AHSOKA TANO, LOCATION: UNKNOWN, PRESENT
The faint buzzing in the force woke her, a numb emptiness in some corner of her mind. All was not well. Memory vague and thoughts blurry, Ahsoka dragged herself into wakefulness. She was in the temple. That much, at least, was obvious by the feeling in the force. Her limbs felt heavy, but all of them appeared to be in the right place. It wasn’t until she opened her eyes that she realized what was wrong. It was Master Obi-Wan, not Anakin, sitting with her.
“Where’s Skyguy?” She asked, startling Master Obi-Wan from his half-sleep. Now that he was awake, she realized that he looked different. Not older, quite, but his beard was a little longer, a little more ill-kempt. He was wearing robes rather than armor, and there was a new scar, like a brand, just above his cheekbone. She revised. “What happened to you?”
He blinked. “Skyguy?’ The word seemed unfamiliar on his tongue. This was not the time for him to discover a new sense of humour.
“You know, my master? Tall, lanky human. Usually followed around by a little blue and white R2 unit? He was there when the holocron exploded.” He was staring at her blankly. Oh, if this was one of Dooku’s sick tricks, she was going to kill herself a Sith. “Anakin Skywalker.”
Everything in his body seemed to shut down. She watched him try to subtly reach down and press the button to call for a healer, but as her eyes narrowed in on the motion, he stopped. “What’s the last thing you remember, Padawan Tano?”
Report, Ahsoka. Think about how Rex would do it, and then do that. “Anakin- General Skywalker and I were on our way to Felucia, to meet with Master Plo. We’d heard that Grievous was there, but we were ambushed by Seppies. After taking heavy fire, General Skywalker ordered we retreat to a better position behind a nearby moon, and allow the ship to hide. He sensed darkness in the force, and thought it was probably Dooku so we went after him. We hoped it would give the troopers some time to contact Master Plo for help. We snuck onto Dooku’s ship, and found him in possession of… a Sith holocron, I think. It felt sharp, and a bit vomit-y. It certainly looked like a holocron, black, and, I don’t know, had more sides than a cube. There were glyphs on it but I couldn’t read them. Anakin tried to stop him, tried to push me away from the explosion, and then I woke up here.”
Master Obi-Wan was openly staring, now. Ahsoka reached up to fidget with her Padawan beads, relieved to find them unmoved.
“What?” She asked, when he still had not said anything. “Did I forget anything?” Anakin wasn’t dead, she would have felt that, surely. “Did Dooku capture him? Did something happen to Master Plo on Felucia?”
“Padawan Tano,” Obi-Wan said, very deliberately, “I think you’re in the wrong dimension.”
It only took them half an hour to get her cleared by the healers. Apparently, this body had stumbled in training and managed to hit her head on a droid. Neither one mentioned to the healers that Ahsoka was… not the right Ahsoka, and Obi-Wan fed her answers to the memory testing questions through their training bond. The year and date were the same, the chancellor was Bail Organa of Alderaan, and this Ahsoka wouldn’t have remembered the name of the Vice-Chancellor with or without a concussion.
The training bond was the oddest thing. It was in exactly the same place Ahsoka and Anakin’s had been, enough so to be indistinguishable if she wasn’t quite paying attention, but it was so obviously not her master on the other end. Where Anakin was calm bravado over a layer of anxiety–and no wonder, there was a war on–Obi-Wan was Jedi tranquility over deep, unceasing sadness. She didn’t try to look at it much deeper, because it felt like if she did she might never make it out.
Something terrible had happened in this world. That much was obvious. Her world’s Obi-Wan (Master Obi-Wan, she decided, and this one would be just Obi-Wan), was not the cheeriest person she’d ever met, but he was often happy. Skyguy made him roll his eyes but grin when Anakin wasn’t looking. Cody made him smile in a small, innocent way. She couldn’t picture this Obi-Wan doing either of those things.
“Why did you help me get away from the healers?” She asked him, taking a seat on the couch. This, at least, was familiar. It was the same ratty old couch that Master Obi-Wan had had since Anakin was a Padawan. That probably meant it was before whatever had changed between their two worlds.
He sat across from her, on an unfamiliar new chair that didn’t match the rest of the room. His mind went carefully blank. “Wrong dimension or not, you are still my Padawan. I confess to not liking the thought of what most people – Jedi or not – would do with the information of an alternate dimension where things are other than here.”
He was still an Obi-Wan Kenobi, even if he wasn’t the right one. He had a good heart. “Thank you.”
“I hope you’ll forgive me for having asked Master Windu to call the High Council. They’ll be assembling as we speak.” He fidgeted with the comm that rested beside his ‘saber in his belt. That was another thing that was different. This Obi-Wan had built a new lightsaber. In fact, that reminded her.
“Do you have my–her–lightsaber?”
Obi-Wan looked at her critically. “You’ll forgive me if I don’t go so far.”
That was where the line was then. “Yes.” That seemed the end of that line of conversation. “How long have you been her Master?”
“I shouldn’t tell you anything before the Council has a chance to speak with you,” he said, but it only took a strong look from Ahsoka before he relented. “Only six months. Her first Master died very suddenly.”
Ahsoka couldn’t even imagine it. But of course, it might become her, if she couldn’t find a way home. For the first time, a swell of anxiety rose in her. She couldn’t stay here. These people weren’t her people. They didn’t know her. Anakin wasn’t here. Rex wasn’t here. The entire 501st didn’t seem to be here. These people weren’t even fighting in a war.
“That didn’t happen to me,” Ahsoka told him, as much for her own benefit as for his. “I was always Skyguy’s – Knight Skywalker’s. Well, you thought I was going to be yours, but Master Yoda thought that him and I were better together.”
Seeming very far away, Obi-Wan murmured, “I can understand why he might think that.”
“Something awful happened to your Anakin, didn’t it?”
She knew she shouldn’t have said it as soon as the words left her mouth, but it was too late. There was a flash of pain over the other Ahsoka’s training bond, and then Obi-Wan was shielded as a Droideka.
“I’m going to make tea,” said Obi-Wan, and walked into the kitchen.
Alone, Ahsoka pulled her feet up onto the couch, and tried to work through what she knew. Master Obi-Wan would have told her to think it through logically, and so, she tried to work through what she knew. A Sith Holocron had brought her here. Dooku had wielded it. This world had Jedi and a temple, the same people in similar configurations. This Ahsoka had never known Anakin. Obi-Wan seemed sad to hear him mentioned. That probably meant he was dead. This Ahsoka had been given to some other Master, also dead, but not the same person, or Obi-Wan would not have been confused to hear her mention Anakin. Chancellor Palpatine might also be dead, or just voted out, and Ahsoka didn’t think the Vice Chancellor’s name was the same either.
The war was over here, or maybe had never happened. Why was that? Had Dooku’s fall remained hidden? Might he never have fallen at all? But then what had happened to Anakin, and to Ahsoka’s master? Where had Obi-Wan’s lightsaber burn come from? So there must have been some kind of war, just not the one she’d fought in.
Obi-Wan came back ten minutes later, seeming far more composed. He was carrying not one, but two cups of tea.
“My Padawan likes this one,” he said, and handed her the second cup. It was hot in her hands, but the subtle burn of it was grounding. She was alive, in some strange other dimension. When she drank, it had a subtle, coppery taste. A familiar one.
“My grandmaster makes this for me when Anakin and I come over.”
Obi-Wan cradled his tea in his hands. Ahsoka pressed her own cup to her chest, pressing the reassuring warmth over her heart. “I still trained Anakin, in your timeline.”
There was an almost surprising innocence to the way he said it. This Obi-Wan, Ahsoka decided, was very vulnerable, even if he was the same age as hers. In some ways, he reminded her of the Rex and his brothers, far too young for the way they looked, and having seen far too much.
“You did.” Impulsively, Ahsoka rushed on. “You trained him until he was knighted. It was a field knighting. Neither of you talk much about how you became his master, but he told me he became a Padawan really young, and Master Plo told me it was because your Master died then and I–”
Obi-Wan held up a hand. “You should wait until the council meeting.” His voice was carefully calm. Then he stopped again. “Is he a good teacher?”
Was he? Maybe. Certainly, he was a good friend, and a good General. Ahsoka had seen the way other generals treated their troopers, and it was nothing like the way Anakin treated Rex. They were friends, and they were always honest with each other. He was also a good Master, in many ways. He never stopped protecting her, and he tried to show her things. He’d taught her a lot about the force, and about fighting. Master Obi-Wan had helped, of course, but it was mostly Anakin.
Obi-Wan opened his mouth, closed it, and then took a drink of his tea. His comm buzzed, he checked it, and looked back at Ahsoka. “Master Windu says they’re ready for us.” The comm went back to his belt. “Bring your tea with you. I suspect it will be a long meeting.”
Ahsoka couldn’t imagine facing the Jedi Council in her world with a cup of tea in hand. But then, she couldn’t imagine it without Anakin at her side either. “What happens if they don’t believe me? Or if they won’t help me?”
Opening himself to her in the force, Obi-Wan crossed the room. His hand touched her arm, on the shoulder just below her lekku. It was a familiar touch, one that knew how to comfort without being invasive. It was a way someone who knew Ahsoka well might have known to help her. Anakin would have known or Rex, or Master Plo.
“Whatever I can do to help,” Obi-Wan told her, “I will.”
Impulsively, Ahsoka set her cup down, and wrapped her arms around his waist. His brown robes were heavy wool, and they itched against her montrals, but the sound of Obi-Wan setting his cup down and the feeling of his arms around her made it worthwhile. She found her eyes watering, tears slow at first and then heavy. It was all too much, an overwhelming, incomprehensible thing to have happened.
“I’ve got you. It’s alright. The force will resolve all of this, in the end.”
It wasn’t the broad confidence Anakin would have given her, but it was somehow more reassuring for that fact. This Obi-Wan loved his Ahsoka. She would be as safe with him as the other Ahsoka would be with Skyguy.
They stayed there for a long moment. Obi-Wan was careful not to be too forceful with her lekku and montrals, but he did touch them, gentle, hands warm from the tea and steady as a Jedi’s should be. His fingers ran down them from top to bottom in comforting gesture. “You’re going to be alright,” he said, and then, dangerously, “I promise.”
He helped dry her tears, and they walked together to the council chambers. The temple was so similar, and yet so strange. The walls, the structure were the same, but the people were different. There were far more Knights and Masters here, the temple busy as Ahsoka remembered it from her childhood. Busier, maybe. There were clones here too, though nobody she recognized, and it was shocking to see them mostly dressed as civilians. Some of them seemed to know this Ahsoka, clones and Jedi both. When they waved at her, she waved back. Once, she caught a glimpse of the back of Barriss, but Barriss didn’t see her. Probably for the best. If they’d been strangers in this world, that would have been another sort of loss.
At the doors to the council chamber, Ahsoka found a shock of another sort entirely. There were two consular Padawans and a trooper resting outside the door, playing cards. Consular Padawans, Ahsoka guessed, and a clone she actually knew, wearing his armor and no helmet. “Wolffe,” she breathed. Then she realized her mistake. The others would expect this Ahsoka to address them as familiarly. One of the Padawans was facing her, and Obi-Wan reminded her of his name.
“Caleb,” she said, trying to be casual. Then the other Padawan turned around, and she almost choked on her tongue. “Ventress.”
With short white hair in a Padawan cut, her braid down her neck, and heavy wool robes covering most of her body, Ahsoka hadn’t even recognized her. But now, face to face, she was unmistakeable. How had this happened? What had caused it?
Obi-Wan must have sensed her fear and shock. His hand returned to her shoulder. “Padawan Ventress,” he greeted, before she could speak. “Is the council ready for us?”
She gave Ahsoka an odd look. Caleb said, “They’re all in, yeah.”
Wolffe said, “good to see you, Padawan Tano,” and smiled at her. His armor was the same, but his demeanour wasn’t. Most tellingly, his eyes were both biological, although he had a ragged scar along the side of his neck. He seemed lighter, calmer, but was still recognizably himself in the force. It was a relief to see him. That meant that Master Plo was here. It couldn’t mean anything else. Ahsoka refused to believe that there was any timeline where Wolffe would smile like that without him.
Ahsoka steeled herself, head high and shoulders back. Ventress groaned theatrically, and raised her hands. The doors swung open like palace gates. “Have fun, smartass,” Ventress told the back of her.
The doors swung shut behind them with a horrible finality, and Ahsoka found twelve beings watching her. Obi-Wan’s hand never left her shoulder, and his connection with her grew stronger, bringing reassurance as a wave of fear made her shudder.
There was the reason for Ventress’s presence, right in the centre of the room. Her master, as vain as always in sleek black robes. A nearly identical curved lightsaber remained at his side, and a very unfamiliar pair of mechanical hands rested on the arms of his chair. There was no tinge of darkness in the room, but the look he and Obi-Wan exchanged was cold as Ilum.
“Knight Kenobi.” Master Windu was still Master of the Order, even in this universe.
Together, Ahsoka and Obi-Wan walked into the middle of the room, until the Council surrounded them. Feeling as though she was in the middle of a battlefield, Ahsoka catalogued those around her. Masters Windu, Yoda, and Dooku, together at the front of the room. Then, spreading out in the circle, many familiar faces: Depa Billaba, Plo Koon, Ki-Adi-Mundi, Shaak Ti, Eeth Koth, Saesee Tiin, and Adi Gallia. There were two other new councillors: Master Nu, from the library, and a Mon Calamari stranger who gave Obi-Wan a polite nod and Ahsoka a generous smile.
“Master Windu,” Obi-Wan returned. It was strange not to see them as equals.
“Many troubles have you, Padawan Tano,” said Yoda, turning all eyes in the room to her with one clever sentence.
Where to begin? There was so much to tell them, and so little time. This Dooku and Ventress might yet be traitors, but she was sure it was wrong to accuse them of crimes they might never have committed in this timeline. On the other hand, they might just be better at hiding it, and these people were at stake. Then there was the question of the Holocron, and of how to go home. Trusting Dooku might be the only way to make that happen.
Obi-Wan saved her the dilemma of what to say first. “Masters, this is a Padawan Tano, but she is not my Padawan. This Jedi has come from a world parallel to ours, and is now trapped here. I assume that my Padawan is trapped in her place.”
The eyes became sharper. Ahsoka wished she had her lightsaber at hand. Even the steady weight of it in her hand would have been some kind of assurance. She clutched her teacup tight enough that she worried it would crack under the stress.
“How did this come to be?” It was Dooku who spoke. He was leaning forward in his chair, as if this was an entertainment to him, some fascinating detail.
Oh, how Anakin would have loved to see this. “It was your fault, Sir.” She would not call this man a Master, no matter what he might be in this universe. “My Master and I were investigating Sith activity, and we found you opening a Sith Holocron. You touched it, and I woke up here.”
Focus on the room shifted to Dooku, who looked remarkably unperturbed. “A significant and recent timeline divergence then, if beings recognizable as you and I still inhabit the galaxy, albeit in different configurations.
“Jocasta, do you know of anything like this having happened before?”
Master Nu was the only one in the room whose eyes were still focused clearly on Ahsoka. Without turning to her colleague, she said, “I am a librarian, Dooku, not an encyclopedia. You can look through the records yourself or have your Padawan do it for you.”
It was so strange, to see this world’s council. They were so different, in composition and temperament, but also much the same.
“How can we be sure her story is true?” Master Tiin asked, rumbling voice low. The predator in Ahsoka wanted to crouch low, to hide or defend herself against this much larger creature.
Obi-Wan defended her. “She now holds the other end of my bond with my Padawan. I can feel that they are different, in experience and in the force.”
“You will forgive us,” said Master Koth, “if we do not take your words on what your Padawans are or are not as gospel. Perhaps this is a Sith trick of its own.”
The Council all seemed to take this concern very seriously.
“Let the Force guide us, we shall,” Yoda instructed, “why not join you minds and see in her what Knight Kenobi sees, hm?”
They all looked at each other, as if carefully assessing the situation. “I could do it,” the Mon Calamari Councillor offered, standing. Ahsoka forced herself not to step back. The Master seemed to act as though they were very familiar, but this was a stranger.
“She doesn’t know you,” Obi-Wan murmured, stopping the other Jedi in her tracks. “You’re scaring her.”
He spoke so quietly, and yet it stopped the council completely. Without so much as a mastery, he was still powerful in his own way. Along their bond, Ahsoka said as much, and this seemed to bolster his confidence further.
Obi-Wan demanded of all of them, “what do you think you’re doing? From our timeline or not, this is a Jedi Padawan, and you propose to have a stranger invade her mind? This is a disappointment to the order.”
“I hardly think you have the authority to lecture us on disappointments to the order,” Dooku sneered, as horrid as he had ever been in any universe.
The Mon Calamari Master was ignoring him completely, wide, green eyes watching Ahsoka. Her posture was subdued, as if in mourning. “You don’t know me in your universe?”
Ahsoka didn’t want to hurt her. She seemed kind for a councillor. “No, Master. You aren’t a member of this council in my universe, and I don’t believe we’ve ever met.”
She extended a cautious hand, and the Master took it. “My name is Bant Eerin, Padawan Tano. In this world, I am your sister.”
Sister-Padawan, presumably, trained by whoever this Ahsoka’s first, dead Master had been. It was one of the only types of connections she’d missed, by being Anakin’s first Padawan (and, to a degree, Obi-Wan’s second). She had no sisters, or even aunts or great-aunts. Obi-Wan didn’t have any sister-Padawans either. In fact, as far as she knew, there were no feminine beings in her direct lineage at all.
“I would be honored to call you my sister, Master Eerin.” She switched which hand she held her cup of tea in, and shook Master Eerin’s.
The Master gave a wide, Mon Cala smile. “I would not ask you to share with a stranger, but is there one on this council who you know in your world? Someone you would be willing to trust.”
It was so easy to look to Master Plo. He was standing before she could speak, robes sweeping around his feet. Whatever had changed their universe, it hadn’t touched him. He looked the same, with no new scars and the same steady presence in the force.
“Little ‘Soka,” he buzzed, and offered his hands, palms up. Ahsoka handed her tea to Obi-Wan. Careful of his talons, she placed her own atop them. Master Eerin and Obi-Wan both took half steps back, and then the council chamber fell away.
This is Star Wars, I know y’all’re Nerds who actually care about this stuff so here:
1) This takes place right before Padawan Lost, because I think I’m funny.
2) Bant is... maybe a Master and maybe still a knight at this point in canon? For my purposes, she’s a Master in this universe and a Knight in the other. She’s young for the Council, but not more so than Obi-Wan was.
3) Ahsoka doesn’t totally understand what a Sith Holocron can, do, and therefore doesn’t realize that they probably shouldn’t do /this/
4) I believe Jocasta Nu was on the Jedi Council at some point ages ago in Legends or Canon, but she’s back now because why not?
5) Title is from this Marcus Aurelius quote: “Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.”
Chapter 2: Anakin
TW/CW: canon-typical violence
And now, an introduction to the second half of our tale.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
ANAKIN SKYWALKER, THANIUM SECTOR, PRESENT
If asked, Anakin would have described the moments after Dooku touched the Sith Holocron as some of the worst of his life. The Holocron was technically already open. Anakin could feel the darkness of it pulsing through the force, but when Dooku placed his open palm against one of the glyphs, all that darkness seemed to concentrate at once. The beginnings of a triumphant smile began to twist his lips, and he reached out in the force to Anakin.
Whatever was going to happen, it wouldn’t be good. Anakin touched the force himself to push Ahsoka away from it all, and instead watched in horror as his own grip on the force slipped away. For a terrible second, their bond vanished. Without Anakin’s control, Ahsoka, already shoved, tumbled through the air without stopping. There was a deafening crack as the back of her head slammed into a wall; she tumbled boneless and still to the ground.
Dooku stumbled backwards, clutching his hand to his chest, lightsaber still tightly grasped in the other. He couldn’t close the hand fully, and it looked as if the inverse of the markings on the Holocron were burned into his flesh. A droid fired a blaster shot past Anakin’s ear.
“Stop shooting!” Dooku thundered at them.
All of the droids roger-rogered at each other for some time, a chattering Anakin understood to be both a programming tic and a sort of private communication between them. He raised up his saber. If Dooku wanted to fight him one-on-one, then so be it.
The Holocron shuttered closed on the table where Dooku had left it, and Anakin felt the force return to him. Ahsoka was alive, but unconscious, their connection very fuzzy. He thought about waking her, but worried about her brain health. He was sure Kix would have given him an awful lecture if he made Ahsoka fight while she was injured or concussed, and that didn’t even bring Obi-Wan’s scolding into the picture.
No, this was a fight he would finish alone. He drew all the fear of losing her, all the danger at what Dooku had already done, into him. The Sith turned his lightsaber off. “Peace, friend. In this world, we are allies. I have brought you to a world where you have not yet–”
Ahsoka was hurt. He didn’t have time for whatever dull, holodrama monologue Dooku was going to turn out next.
Dooku’s guard was lowered in the force, not just in his blade, and the droids had standing orders. Anakin tried to think about what Obi-Wan would do.
“You need to sleep, right now,” he informed Dooku, and sent him flying back into a wall of his own for good measure. The Count crumpled as Ahsoka had done, except this time instead of awful, it was incredibly satisfying.
There was a buzz and a metallic whirring as all the droids raised their blasters again. Anakin turned off his lightsaber and put his hands over his head. He tried to identify which of the droids looked the most scared, and found one trembling in the front line. “You know,” Anakin addressed it, as kindly as he could manage under the circumstances, “he did tell you to stop shooting. He might be very angry if you did try to shoot me. And, if you didn’t try, I wouldn’t have to try and fight you. You could just let me and my friend go.”
They all looked at each other, and began roger-rogering again. Anakin took it as a sign of tacit permission, and reached out gently in the force. With part of his focus, he pulled the Sith device to him and pocketed it, with the rest, he wrapped swaths of it around Ahsoka like blankets. This one was for protection in the force. This one was for physical protection. This one was for healing. This one would keep her from moving unexpectedly, and this would give her a sleep-like trance, to better enable her to heal herself.
Anakin’s training as a healer had been… spotty, to say the least, but the war had sharpened his preventative skills a great deal. He knew how to hold his men back from the edge of exhaustion, how to keep them calm and give them sleep when he could. Some of that was what he gave Ahsoka, but not all of it. The deeper part, the protection and calm, was present only in the rarest of memories. Cold, still Tatooine nights where Watto had been in a good mood and his mother had held him and told him stories of a vast galaxy where anything was possible. She had always been a calm, giving presence in the force, and in this moment, Anakin tried to be like her. Carefully, he maneuvered Ahsoka into his arms and began to walk through the crowd of droids. They parted before him like wind around a mountain. Like the lakes of Naboo around his ankles and the streaks of hyperspace before his eyes.
Ahsoka felt sad in their bond. He didn’t think he’d noticed it before, but as he buckled her into the ship and took off, he could feel it. Artoo was speaking to him, but he felt numb.
“General Skywalker, Sir!”
Ah, that would be what Artoo was trying to tell him.
“Rex. Dooku’s out of commission for now. Has General Koon been in touch?”
“Yes sir! Commander Wolffe advises that they can reroute from Felucia. He also informed me that General Eerin and the 18th in the area, and not currently assigned to any given mission.”
Perfect. “Can we jump to hyperspace?”
There was a pause, and some discussion. “In twenty or so, yes.”
He’d hit Dooku very hard. “Contact General Eerin. Tell her that Dooku is undefended, for now, and we need her here asap. Tell Wolffe we’ll see him on Felucia.” Oh, he was going to die like this. “And tell Kix he’s about to have an unconscious Padawan on his hands. Head trauma and ‘Jedi nonsense’.”
He forced his hands to the controls, feeling Ahsoka steady and cold in the force behind him. It was taking everything in him not to poke that sadness. He hadn’t noticed she was sad–maybe even depressed–why hadn’t she talked to him? He would have listened, and understood. He knew what it was like to be a Padawan in awful circumstances. She could have talked to him. Well, they could talk about it when she woke up. As long as she woke up.
The anxiety was still numbing as he carried her into medical, delivered her into Kix’s competent care and disappointed glare.
“What’s that?” Kix asked, gesturing to the Holocron in Anakin’s hand. To one of the medical droids, he said, “I want full scans. Togruta morphology means any head trauma can seriously affect their sensory processing.”
Anakin hadn’t even thought about her hearing. What an idiot. “Kix I’m so sorry.” Right, but also, “it’s Sith tech. Stole it off Dooku.”
Kix shook his head. “If it did that to her, I don’t want to see what else it can do. Get it out of here.” He gave Anakin his best encouraging grin. “We’ll look after her, Sir.”
He was a good man. Him and his brothers all were barring extraordinary circumstances, as far as Anakin could tell. “The Sith tech didn’t concuss her. It knocked out my control and I concussed her.”
The look went from encouraging to pitying. “She won’t blame you for that.”
No, she wouldn’t.
Anakin hid the sort-of-Holocron in his quarters, and went up to take charge of the bridge. It wasn’t a Holocron as far as he understood the concept, as a way to store knowledge and not much else, but for all he knew, maybe Sith Holocrons could do other things. There might be an expert in the temple who would know, but he wasn’t them. As far as Anakin could tell, most Holocrons weren’t very useful, although some had interesting things like ancient battleship plans.
“General!” Several clones saluted as Anakin entered the bridge. Rex, more familiar after all these months, simply nodded.
They went into hyperspace soon after, and soon, Anakin was standing beside Master Koon at Ahsoka’s bedside.
“She didn’t hit her head hard enough to cause permanent damage,” Kix had reported, with a nod to Anakin. It was like coming up for air again. Better yet, Anakin could feel, as Master Koon reached out to her in the force, that she was waking up.
“It was wise to retreat when you did,” he told Anakin, his masked face unreadable.
“Thank you, Master Koon.” He had been expecting a reprimand for this, and thought he would probably still receive one from the council, but it was good to know that at least one person agreed with him.
Ahsoka stirred. Koon said, “you might call me Plo or Master Plo in private.”
It was more courtesy than any other High Councillor had shown him–excepting Obi-Wan–in years. “Thank you, Master Plo.”
And then Ahsoka opened her eyes, took one look at Anakin, and screamed.
Sorry this is so short! I have a longer Parallel chapter planned for next week!
Chapter 3: Ahsoka
Parallel Coruscant, secrets are revealed.
CW/TW: Canonical (?) character death??? Non-canonical death circumstances? Grief, mourning, a bit of a panic attack but not graphically described and passes relatively quickly
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
AHSOKA TANO, PARALLEL CORUSCANT, PRESENT
The mosaics on the floor seemed as if they were far below her, the councillors were as statues, and the walls but paper. She and Master Plo were in the force, and they were flying, out of the bounds of their own bodies, out of the temple, and then out of time itself.
In the beginning, their memories were the same. In this world, Plo Koon had found Ahsoka Tano and brought her to the Jedi. Through much of her early life, he had been attentive. Giving more time to her than the other younglings and helping her with the beginnings of being a Jedi. In both worlds, he was not destined to be her Master, and she had grown closer and closer to aging out–a fear the war had stopped–without finding one at all. Ahsoka remembered the pure relief of first learning that she had been assigned to a Jedi, even if Anakin Skywalker was a weirdo with shiny, untested credentials. This Plo seemed afraid to learn that she was paired with Anakin Skywalker, and showed her instead a memory of going to his softhearted friend Kit Fisto and asking him to take on one more Padawan. Master Fisto had agreed.
That explained a great deal of this world. Knowing the identity of this Ahsoka’s dead Master. It explained part of why the Council was so different, why she had this strange sister, and why everyone seemed to pity her loss so much. From the little she knew him, Master Fisto seemed like a Jedi worth losing. Not like Tiin or Kolar. Instead, he was kind, cheerful in the darkest of times, and full of empathy.
The sharing continued. They watched two parallel wars unfold from the ground. Ahsoka showed her Plo and Wolffe, still together in a far different timeline, holding on to each other in a war that lasted who knows how long. Here, the war was short and brutal, and had ended six months ago. Plo hadn’t been there, but he had felt Kit die, had felt the Sith both dead, Master and Apprentice. He would have taken Ahsoka himself, the second he’d returned to Temple, but Bant Eerin had already solved the problem.
“Are you sure this is what’s best for her?” Plo had demanded. The new councillor, still wearing the bright mourning colours of her people, stuck a finger in his face. He was taller than her, but thin where she was broad and very strong.
“Do you think that I would have asked this of either of them if I wasn’t?” Seeming to sense the wrongness of her actions, she stopped, pulling back. “Obi-Wan, regardless of everything, is a good teacher and a good Jedi. He was too young to be paired with Skywalker, and too isolated from the rest of the Temple by his age and origin. Ahsoka already has a community here. She has you and me and Nahdar. If Luminara didn’t already have Barriss, I know she would have taken Ahsoka herself. She has what Skywalker was always missing. What she needs is someone who can understand what she’s facing right now, and Obi-Wan can be that for her.”
She watched this Plo, over the last couple of months come to like Obi-Wan Kenobi, to see how good he and this Ahsoka had been for one another. They’d seen each other only the day before, at dinner, and it terrified him to think that she might be gone forever. He was examining these feelings in the force.
In turn, she shared with him her fear, of leaving her friends in the middle of the war. Anakin would be so afraid for her, and without her, he wouldn’t be able to spend as much time looking after the Troopers. What if something happened to one of her clan while she wasn’t there? How could she ever forgive herself – or forgive the other Ahsoka – if something happened to Rex or his brothers on her watch. Plo, ever the Master, guided her to release this fear. It was an attachment, but also a duty, and any good Jedi should care for those who they had sworn to aid and protect.
Both calmer, they paused, still entwined in the force. It draped over them like fabric. For Master Plo, more sensitive than most, it was in every atom, in particles of air and dust. He could feel the composition of the world around them, the infinite patterns that dictated the nature of matter. For Ahsoka, still learning, it was more blunt than that. She could see the rules the Force dictated, could hear the thrum of it in living things.
“I’m sorry this has happened to you,” Plo’s mind said to hers.
She accepted his genuine sympathy. “So, you believe me, then?”
“I already did.” Of course he did. It was Master Plo. He trusted her, and trusted in the force. “But it is good to have confirmation for the council. These last years have made them untrusting, and with good reason.”
“What changed between our worlds, to make this happen?” To orphan this Ahsoka. To give her own world a war that seemed unending.
Master Plo considered. “It might be wrong of me to show you. To let you learn things about your own world by virtue of what happened here. Yet I already have knowledge from you. And indeed, you are not from our future nor we from yours. It would be no temporal paradox to share. Still, this transfer was dark, in the knowledge and the act. Where was the darkness in it, if not to be used for ill? What was the purpose? And was it meant to be the person who used the ‘Holocron’ sent, or someone they were harming? If the former, I see no harm in helping you, for your presence is in error. If the latter, then I fear what might happen in your world if I tell you the truth.”
His logic was sound, and yet, “I’m always going to wonder what happened here, to keep Dooku in the light and kill all these people who aren’t dead. Not telling me will be as harmful as me trying to guess from what I can observe.”
That Obi-Wan was still a knight told her that Anakin had never become one himself. That Dooku was on the council, but had still found Ventress, told her that he had at minimum walked the line of darkness. For unknown reasons, Obi-Wan still hated him, and the feeling seemed mutual. There were still clones, who had been in fights and armies with their Jedi, but now they weren’t. Kit Fisto was dead, and possibly other councillors were as well. There had been some terrible battle, with lightsabers, one that had scarred Obi-Wan and taken Dooku’s hands.
Master Plo listened to her try and work it out. Then, very gently, he told her, “Nothing you could do would change between these times now. If I am right about what happened, then it was not of your making to begin with. Yet, I will put the question before the council. It will be their decision, but for your sake I hope they will allow me to tell you.”
It was time to go back. Master Plo helped ease Ahsoka back into her body. Then, as they were both settled, he pulled Ahsoka into a fierce hug. The hard metal of his mask was cold against her montrals, but Ahsoka couldn’t find the energy to mind. She was very tired. The sharing had been exhausting.
“I assume,” Master Windu cut in, a wry note in his voice, “that this means she is telling the truth.”
Still, it took Master Plo a second to pull back, and when he did, he took one of Ahsoka’s hands in his own. Careful of his talons, she squeezed lightly. Master Plo returned the gesture, firm and steady.
“This is Ahsoka Tano,” he began, steady but assertive. “I brought her to the temple as a child, and watched her grow. She is a rising star as a duellist, but has much to learn yet about the code and the ways of the force.” Rude. “She was taken as a Padawan very late, saved from being sent away by the outbreak of the war, but without a master.” The council nodded. They all knew this part of the story. Master Tiin look bored. “Master Yoda conspired to send her as a Padawan to a well-liked Jedi General, who had recently received a field-knighting. He hadn’t asked for a student, but he has trained her well ever since. He is Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker.”
If they had been bored, now the Council was watchful. Ahsoka followed their eyelines carefully. Many were looking at her, or at Obi-Wan. Others were watching Dooku.
“Then that is the divergence,” Dooku said, “that Anakin Skywalker did not fall, and I, accordingly, was never returned to the light.”
So much for the council deliberating on the matter, then. For the first time in her entire life, Ahsoka was profoundly grateful for the arrogance of Count Dooku.
In some degree, she had already known what had happened. She had known the second that she found out Anakin had never been a knight. She had known by their jabs at Obi-Wan and Master Plo’s fear at him teaching her. She had known by Ventress, a Jedi-to-be, and Dooku, wounded and horrid but also rooted firmly in the light. She thought, rather ironically, that he might have acted so arrogant in the revelation to help her. He was no fool, and would have known that much of the council would not have wanted her to know. It was a petty comfort.
Anakin was, naturally, the Jedi against whom Ahsoka measured all others. Some of that was because he was her Master, sure, but there were more important reasons too. Anakin was an incredible duellist, who had gone from being defeated by Dooku to being as good as him or better, even after losing a limb. Anakin could see and feel the force like nobody else, with his crazy midichlorian count. Anakin was an incredible pilot and amazing at mechanics stuff. He was a good General. Anakin treated his troopers with love, and always as people. Even despite being a bit mad, he never let a single person die on his watch if he could help them. He learned everyone’s names, to make sure they never felt like numbers. If she ever reached knighthood, she wanted to be like that, to have the respect for the sentience of every being that Anakin did.
She kept her eyes on Dooku, one hand in Master Plo’s. Obi-Wan pressed her tea back into the other, as close as he was likely to come to a gesture of affection in front of the council.
“In your opinion, how do you think that might have happened?”
Dooku’s eyes met hers. “I don’t know, but I may be able to guess. In your world, did Senator Padmé Amidala die in an arena on Geonosis?”
Yes, that would do it. Ahsoka found her eyes drawn to Dooku’s missing hands. They were bare of gloves or flesh-like coverings, revealing the polished metal of their inner workings. It was almost artistic, lithe and dexterous motion that would have been unthinkable in most droids, laid bare for all the world to see.
“She didn’t die,” Obi-Wan snapped, voice taut with grief, “you murdered her.”
An important distinction. Dooku moved his hands to rest in his lap, the gesture forcing Obi-Wan to confront the mutilation of one of the greatest warriors the order had ever produced. “Someone shot her in the chaos of the fighting, Obi-Wan. It was as likely to have been a clone, or a blaster-shot reflected from a lightsaber as it was a droid.”
“Whatever helps you sleep at night.”
Dooku’s expression was serene. He looked like a monk or a priest, free of shame and burdened with knowledge. “I promise you, Knight Kenobi, I have better things to keep me up. So do you.”
The rest of the council seemed to have had enough. Even Master Plo, Ahsoka could feel through the force, had witnessed this conflict many times. Silently, he encouraged Ahsoka to speak up, to share what she wished to.
“In my world,” she told them, tamping down on the grief that threatened to choke her over a loss that had never happened, “Padmé Amidala is a fierce defender of the Republic and all its people. At the first Battle of Geonosis, more than a hundred Jedi died, and after a brave confrontation with the Sith, Darth Tyranus, Anakin Skywalker lost his hand. Only the timely intervention of Master Yoda saved his life.”
Everyone in the room was staring at her, except for Dooku. He offered a small smile to the ancient Master. “It seems you are equally timely in all universes.” He stood, straightening his posture to draw all eyes to him, and looked to Master Windu. “Continuing this meeting is a waste of time. My Padawan and I have an appointment with some of the finer elements of the Coruscanti underworld, and I believe Master Gallia has the same with some Trade Federation representatives. I motion that we table the discussion, assign Masters Koon and Nu to take charge of this crisis, and, for now, assign a Shadow to track down this Holocron, and, if Padawan Tano is amenable, allow Knight Kenobi to continue to act as her Master and representative over the course of this incident. Furthermore, I suggest we contain knowledge of what has happened to members of this council and our Padawans, on a purely need to know basis. Let Plo and Jocasta decide who needs to know and how to preserve the secret.”
“I concur.” Master Nu folded her wrinkled hands in her lap as Dooku had. They were of an age, and of the same species. Ahsoka realized that she’d never considered whether they might know each other in her own world. But it was evident from their interactions here that they did.
“If Ahsoka agrees,” Master Plo waited until she nodded in agreement. “Then I support this course of action.”
“I suggest that we vote by item,” Master Ti said, with a sharp look at Master Windu.
Everyone agreed to that, and Dooku broke down his suggestions into:
1) Put Nu and Master Plo in charge
2) Assign a Shadow to track down the Holocron
3) Allow Obi-Wan to become Ahsoka’s Master.
4) Keep the secret of Ahsoka’s swap
They argued for a while about the order in which to vote. Finally, they agreed to vote on Obi-Wan first, and this passed unanimously. It helped that nobody else seemed to want the job. Then there was a long debate over Masters Plo and Nu being put in charge. He returned to his seat to defend his position. Windu and Mundi worried that Plo was too close to the matter. Eerin worried that Nu had her own agenda. Master Tiin seemed to want the position himself. In the end, it passed. Plo, Nu, Dooku, Yoda, Gallia, Ti, and surprisingly, Billiba, all agreed, making the votes of the others unnecessary. Keeping the secret was ultimately agreed to unanimously, with a plan to revisit it if the swap lasted more than a tenday.
Both Yoda and Billiba voted against searching for the Holocron, even though Eerin was for. Master Nu gave a stirring speech about the pursuit of knowledge, but nobody really listened.
Dooku, who had remained standing and paced around the council for the majority of their discussion, had finally come to stand right beside the door. Hand outstretched to open it, he turned back and looked at Ahsoka. To her alone, he spoke.
“Whatever I am in your world I am not here. Neither is my Padawan. I can sense that you fear her, but I would ask that you do not act on such feelings. It has been difficult enough for her to find a home in this temple as it is.”
The doors opened barely wide enough for Dooku to glide through, and slammed shut behind him. With the advanced hearing her montrals provided, Ahsoka distinctly heard him say to Ventress, “Padawan, I seem to recall teaching you a lesson about winning gracefully.”
More disconcerting still was to hear Ventress laugh, and apologize to Wolffe. Then, under her breath, she asked her Master, “Is Ahsoka alright? She was acting weird.”
“Strangely,” corrected Dooku, “and I will tell you later.”
They walked off together.
