It had been three days since Obi-Wan had returned from Mandalore, and Anakin still hadn't had the chance to actually talk to him for more than two minutes at a time. It seemed Obi-Wan was always in Council meetings, or teaching classes, or doing absolutely anything and everything in the kriffing galaxy except explaining what the hell had happened on his last mission to his former apprentice. Sure, there were legitimate reasons for Obi-Wan to be busy - between the political upheaval he'd witnessed on Mandalore and his encounter with Darth Maul, it wasn't surprising that he was needed to help sort through the aftermath.
But that didn't explain why Obi-Wan hadn't been speaking to him. The man may have been busy, but Anakin was pretty sure he didn't actually have meetings and classes sixteen hours a day, which would have been the only possible reason for him to honestly not have been available the past forty-seven times that Anakin had commed him. Obi-Wan left their shared quarters in the morning before Anakin even woke up, and went to bed immediately with claims of exhaustion upon returning at night.
Actually, Anakin was fairly sure why Obi-Wan was avoiding him - after all, it was the same reason that he was being so persistent about tracking the man down in the first place. They both knew that there was exactly one part of the events on Mandalore that was general knowledge among the Jedi that would catch Anakin's attention, even more so than the maneuverings of Darth Maul. And they both knew that Anakin wouldn't let Obi-Wan get away with acting the perfect Jedi about Satine Kryze's death.
Which was why Anakin was currently pacing around in Obi-Wan's room, waiting for his former master to return. He knew that the last of the day's Council meetings had ended, so Obi-Wan should be back sometime soon. And this time, Anakin wasn't planning on letting the older man escape from him.
He heard the door to the apartment open and close. After a few seconds of footsteps, the door to Obi-Wan's room whooshed open and the man himself shuffled in.
Obi-Wan stopped suddenly upon seeing Anakin. "Er," he said, looking around in slight confusion as though making certain that he was really in his own room.
"Hi, Master," Anakin said cheerfully. "I thought maybe we could talk for a little bit." He closed the door behind Obi-Wan with a wave of his hand, then sat down on the bed.
Obi-Wan didn't move. "Much as I enjoy your company, Anakin, I have had a very busy day and I would appreciate it if you would go back to your own room and let me get some rest."
"No," Anakin said.
Anakin stood up, grabbed Obi-Wan by the arm, and pulled him down on the bed so that they were sitting side-by-side. "What happened on your trip to Mandalore, Master?'
Obi-Wan gave him a look that would probably frighten small children. "I'm sure you've heard the salient details by now, so it would be entirely unnecessary for me to-"
"But Master, I want to hear about it from you." Anakin schooled his features into the most innocent, puppy-dog expression he could muster.
Anyone who had ever called Anakin dramatic had probably never seen Obi-Wan rolling his eyes like he was doing right now. "Sith hells, Anakin, this is completely-"
"I'm not going to leave until you tell me," Anakin said. "I'll sit here all night and talk at you until you finally give in. Why not just skip to the last part now so that we both can get some sleep afterward?"
"Perhaps I'll go sleep somewhere else, then." Obi-Wan stood up. Or rather, tried to stand up - Anakin was still holding onto his arm. "Anakin, let me go or I swear I'll-"
Anakin grabbed his other wrist and tightened his grip. "Nope."
This time, the look he received was on the borderline between irritated, incredulous, and resigned. Better. "If I tell you what happened, do you promise to let go of me and leave?"
"I promise." He tugged Obi-Wan back down onto the bed next to him.
"Very well," said Obi-Wan in a tone which promised that there would be retribution for this moment, most likely painfully and a long time from now when Anakin was least expecting it. "I went to Mandalore. I rescued Duchess Satine. We were captured by Maul, and she was killed. I was later rescued by Death Watch. Happy?"
No. No, he wasn't happy. He tried to imagine what it would have been like if it had been Padme who had been killed, and stopped because even just imagining it was too painful. He couldn't just let Obi-Wan act like Satine had been any other planetary leader. "How was she killed?" he asked quietly.
Obi-Wan sighed. "Maul did it. He impaled her on a darksaber. Are we quite finished?"
"No!" Anakin bounced up and down on the bed in frustration, wishing he could get up and pace without releasing Obi-Wan from his grasp. "You can't just, you can't just act you're over it. I know how you felt, so don't try to pretend you don't know why I'm doing this."
"How I felt? I cared for her; she's now become one with the Force. I'll release any grief through meditation, so I really don't need you to get involved."
It took all of Anakin's self-control not to scream. "Don't give me that, that bullshit, Obi-Wan! I know that it doesn't just work like that."
Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow, his expression cool. "Perhaps not for you," he said, in a voice which suggested that anyone who it didn't 'just work like that' for was not merely deficient, but functioning on the same level as an emotionally disturbed four-year-old. Or maybe Anakin was just reading too much into his tone, but he didn't think so.
Anakin glared at him, his blood starting to boil. He wanted to slap Obi-Wan for acting like he didn't care, like he was superior because he didn't care; he wanted to leave the room and slam the door as much as it was possible to slam pneumatic doors (which was quite well for someone using the Force, as he'd discovered during his teenage years). But no, that would have been giving Obi-Wan exactly what he wanted. Anakin had made his decision to get Obi-Wan to open up about Satine's death, and the fact that the older Jedi was being so snippy only showed how upset he really was, how much he needed to talk about it. Anakin was going to do this whether Obi-Wan realized he was just trying to help or not.
"Why did Maul kill her?" he pressed. "I mean, he'd been fine just leaving her to rot in jail before, right? Was he punishing her for escaping, or was he just, y'know, showing off how Dark-Sidey he is by being all homicidal lunatic?"
"He killed Satine because of me," Obi-Wan said shortly. "He wanted to punish me for his dismemberment by forcing me to watch the death of someone I lo- someone I cared about, and to provoke me."
"Oh," Anakin said, starting to feel like approximately the worst person in the galaxy for making Obi-Wan relive what had obviously been a far more traumatic experience than he'd assumed. "I'm sorry she died, Obi-Wan." Come to think of it, he probably should have said that at the beginning of this conversation. Oh well, better late than never. "Look, you know it wasn't your fault, right? I mean, like I said before, Maul's a homicidal lunatic. And it's not like you were planning on him being there on Mandalore when you rescued her. So there was nothing you could have done to prevent her death." He suddenly processed the last thing that Obi-Wan had said. "Provoke you? Did it, y'know, work?"
There was a long pause. "He certainly succeeded in angering me," Obi-Wan said slowly. "But I didn't attack him, if that's what you're asking. And...thank you for your condolences."
"You're welcome," Anakin replied. "Um, maybe this is a stupid question, but why not?"
Obi-Wan stared at him incredulously. "Why didn't I go against the code we both live by to in a suicidal attempt to take vengeance that most likely would have failed, given that I was unarmed and facing not only a powerful Sith and his equally dark brother, but numerous guards pointing blasters in my direction as well? Is that really what you're asking me?"
Anakin shifted uncomfortably. "I mean, it didn't really work out so well for Maul the last time he killed someone you cared about in front of you. And you were only a padawan then, so it's not like your odds were so much better. So what changed?"
Obi-Wan continued to stare at him as though he were missing something very basic. "I changed, Anakin. You're quite correct - I was only a padawan then, and in far less control of my emotions than I am now. But I made a commitment to the Order when I was Knighted, to put my duty as a Jedi above my own personal passions."
"Yeah, but..." Anakin trailed off. "Okay, so you didn't try to kill him because it's against the Code. I guess I can understand why you would do that."
Obi-Wan appeared to ignore the subtle emphasis Anakin had put on the word 'you'. "I should hope so, given that you made the very same commitment. Didn't you?"
Anakin felt even more uncomfortable. "Of course I did," he said. "I wasn't trying to suggest you would have just thrown away everything you live for because someone you cared about died."
The expression on Obi-Wan's face said very clearly that he was perfectly aware that that was exactly what Anakin had been trying to suggest. "Everything I live for?"
"We," Anakin corrected hastily. "I meant 'we.' And don't think I didn't notice you using your Negotiator tricks to make this conversation about me instead of you."
Obi-Wan looked at him innocently. "Tricks? I have no idea what you're talking about." He frowned suddenly, looking thoughtful. "And- Anakin, it wasn't just the Code that prevented me from killing Maul. In fact, I daresay that there were several reasons that were more important."
More important than the Code? To Obi-Wan? "Like what?" Anakin asked, genuinely curious.
"For one, the fact that an attempt to attack him in that moment when he was most expecting it would most likely have failed, as I mentioned earlier. For another..." Obi-Wan hesitated and shut his eyes briefly; when he opened them, he looked very far away. "For another, Satine was a pacifist above all else, and it would have gone against everything she ever stood for if I had used her death as a reason for violence."
"Oh," said Anakin. That, at least, made some sort of sense to him. "Okay, I get it."
"I'm not sure you do," Obi-Wan said sharply. "There's a reason I haven't mentioned yet, one more important than any of the others. And while it seems too obvious to need to be stated explicitly, I think that perhaps I ought to say it."
