Obi-Wan had never felt more like he was walking into a trap. The expressions that met him weren’t hostile, but the rigid set of Mace’s jaw and the drawn look of Yoda’s face were not boding well. It almost made him want to turn tail and hide, like he would have once upon a time as a padawan.
Instead, he straightened himself, lifted his chin just a little bit, and proceeded into the room.
Obi-Wan settled into the chair that had been designated as his nearly a year and a half ago upon being made a master. Right after Anakin’s knighthood ceremony. (It had been a bit of a shock.)
Five other seats remained empty.
“Waiting on Master Plo, we are,” Yoda offered stoically. His voice gave away none of the uncertainty that his face did.
Obi-Wan gave a silent nod in acknowledgement.
Shaak Ti and Saesee Tiin seemed to be the only members joining them through hologram this afternoon.Then the transparent, blue form of Plo Koon hummed to life in his own seat, bringing the count of pale blue figures up to three.
And with the appearance of their last member, the meeting was off.
There were the typical topics: checking over troops, going over reports about troop performances. They spoke about resources and supplies, what would need to be requisitioned from the Senate soon and what would hold for awhile yet. Then they spoke of the Temple and pieces of business that the Jedi Council should really be concerned with, rather than fighting a war.
Padawans that were doing well and may be ready to face the Trials soon. Initiates who had just gone through their own trials and could be taken as padawans. (If only they had masters and knights able and willing to take on any.) How the younglings were doing, how the creche was holding up with a lack of knights to help as needed.
The Temple’s own resources were holding out well, but that was likely more thanks to Jedi being a part of the GAR and therefore provided for by the Senate than anything else. The civilians of Coruscant were slowly becoming more and more upset and unsettled with the war and the Jedi and their involvement in all of this.
Obi-Wan couldn’t find it in him to disagree with them.
Jedi were not meant to be soldiers, no matter how well some of them seemed to have fallen into the role.
But for the most part, things were going well. So the meeting was going well, despite the general unease that lingered in the air.
The Force hummed with it, agitated and swirling around the room with an unhappy energy. It reminded Obi-Wan of a cat flicking its tail, malcontent.
Obi-Wan hoped quietly that the meeting would end before the feeling came to a head and they were forced to address it. A renewed wave of anxiety passed through his stomach as a harsh wave of distrust hit him through the Force. He breathed through the feeling, centering himself once again and pushing back against whoever was projecting so loudly.
The Force around him settled down, the ripples stilling and fading away, if only in his immediate vicinity.
A certain amount of tension bled from the room, a couple of his fellow masters sitting a little deeper into their seats.
It took Obi-Wan a second or two to realize the room had gone silent.
He looked around. Shaak Ti and Plo met his gaze, the others almost pointedly ignoring him. Then he turned back to Mace and Yoda, finding them both already studying him.
At this point, it would have been stupid to pretend he didn’t realize the tension and unease were thanks to him.
And yet he did anyway…
“What… did I do now?” he asked, just a little hesitantly.
His defense in this was… He was spending too much time with Anakin. And he was hoping that not as many of the council members had seen the videos as he’d convinced himself before this.
Mace sighed, looking to Yoda.
The little green Jedi nodded, resigned.
“Time it is,” he said, tone a little tired, “to put all the cards on the table.”
So they did know.
Of course they did. How could they not?
“Rumors, there are-” Yoda continued.
“Holos, more like,” Mace interjected.
“And those,” conceded Yoda, “about some things you have started, Obi-Wan. Something to say about it, have you?”
This was it. This was his chance.
And yet the words seemed to be stuck in his throat.
“All of our troops have some holovids out there,” Saesee Tiin said when it was clear Obi-Wan wasn’t going to speak yet. “But the ones the 212th, and now the 501st, have are…”
Suddenly Obi-Wan most definitely had words to say.
“There is nothing saying they are not allowed to do any of those things,” he defended.
Sure, what he was doing was most definitely frowned upon by those sitting around him, but his men? They weren’t doing anything wrong. And he would be damned if he was going to let anyone sit there and slander them like that.
“There is a viral dance battle between your battalion and Skywalker’s legion on the holonet,” Ki-Adi-Mundi pointed out. “And the one that started it off was recorded by you. And your behavior in it-”
“Hold on,” Plo cut in. “I, too, can understand some of the concern here. However, there is nothing wrong with a friendly way of letting off steam between some of our troops. And the fact that their own generals are getting involved is-”
“Inappropriate!” Saesee exclaimed.
“Good for morale!” Plo finished firmly.
“If Kenobi and Skywalker continued to behave this way, how will their troops respect them?” Saesee demanded.
“I daresay my men have never respected me more.”
“Okay, but it’s not just about dance battles and singing or any of that,” Ki-Adi-Mundi spoke up again. “It’s about the holo that started all of this! The one from Umbara.”
