Chapter 6: Emotion, yet Peace
Obi-Wan hadn't been sure what he'd do if Palpatine hadn't eventually attacked. If he had just stood his ground as the lawfully elected chancellor, who just happened to be a Sith Master. But that would have been the Jedi way: to walk into a dangerous situation using moral authority as the first and best defense. The Sith had no moral authority, desired no moral authority, and didn't even know how to use it.
So Palpatine attacked with a lightsaber red with blood and pain.
The searing blue of Anakin's lightsaber met it, and for a moment the two men looked at each other the crossed blades. Palpatine's look of glee was undiminished by what must have been an abrupt change of plans for him. Anakin looked devastated.
Obi-Wan lit his own lightsaber and circled around to right outside of Palpatine's peripheral vision, forcing Palpatine to break the stand-off.
Anakin might be devastated but he was also determined. He didn't allow Palpatine to shift his focus to Obi-Wan but attacked in the moment of distraction.
Long drawn-out battles were for training, for defense, and for interrogation; not for an assassination, not for the mercy killing of the creature that had destroyed what Sheev Palpatine might once have been. Assassination of one man, no matter how skilled or powerful, in a small meeting room, outnumbered two to one, was simple.
For all that the Force loved life, that love was often a ruthless type of love that allowed for the aggressive pruning of corruption.
The action itself was abrupt and done with. The results were more permanent.
Obi-Wan used the Force to push Palpatine's aim off, to protect Anakin. And Anakin drove his lightsaber right through Palpatine's chest, leaving it there for a long moment. He only withdrew the blade when the deadweight of Palpatine's body finally started to slice itself open on the blade in its descent to the ground.
Even after Anakin had his breath under control, he still didn't look away from the dead body of the being he had thought was his friend. He just stood there for a long several minutes, and Obi-Wan let him work out his own thoughts. While the Sith Master was dead, there was much clean-up to be done, and the most immediate was to ensure Anakin was okay, and not bleeding out from wounds of the spirit.
"I…" Anakin started, paused, and then started again, "I can't be a Jedi, can I?"
"Do you need me to answer that question?" Obi-Wan was genuinely curious. He'd tried to raise Anakin to be independent and to follow the will of the Force rather than the words of any mere sentient being, himself included.
"You're never kind, are you?" Anakin said almost despairingly.
"Not when kindness would only be another form of cruelty."
"You're like the opposite of Sheev, you know that? He was always kind. Kind and helpful. And I'm only now realizing how cruel that was, that he gave me everything I ever asked for, all the support I needed to do any hare-brained idea I came up with. And he was never rule-bound like you are. But in the end, you're the one who's free and he was the one who was chained."
"Sometimes rules can set you free."
"I really hate all the Jedi koan."
Anakin finally turned away from the body and made his way to one of the visitors' chairs where Obi-Wan had already claimed a seat. They sat in silence some more.
"I can't be a Jedi." It wasn't a question this time.
"Did you always know?"
"As Master Yoda says, 'always changing, the future is.' You could have been a Jedi. I wouldn't have given you false hope if it wasn't possible."
"But you didn't think I'd do it."
Obi-Wan finally let out an amused breath. "I couldn't figure out who to even make a bet with. I'll have to buy myself a Correllian ale."
Anakin found himself laughing. It was brittle but real. "I'll buy the ale."
"I'm not a cheap date."
"Oh, don't I know it. I'll buy the ale and you'll raise a toast to my wedding?"
"Absolutely." Obi-Wan paused before his next words because he always had trouble talking about emotions, but he'd already been stripped bare once today, so what was one more awkward emotional moment? "I am proud of you, Anakin. I know you think I'm always judging you, you say so often enough, but I'm often just appreciating you. You have grown up into a magnificent person. Padme is lucky to have you."
Anakin was actually blushing. Obi-Wan wondered what he would do once he was out in the larger civilian universe, independent of the Jedi Temple and supported by the Amidala family.
"Thanks." Anakin finally muttered. "So, what now?"
"Hmm?" Obi-Wan asked. What Anakin did next would be up to him and his wife.
"What do we do now? I mean, we need to report this to someone, right?"
