"Politics makes strange bedfellows."
- Charles Dudley Warner
She honestly thought she was smarter than this.
Ridiculous crushes on unattainable men were for stupid girls. Having your faculties scattered by such admiration for his reasoning and intelligence and strength (so much so that you had trouble coming up with a rational response to a perfectly simple question) was for girls in their first administrative post. Finding excuses to linger in his office was for idiotic senatorial groupies out for the thrill of a sophisticated man.
Mon Mothma was intelligent. She knew it. She was a seasoned politician, a senator in her own right for eight years now - longer even than him. She was a woman pursued herself for the brilliance of her mind and the frisson of her own power.
She thought she was smarter than this.
She hated being wrong.
She was in love with Bail Organa.
She wasn't completely idiotic, of course. He was married. He did, actually, love his wife. (Fair enough; Mon liked the woman herself, from the few times they'd met.) Even if he didn't, he was a good man. A moral one, a fair one, a decent one. Too much so to indulge in a tawdry affair.
That was part of why she loved him. And not what she wanted, in any case.
She could settle. She could be content with what she had. His company. His partnership. His confidence. His respect. It was not negligible, what she had been granted.
She looked away from the window, their reflections in it cast against the glittering city. Bail had finished his correspondence apparently; the communicator was dark. He was back behind his desk, but still standing. He looked up with an eyebrow quirked. "Still with me?"
Always. "Sorry," she said, drawing up an apologetic smile. "I was distracted."
"There are distractions aplenty," he agreed, with a smile of his own. (And stupid - stupid - to collect those smiles, to tuck each one away.) They were alone in his office, the others gone an hour or more now. "What do you think?"
Turning to face him completely, she marshalled her thoughts. "Giddean is with us."
"Rather too much so," Bail muttered.
Mon frowned. "You cannot think he's a plant." Senator Danu had been with them almost as long as there had been an amorphous 'them' to be with.
Bail shook his head. "But it's worrisome, his enthusiasm. It makes me fear what he might do."
A nod; she yielded his point. "Then we keep an eye on him. But he is with us. Taneel as well."
"She said little."
"It is her way." Mon came over to his desk, watching him tidy the last things away for the day. It was late; too late, perhaps. "Fang Zar I am uncertain about. Our methods are not his. He does not like the shadows."
Bail looked up, met her eyes; he did not like shadows either. "His support is important."
"But at what cost?" she countered.
He sighed, switching off the electronics on his desk. When the light fled his face, he looked almost haggard. "You were right about Amidala, though; a good choice."
Mon felt her spine stiffen, pleasure in the compliment running up against something she liked even less. Jealousy, that had lodged like a shard of ice in her heart in the long moment that Bail's eyes had locked with Padme's in the meeting. Not thawing, nor dislodging, no matter how she worried at it.
She admired Amidala. The girl reminded her rather of herself, though their paths had been different. Mon envied the other senator her spark. While Mon trod her way with serenity swaddling her, Padme seemed never to leash her anger; she let it drive her, let it be seen. Yes, she admired her. It was not unsurprising that Bail should admire her too. It did not matter (Mon told herself). He had chosen Mon as his partner in this business. It was her that he trusted.
But, her frozen heart whispered, had he chosen you merely because he did not think he could have her? How sure can you be that she will stand with us? he had asked that afternoon.
Bail had an eyebrow lifted again, watching her. She smiled, calm like a mask. "She is too high-profile. Her full support could damage us. Our plans." Amidala didn't like the shadows either. She forced the light upon herself.
"And she knows it," Bail agreed. "But working alongside, she will be invaluable."
The word was a fingernail scraped across her heart. She shunted it aside. "We must work quickly. We have delayed so long." They had been reluctant to admit that the system had failed them. Their system. Their failure.
Slipping his datapad into his pocket, Bail came around his desk. "There will be enough time," he said. "We will move through the night, and there will be a dawn." She smiled at him. Those were her words, when she hadn't realised she was talking him into this. He smiled back, laid a hand on her shoulder. "Go home, Mon. Sleep. You look exhausted." So well he knew her; who else could see such things in the face she wore? He touched her cheek. She did not lean into it.
She could settle. She could be content.
Mon hated being wrong.
They left the meeting at Amidala's together, silent until it was only the two of them in the elevator. Mon's own apartments were in 500 Republica; she pressed the button for her floor.
"She mentioned the Jedi," Bail said then.
"Yes," Mon said as the doors opened again.
They'd heard, the day before, that Palpatine had appointed a personal representative to the Jedi Council. They'd heard who.