The rest of the council began to disperse also, Master Gallia to the Trade Federation, and Master Billiba to her own Padawan. Koth and Tiin left together, still grumbling. Through all of it, Ahsoka stayed rooted in place. Now that their path was decided, Ahsoka had nothing that she could do. With nothing to do, nothing to drive her path, everything felt empty. She was trapped in a world without Anakin and the 501st, and unless they could make the swap in her world, she was never getting home.
“We don’t even know where your world’s Dooku got the Holocron in the first place,” Obi-Wan was pointing out, although his voice seemed almost as if it was coming to her underwater. “Finding it will be far more impossible for us than it would be for your people.”
They went back to his and the other Ahsoka’s rooms. It seemed easier, and they actually had the space and breathable air, unlike Masters Nu and Koon, who both had single apartments and, in Master Plo’s case, no oxygen. Wolffe came with them, as did Master Eerin, who spoke to him the whole walk about how the temple security details were going, and clone representation in the senate, and myriad other things. It kept him from asking questions, until they made it back to the privacy of Obi-Wan’s living room and Master Plo began to explain.
At some point, Ahsoka must have finished her tea. Obi-Wan took her cup, and made more for everyone. He even had a straw for Master Plo. They all sat, Ahsoka, Wolffe, and Master Plo on the couch, Master Nu, Eerin, and Obi-Wan at the kitchen table. Ahsoka’s hands were shaking. She put her mug on the table. Everything felt numb, and her heart was racing. Maybe she was having a heart attack. Maybe being in the wrong universe was killing her.
Ahsoka realized that they were all looking at her. “Sorry, did you ask me a question?”
Master Nu sighed, softly. Master Eerin looked sad. Wolffe shook his head. “No. But I think you should try to talk. If you’re anything like our Ahsoka, actions that focus on the here and now will help the panic pass. Also breathing. If you don’t feel up to talking, count the time of your breaths, in, hold, out.”
Talking did feel like too much. Master Plo took her hand again, and held it while Ahsoka steadied her breathing. More focused in the moment, she clearly heard the buzzer at the door, watched Obi-Wan open it to reveal Master Ti, another Mon Calamari, this one male, Aayla Secura, and Quinlan Vos.
“I brought help,” Master Ti said, offering Ahsoka a faint smile. It was very crowded, and Obi-Wan had run out of mugs. Quinlan Vos insisted on sitting in the one armchair with Obi-Wan half in his lap, while the Mon Calamari sat on the floor against Master Eerin’s legs, and Master Ti leant casually on the wall. Secura pressed her back against the doorway, almost as if she was holding it closed with her body.
“Are you alright if we begin to plan?” Wolffe asked her, gently. Ahsoka nodded, and pulled her feet out of her shoes and up onto the couch, curling up tight. Wolffe shifted so she could lean her head against his smooth armor, missing Rex and her boys.
“I think,” Master Nu said, “it might be beneficial to begin with introductions, and to explain what brings us here.”
There was a general agreement to this fact, and Master Ti began. “My name is Shaak Ti, Jedi Master. In our world, I took Ahsoka Tano to hunt an akul after the death of her master Kit Fisto, so we could make akul-tooth charms to honour his memory. I am here because I believe in pursuing knowledge to its fullest extent, and because I will never abandon a child of my clan in a strange world.” She paused. “But, by the council’s ruling, I have provided no explanation to those I’ve brought with me. Plo, Jocasta, if you like?”
They both nodded. Master Nu said, “the long and short of it is that due to a Sith incident, our Ahsoka Tano has been replaced by or swapped places with an Ahsoka Tano from a timeline where Anakin Skywalker never fell. I believe all of us would rather like to swap them back. Hence the need for introductions, and this rather hurried gathering. We’ll determine our ultimate course of action later.”
Master Vos gave Obi-Wan a hug. The Mon-Calamari stared at her. Secura crossed her arms over her chest and said, “My name is Aayla Secura, Jedi Knight. I don’t know why I’m here yet, but I think if there’s a Holocron out there that can do this, then we would be fools to leave it unattended. I’ve never been close to Ahsoka Tano, but I worked with her a few times as Kit’s Padawan, and my partner Bly likes her.”
Everyone else seemed not to note this, but Ahsoka finally found her voice. “Your partner?”
Secura looked down at her feet. Master Eerin cut in. “Has it occurred to anyone else that it might be prudent to explain to Padawan Tano the entirety of what is going on in our temple? I think it is safe to assume that in her world, with so much changed, this is not happening in the same way.”
Master Plo shook his head slowly. “No, Bant,” he said, “it most certainly is not the same.”
Sorry for the late update! I almost burned a building down with my kettle but it’s all fine now.
Next week, I’m skipping an update on this to provide a Silmarillion story (my alternate epilogue for Aranya, if you’re one of my Silm folks). After that, a Parallel Coruscant flashback!
Chapter 4: Parallel Bant Eerin
Bant Eerin, grieving her master, is co-opted into a coup.
CW/TW: mention of character having contemplated suicide.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
BANT EERIN, PARALLEL CORUSCANT, SIX MONTHS EARLIER
Master Ti and Master Nu sat her down while she was still exhausted and grieving. Ahsoka was asleep in the next room over and the temple was quiet as a grave.
“We should go somewhere more private,” Master Nu said. She was standing before Bant, cane held tightly in her hands.
Bant shook her head. “I don’t want Ahsoka to wake up here alone. She’s… not doing well. In fact, this is the first time she’s stayed asleep for more than a couple of hours since Master Kit died.” Ahsoka had fallen asleep right after dinner, and it was almost midnight.
Master Ti took a seat across the dining table from her. The bouquet of flowers Kit had sent to welcome her home from Saleucami were still there, slightly wilted by the week that had passed since then. In the force, they still felt like him. When Master Ti folded her hands on the table, a single petal drifted down to rest on Bant’s white tablecloth. She thought about crying and decided against it.
She said, “Master Eerin, may I call you Bant?” Bant nodded. She’d always liked Shaak Ti, if from afar. “Bant, I want to begin with telling you I’m sorry. I remember when my master died. Even though I had been knighted, it was very hard. You already know how this goes, but that doesn’t make it easier.” She nodded again. It didn’t really matter, but the thought of the words were important. So many Jedi never thought of such things. “I want to say three more things: first, with your permission, I would take Padawan Tano to Shili, to perform Togruta mourning rituals. Second, I do not think you should take Padawan Tano on as a Padawan of your own. If I did not have Ekria, I would take her, but as you are close to this, I would caution against it. Take the time you need to process your own feelings. There are others in this order who can train her.”
It was a relief to have someone say it. Bant hadn’t known how to admit to herself that she wasn’t ready to train Ahsoka. “Thank you, Master Ti. Shaak?” The master gave her an encouraging nod.
Master Nu grimaced. Her ancient human face was severe. “Don’t thank us yet. We’re about to ask something of you that is much more difficult than merely training a Padawan.”
“And what is that, Master Nu?”
Bant didn’t think she could ever call Jocasta Nu by her first name. The human master had always seemed older and wiser than everyone around her, and now that her body reflected the age of her mind, it was more evident than ever.
It was Shaak who answered. “We’re here to ask you to accept the offer to become a member of the High Council.”
“I haven’t been offered membership on the council.” That offer had traditions associated with it. It was not made in the middle of the night by two rogue counsellors.
Master Nu shook her head. Her hair was tied so tightly that it barely moved. “No, you haven’t, but you will be, and when you are, we need you to say yes.”
It would be Kit’s seat that she would take. She would have to spend every day knowing that she was nothing but a replacement for a far better Jedi. “I can’t do that.”
Shaak’s predator’s eyes grew hard. “We are not asking you to do this because it is easy. In fact, we know it will not be. We are asking you to do this because Kit would have trusted you to help us see through what needs to be done.”
“No need to mince words,” Master Nu said, “this is a coup, and we are asking you to help shift this council to a composition of those who believe in the redemptive power of the light. Those who will defend the clones that served with us even when the war is done, and those who are not made blind to the truths of our order by their dedication to what they believe the Jedi code means, rather than what it is.”
“Master Nu, I-”
She thumped her end of her cane on the floor. “Bant Eerin, have you sworn an oath to this order?”
“Yes ma’am.” She felt like a child, huddled against her Master. Not Kit, who had taken her in when she was older and more hardened, but Tahl. It was Tahl who had taught her the intricacies of the archives. As such, she’d first introduced Bant to Master Nu. It was under Nu’s watchful eye that Bant had dedicated herself to their study when Tahl left her behind to go on missions.
“Do you believe that knowledge of the dark side is inherently corrupting?”
A difficult question, but one that Bant knew the answer to. “No, I do not.”
Shaak jumped in. “Is it permissible to destroy a sentient being if you were responsible for their creation?”
“Not simply because you were responsible, but for reasons of self-defence or out of pity? Or to protect others? That would be a more complicated question.”
“How many times should a Jedi be allowed to break the code before they are no longer a Jedi? Should they ever be killed for those violations?” When Bant took a second to respond, Master Nu slammed her cane against the floor again.
“I don’t know. I think it depends on which part of the code they broke. Some ‘code violations’ are really things that aren’t even in the written text of the code.” Bant was deeply aware she was babbling. “I don’t think anyone should be made to leave the order for having consensual sex. And I do think that people who’ve used the dark side could be rehabilitated. I think Master Dooku has shown us all that, and I suppose that I think that as Jedi, we should really try to avoid killing except for when we have no other choice.”
Realizing that both Shaak and Master Nu were staring at her, Bant shut her mouth quickly. Somewhere in the force, Master Tahl was probably laughing at her.
Shaak reached out, and touched Kit’s flowers. For a second, Bant feared that she would restore them to full health, layering her own force presence on top of Kit’s and taking away this last memory of him. Instead, the feeling of him in the force seemed to amplify, becoming almost blinding. Master Ti withdrew her hand, and it dimmed again, except now, Bant could feel it everywhere, spread across the entire room. Maybe across the entire galaxy. She closed her eyes, and, for a second, thought she could hear his voice.
“You will be an excellent councillor.”
She opened her eyes, and stared at Shaak. The Togruta gave the slight shrug that her full-grown lekku allowed her. “He is one with the force, and the force that was once in him is now in everything. On Shilli, we believe that everything comes from the soil of our world, and in time, will return to it. We are only borrowing it for a while. In my life, I’ve come to see that the force is much the same.” She leaned forward. “Take the seat, Bant Eerin. You have the compassion to do what is right, the wisdom to make your own decisions, and the strength to do what is difficult.”
“I don’t even know what we’re doing.” She could already feel that she was going to give in. This was too much of what she’d always wanted, a duty greater than any one Jedi.
Master Nu smiled, thin lips drawing back, wrinkles accentuating in every part of her face. “That will partly be for you to decide. If you choose to accept our offer, you will join us in a concerted effort to radically reform the Jedi Order from within. The nature of those reformations is still developing, but we hope it will include opportunities for those who have used the dark side to be readmitted into the order, for teenagers and young adults who find themselves to be force sensitives to come to us for training, and for clones to be fully settled in peacetime jobs. Some of us are also opposed to the current doctrine on attachment. It is non-negotiable that no man will be returned to Kamino.”
Bant had been to Kamino. She’d seen how the clones were treated by their makers. “Yes ma’am.” Already, the other points were turning in her mind. Yes, it would be best to provide training for older force users. Forcing them away was as sure a way to make them succumb to the dark side as could be. And yes, Masters Windu and Yoda did not have the most developed views on attachment. The Jedi deserved more options than total detachment from the world around them or expulsion from the only community they had ever known. Bant had read many, many texts on the matter. She was confident that there was more nuance to the issue than most Jedi were taught.
Shaak said, “it is also our opinion, Master Eerin, that the reprimanding of Obi-Wan Kenobi over the fall of Anakin Skywalker was… cruel, in the extreme. Knight Kenobi did nothing as a Master that we would not have done. It was the hubris of this council that forced him to train a Padawan when you could still smell the burnt hair from his braid. Given these circumstances, there was support that this council could have and should have offered him that we did not. You have trained a Padawan to adulthood, and yourself been a Padawan orphaned. You, perhaps more so than any Jedi living, can understand the magnitude of what we inflicted on Knight Kenobi.”
Again, she gave voice to something that Bant had long felt. Though most Jedi still wouldn’t speak to Obi-Wan because they held their blame so strongly, she couldn’t feel the same. How could she, for someone who had run to find her the second he’d felt Kit’s death, sweaty from training and half-dressed. His eyes had been wild and he’d pulled her close and pressed his forehead against hers, working to help seal the gaping wound of her old training bond. He was someone who she knew had seriously contemplated suicide when it was thought that the council might take his lightsaber over Anakin’s fall. For all his flaws, there was no question that Obi-Wan had ever led Anakin to the darkside. Even Master Dooku, who had been a sith himself, was treated less harshly.
“Do you think that if Master Yoda hadn’t attacked him on Geonosis, Skywalker would have come back to us?” It was a question she knew haunted Obi-Wan.
“I don’t know,” Shaak whispered. She’d obviously never thought it, and the horror was palpable in her voice.
Jocasta Nu had been instrumental in talking Master Dooku back into the order, finagling him into good enough standing that he had been allowed to bring in a Padawan of his own. “Yes, I do.”
Bant traced a Mon Cala sign against evil on the table with the tip of her finger, banishing her anger into the force. “He’ll never admit that, will he?”
“No,” Master Nu muttered, darkly, “he will not.”
It was so easy, what she had to do. “I will join the council, on one condition.” They motioned her on. “I want you to help me convince them to allow Obi-Wan to take another Padawan.”
“Does Obi-Wan want another Padawan?” Shaak asked her.
It was one of those rare, glorious moments where the force showed you that you were on the right path. Time spiralled before her, blue-white lines like the crest of waves delineating a better future. She glanced over to where she could feel Ahsoka turning in her sleep. In the force, the feeling of Kit seemed to come closer again.
“Not yet, but he will.”
Yeah she’s probably OOC but whatever alternate timeline bitch.
Thank y’all so much for reading, and I’ll be back next week <3
Chapter 5: Ahsoka
Ahsoka makes a new friend, and learns the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
CW/TW: Graphic description of violence. If you want to skip this, go from: "She started from the beginning.” to “Asajj pressed on.”
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
AHSOKA TANO, PARALLEL CORUSCANT, PRESENT
They laid it out for her carefully, their ever-evolving rebellion against the Jedi council. Some were far more dedicated conspirators than others, but not one of them wanted it to stay the same.
The central threads of the rebellion made themselves clear very quickly. Clone rights, permissible attachments, dark side redemption.
“Ultimately,” Master Eerin explained, eyes never leaving Ahsoka, “it comes down to this question: what could we have done that might have prevented Skywalker, Dooku, Du Crion – every fallen Jedi in the last century or so, I suppose – from falling? What were their common features? What might have helped them? If Master Dooku was able to return after spending a decade as a Sith, what was different for him than for the others?”
Obi-Wan’s eyes were focused very firmly on the ground. Master Vos, who was still cuddling him, said, “Anakin Skywalker fell because this order has no idea what to do with those of us who retain personal as well as cultural connections with our homeworlds. I found evidence that his first dark act was really on Tatooine, a massacre associated with the death of his mother. We never provided him with the skills to process the loss of a parent. That was what felled him. Dooku says that losing his mother was also one of the earliest factors in his association with the dark side, but it was another type of familial loss, Padawans he’d raised, that took him from the dark to the Sith. You can see parental issues for Du Crion also. In fact, I too have experienced this terrible insensitivity, and felt it pull me away from the order. It is, therefore, an example of a concrete change we can make to decrease the amount of Jedi we lose to the dark: help Jedi who have familial attachments, teach them, provide them mind healers. Let them talk through their feelings without shame or resentment.”
Silently, Ahsoka was trying to catalogue things that might be important to know when she made it home. General Secura and Commander Bly might be in love in her world too. Anakin could probably use someone to talk to about his homeworld, someone who could be for him like Master Ti was for her. She didn’t think she’d ever really talked to him about his parents, about where he’d come from. Maybe he would tell her. Master Obi-wan had a… lover? ‘Special friend’? Something that indicated he didn’t hold the code as close to his heart as it appeared. And the greatest knowledge of all: there were Jedi, some of whom she respected deeply, who believed that Master Yoda and Master Windu’s doctrine was wrong.
Aayla, who seemed to have found her tongue somewhere in all this said, “we force Jedi to isolate themselves whenever they are weakened in their commitments. Is it really any wonder that makes them fall?”
“Not to the logical mind,” Master Nu agreed. “It has always been clear, to those of us who have truly studied the history of the order, that the situation we are in is a corrupted and precarious one. Now, with the Sith both dead, we can see more clearly that we have been our own downfall. We allowed a Sith master to accumulate the most terrible power, to have influence over some of our most vulnerable charges. This order needs to change, or we will die.”
She sighed, deeply. This Master Nu seemed more relaxed than Ahsoka remembered her, although both her hair and her posture were still stiff as stone. The change was more in the openness of her words, the way she held her face. This, Ahsoka realized, was a woman who had gained a friend back from the dark side against all the odds.
“Do you understand now?” Master Eerin asked her. Ahsoka considered this and, after a time, nodded. She couldn’t imagine an order that didn’t care about their troopers, and changing things to stop people from falling just made sense.
They went back to introductions, dancing around the room in a haphazard fashion. The Mon Cala was Master Eerin’s brother Padawan. Master Vos, in this world, was a dear friend to Obi Wan, and a specialist in sith technology. He had taught Secura.
“So,” Mater Ti said, at the end of it all, “I think we are all agreed that it is our duty as Jedi and as friends to Padawan Tano to track down this Sith device. Or, at the very least, to identify what it is and catalogue the effects.”
Master Nu nodded solemnly. “When Dooku returns, he will have much to say on this matter. But I think I can safely divide the labour of our initial research without his presence. His and Master Ti’s Padawans can do the searching in the public records. It will be good for both of them to practice, and it is not likely that they will find anything. He and I will search the classified records. And as for you, Quinlan, I assume you have sources of your own who you would like to speak with?”
Vos gave the affirmative, and included Aayla in this role also.
Ahsoka could not imagine that her counterpart was finding nearly so much help. She would have Anakin and Obi-Wan, of course, but she didn’t think her Master Plo would betray the council for her. Perhaps not even Obi-Wan. Certainly, Masters Nu and Ti wouldn’t have. But in this world, they had.
The council dispersed again, each to a task of their own. Even Master Plo left, once Ahsoka had assured him that it was alright. She and Obi-Wan sat, in the remains of all that they’d seen and all that was different. They looked at each other.
“I’m sorry they wouldn’t help you openly,” he said, after some breath.
That didn’t matter. If anything, it meant more that every one of these people was willing to defy the council for the other Ahsoka – and, in some ways, for her – than it would have if they had been able to do so openly, to their own advantage.
“I don’t mind,” she told him honestly.
Obi-Wan started clearing away their cups and, after a breath, Ahsoka went to help him. It felt good to have a task. It steadied her.
They made dinner together as well. Ahsoka cut vegetables to Obi-Wan’s exacting direction while he cooked red meat in a pan. To her surprise, he served her rare meat, exactly to Togruta taste. She didn’t think Anakin knew that about her. Of course, he’d never had the chance to really live with her, without he war looming over them. But the point stood. This Obi-Wan cared about his Ahsoka. It would be a travesty if they didn’t get to see each other again. And Ahsoka needed to get back to Anakin. She needed to make sure he didn’t fall like Anakin had in this world.
“Maybe this’ll all end on its own,” Ahsoka said, mostly for her own comfort, “this Sith magic might not last.”
“Maybe,” Obi-Wan agreed, but it sounded like he didn’t believe it.
He was right not to. Ahsoka woke up in her counterpart’s bed that morning, and the next. She washed up in her ‘fresher and wore her clothes. It felt wrong. The council didn’t let her leave her quarters because she was too likely to be caught as an impersonator. Obi-Wan put out the word that she had a mild but very contagious flu. They read back all of this Ahsoka’s messages, and did the best impression of her they could when Barriss messaged her. Obi-Wan, Plo and Master Eerin did their best to keep her entertained, but it was a lonely existence.
On the third day, she cracked and said to Obi-Wan, “Ventress knows the whole story, right? Dooku will have told her.” Obi-Wan nodded. He wasn’t really paying much attention, bent over a datapad on temporal physics. “Could she come over?”
This Ventress looked so different from the one in her world that, if Ahsoka concentrated, she could almost pretend that they were two different people. The hair was the most significant change, obviously, but she was just… lighter. She showed up with a datapad carrier over her shoulder full of datapads about parallel time theory and a few handheld hologames.
“You must be feeling like a bantha trampled you,” Ventress said bluntly. She sprawled over this Ahsoka’s bed like she lived there.
Really, Ahsoka couldn’t disagree. “A bit, yeah.” Maybe she could call this one Asajj. That would make it easier.
Asajj reached into her bag and, after dumping datapads everywhere, pulled out a small bag of candies. She tossed it at Ahsoka. “She left these in my room last week, but honestly, you look like you could use them.”
Probably wasn’t poisoned. Ahsoka ripped the flimsiplast bag open with her fingers to discover a bunch of candied beetles.
Asajj shuddered. “I hate that you eat those things. If you’re going to eat candy, just actually eat sugar like the rest of us.”
Ahsoka grinned as wide as she could, and popped two in her mouth. They were excellent. Sweet, but with a solid crunch. In the middle of chewing she said, “Carnivore.”
Sarcastically, Asajj rolled her eyes, and started up one of her hologames. This was a simple puzzle game, fitting blocks together in more and more difficult combinations. “You can read up if you want, I guess, but we aren’t going to find a single kriffing thing that Dooku and Nu won’t.” She nudged another one of the Hologames. “’Sokes likes this one. It’s a planetary defence sim.”
‘Sokes. Huh. And Snips thought she had it bad with her nickname. Still, she picked up the game Asajj had recommended, and played through the tutorial with relative ease.
“Dooku says you come from a world where we’re Sith. Or still a Sith in his case.” Asajj never looked up from her game, but her posture had grown careful, intense. It didn’t make Ahsoka feel better that Asajj had lightsabers at her belt and Ahsoka didn’t have anything.
“Yeah. Well, Ventress is really just an assassin, because there can only be two Sith. But she’s definitely on their side.”
Asajj didn’t flinch. Eventually, she set the hologame down, her half-completed cube spinning in circles like a planet around its axis. The missing pieces orbited like moons “I’m not.”
She didn’t feel dark. And she hadn’t done anything wrong. “Anakin Skywalker isn’t fallen in my timeline. If I don’t blame him for what yours did, how can I blame you for what she did?”
Asajj nodded. “That’s… very fair of you. Dooku thought you seemed upset with him.”
In truth, Ahsoka still didn’t completely know how to feel about him in this world, but she knew one thing for certain. “He was cruel to Obi-Wan.”
She started up level one of the planetary defence game. It was one of those where you had to play through the story mode to unlock all the options for endless mode, which Ahsoka liked better. She moved ships to the poles and put stations on each of the three moons, and then started wave one.
Asajj picked up her game too. “As you can imagine, that is something of a point of contention between them. But the truth is that Dooku plays it up to minimize suspicion of our activities. It keeps us all safer for Windu to imagine that they’re both at odds. Dooku’s trying to play him.”
“That’s in character.” The words were out of Ahsoka’s mouth before she realized that insulting the master of the only friend she actually had in this world was probably a mistake.
She laughed. It was open, genuine. There was no cruelty there. “It is. But he’s an alright sort, really. The trick is to know when to tell him to kriffing shove it.”
Ahsoka couldn’t imagine Ventress telling the Count to ‘kriffing shove it’ as opposed to just stabbing him, but then again, she couldn’t imagine Asajj torturing anyone, so all things were possible. “And he lets you get away with that?
“Me and him – He and I, as Dooku would say – have our ways of getting on. He knows that I’m used to a little more space than most padawans get. Vos says I’m ‘free range’.”
It was Ahsoka’s turn to laugh. Asajj smiled, and it was such an entirely distracting expression that Ahsoka almost forgot to build new turrets with the materials she’d salvaged after wave one.
Oh no, she thought, Asajj is pretty. Anakin would have teased her forever if he knew.
“Hey,” Ahsoka said, trying very hard to think about anything else, “would Dooku let you tell me what actually happened with the Sith and the war and stuff? Obi-Wan’s been pretty tight-lipped and I don’t want to upset him.”
Her face darkened, and just for a second Ahsoka caught a glimpse of Ventress in her. Then it was gone, and Asajj was reaching out to put a hand on her knee. “Dooku doesn’t tell me what to do in this sort of thing. But in this case, he’d agree with my call. You deserve the whole truth.”
Ahsoka paused her game and set the holo aside. “Which is?”
She started from the beginning. “Dooku was a Sith, until the Battle of Geonosis. I joined him only a couple of months before, and I didn’t actually really do anything because he was worried about spoiling his own plans, and he didn’t trust me yet. There, the death of Senator Padmé Amidala triggered a… I would have called it a psychic break, in Padawan Skywalker. Most Jedi would call it a fall. Dooku escaped the battlefield, and Skywalker and Obi-Wan chased him. Obi-Wan got there first, but Dooku defeated him. He should have been able to beat Skywalker, but Skywalker is… when he tapped into the dark side, Master Yoda said it was one of the most powerful unshielded Sith presences he’d ever known. They fought. He disarmed Dooku, and then, having already beaten him… He severed the hands at the wrist first, holding Dooku still with the force to do it, and then when that wasn’t enough, he moved up to the elbow. Then went to start on the shoulders. But he stopped when he saw Obi-Wan move. What you have to understand is that he stopped. Far, far too late, but he did. That was where he was when Master Yoda arrived.”
No wonder Dooku hated him. Ahsoka couldn’t imagine her Anakin ever doing something like that.
Asajj pressed on. Her face had grown cold. It must have been hard to think about something like that happening to someone she cared about. “Yoda is… he may be a little green troll, but he did raise Dooku, once upon a time. I think there are very few Jedi who could see something like that happen to a Padawan of theirs and not react. And those few are monsters, for the record. So Yoda reacted. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the opportunity to spar with Yoda, but I don’t recommend it. He’s wicked fast when he wants to be, and, at the end of the day, Skywalker was almost entirely untested in real, deadly lightsaber combat.
“What you have to understand is that I know the story best from Dooku’s perspective. Only he, Master Yoda and Skywalker could ever have really said what happened then. Obi-Wan didn’t wake up until it was all settled. But the way Dooku tells it, it was obvious that Yoda wasn’t fighting to subdue. He was fighting to kill. Skywalker must have understood that too. The sensible thing to do would have been to surrender and trust in the code to protect him. Instead, he ran. Do you want me to stop now?”
Ahsoka found that she was crying. It had come on suddenly, but now her eyes were wet and the first few drops were snaking their way across her cheeks.
“Don’t stop,” she said, “I need to know. Please.”
Asajj took Ahsoka’s hand in hers. “As you wish. But tell me if you need to stop, alright? Or if you need, I don’t know, tea or something?”
“I’ve had a lot of tea the last few days.”
She smiled sadly. “That sounds like Obi-Wan.”
Asajj’s palm was surprisingly smooth, for someone who’d been fighting all her life. Maybe that was something about her species. This close, Ahsoka’s advanced hearing could perceive each of her breaths, the steady thumping of her heart.
“Skywalker didn’t know that many people. In the end, he chose the Chancellor – Palpatine, that is – to approach. It was just about the worst choice he could have made.”
Ahsoka didn’t personally like the Chancellor much, but by all accounts, he and Anakin got along very well. “Why?”
That got a shocked look out of Asajj. “In your world you don’t-” She shook off her surprise. “Chancellor Palpatine was the Sith lord. Vos’s expert opinion – and he’d know – is that Palpatine was trying groom Anakin as a Sith for years. With Dooku out of commission, they were free to replace him. They wiped out all Dooku’s personal allies. I only survived because I was on Serenno. The thing about Serenno is they were never going to betray their Count for an offworlder. They fought like wolves against Palpatine and his Trade federation cronies.
“Whatever Palpatine was planning, it all had gone very badly wrong by this stage. Dooku betrayed him to the Jedi the second he realized he’d been replaced as apprentice. Palpatine had planted chips in the clone troopers to control them, and he was forced to activate those to provide enough of a distraction to get off of Coruscant before the Jedi who hadn’t gone to Geonosis got to him. It was a badly miscalculated decision. At that point, most troopers were still on Kamino. Technically, they were possessions of the Republic, not some dispossessed Chancellor, and the Kaminoans felt no loyalty to him at all. Master Ti strong-armed them into removing all the chips while Gallia made the Senate give the Order full independence to pursue Palpatine to the ends of the universe. With a young, beautiful Senator dead at a Sith’s hands, it was impossible to ignore the threat. They even elected her friend Organa Chancellor in her honour.”
It was so much information. “I think I need to start taking notes.”
Asajj shook her head. “Please, I know you. I’ll send you a bunch of news vids from the time, so you can see it all for yourself.” She paused. “Well, actually, the chips thing was a bit confidential, but I’ll see if Dooku has something you can look over.”
“Thanks.” Ahsoka always learned better if she could see things for herself.
She continued. “So, that was the start of the war. Dooku spent the first six months in prison, but he asked Master Nu to go look for me right away. The dark side is… I don’t know if you’ve ever had the sort of experience to make this a relevant metaphor, but it’s kind-of like spice addiction. When you’re using that kind of power, it basically feels like the best thing in the universe, but the come down is miserable. Anyways, nobody else in the order would teach me, and I wouldn’t have wanted them anyways. Yoda’s a real sucker for Dooku’s puppy-dog eyes, and Dooku’s as stubborn as a Hutt when he really gets the bit in his teeth. He convinced Yoda I needed him, and Yoda convinced the council to let him out and – well, you’ve met the man. They wouldn’t let him off world so he’d brought half the underworld either to justice or to his own employ as informers in six months after that. We were so busy with that that it felt like I basically looked up and the war was halfway over.
“Dooku was responsible for ending it, even if he never left Coruscant. You know the kind of scheming son-of-a-whore he can be when he puts his mind to it.” Ahsoka wished she didn’t. “He came up with a plan. They were going to record a video where he testified that Palpatine had ordered Senator Amidala’s death. It wasn’t true, mind you, but it seemed credible, and they leaked it to the press in a way that made it seem like the reveal wasn’t intentional. At the same time, eight Jedi masters went to go infiltrate Palpatine’s secret compound on Mustafar. It ended up being a battle with three sides. I don’t know what happened after that. It’s classified up to the ears, and even Dooku doesn’t know. All I know is that Fisto, Windu, Kolar, Yoda, Palpatine and Skywalker were the last six standing. Of them, only Windu and Yoda walked out alive.”
Ahsoka closed her eyes, and let herself mourn for the man who had never been her master. The Anakin who had never lived long enough to know her. Asajj adjusted her grip on Ahsoka’s hand, locking their fingers together. Then she reached out and took Ahsoka’s other hand as well. They were silent.
Asajj felt like a Jedi. She was wild, certainly. Unruly. But no less a Jedi for it. With her eyes closed, Ahsoka saw only with the force, and Asajj was like an underwater animal that became bioluminescent to hunt. Dangerous? Without question. Not dangerous because of her darkness, though. Dangerous because of her self. And not only dangerous. In the force she reached out, wrapping herself around Ahsoka protectively. After a moment, Ahsoka leaned forward and hugged her.
The bed moved under them as Asajj shifted onto her knees, taking advantage of her superior height to rest her head atop Ahsoka’s montrals. “You don’t need to thank me. The truth is what you deserve. You didn’t ask for this, and frankly, knowing my Dooku, yours probably didn’t intend it anyways.”
Now that was a thought. Ahsoka pulled back, opening her eyes to meet Asajj’s. “What do you think he meant to do, in that case?”
“I’ve thought about that,” she admitted, “Dooku and I have discussed it liberally. He thinks it was probably a psychological ploy, but really, that gives the other him too much credit. I think he probably didn’t understand how the device worked, and used it wrong.”
That was a disconcerting thought, but it made sense. What could Dooku possibly have accomplished by swapping Ahsoka with another Ahsoka who didn’t seem particularly different in any meaningful way except that her life had been harder and she knew more secrets. But there had been one person in the room who it made sense to take out of the picture.
“He wanted to swap his Anakin with yours.”
Asajj grew very still. “’Sokes,” she said, “wouldn’t Sith technology know that our Anakin is dead?” She grabbed up her comm. After fiddling a moment, she dictated, “hey, Dooku – comm me back when you get this. I think I know why Ahsoka’s here.”
Where does an orphan slave from a backwater planet get a broad selection of hologames? Dooku’s gotten a little indulgent in his old age.
Chapter 6: Anakin
Anakin meets with Parallel Ahsoka. They come to an accord.
CW/TW: mentions of canon-typical violence.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
ANAKIN SKYWALKER, ABOVE FELUCIA, PRESENT
Ahsoka – or rather, Padawan Tano – was curled defensively against Master Plo on the couch in the officer’s lounge they’d commandeered for this meeting. She didn’t say much. Anakin, for his part, felt like he was a divorced parent in a bad holodrama. Master Plo was his ex, Ahsoka his estranged child, and Rex and Wolffe their lawyers. Rex sat beside Anakin, while Wolffe leaned ominously against a wall behind his General and Ahsoka. She’d hugged him when he’d come in, and hadn’t said a word to Rex yet. Maybe in the holodrama scenario, Wolffe was a long-beloved uncle and Rex was Anakin’s new boyfriend. No, that metaphor was getting stupid.
“It may be better to keep you from knowing much about our time, to prevent paradoxes,” Master Plo said, for the second or third time. “The effects of the Sith artifact may be temporary, and if not, it is possible that research into the glyphs on it may allow us to find some way to reverse the process without using the dark side.”
For the first time since they’d sat down, Ahsoka – not Ahsoka – spoke for herself. “If you’re working with him, what’s the point in trying to avoid the dark side? Just tell him to undo what he did and send me back.”
Not his Ahsoka. She didn’t mean it.
Not that that made it hurt any less to hear it in her voice. “I didn’t do this Sn – Padawan Tano – the Sith Darth Tyranus did.”
Her eyes snapped to his. “Master Dooku is still dark in this time?”
Still dark? “He’s a Sith Lord. Has been for years.”
“Anakin,” Master Plo said, with a cautioning tone, but Ahsoka barrelled right past him.
“What year is it, Skywalker?”
He told her.
Her mouth opened in a predatory grin, revealing her naturally sharp teeth. Sometimes, it was easy to forget that Togruta were carnivores. “I’m not from the future or the past, Master Plo. This is an alternate timeline, and we need to figure out what the point of divergence is so I can tell you everything helpful I know, and you can do the same for me.”
His Ahsoka would never have been so quick to come to such a calculated conclusion. Besides, she hadn’t even taken any temporal physics yet. They’d been much too busy for that. “You said Dooku was ‘still dark?’ I assume that means he was fallen for some time in your timeline?”
She nodded. “Yeah, that’s the same. The Sith name was the same too, which might mean he’s an eccentric snob in all timelines, or it might mean he became a Sith in the same way. Was there a Siege of Naboo in your timeline?”
Just like that, they were off. Master Plo made a cursory effort to stop them, but mostly, he, Wolffe, and Rex just watched. Even with this strange Ahsoka who had never been his Padawan, they had an easy chemistry. Her side of their training bond, maintained despite the shift in universes, began to gently unfurl, revealing some of the deep sadness Anakin had sensed before, but also a shocking passion. She desperately wanted to help them.
They barrelled through easy points of similarity. They had both been born, Anakin had been Obi-Wan’s Padawan, and Ahsoka had been brought to the temple by Master Plo. From what Ahsoka knew of Anakin’s time as a Padawan, their universes were the same. They ran through High Council appointments and major senate acts, such as either of them remembered, with no change. Ahsoka quizzed Master Plo about his memories of her upbringing, and nothing was different before the war started.
Ahsoka tapped her fingers against her knee, as they reached a standstill. “I thought that the divergence caused you,” she said, looking as much through Anakin as at him, “but maybe you are the divergence. So far, you and Dooku are the earliest things I know are different, so maybe that’s all there is to it.”
His desperation to ask had been mounting ever since she had screamed at the sight of him. Master Plo had kicked Anakin out of the room then, and now he turned to Ahsoka with caution written across his stony face. “Little ‘Soka, do not–”
“You fell to the dark side!” Her jaw snapped shut, and she stared at the floor with embarrassment. Both of the clones turned to look at Anakin, and he wanted to melt into the force and never be seen again by living eyes. No wonder she had been afraid of him. It would have been like his Ahsoka waking up to find Dooku standing over her, expecting her to love him.
She withdrew from Master Plo, who seemed to be silently admonishing, and crossed her arms over her chest. “Sorry from you doesn’t help, you didn’t do it. And sorry from him wouldn’t cut it. He killed my first Master and broke my second Master’s heart.”
There was only one person that could possibly have been. “Is Obi-Wan okay?”
“Of course not!” She pulled her anger back, and Anakin could feel the waves of it release into the force, skilled as a Jedi twice her age. “He’s doing better, and he’s a great Master. But he’s not okay and I don’t think he ever will be. My Obi-Wan loved his Anakin like a brother.” She bit her lip in concentration. “Hey, did your war start on Geonosis?”
Figure this out first, work through the idea that Obi-Wan might love him the way he loved Obi-Wan later. Or maybe not at all. Not at all would be fine, and he didn’t think his Obi-Wan wanted to hear it anyways. Maybe that was the divergence.
“It did. Actually, Obi-Wan and I were there. It was a weird story. Me, him, Senator Amidala, gladiatorial arena. Lost a hand. You know, the usual.” Master Plo was glaring, maybe. It was really very hard to tell. “Many Jedi perished, a terrible tragedy.”
He’d never seen a look of revelation on Ahsoka’s face before, but now he knew what she looked like having found total enlightenment. “Your Padmé Amidala didn’t die on Geonosis.”
Force. Even though he knew it had never happened, Anakin felt fear and anger well up in him all the same. “No. She didn’t.”
“Did your mother? Not on Geonosis I mean, but, like, right before.”
No attachment in front of Master Plo and this strange Ahsoka. But no lies, either, when his Ahsoka’s life could be at stake. “Yes.”
She nodded seriously. “That happened in our world, also. So there, a concise window for your divergence, and an explanation of what may have caused it.” She paused, and stilled herself. “This is good news. It means that our divergences are very, very close. Almost all of my information will prove useful, as will the things you can tell me.”
She seemed older than his Ahsoka. Maybe that was Obi-Wan’s good influence, although it had been less than effective on Anakin himself. Perhaps it was her mysterious first Master, who she had so obviously loved.
Master Plo turned to look at her. In the force, he was a contained light, but a very natural and warm one, like a fire through glass. “It might be best to save your tale for the Council, Padawan. Even if Knight Skywalker and I want to hear it – you should not doubt that I do – there is no telling what Master Windu will say, and ultimately, his say is final.”
Ahsoka actually rolled her eyes. Anakin furled his brow at her in his best impression of Obi-Wan’s disapproving face, but suspected the fact he was fighting laughter made it ineffective. Rex actually did chuckle, and got Wolffe’s disapproving look in turn.