Except for the immediate future, which wasn't up to either of them. Obi-Wan shrugged. "Someone will be reviewing the footage by now, if they weren't simply watching events live. It's probably better for everyone if we wait for whoever is in charge out there to sort themselves out and come retrieve us."
"WHAT? We're on camera!?"
Obi-Wan found himself side-eying Anakin. "We are in one of the Supreme Chancellor's meeting rooms. Of course there's security footage."
Anakin looked like he was about to have hysterics, which made it perfect timing for Mace Windu to show up. "Some Force-damned media maven got a hook-up to the feed, too, so it's streaming on all the news stations. I had to get the building out of lockdown just to tell you two to get a room."
Obi-Wan ignored the words, just relieved that it was a Jedi rather than a Senatorial Security troop who showed up first.
Anakin did not ignore the words and seemed to be having some sort of fit.
Obi-Wan raised his eyebrows. "I'm not sure why you're both unhappy with this. I'm frankly just as glad to have the whole thing on record. It relieves me from having to recount the death by lightsaber of the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic, as a single witness with a vested interest in the outcome."
"But! I just! You just! I can't! Oh god, Padme!"
"Anakin, Palpatine admitted to what he had done, and then he attacked you. A Jedi's word may hold vast power of persuasion but you are, as we've just discussed, not a Jedi, and I imagine I'm about to be in for some thorough review myself. It would be far worse if the only record were that the three of us had entered a secure room and then only the two of us had exited." Obi-Wan didn't mention that if the situation had gone slightly differently, it could easily have been only one exiting.
Mace's grimace said that he was having similar thoughts himself.
Anakin's look of mortification showed he was still focused on his own situation.
"Chin up, Anakin, you can't be embarrassed, after all: there is no emotion, there is peace."
"I hate you." Anakin muttered, but he also raised his chin with a look that dared anyone to comment on his flushed cheeks.
"Yeah, yeah. Go find a healer and get yourself checked out. Master Windu and I need to figure out what to do next."
"Thank you, Tani." Anakin really was feeling grateful to fall back on the old title. Then he scampered out of there like the Sith of old were on his heels, which was a bit disconcerting since he hadn't been nearly that anxious when dealing with an actual Sith Master.
"So, we were right: he never should have been made a Jedi."
Obi-Wan raised his eyebrows at that bit of historical editing, since Mace himself had insisted on Anakin's promotion to knight for all that he'd protested Anakin's original acceptance as a padawan. Obi-Wan let it go, though. "And Master Qui-Gon was right as well: he absolutely needed to be trained."
"From what I've seen, what happened here was a test of mastery. And he certainly passed it." Mace wasn't arguing so much as probing.
"Being a Jedi is more than skills." Obi-Wan shrugged. "It's personality and goals and desires and motivations, too. He has mastery over himself, as any Jedi Knight does. But he likes attachments. Craves them even. To deny them is to deny who he is."
"We really do need to stick to raising infants."
"Or open the doors for fully formed adults capable of making fully formed choices."
"You are quite the heretic, aren't you?"
"It's only heresy if the Council doesn't acknowledge it as proper reform."
"Come on, you've given Skywalker enough time to escape my clutches. Let's get you to a healer too."
"I'm not injured." Obi-Wan knew it was a stupid thing to say even as he said it.
"Aren't you? You were Skywalker's first attempt to do a deep examination and you had a confrontation with a Sith Master. It can't have been comfortable."
"I could do with some rest," Obi-Wan admitted.
"Under the supervision of a healer," Mace added.
Obi-Wan shrugged, but let Mace pull him up out of his seat. He contemplated the future for a moment and then thought he might as well take advantage of still being on camera. Having this conversation be both private and public at the same time would be a way for Jedi strategy to be set and publicly seen but in an unofficial capacity.
"So, now what?"
From Mace's quirked eyebrow, he knew exactly what Obi-Wan was doing and possibly even appreciated it.
"Now, the Jedi spend the next few decades trying to undo the taint to the Force, which will be difficult given that we weren't even aware that the Force could be tainted like this. The Senate will do their thing. I think it's become quite clear that we should not have allowed the Order to become so closely tied to government. We follow the will of the Force, not direction from the Senate."
Obi-Wan stayed silent, paying attention, but not addressing it.
