He hugged his Padawan after donning his cloak, and said to him, “If I don’t come back from this alive, know I’m so proud of you, Anakin. I know it hasn’t always been easy for you, having this prophecy and your mother’s history hanging over you all of the time…promise me you won’t let my death break you, if it happens. Promise me you’ll be strong, and you’ll keep on, and you won’t do anything reckless. You are the Chosen One, and you will bring balance to the Force. The longer I’ve had you, the more I’ve become convinced of that. Promise me you won’t throw yourself away for my sake, Anakin.”
“I promise,” said Anakin. He had to, of course. He wished he could absolutely sure he would keep that promise. He’d try really hard to.
Master Jinn no doubt sensed all of that, but he only continued, “I also want you to promise you’ll be careful, Ani, in the days to come. This is a dangerous time for all of us, and I want you to heed the danger, even now, while you’re still here in the Temple.”
“Okay, I promise to do that too.” He was tempted to ask Master Jinn if there was any specific reason he was saying this, except he was pretty sure already the answer was yes; he’d been dropping hints. He would tell him outright if he wanted to.
But he didn’t. He just kissed the top of his head, said, “Force be with you and Padmé both, my dear Padawan,” then pulled away. Anakin was left to wonder if the last sight he ever had of Master Jinn would be his cloak nearly getting caught as the door closed.
He had lost his appetite for breakfast. He knew he ought to go eat it anyway, but he could at least wait an hour or so. He didn’t even try to meditate either, just went back to his bed to lay down for a while.
He didn’t get up for some time, until he sensed Padmé approaching. That made him feel a lot better, and he jumped up to get to the door even before the chime sounded.
She gave him the day's second extended hug and kiss to his hair. She didn’t even have to bend down to do it; they were getting very close in height now, and soon he’d be taller than her. “They’ve gone off. No problems with the launch, and while I was walking here I got a notification from Knight Kenobi that they’ve made the jump to hyperspace. He’s now on his way to the refectory to get us all something to eat, then he’s going to come here. The two of us have something very important to tell you.”
“We are going to be doing something here in the Temple while our Masters are away, aren’t we?”
“Yes, we are.” She didn’t sound surprised at his guessing. “Speaking of which, what exactly has Master Jinn told you?”
“Well, he’s been talking about how maybe you and I should work together on something since before Obi-Wan and Tru got attacked.” He had to pause for a split second there to be sad. He was starting to understand he would never stop that entirely. “Then in the last month he stopped talking about it like that, but started hinting I might have to do something important while he was away. Do you know if Master Windu asked him to not tell me about working with you?”
“Don’t know,” she said. “It’s possible, I suppose, though I think that would’ve been kind of silly of him.” But she didn’t sound nearly as skeptical as that. Then she looked at him oddly, and said, “You know, I kind of expected you to be more excited about this. I mean, we’re going to be spending a lot of time together, Ani.”
“A year ago, maybe,” he sighed. “But now I’m old enough to realize how much danger we’re probably going to put ourselves in. You especially, since you’re the older of the two of us, so you’re probably going to be doing more dangerous things than I am. Am I right about all that?”
He eyes went bright then, way too bright. “Yes, and no,” was her response, her voice too tight. “Because yes, we are doing something very dangerous, but oh, Ani, it’s going to be you this time. It’s you we’re sending into the most danger.”
Anakin was honestly shocked. It wasn’t even that this made him upset, or afraid. He hoped no one expected him to be, either, since he’d already made pretty clear more than once he was willing to do whatever it took to destroy the Sith. But after all Master Jinn had said and done, it was hard to believe he would consent to such a thing.
Meanwhile Padmé was now outright crying. Of course she was. Anakin reached up the inch or so he still had to and tried to wipe them away with his sleeve. “It’s all right,” he said to her. “You know I don’t mind. And you’ll do everything you can, won’t you?”
“Yes,” she said, “I will. I wish I and Knight Kenobi could make sure no one hurts you while we’re doing this.”
But then she pulled away and flopped down in Master Jinn’s usual chair. “I wish you would mind, too.”
