Obi-Wan’s second visit to Utapau turned out to be much less…entertaining, perhaps, than the first.
Not that he would ever willingly admit the previous mission here had been fun, or thrilling. Lugging an enormous kyber crystal across the plains in a high-speed chase likely reminiscent of Anakin’s old racing days…. Well, the fun part hadn’t been the chase itself, of course, which had in fact left Obi-Wan nauseous for at least an hour following its conclusion. Neither was being subsequently captured by Grievous particularly enjoyable. The fun part, rather, had been doing it all with Anakin.
The war was well into its third year now, swiftly approaching the fourth, and they’d been working together more often of late than even in the first, it felt like, so much so that they’d garnered their own little nicknames. The Hero. The Negotiator (Force help him). The Team. One thing had led to another, and here they found themselves — ahem — poster boys for the Republic. It was perplexing, and slightly bothersome — though, Obi-Wan couldn’t help but admit, understandable. Because he and Anakin were a team, they did work better together than apart, and their success rate really was quite high, wasn’t it? Even if their successes did usually involve blowing something up, like a giant Separatist base or, here on Utapau, an enormous kyber crystal. Well, whatever got the job done, he supposed.
So, yes. He and Anakin were a team, and nearly every mission they’d gone on during the recent Outer Rim Sieges had been together. Side-by-side, removing Separatist control from one planet after another, liberating colonies, crash-landing half of a broken cruiser on the permacrete of Coruscant, and not to mention that sticky situation on Cato Neimodia….
And now they were apart. Obi-Wan hadn’t expected it would hurt so much, leaving Anakin behind to come back here to Utapau, leaving Anakin to an assignment he hated on the behalf of a Council he was starting to resent. Leaving Anakin back on Coruscant where Obi-Wan could not keep an eye on him, reassure him that he was doing the right thing, for the Republic and for the Jedi and for…well, no. Maybe not for Anakin himself. Obi-Wan knew he would be lying if he actually thought that was true.
Because this whole Chancellor situation was upsetting to his Padawan, who did consider his assignment treasonous. How could Obi-Wan make him understand how necessary this all was?
Well, he couldn’t do anything from Utapau — except, of course, take care of Grievous.
And take care of Grievous he did. It had been barely ten minutes, perhaps, since the remaining organic tissue still clinging to life inside Grievous’s metal casings had gone up in flames. It had taken about five of those minutes for his heart to stop pounding — a hard task for his body to handle when he had to rush headfirst back into battle, shamefully devoid of his lightsaber (he would not be telling Anakin about that little detail), riding atop his saddled varactyl mount Boga amid blasterfire and sparking droids falling down the sinkhole. His main focus now (besides hopefully locating his weapon) was to reconnect with his commander and see where the battle was taking them — and then in that very moment, he got a call on his commlink from just the man he was looking for.
“General Kenobi,” said Cody’s voice through a layer of static interference, “There is an urgent call from General Windu on Coruscant. He says its an emergency.”
Hm? An emergency call during a major battle, no less one that could not be conveyed through his second-in-command, was unusual, though not unprecedented. But something felt off. It was not, however, until Obi-Wan had ridden his mount back up the walls of the sinkhole through chaos and blasterfire and accepted the comm privately that he understood why.
For the hologram before him was not of Windu, but of Anakin. His friend did not seem to notice him at first, for he was leaning over himself, head in his hands, and Obi-Wan knew him well enough to tell even through a flickering blue projection that he was shaking.
His friend looked up wildly, and Obi-Wan could make out streaks of tears lining his face, plastering a loose lock of hair to one cheek. Anakin’s eyes were wide but visibly swollen as he looked upon Obi-Wan, as if he hadn’t actually expected the call to go through.
“Master!” he exclaimed, his voice sounding thick and strained. “Windu said you wouldn’t pick up!”
“He said it was an emergency. What’s going on? Are you all right?”
“No!” Anakin said, choking on the word. “Master, it’s the Chancellor! It’s Palpatine! He’s the Sith, Master, he’s Sidious, and he says —” He sniffled, rubbing at his eyes with his sleeve, but more tears visibly replaced those he’d wiped away. “Padmé is going to die and he says he can save her but only if I join him but I can’t — I can’t —”
“What?!” Obi-Wan said, leaning forward. Hang on. Wait a minute. Truly — what? Around him the battle raged on, but suddenly he felt deaf to it. “Hold on, Anakin, slow down. Palpatine is Sidious? Did you tell Master Windu?”
“Yes!” Anakin almost shouted, “He’s gone to arrest him but I’m afraid he’s going to kill him, kill Palpatine I mean, but I told him he can’t because I need him, but he didn’t listen, and if he kills him I don’t know what I’ll do, I need him to save Padmé and he said if he dies so will Padmé but she can’t, she can’t die, I can’t do this again….”
“Slow down, Anakin,” Obi-Wan said again, gentle but firm. He had seen Anakin break down before, of course he had, many times — but not once, not ever in all of thirteen years had he seen Anakin quite like this. “What do you mean Padmé’s going to die?”
“The visions! I’ve been having them since we got back from the Outer Rim, she’s going to die in childbirth and Palpatine says he can stop it —”
“She’s pregnant!” Anakin choked out, wrapping his arms around himself like a protective shield. He looked like he was going to be sick, or faint. “She’s pregnant and I’m having visions that she’s going to die and Palpatine knows about them and he said that if I join him he’ll show me how to prevent her from dying! And Windu and the Council are going there right now to arrest him and if they kill him then Padmé will die and I can’t go through it again, Master, what do I do? What do I do, Master?”