The mention of it had Obi-Wan’s ears ringing a little. He could feel a bit of irritation beginning to simmer in his chest, and forced himself to breathe around it. He couldn’t afford to let his emotions get out of hand here.
“Oh? You mean where you pulled Anakin away and replaced him with a Jedi who’d gone rogue?” he asked, just the hint of venom coloring his tone. “When our troops were deceived and ordered to fire on one another after being told droids had stolen their armor? When we lost lives and good men to friendly fire because one turned Jedi didn’t care about them? Surely you aren’t referring to that incident, are you?”
“Yes! That incident,” Saesee growled. “The one that ended with a holovid of you telling your clone troopers that you have a ‘new plan’ for how to be a good Jedi!”
“Let your emotions get the better of you, you did,” Yoda pointed out sagely.
Obi-Wan almost wanted to scream.
“You’re right!” he agreed. “I did. And do you know what I did after that? I used those emotions to create something good out of a bad situation.”
“You told your commander you were going to scream in the forest,” Ki-Adi pointed out, helpful as ever.
“I absolutely told him that. It meant that no one was around while I did it. And do you know how good it felt? Meditation is great and all, but I lost one of my best men that day. I released that anger and frustration and grief into the Force, I did. It just happened to be a lot louder than the usual method. And I felt good after that. Not whole, not fine, not at peace or serene, good.”
“And what ‘good’ did you make out of that situation?” Mace inquired, tone and expression completely neutral.
“Group therapy,” he replied confidently. “An encouraged, whole support system for the men who never asked to fight in this war.”
“Is that against regulations?” Kit Fisto asked, speaking up for the first time.
“If it is,” Obi-Wan started, the smile fading from his features, “then the regulations are wrong.”
“I agree,” Shaak Ti added. She sported a gentle smile as she fixed Obi-Wan with a warm look.
“He’s right,” she continued. “These men deserve a support system, just as anyone does. The Senate should expect that any sentient or citizen it claims to be treated well, both mentally and physically. There is no reason these same views should not be extended to the clones.”
“I agree with Masters Ti and Kenobi,” Plo added then. “Our men deserve better than what they’ve been given so far. It should not be morally acceptable to create living beings just to fight and die in a war they did not start.”
“This is true,” Mace said. “Which is why that is not what we’re debating.”
There were hums of assent and agreement through the rest of the council.
It left Obi-Wan’s chest a little lighter. So the Council wouldn’t be attempting to take this progress from his men. Cody and Boil and Arc and Author and all the others were still safe. Thank Force.
With that anxiety off his chest, he felt a little more prepared to face the rest of the problem. He could handle this. No matter what the Council decided or what would happen to him, it would be fine. As long as his men were safe. That’s what mattered.
“Then what are we debating?” Obi-Wan asked pointedly.
“You succumbing to your emotions and inviting the Dark in,” Saesee accused.
“I would never-!”
“You have already admitted to letting your anger get the better of you on Umbara!”
“I did not, however, go to the Dark side,” Obi-Wan said harshly. “I screamed at some trees. Our views of the Light and Dark sides of the Force are horribly flawed, anyway.”
“How so?” Mace asked.
“We strive for balance, do we not?” Obi-Wan asked, drawing on every ounce of patience he still had in him. “Balance of the Force and balance within ourselves.”
Mace nodded, accommodating. “Of course.”
“How can we possibly be balanced if we only focus on one side?”
The entire council paused. Every person stopped for a second. No one spoke, and Obi-Wan was almost sure no one breathed, either.
“There must be powerful Light to counteract the powerful Darkness,” Ki-Adi-Mundi offered.
Obi-Wan gave a little shrug and nod. “Possibly. That’s one way we could do it.”
“But that’s the only way we’ve been doing it for a thousand years, and even before that. And never once have we achieved balance.” Obi-Wan looked around at his fellow council members. “You want to look at it as a scale. Each side must be equal to one another.”
“What else is there?” Yoda asked.
“The Force is not a scale,” Obi-Wan said simply. “We all know this. The Force itself is not Light or Dark. The Force is not Good or Evil, black or white. It just is.”
“The Force is gray,” Plo said, a note of understanding in his tone.
“Perhaps balance isn’t about ensuring we have equal amounts of Light and Dark, both completely one or the other. Perhaps the Force will truly be in balance with everything in the middle. In grayscale.”
“And how do you know that is the solution?” Saesee asked.
“Well,” Obi-Wan started, patience slipping, “this hasn’t worked yet. If a system doesn’t work, you shouldn’t keep it in place and continue hoping everything will turn out okay. You look for another solution.”
“But what about the Code?” Ki-Adi asked. “Gray Jedi do not follow the Code, and that is what we have sworn our lives to.”
“Actually, yes. What about the Code?” Obi-Wan put a hand to his chin, fingers stroking at his beard absentmindedly. “I’ve thought about this, and… is any of this truly in violation of the Code?”
