Author's Note: Alright my loves, so I have been visiting with family these last few weeks and haven't been able to write any, so in these last few nights I've been trying to catch back up a bit, but I am so sorry for the long wait! I do like the reception that this story is getting! Thank you for letting me know how it's going so far. I hope that you can forgive me for the wait and enjoy this next chapter!
Once they make it back onto their ships as the Republic claimes the station once more, they gather in the Negotiator in order to discuss what had just happened. They used the helmet cams of the clones at Ahsoka's suggestion to get multiple shots of the entire ordeal from a dozen different angles, trying to learn more about the strange duo that attacked them.
Obi-Wan felt bad for not having been there. He knew he wasn't all-powerful and probably wouldn't have been able to do much to help anyone, but it felt like he should have been there regardless. At least instead of Ahsoka. No one said that, but Ahsoka thought it, no doubt loud enough for the Council Master to hear standing next to her.
He looked down at the young girl next to him, barely fifteen with her thin arms wrapped around herself as they watched the footage over again. Her blue eyes wide and focused, but he could sense her fear. He could hear her worries like haunted whispers in the shell of his ears.
One of the greatest draw-backs of his impressive empathic ability. His passive mind-reading abilities. It's an odd mutation in humans, he's come to learn. Other races have the ability much more prevalent than humans do. And because it's a passive ability, he doesn't have control of what he hears and when he hears it. Normally he just constantly hears the surface thoughts of all those around him like haunting whispers he can never escape from, but he has taught himself how to hone into a single voice and focus in on it.
So in a way, he can empathize - no pun intended - with that strange Sith girl having lost control of herself because her power is more powerful than she can control, but he also feels for the young girl standing next to him. She is holding herself up well, both physically and mentally, but Obi-Wan can sense her apprehension and her worry. And he understands why she would be concerned. She was wise beyond her years and she was right to be worried.
Honestly, though, Obi-Wan thinks that Ahsoka is too young to be part of this - this being everything. The war, the death, commanding soldiers and leading them to their deaths, Sith, so on and so forth. If he could, Obi-Wan would have done everything that he could to shield her from all of it - her and Anakin, if he could - but he knew that he couldn't. There wasn't anything he could do but try his best to protect them both and end this war as soon as possible.
Anakin staring at him from the corner of his eye makes him look over at his former Padawan. Just by their eyes locking, Obi-Wan knows that Anakin can tell what he was thinking. A soft look crosses the younger man's face and he nods slightly, but there isn't a need for words between them.
They both turn their attention back to the conversation as Windu turns to Obi-Wan, saying, "We will need to convene with the rest of the Council when we return to Coruscant. This is providing us with a very new set of problems."
Obi-Wan nods. "Yes, Master."
Ahsoka rubs roughly at her shoulder as Windu leaves the room, turning to look over at Anakin and Obi-Wan. "I think I'm going to head back to my room. It has definitely been a long day."
"You do that," Obi-Wan says softly, offering a little smile to the young girl.
"Yeah," Anakin says, patting her on the shoulder lightly before crossing his arms over his chest. "You did good today, Snips. Get some rest. We'll bring the battle group together and make a joint jump into hyperspace."
Ahsoka nods, offering a thin smile to the two older men. "Okay. I'll see you guys in a few hours." She turns and heads for the same door that Windu exited from, stopping only once she got there. She glances over at the two older Jedi and says, "The two of you should try to get some sleep too." She sends them a knowing look before turning away once more. "Night."
"Goodnight, Snips," Anakin says, shaking his head.
"Sleep well, Ahsoka."
There is silence as Obi-Wan and Anakin stand alone in the room, both lost to their own thoughts. Obi-Wan can hear half-thoughts from Anakin, but as soon as he hears them, Anakin's racing mind has already moved on to the next thought. But Obi-Wan can understand the worry. He, himself, is trying to focus on his own racing thoughts, but Anakin's loud thoughts are hard to ignore.
They always have been.
"Not that it matters much now," Anakin says, pulling Obi-Wan from his thoughts. He looks over at his former Padawan, nodding for him to continue. "But I have a question. Do you know anything about those boxes that the Banking Clan had commissioned for those safety deposit boxes?"
Obi-Wan welcomes the distraction the question from the left-field offered. "A little bit. Why?"
"How do you figure Dooku got it open? I didn't get a good look when we first arrived but looking back over the video footage, it looks like they were able to get the door open, by physically removing it. How do you figure they did that?" Anakin asks. "I thought that metal wasn't supposed to be broken so easily. I didn't see anything other than B1 Battledroids."
Obi-Wan wraps one arm around his midsection while the other comes up to cup his chin. "Curious, and you're right, it would have been very difficult to break especially with the limited amount of time that he had. My guess? He probably knew the true weakness of the system."
