The woman, the fortune teller, the mystic, the heretic...holds Obi-Wan's hand in hers, palm facing upwards.
"Is this really necessary?" he asks, his voice a little too high.
She looks up into his eyes. "Do you want answers?"
"Then you'll have to trust me, won't you?" She grins, toothlessly. Obi-Wan wonders what he is scared of. "You Jedi," she continues, "Always so hesitant, always so orthodox about everything."
"Have you met many of us?" He finds that he is intrigued despite his misgivings.
The old woman looks back down at his palm. "Just you and your boy."
"Then how do you know what we're like?"
She doesn't answer. "This is the bit where you give me money and I tell you that you're going to settle down with a nice young woman and have three beautiful children."
Obi-Wan rolls his eyes and reaches his free hand into his pocket. He produces the correct amount of the correct currency - a Jedi is always prepared. He places it on the floor next to the fortune teller. She nods approvingly. "Good boy."
"The dreams," he prompts.
"I thought you lot were supposed to be patient?"
He sighs and lets her examine the lines on his hand. He shifts uncomfortably.
"A darkness," she says finally, and he stares at her.
"Yes. What else?"
"Nothing you don't already know. An enemy you thought you could trust, deaths..." her eyes are glazed now, she seems blind to the world. Obi-Wan hears his blood pounding in his ears. "Fire...pain..." Her eyes widen suddenly and she stares up at him, sightless. "Balance."
The old woman flinches suddenly and Obi-Wan moves forward to catch her. When he is certain she is fully conscious he sits back down, legs folded beneath him.
"It's him." She says, her voice shaking as she speaks. "Your boy." The old woman closes her eyes.
"He'll bring balance." Her eyes snap open, "Why did you bring him here?"
"We were sent by the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic."
"Get him away from here. As soon as you can."
She looks at him sadly. "You know how we feel about the Jedi on Hyspero. You of all people."
He doesn't ask how she knows. He has learned that sometimes acceptance is the only path.
"Balance isn't what the Jedi think it is, Obi-Wan. Although you're wondered about that yourself, haven't you?"
He nods. The admission, strangely, doesn't seem such a betrayal anymore. He worries that this world is starting to affect him.
"You can't stop it," she continues, "It's too powerful."
"Will I be ready?" He wants some comfort, a logic with which to pull apart his nightmares.
"Just keep the boy safe. Do whatever you have to, but keep him safe."
"Is something going to happen to Anakin?" He is alert, worried.
"I'm not talking about Anakin," she says. Obi-Wan feels confusion swarming in his mind.
"You'll find out," she says. "You'll find out eventually." She pulls back a curtain and looks at him, eyes glistening. "Once everything's balanced."
She disappers behind brightly coloured fabric and Obi-Wan is left standing alone and trembling. He breathes in slowly, and walks out into the sunlight.
* * * * *
"I'm looking for some information." Anakin has found the door and the room and the man. The young Jedi stands by a tall glass sculpture, staring at his would-be informant.
"Oh are you now?" The old man is unimpressed.
"I was told...they say you..."
"Out with it boy, I haven't got all day." He glares at Anakin with sightless eyes.
Anakin swallows, realises that he is thirsty. "I was told you know about names."
"That all depends on the name. And who you are." Constantine smiles tightly, but there is no pleasure on his face.
"I'm someone who wants your help." Anakin is impressed by his own avoidance of the question. "Do you know anyone called Kenobi?"
Raised eyebrows and a mirthless chuckle. "Oh, plenty. Useless, the lot of them."
"It would be a while ago." Anakin guesses. "About thirty-five years ago."
"Oh." Constantine gazes at nothing. "That."
* * * * *
On Hyspero, all life is art. But as the say in the desert, all art is quite useless...
The street bustles with talk and trade. The planet continues as it has always done.
Obi-Wan closes his eyes, and tries not to remember.
* * * * *
"We knew they'd come for him. We said he'd bring nothing but grief."
"The Jedi?" He asks, but the old man ignores him.
"One of them came for him to take him back with her to that palace of theirs. Had officials in from the Republic telling us that we were doing things wrong. Took the Universe away from us." Sigh. "A few moments more and we would have been safe. Just a few moments and they wouldn't have been able to do anything."
"What did you do?" Like ice, like a blade.
"He was in the water when she came. His mother held him under herself. Tears almost drowning her but she knew it had to be done. Had to keep the Jedi away from Hyspero. Had to do what was needed."
"You tried to kill him." Anakin is quiet. He is surprised by how dangerous his own voice sounds.
"Of course. That Force that they like so much had plans for him. A part to play in dreadful things. The Jedi trust that thing, they've got no idea what's going to happen to them."
"What?" Almost silent now, a low whisper.
"Darkness. It's going to bring darkness. Some obscure reason of its own, but it's going to kill so many people to do it. It wants balanced. We took that little Kenobi brat to the Elders and they looked at him and they saw it. Not him, but he's a part of it. Better for all of us if he was dead. Better for all of us."
He doesn't see Anakin start to move, because of course the old man is blind, but he feels the fingers close around his throat, he feels them tighten. He feels his lungs burning. He is drowning in the air, suffocating in a wide room. His hands move to cover Anakin's, but he knows that the boy is stronger. He wonders what he has done wrong.
Anakin lets the body drop from his grasp and stares at it in confusion. He has never killed before, not like this. He wants it not to have happened.
He needs to find Obi-Wan.
* * * * *
Anakin is breathless and stumbling. It hadn't seemed so far the first time.
"Are you alright, Anakin?" There is concern in the voice and Anakin bites back the urge to tell him everything. It wouldn't do, he decides, to upset his Master needlessly. Anakin can keep this secret, what difference will one more make to anything?
"I'm fine, Master," he manages. "I just worried that you'd leave without me. I thought I'd gotten myself lost."
"Well, you're back here now. Not to worry."
Anakin notices that his master is distracted. "Did she tell you something bad?"
Obi-Wan makes himself smile. "She told me I'd meet a wonderful woman and have too many children."
Anakin laughs, because he feels he is expected to.
Obi-Wan places a hand on his shoulder. It is a welcome heat. "We'd better get back. We have people to protect."
They leave the streets together, and the bustle continues behind them.
* * * * *
Obi-Wan kneels on the deck of the Ambassadorial ship, his Apprentice standing guard in the next room while he meditates. He breathes slowly in and out as he runs the mantra over and over in his mind:
There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no death, there is the Force.
There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no...
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