Happy Easter everyone. I wrote a bit and here is the next chapter.
Still looking for a beta. All mistakes are mine and if you point them out, I'll correct them.
Back at the palace, Mace, Adi, Bail and Dack Terek hurried to arrest the Governor while Obi-Wan, Anakin and Dooku stayed with a worried Padme in her quarters. The young Queen couldn't help feeling nervous. Obi-Wan had avoided her questioning gazes ever since they'd arrived. She was used to him treating her formally while she acted in her office as Queen, but usually his eyes would sparkle with joy and delight and he would seek out an opportunity to exchange a few personal words.
She was wondering why Dooku was with them but didn't ask. It was obvious that something bad had occurred, and if the former Jedi Master had any part in it, they would have brought him in as prisoner. As this wasn't the case, she concluded that he must have helped them in some way, for which she was grateful. "Sit down," she said and put glasses and refreshments in front of them. No one spoke a word and she was shifting uncomfortably.
Of course, it was Anakin, who broke the silence, totally ignoring the tension between his Master and Dooku. "Thank you, Padme. I am starving. Oh, I am very happy when we can finally take off this rock. . . ." He trailed off when he saw Obi-Wan's scowl.
"Well, is anyone going to tell me what happened?" Padme asked before another moment of silence could begin.
Obi-Wan shook himself out of his trance at that. "I'd rather not talk about it, Padme," he said, his voice way too cold. But when he noticed her hurt gaze, a warm shimmer came to his eyes. "I am sorry."
Insisting wouldn't help. She had some experience with his moods by now and she never had seen him quite so closed off. She told herself that he would confide in her as soon as he was ready.
It didn't take Bail long to call her. They needed her to stand witness for the agreement. With an apologetic smile, she left, her worries not settled in the least.
After Padme had gone, Anakin walked over to the window, not able to endure the continued silence. He debated with himself on how to get his Master to open up. Still, he recognized that this wasn't a good idea while Dooku was present.
Suddenly Dooku let out an exasperated sigh. "You have to snap out of it, Obi-Wan," he stated, his annoyance obvious.
Before Obi-Wan was able to respond, Anakin turned around, facing the Sith. "You will address my Master with respect, Dooku," he said in a contemptuous tone. "I won't stand by. . . ."
"Anakin, leave it," the Jedi interfered in what Anakin always described as his Master-voice. "Dooku did help me in a dire situation. There is no need to treat him like that." His Padawan gave him a facial expression of disbelief. Only he didn't dare contradict him in front of Dooku.
The former Jedi shook his head with a rueful smile. "I wanted to speak to you alone, Obi-Wan. Anyhow, it appears that your apprentice won't leave your side for the foreseeable future, so I will state my part now."
Obi-Wan gave him a nod. "There are no secrets between me and my Padawan."
Dooku raised an inquisitive eyebrow. "Oh, aren't there?" he couldn't help saying. He leaned forward locking eyes with the young Jedi Master. "The block won't hold forever, Obi-Wan. If you want to get rid of Sidious for good, we need to find his anchor on this side. You realized how dangerous his presence in your mind can be. Just do me the favor and accept my support. Together we can work it out, and I will be able to provide you with protective measures against him."
Anakin was speechless. What was Dooku talking about? He knew that Obi-Wan was permanently struggling against Sidious' voice in his head, but he had been able to manage well enough. Hadn't he. . . ? No! He rushed to his Master's side, suddenly having his worst suspicions confirmed.
He placed his hand on Obi-Wan's shoulder and the Jedi Master looked up to him with sorrowful eyes. "I'm sorry, Anakin," he said, well aware of the fact that the young man had worked it out. "I wasn't strong enough to fight him. He took over and. . . . I killed them all."
Anakin shook his head, trying hard not to show his emotions. "It wasn't you!" he said firmly. "You wouldn't have been able to do that if he hadn't made you. I know you!"
Dooku rolled his eyes. "As touching as this interaction between Master and Padawan is, we can't ignore the fact that it happened and that now that Obi-Wan let Sidious in, my former Master will continue to torment him until he finally reaches his goal."
Anakin gave him an understanding nod. "We need to destroy him," he said with determination in his voice. "What do you suggest?"