"Too much power there," Bail had said, stalking her office like a caged bantha (though really, she thought, more like a nervous politician).
"Too much popular power," Mon agreed. Anakin Skywalker was a bright and glittering prize of the people. Young, handsome, brilliant, fearless. Their Chosen One. She folded her hands together and said, "We need to consult the Jedi."
Bail stopped pacing before her desk. "We've spoken of this before."
She flicked her fingers, uncharacteristically abrupt. "Yes, I know. You will not bring the Jedi into politics. It is not our choice any longer, Bail. He has brought them in. They have allowed it. Now, more than ever, the Jedi are an advantage we cannot allow him to exploit alone."
Still, he hesitated, and she twisted her fingers in frustration. She admired his sense, his acumen, but when it came to the Jedi, he had a damned romantic blindspot. They were a tool, like any other; potential, reputation, threat. One did not shirk from using the tool that fit the job. At least, she didn't.
"I'll think on it," he'd said, then.
And now, looking at him as they entered her apartments, Mon knew he was going to capitulate. Bitter victory; it was Padme's suggestion that had tipped his decision.
Mon strode across her receiving room. The blinds had been left open, the way she liked them, and the room was full of sunlight. At the window, the city sparkled in front of her. "I'm surprised you didn't encourage her," she said. "Or at least discover who she was so eager to tell."
Against the brightness of the city in the window, she could not see the reflection of his frown, but she still knew it was there. Knew him so very, very well. She bowed her head against it, carefully pulling the claw of her headdress from her hair, tossing it onto the windowsill. Wished she could shed her emotions so easily.
She turned to face him, leaning against the sill. "Her suggestion might have been a useful place to start," she said, a tempering. "She has had quite a bit to do with the Order, one way and another."
"Which is partly why we cannot use her," Bail said, voicing what they both knew. "There is too much attention paid to all her actions, especially those that might impact upon the war." He smiled, coming to join her by the window, watching the traffic pass. "Besides, I suspect I know who she would say."
"Who?" Mon asked, watching his profile.
He looked at her, and for a moment she felt laid bare. He said, "Obi-Wan Kenobi."
Of course he had seen nothing. He was blind. She was eight years in this job; it took her the barest fraction of a second to remember what they were discussing. "Power there, as well," she noted. But a quieter sort, not so brash. A power she felt more comfortable with. She had met General Kenobi - barely - at some senate fete for a victory. He had been contained, courteous. They had not spoken beyond greetings, congratulations extended and graciously demurred. "Your thoughts?"
Bail's idle hand toyed with her discarded headdress; she pressed a tremble out of her fingers. "It is a good choice. He, more than most, has a balance between consideration and action. And he is respected."
"You know him," Mon stated.
He inclined his head. "A little. As well as one can, perhaps."
"Will he join us?"
Sometimes she thought it still surprised him when she was forthright. Everything had its place; it frustrated her that so few people seemed to recognise that. Bail considered her question, taking so long that she wondered if he would answer at all. "Were it simply a question of what he would do, I believe he would," he said eventually. "But nothing is simple these days."
"I will approach him," Mon said, and caught his look. It was my idea, she thought, but said, "Some small attention is paid to you as well, Bail, and this must be as innocuous as we can make it."
This was the shadows. The edges of things. Her arena. Mon Mothma was everything that glided past resistance and slipped out of the memory.
He nodded. She reached across him, and reclaimed her headdress from beneath his fingers.
It was, really, rather easy. A little discreet research turned up an appropriate sector - one where events could feasibly have repercussions for her own sector; one where General Kenobi had recently seen active duty. (His record, she noted in passing, really was impressive. Capable, efficient, considerate but ruthless, expeditious but thorough. Unduly eclipsed by Skywalker's flashiness, she thought.)
Once she'd found it, she made her research queries again, in a more streamlined and carefully hooked fashion, and in the open. Early in the afternoon, a note arrived, a helpful librarian suggesting that the Jedi archives might be of greater assistance; he would write a referential introduction to the archivist, one Jocasta Nu.
Once there, it was the work of half an hour to convince the indomitable woman that Mon's queries were beyond the imperative scope of the official material, and perhaps if she could speak with Master Kenobi for the barest few minutes...
He was neither what she remembered, nor expected. Still reserved, with determination in his stride and the crease of a frown between his brows, but there was a relaxed air about him. Because this was his home, his territory? He seemed to wear not only his robes with confidence, but the entire Temple. Very handsome, of course, that was unchanged. He had never been breathtaking, merely prompted a level of benevolent comfort.
