was dangerously vivid; it actually felt like a relief in his parched mouth! Clearly his subconscious was pulling out all the stops to trap him in this soft delusion (not that he could blame it). He would have to deal with the thirst and hunger until he woke up—it was probably the firmest link he had to his real body.

He took one last look around before rushing out of his room, eager to take advantage of the time.

Obi-Wan started pulling his boots on and Anakin looked up from his comm, alarmed. “Wait, you’re not going out in the temple like this, are you?”

“Of course! I assume Ashoka is in the padawan dorms?”

Anakin frowned. “No…” he replied slowly. “She’s still on Mon Cala, remember? Doing clean-up with the prince?”

“Oh.” Obi-Wan paused. We did leave her alone during the war far too often, didn’t we…I suppose reconciling my failings with one student must be all my mind can handle.

He cleared his throat and resumed moving. “Well, I want to visit the gardens and the Room of a Thousand Fountains. Not to mention spend some time with a few of the other Jedi. You might be my brother but there were other Jedi that I care for, and dammit I’m going to tell them that.” He finally finished lacing up his left leg and moved to the right. His heart pounded, throat burning with fear as he waited for Anakin to throw the over-casual ‘b-word’ back in his face.

Anakin was dumbstruck, staring at him blankly, a marked improvement over violent shouting.

Obi-Wan stood up and Anakin seemed to reboot.

He rallied, focusing on the first part of that he could wrap his head around, “Wow, wow, No. You are not running around the temple drugged so you can, I don’t know, give Mace Windu a hug. I thought when you said you were going to ‘deal with the fallout’ from whatever the kriff you’re still on, you meant you were going to lounge around our quarters all day!”

Obi-Wan scoffed, moving forward.

His former padawan physically blocked the door as Obi-Wan started to leave, sounding vaguely hysterical, “You can’t run around loopy! You’re a High Council Member!”

“Not anymore,” Obi-Wan replied bitterly. 

“What do you mean not anymore,” Anakin said fiercely, grabbing on to his shoulders. “Did they kick you out? Is that why you’re acting crazy? Did you resign?”

Obi-Wan responded by pulling Anakin into a hug, which was immediately returned, “Of course not, don’t be absurd. Fine, I suppose I’m technically still a high council member, it just seems like a bit of a moot point.”

“What the kark does that mean? You used to dream about being on the council! You’re the wisest Master in any of those stupid chairs!”

‘Master of the High Council’ Kenobi just sighed heavily in response. He maneuvered around the confused errant Knight and into the hall. 

“Obi-Wan, wait! At least eat something first! Or let me put my shoes on!”

“Very well, you have one minute to make yourself presentable. I only have a few hours before I’m going to need to get back to reality, and the longer I linger the more I fear extreme measures may be necessary.”

“What does that mean?” Anakin shouted from inside. “Extreme measures sounds really ominous, you know.”

“I’d rather not get into it, alright? Let’s just enjoy the here-and-now, eh, ad’ika?

Anakin crashed out the door with less than a second to spare. “What did you just call me?”

“Ad’ika,” Obi-Wan answered, striding firmly down the hallway in the direction of the hanging gardens. “Surely you must have picked up some Mando’a from the troopers?”

“Yeah, but I wasn’t sure if I heard you right, bu—um—ori'vod,” Anakin fumbled out. “Uh, you’re not going to call me that in front of anyone else, right? You do remember that the council already gives us the side eye for over-attachment right?”

Obi-Wan hummed thought fully in responded. “There are far worse things a Jedi could do than admit to affection they already feel. Maybe if I had been honest about my attachments, they wouldn’t have ended the way that…” he trailed off quietly.

“The way that what,” Anakin asked frustrated. “Look, don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that you’re letting go of some of the more stuffy Jedi Master fodder but you’re really giving me some emotional whiplash over here, and I’m starting to think that putting off visiting the healers is a stupid idea."

“There are far stupider things a Jedi could do,” he responded cheerily. “Oh look, there’s Plo Koon. MASTER KOON!” He shouted, startling the Kel Doran Jedi.

“Yes, Master Kenobi?” He replied, slightly concerned at the sight of the two human Jedi making a beeline for him.

“I just wanted to say that I consider my former padawan my family. I raised him, I care for him deeply, and I don’t want to let go of those feelings.”

Plo Koon brightened before nodding seriously in response. “I feel just the same about my former padawans, and the Wolffe pack, of course. Denying my attachments isn’t, personally, a practical way to handle them. I’d rather honestly live as an imperfect Jedi than pretend to be a perfect example of the code. If I must have some imbalance, I’d rather it be an excess of compassion than a dearth,” he replied earnestly.

“I always admired that about you,” Obi-Wan replied ruefully. “This might be a little odd, but could I have a hug? I hold you in the highest regard and I’ve realized that there are so many Jedi that I never directly expressed my affection for and…”

Plo Koon didn’t wait for Obi-Wan to finish before wrapping his arms around him. “Of course, dear boy. You’ve had such heavy burdens placed on your shoulders during your life, especially in the last few years; it saddens me to see how deeply they’ve weighed you down. If there’s anything I can do to help, in any way, you simply have to ask.”

Obi-Wan sniffled slightly into Plo’s Shoulder while Plo rubbed soothing circles over his back.

A few passing Jedi gave the embracing Masters uncomfortable looks before hurrying on their way. Anakin stood slack-jawed.

When they finally pulled back, Plo Koon hesitated before finally asking, “I don’t mean to pry, but what brought all this on? I sense profound grief from you, even through your extraordinarily impressive shields.”

“It’s a long story,” Obi-Wan replied, wiping at the corner of his eyes. “I’d rather not get into it.”

“He’s high,” Anakin offered bluntly. “He took something last night and won’t go to the healing halls.”

“Ah,” Plo said. “Is that true?”

Obi-Wan looked a little embarrassed. “I have the situation under control. My connection with reality might be…slightly altered right now, but my emotions, and what I chose to do with them are my own. I’m just, taking advantage of a unique opportunity to express myself.”

Plo Koon seemed to scrutinize him intensely, “If you’re sure this is what you need, than I support you. Just don’t do anything too foolish,” he finally offered.

Obi-Wan beamed. “I appreciate you saying so, I suppose I thought you would be supportive. Farewell, Master Koon.”

Obi-Wan offered a respectful bow and then turned to walk away briskly. Before Anakin could follow, Plo rested a claw on his arm. 

“Feel free to comm me if his behavior reaches a point where you think he truly needs a healer. I’m happy to help you drag him there if need be. A little cathartic release isn’t in of itself such a bad thing, but if he starts acting too out of control…”

Anakin nodded in acknowledgment, then ran off to see who else Obi-Wan had throw himself at.

Chapter Text

After a meandering walk through what felt like every path the hanging gardens and marsh pools had to offer, Obi-Wan finally stopped, leaning heavily on cold stone. 

“Obi-Wan? Are you ready to stop and eat something? As nice as this has been, I’m getting hungry and I’m guessing you are too.” 

(Anakin was only being a little sarcastic. It had genuinely been nice to peacefully spend the day with Obi-Wan like this—they hadn’t been to the marsh habitats since the war started. He had resigned himself to watching Obi-Wan enthusiastically greet every wandering knight, master, and elder who passed. 

It was actually impressive how many Order members his Master was friendly with—no wonder he was given a seat on the high council! But after the last heartfelt clasping of hands with a completely unfamiliar Bothan (thankfully for Anakin’s petty jealousy, Obi-Wan wasn’t hugging everyone), Anakin had asked who the knight was.

Obi Wan frowned. “No idea. But I suppose I must have seen him somewhere.” 

Anakin was no longer impressed.

When a group of créchelings wandered by, Obi-Wan appeared briefly overwhelmed with emotion. His shields didn’t let anything specific slip, remaining maddeningly thick despite the emotional rawness of his words and gestures. But based on the lost expression on his face, Anakin knew Obi-Wan was feeling something intensely. Bizarrely, instead of saying hello, Obi-Wan hurried out and away, dragging Anakin behind and bringing them back to the stone wall and the topic of late breakfast.)

“Not yet,” Obi-Wan responded hoarsely. “I want to visit the Room of a Thousand Fountains first, and say a few more goodbyes.”

“Goodbyes?” Anakin asked, a slight chill running down his back. “We’re not shipping back out until the end of the week. Do you always say goodbye to everyone this thoroughly before redeployment?”

“No. Do you think I should have?” Obi-Wan frowned. “I feel like that would have been more upsetting than anything else.”

Anakin rubbed the bridge of his nose, trying to remain patient enough to parse Obi-Wan’s drugged shifting of tenses. “Ok then, why are you saying goodbye now? To the whole order?” 

Obi-Wan didn’t reply, simply pushing off the wall to continue on his quest to apparently visit every corner of the temple.

Anakin dogged his footsteps, pleading softly, “Master, please, you’re worrying me. If you won’t eat, then let me take you to the Healing Halls so they can check you over for drugs. We can visit the fountains after.”

Obi-Wan finally paused, thinking that over. “I would like to see Bant. She should be there, right?”  

Bant was, in fact in the halls, and responded in kind to Obi-Wan’s sincerely joyful greeting, not growing concerned until she pulled back from their hug to see Obi-Wan’s eyes growing damp. Her childhood friend downplayed her concern while his grown child elevated them.

 Obi-Wan wandered the halls, greeting injured Knights while Bant ran several tests.

“As far as I can tell, all you had last night was human-appropriate alcohol. No force-user specific drug interactions, and no traces of spice. It’s possible there’s something I missed, but your force presence doesn’t feel off balance in the manner I specifically associate with drug-induced altered perception. Your blood sugar is a little low, and you’re somewhat dehydrated, especially considering you’re in the templenot out on a mission.”

“I’ll take care of my physical needs after I visit the Room of a Thousand Fountains. Just because a vision isn’t purely induced by the force doesn’t mean I can’t draw meaning from it. I do appreciate how you always looked out for me though, Bant. I’ve missed your fussing.” Obi-Wan smiled, clasping one of her hands in his.

Bant sighed. “If Master Yoda wasn’t off-world I’d urge you to talk to him. I’ve never seen you so...disoriented by a vision like this. Not even when we were younglings. Even if you do seem fairly calm.” 

Obi-Wan laughed. “I’ll tell him you said that someday. I might be wrong, but I think he’ll be happy to learn about—” Obi-Wan gestured around vaguely, “—all this. I’ll talk to him at some point. I’m sure of it.” 

Her gaze flickered to Anakin, who had been looming quietly the whole visit. He seemed both relieved and bewildered by the diagnosis. 

“Can I speak to you privately?” she asked.

Obi-Wan nodded and Anakin stalked out of the exam room. 

She scrutinized him, worry more obvious now. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed you slipping tenses this whole time. You’re still not sure where your vision ends and reality begins, are you? Do you even know when you are?”

Obi-Wan looked down. “I know what’s real and what’s not. I’m just…enjoying not fully living in the moment. I have every intention of waking up.”

“Yeah, that’s a BIG red flag, Obi-Wan. Force.” She tilted her head back and forth, examining him with obvious concern. “I am scheduling an appointment for a soul healer and you are going to go, understand?”

Obi-Wan agreed far too easily. She reluctantly let him leave with an earnest promise to eat something real.

Obi-Wan came outside to find Anakin pacing. 

“I’m glad you’re still here,” he told his former Padawan, ignoring the ache in his chest.

“Of course, Ori’vod,” Anakin said, ducking his head with a shy smile. “What did Bant say?”

“She wants me to eat something real and visit a soul healer.” Obi-Wan sighed. “Well, I can do at least one of those things.”

Anakin bristled, “A soul healer! You’re not crazy! You’re just—not conforming.”

“First of all, you don’t have to be unstable to visit a soul healer. I’ve seen them in the past, when there wasn’t as much wrong with me.” Obi-Wan paused mid-stride, abruptly remembering that he was supposed to be working through his failures, not daydreaming.

“I’m sorry if I led you to believe you couldn’t seek out help for your problems,” Obi-Wan said quietly. Another mistake, obviously.

“I—I know that. I just thought, you know, Jedi can be judgmental of that sort of thing. A good Jedi is supposed to be able to just, meditate stuff away,” Anakin said bitterly.

Obi-Wan thought furiously. Was this why he had been so blindsided by Anakin’s fall? Had his padawan been so afraid of judgement that he hid all of the warning sides of his struggles with darkness? Maybe he could ask Owen for some sort of petty assistance when he brought over bantha milk next visit, to demonstrate to young Luke that it was ok to ask for help. No, he was probably still too young for those sorts of lessons to have much meaning. The insight would require meditation. When he was more sober.

Unsure how ‘Anakin’ would respond, Obi-Wan tentatively continued the conversation. “You’re right, that some Jedi might unfairly look down on another for seeking such aid. But I think in the last years of the war, that sort of opinion became less and less common. After all, an ideal Jedi shouldn’t be leading an army. I don’t know if anyone can be perfect during war, let alone a peacekeeper.”

When that failed to garner positive or negative reply, Obi-Wan let out a breath. “It hardly matters, since I can’t exactly visit a therapist, let alone a soul healer, given my present living conditions.” 

Anakin seemed to process that, giving Obi-Wan a long, searching look. “What’s your next point?”

“Hmm?”

“You said first of all, and I think that was all one thing, so what’s your second point?”

“Not exactly being able to visit a soul healer regularly doesn’t count as a separate retort?”

“I guess? I’m just trying to understand what you’re trying to tell me.” A twinge of frustration crept into Anakin’s otherwise level tone.

“I appreciate that, truly, and I regret the number of hurtful miscommunications that sprung up from me failing to do just that. Well, second of all, I suppose, by most reasonable standards, I am ‘crazy.’ Getting some help with unraveling my mind would probably be best, if it were an option, but it isn’t so…” Obi-Wan shrugged.

Before any follow-up questions could be asked, they finally arrived at the main entrance to the Room of a Thousand Fountains. The archway was stunning, water flowing upwards along the stone in intricate, shifting tessellations. When they stepped through, Obi-Wan was delighted to see Mace Windu sitting on a bench by the entrance. Master Windu looked less delighted.

“Mace! I was hoping to see you.”

Mace looked at him. He seemed at first, to be utterly unsurprised by the duo’s arrival. But the longer he stared, the more visible shock overtook his features. “Master Koon recommended I look for you…and there were some rumors, but—force what happened.”

Obi-Wan just chuckled. “Oh, you know. What didn’t happen.”

“What’s wrong?” Anakin asked urgently. “What is it, Master Windu?”

Obi-Wan tried to wave them both off, laugh a little more forced. “Please, I came here to relax. I’m sure it would be easier to say what’s not wrong with—”

“Kark it, Obi-Wan this isn’t a joking matter.” Master Windu’s voice was calm, but insistent. He slowly started approaching Obi-Wan, pace measured, and hands outstretched as though the fellow council member were a feral loth-cat. 

“You look as if…nearly every shatter point around you has broken open. Force, I think you’ve been carrying some of these with you since you were a child. Usually when things that deep break… And some of these—some of these are too big to have just affected you.” Mace hesitantly reached forward, brushing against something invisible.

A chill ran down Anakin’s spine, again. What the kriff did Obi-Wan see in his vision? Last night he mentioned the temple burning, their rooms turned to ash, and Anakin had just…let that go in favor of greedily spending time with this addictively affectionate version of Obi-Wan, idiotically assuming that this was just a temporary drugged state, not something serious.

“Mace…” Obi-Wan groaned. “I had been wondering what you might say to me, but this is…please, can’t you just give me a hug and let me enjoy a little peace? For one more hour?”

“Master Kenobi,” Mace said, seeming to draw up into an even more serious version of himself. “What I see cracked open around you is bigger than the reemergence of the Sith on Naboo, bigger than the first battle of Genosis. Whatever has happened, you cannot possibly keep it to yourself, practically or morally.”

To the shock of both Windu and Skywalker, Obi-Wan actually rolled his eyes at that. “Mace. You are not telling me anything I do not already know. And I am choosing to spend a little longer enjoying the unique joys of the Temple before dealing with the harshness of reality. Haven’t I earned a small break? I’m not abandoning my duty, but if I don’t take care of myself where I can I’ll go madder than I already have.” 

At no point did Obi-Wan’s voice get whiny or upset or pleading. He just calmly dropped a series of bombshells and phrased the question as though the answer was already a given.

Mace and Anakin exchanged glances, but if Mace was trying to communicate something, it was utterly lost on Anakin. 

“Alright, Master Kenobi. I trust your judgement.” 

And, to Anakin’s shock, Mace pulled Obi-Wan for a tight hug. “And I do care about you, Obi-Wan. I’m not going to censure you for your reactions to whatever it is that happened.”

For a brief, hysterical moment, Anakin Skywalker wondered if he was about to witness his Master break down crying on the shoulder of Mace Windu, the Master of the Jedi Order.

But Obi-Wan just let out a slow breath and returned the embrace before bowing deeply in respect. Windu returned the bow with a placid expression. 

“If you’ll excuse me…I think I’d like to stand by the waterfall alone for a moment.” He paused, turning to address Anakin. “If you’re willing to wait for me, I’ll happily rejoin you by the glowing mushrooms.” Anakin nodded silently and Obi-Wan beamed before leaving the two men alone.

Mace turned to the young knight in a silent demand for answers, and, for once, Anakin was eager to share what he was dealing with. “He came back drunk last night, talking about the temple burning down, and being, well—”

“Unusually emotionally expressive?” Mace offered.

Anakin nodded. “Took a blood sample to analyze in the morning. He woke determined to hug every sentient being in the temple. I actually managed to get him to the halls just before we came here; Knight Eerin said there was nothing in his system and…I just don’t know. He’s been off today, but not in a bad way, exactly. Could a vision have caused the shattering you saw?"

Mace furrowed his brow. “Not any vision like I’ve ever seen but…these are dark times. And Master Kenobi has historically had bad luck. If some new cataclysm is coming for us—unfortunately, I absolutely believe he’d be the first of us to stumble into it. Something terrible and extraordinary must have happened to explain what I saw.”

“When?” Anakin asked, bewildered. “He was on leave. I was with him before that.”

“I don’t know. I saw him less than 24 hours ago, and there was no sign of such disturbance.”

A beat passed.

“I should go to the mushrooms before I lose track of him,” Anakin said quietly.

Mace nodded. “Skywalker, if you need assistance with him, you comm me, understood?” 

“Understood. Master Koon said the same,” the Knight replied, heart pounding. He ignored his reflexive urge to argue that he was all the support Obi-Wan needed. His—of course his brother deserved everyone, if that’s what he needed.

The Windu clasped him on the shoulder firmly, "I’m going to check in with Knight Eerin. It’s possible she has some suspicions that my observations will help her confirm. Until then…”

“I’ll look out for him.”

Chapter Text

Anakin watched Obi-Wan through the stalks for several minutes. His Master knelt at the base of the waterfall, occasionally glancing around, as if searching for someone. Just when Anakin was about to break and interrupt him, Obi-Wan stood and walked over. They sat together on the low bench, surrounded by the vibrantly colored fungi from a thousand worlds. 

“Did you enjoy the waterfall?” The young knight asked hesitantly.

His master frowned. “I haven’t enjoyed that waterfall since I was a child.”

Anakin rubbed sweaty palms on his robes. For all Obi-Wan had admitted in the wake of…whatever disaster he had seen, for as certain as Anakin was in their friendship now- more certain than he had ever been- he still didn’t know how to talk to the older man. Not about important things. But he had to try. Obi-Wan had basically told him he was the one he wanted to talk with- his former padawan- his brother was the one Obi-Wan turned to automatically when he wanted to speak. Not Cody, not the high council, Anakin. With that idea to bolster and frighten him, Anakin reached out.

“Obi-Wan…maybe we should talk about what’s going on with you. Whatever it is, I’m here for you,” Anakin offered, heart in his throat.

Obi-Wan tensed, hands clenching in his lap. 

“No.” 

“Master Windu and Bant both seemed to think this isn’t a drug thing. Please, let—”

“That wasn’t what I was saying no to.” 

Obi-Wan stood and began threading a path through the mushrooms, ducking beneath caps to avoid damaging the largest and stepping lightly to avoid crushing the smallest. Anakin was forced to follow directly in his footsteps, not wanting to risk damaging something Obi-Wan clearly seemed to care about, at the same time wishing he could look at his Master’s face.

“Did I ever tell you about Bruck Chun?” Obi-Wan asked.

“No. Who’s Bruck?” Anakin responded with deliberate patience.

“He was an old crechémate of mine, quite gifted, though he had a temper. There have been times you remind me of him. We were rivals.” They were approaching the end of the alcove, a large stone overhang throwing them into shadow.

“Were?”

“He died. When we were twelve.”

Anakin didn’t know how to respond. Was this progress? Should I tell him about friends of mine who died, or is that making it about me? Fuck I’m bad at this.

When they reached the rock face, Obi-Wan started climbing straight up. Anakin followed. Several clicks above the ground, Obi-Wan squeezed his way into a narrow crack, invisible from the floor below. Anakin followed. They awkwardly crawled along the passage until Obi-Wan suddenly dropped out of sight.

Anakin followed.

They landed in a hidden alcove. It was half lit by sunlight filtering in from cracks above, and half lit by the glow of mushrooms and crystals tenaciously embedded in the rock face around.

“Oh.” Anakin spoke softly, not wanting to disturb the stillness of the space. “Is this where you go when you visit the fountains to meditate?”

“No, I hadn’t been here in years,” Obi-Wan answered wistfully. “I started getting too big, didn’t want to damage the passageway too much. I figured some other younglings would stumble upon it someday like I did. I’m sorry. I avoided this room for the first year or two of your padawanship—all the gardens reminded me of Qui-Gon. By the time I even thought to share it, you had already grown so big…”

He sat down, legs stretched out in front. Anakin sat next to him, mirroring his position.

“I’m glad you’re sharing it with me now.” Anakin smiled reassuringly, but Obi-Wan was staring ahead blankly.  

The young knight swallowed nervously. “Did you…come here with Bruck?”

Obi-Wan let out a snort. “Gods, no! I hid here from him. Before we were what anyone would call rivals, he was the boy who bullied me relentlessly.”

“And…this is the guy you said I remind you of?” Was he being insulted?

“At times. Math lessons, piloting simulations, saber forms, none of that ever came easy to me. But you and him…you never even needed to study. And you always had a vicious streak, Anakin.”

Obi-Wan closed his eyes, leaning back. “Well. Perhaps not always. When you first came to the temple…I don’t know. I suppose it must have been something you learned.”

Rather than try to argue in vain against the slight hurt, Anakin just asked, “How did he die?”

 “He fell.” 

Anakin jerked in surprise. “Wait, you mean-”

“We were fighting at the top of the waterfall—it—he had nearly killed Bant. He was angry that we both had been chosen by Masters, and Xanatos used that to manipulate him into helping with an attack on the temple. Bruck was lashing out. He was a better swordsman, but his anger made him unbalanced. I knocked him back. And he fell. I’ve forgotten a lot of details about him as a person, but I still remember his body at the bottom of the falls.”

“That’s…awful. I’m sorry,” Anakin said helplessly. He had known the bare basics of Xanatos’ rise and fall, but clearly not the full story.

Obi-Wan sighed, leaning slightly to press their shoulders together. Anakin scootched over to try and provide a little extra silent comfort.

“I thought I had learned to live with my guilt over my part in what happened to him, but I suppose recent events have torn open old scars, so to speak.”

Anakin held his breath, Obi-Wan didn’t add anything else. 

“Obi-Wan,” he tried to nudge gently. 

“Hmm?”

Anakin lost his patience, jumping up. “Master, please!” he half yelled, looming over his Master. A flash of fear crossed Obi-Wan’s expression as he looked up, which immediately halted the fit of rage. 

The knight knelt down penitently, anger drowned out by shame. “I’m sorry, Obi-Wan, I shouldn’t have yelled, but please, let me help. I won’t get mad like that again, I swear. Whatever you need, I’m here for you.”

“You’re not,” Obi-Wan whispered, expression empty. He shuddered all over, fists clenching tightly.

“You’re NOT here for me!” Obi-Wan shouted, suddenly offended. “How can I POSSIBLY pretend to believe you’re there for me after what you—” Obi-Wan choked on the words. He let out a strangled cry and pulled his knees up to his chest. Tears welled, but the Jedi Master didn’t seem to notice, neither wiping them away nor hiding his face.

Anakin stared wide-eyed, still kneeling humbly and feeling cold all over. “This…this is about something I did. I don’t understand. You…told me a few hours that I’m dear to you, what…what could I have done since then to make you…I don’t understand.”

“You know what you did,” Obi-Wan gasped, words escaping in a rush of air. “And the fact that learning about it didn’t stop me from caring about you doesn’t help, it just makes the heartbreak a thousand times more painful.”

Anakin racked his brain wildly, hands pulling at his robes convulsively. This couldn’t be about his marriage with Padme, right? He told him this morning that he didn’t mind the sneaking off. There was only one screw-up big enough that could possibly warrant this severe a reaction, and he couldn’t possibly have found out about that. Only two people alive knew, and they were both sworn to secrecy. Neither of them would betray him to the Council.

“The younglings,” Obi-Wan whispered. “You—you didn’t even spare the younglings.” Obi-wan looked gutted, terrified. 

Anakin’s body felt the plunge into ice water like it was a physical thing and not simply his world falling apart. This was—this was his worst fear—that Obi-Wan would learn about his darkest failing as a Jedi and be ashamed of him, angry at him, would abandon him. He had already made his judgement, it was too late for Anakin to try and explain. How could he have even learned about the Tuskens?

“Padme—” he breathed out. “Padme told—”

“No!” Obi-Wan denied desperately, lurching forward. “Padme would never betray you! I would never betray you! We both loved you, Anakin. Please, some part of you must know that! You must!”

His master seemed frantic, fingernails digging painfully into Anakin’s flesh arm, but that was a small thing.

“You…loved me?” Anakin asked brokenly, heart cracking open.

Obi-Wan let go of Anakin to curl in on himself again. He seemed very small. The sight ripped at Anakin’s heart a little more.

“I…I love you Anakin. Still. Always. I think it’s safe to say at this point that there’s nothing you could do, no betrayal or atrocity you could commit that would make me stop loving you. Despite what you’ve done, you—you are my brother, the closest thing I have to a son—of course I love you.”

Tears began sliding in earnest down Obi-Wan’s face. Anakin was drowning, the light growing dim.

“I can’t just stop caring, even if you can. I can’t. I knew as soon as I found out that it wouldn’t change how I felt, even if I tried to pretend otherwise to myself. Would it have changed anything, if I had told you how I felt sooner? No, don’t answer. I always thought you knew, but. I think—I think the fact that I left you doubting how I truly felt…it might be the cruelest thing I’ve ever done, though it’s hard to really say. I don’t know. Maybe you don’t care anymore, even if you used to. I don’t have an excuse, so I won’t make one.” Obi-Wan sounded utterly defeated.

Anakin’s heart was pounding. This was a nightmare and a childhood dream. Obi-Wan loved him unconditionally, but he knew about his slaughter of the Tuskens and was ashamed. Did he want to not love Anakin? He didn’t say that exactly but it seemed that way…Anakin didn’t want to ask. Did it matter? This couldn’t be real. He can’t know. How could he know?

“Palpatine—” Anakin tried to ask.

Obi-Wan growled. “I do not need to talk about how that power-hungry liar systematically worked to tear us apart. I want to know why you would—” he cut himself off again.

Palpatine told Obi-Wan—that was more than he could even begin to process.

"I’m sorry, Master. I’m so sorry for failing you.” The words tumbled out hopelessly, “I was just—I was so angry about my mom’s death and—”

“Your mother’s death? You killed innocent children for the sake of your Mother?! I don’t—how could anyone possibly rationalize—” Obi-Wan hissed, truly angry for the first time that day. It was a slight improvement over the wretched despair. He took a deep breath and pulled himself upright for a moment, before collapsing in on himself again.

“Your mother’s death was a terrible tragedy, and I will forever regret my role in it. I should have tried harder to free her, for her own sake. I was so afraid that if I pushed for permission with the Council they would think I was failing you, they would take you away from me. I made—so many decisions out of attachment, out of fear of losing you, and in the end, I have to assume I must have irrevocably broken your trust, if I ever had it in the first place. You didn’t trust me with the truth of your visions, so I gave you bad advice born of misunderstanding, and your mother died horribly. I—I can see how you would blame the Jedi for that, even if it’s not…fair, per se. I certainly understand why you would blame me for that, why you would hate me because of her death.”

Obi-Wan scrubbed at his face mercilessly, practically tearing skin in his haste to wipe away snot and tears.

“But why, if you were getting revenge, would you kill the children and not me? Why couldn’t you just kill me and be satisfied?” He finally looked straight at Anakin, asking like it was a real question.

Anakin tried to think past the horror and confusion, tried to think of a way to erase everything that had gone wrong in the last few minutes without destroying everything that felt right.

After a few false starts he finally choked out, “Master, I love you. I told you, you’re the closest thing I have to a father. You’re the last person I could ever kill.”

“The last person you could ever kill,” Obi-Wan echoed back, looking pained. “Yes. I suppose I can understand that.”

“Please, Master, tell me how to fix this. I want to make things right. How can I fix things?” Anakin begged.

“That’s not a fair question. Why would you ask me that? You can’t unmurder people. You can’t put them back together like a—an engine or a droid—”

“There has to be something I can do to make you forgive me!” Anakin said desperately. “You can’t just tell me you love me and then you wish you didn’t because I’m an irredeemable monster!”

“Well, that’s an entirely different matter, though no less cruel to think about.”

He leaned forward, head resting on Anakin’s shoulder, the press providing a first hint of warmth in the midst of the unshakable cold. “Anakin, it isn’t very rational or fair of me, but if I’m being honest with myself, which I suppose I must be—it wouldn’t really take that much to get me to forgive you. Not nearly as much as I suppose it should. You make up the high points of my existence—why would I want to wish that love away?  Kriff, if you just acted sorry for what you had done.” Obi-Wan sighed.

Anakin felt like he was being hit repeatedly in the gut, stuck between terror over what lurked behind the shields Obi-Wan still was keeping up and gratitude for their presence.

His own feelings were more than enough.

“If you—If you told me that you regretted the lives you took and swore you were going to stop murdering, force help me, I’d probably take you back in an instant. All I ever wanted was to help you be the best version of yourself. It wouldn’t change anything but Force—do you have any idea how happy I would be, just with the barest hint of remorse? Of reason? I suppose it doesn’t say much for my character, but I think, if you were willing to forgive me for how I failed you, for what I did to you, I would gladly set aside everything. All of it.”

Anakin clung to Obi-Wan’s words like a drowning man to driftwood, struggling to breath.

Obi-Wan shuddered, voice dropping to a whisper. “I never—wanted to hurt you. Remembering your pain is…I can’t sleep if I think about it too much. I think, mad as you would think it is, deep down, what I really want is you back on my side. On the side of good. If you just…stopped. Admitted you messed up. Stopped adding to the violence. Even when the odds were impossible—when it was the two of us against evil…there was nothing we couldn’t face.”

Obi-Wan trembled once again, words nearly inaudible. “I suppose wanting that means I’m not a very good Jedi, but…it’s the truth.”

“I’m sorry,” Anakin said, the moment he found air to do so. “I’m so, so sorry for what I did. I lost control of myself because I was scared, and angry, and suffering and, and then I was so scared that you would hate me that I pretended it was ok, and I told myself that they deserved to die, but how could children ever deserve to die and please Master I’ll throw away my lightsaber just please, please don’t leave me, I love you too, you’re my family. I need you, please—” and the rest of the words dissolved into large, ugly sobs.

Obi-Wan keened and pulled Anakin into his lap like he was a child again. Anakin scrabbled at his cloak, desperately trying to hold on. The terrible chill that had been haunting him slowly started to fade away as he was rocked back and forth. 

After a minute, Anakin got enough of a hold on himself to consider attempting to stop blubbering like a crechéling on his Master’s robes. But he quickly realized that Obi-Wan was also crying, possibly harder than he was, the only coherent words coming out of him being ‘love’ and ‘you’ so rather than try and pull back, he threw his arms around the older man and let himself go.

An uncertain amount of time passed before they both slowed from heaving sobs, to dry hiccups, to quiet whimpers. Eventually they ended up in a heap on the ground, boneless but for their hold on each other. A little while longer and finally, the cavern was more or less silent.

Anakin felt physically lighter, mind clearer than it had been in years. The air felt…clean, like after an extremely successful meditation session.

Without a word, they slowly shifted so they were leaning on the wall instead of sprawled on the ground. Obi-Wan pulled his robe off, first using it to wipe his face, then tenderly cleaning his Padawan’s. 

Anakin just chuckled. 

Obi-Wan threw the robe so it covered the two of them, which was a little gross, but that only made Anakin snort giddily. 

They sat there peacefully for some time. The sunlight cast shadows started shifting, and Obi-Wan sighed. “I really should go eat something.”

Anakin sighed back at him in agreement. They both stretched in the small space, joints popping.

“Do you need to walk through the rest of the gardens first?” Anakin asked, dipping his head, reverent and uncertain.

“No,” Obi-Wan replied, tenderly fussing with his kid’s hair and robes so they looked presentable. “This was…more than I could have hoped for.”

Anakin beamed, giving Obi-Wan one last quick hug before gesturing upwards. “Back to the real world?” he joked, with more than a hint of regret.

“Back to the real world,” Obi-Wan repeated heavily.

Chapter Text

It wasn’t until Anakin was staring at the hot sauce bottles and solitary mysterious green takeout container that he remembered they were at war, and therefore no longer in the habit of restocking the apartment’s cold stasis.

“Obi-Wan, there’s nothing to eat!” 

“I know!” came the call back. “I’m trying to meditate!”

Anakin closed the stasis door and walked back out to the common room. Obi-Wan sat cross-legged on the windowsill.

“Do or do not, there is no try,” the knight quipped.

Obi-Wan opened his eyes to look fondly at the man standing before him. Maybe when he woke alone in a dusty desert hovel, he would regret letting himself play pretend for so long. Maybe this whole day would fade from memory like a dream.

But right now, he felt…peaceful. He wouldn’t claim to be satisfied by the explanations he imagined for Anakin, but it would likely have been far more disturbing if he somehow came up with an actually sympathetic justification for genocide. He got to say and hear a number of goodbyes. He even got to truly cry for Anakin, for his brother, in a way he really couldn’t imagine doing otherwise

Now he had to let go, to be there for Luke.

And he could always get more spice…

“I guess if you need to meditate, I can go pick us up food from the Temple Tapcaf,” Anakin offered. 

“Thank you, Anakin. Today…helped. More than I can explain,” Obi-Wan said softly.

“I—I don’t really deserve that. Considering it was all my fault.” Anakin bowed his head, uncertain of the right words and uncomfortable with being praised.

“Not every terrible thing that has happened is your fault. You made a series of awful choices, yes. But there were, there are, other dark forces at work and not a single Jedi in the order was able to stop them. At least for a short time today I was able to set that aside, so for what it’s worth, thank you.”

“Kriff,” Anakin said, shocked. “Of course there’s more. Fuck. I practically forgot—okay. That’s all right, we—” he was cut off by a growl from Obi-Wan’s stomach. 

A snort of laughter escaped Anakin before he smacked a hand over his mouth. “Alright, I’m going to the Tapcaf, you just…meditate until I get back.”

Obi-Wan swallowed and nodded. “I love you so much.” 

Force Obi-Wan, you’re going to make me start crying again.” He pulled his Master in for a bear hug. “Don’t do anything stupid while I’m gone, ok? Just…meditate. And drink some water.”

"Hmm, I don’t know. Some of my best choices recently have been stupid,” Obi-Wan laughed. The words were light, but Anakin felt a prickle of unease, a hint of danger. There was no clear cause, and Obi-Wan seemed relaxed but…

Anakin gripped his Master’s shoulders, staring him dead in the eye. “Promise me you won’t do anything stupid.”

Obi-Wan sighed, “I promise.” He pulled Anakin down to press a kiss to his forehead. “Goodbye, Anakin.”

"I’ll be back in 20 minutes.” He paused, then mumbled, “I love you too,” before speeding out the door.

Obi-Wan settled back into meditation, reaching inwards. Everything but his body and the light within faded. He focused on his hunger, his thirst, visualizing the pack of dried jerky in his hut, the precious jars of water in the basement. He could almost feel the heat that never quite abandoned Tatooine, even during the short nights. He opened his eyes

and saw the temple apartment.

