Yes, I am still alive ;) Well, it seems that the last chapter is always a struggle for me. This was even harder because it's not only the end to one Part but the end to the first Book. I can't believe that it took me so long to do it. I am going to need some time to plan the second Book. So, don't expect it being posted during the next few weeks ;)

Due to RL I lost my beta and I want to take the opportunity to express my thanks to bluewowl for having done such an extraordinary job until now! I wish you all the best and I hope that you may look into what has become of this baby from time to time ;) You made the Part you beated so much better with your helpful comments, and you urged me to rethink my first impulses. Not to mention, that you never got impatient with my language mistakes :D

Well, if anyone out there is willing to help, I will be grateful.

And one more thing to all of my readers who were following this through the years. Thank you so much for your support! There is no other possibility for a fanfiction writer to get any kind of reward than the feedback from you! I thank you, wether you commented or wether you merely read. However, I would be very pleased if some of you left me a review now that this Book is complete. It helps to decide wether I am on the right track for the next book or not. So just give me your thoughts :)

So, this is it. Enjoy this last chapter and I hope it meets your expectations. At the end of the day, I did the best I could and even I am sometimes wondering if more could have been made of this story. But there is a point at which you must stop wondering and just begin posting ;)

Chapter 15

When they left the Senate room Obi-Wan felt a brief, alarming flicker in the Force and looked about with narrowed eyes. Something was about to happen but he couldn't quite determine what. Mace Windu was standing together with Bail at the side, discussing the reaction of the Senators. The Korun-Master was apparently unaware of the impending danger.

Obi-Wan turned around and his gaze met Dooku's. Instantly he realized that the disturbance was located around the former Jedi, whose eyes shimmered almost apologetically. The young Jedi Master shook his head. "Don't," he mouthed without making a sound, and in the same moment he saw Jango Fett appearing out of the shadows, the hilt of a lightsaber in his hand.

Dooku's eyes shifted toward the floor, a movement barely noticeable, but enough for Obi-Wan to know that the Sith wasn't able to face him. Things proceeded fast after that, Dooku calling the lightsaber into his hand and igniting it, ready to fight for his escape. Obi-Wan didn't hesitate; in the blink of an eye, his own lightsaber was ready in his hand and he moved toward Dooku, feeling Mace behind him doing the same.

"Drop the weapon, Dooku," he said, his voice firm despite his inner turmoil. What was the former Jedi thinking? He couldn't believe that he would be able to flee unscathed. The Building was crawling with security.

"I won't," Dooku responded, his eyes taking on an icy shimmer. "You know as well as I do that this is the only thing I can do."

Obi-Wan moved toward him, when the security began to close in on the group. He said in an almost desperate tone, "You don't have to do this. We still can convince the Council to let you go."

Dooku gave him a snort at that. "Be prepared to fight, Jedi," he yelled and held up his saber.

Obi-Wan cringed at seeing the Sith's eyes changing into a bright yellow color, however, his training and instinct took over instantly. He responded to the first blow with fierceness. Dooku stumbled a bit at the force behind Obi-Wan's strike but was responding to the attack immediately.

In the back of his mind, Obi-Wan heard Jango shouting something and the next moment the security guards were engaging Mace Windu in a fight. Obi-Wan's eyes widened in shock and he was met with a grin from Dooku. "You didn't think that I'd try to escape without a plan, did you?" he asked and advanced again, this time showering the young Master with fast blows which Obi-Wan had a hard time countering.

They fought their way through the Senate building, the Senators standing at the side with shocked expressions on their faces. Obi-Wan immersed himself in the Force, shoving away any distraction. The blue blade of his saber met the red one constantly and each clash made him cringe. He was still weak and he knew he wouldn't be able to last long enough to prevent Dooku from escaping. The former Jedi was moving toward the hangar and it was obvious that Jango had provided a transport waiting for them there.

There wasn't any real security guard left, every single one of them had been replaced by Jango's men and only the few commanders the Senators had brought with them were fighting against the group who had come to free Dooku. Obi-Wan was getting desperate. Dooku would make it and after their conversation last night, he couldn't be sure which side the Sith was on.

Additionally to his critical, physical condition, he felt the voice in his head coming forward again and beads of sweat were building on his forehead, caused by the effort to fight against the mental assault. "Yesssss, you can still prevail, my Obi-Wan! Just use the power of the Dark side! Kill him, otherwise the Republic will be lost!"