Dooku's surprise at the Padawan's demeanor showed on his face. Satisfied, he began, "I found a book on old Sith Magic which describes a process to retain one's consciousness in the Force. To do so you have to use a person or an object as an anchor. I. . . Well, I am not sure what he used. We would have to do more research. First, I need to know what exactly happened during your fight before I killed him, Obi-Wan. If he used you as his anchor. . . ."
Obi-Wan nodded resignedly. "I would have to die to get rid of him."
Anakin inhaled sharply at that. "That's. . . not an option,"
His Master closed his eyes briefly. Then he took the young man's hand and squeezed it, trying to reassure him. "Let's be realistic, Anakin. It could well be that he did it during the fight. If that's the case, there is no point in refusing to do what is necessary."
Anakin swallowed thickly. "No. . . ." he said, defeat in his voice, knowing that his Master had a point.
"Let's not dwell on the worst possibility," Dooku stepped in. "He could have prepared this a long time ago. If he used an object, it would have to be a powerful one, a Sith Holocron maybe. We would have to retrace his steps to find it. And. . . Well, the fact that he has a connection to Obi-Wan could help."
Anakin sat down across from his Master, locking eyes with him. "Are you considering this? I mean, I am not sure if the Council will allow us to work together with a Sith, no matter how desperate we are."
Obi-Wan shook his head. "They won't. The path Dooku suggests is too dangerous. The line between Light and Dark must be crossed to have a chance of success, and they won't give their permission to such a plan."
"We must do it without the Council's approval, then," Anakin responded firmly. "If there is a possibility for you to be free of him, we need to pursue it."
He didn't like the sad look his Master was giving him at that. "Anakin," he said with a sigh. "You know that I can't take you with me. It's much too soon for you to enter such a fight."
"Master, I am ready! I won't let you do this alone!" Anakin was desperate, knowing Obi-Wan well enough to take this seriously.
The Jedi Master's gaze shifted over to Dooku. "Would you mind giving me a moment with my Padawan?"
Dooku stood up and walked over to the door, accepting that this had to be discussed in private. "Anakin," he said with surprising compassion in his voice. "I understand that you want to help your Master. But we need to consider what Sidious is capable of. He won't hesitate to use your relationship to turn Obi-Wan. He was always obsessed with him, and you are exactly what he requires to succeed."
Anakin swallowed thickly when the former Jedi left.
"He's right, you know," Obi-Wan said with a sad expression in his eyes. "I would love nothing more than taking you with me. You know I only feel complete with you by my side. But. . . ."
The young man gave him a slow nod. "You can't take the risk. . . Are you going to leave me with Master Windu then?"
Obi-Wan seemed to be surprised by his acceptance.
"Master, I am not him," Anakin stated, knowing well enough where the surprise did come from. "I am certain you would take me with you if you could. I trust you."
Tears shimmered in the young Master's eyes at that. He took a deep breath, straining for a measure of calm. "It's not the first time that you would train with Master Windu. You always liked it."
"The difference to before being that you are going to leave without the Council's approval. You won't know how they will react. Even worse, I won't know when or if you will be back," Anakin responded, not able to hide his desperation.
Obi-Wan stood up and waved his Padawan over to him, placing his arms around him. "I will be back as soon as I can, Ani, I promise. Even if the Council decides that I can no longer be your Master or even a Jedi, it won't change anything about our relationship."
Anakin squeezed him back. "I know. No one will be able to separate us for good. Just promise that you will call for help when you need it."
"I will. And tell Qui-Gon. . . Just tell him that I'm sorry," he said, swallowing against the lump forming in his throat.
After Mace Windu and Adi Gallia had taken the Governor of Altiria into custody, it didn't take the Altirii long to agree to negotiations with the Anarrian and Bail set up the terms quickly. Mace was impressed by the young Senator's efficiency. A treaty about how the peace process should continue was signed in no time, and the ceremony with the young Queen of Naboo standing witness left the Korun-Master time to examine the Governor's communication device.
Adi was giving him a questioning glance when he let out an annoyed huff. "It's encrypted. I am not sure if we can find information about the Sith Lord with this," he said, shaking his head.
