Anakin sat on the meditation mat just under the window, staring out into the city. Well, all of Coruscant was a city, really, but to him it was always the Senate district which was the city of Coruscant – it was where all the fancy tall buildings were, standing higher and brighter above all the rest. The sun was just rising behind them and the nightly smog was still hanging around enough that the spaces between the buildings seemed to glow golden and yellow.
The boy took a breath and released it slowly. He'd been awake all night, staring first at the evening as it set over the city, then the night as the city light lit up the sky. In Coruscant, you could never see the stars – the light pollution was too high. But the lights of the cityscape had their own mesmerising beauty. And that moment, just before night started lightening, just as the sun begun shining, when the distant horizon was just lighting up and yet you could still see the city lights…
It was his favourite. Coruscant looked like a bright, hopeful place in that moment.
A door slid open somewhere behind him and he heard a couple of near silent steps against the smooth floor. "Anakin?" Obi-Wan asked with surprise. "Good morning…?"
"Morning, Master," Anakin said, not looking away from the city. He rather wished they still had a balcony so that he could go outside and look while feeling the wind in his hair. Master Obi-Wan's suite didn't have a balcony, though – Obi-Wan had switched them to quarters without one after Anakin had used it one time too many to escape a boring lecture. The windows though were from floor to ceiling, and the view was spectacular. Only the Jedi Temple had this sort of view of the city centre of Coruscant.
He was going to miss it.
"Something troubles you?" Obi-Wan asked, and Anakin could feel his mind brushing ever so carefully against his shields – not intrusive, just… caring. Trying to get a feel of his surface emotions. "Did you have trouble sleeping?"
"Do you remember my assigned with Master Eyer?" Anakin asked. "The one she gave me last week?"
"About the ethics of the Jedi Order?" Obi-Wan asked, moving towards the kitchen area. "I'll make some tea – do you want some?"
"Yeah, sure," Anakin said. The sun was just peaking over one of the lower buildings, past the lower spires of the Banker's GuildBuilding. It cast light all over Anakin's face and into the common area. "It was my eighteenth assignment on the topic of ethics and morals and whatnot."
"I recall," Obi-Wan answered, with some amusement, and yawned. "And with each one your assignments have grown shorter and sharper, if I recall right. In how few sentences are you attempting to condense your arguments into this time?"
"Just one," Anakin said, and finally looked away from the sunrise – Coruscant wasn't Tatooine with its blinding double suns, but it was still stupid to stare right at a star. "Do you want to hear it?"
"I would be honoured to hear it," Obi-Wan said, already setting up cups and measuring tea into the pot. He, though not as ceremonious as some Masters, had a sort of rhythm to how he made tea, borne over many years, and Anakin knew the beats and clinks of it by heart. Set the pot down, remove lid, set it down, take the tea canister, give it a couple gentle shakes, take out the measuring spoon, measure, one, two, three, tap each spoonful into the tea pot. Click, click, click, in a sort of beat.
How weird to feel nostalgic for something that was happening right in front of him.
Anakin stood up and walked over to the kitchen island that separated it from the common area, and which served as their dining table. "It's probably not quite in the spirit of Master Eyer's assignment," he admitted.
"I'd be honestly concerned if it was," Obi-Wan said, offering him a smile before concentrating on the studious pouring of the water into the tea pot. Anakin watched, wondering if the sun light had always hit the water like that, all those dozens and dozens of times he'd watched Obi-Wan's little tea ritual. There was steam rising from the hot water, and it glowed as the sun light touched it.
The sun was making Obi-Wan glow a bit too. The Jedi Knight had been growing out of the stiff, near rigorous propriety of a Jedi Padawan, and had been settling into the mantle of a Knight, more so lately. The line of Obi-Wan's shoulders was easier than it used to be. His hair was growing long – idly, Anakin wondered if he was aiming for long hair, like Qui-Gon's. Would it suit Obi-Wan?
"So, what is the question?" Obi-Wan asked, closing the tea pot lid and then coming over, setting the pot down on the wooden, hand crafted trivet that stood ever present on the tabletop.
Anakin waited until Obi-Wan had poured the tea for both of them – a task which, he knew, was technically the Padawan's job. But then, Anakin wasn't really a Padawan. Sure, he lived with Obi-Wan and technically Obi-Wan was his Master, but Anakin had more lessons with the crèche masters and Obi-Wan had more solo missions than they had time together. Anakin was eleven, now, and still young to be a Padawan learner for an active Knight.
Obi-Wan had never really expected him to be a proper Padawan anyway.
"Anakin?" Obi-Wan asked, looking at him and Anakin realised he had yet to answer.
