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i'll be good (for all of the times i never could)

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i. “Ben Kenobi!”

Obi-wan freezes in his tracks. That can’t be. That can’t possibly be.

He exhales, then turns around. “Vader,” he says, calmly, looking over the sharp suit, sharp eyes, sharp smile. The name sits wrong on his tongue, but this man is different from Anakin, from the man that Obi-wan once--once knew. “What are you doing here?”

“Working on making partner,” Vader shoots back, leaning against the smooth glass of the counter. “Cleaning up Hell’s Kitchen, bit by bit.” He nods condescendingly to Han, blue eyes looking the boy up and down. “Who’s this?” he asks. “I thought you’d come by with Snips.”

Ahsoka’s occupied, unfortunately,” Obi-wan shoots back. In truth, he hadn’t told her he was going to Palpatine & Associates--she’s got enough on her plate already, after all. “Han is our intern.”

“Hiring your clients now after getting them off for murder, are we?” Vader asks. “I didn’t know you were getting desperate.”

“I didn’t murder anybody--” Han hotly begins.

Obi-wan holds his hand out, and says, evenly, “The charges against Han were all dropped. He was framed, as you no doubt know.” After all, he thinks, it was your boss that arranged it. “I find it interesting, though, that you know that.”

“What can I say,” says Vader, “I try to keep abreast of what’s happening.”

“Sure as shit you do,” Han mutters.

“Then you must know why we’ve come here,” says Obi-wan, evenly.

Vader waves a careless hand. “Right, right,” he says. “You’re defending Mr. Jabba’s tenants--Cola, right?”

“Oola,” snaps Han, “get her damn name right at least.”

“Whatever,” says Vader. “Look, Ben, for old times’ sake, I’ll do you a favor and tell you something Mola--”

Oola,” Han snarls, and Obi-wan pushes him back with his hand again to keep him from launching a punch at Vader’s face. He tries to keep the contempt off his own face as well--old times’ sake, ha. As though invoking old memories will somehow change Obi-wan’s mind, as though the use of his old nickname makes everything all right again. “Goddammit, get her name right--”

“--whatever forgot to tell you,” Vader continues, completely unfazed. “You know the workers that tried to repair the building?”

“The ones that tore everything up and left her apartment in pieces, yes,” Obi-wan testily says.

“Yeah, they did a terrible job,” says Vader, folding his arms, and the gesture is so achingly familiar that Obi-wan feels heartsick, “but they were in such a rush because they feared for their lives.”

“Yeah, ‘cause a five-foot-nothing fifty-something’s a threat to a bunch of big, burly assholes,” Han snaps.

“I wasn’t talking about your client, I was talking about her neighbors,” Vader says, sternly. “Most of them have arrest records. I know a few have drug problems. The workers left because they felt threatened by those people.”

“You don’t believe that,” says Obi-wan.

“I do,” says Vader, painfully sincere. “Ben, come on. Tell your clients to take the money and pack up. It’ll be easier on us both if they do.”

“And why don’t you tell your client to shove his money up his fat ass?” Han spits.

“Absolutely not,” says Obi-wan, calmly.

And for a moment, Vader’s sharp smile slips. “I’m sorry,” he says, “what?”

“There may be a criminal element,” says Obi-wan, “but that doesn’t excuse Jabba’s actions. And it doesn't excuse your actions, Vader--asking me to ask my client to accept your offer? I will not do your job for you. My job is to represent my clients’ best interests, and their taking the offer is not in their best interests. And I think we both know that.”

Vader looks down on him, the sharp smile gone now, replaced with an icy glare. “And what is in their best interests?” he asks.

“Staying,” says Obi-wan. “You want to frighten us into thinking that they cannot stay, that they should not stay, that we lack the leverage to win this case, but I assure you, Vader, we have more than enough.” He looks up and smiles, as serenely as possible, and relishes the look of annoyance in Vader’s blue eyes.

“We win the case,” says Han, “and good ol’ Jabba loses his condos, and Palps loses Jabba. And you can’t have that, but you can’t have him forcing all the tenants out, because that’s sure as hell against the law.” He fixes Vader with a look, and says, “Then again, I guess you don’t have any problems with that, huh?”

