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Fate Turned Choice

Chapter Text

It started out as a smudge on her baby's skin, an odd little mark that the med-droid had dismissed as a strange birthmark. Shara had thought it an odd birth mark, a dark blob on her child's palm, but she knew next to nothing about the matter, and expected that the med-droid knew what they were talking about.

It hadn't, not even for the smallest of moments, occurred to Shara that it might be soul mark.

Last time a census had been posted for Stewjon, the numbers had claimed that there were only a dozen or so Stewjonians each generation with soul marks. As far as Shara understood, that was a rate shared by most planets through out the Galaxy, it didn't seem to matter what planet, or culture, or species an individual belonged to. Supposedly, soulmates had at one time been more common, but that was so long ago as to be considered a time of myth. As it stood now, everyone in the galaxy shared a truth; soul mates were rare and soul mates were precious.

So perhaps it was understandable that Shara nearly dropped her little boy when she noticed that his strange little birthmark had only grown stranger, and was quite definitely not a birthmark.

Her first instinct was one of sharp, absolute joy. Her precious little boy had someone out there who would love him unconditionally. Who would move the galaxy itself to make her little boy happy.

Her first act, once she'd calmed her little boy down after his near fall, was to dive for the holo net. Her little boy's mark was beautiful, despite the fact that it was still in shades of gray, and she wanted desperately to know what it all might mean. There was a flower with its roots twisting down as though they would wrap around her little boy's wrist and petals opened wide as though towards the sun. It was difficult to determine what sort of flower it was, with no color to help with her search. In the end, with nothing but the outline of the flower to go by, all she was able to determine was that the flower wasn't native to Stewjon.

It could still be representative of her baby boy, but Shara suspected that it was probably a symbol meant to represent her baby's soul mate.

The other half of the soul mark was just as mysterious, though Shara couldn't help but feel that it looked familiar. It looked a bit like a sun, rising straight from the stem of the flower, bursting from the middle of the petals, except that at the top of the sun, one of its beams extended up like a sword, ending just below where finger met palm.

Her husband was far less mystified. He took one look at her baby's soul mark and his joy shifted almost immediately to pain.

"The Jedi." He whispered.

And Shara's heart broke.

Her baby was going to be a Jedi. Shara had known that her precious baby could be, that he had the potential for it, it was Republic law for babies to be tested at birth, and they had informed her that her baby was force sensitive, enough so that the Jedi would accept him if she and her husband chose to give him up. It was even standard for the Jedi to be notified, and a few Jedi had been in contact, asking if she would be sending her baby to the temple. She had delayed them, saying it was a difficult choice, and that she would need time to make it. The law and Jedi be damned, it was still Shara's choice. But now, with half the Jedi Order symbol on her baby's skin--a lightsaber stretching out of a flower, vines wrapped around it--it felt as though she didn't have a choice at all.

What if by keeping her baby from the Jedi she was keeping her baby away from his soul mate? Shara didn't think she had the heart to do that.

Her husband agreed, his eyes tired and sad. How could they stand between their little boy and his soul mate?

And so, not even a week after the soul mark had become clear on his skin, Obi-Wan Kenobi was given to the Jedi.

-_-

It started as searing pain in the middle of the night, waking Jango from what should have been a restful night sleep. He thrashed at his chest, pulling at his sleep shirt and scratching at his chest in agony.

Jaster, the guardian who'd taken him in, a man that one day Jango would look up to as Father, when the loss of his parents was not so new, when the grief was not so fresh, calmed Jango as well as he was able. He held Jango tight as the first waves of pain died away, and together they pulled the sleep shirt away to reveal the first gray smudges that marked Jango as a Dral'runi.

Everyone in the galaxy shared a truth; soul mates were rare and soul mates were precious.

But Mandalorians had their own truths as well. The first soul mates were Mandalorian, with strong souls and stronger bonds it was said that almost every Mandalorian had a soul mark.

It was said that the first soul marks not on the skin of a Mandalorian were marked clearly into the skin of a Mandalorian's mate, and it was from there that soul marks spread throughout the galaxy, until slowly the marks seemed to fade, and fewer and fewer individuals were given soul marks, Mandalorian or not.

This was not strictly true, but truth is often forgotten in order for stories to take their place.

And Mandalorians did not forget, strong souls and strong bonds had started with Mandalorians. It was believed that all Mandalorians had strong souls and strong bonds, that there was something deep in the soul of every Mandalorian that went deeper than their blood line, that went deeper than their ties to their planets of birth. It was said that anyone could become Mandalorian, because Mandalorians were bound together by something more, something Manda, something deep in their soul.

And among those Mandalorians were those whose souls were so strong and whose bonds were so true, those who followed the Mandalorians of old with marks across their skin. And so those that held soul marks became the Dral'runi, the powerful souls. It was from these Dral'runi that Mand'alors were chosen.

Jaster knew that, had been chosen as Mand'alor in part due to his status as Dral'runi and in part because he had vision, because he was both kind and strong, because he was Manda.

And now Jango was a Dral'runi as well.

For days Jango watched the smudge lying over his heart, waiting to see what his mark would be, two symbols--one to symbolize him and one to symbolize his soul mate--entwined together into one symbol.

Finally, the smear of grey over his heart grew distinct, though he didn't immediately recognize either half of the symbol; Jaster recognized both. The flower was the Kot'shla flower, beautiful, strong, resilient, capable of growing in the most desolate of wastelands that spread across much of Mandalore. Jaster told the boy it was a symbol to be proud of, a mark that tied him to Mandalore.

The mark that symbolized his Dral'runi was met with greater hesitance, half of the symbol that denoted the Jedi Order--a representation of a lightsaber growing from the Kot'shla flower.

A Mandalorian and a Jetii--or at the very least, someone who could claim the lightsaber represented them, and there were very few individuals who could claim that who weren't Jetii.

It caused quite the stir among the camp, the Mand'alor's ward a Dral'runi with a Jetii soul mate.

Jango found that his excitement dimming, ashamed. He had already lost his family, he did not want to lose his place with Jaster, his place among the Mandalorians because of the symbol on his chest, because a soul mate he didn't know might be a Jetii.

Jaster calmed him, no one would ever force the boy to love his soul mate, he said. A soul mark didn't need to mean anything, if Jango didn't want it to. But if Jango did love his Jetii, then Jaster assumed it meant the Jetii must be worth loving. Either way, Jango was in no danger of losing his place, not with the Mandalorians, and not with Jaster.

And Jaster told Jango about his own soul mate, a woman he'd loved and lost. He told him about how it felt, when mark touched mark and soul touched soul, about how there was nothing like it in all the galaxy.

Jango believed him, and quietly, nine years old and determined he decided, Jetii or no, he wanted his soul mate.

-_-

Things weren't quite that simple. Weren't quite that easy.

Though neither Shara or Jango knew that.

There was no way for Jango to know what their shared mark would mean for his soul mate. There was no way that Shara could know what the soul mark would mean for her little boy among the Jedi.

There was no way for Shara to know that by giving her baby to the Jedi she was starting something that couldn't be stopped. If she had known, it was quite possible she wouldn't have heeded the words on her child's skin, wouldn't have been so eager for her baby to find his soul mate. If she had known, then maybe her baby would have been spared a great deal of pain.

But she couldn't have known what exactly her decision had started.

-_-

It had started over a thousand years ago; the problem--though not many people truly realized that there was a problem--didn't just magically appear, no, it was the application of decisions and attitudes lifetimes in the making. Several thousand years ago the Jedi believed in soul marks just as much as anyone.

But they worried.

Attachment, they whispered amongst themselves, was dangerous. And a soul mark, and the soul mates that came with them, could only be equally dangerous.

But those whispers were disregarded. Attachment was dangerous, that was true, but surely soul marks were the will of the Force? And how could the Jedi argue against the will of the Force they were dedicated to following? And so even as the whispers started up they were disregarded, though not forgotten.

Soul marks were Force blessed, and the Jedi would rejoice in them, would respect their presence and what it meant for the children who bore those marks.

It could have ended there, and the issue of soul marks and attachment would have remained nothing more than a philosophical argument that the Jedi would place before their Padawans as a thought exercise or for the senior Masters to debate over tea and cookies.

And then... and then... and then he Fell. He was just one man. It was just one Fall.

It wasn't anger, or rage, or fear. Or at least that's what the Jedi told themselves, it was not that they had not taught him well enough.

No, her mark was wrapped around his wrist, and his mark fell in a line across her palm.

It wasn't the mistakes of the Jedi, it was her and him and their marks. He had Fallen, and if it hadn't been for their soul marks, they wouldn't have.

It was true--from a certain point of view.

After all, she had asked him to Fall. To Fall with her.

If he had been truly good man, it would not have mattered.

If he had been a truly kind man, he wouldn't have Fallen away so easily.

If he had been a true Jedi, he would never have let his greed and his wants outweigh the compassion that every Jedi was meant to have.

But he wasn't a good man, wasn't a kind man, wasn't truly a Jedi.

He was a man who had hidden his anger and his fear deep in his heart, had allowed those feelings to fester. He was a man who liked having power, and liked using his power to hurt others. The mark wrapped around his wrist wasn't the reason he Fell, attachment, no matter what he, or she, or the Jedi said, wasn't the reason he Fell.

Attachment was an excuse.

An excuse for the several dozen Jedi that died at his hands, at their hands.

The council met, grieving and in pain, the Fallen Jedi and the woman who had his mark were both dead, and those that they'd killed given back to the Force.

Attachment, they whispered. Dangerous, they said. The will of the Force, someone argued. But where that had once been the end of the argument, where the had once been enough, it wasn't.

Which side of the Force? Someone asked, and fear had spread through the council chambers like poison.

Round and round the arguments went.

Perhaps they had misunderstood in times past, perhaps soul marks were not Force blessed, but were a curse of the Dark Side, meant to steal away their children.

A month later a child was given to them, a sea-snake wrapped around a Morpheus flower tracing down her spine. They brought the child into the council chambers, and when the child left those chambers and was given to the creche the mark down the child's spine was forever hidden.

The child didn't remain a child, but became a young woman. She met her soul mate when she was seventeen years old on mission to aid a struggling planet. Her master watched as she fell in love, but when the mission was over, the girl said goodbye to her love. She returned to the temple, heartbroken. She had loved them, but they had a mark on their shoulder, a sea-snake and Morpheus flower, and it had been so beautiful. They had someone waiting for them, and she had a temple waiting for her.

Her soul mate had fallen in love as well, but watched their love walk away, an ache in their heart because they didn't want a soul mate, not if it meant losing her. They wondered, sometimes, why their mark had tingled in the girl's presence, wondered how anyone else could possibly compare to this girl who had made them feel free and happy for the first time in years.

They died years later, still in love with the pretty girl who had walked away, still waiting to find someone who's mark matched theirs.

The girl became a Knight, became a Master, was the perfect Jedi, and the council nodded to each other, pleased. Without the marks their children couldn't be corrupted. Without the marks their children would be safe.

Every child who arrived to the temple with marks on their skin joined the creche with the marks hidden away.

No one noticed. After all, soul mates were rare. And yes, perhaps it was odd that no Jedi ever had a soul mark. But anyone who could testify to the mark on their child's skin would never see their child again--who was to say that Jedi simply weren't meant to have soul marks?

And so Shara gave her child to the Jedi, hopeful that the mark on his skin would lead him to his soul mate. He was given to the council with a lightsaber growing from the petals of a flower on his skin.

He entered the creche with no mark to be found.

And maybe... Maybe that would have been the end of it. Just as it had been for so many children that came before him, whose marks had disappeared and whose soul mates were left forever waiting.

Maybe if it weren't for the fact that a Sith was on the rise.

Maybe if it weren't for the fact that the child with a mark hidden on his palm would gain the devotion of the Chosen One of prophecy.

Maybe if it weren't for the fact that the mark on his palm was the same as the mark over the heart of a boy who would grow to become one of the most dangerous men in the galaxy.

Maybe... Maybe... Maybe...

Maybe if Shara had known she wouldn't have given her son away. Maybe if the Jedi had realized what their decision would cost them they would have chosen differently.

Maybe... Maybe... Maybe...

Thousands of years ago the Council decided to hide any soul marks on the children that entered the temple, a secret hidden not just from the Galaxy outside their temple, but from every Jedi who didn't sit on the Council when a child with a soul mark joined them.

Thousands of years ago the Council, frightened by one man who would have Fallen even without the mark on his wrist, stole the marks from the children they were entrusted with, hiding their marks away.

But things that are hidden have a way of being discovered, sooner or later.

Chapter Text

Jango would not consider himself an overtly introspective man.

He knew himself, knew his strengths, weaknesses, desires. He knew that he wasn't a good man.

He also knew that he cared very little about becoming one.

So long as he knew himself, he personally thought there was very little need to dwell any further on the matter.

But sometimes, when he looked out and saw thousands of men who all shared his face, he found himself slipping into introspection, or at least something like it. He knew himself, and he knew these men were not him. But a person couldn't help but wonder, just a little, when faced with something that might have sent another person spiraling into an identity crisis.

But he was Jango Fett, adopted son of Jaster Mereel the former Mand'alor; and now Jango was Mand'alor himself.

If sometimes he wondered if Jaster would be ashamed of the path he'd taken, both for him and the True Mandalorians, well, there were reasons beyond already knowing himself that he kept himself from engaging too deeply in introspection.

He was a father, a bounty hunter, the template of an army, a Dral'runi—and there again, was another reason to avoid introspection.

He was the template of an army that would one day destroy the Jetii, and yet the mark that lay over his heart spoke of a Jetii that was meant to be his other half, meant to be the Be'alor to his Mand'alor.

He had never had the opportunity to know a Be'alor—the soul mate of a Mand'alor.

Jaster had lost his Be'alor before Jango had ever been found by him. But Jaster had spoken of her, the Dral'runi who had his mark across her hip and whose mark he had carried along the inside of his right arm. She had been brave, had been fierce, had fought as though she'd been born with a weapon in her hand and with the Manda fire burning brightly in her soul.

Every Mandalorian had grieved when Jaster had lost her. A Mand'alor belonged to their people, and the Be'alor to both their Mand'alor and their people.

The weight of Mand'alor was a heavy one, and Jango had wished for his Be'alor, his soul mate, to help him carry it. The weight of the responsibility would have been easier then, shared between them.

But Jango had never found them, and the weight of Mand'alor had been his alone to bear.

And then Galidraan had happened, and Jango had wondered, heart bitter and aching, if it was perhaps better that way. He owed his soul mate nothing, and the Jetii had killed his people.

Still, sometimes in his weaker moments, he'd wondered if his soul mate was looking for him, if his soul mate was perhaps better than those that had harmed his people.

But now it didn't matter, Jango had chosen a path that might see his Be'alor, his soul mate, killed.

Galidraan was a heavy weight on Jango's shoulders, and his soul mate was a distant figure that he'd never met and that he no longer had childish notions he might love.

His soul mate was a Jetii.

For all Jango cared, they could die with the rest of their order.

He stared down at the soldiers being put through their paces and once again decided that he didn't want to delve too deeply into introspection. He was a man of conviction, and sometimes, when it came to his soul mate and their possible death, he found his conviction trembling.

None of the clones were Dral'runi. There had been a few, at the beginning, but the Kaminoans had seen the marks and considered them defects and had killed the clones.

Jango had retaliated by killing one of the Kaminoans in turn.

After that the Kaminoans hesitated to cull any more of the clones, though Jango suspected that there were a few clone deaths that the Kaminoans snuck past him and the other trainers. And while no other clones seemed to be born as Dral'runi, there were far fewer children killed for the supposed crime of being defective.

All in all, it had been a sobering realization for Jango. These men could be Dral'runi, with strong souls and strong bonds.

These men were not him. that was something he'd always known. But they were not nothing either.

So he watched and he listened and when he felt that touch in his soul that hung between a Mand'alor and his people he took action.

He couldn't free these men from the grip of the Kaminoans or their future in the army. But Skirata had been a medic once and it was easy enough to sneak a few med droids in, untampered with by the Kaminoans. And if eventually each of these boys, Mandalorian by right of both birth and soul, had a special training that ended with them needing medical, and those intriguing chips that Tyranus had ordered into their heads ended up disappearing? Well, a Mand'alor watched over their people.

He regretted then, in ways he had never known he could, what he'd done.

But there were contracts, and Sith Lords, and the fact that Jango didn't have the resources to take care of all of these people without using the resources provided by the Kaminoans.

And so, stuck between his own foolish decisions and the reality of the situation, he gave the men what protection he could, and swore that the Kaminoans and the Sith Lords and the Jetii would all pay for his helplessness.

And, well, he already knew better than to deal much in introspection.

The buzz of his commlink pulled him from his thoughts and he turned away from the edge of the balcony where he'd been watching a battalion in order to check his messages.

Tyranus, again.

Jango let out a deep breath, instantly annoyed. Tyranus was providing Jango with an avenue for the revenge against the Jetii that he needed, despite all the complications that included. But Jango was not oblivious to the truth of Tyranus' identity. He knew Tyranus was Dooku and Jango would never forget, or forgive, what Dooku had done on Galidraan.

The Jetii as an organization might have been first on Jango's list, but Dooku was on it as well, whether he considered himself a Jetii still or not.

There were few things Jango wanted more than Dooku's death—for Death Watch to be destroyed and for Boba to grow up brave and strong and happy were perhaps the only two things that truly preceded causing Dooku's death.

And well, Jango's soul mate at his side, but some things were out of Jango's hands.

Dooku's death was not one of those things.

But timing was crucial. And Jango could be a patient man.

With that in mind he walked away from his vantage point where he'd been watching his clones and checked the message from the Count. It was for a bounty on some Senator. Apparently the Trade Federation refused to cooperate with the Separatist movement unless Dooku proved his loyalty to them in turn by providing them with the Senator's death.

Politics, Jango thought, a little disgusted.

The Count was offering a sizable number of credits as payment, enough that in normal conditions Jango would definitely consider taking the job. Jango could kill the Senator himself easily enough. Not that that was an option, because the Count was adding another of his ridiculous conditions to the job. Apparently he was insistent that Jango find someone else to do the job.

Jango suspected it was another little twist in the grand plot that Count Dooku and his co-conspirator were creating.

Jango sighed and reminded himself that he didn't need to understand the convoluted reasoning behind the demand. He was still getting paid a decent finder's fee for acting as the go between in hiring another Bounty Hunter.

He sent off a message to Zam. He liked her well enough and she was talented enough that she should have no problem getting the job done. She responded quickly, demanding to know just how many credits this would get her, and once satisfied agreed to the job.

He was packed by the time Boba came home from training with some of the younger cadets. "You're leaving again?" Boba noted voice a little hopeful and Jango held back a grin, he knew exactly what his son was hoping for.

"Who do you want to stay with while I'm gone?" Jango asked. "Taun We? Cort? Vau? The younger cadet barracks?"

Boba immediately pouted and Jango had to hide another smile. "Can't I come with you?"

"Not this time, ad'ika."

"You always say that." Boba grumbled, slumping into a chair.

Jango raised an eyebrow. "Always, huh? I distinctly remember taking you with me two times ago, you ended up running from a Dug." Not that Boba should have been anywhere near the Dug, but Jango supposed he couldn't be completely surprised that his son's curiosity had overridden his common sense and Jango's orders for him to stay in the ship. "Though you certainly held up well, given the circumstances."

Boba straightened a little at the praise. "So I can come?"

Jango laughed and ruffled his son's hair. "No. Now choose who you want to stay with for the next little while."

-_-

Jango almost wished he'd brought Boba along, if only to show him a perfect example of how to not do a job.

He snarled quietly. Zam was normally not this inefficient. First she'd killed the decoy and not the Senator, and now she apparently couldn't even manage to get the kouhuns to do their job right. Osik, he was practically handing her a bounty on a platter and she couldn't even manage to pull it off.

Jango watched as one of the Jetii jumped through the window to catch and hang onto the courier droid in a stupid, but effective way of tracing the attempts back to Zam.

The Jetii certainly had nerve if he was willing to throw himself out of windows this high above Coruscant's streets. He also had to have confidence in his own abilities if he was di'kut enough make himself that vulnerable. Foolish, di'kut, Jetii.

But still, Jango was reluctantly impressed with the sheer nerve.

Jango watched Zam shoot down the courier droid. Effective, Jango supposed. But Jango would have aimed for the Jetii hanging like a neon target.

Or perhaps not as effective as both Zam and Jango had thought as the Jetii was caught by his companion, the lucky bastard, and then Jango was forced to follow a high speed chase through Coruscant, following the Jetii who were following Zam.

Zam escaped into a club and Jango waited patiently. Zam's forte was camouflage, and it shouldn't be too difficult for her to evade the Jedi now that she'd made it into a crowd. He kept an eye on each of the exits waiting to see Zam slip out; if they timed it well enough Zam could use the distraction she'd inadvertently caused to go after the Senator again now that the Jetii were away and distracted.

He cursed quietly, the thought dying immediately as Zam was half-carried out of the club, one arm missing. He set his sights on the first Jetii, Kaminoan saber dart at the ready. He stopped his finger a heartbeat away from pulling the trigger. There was something, a tingle down his spine, an ache in his gut, a pull in his chest—it was an instinct that he couldn't ignore. He cursed again.

How had Zam let things get this kriffed up?

He did Zam the courtesy of watching her die before he jet packed away, and he could feel the Jetii watching him go. Zam had been a good bounty hunter, a not-quite-friend, and while Jango couldn't say he completely regretted killing her—she'd known the risks, knew that he'd been hired to leave no trace, and she'd gone and made herself a liability—he did, however, regret leaving a Jetii alive.

He always regretted leaving a Jetii alive. But he refused to ignore the instinct that had stayed his shot, and it would have done him no good to only kill the second Jetii, especially when the second Jetii had the braid marking him as a padawan. That would have ended with Jango being chased to the ends of the Galaxy, no matter what Jetii claimed about mercy and compassion and no attachment.

Only a fool killed a padawan and left the Master alive.

He returned to Kamino still fuming.

He'd killed Zam, had left two Jetii alive, and he still had to find another bounty hunter to kill the Senator. It would be so much more convenient to have just killed the Senator himself. Now that the Senator had a pair of Jetii protectors it would be more difficult to find a Bounty Hunter both willing to tangle with the Jetii and skilled enough to not get killed doing so.

Kriffin' Dooku and his kriffin' convoluted plans.

He spent a day training with one of the battalions, pushing them mercilessly through training.

They were good, and Jango couldn't help the pride that came with that realization. It wasn't even that they were his clones. They weren't him, they weren't his sons.

But they were his people.

He watched as they went through a particularly grueling routine, calling both correction and encouragement. They were more than just soldiers. They were warriors.

Not for the first time, it burned at him. His rush for revenge had led to this. Had led to these men trapped in an army that would one day be led by Jetii.

He had thought he'd never force a Mandalorian to follow a Jetii.

But he couldn't protect these men, couldn't provide for these men.

Someday, somehow he would figure out how to truly free these men from the choices that he'd made. He would have to wait though, until the Jetii came for their army, until the Republic sent them to war, until Jango was no longer stuck under the thumb of two Sith Lords, only one of which he had the identity of.

He'd failed as Mand'alor once, back on Galidraan. He wouldn't fail again.

-_-

He scowled as he made a quick list of bounty hunters skilled enough to hunt down the Senator wherever she had gone into hiding and talented enough to kill her even with her Jetii guards.

He was more than ready for his contract with the Count to come to an end. If the Count still wanted his services after this point, then the man would have to raise his prices.

Bane would be a good choice, Jango thought with no little annoyance. He and Bane had worked together before, and generally Jango liked the hunter well enough. But there was a difference between working with the Duros and hiring him. Bane would undoubtedly act as though this was Jango asking for help and would gleefully attempt to hold it over Jango's head.

Bane did, however, enjoy tangling with the Jetii. Jango thought it might be worth the subsequent taunting from the Duros just to see the two Jetii taken down by the crazy hunter.

"Buir!" Boba's voice echoed through the apartment, and there was a hint of discomfort and aggression to the sound that was highly unusual. Jango tensed. "Taun We's here."

It wasn't completely out of the norm for one of the Kaminoans to pay him a visit, and Taun We was more common the most, given that he occasionally used her to watch Boba. Still, the tone of Boba's voice had Jango immediately on guard.

Entering the main room, it was obvious what had caused the discomfort and anger in his son's voice. Taun We had brought a guest.

And not, by any means, a wanted one.

"Jango." Taun We started, her voice that same soft sound as always, completely unaware of the tension she had caused by bringing a Jetii into his home. "Welcome back. Was your trip productive?"

He spared Taun We a single glance before putting his focus on the threat that she'd brought with her. The man was soaked wet, hair clinging to his neck and forehead, robes still sodden from his time out in the Kaminoan weather. "Fairly." The word came out calm and professional, nothing giving away the fact that Jango wanted to grit his teeth at the frustration of having a Jetii in his home and not being allowed to kill them.

"This is Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. He's come to check on our progress." Taun We introduced the interloper, and the Jetii, Kenobi, eyed him cautiously. There was nothing overt in the man's posture, but Jango could still see the signs that meant that the Jetii had mentally labeled Jango as a threat. It gave Jango a sharp, dark satisfaction, he enjoyed it when Jetii saw him as a threat.

He enjoyed proving them right even more.

Hopefully Jango would have the opportunity to get that point across with this particular Jetii.

A polite smile made its way across the Jetii's face. "Your clones are very impressive. You must be very proud." Jango didn't freeze. Didn't so much as twitch in reaction as his chest burned and tingled as the words left the Jetii's lips, a tug he was used to associating to the bond between Mand'alor and Mandalorian, but somehow more, suddenly pulling at him.

He had no doubt that the symbol on his chest was now the exact stunning blue-green-gray of Obi-Wan Kenobi's eyes.

He had found him. The Dral'runi that carried his words. His Be'alor. His soul mate.

Jango had resigned himself to never finding him. Had resigned himself to letting his soul mate die with the rest of the Jetii. Had told himself he could do that easily.

But now, with his soul mate suddenly right in front of him, he suddenly wasn't so sure.

He forced the thoughts away. Later. He'd figure this all out later. "I'm just a simple man, trying to make my way in the universe." There was a small moment where the Jetii might have been reacting to his own symbol burning as Jango addressed him for the first time, but it was so small that Jango couldn't be sure.

To the side of him Jango heard Boba inhale softly, and from the corner of Jango's eye he could see his son stare at the Jetii in confusion and shock.

Jango felt something in him loosen. He hadn't imagined the sensation, not if Boba was recognizing the Jetii as Be'alor, not if Boba recognized that the Mand'alor had found the Dral'runi who shared their mark.

A Mand'alor belonged to his people, and a Be'alor to their Mand'alor and their people both.

"Ever made your way as far into the interior as Coruscant?" His soul mate was asking, as though this wasn't a momentous occasion. Jango was starting to get the uneasy feeling that something was wrong.

"Once or twice." Later. He would figure this out later. There was too much on the line right now, soul mate or not, Jango wouldn't let himself get distracted.

"Recently?"

It hit Jango suddenly, that a few days ago he'd had this man in his sights and Jango had shot Zam instead. Before they had even met, before he'd even felt the bond tugging at him, somehow Jango's soul had known that the Jetii, Kenobi, Obi-Wan was meant for him. "Possibly."

"Then you must know Master Sifo-Dyas."

Jango found himself circling around the Jetii, a predator around its prey. Kenobi's body shifted to account for the movement, but the Jetii's eyes focused on something in the hall, splitting his attention between Jango and whatever it was that had caught his attention.

Jango knew himself well enough that he wasn't surprised to find that that irritated him. He wanted his soul mate, his soon-to-be cyare, to give his full attention to Jango.

He was also annoyed, however, that he had been distracted enough to leave the hallway closet open, his armor on full display for the Jetii to see. That was going to undoubtedly cause problems. He sent Boba to close the hallway closet and Kenobi's eyes returned to meet Jango's, his full attention once again on Jango, exactly where it was supposed to be. Pleased, Jango responded to the earlier query. "Master who?"

"Sifo-Dyas. Is he not the Jedi who hired you for the job?"

Jango stepped closer to his soul mate, unable to help himself. He wanted to push Kenobi, Obi-Wan, against the wall, wanted to see how pretty his almost-cyare would look, submitting to him. He could see Obi-Wan note the movement, watched as it was categorized once again as dangerous. Still, Kenobi didn't so much as shift away. Jango smiled. "Never heard of him."

"Really?" Kenobi's voice was dry, disbelieving. Jango had no intention of lying to him, not outright, at least. And that was only partially because Jetii were good at catching lies.

"I was recruited by a man called Tyranus on one of the moons of Bogden." The mention of Dooku stirred a memory in Jango's mind, something Jango had dismissed at the time as more of Dooku's osik. Jango pushed the thought away for later.

Obi-Wan was obviously trying to decide if Jango was lying. "Curious."

His soul mate shifted, hands disappearing into the sleeves of his robes. Despite the fact that he was still wet he looked every inch the proper Jetii, and the desire to push Obi-Wan against the wall and make his soul mate lose every bit of that proper Jetii decorum to Jango's body and hands and lips was almost overwhelming.

"Do you like your army?" Jango asked instead, crisp, professional, a little taunting, though his soul mate had no way of knowing that.

Obi-Wan paused before answering and Jango could feel the man's eyes burning into him. "I look forward to seeing them in action." It was a purely diplomatic response, Jango had no doubt that his soul mate didn't like the army at all. Was, in fact, afraid of the army and what it might mean. Smart man.

Not that his soul mate had anything to fear from the army. Not anymore, not if Jango had any say in it.

Jango kept the smirk off his face with practiced ease as he took one step closer, his soul mate shivered, and Jango doubted it was due to being cold. "They'll do their job well. I'll guarantee that." He wondered if his Be'alor heard the dark promise in his voice. He wondered if every part of this conversation would later be dissected and puzzled over. He hoped it would. Hoped that it was his voice that kept his soul mate awake late into the night as his Be'alor tried to understand all of the things that Jango hadn't said, tried to understand what Jango had meant.

He wondered if his precious Be'alor could feel Jango's intent. If the man had felt how his desire had shifted from wanting to destroy the man and everything he held dear, to wanting to have him, love him, keep him, possess him.

"Thank you for your time, Jango." It gave Jango a strangely visceral satisfaction to hear his name from the lips of his soul mate, even as Jango couldn't help but wonder why his soul mate hadn't given him more, that same uneasy feeling from earlier came back.

But then, Jango had his own reasons for keeping quiet right now. His soul mate might have his own reasons as well. They had time, Jango would make sure of it.

"Always a pleasure to meet a Jedi."

He let his soul mate leave with Taun We, part of him already planning on how he'd track the man down later, when Jango was in a better position to make his intentions fully clear. He kept his eyes on his soul mate as he left though, didn't even try to hide the look in his eyes, despite knowing it had to be predatory. His soul mate glanced back at him as he left the apartment, and Jango saw his step falter for the slightest second, before his eyes narrowed and his face went carefully blank as the door shut behind him, blocking Jango's sight.

"What was that, Dad?"

Jango turned to his son and crouched so that they were face to face. "That was the dral'runi who carried my mark." He pulled the collar of his shirt down so that Boba could see the flower and saber over his heart.

He felt his heart freeze over as he looked down at the mark himself and noted that it was still gray.

No.

He'd felt it.

Boba had felt it.

His soul mate hadn't though. Jango had put it aside as the Jetii having an excellent sabaac face. But it hadn't been that.

"But he's a Jetii!" Boba protested, not recognizing how wrong it was for the mark to still be uncolored.

The memory Jango had pushed away earlier came back with crystal clarity, Dooku had been monologuing, detailing the many failings of the Jetii Order, as though Jango wasn't completely and personally aware of them. Jango had known that the Sith had been trying to get Jango to sympathize with him and his cause. Which is why he'd taken much of what Dooku had said with a grain of salt.

