Obi-Wan opened his eyes, immediately aware that something was wrong. There was a disturbance in the Force. He blinked at the foreign ceiling above him, trying to find the source of the ripples that now nudged against his senses. He stretched out with his feelings, probing, searching?and then he found it.
Obi-Wan frowned, sitting up in the small bed and throwing back the covers. Since the start of the Clone Wars he had taken to sleeping fully dressed in tunic and pants, just in case he was ever called to action in the middle of the night?but tonight he ignored his waiting boots and robe and went straight for the door of his room. He was about to touch the opening panel when an intense rush of sadness washed over him, so strongly that he nearly staggered under it. Obi-Wan stood motionless for a moment, struggling both to control and understand this abrupt wave of emotion. He knew one thing immediately: it was not his.
But why hadn?t he felt it before, then? He had tutored Anakin in the ways of the Force since the boy was nine years old?and even in the year since the Padawan had become a Jedi Knight, Obi-Wan had hardly been separated from him. How had it been possible not to pick up on this mood?
It was overwhelmingly powerful, warping the Force around it in a way that Obi-Wan had never felt before. It was a terrible, gnawing, biting grief?something he had never experienced?not even at the death of Qui-Gon. At that thought the familiar pang of sorrow and anger that always followed memories of Qui-Gon pierced through Obi-Wan?s awareness. But it was gone again in a second, snuffed out by so many years of rigid Jedi training.
There is no emotion; there is peace.
That had always been one of the hardest things for Anakin to understand.
The ripples in the Force grew in size, and Obi-Wan began to feel other emotions join the immense sadness?emotions too quick and deep to be deciphered immediately, but they gave Obi-Wan a distinct sense of foreboding. He could almost see Anakin in the room across the hall, standing by the window, twisting the Force with his grief-stricken thoughts and jumbled feelings, whether he meant to or not.
For a second Obi-Wan hesitated. This was one of those times ? one of those rare times ? when he could sense the true power Anakin possessed within himself. Usually the young Jedi Knight kept his incredible ability to manipulate the Force under some pretense of control, even while performing certain ridiculous, death defying stunts in his starfighter.
Obi-Wan frowned. Now that he thought about it, he realized that he had not been able to sense everything from Anakin at all since? well? since shortly after the beginning of the Clone Wars. Before that, when the boy had still been a Padawan, Obi-Wan had been able to read him like a book. The Jedi Master absently stroked at his beard, pondering this new awareness. In fact, it had been just after the battle at Geonosis that Anakin had seemed to shut down a part of the mental connection he had shared with his Master for the past ten years. And ever since then it had become more difficult for Obi-Wan to truly sense all of his Padawan?s moods.
Obi-Wan had, of course, attributed the partial vagueness of his former apprentice these past few years to a maturing of Anakin?s mind. A final adaptation to the ways of the Jedi Order; a decisive acceptance of that line of mantra from the Jedi Code: There is no emotion; there is peace.
But there had been times when the calm presence of Anakin?s mind suddenly leapt out in some emotion, most often in times of stress or combat. Obi-Wan had always been surprised by such outbursts, though he supposed by now he should have gotten used to them. They were always intense, almost blinding to those who were Force sensitive, and always made of emotions that bordered on the side of darkness.
Beware anger, fear, aggression, for the dark side are they.
Obi-Wan sighed heavily. How many times had he felt anger radiate from Anakin? How many times had he felt Anakin?s fear for his former Master?s safety during a hard battle? More times than he could count. True, the incidences of those feelings had lessened of late, but when they did surface they were considerably deeper and more passionate than they had ever been before. He recalled the time he and Anakin had gone to Tythe in search of Count Dooku. The mission had ultimately turned out to be a wild goose chase, a means of distracting them while Sidious launched his attack on Corescant, but Obi-Wan vividly remembered how Anakin had brought the whole roof of the building down on top of them with one angry bellow.
Neither of them had mentioned that incident to the Council.
I don?t trust him.
Mace Windu?s words echoed in Obi-Wan?s head and his fingers tugged at his beard more vigorously. Again there was a mix of feelings he had been experiencing far too often of late: resentment, understanding, regret, hope, worry? fundamental confusion. Oh how he wished Qui-Gon was still alive to help him with this. So many times he had sought the advice of the elder Jedi Masters, most often Yoda. But even as the most senior member of the Council, and the most experienced, Yoda could not see everything, and usually gave Obi-Wan his answers in riddles that simply roused more questions.
Oh, Qui-Gon, why can?t you be here to help me?
