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Notes: ROTS AU.
Long Live Nelly: Excellent timing! Coming in just as it's wrapping up! This way you don't have to wait for updates—I know I wish I done things that way on a lot of stories I've followed. I'm glad this could get you interested in Star Wars fandom again—I'm really very fond of this fandom. :)
AndrossKenobi: I always really felt like there had to be some underlying reason behind why Dooku hated Anakin so much. I mean, there are a lot of powerful Jedi, but for some reason, Anakin was especially loathsome to him. I always wanted to explore that further, and I'm glad to have had the chance. I have to admit, though, I never really took Dark Rendezvous into account, as I haven't read it.
Raeigh: I agree—I get frustrated when he's given an easy out. Yes, the rules may, in some cases, have been a bit extreme, but, you know, he still committed genocide. Don't think you can really blame that entirely on the strictness of an Order. And thank you for this review—I think you really touched on what ruins a lot of potentially great stories (not that I'm saying I succeeded at avoiding all those pitfalls), and I genuinely appreciate reading about that insight.
Asdfjkl: Thank you! I really wanted to make sure to give a solid reason for Dooku's animosity toward Anakin. Happy reading!
FireShifter: Yes, it probably seems incomplete because it is. :) As evidenced by this post, there's an epilogue.
Rohan: He's really kind of pathetic enough that you feel sorry for him, isn't he?
Dawn of Time: Aww, thanks! And, yes. Heh, I had another section that mentioned him getting prosthetics, but I found that I didn't feel that section added to the story (with the exception of explaining how he had hands again) and removed it. Unfortunately, I neglected to mention elsewhere that he'd gotten false limbs. Sorry about that—I'll get it fixed soon.
Booknerd101: Oooh, Inception! Highly approve! Thank you so much for following my story!
Random: Character development is really pretty much the reason why I write fanfiction—I find it so much fun. I enjoyed writing Dooku as well—I feel that he's very overlooked in fanfiction. As promised, though, he doesn't die in this story. And the epilogue—well, guilty as charged. I'm a sucker for family scenes.
yellow 14: I think, with Dooku, for the most part, he's not cowardly—he'll face his shortcomings once he realizes them. And, yes, Obi-Wan hasn't had a very nice time, but things are looking up for him. Promise. Thanks for following this!
Corni378: Sorry to end the weekly updates! :( With any luck I'll have a new story to post soon. I'll even see what I can do about one with Ventress. And thank you so much for the kind words! I'm very flattered and quite appreciative.
charliebrown1234: Yay, theme song! And, yes, I have about four stories that are over eighty pages at this point. It's just a matter of figuring out which to work on and then getting them done.
The Pearl Maiden: Thank you!
Darth KenObi-Wan: No, it doesn't sound stupid at all. I actually had another section that mentioned him getting prosthetics, but I didn't feel that section added to the story (with the exception of explaining how he had hands again) and removed it. I forgot to add that little detail somewhere else. I intend to fix that in the next few days.
jmeec316: Oh, thank you! I do really love Anakin's character—there's so much room for growth and development. Still, though, I have to admit that Obi-Wan is my favorite, and so I'm very glad you enjoy my take on his character. Thanks for taking note of Dooku too: I've very much enjoyed exploring his character.
Random Under the Sun: Haha, yes, the next chapter has twins. Thanks for sticking with this story! :)
pronker: I have to admit, I almost felt proud of Anakin here. He's learned so much. *sniffle* I'm so proud. I'm also glad that I sufficiently conveyed that there's still a lot of worked to be done: I didn't want to wrap things up too easily and just give the sense that everything was going to be perfect again, because obviously there are still a lot of problems—only, now, there's hope. Thank you so much for reading and always commenting! You have no idea how much I appreciate the fact that you always take the time to do that.
Kingsdaughter613: Bonding is always fun to write! :)
Thank you so much to everyone who has followed this. I can't adequately express how much I appreciate the feedback!