Anakin raises his eyebrows. "And that would be?"
"The metal is so strong that it's hard to manipulate and small pieces are next to impossible to make," Obi-Wan says. At Anakin's curious look, he elaborates, "I would suspect that he damaged, or otherwise removed the bolts holding the face of the box to the rest of it and the door just slid off the hinges from its sheer weight alone. But that's just a guess."
Anakin raises his eyebrows, nodding. "You're probably right. As I said, I know it doesn't really matter at this point. I was just curious."
"Understandably," Obi-Wan says easily. The two lapse into silence once more. After a few moments of silence, he lets out a long, drawn-out sigh, running his hand through his short blond hair before rubbing at the back of his neck. "As much as I doubt I'm going to get any sleep tonight, I should at least try." He sends Anakin a knowing look. "And you should too."
Anakin rubs at the back of his own neck, sending his Master a troubled look. "I don't know if I can. I'm too anxious. You go ahead. I'm going to look over the feed one more time to see if anything strikes out at me as odd."
Obi-Wan sighs, stepping forward to place his hand on Anakin's shoulder, giving it a hard squeeze, looking into his eyes and saying, "Good job today, Anakin. Try to get some sleep, alright?"
Anakin nods mutely, offering a thin smile. "Yes, Master."
Obi-Wan presses his lips together tightly before heading out of the room, leaving Anakin alone with his thoughts.
Anakin watched the footage a few more times until his eyes burned before he finally turned it off the video. He rubs at his face roughly a few times before finally standing up and heading out of the communications room, turning off the lights as he goes. The 212th troopers in the halls salute to him as he passes by, heading toward the room he claimed whenever he would be on the Negotiator.
He pauses in the hall for a moment, mentally reaching out for his Master and his Padawan. When both of them sluggishly reach out to him in their half-asleep state, he was relieved enough to head into his borrowed room to try and get some sleep. He lowers onto the cot, pulling off his boots, the pouches on his belt, and cuffs on his wrists. The last thing he removes is his lightsaber, which he places onto the table next to the cot, in immediately arm's reach should he need it.
His body burns as his muscles struggle to relax as he rolls onto his side and closes his eyes.
Despite how badly his mind is racing, his body's fatigue is enough to override it and he feels himself drop off into the blackness of slumber.
There is a darkness surrounding him. And in that darkness, Anakin feels something. He's not sure what it is. It feels like a tether physically connecting two things together. But it's not something he is attached too, though. They are close together, traveling somewhere far off. Anakin can feel their power in the Force. And it takes a moment for Anakin to recognize who he was feeling.
It was them. The two Force Sensitives from earlier. The ones that were after some artifact that was in the container that Dooku got.
He's not sure that they can feel him, though. And when he focuses on it, he hears something far off. Further still from even them. A voice. A low, withered voice that laughs maniacally. Something about it sends a chill down his spine. Something utterly terrifying. And suddenly that tether is like the only light in the darkness that feels more like it's surrounding him, wrapping around him tighter and tighter.
His breath catches in his throat, he can't breathe. He can't move despite desperately wanting to reach up and claw at the invisible force pressing down on his throat. His eyes water, his lungs burn and the light from the tether blurs into a white blob. That snickering is like sandpaper in his ears, making Anakin's skin crawl and ice fill the blood in his veins.
Anakin jolts up, gasping for air as he rubs at his throat, looking around the dark bedroom on the Negotiator. As he peers through the darkness, his eyes find a red light next to him. A soft, quizzical hum from the droid calms his nerves.
"R2," Anakin sighs, lowering himself back onto the cot, forcing himself to release the death grip he has on his lightsaber. He rubs at his face roughly, trying to wipe away the feeling of being crushed under an invisible pressure. It didn't sound like the voice of either the woman or the man from earlier, but then again, he wasn't so sure. "How long have I been asleep, buddy?"
R2-D2 beeps a few times.
"Only an hour, huh?" Anakin grumbles. "Well, I'd better try and get some more." Anakin rolls onto his side to look at the borrowed astromech droid from the love of his life. He stares into the red light for a moment, waiting for the droid to return to his corner of the room, but he doesn't move right away, still staring back at Anakin through the lense in front of him.
After a few moments of staring, R2 beeps a few times, softly. Trusted little astromech droid never ceased to leave this impression on Anakin. R2 was a real friend. No matter what Obi-Wan said. Anakin did love R2-D2.
"I'm okay, buddy," Anakin says, yawning again now that his heart rate has slowed down to normal once more. "It was just a nightmare." R2 beeps in affirmation, turning around and heading back into his little corner before powering down once more into sleep mode to recharge his batteries. In the silence of the room, Anakin whispers softly, in trepidation, "At least, I hope it was."