Obi-Wan remembered the countless times his Master had offered him reassurances as a Padawan. Somehow Qui-Gon had always been able to quell Obi-Wan?s fears, soothe his doubts, make sense out of things that didn?t make sense. What would Qui-Gon say now? What advice would the Master offer to his former apprentice at a time like this? Obi-Wan could hear Qui-Gon?s voice in his head, almost as clearly as if he were still alive, and Obi-Wan couldn?t help the faint smile that came to his lips.
You don?t need me anymore, Obi-Wan. You are not as helpless as you believe yourself to be. In your heart you know what is right, you know the truth. You needn?t doubt yourself.
But how can I not? Obi-Wan protested, just as he would if Qui-Gon had really been there. Some of what they say is true. Anakin is prone to violent outbursts of emotion?I have tried to teach him the ways of the Jedi?but?there are some things it seems he just cannot accept. And?he has become harder and harder to read lately.
Why do you think that is? It was a question Qui-Gon would undoubtedly ask. He had always preferred Obi-Wan come to his own conclusions.
I don?t know. Obi-Wan thought again of how Anakin?s mental presence had seemed to change over the years. The Jedi Master cautiously opened himself up again to the feelings that were now pouring from the young man across the hall and winced at the depth of them. These were not the spur of the moment emotions Anakin displayed during battle or the heat of the chase. These were far too strong to be anything but long term sentiments; desperation, fear, frustration, anger, grief?things that had been building up for who knew how long, only now reaching the point where they were too strong to be restrained?to be hidden?.
?Stars? end,? Obi-Wan muttered out loud, shocked by the revelation, hardly willing to believe it. ?He?s been blocking me. But why would he do that? I don?t understand??
You are not the one who can answer that question, Qui-Gon?s voice chimed in his head, and Obi-Wan once again felt a pang of sadness at the thought that his Master could not really be with him, could not really speak to him. Do what your heart tells you, Qui-Gon would have said, as he had said to Obi-Wan so many times in the past, before Naboo. Let the Force guide you. And remember, I will be with you always.
Obi-Wan closed his eyes briefly. Yes, Master. In my heart and in my mind always. He sighed once more, shaking his head, no more certain of himself and definitely more confused. Do what your heart tells you, Qui-Gon had often said. Obi-Wan gave a derisive grunt. His heart was no clearer than his head at this point. For a long time now Obi-Wan had seesawed between the conservative views of the Council and Anakin?s own outwardly ambitious nature. He had agreed with both and disagreed with both, and tried many times to find a place to settle between them. But he had not yet found that place.
His heart was consistently torn between the teachings of the Council - the mandates and values that had been instilled into his very being since he was a mere child - and the fatherly loyalty and blind faith he had for Anakin. He still felt the sting of defiance rise within him whenever the Council questioned Anakin?s deeds or abilities. He knew that they often had good reason to raise such questions, and yet there was still a part of him that refused to acknowledge the fact that Anakin had flaws.
He is the Chosen One?
Obi-Wan could still hear Qui-Gon?s forceful claim, as clearly as he had heard it all those years ago. And he could still hear Yoda?s gravely voice, the rhythmic tapping of the Jedi Master?s walking stick punctuating the words: Confer on you the level of Jedi Knight, the Council does. But agree to you taking Skywalker as Padawan, I do not.
That moment had been only the second time in many years that Obi-Wan had felt real anger, and the first time had been at seeing that sickening smirk upon the tattooed Sith?s face as Qui-Gon fell on Naboo. But it was what Yoda had said next, in response to the young Obi-Wan?s heated protests, that had come back in these past months to haunt the older Obi-Wan in his sleep.
The Chosen One the boy may be. But grave danger I fear in his training.
Had Yoda been right? Had Qui-Gon been wrong? Had he, Obi-Wan Kenobi, been wrong in insisting so passionately that Anakin be trained as a Jedi?
It is too late for such questions now, Obi-Wan scolded himself. What?s done is done. All that is left is to try your hardest to keep Anakin on the right path. He is the Chosen One?he will not fail. And you will not fail him. All will turn out right in the end.
Obi-Wan punched the door panel at last, making up his mind, and the antiquated door whirred up into the ceiling. The robeless Jedi Master strode across the wide, curving hallway, half wishing he had put his boots on after all ? the carpet didn?t look like it had been cleaned for quite some years ? and rapped his knuckles on the pitted metal of Anakin?s door.
?Anakin?? he called softly, his voice loud in the darkness of the hall. The lights on the ceiling had been broken long ago.
Silence was his only answer, and the eerie howling of the wind outside. But the raging maelstrom of emotions that had been hovering at the edge of his awareness since he had first awoken abruptly subsided. Obi-Wan?s face adopted another frown. So Anakin could control such feelings?or at least the young Jedi had become very adept at hiding them. Obi-Wan let down the guard he had constructed to shield himself from Anakin?s mental rampage, but even without it he could hardly pick up even the traces of what had been there before.