Mace frowned, but acknowledged the pointed silence. "We can't stop cold, though, not in this turmoil. The next step is that Jedi trained in negotiation and mediation will be made available for government recovery here on Coruscant. The government structure needs to allow for more agility than it currently does. And that means using the current structure to make sweeping changes."
Both of them grimaced. This was going to be a nightmare.
"Well, it's not the most overwhelming task you've ever given me." Obi-Wan finally opined, speaking as one of the Jedi trained in negotiation and mediation.
"What could possibly have been more overwhelming than this?"
"Some fifteen years ago, when I was twenty-two, you gave me a recently-freed-from-slavery, nine-year-old child, who had never heard of the Force before and only knew of Jedi from adventure stories, to raise to be a Jedi."
Mace blinked. "You know, I never quite thought that through. Can I blame the taint in the Force for dropping that on you?"
Obi-Wan ignored that. "I am unbelievably proud of who Anakin has grown up to be. And I am going to take, mmm, 40% of the credit for the results. He may not have grown up to be a Jedi, but he grew up to be an amazing being."
"Not to mention, the being who finally killed the Sith Master we've spent years searching for."
Obi-Wan nodded in agreement. "Not to mention that."
They walked in companionable silence out of the building, and then in more hunted silence through the crowd of politicians, media, and onlookers who had surrounded the senate building.
Three days later, Mace sought him out again. Obi-Wan had spent the three days reading summaries of the summaries of reports because there was no time to read even the first-level summaries, and certainly no time to take any sort of action. Just time enough for the most basic of triage.
Mace himself would have spent the last three days in much the same manner.
"Do you remember about a decade ago, when you asked me to meditate on how best to restructure the Jedi Order to better integrate the Service Corps with the Temple?" Mace asked.
Obi-Wan had to take a moment to recall it. It had been years ago, but, "yes. I never followed up with you about it, did I?"
"Given that your purpose was to get me out of the way so you could talk to some of the younglings about the dangers of bullying, that doesn't surprise me."
Obi-Wan shrugged at that. It was long past and Obi-Wan couldn't actually think of a single thing that Mace Windu could do in retaliation that Obi-Wan would care about.
"That was when I first started planning to get you on the Jedi Council."
What? That was genuinely stunning. "What?"
Mace continued to watch him with impassive consideration. "I've been concerned that it would come as a surprise to you."
"What?" Obi-Wan found himself repeating rather helplessly.
"Chancellor Palpatine did influence us in promoting Anakin before his time, but not in placing you on the Council. I'd known for years that as soon as you'd graduated a padawan and officially earned Master rank, you'd be on the Council."
"But… I'm not…" Obi-Wan stuttered before he cut himself off. He took a deep breath and centered himself once more. "Why?"
"Because there are too few Jedi to confront problems head-on in war, so we must always work by placing ourselves in the exact right place."
"And as a newly promoted Jedi Knight, you found a way to place both a Jedi Council Member and yourself in the exact right place to accomplish your goals."
"I was impressed. You arranged a situation where we both won, and put the effort in to make it come out how you wanted."
"My manipulation of you made you think I would be a good Counselor? That's… moderately terrifying."
That earned one of Mace's rare but blindingly beautiful grins. "That too." But he continued more seriously, "You haven't had the easiest time of it, but people who are easy learners are often the worst teachers. Yoda is probably the best example of that: hundreds of years old, the strongest member of the Jedi order, and yet one of the worst teachers. The best teachers are the ones who struggled with a topic and succeeded anyway. They see the problems, understand the struggles, and find the ways around or through them."
Obi-Wan considered that. He appreciated the implied flattery, but any such compliments made him wonder at the motive. "You're not here to request my resignation from the Council then."
That got a look of surprise. "Definitely not."
"Then why are you telling me this?"
"Because I think it's something that you need to hear. Especially if you thought I was planning to ask for your resignation."
"It is also a precursor to my next topic of conversation."
"Ah." Obi-Wan said and earned another quick grin.
"We're going to do a major assessment of both the Republic governance and our own Order's structure, looking for the flaws that allowed the Force to be shadowed. It will be a good time to restructure the Order as well."
Obi-Wan wasn't sure he believed that. Surely in a time of great change, it was best to keep some points of stability. But Mace might also be right, since it was too easy for people in more settled times to refuse any change.
