Anakin had never been partial to senate visits—actually, he didn't care for them at all. The less time spent in that bustle of chaos, the better.
Only one senator could ever draw him willingly to the grand building, and he could always see her during his late night visits to her apartment…
Even the vapin decor grated on his nerves.
As much as the young Jedi Knight loathed the Galactic Senate of the Republic, he knew for a fact that his former Master liked it even less.
Nothing good ever came from the senate, only jumbled messes created by flitty senators who expected the Jedi to clean them up.
We're already fighting this war for them, Anakin scoffed internally as he strolled beside Obi-Wan through the never-ending halls. What's one more thing, right? Because we have so much time to waste on this.
The journey was longer than it needed to be, considering one of the corridors had been blocked off for refurbishment. It was during that time when Anakin began to sense a growing cloud of… something… surrounding him.
Don't project too loudly, he warned himself. You're gonna inspire a lecture on the danger of emotions.
And that was the last thing he needed right now.
Their last mission had been particularly taxing—even Ahsoka had shown signs of immense fatigue, prompting Anakin to leave her back at the Temple to rest.
Which is where I'm gonna go the second this farce is over.
Why all the senators needed to hear about the Coridia campaign was beyond his understanding. It was an unusual case, to be sure, but weren't there planetary representatives from the Mid-Rim planet who could just as easily tell the sad tale?
Another planet falling to Separatist control is nothing they haven't seen before. But the destruction of an entire government…?
Anakin shook his head. For once, he was glad he hadn't been the one in the thick of the political action.
Which meant he didn't have to make some stupid debriefing speech on the state of Coridia in front of the whole kriffing senate. It was Obi-Wan who'd handled the negotiations with the Coridia emperor while he and Ahsoka led the ground team.
Thank the Force for Obi-Wan, he thought briefly as his mind tried once again to wrap itself around the events of the last twenty-four hours.
Time had been short and, in the end, the Separatist forces took control of the palace and, subsequently, the entire government, murdering every last member of the ruling dynasty.
His former Master had been outnumbered and Anakin had been too late.
He spared a quick glance at his Master, wondering how the man was hiding his fatigue so expertly.
Now, the mysterious cloud started to swirl, twisting and coiling around Anakin's mind.
Where is this coming from? I'm not even angry. Okay, well, a little ticked, but still, what even—
The cloud rumbled, thundering a short burst of unchecked emotion. Dread, trepidation, uncertainty, and doubt melded together, creating a sort of emotional monster Anakin was only used to feeling inside his own soul.
But it wasn't him. It wasn't—
Almost as quickly as it had gathered, the storm vanished, dissipating into nothingness.
As if it hadn't even been there in the first place.
He risked another glance at his companion.
Stoic, impassive. Per the usual. A slight indent between his brows served as the only crack in his cool composure.
Still, this was nothing new.
He's probably just concentrating on his upcoming speech.
Surely, that cloudburst hadn't come from his Master… No. Of course not. It would be so unlike Obi-Wan to allow his mental shields to betray so much turmoil.
No. It has to be one of the passing senators. That's it. I'm picking up their emotions through the Force and—
But they were alone, strolling down a corridor utterly devoid of any life other than theirs.
Then what the…?
Clearing his throat, he pushed away any hesitation. "Master?"
Okay, not the answer he'd been expecting, but it was a start.
"Did you feel—"
"Not now, Anakin," Obi-Wan replied, almost a bit too hastily for the young general's liking. "The senate is already in session."
It was then that Anakin realized they'd stepped into their box, the full weight of the giant room descending upon him.
It was time.
The swirling cloud descended once again, crackling the air and shooting sparks about the small circular platform. Though it lingered only a moment, it was long enough for Anakin to finally pin-point its source.
For the first time that since they'd arrived at the senate, he noticed his Master's shaking hands, which were concealed in vain beneath arms crossed tightly against his chest.
What in the stars…? Anakin blinked. Obi-Wan's… nervous? Since when?
But no, the feelings were stronger than that. What little Anakin had felt leak into their bond was more than mere nervousness.
The Jedi Master was… afraid. Terrified, even.
Again: since when? He's the Great Negotiator, for Force sakes! He can't be—
The Chancellor's strong voice boomed over everyone's private speakers, echoing throughout the vast chamber.
Ever so slightly, Obi-Wan stiffened.
I was right! Stang!
But why? It was one simple speech. Sure, the entire Galactic Senate would be present for it, hanging on Obi-Wan's every word, straining to catch any mistakes, but his Master had addressed far larger crowds before, right?
He glanced at Obi-Wan and his stomach twisted.
Moving closer to his friend's side, Anakin decided to test the waters, to probe a little before time ran out completely.
Before it was too late.
"That's, uh, lot of people, huh?"
A small hum was Obi-Wan's only reply.
Anakin cleared his throat, feigning nonchalance. "I'm sure you've totally addressed more than this before, right?"