Oh yes?he?s gotten very adept at hiding them, Obi-Wan thought. True control of one?s emotions would never allow for such intensity. Anakin could only have been masking his true moods in the past - except on those occasions when all his concentration was focused on something else, some other activity?like chasing down an enemy or fighting in close combat. A disturbing revelation, not only because it required a level of skill Obi-Wan had not yet thought Anakin capable of, but simply because Anakin was hiding something. Hiding? lying? was often a sign of guilt? a sign of mistrust?
Obi-Wan grimaced. He didn?t like either thought. He needed to talk to Anakin?he needed to find out the truth?the why?.
He knocked again, harder this time. ?Anakin? Are you all right??
Another silence stretched out behind his question. But then, finally, came an answer from within. ?I?I?m fine,? Anakin called, but his voice was gruff and unsteady. It portrayed none of the assurance meant by the spoken words. ?I?m just trying to get some sleep. Except someone keeps knocking on my door.?
Obi-Wan smiled even as his heart wrenched. It was a weak attempt at the humor they usually shared. An attempt to act normal, as if nothing was wrong. But something was wrong, and although Anakin might try to brush it off and hide it from his former Master and best friend, it wasn?t going to work this time. Not anymore.
The Jedi Master set himself resolutely in front of Anakin?s door. ?Anakin, we need to talk.?
?What, you need me to come scare off that monster under your bed??
Obi-Wan snorted. Anakin?s tone had nearly returned to normal now, as had the endless wit. But why wasn?t he opening the door?
?Anakin, I?m being serious. May I come in??
There was no immediate reply, but after a short moment the door lifted, grinding on poorly lubricated hinge joints and revealing Anakin?s profile, silhouetted against the far window, exactly as Obi-Wan had seen him via the Force only minutes before. The Jedi Master stepped through the doorway, folding his arms over his chest as he crossed the room. He glanced around as he walked, searching for any clues that might tell him what had caused Anakin to feel such despair?or more accurately, what had caused Anakin to lose his focus enough to reveal such feelings.
Anakin was dressed in much the same manner as Obi-Wan, wearing his Jedi tunic and pants but not the over tunic or robe?or boots. Those Obi-Wan could see in his quick glimpse of the bedroom; the dark cloak hung on a hook near the door, the second tunic, belt, and long glove were folded neatly on the floor beneath it, the boots set right next to those. Anakin stood facing the window, looking out at the dark sprawl of the planet several stories below them, and did not turn around as Obi-Wan approached. The young Jedi Knight had adopted his usual wide-legged stance of meditation, his hands clasped behind his back, the metal of his right artificial arm gleaming dully in the faint moonlight that filtered through the windowpane.
Obi-Wan joined his former Padawan in looking out at the horizon, and for several long minutes they stood in silence. Obi-Wan wasn?t exactly sure how to open the conversation, and Anakin didn?t seem eager to find out what Obi-Wan had to talk about at such a late hour of the night. Obi-Wan sighed, glancing to Anakin, but the young man did not turn. He kept his gaze straight ahead, purposefully avoiding eye contact.
?You think I?m hiding something,? Anakin stated abruptly, his tone low and flat.
The words took Obi-Wan completely by surprise, and instinctively he threw up the shield in his mind again. He had to remember Anakin could sense his thoughts and feelings as well?though that was not usually something he had to worry about around his friend?he shook off the creeping guilt.
?Of course not,? Anakin said, turning on his heel and striding to the nightstand beside the bed. He fiddled with a loose switch on the communicator console there, and for the briefest of seconds Obi-Wan thought he felt another stab of that bottomless sadness.
?Anakin,? he began softly, ?I felt a disturbance in the Force. That was what woke me. And it came from you. That much I know.?
Anakin?s fidgeting with the switch stopped. He looked up to the ceiling, as if searching for answers there, and then turned his eyes back to the console. ?I had a nightmare,? he said at last. ?That?s all. It?s happened before.?
Yes it has, Obi-Wan said to himself, and he thought back three years ago, when Anakin had been plagued for months with dreams of his mother. Dreams of his mother in pain, in need of help. The then-Padawan had often insisted they meant something; Obi-Wan had repeatedly passed them off just as dreams, believing they would fade eventually. But in the end Anakin had been right. His mother had been in pain?and perhaps if Obi-Wan had listened to his Padawan they could have reached her sooner?they could have saved her?.
He wasn?t going to make that mistake again. ?A nightmare?? he asked. ?Are you sure it wasn?t a vision??