"Well," Adi replied, "At least we have a confession from the Governor. It will help us convince the Senate that this elusive Sith apprentice is a real threat."
"Yes, that's a relief. They were starting doubt our word. Now we should be able to get their approval to in extending our search."
Bail Organa approached them, apparently satisfied with the results of this mission. "We will take the Governor with us to Coruscant. Maybe further interrogation will be more successful. In any case, he has to answer for his crimes in front of a Galactic court."
"It seems we have everything covered here then." Adi concluded and gave Padme a smile as she came over to them. "Your Highness, we are very grateful for your support." She bowed with respect to the Queen and Padme inclined her head politely.
"I am always at your service, Master Gallia." She gave Mace an inquisitive look." Now that we've resolved this conflict, I'd very much like to know what happened earlier. Obi-Wan is not himself right now and he usually isn't shaken lightly. There must be another reason than the Altirii trying to kill him."
The Jedi were looking down uncomfortably. After a moment of silence, Adi cleared her throat. "We would really like to know that, too. We found Obi-Wan and Dooku not far from the Anarrian camp. They were surrounded by dead Altirii soldiers. We can't tell you exactly what happened but. . . it was disconcerting to say the least."
Padme looked to Bail and the Senator gave her a nod. "I am no expert but it was obvious that a Dark-Sider must have killed them with the Force."
"Dooku?" Padme asked her gaze shifting to Mace.
The Korun-Master narrowed his eyes, reaching into the Force. "I am not sure. It didn't feel like him."
Padme shook her head in denial at what his words seemed to imply. "Obi-Wan couldn't do something like that. You can't really believe this!"
"Let's not jump to any conclusions," Mace replied firmly. "Adi, would you mind preparing our ship, so that we can return the Governor to Coruscant? I'd very much like to have a word with Obi-Wan alone."
Adi gave him a nod and left without further discussion. "I am going to inform the Chancellor," BaiI said, glad to have something to focus on.
"I'll bring you over, Master Windu," Padme murmured, her face showing concern.
Mace Windu sensed a wave of sadness when he entered Padme's quarters to speak to Obi-Wan. The intensity of it in the Force made him cringe. Even more uncomfortable was the hint of darkness that still lingered even though Dooku wasn't present. It confirmed his suspicion that the disturbance was centered around the young Master rather than the Sith.
"Are you going to tell me what happened out there?" he asked, shaking Obi-Wan out of his musings.
The young Jedi heaved a deep sigh. "I'm not sure how to begin. . . ."
"Well, explaining the fact how we found at least thirty dead soldiers when meeting you would be a good start," the Korun-Master answered, trying not to sound judgmental.
Obi-Wan placed his hands on his face and Mace felt sadness turn into desperation. "I killed them," the young Jedi murmured, almost too quietly for Mace to hear.
For a moment, he thought he had misunderstood. But the currents of the Force around him pointed out the truth clearly enough. "You. . . How? You would never. . . ."
Obi-Wan looked up and shook his head. "No, I wouldn't, but in this case I did. I gave in to Sidious' presence in my mind. . ." He stood up, beginning to pace. "I could tell you that the circumstances were difficult, that I was injured and feared for my Padawan, that I had no other choice but to let him use Sith healing magic on me. But in the end, I had a choice. I let him do it, and from that moment on I couldn't keep him at bay any longer. He used my power to kill the soldiers and now he's lingering in the back of my mind, only held at bay by shields Dooku erected. I wouldn't have been able to push him back on my own. If I want to be myself again, I need him gone, Mace, I can't live with this any longer."
Master Windu was surprised to see that much emotion openly displayed. Obi-Wan usually treated every situation with the ever-present grace and serenity of an accomplished Jedi Master. He couldn't' remember when he had been able to read the young man's feelings that easily in the past. "I'm not sure I understand where you're going with this. I thought we had agreed that Master Yoda would be looking for a way to get rid of him. Are you telling me, you can't wait any longer for him to do that?" It pained him to answer Obi-Wan's desperation with such rationality. However, his duty as Councilor won over his need to reassure a friend. He knew that Padme, Bail and Anakin could give the young man their emotional support instead.