"Who is going to free the slaves of Tatooine?" Anakin asked.
Obi-Wan frowned, not quite taken aback. "I… I thought we were discussing your assignment with Master Eyer."
"We are. That's my essay," Anakin said, and reached for his tea cup. It was rough ceramic, no handle and no adornments. Anakin had no idea where the cups had come from – certainly not from the temple, where everything was polished until it shone. Their tea cups were barely more than burned clay. Obi-Wan always handled them like they were the finest porcelain, though, so Anakin suspected they were an inheritance from Qui-Gon.
"Who is going to free the slaves of Tatooine," Obi-Wan repeated slowly. "That's your essay. Which you were given a week's time to complete."
"Hm," Anakin said, staring at the cup and for a moment not quite daring to look up. "Well. That's not all of it," he said and leaned back. "I went around the temple, I asked every Jedi Master and Knight who'd bothered to listen. I got about fifty replies," he added, and dug around his pocket until he reached the holorecorder he'd carried during his little interviews.
He set it on the table between them and turned it on. A shimmering blue image of a distracted looking Jedi appeared above of the recorder – Madame Jocasta Nu, who managed the Jedi Archives. She glanced up from the datapad she'd been reading and shook her head. "Slaves of – young Padawan, such things aren't within the purview of Jedi. You would do better studying the politics of the Hutts," she said.
Anakin hit the recorder, and another Jedi appeared – Ausar Auset, Anakin had had to ask the name later from another, because the Jedi Master had only been in the temple for a couple of hours in total before leaving on assignment. "You would do better to concentrate on more pressing matters," the Kajain'sa'Nikto Jedi said, before walking out of the hologram's view range.
Anakin switched to the next recording, and a female Mirialan appeared in a traditional Mirial head dress, and with tattooed lower lip and chin. "Young Skywalker," Luminara Unduli said, standing still in the hologram. She'd been one of the few who'd actually stopped to talk with him properly. "The work of the Jedi is hard and there are many things we must accomplish, many important things – and there are never enough of us to accomplish all these things. You should not concentrate on things you want done, but on things you can do."
Anakin clicked and the recorder, again and again, and Jedi after Jedi answered his question – except, no one did, really. They said he should not concentrate on small matters, but see the Galaxy as a whole. They said he should not let his personal feelings lead him, but trust in the Will of the Force. They told him that Jedi were limited, that need for their services was dire, and he should concentrate on his future, not his past. Most of them said they didn't have the time to answer at all. Lots had been rather dismissive. One had even said that it wasn't the job of Jedi to free slaves.
"We serve the whole, young Padawan," one Jedi said. "Not individuals. Think of the good of the Galaxy as a whole, now."
Anakin hesitated after it, glancing at Obi-Wan's face. His Master's eyes had darkened as he watched the holograms flicker by, growing increasingly stiffer. Now it was utterly unreadable, no hint of the usual warmth to be seen.
Anakin switched the holograms, and Grand Master Yoda appeared.
"Trust in the Will of the Force you must," the Grand Master said. It had been all Yoda had said in answer.
Anakin shut off the recorder, and leaned his elbows on the tabletop, watching his Master. Obi-Wan's eyes flickered up to him, eying him for a silent, tense moment.
"Who is going to free the slaves of Tatooine?" Anakin asked quietly, staring back. "No one answered me. Most people I asked just scoffed at me or rolled their eyes or told me to leave my past behind. Or to meditate on it, to find lessons in it, and to release my feelings concerning it into the Force. A couple cited Senate rules and how slavery was illegal in the Republic – one said that it wasn't the job of the Jedi, but of the Senate, to watch over things like these. A lot told me to meditate on the Will of the Force – to not question but to find solace. Solace in the fact that I'm not a slave anymore."
Obi-Wan looked down at his tea cup. He lifted it slowly, but didn't drink. "So, what is the answer?" he asked noncommittally.
Anakin almost scoffed at him – but no, not this time, and Obi-Wan wasn't being dismissive, or even resigned. He seemed… sad more than anything. "You know what I told Qui-Gon, when I met him?" the boy asked. "I told him that I dreamed once that the Jedi came to Tatooine, and freed all the slaves. And I've kind of held that dream somewhere in the back of my head all this time, but… It's never going to happen. Because the Jedi don't only not know, but they don't intend to find out – they don't care. Or they do care, but they don't have the time. Or if they have the time, then they don't have the motivation. Because the Force is not telling them to do anything, they don't."
Obi-Wan said nothing, just eyed him over the tea cup, and Anakin shook his head. "Who is going to free the slaves of Tatooine, Master?" he asked. "No one. Because no one here gives a shit."
