The only time Anakin can ever remember being quite this nervous while waiting outside of the Chancellor’s office was early on in their relationship when he was barely more than a boy, still a Padawan who was only just beginning to understand what that meant and in awe that the most powerful man in the galaxy wanted to talk to him. He still can’t quite believe it and now he’s a man grown, a Jedi Knight, and arguably one of the Order’s greatest heroes at this point of the war. Palpatine was, of course, still the most powerful man in the galaxy, but Anakin was now coming to understand he held even more power than most people could possibly suspect.
Palpatine was the Sith Lord, if what Leia and Luke had told him was true.
Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe it wasn’t this Palpatine, maybe the Sith Lord had taken his name when he’d taken control of...everything. Maybe everything he’d believed about the man who’d been a mentor to him for the past decade and more wasn’t a lie.
Forcibly, Anakin pushed such thoughts from his mind. They wouldn’t be helpful here and now. He couldn’t let Palpatine sense the conflict within him. Couldn’t let him see any hint of Luke or Leia’s connection to him, or the future they had revealed. Resolute in this, and perhaps bolstered by the same lessons he’d been giving Leia on shielding, Anakin locked down on the turmoil twisting inside of him, on his suspicion of the Chancellor’s motives, on his bond with the twins, on half-remembered flashes of a black mask backlit in crimson light. Letting out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding, Anakin looked up as the door to Palpatine’s office opened and he was ushered in.
Palpatine smiled in greeting as Anakin entered and try as he might, he couldn’t see anything other than genuine pleasure at the sight of an old friend in Palpatine’s expression. Could he really be that good of an actor? Then again, he’d have to be if he were going to convince everyone that he was nothing more than the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic and subject to the whims of the Senate. And if people like Bail Organa, who Anakin respected despite his being a politician, and even Padme, who Anakin worshipped, hadn’t suspected anything more sinister than a man who might or might not have been willing to give up the emergency powers granted him by the Senate, well...they worked with him day in and day out; they were sensible, rational people. Wouldn’t they have seen something?
Wouldn’t he? Shouldn’t he?
“Anakin,” Palpatine spoke, shaking him out of his circular thoughts, “it’s good to see you, my boy. It’s been quite some time, I do hope the Council hasn’t been sending you on too many...errands.”
He shook his head ruefully, “I think it’s more like they haven’t been sending me on enough.” Which was true but why was it so easy to express his dissatisfaction to this man?
“Oh, Anakin,” the Chancellor responded, a certain amount of disappointed regret in his voice, “you should have come to me. I’d have been happy to help.”
That tone likely had its intended effect as Anakin felt obscurely guilty about disappointing his friend...or the man who was supposed to be his friend. “I’m sorry...I just thought you might be a little busy...looking after things here.”
Palpatine pressed a hand to Anakin’s arm with a fatherly smile, “I am never too busy to help a friend. And I think now we might be able to help each other…”
It wasn’t that Anakin considered it escaping from the Chancellor’s office when he finally left but. Well...it was a little like escaping.
There had been nothing, nothing to suggest that the man was anything more than what he seemed to be. That he wanted anything more than to do his duty as Chancellor and preserve the Republic against the Separatists. Then again, how could he have his future Empire if he allowed the Republic to be splintered by the war?
The war. If Count Dooku really was his apprentice, then obviously they must have some plan for how it would end. And the Jedi have become mired in it. But they’d been given no choice. To refuse to fight would have made them out to be traitors but now they were dying on the front line, spread thin across the galaxy…
Dimly, Anakin started to see a hint of the shape of the Sith Lord’s plan. Not that it mattered, not right now. They were still in the middle of a war they couldn’t win and people were still dying.
And the Chancellor had asked him, personally, to deal with an imminent Separatist attack on Ringo Vinda.
“But why bring this to me? Shouldn’t this go to the Council?” he’d asked.
Palpatine had let out a soft sigh, “Anakin, you know I could have nothing but respect for your Masters but I suspect they would not appreciate feeling tasked by my office nor would they trust my intelligence personnel. Valuable time might be wasted. But if you came to them, surely they might see reason.”
It made sense. The Council had been growing steadily more disapproving of the office of the Chancellor meddling in what they saw as Jedi affairs. Except wasn’t this more of a Republic affair? If the Chancellor had been anyone other than Palpatine, would they have reacted similarly?
And that, right there, was the problem. Everything he said made sense. It all sounded right.
