Title: A Unified Front

Author: Smenzer

Rating: PG

Pairing: None

Teaser: Obi and Ani fight in Ep 3

Disclaimer: The characters are not mine; they belong to George Lucas, Lucasfilm Ltd and Fox.

Anakin Skywalker stood before his former Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi. He had finally tracked the man down and now he would kill him, just as he had killed Dooku. But first he must discover where his wife had been hidden. "Tell me where she is!"

"I can't." Obi-Wan informed his former Padawan. How could have Anakin changed so much in such a sort time? His hair had grown longer, as befitted a full Jedi Knight. It blew now in the hot wind that carried burning bits of volcanic ash. But the new look in Anakin's eyes concerned him far more. His Padawan always had been intense and sometimes too forceful with mind tricks, but never had that look been aimed at him. Like the nearby volcano, there was a fire burning deep inside Anakin and if he wasn't careful it would burn them both to cinders. "I can't tell you! Don't you see that it was Palpatine all along that was trying to kill her? If I tell you, he'll find out!"

"You're lying!" Anakin shouted, his face twisting up in anger. The murderous glare in his blue eyes was enough to send shivers of fear down Obi-Wan's spine. "Palpatine is my friend! He'd never try to harm Padme! You're just jealous because I love her!"

"That's not true!" Obi-Wan countered, his voice rising. His robes flapped around him as a sudden gush blew past. Lifting a hand, he pointed a finger at his unruly apprentice. "And you weren't supposed to get married! You know that's against the rules of the Order! You'll be expelled and all the years I spent training you would have been wasted! How do you think that makes me feel, that I failed because you can't control your lust?"

"I love her!" Anakin shouted. He pulled the lightsaber from his belt and flipped it on. With a snap-hiss, the long red blade appeared. Since he had killed Dooku he had earned the right to use this blade, to be Palpatine's apprentice. So what if it was the so-called Dark Side? Power was what he needed. He had tried the Jedi's way and had been hampered down by too many rules. The galaxy was sick and twisted and he was going to fix it himself! Lunging forward, Anakin swung his blade at Obi-Wan.

The Jedi easily blocked the blow with his own blade. "You are obsessed with her! Obsession is not love! Look what it has done to you!"

"It made me powerful!" Anakin boasted and attacked faster, harder. He grinned as Obi-Wan retreated from him up the slope of the volcano.

"Please, Anakin! Let go of this hate and anger! I love you!" The ground trembled under Kenobi's boots and he struggled to keep his balance. The volcano underfoot was starting to wake up and this wasn't the best place to be. The Jedi Council had sent him here to help with the rescue effort, to move people to safety. The real problem was people didn't want to leave their homes and belongings. They all seemed to possess the attitude that nothing would happen and the volcano would continue to sleep as it had for centuries. They couldn't seem to understand that the trees were dying from the poisonous gas the volcano threw out and not from old age. And as for the fumes and white smoke issuing from cracks in the earth, well, that was normal. And now thanks to Anakin's anger, they both might die here when the sleeping beast really did wake up. "It pains me to see you this way!"

"It'll hurt even more when I slice you in half!"

Obi-Wan stumbled over the rim of the volcano. Now there was nowhere else to go but into the crater itself and that was sheer madness. What could he do to get through to Anakin? He sensed this was the last chance to save him, to pull him back from the Dark Side that had took hold of his soul. Where was this anger coming from? Was it just Palpatine influencing the boy or was it more? He had done the best he could to train Anakin. Where had he gone wrong? "Please, Anakin! Let me help you."

"I don't need your help! I'm stronger now than you'll ever be!" Anakin slashed with his red blade and Obi-Wan parried. But with each step he was forcing the Jedi into the caldera. Soon there would be nowhere else to go and he would triumph.

"You're wrong, Anakin." Obi-Wan countered as he continued to block blow after blow. "You're confused. Palpatine has clouded your mind. He wants you to do just as you're doing: destroying the Jedi. But do you really understand what it means to be a Sith? Did he tell you that?"

"It's power! Power to do what I want!"

"To be a Sith is to be always alone. Do you want that, Anakin?" Obi-Wan was beginning to tire. The fast pace of the fight, talking and the deadly fumes were beginning to get to him. If he couldn't snap Anakin out of his rage there's the possibility he would die here at his former apprentice's hands. The volcano rumbled ominously and they were both knocked off their feet. The Jedi landed hard on his side and his lightsaber fell from his sweaty hand. The black rock underneath him was hot and he instinctively rolled away from the hot spot hoping to find cooler rock to rest upon. The spot where he had just been moments before caved in, a deep red glow issuing from the hole. His trailing robe dipped into the new opening slightly and instantly caught fire. Obi-Wan quickly tossed it away.

