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Set It Alight (Dark!Obi-wan--In Progress)


Obi-quiet
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Title: Set It Alight

Rating: M

Rated for: Torture, violence and dark side unpleasantness (no explicit sex, no harsh language, but there are probably a lot of triggers)

Critique level: [CRITIQUE ENCOURAGED]

Summary: It is better that one man falls to darkness than an entire Galaxy. It turns out the price of the future is a certain man's soul. Was it worth it?

AKA What if Ventress had actually understood the subtle, if despicable, art of breaking a man?

 

NOTE: If you don’t know about Asajj capturing Obi-wan and using a Sith Torture Mask on him, I will summarize below, but you can also look it up on Wookiepedia. I recommend looking up the battle of Jabiim as well. If you already know, you can skip to the beginning of chapter 1.

 

For all intents and purposes, Jabiim was a planet that had a good deal of resources, but the people were split as to whether they should support the Republic or the Separatists. In the end, the forces of the Republic weren’t adequate for the terrain and weather on the planet and they ended up having to abandon it. During the rather long battle-period, Obi-wan was presumed dead when in actuality, Asajj Ventress was able to spirit him away when he was knocked out after an explosion. She was able to cut him off from the Force and tortured him. She didn’t like the fascination that Dooku seemed to have with Obi-wan and felt that if Obi-wan would admit that she was better than him, Dooku might take her on as an apprentice. And that’s what you need to know in a nutshell. Enjoy!

 

Chapter 1

 

Multitudes of people throughout history have somehow come to the conclusion that freedom is the ability to choose and not live with undesirable consequences of those choices. True freedom, however, is the right to make a choice, not necessarily the ability to choose the results of your actions. Wise people choose their actions and words with their consequences in mind. Desperate people do as well, but with blinders on. It is difficult to make a wise choice when any result is undesirable. It is possible to be wise and desperate, but as far as I am concerned, the truly wise would never become desperate. I had hoped I had become wise during my time as a knight. I was wrong.

 

The worst part about the entire situation was the fact the he knew he could have succeeded in just about any other circumstance. It would have been difficult and he knew that he was breaking, but he could have pulled through if it hadn’t been for Anakin. Not that Obi-wan could blame him. No, he knew where to place the blame.

 

The Jedi Knight didn’t know how long he’d been held prisoner by the time Ventress decided to use that Force forsaken mask on him, but he had a will of durasteel and a goal in his mind and he refused to submit. He didn’t like the pain, but he could handle it, even as it grew worse and worse each day, never quite leaving anymore. The visions the mask brought to him were more difficult to deal with, and they’d begun to wear on him. He wasn’t sure how long he could hold out as the despair, guilt, anger and all the hundreds of other negative emotions built, but he was determined to defeat it.

 

Everything changed when—an indeterminable amount of time after he’d involuntarily donned the mask—the door opened, allowing a wave of stale air not quite so full of the smell of unwashed bodies and decaying excretions to brush past him. He squashed the longing he had for fresh air and sunlight, once again leaning on his not insubstantial reserve of patience. He’d been working on a way to touch the Force despite the pain the mask brought him every time he tried, but hadn’t exactly had the most success. It would still be a while yet before he could escape.

 

With a resigned sigh, he steeled his mind and will to endure another few hours of torture. The darksider hadn’t been able to turn or break him yet, and he had long since resolutely decided that today (that every day) would be no different. He was almost glad she hadn’t been trained in interrogation so much as assassination. She didn’t understand how to really get to someone, she just liked causing pain. He was also grateful that she knew so little about his past. She hadn’t been able to reopen old wounds and play on his weaknesses, at least not in anything beyond a general sense.

 

The mask, having pushed it's way into his mind, did extrapolate on those fears and memories, but he knew they were only in his head and refused to voice the horrible visions aloud. He would ignore images of Qui-gon leaving him on Bandomeer; of Qui-gon and Anakin—master and apprentice—walking away from him, Anakin with a new padawan braid grinning happily up at his new master, never to speak to Obi-wan again; of the two women he’d loved and could never be with because of his convictions; of his absolute inadequacies in being a master to The Chosen One and hundreds of other scenarios that could have happened. And that was just when Ventress wasn’t inflicting more pain in some new, previously inconceivable way.

 

He braced himself against the visions of killing her slowly that would surely come in the next few hours; of making sure she felt just as much torment as he’d endured. The mask tended to bring those out every time he saw the woman lately. He purposefully turned his thoughts away from that general cluster and pushed down the idea of never escaping and being left here to rot because he simply refused to fall. He was a Jedi Knight. He could do this.

 

Obi-wan took several calming breaths and was just about to look up at his captor when he heard the dull thump of a body falling to the floor, and he opened his previously closed eyes in surprise. Then his blood froze in his veins. The body on the floor was Anakin. The boy was dirty and worn, but he’d recognize his padawan anywhere.

 

“No…” he heard himself whisper despite his resolve.

 

Anakin shouldn’t be here! Why was he here?! Anakin was supposed to rescue him or at the very least stay out of harm’s way, not get himself captured!

 

A triumphant cackle had him looking up at Ventress. She’d wizened up somehow and realized she would have to attack one of Obi-wan’s weak points—one of his attachments—to get to him. He knew he had too many of them, no matter how he tried to fix it; to hide and ignore the knowledge, desperately working to release such feelings to the Force multiple times a day. It had never worked completely, even before the mask, and now he couldn’t even do that. It had been all he could do to hold to his convictions before now. And the worst part, of all his weaknesses, Anakin was probably the most obvious and the one he was the most deeply attached to, if he were honest with himself.

 

The mask immediately brought up images of the torture Anakin would be forced to endure because Obi-wan had been caught—because he’d been too weak to take what was his, embrace the darkness and gain the power he needed.

 

He forced the thoughts aside and glared up at Ventress.

 

“Anakin has nothing to do with this,” he said, upset that his voice had been sharper than he’d intended. “Leave him out of it!”

 

The woman regarded him with a smirk. “No. Now that I have both of you within my grasp, I’ll make sure to break him worse than I’ll break even you.”

 

Obi-wan felt a surge of panicked anger shoot up like a geyser inside of him and he was about to snap a scathing retort when a groan from his apprentice stopped him.

 

“Wha…? Where am I?”

 

“Anakin,” Obi-wan croaked in a voice that had been all too used to screaming recently. The padawan blinked and looked up. From the look on his face, he barely recognized what must be nothing but the form of a man with barely enough skin drooping over his skeleton to classify him as ‘alive’, hanging from the ceiling in what was left of the cloak Ventress had shoved him into so long ago. She hadn’t bothered to change the rags since just after he and the clone he’d been captured with, Alpha, had arrived, and the dirty tatters were only marginally better than being completely naked (which she’d subjected him to multiple times as well). He suspected she only put the rough cloth on him at the end of their sessions so as to aggravate his wounds.

 

Anakin’s eyes widened when he realized just who was hanging before him. “M-master?” he asked warily before a relieved grin broke onto his face. “You’re alive? I knew it! I told everyone, but no one would believe me.”

 

And that hurt more than he thought it should. No one was even trying to rescue him from his living nightmare? They’d just abandoned him to this? He didn’t want anyone else to put their lives in danger for him, and yet he had to suppress the resentment that boiled at the thought. He couldn’t release it to the Force, but that didn’t mean he had to give into the feeling either. No matter how much he wanted to.

 

“I never gave up on you,” Anakin said with a weak smile before glancing angrily over his shoulder at Ventress.

 

“Aw, isn’t that precious,” she said in a sickeningly sweet, condescending tone that really only showed her disdain. “Too bad no one will come looking for either of you now.” With that she leaned close to Obi-wan and whispered harshly in his ear. “You’re mine. Both of you.”

 

Obi-wan tried to quell the growing dread in his gut, but he couldn’t. He could only wait and see what would come.

 

And he hated it.

 

xXx

 

She didn’t touch Obi-wan during the next two hours, except to tear off the filthy cloak from his back, thus opening all of his scabs again. After that, she had Anakin hung up across the rather small room in a similar style to Obi-wan, stripped and tortured.

 

Every slash and punch they made towards the boy tore at Obi-wan’s heart. It would have practically killed him without the mask, but with the mask on…. He quickly reassessed Ventress’ ability for torture. Either she did know more about it than she had let on, or she learned quickly. Hurting Anakin got to Obi-wan far more than anything she ever could have done to him.

 

If she'd tortured anyone else he would have felt horrible about watching what they endured, but it was a hundred times worse with his padawan. And that brought out his shame. He shouldn’t think like that. Jedi—real Jedi—didn’t think like that.

 

Despite the burns inflicted on Anakin by her lightsabers along with the punches and the beatings they seemed to enjoy, Anakin didn’t so much as whimper. He only glared (with a little too much anger and hate in Obi-wan’s opinion, but he was still proud of his padawan for enduring it) at them.

 

Then, on Ventress’ command and with little warning, they simply left both of the Jedi hanging there and sauntered out the door, the Sith Acolyte whispering a promise that she would return to continue her tender administrations soon enough. It bothered Obi-wan more deeply than he cared to admit that he felt a far greater relief when the door finally closed than he normally did.

 

Anakin wasn’t in the state of mind to talk much for a while after the relative darkness had returned, leaving only some very dim light for Obi-wan to see Anakin by. He wished he could help his apprentice, and seeing the younger man that dazed (probably from a concussion and who knew how many Force-suppressing drugs) worried him greatly, but the only thing he could do was keep talking…and that hurt his scratchy, raw throat that probably hadn’t really healed from his own awful sessions in the past months.

 

Despite this, he kept up a constant litany, probing Anakin to respond as often as he could and usually only getting a vague grunt in recognition. Still, Obi-wan would take that over nothing.

 

When Anakin finally seemed to wake up enough that he could talk to Obi-wan, his words weren’t nearly as composed as usual…which said quite a bit. ‘Composed’ wasn’t the word most beings who knew the padawan would use to describe him and the fact that he wasn’t even trying to put up a front that approached his usual, cocky standard had the older Jedi holding his breath just to hear the younger one breathe.

 

“So glad you’re ‘live, master,” he managed to slur out. “I ‘as so scared. Thought you left me, like Mom did.”

 

Obi-wan flinched at that for two reasons: First, Anakin was never this straight forward with his feelings and that did not bode well for the boy’s state of mind, and second, Obi-wan still felt a great deal of guilt for not putting more stock in Anakin’s reoccurring dreams. He hadn’t been happy that the padawan had gone to Tatooine, and it hadn’t been too difficult to figure out why he’d gone. After Obi-wan had confronted Anakin, the boy had finally snapped and yelled that it was Obi-wan’s fault his Mother was dead. If he’d been allowed to go earlier, he could have saved her.

 

The mask, of course, pounced on that memory with a vengeance, driving his guilt through the roof. It took a great deal of effort to focus on his padawan again.

 

“I’m so sorry, Anakin. I never wanted to leave you.”

 

The young man smiled then, a sort of dopey, half-delirious smile. “I know, master. Mom didn’t either, I don’t think. She didn’ look ‘s bad as you though…. It’s really you, right? You’re really here, aren’t you master?”

 

Obi-wan sighed. “Yes, Anakin, I’m really here.”

 

“This in’t a dream?”

 

“No, Anakin.”

 

He cocked his head to the side, an effort that hurt judging from his wince. “You sure?”

 

“Are you in pain, Anakin?”

 

The boy seemed to think about that for a moment before he nodded his head. Obi-wan suppressed the surge of anger at that and spoke as calmly as he could manage.

 

“Well then you can’t be dreaming.”

 

“It could be a vision though.”

 

That didn’t bode well. “Anakin,” Obi-wan started slowly, “do your visions hurt you?”

 

Anakin moved in such a way that suggested he’d tried to shrug and failed with his arms chained up as they were. “Sometimes.”

 

A niggling, sick feeling started in Obi-wan’s stomach. As far as he knew only visions from the dark side of the Force hurt. Why would Anakin be getting visions from the dark side?

 

Well, he doubted anything he said right now would get through to the boy (not that he had the presence of mind to bring it up anyway) so he filed that away for later. Then he focused on his padawan again. Just having someone else there to focus on actually helped him immensely. He could almost ignore the terrible visions the mask brought him.

 

And yet, they somehow seemed worse too—more personal and focused on little things that he’d never realized he’d had a problem with…or big things he’d thought he could control.

 

“I’m so sorry, Anakin.,” he finally said again, giving up all pretense of his normal reaction to his padawan’s pain. Usually he would stand strong and try to show his charge what a true Jedi should do…but he didn’t feel like a Jedi right now, not with the thoughts he’d been having and not with how he’d felt recently, even before the blasted torture device covering his face. But right now, when Anakin probably wouldn’t even remember, when he felt so low and broken and beaten, he just didn’t have the will to say anything but what he truly felt. “I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you. I’m sorry I’m not an adequate mentor and I’m sorry that I’m the only one who would train you. You deserve better.”

 

“What’re you talkin’ ‘bout?” Anakin asked, eyes confused from what little Obi-wan could see of him. “You’re the best, master.”

 

“If I was the best, we wouldn’t be in this position right now,” Obi-wan returned tiredly. “If I had become the Jedi I was supposed to be…” Qui-gon would have lived to train Anakin and the boy would have had a proper teacher, not some up-start, tainted padawan who really wasn’t ready to be a knight, let alone take an apprentice.

 

“I don’ want ‘nother master. They tried to give me one. It was stupid. I hated it ‘cause he wa’n’t you.” Anakin said, far more bluntly than usual.

 

“Oh, Anakin,” Obi-wan said, both grateful and sad. “Please don’t do that to yourself.”

 

The padawan frowned. “Do what?”

 

“Hate. Especially not here. It will eat you alive and you won’t come out the same as when you entered.” Obi-wan knew he wouldn’t. Would he ever be able to view himself as clean or worthy again? He doubted it. “It’s almost destroyed me.”

 

Anakin frowned. “You never hate anything, Master.”

 

Obi-wan felt his shame grow at that. “Oh, I do. I hate what Ventress is doing and I hate this planet and I hate being here and I hate the state we’re in and I hate the situation…” Okay, that was a little more than he had wanted to say. It was more than he realized he’d wanted to say. Still, he took a calm breath and did his best to ignore the encouragement of the mask. But the last thing on his mind slipped out before he could stop it.

 

“And I hate her.”

 

Anakin looked confused again. “No, you don’t, Master. You can’t hate. You’re a perfect Jedi.”

 

Obi-wan snorted derisively. “If you think I am a perfect Jedi, then I have obviously not taught you well enough. You should look up to Jedi like Master Yoda and Master Mundi and Master Windu. I am a prime example of what a Jedi should not be.”

 

The confusion still remained and more than a little worry had crept into the expression. “You’re…not perfect Jedi?”

 

The mask suddenly seemed to bring up every single thing he had ever despised about himself. Every flaw and every mistake flashed through his mind in an instant. He saw everything a true Jedi would never have done. “No, Anakin, I’m not. Far from it. Very far from it.”

 

“But…you always follow the code.”

 

Obi-wan snorted again. “If I always followed the code, I wouldn’t have taken you on as a padawan. If I always followed the code, I wouldn’t argue against the Council’s decisions. I wouldn’t have fallen in love—twice, I might add—and I wouldn’t…I wouldn’t care about you the way I do.” He turned his eyes up to bore into Anakin’s, even through the darkness. “Please, don’t be a Jedi like me. Be a true Jedi, Anakin.”

 

The boy just stared at him in open shock. Then he opened his mouth and closed it. Then he scrunched his face up as if he were thinking hard and having difficulty doing so.

 

“You…fell in love?”

 

Obi-wan sighed. Of all the things for Anakin to latch onto it had to be that? Still, he felt relieved to have it out in the open, but at the same time, the shame and embarrassment and guilt…it was smothering, and the mask was working overtime to drive every single emotion deeper into his already fragile soul.

 

“To my shame, yes.”

 

Anakin frowned. “It’s not shameful.”

 

“It is, for a Jedi.”

 

After that, Anakin seemed to think for a moment. “Maybe I’m no’ cu’ out to be a Jedi.”

 

Obi-wan felt his insides grow cold and he looked up in shock at Anakin.

 

“Anakin, don’t say that!”

 

“Why not? Jedi can’ love? Tha’s poodoo. I want to love. Is that so bad?”

 

He wanted to say yes and argue and bring up the points he already had so many times before, but he just felt so tired, like his soul sported a weariness that would never dissipate.

 

“I don’t know, anymore, Anakin.” Then he changed the subject. “I think I am going to try and get some sleep. I suggest you do the same.”

 

Anakin seemed to watch him for a few moments. “Okay then, master,” he finally said. Obi-wan sighed and tried to urge his body into rest with success born of days—weeks—of doing so in this position. He hoped Anakin would be alright. He’d been awake for what felt like hours now, so surely it wouldn’t be dangerous to let him sleep with that concussion. Obi-wan hoped so, because at the moment, he wasn’t sure he could stay awake to watch him.

 

xXx

 

Ventress came seven times after that before she got impatient. At first her routine varied little. She and her muscle man, Adius, would come in, beat Anakin, burn him with lightsabers, leave him bruised and breathing hard all while taunting the older of the two Jedi. Then the darksider got particularly angry at Obi-wan’s seemingly endless tolerance.

 

That was the day Anakin screamed for the first time. That was also the day they broke his legs and left him to dangle where both appendages would scrape the ground and aggravate the wounds. Ventress’ cackles and the guard’s chuckling did nothing to drown out the sharp crack of bone breaking as they used the large hammer they’d brought. After that, Anakin refused to do more than whimper until his body had finally taken enough and he’d fallen into what Obi-wan hoped was a blissful unconsciousness.

 

“What a pity,” Ventress said as she regarded Anakin’s limp form. Then she seemed to shrug and turned to Obi-wan. “Can you see how selfish you are? You’re leaving your padawan to suffer simply because you refuse to swallow your pride and submit to me.”

 

“After which point you’ll kill us both,” Obi-wan said, his voice colder than he would have thought possible.

 

At that, the witch just laughed and put a hand almost lovingly on Obi-wan’s cheek. “Right now, wouldn’t that be a mercy? And isn’t that what you Jedi preach? Mercy and hope and faith…and where has it gotten you? Just admit it, Obi-wan. Admit that I am superior and bow to me, and I will end your suffering.”

 

And for just a moment, he considered it. Oh, it galled him to no end that he did. He refused to open his mouth, though. He’d gone beyond seething what felt like forever ago. Now he had snapped into a sort of uncaring (vindictive even) iciness that kept his head clear despite the rage and guilt that had driven him to this point. His mind registered this strange, new state, and he knew that knowing he could reach such a condition at any other time in his life would downright scare him, but at the moment he could only seem to focus on the Sith witch in front of him and Anakin’s broken form. In addition to the two broken legs dragging on the floor they had left him with several broken fingers, a multitude of bruises and sluggishly bleeding cuts on various places all over his body. They hadn’t bothered to clothe him again since the first day.

 

Seeing his padawan like that finally pushed Obi-wan further than he’d realized was possible. He thought he’d known what hate was. He’d had no idea, because what he felt now went so far beyond what he'd experienced before that he didn’t even know if there was a true classification for his complete and utter loathing.

 

“You do know, this is all your fault, Obi-wan,” Ventress reiterated with mock admonition. “I wouldn’t have even gone after your precious padawan if you had simply acknowledged the truth—that I am superior to you, although taking him away from the war was probably a blessing after the Republic’s horrible defeat at Jabiim. After all, everyone else died.”

 

She may as well have socked him in the gut and guilt shot through the cold numbness that had blanketed his mind, soaring ever higher, despite his best efforts not to give into her taunts. Jabiim had been lost, and so many lives with it, although his still strangely clear mind brought up the idea that she could very well be lying, no matter how honest she’d sounded, but that didn’t change the fact that he really should have been there!

 

His mental shields had already taken more of a beating in the last two weeks (or however long it had been since Anakin had come) than it had in the last two months of torture, and the mask immediately jumped on her words to continue to pound at the shattered remains of his defenses.

 

If he’d been more aware during the battle where Ventress had captured him…he’d been too focused on rescuing everyone, and he hadn’t been paying attention as he, both a General and a Jedi, should have. If he’d been a little more vigilant, a little more intent on winning the battle as he should have…but wasn’t it presumptuous to think that his presence could have made a huge difference? And yet, his mind nagged at him that at least he may have been able to save more people if he’d just been there...he should have been slogging through the rain-soaked mud and leading his clone troops into battle instead of here in Ventress’ tender care.

 

Every single life lost on that planet fell onto his shoulders joining the weight of Anakin’s pain and he felt as if his entire spirit would simply crumble under it. He couldn’t seem to breathe and it felt strange that his mind was still analyzing all of this with a cold, truthful accuracy that didn’t seem to associate with the rest of him. So much responsibility, so many lives; it almost felt as if the weight on his spirit was spilling over, leaking into his physical form because it had nowhere else to go. Visions of Anakin screaming in pain played over and over in his head, and he realized how much he truly despised her—this evil witch.

 

He hated her almost as much as he hated himself. And the mask wouldn’t let him forget it. He tried to banish the realization with the knowledge that she was doing this because she herself was in pain, but it didn’t help nearly as much as it had before.

 

She’d chosen this path. No matter what her past was, she had chosen to turn into…this.

 

“Have a pleasant rest remembering everything you’ve failed at tonight,” she said as she closed the door, cutting off most of the light yet again.

 

Obi-wan focused as hard as he could. He was eventually able to banish the pain and anger, even with the mask on, and he did it out of sheer will, but he could not touch the guilt, no matter how hard he tried. After all, there was no arguing with truth.

 

xXx

 

Anakin woke with a sharp intake of breath a few hours later (at least Obi-wan thought it might have been a few hours, it was difficult to tell time in this place), but despite the obvious agony, he still managed to lock gazes with his master, eyes bright with pain and fever as he said through clenched teeth:

 

“Don’t give her what she wants.”

 

Obi-wan couldn’t reassure him or even really speak. He could only look on with pity and shame. It took far too long for the Jedi Knight to force himself to talk to Anakin, and once he did he focused on trying to distract the boy from the anguish, no matter how it tore at the older man’s dry, swollen vocal chords to do so. It didn’t help much and Anakin seemed to be a little too out of it to really think normally and respond. Thankfully, the boy passed out again not too much later, leaving Obi-wan alone again.

 

He watched his padawan in the dim light he suspected Ventress had left on just so he could see the evidence of what they’d done to the person who meant the most to him, and he knew he couldn’t let it happen again. He couldn’t watch the boy he considered his brother—his son—in pain. Next time they might do something irreparable…and it was his fault. Well, his and Ventress’. Perhaps he could also assign some blame to Dooku and his Sith Master for starting this useless war to begin with as well, but most of Anakin’s pain had come into being because of his Jedi Master and the Sith Acolyte who had captured them.

 

It wasn’t Anakin’s fault. He shouldn’t be here, and Obi-wan realized that he would do anything to get him away from here. Now.

 

As he had done an innumerable amount of times before, he tried to grasp at the Force, but the pain that lanced through his head refused to allow him access. He felt the last of his control slipping as his frustration grew. Jedi strived for a mastery of self, and he had worked so hard to accomplish that very goal, but the shame for what had happened, for his failures and his shortcomings, seemed to stomp out all of his hard-earned mastery.

 

You could escape, if you took what is yours, what belongs to you, the mask seemed to whisper. You could take your padawan, your son, and leave this place.

 

And he could. The idea of what he was contemplating made him sick, but it would only be this once. Just this once. And he would do it for Anakin because it was the only way.

 

“I’m sorry, Anakin,” was all he could whisper. Then he took a deep breath and felt a single tear leak from his eye. He was surprised he had enough water in his body to allow that; his final tribute to the light he held so dear.

 

And then he stopped fighting the darkness.

 

xXx

 

He was surprised at how easily the twisted coldness came to him, still only in trickles because of the mask, but it was there none the less…and it felt good. Not the healing, warm goodness of the normal Force, but this coldness gave him something he couldn’t have had just moments before, a power that made him suddenly believe that could do anything.

 

He had to draw on that power through the shame and guilt, had to practically order it to follow his wishes, but it seemed to want to eagerly comply once he demanded, and the negative emotions that had built inside of him recently only helped him to draw on that power.

 

His first thought went along the lines of, ‘This isn’t so bad.’ He’d been expecting himself to somehow change irreparably the moment he touched the darkness, but he didn’t really feel any different, only stronger.

 

Still, he knew enough to be wary of such thoughts. He’d seen the damage the dark side could do, and he may feel he had no other choice at this point, but that didn’t mean it would be a permanent thing. He already felt ashamed of his decision, which in turn fed the darkness—the cold fire that would allow him to get Anakin away from this nightmare.

 

The manacles that held him were Force resistant, but the links of the chains on the ceiling weren’t. They came down with far more effort than he would have liked, but the awful restrictions that had held him up for so long still clattered loudly to the floor. He fell into the pile of his own waste that the guards hadn’t so much as bothered to clean in weeks and immediately slumped shakily to the ground.

 

The weakness in his body frustrated him, building his connection to the darkness even more and he shuddered. It may not have been so bad, but he still felt tainted and unworthy somehow. He’d drawn on the dark side, so he was no longer a Jedi, but he could live with that if it meant getting Anakin away and healed.

 

He finally forced his hand to move despite the weight of the manacles and ripped the mask from his head, reveling in the small amount of freedom that brought him. The Force flowed around him and he sighed in relief at the feeling. Then he turned his focus on Anakin and tore at the chains on the ceiling. He was horrified to realize that the power reacting to his call of the Force had not gone back to the normal warmth, but no matter how he focused, no matter how he tried to calm himself, the fleeting tendrils of light would not answer his call. He hesitated for only a moment, then realized that he would probably need all the strength he could get anyway, and the darkness filled him in a way nothing else could—he truly felt he could do anything.

 

Which was good because he still had to get Anakin down.

 

He went to tear the chains down again, but paused again as a thought occurred to him. If they were to escape, he couldn’t just rush into this. Anakin was in pain. Anakin needed his help and that filled him with more guilt and anger. What she’d done to Obi-wan was one thing, something he could hate and despise but live with. What she’d done to Anakin was unforgivable. He would not let her do it again.

 

Which meant he had to come up with a plan. It would have worked out better if he’d been able to hide his Force presence right away, but he’d been unable to do so immediately after the mask had come off. She had to know something was up, despite the fact that he’d only allowed that flare in the force for a fraction of a second. He’d hidden his presence as best he could as quickly as he could, but she would come anyway. He could already sense Ventress’ dark (although not as dark as it had seemed before, but he refused to dwell on that implication, if only for his own sanity) presence coming towards them. If he could just draw her attention away for a few seconds…

 

Analytically he studied the situation, taking a mental step back and looking over the predicament as a whole. Ventress had undoubtedly felt his presence and would be here shortly. In his state right now, no matter how he felt about it, he really couldn’t expect to put up a decent fight. He might be able to hold her off for a few minutes, but that would do him little good. He’d have to take her by surprise and end things quickly.

 

Fortunately, he had two weapons in the form of chains strapped to the shackles around his wrist. They wouldn’t do much against a lightsaber, and truthfully he could barely lift them without help from the Force, but if he could get the jump on his captor, maybe he could somehow get one or both of her lightsabers. At least then they’d have a fighting chance.

 

He glanced around the room again, figuring where he could attack from that would give him the most chance of success. If he could lure her into the room, even if she was on alert, it would do a lot to even the odds.

 

So what could he use as a distraction?

 

And then a thought came to him. He glanced over at Anakin’s limp body, checking through the Force to make sure he was still unconscious. Yes, this would work, and Anakin shouldn’t remember any of it.

 

He ignored how muddled his thoughts suddenly felt, pushed aside the horror in his soul at the very idea he was contemplating, and stuck to the facts as best he could. Then he tore Anakin’s chains from the ceiling with the Force. He couldn’t do much to physically catch the boy as he fell, but was able to stop him from collapsing completely with the Force. From the strange angle of his padawan’s legs, it couldn’t be comfortable.

 

He concentrated and lifted Anakin higher, moved him and the chain telekinetically—a little more violently than he would have liked, but it got the job done—to the spot Obi-wan had been hanging from not minutes before and secured the chains above as best he could.

 

Then he forced himself to his feet, struggled out of the harsh cloak, ignoring the pain from his scabs being torn open yet again, and placed it over Anakin’s head. Then he reached down to where he’d thrown the accursed mask and picked it up. He looked at the thick, dirty material in his hands for a few moments, fingers brushing over the thing with disgust. Then he turned to Anakin.

 

“I’m so sorry, Anakin,” he whispered, and then shoved the mask onto his padawan’s head. He’d be able to get it off again soon, after all. As long as Anakin wasn’t awake…Obi-wan just hoped that it didn’t affect Anakin’s dreams like it had affected his. He ignored the increase of guilt. After all, this would help them both in the long run.

 

Fortunately, Anakin didn’t respond to the mask, and Obi-wan breathed a sigh of relief. He didn’t know if he could forgive himself if Anakin were to suffer as he had. He already couldn’t forgive himself as it was.

