SPOILER ALERT: It's not a big one...but you've been warned. (Spoiler applies to events after A Thousand Suns: Rebellion.)
A/N: For all you Rexsoka fans out there...bear with me. Just give it a try. And no, I haven't killed off Rex. ^^
Dedication: To SerendipityAEY - because you're right: we all need a little Obi-Wan in our lives. Here's to putting up with all us clone fangirls - this one's for you!
The Knightly Virtues: Faith
In which Obi-Wan Kenobi realizes that faith is usually something that you share.
"Faith has to do with things that are not seen and hope with things that are not at hand."
Obi-wan sat in his customary spot, with his back to the wall and his face toward the door. Tarvis brought him his tea and lingered for a moment, but try as he could, old "Ben" couldn't focus on the Rodian's usual gossip. The two had a friendly enough acquaintance and the tapcaf owner had grown used to Ben's bi-monthly visits to Anchorhead for supplies, tea, and galactic news.
Today, however, Tarvis' customer seemed lost in his cup of Alderaanian green; Ben apologized and the Rodian insisted that he didn't take offense. Which was the truth – Tarvis had been around a long time, nearly sixty standard years, and there was little that annoyed him anymore. Indeed, the only thing that 'set him off', as it were, was talk about Order 66 and pro-Imperial sentiment.
Tarvis was a loyal one, Obi-Wan thought with a smile, as he watched the trusty alien meander back to his duties at the tapcaf's front counter. Though he would never know that one of his most reputable customers was, in fact, a fugitive Jedi, Obi-Wan suspected that the knowledge wouldn't ruffle Tarvis' headcrest in the least. If there was one sentient on all of Tatooine who could be trusted with the truth of his identity, it probably was Tarvis – but "Ben" had no desire to burden his friend with the truth.
It was much safer to remain anonymous – for him and for Tarvis. The old Rodian had earned the right to die in peace and comfort and Ben was resigned to the silence of his exile. He would be happy with Tarvis' kindness and his excellent collection of teas. Indeed, Tarvis' Tapcaf boasted the best selection of non-alcoholic drinks on this side of the Outer Rim and Obi-Wan was inclined to believe it.
A holoviewer on the opposite side of the tapcaf broadcasted Imperial news for anyone interested enough to watch it. The human news anchor could barely be heard above the low hum of voices and the quiet clatter of dishes; Obi-Wan felt that it was just as well. Every sentient in Anchorhead knew that the holonews had been nothing more than carefully scripted propaganda since the fall of the Republic. And in such a hive of scum and villainy, another source of lies was barely anything of note.
The screen flickered to the one thing of any true interest anymore – the obligatory Wanted Lists. Usually, Ben had considerable interest in the Lists, if only to find hope in the many familiar names that graced the screen. Normally, he would seek out names like Commander Cody, Yoda, Saa Par'jain, Sheltay Marr, Captain Rex, Ahsoka Tano, and Kalinda Halycon. Names that assured him that their owners were still alive and well, still defying the Empire, and still in hiding.
But, today Obi-Wan's attention was distracted by something...strange...that stirred beneath the bustling layers of Anchorhead's myriad lifeforms. It was something...feminine, he thought. Something...desperate, perhaps. Something...strangely familiar.
It was the familiarity of the feeling, that prompted him to sit in Tarvis' Tapcaf and gently call out to it through the Force. Something answered back – something undefined, but aware. It was almost something like...
But, wait. He wouldn't dare hope for something as miraculous as that. Another Jedi on Tatooine? Unthinkable.
Curiosity kept Obi-Wan in his seat, long past his usual timetable. He even ordered another tea, which seemed to surprise Tarvis. He could tell that the Rodian wanted to ask what he was waiting for, but like any judicious businessman, Tarvis kept his own council and left old Ben alone.
Obi-Wan sipped his tea and waited patiently. That undefinable Something Else sensed him as well and it was steadily drawing closer, though it stopped and lingered in certain places from time to time. As it drew nearer, the Jedi Master felt another inexplicably familiar signature in the Force. The second was stalwart and masculine; it had the sense of a fighter about it. The other was furtive, like a fugitive.
A fighter and a fugitive? Curious, indeed. Obi-Wan sipped his tea.
"I don't like this, sir. We shouldn't be this far inside the city," Wolffe grumbled in protest as he stalked beside his statuesque companion.
The young female had grown significantly since the fall of Order 66 and Wolffe actually found himself struggling to match her long-legged stride. This one small thing did, in fact, contribute greatly to his current state of pique. Though, he didn't begrudge his charge's length of stride so much as he worried about losing track of her in the throng of bodies that jostled them at every turn.