"Also, since we required Force sensitives from the Outer Rim who could not have been affected by anything on Coruscant for the search grid, I requested assistance from the Service Corps. As a secondary objective, I let them know that if they sent members who were able to represent their Corps in future negotiations, I'd appreciate that as well."
Obi-Wan was practically holding his breath. "Did it work?"
"We now have enough ranking members of the Service Corps here on Coruscant to form a quorum. It's the first time that's happened in four hundred years."
"It's been that long?"
"Most of them don't seem to like Coruscant," Mace said dryly.
"But they came this time?"
"They are Force sensitive. Even without my hints, they could feel the possibilities."
"So we can discuss and potentially even implement changes."
Mace nodded. "And the first step is to open up the Council itself to members of the Service Corps, rather than keeping the Corps under a Council made up of Knights. So, I am here as one Jedi Council member to another, as equals in this, and I would appreciate your support in this shared endeavor."
"You have it," Obi-Wan agreed. "And next?"
"Under the current structure, all children with the abilities are taken into the temple and trained to be Knights. There is a sharp division between passing and failing the tests for Knighthood, with those who fail sent to the Service Corps. We need to remove the dichotomy of passing or failing, and instead focus on appropriate placement."
"If you do that, we'll lose Knights. Isn't that the argument for the current process? That a mid-level Knight still does more good for the galaxy at large than a high-level Agriculturist?"
"That's the argument. And it was meditation on that argument that led to my realization that the Force was shadowed."
"And I'm sure in your work with the more wayward younglings in the creche, you've heard plenty of Knights and Masters concerned about the dangers of Jedi-trained younglings choosing not to abide by Jedi ethics."
"Historically, it's been dangerous to the galaxy at large to have beings with the abilities but without the ethics," Obi-Wan spoke mildly.
"Skywalker will be an interesting test case of what happens when a being who is fully trained as a Jedi… isn't one."
"Other Jedi have left the Order."
"Most of them in schisms and shrouded by history. Skywalker is here and now. And active. He'll make news and hopefully make people realize that Force sensitivity, and even use of the Force, is a continuum rather than a binary. Jedi are at one extreme end, but we are not... not Other. Too many beings think we are. Both in-temple and out. We must change that perception."
Obi-Wan thought of how he'd struggled to make Anakin realize there were options outside of being a Jedi Knight, but largely failed. And yet, other younglings from the creche had found the options for themselves. Much to the dismay of various Knights and Masters of the Order.
"It's not going to be easy."
"Easy is not the Jedi way."
"True." It would not be easy, but it would be important. And he was looking forward to seeing what else Mace had come up with during his meditations on change. Although, "I still have my dependents to find a proper solution for."
"This will also be an opportunity for you to speak more with the representatives of the Service Corps. I expect there are opportunities for them there."
"That's a good point." The Corps were always seeking more workers, although Obi-Wan wasn't sure what requirements they had. He would find out.
"How is it going with them?"
Obi-Wan had to laugh at that, because the answer was, "Disturbingly smoothly."
"Two hundred thousand dispossessed refugees with questionable legal rights, and they are all, each and every one of them, intelligent, educated, patient, and inclined towards organizing themselves into a military structure and hierarchy. I expect that in six weeks they'll have taken over the entire refugee camp and organized it into peak efficiency. My current plan is to let them do so. And then see if any of them want a permanent staff position, either there or at another refugee camp."
"You like them?"
"I think they were specifically created to be useful to Jedi, and that it is disturbing how successful their creators were. I'm not sure if that means we should work with them or should not."
"You're doing the only thing you can in this instance: giving them a choice and enough space to make sure they know what they're choosing."
Obi-Wan nodded his acceptance of that.
There was a special kind of agony to fixing problems that he was not personally responsible for and yet still represented the organizational cause of. He spent his days alternating between trying to create official lives for the clones and trying to create a more equitable relationship between the Jedi Temple and the Jedi Corps.
He meditated a lot to release emotions of anger and guilt, defensiveness and pride.