 

That brought up the deep rage that burned so cold inside of him and he clenched his own disfigured hands angrily. Fortunately, it only made him feel more powerful, more like he could actually do what he had planned.

 

He walked to where Anakin had hung previously and levered himself onto the filthy floor. Now all he had to do was wait.

 

xXx

 

AN: So, I'm messing with the timeline a little here so I can get everything in that needs to be. Here's a rough estimate:

 

Beginning of 22 BBY – Attack of the Clones

Mid 22 BBY – Battle of Jabiim and capture of Obi-wan and Anakin

Early-Mid 21 BBY – Ahsoka comes into the picture

21 BBY – 19 BBY – Subsequent battles

End of 19 BBY – Revenge of the Sith (which will play out very differently…not necessarily for the better—you have been warned)

 

Hope that makes sense! Thanks for reading!

You know the closer you get to something

The tougher it is to see it,

And I'll Never take it for granted,

Let's go!

 

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Obi-Q! I haven't gotten the chance to welcome you back yet!! Welcome back!!! It's so good to "see" you--and to read your writing again!

 

This is going to be a fun fic to read, I can tell! You know Obi-Wan is my favorite character, so I'm very intrigued to see where you go with this!

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SHE MEANS TO END US ALL!!! DOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!!!!!11eleventyone!
There goes Ami's reputation of being a peaceful, nice person.
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Thanks, Amidala! I was afraid after coming back that all the old crew would have left. It's awesome to see you here. <3 And I hope you like the story. It...gets worse before it gets better. FYI. (Actually, I'm still not a hundred percent sure it will bet better...)

 

xXx

 

Chapter 2

 

“Evil wins when good people do nothing to stop it.” I have witnessed the truth of this statement. I have also witnessed the truth of the statement that, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” I believe my padawan has always had problems finding a happy medium between these two truths. I myself have had problems with them. After all, if one acts with the intent to stop evil but ends up dooming themselves and thus everyone they were trying to save, then one is living both statements, if unwittingly. The solution is to act when you need to and to do so with a clear head and a larger picture in mind. It can be difficult to do, but that was the conclusion I came to. I learned that lesson through witnessing the results of my rash actions far too many times in my life.

 

I have never come across a situation where that general rule of acting with patience and wisdom does not apply. When I became a Knight, I vowed to never act rashly again and I have tried to live up to that to this day.

 

Some lessons, it seems, are never really learned.

 

It wasn’t long (and yet it seemed like forever now that he could move again) before he heard Ventress’ voice outside the door.

 

“Open it. Quickly!”

 

Obi-wan tensed, ignoring the shooting pains in his protesting, abused muscles. It took all too long for the door to swing open, and he found himself torn between a sort of giddy anticipation that was very much not like him and a solemn, grim determination that was.

 

Finally Ventress rushed in, not even sparing a look for the corner he crouched in, her eyes fixed solidly on Anakin's limp form. It would have been the perfect opportunity to attack if he didn't know she would have back up in the form of Adius, a cruel, spiteful man who liked causing pain almost more than she did. If Obi-wan wanted to fight Ventress on even footing then her muscled backup would have to be taken out first.

 

The man, a stocky, heavy-set humanoid with thin, dark hair sprouting out of his head in a greasy mess, stepped in only moments after his mistress and Obi-wan struck. He whipped his hand out and the chain wrapped firmly around the thick neck. He used every ounce of strength to yank the other man towards himself, putting some Force-enhancement behind the pull while simultaneously pushing the large body away from him with the Force, fully intending to break his neck.

 

The loud crack that rang throughout the room was far too satisfying. Ventress' surprised shout as Obi-wan pushed the now dead man into her with the Force, even more so. However, the two simultaneous moves strained him more than he cared to admit and he knew he would have to be careful for the next few minutes if he wanted to survive. Taking advantage of her momentary distraction, he reached out and pulled one of Ventress' lightsabers toward him. He tried for both but couldn't find the control he needed in his current state. He would have to end this quickly because he just didn’t have the stamina to use his normal, patient and defensive Soresu.

 

Ventress and Adius stumbled into Anakin, eliciting a pained groan from him. Obi-wan refused to allow himself to wince at the noise, hoping he hadn’t woken and choosing instead to focus on freeing his own wrist from the shackles before the woman managed to regain her balance. He succeeded, 'though just barely because Ventress wasn’t off guard for long.

 

With an angry cry and a flexibility that Obi-wan couldn’t help but envy just a little, she flipped out of the way before she and Adius’s body hit the wall. With a scream of rage, she came hurtling towards Obi-wan, who sidestepped her onslaught, knowing he couldn’t meet it outright in the state his body was in. She whipped around before he could strike at the opening she’d given, bringing her saber up before she’d even managed to face him and parrying the blow he’d aimed at her back.

 

Then she faced him and returned the blow. He managed to fend her off and they broke a part, each watching the other warily and Obi-wan making sure he was between her and Anakin.

 

After a few moments, she calmed down enough to realize what had happened, taking in the sight in with new eyes. She blinked and glanced at her dead underling laying sprawled on the floor.

 

“Striking from behind? I’m impressed, Obi-wan. How utterly low of you.”

 

Obi-wan refused to move a muscle in answer.

 

After a moment of studying him, Ventress threw her head back and laughed, although she never lowered her guard and Obi-wan didn’t dare attack anyway. After a few moments, during which time Obi-wan could only really tighten his grip around the lightsaber hilt, she stopped and grinned cruelly back at him.

 

“So, the great Jedi Obi-wan Kenobi has a breaking point after all,” she said with no small amount of triumph. “How does it feel? Empowering, isn’t it? Intoxicating and wonderful.”

 

Obi-wan grit his teeth, desperately not wanting to acknowledge her and hating the truth in her words; despising the idea that anything about her would be something he could relate to. He still didn’t speak, and that seemed to get to her because her smile dimmed quite a bit.

 

“Still too good to answer me?” she asked, her tone warning.

 

Obi-wan refused to move, even as she took a testing step forward.

 

“You’ll regret that!” she growled as she lunged forward, thrusting her saber out. Obi-wan parried, misdirecting her strikes as best he could, upset to see she was driving him back towards Anakin. He managed to lead her off to the side, ducking and dodging most of the time, but meeting blows where he could.

 

“How do I know you’ll regret looking down on me?” she hissed as he met her blade and mentally begged his weakened muscles to not give in, throwing as much power behind the strokes as he possibly could. “Because I will take it out of your padawan.”

 

Before he could react, she’d disengaged and blew past him, directly towards Anakin with her saber held high. Obi-wan felt a rush of panicked desperation.

 

“NO!” he yelled, thrusting out his hand and calling the Force to him. He had to stop her! Had to save Anakin! She flew past the boy with a surprised yell and hit the wall of the chamber with a sickening thud that would have bothered him just the day before. It didn’t now, and he hated that that mere thought should still get to him. He hated that she’d driven him to this point; that she would do this to him! And he loathed that she would drag Anakin into this just to get to him. His temper wasn't a fiery heat like Anakin's, but a burning cold instead, one that refused to be sated. He'd never felt anything like it before.

 

He didn’t release his hold on the Sith acolyte, face twisted into a snarl as he advanced towards her, hand still outstretched. She would recover quickly enough, but while she was stronger in body, he was stronger in the Force. Yes, she’d been able to block him earlier, but she would have never had the opportunity if it had been any other situation. He would have to be out for the count before she could do that to him again, and he wasn’t about to faint any time soon—if only out of sheer determination.

 

She could still retaliate with the Force, though, so he would have to end it now. He switched his hold from her torso to her neck almost without thought. Then he turned her around, he wanted to see her eyes as she died. He wanted—needed—to know this nightmare was over and that she wouldn’t be a threat to him or Anakin ever again.

 

There was no way around it. She had to die.

 

Her hands automatically went to her throat and Obi-wan squeezed tighter.

 

Then her eyes met his. “I…still…win,” she managed to gasp out.

 

Obi-wan refused to listen to this…this thing any longer. He closed his fist and felt the snap through the Force. The intoxicating rush of power and the relief and pride in knowing that he’d managed to defeat her, even in this state, left him gasping for breath even harder than he otherwise would have. For a moment he continued his hold on her, strangely unwilling to let go of that power. After a moment, though, he allowed her body to slump to the floor and stood over her, still glaring in hate.

 

“And I will survive,” he said.

 

It took a few minutes for it to sink in. It was over. He was free to walk out of this nightmare with his padawan…except he couldn’t carry him and Anakin couldn’t walk on his own with two broken legs. He’d have to find a solution to that…but now he was free to do so. He hadn't realized how unfamiliar it would feel.

 

He simply stood there in a daze as his mind couldn’t seem to process the thought that he wasn’t being held captive anymore. He’d killed his captor—his tormentor…Anakin’s torturer.

 

He looked down at the two bodies lying on the dirty floor and blinked.

 

“I can never go back,” he said to the mostly empty room with sudden realization. “I thought I could use it…just once…how could I have been such a fool?”

 

He could feel the darkness saturating his soul. It was there…and it was all he had now.

 

He stood there for only a few seconds longer, forcing himself to come to terms with the consequences of the choice he’d made. He’d fallen to the dark side, but he’d had his reasons…and surprisingly, he could live with that.

 

Some part of him, he suspected, was recoiling in horror and despair at these turn of events, but the rest of him—an ingrained portion of his personality—recognized that his life had changed, that there was little he could do about it and that he still had things he had to do.

 

This was his life now, the consequence of his choice. It was more complicated than that, he knew, but for now he refocused on the situation and on what he had to do. He had to escape and that trumped everything else at the moment.

 

Face blank of emotion, he finally left—simply turned and walked out of the cell, leaving three bodies, only one of them living, in his wake.

 

xXx

 

He wasn’t by any means steady on his feet, but he maneuvered along the dark halls with a purposeful expression. With his goal in mind, he cautiously reached out with the Force, not sure how to direct this new power. To his left a sort of pulse caused him to pause. He needed to go in that direction. There was something there, in the cell just ahead, he couldn’t quite tell… Igniting the lightsaber in his hands (what a disdainful weapon, the crystal was not at all compatible with him and he only used it because he had no other option at the moment) he slashed at the durosteel door and pushed it open with the Force as it would be far too heavy for his weakened body to budge.

 

The beings inside scurried to the back of the cell, straining to get away from the door with a haste born of obvious experience. Obi-wan scrutinized them with a calculating eye. So that tug—those disturbances—had been people. How strange. They felt so different than he was used to. How interesting.

 

Of the prisoners, none looked to be what he needed at the moment.

 

“W-who are you?” one of the beings, a human by the looks of him, found the courage to ask.

 

“Ventress is dead,” was all Obi-wan could deign to say. It was the first time he’d said it aloud, and he couldn’t help but take a deep, satisfied breath. Then he turned from the room and continued to the next cell.

 

“W…what should we do?” another voice from behind him asked. Obi-wan paused and managed to turn enough to look at a second being, a torgruta, that had exited the cell on unsteady legs. He couldn’t identify the gender of the being through the filth covering it.

 

“Whatever you wish,” Obi-wan said as if it were obvious (which, really, it should have been). “So long as you do not obstruct me.”

 

With that said, he moved on to the next cell and slashed the door open, hoping to find someone he could make use of. Fortunately, one of the beings in here seemed far larger and healthier than the others. They probably hadn’t been there long, and if he were correct, it was a besalisk.

 

“You,” he said to the being. “Follow me.”

 

Not waiting for a reply, he turned to leave the cell.

 

“You’re not the warden and you’re not the witch in charge, so why should I listen to you?” the contemptuous voice from behind him stopped him in his tracks. He turned slowly, allowing his glare to settle on the being as he quickly processed the options at his disposal that would allow him deal with the being while still rendering him useful.

 

“Indeed, I am not,” he said simply. “However, I am the man who killed them.” The being scoffed and he felt an impatience he hadn’t had a problem with since he’d been an initiate rise inside of him. He did not have time for these trivial annoyances. That thought, in its own way, settled his inner dispute and decided his course of action.

 

He raised his hand and the besalisk smashed into the wall behind him.

 

“And you will join them if you do not do as I say,” he continued coldly, stating the words as if they were a simple fact and nothing more. He should be horrified to know that he really meant what he said...but he wasn't. He seemed to have gone far beyond caring at this point.

 

The being managed to nod and Obi-wan dropped him. “Good.”

 

Turning again, he maneuvered out of the door as firmly as he could manage. Fortunately the besalisk wasn’t stupid enough to try and attack Obi-wan from behind and the former Jedi led the larger being down the hall. The sentients from the previous cell were nowhere to be seen. He only noted that with a passing thought, grateful that no one would impede him.

 

Obi-wan had the strange idea that he should be feeling more than desperation, a residual anger and satisfaction (and the guilt, always the guilt), but nothing else seemed to want to come to him. He wasn’t sure if the negative emotions were burying everything else or if, by just touching the dark side, he no longer had any capacity for feeling anything good or positive—other than the tainted satisfaction.

 

Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.

 

He wanted to think on it more, but had to focus on the here and now. The thought was something he would have to examine in detail later, once he got away from this repulsive planet.

 

They made it back to Obi-wan’s former cell and he felt the disgust and anger at what had happened there surge through him. With a growl he wasn’t even aware he’d voiced, he shoved his hand out. The door flew off of its hinges and hit the wall inside the cell. He made sure it never touched Anakin.

 

“Didn’t realize you Jedi could be so vio—” the besalisk cut off as Obi-wan raised an arm, not even bothering to try and look back. Two of the being’s hands shot to his throat while the others flailed about in a panic.

 

“Do not voice your inane thoughts,” he said, then added as if in an after thought. “And I am no Jedi.” Not anymore. And he would examine exactly how he felt about that at a later date as well. Right now he had to get himself and Anakin out of here.

 

He managed to seem steady, somehow as he walked through the destroyed doorway and froze at the sight of Anakin. How could he have forgotten that mask?! Angrily, he rushed forward and practically tore the thing from the boy’s head. Then he turned on that awful lightsaber and slashed the torture device in two.

 

“Mas’er?” Anakin asked, his voice a blur of pain.

 

Obi-wan felt himself soften at the word. “It’s me, Anakin. We’re getting out of here.”

 

And to his surprise, a small smile flitted across the younger Jedi’s face. “’Bout time.”

 

For the first time in what seemed like forever, Obi-wan felt a flash of his old self; felt a twinge of the amused, wise, senior Knight with a somewhat average Jedi background. It surprised him as to how much even just that fleeting moment of familiar camaraderie helped him relax and caused the darkness to draw away ever so slightly.

 

“You have my apologies for taking so long.”

 

Anakin snorted. “Knew you’d get us outta here ‘ventually.”

 

His padawan’s faith in him touched him, causing a genuine smile to brush across his own lips. It felt foreign but welcome.

 

And then it was over. The darkness rushed back in as Obi-wan turned to the besalisk. “I will cut him down. You will catch him, gently. Every injury he receives because of your carelessness I will repay twofold.”

 

He didn’t see the frown on Anakin’s face as he was too focused on his reluctant helper.

 

“Fine, whatever,” the reptilian creature muttered and walked forward, carefully stepping in the least dirty places on the floor. It was an exercise in futility that Obi-wan found he had little patience for.

 

“Today would be nice,” he commented in a tone that most would call neutral, but anyone who knew him would note the undertone of a steel warning.

 

“Wa’s wrong, mas’er?” Anakin slurred.

 

Obi-wan immediately turned to his padawan, his face softening. “What do you mean, Anakin?”

 

The boy frowned. “You soun’ different. You…feel different.”

 

Obi-wan wasn’t sure what to classify the stab of emotion he felt at that. It had had a rather large amount of guilt, but very little (if any) remorse. If any fear had found its way into the mix, it would be at the idea of Anakin somehow rejecting him, not at the idea that he had changed (which he would have expected). He felt other emotions in that stab as well, but couldn’t afford to waste time on analyzing it at the moment as the besalisk had reached Anakin and taken him slowly into his rather large arms. Anakin hissed in pain at the movement, and Obi-wan had to restrain himself from taking off the creature’s head. He still needed the being to carry Anakin, and from the worried looks he kept shooting Obi-wan, the besalisk was trying to follow orders.

 

Forcing himself to be calm, the older human flipped the lightsaber on and cut off his padawan’s shackles. For a moment all he wanted to do was sag in relief. They were free, both of them, and they were leaving. The moment lasted for only a second, and then he steeled himself to walk out the door and away from his nightmarish prison for the last time, the besalisk carrying Anakin hurrying behind him.

 

xXx

 

Just wandering around the compound and following the hints and tugs through the Force allowed him to find his own lightsaber and about a dozen others as well. They also found a cloak for Obi-wan, something clean that covered his back and gave him some protection from the cool air, but he didn’t dare to stop for anything else. He just wanted off the planet, and if continuing on in his nakedness would do so faster, then so be it.

 

Somewhere along the way, they also came across a statue of a man Obi-wan suspected had meant a lot to Ventress. If he had been in better shape, he would have left the thing as rubble. As it was, he just pushed it down with the Force and left it broken and toppled.

 

The darkness opened him to sensing other’s feelings more deeply—well, the negative ones in any case—and he felt the besalisk’s fear of him rise as he moved from the room. Good. It would just mean the being would follow his orders more exactly and be that much more careful with Anakin, who had thankfully passed out again.

 

By the time they found a ship, Obi-wan was having a hard time hiding his exhaustion, standing through sheer will and the Force alone. His body ached in ways he didn’t think were possible and all he really just wanted was to lie down and sleep for the next standard month. Despite his best efforts, his tired mind wondered if he could sleep lying down at this point. He was so used to resting upright and hanging. Even now it hurt to even drop his hands to his sides because they had been shackled above his head for who knew how long and…when had he closed his eyes?

 

No, focus! He had to get Anakin out of here! Growling low in his throat, he angrily berated himself and managed to get onto the ramp of the ship the Force had led him to. The door to the bay on the far side of the large room wasn’t open, but he found that taking care of that with the Force was nothing if not a simple matter. Fortunately, as far as he could tell, there was no force field to keep them in, just the standard, one-way deflectors that kept unwanted guests and objects out.

 

He nodded in satisfaction and turned to the ship again. It wasn’t anything that would stick in anyone’s mind, a fairly small vehicle with nothing discernible on it at first glance. To just about anyone, it would simply look like a small freighter. They couldn’t know that it was stocked with illegal guns and maneuvering capabilities that bordered on deadly, at least at Obi-wan’s best guess. It wasn’t Ventress’ usual ship, but he doubted the woman would have had anything that wasn’t top-of-the-line when it came to attack and maneuverability in her fleet.

 

He forced himself to walk up the ramp towards the top where the besalisk, holding a still unconscious Anakin, watched with a sort of fascinated wariness. He was undoubtedly impressed with Obi-wan’s manipulation of the door to the bay, but the former Jedi found he really didn’t care.

 

“In a ship that size, there should be at least one room,” Obi-wan said almost conversationally. Really he only wanted to remind the being that he had duties to attend to if he wanted to stay alive. The fact that he had stopped and stared instead of taking Anakin somewhere to rest caused another shot of annoyance to flare through the bearded man but he, again, forced himself to ignore it. “Find it and place Anakin on the bed.”

 

“Y-yeah, sure. Whatever you say,” the being stuttered. It was a refreshing change from the defiant, misguided superiority he’d displayed before.

 

“Oh, and once you finish, I suggest you leave the ship,” the former Jedi spoke up again, this time in a harsher tone. “If I find you on it at any point hereafter, you will wish you had listened.”

 

The large being gulped and nodded hurriedly before turning and disappearing inside the vehicle. Obi-wan nodded in satisfaction. Even when the besalisk wasn’t there to see, though, the former Jedi refused to allow himself to relax. If he did so now, he doubted he’d be able to put on a front again and he dared not show any weakness until he left this cursed place once and for all.

 

Instead, he closed his eyes and searched through the room with the Force. He felt nothing out-of-the-ordinary. This was undoubtedly a private dock because no maintenance workers had been here recently as far as Obi-wan could tell. It was all run by droids.

 

Speaking of…

 

“You,” Obi-wan said to a still droid against the wall. It was humanoid, with a durosteel frame and many accessories as well as several appendages ending in various tools. The droid in question came out of low-power mode almost immediately and looked at Obi-wan.

 

“Me, sir?” it asked, sounding rather cranky.

 

“Yes,” Obi-wan said. “Programming.”

 

“I am L9-292, programmed for maintenance, upkeep and determining flight capability of the ships that dock here.”

 

“Can you pilot a ship?”

 

If a droid could look offended, this one did. “Yes, sir.”

 

“Very good. Follow me.”

 

“Excuse me, sir, but you are not my mistress.”

 

Obi-wan had whirled around before he realized it and had the droid in a Force grip. The droid squirmed in a simulation of panic.

 

“No, I am not,” Obi-wan said with a cold calmness he did not feel. “You won’t have to worry about her, though, seeing as I killed her. Now you have two choices: One, you come with me and you do as I say. Two, I tear you a part and move on to the next droid. It is up to you.” Really, when had he become so violent? Perhaps Anakin had rubbed off on him?

 

The droid stopped squirming and stared with lighted eyes at Obi-wan. “If my masters or mistresses die, I am programmed to follow the person in charge. Seeing as you killed her, I will defer to you.”

 

Obi-wan smiled a fake, empty smile. “Excellent choice.”

 

He turned around just in time to see the besalisk hurry off the ship and high-tail it out of the bay. Obi-wan briefly considered killing the being, but ultimately decided that it didn’t matter if he survived or not and that ignoring him would be faster.

 

Decision made, he led the droid onto the ship and closed the ramp. It didn’t take long to reach the cockpit, and the controls were familiar enough that Obi-wan had little trouble piloting the freighter away from planet, which was fortuitous as he was having trouble remaining alert. Curse his abused body! Curse Ventress to the deepest depths of pain and torment for the rest of eternity for what she did to him!

 

With the droid’s help, he managed to set the ship on a course to a neutral system that would have the resources to help them before he stumbled into the back and passed out before he could even reach the sleeping area opposite of where Anakin lay.

 

xXx

 

Question: Obi-wan is HARD to write dark. REALLY hard. So, question: does this work for him? Or does he seem too much like Anakin? I tend to be a little better at writing Anakin (and I'm ignoring what that says about me), so it can be difficult for me to see what does and doesn't sound like Obi-wan when he's dark. Do you think it works? Yes or no, please let me know.

You know the closer you get to something

The tougher it is to see it,

And I'll Never take it for granted,

Let's go!

 

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Hmmm, yeah, I can see what you mean. He doesn't read like Anakin, so you don't have to worry about that. But Dark Obi-Wan is such a strange idea that it does feel a little forced/strained. I like that you're writing him as ice instead of fire. I think that's definitely the right choice. And I think it's right that he fell because of his attachments.

 

I think maybe it's in his treatment of others where it gets a little strained. I think his lifelong habits would be more ingrained in him, and I think it'd be a slower change there. I think he'd be fully capable of killing Ventress and her assistant, but the way he was threatening the other prisoners and the droid seemed a little sudden. I would see it as his actions still being "kind"--setting the prisoners free, even taking them off world with him. But he'd probably be realizing that he doesn't really care about them anymore, that they don't really concern him anymore like they used to. Or even maybe if you had had him not even think about the other prisoners until after he was already off planet, and then he was like 'oh, there were probably other prisoners there, why didn't I even consider them?'

 

Falling to the dark side is rough--I think it's partly a switch that gets flipped, but I think it's also a learned thing. Like he'd start off a little dark, and then quickly become darker and darker one decision at a time.

 

*shrugs* I dunno, maybe you have another opinion?

 

Anyway, this is a great idea, and I'll definitely be reading!!

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SHE MEANS TO END US ALL!!! DOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!!!!!11eleventyone!
There goes Ami's reputation of being a peaceful, nice person.
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You make a good point about his interaction with others, although the reasoning I have for it is not just the falling to the darkside (although it is a major contributing factor). I actually have him acting so callous because of PTSD. A common symptom of trauma is to shove everything into a compartment in your mind to deal with later when the mind encounters something it can't really face. Between his failing body, his severe torture (physically, mentally and through the Force/emotionally) and Anakin, well, he probably would have been able to handle it all if it hadn't been for his new state of mind (which he didn't want and is already feeling guilty about--and no, he isn't addressing that yet either). It all comes crashing down in the next chapter and we see a lot more Obi-wan. He really isn't that dark yet...but I warn you, it gets worse (btw, I totally agree that his fall would be slow, which is what happens in the story).

 

I will see about reviewing his interactions, maybe see if I can't get them to seem a little more like Obi-wan. Thanks for the feedback.

You know the closer you get to something

The tougher it is to see it,

And I'll Never take it for granted,

Let's go!

 

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Chapter 3

 

The very nature of the dark side is hate. Every Jedi is taught this, but I don’t think anyone who has never touched the darkness can even begin to comprehend the concept for the simple reason that their mind-set—their very way of thinking—is completely in opposition to the dark side and everything it stands for.

 

Let me explain. Beings in general tend to seek that which makes their lives better, whether that is love, joy, comfort, peace of mind, peace in general, freedom, etc., most beings instinctively try to obtain that which will improve their situation. Even those who seek power and money tend to want a sense of control that will lead to their peace of mind or comfort.

 

When someone truly embraces the dark side, though, they must have at least some (usually much more) hate in their hearts. No matter what led them to make the choice to turn, they cannot consciously do so without that spark of intense resentment as there is no other way to tap into the power the dark side represents. The more hatred one has, the more of the darkness one can use. So, in conclusion, to gain more of a connection to the darkness, one must learn to seek after that which makes their lives worse. It is a conundrum because one must learn to at least tolerate—if not outright embrace—the pain and misery that hate brings to gain that positive element they were originally seeking after—in this case, power and control.

 

The whole idea is mind-blowing and not at all logical, and so it makes no sense to one who has never turned to the darkness. Therefore, no one who has ever not been there—no true light Jedi or non-Force Sensitive—can ever truly understand.

 

When Obi-wan awoke, the first thing he noticed was that he couldn’t physically feel anything. Instead, his limbs seemed numb and he felt withdrawn from his surroundings. For a moment, that worried him and he reached out to the Force only to recoil from it when he found it dark and cold. Still, he could at least feel that and he could use it and that was a relief in and of itself.

 

The next thing he noticed, when he managed to actually pry his eyes open, was white; nothing around him had color to it and looked so white it hurt to view. He flinched away from the brightness too, closing his eyes so quickly he could almost hear the snap. So he was in a med bay of some sort (not the Temple medbay as that tended to have calmer colors). That made sense, he supposed.

 

The third thing he noticed was that while his ability to feel seemed to be coming back slowly, he could hear just fine. This he could tell because of a beeping that his mind only just seemed to really notice and a door somewhere that whooshed open. Somehow he didn’t think anyone would happen come by when he'd just woken, so they must have had some sensor that would inform them when he regained consciousness. That did not sit well with him. The idea of being monitored, even in a med bay, had his nerves yelling at him to get out. He tried to move, but all he could really seem to do was turn his head to watch a figure approaching. Forcing his fight-or-flight reflex away (why couldn't he release it to the Force?), he tried again to sit up—tried being the operative word. He wasn’t quite able to push himself into a sitting position and didn't have the strength to do anything but flop back onto the pallet below him, so he could only watch as the being stopped near his bed.

 

At first, all he could tell was that the person wore a white robe and looked humanoid. After a few seconds, his eyes finally focused enough to allow him to see the details on the figure. It was a woman in her mid-40’s by Obi-wan’s guess. She had short, graying hair pulled back into a messy bun and sparkling eyes. She also looked altogether too happy.

 

He'd never been annoyed at something like that before.

 

“Hello,” the woman said, her voice deep and calming. “I’m Healer Kittar and you’re in the Hopeful View Hospital on Haadrian.”

 

Right, he’d set the coordinates for a small, out-of-the-way system that most likely wouldn’t be involved in the war. He’d half expected to die on the way here and wasn’t sure whether he should be glad that he’d made it.

 

That reminded him. “There was someone else with me,” he said in an all too raspy voice.

 

“Ah, yes, your young friend,” she said with no small amount of sympathy in her voice. Obi-wan felt a stab of fear.

 

“Is he alright?” he asked, feeling that fear melt into anger. If these people hadn’t done their job and saved Anakin’s legs…. It never even occurred to him that Anakin might have lost his life. It just wasn't comprehensible to him at that point.

 

“Oh yes. He’ll be fine. I can’t really tell you much without breaching patient confidentiality, but we expect he’ll make a full recovery eventually.”

 

“What do you mean, eventually?” Obi-wan asked, struggling to keep his voice calm.

 

The healer shook her head. “I can’t tell you any specifics unless you’re his guardian—”

 

“I am,” Obi-wan verified.

 

She raised an eyebrow at him, now looking both amused and a little annoyed. “Then I’ll need your full name and RIDN*. We can verify your identity, contact whoever you need us to contact—”

 

“No,” the former Jedi cut in. The idea of the Temple knowing anything about him at the moment…if they knew what he’d done… He couldn’t stop the shame and guilt from rising within him and it took all of his self discipline to push it aside for now (still not working when he tried to release it to the Force...kriffing dark side).