Dooku seemed to get tired of fighting him and doubled his speed, Obi-Wan trying to keep up with him. With the help of the Force, he silenced the voice in his head and gathered his energy to jump over the Sith, attempting to attack from behind. But Dooku was already there and thrust the saber toward Obi-Wan's right arm. The young Master was barely able to get out of the way and noticed the irony of the situation immediately. Dooku had disarmed him very much the same way as he had done on Geonosis, a longtime ago, a lifetime ago, when this man had been a real enemy. Holding his arm, Obi-Wan sank to his knees, grunting in pain.

The former Jedi was standing over him and shook his head. "You shouldn't have fought me," he said, his voice flat. "You're lucky that I don't want to harm you. However, you can't stop me. I am going to be free and I won't beg the Council for any favor. You should have known me well enough to foresee this."

Obi-Wan looked up and his sight was blurred because of the tears in his eyes, caused by the mental strain against the voice in his head urging him on. "You can still defeat him. Use the Dark Side!" He saw Dooku's gaze shifting from cold to concerned when the Sith began to realize what was happening with the Jedi. "Do. Not. Give. In!" Dooku was nearly yelling, "You have to fight him! He can't win!"

Slowly, Obi-Wan sank to the floor, focusing on the mental struggle and slamming his shields up. When he opened his eyes again, he saw Jango approaching and knew that Dooku had succeeded. Dooku knelt down beside him and placed his hand on his shoulder, giving him a soothing Force touch. "I didn't know that he's haunting you, Obi-Wan," he said, his tone softened. "You have to sort this out. He won't give up easily."

The young man gave him a weak nod, not able to answer, but still concentrating on his shields.

Dooku stood up when Jango had reached them. "Is the ship ready?" he asked in a commanding voice and Jango nodded.

Obi-Wan wasn't able to prevent them from escaping anymore, too persistent was the voice in his head and too much of a strain was it to hold up his shields. When he saw Mace arriving, he closed his eyes and focused inwardly, gathering the Force around him and with a powerful push, he forced the attacker out of his mind. "Get. Out. Of. My. Head," he cried and, when sensing the voice withdrawing, he took in a breath of relief.

Mace was already down beside him and their eyes locked, the Korun-Master showing his worry openly. "What happened?" he asked.

Obi-Wan tried to regain his composure, breathing against the pain in his limbs. "Dooku escaped. I'm sorry, Mace, I. . . ."

Mace shook his head and placed a hand on the young man's shoulder. "Don't apologize." He looked toward the disappearing ship and his gaze became distant. "There was no way to stop him."

Obi-Wan slowly stood up, supported by his friend. At the questioning glance coming from the Korun-Master, he gave a nod to indicate he was able to walk and together they left for the temple.

Back at the temple Mace had led him to the healers and waited for him. Obi-Wan had persuaded Bant to let him go, not ready to be confined to a hospital bed again. Bant had reluctantly agreed. Mace had listened to her instructions patiently but the moment she had finished he had turned toward Obi-Wan. "We need to speak to Master Yoda," he said with urgence in his voice and with a nod of agreement Obi-Wan followed him to meet the ancient Master.

Master Yoda was sitting in his quarters, the shades half closed, and Obi-Wan knew immediately that the Master must have felt what had occurred after the Senate session. He felt weary. The fight against Dooku and the full force of Sidious' mind attack had worn him out. He couldn't fight the sudden wave of dizziness and Mace steadied him, his eyes full of worry.

"Sit down, Obi-Wan," the Korun-Master said. The young Jedi followed the command without resistance and when he was sitting, he closed his eyes, trying to get a grip on the Force to draw some strength. In the back of his mind he still felt the darkness residing and he had to take some time to regain his composure before looking up.

Mace tried to hide his concern when he looked back at him. "I think we need to talk before we report anything to the Council," he said and Obi-Wan gave him a faint nod. An endless discussion in the Council how to recapture Dooku seemed futile to him. Obi-Wan had known from the moment the Sith had mounted the starship that there was no way to trace it. Dooku had planned his escape masterfully and they had never stood a chance against it. After all, Dooku had made his decision and now they were left wondering what the former Jedi would do with his freedom. Would he return being a Sith? Or would he just try to lead the free life he had talked about the other night? Time would tell on which side Dooku was on, until then Obi-Wan had more urgent matters to deal with.

He would have preferred to postpone a discussion with Master Yoda about what was happening to him, but he should have known that the ancient Master wouldn't let him do that. "Tell me you will," Master Yoda simply said without an introduction. It wasn't needed; both of them knew what the Master was talking about.