"I Sense something," was the only answer he got – which was consistent with every other answer he'd gotten since he'd seen that strange, far-away look come over her eyes on the spaceport pier.
Wolffe huffed in exasperation. Once, he would have tried to hide his displeasure from the Jedi, but the time was long past for such formalities. They were both wanted sentients – she for surviving the slaughter that took out nearly all of her Order, he for contributing directly to her escape. In the two years since they had been on the run, the two had grown close. Perhaps, even, closer than most would have considered wise. Though, to be fair, she had kept a certain distance, until she'd read the Wanted Lists on Nar Shadda and seen that the Captain's name had finally gone missing.
Wolffe had since learned that sharing one's bed with a female permitted certain liberties in daily interactions that once would not have been of much concern. Since that night on Nar Shadda, Wolffe had found that his feelings for the female at his side had grown significantly more...complicated. As a result, he grew a little bolder in voicing his opinion when she dragged him off course with barely any explanation other than "the Force made me do it."
They'd gotten this far, in large part, because of his training, his instincts, and his do-or-die determination. Even she was willing to admit that and had on multiple occasions. He was protective of her and rightfully so – she wouldn't have been alive at all, if he hadn't followed her fighter that day and pulled her body from the wreckage.
A passing Gamorrean jostled her arm and she missed a step as she stumbled sideways into his burly frame. A slender hand the color of sunset reached out from underneath her too-long robe sleeve and grabbed a hold of his forearm as she steadied herself. Wolffe reached across his body out of sheer reflex and put his hand on top of hers – partly to help anchor her against his body, mostly to hide the tell-tale color of her skin.
"Easy, now," he murmured quietly; she found her footing and her hand slipped out from underneath his to hide again inside of her voluminous disguise. "We shouldn't be here," the clone urged from underneath his rancor trainer's mask.
"We're nearly there," she insisted with gentle conviction; her hood billowed slightly as she nodded her head toward the rounded entrance of a tapcaf across the crowded street.
"I'd love to know how you talk me into these crazy schemes," Wolffe rolled his one good eye and fought the urge to grab her by the waist, sling her over his shoulder, and march back toward the relative safety of the Anchorhead spaceport.
He could imagine her flashing him her usual, mischievous smile, before she darted abruptly from his side and sprinted across the street.
"I'm really getting to old for this," the former commander swore under his breath, before dodging an incoming speeder and following her into the tenuous unknown.
As he had always done, in a lifetime that now seemed so long ago.
They were a strange pair, though Obi-Wan had seen stranger during his time on Tatooine. He was dressed in the faded drab of a rancor trainer, the bottom of his face hidden behind a tusked mask. His chest was bare, as was common on most rancor handlers, but Ben's well-trained eye didn't miss the scars that covered the deeply tanned skin. He had seen countless scars like those before – he even boasted a few of them himself. They were not the scoring marks of a rancor's claws, but the jagged tracks of blaster bolts that had seered the skin a brighter shade of pink.
She carried herself with poise and grace; her feet were silent on the hard tapcaf floor. Her flowing robe did little to hide her willowy stature, or her hunter's gait. Try as he might, though, Obi-Wan could make nothing of her species out; she was unusually careful about showing her hands and her face was hard to ascertain underneath the shadows of her hood.
The shape of her hood suggested, however, that she was not human. Her hood dipped slightly between two crests, hinting at horns, perhaps, or headtails. Obi-Wan sipped his tea and imagined her to be Togruta – the thought brought back painful memories and he stared into the misty green contents of his mug, lost momentarily in the past.
When he looked up, she was standing in front of his table. Her signature in the Force practically screamed at him and in one awful moment, her vague familiarity coalesced into an awful knowing. Ben gasped and nearly dropped his mug; her name nearly slipped past his lips in a shout of surprise, but he bit it back at the very last moment.
A sienna-shaded hand slipped out from underneath her robe and reached for his hand. Obi-Wan set his tea down and offered her his hand willingly, his mind reeling unbelievingly. The moment was muffled in a feeling of great surrealism; not in all his fondest dreams, had Ben ever hoped to see her again in the flesh.
Much less on barbaric Tatooine.
For a moment, his mind rebelled and even as he wrapped his fingers around hers, he wondered if he was mistaken. Perhaps, it was just a trap – a clever Imperial ploy to flesh him out.