But Dooku had claimed that the Jetii were soul killers. That they took Dral'runi and hid their marks. Dooku had claimed that he'd been a part of the council during the time that two different children were stripped of their marks.

Jango had presumed it was a calculated story, everyone knew how Mandalorians felt about Dral'runi, and if the story was true, it would have been a quick and easy way to ensure that Jango would side with Dooku's cause.

Which had been exactly why Jango had doubted the story. It had been too perfectly calculated, what with Jango's own mark indicating his soul mate was a Jetii. And as much as he'd hated the Jetii, he just couldn't imagine anyone trying to strip away the soul mark.

But now, Jango had found his soul mate, had felt the bond, and yet his own mark remained gray.

The rage threatened to consume him, and Jango pushed it back to where it belonged.

If Jango hadn't been Mand'alor, hadn't known exactly how it felt for a soul to call to his, would he have discarded the momentary sensation as a fool's hope?

He would have. He would have and the Jetii would have successfully stolen yet another person from Jango, but this time Jango would have been completely unaware.

How many other dral'runi had had their soul mate stolen from them because of the Jetii?

Jango had spent years raging that his soul mate was a Jetii, even as he'd simultaneously longed for him. But his soul mate being a Jetii wasn't the real insult. The insult was that the Jetii had thought they could keep his soul mate away from him.

So his soul mate didn't know they were soul mates. So Obi-Wan Kenobi didn't know he was a dral'runi and that he belonged at Jango's side.

That wasn't to say that Obi-Wan wouldn't find himself there anyways.

Jango focused back on his son. "He's a Jetii, but only for now." He softened his voice. "You felt it in your soul, who he is, who he's meant to be. I did too. But the Jetii? He didn't." He could hear the rage leaking into his voice again. "He didn't because the Jetii Order tried to rip him from us. Tried to take him from us, from where he belongs."

Boba's eyes widened, but Jango suspected that he didn't fully understand.

That was okay, Jango was still trying to understand it all too. "For now we'll let him remain in ignorance. The Jetii have hidden his mark from him, and that's just another crime they'll pay for in blood."

"But..." Boba hesitated. "But he's a Jetii."

"He wouldn't belong to us, wouldn't belong as Be'alor, if he couldn't be more than what the Jetii have tried to make him into." He stood, resting a hand on his son's shoulder. "For now though, pack your bags. We're leaving." He smiled a little. "You get to come with me this time."

Boba hesitated, but then nodded, his own smile appearing on his face at getting to come with. Jango watched his son leave, his own mind already racing.

This revelation changed everything.

This revelation changed nothing.

The Jetii would still fall, Jango just had to make sure that his soul mate didn't fall with them when that happened. Had to make sure that his soul mate was right where he belonged.

Firmly at Jango's side.

Chapter Text

Jango hadn't fully expected the fight, though in hindsight he realized he probably should have. Jango couldn't quite say that he regretted that the fight had happened either. It had given him some interesting insight into his soul mate.

Jango had won, but kriff, Obi-Wan Kenobi had put up an excellent fight. He had gone toe to toe with Jango, even when Boba had joined in and tried to distract his soul mate with the ship's guns.

Jango had honestly been tempted to try and subdue the Jetii and take him right then and there. There would have been something terribly fascinating about seeing how long it would take his soul mate to give in to Jango when all he had was Jango, Boba, and their ship.

But Jango didn't actually want to break his soul mate. He wanted to win him, earn him. Jango wanted to pull him slowly, gently, so that his soul mate wasn't even aware of how inevitable it all was.

Jango rubbed at his jaw as he and Boba took off in Slave 1. Obi-Wan had gotten a particularly vicious kick in. Kriff, his soul mate was going to be glorious. He already was, even if some of that was hidden and smothered by the Jetii. There was so much more that his soul mate was capable of. Jango could feel it, he couldn’t wait to help his soul mate discover just how much more there was for him, when he wasn’t being smothered by the Jetii.

He and Boba hadn't gotten far when Jango noticed the ship following them. Obi-Wan Kenobi clearly didn't know when to quit. Which, yes, was a characteristic that they shared. Jango was sure he would be able to appreciate that specific characteristic far more in his soul mate when it wasn't making his own life difficult.

Eventually, using some of the fanciest flying he’d had to use in years, he managed to shake his Be'alor, at least momentarily.

It would have been easier if Jango had been able to use the heavier fire power in his ship, but Jango had just found his soul mate, he wasn't about to kill him. Boba, at least, had throughly enjoyed the chase, laughing and cheering with every evasive maneuver Jango was forced to employ.

Jango was fairly certain he hadn’t entirely lost the Jetii, that Obi-Wan would show up again and would be doing his best to cause trouble that Jango would then be forced to deal with.

He'd had his Be'alor for less than a day and the man was already making Jango’s life challenging.

Jango had always been too easily attracted to challenges.

It was starting to look like Obi-Wan Kenobi was entirely the perfect challenge meant just for Jango.

-_-

Jango had been right that his Be'alor was going to show up again causing trouble.

Jango grit his teeth as he watched his soul mate be brought in by a group of droids and Geonosians. Obi-Wan's robe was lost and his tunic singed, but the Jetii had apparently chosen to surrender instead of pushing the issue and seemed, at least for the moment, generally unhurt as he was escorted to a cell.

The Geonosian leaders immediately started accusing everyone around them of sabotage and infiltration. Dooku let them rail for a few minutes, before he was able to easily calm them down. Dooku did frown when they admitted that the Jetii had already transmitted an encrypted message by the time he'd been found and captured.

"We don't know what he's found, what he may have told the other Jedi!" The Trade Federation Representative looked about ready to make a run for it. Cowards, Jango thought derisively. "We don't want any Jedi interference, not again!"

Dooku just gave a graceful shrug. "While it is unfortunate, we all knew that the Republic would send their spies after us eventually. That they used the Jedi is a mere inconvenience. We are prepared for any action the Republic might choose to make against us."

It didn't take much more than a few more assurances that the CIS was more than capable of handling the Jedi for the rest of the Separatists Leaders to calm again and Jango watched as Dooku dismissed them all to go their separate ways, leaving Dooku alone in the control room.

"What exactly will you be doing with him?" Jango asked, keeping his voice neutral. Count Dooku looked up at him, squinting his eyes thoughtfully.

"He'll either join my cause or he'll die." Dooku smiled. "You should be pleased, either way there'll be one less Jedi in the Galaxy."

Jango nodded, not surprised by the answer. Either option would serve to make the Separatists happy and would also increase Dooku's own standing. He either proved his influence by shifting a Jedi's allegiance, which was no small thing, or proved his conviction by killing a man who belonged to the same Order that Dooku himself once had.

"He won't join you." Jango said pointedly. He was almost certain of that. His Be'alor wouldn't be so fickle in his loyalties to let death frighten him into changing his ways.

This was a good thing, Jango reminded himself. He didn't want a fickle Be'alor. Still he could admit, if only to himself, that it would have been convenient if he and his Be'alor were suddenly on the same side of this war.

Not that Jango was exactly on the Separatists side. Jango wasn’t on any side other than the True Mandalorians’ side. But he hated the Republic and he was dismissive, at best, when it came to the Separatists.

”Then I suppose he'll die." Count Dooku paused, shifting a little to look at Jango, eyes narrowed in curiosity. Jango wondered what the man had sensed from Jango at those words. He wondered if the man realized the threat that Jango posed should the situation come to that. If the Count tried to kill his soul mate, then Jango would leave carnage behind him stopping that. "But I wouldn't be so sure. He's a reasonable man, I'm sure he'll see the benefits of joining me."

Jango snorted. "With the compelling argument of the threat of death if he doesn't?" He shook his head. "You underestimate him."

"You met the man once, you think you already have the measure of his character?" Dooku sounded snide, and Jango reminded himself that the end goal was worth dealing with this man—just so long as he didn't cross the line. He paid very well after all. That and Jango had plans that involved the Count dying very painfully. If the man didn't end up being killed by his co-conspirator, whoever that was.

And wasn't that an intriguing thought. Jango took a moment to run the pros and cons through his mind. He had already acknowledged how much easier things would be if he and his soul mate appeared to be on the same side. The plan needed more fine-tuning, but as a general plan, it just might work and even benefitted several of the other plans Jango had in the works. All together it gave him enough to go on for now. "I'd like him freed."

Count Dooku froze, turning fully to stare at him, genuine shock on his face. "You want to free a Jedi?"

Jango didn't react, he would have to play his cards very carefully if he wanted to get everything out of this that he could. He'd have to reveal more than he'd like, much more, but he certainly wasn't going to reveal any more than he had to. "Quite."

Count Dooku's eyes narrowed and then he smiled, a cold, dark thing that was not as intimidating as the Sith Lord probably thought it was. "And why, pray tell, would you want that?"

Jango returned the cold smile with one of his own, though the helmet made the gesture mostly futile. "I thought you knew." He paused, letting his voice go thoughtful. "Why else tell me about how the Jetii are soul killers. I assumed it had always been your intent to hold my soul mate as a bargaining chip."

Dooku wiped the shock from his face quickly, eyes going thoughtful and calculating. “You’re the Kot'shla flower."

Jango didn't let his own surprise show at Dooku's insight, shoving his anger down.

The exact symbols that created Jango's soul mark weren't well known, not even among other Mandalorians, which meant that Dooku had learned of Jango's identifying mark from the Jetii's side. Dooku had said that he'd helped hide the marks of two Jetii youngling, that one of them was Obi-Wan shouldn't have been a surprise. Just another reason to kill Dooku, eventually.

"The Kot'shla flower." Jango agreed. "You're perfectly capable of twisting the situation to fit your needs. It'll certainly make you look more reasonable to the Republic politicians who are currently depicting you as a violent war-monger." They weren’t actually wrong about that, Dooku was quite definitely a war-monger.

"And I suppose you have something more to offer me." Dooku smiled like he thought he had the winning hand. "In exchange for your Be'alor."

So the Count was well informed on just what Obi-Wan's status meant. "Just that." Jango said, keeping his voice easy. "You can't have a Be'alor without a Mand'alor."

Dooku looked suddenly greedy. "You'd fully take your position as Mand’alor, then? Join the CIS?"

Jango clenched his jaw, he was already fulfilling his position as Mand’alor, whether the rest of the Galaxy realized it or not. Still, that wasn’t what was important right now. He forced himself to scoff. "Hardly. That'd make courting Obi-Wan rather difficult. I'm not saving his life just to then join the side trying to kill him." Jango tapped his fingers pointedly against his gauntlet. "I presume that your mysterious, shadow co-conspirator will certainly be far better placed than I'll be." He said, as though it was a concession. "But whoever they are, they're probably just as intent on betraying you as you are on eventually betraying them." Jango paused. "You'll want steadfast allies when the time comes to take them down."

Dooku hummed thoughtfully, and Jango knew he was considering it. The man was probably already considering all of the different ways he could use Jango as cannon fodder if they were ‘allies’.

Eventually, though, Dooku would give Jango the information he needed to deal with both sides of the equation.

Jango just had to not die before then.

"And there's also the little matter that if you kill my Be'alor then I'll be more than happy to take my Mandalorians and genuinely join the Republic in decimating your rebellion."

Dooku's eyes narrowed. "Are you threatening me, Fett?"

Jango rolled his eyes behind his helmet, because obviously. "I doubt there's a need for something as coarse as threats. Sparing a single Jedi is an easy price to pay to earn me and my people as your hidden allies."

Count Dooku made a dismissive noise, but didn't deny it. "I will consider it. I was going to speak with young Kenobi soon, but I suppose I'll have to give this further thought before I speak with him." The Count waved his hand at Jango in what was obviously meant to be a dismissal. Jango paused for a long moment—just long enough to ensure that the Count remembered that Jango was no one's pet—before he turned and left.

He returned to Slave 1. He knew himself well enough that he knew it would be worse than foolish to go anywhere too close to where his soul mate was being kept. The Geonosians did not strike Jango as the sort who were kind to their prisoners, and Jango would react poorly to seeing anyone hurting his soul mate.

Jango couldn't be rash, not now.

It was tempting, to go and find his soul mate, to free him, help him escape. Obi-Wan would be grateful, and maybe some of that guarded suspiciousness from their first meeting would disappear. Obi-Wan would have a reason to start trusting Jango. Jango desperately needed that trust if he was going to convince his soul mate to fall in love with him and leave the Jetii.

But there was more at stake. Jango had duties, there were promises he’d made, and he couldn’t burn certain bridges. Not yet.

If it came down to Obi-Wan’s life or his death, then Jango might be forced to act, but surely his soul mate would forgive Jango the pain Jango hadn’t spared him from when he recognized the larger goals Jango was pursuing for his people. For their people.

Jango shook his head, shaking the thoughts away with it. He wouldn’t let Obi-Wan die, that was certain. But he also couldn’t act, not yet. He’d wait and watch. Hopefully his first plan worked out, if not Jango could improvise.

He was unsurprised to see that Boba had slipped from the ship and was out and about. Boba was almost overwhelmingly curious, a good trait, but also the one that had led to Boba accidentally confronting the Dug Jango had been chasing a few hunts ago. Jango would have to teach his son to temper that curiosity, otherwise it would only end up getting him killed.

He warmed up a meal quickly, putting some aside for his son, before sitting down with his own meal.

He ate slowly as his thoughts tried to make sense of themselves.

They were in an interesting position, he and his Be'alor. Even knowing since the beginning that his soul mate was a Jetii, Jango had never once thought that it would be quite this complicated.

He poked at his food, not quite interested in eating it, though he knew he needed to if he was going to maintain his energy. A Mandalorian and a Jetii, and only one of them aware that they were soul mates. Everyone knew how the Jetii felt about attachments, and Jango felt a spike of bitterness at the thought. Was that why the Jetii had tried to steal his soul mate from him? Because they were afraid of attachment?

Fine. Jango was more than willing to validate all of their fears. He intended for he and his Jetii to be far more than just attached. He'd win his Be'alor, ensnare him, bring him to Jango's side where the man would stay.

Just the thought of it left Jango's mark tingling almost pleasurably against his skin.

The sound of the ship opening pulled Jango from his thoughts and he turned as Boba practically sprinted into the ship, his face a picture of frustrated, angry confusion. "Something wrong, Boba?"

"They have the Jetii." Boba told him, a little out of breath.

"I know." Jango clenched his teeth a little, but then forced a smile. "I'm working on it."

Boba seemed to deflate a little in relief, but he still looked bothered.

"Anything else?" Jango asked as he stood to get the food he'd left in the warming unit for Boba.

Boba shook his head, but then paused. "I was watching the Geonosians that had..." he paused and Jango suspected he knew where his son was going with this, "the ones that had the Jetii." Boba frowned, looking uncomfortable. "They gave him a pretty good beating. I wanted to stop them." The way Boba said it made it sound like he thought he'd done something horrible by not wanting the Jetii to suffer.

Jango understood his son's conundrum completely. For the most part, jobs were jobs and people were people, and while they'd do what they had to do in order to complete a job, Jango had always taught his son that they should never go out of their way to cause people suffering. Though Jango also saw no reason to go out of their way to alleviate it either.

It was everyone for themselves, their family, and their people in this Galaxy, and the rest of the Galaxy could fend for itself.

But that understanding went out the window when it came to both Death Watch and the Jetii. Then the more they suffered the better. To suddenly not want the Jetii to suffer probably felt like an alarming change to his son. "I understand." He put his hand on his son's shoulder, rubbing gently. "Why do you think you feel that way?"

Boba shrugged, shifting his feet a little, but Jango could see that he'd already thought a fair amount about the matter. "Cause he's yours?" It came out sounding a little more like a question than an answer, but Jango accepted it.

He shifted to one knee so that his son could see his face more clearly. "It makes a difference, maybe it's unexpected, and maybe for now a little uncomfortable. But it does make a difference." Jango hesitated. "He's not just mine, you know the Be'alor belongs to their people as much as the Mand'alor does." Boba nodded and Jango continued. "More so, he'll belong to you because he's mine and you're my son. He wouldn't be mine, wouldn't be Be'alor, if there wasn't something right about it, something right about him."

"I hate him." Boba whispered. "I can't stand the idea that he's your soul mate. He isn't worthy of you. He couldn't ever be worthy of you."

Jango considered that. He could accept that this change would take time for his son to process, but even with that he could still see the struggle on his son's face. "But?" Jango prompted quietly.

"But I didn't like watching him get hurt." Boba admitted. "I didn't like watching how the Geonosians thought they could touch him, could throw him in a cell like he was nothing more than trash."

Jango heaved a sigh. Because it had been more than unpleasant watching the Geonosians with Obi-Wan and Jango had needed to exercise a large portion of his self control to not react then and there as his soul mate had been taken to a cell. "Neither did I." He stood up from where he'd been kneeling. "We'll both have to adjust to what this means, but it will work out, Boba." He smiled down at his son. "Come on, let's get some food in you."

-_-

"We've been alerted to two intruders in one of the droid factories. The reports state that at least one of them is a Jedi." Dooku informed him. "Bring them both in. Alive."

Jango raised an eyebrow at that. More Jedi? "My pleasure." He turned and headed towards where the reports said that the intruders had been found, several of the battle droids following after him. Jango hardly needed the help, but he didn't say anything about it.

It didn't take long to make it to the droid foundry, and quick surveillance indicated the intruders were still trapped inside. He slipped in quietly, the quiet clanking of the droids following him completely insignificant when overshadowed by the loud machinery.

He caught sight of the Jetii first, tangled up on one of the production lines. A few moments later he caught sight of the second intruder, trapped in one of the melting pots. He felt some of the anticipation that came with the hunt dissipate.The two of them had been very soundly defeated by the machinery.

How disappointing.

With a sigh he gestured for one of the battle droids to get the machinery turned off so that he could make the retrieval.

Jango moved into position, and somehow the Jetii still hadn't noticed him, too busy trying to escape the machinery and screaming the woman's name. The machinery clanked to a halt and Jango pitched his voice just right to catch the Jetii's attention. "Don't move, Jedi."

The Jetii whirled to face him, anger, frustration, and a little bit of fear on his face. Not only did Jango have the Jetii straight in his sights, but the Jetii seemed to have lost his lightsaber. There was a small commotion and Jango noted that the woman had been released from the melting pit and that the droids had her surrounded.

He narrowed his eyes in surprise when he recognized the woman as the Senator that he'd sent Zam to kill. He turned his attention back to the Jetii—who was looking between Jango and the Senator, muted panic clear on their face—and yes, now that he was looking for it, it was obviously the padawan from Coruscant.

The Jetii shifted a little and Jango shifted his blaster in turn to remind the Jetii that any desperate actions on the Jetii's part would end poorly. The Jetii's eyes flickered between Jango and the Senator again before he seemed to realize that he'd already lost, some of the fight leaving his body.

Jango had been hoping for a little more of a fight. How disappointing. He could feel the extra energy bubbling beneath his skin and he had to shove it down.

He escorted the two new prisoners to Count Dooku, droids and Geonosian guards following with. The Senator strode forward the moment Dooku was in her sights, fire in her eyes and chin raised defiantly, completely ignoring her status as prisoner. "I'm here as a member of the Diplomatic Senate for Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. You'll turn him over to me."

Jango raised his eyebrow at the absolute gall, not sure whether he was impressed or not.

Dooku was most decidedly not. Though that didn't stop him from trying to offer her and both of her Jedi companions leniency if she were to just join his alliance, and of course bring her planet with her.

Jango could respect the Senator's unwillingness to put her own survival before her people's well-being as she outright dismissed the possibility.

What he couldn't respect was her utter inability to see the failings of the Republic.

The upper echelons of society may consider the Republic to be functioning for the betterment of the Galaxy, but it had been a very long time since it had actually done so. The Senator could point her fingers at the Trade Federation and Banking Clans, but it went far beyond their influence. The Republic was not the honorable government that she seemed to believe it was and her obstinance did her no favors. As far as Jango was concerned, it proved that she was blind, incompetent, or as guilty as the majority of the Senators that graced the halls of Coruscant's Senate building.

Personally, Jango didn't care if the Republic fell. They were corrupt and inefficient. Not that he necessarily wanted the Separatists to come out on the top of this conflict either. They were equally as corrupt, and would likely become equally as inefficient.

Finally, Count Dooku made the appropriate noises of disappointment at his inability to spare them from their fates, and with the proper dramatics informed them that they would be sent to trial.

Count Dooku signaled for Jango to stay behind as the battle droids and Geonosians escorted the two prisoners out the door. "Poggle will delay the trial long enough for me to decide what it is we're going to do with our other Jedi. I do believe it's time I had a little chat with the man. He's been left hanging quite long enough." Dooku turned towards Jango, the calculating, greedy look back in his eyes. "Everything has worked out quite nicely. I do believe we will be able to free your Jedi; the Senator and Skywalker are more than sufficient to play the part Obi-Wan would have played. We have far more evidence of espionage on them than we did on Kenobi." There was a hint of pride in the Count's voice and Jango wondered why exactly that would please the Count quite so much.

“And in return?” Jango asked carefully.

“In return for your soul mate’s life, you’ll find a way to ingratiate yourself with the Republic and place yourself in position to benefit my plans. You will have to be convincing.” The Count smiled. “My co-conspirator, as you called him, is not a fool. And if he suspects that you’re working with me against him, he’ll take great delight in destroying you and everything you hold dear.”

Jango nodded. That was nothing more or less than he’d expected.

"I trust you will be willing to return young Kenobi to his ship after we've spoken? Unless you have other plans for him once I've released him into your custody?"

Jango narrowed his eyes and ignored the last half of the question. “I’m willing to escort him to his ship."

The Count eyed him for a moment as though trying to decide if he really wanted to go forward with their new partnership, finally Dooku nodded. "Then come. It's time I meet my Grandpadawan."

Jango didn’t startle at the newest drop of information, just took it and put it away for future consideration. It was time for his soul mate to be freed, and then Jango would have to engage in the most complicated hunt he’d ever played before.

The Republic, the Separatists. It was all a game, and Jango fully intended that he, his Be’alor, and their people ended up on top.

Chapter Text

Droids. He'd been taken captive by droids. Worse, he'd been in the middle of sending a transmission to Anakin at the time and there was no way that once Anakin saw the message that he'd ever let Obi-Wan live it down.

Obi-Wan was still hoping that he'd be able to find a way to rescue himself before Anakin arrived—because his Padawan would arrive, no matter what Obi-Wan had said about merely passing the message on to the Council—and Obi-Wan really didn't want to have to be rescued by his padawan. Not again.

Especially since Anakin was still gleefully holding on to that whole incident with the Gundark's Nest. There weren't even supposed to be Gundarks on Mirial, much less a nest for Obi-Wan to fall into. The whole thing had been ridiculous—and an apt analogy for Obi-Wan’s life.

There wasn’t, unfortunately, all that much he could do to escape when he was left stuck in an electrical field. After the initial beating the Geonosians had given him Obi-Wan had been left completely alone, the only exception being the two times a day they gave him just enough water to keep him from dehydrating. Which was very considerate of them, he supposed.

No food though, so they likely weren't planning on keeping him here long-term. While uncomfortable they would have to know that human bodies could survive for extended periods of time without food. And while the lack of food may serve to weaken him, that would only work to their advantage and Obi-Wan's detriment.

Another electrical shock ran through the field and through his body and he hissed a little. There was no set pattern for when the shocks came, a relatively minor form of psychological torture, beyond just the physical pain the shocks caused. The anticipation of not knowing when the next painful shock would come and having no way to prepare for it.

The shocks also made it almost impossible to fall asleep, and Obi-Wan was definitely feeling the exhaustion starting to weigh on him. Especially without access to the Force to bolster him.

All in all, he really was growing rather tired of this current bout of captivity. While it may not have been the worst situation Obi-Wan had ever found himself in, it had that perfect mixture of boredom, forced inactivity, and sporadic pain to definitely make it onto his list. He was getting the feeling that the Geonosians and the Separatists weren't fans of him. Pity.

To be fair, he wasn't a fan of them either.

The door to his dismal, little cell opened completely off schedule from his two daily servings of water. Obi-Wan forced himself to be alert, mentally pushing away his weariness. Something was finally happening. How promising. If the last thought sounded sardonic even in his own mind, well, captivity was boring.

Obi-Wan watched as Dooku and Jango Fett entered the room, the door closing behind them. Obi-Wan did a quick evaluation on the possible reasons for their visit, before landing on the most likely solution. Interrogation. In that rather delightful scenario Jango Fett's presence could be an indication that Dooku would be willing to try and force the answers out of him through violence.

Well, at least Obi-Wan wouldn't be bored anymore. Though his likely-already-cracked ribs would probably prefer the boredom.

A shiver ran down his spine, and Obi-Wan wasn't sure if it was the Force whispering in foreboding or if it was because he'd just been shocked again. Odds were it was the shock, because the Force was next to impossible to feel at the moment, his containment doing its job to almost completely block his connection to it. Still, it did not bode well for whatever was to come.

He glanced over at his old Grandmaster, giving the man a careful once over. The man stood tall and proud, looking every inch the aristocrat he had become upon taking the title Count after leaving the Order.

Or maybe he had always looked that way. Obi-Wan wouldn't be able to say for sure, having never actually met Dooku. Qui-Gon hadn't spoken of him much, but what little he had said had always made Dooku sound formidable. He certainly carried himself in a way that screamed formidable to anyone watching.

Despite the complete lack of interaction Obi-Wan had had with the man, it had still felt like a personal blow when Dooku had left the Order so soon after Qui-Gon's death without so much as a goodbye. It had made Obi-Wan feel cut off, isolated. No Master, no Grandmaster, Yoda was there as his Great-Grandmaster, but given how disappointed he'd been with Obi-Wan's decision to take Anakin as a Padawan, Obi-Wan had felt unable to turn to him during those early years.

Maybe it was that hurt that pushed the first word pass his lips. "Traitor." Traitor to the Republic, to the Jedi, to their Lineage. It was a personal failing that the last betrayal felt just as painful as the first. He was supposed to be better than that.

Dooku shook his head, his face a perfect picture of regret and outrage. "Oh no, my friend. This is a mistake, a terrible mistake. They have gone too far. This is madness!"

Obi-Wan held in a disbelieving scoff. "I thought you were the leader here, Dooku."

"This had nothing to do with me, I assure you." Obi-Wan didn't believe him, but Force he wanted to. Wanted to believe that Dooku would have never played a role in having his Grandpadawan beaten and then imprisoned.

"Then I don't suppose you can arrange to have me freed then?" The question was more sardonic than serious, but Dooku seemed to take it seriously.

"What brought a Jedi Knight all the way out here to Geonosis?"

Obi-Wan waited until his slowly spinning prison had him facing Dooku again before raising an eyebrow and looking pointedly at where the armored bounty hunter was leaning against the wall. Fett was perfectly well aware that Obi-Wan had followed him here, which meant that Dooku was more than likely also perfectly well aware why he had come here as well. "Really, Dooku? It seems rather beneath us to pretend that we aren't all quite aware of what brought me here."

Dooku nodded, acceding the point. "Quite. Although," here he paused thoughtfully, "it was never explained why you were tracking Fett in the first place."

Obi-Wan restrained himself from rolling his eyes, barely. "Yes, I'm sure it's an absolute mystery." Dooku didn't respond, and Obi-Wan let the silence hang for a few moments until he received another shock. Conversing with Dooku, while still rather tedious, was better than hanging around in silence, and so long as he was only telling Dooku what he already knew, Obi-Wan saw no harm in continuing the conversation. The key to a good interrogation was letting someone think they were getting the information they wanted while using the opportunity to collect his own. "The assassination attempts on Senator Amidala, the Chancellor ordered me to find the reason behind them and put a stop to it."

That and the Jedi Council wanted more information on the clone army that seemed to have randomly, and far too conveniently, popped into existence without anyone the wiser. That, however, Obi-Wan would gladly keep to himself.

Obi-Wan felt another shiver run down his spine. Fett was working with Dooku, did that mean that Dooku was also involved with the creation of the clone army?

He mentally shook his head. No, that was the exhaustion jumping to unfounded conclusions. Fett had said he'd been hired by a man named Tyranus over ten years ago and Obi-Wan had felt the truth in the statement.

Fett was a Bounty Hunter, he'd probably had so many temporary employers Obi-Wan would rather not count them all.

Dooku nodded. "Ah, yes. I'm afraid the assassination order was the work of one Nute Gunray, he's not fond of the woman." If Obi-Wan was a proud, selfish, conceited money-monger who had been outsmarted by a fourteen year old girl he'd probably hold a bit of a grudge too. But it'd been ten years. The Neimodian needed to learn to let go of his grudges, especially when it was his own greed that had put him in the position in the first place. "And if that is the reason you are here," Dooku continued, "you may consider your work done. When Fett arrived with you so close behind certain matters were brought to light. The bounty on Senator Amidala has been withdrawn."

Obi-Wan glanced at where Jango Fett was still leaning against the wall, body language completely unconcerned. For a moment he wished the man would remove his helmet so that Obi-Wan could get a better idea of what was going on.

Though from their minimal interaction thus far he had noted that Fett seemed to have an impressive sabaac face. Except for when he looked at Obi-Wan as though Obi-Wan were prey.

This time when he shuddered it wasn’t due to being shocked, but instead an effect of the unease the memory stirred in him. While it was hardly the first time Obi-Wan had found himself feeling like prey on a mission, there had been something far more intense about the way Fett had looked at him than was normal.

Obi-Wan had almost been surprised that the man had been content to let him simply walk out of his home. The first time the man had seen Obi-Wan in his living room, Obi-Wan had known, without a doubt, that the man had wanted to kill him. Right then and right there. Obi-Wan had been fully prepared for a fight the entire time.

And then something—and Obi-Wan couldn't quite put a finger on what—had changed. Fett had suddenly seemed to not want him dead. But the intensity of the whole interaction hadn't eased in the slightest. If anything, the intensity that had seemed to fill the Force had only increased until it had felt like there had been an almost physical charge in the air.

He pushed the thoughts of Fett and their one, unfortunately unsettling, encounter away and returned his attention back to Dooku. "How fortunate. I'm sure Senator Amidala will be delighted to hear that the attempts on her life will cease.”

Dooku nodded. "Quite." There was something hidden in that satisfied word, but Obi-Wan couldn't be sure what it was. Dooku sighed. "It is a great pity that our paths have never crossed before, Obi-Wan. Qui-Gon always spoke very highly of you." Obi-Wan felt something in his chest twist painfully at the words. Had his Master really? He'd never been the type inclined to praise Obi-Wan to his face, but the thought that Qui-Gon might have praised Obi-wan to his own Master was—well, it was obviously a ridiculous manipulation tactic being used against him. Dooku continued talking. "I wish he were still alive. I could use his help right now." 

It'd been ten years, but Obi-Wan still missed Qui-Gon dearly. To hear him spoken of so fondly by the man who had left the Jedi Order and then gone further still and left the Republic made Obi-Wan ache.

"Qui-Gon Jinn would never join you." He was grateful the words came out sounding as firm as they did. The honest truth was that Obi-Wan wasn't actually sure of that. He knew just how powerful the bond between Master and Padawan could be. And Qui-Gon had always been making choices that had left Obi-Wan feeling baffled, even up to the very end. The two of them had seen the world so very differently.

But that had never stopped Obi-Wan from following his Master. He couldn't, with confidence, say that Qui-Gon might not have felt the same way about his own Master. If Qui-Gon had even half the loyalty to Dooku as Obi-Wan had had to Qui-Gon, then it was easy to see why Dooku might genuinely believe that Qui-Gon would join him.

Of course, Obi-Wan would like to think that his own loyalty to the Republic and to its ideals was far stronger than any personal loyalty he might have, even to Qui-Gon, but then, Obi-Wan had never truly been put in the position to test that.