 

“Then it will be up to him to give details,” she said with a nonchalant shrug.

 

And knowing Anakin, he’d leave the worst parts out. That wouldn’t do at all. So Obi-wan smiled as nicely as he could and waved a hand. “I am paying for this, and I am his guardian, so you can tell me.”

 

She resisted for a moment, seeming to second guess the suggestion before looking down at the chart in front of her.

 

“Well, you are paying for this, so I can tell you,” she said. Obi-wan smirked. “His broken legs were difficult to treat. Compound fractures, bone fragments everywhere…” she shuddered and Obi-wan felt his stomach clench in fear but forced himself to remain quiet as the healer continued. “We had to fuse some of the bone fragments together and then had to extract the rest or burn them away with lasers, but he should make a solid recovery. He may have some minor pain for a period of time ranging from a few months to decades in the area where we had to mend the bones, but it won’t be anything debilitating. You, on the other hand…” she paused and shook her head. Obi-wan didn’t like the pitying expression he could see in her eyes. He was, however, impressed with how quickly she’d thrown off the mind trick and changed the subject. Maybe it was a trait of the dark side. He thought he’d heard somewhere that the effects tended to be more temporary when using it to influence another person. But that didn't seem right...

 

“Your friend won’t tell me what happened to you two, but I can guess,” she went on. “He was brought in first and with all of those burns and bruises on top of those intentionally broken legs, well we thought it might be abuse. Then you came in. I don’t think you realize how miraculous it is that you’re alive right now.”

 

Obi-wan couldn't help his scoff. “That would depend on your definition of ‘miraculous’.”

 

The healer’s smile faded and she looked at Obi-wan worriedly for a few moments before going on. “Indeed. Well as bad as your friend was, you were in far worse shape. We’ve had to keep you under while we allowed you to heal. We’ve had to reconstruct the muscles on your shoulders and back and you’ll need therapy if you want to use them properly again. You have had a total of three dips in a bacta tank and are scheduled for at least four more. We’ve been able to minimize the permanent damage and treat the infections in all of the lacerations as well as the burns, but I’m afraid you will still have some scarring in several places.

 

“However, on the bright side, you are definitely out of the woods and if you follow your therapy, you can make a full recovery as well. Be warned that you will need to be patient and consistent, and that it will take a while, but it is definitely possible. We actually have three facilities for you to choose from once you finish your next bacta treatment. Whichever facility you choose will be starting you on solid foods.”

 

Obi-wan clenched his teeth. He hated stays in the healer’s wing, but he also knew that listening to the healer usually meant a faster or at least more complete recovery. That didn’t mean he had to like it. And he really didn’t like it.

 

“Well, that’s a summary of everything. Do you have any questions?” the healer asked, drawing Obi-wan’s focus back to her. Normally he would have enjoyed her relaxed, personable attitude, but right now it just frustrated him.

 

“When can I see Anakin?” he asked.

 

The woman smiled again, causing the few lines at the corners of her eyes to crinkle. “He’s actually been asking after you since he woke up. He’s been in to see you several times, as a matter of fact, and he’s due to come in after he eats, if his constant requests are anything to go by. That should be about a galactic standard hour or so.”

 

“How long have we been here?”

 

The woman’s smile faded ever so slightly again. “About two and a half galactic standard weeks.”

 

“Thirteen days***?” Obi-wan probed, wanting exact numbers.

 

“Fourteen.”

 

That more than anything drove home just what shape his body had been in. He clenched his hands in anger as memories of what the witch had done to him rose to the forefront of his mind.

 

He forced them back, though, taking deep breaths and refusing to give into the emotions. Putting on a blank face, he turned to the woman again. Her smile had vanished completely and she looked rather wary.

 

“Are you a Jedi?” she asked.

 

He frowned. “Why do you ask?”

 

She glanced around the room. “Things started shaking just a second ago and I could swear I’ve seen things move on their own around your friend.”

 

Obi-wan followed her glance and studied the room himself but saw nothing out of place. Still, he had no doubt that she’d spoken the truth and if that were the case then he would have to work on his control. If he were still a Jedi, this wouldn’t be a problem. It seemed, though, that the dark side was far different than even he had imagined. His control exercises did not seem to work nearly as well. Then again, he really shouldn’t have expected any different.

 

He’d also have to talk to Anakin about casual use of the Force again, it seemed.

 

“No,” he finally said. “I have some talent with using the Force, but I’m no Jedi.”

 

She studied him carefully for a few moments before nodding. “I see. Well, that explains the high medichlorian count.”

 

So they’d taken and analyzed his blood after all. But then, why did she have to ask if he was a Jedi? If they’d tried to match his blood with the galactic data base…but then again, many planets had declared neutrality or had broken off to join the Separatists. Most of those planets had been denied access to the Republic’s databases. They could still petition for something if they wished, but the process was long and arduous without someone in the Senate to speak for their cause.

 

“Yes,” he finally replied, his voice neutral. Then he decided to continue with the question he’d wanted to ask earlier, before she’d brought up his status as a Force user. “How long will our recovery take?”

 

She looked down at the data pad in her hand. “Your friend, Anakin, can leave at any time. As long as he keeps the leg braces on for the next four weeks or so, he shouldn’t have a problem. Between your muscle therapy, malnutrition and other healing, I would say you’ll be at the care facility for the next two galactic standard months. Probably closer to three.”

 

Not likely. Jedi tended to heal faster than normal beings. Then again, he wasn’t a Jedi anymore. Would that make a difference? He suspected so. Still, he found little use in dwelling on what he could only guess at right now. “Will the account number I instructed our droid to give you have sufficient funds?”

 

The woman raised an eyebrow, smirking ever so slightly. “ Surprisingly, yes, at least according to the statements from the bank holding your account. Normally I don’t discuss anything financial with my patients, but due to your lack of insurance we had to ask if the account would cover the funds. From what they said, I don’t think you’ll have a problem paying for anything you need for quite some time, which is extremely good because long-term care can get rather expensive without insurance. Sadly, we run into the problem quite a lot. Most people don’t realize that most insurances don’t cover that kind of care.** Especially off-planet insurances.”

 

She paused and shook her head with a smile, as if to apologize. “I’m sorry for getting side tracked. If you want more information I can have our account manager speak with you.”

 

“If you could,” he answered, noting how cold and dead his tone sounded with a curious disapproval. Still, it was better than angry or dangerous. Perhaps he had more control than he realized. Or perhaps it was just a different kind of control? Or perhaps his new source of power was what was really different; darker and colder and inherently so unlike the calm warmth he was so used to. Of course it wasn’t responding exactly like the normal Force. It was similar enough that he had no doubt he could adapt, but it was also just different enough to give him problems.

 

He hated it, but it had been worth Anakin’s life. Anakin was safe now and Obi-wan was safe now…and that’s what really mattered, wasn’t it?

 

It was getting hard to think again, so he pushed those thoughts to the back of his mind for later contemplation. He’d been doing that a lot lately.

 

“You’re undoubtedly still tired,” Healer Kittar said with a soft smile back in place. “Why don’t you rest. I’ll inform Anakin that you’re awake and we can work everything out from there.”

 

For some reason, it bothered him that she expected him to follow her suggestion, but he forced the strange sensation down with a curt nod and allowed his body to relax. He’d never admit how good it felt to be able to do that without fear of pain tomorrow. He remembered hearing the door open again as the healer left, but he didn’t remember much after that.

 

xXx

 

When he woke up again, it was to the steady beating of a heart monitor…and he couldn’t help but blink at the use of the ancient (if effective) technology he had only read about in history holos. He'd noticed it before, but hadn't really identified it. Then again, he could barely remember his conversation with the healer, just the important details, and he had to strain for even those.

 

Anakin sat by his bed side reading a data pad. It had been easier for Obi-wan to open his eyes this time, but he couldn’t focus on that, or how much better he felt now, or anything else really, except the relief that his padawan—his son—was safe, and he could see that with his own eyes.

 

Involuntarily, he relaxed, feeling the tension leak out of him with the breath he released. Anakin must have noticed because he glanced over at Obi-wan, and then he was at his master’s side.

 

“Master?” he asked softly but warily, as if he didn’t expect Obi-wan to answer him back.

 

“Anakin,” he responded, or tried to. His voice came out a little slurred but thankfully still recognizable and he could already feel his control over the muscles returning to him. “So glad you’re safe.”

 

“Thanks to you,” the younger man said with a smile. “If you keep this up, you might actually catch up with me.”

 

Obi-wan scoffed. “I would think this puts me ahead, actually.”

 

Anakin rolled his eyes, shaking his head good-naturedly and Obi-wan marveled at how normal he felt at the moment. It was a good feeling—something that seemed so foreign after his recent months—and he suddenly wanted nothing more than for this second to last. He took a few breaths to commit everything he felt right then to memory so he could revisit this scene again in the future. That turned out to be an intelligent course of action because Anakin had always been one to speak his mind and tended to bring the conversation around to the proverbial hutt in the room rather quickly.

 

“I don’t know if you know, so I’ll tell you, we’re on a small planet called Haadrian,” Anakin said in the bored tone he used for debriefing. “It’s actually a base for the mining that goes on in the system and has several colonies on it, even though it isn’t a naturally habitable planet.”

 

Obi-wan knew that. He’d known a little about the system and had read a quick summary on it before putting the coordinates into the nav computer. It had little more than mining facilities and healing facilities, and for some reason the healing facilities were known to be extremely good for the type of budget they had. Why they had been set up here or how the strange relationship between the healers and the miners had come into being Obi-wan did not know. He hadn’t exactly had time to read up on the planet’s history before passing out.

 

“It is a neutral system,” Anakin continued, “and not connected to Coruscant’s holonet, which is probably a good thing, seeing as I would have tried to contact the Temple before I found out about the orders you gave the droid to give to me. Between those and their declaration as neutral, well, they didn’t want to let me near a com station even before they found out you didn’t want to contact the Temple.”

 

Then he turned and eyed his master warily. “Why, Master? Why don’t you want me to let the Temple know that we’re alive? And why don’t you want these people to know who we are?”

 

Obi-wan didn’t answer for several seconds. On one hand, he was pleasantly surprised that Anakin had figured out his motivation. On the other hand, how was he supposed to tell Anakin that he wasn’t going back to the Temple? How could he explain that he couldn’t face them—his friends and compatriots—again? The guilt and shame would utterly destroy him...more so than it already had.

 

Since when was he such a coward? He knew he couldn’t run forever, but then, he still had things he had to do before he could go before the Jedi Council and confess—and he was surprised that he actually had every intention of doing so. They wouldn’t let him out of their sight once he went to them—and maybe they could even help him, except that all the teachings stated that once he started down the dark path, he couldn’t come back. Even now he still couldn’t seem to reach out to the warm light; it wouldn’t answer his call. He couldn’t dismiss the thought from his head that the Force deemed him unworthy now and that he would never be able to have that comforting peace again. He could hope that the Jedi could help him return, but at the very least he would be withdrawn from the war, and he couldn’t allow that. He had to protect Anakin; had to keep his charge safe. To accomplish that goal, he would have to destroy the separatist leaders, which meant he would have to go after the Sith. That was the only thing that would guarantee Anakin at least had the chance to live his life. And he would. Obi-wan would see to that.

 

But how could he tell all of that to Anakin?

 

Just when he thought the shame couldn’t get any worse…

 

He realized Anakin was staring at him in a strange sort of disbelief.

 

“You feel different, Master,” he said quietly, almost as if he didn’t believe what he’d said. Obi-wan looked away. What could he say? If he told Anakin what he’d done, Anakin would demand to know why, and then he’d blame himself. Could Obi-wan do that to his padawan? Put him through similar pain he himself was going through? The pain he would now have to live with for the rest of his life?

 

But then could he lie to Anakin? Openly and blatantly and with every intention of never telling him the truth?

 

Anakin leaned back and stretched casually, as if he’d sat in place for too long. “Oh, please, Master. I don’t know what happened, but it can’t be that bad,” Anakin said with just a little too much nonchalance. Obi-wan read the underlying message. It couldn’t possibly be worse than what we’ve just been through together. If only he knew…and yet Obi-wan couldn’t see himself explaining that to Anakin. He didn’t want to explain or even acknowledge it himself.

 

So he did what he usually did when he couldn’t rationalize something away, he kept silent. Usually when he got into this kind of a mood, Anakin left him alone until he could sort out his thoughts. This time, though, his padawan must have sensed the subtle difference between their current circumstances and anything that had happened before because he didn’t seem to have any intention of backing down.

 

“Master, please, tell me what happened.”

 

Although he did sound less flippant and more worried now. Obi-wan felt his gut clench. Anakin used that soft, pleading voice so rarely these days, but he still could not seem to muster the motivation or courage to explain.

 

“Fine,” Anakin said after a moment, his voice thick with annoyance and stubborn determination. “I’ll just go contact the Council after all.”

 

With that, he stood and turned to stride to the door, the braces on his legs allowing him to walk almost normally. Obi-wan felt a flash of fear race through his heart. If Anakin commed the Jedi Temple, then they would send someone out to look them over and retrieve them. No, he couldn’t let that happen!

 

“Don’t,” he said, his voice slightly dangerous and with more than a little warning to it.

 

Anakin either didn’t recognize the tone or ignored it as he turned his mulish frown on his master. “Why not?”

 

“I have my reasons.”

 

“And they are?”

 

Obi-wan glared at his apprentice for a few minutes before folding his hands calmly on his lap, his outward serenity belying the desperation that coursed through him in a sort of throb of power. It would take him a while to get used to all of this terrible, damaging emotion connecting him to the Force and consequently giving him more confidence; something relatively positive from something so negative. It was all a horrible, twisted duplicity that he was having a difficult time truly comprehending. No wonder Sith were so depraved.

 

“Don’t you trust me, Anakin?” he whispered and tried not to feel even more guilt at the stung look on his padawan’s face.

 

“Of course I do, Master.”

 

“Then why are you questioning me? Can you just follow my wishes this once?”

 

At first Anakin stood there looking like he had just after he’d come to the Jedi Temple, small, lost and floundering. Back then, Obi-wan would have reached out to lend support. Now, though, that wouldn’t work to his favor, so he simply kept his head down, as if looking away from his apprentice in disappointment, positive that Anakin wouldn’t notice Obi-wan studying him out of the corner of his eyes.

 

Then, the younger Jedi’s countenance changed, and he straightened his back, folding his arms in front of his chest and frowning.

 

“I’m questioning you because you’re not acting like normal,” he said bluntly. Typical Anakin. In any other case, Obi-wan would have snorted derisively. This time, though, the turned his head and looked Anakin directly in the eyes.

 

“After my experiences, would you not expect that I would change.”

 

“Which is why I’m worried!” Anakin said in exasperation, throwing his hands in the air. “You’re so different! It’s like...like you’re not you at all! Except you are…but…” he trailed off, face turning red with frustration at his inability to put his thoughts into words.

 

Despite himself, Obi-wan felt touched. “Anakin, you don’t need to worry about me. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? The apprentice shouldn’t have to worry about the master.”

 

Anakin actually pouted at that. Obi-wan wondered for about the millionth time when his young charge would grow up. And yet, he also found the boy’s actions endearing and amusing.

 

“That might be easier if you didn’t get yourself into situations that you need to be rescued from,” Anakin muttered. This time, Obi-wan couldn’t help the slight sigh or the smile that escaped him. They sat there in silence for a few moments, each entertaining their own thoughts before Anakin’s expression melted back to marginally worried.

 

“You really don’t want me to contact the Temple?”

 

Obi-wan’s own smile disappeared. “No.”

 

“Fine, but you still owe me an explanation.”

 

And the worst part about that was the fact that he really did. Obi-wan wondered if he would get used to the awful guilt and shame that seemed to increase every time he opened his mouth.

 

“Later, Anakin.”

 

The boy sighed, but must have realized that he wouldn’t get anything else out of his master, because he plopped back into the chair and reached for the data pad again.

 

“Can you at least tell me how we escaped?”

 

Obi-wan tensed, despite himself. Of course, Anakin would ask a question like that. He’d see it as changing the subject, but all it really did was touch on what Obi-wan didn’t want to talk about.

 

He couldn’t seem to make himself answer, and Anakin’s frown deepened.

 

“How did you get past Ventress?” he pressed. Why was he being so pushy today? Then again, it was Anakin, but couldn’t he just drop it for once? Maybe if he just told Anakin the truth he would be able to shut the boy up. Then he realized just how mean and thoughtless that idea was and his gut clenched. No, he couldn’t lie to Anakin. To anyone else, maybe, but if he were in Anakin’s shoes, he would want to know the truth too. He just wasn’t sure when he could actually say it all aloud or what would happen if he did…

 

“She’s dead,” he finally said, hoping that would just let the whole matter be over and done with. He should have known better. He blamed his still recovering body because he suddenly felt so tired…

 

“What?! How?” Anakin asked, sitting straighter.

 

Obi-wan looked down at his hands, remembering the feel of the power that had enveloped him as he squeezed the life out of her; how good and simultaneously sickening it had been and how part of him—if he really were honest with himself—had actually enjoyed the feeling.

 

Just what kind of a person had he become? He had perverted what his master had done his best to teach and…oh, and how could he ever hope to honor Qui-gon’s memory now? The man who had been so good and light and two of his three apprentices now had fallen to the darkness. The results couldn’t possibly reflect what Qui-gon had taught. He hated the idea of him having anything in common with Xanatos and yet, if his master had been alive, Obi-wan would have hurt him just as badly (if not worse) than his previous padawan had.

 

Had Xanatos felt the way he did now? How about Dooku? Is that what Obi-wan had to look forward to? A complete and utter subversion of anything he’d ever been and everything he stood for? Would he start seeking out people simply to kill them? To get that rush of power and control and…

 

I killed her, Obi-wan suddenly thought. For some reason, it hadn’t seemed to really sink in, but now, sitting there with Anakin watching him, it struck him. Oh, Force, I killed her, in cold blood! I need to leave! Anakin needs to leave! I can’t let him see me like this! I’ll never be able to change back to what I was before, nothing will ever be the same, everything is ruined forever and I chose this! Oh, Force…

 

He couldn’t seem to get enough air and the monitor’s beeping had sped up.

 

“Master?” Anakin asked, almost sounding on the verge of panic, but Obi-wan couldn’t face him, couldn’t look at him when all he could think about was how he’d failed everyone around him and how he had, on some level, liked it.

 

“Oh, Force,” he breathed, putting his hands over his eyes.

 

“Master?!” Anakin said again, this time sounding even more worried somehow. Obi-wan was vaguely aware of the whoosh of the door opening and hurried footsteps.

 

“What happened?” an unfamiliar but obviously masculine voice asked.

 

“I don’t know!” Anakin almost wailed. “We were just talking and then…this! What’s wrong with him?”

 

“I don’t know,” the voice replied. Then solid footsteps towards him. No! He did not want anyone remotely close to him! He almost flung the other being back with the Force, but somehow managed to clamp down on that urge, recognizing that that would only make the whole situation worse. Instead he shied back, physically moving away from the dull presence that was approaching even as it continued to speak. “It could be a panic attack, he could be reliving a flashback, he could be having a physical reaction to something—although that is unlikely.” The unfamiliar voice seemed to be listing things off more to himself than to Anakin, the rational part of Obi-wan somehow registered vaguely in the back of his mind.

 

“A what?!”

 

“I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

 

“NO!” Anakin’s indignation and anger was not helping Obi-wan at the moment, not that there was any way for the boy to know that.

 

“Please, sir, I have to—”

 

“Not happening.”

 

The words brushed by Obi-wan’s senses barely noticed. He could only feel the frustration and panic behind the voices and it only served to feed his own similar feelings. He could swear the world was closing in on him, around him…and where was his peace? His serenity? It wasn't there! And he could never have it again! Would he be left feeling like this forever? Like he had been set adrift on Kamino’s seas without any sort of control? He didn’t have the calm anymore, so what did he have left? Nothing but darkness and anger and hate and guilt...always the guilt. The soul-crushing, ever increasing shame—

 

No! he told himself firmly, clamping down on his steadily rising panic with all of his will. The calm didn’t come naturally to him now, but that didn’t mean he would lose his head. He may not be a Jedi anymore, but he was still Obi-wan Kenobi and he would not simply lie down and let the darkness consume him. He would have to fight for his state of calm, so fight he would—even if his opponent was himself.

 

He forced himself to pause in his breathing and let the air in his lungs out until he began to see spots creep in on the edges of his vision before he allowed himself to take another lung full of air. He felt his muscles begin to relax and focused on taking long, even breaths. Force, this would take some adjustment. He kept realizing that over and over again as the little differences began to stand out.

 

“I’m fine,” he finally managed to say (quite calmly too, if he did say so himself), interrupting the continuing argument between his padawan and the nurse-healer who had come in. Anakin had, to his credit, negotiated to stay in the room while the healer did what he had to do to help the former Jedi Knight.

 

Obi-wan glanced over at them to see they had both shut their mouths and were staring at him. Anakin looked like he wanted to break the temporary—if deafening—silence, but the healer beat him to it.

 

“You’ll excuse me if I don’t take your word for that,” he said dryly, either ignoring or not seeing the dirty look Anakin shot him. Before Obi-wan could protest, the nurse—a bothan of all beings (not that he had anything against the information-gathering species, but he’d never heard of one going into a medical field off of their own planet)—walked back over to the bed and began to take his vitals. For the second time in five minutes, it took every ounce of self control Obi-wan possessed to not either flinch away or attack the being for his sudden approach, but if he could control the panic, then he could control his reactions too. He wasn’t really surprised at how difficult that control was; disheartened but not surprised.

 

After forcing himself to remain still for a few seconds, he allowed himself to glance over at Anakin. What he saw puzzled him.

 

Normally, Obi-wan could read Anakin’s emotions like an open book. He could tell when the boy hid things, when he was tired, cranky, annoyed, upset, excited, happy and any one of a hundred other emotions or combinations thereof. Obi-wan knew Anakin had always believed his Master couldn’t see the thoughts he wore so openly (for some unfathomable reason) and had simply let Anakin continue to believe he’d hidden that facet of his emotions because Obi-wan had wanted Anakin to trust him; to come to him when necessary, so he had never forced the issue.

 

That had changed after Geonosis. Something had transformed somehow within Anakin, and Obi-wan didn’t know what. He’d tried to confront his padawan, with less than spectacular results. So Obi-wan had been forced to change tactics because he’d finally realized that Anakin would never really talk to him…and that had hurt both in the fact that his padawan didn’t trust him, and the fact that his method of encouraging their master/padawan relationship had basically backfired. Obi-wan could always tell what Anakin was feeling, but he rarely knew the motivation.

 

Except, right now, he couldn’t read Anakin’s expression, and in a strange, poetic sort of exchange, he knew why. Obi-wan had never panicked before, at least not in front of Anakin. It was unusual for him (to say the least), and he had little doubt that Anakin had caught it, no matter what the healer said. The boy had never been focused on solving or planning or figuring things out, but that did not mean that he was, by any means, stupid. When he put his brain to use, he could give Obi-wan a run for his credits in that area.

 

“Well, your vitals have basically returned to normal,” the nurse said, interrupting Obi-wan’s thoughts and sounding almost annoyed—which, in turn, annoyed Obi-wan. What in the Galaxy could the being possibly be annoyed about? “I’d still like to contact healer Kittar and discuss possible treatments if instances like these continue.”

 

“Trust me,” Obi-wan said in a frosty tone. “They won’t.” He couldn’t let them…

 

“Nevertheless,” the bothan said as he straightened, “it is my job to report this.”

 

“Yeah, thanks,” Anakin said suddenly with a half-hearted smile at the healer. Obi-wan blinked. Had Anakin actually just stepped in as a mediator? It had been awkward and blunt (typical Anakin), but Obi-wan found it more than a little strange that their roles had, even if only temporarily, switched.

 

“Let us know what she thinks,” Obi-wan said with forced politeness. A few of the other Jedi had begun to call him ‘The Negotiator’ before he’d been captured by Ventress. While he’d felt the title had been a bit ridiculous, he was not about to give his niche up because his source of power had changed. If he couldn’t control that source now, then he would learn, because he refused to lose any more of himself—he’d lost far too much as it was.

 

The bothan eyed both of the Jedi for a moment before he seemed to simply accept that he probably wouldn’t understand anyway and just nodded at his patients before turning and walking out of the room.

 

“What was that?” Anakin asked after the door had closed. His voice was dry but tinged with more than a little concern; concern that Obi-wan really didn’t deserve. He had chosen this, after all. Once again, he tried to reach for the light and warmth of the normal Force, but again only the wild iciness met his efforts. Was this why Jedi who fell tended to stay fallen? Not because they chose to continue on their path, but because they couldn’t reach the light again? That certainly made sense, but Obi-wan had had brushes with the dark side before. Why could he return to the light then but not now? Because it had been more of an instinct before whereas this time it had been a conscious choice? Did the darkness corrupt that utterly?

 

And right then, Obi-wan realized that Anakin had to leave him. He could not continue to corrupt his padawan…at least not until Obi-wan had more control over the darkness. Besides, seeing the look on the younger man's face made the former Jedi realize that he was the center of Anakin’s concern, and it was only worrying the boy more, which in turn was making Obi-wan more upset which only aggravated his condition and that was at least part of the reason why his control was shot to the netherworld. Anakin had to get away from here—away from him and away from the darkness that Obi-wan now represented.

 

The thought reasserted itself over and over in his mind. He couldn’t allow the darkness to taint Anakin.

 

“I…don’t know,” Obi-wan heard himself answer, and didn’t even blink at the lie. He had a part to play, and if there was anything he had skill concerning, it was acting. If he had a second skill, it was planning, and a close third would have to be manipulation when it was called for.

 

This situation definitely called for it. He hadn't thought he could lie to Anakin. Well, now he had to.

 

“Master, this isn’t normal,” Anakin started, but Obi-wan cut him off.

 

“Just what about this entire situation is normal?” the older man asked, his voice wry and just a tad angry. Anakin closed his mouth, but he didn’t lose that stubborn glint in his eye.

 

So Obi-wan forced himself to relax and deflate. “Do you wanted to know why I don’t want to go back to the Temple? It is because it will only remind me of who I used to be—who I was before she managed to get a hold of me. I think I just need some time to recover before I go back, Anakin. I don’t want to have another one of those…episodes I just had in front of the Council.” And there was more than a little truth to his statement. Anakin must have sensed that because he deflated too.

 

“Then we’ll stay here until you’re ready to go,” he said in a surprisingly understanding tone.

 

Obi-wan closed his eyes in supposed defeat and looked away.

 

“What is it, Master?” Anakin asked, just as Obi-wan had known he would.

 

“I can’t stay here, no matter how much I want to. The rest of the galaxy shouldn’t have to wait for us to come back because I was stupid enough to get captured.”

 

A ripple through the Force let Obi-wan know that Anakin hadn’t taken that well. The manipulation was blatant and obvious, at least to Obi-wan (he didn't have the patience for anything else at the moment), but fortunately Anakin had never had much of an eye for spotting such things.

 

“That could have happened to anyone! Besides, you’re not going back! You won’t be able to help anyone if you collapse or suddenly panic in the middle of a fight! You need to stay here and rest! Recover and then you and I can go save the universe.”

 

“But there are so many worlds that need us, Anakin,” Obi-wan said, his voice quiet and pained. It wasn’t difficult for him to inject that tone into his words, even if the reasoning would be different from what Anakin would assume.

 

Anakin shook his head vehemently. “No, Master! You said so yourself. You just need to stay here and rest.”

 

“That isn’t a luxury I have,” Obi-wan sighed.

 

“No, it’s necessary!” Anakin insisted. Then he paused and ran a hand through his hair. “If it really bothers you that much, then I’ll go. I’ll let the Temple know that you’re alive and healing. When you’re ready you can come back.”

 

Obi-wan turned his head quickly to fix his gaze on his padawan. “No, Anakin, you need to rest just as much as I do—”

 

“No, I don’t,” Anakin cut in with a roll of his eyes. “I need these braces, and that’s it. I’ve been itching to get out of here anyway. They won’t let me tinker with any of their droids and I am so booored!”

 

And wasn’t that just like Anakin too?

 

Obi-wan made a show of contemplating Anakin’s words before he finally shook his head with a sigh. “As much as I want to disagree with you, you’re right. Take the ship and then come back for me in a few days.”

 

Anakin frowned. “The healer said it would take months.”

 

“Anakin,” Obi-wan started.

 

“No, Master,” the younger man said shortly. “You’re going to stay here and heal, and that’s that.”

 

“One month,” Obi-wan said.

 

“Three,” Anakin replied.

 

Obi-wan frowned. “One and a half.”

 

“Two, final offer.”

 

The former Jedi raised an eyebrow. “Or what?”

 

“Or I bring the Jedi here directly and you go back to the Temple where I know they can keep you down.”

 

Obi-wan didn’t have to fake looking scandalized. “You wouldn’t.”