“I don’t care what Master Windu says,” she told them both, brazenly defiant, “and if you tell him that I said Anakin fell in my world, I’ll say he didn’t.” More calmly, she added, “I’ve seen the way he treats Obi-Wan and the others. Master Dooku can hold his own against it, but Asajj can’t, and Windu treats her like everything she does is suspect. It’s awful and I hate it.”
Asajj… Ventress, presumably. It was all entirely too much, but he had to stay calm for Ashoka. Even if she wasn’t his Ahsoka, she was here, and she wanted to help. If she came from a world where Dooku was reformed, she might even know who the Sith Master was. They could end the war and save the Republic. Padmé, who was here and alive, would want that.
Master Plo calmly folded his hands in his lap. “If not Master Windu, then who would you trust with this? Master Kenobi, perhaps?”
She nodded. “And Master Eerin, and Master Nu. Master Unduli is… I trust her, but not for this. She would be scared of it. Maybe…” She closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them, there was a faint veil draped over her in the force. All the sorrow had swelled, coming to the forefront of her mind.
“Is Master Fisto still alive?” That must have been her first Master, then. It seemed on odd pairing, but Anakin supposed that he and Ahsoka were, too. It explained her familiarity with the council and the politics, and with General Eerin, who must have raised a Padawan very quickly to beat Obi-Wan to mastery.
“Yes,” Plo said solemnly. He raised a taloned hand to her shoulder. “Will you be alright, if we bring him here? I do think that whatever our purpose ends up being, having more councillors than myself and Master Kenobi may prove useful.”
She seemed to steel herself, shoulders back and head held high. “I will.”
They dismissed the meeting, and Ahsoka and Anakin went alone back to his quarters. Master Plo asked her about her comfort being alone with him, but she didn’t seem too worried. Anakin asked about it, too. He was fairly certain that his Ahsoka wouldn’t have wanted to be alone with Dooku or Ventress, even in a parallel universe. In the end, when they were sitting together across the tiny table Anakin had requisitioned, he asked her about it.
Ahsoka shrugged. “I’ve spent… a lot of time, these last few months, with people who were fallen, or who could have been.” She paused. “Why don’t I tell you the whole story, from the beginning? You won’t tell that sleemo Windu anything, yeah?”
Anakin had nothing if not experience keeping secrets from the Jedi council. “Yeah.”
She shifted in place nervously. For a second, her eyes drifted shut. When they opened, Anakin could feel the force steadily around her, like a cloak. She could have been far older than her body.
“I’m going to tell you the story of your own fall,” she said, “as we’ve best reconstructed it. Obi-Wan and his friends have been working for months to try and figure out why so many Jedi have fallen these last few years. They’ve come to see all of this as a symptom of something that went wrong with the Jedi. I agree. So I think what’s best is to tell you everything. If you’re half the man Obi-Wan believed you were, then I don’t think you’ll choose to use it for evil.”
Padmé would probably never forgive him if he did, let alone Obi-Wan. “I won’t.”
She examined him carefully. “Promise?”
Ahsoka drew again on the force, and began her tale.
“You have to remember that all the information I have, I’m getting second or even third hand. Obi-Wan doesn’t talk a lot, but Master Fisto was always very open with council proceedings – you were never a consular Padwan and it’s… an experience. You hear a great deal that you probably shouldn’t, unless your master is really careful. Anyways, most of my information comes either from him during the war, or from Master Dooku at the end of it. He… takes the philosophical approach that keeping secrets from Asajj is detrimental to their relationship, so whatever the council knows, I usually get to hear eventually.”
That made sense, and Anakin said as much.
“Skywalker – it’s easier for me to maintain distance this way – was assigned to watch over the newly appointed Senator Padmé Amidala after several attempts on her life. For unknown reasons, they ended up on Tatooine. There, Skywalker discovered that his mother had been taken by a group of Tuskan raiders. He wiped them out entirely.” Her eyes, exactly like Ahsoka’s but not at all hers, bored into him. “Did you do that too? Remember, my words don’t leave this room any more than yours do.”
It would have been so much easier if she hadn’t looked like his Ahsoka. She was obviously more mature than his Ahsoka, but all he could think about was what her reaction would be. She’d hate him.
This Ahsoka leaned forward. There was a coldness to her, but it wasn’t hatred. “You did. I thought so. I thought that Senator Amidala living was the difference. But you aren’t fallen. I’ve spent enough time with Master Dooku to know how to tell these things, and you aren’t.”
He needed to think about something else. Anything else. “I suppose Dooku would know.”
“He does,” Ahsoka agreed, accepting the deflection. “He’s been a very good teacher to me, and to Asajj. He was a Sith. A real one, not like you with your act of darkness. He killed his own brother to seize power, a calculated and selfish act. The things he did and ordered were monstrous. And then Skywalker almost killed him on Geonosis, and Dooku understood what was wrong with the Sith.”
“What?” He felt breathless, as if he was about to learn a scandalous secret.
“The Sith believe that everything comes at someone’s expense. The only way to live is to kill. The only way to be free is to dominate. The only way to be loved is to be obeyed.”
Anakin hadn’t always had the most healthy views on love, but he knew that was wrong. He knew that. Padmé wasn’t the sort of person to choose someone who didn’t love her as an equal. Even the way Anakin esteemed her as his angel had made her uncomfortable. Equal, she’d drilled it into his head. You and I have to be the same in this room. No Jedi, no Senate, no Queen. Nothing gets to make either of us superior, to put either of our needs first. We decide, together, what works for both of us.
“That isn’t right,” he said, eventually. It seemed inadequate.
Ahsoka shook her head sadly as she said, “no, it isn’t. But it preys upon the worst fears of people who are vulnerable, I think. I know that when I lost my Master, I felt like I was in danger, all the time. I felt like I needed to make someone else suffer so I could feel safer. If I hadn’t been able to talk to Asajj and Dooku about it without feeling like I would be punished, I don’t think I’d still be a Jedi.”
Anakin felt like he wanted to kill someone on her behalf, for daring to hurt such an empathetic and honest soul. Not quite his Ahsoka, but similar enough in all the best ways.
“I think you’re a very good Jedi.”
That made her smile. “Thanks. I think you’re sort-of my Brother, so that means a lot. And it would matter to Obi-Wan that you like me. When I show him this, he’ll be glad. Sad, but relieved that, somewhere along some timeline, this all worked out.”
Anakin offered her his hand, and swore to her as they joined, “I will do everything in my power to be better than the Anakin in your world. To not fall.” With Padmé at his side, he was sure he could keep his word. If the Sith demanded that he do her harm, then the Sith could go kriff themselves.
Ahsoka said in turn, “I will do everything I can to help you.”
Bound by a covenant thicker than blood, they began their mission.
Happy holidays to all who celebrate! As is tradition, I’ll be having Christmas and New Years updates for my older series. In this case, my LOTR Dawn-verse. I’m skipping an update for this on Friday, and then I’ll be back in the New Year with a flashback for Parallel Jocasta Nu.
Chapter 7: Parallel Jocasta Nu
How did Asajj Ventress come to the order? How did this conspiracy begin? This is one of its many beginnings. Or: Dooku of Serenno comes to bargain.
CW/TW: mentions of canon-typical violence.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
JOCASTA NU, PARALLEL CORUSCANT, THREE WEEKS AFTER THE BATTLE OF GEONOSIS
If Dooku hadn’t looked so pitiful, Jocasta would have killed him herself. But she didn’t have that in her. It was against her morals to kill someone while they were down, and Dooku was as down as she’d ever seen any Jedi master. His ankles were chained together, and the only reason that his hands weren’t was because both arms ended in angry red burns just above his elbow. At least lightsaber wounds were cauterized. He still stood arrogantly, but the collar around his regal neck, limiting his access to the force, put a damper on his pride.
“Would it be a violation of this council’s principles to provide our prisoner with the dignity of access to accessibility technologies?” Jocasta kept her tone neutral. She’d been back on the council for about as long as Dooku had been in their custody, and she didn’t yet have the control over its operations she had once cultivated so carefully.
“I would think he gave up the right to our courtesy the second he betrayed us,” Windu replied.
Gallia shifted in her seat. Jocasta had always respected the political Jedi, and her respect only grew when Gallia said, “I hadn’t realized that this council had the ability to contravene this Republic’s guidelines on the rights of sentient beings.”
“I believe,” Master Fisto’s hologram said, redirecting the three of them, “that we had called this meeting with a purpose in mind.
They all looked at their traitor. It wasn’t the first time they’d called a meeting in his presence, but it was the first time he’d requested it.
“Speak,” Windu commanded.
Dooku looked straight at Yoda. His master had been the central force behind the fact that he was a prisoner, rather than a victim of execution. It was Jocasta’s opinion that her return to the council had been motivated by the same desire. She never could have ordered Dooku’s death. His knowledge of the Sith was the greatest the Jedi had been given access to in a thousand years. It was her most sacred duty to protect that.
“I’m ready to talk,” he said, eventually. “It has become… evident that my Master has no intention of allowing me to return to his side. I’ll tell you who he is, and where to find Skywalker, if you meet my demands.”
They had been permitting Dooku access to the news of the slow destruction of the Separatists these last weeks in hopes he might make this decision. It seemed that the blockade of Serenno had finally broken him.
“Demands, you have. Fair, they are?”
Dooku offered him an unsteady half bow. He didn’t seem to fully have his balance back, and with the missing weight of his hands, it was no wonder why not. “Fair enough, my once-master. As Masters Nu and Gallia suggest, I would have what I am entitled to by your Republic as a Sentient. My hands, no period of isolation lasting more than two days, and a fair and public trial in the event that I am to be sentenced beyond my time as a prisoner of war.”
“Those are hardly demands,” Gallia observed. She gave the rest of the room a commanding glance. “We would grant that regardless of your utility, lest we become no better than any Sith.”
Oh yes, that would be Jocasta’s easiest ally on this council. She counted herself lucky for the fact. Adi Gallia was well known to be one of the most intelligent of their kind, and her ability to navigate the political world was unmatched save, perhaps, by Dooku himself. Having her would be a great asset indeed.
Dooku turned to her. “Yes. I do have other demands, which are… less standard. To start with, Serenno’s independence will be respected. They were not aggressors in this conflict, and they have a right to leave the Republic if they so choose. Obviously, I cannot serve as Count while imprisoned, but there are plenty of other nobles for them to choose from.”
Reasonable, and surprisingly selfless. “Is there anything else?” Koon asked. He was there by hologram, and the blue outline of his form was projected seamlessly into his seat. His person was with the fleet, both clones and trade federation, over Serenno.
Dooku inclined his head. “I want to be allowed out into the main body of the temple twice a week. I would like my access to the force to be restored when I am in my cell.”
Well there was the deal breaker. Windu, gritting his teeth, said, “once a week, under restraints. You can have access to the force for an hour every day, under direct supervision.”
“I’d shake on that,” replied Dooku, “but that isn’t really within my power.”
He thought he was very funny. Indeed, Fisto snorted out a bit of a laugh. He wasn’t there in person either, en route to ambush several high ranking separatist officials as he was.
“Anything else?” Windu asked.
There was a long silence. Dooku seemed to be looking not quite at them, but past them. His eyes glazed over. Then, very deliberately, he focused back on Jocasta. They’d been friends, once, a very long time ago. Though neither of them had ever been especially interested in romantic love, they were each as close as the other had come to something of the kind. So, it meant… something, that it was her he addressed.
“There’s a child. Ky Narec’s Padawan. He’s dead, and the girl was killing slavers to survive on Rattatak when I found her. I don’t know what the order’s rationale was in leaving her there, or if you never noticed that Narec was dead, but the fact remains. She isn’t fallen, just isolated. I left her on Serenno. If the Sith gets to her, they will almost certainly kill her under the assumption that she is my apprentice. She… might have been someday, but it hardly matters now. I want you to bring her home.”
Another girl Padawan. Jocasta wondered if it was Komari who he was thinking of. Like Gallia, she spoke for herself rather than all the Jedi. “I will do it,” she said, addressing her colleagues. “Regardless of our deal. It must be done; Ky Narec was a good Jedi.” Like Dooku, he had once been a friend to her, a strange man who had stood against some of the order’s teachings, like Jocasta herself. It was no surprise that he would have found an unauthorized Padawan on a backwater planet.
“The last thing this order needs,” Windu snapped, tersely, “is another fallen Jedi.”
Jocasta let the force guide her. She was no seer, not of the future, but the words and vows, the oaths and promises and social compacts that guided the world in any given moment had always called out to her. They beat in time with her heart.
All around Windu swirled his promises as Master of the Order. He was bound to Depa Billiba, who sat regally on the other side of their semi-circle. He was bound to the code of the Jedi, silver-white on the chest of every one of them in the room, except for Dooku, who was marked only by the unlight of the bindings at his neck. She looked down at her own hands, at the sigils that, to her eyes only, marked her as an archivist, a keeper of histories and knowledge that was sacred beyond all else. They told her what to do, in the same words they always had:
Keep truth alive.
They were the words the force had whispered to her the night before the trial that had brought her knighthood, which had given her infinite surety of what she should do, and who she should be as a Jedi. Every day since, it was this path that the force had guided her on.
“If what Dooku says is true, then the girl acted in self-defence, and then was taken in by a Sith only because she had no other option. Narec wouldn’t have trained her if she was wicked by nature. Imagine her as a prisoner of war, if that makes it easier for you to wrap your head around. Certainly, that is what I would call an orphaned Padawan taken by a Sith. And even if she is fallen, or walking close to darkness, what of it? Would you rather have her wandering the Galaxy unsupervised? I remember the Du Crion incident perfectly well, as should you.”
Yoda responded before Windu had a chance. “If Ky Narec’s Padawan she is, then honour his choice, we must. Find the girl we shall, and a new Master receive she will.”
They all looked expectantly at Dooku. Regal as he’d been born, he met Windu’s eyes and said, “Sheev Palpatine is the Sith Master. He calls himself Darth Sidious. He’ll be hiding Skywalker from you, probably right under your noses here on Coruscant. He always gotten amusement out of that sort of thing.”
They were still. Jedi hid their emotions, and though not a single face showed it, the force radiated with fear and anxiety. Windu seethed, sickly rage dripping from him, it was harsh words, bitter screaming. Billiba’s anger was colder and more dangerous than her master’s, the sharp words of one whose hurt was so deep they knew nothing else. Yet in their physical forms, neither reacted at all.
Finally, it was Yoda who spoke. Everyone else was frozen by shock and shame at their failure to notice. “Move quickly, we must. Take action against the Sith. Go now you shall, Master Windu, Master Billiba.”
But Dooku was shaking his head. “You’re making a mistake,” he said, as the council talked over him. “Attacking him now is a terrible risk.”
Jocasta saw him next a week after that, in his cell deep in the temple. It was a barren room painted entirely in white, with no furniture save for a bench built into the wall. As an offering of peace, she’d brought paper books, ancient and unparalleled records of the Jedi order. As head librarian, she could authorize such texts being taken from their shelve, and she knew that nothing made of metal or even flimsi would be permitted in the hands of a Sith. Paper, ancient and primitive as it was, was harmless. Dooku, she knew, would do no harm to any text of real historical value.
Where he sat on his bench, the hand of the one primitive prosthetic he’d been given drifted across the embossed cover of the book. They’d replaced his robes as well, torn black rags with bland white medical wear. The other sleeve drooped past where his hand should have been, empty.
“Can you feel that?”
He shook his head. His hair was so much longer than he ever would have wanted it, shifting with the simple motion. “Of course not. That I can move the fingers even a little is a small miracle. They would not allow a surgeon in to work on the damaged nerve endings.”
That was cruel. “I will have words with Mace on the matter.”
The Master of the Order had barely survived a confrontation with Palpatine only days earlier. Depa Billiba had been hospitalized with a lightsaber burn across her chest. Any deeper, and her heart would have been sliced through. Dozens more Jedi were dead at the hands of clones, after Palpatine had broken their minds. Only Shaak Ti’s quick thinking had saved those still on Kamino from being born into so cruel a fate as their elder brothers.
“That is generous.” Dooku bowed his head demurely. It was so wrong an expression on him.
“Generous? It is the bare minimum one should do to respect the basic rights of a sentient.” Her blood was hot. “You deserve better than that, Sith or no.”
“Careful. You sound almost like a Sith yourself.”
When had dissent become a synonym for evil? “I am a Scholar, Dooku of Serenno. My principles are independent of what my council orders.”
“I disputed no more in the Order than you, and yet I am a traitor.”
He had done monstrous things. “Then perhaps, if you wanted to really effect change, you ought not to have shed blood as you have. Perhaps you ought not have made yourself into a villain.”
Dooku stirred with discontent. “They would not have listened to my concerns, I know as much. You barely have to see what became of my Padawans to know that.”
Dead, vanished, and independent of the order’s control. Jocasta, who had outlived a Padawan of her own, felt his pain. It was a terrible thing to lose. “I would have, Dooku. You know that. I would have listened if you have told me you agreed that something was wrong.”
The anger in him subsided, and he grew small. Robbed of the fury of a Sith, he was only an old man. Older than Jocasta herself, and just as tired. This never should have lasted until their old age. If only they had been young and yet held fire in their blood. Then, perhaps, they could have changed something. Anything. Now their time as the firebrands who guided the future of the order had passed. Between the two of them, they had not one apprentice who would carry on that which they believed. If only Qui-Gon Jinn had lived. Then, perhaps, things would have been different.
“Perhaps,” he admitted, and Jocasta savoured the small victory, “but it hardly matters, now. These four walls will enclose the rest of my days. All that I am shall go to waste.”
Not if Jocasta had anything to say about it. “You can start by telling me about your apprentice. I leave for Serenno tomorrow.”
He settled back on his bench. “Asajj Ventress is not my apprentice, and you do harm to her chances in the order by saying so. She is Ky Narec’s Padawan. Dathomiri in origin, I think, but how she was taken from her homeworld I do not know, and you ought not repeat such things in front of the esteemed Master Windu.”
Dathomir was steeped in the dark side. “The force is a matter of contradiction. I will not condemn any to having a destiny.”
When Jocasta left for Serenno the next day, she went with the beads for a Padawan braid retrieved from a storage container once belonging to Dooku, documents to allow her past battle lines, a signed letter attesting that she had the Count’s permission to be there, and a conviction that Dooku was the ally she needed to fight the corruption and stagnation of the High Council.
Next chapter: parallel Ahsoka’s POV. From now on, this story will have bi-weekly updates alternating with other things. (TROS content, LOTR, etc.) Look forward to seeing y’all in two weeks
Chapter 8: Parallel Ahsoka Tano
Parallel Ahsoka finds her footing, hatches a plot, and makes a new old friend.
Technically OOC, but literally not the same C so who cares?
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
PARALLEL AHSOKA TANO, FELUCIA, PRESENT
Ahsoka realized, very quickly, that accomplishing anything in this war other than staying alive was going to be more difficult than she’d thought. In her first week, she’d already taken a city, fought in an air battle – thank the Force for Master Plo’s flying lessons, a form of bonding she’d previously found a waste of time – almost been kidnapped, and rescued a bunch of people who actually had been. It was only months of scrapping with Asa, who was a dirty cheat and never fought fair, that had kept her safe. It was a hectic mess of a war.
If the war wasn’t distraction enough, then there were all these new people to keep her up to her montrals in trouble. Anakin Skywalker, true to Obi-Wan’s memory of him, was a loose cannon with attachment issues coming out his ears. Fortunately, he was also a dedicated Jedi, and a protector of all those who could not protect themselves. Seeing his reaction to the kidnappings they’d uncovered had more than proven that.
Then there was this world’s Plo Koon. He seemed more wrong and strange than Anakin did, in many ways. Ahsoka was judging her standards for him off of Obi-Wan’s memories and wartime rumour, so he mostly seemed like a fully-formed version of the boy Obi-Wan had helped raised. Master Plo, on the other hand, seemed to be missing something. Ahsoka couldn’t quite put her finger on what, but she knew it was something. He was a little more uncomfortable with touch, a little more tied to the old readings of the code. But Wolffe was still there, and Master Plo was still someone who carried more love in his heart than he knew what to do with. Ahsoka thought that, with some gentle nudges in the right direction, he’d turn out more like her Master Plo, a renegade Jedi willing to do what was right regardless of what Mace Windu told him.
She missed the rebellious Jedi she’d become used to, in her time with Obi-Wan. Aside from Barriss and Master Unduli, she could hardly remember the last time she’d spent with another Jedi who really believed that Jedi should be without emotion, without love. She missed spending time with people who were ready to give up what history had ordered them to be in favour of what was right. She missed Asa, and the way she never let the order scold her into being other than herself. She missed Master Dooku, who was a real jerk but would have lost the rest of his limbs before he let anyone say a word against his Padawan. She missed her Master Plo, who held Wolffe’s hand when he thought nobody was looking and said things like, “Jedi are the protectors of all sentients. How may we serve if we are not free to love as sentients do?” She missed her Obi-Wan, who was just trying to make sure no Jedi ever suffered like Anakin had suffered, and Bant, who felt that everyone deserved a chance to do the right thing, and Master Ti, who loved every trooper as a son. Her heart ached, but she knew, in some deep and terrible part of her, that she wasn’t getting home until she’d saved as many of these people as she could. That was her duty as a Jedi. She would simply have to trust that the other Ahsoka would do right by her people until then.
“Good news,” Anakin told her brightly, as she spooned the disgusting mashed insect rations that served as the canteen’s best attempt at a carnivore breakfast onto her plate.
It was too early for good news, and she told Anakin as much. He clapped her on the back in a brotherly sort of way.
When she’d been on Master Fisto’s ship, they never eaten with the troopers, but Anakin seemed to do so as often as he could get away with, and made Ahsoka do the same. She didn’t mind, really. It showed the bits of him Obi-Wan admired best.
“So,” she asked, as Kix made room for her and her tray, “what’s the news?”
Anakin’s smile was genuine. “We’ve got a tenday back at Coruscant before our next mission. The council is hoping you might be able to sit some of the regular Padawan’s exams at that time.”
Since this Ahsoka’s education had been so disrupted, Ahsoka hoped she could get away with sitting something she’d done herself ages ago. Temporal physics, maybe. It certainly seemed relevant right about now.
“Do we know what the next assignment is?” Kix asked. Ahsoka thought she might have known him in her world, as one of the clones they conspirators had helped find civilian work with the corps.
Anakin shook his head. “Not yet. I don’t know about you, but a tenday off is more than enough for me.”
One of the other troopers, whose name escaped her, said, “is the 212th back as well?”
The number escaped her, but since Anakin’s answer was, “no.” It didn’t really matter.
The return to Coruscant filled Ahsoka with hope and dread at the same time. On the one hand, here, in the seat of Jedi power and away from Master Plo’s watchful – metaphorical - eyes, Ahsoka’s plans could finally begin to be executed. On the other, her pain and loneliness only intensified as she walked the empty corridors of the Temple. There should have been so many Jedi here. Barriss should have been stumbling around with her head in a book, avoiding bumping into things with the force. Bant should have been meditating every morning in the Room of a Thousand Fountains. But they were not there with her. Even Anakin wasn’t there, most of the time, as he juggled duty with reuniting with his wife.
Ahsoka spent the first two of their ten days becoming acclimated with this new temple, and the evening of the second day using paths Asajj had taught her to sneak down to the lower levels of the city.
Asa and Master Dooku had spent months taking down criminals on Coruscant, and though that had never happened here, much their guidance about the way for a Jedi to blend in and conduct themselves held true. Walking boldly as if she belonged, Ahsoka used some credits she’d stolen from this world’s Ahsoka on a game of sabbacc, which she cheated at and put aside as much as she needed before losing the rest back to smooth any ruffled feathers. Then she went and bought a disposable comm badge and a modulator to disguise her voice. By this point, it was very late indeed, and if Anakin had not been in bed with his wife, he surely would have noticed her absence. As it was, Ahsoka hoped that the difference in planetary cycles would cover her, and placed a call to a number she knew well.
By the will of the force, Shaak Ti answered. “Hello?”
Ahsoka modulated her voice by speaking into the filter. She felt it made her sound very ominous. “Shaak Ti.”
“How did you get this number?”
As if there was a good answer. “From a friend. I am calling to warn you that the future of the Republic depends on your actions. The Kaminoans are implanting behavioral chips in the clone troopers. What you do not know is that these chips make them susceptible to control from the Sith lord.”
She was inscrutable, but Ahsoka thought she detected a hitch in the elder Togruta’s voice. “How do you know this?”
“I’ve seen it for myself. But my life will be forfit if Dooku knows I have told you.” A little theatre never hurt. She’d learned that from the Master of the thing. The only thing better was covering your lies in a thick coating of truth. “It was he who ordered the making of the clones, at the behest of his Master. He murdered Sifo-Dyas.”
“Why should I trust you?”
She told Ti where to find Sifo-Dyas’s body, as she best remembered it. Her and Master Kit had gone on that mission, when Dooku had confessed to the crime. It was one of their first together. If that was the same in this world, then the evidence would at least prove she was genuinely informed. The last thing she needed to do was prove that she had reason to be on their side.
“Someone I loved was killed by the Sith Master’s hand,” she said, allowing a hint of her grief into her voice. “Don’t let it happen again.”
Don’t let this Kit Fisto die, in other words. Bant deserved better than that. Kit deserved better than that, just for being himself.
There was silence on the other end of the line so long that Ahsoka wondered if she’d been cut off. Then Master Ti spoke. “Who are you, child?”
It was a curse to sound young. Even the modulater hadn’t hidden the words she chose, the way she sounded like a girl. There was only one good answer, and Ahsoka prayed Asa would forgive her. “Someone close to Darth Tyrannus.” She allowed herself to sound even younger. “Please, I don’t want to be like him anymore.”
She hung up with that. Perhaps, this way, they’d have mercy on this world’s Ventress when the time came. Even if she really had fallen, that didn’t change the fact that she also contained the same memories that had made Asa into Ahsoka’s dearest friend. She deserve a chance to see what kind of person she could be without any man to call Master. Asajj, when held at a distance and offered the freedom to be herself, usually thrived. She was like Ahsoka that way, who would have chafed under the hand of someone like Master Windu or even Master Unduli. She deserved better than the terrible hand she’d been dealt.
Ahsoka resold the comm badge and the modulator to different people for a reasonable price, and snuck herself back into bed. Knowing Coruscant, they’d probably have changed hands six times and been used in four crimes by morning.
The next day, she went down to the library to study for the temporal physics exam. She’d written it herself, but months ago, now. A refresher couldn’t hurt. No sooner had she sat down with her stack of datapads than she saw her. Master Nu, buttoned-down as Ahsoka remembered her from the years before Master Dooku’s return, and so tired looking. She didn’t have the surety, the light mischievousness, the meddling quality that Ahsoka had come to respect and fear.
To the extent that they anti-consullar Jedi, they secret rebels, had a leader, Ahsoka would have named that leader as Jocasta Nu. Of them, she loved Dooku and Asajj first and best. She was the most sure that what they did was within the command of the order’s codes. She wanted to defend the very concept of difference of opinion at all cost. Every sentient was a unique history, irreplicable and irreplaceable. Ahsoka would have described the Master Nu she knew as a woman who looked at the world in infrared, seeing things the average person never could.
“Passion yet serenity,” Ahsoka remembered her arguing against Obi-Wan’s fear, in whispered tones. “The code never says that a good Jedi must be without passion. Instead, it says that she must overcome passion. How can we overcome that which we never feel? We were wrong not to admit Anakin because he had known love. There is no way we can unmake that mistake. But we can ensure that no Jedi ever feels so alone that he can only trust an old Sith.”
Ahsoka had planned to keep who she was as close a secret to her chest as anything. But she couldn’t sit here and look at Master Nu and say nothing. She gathered her datapads, and slunk quietly across the library until she was up beside Master Nu at the reference desk. The old Jedi turned in surprise.
She was surprised to see her, of course. Ahsoka tried to be as bubbly as she thought this Ahsoka might be. “Hi Master Nu!” She was immediately shushed. “Sorry. I was hoping I could ask you something in private.”
Something about her must have seemed serious. Master Nu led her deeper into one of the private reading rooms. It was small, just two chairs and the table. Ahsoka set her datapads down gingerly. There was a soundproofed plastisteel wall between them and the rest of the hall, which meant that the temple security would have video, but not sound. She located the camera – thanks Asa – and turned her back to it. If Master Nu noticed her odd behaviour, she didn’t say anything.
“How can I help you?” She asked.
Ahsoka knew what to say to her, in a way she never would have for Obi-Wan or Master Fisto or even Asa. “Keep truth alive.”
Her eyes went wide. “Padawan?”
She lurched into the confession awkwardly. “I’m from a parallel timeline. Please don’t tell the Council. Mace Windu’s rigid interpretation of the code would make him use what I know against people who haven’t done anything wrong on this timeline and I need your help.”
A part of her expected Master Nu to melt into her relatively-gentle other self, but she didn’t. Her form was rigid. “How?”
“Sith magic in this world sent your Ahsoka away and left me in her place. I was training with my Master and then the next thing I knew, I was waking up here.”
Those eyes. They were so cold, so lifeless. “Show me.”
She hadn’t done it for Anakin, who she didn’t know, or Master Plo, whose desire to share with the council had unnerved her. But she had to believe that this Master Nu could show the ability to forgive and understand that her own had. After all, Master Plo had mostly come to be a rebel by his love of Wolffe and his brothers. Master Nu had come to it all on her own. She made to extend her hand, but the wizened Master shook her head.
“I don’t need physical contact,” she said, “I just need you to open yourself in the force to me, as you would for your Master.”
Based on how her connection to Anakin felt, how overbearingly powerful he was, she imagined this Ahsoka had never had much use for the skill, but she’d used it more with Master Kit, and she’d seen Master Dooku do it many times. He was a great believer in teaching through personal experience. She’d even done it with Master Plo, who always used touch. But she supposed that technically wasn’t necessary, and it did look more odd on the recordings for them to be touching.
She closed her eyes. The force hummed around them. This Master Nu felt more contained, more somber. Ahsoka’s heart broke for her. Then, like a striking serpent, she grabbed Ahsoka’s mind and they plunged together into the realm of memory.
If Ahsoka was careful and held herself together, she could decide what to show and in what order. Clenching her jaw in concentration, she showed flashes of her own world, of the ways that she knew it was different. Master Fisto presenting her Padawan’s beads. Master Dooku appearing before the council when Ahsoka had been a consular Padawan. The sly smiles he shared with Master Nu. Asajj, lightsabers in her hands, standing dejected as she waited for someone – anyone – to train her. Master Nu, before Master Dooku’s pardon, guiding Asa through the beginnings of the second form. Even then, she’d known that someday, Dooku would be teaching her and the knowledge would be necessary. Ahsoka was careful to keep her affairs in this world secret, as she defended Anakin’s fall. No matter how she trusted Master Nu, it wouldn’t be enough.
Feeling the disbelief and grief at what might have been that showed that Master Nu was convinced of her truthfulness, Ahsoka moved on to memories that suited her goals. She showed her first introduction to the rebellion, as a protector of the clones at Master Plo’s side. Then her reintroduction, weeks later, when she caught Obi-Wan and Master Dooku not at each other’s throats as she was so accustomed. There had been no good way for them to continue hiding after that, other than perhaps to pretend at having an affair, which Asajj never would have believed. She showed the conspirators together, passing notes hidden in texts on thousand-year-old interpretations of the Jedi code, convincing Senators to take settlements of a hundred or two hundred clones on world after world. She unearthed a memory of one of her favourite conspirator meetings, and showed it in full.
“I have a theory,” Master Nu said, calling them to order. They were in Master Dooku’s quarters. He had plenty of space, as a councillor with a Padawan, but not a great deal of furniture. Ahsoka was sitting at the dining table with Bant and Obi-Wan. Asajj was perched on the table, miraculously not being scolded either for that or for the fact that she was playing a citysim hologame as they spoke around her.
“Is it a good theory?” Master Dooku was sitting in his armchair, metal hands folded in his lap. In the memory, Ahsoka’s eyes lingered on the fact that he had a spot of food on the collar of his shirt. It was one of the most normal things she’d ever seen from him. Then she returned her attention to where Asajj was terraforming a mountain range so she could raise more banthas.
In the present, Ahsoka wished she’d payed more attention to the people in the meeting and less to the delicate, spider-like skill of Asa’s fingers. Still, at least she’d been listening clearly enough.
“We’ll find out,” Nu said ominously. Before anyone asked, she said, “I think that I can prove the current interpretation of the code as it applies to interpersonal matters is stunting not only emotional health but connection to the force.”
“And how, exactly, do you meant to prove that?”
Nu laid out the parameters of her experiment clear and simple. At random, half of the group would be selected to spend a month performing behavior in violation of the relationships section of the code. The other half would control against it.”
“And how do you intend to measure connection to the force?” Obi-Wan asked. “Midichlorian count?”
“No, by mental link. I don’t think it would effect the number of midichlorians, merely the efficiency of the force user. Also, I can’t check out the technology to measure midichlorian counts without someone asking questions.”
Ahsoka had drawn the control group half, unluckily, but Obi-Wan hadn’t. The ensuing month of watching Obi-Wan become comfortable with Quinlan Vos saying “I love you” every time they saw each other was worth it. And, even though the results had been inconclusive – too small a sample size – they had never gone back to the way they were. Obi-Wan didn’t shrink away from displays of affection as much. Asajj became easier with touch.
She ended her sharing of memories with one final image. She’d been leaving Asajj’s room after a late night study session – Barriss was long gone to bed – and she’d seen Dooku and Nu sitting together at the dining table. They’d been so engrossed in conversation over some flimsi that they hadn’t even looked up at her. On the table, Dooku’s metal fingers had been interlaced with Nu’s flesh ones. Their lightsabers had rested close by, but at neither of their sides. They looked oddly peaceful. Like somebody’s grandparents. Asa’s, probably. Ahsoka lingered on the image for a while, and then pulled out of her memories.
Master Nu was crying silently. Tears wore tracks down her face. Perhaps Ahsoka had come on a little strong.
“Do you believe me?”
She nodded. “How could I do otherwise?” She swallowed her grief. “So, he was not destined to be what he is. I was not… deceived to have counted him as a friend.”
Perhaps this Dooku had been different, but, “No. But the Jedi as they are couldn’t have saved him.” Couldn’t have saved Asajj.
Nu analyzed her closely. “So, Knight Tano. What would you have me do to save this order?”
A misunderstanding. “I’m nowhere near knighthood.”
“If you do what you intend,” Master Nu said, “you will have succeeded at a greater trial than any Jedi living. Far too young you may be, but there was never any age requirement for a knighthood. If you do this, I’ll cut your braid myself. Or my other self will, if you make it home.”
Well, now all she had to do was save the clones, save Anakin, stop two Sith and evil Asajj, and reform the entire Jedi order. And then get home. Easy. Reasonable.
“Help me figure out what that pseudo-holocron is, and how I can use it to get home. And if they ever offer you a seat on the council, please, please take it.” What else? “And gently broach the ideas of code reform with those you believe trustworthy. The Master Nu I knew built what we were. I believe that you can do it again.” Belief was all she had. “Don’t let their history become the only history.”
It was something that Jocasta Nu could believe in, and Ahsoka knew it.
All universe Ahsokas are hot for Good!Ventress and I refuse to hear otherwise.
Chapter 9: Ahsoka
Ahsoka trains with Master Dooku, says something she regrets, and deals with the consequences.
No significant CW/TWs apply
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
AHSOKA TANO, PARALLEL CORUSCANT, PRESENT
She would hate Master Dooku, she thought, if it weren’t for the fact the he was damnably good with a lightsaber.
He withdrew it from where it was held against her throat, and offered her a hand up. The metal of his hand was slightly warm, but there was no trace of sweat.
“Again,” he said, and withdrew to the other side of the mat to begin. They’d been practicing for what felt like hours. Obi-Wan and Asajj, on the other side of the room, were breaking to drink water.
Ahsoka didn’t have enough breath left to cuss him out. Dooku was fast, and he’d ordered that she fight with one of Asajj’s twin sabers, since her own had been confiscated.
“You can never guarantee access to your own arms,” he’d pointed out.
Gripping the blade as best she could, she struck again. Dooku slid to the side, deflecting her blow and sending her running past him. He’d done this twice before, and this time, Ahsoka had learned. She stuck out her empty hand and grabbed his wrist. The force of his deflection and her initial momentum sent them both crashing to the floor. If she couldn’t beat him in a fair fight, she might at least beat him in in a wrestling match. He twisted his wrist from her grasp, and began to pull Asajj’s saber from her hand. Ahsoka punched him in the face, and, in his moment of surprise, shoved her lightsaber against his neck. There was a moment where she thought she’d won. Then she found herself tumbling backwards through the air. He’d shoved her with the force.
Once again, they stood on opposite ends of the mat, as if nothing had happened, except that Dooku’s nose was bleeding.
Asajj, on the other side of the room, was laughing so hard it sounded like she was crying.
“Hells yeah!” Asajj cheered. Obi-Wan shook his head mournfully, but Ahsoka thought there was a thin smile hiding under his beard.
Dooku, wiping his bloodied nose with a handkerchief, muttered, “thank you for your support, Padawan.” To Ahsoka, he said, “very well done. I would prefer you not to be forced to resort to such unsavory styles, but I would also prefer you not to die. It took Ahsoka months to learn that there is no such thing as cheating when someone is trying to kill you.”
He folded his handkerchief neatly and tucked it into a pocket. Ahsoka tried to think of a way to say that she’d learned that lesson from years of war, that she didn’t need Dooku to teach her that.
He fought her like that again the next day, and the day after that. On the third day after he agreed to train her, they moved to fighting in partners. First her and Obi-Wan against Asajj and Dooku, which was all too familiar, and then a variety of other combinations. Her and Dooku against Obi-Wan and Asajj resulted in three victories and two draws. Her and Asajj against Dooku and Obi-Wan resulted in five straight losses, but one was almost not embarrassing. On the fourth day, Master Billiba joined them with her Padawan, and with her on their side against Dooku, Obi-Wan and Caleb, it was two victories each with a draw.
It went almost a week like this before Ahsoka actually managed to ask Obi-Wan, “why are you doing this? Training me.”
He went odd for a moment. Then, seeming to come to some conclusion, he sat her down and explained.
“We think Asajj is right that the Holocron was used on your world’s Anakin, and latched on to you because he isn’t here. That seems to make the most sense, both out of that Dooku’s aims and out of what we understand about the Force. Light and dark exist in a certain equilibrium, pulling on each other and pushing back against each other. A device that brings the darkness and light together makes sense. Neither you nor our Ahsoka are especially dark nor, if I am being completely frank, especially light. You don’t live in extremes the way Anakin does. But with Anakin dead… we can’t use our version of the device on him, even if we do find it.”
Ahsoka felt sick. “You’re not sending me home.”
“It’s not that,” Obi-Wan insisted, face falling. “We just don’t think we can.”
“So you’re trying to distract me.”
And to think she’d almost trusted them. Almost trusted Count Dooku. What a joke. What an idiot she was.