“Rich, coming from you,” says Vader, before snapping his attention back to Obi-wan. “You realize there’s still a danger there? Not all the tenants you’re championing are so virtuous as your client.”

“And not all that you’re condemning are as damned as your superior,” says Obi-wan, coldly. “I’ll see you in court.”

For a moment, something like regret passes over Vader’s face, and for a second he looks like Anakin again, like the man Obi-wan had fallen in love with so long ago. But it passes all the same, and just as quick as it slipped, the mask is back in place.

“See you there, then,” he says.

--

“You ran into Anakin?” Ahsoka asks, after Obi-wan and Han tell her about their visit. “Was he--”

“Working on making partner,” says Obi-wan, and Ahsoka’s face falls, as she slumps into her chair.

“Wait,” says Han, “you two knew him?”

“He used to be my friend,” says Ahsoka. “Hell, he used to be my mentor. You know, he taught me how to hotwire a car way back then.” Her eyes slide to Obi-wan, and she says, “Obi-wan here used to--they used to be roommates. In fact, they used to date.”

“Hard to believe that,” Han says, skeptical. “You dated that? Seems out of your league. No offense.”

“None taken, and believe it or not,” says Obi-wan, “he was a different man back then. More idealistic, less of a shark.” He gives a tired, mirthless chuckle, and says, “We interned together under Jinn & Windu.”

“Hey, hey,” says Ahsoka, “remember that time in Maz’s? With the napkin?”

(Kenobi & Skywalker. Has a nice ring to it.

I don’t know, Skywalker & Kenobi sounds much better to me, don’t you think, Ahsoka?)

“I do,” says Obi-wan, dropping a file in front of them. “In the meantime, perhaps we should focus on our case?”

--

(An interlude:

“So when are you going to tell him?” asks Padmé, after another night spent stitching up a vigilante.

Ahsoka pushes herself up to a sitting position, going slowly and hissing at the pain. “I will, Padmé, I just--” she stops, then lets out a sigh. “What am I supposed to say? Hey, Obi-wan, by the way, I’m the vigilante Fulcrum, and I have superpowers?”

“Maybe don’t lead with that,” Padmé dryly says.

Ahsoka huffs out a tired laugh, then cocks her head to the side. “I did not know your neighbors were so weird about Star Trek,” she says, overly casual.

Padmé takes the rubber gloves off, and lets out a breath. “You can ask, you know,” she says, nodding to her pictures of her children.

Ahsoka hesitates a moment, then says, soft and sad, “They okay?”

“Leia’s top of the class and head of the debate team in their school,” says Padmé. “Luke--well, the other day he helped fix my computer, he’s much more tech-savvy than I am.”

“Takes after her dad,” says Ahsoka, with no small amount of grief.

She doesn’t ask if Padmé misses him. They both know she still does, years after the last bitter argument, after the divorce. She doesn’t tell her that Obi-wan and Han ran into him, Padmé knows already.

She doesn’t tell her that she wonders if Anakin’s even still there, underneath Vader and his sharp suits and sharper smiles.)

--

ii. The next time Obi-wan runs into Vader, it’s in the middle of a warzone. Han is in the hospital, recuperating from a bad case of shrapnel in body, and Ahsoka is--

Ahsoka is nowhere to be found. She’s not even answering her phone, and Obi-wan’s known her for long enough to get very worried about that. So when Lando Calrissian comes by with a very hairy, very tall college student named Chewie to stay with Han, Obi-wan excuses himself to go out and search for her.

So far, nothing. Not even in her old haunts, and Obi-wan’s heart is beginning to sink even faster--

“The hell are you doing out here?”

Obi-wan whips around. “Vader,” he says, coolly. “Shouldn’t I be asking you that?”

“What, I can’t take a stroll in my own city?” Vader snaps back, looking more frazzled than usual. He runs his gloved hand through his hair, lets out a soft curse. “Never mind that,” he mutters, then: “Have you seen Luke and Leia?”