Once they made it back to Coruscant, Obi-Wan and Windu vanished into meetings with the council for hours on end, stop for breaks, and to check up on the temple before returning to debates. Anakin knew that there wasn't a lot that could actually be done about what they learned, but Jedi - especially Masters, as he's come to learn - can spend an insurmountable amount hours sitting around and debating a topic until they are all blue in the face. As time went on, though, Anakin could feel his Master's irritation and exhaustion over this whole thing and knew that while they probably spent that entire time reviewing footage over and over again trying to learn what they could and talking about what this could all mean, ultimately nothing more could be done. All they could do was keep their ears to the group and hope that these two new mysterious Darksiders revealed themselves soon.
Anakin felt like he wasn't needed in the Temple after having given his report to the council, as well as stand-in with Ahsoka when she gave her's. Then again when both of them were called back in to answer more questions and to see if they remembered anything more while they were reflecting. Ahsoka left afterword to go and help out one of the Masters with training younglings, finding some comfort in the monotony in it.
Anakin went to see Padme, bothering her at work, which she didn't mind. She smiled so brightly, so sweetly, at the sight of him. Once her aids left the room, she stood up, opening her arms wide to hug him close and he loved it. He felt the tension leave his shoulders as he breathed in her shampoo and perfume before pulling back to kiss her lips softly, just happy that there was still such a beautiful person standing amongst the destruction of the galaxy. Even though he can see the sleepless nights on her face and the worry in her eyes, her smile is genuine and loving and enough for him.
He plopped down into the seat across from her desk while she continued to work, chatting idly about anything they could think of. Padme asked about everyone, Ahsoka, Obi-Wan, the Jedi, and even the 501st, because she knew how important they were to Anakin.
"They're my boys," Anakin said affectionately one time when he brought them up in his stories. So she asks about them too. And her smile is so wonderful while she listens to him that he wants to talk forever. Even now, while her eyes are flickering back and forth between her screen and him as he talks, that sweet smile never really leaves her lips.
He makes sure to check in on Ahsoka and Obi-Wan before heading back to Padme's apartment with her, where she can lovingly greet her astromech droid that beat them there. She lightly patted the top of his silver and blue dome before walking into the bedroom to change into a less cumbersome dress so that they can curl up on the couch with wine and talk more.
Anakin finally got the good night's sleep that he's been denied for over a week now since the incident on the space station with Dooku and the two mysterious Darksiders, curled up around the woman he loved. The smell of her shampoo stuck on her curly brown hair in his nose, the warmth of her body in his arms, and the sound of her gentle breathing in his ear is a sweet enough lullaby to finally lull him to sleep.
Anakin pauses in what he was about to say as he and his master turn to look at the Padawan racing up to them, brown eyes blown wide in anticipation and fear. His lips are white and he looks honestly terrified. It immediately puts Anakin and Obi-Wan on alert. They were on Coruscant, in the Jedi Temple, surly if something absolutely terrible was going on, they wouldn't be learning about it from a single, terrified Padawan. But then again... they can never be too sure.
It's been well over a month since they left Coruscant to continue fighting in the war when nothing immediately followed their return in regards to the Darksiders and Dooku, but there has been something strange going on. It's not something easily noticed on Coruscant, but something about the war has changed. The Separatists are still fighting, but it almost feels more mechanical than their actual droid army. Like they are going through the motions but something is definitely off. It's not something completely obvious, but Anakin and Obi-Wan had felt it while being back on the front line.
"Perhaps our perspective of the war has simply changed," Obi-Wan had said once they returned to Coruscant again. Obi-Wan was left in charge of the Temple and Anakin's break happened to match up so they've taken some time to wander the grounds, ensuring that everything was okay while they discussed their thoughts.
"You and I both know that while that is true, we know that something else has also changed," Anakin argued, "but I'm not sure what." Obi-Wan hummed in agreement and that was when they were interrupted by the padawan.
"Yes?" Obi-Wan says, pulling Anakin back to the present, in a soft, soothing voice that Anakin immediately recognizes. Anakin can feel his Master's presence in the Force become soothing and disarming to help assuage the panic in the Padawan.
The Padawan doubles over, grabbing at a stitch in his side, no doubt running around the Temple crazed, looking for the blond Master. He takes a second to collect his thoughts and even out his breath before straightening up and saying, "You're needed down in the holding area, Master. There... uh... there is someone there that you need to talk to."
Obi-Wan frowns at that, looking over at Anakin, who looks troubled, but shrugs, not sure what's going on. He just got back.
"Do you know who?" Obi-Wan asks.
The Padawan shakes his head. "No, Master. But as Master of the Temple, please go. My Master looked very worried. I don't know if time can be wasted."