Dooku's smile turned melancholy, somehow transforming the man's face into something softer than it had been so far, making him look far more human. "Don't be so sure, my young Jedi. You forget that he was once my apprentice. Just as you were once his." As though Obi-Wan could ever forget that. Could ever forget that Dooku had abandoned his lineage ten years ago and had never looked back. "He knew all about the corruption in the Senate, but he would never have gone along with it if he had learned the truth as I have."

Ah, so here it was, the reason, or rather the excuse, for abandoning the Order and the Republic—for abandoning his lineage, for abandoning Obi-Wan.

He made a mental note to meditate on his attachments later. If Obi-Wan actually had a later.

"The truth?" He wished his voice didn't have that tinge of hope, that maybe, just maybe there was a reason, an explanation.

"The truth." Dooku confirmed. "What if I told you that the Republic was now under the control of the Dark Lord of the Sith?"

Obi-Wan felt his heart sink in disappointment. "No, that's not possible. The Jedi would be aware of it." Yes, the Senate was corrupt. That unfortunately couldn't be denied.

But claiming that that corruption could all be credited as the act of the Sith seemed calculated to prey on the Jedi's fears. It practically screamed of manipulation.

His mind flashed back to Naboo and the dark maelstrom of anger and hate that had surrounded the Sith Warrior. How could that sort of darkness hide?

He reprimanded himself for that thought immediately. It was naive and foolish. Of course the dark side could hide, it had done so for over a millennia.

"The Dark Side of the Force has clouded their vision, my friend. Hundreds of Senators are now under the influence of a Sith Lord called Darth Sidious."

Like the Senators needed any help being corrupt. “I don't believe you." It hurt, a little, that Dooku had resorted to fear tactics and manipulation, but Obi-Wan was far too used to disappointment for that to honestly surprise him.

He could feel Dooku's eyes on him, likely trying to determine if pressing the issue would give him the results he wanted, whatever those might be.

"The Viceroy of the Trade Federation was once in league with Darth Sidious, but he was betrayed ten years ago by the Dark Lord. He came to me for help. He told me everything. You must join me, Obi-Wan, and together we will destroy the Sith."

So apparently Dooku wasn't done with his manipulations, though he'd chosen a very poor tactic this time around. Ten years ago the Trade Federation had been on Naboo, that was certain, and they had been working with the Sith.

But if Dooku wanted to portray the Trade Federation as innocents in this story, then he had chosen the wrong person to peddle this bantha shit to. Maybe the Trade Federation had been pawns, that Obi-Wan didn't know, but if they had been, they had been willing ones. They had chosen their path freely. The Trade Federation was just as much to blame for Qui-Gon's death as the Zabrak that had thrust his lightsaber through Qui-Gon.

How? How could Dooku so easily join them? Maybe it was a sign that Dooku was a better man than Obi-Wan could ever be, moving past the hurt. Who was to say? Certainly not Obi-Wan. "I will never join you, Dooku."

Dooku looked away, and Obi-Wan might have believed that that was real disappointment on his Grandmaster's face, but he knew better. "I understand." Dooku paused. "I hope that you will think on everything that I said after you've been released."

Obi-Wan blinked in surprise, suddenly and inexplicably unsure. He had been certain that Dooku would do nothing to truly secure his freedom unless Obi-Wan was willing to concede to him. Yet. "I'm being released?"

Dooku nodded, and he looked pained. "Of course. I told you before that this whole situation was a mistake. The moment I understood that you'd been taken I appealed for them to release you. You are my—" Dooku stopped. "You are my lineage, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and while I want nothing more than for you to be by my side, I would never be able to stand by and watch—" he shook his head again, and there was a heavy sort of sorrow in Dooku's voice. "What you must think of me."

Obi-Wan felt strangely guilty, but more than that he felt confused. Surely Dooku wasn't being genuine? Was he?

"I have asked Jango Fett here to escort you to your ship." Dooku paused. "Of course, I hope I need not remind you that you have no jurisdiction here in Separatist space, and since the bounty has been removed from Senator Amidala, I trust that you will have no problems."

Obi-Wan was being released.

Dooku had gotten Obi-Wan released.

The turn of events was so unexpected that Obi-Wan wasn't sure how to respond.

For the first time since the two men had entered, Fett moved towards where Obi-Wan hung, the bounty hunter's movements a perfect example of the graceful stalking of a predator moving in on its prey.

Obi-Wan did not like what that analogy meant for Obi-Wan, especially now when Obi-Wan couldn't so much as move

The constant hum around Obi-Wan increased in pitch for a short moment, making Obi-Wan flinch, before the suspension field shut down, the cuffs around his wrists and ankles clicking open at the same time.

Obi-Wan managed to muffle his quiet curse as he fell the short distance to the ground beneath him and he stumbled as he hit the ground, his ribs jarring painfully. It was pure luck and iron determination that kept his legs from collapsing completely beneath him and sending him to the ground. His legs were numb from the long days of forced inactivity and were not pleased with suddenly having weight forced upon them.

The Force slid back to him, focused and within reach again for the first time in days. There was a brief moment when he felt a thrill of shock as he registered Anakin's presence in the Force, nearby and frustrated. He reached out immediately with the Force to Anakin, question pulsing through their bond.

There was a moment of unconstrained joy across their bond. You’re alive! Followed by a mix of frustration and determination. Captured. The message was whispered down the bond. Obi-Wan masked his face, mind immediately going to escape plans so that he could launch a rescue of his own. He fully straightened just as Jango Fett's gauntleted hand caught his elbow. Obi-Wan moved to pull away, but the hand tightened almost painfully, grip unyielding. 

He managed to turn slightly so that he could once again face Count Dooku. His Grandmaster was watching him with hooded, thoughtful eyes. The look made Obi-Wan feel somehow more uncomfortable than he had felt when he'd been hanging, suspended and helpless. There was some hidden knowledge in the Count's eyes, and Obi-Wan had the distinct feeling that whatever knowledge Dooku had, it was unrelated to their earlier conversation and more to do with—well, there the sensation grew fuzzy. But Obi-Wan had the sinking feeling that whatever information Dooku had, Obi-Wan needed it.

And was entirely unlikely to actually get it.

He gave Dooku a short bow. "I thank you then, for your haste in securing my release." Though haste was highly relative, Obi-Wan had been left hanging for several days.

Dooku nodded. "Please consider what I've said. You will always be able to reach me should you change your mind." He gave a soft smile, and Obi-Wan could almost believe that it was sincere.

Obi-Wan tilted his head in acknowledgment, but any response was halted by a warning in the Force. Obi-Wan jerked immediately, trying to put space between him and both of the threats, but he already knew he was too late as a hypo pressed against his skin.

He jerked away, finally pulling away from where Fett had been holding his elbow in time to see Fett returning a hypo to a small pouch on his belt. "Was that really necessary?" He asked, infuriated and frustrated.

Fett just tilted his helmet, the movement indicating as well as anything Fett might have said that yes he did indeed think it was necessary.

Obi-Wan sent a warning message down his bond with Anakin. Drugged.

There was a burst of anger from the bond, and Obi-Wan could feel his padawan's rage and his fear. Can't lose you. Can't lose you.

Obi-Wan could feel the Force slipping away from him again and used his last moments to send reassurance to his padawan. It'll be all right. Hold on, Anakin.

He couldn't feel Anakin's response, if there was one, and blinked slowly as the room seemed to spin around him.

Dooku sighed. "You'll awaken on your ship and you'll be free to go."

Obi-Wan snorted, what little goodwill he might have had for Dooku vanishing now that he realized why Dooku was letting him go. "And my padawan?"

Beside him he thought he heard Fett curse quietly, but he couldn't be sure, most of his focus split between waiting on Dooku's answer and trying to keep his knees from buckling.

Dooku shrugged, not looking surprised that Obi-Wan knew that Anakin was there and captured. "I will do what I can."

Obi-Wan didn't believe it for a second, but there was nothing he could do. Everything was spinning and Obi-Wan felt his consciousness trying to slip away, no matter how hard he clung to it.

That had been an incredibly fast acting sedative.

His knees buckled and he felt himself start to fall, but his drop was halted by two strong, armored arms catching him. His body was pulled up and back, his back pressed firmly against the hard lines of armor. Dooku's voice reached him through a heavy fog, repeating Obi-Wan's earlier question. "Was that necessary?"

A voice far closer to Obi-Wan, Fett's voice, responded. "I never trust a Jedi to do the smart thing. Particularly when their padawans are involved. This was supposed to keep him from realizing the padawan was a problem. It's easier when you don't have to worry about that." Fett snorted. “At least it will still keeping him from doing something stupid now that he does know.”

Anakin, Anakin was here. He was in danger. Obi-Wan tried to push through the fog, tried to reach out to Anakin again.

But the fog was too pervasive, and Obi-Wan could feel nothing.

The arms keeping Obi-Wan from falling to the ground shifted his body until Obi-Wan was being carried. Obi-Wan felt his head roll back, neck unable to support it, but a moment later he was was readjusted with surprising gentleness so that his head was resting on something hard. A shoulder, his mind managed to decipher.

"His lightsaber?" It was the voice closest to him, the man that was holding him.

Obi-Wan tried to stay awake to find out what they were doing with his lightsaber, he would need that when he woke up, if he woke up, so that he could protect his padawan.

He lost consciousness before anyone responded.

Chapter Text

Dooku was right. Obi-Wan did end up waking in his ship, although it was to the unexpected presence of Mace Windu using the Force to help finish purging the sedative from his system.

"Mace?"

Mace smiled at him, but it did nothing to make Mace look less grim. "Obi-Wan, glad to see you're alive. I don't suppose you happen to have an explanation?"

Obi-Wan pulled himself up, the world spinning more than he would like, and he had to push down a bout of nausea. "Well, I got captured as you saw, I was held prisoner for several days, and then Dooku decided to let me go. He had the bounty hunter, Jango Fett, deliver me sedated to my ship." He grimaced. "Unfortunately, I believe Dooku has both my padawan and the Senator."

Mace scowled, looking displeased. "I know. We sensed Skywalker's presence, despite the fact that I told him to stay put where he was."

Obi-Wan just blinked at Mace, a little unimpressed. Obi-Wan had been telling Anakin to do things for years now, and for the most part he had a pretty solid understanding of which orders were likely to be completely ignored. It was something he had complained to Mace about any number of times, his friend should be well aware, at this point, of how this sort of thing went. "Well, I hope it wasn't a surprise when he didn't listen. What are you doing here?"

"We've been sent by the Senate to try and put an end to this conflict."

Obi-Wan blanched a little. "What? Who exactly is we?"

"I came with about 200 others." Mace informed him and Obi-Wan suddenly had a very bad feeling about all of this, his veins suddenly felt as though they'd been filled with ice.

He staggered to his feet, his whole body crying out at him in pain, making it clear it wanted him to stand down. He ignored his body, pulling at the Force to give him the energy he needed. His padawan was in danger, he could let himself be injured after he took care of that. "Right. What's the plan?"

Mace gave him a concerned look, one hand coming up to support Obi-Wan's elbow. "The others have already gone on ahead to start getting a feel for the area. We're going to save your padawan and the Senator and put a stop to this."

Obi-Wan nodded. "I don't suppose you have an extra saber?" He didn’t fancy trying to help with the rescue completely unarmed, but he doubted that Dooku had—

Mace gave him a strange look, reaching into Obi-Wan's star-fighter and pulling out Obi-Wan's blade. Obi-wan blinked. They'd returned his lightsaber to him. That was odd. Though, no odder, he supposed, then them releasing him. "It has been a very strange few days."

Mace nodded, and Obi-Wan could feel energy seeping into him from where Mace’s hand was still resting on his elbow. Obi-Wan sent him a grateful look. After a moment, Mace pulled away, getting back to business. "I'll take your word for it. Let's go."

-_-

Obi-Wan could hear Nute Gunray screaming profanities and curses, trying to order Jango Fett to get into the arena to shoot the Senator.

Well, that was a good sign, Obi-Wan thought as he and Mace quietly crept down the hallway to the box. It meant that Padme wasn't dead yet, and Obi-Wan could still feel Anakin in the Force—afraid, but determined—so he knew his padawan wasn't dead.

The crowd was roaring, excited by whatever show Anakin and Padme were inadvertently putting on instead of just rolling over and letting themselves be killed. It was strange to think that Obi-Wan could have very easily been down there with them.

Mace was a step ahead of him stepping into the presentation box and Obi-Wan followed him, heart stopping when he caught sight of Anakin and Padme sitting on top of a Reek. There were several droidekas stationed in front of them, blasters pointed straight at his unarmed padawan.

Mace's lightsaber ignited and Obi-Wan twitched a little as the beam hummed just underneath Jango Fett's throat. Obi-Wan felt a strange, unexpected sort of franticness at the sight.

Nerves. He reassured himself, though he was far from a easily-frightened padawan.

The entire arena went silent.

Obi-Wan ignited his own saber, but kept it pointing down and to the side. Anakin stared up at him from the arena, and even from this distance he could see a relieved smile cross his padawan's face. He sent a pulse of warmth to his padawan, now that there was less danger of distracting and endangering his padawan by his presence.

Dooku turned a little, looking completely unsurprised to see he and Mace standing behind him. "Mace Windu, my old friend. How pleasant of you to join us." Dooku looked at Obi-Wan. "And Obi-Wan, I don't suppose you've decided to change your mind and accept my offer?"

Mace's voice was dark and definitive. "This party's over." Around the arena hundreds of lightsabers suddenly ignited, and for the first time Obi-Wan saw just how many of the Jedi had been brought.

"Brave, but foolish, my old Jedi friend." Dooku sounded far too pleased and Obi-Wan's bad feeling was returning with a vengeance. "You're impossibly outnumbered."

Mace scoffed. "I don't think so."

Dooku just smiled. "We'll see."

Obi-Wan wasn't surprised at the sound of heavy feet approaching from behind and whirled, lightsaber coming up to deflect the first few shots of the battle droids that had appeared in the hallway they'd just snuck through themselves. He could hear more droids pouring into the arena where his padawan was still trapped, completely unarmed. "Mace, Anakin."

Mace didn’t even hesitate. “Go."

Obi-Wan sent a Force push at the incoming droids, sending half of them crashing back, and then twisted, leaving Mace to handle the droids that were still coming and vaulted himself off the box and down into the arena. He barely slowed his fall as he hit the sand, the landing jarring on what he was now almost certain were cracked ribs. He deflected shots from more battle droids as he made his way to where Anakin and Padme were still sitting on the Reek. "What are the two of you even doing here?" He asked, and if his voice was a little exasperated, then it was more than fair.

Anakin smiled at him a little sheepishly. "We came to rescue you." Anakin jumped down, bringing Padme with him and putting the Reek between them and the majority of the droids pouring into the arena.

Obi-Wan raised a single eyebrow. "Yes, it's definitely you who saved me."

"Well, if you hadn't gotten captured in the first place then we wouldn't be here." Anakin pointed out a little mulishly.

Padme raised an eyebrow, looking just the slightest bit unimpressed with their banter.

Obi-Wan snorted, using his lightsaber to carefully break the chains around Anakin's wrist. The Senator had already managed to release herself from her own manacles. "I will keep that in mind." More droids were pouring in and Obi-Wan took a protective stance in front of the two. "But for now, I think we should both keep our minds on the matter at hand." The rest of the Jedi were jumping into the arena, one of the Jedi throwing an extra lightsaber over for Anakin. "Keep the Senator safe." Obi-Wan instructed.

Anakin nodded, igniting the green lightsaber. "I will."

And then there was no time to talk. Blaster bolts were flying everywhere, metal from dismembered droids flying through the air and littering the ground.

The Reek panicked, forcing the three of them to dive out of the way as the creature started tearing through droid and Jedi alike.

Obi-Wan had fought droids before, had been in his fair share of firefights. But this... this was something more. Something far worse. Jedi were starting to fall around him and Obi-Wan could feel their life force being ripped away.

There was a thunderous roar and Obi-Wan twisted around, unsurprised to see the Reek charging towards him. Obi-Wan whirled his lightsaber in his hand, estimating distances as the charging Reek approached him.

He gathered the Force around him, in preparation for his jump onto the Reek’s back. Once in the relatively safe position on the animal’s back, it would be easy enough to—

The whine of a blaster sounding off right behind him startled Obi-Wan, no warning in the Force as the blaster bolts streaked just past him, targeted perfectly to hit the Reek in the weak spot in its forehead. The Reek crashed into the ground with a roar, skidding to a dead stop right in front of Obi-Wan.

Obi-Wan didn’t have time to appreciate the perfect stop, whirling around lightsaber coming up to defend himself, even as his brain told him it was too late to defend against someone who'd gotten that close. Fett ducked Obi-Wan's first strike but made no move against him, one blaster coming up and sniping a droid whose blaster had come up to point at them. "What are you doing?" Obi-Wan asked, hesitant to strike at someone not attacking him. Instead he deflected blaster bolts from incoming droids—more on reflex than anything—still a little shocked as Fett continued to shoot down droids, not even a foot away from where Obi-Wan stood.

Fett tilted his head at Obi-Wan. "My contract was for a bounty, not to get engaged in a war."

Obi-Wan's eyes darted to where Anakin was protecting Padme, now hidden in an overturned cart one of the Geonosians had been driving earlier.

Fett was wearing his helmet, but Obi-Wan got the distinct feeling that Fett was rolling his eyes at Obi-Wan, and right now really wasn't the time for this. "You heard Dooku, the bounty on the Senator was withdrawn."

Part of Obi-Wan wanted to point out that was because they'd had her scheduled for execution, but it seemed a moot point at the moment.

Well then. As long as Fett was shooting droids and not Jedi, then Obi-Wan was just going to accept that Fett probably had his reasons for getting involved.

Now really wasn't the time to dwell on it anyways, what with Jedi falling and dying around him. He threw himself back fully into the battle, flinching only a little bit when he presented his back for the bounty hunter to take a shot at.

He saw a fellow Jedi stumble, several droids baring down on them and charged forward, lightsaber swinging, taking out half of them before the droids even realized he was there, deflecting another two shots before the final two were taken down by blaster fire.

Fett had, for some reason, followed Obi-Wan's charge.

The man's decision made sense a few seconds later when the Jedi Knight Obi-Wan had just saved launched themselves at the bounty hunter with a snarl, their lightsaber swinging.

"No." Obi-Wan surged forward, diverting the blade, though Fett had already managed to move out of the way. One blaster up and pointed at the Jedi, as though trying to determine whether he would need to defend himself. "He's fighting with us." For now anyways, and Obi-Wan wasn't going to leave a little boy an orphan just because Obi-Wan wasn't sure how long that 'for now' was going to last.

The smaller woman frowned, but as Fett was busy shooting down droids with his second blaster, seemed to accept it. Obi-Wan twisted towards Fett, sudden concern swamping him. "Your son." He called. "Is he safe?"

Fett seemed genuinely startled, but then nodded. "I sent him back to the ship. He'll be safe there."

Obi-Wan could only hope that was true.

He threw himself back into the fight, dispatching droids as efficiently and quickly as possible, reflecting shots back as they came.

Obi-Wan didn't know how long the fighting had been going on. A constant state of dodging and deflecting and cutting down droids, his lightsaber a familiar whirl. Fett stayed right alongside him, constantly at his back.

It was comforting and unnerving in equal measure. Because Fett was watching his back, picking off droids, relaying information, he even once moved directly into the line of fire, taking the shot on his armor when it must have looked like Obi-Wan was distracted with getting another Jedi from an ambush of droids.

Obi-Wan wasn't sure how long it would last and he was terrified that he wouldn't react fast enough when things changed and Fett turned his blasters on him.

But Fett was an indistinct, potential threat. The droids were a specific, present one. So, Obi-Wan took Fett's help with the proper suspicion and threw his all into fighting the droids.

It wasn't going to be enough. Obi-Wan realized with horror. Too many Jedi were falling and there were too many droids, with more droids still pouring into the arena. Force, this was something out of Obi-Wan's nightmares. He found himself being corralled with the other Jedi, the droids circling around them all.

There were so few of them. Mace had said that they'd come with 200 Jedi. And a brief glance around the arena showed that not even a quarter of them were still standing.

All at once the droids stopped firing, shifting into a standby position.

The sudden silence was almost overwhelming. Obi-Wan took the brief moment to check the fallen body only a few feet with him. The Jedi looked up at him eyes glazed with pain, and Obi-Wan watched as the light left the Nautolan Jedi's eyes, his presence in the Force slipping away with it.

He felt a familiar presence beside him and looked up to see his padawan, the grief Obi-Wan felt reflected on Anakin's face. Obi-Wan stood and took his spot next to his Padawan. Padme met his eyes on the opposite side of Anakin and Obi-Wan could see grief on her face as well. It was a small miracle she had survived. Whatever the reason, whether it was due to Anakin's and her own skill or the fact that the focus of the battle droids had been the Jedi, or perhaps a mixture of the two, Obi-Wan was grateful for it.

"Master Windu." Dooku's voice was a powerful sound amidst the destruction around him. Obi-Wan found a small part of him raging. How could Dooku have just stood there as the people he used to call family were cut down? How could he have enabled this? How could he have ordered this? "You have fought gallantly, worthy of recognition in the archives of the Jedi Order." There was a moment's pause. "Now it is finished. Surrender, and your lives will be spared."

Obi-Wan glanced over at Mace, his friend's eyes were cold enough to freeze all of Geonosis. "We will not be hostages to be bartered, Dooku!"

"Kriffin' Jetii." Obi-Wan startled a little at the quietly huffed words of the bounty hunter still only a few handspans away from him. But the bounty hunter made no effort to surrender himself either, if anything he seemed to step even closer to Obi-Wan.

Dooku stared down at them all for a long moment and Obi-Wan shifted forward just a little bit, putting himself slightly in front of Anakin and Padme, between them and the droids. They were all going to die, but he'd be damned if he didn't buy his padawan and the Senator as much of a chance as he could. Dooku finally nodded. "Then, I'm sorry, old friend."

The droids shifted back into firing position and Obi-Wan raised his lightsaber for the last assault.

"Look!" Padme's voice cut through the air and Obi-Wan turned to see that she was pointing up, a look of clear relief across her face. There were several gunships, hovering over the arena. Several of the ships broke from the rest, landing directly between the droids and the Jedi. In the sudden chaos, Obi-Wan caught sight of Yoda on one of the gunships. Clones were jumping out of the ships, laying down a ground fire as other clones started directing Jedi onto the ships.

Obi-Wan started reflecting more blaster fire, yelling for Anakin to take the Senator and get on a ship. Someone grabbed his arm and pulled. "Get on a ship yourself, you di'kut."

Obi-Wan let himself be pulled, deflecting blaster fire the whole way until the ship finally lifted off again and he stumbled, reaching for a hand hold.

"Commander, report." Obi-Wan turned, and found that he was far less surprised than he thought he should be to realize that Fett had been the one who'd pulled him onto a gunship and was now addressing one of the clones.

One of the clones turned immediately to respond. "Two battalions are engaged with the droid forces outside of the foundries, sir. Commando units are waiting in the assembly area for Jedi Generals."

Jedi Generals? What the kriff? Obi-Wan blocked the thought as not useful right now.

The gunship was veering through the sky, shooting at fuel stations and Separatist ships. "Aim above the fuel cells!" Anakin called. Almost immediately after, one of the fuel stations went down in flames.

Obi-Wan nodded, sending a small smile to his padawan. "Good call, Anakin."

He could see the gunship heading towards the assembly area but his eyes landed on several federation starships taking off. "Attack those federation starships!" Almost immediately the gunship veered at his words, heading now to the federation starship and aiming all of its fire. It took half a second’s calculations to realize that it wasn't going to be enough.

"Concentrate all fire on one starship!"

"Yes, sir." A second gunship shifted from where it had been targeting another starship to join them in trying to bring down the nearest starship.

Between the two gunships the federation starship went down, though at the cost of another two starships being able to escape into atmosphere.

Padme's voice reached him over the chaos of the battlefield. "Look over there!"

Obi-Wan followed her finger to see that she had spotted Dooku on a Geonosian speeder.

Anakin surged forward, voice almost manic in its fury. "Shoot him down!"

Obi-Wan couldn’t quite blame Anakin for the vehemence in the order. He understood the sentiment.

The clone at the front of the ship turned his head. "We're out of rockets, sir."

"Follow him!" Obi-Wan ordered. Dooku couldn't escape. Not after all of this. If they could just get Dooku…

"We're going to need some help!" Padme called out.

That, Obi-Wan agreed with entirely, but he could hardly say as much when he could see that the other Jedi were being corralled into their own fights. There was no one to call for help. "There isn't time. Anakin and I can handle this."

He hoped.

Not even a few seconds later a blast rocked the ship and Obi-Wan stumbled; he caught sight of Padme and one of the clones falling and heard Anakin scream.

"Padme!" Anakin whirled on the clone flying the ship, his Force presence suddenly wild and fierce and afraid. "Put the ship down."

The clone hesitated, and Obi-Wan saw him looking towards Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan immediately countermanded the order. "Follow that speeder." Fett nodded his agreement.

Obi-Wan could feel Padme's distinctive life force, alive and in relatively little pain, and that of another with her, Obi-Wan assumed that it was the clone who had fallen with her.

"Put the ship down." Anakin was panicking, Force presence going wild.

"Anakin!" Obi-Wan let go of his handhold, nearly throwing himself at his Padawan. A hand caught the back of his tunic as though to keep him from falling, and Obi-Wan had to restrain himself from smacking at which ever well intended clone was keeping him from getting to Anakin. "Don't let your personal feelings get in the way."

Padme was alive, and they still had a chance, minute as it was.

"Lower the ship!" Anakin was screaming. Obi-Wan could feel his padawan's rage and loss and terror in the Force.

"I can't take Dooku alone." Obi-Wan put himself as close to Anakin as he could get, begging his padawan to understand. "I need you. If we catch him, we can end this war right now." The deaths of the hundreds of Jedi wouldn't suddenly be worth it, but at least those lives wouldn't be wasted. "We have a job to do."

"I don't care!" Anakin was raging and Obi-Wan flinched back a little. "Put the ship down."

"Anakin. You'll be—" the rest of his warning went unheard as Anakin accurately recognized that no one would be lowering the ship and jumped out of the ship, yelling Padme's name.

Obi-Wan froze.

Force.

Anakin.

"General." One of the clones was trying to get his attention and Obi-Wan turned back to him. "Your orders."

Go back for Anakin and Padme, because there was no way Obi-Wan could take Dooku on his own? Or follow the speeder and—well, Obi-Wan was fairly certain that he knew exactly how that would end. "Keep following that speeder."

The clone nodded and Obi-Wan could hear him pass the message along.

"You have a plan?" Not for the first time Obi-Wan found himself startled by Fett right behind him. He'd practically forgotten the man was there, again. It unnerved Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan depended on his ability to sense threats, and yet Fett seemed to slide in anyways.

Fett had apparently been the one to grab the back of Obi-Wan's tunics to try and make sure Obi-Wan didn't fall out of the ship. It took more effort than it should have, for Obi-Wan to keep himself from snapping at the man—if he'd been closer to Anakin, if he hadn't been held back. Obi-Wan dismissed the mental accusations, Anakin had made his choice and there was no saying whether there was anything that would have made a difference.

Obi-Wan shrugged, keeping his voice neutral and at ease as he answered the question. "Try to distract Dooku long enough for one of the other Masters to make it." If he could get Dooku to talk, delay the start of the fight, he might just have a chance.

Dooku had been one of the best swordsmen in the entire Order before he'd left. Had held the same level of acclaim as Mace and Yoda.

Obi-Wan could never hope to match any of them.

Fett paused and then to Obi-Wan's surprise removed his helmet to look at Obi-Wan consideringly. "Do you need help?"

Yes. Undoubtedly.

Just not Fett’s.

Obi-Wan shook his head. "I'm sure I'll manage. And you have a son to get back to." Obi-Wan said, mostly because it was true. But also because despite the help Fett had offered thus far, Obi-Wan didn't by any means trust the man at his back. Especially when he was already facing Dooku. He didn’t want to have to focus on two threats at the same time.

Fett's eyes narrowed, but then he shrugged and nodded.

There was no more time to discuss it anyways as the gunship pulled alongside the hangar Dooku had disappeared into. "Retrieve what Jedi aid you can." He ordered one of the men as he jumped from the ship, racing into the hangar.

He slowed to a stop in the wide cavernous hangar. There was a ship prepared, the landing ramp already open. But Dooku was busy at one of the data ports.

Delay. Obi-Wan had to delay. "Grandmaster."

Dooku turned to look at him, eyes darting from Obi-Wan to Obi-Wan’s lit lightsaber and then to the ship.

"I suppose you aren't here to tell me that you've come to your senses and decided to join me?" Dooku's voice was deceptively pleasant.

Obi-Wan wanted to snarl, but held back the impulse. Delay, delay. "You killed hundreds of Jedi today. Your family. My family." He paused, it felt cheap to invoke Qui-Gon's name, here and now, but he suspected that Dooku hadn't been completely blowing hot air during their earlier conversation. "Qui-Gon's family."

Dooku did snarl. "I was Qui-Gon's family. The Jedi Order is full of fools, led by a Council that sent my padawan to die."

"If you were his family, then where were you? Where were you after I had to hold my Master as he died." Obi-Wan spat back. "When I had to light my Master's pyre. Alone."

Dooku looked taken aback as though it had never even occurred to him that he'd been leaving anyone behind. "I failed you, padawan of my padawan.“ Dooku acknowledged, voice more remorseful in that moment then it had been when he’d dismissed the deaths of over a hundred Jedi. "But we can make it right now. Join me, Obi-Wan Kenobi.” Dooku’s voice was almost gentle in it’s entreaty. “We can destroy the Sith. We can put an end to the corruption in the Republic."

Obi-Wan recognized Dooku's offer for the ultimatum that it was. Join or die. Obi-Wan had run out of time.

He sent a last plea for help into the Force, hoping another Jedi would hear it in time. "I will never join you." He stepped forward and to the side, barring Dooku's route to the open ship. "You will have to kill me, Grandmaster, the padawan of your padawan, if you want to escape."

Dooku's eyes looked genuinely pained for a moment, but they hardened. "So be it."

Dooku didn't reach for his lightsaber, instead he lifted his hand, the Force gathering around him. Obi-Wan frowned for a moment, what was Dooku—The Force felt like it was being ripped into, and the sensation, grating and uneasy against the back of Obi-Wan’s neck. Lightning flowed from Dooku's fingers, arching through the air towards where Obi-Wan stood.

Sith Lightning.

Force. How far had Dooku Fallen?

He angled the blade of his lightsaber to catch the energy, relieved when the energy buzzed harmlessly off of it, only the slightest tingle of energy running up his arm. "My powers are far beyond yours." Dooku told him. "Back down."

Obi-Wan raised his chin, meeting Dooku's eyes challengingly. Qui-Gon had always said that Obi-Wan would be defiant to the last. "I don't think so."

Dooku pulled his lightsaber, igniting it, the saber the same blood red as the saber that had killed Qui-Gon. And Force, how could Dooku not see that if Qui-Gon was still alive, Dooku would have broken his heart?

The red blade flashed in the Makashi salute and Obi-Wan raised his own again.

Their sabers met in a flurry of blows, and Obi-Wan noted with alarm that he was tired.

He'd been beaten, held captive, starved, and drugged. He'd just gotten out of one exhausting, heart-wrenching battle where he'd felt Jedi after Jedi fall and was now alone against a swordsman he knew was far out of his league. One that Obi-Wan wasn't even sure his heart would let him kill if he did miraculously get the opportunity.

Dooku, however, was fresh and would have no problem striking a killing blow.

