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“You saw former padawan Ahsoka Tano?”

“I didn't just see her, I spoke with her.”

Mace Windu leaned forward in his chair, his fingers steepled below the grim line of his mouth. The other jedi in the council circle looked amongst themselves. Obi-Wan sighed audibly and massaged his forehead and Anakin made it a point to ignore him.

“We were outnumbered without her,” Anakin went on. “If she hadn't been around to help take out those battle droids--”

“--the backup your squad called for would have taken the initiative themselves.” Windu cut in smoothly. “Skywalker, when we appointed you to this council, it was with the understanding that while you are often rash and reckless, you have also been a uniquely irreplaceable member of this Order. Your master has imparted wisdom to you, and we have watched as you have become someone we can trust and rely on.”

Anakin shifted in his chair, unaccustomed to praise.

“However,” Windu continued, any warmth leaving his voice, “your weakness has always been your willingness and proclivity to attach to others. Your emotion often takes precedence over your mission. It is a flaw which makes you vulnerable. It makes us vulnerable.”

“With all due respect, Master, I don't see how this is relevant,” Anakin ground out, and he could feel Obi-Wan's gaze flicker up to him in warning. “We should be discussing the fact that Boba Fett has become a potential threat again, a kid who has had it out for you since before this war even started.”

“It is relevant, Skywalker, because you have always had a tendency for clouded thinking when it comes to Tano. We allowed you to stay on this council despite your illicit romance with Chancellor Amidala, despite you fathering children--”

“Keep my children out of this,” Anakin bit out, his nostrils flaring.

“Anakin,” Obi-Wan murmured placatingly. Windu sighed and leaned back in to his chair, folding his hands over his stomach. Anakin trained his eyes out the enormous windows, focusing on the endless crisscross of cars and speeders jetting by the temple, and willed the fiery-hot coil of anger in his chest to settle and cool.

Ki-Adi-Mundi spoke next, his quiet voice clear in the uneasy silence. “Skywalker is right, however, about the threat of this wayward clone. He may have been just a boy when you last encountered him, Master Windu, but he is swiftly becoming a man, and one with dangerous connections, it seems. It is a testament to his cunning that he has eluded us thus far.”

“Yet, we have more pressing concerns to attend to,” rumbled Plo Koon, his facemask bobbing as he spoke. “This Fett child may simply be a small time criminal. I suggest that until we know the extent of his motivation we focus our attention elsewhere.”

“Ah, I'd advise the council to consider pursuing this matter,” Obi-Wan spoke up for the first time, his eyes on Anakin's face. “Perhaps it would be best to allow Skywalker and his squadron to continue handling this situation – without any outside help.”

Anakin reached out to his former master in the Force, extending a thread of curiosity. 'Let me vouch for you,' came the response humming along their bond, reassuring but detached in a way Anakin had become accustomed to over the years. Aloud, Obi-Wan said, “I see no reason not to pursue this criminal, especially considering his history. I believe Anakin has more than proved himself in the past, and is equipped to handle the issue. There is little evidence to suggest his interaction with Ahsoka has negatively affected his mission; indeed, it seems she has been an asset in this instance.”

Murmurs of dissent rumbled to life at this, but Obi-Wan swept on. “However, I agree that it is in everyone's best interest that a similar situation be avoided in the future.”

From his small chair, Yoda cleared his throat and shifted forward, clasping his claws together thoughtfully. An obedient quiet fell in the council chambers.

“Remain on this mission, Skywalker shall. The council awarded him our trust when he was appointed. Trust we must show him now.” He turned his head to fix Anakin with his pensive gaze. “Aware of your shortcomings, you must be, young Master.”

“Yes, Master Yoda, but I still fail to see how--”

A gnarled, green hand came up and Anakin quieted.

“Important, it is, to remember that which makes us Jedi, hm? Within serenity, understanding shall we find. 'There is no emotion, there is peace'.”

Anakin fought the urge to roll his eyes at the recitation of the Code, and Obi-Wan must have felt it through their bond because he gave his former padawan a pointed look. 'Peace?' Anakin wanted to say. 'What right do we have to claim that as a value?' Instead, Anakin inclined his head politely.

“Of course, Master.”

 

---

 

The halls outside the council chambers were cool and quiet, echoing with the hum of the day-to-day lives of the Jedi who inhabited them. The very walls and pillars seemed to resonate with the muted energy of a thousand Force-users. Obi-Wan paused outside the chamber doors, waiting until the other members had filed out before falling in to step beside Anakin. They passed a window that looked out over the courtyard and Anakin could hear the voices of a group of younglings practicing saber forms outside.

“They're still treating me like a child,” Anakin said at length. The anger Obi-Wan had sensed radiating off of him in the council chambers was gone, replaced instead by a sullen sort of acceptance.

“Anakin, you're still the youngest Jedi to be appointed Master in a century. If they're being a little hard on you, it is because it's unprecedented. They've already made many allowances for you. Perhaps try to see things from their perspective?”

“I'm supposed to be their equal, Obi-Wan. It's obvious they don't see it that way.”

Obi-Wan sighed and patted Anakin's shoulder in a less-than-comforting way. “They respect you, even if you can't see it. They're just concerned about your relationship with Ahsoka.”

Anakin stopped and turned to Obi-Wan, his brow furrowed. “What relationship? I haven't been allowed to have one.”

“And that is for the best. The council has been more than lenient with you in the past, your marriage to the Chancellor..”

They don't know that, they think it was a one time thing!” Anakin hissed, guiding Obi-Wan by the elbow in to a more private alcove.

“Yes, and suppose they did know,” Obi-Wan whispered back, exasperation rising in his voice. “Do you think you would be allowed to maintain your position on the council? Jedi more renowned than you have been exiled entirely for less. You may have been Qui-Gon's 'chosen one' but sometimes the special treatment you expect, honestly, Anakin...”

Anakin's expression turned to stone. He loomed over Obi-Wan, squaring his shoulders. “Do you think a nine-year-old can grasp the concept of salvation? That I really had a choice when you came to Tatooine, when you took me from my mother? I didn't ask for this, Obi-Wan. None of these children did.” He extended his arm back, gesturing at the temple at large.

Obi-Wan had gone rather pink, the crease between his eyebrows severe. “It is a great honor to be a Jedi, Anakin. The Order is your life. This is where you can and will reach your full potential. Don't pretend it isn't important to you.”

“That doesn't mean I chose it. Not really.”

A small gaggle of younglings pattered by them, laughing and chattering, and the two men quieted as they passed. Obi-Wan blew out a breath and ran a hand through his hair, composing himself. “I only want what's best for you, my friend. Ahsoka made her decision years ago, and you need to respect it. You are tethered to the past by your connection to her.” He paused, in thought. “Maybe a new learner..”

“No,” Anakin said flatly, and Obi-Wan pressed his lips in to a thin line.

“You may not be my ward anymore, but I hope you will at least consider my advice. I am..” Obi-Wan seemed to struggle to find the words, “..invested in your well-being.” He looked up at his former apprentice, willing Anakin to read between the lines. Anakin regarded him with thinly-veiled dissatisfaction, then turned to leave.

“I understand.”