 

Anakin smirked. “Oh, really?”

 

Finally Obi-wan let out another sigh. “Fine, I agree.”

 

The smirk turned into a full-blown smile. “Good. I’ll go check over the ship and see if anything needs replacing or rewiring—”

 

“Anakin,” Obi-wan cut in, “don’t ruin it.”

 

It was Anakin’s turn to look scandalized. “Since when have I ever ruined a ship?”

 

Obi-wan rubbed at the bridge of his nose. “Please, be careful.”

 

Looking put out, Anakin shooed his Master’s concern away with a wave of his hand. “Fine, fine. I’ll be back later today with an update on the status of the ship.”

 

Obi-wan nodded with a fond smile as his padawan left with a final wave of his hand.

 

As soon as the door closed, the smile vanished and the former Jedi found himself staring at the door with a blank expression. Who would have known how hard it would be to act like his former self—like the man he had been just weeks ago.

 

He came to the conclusion that Dooku deserved a medal for his own acting abilities. He’d always seemed so collected and was only different from his reputation as a Jedi Master when one looked at the consequences of his actions or pushed the man.

 

That brought Obi-wan’s train of thought back to the task at hand. He had a lot of planning to do before Anakin returned that evening and it would all have to be executed in a month or less…well, he definitely had his work cut out for him.

 

He was so caught up in his thoughts, he only vaguely acknowledged the fact that he had blatantly manipulated his padawan into doing his bidding. After all, the guilt was a constant now and adding more to the already vast ocean of shame hardly required his attention. Besides, he realized grimly, ignoring it was somehow easier.

 

xXx

 

So, now we're getting more into stride as dark!Obi-wan, not newly fallen Obi-wan, or at least setting up for dark!Obi-wan. Let me know what you think!

 

*RIDN – A term I made up. If people here in the US have Social Security numbers, then I would be very surprised if people in the Republic didn’t have something similar. RIDN basically stands for ‘Republic Identification Number’.

 

**This is actually true today. Older people don’t realize that their Medicare plans don’t cover long-term care and younger people don’t realize that few company health plans cover it as well so that’s where I got this from. I’ve recently gotten out of the insurance business and I couldn’t help but realize just what a NIGHTMARE dealing with insurance from another PLANET (a planet that isn’t technically in the Republic, none the less) must be! *shudder*

 

***Galactic standard weeks are 5 days long, with 4 working days and 1 weekend day. Months tend to have about 5 standard weeks in them. Therefore, two weeks = 10 days, half a week = 2-3 days.

You know the closer you get to something

The tougher it is to see it,

And I'll Never take it for granted,

Let's go!

 

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Whew! That felt like a long chapter. But the conversation was solid, and you really captured the Anakin/Obi-Wan banter well there at the end.

 

One grammar thing:

 

The third thing he noticed was that while his ability to feel seemed to be coming back slowly, he could hear just fine.

 

Run-on sentence.

 

Good stuff, friend! Keep it coming!

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SHE MEANS TO END US ALL!!! DOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!!!!!11eleventyone!
There goes Ami's reputation of being a peaceful, nice person.
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The most difficult thing for me was learning to think through the emotions. All of my life, I had learned to accept my emotions and then to give them up before I made a decision. When that no longer became an option, I very suddenly found myself having to learn from scratch to think despite my emotions. It may be the one area of my personality that actually improved after I fell.

 

The Clone War, as all wars throughout history, had created far more than its fair share of victims. Unlike other wars in recent times, the Jedi did not escape this. If anything, it was just the opposite. The centuries old Jedi Order, which had helped to bring about the peace that was now being systematically destroyed, would of course be at the forefront of every battle, fighting for harmony again…at least, that's what the news channels stated. After all, one of the many reasons why the Jedi were allowed the privileges they were was because of their neutral defense of peace. As protectors of the galaxy, they were expected to fight for that peace as well. Most Jedi agreed to this propaganda to some extent, but they also didn't see how keeping peace meant fighting and destroying. The Jedi Order had indoctrinated a certain level of pacifism into its Jedi for longer than any current member had lived, and that was a hard thing to let go of.

 

Truthfully, destroying droids wasn't so bad. Slicing into Force-dead machinery and electronics would never be anything that really hung on any Jedi's conscious or make them question who their enemy was off the battlefield. The real problem was that Jedi were also losing comrades and civilians and the clones that supported them (who were alive in and of themselves—and thus to be cherished and protected).

 

Hence, almost from the beginning, the war had felt extremely one-sided to the Republic and many in the Order itself. The enemy leaders never had to relent or worry about the cost of lives as more than production numbers, whereas the Jedi had to deal with a near crippling level of loss not felt in generations. This caused them to find themselves, even if only in the deepest part of their hearts, truly caring for the Jedi and the people underneath them lost to battle, coupled with a growing reluctance to lose anyone else.

 

It seemed there wasn't a week that went by without at least five new casualties among the Jedi Knights or padawans. The Order may not have been encouraged to form attachments, but none could deny that that the holes those Jedi left at home were aching, gaping sores that many found difficult to deal with. Who would be the next person on the list of dead or missing? Or worse, as some of them whispered. A few Jedi that came home, driven to pain or cowardice by a loss that they had been unable to bear, had been forever changed—and not in any way positive. Far too many veterans disappeared into meditation chambers—refusing to surface—or had to be placed under heavy sedation with the Healers for their own good. Such situations were becoming far too common, and each Jedi's loss would only force another into the field, possibly never to be seen again.

 

And yet, not fighting seemed just as wrong to their mindset, because the Jedi were meant to protect—to help and support and keep other beings alive. If they pulled out of the war, no matter how much healing they needed, what then? Who would they be protecting? What right would they have to face the spirits of the people cut down by the droids in the afterlife because they weren't there as they had promised to be?

 

The only answer seemed to be nothing other than 'end the war'. So that is what they strove for. They would carry on, despite the stabs of pain and sadness that the entire temple seemed to feel every time one of their own fell. They would mourn for their losses, release their emotions to the Force as best they could and move on to the next battle.

 

And yet, some wounds seemed as if they would never truly heal. One such sore inflicted was when General Obi-wan Kenobi—the man who seemed to be able to talk or maneuver his way out of anything and the renowned Sith Killer—had gone missing, presumed dead. It had become even worse when his padawan, the hope of the Order's future, the fabled 'Chosen One' who could practically bulldoze his way through any situation his Master couldn't talk them out of, also vanished in a similar manner. Their losses had been enormous blows both to the war effort and to almost every Knight, padawan and Master personally. The news had been demoralizing to the Jedi that saw the two leaders as pillars of strength, figures standing tall that broke the war around them rather than letting the war break them. Losing them had felt—yes felt, even if none would admit it aloud—like losing what little faith they had that the Order would be able to come through this war still mostly intact.

 

Which was why when a message with Padawan Skywalker's personal code came to the Temple, most of the Jedi who heard could only stare in disbelief at the holo-projector displaying the visage of the supposedly lost boy. His return from the dead brought a desperate relief from the nigh overwhelming losses that they had suffered under, and rekindled a hope that had vanished from the steadily declining moral of the Jedi. Then the news he brought back of Knight Kenobi's survival spread, causing even more surprise and all masters turned blind eyes to the quiet displays of joy, hope and renewed vigor that sprung up among the younger ranks.

 

His announcement also cemented his position as the 'Chosen One' in the minds of several of the more skeptical residents of the Temple, for Anakin had had faith in one of their brightest brothers when all others had lost it. He had held hope and trust in his heart and his steady dedication had been rewarded. The fact that Obi-wan was in seclusion and recovering was of little consequence. The fact that Padawan Skywalker refused to reveal his Master's location, while worrying to the truly jaded that felt he might have lost his mind rather than found his Master, was something others found as an example of dedication, understanding and acceptance. After all, the older man needed time to heal and Anakin seemed determined to see that he received it.

 

The story the boy related regarding the pair's whereabouts was nothing short of amazing, and half of the Jedi felt that what he remembered had to be influenced by either drugs or pain (or both). Either that, or he was purposefully embellishing. Still, despite the fact that only two months earlier no one had believed Obi-wan Kenobi lived—no matter what Anakin had said at the time—few disbelieved him now. His desperate determination from before had melted into a calm certainty that few could deny, and as such, they looked forward to celebrating a favorite general's return home, to help assuage that much more of the loss.

 

People only started to become wary when, about a month after Padawan Skywalker's return, the boy revealed that he couldn't reach his Master. After a week or so of this, Anakin informed the Council that he would return to the planet his Master was supposed to be recovering on. The wariness turned to anxiousness within the Order when Anakin returned with the information that the Knight had, once again, vanished, practically cleaning out the funds in the account he had been using up until that point. What was their general doing? Did he find a new house of healing? Or did he abandon them? Would he leave them to suffer losses that he could have prevented because of their lack of faith in him?

Only those with the highest clearance became seriously concerned for the man as padawan Skywalker had not only returned with news, he had also brought home a note left for him in place of the funds in the depleted account.

 

Dear Padawan,

 

There is so much to say that I cannot really begin to put it all into words. As such, I will only say this and hope that you come to understand one day.

 

Anakin…I'm sorry.

 

-Obi-wan

Unlike the Council, padawan Skywalker refused to guess at the reason for the words, stating that he would ask his Master when he came home. Then, as if deliberately to counter the maturity that he had recently displayed, the boy then showed his age and lack of experience by throwing almost every extra moment into locating his master again instead of focusing more on the war. Really, it only confirmed to the Council that he was not ready to move up to the station of a Knight, and though his esteem in their eyes had grown, no one there argued otherwise, and thus he remained a padawan.

 

xXx

 

Coming up with basic plans for his general goals weren't that difficult, especially for someone of Obi-wan's mental caliber. Finding the right people to manipulate into helping him with his plan and contacting them was also surprisingly easy but extremely time-consuming. Designing contingencies for his plan took more thought and time due to his refusal to leave more to chance than he had to. Still, he had always known that the true difficulty would lay in the execution.

 

He could plan for centuries and never come up with everything that could happen, and the thought of the unknown, something he couldn't design an option for, was something he knew he couldn't truly plan for. Plans rarely survived first contact, after all, whether the plan was a war strategy or a carefully laid, step-by-step progression towards a goal. Before, that would have bothered him. Now, it angered him…and he hated that.

 

So he hashed and rehashed every single plot he designed, no matter how frustrated it made him or how he just wanted to throw everything to the wind and pull an Anakin—charge in with his lightsaber blazing and simply make everyone see sense. Eventually, he reached a point where he was satisfied enough with what he had to stop losing sleep. Ironically enough, that was when he really began to make progress in his physical therapy.

 

At the center of all his plans stood Count Dooku. Really, who else could possibly have the answers Obi-wan needed: why the Sith had really started this war, what their end goal was (besides destruction of the Republic and the Order), how they planned on accomplishing this, etc. A lot of those questions weren’t that difficult to really come up with an answer to, especially now. Still, Obi-wan had been able to sense that something deeper and darker was going on since before Geonosis. Many Jedi had felt the same. Now that he was more or less a Dark Jedi, that feeling had only increased, which didn’t exactly lay Obi-wan’s suspicions to rest.

 

His plots and plans for the whole month he had spent on Haadrian after Anakin left were hatched and refined in a small recovery facility that catered to richer clients. They had the individual attention that Obi-wan had needed and it made all the difference. His rehabilitation had progressed in leaps and bounds, and they had been far more lenient on who Obi-wan could and couldn’t contact than the hospital would have been, which made his ability to scheme far easier.

 

That month had also been instrumental in Obi-wan coming to a rather tenuous truce with himself. The heart of the matter lay in the fact that he still wanted to be a Jedi. If he could find the will to turn from the dark side and all of its enticing power and wild energy, he would jump at the chance in a heartbeat. The problem was that he still could not seem to do so…and he couldn’t help but wonder if that meant some subconscious part of him truly wanting the power the dark side gave him. The thought bothered him, and so he avoided touching the Force as he could almost feel the new energy twisting and corrupting him. Already he wasn’t even sure if he really was still Obi-wan Kenobi at all, which gave him a new perspective on why Sith chose to take new names.

 

Once he had his course of action more or less solidified, he knew he would have to broach the subject of what Dooku’s responses to his actions would be. It hadn’t been something he’d been looking forward to figuring out as the fact of the matter was Obi-wan was positive he could not hide his new status from the man, and really, he did not want to put up with the smug superiority that the older ex-Jedi would undoubtedly exude. However, that line of thinking led him back to their meeting on Geonosis, when Dooku had asked Obi-wan to join him. It had been far more subtle than that, but once all of the pleasantries and supposedly casual observations were stripped away, that had essentially been what he’d asked. Obi-wan had little doubt that the other man would ask him again if they met face-to-face. If he went into the situation without having decided before hand what his response would be, he knew he could easily be swept up in Dooku’s offers. The man had charisma, control, class…and all of them would be far more appealing to Obi-wan now. Especially considering that the man essentially had the power to stop the war if he so chose plus his knowledge and experience using both sides of the Force.

 

Obi-wan had never sought power, but he had always held a weakness for knowledge—especially when it could possibly help him to feel less adrift than he currently did. Still, he was stubborn too, and Obi-wan refused to simply ‘go along’ with anything. He wouldn’t be able to protect Anakin like that, so he seriously asked himself if he could ever see himself joining the Sith—a question he was not happy to ask, but one he knew he honestly had to consider.

 

The answer had been a surprisingly firm ‘no’. The cold, hard truth really came down to the fact that the Sith had put Anakin’s life in danger, and Obi-wan couldn’t forgive them for that. They had also—either directly or indirectly—threatened the lives of every other person who meant anything to Obi-wan and he couldn’t see that stopping any time soon. From what he could recall from his lessons as a youngling, to join the Sith Order, one had to murder someone close to them in cold blood, and that was simply something Obi-wan was unwilling to do. He didn’t feel the same towards anyone who had meant something to him now, but he did still harbor emotions towards them and the memory of what he had once felt for them was something that seemed to be able to keep him on some semblance of a moral path. He had no delusions that he could always rely on that—eventually, the darkness would corrupt that too—but for now, he did have it and he would cling to it.

 

So he had come to the conclusion that, dark or not, a Jedi he would remain after all. It was funny, but after he’d taken the leap into the darkness he’d expected to be…well, different. It surprised him that he still seemed to be only slowly descending into the miasma—inevitably and constantly as he could not turn and go back, no matter how he tried, but somehow he felt that when most dark-siders fell, they would do so very quickly.

 

He figured that this difference in him lay in his path to the dark side—the ever encompassing, crushing guilt that he had more or less learned to accept as a constant in his life now. It was funny in a rather grim sort of way that that which had led him to the darkness now also kept him somehow connected to the light. He felt guilty for turning his back on everything he had ever known, which connected him to the darkness but also encouraged him to look back. He felt guilty for manipulating and practically abandoning his padawan, which made him want to keep tabs on him and ensure the boy’s future instead of destroying or eradicating it. He felt guilty for having been so weak as to have been captured by a Sith Acolyte, which had given him the power to kill her but had also rid her evil from the Galaxy and thus gave him a small sense of accomplishment and peace that lay buried beneath the lust for more and the steadily growing anger that he had never before equated with himself.

 

The double-edged result of his actions tended to give him a headache whenever he thought about it, so he tried to avoid doing so. Still, Obi-wan had never considered himself a coward, and so he refused to back away from the realizations permanently, and thus he had eventually forced himself to examine the situation from that view point.

 

One thing the dark side seemed to encourage that the normal Force didn’t was the sheer possibility and potential that lay at the very core of the nigh-untameable (and yet surprisingly pliable at the same time) energy. The darkness did not lend itself to healing or peace, but the very ideas of what Obi-wan could do with it if he so chose was something that both intrigued him and made him extremely wary. He had no doubt that more than one person had lost themselves to that very idea. Just because he could do something didn’t mean he should, although that thought seemed so…obsolete now. The techniques he could discover could change the universe! So why should it matter who got in his way and who he had to destroy or torture to discover them?

 

And then he would remember Anakin and the sheer worry on the boy’s face, or he would think back to those two women who meant so much to him even now, or Mace Windu who he’d thought of as a mentor and friend, or Master Yoda who had always been the most powerful being that Obi-wan had ever known, and he’d done so with the warmth and light, not the darkness. It always managed to put everything into perspective. He concluded that he could experiment as long as those he had cared for would not be hurt—which meant he could learn control and techniques only through what he already knew and what he could conceivably do by/to himself, because he had little doubt that they would all find out what he had done eventually and he wanted to minimize the pain and betrayal they would undoubtedly feel. If he’d hurt anyone else at that point, they would never forgive him, and he couldn’t live with that.

 

He had already adapted most of what he knew of his lighter techniques to the darkness and had been practicing control—which was another beast in and of itself. Control of the light had meant a mastery of oneself. Obi-wan had only recently realized with an insight that he doubted he could have achieved any other way just how internalized the normal Force was. The dark side, however, was external. It required a complete knowledge of one’s will and superiority over it to control. Of the Force, one asked. Of the dark side, one demanded. The light lent itself to commonalities and working together. The dark lent itself to hierarchies and levels, which was why, Obi-wan realized after several weeks of contemplation, the Sith strove to always be the best. When one controlled others, in their mind, it meant that no one had control over them. When no one had control over them, supposedly freedom had been obtained.

 

It was a ridiculous notion to the Former Jedi because by gaining that supposed freedom from others, they had enslaved themselves to the dark side; become a tool only useful to the darkness and at that point, they had no real will of their own. If he ever fell that far, he hoped that someone would have the will and ability to end his existence. Sadly, he feared it was only a matter of time.

 

He knew he could not put off enacting his plans for long. Not only did he not trust himself in the long run, but he also wanted to end the war as quickly as possible, which was why he found himself approaching the Separatist planet of Serenno not two months after he and Anakin had escaped from Ventress, and a month and a half after he had woken in the facility at Haadrian. The long-term care facility had not been pleased when he had informed them that he would be checking out early. They had insisted that he needed rehabilitation for at least another month, even with the rapid healing rate he’d been advancing at (which had actually surprised him, but wasn’t something he would question at the moment). At that point, he had simply told them that he would continue with his exercises, thanked them for their services, paid them a rather hefty tip and left. They really couldn’t stop him, and he wouldn’t have tolerated them trying.

 

By the time he’d found and bought a small ship that would serve his purposes, his plan had almost been complete and he’d only needed to oversee a few matters personally. Now everything he needed for implementation had been put in place and he himself would be the catalyst.

 

He kept a steady course as he waited for the security to contact him. He got surprisingly close to the planet before they did.

 

“Unidentified shuttle, this is Serenno Planet Security. Transmit your identification documents now or you will be shot. Over.”

 

“Acknowledged, Planet Security,” he replied calmly and sent the documents for the craft over. He wasn’t really trying to hide anything and knew they would know the name and other personal identifications would be false.

 

Right on time, they responded. “The name of the owner of the shuttle has been proven to be false. You must provide your personal documentation immediately! This is your last warning!” Obi-wan couldn’t tell if the voice was male or female or simply a droid. It sounded metallic and harsh over the static of the com. Somehow, that annoyed him.

 

“Planet Security, I read you. Those documents will be sent through momentarily. Please keep in mind that I request an audience with Count Dooku.”

 

“Lord Dooku is not on planet at the moment,” came the almost immediate reply. Obi-wan rolled his eyes. He knew that was a lie.

 

“I can wait,” he responded. “Documentation transmitting.”

 

He transferred his real identification documents as his entire plan revolved around blatantly pronouncing his presence to Dooku. He had debated long and hard between going in quietly and going in Anakin-style. Eventually he’d chosen the latter simply because it would be unexpected, and anything he could do to keep Dooku off balance would benefit him.

 

“Shuttle Mikoromin, do not deviate from your current course or you will be shot. All passengers will be taken into custody upon arrival. Over.”

 

“Understood,” Obi-wan replied. “You will not find any resistance. Over.”

 

For a moment he amused himself with imagining the looks on the faces of the beings manning the station before he stood and made his final preparations. Yes, he had everything in place for a quick escape if necessary and he checked over his plans for the umpteenth time that hour before completely erasing them from the data pad he’d poured over for the last several days, removing the hard drive and crushing it in his hand to completely eradicate any trace.

 

Then he slowly and calmly piloted the shuttle down between the escort ships that had surrounded him long before they’d begun to enter into the atmosphere. Upon landing, he grabbed his bag, stepped to the door and opened it calmly. Then, slowly, he strode forward, keeping his hands in sight. He wasn’t disappointed. About three dozen droids met his gaze and he could see several security squads behind them, all with their blasters pointed towards him.

 

“Well,” he commented, “this is quite the welcome.” It was nice to see that he hadn’t lost all of his humor. Actually he was grateful that it had begun to make a sort of comeback, even if his tastes had become darker and more morbid.

 

“General Obi-wan Kenobi, Jedi Knight and enemy to the Confederacy of Independent Systems, you are under arrest,” one of the men with many decorations on his chest said calmly as he stepped through the robots towards the shuttle’s ramp.

 

“I expected as much, commander,” Obi-wan said with a forced smile. “After all, I did come here to turn myself in.”

 

He’d been expecting that declaration to be met with shock and skepticism. Yet again, he wasn’t disappointed.

 

xXx

 

He hadn’t been in the holding cell for more than twenty minutes before the man he’d come to meet arrived. Obi-wan had been trying (yet again) to meditate with little success. The dark side didn’t exactly promote calm meditation. Obi-wan didn’t really know what else to do, though, so he simply sat there and tried to reach out to the light only to grab hold the darkness yet again. Sometimes he didn’t know why he still tried, really.

 

“Well, well, well,” a smooth voice came to him. He didn’t open his eyes. “If it isn’t Master Kenobi.”

 

“Count Dooku,” Obi-wan said in a falsely pleasant voice. He had worked very hard in the recent weeks to build a façade that seemed similar to his old self. “I see your reception hasn’t changed much.” He finally opened his eyes and indicated the cell around him.

 

“But you have,” Dooku said, brushing his beard thoughtfully.

 

Obi-wan’s wry expression disappeared and he allowed his eyes to fall a little. “So I have.”

 

“I assume that is why you came to me. If you had truly been taken by force, I doubt I would have found this cell occupied.”

 

At that, Obi-wan frowned and then smiled. “It is not the entire reason.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“I came to negotiate,” he said, closing his eyes again.

 

“You did?” Dooku sounded entirely too pleased. “Then perhaps you should abandon that pathetic attempt at meditation and follow me back to my residence where I can at least show you true manners.”

 

Obi-wan allowed himself to slump a little before rising smoothly to his feet. “Very well,” he said, striding over to the red-tinged ray shield.

 

“But sir,” one of the usually silent guards standing nearby spoke.

 

Dooku rounded on him. “Do not speak if you wish to continue to live,” he warned. The man must have been particularly intelligent because he nodded and backed away. Dooku didn’t bother to walk over to the controls, instead choosing to manipulate them with the Force. It was strictly for show, Obi-wan realized. He’d found that using the dark side in subtle ways was rather difficult. The fact that Dooku could do so was a testament to his training and skill. Despite himself, Obi-wan was impressed.

 

“This way, Master Kenobi,” Dooku said and began to walk away.

 

“Don’t call me that,” Obi-wan said, his voice quiet but firm. Dooku peered over his shoulder, one eyebrow raised in question. “I’m not even a knight anymore, and I am no one’s master.” Okay, perhaps that had sounded a bit too bitter.

 

“As you wish. What would you like for me to call you, then?”

 

“Just Obi-wan is fine,” he responded, making sure to put a depressed note into his voice. It wasn’t difficult.

 

The Count turned forward again, but Obi-wan still caught the small but triumphant smile on the man’s face. “Very well, Obi-wan.”

 

Okay, perhaps he should have come up with something else, because hearing Dooku say his name like that grated on his nerves, which did little for his already thinning patience.

 

“Allow me to show you around my home planet, Obi-wan,” Count Dooku said as he pushed open the double doors to the dull, gray building that had held Obi-wan’s containment cell. The planet outside could not have been more different from the facility. The system’s star shone down brightly, warming the stone and durocrete beneath them. A pleasant breeze wafted through the buildings, bringing a fresh wave of crisp air to the city. In the distance, Obi-wan could see several mountains and the breeze held just the hint of the smell of foliage in it, suggesting that the forests the planet was known for weren’t too far away.

 

Dooku raised his hand and called over what must be his personal speeder. It had a removable cover on it and looked to be at least three or four times as long as the normal speeder on the market these days. Yes, the Sith was definitely showing off.

 

The Count gestured for Obi-wan to enter first, which he did, finding himself in a large, luxurious seating area. He made sure to keep any reaction strictly under his control and chose a spot that would allow for him to see all exits and windows in the vehicle. A few moments later, Dooku climbed into the area as well and seated himself across from Obi-wan, pulling a bottle of what looked like some sort of high-class alcoholic beverage over with the Force. Obi-wan had a hard time holding back a cringe at his blatant use of the dark side. Here was someone who had embraced the darkness fully and was more than comfortable with it. Just being in his presence and realizing that suddenly made Obi-wan feel both self-conscious and awkward.

 

“Now, I know you probably already know, but how about a brief history of my planet?”

 

“If you wish,” Obi-wan said with a graceful nod of his head. Truthfully, he would prefer silence, but doubted the other man would acquiesce.

 

“Would you like something to drink? This is Caamian wine. Very rare these days.” And undoubtedly very pricy. It irked Obi-wan that the man seemed to take every opportunity to flaunt his status and wealth, but then Obi-wan had never expected any different. With an inward sigh, the younger man began to realize just how long this trip would be and mentally prepared himself for it.

 

“Thank you, no. I’m afraid that I am still recovering from a medical condition and the alcohol would only aggravate it.”

 

“I see,” the older man said with a sagely nod of his head. At that point he pulled out a pitcher of filtered water so clear Obi-wan almost couldn’t see it and poured it into a glass before handing it over. Obi-wan took it but did not drink. Dooku didn’t seem to mind.

 

“So let us start with this city. It isn’t the capitol city, but it takes most of the off-world traffic as it allows the skies over the capitol to remain far clearer…”

 

A very long ride indeed.

 

xXx

 

Next chapter's from Dooku's pov.

You know the closer you get to something

The tougher it is to see it,

And I'll Never take it for granted,

Let's go!

 

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Oooh nice. I liked the switch of perspective to see how the galaxy and the Jedi are reacting to things. It's good not to forget them.

 

Really enjoyed your comparisons of the light vs dark, and how using the Force is different. I feel like you really nailed it! Great philosophical detailing.

 

Dooku's reaction seemed a bit strange to me, but I'll wait until the next bit to make a decision on that.

 

((Oh, and sorry, this is Ami. Forgot to log out of my alias.))

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Captain of the Galactic Alliance & Jedi Knight

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  • 2 months later...

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I had computer problems and had to get a new one...then I got sick...3 times...in a month and a half...with a cold, and then another cold, and then Shingles (although admittedly the first two colds could have been one cold...that lasted 3 weeks...). Yeah, I thought shingles was for 'old people' too. Meh. Apparently not. Just people who have had chicken pox before. *shakes fist*

 

Anyway, still hoping y'all are reading this.

 

Chapter 5

 

The true danger of the dark side does not lie in the fact that it changes one’s actions, but that it changes the user’s desires. That is how it so thoroughly corrupts. It doesn’t just change one’s thought process, but the very reasons behind the goals one works towards. Once you give in, the world around you becomes twisted and it gets harder and harder to see any good in what anyone does. After all, how can one continue to work towards good when they have nothing but hate and resentment and guilt in their heart? And hate is like a virus, if it goes uncontrolled. At first, you just hate that which has caused you pain or will cause you pain or threatens to cause you pain. After a while, though, you start to hate everything…

Dooku smiled genially at his guest.“I must admit, Obi-wan, that I rather like your change in appearance. Clean-shaven is quite a good look for you.”

 

Obi-wan frowned as his host lead him up to the doors of the modest (to him, in any case) estate that happened to be one of Dooku’s many holdings here on Serenno.

 

“Ah, that. I would have liked to regrow the beard, but the scars cause it to grow unevenly.” Dooku nodded, having no doubt that such a deformity would prove to be dreadful. He hadn't been lying when he said it was a good look for Obi-wan, but it would also very likely prove a hindrance in the future as the former Jedi looked rather young. Few would take him seriously immediately, but then, that could prove useful too. Still, that brought up another point he wanted to know about.

 

“Ah yes, the scars. If I may inquire, where did they come from?”

 

The young man had absolutely no control over his emotions! And what an array Dooku felt leaking off of him. However, much to his approval and amusement, Obi-wan simply shrugged nonchalantly the very picture of calm. With a mask like that he truly had earned the title of Jedi Master.

 

“I was caught and tortured. Honestly, I had figured you were behind it,” he accused. Dooku almost wished Ventress still lived so he could take his vengeance on her. How dare she presume like that? Still, he let none of this show on his face. Or through the Force.

 

“I assure you that I had no knowledge of your continued existence,” Dooku replied almost flippantly, but with an underlying tone of sincerity the other man should catch.