Obi-Wan nods, placing his hand onto the young man's shoulder comfortingly, still exuding comfort and calm in the Force to help further ease the young Padawan. "I understand. Go ahead to your room now and relax, you are too riled."
Ashamed, the young man nods, bowing his head. "Y-Yes, Master."
Obi-Wan pats his shoulder again, staring into his eyes for a moment to show he wasn't mad before letting the Padawan run off to do as he was told. Anakin and Obi-Wan turn back toward one another as Anakin asks, "Want some backup?"
Obi-Wan nods, slowly, slightly troubled. "He definitely was worried about whoever is down there. It might be something important enough that I'll need your help, so I appreciate the offer."
Anakin gives a single, strong nod at those words. "I got your back, Obi-Wan."
"You always do," Obi-Wan mumbles, lost in his thoughts, but that makes Anakin smile slightly feeling appreciated before Obi-Wan snaps out of his thoughts and looks at Anakin. "Well, we shouldn't keep our guest waiting, shall we?"
"Not at all," Anakin agrees following his master toward the cells deeper in the Temple. "Who do you think it is?"
Obi-Wan shakes his head. "Honestly, I have no idea. But there was a lot of urgency in the order given to that Padawan, so it's got to be either someone important or the information they have for us is."
Anakin hums in agreement, steel blue eyes scanning the halls as the hair on the back of his neck stand up on end as a bad feeling washes over him instantly, putting him on edge. The feeling must have flooded their bond, or he thought of his discomfort loud enough that Obi-Wan glanced over at him with a frown pulling at the corner of his lips.
Needlessly, Anakin mumbles, "I've suddenly got a really bad feeling."
Obi-Wan presses his lips together tightly. "I got that too." But he didn't elaborate on if it was his own feeling or if he was getting the tail-end of the feeling that hit Anakin and bombarded their bond.
"I mean, other than the weirdness with the Separatists, the war wasn't going too bad for us," Anakin sighs, rubbing the back of his neck in an effort to shake off the bad feeling. "Nothing can ever be easy for us, can it?"
Obi-Wan sighs exasperatedly, sending his former Padawan a withering look. "No, I suppose it cannot." Obi-Wan rubs at his forehead as they stop in front of the elevator while Anakin presses the button to summon it.
They traveled down to the lower levels in silence, lost to their own thoughts until they got to the floor where the holding cells were and the door opened. Immediately Anakin and Obi-Wan are greeted with the sight of the halls lined with Jedi Temple Guards. Anakin and Obi-Wan look at one another with grim worry etched across their faces. This can't be good.
"They know something is up," Anakin says.
"Of course they do," Obi-Wan says, stepping off the elevator. "The Temple Guards learn of everything in the Temple before anyone else does."
They walk down the halls in silence, the Guards not moving or speaking but constantly on alert, ensuring that if whoever was being held in the cells and somehow managed to escape, they weren't going to make it anywhere fast. Obi-Wan can sense how uncomfortable Anakin is before the younger of the two of them crosses his arms over his chest. Honestly, Obi-Wan doesn't blame him, he's starting to get more and more uneasy the closer that they get to the cells.
But before then, a fellow Jedi Master, although not one on the council, comes to meet them halfway to the cells, Twi'leki face set grim with worry. "Thank you for coming so quickly, Master Kenobi. As the highest-ranking Master in the Temple, I knew this was something that you had to oversee."
"No thanks are necessary, Master Kash'il," Obi-Wan says politely despite the pit forming in his stomach. "Your Padawan was very vague in his description of what happened. All he said was that there was someone important being held down in the cells that I needed to come to see as soon as possible. Perhaps you may be able to expound on that. "
The green Twi'lek frowns a bit, whether it was because his Padawan was too vague or having to explain it himself also appeared to be troublesome. "My Padawan and I were just coming back from a mission, Master, and an unexpected guest came walking up the steps of the Templed, turning himself over to the Jedi on the pretense that no one knows that he was here. He has information on not only some supposed Sith Lord in the Senate but also about a plan to destroy the Jedi as well." The Master frowns, rightfully concerned. "I did not think I should be the one to speak with him. I sent my Padawan to search for the Council Master in charge of the Temple. Seeing as we just returned and didn't know who that would be, I imagine that's what took him so long."
Anakin shifts next to Obi-Wan anxiously. Obi-Wan isn't sure if it's his own anxiety he's feeling, or Anakin's through their bond, but the younger man is feeding on it enough for both of them. Obi-Wan feels himself relax, letting it out into the Force while brushing with Anakin's mind to settle him down a bit, help him be conscious of how he's presenting himself.
Anakin flinches, too lost in his own thoughts to realize he was showing his worry outwardly. He sends Obi-Wan a half grimace before looking over at the Twi'lek Master with a hard frown on his lips. "Who is it?"
Solemnly, the Master says, "Count Dooku."