It's amazing how quickly people will join forces with the victor, forgetting that only days before, they'd joined the opposition. Given the number of systems returning to the Republic, Obi-Wan has lost count of the planets claiming that they were "forced" to join the Separatists and Dooku. He's less sympathetic than he might have been before Order 66. Now, their use of the word irks him: they haven't the faintest clue what it really means to be "forced".
It's true that some of the claims are legitimate. He can understand swearing fealty when there's an army on the horizon and the promise of death attached to a negative answer. What he cannot condone, however, are the planets that conceded to Dooku's commands because it was, at the time, a seemingly better political opportunity. That is not extortion. That is a business decision, and to hear the governments of those planets claim that Dooku forced their loyalty because he offered them what appeared to be a way to further their economy or position of power—he can hardly stomach that.
They have no concept of what they claim. To them, having their hand forced means Dooku made other options less attractive on a financial or political scale. It is not a lightsaber to the throat of someone they love.
Call him petty—and undoubtedly, some will, because politicians get nasty when they aren't given what they ask for—but Obi-Wan cannot take their claims seriously. Not when he remembers what he's seen.
Some days, he likes to think he's simply not allowing emotions to play a part in his decision-making; other days, he feels cold. He's lost something. No matter what Padme and Anakin try to tell him, he's not the same man he was. He's harder—less sympathetic and understanding. He was always logical, always practical, but this goes beyond that. What he was before—he felt empathy while still choosing to do the practical thing. Now it's just harder to feel at all.
He's not on the verge of the dark side. He feels himself solidly rooted in the light… but the light doesn't automatically make someone warm and understanding. Truthfully, he wasn't really warm, per say, to begin with, and what's happened—it hasn't helped. He's just harder now. Colder.
"Stop it. I can hear you worrying from here."
But not colder to everyone.
And some days warmer than others.
The voice startles Obi-Wan out of his revere of irritation; he lowers his datapad and turns away from the window that he was standing in front of as he read. Immediately, all ill will is gone. Anakin shouldn't be here this soon. Surely, it should take longer than this? Shouldn't it? What if something went wrong? "Ana—"
Anakin grins and reaches out to grab his arm. His fingers flex as he pulls insistently, and his enthusiasm really is catching: Obi-Wan quickly falls into step behind him, already spouting questions. "Is she all right? Is the baby—?"
Anakin laughs and stops walking, spinning around and pushing against Obi-Wan's shoulder with his hand, forcing Obi-Wan to pull up short. "Babies."
"Yes, Anakin, I'm talking about babies. I want to know about your baby."
"No, Master, babies. Twins."
Oh good Force. Twins? How was that missed? Padme might not have had pre-natal check-ups for the first five months or so of her pregnancy given that she hardly had a moment's rest while she ran the rebellion, but he knows she saw a doctor after that. That—that just doesn't get overlooked. It can't possibly have been.
"Padme didn't want to know anything other than whether the baby was healthy," Anakin says by way of explanation. "The medical droids apparently took that to mean she didn't want to know she was having twins."
"You have… more than one."
Anakin keeps on grinning, the expression splitting his face in a way Obi-Wan hasn't seen for a very long time. It's comforting to see that. So good, and the legal claims for reapplication to the Republic, Dooku's upcoming sentencing—really, Obi-Wan isn't sure why the trial took this long, given there was never a question of his guilt—all the worries he's constantly dealing with—they seem to minimize in the face of that smile. "Yeah, Master, that's what twins means."
He's too shocked to bother with a retort. Anakin seems to take heart in that—he grabs Obi-Wan's elbow and yanks him forward again, heading toward the room where Padme was settled hours ago. Obi-Wan would know. He's been waiting outside since then, reading court briefings—why, oh, why did he agree to use his venerable skills in negotiation to help determine how the re-admittance process to the Republic should go?—and, really, that does explain his previously sour mood. Hours of court briefings will do that.
But not now.