He shut them again quickly. He was sure he could snap himself out of this. He sank deeper inward, careful to leave his shields perfectly intact. With the galaxy as dim as it was, a real show of force had the potential to grab attention across star systems. Force purging toxins, fortunately, was more a matter of internal concentration than outward power. It was also one of the first skills Obi-Wan had truly mastered as a Jedi, thanks to numerous kidnappings at the start of his apprenticeship and hard drinking towards the end. 

It was uncomfortable to be that keenly aware of one’s kidneys, but Obi-Wan managed. It was less intense than a healing trance, anyway. His heart rate increased as various metabolic processes sped up—and almost immediately slowed down. Huh. The drug must have almost run its natural course, and now he 

was still in the temple.

Kark. Shit. 

‘Breathe’ he thought. Stress was only going to increase his chances of a stroke. Alright, so meditation wasn’t working. Maybe he could try for longer, but part of him was nervous that if ‘Anakin’ returned he’d lose the willpower, and so far, the passage of time had been extremely linear. He was too invested in the fantasy at this point for anything easy.

Remember your training. Your eyes can deceive you, do not trust them. 

Padawans were taught three main methodologies to move beyond mindtricks, hallucinations, visions, and the like. Looking In, Reaching Out, and Breaking Out. 

Looking in wasn’t working. That left the other two options. In the past, when his senses were lying to him, he could always trust in the force, but now…it was just too much risk. Reaching out like that, with his whole self, meant the chance of finding someone.

That left breaking out. Obi-Wan jumped up, staring intensely at the details in the molding, the stains on the carpet, at everything. At no point today had he spotted objects fading to grey in the corner his vision, or ripple as memories from different time frames overlapped, but surely there must be some weak point. Surely he just wasn’t working hard enough earlier.

Nothing. 

Shit, he really had stayed too long. Alright then, time for more…uncivilized measures.

He walked to the kitchen and pulled their butcher’s vibroblade from its block, holding it to his neck, then hesitated.

This had to be done, but it didn’t make it any less unsettling. It was his own fault for lingering in the delusion so long; all the more palatable paths to escape had closed off, and after all he had been through he refused to die from a drug overdose. Gods, it might take years for someone to find the body.

He steeled himself, bringing the blade up decisively only to drop it with a clatter. Pressing a hand to his throat, he was unnerved but not entirely surprised to find a stinging line of pain. His hand came away wet with blood. He instinctively pressed both hands to the cut, pulse rapid and heavy and moist beneath his palms.

It’s just a hallucination. It’s just an extremely vivid hallucination.

A thought occurred to Obi-Wan then, and he felt something in the pit of his stomach drop in horror.

What if…what if the blade was real. What if he was actually moving around his home right now, hazily sleepwalking in a pantomime of the peaceful stroll and tender embraces he was imagining. It would explain the immediate relief from the water this morning…hadn’t he found his way to food and water even dazed from sleep-debt and blood-loss during the war?

He had a vibroblade in the desert too…

His pulse pounded harder beneath his hands. The cut wasn’t even that deep, but for the first time Obi-Wan felt the true existential horror of his current trap well up. If he didn’t know where the walls of the cage were…how could he escape.

He took a deep breath, acknowledging and letting go of his panic.

He had the force. He would just have to be delicate in his application. He picked up the bloodied tool from the floor, hesitating for a moment before deciding to simply to clip it to his belt for now. A force-null object would be harder to distinguish at first touch.

Obi-Wan walked to his temple bedroom and opened the barest crack in his shields, just enough to reach out, get a sense of existing currents in the force. He stirred at one until a small vortex of light formed. To anyone looking, it would hopefully appear as a naturally occurring, low-powered whirlpool of wild force, common enough on Tatooine. Any gentle moves he made should be obscured by its wake, at least for the minutes before it fell apart.

He hesitantly laid a hand on the lightsaber on his bedside table, lowering his shields a little further. His heart sunk when he realized that his memory had even recreated the perception of force-imbued peaceful-ancient temple walls in the periphery. The Kyber in his saber reverberated with a familiar song. He jerked his hand away. That felt too much like his real lightsaber. He couldn’t risk it. 

Before Obi-Wan truly began to panic again, he realized something missing. Anakin’s—Darth Vader’s saber. Since picking it up on Mustafar, the crystal in it had screamed at him, halfway to corruption. When he touched the blade he could almost feel…feel what horrors it had been bent to commit.

Most of the time he left it buried under a rock pile in his basement, too afraid to work on healing it.

He couldn’t hear it now—but he could feel the memory of what it used to be.

It sat innocently on his Anakin’s bedside table. There was a tinge of darkness to it of course- this saber had only ever known war. But when he rested a hand on the blade it was clear this belonged to the memory he had walked with today, not the tyranny of reality.

Grasping it firmly, he marched back to  the windowsill and settled, intent on his choice. Sunsets here couldn’t compare to Tatooine—they were just too different. The binary play transformed the infinite horizon into indescribable vibrancy; it was something on Tatooine he unabashedly marveled at.

Coruscant, on the other hand, transformed the sun into a reflection of itself. Untold millions of transparisteel buildings refracted the star painfully at some points while casting the rest in shadow. The filter of light through constant smog resulted in strange shades of neon green and blood red. It was beautiful, but uncomfortable to look at too long.

He closed his eyes and pressed the saber hilt to his chest.

Anakin was impatiently waiting in the hot service line when the urge to return to his apartment insistently welled up again. He pushed it back, of course—Obi-Wan needed food and Anakin couldn’t keep putting his own selfish impulses in front of his Master’s wellbeing.

He held out for a few seconds, but the itch was getting stronger, sharper. He looked down at the tray—it already had most of Obi-Wan’s cold favorites, but he really wanted to get him his preferred soup if the line would just move a little faster. He jolted when, for the first time that day, Obi-Wan’s shielding thinned the slightest amount. Not enough to get anything clear, but the fact that there was movement at all…

He left the line; they could always come back together if Obi-Wan wanted. Hells, maybe they’d do a late-night visit to Dex’s for some real comfort food. Anakin still couldn’t get a sense of what Obi-Wan was up to through their muffled bond. He felt a buzz in his ears, not unlike the moment before an enemy blow.

He picked up speed, tea sloshing in its thermoflask. An elder looked at him annoyed as darted around him.

He started speed walking in earnest as the feeling got more intense. A sandwich fell to the wayside.

Speed walking quickly switched to jogging, then running; there was a shout of complaint as he ditched the whole tray carelessly behind.

He took the last few hallways at a full-out force-assisted sprint, the Force itself screaming at him to move. A small part of his mind thought we’re safe inside the temple Obi-Wan promised not to do anything stupid I’m going to get such shit for freaking out over nothing. 

He sensed nothing from Obi-Wan over the bond; not a hint of fear or anger or surprise. He blurred around the last corner, feeling like he might throw up with his increasing, unexplained panic.

Not caringabout anything butgettingto Obi-Wan beforeit'stoolate he smashed down the door at the same moment Obi-Wan, sitting peacefully by the window, turned on the lightsaber pointing directly at his heart.

Time seemed to slow. Splinters of the door frame hung in the air as Anakin desperately pulled the lightsaber away from Obi-Wan in the half-second between activation and ignition.

He wasn’t quite fast enough.

Blue plasma pierced Obi-Wan’s chest as time caught up. Pieces of wall shattered like shrapnel as he turned, shocked to see Anakin. The saber flew away in a straight arrow. 

Anakin threw himself to Obi Wan’s side, wildly trying to draw heat away from the searing hole before it could vaporize the surrounding flesh. He couldn’t tell what the saber had pierced, or how far it had gone in considering its last second movement.

One hand trained on a hundred battle fields robotically reached for his comm-unit to call for emergency medical assistance. His mind however, had largely been left behind a few minutes ago, when he was trying to pick what Obi-Wan would want to eat for dinner.

What came out his mouth was more incoherent shrieking than anything else, but he had at least called the correct line for temple aid.

He threw down the comm, focus intent on controlling the smoldering burn. The air around them seemed to boil and Obi-Wan started struggling to get away, pushing weakly. Anakin bodily held him down, finally finding words.

“What the FUCK, OBI-WAN! YOU LITERALLY JUST PROMISED NOT TO DO ANYTHING STUPID! YOU PROMISED!”

“that’s why— hkk I   have  to,” Obi-Wan rasped.

“Karking Fuck!YOU — STOP MOVING!”

Anakin felt a twinge of danger come from behind but was too focused to do anything but shift his body as shield. A sharp pain pierced his lower back, but he ignored it easily. 

The air crackled with heat and power as the wound beneath him cooled. A faint trickle of dark blood oozed out, probably scabs breaking from the recent struggle, considering the instant cauterization. He couldn’t see any light coming through, which meant he had moved the saber at least a quarter klick before it activated, Anakin thought semi-hysterically.

Finally, someone showed up to investigate the disturbance. In truth, probably less than a minute had passed since Anakin entered the room, but he really didn’t care.

“HELP ME!” Anakin shouted, not caring about the audible panic in his voice.

“What happened?” Mace Windu asked grimly, falling to the ground next to them. Not waiting for an answer, he set his lit saber aside and placed his hand to Obi-Wan’s forehead, stilling the violent thrashing.

Anakin opened his mouth but he just didn’t have the words. He didn’t know. 

“General Skywalker, report,” Mace Windu commanded sharply. 

“I left him alone to get dinner for us. I ran back and when I broke open the door he was holding the lightsaber to his chest. I tried…I tried to pull it away. It pierced him, and I’ve been trying to manage the initial burn risk. I called for medi but I don’t know their eta.”

“They’re behind me. How did you get injured?” the Master demanded.

“How did I what?” Anakin looked down but didn’t see anything. Obi-Wan suddenly mustered up the energy to wake up despite his state and Windu’s compulsion. He looked around wildly before yanking the knife from Anakin’s back. Right, the pain from before.

Anakin gasped, but managed to still his brother’s hand using the force before he could finish bringing it up to his neck, which Anakin just noticed was bloody.

“STOP TRYING TO DIE!” Anakin screeched.

“…I’m…not….I’m….I…have…..to…” 

But before Obi-Wan could finish the sentence, the healers finally arrived, pushing Windu aside to grab hold of Anakin and Obi-Wan. He could feel a buzz of energy go through him, stopping at the growing damp patch at his back. He tried to push the man away but the heat in the room was starting to make him dizzy

“I’m fine! Focus on Obi-Wan.”

Mace placed a hand on his shoulder, and in the gentlest voice he had ever heard from the man, said, “You’ve been stabbed, Skywalker. Let the healers help both of you; you’ve done well looking out for him.”

Obi-Wan, still occasional thrashing was being loaded onto a hoverstrech for transport. A second stretcher waited next to it. 

“Master Windu! He’s fighting us,” Master Che called sharply. “Can you tell us what happened?”

“Master Kenobi tried to kill himself,” Windu replied flatly. “His wounds are self-inflicted and he’s violently resisting assistance” 

There was a beat as that information was processed. Bant, who must have arrived at some point, said in slightly less flat voice, “He displayed erratic behavior earlier today, and I ruled out drug interactions.”

“Thank you, Knight Eerin.” Master Che plunged a syringe of some kind into Obi-Wan's thigh. He finally stopped attempting to fight, falling down onto the board. “Red team, with me. Orange, you have Skywalker,” she instructed sharply. 

Anakin numbly watched most of the healers leave with Obi-Wan through a hole in the wall. He slowly started to stand and somehow ended up guided into a seat on the hoverboard. Twisting backwards at the press of hands, he was surprised to see his tunic cut away in favor of a large bacta patch. A sharp and unfortunately familiar pain registered.

“Hey,” he protested. “Who stabbed me?”

“We can discuss that after you have surgery,” a blurry-looking healer replied.

“This is my fault,” Anakin said, suddenly urgent. “I shouldn’t have left him. He told me goodbye, he was saying goodbye all day, I should have…”

“You saved his life,” Windu interrupted. “You got to him just in time, don’t waste your energy on should-haves. Now sleep.”

Anakin wanted to argue more, but instead found himself laying on his front, vision blurring. His face felt damp, had he been stabbed more than once? Windu said a few more words he couldn’t quite make out. There was a brief stinging sensation, then everything faded away. 

Chapter Text

He didn’t feel any pain when the saber pierced him only

the world exploding and Obi-Wan was relieved. it worked- this must be breaking out

then not Anakin was there and that wasn’t right and he felt like he was burning alive and broken pieces fell but he wasn’t free he closed his eyes had to concentrate

Wake up Break Out Not Real

Woke up but he wasn’t Out and it hurt and Not Real Anakin was yelling at him for being stupid but he was trying to get Out and he had to try harder and went for the knife but it got stuck and his arm felt weak and he started to black out

He FORCED himself to WAKE UP and it ALMOST worked he could feel the heat but the rest wasn’t real so he tried again and

“STOP TRYING TO DIE!”

and that was irritating because trying was all he had left anymore he was trying so hard and if he wanted to die then he would have just

There were hands on his body and lightning in his heart and this must be

Obi-Wan blinked aWAKE confused-

“He keeps fighting the sedatives! -”

“-Varp! Up the dose, we need to finish the operation before…”

The familiar haziness of a full Bacta Immersion and there was something he was supposed to remember he had to WAKE UP and he struggled and there was yelling from somewhere

Bacta Pod- must be the temple. and he tried to remember how he got there but whatever it was must have been bad because he was VERY high and he had to… had to wake up (but he was awake someone told him he was already awake) and he had to break out (but this was safe safe someone was telling him this was safe so he must have broken out already) and something else not something not he heard cursing and everything got even fuzzier

Chapter Text

Cody woke up the morning after the…drunken keldabe still feeling uneasy. He spent half an hour attempting to read over reports in preparation for the upcoming Umbaran campaign before giving it up as a lost cause. Pouring over last night’s cantina surveillance distracted him for a little while, but eventually he gave up on that as well, breaking down and sending a message to General Skywalker.

Any updates on General Kenobi’s status?’

He watched the comms as communications from everyone besides the General trickled in. He addressed a few requests from requisitions, forwarded some medical reports, and ignored an irritating handful of overly personal questions. 

Agonizing over it the whole time, he opened a comm-text link to Obi-Wan. It took nearly an hour, but he managed to send two sentences.

Hope you’re recovering well. Look forward to upcoming mission discussion.’

He immediately wanted to retroactively delete the message, mortified at every word and deeply concerned by every second that passed without a reply.

He spent the next 30 minutes hunched over, quickly closing every incoming CT and CC communication, justifying the time to himself as ‘technically on leave.’

He lurched forward when he finally received a General’s comm code, but slumped in disappointment when it was Skywalker, not Kenobi.

Awake now. Not as drunk but still seems a little off. He says he wasn’t drugged. He’s taking the rest of the day off. I’m monitoring.’

Taking the rest of the day off. Did that mean he wasn’t carrying around his comm? Kriff. Should he more or less concerned that the general was actually taking a day off?

He decided to be more concerned.

Thank you for the update. Respectfully request information on any changes.’

Hopefully that would encourage Skywalker to keep him informed even if he stopped freaking out over his vod’s behavior.

Stowing the remote comm, he stood up and exited the temporary planet-side office, throwing himself into cleaning up the mess that was nearly 20,000 clone troopers simultaneously attempting to get the most out of a very brief R&R. 

Shortly before mid-day, he received another update from Skywalker.

Just managed to get him to medical. Healer cleared him of drug interactions but Obi-Wan’s still acting strange (not crying anymore, but still a lot of hugging).

Cody stared at that for a long while.

Any other verbal indications of upcoming danger?’ he finally asked.

Skywalker didn’t reply. 

Shortly after nightfall, his incident reports were interrupted by a call from an unknown temple number. He quickly opened the channel, and a holo of an unfamiliar Mon Calamari healer appeared in miniature on the desk.

“Commander Cody. Thank you for answering so quickly. Are you somewhere private?” she asked, voice painstakingly neutral.

The Commander tensed. “Yes, sir. I’m in CC office space, alone. The room and the channel are both secure. Is this regarding General Kenobi?”

“Yes,” she replied. “I'm Knight Bant Eerin; I’m a temple healer as well as a personal friend of Obi-Wan’s. He’s…he’s in the healing halls right now. We’re still trying to understand exactly what happened—I’ll tell you what I can but first we need to rule out any possible drugs he may have contact with. I need you to describe in detail anything he may have been exposed to in the last 24 hours that could possibly have had mind-altering effects.”

The Commander was a professional. He swallowed back his fear, his questions, and his demands to know what was going on.

“Of course. Everything on the Negotiator is GAR Standard, and I was with him when we left the ship. We stopped briefly at the temple, where the two of us attended a partial council meeting and gave a preliminary in-person debrief which lasted less than one Coruscanti hour. General Kenobi remained in my sight the entire time and as far as I am aware didn’t ingest or otherwise consume foreign material of any kind. We rendezvoused with several of ghost company at planetside barracks—General Kenobi did not exit the vehicle and no drugs were brought inside. We then proceeded directly to the lower levels. The first time he was exposed to anyone outside the 212th was when we left our transport on level 3915. I…actually have footage of him more-or-less the whole night after that point. I’m sending it over right now, sir. Uh, one of the boys took it without permission. He didn’t mean anything by it, he’s just an idiot; I’ve already issued a severe reprimand.”

“That footage would be extremely helpful, thank you.” He watched as she pulled it up on a second comm, sound barely audible. 

He continued with his report: “In any case, he brought it to me after I issued surveillance on the cantina, it tracks everything the General did—as you can see, he had a glass of house grub wine, two shots of rancor blood, and an unnamed mixed cocktail ‘on the house.’ You can see everything the bartender added—as far as I can tell nothing was slipped in. He just… blacked out suddenly after the fourth drink, and quickly startled awake, confused by his surroundings.”

“I see.” Her tone was still carefully neutral, and Cody didn’t know how to read her expression. He waited, wishing he was wearing his bucket so he didn’t have to keep schooling his face into professional patience.

“You brought him back to the temple…correct?” 

“Yes, sir.”

She let out a deep breath, gills fluttering slightly. “We’ll probably have more questions later, but please understand our inquiries are entirely based around determining how we can best help Obi-Wan. This call and any future ones are not intended, and should absolutely not be interpreted, as indications of blame. He’s actually spoken to me about you before; I know he has the deepest respect for you, personally and professionally. Someone will likely be assigned to talk to everyone whose spent time with him recently, including myself.”

The sick feeling in his gut from last night returned full force. “His condition is serious, then?”

Her gills fluttered again.

“Even now, I think we can safely anticipate a full physical recovery. He…there’s no easy way to say this…it appears he attempted to end his own life. Knight Skywalker got to him just in time, and he received bacta within minutes of the initial burn. I…like I said…we’ll began work to figure out why—”

Her voice broke and she stared upwards, an oily sheen welling at the outer edge of her eyes. She blinked furiously to dissipate it. .

“Rest assured commander, he’s getting the best treatment possible. Thank you for your assistance. I’ll do my best to answer any questions you might have right now. This is my personal comm link—please feel free to reach out to me at any point for updates.”

“I—” Cody cleared his throat. “Can I come to the temple? To…” he trailed off, not sure how to finish.

“Not tonight, I’m sorry. The healers need to focus on his care; he’s not allowed any visitors until he’s out of bacta, I’m afraid.”

“Skywalker must be throwing a fit at that,” Cody remarked numbly.

The healer winced. “Knight Skywalker is currently sedated. He was…injured in the struggle to keep Obi-Wan from further harm. Master Windu witnessed part of it, but we’ll have to wait until it's safe to wake him to get the full story. I’ll be notifying Captain Rex of the situation after we finish speaking.”

“I’ll do it,” Cody offered immediately. “Tell me what happened.”

Eerin hesitated. 

“Please, Sir. It will be better coming from me and…if he’s the only other trooper who’s being informed at the moment…”

“Of course,” she said quietly. “We don’t know the full circumstances, but at some point in performing emergency care for Master Kenobi, Knight Skywalker was stabbed in the lower back with a vibroblade. It scraped the bottom of his right kidney. The blade was pulled out shortly before healers arrived, causing some further damage and blood loss. He’s already finished surgery, and should only need a few hours of bacta at most. Considering his extraordinary recovery rates in the past, he’ll likely be out of bed tomorrow and fully healed by the end of the week.”

“General Kenobi wouldn’t…” Cody trailed off again. He was having a hard time putting coherent sentences together.

Bant looked at the ceiling for a moment, seeming to collect her thoughts.

“Psychosis can have many manifestations. Even with—even after accidental injuries, people can mistake help for harm. There’s just too much we don’t understand, and only so much we can learn before they wake up. Are you certain you wish to be the one to inform Captain Rex?”

“Yes.” That was about the only thing the Commander was sure of right now. “Is there anyone else in the GAR I should inform of…anything?”

“I…” Bant faltered with noticeable uncertainty for the first time during the call, before rallying. “The military aspect of this isn’t my area of expertise. If there’s someone you trust who can be a support for you, I don’t see why you shouldn’t be able to tell them in confidence. Some form of what happened is going to get out eventually,” she sighed. “Please use your discretion, I suppose. It’s…not really my specialty but I imagine you’ll receive further orders on how much to release to the GAR once Obi-Wan’s stable.”

Right. Discretion. Because Obi-Wan wasn’t just Obi-Wan—Or even just a Jedi—he was a High General in charge of nearly one-third of the Republic’s forces. If word of this got out to the wrong ears it would cause mass panic, maybe even an emboldened separatist advance. It could alter the course of the war; troop morale alone—it was an insane amount of responsibility for one person, no wonder—

He deliberately didn’t finish the thought.

“I’ll comm the Captain immediately. Thank you for the information, General,” he said out loud.

“Feel free to contact me for further updates, and tell Captain Rex he’s welcome to do the same. I’ll message you when you’re clear to visit the halls.”

“Thank you, sir,” Cody responded, saluting automatically. 

“Take care of yourself, Commander Cody.”

The hologram blinked out. Cody sat motionless for several long moment before sweeping his desk off, sending the assorted flimsy stacks and redundant communits and holocoms of various designations to the ground.

He stared at the clear desk, then tapped a button on his wrist, opening a private audio channel, marshaling his best calm. “CT-7567, please come in,” he said, calmly.

“Cody?” came the alarmed reply. “I’m here, what’s going on?” Why did he sound so panicked? He had deliberately used his calmest voice. Oh well.

“Please report immediately to CC Office 12 in Guard Headquarters.”

“I’ll be there in 10.″

Cody hung up. He stared at the blank wall. He knew something was wrong with how the General had said goodbye. He knew.

He opened the single desk drawer and dumped the odd wires and coins inside to the floor. Eerin had said burn. That could mean a lot of things, but lightsaber was the most likely. 

Cody puked profusely into the empty drawer. He stared at the vomit for a moment before carefully closing the drawer. He still felt a little sick. He hadn’t even said anything back to the General, he just stood there, frozen. 

He stared vaguely at the wall across from him, wondering if he was going to puke again.

Rex burst into the room. “Cody! What’s going on?! You—kark, what is that smell?”

“I puked in the desk drawer,” Cody explained.

Rex shut the door behind him and slowly walked over. He knelt down next to the desk, gently taking Cody’s hands in his own. “Cody. Vod. Talk to me.” 

“Obi-Wan tried to kill himself.”

Rex’s hands tightened over Cody’s compulsively and Cody squeezed back harder. He closed his eyes so he wouldn’t have to look at Rex’s expression.

“Some of ghost company went out for drinks last night. Obi-Wan started acted oddly. We flew towards the temple. He started crying. We got to the temple. He," Cody tilted his head forehead and lifted a hand in a vague gesture above his brow, the last spot Obi-Wan had touched. "He told me goodbye. I didn’t say anything back.”

“Oh, vod,” Rex whispered. He gently pulled an unresistingly slack Cody off the chair and onto his lap on the floor. Cody continued mechanically. “I did reports today. Skywalker said he was with him. I left Obi-Wan a message. I don’t think he saw it. He tried to kill himself. Skywalker must have left him alone. Skywalker saved him. Obi-Wan stabbed Skywalker.”

Rex froze, still holding on to Cody. 

“The healer called. Asked about drugs. They don’t think it’s drugs but they had to ask. She said they’re both going to heal completely fine. Skywalker will be out of bed tomorrow. I have a link if you want to call the healer directly. That’s…it. I have reports to do now.”

Rex held Cody tighter. “Not right now.”

“It’s war. People get hurt. People die. I have work to do.”

“Not right now,” Rex repeated. “You have the right to be upset. You're a person. You have the right to grieve.”

“Obi-Wan said that,” Cody rasped. Then he started crying. He continued to quietly sob for some time, hurt and bewildered and scared. They sat on the floor together; Rex barely moved, simply held on to his older brother as he fell apart.

Inevitably and all too soon, Cody’s tears ended and he pulled away. “I don’t know how to clean this,” he said, gesturing at the closed drawer. 

“I’ll take care of it," Rex replied softly. "Let’s just get you to bed. There’s CC bunks here, right?"

“Yes, but…”

Cody didn’t really like sleeping so isolated at the best of times, even if he also couldn’t imagine facing anyone from the 212th right now. 

“I’ll stay here with you. We’ll go to the temple together in the morning.”

Rex shepherded Cody to the fresher. He stared at the mirror with a vague sense of recognition before automatically moving through a standard sanitation routine. By the time he finished, Rex had joined him in his room.

“What did you do with the vomit?” Cody asked, suddenly exhausted. They slipped into bed together.

“Swapped the whole desk with Pond’s. That bastard knows what he did.”

Cody let out a snort. Then, much to his surprise, he sank heavily into a deep, dreamless sleep.

Chapter Text

Obi-Wan woke all at once, as though someone had dumped a bucket of water on him. Vokara Che and a Nautolan he vaguely recognized were hovering above him, watching with unnerving intensity.

He shifted slightly under their gaze, and was confused to find himself unable to move any of his limbs.

“We’ve cuffed you to the bed,” Healer Che told him calmly. “Do you remember why?”

Wake up Break Out Not Real

Obi-Wan thought back furiously. The memories of the last few days came racing back, then the last few years.

He closed his eyes, trying to think; his life had been so surreal for so long that it was hard to assess using reason. But something wasn’t adding up. He backtracked to the last memory he knew to be true.

Luke, of course. Luke was the most real thing in the galaxy. He held Luke for a short time before Owen rightfully kicked him out.

Then…back to his hut, to try and desperately fix whatever was wrong with the vaporators now…The Jawas stopped by…They had spice.

He had considered indulging before, but the indifference of the Sandcrawler was too safe (relatively speaking) an option to pass up. They wouldn’t judge him or take note of his vulnerability in the way the people of Mos Eisley would. He sat in his hut berating himself before finally giving in.

Then having a wonderful, perfect lucid dream—Cody, and Anakin, and Plo Koon and Bant and Mace and Anakin, his Anakin. But…how could his attempts to wake have failed so miserably? His body felt odd, not really hungry or thirsty. It didn’t make sense. 

Even assuming a distorted sense of time, this was too involved for a hallucination. The fact of the matter was this—he was a Jedi Master. Even without the force, if he was lost inside his own mind, he should have been able to get out. 

This…couldn’t be a drug-induced hallucination. Maybe it was at some point but…

Obi-Wan sucked in a breath, suddenly struggling for air. Vokara laid a hand on his shoulder and he flinched away.

“Master Kenobi, please try and take deep breaths,” the Nautolon urged in a soothing voice.

He complied, steadying his breathing and finding calm. He had an enemy to fight and he was done making a fool of himself. 

“I understand now,” Obi-Wan said flatly. “This must have been very entertaining for you.”

“I assure you Master Kenobi,” the Nautolan said frowning, “Your pain is not a source of entertainment for I, nor anyone else in the temple. Quite the opposite—a number of people were stricken at the thought of you joining the force before your time.”

Obi-Wan rolled his eyes. “You can drop the act, Sidious.” 

There was a pause.

“I’m Master Vokara Che, Chief Healer of the Jedi Temple. I’ve known you since you were a crécheling,” the simulacrum responded carefully. “This is Master Sife Aerdo, they’re one of our best soul healers. Neither of us are putting on an act, nor are we here to harm you. Is there something we can do to convince you of our identities?”

Obi-Wan glared at ‘her’, before turning to look straight at the ceiling.

“Vokara Che is dead, along with everyone else. I assume my mental defenses weakened after I drugged myself; you must have been besides yourself with glee to find me in such a stateI hope you’ve had your fun watching me run around in your Sith mindtrap, because it’s over. Torture me all you want, parade as many ghosts in front of me as you desire, you know I have nothing useful to tell you. And you’ve already destroyed everyone who you could possibly use as leverage against me, so I have no motivation to allow you a shred more entertainment. You can try and turn me if you wish, but honestly, what could you possibly put me through that you haven’t already?”

Master Aerdo tried to catch Obi-Wan’s eyes, “Master Kenobi, I understand you’ve had a terrible vision of some kind. I am not denying how it has impacted you. But I ask you to take a chance to see for yourself that those you fear dead are still here, and they still care for you. I’ve had a look at your shields, and I’m concerned by how fully you’ve blocked yourself off from the force. I understand you may have done this in an attempt at self-defense, but—”

Obi-Wan let out a snort, responding snidely, “You’re going to have to do better if you want to get any further into my mind, Palpatine.”

And at that, he closed his eyes, sinking deep, deep within. His weakness had—had almost certainly cost the galaxy (don’t think too hard about him) but there was still a chance that (don’t think too hard about her) was safe with (don’t think too hard about them).

He might not be able to escape, but he could raise his shields even higher, cutting himself off further from his surroundings.

If the Emperor wanted his attention, he would just have to torture him like a decent person. 

Chapter Text

“I realize this is incredibly difficult,” the Nautolan Soul Healer said calmly. “But in order for us to help Obi-Wan, we need to determine the cause of his current disconnection with reality. We have, to the best of our ability, ruled out temporary psychosis brought on by drug interaction.”

Cody stiffened further, not sure how to react to anything anymore. When a brother tried to end his own life, it was usually obvious why.

Sife Aerdo continued on. “There have, of course, been cases of Jedi Seers giving into their fears of the future, or losing their sense of reality, but every case study involving such an extreme reaction was the result a gradual degradation over the course of many years. Nevertheless, it seems clear that Obi-Wan experienced a vision, and it may have impacted his breakdown to some extent. The more we know, the more successful any attempts to convince him of reality will be.”

Bant closed her eyes in thought, trying to replay three decades of increasingly vague discussions of nightmares.

“Considering the high-profile nature of his position, we cannot rule out some kind of telepathic attack, perhaps even a darksider incursion.

Anakin leaned forward intently, inside of his skull buzzing with white noise.

“All that being said, we must be prepared to treat Obi-Wan’s self-harm as the culmination of a long and quiet mental health struggle. He would not be the first in the Order to disguise such a thing with durasteel self-discipline.”

At that, Bant and Mace took a moment to release their mixed feelings to the force, while Anakin raised his shields defensively.

Master Aerdo finally hesitated, before continuing in the same smooth tone.

“I would ordinarily prefer to structure this kind of conversation quite differently—allow Obi-Wan time to share his feelings first and invite you each separately to support him in the healing process. But he’s gone from fighting sedatives and force compulsions as though the fate of the galaxy depended on it, to a self-induced coma. All while barely lucid, yet still somehow maintaining Master Class mental shielding. We need to get a better understanding of his mental landscape if we’re going to even begin the process of treatment. I want you all to know that regardless of what I ask, or what we discuss, Obi-Wan’s condition is not your fault.”

 

 

It is necessary to note that everyone in that room had led, in one way or another, a somewhat miserable life. This was the main reason none of them could claim that the next five hours were the worst they had ever experienced. 

 

“But he’s always had terrible sleeping habits,” Anakin said hoarsely.

“Yes, but I think they got worse after Qui-Gon passed,” Bant argued, not sure what point she was making. 

“When I pointed out he couldn’t be getting more than three hours a night he told me that he could manage on meditation,” Cody offered irritably.

“That’s technically true,” Mace confirmed. “If the Master in question is well-balanced otherwise.”

“So it’s like his eating habits, crushing responsibilities, and repeated exposure to violence, then? Completely fine for a Jedi, in less it’s not, in which case it’s a major red flag?” 

“I think it would help to establish a timeline.”

Aerdo actually dredged up old mission reports, leading to the group reluctantly contacting Ashoka for her memories of Mortis.

At her Master’s insistence, she told them everything she remembered, hazy as it was, nervously elaborating on her own memories of falling. To her confusion, Master Windu all but brushed past that, assuring her that the important thing with stepping into darkness was the choice to the return to the light. Anakin bizarrely agreed with Windu. Out loud. Unnerved by the cooperation more than anything, she put her holographic foot down and demanded to know what was going on. 

Anakin took the commlink into a separate room to speak privately.

Upon return, he informed the group (with a visibly red and puffy face) that Kit would be escorting her back from Mount Cala cleanup early, daring anyone to disagree. Windu nodded and the conversation continued.

Together they rewatched holo-footage of Obi-Wan laughing amongst Ghost company the night before last, and debated reports from psychometric investigators who had scoured the cantina as well as Obi-Wan’s personal quarters for traces of mind altering substances. Between that and another drug panel, they were finally forced to conclude that despite the timing, the alcohol at most confused Obi-Wan’s perception of a vision, or possibly simply loosened his tongue.

Bant prodded Cody to repeat every word from the van ride to the temple, taking furious notes. Cody was unable to stop the heat that crawled up his face, convinced that Bant could somehow see it, given her pitying looks.

Just when the looming horror of Obi-Wan actually preparing to intentionally die started to break over Anakin, Windu interjected.

“You don’t see what I do,” the Haruun Kal Master said grimly. “Something galaxy sized shattered around Obi-Wan and he didn’t break from it. The closest comparison I have is Master Yaddle’s presence during her meditations on confinement. He’s survived—he’s chosen to survive a tragedy on a scale I can’t even begin to fathom, let alone describe. We’re missing something fundamental.”

“He said there were ‘other dark forces at work.’ Even if the fight was objectively hopeless…there’s no way he would choose to die because of it!” Anakin agreed vehemently, shaking off morbid doubts.

“But he did choose to die,” Cody said quietly. And the wind went out of Anakin’s sails.

“Let’s go back.”

Anakin grit his teeth as they picked apart everything ‘unusual’ Obi-Wan had said and done leading up to his visit with Bant.

“What exactly did he…”

“So Plo Koon was able to get a read through his shields?”

“Did he have anything to eat?”

“How did that compare to…”

“When he’s mentioned things in the future…did it seem good or bad to you?” Bant asked.

“Bad,” Cody and Anakin said in unison. Remembering the trip to the temple Cody spoke again. “Definitely bad.”

“Right,” Bant confirmed with a thoughtful voice. “Look, when we were talking, he sometimes used the wrong tenses for things, people.”

Anakin nodded sharply in agreement, pained expression on his face, and Bant continued.

“I confronted him on not knowing ‘when’ he was after Knight Skywalker left. He told me that he knew what was real, but he was, and these were his exact words, ‘enjoying not fully living in the moment’ he also said that he intended to ‘wake up.’”

Enjoying?” Cody repeated incredulous. 

“He did seem…mostly happy yesterday. Giddy, at points,” Anakin said, slumping in on himself.

Bant looked at her notes once more before addressing the group.

“This isn’t vision psychosis in any manner I’ve heard of before…but I think I might have a theory. He used to have intense visions when we were kids; plenty of crèchelings do sometimes, but Obi-Wan would be unable to sleep after. What terrified him more than anything was the uncertainty that he might make the wrong choice—even when the vision was about something good, or neutral. His visions decreased in frequency around puberty. We just had a conversation about this a few months ago—how relieved he was to only have to manage flashes of precognitionIf he had a random, horrifying vision of a terrible future…suicide wouldn’t be his reaction. It’s too final. There’s no…the coma makes more sense than anything else, even if it’s a regression, but he can’t make the right choice if he’s dead.”

Even if he blamed himself for what he saw coming?” Mace asked.

Especially if he blamed himself,” Bant confirmed. 

“What’s your theory?” Aerdo nudged gently.

“What if…what if he was telling the truth when he said he could separate out what was real and what was not? What if there was no distortion or blurring between now and then? What if he was just wrong about which was which?

The Soul Healer frowned. “That…would be a very extreme and abnormal manifestation of force-induced psychosis. He has training in distinguishing reality from visions. The continued presence of his mental shielding means that the fabric of his mind can’t be so horrifically collapsed in on itself.” 

“What if the vision was actually that realistic?” Bant said, pushing back against the soul healer. “What if the Force gave him insight into the future so detailed and vivid that it effectively was a reality in itself, and everything else, all of us…”

“Were just memories,” Anakin finished. “It would…actually explain pretty much everything. You said he wanted to wake up and when…when I found him.” He stopped, swallowing. “When I found him, he argued with me—what if he wasn’t trying to hurt himself? If you’re right…that would mean I found him trying to get back to reality.