 

“I see,” Obi-wan said, looking away as if in thought. “And I assume you want me to take your word on that?”

 

Dooku paused before the rather large doors of his estate and looked at Obi-wan dryly. “I don’t see how your belief in my word matters. It won’t change the fact that you need me.”

 

Obi-wan’s expression darkened. He really wasn't happy with this turn of events...which only excited Dooku more.

 

“Indeed,” the younger man replied.

 

The Count opened the double doors and stepped over the threshold into a lavish entry way. Everything from the tiles to the tables to the well-cared-for plants in the corners and along the walls screamed expense. The money for energy outputs to keep some of those decorations in a sort of orbit around the chandelier alone could probably feed a small planet. He smiled inwardly as his grand-padawan took it all in.

 

Yes, he thought to himself, this is what you can have and more.

 

When the Count had initially taken his family mansion as one of his homes, it had been nothing short of gaudy, with an over-abundance of over-priced, useless items everywhere. Dooku had immediately cut the décor back to simplistic but tasteful. He had no problem showing off his wealth, but he would do so in a way that showed refinement and culture, not simply for that show of status.

 

“Now that we are here, I will give this back to you, as a token of my good will,” Dooku said as he turned and handed Obi-wan his lightsaber. Apparently the man hadn't been expecting that because he did little to hide his surprise as he glanced between the lightsaber and Dooku's face. Then, cautiously, he took it.

 

“Thank you,” he said. Without turning it on, he hung it on his belt. Still cautious. Good. Dooku had a great many security measures in place if he'd tried anything. It had been a bit of a test, and Obi-wan had passed with flying colors. Naturally.

 

“This way,” Dooku said as he turned to walk through the entry way, boots clicking on the immaculate floor.

 

The former Jedi followed the Sith without comment, but he couldn’t seem to stop his eyes from narrowing ever so slightly. Dooku wondered why briefly, but mostly just found his actions and reactions amusing.

 

The Count led his guest through a multitude of turns, hallways and rooms before they stopped at a simple but extremely rich sitting room where some tea had been placed on a table. Dooku waited for his guest to sit down before he did so himself. Obi-wan chose a soft-looking, blue chair that would conform to the contour of his body the moment he touched it. Dooku smiled and sat across from him, on a cream colored duvet with wood lining, and reached forward to serve the tea.

 

“Sugar?”

 

“No, thank you,” Obi-wan said.

 

“Cream? It comes from Alderaan. They are known for their multitude of flavors.”

 

The younger man’s lips thinned. “Very well.”

 

Dooku raised an eyebrow, holding one of the small containers of cream above a cup of still steaming tea.

 

“I assume you said that because you don’t plan on drinking it anyway.”

 

Obi-wan didn’t answer. Dooku sighed and set both dishes back on the tray. “If you wish to learn anything from me, you will have to lower your guard to some extent eventually.”

 

“You mistake my intentions,” Obi-wan said, voice as neutral as ever. “I did not come here to train.”

 

The older man frowned. He remembered how he'd felt just after turning, how grateful he was for a mentor of any sort, let alone a willing one. “Then why did you come here?”

 

“As I said before, I came to negotiate.”

 

Dooku felt his eyes narrow ever so slightly (that would most definitely not do), but he gestured for Obi-wan to continue.

 

“I must say that my new…position has shed some light on some of the questions the Jedi have been asking recently.” He paused for a moment, obviously remembering something painful (good). “They have so little idea when it comes to the Sith's motivation because there are so many options: you started the war because you needed a distraction, or perhaps the whole thing is a power grab going wrong, or a power grab going right; or it was started because you simply like to sew chaos wherever you go…that is, after all, the nature of the dark side. I am beginning to understand that now.”

 

Dooku smiled at the rather ironic comment. Obi-wan simply shook his head dryly.

 

After a moment and another sip of his tea, the Count put his cup back on the saucer in front of him. “And if you had to venture a guess at my motivations?” Obi-wan raised an eyebrow in surprise, probably at the bluntness of Dooku's question. Oh, how he enjoyed playing with others' minds like that.

 

“Before, I would have leaned towards the latter.”

 

Dooku let out the softest of snorts, but that didn’t decrease the derision in it. Then he looked intently at Obi-wan.

 

“And now?

 

Obi-wan didn't answer for a few moments and Dooku wondered if he was seriously contemplating lying to him. With how his emotions leaked all over in the Force, did he really think he could lie to a Sith Master (or as close to a Sith Master as either one of them could get at the moment – it was really just a matter of timing at this point).

 

“I would have to say it is a power grab, most likely one going right.”

 

He knew the smile on his lips would tell Obi-wan that he’d guessed correctly.

 

“Interesting,” Dooku responded before taking another sip.

 

“I also believe that your master is in the upper government of the Republic.”

 

That surprised him, but he only allowed his eyebrows to raise to show it. “Oh? And why do you say that?”

 

Obi-wan scoffed. “Please. I’ve been on the front lines of the war. I’ve seen first hand what kinds of resources you have. They are indeed substantial, and you can keep this war going for quite a while, but eventually you will run out of materials to make droids with, or you will be forced to use less desirable alloys. Admittedly the same can be said about the clones, but it is clear to me that you did not start this battle with the intent to hold out until you win, just as the Republic cannot intend for the clone armies to last for more than a couple of years—a decade at the most.

 

“So why would you do that? If your master were a part of the separatists, then it would stand to reason that you would be taking more preparations for the ‘long run’ as it were. I don’t currently see either the Separatists or the Republic being able to last that long even if they started being conservative. So the war in and of itself is a distraction so fewer people examine the general power accumulation too closely or they ignore it.”

 

This was why Dooku had chosen Obi-wan. This calm logic in the face of everything else, especially his own raging emotions, was just one of many things that intrigued the Sith Lord. He couldn't help that he felt a smug sort of pride in his grand-padawan—his legacy. When the younger man stopped speaking, Dooku nodded his head in acknowledgment.

 

“That is, of course, all your own speculation and you have no real proof.”

 

Obi-wan raised one eyebrow. “You yourself told me that hundreds of Senators are under the influence of the Dark Lord of the Sith.”

 

“Which is hardly proof,” Dooku pointed out.

 

The younger man's expression could conceivably be drier, he supposed. What an amusing sense of humor shining through the darkness. Oh, this would be fun.

 

“Indeed,” Obi-wan replied. His tone implied that he knew something was going on, but not precisely what. He knew he'd missed something, but couldn't seem to make the connection he needed to. Dooku wanted to sigh (although he didn't). His grand-padawan may very well be one of the most intelligent beings in the universe, but he was still blinded by his upbringing.

 

Still, he wanted to see just how far Obi-wan's deductive skills could take him.

 

“You sound so sure. What makes you think that this supposed ‘power grab’ of yours is the correct conclusion?” It was a token question, and they both knew it. Dooku just wanted to hear his reasoning. He smiled slightly when the man sitting across from him took his inquiry seriously.

 

Then he seemed to deflate and looked down at his hand sadly. “Because only someone who cared for power above all else would choose to embrace this.”

 

Dooku couldn't help the disappointment that rose in him. He knew the younger man had not truly 'embraced' the darkness yet, even if he had fallen—chosen to fall, apparently—but with that attitude, there wouldn't be any major breakthroughs any time soon.

 

“Said like a true Jedi,” the Sith said, making sure he still had utter control of his voice. His discipline and control seemed to impress Obi-wan, and why not? From the viewpoint of a Jedi, Dooku’s current control wouldn’t have seemed much different than his reputation suggested—both as a Jedi Master and as a Count. However, with his new perspective, it was obvious the younger man couldn't find the control he so longed for. He saw something in Dooku that he wanted, and that, at least, the Count could use.

 

He almost expected Obi-wan to shake it off and try to provoke him somehow to hide his deficiencies or even just out of habit, but he must have known he was outmatched at this point because he didn't say a word. If anything he seemed even more humble than any time Dooku had encountered him previously.

 

Still an easily salvageable situation, even if not the most ideal.

 

“You still think too much like them,” Dooku went on finally. “And you will never become a master of the dark side like that. Your pathetic attempt at meditation only proves that. You think that the dark side is the Force except colder, more powerful, perhaps wilder. You couldn’t be more wrong. If you are to learn to control the darkness, you must forget everything you have learned because it will not help you.”

 

From the slightly furrowed brows and the sudden stiffness only just perceptible, the younger man knew Dooku was speaking truthfully. He could obviously still touch the Force, direct it, use it—for the most part—but the Sith Lord knew from experience that everything else about the darkness would feel almost foreign at this point. Undoubtedly he'd already learned that Jedi techniques would only be able to take him so far.

 

Dooku relaxed, going from tense and angry to calm and understanding. That was what would get through to the younger man now, even if instead of putting Obi-wan at ease, it seemed make him want to bolt for the door.

 

Still, he stayed put and Dooku spoke with ease and softness. “But then again, it is understandable. I was little different when in your shoes. It did not occur to me that meditation could even be conducted in another way.”

 

He knew what kind of trap he'd laid and the obvious bait, and judging from his wary expression, Obi-wan knew it too. He was still contemplating taking it nonetheless. He wanted to ask, as he practically radiated a sort of desperation that only came from someone who had dealt with frustration for far too long.

 

Dooku just smiled and took a sip of his tea. Then he decided that one more little nugget wouldn't hurt. “I'll give you a hint—it deals with a focal point.”

 

He could see the longing there, but the younger man's stubborn nature came out yet again. “I do not want to know.” Really, he sounded more like a petulant child right then than the Jedi Master he had been.

 

Dooku scoffed. “You must also cease fearing the dark side. If you do not consider yourself its master, it will never allow you to control it fully.”

 

“I thought fear would be a tool you use every day,” Obi-wan defended.

 

Dooku noted the younger man's surprise when he calmed even more, unable to hide a satisfied smirk. “Much better. Fear, even your own fear, can be a powerful tool indeed, but only if it does not have power over you. That is what you must learn—power over your emotions.”

 

He could see the gears turning in the other's head as he struggled (unsuccessfully) to keep the confusion off of his face. “The Jedi teach the same thing.”

 

Dooku conceded the point with a slight shrug. “They teach Jedi to control and then release them, not use them, but our emotions bring us power. If you can use them to draw you closer to the Force—to boost your power—then they are just that: a tool.”

 

He was still struggling against the idea and Dooku nudged the darkness towards him, knowing it would do whatever it needed to bring the former Jedi to the true fold. For a moment, it seemed to be working as the Count could feel his guest's emotions struggling and growing. He waited with baited breath to see if they would push him to the breaking point, but then Obi-wan took a deep breath. He couldn't release anything to the Force anymore, but the repetitive motions seemed to calm him.

 

“A pity,” Dooku said. “But you will learn, with time.”

 

Obi-wan shot him a glare. A very promising, hateful glare at that, but then he looked away. Really, he was so close to the point where he would accept Dooku's offers.

 

“Perhaps,” the younger man said quietly before falling silent again. They stayed in that silence for a few seconds before Obi-wan decided to get down to business.

 

“Count Dooku,” he said formally. “I will say that I do not wish to become your student. While I will admit that your control and skill have impressed me, and I have no doubt you can best me in a physical and probably verbal battle at the moment, I will admit that I simply do not wish to join you or your cause.”

 

“Really?” Dooku asked, masking his surprise, disappointment and confusion.

 

“To take power, your Master needs to ensure that the Jedi are no obstacle. That means he plans on somehow destroying either the Order itself, its reputation or both. I want him to sign a contract stating that if he succeeds he will send the younglings under the age of eight back to their parents and that he won’t touch Anakin. If he signs and holds to the contract, I will not get involved in the war. Both of you will be left alone to do as you will with that exception.”

 

There were some interesting connotations to that. Firstly, he had finally begun to understand that yes, the Sith could do some damage to the Jedi as a whole. Rule of two or not, that didn't stop the darkness completely. That had been true before, but now the former Jedi knew it. Secondly, Obi-wan was willing to let that happen, which already said a great deal about how far he'd fallen. By Sith standards, he was still very gray, clinging onto the light as he slowly sunk into the darkness, but if he had come this far already, Dooku sensed that Obi-wan could fall further—and thus become stronger—than any Sith in recent history. His mouth almost watered at the thought of the mere potential. Thirdly, he still clung to that brat that Qui-gon had brought home. That would have to change...but then, now he knew exactly who to send Obi-wan after for the initiation murder when he finally realized that joining Dooku was his only real choice. Unfortunately, he wasn't at that point yet as he was still willing to give up everything for said brat...

 

Still, he couldn't help his unimpressed expression. Did Obi-wan seriously think Sidious would sign something like that? For something so measly in return?

 

“And what makes you think that my master will sign this little agreement of yours?” the Count asked.

 

Obi-wan shrugged. “If he does, then I won’t hunt him down and destroy him.”

 

For a moment Dooku simply stared at Obi-wan. Then he couldn't help but burst into laughter. The little Jedi was still drunk on his own new-found power after his initial fall. Oh, how terribly entertaining.

 

The younger man blinked in surprise as Dooku managed to bring his amusement under control again.

 

“You actually believe you can, too,” Dooku said, unable to keep the large grin off of his face. “You do not even know his identity. He has been hiding in front of the Jedi for years. What makes you think you have any chance against him as you are now?”

 

Obi-wan shrugged again. “I don’t believe I have any chance against him as of right now. That is where you come in.”

 

“Oh?” Dooku set his saucer and cup down on the table, unconcerned that his expression still retained amusement, much to Obi-wan’s obvious annoyance. Oh, he would very much need to practice if he wanted to show any sort of calm or controlled facade again.

 

“You are the leader of the Separatists, therefore you have the power to at least make sure that Anakin survives,” Obi-wan insisted.

 

The other man tipped his head to the side, partially still amused, partially annoyed. “Surely you must realize that I cannot agree to that. Even my master believes he is the Chosen One. We cannot let him live.”

 

Dooku's amusement had all but vanished. He'd missed something, he could tell. Obi-wan didn't seem angry or upset, like the Count would have guessed. Why not? Had he been expecting that? Then why bring it up in the first place? Did he really feel that deeply for the brat?

 

“Why do you care for him so?” Dooku asked, frown of disapproval back on his face. “As you are now he is merely a weakness—a liability at best.”

 

Again, instead of anger or defense, Obi-wan just seemed determined. Maybe their bond ran deeper than Dooku had initially imagined.

 

A mild discomfort spread through his gut very suddenly. He didn't frown or even acknowledge it. He could do that later. He wanted to remove his half-cloak as the room was far too warm. Well, he would have to speak with the servants about being more vigilant on the temperature controls of the room.

 

“I’m surprised you haven’t tried to capture or turn him if he’s so powerful and such a threat,” Obi-wan said dryly, glaring in Dooku’s direction.

 

He seemed surprised when the Count scoffed. “I believe my master has already tried. Several times, in fact.”

 

There was absolutely no possible way to hide the utter terror that stole over the younger man's face. It spiked in the Force and Dooku couldn't help but marvel at the sheer magnitude of it. Oh, yes, he had chosen his future apprentice well. Who would have thought that Obi-wan Kenobi – paragon of light and the utter definition of a Jedi – could feel this deeply.

 

“What?” Obi-wan asked stiffly.

 

Dooku wanted to roll his eyes, ignoring his stomach throbbing again. He must have eaten something that disagreed with him. The wine, perhaps? He still showed no signs of outward discomfort. This was too important.

 

“Please,” he said dismissively, “I told you he has been hiding under the nose of the Jedi for years. Your padawan knows him rather well. Truthfully, that is another reason as to why I cannot agree to your request. Anakin Skywalker represents a threat to me personally.” The feeling wasn't going away. He paused and cleared his throat before continuing. “I have no doubt that my master will succeed in turning him eventually.”

 

The fear somehow (impossibly) rose even further. Perhaps keeping the brat around would be useful to Dooku after all, if this was Obi-wan's reaction to him. Just how far would he go to keep the brat out of danger?

 

“Oh, Force,” Obi-wan muttered, seeming to suddenly realize just how terrible his situation was. The fear then, suddenly, seemed doused, not in strength or power, but in the sheer guilt Dooku felt emanating from the other man. It almost took his breath away. That...he supposed, made sense.

 

Dooku opened his mouth to speak but had to clear his throat again in an attempt to maintain his composure. The noise seemed to bring Obi-wan back to the present.

 

“So,” Dooku said softly, “that was your reason for turning.” He still wasn't pleased by any means. He'd never heard of anyone falling through guilt before. Then again, Obi-wan had never really been normal.

 

The younger man looked away in shame. “Yes.”

 

The Count considered that for a moment before deciding to roll with it. It wouldn't be that much of a change to his plan anyway. The further he pushed Obi-wan—played on that guilt and shame—the closer the man got to joining him. So he said, “How disappointing.”

 

At that, Obi-wan managed a soft snort. “You would rather I do as you did—turn for my own selfish reasons?”

 

The Count felt a surge of anger at the insult and stored it away for later. “My reasons are my own, and they are no more selfish than yours.” After all, how could this boy before him possibly presume to know what went on in Dooku's mind?

 

Obi-wan simply raised an eyebrow, keeping a cool outer facade, although he still couldn't seem to do anything about the emotions rolling off of him. Still, Dooku could sense the defensiveness beneath the guilt. Then, somehow, for some reason he could only begin to guess at, the guilt increased. How utterly fascinating.

 

He had to clear his throat again. His stomach only seemed to be getting worse, and he could sense a tightness in his chest now too. Was he coming down with something? He'd heard of quickly contracted diseases. They hadn't been eradicated everywhere, after all. What unfortunate timing. He glanced up to see Obi-wan watching him with a raised eyebrow.

 

Dooku recovered quickly. “Forgive me. It is simply amusing to see that even the great Obi-wan Kenobi is so adept at lying to himself.”

 

Obi-wan’s hands clenched. And there was the anger. The Sith had to hide his smile again

 

“Why do you still fight it?” the Count asked, making sure to keep his tone completely even. “Embrace it.”

 

“Perhaps it is time to end this,” Obi-wan responded and stood. It was a defensive move. The former Jedi knew he would give in eventually. He knew it and still fought it.

 

Dooku sighed. “It seems I have my work cut out for me.”

 

“I told you,” Obi-wan's voice came out tense and stiff. “I am not becoming your apprentice.”

 

“Why ever not?”

 

The younger man's eyes narrowed. “Because I hate you,” he said. “I despise you and everything the Sith stand for. I will not become one of you.”

 

Dooku outright smirked at him. “Well, it’s a start. A good start, actually.” He shook his head, “Do you honestly think anyone who joins the Sith doesn’t hate them as well? Your hate merely feeds your power.”

 

Obi-wan clenched his jaw before turning and walking towards the door. “We’re through here.”

 

“I don’t think so,” Dooku said as he stood. The room around him spun at the sudden movement and he couldn't help but stumble. After a moment he glanced up to see his guest watching him dryly from the doorway.

 

“Yes, I can see the effects of your training even now,” he said, then turned away again only to have the door slam in his face. Dooku would have none of that.

 

“We are not finished,” the Sith said, allowing the anger to creep into his expression.

 

Obi-wan narrowed his eyes. “I am not like that power you crave so much. I will not give in simply because you demand I do so.”

 

“Then you are a fool,” the older man shot back. “I offer you the chance to gain unlimited power and you reject it.”

 

“My condition is Anakin’s life,” Obi-wan returned, “And you have rejected that.”

 

Dooku paused, scrutinizing the man before him. “That is your only condition?”

 

“And the children,” Obi-wan added hastily.

 

“But you would remain if I agreed,” Dooku didn't say it as a question.

 

The younger man frowned. “You already said Anakin is a threat to you.”

 

Yes...yes, this could work. Better than he'd initially thought even. “Only as long as Sidious lives.”

 

Obi-wan paused for a moment, contemplating that. “Explain,” he said, almost threateningly.

 

Dooku raised his hands in mock surrender. “I do not wish harm on the boy.”

 

“Despite the fact that he is The Chosen One?”

 

The Sith raised a finger. “I said that my master believes your…former apprentice is The Chosen One. I never said that I do.”

 

Obi-wan didn't look impressed. “And do you?”

 

Dooku thought that over for a moment and decided that honesty would serve him best right now. “I’m not sure. I would be unsurprised either way as both outcomes are possible. However, my main concern is that Anakin poses a threat to me personally simply because my master is attracted to power.” He wanted to snort (as undignified as that was) because he'd just voiced the largest understatement in the history of understatements. When he continued to speak, he made sure his voice was calm and even again. “He wants your apprentice as his. I, on the other hand, have little interest in the boy. If my master were no longer a threat, then the boy would be in little danger of falling. From what I can see, neither of us wants that.”

 

Obi-wan eyed Dooku suspiciously. “So, you would agree to leave Anakin be, no matter what, if I joined you.”

 

“Only if we can eliminate Sidious’ threat.”

 

“So that you can take over,” Obi-wan asked, his voice returning to the dryness it seemed to gravitate towards when speaking with Dooku (who still found it terribly amusing).

 

“And restore peace,” the Count added on.

 

Obi-wan was tempted. It was written all over his face and the Force. He didn't want to join Dooku, but he could see the benefits of doing so. There were, of course, loopholes. Dooku could easily have Skywalker killed before they managed to confront Sidious and he would not have breached their agreement. Or if the brat fell, he would be ripe for the picking and Dooku would stop at nothing to murder the boy. But would Obi-wan see that?

 

He decided to sweeten the deal.

 

“The Jedi don’t have to die either and we could end this war. That would be a fitting tribute to Qui-gon, don’t you think?” Because if the man was this attached to Skywalker, then he undoubtedly still held some attachment towards his former master, just as Dooku had suspected before.

 

Obi-wan looked as if Dooku had struck him and turned his head away. An anticipatory silence fell over the room.

 

“It would,” Obi-wan finally agreed softly.

 

Dooku couldn't help but smirk in triumph. He had him. “So, then you agree?”

 

Obi-wan paused and stared at the older man hard. “Anakin lives.”

 

“Of course.”

 

“And the children…”

 

“I have no intention of tearing down the Jedi, so there is no need to return them to their parents.”

 

Obi-wan still looked conflicted, but Dooku wouldn't have expected otherwise.

 

Finally, the younger man deflated. “Then yes,” he whispered. “I accept.”

 

xXx

You know the closer you get to something

The tougher it is to see it,

And I'll Never take it for granted,

Let's go!

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

The concept of holding a grudge was not new to me. It felt new though. I hadn’t held a grudge since my days as a padawan. Perhaps even an initiate. It was…strange, and childish, and I knew I shouldn’t harbor such emotions at all and so felt even more guilty because of it…which in turn just fed the darkness. It was a rather nasty spiral and, in true ironic fashion, I could only truly appreciate the trap of the dark side for what it was once I found myself caught in it.

 

Really, Ventress should have played on my guilt to begin with. It would have allowed us to get over with the whole ordeal much faster.

“Then yes,” Obi-wan whispered. “I accept.” He hoped he’d made himself look nervous and contemplative enough. He made sure to keep his head down, eyes on the floor, hands folded so tightly in front of him the whites of the knuckles showed. He played his part perfectly, despite how much he really hated doing this.

 

“Marvelous,” Dooku said, eyes glittering greedily. “I will be your master, Darth Tyrannus, and you—,” he went to step forward but cut off as his knee gave out on him, though, and he had to catch himself on one of the side tables.

 

Obi-wan made sure his expression seemed grim and confused. “Is there something you’re not telling me?” he asked, eyes narrowing in suspicion.

 

Dooku frowned as he regained his footing. “I seem to have contracted an illness of some sort. I’m sure it is nothing to worry about.”

 

Obi-wan still looked skeptical, playing the part of confused outsider perfectly. “Jedi rarely become sick,” he said, letting that trail off.

 

“And it is little different for Sith,” Dooku responded. “But rarely does not mean—”

 

A loud crash that shook the entire estate knocked Dooku off of his feet. Obi-wan merely stumbled into a table to his left, opposite of where the shock had come from. The silence that followed was deafening. Then the crunching of more, smaller crashes sounded throughout the house.

 

“What was that?” Obi-wan asked warily.

 

“The sound someone makes when they are about to die,” Dooku said angrily and he took out his pocket com.

 

“Report,” he said tersely as he once again struggled to regain his feet. The device made no sound.

 

Dooku tried again. “Mister Forlay, I suggest you respond.” Again, nothing. At that point, the Sith walked past Obi-wan as he studied the device in his hand. Obi-wan noticed the signs of forced casualness and couldn’t help the smirk. Everything had come right on time.

 

“Is your com broken?” Obi-wan asked innocently. Actually, that was a result of the EMP pulse that the speeder involved in the crash was supposed to set off before it plunged into the area of the estate that housed the main power systems. Oh, Obi-wan was sure that some com somewhere had been turned off and may therefore work, but it would take time to find it. Besides, a jammer should have been activated as soon as the crash had happened. No one in the household should be able to communicate with anyone outside of the estate, and if they were lucky, inside as well.

 

“It would appear so,” Dooku muttered as he walked out of the room, gesturing for Obi-wan to follow. He did so.

 

They had gone through about two rooms when they ran into someone, obviously a servant by the looks of the girl.

 

“Count Dooku, Sir!” the girl said in a calm voice, although Obi-wan could see her shaking. “We’re so glad you’re alright.”

 

“What happened?” Dooku asked, his voice sporting a no-nonsense tone.

 

“It seems an out-of-control speeder crashed into the estate.”

 

Dooku paused and narrowed his eyes in the girl’s direction. She fidgeted under the stare. “How did one get past the shields?”

 

She glanced away nervously for just a moment before straightening her back, causing the modest uniform-dress she wore to look even more severe. “We’re not sure, sir.”

 

Obi-wan made a mental note to send his accomplices a large tip.

 

“You are not sure?” the Sith asked, his voice neutral but his stance threatening. Obi-wan could feel the waves of growing anger through the Force and frowned. The last thing he needed was for Dooku to become more powerful. Still, he didn’t wish to draw attention to himself at this point, or Dooku might put it all together, so he kept quiet.

 

“Well, I suggest you find out then,” the Count said, his words still threatening but dismissive.

 

“Yes, sir!” the girl squeaked and scurried away. After a moment, Dooku followed her and Obi-wan fell into step behind him again. He was glad the Count had decided not to kill the girl in his anger. Obi-wan the Jedi would have stopped him from hurting her, but Obi-wan as he was now couldn’t take the risk of turning Dooku’s wrath against him…not just yet. It was one less casualty as far as the former Jedi was concerned.

 

They reached the main hall to see two or three people huddled by the enormous doors.

 

“Report!” Dooku barked as they approached.

 

All three of the servants, men dressed in similar clothing to the girl, snapped to attention.

 

“Sir!” one of the men said, stepping forward. “A speeder has—”

 

“Yes, I know,” Dooku responded with a wave of his hand. “Why were the shields down?”

 

“Sir,” another man stepped forward.

 

“Head Groundskeeper Jobak,” Dooku said with a stiff nod.

 

“We have coordinated the gardeners and other servants into an organized party to search the grounds for any device that would have disrupted the shields.” The man kept his back ram-rod straight and looked rather constipated in Obi-wan’s opinion.

 

“Disrupted the shields?” Dooku asked, his voice so dangerously low that Obi-wan had a hard time hearing it.

 

The first man spoke again, this time looking rather nervous. “Sir, it is possible for a device to cause enough local disruption in a shield. If it is strong enough, a vehicle going fast enough could conceivably break through.”

 

Dooku looked at the three for a few moments, contemplating their words. “So you—” and he choked in mid sentence, falling to one knee rather suddenly. Obi-wan couldn’t have asked for a better reaction.

 

“Sir!” all three of the men rushed forward.

 

“He said he wasn’t feeling well,” Obi-wan said as he caught the older man’s arm.

 

“And just who are you?” One of the men asked suspiciously.

 

Obi-wan reached up to rub the bridge of his nose. “I came to try and negotiate for peace.” To his side, he felt Dooku stiffen. So, he was still aware at this point? Quite the accomplishment.

 

“What?” one of the men exclaimed. Obi-wan ignored the man, explaining that he'd come from the Republic to see what they could do to end the war. He did not speak of supposedly accepting the Sith Lord's offer to join him, only saying they'd just gotten into the conversation when the crash had happened.

 

The men seemed a bit at a loss and turned to their leader. “Sir, is this true?” Dooku didn’t answer as he was breathing hard and clutching at his chest and throat. The choking sensation should pass soon enough and he had to get him away from the servants before then.

 

“You can check the surveillance,” Obi-wan stated dryly, knowing very well that there had to have been some in the room but counting on the fact that they wouldn’t be able to access it for a while.

 

“We could if the crash hadn’t taken out the power, Republic scum.”

 

Okay, they were getting a little too protective, and Obi-wan needed them to leave. He really didn’t want to have to kill them. That would leave a trail and too many clues leading to him…not that that was too much of a problem… Still, this would all be done far more quickly if he could just get in and get out. Besides, he needed witnesses. That was the point of this whole shenanigan.

 

“Instead of arguing, perhaps we should get him to his room,” he said with a casual wave of his hand, twisting the Force as subtly as he could into their thoughts.