"Right?" Anakin repeated, trying not to sound too desperate, trying to sound… normal. He forced a chuckle. "I mean, all those missions you've been on. You've seen more planets before this war even began than I've seen my entire life!" Shut up. You're blathering on like an idiot! Easier said than done. "I know a lot of them were diplomatic—heck, that's how we met all those years ago, right? So, I'm sure this is nothing to you."
Nothing, save a short breath.
Anakin continued, feeling far less confident than earlier. "You have addressed larger audiences before… right?"
Come on, Obi-Wan.
"No." The response was so low, Anakin almost missed it; nearly lost it to the thunder of applause at something Palpatine had said. "Nowhere near even half this size."
"I'm not a politician, Anakin," Obi-wan continued.
Was he stating a fact or trying to open up a little in his usual round-about way? Anakin couldn't tell, and he didn't have time to play codebreaker.
"Well," Anakin said, trying to keep his voice positive, "there's a first time for everything."
All right, no more beating around the bush.
"Hey… Are… you okay?"
Obi-Wan straightened immediately. "Of course, Anakin. I'm fine."
Anakin rolled his eyes. Sure.
"Are you worried you'll mess up or something?"
"Of course not." But the reply was far from confident.
Obi-Wan's cue was fast approaching and, while Anakin wasn't a medical expert, he was no fool. His Master's parlor was far too light, too green to be normal, and violent tremors riddled his white-knuckled fists.
"Look, Master," Anakin sucked in a breath before gently placing his hand on Obi-Wan's shoulder, "whatever it is… You'll be fine, all right? I know you will. I believe in you."
Obi-Wan went suddenly rigid under his touch and Anakin wondered what mistake he'd made this time.
"What…" His Master's voice was barely audible. "What did you just say?"
"Uh… I believe in you?"
Oceanic blue orbs were on him in seconds, studying his face; tinted with some rare, unbridled emotion Anakin couldn't decipher.
"Do you really mean that?" He breathed.
"What?" Anakin blinked, thoroughly confused. "Of course, I do. I always have."
A bolt of shock pierced the tunnels of their Force-bond. "And why, might I ask, are you only telling me this just now?"
I just can't do anything right these days, can I? But his former Master didn't sound angry or annoyed. Only genuinely curious.
"I dunno," Anakin replied with a shrug. "I guess I just thought you really needed to hear it right now."
He could practically see the wheels turning in Obi-Wan's mind, grinding away at thoughts he would never be privy to.
"Now, get out there and make me proud, Master," Anakin prompted with agrin, giving Obi-Wan one last clap on the shoulder before stepping back to avoid getting caught on the detaching platform.
After all, this wasn't his speech. It was…
Obi-Wan's gaze lingered on him as the platform carried the temporary politician far too quickly out into the center of the room.
Come on, Master… You can do this.
He gave Obi-Wan a small salute before the Master turned to face his audience.
You can do this. You can do this…
As Obi-Wan's accented voice projected throughout the chamber, Anakin held his breath, sending waves of calm reassurance and confidence through their bond.
I believe in you, Master.
In the end, the mission was a success. The Great Negotiator came through, words spilling out of his mouth as if he truly were a born politician.
As if there hadn't ever been a nervous bone in his body.
His bravado nearly fooled Anakin, and the young general knew Obi-Wan had successfully pulled the blinds over the eyes of the senators.
He'd hid his terror well.
Had the torturous emotions really disappeared with the closing of his speech, however, was the question Anakin found himself wrestling with. He needed to speak with Obi-Wan, and soon.
A feat easier said than done.
They barely made it out of the senate before night laid its dark blanket over Coruscant's surface. It seemed to Anakin as if every senator wanted to shake Obi-Wan's hand or ask him a clarifying question about the current Coridian situation.
It was a miracle they even made it back to the Temple in one piece.
Yes, everything had gone swimmingly.
But it was after the debriefing with the Jedi Council that Anakin lost his Master. Literally.
Come on, Obi-Wan, don't bail on me now.
Scouring the Temple was not something he had looked forward to doing when he got home. A snack, a couch, and some holovids with Ahsoka was more along his line of thinking. But it would all have to wait.
He couldn't get any kind of proper rest with a troubled Obi-Wan on his mind. So, scour the Temple he did, and to his immense relief, he didn't have to search long. Obi-Wan was right where Anakin suspected he would be…
… Meditating in the most secluded corner of the Room of a Thousand Fountains. A perfect picture of serenity and peace, Obi-Wan knelt beneath a sagging tree, his hands resting gently on the tops of his thighs.
While peaceful on the surface, the picture was all a deception. Anakin could feel the turmoil and confusion radiating off his Master; could feel the way Obi-Wan wrestled to reign it all back inside.
The perfect picture of tormented peace.
Anakin knelt down in front of his Master.
A beat, a breath, and then: "Obi-Wan?"
The Jedi Master didn't open his eyes. "Yes, Anakin?"
A light meditation then, Anakin surmised.
"Uh… your, um, speech went really well."