But, then her voice broke and the sound of tears filled the space of his secluded tapcaf corner.
The years since Order 66 hadn't been kind to General Kenobi, but the premature gray in his beard and the lines of deep-etched worry couldn't alter his familiar face. Wolffe would have been able to have spot him instantly, even in the thick of the crowded Anchorhead street outside. In fact, the former commander had to wonder how the wily Jedi had managed to evade capture for as long as he had – his face was plastered on a million Wanted posters throughout the galaxy and one would be hard-pressed to forget a face like old Ben's.
But, then again, the face on the posters was younger, happier. The Obi-Wan who sat before them, awash in undisguised amazement, had faded a bit at the edges. His hair was bleached from too much time spent in the Tatooine suns; the bold ginger in his beard had paled from too much stress. His face was leaner, his skin darker. Lines fanned out from the edges of his mouth and the corner of his eyes in an intricate web of fine detail; mourning had taken its toll and had marked itself permanently in clear blue eyes that were as kind as ever.
"Please, sit," the general recovered his sense of awareness and waved at the two chairs that sat so conveniently in front of them. "There's no need to hover."
Hovering would draw unwanted attention; Wolffe had already caught the tapcaf's proprietor eying them with undisguised interest. The pulled out the chair closest to him and promptly sat down; his companion followed suit almost immediately.
"What are you doing here?" she whispered, her attention still focused unbelievingly on the general.
"The same as you, I'd imagine," was the bland reply; Obi-Wan's eyes flickered from one to the other, then past them toward the curious establishment at large. "Trying to keep a low profile."
"How long have you been here? We've only just – " the words came out in a tumble, no doubt fed by her excitement at having found such a pivotal figure from her past.
Wolffe made a noise of warning at the back of his throat and the general lifted his hand in subtle admonition.
"This is, perhaps, not the best place for discussion. Tarvis is a trustworthy creature, but the same can not be said of most of Anchorhead. And, around here, even the tables have ears," having made his point, Obi-Wan turned his attention toward the front counter and waved the owner over with a flick of his wrist.
"Perhaps you two would care for some refreshment? The suns will parch you dry without you ever realizing it," his voice was calm and measured as always, but Wolffe caught the hint of a command in his tone.
If they ordered from the house, it would make their presence less conspicuous. Wolffe nodded, his expression grim beneath his mask.
"We'll take your recommendation, sir," he spoke for the first time, his voice a low grumble against the tapcaf's general ambiance.
"A circuit cider and a H'Kok bean tea for my friends, please," the general's order was prompt and the old Rodian's response appropriate.
"Right away," the alien paused a moment before turning away and addressed Obi-Wan briefly for further clarification. "Would you like the tea hot or cold?"
Obi-Wan's eyes flickered across the table and Wolffe knew that the two Jedi were silently communicating in their mystical way. Barely a second or two passed, before the former general turned back to the Rodian and finalized his order.
"Cold, please. It's been an unusually hot day for this time of year."
"Indeed it has," the proprietor nodded sagely. "I'll have those orders right up."
He bustled off and Wolffe watched the mellow tapcaf lighting reflect gently off of the Rodian's dark-blue skin. He was nervous about being out in the open in such a fashion – usually, they stuck to the relative safety of their ship, with only brief excursions out to gather food and other supplies. Wolffe hadn't sat and socialized in any considerable capacity since the war's violent end; it gave the moment a sense of timeless nostalgia and if he wasn't careful, the clone could easily imagine that things were back to being the way they once had been.
Until, of course, he turned and looked at General Kenobi again. Reality could not be denied in the frayed edges of his robe, or the rough cut of his once-impeccable hair.
"I trust you two aren't being followed?" the question was mild, as if he were asking for the color of the midday sky.
"No," she shook her head and the edges of her hood flapped in tandem with her movement. "We had decided to stop here just to refuel and stock up on supplies."
"Well, in that case," Obi-Wan shifted slightly in his seat and took a sip of his cooling tea before speaking again; his voice remained low and conversational. "You two should visit for a bit. I live not too dreadfully far from here, in the Jundland Wastes."
Wolffe frowned and leaned back in his chair. He didn't like the idea of spending any significant amount of time away from the ship, but he didn't need to be a Jedi to know that the young Togruta in his keep was getting a bad case of cabin fever. It also wasn't fair to expect her to pass up the chance to visit with one of her dearest friends and mentors from the Wars.
She had lost General Plo Koon in Order 66 and most recently, she had lost Captain Rex. She had no way of knowing how either of them had died, except that they had. If she wanted to visit with one of the few remaining Jedi in the galaxy...
