Anakin missed his mind-healing session. He'd commed both Master Xio and Girth to let them know, and neither one of them seemed very comfortable with him skipping a session when he had to see Sidious tomorrow, but he felt this was… well, if not more important, than definitely more immediate. He'd initially called Siri, who had tried to comm Obi-wan, and had not gotten through. So she set up the appointment to see one of the Council members ASAP and had been able to get in fairly quickly, despite her former Master being off planet at the moment.
Anakin ended up having to tell Mace Windu that 'something' had 'happened' to Obi-wan, that yes, he was sure of it, but no, he didn't know what had happened and couldn't describe it in more than extremely vague terms, and then just watched as the Master sighed, rubbed his forehead and nodded. And wasn't that a common sight he'd seen often in his first youth. He couldn't remember if that particular trend had started this early then or not.
Mace assured Anakin that they'd reach out to Obi-wan's ship and the comm numbers of all on board immediately. He must have seen that that wasn't good enough in the initiate's books because he even said they'd send a ship out to the planet Obi-wan was supposed to be training Ferus on if they didn't reach anyone by the end of the day. Anakin would prefer they sent a ship out now, but was also aware that demanding more would not be helpful at this point.
He thanked Master Windu, bowed and turned to walk out when the Master did something rather unexpected.
"How are you doing, Initiate?" he asked, drawing Anakin's head back around to stare at him in confusion. Wasn't his current state of emotion obvious? Either it wasn't, or Windu had an ulterior motive, although Anakin couldn't think of what it would be.
"I am… worried," he finally said.
Mace looked like he wanted to sigh at that, but didn't. Instead, he shook his head. "I mean otherwise. How is your life in the Temple going so far?"
Anakin glanced back at Siri, who looked (and felt) just as confused as he did. She shrugged and he shot her an annoyed glare because that didn't help in the slightest. She just gave him a 'what do you want?' expression and shrugged again.
He withheld a sigh of his own and turned back to the Council member warily. "I… am fine," he finally said. "Objectively, I am doing… rather well, actually."
Mace, who had observed Anakin and Siri's interaction with a blank expression, nodded. "Good." He seemed a little awkward when he asked his next question (strange, because Mace Windu and 'awkward' weren't usually consecutive words in a sentence). "Before you go, do you… have any questions for me?"
It took Anakin a moment to remember his most recent sparring session with Windu and realize he was checking up on his 'dark side tendencies'. That made sense. He considered brushing the question off, but he did still wish to cultivate good relationships with Council members. Mace Windu was a good place to start and would likely be easier to talk to than the others seeing as he'd figured out his 'dark' past.
So he turned and faced the man again, respectfully.
"I appreciate the concern, but it is not necessary," he assured the man. "In truth I do not remember a time in my life where I have experienced so much…" he paused, looking for the right word. "Positivity." Not perfect, but close. Even in his previous life, he had always felt such an underlying resentment towards slavers or the Jedi and Obi-wan as he adjusted to a new life, or Sidious for obvious reasons. He'd known happiness (especially with Padmè) but it had rarely lasted when they were apart. Feeling as if he could maintain a more positive attitude for longer made him realize that his therapists were right: he really had come a long ways towards a healthier lifestyle without dipping into that rage and despair that had punctured his life before.
Even if his current life still had those kinds of episodes, it still felt overall more positive than any other time before.
Mace seemed to relax a little at that. "Good," he said with a nod. "So you are enjoying your time here?"
Anakin found he was able to smile through his worry for Obi-wan, even if it was a little forced. "Yes. Well, more than I thought I would."
The bald man nodded again, then looked thoughtful, as if he had something more to say.
Before he did, though, Anakin remembered a question he had for the man.
"Sir," he said slowly. Mace focused on him and gestured for him to continue. "The other day, while speaking with one of my friends, he made a decision. The choice surprised me and… the Force shifted."