He bowed to her; she stood and returned the courtesy. "Senator Mothma?" he said, and smiled. The expression made him younger and rather charming. "I believe we have met before."
Her own smile twitched at her lips. "A year ago, at least. You have a formidable memory, General Kenobi."
"You are not difficult to remember." He glanced over her shoulder. "Shall we talk in the garden? I'm afraid Master Nu doesn't much like me."
She acquiesced wordlessly. He led the way.
The garden was serene, both ordered and unexpectedly wild. And Mon thought politics had prepared her for contradictions. She was further dissatisfied to note that she had no idea how to begin with the man walking unhurriedly beside her. She had planned a subtle approach, a sequence of questions designed to lead him towards her goal. He was, she realised, abruptly and inevitably, a Jedi. He was not of her ilk. She did not know how to handle him. They dedicated their training to eliminating the sorts of weaknesses she exploited as a matter of course. He was smooth to her touch; no purchase for her questing fingers.
There were others enjoying the garden. Master Kenobi greeted Jedi as they passed, and Mon noticed that she was not the only non-Jedi here. There was another senator, seen at a distance. Some others of Coruscant's elite. It was both reassuring and troubling. She was not a remarkable presence, but there were witnesses to her visit.
They took a seat on a bench beside a stream tumbling over rocks. An idyllic spot, and Master Kenobi's choice, and Mon noted that the noise of the rapids provided some cover for their voices in the same moment that he said, "Are you really that interested in the Essesia system?"
She smiled - so many things that could be put into a smile, like knowledge, and a slight remonstrance, and a hint of challenge - as she shifted her attention to him. "I am unaccustomed to being handled, Master Kenobi."
His eyes glanced over her face before he looked down. He was not smiling. "I dislike politics, Senator."
"As do I." A quick glance of sharp eyes, disbelief in them; she found herself pricked by that, uncharacteristically sharp in her reply. "Do you fight for the pleasure of it? I do not do as I do because I enjoy it, General, but because it is necessary."
He stared forward, over the stream. "The Jedi are not political," he said, and she waited, watching his profile. She had given him something. She expected reciprocity. He glanced at her, not sidelong, but turning to look in frank appraisal. She returned the gaze. "You have had a great deal to do with Bail Organa, I believe. He has spoken of you."
Surprise, pleasure, a blush rising in her as though she were a teenager; Mon squashed it all down, and inclined her head. "We have a certain commonality of opinion."
Kenobi nodded, as if that were nothing he had not expected to hear. "The Jedi are not political," he repeated.
"The decision," she reminded him, the gentle insistence of a mother, or the voice of fact, "is no longer in your hands."
When he smiled then, it was thinned by acknowledgement and the weights of the galaxy. Mon thought she preferred his first smile, the one that had lit his face with youth. "We, too, do what is necessary. But our necessity is not yours, Senator."
Had she felt unbalanced here? This, the give and take of expectation and requirement, felt as known to her as her own face in the mirror. "Perhaps in this instance," she said, "our necessities may coincide."
"Perhaps," he said, but absently, and before she could speak again, his hand covered hers on her knee. She looked up, startled, and met his grey eyes. "This is not the place to speak of it," he whispered, barely more than a breath. In the next instant she saw, over his shoulder, two people come around a bend in the path. A Jedi, with a senator Mon knew but did not respect.
Obi-Wan's hand slid from hers, and he turned to exchange nods with the Jedi. Mon looked down at her fingers on her knee, where his hand had rested. After a moment, he said, "Should I visit you?" His voice was pitched intimately, sliding beneath the liquid chatter of water on rocks.
"Not at my office," Mon replied, keeping her eyes down and her voice as low as his. He had to lean in a little to hear. "This must not be official, not yet."
"Your home, then?" he asked, but she had barely looked up when he said, "No. I suppose not even you have escaped the increased surveillance."
"It's minimal," she demurred. "There are ways. But still."
"Still," he agreed. "For now, all the secrecy possible." So straightforward about deception that she almost smiled. "I think you had best visit me."
She blinked, actually surprised, for the second time this afternoon. "Is that...?"
His grin, this time, was almost mischievous. "You would not be the first of Coruscant's society to come seeking a private meeting with a hero of the war. And I would not be the first Jedi to be unequal to the task of refusing. We are not monks, Senator."
"I know that," Mon snapped, heat in her cheeks. "But I am not that sort."
"Nor I," he said, gently, and then, with something else in his voice: "Necessity, remember?"
He was teasing her. She almost stared at him; had not thought Jedi capable of it. But she snatched up her composure again, her face perfectly tranquil as she said, "Well then, I suppose I simply cannot wait, and must have you tonight."