Obi-Wan heaved a deep sigh and shifted uncomfortably. "I hear his voice," he said and tried to gauge Master Yoda's reaction. The Master didn't respond but Obi-Wan saw a shimmer of concern in his eyes. "First I thought it was a continuation of my nightmares, a simple reaction to the intense battle. However. . . He. . . After today, I have the feeling this isn't the case. Either my mind is playing tricks on me or Sidious is really there, still trying to turn me."

Master Yoda's expression was one of deep worry now and Obi-Wan didn't like it. He would have preferred to know that this was his mind alone, that Sidious had nothing to do with it.

"A way to retain his consciousness in the Force he must have found. Heard about it I have, but not possible it is I thought," the diminutive Master said and the certainty in his voice made Obi-Wan flinch.

Mace Windu's expression was shocked at that. "You mean he is still there? Talking to Obi-Wan?"

The young Jedi Master buried his face in his hands not able to voice what he was feeling. Despair began to overwhelm him and he tried to reign in his emotions. The weakness was instantly punished and he heard the Sith Lord's voice, "You can't escape. I will be with you. Just give into your feelings. The power of the Dark will protect you. . . ."

Before he was able to react, Sidious was cut off midsentence and Obi-Wan felt the soothing energy of Master Yoda in his mind. Gratefully, he anchored himself in the Force with the ancient Master's help. Then he looked up, a question in his eyes. "What can I do?"

"Deal with it you can. Exercise I have for you. Shield you must your feelings from him."

Obi-Wan inhaled sharply. He was painfully reminded of the block the Master had erected before to keep the Sith out. He didn't want to go down that road again. With a shake of his head, Master Yoda approached him and took his hand. "Not the same man you are as you were then. More experience you have and deal with it on your own you can. No way in, he will find."

Somehow this calmed him down a bit. But there was another question nagging at him. "How long?" he asked and when Master Yoda closed his eyes to hide a sad look, he shook his head desperately. "Don't tell me it has to be like this forever."

"Find out how he did it we must," the ancient Master said in a grave voice. "Only then will we be able to finally destroy him."

Not for the first time since Obi-Wan had been sent back, he asked himself why the Force had chosen him and why it had given him such a deep connection to Sidious of all people. He swallowed against the brief irritation. The Force must have a reason for this. Perhaps there was a valuable lesson to be learned and he just couldn't see it. The bond must have a meaning and he would deal with it until he found out what it was.

Master Yoda's expression was proud when Obi-Wan looked up with acceptance. The Master had felt his struggle and now he gave him an approving nod. "Great Jedi Master you have become, Obi-Wan," he said and smiled. "Show you I will how to keep him out. A great effort it will take on your part, but master this you will."

Mace had watched the exchange silently and when Obi-Wan looked toward him, he saw the sadness in the Korun-Master's eyes. Regaining his composure, the young man straightened a bit and said, "What are we going to do about Dooku?"

Mace shook his head. "I am sure Dooku has covered his tracks well enough. There is no way for us to get him back. We can only hope that this won't give the Senate another reason to mistrust us."

Obi-Wan sighed, knowing how fragile the thread of trust between the Jedi and the politicians was. Master Yoda's ears twitched a bit, showing the Master's concern. But then he looked up, his expression determined. "Not our place it is to worry about the Senate's decision. Wait we will what they are going to do."

While Mace and Yoda were discussing how to deal with the Council, the consequences of his situation began to dawn on Obi-Wan. He had planned to ask Anakin to be his Padawan after the Senate session. How would the Council deal with this now that he wasn't reliable any longer? Not able to wait for the Masters to end their discussion, he cut in, "What about Anakin?"

Mace looked toward him, a question written all of his face, "What about him?"

Obi-Wan took a deep breath. As much as he feared the answer, he needed to know. "I understand if you don't want to entrust the Chosen One to a Master who is haunted by a Sith. . . ."

Mace shook his head and his eyes drifted to Master Yoda. "Tell him you should that his Master you want to be. Good it will be for you to train him. Purpose you need to gain strength against Sidious," the ancient Master said.

The young man felt a wave of relief at that. He wasn't able to imagine a future without the bright boy at his side and not for the first time he thanked the Force for Master Yoda's wisdom. A brief moment he was wondering about Mace Windu's expression of disbelief, until the Korun-Master gave him another incredulous look and said, "You didn't really think we wouldn't trust you any longer, did you? Who else should be able to train a boy who is certainly going to face the Dark side one day than you of all people? There is no other Master with your experience in this temple."

Obi-Wan smiled broadly at that. Somehow the problem of the voice in his head was already fading when he thought about his future with Anakin at his side.