"Master Kenobi." Dooku's smile was vicious and Obi-Wan noted the change in address. Obi-Wan was no longer the padawan of a padawan, now he was just the Jedi standing in Dooku's way. "Master Yoda holds you in such high esteem. I expected better."

Obi-Wan backed away, noted Dooku's stance, his confidence. Obi-Wan just had to buy time. Even if he did fall here, if he lasted long enough, then perhaps another of the Jedi would make it. Would stop Dooku. "I suppose we all have our disappointments. I expected better of you, too." He meant it in an entirely different way than Dooku had, but he saw the barb strike home. This time Dooku was the one who initiated the next flurry of attacks, violent, fast, and powered by a carefully controlled anger.

They separated again, taking another moment to assess each other, Grandmaster and Grandpadawan, Sith and Jedi. Obi-Wan threw himself forward, blocking blows and ducking the sweep of the Count's lightsaber.

Their sabers locked and Obi-Wan grunted as Dooku pushed at his blade, forcing his lightsaber up. The resistance disappeared just as a burning flash of pain seared across Obi-Wan's arm as his lightsaber was pulled from his hand with the Force.

He didn't even have time to react before another burning flash of pain seared across his leg and he fell to the floor with a choked cry.

He looked up, holding back the cry of pain that wanted to escape. Dooku was staring down at him, eyes wide and a little crazed as the Sith whirled his blade around before bringing it up for the final blow. Obi-Wan met his Grandmaster's eyes, baring his teeth in a pained grimace of a smile.

Anakin. His padawan's name echoed in his mind, he wasn't sure if the message would reach his padawan or not, wasn't sure what it even meant.

At least Anakin was not dying at his side.

The whine of a blaster firing cut through the air and Dooku's final blow shifted to catch the blaster bolt and deflect it to the side. The first shot seemed to be a signal, because suddenly at least a dozen different people had to be shooting at Dooku, forcing him to back away, not only from where Obi-Wan was laying but also from his ship.

Several pairs of footsteps ran forward and Obi-Wan finally managed to turn enough to see two clones crossing the empty space of the hangar to get to him. More of the men were laying heavy fire against Dooku, and Obi-Wan could see the distinctive armor that belonged to Fett among them.

"Come on, Sir. Got to get you out of the line of fire." Obi-Wan grimaced, trying to push himself to his feet. One of the men immediately ducked under Obi-Wan's uninjured arm, practically pulling him up. The Force flared in warning and Obi-Wan stretched out with the Force, his lightsaber landing in his hand and igniting just in time to catch the shot that Dooku had attempted to deflect towards the clone helping Obi-Wan to stand.

The clone jerked back a little at the lightsaber igniting so close to him. "Sorry." Obi-Wan ground out through the pain. "Didn't want Dooku to hit you."

"It's all right sir."

He kept his lightsaber ignited, Dooku was now focusing on deflecting the blaster bolts towards where the two men were trying to help Obi-Wan get out of the line of fire. Obi-Wan did his best to deflect any of the shots from getting through to either of the men as they practically pulled him out of the line of fire, wincing as one got through his guard and seared across his hip. The two men that had retrieved him tried to move him behind the line of men still shooting at Dooku, but Obi-Wan resisted. He would be no good back there. He was hardly any good now, he knew, but at least he could deflect what shots Dooku sent back this way.

"Sir." The man's voice sounded throughly exasperated. "You're injured."

“Not dead yet.” Obi-Wan responded, though his body was begging him to let it be done. He couldn’t though, not until this was done.

“Sir. You need to get to safety.”

Obi-Wan’s response was cut off by a sensation in the Force and the quiet, familiar tap of a gimer stick against stone, so much quieter than the sound of blaster and lightsaber, but somehow loud in Obi-Wan's ears. He craned his neck a little to look back. "Master Yoda."

Yoda glanced at Obi-Wan, eyes wide and sad, before stepping beyond the clones, still tapping his way forward.

"General, sir." One of the men looked like they dearly wanted to stop Yoda as the Master kept walking forward, blaster bolts flying over his head.

"Count Dooku." Yoda's voice was like another signal, and slowly the men stopped firing. The man primarily holding Obi-Wan up managed to use Obi-Wan's distraction to move him back behind the line of men.

"Master Yoda." Dooku stood with narrowed eyes, his lightsaber shutting off. "You have interfered with our affairs for the last time."

Yoda bowed his head a little. "Powerful you have become, Dooku. The dark side I sense in you."

Obi-Wan tried not to, but felt a huff of air escape him anyways. Yes, the dark side was very much a part of Dooku.

The man, and Obi-Wan really needed to ask his name, once he could force himself to verbalize again, fisettled Obi-Wan down on the ground. "We'll get you to a medic sir."

Obi-Wan shook his head. "Not necessary."

"That's just the sort of di'kut thing I'd expect to hear from a Jetii." The voice was nearly the same as the one before—and that would take some getting use to—but when Obi-Wan looked up it was to Fett kneeling in front of him, examining him critically.

Obi-Wan frowned. That was the second time Fett had used the term Jetii.

Fett’s name in combination with the Mando'a stirred something in the back of Obi-Wan's mind, but he couldn't place it right now.

"What are you even doing here?" He asked, too exhausted to try to come up with a realistic motivation for the bounty hunter’s behavior.

He could hear Yoda and Dooku fighting, the clash of lightsabers against each other echoing through the air; he needed to do something other than sit here in pain while his Great-Grandmaster and Grandmaster fought to the death.

"Think you'd be glad I was here and you aren't dead on the floor over there."

Obi-Wan winced, now that Fett had mentioned it, Obi-Wan sounded incredibly ungrateful. "Thank you." He looked up at all of the men, most weren't paying him much attention, alert and attentive should Yoda require their assistance, though at the moment, with Yoda a flurry of movement, anything they could do would have as high a chance of injuring Yoda as Dooku. "Thank you all."

"Let's get you to a medic." Fett repeated the soldier’s suggestion from before.

Obi-Wan shook his head. "I won't leave Master Yoda."

Fett’s head turned, obviously taking in the fight. "I think he's doing just fine."

Dooku was being pushed back, no match for his old Master.

Apparently Dooku recognized the same thing; there was a swell of dark anger in the Force, a fierce wave of power lashing out. Obi-Wan recognized what was going to happen a second before it did. He cried out a warning, throwing his hand up and pulling at the Force with what little energy he had as one of the cavern supports cracked and crashed towards the ground. He pushed at it, trying to keep it aloft.

The men dove out of the way. Fett twisted, taking it all in within a split second, the man cursed and he and the soldier who'd helped support Obi-Wan's weight grabbed at Obi-Wan, pulling him out of the way as well. Obi-Wan let go of his grip on the Force and the support came tumbling down in the empty space where they'd all just been.

The distraction, however, had been effective, the landing ramp of Dooku's ship was closing and the ship rising into the air.

The men immediately started firing on the ship but their blasters did nothing, the ship speeding out of the hangar and barely missing another gunship that had just come to land at the entrance of the hangar.

The fight officially over, Obi-Wan crumpled, strength deserting him; the two pairs of arms still holding him up the only reason he wasn't completely collapsed on the ground.

"Master Obi-Wan!" Anakin was running from the recently landed gunship, Padme right behind him.

Obi-Wan stared at his padawan as Anakin raced towards him, the Force around him panicked and angry and ashamed.

There was something tight in his throat. His padawan had abandoned him. Anakin had abandoned him. Anakin had abandoned him to die.

Yes, Obi-Wan wasn't dead, but that was because of the clones, because of Fett. If it hadn't been for them Obi-Wan would have been killed.

He turned a little to look at the clone who'd helped him thus far. "You said something about a medic?" Anything would be better right now, then trying to talk to Anakin.

Chapter Text

Obi-Wan really should have known that putting himself into the hands of a medic never actually solved any of his problems.

Because now Obi-Wan had a medic staring down at him, the look in his eyes one Obi-Wan could recognize from too much time in the Healers, and still didn't know what he was supposed to be saying to Anakin who had, of course, followed him to the med bay in the ship.

Now his padawan was hovering in the background, his emotions broadcasting enough to probably give the three Jedi being checked over by other medics headaches. But nothing short of dragging Anakin out of the room would get him to move. Anakin was desperately trying to keep both Obi-Wan and Padme in his line of sights.

Obi-Wan was actually fairly certain that Padme was getting just as frustrated with the whole thing as Obi-Wan himself. Obi-Wan winced as he looked over at where a medic was carefully cleaning the sand out of the deep claw marks on Padme's back, the woman pointedly ignoring Anakin’s hovering.

"All right. I need you to take your tunic off, if you can."

Obi-Wan glanced back to his own medic and once again regretted that he'd foolishly let himself land in the med bay in an attempt to avoid dealing with Anakin. "I can, of course. I'm not sure that's necessary though. I expect that I really only need a bit of bacta for my arm."

The medic pointedly looked down at Obi-Wan's leg where Dooku had gotten his hit in.

"And my leg." Obi-Wan added a little belatedly. Of course, he should have remembered to mention both of the injuries that the clone medic knew about. That was an amateur failing on his part. He was too tired for this.

The medic snorted. "Are you a certified healer, sir?"

Obi-Wan made a face, he respected and appreciated healers, so long as they weren't trying to make Obi-Wan stay in the healer's ward. He, however, would make an awful one. "No."

"Certified medic?"

"No."

The medic raised one eyebrow pointedly. “Tunics off, sir."

Obi-Wan sighed, but carefully began removing his upper tunics, carefully hiding his desire to grimace. He hurt. Not terribly. But, well, it'd been a long few days and he hadn't really come out on top of any of it.

Anakin gasped behind him and Obi-Wan felt another rush of grief and shame in the Force. "When did that happen?"

Obi-Wan shrugged, not looking down at his own body. He was fairly certain he knew what he looked like, and hopefully if he continued to act unconcerned everyone else would get with the program and let Obi-Wan get this over with. "Oh you know how irate people can be when they think you're a spy."

"But you were fine when we found you." Anakin sounded shaking. "I didn't realize you were hurt, if I had—“

Obi-Wan didn't point out that Anakin had hardly found him and that Anakin had—Obi-Wan cut the thought off. "I am fine."

The medic snorted from where he was carefully examining his ribs, pressingly lightly and carefully, taking careful note of the bruises and lacerations.

Another flash of guilt filled the air and Obi-Wan glanced at his padawan to see him staring at the deep, burned gash in Obi-Wan's arm.

"Lucky Dooku didn't manage to do much more damage, huh?" Anakin offered, and Obi-Wan could tell his padawan was desperately trying to make it sound light-hearted and joking. That Anakin was desperately looking for affirmation that his choice to jump after Padme hadn't had any repercussions

Obi-Wan tried not to picture Dooku standing over him, eyes mad-crazed as he brought his lightsaber down for a final blow. "Lucky is one word you could use."

"Count Dooku was about to take your head when we got you out of there, sir. That doesn't seem lucky to me." A new voice interjected.

Anakin's guilt was enough to nearly swamp Obi-Wan and Obi-Wan had to force himself not to glare at the soldier who'd escorted him to the med bay and had apparently felt the need to stay.

Technically Dooku hadn't been going for Obi-Wan's head. Obi-wan was fairly certain Dooku had been planning on putting his lightsaber through Obi-Wan's heart. Obi-Wan expected that Dooku probably thought it would be particularly ironic and clever.

"But he didn't." Obi-Wan pointed out, voice easy and relaxed despite the way he very much felt the opposite. "Because, as Anakin said, I was lucky your squad was there to buy me a bit of space." That hadn’t been what Anakin meant at all. But Obi-Wan wasn’t ready to deal with Anakin, quite yet.

The soldier met his eyes unblinkingly, and Obi-Wan got the feeling that the man was perfectly well aware of the fact that Obi-Wan had been attempting to hide the fact that Dooku had almost killed him from Anakin at the moment.

"I don't believe I ever got your name?" Obi-Wan asked politely.

"Commander CC-2224, sir."

Obi-Wan felt his eyes go wide, a sick feeling building in his stomach. "Pardon?" He hesitated. "Is that, ah, what you prefer to go by?"

The soldier tilted his head a little, and his eyes were sharp and assessing. "You can call me Cody, sir."

Obi-Wan nodded, still disturbed at the serial number that the man had first given. "Thank you again, Commander Cody, for the perfectly timed save earlier. I do hope I'm not keeping you from anything."

The Commander just blinked again, and shifted a little in a way that told Obi-Wan the man didn't plan on moving.

"Dooku almost killed you?" Anakin's voice was quiet and Obi-Wan bit his tongue painfully.

He'd told Anakin that he couldn't take Dooku alone. Had told Anakin that he needed him.

They had both been capable of feeling that Padme was still alive, still relatively fine despite her fall. But—

No. Obi-Wan needed to meditate before he spoke with Anakin about his choices.

"Dooku is a talented swordsman." Obi-Wan said instead. "And I'm afraid I wasn't at my best." That was a absolute understatement, Obi-Wan was far from his best right now. Not that Obi-Wan was sure he could take Dooku even then. He looked at Padme whose teeth were clenched in pain and let his face shift to show his genuine concern. "Are you doing all right, Senator Amidala?"

Almost immediately Anakin's attention was diverted, and he shifted over to hover near the Senator. Obi-Wan felt another deep well of concern. What was he supposed to do with his padawan?

Padme gave him a small, slightly pained smile. "I'm fine. You look like you're in worse shape than I am."

Obi-Wan waved it off. "Oh, I'm fine."

"Sure you are." The medic muttered under his breath.

Obi-Wan actually felt his lip twitch at that. At least he would forever be infuriating medics and healers everywhere. "I don't believe I asked your name?"

The medic blinked, looking surprised. "Coarse, sir. Any other damages I should know about, General?" His tone was brisk and no-nonsense, clearly daring Obi-Wan to try and lie to him.

Obi-Wan shook his head. "No."

From the door another voice—the same voice, in so many ways, but also so incredibly different—interrupted. "He was drugged, earlier."

Obi-Wan felt his face shift into a scowl, because there were very few people who knew that. He looked over and, yes, there was Fett still fully dressed in armor leaning against the open door.

"For future reference, General, that's need-to-share information." The medic, Coarse, sounded distinctly displeased with Obi-Wan.

Obi-Wan could feel his patience reaching a snapping point. Anakin was flooding the Force with his guilt, Fett was somehow present again—Obi-Wan hadn’t even felt the danger he knew he should be feeling at the man’s presence—Obi-Wan had gotten himself foolishly stuck in the med bay, and he was tired, hungry, in pain, and wanted to be alone so he could grieve the loss of the hundreds of Jedi that had died today.

Obi-Wan pulled in a careful breath and released it, before turning back to the medic. "I'm not a General. And there is no need to worry, the drug is out of my system."

Coarse didn't look impressed. "Be that as it may, do you know what drug was used, General Kenobi? Dosage? How long ago?"

Obi-Wan bit his tongue, again. It wasn't the soldier's fault he'd been told that Obi-Wan was a General.

It was the one bit of peace Obi-Wan had right now. The Jedi Council would never allow the Order to be made Generals of an army. "No, I'm afraid I don't know."

He turned his head to glare at Fett again.

"It was a single, 1 mil dose of concentrated Lapozine, about 8 hours ago now. It shouldn't have any lasting effects, but it reacts poorly when mixed with certain pain relievers."

Coarse nodded, making a note.

"Did I remember to thank you for that?" Obi-Wan asked, using the tone of voice he normally reserved for when he was dealing with particularly frustrating politicians who were making Obi-Wan's life more difficult than it needed to be.

A wave of rage blasted through the Force. "You drugged him!?"

"Anakin!" Obi-Wan let his voice get sharp, sending a sharp reprimand through the Force, silently reprimanding himself as well, he’d known better than to throw that out there. They did not need Anakin to cause an incident by attacking Fett.

Anakin froze and backed up, his rage and frustration still bubbling in the Force.

The room had grown tenser during the short exchange, everyone on edge—or nearly everyone, Fett still seemed completely unaffected—Obi-Wan took in another deep breath, his ribs twinging at the movement.

"Sir?" Coarse asked, and Obi-Wan tried to decide what it meant, that while it was addressed towards him, it was not him that Coarse was looking for an answer from.

"Is he going to be all right?" Fett asked, and the medic seemed to shake himself from his uncertainty, relaxing a little.

"He'll be fine." Coarse turned to Obi-Wan. "I can give you a pain reliever that shouldn't cause any reactions if there are still traces of the earlier sedative and wrap some bacta bandages around the worst of it sir. We don’t have any bacta tanks currently stocked on the ship, though it certainly wouldn’t hurt to go in one for a few hours.“

Obi-Wan shook his head. "No pain relievers, thank you." And no bacta tanks either. He reached for his tunics, wanting to be covered now more than anything. The medic swatted at his hand carefully, and moved for some bacta bandages.

Obi-Wan let it happen, because at this point the sooner he did the sooner he could get out of here.

"General Kenobi?"

Obi-Wan turned to see there was another soldier in the doorway, just behind where Fett was still leaning. "Yes?"

"General Windu has requested your presence."

Obi-Wan felt a sudden wave of gratefulness for Mace and his timing, any reason to get out of here, even if it was a mission report. He moved to stand, but Coarse didn't hesitate to push him down so that he could get at his leg.

Obi-Wan sighed, but waited impatiently for the medic to finish. "May I go now?"

Coarse looked displeased. "You shouldn't be walking on your leg. And your ribs shouldn't be under any more stress."

Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow. "I'll take that into account." This time when he stood the medic let him, still clearly displeased.

Anakin looked like he was about to follow after him, but Obi-Wan glanced back at where Padme was having her own back wrapped. Anakin's eyes drifted back to her, and immediately his padawan seemed conflicted.

Obi-Wan disappeared out the door, keeping as much space as he could between him and the hunter leaning against the door frame as possible, before Anakin could figure out who he should be hovering around.

Anakin's behavior—and accompanied mix of emotion—was concerning, so concerning; Obi-Wan desperately wanted to meditate.

He sighed a little, rubbing at his forehead.

"Are you sure you don't want some pain relievers, sir?"

Obi-Wan didn't flinch, but it was a close one. He turned a little to see that, though he'd now donned his helmet, it was still clearly the Commander.

"Commander Cody." He paused. "I'm fine, thank you. Is there something I can do for you?"

"No sir, but you're still injured, and you have no familiarity with the flagships yet, sir. I can escort you to where General Windu is currently waiting."

Obi-Wan narrowed his eyes. "I can sense him in the Force, I don't want to keep you from more important things."

"As you say, sir." The Commander didn't move.

Obi-Wan was too tired to fight this battle. He'd figure out why, exactly, the Commander seemed to think he wasn't allowed to let Obi-Wan out of his sight later. "Of course, an escort wouldn't be amiss."

The Commander nodded, and then gestured down the hallway. Obi-Wan sighed but let himself be led.

Another soldier was headed down the hallway, nodding to them both as he moved past them. His voice echoed back to them only a few moments later. "General Windu has requested your presence, sir.”

"I suppose I'm willing enough for a single meeting." Obi-Wan wished he was surprised when it turned out the soldier had addressed Fett.

Except Obi-Wan honestly wasn't surprised. In fact, he was more surprised that Mace hadn't tried to speak with Fett earlier. The man was the best link they had to Sifo-Dyas and whatever had led to the birth of an army.

Commander Cody paused as they reached the turn of the hallway, and a few moments later Fett had caught up with them.

"I hope you don't mind me joining you and your escort?" Fett asked, and it was clear that he fully intended to join no matter what Obi-Wan said.

Obi-Wan eyed him from the corner of his eyes. "Of course."

He didn't know what he thought about the bounty hunter's continued presence. Fett wasn't exactly what Obi-Wan would call a trustworthy character. What with the bounty on Padme, the fight on Kamino, and then taking a job with Dooku, or had it been Gunray? That part was still a bit confusing.

He was also the template of a clone army. And Obi-Wan had absolutely no idea what he was supposed to think of that. Disturbed, for one. Though, Obi-Wan had noted that the clones all seemed to treat Fett with respect—and not the sort of respect born of fear, not even the respect given to a distant leader, but the respect given to a trusted one.

And then, once Obi-Wan got past all of the above, and of course the drugging, Fett had actually been remarkably helpful thus far. He'd sided with them in the arena, despite the fact that they had clearly been on the losing side. And he'd been present with the squad that had distracted Dooku and saved Obi-Wan's life. Even now, the man was cooperating with what seemed suspicious willingness.

It didn't match up with what Obi-Wan expected from the bounty hunter and Obi-Wan felt a little twitchy about having the man walking at his side, seemingly unconcerned

Obi-Wan bit his tongue as the prickling sensation of eyes on him slid down his skin. He glanced at Fett from the corner of his eyes, but the man appeared to be looking forward, not that he could be sure, with the man wearing his helmet.

Obi-Wan was more grateful than the situation required when they reached the room where Mace was waiting, Depa, Yoda, Master Koon, and Master Mundi also in the room.

Mace narrowed his eyes at the fact that Fett was there as well. "I apologize, Fett, I expected it would be longer before you were able to come." He told the bounty hunter. "Would you be willing to wait while we speak with Master Kenobi?"

Fett shrugged, but stepped back, leaning against the hallway wall.

Mace gestured for Obi-Wan to enter the room and Obi-Wan stepped in, reluctantly fighting back a smile when Commander Cody stepped in behind him. The man was dedicated, Obi-Wan would give him that.

Mace paused looking a little bemused. "Is there something we can help you with, soldier?"

"Medic CT-4216 wanted to keep General Kenobi in the med bay due to his injuries, I volunteered to stay with the General until he can be returned to the med bay."

When exactly had that been agreed to? Obi-Wan wondered a little mulishly. He certainly hadn't seen the two soldiers communicate, though it might have happened when he was distracted with Anakin.

But he'd already escaped the med bay once, there was no way he was letting himself be taken back there when there was absolutely no need.

Mace raised an eyebrow. "We'll return him to your care when we're done with him."

Commander Cody seemed to consider it, but then nodded. "As you say, sir."

Obi-Wan sighed a little as the door shut behind the Commander, turning to Mace and lacing his voice with as much determination as he could. "If you send me back to the med bay, I will not be responsible for what happens."

A flicker of a smile crossed Mace's face. "I'm honestly a little curious. It will be a good chance to see just how well trained the men are. It will be quite the example of their skill if they can get you into the med bay not once but twice."

"Yes, well. The first time—" Obi-Wan hesitated, he didn't actually want to get into what had prompted him to allow himself to be taken to a medic, at least not in front of the rest of the Jedi in the room. After everything he trusted Mace to listen, and if not understand, help Obi-Wan come to a solution.

Mace nodded, clearly understanding just what Obi-Wan wasn’t saying, geniality disappearing as he gestured him to a seat.

“To avoid your padawan, you wished." Yoda spoke.

Obi-Wan pursed his lips. "I wished to meditate on the situation and seek the Force's counsel before I spoke with Anakin."

"What exactly happened?" Mace asked. "We know that Young Skywalker was with you on the gunship, yet that you faced Dooku alone and Skywalker arrived after, on another gunship. Reports say that you were almost—“

"That Dooku is still a very skilled swordsman." Obi-Wan interrupted. "And that I was not a match for him."

"That you were almost killed.” Master Koon finished.

Obi-Wan tilted his head. "Yes." He sighed. "The gunship was hit and the Senator fell." A small part of Obi-Wan wanted to claim that Anakin had fallen as well, that it had been an accident that had split them, and not a choice. "Anakin was concerned for her safety and followed her."

"Was she in danger?"

Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow. "We were on Geonosis. I'm sure you recall what was going on."

Mace allowed it, lip twitching just a little. "The gunships had recordings." Obi-Wan felt his heart fall. "Of course, recordings can give very little insight into what the Force may have been saying at the time. Was the Senator in enough danger to warrant Skywalker's choice, given that you'd already warned him that you were not in a state to face Dooku alone."

Obi-Wan sighed. "I did not feel the Force warning of danger to the Senator, I cannot say what Anakin felt at the time."

Mace pursed his lips. “The council was hoping that we could Knight him. We lost many Jedi today, and we need more Knights. Do you feel that Anakin is ready for that."

Obi-Wan stared around the room, pushing past the desire to bury his face in his hands. Was Anakin ready?

Obi-Wan was well aware that Anakin thought he was. Knew that Anakin was angry and frustrated with the fact that Obi-Wan had not yet put his name forward for his trials. Obi-Wan’s padawan had been quick, as of late, to accuse Obi-Wan of purposefully holding him back.

Anakin was talented. There was no denying that.

But he was impulsive. And he still let his emotions lead him. And he didn't listen, not to Obi-Wan, and too often, not to the Force.

"Taking into account that if Skywalker was Knighted, that he'd be leading troops in battle." Mace added.

Obi-Wan froze, thoughts coming to a sudden, sharp stop. "What?" His voice cracked on the word.

Mace exchanged a loaded look with Depa.

Depa spoke up, voice quiet and gentle as though they knew just how Obi-Wan was going to react, and well, the two of them probably did. "The Senate has asked us to step up and lead the army."

Obi-Wan struggled to his feet, pushing out of the chair. "And you said no." He glanced between the five members of the Council, but none of them stepped up to reassure him. "We aren't Generals."

"Obi-Wan." Master Koon spoke, voice calm and soft. "The Senate—"

"No." Obi-Wan shook his head. "I swore—" He shook his head. "I won't lead people to their—" The words were getting stuck in his throat. "Not again."

"I understand your concerns, Obi-Wan." Mace's voice was sincere and quiet. "You aren't alone in having them."

"The Jedi are meant to protect the Republic," Depa continued, and he hated it when the two tried to tag team him. "The Senate feel our place is with the army."

"And how often do we claim to be peacekeepers and not soldiers?" Obi-Wan shook his head, pushing past that point. "If the Senate wants us with the army, then place us with the army. If they're so insistent that we fight, then have those of us prepared to do so, fight. But to have us lead?" He shook his head. "Just because we're Jedi? What do most Jedi even know about battle strategy?"

The folly of it all was astounding. How was it even possible that the Senate—which was full of the sort of people who would probably choose to starve to death before agreeing on food for lunch—had managed to come up with, and then agree to, such a stupid, foolish, ridiculous idea?

The councillors exchanged looks again. "The Senate—"

"Apparently doesn't know what it's talking about." Obi-Wan interrupted sharply, then sighed, rubbing at his face. "I apologize. That was unnecessary." He looked at the members of the council beseechingly. "But the Jedi are not the right people for this role. To give orders and then watch and feel people die following those orders? Right order, wrong order, they're just as dead. And when it is the wrong order, they'll have to live with that knowledge for the rest of their life." Obi-Wan shook his head, swallowing down the lump trying to form in his throat. "And right now, the Jedi as they are, they aren't prepared to know which orders are right and which are wrong. Most Jedi have never had to fight the sort of battles we're talking about. They certainly aren't prepared to lead others in those fights. All that will happen is that good people will get killed."

Mace sighed. "We do not have a choice. We must only do what we can." He met Obi-Wan's eyes. "But I'm glad that you're so willing to accept your new position on the Council."

Obi-Wan blinked, suddenly confused. “Pardon?”

"We lost both Master Trebor and Master Poof during the fight in the arena. As irregular as the situation is, we would like you to step up as a member of the council."

Obi-Wan shook his head, a sick feeling twisting in his stomach. "Surely I'm not—"

Master Mundi spoke up for the first time. "Your name has long been considered as a potential candidate for the Council, Obi-Wan, and while, yes, this was not the situation we envisioned—" He cut off. No one could have envisioned Geonosis, Obi-Wan suspected they were all still trying to accept the reality of it.

Obi-Wan didn't want to be a member of the Council, he never had been, but especially not now. But if there was even the smallest chance he could get the others to see sense…

Obi-Wan swallowed hard.

Depa smiled a little, though it did nothing to hide her own grief. "And you've once again demonstrated that you won't hesitate to argue against something you disagree with."

Master Koon finished. "And you are, perhaps, one of the Jedi most familiar with battle strategy, as you called it." And if that wasn't the finest piece of irony. How often had Obi-Wan been condemned or ridiculed for his own, near fanatic need to learn battle strategy as a padawan. How many times had his Masters and Teachers reprimanded him, telling him, 'We're peacekeepers, Padawan Kenobi, not soldiers.'

But now it looked like all of his effort was going to be good for something, even though Obi-Wan had always prayed it wouldn't be. Not ever again.

Mace nodded. "Now Master Kenobi. I believe we got distracted, we were speaking of your padawan."

Force. Anakin was going to be sent to war. They all were, apparently. But if Anakin was Knighted, he would be sent in as a General. Impulsive, brilliant Anakin. Sent to lead men, forced to watch men die. That would have concerned Obi-Wan in a normal situation, but added on to everything that had happened on that gunship in Geonosis, and all of the implications that came with it…

Obi-Wan didn't think he could quite deal with that yet. "I would like to meditate on the matter." He said finally. "Before discussing Anakin's next steps further."

Mace nodded, and Obi-Wan could see that his friend understood. "In that case, if you could make a report on everything that's occurred since you first left Coruscant. Particularly where it concerns the clone army, your interactions with Fett, and the situation with Dooku and the Separatists.“ Mace's face went a little grim. "We can discuss your padawan later."

Chapter Text

All told, things were going remarkably well, Jango thought a little dourly as he waited outside the room where his Be'alor was speaking with the other Jetii.

Commander Cody was waiting beside him.

Jango was mildly impressed with the man. He suspected that this was the first time the Commander had let Obi-Wan out of his sight since Jango had quietly put him in charge of the Jetii back on Geonosis while Jango had gone to find Boba and his ship.

Jango noted the Commander carefully checking their surroundings. "Bic haat? Kaysh Be'alor?"

Jango tilted his head a little in acknowledgment, a satisfied smile slipping across his face. "'lek."

The Commander didn't seem know what to do with that information, and Jango suspected that behind his helmet the man would look stunned.

The helmet was probably a good thing. Stunned had never been a good look on Jango's face.

The sound of steps moving toward them reached their ears and Jango stiffened, eyes narrowing. Had to be more Jetii, it wasn't the right cadence for any of the men.

A second later his soul mate's padawan—what was his name, Skywalker?—and the Senator, who was apparently far harder to kill than anyone would have guessed, turned the corner.

"Anakin." The Senator's voice was quiet, and she was eying Jango with the faintest hint of apprehension. "I'm sure your Master is fine. You need to relax."

Skywalker just shook his head, practically vibrating with what might have been either anger or anxiety. "I need to talk to Master Obi-Wan."

Jango rolled his eyes, safe behind his helmet. Skywalker could stay far away from Obi-Wan. Jango had seen the look in Obi-Wan’s eyes, in that moment after Skywalker had jumped. Hurt, betrayal, fear, before his soul mate had hidden the look behind a determined resolve.

Commander Cody had straightened, now standing stiff and at attention. The ease he’d shown Jango now gone with the padawan present.

Neither the padawan or the Senator said anything to either Jango or the Commander, though Skywalker was sending dark looks in Jango’s direction. He smirked a little, and the padawan stiffened, probably sensing Jango’s amusement at his expense.

The door opened and the Jetii who'd put a lightsaber to Jango's throat appeared, narrowed eyes observing the now rather full hallway. Jango didn’t think he imagined the hard look the man sent at Skywalker before turning to look at Jango.

"Fett, if you're willing to talk with us now, we have a few questions for you."

Skywalker practically vibrated as he jumped forward. "Is Master Obi-Wan there? I need to speak with him."

The Jetii raised an unimpressed eyebrow. "Obi-Wan is currently engaged in Council matters."

"Council matters?" Skywalker paled. "If this is about—" Skywalker hesitated.

The Jetii spoke over the hesitation. "It's none of your concern, Padawan Skywalker." He turned back to Jango. "If you would come in."