“Oh, so you’ve misplaced your children in a warzone?” Obi-wan asks. “Stellar parenting there, Vader.”

“I did not,” Vader huffs, indignant. “They just--snuck out. And before you asked, yes, I called Padmé, she hasn’t seen them either.” He gives a frustrated breath, and turns to kick at a lamppost. It’s the most Anakin-like thing Obi-wan’s seen him do, and for a moment he just stands there, stunned.

Then he collects himself and says, “Did you try calling them?”

“They left their phones,” says Vader. “I know my kids. When I tried to confiscate her phone, Leia gave me a dummy.”

“Clever girl,” Obi-wan mutters.

“Ha, ha, laugh it up, old man,” Vader grumbles.

“You’re thirty-eight,” says Obi-wan, “you’re only about three years younger than I am.” He pulls out his phone, and dials Ahsoka’s number again, praying with every ring that she’ll pick up.

She doesn’t.

--

(An interlude:

A spider and a hawk walk into a burning building.

Okay, more like swing into a burning building, in Luke’s case. Leia ziplines instead--she didn’t get lucky, she doesn’t have spider-powers, but she has a sharp eye, sharp as her father’s smile.

She does not think about her father.

She does not think about how possible it is that he might share the blame for this, for the bombings that have rocked her city.

She does not think about what he might do, were he to find out that his twins have taken to running around New York, in red and blue spandex and purple hoodies respectively.

She does not think about Fulcrum, and Barriss, and an abandoned warehouse. She won’t know about that until later, much later, when the dust has settled.

What she thinks about, instead, is getting as many people out of the building as possible before it collapses.)

--

“They haven’t seen Luke or Leia,” says Vader, breathlessly. They’ve been searching for hours now, him and Obi-wan, and Obi-wan is--he’s trying not to think about what that might mean. “Is Sni--Ahsoka--”

“Nothing,” says Obi-wan, slumping down onto a stoop. “She’s not at home either, I tried to call her there.” He scrubs a hand over his face.

“Ahsoka can take care of herself, she’s a resourceful woman,” says Vader, sitting down next to Obi-wan. “I’m scared for anyone who might come across her, honestly.”

“You haven’t seen her lately,” says Obi-wan.

Vader’s head snaps up. “What?” he asks.

I’m scared she might be in trouble, Obi-wan doesn’t say. Once, he might have said it out loud to Anakin, but the time for that has long since passed, and Vader is a different man. “You’ll have to ask her,” he says, instead. “I’m afraid I don’t have all the details.”

“Your partner might be in trouble and you don’t have all the details?” Vader snaps. “What the hell, Kenobi?”

“It’s not as though anyone deigns to give me all the details now, do they,” Obi-wan snaps, and Vader reels back, eyes growing wide. “I did try. I asked. She hasn’t told me a thing.”

“Ask better questions,” says Vader.

“Do you have any better?” Obi-wan asks, and Vader’s opening his mouth when someone screams.

“Was that--”

“--Leia,” Vader breathes, and he takes off running.

--

(An interlude:

Fulcrum’s the first to arrive, after a stray gunshot lands in Leia’s leg. The first thing out of her mouth is, “shit, are you all right?”

“I’ve just been shot,” Leia snaps at her, as Luke very carefully snakes his arms under her back and legs to lift her up. “Ow, watch it!”

“Don’t move,” Luke pleads. He looks up at Fulcrum and says, “What happened to you?”

Fulcrum touches the bruise blooming on her cheekbone, and says, “Would you believe me if I said my ex helped set off those bombs?”

“You have terrible taste in exes, then,” Leia informs her, and Fulcrum gives a little chuckle. “I can’t--fuck, I can’t go to the hospital, not like this, people will know--”

“Don’t worry,” says Fulcrum. “I know somebody.)

(Another interlude:

Leia?!

“I can explain, Mom.”)

--

They don’t find Leia.

They do, however, find Padmé in the hospital, seated at Leia’s side. Leia’s got a leg up in a cast, and she looks a little banged up, her hair escaping her customary buns, a bruise forming under her eye.