“Of course it is! There is no emotion, there is peace. There is no ignorance, there is knowledge. There is no passion, there is serenity. There is no chaos, there is harmony. There is no death, there is the Force. It’s all right there!” Saesee recited for them, as if none of them had ever heard the Code before.
“But what about the first Code we learn as younglings?” Obi-Wan asked.
“It’s the same Code-”
“Is it though?” he challenged. “I think it’s a little different. We teach younglings this: Emotion, yet peace. Ignorance, yet knowledge. Passion, yet serenity. Chaos, yet harmony. Death, yet the Force. If you ask me, those are two different Codes. They sound remarkably similar, but the second one is not quite so harsh. It’s understanding. It acknowledges that these things exist together. We experience emotions, yet we strive for peace. Peace is not the absence of emotion. Sometimes we are ignorant of ourselves or the world around us, and yet we strive for knowledge. We are constantly learning.
“It’s not about eradicating emotion, ignorance, passion, and chaos from our lives. It is not about rejecting the idea that we will die one day. It’s about accepting that these things are natural parts of us, and yet we strive for peace and knowledge, serenity and harmony. We will all return to the Force one day, just as we came from it.
“And if I had to choose which of those Codes I would rather swear my life to, with the things I know now and the experiences I’ve had, I would choose this one. This is the one, I believe, that truly encompasses what it means to be a Jedi. Not being perfect, but learning and growing to be a better person every day. Because we never do stop learning.”
“Right you are, Master Kenobi,” Yoda agreed with a wrinkled little smile. “However,” he continued, the look slipping away, “still unsure of all this, I am. Clouded, my vision is. The Dark Side conceals much.”
“Perhaps that is just because we do not understand it,” Obi-Wan countered. “Even if we continued on treating balance as a scale, tipping to one side or the other, we still only understand half of the powers at play.”
“If we were to delve into the Dark Side-” Kit started with a warning tone.
“No one is saying we would use it that way,” Obi-Wan said. “But we do not know much of it. So to think we could balance the Force while blind of one half of it is ignorant.”
“We are not blind.”
“Pure Light is just as blinding as true Darkness. You can’t see in either of them.”
Not a single person challenged him. Both Ki-Adi-Mundi and Kit Fisto looked like they were having an existential crisis.
Finally, Mace spoke again.
“So, what? Are you suggesting we change the entire Order? Reteach every Jedi?” he asked, sounding almost genuinely curious.
Obi-Wan shook his head.
“No, of course not,” he responded. “What I’m saying is maybe this… maybe, gray isn’t wrong. I feel good. Better than I have in actual, literal years. And not just since the start of this war - since I was a padawan. Everything feels a lot… lighter, easier - both to handle and to cope with. It makes me happy to spend time with my men and see them grow into their own people who have their own interests. Group therapy has done me some good, just as it has them. And I can only see it getting better.
“And even if you look at it from a purely performance-based stance, I know my success rates have gone up. And I also know that within the past month and a half, I have lost a maximum of fifteen men. We have gone on at least three missions in that time, and I wasn’t even there for all of the smaller encounters.
“You cannot and will not convince me that what I’m doing is wrong. So what I’m saying is… consider what I’m telling you. And if nothing else, think about getting to know your men a little better, too. It might save more lives than you think.”
Looking around the room, Obi-Wan knew he didn’t have all of them on his side. But the waves of warm happiness washing over him in the Force were clearly from Plo, and Shaak Ti was smiling and nodding her head a little bit. Saesee Tiin didn’t look fully convinced, but Kit seemed contemplative. Ki-Adi-Mundi looked torn, and Mace looked as much like a stone as ever.
“Meditate on what you have said, we will,” Yoda finally broke the quiet again. “But, you would do well to remember: on the council, you may be, though Qui-Gon’s defiance, I still sense in you.”
Something amused and teasing glinted in Yoda’s eyes as he spoke.
Obi-Wan smirked back at him.
“If you hadn’t wanted that, you shouldn’t have allowed him to train me.”
And finally, finally, the air was lifted as several of them barked out startled bouts of laughter. Obi-Wan laughed too, feeling good.
He hadn’t made any enemies in those he would call his friends and family. Good.
Optimistically, they might eventually agree with him on these points. Realistically… who knows? But he wasn’t being thrown out or asked to leave, and he had the go ahead to continue on with therapy and paintings and dance battles and everything else.
There were still things to figure out, perhaps. There would still be unsure looks and comments about what he was doing, and how that would affect both him and those around him, but that was okay. Obi-Wan could handle that.
He finished out the council meeting with a smile, looking forward to getting out of there. He was going straight back to the barracks and finding Cody and whoever else was around. They’d be excited to know the Council was on board with the new regulations they planned to enact for the rest of the GAR. It would be a process, but one Obi-Wan was happy to go through.