Jango stepped forward and into the room, eyes darting around to take it all in, carefully not closing the door entirely behind him. It might backfire, but he trusted that Commander Cody would be carefully listening and was discerning enough to know what information needed to be spread among the rest of the men.

There were six Jetii in the room. The Jetii who'd almost beheaded him was taking a seat next to a slightly younger woman who was watching him with assessing eyes. Sitting in seats next to those two were a Kel Dor and a Cerean. Slightly to the side a fifth Jetii—the one who'd shown up to fight Dooku in the hangar—was sitting cross-legged and with his eyes closed as though he were sleeping sitting up.

And then of course there was his Be'alor who looked as though whatever meeting he'd just had with the rest of the Jetii had severely drained him. Jango wanted to move to him, to soothe the stress from where it was etched around his eyes.

The female Jetii waved for Jango to take an empty seat facing the Jetii. Jango considered it for a moment and then instead leaned against the side of the chair she'd indicated. He was walking a careful balance between being accommodating and being too accommodating. He carefully and discreetly set his HUD display to record the meeting so that he could review it later.

The room was silent for a moment before they seemed to unanimously decide to ignore his rather rude decision to stay standing and continue with the meeting. "Jango Fett." The same Jetii that had let Jango into the room spoke, and Jango decided that he was probably the one in charge. "We have some questions for you."

"I don't think I have the answers you think I do." Jango answered a little pointedly, but then nodded his assent. He had a plan, general as it was, and he needed to play somewhat nice. For now.

The same Jetii spoke again. "You were working with the Separatists. What is their plan going—"

"No." Jango interrupted, and he made sure his voice sounded a little bored. "I wasn't."

The Jetii narrowed his eyes a little, and the rest seemed to stir at Jango's interruption. "So you weren't in a presentation box watching the unlawful execution of a Republic Senator and Jedi Padawan with a number of the Separatist Leadership?" Somehow the Jetii managed to keep his sarcasm completely out of his tone of voice, though Jango noted it was certainly heavily implied.

Jango raised an eyebrow. "Your Republic Senator and Jedi Padawan had been found in CIS foundries, they had a fair trial and were found guilty of espionage and sabotage; under CIS law their execution was entirely legal. Neither being a Senator or a Jedi put them above the law." Jango could see the Jetii trying not to grit his teeth. "And as I said before. I wasn't working with the Separatists. I'd been hired by a single individual, who happened to be a member of the Separatist leadership, for a simple job."

"And what was that job?"

"I took a contract legally to act as an intermediary between my contractor and other hunters to kill the Senator." The Jetii clenched his jaw and Jango couldn't quite help himself. "If you don't like the fact that bounty hunting is legal by both Republic and CIS law, then that's really something you should take up with the Senate, Master Jedi, not with me."

"Yet." The Kel Dor interrupted, voice smooth and deep from behind his oxygen mask. "Despite your contract with Gunray you joined the fight against the Separatists." Jango didn't bother to correct them that his contract had been with Dooku. Apparently Obi-Wan had already managed to report that Dooku had claimed Gunray was behind his contract.

All the better, in Jango's opinion.

He let his eyes stray to where Obi-Wan was sitting, his gaze hidden from the rest of the Jetii by his helmet. Obi-Wan was frowning, eyes focused on the wall across from him rather than on Jango. Jango clenched his jaw a little, refusing to let himself be annoyed by what seemed a general disinterest.

It didn’t work as well as he’d like.

Weren't these people supposed to be keepers of the peace? How could they be so unaware of how a contract worked? "I was contracted as an intermediary on a specific bounty. The contract had no terms regarding the outbreak of a war, and certainly nothing that would necessitate me throwing in my lot with them."

"Nor, would I think, anything that would necessitate you throwing in your lot with us." The Kel Dor continued. "Yet you did anyways. I find myself curious as to why."

Jango's gaze was still focused on Obi-Wan.

Because his soul mate was supposed to have stayed safe and unconscious in his ship where Jango had left him, but had instead shown up and thrown himself into an arena filling with droids so that he could chase after his foolish padawan.

It had rather forced Jango's hand. Oh, he'd planned on 'cooperating' with the Jedi and the Republic, but certainly not to such a ridiculous extreme.

It would work out though. Already it gave his Be'alor less of a reason to distrust him. The same went for the rest of the Jetii, though that wasn't as high a priority for Jango.

Still, it wasn't like he could say as much, so another truth would have to do. "It was clear to me, that given current galactic relations between the CIS and the Republic, that the fight in that Arena could very easily be considered the first battle in a Galactic wide war."

The woman furrowed her brows. "All the more reason for you to stay out of it, I would think."

Well, at least two of them now had shown they were intelligent, if also apparently completely uninformed.

"Given the situation, and despite the fact that the contract I took was entirely unrelated." He spoke slowly as though trying to choose his words carefully, despite having already determined exactly what he was going to say. "I realized that there would be those who would misconstrue my presence as siding with the Separatists, and while I may have certain tensions with the Republic, I didn't want anyone to be able to twist my presence to suggest that I, or my people, are disloyal."

Obi-Wan stiffened in his chair and slowly straightened, turning to look straight at Jango for the first time since Jango had entered the room. Something in Jango relaxed a little.

The rest of the Jetii were frowning. "Your people? The clones—" The Cerean Jetii started and Jango inwardly sighed, preparing himself to have to literally spell it all out, though he was a little less annoyed then he'd been even a few moments ago.

"Jango Fett." Obi-Wan was staring at him, and his voice completely cut off the Cerean. Jango took the opportunity to fully turn his head to look at Obi-Wan instead of having to watch him out of the corner of his eyes.

Jango tilted his head a little, waiting for his soul mate to continue.

"The one the True Mandalorians called Mand'alor." The words were entirely unexpected. Jango felt the pleasure deep in his soul, Obi-Wan knew exactly who Jango was. That was incredibly gratifying. "I apologize for not recognizing your name earlier. But I was under the impression, as was much of the galaxy, that you had died quite some time ago."

"Not called." Jango corrected. "They still call me Mand'alor." He had to press down hard on the sudden desire he had for Obi-Wan to call him by his title as well. It wasn't enough that Obi-Wan knew who he was—not when he was so completely unaware of who Jango was to him.

His unaware-Be'alor nodded. "That would make sense, given you aren't as dead as I'd been lead to believe."

"Both Death Watch and the New Mandalorians have always suffered from an overestimation of their own abilities and a tendency to exaggerate the truth."

Obi-Wan's lip twitched a little in what might have been a smile. "Apparently."

One of the Jetii cleared their throat and Jango reluctantly pulled his gaze from Obi-Wan to look at the rest of the Jetii. The one in charge was frowning at him. "So Master Kenobi is correct in his assertion of who you are?"

Hadn't Jango already acknowledged Obi-Wan as right? He shifted his gaze back to Obi-Wan. "Quite." Obi-Wan looked back at him for a few moments before his gaze flicked away. Jango waited a few beats to see if he could get his soul mate's attention back, but the man was busy observing the room. Jango turned back to his interrogator, the man was watching him with narrowed eyes. "I will freely admit that beyond my previously stated intentions, I didn't mind the opportunity to strike against Dooku in what ways I could."

That was true enough to most certainly pass inspection. Jango had throughly enjoyed the opportunity to shoot at Dooku, even if he hadn't been particularly interested in killing the man. Not yet, at least.

Though he'd been tempted when Dooku had looked like he was going for a killing blow. They had a deal.

Except Dooku had been careful with his injuries. He’d wounded Obi-Wan, yes. And Jango was far from happy with that. But the injuries Dooku had given his soul mate had been carefully chosen, to temporarily incapacitate rather than permanently maim.

Which meant that attacking Dooku, had been a side benefit that helped shield Jango from prying eyes. Jango’s main motivation had been ensuring that Obi-Wan felt like Jango had saved him. Another truth and not truth he hoped his Be'alor never had reason to look further into.

The Jetii frowned and Jango saw the moment the man made the connection between Jango and Dooku. "Galidraan's Jango Fett. You're a Jedi Killer."

Immediately the room spiked with tension, most of the Jetii shifting, moving to the front of their seats as though they would need to spring from them at any moment. Everything in Jango was demanding he reach for a weapon and he had to clench his teeth to keep himself from reacting.

He was cooperating.

He chanced a glance at Obi-Wan, the man had known who Jango was, which implied he wasn't completely ignorant about Jango's past. That might end up being a complication, and Jango needed to know if this was going to cause any extra damage that Jango was going to have to work past.

Obi-Wan didn't look surprised by the accusation, he was again watching Jango, brows furrowed thoughtfully.

"True. He is." Obi-Wan's voice was strangely calm. "But that's far from fair, Mace. Since, as far as I'm aware, the Jedi were the ones who struck first. Only a fool would have thought that the Mandalorians wouldn't have struck back."

Jango felt his lip twitch. If that was what his soul mate’s genuine opinion, he could definitely work with that. If he was just playing peace keeper, well, Jango still thought his soul mate could probably be brought to his side of things.

The lead Jetii looked away. "You are right that the circumstances—"

"You mean the fact that the Jedi, led by your Master Dooku, slaughtered hundreds of my innocent people?” Jango interrupted, letting his voice grow bitter and angry. It was only a tiny portion of the real emotions he felt, but he knew better than to let the Jetii realize that. "On the words of a corrupt politician and Death Watch, who even the Republic recognizes could be more accurately described as an extreme terrorist group than anything else. Those circumstances?"

The Jetii didn't respond, and Jango suspected that it would be quite some time before anyone else brought up his status as a Jedi-killer.

The lead Jetii cleared his throat. "Yes, well, this has all been a secondary matter. We called for you to discuss just how a clone army that you happen to be the template of came into being."

"I already told Kenobi, I was hired by a man who called himself Tyranus to be the clone template."

"Cloning is illegal." The Cerean pointed out, voice stiff.

"In the Republic." Jango said pointedly. "And as a representative of the Republic you should be well aware that Kamino isn't in Republic Space."

"Why did you say yes?" Jango turned immediately to look at Obi-Wan. His soul mate was watching him with a tilted head. "It's not exactly the sort of job you must normally take."

Jango almost wished any of the others had asked, because he had dozens of spiteful answers he could spit out, but not to his soul mate.

"I was promised a son." He answered honestly. "And the position gave me the money and resources to provide for hundreds of my people. And beyond the initial role as template the Kaminoans needed people who could teach the men how to fight. They let me bring in many of my warriors to be trainers in their own right."

The old troll-like Jetii suddenly stirred from where he had been sitting in silence, almost immediately every single Jetii, his soul mate included, turned to look at the troll, like aak pups hoping for a bone. It disgusted Jango.

"Speak the truth he does." The Jetii said slowly, wide, almost bulbous eyes, staring at Jango as though he was trying to see through Jango. "More investigation do we need, into the creation of the clone army. But more information now, we will not find."

"Am I free to go, then?" Jango asked, lacing his voice with bored disdain. Several of the Jetii sent him dark looks. Apparently they didn’t like his tone.

The old Jetii looked at him with those wide, un-blinking eyes. "Not involved further with the army do you wish to be?"

The lead Jetii—or perhaps he was only the spokesperson given how they all seemed to be hanging on to the green troll's every word—stiffened, sending a sharp look at the troll.

"The Army was created for the Republic. If I want to work further with the Army, I'll have to go through the Republic and whoever they put in charge of the army."

The spokesperson Jetii sighed. "That would be us."

Jango had known that was part of the ‘grand plan’ that Dooku and his co-conspirator were building, but he had almost hoped that the Senate wouldn’t actually go through with it. How unfortunate.

From the corner of his eyes Jango saw Obi-Wan stiffen and look away, clearly aware but unhappy. Jango remembered his soul mate trying to refute the title of General in the med bay.

Interesting. Was it in recognition of the inherent dangers of becoming a General? Was it some ‘Force’ thing telling his soul mate it was a trap? Was it an inherent dislike of fighting?

Jango, wanted to know, wanted to delve into the way Obi-Wan thought, into how and what he felt. He wanted to know everything about his soul mate.

In time. In time he would. In time, Obi-Wan would let him in, would show him everything.

"Would you and the rest of the trainers be willing to continue on with the army under the lead of the Jedi?" The head-Jetii finally continued, a hint of annoyance in his voice.

"You want me and my people to work with the Jedi." Jango kept his voice low and cold. Better they feel his derision for them then his sudden anticipation.

The Jetii around the room seemed to collectively flinch, clearly recognizing the potential landmine. After all, it hadn't even been five minutes since the words 'Galidraan,' 'Massacre,' and 'Jedi Killer' had been thrown around.

Meanwhile Jango felt almost giddy, though he refused to let the emotion slip out. They were actually going to invite him to work with them? They were actually going to give him direct access to Obi-Wan? This was far better than Jango had expected. He'd thought he'd have to put in far more effort than this.

Surprisingly it was Obi-Wan who spoke up. "The Senate has put us in charge of the army." His soul mate twitched again, clearly unhappy with the situation. Obi-Wan would have to get past that particular hang up before some of the men took it as against them personally. "But the Jedi are not prepared for such a role. You and your trainers know the soldiers, know their capabilities. You have more experience with battles of the sort we'll end up getting involved in." Obi-Wan's voice was gaining energy, his eyes starting to brighten, clearly invested in what he was saying. He was staring at Jango as though he was an unexpected answer to a question that had been haunting him.

It was intoxicating.

Jango thought he might do any number of insane things to keep Obi-Wan always looking at him with that look in his eyes.

Obi-Wan continued. "Most Jedi have no experience in battle strategy, and to put them in charge of soldiers is not only foolish, it's negligent—"

The head-Jetii cleared his throat. "Later, Obi-Wan."

Obi-Wan bit his lip, looking away for a short moment before looking back at Jango. "I understand that you and your people have good reason to not trust the Jedi. But these soldiers don't deserve to suffer under our lack of expertise."

The look in Obi-Wan's eyes was somehow both pleading and passionate—yet full of some unnamed grief—Jango couldn't look away, a little entranced.

This. This was part of it. This was part of why his soul mate was his soul mate. Part of what made him right for Jango, what made him right for Mandalore.

The grief in his soul mate's eyes was a learned grief, and it reminded Jango keenly of his own grief after Galidraan. Oh, it was different—and Jango needed desperately to know the answers to what had caused his soul mate's grief—but similar all the same.

Jango cared deeply for his people, but how long had it taken him to realize that the clones were a part of that? How long had it taken him to recognize the people he was failing?

His Be'alor would never have let Jango get to that point. His Be'alor would have noticed immediately.

His Be'alor had picked up on it immediately. Was already trying to protect the lives of the vod’e.

Jango never wanted to be cavalier with his people's lives, and he tried not to be. His Be'alor would make sure that Jango never was.

Little Gods, why had it taken Jango so long to find him?

And even now that he'd found him, Jango thought bitterly a bit of his elation fading, Jango couldn't even claim him properly.

And that was the Jetii's fault.

He cleared his throat, forcing himself to look away from his Be'alor. "I can't speak for all of my people. Not in this. Not all of them will feel the same, and I won't order any of them to fight under a Jedi."

"Then would you, personally, be willing?" The Kel Dor asked. "Your expertise could be quite beneficial."

The interruption of the other Jetii made it easier for Jango to slip back into the role he was playing. With the way Obi-Wan had been looking at him, it would have been too easy for Jango to agree, to prove himself to Obi-Wan. But no, there was more at stake, more in play. While Jango would agree, he wasn’t going to just hand his agreement over.

This was almost too easy. All he'd done was throw himself into a single battle and then coordinate with the clones to protect a single Jedi, and suddenly they thought he was trustworthy? Well, perhaps not trustworthy, that was probably stretching it. But trustworthy enough.

"That would depend on the conditions." Jango shrugged a little. "I imagine that would hold true for most of the trainers as well."

"And what sort of conditions do you have in mind?" The Cerean sounded distinctly unimpressed.

"Neither I or any of the trainers would be willing to work with any Jedi that had anything to do with Galidraan." The very thought made Jango twitchy for a blaster.

Several of the Jedi exchanged inscrutable looks at that. "Understandable."

"For that matter. I imagine certain trainers will be very particular about which Jedi they are willing to work with, period."

"And you?"

Jango had to physically stop himself from looking at Obi-Wan, he only smiled. "I might be." He shrugged. "Of course, you could just give us our own battalions."

He could see immediately that the Jedi were not pleased with that suggestion. Their trust definitely didn't stretch that far. Obi-Wan however looked up, apparently intrigued by the concept. Jango expected that Obi-Wan would be more than willing to press that as an option, Jango was almost equally certain that it would be voted down.

"We'd expect payment, of course, but I imagine that would be more for the Senate to handle." The opportunity to twist the knife a little was too much to resist. "And reparations to the True Mandalorians, for the actions of the Jedi on Galidraan."

"Is that something all of your trainers are going to be asking for?"

Jango tilted his head. "That's what their Mand'alor is asking for." He let his voice get icy. "But you can try going straight to the trainers, and if any of them ask whether I'll be joining, I'll be sure to let them know just why I'm not." He shrugged. “It’s possible you’ll still find a few who are interested."

From the looks on their faces, the Jetii apparently got the message.

"I'm sure I have more conditions, but I'll leave that for when there's actually a contract to sign." He straightened, moving away from the chair he'd been leaning on. "If there's nothing else?"

"Nothing more for now." Windu agreed after a short pause. "Thank you for your cooperation."

Jango smiled. "Always a pleasure to help a Jedi." He let himself glance over Obi-Wan one last time, his soul mate’s attention was once again elsewhere.

He turned on his heel and strode away, intending to go find Boba and find out when they were leaving hyperspace so he could get a comm call out to his people on Kamino.

The Commander, padawan, and Senator were all still waiting outside, and Jango could tell that the door he’d left slightly ajar had served it’s purpose; they'd clearly heard everything.

The Commander gave him a discreet nod, before looking past him, still clearly waiting for Obi-Wan to come back out.

To the well trained eye, and Jango’s eye was very well trained, there was clear difference in the soldier’s body language.

Commander Cody wasn't keeping an eye on Obi-Wan as a favor for his Mand'alor, not anymore. He wasn’t doing it because Obi-Wan was a Jedi and a General he was expected to serve under. It wasn’t even the look of a Mandalorian protecting a Be’alor. Or at least not any of those things alone. Now it was personal too.

Clearly the Commander had heard his Be'alor's devoted plea for help in protecting the men.

Jango couldn't help the satisfaction he felt at that as he continued past. Already, Obi-Wan was earning the genuine, personal loyalty of their people. Oh, they would have been loyal to him because they were loyal to Jango. But this was so much better.

He was a little surprised when he heard the padawan practically order the Senator to stay where she was, before he heard the padawan start to follow after him. The boy hadn't been handling having just his Master out of his sight well. Given that, Jango hadn't thought the boy would be able to let both his Senator and his Master out of his sight just yet. But he had now. Interesting.

Jango stopped in an empty hallway, turning to give the padawan his blandest look from behind his helmet. "Can I help you?"

The padawan straightened, widening his stance as though he was trying to look more intimidating. "You almost killed Padme."

"I never even tried to touch her." Jango pointed out, keeping his voice completely neutral, he suspected that remaining bored and unaffected would do a better job of riling the Jetii in front of him than anything else might. "That was Wesell."

Skywalker didn't look even the slightest bit pacified, raising his voice a little to speak over him. "And you tried to kill Master Kenobi on Kamino."

Jango hadn't thought the padawan would have known about that fight, but apparently he did. "I didn't try to kill your Master. I had a job and he was in my way. We were on Kamino, not Republic space. He had no jurisdiction to try and bring me in.”

Skywalker scoffed, but didn’t seem to have an appropriate response. "I don't trust you."

Jango raised an eyebrow, and let a little of his skepticism slip out. "Oh? You don't trust me?"

"You tried to kill the people I cared about.” Skywalker hissed, stepping forward, obviously trying to use his extra height to loom over Jango. “I don't care if the council has apparently forgotten everything you did, I haven't. I'm not going to let you hurt either of them." The padawan was breathing a little heavily, and Jango suspected that he was seeing part of Skywalker’s frustration with his own helplessness in this futile attempt at lashing out. Jango was certainly a convenient target. "So stay away from them."

"First of all." Jango snorted. "For future reference, people I aim to kill have a tendency of ending up dead. And second,” he let the smallest hint of his derision for the boy in front of him slip into his voice, “you might have already forgotten, but I was there on that gunship. I know just how much you care about keeping your Master safe. I saw it first hand when you abandoned him to go and die against Dooku." The padawan paled, taking a step back, whether it was the words Jango had flung at him or the absolute disgust that dripped off Jango’s words he couldn’t be sure. "It wasn't you who saved his life on Geonosis, little padawan, that was me and my men."

The padawan forced himself to straighten, though he was still pale. "I saw you in the med bay, watching them both. I know you're planning something. It's not going to work, Fett, I'm watching you."

Jango scoffed. "You saw me watching the Senator and Kenobi? Your powers of observation are clearly in need of help, though that was already quite apparent, given you couldn’t even see that your Master was injured. I wasn’t, however, watching them." He'd just been watching the one.

Still, it was a timely reminder that he needed to be more subtle. It had been so difficult to resist though, watching his soul mate and having his soul mate's attention on him in turn. He'd only just found his soul mate, something Jango had been waiting for since he was nine. He was luxuriating on having his soul mate so close, even as he raged at how his soul mate was still so far out of his reach. "But I assure you, I'll be very sure not to cross you any time soon, padawan."

The padawan sneered, angry and offended both, and Jango had to stop himself from rolling his eyes.

"Now, if you're done wasting my time?" He didn't wait for the padawan to answer, turning on his heel and walking away, leaving the padawan to seethe behind him.

It didn't take him long to find Boba and Jango watched in amusement, his ire at his soul mate’s padawan slipping away, as his son carefully wheedled information out of an exhausted looking Twi'lek Jedi.

"Boba."

His son looked up and immediately abandoned his current target to scamper over to where Jango stood. "Have you eaten recently?"

Boba shook his head.

"Then come on, let's head back to the hangar we left the ship, and get some food in you."

Boba’s stomach growled loud enough for Jango to hear, and Boba pinked a little. “That’s a good idea.”

Jango laughed. He waited until they were out of hearing range of the Jetii. "Have you had fun stealing information from unsuspecting targets?"

Boba's smile was infectious. "Yes." He frowned a little. "None of the vod would give me anything, I think they knew what I was doing. Though one of the medics slipped me information. Not that it was useful for anything, I think he was just doing it to make me feel better. Most of the Jetii gave away lots though."

Jango laughed, and rested a hand on his son’s shoulder as they walked. "Well, you'll have to tell me everything you learned over lunch."

Boba nodded earnestly.

 

Chapter Text

Depa rested a hand on his elbow, squeezing gently before she followed the majority of the small council out of the room, the door shutting almost sliding silently shut behind her. Mace sighed, rubbing a hand over his face. Another wave of grief washed over him and he accepted it, feeling the grief and then letting it wash further away.

"I don't like this." Such a terrible understatement. Too mild for how Mace really felt.

Geonosis had been a slaughter. Over a hundred Jedi had died, and for what? They had not even accomplished what the Senate had sent them out to do.

They had been sent to stop the Separatists, to put out the embers of aggression before they could turn into the inferno of war.

Instead Geonosis had ended up being the final spark that lit the fire.

And there was nothing the Jedi could do to escape it. They were not just tasked with fighting a war, but in leading one.

Mace fully understood the grief and distress that Obi-Wan had expressed in the meeting. Mace felt it himself. The death they’d just survived, the powerlessness of their current situation, the bone deep knowledge that so many more we’re going to die.

He paced back and forth, keeping his breathing even as he did so. Part of him wanted to find the training rooms he'd been told were a part of the flagship and run through some Vaapad exercises, or better yet, find someone to spar with, he needed something to help channel his frustration somewhere. Now wasn't the time for that however, and so breathing exercises, meditation, and calm thoughts would have to do.

Master Yoda was the only Jedi still remaining in the room and Mace watched as his left ear twitched a little. "Tell young Obi-Wan the truth, you did. Choice in this matter, we do not have."

Mace grimaced. That was part of the reason he disliked this all so much. The Senate had locked them into this position. They were servants of the Republic, beholden to the Senate. To stay out of the war would require that they separate themselves from the Senate, from the Republic. Even if they could manage to do so, the Jedi would never be trusted again. They would be portrayed as uncaring to the plight of the Republic, and if they could not care about the Republic at such a time, then how could they be trusted to care for the plight of individual planets.

Furthermore, to reject the Senate's call to lead the army would be to place the army of cloned beings directly into the hands of the Senators. Mace had to push back against the desire to shudder in horror at the very thought.

It had been a very long time since he had felt this powerless. Oh, he'd had his time as a Padawan, as a solo Knight, as a young Master, where he'd looked at the role the Republic had given the Jedi, the shackles of duty and the binds of authority—with firm lines that they could not overstep—but he thought he’d come to terms with the way things were. The way things had to be.

Jedi as individuals were powerful, could do so much. And that was as individuals, as an Order their power wasn't to be underestimated. The Sith and Jedi Wars had proved that, if nothing else. 

Wasn't that why thousands and thousands of years ago the Jedi had allowed themselves to be bound to the Republic? Had allowed themselves and their power to be limited?

And as the centuries had gone on, that binding had only grown tighter and tighter. Every misstep the Jedi made was used as yet another reason they could not be given power, could not be trusted except when directed by an outside force.

Mace had wondered for a long time if the Jedi needed to remove themselves from the Senate's grasp, but the rules they'd lived under for so long made them vulnerable. And there were so many within the Order that were already so vulnerable that they desperately needed to protect. Their younglings, their old, the corps that depended on them. And yet...

Yet, what?

There didn't seem to be any good answers.

And now the Jedi were so tightly bound that the Senate could order them to war, could order them to lead an army.

An army of clones, engineered to fight and die. Force. What was the galaxy coming to? 

And what was this all for? This war, the death that was on the horizon, all of it.

Why did the clones exist? The war that was brewing now, the war these men would fight and die in, hadn't even been on the horizon ten years ago when they'd been commissioned. He rubbed at his forehead, trying to ease the pounding ache there. That was an investigation that needed to be done as soon as possible. Had Sifo Dyas truly ordered this army? And if he had, why? And why had Sifo Dyas, or whoever this mysterious Tyranus was, chosen Fett as the progenitor?

And just how much did Fett really know?

Which brought Mace to yet another prospect in this whole situation that he didn't like. "You prompted Fett to work with us."

That had been bothering Mace since Yoda had first asked Fett if he wanted to continue working with the army. Yoda’s intent and meaning had been clear, and so Mace had reluctantly worded the request Yoda had wanted extended.

The bounty hunter did not seem trustworthy, at all. And Mace wanted the man far, far away from the Jedi and the army.

The man felt dangerous. There were shatter points, too many of them, wrapped around the man. Mace couldn't even safely assume that the shatter points were because of his work as the progenitor of an army, if so Fett's role was done, and the shatter points should have dispersed. No, whatever shatter points had gathered around Fett were for things yet to come.

Mace was honest enough with himself to admit that worried him. Not necessarily because of the number of shatter points. No, he’d seen people with that much influence before. Skywalker for one. The Chancellor. Master Yoda. Even Obi-Wan, though his friend would deny that his choices and decisions would ever have so much impact as to deserve a single shatter point, much less earn him so many shatter points that Obi-Wan was sometimes obscured from Mace’s sight in the Force.

No, it wasn’t the number of shatter points that worried Mace. It was the person they were gathered around.

Jango Fett was dangerous. And in ways that Mace didn’t fully understand yet.

And there had been a strange intensity from Fett, centered very pointedly around Obi-Wan.

Obi-Wan had clearly been aware of that last fact as well. He'd hidden it well, and anyone who wasn't familiar with Obi-Wan might have missed the subtle signs. But the signs of discomfort had been there, his young friend hadn't been fully able to hide from Mace's eyes.

"Use the man, we can." Yoda said slowly.

Mace snorted a little indelicately. "I find that hard to believe." Mace said carefully. "He hates the Jedi, that was painfully clear." And Mace didn't even completely blame him for that. Dooku had led a Jedi strike team on the Senate's orders against Fett's people, based on faulty information Dooku hadn't even bothered to verify, and it had turned into a slaughter. Mace didn't blame Fett for his anger, no, but he was still very wary of what that anger might lead to.

Yoda hummed thoughtfully. "Have something he wants, we do. Pursue it, he will."

"He wants us dead." Mace muttered, but that clearly wasn't what Yoda was talking about. "What more does he want?"

Yoda opened his eyes, his ears perking up a little. "Know this you do not? Notice, you did."

Mace didn't think he liked where this conversation was going. He considered pretending he didn't know where Yoda was going with this, but that would just extend the conversation more than necessary. And Mace had never been the type to avoid things he didn't want to deal with. "There seemed to be a minor, ah, fixation, on Obi-Wan. I was hoping that was a passing thing." There was no reason, at this point, to hope that it wasn't.

And honestly, as much as Mace didn't like it, it wasn't exactly a surprise. It was just the effect Obi-Wan seemed to have on people. He drew people towards him. Even, or perhaps especially, people who were supposed to hate him.

Most of the time it wasn't a problem. Sometimes...

Yoda didn't answer immediately, clearly deciding what he wanted to share with Mace.

Mace was starting to have a very bad feeling about all of this.

"Know this, you do not, but when to the Temple Obi-Wan was given, a soul mark he had."

Mace froze, falling heavily into a seat. He'd been on the Council the last time a child had come in with a soul mark.

Learning about the methods that the Jedi Council had decided were necessary to deal with soul marks had been an earth shattering moment.

He swallowed. He'd understood the necessity, but he hadn't, and still didn't, like it.

After they had hidden the mark on the young Togruta, he'd been informed that there were nearly a dozen others in the Temple who had at one point had marks. With his Council ID he had had the ability to look at the information, but he never had. Mace hadn't wanted to know, he'd told himself it was so he could remain unbiased, but in part, it was because he hadn't wanted to know who had had something so vital stolen them.

"Why is that pertinent?" Mace could read context clues as well as anyone, but he didn't want to read these context clues. And hadn't he just told himself that he wasn't the sort to avoid things that needed to be dealt with? The irony of it wasn't lost on him.

Yoda humphed a little. "Watch Fett in the Force I did. Lie to us, he did not." Mace opened his mouth to point out that there were plenty of ways to deceive without lying, but Yoda opened his eyes and gave Mace a sharp glare. "But a pull there was, between Fett and Obi-Wan. Strangely attuned to that pull, Fett was."

"You think Fett's his soul mate."

"No." Yoda's voice was sharp, and if he'd had his Gimer stick at the moment, Mace was certain Yoda would have tried to smack Mace's shins with it. He could practically feel the familiar sting against his shins despite the fact that no such thing had occurred. "No soul mates do the Jedi have. No soul marks. Gone they are." Mace sent Yoda his best unimpressed look. That seemed a very selective way of looking at the situation, and not a very realistic one. Yoda wasn't affected, and kept talking. "Assumed we did, that if his soul mate Obi-Wan had kept, a Mandalorian his soul mate would have been. Hoped we did, that the young Duchess it was. Wrong we may have been."

A Mandalorian Duchess.

The mission in question had been years and years ago now, and the only reason that the mission report stood out in Mace's mind was because the mission was supposed to last one or two months, and yet it had been over a year before Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan had been able to return. It had been a very long mission report.

He would need to go back over the minutes for that meeting. He suspected he would find that there were an unusually high amount of questions directed at Obi-Wan about the Duchess.

"Obi-Wan was quite fond of her, and she of him." Mace said slowly. That he knew without the help of the mission reports, though Obi-Wan had only ever mentioned it in calculated moments of passing. Trying to test Mace or Depa to see whether they would condemn him his emotions, whether they would use his perceived weaknesses as a reason to discard him, to throw him away, always with that clear expectation that they would. (There were times, Mace though a little bitterly, that he wished that Qui-Gon was still alive so that Mace could strangle him properly.)