Well, far be it from him to discourage it. Wolffe glanced over at her and nodded once.
"We would be honored," she bowed her head in graceful acceptance of the offer and even General Kenobi's face lit up slightly in response. "A night or two would certainly not take us out of our way."
Obi-Wan puttered for a few minutes, unused as he was to having company. He was elated – ecstatic, really – to have have her with him, if only for a day or two. And she brought Wolffe with her – an added bonus.
Ben hadn't really interacted much with Wolffe during the Wars, but he had joined forces with the Wolfpack enough to know that the one-eyed clone was perhaps one of the most dependable commanders in the GAR. Which, honestly, was saying something, since Obi-Wan had never met a clone commander who wasn't dependable – except, of course, at the moment when dependability mattered most. Even stalwart Cody had fallen prey to the influence of the Chancellor's orders – that Wolffe had persisted in spite of his conditioning was an impressive testimony to his loyalties.
Tarvis let Obi-Wan borrow an old speeder and the three had traveled back across the darkening landscape at high speeds. She chose to sit with Wolffe on Tarvis' old speeder and Obi-Wan lead them on his; it only took an hour and one brief encounter with the Tusken Raiders before they made it safely to the Jedi's secluded doorstep.
Obi-Wan watched her surreptitiously out of the corner of his eye, as he set yet more tea to boil and put some beans on to cook. She had formed an attachment with Wolffe – that much was obvious, especially by the way she leaned in toward the former commander's body to whisper to him. Though, when she finally pushed back the hood of her robe and kissed the clone on his weathered cheek, Obi-Wan still felt a modicum of surprise.
He was surprised, however, to discover that it was Wolffe, not Rex, who stood at her side and gruffly accepted her affection. The former general had had plenty of time to consider the past since his exile and he had thought back often on Captain Rex and Padawan Tano. There had been a depth of camaraderie and unspoken endearment that had only grown as the War had ground endlessly on. He had wondered many times, in the last two years, if the two had managed to escape Order 66 together; in the back of his mind, he had naturally assumed that if he ran across them one day, they would be together.
The reality of Wolffe surprised him, but then, after a moment's consideration, it made sense. She had been sent out with the Wolfpack, if he recalled correctly, just days prior to Operation Nightfall. Rex had not been included in that mission, so he would not have been present to save her, as Obi-Wan had assumed. The role of savior and protector had apparently fallen to Wolffe – and by the feel of it, he had won a place in her affections because of it.
Obi-Wan couldn't blame her for her choices. The fugitive pair sat quietly in the living room and old Ben set aside the tea to cool, while he put thick slices of bread on the flat-range stove to toast. Once, he would have condemned a Padawan or fellow Jedi for forming an attachment. But, that was the way of the old Order – if they were to ever rebuild their ranks, sheer practicality demanded that they do away with the archaic laws of attachment. They could not reform within a vacuum, and as Obi-Wan had told Cody once not so long ago, perhaps a little more attachment would have stopped the Emperor's plans from finding fruition.
"Beans and toast?" Obi-Wan offered plates of generous proportions to his guests, who accepted the food with grateful enthusiasm.
The older Jedi settled himself on a gigantic cushion on the floor, crossed his legs, and balanced his own plate on his lap. For several minutes, the silence among them persisted, as they all concentrated on their food. Eventually, though, the questions began, as Obi-Wan knew they would.
"Have you settled down here on Tatooine, then?" she set aside her empty plate and looked around the room, wide-eyed and curious.
"Yes," Obi-Wan nodded slightly. "Seems as good a place as any."
He debated on whether or not to tell her about Luke – the real reason why he stayed on such a Force-forsaken world. After a moment's indecision, he decided to allow the conversation to find it's own way; if there was an opportunity to tell her about Anakin's children, then he would. But, otherwise, he would keep the secret to himself.
"We haven't found a place to settle down," sadness flickered across her young face and Ben knew that she was growing weary of the running. "We've discovered that it's a little hard to blend in as a Togruta."
"Well, I don't help matters any, either," Wolffe piped up; he had taken off his mask and his broad, familiar face was finally open to Obi-Wan's scrutiny.
"Yes, well...you can dye your hair and grow a beard, at least," she nudged him playfully and Obi-Wan got the impression that they had had this discussion before between themselves.
"Might I suggest Anobis, then?" the former general had his back to the wall and he leaned back until he was braced against the sturdy structure of his small home.