Shaking his head, Anakin strode back into the Temple. In a way, it didn’t matter...at least not for now. There was still a planet in trouble and a battle to be fought and Anakin had a mission to do.
Assuming the Council agreed.
He'd been here on Lothal far longer than he'd been hoping. Certainly far longer than the battle he'd been supposed to get here for would have taken. Had taken. He tries not to think about how the verb tenses should work too much.
They'd done their best to recreate the original conditions that had brought Anakin here in the first place, though making sure to avoid the Imperials as he flew out and back in several times on the same hyperspace route had been interesting. And completely fruitless. Well almost recreated. Sabine had provided his starfighter with a new paint job to disguise it and make it look at least a little less noticeable. Though she'd made sure to tell him that her usual method involved far more color than what he'd ended up with. He'd told her if this worked, he'd remember to track her down in fifteen years and let her paint the thing anything she pleased.
It didn't work and none of them had any explanation why.
He'd been halfway through suggesting they could check the Temple Archives before he saw Ahsoka's expression shutter. Of course they couldn't check the Temple Archives. They couldn't even get near Coruscant. Or-- Imperial Center. They called it Imperial Center now.
So he was stuck here and more or less also stuck being expected to stay out of the way. Not that they said as much but he was still essentially an outsider to their little close-knit group and most of the time Ahsoka looked like she had no idea what to say to him.
Then again, he still wasn't sure what he was supposed to say to her. This was not the way he'd envisioned them meeting again, after all.
And apparently until they can figure out a way to make him look a little less like himself--apparently in this case being a former hero of the Republic is a bad thing--he can't even move around too much lest someone get too curious.
Everyone knows that enforced idleness does wonders for Anakin's temper.
He's not in Jedi robes, his lightsaber is hidden, he's wearing long sleeves and gloves on both hands to disguise the fact that only one of them is mechanical, and he even let them cut his hair
Surgery is a definite no-go. But taking a speeder bike in to the city is apparently on the agenda. If nothing else, he wants to get a better look at exactly what they're up against and it's not like he hasn't been undercover before...
Up until this moment, Anakin hadn't had a moment entirely to himself since...well, since before they'd gone to Geonosis. Oh, he'd been given some space in the healers' ward, but it was never truly private and there was always someone checking on him. And there'd been all the tests to ensure his new arm functioned properly. And Obi-Wan had hovered, a little, though he had tried to be discreet about it.
Now finally in their shared quarters--he wouldn't have a space of his own until he passed his trials--Anakin was left to his own devices. Obi-Wan had, he assumed, sensed Anakin's desire to be left alone for a while and had gone on some errand or other, possibly contrived. It didn't really matter, Anakin was just grateful for his Master's perceptiveness in this case.
Sitting on the edge of his bed, he had pulled up his right sleeve to reveal the shiny, gold-tinted, mechanical prosthesis that connected to his arm just below the elbow. Staring intently, he flexed the fingers back and forth, wiggled them around, flexed his wrist, listened to the mechanics inside whirr and click as he did so. Already his mouth was turned down into something very like a grimace. The medical staff had suggested he could have it covered in synthflesh, if he wanted, to make it look more real. He'd turned them down. No, he wanted to remember what he'd lost, he wanted to remind himself of how he'd failed. He wouldn't make the same mistake again.
And there wasn't anything wrong with the arm, per se. It was perfectly functional, just as it had been designed, even though it reminded him more of a protocol droid's limb than something a human should have attached to them. But it was a bit clumsy, the grip wasn't right for his lightsaber, he'd probably have to wear a glove. And that was a whole other problem in and of itself. While the arm did receive signals through his nervous system and there were some sensors built in to provide tactile sensory input it just felt...dull. He'd almost thought he'd have rather had no arm at all than this when he'd first tested it.
The thing was going to need some work, he decided. Better sensors, faster relay from the nerve inputs, quieter mechanics so there was less noise.
Really, he would have expected better out of the Jedi. They had some of the best medical facilities in the galaxy and he'd been given...this. His opinion on the matter hadn't exactly been consulted, either.
For a moment, he entertains the thought that it had been done purposefully, to slow him down and hold him back but he shakes his head to push the thought away.
It didn't matter what the reasoning was, all that mattered was it wasn't good enough. If he was going to be better, it would have to be better. And if the Jedi couldn't give him that, he'd do it on his own.