Mace frowned thoughtfully, looking interested. "Shifted?" he asked.
Anakin's brow furrowed. "I… don't know how else to describe it. It felt as if one future had been switched for another, I suppose. At least that is what I assume happened." He stood solidly and took a measured breath. "Is that a shatterpoint?"
He found it both amusing and reliving that he still knew the older man well enough to note the surprise in his otherwise blank expression. Then the thoughtful look returned.
After a few seconds of contemplation, his eyebrows drew together and he shook his head. "I don't know. Shatterpoints manifest differently for me. They are more like a point of weaknesses and strengths coming together, each with certain consequences that I can manipulate if I can figure out how. Some are easy – obvious even – to figure out, some take time, thought, energy and research. Some…" he faded off, shaking his head.
"However, I have experienced something similar when I figure out and take advantage of an event-based shatterpoint." He looked back at Anakin, seeming more interested than before. "Perhaps you, whether you realized it or not, took advantage of an existing shatterpoint and felt the consequences of it?"
That… actually sounded extremely plausible. Anakin thought about the validity of the conjecture for a moment before Mace spoke again.
"Did you feel or sense or see anything before hand? Something indicating the potential consequences of the choices given to your friend?"
Anakin blinked and thought back to when Tru had made the choice to go to the Agri-corps, but didn't remember anything that Mace described, so he shook his head.
If he didn't know any better, he'd say the man looked… disappointed.
"It may very well have been a shatterpoint," the Master said, "but until you can somehow sense them, this sounds more like a fluke than anything."
Anakin nodded, having come to a similar conclusion himself. He wasn't sure whether having the ability to see shatterpoints would have been a positive or negative development at this point, so perhaps he should be grateful.
"Well," Mace said after a moment of silence, "I did have something else I wanted to ask you."
Anakin felt his eyebrows lift a little in surprise. Mace wasn't usually that cautious, tersely asking what he wanted to ask most of the time.
"Master?" he asked, prompting him to continue.
Mace took a measured breath of his own. "I would like to ask you to be my Padawan."
The world froze.
Or, it seemed to. Perhaps that was just Anakin's brain not working because what. The. KRIFF?!
He could honestly only stand there and blink as he tried to wrap his head around that proposal. A proposal he would have never considered coming from this man. It probably didn't help that Siri seemed just as taken aback as Anakin.
It begged the question… why?
It didn't take long for Anakin's slowly rebooting mind to come up with an answer. He wanted to keep an eye on Anakin – make sure he didn't fall again, or fall farther, or somehow turn on the Jedi. Yes, that made sense.
He ignored the disappointment he felt at the realization and opened his mouth, but the Master held up his hand.
"You don't have to answer now and," his eyes flicked over to Siri before settling back on Anakin, "you must do what will be the best for you – follow the Force's will. Know that because I am on the Council, training will mainly take place here in the Temple. We won't leave it often. Despite that, I expect hard work and dedication. I can be a strict taskmaster and learning under me will not be easy, although I do think it will be beneficial, which is why I decided to offer in the first place. Know that there will be no punishment of any kind for a negative answer. I may be a Council member, but at the end of the day, I'm just a Jedi. All I ask is that you consider the offer and choose wisely."
Anakin worked his mouth for a moment before any sound came out. When it finally did, he blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
"I-I will, Master!" then he realized his child brain had taken over again and forced himself to calm down. Then he bowed. "Choose wisely, I mean. I am honored you would even consider me." That was polite enough, he hoped. His mind felt a little fuzzy as he stood.
"You may leave, now, Initiate. Knight."
"Thank you," he said, and turned to leave the room in a daze, Siri behind him. It took him an entire, silent elevator ride and a minimum of two separate hallways for the realization of what Mace had just asked him to sink in.
At that point, he laughed. It started as an incredulous snicker, then quickly escalated to a snort and then a full on guffaw. Eventually, he had to stop and lean against the hallway wall for an unknown amount of time as the ridiculousness of the entire situation hit him. He hoped no one passing in the hallways noticed the slightly hysterical note to his tone of voice.