“Sorry?” he tried to offer, but he wasn’t, and they both knew it. He sat down in his own normal chair. He supposed Padmé really should’ve sat in the guest chair left out, but if Knight Kenobi didn’t fuss about it he sure wouldn’t. But he did have one question, “Whose idea was it, though? This plan, I mean. Was it my Master or yours?” Had to be Master Windu’s. That Anakin would absolutely believe, even if he still wondered how he got Master Jinn to agree to it.
But his shocks weren’t over for the day, because Padmé hung her head, and said, “Forgive me, Ani. It was mine.”
Before he could hope to form words, she continued, “You’ll be doing a task I knew you’d be most suited for. I…we’ve got more to tell you Anakin, more that might scare even you. I don’t even know how to tell you this, or what’s Master Jinn’s told you…”
“You don’t need me to forgive you,” Anakin had found his words again. “In fact, if you really think there’s something I’m best at, then I’m honored you think highly of me.”
She laughed bitterly. “This isn’t even a case of that. Well, not entirely-there are a few things you’ll be doing you’re definitely better at than me, but…this is kind of a case where you’re most suited because of things you’ve been scolded for in the past.”
That he actually could not help but grin at. “Even better,” he told her. “Now come on, tell me all about this, and why our Masters suddenly need a naughty Padawan instead of a nice one.”
Some of what Padmé and Knight Kenobi had said to him that day had been pretty scary, especially about the possibility of there really being a spy in the Temple, or even on the Council. But for the moment, Anakin was having absolutely no problems with fear. In fact, now that the plan for Padmé was simply that she was going to monitor him and have Knight Kenobi with her for most of the time, he was able to mostly be happy for getting to spend a whole day with her with no Master Windu on Coruscant to breathe down their necks, and they’d get to spend a lot of tomorrow together too. The thing he was saddest about for most of the day, aside from the occasional worry about Master Jinn, was that she didn’t get to be the same way, but was so anxious for him.
Plus, while they ate lunch in his and Master Jinn’s quarters too, for lastmeal Knight Kenobi decided they ought to make an appearance in the refectory, and that was when Padmé started to get outright jumpy. She hovered protectively over Anakin all the way through the corridors, even though they could sense there was no one who was going to cross their paths until they were nearly there. They’d deliberately gone early, so it was a little less crowded, and Anakin looked over the Padawans, particularly hoping to spot either Ellé or Darra; he knew either of them would do Padmé a lot of good.
But instead a prim voice said, “Knight Kenobi,” and Master Dooku rose from his table and waved him over. Anakin knew his Master’s old Master well enough, especially because he was very good friends with Master Nu, and he’d seen him with her more than once. But Padmé had seen very little of him, and now she looked at him warily, as if it had suddenly struck her that he could be the spy, even though he’d already heard her express the belief that day that it had to be someone on the Council, and Master Dooku wasn’t likely to have known it was Knight Kenobi and Tru being sent to Muus either.
Still, when the three of them had gotten their trays they went over to him, although Padmé took Anakin’s hand and led them to the other side of the square table; Knight Kenobi sat down next to the elderly Master, and asked, “How goes it with you? I believe you recently spent an extended period of time on your homeworld?”
“Yes,” he said. “There was an extended dispute between a pair of cities, and they specifically requested me to go and stay the entire time. Although the Council tried to recall me more than once, and might even have succeeded had my ship not been stolen early in my time there. When your ability to get off a planet is dependent on others, they can hold you as long as they like.”
“Your ship was stolen?” Padmé asked it as if it was the most important breaking news in the universe. “How could anyone have managed that?”
“Even the best of us find a determined enough thief getting the better of us on occasion,” he said, which didn’t really sound like him. Maybe, Anakin thought, he’d let it be stolen because he’d wanted to stay on Serenno and solve their problem. Once, he never would have been recalled. Once, the Jedi Order had truly dedicated themselves to be of service to any planet that wanted their help. But that was a luxury they didn’t have anymore, and Anakin had heard Master Jinn talk more than once about how, while the Order did prioritize planets in desperate straits where large numbers of lives would be lost without Jedi intervention, after that they tended to favor planets that were powerful and influential within the Republic. It would have been easy for the people of Serenno to see themselves as unfairly deprived of their Jedi mediator, and for Master Dooku himself to agree with them.