Yoda nodded. "An attraction, Qui-Gon noted, between the two of them. Worried him, it did."

"Did Qui-Gon know?" Mace asked, distracted. "That Obi-Wan used to have a soul mark?" He could not imagine Qui-Gon taking that well.

"No." Yoda shook his head, ears going flat. Mace wondered if Yoda also realized just how terrible that would have been, or if Yoda's blindspot for most of his lineage meant he refused to accept it as true.

Mace pushed that aside for now. "But you suddenly think you were wrong. That his soul mate—“ he cleared his throat. ”—his would-have-been soul mate isn’t the Duchess."

Yoda fixed his wide, green eyes on Mace. "No proof did we ever have, then."

Mace wanted to roll his eyes, but restrained himself. "We have no proof now, either." Not without seeing Fett's soul mark, and Mace doubted that Fett would be willing to just show them that. Not that Mace wanted to disregard the sensations that Yoda felt in the Force. "And even if we did, that's knowledge we have, not Fett. So what? He feels a pull to Obi-Wan. That does not equate to Fett pursuing Obi-Wan the way you are hinging this plan on." And even if it did, Mace thought it was a stupid, ridiculous plan.

Yoda just stared at him, eyes thoughtful and considering—and a little condemning. "Honest with yourself, you must be. Feel Fett in the Force you did. Easily deterred, did he seem?"

Mace clenched his fist, and once again wished he were somewhere not here, working out his frustrations in at least a semi-productive way. "You're assuming too much."

"But wrong I have not been. Too easy, was Fett's capitulation. Want this, he did. For one reason, that was. Effected by the pull he clearly has been.“

The worst part was that it was so easy to see that Yoda might be right. Might, however, was the key word there. He could just as easily be wrong.

Fett couldn't possibly know that he and Obi-Wan were soul mates. Mace hadn't even known his friend had a soul mark until this point—and he couldn't let himself be taken by surprise again, it was time to look into those sealed files, the ones he'd wanted to avoid—Obi-Wan didn't know that Obi-Wan had a soul mark. If Obi-Wan himself didn't know, then Fett knowing was not only ludicrous, but also impossible.

But Fett hated Jedi, and yet...

Fett had joined the Jedi in the arena, a risky, foolish, dangerous endeavor. Mace wasn't an idiot, nor was he blind. He'd seen how closely Fett had followed Obi-Wan.

He wanted to argue that there were plenty of reasons that might have been the case, after all, Obi-Wan had served as a barrier between Jango and the other Jedi, keeping the Jedi from attacking Fett. It was a reason, but Mace suspected that wasn't the reason. Nor did he think it was because Fett wanted to side the True Mandalorians with the Republic, the way Fett had claimed. Or at least not entirely for that reason, there were easier, less dangerous ways that Fett would have been able to do that.

No Fett had protected Obi-Wan.

And then Fett had organized and led a squad of clones to come to Obi-Wan's rescue in the fight against Dooku.

No one had said it out loud, but Fett had saved Obi-Wan's life. This Jedi-hating Mandalorian—the Jedi-hating Mand'alor—had saved a Jedi. Mace felt a pit in his stomach at the thought. Would Obi-Wan feel indebted? How far would Fett try to push that?

He had the sudden, ferocious wish that the Duchess had been Obi-Wan's soul mate. The Duchess didn't worry Mace, not the way Fett did.

Except they still didn't have proof that Yoda was right.

The earlier meeting ran through his mind again. The anger, a constantly boiling undercurrent to everything Fett said, softening a little when directed at Obi-Wan. The subtle difference in the way Fett had answered Mace's, or Depa's, or Plo's questions compared to the way he answered Obi-Wan's.

"It won't last." Mace finally answered. "Maybe you're right and they might have been soul mates once. They aren't now, and whatever pull Fett feels will either fade away or Fett will lose interest. A Mandalorian might do anything for a soul mate—" and that was what Yoda was counting on, wasn't it? "But that requires Fett knowing that he and Obi-Wan are soulmates. You obviously aren't going to just tell him."

Yoda looked aghast. "No. Tell him we would not."

Exactly. "How long will it take," Mace argued, "before Fett pushes past a pull, an attraction, that he has no explanation for and back into his anger for the Jedi?" Mace swallowed. "You're making Obi-Wan a target." In more than one way.

“A contract by that point, Fett will have signed.” Yoda pointed out. "Lose trust in him and his word, people would, if let Jedi die because dislike us he did. Staying true to a contract, necessary is, for a bounty hunter. And more, a leader Fett has proclaimed himself. Trust in a contract, necessary is, for a leader. Especially if within the Republic he wishes his people to successfully operate."

The logic wasn’t wrong. It wasn’t exactly comforting either. But to some degree he did understand Yoda's reasoning. "And if somehow Fett doesn't return to hating the Jedi? If he continues to pursue Obi-Wan? Are you going to just leave Obi-Wan as a perpetual lure, and hope Fett doesn't manage to draw Obi-Wan's attention in turn?" And would Obi-Wan be susceptible? To someone whose soul was meant to match Obi-Wan's.

His friend's heart was sometimes too strong, too open, too willing to let others find a place in it.

"A Jedi, Obi-Wan is. A Jedi he has always been. A Jedi he will always be. Fall prey to Fett's advances he will not." Yoda dismissed the worry easily, with the same speed he'd dismissed every other concern.

Mace let out a tired sigh. "Why?" He said quietly. "Why do you want this?"

Yoda shifted a little, giving Mace a serious look. "Need Fett we do. Trust him, the clones do. An alliance with the True Mandalorians, use in this war, we could. Need it now, before their hatred for the Jedi sours them into the Separatists hands. And right, Obi-Wan was. Generals we are not, guidance we need, if we are to protect both soldier and Jedi."

The worst part was that it was true. If the Separatists started tempting the True Mandalorians with the destruction of the Jedi... Mace shuddered.

And of course, there was the argument Obi-Wan had used, the argument that Fett had already conceded. Jedi weren't soldiers, weren't Generals. They were supposed to be peacekeepers. If they were going to get through this war, then they would need someone to show them how to fight these sort of battles, and how to win them. Still, the method Yoda was proposing...

"And you want to dangle Obi-Wan in front of their leader, hoping that the pull of the soul mark that Obi-Wan no longer has will be enough to keep Fett's interest?" He took a deep breath, realizing something. Yoda had used the pull of the soul mark, but he wasn't counting on it. "You want Obi-Wan to encourage it. To encourage and keep Fett interested."

Yoda's ears twitched. "Try very hard, he will not have to, if past encounters, any indication is."

It was clearly supposed to be a joke, because Obi-Wan did seem to attract the interest of dangerous individuals naturally, often when those around him wished that he was perhaps a little less naturally charming. Still, the joke left Mace feeling a little sick.

Yoda wanted to use Obi-Wan as a tool to get what Yoda wanted.

It wasn't the first time, oh no, Mace was more aware than most of the sort of manipulations Yoda went through to get Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon together as a Master and Padawan pair. And it had worked, to a degree. Qui-Gon had been brought back, at least somewhat, to the man he'd once been. But it had nearly destroyed young Obi-Wan in so many different ways, some of which Mace still didn't fully understand.

That hadn't even been the only time that Mace was aware of, where Yoda had used Obi-Wan as a tool. He was sure that there were other times that Mace didn't know about. Obi-Wan was a favorite tool of Yoda’s.

And now Yoda wanted to do it again.

Fett was dangerous. And the addition of a soul mark... Mace wasn't sure if that made it better or worse. Fett would assume that Obi-Wan wasn't his soul mate, because Obi-Wan had no mark. But Yoda had made it sound like that didn't actually stop the pull of the mark, didn't stop the mark from influencing Fett.

"I will speak to Obi-Wan." Mace said finally. What if the mark was influencing Obi-Wan as well? "I'll tell him about the mark. He needs to be aware—.”

"No." Yoda cut in, voice strangely sharp. "Tell Obi-Wan we cannot. Protect him from the pull of his soul mark we must. This knowledge dangerous would be."

"Isn't it equally dangerous for him to not know?"

Yoda was unmoved. "No. Know he must not."

"You were the one who said that Obi-Wan will stay true to the Jedi." Mace pointed out exasperated. Yoda had also claimed that the soul mark was completely gone, and therefore not a danger to Obi-Wan.

"Tell him we cannot." Yoda repeated. "Your attachment to young Obi-Wan, blinding you it is."

Mace ground his teeth together. That was a low blow, and a truly ironic one. If Yoda had done his duty as the remaining member of Obi-Wan's lineage then Mace would never have stepped in, after Qui-Gon's death, to give Obi-Wan the support he needed and would have received as a new Knight and a young Master.

But Yoda had been hurt by Obi-Wan's decision to ignore Yoda's advice against Skywalker, and had kept his distance so Mace had intervened.

He and Depa had done their best to bring Obi-Wan and Skywalker into their own circle. It had worked with Obi-Wan; Skywalker, on the other hand, had never forgiven Mace or Depa for their role on the council when he'd first been brought in and then rejected. Mace understood, and he did his best to give Skywalker the space he needed.

To call it an attachment was on overstatement. Mace cared for Obi-Wan, that was not in question. Depa did as well. Obi-Wan returned the sentiment. But care didn't mean attachment. All three of them knew how to put their duty first.

"If you're right about all of this." And Mace hated the fact that he thought Yoda just might be. "Fett's going to insist on being put with Obi-Wan's battalion." Mace pointed out. Fett had already made it clear that if he and the other trainers did decide that they were willing to join the war under the Jedi, they would be picky about which Jedi Generals they'd work with. Fett's choice would be obvious, and they would have no good reason to deny him his choice. They couldn't very well say they wanted to keep Fett away from his potential soul mate. "I recognize that you trust Obi-Wan, I do too, but it's reckless and negligent to tell Obi-Wan nothing and—"

"Trust his ability to take care of himself do you not?" Yoda asked sharply. "Trust do you not, that protect him we will?"

Mace sighed and looked away. Because he trusted Yoda, he did. But not always with Obi-Wan, not with everything Mace had seen. Still... "What exactly is the plan?"

"Like it, you will not."

Mace wasn't sure he cared if he liked the idea or not. He would figure out how to adapt to it, and he would protect his friend from Fett while he was at it. Someone had to, and it wasn't going to be Master Yoda.

Chapter Text

Jango waited patiently in front of the holo, helmet under one arm as slowly the rest of the clan voices and his chosen inner council showed up, holos forming in a semi-circle around him.

"Presuming you watched the recording I sent, you are all aware that the Senate have officially put the Jetii in control of the army."

Several of the trainers scowled at that. It wasn't that they hadn't known that might very well happen, it had been clear that it was a part of the 'grand plan'—not that any of them had any clear idea of what the mysterious plan fully entailed, though Jango thought he was getting close to putting it all together—but there were several of them who had hoped that the Senate would have more sense than that.

What the kriff made the Jetii qualified to lead an army?

Absolutely nothing.

But then, the Senate was full of idiots, so it wasn't really a surprise.

"So?" Skirata asked, voice a little cold. "What do we care?"

Jango sent Skirata his sharpest look. The man was capable enough, but Mandalorian or not, one of Jango’s men or not, Jango found him irritating. “Because the vod'e are our people, for one. And not just the ones you've taken in. All of them." Jango paused, and even through the holo Jango could see Skirata clench his jaw. "But if you're looking purely at your own self-interests, then you should already know the answer." That was of course presuming that Skirata had watched the recording. Jango mentally sighed, that was perhaps unfair, Skirata wasn't the sort to like being unprepared. "The Jetii are looking to convince the Senate to hire as many of the trainers that are interested to stay on with the army and work with and under the Jetii."

That brought mixed responses. The idea of being paid to fight was appealing to many of them. But there was always a catch. And working with the Jetii was quite the catch. Some of them looked like they'd very much like to help the Jetii… right off a cliff. A sentiment Jango understood all too well.

Ruusaan spoke up before anyone else could. "Your beginning negotiations seemed to go well. I noticed that while you said it was up to the individual trainer to decide, and that you gave the impression that you might be willing, you did not actually make any solid guarantees that you would join them.”

Jango paused, considering how much he could say over comms. It was unlikely that the call was being intercepted, and the Jetii probably hadn't had a chance to bug the rooms yet, since the flagship was still very new to them. Still, it was probably for the best not to state anything outright.

"I am willing, though I will be incredibly particular about which Jetii, exactly, I'm willing to work with." He pointedly brushed his knuckles against his armor just above where his mark rested over his heart.

The comm call went suddenly silent as everyone took in what exactly that meant.

"You found them?" Cort sounded shocked, and he certainly wasn't the only one.

Jango nodded, and he couldn’t help the small smile that escaped. "Yes."

If this wasn't happening over comm call he had the distinct feeling that his people would be swarming him right now, eager to offer the congratulations and learn more, as it was most of them were leaning forward, as though they could get closer just by willing it. "How did the Jetii react to finding you? Does he understand—"

Jango's smile disappeared and he cut through the many questions. "My Jetii doesn't know. The Jetii stole his mark." He ran a hand over his heart again. "It's hindering the bond, even my mark has been affected, it's still gray." The last few words came out more of a growl than anything. To steal a mark. it was cold and cruel; Jango's hatred for the Jetii had only grown since he'd met Obi-Wan on Kamino and realized the Jetii had tried to steal him permanently from Jango and from Mandalore.

That brought silence, everyone clearly trying to figure out what it meant for a mark to be stolen.

"How do you know?" Ruusaan asked, and the question was pointed, but there was a hint of compassion to it. She clearly didn't want to be the one to break his heart. "I know we hate the Jetii, and for good reason, but surely they wouldn't mess with a soul mark. It's not that I doubt you, but perhaps you—"

"Imagined it?" Jango offered, a little more sharply than intended. He let out a quiet breath. "I did consider that. But there is an unmistakable pull between us." He paused. "And Boba recognized him the moment we'd both interacted with one another. He felt the call of a Be'alor and I know that the vod'e have felt the same. I also have fairly reliable information—“ if Dooku could be called reliable, “—that it's common practice within the Jetii, though kept secret, especially from those who have marks."

"A Jetii Be'alor." Vau's voice was bitter.

"He's a Jetii for now." Jango agreed quietly. "But not for forever."

Ruz tilted his head, lekkus twitching in curiosity. "You've a plan?"

"It'll take time." Jango admitted. "We didn't exactly start out on the best foot, and until we find a way to reverse whatever the Jetii did to him, he has no way of really understanding what he is to me." He hesitated. "What he is to us. But by the end of this war, he'll be where he should be."

"With Mandalore." Someone said quietly, and the group of holos all seemed to nod—even those like Vau whose bitterness towards the Jetii fully matched Jango's own seemed pleased with this idea. But then, Vau might hate Jetii, but he'd known, in some fashion, three different Be'alors; he knew what they were missing.

"I will need your help." Jango admitted. “And not just to win over our Be’alore. If we play our cards right, this war will also give us an opportunity to, ah, reclaim Mandalore space from the aruetiise who play at being Mandalorian now, as well as liberate those of our people who've been forced to abide by the New Mandalorian pacifism. And, of course, deal with Death Watch once and for all."

"About time we dealt with those hut'uun." Ruusaan's voice was cold. "The Kyr'tsad have thought themselves safe from us for long enough."

"Not anymore." Jango told her. "We may have withdrawn for a time, but we haven't ceded the fight."

"Mando'ad draar digu."

Several other people repeated the words, quiet and sure.

No, they certainly hadn't forgotten. 

They may have been willing to bide their time, but now that they were returning they were more than willing to show just how long their memories were.

-_-

It took more effort than Obi-Wan would have suspected to finally slip away from Commander Cody, who seemed to have decided, for some absurd reason, that Obi-Wan his responsibility. Whichever Jedi ended up working with the man—and his brain skipped over the thought, because the idea of taking the mantle of General was... no, he wasn't thinking about it—the point was, whoever worked with Commander Cody would be fortunate to have that intent focus, skill, and determination at their side. Obi-Wan had actually pulled out legitimate evasive maneuvers to get away.

Not, of course, that anyone would be able to call him on it. Obi-Wan had learned long ago to make sure that he could evade politely, discreetly, and in a way that would give him plausible deniability if someone thought to accuse him of such.

It wasn't that he didn't appreciate the man's consideration, Obi-Wan did, mostly. He was sure, however, that there were far more pressing things that needed the man's attention.

And Obi-Wan needed to be alone so that he could have a quick mental breakdown. Force. Force. This was like something out of his nightmares. In fact, he was fairly certain that he would be having nightmares the next time he slept.

Force.

All of that death. He could still feel the gaping holes in the Force where so many of his family had been ripped away.

Any Jedi who entered the field knew that they might die. It was a simple acknowledgment of the life they lived and the world they were a part of.

But this... there had been so many of them, and they'd been cut down so quickly.

Obi-Wan couldn't, he couldn't see past the pain of it.

So many of his family, killed.

And yet, it had only now started.

They were being sent to war. Sent as Generals.

He breathed out in relief as he finally made it to an empty hallway, slumping against the wall and down to the ground to take pressure off his leg. Where Dooku had struck ached, and was probably in desperate need of a new bacta bandage. That was hardly the only bit of care he needed. He felt significantly weakened from lack of food and his body was throbbing in belated pain, ribs, leg, arm, and to top it all off a steadily building headache. He almost wished he'd taken the pain killers that the Medic had offered him.

Almost. In some ways he appreciated the pain right now, the physical pain was at least grounding, was better, by far, than the emotional whirlwind that was twisting through him.

He'd been thirteen the first time he'd been a General, though he'd never carried the title. The Young hadn't had Generals, they hadn't been an army.

They'd been children.

Just children.

But they had had leaders, and Obi-Wan had been one of them, despite how little he had deserved the position. He'd made calls, given orders, sent children to their death. Sometimes the orders had been the right choice, had been necessary. Sometimes, well, sometimes he'd been wrong.

It had been a long time since he'd dreamt of the Young.

He already knew that he'd be holding a dying Cerasi in his arms tonight in his dreams, the screams of dying children surrounding them both.

He took a deep breath, ignoring the way it ached, trying to pull the Force through him to take both the physical, mental, and emotional pain away.

Obi-Wan doubted there was a single Jedi who hadn't made a wrong call out in the field and seen someone get hurt, even killed, because of their choice. Most Jedi had experienced a failed negotiation and had to witness the repercussions of it. No Jedi worth the name was unaware of what it meant to have the weight of lives on their shoulders.

He sighed, and the sound was heavy in his own ears.

Light footsteps echoed down a nearby passageway and Obi-Wan mentally debated whether he had the energy to get to his feet and pretend he hadn't been sitting on the floor. He dismissed the idea, he was tired and he could probably make up an excuse easily enough. And anyways the footsteps were too light to be one of the soldiers, and most Jedi would sense his need to be left alone in the Force.

The steps reached his hallway and Obi-Wan had to hold in a groan.

There had been a third option, beside soldiers and Jedi. He'd nearly forgotten that the Fett's were on the ship headed back to Coruscant. At least, Obi-Wan thought a little wryly as the young Boba Fett eyed Obi-Wan's position sitting against the wall, it was the son and not the father.

"Hello Boba."

Boba moved closer, his face scrunched up in judgment. "What are you doing on the floor?"

Obi-Wan gestured to the hallway with an airy wave of his hand. "Enjoying the peace and quiet."

Boba didn't look convinced. "Uh huh."

"What are you doing here?"

Boba's eyes went immediately wide with excitement. Genuine, yes, but also the sort of look Obi-Wan and Quinlan had mastered when they were younger than Boba.  "Exploring! I've never been on a flagship before."

Obi-Wan felt a smile tugging at his lips. “Find anything interesting?"

Now Boba shrugged. "Some. But it probably wouldn't interest you."

"And why wouldn't it?" Obi-Wan asked. "I've never been on a flagship before either. And I haven't had the chance to look around, yet. You're obviously the more experienced at the moment."

"Yeah, but you've probably been on dozens of ships." Boba argued, crossing his arms and settling onto the floor across the hallway from Obi-Wan

"A fair few, perhaps."

"And you've probably visited dozens of planets." Boba sounded a little jealous of that. That, at least, was familiar. Anakin had always wanted to travel the stars, particularly when he'd been Boba's age. Anakin always—Obi-Wan shut the thought down, he didn't want to think about Anakin yet. There were too many decisions that needed to be made, and he still needed to meditate and grieve.

He forced his attention back to Boba and smiled a little. "Certainly more than one or two, though I imagine you've visited a fair few for your age."

Boba actually paused, considering that, then nodded. "I suppose. Dad didn't let me go with him very often though."

"Did you have a favorite?"

Boba narrowed his eyes, as though Obi-Wan was trying to trick him somehow. "Why do you want to know?"

"Why not?" Obi-Wan asked, not completely sure what to think of the obvious suspicion over such a simple question, yet somehow finding it amusing nonetheless. "You're here and I'm here and apparently neither of us currently feel like discussing the schematics of the flagship. We could sit in silence, of course. Or you could continue on your way. But I have no plans on going anywhere for the moment."

Boba was still watching him with narrowed eyes. "Well then, what's your favorite planet?"

"Not Geonosis." Obi-Wan answered a little wryly. "Nor, I'm afraid, did Kamino make the list."

"There's nothing wrong with Kamino." Boba interrupted, and now he seemed offended.

"I didn't say there was. The rain, though, didn't quite agree with me."

"You did look a bit like a drowned Tooka." Boba agreed, and his smile was a little mischievous as he looked at Obi-Wan.

Obi-Wan laughed at that, remembering how he'd literally trailed water through half of the city, walking around with a soaked cloak. Taun We hadn’t thought to offer him a chance to dry. “You're probably right."

Boba's eyes went wide with delight. "You probably looked worse after buir made you fall into the ocean."

Obi-Wan snorted. "Then you should be grateful you had no opportunity to see such a sight." He rather thought it would ruin the boy's fun to discover that Obi-Wan had caught himself and hadn't fallen into the ocean. There was no need to do that, let Boba have his fun.

"Why'd you fight my buir, anyways?" Boba asked, and the question was strangely non-confrontational when coming from a boy who had been suspicious of Obi-Wan's reasons behind asking after his favorite planet to have visited.

Obi-Wan shrugged. "I hadn't intended to."

Boba looked dubious again, and that was probably fair. Even from what little Obi-Wan had known of Fett at the time, Obi-Wan could have reasonably assumed that things would devolve into a fight if Obi-Wan had gone after him.

"You never stood a chance, you know." Boba confided, his tone proud. "My buir's the best."

Obi-Wan had to hide a smile at that, and instead nodded. "I'll keep that in mind."

Boba nodded, satisfied. "You never did tell me which planet was your favorite."

"Neither did you." Obi-Wan pointed out. He wasn't quite in the right mindset to think of favorite planets. Wasn't really in the mindset to think of favorite anything. Geonosis where almost 200 Jedi had died, and for nothing. Naboo where Qui-Gon had died. Melida-Daan where Obi-Wan had lost count of the deaths he'd seen. Ansion where they'd only barely kept the planet from bursting into civil war and too many innocents had died before Obi-Wan and Anakin had helped bring things to a more peaceful solution. Any number of planets before then where things always seemed to balance on the precarious ledge of destruction.

How long had it been, since Obi-Wan had had a mission that had gone well? Without all the rampant destruction and death that came first, before a resolution could be found.

Too long. Obi-Wan realized a little disheartened.

Maybe Kamino was his favorite planet right now, at least no one had died while he was there. And wasn't that a sad standard.

He could always say Mandalore, it was even true, much of the time. But he thought that answer might go over poorly with Boba who would likely take it as a manipulative attempt from Obi-Wan to ingratiate himself to Boba and his father.

Boba was starting to look a little restless as the silence spread, but he didn't move on, instead he just sat there staring at Obi-Wan with an intensity that reminded Obi-Wan a little of the older Fett.

He wondered if that was a learned look, or if it was genetic. If it was learned, Obi-Wan hoped the clones hadn't picked it up as well. If it was genetic, well, Obi-Wan was just going to hope that it wasn't, because he was already starting to feel exhausted.

"Do you like being a Jedi?"

Obi-Wan felt something in his chest seize. What a time to ask that question, when Obi-Wan was feeling more doubt in his role then he'd felt since he'd been a padawan. "I've been one nearly my entire life."

"But do you like it?"

Obi-Wan shrugged. "Of course. There are days where it's more exhausting than other days. That's life. But it goes far deeper than that. I always knew that I was meant to be a Jedi."

Boba's face scrunched in disgust. "I'd hate to be a Jedi. Buir says—"

"Any number of things that should probably not be repeated." The older Fett's voice interrupted.

Obi-Wan startled internally, the man moved with surprising stealth—though in retrospect, it shouldn't be surprising—and Obi-Wan had to be careful that none of his surprise was visible as he tilted his head to look at the bounty hunter who had just turned the corner and was now leaning against the wall in what Obi-Wan was starting to suspect was a favorite position for the man. He'd taken a similar leaning position when he'd met with the few members of the Council.

"You have very understandable reasons for hating the Jedi." He commented, Force knew that the Jedi weren't perfect, and with the powers they had and the roles they'd been given their mistakes were often disastrous. And what had happened on Galidraan was far, far worse than just a mistake. It was near-unforgivable. "I doubt Boba could say anything I haven't heard before."

Fett shrugged, and he was staring at Obi-Wan with thoughtful eyes, and Obi-Wan thought it was a little strange that his helmet was missing. "Yes, but Boba knows better than to swear in front of respectable adults. That rather limits what he can say about the Jedi if he's repeating after me."

Obi-Wan snorted. "As Boba noted earlier, the first time he met me I looked like a drowned Tooka, hardly anything respectable about that." He pushed himself to his feet as smoothly as he could, hiding the grimace that wanted to escape as his body let him know that it was still in significant pain. His ribcage was pretty much a giant bruise right now. "Though I suppose I should thank you for your consideration of my very delicate sensibilities."

Fett's eyes trailed over him, a little narrowed, and there was something that might have been concern in them. "You don't seem particularly delicate to me." His eyes shifted for a moment to look at his son. “Me’vaar ti gar?”

“Kaysh mirsh’kyramud.” Boba said dryly, but then he grinned. “Nayc, nuhun. Naas.”

Obi-Wan carefully schooled his face to not show his desire to laugh at Boba's response. He didn't particularly want either Fett to realize that he spoke Mando'a.

Fett turned back to look at him. "The Jetii from my earlier meeting, they're your head council, yes?"

"Not the entire council, but yes, those were members of the High Council.”

Fett nodded. “If I needed to speak with a councillor, could you arrange that for me?"

"Do you need to speak with all of the council or would I suffice?" He couldn't help the disgruntlement he felt, still a little annoyed with the fact that he was now a Councillor. Obi-Wan was not meant for the Council Chambers, not with how often he skirted and bent the rules.

Perhaps he’d been too subtle in his rule breaking? Perhaps they’d gotten so used to Qui-Gon’s maverick ways that he’d simply flown under the radar. A thought for later, perhaps.

Fett paused. "You? You're a councilor?"

Obi-Wan didn’t quite manage to stop the grimace. He coughed, trying to mask it. “As of a few hours ago, yes. It was made official just before they brought you in to ask you questions, actually." Obi-Wan shrugged. "I understand though, if you would rather speak with someone with more seniority."

"Oh no." Fett stepped closer. "You're perfect. Preferred even."

Obi-Wan tried not to roll his eyes. Being new didn't necessarily translate to being foolish or naive, if that was what Fett was hoping.

His thoughts must have shown on his face because Fett laughed, a deep, warm sound that Obi-Wan thought he could feel. "No nefarious intentions. I appreciated your defense of the True Mandalorians."

Obi-Wan grimaced a little, looking away, young Boba was watching him, eyes sharp and curious. "What happened—." He shook his head. "I'm amazed you were willing to even consider Mace's request to work with us. You'd be well within your rights to want nothing to do with the Jedi, after what happened." He turned back to look at Fett. “As much as we could use your expertise. I do understand if you and your men are unwilling to work with us."

"I appreciate that." Fett tilted his head, stepping closer. "I spoke to most of the trainers when we fell out of hyperspace, however, and many of them are willing to consider contracts, once the Jedi and the Senate extend an official offer."

Obi-Wan's eyes widened in response, he'd hoped they would. But he hadn't honestly thought they would. The difference they could make going forward. The pitfalls they could help the Jedi avoid.

Oh, he was certain that the soldiers themselves were very well trained, especially if they'd been trained by Fett and his men. They were certainly more prepared than the Jedi. Which was just another sign that the Senate had lost their collective mind by deciding that the Jedi lead the army. Still, nothing to do about the idiocy of the Senate. The soldiers, however, were likely trained in simulation-type settings.

Fett and his people had actual experience. Knew how different a simulation was from real-world fighting, and the very real death that came with it.

Obi-Wan nodded. "I will let the rest of the council know." He eyed the hunter who was still moving slowly closer as though he was trying not to spook Obi-Wan with quick movements. It was not the same stalking he'd noted from Fett earlier, yet... Obi-Wan still felt like he was prey being circled by a predator. "And you?"

Fett shrugged one shoulder. "I'm willing, yes. But I'm picky about who I work with." Fett's smile was somehow sharp and warm at the same time, and his voice was soft and inviting. "I'd like to keep working with you, if I could."

The picky part came as no surprise, but Obi-Wan wasn't sure how to respond to the request, especially not with the way Fett was looking at him. There was too much warmth, too much... Obi-Wan didn't know what all of those emotions were. Wasn't sure he wanted to know. "Yes, well, thank you for letting me know that there is a willingness among your people.” The words felt strangely heavy in his mouth. “Admittedly, I’m not sure how much say I'll have in who works with who." He inclined his head a little. "As I said, I'll let the rest of the council know." With that, he turned to make a hasty retreat.

"Wait," Boba called out, "you still never said which planet was your favorite?"

Obi-Wan turned, slowing his steps but still moving backward and away from the two Fetts. "For today?" He answered. "I'll choose Bandomeer."

"What's on Bandomeer?" The boy asked immediately.

Obi-Wan just smiled. "Have a good day, Boba." He turned around and slid around the corner, letting out the smallest sigh of relief. He felt a little embarrassed at the way he'd retreated so quickly, but Obi-Wan was tired, exhausted really. And the presence of the older Fett meant he needed to be on guard when all Obi-Wan wanted was to find somewhere where he'd be able to relax, at least a little, and meditate. He frowned, rubbing a hand over his face.

Why would Fett want to keep working with him? Was it really as simple as he appreciated Obi-Wan's defense of the True Mandalorians earlier? Obi-Wan wished it was that easy, but something... He shook his head. He was tired. Now wasn't the time to think about the older Fett and the strangely confusing emotions he brought out in Obi-Wan, especially given how little he knew the man.

Obi-Wan pushed his thoughts away from the older Fett and back to his son. Obi-Wan sighed again. Bandomeer. Was that really the best Obi-Wan could come up with? It had simply been the first planet that occurred to him when Boba had re-asked the question.

But perhaps... Yes, perhaps it had been a fitting response. That was where Obi-Wan had received the gift of Qui-Gon's acceptance. It was where he'd finally achieved the role of padawan. Where he'd finally earned his place with the Jedi.

Especially now, when everything felt confusing, it was good to remember Bandomeer.

Obi-Wan had known all his life that he was meant to be a Jedi, and it was on Bandomeer that it had become a true reality. And if the path of a Jedi Knight was now taking him places that Obi-Wan had never expected it, or wanted it, to go, then he would turn to the Force and trust in it. The Force had provided a path then, and it would provide a path now.

Obi-Wan had to trust in that.

Everything was going to be just fine.

