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Echoes of Mortis

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The journey home to Coruscant was long and silent. Anakin had kept the details of their disappearance vague in the hope that Rex wouldn't pry too closely, and it appeared to have worked, the crinkle in the clone commander's brow as he had ended the communication notwithstanding.

That brow crinkle had nothing on the concerned frown currently being levelled at Anakin's back by Obi-Wan Kenobi. When he had been younger and (alright, perhaps only slightly) less impudent, that frown had sometimes even been enough to stop him in his tracks, that unique mix of frustration and worry that was so Obi-Wan doing what no other Master in the Jedi Order could do. Get Anakin Skywalker to listen.

Add to that the feeling of his own Padawan's crystalline eyes boring into his from behind the seat, imploring, and it was almost enough for him to -

The glove of his mechanical hand clenched the arm of the seat, hard enough to make the synthleather squeak. He knew well enough now where explosions of that kind would lead him. Where his anger would. His hand twitched again at the memory (vision? How could something be a memory when it hadn't happened yet? Wouldn't happen -) of fingers grasping at the air, of the Force bending to his will, the pliable muscle and tendon of a human throat under his hand -

 'Beware your heart.' He understood now. And he could never let it happen. And, he thought, heart thumping loudly, traitorously in his chest, he could never let them know. Know that they were sitting in the company of a monster.

Mental shields up, face carefully blank, he loosened his hand from the arm of the chair. He turned to Ahsoka, whose blue eyes were open wide, lips parted uncertainly. They were all reeling, still, though he thought they had all done an excellent job of hiding it from Rex.

“Why don't you get some rest, Snips,” he suggested, watched as her shoulders sank in subtle relief. “I'll steer us back home.”

Maybe he wasn't the only one who wanted to avoid talking about what had just happened. He wasn't the only one who had Fallen, he remembered suddenly, taking a moment now to look at his apprentice more closely. She didn't look all that worse for wear, at least for having died (and wasn't that a trauma for another day, he wasn't sure how he could bear putting her in danger ever again) but there were shadows carved under her eyes, and a slight tremor in her upper arms. He knew well enough what it felt like, to have everything you thought you knew about yourself ripped away so violently. Exhausting, violating. Everything he had never wanted for his young apprentice.

“Sure,” she replied easily, too flippant to be genuine. “Wake me up for the landing, Master? I want time to strap myself in, if you're the one driving.” She gave a small smile, a hint of pointed, shiny teeth to show she was alright before sliding off the chair and slipping soundlessly into the cabin.

The silence grew heavy in her wake. His old Master wasn't nearly so easy to send away, and Anakin could only give the illusion of being occupied for so long. He gave a final, resigned push of a button to set their coordinates home and send them into hyperspace and glanced at his Master from the side, the relaxing hum of the engines helping to calm the still frantic thrum of his heart. His flesh hand was shaking slightly now, the impact of the past few days (well, moments from Rex's perspective, he supposed) finally taking their toll. It was new for them, he thought, to be woken slowly, peacefully, from their adventures. Too often it seemed as though they simply roared from one conflict to the next, with no time to slow down and actually process anything.

 He tightened his fist to stop the shaking. Kriff. Maybe that was a good thing.

Obi-Wan was doing that thing he did where he pretended he wasn't examining him. No doubt the shaking hadn't gone unnoticed, though Anakin was doing his best to keep his inner turmoil shielded from his Master.

 

Keep him from realizing what you are.

 

“Well,” he said flippantly, realizing belatedly where Ahsoka had probably picked up that particular trait. “Another mission, another mystery for the Council to figure out. What are we going to tell them, anyway?”

 If Obi-Wan noticed he was being distracted (and Anakin was positive he did and was simply allowing it. Any other day that fact might have angered him, but today he pushed it aside, that cold thread of monster, monster burning in his bones and scaring the anger away) he didn't let on, simply raised an eyebrow and turned his face to the window. The cool glow of hyperspace settled above the hollows of his face.

 “I suppose we'll simply tell them the truth. As best as we can recall it,” he said ruefully. “In truth I -”

 He stopped, lowering his head in thought, or recollection. His brow creased.

 “I can't be sure of all that I saw. It goes beyond what I thought possible.”

 There was a hint of something wistful in his voice. Anakin caught a warm and impossible flash of what felt like Master Qui-Gon's signature through their bond before it was snatched away, shuttered behind Obi-Wan's well-maintained shields.

 “In any case,” Obi-Wan straightened in his seat, “I suggest we keep our story simple, for the sake of accountability. No matter what exactly transpired on Mortis,” he glanced at Anakin briefly, hesitating, “what the Father said about the Sith may have an impact on this war. The Council will certainly find it interesting.”

 “So, you're not going to tell them I crashed the ship?”

 “Ana-kin.”

 Anakin smiled briefly, a flash of warmth dulling the fierce cold in his chest for just a moment, rubbing out the chill of the expressionless mask in his visions that he felt sure hid his own face. And the cold laugh of that hooded figure, the one that must have been their elusive Sith lord. It was strange, but the figure had felt so familiar.

 It couldn't be.

 Anakin took a slow, shallow breath, mindful of his Master's ever worried glance. He would deal with it all in time. They would return to Coruscant and he would make sure the future he had seen would never come to pass. He would just have to be...good. A good teacher to Ahsoka. A good Jedi. However much it hurt to suck down his feelings, his anger, do as he was told with all the quiet, resigned obedience he had been forced into as a child on Tatooine -

 Well. If that was the price he had to pay to keep from Falling, to keep everyone he loved alive and safe (from him) then he would pay it ten times over.