After a few moments, he felt someone guide him into a nearby classroom, an empty one, thankfully, and he followed, still laughing. Once the door closed, he looked up to see a concerned Siri.
"Anakin?" she asked warily.
He snorted again.
Darth Vader. Snorting.
That did nothing to help his current state of mind.
Still, he forced himself to answer. "Surely you can see the irony. The first time I came here, a young, dedicated child, I was practically shunned for a good portion of my early life. I turned against everything I ever knew, fell and became everything the Order fights against, and only after that did they accept me." He shook his head, unable to wipe the smile off of his face. "I have had four separate offers to become a padawan if you count yourself and Yaddle," who had, admittedly, offered as a reason to get him away from Sidious more than anything, but still. "One of them comes from Mace Kriffing Windu," he finally finished and burst into laughter again. "Him. The head of the Jedi Council. Teaching a former Sith." The only thing that would make it more ironic would be if he didn't know about Anakin's dark past.
Siri's eyebrows drew together and she did not join in Anakin's laughter. "You… sound bitter." And he probably felt it too.
"If I'd been so accepted the first time," he commented as he struggled to regain his composure, "I doubt I would have fallen. At least not… like I did." He shook his head and took a couple more deep breaths, folding his arms as he leaned against one of the tables.
The older blond let out a long breath before she nodded, although she just looked meloncholic. "I suppose you're not wrong. We really dropped the ball back then, didn't we."
Anakin scoffed, not responding to the rhetorical statement she hadn't phrased as a question.
"But even then, it probably wouldn't have been difficult for Sidious to undermine any acceptance," she pointed out.
The younger of them finally felt all of the amusement and annoyance and frustration dissipate, leaving nothing but tiredness in its wake. So much like the anger he used to rely on.
"True," was all he could mutter.
They sat there in relative silence for several seconds before Anakin noticed Siri studying him.
"If you have something you wish to say, speak," he finally said.
She just shook her head sadly. "It's nothing."
Anakin stared at her dryly, but she didn't say anything more about it.
"Would you like me to call Master Xio – or was it Girth today? – to see if you can still see them?"
The smaller time-traveler frowned, then sighed. "I… think I really need to sleep right now. It's… been a long day."
Siri didn't look like she completely agreed with that, but thankfully, she nodded.
"Want me to walk you back to the crèche?"
Right about then, Anakin realized she was genuinely worried about him and the remaining bitterness in his heart finally melted away. He appreciated the thought. Truly. However, he shook his head.
"I'll be fine, Siri," he assured her. "Why don't you take a break and get some rest too?"
She looked like she would object for a moment, but must have realized that doing so would spur him into ignoring his own body and so, nodded.
"Fine. As long as you promise to go straight to third meal and then to your room."
He smiled, small but warm, and nodded back.
She returned the gesture curtly. "Good. Now let's head off."
They parted ways just a couple of halls later and Anakin met his crèchemates in the dining hall. He tried not to think of everything – of Obi-wan and Mace Windu and Sidious tomorrow without seeing his therapist tonight – but failed rather massively.
Of course, they noticed. Stang perceptive children.
Assuring his friends that he would be fine, he retired early to bed and had almost reached his room when a message on his comm went off.
He checked it and groaned, not caring if it sounded childish.
It was from Dooku, and he wanted to meet soon.
A lesson Anakin Skywalker had only learned once he became a Sith was that when someone he loved got hurt, the universe continued. Life went on. The galaxy kept moving, no matter how much he didn't want it to.
He hat— disliked it immensely.
If the Temple got a hold of Obi-wan, they didn't tell him before he found himself walking up to the meeting with Palpatine. That, of course, only compounded his worry and he regretted not making sure to talk to at least one of his therapists last night. It didn't help that despite turning in early, he didn't feel like he'd gotten nearly enough sleep and couldn't even meditate through his worry. Finding a positive emotion through his upset just… hadn't worked.