He hadn't meant to be so blunt – in fact, he hadn't meant to bring up Anobis at all – but he found that he couldn't bear the sadness in her blue eyes, or the worry that deepened the lines in Wolffe's already craggy face. If he could offer them a safe haven, then it was the least that he could do.
He felt the Force swirl among them and knew that there was more going on beneath the surface of their interactions than even he could fathom.
"Anobis?" Wolffe frowned as he turned the name over in his head; try as he could, he couldn't place the planet in any of his memories.
"It's right next to Ord Mantell, I believe," Obi-Wan set aside his own empty plate and settled up against the wall. "And you would find old friends there – allies to your cause."
"Who?" she perked up and the hope in her blue eyes was irresistible; Wolffe felt drawn to that hope, as he always had.
"You'd be looking for a Miraluka healer – an Altisian Jedi by the name of Sheltay Marr – a Mandalorian clan chieftain by the name of Saa Par'jain, and a clone commander that I'm sure you both know rather well," a slight smile turned up the corners of Obi-Wan's tired mouth. "You'd be safe with Cody's people."
"Commander Cody?" Wolffe gawked in spite of himself.
"I thought...I mean...I've seen his name on the Wanted Lists, but I have to confess I've been very confused by it," she shook her head and her full-grown lekku shifted alluringly across the curves of her body. "I thought he'd been complicate in Order 66."
"He was. For a time," the general shrugged, as if the news he bore was not particularly significant. "But, circumstances have given the good Commander a distinctive change in heart."
"How can you be so sure?" Wolffe was suspicious – as always.
"I traveled off world about half a year ago, caught a ride in Mos Eisley with what I assumed at the time to be just another shady smuggler's ship. Turns out, I had booked passage with Cody and his adopted father-figure, Saa Par'jain. Cody and I have resolved any issues we might have had over Order 66; you'll find, as I have, that the Commander is a very different man these days."
"How?" Wolffe shook his head, still unconvinced.
"I'm afraid that's his story to tell. But, I can assure you of this," Obi-Wan reached up and stroked his beard; it was a familiar gesture and Wolffe once again struggled with the feeling that he'd stepped into a strange time warp that had taken them all back to the past. "You would find a safe haven with Cody and with the Par'jain clan as a whole."
"If he's fallen in with a Mandalorian, though..." her voice was careful, as if she were afraid of contradicting her elder. "Isn't that...dangerous?"
"Clan Par'jain aided the Republic during the War – their leader, Saa, most especially. He was a double-agent from what I gathered; I can assure you that in these dark times, you could find no better ally than a clan of honorable Mandalorians."
"You have a point there," Wolffe muttered as he leaned back against the squishy couch cushions. "They make loyal friends and dedicated enemies with equal tenacity."
"Unless they're Death Watch," she crossed her arms over her chest and lekku and looked considerably unconvinced. "I have to admit that my interactions with Mandalorians during the Wars left a lot to be desired."
Wolffe had to silently agree. He hadn't dealt directly with Mandalorians in the course of his duties, but he had heard enough to make him suitably wary.
"I can only urge you to give them a chance," Obi-Wan only shrugged and smiled gently. "Saa Par'jain is an honorable man and largely responsible for turning Commander Cody into the man he's now become. They both saved my sorry backside more times than I count, during our months on Bellassa."
"Bellassa?" Wolffe was privately impressed; he arched his eyebrows in surprise. "That's a rough place to be a Jedi, so I hear."
"Indeed it is. Would have gotten the better of me, if I hadn't had help," was the even reply.
Wolffe turned over this revelation in his mind. He wasn't willing to thoughtlessly throw his lot in with Mandalorians, but he was curious to discover what had become of the famous Commander Cody. Wolffe had worked with his fellow clone commander on several occasions and he had always parted company with considerable respect. Cody had distinguished himself above and beyond most any other clone commander that Wolffe could recall; it had always been an honor to serve with him.
"Master Obi-Wan," she suddenly blurted out, as if she had been holding back for the last several minutes. "How can you still have such faith in others?"
And that, Wolffe thought, was the crux of their problem. That was why they still bounced around from planet to planet – not so much because the Empire was in direct pursuit of them, but because Order 66 had stripped them of their faith.
Obi-Wan was not surprised by her sudden question – it was inevitable, really. Even he had struggled to find faith in the aftermath of Order 66. It wasn't until he had forgiven Cody, that he had finally managed to start the healing process.