 

It wasn't that subtle, but it worked.

 

“Right,” one of the men said. “We’ll deal with you later. Let’s get him to his room!”

 

With that, he threw his employer’s arm over his shoulder. Obi-wan did the same with the other arm and the three of them made for the rather enormous staircase.

 

“Perhaps you should help with the search,” Obi-wan said to the other two over his shoulder, waving his hand towards the door.

 

“Yes, we should help with the search,” the one that hadn’t yet spoken said uneasily. They both looked a little torn, but the Force suggestion had been rather strong and apparently Dooku didn’t have a problem employing people who weren’t resistant to mind tricks. Actually, knowing the Count, that made sense.

 

The other servant agreed with a nod and together, they rushed out the door. Obi-wan continued to help the first man carry Dooku up the stairs.

 

“Has he had any problems before this?” Obi-wan asked once they’d reached the second floor and started down it.

 

“No,” the man said tersely.

 

They continued down the hall (that really belonged more in a palace than an estate) and stopped at yet another door, this one tastefully decorated with elegant but minimal carvings around the edges and down the center. Identical tables with ornate vases placed in the center stood on either side of the doorway, the only decoration in the hall besides the classic artwork from a multitude of planets hanging at measured intervals on the walls.

 

“I can’t open it,” the man said with a glare in Obi-wan’s direction. “Only someone like you can.”

 

Obi-wan blinked at him. “Someone like me?”

 

“There’s some sort of mechanism that only you freaky Force users can open.”

 

So he must have figured out just who Obi-wan was. The former Jedi glanced between the men at his side and the door for a moment before realization came to him. “Oh.”

 

With that, he closed his eyes and reached for the Force. The darkness came to him almost immediately and he suppressed a shudder as he grasped at it. Then he went for the door, probing it. He couldn’t find anything. He continued to feel around, but again, nothing came to him.

 

“Any time now,” the servant said impatiently. Obi-wan shot him an angry glare. His own frustration was building and he was having a very difficult time controlling his emotions (again). Of course, as the frustration built, more of the dark power came to him and he pushed it towards the door, angrily searching for that mechanism that—

 

Wait, there! He felt just the tiniest nudge and examined it more closely. Yes, he was sure that the nudge was the key to opening the door. If he just inspected it a little…yes, there! He had to control it, thread it through in just the right way, but he could do it. It might be harder with the dark side, but he could still…

 

A mechanism clicked and the doors swung inward, showing a large sitting room and an even larger bed chamber beyond it.

 

“Took you long enough,” the man muttered. “Why are you even here?”

 

Obi-wan shot him a dry look. “I believe I already explained that.” And if there was just the slightest threat in that, hopefully the man wouldn’t notice or pay it much heed.

 

Fortunately, the servant just rolled his eyes. “Why are you helping him back here at all?”

 

“Where else would I go?”

 

The man shrugged (a rather difficult task with Dooku’s arm still draped over his shoulder, but he managed it). “I don’t really know and I don’t particularly care.”

 

Obi-wan would have expected that such an apathetic comment would bother him in his new status, but to his surprise, he found it didn’t. It showed an extremist way of thinking that would make the man’s mind easier to manipulate directly. He still frowned at the man for show, though. He had a part to play after all.

 

“This can’t be a coincidence,” the former Jedi said, as if to return to his own thoughts, speaking quietly but just loud enough that the other man could hear.

 

“What?” the servant asked.

 

Obi-wan shot him another dry expression as they approached the large, four-poster bed. Honestly, the opulence in this place was enough to make any Jedi (or former Jedi) sick.

 

“There’s an attack on the estate just after I come here to negotiate? Very few knew of this but I don’t believe in coincidences.”

 

From the man’s thinning lips, he didn’t either, so Obi-wan continued. “But no one who would do this knew of my mission to come and…” he faded off and then stopped walking, causing the other man to stop as well, shooting the Jedi a dirty look. They were only a few steps away from their goal.

 

“It can’t be…” Obi-wan whispered, widening his eyes and tensing his muscles. “It…he can’t…”

 

The servant caught on. “What? What is it?”

 

“I have to leave, now!” the former Jedi hissed to the man.

 

“But—”

 

“Hurry!” Obi-wan took another step forward and hefted Dooku onto the bed.

 

“What’s going on?!” the servant demanded. Obi-wan reached out with the Force as he turned to the man, who was struggling to get his master onto the velvet coverings.

 

“He’s coming,” Obi-wan said over his shoulder as he rushed towards the door. “If I don’t get out now I—” He cut off abruptly and his eyes widened in shock as he looked at the window behind the man. The servant whirled around just as Obi-wan nudged at his mind.

 

“Sleep,” he whispered, and the man fell to the ground in a dead faint. He’d be out for a while. Good. That would give Obi-wan the time he needed. Taking his lightsaber out, Obi-wan then reached for the window and pulled. It groaned and twisted as the force of the former Jedi’s pull tore it from its hangings, just enough that someone could get into the room. An alarm went off somewhere, but Obi-wan had little concern. Undoubtedly the door could be opened upon emergency from the servants, but he still bet it would take them a while to arrive and open it.

 

Then Obi-wan fell into a kata, allowing his body to follow the familiar movements and not caring what his lightsaber slashed. The more evidence he left of a lightsaber battle, the better. How kind of Dooku to give him his weapon back so he didn't have to go looking for it again.

 

After a few minutes, he glanced in satisfaction around the room. One or two more objects knocked over here and there, and he had some nicely staged battle aftermath.

 

“So,” a voice from the bed, “you came to kill me.”

 

“I see your paralysis has worn off,” Obi-wan said, unable to help the smug tone in his voice as he walked over to the side where Dooku lay, watching him with dull eyes.

 

“Stintonata Peragito parasite,” came the slurred reply.

 

“I’m impressed,” the younger man responded casually.

 

“You inoculated yourself against it,” Dooku said, his voice wheezy and tired.

 

“It was an inoculation they gave me at the healing facility, so this won’t look suspicious.”

 

The older man gasped, his hands clenching into the material under him.

 

“Oh, yes. You should be reaching quite a painful stage right now,” Obi-wan commented, then he thought back and decided a little gloating wouldn’t hurt too much. “You know, I would have given you the antidote myself if you would have agreed to my terms.” He smiled triumphantly as he withdrew a small breathing apparatus that he’d claimed was for his healing. The detention center had tested the substance inside, which was indeed a breathing stimulant, but they wouldn’t have been looking for the small variant that would kill the parasite he’d brought to the planet.

 

Stintonata Peragito was a parasite that was somehow attracted to Force Sensitives. It secreted fast-acting, poisonous substances and while they couldn't survive well in the body (although they did better in Force sensitives), the toxins still managed to do a lot of damage in a very short amount of time. It had been eradicated on almost every planet in the inner core (and most of the Republic) for centuries, so the inoculations weren’t given except when a Jedi was sent to certain planets within the few pockets of space that were known to have sheltered the species. The inoculation wore off after a few years, and Obi-wan had bet that Dooku hadn’t gotten one before he’d left. Apparently, he’d been correct. Not that he didn’t have a contingency plan in place had that happened. Or three.

 

The parasite wouldn’t kill him. It would only incapacitate him for a while, which was all Obi-wan needed.

 

“You never suspected because you’re right in the fact that I still think too much like a Jedi,” he continued, watching the writhing figure with a strange sort of fascination. He wouldn’t go so far as to call it pleasure, but he did find that he didn’t want to look away. “That, at least, wasn’t an act. I do still think like an Order member in a great many ways, but in other ways…well, the darkness has taught me to be ruthless. I’ll simply have to deal with your master directly now.”

 

Dooku finally relaxed, wheezing and coughing. After a moment, he glanced over at Obi-wan. “Despite that…I believe…you make a better Sith…than you do a Jedi. Well done.”

 

Obi-wan’s anger flared and he took out his lightsaber as his eyes narrowed. Outside he could sense people coming, gathering outside of the door. He had to kill Dooku and leave…this was the right thing to do—it was for Anakin, after all…

 

And yet he hesitated. If it was the right thing to do, then why did it feel so wrong?

 

Strangely enough, Obi-wan could only see grim acceptance in his enemy’s eyes. “If you…do this…you can....never…go back.”

 

“I already can’t go back,” Obi-wan said bitterly. This wasn’t the first time he’d killed. It was the first time he’d done so in cold blood, when the other opponent hadn’t been armed. Well, Dooku did have his lightsaber clipped to he waist…Obi-wan would have to remember to take that. It would help to complete the image he was going for.

 

And still, he didn’t slice down.

 

Dooku must have sensed the hesitation, or perhaps he saw it in the younger man’s eyes.

“Do…what you…came to…do…my…apprentice.”

 

And, despite knowing very well that Dooku had meant for it to spur him on, he allowed the anger to drive him forward and he sliced down into the man’s throat. It cut so easily. Why had it been so hard for him before?

 

“I will never be a Sith,” he said spitefully as he deactivated the saber. He looked down at the body of the Count, of his master’s master, and wasn’t sure what he felt. Part of him reveled in the fact that he had orchestrated the downfall of and successfully eliminated an enemy. The other half of him was nothing short of disgusted.

 

Finally, after a few moments, he pushed the conflict from his head for now. What was done was done, and he didn’t regret it. It didn’t take him long to find a few spare blankets and wrap them up in the robe he’d worn. Then he threw it over his shoulder in the assimilation of a body. It wouldn’t be difficult to project the image of a different man into the minds of anyone who didn’t look too closely as he escaped. The dark-colored tunic he’d worn had a hood attached, and that would have to do for now. He yanked the material up and over his head.

 

Then, just as the doors burst open, he called Dooku’s saber to his hand and rushed out of the window. Shouts of surprise and dismay followed him as he slowed his momentum with the Force and then bounded across the lawn. He activated Dooku’s lightsaber to deflect any bolts sent his way and it wasn’t too difficult to make it to the wall that encircled Dooku’s family’s land.

 

An old, fairly dilapidated speeder awaited him in the woods not a click from where he’d leapt over the wall. He had indeed been lucky to find people sympathetic to the Republic (or at least who wanted the war to end) on Serenno. Then again, with his contacts it had only really been a matter of time. Being a Jedi that traveled the universe had it’s perks.

 

Still, as he set the roll of blankets across the back of the speeder, he couldn’t help but marvel at just how well everything had gone. Yes, he’d had to improvise a bit, but after living through raising Anakin, it really hadn’t been difficult at all. Everything else had gone swimmingly for the most part…which made him wonder what he’d forgotten. In his experience, something always went wrong, and when everything went right, something had been overlooked.

 

He hoped that that something wouldn’t pop up soon. Unexpected instances could ruin the best laid plans. Still, he could not for the life of him think of anything he’d missed.

 

Speeding at full-throttle through the trees that made up the forest around Dooku’s estate was not a serious challenge and soon enough, he found himself approaching the city the Sith had found him in. A small, one-man fighter, one he’d bought from this planet several days before specifically for this purpose, waited in a hangar just inside the gates.

 

He had to duck a patrol or two (it seemed security was already on the lookout for him, but he had expected as much) but he made it to the hangar without serious incident. Not questioning his good luck, he gratefully he shoved the cumbersome roll of bedding into the back of the cockpit and then waited for clearance to leave. It wouldn’t be coming for a while. Undoubtedly there would be a planetary lock down of some sort. He wasn’t worried. He could mind trick most of the people he would run into and he doubted many people would recognize him as Obi-wan Kenobi without his beard. Still, a change of clothing would probably not be amiss. He had time, after all. He also had to visit the ship he’d come in. It would be a shame to have to leave it here, but it would complete the scenario he’d created.

 

Making his mind up, he locked the fighter up again after checking to make sure everything still worked and headed out, keeping to the shadows as he did. It might even help if a few cameras caught glimpses of him—a dark, mysterious figure they would be hard-pressed to place—as he went along…

 

xXx

 

Later that night, he managed to get into an interstellar com booth. He had a new cloak bought specifically for this purpose draped over his head and a pre-set, simple coding that shouldn’t be too difficult for any slicer worth his salt to crack. This really was so underhanded, but it was for Anakin and the Jedi and the Republic. It might even help to bring the two sides together.

 

Finally he pushed the transmit button to a dummy comm he’d set up earlier that week specifically for this purpose when he’d visited a few core worlds. After a moment, he bowed to the com transmitter and began his message.

 

He’d really like to see the Sith Lord’s reaction to this…

 

xXx

 

Ma-karolin DeJoon hated her job. Alright, that wasn’t completely true. She hated the hours her job had her work. She actually rather liked her job, but she was lucky to get a few hours of sleep a day. She knew she was the newbie on the team and that she just had to wait this out a little longer—just until she decoded her big break—but it was still difficult.

 

Of course, she was one of dozens of people who had been hired by LCWN, the largest news station on Lettow. Still, she was good at her job, so it really was only a matter of time.

 

Actually, she was working on a message she’d intercepted just recently. It had been coded, but after taking a close look at it, she’d realized that it was something she could work with, and she felt positive she could decode it.

 

She’d been working on it for almost her entire shift now, and she was so close. She just needed to—

 

And then the pad she’d set up the input to lit up with a cloaked figure.

 

“My master,” it said respectfully. “To become your apprentice, I have fulfilled my mission. Count Dooku, your former apprentice Darth Tyrannus, is dead by my hand. As a bonus, I found the Jedi General his people lost with him, trying to convince him to reconsider peace.” The figure paused and sighed, then grinned. “I was able to recapture him and he is now in my custody.

 

“I was not able to secure all information and thus do not know if you are implicated in anything he owned, my Master. My apologies for my failure. As a Sith, I will accept any punishment you see fit.

 

“This is my report. I look forward to seeing you upon my arrival to Courscant. I received your request to meet you beneath the Senate building after your meeting. I will be there, Master.”

 

And then the disk’s light faded and Ma-karolin stared at it with an open mouth, stunned.

 

Then she remembered that she’d been hoping for something like this. If this wasn’t a big break, she didn’t know what was.

 

xXx

 

The news had spread all over the inner core worlds within a galactic standard hour. To say the Republic was shocked would be an understatement. The Jedi in particular couldn’t help but cower in fear—just about the only good thing to come from this entire debacle.

 

Darth Sidious seethed in his private chambers. He had ensured that they were shielded from the Jedi, he needed places to retreat where the fools couldn’t detect him, after all, but even now he felt that he could very well break through the barrier through sheer anger.

 

32 seconds. That was all it took to tear down everything he’d built for decades. It wasn’t a completely lost cause yet, but when he considered what damage had been done…

 

Firstly, Dooku was dead. That in and of itself put the largest dent in Palpatine’s plans. He’d needed his apprentice (former apprentice now) to head the Separatists and keep the conflict going. To make matters worse, the Separatists were communicating with the Republic. Apparently, the story of what few witnesses there were corroborated the supposedly intercepted message.

 

Add onto that the fact that the Sith had been revealed in a very negative light to the entire galaxy (not just the Jedi, which would have been undesirable but manageable) and the fact that the supposed ‘apprentice’ had also implicated someone in the upper echelon of the Senate…

 

32 seconds.

 

As he calmed and considered the situation, turning the raging fire into a burning ice so he could logically consider all of the options, he began to realize just how well planned out it had been.

 

To his knowledge, there were only two people that had a somewhat complete picture of the entire situation: himself and one Obi-wan Kenobi. That was who this new ‘apprentice’ had to be. Because he had no new apprentice (Anakin would be his eventually, but the boy was too stubborn and resistant at the moment), he highly doubted there was another Force user there (a darksider he didn’t know about was unthinkable, even if he had felt some rather strange disturbances lately), which left Kenobi as the perpetrator.

 

He could see Kenobi infiltrating and trying to kill Dooku, probably on orders from the Useless Council, but he hadn’t even guessed that in the unlikely scenario that the Jedi would win. Tyrannus had been strong, but indeed, he had seen the smuggled autopsy reports and he’d felt the death through the Force as well. He had little doubt that his apprentice was, in fact, dead, and he would venture that it was by Kenobi’s hand. And yet, those reports also stated that Dooku had been incapacitated by a parasite and then killed in cold blood. No Jedi would do that. It would take them too far from their precious light…which brought up only one real conclusion: Kenobi had fallen.

 

Palpatine stared straight ahead and into the darkness of his chambers, face blank as he processed that. It felt right. The darkness he had always clung to whispered an affirmative as it whirled around him in a wild magnificence he’d always been so attracted to With the disturbances…yes, it made sense…but Kenobi? He had been the epitome of the idealistic, light Jedi. Even Sidious had a hard time imagining the man in any other way.

 

Yes, the figure in the hologram had been Kenobi. He’d been the one to undermine everything. That felt right too… And then he smiled. From the tone in Kenobi’s voice and how he’d gone about exposing the Sith, he obviously had no intentions of joining Sidious, but the Chancellor could be very persuasive. If he could just get a hold of the man…it would prove difficult because just as he had reasoned out Dooku’s murderer’s identity, he had little doubt that Kenobi would eventually find ‘The Sith Lords’ if he hadn’t already. It really depended on what Dooku had told the man, but Sidious always erred on the side of caution—when he erred at all.

 

Still, Kenobi already made an excellent general, plus his emotional ties to The Chosen One could be extremely beneficial in the future. Not to mention that Kenobi seemed to possess an intelligence that neither Dooku or Maul had ever showed potential for. In one, fell swoop, he had practically undone decades of work. Not only that, but he had done all of this in a little over a month by his reckoning.

 

Sidious contemplated that. The man was a threat. A rather large one at that, and he would have to be either eliminated or brought to his side. Still, if he was a fallen Jedi, then he was already halfway in Sidioius’ pocket, whether he knew it or not. Yes, this could work out in his favor if he played his cards right.

 

And he was an excellent card player.

 

He turned his thoughts to damage control and ways that would ensure Kenobi’s allegiance.

 

xXx

 

Yup, Kenobi's dark, not a Sith, and doesn't plan on letting that change any time soon.

You know the closer you get to something

The tougher it is to see it,

And I'll Never take it for granted,

Let's go!

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks, Skye. And they won't stop any time soon...at least I hope that this doesn't get predictable. ^^;

 

xXx

 

From what I understand, most of those who fall to the dark side do so because of anger or fear. And why not? They are, After all, powerful, overwhelming emotions that can easily lead to hate. I’m sure an unhealthy lust taken to extremes could also conceivably become a path, and maybe there are others as well, but few realize that guilt can be just as smothering—just as empowering in its own right—as any of these. And unlike anger or fear, guilt allows me to keep a comparatively cool head. It is still difficult to direct my thought processes away from the suffocating traps of thought my mind has created for itself, but I am still able to follow a conclusion to its logical end—something that anger renders incredibly difficult.

 

Even at my lowest points I could set up intricate plans and easily understand how each person involved would react for the most part. I wouldn’t admit then that I found a certain freedom (although the guilt for it predictably and always came later) in not caring about each piece on the board beyond how they could play into my plans.

 

So the Sith wanted more war and had planned for it? Well, two could play at that game.

Things had continued to go incredibly well. So well, in fact, that Obi-wan wondered when the next shoe would drop, so to speak. The Republic and Separatists were both entertaining talks of peace, and while it still remained a very controversial subject, so many more people seemed open to the idea of reconciling their differences than before. Of course, that had been Obi-wan’s goal. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, so they would have to work together to fight the Sith.

 

Unfortunately, the Separatists didn’t trust a body that may very well be in the thrall of said Sith and the Republic seemed to be at a loss as to what to do regarding the subject. The Jedi, unsurprisingly, hadn’t acted and so the war came to a stand-still—an unspoken truce as neither side really wanted to give into or trust the other just yet.

 

It was beyond frustrating, and yet, Obi-wan figured he should take what he could get. It was still one of the better results of this scenario.

 

Meanwhile, his progress with the dark side had become about as stagnant as the war. He’d figured out a few small details, mainly that the darkness was like an ocean—vast, encompassing, dangerous and full of ebbs and flows that, if one could sync up to it, could nicely mask the user’s presence. At least he hoped so as he didn’t exactly have anyone else there he could use to test his theory. It still felt wild and untameable, but he’d found a sort of middle ground where he could submerge himself and not get carried away by the emotions that doing so provoked.

 

Actually, he suspected that while his ‘middle ground’ had given him a sort of respite, it was also the reason why he couldn’t progress anymore. He really didn’t want to move deeper into the darkness, and finding any sort of peace with himself was so rare now that he didn’t wish to chance losing what little he’d found.

 

It was frustrating at best, but as he couldn’t do anything about it at the moment, it became a sort of routine for him to curse his circumstances (along with multiple insults about Ventress thrown in for good measure) on a fairly regular basis before he would shove it all to the side and try to work on his plans for the future. He knew he was living in the past, holding onto grudges and other things that he really shouldn’t, but he couldn’t seem to help himself—and he had tried.

 

The biggest problem was that after Serenno, he didn’t really have a specific goal in mind. He had to defend Anakin and part of him also wished to help the Jedi as well, but as the war had come to that unspoken truce, few if any of the Jedi were in danger at the moment. He’d traveled to a few planets that still had problems and had been able to help a few times, but he still felt like he wasn’t doing anything significant enough. So his next idea was to find and stop the monster that had attacked and killed several Jedi already—Grievous, from what the reports had said. His biggest problem there was that he had no idea where to even begin looking for the thing.

 

He hated not doing anything, and so he continued to work on getting his body better, despite the fact that he felt almost as good physically as he had before he’d been sent to Jabiim.

 

After a several weeks of doing little more than riding from planet to planet, trying to set up a network of spies, helping the Jedi he’d come across when he could and taking a card out of Anakin’s data pad, aka gaining more money with the illegal racing circuits (hey, he may not like flying or racing, that didn’t mean he couldn’t do it), he decided that enough was enough. There were several planets that the Republic should have won over with the help of the population and their resources, but either due to misdirection or poor planning on the part of the Senate, such planets had been lost. Jabiim itself was a prime example.

 

If he could infiltrate some of the Separatist strongholds…

 

He realized that what he was thinking of doing would make him little more than an assassin, and he hated that idea, but he also found the thought of getting back at the Separatists quite appealing. It would also continue to make dents in the Sith Lord’s plans…

 

But was he willing to go that far?

 

If it could help to end the war, then yes. Because ending the war was one of his ultimate goals (the first being to find and kill the Sith Lord). It would help to protect Anakin.

 

But then again, he needed to make sure that doing so didn’t disrupt the peace treaties…of course, he could take the blame as the ‘Sith Apprentice’, but that would only work a few times. Anyone he killed would be on the Separatist side, more or less, and people would begin to notice. That could work to his advantage somewhat, but he still found it too unpredictable with the peace talks that were going on.

 

Once the war started back up though, (because he had no doubt that it would, the Sith in the Senate wouldn’t allow for anything else) it was a real possibility.

 

He filed the thought away for later contemplation and continued to consider his next options. Inspiration came then in the form of a news report. He’d been sitting on his ship as he tried again to meditate (with more progress, but still nothing he felt could be of any real use) and had turned on a local station to keep up with the events in the war. It was a Republic station this time as that was the nearest at hand, but he also wished to sneak onto a planet under Separatist rule and see what their news stations said as well.

 

“In further news, we have received confirmation that the peace talks between the Republic and the Separatists will occur, much to the surprise of many in the core of the Republic. The world chosen to host the talks, Mandalore, has declared itself neutral ground and welcomes both the Republic and the Separatists as the Duchess Satine Kryze of the planet has been vocally pushing for peace since the beginning of the war.

 

Then a very familiar voice came over the wave, pulling at Obi-wan’s heart strings rather painfully.

 

“This is a great opportunity we cannot let slip. We have a chance to rise above the fighting and the aggression that has torn our galaxy in two and Mandalore will support this whole-heartedly.”

 

The news anchor came back on and Obi-wan wasn’t sure whether he was grateful or annoyed.

 

The Chancellor himself has confirmed that he will attend these meetings, despite the fact that the Separatists have not yet announced a representative. As protection and to help aid the process of these peace talks, he is taking a veritable entourage of Jedi, including the Master Mace Windu and our own Hero-With-No-Fear, young Anakin Skywalker.

 

The peace talks will be held a galactic standard week from now, and we here on Martiol wish them luck.

 

Obi-wan was up in a moment and had switched the news station off, already preparing a flight plan. Within the next hour, he’d gotten clearance and was already on his way to Mandalore. He could not see any conceivable way that this would not explode in everyone’s face, and so he would be there to protect his own.

 

xXx

 

Getting to the planet wasn’t difficult. Getting onto the planet was. The security had skyrocketed, and Obi-wan couldn’t help but be very relieved. It would mean less of a possibility of anything untoward happening to throw everything into chaos.

 

Still, it would also mean that getting his own ship down wouldn’t be easy. Then again, he hadn’t been raised as a Jedi for nothing. It would take just the right timing and the right size of a convoy, but he was willing to wait. He may not be as patient as he used to be, but he’d always believed that anyone could be patient with the right motivation.

 

It took him two days of floating powered down near the entry points for hyperspace before he found his opening. Not exactly the safest thing to do as ships could easily crash into him with little warning as they came out of hyperspace, but he was confident that the Force would warn him if something like that were to happen. It did. Twice.

 

The third time, though, he managed to fall in at the tail end of a larger convoy of trading ships, and once entering the atmosphere, it was simply a matter of landing in just the right spot. It took him several hours to find and pay off the dock worker, as well as mind trick him into forgetting he’d met with Obi-wan but not that he’d accepted the bribe. It was easy enough that he had begun to have his doubts about the security after all.

 

After that, he simply went about his usual routine of trying to set up contacts and scouting out the local areas.

 

He’d been to Mandalore in his past, many years before, when he and Qui-gon had first come to meet and protect the Dutchess Satine. It had been a war-torn, rubble-strewn planet then. It had transformed into a rather lovely little jewel of peace since. He was surprised at just how much had changed.

 

There were still areas that were under construction or had been more or less abandoned to whatever decided to inhabit them, though. It had only been a few decades, after all. They couldn’t fix the entire world in that time, no matter how much support Satine had.

 

Those were the areas that Obi-wan focused on. By the time the Chancellor arrived, Obi-wan had already found and taken out three cells of varying strength and organization that had planned to stop the talks. That did little for his confidence in all of this.

 

He knew the moment the Jedi arrived in the system. The ripples in the dark side swirled madly, like displaced water with a vindictive sentience. There was also something else—something off that he couldn’t quite place. Was it the Sith? Just who had come with the Chancellor…?

 

And then, as it often does, inspiration struck seemingly out of the blue and at random.

 

“Palpatine,” he whispered aloud, because somehow his brain put all the clues that Dooku had given him together—and in a strange, sick kind of way, it all made sense. He knew Anakin quite well, he was a part of (in the upper echelons of) the Senate and had been sitting there under the Jedi's nose for decades.

 

Palpatine was Sidious. He'd jumped to the conclusion...but the Force confirmed it, ringing with a sort of dark pleasure at his horror.

 

“Oh, Force,” he muttered, grateful for the shock that seemed to block any overwhelming emotions. Oh, they would come later…and stang! Palpatine would be able to feel him! He couldn’t stay for long then…but he couldn't leave Anakin near that man either! And the Jedi wouldn’t believe him if he tried to tell them, and neither would Anakin. He had to try, though. He had to, but…

 

The numb dam of shock broke and the sheer enormity of what he had taken on himself washed over him, almost overwhelming him.

 

He fell to his knees in the alley he’d been walking through, ignoring the grit and rubble that tore at the palms of his hands and knees. Dooku had been right. He really hadn’t known what he was doing!

 

No! He wouldn’t—couldn’t—think like that! Forcing his mind away from that train of thought, he reminded himself that he just had one goal right now: protect Anakin, and by proxy the peace talks. If he focused on that, he could do this. Yes. One step at a time. The Chancellor may be a powerful man and a Sith, but he was still just a man in the long run, and men could be dealt with.

 

It took him a few minutes, but finally he forced himself to his feet and continued on his way.

 

He had plans to hammer out, after all.

 

xXx

 

Anakin stood staring out of the view port of the ship, his arms crossed in front of him. He loved the view of the stars. It had always proved to be calming to him in a way that Jedi techniques could never really touch. He could always seem to just think things through when he stared out into space. Obi-wan had once commented that it was Anakin’s own type of meditation, but that it was a pale reflection of true meditation.

 

Before Jabiim that would have brought him nothing but frustration and anger towards his master. Now the frustration was still there, but it was backed by a sort of sorrowful loss and confusion. Without his master’s presence he only felt a hole had grown in his soul—one that he doubted he could ever fill (very similar to the one his mother had left).

 

It all boiled down to the fact that he really just wanted his master back. Despite what he’d told the Council, he’d gone over and over the note his master had left for him in his mind. Why would Obi-wan leave and then apologize? Was he apologizing for leaving or for something else? What was going on? Where was he and why did he feel he had to go?

 

The sound of a door opening behind him drew his attention, but he didn’t turn from the calming gaze of the stars.