“Leia!” Vader shouts, pushing past orderlies and nurses and doctors alike. “Oh, god--”

Leia opens one eye and says, “Dad--Dad, I’m fine--”

“She’s grounded,” says Padmé, looking exhausted as Obi-wan walks up to her. “Her and Luke both, I sent Luke home.” She looks up at Vader and says, “Shouldn’t you have been watching them?”

“I was,” Vader says. “I left because they asked for--oh, god. I forgot the hot chocolate mix.”

“Under the circumstances,” says Leia, “I guess that can be forgiven.”

Obi-wan says, “You were going to make them hot chocolate at nine in the evening?”

“Well, I’m not now,” Vader says. “And not just because I forgot.” He sits down next to Leia and says, “What happened, sweetie? You left your phone, I couldn’t contact you.”

Nothing,” says Leia. “We were just--we were going to get back home, promise. I just. Broke my leg, after all the explosions.” She looks down, and Obi-wan wonders if she’s keeping something from them. Wonders if Vader, too, has all the details, when it comes to his children.

He’s got his doubts.

When he leaves, Vader and Padmé are deep in conversation with Leia, talking about how grounded she is, about how worried they both were. It’s the closest they’ve ever been to a family, since the last time Obi-wan saw the Skywalker-Amidalas together, and it makes him feel like an intruder.

He’s outside in the waiting room when the phone rings.

“Hey, Obi-wan,” says Ahsoka, and Obi-wan slumps onto a bench, feeling as though a heavy weight has been lifted from his shoulders.

--

(An interlude, inside the emergency room, hours afterward:

A young man slumps into his seat, heart hammering against his chest. There are streaks of blood on his badge where his partner reached up, as if to make one last gesture, as if to rip the badge away. Not for the first time, he wonders if this--any of this--is worth it.

No, he thinks. No, it’s not, it’s never been.

The last thing Slip had said was his name. “Finn,” he’d whispered, the blood darkening the blue of his uniform. Only a few hours ago they were making plans to go out for drinks. How things change over the course of a few hours.

Someone sits down next to him, and with a start, Finn looks up.

He knows that face. It’s usually wearing a smug grin and exuding an aura of confidence, but right now Vader--Anakin Skywalker--Vader just looks exhausted, his posture slumped like a rag doll’s.

“Sir?” Finn ventures, and Vader looks up to meet his gaze. He looks so different from the put-together lawyer Finn knows, so shaken and scared. “Is there--”

“Nothing for you to do,” says Vader. “I just--my daughter. She got hurt.”

Finn feels his heart constrict. “Is she okay?” he asks, worried for someone he’s never even met.

“She’s fine, but she broke her leg,” says Vader. “She could’ve--She could’ve gotten hurt worse.” That last part, he speaks more to himself, as though he’s having a small revelation. “She could’ve gotten hurt worse and it would’ve been my fault.”

“It’s not,” says Finn, uselessly.

“I think it is,” says Vader. “Fuck.” He runs his hand through his hair, and says, quiet, softer than Finn’s ever heard from him, “Go home, Finn.”

Get away from here, Finn, is what Finn hears instead.)

--

iii. The next time Obi-wan meets Vader, he’s downing drink after drink in Maz’s, clearly hell-bent on poisoning his liver.

That’s fine, Obi-wan’s in the mood for alcohol poisoning too. Has been since he saw Ahsoka bleeding out on her apartment floor, has been since Padmé confessed that she’d been patching up Fulcrum--Ahsoka--for the past year on the sly, has been since he and Han had to identify Oola’s body.

He wonders what’s driven Vader here. Maybe a case gone horribly wrong.

He sits down next to him and says, “Won’t your boss be displeased if you show up to work hungover tomorrow?”

Vader gives a dry, humorless laugh, his gloved hand gripping his shot glass tighter. “Why would you care?” he asks.

“It just seems odd,” says Obi-wan. “You are his protégé, after all.”

“He’d be disappointed, yes,” says Vader, and there’s something underlining his words that makes Obi-wan’s heart sink like a ship. Something like resignation, he thinks, as though this is something that happens regularly.

The bartender pours him a shot of vodka. He knocks it back, the alcohol burning his throat as it goes down.