Master Yoda gave him a smile, as always knowing well enough what the young man was thinking. "Come before the Council you should tomorrow," he said and Obi-Wan inclined his head in acceptance.

"There is one more thing we need to tell you," Mace said and Obi-Wan looked up with curiosity. "We are going to send Qui-Gon and Tahl to Alderaan to build the community there."

Obi-Wan's eyes widened at that. He hadn't expected that the Council would send their most independent Master away with such a responsibility. 'If Dooku had known this, maybe it would have changed his opinion,' he thought and shook his head. It wouldn't do to dwell on this. The former Jedi had made his choice. His thoughts had drifted away and he almost missed when Master Yoda added, "Appoint him to the Council we will."

Qui-Gon, a Council-member? Obi-Wan couldn't help but smile at this. He didn't need any more proof to know that the Jedi order had changed profoundly. "It seems as if we have a lot to celebrate tomorrow then," he said and for a brief moment he was able to look into the future with happiness. The Force had given him a difficult task and he didn't know where he would be going from here, but in the end things looked so much brighter than they had in his former life. A Thought came to his mind when he thought through what they were going to do. He smiled and said, "I think I have a few propositions to make." Both Masters looked up with curiosity and Obi-Wan had to chuckle. If they agreed, this would be just perfect.

The ship was making its way through hyperspace and Dooku was sure that the Republic had long lost their trail by now. He turned around to Jango and gave him a thankful nod. "You did well, Jango," he said and sat down. The fight against Kenobi had taken its toll. He wondered if he would have been able to escape if it hadn't been for Sidious' voice distracting the young man. Sidious' voice. . . How was that even possible? His former Master had kept his secrets and it seemed that this was one of them. He was pretty sure that this haunting wasn't something Kenobi made up in his mind. No, the Sith Lord had found a way to retain his consciousness in the Force and he had chosen to use it against Obi-Wan. Dooku heaved a deep sigh. Was it even possible to finally kill a Sith Lord of such capability? There had to be a way. He clenched his fist painfully. He wanted to get rid of him, once and for all. But to do it he had to know how he was doing it.

Making up his mind, he turned around toward Jango. "We need to build a new base. Give me a list of inhabited planets, so that we can choose one that is suitable. And. . ." he smiled when he reached into his boot, taking out a datachip. ". . . put this into the board computer and let's see what we can learn from our former Master."

Jango took the small device and examined it carefully. "Is this. . . ."

Dooku gave him a nod. "Yes, it's a copy of Sidious' files. I am sure it will give us useful advice. However, we have to consider that the Jedi have this information, too. So let's see what we can do with it."

Dooku watched Jango follow his instructions as he began to plan out the next steps. He would find a way to end Sidious and then he would finally be free to proceed with his own plans.

"You're well enough to leave, Qui," Tahl said with a broad smile on her face after she had examined Qui-Gon thoroughly. The Jedi Master sighed in relief at that. He knew that he still needed time to recover but it was so much easier to do that in the ambience of their own quarters.

Before he was able to respond, the door opened and Anakin barged in, his expression happy. "Obi-Wan is on his way. He will be here shortly," he said and sat down at the edge of Qui-Gon's bed.

Qui-Gon took his hand in his and smiled at the obvious joy in the boy's eyes. They had all been worried when they had heard about Dooku's escape and Obi-Wan's role in it and it had concerned Qui-Gon even more to hear that his former Padawan had been brought to Master Yoda's quarters immediately after having been patched up by Bant. He just hoped that everything was all right with him now. "Well, he's just in time to help me get back to my quarters then," he said and had to laugh at the beaming boy in front of him.

"You're ready to leave?" Anakin asked. "That's just perfect! We can spend the evening together then."

Tahl laughed happily at that and Qui-Gon felt her relief that things seemed to be back to normal. He gave her a wink. "We can if my personal healer is going to allow it."

She gave him a playful pat on his back. "I surely will. It's about time for the family to be reunited."

In this moment Obi-Wan stepped in and without hesitating Anakin sprung up and ran toward him, hugging the young man. Obi-Wan returned the happy greeting and squeezed the boy's shoulder tenderly. Qui-Gon had to smile at the affectionate display. They would do each other good and it was time for them to start the Padawanship now. He felt consent coming over his bond with Obi-Wan. Then the young man looked up and Qui-Gon noticed the dark circles around his eyes. His former Padawan was exhausted and he obviously wanted to talk. "Why don't you and Tahl bring my things into my quarters and prepare dinner while I follow you with Obi-Wan's help, Anakin" he said, trying to keep his tone light to not worry the boy.