“No,” Obi-Wan insisted. His presence was thick in the force. “We are trying to prepare you. When your Anakin figures it out. When our Ahsoka figures it out, you will be better prepared for your world. We may not be able to help you return to your war, but we can equip you better to fight it. Not just with the knowledge of our world, but also with the things you would have learned if your training wasn’t interrupted by the war.” He paused a moment, as if weighing his words. “Dooku thinks that our best course of action, at this juncture, is to take you off world. If the swap lasts for months, then it will become impossible to hide from your friends here. He has suggested, and both Master Ti and I agree, that it might be best to go to the Temple of Eedit. There, we can train without fear of interruption.”
She hated the fact that they didn’t think to tell her.
“What, exactly, are you training me for? I’m never going home! Never going to be a Knight.”
“Just because we are at peace,” Obi-Wan said, softly, “does not mean we have no need for knights.”
“Not like they need them there. I need to protect them. The ‘troopers need me. Anakin needs me.”
“My Ahsoka can handle it.”
She couldn’t. She only knew Anakin as a monster. She didn’t know that he was a good man. Ahsoka knew how long it had taken her to trust Master Dooku – and that trust had been proven false by this long lie. In the war, even a second of mistrust could spell their deaths. Especially in front of a Sith. Maybe Ahsoka had sided with Dooku when she found herself facing him. She wouldn’t know any better, would she. Maybe her Anakin was already dead.
Her chest felt tight, like someone was squeezing at her lungs, like they were too small to take in all the air she needed.
“She’ll fail him,” Ashoka said, with certainty. She knew herself. She knew that she couldn’t be good enough to love a stranger the way Anakin needed. “Like you failed him.”
Obi-Wan turned and walked out of their shared quarters. Ahsoka, filled with humiliation at the horrible thing she’d said, hated herself and these people who didn’t know her more than ever.
Asajj came to her that evening, while Ahsoka was sitting in her room trying not to think about the fact that she was likely not to see her family ever again. She trusted Anakin to try and get her back, but the fact that it was a Sith artifact made the odds of anyone helping him slim to none. And that was if he was alive. There was a part of her, now that she’d had the thought, that was utterly convinced he was dead. Without him, there was nobody who cared about her at all.
Her world’s Obi-Wan wouldn’t help her. Dooku and Asajj were her enemies. Master Eerin and Master Nu were strangers or as good as. Even Master Plo hadn’t been as close to her as this Master Plo was to his Ahsoka. They were ‘good Jedi’. They didn’t feel love, and they certainly didn’t feel it for her.
“I heard you’re having a hissy fit,” Asajj said. She didn’t bother knocking. Ahsoka seriously considered throwing something at her with the force.
“Go rot in a Sith Hell.”
“Oh I will,” she said, with an ironic smile, showing all her teeth. “But first, why don’t you tell me why you’re in such a mood.”
She’d thought Ventress was kind. Maybe she was just less obviously cruel than the Sith. “Because our ‘Masters’ didn’t tell me that they weren’t going to send me home. Because none of my family ever really cared about me, and none of her family really cares about her either! Because apparently, all the Jedi in two worlds don’t have enough affection between them to help me that all.”
Asajj looked at her critically. Then she walked over to where Ahsoka was sitting curled on her bed, slapped her across the face, hissed, “I love her more than you know,” and pulled Ahsoka into a tight hug.
Face smarting, Ahsoka let the older girl hold her. “You still can’t help her. And nobody loves me as much as you love her.”
Barriss and Rex were the closest things Ahsoka had to friends, and Barriss loved the code more than any person. Rex was obligated by law to spend time with her, so he didn’t count.
“I don’t believe that.” Her words were soft, but against Ahsoka’s montrals they were clear as day. “I don’t believe that any Jedi could have you as a Padawan, as a friend, and not love you like I love her.”
“You’re biased,” Ahsoka whispered back, which made Asajj huff with laughter.
Pulling back, she clasped Ahsoka’s hands in hers. Ahsoka was surprised to realize that Asajj’s eyes were wet with tears. She hadn’t even known Asajj’s species could cry. Realizing that Ahsoka was staring, Asajj let go of Ahsoka’s left hand to rub away the tears with the back of her hand.
“Sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to cry in front of you. It’s just… a lot.”
Ashoka hadn’t even considered this. “Force, I’m a complete jerkface. I’m sorry, Asajj. I’ve just been treating you like a resource I can use whenever, and not thinking at all about the fact that you must miss her.”
It was so strange to see someone so strong look so sad. “I don’t mind. I like that you treat me like normal. When Dooku told me what was happening, I thought you would hate me.”
Ahsoka had thought she would too. But that was before she met Asajj and realized how good and fierce and amazing she was. As bold as she could, she told Asajj that. That made her smile genuinely, although she was still crying.
“I’m sorry that I’m here and she’s stuck in the war. But I promise Anakin won’t let anyone hurt her.” If Anakin survived Dooku, that is.
Asajj reached up to wipe Ahsoka’s tears away in turn. “’Sokes is one of the best Jedi I know. She’ll look after him too.”
Maybe that was why Master Dooku was working her so hard. Because the other Ahsoka was amazing and life altering and she was just… whatever. Maybe the other Ahsoka could help Anakin in a way that she never could. Maybe she saved him, and taught him how to never fall, and he didn’t need her any more.
“Are you jealous?” The look on Ahsoka’s face must have been enough, because Asajj laughed. “You shouldn’t be. You’re lightyears ahead of where ‘Sokes was before Master Dooku got his hands on her. She’s got better reflexes, but you’re a better fighter when we fight fair. She’s had more time in the temple to study, but when you don’t have the bored look she gets on her face when Dooku waxes poetic about lightsaber styles.”
“That’s because lightsaber styles are interesting.” Asajj just laughed at her. “They are!”
“With an attitude like that, you’re going to love coming with us to Eedit. Maybe you and I should swap teachers. I bet Dooku would love having a student who will let him go on and on about Form II until her montrals fall off, and I bet I know more about tea ceremonies than you do, which means Obi-Wan will love me.”
Asajj would eat Obi-Wan alive. No, Ahsoka thought the way they were was fine. Obi-Wan was good people. But she hadn’t been treating him very well. He’d just lost his second Padawan, and here she was, walking all over him.
Maybe they really should switch, she thought. At least Asajj would be kind to him.
“Do you think Obi-Wan can forgive me? I was awful to him today. I said he failed Anakin.”
Asajj joined their hands again. It had occurred to Ahsoka that Asajj seemed to really enjoy holding hands, which was… a little weird, maybe, but sweet. Ahsoka missed the easy physical contact she’d shared with Rex and his brothers, but with Asajj, she had something very like that.
“He’ll forgive you,” Asajj said, reassuringly. “But it wouldn’t hurt you to talk to him about it either. I assume you’ve gathered by now that Obi-Wan is… very injured, by everything that happened. In some ways, more deeply even than Dooku, who literally fell to the Dark Side.”
Ahsoka knew that. She knew it, and she’d said it anyways. “Does he love her? The other Ahsoka, I mean.”
“Yes, I think so.” Asa inclined her head slightly, and then had to jerk it back to shift her bangs out of her eyes. “I find Obi-Wan very hard to read. The rest of our people, I can tell where they find the strength to keep fighting against Windu and the code. Nu and Dooku find it in each other. I find it in him, and in ‘Sokes. I like to think that her and Dooku might find some of it in me. Ti, Koon and Secura all find it in their troopers. Vos finds it in Secura. But other than the obvious, I’m not really sure what keeps Obi-Wan fighting. It might be so Ahsoka doesn’t turn out like Anakin did, but I don’t think there was ever any risk of that. I know he’s friends with Eerin and Vos, and that for all their hate, him and Dooku have a strong connection most traditional Jedi never would. But that doesn’t seem like enough, to me.”
That night, Ahsoka emerged from her room to find Obi-Wan waiting for her, datapad open on his lap. He didn’t look up until she sat across from him, and nothing in the world could have burned sharper than her guilt when she realized that he’d been crying. Her Obi-Wan never would have cried. There was nothing in the world that would have made him cry.
She’d been thinking about her apology for hours, but all her pretty words fell apart the second she opened her mouth. “I’m really sorry, Master Obi-Wan. I shouldn’t have said that but I did and I just… I’m scared for him, and I know you’re scared for her and it isn’t fair and I’m sorry I’m here instead. You guys love her and she deserves to be here and I’m sorry I wasn’t more careful and –”
Obi-Wan put up his hand, silencing her. He closed his eyes a moment, and Ahsoka hated herself again as she realized they were still sparkling with tears. “Thank you for your apology,” he said softly. “I’m sorry we lied to you. I suppose a part of me is still thinking of you as a potential enemy, but you aren’t. We both wish things are different, but as they are, I owe you more than that. In either universe, you are a true Jedi, and my kin. Padawan or grandpadawan. You deserve better than for me to pass all your training on to Dooku so I don’t have to think about it.”
She had wondered about that. “He offered, didn’t he?”
“He offered because he didn’t believe I could handle it. He was wrong, and I should have tried harder.”
She accepted his apology, and after a breath, Obi-Wan said, “we’ve been trying to slot you into the slot Ahsoka left behind. It was unfair of us to do so, and is untenable as we continue going forward.” He met her eyes, and despite the grief and the tears, they were the same as those she knew. “Ahsoka Tano, will you be my Padawan, until such a time as you are able to return home?”
“Yes,” she said, “I will.”
She had all this time been wearing Ahsoka’s padawan braid, which was not precisely the same as her own since it had come from Master Fisto. In a breach of protocol, she reached up and pulled free the beads, handing them to Obi-Wan. Despite all the flaws this world had shown her in the Jedi, there was still a weight to tradition. They had both been raised in this community and its rituals mattered to them, a language they two could speak that much of the galaxy could not.
Obi-Wan fastened them back in place, and, from then on, Ahsoka was his Padawan too.
Hey, I’m really sorry to do this but I have to take a break from the story for a bit. For some reason, my brain wants to do everything BUT help me fill in the gaps of the next couple chapters, and I need some time to figure that out. I’ll still be publishing other things in that gap, but it won’t be this. I’m sorry! I hope to work it out soon.
Chapter 10: Padmé
Padmé Amidala knows something is up. Anakin isn’t very good at keeping secrets from her.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Something was… off. Normally, it would have been a pleasant gift to be assigned on a mission with Anakin. Here, away from Coruscant, she and Anakin could be far more open with each other. Normally, they would have spent time with their friends, with Rex and Ahsoka at the very least. As it was, they’d been travelling for two days, and she hadn’t seen Ahsoka even once.
“Ani,” she cornered him in a hallway so they wouldn’t end up getting… distracted, like she’d become when she’d meant to talk to him about this last night. “You’re going to tell me what’s wrong, now. Why haven’t I seen Ahsoka? Is she alright?” She was family to Anakin, which made her Padmé’s family too.
He scratched nervously at his hair. “Can we not talk about this here?”
Oh no he wasn’t. “No distractions.” Not that she usually minded, but that was exactly the problem. They’d be alone and she’d forget everything she’d meant to ask him about.
“No distractions,” he agreed, “but we really can’t talk about this here.”
They went not to his quarters or hers, but, instead, to Ahsoka’s. Anakin let them both in with an override code, and they interrupted Ahsoka as she was scrawling messily on a datapad. She jumped, closed the document, and gave Anakin an incredibly dirty look.
“Privacy, Master,” she hissed at him.
Anakin shook his head. “No, Ahsoka. We’re not lying to her any more. I can’t do it, it’s too weird.”
Throwing her datapad on the bed, Ahsoka crossed her arms angrily. Sometimes, Padmé couldn’t almost forget that she wasn’t a child fighting in a war, but this wasn’t one of those times.
“You didn’t have any trouble lying to me about her.” Ahsoka’s tone was rather bitter.
“I didn’t lie to you about her! I lied to Snips about her. You’d already worked everything out before it came up.”
“And I’m her now! Get used to it because unless Master Nu figures out a way to use that artifact without the Dark Side, she’s never coming home.”
“Well from what you’ve told me, it wouldn’t be much trouble if I had to use the Dark Side, would it?” Anakin sounded almost as petulant as his Padawan.
“It would be to me,” Ahsoka snapped, pushing to her feet so she could stick her finger in Anakin’s face. “I am not going to let this end the way it did last time, with my Master dead and Obi-Wan heartbroken and alone. If I have to live the rest of my life in this forceblighted warzone of a universe so the people who made me what I am can live, then I’ll do it. I will. But I need you to help me. There’s so much to do and I-”
Tears rose in her eyes. Anakin put his hands on her shoulders. “I’m going to help. I promise, Ahsoka. I shouldn’t have said that and I’m sorry. But even you and Nu and I can’t do everything. Padmé can help. I know you don’t know her, but I didn’t know Nu either.”
Ahsoka rubbed at her eyes with the heels of her hands. “Obi-Wan and Chancellor Organa always said she would have been the best Senator of her generation.”
It was uncanny, to hear someone talk about her like she was dead. “Chancellor Organa?”
They both finally remembered that she was in the room. “Not much choice now,” Ahsoka said, with a watery laugh. “Well, your wife, your problem, Skywalker.”
Oh, he hadn’t. Not after all they’d given up to keep it a secret. It wasn’t fair to Ahsoka, to burden her with that.
Anakin ran his hands through his hair once, nervously. It was a habit he’d picked up since his Padawan braid had been cut and he’d finally been able to muss all his hair without getting caught in it.
“This Ahsoka is actually from a parallel timeline where you were killed on Geonosis and I replaced Dooku as the Sith apprentice.”
“Oh,” Padmé forced the words past her dry throat. Years of politics had taught her to never be speechless. “How many people know?” Her body felt numb, and she sat, delicately as she could, on Ahsoka’s bunk.
Anakin and not-Ahsoka looked at each other. “Eight?” The stranger hazarded, “Us, Plo and Wolffe, Rex and Kix, and Master Nu.”
They hadn’t told the council. Worse, they hadn’t told Obi-Wan. Padmé could count on her hand the number of things Anakin hadn’t told Obi-Wan, and slightly more than half of them had to do with her. But of course, it made a certain sense. He lied to Obi-Wan and the council out of love for Padmé. Why not out of love for Ahsoka too?
“It’s nice to meet you?” The stranger offered, tentatively. She was indistinguishable from Ahsoka, of course. They were the same person, at least in body. But there was something just a little different about the way she spoke. Real Ahsoka was more confident with Anakin, didn’t really treat him like an authority figure the way most Jedi treated their superiors.
“I think,” Padmé said, “that I need you to tell me how Bail Organa became the Chancellor of the Republic.”
She needed to think about this other world as something other than a place where she was dead and Anakin was… force, poor Ani. He was a better man than that, she knew. In any world, he had the capacity to be better.
The stranger sighed and sat down beside Padmé. “The balance of the Senate was different than it was in your world, with some of the principal separatist worlds back in the fold within sixth months and the bulk of the war instead being directly with the Trade Federation. I mean, we’d taken Serenno before I was even picked as a Padawan. By the time Chancellor Organa was elected, we’d been without a chancellor entirely for… actually, I think my timeline is off a little, because Dooku was out of prison and teaching Asajj by the time the election was finalized. We must have had interim chancellors for more than a year. So most of the people you think of as separatists were back in the fold. Anyways, I don’t really remember how anyone specific voted. The point is, by that point, you were a martyr to the cause of the Senate. That was always Dooku’s version of events anyways, and the Sith Lord hardly could have contested it in the press. Organa spun a story of how they killed you because you believed in the good of the Republic, not just stagnation but progress, building on what we had. Demilitarization, integration, an opposition to trade monopolies. He seems like a good guy, and Master Dooku and Master Obi-Wan both like him, so that says a lot.”
Padmé steadied her breathing, as she would have in the Senate or as Queen of Naboo. No vulnerability, no grief, no hesitation. “And Chancellor Palpatine? As my co-Senator, he ought to have had the easiest time securing… her legacy.”
She couldn’t think of this dead stranger as herself. Not-Ahsoka sighed. “Palpatine wasn’t around by then. He left office just before the Battle of Serenno ended. That was why we had so long in the interim.”
Padmé wanted to press the point, if only because the girl seemed nervous, but Anakin jumped in before she could. “So, Padawan Tano – do you think Padmé can help us?”
It was so strange to see Ahsoka’s eyes scanning her face as if seeing it for the first time. There was little recognition there. After a long pause, she answered, “I think she could, but I don’t know how yet. Not with the current chancellor. I don’t know him.” She looked between them. “What’s he like?”
“Brilliant,” Anakin said, wish some excitement. “He’s always been a friend of mine. I really do think that, if we’re trusting more people with this, he’s one we should consider.”
She gave him an icy look. “We are not ‘trusting more people with this’. I told Master Nu, you told Padmé, we’re even. Anyone else, we discuss first.”
There was something there, just below the surface. A fear, rather than simple, passive anger. “Well,” Anakin said, “this is a discussion. He’s a good man, and he has enough power to really help us change things.”
Anakin’s comm buzzed at him. He looked down. “It’s from the council. I’d better take this since it might be new orders.”
He stepped outside, leaving Padmé and Ahsoka alone. There was an awful, tense moment as they watched the door slide shut. Then, Ahsoka relaxed and Padmé realized, abruptly, that the emotion she hadn’t recognized on Ahsoka’s face was fear of Anakin. It made sense, given that he was evil in her world, but there was a nagging feeling just at the back of her mind. All was not well.
“Ahsoka,” Padmé tried to keep her voice level, quiet, so Anakin couldn’t possibly hear her. “You aren’t telling Anakin everything. He hasn’t noticed and I won’t point it out to him if you tell me what it is.”
She hated lying to Anakin, but the safety of the Republic was more important. It had to be more important, or all the time both of them had spent fighting for it meant nothing.
Ahsoka fixed her eyes firmly on the door as if it might open any second and let in a dangerous creature. “I can’t do that, Senator. I’m sorry. I just don’t know you. You shouldn’t trust me either.”
She sounded like Obi-Wan, a little. Padmé wondered if they knew each other well, in the other world. “Well, we don’t have much choice in the matter, do we? Wouldn’t it be easier to keep the secret if you had someone to share it with?”
“How can I trust you to keep the secret when you don’t have a Jedi’s ability to shield yourself in the force? Prying minds could figure out your secrets at any time, if they were good.”
Now that was a stupid argument. “I’ve been keeping secrets from every force user in the Galaxy less one for years. Major secrets. Not a single one of them has even tried to figure me out, that I know of. Jedi and Sith mostly only really care about each other, in my experience. That’s why Anakin is different. He always saw me, not just as part of some mission but as a real person.”
Ahsoka closed her eyes, though a tilt of montrals towards the door let Padmé know she was still keeping watch. “That was what Obi-Wan loved in him too. That he had a capacity for real empathy.”
Obi-Wan was a good sort, but very much a Jedi. “I didn’t realize he’d picked up on that.”
Her voice was short, grim. “I think losing him probably helped.”
She’d almost successfully distracted Padmé. It was a good try, but in both universes, Ahsoka was just a girl and Padmé was a Senator who’d been a Queen. “You tell me, or I tell Anakin. Those are your choices. Now.”
Ahsoka opened her eyes and met Padmé’s. There was an unfamiliar coldness in them that said ‘fine’ and ‘be like that’. “The Chancellor is the Sith Lord,” she said. “If my guesswork and the information from my universe is right, he’s been grooming Anakin since he was a child. If we tell him, he will choose the Chancellor over us and all of this will have been for nothing. I think–”
She cut herself off half a second before the door slid back open. Anakin did not look happy. “Change of plans,” he said, looking at Ahsoka. “You’re not coming with us to Mon Cala after all.”
That didn’t make any sense. “But she’s your Padawan. Doesn’t she need to stay with you?”
Both Jedi shook their heads. Anakin said, “she’s a Commander, so no, she doesn’t. But in any case, she’ll be in the care of a Jedi anyways. Master Ti has requested your presence on Kamino. You’re to bring with you any injured clones, and I’m sending Rex too, for good measure. No, I don’t know why she needs anyone, or why it’s you, specifically.”
“That’s really weird,” Ahsoka said, making an effort to seem confused, and if Padmé didn’t know that she was keeping terrible secrets from Anakin, that they were both keeping terrible secrets from Anakin, she might almost have believed her.
I promise, this story isn’t abandoned! Everything has just been a damn cluster fuck!
Chapter 11: Parallel Ahsoka Tano
Ahsoka visits Kamino, and talks to a too-often underestimated Jedi Master.
CW/TW: discussion of grief/morning and past character death (Parallel!Kit Fisto)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
PARARLLEL AHSOKA TANO, KAMINO, PRESENT
Master Ti met them on the landing platform. The rain cascaded off an invisible shield around her. It was a petty, insignificant use of the force, and a dangerous reminder that Shaak Ti was not a Jedi to be underestimated. It was easier seeing her than it had been seeing Master Plo, and far, far easier than the potential of meeting this world’s Kit Fisto. That had been such a torture that her first reaction to being summoned away from their mission was one of pure relief. Her second had been one of pure terror. Then, when they’d actually told her what she was supposed to do, she’d been relieved again.
“The body was exactly where you said it would be, Master Ti. As was his lightsaber.” As a ritual, she handed the blade, hilt first, to Master Ti.
Surrounded by clones, they walked into the blessed dry. Not everyone had her uncanny connection to the force, and Ahsoka didn’t like the heavy, ceaseless rains of Kamino. Master Ti and the Kaminoans led them back to the same conference room where Ahsoka had received her mission a week earlier. A solo mission, like a real Jedi. Even if Rex, who Ahsoka was increasingly beginning to realize loved this Ahsoka much the same as Wolffe and Monnk and their brothers had always loved her – had been there, it was still a real proper solo mission. And it had gone well. Of course, it helped that Ahsoka had been on this same mission before. This Ahsoka had much more freedom than she did, to command and lead and try things, and obviously had much more experience than she did. Without the crutch of her memories of retrieving Master Sifo-Dyas’s body the first time, Ahsoka didn’t think she could have done this alone. Obviously they trusted the other Ahsoka enough to let her do it. She imagined that, back in her own world, the other Ahsoka was suffocating under the watchful eyes of Obi-Wan and Master Dooku. They were far more cautious than Anakin and his fellows, at least when it came to the safety of their Padawans. But then, they’d both learned from terrible, brutal experience.
“I’m glad to hear that, Padawan Tano, Master Sifo-Dyas was a great Jedi in his time, and it will do the order well to remember him. I always wondered whether he had left us, or was off pursuing some great purpose.” She sat at the head of the table and looked out at the rest of the room. “Thank you all for escorting us, and to those of you who accompanied Padawan Tano on her solo mission. However, we have private matters to discuss.”
Ahsoka thanked them all too, and, as they filed from the room, said to Master Ti, “I’m sorry it turned out that Dooku killed him, Master.”
She sat just at the elder Togruta’s side, the slight curve of the table meaning they could turn and face each other without contorting awkwardly.
Anakin had told her that this Ahsoka wasn’t close to Master Ti the way she was, but she didn’t really know what that meant. Did it mean she didn’t know much about her, or did it just mean that this Ahsoka hadn’t sobbed into Master Ti’s lekku with a dead Akul in front of her and the realization that Master Kit was never coming back finally, finally sinking in? Certainly the latter, but quite possibly the former too.
Master Ti took a strange device out of her robes and set it down on the table between them. It was a signal jammer, Ahsoka realized abruptly. As she flicked the switch, a camera on one of the walls whirred unhappily for a moment before shuttering off. So, they were being watched then, and not with any particular subtlety.
“The Kaminoans almost certainly can replace the camera,” Master Ti explained, “and they won’t do anything with it as long as we remain their clients.”
She understood well the value they placed on contracts, but Ahsoka knew from experience that wasn’t how it worked. “Only, we aren’t their clients, are we Master Ti? The Senate is. Master Sifo-Dyas was only a broker.”
The Chancellor is, personally. Ahsoka corrected to herself. He’s a Sith Lord and only Padmé Amidala and I know. Ahsoka’s thoughts were tinged with bitterness. Even of the Separatists, only Dooku knows. There was a loneliness that came from keeping such secrets, although Anakin’s reaction every time they discussed Palpatine was reminder enough of why they had to. Even his own wife had seen how thoroughly he’d been manipulated. Ahsoka was immeasurably grateful that Padmé Amidala was as clever, strategic and good as all the speeches in the Senate and weepy memorials had always said. Dooku thought it was all just an opportunistic power grab from Organa and the Naboo, which she was going to tease him mercilessly about if they ever saw each other again.
There was a lot Ahsoka had to say to Master Dooku if she ever saw him again, most of which was going to be hugging him even though he hated that sort of thing, and thanking him a thousand times for all his lessons on politics and strategy and swordplay. Master Kit had taught her to be a good Jedi, to smile while she worked and see duty as its own reward, and Obi-Wan had taught her to be brave, indomitable, to learn from the code and then throw it out the window to do the right thing. Ti had taught her that a Jedi was not made lesser by their grief, and Bant had taught her what it felt like to be loved as an equal. But none of those lessons could save her. Dooku had taught her to be cunning, elegant and clever and selfish at times. His instinct had stayed her tongue from telling Anakin at the beginning, which she was now sure had protected her from being revealed immediately to the Sith.
“Very true, Padawan Tano.” Master Ti said, switching to speaking Togruta. At Ahsoka’s confusion, she elaborated, “nobody here speaks it. If someone, somehow, gets to be listening despite our efforts, I would like to make them jump through as many hoops as possible.”
That seemed reasonable enough. In the same language, Ahsoka said, “the force doesn’t suggest to me that anyone is listening, but it’s sometimes… broken, when I try and do that sort of thing.” It wasn’t the word she wanted, but it was the word she had on hand. Although it was her first language, years in the Temple had robbed her of many more adult words. Only her time spent with Master Ti on Shili and later in the Temple had given her back so much of the language.
“Unable,” Master Ti suggested, in her teaching voice, “or that you yourself are unrefined in the art. But I sense nothing either, which bodes well enough.”
Ahsoka always felt more comfortable knowing that nobody was listening in, but that would be out of character for the other Ahsoka, she suspected, and it didn’t explain why Master Ti had suddenly decided to become paranoid. “What’s wrong, Master?”
She folded her hands delicately on the plain grey conference table and met Ahsoka’s eyes. Master Ti was, in all universes, very elegant. If Ahsoka could be half the Togruta that she was at the same age, she would have done very well for herself indeed. Teacher and Huntress and Matriarch of a clan with a thousand, thousand sons. Shaak Ti was all the things their people could have found admirable. Ahsoka didn’t look away, which was probably out of character but she didn’t care.
Master Ti said, “I don’t recall telling you that Dooku killed him, Padawan Tano. But then, I suppose that since you told me, it would have been unnecessary.”
Sithspit. “How did you know it was me?”
Obi-Wan had once warned Ahsoka that Master Ti was one of the most cunning of the Jedi, but she’d never taken the suggestion too seriously until this very moment. After all, cunning was supposed to be the sort of Senators did in their games, not omniscience like Master Ti was demonstrating.
“I traced the call to Coruscant. Whoever made it was young and sounded female. They’d also recently been in contact with Count Dooku. I received a report on your and Knight Skywalker’s recent contact with him. Something about it seemed off. Anakin Skywalker wouldn’t abandon a critical war aim just because his Padawan had a minor concussion. So, I had a… friend on Coruscant ask around about a young Togruta buying anonymous comms within the window you were at the Temple. All information is for sale on Coruscant, for the right price.”
Dooku had taught her that. Stupid, stupid, stupid. She should have paid to have the call rerouted to another world. Manadalore, maybe, since they were non-combatants. Or, if she had been able to find the money, somewhere further afield. Serenno, ideally. Someone on Coruscant would have sold that.
“I didn’t tell you a lie, Master Ti.”
There was such strong disbelief on her face that Ahsoka almost laughed from the awkwardness of the situation. It was all so awful. “In that case, would you like to tell me who the Sith Master killed?”
Oh, right, that. “I wouldn’t like to, but I’d tell it.” Something about that grammar wasn’t right but Master Ti didn’t say anything.
“Who?” Ti asked. Her hands remained folded on the table. She must have been very confident not to bother placing one on her lightsaber, and rightly so. Ahsoka was learning a lot from Master Dooku and Obi-Wan, and had learned a great deal from Master Kit, but that didn’t make her anywhere close to a true Master like Shaak Ti.
“My first Master, in a different life.” That got a reaction. Master Ti’s form stiffened. “In the last days of the war, he fought Darth Sidious and his student, and died for it. Six months later, while I was training in the Temple on Coruscant, I fell unconscious and woke up in this… jungle.”
“Universe,” Ti gave her the word, which literally meant something more like sphere. “You are saying you are from not a different time but a different –something- than this one?”
“A different what?”
“Reality,” she said, in Basic, and repeated the word back. “You’re alleging you’re from a different reality, where decisions progressed differently. What changed?”
She’d already told different parts of the truth to different people, Anakin who knew about himself and Master Plo who knew about the order and Master Nu who knew to break the order and Padmé Amidala who knew about the Sith lord. Now she would craft a different version again. “Padmé Amidala died on Geonosis. A ripple effect returned Master Dooku to the light. I remembered where to find the body from when I first retrieved it, with my Master.”
She wasn’t going to say that Anakin hadn’t trained her unless it came up. This Master Ti might not believe in redemption the way hers did.
“And how will you prove it?”
She would have shown her Master Ti, no questions asked, but this woman wasn’t her Master. “I speak more of this language than she does. I know lightsaber forms she doesn’t. I knew where to find the body.”
She leaned in close to Ahsoka. “All of that could be explained by your lying, Padawan. You could be turning to the dark side.”
Maybe, but if she let Master Ti know about Anakin, she wouldn’t trust him and that would be death just as surely. In her world, Shaak Ti had been a reformer, yes, but one who always thought more about the clones and the attachment doctrine than she did about other code violations and darksider redemption.
“After my Master died, you brought me to Shili to hunt and become a woman. To grieve. It’s why I speak more than she does; you taught me. When I was there, you told me about your first Padawans, about what happened to them. You taught me that as a Togruta and a Jedi, I would have to find a way to not take sides while still having a clan and clan-love. You said you had often failed at it, but you believed that I could learn to be better because there were so many Jedi who loved me, and it was the first time anyone in the order ever said that word about me before.” Her heart clenched at the memory. “I knew that Bant and Master Kit and Master Plo loved me. At least, that they treated me good, but you were the person who first taught me that no matter what we say, Jedi can love. I never forgot that you told me that Kit loved me, because I knew he was never going to have a chance to say it and it meant-”
She hadn’t meant to say all of that, but it just sort of slipped out as her memories got the best of her. Dooku would have been disappointed.
Master Ti took one of her hands, steadying it. It wasn’t the first time, but it was the first time for this Master Ti, and that mattered. It really, really mattered. In any life, Shaak Ti would not lie to a child. If she was offering sympathy, it was genuine.
“I can see that Kit would be a fine match for you,” she said, gently. “They should not insist on giving Skywalker such responsibilities as they do. Chosen one or not, he is still too young for any of this.”
Though she had only known him for a couple weeks, Ahsoka felt compelled to defend Skywalker. Her other self would have. “Skywalker did his best.”
The elder Jedi gave her a sad smile. “I know, Padawan, but sometimes our best isn’t enough. You know what happened to my apprentices, after all.”
They’d both died, Ahsoka knew. She couldn’t imagine losing something like that and just… carrying on. “That doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter, Master.” She didn’t have the words to say it, so she switched back to basic. “The fact the he tries to protect her, that he was willing to protect me even though I’m a stranger, shows that he’s a better Jedi than those fools who thought that the best course to train a child with no support network to speak of was to send him away with a newly minted knight and isolate them from the established structures by saying that training the boy was forbidden at all.” She’d slipped back into basic. She didn’t know the words in Togruta for this.
Master Ti’s smile shifted into a grin. “You sound like you’re speaking with a great deal of thought put into the matter, Padawan.”
“Well, one of the best Masters in the order helped me understand the ways in which it was flawed, Master Ti.”
Peace settled between them, Ahsoka shared what she could of her own life story without revealing that Anakin had fallen. Although Master Ti seemed to worry about him, she thought that was more a concern over his competence and arrogance than over making sure he was well. Besides, it would have been a betrayal of this Anakin’s trust to do something like that unilaterally. She mostly talked about how the troopers had been forced by their chips to act against their Jedi, about how nobody in her world trusted the Kaminoans to really treat them like people.
“But there is a surgery to remove it?” Ti asked. She’d sat down against the wall, legs crossed and hands on her knees. It felt strange to look down on her.
“Yeah, but if we do that all at once, the Sith will notice and activate it in the rest. We need a way to begin removing it covertly, from every one of them.” If this hadn’t worked, she had been planning to ask Rex to see about spreading the word covertly among his brothers. But if Anakin, a Jedi, had been so thoroughly brainwashed as to believe a Sith lord his friend, surely he hadn’t neglected to create fail-safes against the clones removing their chips. Like the rumour that the clones would be violent without it. Her Wolffe had told her about that, about how afraid he had been of the person he would be without it.
“But you’re just a person,” Ahsoka remembered arguing with him. That was before Kit had taken her on, in the very early days of the war when she’d spent all the time she could with Master Plo, desperate to convince him to take her on before she was sent to the corps.
Wolffe had nodded seriously. “I know that now. But they told us we weren’t and I believed them. General Koon convinced me otherwise. They’d always told us to trust the Jedi and I trusted him more than I trusted myself. Even after I saw what they could force us to do, after they almost forced us to kill him, he always treated me as a person.” She hadn’t understood then, what they meant to each other, but she thought that she did now.
Oh, of course. “If a Jedi tells them to do it, they’ll agree. If we can spread it covertly across the order, we can take them out one clone at the time. In my world, the Sith didn’t use it except when they were in immediate danger of the Master being captured by the Council. We might have months to save the clones before he acts.”
“So you do know who he is then. I had wondered.” Master Ti looked up at her with clever eyes. “It’s someone you know, isn’t it? Someone we would think is a friend.”
“If I tell you that, then word will eventually reach his ears. If it does a second before we’re ready, all of this will come crashing down.”
She stood. “You are right, much as I dislike it.” Master Ti seemed confident, regal. “Spread the word among your men. If we distrust the Kaminoans then I can do little here. I will spread the word to the order as I can. They will keep it silent if I tell them we are attempting to trace a leak within the order.”
It was a decent scheme, but, “what if we can’t trust everyone in the order to keep it from the Sith Lord?”
Ti paused. “Who can’t we tell, Tano?”
It hurt her to say it, but she had to anyhow. “Anakin. You can’t tell Anakin. You need to help me convince Rex to have the surgery performed on the men without telling him. The Sith observes Anakin more closely than any other Jedi. Maybe because he’s the chosen one, maybe because we’ve left him vulnerable. There may be others, but he is the only one I know about.”
“That makes sense,” Ti said, nodding slightly. “I’ve always thought Skywalker wasn’t ready to be left alone with all this responsibility. I mean that as no slight; I was not ready to be a true leader until I was twice his age.”
It was easy to forget that Anakin was, to most of the other Jedi, a child. A powerful, dangerous child who would have been offended by the idea, but a child nonetheless. Maybe that was something Ahsoka could use in his defence.
“Exactly. He’s trying to do the right thing, but the order has never him the tools to do so. He needs a broader support network. More people in the order he feels that he can trust. You raised your apprentices by hand, you understand that even Jedi children are children. When those children are raised as slaves, that doesn’t go away just because we’ve said it should.”
“You’ve thought about this a great deal.”
Actually, everyone else had thought about it a lot. Ahsoka had just learned from them. “Anakin deserves it. If nobody else in this world is going to see to it, then I will.”
Master Ti’s hand landed on her shoulder. “You don’t have to worry about it, Padawan Tano. I believe you.”
“You’ll see to it, that the clones are looked after?” It would be such a weight off her shoulders to see them safe.
“I’ll tell Captain Rex tonight, and put the word out to a select few Jedi tomorrow. Those who I know best to care for their troopers. Master Koon, for example.” She paused, no doubt taking in the blatant relief on Ahsoka’s face. “Now, I want to know everything of your story, of how you came to be here, but if I keep their camera off too long, they will assume I’m up to something significant. I suggest we move to less suspicious behavior. Would you be willing to show me your lightsaber technique?”
That she could very much do. “I hope you don’t mind the second form. Master Dooku’s almost converted me into using it practically.”
She smiled. “I don’t mind, provided you’re skilled at it.”
“I hope to be.”
*claps excitedly* I’m getting into the fun part now. Next week: regular-Ahsoka arrives in the Eedit temple.
Chapter 12: Ahsoka
Ahsoka arrives at the Eedit temple, and starts to get used to the peace of this galaxy. Somehow, that hurts too.
In this chapter I extrapolate from some canonical information and mix it in with some of my own bullshit. I’ve forgotten which is which, but all of it is canon for this story so shhh.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
AHSOKA TANO, PARALLEL DEVARON, PRESENT
The Eedit temple was unoccupied when they arrived. Dooku insisted that they divide up into pairs and search the building to ensure they were completely alone. Ahsoka thought he probably just wanted to get away from Obi-Wan. Although they were calmer around each other than they pretended to be for the council’s benefit, there was always a pain that kept them apart. Two, really. Anakin and Master Jinn. A dead Padawan each.
It was nice to be off their small ship, a more confined space than Ahsoka, who normally travelled with the entire 501st, was used to. And nicer still to be on Eedit, a jungle world with all the heat and humidity that she missed when she was in spaces that were climate controlled for humans. Obi-Wan was sweating the second they stepped outside, and Dooku too, in his thick black robes. Unfortunately, since Dooku was a Master and Obi-Wan just a knight, they had little choice about the fact that Dooku and Asajj got to search inside. Well, Obi-Wan had little choice. Ahsoka was very pleased by the fact that she was free to move around as herself, without anyone watching who didn’t know who she was, for the first time since she’d arrive. With a running start and a push of the force, she leapt up onto the high walls that surrounded the temple.
To her shock, Obi-Wan landed a half-second behind her, laughing a little as he pushed hair out of his face. “You really are Anakin’s Padawan. Can’t even search the perimeter without trouble!”
She laughed, too. “What trouble? This temple has only been abandoned for a couple months, and the last people were called back to Coruscant without anything bad happening to them.” She stretched out her body and her presence in the force with it. “Race you ‘round the temple.”
Obi-Wan seemed to consider, sweat beading on his brow. Then suddenly, brown outer robes falling to the ground, he was off. Ahsoka shot after him, enjoying the pounding of her feet, the whipping by of the jungle beside them. The sun beating down on her skin. It was an easy freedom she hadn’t really felt since the war started.
Obi-Wan skidded to a halt so suddenly that Ahsoka almost ran straight into him. He reached down and picked up an empty, unmarked bottle. Twisting off the cap, he took a whiff and grimaced.
“One of our predecessors,” he said, “has some very much illegal preferences.”
It was the sort of code violation that was easily forgiven, not like falling in love or caring about your friends. Those were unconscionable. This was merely unethical.
The moment broken, Ahsoka said, “should we… tell someone?” Her heart really wasn’t in it.
Obi-Wan shrugged. “I would not. I admit, it is unexpected, but hardly indication of some greater crime.”