He didn’t know if any of that would occur to Padmé, though. She had, before this past few months, always wanted to believe the best of their elders, and he doubted Master Windu had ever said anything that implied the Jedi Council would prioritize one mission over another due to anything besides need.
So she then proceeded to take over the conversation by barraging Master Dooku with questions concerning how the shuttle had been lost. It clearly shocked him and Knight Kenobi both, even though the latter had been with her all day and should’ve noticed she wasn’t her normal self and probably wouldn’t be until all this was over. The one of them being questioned obviously was not impressed with being so interrogated by a Padawan either, but Anakin was pretty sure Padmé didn’t care about their ranks.
She was even more upset than Anakin had thought, though, because she continued asked about when that suspicious man in the green suit had been seen again, and had it been before or after Serenno’s sun had set, and how hard did they look for him, even after Knight Kenobi started throwing her pleading looks and trying to change the subject, and even looking down at their plates as if pleading for them to be empty already, although given how much more talking Padmé was doing than eating Anakin thought it was going to be a long while yet. It didn’t help matters that it was becoming more and more obvious with each time Master Dooku tried to be vague or claimed not to remember that he had indeed let the ship be stolen and remain stolen. Anakin wished he could tell Padmé why he didn’t think that was because Master Dooku was doing anything with the Sith, but of course he couldn’t say such things here.
Finally, he interrupted her, “If their resources were so strained, then why, where there was that civil protest, a peaceful protest, did they suddenly have the resources, with full arms handy, to-” by standing up, slamming down his fork, leaving much of his meal uneaten(if Anakin had left that much Master Jinn would’ve lectured him about how many children in the galaxy were starving), and saying, “Padawan Naberrie, I have already had a lengthy conversation about this with your Master and his fellow members of the Jedi Council. I did not call you three over here to have an even lengthier one. Indeed, trust me, Padawan, I will locate your Master as quickly as possible and have another conversation with him. Good night.”
She did look alarmed then, which was probably good, even if it wasn’t for the reason Master Dooku thought it was. Knight Kenobi started, “Master Dooku…” but he had already stalked off. “That was not necessary,” he hissed at Padmé. “Not towards him.” Anakin assumed he was thinking the same thing he was; Master Jinn had probably made those comments about which planets got more help to him too.
But it was still impossible to tell Padmé that here. And she just stuck her fork into her food in a way that said everything to Anakin, and sighed, “I know, he was your Master’s Master. Although Ani here has told me he’s never necessarily been that nice to either of you.”
“I never said he was that bad,” said Anakin hastily, but his heart sank as he looked over to Knight Kenobi; he doubted he’d believe him.
But Knight Kenobi was looking at her a little more thoughtfully now, if still with clear displeasure. “Did you know,” he said, “Master Jinn once said to me he thought Anakin’s influence on you could easily be a positive or negative force. I think this evening it has been both. But perhaps people would not be so surprised if you were to do something they’d more expect him to do.”
“No, they would be!” Anakin protested even more hastily, since it was obvious where that was going. But, he frantically thought, what could he do? It was him against the two of them, and she was his elder, and he was a knight.
But thankfully, she shook her head, saying, “Much as I wish I could be the one to do this, Ani…no, you’re the only one who can. The Chosen One.” She dropped her voice before saying, “Maybe this was what that meant, but I hope not. You won’t be ready to face actual Sith that quickly.”
That was as much as anyone dared say in the refectory, or even in the corridors. But the three of them all returned to Master Jinn’s quarters together, with Knight Kenobi even saying he’d sleep there after Padmé told them she’d been forbidden to(of course she’d been). But when they were safely behind the locked door Anakin launched right into his thoughts on Master Dooku. Knight Kenobi voiced his agreement.
But after thinking about it for a moment, Padmé said, “You might be right, I suppose. But I still don’t trust him.
I did it all wrong tonight, though,” she added. “I let my anger and fear get the better of me. I should have been more clever; I could’ve maybe gotten more out of him then. Master Windu is definitely not going to be happy with me when he hears about this. And now what if Master Dooku searches hard enough for him he figures out he’s not here? People aren’t supposed to know about all this right now.”