 

“Ah, there is our hero with no fear,” a familiar, jovial voice called from behind him. Anakin wanted to sigh. The news stations had heard of some of his exploits and had decided to give him the moniker. In truth, he liked it, but any accomplishments felt hollow without Obi-wan here to see them.

 

He wanted to keep looking into the stars, somehow believing, despite the illogicality of it all, that they held all the answers. However, he knew it would be rude to not at least acknowledge his visitor.

 

“Chancellor,” he said as he turned, nodding his head respectfully.

 

The older man paused and looked at Anakin worriedly. “You have bags under your eyes, my boy. Have you been sleeping well?”

 

No, he hadn’t. Not since before Jabiim. Still, he didn’t want to worry the Chancellor. After all, the kind, old man had more than enough on his plate.

 

“It’s nothing,” he said, forcing a smile.

 

The man frowned in disapproval. “You should take better care of yourself.” Then he paused and the worry increased ever so slightly. “Do you have something on your mind?”

 

Anakin was determined to not unload his concerns on the Chancellor. He did that far too often as it was. There was just something about the man that made Anakin feel he could trust him. He never could figure out exactly what.

 

“It’s nothing,” Anakin insisted. “And I promise that I will be able to stay focused enough to protect you.”

 

The Chancellor raised one eyebrow. “Of that I have no doubt, my young friend. The Jedi aren’t pushing you too much, are they?”

 

Well, he did feel that they liked to push him, but that wasn’t the big problem here.

 

“No,” he said, trying to appease the Chancellor. “It’s just…” and he faded off because he still did not want to go off when the head of the Republic really should be focusing on the upcoming treaties and not anything else.

 

And then the man’s expression changed to one of enlightenment. “Ah, it’s about your master, isn’t it.”

 

He didn’t say it as a question.

 

Anakin sighed. Was he really that transparent? He turned back to the window without responding.

 

“So, it is.” He saw the Chancellor nod out of the corner of his eye.

 

Well, there wasn’t much of a point in holding back. There wasn’t anyone else in the viewing room either.

 

“It’s just…why did he leave? I don’t understand. Even if it was to try and speak to Dooku, I can’t see why he didn’t take backup with him. It makes no sense.” Anakin had been so sure that Obi-wan would never abandon him—would never leave him to fend for himself. The man’s steady presence had always been there and now…

 

Somehow he knew that this was all Ventress’ fault. Anakin almost wished Obi-wan hadn’t killed her so he could go after the woman himself.

 

“I won’t profess to understand the mind of a Jedi, but your master never struck me as particularly unwise. A little demanding, perhaps, but then no one is perfect. I’m sure he had his reasons.”

 

Anakin frowned. Everyone close to him kept telling him that Obi-wan had his reasons. What few friends he still had at the Temple, Padmé, the Chancellor… But no matter what they said, Anakin still couldn’t come up with a conceivably good excuse.

 

“I can’t help but wonder,” Palpatine said almost as if to himself. Anakin didn’t like the tone in his voice.

 

“What?” he asked warily.

 

The Chancellor blinked in surprise up at his young friend. “Oh, it’s nothing. I’m sure I don’t have the experience to really speculate on such things.”

 

“Please, tell me,” Anakin said, more as a demand than a request.

 

The older man suddenly seemed uneasy. “Well, it’s just…the apprentice that has been all over the news...”

 

Anakin tensed at the mention of the figure that had claimed to recapture his master. If he ever found that being, Ventress’ fate would look kind in comparison, especially if he found his master in a similar condition as he had when Ventress had captured him.

 

“Could it be Obi-wan?”

 

It took several seconds for Anakin to wrap his head around what the Chancellor had just said. At first his mind only registered shock that someone—anyone—would even suggest that Obi-wan of all people would…

 

And then the anger came. He didn’t care that he rarely if ever got angry at the Chancellor. He didn’t care that the possibility was there. At that moment, he only saw the older man as he saw the Jedi Council, all talk and no action. Always judging and deciding without knowing or taking into account the whole truth. Always condemning Obi-wan…

 

He only felt the stab of betrayal and rush of anger at the mere suggestion against his master.

 

“Obi-wan would never do such a thing! No one believed in him last time and look at what happened! I will never stop looking for him!” Somewhere in his mind he recognized that he was going too far, that yelling at the Chancellor was not a good idea. He wanted to say more—to scream, and yell and rant and force everyone to listen to themselves! Make them listen to him! Then he realized that he would regret anything else he said and despite everything, the Chancellor was his friend. So he clenched his fists, snapped his mouth closed, turned and walked deliberately out of the room.

 

“Anakin, wait! I didn’t mean to—” But Anakin didn’t hear the end of the sentence as the door closed behind him and he stalked off in a huff. If anyone would have been in the room with the Chancellor, they might have seen the satisfied—almost hungry—smile that stole across his face.

 

xXx

 

Mace Windu had not allowed himself to indulge in petty complaints and whining for decades. Even in his own mind he tried to think more about how he could fix something undesirable than to dwell on the undesirable fact to begin with.

 

Anakin Skywalker managed to get him to break his record of self control in less than half a day. The boy was nothing that Mace envisioned a Jedi should be and didn’t seem to have any desire to change. He justified and rationalized when he should own up and change. He charged in without looking when it would be far more prudent to stop and think. He was emotional, reckless and prone to attachments, and quite frankly, if it weren’t for his friendship with Anakin’s (former?) Master, he wouldn’t have put himself through the agony that came in the form of their supposed Chosen One.

 

And that had all been before they’d landed on the planet. None of this was helped by the fact that Mace had had a vaguely ‘off’ feeling about the entire trip. He couldn’t place it or define it or even really assign anything but ‘different’ to the feeling, but it was there and it bothered him.

 

Mandalore itself looked rather nice at first glance, but a closer look would prove just how controversial the planet’s current stance on the war was to the Mandalorian people. Then take into account how the system had fixed its supposed problems by banishing anyone who really disagreed—no matter how justified—to a nearby moon in exile…and that just didn’t sit right with the Council Head. He felt the Duchess was somehow both simultaneously jaded and an idealist who had experience with conflict but no actual understanding of the war itself (and despite this considered herself an expert of sorts because of her background and the desirable outcome of said conflict) and he couldn’t understand why he seemed to be the only person who noticed all of this.

 

He didn’t understand why the Chancellor had decided to take such a risk of coming here himself, why he had insisted on specific Jedi and why he seemed to be so optimistic about a situation that really had more chances of going seriously wrong than they had of turning out even somewhat neutral. He also couldn’t understand why Yoda had insisted that he be the one to look after the speeder-wreck that was Obi-wan’s padawan. Probably because he was the only one who had a chance at holding the boy back from his destructive tendencies.

 

Mace especially disliked that he and the other Jedi who had come to Mandalore had all been reduced to little more than a Security Force with no real freedom to act should anything happen. Instead, their job resembled something more akin to glorified guard and errand duty than anything a Jedi should be called upon for. So why were the Jedi sent out on patrols on a waste of time and energy when they should be guarding the Chancellor? Why did the head of the Republic insist that the Jedi could help with the mundane when they had other things they had to do? The entire situation was trying his not inconsiderable patience rather thoroughly.

 

So all in all, he disapproved of the whole mess and everything it was built on. The Jedi should be trying to ferret out the Sith in the Senate and his new apprentice, not sitting here on a neutral planet doing nothing.

 

He knew he wasn’t in the best of moods and that no matter how often he released his frustration to the Force it seemed to come back time and time again. The fact that he could not escape Skywalker for more than a few hours at best did not help.

 

That was how he found himself tromping through the underground of Mandalore on a useless patrol for security with a certain padawan (who seemed to be in an even more foul mood than Mace) in tow.

 

The worst part about the whole thing was that he actually agreed with Skywalker…for once. Not that he’d ever let the boy know. That would swell his already oversized head to an even greater size and would somehow (although he could not imagine how) become even more insufferable.

 

“—And I don’t get why we’re even here! The security on the planet is fine! We could be doing other things!” Like continue to look for a knight that Mace was sure wouldn’t be coming back. There had been such a finality about the note Obi-wan had left. It hurt. It also bothered him that the boy couldn’t seem to stop focusing on the situation and that he was lying to himself. However, Mace also remembered feeling certain that Obi-wan had died when he’d disappeared on Jabiim and as such couldn’t really bring himself to dissuade the only person who had believed in the Knight’s survival. At least not yet. If Anakin kept pushing him, though…

 

“We’re here because the Chancellor requested for us to be. These talks may very well end the war.”

 

Anakin scoffed. “No one really believes that, including you. The Separatists won’t do anything as long as we have a supposed Sith in the Senate.” Which brought them back to the problem that every Jedi had been contemplating for the last month. Some of them had even considered leaving the Order and the Republic because of it. Even Yoda couldn’t see what the outcome of this conflict would be, and that weighed as heavily on every Council Member’s shoulders as a neutron star.

 

“That won’t be the case for much longer,” Mace said shortly. He was about to add on a scolding for good measure when a ripple ran through the Force and he stopped, trying to concentrate on it. Anakin didn’t notice.

 

“It will be if we’re stuck out here doing nothing!”

 

The ripple vanished, slipping out of Mace’s grasp and leaving only the smallest residue thanks to his current charge’s distraction. At that moment, Mace would have done anything to just get away from the boy’s incessant prattle. He’d hoped to find some kind of clarity on this mission, not…this. Anakin’s general attitude always grated on Mace’s nerves and at this point he’d had enough. Days and days of this would cause anyone to snap, at least that was what he told himself later.

 

“Besides, it doesn’t matter what everyone else does or doesn’t believe because this is a chance at peace and it must be taken, no matter how small the probability of a positive outcome. Or would you rather we simply let this stalemate continue until the Sith and his apprentice find someone else to run their war and start killing more people?”

 

“Of course not,” Anakin returned heatedly. “But we should be looking for the Sith and the apprentice! Our being here does nothing!”

 

“Our being here shows our support of the Republic and its ideals,” Mace said, somehow maintaining his calm exterior. He thanked years of practice and habit.

 

“I thought we were here to serve the people, not the Republic,” Anakin sniped.

 

The comment surprised Mace. Usually Anakin was firmly on the side of the Republic, to a point where he almost put his loyalty to his friends and acquaintances in the Senate over the Jedi. Still, he’d had enough of Anakin’s constant questioning of the Council’s decisions. Didn’t he know they had the Jedi’s best interests at heart?

 

“That’s enough!” he said firmly. “No matter what we would prefer, we are here now. We should do our jobs thoroughly and without complaint.”

 

“But—” Anakin started in, but Mace cut him off.

 

“I’m going to go and scout through that building over there. You continue with the patrol. I will catch up.”

 

And before the boy could say anything else, Mace turned and stalked quickly through the door following what he could still feel of that. The building had obviously once been a large structure of some importance, but half of it had collapsed and it had apparently been abandoned since before the civil war on the planet. Mace assumed that the government hadn’t gotten around to either reconstructing it or dismantling it yet, but it was also some place that seemed a prime candidate for unsavory deeds to take place. Out of the way, abandoned and spacious enough to hold several people in those rooms still intact.

 

Once inside, he quickly scanned the area with the Force and frowned when he found nothing. He’d been almost positive that he would find something. He wasn’t sure what. The Force had nudged him in this direction. Admittedly he’d taken the opportunity to get away from Skywalker as much as to follow a prompting. He’d had to before he lost his temper—which would not have been desirable at all. Mace knew he wasn’t perfect, but he figured he should at least practice what he preached. He was determined to not lose his temper in front of Anakin, ever…although he wasn’t sure if that was his pride talking or a genuine concern for the boy. Mace may not approve of Skywalker, but that didn’t mean he didn’t want to help him. The rash 20-year-old just couldn’t see how much the Council just wanted to—

 

“You shouldn’t treat him like that,” a cold voice suddenly sounded and Mace jumped. The vague ‘off’ feeling he’d had the entire trip intensified as he whirled around, lightsaber in hand.

 

In his shock at what he saw before him his instinctual reaction to ignite it was stopped in its tracks.

 

He knew the man who stood before him, even if he couldn’t place a name. On a recent skirmish on one planet that hadn’t wanted to hold to the stalemate, Mace had been lured away and ambushed. Surrounded by droids and Separatist Loyalists, he’d tried to fight his way out, and would have succeeded if it hadn’t been for a few sniper droids they’d set up. He’d known the shot was coming, and knew that he would be unable to defend against it and the shots from the rabble, and he’d moved so that it wouldn’t hit something vital, but it would have taken his chances of getting out of the situation alive down immensely.

 

To his surprise, the shot had never landed. Almost at the last second, a figure holding a blue lightsaber had launched himself into the fray, deflecting the bolt. Mace had been shocked to say the least but hadn’t been able to focus on the figure for the few seconds he’d been on the ground. Then the being had launched himself up with the Force, jumped off of the buildings like some sort of adrenalin driven gizkel and had taken out the sniper droids before vanishing. Mace had been unable to find even a trace of him, and he couldn’t tell what the being’s alignment had been (although he highly doubted said alignment was to the light). It had caused nothing but confusion because why would anyone dark help or save a Jedi?

 

Looking at the being face to face (even if he couldn’t see under that hood) didn’t help. Now that Mace could focus on him, the Jedi noticed that he didn’t look like much more than an old-fashioned bounty hunter, with a loose tunic, several leather straps criss-crossing over his torso, arms and legs all hiding who knew what, snug pants that would be easy to move in and sturdy boots. He also had what appeared to be a med-kit of some sort strapped to his thigh and a wrist-computer on a brace on his forearm, but other than that, the man didn’t have anything technological about him. He also wore a sort of mini-cape that draped off of his shoulders only a few inches before abruptly cutting off. The strange (and yet practical, Mace noted grudgingly) piece of clothing also sported the hood that fell over his face, obscuring it in shadows, and a tall collar that stood stiffly, obscuring what little the hood exposed.

 

The outfit looked worn and while it wasn’t exactly dirty, it didn’t look clean either. All in all, he looked like a man used to making his own way—someone who lived in obscurity and who was content to do so.

 

“Do I know you?” Mace asked tersely, watching the body language closely as it was all he could really use to judge the man’s intentions. In response to his question, the being sagged, suddenly taking on an agedness that somehow seemed to contradict the man’s very presence. His rather muted presence…

 

“Have I changed so much?” the being asked, his voice contrastingly soft.

 

Mace’s brow furrowed as he considered the question. Should he know this man?

 

And then it clicked.

 

When he spoke, he found himself unable to keep all of the shock from his voice. “Obi-wan?”

You know the closer you get to something

The tougher it is to see it,

And I'll Never take it for granted,

Let's go!

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Looks like I lost all my readers. Ah, well. In case anyone else is following this:

 

Chapter 8

 

I found it strangely funny that as a Jedi, I could only see the good the Order did and the goals they strove to work towards. From the outside, however, I could only see their faults. Thinking back, I know both must exist, but I have to wonder why I can only seem to see one or the other.

 

Slowly, as if hesitant to move at all, the being reached up and pulled the hood down. The man it revealed was only vaguely recognizable as the man he’d once known. In place of a well-trimmed beard grew an unkempt scruff, which only pronounced the scars marring the left side of his face, even though they were otherwise barely visible over the high collar. His eyes, once a sparkling blue-green, now looked gray and dead. The dark circles under his eyes did nothing to help his image and the hollows in his cheeks spoke of weeks—perhaps months—of malnutrition. His skin had a pale, sallow look to it that did him no favors and his longer hair had been pulled back into a half-hazard nerf-tail that in all actuality did little to hold the once healthy hair away from his face.

 

They stood, staring at each other for several minutes before Mace spoke.

 

“I see you escaped,” was all he could say.

 

Obi-wan snorted. “Don’t tell me you believed that drivel too.”

 

Mace knew his frown would be particularly grim, but found little motivation to change it.

 

“We wanted to believe it because it was better than the alternative.”

 

Obi-wan shook his head. “While I appreciate the benefit of the doubt, there are so many problems with that statement that I don’t know where to begin.”

 

Mace’s frown deepened and he folded his arms, not bothering to put his lightsaber away. From the glance Obi-wan shot it, he hadn’t forgotten or dismissed this fact either.

 

“What happened, Obi-wan?” he asked as gently and placatingly as he could, simultaneously forcing his wariness to the back of his mind, but not dismissing it fully. Something was horribly wrong here and his instincts had saved him too many times for him to dismiss them outright.

 

The other man’s smile held no mirth and he slumped ever so slightly. “I became attached.”

 

For all of his training, it took everything inside of the Jedi Master to not cringe at the answer. This was not going anywhere Mace had hoped it would.

 

When the older man didn’t speak, Obi-wan continued, sounding frazzled and defensive but resigned at the same time. “I tried not to. It was a monumental effort, really, but no matter how often I banished my feelings to the Force, they never completely left me.” He brought up one hand to rub the bridge of his nose. It was such an Obi-wan-like gesture that Mace couldn’t help but relax just a little.

 

“To whom?” he asked, wanting to keep Obi-wan talking.

 

Obi-wan shot him a dry glare. “It isn’t obvious?”

 

It was. It had been for quite a while, but Obi-wan had handled it so well that everyone had turned a blind eye, believing the matter to be in hand.

 

Mace’s lips thinned but he didn’t say anything, choosing instead to allow this man to keep what dignity he still had.

 

“That’s not why I said what I did just now, though,” Obi-wan spoke softly, but the weariness had vanished from his voice and countenance, replaced instead by determination and something darker—desperation perhaps? Mace wasn’t sure and he couldn’t get a decent read on the emotions through the Force. The darkness seemed to cloud everything like static over a comm channel.

 

“Then why did you?” he finally responded.

 

Obi-wan frowned at him, looking—even in all of his strange clothing and for all of his youth—like a Master about to scold a padawan. “You shouldn’t treat Anakin like that because it’s driving him away from the Order, and consequently away from the light.”

 

Mace scowled a little. “He needs to learn how to handle criticism.”

 

A flare through the Force as Obi-wan’s eyes narrowed confirmed Mace’s suspicions. He suddenly felt weariness himself, although he did his best to hide it.

 

“So you wish to drive him to the darkness then?” Obi-wan asked, his voice a cold but somehow still burning anger. Mace wanted to sigh—to give a physical outlet for his sudden exhaustion. This was nothing like the calm, controlled knight that they’d considered for the Council.

 

Again, the older Jedi said nothing and remained as stoic as a statue while Obi-wan stood there with his fists clenched. After a moment, the other man closed his eyes and forcibly relaxed his body before speaking again.

 

“The darkness wants him, Mace. If he does not stay rooted in the light, the dark side will claim him. I know you know this.”

 

“How do you know it?” he couldn’t help but ask. He may not be one to unnecessarily state the obvious, but he also was not one to beat around the bush. He had to get a definitive answer on this before he could take it before the Council.

 

“With Anakin’s raw power? How could it not have set its sights on him?”

 

Mace shook his head. “If he is the child of the prophecy then we have nothing to worry about.”

 

“And if he isn’t?” Obi-wan returned.

 

The Council member blinked, surprised. “You don’t think he is?”

 

Obi-wan’s lips thinned. “We cannot know for sure. Yes, he is the most powerful and one of the most talented Jedi to ever come through the Temple, but that does not mean he is The Chosen One. And even if he is, how can we possibly know how the prophecy is meant to play out? Haven’t you always said that we should never take any being’s allegiance for granted?”

 

He brought up a good point, and something about that made Mace extremely uneasy. He made a mental note to explore it during the meditation session later. He hadn’t ever truly come to accept young Skywalker as a Jedi in his own right, but he’d never questioned the boy’s alignment. Perhaps he should be more careful with him in the future? But then he wasn’t sure just how he could be. Yes, the boy was a ticking time-bomb in Mace’s opinion, and it was only a matter of time before he exploded—but Mace (and indeed none of them masters as far as he knew) had ever even entertained the idea that Anakin might turn.

 

It became yet another point for Mace to bring to the Council’s attention. And speaking of, there was something else about that general train of thought that he had to keep probing as well. “We seem to have taken your own alignment for granted,” he said, unwilling to let this go without a definitive answer. Obi-wan couldn’t keep dodging it forever.

 

Obi-wan drew himself up and back, his actions instinctively defensive. Then he deflated and looked away.

 

“Sadly, yes.”

 

And those few words drove a vibroblade through Mace’s heart. He made a mental note to make sure he had released it all to the Force later. He was not looking forward to the meditation session all of this would bring about. He had an awful lot to come to terms with and consider at this point in time. He closed his eyes and found himself turning his head away too, unable to look at the person who had once been a friend and close ally.

 

“Please, Mace,” the other man pleaded. “You have to do everything you can to help Anakin…because I can’t anymore. He needs people he can trust and rely on.”

 

And something about all of this seemed awfully two-faced. Why was Obi-wan working to keep Anakin light if he himself had given into the dark? Mace had met fallen Jedi before, and they always seemed to want people to join them in the darkness. He had always chalked it up to the old adage that misery loves company. So why was Obi-wan different?

 

Then realization struck him, connected the pieces in his mind and painted a picture he almost kicked himself for not seeing before. It simply boiled down to the fact that Obi-wan cared for the boy that much; that the former Jedi’s affection—that which he suspected had dragged the man down, in a strange sort of duplicity, currently transcended the darkness. The very idea seemed so foreign to Mace, but so obvious now that he looked and he had to wonder how they had all missed it.

 

Obi-wan would do anything for Anakin.

 

Even fall to darkness.

 

And also, apparently, fight the darkness off, even if his attempts seemed futile at best.

 

Mace scowled at the thought and began to realize just what the fallen Jedi was asking. “I won’t coddle him. He needs discipline, not some corruptible form of affection.” Because by Obi-wan’s admittance, he wasn’t sure how long that attachment he’d seemingly embraced would remain unclouded. They both knew it was only a matter of time before that too was twisted by the darkness.

 

And then the iciness returned to the other’s eyes. “There is a difference between discipline and resentment.”

 

Mace narrowed his own eyes in warning. “We treat him no differently than any other Jedi and we do not resent the boy.”

 

Instead of the outburst Mace had expected, Obi-wan deflated again and sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose as he hunched beneath an invisible weight.

 

“The sad thing is you actually believe that.”

 

“Obi-wan,” the older man said, his voice low and hard.

 

The former Jedi ignored the tone and continued. “You expect so much from him and give nothing in return. You don’t trust him and he knows it, so why should he live up to your expectations?”

 

“He hasn’t earned our trust!” Mace returned a little more heatedly than he would have liked, although he still had control over his emotions and actions.

 

The look Obi-wan shot him could have sucked Kamino dry. “And just what would it take for him to earn it? Because he will never be the Jedi you want him to be! He has always and will always be his own man, for better or for worse. Why is that so wrong?”

 

Mace had to make a mental effort to not shift under the younger man’s intense but calm and steady gaze. That was another thing that seemed so different about Obi-wan. Most of the other fallen Jedi Mace had studied and come across were so full of rage and hate, each wanting to drag down and drown every spark of light around them. They didn’t think beyond basic plans and let their emotions get in the way of coherent, logical thought processes. So why could Obi-wan return his arguments so firmly and with such a clear head? He hadn’t even been at a master level when he’d left (approaching it, but not quite there yet), which had been the reason they figured Dooku had been so calm most of the time.

 

Still, Mace had always been one to stand by his opinion, and he was not about to back down now.

 

“If he cannot conform to the ways of the Jedi then perhaps it would have been better if we’d found other arrangements for him when he first came to us.”

 

Obi-wan just stared at him coldly. His emotions fluctuated so quickly it was difficult for Mace to keep up with them, and the fact that he had to try with Obi-wan of all people was more than a little disconcerting.

 

“And therein lay the problem. He doesn’t fit the cookie-cutter mold you set up for him and so you refuse to handle him—to think outside the box and accept him for who he is. Because he is a good man, a good warrior and a good Jedi, no matter what you believe.”

 

“This coming from one who has fallen to the darkness?” Mace shot back.

 

Obi-wan’s expression turned troubled but thoughtful. “Perhaps it is something that can only be seen from the outside.” Then his face hardened. “Regardless, if you do not give him something to keep him rooted to the light, then the Sith will claim him. He can either save or destroy you. Those are your choices. If you choose the latter, then the fault will lie with you.”

 

“You should know better than to threaten us,” Mace said, unfolding his arms and bringing his lightsaber to bear, although he had yet to ignite it.

 

“It is no threat,” Obi-wan stated, his features a mask of frosty stone. “The Sith we have all been searching for is sitting on Courscant in the Senate and knows my padawan quite well.”

 

“Your former padawan,” Mace corrected, more as a stalling tactic than anything else. He didn’t know quite what to make of the information. It was something Dooku had stated, insisted upon, actually, but they had chalked that up to him sowing discord. Somehow that seemed below Obi-wan at this point, but Mace had no proof one way or the other, and he couldn’t very well take his former ally’s word for it.

 

Oblivious to Mace’s thoughts, Obi-wan responded. “And yet you refuse to take responsibility for him.” His words sounded simultaneously aggressive and defensive. It took Mace a heartbeat to backtrack his mental train and he managed to pull himself back to the present. This was no time to get lost in thought.

 

“I won’t let you twist this against us,” he shot back.

 

The expression that washed briefly over Obi-wan looked so stung and sad that Mace almost took it back. Almost. But then the cold anger returned.

 

“I am beginning to see why Dooku considered the Jedi to be blind.”

 

“We’re not the blind ones.”

 

“And yet you’ve been complaining about how the dark side has clouded everything.”

 

“That doesn’t make us blind.”

 

“Perhaps not, but it does make you afraid.” And then there was a glint in the other’s eyes that scared Mace more than anything else he’d said the whole conversation. That was when he ignited the lightsaber, although he continued to hold it in defense. Almost as if in a trance, Obi-wan ignored it and took a step forward, never once bringing his own weapon out.

 

“That’s it,” he said, voice somehow lighter and heavier than Mace had ever heard it, and he couldn’t truly pin why he recognized the tone as such. “That’s how he’s doing it.”

 

“What are you talking about?” the Korun master asked as he took in his surroundings once more. There were more than enough exits if he had to retreat, and they had enough room to duel, even if only barely.

 

“It’s how he’s controlling everything so well…he’s using your fear.”

 

“What fear?” Mace returned. “When has the Council or any of the Jedi made a decision out of fear?”

 

“Your fear of Anakin,” Obi-wan went on as if he hadn’t heard. The expression on his face seemed almost exultant, as if he’d suddenly made a connection and figured out some secret to the universe, although there was the dark defensiveness that never left his eyes.

 

“We do not fear the boy,” Mace insisted.

 

“Your fear of the future…”

 

This was getting frustrating. He never had liked being ignored.

 

“Your fear of the Sith—of the dark side in general—”

 

“Fear and avoidance are not the same thing,” the council member defended.

 

Obi-wan took another step forward, his eyes clearing and focusing on Mace. What he saw there made his heart skip a beat. The lifelessness had faded and although his eyes were still the gray-blue, Mace could swear he saw a yellow tint in there. His lips had also gained a sort of elated, almost intoxicated smile.

 

“No, they are not, but one is born of the other.”

 

“Avoiding a situation does not mean we fear it.” And why did he have to try so hard to keep his voice steady? He was speaking the truth, not Obi-wan!

 

“True. But avoidance is most often born of fear—and if it is not, it breeds fear.” He glanced away for a moment and Mace found he could breathe more easily. “How could we have missed this? Have the Jedi grown so complacent that they cannot see their own fear?”

 

And somehow that line seemed to bring the tension that had risen in the room plummeting down to manageable levels again.

 

“You said we,” Mace couldn’t help but point out, lowering his blade ever so slightly.

 

Obi-wan blinked and glanced up at him again. “Pardon?”

 

“Before, you said ‘you’, as if you don’t consider yourself a Jedi anymore, but just barely you said ‘we’ as if you do.”

 

And the sadness returned, smothering the intensely frightening spark in the other’s demeanor. “Old habits die hard, apparently,” he muttered.

 

Then, for the first time in quite a while, Mace decided to take a chance on someone. He debated it, and the logical part of his mind screamed at him to not do what he was considering, but a part of him knew that while logic might help in this instance, a show of faith would do far more than anything else.

 

So he deactivated his lightsaber. Instead of continuing to advance, Obi-wan took a step backwards, looking down at Mace’s weapon and then back up at his face in confusion. Part of that expression plainly told Mace that Obi-wan thought the Council Member had lost his mental facilities.

 

“Obi-wan,” he said slowly, “come back with me. Let us help you.”

 

This time, the expression the other man shot him looked so conflicted Mace didn’t know what to think. He definitely saw longing there, but also sadness and resignation and was that anger? Indignity? Resentment? Whatever the expression, it was so intense it took Mace back.

 

“I can’t, Mace.”

 

The older man frowned. That made about as much sense as the rest of the conversation had—which is to say, almost none. It was obvious at least a part of Obi-wan had wanted to take him up on the offer, so why…?

 

He decided to ask. “Why not?”

 

Obi-wan looked down at his right hand, opening it and closing it slowly, as if he were trying to grasp at something he couldn’t quite reach.

 

“There are things I have to do,” he said.

 

“What things?”