And she... She was the apprentice of Darth Vader. She still wore her Padawan's braid – that slender link of beads that marked her as a Jedi-in-training. Ben stroked his beard and eyed her braid; he wasn't sure why she still wore it, but if he had learned anything in the last two years, it was that every surviving Jedi had an obstacle to overcome. The Force had placed certain challenges in their way – hurdles to overcome that otherwise stalled their acceptance of what had become of them.
For him, that hindrance had been Cody. He had been unable to move on past Order 66 as long as he had held onto his bitterness. He hadn't even realized that he was holding onto it, until he came face-to-face with his would-be assassin in the passageway of Saa's ship. Before Cody, Obi-Wan had only a tenuous grasp on hope, embodied in the tiny Luke Skywalker and his twin sister on Alderaan. Faith – in himself, in others, in the Force – had been blocked, until he had been forced to forgive the man who had done him the most immediate wrong.
Obi-Wan eyed her braid and wondered, if that was what holding her back. It was a memory of the past – a stalemate of sorts, as she had no hope of being Knighted by a Council that had all but been exterminated. And, surely, it was a memory, a tie, to a Master she so desperately needed to release.
"Do you know about Anakin?" he asked quietly; a heavy silence permeated the room and Ben could hear the evening bugs chirping lazily just outside his door.
"Yes," her voice broke and her hands clenched with the strength of her emotions.
He thought, maybe, that that was all she'd say, but then she spoke again, her words burdened with sorrow and underlined in anger.
"How could I not? I've felt him so strongly – for two whole years now. I've felt his malevolence, his hatred, his Darkness. He's utterly consumed, Master Obi-Wan; I've tried to search for maybe some remnant of the man he once was, but I-" her voice broke again and tears fell softly onto her lekku. "I can't bear the Darkness long enough to find him. He knows I'm alive, too – he reaches out for me, sometimes, through the Force..."
The tears came in earnest this time and Wolffe reached for her. She buried her face in his shoulder, too overcome by her emotions, no doubt, to be self-conscious about such a familiar response. The clone patted her gently on the shoulder and rubbed his hand soothingly over her posterior montral. There was no awkwardness in his touch – the two were close, no doubt, and had been for some time.
Obi-Wan was thankful that she had found someone to whom to share her sorrow. Otherwise...he feared for her. She was strong, to resist such an intimate attachment to the Dark Side. But, it wasn't healthy for her and it was time to urge her to finally let it go.
"Don't you think that it may be time to sever yourself from him?" he asked, gently.
"I-I've tried. I would if I could," she sniffled, her words muffled by Wolffe's darker skin. "B-but..." she reached up and touched her braid and Obi-Wan knew that he had surmised the truth. "I-I'm still a p-padawan. His p-padawan."
"Why don't you remove your braid?"
"B-because, that's n-not my place," she lifted her head from Wolffe's shoulder, her eyes big in shock at the suggestion. "If I remove my b-braid, then it means only one of two things," her eyes were bright with tears that slid slowly down her brightly-hued cheeks. "I-it means I'm a K-Knight, or it m-means I'm no longer," her voice hiccuped and the truth of her fears became apparent in heart-rending sincerity. "A-a Jedi."
Obi-Wan felt his heart go out to her immediately. Hers was a quandary faced by few of the Jedi who had survived. What few he knew had escaped Order 66, most of them were already full-fledged Masters, or at the very least, appointed Jedi Knights. She existed in a weird no-man's land of indecision and uncertainty – by the rules of the Order, it was not, in fact, her place to decide whether or not she was a Jedi Knight. In the absence of a Council – or, at the very least, a Master – to Knight her, she was still "just a padawan."
Her confession bore witness to her undying loyalty to the fallen Order – despite the uncertainty of the situation that had been thrust upon her, she insisted on upholding the rules that had made the Jedi what they were. She refused to take her destiny in her own hands, choosing instead to struggle with her obedience, regardless of the toll it had taken on her.
She would not sever the tie that bound her, until she had done it "properly." Perhaps, in a grander view of things, she was naive for having made that choice, but Obi-Wan was touched by her loyalty.
She still had faith in the Order, in the Force, even if she couldn't recognize it just yet.
"You know that being a padawan doesn't have anything to do with your attachment to Anakin?" he still had to question, though, still had to make sure that she was truly ready.
"I know," she nodded miserably. "But...not being a padawan would help."
He knew what she was saying – being a Knight would give her the confidence she currently lacked. It was one thing to stand up to a Master when one still bore the Padawan's Braid. It was another thing, entirely, to stand up to a Master in one's own authority as a duly Knighted Jedi.