Vader watches him, says, “What happened?”

“Hm?”

“You don’t drink vodka unless something’s happened,” says Vader, and even after all these years he still knows him so well. Some things you just can’t bury, Obi-wan supposes. “So what happened?”

Ahsoka is Fulcrum, he doesn’t say. Ahsoka is Fulcrum, and she can hear heartbeats from across a room, and she never told me, she never told you, she never told anyone except Padmé, she told me she didn’t blow up those buildings but I don’t know if I believe her, she’s been breaking the law and if she goes down--

“You first,” he says instead.

Vader hesitates for a moment, then says, “I’ve--had a long week.” The finality to his tone says that this is all he’s willing to say on the subject.

“Funny, the weeks seem to be getting longer and longer,” Obi-wan says. “I’ve had one too.” He fills the glass up again, goes slower this time in drinking it. Did you know? he wants to ask. Did you suspect?

But if Vader had suspected--would Fulcrum even be half so successful, in dismantling Palpatine’s empire, even with help from the other vigilantes that have cropped up?

“Look,” says Vader, at last, when Obi-wan’s downed his fourth shot of the night and poured himself another, “about--”

“Don’t,” says Obi-wan, warningly. “I’m in no mood to discuss that tonight.” He pushes his chair away--Mos Eisley’s only just a street away, and as seedy as it is, suddenly he’d rather be there than here, with Vader. (With Anakin.) “You’ve won, this time,” he says, coldly. “I hope it was worth selling your soul.”

He turns.

Something grabs on to his wrist.

Vader says, quiet, the most honest Obi-wan’s ever known him to be: “I don’t know if it was.”

--

(An interlude:

“Where is it?”

He, Dooku,” he says. “Your weapon is a child.” He spits the word weapon like venom, and if the universe was fair, Dooku would drop dead on the spot for it.

Dooku sighs, as though Anakin’s being a petulant child--and it grates--and says, “Where is he, then?”

“I lost him,” says Anakin. In truth, he’d called Kix and dropped the kid off with him with strict instructions to get out of New York and find the kid a place to live, but Dooku doesn’t need to know that, doesn’t need to know that Anakin very intentionally lost the boy. Palpatine would know, somehow, though, he always does.

He doesn’t shudder at the thought. He won’t, not in front of Dooku.

The boy’s only a few years younger than Leia and Luke. Dooku and Palpatine might see a weapon, but Anakin’s a father. He knows a frightened child when he sees one.

Was it worth it? Obi-wan had asked him, a long time ago. Years, now. He’d answered, yes, yes, it’s worth it, if it means this city can get better, if we can be a little bit safer.

But that was years ago, before the divorce, the custody battles, the explosions, the sight of his daughter in a hospital bed with her leg in a cast. Before all the things he’s had to do, all the doubts that he buries underneath sharp suits and sharper smiles.

Was it worth it?

He doesn’t know anymore.

Dooku says, “Disappointing. Replacing it--him, my mistake--will be costly.” He turns away from Anakin then, and says, “Palpatine will not be pleased to hear of it, I suspect.”

“No,” says Anakin, barely managing to keep himself from shuddering at the thought, “I don’t think so.”)

--

iv. The next time Obi-wan meets Vader, he’s waking up on the man’s couch in the man’s apartment--shiny, sleek, sharp, soulless. It’s a shocking contrast from their college days, where Anakin’s side of the room was always cluttered to some degree, and from Obi-wan’s apartment, always in need of some kind of repair.

Someone was kind enough, Obi-wan realizes, to have drawn the curtains. Good, because he’s pretty sure he would not have survived getting a face full of sun first thing.

“You’re awake,” says a voice, and Obi-wan pulls himself up to a more vertical position to find Vader emerging from the kitchen, a cup of coffee in hand. He looks--vaguely more human than Obi-wan expected him to be, for someone who’s probably having a worse hangover than the one he’s dealing with right now.

“And you’re loud,” Obi-wan grumbles.

“That would be the hangover,” says Vader. He’s quiet for a moment, then he says, “Do you remember anything about last night?”