“It could explain his behavior in the halls…his desperation to wake…” Sife mused. “But it runs counter to every other experience I’ve had with those managing prophetic visions. Master Windu, could that explain the shatterpoints you saw?”

“I’m not certain. It would have to have been extraordinarily real to create the echoes of Shattering I witnessed. I don’t know if that depth of vision has occurred before, but then again, many things are possible in the force.”

“You really think he might have been…trying to wake up from dream? By killing himself?!” Cody asked incredulous.

“If that ends up being what happened I am going to give him such shit. That is the worst way to end a vision,” Anakin replied.

“Yes. It is,” Bant said pointedly. “That’s why it’s a last resort, after every other attempt to wake fails.” 

They all sat in silence, processing various implications. Cody was unnerved by another terrifying insight into force powers, as well as the idea that the General might vividly remember Cody being inexplicably mind-controlled into trying to kill him. Anakin was trying to understand what this would mean for them, and the conversations he had thought they had had. Did…any of it count, if he thought he was offering it to a hallucination?

“Alright, this is a valuable working idea, but let’s make sure to examine everything with an open mind before we draw any more conclusions. Anakin, what happened after you left the healers office?”

Obi-Wan’s critique of the practicalities of visiting a soul healer could be and was interpreted multiple ways. The incongruity of peacekeepers in war sparked a rehash of earlier discussion. More apologies. Self-identifying as ‘crazy’ inspired new debate, especially in the context of the new theory. 

“When I saw him enter the fountain room, I assumed he had had a brutal run-in with the Sith,” Windu explained. “Based on everything we’ve gone over, I don’t understand when…but if we extend our timeframe, assume that the actual impact of his encounter didn’t manifest noticeably until the night before last, well. Some of the more insidious dark compulsions work by taking whatever small anger or hurt you feel and magnifying them until they consume you. It’s an old practice for turning Jedi—everyone has weaknesses. If Obi-Wan was already experiencing any self-loathing…”

Cody sucked in a breath. “Then a Sith mind suggestion would bring him to commit suicide. It…sounds like something he might do, if it was a vague sort of…mind control and he was partially in command of how it manifested. Take the blow rather than let himself be used as a weapon against anyone else, even his worst enemy.”

“Hells, it could have been an even more specific compulsion, driving him to attack the person he hates the most,” Bant added darkly.

Anakin buried his head in his hands, trying to hold it together. He couldn’t afford to lose control or get angry. Kriff, getting angry at Obi-Wan for ‘failing him’ when in pain could be the reason Obi-Wan was currently in the healing halls. The man said he loved him unconditionally, then practically had a breakdown over how much Anakin pushed that unconditional love to the breaking point, then killed himself. How was he supposed to interpret—

“Anakin? Are you alright to continue?” someone said.

“Yes. No. There’s something I have to tell you…I don’t know if it will help but—it was hurting Obi-Wan…I…”

“Let’s just take it one step at a time. What happened after you left Mace?”

Apparently even Cody somehow knew more about Bruck Chun than Anakin. Master Windu and Eerin told different sides of the same sad story, which spiraled back into a conversation about Obi-Wan’s inadequacy issues, which somehow devolved into a long rant about Qui-Gon Jinn that Master Windu had apparently been holding back for years. 

“My apologies,” he said afterwards, clearing his throat as the group stared, taken aback. “Old grievances. Go on Anakin, what happened after you got to the ‘secret spot.’”

“He…was skirting around whatever was bothering him…I pushed him…told him I wanted to help…he said I couldn’t…because it was me...because of what I…”

Anakin stood up suddenly, feeling the walls of the room closing in.

“I’m sorry—I’m sorry, I—” 

He ran out.

He turned around almost immediately, pacing in the small corridor, knowing he couldn’t leave, not with the stakes this high. He tried to catch his breath.

Master Windu followed him out after a moment, not saying anything, just standing there. Watching him.

“What!” Anakin finally snapped. “What do you have to say that I don’t know already!”

“Knight Skywalker—”

Don’t call me that! I DON’T DESERVE—”

Anakin let out a frustrated snarl, punching a wall. The crumble of stone beneath this fist briefly made him feel better, but then he remembered Obi-Wan’s flash of fear, his heartbroken expression in the light of an underworldly glow, and the tiny, choked sound when the healers moved him and Anakin just…collapsed, falling to his knees.

Master Windu sank down gracefully beside him.

“Anakin. This isn’t about attachment issues, is it.”

“Not really, no. I mean, maybe you’ll blame attachment but it’s more about…”

“Anger.”

Anakin looked up at that, trying to regain the meditative calm he had felt for a glimmering moment yesterday, right in-between making peace in the cave and everything burning to ash. 

“You know that I have had my own struggles with anger. It is how and why I came to develop Vaapad.” 

“Yes, but you’ve Mastered your anger. And you’ve never…never given in to hate.”

A beat passed and Windu watched some of Skywalker’s old and familiar breaking points flicker into view. 

“You’ve done something. Something you know the Jedi won’t forgive.”

“Obi-Wan forgave me.” Anakin said, whispering. “He said that even though I couldn’t fix what I did he loved me anyway and I just needed to—to honestly regret what I did and not do it again. I told him I’d get rid of my lightsaber and I meant it and—I thought he forgave me. I was ready to go to the Council with him, come clean about everything. I was ready to do anything, and Obi-Wan asked for almost nothing. And then I left him alone to get dinner and when I came back…he was holding my lightsaber. My lightsaber.” 

Anakin buried his face in his hands, shuddering with creeping cold.

“I’m not going to critique your and Obi-Wan’s attachment to each other right now. I’m well aware that much of the Order has turned to personal ties to maintain their stability given the ongoing horrors of war. I am, for many reasons, wary of the risks this brings us, yet it is also true that risks do not automatically mean failure. I myself have mastered my emotions in a different manner than conventional wisdom councils.” 

Windu spoke carefully. For all that he and Anakin had similar relationships with the force, they rarely saw eye to eye on any given subject. At a certain point, Mace had accepted that the volatile young man was determined to find the worst possible interpretation for anything he said. And Mace was not the Order’s most patient nor most talented diplomat.

“As for your crime, whatever it is, l will tell you this: Unless you choose to renounce the Code and leave our number, you will be treated as a Jedi Knight, subject to our protections, as well as our judgement. You will receive appropriate mental counseling. If you are found to be a danger to those around you, your actions will be curtailed and monitored, possibly through temporary confinement.  The Jedi do not believe in punitive measures for their own sake, but you may be required to provide restitution to those you harmed, perhaps indefinitely.”

Silence hung perilously between them. Windu watched a tremor run through the unfathomable kaleidoscopic of shatterpoints that had orbited Skywalker since he was a boy. A small one broke inward, and an attached tangle of larger, darker ones fell away, crumbling to dust. The rest faded from view, invisible for the moment. A choice had been made, some decision that closed off at least one path to the darkside.

“There’s no one to make restitutions to.”

“…You’re going to have to elaborate on that.”

“Let’s go back inside—I don’t want to do this twice.”

They returned to the increasingly hated meeting room.

Anakin spoke in an outpouring of words about love and hate, about misplaced revenge and now uncertain forgiveness. When he finally finished, the room was dead silent.

The three Jedi sat quietly while Cody pinched the bridge of his nose. “I guess this is why Jedi have the no attachment rule, huh? I admit I never really got it, but I suppose even if I wanted—”

Bant abruptly lunged up, fumbling to bring her lightsaber to Anakin’s neck. Everyone jumped to their feet, except for Anakin, who stared at Bant with a wretched expression.

“KNIGHT EERIN! This is not—”

“Did you do it?” she asked, ignoring the Master of the Order.

Bant!”

“It was my first thought after I saw him. We all rushed in expecting a fight, or a bomb, only to find you, insane, and him with a hole next to his heart. I didn’t want to believe it of course, but you’ve always had a violent streak that Obi-Wan, force help him, couldn’t quite soothe away. A fight gone wrong. Master Windu said it was suicide, and I believed him, and I’ve been trying to make sense of that ever since. But Mace found you after, didn’t he? After you felt guilty? Did you think he was going to turn on you?

“Bant Eerin, you are dangerously—”

“No,” Anakin whispered, swallowing hard before continuing in a broken confession.

“Obviously I might be why. But I didn’t—I couldn’t. I know I’m not good, but I can’t even imagine—holding a saber to him like that. Kriff, do you not get how much I can’t handle losing people I love? I was insane when you saw me because I saw someone trying to kill Obi-Wan and I couldn’t even fight them.”  

Bant held his gaze for several lingering seconds before deactivating her saber and dropping it with a clatter. They stared at each other, both breathing heavily and neither blinking. She returned to her seat, moving jerkily. “I apologize Knight Skywalker. That was uncalled for.” 

“I wish I could say I wouldn’t have done the same thing in your shoes,” he responded lowly. Bant made a tiny, unintelligible noise in reply. 

Cody collapsed back into his chair, holstering his blaster. “Alright then, if that’s…if whatever that was is done…after you finished sitting in the fountain room, what happened next?”

Everyone stared at him.

“What?”

“You’re handling Anakin’s confession somewhat dispassionately. We’re simply surprised,” Mace said slowly, returning to his seat at the same time as Master Aerdo fell into theirs.

Cody shifted uncomfortably. “The vode were trained in a wide range of enemy suppression tactics. While we’re extremely glad the Jedi have never asked us to employ them, I’m not…unfamiliar with this scale of deliberate slaughter. At least in the hypothetical, sir.”

“I see,” Aerdo said. “That is a valuable insight to have, thank you. Knight Skywalker—”

“Just…call me Anakin. Or Skywalker. I’d rather…not think about what titles I should use right now.”

“Anakin. When did this happen?”

“About two years ago, immediately before the First Battle of Geonosis.”

“And have you had any similar experiences with mass slaughter, or other forms of giving into the darkside since?” they asked placidly.

“I don’t think so but…we went to war the next day and…I don’t know if I’ve stopped fighting since it—since did what I did.”

“Hmm. Anakin, would you mind stepping outside the room and waiting in the corridor for a moment please?” 

He bit his tongue, tasting blood, and quietly walked out while the Masters decided his fate. He leaned back against a wall, desperately wanting to see Padme. 

To his surprise, the door opened barely a few minutes later, and he was politely invited back in.

“Anakin.” Master Windu spoke firmly and without emotion. “Thank you for telling us this. It’s an important insight into Obi-Wan’s feelings right now, and I recognize that you could have kept it a secret. As Head of the Order, and with the advice of a Senior Soul Healer, I have made a decision. You will be assigned a personal soul healer, who you will start seeing tomorrow. Commander Cody pointed out that over nearly two years of continuous warfare, you have maintained some of the lowest trooper casualty units of any division, by a significant margin, if we evaluate based on mission risk level. Your civilian and enemy casualties will be reviewed, but even considering constant war, since your massacre of the Tuskens, you have clearly managed to at least… direct your violence away from the innocent. We do not consider you a threat to the inhabitants of the world. As such, for the time being, I see no real benefit to limiting or tracking your behavior within the temple or on planet, but you are barred from leaving orbit. I have decided to delay a full reckoning before the council until such time that your former Master is well enough to provide his own opinion. Give me reason to doubt my current assessment, and I will have you confined to a force-suppressing cell. Do you understand?”

Anakin nodded, bowing in acknowledgment. All things considered, it was…honestly better than he expected.

“Now, as Cody,” Windu paused. “My apologies, as the Commander was saying—" 

Cody waved his hand in absent acceptance, wrung out in a way different from anything Kamino had trained him for.

“I know this hasn’t technically been open combat, but I think you’ve all earned the right to use my name,” Cody commented wryly.

Everyone nodded, Bant locking eyes with Anakin and dipping her head in quiet acknowledgement. Anakin bowed his head in response, force ringing with a sudden release of bitter remorse.

“As Cody was saying, what happened next?”

Peace. Comfort. Hunger. A warning in the force…

-

“I tried to pull the saber back, but his finger was already on the igniter…” 

“You probably saved his life. Even a second later—”

“I know, that’s almost the worst part.”

-

“…his neck—

“Why would he change weapons?”

“What if…”

-

“I still—”

“If only…”

“Even if that were true, if wouldn’t be your fault.”

-

“He said what to you and Healer Che?”

“That has to support the detailed precognition idea, think about…”

“But that would make his brief waking up was not part of the vision, but rather him trying to make sense of the fact that he wasn’t able to wake up.”

“Does that mean he had a vision of Palpatine—”

“No, I uh, think that might be a different type of grievance. When we were in the Garden he had some personal complaints about the Chancellor. He accused him of trying to tear the two of us apart…they’ve never exactly, um, trusted the other to perfectly look out for my best interests, but I’m pretty sure it’s separate from politics.”

“That’s not…those aren’t actually mutually exclusive…”

“Still, it’s a more reasonable explanation than the Chancellor…"

“…I think that Obi-Wan might have said Palpatine was the one to order me to fire on him. Obviously, at the time…”

“That could be a metaphor, would be consistent with violence informed psychic damage.”

“If a Sith was trying to weaken Obi-Wan’s faith in others, the Chancellor and his Commander would be excellent targets…"

-

“I think we’re done.”

Anakin stared blankly at Sife. “But we didn’t figure anything out.”

“Not conclusively, no. But we’re unlikely to make any more progress, and you’ve given me enough information to perform a meaningful meditative scan, or guide a conversation, should Obi-Wan wake, or navigate through his mind, should we decide to make a more decisive attempt at his shields.”

“Master Aerdo…I leave the final judgement up to you, but I strongly urge you to make a more decisive attempt. I am more convinced now than I was—” Mace glanced at the chronometer. “—five hours ago that this was motivated by a specific, external stimuli, likely dark. Do you disagree?”

“No,” they said with a sigh. “But I don’t want to underestimate how much underlying factors might have contributed to his response to stimuli, including underlying factors that none of us are aware of.”

The Nautolan Soul Healer stood up, tucking their hands into their sleeves to address the room with classical Jedi serenity.

It was a little irritating.

“In any case, we all need to sleep, eat, and meditate. Knight Eerin, you have the rest of the day off, I’ve cleared it with Master Che already. Master Windu, I leave the final judgement up to you, and I am aware that your duties as Master of the Order are unceasing, but I urge you to take some time to center yourself before returning to the council. Commander Cody, I would be more than willing to arrange soul healing for you or any of the vode, please let me know if you would like to arrange something. Anakin, you will receive a comm later today with further details on your future sessions. 

They bowed low, then glided out the door.

Bant stood next, bowed individually to each soul, and sped-walked out.

Commander Cody cleared his throat awkwardly, “Mace—what should I tell the troops? His absence is already noticeable. I did my best to cover for him yesterday before—well. But we’ve both been AWOL all morning, and we’re supposed to have a major command meeting later tonight.”

“If anyone asks about General Kenobi, tell them it’s classified. I’ll schedule a briefing on the subject. Now go find Captain Rex and take care of yourself, that’s an order.”

Cody saluted, first to the High General, then to Anakin.

Finally, it was just Mace and Anakin.

“Is there anyone who you trust who I can call to stay with you,” Master Windu asked.

“I can manage on my own,” Anakin replied, not willing to give the Master of the Order anything else he could use against him, even after everything.

Master Windu held back a sigh.

He attempted once more, making a deliberate attempt to soften his tone. “Anakin—I know we’ve had our differences, but this is not a trick, nor a trap. You’ve suffered a series of great shocks in the last 24 hours and handled them with immense dignity. I myself am struggling to deal with the emotional fallout.”

Anakin looked up at that, surprised. He didn’t seem to be struggling, but maybe that was what made him a good Jedi Master…

“As I told you before, I am not going to begrudge you the comfort of attachment. I’m rather convinced it would do you more harm than good at this point. I don’t want you flying right now, and you don’t have to be alone. I hope we have come to a better understanding today, but I doubt my presence is suddenly a comfort, though please correct me if I’m wrong. Now is there someone I can comm?”

-

Padme ended her call with Master Windu extremely discomfited. She had barely heard from Anakin since he ran out on her the night before last to take care of an apparently extremely drunk Obi-Wan Kenobi. He had messaged her a few times that night, promising to make it up to her, but had been comm-quiet since. She had been starting to get worried, and now the Master of the Order was asking her to pick him up from the temple. Fortunately, she had already cleared most of her meetings for the week well in advance (Coruscant leave usually meant THEM time, not that she was jealous of Obi-Wan, of course).

The speeder ride back from the temple was silent. All Anakin would say was that he would explain everything once they were in ‘a secure location.’ 

The door to the apartment had scarcely closed behind them when Anakin fell into her arms, shaking.

“Anakin, talk to me love, what’s wrong?” She gently guided him to the couch, arranging him so she could hold him protectively.

“...Obi-Wan tried to kill himself last night.”

She let out a harsh gasp, stricken to the core. “No! He can’t have, he would never—” 

“I got to him in time, but Padme… he was holding a lightsaber to his heart. It was…really close.” He burrowed deeper into the folds of her dress, and she gripped him fiercely.

“Oh gods, is he—”

“He’s physically healing, but he’s still…not all there. I spent all of today locked in a room, trying to figure out if it was a Sith Attack, or an insane vision, or...or me”

“Anakin! What do you mean ‘me’ —Obi-Wan loves you, you—”

“I know,” Anakin interrupted her again, knowing he was being unfair; he was just too drained to be patient.

“He told me loved me. He…he…found out about what I did to the Tusken village, You should have seen his face, Padme, he was horrified, but he still told me he loved me, and he was willing to forgive me, even though he shouldn’t.”

“Of course he forgave you,” Padme whispered. “You’re not a monster, Anakin, I know you would never do something like that again.”

“And then after we talked, I left him alone and he—” Anakin choked on the horrific story.

Tears ran down her face, heart breaking. “That’s—that’s horrible. Anakin…it must have have been an attack, Obi-Wan wouldn’t do that,” she said urgently.

He pulled away, horrified. “I made you cry. I made Obi-Wan cry too. I’m sorry—Padme please, promise me you won’t—"

She grabbed the sides of his head. 

Her nails bit into the soft skin behind his ears as she pulled him down so they were face-to-face, vowing, “Never. I swear by the force itself, I will never choose death over life.”

He let out a relieved sigh, eyes fluttering closed.

“Now you,” she demanded.

“As long as I have anyone to live for, I swear by the force, I will never choose death over life.”

She pulled him the rest of the way in for a bruising kiss. He lifted her, and they desperately clung at one another as he carried her to bed. They continued like that, clinging and grasping, until exhaustion carried him to sleep. She pulled the covers over top them both and curled around him defensively as the day slowly faded away.

Chapter Text

Anakin left his first ‘soul healing’ appointment feeling on edge. They hadn’t even discussed anything important! The healer mostly talked at him, giving him rules for future sessions. They had barely touched on the reason he was there, which was both a relief and slightly irritating...He was a little uncertain what to do with his time now. 

Obi-Wan hadn’t responded to him at all during his visit that morning, laying motionless in an apparently self-induced coma, and he wasn’t allowed to sit with him again until the evening. He wasn’t allowed to look at anything to do with the war until Mace cleared him. Returning to his and Obi-Wan’s quarter’s was still unthinkable, even though he knew he’d have to go back at some point before Ashoka landed on planet. 

The Chancellor had left him several messages inviting him for a visit, but he was dragging his feet, despite the serious temptation to turn to the always comforting father-figure. The thought of actually seeing the man made him feel practically sick with anger and betrayal. Obi-Wan had been convinced that Palpatine was trying to tear them apart. And while Anakin didn’t quite believe that…he had told Obi-Wan about...what he had done after his mother’s death. Maybe someday, when Obi-Wan was better, he would be able to believe it was all for the best, but for now…he was just angry. 

He hadn’t really been angry at the man before, and didn’t enjoy the sensation.

Padme had told him she would be working from home as much as possible the next few days. While he didn’t want to be an annoyance, there wasn’t really anyone else he could turn to for advice or comfort right now, and she seemed almost as desperate for the reassurance of his company as he was of hers…and the Master of the Order seemed to at least tolerate their relationship, even if he didn’t know all the details.

He arrived at her apartment and promptly collapsed on the couch. 

“Is it alright if I join you?” Padme asked softly. 

Anakin smiled at her. “More than alright”

She sat down. He shifted so she could lean against him comfortably.

“Do you want to talk right now, or should I do some paperwork?” she asked neutrally.

He groaned. “It’s—I’m not sure if I’m being immature. Should I go see Palpatine?”

She stiffened. “The Chancellor? I—I thought we had specifically agreed not to talk about him if we could help it. Have his politics started to bother you?” she asked dryly. 

He rolled his eyes. “No, I still believe he’s the best chance for ending the war quickly. And you know my friendship with him is personal, not political.”

“This is a personal problem then. Does it…have something to do with Obi-Wan? Are you not supposed to tell him about—what happened?”

“No, I’m sure the council’s already informed him; he is the Chancellor, after all; they would have to tell him if a High General was out of commission,” he replied, a touch bitterly. 

“But it does have something to do with Obi-Wan,” she nudged.

“Yeah. It—he was the one who told Obi-Wan. About me. With the Raiders,” he ground out, suppressing a flash of anger.

“Oh. Oh! I didn’t realize he knew. He—had he urged you to tell Obi-Wan before?” she asked, slightly guilty.

“No!” Anakin snarled back. “He swore to keep it a secret, told me that my revenge was justified.”

“I’m sorry—the Chancellor of the Republic told you that what you did was justified?" Padme sounded shocked and Anakin turned to her with wide eyes.

“Do you…you told me you understood…but…we haven't really talked about it since it happened, have we? We've...never really talked about what you think.” He hunched over slightly, expression twisting miserably.

She pulled away, heart pounding. “Anakin…do you think what you did was justified?”

He looked down. “At the time I told myself it was…but I don’t know. Even in the moment…I—even the children. You have no idea how much clearer everything seems when your channeling the force with anger even though afterwards…I told myself they were animals but…I…when I was talking to Obi-Wan...he called them younglings—the look on his face…I—I was so scared that if the order ever found out I’d lose everything—it made me angry. I deserved to be angry so I pretended that everything I did while angry was alright…And the Chancellor agreed that animals sometimes needed to be put down…and you said you understood.” He looked up at her uncertainly.

She let out a sigh of relief. Of course Anakin knew his actions were wrong, he was radiating gutted shame. She took his hands in hers, stroking softly. 

“Anakin…I know it’s not exactly the same, but I do understand wanting revenge. I helped personally liberate and clean up many of the trade federation camps. I buried the rotting corpses of my people, who I left to die—then returned back to my office to watch Nute Gunray get out on parole. If someone had handed me the power to kill every single Neimodian at the right moment—” She let out a breath, still seething.

“But no one did. I couldn’t have gotten revenge like that, even if I had wanted to. And now…gods Anakin, understanding why isn’t the same as saying it’s justified—I might still hate the trade federation, but that doesn’t mean that every Neimoidian is guilty of their crime, no matter my personal feelings. I really, truly don’t know what to say about the Chancellor telling you what he did, or keeping your secret, or breaking your trust.”

They sat in silence for a moment as he digested everything.

“I…think I get what you mean about separating out justifying and understanding. Maybe that’s what he meant, and I just wasn’t smart enough to realize what he was saying at the time. I want to ask him, but I’m still mad and… I just don’t want to lose my friend because I’m angry,” he finished unhappily.

She sighed, then pressed a delicate kiss to his temple. 

“Then tell him that. Leave him a message. A friend would understand holding off a conversation while you’re upset. And a politician should certainly understand holding back your feelings so they don’t dictate your actions.” 

He smiled at her, “How did you get so wise?”

“I was a Queen, you know,” she replied haughtily.

“Oh a Queen, I hadn’t realized, do forgive my impertinence,” he said cheekily, pulling her closer. 

She pushed him back. “Message first. He’s almost certainly in a Senate committee meeting right now, it’s the perfect time.”

He relented. They briefly hashed out what he was going to say. Then she drifted to the other room while he pulled out his official senatorial comm-link, biting his lip nervously.

Much to his dismay, the Chancellor picked up on the last ring, holo opening to reveal a grandfatherly visage.

“Anakin, my boy! So good to hear from you; I had been getting worried. How are you?"

Steeling himself and ignoring the live audience, Anakin launched into their prepared monologue.

“Chancellor, you of all people know that I struggle with anger; I’m trying to work on not allowing it to dictate how I act towards those I value. That being said, in the interest of preserving our friendship and until Obi-Wan is fully healed, I think it’s best we avoid unnecessary communications.”

“Anakin! I don’t—” Palpatine tried to reply, but Anakin cut him off.

“Thank you again for your understanding. I will of course diligently reply to any military or professional requests sent through the proper channels.”

Anakin closed the connection with a click, heart pounding. The comm immediately lit back-up.

“What do I do?” he asked Padme, feeling nauseous.

Was this the right choice? Surely his friend would understand. He didn’t want to yell at the Chancellor just because he was still working through Obi-Wan’s issues and his issues with Obi-Wan! Or was he just acting out of fear? Maybe the Chancellor could help.

He started to reach for the comm, but Padme snatched it from the table first. She threw it to the ground, delicately lifted the hem of her dress, then pierced it with the heel of her shoe. It stopped mid trill. He looked at her adoringly as she held out her hand.

“Let’s go to bed,” she commanded gently.

“I love you.” 

“I know."

Chapter Text

“We cannot delay much longer,” Master Ki-Adi-Mundi said gravely. “Rumors are beginning to spread. Word of the disturbance at his quarters has yet to leave the temple grounds, and as much as I doubt it will, that merely means that the troops are free to create their own narratives untethered from evidence. Master Kenobi’s absence is not going unnoticed.”

Kit Fisto sighed as his hologram rippled. “As much as I dislike deliberate falsehoods, I think it might be best for morale if we keep—the full truthas we understand it, under wraps as much as possible. Young Padawan Tano is deeply shaken. I myself…” The Nautolan sighed again, anxiously running a hand through his tendrils.

“Not to mention the fact that Master Kenobi might have a valid reason for mistrusting the Chancellor,” Master Gallia added darkly. “Of course I’m not saying we should accuse him of anything based on Kenobi’s scattered words alone, but given the chance that this was proceeded by some hypernaturally prescient event, some form of precaution seems warranted.”

Yoda hummed in reply, looking weary. “Fallen ill, Obi-Wan has. Tell the Chancellor and the Admiralty this, we shall. Incapable of visitors. Still unknown to us, the cause is. Overwork, we suspect. Truth, it may be?” he finished, turning to Master Windu.

Mace leaned back. “I’ve shared everything relevant. We still don’t know anything with absolute certainty. It is my hope that the healers will call upon our more powerful telepaths for assistance later today, should their other efforts continue to prove unsuccessful.” He glanced pointedly at Plo Koon.

“In the meantime,” Master Tiin interjected. “We must discuss the situation in the Expansion Region! As much as we had hoped to delay the Umbaran campaign until Master Kenobi was capable of leading the 212th—”

“That is no longer plausible, if ever it was.” Koon finished softly.

“You yourself may be best suited for the task, Master Tiin,” Windu offered. “The 407th was intended to accompany the 212th, in any case.”

Saesee Tiin reared back, alarmed. “I’m honored, but as I’ve already explained to the council, my skills as a pilot and Shocktroop leader are best utilized at a lower command level. I’m certain there’s a better suited replacement for Kenobi, at least for the short term. What about Skywalker? He is Kenobi’s protegee, and more familiar with working directly with the 212th.”

“You are a veteran with considerably more experience than young Skywalker. You would truly trust his judgement over your own?” Shaak Tii asked skeptically.

“In war? Absolutely. I’ve seen what he’s capable of.” Master Tiin confirmed neutrally.

Koon pushed back, disapproving. “Regardless of his skill, I don’t believe he is in the best mindset for such a task at the moment.”

“Will he be held back from the front entirely?” Master Koth asked, frown visible across the flickering blue. “That would mean reworking our forces considerably.”

Before Mace was forced to add his own concerns about Anakin’s role in the war, they were interrupted by a priority message from the Chancellor’s office.

Exchanging exhausted looks, the assembled council straightened in their seats, nodding one by one at Master Windu, who finally accepted the incoming call.

A full scale live holo of Chancellor Palpatine opened in the front and center of the room.

“Ah, I see the full council is here. I thank you humbly for accepting my call so quickly,” he said with a smooth bow of his head.

After an intangible prod from Mace, Master Yoda answered, “Of course, Chancellor. Serve the senate, we do. Help you, how can we?”

A troubled expression crossed Palpatine’s brow. “I recently heard the most terrible rumor about poor General Kenobi. I was hoping the Council could clear up the truth of the matter.”

“Hmm. Dangerous things, rumors are. Careful with them, you are wise to be.” Yoda said. Everyone in the room expertly stifled a smile at Yoda’s unrivaled skill at vague topic evasion.

The Chancellor was similarly far too practiced a politician to allow irritation to mar his face. “Thank you for that wisdom, Master Yoda. Now what exactly is the condition of the High General of the Third System Army?”

Yoda’s ears drooped. “Plagued by sickness, Master Kenobi is. Unable to wake him, our best healers are.”

Palpatine gasped. “How horrid! Surely this must be some insidious Separatist plot! What else could have felled such a powerful Jedi.”

“Immune to illness, not even the Jedi are. Still investigating the cause, we are. Discussing who should care for his troops, when you called, we were.”

“Oh, how dreadful, that we are forced to discuss such mundanities as troop movements when a good friend’s life might hang in the balance! Please, if there’s anything I or the Senate can do to help, you have my personal support in accessing the finest medics.”

“Very kind of you, that is. But well cared for, Master Kenobi is. Will help, a rest from the stress of war, we hope. Keep the news contained, we must. Inspire fear, we do not wish.”

“Indeed! Public panic is a wise thing to fear. Do not worry, I will ensure that any security leaks are taken care of—personally if need be.”

Master Windu finally spoke, tone and posture absolutely neutral. “Thank you, Chancellor. If there’s nothing else, we will return to planning our strategy during Master Kenobi’s unfortunate but necessary leave of absence from the front.” 

“Of course! When you are finished, would you be so kind as to send General Skywalker to brief me on what you decide?”

“That won’t be necessary, Chancellor. I’m more than happy to come in person to brief you myself,” Windu replied in the same placid voice. 

“Oh, I’m certain that as Master of the Order you have more important tasks to do than talk to an old man such as myself! And as you know, I consider Anakin a friend of mine. It will do me good to check in on him myself. I’m sure you understand.”

“As you have so kindly reminded us in the past, nothing outweighs a Jedi’s duty to the Senate of the Republic. As Master of the Order, I consider discussing the matter with you a top priority. And as for Skywalker—your concern is of course appreciated. I’m sure, given your friendship, you will respect our decision to give the young man some time off from council obligations to meditate over his concern for his friend and former Master. We would be happy to pass on an informal invitation to meet with you, if you wish.”

Palpatine was silent for a moment. “How…very kind of you to respect their close bond with one another. Yes, please do pass on my personal invitation of support to Anakin. And my offer of non-Jedi medical consultation.”

“I will do so as soon as our meeting has finished. Thank you again, Chancellor.”

Palpatine nodded briefly then closed the connection, hologram winking out of existence.

“Unaware, I was, a leave of absence from his duties, we were giving Knight Skywalker.” Yoda said with a raised brow.

“The full matter will need to wait until Master Kenobi wakes, but for now, trust me when I say that we should at least discuss possible replacement leadership for both the 212th and the 501st.”

The council grumbled at that, but Mace quelled any arguments with a quietly insistent press of shatterpoints-flickering in the force and a severe look . 

“Very well,” Shaak Tii relented, pulling up a datapad. “Jedi Masters currently without troops to command are few and far between. There are several shadows that we could hypothetically pull from their duties, and of course Master Krell after the tragic loss of his last division…”

- - -

“My Lord! This is an unexpected honor! How may I—”

“Save your simpering, Tyrannus.” The hooded figure hissed. “It appears we have a new player in the game.”

“To whom are you referring, my lord?” Dooku responded, thinking quickly. Of course, both Sith were constantly instigating power plays amongst the Republic and Seperatist leadership, but nothing dramatic came to mind. The less said of Dooku’s failed apprentices the better.

“You mean to tell me you don’t know?” Sideous replied with a wicked smirk. “How disappointing. I had thought your spy network better than that, particularly when it comes to your favorite lineage member.”

Dooku paused. “I was aware that Kenobi had missed the most recent major mixed war briefing. Do you mean to tell me he has begun to move against you, my lord?”

“My, my. Your sources truly are failing you, Darth Tyrannus. Quite the opposite is true. It appears that someone has managed to land a blow where our combined efforts had previously proven fruitless.”

“A blow against Kenobi? On Coruscant? That is…an interesting development.” 

“Indeed. Find out everything you can. Whoever has succeeded has done so in such a manner as to utterly rattle the High Council. I’ve never seen them so deliciously shaken.”

“I see. And what of your favorite of my lineage? I assume you are managing to use the situation against him gracefully as ever.”

Palpatine’s smirk fell into twisted scowl. “The boy is despondent of course. My lack of warning means that I was unable to position myself advantageously in advance. And now he is refusing to answer messages, while the council has decided to give him time off. Bah! Of all the times to attend to their Chosen One’s emotional wellbeing…”

Dooku drew himself up, expression betraying nothing. “Forgive me my lord, but any information you can provide me would help in my search to find our ‘new player’ as it were. I have never known the council to be so...soft with a knight when his former Master was simply in sickbay. Do you mean to tell me that Obi-Wan Kenobi has passed into the force?” His tone, haughtily impassive throughout the conversation, grew a touch disbelieving at the very end.

“My sources tell me he is ‘unwakeable’ but given the boy’s anger and grief, not to mention the fact that his force signature is practically non-existent…I suspect his condition may very well be critical. Find out the rest. Do not fail me again, Tyrannus.”

The connection cutoff abruptly, leaving Dooku alone in the dimly lit room. He strode out, sealing the private chamber behind him and snarling.

Sending a moronic droid to investigate was all but unthinkable. Ventress was gone, an asset lost to his Master’s whims. Oppress would have blundered unbearably on a reconnaissance mission even were he not a cowardly traitor from the start. And surely if either of them were responsible for Kenobi’s condition Sidious wouldn’t have hesitated to rub Dooku’s face in it. He paused. Savage couldn’t have pulled off such a maneuver—Dooku half-suspected he was dead already…but Ventress…his meditations had let him to believe that she had crawled back to Dathomir but perhaps…

Dooku nearly smiled at the thought of such a spiteful and surprising victory as her doing, before grimacing at the idea that the Nightsisters as a whole were perhaps the most plausible suspect for an untraceable strike at the Jedi.

He settled into a data terminal, reluctantly accepting the fact that he would be forced to rely on bounty hunters for the time being. Bane was reliable enough to investigate on Coruscant—for the right price anyway. Swan could be interesting bait for his wayward former apprentice. All he needed to do was separate Ventress from the rest of the Witches…

Chapter Text

Cody waited impatiently in the entrance room to the hall of healing, ignoring the surprising number of Jedi who drifted by aimlessly. 

As far as he could tell they were coming in just to glance around, make meaningless small talk with the tight-lipped receptionist, look at the clone commander, move as if almost to talk with him, then drift out again without having accomplished anything.

Embarrassingly, it took him several minutes to realize why they were behaving so oddly. In his defense—

a) he didn’t have much of a baseline for Jedi behavior in temple. And—

b) when numerous vod had approached him today to try and find out ‘why the General missed last night’s conference,' and ‘why had Cody been unreachable for large chunks of time,’ and ‘why did you go to the Jedi Temple and stay there for hours upon hours yesterday morning,’ and ‘why haven't you taken your bucket off today,’ and ‘why has no one gotten a comm reply from General Kenobi since Ghost Company went drinking,’ and ‘why isn’t Skywalker answering comms,’ and ‘why do the Jedi seem so riled up,’ and ‘why are you and Rex so tense,’ and, ‘are you going to the temple now,’ and ‘what the kriff happened to my desk,’ well.

They just asked directly.

He had grown so inured to unfamiliar Jedi silently willing him to answer their own jedi-variations on ‘What the fuck is going on with Obi-Wan’ that he almost didn’t notice Mace coming to stand next to him. 

“Here as a visitor?” He asked the Master stiffly. He was almost feeling wound-up enough to fight for his place in line. 

“No, I’m waiting to speak with Skywalker,” he replied, temporarily placating the Commander.

An unfamiliar Jedi Cadet with a short braid on the side of their head walked in, attempting to look casual and failing miserably. The small furred padawan stared nervously at Cody and Mace, and actually managed to open their mouth. Windu raised a brow. They immediately snapped their jaw shut, bowed, and scurried out. 