-_-

Jango watched as his Be'alor practically fled from his presence and clenched his jaw.

He'd almost forgotten, with just how well everything else had worked itself out, that his soul mate didn't know him, trust him, or want him.

The hasty retreat on his soul mate's part was a well-timed reminder.

He let out an angry breath.

"Do you know what's on Bandomeer, buir?"

Jango turned to Boba, and forced his frustration to dissipate. "I can't say I do, I know the planet has some affiliation with the Jedi." He frowned. "I think, at least." The galaxy was a big place, and despite how well-traveled Jango was, he didn't know all of it. He gave Boba a smile. "We can look into it, if you'd like."

Boba hummed. "I think I want to see what I can find myself." His son grinned. "And see what I can convince him to tell me."

"A good choice." Jango murmured, glancing again at where Obi-Wan had turned the corner. Maybe he'd pushed too fast? Obi-Wan had seemed to be doing fine with Jango's presence until Jango had suggested that Jango work with him.

Perhaps if he backed off a little? Slowed down.

But no, he wasn't going to let someone else be assigned to work with Obi-Wan, he wanted that position for himself. He'd provide alternate opportunities for his people to get to know their Be'alor.

And if he was going to work with Obi-Wan, he needed to get Obi-Wan to at least be a little less tense in his presence, which meant he needed to make a small push now. Their first few interactions had set an unfortunate precedent, and Jango needed to ease that before those experiences became a fixed correlation in Obi-Wan's mind when he thought of Jango.

He just needed to frame it in the right way, so that his soul mate didn't feel the need to make a run for it, the way he'd just done.

Jango sighed, he'd give Obi-Wan some time before tracking him down again. It would be even better if Obi-Wan came across Jango on his own. Or at least if Jango could make it seem like that was what had happened, just a lucky bit of circumstance. But that would be harder to arrange, and he only had so much time before they arrived on Coruscant.

-_-

Obi-Wan was starting to think it was going to be absolutely impossible to find another secluded corner of this ship. It had taken delicate maneuvering to get here without any of the soldiers spotting him. He had the strange feeling that if any of them did, there would be further attempts to herd him to the Medbay.

Which no. He just. He couldn't face the medbay, couldn't face the soldiers looking at him and calling him General, couldn't face the Jedi so injured they couldn't yet leave, couldn't face remembering all of those Jedi that hadn't made it.

His newest guest wasn't a soldier though. They also had the bonus of being preferable to Fett by a large margin. He pushed himself once again to his feet. "Senator." He looked her up and down, checking her over. But the medics had seemingly done an excellent job patching her up, her back was wrapped in bacta bandages, but otherwise she looked like she was doing well. "How are you feeling?"

Padme smiled. "Padme, Obi-Wan, please call me Padme."

Obi-Wan nodded. "Padme." He waited a moment, before repeating his question. "How are you feeling?"

Padme's smile trembled a little. "Understandably distraught, I believe. I never wanted the Republic to come to war."

Obi-Wan closed his eyes, feeling that same grief well up. "No, none of us did."

Padme's face twisted a little bitterly, and Obi-Wan knew it was a sign of trust that she was letting him see it. "If only that were true. There were too many people who seem to want this war." She shook her head. "But the matter of the war is not why I came to find you."

Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow in surprise. "I had not realized you were looking for me."

"I was, yes. Anakin was as well."

Obi-Wan didn't let his smile fade. "I wasn't aware Anakin was looking for me either." A partial truth. He'd rather suspected that Anakin would be looking for him, but he hadn't known for absolute certain.

Padme looked a little guilty. "I may have implied to Anakin that I believed they were going to make you return to the med bay in the hopes that I could find you alone. I believe he’s still waiting for you there."

Obi-Wan snorted. "He should know better than to think I'd let them do that."

"I believe he feels—" Padme hesitated, looking unsure. "Guilty. He believes that if he had been with you, you would not have gotten hurt." Padme looked away. "In truth, I feel guilty as well. If not for me, he would have been at your side, and we may have been able to catch Dooku, stop this war."

The thought was one that Obi-Wan had entertained as well. "For all of Anakin's talents, it's impossible to know that his presence would have made a difference." He paused. "And you are not to blame for Anakin's decisions."

"I encouraged him." Padme said quietly.

Obi-Wan frowned. "Encouraged him?"

Padme swallowed, and she looked grief-stricken. "I thought we were both going to die, I told him that I loved him. I didn't want him to die thinking that he was alone in that."

It took Obi-Wan a moment to parse through all of that. That Padme apparently loved his padawan. That Padme had first rejected Anakin's advances, if he was properly reading in between the lines. He wasn't quite sure what to say. "I see." He tried to smile. "There is nothing shameful in love, Padme. Not even for a Jedi."

Padme looked up, apparently surprised. "That's what Anakin said." She paused, and Obi-Wan could see that she was choosing her words carefully. "I said that our positions wouldn't allow it. He said that we could be together, that no one would have to know."

Obi-Wan flinched back. "That's—" He shook his head. That hadn't been what he'd meant at all. "I am so sorry that Anakin put you in that position. I hope you didn't misconstrue the intentions behind my words. Love, yes, is allowed. But a love without attachment." He shook his head, a little distressed at how poorly he had apparently taught his padawan. The sort of relationship Anakin had suggested… “You are right, that your positions would not allow for the two of you to be together. And what Anakin suggested to you was—"

"It would destroy us." Padme said quietly.

Obi-Wan nodded, grateful that she was capable of seeing that. "Yes, it would." He hesitated. "May I ask why you told me this?"

"I wasn't going to." She admitted. "But then the soldier in the medbay mentioned that you'd almost died, that Dooku had almost killed you. I realized what Anakin's choice could have led to. Maybe you are right, and that Anakin's presence would have made no difference. But it might have. Together you might have stopped the war. We'll never know." Padme looked down. "But Anakin chose me over his duty."

Obi-Wan stared at her for a long moment, and he could see the way the guilt weighed on her. "I'm sorry." He said quietly. "But you must know that his choices are not your fault."

Padme smiled a little sadly. "I know."

Obi-Wan recognized that sort of knowledge. Where the conceptual fact of a matter was not enough for the heart to accept that it was true.

There was something more, though. He could feel it. “Is there anything else you want to tell me?”

Padme glanced up at him, and there was conflict in her eyes. A moment later though, it was hidden, and her face was calm, empty. “No. Just that.”

Obi-Wan nodded, not completely surprised. “Of course.” He paused. “You will… not let him persuade you to change your mind again?”

The pain broke past her barriers. “I do love him, you know.” She looked away. “But no, Anakin and I…” the silence stretched on, and then she sighed. “No, I won’t change my mind. Anakin and I will be better apart.”

They stood in the empty hallway for a long moment, before Obi-Wan found himself pushed to offer her a little comfort. "You aren't alone." He said quietly. "To fall in love with someone can be a marvelous thing. But it can hurt bitterly as well."

Padme turned to him. "You?"

Obi-Wan laughed. "Astonishing, I know. But yes, I've fallen in love before. It was, difficult, to say goodbye. To choose not each other, but our respective duties."

"Do you still love them?"

"Oh yes, and at times there's a comfort in that. That I can love her and do my duty still. That I can love her and say goodbye." He shrugged a shoulder. "And sometimes it's not quite the comfort I wish it were."

Padme looked at him, and then a more genuine smile crossed her face. "Thank you. I imagine you do not tell people that often. I feel honored."

"You are welcome." He sighed. "Perhaps I've made a mistake, not telling Anakin. I hadn't realized that it was perhaps something he might need to hear." It had been so long ago, and the memories were precious, but somewhat faded things.

"He'll be pleased to hear that you are human." Padme giggled a little. "I'm not sure that he remembers that all the time. To hear him speak you're the greatest Jedi to ever live."

Obi-Wan snorted. "That isn't always a compliment, when Anakin's the one saying it." Anakin's view of the Jedi was... difficult. Sometimes he seemed to want to be the best Jedi to live, and then only a few moments later he'd be cursing the entirety of the Order.

"He looks up to you."

Obi-Wan sighed, a little weary. "I'm afraid it's not so much that he looks up at me as it is him believing that I look down on him." It was something he'd always tried to combat, always tried to reassure Anakin was untrue. And yet somehow, Obi-Wan couldn't quite erase Anakin's belief that he was being unfairly condemned and judged.

"It can be difficult, to be young and have our teachers see our mistakes, to see where we can still grow and improve, when we'd like to believe that we've learned it all." Padme reassured him quietly.

Obi-Wan smiled. "You are kind, Padme. And wise." He was going to need to speak to Anakin, he realized. Of course, he'd always known that. But he hadn't quite realized just how deeply this all went. But it wasn't too late. This was not something that he and Anakin would be unable to work past.

Now if Obi-Wan could just find the words that would reach his apprentice, that would let him hear Obi-Wan.

-_-

Jango wasn't a fan of being stuck on the flagship with so many Jetii, it left him longing to grab his blasters and a few thermal detonators and cause chaos.

And wasn't that quite the downside to his current plan, he'd have to play nice with Jetii for a long while.

Given that, it was a mixed blessing and curse that the trip from Geonosis to Coruscant was as long as it was.

He gave Obi-Wan almost two days before he tracked the man down again. It was a surprisingly difficult feat, given that there wasn't a single soldier on board who wasn't keeping an eye out for their Be'alor, but still, eventually Jango found Obi-Wan, tucked away in some obscure corner with the Jetii that had led Jango's interrogation.

The lead Jetii looked up almost as soon as Jango came across them, eyes narrowed and shoulders stiff. ”Fett."

Someone didn’t like Jango very much, Jango noted a little amused.

Jango tilted his head in acknowledgment.

Obi-Wan looked up a second later, eyes running over Jango.

It had been a calculated and difficult decision, to wander around without his armor. He hadn’t wanted to. But Ruusaan had suggested that he give it a try. Hopefully it would help Obi-Wan feel like Jango was safer, more approachable. Though, he also hoped that Obi-Wan was probably smart enough to realize that Jango could be a threat in or out of his armor.

That was frustratingly conflicting.

Still, Jango would help his soul mate acclimatize himself with the armor as they went. Jango was allowed to take his time.

The Jetii said something quietly, and Obi-Wan's brows furrowed before the Jetii stood.

"Think about it, Obi-Wan. Let me know what you decide."

Obi-Wan nodded. "Of course, Mace."

The Jetii—Mace, Obi-Wan had called him—nodded to Jango as he passed him, and Jango got a strong sense of dislike from the other man, like the Jetii wished they could take their saber and put it back at Jango's throat.

Obi-Wan stood as well, hand resting on the wall for a moment as though trying to support his weight, but a moment later he straightened fully.

He stepped forward as though he intended to move past Jango.

Jango moved smoothly to the side. "I was hoping to have a word with you?"

His soul mate hesitated, but then he nodded. "Of course."

Jango smiled at Obi-Wan, letting his own eyes run over Obi-Wan appraisingly. The man still looked tired, and the way he moved showed signs of still being stiff and sore. Jango really did need to get him back to a medic.

"I think we got off on a bit of the wrong foot."

Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow. "Oh?" A hint of a smile seemed to be fighting to appear. "You don't normally engage in fights in the rain with your new colleagues?"

Jango shrugged. "That actually happens more often than you might think." That was true. He and Bane had almost killed each other before they'd managed to work together, and the same went for Wesell, though, given she was dead, and at Jango's hand no less, that was probably not the best example. "But if we're going to work together,” and Jango was going to fully act as thought that’s exactly how things were going to go, “it would be best if we could work past this... unease."

"If you're uneasy with my presence—" Obi-Wan started.

"It wasn't my unease I'm concerned with." Jango stepped closer, and he could practically see Obi-Wan trying to decide if he should move away—and prove Jango's point—or let Jango stand so close.

Obi-Wan tilted his head back a little, exposing the lines of his neck—and he really had no right to be quite so distracting—giving Jango a challenging smile. "In that case, I'm not sure I know what you're talking about."

"Then you wouldn't mind getting lunch with me, once we get to Coruscant." Jango said smoothly. "So that we can get to know one another better before we start working together."

Obi-Wan paused. "Did you have somewhere specific in mind?"

Not quite an agreement, Jango noted. Probably trying to gauge Jango's intentions still.

"There's a nice little diner in CoCo town." Dex's diner wasn't what Jango would call romantic, certainly not the sort of place he would want to take his soul mate for their first outing together.

Obi-Wan seemed to relax a little, hopefully recognizing that CoCo town was a perfect mix of almost safe, almost shady, the exact sort of place that Jango might meet with a source or a fellow hunter. Professional, well, at least it was professional given Jango’s profession.

Professional was not his preferred place to start, but in Obi-Wan's wary state, professional was probably where Jango needed to start them.

Jango would have to speak to Dex before their lunch though. While Dex didn't have the same issues with Jetii as Jango, he knew Dex still wasn't fond of Jetii, and for good reason.

"That would be amenable." Obi-Wan smiled, and if it wasn't entirely sincere, Jango didn't think it wasn't completely fake either. It was somewhere to start. "And I suppose I do owe you lunch, given you saved my life back on Geonosis."

"I hardly saved your life." Jango said, smiling a little. "At least not alone." He qualified, and he wondered just how far he'd be able to push Obi-Wan, with that so fresh on his mind. "Speaking of—"

Jango could tell Obi-Wan was trying not to look wary, but he didn't quite manage to hide that wariness. "Yes?"

"I noticed earlier that you still seemed injured." Jango said. "You were in bad shape after Geonosis, and I know better than most what you went through during that time." Obi-Wan looked exasperated. "I would hate to have saved your life only for your injuries to get you killed later on."

"I hardly think—"

"And if I can be frank," Jango interrupted, "the men are strong-willed and level-headed, but it's quite likely they'll look up to you and the others as role models. I don't want them thinking that it's wise to avoid the medbay when injured. And if that's the example you start setting for them, especially right after they met you, well..."

Obi-Wan immediately looked conflicted clearly following Jango's implication and imagining the repercussion of men not getting their injuries properly looked at because they were following Obi-Wan’s example. Jango could already tell that he would be getting his way, at least this time.

He didn't need to tell Obi-Wan that the vod'e knew better than to ever let an injury go un-checked and uncared for. Obi-Wan would figure that much out in time, and for now, Obi-Wan's worry for the clones well-being served Jango well.

"I suppose you're right." Obi-Wan sounded tired.

“Don’t worry.” Jango said, not bothering to hide his smile. “You’ll get used to it.”

Chapter Text

“If you’re going to sit there,” Obi-Wan started, keeping his eyes closed, “you might as well try and meditate.”

Beside him Anakin huffed, poking at Obi-Wan through the Force in the most deliberate, annoying way he knew how. “You know I don’t like to meditate.”

Obi-Wan didn’t open his eyes. His padawan was nearly 20 now, and if he wanted to get Obi-Wan’s attention he could ask for it instead of deliberately trying to mess with Obi-Wan’s meditation. “So you’ve said.” Nearly every day since Anakin was 10.

For a second, Obi-Wan thought that Anakin might actually try and meditate anyways, he could feel Anakin sinking into the Force. But it lasted no more than a handful of seconds before Anakin was huffing again. Shifting back and forth, nudging at Obi-Wan both physically and through the Force.

Obi-Wan took in a deep breath before cracking one eye open to look at his padawan.

Anakin winced, but smiled a little sheepishly, eyes pleading. Obi-Wan considered him for a long moment. “How about you go make us both some tea.”

Anakin sighed in relief, jumping to his feet and hurrying to the kitchen.

Obi-Wan held in his own sigh, it was always a sign that things were bad when Anakin was eager to help with things like tea. But that was for later, for now he shifted back into a shallow meditative state. The Force was far from calm; Obi-Wan could feel himself drifting along turbulent waves and eddies, but he let the Force carry him where it would.

His thoughts drifted from Anakin, to Fett, to the brewing war, to Anakin, to the clones, to the Jedi, to Anakin, to Quinlan, to Fett, to the Senate, to his new role on the Council, to Satine—he paused, surprised. Most of the things the Force had brought forward for him to consider were unsurprising. Anakin, of course, was always forefront of his mind. The war and everything that went with it, Fett, the clones, the Senate, were equally unsurprising.

But Satine.

It had been a long time since his thoughts had had cause to shift towards her, at least in circumstances such as this.

Perhaps it was merely the fact that his conversation with Padme nearly a week ago had brought Satine to the forefront of Obi-Wan’s mind. But that didn’t feel right. There was something more, something he—

The scent of the red moorian tea he preferred caught his attention and he carefully shelved his thoughts about Satine to the side for later as he pushed himself to his feet.

Anakin was waiting on the edge of the kitchen, two cups of tea in hand.

Obi-Wan took his cup and moved to the table, taking a seat. He looked up at Anakin, raising an eyebrow, and his padawan took a seat across from him.

This talk was long overdue, but the first few days of their return had seen Anakin in the halls of healing to get his arm looked at and a new mechanical hand in place. During that time they’d fallen back into an uneasy version of their normal, but…

“I suppose it’s time we talk,” Obi-Wan started. Anakin nodded, and Obi-Wan could clearly see he was nervous. “Would you like to start?” Obi-Wan suggested. He hoped, though perhaps foolishly, that Anakin would take the opportunity to be honest with him.

Anakin bit his lip, looking up at him through lowered eyes. “What did you tell the Council?” He asked. “About what happened on the gunship.”

Obi-Wan tried not to feel disappointed, but it was hard to feel like Anakin cared about anything other than his possible punishment. “There wasn’t much need to tell them anything.” He said finally. “The gunships all come with recordings, and there were several others who’d already reported our actions.”

“Oh.” Anakin scowled down at his tea.

“Yes.” Obi-Wan said quietly, as he took his own sip of tea. Anakin hadn’t left it to steep quite as long as Obi-Wan liked, too impatient to get to this conversation that he now seemed to be unsure he actually wanted to have.

Obi-Wan considered, briefly, all of the different ways he could lead this conversation. Lectures never seemed to do anything. And Anakin… Anakin was still sure he’d made the choice he should have and when he was that sure of something he refused to listen, so sure that no one understood or could possibly know better. If Obi-Wan was going to get through to him he’d have to shock him. “Did I ever tell you about my mission to Mandalore?” He asked.

Anakin looked up, confused, clearly not expecting this to be the direction the conversation went in. “What?”

“My mission to Mandalore, when I was only a little younger than you are now. Did I ever tell you about it?”

Anakin shook his head.

Obi-Wan nodded, taking another sip of tea. “It was supposed to be a short mission, a month at most. We were supposed to be presiding over elections, but Mandalore doesn’t really do elections, that’s not how their leaders are chosen, and as you can imagine, many Mandalorians took poorly to the attempt to change their ways. Qui-Gon and I ended up on the run with the Duchess for a year.” Anakin only looked confused, clearly trying to determine what this had to do with their current situation. “The Duchess was a few years older than me.” Obi-Wan continued. “And was the most frustratingly obstinate person I had ever met—and I knew both Qui-Gon and Quinlan quite well—it was perhaps no surprise that I fell hopelessly in love with her.”

Anakin’s head whipped up to look up at him fast enough that his padawan was likely going to give himself whiplash; the tea cup shattered in the grip of Anakin’s new mechanical hand. Obi-Wan made a note that he and Anakin would need to work through all of the basic katas again to help him get used to the new addition. “You— love— are you— wait—” Anakin continued spluttering.

Giving Anakin time to stop sputtering and actually gather his thoughts, Obi-Wan stood, moving for the broom and a wash cloth as he moved to start cleaning up the mess Anakin had just made, sweeping up the shattered porcelain before washing away the tea. And really, that was just a waste of good red moorian tea.

“Is this a joke?” Anakin finally decided on, as Obi-Wan dumped the broken shards of the cup into the trash.

Obi-Wan raised a single eyebrow. “Is it really so impossible to think that your old Master is capable of human emotions?”

“Yes!”

Obi-Wan sighed, ignoring the stab of pain at Anakin’s answer, as he sat down again, interlacing his fingers as he settled his hands on the table.

“I loved her.” Obi-Wan repeated. “And by some miracle she loved me, as well.” He breathed deeply. “If she had asked, I would have left the Order to be with her.”

Anakin’s face seemed to shift between a dozen different emotions, shock and confusion being the primary ones. “But she didn’t.”

“She didn’t.” Obi-Wan agreed. “There are many reasons for that, some good, some less so, and many simply what they are. Relationships are complicated at the best of times, and once you start adding in things like my vows to the Jedi and her duty to her people they only become more so.”

Anakin was nodding, but he still looked confused. “Why didn’t you just…”

Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow, waiting patiently for Anakin to finish the question.

Anakin let out a breath. “Why didn’t you just have both? You could have done it.”

Obi-Wan was unsurprised by the question, what Padme had told him had made it clear that that was exactly what Anakin would have tried to do.

“Could I have?” Obi-Wan looked down at his own cup of tea. “Or would I have ruined both love and duty?” He gave Anakin a considering look. “I love Satine, even now. That has not changed, nor do I suspect will it. We are still good friends, but to pursue a relationship, given our stations in life, would not have been possible without one of us sacrificing that same station.” Obi-Wan sighed. “But I’m not going to get into the different decisions we might have made.”

Anakin shrugged, and he was looking uncomfortable now. “Why’d you bring it up in the first place?”

Obi-Wan hid a quiet scoff behind taking another sip of tea. “Come now, Anakin. Neither of us is so tired that we don’t know the answer to that.”

Anakin glanced up at him, gaze darting up at him and then back down to look at his mechanical hand. “I don’t know.”

Obi-Wan felt the disappointment weight heavier. “She talked to me, Anakin.”

Anakin pursed his lips, a stir of anger in the air. “Fine. So this is about Padme.”

“You and Padme.” Obi-Wan corrected. “There is nothing wrong with loving her, Anakin. There is nothing wrong, inherently, with having a relationship with her. You know—” or should know at the least, Obi-Wan thought, a little tiredly, “—that there are many within the order who have relationships.” The shocked look Anakin gave him reminded Obi-Wan that Anakin sometimes seemed completely oblivious to anything that didn’t fit into his view of life, it was somewhat ironic that, having wanted to pursue a relationship with someone, he was so intent on ignoring others’ own relationships. “But they are all built off of the understanding the duty come first…”

Something flickered across Anakin’s face. “That’s not really love.”

“Isn’t it?” Obi-Wan asked quietly.

“No.” Anakin paused, looking unsure. “Love’s supposed to…”

“Conquer all?” Obi-Wan suggested, and he kept his voice gentle. “Be unstoppable, be consuming, be everything.”

Anakin nodded. “Yeah.”

“If that’s what you want,” Obi-Wan continued, “then you are free to pursue a relationship where you can put your love before all, but you can’t be a Jedi if you do.” Anakin looked offended, and Obi-Wan continued before Anakin could argue. “Because when you make the vows to be a Jedi, you swear an oath, to yourself, to the Force, and to the people we’re meant to protect, that you will put nothing before doing your duty. That your own personal self is less important than protecting others.”

“But I want…” Anakin trailed off. “I want to be a Jedi.”

Obi-Wan nodded. “I know, yet you want a relationship you can devote everything to, as well.” He gave Anakin a sad smile. “So you must do what Satine and I did. You have to choose one.”

“That’s not fair.”

Obi-Wan sighed, but some part of him wanted to laugh. “Nothing in life is, Anakin.”

Anakin made a face. “Whatever.”

Again, Obi-Wan wanted to sigh in exasperation, but he held it back. Anakin would think about what Obi-Wan had said, or he wouldn’t, but that was Anakin’s choice. It was time to move on.“But, since you’ve shown some concern over what the repercussions of your choices on Geonosis will be, let me address that.” He paused, watching Anakin for a long moment. “You’re not being punished for your choices on Geonosis, but nor will you be rewarded for them.”

Anakin’s eyes widened, looking relieved but confused. “What do you mean?”

Obi-Wan pursed his lips. He had deliberated for quite some time over whether he should tell Anakin that the Council had—until they’d gone over Anakin’s choices on Geonosis—considered Knighting him. “You won’t be Knighted.” He said finally. “There had been discussion, before Geonosis happened, that you were ready.”

“I am ready!” Anakin protested.

Obi-Wan looked down at the table. “Anakin, you put your own feelings over that of our mission. You’ve told me time and again that your senses are stronger and more attuned than mine, yet even I could see that, while startled, Padme wasn’t hurt, nor was she in danger. It was your own feelings that pushed you to jump from the gunship.”

Anakin flinched. “If I’d realized you were hurt…”

“It shouldn’t have been about me.” Obi-Wan said. “It should have been about stopping the war.” He looked down. “But yes, I can acknowledge that my own feelings were hurt by your decision to abandon me, even after I told you that I couldn’t take Dooku on my own. That you chose to consign me to die. But those are my own feelings and I’m working through them.”

Anakin looked like Obi-Wan had hit him. “Never. I’d never… Not you Master, I can’t… I won’t…”

Obi-Wan sighed, because that was yet another conversation that needed to happen. “We all die, some time, Anakin. You won’t be able to stop it.”

“No. You’re not…”

“We’re at war, now, Anakin.” Obi-Wan said quietly. “My chances of dying, just like all of us involved in this war, have just gone up. It’s something we’ll all have to come to terms with.”

“I won’t let you die,” Anakin snapped.

Obi-Wan gave Anakin a firm look, and Anakin looked down, a little abashed. “I’ll certainly be doing my best not to die, but Anakin—”

“I know, I know.”

Obi-Wan wasn’t sure he did, but he could see the stubborn clench of Anakin’s jaw that meant he’d stopped really listening. “I wanted you to know that I understand, Anakin. The choice you have now is an important one, and I will love and support you whether you choose to stay a Jedi or leave to try and have the sort of relationship you want to find. But I also want you to know what you face if you stay. You’ll stay my padawan, for now, until the time comes when you are ready to be Knighted.”

Anakin nodded, but he looked tired. “Can we be done with this conversation now?”

Obi-Wan considered that, there was more that needed to be said, but Anakin wouldn’t really listen to any of it if Obi-Wan continued. “We can be done, but Anakin, you need to meditate.”

Anakin made a face. “Ugh.” Obi-Wan gave him a stern look and Anakin threw his hands up. “Fine, fine, I’ll go meditate.”

Obi-Wan sighed, and watched as Anakin left, a stir of anger trailing behind him. In some ways that had gone better than he’d thought… in others… well, hopefully something Obi-Wan had said had made it through to Anakin.

-_-

The Senate’s war subcommittee was terribly understaffed, Jango noted. As though, for all that the Republic had been blustering about war, none of them had truly expected it to happen.

Stupid, Jango thought, to threaten something they were not prepared to follow through on.

They were waiting for the Chancellor, a development that had genuinely taken Jango by surprise. He had not expected that the Chancellor would get personally involved in something as simple as contracts. Of course, the Chancellor was late, leaving Jango to stand before the subcommittee, trying to be on his best behavior. He was wearing his armor, though his helmet remained beneath his arm—he’d apparently been making some of the Senators feel uncomfortable, and Jango was trying to create a contract. That unfortunately also meant he had chosen to bring no weapons.

Not that Jango would need weapons if he decided he wanted to get rid of this subcommittee, even with the different guards that were settled at the entrances of the room, there wasn’t exactly anyone that would be a true threat to Jango.

Especially since Ruusaan and Cort were standing just behind him, acting as escorts. The three of them could probably rip this place to pieces with their bare hands.

The door opened and a pair of guards stepped through, examining the room before the Chancellor was gestured in.

Behind him came two of the Jetii. Since his last meeting with the Jedi, Jango had set some of his people to gathering together dossiers of each of the Jetii, particularly those on the council, to see what they were dealing with. He eyed the two that had entered, Windu and Yoda.

The heads of the Order. Windu held the current title, from what Jango had read, but it was Yoda who had been guiding the Order for literal centuries. It was difficult to get true reports of the inner-goings of the Temple, but there was still enough for Jango to start making plans.

Centuries at the head of the Order meant that Yoda would have instilled a deep trust in the rest of the Jedi… that was a strength and a weakness both, and one that Jango thought he would be able to use to his own benefit. Trust that deep… well, it would hurt when that trust shattered.

The Chancellor went around the room, greeting everyone and Jango kept half an eye on him as he continued to watch the Jedi. Windu was looking at him, and while the Jedi wouldn’t be so unprofessional as to actually glare at Jango, Jango could still see the flint in Windu’s eyes as he looked at Jango.

Jango smiled at him, a slow, lazy smile with just a hint of sharpness.

Finally, the Chancellor finished his rounds around the room—avoiding Jango at the front, a small slight, but one that Jango was unsurprised by—and Jango watched as he and the others all took their seats.

One of the Senators stepped forward, a tall, serious man, who had been watching Jango with keen eyes, Bail Organa if Jango’s intel was right. “This meeting over the hiring of advisors for the war effort, in accordance to the advice given to us by the Jedi Council in their roles of High Generals, is called into session. Master Mace Windu, head of the Jedi Order, and Jango Fett—” the man glanced down at the data file he’d been given, “—given the title Mand’alor by the group known as the True Mandalorians are here to present their case.”

There was a slight stir at that. Jango couldn’t quite blame them. He knew what game he was playing and it still felt odd to have anyone state that he was working with a Jedi. Anyone who knew anything about the history between the True Mandalorians and the Jedi should be shocked.

“We already have the Jedi!” Someone spoke immediately, as soon as Organa had sat down. “Why should we need anything else?”

Someone else spoke up, near in unison. “Are the Jedi admitting that they are not up to the task?”

Jetii Windu stirred just slightly. “The Jedi have taken up the roles of General due entirely to the nearly unanimous demands of the Senate. Should the Senate feel that we are not equipped, then we shall, of course, stand down.” Jango noted that the Jetii’s eyes were sharp as he took in the subcommittee. “But likewise, should you give us this role, then you should allow us to take it up as we see fit.”

Jango heard someone scoff. “And give you free reign? I think not.” The words were clearly not meant to be part of the conversation, but it was clear they’d been heard.

“If you do not trust us to perform the task you’ve given us—” Jetii Windu continued, voice mild.

“Master Windu,” the Chancellor’s voice was soft. “Senator Misbrak misspoke. The Republic is in grave peril with this Separatist threat, and we trust the Jedi to help see us through.”

The tension in the room increased slightly and Jango let his eyes flicker across the different Senators. Senator Misbrak had tensed at being called out, but nodded grudgingly.

“Yes.” The first Senator agreed, returning to their first protest. “We trust the Jedi to manage this war. So why should we pay a group of mercenaries to do what we already have the Jedi to do.”

Eyes flickered between Jango and the Jetii and Jango stepped forward. “While the Jedi are capable, there are still a limited number of them, and many of those are young and new to war. They would be one of your more valuable assets,” the words felt bitter on his tongue, “and it would be prudent to give them as much aid and protection as possible. The soldiers are capable and have been well trained, but there is an adjustment period to such things.”

“And you’re prepared?”

Jango let his smile grow a little sharp. “I’m Mandalorian. Some might say that’s answer enough.”

The air seemed to tense at that as people remembered what that meant. The current Duchess might promote pacifism, but people remembered what it meant to face a Mandalorian.

Jango continued. “When I was hired to work with the soldiers, I was told to prepare the men to defend the Republic—”

“Speaking of,” someone interrupted, “you did not find it suspicious the lack of involvement with the Republic? What right do you have to even stand before us?”

“Should I have expected to see the Republic warmongering?” Jango deflected. “The Kaminoans had records that satisfied me and my experts to the veracity of their claim that we’d been hired by the Republic.” And Jango still wanted to know how Dooku had managed that. “We presumed the silence from the Republic was because to have declared the presence of an army would have called for war.”

The Senator glared at him, and Jango was sure he’d have plenty of questions aimed at his role as progenitor to an army brought into question plenty for the next while.