He wasn't looking forward to the tongue-lashing Ahsoka would give him the next time he saw her either.
The worst part was how he knew he shouldn't be worried about his former master. He knew Obi-wan was a capable knight, and yes Anakin had had to rescue him multiple times, but he had Ferus and another knight with him. Something had happened, but Obi-wan was still also alive (he could sense it through their bond), so until they got news…
He hated feeling helpless.
Anakin wasn't even aware he could feel this… off simply from his worry for his former (future?) master anymore. In his first life, it had been the norm. Now, though? It bothered him that he just couldn't seem to put it behind him. He didn't want to be this worried about Obi-wan. He didn't want to care…
Because where had that gotten him before?
And yet, his stupid, newly regrown, metaphysical heart hadn't gotten the memo.
Not knowing what had happened was worse than knowing he'd been killed, somehow. And he couldn't stop thinking about it.
So now he had to face one of his worst nightmares when he was definitely not prepared. This… would be a long day.
He still tried to prepare himself for the upcoming confrontation as best he could. First, he had to brace himself for the man's attention. Surely he would have the worm figured out and Anakin would have to speak with him again. He'd have to find some sort of center… and yet any peace he'd managed just seemed to slip from his grasp.
This was such a bad idea… and yet, he couldn't, in good conscience, turn around. He had to go on and be prepared for the worst...
Which was why he found himself surprised when he got to the Chancellor's office and heard rumors about another worm.
Anakin didn't believe in luck. Either Siri had somehow modified or made another one, or someone else had copied the idea…
He didn't believe in coincidences.
The secretary looked rather frazzled as she smiled at him and handed him a data pad with his list of duties for the next couple of hours. He didn't have to even come in contact with Palpatine at all. The amount of relief he felt at that almost had him falling to his knees, but he managed to keep control of his body as he left to deliver some messages and packages directly from the Chancellor.
Three hours later, he walked back towards the office, hoping that the new worm was still making Palpatine's life difficult. If he could escape without having to speak to the man this week, he would thank the Force… literally and aloud… multiple times, if he had to.
Unfortunately, when he got there, the secretary was busy with a comm call and gestured for him to go to the waiting chairs around the outside of the office. Anakin tried not to let his disappointment show as he nodded and clutched the datapad in one hand. He looked around for an empty seat (there was always someone waiting to see the Chancellor, apparently) when one particular person stood out to him. She sat alone, away from many of the other people there, some of whom were speaking boisterously or intensely with one another. She looked young. Very young. Only a decade or so older than Anakin's biological age.
He honestly hadn't expected to see her. He'd never run into her in the Senate building before. It was, after all, a large building and he didn't find himself going by her planet's offices often.
Out of curiosity (and, perhaps hoping for a little solidarity), he walked up to her, hoping he looked more nervous than intrigued, and stood in front of her.
"Senator Mothma, from Chandrilla, correct?" he asked.
She looked up, grey-blue eyes wide and open, but still guarded. She hadn't been expecting someone, but that didn't mean she wasn't ready to… do whatever she'd come to do. Ask something? Debate? Persuade?
Her eyes widened further when she saw who stood before her, looking him up and down. She must have recognized the robes at least, because her eyes lit with realization and then confusion. Understandable. Chandrilla hadn't been in the last shuffling for a Jedi Padawan.
"Yes," she said. "How may I help you, Padawan…" she faded off instead of directly inquiring after his name.
"Initiate," he corrected. "Initiate Skywalker. I am waiting to see the Chancellor," he glanced over his shoulder at the secretary, who didn't look like she'd be finished any time soon and seemed rather put-out. Then he looked back at her. "I was wondering if I might sit by you?"
The surprise returned, but she didn't do more than blink and gesture to the seat next to her. "Of course."