Tahl, realizing what he was trying to do, gave him a kiss on his forehead and took Anakin's hand. "Good idea, let's just take this," she took Qui-Gon's datapad, "and empty the closet and leave. Luan is waiting and I could use some help with dinner anyway."

Anakin narrowed his eyes in suspicion and looked toward Obi-Wan, who responded to his unspoken question with a court nod. Accepting his future Master's wish he walked over to the closet and took Qui-Gon's clothes. Before they left, he turned around once more. "You won't take long, will you?" he asked and Qui-Gon could feel his insecurity about leaving Obi-Wan alone.

Obi-Wan smiled. "We will be with you shortly, I promise."

The door closed and Qui-Gon immediately sat up. "What is it?" he asked and Obi-Wan sat down on the chair at his bedside. He was pale and Qui-Gon began to worry in earnest now.

"I spoke with Mace and Master Yoda. I wasn't able to keep the fact that Sidious is haunting me a secret anymore. Master Yoda seems to be really worried. It means that Sidious must have found a way to somehow retain his consciousness and I seem to be the major target."

Qui-Gon's heart clenched at this. Things should have been better for Obi-Wan after Sidious' defeat. However, now it looked even worse.

Obi-Wan gave him a wan smile. "Story of my life," he said and Qui-Gon shook his head at the resigned tone.

"We will get through this, Obi-Wan. We always have," he tried to reassure the young man.

"Master Yoda already showed me a way to keep him out," Obi-Wan replied and closed his eyes briefly. "It works but it is exhausting. I had to establish a special shield in my mind and it needs constant attention."

"You could have waited to do it until you've rested," Qui-Gon scolded him. "You already are exhausted after your speech and the fight against Dooku."

Obi-Wan shook his head. "I couldn't bear him any longer and I. . . I wanted to be free when I ask Anakin."

Qui-Gon's face lit up. "You're going to ask him? Today?" His expression changed when a thought came to his mind. "The Council still approves of this? Even if they know that pairing you with Anakin means that the boy will be in Sidious' proximity?"

"Master Yoda is convinced that having him as a Padwan will help me to get through this. . . ."

Qui-Gon nodded, it seemed to be reason enough, however. . . . "They have accepted the fact that all of this is connected," he said. "They know that Anakin has to withstand the temptation. It's a test."

Obi-Wan shook his head. "I am sure it's part of their decision to know for sure that Sidious is no longer a threat to Anakin. But in the end they trust me enough to cope with it. They wouldn't allow this otherwise. We have this deep bond and they know that even if I weren't Anakin's Master, Sidious would find a way to get through in the end. As you say, they can't deny the fact that we are connected. Anakin and I belong together."

Qui-Gon gave him a nod. The situation was difficult but the Council seemed to have taken the right decision. However, he wasn't able to accept his former Padawan's ordeal lightly. "Is there a way to end it?" he asked.

"Master Yoda says we need to find out how he is doing it. Then we should be able to do something against him."

"Well, then finding out about it should be our priority," Qui-Gon said and squeezed his former Padawan's hand.

"It will be Anakin's and mine priority," Obi-Wan responded. "Your priorities will change soon enough, my former Master." The older man saw a sparkle in Obi-Wans eyes and looked up questioningly. "They are going to appoint you to the Council tomorrow and you are going to build the community on Alderaan." Obi-Wan explained with a bright smile.

Qui-Gon was speechless. He, a Master of the Council? He never would have dreamt of this. He swallowed deeply, trying to process this information.

"There's more," Obi-Wan interrupted his thoughts. "After they told me about it, I had another idea. I think the temple on Alderaan needs its own Council. Leaving you alone with the responsibility would be too much of a burden, considering that you need someone to turn to for advice. They agreed with me on that. We are going to propose Tahl as the other Council-member."

"I don't know what to say," Qui-Gon replied, surprise written all over his face. Then he frowned. "Two people don't make a Council," he said and looked into the smiling face of his former Padawan.

"Well, we think that you're not going to need three members who are constantly on Alderaan. A close connection to the Council on Coruscant should be maintained. They are appointing one of their Masters as permanent Council-member on Alderaan."

Now Qui-Gon smiled too. "They are going to suggest you," he said.

Obi-Wan nodded. "They don't want to station me there, because of Anakin. He and Luan shouldn't be stationed on the same planet in case of an attack. But Mace agreed that our bond is there for a reason and that we would be the best team to set up the community."