This time, Ahsoka moved to run first. Obi-Wan’s legs were longer, and he was using the force more, she could tell, but that didn’t make him a match for someone born to live in these conditions. Ahsoka stopped where his outer robes lay tangled on the ground, and, nursing a stitch in her side, watched Obi-Wan finish the race with the bottle still in hand. His hair was plastered to his head in clumps, and there were tears in his eyes.
“Are you alright?” She asked him.
Obi-Wan shrugged, and then shook his head. “My Ahsoka is… much more serious about her work. I haven’t been asked to run a race like that since Anakin was… twelve? Thirteen?” He smiled despite it all. “Thank you.”
“You don’t need to thank me for beating you.”
That made him laugh, too, and they finished their patrol, walking once inside the walls and once on the ground beside them in good spirits.
“Like the Temple on Coruscant,” Master Dooku said, in the first of their lessons on Devaron, “The Eedit Temple is the site of a vergence in the force. You both felt this as we approached, yes?”
Ahsoka and Asajj both nodded. It would have been hard to miss, that singing swell of the light. Although she’d never visited Devaron before, it had felt almost familiar, like an old friend.
“Good. Now, vergence is a commonly used term in discussions of the force, but few Jedi pause to seriously consider what it actually means. The Sith do no better, if you were wondering. Both sides take this remarkable phenomenon for granted.”
He had pulled up a map of the galaxy. Across thousands of worlds, a few points blazed bright. “These are all the vergences in the force that are attached to a place the Jedi currently know about.” More appeared. “These are the vergences known to the Sith that I have been attempting to have the council recognize for months. You will note that in almost all cases, the location of vergences, also called nexuses, are close to the locations of temples or the sites of important historical events. That is not true of these vergences.” The map shifted again. “But we might logically interpret that there were at one stage more events or temples that we don’t know about.”
Asajj put her hand up. “Are the vergences there before the historical events and temples, or do they follow after?”
“Well reasoned, Padawan. Scholarship is divided on this matter. In the cases of the temples, we have records suggesting they were located specifically due to their respective vergences. On the other hand, sites of significant historical battles seem highly… coincidental, if so. Perhaps one might extrapolate that important events also happened at the sites of temple vergences, ones that, after millennia, we have forgotten about. But that fails to take into account the other aspects of vergences: those centered on people and objects. Vergences on objects are known to appear after the artifact has already been in use for some time, suggesting that perhaps vergences on places where significant events occurred are the same, while vergences on people tell a very different story. These are closely tied to the presence of midichlorians in the user, and, currently, the only example I know of within living memory is that of Anakin Skywalker.”
No wonder Obi-Wan had chosen to walk into Tikaroo today rather than listen to Dooku’s lecture. He’d said he wanted to listen to the local gossip, but it had hardly seemed like an honest reason.
“Was it a light or dark vergence?” Ahsoka wondered how she’d never noticed that his presence in the force was different than other people’s.
Dooku turned to her, face unreadable. “That is a… misconception. There are certainly vergences that are lighter and darker than others, particularly here, in fact. The Eedit vergence is closely associated with healing and even with dark side redemption. The Coruscant vergence is larger and more powerful, but lacks that strength of character. The Lothal vergence, from what I’ve read, is actively unaligned, while the Ilum vergence is, of course, associated with self-actualization and attainment of growth less than with a side of the force. Sith vergences are more likely to be dark than Jedi vergences are to be light, which probably is not an accident. The Sith are even worse at acknowledging that the force is more than light or dark than the Jedi are.”
Asajj was nodding along, as if she’d already seen all of this and understood everything. “So a vergence in a person wouldn’t be light or dark, it would just be them.”
The council would have said that people were light or dark, but they were wrong about that, too. Because her Anakin wasn’t a Sith, and this Dooku wasn’t a monster.
“Exactly, Asajj. Very well done.”
Ahsoka put her hand up. “You said that vergences in people mean higher midichlorians, right? Does that mean that places have midichlorians, too? Is that what causes vergences?”
That made him smile. “We tend to use the word midichlorians specifically in measuring the force as it applies to people, but since they are the force and the force is in everything… yes, places do have midichlorians. We don’t have reliable metrics to test that the way we can in people, but you can feel power here, or on Coruscant. Asajj, Padawan Tano and I were exposed to the Coruscant vergence as children too young to really remember, and without any training to speak of. Perhaps you can tell us what seeing your first vergence feels like.”
“I can,” she agreed, but then there was a pause as if she had not the words. “The Coruscant vergence is harder than this one. Coming here felt like sinking into warm water. The Coruscant vergence is hot too, but it is the heat of the sun. It feels like it could burn you if you stay to long, as if it would obliterate you to touch it. I got used to the heat, after a while. Then it made me feel strong.”
“Thank you,” Dooku said. Though he had paced in front of them during his lecture, he stopped now to put a hand on Asajj’s shoulder. That made his Padawan smile, and Ahsoka too, just to see them both happy. It surprised her, how deeply she had come to care for these strange people in such a short time. She still missed her family, her Anakin and Rex and Barriss and everyone, but she knew that going home she would miss these people too. Not just because she knew now that Ventress and Count Dooku could have been different, but for themselves. Because they were people whose presence made her life better.
Regaining his normal severity, Dooku instructed, “vergences are often treated by Jedi as though they have mystic properties. First and foremost, this occurs because of their association with destiny, that since important things have happened at vergences in the past, which therefore means that they will in the future. The other reason is because of the strong feelings they can cause. It is what some among us might call a religious experience, especially in a strong vergence like Coruscant or one particularly inclined to a particular outcome. The Eedit vergence is for finding the light in the darkness and for second chances. For new beginnings. Which brings us to my more specific point. Asajj, this is the third vergence you’ve been exposed to as a young adult. Ahsoka, this is at least your fourth, and your third as a young adult. I would like both of you to meditate and perform research on the unique sensations of this vergence, and, when you’ve reached a conclusion or not, express in any way you see fit the significance of this to you. Scientific, historical, academic, artistic, I could not care less, in all fields the Jedi have need for new writing on the subject. So I say begin, in whatever way suits you best.”
Asajj took herself to the library first, for research. Ahsoka wanted to trail along after her, to watch the way her white bangs fell across her face as she read, but Dooku stopped her, with a hand on her shoulder.
“I would know that look anywhere,” he said, “trust me when I say this is something you both need to do for yourselves.”
So instead, Ahsoka went outside and ran laps around the wall until her legs felt like mashed baberries, and her breaths felt sharp. The physicality was something Anakin had taught her. They both found it terrible to be cooped up and meditating too long. For Anakin, he needed mental puzzles, something to take apart and put back together. She needed physical activity in the same way. As she ran, Ahsoka reached out into the force, felt it in every step she took, tasted it in the air she breathed. The vergence was more gentle than on Coruscant or Ilum, but there was something of Anakin about it. Under all the warmth and light and peace, she could taste an iron will that she’d come to associate with her master.
Show me, she thought, into the beating heart of the living force, and felt the symphony of the trees all around her, life in every fiber of the world. Except for the great road that pointed, arrow-straight, up to the steps of the temple, Eedit was entirely surround by life. The wood and the animals, insects and fungi and bacteria. It was not like the life of Coruscant, which was overwhelmingly sentients and bacteria. Nor was it that of Ilum, what little there was on the frozen world. No, that was surely the way in which this was like Anakin. So, so alive. She ran harder, bare feet throbbing painfully against the smooth grey stone.
Life, she thought, that can be the topic of my essay. The Eedit vergence is alive. Thinking about the force in such a way made her feel like a true Jedi, not just a particularly good soldier with a magic sword. A Jedi, with the secrets of the universe at her fingertips.
“Master Obi-Wan?” She asked him, a couple days later when they were done meditating in the courtyard. The vergence was strongest there, and Obi-Wan had been showing her the ways in which it made the lines of the force most closely associated with negative emotion weaker. “Can I ask you a question about Anakin?”
That made the force grow tense, even within the peace of the Eedit Temple. “What is it?” Pain thrummed on his side of their training bond.
She didn’t want to hurt him, but there wasn’t anyone else she could go to with this. “Master Dooku told us that he had a vergence in him, and I was thinking… I think that for me, the vergences, this one in particular, feel alive, and I’ve never met anyone who feels alive the way Anakin does. And I just… I wanted to know if you felt that, too. Or if you could feel the vergence on him at all.”
Obi-Wan’s face was surprisingly open in his grief. In her own world, Ahsoka had never seen any emotion so plain on his face as this. She wished there had been a way for him to feel things openly without losing everything he held dear. “My Master taught me that the Living Force was the source of all that we as Jedi feel in the universe. Where true power originates. He believed that by living each moment separate from the next, a Jedi could attain true greatness. Anakin… Often, Anakin could not do that. He knew fear and loss and starvation too well to live without consideration of the next moment. To be carefree is a privilege. I know that now. But in the moments where he was at peace, or, in the darkness, the moment where he had nothing left to lose… he was so strong, Ahsoka. On either side of the force he was so terribly brilliant.”
It was the first time she had ever truly understood how Anakin could be a scorge in the darkness. With nothing left to lose, unmoored from that which had always constrained him. “So, you could see it, the vergence?”
“Not really,” Obi-Wan admitted. “I’ve always been stronger in the cosmic force. I can see how things are connected, how people and ideas and places are connected. But Master Qui-Gon taught me what he could. He was the one who found the vergence in Anakin. I don’t know if anyone else has ever observed it as clearly as he did.”
There was still that throbbing sadness in him. Ahsoka reached out and put her hand on his arm. “Eedit is for healing, for rebirth. While we’re here we should… talk about him, more. We both have a lot to grieve.”
The other Ahsoka could be dead by now. Anakin could be dead. Dooku and his strange device could be hidden systems away from anywhere anyone had ever cared about any Ahsoka Tano. Ahsoka had a world to grieve, her Anakin only a part of it.
“Yes,” Obi-Wan agreed, sadness beginning to melt beneath a raw and powerful determination. “I would like that.”
The Eedit Temple was about life made new, something which all four of them were living through. For Obi-Wan, life after a terrible grief. For Ahsoka, life in a new world. Together, they worked to build themselves up. Asajj and Master Dooku were building themselves too. For Dooku, his position as the most senior official in the Eedit temple was a responsibility to be taken outside the watchful eyes of Master Yoda and Master Windu. He was rebuilding himself not into the Jedi Master he had once been, but into something better. This was in some ways a culmination of three years of growth. The same could be said for Asajj, who was remaking herself with freedom. She’d become free from the daily struggle of her childhood the second Dooku took her in as a Sith, only to be trapped in the dark. She had become free of the dark to the far lesser prison of being a Jedi Padawan in a painful and rigid system. Now, here, she would be free from that supervision, from the eyes of the temple that always watched to see if she would fall.
Ahsoka and Dooku talked about the theories of lightsaber forms. They practiced with one of Ahsoka’s hands tied behind her, and with both of her hands tied together, and any other impediment she could think of. Ahsoka and Asajj spent hours together, talking and playing games and just existing in shared space. Obi-Wan taught Asajj how to navigate the social mores of the elite on Coruscant and Mandalore. Once, they even ‘hosted a banquet’, with the ‘guests’ of ‘Jedi Tano’ and ‘Master Dooku, Lord of Serenno’. Apparently, even if he’d abdicated the title of count, he could never really give up that bloodline.
“I guess Dooku could teach me about all this stuff too,” Asajj admitted to Ahsoka once, when they were alone, “but the truth is that I can’t approach it the way he does. Dooku was born with the right blood, into the right family. He would be one of them even if he was as forceblind as a rock. Obi-Wan is only one of them because he’s a Jedi. Just like me, this is the only thing that makes him special. He knows secrets of being a Jedi negotiator that Dooku never could.”
Ahsoka bit her tongue, and didn’t tell Asajj that Obi-Wan, in her world, was not just a negotiator but The Negotiator. If Asajj managed to learn how to be half as good as her Obi-Wan was, with Dooku’s skill with a blade, then she would be terrifying indeed. Ahsoka, for one, couldn’t wait to see it.
It was the first time she had ever looked forward to something that could only happen in this world. Quietly, slowly, it broke her heart.
Dooku and Obi-Wan, it turns out, are surprisingly good at co-parenting. It probably helps that after Anakin and Qui-Gon, Asajj and Ahsoka couldn’t be trouble if they /tried/.
Chapter 13: Padmé
Sheev Palpatine really, really picked the wrong woman to go toe to toe with over Anakin Skywalker.
No content warnings.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
PADMÉ AMIDALA, IN ORBIT AROUND MON CALA, PRESENT
Their Mon Calamari mission was a disaster. There wasn’t really a better word for it. Padmé spent most of their time trying to talk their way out of being either killed or sold off to the seperatists. Anakin spent it complaining about the fact that Ahsoka wasn’t there. If she’d been there, he complained, they wouldn’t be in this mess. Ahsoka, of course, was a child, but she was a child with a lightsaber and it certainly couldn’t have hurt their odds to have her.
In the end, Obi-Wan and the 212th had to swoop in and rescue them, a fact which he was never going to let Anakin live down. Ever. Anakin would gripe about it later, after the third or fourth time Obi-Wan teased him, but for now, as they debriefed while Kix stuck a bacta patch over the cut on Padmé’s cheek, he mostly seemed grateful.
“I am very, very glad to see you,” Fisto said. There was a burn from a blaster on one of his tentacles. “But I am curious about why you were put on this mission after Padawan Tano was pulled off of it. We had assumed that meant it was unnecessary to have a third Jedi on the mission.”
Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow. “I wouldn’t know anything about that, but I would say it was, evidently, necessary to have a third Jedi on the mission.”
Anakin’s hands moved nervously on his lap. “So, if Ahsoka was needed here, what was the council thinking by sending her away?”
Padmé could almost hear him thinking, ‘don’t they trust me?’ And, worse, ‘do they know?’
She had to say something before Obi-Wan and Fisto noticed that he was acting strangely. “At least Master Kenobi came when he did. We are all very grateful.” Kix released her, work done, and moved away. “Now, we should discuss what we wrong before you got here. The Senate will want a report about my diplomatic efforts.”
So they discussed it, and didn’t think much more of Ahsoka. Padmé watched Anakin, thinking of the fact that she, alone in all the world, knew that her husband had been the victim of manipulation by a Sith Lord since he was nine years old and not a single person had noticed or done anything about it. Something needed to be done, and she was the only one who could do it.
As Fisto talked about what, in his opinion, could be improved in another attempt at this mission or a mission like it, Padmé began to make a list of her closest allies, people who might be able to help her. Bail Organa was first on the list. Ahsoka had said that in the other world he had become Chancellor after the Sith’s defeat. That meant he had the potential, in a place not unalike this one, to become a true defender of the republic.
Jar-Jar always had to make the list, because of his connections with the Gungans. Palpatine was still a representative of Naboo, and that meant he owed not just the Naboo but also the Gungans his loyalty. Jar-Jar wasn’t good enough at secrets to be told, but she thought he would help her if she could find a way to ask.
“What I’m saying,” Anakin clarified, over something he’d said that was making Fisto tilt his head in confusion, “is that in the future, the Republic should require member worlds that have hereditary monarchies to have a written succession protocol that could be challenged on a legal level, like the protocol of democratic worlds can be. They deserve the best leader same as everyone else.”
Oh, she loved when Anakin got passionate about meritocracy. Even if he was too kind to people with authoritarian tendencies, he always wanted the leader to be the person who was the best at it.
“That’s not really any of our business, Anakin,” Obi-Wan scolded, but knowing him, he was really being as fond as Padmé felt.
“No,” Padmé agreed, “but it is mine.” They all looked at her. “Senator, remember? I’ll make a note of it Knight Skywalker, and see if there’s anything to be done.”
They went back to Jedi business, discussing mission protocol, and Padmé went back to her list.
Mon Mothma was a good sort, if she could find a way to reach out. Satine Kryze and Mandalor wouldn’t be surprised at all to learn that the war was a construct without true moral value. And if she was going to reach out to neutral parties, she could do the same for the Separatists. She doubted they would be happy to learn that their worlds were bleeding for a piece of theatricality between two Sith lords.
And then there was Obi-Wan. He wasn’t an ally of hers, exactly. He was Anakin’s. But if anyone would fight and die to make sure Anakin was safe, she was sure it was him. Whatever Anakin’s fears, Padmé thought that Obi-Wan’s love for him was unconditional. If Anakin was going to be freed from Palpatine, he needed to know that there were other people he could trust, who wouldn’t cast him out for anything. But that was a problem for later. First, she needed to find a way to begin taking down a Sith lord. It was with this in mind that she returned to her quarters and made a call.
“Bail!” Padmé greeted him with false lightness. “How are you?”
He ignored her question, hologram squinting towards her. “What happened to your face?”
Right, injuries. “Separatists. I’m fine, though. Everything is fine.”
“What did you want to talk to me about?”
She clung tightly to the falsehood she’d been thinking about since her meeting. It was very likely that their communications were being monitored. Both she and Bail were used to being paranoid about that sort of thing. It came with their line of work.
“I just wanted to let you know that I’m alright, that the mission went well, and ask how Breha’s doing back home.” That was their code for ‘this communication is being monitored/code to follow.’
“She’s well, although I miss her as usual.” Heard and received. “She wishes I could be there more often. We have enough trouble trying to conceive without being lightyears away.” That was truth, not code.
“I’m sorry, Bail. You know if you ever need someone to talk to, I’m here.”
“Thank you. I’m glad.”
How to work other code into their conversation? “I’ve been thinking of taking some time back home myself.” ‘taking some time’ was ‘in danger’, which would have to do. They didn’t have the words to express what was really happening. “I haven’t spent much time there since before the war started, when I was with Knight Skywalker. Only now if I were to take some time, I suppose I would still need him for protection, and he would have to bring his Padawan, Ahsoka. She certainly could use some time away from the war. She’s only a girl.”
There, now Bail knew that whatever situation she’d gotten herself into, it was big enough to threaten Anakin too, and he knew Ahsoka was involved, somehow.
“What brought this on? You’ve always been dedicated to the cause of democracy.” He had her back.
“I love the senate, don’t misunderstand me, but it is a great deal of work, especially when you represent the same world as the chancellor.”
Hopefully, despite the lack of code, Bail would appreciate how odd it was that Padmé would bring him into this. If he picked up on that, he might realize she was trying to warn him about Palpatine.
“I can imagine. Is there anything I can do to help?”
“No, just keep serving our people.” Keep your head down. “Enjoy life.” Look for more information. “Even Chancellor Palpatine must find time to relax somehow. I don’t think he ever takes any time back on Naboo. Especially not during the war.”
She’d muddled the code a little, but the faint horror in Bail’s eyes mean enough of it had gone through for him to understand that they were in real, tangible danger. And that the source was Palpatine himself.
“You’re right,” Bail said, voice calm. “I’ll give Breha your love. You give mine to your sister, of course, and Jar Jar.”
He was setting her up. “By the way, I’m thinking of inviting Representative Binks to a dinner party in a few weeks, would you like to join us?”
Inviting Jar Jar was code for ‘something is about to go very wrong’.
“Of course. Tell me when he’s coming, and I’ll be there.”
Bail was a good friend.
One matter addressed, all Padmé had to do was wait until Anakin had a moment to himself, and came to find her. She kissed him, taking advantage of the privacy they had to let her fingers trace the lines of his body, to press inquisitively at his injuries.
“I’ll be fine, Angel,” he said, dismissively. “I was only really worried about you.”
Of course he was, because that was Anakin. He cared about everybody more than himself. Whether he’d learned that from Shmi or Obi-Wan, she didn’t know.
“I was worried about you, too.”
He kissed her again, and in it there was a promise of the future they were both willing to die for, but neither willing to lose the other for. Of course, there was more than one way to lose a person.
“Ani, can we talk about something?” It was going to be one of the hardest things she’d ever asked of him.
“Sure.” He perched on the edge of the table, with a carefully constructed carelessness that was absolutely adorable.
“I’ve been thinking.” She looked down at her hands. It was easier not to look at him, and it let him know a fraction of the fear she’d been hiding ever since Ahsoka told her the truth. “What Ahsoka said, about her world…”
Anakin leaned over to take on of her hands in his. “I’ll never let that happen, Angel. I swear on my life I will never.” She didn’t know if he meant her dying or him falling.
“I know. But what she said about it made me think: if Dooku was legitimately trying to kill me for his own benefit, not just trying to earn the support of the trade federation, then his Master must have ordered the attempts. And it got me thinking: why? And only two things really happened directly as a result of Dooku trying to kill me that plausibly could have been predicted. One was entrusting the Chancellor with emergency powers. I wouldn’t have done what Jar Jar did in the Senate. The other was sending the two of us to Naboo. Alone.”
Anakin was staring at her. “Well, the Chancellor has done a good job opposing the Separatists with his powers. But that means… you think the Sith were trying to give us a romantic getaway?”
Well when he put it like that… “I think the Sith were trying to drive a wedge between you and the Order. Because you’re one of the only people in the Galaxy powerful enough to stop them, and if you can’t trust the Jedi with everything, then it allows them more room to manoeuver.”
“Sithspit.” There was awe in his voice. “I do love your brain. But I hate the idea that this could be used for evil. There’s nothing evil about this.”
She raised a hand to cut him off. “But, I think they miscalculated. The Sith didn’t believe that you can balance your duties with your relationship, which you can, because we just did a mission together and none of the ways it went wrong were because we aren’t able to work together. They also didn’t believe the Jedi order would have enough tolerance to accept that there are different ways of being light in the force, but if Ahsoka is to be believed, Obi-Wan was willing to forgive you for actually becoming a Sith, so I find it pretty hard to believe that he would be angry at you over this.”
“Ahsoka didn’t exactly say that.”
Well, no, not quite, but, “Obi-Wan, in a universe where your first decade together was exactly the same, loves you so much that his Padawan, who never even met you, trusts you implicitly and is trying to protect you. I think his feelings are self-evident.”
Anakin’s cheeks flushed with embarrassment, as if there was something shameful about being loved by your closest and oldest friend. Jedi.
“So what are you suggesting? That we tell him about… all of this?”
“That wouldn’t be fair to Ahsoka. Not until she gets back. You promised not to tell anyone else.” Padmé promised no such thing. “Why don’t we just… start by telling him about us, and work at it from there?”
That got a slight smile from him. “Okay. I can do that.”
In her head, Padmé marked the score. Padmé: One. Sheev Palpatine, Lord of the Sith: Zero.
I love Bail Organa. Also you can’t tell me him and Padmé and some of the other Senators weren’t used to being spied on, and acted accordingly. Next week: Obi-Wan
Chapter 14: Obi-Wan
Obi-Wan learns a few too many secrets for comfort.
TW/CW: mentions of past character death, mentions of psychological grooming of a child (non-sexual)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
OBI-WAN KENOBI, EN ROUTE TO CORUSCANT, PRESENT
Obi-Wan knew something was wrong the second that Shaak Ti’s holomeeting request came in. To start with, it was so heavily classified that he had to actually get into a one-man ship and take the call there. Even being in the same ship as someone who wasn’t on the Jedi council would have been a breach in protocol. It was a classification of security he’d used exactly never, and he really, really didn’t like it.
Her face buzzed into focus above his controls, the only thing to look at beside the wide-open galaxy. Oh, he was going to have to wipe R4’s memory after this, wasn’t he? Sithspit.
“Obi-Wan. I’m sorry to go to all this trouble, but this is… perhaps the most serious news you will ever learn to change your understanding of this war.”
“Please.” Anakin had wanted to meet with him this morning. He’d blown him off to talk to Shaak instead.
“Your troopers – all the troopers – have inhibitor chips in their heads, like droids. Installed by the Kaminoans. But they were not ordered to be placed there by us. I believe Dooku placed that order. In fact, he murdered Sifo-Dyas and was overseeing the Kaminoans and their activities until you discovered them.”
Oh force, he was going to puke. “What do they do?”
“They have an override code the Sith can use to rob the clones of their free will. The catch is that if we remove them en-mass, the Sith will activate it, and do terrible harm to all those who remain. In addition, the clones themselves have been conditioned to believe they will be dangerous without them. We have no reason to believe this is true. I’m sending you the description of the procedure used to remove them. Your task is to see it done. Subtly. Tell your troopers as you need to, but do not breathe a word of it to anyone else. Not even another Jedi. Not even your former Padawan. In particular, not your former Padawan. My sources suggest the Sith is observing him particularly closely. For this reason, I am having his troopers dealt with by a third party.” Ahsoka, which is why she wasn’t on Mon Cala. Of course. Because she couldn’t receive an encoded transmission like Obi-Wan had without arousing suspiscion. “One of the other Masters I’ve spoken to has begun work on a design for an electronic interrupter that will kill the chips without surgical intervention. If their work is successful, I’ll forward that information to you.”
“Who else knows?”
She gave him a sad smile. “Sorry, Obi-Wan. When I believe that we’re safe, I’ll give you the all clear on discussing this. For now… look after your men. I’m trusting the Jedi who are most likely to care about that first and foremost.”
Himself, Plo Koon, Mace Windu, Aayla Secura. Anakin should have been among their number. “Shaak – are you safe, on Kamino? Do the Kaminoans know that you know?”
Her shoulders briefly came into view as she shrugged. “Whatever will be, will be. Any good Jedi would stay where I am in service of their people. Any good Togruta would do the same, in service of her clan.”
“Look after yourself,” he said, although he knew it was pointless, “may the Force be with you.”
Nodding her head at him, Shaak said, “For all my gripes – which as you know have been legion – you have the beginnings of a good lineage, Obi-Wan. I think Qui-Gon would be very proud. May the Force be with you.”
Other than Dooku, who had been known on occasion to bring up the one link between them, people rarely spoke of Qui-Gon anymore. “Thank you.”
Cody. He had to tell Cody first. As Shaak Ti signed off, and the directions for the surgery began to download, Obi-Wan allowed himself a single moment of piercing anger. This never should have happened. It never should have been allowed to happen. They knew Dooku was involved with the Kaminoans, and they knew Jango Fett wasn’t to be trusted, and they knew that the troopers didn’t trust themselves. But to be a Jedi was to let go of that anger. It would do him no good, and, more importantly, it would do his men no good. His men. They needed him. He needed to protect them, to convince them.
He went to see Anakin first, turning the words he was going to say to Cody over and over in his head. He’d start with telling Cody he trusted him implicitly. Then, he’d move on to explaining what Shaak had told him, tell Cody that it would be his choice whether to go under the knife, because his freedom to make his own choices was the whole point of this anyways. Tell Cody… no, that was silly. Also, really not the time.
“–and so I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that Padmé and I are married, and have been since the start of the war, and I’m sorry I didn’t say anything sooner.”
Obi-Wan mentally reviewed the last few lines of the conversation, where Anakin had been talking about duty, and honour, and the Jedi code. “What?”
He turned red. “Married. Me and Padmé. I didn’t tell you because I was scared and I’m sorry.”
It was obvious to Obi-Wan that he’d been rehearsing to say he was scared. Anakin was never so open. Padmé had probably helped script the confession, or tried to. “Who else knows?”
“Artoo and Threepio.”
Those droids. Always the droids, unless it was Jar Jar. “You’re always so worried about having Artoo captured. You keep other sensitive information on him to layer over that?”
Anakin didn’t take his eyes off the ground. “Are you going to tell the council?”
Was he going to tell the council? He should. The conflict of interest alone, leaving aside the concern with attachment, was overwhelming. But, on the other hand, it was Anakin, and Padmé, and Obi-Wan would be a liar if he said he’d never loved anyone. Not to this extent, but more than some of their colleagues ever could have accepted. Qui-Gon would have said the code wasn’t the definition of a Jedi, the council wasn’t the definition of a Jedi. The Force was.
Anakin fidgeted nervously, fingers moving as if they itched for something to do. “What happens now?”
Now, I go stand in my room and scream, Obi-Wan thought, to himself. Aloud, he said, “now the war, Anakin. Same thing tomorrow, and the day after that.”
Three hours later, after a long, serious conversation with Cody where Obi-Wan managed to avoid making a love confession to his subordinate – by the skin of his teeth – the day was almost starting to look up. Then Padmé cornered him.
“If this is about Anakin,” he said, as she checked the room thoroughly for bugs, “I already told him I have no intention of telling the council.”
She looked up, and Obi-Wan realized by her serious that he was speaking not to Padmé, but to Senator Amidala.
“Actually, I came to you about Ahsoka. You may not have noticed, since she went to Kamino before you arrived, but you certainly will when you see her next. In their last confrontation with Dooku, she was swapped with a version of herself from an alternate timeline where I’m dead, Anakin is a Sith, and you’re her master. I’m telling you this now because I need your help. Ahsoka confided something in me which she hasn’t told Anakin: Palpatine is the Sith. He’s been manipulating Anakin for years. Grooming him to try and make a perfect apprentice.”
This time, Obi-Wan really was going to throw up. It was a far worse failure again than their choices around the troopers, and this time, it was entirely Obi-Wan’s fault. He tried to regulate his breathing as if he was meditating. “We need – I need to tell Master Windu, Master Yoda – we need to face him.”
She grabbed his arm. “No. You can’t do that. As long as he doesn’t know that we know, he’ll continue preparing for a long con. The war, Dooku, it’s all a plan of his, to hide where the real threat is coming from. But as long as he concentrates energy on that diversion, we have time to build our attack on him in peace.”
To protect the clones. It was why Ahsoka had been on Kamino, surely. And also, of course, to protect Anakin. “What would you have me do?”
Padmé’s response was immediate. “Help me undo whatever Palpatine did to Anakin. Teach him that he isn’t alone, that he can trust us more than he can trust some Sith scumbag.”
He could do that. He had to do that. But first, he needed so much more information than he had.
It was rare enough that Obi-Wan and Anakin got any time back on Coruscant, but them getting almost two weeks of it, at the same time, had to indicate meddling from somebody. Probably, he thought, Shaak. She’d made his task in lying to Anakin far more difficult by keeping them together, but his task in helping the clones far easier. He scheduled a set of exceptionally routine medical checkups, and, since they had so much time, made each individual appointment long. He also applied to entirely restock all the equipment in the medbay. Since they were there, it could hardly hurt. Very normal, routine behavior.
“I thought,” he said, one morning over breakfast, “that Ahsoka could spend the day with me, today. We can train, and you can help me with some aid requests I agreed to go over for the council.” She and Anakin both stared at him. Looking at Anakin, he said, “I’m sure you spend enough time with the both of us as it is, and I do endeavour to be the doting grandmaster I never had.”
Anakin blushed, perhaps picking up on the implication of who he was going to be spending the time with. Ahsoka looked down at her bowl of some kind of grain mash and fried insects, stirring it with her spoon. She seemed nervous. Anakin nudged her under the table.
“Ahsoka would be honoured, Master. I’ve been working with her in the second form lately, and I’m sure she would be happy to show you what she’s learned.”
It was a lie, Obi-Wan realized, faintly. Anakin had never had time for the mind games of the second form. Someone else must have taught this Ahsoka that.
“I would be interested in seeing that, Padawan. Count Dooku was often considered the Master of that style, and there is wisdom in learning the techniques of your enemies.”
“Yes, Master Obi-Wan,” she said, without looking up.
He stood. “I’m going to change into something more comfortable. Ahsoka, perhaps you could meet me at the second training room?”
When he arrived, Ahsoka was already there, running warm up drills with one of her lightsabers in a backhand grip. As he stood in the doorway, watching, she threw it up in the air, switched hands and grips, and drew her shoto. It was a needlessly showy move, but most of her movements were not. There was an efficiency to her that she certainly hadn’t learned from Anakin. In addition to the Form II influences Anakin had mentioned, there was an absence of Anakin’s Form V, replaced by a combination of Forms I and IV. Obi-Wan wouldn’t have trained her like this either. There was almost none of his own favoured Form III.
Unbeknownst to Ahsoka, he’d booked this room off for the next two hours. It was one of the only public rooms in the temple where the cameras didn’t work. They were there, but they hadn’t been replaced since a wayward Padawan had accidentally thrown his lightsabers into both at the same time two years ago. Obi-Wan locked the door behind him, and flicked the sign that said ‘private training session’ before he spoke.
“I can’t imagine teaching you that, in any universe.”
She levelled her main lightsaber at him for a moment. Then sighed, and deactivated both. “Anakin is a lying little banthashit.”
Poor Anakin. “He didn’t tell me. Padmé did.” Obi-Wan crossed the room, until they were only standing a couple paces apart. “But she told me that in your universe, I was your Master. Evidently, that was wrong.”
She shook her head. “You are. He is. You aren’t as alike as some of the others are, although you are right that his style isn’t something I use. You’ve only taught me only for the last few months. Before that, Master Fisto was my teacher. They never would have let Obi-Wan take a Padawan when I first needed someone. If not for Master Eerin, they probably still wouldn’t have.”
Master Eerin. Good for her. “Because Anakin fell.”
“Yes.” She reignited her lightsaber, holding it out to show him it was on training settings. He did the same, and waited for her to make the first move. They circled, slowly. Kit Fisto was a truly great duelist. Him and Anakin would have been comparably skilled, but Anakin had never worked as hard as he should have. “It wasn’t fair to him, to blame him for Anakin falling.”
With the guilt Obi-Wan felt over how he’d failed in raising an Anakin who hadn’t actually fallen, that was hard to believe. “Why do you say that?”
She still hadn’t made the first move, but now she adjusted her grip, slipping her main saber into a backwards grip again, and so Obi-Wan struck. Without blinking, she spun her leg between his and pulled him off balance, bringing her shoto up against his stomach.
“You’re expecting her,” she said, abruptly. “I’m not the same.”
Obi-Wan grabbed her wrist, blocked her main lightsaber with his own, and, using his superior physical strength, threw her partway across the room. She flipped and landed gracefully, with a huff of laughter.
“I say it because, from what I know, nobody blamed… Knight Kenobi for what happened more than he blamed himself. And from what Master Quinlan says, a lot of the order really failed in making him train Anakin alone to begin with. He deserved better than that. Plus, I actually believe in darksider redemption for people who did fall, so why wouldn’t I believe in it for someone who was, at worst, unable to stop a Sith Master from manipulating a high-needs Padawan who they were ordered to raise with even less temple support than a normal Padawan would have?”
This time, she attacked, trying again to distract him with her main saber while attacking with the Shoto, but now that he was expecting it, it wasn’t much of a threat. They disengaged again. “I raised Anakin too. Failing to protect him from the Sith is a mark against me. Even now, I don’t know how to help him.”
Abruptly, Ahsoka flicked her lightsabers off. “Why don’t you tell him that you love him?”
“Why don’t you tell him that you love him?” She repeated. At a blank look from Obi-Wan, she added, “it’s obvious that you do. I know you because I know him. I’ve been in his head. If you love Anakin a fraction as much as he did, then it’s the most important relationship in your life. We’ve been… us reformers have been working on that. Saying we love each other, showing it. Love and attachment aren’t the same thing. Human Jedi have social needs the same as the rest of your species. Just like Togruta Jedi still need their clans. Tell Anakin you love him, because he needs to know he’s not broken just because he still feels love. For you. And for Her.”
Somehow, he knew Ahsoka meant the other version of herself. His heart hurt. “You joined a reform group?”
There was a terrible sadness in her. “Sort of by accident. Knight Kenobi, Master Ti, Master Nu, Master Eerin, Knight Secura and Master Plo and Master Vos. And, of course, Master Dooku and Asajj. If it weren’t for them, I don’t know if we ever would’ve gotten started.”
That explained the Form II. “Dare I assume that Knight Kenobi does have a doting grandmaster?”
That made her laugh. “Oh, no. I don’t think they’ve ever properly forgiven each other for Anakin. But Master Dooku would also probably take a blaster bolt for him, although he would lie about it and say it was for Qui-Gon Jinn’s memory if you asked him later. And they spend a lot of time together for Asajj and I. It’s kinda complicated. In a way, I think they love each other, but it’s hardly doting. Mostly, it’s just difficult. They hurt each other too. And they pretend to be worse than they are so Master Windu won’t suspect they’re working on the council reform together.”
It was odd, to imagine a world where Dooku loved him, and, if Ahsoka’s description was accurate, was loved in return. A world without Padmé’s fire driving the Senate. A world where he couldn’t implicitly trust Mace Windu, but could Asajj Ventress.
“What happened to make our worlds so different?”
“A stray blaster bolt on Geonosis. Lives lost or saved over a single shot. Padmé died. Dooku and Asajj were freed. Anakin was lost. I don’t know if anyone in our two worlds would agree to switch between the two paths. Not even me, and losing Master Kit was… Well, I suppose we are not better. Our loses have only been different.”
She was so much more mature than their Ahsoka. That was a good thing, in the situation they were in, but it was also bad, if only by what it implied about her experience.
“Padmé also told me…the secret you told her alone.” It felt wrong, somehow, to repeat the words. As though he would choke on them.
She leaned over, stretching out her back a moment, before responding. “Leave it be, for now. Better the evil you know.”
They were exactly Obi-Wan’s thoughts, but he needed to know, “did you defeat him? In your world.”
She tried the move where she flipped her lightsabers again, but this time she dropped it, just pulling her foot out of the way in time. “In the end. Anakin turned on him. Dooku reminded him that his Master was behind all the other attempts on her life.” Padmé, this time. “They both died, as did many Jedi, including my Master. I felt it from Coruscant. Bant and Master Ti saved me. Knight Kenobi saved Bant. They were close, after, right when she was first put on the council. He was someone she knew wouldn’t hate her for being sad. That was what made me trust him, in the beginning.”
He hadn’t spoken with his Bant in… it must have been years. Maybe he should call her. She was a good friend. “Does he love you?”
She looked down at the lightsaber in her hand. “It’s hard to say, after six months. He’s not Master Kit. But… I love him. And he’ll look after her like he would a child of his own body.”
In Togruta terms, that was a serious thing. “Ahsoka Tano, I would be honoured to count you as a daughter of my clan. I cannot imagine feeling differently in any world.”
It was a good thing they had the room to themselves. She immediately burst into tears, and didn’t stop crying for a long time. Maybe he couldn’t say he ‘loved’ anyone. But this was the same thing, Obi-Wan reasoned. In all the ways that mattered.
Next week: Parallel Ahsoka
Chapter 15: Parallel Ahsoka
Ahsoka finally gets her courage up to speak to her old master.
CW/TW: canonical + non-canonical past character death. Grief/mourning.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
PARALLEL AHSOKA TANO, CORUSCANT, PRESENT
Having spoken to Master Nu, Master Ti, Master Plo and now Master Obi-Wan, there were but three of Ahsoka’s most trusted allies from her own world who she hadn’t spoken to in this one. Excepting, of course, Dooku and Asa, who were not truly themselves in this universe. The three that remained were her family. Her first lineage. Nahdar, Bant, and Master Kit. Nahdar was easily crossed off the list. He was dead. She thought that her Master Kit would have counted the price of his own life as a fair one for Nahdar’s. She wondered how this Master Fisto had coped without him. Bant, still a knight, was off in some corner of the galaxy fighting in the war. Until now, Ahsoka hadn’t realized how important Obi-Wan’s punishment had been as a motivator for Bant. In that world, she was one of the youngest members of the Jedi council in history. In this world, it was Obi-Wan. Maybe this Bant wasn’t the same, but she was still the same sort of quiet-brave that Ahsoka knew. She had to be. So, if their paths ever crossed, Ahsoka would tell her.