?It was just a nightmare,? Anakin shot back, far too harshly. But it was more than his tone that told Obi-Wan the statement wasn?t entirely true. This time he could sense the deception.
He made his way over to Anakin slowly, and as he neared the other Jedi, Anakin sighed heavily and sat down on the edge of the bed, putting his hands in his lap and flexing his mechanical fingers absently.
Obi-Wan took a seat next to him, fixing the much younger man with an expectant gaze.
Anakin could not long sit still under it. He let out a frustrated growl and stood up again, pacing back to the window. ?I just?I would like to be alone for a while. Please.?
But Obi-Wan didn?t move. ?I?m not leaving until you tell me what?s wrong.?
?Nothing?s wrong,? Anakin retorted. ?Why does anything have to be wrong? I told you I had a nightmare. It doesn?t mean anything.?
?Except that I know you?re lying.?
The Jedi Knight across the room lowered his head. ?You don?t trust me.?
?That?s not true.?
?It is true!? Anakin snapped, spinning to face Obi-Wan for the first time that night. ?Or we wouldn?t be having this conversation!?
Obi-Wan stood from the bed, his own voice rising in volume as he argued. ?It?s not that I don?t trust you, Anakin ? I just don?t understand why you?re lying to me. Why don?t you tell me what?s going on??
?That?s what I?ve been telling you, Master! Nothing?s going on?nothing?s wrong. You?re overreacting.?
Obi-Wan took a slow, calming breath, then went to his former Padawan?s side. Anakin tried to move away again but Obi-Wan caught the young man?s arm in a firm grip, holding him in place. ?Anakin,? Obi-Wan said softly, seriously, ?please. I?m asking you as a friend. Not as a Master. Not as a Jedi.?
Anakin wouldn?t meet Obi-Wan?s eyes. His gaze flicked restlessly across the wide expanse of planet that stretched below them. He opened his mouth as if to speak, but then said nothing. Obi-Wan could feel him hesitating; the veil of Force that shielded the torrent of misery from outsiders wavered, allowing some of the depression to leak through and brush Obi-Wan?s senses again. It was then the Jedi Master realized that Anakin wanted to tell him ? wanted to blurt everything on his troubled mind, but there was something else that held him back. Obi-Wan stepped closer, his gaze riveted on Anakin?s worry-lined face.
?You know I trust you, Anakin,? he said quietly. ?With my life. But I need you to trust me as well.?
?I do trust you, Master.?
But what was that Obi-Wan felt flicker behind the words? Doubt? His brows furrowed in confusion. No, he must have read that wrong. He and Anakin had been through too much together for the younger Jedi to mistrust his former Master. Obi-Wan had never done anything to give Anakin cause to doubt him?had he? Obi-Wan?s next words carried a note of uncertainty in them. ?Then you shouldn?t need to hide anything from me.?
Anakin hissed a long breath through his teeth, pulling away from Obi-Wan to stand facing one of the room?s dark corners. He ran his hands through his hair, shaking his head. ?You wouldn?t understand. You can?t help me this time, Master. Not this time.?
?And how could you know that??
?I just do. Believe me.?
Obi-Wan folded his arms across his chest, studying Anakin?s back. There it was again?the tremble in Anakin?s voice. He felt a bout of anxiety clutch his insides. Perhaps there was more to this than just a repeated nightmarish vision?.
But he would have to start slow. ?Was it a vision??
Anakin?s head dropped again, his left hand going to massage his temple. There was a moment of indecision, but at last the words rushed from his mouth. ?Yes. I?I think so.?
?Like the one with your mother?? Obi-Wan asked carefully, gently.
Anakin released a shuddering sigh. ?Yes.? The word wrenched from his throat, choked by his anguish.
Obi-Wan fell silent for a moment, thinking. He cautiously reached out with the Force, subtly probing the wild thoughts and mounting emotions that were once again rising from Anakin. Slowly he began to see a larger pattern, a bigger picture, and his voice was heavy when he next spoke.
?You saw someone die.? It was not a question.
The waves Anakin sent through the Force surged together suddenly, creating a vortex of feeling that took Obi-Wan?s breath away. He struggled for the second time that night to free his consciousness from Anakin?s influence, and when he finally managed it he saw that Anakin had moved back to the bedside.
?It?s not fair,? Anakin croaked through clenched teeth. ?I don?t understand why this is happening to me!?
?Why what is happening to you, Anakin?? Obi-Wan asked, still somewhat out of breath and feeling decidedly off balance.
?Why does everyone I love have to die?? Anakin cried. He snatched the communications console from the nightstand and hurled it across the room. It smashed into the opposite wall and shattered into a thousand tiny pieces of plastisteel and glittering inner wire.