Now, that mood has lightened considerably, because how could it possibly not when there are two new little lives in the world? Two little lives that almost didn't get to have a father. And that has to be worth everything he's experienced. Because there are days where he can't stop seeing Utapau and what he did, and he has to know that it wasn't useless-that his actions preserved something good. These babies have a father because of what he did. It doesn't make his actions right or moral, but it does mean something good came of a painful disaster. And he has to know that.
This—it is good.
The babies are beautiful. Not in a physical sense—newborns are, in his opinion, actually rather homely, all red and wrinkled. But this is new life, and that can never fail to be beautiful.
"So," Anakin says, leaning over Padme's bed and brushing his lips against her forehead, "I'm thinking that you'll train one, and I'll train the other—"
Padme, though her hair is still damp with sweat, and her eyes are half-lidded, belaying a deep exhaustion, looks very much like she's trying not to laugh. Force, this woman just endured childbirth, and she has the energy to laugh at him. Incredible. Her strength of will could put Jedi to shame.
"Anakin, I don't think—"
"Oh, I do! Here, just look," he continues, reaching down to take one of the babies from Padme. Before Obi-Wan can really complain—and Anakin probably planned that—he has an armful of baby.
Oh. Oh my. He… has never had much experience with babies, but there's something so perfect about the little weight in his arms. He knows he's holding the child a bit stiffly, but in all reality, he doesn't really want to let it go, uncomfortable feelings aside. "He—she—?"
Anakin grins, and even Padme laughs a little. Both the babies are dressed in white—how is he to know which is which?
"You've got Luke."
Luke. "You… named him Luke?"
Padme had to have known he didn't think they really would. On the ship—he and Padme, they'd just been talking, and her question about names—it was only a distraction. Except, apparently, it wasn't. They named the baby Luke.
Padme knows what he's thinking. She's not even making an effort to hide it: she just smiles, wide and open, leaning into Anakin's shoulder when he settles on the bed next to her, apparently getting himself a better vantage point from which to watch his former master handle an infant. Anakin's infant.
Obi-Wan glances down at the other baby in Padme's arms. "That's Leia," Padme says by way of explanation, tipping the baby up a little to let Obi-Wan see.
She looks fairly similar to Luke as far as he can tell. A bit more hair, maybe, and it's of a darker shade. But still little and red and wrinkly… and perfect. "I named her," Anakin explains, grinning proudly as he draws a finger down his daughter's cheek. She wiggles a little when he does that, making some sort of noise that isn't quite a complaint but more of an… acknowledgement. The little gloves over her hands are probably necessary too, given the way she waves her fists in a mass of uncoordinated expression, sometimes bumping herself in the face.
"You could have named your son too," Obi-Wan tells him quietly. In his arms, Luke shifts, giving a tiny cry in response to his sister. "You—" He stops then, distracted by… not quite something, but not nothing either. Just undefined. Whatever it is, it pokes clumsily at the shields of his mind. Normally, that would be threatening, but this presence—it's the furthest thing from that. This thing, whatever it is, arouses his curiosity with the way it is so entirely non-threatening, and he lowers his shields, letting the presence slip in and snuggle up against his mind.
Despite himself, he gives a small hum of surprise, wrinkling his brow. And Anakin—he is looking far too smug for his own good. "Understand yet?"
No, he doesn't. Not at all. All he understands right now is that whatever has crawled up into his mind is very light, more pure than he's felt since before Utapau. And, Force, it feels good. Clean. Like something he hadn't thought himself capable of harboring anymore.
"All right. Let me give you a hint."
The training bond that he and Anakin share flares in Obi-Wan's mind. Obi-Wan is used to that, though—Anakin has been in his head for many years. It's strange, though, how Anakin's presence feels rather like whatever else is in his mind, although the new thing—it's purer. But, still, very like a bond—
"You knew," he says blankly, staring down at the baby in his arms. "I—how did you do it?"