"As so many senators felt the need to point out to me, yes, thank you."
"Yeah…" Anakin ran a hand over the back of his neck, unsure where to take the conversation next. "Are you… uh, all right?"
"I'm fine, Anakin."
"Right, of course you are."
Opening his eyes at last, Obi-Wan gave his former student a pointed look.
"Look, all I'm trying to say is… well…" He sighed. "What happened back there?"
"You did great! Where's all this negative energy coming from?"
"I don't know what you're going on about."
"Of course you don't," Anakin muttered. "Obi-Wan, was it something I said?"
A slight flinch was all the confirmation he needed.
"I knew it!" I'm such an idiot! When am I ever gonna learn to think before I open my big mouth? "What was it?" Nothing. "Whatever it was, I'm sorry, okay? I didn't know what I was saying. It was loud and chaotic and—"
"So you didn't mean it, then?"
The pain in Obi-Wan's eyes made Anakin pause.
"Mean… what, exactly?" What could I possibly have said to make you—?
"You told me…" his Master swallowed, taking a moment to get himself under control, Anakin assumed. "You told me that you believed in me. Did you mean that?"
"What? Of course, I did. I wouldn't say something like that if I didn't."
"Obi-Wan, if I didn't believe in you, do you think I'd have come to the Senate with you today? Do you think I'd be here right now if I didn't have all the confidence in the galaxy in you?"
Then, Anakin waited. On bated breath, he studied his friend, his brother, who'd closed his eyes once more, a crease invading the small patch of skin between his brows.
Anakin had hoped to come away from this conversation with a renewed sense of confidence in his Master and their relationship. Now, he only felt even more confused than before.
"Obi-Wan?" He prompted after a short while, keeping his voice soft.
"I didn't ask if you were. But on the rare occasion that you weren't…" Show me how to help you.
"Then what's the big deal? The speech went great, I didn't say anything stupid, so what—?"
"Not many people have told me that before, all right?" Obi-Wan blurted. "There. Now, can I go back to my meditation, which you so rudely interrupted, I might add."
Anakin was taken momentarily aback, caught off-guard by the suddenness of the declaration. Now what? He hadn't come prepared for something like this.
If he was honest, he didn't really know what he'd come prepared for, if anything.
Obi-Wan's eyes had already closed again by the time Anakin focused back in on his friend.
"What?" He probed. Come on, Obi-Wan, give me something.
"Are you saying no one's ever believed in you?" That can't be right… That doesn't sound—
"If they did," Obi-Wan responded, lids still shut as if he were hiding behind them, "it was never voiced."
"But," Anakin spluttered, "you're one of the greatest Jedi I know!"
A small smirk. "I wasn't always."
"Yeah, but still. Didn't Qui-Gon ever…"
None of this made sense to the boy from Tatooine. His mother had always been so forthcoming with her praise, with her confidence in him. So had Obi-Wan, for that matter. During the ten-year span of his apprenticeship, Anakin couldn't recall a single moment when he doubted his Master's faith in him.
Obi-Wan was there to believe in him, to cheer him on from the very beginning.
"One or twice, I suppose." His sad eyes fully revealed now, Obi-Wan gazed at Anakin. "Our relationship was… rocky at best. There were good times, but we didn't… our end wasn't—well, that's not important right now."
It never is, Anakin scoffed.
"And it wasn't until my later teenage years that he thought to voice what confidence he had in me."
"Wasn't there anyone else?" There had to be someone else! Just the thought of his precious Master going through the bulk of his life wondering whether or not the never-ending confidence he held in others was reciprocated sparked a protective flame within his chest.
Talk about unfair!
"Satine would always—" Obi-Wan clamped his lips tightly together as his brain caught up with his mouth. "Yes," he amended with a quick shrug, "one or two. I don't know, I suppose it never crossed their minds. Or perhaps they just thought I knew and didn't feel the need to tell me."
A well-rehearsed, well-worn argument Anakin had no doubt Obi-Wan thought through many times over the years.
"I'm sorry if I caused you to worry," he continued. "That statement caught me by surprise, that's all. I didn't mean to—"
Anakin felt his arms wrap around his old Master before his mind could even comprehend the motion.
Obi-Wan stiffened, but that was nothing new, and it just made Anakin press harder into the hug.
"I'm sorry," he whispered.
"Whatever for?" Obi-Wan returned, instinct having taken over by this time, prompting him to enfold his Padawan in an embrace of his own.
"For not telling you enough. For not making it clear as the Coruscant skyline that I have all the confidence in the galaxy placed in you, Master. I always have, and I've been a fool not to make sure you knew it."
Nothing, again. He only hoped it was because Obi-Wan was too choked up for words. But since when did anything choke his Master up?
The reply, when it came, was low and cracked, raw with emotion Obi-Wan fought to keep in check. "Thank you, Anakin. Thank you."
Anakin squeezed tighter, not caring what stoic Jedi Master caught sight of such a raw display of attachment.
"No, Master, thank you. For everything."