"Thank you," he said politely, nodding at her as he took the seat.
"If I may ask," she said after a few seconds of silence, "why sit here?"
He shrugged, glancing around the room at the various representatives, senators and other officials. "Everyone else looked busy."
She seemed rather amused by that. "True. Are you the Chancellor's Jedi Ambassador?"
"Yes," he nodded, then decided to try and play up his childlike image. "I'm the first one and it's… a lot of pressure."
Her eyes softened. "Yes, I can see how that would be."
"Why are you here?" he asked curiously.
Her face fell into a mild scowl. "I wished to see the Chancellor regarding some recent laws passed in my planet's sector. Laws he supported."
Part of Anakin couldn't help but be surprised. She'd had problems with the Chancellor this early in the game? But part of him just had to sit back and admire her attention to detail. No wonder she'd headed the rebellion in the future.
He glanced around and saw no one else paying attention to them, for now, and checked for anything nearby that could pick up or record their conversation. He couldn't always pin point anything he sensed, but he could usually get something. He got nothing. Hmm.
So he chose his next words carefully. "You… don't seem like you particularly care for our esteemed Chancellor."
Mon Mothma blinked at him in surprise again, studying Anakin with her sharp gaze. "I wouldn't say that," she said, her own tone just as slow and cautious. "He has pushed through some much needed changes in some areas that I definitely approve of."
Anakin cocked his head to one side. "But…?" he prompted.
Her eyebrows drew together ever so slightly, looking troubled. When she spoke, her voice had quieted even further. "He's not consistent. The larger, more obvious policies have tended to favor freedom for the people, it is true. But some of his more subtle policies… don't." Her hands tightened into fists. She must not see him as a threat. Good. She wasn't supposed to. She continued.
"They – the policies – tend to favor the upper class. Most Senators – myself included – belong to the upper class, so it is difficult for them to see some of the effects. I… am not sure if I should count myself lucky or unlucky that I came into contact directly with people who have been affected. The encounter… caused me to look deeper.
"The pattern I've found suggests that the face he presents – the kind chancellor in favor of democracy – is a mask, and his true motives are far more… self serving. It's not unusual in a politician, he's just… better at it than most. So, until I can understand what his true motives are, I simply can't trust him."
Over the course of her confession, she'd tensed more and more. A few moments after she finished, she sighed, her body relaxing ever so slightly.
"I suppose I'm just… disappointed. I heard so many good things about him, but he's just a normal politician."
Anakin had to admit, he was impressed. Most Senators weren't in the position to see what she'd managed to discover. He wondered briefly what the incident she'd spoken of where she'd come to see the effects she'd spoken of, but ultimately decided it wasn't his place to ask.
Instead he looked away, eyes fixed on the door to the Chancellor's receiving room. "Your instincts serve you well," he finally said, his own voice quiet, but hard. "Do not let anyone tell you otherwise."
The red-headed Senator looked surprised, far more openly than he'd seen before. "You… agree?"
Anakin nodded. "I do."
She didn't seem to know what to say to that, which Anakin found amusing. He'd never known her to be speechless. Then again, he hadn't known her well, but he imagined she'd be like Padmè in that particular instance… if not as good. Or as pretty. Or as involved until she had to be… or was he being overly generous to the love of his life?
Padmè would have been an amazing Rebellion leader.
"Why?" The Senator's voice finally speaking brought him out of his reverie and he had to think back to what they'd been speaking off before he'd been pleasantly distracted by Padmè's memory. Right, she was asking him why he agreed with her about Palpatine.
He thought about that. "I… was born a slave," he said softly. "The will of the Force led me to the Jedi, who have taken me in, despite my age. However, the Chancellor reminds me of one of my masters."
He hated seeing the pitying look on her face, but didn't expect differently.
"A slave," she said, her own voice soft. "I'm glad you got away from that life."
Well, he could appreciate that at least. He nodded.