Cody watched through the window as they joined a group of even tinier Jedi. After a brief conversation with lots of waving limbs from all parties, the group turned in unison to make eye contact with Cody’s visor. Cody inclined his head slightly. They all ran off, practically tripping over their robes.

“Wasn’t sure if the eyebrow would work,” Mace muttered. “It’s been 50/50 today.”

“I’ve just been hiding whenever I can,” Cody confessed.

Mace winced. “My apologies for the delay in putting out a statement. We’re still trying to work out—an adequate substitute. At least for the upcoming campaign.”

Cody nodded. “I assumed as much."

“I assure you, we’ve taken your thoughts into consideration. You’ll receive a notice of the Council’s final decision before we send out a mass bulletin.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Fortunately, finally, Anakin stomped into the atrium, followed closely behind by the Nautolan soul healer. 

“Ah, Knight Skywalker, do you have a moment? I’d like to have a word with you.” 

Anakin startled at Mace’s words, but recovered quickly when he noticed the slowly ambling crowd of overly casual pedestrians just outside the door, which seemed to have swelled as dusk fell.

“Of course, Master Windu,” he replied, bowing stiffly but politely.

“Commander Cody, would you care to follow me?” Aerdo said with a smile.

Cody and Anakin exchanged grim nods as they passed one another, following the Masters in opposite directions.

— — —

“The situation in the expansion region is deteriorating rapidly. We had already intended to send the 212th to moderate the situation after Umbara’s latest declaration. But increasing separatist activity in the sector means that we cannot afford to delay or under-commit. We're losing the hyperlanes, and, with them, republic control over crucial supply lines. We must deploy the third system army, the day after tomorrow at the very latest, tomorrow night ideally. They’re the best equipped for the situation, not to mention the only uncommitted division large enough to make a meaningful impact. There is no viable alternative.”

Anakin nodded uncertainly at the Master of the Order's tactical briefing. He had been keeping up with troop movements before everything, and, trying to keep himself sane without comms, had even watched the latest news in between his morning and evening visits of a still unresponsive Obi-Wan. But…why exactly was Mace telling him this? An alarming thought occurred.

“You’re not seriously thinking of sending Obi-Wan? I mean even if he miraculously wakes up tomorrow…”

Master Windu sighed. “No, of course not. Which is why I’ve asked you here.”

“You…can’t be asking me to lead them?” Anakin asked, feeling lightheaded.

“I admit, the council did consider it. You are the one of our most successful Generals. Not to mention the one most familiar with Obi-Wan’s troops. Between the fact that the 501st is also needed on Umbara and every other Jedi’s unwillingness to step in to the position, your name came up multiple times.” Mace pinched the bridge of his nose while Anakin stared disbelievingly.

“No, I have not brought you here for a promotion. I want to speak with you about your opinions on candidates for the 212th…as well as to ask if you believe yourself capable of leading the 501st without—without losing yourself. I’ve finished reviewing your civilian casualties and consider your observed losses...tolerable, at least.”

Almost incredibly, Windu looked even more exhausted after saying that out-loud and Anakin fidgeted, biting his tongue.

“As long as you are under the supervision of another Master, and if you swear to me on Obi-Wan’s life that you will report yourself immediately if you find yourself slipping—I leave the command of the 501st up to you.”

Anakin felt queasy. How could he help Obi-Wan if he was half a galaxy away, on what sounded like a long, protracted campaign? But if he refused to go, that would leave both the 501st and the the 212th without their generals. Or…was this how he could help? Carry one of his Master's burdens in his place? He was more than ready to lead! Probably! He had been leading! Part of him longed to charge into battle immediately—wash off his helplessness with blood. Anakin didn’t know how to fix Obi-Wan mind, but he was good at fighting, good at war.

And that thought brought back to the ever-lingering cold. How could he trust himself? His anger, his...tendencies towards violence…it might have driven Obi-Wan to suicide. He still didn’t kriffing know! And if he left he wouldn’t know for months! He promised Obi-Wan not to kill again—how the kark was he supposed to do that while being a General?! Did ordering people to kill count, or was that worse?

“I need to think about the 501st,” Anakin whispered.

Master Windu nodded without argument. “I appreciate that. You have until dawn to decide—in the mean time, let’s discuss the 212th.”

“Who’s the top choice?”

“Master Pong Krell. He’s actually our only choice that wouldn’t require reorganizing other assignments significantly.”

“He’s…a good duelist,” Anakin said, trying to think about what he knew of the Besalisk, “What division does he command?”

Windu grimaced. “That’s actually why he’s the best choice—of the troops he’s had direct command over since the start of the war, over 85% are dead. He’s never lost a battle but…”

Anakin closed his eyes. “Right.”

Plenty of excellent fighters among the Jedi made terrible generals. He’d have to look over the Besalisk’s military record—it could just be terrible luck. Plo Koon had lost an entire division to the Malevolence, but he still was one of the best military leaders in command.

“When you say he’s the only choice…”

“Most Masters I’ve broached the subject with were extremely reluctant at the thought." Mace hesitated for a moment. "We'd very much prefer to avoid forcing anyone into a position beyond what they’re willing to handle, even if they might be technically qualified.”

“I guess that makes sense…but it seems…off?” Anakin said, trying to articulate his unease. "I mean it's not like there's many Jedi that actually like military titles."

“Our method of ‘promotion’ has a tendency to elevate those who should perhaps not be taking on more responsibilities,” Mace acknowledged grimly.

“Because… good Jedi aren’t really ok with war. And you’re only promoting Generals from the outliers who are relatively fine with the whole thing?” he said thinking of himself. “Or can’t say no?” he added bitterly, thinking of Obi-Wan.

“It’s not ideal,” Mace agreed, lines around his eyes growing heavier.

Anakin ran a hand through his hair, scrubbing the back of his head. He had been doing more 'thinking' about the ‘concept’ of war and violence over the last two days than the last two years of actual fighting. There hadn’t been much point before; war was happening regardless of his feelings. Not to mention the fact that there wasn’t time to quibble over these sorts of things in the field. As much as he was desperate not to disappoint Obi-Wan again, he didn’t really enjoying being forced to consider this stuff now. It made him…itchy.

“Have you considered just putting Cody in charge of everything?” Anakin finally asked.

“Of course, but the Senate would never approve…”

— — —

— — —

“…With those few exceptions, the only major category in need of restock is perishables. But that’s more your department than mine, sir.” 

Cody finished his report. 

Obi-Wan continued to lay still, looking frail in the large medi-bed. The restraints made the image that much worse.

“...Fuck.” 

Cody swore and, for the first time since crawling out of bed that morning, yanked off his helmet.

“General. General Kenobi. Sir, can you hear me?” he asked hoarsely, leaning over the bed.

The General didn’t move.

“Obi-Wan if you can hear me—try and shift around a little bit. Blink. Do anything. It’s me—Commander Cody. I—please, sir. Just do anything, they said you—you did this on purpose so please confirm you’re in there. I’m—shipping off soon and, I, I just need to know that you’re going to be ok. Please. Anything.”

Cody hovered absolutely motionless, watching for any sign of response. But Obi-Wan continued as he had been, lifeless but for his slow and steady breaths. 

Cody collapsed to his knees, vision spotty. Gasping for air, he rested his head on the side of the bed, desperately trying to pull himself together. 

After several long moments he pulled off a glove, tentatively reaching for Obi-Wan’s hand. It was cold.

“General, if this is some sort of—dark force attack, twitch your hand, ok? I'm begging you. We’re trying to understand—we’re here; just clench your hand if you’re under attack and someone will come to help.”

Cody paced his breaths to Obi-Wan’s, pulse slowing down to match the wrist in his grasp.

“Obi-Wan, why are you doing this? I don’t understand,” Cody rasped. 

“You—you told me I was one of your best friends. You—I don’t know why you think so highly of me but please you have to know I think the universe of you. We all do, but I really do. You don’t have to fight anymore if you don’t want to, we’ll protect you, you know that. You have to know that. But. I can’t—I can’t imagine the rest of the war without knowing you’re alright somewhere.”

Cody pressed Obi-Wan’s hand to his forehead, choking back a sob.

“You said you had a ‘last mission.‘ I don’t know what that means. You’ve talked about after the war—I don’t get why your life has to end with a mission. I’m not sure if I understood anything you said, but I’m right here and I would never hurt you. I don’t know what you saw but I would die first, ok? I want you to know that I would gladly die before hurting you so—so you don’t have to worry about whatever vision you had. Just wake up and tell me what I have to do and I’ll do it.”

Cody sat on the floor, clinging to Obi-Wan’s hand and continuing to breathe. 

Eventually, the door clicked open. 

“Commander Cody? I’m terribly sorry but it’s been an hour…” Healer Aerdo’s voice came from behind.

“I understand—is there time for me to say goodbye?” Cody rasped, not looking back. 

“Of course.” 

The door closed softly and Cody stood in a series of mechanically stiff motions.

“Goodbye, General Kenobi. Obi-Wan. I’ll take care of the men for you while you’re—while you're resting. Please, I know I say this a lot but take care of yourself, ok?”

Cody pressed Obi-Wan’s hand to his forehead one last time before reverently resting it on the bed. Pulling his helmet on, he turned sharply and marched out the door.

Night fell. Healers came to continue their own attempts.

Obi-Wan remained determinedly still.

Chapter Text

The sky was grey, sunlight barely beginning to creep over the horizon, and Anakin Skywalker was once again in the halls of healing, staring down at Obi-Wan Kenobi. His attempts to make contact through their withered bond had ended before they began, every effort to reach out deflected frictionlessly by his Master’s shields. Anakin was forced to conclude that either no one was present, which was unacceptable, or Obi-Wan had constructed the impenetrable barrier between him and the rest of the universe to deflect him specifically, which was just another stab to the kidney.

“I’ve decided I’m not leaving Coruscant without you,” Anakin said quietly. “No idea what I’m going to say to Rex.”

He was once again struck with the urge to shake Obi-Wan violently, throw him against the wall, do something to force him to react. He clenched his fists—increasingly familiar guilt and self-loathing trailing after the feeling and coiling around his throat. Screaming had already been attempted, with no affect but turning Anakin’s stomach.

“I suppose if this was a test of my attachment or serenity, I’ve failed, haven’t I?” he rasped. “I can’t believe the Council was ever dumb enough to knight me.”

Anakin’s robes strained slightly under the twisting pressure his hands were exerting. “If you wake up right now and tell me this was a test, I promise I won’t get angry, and I’ll do whatever meditations you think are necessary to learn the lesson,” he choked out, half-joking, half painfully-earnest.

Just like always, he searched Obi-Wan’s face for a flicker of acknowledgement. Just like the past two days, there was nothing. Anakin sagged, looking as though his strings had been cut.

 If I were still your padawan…” he trailed off, inadequate thoughts swirling through his head. If he were still Obi-Wan’s padawan, they wouldn’t have been separated so much? He would have been around to see earlier signs? Obi-Wan wouldn’t have been so careless with his own life? Anakin would have become a better Jedi since his Mother’s death, not worse? He wouldn’t be in charge of so many lives, wouldn't been in a position to deal so much death?

Tears started dripping down his face as he slumped further forward in the chair, the penitent curve of his shoulders folding him in half. “I’m sorry Master,” he said hoarsely. “I know my vicious streak has caused you distress, but I promise, I’m working on it, I’m going to be better, just like you wanted—I’m sorry I didn’t—”

He choked on a sob.

“—I didn’t listen to you when I was growing up, I’m sorry for everything, I love you so much—”

Several wet, shuddering breaths.

“I’ve always made your life harder—please Master—I’ll do better—please don’t leave me like this—”

it was too difficult to form any words after that, and Anakin broke a little more as his Obi-Wan failed to shoot him a disappointed look at the loss of control or give him a reassuring hug. He would have gladly accepted either.

Eventually he forced himself to stop, stifling his sobs and using his robe to wipe his own face.

“I’ll be back later today,” he whispered in lieu of farewell, moving quickly out of the halls before Aerdo or someone else could try to engage him in small talk.

 He made his way to Master Windu’s office, still feeling uncertain on his choice, for all the sleep sacrificed to making it.

“Come in,” Windu called as the Skywalker hesitated outside his office door.

Mace had bags under his eyes of a weight to match Anakin’s.

“I'm stepping down as General,” Anakin began, as if daring the Master to argue. “Temporarily, at least.”

Master Windu sighed heavily. “I accept your necessary resignation from the GAR while you focus on your spiritual and mental wellbeing.” There was a beat while they stared at each other.

“Is that it?” Anakin pleaded.

Mace stared over Anakin’s shoulder for a moment, before rubbing his brow and choosing his words. “The council has done significant reflecting on our part contributing to Obi-Wan’s state. If nothing else, the exhaustion can't have helped matters. All of us have been pushing ourselves to the brink, but your Master is so young for the responsibility he holds…it has at times been a struggle to continue our work past the guilt each of us as his elders share. Attempting to reassign his current duties has naturally led into discussions of just how grossly, if unintentionally, we took advantage of his skill as a military leader…”

Windu sighed again and Anakin bowed his head. “I’ve been making my own apologies,” the young man confessed. “Even if it turns out that a Sith directly caused this, there’s still so much that’s gone wrong between us, more than I know how to right…”

Anakin breathed shallowly for a few breaths, refusing to cry again.

“In any case,” Windu said quietly, “We have no wish to take advantage of your competence in a similar manner. Captain Rex can take command of the 501st until such time as your classified medical leave ends. Padawan Tano…I can’t deny that the war needs commanders of her skill—she should arrive several hours before the Open Circle Fleet is scheduled to deploy; I suggest you speak with her as soon as she’s within reach of lightspeed communication. It will be a difficult to keep her out of the fighting completely, but she has some options.”

Anakin nodded, dreading that conversation. “If there’s something I can do around the temple that’s not directly involved with fighting,” he began hesitantly.

Mace smiled widely. “Oh, you’ll be put to work, don’t worry. The creche is always looking for help, and the mechanics have actually requested your assistance in the shipyards multiple times over the war.”

The young man brightened slightly at that. “When can I start?” he asked eagerly, longing to sink his hands into something he could understand and fix.

“Tomorrow,” Mace responded firmly. “Visit your soul healer, talk with your padawan, and let the memo on our restructuring of an entire sector’s highest level command structure go out first.”

“Ah,” Anakin said. “When—”

“I was waiting on your choice,” Mace said, gesturing at his datapad. “Relevant officers obviously must be informed who they're reporting to as soon as possible, but there’s no good reason for the general public to learn that the two of you are ‘stepping down from command for classified reasons,’ which means keeping the news as need-to-know as possible.

“Because we’re the poster boys,” Anakin said in a flash of bitterness.

“Yes. Public relations decided Master Yoda and I simply didn’t have the hair for it.” Mace shrugged and Anakin couldn’t help but bark out a laugh. The Master of the Order smiled wryly before continuing on. “Not to mention the fact that I am...hopeful Aerdo might decide to consult with some of our non-medical telepaths sometime today. I imagine you would want to be free of obligations on the off chance they were successful in waking Master Kenobi...”

“Thank you,” the younger man replied sincerely. “For everything.”

“Of course. I...never wanted to be a General. But supporting you, a Jedi of the Order who is wrestling with the dark, through a time like this is, in fact, my chosen calling.” Mace responded quietly. “I know you are struggling, but I nevertheless believe you have the potential to be the greatest of us.”

“Still? Even after…”

“Yes. It’s going to take some work, of course—”

Anakin snorted out another laugh, feeling a fraction lighter.

“I mean it, Anakin. This isn’t something to move past quickly.”

“I know it’s just—work I can do. Difficult, lengthy work is a lot less daunting than ‘if I ever tell anyone how badly I messed up I’ll lose everything.’”

“I…regret that was a mindset you had to live with.”

“Yeah, well—yeah...Do you think you could wait another hour to send that out? I want to tell Captain Rex myself.”

“Half an hour—I’m cutting things rather close as it is.”

“Understood. May the Force be with you, Master Windu.”

“And with you, Anakin Skywalker.”

Chapter Text

Plo Koon woke to find himself chained in a dark room.

Somewhere behind him he could hear steady dripping; he was uncertain if that was deliberate.

He strained to discern anything in the dim light, but the walls of his prison refused to form into anything recognizable.

Cautiously, the trapped Master cast his senses out, only to find them reflected back at odd angles. He decided to wait before attempting to push any further past what his captor wished him to see.

Time passed strangely, but sooner than expected there was the sound of a pressurized airlock opening and, distantly, a raging ocean.

The airlock cycled through its rotation and Obi-Wan Kenobi stepped out of the amorphous shadows looking…decidedly worse for the wear. 

Plo ached at the sight.

The normally carefully maintained beard was a scraggly mess; his robes hung tattered and bloodied around the worryingly sunken. Of particular concern was how dry he looked, skin cracked and bleeding for want of water. The figure standing before him with a dead-eyed glare resembled less an accomplished Jedi Master and more the wretched husk of one. 

“Who are you?”  Obi-Wan’s shade hissed. The chains around the Kel Dooran tightened. 

Well, however he might view himself and others…at least he’s...willing to fight to defend what remains? At the bare minimum he’s not acting intentionally self destructive…

“Good Morning, Obi-Wan. I am a Jedi Master, and your friend. I have been attempting to reach you through your rather impressive shielding. I must say, you’ve done a remarkable job confining me in this mental construct, it's been sometime since anyone has managed to get the best of me in this arena.”

Obi-Wan snorted. “Don’t try and flatter me—you barely fought back. You could easily have forced your way anyway, but for some reason you let me corral you, presumably to try and gain my trust. Now answer my question. Your presence is very much light so I doubt you’re Sidious or…Vader. I could be wrong obviously, but I can’t see either of themselves putting this much effort into this specific sort of mask…just tell me who you are, and why you’re with them.”

“I am Master Plo Koon, a High Council Member, and I am not unknown to you,” he elaborated without hesitation. “I am glad that you can identify that I am of the light side. Can you not sense familiarity within my force presence, even so far within your domain?”

Obi-Wan reared back and the dripping noise in the corner stopped.

“It’s a trick. We might be in my head but that doesn’t mean I’m surrendering any of my thoughts to you,” Obi-Wan hissed. “I felt Plo Koon’s death, he was one of the first…and even if he somehow survived he would never work with the Sith to invade my mind. Never.

“Obi-Wan. Listen to me. Please. I am not dead. I am not working with the Sith. I was brought in to break through only because no other method was working. You are in the healing halls at the Jedi Temple on Coruscant.” Plo spoke calmly, but implacably. “We believe you have either experienced a uniquely detailed vision, or a run in with a dark-sider. Whatever has happened, I can feel the lingering impression of unsafety. But here and now, you are not in any immediate danger. There must be something I can do to convince you of your present physical location. I, as well as all your friends and family, will do anything in our power to help you.”

“A uniquely detailed vision, huh? ha!” Obi-Wan replied, gesturing manically. “Ha! You expect me to believe that what, the last four years of my life were a detailed prophecyWhy?”

“You…believe you have lived years beyond the rest of us. I take it the—what you remember has been dangerous enough to warrant maintaining abnormally tight control over your mental walls, precluding simply reaching out to ascertain the truth yourself.”

“Clearly my control wasn’t enough. You’re in here.” Obi-Wan muttered.

“I do apologize for the intrusion, but we had already used every other tool at our disposal to reach you. I repeat, is there anything that can be done to convince you that you are, from your perspective, ‘in the past’. You are a High Council member with a grandpadawan. It's 7956 CRC—two years since the start of the clone wars. You recently finished an extended clean up of the Mon Cala sector after your victory against the separatists.”

Obi-Wan stared at him curiously. “If I set a test and you fail, will you agree to dispense with the pretenses?”

Plo-Koon hesitated. “Perhaps I’m making this deal in bad faith, as I know I am Plo-Koon, and that everything I have said is the truth… but I swear that if you somehow prove that neither of those things are true and I am secretly working for a sith lord, I will…reveal that.”

Obi-Wan sighed. “Best I’m going to get, I suppose.”

The chains holding Plo-Koon loosened. Before he could respond, there was a hurtling rising sensation that he struggled not to fight against. After a disorienting moment, he found himself in his own body, feeling vaguely seasick. Obi-Wan blinked awake, apparently unfazed by the precautionary bonds holding him in place in the physical plane. Master Aerdo’s gaze flicked between them intensely. Plo-Koon held up a clawed hand to forestall any interruption while the two gained their bearings.

Obi-Wan spoke first:

“Cihynglo’s Fourth Meditation.”

“…What?” Koon replied, genuinely confused.

“Cihynglo was a renowned Kashykian Jedi, her mediations are, well i suppose were considered a quintessential example of High Republic cosmic poetry.”

“I’m...familiar with Cihynglo—my master used to speak of her fondly,” Plo Koon said slowly. “Though I can’t say I’m familiar with her Mediations.”

“Hmm. Yes, well her poetry in the last few decades of her life got increasingly, ah, esoteric. While most of her work was widely translated and distributed, she requested that those who wished to read her fourth Meditations do so in person, so as to experience without dilution 'the full calligraphy and artwork accompanying her words'. She only ever produced two copies. Any guesses where they were kept?”

Obi-Wan’s voice started out in the steady tones of a genial lecturer, only to grow alarmingly bitter.

“Is one in the temple?” Master Koon asked neutrally.

“Yes, one was held in the Master’s wing of the temple archives. The other was housed in a place of honor in The White Forest’s Great Tree of Knowledge. Considering both libraries were reduced to ash in the first month of the Empire, it is quite impossible, even for the Emperor, to find a copy.” 

His vague attempt at a smirk quickly fell flat. 

“I was privileged enough to be granted time to begin reading it once, but, alas, an emergency situation in the twisted intergalactic war you engineered meant that I had to run off mid-sonnet. Bring me that book, let me hold it, read it, and I will believe that I somehow unlocked the secret of time-travel while overdosing on Spice.” 

Obi-Wan paused, catching his breath. “In the next fifteen minutes, please. Any more than that and you might try tracking down the few surviving Wookie scholars.” 

Koon didn’t hesitate to flip open his comm. “Master Nu, I have an urgent request.”

“Nu here, go on.”

“This may sound strange, but it is crucial that Cihynglo’s Fourth Meditation be brought to the healing halls, room seven. Within the next 15 minutes.”

“…You do understand you’re talking about an irreplaceable physical book, not a flimsi-stack or a holocron. It’s not meant to leave climate-control!”

“I promise you, I would not ask if it weren’t life or death. Please Jocasta, I’ll explain later.”

“I’ll be there in 10. It had better be one durned good explanation.”

Obi-Wan looked almost bemused. ”You’re setting yourself up for failure.”

“I am glad you were able to come up with a test you found meaningful," Plo replied kindly. "Remember, you have friends here, regardless of whether you experienced subjective time travel or an incredibly detailed vision.”

They waited a little longer. Obi-Wan critically examined Master Aerdo.

“I’m a Senior Soul Healer,” they offered at the non-verbal prompting.

“How interesting,” Obi-Wan remarked dryly.

They sat in awkward silence for another minute. 

All Jedi Masters were all equally trained in suppressing fidgets, coughs, or other nervous tics, which made the wait that slightest bit more unbearable, each second imperceptible from the one before.

Eventually the sound of heavy boots moving at speed approached.

Master Nu strode in, gently cradling a great burden. The book gleamed large and vital in the light of its stasis wrap. Her eyes widened at they took in Obi-Wan, still thoroughly cuffed to the bed. 

“Cihynglo’s Fourth Meditation, as asked for. I trust you have an excellent explanation for how a book of poetry is a matter of life or death,” she announced sharply.

“I’m hoping that it will convince our friend Master Kenobi that I am who I claim to be, and we are where I claim we are.” Koon didn't waste time on a clearer explanation, instead gently pulling the book from her grasp and reverently placing it on Obi-Wan’s lap. Obi-Wan stared at it uncomprehendingly.

“Obi-Wan, I’m going to uncuff you now. I trust that you will use your freedom to examine our ‘proof.’ We will physically intercede if you make any attempts at self-harm.”

Master Nu gasped, steady demeanor faltering for a moment. “Then the temple rumors…oh young one she cut herself off before going any further, silently observing unfolding scene with the gaze of a practiced observer.

Obi Wan picked up the book as if he was afraid it might bite. With an irritated snort, he opened it brusquely to the middle, and began carelessly flipping ahead.

Master Nu immediately started forward, offended, but Plo Koon held her back. “Please Master Nu, patience—”

Finally Obi-Wan seemed to reach the page he was looking for and stopped. “..And still the rain fell like blood of the womb” he murmured. “That…I tried to think of how the line ended but I…”

Everyone watched as the book shook in Obi-Wan’s grasp. He turned the page, gasping slightly and murmuring as he read. “This is…a little gross, but oddly touching. I certainly would not have come up with it myself…but it’s so clearly…  They watched his reaction, eyes darting wildly and brow furrowing in confusion.

Several pages later he dropped the book abruptly.

“This is impossible,” he gasped.

Nu darted forward, carefully snatching it from his lap, “I am endeavoring to practice tolerance, but how is destroying an irreplaceable piece of literature supposed to help anyone?!” she snapped, softness hidden behind familiar patterns of archival discipline.

“I admit I wondered that myself, but when I imagined what harm the Sith could do with some of the archive’s more practical works, I understood your decision to torch the collection” Obi-Wan responded dreamily. “I suppose the more esoteric or ornamental works would likely have been destroyed anyway…”

Torch the archives? I would never.”

“But you did,” Obi-Wan insisted feverishly. “I found your message when we searching for survivors. There were so many bodies piled at the archive door that I was almost hopeful that they had managed to…but I suppose they held out just long enough for you to complete your task.”

Nu backed away slowly. “That sounds like quite the disturbing vision, Master Kenobi.”

“It wasn’t just a vision, it was my life. It—visions don’t last years!” he said, finally growing hysterical. “I remember everything! That gods-awful mission to Cato Nemodia! Getting takeout with Anakin! The smell of burning flesh in the creche! Singing to Luke! The last year of the war! All of you! You—you crying after Dooku’s death,” he added gesturing wildly at the archivist. “It was so awkward! You were embarrassed! You told me that for some stupid reason you had ‘held out hope’ it was all an insane uncover mission, that he wasn’t really—how was I supposed to respond—Three years alone in the desert! I remember three years of living on fucking Tatooine, how could that possibly be a vision!”

“I…hadn’t told anyone that,” Nu whispered with a hint of alarm. She glanced at Plo Koon, daring him to comment. “I know it’s very much unlikely at this point, and by any measure, he’s taken things too far, but he’s gone on such long shadow missions in the past…” she looked away.

“Oh, Jocasta…” Plo sighed.

“Master Kenobi. I am not an expert in the Cosmic force, and cannot explain how you came to have such detailed knowledge of the future,” Aerdo said, drawing focus back to the bewildered Obi-Wan, who had shifted into a defensive crouch on the bed. “But I do know one reasonably sure-fire way to establish that this, us, is the present. Open yourself up to the force, please, just let yourself listen to what it has to say.”

“I…want to, of course I want to believe—but the idea that I’m here—it’s, if you’re real than you can’t possibly understand, it’s too good to be true,” Obi-Wan responded brokenly.

“I know things have been clouded of late, but, if nothing else trust in the force to not lie to you,” Plo-Koon urged. “If you keep closing yourself off like this, how can you possibly learn if things are better than you think?”

Obi-Wan collapsed from his crouch, knees folding underneath.

“If I am…even if I am in the past… Sidious might be watching…I didn’t—I still don’t know the extent of his gaze, of his power—even if…” he trailed off.

“If it makes you feel safer, you are of course free to again raise your shields to whatever extent you feel necessary once you have verified your reality,” Aerdo assured him smoothly.

Obi-Wan looked warily at the three Jedi in the room. “I…” he started, trying to articulate the swelling hope and fear only to continually find himself at a loss for words.

Aerdo shot him a reassuring smile. “If you don’t feel ready right now, that’s perfectly understandable. We’re very happy you’re willing to reach out as much as you have already. Would you like to pause this discussion for the time being so we can find you something to eat? I believe a simple broth is a customary first post-bacta meal, but if you have any special requests, I’ll do what I can.”

Obi-Wan let out a deep breath, dropping his head into his hands. “I—I need to know, don’t I?” he mumbled. “Force help me…you win.” He took one last, searching look at the faces of his fellow Jedi before closing his eyes and surrendering himself to the force.

He opened a small hole in his mental barricades and tentatively allowed his thoughts to drip out. Hesitantly, he trickled over the bank of Plo Koon’s being (expecting a frigid burn) only to find a warm and heartbreakingly familiar pool of tempered kindness. 

He ran, slightly faster now, over the other Jedi presences in the room. Having finished his course without encountering any dark undertow, he ebbed back. There was an indistinct impression of something heavy giving way.

Obi-Wan’s Shields Fell Like A Dam Beneath a Tidal Wave

Chapter Text

Throughout the temple, conversations stuttered and katas came to a halt as Master Kenobi’s presence flowed past with boundless delight, branching out in joyous rivulets to greet every Jedi Master, Knight, and Youngling within the mental floodplain.

While typically such an uncontrolled overflow might be cause for concern, so many of the order had worried over the beloved Council Member, General, Negotiator, and Friend that the surge of greeting was a source of near universal delight.

Chapter Text

Anakin leapt to his feet laughing as Obi-Wan’s thoughts swirled around him. He lifted and spun a startled Padme as he let himself be immersed.

Master Tiin paused mid sentence in the morning briefing, letting out a sigh of a relief even as Krell puffed out his chest. The non-force sensitives in the room exchanged bewildered looks. A few troopers reached for their weapons, assuming from Krell’s posture that the Jedi were anticipating an attack. Cody turned eagerly to the door, only to find it empty. For some reason he thought—for a moment he thought Obi-Wan had walked in.

Several Knights performing guard duty in the Senate startled, grins on their otherwise neutral attentions drawing attention. The slight stiffening of Chancellor Palpatine’s spine, as well as his clenched fists, went unnoticed, everything hidden beneath ornate robes.

Chapter Text

Ashoka beamed at Master Fisto as they closed in on the Inner Rim. Her grandmaster’s distant spirit streamed softly around her, carrying a deep feeling of joy over the narrow channel of their lineage bond. Kit let out a sigh of relief.

Slightly more distantly, a ship traveled from an entirely different sector towards the same destination. Quinlan Vos grinned at the playful splash of a familiar presence.

Along yet another hyperlane, two ships flew from great distance and at greater speed to converge on the same man as everyone else.

The first was piloted by a female weequay pirate desperately flying towards promised sanctuary at the behest of a contract she had not fully understood (she would be dead within an hour). The pirate was as ignorant of disturbances in the force as she was her upcoming demise (that is to say, completely).

The second ship maintained a constant and deliberate distance from its prey. Within it, Ventress raised a brow as a familiar current of energy tripped over her teasingly.

Chapter Text

A faint rill of Obi-Wan’s soul crossed bodiless over two heated worlds, old without time and dry beyond water.

The techno union’s lava miners were ill-equipped to detect the murmur (fearful at first but swelling with heady relief as it found no more than usual darkness) passing over Mustafar.

Owen and Beru Lars were peacefully oblivious of the mournful spirit searching their home for a boy it knew it would not find.

Chapter Text

Duchess Satine, being proudly as force-sensitive as a particularly force-null space brick, was unaware of the subdued flow straining to touch her on Mandalore. 

General Grievous experienced a very slight spike of irritation followed by the ominous sensation of an enemy passing over his grave. It had no noticeable impact on his overall mood or demeanor, and was quickly forgotten in the heat of battle.

Count Dooku raised both eyebrows as a conscious whisper found him en route to the Kiros System, reluctantly impressed at his grandpadawan’s range and precision. 

A maddened and half-dead abomination reared up in fevered rage as the final trickle of a distant torrent reached a ruined planet in the Outer Rim.  

At last, Obi-Wan’s mind stilled, content if not at peace with his understanding of the galaxy as it was.

Chapter Text

Masters Aerdo, Koon and Nu lurched forward in distress as Obi-Wan unceremoniously slammed his mental walls into place.

“I’m fine, I’m fine!” He reassured them, smiling weakly and rubbing his temples.

“Cutting yourself off so abruptly from the force after a meditation that deep is dangerous,” Master Aerdo said, alarmed. “Please endeavor to be gentler with yourself, Master Kenobi.”

“Of course, I simply thought it would be best to allow for some, ah, uncertainty with my retreat to counteract my…necessary indiscretion.”

“Uncertainty!” Plo scolded. “If I hadn’t been in same room as you, I might have thought you were dead!”

“Well, yes, that’s rather—”

Vokara Che burst through the door, followed closely by Bant Eerin.

“PLO KOON! WHAT IN THE GALACTIC CORE HAVE YOU DONE TO MY PATIENT!”

Master Koon took a step back, “Vokara, please—”

“I’m perfectly alright, Master Che,” Obi-Wan interrupted. “Master Koon has helped me beyond what I can ever repay. I—Oh dear. You all have.” Obi-Wan looked around, guilt creeping into his voice. “Oh. OH. I am so sorry for what I must have put you all through. I—I assure you, it wasn’t what it looked like. Thank you so much for all you’ve done to save me from…well, my own foolishness, I suppose. Oh that must have been—I deeply apologize for the inconvenience I’ve caused.”

Master Che took a deep breath. “Your good health is more than enough repayment enough for whatever debt you feel you might owe. May I take your recent…reaching out to mean that you have begun to regain your sense of where and when you are and no longer feel the need for more…drastic means of escape? Alarming raising of shields notwithstanding?”

Obi-Wan winced. “I am…still confused on a number of points, I admit. But I’ve cleared up most of my important doubts. It's…7957 by the Centralized Republic Calendar. I’m in the Halls of Healing. In the Temple. On Coruscant. Everyone in this room is a fellow member of the Jedi Order. I’m home.” Obi-Wan hastily wiped away a few tears forming in the corners of his eyes. 

He cleared his throat as the five onlookers watched with a mixture of sympathy and confusion. “It’s going to be difficult, but I owe you all an explanation. Actually I need to explain a few things quite urgently, but first—”

His train of thought was interrupted by the roiling force presence that proceeded Mace Windu’s entrance. Mace blurred into the room only to pause sedately at the foot of the bed, eyeing Obi-Wan critically as everyone else shuffled slightly out of the way to the edges of the increasingly crowded room. 

“Master Kenobi. You’re looking better,” he finally said.

“I’m feeling better. You really can’t imagine. I’m sure you have questions, but first I must insist—ow!” Obi-Wan jerked back, startled by the sudden rap of a gimer stick on the side of his head.

“Master Yoda!” Che and Aerdo scolded as the Grandmaster suddenly appeared on the nightstand to get a better look at his troublesome great-grand padawan.

 Vokara actually grabbed the wizened elder with both hands, lifting him by the armpits and chastising him like a misbehaving youngling. “That is not an appropriate greeting for any of my patients. Shame on you.”

“Patients, hmm? Shame, shame indeed.” Yoda muttered, dangling in the air. “Gone, my patience is. For making us think he had joined the force too early, shame indeed on Obi-Wan.” 

Obi-Wan bowed his head. “My apologies, grandmaster. I had strong reason to believe that I was trapped in a hallucination. I will explain everything but first we really need to comm—”

“Your suicide attempt, I was not referring to, no. Do such a thing in your right mind, I know you would never. Concerned, we were, of course. Halfway fake your own death, the first thing you did was, after all this! The reason I am hitting you, that is! Too old for this, I am!” 

“I understand, and I had reason for retreating so suddenly. Which I will be happy to explain. But first we really need to do damage control and contact—”

- - - - -

ANAKIN! Anakin, what’s wrong!” Padme shook her husband’s shoulders as he knelt, collapsed on the floor.

“It’s—Obi-Wan” he choked out. “He was here! He was awake and alive and then he just—stopped.” 

“Oh force. You don’t mean he’s—”

“I don’t know. I can’t sense him. I don’t know.”

Go. And when you find him, please comm me to let me know if—”

But Anakin was already gone.

- - - - -

“Oh…hm.” Master Tiin shuddered slightly.

“Sir? Is everything alright?” Captain Rex asked.

“Does this have something to do with General Kenobi or General Skywalker?” Boil called out anxiously. A low murmur rippled through the mixed meeting of high-level strategic and logistical officers. 

“Well—Master Kenobi’s force presence grew rather strong for a moment. I would have to contact the temple to—”

“He’s dead.”

Master Krell!” Saesee Tiin chided as the room recoiled in horror. “We don’t know that.”

General Tiin addressed the anxious room, “His force presence did cut out abruptly, but there are a number of explanations for such a thing, and jumping to the worst case scenario prematurely does us no favors.”

“Perhaps we should pause the briefing while you contact the Temple, sir.” Commander Cody offered stiffly.