"Me?" Anakin asks. His wide-eyed attempt at innocence is somewhat pointless—he's never been much good at giving the impression that he'd never do whatever he's trying to deny doing at any given moment. He's done too much to pull a scene like that. In fact, he's the first one everyone looks at. Innocence is not his forte. But this time, there seems to be something more than a feigned lack of guilt. Under his amusement, he's serious. "I didn't do anything, Master. Luke wanted you. When you sensed him back when we were first leaving Utapau, he learned your presence. And I could feel him reaching out for it once he was born."
"I—that's why you were so sure I'd train him, why you handed him to me—I—he just—Luke just—" This baby just, for lack of a more eloquent description, burrowed into his mind and initiated a bond. Or, rather, poked at his shields until Obi-Wan let him in and allowed him to initiate a bond.
"Oh, yes," Anakin agrees, laughing, "he did. He's in my head to. Feels kind of nice, doesn't it?"
"I—" He's not usually this lost for words. But, Force, this baby just—
Padme grins and moves Leia a little more into her shoulder. "It looks like the light wants you, Obi-Wan," she says, watching him with warm eyes. "Quite literally."
Luke. Light. "But he's yours—"
Padme nods, and Anakin follows suit. "Of course," she agrees. "But you're family."
"You know, Master, give it awhile—Leia will probably do the same thing. Not as deep as Luke, I don't think, but I bet she'll make a bond."
"Anakin," he tries to protest, somewhat off-balance. This is… quite unexpected. "You can't just let your children go around poking at people's minds!"
The corners of Anakin's mouth tighten, suppressing a smile by sheer effort. "They don't. Do you know how many doctors and nurses have been in and out of here?"
Padme rolls her eyes, leaning back a little roughly against Anakin. Leia gives a loud squall in protest, immediately prompting her mother to go about soothing her with light touches and rocking. Though, Padme still glances up at Obi-Wan and rolls her eyes again just for good measure. "There were a lot of them. Anakin panicked. A war, dozens of rescue missions, and the defeat of a Sith Lord, but he can't handle childbirth."
Anakin tips his chin back definitely. "It looked like it hurt—"
Padme nods definitively. "Oh, it did—"
"And I wanted to fix that—"
"It's childbirth, Anakin," Obi-Wan tries to point out.
"And the doctors and nurses are getting paid, aren't they? They might as well do something!" He stops then, shaking his head and slowly pulling himself away from the bed, slipping up a little closer to Obi-Wan until he can run a finger lightly over his son's forehead. "But my point is, Luke didn't try to invade any of those minds, Obi-Wan—he tried to invade yours. That's more than wanting to know someone—it's not just curiosity. It's an understanding that there's something there in the Force. The Force wants this, and my son knows it."
"I'm flattered," Obi-Wan counters dryly. Assaulting his mind seems to be a common hobby of a good portion of the galaxy. Though, in this case, he finds that he doesn't mind it so terribly much.
Not at all, actually.
And Anakin understands—he just smiles. "I know."
"Yes, but, Anakin…" He has to say this. It… hurts to, but it does need to be said, and best not to delay, as Luke seems to be slightly unsettled by the shift in his mind, to the point where he's beginning to fuss. "Anakin, are you sure you want me to train your son?"
"Well, I don't know, Obi-Wan, are you sure you want me to train my daughter? After… everything?"
He feels himself blink. Anakin doesn't usually take him off guard, but that is… unexpected. "I don't follow your meaning."
Padme answers for him, reaching up and moving Leia toward Anakin, who goes to her side and takes his daughter as Padme sits up a little straighter. The strain of childbirth has obviously exhausted her, but the determination in the way she's holding her small frame upright so straightly makes it clear that this is important. She will not tolerate being ignored, nor told not to strain herself—neither Obi-Wan or Anakin even make the attempt. "What he means is, he has touched the dark side just as much as you. If you can't be trusted with Luke, can he be trusted with Leia?"