Qui-Gon wasn't able to argue with that. He felt a wave of relief when he realized that it also meant that he wouldn't have to be separated from Obi-Wan. Surely, his former Padawan would be sent on missions and take time on Coruscant but this arrangement assured him that he would also spend a significant amount of time on Alderaan. In the end it was perfect.

After their dinner and a good-night kiss to Luan, Anakin went to Obi-Wan's quarters, curious why the young Master had told him to meet him privately. During their meal Obi-Wan had been exhausted and the boy had expected him to go to bed immediately. He knew about Dooku's escape and he had felt how much it had affected the Master. It had been only a brief moment that Obi-Wan's shields had slipped the tiniest bit, but it was enough for Anakin to realize that something grave was happening to him. He took a deep breath when he stood in front of the door. There was no reason to be anxious about this meeting. However, he sensed that this was important and he had to regain his calmness before entering. The door opened and Anakin smiled. Obi-Wan must have felt his presence.

"I'm in the kitchen," he heard his friend's voice and its sound made the unsettling feeling disappear immediately. Well, Obi-Wan had that effect on him. Ever since they had formed the special bond, the Master had been able to calm him down merely by being at his side. He walked into the kitchen, where Obi-Wan was standing over the table preparing tea. "Come," he said and placed the kettle back onto the stove.

Anakin moved to his usual place at the young man's side and looked toward Obi-Wan. His curiousness was nearly killing him now, and he began to fidget on the chair until the young Master finally had taken his own place and looked to him with an amused sparkle in his eyes. "What is it, Anakin? You seem nervous," Obi-Wan asked and placed a hand on the boy's arm. Anakin inhaled at the soothing feeling and smiled shyly.

"I don't know. Something tells me that this is important," he responded and Obi-Wan closed his eyes briefly, confirming that he was right.

"Well. It actually is. However, there is no reason for you to be anxious. I just wanted to know a few things."

Anakin gave him a nod. "You know, you can ask me anything you want, Obi-Wan."

Obi-Wan replied with a smile and ruffled the boy's hair gently. "I know, and I am happy that we have this, uhm, special kind of connection. You trust me, don't you, Ani?"

"Sure, I mean you've always been there for me and I . . ." He blushed slightly before saying, "You know that I love you, don't you? One day I want to be the Jedi that you are." He couldn't fight the sadness in his voice when he added, "That means, if I will find a Master soon."

Obi-Wan gave him an understanding nod at that. "It bothers you that no one has chosen you yet."

The boy's expression became almost desperate. "Well, yes, my future depends on it and I can't seem to impress any Master enough to take me as his Padawan."

"Can you explain why that is? Or has anyone given you an explanation?"

Anakin sighed. "Master Gallia said that the bond between Master and Padawan is a special one and that no one has felt this connection with me yet, but that soon enough the Force will decide my fate. Master Yoda keeps telling me to be patient and that he does see me as a Jedi Knight. Qui-Gon told me once that he would have loved to be my Master, but that it wasn't my destiny to be trained by him. I often wish that you could be my Master, I mean, we already have a bond and I love to be with you. But I understand that you are too important for the order to take me," his voice had become agitated and with a deep breath he tried to calm himself down. "All this talk about the Force and destiny. . . In the end I think that no one is ready to take the risk of training me. They can feel my potential darkness and perhaps they are right. Considering what happened to me in your former life. . . ."

Obi-Wan shook his head and interrupted him. "Anakin," he said sternly and locked eyes with the boy. "Never think that anything the other Anakin has done in my former life has something to do how people treat you here. You are a different person; your life is different. Don't even think of comparing yourself to him!"

Anakin swallowed at the tone in Obi-Wan's voice. He seldom was on the receiving end of what he called 'The Kenobi Master voice', the tone that commanded and expected obedience. Without thinking he blurted out, "Yes, Master."

The moment he said it, he bit his lip, knowing that he shouldn't call him that. This was Obi-Wan, his friend, his role model, not a Jedi Master he had to obey and certainly not his Master. He looked up and saw his own shock reflected in Obi-Wan's face. It had come naturally to him to address the older man with his title. Was this one result of their existing bond? Did he inherit this from Obi-Wan's former Anakin, even if the other man told him time and time again, that he was different? Before he could contemplate it, Obi-Wan moved forward and gently placed his hand over the boy's.

"How did that feel?" He asked in a soft voice and Anakin could have sworn he sensed anxiety in the question.