Jango smiled back at the bristling Senator. He wasn’t a politician, but he wasn’t Mand’alor simply because he could shoot a blaster. He was more than prepared to get these Senators to see things his way.

His glance took in the Senators and Jetii in the room again, and he prepared himself for a long, drawn out discussion.

For a second his gaze met that of the Chancellor’s.

The short glance seemed to extend beyond the moment, and then the Chancellor gave him a small nod. An ally, Jango realized. At least for now.

How interesting.

-_-

His thoughts were on Satine again, Obi-Wan noted as he began scrolling through the holo-news to see how the news of the war was being taken throughout the galaxy. It was understandable, of course, that his mind would go to her, the conversation earlier with Anakin about Satine had been… well, it had been necessary, but it had dredged up many memories.

But still, the thought that there was more to the way his thoughts turned constantly to her plagued him. That there was something essential that he was overlooking.

He wondered what Satine would think about the direction the galaxy was headed in. Mandalore, for all that it had it’s ties to the Republic, was not actually a member of the Republic.

With any luck they would be able to be spared most of the death and destruction that the Republic was currently on a collision course with. He knew, without a doubt, that if Satine had any say in the situation that Mandalore wouldn’t get involved at all.

He could recall, with a fond exasperation, the many, many lectures Satine had given him during their year on the run, about the inherent fallacy of peacekeepers who chose to fight. Obi-Wan had always quietly pointed out that, without him and Qui-Gon there to fight for and defend her, that her dreams of peace were impossible. It was a point that Satine couldn’t dismiss, but neither was it an argument she was willing to concede.

He hoped, for her sake, that she was able to keep Mandalore out of what was to come.

A small article proclaiming that the Senate was in talks to bring in advisors for the Jedi caught his attention. The article didn’t name the advisors, but they had to be talking about Fett and his—

Oh.

The True Mandalorians. Led by the one they called Mand’alor.

Did Satine know? Did she know that Fett was alive? That he was in discussions about allying with the Republic?

Obi-Wan had thought the man was dead, had been given that impression by both those of Death Watch he’d run into (and run from), and from Satine and her party.

Had anyone from Mandalore known about Fett’s continued existence? Or had they truly convinced themselves of his death?

He was aware that Satine would… prefer to consider that Fett wasn’t Mandalorian at all. And during the time that the True Mandalorians had disappeared from public view, that had been an easy enough idea to propagate.

Especially when the Senate and the Republic had been in support of New Mandalore and it’s goals.

But that had been a Republic at peace, and a peaceful Mandalore had been something they would want. Would they continue to want a peaceful Mandalore, though, when the Republic was at war?

Obi-Wan dropped the datapad on the desk, running his hand through his hair as he considered everything he knew—and he didn’t know enough, not yet—as he tried to determine the fallout.

It didn’t take long to come to one dismal prediction.

Satine was in danger, the peace she’d worked so hard to build was in danger.

Jango Fett was far more dangerous to Satine than even Death Watch was. Not necessarily because he thought Fett would kill her—and Obi-Wan felt his heart ache at the thought of her dying—but he could overthrow her. Because Fett’s presence would speak to the deeply traditional elements still within the Mandalorian culture, and his willingness to join the fight—where Satine would not—would buy him the support of the Republic and that of more traditional Mandalore.

It had been the Republic’s support that had helped Satine win Mandalore in the wake of the many civil wars. Not that Obi-Wan would deride the charisma and passion of Satine, nor Mandalore’s willingness to hear a new message of peace, because those had undoubtedly played a part as well.

But would Mandalore stick to that determination of pacifism? Or would the call to fight, one that Mandalorians had answered for centuries, win out?

If Mandalore fell to Civil War again, who would win this time?

He stood, striding quickly to his room. He searched through the top drawer of his desk for the little-used comm her knew was there. There was only one comm id plugged in, and he sent out a plea to the Force that Satine had kept her own comm, a matching set of unused comms.

He waited impatiently for the comm call to go through. After a long moment where Obi-Wan thought that perhaps Satine had gotten rid of the comm, the message went through, and Satine appeared before him. Her long blonde hair was a messy tumble around her shoulders and he could see that she was wearing her night shift.

He felt a moment of embarrassment; he hadn’t thought to check at what point in the day’s rotation Mandalore would be right now, but clearly he’d woken Satine up.

“Ob’ika”

“Satine.” His voice choked a little at the name slipping from his lips.

“Is something wrong?” She asked, and her eyes were wide and so very concerned. Obi-Wan couldn’t help the swell of love he felt for her. It’d been years since they’d last truly talked, but here it was, the middle of her night cycle, and Satine answered an unused comm, her only thoughts concern for him.

“You’ve heard about the war?”

Satine’s brow furrowed. “Yes. But you know Mandalore will not get involved.” The look she gave him was sharp. “Or at least you should know that.”

“I do.” He admittedly wasn’t sure what he thought of it, but he didn’t know what he thought of so much of this war, other than the fact that it filled him with deep dread. The Republic, no the entire galaxy would not be the same. But he did not yet know whether that would be for better or worse. “I did not know, however, if you were aware of who the Republic has found to advise the Jedi in leading the war.”

“The Jedi shouldn’t be—”

“It is the Senate’s decision, Sat’ika.” Obi-Wan interrupted. “The Jedi are under the purview of the Senate for reasons you well know.” She had agreed with those reasons, had said she thought it prudent that the Jedi be kept in check. But then at the time, that had suited Satine’s purposes well. “I did not call in order for you to regale me with the many missteps you are sure I am making.”

Satine sighed. “I know.” Her shoulders slumped a little. “But surely you know this is wrong.”

He did. And yet at the same time he didn’t. He did not want to go to war. He did not want to lead in war. But these men, property of the Republic—and the thought made him sick—needed protection, and Obi-Wan could not, would not, abandon them. Nor could he abandon the Republic.

There were no good options. Obi-Wan could only do what he could.

“Jango Fett is alive, Satine.” He said.

Satine froze, and even in the blue tint of the holo he could see her eyes flickering through the same thoughts that Obi-Wan had just gone through.

“He is no Mandalorian.”

“You say that.” Obi-Wan said, and Satine could clearly hear what he wasn’t saying as well. That just because Satine said something, didn’t make it so.

For just a moment, Obi-Wan could see Satine’s doubts. “How certain are you, that it is really Fett?”

“As certain as I can be.” Obi-Wan had never met Fett before now, so he couldn’t verify it beyond a doubt. But still, the knowledge felt right in his gut. “And as for how I know he’s alive, Fett is currently in discussion with the Republic to work as advisors to the Jedi. He, and many of his people.” Through the comm Obi-Wan met Satine’s eyes, he was grateful that this information was not sensitive or secure information, it was not being widely broadcast at the moment, no, but Obi-Wan was not breaking his own oaths to speak of it. “There are still those who follow him, and they call themselves Mandalorian.”

“Scoundrels. Hunters. No one reputable.” Satine argued. “Mandalore won’t follow him.”

Obi-Wan bowed his head. “I wouldn’t know, Satine. But I thought you should be aware, that you should begin to prepare.”

Just in case.

Perhaps Obi-Wan was wrong, and Fett had no interest in Mandalore.

Obi-Wan just didn’t think he was.

“Thank you, dear heart.” Satine whispered. “For the warning.”

Obi-Wan smiled at her. “Always.”

They stood there, both silent, as they took in the image of the other.

She was still the most beautiful woman he had ever known. Not just physically, but her very soul was beautiful.

“I must go.” Obi-Wan said quietly.

Satine smiled at him, and there was something sad in her eyes. “Always in a hurry, Ob’ika.”

“I’m sorry I woke you.”

“The sight of you is well worth a little missed sleep.” Satine said, voice quiet but sincere.

They did not say they loved each other. Those were words that wouldn’t pass either of their lips, not now, not with the choices they’d both made. But as Obi-Wan ended the comm he thought that some words didn’t need to be spoken at all.

-_-

“Boba.” Jango knocked impatiently on the door to his son’s small room. “Did you want to come or not?”

The door slid open to reveal a bleary-eyed Boba. His son blinked up at him slowly. “What?”

Jango couldn’t quite help the way his lips tugged up into a smile at the sight of his kid, as Boba rubbed at his eyes. “You said yesterday that you wanted to come to the first part of lunch.”

“Lunch?”

“Did you just wake up?” Jango glanced at his chrono, it was nearly noon and his son, while not an early riser, did not normally sleep the day away.

Boba yawned. “I was up late. Researching.”

“Researching.” Jango repeated. “What were you researching?”

Boba nodded, and he was starting to look more awake. “Bandomeer and it’s relation to the Jedi Order.” Boba made a face at the last few words. “It’s primarily a mining planet. But did you know the Jedi have a subdivision of the Jedi Order called the Agricorps there? It’s actually one of their newer outposts, only been there 50 years.” Boba yawned again.

“I didn’t know that.” Bandomeer, that had been the planet that Obi-Wan had said was his favorite, wasn’t it? “Figured out why Obi-Wan likes it?”

Boba furrowed his brow. “I’ve got suspicions. I’m trying to hack into the agricorps database, but it’s got the same security system as the rest of the Order’s things, as far as I can tell.”

Jango raised an eyebrow, a little impressed. His kid really was a talented one. He’d be far better than Jango ever could be. “Any progress?”

Boba shook his head, looking a little disappointed. “I might get Ruz to help me, he’s good at this sort of thing.”

Ruz was, he also had a weak spot for Boba. Ruz and his wife had spoken of adopting several times throughout the years, but for reasons Jango didn’t know, had never gone through with it. But Ruz’s weak spot for kids was well known, and Boba was shameless about taking advantage of it.

“Well, keep me updated.” He gave Boba another look. “Are you going to come with to lunch, or going to stay here?”

“What are we doing for lunch.” Boba asked as he yawned again.

Jango rolled his eyes. “We’re meeting Obi-Wan at Dex’s.”

Boba’s eyes lit up, already moving back into his room. “That’s today!? I forgot. Let me get ready.”

“You’re not staying for the whole thing!” Jango called after him. “Ruusaan has invited herself along and you’re going to stick to her.”

“But Dad!

“No, Boba. I want to spend some time with my soul mate, alone.”

A moment later Boba was back, pulling a cleaner tunic over his head. “But he’s going to be part of the family. He’ll be aliit! Shouldn’t I get to know him too?”

Jango rolled his eyes. “You will. Just not today.”

-_-

“Are you sure this is a good idea, Obi-Wan?”

Obi-Wan jerked back, Mace’s blade missing his arm by a hair’s breadth. They were nearing the end of their spar, and he was starting to tire. “Of course I’m not.” He deflected the next three slashes from Mace’s blade before spinning back and getting a little bit of space. “But I’m still doing it.”

Mace huffed, and Obi-Wan watched his friend eye Obi-Wan’s stance critically, looking for weaknesses. “But lunch with Fett, how did you let that happen?”

Obi-Wan opened his mouth, knowing that Mace would use the second he seemed distracted as the opportunity to strike. Sure enough, Mace jumped forward and Obi-Wan ducked, sliding his own blade low under Mace’s guard and forcing him to twist out of the way.

“He asked.” He swung his lightsaber back, beckoning for Mace to come at him with a teasing gesture.

Mace rolled his eyes, but attacked. “And you agreed.”

“He seemed rather insistent.” Obi-Wan acknowledged, as he let Mace push him back steadily, on the defense but never out of control. “But we’ve had this conversation. He wants to be assigned to work with me, you and I think that’s a bad idea, the majority don’t see a problem with it.” He twisted, bringing his saber up. Mace hissed a little, barely catching Obi-Wan’s saber in time. “And you won’t distract me with this.”

Mace snorted. “I would never.” The smile he sent Obi-Wan was sharp and dangerous and Obi-Wan knew that whatever came next would absolutely be a distraction. “I just think that Fett wants to get you in his bed and I don’t think you should make it easy on him.”

Despite his determination to not let Mace distract him, Obi-Wan found his mouth dropping open in shock. Mace threw himself into a fierce blur of offensive slashes, driving Obi-Wan back.

Obi-Wan pushed all thoughts of Fett and Mace’s insinuations about what Fett wanted out of his mind, busy trying to keep Mace from winning this spar.

“You’re the worst.” Obi-Wan told his friend as their sabers locked. He pushed with the Force at the same time Mace did and they both skidded a little on the training floor. He didn’t let Mace get a chance to catch himself, throwing himself forward in his first real offensive strike of the spar. Mace kept him at bay easily enough, his purple saber a blur of color as they exchanged blows.

The chime of the timer rang and Obi-Wan pulled back. He was breathing a little heavily, but Mace was breathing just as hard and he could see the sweat beading on his friend’s face.

“Good spar.” Mace said, and he was smiling. Obi-Wan couldn’t help but smile back. It had been a good spar.

Together they moved to the bench where they’d left their water. Obi-Wan dabbed at the sweat on his own face with the edge of his discarded robe, he was that perfect mix of tired yet energized that followed a good spar.

“I was serious, though.” Mace said suddenly, though he wasn’t looking at Obi-Wan. “Fett wants you, Obi-Wan.”

Obi-Wan looked away. “That’s not possible, Mace.”

“You’re an attractive—”

“No.” Obi-Wan shook his head. “There are Mandalorian traditions that Fett wouldn’t break, especially not for a Jedi that he’s only just met. Is he trying to make it seem like he wants me.” He shrugged. “Possible, though not the type of mind game I’d have imagined him engaging in.”

“What sort of traditions?” Mace asked, a tone in his voice that Obi-Wan had a hard time deciphering.

Obi-Wan eyed his friend, wondering what it was Mace was thinking. “I don’t know them in their entirety.” He said finally, a truth that didn’t answer Mace’s question at all. “Satine felt they were old fashioned.” He knew enough though. Both the True Mandalorians and Death Watch still held to the adage that their leader, their ‘Alor, would carry a soul mark. Satine thought it was a disingenuous way to choose a leader. But then, she didn’t have a soul mark, so for her, the leaving behind of that tradition was something of a necessity. Fett, however, would have a soul mark. And Mandalorians were fiercely devoted to their soul mates, certainly enough that Fett would never risk disparaging that future partner for a bit of sex with an enemy.

It was almost a solace, Obi-Wan thought. Even if he still found himself… questioning and confused about everything to do with the Mand’alor who looked at Obi-Wan the way he did.

Mace sighed. “Just be careful, Obi-Wan. I don’t trust him with you.”

Obi-Wan felt a small swell of pleasure at Mace’s concern for him. “I will be.” Then he narrowed his eyes. “But I can take care of myself. It’ll just be a lunch, like any other political lunch I’ve done before.”

Mace snorted at that, but didn’t contradict him. “Yoda wants to let it happen, you know.” Mace said quietly, and there was an unmistakable tone of displeasure. “He wants to assign you to work with Fett, now that the Senate has agreed to provide them contracts.”

Obi-Wan frowned. “You disagree.”

It wasn’t that Mace never disagreed with Yoda. He just rarely made it so clear. And Obi-Wan had the sense that there was something Obi-Wan was missing.

Mace sighed. “I do.”

“Why?”

Mace just shook his head, lips pursed. “Just be careful, Obi-Wan. Please.”

-_-

This, Jango thought, was starting to feel like a bad idea.

“He’s late. That’s just bad manners.” Skirata was grousing.

Jango had chosen a smaller booth in the corner, where he had a clear view of both exits and could watch the streets easily enough without being too easily seen. He glanced at Skirata who was scowling at the entrance. “Your chrono is five minutes early.” Jango pointed out.

“Exactly. Early is on time, on time is late, and late is—”

“Oh shush.” Ruusaan interrupted, rolling her eyes. She gave Jango a long-suffering look. “Why did you invite Skirata again?”

“I extended him the same invitation I extended you.” Jango answered, voice neutral. Ruusaan frowned for a moment, before clearly remembering that Jango hadn’t invited her. Ruusaan had just never had a problem inviting herself along when she felt it necessary.

Jango had allowed the two of them—plus Ruz and Cort—to get away with it because it had felt like the easier option at the time. He’d rather they were here at the beginning so they could meet Obi-Wan and then he could make them leave rather than having to deal with them showing up in the middle of his lunch with Obi-Wan.

He refused to feel anxious about it. Obi-Wan would show up, the group would meet him, then Jango would kick them out and he would enjoy a lunch with Obi-Wan where there was nothing to distract the two of them from starting to get to know each other on a personal level.

Still, as Skirata glanced again at his chrono, Jango wondered if he could get away with shooting the man.

As if responding to his thoughts the door opened with the sound of a bell and he looked up to see Obi-Wan enter.

He couldn’t quite help the way his breath caught in his chest as he watched Obi-Wan step in, keeping the door open behind him so two twi’leks could exit. It had been too long since Jango had seen him, and it hadn’t even been a week. Obi-Wan’s hair was a little wet, as though he’d recently showered, though he was distinctly less disheveled then the first time Jango had met him, when he was still trailing water from the rain.

“Dex,” Bo’s voice was familiar in it’s grating, tin-like tone, cutting through Jango’s thoughts. “There’s someone here to see you. It’s a Jedi by the look of him.”

Jango stiffened a little, he’d already spoken with Dex, telling him that Jango was meeting with a Jedi, and to please restrain himself from some of his more abrupt manners, but there was no telling whether Dex would go along with it.

Dex’s scowling face appeared in the kitchen window. And then he caught sight of Obi-Wan.

Jango watched in surprise as the scowl disappeared to be replaced by what appeared to be a genuine smile. “Well if it isn’t Obi-Wan Kenobi!” Jango felt his eyebrows raise in surprise at the greeting. A moment later Dex appeared in the kitchen door. “Twice in one month, I’m feeling special.”

“Hello Dex.” Obi-Wan’s voice was far quieter than Dex’s booming tones, but he seemed just as genuinely happy to see Dex as Dex seemed to see him, and did nothing to evade the four-armed hug that Dex greeted him with, Obi-Wan’s feet actually leaving the ground in the besalisk’s exuberance. Jango’s fingers curled into a fist, nails digging into his skin. That was far more comfortable a greeting then Jango had expected. “It’s good to see you.”

“Take a seat, take a seat, I’ll have Bo bring out a special.” Dex said cheerily, gesturing Obi-Wan toward a table furthest from where Jango sat.

Obi-Wan’s smile went a little stiff. “I’m actually here to meet someone. A Jango Fett?”

Dex’s back was to them, so he didn’t see whatever expression Dex was wearing, but Jango could see the way his back stiffened for a moment. “Jango Fett, huh. So you’re the Jedi he asked me not to throw out of my diner.”

Obi-Wan laughed at that, and Jango soaked up the sound. “Yes, that would be me. Thank you for not throwing me out.”

Dex shrugged, the movement impossible to miss as all four hands came up. “You’re fine, I suppose. But you know how it is with Jedi. On that note, though. You mark my words, the next time that Vos character saunters into my diner without your supervision I’ll throw him out on his ear. Friend of yours or no.” Dex swung an arm around Obi-Wan’s shoulders, leading him over to Jango’s table.

“I’ll let him know.” Obi-Wan said, and his lip was tugging up in a barely restrained smile.

“You do that.” Dex agreed. He stopped just beside their table. “You’ll be wanting the special then?”

Obi-Wan nodded. “Yes, thank you.” He was glancing around the table with carefully blank eyes, and Jango had the feeling Obi-Wan didn’t really want to be there, and Jango hated it. Hated that his soul mate didn’t want to spend time with him.

Dex’s eyes turned to the rest of them at the table. “And the rest of you?”

Jango glanced around the table to see that Skirata was giving both Jetii and besalisk a narrowed-eyed look. Though there was no missing the near greedy way he took in the sight of the Be’alor. Ruusaan looked like she was planning an interrogation—her eyes fixed, not on Obi-Wan, but on Dex—and Jango would have felt bad for Dex if it weren’t for the fact that he both wanted to know what Dex knew about Obi-Wan and was still a little annoyed with the way Dex thought he could be so familiar with his soul mate. Cort was glancing around the table, taking in everyone else’s expressions while carefully masking his own, gaze landing twice as often on Obi-Wan as anywhere else, while Ruz simply looked amused.

Boba was staring at Obi-Wan with the sort of serious stare that meant he wanted someone’s attention.

Cort seemed to realize that Jango was in even less of a mood to share his soul mate then he’d been earlier, and stood. “The rest of us don’t need anything, we were just having a quick chat.” He nudged Skirata, forcing Skirata to stand with a dark mutter. “You coming Boba?”

Boba pouted, giving Jango a pleading look, but Jango shook his head, gesturing for him to go with Cort. “Next time, Bob’ika.” He assured him.

Boba acquiesced with a poorly hidden pout, but gave Jango a hug and let himself be pulled from the bench.

Cort gestured for everyone to leave the table, and Ruusaan gave Dex a bright smile as she passed. “I’ll be back for dinner, Dex. Save me something good.”

Dex just shook his head, a mildly entertained look in his eyes. “And you?” Dex asked Jango. “What do you want?”

“The special’s fine with me.” Jango answered, he wasn’t particularly choosy, and his attention was already being diverted to Obi-Wan who was sliding into the empty space across from Jango that the others had just vacated. Dex eyed them both, but then left them to head back to the kitchen.

Boba was being ushered away by Cort, but was digging his heels about it. “Wait.” Cort hesitated and Boba rushed back, eyes fierce on Obi-Wan. “No fighting my dad this time.”

Obi-Wan nodded seriously. “Not unless in self defense.”

Boba rolled his eyes, but Jango approved of the answer, even if there was no reason Obi-Wan would need to defend himself from Jango. “And next time you have to have lunch with me.”

This time Obi-Wan seemed mildly entertained, but he kept his face serious. “Of course, Boba. We’ll schedule lunch for just the two of us.” He gave Jango a look. “With your Father’s permission.”

Jango shrugged. “We’ll discuss it.” He rather liked the idea, his mate and his son bonding, and was proud of Boba for demanding it.

Boba nodded, satisfied, and let an amused Cort usher him out of the diner.

Obi-Wan turned to watch them go, a small smile on his face. Though there was a level of guardedness there that Jango didn’t like. “I imagine he keeps you on your toes.”

Jango snorted. “Like you wouldn’t believe.” He shook his head. “I’m fairly certain both my parents and Jaster are laughing at me from the beyond, they’d call it karmic justice for all the trouble I caused them.”

The corner of Obi-Wan’s lip seemed to be fighting to not slip up into a smile.

Jango glanced towards the kitchen. “You know Dex.”

“Yes.” Obi-Wan said placidly, and then his smile went a little sharp. “How do you think I found you?”

That stopped Jango a little bit, both the question and the reminder that Obi-Wan had found him, and that Jango had found him in return. “Dex huh.” He gave Obi-Wan a once over. “I admit I’m impressed.”

Obi-Wan scoffed. “You used a Kaminoan saber dart, not so impressive.”

“Most people don’t even remember Kamino exists.” Jango pointed out, defending himself. “Dex is probably one of four people who could have made the id of that dart.”

Obi-Wan shrugged in acknowledgment. “Yes, that does sound like Dex.”

“Still, you and Dex seem… friendly.” He tilted his head in question. “I admit I’m surprised. Dex doesn’t much like Jedi. How did that happen?”

Obi-Wan considered him for a long moment, then shrugged. “Oh, you know how it is. I was fourteen and seemed to fall into trouble everywhere I went, and Dex is nothing but trouble. We’ve been unlikely friends since.”

Jango accepted that and decided to leave it for Ruusaan to get out of Dex. “That doesn’t seemed to have changed much.” He gave Obi-Wan a long look. “I’ve only just met you, but you don’t seem to have lost your knack for finding trouble.”

Obi-Wan tilted his head. “Well, I did find you.”

Jango felt his own lip curl at that, and his voice dropped a little. “Oh, I promise I’m trouble.”

A faint hint of pink brushed along Obi-Wan’s cheeks and Jango couldn’t help but think he was going to enjoy this. “Yes, well that much I’ve put together for myself.” Obi-Wan said, his tone a careful neutral.

Bo appeared at their table with their food, and Jango watched as Obi-Wan quickly cut himself a bite, eyes closing for a moment as though savoring the bite.

Jango took his own bite of food. It was excellent, as always, but not enough to take his attention from Obi-Wan.

Obi-Wan’s eyes opened on a quiet sigh of enjoyment, and another tinge of pink brushed across his cheek as he noted that Jango was watching him. The pink disappeared to be replaced by an analyzing look, as though Obi-Wan was trying to figure out his motivations.

“The Council has agreed to your request.” Obi-Wan said, and Jango could tell that Obi-Wan was watching for his reaction.

“Oh?” Jango asked, keeping his own voice neutral. “Which request.”

“To pair us together for the war effort.” Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow. “Unless, perhaps, you’ve changed your mind.”

“I haven’t.” Jango said, and kept it at that. “But I didn’t bring you here to talk about the war, Obi-Wan.”

“And why did you?” Obi-Wan said, and his voice was tired. “What do you want?”

Jango leaned back in his seat, stretching his legs a little foot brushing against Obi-Wan’s leg in a way that could easily be seen as casual. Obi-Wan shifted away, his face giving away nothing. “Because I want to know you, Obi-Wan.”

“And what do you want to know, Fett. I can’t imagine that a Jedi—”

“Jango.” Jango interrupted. “Call me Jango, Obi-Wan.”

Obi-Wan paused, but then nodded. “I can’t imagine that a Jedi is of much interest to you, Jango.”

Jango felt a thrill of pleasure run down his spine at his name on his soul mate’s lips, even as coolly as it’d been said. “Jedi aren’t, for the most part.” Jango agreed. “But you’re something of an exception.”

Obi-Wan pursed his lips. “Am I.” Obi-Wan seemed unimpressed and skeptical.

“You’re the first Jedi who has ever apologized for what happened on Galidraan.” Jango said, diverting the topic a little to something Obi-Wan might be more inclined to believe. “You’re one of the first people outside of the True Mandalorians who has recognized me as Mand’alor. You immediately realized that my men, the clones, were real people and you jumped into protecting them.”

“Real people?” Obi-Wan said, sounding surprised. “Of course they are.”

Jango considered his options carefully, he’d gotten a little bit out of Obi-Wan at the beginning, but too quickly, that guardedness had come back. That suspicion. Jango… he had to do something. And so he was drastically, brutally honest.

“It took me over two years to realize it.” He said finally, and the terrible admission caught in his throat. He didn’t want Obi-Wan to see this part of him. Didn’t want Obi-Wan to see the worst of him until Jango could also show him the best. Could show Obi-Wan that Jango was worth it. “It shouldn’t have. But I was… I was lost, for a long time. All I wanted was a son, all I wanted was something for my people. And in the process I condemned thousands upon thousands of children to a life of war. I condemned my people.” Obi-Wan’s brow furrowed, but he didn’t interrupt, and Jango was grateful. “I’ve tried, since then, to do everything I can for those men. To make their lives better. To protect them as much as I could from the Kaminoans. But I don’t have the resources to free them.” He met Obi-Wan’s eyes, let him see his desperation, to protect his people, to have Obi-Wan at his side, to finally have his people whole. “At least, not without help.”

-_-

Obi-Wan would never in a hundred years have expected Fett—Jango, he’d told Obi-Wan to call him—to admit what he had. But there was a stark honesty in the Force, a bitter self-recrimination lacing Jango’s spirit.

It was… startling. The honesty, the vulnerability.

The insight freely given.

And that was… odd. Fett had willingly shown Obi-Wan a dark, terrible part of himself.

It made Obi-Wan a little sick, to think that any one could look at those bright souls that Obi-Wan had seen and not see real people.

Fett met his eyes calmly, as though he thought that Obi-Wan deserved to see this… darkness, this cruelty.

It… it frightened Obi-Wan, a little. That this person in front of him was capable of such terrible malice, such cruelty.

But there was also a part of him that felt… he wasn’t quite sure how he felt. Because with that insight into that darkness, Fett had also shown him an equally stark regret. Too few people could see when they’d been wrong, and fewer still would admit it. “That’s one of the reasons, isn’t it.” Obi-Wan said quietly. “That you’re willing to help the Jedi.”

Jango just nodded, no hesitation. “They’re my people. It’s my fault they’re in this position, my… ignorance, foolishness. I won’t abandon them.”

Again, the stark honesty threw Obi-Wan a little. It was… too much. Everything in Obi-Wan demanded that this must be some sort of trick, that there was no other reason for Fett to show this vulnerability, this regret.

He didn’t understand what game Fett was playing. He acted… well, the way he acted he understood why Mace had his concerns. But if that was the act he was playing then he wouldn’t have shared such a terrible truth. That was… that was…

It just… it had to be a trick.

And yet… and yet the honesty seemed to crash into Obi-Wan, begging to be believed. And… and Obi-Wan did. He believed Jango could have been that cruel, that was almost easy to believe. But Obi-Wan also found that he believed the part of Jango that so clearly regretted it, believed that Jango wanted nothing more than to fix the mistake he’d made.

“I would help you with that.” Obi-Wan said finally. “I would help you see these men free.” His lips twisted bitterly. It should be easy. The Republic didn’t support slavery, and yet some part of Obi-Wan…

Obi-Wan had seen some of the worst sentience had to offer, had seen corruption twist good people into monsters.

Too many people would look at those men, see clones, and then see nothing more. Would fail to see the life in them, the humanity, the souls.

“Thank you.” Jango smiled at him, and Obi-Wan felt his stomach twist at the—no. Obi-Wan briefly shook his head, knocking away the foolish thoughts. Jango was grateful, that was all. There had been no possessiveness in the look he’d sent Obi-Wan. There hadn’t been any desire lacing it.

And Obi-Wan absolutely hadn’t felt a reaction to it. He hadn’t.

Jango Fett was Mand’alor, and that came with specific traditions, specific ties. And even with how little Obi-Wan had seen of him, he somehow knew that to Jango Fett, those traditions meant something to him. That to Jango Fett, his soul mate was it for him.

And yet, Fett still looked at him that way.

It was a Mandalorian thing, Obi-Wan decided. And Obi-Wan had gotten out of practice with dealing with Mandalorians. Everything about them was intense, so of course, even their casual glances could take on attributes they hadn’t intended.

Even if he didn’t remember people looking at him that way back on Mandalore when he’d been protecting Satine. He had probably been too young to see it then.

But every Mandalorian he met these days seemed to have just that sort of look in their eyes. Force, half of the group that had been sitting with Jango when Obi-Wan had shown up had looked as though they thought Obi-Wan belonged to them. It was just… just Mandalorian arrogance. Yes. Yes, that was it. And if Jango seemed to have that look with ten times the intensity of anyone else, it was likely because Jango was a naturally intense individual.

It had nothing to do with Obi-Wan. There was nothing there. It was just how Mandalorians were. He was sure if he asked others who’d met the clones or Fett or any of the other Mandalorians that would be joining them, then they’d all say they’d seen the same sort of look.

It had nothing to do with Obi-Wan.

With that determination firmly in place, he let himself relax and smile back at Jango.

They’d found a true common ground now. A desire to help protect these men whose only protection from the whims of the Senate was a Mand’alor with no planet to call home and a Jedi whose only political power could be taken from the Senate in a fit of pique. But they’d be successful, Obi-Wan couldn’t bear the thought of anything less.

“I was serious before, though.” Jango said suddenly, and the intensity of the moment broke. “I want to know you.” Jango’s smile went mischievous, and Obi-Wan refused to find it charming. They’d found common ground, but that didn’t make this man any less dangerous. “After all, we’re partners in crime now.”

Obi-Wan frowned, because that was not what he’d meant. Still, Jango was right, to a degree. They would be working together, and a little easy conversation would hopefully make that working relationship easier to navigate.

“What do you want to know?”

“What are you willing to tell me?” Jango retorted casually, but the look in Jango’s eye seemed to have an altogether different answer.

Everything, tell me everything.

Obi-Wan ignored it. He was probably just imagining it anyway.