"Padme, it's not the same thing-"
"Oh?" She arches her eyebrow, challenging him, and so what if she has not only just given birth, but is also much smaller than him? The look on her face—well, he can face Sith Lords and war, but he'd rather not take her on. "Does the dark side have regard for family?"
"I… suppose not."
"You suppose?" she prompts sternly.
This is absurd. He is not a youngling. "Padme, you needn't lecture me."
"Oh, I think she should," Anakin interjects, laughing pleasantly. Yes, and he looks far too pleased at the verbal cowing Obi-Wan is currently enduring. "She's the only one I've ever seen actually do it!"
Maybe he's right. Maybe Padme can do that to him. But Anakin—he can't. "Anakin?"
His smile fades. It should. He ought to recognize this look of Obi-Wan's by now. "Yeah?" he asks a little hesitantly.
"Do you remember that lecture you got from Mace Windu when he found out you were the one who told that group of younglings he had a purple lightsaber because he was secretly a woman?"
Anakin's brows wrinkle, and his tongue darts out to wet his lips a little nervously. He even holds Leia a little closer to him, like he thinks he can ward off whatever Obi-Wan is about to say by blocking it with a baby. "I never got a lecture, Master—he didn't find out."
"Oh, yes." His tone is a very successful attempt at mock surprise. "Then just imagine the lecture in store if I were to mistakenly let that small detail slip."
There is little that is more perfect that seeing Anakin's jaw drop like that. Even Padme sniggers, though Anakin is supporting her cause. "You wouldn't—"
"Probably not, assuming you remember your place, my former padawan, and do not deign it your responsibility to lecture me."
That does have the effect of making Anakin look suitably contrite. Suitably meaning he's abandoned this endeavor for the time being—tomorrow, he may regain that self-assured confidence that's still lurking in his gaze when he tosses Obi-Wan a too-charming smile. "Sure, Obi-Wan."
He can hardly contain a roll of his eyes. "Hmm, yes."
Regrettably, however, Padme is still regarding him with far too much scrutiny for this conversation to have ended. "You are, as I might have mentioned previously, awfully good at directing the conversation away from where you don't want it to go, aren't you, Master Kenobi?"
It would be impossible to take that as anything other than the reprimand that it is. "I have been told that I am, My Lady." A quick nod of his head should sufficiently make his point.
Perhaps it does, though if that is the case, she simply counters with a raised eyebrow. "You're going to train my son?" Not a question, really—more of an order disguised as one.
It is true that he could refuse. He has the right. No one can force him to train the boy in his arms—not even that boy himself, who has latched onto his mind. And, Force, he has. Obi-Wan can feel him in his mind, even now, clumsily searching out the new territory, just as Anakin did when he was first apprenticed. When Anakin did this, Obi-Wan let him look… and he lets Luke look now.
And that is really his answer, isn't it? If he intended to refuse, he would rebuff Luke completely. He would not be treating Luke like he treated Anakin—he would not be treating him like he has the right to be in his mind, the right that training would give him.
The right that being family gives him.
No, there is no choice at all.
Given how often his choice has been stripped of him as of late, that should bother him… but this—it's not the same. There is no choice at all because he has already chosen. He chose too far back to change now, back when he accepted another little boy, back when that little boy became more important than just an apprentice. Back when that little boy became his family.
It was his choice, but he made it far before now—it is no longer a matter of choosing, but only of living with what he chose.
This was the kind of thing that endured, even through the dark. Utapau happened, but this decision still held strong… and somehow there is a freedom in not being able to change it now, because it shows—makes absolutely certain—that the dark side didn't nullify what he decided years ago. He chose something of the light, and he's feeling those consequences now—the consequences are still there to be felt. The light is still here.
"Yes," he answers, eyes flicking down to the little life in his arms. Perfect. More perfect than anything he has ever broken. Utapau fades in the light of the child he's holding. Everything just… seems bright.
"Yes," he says again, exhaling slowly, the ever-present tightness in his chest finally easing. "I'll train your son."