“Out of line, clone,” General Krell said, sneering. “Regardless of the status of your former General, we depart at 22:00 hours this evening. This briefing will continue. Interrupt with such a meaningless and insubordinate suggestion again and I will have you put on review for decommissioning.”

“Yes, sir,” Cody replied.

“That’s enough, Master Krell. I realize tensions are running high but please control yourself.” Tiin sighed. “We do need to finish this planning session. I apologize for the disruption, everyone. Now if you will all turn your attention back to map 3a of the Ghost Nebula…”

Command training included modules on compartmentalizing unhelpful emotional responses in order to focus on tactical information, which Cody employed without significant barrier to efficiency.

- - - - -

“If you have some Sith-related intel to divulge, I think it might be more appropriate to contact the rest of the Council first, Master Kenobi,” Mundi said, discarded fluid drip awkwardly jabbing him in the side. 

“I agree, but trust me, first, someone really needs to tell Anakin I’m not dead. If you don’t want to do it, I will,” Obi-Wan announced, trying to get up. 

“You’re not going anywhere,” Bant snapped, pushing him back into bed.

“I- Oh Bant, It’s—some things are fuzzy, but you were one of the medi staff who came to my quarters after I…”

Bant glared in answer. 

“I am so sorry, again I—” 

“Obi-Wan, try not to worry too much about apologies right now. The important thing is you have people who care about you and we are all pleased by your renewed vigor for life.” Healer Aerdo interrupted, maintaining a death grip on Yoda while Che fussed over Obi-Wan’s vital readings. 

“I’ve commed Skywalker but if he’s acting as I suspect, he’s not checking messages,” Master Windu said from his place in the corner.

- - - - -

A Chiss Padawan leaned over to whisper to her Master as the mental flow halted unceremoniously. “Master, you don’t think…”

“Is something wrong, young one?” Chancellor Palpatine called out, smiling warmly at the young apprentice and drawing all eyes in the sub-committee meeting to the cloaked pair standing watch at the door.

“Ah, no, Supreme Chancellor, thank you for your concern. We simply observed a minor disruption in the force,” Her Tholothian Master replied smoothly as the padawan attempted not to fidget. “I’m sure the Council will contact us if it’s anything worth reporting to the Senate.” 

The meeting continued but more than a few senators spent the remainder of the session discretely swapping messages speculating on what could have ruffled the usually silent and stoic guardians. 

- - - - -

Shouted curses and wailing speeder horns followed Anakin as he raced to the temple. 

I swear to all the gods if he’s alive i’ll never kill anyone ever again I should have been there was no warning in the force please help me if he’s dead i’m going to kill everyone on this planet except Padme and then im going to kill Dooku and Grievous and then

- - - - -

“Master Fisto!” Ashoka said, turning anxiously to the Natuolan Master as Obi-Wan’s presence evaporated. “Do you think Master Kenobi is alright?”

“We’re quite a distance away,” Kit replied soothingly. “There’s a very good chance he simply had to withdraw because he was overreaching himself to say hello.” 

Ashoka frowned. “Can we contact the temple to make sure? Please?”

“I’ll send a comm, but we might not get a reply right away. We’re only a few hours out from the planet, so you’ll be able to check in on him yourself soon, alright?”

“Yes, Master.”

- - - - -

“Ah…perhaps we should shift into another room? This one is a little small for the…full Jedi Council. And I wouldn’t mind the opportunity to change out of these patient’s robes and into something a little more appropriate.”

“You’re not going anywhere or changing into anything until clear you,” Che snapped, elbowing Senior Master Kcaj out of the way to jab Obi-Wan with another device.

Obi-Wan strained against the bracer still chaining his ankles to the hospital bed, reluctant to ask if the healer had forgotten about them, for fear of a negative answer

“If one of the high council is unable to leave this room, than the high council is more than willing to meet here,” Master Gallia said calmly from her perch at the foot of the bed.  

“Well I’m not leaving.” Master Nu announced. “I still haven’t gotten the full explanation Plo promised.”

“As a healer—

- - - - -

Numerous klicks from one another, Nightsister Ventress and Knight Vos unknowingly shared identical frowns as Quinlan softly gave voice to what they were both thinking,

“What the fuck, Kenobi.”

- - - - - 

“WATCH OUT!”

Kriff!”

“…Was that Anakin Skywalker? Did The Hero With No Fear just cut us off?”

Must be some serious business for him to be flying like that.”

- - - - - 

Count Dooku redirected the Invisible Hand; his plans for Kiros would simply have to wait. Sidious might prefer the Umbaran seige to be a long, protracted affair rather than a decisive win one way or another, but if Tyrannus’s suspicions were correct, than the time for kowtowing to the Sith Master might be near its end. Sidious had long underestimated his Grandpadawan. He now suspected that whatever play was going on was less the act of a new player, and more the opening move of a more experianced one now shifting his attention to another arena. 

The ‘attack’ was likely a deliberate ruse to allow Kenobi to slip into the shadows and finally begin addressing the hint he had provided on Genosis long ago. Now, more than ever, Dooku needed to manage Separatist affairs strategically. Kenobi’s search into the force and subsequent rapid withdraw was too deliberate to be anything but the first steps of a larger plot. 

Even without the bait, Ventress would certainly have felt the disturbance—curiosity was, alas, a fatal flaw of his lineage. With her and Kenobi united against the real enemy, Dooku would be free to finally bring about his vision for a new galactic order.

- - - - -

“Ah, Master Mundi?” A young apprentice healer asked the Cerean Master guarding the entranceway to the wing. “There’s a small crowd gathering outside. All very orderly, of course. But they want to know Master Kenobi’s status. What should I tell them?”

Mundi Sighed. “If they ask, tell them Master Kenobi’s wellbeing is protected under healer client confidentiality and the highest security clearance.” 

Ki-Adi paused. “If Anakin Skywalker, arrives, just—send him this way, as you would a Council Member, understood? Don’t try and stop him,” he added begrudgingly.

“I see,” the padawan replied with impressive professional calm, "Thank you, Master Mundi.” She bowed and returned to the front.

- - - - -

Bane scowled over a row of security monitors, attempting to make sense of the incoming data. Something had turned the Jedi buzzing like an overturned hive of Bacian blood hornets.

Kriffing force ossik.

- - - - -

A gap opened in the somber crowd as Anakin sprinted through, heart in his throat.

He should have been here there was no warning he should have been there

Skywalker!” Mundi barked. “Calm yourself!”

Anakin stared at him with wild eyes and the High Master faltered, frightened for a moment.

- - - - -

Maul staggered out of his cave. Kenobi was taunting him now. Kenobi would pay. Kenobi would see. Kenobi couldn’t die before Maul killed him.

- - - - -

Before Anakin could say or do anything to Ki-Adi, Master Windu appeared. “Over here.”

Anakin blurred past him, mind tormenting him with images of nooses and blood and broken bodies and incomplete—

“Hello there, Anakin.” Obi-Wan sat upright in bed, smiling at him and surrounded by far too many Masters for anyone’s comfort. Least of all the comfort of the Masters, now that Mundi and Windu were forcing their back in. 

Anakin took in a strangled gasp, “Obi-Wan—you—I thought you were dead.”

Obi-Wan’s welcoming smile faltered. “Oh Anakin, I’ve really put you through a terrible ordeal the last few days, haven’t I? I am so, so sorry—I—I promise I didn’t intend to leave you like that. Come here, I’ll- its going to sound quite impossible but I can explain everything. There’s so much I have to tell everyone—”

Anakin threw himself forward, ignoring Jedi dignity and who he was knocking over.

He heard a tut of disapproval behind him as he embraced his Master. 

“Oh be quiet,” Master Koon chided someone. “Honestly, he’s padawan age, have some compassion.”

Anakin decided to ignore that in favor of crying over Obi-Wan for the fourth time in as many days, utterly exhausted. 

Obi-Wan hesitated for a bare moment before wrapping his arms around his brother and friend for the first time in years (at least for the first time where he was aware that it was real and oh force he was really going to have to meditate to fully understand what he had said and done and what everyone had said in response but first—always first—Anakin, the real Anakin).

“Perhaps we should give them a moment to collect themselves,” Master Aerdo offered diplomatically. Having largely reached their threshold for open displays of emotion, the Council non-verbally came to an agreement.

“You two have five minutes to pull yourselves together,” Master Windu said severely. 

“Of course, Master Windu. Thank you,” Obi-Wan rasped.

The group shuffled out with remarkable good grace, considering the number of inhabitants in the room, or rather remarkable bad grace, considering they were all supposed to be Jedi Masters.

Plo Koon patted them both on the shoulders before filing out. Master Yoda leapt nimbly out of Bant’s arms to land on the nightstand. He rapped them each lightly on the head before darting out with a chuckle. The door clicked shut.

“Master—I—never do that again.”

“I’m sorry Anakin, I promise, I wasn’t trying to die, I have far, far too much to live for. I’m never going to leave you again, I don’t care what else happens but—I’m not going to abandon you ever again, do you understand. Even if I die, I’ll come back and haunt you for the rest of your life, you’ll barely notice the difference, I swear.”

“…Thank you, but please stop talking now”

“Right, of course. I’m sorry. I’m so, so—”

“I love you, Obi-Wan.”

“…I love you too, Anakin.”

Chapter Text

Anakin scarcely had time to relax into the confirmation that Obi-Wan still loved him when his Master drew back, tired eyes shining.

“Anakin—you have no idea how much I simply want to stay like this, just—just you and me, but we don’t have much time before I have to talk to the council, and there’s some matters I really feel we must discuss privately before that happens.”

“Ok.” Anakin wiped his face with the sleeve of his robe and sat at the foot of his Master’s bed, vibrating with intensity. 

“First of all.” Obi-Wan took a deep breath. “I know this sounds insane, but I need you to make an effort to believe me—I’m from four years in the future. Or I had an incredibly detailed, four year long vision. Either way—I know things. I know where the war is leading us.”

“Alright.” Anakin nodded in relief. Looks like Bant was right. Thank fuck—I hated her theory the least. “So when you—” He vaguely mimed a stabbing motion “—You were trying to ‘wake up’ from a memory?"

“Yes! Exactly!” Obi-Wan replied, relieved at the ease of the explanation. 

Anakin smiled reassuringly, then lunged to grab a pillow to whack his Master over the head. “You—fucking—kara—blast—idiot,” Anakin grit out, thwacking his master repeatedly with gentle rage. “Do. You. Have. Any. Idea. How! Fucked! Up! That! WAS! FOR!—”

Obi-Wan snatched the pillow. “Yes! Yes! I didn’t intend to hurt you, but I did, and I’m sorry, and you are perfectly entitled to your anger, alright!”

“I—oh.” Anakin paused, sitting back on his heels, feeling oddly soothed and adrift in the conversation he had waited days (that passed like years) to have.

Obi-Wan squared his shoulders even as his hands shook slightly.

“Anakin—I know the identity of the Sith Master. I know who’s behind everything.” Obi-Wan stared intently into Anakin’s eyes. 

“Obi-Wan—that’s great!” Anakin said excitedly. If Obi-Wan knew who was responsible for all their suffering then— “That could end the war, right?”

Obi-Wan continued to gaze searchingly at his dearest friend and brother’s face, gently opening himself up to their bond, trying to find any hint of duplicity.

Anakin faltered under the scrutiny. “Right?”

Obi-Wan took another deep breath. He didn’t know. This was Anakin, before Palpatine- did something to him. He wasn't with Palpatine yet. It wasn’t too late.

“Anakin…it’s…someone we trust. Someone you trust. He—Darth Sidious—he’s been running both sides of the war.”

Anakin paled, eyes darting to the door, voice dropping to a low, urgent whisper. “He’s on the Council? Fuck that’s bad. Obi-Wan, what do you need me to do? I don’t have my lightsaber right now, but—” 

“No!” Obi-Wan replied quickly, flinching. “No! I mean, yes, it’s bad. But he’s not on the Council. It’s—Anakin. I’m so, so sorry. But I saw a security hologram of him giving the final order to—to wipe out the Jedi and the Separatist leadership.” Anakin watched in alarm as Obi-Wan shuddered viscerally.

“I saw his speeches declaring victory over us, over everything. He personally killed half the council when we finally, finally found him out, far too late. Yoda barely survived—we were—the two of us were all that was left. I spent the last few years listening to his decrees as ‘Emperor’—declaring the scarce remaining Jedi traitors to be hunted down. Making non-humans second class citizens. Enslaving worlds.”

Obi-Wan grabbed the front of Anakin’s tunic, body and voice pleading. “Please Anakin. He—he’s evil. He doesn’t want peace, or freedom, or justice, or security. He’s just been manipulating us all for his own ends. All of us. This whole time.” 

“It’s going to be ok, Obi-Wan,” Anakin said earnestly, grasping his Master’s hands. “I believe you. If the force gave you this clear a warning—or this incredible a second chance, then obviously we have to listen! I won’t let it happen how you saw, I swear. I’ll do whatever it takes to stop him.”

Obi-Wan felt like he was teetering over the edge of a precipice. He sucked in another breath—why was it so hard to breathe—

“Anakin—It’s Palpatine. Chancellor Palpatine is the Sith Lord.”

Anakin froze. “That’s—not funny.”

Obi-Wan barked out a single hysterical laugh. “No, no it is not. But it’s true. I told you—I saw it and—it makes a twisted sense, even only given the information available at this point in time! How the Separatists always stayed one step ahead despite our advantages. How the clones and the GAR came to exist in the first place. The constant increase in war time powers—Dooku karking told us the Senate was under the control of a Sith—” 

We’re listening to Dooku now?” Anakin asked, getting angry for lack of a better response.

“Anakin…” 

“I mean of course that’s what the Sith would want you to believe! He’s the chancellor! Turning the Jedi against the leader of the republic is such a Sith move.”

Anakin.”

“And—and—MIND CONTROL! What if it was it was mind control! You even said you thought that you thought Cody was mind-controlled, right?”

Obi-Wan drew back, alarmed and suspicious, “How do you know that?” he asked hoarsely.

Anakin rolled his eyes. “You told Cody, remember? The night you hugged me? In the speedervan?”

“Ah. Right. Sorry. That first night is still a little fuzzy.” Obi-Wan wrinkled his nose. “I still can’t believe I time-traveled while high on one end and drunk on the other. It’s so—undignified.” 

Anakin snorted. “You must have taken a lot of spice, huh?” he joked.

Obi-Wan shifted uncomfortably.

“I—oh for Krong’s sake,” Anakin groaned, slapping himself in the forehead. “Obi-Wan—were you actually trying to kill yourself?”

“No!” Obi-Wan replied quickly to the loaded question. “I was just looking for a—temporary escape. I did mention that a Sith Empire ruled the galaxy and Yoda and I were all that was left of the Jedi order, right? He didn’t seem totally sane the last time I saw him, either! Not to mention, I spent most of the last three years alone in a desert.”

“Oh.” Anakin grew somber. “Master, that—”

“And that still doesn’t explain how you knew what said to Cody.”

“Well, the day after I came back to our quarters to find you in the process of stabbing yourself in the heart, you woke up, declared Master Che both dead and a Sith trick, then sunk into a self-induced coma,” Anakin snapped. “The healers, I think understandably, set aside privacy and called everyone in to try and figure out what the fuck was going on.”

Obi-Wan cringed. “That…makes sense. Sorry again.” He cleared his throat. “Look, we’ve got seconds left before the council interrupts—I just—didn’t want you to be blindsided by the Palpatine reveal.”

“But you admit there was mind control involved,” Anakin insisted. “Cody wouldn’t have turned on you without it, and neither would the Chancellor.”

“Anakin—I know we never liked to talk about it, but the Vode had a lot more opportunity to be compromised en mass. They were designed for a purpose we never fully understood and their entire childhood consisted of indoctrination; we already knew Dooku was involved with their ‘commissioning'—we just ignored it.”

Anakin bit the inside of his mouth, tasting blood as he restrained himself from screaming. He didn’t want to think about Kamino and he had to make Obi-Wan see past the nightmare he witnessed, before he convinced the council of an innocent man’s guilt.

“There wasn’t anyone else who might have been mind-controlled, who turned on you, or the Jedi? You said everyone died—there had to be someone besides some of the clones and one old man doing the killing, right?” he asked desperately, not wanting to argue with Obi-Wan but needing him to see how absurd Palpatine being a Sith was.

Obi-Wan’s sputtered, “That’s—that’s different—it was so obviously Palpatine’s influence.”

“But there was someone else you think might have been acting against their will,” Anakin pressed, sensing a weak point.

Obi-Wan looked gutted. “I don’t know—I want to believe you would never do such terrible things but you did and it all happened so fast…”

“So you admit—” Anakin stopped as his brain caught up with his mouth. “Wait—me?

Obi-Wan’s face twisted in anguish but he didn’t break eye contact as he nodded.

Anakin swallowed hard. “Obi-Wan…what did I—” he cut himself off as the door opened.

Master Windu entered and squinted suspiciously at the two of them. 

“Mace!” Anakin said nervously. “We were just—crying. You know. Being attached and, and all that.”

Obi-Wan’s jaw dropped open as he stared bug-eyed at his Padawan. “Mace?”  he repeated, dumbfounded.

Mace Windu inhaled slowly through his nose. “Your friends had plenty of time to bond while we were trying to make sense of your more…disastrous traits.” He waved vaguely.

“You just gestured at all me,” Obi-Wan replied, offended. 

“Well, you’ll have the opportunity to help clear up our misconceptions. Master Aerdo is preparing a meeting room in the Halls so you can explain everything, just like you wanted.”

“Oh, fuck,” Anakin whispered softly. 

“It’s a different room, Anakin, I made sure of it.” Mace reassured him.

Anakin?” Obi-Wan parroted in delight.

“Well, I’m glad you know everyone’s names, at least,” Windu muttered. “Master Che will be by to check you over one more time; she should have some proper robes for you. Should we contact Commander Cody? He’s at a pre-departure briefing with Master Tiin not too far away.” 

“No,” Obi-Wan answered sadly. “We can’t alert anyone outside the halls about even the existence of this meeting. Maintaining secrecy right now is too important. We’re going to need to take a significant amount of extremely careful action on a lot of fronts if we want to unravel the Sith’s plots—and I hate to say it but stopping the actual war is unfortunately going to need to wait for last. We’ll still end things sooner than they would otherwise, but if we meddle too much right now…Whatever story you were using to explain my—absence the past few days, please simply double down on that.” 

The Master of the Jedi Order nodded slowly, holding off on questions with well-practiced restraint.

"Alright Windu, Skywalker, get out," Che ordered, brusquely pushing her way in with a hovercart. 

“Yes, Master Che,” Anakin acknowledged, jumping up. He gave Obi-Wan a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder before he departed. “We’re going to get through this,” he said valiantly, trying to project confidence.

Obi-Wan smiled weakly. “I’ll see you two soon.”

“That’s up to me, actually,” Master Che said cheerfully, snapping her gloves.

Chapter Text

All conversation stopped when Obi-Wan opened the door.

The air crackled with energy as the assembled Jedi Masters (and Anakin) paused their obviously fierce debate. After a beat, there was the unmistakably unique sensation of several Jed Masters releasing their mixed emotions to the force in an overheated wave, leaving behind only serenity (mostly). Obi-Wan’s heart keened. Of course, at the time, the tendency of council meetings to devolve into petty squabbles had been a constant source of frustration but after three years where his only source of debate was haggling over stolen goods…well.

Obi-Wan smiled, aching softly at the sight of the friends and colleagues, miraculously alive and whole.

The Nautolan Healer—the person in the room with whom he was least familiar—cleared their throat and began speaking. “Master Kenobi, welcome. I want to start off by saying you are under no obligation to—”

Yoda cut them off, “A Councilor, Master Kenobi is. Obligated, he is—”

“My patient, he is, Grandmaster,” they bit back. “I know soul healing might have been looked down on when you were in training, but I would have thought-

Master Kcaj interrupted, disapproval seeping out into the room, “And we would have thought you would have more respect when addressing your senior Jedi.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Master Mundi blustered.

Chattering rang out as everyone in the room began talking at once.

“Master, are you alright?” Anakin asked urgently.

The conversation shut down again as the group turned to look at the man in question. Who was biting down on this fist and shaking slightly.

“I told you—” Adi Galia began. Argument erupted once more and Obi-Wan doubled over with laughter.

“Something funny, you found?” Yoda asked as Obi-Wan tried and failed to stop laughing. “Share, you can.”

Obi-Wan inhaled sharply, wiping at the corner of his eyes and forcibly pulling himself out of his explosively giddiness, “My apologies grandmaster, I’m afraid it’s not actually that funny—I simply missed the unique tones of a high council meeting.”

All council meetings are like this?” Bant asked, sounding unimpressed.

“Some more than others,” Master Koon acknowledged, rubbing a hand to his forehead.

Obi-Wan cleared his throat, “Master Aerdo, I appreciate your support and while I am no doubt in need of the services of a Soul Healer—it is for rather different reasons than…outward appearances have let you to believe. Now shall we all have a seat?”

Kcaj frowned “All of us? I thought this was a council matter, not a personal one.” Bant and Anakin stiffened.

“It’s both.” Obi-Wan responded calmly. “But beyond that, I assure you, we will be needing the skills of everyone in this room. Master Nu, Master Che—I don’t wish to impose if you need to return to running your own domains, but I would very much appreciate your presence if you’re willing. I think you will find it worth your time.”

“I wasn’t planning on leaving even if you asked, so I’m pleased to accept your invitation.” Master Nu replied, cheerfully taking a seat. The rest followed and Obi-Wan joined them at the head of the table, gaze drifting affectionately over the assembled group. He took a breath.

“The first thing you need to know is that I have extremely detailed knowledge of…one potential future. A future I intend to prevent. A future I lived through…”

 

It is necessary to note that everyone in that room had led, in one way or another, a rather remarkable life. This was the main reason none of them could claim that the next two and half hours were the most shocking they had ever experienced. It is more than likely it was the most shocking meeting any had attended.

 

“We would have seen if the Sith had risen to such power!”

“Oh? Just as we would have seen if the Sith had survived at all? I remember having a similar conversation to this one ten years ago-”

“We would have noticed—for force sake he’s visited the temple, we’ve all shaken his hand—"

“Arrogant, the council has become. Seen this, I have. Arrogant, have become.”

“Skywalker…may have a point about mind control. Tactically—”

- - - - -

If what you’re saying is truethough I still think perhaps some more time with Masters Aerdo and Che wouldn’t be unwarranted-

“Oh, enough already Ki. We’re not going to get anywhere if you keep this up.”

“Wait—I actually have something that might help convince you that I do have overly specific knowledge of the future—we-—actually can I get some flimsi? Thank you, Anakin—a few years ago, ah, a few months from now, Master Mundi and I ended up, would have ended up, trapped behind enemy lines for an extended period of time. It’s hard not to learn a few things about one another when that happens. Here you are-”

“…”

“I told you that?”

“You, uh, didn’t really have much of a choice.”

“Oh gods.”

Now, do you believe me?”

“Well…I suppose—I can’t really imagine how else you could, er, possibly know, considering you can’t possibly have spoken to—”

“Of course not! Honestly, how would I have been able, even if I wanted to?”

“I have never wanted to steal a message this badly in my life”

Same”

“Yes, read the flimsi, we all want to. Welcome to, clearly we are NOT.”

 

Master Kcaj, who had begun to lean suspiciously far back in his chair, fell forward with a clatter, rapidly releasing guilt into the force.

 

“Yes, well…hm…The force has obviously given you…an unusually wide window of insight. It would be…remiss of us to ignore it.”

“Kriff, we’re never going to know what that note said, are we?”

“No.”

- - - - -

“That’s utterly impossible—I’m sorry Obi-Wan but you’ve obviously been tricked.”

“I’m sorry Plo. Believe me, I know. I—I don’t think they were themselves.”

“If it happened suddenly enough…when we were all in the field, isolated—”

“Being surrounded by our troops is not the same thing as being isolated!”

“Agreed. Explain what you mean by ‘not themselves’”

“Well, I had just defeated General Grievous.”

“Oh, hey! Nice!”

“Thank you, Anakin. I was rejoining the troops after defeating the General. My Commander handed me back my lightsaber, which I don’t think he would have done if he was planning on—well. I began—”

“Hold on just a moment. Do you mean to say you defeated Grievous without your lightsaber?”

“I’d rather not get into the distasteful specifics—”

“Ha! That means he used a blaster.”

“Keep a better grip on your saber, you should.”

Enough interruptions—please allow him to get to the point.”

“…Master Koon, perhaps you should take a moment to release your emotions.”

“I will do so after we get to the pointContinue, Obi-Wan.”

“Yes, Cody seemed completely normal when I spoke to him. I began riding Boga up the cliff face to meet up with a rendezvous when the force started getting…dark. Darker than it had been. I heard—distant screaming. Death. It—”

“Wait, Boga? Who—ARGH—

“MASTER KOON—CALM DOWN—”

- - - - -

“…My apologies Knight Skywalker. I have had an…abnormally mentally taxing morning. My control is…somewhat damaged…”

“No worries, happens to everyone, right?”

“…Let’s return to the room and discuss this later.”

- - - - -

“To breach the temple, need a force user familiar with our protections, they would…My padawan…dead at this time, he was, yes?

“Yes, Master Yoda. It—Anakin had technically defeated him four days prior.”

Technically?

“You—I’m sure you did defeat him–I was unconscious at the time but I’m…yes, I’m certain of that much at least—but it was a trap. We were on a rescue mission and—I think Sidious wanted him eliminated at that point, so he could assume full control over both sides.”

“…He really has arranged things to win no matter, hasn’t he?”

"Obi-Wan, the temple defenseshow—”

“I—You must understand, I wasn’t on the planet at the time…”

“Well, do you have any idea what he might have done to control the clones?”

“Yes, I do have one theory actually–I didn’t witness any of these events first-hand, but several months before the purge, one of the troopers killed Master Tiplar in a fit of madness—claimed not to clearly remember doing so and was sent to Kamino to be examined. Later, another clone—Fives—attempted to assassinate the Chancellor, accused him of working with the separatists as part of a conspiracy. The Chancellor’s medics claimed he had a tumor from a parasite on Ringo Vinda but in light of what happened after…well.

“…Why would we not investigate that.”

“Shaak Ti did, but her report was…vague. I only saw her two more times in person between now and the end. Her force presence was—shadowed. Not fallen, but…tired.”

“And you didn’t follow-up? None of us did?”

“…I cannot even begin to express how much was happening at the time.”

Nevertheless, Master Kenobi—

“To be absolutely blunt I didn’t even remember the report until I was several months into hiding, with little else to do but meditate on the past. It just—fell into the cracks. Like a lot of things did. Like a lot of things already have. What was the last council meeting you can remember that wasn’t dominated by the war?”

Force. We’re not assigning blame; we’re just attempting to understand. The knowledge of Palpatine…well it helps us understand a bit better how we got to where we are now. But how we got from here to there…

“Yes, of course.”

“…”

“Master Kenobi?”

“Sorry—just…marshaling my memories. As I said before, the last year of the war was increasingly straining, with unrelenting pressure on the Order coming from all directions. None of us were at our best, but it in hindsight I was…still reeling…in particular. From—force I still can’t believe all that happened in six months—fuck. Sorry. Pardon my language.

“It’s fine, don’t worry about us—just keep going,”

Krell betrayed us…horrifically—I don’t think the 501st or the 212th ever got over it. Immediately after that was that absolute clusterfuck of a mission—we spent a month in a Zygerrian Slave Camp—I don’t even know what we were thinking dressing Ashoka like that- ”

“Wow, wow, WAIT—”

“We were trying to go undercover to rescue the Kiros colonists but obviously it blew up in our faces immediately. I was still healing from the, well, torture, when I had to go undercover as the assassin who killed myself in a Republic Jail to protect the Chancellor. I’d rather not talk about it but needless to say I was still physically and mentally not at my best when Maul returned from the dead—”

“I—Maul?”

“He wanted revenge on me for bisecting him on Naboo—turns out both Sith and Zabraks are very hard to kill, so that was a pleasant surprise. Didn’t really have time to meditate on that failure before we were training guerilla fighters on Onderara—”

“Pardon, Naboo? You don’t mean—'

“Yes. Anakin and Ashoka were still mad about faking my death during the ‘undercover thing’ so that made things—tense. Then Ashoka was sent to Illum for what was supposed to be a safe mission—

Oh gods—”

Naturally, she got kidnapped along with a number of initiates. Somehow befriended Hondo…so…that worked out fine. I guess. Then Maul and his brother. They. Well they got revenge. Satine died. They wanted to get back at me. I was still censured by the council for my actions from that incident at the time of the temple bombing—”

“You! Obi-Wan—

“Which meant that when Ashoka was sentenced to death I could barely even speak a word in her defense, which is maybe just as well considering the blind faith we had in the Senate-”

“WHAT!”

“Calm down, of course it wasn’t her, but after the Sith Hells she was put through she, understandably, had lost trust in the order and decided to strike out on her own. I was still trying to clean up that political mess, track her down, not to mention run multiple armies with even less help than before when I got the reports about the rogue clones. Obviously, I should have done something with the information, but. Well, I didn’t.”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…Let’s start with Krell.”

“Right. Right. Well, like I said the last year of the war was…hard. A number of people fell. Krell was the first, I think. His reasons were one of the most…difficult to sympathize with, even intellectually.”

“Pong Krell. I suppose he always was—

Still I thought he had gotten over such things…”

“Oh, Kriff.”

Relax Anakin, they haven’t taken off yet.”

“Oh, remember that one time when he was an initiate—that poor little Nautolan boy, what was his name?”

“Wait, taken off? Who is he—oh force…Mace…who’s leading my troops right now?”

“Master, before you freak out, they’re still on Coruscant.”

“Master Gallia, I don’t think that’s entirely fair—you can’t judge a Master by what they did as an initiate—”

“Ok, okay. I suppose take off must have been delayed due to my—well. When are they scheduled to leave?”

“We can’t judge a Jedi by if they might fall, we could only judge them by their current actions.”

Sundown? That—force. I had the start of a plan but—that’s too soonbut if you replace him…fuck. I need things to proceed normally, if we raise Sidious's suspicion...Kriff, there’s just not enough time. I—he’s a monster but Palpatine—I don’t know if I can save everyone—I can’t—”

"Do not despair, Master Kenobi, we will protect your men—he cannot truly do harm while outside of battle, yes?"

“We’ll figure it out, Obi-Wan, just sit down.”

“I—we’re coming back to this Windu—That was very well said Master Koon and I’d like you to hold onto that thought. We, we can’t judge our fellow Jedi for what they might do… good people can fall into darkness, when they’re pushed hard enough.”

“Then Krell…”

“Oh, kark no, Krell’s irredeemable. Uh. That is to say. I’m reasonably certain he’s already been actively conspiring to kill his men.”

Kriff.”

“Yes, quite.”

“…Can we go back to the brain parasite?”

- - - - -

“Alright, enough.”

“Agreed. We’re going in circles about the clone’s loyalty—once we finish this meeting we’ll start force probes and brain scans, but for now—Obi-Wan the fallen. The purge.”

I was on Utapau—I didn’t—I wasn’t there.”

“Master Kenobi, are you stalling?

“Of course not, I—ok the next Jedi I remember falling was Depa Bilbaba.”

“…”

“That’s absurd.”

“Fall, anyone’s padawan can.

“Yes, but Depa—”

“It was a mission to Harun Kul—should I go into the details? It’s not connected to the fall of the order, strictly speaking, but—”

Damnit, Kenobi—"

“She actually returned to the light, eventually.”

“Impossible!”

- - - - -

Vos? I suppose he is a shadow…”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

Oh, boy—

- - - - -

“I’m somewhat confused.”

“I wouldn’t say she fully joined the light but…she didn’t want to be dark anymore.”

“You don’t think it was just circumstances?”

“Well, two years after the fall of the republic I ran into her at a bar—”

Of course you did”

“Oh, shut up, like you wouldn’t drink after all that.”

“...Fair enough. Apologies.”

“Anyway, she could have turned me in. The bounty on my head was obscenely high, but after all our history… she bought me a drink.”

He’s definitely stalling.”

“Yes…I know…”

- - - - -

Luminara’s apprenticeShe can barely stand violence, even in the hypothetical!”

“Yes…I think that was rather the point. She—she couldn’t accept the Jedi’s role in the war and she thought she didn’t have a way out…”

Force have mercy on us all.”

- - - - -

“…Yoda…you have to understand, the darkness in the force was overwhelming at that point…you could hardly breath.”

“Master Kenobi, if you are trying to tell us that Yoda fell—I am—not going to have a mild reaction.”

“…”

Obi-Wan?!”

“No, Yoda didn’t fall.”

“FUCK’S SAKE KENOBI DON’T DO THAT”

“Can fall, any of us.”

“DON’T YOU START”

“Deep breaths Master Kcaj, Deep Breaths.”

“I apologize for the confusion- I was just trying to explain that the last time I saw him, neither of us were in particularly sound state of minds—”

“KENOBI YOU ARE DOING THIS ON PURPOSE AND WE ALL KNOW IT JUST GET TO THE PART WHERE SKYWALKER FALLS INSTEAD OF DRAGGING IT OUT”

"KCAJ!”

- - - - -

“…Things were fine. Things were at least hopeful. Dooku was gone. We got word on Grievous’s location. I was assigned to go after him. Anakin wanted to come with me, to watch my back. He didn’t want to stay on Coruscant. The council—we ordered him to spy on the Chancellor. He protested, was uncomfortable with the idea…he was never much for deception. But he agreed. We made some jokes as we were saying goodbyes. I left Coruscant. Got to Utatpau. Killed Grievous. Thought the war was over. The force got dark. I was shot off a cliff. All the Jedi were dying. My bond with Anakin grew dark. My troops felt like strangers. When I got back Yoda told me he—he was lost to the darkside. Was the new apprentice. Palpatine claimed the Jedi tried to assassinate him. I don’t—actually understand what happened, it was all just a few days… but I have to assume Palpatine…or the person who was controlling Palpatine! Please adi’ka, you know I—"

“I know, Master. It’s…Kriff—I don’t—I’m sorry.”

“We shouldn’t have split up. I shouldn’t have left you.

“Obi-Wan…you can’t actually blame yourself for what I did, what I—haven’t done, technically.”

“I…”

Well. That explains—”

“Explains, what Master Gallia? Explains why we shouldn’t have allowed an elderly politician unrestrained access to a child?”

“Master! Don’t say it like that—”

“That explains your stalling Master Kenobi, be at peace. We’re not going to judge Knight Skywalker for unknown actions he has yet to take.

“Mace! Are you all right?”

“Headache. Talk about it later.”

“Tell us who may fall, you did. Judge them prematurely, we shall not. Watch them carefully, we will.”

“…With all due respect I’m not sure the council is capable of meaningfully distinguishing between the two.’

“Master Kenobi! Perhaps we should revisit the ‘attachment’ discussion we had previously agreed to forestall?”

“Oh that is such—”

“Anakin, please allow me. Master Mundi—shut up or let us read the note.”

Master Koon!”

“For all the distress being vented, I feel there is a notable lack of compassion in this room and quite frankly I find it unacceptable.”

- - - - -

“So…you didn’t watch the security holograms?”

“…Yoda said not to. I think that’s everything—we should start brain scans now.”

“Master Kenobi…”

“Yes?”

“When Master Yoda was fighting Palpatine…”

“Master Gallia—not right now.”

“Yes, Master Windu.”

“…”

Force Be With Us.

“Indeed.”

“Quite.”

“Hm.”

“Council Members—if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to get back to the archives. I have a few things I’d like to dig into.”

“Of course. We trust your discretion.”

“Take care of yourself, Obi-Wan”

“You as well, Master Nu. I am forever in your debt for what you brought me.”

“I’ll remember that.”

“…”

Now what?”

“It’s going to break our ‘contract’ with the Kamonian’s but…we’re going to have to get a clone into the healing halls for a neurological examination.”

“I…might be able to help with that. Without going very far at all actually.”

“What do you mean by that, Knight Eerin?”

“Sorry, terribly sorry, I just remembered I have to take care of something-”

What?

“This…is rather the part we were hoping for your assistance with Vokara-”

“Stay, Master Che. Given everything—I think we’re past the point of plausible deniability.”

“You’re… most likely right. Apologies, force of habit.”

“Would either of you care to explain?”

“Well…technically the temple isn’t allowed to care for wounded clones. Doing so would violate their ‘warrantyHowever…”

Chapter Text

“Commander—Cody—CODY! Would you wait up.