A reason more important to Obi-Wan than both the Code and the memory of the woman he had loved? If it was obvious, then Anakin wasn't seeing it. Now he was really curious. "Okay, shoot."
"Killing people is wrong," said Obi-Wan simply.
Anakin blinked. "I know that," he said, defensive. Well, he knew that killing innocent people was wrong. People like Maul, on the other hand...
Apparently either some of what he had been thinking had shown on his face, or else he wasn't shielding his mind very well. "I mean," said Obi-Wan harshly, "that killing people is always wrong. Always. No matter what crimes they've committed, or the people they've killed, or the personal grievances you have against them. It is wrong, Anakin, it is always wrong."
There was another pause. "I know that," Anakin said again, less sure of himself. His response had been neither quick nor confident enough for Obi-Wan's taste, judging by the look on the older man's face. "Look, it's not like we never kill anybody. I've seen you kill people before. Sometimes it's the best option."
Obi-Wan began shaking his head before Anakin had even finished speaking. Clearly frustrated at his response, he looked directly into Anakin's eyes before speaking again. "There is a difference between being the best option and being a good option, padawan. We may be put in situations where taking a life is the only choice, to save our own or others' lives, but that doesn't make it right. That doesn't make it ethical."
Anakin glared at him. "I'm not your padawan anymore!"
"Well, perhaps you should be if such a fundamental concept is beyond your comprehension."
"Hey," said Anakin, hurt more by Obi-Wan's words than he would have been willing to admit. "Don't say that. I earned my Knighthood fair and square."
Obi-Wan closed his eyes and breathed deeply, visibly letting go of some of his exasperation. "I know you did. I just - please tell me you understand why it's wrong for us to kill people."
"Because killing is against the Code," Anakin replied immediately.
"No!" Obi-Wan's emphatic cry was passionate enough that Anakin was shocked into flinching away from him, letting go of his hands and falling slightly back onto the bed. "No, no, no, Anakin, no. Stars and stones, that is not the reason. Killing people isn't wrong because it's against the Code; killing is against the Code because it is wrong!"
"It is not the same thing. It's not the same thing at all." Obi-Wan leaned over him, grabbing his upper arms in a reversal of their earlier position. "One suggests that not-killing is merely a rule to be followed, and only to the extent that one is committed to the Order. The other suggests that the rule is simply a statement of basic morality, which in a perfect galaxy would be followed by everybody, Jedi or not. Killing people is wrong because every sentient being deserves life, deserves a chance. Every single person was created by the Force, and it would be the height of arrogance to believe that our judgment is so great that we deserve the power to be judge, jury, and executioner to them."
Anakin wondered if Obi-Wan was even aware of shaking him by the arms. "Okay, okay," he said, feeling rattled both physically and emotionally. "No killing people. I get it, Master, enough with the lecture."
"Do you really get it?" Obi-Wan asked. Anakin wondered why he sounded so desperate. "Do you really?"
"Yes," he said firmly, but it was a lie. There were some people who really did deserve to die, Sith and Separatists and slavers. And who was he not to be the instrument of justice? The galaxy would be better off without them. More balanced even, one might say.
"All right," said Obi-Wan, thankfully for once not sensing Anakin's dishonesty. "All right, sorry, I'm just a bit on edge." He let go of Anakin's arms.
Anakin sat up straight again. "No worries," he said, relieved that the interrogation about his frankly not-quite-Jedi personal brand of ethics was over with. "I was the one who ambushed you in in the first place, remember?"
"Yes, quite," said Obi-Wan drily. " I'd prefer you not to do that again, if you don't mind." His voice softened. "And Anakin? However misguided your tactics may have been, I do appreciate your concern for my emotional welfare. Your loyalty to your friends has ever been one of your most positive traits, though hardly the most Jedi. Thank you, young one."
Anakin ducked his head slightly to hide his flush of mixed pleasure and embarrassment. It was about as much praise as he ever got from Obi-Wan, and it meant more to him than it probably should. "You're welcome," he said. He wanted to add 'I love you, too,' but he'd never been as good as Obi-Wan at saying things without actually saying them, and stating it outright would just make things awkward. Instead he stood up. "Night, Master."
"Goodnight, Anakin." And unless Anakin was imagining things, Obi-Wan sounded less depressed than he had during all the snippets of conversation they'd had over the past few days.
Mission accomplished, there was a spring in Anakin's step all the way back to his own room. (And, a few hours later, back out of his own room and over to Padme Amidala's apartment in 500 Republica. But that's another story).