Kit Fisto wasn’t off in some far part of the galaxy. He was here, on Coruscant. Ahsoka kept seeing him everywhere. When she went to get flimsiwork for Obi-Wan, he was there, collecting some of his own. He offered her a bland smile that made her want to run back to her room and hide. When she was training with Anakin, he stopped by and watched the class of initiates that was in the same room, and she could feel herself falling into the forms she learned from him until Anakin made her stop. When she went to the archives, to check in with Master Nu, he was there, reading something.
In the end, it was that that broke her. Anakin owed her for Padmé telling Obi-Wan, even if he didn’t know it. So he’d earned it just the same when she snuck out that night. She expected to follow Fisto from the archives to his room, but instead he left his robe hidden in the stacks and snuck out of the temple. She followed him. Fortunately, he didn’t take a speeder, instead catching a public transport down to the lower levels of the city into a shady undercity bar. He sat at the bar and ordered a plate of fried fish that smelled incredibly strongly. Ahsoka watched him from a distance for a while, but he didn’t seem to be doing anything, or talking to anyone except the bartender.
When the opportunity arose, Ahsoka dropped into the seat beside him. The other Ahsoka’s padawan braid was in her pocket. It hadn’t felt right to wear it, not when talking to him.
“I never had you pegged for the sort of Jedi with a secret life.”
She would have noticed one, in all the time they’d lived together.
Master Kit jumped, and then stared at her. “Padawan–”
She clapped a hand over his mouth. People turned pointedly away from them. “Shh. I’ll explain everything. I promise, whatever secrets you have, mine are worse.”
He nodded, to indicate he wasn’t going to speak, and they both turned back to the bar. Then Master Kit waved down the bartender. He was a skinny human, with a complexion not dissimilar to Ahsoka’s own and long hair piled messily atop his head.
“Brought a friend, Kay?” He teased. “What can I get for the little lady?”
Ahsoka couldn’t keep one of her montrals from twitching a little in frustration. Master Kit laughed. “Kid sister got out again. What can you do? She’ll have a glass of water and whatever today’s land carnivore special is.” He flipped a credit chip over the bar at the human, who caught it.
“You have an interesting family, Kay.” He shook his head slightly, and went back into the kitchen.
Master Kit folded his hands in front of him. “I assume you are here because you were following me, not because you decided to come here on your own.”
Oh, she was never going to be able to explain this one away. “Yes. I needed to tell you something important, but–” I don’t know where you live in this timeline– “it’s better said with a different sort of prying ears.”
As Asajj sometimes said, there was no such thing as privacy, only different kinds of its absence.
Quiet confidence was the secret to being believed, Dooku would have said, whether you were lying or telling the truth. He would know; he’d always been prone to showing off, and it had cost him.
“I’m not the real me; I’m from a parallel timeline where the events of the Clone Wars were different.”
To his credit, Master Kit’s only sign of shock was a flicking of one of his smaller tentacles. “And why are you telling me?”
The bartender came back, and passed Ahsoka a glass of water on his way to the other end of the bar. She cradled it in her hands to steady them. “Because it seems like I might be stuck here a while, and I’m certainly going to get noticed sooner or later if I keep slipping every time you walk into a room.” She kept her eyes fixed on her hands. “Also, if I ever actually get home, Bant and Nahdar are inevitably going to ask if I saw you.”
He was still, but she could feel the sharpness of his pain in the force. “Because he’s alive, there, and I am… not.”
“And because you were my master, there.”
The bartender put a plate of rare meat in a honey sauce in front of her, and said, “enjoy.”
The food was surprisingly good. Maybe that was why Master Kit came here.
“He was Nahdar’s boyfriend,” Master Kit told her, after he’d gone. “I… check in, when I’m on Coruscant.”
Of course, he did. And of course, he was just Nahdar’s type. “Mine’s dating this Senator’s brother from… oh, I forget the sector. Bant gave it four tendays, so if time passes the same in both our timelines, they might have broken up by now.”
He inclined his head in acknowledgement of the trivial, gossipy thing she’d said. “If I still taught both of them in your universe, things must have diverged fairly recently.”
“Just at the start of the war. On Geonosis. I would… be willing to show you, if you’d like.” At one point in her life, she’d been used to having Master Kit in her head. “I would be willing to show you all of it, really.”
He picked up a piece of fish between his fingers. “Eat, first. If you’re anything like my last two students, you stop looking after yourself when you get nervous.”
“I eat enough,” she muttered, but did as he asked. When her plate was clear, Kit flipped a couple more credits onto the bar, and herded her out.
“Where are we going?”
Coruscant was alive, even in what was the middle of the night on this side of the planet. Kit led her not back to the Temple, but up to a set of public greenhouses. They were closed, at this time of night, but a wave of his hand opened them, and another removed all evidence of their presence. The humidity was pleasing, for both of them. Ahsoka released a slight breath at the sound of nocturnal birds flying overhead. It was a place of calm within the buzz of Coruscant.
She’d been here before, twice. Once was on leave after her first long mission with Master Kit. It was one of his favourite places in the city. Bant took her back, the day before she left for Shili, and they sat on one of the stone benches while Ahsoka cried and Bant glared at people who were staring at them.
“My master loved it here.”
He put a hand on her shoulder. “You know well that Coruscant is covered in ears – and montrals and other sensory organs. The Jedi temple is no different, and less people will be looking for information here.”
Plus, it had the added benefit of being somewhere Ahsoka found it easy to touch the light side of the force, to let go of the anxiety and fury of the last few weeks and just be.
She stretched her hands out to Master Kit. “Anakin and the other Ahsoka’s training bond replaced mine when we switched. But in the interest of full disclosure, I think that if I had my own presence in the force instead of hers, I would find sharing my memories with you inclined to make us form a bond. Because I’m in this body, with Anakin and Ahsoka’s bond already there, I’m not sure what will happen.”
He took her hands, and in the force she could feel him, not calm, but steady, flowing in infinitely complex patterns like the sea itself. “I can keep that from happening. Not that I mind, but… for Ahsoka’s sake, if this ever becomes her body again.”
That made sense. “I’m ready, when you are.” Together they fell into memory.
They were standing on Shili, under an open sky. There were more stars than Ahsoka had ever seen growing up on Coruscant. Master Ti put a hand on her shoulder. “He is part of the force now, Ahsoka. Just as the akul’s body will feed the soil, the Jedi’s spirit feeds into the force.”
They were standing on the temple shuttle pad. Master Kit smiled at her. “Be good for Bant, Padawan. She was only just rid of her own apprentice – the last thing she needs is trouble from mine.” Ahsoka laughed, and he added, “when I come back, we are going to take a vacation. I hope you like swimming.” She waved goodbye until he was out of sight.
They were sitting on little plastisteel chair’s onboard a ship. “It was just a nightmare, Master. A bad dream. I saw Asajj and there were weequay raiders like the ones she told us about and they tried to hurt her, and then Master Plo was there and he was mad at me because he said I was too attached to her.”
“There is no such thing as ‘just’ a nightmare, Ahsoka. Even if it is not a vision, you can still learn from it. What do you see?”
“That I’m getting too attached to Asajj? That I’m trying to warn myself about it.”
He folded his hands on the table. “I think not. I think that it is noble to not want your friend to suffer. I think you fear losing the respect of someone whose opinion matters a great deal to you.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“So, Padawan, what are you going to do about it?”
They were on Ryloth and Alderaan and Ilum and Coruscant.
They were standing on opposite sides of a room. Master Plo was at Ahsoka’s side.
“Little ‘Soka, this is the very Jedi I was telling you about, Master Kit Fisto.”
She was tired of waiting, and scared that he wouldn’t pick her any more than the other Masters and Knights had. But no matter what, she put her hand up and said, “Hi, Master Fisto. I’m Ahsoka Tano.”
“Very well, Ahsoka Tano,” he said, “why don’t you begin by telling me why you want to become a Jedi Knight?”
They were hiding behind a column, watching those who had survived Geonosis escort the chained Sith Dooku down to his cell. One of the Jedi, a Human who she didn’t know, stopped as they entered the temple and, handing his lightsaber to Master Windu, fled the scene. The rest, almost all consular Jedi, carried on with their prisoner. They were followed by legions of soldiers in white, faces covered. In the force, it had a weight to it, as though, the destiny of the universe was being decided.
They were standing in an empty greenhouse in the middle of the night, holding hands. As Master Kit had promised, no bond had formed between them, even though Ahsoka had wanted it with a burning ferocity that surprised no one more than her.
“Can I hug you?
Ahsoka nodded her consent, and let this Jedi who looked so much like her master hold her, just the way he had held her. There was no place like home, but here, in a garden in the least green city in the galaxy, Ahsoka felt less lonely than she had since opening her eyes in this universe. She didn’t cry. She had no tears left.
The next day, after a few hours of relatively undisturbed sleep, Ahsoka met Master Nu in the same private reading room they usually used. She’d known, even from the obscure message Master Nu had left behind, that all was not well. Arriving only confirmed the fact. Master Nu looked tired, exhaustion sinking her eyes deeper into her face than usual.
She shook her head sadly, just the once. “I’m sorry, Ahsoka. I’ve scoured every book I know, and tried every method I can think of. The light side alone cannot control this device.”
It was as Ahsoka had feared. She might have cried, if she had any tears left. “‘Alone?’”
That was an odd way to phrase it, was all.
“Yes,” said Master Nu. She had pulled the device from her bag and it sat on the table between them, a testament to loss and failure. “I believe – I suspect, that the initial method for using this device would have required the light and dark sides together. That is my best guess for why Dooku’s attempt to use it alone went so awry. Dark side technology – including Holocrons – are rarely cooperative. The addition of the light makes them more open to suggestion, but it means Sith can rarely do such things alone with any accuracy. I suspect even Count Dooku could not return you to your home.”
Well, Ahsoka supposed, with a sort of grim determination, I suppose there are worse places to be than this. At least here, Master Kit is alive, and he’s still a good man. He, she thought, would be kind to her when he found out she was stuck. Anakin wouldn’t. It wouldn’t be his fault, of course, but he would be losing the Padawan he really loved, and that wasn’t fair at all.
Up text: Ahsoka! A chapter I’m very excited abt. Also Sometime early next week I’m finishing my Harry Potter AU Scales, where Snape ends up as a gryffindor mostly out of sheer grit, so check that out too!
Chapter 16: Ahsoka
Ahsoka Tano makes an ill-advised decision and speaks with her master about it.
CW/TW: implied/referenced canon-typical violence
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
AHSOKA TANO, PARALLEL DEVARON, PRESENT
Predictably, it started in the library. Ahsoka was reading some old story about a Jedi seeing the Eedit vergence for the first time.
The Jedi was human, and excruciatingly dull. Ahsoka kept having to read the same sentence, over and over again. Her eyes kept drifting off the page and up, to look at something far more interesting. Asajj was sitting beside her, and she was smiling as she read, as if she knew a secret nobody else knew. Really, who could concentrate when the girl sitting beside them looked like that?
“What’s so funny?”
Asajj lifted her datapad as she shrugged. “This Jedi is trying to speculate about potential dark side vergences, only he doesn’t actually know anything. And right now he’s trying to figure out if Dathomir – my home world – is one. One of their pieces of evidence is that Dathomiri women are ‘wicked sorceresses’.”
“I don’t think you’re a wicked sorceress,” Ahsoka said instantly, and then hated how fawning she sounded.
Asajj laughed, brightly. “Thank you, ‘Sokes. Unfortunately, I regret to inform you that I am truly evil.” She wiggled her fingers in the universal gesture for I-am-about-to-do-magic. Ahsoka couldn’t help but laugh.
“Halt, villain!” She jumped to her feet and pretended to be getting ready to duel. The best thing about not being on Coruscant was that there were no librarians to tell them off. Asajj lept up too, and, after a short wrestling match, Asajj had her pressed against the shelves.
“Looks like the wicked sorceress wins this time, Padawan.” When she talked like that, she sounded much more like the Ventress Ahsoka had once known. The only difference was, she was laughing, smiling, and so totally beautiful it hurt.
Without thinking, Ahsoka leaned forward and pressed a kiss to Asajj’s lips. It was barely more than a peck, and a second later, Asajj was leaping backwards, half tripping over her own feet to get away. Ahsoka winced.
“Sorry.” Things had been going so well too.
Asajj had covered her mouth, looking distinctly sick. “You need to leave,” she mumbled, between her fingers. Sitting down hard in her chair, she buried her head in her hands. When Ahsoka hesitated for a moment, she snapped, “go away!” and burst into heavy, choking tears.
As first kiss experiences could have gone, there wasn’t much room for it to get worse. Ahsoka turned and ran, feeling the stones of the temple speed beneath her feet. She ran from the library, then from the building. The only thought in her mind was Asajj’s voice, harsh as Ventress’s. “Go away!” A few more strides and she leapt, up over the wall and into the forest beyond. The force called to her, showing her a path between the trees. An animal must have come this way before.
She had considered the idea that Asajj wouldn’t like her the way she liked Asajj. Most Jedi didn’t like anybody. But they’d talked so much about love, and how it was okay for Jedi to love people, and Asajj was so pretty, and she’d been so nice this whole time and –
Ahsoka needed to breathe. She ran harder, letting the force guide every step. Her self didn’t matter, her pain didn’t matter. The universe was alive, and every step carried her deeper into the forest, towards the feeling of life from the vergence.
But that didn’t make any sense. The centre of the Eedit vergence was supposed to be in the courtyard. Not out in the forest away from the temple.
As Ahsoka let her senses flow back in, she turned around to observe all her surroundings. She’d stopped in a clearing. There were a couple packs suspended in the trees away from wild animals. A fire pit made of the remains of a durasteel barrel sat in the middle of the clearing, and a variety of mechanical parts that looked like a disassembled ship and maybe the makings of a few droids were strewn around.
She looked started going through everything, half by instinct, half by rote. The ship had been nondescript, single-seater with an astromech, though she couldn’t see one around. Hyperdrive capable, since she thought that actually was a hyperdrive, or at least most of one, sitting on those roots. It didn’t look like a crash site. For one thing, crashing ships left marks, and no trees had been disturbed or knocked down. For another, if the pilot had died in the crash, they probably wouldn’t have had time to tie up their supplies and make a fire pit. No, this was something much stranger than that.
There were arms and legs for a protocol droid in the mix, but she couldn’t find the head anywhere. Or, rather, there were some arms and legs. Namely, there were two legs and an arm, and the stripped plating from another. Someone had needed the internal mechanisms of a protocol droid for… something.
The sound of a twig snapping startled her. Lightsaber blazing, she whirled around and saw the one face in the galaxy she’d never expected.
Anakin Skywalker – older, or at least more haggered, with a bad burn over his left cheek like a lightsaber had slid down it and the wrong hand missing – dropped his bundle of firewood and put his hands in the air. The prosthetic was shodily made, with gold casing only at the fingertips. There was a blaster at his hip, but no lightsaber. He looked… calm. Maybe a little frightened. Ahsoka clutched her lightsaber tightly and tried not to scream.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” he said, calm and authoritative like he was speaking to their men. “I swear it on my life.”
He knelt on the ground, and Ahsoka realized, with some shock, that there was nothing of Sith yellow in his eyes. There was little of the Sith about him in the force either. If she concentrated and let her fear slip away, she couldn’t feel any coming from him, nor any anger. He was calm, steady, oh, so alive.
All this time, she hadn’t been sensing life from the Eedit vergence. Or at least, not only that. She’d been sensing it from him.
Ahsoka leveled her lightsaber at him. “Which Anakin Skywalker are you?”
Because this world’s Anakin was supposed to be dead, and a Sith. If this Anakin wasn’t a Sith, then maybe her Anakin had been sucked between worlds just the way she had. Maybe he’d been here all along.
But he looked at her blankly. “The usual one?”
Stranger, then. “Put your blaster on the ground.” He did as she asked, and with a careful flick of the force, she threw it into the trees. “I thought you were supposed to be a dead Sith.”
He shrugged. “I am a Sith.”
There was no ring of truth about it. “No, you aren’t.”
Seeming to recognize she wasn’t going to kill him, Anakin folded his hands in his lap. The visible wires of his prosthetic hand must have come from the disassembled protocol droid. The silver plating at his fingertips certainly matched. “Maybe the better question is: who are you?”
Ahsoka flicked her lightsaber off, though she kept her hand wrapped tightly around the hilt. “Ahsoka Tano. I’m… it’s a lot story.”
Sitting back on his heels, Anakin said, “believe it or not, Padawan Tano, I’ve got nothing but time.”
She really, really shouldn’t trust him. But those were her Master’s eyes. That was his sly smile while he waited for her to answer a question. Sure, the burn scars that distorted its edges were new, but that didn’t make him any less Anakin.
“Well, it started with the Holocron-thing…”
As Ahsoka spoke, Anakin stood up and moved around his camp. He got one of the bags of food down, started a fire with a flint, and began to warm a can of beans over the fire. While Ahsoka was backtracking to explain how she’d become a Padawan, he interrupted her,
“Do you want any of this?”
She bared her teeth at him. “Carnivore, sorry.”
He shrugged, and went back to his heating. Calling it cooking would have been an insult to the very idea. He was leaner than she’d ever known him, without any of the muscle of regular combat. She didn’t spend that much time thinking about human physique, but she didn’t think humans were supposed to be that thin. She could see his cheekbones like razorblades and, when he bent over the fire for a moment, his spine.
“So, they brought me to Devaron. Then today I kissed Asajj and she told me to get out so I just ran and the force brought me here.”
Anakin looked up from his beans at her. “The force brought you here?”
Ahsoka shrugged. “I thought I was sensing the vergence here. Turned out I was sensing the one in you instead. I guess it’s because I know you. Or, you know… I know him.”
He looked back down. After a while, he said in a surprisingly meek voice, “do you think Obi-Wan can sense it too?”
Poor Obi-Wan. He had no idea his Padawan was alive. Everyone had told him Anakin was dead. “I don’t know. He told me he sees more of the cosmic force, so maybe not.” She leant up against a tree, and, after a while, slid down to sit on its roots. “So, I think it’s only fair if you tell me your story in all this.”
And so he did, beginning with Padmé dying, “–and I thought when I lost my mother I would be alone forever, but then I had no idea how alone–” Continuing through his confrontation with Dooku, “–I was so angry that there wasn’t anything of me left, just the anger, and I wanted to hurt him, to take away everything he loved like he did to me except I knew he didn’t love anything–” Yoda’s arrival, “–he looked at me and I knew he was going to kill me, and I realized that even with Padmé gone I didn’t want to die–” Palpatine “–I trusted him so much. I didn’t know then the power of the dark side, the things it can do to your head–”
And then he skipped right to the end of the war, abruptly as if he was realizing how long he’d rambled. “We fought for a long time, the Jedi Masters and Palpatine and me. By the time we got to the end, it was just me, Yoda, Windu, Palpatine, Kolar and Fisto. Yoda… Yoda went after me again, like he did on Geonosis, and Palpatine killed Kolar and Fisto before pulling out his lightning and turning it on Windu. Windu shot it back at him, but I knew it wouldn’t hold for long. Palpatine always had another trick up his sleeve. I tried to tell Yoda to go after Palpatine instead, but he wouldn’t, so… I let Yoda cut my hand off, stab me, and push me into what I think he thought was a melting pit, but, since we were on an extremely volcanic planet, it was actually a path into the lava tunnels below. Fortunately, there was no lava in them at the time.”
“I thought it was magma underground?”
Anakin gave her the same look Skyguy would have. “Tano.”
“Anyways, I sat down there for a while and I just… realized the Sith were wrong. They were just wrong. About power, and how to use it, and what to use it for. So I left. I felt them kill Palpatine, so I knew I was the Sith master and I figure… I just have to live out my life without training anyone and it dies with me. I mucked around old Sith sites for a bit. Temples. They have this one crazy ocean planet with this throne room and all these disciples – anyways, I’ve been destroying a lot of it and killing the acolytes. There’s more to the Force than the light or the darkness. I’m going to find a middle path, and live on it. Maybe try and make things a little easier for the Senate people who are trying to free the clones. I figure Padmé would have liked that. Or… maybe I’ll finally go back to Tatooine and free all the slaves. A Jedi couldn’t do that, but I can.”
He was still Anakin, after everything. “I think Padmé would like that too.”
That made him smile. It was the first time she’d seen him look genuinely happy. “Yeah, she probably would. Especially if I took down the Hutts and made it a democracy or something.”
It was a surprisingly nice idea for an ex-Sith. But, well, Dooku and Asajj were surprisingly nice too. “So, why are you on Devaron?”
He shrugged. “I can’t go anywhere that isn’t powerful in the force without risking being noticed, and I’m not quite ready for that yet. Like you said, the Eedit vergence covers my presence. And it’s nice to be somewhere that isn’t steeped in the dark for once.”
Speaking of, it was getting dark out. “I should go. Obi-Wan and Dooku must have noticed by now that I’ve gone, and I imagine both of us would prefer they don’t come looking.”
He stared at her. “You aren’t going to tell them?”
“What, like I was letting you make beans as a last meal or something? Don’t be an idiot, Skyguy. I can tell you aren’t a Sith, and… if you’re anything like the Anakin Skywalker I know, then you’re mostly just a good man who doesn’t make the best choices. Last thing you deserve is whatever Dooku would do if he thought you were a threat to Asajj. And Obi-Wan… he’s already grieved for you a lot. He certainly doesn’t need to watch you die.”
“He…” Anakin looked pained, as if someone had stabbed him. “He grieved for me?”
Ahsoka nodded. “Based on what everyone’s said? For the last three years. You should have seen his face when I first arrived here and told him you were my Master.”
It was a sight she never wanted to see again, but Anakin deserved to see it. He needed to know. “Are you going to tell him you’re alive at some point?”
“I mean to, but… even if he grieves the boy he thought he knew, I can’t imagine him wanting to know me now.”
Impulsively, Ahsoka crossed the clearing so she could ruffle his hair. Anakin stared blankly at her. “He would want to. Trust me on this.”
“Sure thing, Tano, but… give me some time, alright?”
She ruffled his hair again. “Sure thing, Skyguy. And, hey, sorry about your blaster.”
He shrugged, and, extending his hand, allowed it to fly from the forest and land in his palm. Save a bit of dirt, it was none the worse for wear.
That was the light side, to call an object back to its initial position after a disruption. Even from out of sight after such a long time. To return things to equilibrium.
Ahsoka clipped her lightsaber to her belt as Anakin started to clean his blaster. It was not going to be a fun run back. “For what it’s worth… I’m glad you’re not dead.”
He raised his metal hand at her in a silent farewell, and watched as she turned and ran back to the Eedit temple, where an incredibly vivid lecture about Padawans who didn’t tell their Masters where they were going awaited her.
Okay so maybe my Summary was misleading but I have been WAITING FOR THIS FOR AGES. Next chapter is a bit of flashback fluff with Asajj and Dooku, so this one can have some time to sink in.
Chapter 17: Parallel Dooku
The trials and tribulations of being a teenage Nightsister, viewed from the outside.
No content warnings for this fluff chapter, thank god.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
DOOKU OF SERENNO, CORUSCANT, SIX MONTHS EARLIER
Dooku had raised two Padawans to Mastery, and Komari Vosa, to her sorry fate. He was familiar with all the trials and tribulations of teenage life in excruciating detail, even if he’d never experienced some of them himself.
For this reason, when Asajj’s friends had gone and she was sitting on the couch staring at a datapad that wasn’t even turned on, he knew exactly why. Turning off his own datapad, he went to join her.
“How was your study session?” The couch dipped under him as he sat.
Asajj didn’t bother looking up at him, and sounded distracted even though she wasn’t actually doing anything. “Good. Barriss is very relieved that she doesn’t have to go off to fight anymore, and can actually keep studying to be a healer.”
It was good. In Dooku’s few interactions with Asajj and Ahsoka’s friend, he’d come to recognize an exhaustion with combat that could easily have washed her out of the order, or worse. If Luminara, a respected general, was refusing to go on any of the cleanup missions that still had to be done, then she must have noticed it too. Maybe Jocasta, who Dooku had pointed it out to weeks earlier, had told her. But probably Luminara had just picked up on it on her own. She was one of the better Jedi Dooku knew.
“What are you reading?” Asajj finally looked up from her datapad, the grey of her cheeks darkening slightly. “Oh, please. I refuse to believe it’s that embarrassing.”
Dooku had learned to tease from Master Yoda himself, and could most certainly be relied on to do it effectively, but he also knew when to pull back. As Asajj ducked her head and let her fringe fall over her eyes, he decided this might be a moment when she needed privacy.
However, as he stood up, Asajj suddenly burst out, “do you know if it’s normal for Nightsisters to be gay?”
Dooku sat back down. “No, I don’t. But if you are, then it is. Within any species, having a wide variety of sexualities and sexual behaviors is very natural.”
She pulled her feet up onto the couch, tucking them under her. “Not like that. I know it’s fine. Obviously, it’s fine. I mean, is it like… the majority? Because I know they only meet with the Nightbrothers to mate anyways, so…”
Ah. “I don’t know. It’s quite possible. If you like, I can ask Master Nu if she has any books that might be helpful, if not about the Nightsisters then about Zabrak sexual practices on other worlds. But if I might ask… is there a particular reason you’re wondering about this now.”
Because it certainly seemed like there was. Asajj wasn’t really the sort for self-reflection for its own sake, and the looks she’d been giving Ahsoka recently when she thought nobody was looking… extremely suspect.
He hadn’t even known Asajj could blush, and now she was doing it for the second time in as many minutes. “Shut up.”
She didn’t seem upset, now, just the regular sort of embarrassed he expected. “Well then, I certainly won’t ask if you wanted to take senate patrol duty with Knight Kenobi and Padawan Tano tomorrow.”
Asajj elbowed him, but it was fond. “Don’t you dare.”
Dooku couldn’t keep himself from snorting a laugh. “You’re worse than Qui-Gon. At least he only really fell in love with the ethereal concept of the Living Force.”
Well, and Tahl, but that was a Matter Best Not Discussed. Even Qui-Gon would have said so, had he not been made forever part of the Living Force he loved so dearly.
“Well, you really only have yourself to blame. If you didn’t want me to get a crush–” She said the word like it was a blight. “Then you shouldn’t have me spend all my time talking about how Jedi are allowed to have feelings with a fit, funny, clever, gorgeous girl. Ugh!”
This time, Dooku found it impossible to contain his laughter to just a snort, and Asajj thumped him in the chest with a pillow.
“So,” Dooku said a while later when the two of them were making dinner, “are you going to tell Ahsoka how you feel?”
Asajj paused, and Dooku realized that perhaps having this conversation while his Padawan was holding a knife had not been the wisest decision. She ducked her head and kept chopping. “No. Of course not.”
This was surprising, and Dooku said as much.
“I can’t tell her. Obviously, I can’t tell her. You know as well as I do that Ahsoka has enough on her plate without knowing about one of her best friends having a stupid crush. Her Master just died, and there’s still cleanup from the war going on, and I know she worries about Munnk and Wolffe and all the other clones. Maybe in a few months when things have calmed down, and she’s not grieving. I wouldn’t have wanted that, after Ky Narec died.”
She was going to grow up to be much, much better at emotions than his other Padawans, if she was already so smart so young.
The truth was, Dooku had no right to be proud of Asajj. None at all. It was Ky Narec who had made her the warrior she was, who had first molded her skills. It was Jocasta who had saved her on Serenno, who had shown her that there were still people in the galaxy who knew right from wrong. It was Asajj herself, who had gritted her teeth and fought, against the warlords of Rattatak and the prejudice of the council and the darkness within her. Yet in spite of that, Dooku was proud of her.
“This is what Jocasta and I are trying to say, you know, about love not being a selfish thing. You are choosing not to ask for what you want because you love her more than you want her. It means you’re acting as a Jedi should, not simply in the act of not telling her, which is neutral, but in your reasons for choosing it.”
She stilled again. “I know, Dooku. I am listening, most of the time.” It was the bored but fond voice of a teenager who had been told the same advice a thousand times, but had actually needed and wanted to hear it every time. Things like, ‘you matter’ and ‘I love you’. If Dooku meant those words when he reminded her of this, then that was between him and Asajj.
There was then a tingle of affection along their training bond, and Dooku smiled down at his frying pan while Asajj hid a similar expression behind her short but sweeping hair.
God I’m a slut for found family tropes and Dooku is by far one of my favourite SW characters to write, so yay for me. Also, I’m writing the epilogue for this story now so you can expect regular weekly updates until its done. Yay!
Chapter 18: Anakin
Anakin goes and meets with his good friend the Chancellor.
CW/TW: I’m concerned this chapter may be triggering for those who’ve experienced grooming or other forms of psychological abuse. Nothing explicit but Palpatine is a scummy fuck and I’m glad I got to see him die twice in canon.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
ANAKIN SKYWALKER, CORUSCANT, PRESENT
“And my boy, how good it is to see you.”
Anakin took his usual seat in the Chancellor’s office, feeling the terrible stress of the last few weeks melt away into the force. With Palpatine, it always seemed like everything that hurt him went away, for as long as he was in his office. The light of midday shone through the windows, just catching the Chancellor and making him seem, for a brief instant, as much an angel as Padmé was.
“It’s good to see you too, Chancellor.”
He smiled. “How is everything? Tell me all about the war, about your men, and that dear student of yours. How is she?”
Palpatine always remembered to ask after these sorts of things. “I’m sure I can’t tell you anything about the war that you don’t already know, Chancellor, but my men are well. Captain Rex especially I’m very proud of. I’ve been telling him that he ought to take more initiative in the management of the rest of the troopers, and this week – with a gentle nudge from Cody in the 212th, I think – he’s arranged to do everyone’s yearly physicals a few weeks early. I never would have thought of it, but Obi-Wan is doing it too, getting the whole mess out of the way on Coruscant.”
He wasn’t doing it in the most efficient way ever, since each session seemed to be taking about three times as long as needed, but Anakin pushed that ideas into the back of his mind. He hardly needed to bother Chancellor Palpatine about that.
“That’s good to hear, Anakin. I’m sure you’ve been important to him gaining the confidence as much as Obi-Wan was.”
It was a point Anakin hadn’t considered, that Obi-Wan was talking to Rex and giving him gentle nudges in the right direction. Normally, he would have been jealous that someone was going behind his back with his friends, but after telling Obi-Wan about Padmé, after Obi-Wan had forgiven him and had even taken Ahsoka to allow them to spend more time together, Anakin couldn’t find it in himself to be angry at Obi-Wan at all. If he was helping Rex, then it was coming from a place of generosity and kindness. Anakin believed that.
“Obi-Wan has always been very helpful for the men. He treats them well, and they treat him well in turn.”
The Chancellor nodded. “He is a very good Jedi, your Master. I remember still how he saved us all from the Sith, and him still a Padawan. He really was very brilliant. It must have been a shame for him, in some ways, to have spent so much of his golden years raising a Padawan instead.”
It was a thought Anakin had had many, many times before. It still cut into him like a rather blunt knife though. Having him had ruined Obi-Wan’s life. “Yes, I suppose so.”
Chancellor Palpatine let Anakin keep his pride, and ignored his pained tone. “And your Padawan?”
And that was the crux of the thing. Ahsoka. Yesterday, she’d spent the morning with Master Nu, returning ashen-faced and refusing to say a thing about the meeting. That didn’t bode well for his chances of ever seeing his Padawan again. He missed her, except for the times when this Ahsoka said something brilliant, or cheated in a fight, or laughed at a joke he’d told before. Then he felt a flash of fondness followed by deep, unending self-loathing.
The Chancellor looked down at his hands, as if he wanted to say something but wasn’t sure how. It was strange to see the most brilliant person in the galaxy – except for Padmé, obviously – without words.
“What is it?” Anakin asked, leaning forward a little in his seat.
“Nothing, my dear boy. I am sure of that.”
It was never nothing with Palpatine. “Come on, Chancellor. If it is nothing, I won’t repeat it. You have my word as a Jedi.”
“I admit,” the Chancellor said, “I did not hear this information from the most reliable of sources, but a friend of a friend told me that your Padawan was spotted walking through the lower levels, the night before last.”
Of course she was. Force damn it, Ahsoka Tano. In every possible universe, she was trouble. “Alone?”
“I admit, I do not know, but surely you would know if you Padawan was going out in the City after dark, wouldn’t you? It’s very dangerous.”
It was, but Anakin had pulled the same tricks on Obi-Wan more than once, and for probably much worse reasons. He wanted to tell the Chancellor this, to assure him that Ahsoka’s intentions were good, but something stopped him. He’d made a promise. Not a good promise, and one made after the pair of them had brought too many people in already. If he wasn’t going to fall to the dark side, he was going to have to start trusting Jedi. Trusting Ahsoka, even if she wasn’t his.
So, even though he hated it, Anakin lied. “Oh certainly, Chancellor. Only, I know for a fact that Ahsoka has a doppelganger who works for a known deathstick ring. If she’d been with someone, that might have given us a lead as to who her contacts were in the city.”
It was a good lie. There were lots of deathstick rings, new ones cropping up every day. Probably because the old ones kept dying on account of all the deathsticks. It would be an impossible lie to check, since Anakin hadn’t given names for any of it.
For a second, it looked like the Chancellor was going to ask him more, but instead he said, “and are you sure about that? My contact did seem to think she was wearing a Padawan braid.”
It was his contact now? A minute ago, it had been a ‘friend of a friend’, and a minute before that it had been ‘nothing’. The Chancellor normally didn’t act like this.
“Yes, Chancellor, I’m sure. Why would you think that it was Ahsoka, on the word of a friend of a friend?” And come to that, why did anyone know what Ahsoka looked like off the top of their head? She was just a Padawan.
He looked down again, and when he looked up, his eyes were very sad.
“Anakin,” he said, after some time, “I wish I could tell you more, but I am afraid that the Chancellor of the Republic must keep some secrets. Even from those he trusts the most. All I can say is: I fear your Padawan may no longer be who she appears to be. If you search the Force, I am very afraid of what you will find.”
“And I just didn’t know what to say,” Anakin told Padmé, who was sitting in her living room over a steaming cup of caf, a bland expression on her face that told him she was too worried for fear. “So I just thanked him for his advice and left. I mean… obviously his source is working for Dooku, right? There’s no other way Palpatine could know they’ve swapped. Dooku must think his dark spell worked and summoned an evil Ahsoka, or somehow he’s feeding false information to the Chancellor to try and trick me!”
Padmé stood, and walked until she was facing the window, staring down at the bustling streets of Coruscant. It seemed to take her some time to find the words. “Do you really think the Chancellor could be so easily manipulated?”
The Chancellor was one of the most clever, intelligent men Anakin knew, but, “what are you implying?”
She didn’t turn around. “I’m not implying anything. I just have to ask how likely it is that Dooku could pull off something like this.”
Which was implying something, like it or not. “You’ve never liked the Chancellor. You’re jealous, of how much time I spend with him, and of how powerful he is.”
Now Padmé did whirl to face him, and Anakin realized with some shock that he’d never seen her look so angry before. “No. I’m not jealous of how powerful he is, Anakin. I just think that maybe you shouldn’t trust a man who is obviously trying to manipulate you into not trusting your Padawan.”
“He’s right though, isn’t he? She’s not ‘my padawan’. She’s Obi-Wan’s. We should have given this charade up a long time ago.” He should have told the Chancellor. Should tell the Chancellor now.
If anything, her expression only grew blacker. “She’s a girl who is giving up everything. Everyone she loves, and everyone who loves her, so you can stay in the light and win the war. If she was a Sith, you would have noticed, or Obi-Wan would have, or Master Nu or Ti or Koon or any one of the many Jedi and clones she’s spent time with in the last few tendays. Don’t be an idiot.”
Maybe. But Dooku had been a Jedi once, hadn’t he? “I have to tell the Chancellor. He’ll know what to do.”
“If you tell the Chancellor,” Padmé said, voice far too calm for her words, “then we’re through, Anakin.”
“Obviously we’re through, this whole plan was ridiculous.”
“No. I mean… we’re done. If you tell the Chancellor about Ahsoka, then I’m getting a divorce.”
That was insane. This was all completely insane. “You can’t. Padmé, I love you, how can you leave me like this? Did you ever love me?”
She was as resolute as if she was facing down the entire senate. “I love you. But Ahsoka is a child under your protection. No matter how much I love you, I wouldn’t want to be with a man who cares more about some corrupt politician – because, let us be clear, I’ve known that Palpatine was using the war to advance his own power for years – than a child who he swore to protect and train. Even if she’s not exactly the same as the girl you love. She’s still Ahsoka, and she’s still trying to protect you, and you owe her better than that. If you betray her, you won’t be the man I thought I married. I won’t know you at all.”
Padmé’s hands were shaking around her caf, and not matter how angry Anakin was, he just wanted to take them and assure her it would be okay. “The Chancellor is my friend. I owe him better too.” But she was right. Ahsoka was just a girl, and something in him, or deeper, said that she would be in danger if he told Palpatine. But he owed the Chancellor everything. The Chancellor was the only person he could really trust.
“You’ve saved the Chancellor’s life more times than I can count. You don’t owe him anything.”
Anakin’s head hurt. It was like he was being pulled in two directions, like he was being ripped apart.
His com started to buzz at his wrist. They both looked down at it, and then, tentatively, Anakin answered.
Obi-Wan’s tiny figure hummed into existence. “Anakin, you’re needed at the temple straight away. Someone’s just tried to break into the holocron vault.”
Oh that was very, very not good. “Are you alone?” When Obi-Wan nodded, he asked, “did they find it? You know…”
Padmé came closer, to listen. This was her business too, even though she wasn’t a Jedi. Because she cared about them. About him, and about Ahsoka. Because Ahsoka was family. Padmé had said as much more than once, and Anakin hadn’t been thinking about it all this time. He suddenly felt a fool.
“Master Nu was keeping it elsewhere, and assures us it’s safe. Our intruder, who appears to be Asajj Ventress, had a short confrontation with Master Nu and two of the other librarians, and fled when it became evident she was losing. Anything more, I’ll tell you in the meeting.”
He hung up.
Oh, banthashit. Anakin exchanged a look with Padmé. There was so much that had to be said, but no time. They never had enough time.
She spoke first. “I’m sorry. I know you care about the Chancellor. He’s been your friend a long time, and I never want to take that from you. I just – I think maybe you can be his friend, and still not tell him about this, at least, not until we know Ahsoka is either safe, or never coming home. You’re probably right that Dooku is in on time, feeding information to Palpatine for some nefarious purpose. I just worry about Ahsoka, and I overreacted. She’s family, no matter what universe she’s from, and I want her to be safe.”
She was right. “I know. I’m sorry too. Just because Palpatine is my friend doesn’t mean I shouldn’t listen to you. We can talk about it later, alright? I won’t tell him until we do.”
Padmé kissed him, before he left, and Anakin knew everything was going to be alright.
For those of you who asked: yes, Asajj is coming.
Chapter 19: Parallel Ahsoka
Ahsoka tries to deal with a break-in at the Jedi Temple, and also a break in her heart.