"Do you always want to be watching your back and never to be close to anyone ever again, to have no friends or companions?" Obi-Wan continued, his voice getting horse from having to shout over the increasing sounds the volcano was making. "To eat alone and wonder if the food is poisoned, to have no one to care for you when you're sick, no one to laugh with. Is that the kind of life you really want?"

"Everyone I care about dies!" Anakin shouted, anguish in his voice. He stared at Obi-Wan from the other side of the hot pit, then started to make his way around it. "What good is being a Jedi if you can't save the ones you love?"

"Being a Sith isn't the answer!" Obi-Wan coughed, tears in his eyes. The heat wafting out of the hole in front of him was incredible and he cautiously backed away from it. The last thing he wanted was to fall in. More rock could collapse at any moment, including the piece he was standing on. Just as the thought crossed his mind, a large section in the center of the caldera gave way. Almost instantly a fountain of lava hundreds of feet high shot up into the air. At the incredible sight, panic squeezed Obi-Wan's heart. "Anakin, please! Listen to me! We have to get out of here now before we're both killed! You were meant for more than this! I have faith in you, faith that you'll do the right thing. But you can't save anyone by being on the Dark Side. You're the Chosen One, remember?"

"I never asked to be the Chosen One! I didn't ask for this!" Anakin sunk to his knees on the hot rock, the anger leaving him. He could feel the basalt burning his skin but at the moment he just didn't care. Tears ran down his cheeks freely and his vision blurred, but he kept his eyes glued to the older Jedi. "Take the power away from me, Master. I don't want to be the Chosen One! Why can't I just have a normal life with a wife and family? Is that too much to ask?"

Obi-Wan's heart broke at the sight. The Dark Side had left Anakin, but now if he wasn't fast enough he could still loose him to the volcano. And it was the same problem resurfacing; one he had thought they had solved long ago in Anakin's childhood. Once before his Padawan had begged and pleaded for him to take his powers away and he had comforted him the best he could, but there just was no way he could take Anakin's Force powers. If he could have, he would have and saved his charge the grief it had caused him. Anakin's connection to the Force was just so powerful that he often couldn't control it. He was like a leaf caught in the path of a hurricane and all he could do was hang on and go where it took him. Sometimes he tried to outrun his powers and that's why he loved racing so much. When he was zapping along at impossible speeds the power didn't bother him as much but faded into the background.

"I would take your powers if I could; you know that. But I can't." Obi-Wan inched farther out into the caldera towards where Anakin knelt. The big pit of molten magma was still between them and the Jedi started to carefully make his way around it. "Please, Anakin, come towards me."

"They don't understand, no one understands…"

"I understand!" Obi-Wan edged closer, his heart sinking. The younger man had still made no attempts to stand. With the way things were going all the rock would collapse into the caldera soon and then it would be moot. "I understand and I love you. It would break my heart to loose you. I couldn't stand it."

"Even after what I did?" Anakin asked, hoping but not believing his Master could forgive him so easily.

"Yes! I forgive you! It wasn't your fault. A Master Sith clouded your mind. He deceived you just as he deceived the Jedi Council members all these years!" Obi-Wan had almost reached his former apprentice. Only a single body length separated them. If the basalt held long enough…

"But what about the Council? They're going to expel me anyway. It was my decision to marry Padme. It had nothing to do with Palpatine." Anakin's hopes sunk and he lowered his eyes. The rock beneath him was getting to be extremely unbearable now and he would have to move soon. But what kind of future would he have? He couldn't be a Jedi because he had married and he wasn't a Sith any longer, Padme was lost to him…

"I won't let them expel you." Obi-Wan reached Anakin and pulled the younger man to his feet, wrapping his arms around his thin body and hugging him. "If we present a unified front there's nothing they can do. I'll tell them if they expel you, I'll go with you. I doubt if they'd be willing to loose two Jedi."

"You'd do that?" Anakin asked, blinking his eyes several times.

"I'd do anything for you." Obi-Wan vowed. "Besides, I think the Council is close-minded just as I have been. People are afraid of change. Perhaps the Force wants Jedi to marry and end our celibate lives. It's not logical for the Chosen One to live the life of an ordinary Jedi. If we needed an ordinary Jedi, well, we have lots of those…"

"I never thought of it like that before…" Anakin started to say. Then the ground under their feet lurched and started to give away.

Reaching out to the Force, Anakin formed a protective bubble of energy around the two of them and pushed. Without almost any effort at all they soared through the air above the fully active volcano. They stayed aloft for a long time until Anakin could find a safe spot to land on, one far enough away that lava bombs wouldn't be landing on their heads. He allowed the protective bubble to collapse, then leaned heavily against Obi-Wan. "My legs don't feel too good…"

"Let's get you to a medic." Obi-Wan picked Anakin up and started carrying him. No matter what the future might bring, he would stick with his student.

His friend.