He was just as glad that Anakin had disappeared, allowing Obi-Wan a reprieve from transitioning his own former padawan to civilian status. This was another failure that wasn't precisely his fault and yet was still his responsibility. From the reports, Anakin was working with his hacker group to finally address the Separatist droid army situation. That was a difficult but straight-forward mission to disarm a clearly identified enemy, and Obi-Wan was just a little bit jealous of it, as he sat in his own Council meetings.
He released the jealousy to the Force. He would not allow that emotion, he would have peace instead.
It was another ten days before Anakin sought him out.
And by sought him out, he meant Anakin barged into his rooms, declaring, "The guards didn't want to let me in, but apparently I'm still technically a Jedi so I have the right to come into the Temple."
Obi-wan set down his latest report and leaned back in his chair. "Generally, a Jedi who decides to leave the order submits their own paperwork for that. It's only when a member is expelled that the Council submits it."
"Huh. And they didn't want to expel me?"
"I didn't want to expel you. It's your choice, and you need to formalize it."
"So, I could just not submit the paperwork?"
Obi-Wan sighed. "No, Anakin. If you refuse to submit the paperwork, then I'll expel you for being a nuisance and breaking the rules."
"Yeah, fair enough." And then he fell into silence, standing awkwardly before him. Sometimes Anakin really was a ridiculous being.
"How are you doing? I assume you're staying in Padme's quarters?"
"Yeah," Anakin leapt on the offered topic of conversation. "At least when I'm not at the university working on hacking the Separatist droids. She's got a nice space that I've never fully explored. But we've been talking about our future plans since we've both pretty much lost our careers. The election for the replacement senator is scheduled for three weeks from now. Upper-class Naboo have some pretty prescriptive ideas of what married couples can and cannot do. Padme and I had been planning on ignoring them entirely, but you once told me it was stupid to think some other culture had no reasons for their actions."
Obi-Wan was sure he looked dubious of that.
"Okay, you probably said something along the lines of 'it is the height of hubris to think that just because you don't see a reason that there is no reason', but what you meant was that it was stupid."
Obi-Wan shrugged. He wasn't sure he agreed with that particular translation since there were different connotations between stupidity and excessive pride, but it was close enough, he supposed.
"Aarrgg." Anakin clutched his hair in his fists. "I know that look! I know there are different connotations! That's not the point here. The point is that Padme and I decided that we'd go to Naboo and see if we could live the traditional life of a Naboobian married couple!"
"Ah. And do you think you'll be able to?"
Anakin relaxed. "I think it's worth a try. It will be interesting, and we might as well try it before rejecting it entirely."
"That's very wise of you."
"I give us half a year, maximum, before we're tearing into each other out of sheer boredom, and Padme heads back out to take over governments or at least save them. Whatever we do, I'll be continuing with my university droid group, of course. But I might do something as a pilot if Padme is interested in traveling. Or maybe start a Jedi Arts Center like Master Yalawari. I bet that would give the Jedi Council a conniption fit."
Obi-Wan considered the conversations he'd had with Mace and said, "I'm not sure it would, actually."
Obi-Wan shrugged. "Things are uncertain on the Council right now, as we seek direction from the Force. New possibilities are being considered."
"That told me pretty much nothing."
Obi-Wan shrugged again, but with a smile this time. But then gave in, at least a little. "In half a year's time, if you find yourself bored and looking for direction, contact me and I might have some options for you."
"Nothing you can tell me now?"
"I have two hundred thousand dependents to get situated first. We've already started figuring out potential career paths for them."
"So I'm not a single child anymore."
"This is why the Council has the one-master-one-padawan rule, isn't it? You've got other kids now taking up your focus. I think I'm jealous."
"What?" Obi-Wan repeated. He wasn't even entirely sure that Anakin was joking. "What?"
"Hmm." Anakin was definitely teasing him, though.
But then even the mock teasing went away. "So, I should call you in half a year?"
"If you are bored and looking for direction."
"What about before then? What about if it's not to talk about work?"
"I'm not sure what you're asking."
"You told me once that there were three options for keeping attachment: leaving the Order, bringing them into the Order, or refusing to acknowledge the attachment. And you chose the third one."
"What about now?"
"What about now?"
"What about me?"
"I'm not sure what you want me to say, Anakin."
"I want you to say that you'll still be, be my friend, my brother, even when I go to live with my wife and future children. Tell me there's another option: you don't have to leave, I don't have to stay, and we can still be connected."