Someone was calling his name, but now that the briefing was over Cody was having trouble focusing past the faint ringing in his ears. He worked furiously to move past the white noise and marshal his sluggish thoughts towards overseeing the shuttling of the remaining on-planet 212th back to the Negotiator, and finishing crew complement reports for General Krell and—

His train of thought had barely gotten back on track when it was derailed by someone grabbing his shoulder. He barely managed to restrain himself from punching the irritant in the visor.

“What is it, Waxer?” Commander Cody asked impatiently.

“Can we talk? Alone?”

“Fine,” Cody grunted.

Waxer dragged him into the closest small armament room. At a sharp gesture from Waxer, the few milling clones inside quickly shuffled out.

Waxer pulled off his helmet, eyes wide and sad.

“Cody—” he said hesitantly. “I’m not going to pretend that I completely understand what’s going on, but I’m here for you, whatever you need, if you ever want to talk. I never even told Boil about the—the trip to the temple, or any of it, ok? But I’m really worried about you and I want you to know that you can trust me—even if you just need a shoulder to lean on.”

The ringing in Cody’s head got louder. A beat passed.

“Is that all?” Cody finally asked. “I have work to do.”

“…yeah, that was all.”

Cody made for the door but was stopped by a frantic cry.

“I’m sorry!” Waxer half-shouted. “I’m sorry—you told us something was wrong and we just laughed and I’m so sorry Commander. And then when you started getting weird and the General wasn’t answering comms I just assumed things were—you know, good, but then we found he was sick and I was making jokes about bedrest while he was in sickbay—and then I was remembering the surveillance you put on the Cantina and I made jokes about that at the time but I was right next to him at the bar while you over at the table and now I can stop thinking that he got poisoned while I was right next to him at the bar. And then General Skywalker stepped down from Command this morning and I don’t even want to imagine what would make him do that. And I don’t know what the kark all that was with Krell but I’m so sorry Commander—I feel like everything I say is making things worse but I—I’m sorry.”

It took a while for Cody’s stagnant mind to process all that. He stared blankly at Waxer as the Lieutenant quivered at attention.

“Waxer…” The ringing had stopped, only to be replaced with a growing headache. “None of the General’s injuries or anything are your fault, ok? I—its classified and I don’t—I don’t know what happened this morning but…nothing actually happened in the Cantina. You have to keep this under wraps—but…” Cody hesitated over how much to say.

His voice dropped to a low whisper. “Practically the only thing I do know for sure is that he wasn’t poisoned. It was just regular alcohol and at most it made him slightly vulnerable… Anyway nothing was your fault so just—focus on the mission. Ok?”

Waxer stared at Cody. He cleared his throat. “You said injuries.”

“What?” Cody asked weakly.

“Commander. You said injuries. Not illness. Are you telling me that the General was attacked?” Waxer asked, voice growing quiet and angry. “Are you telling me that the General was attacked, and High Command lied to us about it?”

Cody responded with similar hushed irritation, “No! Waxer—look. I can’t talk about this, it’s—”

“I swear to the force if you say ‘classified’ I don’t care if you are my commanding officer I will slug you.” Waxer took in a shaky breath, clenching his fists. “Is this why you’ve been wearing your bucket? Because you can’t look your troopers in the face while you lie to us about a threat to the 212th?”

“That’s enough soldier; there are things you don’t know—”

“Yeah, because I’m being lied to—I’m supposed to be your lieutenant and even if you couldn’t tell me everything I at least trusted that you wouldn’t deceive—"

We didn’t lie—illness is the best description because even if we don’t understand what caused it, that’s what caused the injuries, and the troops needed to know this isn’t going to be fixed even once he’s technically out of the Bacta tank.”

“What the kriff kind of illness causes injuries you treat with a Bacta tank—"

Fuck. Waxer, please. I can’t do this—”

Waxer stepped forward as Cody shifted back.

“Cody. Seriously. What kind of illness causes injuries you treat with a Bacta tank? That—that doesn’t even make sense.”

“It’s class—”

What do you mean the alcohol made him ‘vulnerable’?”

Lieutenant, I’ve got to back to work—”

Waxer grabbed his arm before he could pull away.

“Commander, was this an attack or not?”

“We—we don’t know. There’s Jedi banthafodder involved…and, Waxer you can’t discuss this with anyone, can’t—”

“What the kriff do you mean you don’t know—how could it not be clear if his injuries were caused by a physical assault or a disease?”

Cody yanked his arm away and shoved Waxer back with his shoulder. The lieutenant quickly regained his balance and charged forward, tackling his commander to the ground, helmet make a hard thud as it made contact with the duracrete floor. They rolled around, each trying to gain leverage over the other.

 Cody managed to get on top, knee driving harshly into Waxer’s back, pinning him down. After that, it only took a few more seconds to twist one of Waxer’s arm behind his back.

“Fine!” Cody sneered, pressing hard on his Lieutenant’s neck with one hand while yanking the trapped arm painfully. “You really want to know?!

“Obviously, asshole,” Waxer grit out.

“The general tried to karking kill himself and we have no idea why.”

“no-”

Or rather we have too many ideas why. Did you know Jedi can take psychic damage from being around too many violent thoughts? Or that the General got abandoned in the middle of a fucking planetary civil war when he was a cadet?”

“that-”

Of course, he could have just had a vision that melted his brain and actually he wanted to wake up by killing himself. And if that’s true than it means he vividly remembers the nightmare shit from the hovercar ride. Remember that stuff? Temple burning? Us firing at him? Yeah, could be he just thinks that’s more real than reality, and he’s never going to be able to move on from stuff we didn’t even do. And he might never believe anything we say or do is real ever again.”

“I-”

“Of course, it could be some sort of crazy dark forbidden Jedi attack from Dooku or Ventress because they’re still running around despite all the times we’ve almost captured them, and if it is that then there’s not a karking thing we can do to defend him!”

“Cody, please-”

Cody panted heavily for a second, staring uncomprehendingly at the trooper pinned beneath him. After a moment, everything clicked into place and he scrambled back, stopping when his back hit a sealed munitions rack. Waxer gasped for breath.

“Fuck—Waxer, I am so sorry, that was, kriff, you shouldn’t have found out that way—I shouldn’t have told you like that, I’m so sorry. I—are you ok?

"Oh yes, I’m doing great,” Waxer wheezed. “How about you?”

“I’m fine,” Cody replied automatically, wincing immediately at the absurdity of the sentence.

“Wizard, so glad we had this conversation,” Waxer coughed, voice starting to get back to normal. 

The door clicked open and a vod Cody didn’t recognize stepped in, looked between Cody, who was braced defensively with his knees up, and Waxer who was panting face down, a small distance away. He immediately stepped back into the hall, not saying a word, door clicking swiftly closed again, lock audibly activating. 

Waxer flopped over to lay on his back, head turned to the side to pin his Commander in place. 

“…Thanks for telling me, Cody,” Waxer said quietly.

Cody thunked his head back. “You wish you never asked, fuck off.”

Waxer sat up with a groan, “No…Cody you shouldn’t have to go through this by yourself.”

“…Rex knows. Not—not everything I just said. But the basics.” 

“Good.” Waxer crawled over to sit next to his Commander, leaning back heavily.

“…I’m sorry, Cody. If Boil ever—I’m just…really sorry.”

Cody dropped his head to his knees. “I can’t let myself feel like that, Waxer,” he rasped. “I was already hanging by a thread and then—I thought he was there at the meeting for a second, and I—the men need me, I can’t focus on stuff that’s going to make me go nuts.”

“Um… you mean you thought he was there, when the Jedi were ‘sensing’ him?” the lieutenant asked tentatively.

“…yeah,” Cody sighed.

“That sounds like force stuff.”

Cody hummed in response.

Waxer took a deep breath. “Did—did it seem like he died?”

“I don’t…know,” Cody answered softly. “He—was there. And then he wasn’t.”

There was a long pause before the Lieutenant spoke, deliberately cheerful.

“Well then, I bet he’s alive. He’s obviously not very good at dying.”

Cody choked on a harsh breath, coughing heavily enough that he finally yanked off his helmet to suck in air.

“For—for force sake, Waxer—”

“You said you couldn’t go nuts,” Waxer said, shoving him with his shoulder. “We’re soldiers, right? This is how we deal with horrific shit that no one should ever have to think about, let alone have to keep to himself for fear of demoralizing an entire army, eh?”

“Waxer…”

The trooper climbed to his feet with a groan, ignoring his commanding officer.

“Come on, let’s get those kriffing manifests completed for Master Krell. I’ll make sure you keep going. Vode An.” He offered a hand down to Cody, who tentatively accepted it. Waxer yanked him to his feet, drawing his Commander in for a quick, crushing hug, before ducking down to pick up the discarded buckets.

They both pulled on their helmets, puffy eyes and swollen lips hidden neatly.

Vode An,” Cody repeated.

They unlocked the door, joining the throng, all company marching to the familiar rhythm of a quickly ticking deployment countdown.

Chapter Text

“I want you to understand that what we’re going to ask of you is entirely beyond the scope of duty. Your participation in this matter is completely voluntary. Should you, after careful consideration, agree to help, you remain more than free to opt out or refuse to continue, at any point, with absolutely no consequences.”

Deep within the Healing Halls best-kept medical secret, Ace quelled beneath the full might of the GAR’s highest ranked and most lauded Generals. Yeah I’m sure whatever they ask I’m going to want to say no. Honestly, what kind of soldiers have they been working with?

“What can I do to assist, sir? Sirs?”

“I know this might be shocking, but we have reason to believe the GAR is…compromised.”

“Sir?”

Ace thought furiously. This wasn’t about the healers who were hiding them, or the Jedi his battalion never received, or the decommissioning he had escaped. This was bigger.

The General Windu spoke calmly, “We suspect that you may have been trained or conditioned at some point without your knowledge to unquestioningly follow orders, orders well beyond and beneath what you would typically obey. With your permission, we’d like to try and activate that order in a restrained environment in order to gain more information, with the hope of finding a way to help the troops resist.”

“I’m sorry, sir. I don’t completely understand. You want to give me an order while asking me…not to obey it?”

General Koon nodded (General Koon! General Koon and General Windu were talking to him at the same time!). “In a manner of speaking, yes. But it’s possible that the order will do more than that. The only way we believe this could possibly work—” Koon glanced to the man at his side. “And we…do believe this threat is real, is if you have been subjected to—an extreme form of brainwashing. Activating it might cause irreparable brain damage. Activating it might damage or kill the parts of you that make you you. Even if it doesn’t—the ideal scenario is we find something—a bioengineered tumor perhaps—and surgically remove it. And brain surgery also has its own risks.”

Ace swallowed around a lump in his throat. 

“And this is something that could be going on with…my entire batch?” he asked with hushed horror.

General Kenobi winced. “The entire GAR I’m afraid. Every man.”

The General of the 212th! Commander Cody’s Jedi! Was here! Talking to him! Telling him existentially terrifying ultra classified intel!

The trooper stared up from bed in disbelief. If anyone besides three of most respected generals in the entire GAR (not including Buir Ti) was telling him this he would accuse them of bantha crap fear-mongering, if not outright treason. Instead, he was just…prickling in disgust and the beginning of terror.

“What would the…order make me—us…do?” he asked, refusing to allow fear to creep into his voice

Windu took a deep breath. “Attack us. Try and kill the Jedi.”

“I would never,” Ace denied automatically, straightening up even further at attention. “We would never betray the Jedi—it’s—never. We were made for the Jedi and even if we weren’t—you’re the only ones who treat us with an ounce of respect!”

“No one is questioning your loyalty,” the kind Mon Cal healer (whose name he had never asked for fear of getting her in trouble if this ward was ever discovered) said, obviously trying to sooth him. She spoke with heart-breaking earnestness. “The fact that you would never choose to obey such a command just makes the possibility of something forcing you to do so that much more horrifying.”

“How would something like that even get in our heads? The longnecks designed us to serve the Jedi, why…I’m sorry Generals. I didn’t mean to get out of line.”

Ace looked down, feeling heat crawl up his shoulderblades and neck as he realized he had been all but yelling.

“No need to apologize. You have every right to be angry about this intrusion, as well as any number of things,” General Kenobi reassured him, smiling sadly. “We don’t know to what extent the Kaminoans are involved with this plot. Not precisely.”

Ace nodded, clenching his one remaining fist. “I’ll do it. Whatever you need from me. I can’t let my brothers have something this big looming over them without any intel.” I’m not exactly front-lines material anymore anyway.

“Are you sure?” Mace Windu’s eyes seemed to stare into his soul. Ace stared right back.

“I am. When do we start?”

It didn’t take long to shave the soldier and connect a number of glowing vital readers to his skull. He was ushered into a chambered observation room with what appeared to be a sfaraday cage hastily built around it. 

“Alright, whenever you’re ready,” Bant (Knight Eerin apparently, but she told him to call her Bant) said.

“I’m ready, sir.”

“Let’s start off small, see if we can learn anything without fully activating the order.”

General Kenobi took in a deep breath. He looked calm, but Jedi always did. The General took in another breath. Kriff, two deep breaths. That’s Jedi for freaking out, isn’t it? Right?

Fuck.

“Does Order 66 mean anything to you?” General Kenobi braced himself, staring intently at the trooper in his seat. 

Ace stiffened, wracked his brain furiously. Sixty-Six…that was…

“It’s…a little familiar? Sorry sir, I feel like I’ve heard it somewhere but…I can’t recall.”

“That’s perfectly alright trooper, not to worry.”

A Twilek healer he didn’t recognize spoke into a micomphone from the other side of a transparisteel window. “His frontal lobe might be lighting up a little, but it’s nothing abnormal, and not enough to triangulate for anything intrusive.”

After several variations on the same question as well as a number of scans of different ‘levels,’ the questioning escalated to orders, as well an extremely uncomfortable mock fight that he would probably tell his grandchildren about, provided he survived today, and also was allowed to have grandchildren.

Still, Ace couldn’t quite recall ever learning an Order 66 and was starting to relax, thinking the whole thing was some sort of horrible separatist lie.

They left him alone for an uncertain amount of time before returning with—

“Lieutenant Quickdraw?!” Ace jumped up at the sight of his commanding officer arriving via hoverchair, nervously saluting with his left hand.” I didn’t know you were here!”

‘I didn’t know you were alive,’ he didn’t say.

“Just got out of bacta. My spine’s not quite what it used to be after the blast,” the lieutenant responded wryly. “At ease, Ace.”

“Our apologies again for waking you prematurely,” General Koon said softly.

He waved the General off. “I’m honored you did. For something as serious this—well I’d hardly forgive myself if I just slept through it.”

Quickdraw locked eyes with Ace. “I’m supposed to try giving you ‘the order’ now—General Kenobi suspects that as your superior officer, I might be authorized to trigger whatever the hell the longnecks put in our heads.”

Ace swallowed hard. “The longnecks, sir?”

“Who else?” Quickdraw asked in a tone drier than Jakku. He spun in the chair to face General Koon. “How are we doing this?”

After a brief discussion, the troopers ended up on opposite sides of a sound-proof transparisteel divider, a comm channel open between them. Ace plugged his ears and gave the order first. And giving Quickdraw an order was almost but not quite as weird as giving an order that would apparently make him try and kill Jedi.

Nothing happened and they swapped, this time with Quickdraw using a waxy covering to block his hearing.

His lieutenant stared at him straight through the clear divider and ordered him to execute Order 66. This time he finally remembered his training, and realized he was woefully outgunned. Oh well, he was a good soldier.

And good soldiers follow orders.

Ace stood. The only visible change in his expression was a widening of his pupils. There was no malicious intent palpable in the force, just a numb blankness—he didn’t even look angry—just determined.

He lunged at the Jedi next to him, only to hit an invisible wall. He threw himself at the barrier desperately while the traitor backed out of the room and escaped. The wall finally dropped, but it was too late, he was locked in.

Sighing, he picked up the chair with his one good arm, slamming it repeatedly at the door frame. Good soldiers follow orders.

On the other side of the observation window, Quickdraw stumbled back horrified, reaching for his ears before hesitating. General Koon softly tapped his shoulder and indicated they should leave. 

“I’ve got a location,” Master Che said quietly as the lieutenant was ushered into an antechamber and the activated trooper continued to beat at the door. “It’s a small but clear patch lit up like the festival of lights—I don’t know why it didn’t turn up in scans but…I’m as confident as I can be. Worst case—it’s a small enough area that removing the grey matter shouldn’t…well it won’t kill him. It’s enough to go on for microscapel surgery.” General Koon nodded, then tilted forward, weight falling heavily in his palms on the counter before him.

Vokara rested a hand gently on his back “…I was hoping it wasn’t true as well.”

Master Koon flinched away. “I am sorry and glad to say you do not understand my feelings on the matter. I think…my apologies but I need some time to meditate.”

“Of course.”

Koon rushed out. After a moment Master Windu stepped in, radiating similar distress as Master Koon. Master Kenobi followed, face cycling through emotions, the predominant one decidedly…happy. 

‘Oh I’m glad Koon isn’t around him right now,’ Healer Che thought wryly.

“Oh thank the force,” he sighed, pressing a hand to the transparisteel window, forehead coming to rest on the cool surface, watching the trooper beat on the wall with an unnervingly fond expression.

Perhaps sensing the mood, Obi-Wan sobered, looking guiltily at the two Masters.

“I’m sorry it’s just—just—” he stammered, voice fragile and shoulders hunched. “I didn’t actually see the order get activated. Of course it was hard to believe that the men would willingly betray us so—so completely—and I’m obviously not glad that their will can be taken so easily—but I’ve had so much time to think about all the ways I might’ve earned their hatred—so much of what I thought I understood about the war was a lie, that this—”

“You don’t have to explain anymore,” Mace offered quietly. “I can understand why seeing this would be something of a relief, all things considered.”

“And, believe me, I understand why it’s the exact opposite for you,” the time-traveler offered, smiling weakly.

The Head Healer nodded at the exchange before taking charge. “Kenobi, go in with Eerin and help her sedate him. I’ll prepare for surgery.”

“Wait—shouldn’t we try other permutations first? It’s possible that once activated, a clone might be able to order a superior officer—”

“And it’s also possible that if a lieutenant is activated, the entire army will turn,” Mace snapped, uncharacteristically harsh. Obi-Wan bent his head, chastised. 

“Right. Yes. I’ll go—find Bant.”

An extremely long hour later, Master Che returned from surgery. Masters Mundi, C’kaj, and Yoda had left to fulfill the other thousand and one duties of a council member not unravelling a Sith conspiracy at the heart of the Republic, while Aerdo had been dispatched to talk with Quickdraw as well as some of the other troopers in the hidden Medical bay. 

“It’s a chip,” Vokara said grimly. “Native biological material, but clearly a chip. Like you would find in a droid. Far more complex than any slave chip I’ve ever seen, and no explosive component. It would only turn up on a level five brain scan. I didn’t even think to run it before—it’s overly invasive and typically redundant.”

The reduced meeting crumpled at the sight of the infinitesimally small object of control, carefully encased in a stasis slide and placed delicately on the conference table.

Proof of Obi-Wan’s future, a future that the group thought they already believed.

“We should get Master Nu,” Adi Gallia said quickly, “We’ll want our top researchers analyzing it as soon as possible.”

Koon nodded sharply. “Agreed.”

The Tholothian Master stood, “I’ll go at once—we should probably keep any mention of this off comms.”

As Master Gallia swept out of the room, Plo Koon wrenched his gaze from the stasis slide to face the healer. “Master Che, what is Ace’s status?”

“Unconscious and restrained, but he should wake up soon enough. It…might not be a bad idea to have another Jedi nearby when he does.”

Koon and Che left the room, taking the chip with them and conferring quietly.

Obi-Wan leaned forward, elbows on the table and face in his hands.

Master Windu exchanged a glance with Anakin. 

Finally Obi-Wan spoke, tentatively addressing Bant, “Could it be possible for someone…besides a clone to be chipped? If Palpatine had access to them as a child…”

Bant drew back, gaze flickering to Anakin. “I—we would have to study it more-”

Anakin interrupted, shifting in his seat. ”Master—what did I do?”

“It—it wasn’t you. It wasn’t you anymore that the person who fired on me was Cody.”

Bant shared a meaningful look with Mace, before clearing her throat with a soft gurgle. “Perhaps we should leave the two of you alone to talk this through.”

The Mon Cala Healer stood and exited rapidly. Windu locked eyes with Skywalker before he left. “Talk through everything, understood?” Anakin nodded.

The door shut, leaving Master and Padawan alone. “I feel like I’m missing more than two and a half days,” Obi-Wan muttered wryly. “I don’t remember you three having a non-verbal communication system consisting solely of eye-contact alone before.”

Anakin chuckled once, then immediately grew somber, picking at a loose thread in the sleeve of his robe. A thousand thoughts were swirling in his head, and he blurted out the first thing that came to mind.

“I—did I hurt you? Is that—is that why you stabbed me, you thought you were defending—”

“I did what?!” Obi-Wan paled, jumping up from his seat.

Anakin winced. “It’s nothing, that’s actually not important. I’m healed anyway so forget I mentioned it—”

Obi-Wan moaned, stumbling backwards over the fallen chair. “Of force—when you were trying to save me- I had a blade. I cut you down—” He tripped backwards, collapsing to the ground.

“Master!” Anakin lurched forwards, but the older Jedi scrambled back.

I forgot my spray bottle in there,” Bant whispered outside the door. “Do you think it’s too late to go back for it?”

Mace peered subtly through the small window in the door. “Yes. They’re already on the ground. I think they’re both crying.”

“It’s been less than a minute!”

“Yes.”

“…We should go.”

“Yes.”

Unaware of their muffled audience, the two continued their conversation.

“Don’t—don’t touch me!” Obi-Wan gasped, back hitting a wall. “I don’t—I don’t deserve-”

The young knight reared back, falling from a crouch to his knees, “Is this…about the Tuskens again?

Obi-Wan blinked in confusion. “The Tuskens? What about Tuskens?”

“You don’t…remember?” The air grew cold and Anakin forced himself to continue, “What we—what we talked about in the cave?”

“What we—I—” Obi-Wan thought furiously. “…Anakin. What did…what were you apologizing for in the cave? What...did you think we were talking about?”

“Oh gods.” Anakin paled, shuffling back.

“What are they doing now?” Bant asked the taller Jedi.

“They’re taking turns chasing each other back and forth on their hands and knees. They both look like they’re seconds away from passing out or throwing up.”

“I…is this a human thing?”

“No. What? Why would you think that?”

I don’t know! Do you think this is how they usually talk to each other?”

“I think perhaps they don’t talk to each other, and that’s why they’re like this.”

“Right, right…I really want to hear what they’re saying.”

“Hm. I don’t.”

“Why are you also standing outside the door then?”

“I want to be ready to intervene if they start trying to kill each other.”

“FORCE!”

Quiet!”

“Sorry. Sorry. You think they fought then? In the…other timeline?”

“…It would explain Obi-Wan’s shatterpoint remnants better than anything else.”

“Not to mention the spice.”

“I thought we were politely ignoring that.”

“…and then I brought her back to the homestead for burial.” Anakin bowed his head, tears streaming against his will. “I thought…Master I know I can’t fix this but I’m sorry— I already stepped down from my position as General so I wouldn’t be in a position to kill anyone else—I need you to forgive me.”

“Oh Anakin.”

“What? What happened?” Bant asked urgently. 

The Master of the Order appeared unruffled in the force and human visible light, but the tips of his ears were heating up in infrared. She stood on her toes to see in.

Oh—they’re hugging? Seriously? That’s what you’re embarrassed about?”

“They’re clinging to each other like younglings. It’s undignified for a Jedi Master and Knight.”

“It’s a hug. You don’t think they deserve some comfort?”

“It’s not about comfort Bant—it’s about stability. Obi-Wan’s tale didn’t exactly reassure me about either of their ability to manage their relationships non-destructively—"

“Alright that’s it—we’re going. I really don’t think Anakin’s going to jump from crying and hugs to murder.”

Unaware of their newfound privacy, the two inside withdrew from their embrace, still sniffling slightly. 

“Thank you, Master,” Anakin said in a shaky tone. “I swear I won’t let you down, I’m going to do better.”

“I know, my padawan, I know. I’m going to be there to help you this time, I’m not going to leave you alone with—well I’m not going to leave you alone.”

Anakin smiled wetly at Obi-Wan’s careful avoidance of Chancellor Palpatine’s supposed Sith alter ego, refocusing on Obi-Wan and making intense eye contact.

“What did you think we were talking about?”

Obi-Wan looked down. “It doesn’t matter,” he whispered. “It—it never happened.”

“Ori’vod, please. You—you mentioned younglings. I did something else unforgivable didn’t I?”

Obi-Wan smiled but didn’t look up. “And I forgave you anyway. Even when I thought your apology was just a fantasy. But it wasn’t, it was real, and—and the people actually are unmurdered so…it’s not worth talking about it.”

Anakin bit the inside of his cheek, gut roiling. “You…really think I might have a chip in me?”

Obi-Wan’s eyes snapped up. “I…don’t know. I didn’t even know that Cody had a chip in him.”

“You just…were suddenly betrayed by everyone.” 

“Not…everyone. Most who refused to fall in line were executed, of course, but there were a few senators who stood with the Jedi, secretly.” 

A new wave of cold terror passed over Anakin. “What happened with the other senators?”

“Like I said to the council earlier, from what I heard they cheered Palpatine on. Thunderous applause.”

“That’s not what I mean—Padme, Was Padme alright?”

Obi-Wan buried his face in his hands, shuddering.

“Anakin—I don’t know what to tell you,” he said in muffled voice. “I don’t want to deceive you but—things were dark. If I tell you everything now, I’m afraid of what you’ll do.”

Anakin winced. “I don’t want you to be afraid of me. I’m not…evil. I just…I messed up, and I want to make things better.”

Obi-Wan sighed, and pulled Anakin so they were seated next to each other in a mirror of the false peace a few days earlier. Anakin leaned into his Master’s side, feeling the cold retreat. “You’re not evil Anakin, but what you did to the Tusken village wasn’t exactly a small thing. I—look- Ad’ika—

Obi-Wan hesitantly placed an arm around Anakin’s shoulder and the cold retreated a bit more.

“If the council accepts my plan, we’re going to have time together over the next few weeks, to talk more about…everything. We’re going to end the war—save everyone. I know the cave wasn’t what either of us thought it was, but it still meant the galaxy to me. I love you, no matter what…and that conversation, what you said. Well, it gave me the strength to go on, to do what I needed to.” Obi-Wan froze. “Not my, um, self-inflected injuries—that’s—obviously that wasn’t your fault—”

“You thought you were hallucinating. I know.” Anakin smiled, feeling honestly amused at the absurdity of the situation for the first time. “I’m going to mock you for that for the rest of our lives, you know that, right?”

“I look forward to it.” Obi-Wan smiled.

A vise that had been clenched around Anakin’s heart since he broke down the door to their apartment finally relaxed. “You really weren’t trying to kill yourself,” he sighed happily.

“I was attempting to stay alive. Honestly concerned about dehydration! I wanted to stay in the daydream, but I knew I couldn’t. And part of that was because you gave me the strength to keep going. Sorry I did such a bad job honoring that but, well. You know. Thank you, Anakin. For saving me twice over.” Obi-Wan’s voice was utterly earnest, though it was a touch more embarrassed than he was used to after the single day of utter unrestraint. 

Anakin’s eyes welled up. “I’ve been—I hated that you would just leave like that, give up—”

“Never Anakin,” Obi-Wan vowed. “I will never give up on you, or this galaxy.”

He twisted so he could throw both arms around his padawan.

“I swear by everything I am I will keep going. It’s… in my nature but gods is it easier with you besides me.”

“Even though I’m a child murderer twice over and once removed?” Anakin joked weakly, clinging desperately to Obi-Wan’s presence.

Obi-Wan shuddered. “Too soon, Anakin. Too soon.”

Chapter Text

“This is Master Kit Fisto, requesting permission to land.”

“Hold on one moment please, General Fisto.”

A crackling sound filled the air, covering up the sound of Ashoka’s fidgeting in the copilot’s seat.

“Your shuttlecraft is being rerooted to auxiliary seven. Sending coordinates now.”

“Aux Seven?” Kit frowned at the comm. “Are you certain? That’s a deployment pad.”

“Affirmative. High Council Orders. You and Commander Tano are to land on aux seven. Have you received the coordinates?”

“Yes, yes—I know where I’m going. Thank you. Over.”

“Over.”

Ahsoka attempted to still the nervous bouncing of her leg as she looked over at the Nautolan Master.

“Maybe they realized Obi-Wan’s injuries were actually an attack and they’re redeploying me and Skyguy to go after the jerk responsible?” she asked hopefully.

Master Fisto grimaced. “I would hope they’re not sending you out into the field so soon, but I suppose the Ghost Nebula crisis has been escalating. Ahsoka…if they are assigning you a mission and you’d rather stay at the temple—”

“I should be with Master Skywalker and the 501st,” Ahsoka replied firmly. “I shouldn’t have left them in the first place. Skyguy said I could help the war and see Lee Char and I just—” Ahsoka cut herself off with a slight snarl, resisting the urge to leaping from her seat and pace the length of the ship.

Kit sighed. “You’re a remarkable padawan and commander. I simply wanted to let you know I’m happy to support you if you wish to rest.”

The padawan drummed her fingers compulsively on the dashboard. “Thank you Master Fisto, but I’m fine.”

No more words were exchanged as Master Fisto navigated the upper atmosphere.When they finally reached the landing pad, they were met by a small contingent from the 501st, as well as Master Windu himself, who greeted them with a short bow and a placid expression.

“Master Fisto, Padawan Tano, I trust your flight went smoothly?”

“Yes, Master Windu,” Kit and Ahsoka said in unison.

“Padawan Tano—is there anything I should be aware of that would prevent you from shipping off with the 501st? I regret that you won’t have time at the temple but…situations are escalating rapidly and it’s been agreed that the best place for you is onboard the Dauntless.”

Ahsoka straightened her spine. “I’m ready for my next mission Master Windu.”

“Sir—” Captain Rex interjected, “Does this mean that General Skywalker isn’t stepping down from command anymore? Surely you’re not shipping Ahsoka off alone?”

A muscle twitched in Master Windu’s jaw. “General Skywalker’s status is classified.”

Captain Rex opened his mouth, but Master Windu cut him off with a raise of his palm.

As is General Kenobi’s. You will simply have to trust in the High Council’s decision. Padawan, follow the Captain to his transport shuttle. Master Fisto, you’re with me.”

Ahsoka began to move in a daze but Kit stopped her with a gentle hand to her shoulder.

“Mace—surely you can tell young Tano more than that before sending her out—” the Nautolan Jedi pleaded gently. “She’s already partially informed regarding the situation with Master Kenobi. I realize time is of the essence but a Padawan’s place is with their Master, correct?”

The troops shifted and Captain Rex openly scrutinized General Windu. The Jedi looked calm. Too calm. He was hiding something. Obviously. 

“I’m afraid it’s all classified, including what you’ve already been told. All I can tell you right now is…to trust in your General.”

Rex, already close to his breaking point, snapped at Windu. “Are you talking about Krell?! That demagolka is-”

“Watch your language, Captain.”

“Yes, sir.”

Master Fisto frowned disapprovingly, tendrils subtly drawing up with tension. “Mace, I’m not comfortable with this. As a fellow council member, I ask we delay sending Ahsoka until we’ve had a chance to discuss things further—. I’m happy to fly her to a rendezvous with the 501st if that’s what we decide.”

Windu shook his head. “I’m afraid that time of the essence and the matter isn’t open to discussion. You have your assignments. Padawan Tano will be technically placed under Master Krell’s watch, though I’m explicitly assigning her to focus on her duties with the 501st. Padawan, you’re to focus on your responsibilities with Captain Rex, not training with Krell; he’s received a copy of my orders in this regard. Everyone needs to trust that the council has—a bigger picture than any one campaign, or any one person.”

A hint of frustration crept in Master WIndu’s tone and Ahsoka swallowed down any bitter thoughts.

“Yes, sir,” she said, saluting the Master of the Jedi Order with military precision. Rex snapped off a crisp salute as well, placing a reassuring hand on her shoulder before guiding her away.

“Mace, what the—”

“Not here.”

“I’m not—”

Not. Here.

Master Fisto cast one last look at the retreating 501st before chasing after the Human Jedi Master, the force too turbulent to tell him if it was the right decision.

To Kit’s continuing dismay, he was led not inside the temple, but to a nearby speeder. Mace was dead silent for the short walk, gesturing silently to enter. The tendrils at the base of neck tightened further but he climbed in, a temple guard starting to fly the moment the doors shut.

Mace—”

“Read this,” Master Windu said brusquely, pushing a datapad into his hands.

Master Fisto scanned the screen, large eyes growing wider the longer he read. 

“No!” Kit gasped, floundering in the force for reassurance, but Mace’s shields were like durasteel. Kit softened slightly.

“Master Kenobi…you really don’t know where he is?” 

Mace stared out the window.

“Keep reading,” he said hollowly.

“…You think he might attempt to assassinate Dooku? AND the Chancellor? By himself?”

“He was…disconnected from reality at points,” Master Windu replied, voice careful. “He was aware of that fact, but seemed to blame the Sith and the Politicians for the war. His…trust in the Order is severely shaken.”

Kit continued to scroll through the pad, pausing and reeling in horror. “He stabbed Skywalker?!”

Mace nodded tersely. “And now Skywalker’s AWOL as well. He handled Obi-Wan’s initial…breakdown as well as can be expected, given the circumstances, but his continued shocking behavior after waking up…well, Skywalker was already severely shaken before Kenobi got to the worst of his ramblings.”

Force,” Kit said heavily, rubbing his temples.

“I know I wasn’t fair to Padawan Tano, but the council felt the need to get her off planet and away from specifically dangerous elements.”

Master Fisto groaned, leaning back. “I can’t believe the expansion region is considered a safer option than the temple.”

Kit looked out the window. “Mace…why are we heading to the Senate Rotunda?” 

Windu seemed, impossibly, to grow even more rigid. “I need you to brief the Chancellor on Kenobi.”

Kit’s head whipped around, tentacles flailing sharply. “I just landed on planet,” he responded in disbelief. “Wouldn’t it be better for someone was actually there to do that?”

“I can’t,” Mace said, a hint of anguish breaking through his shields and voice, before his jaw clenched shut.

Kit drew back, alarmed by the falter in stoicism.

Master Windu’s collected himself with a shaky breath. “I have to ready the 187th; with Kenobi and Skywalker out of the picture we need every General on the front lines now. I’m sure the Chancellor will agree, once you brief him on how dire the situation is.”

There was a short pause as the two collected their thoughts.

“…The last few days have been hell, haven’t they?” Kit asked quietly.

The Harrun Kal Jedi chuckled darkly at that. “They’re nothing compared to the shit-show that’s about to unfold.” 

Master Fisto bent over, dropping his face to his hands. 

Windu steeled himself before continuing on. “I need you to organize the Chancellor’s defense. Try to stress to him that he should be guarded by a Jedi at all times—tell him—tell him whatever you have to about Kenobi, so far he only knows that he was ill, but you’re authorized to give more details than I previously disclosed—his medical file is attached. Tell him our worst suspicions if need be. The fact that you’ve been off-world makes you…above suspicion in some respects.” He sighed, voice grew softer.

“I am sorry Kit. I know I’m throwing you in without proper support but…it’s the best I can do. You’re going to have to explain to the Chancellor how stretched thin we are.”

 “You don’t have to apologize, Mace, you’re the one heading to the front.” The Nautolan smiled weakly. 

The speeder arrived at the Senate Entrance.

Kit steadied himself, grabbing the datapad and holding it like a shield as he marched inside. The vehicle peeled away quickly, heading back to the temple. Master Gallia pulled off her temple guard mask, pointedly projecting unease even as she navigated back the way they came.

“I don’t like this plan,” she protested again.

“Neither do I,” Mace agreed. “Do you have a better one?”

“We don’t know that Sidious’s mental abilities are that strong,” she said, with an edge of desperation.

“We don’t,” Mace agreed again. “All we know is that he’s subtle enough to conceal himself from us for over a decade while gradually steering us towards destruction, and also powerful enough to defeat us all in combat.”

Adi Gallia took a long meditative breath, desperately seeking calm as the force roiled, massive waves of upheaval rippling across the galaxy.

- - -

Thank you for coming to see me on such short notice.” Palpatine extended his arms in greeting, smiling warmly as he smoothly guided Padme to a seat and began pouring the prepared tea.

“Of course, Chancellor Palpatine,” she replied cordially, settling down with a graceful fluttering of fabric. “Anything for a fellow former ruler of Naboo. How might I be of service?”

Palpatine’s paternal smile faded into a concerned grimace.