Anakin whirled from the mess, clenching his hands into fists at his sides. ?Why can?t I help them?? he demanded. ?Why can?t I ever help them? Why can?t I stop it?? He turned his fierce glare on Obi-Wan, and the Jedi Master could see the gleam of tears in Anakin?s blue eyes, the wet trails down his face.
Obi-Wan opened his mouth to make some reply, but his mind raced far ahead of his tongue. Everyone I love, Anakin had said. Love?of course Anakin had loved his mother, that could not be helped when the boy had been already nine years old at the start of training. But who else could he feel so close to? One person flashed to Obi-Wan?s mind immediately, but he stubbornly pushed the thought away. That was impossible. That was ridiculous. That would be a violation of one of the fundamental rules of the Jedi Order?.
Just being around her again is intoxicating.
?I?m sorry, Master,? Anakin said suddenly, drawing Obi-Wan?s attention back to him.
?I?m sorry,? Anakin said again, his voice dropping to a whisper as he sank down to the bed again, his head in his hands. ?I?ve failed you. I?ve failed the Order.?
Obi-Wan moved quickly to stand next to the younger man, peering at him warily. ?What? Anakin, what are you talking about? You?re one of the most promising Jedi ever to -?
?No.? Anakin cut him off sharply. ?You don?t understand.? He lifted his head from his hands, raising his eyes to meet Obi-Wan?s, and the blue depths were suddenly cold and hard. Obi-Wan felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle.
?I won?t let her die,? Anakin whispered ferociously. ?I?ll find a way to save her. I don?t care what it takes?I don?t care what I have to do. I will not let her die.?
Be mindful of your thoughts, Anakin; they betray you.
Obi-Wan felt his own gaze harden at Anakin?s words, and he sat down next to his friend. ?Calm yourself, Anakin,? he ordered. ?Tell me what you saw. Maybe it?s not a vision-?
?It is,? Anakin interjected.
Obi-Wan let out a small sigh. ?Just a moment ago you weren?t so certain.?
Anakin shook his head, wiping the tears away angrily with the back of his still human hand. ?Wishful thinking, Master. It is a vision. I just?I had hoped it wasn?t. For months now I?ve hoped it was just my own fears playing out in my sleep. But...after tonight?I know it?s a vision. It couldn?t be anything else.?
For months now? Obi-Wan turned to face Anakin. ?Then maybe it?s not all true,? he offered. ?Visions are a way the Force communicates with us, but that doesn?t mean our own minds can?t contribute something to them. It takes a skilled Jedi to separate the Force-divined elements of a vision from the fears and fantasies of the mind.?
?The one of my mother was true,? Anakin commented sourly. ?All of it. And I ignored it until it was too late.? The self-hate was obvious in his tone.
?You can?t blame yourself for that, Anakin,? Obi-Wan said somberly. ?Even I didn?t recognize your dreams for what they were then. We won?t ignore them this time, but that doesn?t mean this vision is like the other, either.?
?I don?t know what to do,? Anakin whispered gruffly, staring at the dark blue carpet beneath his bare feet. ?For as strong as I?ve become in the Force since my mother died, I feel so much more helpless.?
Obi-Wan nodded in understanding. How many times had he felt that way since he?d first taken Anakin as his Padawan? Since the start of the Clone Wars? Since the beginning of this conversation? ?Tell me what happens in this vision, Anakin,? he said out loud. ?Maybe I can help.?
The Jedi Knight beside him let out a short bark of laughter, coming to his feet and walking to the window. ?There?s nothing you can do for me, Master. There?s nothing anyone can do.?
?Anakin.? The word was sharper than Obi-Wan intended, but it conveyed exactly what he wanted it to: slight irritation, determination, authority. He was getting tired of playing this game.
His tone had the desired effect; he could sense his former Padawan once again wavering on the edge of the truth. But then he withdrew again, hiding behind the concealing wall of Force in his mind. ?I?I can?t.? He ran his hand through his already tousled hair again. ?I can?t. I?m sorry.?
Obi-Wan bridled his frustration, suspicion, and concern, forcing his voice to be calm and smooth. ?Why not??
?It?s my own business,? Anakin replied. ?Nothing you should be concerned about.?
Obi-Wan almost laughed. Anakin had sent out a Force disturbance large enough to wake every Jedi within a mile radius because he?d had a vision of someone dying; now his emotions were out of control and he was clearly hiding something, and yet he told Obi-Wan not to be concerned? ?I thought you said you weren?t hiding anything?? His calm tone had turned cool.
Anakin tossed a sharp look over one shoulder, then faced the window again. ?I?m not.?