Obi-Wan could only imagine that that sense of confidence was especially vital when one's own Master also happened to be a Sith Lord in his full right. She was small in the face of a larger, hostile galaxy and plagued with uncertainty – and Obi-Wan had learned his own lessons in humility since the fall of the Order.
Once, perhaps, he would have deemed her unworthy for her doubts, her fears, and her lack of confidence. But, he had learned that even fear had its place. She had lost her sense of faith in the face of almost insurmountable odds – but, she had not completely lost faith. She still believed in the Order, still believed in the principles that had made it great. She still resisted the Dark Side and Obi-Wan rightly imagined that the lure of the Dark Side was greater for her than for any other.
Her Master was Darth Vader, Lord of the Sith. She would have to live with that for the rest of her life, but he didn't sense anger in her toward him. There was no hostility in her voice when she spoke of him. Just an understandable sadness, a sorrow that weighed down her youthful spirits.
She had faith, and that was all Obi-Wan needed to know. Once, he would have thought that seeking affirmation from others was a crutch, a sign of weakness inconceivable in a Jedi. But, he had learned better – Cody had taught him that.
Obi-Wan had wanted forgiveness, had believed in it – but he wouldn't have been able to give it freely, fully, without running into Cody and seeing first-hand the remorse on his former commander's face. Cody's journey to forgiveness of himself had aided Obi-Wan in finding his own path to forgiveness.
He imagined, that it wouldn't be so different for her and her path back to faith.
She had to begin by believing in herself – and it was not a weakness to need an act of good faith from someone else in order to begin that healing process.
Obi-Wan considered Wolffe, who still held her close and rubbed his hand comfortingly across her back. It was okay, to need someone else, for comfort, for support, for forgiveness, for faith.
It had torn the galaxy apart.
But, it was the only way the galaxy would ever be whole again.
Wolffe watched, curious and wary, as Obi-Wan silently stood up and fiddled with something tucked underneath the long hem of his plain blue over-tunic. After a moment, he pulled out his lightsaber; for a moment, the Knight stood, considering the cool cylinder of metal in his hand.
"The Council has been disbanded, many of our members killed, to include your own dear friend, Master Plo Koon," the general's words were gentle, but they filled the entire room with a force that was undeniable.
Wolffe felt her hands tighten on his arm and he didn't need to look at her, to know that she was breathless in amazement and wide-eyed in disbelief.
"But, I am still a Master, still a member of the Jedi Council, even if we are no longer together in body. I know the Masters that have gone on before us are present right now, in this room. And it is with their blessing and authority that I honor the traditions that they have fallen for.
"Padawan, those who would be Knighted as a Jedi must face a trial. But, you, I believe, have faced three. You have faced the Trial of Courage, for surviving the fall of our Order and continuing to remain true to your training in the face of great adversity. You have faced the Trial of the Flesh, by fighting gallantly through the Clone Wars and retaining your sentience in spite of the brutality that you saw. You have faced the Trial of the Spirit, by seeking for a remnant of your former Master and for resisting his urge to join him."
She had turned completely away from Wolffe and sat in an obvious haze of disbelief. Even Wolffe sat up – a momentous moment was upon them and he felt the urge to stand up at his best parade rest.
She deserved this. If anyone knew that, he felt that it was him. He had watched the iron strength of her character unfold since Order 66. Her faith in flagged, her trust in others had waned, and she was battle-weary, ready for a homeland to call her own. But, she wore her padawan's braid to the bitter end – she believed, even if she hadn't always been sure of what it was she had believed in.
She had saved him, too, from darkness, from disbelief, from despair. In truth, they had saved each other. Even Wolffe wasn't sure, always, of why they kept running, or why they didn't just give in. But, then he would see her smile, or hear her sing, or feel her body move in quiet pleasure against his and he would remember.
They kept running because defeat was not an option. They couldn't give in – they wouldn't give in. They would stand against the darkness – sometimes flailing, sometimes floundering, sometimes uncertain in their belief – but they would stand, where others no longer could.
"Commander Wolffe," Obi-Wan surprised the clone by turning toward him, his expression earnest and steadfast.
"Yes, sir?" the commander knew almost instinctively what was coming, as he scrambled almost immediately to his feet.
"Would you stand witness to this Knighting?"
She gasped softly and Wolffe felt his bare chest swell with pride.
"Absolutely, sir," his back stiffened in salute and he felt what he didn't say – that it would be his greatest honor.