For once, the Jedi didn't rebuke his language. Anakin took that for agreement, and drank his tea in a sort of frustrated anger, ignoring the scalding heat and draining his cup dry in a single go. He set it down gently, though he felt like banging it against the polished table top.
"I've come to a decision, Master," Anakin said. "I don't think being a Jedi is for me, after all."
He kind of wished Obi-Wan argued the fact, that Obi-Wan scolded him, that he did something. But he didn't – the man just sighed and set his tea down, untouched. The silence stretched horrible and awkward and somehow final. And, above all…
Anakin couldn't bear it.
"I just, I thought… I thought a lot of things about the Jedi, that aren't really true," he said, not looking up. "Silly things first, like… like that Jedi were unbeatable and unstoppable, that they could do anything, that they were, I don't know. All powerful and stuff. I figured out pretty fast that's not right, but I thought a lot of other things, too. That Jedi are kind and that they help people, which, yeah, I know, is true, but… it's also kind of not. I thought… I thought…"
"You thought that the Jedi helped everyone," Obi-Wan said, quiet.
"Yeah," Anakin muttered. "That. And I know why they can't, I mean… I know there's only so many Jedi and that the work never ends and there are thousands and thousands of worlds always in need of Jedi assistance, there are huge, huge issues the Jedi need to handle and… and in the grand scheme of things I know a little back water planet like Tatooine, it doesn't really matter in the galactic scheme of things. So in a way I get where everyone was coming from, when they were telling me off. When they were telling me to concentrate on the bigger picture. But…"
"But that's not why you wanted to become a Jedi," Obi-Wan murmured.
Anakin looked up, torn between what he felt and what he wanted. Obi-Wan looked so damned sad right then, like Anakin was doing something horribly disappointing or hurtful and he really didn't want to hurt Obi-Wan – the man had been the closest thing to family Anakin had had since… since coming here. Obi-Wan looked after him and Anakin appreciated that, he really did.
But he couldn't shut off his heart just because of that.
"I'm sorry, Master," Anakin whispered, and looked down again. "I can't not be selfish and I can't forget. And I can't ignore what I know is happening on Tatooine and on so many worlds like it and I can't just… look away. And I can't accept that it's the Will of the Force that there is slavery in the galaxy, not ever. Because if that's the Will of the Force, then the Force is evil."
"Hmm," Obi-Wan answered.
Anakin pressed his lips together for a moment, staring at his hands, at the holorecorder. "I… don't know what to do," he said – though he did, a bit. But he still felt uncertain about a lot of things, about so many things, about the future in general. Just this one thing was certain. "But I know I can't be a Jedi. Not when I… I just can't. Not in good conscience."
"Because the Jedi aren't fighting the war you want to fight," Obi-Wan answered. "Because you'd rather fight for those like you, rather than for everyone."
Anakin frowned at the tabletop. "Is it a lesser thing to fight for individuals, rather than for entire star systems?" he asked, and looked up. "An individual's wellbeing is less important than that of a population, is that it?"
Obi-Wan sighed, closing his eyes and rubbing his hand over his face. "Jedi work for the peace and justice of the Republic," he said. "And there's only so much we can do. We must concentrate on the greater good."
"Yeah," Anakin said, snorting. "We had a similar tenet back on Tatooine. It went something along the lines of the end justifies the means. And if ignoring the situation on Tatooine and planets like it is justified by the greater good of the galaxy, then, forgive me Master, but I want nothing to do with it."
Any other Jedi probably would've argued with Anakin then, maybe even accused him. They had often enough, when he'd brought up similar thoughts. He'd more than once been accused of separatism and of individualism – he'd gotten many lectures on the matter of galactic peace and harmony and preserving the status quo and all that shit. The lecture had gotten staler with each repetition, grating worse and worse against his own, personal morals.
No, he didn't want to see the galactic peace suffer, he didn't want to destroy the harmonious if somewhat corrupt system of the Republic. Why would he? It worked, mostly. Problem was, it didn't work everywhere – and everyone was wilfully ignoring it because it was easier than risking change. The Republic and the Jedi were ignoring places like Tatooine, because… doing something about it just wasn't practical.
Jedi were supposed to honour and preserve life. And a lot of them did, on a personal initial level they all did. But politically, economically, in that damned grand scheme of things…
Anakin formed that bitter thought into a ball and lobbed it at his Master's mind. Obi-Wan barely blinked at it.
"I'm going to hand in my essay – and my resignation from the Jedi Order," Anakin said after a long period of silence. "Unless you can convince me otherwise right here and now. And you can't… can you, Master?"