?Then why won?t you tell me what you?ve seen??
?It doesn?t matter!? Anakin shouted back, his anger flaring. ?It doesn?t matter what the vision was about! I?ll deal with it on my own; I?ll find a way to fix things. I?m not your Padawan anymore, Obi-Wan, I don?t need your help!?
He spun on his heel and strode for the door, opening it remotely through the Force with a flick of his hand. But Obi-Wan lifted his own hand and slammed it shut again, and Anakin drew up short, whirling to face the Jedi Master with a dark expression.
On the contrary, Anakin, I think you need my help now more than you ever have before.
Obi-Wan met Anakin?s glower evenly, taking in a deep, silent breath and exhaling slowly. He could wait no longer to voice his suspicions. As much as he dreaded what he might hear come from Anakin?s lips, he had to know the truth. For Anakin?s sake, for the sake of the Order?for his own sake?.
?I?m going for a walk,? Anakin bit off in a low voice. ?Alone.? The door behind him flung up into the ceiling again.
Obi-Wan crossed his arms as Anakin turned, and spoke the words he?d hoped he wouldn?t have to say. ?This has to do with Padm?, doesn?t it??
Anakin stopped as if he?d been struck, his body going rigid, and Obi-Wan knew at once he had found the truth.
I haven?t seen her in ten years, Master.
I?ve thought about her every day since we parted...
You?ll be expelled from the Jedi Order!
I can?t leave her!
Everyone I love?
Reluctant acceptance settled over the Jedi Master. He realized he had long ago recognized the true depth of Anakin?s feelings for the Queen turned Senator, but he had continually ignored that knowledge, pushing it far back in his awareness. There had been a few times in the past when Obi-Wan had warned Anakin about the dangers of such feelings, but the Padawan, and now the Jedi Knight, had repeatedly assured his Master there were no feelings of that nature involved.
Obviously Anakin had not exactly told the truth during those conversations, and Obi-Wan found that fact distinctly disturbing. He had thought his relationship with the other Jedi was beyond that point?after all, Anakin had often called Obi-Wan his best friend.
The Jedi Master realized his thoughts were wandering and forced himself to clear his mind, knowing that speculation would only further cloud the real truth. He waited silently for Anakin?s reply.
The Jedi Knight stood still for a long moment, framed by the open doorway, his hands balled into fists. Obi-Wan could clearly feel the younger man warring with himself, torn between the offered relief of confiding in his former Master and the fear of revealing his vision - the fear of what consequences might come from the Jedi Council.
Obi-Wan?s eyes narrowed at the last thought. Oh, Anakin, what have you done now? The prospect of trying to explain yet another of Anakin?s deviances from the Code to the Council was not a pleasant one. But then?maybe he wouldn?t have to. What Anakin needed most right now was a friend ? his best friend ? to listen to him?not a Jedi Master who was busy thinking about how he?d broken the proper codes of conduct.
Anakin suddenly exhaled a massive breath, his shoulders dropping in defeat. ?I?m sorry,? he said again, his voice hoarse. ?I love her. I can?t help it.? He turned to face Obi-Wan, the glitter of tears shining in his eyes. ?I?I tried to stay away?I tried to do as you said. I tried to follow the ways of the Order?? He shook his head, swallowing visibly. ?I couldn?t help it, Master.?
Obi-Wan closed his eyes, drawing in a deep breath. There it was. The confession he?d been searching for, the words he?d been waiting to hear for three years. But the fact he?d suspected such feelings in Anakin years ago didn?t make the actual confession of them now any less troubling.
He tried to push away the surge of disappointment that welled within him, knowing that Anakin?s inability to control his emotions was not entirely his own fault. A Padawan?s failures as a Jedi often reflected the flaws in a Master?s teachings?
Obi-Wan opened his eyes, but found himself at a loss for words. He couldn?t tell Anakin that loving a woman so passionately was all right, because within the Jedi Order, it wasn?t. Nor could he tell the Jedi Knight that such feelings didn?t matter, that this confession wouldn?t change anything, because that would also be a lie. But the look that Anakin currently fixed him with was so sorrowful, so full of pain, so desperate, that Obi-Wan couldn?t find it within himself to be as harsh as he should have been.
He needs a friend right now, not more Jedi platitudes.
?Anakin,? he said slowly, choosing his words carefully, ?I won?t lie to you. You?re walking on some very dangerous ground. Although I would imagine it?s your feelings for Padm? that allowed you to have this vision in the first place. Still?if you want to remain a Jedi?you?re going to have to let her go.?
?I won?t let her die!? Anakin snapped, his expression immediately angry again, his eyes flashing dangerously.