"We are all Jedi. The Force speaks through us. Through our actions, the Force proclaims itself and what is real. Today we are here to acknowledge what the Force has proclaimed," Obi-Wan paused and thumbed the side of his lightsaber; a bright blue blade hummed immediately into life.
"Ahsoka Tano, will you come forward?" the general was polite as always, but Wolffe suspected that the words were part of a ceremony as ancient as the Order itself.
Ahsoka slowly rose to her feet and Wolffe caught a glimpse of her expression out of the corner of his eye. Her eyes were bright again with tears and joy warred with disbelief across her expressive, wild features. His heart swelled with pride and for that moment, just that moment, all the misery that they had endured seemed justified in the face of her just due.
She knelt slowly, in a daze, at Obi-Wan's feet, and a smile chased itself across the general's lips before he slowly lowered the length of his buzzing 'saber.
"By the right of the Council, by the will of the Force, I dub thee, Knight of the Republic."
"That was a bold move, my old apprentice," Qui-Gon's blue-tinted Force ghost tucked his hands slowly into his incorporeal sleeves. "And...might I add, a wise one."
"Thank you," Obi-Wan leaned his shoulder against the rough-hewn exterior of his home and looked up toward the Tatooine night sky.
"Though, I think you shocked young Tano by giving Wolffe your blessing," Qui-Gon's lips curled upward in a smile and even Ben chuckled.
"Getting to know Sheltay Marr will do her some good. I think the Altisians had the right idea all along. I wish I had encouraged her curiosity of them, back when she had encountered them during the War."
"I still say you shocked her."
"Oh, I know I did. It's quite a reversal from the 'Master Obi-Wan' she remembers. But, she'll figure it out. We need each other if we're to rebuild this galaxy, this Order. We no longer have the luxury of existing in a passionless void," Obi-Wan's blue eyes searched the skies above as he imagined Ahsoka and Wolffe riding the runs to the Inner Rim and Anobis.
The two were quiet for a long time, as Ben turned over the events of the last two days in his mind. Ahsoka had been astounded by his impromptu decision to Knight her, but he had never before seen her so happy. She had glowed and it made him smile in turn, at the memory of how he had felt himself after his own Knighting. Though, the memory of his own Knighting brought with it bittersweet emotions, fraught with thoughts of little 'Ani' and the loss of his own Master.
"Do you think she'll be able to resist Darth Vader?" Obi-Wan suddenly voiced the one question that lingered over his decision to Knight Ahsoka.
He had felt that same question in her – that same uncertainty. But, he had sent her off, with loyal Wolffe at her side, with the admonition that she take faith from their meeting, from her Knighting, and use it to battle the weary years ahead of her. He knew he would do well to follow his own advice, but as he had learned, it never hurt to seek confirmation in someone else.
He was but sentient. And even he – the great Obi-Wan Kenobi – needed the occasional light from another with which to illuminate his path.
"Oh, I think she'll be just fine," Qui-Gon's voice was wry and for just a moment, Obi-Wan saw what his Master could see -
Ahsoka, a little bit older, a little bit wiser, a lot more confident, with her own apprentice –
A long-legged, long-toothed, bi-colored, twangy-voiced, goofy-looking, lop-eared...rabbit.
Yes, there was much left in the galaxy to believe in. Ahsoka would find faith in the Force once again, as would they all.
Obi-Wan threw back his head and shared his laughter with the stars.
A/N: Indeed, I spoil you all. ^^ This Virtue practically wrote itself, however...I hope you all enjoyed it. :) I've been wanting to do an Obi-Wan Virtue for some time and this was the result.
Many warm and wonderful thanks to Librarian Girl, LongLiveTheClones, Elorrra8787, Jess Marylin, reulte, laloga, and Admiral Daala. So many awesome reviews and so quickly! You all spoil ME! :)
Next up...I couldn't tell ya'. We might see a little Hope with a certain tall-taled, blaster-slinging space rabbit... But who knows? We'll see where my Muse takes me next.
Also, as a slight side-note, many of these Virtues feed into stories yet to come. They are ALL a part of my A Thousand Suns series. This particular ficlet will probably make more sense once I start my intended Rexsoka-centric story, We Don't Need To Whisper, which I will start (along with my Bly-centric story, Of Faith, Power, and Glory) after concluding ATS:Rebellion. And, just to reiterate...no, I haven't killed Captain Rex. But that's all the hint you're gettin', 'cuz I'll spoil a major plot twist if I say anymore!
Just have a little faith...! ^^
Love it? Like it? Hate it? Lemme know...!