On Coruscant, it was impossible to see the stars, even if one was looking out from the Council room at the top of the Jedi Temple. An unfortunate side effect of so much light from so many buildings and various forms of transport speeding around the airways. Not to mention that there was simply so much starship traffic, one likely wouldn't be able to tell the lights of ships from the field of stars behind them anyway.
Anakin had discovered this unfortunate fact not long after he came to live at the Jedi temple. He'd thought that, surely, so close to the center of the galaxy, the sky would be full of stars to see that he'd never been able to see before on Tatooine. Instead it turned out that perhaps the only thing that was better about Tatooine than Coruscant was that the desert planet was so sparsely inhabited and that the skies were so clear. Even out on the Rim, the sky was full of stars and the spiral arm of the galaxy could be clearly seen arcing across it.
He didn't try to watch the night sky on Coruscant anymore, but he still kept up the habit of at least looking for a moment whenever he found himself on a new planet. At the center of the Republic, however, he has to content himself with substitutes.
Which is why he can be found in an empty classroom surrounded by a holographic rendering of the galaxy. He's been spending all afternoon, so far, carefully marking off different star systems in various designated colors. Technically the entire exercise could be done by a computer but that wasn't Anakin's purpose in doing it. It requires concentration, but it doesn't require him to spend much effort in actually thinking so the whole activity is almost meditative.
The first batch of colored systems is simple: yellow for those that Anakin has already been to. Naboo might possibly be a subtly brighter yellow than all the rest, as if he'd lingered on that one for a moment longer than the others. He'd once told Qui-Gon he was going to see them all and certainly he had a better start on most other inhabitants of the galaxy, but it was still extraordinarily minute compared to the sheer number of systems represented on the map.
The second batch are green, signifying systems where battles of the Clone War have been fought and the Republic retained (or gained) control. Another group are blue, for the Separatist-won battles.
And finally, there's a sprinkling of red dots across the galaxy, mostly concentrated Rimward, and these are for those systems where battles are currently raging. Places he should be where he could be doing some good and making a difference. Staring at those flashes of red, it was almost enough to have him just commandeering a starfighter and heading out somewhere...anywhere. After making sure orders somehow just happened to make it through the system so that Rex and the 501st would be meeting him, of course.
But it wasn't, quite, enough. Contrary to some people's beliefs, he did have enough self-awareness to recognize that any action along those lines would likely not end well. That didn't mean he didn't still feel the temptation and it's that thought that has him swiping a hand through the starfield and systematically clearing everything out again until only dots of yellow remain on the map. He stares at those longest before they're wiped clean as well.
Ani lies on the still-warm sand even as a cool evening breeze chills his skin. He doesn't notice either, his attention on the sky above him. Quietly, under his breath, he's counting. ....three-hundred and twenty, three hundred and twenty-one, three-hundred and twenty-two... Behind every number is a dozen or more. Planets for each star. He imagines what life must be like Out There.
Much more exciting than here.
He bet there were even planets where they'd never heard of slavery. Or sand. Planets that were covered in water or in snow or green plants as far as the eye could see. He'd heard that Coruscant was all city. What he wouldn't give to see that...
He'd see 'em all.
His mother was crying.
She thought he was asleep, that he couldn't hear her. This life was hard on her, he knew, even as young as he was. She deserved better. A real life. A free one.
He'd give it to her.
Not long after he had arrived at the Jedi Temple to live Anakin had found himself a fairly secluded little alcove that looked out on the Coruscant skyline. Well, he was here. It wasn't Tatooine.
But there was an enormous ache in his chest.
Just once, he'd like to feel the heat of the sand under his feet, see his mother's smile, even hear Watto complaining.
He was alone.
Siri was nice enough, he liked her.
But her padawan...
Every time he saw Ferus, Anakin imagined wiping that know-it-all smirk from his face.
He should have been paying attention to Obi-Wan.
But his attention kept being caught by a nearby news-vid. Currently, they were talking about the latest round of Senatorial elections and the newest senator from Naboo.
Their former queen.
The thought was a small one, quiet, in the back of his mind. He didn't dare voice it aloud. Or even silently. In a dream you loved me.
She was beautiful in white.
And when she took his hand, he knew he'd never felt happier.
But something was missing.
Someone. Two someones who should have been there too, instead of the droids.
But this was forbidden. He couldn't have told Obi-Wan. Can't tell him. Ever.
And he'd watched his mother die. He could only hope something of her spirit could see this.
One last wish was all he had left as he looked up into blue eyes. Blue eyes like a mirror. Like his own.
His son, his own son had saved him.
One last wish, fulfilled.