CW/TW: implied/referenced Asajj’s canonical shitty life, so slavery + child abuse
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
PARALLEL AHSOKA TANO, CORUSCANT, PRESENT
It was Asajj. There was no question of that. Ahsoka stared down at her friend on the security footage and tried not to be sick. She was bald, and thinner than the version Ahsoka knew. There was darkness all around her.
But it was also Asajj, and so Ahsoka loved her. She’d been doing a good job not thinking about Asa, about not missing her like a limb, like a hole in her heart, but seeing this… evil version of her made Ahsoka’s stomach twist in knots.
“Do we have any idea how she got onto Coruscant in the first place?” Anakin asked, all confident professionalism. Crises were, in Ahsoka’s limited experienced, where Anakin did his best work.
“Nothing yet,” Obi-Wan said, “but we do know how she got into the temple; she used codes from Ky Narec – I imagine you never met him, but I found the name on the MIA list. It’s possible Dooku killed him.”
Well, it was possible, but it was also only the three of them in the room, and surveilling the surveillance room would be stupid, so Ahsoka said, “Not likely. He was As – Ventress’s Master before Dooku. Jedi. Killed on a planet called Rattatak.”
They exchanged a look, Master Obi-Wan and Anakin.
Right, Anakin didn’t know that Obi-Wan knew. And he definitely didn’t know that Padmé had told him. “I told him, Skywalker. I’m sorry, it’s just, we were spending so much time alone, and he noticed my lightsaber combat wasn’t the same, and it just sort of all came out. I should have told you I told him, but I was ashamed of breaking my promise.”
After a silent moment, Anakin patted her shoulder awkwardly. “I’m sorry, Snips. She was your friend.”
But this wasn’t. She was barely even recognizable and it was all so wrong. “Just keep going.”
Obi-Wan folded his hands and spun calmly around in his chair to face them fully. “After she enters the temple, the recordings are knocked out, and the next visual we have on her is the librarians. We have no idea how she exited the temple.”
Ahsoka had to bite her lip to keep from crying out. Her eyes were fixed, like lasers, on the little not-Asajj projected before them. That was a Sith. That was what a Sith looks like, a woman who deserved to die.
Even if she wasn’t recognizable as Ahsoka’s best friend and the love of her life, she looked enough like her to be her sister.
“Master Skywalker, Master Kenobi,” she heard herself say, voice raw even to her own montrals, “may I please be excused? I need to go meditate.”
They both looked at her with some concern, but, after a moment, Anakin nodded. “If we aren’t here when you get back, call me. I won’t call and disturb you while you’re meditating.”
He was kind to her. Kinder than she deserved, since she was lying to him, again. For a second, she thought about changing her mind, but then she looked down at Ventress again, whose twin lightsabers were missing the copper trim that Asajj’s had.
“Thank you, Master.”
She made herself walk through the temple, down into the oldest parts of it. Part of her wanted to run, the force calling her to urgency. But running would attract attention, and that was the last thing in the world she wanted.
In her mind, she ran through every corner of the temple she’d ever been to with Asajj, with Dooku. The latter more importantly, in this case. There was no reason for Asajj to be seen on the way in if she could avoid it on the way out. Indeed, since Ahsoka had learned how to avoid the cameras from Dooku, there was no need for Ventress to be seen going either direction. That meant she’d wanted to be seen.
She went to a few of Dooku’s favourite spots in the temple, but Ventress wasn’t in any of them.
If Ventress had planned so carefully, why had she come across the librarians almost immediately? Come to that, how had they defeated her? The armies of the Jedi hadn’t been able to defeat this version of Asajj, and suddenly three people without any combat training could run her off without a scratch? What?
Unless she’d wanted to be found as well as seen? But why? Unless…
Master Nu would have checked on the device, as soon as she thought she was free of Ventress. It would have been outside her nature not to.
This time, Ahsoka did run. Master Nu’s quarters were in just the same place, and her codes were the same too. Ahsoka entered them so aggressively her fingertips almost hurt from where they’d jammed into the keypad.
As the door opened, she drew her lightsabers and slid inside. Ventress, holding an ignited lightsaber in one hand, whirled around.
Oh, force. Why hadn’t she called for backup? There was none of Asa’s kindness on her face, even if their beauty was almost the same.
This was a version of Asajj who didn’t nudge her under the table in meetings and help her practice her jar’kai. This was a version of Asajj who didn’t look at her like her words mattered.
This was also a version of Asajj who didn’t know anything about her. Shoving her emotions down deep, to be processed at a later date, Ahsoka thought of the most arrogant tone she’d ever heard from Dooku, and used it.
“Oh dear, Ventress. Didn’t your Master tell you who you were up against?”
“Some Padawan?” She returned, equally arrogant, but the fact she wasn’t trying to kill Ahsoka yet spoke to her uncertainty.
“Some Padawan he called out of a parallel timeline, Asajj Ventress. Some Padawan who knows how to beat you.” Well, some of the time. On good days.
This time, the uncertainty was plain to see. “How did you find me?”
“Because I know you.”
“How?” Ventress ignited her second lightsaber, red light making her skin look strange and even more grey than usual, for some reason.
“Because you were my friend. I trained at your side. For that, if you give up your search now, I’ll escort you out of the temple without calling my Master.”
She sneered. “Or I could just kill you and escape.”
“Maybe. But even if you did win, you wouldn’t learn what I know, would you?”
Ventress’s expression was dangerous. “And what is it that you know?”
If only Master Dooku were here, or her Master Obi-Wan. They’d know what to say. Dooku especially. He knew how to talk to Asajj better than anybody.
“I know that you wanted to be a Jedi, once. I know that your teacher was named Ky Narec, and that you loved him like a father. I know he died to protect you.”
Ventress leapt at her. Ahsoka dodged, letting the twin red blades slice into Master Nu’s door instead. Ventress pulled them out a second before they cut their way completely through and alerted any passers-by to her presence.
Now with her back to the room, Ahsoka continued. “I know you wanted to protect people, too. Why wouldn’t you? You grew up without it and you never wanted that for anyone else.”
She dodged back again, but Ventress’s attacks seemed frankly half-hearted at best. She wanted to hear what Ahsoka had to say.
“I know that you’re a Night Sister of Dathomir, but you don’t remember living there. I know that you’re gay. I know that you’ve never been kissed – properly, by someone you love – and that you’re scared that nobody will ever love you.”
The last two were guesses, but apparently they struck home. Their lightsabers met, four blades locking together.
“Why do you know that?” Ventress demanded.
Well, Ahsoka was never going home anyways. “Because in my world I wanted to kiss you! I was supposed to be with her, and I was going to tell her I loved her, but now I’m here, with you, and she doesn’t exist and never will. Because your fool of a Master decided to meddle with timelines!”
Ventress flinched, and Ahsoka flicked her shoto off, deflected both Ventress’s blades to the right, and flicked the shoto back on against her throat. Then she pushed Ventress away with the force and sat down on Master Nu’s couch. “I’m not going to kill you. For her sake, and because she walked back from the dark, so I have to believe you could do the same.”
For a second, she thought Ventress was going to run, but she didn’t. Instead, she turned off a lightsaber so she could bring one hand up to touch at her throat. “Was that what you were going to trade me? If I agreed to come with you for information.”
“No.” No point in elaborating, that trade might still be helpful.
“You shouldn’t make that offer again. The device isn’t here.”
Oh, Ahsoka was going to give Master Nu the biggest hug in the galaxy when she saw her again. “It doesn’t really matter one way or the other. I can’t use it to get home, Dooku evidently can’t use it to get help from other dimensions – since all he got was me, and I’m… hardly an asset to the Sith cause.”
“You could be an asset to the Sith cause,” Ventress offered. For a second, she sounded so much like Asajj, loyally defending her friend’s potential, that Ahsoka had to laugh.
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
She smiled like she wasn’t entirely sure how to go about it. “I meant it as one.”
Mission one, inadvisably impress Sith Acolyte Asajj Ventress: accomplished.
“Thanks. What’s a girl like you doing in a place like this, anyways?”
Ventress smirked. It suited her much better than the attempt at a sincere smile. “Breaking and entering. Attempted robbery. What’s a girl to do?”
When she was joking, she sounded much more like Asa than she really had any right to. It wasn’t fair at all. “What did Dooku want with the thing anyways? He must know it backfired last time.”
Ventress just shrugged. “He doesn’t pay me to ask questions.”
She was an Acolyte, so, “does he pay you at all?”
“Room and board. House Serenno isn’t exactly wanting for money.”
“For what you’re doing, you should get hazard pay.”
That was all Asajj’s smile. “Maybe you can be my advocate the next time I get to renegotiate that contract.”
Ahsoka should be arresting her. Should be doing something better, but now that she was relaxed and making jokes, all she could see was her friend.
“I’ll tell you how to get out of the temple unseen,” she said, and gave the directions.
“What do I owe you in turn?”
That was always the problem with the dark. There was no room for kindness. “Nothing. Just… think serious if the dark is where you want to be. I think you could still be brilliant in the grey, and there are Jedi who would still consider that a viable plan. Quinlan Vos, maybe.”
“I killed a friend of his, so probably not.”
Right, different world, different history. “I don’t know if you need anyone to teach you how to follow that path. Maybe all you need to do is to follow it yourself, away from Dooku and his Master.”
Ventress looked down at the floor, as if shamed or lost in contemplation. “He may not pay me to ask questions, but that doesn’t mean I’m not curious. He’s scared about not getting that thing back. Really scared. I think his Master might be asking for it. Otherwise, I don’t know why he would send me on what is basically a suicide mission. I’ll never make it off Coruscant alive.”
An idea clicked in the back of Ahsoka’s head. A terrible, scheming, brilliant idea. “Do you know who he is, the Master?” To Ventress’s stony expression, she said, “I do. He wants you dead, of course. Rule of two and all that nonsense.”
“You sound like him. Dooku, I mean. It’s obvious that you know him.”
Really, she thought she sounded like Obi-Wan, but the lineage was all of a piece. “Chancellor Palpatine. If I were you, I’d consider the madness of all this war and scheming, and make my way to the outer rim first thing.”
Ventress’s eyes were wide, and no wonder. In those words, if she trusted Ahsoka, she’d just become the sixth person in the Galaxy to know that the war was false, a construct. Other than Dooku, the separatists didn’t know any more than the loyalists did. But unlike the rest, Jedi and Sith alike, she had no reason to preserve the secret. Indeed, she had a great deal to gain from killing Palpatine as soon as possible. He was all that stood between her and becoming the Sith apprentice herself. Of course, the same could be said for Dooku, but there was an advantage in the Sith you knew over the one you didn’t, and Palpatine more likely would have wanted someone like Anakin as his next apprentice than Ventress herself.
“Do you think they sent me after this device so I would be killed?”
A good question, and just like both Dooku and Palpatine, to make the Jedi do their killing for them. “I don’t know. But you won’t be killed. Put on one of Master Nu’s robes and walk with me.”
Rummaging through the hall cupboard, she found a winter robe with a large hood that obscured just enough of Asajj’s face. The acolyte put it on in a hurry. “What do you think I should do? Aside from fleeing to the outer rim, I mean. They could always find me if they wanted me. The Sith are like that.”
“I don’t think you should do anything. I think if your only goal is to live, running would be best for you. Palpatine thinks you’re beneath him, he’ll be glad to be rid of you, and Dooku will be just fine on his own. I think if your goal is to be a Sith, you should kill the Chancellor. He won’t expect an attack from you. After all, you aren’t supposed to know. But I think if your goal is still, at some level, to protect people, then I think you should wait. I think I could find a Jedi who would take you on, even now. Who could teach you.”
Not Plo. She’d learned, in recent tendays, where this universe’s Wolffe had gotten his scar, and she didn’t like it one bit. But maybe Master Ti, if she didn’t have anyone? Master Nu herself? There were Jedi who still cared about this sort of thing.
“You think I still have something to learn from a Jedi?”
“I know you do. Now hurry up and walk with me.”
It was one of the most unpleasant experiences of Ahsoka’s life, walking through the temple with Ventress at her side. Every person they passed felt like a potential enemy, and it felt terribly lonely. The beat of Ventress’s walk was the same, and if she let it all fall away for a second she could imagine that they were walking together, to meet up with Barriss or Nahdar. But they weren’t and, if Ventress fled as would keep her safe, then this might be the last time they ever saw each other. If anyone found out about this, it would be a sentence for Ahsoka, sure. She didn’t care. Asa would have done the same for her. Probably was looking after her, a lifetime away. It was the right thing to do, and, as if shielded by the rightness of her choice, nobody stopped them.
When they were out, Ventress turned to her and pushed her hood back so Ahsoka could see her face. “I won’t forget this, you know. No matter what happens from here, I swear you’ll have a free pass by my hand.”
That could be useful, but, “don’t worry about me, Asa. Just… think about trying to save people. I think you’d be pretty good at it if you did.”
“Asa,” she repeated, tasting the word on her lips. “It’s not something I’ve ever been called before, but… I do like it, in a way.”
“You haven’t earned it yet,” Ahsoka said, “but I think you could, in time. You aren’t unlovable, just a bit alone. And that was hardly by your own design.”
The Sith acolyte kissed her on the lips, just a press, and Ahsoka felt her heart melt. It was everything she’d ever wanted and entirely wrong. “I hope you get home to your… friend.”
Before Ahsoka could say that wasn’t possible without help from the dark side, and perhaps even ask Ventress to provide that help, the taller girl was gone, and she was alone.
And so the circle is complete! Next chapter is Anakin’s again, and shit is gonna kick off!
Chapter 20: Anakin
Anakin and Master Nu put their heads together, with... interesting results. The beginning of two very stressful days.
CW/TW: Anakin’s PTSD, grief/mourning, canonical character death, past canon-typical violence
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
ANAKIN SKYWALKER, CORUSCANT, AN HOUR EARLIER
Obi-Wan was assembling teams and sending them out to search the temple, and the entire district, from the very highest Senator’s office to the lowest drainage ditch in the lowest level. He was in his element, directing Jedi and clones alike with not just military precision, but that of a man who had put up with Anakin Skywalker – and got him to more-or-less follow orders – for a decade.
“Knight Skywalker?” Anakin twisted around to look over his shoulder at Master Nu. She looked… unsettled. And no wonder. Ventress breaking through temple security had unsettled all of them. A terrible reminder that Dooku’s evil had knowledge of the very heart of their order.
She placed a hand to the small leather pouch at her hip. “I have… something to tell you. For your ears only.”
About Ahsoka or the not-quite-Holocron-thing, presumably. “Can it wait until after we catch Ventress?”
She was so close. They were going to run inspections of every ship leaving the atmosphere until she was found. Dooku must have been mad to think he could send his apprentice to Coruscant and get her back alive.
“I think you’ll find it relevant.”
With a broad gesture of his gloved hand, Anakin invited her to sit across from him. Sliding the door shut behind her, Master Nu took the seat, and placed the Sith tech on the durasteel table between them. In the force, the mysterious black metal seemed to hum faintly.
“We should assume,” Nu said, softly, “that Dooku wants this back. The question is: why? Because if he can’t use it with the dark side alone, and we can’t use it with the light alone, it seems immaterial which of us has it.”
She spoke as though Anakin should already know what she was talking about. “You figured out how to use it?”
“Indeed, I did,” she replied, not acknowledging Anakin’s apparent ignorance, “although since I explained it to Ahsoka, I have conducted some further experiments. Whatever she believes, I do not intend to give up on her so easily.”
So, Palpatine had been right after all that Ahsoka was hiding something from him. Just… not quite what he thought. This and the fact that she’d told Obi-Wan, which stung, but was greatly softened by the fact that Obi-Wan seemed to still love him, even knowing his other self was a Sith. “Say Ahsoka didn’t tell me about the conclusions you’ve already come to.”
Still unperturbed, Nu said, “well, it was evident fairly quickly that Dooku’s aim could hardly have been to summon Ahsoka. Indeed, he seems to have been aiming at you, but if you are dead in Ahsoka’s world, as she believes you to be, then he hardly could have summoned you. So, I began to wonder if, in addition to obviously having grabbed the wrong person, Dooku had also misused the device.
“Sith Holocrons can only be trusted to obey if opened together with Jedi Holocrons. The light binds them to honestly. So I began to wonder: if Sith Holocrons are unreliable when opened with only the dark, does the same principle apply to other Sith technologies. What I came to conclude was that only the light and dark together could appropriately direct this device.”
Anakin’s fingers itched to touch it. “But if that were the case, would it ever have been used? Surely no Jedi would agree to summon an evil version of a person from a parallel dimension, and no Sith would intend to summon a good version.”
“Exactly,” Nu agreed, the enthusiasm of a scholar rising in her voice. “So, I looked into these glyphs.” She tapped the faces of the device, and, when her wrinkled fingers tapped right on the surface of each symbol, a blue light arose.
A memory twisted itself free in Anakin’s mind. “When Dooku used it, it was already awake. Dark and pulsing. He just touched this one–” Anakin waved his hand over one of the symbols. “–and everything exploded. Also, when he did it the light was red, not blue.”
She was silent a while, examining each face of the device. “Opened by dark alone brings forth red light, opened by light alone brings forth blue. Interesting.” She looked up at Anakin. “The glyph he touched is ‘Kosh’, ‘to mirror’. The other three central glyphs are ‘to twin’, ‘to repeat’, and ‘to become equal’, sometimes translated as ‘to parallel’. The four bottom glyphs are more interesting. On opposite sides are ‘free’ and ‘chained’, which I suspect is a reference to the Sith Code’s final lines, ‘through victory my chains are broken/the force shall set me free’. Then, also opposite, are ‘ignorance’ and ‘knowledge’, specifically knowledge of the self. That of course being a reference to our code.”
She’d lost Anakin with her quoting from the Sith code, and, examining him closer, seemed to realize it. “It’s a nice ending to a code, isn’t it? Rather undermined by the opening line. ‘Peace is a lie’. I like to think not. And of course, the trouble with the Sith is that the only chains they care to break are their own. Even a Sith apprentice must be chained to his Master.”
It was an unpleasant thought. If Anakin had learned anything on Tatooine, it was that the best of all people broke their own chains last. There was a reason his mother had sent him away. Yet in the words of the Sith there was such temptation, for in his worst moments, he did not believe there was peace, he did believe that the only person he needed to save was himself.
Nu said, “the final glyph is on the bottom. It’s controversial in its translation. If you believe T’Kar’s work on the matter, it means the specific but nameless future reader of the text. A singular pronoun standing for ‘whomever’, essentially. I’ve never thought that was particularly satisfying because it isn’t seen very frequently in a domestic context, for example it’s never used when speaking of foetuses, in texts like the “Letters to the Young”, even though the unknown gender of the child would theoretically make it an ideal substitution. I’ve always preferred Master Nystrii’s translation that it instead is a generic “I”, as one might use when writing fiction in the first person. A sense of self externalized beyond the physical body.”
Sometimes, Anakin wondered if he would have been suited for a more academic career path than the one of a Knight. After all, he loved Padmé and Obi-Wan in no small part because they were both the sort of people who could have understood this perfectly. But Anakin himself most assuredly did not. He wondered if anyone other than an archivist would have.
“Can you summarize?”
She actually rolled her eyes at him. “I think the glyphs indicate that this is grey technology used for the purpose of enlightenment by seeing one’s self in another dimension. For Sith, to see one’s own freedom, for Jedi, to see knowledge. I’m still not sure what the four central glyphs do, but I don’t think I need to since you remember which one Dooku used. I’ve been filling it with the force, light side only, and interacting with the lower four glyphs. Those are the experiments I was mentioning. The Sith glyphs don’t do anything for me, but the Jedi ones both provoke… strange visions. Ignorance was my childhood, knowledge was… a possible future, I should think.”
Carefully, so as not to touch the glyphs, Anakin spun the device around. “‘Mirror’ is above free. Do you think that means it also corresponds only to dark interactions?”
They looked at each other, silently wonder, judging, before Nu reached out and pressed her palm to it. Nothing happened. Their eyes met again, and, with the firm confidence of a Jedi, Nu turned the device to face Anakin. As she pulled away from it in the force, the blue light faded. It was dark, lifeless and empty. It called out, wanted to be used.
Anakin steeled his courage. This was something he had to do on his own. “Light and dark together, you said?”
Nu looked at him oddly. “Together, two people. A Sith and a Jedi.”
Anakin let a cocky smirk twist his lips as he pulled the anger and grief of Tatooine from one side and the serenity of Naboo from the other. “Bet I can do you one better.”
“No!” Nu was rising to her feet, reaching out, but already the device was opening, flickering between red and blue like the room was the inside of a sleazy club down on the lower levels. The power felt so wonderful.
He reached out his hand. Ahsoka, he thought, clearly. Switch Ahsoka. The glyph stuck on red and burned. Anakin tried to pull away but it seemed to be sucking the Force out of him, out of the room. The fuel in his mind moved from anger to raw fear as Master Nu stumbled, missing as she tried to knock his hand away.
“The Force,” she whispered, voice trembling, “it pulls in the Force, Anakin. Did you feel this when he used it? Did you lose touch?”
He did. He did. “Master Nu,”
Anakin stumbled backwards as the device released him, crashing to the ground. He cradled his burnt hand against his chest, as the Force seemed to seep back in around him. By the light’s momentary absence, it had returned as sweet and blissful as he had ever felt it. The burning sensation on his palm seemed to have faded, and when he rubbed it thoughtlessly the glyph mark was–
Anakin bolted upright, finally opening his eyes to stare at the shoddy metal of his left hand and, much more concerning again, the long-lost flesh of his right.
Oh no, oh no, oh no. He’d thrown himself into another dimension. A third one. That much was immediately obvious. Who knew what the Anakin from this world was like. No lightsaber to tell if he was a Sith or a Jedi, crashed single-pilot ship, but who knew if it was his or someone else’s. It’d been torn apart for scrap either way. Jungle planet, not immediately familiar. Hot, though. He had to rig up this ship to contact the council, pray that his codes worked and that this world wasn’t one where the Sith had won already.
“Master Ani, are you alright?”
“Not now Threepio!”
It took a moment for Anakin’s brain to catch up with his mouth, and he whirled around to find the disembodied head of his protocol droid – his, not Padmé’s, with that old grey-silver casing – sitting on top of one of the boxes.
“Where in all the Sith hells am I?” And why did the force in this universe – or at least this spot in it – feel so weirdly smooth?
For a second, he thought he heard Mace Windu saying, “Skywalker, stand down.” But when he searched in the force, he could detect no trace of the Order Master’s presence.
Right, you never got anywhere with Threepio with an attitude. “Sorry. I’m not your Anakin, Threepio. I’m from another timeline and I need your help to figure out where, exactly.”
Threepio sniffed, for lack of a better word. “I must say, I don’t think this joke is very funny at all! And just when you were in the middle of telling us about that lost girl too!”
Us? No, better question: “Lost girl?”
Like a ghost on the wind, a voice that sounded terribly like Count Dooku began to whimper. Once more, there was no trace in the force. Perhaps this forest was haunted. Anakin had seen stranger things.
Artoo chirped up from behind the ship. He looked busted to all the Sith hells, but, well, it was definitely him. Nobody else would be that quick to be that rude to Threepio.
“I must say, the both of you have a funny sense of humour.”
Well that was probably a lost cause. Threepio would come around to believing them anyways. Anakin resisted the urge to hug his friend. It was good to know he was still somewhere where someone with as much sense as Artoo would like him. “Artoo, mind filling me in? Who I am, where I am, what I’m doing?”
Oh great, three universes and no luck in any of them.
There are times in any life where one’s sense of what the world is so totally rocked that one has to sit down and brace their head as if sitting in a crashing shuttle. Losing Ahsoka. Losing his mother.
There was a scream, a memory of one that burned his throat in a way that he knew that the voice was his. It caught in the back of his mouth like he was choking, and for a flash he saw an all-too familiar body lying motionless in Geonosian sand. “Sheev Palpatine personally ordered the death of Senator Padmé Amidala,” a voice said, rendered unrecognizable by static interfering with a stolen news report.
Anakin stumbled back for the second time in just a few moments and crashed into the bark of a tree, shivering as the Force scoured his body. It was like being rubbed down with metal wire. Everywhere he looked there were traces of the Sith. A hand on his shoulder, a whispered word leaving behind poison. He needed it out. Just – just out, because when Artoo had said the word Palpatine, his first instinct had been to say he was innocent, that it was all a lie, and this wasn’t even his Palpatine. That was how deep the poison ran.
He needed it out. He needed it gone.
Anakin had never found himself assured by the Jedi code before, but he was now. Settling into meditation, he recited the words, and imagined the light filling him up, burning away every lie, every manipulation, every little wound designed to send Anakin crawling back to him later like a dog. A decade of whispered digs at Obi-Wan, at the Council, at the other Padawans, sometimes at specific Jedi like Vos (Selfish, treacherous, would turn on you in an instant) or Adi Gallia (too much a politician). Later, digs at Padmé, at the clones, at Ahsoka just the day before. To make him lonely. Designed to cut off everything he loved, everyone he could have trusted.
He wasn’t angry. Perhaps he should have been, but anger would have been an insignificant emotion for what he felt. Palpatine had tried to killed Padmé. Had engineered his relationship with Padmé to isolate him, if her words were to be believed, and then tried to destabilize that relationship when he realized it was too powerful. But in spite of all this he was not alone. He was not. Even here in a world that was not his, that was not even the other parallel dimension he knew about, there were Artoo and Threepio, and he was not a Sith. Most recent occupation, not current. Sheev Palpatine: Deceased.
“Excuse me,” a voice said. Anakin’s voice, not like it sounded on recordings, but like it sounded in his own head.
Anakin, who had already reached his breaking point for dramatic revelations for the day, decided not to dignify this latest with a reaction. “What?”
“Well, for starters, I think you misused that Sith tech too, just differently than that Bantha-shit stain Dooku did. Ahsoka definitely doesn’t have two force presences stuck in her head. Maybe it’s because of our vergence, but I think you probably just bungled it.”
Anakin tried to ask what was happening, but no sooner could he form the thought than he was swept away in a current of memory. Padmé, his scream as he watched her body twist the force of the blaster bolt. His first lightsaber, long lost, slicing through Dooku’s wrists, the terror in his eyes. That awful, awful whimpering sound. Yoda, flying at him and Anakin being so afraid. Palpatine, watching him as he curled on the floor, shaking with grief and fear and anger. Pulling him to his knees, extracting an oath and granting a name. The war from the other side, slashing through clones as if they meant nothing, as if their lives meant nothing, being extinguished in the force one by one. And then Mustafar. The Jedi ordering him to stop, falling before them so Palpatine would die. Razing the Sith temples. Devaron, Ahsoka – his Ahsoka, Force – learning that Obi-Wan was so close and the breaking of his heart.
“I’ll look after her,” the other Anakin swore, as his head began to throb, “I promise.”
Anakin grasped Padmé’s hand at their wedding, he led his first troopers into battle. He was knighted. They gave him the Padawan even he hadn’t known he needed. Geonosis again, attacks on Senators, viruses, bounty hunters, almost losing Padmé again and again but always coming home, in the end. The little journal that Rex thought he didn’t know about that listed the name of every dead trooper under his command and gave names to the nameless ones. Screams, crying muffled by helmets, Obi-Wan on a rare break snoring into the bar at Dex’s. Padmé’s laughter as Anakin tried to do his very best impression of Master Yoda, the horrible helplessness of watching Ahsoka’s head crash into the walls of Dooku’s ship. Padmé, trying to protect him from a Sith Lord, even though she couldn’t possibly have known what he was.
The other Anakin seemed to be waiting for something.
“I’ll look after her. I swear it.”
He was in a clean, white, medical room. Obi-Wan’s eyes opened the very second his did, wide with worry. His hand slid down to his lightsaber.
Of course, he had no idea who he was speaking to. Nu surely would have told him to worry. But Anakin knew exactly who and where he was. He knew so, so much. “It’s me. Padmé lived on Geonosis, I’m training Ahsoka, we were just looking for Ventress in the Temple.”
Obi-Wan lifted his hand off the hilt, rubbing it awkwardly against his knee. “Well, that was lucky, I supposed. Master Nu feared we had lost you as well.”
He thought, with the last traces of the other Anakin overlapping in his memory, that this was what Obi-Wan sounded like when he was afraid.
This was a man who had, if Ahsoka was to be believed, still grieved him after years spent as a Sith.
“I love you, you know. You were a good teacher and I don’t think I’ve ever told you that in as many words.”
The look Obi-Wan gave him was definitely one of suspicion, but, well, they could work on that. Once Anakin killed Palpatine and carved his worthless corpse into a thousand pieces, they’d have all the time in the Galaxy.
“What do the healers have to say about when I can get out of here?”
I added another chapter because boy this finale shaping up to be long. Next week is the last flashback chapter (parallel-Anakin’s), but updates may be a little sketchy because I broke my mouse with a nosebleed (no, really) and I’m gonna need to take it in to get fixed at some point.
Chapter 21: Parallel Anakin Skywalker
CW/TW: mentions of abuse/grooming, PTSD, canonical character death in non-canonical way
We Stan R2
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
PARALLEL ANAKIN SKYWALKER, PARALLEL MUSTAFAR, SEVEN MONTHS EARLIER
Anakin lay for a while against the hot, black stone, listening to the last of the fighting – of Palpatine’s screaming – dying down overhead. He was wounded, the sharp pain of Yoda’s lightsaber through his abdomen – fortunately not anywhere fatal, it seemed – and the screaming pain of his missing hand. The stones of Mustafar wouldn’t be such a bad place to die, he supposed. Then, at least, he would see Padmé again.
Or would he? Obi-Wan had always taught him that life was cyclical. All things arose from the force and returned to it in time. Palpatine had promised that he could conquer death, could bring them back, but Palpatine had murdered her. He’d ordered her killed, and even if he hadn’t fired that last shot, the reasons for her even being on Geonosis had been his. And, if everything hadn’t been going so wrong, would he have gone to Tatooine earlier? Perhaps not, but it was good to feel such seething hatred. It was the way to the power that could bring them back.
Except it didn’t feel good, not really. It was exhausting. Anakin closed his eyes. When he was a Jedi, he’d never felt so empty. Even when he was friendless and terrified, those first few weeks on Coruscant where Obi-Wan had been sad and silent as the grief. Even then he had not felt so worthless, so hopeless.
The dark side had filled him with power beyond imagining, but that power, like all power, came at a price. This one was paid for in blood. Had to be paid for in blood. He never could have summoned it without watching his mother fade before his eyes, feeling her presence in the force slip away on a meandering wind. Without Padmé’s body burned against his retinas, he never would have had the strength to hold Dooku, festering wound of a person that he was, while he exacted a blood price of his own.
But up there, against Palpatine who didn’t care for any one or anything except power its, that anger had failed him. He had been alone, and it had taken a dozen Jedi masters to subdue Palpatine. The power of the darkness was a solitary thing. There were only two Sith for a reason, after all, and Anakin alone had not been powerful enough to obliterate his Master.
Palpatine had spoken to him gently, with love and kindness, but his words were orders. It cut and burned at Anakin’s mind when he refused.
Had he ever really had the option to refuse? The truth was, he didn’t know. And that alone was terrifying.
There was a weakness in the darkness. It ate and ate at the very core of your being, and never stopped. It wanted to be used, wanted to feed itself. That was how all power worked on Tatooine. Eat or be eaten, win or be beaten, fly fast or die. If you didn’t use the powers you were able to take, someone would take them from you. If you didn’t hurt people, they would hurt you.
Or that was how Anakin had seen it, all his life in the Core looking back at the galactic cesspool he’d grown up in. But his mother hadn’t seen it like that. She hadn’t treated people like that. She had been ceaselessly, unerringly, effortlessly, good. No, not effortlessly. It had seemed that was as a child, but it couldn’t have been effortless. To say as much would have been to ignore how much she had fought for the right to be kind. It would be to ignore how much her generosity was a triumph. It was easy to hurt, to be hurt. It was much, much harder to be kind.
She wouldn’t have wanted Anakin to lie here and die. No matter the things he’d done in the past, she would have wanted him to stand up, to be better tomorrow. That was something she’d always said. “Tomorrow is a new day, Ani. What you do today never changes that.”
So, Anakin stood, feeling his legs trembling beneath him with exhaustion, his entire body shaking with the pain that radiated from his lightsaber wounds. Miraculously, he hadn’t broken anything in the fall. The force must have curled around him, keeping him safe. The same way it had protected him from accidents as a child.
The force was a protector, not a weapon. How had he forgotten? How had Sidious – Palpatine – made him forget?
Guide me, he asked, begged it. Show me the way out of this place. There was a moment where he continued to stumble in the darkness, bashed his stump into the wall and almost whited out from the pain.
And then the path grew clear in his mind, blindingly, terrible clear, and he found himself standing on the surface of Mustafar, watching the Jedi ship rise into the planet’s upper atmosphere. Wrapping the force around his aching body with the meagre remnants of his Jedi healing power, he stumbled to where he’d left his own ship, and clambered inside. He could rest, soon. He just had to get away from here, then he could rest.
But where to go? The Jedi would think to look for him soon. For his body. Hopefully, they’d think the magma had risen again and killed him. But if they searched the force, the darkness that cloaked him would soon be evident. He had never mastered Sidious’s technique for seeming as if he wasn’t force sensitive.
If he went somewhere powerful in the force, they wouldn’t be able to see him. That had been part of Sidious’s technique, on Coruscant, if not the whole of it. So, with a heavy heart, Anakin plugged in the coordinates for his camp on Thule,
The Sith presence on Thule was old, and had been long abandoned. Palpatine, who had interest in the history of the Sith only when it served to advance his interests, had left it essentially in Anakin’s control. He had discovered some interesting technological remnants, but had been too engrossed in the war to spend much time there.
Now, returning all these months later, he was surprised by how much the darkness cloaking the planet bothered him. It was the darkness of long ago war, of death, and of the fury of the Sith who had once made this their home. Well, perhaps home was not the right word. They had possessed it, not belonged to it, as one should belong to a true home. As Anakin rested and healed, stealing the holonews from the civilians who still managed to live here in spite of what Anakin could feel, there was one bright side.
Sidious had called him overly sentimental, for risking his own life in going back to Geonosis for the droids, so Anakin had stashed them away, out of sight and out of mind. They were probably the only beings in the galaxy that didn’t hate him right now.
A few days after Anakin’s return, when he’d sent Threepio down into the city to purchase supplies, Artoo, who was still dubious about the whole thing, wobbled up beside him.
Anakin resisted the urge to lay his hand along the droid’s dome, to feel the reassurance of another being under his fingers. “No, Artoo. I’m… between jobs, at the moment.”
The temple shuddered a little, in the act of being denied. Into the force, Anakin hissed, “just because I am not one of you does not mean that I am not the master of this place.”
Artoo shuddered a little closer, bumping up against Anakin’s side.
Unlike Threepio, who had been rebuilt by Anakin’s hand, Artoo had no reason to have any affection for him, but somehow, he felt cared for anyhow. “I’m sorry for keeping you here so long. You can leave, if you want. Just… please don’t tell anyone I’m alive.”
The droid seemed to consider the idea for a second.
“Well, that makes one of us.”
Artoo shuffled against him again.
Threepio, presumably. “I won’t. Or, well, I’ll try not to anyways. I usually don’t know that what I’m doing is stupid until I’ve done it.”
He didn’t pretend to understand the odd affection that lay between his droids, but he was glad for it. It was the strange stuff of holocomedies, the way they sniped at each other, and yet it was the only thing in Anakin’s life that seemed clean against the foggy unreality the rest of his life had taken on. They seemed real. Their oddness, the way they ran counter to all his expectations, made them seem more real.
Thule had become suffocating, even more so than before. As Anakin healed, he found the shrines and dark objects and death choked off his breath.
The Jedi weren’t looking for him. That much was obvious. So, after some thought, he began to sort through it all. There were a few objects he kept. Wayfinders with the locations of other Sith cites and temples. Holocrons. It still felt wrong, destroying the recorded history of the Sith. But this place was wrong. It was evil, and the planet by and large was peaceful. So it had to go. Tearing it down, breaking the walls and the murals and feeling the darkness that lived here burn away… now that was fun. It was the best Anakin had felt in weeks. He left the shield generator on the moon, which had been designed to protect the temple but would do the same for the civilians, and packed everything into the single-seater flier – poor Threepio had to be disassembled to fit – and was on his way.
From Thule, they went to temple after temple – and on one, memorable occasion, an evil water planet that made Anakin oddly nostalgic for the dry wastelands of Tatooine – and everywhere they went, they destroyed. The artifacts and the Holocrons they kept, for an ever growing collection that Anakin vaguely planned to see delivered to a Jedi archivist some day. Other things, which seemed dull in the force, paintings and ancient books that weren’t about the Sith, Anakin and Artoo, who now usually went into town when Threepio was still disassembled with his head in a sack to do the talking, decided could be sold to keep them liquid. It was a very good day for antiques dealers, when they made that decision, and a very good day for them too, since for the first time they could afford enough fuel to get from place to place without stealing any of it.
It seemed as if years had passed in a matter of months. Every time Anakin got behind the seat he felt older, drained by the darkness, but also wiser, more secure in his self.
They were at the Acablas site, hiding in the older, Sith parts associated with the Vergence, when Anakin realized the Jedi caretaker was gone. They’d been recalled from a number of the far flung outposts across the galaxy during the war, but Anakin had assumed they all would have come back. The revelation that they hadn’t was shocking. With gentle, tentative steps, he had climbed out of the darkness, out of the Sith, and into the ancient Jedi site.
The light was very nearly blinding, after so long slipping from one darkness to the other. Anakin couldn’t help but breathe deep, shakily, trying not to weep. He ran his hands along the walls, the cool stone grounding him, tying him to the light of the vergence here. It sounded like singing.
“No more dark sites,” Anakin said, a promise to the singing. “No more. Tell me where to go.”
It seemed not to speak to him, at first, but when he left the next day, with the usual collection of new artifacts, his hands moved as if on their own, guiding him to crash on Devaron. The brightness, there in his smoking ship, left him crying with relief.
Next week: the finale begins
Chapter 22: Ahsoka (Finale, pt 1)
Ahsoka receives a visitor. Obi-Wan receives a gift. Dooku makes a decision. Anakin takes a risk. Asajj awaits an answer.
CW/TW: past and implied future canon-typical violence. Grief/mourning.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Ahsoka was meditating in the center of the courtyard again. Now that she knew Anakin was here, it occupied her time well to try and differentiate between what she felt from his vergence and what she felt from the local one. Obi-Wan was her only company. Ever since their kiss, Asajj had avoided any more time with her than was necessary. Ahsoka tried not to think about it. That path led only to distraction and madness. Ahsoka thought she could understand why the Jedi had banned attachment in the first place if losing it felt like this.
The force was growing brighter, clearer. There’d been some disturbance an hour or so ago, probably Anakin messing around, that had left Ahsoka with a throbbing headache. Obi-Wan, with all his connections to the Cosmic Force, hadn’t really noticed it. Dooku, when he’d come walking through the courtyard shortly after the disturbance ended, had looked as if a storm was brewing, and if he had to put it down, then so be it. Dooku often looked ready to put something down, if necessary.
