The Journey Home
Obi-Wan stands on the elevated walkway in the Temple's Great Hall, looking down at the small contingent of non-Jedi. He is too far away to hear the words they speak, but he can feel the presence of the young Queen radiating in the Force. She is so like her mother.
The thought brings an unexpected wave of melancholy and Obi-Wan turns away. Looking over his shoulder, he sees the approaching figure, shocked he did not sense him in the Force.
"Old friend," Obi-Wan says with a grin, "it's been too long."
Anakin doesn't immediately reply. He looks at Obi-Wan and then over the walkway's railing to observe the small group he and his former Master will be escorting. His vision still fixed on the visitors, he says, "The Council's summons was unexpected."
Obi-Wan regards his former apprentice carefully. He isn't sure if he forgot or if he merely chose to pretend he forgot how much Anakin has changed. For so many years, he counted on Anakin to be the reckless one, to charge headlong into any experience with far too much abandon and enjoyment for a Jedi. Despite knowing it was not admirable for a Jedi to conduct himself in such a manner, Obi-Wan couldn't help but marvel at the boy's boundless enthusiasm and energy.
Obi-Wan wonders what happened to that boy. For the man standing next to him bears no resemblance to his former self. There are no echoes in the Force, nothing to hint at Anakin's past. The man standing next to him is tightly controlled, quiet, solitary and if Obi-Wan is not mistaken, lonely. These days, Anakin chooses to live in seclusion, shunning the companionship of even his Jedi brethren. Obi-Wan has not seen him in many long years.
Forcing his attention back to the conversation, Obi-Wan says, "Unexpected, yes, but not unprecedented."
For the first time, Anakin turns to face Obi-Wan. His features are perfectly bland, betraying no emotion. "Indeed," he says softly, once again looking down at the young Queen surrounded by several Senators.
Obi-Wan again wonders at the Council's wisdom in this matter. He does not know why the Council chose the odd action of requesting Anakin's presence on this mission. To Obi-Wan's knowledge, the Council has not requested Anakin's presence on any other mission in more than a decade. The timing is odd. The subject of the mission even more so.
"I have not had the pleasure of meeting Queen Amitabha," Obi-Wan says, looking at the young woman at the heart of the current controversy in the Senate. He glances at Anakin and sees his attention is still riveted on her. "Have you?" he asks.
It's a moment before Anakin reacts. He shakes his head and replies, "No." He looks up at his former master, his expression once again perfectly bland. "I have not met her."
Obi-Wan nods and motions for Anakin to walk with him. Anakin falls into step, his hands clasped behind his back. "I thought you might refuse this mission," Obi-Wan says. When Anakin doesn't respond, he continues. "I thought it might be difficult for you."
Turning his head to look at Obi-Wan, Anakin asks, "Why would you think that?"
Obi-Wan frowns at his friend. "Come now, Anakin," he says seriously. "I may have done my best to ignore it, but I'm not completely dense. I know that you and Senator Amidala were close."
Anakin does not deny the charge. "That was a very long time ago," he says flatly. "Before this." He reaches up, running a hand along the vicious scar that takes up most of his left cheek. It starts millimeters from the corner of his mouth and curves upward in a crescent, across his left eye which is an opaque, sightless blue several shades lighter than his right eye.
Seeming to shake himself out of his thoughts, Anakin continues. "Before Sidious' death. Before the Order took control of the Senate."
"Before the birth of Padmé's children," Obi-Wan adds.
Anakin looks at his former mentor, holding his gaze for several long moments. "Yes," he says quietly. "Before that."
Obi-Wan wonders how much the birth of Padmé's children helped push Anakin into seclusion. Despite knowing it was frowned upon by the Order, Obi-Wan was very close to Anakin. They were like brothers. Because Obi-Wan could no more betray Anakin than he could betray the Order, he chose to largely ignore his Padawan's involvement with the beautiful and charismatic Senator from the Chommell sector.
Obi-Wan knows that Anakin's feelings for Padmé ran far deeper than they should have. He knows that those affections were returned to at least a small degree by Padmé. The two managed to maintain a friendship through the Clone Wars. Yet shortly after the Clone Wars, Senator Amidala abruptly resigned her seat in the Senate and fled to her homeworld. Later, Obi-Wan learned she had given birth to twins, a girl and a boy. Obi-Wan suspects that Anakin loved Padmé and that her giving birth to another man's children was what truly broke him.
Without exchanging words, Obi-Wan and Anakin descend the curving set of stairs and make their way across the Great Hall to the small enclave of people. The group turns as they approach and Senator Organa steps to the fore, holding out his hand to Obi-Wan.
"Master Kenobi," Senator Organa says, his grip still quite firm despite his age.
"Senator," Obi-Wan replies with a deferential nod of his head. He looks from the Senator to the young woman, Leia is her given name. Rumors have flown in the Senate for years that Senator Organa is the girl's father. However, as Obi-Wan's gaze traces her face, he can see nothing in Leia's features save Padmé.
"My Lady," Obi-Wan says with a bow to Leia.
"Master Kenobi," Leia replies, curtseying gracefully. "I am most honored to make your acquaintance."
Obi-Wan cannot help but smile. Leia is so like her mother was at this age, self-possessed and shockingly serious. "I assure you, the pleasure is mine," he replies with a quick grin.
That manages to elicit a small smile from the young Queen and she looks away quickly with a blush.
Turning his attention back to Senator Organa, Obi-Wan says, "I believe you know Anakin."
Senator Organa's features harden though he is careful to keep his tone pleasant and his words polite. "Of course," he says, inclining his head. "Master Skywalker."
"Senator," Anakin replies. His tone isn't uncivil, but there is no warmth or familiarity in it.
Obi-Wan glances at Anakin and Anakin meets his gaze unflinchingly. Again, Obi-Wan wonders if Organa is Leia's father and if Anakin was on the losing corner of a love triangle.
"Master Skywalker," Organa says tightly with feigned cheer. "May I present Leia Naberrie, Queen Amitabha of Naboo."
For the first time today, Anakin's mask of indifference fades. He looks at Leia with an expression that is a mixture of wonder, joy and sadness. Obi-Wan assumes that Anakin is as struck by Leia's resemblance to Padmé as he was himself.
Taking her hand gently in his own, Anakin bows over it. "Milady," he says with a smile.
Leia's regal bearing falters and she looks at her hand grasped in Anakin's. Her brow furrows, though not in alarm. She looks from their clasped hands to Anakin's face, her head canted slightly to the side as if she is listening to music no one else can hear. It lasts only a moment and then it's gone so quickly Obi-Wan thinks he may have imagined it.
"Master Skywalker," Leia replies.
Senator Organa steps forward and Anakin releases Leia's hand, taking a step back. His face is once again perfectly placid, but his vision is fixed on Senator Organa.
"Though I defer to your judgment," Senator Organa says, nodding more to Obi-Wan than to Anakin, "I believe it would be best if we were off."
"Yes, of course," Obi-Wan replies and they all turn and head for the Jedi Temple Hangars and their waiting ship.