 

To that, Obi-wan shook his head and looked up at Mace again. The lifelessness had returned. The older man wasn’t sure which he preferred, the deadness or the intensity that bordered on insanity.

 

“I can’t sit by and watch him destroy everything, Mace. It’s the only instance that could ever be worse than this.”

 

Mace let out a breath of his own and shook his head. Somehow, he really didn’t want to say what he knew he had to say next.

 

“Obi-wan, I can’t let you go. You know that.”

 

The smirk the other man shot him was nothing but pure Obi-wan, and it reminded him so strongly of the Jedi the man used to be that the Council Member almost chalked the recent conversation up to a bad dream.

 

“You won’t have to. Beware of the Chancellor. He is more than what he seems.”

 

And with that he was gone. Blinking, Mace darted after him, chasing him out into the streets, but Obi-wan had somehow gotten the jump on him and was no where to be seen. Reaching out with the Force, he could not find a trace of the man’s signature at all. He even went so far as to jump to the roof of the building and do a quick search of the surrounding area, but to no avail.

 

Mace sighed. What had the man meant by that? The Chancellor was more than what he seemed? How could that be? He couldn’t be hiding that much from the Jedi…could he? As his mind continued to look into that thought and pick it apart, he turned to finish his patrol and report this encounter to the planetary police. Perhaps they could capture Obi-wan as he tried to get off planet (no he didn't really believe that, but everyone could get lucky).

 

Mace knew that he would also have to catch up to Skywalker. Hopefully the boy hadn’t gotten into more trouble. That thought seemed far less annoying than it had before, probably because of how insignificant Mace’s petty thoughts looked next to everything that had just been dropped into his lap. He couldn’t help but be well aware that he had to bring his recent, unwelcome discoveries before the Council.

 

And only the Council. This was not Senate business now that Obi-wan was no longer a General in the army, so they would not take it before the Chancellor. They couldn’t risk the Sith getting a hold of this, and if there was even the smallest possibility that Obi-wan was right…

 

The Council meeting that would result from this would probably be the only thing more draining than his upcoming personal meditation session.

 

xXx

 

It really wasn’t that difficult to get away from Mace. All he really had to do was find a hiding place and then concentrate on suppressing his Force signature. Obi-wan had no doubt that Master Yoda could have found him, and maybe a handful of other Jedi he could think of off the top of his head, but Mace was still at a level where, as good as he was, he could still be fooled if one knew how to go about it.

 

He waited for several minutes, until the Jedi Master’s own signature had faded, before he crawled out of the small cubby-hole in the side of the old building. It was practically invisible from the outside and while it had its share of unpleasant creatures and decades of build up, it had served its purpose of hiding him rather well.

 

Brushing himself off, he made a mental note to take a shower as soon as possible, and maybe pick up a change of clothing. He was getting tired of just washing these and having nothing else but his old Jedi Robes to put on.

 

He paused and looked around the empty street before turning to go back into the building he’d only just vacated not fifteen minutes previously. Before he left the planet, he had something he needed to address.

 

He came into the room he’d confronted Mace in and paused, folding his arms as he listened to the Force currents. Yes, it was subtle, but he had not been mistaken. His pride suddenly shot up several notches. Anakin had grown.

 

“You can come out now,” he said, unable to hide the amusement in his voice. Although part of him felt indignant that he and Mace had been overheard, most of him still felt that growing bubble of pride. Anakin had been there for who knew how long and Mace hadn’t sensed it at all. If Obi-wan didn’t still have a vague connection to the boy, he wouldn’t have known himself.

 

A ventilation grate near the ceiling suddenly crashed to the ground and Obi-wan watched calmly as Anakin dropped out of it, landing in a ready crouch, even if he looked about as conflicted as Obi-wan had expected.

 

One thing he could see in his padawan’s eyes was betrayal, and suddenly it became extremely hard to breathe. He made sure that he didn’t show it, but he could also feel his cheeks flush ever so slightly with embarrassment and shame. He thought he’d been ready to face Anakin, but at that moment he really just wanted to die and melt into the ground because Anakin shouldn’t ever look at him like that—and hadn’t that been why he couldn’t actually say anything back when he’d woken up on Haadrian?

 

It took what felt like an eternity to get his emotions back in check enough that he could speak clearly.

 

“How much of that did you overhear?”

 

“Enough.”

 

Well, this would be fun. He wondered when he’d started to sound so sarcastic even to himself. He stood a little too rigidly as fear of what his padawan—his son and brother and best friend—would do now keeping him firmly in place. He could feel his fingernails digging into the palm of his hand, even through the gloves he wore. And then the familiarity of fear beginning to melt into that ever oppressing and yet somehow freeing anger.

 

NO! He would not let himself act harshly towards Anakin, because he was more afraid of what he could do—what he would do—to the younger man if he allowed his temper to get away from him. He could have sworn the Force seemed disappointed that he had reigned in his anger, almost nudging at him with that ever tempting allure of power…

 

“I know what you’re thinking,” Obi-wan said neutrally, trying to distract himself from his previous train of thought, although his fists clenched almost as hard at the new one his mind had so suddenly latched onto.

 

“Really?” Anakin asked skeptically, his hand hovering just above his lightsaber.

 

“Yes. You’re thinking ‘he was right’.”

 

That took the boy of guard. “Who?” Anakin asked warily, his defensiveness kicking up a notch but doing nothing to hide his confusion. Oh, he really was too easy to read.

 

“The Chancellor.”

 

At that, the young Jedi’s eyes grew wide.

 

“H-how did you know?”

 

Obi-wan sighed. Sometimes he hated being right. “Because that’s what I would have done in his shoes.”

 

Anakin blinked owlishly at him. “In…his shoes?”

 

The older man watched his former apprentice for several seconds, scrutinizing him. Then he shook his head.

 

“You’re not ready to hear it. You may want to avoid talking to him in the future, though. The Sith Lord can hear everything you say to him.”

 

At least that had the desired result. Anakin paled. “You mean, he has the office bugged?”

 

Obi-wan resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “From a certain point of view,” he said with a shrug. They sat there in a thick silence for several minutes before the former Jedi turned to walk out. This was not going well, and he wasn’t sure how much more pressure and reminders of the past his psyche could take before it snapped. It was a minor miracle that it hadn’t already.

 

“You should return to your duties,” he said softly

 

“M-master!” Anakin stuttered out. “Wait!”

 

And for the life of him, Obi-wan couldn’t stop himself from doing as the boy had asked.

 

“I’m not your master anymore, Anakin,” he said. Then he chuckled mirthlessly as a thought occurred to him. “Now you can look up to real Jedi without me getting in the way.”

 

“Not likely,” Anakin returned, seeming to have gathered his wits. “You said it yourself: they don’t trust me and they fear me.”

 

Obi-wan looked over his shoulder at Anakin. “You are impulsive, reckless and you rely on your heart over your head. You go against everything they have ever been taught to believe and they don’t know how to treat you because of it.” He smiled sadly. “Not to mention you’re just as afraid of them as they are of you.”

 

Predictably, Anakin bristled. “I’m not afraid of them!”

 

“Oh?” Obi-wan inquired, turning to face him and folding his arms derisively. “What do you want more than anything else in the universe, Anakin?”

 

The question seemed to take him off guard again, and that bothered Obi-wan. It suggested a recent change in some status quos…

 

“To be a Jedi, of course,” Anakin finally responded, thankfully with the answer the older man had expected. He still made a mental note to study that out later.

 

“And who has power over that decision?”

 

This time Anakin didn’t answer, obviously not happy about walking into the verbal trap Obi-wan had (rather blatantly in his opinion) set up for him.

 

“You see?” Obi-wan said, waving a hand in invitation. “They hold power over your future, and as you feel you cannot trust them, that scares you.”

 

“I’m not afraid of them,” Anakin said stubbornly.

 

Obi-wan felt his lips thin. “Anakin, it isn’t wrong to be afraid of them, but even if you do not desire to be afraid, the sooner you admit to yourself that you are, the sooner you can overcome it.”

 

“Why should I listen to a man who gave into his fears?” Anakin shot back defensively.

 

Obi-wan visibly recoiled as that shot through his heart. He hadn’t expected Anakin to hurt him that badly, even in anger. Then again, he himself had done some pretty despicable things out of anger alone recently.

 

He felt the darkness well inside of him, encouraging him to fight back, but he held himself in check. This was Anakin. The best thing he could do right now was retreat before he said something he regretted.

 

“Goodbye, Anakin,” he said and turned again.

 

“Master, wait! I’m sorry…I didn’t mean—”

 

“Then maybe you should think before you speak for once in your life!” Well, so much for not regretting what he said.

 

He glanced back again to see Anakin drawing into himself and sighed as he mentally kicked himself. “You have my apologies as well, Anakin,” he finally forced himself to say. He didn’t really feel it, but he couldn’t leave it like that. “It is no excuse, but I am not exactly at my best right now. What patience I used to have has been greatly reduced and I tend to be far more impulsive and I regret far less than I should.”

 

He turned towards his former padawan once again, opening his arms and holding the palms of his hands forward in an open gesture. “Take a good look, Anakin. This is what the dark side does to you. It takes every scrap of goodness you ever had and twists it. Every good memory, every good intention, every drop of love. You may not be able to imagine it now, but it takes everything that is you away—all in exchange for power.

 

“I know power appeals to you. You seem to think that because you are powerful, you deserve more. You deserve better ranks or more leeway. Being a Jedi is not about power, Anakin. It never has been, and as long as you continue to focus on power alone, you will never be the Jedi you could be.”

 

Anakin shuffled his feet nervously. The gesture made him look more like the 9-year-old that had come to the temple all those years ago instead of the man he had become. “You don’t think I can ever be a Jedi anyway.”

 

And this time, Obi-wan couldn’t help but roll his eyes. “No, I said you will be an unconventional Jedi that will never fit the mold as it is right now. I never even implied that you should do otherwise. I still think you can be the best Jedi the universe has ever seen.”

 

Anakin looked up uncertainly at his former Master and Obi-wan suddenly became aware of how easy it would be to tear the boy down right then and there. If Palpatine saw this every time Anakin went into his office…he shoved the thought aside before it could summon any more anger. He would not lose control around Anakin. Not now, not ever. He’d rather die.

 

“You do?”

 

There was a tone in the other’s voice that Obi-wan did not like.

 

“Do you honestly think I could have said that if I didn’t mean it?” Obi-wan asked, his tone casual but eyes studying the boy again.

 

“I guess not.”

 

Sometimes he could swear his padawan took ‘frustration’ to a whole new level.

 

And he really couldn’t deal with that right now. “You really should go, Anakin,” he said and made to leave for the third time.

 

“Master,” he said again.

 

Obi-wan suppressed a sigh. “What is it now, Anakin? And please stop calling me ‘master’.”

 

Anakin looked at his feet. “I…uh…” he glanced at Obi-wan and then looked away again.

 

“Any day, now, Anakin.”

 

The impatience in his voice was all too clear to him, and he was sure Anakin caught it too. Still, the boy didn’t back down. It was something he’d always admired in his padawan…former padawan.

 

“H…have you joined the Sith?”

 

Obi-wan had seen that one coming. Actually, he was surprised that it had taken Anakin this long to ask.

 

“No. I’ll admit I’ve turned from the light, but I will not join that man.”

 

Anakin bit his lip as his brow furrowed. “You sound like you know who he is.”

 

Obi-wan couldn’t help his darkening expression. “I have my suspicions.”

 

“Who?”

 

This time Obi-wan’s smile seemed fond, almost reproving. “I’ve given you all the clues, Anakin. You’ll have to figure that one out on your own.”

 

Again a pregnant pause fell between them as the younger boy thought over that. Then Anakin seemed to gather his courage.

 

“Why won’t you come back?” the boy blurted. “I’ll be there to help you. I’m sure you can come back if we could just—”

 

“No,” Obi-wan said abruptly, suddenly feeling old beyond his years. “I can’t.”

 

Anakin paused, looking confused. “Why not?” he sounded so unlike the Anakin Obi-wan had always known; unsure and wary and disbelieving…

 

Obi-wan looked away again, feeling the shame wash over him, no matter how he tried to keep it back. “Do you honestly think I want to stay like this? If I could return to the light again I would do so in a heartbeat."

 

“Then why—”

 

“I can’t, Anakin. I’ve tried,” Obi-wan cut in. He couldn’t bear hearing that question come from the person he cared most for. “I’ve never stopped trying but only the dark side answers me. The light…wants nothing to do with me anymore.”

 

And suddenly he felt so vulnerable and he hated it. His mind screamed at him to retreat, but he couldn’t seem to make his feet move.

 

“But…” Anakin started before fading off, genuinely confused. Obi-wan knew what he was trying to ask.

 

“You know the teachings, Anakin. Once you start down the dark path, it will forever dominate your destiny. It entraps you and enslaves you and takes away any choice you thought you ever had. There is no going back for me. I chose this, Anakin. It may have been just a moment, and I may have felt that I had no other choice, but I made a conscious decision. This…this is my fate now.”

 

“But, that doesn’t make sense,” Anakin said, still puzzled.

 

“Why doesn’t it make sense?” Obi-wan asked, not liking how tight and weary his voice sounded.

 

“Because,” the padawan said, still seeming to be lost in thought, “when I kil...” he suddenly cut off and his eyes widened as if he just realized what he had been about to say.

 

Obi-wan felt his blood turn to ice and he turned a hardened gaze on the younger man. “When you what?” he asked, more than a little warning in his tone.

 

It was Anakin’s turn to look away in shame. “Nothing, Master.”

 

“Oh, no, you don’t,” Obi-wan shot, unable to keep the ever growing anger from his voice. “Who did you kill?”

 

Anakin rarely acted ashamed, and usually when he did…yes, there was the anger. Obi-wan’s stomach suddenly sank. He was seeing in Anakin what he went through multiple times a day recently.

 

“You didn’t tell me any of this! You just ran off and left everything behind! You didn’t tell me where you went or what happened and I had to find out everything by overhearing you arguing with Mace Windu! You won’t even tell me what happened to turn you and you expect me to tell you anything?!” Anakin growled.

 

Obi-wan wanted to rush over and shake the boy until he saw sense, and he wanted to strangle him until he confessed everything…and he couldn’t help but realize yet again just how different that was from what he used to be. Obi-wan had always been a ‘live and let live’ kind of person. He hated seeing people in pain and always did everything he could to help, but if they refused his offers, he never pushed further. Somehow, though—he suspected it was due to his recent insights into anger and the dark side—he knew that this was not a time to back away.

 

So he forced himself to remain calm and think rationally. Anakin always had learned by example. If he saw someone else do it, he would almost always be able to copy and remember whatever he was learning. Oh, he did not like where this was going.

 

“You have a point,” Obi-wan said finally, having to pour every ounce of self restraint into not saying it through clenched teeth. “Very well, I will tell you what happened and why I chose this if you tell me about what happened on Tatooine.”

 

It wasn’t his usual method of speaking to Anakin—treating him like an adult he didn’t act like didn’t strike Obi-wan as a wise plan, but then his normal methods didn’t often work either. Not anymore. Seeing his former padawan as he did now, he wasn’t sure they ever had.

 

Anakin started defensively at Obi-wan’s words. “How did you know it was on Tatooine?”

 

Obi-wan scoffed disdainfully. “Did you honestly think I wouldn’t notice how you changed after that mission?”

 

“Then why didn’t you ever say anything?”

 

The former Jedi shook his head as the weariness (and bitterness) returned. “I wanted you to come to me. I wanted you to trust me. I wanted you to tell me on your own, and I was naïve enough to think that you actually would.”

 

Anakin had the good grace to look abashed. After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, he glanced up at his master uncertainly.

 

“You promise you’ll tell?”

 

Obi-wan wanted to roll his eyes again. There had to be a serious developmental issue somewhere if his padawan had such problems with growing up. “Yes, Anakin. I promise.”

 

Again, Anakin frowned. “You go first.”

 

Obi-wan’s stomach clenched again but he nodded firmly and thought about what he could possibly say. He did not want to go back and relive the experience that had led to his fall. He had spent weeks repressing the memories and he was afraid of how angry they would make him. But he’d promised Anakin, and somehow he knew that this would be a shattering point (for good or bad he could not say) for the younger man just as much as it would be for him. So, finally, he just opened his mouth and began to speak.

 

“I’d had enough,” he said. “She was torturing you, she had already tortured me…and I couldn’t take it anymore.” And here he was showing his weakness to his padawan, and it went against every single instinct he had. Padawans needed to see their teachers as strong people they should look up to…but then, he wasn’t a Jedi anymore, and Anakin needed to know that too. He hadn’t been joking when he’d told Anakin that he needed to find another role-model, one who was actually worthy of his respect.

 

“I had to save us…so I stopped fighting it,” he went on, feeling that well of shame rise inside of him and begin to overflow again. “I wasn’t strong enough.” And what was he supposed to say after that? He thought for a moment, but nothing came to mind, so he continued with the story.

 

“Once I let the darkness in, I was able to free us and took Ventress by surprise. I was able to obtain one of her lightsabers and killed her.”

 

Anakin looked at him skeptically. “Okay, that makes some sense. But there’s no way you could have dueled her in the condition you were in,” he said, folding his arms. “There’s something you’re not telling me.”

 

Obi-wan clenched his jaw. It was getting increasingly more difficult to control his temper. But he had promised…kriff it. And since when did he even think such uncouth thoughts? Perhaps he’d been hanging around riff-raff for too long.

 

Reluctantly, he expounded. “She went to attack you and I managed to take her by surprise. I don’t think she realized my physical limitations didn’t impede my connection to the Force. I…used it to choke her,” he managed to say, although he was sure Anakin heard the suppressed anger and hatred in his voice.

 

“You Force-choked her?” Anakin asked, the expression of surprised disbelief back on his face.

 

“I believe that is what I just said,” Obi-wan growled, unconsciously clenching his fist and then continued. He really just wanted to get this over with. “After that, I enlisted one of the other prisoners to help me carry you to the ship.”

 

Anakin frowned again, although the stunned expression hadn’t quite left his face. “Where did they go?”

 

“They stayed on the planet,” Obi-wan said as he rubbed the bridge of his nose.

 

“You didn’t kill them?”

 

Obi-wan looked at Anakin incredulously. “Of course not, Anakin. I would never kill an innocent in cold blood. Even now I can claim that I have not done so.”

 

“What about the clone trooper you were captured with, the one you told me about when we were in that cell?”

 

The former Jedi blinked at the younger man. He’d completely and utterly forgotten about the arc trooper that had been taken with him. Where was the man now? Still stuck in Ventress’ dungeons somewhere? Dead?

 

The small fountain of overflowing guilt had turned into a veritable waterfall with the last few revelations. It seemed unstoppable and the whole analogy fit so well with how he so often felt as if he were drowning.

 

“I don’t know.”

 

Anakin frowned, but before he could say anything, Obi-wan decided to get his own questions answered. “I told you,” he said tersely, “now tell me, who did you kill?”

 

Not that Anakin hadn’t ever killed anyone before, although it had always been in self defense as far as Obi-wan knew.

 

When Anakin spoke next, his voice was low and slurred. Obi-wan could practically feel the shame through the Force, and it didn’t help his own in the slightest.

 

“When I went after my mom,” he said. “The Sand People had her and I caught up to them. She was still alive.” Obi-wan knew this. He’d managed to get that much out of Anakin at least. Almost everything else Anakin told him was new. “She…she died in my arms. I was right there and I couldn’t do anything…and…”

 

He faded off, not saying anything more.

 

“And?” Obi-wan prompted.

 

Anakin looked up at Obi-wan, his cheeks burning in shame. “And I killed them all,” he said.

 

It was Obi-wan’s turn to blink in shock. “Y-you what?” the former Jedi asked weakly.

 

The expression on Anakin’s face contorted in anger. “I killed them all,” he said, more firm this time. “Down to the very last child.”

 

And that made Obi-wan very sick.

 

“Oh, Anakin…” he said, feeling his own heart sink. If Anakin had already gone that far…what kind of a teacher was he? Maybe Qui-gon’s teachings were corrupt after all if this was the result. Dooku had taught Qui-gon…maybe they were all fated to be corrupted from the very beginning. Perhaps Qui-gon had just been lucky enough to die before he fell…

 

And he instantly felt regret for even thinking that.

 

“I don’t regret it,” Anakin said, still angry as he stood in front of his former master, hands clenched at his sides.

 

Obi-wan could only shake his head. “I’ve taught you well,” he muttered, half to himself, half to Anakin.

 

Anakin’s frown gained just a touch of confusion. “What?”

 

“You lie to yourself very well,” Obi-wan said, leaning back against the door frame. “That wasn’t something you were supposed to learn from me. You have my apologies. ”

 

“I’m not lying to myself!” Anakin insisted, the anger back in full force.

 

Obi-wan didn’t let it visibly faze him, although he couldn’t stop his voice from cooling several degrees. “If you didn’t regret it, you wouldn’t be angry.”

 

“They killed my mother!” the younger man yelled. “Why shouldn’t I be angry?”

 

“Who are you angrier at?” Obi-wan asked, surprised he wasn’t getting more upset himself. He just felt so…tired. Not just his body, but his soul and his mind and it went so deep that it felt as if it had always been a part of him but he had only just realized. He could force himself on through the tiredness. That was something he’d been doing for decades. “Them or yourself?” he went on.

 

“I don’t understand,” Anakin said through clenched teeth.

 

Obi-wan continued to voice his thoughts, blaming his bluntness on his tiredness and Anakin’s influence and the dark side dancing in glee at Anakin’s anger. “You couldn’t save your mother, and you blame yourself. Don’t deny it.”

 

Anakin closed his mouth with a clop.

 

“So who are you more angry at?”

 

Obi-wan just watched as Anakin’s teeth ground for a few moments.

 

“You!” Anakin finally shouted, taking Obi-wan by surprise. A horrible, gut-wrenching feeling began to grow in him. “I told you and you just said that dreams pass! If I’d left when I first had the visions I could have saved her!”

 

Obi-wan felt sick. Anakin blamed him…and there was some validation to his claim. If he’d been a little more understanding…but then, how was he to know? How could he have possibly known? And who was Anakin to blame him? It wasn’t his fault!

 

The former Jedi narrowed his eyes in his former Apprentice’s direction.

 

“Then you are a fool.” He didn’t know why he said it. He didn’t think he would ever say something so hurtful and blunt, but somehow those words pushed themselves to the front of his mind, almost out of his mouth.

 

The confused hurt on his padawan’s face made him rethink the words though. They had been rather cruel. Perhaps he should at least soften the blow.

 

“We all do foolish things,” he said. “But I do think you’re angrier at yourself.”

 

“I’m not!” Anakin insisted, although he seemed rather off balance.

 

Obi-wan shook his head again, feeling the anger dissipate somewhat. “You really are too much like me.”

 

And there Anakin looked even more confused. “What?”

 

“You feel and care so deeply and can only handle so much.” He closed his eyes, wishing with all of his heart that he could touch the light again. That serenity would be so utterly welcome at this point. “I don’t want to see you break…like I did.”

 

Before all of this, Obi-wan would have been relieved to see Anakin think about that. Now he just watched with a weariness that bordered on apathy as the boy pondered these words, his anger still there but seeming to leak away before Obi-wan’s eyes.

 

When Anakin didn’t answer for a few minutes, Obi-wan continued, returning to the matter at hand. “And so you murdered every single man, woman and child in that clan, correct?” The way Anakin looked away from him gave him his answer. “But if you really did not feel badly about it, you would have come to me.” His next words came out very quiet and small. “You still could have.”

 

“I would have been kicked out of the Order,” Anakin protested.

 

“So you are afraid of the Council?” Obi-wan asked, bringing his previous point back into play, but he went on before Anakin could say anything in response. “Anakin, they wouldn’t have expelled you for that if you were truly repentant and vowed never to use the dark side again.”

 

“They wouldn’t?” The boy looked so surprised.

 

Obi-wan shook his head. “Do you think you’re the only Jedi who has ever given into their dark impulses in the heat of the moment? They wouldn’t have gone easy on you, but they wouldn’t have expelled you unless they had suspicions that you would continue to kill without remorse.”

 

The boy’s expression fell to a dry skepticism. “If that’s true why aren’t you going back?”

 

Obi-wan looked down at his hand. “Because I can only use the dark side now.”

 

“But that makes no sense! I had no problem going back!”

 

“Didn’t you?” Obi-wan asked. Anakin looked taken aback and he paused, staring at Obi-wan with wide eyes. It took him a few minutes to answer.

 

“I can still use the Force normally.”

 

Obi-wan chuckled mirthlessly. “You’re The Chosen One.”

 

Anakin frowned. “I thought you didn’t believe that.”

 

Oh, he could definitely feel a headache coming on. “No, Anakin, I was making a point to Mace, nothing more. I wanted to make sure he stopped treating you like you’re a bomb about to go off. I do believe you’re The Chosen One.”

 

The boy’s frown deepened. “Then what’s that got to do with it?”

 

“Of course you would be able to do things normal Jedi can’t,” Obi-wan said in an exasperated voice, but then his tone softened. “You’re stronger than me, Anakin. You can go back…I can’t.”

 

“But Master—”

 

“Do you regret it, Anakin?” Obi-wan cut in, suddenly desperate to know. “Do you regret killing them? I know you said you didn’t, but answer me one more time…please.”

 

Anakin blinked, looking extremely uncomfortable. “They killed my mother…”

 

“That’s not what I asked, Anakin.”

 

“Why should I regret it?”

 

Obi-wan looked at him hard. “Even the children? Even the innocents?”

 

He shuffled uneasily, but then he seemed to steel himself and he looked up at Obi-wan.

 

“No, I don’t.”

 

And suddenly everything Obi-wan had fought for seemed so worthless. All of it had been for naught because even if Anakin hadn’t already fallen, he was so close he may as well have. “Then which one of us is darker?” he asked quietly.

 

He ignored the pained look on his padawan’s face.

 

“You may be able to use the Force like a Jedi, but there are lines I have not crossed that you have.” He seemed to lose himself at that and he stared into space. “The difference is you can still return…” He focused on Anakin again. “You have a precious chance that people like me will never have. Don’t waste it or you will lose everything and everyone you have ever held dear; the Jedi, your freedom…and Padmé.”

 

Anakin winced. “You knew about that too?” he asked.

 

Obi-wan repressed a groan. “No, I suspected. You just confirmed it.”

 

“Oh.”

 

The former Jedi looked away from his padawan in disappointment, but then his resolve hardened. Yes a lot of the fault for everything that had happened lay with him, and a good deal more fell with his padawan, but all of it really stemmed back to Sidious.

 

“I have less time than I thought,” he muttered, half to himself, half to Anakin. “If he’s already gotten to you like that…I can’t wait to figure everything out on my own. I have to find a mentor somehow….”

 

“Wait, what?” Anakin asked.

 

Obi-wan drew himself out of his thoughts and looked at his padawan one last time. “Anakin, never forget what has happened to me and ask yourself if more power is worth Padmé’s life, or the lives of all of the Jedi at the Temple, because that is what it will cost. What you felt after Tatooine…it will be several times worse if you follow in my footsteps. Don’t listen to anything he says.”

 

“Wait, who says?” Anakin almost shouted, his voice shrill.

 

“The Sith.”

 

“But I don’t know who the Sith is,” the other said in exasperation.

 

Obi-wan looked grimly at his former padawan. “Yes, you do.”

 

And with that, he was gone, running out of the door and back to his little cubby hole before Anakin could even reach the door. His plans had changed. He had to find some way to challenge Palpatine—had to take him out before he could do much more damage to Anakin. He couldn’t do that on his own…but he had no idea where he could look for any sort of guidance.

 

He kept his Force signature suppressed as Anakin rushed around the area, looking for him. Obi-wan briefly wondered what the boy thought he would do if he found his former Master, but then turned his thoughts back to the problem that had just come up.

 

So what would he have to do to take out Palpatine? He’d have to infiltrate the Senate and get close to the man, but he knew he couldn’t hide himself from the Sith. Yes he could suppress his Force signature, but not for long. He would slip up eventually, and if he was to go up against Sidious in his chosen arena, he couldn’t afford to be anything but utterly perfect in his acting abilities. He’d also have to be stronger. He couldn’t afford to be wishy-washy anymore. No more dabbling or dallying. He had to learn to use the tools at his command.

 

He’d shied away from his status as a dark-sider up until this point, but doing so for any longer would only help Sidious. So he would stop flinching whenever the cold answered his call, or whenever the wild energy almost carried him away. As he’d told Anakin, that was his life now.

 

He’d have to—

 

And then a vision came to him, intense and real and so blatant it left him gasping. It was a planet. One he’d never visited but one that every Jedi knew to avoid if at all possible. Red and swirling, it gave off a feeling that seemed both foreboding and welcoming. It called to him.

 

Opening his eyes, Obi-wan continued to gasp for air as the cold surrounded him. He knew the planet—he knew where the Force was leading him.

 

“Dathomir,” he whispered.

You know the closer you get to something

The tougher it is to see it,

And I'll Never take it for granted,

Let's go!

 

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