"You had… owners?" She sounded like she was trying (and failing) to hide her absolute disgust.
He nodded again. "Yes. Three, that I remember." Because if she and Palpatine ever compared notes, he needed them to be compatible.
She looked heartbroken. "At such a young age…"
Anakin shrugged. "I was born into it, and such is the life of a slave."
Senator Mothma watched him for several seconds, hesitant again and studying him as if seeing him in a new light. "I… have to admit," she said carefully, "I do not think of Chancellor Palpatine as a slave master. Only a politician."
The time-traveler had to hold back a snort at that. Instead, he only 'hmmed'. "Perhaps…" he finally said, meeting her gaze pointedly, "there are more parallels than even you realize."
She looked taken aback, but before she could respond, the secretary called his name. He stood and bowed shallowly to her. "It has been a pleasure speaking with you," he said before turning and walking away, leaving a stunned young woman behind him.
When he reached the desk, the secretary looked at him sympathetically. "I'm so sorry, Anakin," she said. "I don't think he'll be able to see you this week."
He tried to look disappointed before he handed over the data pad. "That's okay. He's a busy man."
"He said in repayment that you can visit the droid recycling center we have here and choose anything of your choice if you so want it. But he stressed that it's only if you want it." She held up a card for him. "He won't even ask what you took."
So that was his ploy. Grooming him for gifts through a woman (who the child he painted would be more likely to trust) while trying to address his former fears.
The problem was, if he didn't give the man something, he may very well raise too many suspicions. Anakin bit his lip, looking at the card reluctantly.
"And… and he can't take it back?" he said.
She nodded. "We don't take gifts back here," she assured him. When he still looked hesitant, she leaned forward, "Besides, how can we take something back if we don't even know what you chose?"
Still reluctant (something he very much felt), he reached forward and took the card, then bowed to her as he had to Mon Mothma. "Thank you," he said.
"Good bye, Anakin," she replied. "Be safe on your way back."
"I will," he responded before turning and walking out.
He visited the garage, but didn't take anything. He could have used half-a-dozen things his eyes immediately landed on, but he couldn't give that man the satisfaction. He made a show of going through things, just to appease the secret Sith Lord without actually appeasing him.
He knew it was silly, but it felt like a win to him, and he didn't know why, but he decided to accept it anyway. Anakin surprised himself by actually smiling as he left the building.
AN: I'd like to thank Carradee, Quathis, Khalthar, ShadowGirlLost22 and the awesome people on my Discord who have helped me out with this chapter!
So, it's a week early due to more family deaths… because apparently losing two grandparents in a year isn't enough. Sigh I'm actually doing about as well as can be expected. This one has been a long-time coming. I didn't think I'd be in the right mind-set next week to read comments, let alone answer any of them. (Sorry if I haven't answered comments before, I really do love to read them, I just get overwhelmed sometimes by the sheer amount – however, the comments do keep me going on this, so please, feel free, I just may not be able to answer.) In any case, next month will likely have a chapter out the week of the 25th like normal. Sorry to make you wait longer, but hope you're happy to get this earlier. :)
Silver lining, right?
NGL, I didn't expect this chapter to happen. I suppose I'm just doomed to write a slow burn, right up until the end. I expected this to kind of break and swirl down rapidly about three chapters ago. =.= It WILL happen.
Also, I do think that I'm going to be writing Anakin's next therapy session as a side story. I love the therapy sessions, I know many people who read this who do, I know many people who think it drags the story down… and at this point, I can see where they're coming from. So, likely more therapy sessions as apart of the story… if anyone has a suggestion for a good title with 'Sight' in it dealing with conflicting emotions and much baggage, I'd be appreciative. Can't have the words 'hindsight', 'foresight', 'outsight', 'resight', 'oversight' or 'insight' in it as those are already used or are planned. You can leave your suggestion in a comment here r you can head over to my discord: discord dot gg/FFBTUDtESY