(What’s changed your mind?

A breath, and a glass full of vodka.

You remember the explosions?)

“Enough,” says Obi-wan. “You?”

“I meant what I said,” says Vader. “I have to--I have to fix things, but I don’t know where to start.”

“Start here, then,” says Obi-wan. “Talk to me. Just--do it a little bit quieter, I feel as though my head may burst.”

Vader huffs out a breath, and says, “That’s what happens when you drink vodka, Ben.” The old nickname sounds easy on his tongue this time, lacking the mocking tone, but there’s too much history between them for things to be so easy as they used to be. “You’re going to listen, though, right? Without needing to get drunk?”

“Will you tell me everything, then?” Obi-wan asks. “No holding back?”

Vader hesitates for a moment, and says, “You’re sure about that?”

“You’re the one asking me to listen, here,” says Obi-wan. And after Ahsoka and Padmé, he’s not sure he wants anything less than complete honesty, no matter how hard it might be to hear. “Have you changed your mind so quickly?”

Vader shakes his head and says, “I haven’t.” He nods to the kitchen, says, “Make yourself some coffee. I’ve got some files you might want to look over.”

--

“Well,” says Obi-wan. “Fuck.”

“I know,” says Vader. “There’s more that I haven’t gotten around to copying just yet, but that should be more than enough.”

Obi-wan lets out a long breath, then takes a long sip of his mug of coffee. He suppresses the urge to spit it out, somehow it’s gone cold. How long have they spent in Vader’s apartment, talking, looking, trying to put together a picture of the sickness infesting their neighborhood?

“And,” adds Vader, a little wryly, “I may need a lawyer. And possibly a new job.”

“That’s fair,” says Obi-wan. After all, Vader’s Palpatine’s protégé, there’s no way he didn’t know about any of this, at least. And from what he’s just been told, Vader participated in many of these himself--the rackets, the shipments, the recent bombings, a good percentage of the shadier dealings going on behind closed doors. “I know a few, as it just so happens. And a law firm that may need another pair of hands.”

“That a job offer?”

“If you want it,” says Obi-wan. “And if you’re willing to work for something much closer to minimum wage than you’re used to.”

Vader’s silent for a long moment, looking down at a file, before he says, eventually, “I’m not going to be able to afford this apartment if I come to work for you and Snips, aren’t I?”

“No,” says Obi-wan.

“Well,” says Vader, forcing a casual tone, “I figure where I’m most likely going, I won’t be able to keep this apartment anyway.”

Obi-wan runs a hand through his hair and says, “And I figure we can cut a deal with the prosecution. A lessened sentence, community service, something. It’s likely you’ll be one of the key witnesses in this case, anyway.”

“One of,” says Vader. “I thought Solo signed an NDA.”

“Not him,” says Obi-wan. “There was an officer who died after the explosions--”

“Finn,” says Vader.

“That’s his partner,” says Obi-wan. “If we can find him, he’d be another.”

If you can find him,” Vader echoes. Then he lets out a breath. “I told him to go home. I saw him after the explosions, he looked like he wanted to bolt, I told him to go home. Maybe he took my advice. Maybe--” he stops, his brow furrowing. “Fuck,” he says, and Obi-wan doesn’t need to ask why.

“Be careful,” he says.

“I always am,” says Vader, and when he smiles, it’s a brittle thing.

--

(An interlude, in a martial arts gym:

“I’ve been speaking with Va--Anakin, he’s been copying files--”

“I thought you had more sense than I do--why are you getting Anakin involved? You don’t know if he’s playing you!”

“I know he’s not.”

“You don’t. He’s a different man now, you told me that yourself--”

“We’re all different people from who we used to be when we were in college, Ahsoka. And I have reason to believe he’s being sincere.”

“...if this comes back to bite us in the ass, I reserve the right to say I told you so.”

“And I reserve the right to say the same thing, should your nightly activities come back to do the same.”

“--are you going to tell him?”

“...no. I don’t enjoy the prospect, but I’ll keep your secret.” A breath. “But he isn’t stupid. I advise you tell him, sooner or later.”