“I’ve just come from a meeting with the Jedi that was, to be quite frank, disturbing. I wanted to see if you perhaps wanted to discuss matters; I know you’ve been considered…close with both Master Kenobi and Knight Skywalker.”

“I consider them both good friends of mine,” Padme confirmed, stomach churning even as she remained outwardly calm. “Though I’m not privy to the contents of your meeting. Is there something you wish to relay to the Senate at large?”

Palpatine sighed, abandoning his seat in favor of strolling to the window. Padme remained seated in place, refusing to turn her gaze to follow his motion, instead sipping her over-brewed tea and allowing the Chancellor to address the back of her head, as he apparently wanted her to address the back of his.

“I received an…upsetting call from Anakin yesterday, regarding Master Kenobi. At the time I’m afraid I had no idea what he was referring to, only learning after the fact that, well...”

Padme’s blood boiled at the cheap conversational fishing, still remembering how broken-up Anakin had been about the Chancellor’s inherently disturbing ‘betrayal.’ Not as much as he was about the prospect of losing Kenobi so tragically but still. She was even less inclined to look at their ‘friendship’ fondly than she had been previously.

Padme took another sip of tea. “Master Kenobi’s had a number of burdens placed on his shoulders over the course of the war,” she finally said, tone utterly devoid of color.

“Of course, yes, of course,” the Chancellor agreed absently.

Padme itched to scream at him, demanding to know if Kenobi was even alive, if Anakin had done something rash since running out that morning, but she was far to practiced to need to even bite her tongue. The back of her neck prickled with the weight of the Chancellor’s gaze. Padme gently set down the Felucian porcelain cup, and began slowly pouring herself more tea from the pot.

Palpatine abandoned his position by the window, slowly returning back to the ornate armchair across the table. Padme resisted the urge to crow with victory.

He looked at her with soulfully distraught eyes. “I must ask—have Obi-Wan Kenobi or Anakin Skywalker contacted you today?”

Padme felt a wave of relief overtake her. Not dead then, thank the force.

“I spoke with Knight Skywalker briefly this morning,” she said out-loud, allowing her brow to wrinkle with confusion. “He was concerned about Master Kenobi’s wellbeing, but quite vague. I’ve been in meetings all day since.”

“Neither of them have contacted you since this morning?” The Chancellor pressed, staring at her intensely. Padme felt a flicker of irritation. 

“I haven’t spoken to Master Kenobi in over a month,” she replied stiffly. “Chancellor, what exactly is this about?”

Palpatine sighed.

“I’m afraid Master Kenobi suffered from…a break in mental health three days ago, and this morning demonstrated an increased severity in symptoms.”

Senator Amidala’s hands tightened involuntary in her lap. “Is he—alright?” she asked carefully, thoughts flickering with images worse than the nightmare her husband had walked in on.

The Chancellor smiled sympathetically. “Physically, he’s fine. It’s the danger he presents to others that the Jedi are concerned about.”

Padme drew back in shock as the Chancellor clearly expected her to do. “I beg your pardon?”

“I know, I know; I could scarcely believe it myself. But he gravely injured Knight Skywalker in his initial fit; Anakin was so shaken that he stepped down from command this morning! And now the two are missing!”

She gasped, bringing a hand daintily to her mouth, to emphasize her shock while covering up any perceived disagreement with Palpatine’s narrative.

That’s not why he stepped down…he could but lying but I think he’s failed to speak with Anakin despite his attempts…and I have a hard time believing Anakin’s missing for any reason other then his own volition.

“Missing!” she repeated inanely. “And they think Master Kenobi might be the one behind it? With…ill intent?

“It’s the Jedi’s working theory,” Palpatine equivocated. He took a sip of cold tea, staring out the window in a lengthy pause. Padme followed suit, picking up her cup and staring out blankly as the silence continued, not turning her head when the Chancellor finally deigned to speak once more. 

“As you can imagine,” he began hesitantly. “This could have severe political repercussions for the War and the Republic.”

“Indeed,” she agreed. “Extreme care will need to be taken in breaking the news to the Senate and public.”

“Then you do believe the Senate must be informed?” Palpatine asked earnestly.

Padme paused, taking a long drink of the now nearly intolerably tepid brew. 

“I imagine their absence from the war would be noted one way or another,” she replied slowly. “Considering they are the ‘posterboys,’ in a manner of speaking, of the Jedi part in the war effort.”

“Yes, of course. I just hate to think how this might shake the public’s image of the Jedi, especially considering how unfairly the media’s been treating them as this terrible war’s dragged on…”

Padme made a noncommittal hum of agreement in response, sensing they were now reaching the part of the conversation where the Chancellor would ask her to do something seemingly innocuous. 

“I wondered if you, as a known ally of the Jedi, would be so kind as to help me draft a statement of address? Help soften the language, so to speak.”

Padme smiled innocently. “Anything I can do to help. Of course, I would need access to the full report the Jedi wrote, to make certain I’m not misrepresenting matters.”

“Naturally,” Palpatine, agreed to her surprise, picking up a datapad from the nearby stack. “Everything they gave me is on here.”

Padme set down the drink with a click of finality and gingerly accepted the pad. “I’ll look it over at once, unless there’s anything else you wanted to discuss…?”

“No dear, that’s all. Please take all the time you need. I know the news might be…disturbing.”

They stood as one, Chancellor Palpatine politely escorting her to the exit and nodding to the Jedi Knight standing guard outside. The door shut gently behind her and his sympathetic expression dropped into cool calculation, striding back to the window to survey the end of day traffic passing below.

She was more fearful of the thought of him coming to harm then harming others…practically relieved when I told her that he had vanished…expecting something more tragic it seems. Perhaps Kenobi truly was closer to breaking then I had estimated…how pathetic. When I think of all the ways he’s ruined my plans by not dying…of course he chooses the most melodramatic way out possible. I’d thank him for shaking my apprentice so severely if he hadn’t inexplicably managed to pin the blame on me. 

Kenobi was clearly in some form of death throes this morning, yet the report made no mention of such a fact…I suppose half-dead and half-mad is a touch more vulnerable then their pride allows them to admit…or perhaps it’s simply so I take the security ‘threat’ more seriously…

Amidala was more hostile than usual…what could the man have possibly said to affect them both? The war? Something more personal? If Skywalker hadn’t cut me off…I’ll need to play this delicately, can’t have him losing faith now…naturally even in utter self-defeat, Kenobi manages to remain thorn in my side. Still, he’s practically handed me all I need to cripple the last shred of faith the public has in the order. The squid seemed certain he hadn’t fallen, at least not yet, but the fear of him doing so is…fascinating. Perhaps Skywalker will be forced to kill him, well ahead of schedule.

I don’t usually typically enjoy surprises, but…

Chapter Text

“You can’t be serious,” Ventress scoffed. “You can not possibly expect me to do anything to benefit you.”

“My dear apprentice—“

“I’m not your 'dear' anything, let alone your apprentice. And I’m not interested in your games,” she interrupted coolly. “You have 15 seconds to convince me before I cut this connection."

“If you would but listen—“

“13 seconds”

“I never wanted you dead, you must know that—"

“10 seconds”

“Together, we can defeat my Master and rule the galaxy together—“

“5 seconds”

“Your cunning, my wisdom—“

“3 seconds”

“and Kenobi’s stratagem. We’d be unstoppable.

Ventress narrowed her eyes, finger hovering over the disconnect switch.

Fuming at herself, she gave in.

“Kenobi,” she repeated, her dry tone belied by the fact that she was listening.

“Surely you felt him reaching out, not even one standard revolution ago?” he replied smugly.

The Dathomari refused to answer, and Dooku took her silence as tacit encouragement to go on.

“Find him—“

“I don’t take your orders anymore.”

“Find him and you’ll see—he’s teetering on the edge of the dark side. The time to move against Sidious is drawing rapidly nearer. Reach out and extend my offer—once you’ve found him, contact me.”

“Why would I do any of that?” She asked, in a return to the incredulous disbelief of the beginning of the call.

“You’re already halfway to Coruscant, are you not?” he replied casually (as though he weren’t the one who baited her with that pirate scum) “And with both of you at my side, I’ll have no reason to conceal Sidious’ identity any longer.”

“You can’t be serious.”

Dooku’s smirk widened. “I strongly suspect Kenobi’s already figured it out.”

“Dooku—“

“The choice is entirely up to you of course. If you do choose to go to Coruscant, Bane will have more details on Kenobi’s last position.”

Dooku!”

The connection cut out, leaving Ventress seething in the dark cockpit. She stood abruptly, stepping over the body of the bait she had followed like some sort of loth cat. 

Returning to her own ship, she scowled at the control. The choice was clear. Return to her family, and leave the mess behind, or fly directly into an obvious trap at the behest of a proven betrayer to seek out a different enemy, all to soothe her ego and curiosity.

Cursing the light and dark side alike, she began charting a hyperspace course to the heart of the Republic.

 - - -

Ahsoka watched normal space slip away with a numb sort of disbelief.

Somehow she couldn’t quite accept that her Masters would actually—she felt small and selfish to even think that this was them abandoning her, considering Obi-Wan’s life might—but still—she was rapidly exiting the inner-rim and Obi-Wan and Skyguy were...somewhere else. Even after breaking orbit, she had childishly half-expected one of them to jump out with a wild explanation of how the whole thing was a huge misunderstanding, or a crazy scheme—or—some kind of explanation. And now she was back in hyperspace, on her way back to the front, alone. Master Skywalker’s presences felt closed off, and far-away—she hadn’t even sensed Master Kenobi on Coruscant.

She hadn’t even gotten to see him...

She was startled out of her slowly sharpening melancholy by the sudden clasp of a hand on her shoulder.

“You alright there, Commander?” Rex asked softly.

Ahsoka stiffened her spine. Right, Obi-Wan and Anakin hadn’t just disappeared on her—she wasn’t actually alone, and she had a duty to the men who were here.

“Just thinking about crushing some Clankers,” she replied, over-brightly. “How’s the Resolute holding up?”

“Same hiccup with gravity in the kitchens during the jump—it seems they didn’t have time to actually fix the issue when we were in dock, but we were prepared for it so it wasn’t too messy,” Rex answered, hands falling into a loose grip behind his back as slipped into his ‘Captain Reporting’ voice. “A few odd issues with our communications systems, but I’ve got men on it; I’m told it’s nothing to worry about, and should be back to normal by tomorrow. I’ll let you know if anything changes.”

Ahsoka nodded. “And the troops?” she asked lightly.

Rex was silent for a moment. “Perhaps we should speak somewhere more private,” he responded finally. 

“Of course.”

She followed him from the observation port to an unused briefing space a few decks down, cheerfully greeting each vod they passed, all of whom radiated relief at the sight of the familiar Jedi commander. Another pang of guilt passed through her. She should have already been greeting the men, not wallowing in self-pity. They knew even less than she did about their missing Generals. She had to be more of Jedi than usual, not less. What would Skyguy think of her moping? What would Master Kenobi—

She smiled at another passing group, one of whom she recognized as a Snow Wolf. 

“Commander Tano!” he cried. “We had heard rumors—” Another soldier shut him up with an elbow to the gut. 

Ahsoka smiled harder. “At ease, Mit,” she said, relieving him from his hasty salute. “I know there’s rumors flying around about, ah, General Skywalker’s and General Kenobi’s special assignment, but I’m sorry to say that you guys aren’t getting rid of me that easily.”

Mit and the others chuckled briefly at the admittedly weak joke.

“Rex and I have to be off now but It’s a long flight to the Expansion Zone; I’m sure I’ll see your faces again.” She left them with that and a snappy two-fingered salute, striding off before they could work up the courage to ask any follow-up questions. 

“As you were,” Rex ordered, and the Captain and Commander continued on their way.

Finally they stepped into the quiet room, door snapping shut. Ahsoka composed herself for a moment, plastering on a confident smile before turning to face Rex.

“What did you want to talk about, Captain?” she asked, falling backwards into a seat and looking up at the Captain with practiced casualness.

Rex pulled off his helmet. His expression cracked Ahsoka in half.

“You don’t have to do that with me, Commander Tano. I know General Kenobi’s not on a mission,” he said quietly, voice as sad as his eyes. “Cody and I—and I think Waxer, we’re the only Vode who’ve been read in on...what Kenobi tried to do.”

She looked away from that pitying, pitiful gaze, eyes suddenly burning. 

“The last direct news I got was more than two days ago,” she finally said, giving up on the act and slumping forward as Rex set his helmet gently on the table. “Skyguy called me to ask a bunch of weird question and told me...you know. I felt Master Kenobi’s presence earlier this—kriff this was just this morning...” she trailed off.

“Language,” he corrected automatically. She chuckled wetly and absently pulled out a chair for him with a wave of her hand. He settled into it stiffly.

“I found out the night of,” Rex admitted. “They called Cody to ask about—about possible toxins. I think they were just searching for any kind of explanation. They let me visit him yesterday—”

Ahsoka hunched further and Rex paused for a moment before continuing awkwardly.

“It just looked like he was sleeping—healers said he was physically doing fine, so. I’m not a medic, but he’s definitely really well cared for.” Rex cleared his throat. “In terms of General Skwalker, I, uh, got a message from him the night before it happened about something completely unrelated, then nothing for three days, then a message before dawn this morning saying he had to ‘step down due to personal failures’ and he ‘trusted me to lead the 501st in his stead.’ Wrote that he needed to ‘earn his current rank.’” 

Ahsoka’s head snapped up at the liberal use of finger quotes, intense focus charging the room. Rex let out a frustrated sigh, running a hand through his hair.

“I commed him right back, and he said that it was ‘partially about Obi-Wan, but more about past wrongdoing’. He apologized for abandoning me and the rest of the 501st, but told me he had to work on ‘his judgement’ before he could trust himself to act as General. The official memo about their temporarily absence from the command structure, for ‘undisclosed reasons’ came out about 5 minutes after we talked. Along with the promotion of Krell and General Tiin.

“He messaged you this morning? He stepped down voluntarily?” she asked, feeling betrayed all-over again. “What the kriff?”

“Did he—he told me he was planning on comming you once you were closer to Coruscant...” he asked, looking at her hesitantly.

She let out a frustrated snarl, chair falling to the ground with a clatter as she began pacing the room. “Well he didn’t!” she ranted, attempting to stalk off her frustration. “Something more must have happened, and the council doesn’t want us to know what! What you saw on the loading dock was all the information anyone gave me! For all I know they’re both dead!”

Rex inhaled sharply and the padawan attempted to backtrack her words. “No, I don’t mean that, I can sense Skyguy he’s just—distant.”

“But you can’t sense General Kenobi,” he said grimly. 

“I don’t have a direct training bond with him,” she replied, tone severe. “And he’s good at shielding, and he’s usually—it’s not like he’s the loudest Jedi, you know?”

“You said you felt his presence this morning?” he pressed. “General Tiin and Krell did too, I think. Tiin seemed relieved at first but then—”

“He disappeared,” Ahsoka said quietly. “It’s like he reached out and then—it wasn’t even like letting go he just stopped.”

“Krell said he died,” the Captain reported matter-of-factly.

Ahsoka flinched. “There are—there’s other explanations. He might have just pulled up his shields really abruptly. It—I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I’ve felt Jedi die before and it doesn’t usually feel like that.”

Rex shifted awkwardly. The tortugan padawan paced back and forth, trying to release her helpless uncertainty into the force.

“Do you think it’s possible they might be on a special assignment?” he asked. “I mean, it makes more sense in some ways that General Kenobi was just setting up some really intense cover for himself, and—and—General Skywalker got—accidentally wrapped up in it.”

Commander Tano rubbed her temples. “I wanted to think that too...I mean, it would be a pretty messed up choice of cover story, but...I really don’t think so,” she said finally. “Skyguy was trying to put on a brave face when he talked to me but he was pretty—I’ve never seen him so destroyed—I mean getting shot down on the battlefield is one thing, but losing someone because—because you didn’t tell them how much you appreciated them, or because you added to their alright insane workload just through your presence—”

Suddenly Rex was in-front of her, chair scraped back and hands on her shoulders. “I’ve been through this was Cody, and I’ll go through it with you again as many times as it takes—you cannot blame yourself for this.”

She looked away. His hands tightened. “I’m serious,” he said emphatically. “I don’t know what’s going on, but you and Cody are the best of the best—if there was any warning sign to see, any enemy to fight, you would have identified it, fought back, won. I’m sorry, but the whole high council was surprised too, and they see him often enough! It’s—the whole situation’s kriffed up but it’s not your fault.”

“I know,” Ahsoka whispered. “I’m sorry Skyguy stepped down on you—”

“That’s not your fault either—”

“Yeah, I know, you’re repeating yourself Captain—”

“Well, it’s hard to tell if you’re listening sometimes—”

Ahsoka gasped theatrically. “Is that anti-montral sentiment? I think it might be, after special Kamino sensitivity training too—”

“More like anti-anti-helmet sentimentSeriously you’d think—”

“I’m a Jedi and I practice ataru. Armor would just—”

“—'slow you down’ I know, I know.”

Ahsoka giggled and the two of them found themselves wandering over to the small viewport, watching stars distort and stretch as they sped along the hyperlane.

“Have you—are you familiar with Krell?” Rex eventually asked.

“Not really,” Ahsoka admitted, wrinkling her brow. “I know he’s a pretty talented duelist—he’s got his own four armed Jar’kai style that’s apparently almost impossible to do anything against, but I’ve never actually gotten to see it in action—I don’t remember him hanging around the temple much growing up, and I’m not really certain where he’s been stationed during the war. I guess Master Windu assigned me to 501st duties so specifically so I wouldn’t bother him too much for sparring practice while he’s figuring out his duties? Whu? What’s your read on him?”

Rex radiated discomfort and Ahsoka eyed him cautiously. 

“I haven’t—seen him on the battlefield. I’m sure he’s very capable. He’s not the most...respectful Jedi I’ve met.”

Ahskoa smirked. “Well, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem, right? If he gets the job done? I mean once you got a jetpack you made it your personal mission to throw Anakin of a cliff as often as possible! And Kix stole all of Anakin’s pants after he kept escaping bacta and messing up Medical.”

“I don’t mean respectful like that, Commander,” Rex said quietly. 

“What do you mean, then?” she asked, feeling a prickle of unease. 

“It’s nothing to worry about right now, but I’d—appreciate if we could talk about your...impression after our limpet meeting with the Negotiator tomorrow morning.”

“Of course, Captain. We’re—we’re in this together, right?” For the first time that conversation, she reached out to him, hesitantly placing a hand on his arm and desperately trying to press her tangled feelings of friendship, loyalty, and gratitude through the force. 

Rex smiled, seeming to get the message. “Yeah Commander,” he responded hoarsely. “We’re in it this together.”

Chapter Text

The office was quiet but for the occasional shuffling of flimsi and tapping of datapads. Bail Organa and Mon Mothma pointedly did not exchange a glance behind Padme’s back.

Finally, Senator Mothma set down her pad, deliberately breaking the silence. “Padme…are you alright?” she asked softly.

“I’m fine Mon, let’s just go over the bill,” Padme responded stiffly.

Mothma hesitated. “That’s not the only reason I asked you here, Padme.”

 “I see.” Padme stood, chair scraping gratingly. “I’ve already had the Chancellor pry at me today in an attempt to exploit my ‘connections’ to the Jedi—as though they’re—they’re droids and not flesh-and-blood people who any average person could strike a friendship with—but I had thought better of you two; I suppose my faith was—”

“That’s not what I meant—” Mon pleaded.

“We’re concerned about you,” Bail insisted gently. “You don’t have to tell us anything about the Jedi that you don’t feel comfortable doing so.”

Padme paused, then reluctantly sat back down.

“My apologies,” she muttered. “It’s been…a long day. I’ve been asked by the Chancellor for help in breaking some news that…I’d rather not.”

The senators waited patiently for Padme to collect her thoughts. She rubbed the bridge of her nose. “General Kenobi has suffered from—force—I really don’t think there’s a way of saying this that doesn’t sound bad.”

“I had heard rumors that he’s been missing meetings…has something happened?” Bail asked, concerned.

Padme shuddered. “This office is…”

“It’s clean,” Mothma confirmed quickly. “I have it checked independently anytime I’m gone for more than 15 minutes, with random deep-scans.”

“Would you mind…”

Mon nodded and the three waited in silence until the Chandurllian senator’s pad trilled the all-clear.

“Master Kenobi tried to kill himself earlier this week,” Padme confessed in low and pained tone. Mon straightened up in a sudden locking of knees and elbows, face drawn into tight lines. Bail’s hands flew to his mouth, tears forming rapidly.

“Knight Skywalker got to him in time, and he was in a coma until this morning when he apparently ‘ranted about ending the one’s responsible for the war’ and then vanished, along with Anakin. They’re concerned he might be attempting to attack the Chancellor, or possibly some of the pro-war Senators.”

Mon grew very pale and Bail moved both hands across his face, pressing the heels of his hands to his eyes.

Fuck,” he said softly. “Just…fuck.”

Padme nodded in agreement and Mon inhaled deeply.

Bail rubbed away tears and straightened up resolutely. “How can we help? How does the Chancellor want to handle releasing the information?”

She smiled weakly. “He’s leaving the exact wording up to me, but wants to make the announcement during the next full Senate gathering.”

What!” Mon half-shouted, shocked. “There’ll be a riot! Surely a bulletin, or a series of meetings—stars, even a press conference would be better for encouraging a moderate reaction—senators will be shouting before he’s through the first sentence!”

“I know,” Padme agreed with a grimace. “But he wants ‘transparency.”

“He wants panic,” Bail fumed.

“I’m trying to decide if it would better or worse to include the part about self-harm,” Padme said bitterly. “Mental health breakdown and disappearance of the Republic’s highest General doesn’t leave much room for confidence in the state or for privacy.”

Mon clutched Padme’s hand in support. “I’ll have a PR team on standby. We can prepare resources for anyone who has questions, avoid conspiracy theories from spinning out. I already had a project on the backburner to put together our own set of holoclips of the Jedi working towards peace—a counter to the ‘warmongering’ narrative, so to speak. It should be easy enough to adapt.”

“The Chancellor’s going to turn this into another military spending bill,” Bail predicted grimly. “We’ll make sure there’s a proviso in there to provide actual support for the Jedi in the field; I’ll make sure to get a legal team on viper in the grass duty as soon as the responses start coming out.”

“Thank you,” Padme said, gripping Mon’s hand over-tightly in return. She turned to the Alderannian senator. “I’m sorry Bail, I know you two are close.”

Bail exhaled slowly. “This war…I’ve seen Obi-Wan survive so much, and every time he pulls off the impossible…”

“He’s rewarded with another burden on his shoulders,” Padme finished sympathetically. “Yes, I’ve been watching the same thing happen to Anakin. It’s—if the separatist movement hadn’t resolved into such a democratic and humanitarian nightmare…”

“You should go home and get some rest, Padme,” Mon urged. “It’s late, and we’re all going to need to be sharp tomorrow. Who knows, maybe some new information will materialize before the afternoon.”

“Why Mon, that’s almost optimistic of you,” Bail remarked dryly.

Mon flashed him a wry grin, looking at Padme out of the corner of her eye. “Well. She did say he went AWOL with Anakin—”

“Oh, do be quiet,” Padme huffed.

Despite the ever-growing need for sleep, it was another long hour before the Senator from Naboo departed. The pair were just turning to their seats after escorting Padme out when Bail let out a startled yelp. Mon instinctively kicked at the sudden small green blur.

Fortunately, when one is green and the height of most humanoid’s knees, one becomes quite experienced at avoiding such reflexive attacks.

“Master Yoda?!” The two humans yelped.

“What are you doing here? How did you even get in?” Senator Mothma staggered backwards, reverting to defensiveness to cover up her embarrassment over her unsuccessful but earnest attempt to punt the Grandmaster of the Jedi Order into a wall.

“Has his ways, a Jedi does,” Yoda replied. Mon nodded seriously while Bail restrained himself from rolling his eyes. He had spent far too much time around Obi-Wan for deliberate Jedi vagueness to inspire much awe. 

“Can I—may I offer you a seat?” Mon asked, quickly recovering her diplomatic grace. “I’m afraid that you’ve just missed Senator Amidala, but I’m sure she would be eager to return; I understand she’s…concerned for Master Kenobi’s wellbeing.”

The wizened Master shook his head, ears flopping as he hopped onto Padme’s recently vacated chair, standing on the cushioned seat as the two senators’ settled down. The sight should, perhaps, have been comical. But the weight of his expression…Bail held his breath. Perhaps Jedi mystique did still have some effect on him.

“Come to speak with the two of you, I did. Missed Mistress Amidala, I have, I know. Deliberate, this was.”

Mon and Bail frowned, exchanging a slow look of unconcealed disapproval. Bail spoke politely but with a clear touch of reproach. “I’m certain she would prefer to be here, regardless of the news—Padme has suffered for her public defense of the Jedi, I should hope that that friendship is returned, especially in hard times”

Yoda’s ears drooped. “A friend to the order, Amidala is. A great Jedi, she would have made, in another life. Vibrant, she is in the Force. Loud to a Jedi, she is, regardless of sensitivity. Needed now, quiet is.” 

Yoda’s gaze pierced Bail and he warmed inexplicably. “Quiet the two of you are. Brilliant, wide but in the Force…” Yoda broke off, growing contemplative.

“Unique in the force, each soul is. That can be read, rare is the mind. Currents, intentions, manners—clearer they are with some. Difficult to conceal, a loud presence is. More challenging to discern, it is with others. It is with you. Too easy to overlook, a quiet spirit is. And now, quiet we need.”

The two settled back, uneasily flattered. “Master Yoda—it’s an honor of course, to be considered an individual worthy of confidence, but why exactly do you have need of quiet minds? Of us?” Senator Mothma finally asked. “If I take your meaning correctly, it is more challenging to tell if we are worthy of trust than the average individual.”

The diminutive Master sagged. “By actions past and actions future, trust you have earned, though always in motion, the future is. A heavy burden, to carry, I must ask you. Without cause, I would not ask. But once tell you this, I do—” 

To the politicians’ shock, Master Yoda’s eyes seemed to glisten with unshed tears. “—Guarantee your safety I cannot.

The air hung warm and heavy for a timeless moment; a chill ran up both their spines nevertheless. But neither were individuals particularly given to indecision in the face of looming danger. 

“How can we help?” Mon asked, the words echoing.

“We know Obi-Wan is vulnerable right now,” Bail added softly. “Whatever we can do—Obi-Wan is a friend, the Jedi are our allies, and the Republic is our duty.

Mon nodded firmly.

Yoda stared at them each in turn, eyes ancient and searching.

“Working with the Separatists, the Chancellor is,” he said bluntly. “Evidence of this, we have, but not proof. Controlling, the Separatists, the Chancellor is. Evidence of this we have also, but not proof. The truth it is.”

“Evidence?” Bail parroted, mentally assembling his own grim circumstantial corroboration even as his understanding of the conversation’s direction fell apart.

The Jedi Master drew two small glittering objects from his pocket—a datachip and a microslide. 

“In the brain of a trooper, this we found.” he said gravely. “In the brain of all clones, this lies. Orders, it contains. Evil, is it. Free will, it can control. Decode it we have. To the Chancellor, tied these orders are.”

Force,” Mon murmured in horror, responding automatically. “He already controls the public, and the courts—”

“And over half the senate,” Bail added bitterly.

“A Sith, he is,” Yoda continued with a sigh. “A Sith he has always been. A return to a dark empire, he aims for.”

There was a long heady pause as the two grappled with the return of the ancient boogeyman of the Republic and the repeated derailing of their night’s direction. 

Fuck,” Senator Mothma said delicately, thinking wistfully of two hours ago, when she had planned on confronting Padme yet again on her relationship with a young Jedi.

“Said the same, did we.”

The Alderannian Senator rubbed his temples, trying to come to terms with consecutive massive shocks from the already unexpected conversation. “Is Obi-Wan alright?” he asked eventually.

The small Elder hummed thoughtfully in reply. Bail tensed.

“No and yes. Suffer much, he has. Broken he is, but not shattered. A plan he has. His idea to include you, it is. The bravest man in the galaxy, he called you.” Yoda said, offering Senator Organa a sad smile.

Bail leaned back, stunned. “Me? But—why me?” he asked bewildered.

“Know not, I do,” the Jedi said with a shrug. “Seen the future, he has. A future where saved his life, you did. Saved my life. Something too precious to name, you saved. Confide everything, he has not. Matter little, details. A future that must not come to pass, it is, even as learn from it, we do.”

“…I think you’re going to have to explain that somewhat,” Mon said sternly, as Bail’s head spun.

Yoda nodded and the three settled in for a sleepless night of treason.

Chapter Text

The nature of the Jedi Temple was such that years could pass unnoticed within the ethereal, eternal walls—and then a number of factors would converge simultaneously, and wreck all that.

In this case, dawn, rumors, and Quinlan Vos were all meeting in an abrupt and tremulous clash. 

Rumors and daylight, of course, were well known for their power to occupy multiple spaces at the same time. Quinlan Vos’s apparent ability to do so (for nothing else could explain his gentle but thorough interrogation of padawans in the sallies, his generous provisions of drinks for over-wrought nocturnal jedi, and his unauthorized access to closed off personal quarters, all in an impossibly short period time) was far more inexplicable, and was, by most definitions, quite impressive.

Master Gallia neither felt nor looked impressed.

“Where. Is. Obi-Wan?” Quinlan ground out, cutting to the center of the council member’s evasions.

Adi Gallia danced around him, continuing on her stroll of the temple grounds. She released a flash of irritation into the force—of course Masters Koon, Windu, and Yoda all were shipped off for their own (admittedly grim) assignments, leaving her responsible for ‘local’ issues. She had accepted the possibility of intense political fallout, of course. She was prepared to soothe the worries of those still in-temple, who were just starting to pick-up on the certainly-not-an-evacuation. She had been slightly ready to deal with an incensed psychometric interfering in matters beyond his clearance level.

“Classified,” she said once again, as placid as ever.

“Do you really want to have the rest of this conversation in front of the whole Order?” he hissed. “I went to his quarters, I felt—” Vos swallowed heavily.

Gallia sighed, tension headache growing. “Come with me.”

She glided serenely to her office, Vos trailing her like the irritable shadow he was.

The door clicked shut.

“I know he tried to kill himself,” Vos said bluntly. The Councilor winced slightly; (knowing the context didn’t change the reality). “I saw Skywalker see it.” 

Master Gallia didn’t reply—there was no point in denying, and every point in gaining information. 

“Do you know what Obi-Wan felt?” he asked manically.

The Tholothian Master took an involuntary step back. Part of her thought it would be expedient, not to mention merciful, to simply bring the man into the fold, but another part hesitated at trusting the already thinly stretched secret to a man who was, by Master Kenobi’s own admittance, far closer to falling than anyone realized. It was scarcely his fault—shadow work was dangerous, even when the galaxy wasn’t in the grips of a Sith-engineered galactic war, but still—

“Nothing!” he cried, slaming his palms on her desk in an alarming loss of control. “A brief feeling of panic when his hand was on the vibroblade and then fucking serenity as he tried to stab himself in the heart!”

“Master Vos—” she tried to say placatingly, but he was having none of it.

Please,” he begged. “I know I can get through to him, just tell me where he is.”

“Quinlan Vos—you’re just going to have to trust the High Council to have Master Kenobi’s best interests in mind.”

He stared at her for a moment, then narrowed his eyes. “You lost him, didn’t you?”

“Quinlan—”

The Kiffar barked out a laugh, radiating outraged accusation more plainly than a pointed finger. “He woke up, half the galaxy felt that—and then he ran off, and now he’s somewhere, hurt, and the Council can’t spare the resources or the pride to help him!”

She hesitated—that was the cover story, one that would conceivably spread; but it felt deeply cruel to leave the Kiffar floundering in it. If only he was slightly less angry

Vos took a deep breath. “Fine,” he said shortly. “The Council wants to keep his status under wraps—that’s fine; he wouldn’t want everyone knowing he’s vulnerable, anyway. Just give me what you have, and I’ll track him.”

Adi Gallia drummed her fingers on the rattled desk for a moment, before letting go of a half-truth. “We suspect he’s going after Count Dooku,” she said finally, suppressing any guilt she felt for the half-lie, or for causing Quinlan’s expression to twist tighter, when she could so easily relieve him of his burden.

And?” he pressed.

Adi looked away. “Knight Skywalker’s with him, in some capacity,” she admitted.

Quinlan snorted. “Obviously.” Gallia’s lips tightened. 

“Is that it?” he asked exasperated. “You’re not going to even give me his file?”

“You don’t have it already?” she asked drly.

“I’ve got the bathashit official one you gave to the Chancellor,” he confessed, immediately and unrepentantly. “Where you all but threw him under a moving speeder,” he added hostilely.

Master Gallia winced. “Master Vos,” she tried again. “The Council has a plan. I regret that I cannot tell you it, but I beg of you—have faith in us for a little longer—don’t go after him.”

Quinlan’s expression tightened. “Is the plan for the good of Obi-Wan, or the good of the Council? Because sure, I know which Obi-Wan would prefer, and so do you—and I. Don’t. Agree.

Gallia rubbed her temples, skull and tendrils throbbing with tension. “And that’s why I can’t trust you with anything else,” she admitted, completely honest.

Quinlan nodded sharply. “May the force be with you, Master Gallia.” 

“And with you, Quinlan Vos,” she replied sadly. 

Quinlan stalked out, and Gallia took a brief moment to pity the both of them before returning to work.

- - -

Ventress skulked in the corner of a dingy bar, cursing Kenobi and Dooku. A few hours on this miserable planet and she had little more than rumors to go on. Obviously something had happened to the golden boy, but the underworld seemed even more puzzled than the kriffing Jedi. It was only a matter of time before the public caught wind, and then the gossip would become hopelessly entangled with the actually important whispers.

Sneaking into the Temple itself would be a worthy test of her skills—but if she was captured…well needless to say there would be no aid from Dooku. Had she not felt the Negotiator’s presence during the flight, not to mention seen Bane’s invoices, she might have believed this were some elaborate plot to assassinate her…

The Dathomori grimaced into her drink. If nothing else, Kenobi was a fearsome adversary; anything that could have riled him to such erratic behavior or mortally wounded him, was a threat worth investigating.

Loathe as she was to admit it, such a threat might also be out of her league, as without allies as she was.  

“Is this seat taken?”

She looked up in irritation at a human male with a cocky grin, a gold face tattoo, and skin as dark as hers was pale. The idiot was already pulling out the seat, apparently utterly oblivious of her open contempt— not to mention the dark side chill she was deliberately projecting around her. 

“Yes,” she sneered. “Now leave, before I remove you. Violently.”

He grinned wider, leaning in. “Oh, don’t be like that. Now, what’s a beautiful woman like yourself doing in a place like this?”

The fool then had the audacity to reach over, lightly brushing her hand. She grabbed the wrist, pinning it to the table. “Do. Not. Touch Me. You vile worm.”

Aah! Okay, okay!” he babbled in moronic panic. “Sorry, my mistake, thought you seemed hot and a little lonely, that’s all, miss one-hundred of the shots you don’t take, you know? Wasn’t trying to cop a feel or anything I swear! I’ll go now, promise.”

She felt an odd tingling sensation run through her, starting at the single point of contact between them. She frowned, unable to classify it. He smiled charmingly and the feeling clicked into place. Ventress released the wrist as if burnt. 

“You’re a Jedi,” she hissed, hand dropping to the sabers beneath the table. The tingling sensation faded. “What was that?”

The open panic disappeared, wholly replaced by the earlier smirk. “And you’re a Sith.” He flexed his hand before tucking it into a pocket. “Nothing to worry about. Just needed your help with an investigation.” He stood, bowing mockingly. “Thank you for your time.” And then he was gone, fading into the shadows. 

She leapt to her feet, running outside and snagging him from his hiding spot behind a crate. 

“What sort of Jedi shadow walks?” she asked, pressing him to the wall at bladepoint, careful not to allow any other point of contact between them. He looked at her as though she were an idiot, and her cheeks heated slightly. 

“You do realize I have to kill you now, right?” she snarled. “Can’t exactly have a Jedi Shadow telling people where I am” 

“You’re not my mission, darling,” he replied, flashing shockingly white teeth. “Far as I’m concerned, this never happened.”

She narrowed her eyes, digging the tip of her knife into his throat. The Shadow looked deeply unconcerned at the heavily implied threat. “But you thought I might be earlier?” she demanded.

