Title: Conversations With Dead People
Timeframe: Revenge of the Sith
Characters: Ahsoka, Anakin/Vader
Notes: Part of a series with "The Things We Don't Talk About" and "All The Things She Said". Title taken from an episode of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer"
"The space between what's wrong and right is where you'll find me hiding waiting for you."
- Dave Matthews Band
Jedi aren't supposed to run away, but Master Skywalker's been somewhat of a bad example in that regard. He disappears even more than she does, especially since their return to Coruscant, and since the Council thinks she's with him, it turns out she's got a lot of free time on her hands and pretty much a free run of the city. Out of habit she spends the first few days loitering around the Temple, but her friends aren't there any more, having their own Masters and their own assignments now. She can see where they are anytime she wants - there's a map of the galaxy in the library, scattered dots of colored lights showing where all the Jedi are. There's a lot of planets she's never even heard of. Past the edge of the galaxy's known borders, so far out it shouldn't even be on the map, she notices the dull red that marks the last known position of Jedi they've lost contact with. She's almost curious enough to ask for that story, but she has always been slightly intimidated by Jocasta Nu, after being scolded too many times as a Youngling for talking too loudly in the library. She resolves to mention the map to Anakin instead, the next time she sees him.
She hasn't even made it out of the library yet, she's still halfway to the heavy double doors, in the shadow of a large marble bust of a Jedi Master from a thousand years ago that she can't remember the name of, when the War arrives on Coruscant. The scanners that surround the map go crazy with incoming reports, not only from the Jedi generals, but from local police and standard GAR channels as well. Jocasta hovers over them, wringing her hands helplessly. She has never wanted this command center in the middle of her library, but there was nowhere better to put it.
Ahsoka runs through the halls, dimly aware that no one can get upset about it under the circumstances. She sprints for the hangers, knowing that if Anakin can be found anywhere, it's here. She catches him as he sinks into his starfighter, pulling a helmet over his head. He removes it hastily when he notices her, screaming at him through the Force.
"Ahsoka! What the hell are you doing here?!"
"Helping!" she insists, yelling over the roar of an active deck. She orders the nearest astromech to prep her a fighter.
"No way!" Anakin demands. "I don't want you in harm's way."
That's absolutely the worst thing he can say, and Ahsoka doesn't respond, instead starting to pull on the flight suit and gear she's found in a ready-locker. It's far too big for her, but that can't be helped. When she's gotten the helmet situated, it's internal comlink crackles. "We'll talk later," Anakin promises.
The astromech won't let her into the ship, not since Anakin has ordered it not to let his Padawan engage in an active spacefight. There is a standing military hierarchy among the Jedi now, and he outranks her. There's nothing she can do but return to the library and imagine the progress of the Battle of Coruscant, seeing it in the firefly dots and in the Force.
She's given up, disappeared again, by the time Anakin returns planetside, having rescued the Chancellor, and according to the talking heads on HNE, single-handedly won the war.
Shortly after, he's promoted to the Jedi Council. There's a lot of rumors that fly in a political city like Coruscant, and the one that prevails is that the Chancellor arranged for Anakin's promotion as a reward for saving his life. Ahsoka's only a Padawan and even she knows it isn't supposed to work that way. But then, since the war started, a lot of things have happened that weren't supposed to.
Masters on the Council don't have Padawans, but she isn't reassigned. Instead, she is somewhat unofficially partnered with Master Kenobi, both of them anomalies rendered orphans by Anakin's unusual status. Of course, then the Council sends Obi-Wan to Utapau to confront Grievous. They deliberately deny the mission to Anakin because of his relative inexperience, and with that as a justification, there's no way Ahsoka is going. They don't say this to her face, of course. Instead, they point out that there is more than enough work to be done on Coruscant. Just because HNE has declared the war over, it doesn't mean the Separatist supporters on-planet or the Senate, whose all-important approval rating hangs in the balance, have agreed.
In truth, it's a way to get her out from underfoot, and that's totally fine with her. She's a lot more comfortable in the lower levels of Coruscant than the Masters realize or would approve of. Anakin has shown her more than just the scrapyards. He's taught where to find things, where to hide, what not to eat in the seedy restaurants, and how to make sure no one messes with her even when she looks like a teenage girl and not a Jedi.
After a while, she stays with Dex in the apartment above his diner because it's more convenient than returning to the Temple every time she wants to catch a few hours of sleep. No one has contacted her in days, and she no longer feels guilty about putting off her assignment more and more so that she can help out quick-frying meals and taking orders. It's easy to convince herself that she's still doing her job. If a Separatist sympathizer happens to walk into the diner and threaten a terroristic action, she's still on high alert, but it's been quiet lately. Maybe HNE was right after all, and the war really is over.
Maybe it is and maybe it isn't, but it certainly doesn't feel that way as she huddles in the shadowed corner booth of the diner, a coveted spot mysteriously empty this evening, but she certainly is not going to wonder why. An indescribable pain tears through her, more then physical. She could not pinpoint it even if she tried, it is part of every part of her. She would cry if she could, but she is too weak to move or make noise. She is assaulted by a violent wrongness and she cannot make it go away no matter how tightly she closes her eyes. She's never felt like this, not on any battlefield. She's afraid she might lose her dinner, and she has to force herself to take slow, shallow breaths.
She feels Anakin approaching, but it doesn't make her feel the way she thought it would. It's been a long time since she's been afraid of him, but it isn't hard to remember why he made her uneasy when they first met. His face is set, his eyes hardened, and his dark cloak wraps around him. He feels different in the Force. She's used to dealing with him when he's angry, or worried, but now she can't pick up anything. It's like he's empty. She finds that her body refuses to move closer to him, and he doesn't protest. He stands at the edge of a nearby table, hesitant. She chews on her lower lip and tries not to let on how worried she is.
"Ahsoka," he breathes. "I'm so glad you're here."
She nods slowly, picking at the vinyl padding of the booth. Where else would she be? She hears a rustle of fabric as Anakin moves away briefly, and then she slowly becomes aware of the enveloping sound of the holoscreen behind the bar. It's an HNE reporter, a woman she's seen a million times on this screen but never paid attention to, but as the words start to piece themselves together, a cold chill slides down her insides, settling somewhere in the pit of her stomach. She finds Anakin first. He is staring at the screen, not even blinking, not even breathing. A heartbeat later she follows his gaze and stares at the images in horror.
Where else would she be? The question echoes in her thoughts as the terror settles over her. The Jedi Temple, left blackened and burning in the background of the HNE report. Smoke still pours into the sky. The waves of darkness and destruction batter at her defenses even as she tries to curl into herself.
"Anakin," she whispers. "What happened?"
He shakes his head, won't look at her. "I don't know," he says quietly, his voice breaking. She still can't feel him.
"Ahsoka, I'm so sorry."