Not understanding entirely what the Master was asking, Anakin shrugged. "How did what feel? Addressing you as my Master?" Obi-Wan gave him a slow nod and beginning to piece things together, the boy felt his heart quicken. "It felt natural, as if the Force wanted me to do it. . ." He smiled sheepishly. "Or perhaps it was only because you have this kind of natural authority on those around you."

Obi-Wan had to chuckle at this. Then his expression grew serious again. "No Ani, it is the Force's will. It feels natural because you should be my Padawan. This is the reason no other Master has asked you yet. We belong together and I would be honored if you accepted my offer."

For a moment the boy was speechless. This was more than he had hoped for. After all he knew about Obi-Wan he hadn't expected him to take him as a Padawan. Not only had the young Master enough other duties, but he also had seen the former Anakin turn. Knowing how deeply this had affected him, Anakin had been sure that there was no future for them. But he had asked him, hadn't he? No Jedi Master would make such an offer without having contemplated it carefully. Obi-Wan really wanted him. Slowly the joy began to beat the surprise.

When he looked up, he saw Obi-Wan smiling cautiously. Anakin knew that he was waiting for an answer. With a squeal the boy hopped from his chair and hugged the Master. "You mean it," he said and tried to fight the tears in his eyes. He had waited so long for someone to ask him and the relief that the waiting was over was almost too much. Remembering what was expected from a Jedi, he let the Master go and cleared his throat. Then he took a breath and said with a broad smile on his face, "I would be honored to be your Padawan, Master."

Obi-Wan seemed relieved and Anakin wondered if the older man had doubted for a moment that he would accept. Then his new Master indicated him to sit down again. Obediently, the boy returned to his place, curious what they would discuss now.

"You know that being my Padawan will be difficult. I can't promise you that I will always be able to separate your behavior from his." Anakin nodded, knowing well enough that his Master was referring to the Anakin of his former life. "I just want you to know that if I ever do it unintentionally, you have every right to tell me."

"I don't think you will, Master, you never did before," Anakin replied, letting the honorific roll over his tongue, indulging in the sense of rightness in the Force.

Obi-Wan smiled. "I am glad you think so, Padawan. However, there is one more thing I need to tell you before you make your final decision."

Anakin listened carefully while Obi-Wan told him about Sidious' voice and Master Yoda's suspicion that the Sith Lord had maintained his consciousness in the Force. His eyes widened when he realized that the unsettlement he had sensed earlier, hadn't been because of Dooku's escape but the fact that his new Master was haunted by the Dark Lord, again. When Obi-Wan had ended, the boy nodded with understanding. "So, our first mission will be to find out how he did it?"

Obi-Wan gave him a surprised look. "Here I thought you would need some time to contemplate what this will mean for your Padawanship," he said with a chuckle. "I should have known that no task would sound too difficult for you. It won't be our first mission rather than our permanent one. And you must understand that I will be forced to take precautions in case I feel a threat to you from Sidious. This is why I asked Master Windu to care for you if I am not able to."

Anakin frowned. "I don't think this will happen, Master. Nevertheless, I am grateful if Master Windu helps us out. I've always wanted to learn how to fight like him." He gave Obi-Wan a brilliant smile; for him the matter was closed. There was nothing that could prevent him from being Obi-Wan's Padawan. They would deal with Sidious when the time was right. For now he was just happy that the Master had chosen him.

"The Council expects us for the ceremony tomorrow, Padawan. After this we will receive our first briefings," Obi-Wan told him with a warm smile.

Anakin's gaze became thoughtful. "You have me on a disadvantage here, Master. As opposed to you, I don't know what to expect from this." He was slightly shocked to see the flicker of sadness that touched Obi-Wan's eyes.

"No, my Padawan. This is as new to me as it is to you," he said with a distant look. Then he shook himself out of the memories, which had apparently come to his mind. "But I promise you, this time we will do things properly."

The next day things were made official. Standing in front of the door to the Council-chamber Obi-Wan looked down toward Anakin. He was fidgeting nervously and Obi-Wan placed his hand on the boy's shoulder projecting calmness. "Everything will be fine, Anakin," he said and Anakin looked back gratefully. As always, Obi-Wan's influence steadied him and the young Master was sure that this time no one would be able to interfere with their relationship. This Anakin would come to him with his problems because the boy knew about his place in Obi-Wan's heart.

The door opened and they walked into the center of the circle. Behind Master Yoda he saw Qui-Gon standing, his hand entwined with Tahl's. Both were radiating happiness and Obi-Wan gave them a curt nod before bowing toward the rest of the Council. Anakin wasn't surprised to find them here. Obi-Wan had already told him that they would be appointed to the Council today.