He shrugged. “Sith Apprentice, half a galaxy away from the front off the war? Figured you might be up to trouble, yeah. Fortunately for both of us—as I’m sure an actual fight would be a massive and mutual inconvenience—whatever trouble you’re here for has nothing to do with me. I’ve got bigger fish to fry, you’ve got bigger fish to fry. I’d offer to buy you a drink but I’m fairly certain you’d throw it in my face so…”

He delicately pressed a finger to the knife at his throat. Bemused, she allowed him to push it away.

“And you got all that from touching my hand,” she asked incredulously, curious of his power despite herself.

He waggled his digits playfully. “Magic fingers.”

She scoffed. “Even if you were a psychometric—” She cut herself off, eyes flickering to the face tattoo. 

“Kiffar,” she breathed. “Of course. My gloves—but it was just a moment, what—ah.” A knowing smirk crossed her face. “Kenobi. You wanted to know if I had been around him.”

“And now I know you haven’t.” He shrugged. “Anyway, have fun on Coruscant; good luck not getting arrested.” 

He started to amble away at a deceptively casual stroll. She fell into lock step.

“You’ve lost him,” she accused.

He shrugged. “Sure, why not,” he agreed, unhelpfully agreeable. She narrowed her eyes. 

“Some of the Jedi fear their golden boy might have fallen,” she guessed with absolute confidence, but neither his face nor his force presence gave anything away—and she was following him to a secondary location like a fool. 

Ventress lunged, not allowing him any further tactical advantage, but the Jedi was dancing backwards, slipping into a nearby shadow. He fell into it sideways, form sloppy but ultimately successful. She wheeled around, scanning the perpetually dim alleyway. One shadow grew darker—the Dathomori threw a dagger and a patch of dark detached, hissing and bleeding a satisfying scarlet.

“Is there a point to attacking me,” he asked impatiently, saber finally appearing in his hand, though it stayed unlit. “I already told you that I don’t care what you’re doing here. What possible advantage could you gain in picking a fight with me? Even if you win, don’t you think the Jedi would notice if a shadow went missing on Coruscant?” 

“You really have no problem letting a Sith run around your precious Core world?” she asked skeptically, throwing another dagger. He dodged it, and it lodged itself in the brickwork. A random passerby immediately stole it—kriff she hated this world— but Asajj couldn’t chase after the parasite now, because the Jedi was throwing a—rock?

The window behind her shattered as she dodged the wild shot, and an incoherent roar spilled out, along with foul smelling water, and eye stalk, and the first few of what looked many tentacles.

“Oh you play dirty,” she breathed, reluctantly impressed. He hit her with a two fingered salute, disappearing again, this time by swaggering slowly around a corner. And then she had to focus on fighting a pissed off Dianoga whose tankhome had just been vandalized.

By the time she mortally wounded the filthy garbage squid, the trail for her first and best lead had nearly gone cold. 

Nearly.

Chapter Text

“You’re late!” Krell barked.

Ahsoka stepped back, startled by the abrasive greeting. She glanced at the chronometer, bewildered.

“Apologies, Master,” she said, bowing politely. “I came as soon as mid-hyperspace docking engaged. Was the meeting not scheduled for 0500?”

Yeesh he’s crankier than Master Kenobi without morning tea.

“It was moved to 04:30—don’t they teach whelplings to check their comms?” he replied, stepping forward to tower over her. She stared upwards at the unfamiliar Master, not certain how they had gotten off on such a bad start.

…did he just call me a whelpling? what—what does that even…

“It was my fault, sir,” Rex said, tone and body rigid. “The intership comms—”

“I did not give you permission to speak—” Krell’s eyes raked Rex’s pauldron. “—7567. Consider this your only warning not to interrupt me again.”

Ahsoka sucked in a breath, too shocked to say anything. 

“Yes, sir,” Rex replied tonelessly.

“Next time you will be here when I say. Understood, girl? Krell didn’t wait for a response before turning around with a dismissive snort. Ahsoka bristled, instinctively falling into a dueling stance. She opened her mouth, but before she could marshal the appropriate curse words, Rex laid a hand on her shoulder.

She looked at him sharply. “Not Respectful?!” she yelled silently, jerking her chin angrily. Or, more specifically, ‘Not-not hostile?’ falling into callsigns, something she usually reserved for enemy territory, which was apparently now THEIR OWN KRIFFING SHIP!!

Please,” he begged with a tilt of his visor and a twist of hands. “Please. Later.”

Ahsoka clenched her fists, gaze sweeping the room.

Not now,” Cody signaled behind Krell’s back, a brittle edge to his force presence that she didn’t like.

She reluctantly let her arms fall.

“Do you have something to say?” Krell asked dismissively, not looking at her as he pulled up their sparse intel on the Utapau system.

“No. Not at the moment,” she grit out.

“Hm. It’s no wonder that so much time spent learning from inferior prey species would leave you…soft. It is something I will soon correct you of.” 

“I look forward to sparring at your earliest convenience,” she half-said, half-snarled. The mood in the room grew subtly fearful; a brief spike of raw panic, almost too quick and controlled to sense, flared off of Rex. She took a deep breath, attempting to center herself. ‘Later,’ she thought like a mantra. ‘Later.’

“I suppose I can also set aside some time for a proper warrior’s meditation— it would be best to make sure that you haven’t inherited any of your grandmaster’s…mental fragility.”

The fear in the room grew heavier. Krell was either willfully ignorant or actively enjoying it.

Once more, her fists closed and her mouth opened.

No,” Cody signed frantically. “No, Stand down.

“Are you defective?” Krell asked, turning his attention to the Marshall Commander. “Why are you flailing your hands while your superiors are speaking?”

“Just attempting to check on the status of the comms,” Cody replied.

“Communication issues were supposed to be resolved yesterday,” the Besalisk snapped.

“My fault entirely,” Cody said impassively.

“Yes. It is. And I will be remembering that. It seems that the 212ths famed effectiveness has been overblown—not surprising considering the state of your General. There have been a number of issues I’ve noticed since coming on board: sloppiness in dress code, scribbled lists of ‘nicknames’ where there should be clean walls—”

“Are you referring to the fallen soldier memorials?” Rex asked, deadly calm.

“Whatever you call it,” he said dismissively. “I expect it will be scrubbed off by this afternoon. Not to mention your armor—I know your previous General was dangerously unsuited for the rigors of battle, but I am running a war. The colors are a distraction in the field, and unnecessary. And another thing—”

Cody struggled to tune out the verbal barrage as his fingers itched—whether for a blaster, as Rex was subtly twitching towards, or to curl into a fist, as Ahsoka was actively doing, he didn’t know. This was who they were replacing Obi-Wan with? This was who Mace told Rex to trust? This was the General who he was supposed to sacrifice his men’s lives in protection for? They were scarcely out of orbit and the ‘Jedi’ had already actively insulted his best officers, degraded the value of every clone’s life and death, repeatedly mocked General Kenobi’s condition, and now he was disrespecting Ashoka. How the fuck was he supposed to keep her safe from this nightmare of a Jedi if she rose to all of his barbs—

His furious musings were interrupted by a commotion at the entrance to the bridge. His gut coiled with dread, not wanting to see the fallout. Krell would definitely tear into whoever was responsible for the interruption. Boil inhaled sharply; across the room, wordless surprise began to ripple across ramrod stiff backs.

Then Ahsoka called out, tone shockingly and incongruously bright.

Master!

“General!” Waxer cried in relief and delight, “You’re alright!”

Cody spun around, and there, haloed by the soft light of the early morning corridor, stood Obi-Wan Kenobi.

“Indeed I am—I’m terribly sorry if I’ve put any of you out. Might I say it’s very good to see you all.” The achingly familiar and alive Jedi flashed a grin at Cody, who just stared back numbly.

“With one notable exception, of course,” Obi-Wan continued, striding forward. The movement revealed a grim-faced Anakin Skywalker, nearly hidden by his Master’s presence, despite their height difference. Or perhaps Cody wasn’t paying attention before. Skywalker slid into the shadow at his Master’s side as General Kenobi’s smile turned towards Krell and grew brittle.

Kenobi,” the Besalisk sneered. “Shouldn’t you be wailing in a padded room?”

“Hmm,” Kenobi hummed thoughtfully, stroking his beard and looking bemused at the attempted taunt. “No, I think I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.” The good humor slid into a sneer, voice and face suddenly more contemptuous than Krell’s. “You, on the other hand, are on my bridge and in my way.”

“Thank fuck,” Boil muttered, several vode clicking their heels in agreement. 

“This is my ship now,” the Besalisk growled. “The Jedi High Council themselves appointed me as High General of the Third Army while you were off pissing yourself in a dark room.” His scaly lip curled and he puffed himself larger, again either unaware of or deliberately ignoring the waves of emotion rolling off the troops surrounding him. “You should have stayed where no one would have to watch your pathetic fits. Now, 2224, as your General, I order you to lock this man in the brig before he can cause any more of a disruption.”

Cody finally broke his gaze away from Obi-Wan to stare in disbelief at the four armed idiot. Obi-Wan’s grin widened.

“Come now, Krell, did you really think no one would notice your betrayal? Did you honestly believe that not a single Jedi Master would sense your fall? That no one would pick up on your pathetic intentions to flee the Republic and beg Dooku to please take pity on you?” He stepped forward, undaunted by the massive shadow the reptilian Master was casting.

Krell’s face twisted. Cody wasn’t sure if he was more enraged by the implication of treason or cowardice.

“You’ve LOST your MIND!”

Obi-Wan rolled his eyes. “Yes, yes, you’ve said. It’s getting a bit repetitive, not to mention distasteful. I mean, really what kind of craven—”

“GO TO THE BRIG BEFORE I DECIDE TO KILL YOU!” Krell snarled, upper hands falling to his saber hilts.

Responding to the threat, every clone in the room drew their blaster, pointing them at the raving fallen Jedi. Krell drew his lightstaves; but, before he could ignite them, Anakin abruptly stood in between the two Masters, apparently choosing to forgo traversing the space in between his former and current spot in favor of striking a defensive pose and vibrating with leashed fury.

Obi-Wan kept talking, as though the room wasn’t a breath away from utter carnage. “As a High Council Member and duly appointed High General of the Grand Army of the Republic, I hereby strip you of your rank within the Order and relieve you of your military rank and privileges. Furthermore, you are under arrest for your callous mistreatment of sentient life, conspiracy to commit treason—”

Krell lunged forward with a murderous roar, and the bridge descended into full chaos.

Cody had scarcely moved his men into better positions when first blood was drawn, splattering the walls and ground amidst a blur of blazing blue. Kenobi’s saber was finally out, deflecting every blow that slipped past Skywalker’s guard. Or, rather, he and Anakin fought as a perfectly unified singular entity to disarm Krell (quite literally as the case would have it, a lower left forearm still writhing on the ground in their wake).

Ahsoka hovered at the outskirts of the duel, repeatedly tensing and falling back, itching to help but unwilling to interrupt the flow of combat as a lethal distraction. The clones found themselves in the same situation, eager to defend their Generals but stymied by the cramped space and unfathomably rapid movements. Lightsaber combat often moved in bursts of speed, but even for Jedi, the three combatants were abnormally unrelenting, limbs and sabers only clearly distinguishable in those brief moments where they remained locked. 

Here, Anakin materialized, throat caught in Krell’s right arm, before disengaging with a kick. There—across the room now—Krell was held in place, Obi-Wan’s blade dangerously close to his throat before being thrown back. Then they were gone again—the eye of a hurricane whose winds began to painfully buffet the assembled spectators. 

For a moment Krell pressed down on General Kenobi, the smaller Jedi starting to visibly buckle under the weight. Then a blur of light and Krell’s upper right arm fell to the floor, still gripping a green lightstaff.

The room grew bitterly cold as Krell howled in fury, throwing back equipment and men as he lashed out in the force. Cody managed to keep his feet as his back hit the wall, desperately attempting to regain his breath as he struggled to steel himself against what could only be the wild push of an uncontrolled dark force user. 

The sensation of frost biting at his skin was almost familiar, sharp in the way of Dooku, but the physical punch was not nearly as focused. Anakin and Obi-Wan stumbled for a moment before leaning into the icy gail, nodding at one another.

Moving in sync, the two pinned the massive warrior against a wall with a spin and push of their outstretched hands. Krell continued to roar, implacable despite his decisive and rapid loss. 

Obi-Wan darted forward, grabbing the Besalisk’s head between his hands and finally raising his voice, shouting a single “ENOUGH.” 

The word reverberated around the room with enough force that several troopers fumbled with their weapons, one shiny even dropping his blaster as he staggered back. Krell’s eyes rolled back in his head and he sagged in place, unconscious and missing one third of his limbs.

The soldiers on the floor began staggering into their feet, immediately closing in on Krell, blasters at the ready. Ahsoka balanced on the balls of her feet, blades in hand, but Krell remained still. Obi-Wan tucked his saber away, clearly signaling the end of combat—Anakin followed suit a moment later. Considering the fact that it had been barely a few minutes since Obi-Wan stepped on the bridge, Cody rallied rather impressively, in his own opinion. 

“Orders, sir?” he asked, stiffly saluting his GeneralHis apparently completely fine, totally alright, walking around normally General.

Obi-Wan reached into a fold in his robes and pulled out a small leather sack. Grimacing, he pulled out a metal cuff with strange markings and an oily sheen. He clasped the cuff to Krell’s remaining left arm, removing a small crystal to lock it in place, before dropping the gem in the bag.

“That was a force-suppressing cuff,” he explained, handing the satchel over to Boil. “Between his injuries, my force command, and that he should stay under for the next few hours while he’s being treated for wounds. Once medical’s finished with him, attach the remaining cuffs and transfer him to the brig.” The orders were crisp and not particularly enlightening, but after days of confusing and heart-wrenching bantha-fodder and then Krell’s demeaning sithspit, the familiar Coruscanti accent was more refreshing than rainwater in the desert.

“Yes, General. Boil, Waxer—you’re in charge of the prisoner. ‘66 clean up this room.” Cody commanded, delegating on autopilot. Delegating the orders that Obi-Wan gave out loud with his voice that Cody could hear.

“Yes, sir!” Waxer said happily. “And might I say—it’s very good to have you back on board, General Kenobi, General Skywalker.”

“It’s good to be back,” Obi-Wan (General Kenobi, he’s back, and you call him General Kenobi) said softly, corners of his eyes wrinkling like—(it doesn’t matter don’t think about it)..

“The Generals will debrief Rex and I now, if neither of them have any other orders for the moment,” Cody continued, professionally ignoring any inane internal commentary.

“That sounds like an excellent plan,” Kenobi agreed, as though responding to a typical exchange, as though the last time they had been in the same room Obi-Wan hadn’t been in a self-induced coma following attempted suicide and Cody wasn’t currently on the edge of a breakdown.

Skywalker, he noted, just nodded, glaring at the wall Krell was propped up against. He clearly wasn’t ready to pretend that the last week had been normal, thank fuck.

“What do you want me to do?” Ahsoka asked quietly, putting away her sabers, gaze flickering uncertainly between the Jedi.

“You’re with us, of course,” General Skywalker replied, just as softly, speaking for the first time since turning the bridge upside down. Or right side up, depending on your point of view. Ahsoka beamed, straightening with pride.

“Commander Cody,” Obi-Wan said, in that same kriffing normal tone of voice. “Would you be so kind as to also send a runner to summon Kix and Bones to my office? Everyone will need to read in, but as we’ve had to disable communications—for very good reason—it’s going to take some time.”

Ahsoka opened her mouth, but Cody just nodded, beyond questions. “Of course.”

The group walked out the door, any awkward silence between the 212th General and Commander more than drowned out by Rex and Ahsoka’s gushing over their incredible takedown of Krell. Although, contrary to his typical ego-tripping, Anakin seemed to shrink at the praise, looking guiltily at Obi-Wan from the side of his eyes.

“It—had to be done,” Skywalker said awkwardly, hand twitching over the holster strapped to his side. Cody winced under his bucket. Is this the first time he’s picked up a lightsaber since—oh fuck is that his lightsaber—

“It did,” Obi-Wan confirmed, reaching out to squeeze Anakin’s shoulder. “And we were able to take him alive, which means he can be held accountable for his crimes in a fair trial.”

Anakin instantly brightened. “We did pretty good, huh? Fighting together?”

“It was awesome!” Ahsoka agreed enthusiastically, making a dramatic motion, as Obi-Wan’s gentle smile faded. “That fucker didn’t know what hit him!”

“Apologies for leaving you with him, even temporarily.” Obi-Wan’s tone grew grave as they stepped inside the quiet office, gaze flickering towards Rex and Cody.

“If I had known attacking him was an option, it would have made things a lot easier,” Rex replied, carefully jovial.

Ahsoka’s enthusiasm faltered. 

“I know we should wait for the other officers, but—was this your plan? Was this what Master Windu meant on the platform…”

“Yes, I’m sorry—we never would have left you alone with Krell for even this long if we could help it,” General Kenobi responded seriously, face growing somber as Skywalker’s expression darkened. “But there are…more eyes and ears on Coruscant right now than we can account for.”

The Tortugan padawan nodded serenely, then punched Obi-Wan directly in the face.

“How could you!” she yelled, tone breaking and eyes growing damp. “How could you lie about that!”

Anakin leapt forward, pinning her arms in a bear hug which she struggled against, kicking wildly.

“Snips, No,” Skywalker said, desperately soothing. “It wasn’t like that, I swear!”

“Oh Ashoka, you misunderstand, I’m so sorry, I should have—” Obi-Wan rubbed his nose, wincing. “I would never fake my death in that manner, I promise, that was not a deliberate deception—”

“Then you did try to kill yourself?” Cody asked, feeling strangely disconnected. 

“You what,” Kix said in a strangled whisper. Apparently the Open Circle Medics had arrived at some point in the commotion. 

Obi-Wan flinched, pressing fingers into the bridge of his nose. “I don’t know how I was expecting this conversation to go,” he muttered.

“Just hear him out—it’s not what it seems,” Skywalker pleaded, but Bones was already at General Kenobi’s side, manhandling into a medical examination.

“I did not actually attempt to kill myself—”

“But Skyguy said you did! How could you use that as a cover! Do you know how much I blamed myself?” Ahsoka sobbed, tears spilling out as she suddenly tipped past the point of putting on a brave face. 

Rex made a low sound but Cody simply stared at his General, who was gently batting away the top medical hands of the 212th and 501st.

“Ashoka—no—that never would have been your fault,” Obi-Wan tried to say.

“I know that, obviously!” Ahsoka said fiercely, taking a deep breath and stilling herself; Anakin maintained his grip as tears continued to fall. Cody felt like he was fully outside of his body, unable to process the rapid fire exchange of guilt and betrayal that made something echo beneath his own breastplate.

“But I’m a shiny who you’ve had to keep alive in a warzone and I know how much it upsets you when I mention something and you realize that I didn’t have the sort of initiate experience that people used to and I knew you weren’t taking sleeping enough but I thought it was ok since you were this untouchable Master but that was so stupid because I’ve seen you bleed and I know you’re just a squishy human and—” 

Obi-Wan collapsed to his knees in front of her, wrapping her in a fierce hug as Anakin hovered protectively above the pair. “Oh Ashoka, I’m so sorry—my mental state is not your responsibility and I promise I didn’t deliberately leave you in the dark like that.”

Ashoka sniffled. “So…it wasn’t a ruse to throw off the Separatists?”

“No, of course not, no!” Obi-Wan said hastily, drawing back so he could meet her gaze. “I admit my rather abrupt raising of shields after reaching out yesterday morning was done with the partial-intention of fostering confusion, and I apologize for the distress that must have caused, but the initial, ah, self-harm was not in anyway intended as a trick.”

Ashoka’s eyes grew very, very big and Cody grew so still that Anakin was briefly concerned he had, in fact, had a heart attack and died while standing.

Obi-Wan winced, slapping a hand to his face, which caused him to wince again. “That’s not what I meant either! I’m not suicidal—”

“But you were?” Bones asked, throat hoarse with gradually increasing but carefully restrained stress and fear and confusion.

“No!” Obi-Wan said desperately, Anakin considered poking Cody, whose force presence was flickering out of perception in an extremely worrying matter. “I thought that I was hallucinating, but I very much understand that I have things to live for now, that was the other goal of reaching out—”

“So you thought you didn’t have things to live for before?” Ashoka questioned, voice wobbling between outrage and sadness.

“…Please let me start from the beginning.”

“I think that would be best,” Captain Rex said, voice utterly devoid of inflection.

“Right.” Obi-Wan cleared his throat. “Why don’t we all sit?”

Everyone obediently did so, the speed at which they fell in slightly discomfiting Obi-Wan. 

Cody forced himself to focus fully, pulling off his helmet so he could finally look at Obi-Wan without the visor, grounding himself with the fact that, whatever Obi-Wan was about to say right now, he really, truly was here. Anakin shot him a sympathetic glance across the table. 

“If I might be permitted to try once more without interruption—”

Everyone nodded fiercely, leaning in and radiating guilt in a way that reminded Obi-Wan uncomfortably of chastised children—or beaten animals.

“I’m sorry, Master Kenobi,” Ahsoka said, ducking her head. “We’ll listen, we promise.”

Cody and the rest of the troopers nodded again in sharp agreement.

“Right. Well.” Obi-Wan sat down slowly. “No need to apologize—I’m—I truly am sorry for worrying you all so much. It all started, from your perspective at least, last Zhellday night, when I experienced a—to be frank vision isn’t completely accurate, it was far too detailed—”

He paused, expecting an interruption that didn’t come; the table leaned in, even Anakin, who had heard this before. The Jedi Master cleared his throat.

“From my perspective, I traveled back in time roughly four years. As far as I am aware, such a detailed warping of the perception of time is unprecedented in force-sensitive history, but, then again, I did live through…rather unprecedented times. Regardless of the mechanics, I was extremely disoriented to find myself in a bar on Coruscant…I assumed I was having a vivid flashback.” The table remained silent as Obi-Wan frowned in thought.

He shook his head, smiling sheepishly. “I am afraid that my attempts to wake up could indeed be reasonably mistaken for—well, attempted self-harm but I assure you that was not my intention! After I failed to return to the ‘present’, well…it took a great deal of time to correct me of my assumptions. But after yesterday, I am convinced that I am indeed, now, something for which I am extremely grateful. The High Council is equally convinced of the veracity of my vision. I have…a significant amount of knowledge that has unfortunately proven true.”

Obi-Wan cleared his throat again. He wasn’t used to speaking this long to this group without interruption, but the room was acting unnervingly obedient.

“Do you have any questions so far?” 

“Is waking up from a vision like that common? Are you likely to…get confused like that again?” Bones asked immediately, deadly serious.

“That’s not what you want to know,” Ahsoka said, waving her hands impatiently. “Master, the only way you could get to that point while awake and not realize that you were awake is if you weren’t listenting to the force at all, which would mean you were completely cut off from the force—and that’s dangerous.”

“Yes. I was hiding from the Sith,” Obi-Wan said quietly. “I didn’t know the extent of his ability to sense me.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” Ahsoka grit out, the vode in the room watching the Jedi go back and forth with increasing confusion.

“It’s easier to spot a far away light in total darkness,” Anakin said solemnly.

“The kriff does that mean?” Kix asked, frustrated by the conversation and particularly bewildered by the fact that General Skywalker was falling into vague metaphor.

Ahsoka gasped, knuckles paling as she gripped the table. “Total—you mean in the future there weren’t…any other Jedi?” The troopers sucked in a breath of sudden understanding.

“I don’t want to see the temple burning,” Cody remembered, the choked words burnt into his memory past the power of alcohol to erase. 

A swell of unimaginable grief slipped past Obi-Wan’s control to etch itself across his face. “Like I said,” he answered hoarsely. “I’m…quite grateful for the second chance.”

"Then we lost the war,” Rex said. “In the future you saw—the Republic lost.”

“I’m afraid it’s worse than that,” Skywalker commented darkly. 

“I don’t blame you for trying to kill me, you know,” the General said, stumbling drunk into the hovercar.

“Worse than all the Jedi dying?” Bones asked, incredulous. General Kenobi’s face tightened.

“Before we go on—” Skywalker interjected, side-eying his Master.

“Right, of course,” Obi-Wan said, sounding pained. “Gentleman, I’m afraid before I disclose anymore, I’m going to need your comms. And your weapons.”

Cody had his on the table before the rest of the room could process the order.

“I know you would never fire at me if you were you.”

“Why?” Ahsoka asked indignantly, as Anakin carefully summoned the disconnected gear.

“I think Palpatine must have been controlling your minds somehow.”

“Because in the future you saw, the Jedi weren’t killed by an enemy, were they?” Cody answered, throat dry and skin clammy.

Rex, Kix, and Bones whipped their heads around to stare at the Marshall Commander, looking shocked.

Rex slammed his palms to the table, gaze locked on Cody. “What the fuck does that mean?” 

Obi-Wan grimaced. “There’s—force—I don’t know how to tell you this, it’s—of all the horrors I’ve known—”

“You have slave chips in your brains,” Anakin interrupted bluntly. “It’s why we couldn’t even risk having this conversation until the army was cut off from any possible communication—we spent all night trashing every part of the system. We couldn’t take the chance of them triggering while the company was compromised.”

Cody felt his body drifting away—he had been waiting, dreading the explanation of some—neurotoxin—or dark Sith magic not…

Not something already inside him.

“What the fuck do you mean slave chips?” Kix asked.

“Like bombs?” Ashoka asked, horrified.

“I—” Anakin closed his eyes. “No, worse than that, actually. Didn’t think you could do worse than a bomb in your body, but you learn something horrible every day, right?”

“Sir,” Rex said, hands clenching and unclenching. “With all due respect, cut the melodrama and explain what the fuck the ‘slave chips’ do. Exactly.

Obi-Wan took a deep breath. “In my…vision the vode turned on the Jedi. That was how we were wiped out. I only survived by chance.”

“No,” Rex refused. “That’s not possible.”

“The chancellor issued something called Order 66.” The four clones stiffened to attention, causing Ahsoka to lean back and Anakin’s hand to drop to his hip.

“That’s—I don’t even know what that is,” Kix whispered.

“I know.” Obi-Wan said gently. “I know. But the way you responded—it’s familiar, isn’t it? Yesterday, after I finally realized when and where I was, we began searching—I only learned hints in my first life—but it was enough—we finally found it in a level five atomic scan, just barely detectable. A bioengineered control chip, likely implanted before decanting.”

General Kenobi carefully reached into his robe and pulled out a data stick, as well as a clear slide with something greyish-pink and translucent suspended inside. “It’s heavily encrypted, but it explains…the future I saw, though I didn’t understand it at the time. You must understand, it’s not a matter of fault, or willpower—the chip is embedded in your frontal lobe—”

“Oh,” Bones murmured, gently touching a hand to his forehead. “It just—overwrites our ability to make choices. That’s—”

The room fell dead silent as the medic failed to finish his sentence.

“But you can get it out?” Rex rasped.

“Surgical instructions are here,” Obi-Wan said, gesturing at the data stick. “Both for organic and droid surgeons—I’m—I’m so sorry this has been done to you, I should have—”

“We need to get it out. Now,” Cody commanded brusquely, cutting off the General before he lost his mind.

“Right,” Kix said out loud, as the 212th medic nodded furiously in agreement. “We’ll head straight to the Negotiator’s medical bay, get a room prepped.”

“I need to check in with the Dauntless,” Rex said suddenly. “We’re not supposed to be attached during hyperspace travel this long, someone might spook and try to reestablish comms, no matter how thoroughly you tore them apart.”

Anakin exchanged a grimace with Obi-Wan before standing at the Master’s nod.

“I’ll come with you,” General Skywalker said. “None of you should be without an escort.”

“As far as we could tell—and we ran quite a number of tests—the chips don’t have an algorithm to activate upon discovery,” Obi-Wan added quickly. “But just in case…”

The four clones shuddered.

“I’ll come with you to medical,” Ahsoka offered immediately, earning somber smiles.

“And I’ll stay and discuss next steps with Commander Cody,” Obi-Wan said softly. “There’s only so much I can say while you’re still compromised but I want you to know—we do have a plan. To end the war, to save your brothers.”

Rex cracked a genuine smile at the Jedi. “Of course you do.” 

“You can count on us,” Bones swore.

“I know I can.” General Kenobi’s voice left no room for doubt.

Soon he and Cody were alone; the General closed the door firmly and sat back down, pulling out the chair next to his Commander instead of returning to the head of the table. Obi-Wan took a deep breath, turning to face the other man, but Cody spoke first.

“I fired at you,” Cody croaked.

“And I left you to be enslaved by the empire,” Obi-Wan replied, voice just as broken. “You and all your brothers.”

“You didn’t know—”

“I should have. I should have known the vode would never turn on the Jedi, though force knows you of all people in the galaxy had the most right—”

And suddenly Cody was tackling his General, Obi-Wan’s chair tilting dangerously backwards before being caught by the force, the sudden introduction of an armored Marshal Commander throwing it off balance.

How can you say that!” Cody yelled in Obi-Wan’s startled face, gripping the front of his tunic and shaking him slightly. “The Jedi—not including Krell—are the only ones who ever treated us like humans—how can you say—”

Obi-Wan bowed his head, unable to meet Cody’s eyes. “The war is a lie,” he rasped. “I led good men to their deaths for a lie—”

“I—whatever you’ve learned—you didn’t know, and now that you do, you’re doing everything you can to save us! You remember us killing your entire family—”

“It wasn’t your fault, and it never happened—”

“You remember it.” Cody felt unreasonably furious, hands shifting to grip the sides of Obi-Wan’s head, forcing him to meet his eyes, desperate to make a thousand swirling thoughts clear. 

“You watched us tear your world fall apart and you still care about us, because of course you do. You—you couldn’t walk away from the war anymore than I could, don’t try and pretend otherwise. We both have the resources, the training, to disappear from this mess—but deserting never even occurred to me until I realized—until I thought the war had broken you and I wished you had run away—that I had—”

“Cody—” Obi-Wan said in a strangled voice. “I couldn’t—there’s so much I regretted not saying, but now that I—” Obi-Wan took a shuddering breath before continuing on. “Now that I have a second chance, I—I don’t know how to tell you—force, I don’t know how to tell you what you mean, to the war, to the galaxy, to—how much you mean to me. I was so scared—I am so scared of breaking the trust between us— but—I—”

Cody’s heart pounded as he watched the Jedi steel himself. He could feel the Jedi’s swallow heavily, pulse growing rapid beneath his fingertips.

“I don't know why you put up with me, you're so much cleverer than I am—you’re the smartest man I know, and you’re so kind, despite everything you're so kind, you thought I didn't notice, but I did, I do, and, Cody, you’ve always been golden in the force, it’s breathtaking, and I—” Obi-Wan’s reached forward, hand shaking as his fingertips brushed the side of Cody’s face, barely whispering now. “I’ve never shared trust with anyone like I do you, never trusted without doubt. Not…completely.”

“And then I turned on you,” Cody croaked, stomach leaden.

Obi-Wan smiled crookedly. “You know, that never did make sense. I told everyone that I survived based on luck, and maybe that was a large part of it, but you of all people know how lucky I am. The cliff beneath me crumbled and you just…turned away. Seemed to think I couldn’t possibly have survived the fall. Pronounced me dead without ever seeing the body.”

Cody’s heart gave an unlikely lurch. “I must have been brain damaged,” the Commander said hoarsely. “A fall’s not going to kill you—malnutrition, maybe—"

Obi-Wan laughed. “That’s just what I mean—I’ve never been trusted like that—like this. You’ve seen me at some of my worst, and still you never faltered, you just…you glared at me, and then you helped me up and you make things better— force, in the middle of so much horror, we made things better.

“You drive me insane,” Cody whispered. “I don’t understand why you can’t see how good you are, you care more about the vode then anyone, you care more about enemy soldiers than you do yourself, and it drives me mad.

Obi-Wan grinned like he wanted to crack a joke but Cody resolutely ignored it, determined to at least try and get the words out. “I’m always so—so embarrassingly happy just to spend time around you, even when the galaxy is going to hell—I want—you have no idea how much I want to just—sit next to you. I’ve spent two years watching you use your words to patch my brothers up with and tear your enemies down. I want all of that‚ I was raised to expect terrible things but you’re so good. I—”

The Commander broke off, suddenly realizing how close their faces had gotten, how blue Obi-Wan’s eyes were. His heart beat faster beneath his chestplate and he stared in fascination as a pink flush spread across the Jedi’s face. Obi-Wan’s hand traced the curve of his cheekbone; Cody gently tipped his General’s chin upwards and—

A chime came from the door. Cody startled, drawing back as he realized that Obi-Wan’s face was so close because he had flung himself at the other man’s lap; the chair toppled over as Obi-Wan apparently lost focus on the balancing act.

“Sirs?” Waxer called through the door.

“Just a minute, Lieutenant,” Commander Cody ordered, attempting to sound professional despite the fact that he was currently face down, half-way sprawled on top of Obi-Wan.

“Kix asked me to get you two—”

“Give us a minute, Waxer,” Obi-Wan repeated.

Cody pushed upwards, body giddy and electric as he stared down at the impossible man below him.

“I suppose we should go,” Obi-Wan murmured. 

“Right,” Cody agreed, not moving. He pretended not to notice the obnoxious grating noise of Obi-Wan slowly pushing the toppled chair away, and how it allowed Cody’s shins to fall, more comfortably bracketing the General’s legs.

Obi-Wan stared at him with an unfathomable expression. “I really am very glad to see you,” he whispered. 

“So am I,” Cody replied helplessly.

“…Sorry for crying on you on the way back to the temple.”

“Any time. Thanks for figuring out the whole mind control thing.”

“Of course. We should…really get that taken care of.” Obi-Wan made no move to push Cody off.

The commander swallowed heavily. “You know—brain surgery can be risky—I’d hate for you to have any regrets, if something were to happen…”

Obi-Wan burst out laughing, an edge of hysteria bubbling out as he clasped his palms to his face. Cody watched breathlessly as the Jedi chuckled, then took a few shuddering breaths, before letting his hands fall to reveal glistening eyes.

Cody instantly started to pull backwards, but one hand was hooked on the front of his breastplate, the other on the back of his head, and he was being pulled down and—

The door opened just as Cody could feel Obi-Wan’s breath, both their heads whipping around to see Waxer standing in the door frame, corners of his mouth turning up as he drank in the scene.

“I’ll tell him you need another minute, shall I?” Waxer said, and Cody could hear the shit-eating grin, even as his gaze pulled back to the face so very near beneath him.

“Thank you, Lieutenant. But that won’t be necessary,” General Kenobi replied cooly, open expression shuttering into something professional.

“Yes, sir,” Waxer acknowledged, obnoxious cheer fading into chagrin.

Cody shifted back, and all too soon they were standing, Cody following at the General’s heels.

Cody didn’t dignify the lieutenant with a glare as he passed by, and Waxer seemed to shrink in on himself, radiating apology as he slunk away.

Progress to medical was painfully slow; what felt like half of the 201st emerged from the woodwork to waylay them. Each was rewarded for their dallying with firm clasps on the shoulders and pats on the back. Well, the Commander could hardly blame them for seeking a little physical assurance that their Jedi was truly back, nor Kenobi for providing it. Force knows they’d need any comfort they could get, in the days to come.

“We’ll…resume our conversation later?” Cody found himself murmuring in a moment of privacy and weakness between two corridors.

The General faltered in his march. “If you still wish too,” he whispered back, cringing almost imperceptibly.

“What—”

But before Cody could unravel that, they were set upon by the next eager squadron, forced to dance around questions while still providing reassurance.

“What do you mean if I still wish to,” Cody growled once they were past.

Obi-Wan winced, falling a step behind, then straightened up again, smoothly greeting an overwhelmed pair of corporals who rounded a corner and promptly dropped the crates they were carrying in shock. Another round of salutes and overlong handshakes passed.

They continued on, rapidly approaching their destination. “I just mean…” Obi-Wan said quietly. “I know you…care about me. I know. But as much as I don’t want to, we have to consider the possibility that some of that might be…”

Cody sucked in a breath and Obi-Wan winced again. A chill ran down the commander’s spine as he silently wrestled feelings of offense, appreciation, exasperation, and horror.

“General Kenobi! It’s really you! Comms are down but—” The next round of greetings passed in a daze, and Cody suspected that his General was running just as much on autopilot as he was.

“After it’s out,” Cody finally said.

The Jedi glanced quickly over at him, expression painfully hesitant.

At long last, they stood before the entrance to medical, and although passersby still startled at the sight of their General, they seemed to think better of approaching. Perhaps it was their location, and the rumors swirling around Obi-Wan’s health. Perhaps it was the looks on their commanding officers’ faces.

“After it’s out,” Obi-Wan promised quietly, words ringing like an oath.

The doors opened and the two walked in, side-by-side.