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“Honestly,” Anakin says as they walk down the street, “this kind of explains it.”

“Explains what?” Obi-wan asks. It’s been an hour or two since they left the crime scene and parted ways with Solo and Ahsoka, and all Anakin can think about is what little he could glimpse from beyond the windows. Some part of him wonders if there’s a new criminal organization in town, picking off rival gangs and sending messages at every crime scene, don’t fuck with us or this will be your fate.

(He tries very hard not to think about what Ahsoka must be doing right now--something, he's sure, along the lines of fucking with them.)

He waves a hand at the suspiciously empty streets. “Aphra said people were going underground for some reason,” he says, noting the way Obi-wan’s eyes narrow at the mention of his (former) personal agent’s name. “I think we’ve found the reason.”

“If only we knew what it was, exactly,” says Obi-wan. “You don’t have to come, you know. I can talk my way into and out of the Guavian Death Gang’s hideout just fine.”

“What, and leave you to their tender care?” Anakin huffs. “No way in hell, Ben. I know their name makes them sound ridiculous, but they’re not shy about hating lawyers like you.” And he should know--dealing with Bala-tik had been like trying to placate Satine the cat, only Satine’s just a particularly fussy demonic hellspawn, and the worst she's ever done, at least for now, is scratch up his face. Bala-tik has weapons, a fuckload of men and a criminal record that includes multiple counts of murder, along with, no doubt, a grudge against him.

Anakin’s fingers twitch reflexively at the thought, towards the place on his belt where, once upon a time, he kept a pocket knife hidden. It’s gone now, and he feels naked, walking into a lion’s den with no weapons and nothing but a hope that someone will actually listen to them.

“It didn’t stop Qin-fee from coming to us,” says Obi-wan, and he's incredibly optimistic for someone who's about to try and talk to a number of known criminals. Anakin knows better.

“He was desperate,” says Anakin. “You do a lot of things you never thought you could do when you’re desperate.” Like they’re doing right now, coming to a gang’s known hideout with nothing but a mad hope in their pockets. Like Anakin did, once before. “My point is, they’re most likely to focus on me more than on you.” He shrugs. “They might hate lawyers in general a lot, but in specific I’m willing to bet they hate me the most.”

“Joy,” says Obi-wan, dryly. “How many ice packs will I have to apply to your face by the time the night’s done?”

“Hopefully none,” says Anakin, and that's an unrealistically optimistic expectation considering who they're going to meet, so he adds, "Probably a lot."

Obi-wan's jaw tenses, and he steps just a little bit closer.

"I can actually handle myself, Ben," says Anakin, a little amused. "I hated them too, I always wanted a go at them."

"Be that as it may," says Obi-wan, "perhaps save going at them for if things go south."

"When," says Anakin.


The bouncer’s eyes widen when Obi-wan steps closer, Anakin right behind him like a tall, dark-suited shadow.

Then he recovers quickly and pulls himself up to his full height, just a few inches short of Anakin’s, and keeps his eyes on Obi-wan. Stupid choice to make, thinks Anakin. Between the two of them, Obi-wan’s the one with the famously silver tongue, and Anakin’s hands are, legally speaking, pretty much bound.

(Legally speaking, anyway, but Anakin's had years to get very, very good at pushing the limits of what, technically speaking, is legal.)

“The hell are you doin’ here?” the man asks. "Ain't got room for your sort."

“We just want to talk,” says Obi-wan, holding his hands up, as if to say, see, we come in peace. “Is Qin-fee inside?”

Something flickers across the man’s face, but in the darkness it’s hard to really tell. Anakin steps closer to Obi-wan and smiles--or, really, pulls his lips back and bares his teeth. It’s easy enough to put Vader’s razor-sharp smile back on, like a worn coat in the back of his closet.

The bouncer, very audibly, gulps.

He lets them in.