?I didn?t say we couldn?t do anything to try and help her,? Obi-Wan replied evenly, returning Anakin?s glare with one of his own. ?If you can tell me what you have seen, we will do everything we can to protect her. We can accomplish more together and you know that.?
Anakin dropped his eyes from Obi-Wan?s, once more teetering on the edge of his stubbornness, his fear...
?If you really want to save her you?ll let me help,? Obi-Wan said.
Anakin was silent for a long moment, staring at the ground, his thoughts reeling so wildly Obi-Wan could hardly keep track of them. The Jedi Knight squeezed his eyes shut, and a tear came free of his lashes to roll down his face, where he brushed it away absently.
?Was it another assassination attempt?? Obi-Wan asked, trying to prod Anakin into saying something.
But the former Padawan just shook his head. He sucked in a deep, trembling breath, then lifted his eyes to meet Obi-Wan?s gaze briefly before glancing over to the remains of the communications console. ?Padm??s pregnant,? he whispered abruptly. ?With my child.? His eyes came back to lock on Obi-Wan?s face. ?We were married on Naboo?three years ago. She?s my wife.?
Obi-Wan felt as if the floor had just dropped away from under him, the whole world collapsing down around his ears. He stumbled over to the nearest chair and leaned on it for support, his thoughts and feelings suddenly just as jumbled as Anakin?s. He stared at his fellow Jedi, mouth open but speechless, having no idea how to react to such news.
Three years ago? my wife? my child? How could you do this? Obi-Wan silently demanded of his friend. How could you throw away all those years of training, your commitment to the Order? How could you disregard the Code so blatantly? How could you lie ? lie to me ? for three years?
?Anakin!? It exploded off his tongue before he even knew he?d said it aloud, and across the room the Jedi Knight startled at the volume.
?Don?t be angry, Master,? Anakin pleaded, his tone softening into the familiar pacifying manner he often used when he knew he?d done something wrong and was about to be chastised for it.
?Angry?? Obi-Wan repeated in disbelief, but he was angry. For only the third time in all of his adult life, Obi-Wan Kenobi felt the burning fire of true anger in his heart. ?Anakin! It?s one thing to have feelings for someone?it?s another thing entirely to marry them! What about your commitment to the Order??
?What about it?? Anakin asked defensively. ?I?m still a Jedi.?
You?ve made a commitment to the Jedi Order, a commitment not easily broken.
No, he didn?t break it, Obi-Wan thought wryly. He thinks he can have both, he thinks he can balance being a husband, a father, with being a Jedi. He doesn?t understand that?s not possible. It would be a living contradiction?no one could remain sane in that kind of lifestyle?
?It won?t work, Anakin,? he said.
The Jedi Knight?s blue eyes narrowed. ?I knew you wouldn?t understand,? he snarled. ?Now you know why I never told you. I suppose you?re going to go and tell the Council now? They?ll expel me from the Order, but I suppose that?s just as well. None of them trust me anyway. I can feel it every time I enter that chamber?suspicion, mistrust, resentment??
Another tear slipped down his cheek.
?But that doesn?t matter,? Anakin continued, his voice gruff. ?None of that matters. I don?t care what you tell them, Obi-Wan. I don?t care what they do to me. I?m going to find a way to save her, one way or another.?
The words brought the guilt back hard, washing away Obi-Wan?s anger and replacing it with shame. Anakin?s secret marriage and potential fatherhood would certainly have to be addressed more directly in the future, but he had lost sight of the more immediate, more important subject at hand: Padm??s safety.
Anakin?s vision had seen her die, and that was not something to be ignored. Obi-Wan considered Padm? one of his closest friends?the fact that she had also been willing to keep the marriage secret from him, and maintain that secret for these past three years, wounded him more deeply than even Anakin?s barefaced lies of the past. Perhaps he could expect such falsehoods from his often rebellious former Padawan?but not from the older, wiser, well-respected Senator?
?Anakin,? Obi-Wan began softly, ?I?m not going to tell the Council. Not yet. What you?ve done is wrong, but what?s done is done. We?ll talk about that later. Right now I want you to tell me what you saw in your vision. If I can help at all, I will. You don?t have to do this alone.?
Anakin glared at Obi-Wan for a moment more, and the Jedi Master briefly felt his former Padawan cautiously probe his mind. What is he looking for? Obi-Wan wondered to himself. Lies? Reassurance? Trust?
The presence disappeared almost as soon as Obi-Wan became aware of it, and slowly Anakin?s eyes lost their fierce fire, filling once more with a deep, poignant grief. He looked down to his feet abruptly, and Obi-Wan saw him struggle to restrain sobs. The Jedi Knight pressed the heels of his hands, both metal and flesh, to his eyes, gulping in a few deep breaths, and then he looked up to his former Master again.