A tendril reached out to her in the force, as warm and inviting as a friend’s hand. Indeed, it was a friend’s presence in the force.
“Anakin?” She welcomed his mind into her, and almost recoiled at his feelings of overwhelming certainty, dedication. All the weight of the world seemed to rest upon his shoulders. “Do you need help?”
“I need you to open your eyes, and pull Obi-Wan from his meditation. Gently.”
He was standing in front of her, as skinny and ragged as the last time she’d seen him, but in his open hand he held a familiar and terrible device. It lacked the glow of the last time she’d seen it, but she would have recognized that thing anywhere. It had destroyed her life.
“Anakin,” she whispered, unable to help herself. He winced as Obi-Wan’s eyes darted open, taking in Ahsoka’s line of sight and whirling around to find the ex-Sith standing over him.
As Ahsoka had done, he went for his lightsaber. This time, Anakin didn’t even have a blaster on him to drop. Obi-Wan launched forward, and would have driven the blade through Anakin’s heart if Ahsoka had not wrapped an arm around his neck. The force coiled dangerously.
“You aren’t here,” Obi-Wan said, voice sounding horribly broken. “You’re gone.”
Gone, not dead. Interesting.
Anakin must have picked up on the choice of words, because he raised his synthetic hand to his eyes and pointed. “No. I’m myself. I came to bring this.” He hefted the device in his hand. “Ahsoka – I’ve seen your master, for certain values of seen. We experienced some memory bleed over. I think I understand how this device works, and I can get you home.” He looked very carefully only at Ahsoka.
Memory bleed over did not sound good. “Is he okay?’
The other Anakin shrugged. “I don’t know. The reversion to our own universes only knocked me out for fifteen to twenty, but I didn’t have to expend the energy getting here. I saw what his Master Nu explained about the device. But the way it malfunctioned for Anakin explained everything, I think. He was closer to using it correctly than Dooku was. It’s not meant to pull people through, you understand? It’s meant for self-enlightenment. That’s all. Simple thing, really. A Jedi and a Sith come together, and it allows them to see other worlds, other lives. To experience and learn from them. The people who made this must have been so beautiful.”
There was an almost childlike wonder in his voice. Obi-Wan flicked the blade of his lightsaber off. In Ahsoka’s grip, he was shaking. She relaxed, letting her hand slide down to grasp over his chest. Anakin seemed to be making a very concerted effort to look anywhere but in his eyes. He seemed dedicated to brute-forcing his way through this reunion, pretending it wasn’t a Very Big Deal.
“Anakin?” Obi-Wan asked, wonder mirroring Anakin’s own, and it seemed this word was all it took to break the dam. He crumbled forward, and Anakin, setting the device down, wrapped his once-Master up in his long arms.
“I’m sorry,” he wept, “I’m so, so sorry, Master. I know you can never forgive me, but–”
Obi-Wan grabbed him fiercely by the shoulders and pulled back to search his scarred face, as if trying to capture a Holo of it with his eyes.
“You’re alive,” Obi-Wan whispered, “I can forgive anything.”
The hum of more lightsabers broke the beauty of the moment. Dooku held his calmly, tip extended elegantly to the ground like an invitation. He had put himself in the doorway, stopping Asajj, whose blades glowed green, casting a silhouette around her teacher, from coming through.
Ahsoka forced herself to stand, to place her hands on the hilts of her own lightsabers. It would have felt wrong to draw against her friends. In a way it was remarkable. The world where Dooku and Asajj were only enemies seemed like a lifetime ago.
“He’s here for me,” Ahsoka said, pushing the words from her mouth with as much strength as she could muster. “He’s not what you think.”
Dooku said nothing. Anakin’s hand came down on her shoulder. It was the flesh one, entirely wrong. Someone should get him gloves like her Anakin had.
“I’m exactly what he thinks,” said Anakin. When she twisted back to look at him, his eyes were fixed solely on Dooku. “I’m the sadistic kriffing bastard who ruined his life.” He breathed deeply, as if in meditation. “You have every reason to hate me. I think you’ll agree that I have every reason to hate you. But… I saw in the other Anakin’s world what you were. What you became. The Witch behind you too. Baldie. I know what it is to crawl out of that. So for what it’s worth, for your part in Padmé’s death, I forgive you. You can kill me when we’re done, if you want. I really don’t have any reason to care. But let’s get the girls home first, alright?”
Dooku switched the lightsaber off, but didn’t get out of Asajj’s way, or return the hilt to his belt. “Tell your story, Skywalker. I’ve got all day.”
Anakin bowed to him, very ceremonially. “That device there is what brought Ahsoka through to this world. Picked it up at Acablas. By the way, someone should tell the council they need to return the Jedi caretaker there to his post. Site’s completely abandoned.”
As if this was a perfectly reasonable tangent at a time when Asajj still had her blades drawn and Obi-Wan was sitting on the ground crying silently, Dooku nodded. “I’ll see to it.”
“It’s old. I have no idea how old. I thought the runes were a form of Sith that I hadn’t seen before, but they aren’t. Master Nu translated them for the other Anakin. I’m sure you’d prefer to read them yourself.”
He nodded again. “Ahsoka, bring it to me. Skywalker – I asked for your story, not an inept lesson in Sith history.”
It occurred to her, as she gingerly picked up the terrible thing, that Dooku was only truly cruel when he was afraid or when he was acting. Obi-Wan caught her wrist as she began to move away. Whispering under Anakin’s explanation of his escape from Mustafar, Obi-Wan hissed, “did you know he was here?”
“Yes,” Ahsoka whispered back, “When I ran away. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, just… he was scared.”
She thought he would be angry, but instead, Obi-Wan smiled at her. The tears seemed to have stopped, for now, though the tracks down his cheeks still shone wet with them. “Thank you. I know he wouldn’t have come back to me without you.”
“He would have, in time.”
She stood, and brought the device to Dooku. Anakin shut up as he turned it in his hands, examining the nine glyphs. “How did Jocasta explain the bottom glyph?”
“Externalized sense of self. ‘I’, like in a novel.”
He shook his head. “She would say that. Still, in this context she seems to have been right. My Jocasta will be insufferable when she hears about it.”
A faint blue light radiated from the glyphs as Dooku filled it with the force. He seemed almost eerily calm.
“Dooku,” Anakin said, gently, “the other Anakin tried to use it on his own, tried to contain light and dark in himself. That didn’t work. I can channel the dark side to power it, but I need someone else to channel the light.”
Dooku was still examining it, slowly twisting the device around in his hands. “Tell me all your observations on how it works.”
So, Anakin did. As Obi-Wan collected himself, dusting off his robes to stand at Anakin’s side, the once-Sith explained how it seemed to drain the force around it, how it could be powered by light or dark alone, how Anakin had tried to capture both sides of the force in himself and failed.
“All I need is one of you to do it with me. I thought perhaps…”
Obi-Wan spoke even as Anakin trailed off, too nervous to ask for help. “I can do it. For Ahsoka… it’s the least I can do.”
But Dooku was stepping forward, out of the doorway, the glyphs on the device growing brighter. With slow determination, he walked until he and Anakin were but an arm’s length from each other. Then he held out the device.
“You and I started this together. We should end it together.” When Anakin still look sceptical, Dooku said, “you aren’t quite a Sith. I’m not quite a Jedi. Together, we’re as grey as I think it wants. Besides… we know that when I activate the device while it draws on your powers, it connects our two worlds. Better safe than sorry, yes?”
Anakin looked at him with a certain wonder in his eyes. “Thank you.”
He reached out to the device, driving it from blue to yellow, but Dooku pulled it back. “wait, Anakin. The girls should say goodbye, first.”
Asajj, lightsabers returned to her belt, had slunk out from behind Dooku. Now, she came up to Ahsoka. There was a nervous excitement on her face at the thought of getting her friend back that broke Ahsoka’s heart. But of course, it never really could have been.
“Thank you, Asa. For everything.”
Asajj raised a hand nervously, as if afraid to touch Ahsoka’s shoulder. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be… it’s just, you know, I miss her.”
And just like that, everything slid into place. “Force, Asajj. I’m sorry. Do you know if she likes you back?” When Asajj shrugged, she said, “stupid question, of course she does. We’re not as different as all that.”
She smiled, still so radiant, and Ahsoka pushed the feelings it elicited way down. There was no way that was going to fly in her own world, where Ventress was evil. “I think you’ll be a great Jedi, Ahsoka.”
“You already are,” Ahsoka said, and was surprised to find herself swept up in a tight hug. She buried her face in the crook of Asajj’s long neck.
When Asajj let her go, the other Obi-Wan was standing beside her, his arms outstretched.
“Excited to get your Padawan back?”
He rolled his eyes at her, reminding her so much of her Anakin. “Of course I am, Ahsoka. That doesn’t mean I won’t miss you.” Oh, right, this Obi-Wan was supposed to be good at emotions and stuff. “You reminded me to have hope, Ahsoka. That means more than you know.”
He hugged her too, briefly. Then paused. “Tell the other me… well, he probably won’t listen if you aren’t direct. Tell him I said that he deserves to be loved. That there isn’t a contradiction between the code and that. He probably won’t believe you, but he needs to hear it anyways.”
Anakin made a vaguely strangled noise as if someone had punched him in the throat, but didn’t say anything.
She was going home. Home, to where her Anakin was, and to Rex and his brothers. Home to her Master Plo, and Wolffe with scars from Ventress’s hand, and Padmé in the Senate.
“Ahsoka,” Master Dooku said, his voice calm and commanding. She looked up at him, and was surprised to find that he offered her a welcoming smile. “I don’t know if the circumstances will ever arise, but… if you can, tell Master Yoda I never fell because of him. It wasn’t his fault.” To Anakin’s raised eyebrow, he said, “he wasn’t angry with you, Skywalker. He just thought he’d failed me. He wasn’t prepared to do so again.”
Anakin, seeming not entirely persuaded, said, “I was nineteen. He tried to kill me.”
“Yes,” Dooku said, drawing surprise from all of them. “You were, and he shouldn’t have done it. But that Yoda didn’t do it, and he never got me back. He’s alone, even if he likes to pretend he isn’t.”
There was nothing to say to that. Not really. Obi-Wan squeezed Ahsoka’s shoulder, one last time.
“Ready?” Anakin asked, looking between Ahsoka and Dooku. She nodded, words too difficult to utter.
Dooku, in lieu of words, held the device out. It hovered between their outstretched hands, turning slowly as the light grew. Some of the glyphs were pure blue, other were red, and then, slowly, they all began to shine a dazzling white. In the force it was almost overwhelming, as Ahsoka began to feel her spirit catching on it, the force being ripped from her body into the device. Asajj looked rather ill.
“You’ll have a little bleed over,” Anakin explained, like a shuttle pilot coming in for landing, “I don’t know how long it will last. Just remember to be in your proper body when it ends. No matter how much you see in her head, don’t forget who you are.”
“Dooku I don’t like this,” Asajj said suddenly, clutching at her stomach. Dooku turned to her, eyes tearing away from the device just as Anakin’s hand finally made contact with the glyph he was aiming for.
For a single, horrible second, the force was gone. Anakin gritted his teeth in pain, but neither he nor Dooku pulled away.
Ahsoka closed her eyes. The force was gone, but it didn’t feel like when Dooku had done it, the darkness and sickness just before her head had hit the wall. Instead it felt like gravity was gone, and her spirit was floating away as infinite power pushed it through the universe.
She was a child, Master Plo’s claws clutching her hand gently. She was an initiate, utterly terrified of being unnoticed. She was watching the funeral of Senator Padmé Amidala over the Holonet. She was being sent to meet her new master. They didn’t tell Anakin she was to be his, and he wasn’t sure if he wanted her. Master Plo was introducing her to her master, before she could be sent to the Agricorps. Kit smiled like he wanted to know her.
She was standing, frozen, in the courtyard of the Devaron temple, watching as Asajj’s mouth opened in a silent scream.
She was walking into the speeder bay, with purpose in her step. Anakin had broken out of the Healer’s Wing. Obi-Wan was checking the temple, floor to ceiling. Padmé wasn’t answering her com, so Ahsoka was about to go check her apartment.
With a terrible pressure like the formation of a star, they became one and Understood. Ahsoka knew when she was, who she had been, who she could be. She kissed Asajj and was kissed by Ventress. She was not jealous, only amused. She was scared. Half of her had lost her master already, and the other half had so much yet to lose.
“I have much to lose too,” one of them thought, remembering how the other had seen Obi-Wan weep.
“Yes,” said the other, thinking of a world brimming with potential after a war. “Yet you risked all of it for my broken/ugly/strange world.”
Both worlds were broken, and both Ahsokas knew it.
In the courtyard of the Eedit temple, Anakin said, “please, you can’t confront him,” and both Ahsokas knew, in a heartbeat, where the other Anakin was.
They jumped a speeder without telling the attendant, and raced through the streets of Coruscant, feeling the wind against her montrals as she begged the universe for mercy.
“No,” Anakin said again, brokenly.
The two Anakins, for their part, were standing in the Senate building, in front of an office they knew all too well. They had shared before, and doing so again had been far less marvelous than it had been for the Ahsokas. Anakin-Risen had debated fighting his counterpart for control of this body, but would not. He feared becoming trapped here, the look on Obi-Wan’s face at losing him again. The look on Padmé’s living face when she realized who he had become.
Anakin-Falling feared the same things, but they did not stay his hand as he requested entrance at the Chancellor’s door.
Anakin-Risen had never killed his Padmé’s murderer. A part of him still yearned for the opportunity.
“Enter,” said the Chancellor, and, together, they took the first step towards destiny.
Anakin: Anakin no
Anakin: Anakin yes
finale pt. 2 next week, then a two part epilogue (one for each dimension. Duh)
Chapter 23: Finale, Pt. 2
Merged with their counterparts, our protagonists fight for the future of a world which is, in some cases, not their own.
CW/TW: potential triggers for suicide/self-harm (sort of, it’s complicated. See end note for spoilerified warning and directions for which paragraphs to skip). Canon-typical violence.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
CORUSCANT, SERENNO AND PARALLEL DEVARON, PRESENT
Asajj was hiding in plain sight, losing a game of sabacc, when her own voice in her head suggested that she call a bluff.
The other version of herself was a better gambler than she was, and they managed to stumble off, clutching their wig tight to keep from losing it, before the memories overwhelmed them.
They stood together, and killed together, and hid together. One of them was alone. One of them was not. Both of them understood why they were there. Because Count Dooku, the Sith, wanted one of them dead. Because Master Dooku, the Jedi, wanted one of them alive. There was something so terrible, in knowing your life had been directed utterly by the whims of someone one of them hated and the other loved.
They threw up in the gutter. Coruscant had seen worse.
Lightyears away, in a lonely, empty palace on Serenno, two versions of its ruler were grappling over a very similar problem. And they were grappling, wrestling for control of their hands. One contained a holocommunicator that would alert Darth Sidious to what was going on. The other contained a lightsaber.
On Coruscant, Obi-Wan Kenobi stood still, and allowed the light of possibility to fill him without fear. Master Kenobi grieved where Knight Kenobi did, and celebrated where Knight Kenobi did. Of the five, they were by far the two who were most alike, and so the joining for them was easy. It was not in their shared nature to fight against such a thing. So in two worlds they were motionless, stalking the hall of one temple looking for a man who stood before them in the other, half a Sith and yet still dearly beloved.
“Please, you can’t confront him,” the Anakins said, and together, Obi-Wan came to a decision.
He had lost his Padawan. He would not lose him again. Not for anything. But he could not save him alone.
It took them a minute to remember which comm idents belonged to which universe, but they managed it eventually. Master Kenobi called the Jedi council, and Knight Kenobi prepared to brief them.
Anakin watched the chancellor with care, shielding his thoughts from the man he knew was a Sith. Anakin remembered watching a red blade in Palpatine’s hand, seeing him move far too fast for a body like his. He remembered Jedi falling, their lives draining away in the force, and knew this was not a man to be trifled with. But, well, he was the chosen one (the chosen two), and even if nobody could face him, it was Anakin’s duty none the less.
“Anakin, my dear boy,” said the Sith, with a smile. “What a pleasant surprise.”
One of the two Anakins was a better liar than the other, who was familiar enough with Palpatine to know what kinds of lies worked best on him. “Chancellor… might I speak to you a moment in private?” Just like that, Mas Amedda was dismissed. The Anakins were quietly pleased by the first success.
“Of course, my boy. Of course.” Palpatine had only stopped calling Anakin-Risen a ‘boy’ the day he had sworn himself a Sith.
“I wanted to talk about Ahsoka, about what you said about her. I don’t know what to do, and I need your advice.”
The Chancellor leaned forward with a terrible enthusiasm.
Asajj washed the vomit from her mouth, and spit into the grate. One of her said, “I can’t believe he made you do that.” They were thinking of bodies strewn across battlefields, learning from a Sith who scared them, knowing that the Jedi would kill them without question or remorse.
“I can’t believe he didn’t make you,” said the other, think of the prisoner, meditating quietly and waiting, until the day Asajj went to him and asked him to train her. Laughter and careful direction, steady synthetic hands correcting her stances, forgiveness and the way he stood between her and Anakin and prepared to die.
They thought together of the divergent meanings of the word making. Dooku had made them, made them do things, and he had not made them. They had made themselves.
“I think,” said Asajj-of-the-Green-Blades, “that we ought to go look for Ahsoka.”
In the Courtyard of the Eedit temple, the light shifted steadily towards the red.
Darth Tyrannus, Count Dooku, had something that Asajj-of-the-Red, Master Kenobi, Anakin-Falling and Ahsoka of Elsewhere did not. He already knew his other self, and hated him. This Jedi was a weak and terrible thing he had left behind. It was a part of himself he knew, a part that he had killed. So, while the Jedi had tried to seize control of the Sith’s body, the Sith attempted to turn the same treatment on him.
Anakin-Risen, sensing the change, brought a bit more serenity into his heart, and returned the brilliant whiteness of the light.
The Jedi council convened only in fragments. Yoda, Obi-Wan, Kit Fisto and Mace Windu on Coruscant. Adi Gallia, Plo Koon, and Shaak Ti by Holo. For such short notice, it would do.
Knight Kenobi, so used to the council of Dooku, Nu, and Eerin, could not help but stare at the seat that was reserved for his counterpart. Master Kenobi, feeling more undeserving than he had in many years, refused to sit in it.
“There’s something you all need to know,” he said, “about my Padawan.” He meant Anakin. He meant Ahsoka.
Ahsoka leant forward over her handlebars, eyes on the Senate building before her.
Anakin, who if he looked out the window would have seen her approach, was in the middle of a long and sorry tale. At the other Anakin’s behest, a device in his pocket recorded every word. “And so you see, Chancellor, when you first told me she wasn’t who I thought she was, I was so afraid. How did you know? And then I realized… you’re the only person who has ever truly known me.”
The best lies in this or any universe tell people things they want to hear. That they are better than others. That their plans will come to fruition. That there is reason at the core of all things. That their enemies are responsible for all their failings. This was one of those better lies.
The Chancellor preened. “I am truly sorry you feel that way, Anakin. But so truly happy to know you value this as I do. Do you know, Anakin, that I have ever considered you my son?”
They nodded. The lies could only stretch so far. They could not pretend to love him, only to believe that they were loved. Anakin-Risen said, echoing his own words, “Chancellor… the Jedi are so blinded. They believe they are innocent but really they are as corrupted by violence and vengeance as everyone else. Ahsoka was stolen from me and nobody has done anything. Nobody other than you even noticed.”
The bait dangled before his lips. All Palpatine had to do was bite. “I can’t imagine so terrible a loss, Anakin. I imagine you would do anything in your power to get her back.”
No lies in that. “Anything. She’s like a sister to me, not that the Jedi could ever see that without judging it. As though Yoda doesn’t still feel the pangs of attachment for that rat apprentice of his.”
They confused their vitriol, and even Palpatine seemed baffled by this sudden fury. Yet in the force it felt to him quite genuine. Quite becoming of a Sith Apprentice, he thought. Rather unlike Dooku, whose rage was so cold, so calculated. He had no love, but he lacked hatred just the same. And he had that pesky habit of picking up apprentices of his own.
Anakin-Risen, who had learned from a master how to plant thoughts, smiled in his own body. Dooku’s eyes gazed through him, utterly unseeing.
The Chancellor said, “Anakin… the Jedi do not know all there is. Perhaps you might find the answers you are looking for, to save your sister, from another source.”
“Play dumb,” thought Anakin-Falling.
“He’s trying to make us think of Mom,” thought Anakin-Risen.
“How?” They asked, together, putting fear and hope into their voices. Having said this in two worlds, they caught a hint of Dooku’s glance. The light shifted once more towards the red.
Master Dooku had always been a disappointment to his masters. He knew it well. To Yoda for his overabundance of anger, and to Sidious for the dispassion with which he presented himself. But it was so, so difficult not to be angry, as he watched the things his counterpart had done. Over and over again, he came back to Count Dooku, just days ago, sending Asajj to Coruscant to die. Oh, he hoped she live to be a thorn in Sidious’s heel, but he could hardly have cared less if she died. That made Master Dooku incandescent with rage, but with his rage came weakness, rather than strength.
Sidious demurred, looking the very picture of an innocent old man. “The Jedi believe their side of the Force is the only side, Anakin. It isn’t.”
He could only play so dumb without losing Sidious’s respect. “You mean… the Sith?”
In Anakin-Risen’s world, all Sidious really had had to say to draw him into the dark was that Dooku alone was to blame for Padmé’s death, that together they would kill the traitor-Sith. In this world, Palpatine said, “the Jedi ever hated the Sith for their ability to love. It was what the Sith had that the Jedi did not. If Dooku’s Sith technology took her from you, it surely can get her back.”
“But Dooku is a monster,” Anakin said, “he tried to kill Padmé. He took Ahsoka from me.”
“Count Dooku is not the only Sith.”
“Nobody knows who his master is. How could I ever reach out to them for help?” They allowed a trace of the real panic at seeing the sweat beading on Dooku’s brow slip through.
Palpatine stood at his desk. “I know, my dear boy. I know.”
They contorted Anakin’s face with confusion. “I can’t – I –” They released such conflict into the force that Ahsoka, who was now climbing towards the chancellor’s office, winced in pain. “Please, take me to them.”
“My dear boy,” Palpatine said, “I’m already here. Let me show you the way to the true power of the Force”
“Got you,” Anakin-Risen said, for the both of them, pressing the button to send their recording out to every receiver on this side of Coruscant. “May pieces of you rot in all the Sith hells, you corrupt, treacherous, manipulative bastard.”
Sidious sent them flying so hard that for a second, Devaron was the only world either of them knew. Dooku was whimpering like a wounded animal, light wavering above the metal of his hands that seemed to have grown intolerably hot. Anakin’s palm burned terribly, but he gritted his teeth and ordered them both back to Coruscant.
Palpatine had pressed the emergency button to call the clone troopers assigned to the Senate. As Anakin regained control of this body, he was saying “–Sixty-Six.”
Anakin-Risen, who knew what those words did and held in his heart Anakin-Falling’s love for his men, whispered, “no.”
Ahsoka of Elsewhere knew what that order meant, too. Thought she had not heard the words uttered, she saw through the eyes that had once been hers Anakin’s distress. This was what gave her the warning she needed to throw herself out of the way of a sudden, unprovoked hail of blasterbolts from the Senate guard. Ahsoka of Elsewhere knew, from her Wolffe’s telling of the story a world away, that the transmissions sent out slowly, one at a time. Ahsoka of Here knew that she was the best person to stop them. Together-as-One, they ran for a turbolift shaft.
Obi-Wan had told the council who he was, all of who he was, and who else had come through with Knight Kenobi, but had yet to tell them who the Sith master was, when Shaak Ti died. Indeed, as the words, “the war was a trick,” left his lips, she looked up at a figure they could not see, and, eyes wide, fell dead before them.
Knight Kenobi knew what had happened. He had fought, without even picking up the lightsaber he had wanted to foreswear, against those who had been stationed on Coruscant the first time this had happened. He had wanted to die there, but faced with the opportunity to do it again, he wanted nothing less.
“He’s activating the clones,” Obi-Wan said, mostly to Adi and Plo, “you need to hide, before you’re next.”
Another blasterbolt sounded, followed by a loud thud, but nobody fell dead. From Plo’s direction, a voice that could only really have been Wolffe’s, said dully, “the target has been eliminated.”
Plo, too smart to speak and spoil the illusion, smiled with his hands. Adi flicked her transmission off.
Those who remained in the temple looked at one another. “Cody and Rex are both with us,” Obi-Wan said, voice dull to his own ears, “but I doubt they are sound enough liars to protect us from those of their brothers who are not.”
Mace Windu, solemn and dangerous, reached for his lightsaber. Each of them did. And so the Jedi Temple prepared for siege.
Anakin reached for his lightsaber, but Palpatine struck him across the face before he could concentrate enough to draw it to him.
Asajj-the-Red, who was not and had never been a Jedi, got into the turbolift with a particularly strong push of Asajj-the-Green’s force compulsions, and got started on the somewhat complicated process of wiring it to take her straight past the Senate’s mandatory security checkpoints. On Eedit, she whispered under her breath, “oh, a pox on this thing,” and her voice sounded so utterly like that of her teacher that Master Dooku almost laughed. The false nerves in his hands had given out some time ago. Otherwise, he would not have remained conscious through the pain.
Huh, he thought, with overwhelming clarity, that’s it then.
“You were me,” he said aloud in two worlds, and to the other Dooku who raged in the corner of his mind, “and for that I forgive you. But you treated my daughter as if she meant nothing and that I can never allow.”
“Still a Sith,” said Darth Tyrannus, mistaking righteous fury for selfish anger.
“No,” Dooku told him, “merely killing one.”
Once he stopped trying to fight for the communicator and, with the words “Death, yet the Force,” ringing in his ears in a voice that sounded too much like Qui-Gon, he took control of the body that belonged to Darth Tyrannus. He drove the red lightsaber home. There were two souls now, and one would perish with this body. The Sith clung to life by fury, by fear of death. The Jedi would have died there, but, as he fell into the force, a rope, the tight grasp of his Padawan’s training bond, slowed his fall. He would not subject Asajj to this Sith in a second world. Calm, dedicated, powerful and radiant, he burnt the Sith away from his mind and was alone.
And so it was that the Sith, Darth Tyrannus, died. The Jedi, Dooku of Serenno, stood in the Eedit Temple, watching the white light before him shift, just for a second before Anakin-Risen noticed, dangerously towards the blue. He could do nothing now but wait.
Knight Kenobi, in his first Order Sixty-Six, had gone for the younglings, in a desperate rush to save someone. There had been no order then, nobody issuing commands. Nobody arming the initiates. Even if there had been, Obi-Wan would not have been trusted to the front lines. But he was now, as they stood and listened to bombardments at the temple doors. Mace was at his side, the force around him writhing already with righteous fury. Three archivists were arrayed behind them. Kit Fisto, the unclaimed Padawans, and Jocasta Nu had gone to guard the other entrances, while the rest of their forces, most too old or infirm to fight, had been arrayed at points through the temple so they could fall back. By mutual agreement, the council had decided that Yoda and entire healing corps would stay behind with the initiates and younglings. If everything went completely to shit, that would give them a chance, however faint, at survival.
The bombardments began, shaking the ancient and unbroken door in its frame. Obi-Wan closed his eyes, and allowed himself to feel a single pang of regret. Ahsoka and Anakin, he thought, understood how much he admired and loved them. But for one of them, Cody should have known too. And now he was somewhere out there surrounded by his own brothers who had lost themselves, and he might never know.
“Calm down,” Knight Kenobi said, to his counterpart, eyeing the feelings that were not his own. “You’ll survive to tell him this.”
The door shook again, and only Mace’s careful raising of the Force stopped the shards from killing them instantly when one of the explosives finally broke through.
Most holocomm signals went directly up to the planetary relays, were directed to transmission hubs at less populous planets, and from there bounced around the galaxy to their destinations, usually along carefully planned highways. Encoded transmissions, though, had their own protocol. Ahsoka, who had spent so much time with Anakin Skywalker, understood how this worked. Ahsoka, who had actually completed much of her education, knew that encoded transmission protocols for the senate were transmitted out of atmosphere from a transmitter at the very top of the senate building.
The trouble was, Palpatine was no fool. A dozen armed troopers stood around the base of the transmission tower, guarding it from threats. Their helmets, which for Ahsoka had always been a sign of friends, seemed alien and threatening. She had no desire to hurt them, but she had no desire to see the Jedi order destroyed either. Her hands shook as she unclipped her lightsabers from her belt.
Anakin, floors below her, writhed on the ground. His comm, on the ground at his side, buzzed over and over again with the ident for Senator Padmé Amidala. Obi-Wan had left her a message lifetimes ago that Anakin was missing, and she’d just now seen it. Eventually, the Sith Lord took a break from his lightning to grind the device under his heel into so much dust.
In a courtyard on Devaron, Anakin whispered, “Padmé.”
A voice responded, “Anakin.” It was emphatically not hers, and his eyes shot open to see those of Master Dooku, watching him intently. He opened his mouth to respond, but no sound came out.
“Anakin,” the Jedi said again, the pomp and arrogance of his time as a Count absent from his tone. Instead, he spoke as a teacher, steady and guiding, “the Sith are weak, because they are alone. They can only ever be alone. You are not.”
But he was. His head smashed into the durasteel walls as his body writhed without his control. On Devaron, his fingers twitched, barely remaining on the device.
“Qui-Gon believed that you were the chosen one,” Dooku said, “I don’t know if you are, but I know that you are of the lineage of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn. Of Yoda, Grand Master of the Order. Of Ahsoka Tano. And of me. Look to the Force. It’s with you.”
Count Dooku, rendered neither Sith nor Jedi by the fact of his death, lay motionless on the floor of his office. He would be found three hours later when his lightsaber, still ignited, melted a hole through to the floor below. Yoda, Grand Master of the Order, ignited his lightsaber against those who should have been his friends. The Temple was overrun, even if the 212th and the 501st were conspicuously absent. Obi-Wan Kenobi, who had been lost in the fray the second the doors caved in and had not seen another living Jedi since, stumbled from room to room, deflecting blaster bolts and trying not to kill. They would rather die than kill. Ahsoka Tano, at the top of the Senate building, struggled with the same choice. With the training of two universes coming as natural as breathing, she leapt into the fight. The cost of failure would be immeasurable, but so would the cost of hurting one of these people whose lives had been stolen. Qui-Gon Jinn, dead ten years and more, was but the haziest touch in the Force to all of them.
Anakin, hearing Dooku’s meaning in spite of his words, let his eyes slip closed and reached out in the Force. There was so much dying. Ahsoka, atop the Senate building, watched in horror as one of the clones she fought slipped over the edge, and she could not muster the Force to stop him before the next blow came against her. Obi-Wan, in the temple, killed by accident as a deflected blaster bolt struck a clone in the neck. One of him wondered if that was how Padmé had died, if Dooku’s cruel hypothesis a world away had been right. Across the galaxy, the lives of Jedi fled.
But there was not only dying. There was life. Coruscant was a planet teaming with life. Not like Devaron, which seemed meant to be covered in a thousand divergent life-forms, where life came easy, but like the Sand Dunes of Tatooine. Life created a place for itself there in spite of what it was, shaped itself to an environment that would have been inhospitable to anything else. Coruscant was a poisonous, ugly world. But it was the beating heart of the Galaxy. And Padmé was there. Padmé was there, and alive, and she would never forgive him if he died as a failed savior for a Republic he barely even believed in.
He did not mind dying much. Not for himself. The thought surprised him. If his death would purchase another day, another hour, for Padmé and Ahsoka and Obi-Wan, then he would gladly take it. But dying would not save them. Only living could do that. The Sith were alone and they were weak.
Anakin-Risen said, “they wanted to control, to possess, not to allow that which they loved to be free. That is what the Jedi call attachment.” He thought of Artoo, the first person he had ever offered to let go from love.
“Yes,” Dooku said, “yes.”
But there was peace, in loving and knowing you were loved in turn. And Anakin-Falling knew he was loved. He knew. Because Padmé, who had no power in this world of swordplay and magic, had still stood up to Sith manipulation to protect him, and to protect the people she knew he loved from him. Because Ahsoka had not killed Anakin-Risen, even when she had believed him to be a Sith Lord. Because Ahsoka stayed in a world that was not her own to try to save Anakin-Falling from himself. Because Obi-Wan had grieved him, because Obi-Wan had forgiven him, in two worlds.
No, he thought, I am not falling. I am flying. To a pilot as reckless as Anakin, they sometimes felt one and the same.
The lightning made everything seem hazy, left his muscles spasming beyond his control. But Anakin didn’t think of that. He reached into the Force, deep into the beating heart of it, where light and darkness warred, and stuck his hands into the very core of its power. The Force was made of the insignificant life forms of midichlorians. These stuck to people, and were returned to the Force in death. They were the very building blocks of the universe. Coruscant was a vergence made by life atop life atop life, midichlorians circulating and being used, people living and dying again and again and again. There was a reason the Jedi had built a temple in the centre of a metropolis. The coexistence of these two things was not such an accident as it seemed.
Anakin raised his hand. It was only common sense, to build some level of surge protection into a metal hand belonging to a hobbyist mechanic who risked electrocution on an almost daily basis. Like Dooku’s, as the false nerves were overloaded, they shut down. For barely a half a second, catching the lightning, Anakin was free of pain, and with all the life of Coruscant behind him, he called his lightsaber.
“I’m sorry,” he said, in two worlds, and raised the hilt into the lightning without igniting the blade.
The Kyber crystal held out the couple of seconds between Anakin raising it and Anakin throwing it at the Chancellor before the lightsaber exploded.
As the Senate building rocked from the explosion, one of the troopers fell off the side of the roof. Another, one of only four left standing, finally shot Ahsoka in the leg. For a terrible second, as her montrals reverberated with the explosion, deafening her, and as the Force shook with death and darkness and pure, simple power, she thought she was dead. Losing her footing, she stumbled backwards towards certain death, foot coming off the durasteel into the open air and–
The Force caught her, lifting her up. Asajj Ventress, black wig flying off in the wind of one of Coruscant’s highest points, raised her red lightsabers. In two worlds, she had been a killer, even if at least one of them was no longer. She made short work of all the poor, possessed young men. Then, with gentle care, she set Ahsoka down against the transmission tower.
“Oh,” Ahsoka of Elsewhere, who had been kissed by Ventress-of-the-Red, said, “she likes me back.”
“No shit,” said Ahsoka of Here, who had kissed Ventress-of-the-Green.
In two worlds, they grinned. Then together, the Ahsokas said, “we need to shut down the transmission.”
“Better plan,” said Ventress. “Palpatine is dead. Dooku is dead. I think that leaves me in charge.”
“Can you actually give them orders?” It did not seem like the sort of contingency plan Palpatine would have made. He never had liked Ventress, a fact which she well knew.
She was opening the panel, wiring her personal holocomm into the Chancellor’s private line. “Let’s find out. There ought to be a reversal code for this thing.”
On Devaron, Master Dooku, who had read every file that had ever come through the Council on Palpatine’s plans, said, “there is an override code. ‘Darth Plagueis’.”
And so Asajj Ventress, Master of the Sith, Empress without even a Darth to her name, knelt on the roof of the Senate with her other hand pressed to the calf of a Jedi to staunch her bleeding, and gave her first and last order to the shortest of all Sith Empires.
When it was done, she held Ahsoka to her chest and both of them cried. Asajj-the-Empress didn’t even know what she was crying for, but there was a Jedi in her arms and she couldn’t stop.
Someone was yelling “Darth Plagueis, cancel order” over and over and over again. Obi-Wan’s ears were ringing with it as he stumbled through the temple, trying to get back to where he’d started. There were people crying, clones coming to their senses surrounded by the bodies of their comrades. The other Obi-Wan was guiding him, forcing him on even when he felt like giving up. Knight Kenobi knew death well.
The voice broke off, stopped shouting the name of the Sith in the temple of the Jedi, and Obi-Wan turned around to find that he was being watched.
None of the men who had attacked them had been from the 212th. But these ones were, in pristine armour with their helmets off. None of them were carrying weapons.
They’d come unarmed so the survivors would know they were safe. That they could be trusted. Even though to do so was to put their own lives at risk.
Knight Kenobi, who had never been a general, eyed the Commander critically. General Kenobi said, with all the emotion he normally felt improper, “I’m glad you’re alright.”
“Do you need medical attention?” Cody asked, clearly disconcerted by this sudden change in his… friend.
He probably did, but shook his head anyways. “No, I’m going…” At a shove from Knight Kenobi, he changed tack, “I need someone to come with me, to look for Anakin. I don’t expect a fight. The Sith Lord is dead. I think Anakin killed him. I just need…”
Cody was already nodding. “I’ll be with you, Sir.”
Two Anakins sat, face to face in a blank white room. “I need to go soon,” said Anakin-Risen. “I doubt you’ll see me again. I’m sick of the darkness, and doubt I could summon the anger to return. As it is, we’re only holding steady because Dooku is so seethingly angry about Ventress’s treatment that I can feel it.” The once-Sith was transmuting his righteous fury into common anger to maintain the balance.
“What happens now?”
There was neither up nor down, neither weakness nor power, neither a self nor an other. They were one and infinite and nothing in the blankness. What was white to one Anakin was the black of the void to the other.
“Now,” Anakin-Risen told Anakin-Flying, “you go home. Obi-Wan’s had enough of heartbreak, and Padmé can’t rebuild the Republic in her image if she’s busy grieving.”
He smiled, or perhaps wept. “I never really knew her, you know? I’ve spent the last three years trying to raze the universe to the ground over the death of a woman I met twice, for a total of less than three tendays. Knowing her now, as you do… I think she would absolutely hate the idea of that.”
Oh, certainly. “So now?”
“Now I live, I think. Whatever comes next, we shall just have to wait and see.”
“Anakin!” There was the sound of broken glass and shards of metal crunching underfoot. “Anakin!”
Padmé was standing there, blaster leveled at the wall of shrapnel suspended in the force on Anakin’s side of the room. From where he was slumped against the wall, he tried a carefree smile. With the care of someone who had fired it far too often, she holstered her weapon. Anakin dropped the shards of lightsaber and desk and Palpatine to the ground. The Chancellor’s body lay motionless, partly hanging from the broken window of his office. Padmé ignored him in favour of rushing to Anakin’s side.
“It’s over,” he tried to say, but no words came out. After a couple tries, she seemed to understand what he was mouthing.
“No,” she said, “it’s just beginning.”
CW/TW cont.: good!Dooku kills his counterpart while possessing his body, which would look like a suicide but isn’t really. Anakin contemplates dying and ultimately concludes that while he holds his life in little value, he cares very deeply about his loved ones and wishes to remain with them and protect them. Skip the paragraph after the dialogue like “No,” Dooku told him, “merely killing one.” for the first warning. For the second skip one paragraph after the one ending with “Padmé was there, and alive...” There is also the implication that in the parallel Order 66, Alternate Obi-Wan had contemplated what was basically suicide by risking his own life. This is mentioned once in the paragraph beginning “Knight Kenobi knew what had happened.”
If you’re legit done:
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