“Except we’re hoping the Sith find out,” Knight Kenobi reminded her. “A trap’s no good if the entity you’re trying to trap doesn’t see it. And he may well suspect something already. He and Master Jinn don’t see each other quite as much as Master Jinn and I do, but he does keep some track of him, and he’ll certainly know he’s gone soon, if he doesn’t already. You’re right in that you let your emotions get the better of you, Padawan, but you need not worry about causing any trouble on that point.”
They spent another couple of hours poring further over the diagrams of the Temple and of the area, before Obi-Wan suggested a three-way meditation. When Padmé looked hesitant, he said, “Master Jinn has said to me more than once, and I’m sure he’s said it to you too, Anakin, that two or more Jedi who work together will always have more chance of success if they meditate together, even if they stay within their own minds during it, and if they open their minds up, that is true even more so. For a mission with this much at stake, he might insist on it, were he here.”
“It would be better,” Padmé conceded. “We would have a better idea of where each other’s minds are…”
She wanted to. That wasn’t even a belief on Anakin’s part; it was something he just knew, the way he knew that it was a little cold in the room and that the sun had completely set outside. And she didn’t want to because she thought it was a good idea, she wanted to because she wanted to.
It was awareness of what was going on in her head he’d never quite had with anyone before, not even Master Jinn.
Maybe Knight Kenobi did, because he gave Anakin a considering look, before saying. “Both of you follow my lead. First empty your minds.”
That was standard enough, and Anakin did it as automatically as he got into his personal favorite position for meditating, which was on his knees, very slightly squatted. Padmé meditated on her knees too, except she held herself up ramrod straight, feet poked out only just enough to maintain blood circulation. Knight Kenobi sat with his legs crossed in front of him and held his hands together behind his back.
“Are you attuned to the Force around you?” Anakin was, and Padmé must have been too, because she didn’t say anything. “Now, both of you, keep your awareness of the Force paramount, but put some focus on the other two of us. Feel us in the Force. Don’t try to go for much yet, just let yourselves feel that we are there.”
Anakin would never not be aware of Padmé in the Force, at least never when they were both on the same planet, and sometimes he thought he retained a conscious awareness of her even when they were light-years apart. So he mainly reached out towards Knight Kenobi. He was a strong presence too, like the Master they had in common, and yet at the same time completely different, less colorful, but more…deep, somehow.
“Now reach out into the Force with your mind, like you are craning your necks to see something in it. Don’t try to grab at our minds, though, just reach. Reach.”
Anakin reached, using a technique from when he had been much shorter, making his mind an arm, reaching to the top shelf it knew already was too high. He knew he was not moving, and neither were the other two, but it was starting to feel like the room was tilting, planning to drop them all against each other. The Force could make the air shrink, it could make it and the vacuum alike into nothing…
And suddenly, Anakin Skywalker was no longer alone in his own head. He had always been before, even with everything around him. His mind had touched Padmé’s twice in the past, when they had been much younger and he had willed her not to die, and it had touched Master Jinn’s plenty of time, but that had been nothing like this.
He was suffused first with an overpowering serenity, a calm determination to do what was right and what could be done, even when it was tinged with a painful grief, one that would not stop stabbing, not even when all else in Obi-Wan’s mind was blank. There was love there, too, quiet and cautious, for the universe in general, but also for Qui-Gon Jinn, and for his other friends, and for other people he had met and let go of. And there was fear, pressed in and almost denied, but there all the same, born out of their inability to be certain they would be the ones to win this war, for a war it had been, and he recognized that even when those around him didn’t.
But it was Padmé’s love that was far stronger, for both the universe in general and for those she cared for in particular. Her feelings poured themselves all over him, so warm and gentle. There was more fear there, immediate and as a result of the specific situation. She was not serene, not like Obi-Wan. She was steady, and willing to walk, unflinching, into any room placed in front of them, but she was not ready to accept those ends he would take without complaint. Her determination wasn’t just to do what could be done, it was to insist on what she wanted done. There was a defiance too, but Anakin could not quite guess of what. Much as he would wish, he knew it wasn’t of her Master.