The raw pain carried in that expression turned Obi-Wan?s insides upside down. Look at what this is doing to you, Anakin, he thought desperately. This isn?t how it?s supposed to be. You?re the Chosen One?
?I saw?I saw her giving birth to our child,? Anakin croaked miserably. ?And she died. She died in childbirth?? His words were drowned by the agony and he turned away from Obi-Wan, ashamed of his obvious lack of control.
Obi-Wan sensed the former Padawan wrestling with the violent emotions that filled his being, but this time it seemed Anakin would not come out on top. He had opened himself up at last, told the truth that had been hidden for so long, and that confession had been such a relief to his tortured soul that he could no longer internalize his feelings as he had before.
The Jedi Master walked slowly to Anakin?s side, putting a hand on the young man?s shoulder. ?We?ll find a way, Anakin,? he said soothingly, hoping to settle some of the expanding fear that emanated from the Jedi Knight. ?Your vision has shown us the future so that we can prepare for it. And we will.?
Anakin swallowed hard, turning his head to look at his former Master. The blue eyes brimmed with tears, searching Obi-Wan?s face, wanting to believe, wanting to trust?
?I can?t lose her,? he whispered huskily. ?I can?t.?
Obi-Wan pursed his lips. You?re far too attached, Anakin, he thought. You?ve allowed yourself to fall from your Jedi discipline, you?ve thrown yourself into your feelings and lived them to the fullest, and now you?re slave to them. This is a pivotal place for you, Anakin. Remember your Jedi training?don?t give in to your fear? He thought of the smashed communications console, the roof Anakin had made collapse on Tythe, the Separatist lieutenant he had nearly killed while questioning on Cato Nemoidia?
Such anger, such rashness, such lack of restraint?now all amplified by his love for Padm?. If they couldn?t find a way to save her, if she did die?Obi-Wan couldn?t imagine what Anakin might do.
Padm? couldn?t be allowed to die. Not now, when Anakin was so unstable, so vulnerable.
?You won?t lose her, Anakin,? Obi-Wan said firmly. ?Not this way.? But you will have to let her go someday. You will have to make a choice sooner or later. You can?t continue to live like this. He didn?t say such things aloud. Now was not the time? ?We?ll find a way to save her.?
?What if we can?t??
?We will,? Obi-Wan reiterated, squeezing Anakin?s shoulder. ?I promise you. We?ll get the best medics in the galaxy; you won?t have to worry about a thing.? He forced a smile to his lips, but it felt unnatural, even to him.
?I?m scared, Obi-Wan.?
Me too, the Jedi Master thought, and then with a shock realized it was true. He wasn?t sure where he had gone wrong in Anakin?s training, but he had failed his Padawan and friend more than once, he knew. And for all his years as a Jedi, Obi-Wan wasn?t quite sure about how to guide Anakin out of this emotional state?he wasn?t sure it was even possible. Not after the man had been married for three years?and now that he would be a father as well.
What would the Council say?
Obi-Wan knew very well what the Council would say. They would be appalled. They would say they had seen this coming, that Anakin had never been cut out to be a Jedi. They would say Qui-Gon had been wrong, that young Jedi Knight Kenobi had been foolish to assume the responsibilities of mentor so quickly, especially to one such as Anakin Skywalker, whose past was so unusual and future so uncertain. They would almost certainly expel Anakin from the Order.
But Obi-Wan was not ready to give up on his former Padawan. Not yet. Anakin was the Chosen One?Obi-Wan had to try and reconcile him to the ways of the Jedi, no matter how long it took. It was the only way.
?It?s all right, Anakin,? he said at last. ?We?ve found our way around impossible situations before?and this one certainly isn?t impossible.?
The barest of smiles hinted at one corner of Anakin?s mouth, and his right hand landed on Obi-Wan?s shoulder. ?Thank you, Master.?
?For being a friend. For understanding. For believing in me.?
Obi-Wan smiled appreciatively. ?I?ll always be here for you, Anakin.?
The Jedi Knight suddenly pulled him into a hug, and Obi-Wan stood in surprise for a moment before rousing himself to hug his friend back.
There was a long and difficult path ahead of them both, Obi-Wan knew. All of this?the vision, the marriage, the child?was just the beginning. He hoped, he prayed, he could help put his friend back on the right path, help pull him from the shadows he currently flirted with?
I?ll always be here for you, Anakin.
And so he would. For as long as Anakin needed him.
Original cover by Lossfalme. HTML formatting copyright 2005 TheForce.Net LLC.