Mace Windu spoke up, "Anakin, Master Kenobi here asked to take you as his Padawan learner. You're here to declare your readiness to enter such a partnership."

Anakin smiled at this. "I am ready to be Master Kenobi's Padawan and I will honor him as my Master until he feels that the time is right for me to be a Jedi Knight," he said with a steady voice, apparently having rehearsed the words often enough.

Mace stood up and gave Obi-Wan two beads for Anakin's hair, which they had prepared that morning. "Then the Council will stand witness when you take your Padawan learner, Master Kenobi." His eyes were dancing with joy and Obi-Wan took the beads from him.

He knelt down and began to weave the loosely hanging strand of hair together to a braid, fixing it with the beads. "Anakin Skywalker," he said, "this braid represents our relationship. This," he held up the first bead and placed it into the hair, "is me and my fate will be entwined with yours," he showed the boy he second bead, "until you will be able to keep on without me, until the order will recognize you as a Jedi Knight."

He felt tears glistening in his eyes. How different was this from the last time when Master Yoda had only reluctantly agreed to Anakin's training. This time the boy was accepted properly and the whole Council approved of this Padawanship. Despite the situation he was in, with Sidious lurking around in his head, Obi-Wan had hope, hope that this time things wouldn't end as they had before, hope that the Jedi would walk out of this confrontation without being destroyed.

Two weeks later it was time to say good-bye to Coruscant. Obi-Wan and Anakin would be leaving with Qui-Gon, Tahl and Luan to prepare the temple on Alderaan for settlement. Bail Organa would accompany them. Padme would be returning to Naboo and Master Yoda had insisted a pair of Jedi go with her. Obi-Wan was glad that he had picked Siri and Garen to do this. Knowing that his love was safe was more important to him than he had imagined. He was sure that this was one of the reasons for Yoda's decision.

The Senate had decided that for now the Republic wasn't in need of an army, however, all of them knew that the threat wasn't over and that there was still at least one Sith at work. He was an apprentice and no one knew how well trained he was, but in the end he was able to operate in the shadows, because they had no clue who he was. Therefore, they had decided to not stop the production of the Clone army on Kamino. Obi-Wan was still concerned about this, but Master Yoda had told him that there was no point in dwelling on it. Only time would tell if the fragile relationship between the Senate and the Jedi order would hold.

Obi-Wan smiled when he felt Padme approaching. He had gone to the Room of a Thousand Fountains to meditate and reestablish his special shield and he had expected her to come to say her farewells. Slowly he turned around and held out his hands toward her. She took them and let him lead her to a bench.

Radiating concern, she asked, "How are you?" He had told her what was happening to him, knowing well enough that he couldn't hide something like that from her.

"Well, today seems to be a good day or I am getting used to maintaining the shield. He wasn't able to break through it even once." It was indeed progress. During the last two weeks he had fought hard to get here and Master Yoda had supported him often enough.

She gave him a nod, accepting it without question. She knew well enough what Sidious' presence meant for him and she wouldn't pry any further. Then she looked around. "Well, you won't need such an artificial garden on Alderaan," she said and smiled.

He shook his head. "No, thank the Force that Alderaan is beautiful enough as it is. The Jedi are going to enjoy it there."

"How long are you going to stay?" she asked and he saw a sad shimmer in her eyes.

He placed his arm around her shoulders and she snuggled into his embrace. "I don't know, long enough to establish the community there. But Anakin and I have to leave for missions soon. He needs the experience and I have something to do."

She also knew about his mission to find a way to permanently be rid of Sidious and didn't comment on it. He smiled and thanked the Force that it had given him this woman. She never tried to argue against his commitment to the Jedi and the dangers that he had to face. She was driven by her duty to the Republic as much as he was and was therefore able to understand what had to be done. Three years from now her term as Queen would end and they would talk about their future. He had to admit that he was very much looking forward to that.

She seemed to sense what he was thinking and squeezed his hand. "You know that I will be waiting on Naboo for you, don't you?" Her eyes took on a mischievous shimmer. "And I am going to pester Siri and Garen with my questions about your well-being."

He laughed. "I wouldn't expect anything less form you," he said and he couldn't help but kiss her.

He was ready to face any trial the Force presented him with the support of the people he loved. Having the freedom to admit his feelings had already changed so much for him and the people around him. He didn't believe in destiny any longer. The fate of the Galaxy didn't depend on a prophecy but on the decisions the people in it made. It was all about choice and he chose this. He never wanted to return to the loneliness of his former life again.