Obi-Wan was silent for a long moment. "I don't think there is."
"No! There has to be. You raised me since I was nine years old. You cannot just walk away from this. From us."
"You did. Why can't I?"
"I never did. I was being torn in two, but I never turned my back on you."
"You should have."
"No, I shouldn't have! And you shouldn't either! So tell me, Negotiator, tell me another option!"
"Tell me you'll never be threatened by one of my enemies, because that's what will happen if they see an attachment. Tell me you'll never fall and become one of them either. Tell me I never have to worry about protecting you or killing you. Because that's why we don't have attachments. I would cut you out of my life entirely, publicly renounce you and never see your face or hear your voice again, rather than kill you or let you die."
"I swear. I will never, never be a weakness, and I will never be an enemy."
"You can't swear that."
"I can, and I do. I admit I haven't kept all of my oaths to the Order, but this oath to you I will. I will, Obi-Wan. I'll train every day for the rest of my life, and I'll die an old man in bed, surrounded by the best bodyguards money can buy. As long as you are by my bedside seeing me off."
"Given our respective ages and future lifestyles, you'll likely outlive me." Obi-Wan realized as soon as he said it that it was the wrong thing, but he didn't deal well with his own emotions.
Anakin growled. "I know that. But stay and be my brother, be an uncle to my children. Come home to my home sometimes between missions."
"Your children, Anakin… you can't… I can't… your children can't be harmed due to me."
"Given that I fully expect the best bodyguards that money can buy will be your children, I don't think you get to make that argument."
"The clones are not my children."
"You're married to their progenitor, and you defied the Council and the Senate both in order to protect them. Just accept that they're your children and move on."
"I can't just move on, it's a matter of attachment."
"Exactly. You are attached to every living being, but especially the clones, and especially me, too. And you can be, because we can protect ourselves."
"That's not how being impartial works."
"It's how you've stayed in contact with Duchess Satine for decades now."
"Then it's how staying in contact with me will work too," Anakin stated with the type of arrogance that meant he was trying to will his statements into truth.
Obi-Wan looked at Anakin, who had been such a central figure in his entire adult life and gave in with a sigh. "Yes, that is how it will work."
"Good," Anakin nodded with military brusqueness. "Then I'll contact you in a couple of weeks, when things have settled more. And I expect you to show up for the annual Naboobian Family Day." Then he was out the door, not leaving Obi-Wan any time to object.
It was probably a good thing, too, Obi-Wan thought, because it would have been difficult to do so.
Rather than return to the reports he'd been reading, he took a walk. He'd explored the whole temple as a youngling, again as a padawan, and again as Anakin's Tani. Each time, it was like exploring the temple anew, seeing new things and having new perspectives on old things. Small nooks transformed from places he'd gotten lost, to places he could hide, to places others could hide from him. Long hallways went from uncertain domain to comfortable and memory-filled.
The Temple was his home.
More than that, it was a home for the Force. The Force was everywhere and always with him, but here in the Temple, it was revered and glorified.
He found himself in one of the older and more central meditation rooms, around which the rest of the temple had expanded over the millennia. It had a grass floor that was original to Coruscant and a handful of trees reaching up to the skylight above. He reached out to the Force to swirl the air around, causing the leaves in the trees to ruffle in the breeze. Opening himself up to the Force, he could feel the trees around him, and the Jedi of the Temple around them, and the people of Coruscant around them, and the whole galaxy circling around even that.
Eventually all children, and adults too, must choose and then choose again, where their home is. Anakin had chosen to make Padme his home. Obi-Wan could understand the temptation to turn to a person. He had been tempted himself by the same choice, to turn to Satine. And yet, it was a simple dream in comparison to his deep-rooted desire to live always with and for the Force, to feel the whole galaxy rotating around him.
It wasn't rotating around him, of course. He had simply chosen to place himself in the spot around which the galaxy rotated.
For all the frustrations of bureaucracy, the dangers of conflict, the lure of Mandalore, and the absurdity of a marriage contract with a bounty hunter, Anakin on Naboo and the clones in their refugee camps, all pushing and pulling him in so many directions... he was centered here and now.
Here and now he was with the Force and the Force was with him.