“Don’t worry about what of you the two of us are getting,” said Obi-Wan, just before Anakin could. “We will all see much of each other, and the important thing is to trust. If we can trust each other now, we will trust each other two mornings from now.”
And now Anakin could feel Padmé’s trust, so ferocious it was almost like she’d burst it out of herself on purpose. Maybe she had. He could feel Obi-Wan’s too, matter of fact and easy.
But he couldn’t do it. Trust Padmé, sure. He’d always done that anyway. But Obi-Wan Kenobi was just…too easy. He couldn’t believe this was really the Knight’s mind. Even his grief over Tru and his fear of failure couldn’t get Anakin to believe in it. More than that, he could not believe Obi-Wan, or even Padmé, would just accept what they were feeling from his head.
“Ani…” Padmé was getting ready to plead with him, and most of the pain suffered by the three of them had already been hers, but now Anakin could feel that was more so. And he hated disappointing her. But no matter how he tried to tap back into that serenity, it just felt fake fake fake, and he was getting angry.
Even the regret didn’t feel strong enough as Obi-Wan said, “We will try this part again tomorrow. For now just focus on the Force again, than simply on our presences in it, as we were doing earlier.”
Obi-Wan really was very powerful. Even as all the strange feelings retreated from Anakin’s head and he was once again only there with himself, the older Jedi was vibrating with the power of the Force, much more than he had been doing so earlier. Anakin sensed awe that was not his own.
“Think of the tasks that lay before the three of us, the things we will all do together. We will each of us do everything in our power to help the other two, and we all know that.” They did; it was a much-needed reminder of what they could be confident in. “Each of you, think about what the other two will do.”
Anakin thought about that. He thought about the lesser-used hallways of the Temple down below them where tomorrow they would practice the crawling and climbing he needed to do. He thought about the information Obi-Wan would bring them at the end of the day about the likely movements of everyone on the Council. He thought about how they would both monitor him.
He actually felt more confident, then, of Obi-Wan’s ability to protect him. His willingness he had already not doubted, and he was just so strong, sitting there, even his hands restrained by each other and by his arms; it was like he didn’t even need them. He thought maybe Padmé felt that way too.
“Now about the mission. We may not know all of our exact actions yet, but think about what you will do in general. Don’t forget how each action will be aided by actions from each other.”
The spike of fear hit Anakin so hard for a moment he wondered if he’d accidentally reached his mind out again. It was so fierce he lost his awareness of the Force completely, and he found his legs sliding out of position; he dropped into a sitting position on the floor. It had been Padmé’s, and he turned to Obi-Wan, wanting to ask if he’d felt it like that, but from the way he was staring serenely out at the wall across from him, it didn't look like it.
Padmé was still in her position on her knees, but Anakin could tell just by look at her with his eyes that her concentration too had been broken. They were close enough to each other it was each to shuffle over, and she, after a moment’s hesitation, abandoned whatever attempts he’d been making to keep herself in it and shuffled over to him herself. “I can sense your feelings now,” he whispered. “Can you sense mine?”
“I can sense you’re excited,” she said, smiling a little herself. “That’s natural enough, of course.”
Obi-Wan raised his head, and they could tell he too had come out of meditation, though probably voluntarily. “Obi-Wan,” said Anakin, worried for a moment about using his given name, but the man had no reaction to it, “do we have to tell Master Windu about why the meditation broke?” He really didn’t want Padmé getting in trouble on his account, especially if it meant Master Windu would work harder to keep them apart.
“I don’t think I can keep that from him, Ani,” said Padmé. “Although maybe I won’t tell him right away. We may have other things to think about for a while after he gets back. Even if they succeed in killing Darth Maul, we may get some clue as to who his Master is, especially if we identify their spy.”
“It will be for you to tell him,” said Obi-Wan. “Everything I see and hear from the two of you I will keep to myself; I trust that you, too, Anakin, will tell our Master anything he needs to know.”
And once again, Anakin found himself trying to believe something, and finding he just couldn’t. The way Obi-Wan and Master Jinn were, it just was hard to think Obi-Wan would keep anything from him. But he did think he wouldn’t go telling Master Windu anything, and that was enough for him that night.