Obi-Wan huffed in annoyance. "No, I can't wait any longer. I am certain that Sidious is already plotting how to get out again. What will happen then? I need another way to finally get rid of him."
"Another way? But if even Master Yoda can't help, who can we turn to?" Mace asked, disconcerted.
"Dooku suggested that he could help me finding a solution. We would need to do more research, but there is a possibility. I. . . Well, you won't like that at all. . . It's necessary that I familiarize myself with Sith teachings to succeed. It could even require me to use the Dark Side. But, Mace, I have to do this."
The Korun-Master shook his head with vehemence. "You can't be serious. That's what he wants. Sidious is going to use this against you. We can't afford to lose you to the Dark. And with Dooku of all people! You can't trust him!"
The room filled with agitation and Mace cringed at the power behind it.
"There's no other way," Obi-Wan exclaimed. "He already used me to kill people. I need him out or I am doomed to go Dark anyway."
Mace tried to move toward him, but stopped immediately when he saw the young Jedi retreating. "Please, reconsider this, Obi-Wan," he said softly, trying to reason with him. "We can find another way. Master Yoda is working on it."
"He's been working on it for three years. And it led to nothing. I can't let Sidious play his games any longer. I have to protect Anakin, Padme, . . . Force. . . I have to protect all of you!"
Mace cringed again when a new wave of desperation filled the room. He took a moment to consider the consequences of what the young man was proposing and being the Jedi Master he was, he was able to see the threads of future events quite clearly. The clarity of it shook him to his core. The Jedi couldn't afford to lose Obi-Wan. "The Council will never approve of this. They will banish you," he said flatly.
Obi-Wan gave him a nod. He had already known this would happen. He straightened and in an instant, all the emotions were gone, replaced by serenity. "They will do what they must do. I am doing the same. My decision is made, Mace. I just beg you to take over Anakin's training. He trusts you and I don't want him to suffer for my choices."
Mace wasn't ready to accept this without a fight. "Obi-Wan, I am not sure if the Council will welcome you back after this. You don't have to be concerned about Anakin. No one is going to judge him by your actions and I will train him. But please reconsider this. We need you!"
The young Master looked down, his voice soft, he said with determination, "I' m sorry, Mace. I can't. I need to do this!"
Padme was looking toward the door of her quarters wearily. When Master Windu had left to talk to Obi-Wan, she had expected that their discussion would be serious. However, she wasn't prepared to hear them both raising their voices. She never had heard Mace Windu shout, and she asked herself what exactly it was that they were talking about.
The door opened and the Councilor stepped out, more upset than she had ever seen him. He turned around once more and said: "The Council won't ignore this. As much as I understand your motives, I won't be able to help you if you pursue this."
Obi-Wan gave him an accepting nod. "I know, Mace. I didn't make this decision lightly. But . . . I can't continue living like this."
Padme felt that deep down Mace understood what the young man was doing. But as a representative of the Jedi Council he wasn't able to admit to it. With a brief nod, he left them alone.
Slowly Padme walked into the room, closing the door behind her. "What did you do?" she asked, tentatively, realizing that he didn't need another confrontation. She wanted to support him, however, she had difficulties to do so, when he shut her out like this.
He sank onto his chair. "I'm sorry, Padme," he said and she got the feeling that he still was reluctant to tell her what was going on.
She knelt before him, taking his hands, squeezing them slightly. "Please, don't do this," she said softly. "I know that something terrible must have happened. Just tell me, so I can help you."
He shook his head. "You can't help me. No one can. I need to deal with this on my own."
"Is that the reason why you sent Anakin away? Why you made Master Windu angry? So, that you can play hero and deal with everything on your own again?"
His incredulous gaze told her that she had reached him. "We've been already over this, Obi-Wan," she said firmly. "The times that you took the destiny of the universe on your shoulders have passed. You agreed with us that help and support is something even you can accept."
He swallowed at that. "Padme, Sidious is getting stronger," he said with a trembling voice. "For the last three years, I was able to force him into the back of my mind. I felt him, but I never interacted with him. The shields were holding and it was bearable to live like that. But now. . . ."
"Did you talk to him?" she asked, sensing that there was more to it than that.
He squeezed her hands almost to the point of hurting, and she began to fear his answer. "He made me do things. . . I. . . I killed people, Padme."