“Okay,” Obi-Wan said, nodding slowly. This was — a lot to take in, but now was not the time to falter. He ran this information over in his mind, quickly — visions, visions like Anakin had had about his mother three years ago, Padmé was pregnant with Anakin’s — oh — and Palpatine was — Force help them all. “All right,” he said again, reminding himself of who he was, and where, and the obligation he had to this sobbing heap of his former Padawan, who was once again leaning over with his hands threading through his hair, rocking forward and back in his seat reminiscent of a frightened child….
“All right,” Obi-Wan said once more, but then his friend cut him off —
“I don’t want to turn,” Anakin said suddenly, looking back up at him now more desperate than ever. “I don’t want to turn, but he says he’s the only one I can trust, he says that you’re a traitor but I know you can’t be, you can’t be….”
“I am not a traitor,” Obi-Wan confirmed. “Anakin, listen to me. If Palpatine is the Sith, then every single thing he has told you for the last thirteen years is a lie. He is manipulating you. Don’t you see?”
“No,” Anakin said, shaking his head wildly. “He said — he said the Jedi are plotting to take over. He said the reason they won’t make me a master is because they think I would catch on to their plot and try to stop them. And he’s — it makes sense! Everything he says makes sense, it all adds up, and if the Council takes him down then I don’t know what I’ll do, I need him Master, and I want to follow Windu and make sure he doesn’t kill him but I’m afraid of what I might do if I go, I don’t want to do something stupid but Padmé is going to die and he’s my last resort —”
Outside his little bubble here on Utapau, where he’d been so distracted Obi-Wan had almost forgotten that the war was happening thirty meters away, a cannon blast collided with an enormous rafter and it fell to the ground with a great crash. Obi-Wan did not so much as flinch.
Soon, he thought, he would have time to ponder the fact that his Padawan, his dearest friend, his brother, had been personally manipulated by the Sith Master who had orchestrated the entire Clone War. Soon, he thought, the grave revelations that his apprentice was a victim of sustained emotional abuse by the most powerful figure in the galaxy would hit him as hard as the Invisible Hand had hit the surface of Coruscant.
Now, however, he had to act. And he knew exactly what he needed to do.
“Anakin,” he said, waiting until his friend had met his gaze. “Where are you right now?”
Anakin sniffled. “In the main comm center. Master Windu told me to wait in the Council chambers when I was done talking to you.”
“All right,” Obi-Wan said patiently. “Listen to me. I’m coming back. Do as he says, stay in the tower, all right? Do you understand? Stay where you are, stay in the temple.”
“But if something happens to him —”
“Anakin,” Obi-Wan said again, but this time it was softer. He looked right into his friend’s watery eyes. “You asked me for help. Let me help. All right? Your master is going to take care of this. But I need you to stay where you are. Promise me.”
Through the hologram, he watched as his friend wrestled with himself. Their connection in the Force while apart was far more muted than normal, but it didn’t mean he couldn’t sense the turmoil, the anguish, the pure unfiltered grief. A few times Anakin opened his mouth to speak and then clamped it shut, open and shut, until finally he stammered, “Okay. I promise.”
Obi-Wan looked directly into Anakin’s eyes, conscious of his friend’s quivering lower lip. “I’m coming,” he repeated softly. “Wait for me.”
The second the call ended, Obi-Wan punched in Cody’s comm frequency and the figure of his commander stood where Anakin’s had a moment before. “Cody, I need your fastest ship, priority alpha.”
The trip back to Coruscant in the cramped Jedi starfighter may have been the greatest test of Obi-Wan’s patience he had ever endured. And having been the person responsible for a teenaged Anakin Skywalker, that was saying something.
Peace and the ability to meditate eluded him. Thoughts flew around incoherently in his head as he processed the day’s events in their fragmented entirety. Grievous’s death already felt like ages past, and Obi-Wan surprised himself with how quickly he had accepted the confirmation of Anakin and Padmé’s relationship…he had known, of course, of their mutual feelings for each other, though he had never dreamed they would take it this far…and he couldn’t deny a sting of regret that Anakin had not trusted him with this information until now…. Still, lingering on this fact did not suit him. Regardless of his personal feelings about this situation (and they were positive, mostly, but Anakin was a Jedi and he couldn’t have both no matter how much Obi-Wan knew he would want to) it was simply reality. It simply was, and now they would have to face the consequences. He would have time to ponder the rest of it after Anakin was safe from the dark side.
More than once, he caught himself fidgeting — fidgeting of all things. Images of Anakin hunched over, eyes red-rimmed even through the blue filter of the hologram, lingered at the forefront of his mind. Really, Obi-Wan thought, he’d been away from the man for a small handful of days and already the very fabric of the universe had begun to unravel…what was a Jedi Master to do?
Oh. Well, there was one thing. Not a thing, rather, but one person, he realized abruptly, that might actually be able to help him —
He’d already entered her comm frequency into the ship’s computer without being fully conscious of what he was hoping to get out of this. But, he supposed, even that was better than fidgeting.
Ahsoka answered his call after half a minute. Her smile was muted but still present, and she bowed her head to him respectfully. “Master Kenobi. I’m glad to hear from you.”