“What am I supposed to say? Hi, by the way, I’m actually the vigilante Fulcrum? That’ll go over well.”

“Do you plan on having him find out by bleeding out on his couch?”

“You got me. I’ll--I’ll tell him. When I know I can trust him again.” A breath, and the sound of a bag zipping up. “I’m sorry. About--well. The whole Fulcrum thing. I’m not going to stop--I’m doing good--but I’ll be more careful.”

“I suppose I owe you an apology for not telling you where I went after that, then. And--I want it on record that I still don’t think it’s a good idea. Anakin felt the same way, and look what happened.”

“Hey, don’t worry. I’m not accepting deals from obviously sleazy lawyers any time soon.”

“Oh, good, I was worried I’d have to find myself another partner. Maybe Rex.”

“Oh my god, Rex in a courtroom--”)

(Another interlude:

Finn looks into Poe Dameron’s eyes and says, keeping the quiver out of his voice, “I want to turn myself in.”)

--

v. The first time Obi-wan meets up with Anakin, after the dust has settled and Palpatine has been jailed along with his associates, it’s months after the job offer.

All right, that’s a lie. Obi-wan’s been talking to him for a while now, but it’s always been through a glass window. But the first time he meets up with him, outside of the context of an attorney and his client, outside of a jail, it’s at a coffeeshop of all things.

And he looks--well. Better. Lighter, certainly. There are still shadows behind his eyes, but he’s less sharp, in a ratty hoodie and jeans rather than a pressed, tailored suit. Obi-wan can touch him without getting his hand sliced open on the edges.

And he’s--drinking a frappuccino.

“I keep telling you you’ll ruin your teeth with those, one of these days,” says Obi-wan.

“Says the man who dumps four sugars in his coffee,” says Anakin. “Let me have the frappuccino, I’ve been in jail for nearly a year.” He pauses, then adds, hesitantly, “Hey--is the job offer still open if you’re disbarred?”

“I wasn’t lying when I said we needed more hands,” says Obi-wan. “How are you and Padmé?”

“Fixing things,” says Anakin. “Luke and Leia said to say hi, by the way, the last time I called. Apparently, Disneyland’s nice this time of year.”

“Did they send pictures?” Obi-wan asks. “Solo may want some. Especially of Leia.”

Anakin scowls at him, and says, “Don’t even kid about that.”

Obi-wan huffs out a laugh, says, “All right, Anakin, but she’s growing up. And you and I both know they’ve taken a shine to each other.”

“I wish I didn’t,” Anakin grumbles, before he looks back at Obi-wan. “You know, I just realized something.”

“Hm?”

“You haven’t called me Vader in a while.”

Obi-wan gives him a sideways glance, and says, “You haven’t been Vader in a while, have you?”

Anakin looks away, and down at his frappuccino before he answers: “No.” He runs his gloved hand through his overlong hair, and Obi-wan--well, Obi-wan’s only human, he can’t help but wonder. “I’m going to need a haircut if I’m going to work at a law firm as respectable as yours,” he says, dryly.

“If we enforced that rule, I’m certain we’d lose our only intern,” says Obi-wan. “He’s rather proud of his scruff.”

“You could get a better intern,” Anakin huffs. “No shortage of those in the city. How about Luke?”

“Once they get back from Disneyland, I’ll see what Padmé has to say about it.” In all likelihood, though, Obi-wan’s fairly certain she’ll refuse. After all, they know how dangerous being associated with Fulcrum can be, and Padmé’s in enough danger already, to the point where the twins have stayed with her friend Bail more often.

Fulcrum--Ahsoka still hasn’t told Anakin. It’s only a matter of time, though.

“Something up?” Anakin asks.

“Only wondering how you’ll cope without free bagels,” Obi-wan dryly says, and Anakin grins, blue eyes bright as they used to be, and for a moment it’s as if they’re in college again, dreaming of the future.

“I’m sure I’ll manage,” he says, and holds out his gloved hand, the frappuccino held tightly in the other. “Come on, take me to Snips, let’s get that lecture she threatened me with over with.”

Obi-wan smiles back, and takes his hand.

--

fin.