She had expected it to be bad, but what he was telling her now horrified her. How strong must the pull of the Dark Lord be to make Obi-Wan do such a thing. 'He needs to be driven out,' she thought. She wouldn't watch him struggle with this any longer. The Jedi should have done something sooner. Surely a Jedi like Master Yoda should have an idea how to deal with this.
He seemed to interpret her silence as rejection and slowly pulled out of her grip. "I am truly sorry," he said, trying to regain his composure. "I understand that this isn't something you can accept lightly. What he has done to me. . . I don't know how to deal with it. I know that guilt doesn't help. But I can't promise you that it won't happen again. He is too strong, and holding him back for so long, seemed to have made him even more determined."
"Obi-Wan," she replied firmly. "It's only natural that you're at a loss. Sidious knows this. So, please, don't give him another reason to play you by reacting with guilt and self-doubt. We have to find a solution to draw him out. He needs to be gone!" She stood up and began pacing. "We should have done it long ago. I can't believe the Jedi were willing to let you live with this for such a long time."
"There was no other way and up to this point I was strong enough to deal with it," he tried to explain.
She turned to him, her face furious. "Yes, that's it, isn't it? You were strong enough. You were able to deal with him. It shouldn't be like this, Obi-Wan. They should have done something. Instead of sending you and Anakin out there on the most dangerous missions, they should have investigated. They should have considered how hard this is for you. But as long as you can deal with it, there is no need, is there?"
He shook his head. "There are things you don't know, Padme."
"Oh yes, I know that you're still holding back. I know that you and the Council share more secrets. And I was willing to accept it as long as I thought that they were looking out for you because you are precious to them. But they didn't. They accepted this without making any effort to do something about it. And now you're sitting here, thinking that this is your problem. Well, let me tell you. It isn't. You freed the Republic of a monster, and the Republic has a responsibility to you. If the Jedi won't do it, I am sure we'll find help elsewhere."
He couldn't fight a smile at her passionate speech, and she realized that this was the first smile she had seen since having met him this morning. "We're going to talk to Bail," she said with determination. "I am sure between the three of us, we will be able to find solutions."
He leaned forward. "Padme, I've already found a way. Dooku offered his support in finding out how Sidious was able to retain his consciousness. I am going to leave with him."
Her eyes widened at that. "No, you won't!" she exclaimed.
He closed his eyes briefly. "Please, Padme, I can't keep having this argument. I know you all think he is evil. But he is the only one who can rein him in for now, and I need to explore the Dark Side if I want to solve this. Only he can help me with that."
"Oh, Obi-Wan, I didn't say that we won't work with him. I just said that you won't leave with him. I won't let you deal with this on your own."
"No," he said with his firm Master voice. "I won't allow you to take part in such a battle. I couldn't stand it if something happened to you."
"Well, it's what I have to deal with every day, when you're on one of your missions. But I can assure you, I won't enter any battle. As far as I can tell, there is a lot of research to be done before anything happens. Are the Jedi providing you with a base?"
He looked down. "Mace didn't like the idea very much. I need to do this without the approval of the Council."
"So, that's what you both argued about." She walked to the window and his eyes followed her. "They wouldn't even help you now."
"They can't. It's against the Code and there is great risk in what I'm doing. In my current condition, it could be the last straw to make me turn. They can't condone this."
"Oh, stop it," she replied. "Don't defend them. There is no need. I came to know the Jedi and their Code quite well over the last few years. But if what you're telling me is true, it will be all the more important for you to have support. What did you think? That you would leave with Dooku for who knows how long, and we would go on living our lives happily? And in the end when you finally succeeded you come back the lonesome hero, and everyone will be glad to have you back?" She took a deep breath. "Or even worse, you don't come back and we all have to ask ourselves how we could have helped."
He shook his head. "You are unbelievable," he said with a smile. "You won't let this go, will you?"
She gave him a smile back. "I won't."
He stood up and walked over to her, drawing her into an embrace. "I am such a happy man, that you chose to love me this ti. . . Um. . ." he shook himself and she was sure that he almost had said something he thought he shouldn't. But then she just returned the embrace, glad that she had convinced him.