A small cough; a rather larger grin. She turned away, her own smile cracking her mask. Fading quickly enough as she recalled the truth hidden behind jest. She couldn't wait. They had no time.
When she looked back, he had sobered as well. "I shall await you."
Mon returned late in the evening, dusk already fled from the sky. She wore a grey cloak with a deep hood, and came by air taxi, rather than her personal transport. More the semblance of concealment than the actual thing. The secret was knowing when and how to hide in plain sight.
Admitted without comment, she was escorted to Kenobi's room by a menial droid. Hardly scintillating conversation. Unlikely to gossip. Though there would be rumours, she was sure. There always were; the Coruscanti had nothing better to do than observe and comment upon each other's doings. There were rumours about her and Bail, Mon knew that. Amusing, those. And disheartening, for how little they appeared to bother Bail.
She had not told him about this meeting. She wondered how he would react if he heard of it through gossip. She wondered when she had become such an idiot about things.
Obi-Wan answered his door, less formally dressed than he had been that afternoon; no cloak, fewer tunics, no belt over his obi. Mon tilted her hood back sufficient to show her face. "Senator," he said, a reasonable display of surprise. "Will you come in?"
"Thank you," she said, nodding a dismissal to the droid. As she stepped into the room, she cast her hood back entirely. Beneath it, her headdress was finer than her usual, an elegant filigree net spanning her scalp. Her dress, too, was different to her usual garb, slinking against her skin. She'd thought, ridiculously, of Bail when she had it made, and had never worn it before tonight.
"You should call me Mon," she said, as he closed the door.
"Then you should call me Obi-Wan. Have a seat; let me take that." He reached for her cloak as she shrugged it off, his gaze passing quickly down her body as he turned away. "Refreshment?"
"A glass of something might be appropriate," she allowed, seating herself on a low couch. The room was austere, but did not seem uncomfortable. Possibly just that it was not very lived in; how much time in the past three years had Obi-Wan Kenobi actually spent on Coruscant?
He returned with her glass of something - a light spiced wine, a sip told her; designed to be scented on the breath - and settled into an armchair with his own glass. Ready. Awaiting her.
Mon took a breath, felt her face don a serene and precise smile. "Master Kenobi, we are concerned about the shape of the Republic. About the shape of its future."
"And by 'we'," he said easily, "you mean...?" Her look was direct, challenging - did he expect her to give everything with nothing in return? - but he met it evenly. "I am not a politician, Senator. I am a Jedi, and a general. I can sense much, but until I know how the situation stands, I cannot act. I do not hedge."
She looked down into her drink, tilting it against the glass. "But I am a politician. And what you ask... it is standing helpless before an armed man whose intentions remain unknown."
"I don't believe you could be helpless."
She looked up quickly, but he was not teasing her this time. Shaking her head, she said, "I would prefer not to tempt fate on that point."
There was a long moment, and Mon thought perhaps she would be leaving very soon. Going home. Contacting Bail even from the taxi with failure heavy on her. Then, "Very well," Kenobi said, setting his glass down and leaning forward, forearms braced on his knees. "I know why you are here. You feel nervous about the powers the Chancellor is accruing. The way he is using them. And you suspect - or maybe hope? - that the Jedi feel the same."
It felt like the slice of a blade, statements so straightforward. The sharp edge of them, the chill of exposure they left in their wake. Mon took a mouthful of her drink, gathering herself again. "He is impinging upon you even as he does upon us," she responded. "Would Skywalker be on the Council if not for Palpatine?" He looked away, and she felt a sudden pang; she had slipped. "I know he is your former student."
"He is my friend." He looked back at her, eyes like an unforgiving sky, and she lifted her chin, a thrill of challenge in her veins. "But he is not ready to sit on the Council." He sighed, glanced away again. "Yes, we have our concerns about Palpatine."
There was a shimmer of victory inside her, of a chance taken and rewarded, but her smile was a tight-reined thing. "And when you say 'we'...?"
There was an echoing smile on his face. "I do not speak for anything nearly as organised as I'm sure you do. I have no mandate. As I said, we have our own concerns. I am merely pursuing an opportunity, here." A lifted eyebrow, a challenging look. "Are you still interested?"
Mon shook her head, but not in negation. "Does the Council even know you are speaking with me?"
"Do your allies?" he countered.
"Bail does," she admitted. Safe enough; he knew Bail, had intimated that he knew Bail's politics, and through him, her own. That was giving him nothing. "But otherwise, no. As you said, all possible secrecy. So I, too, have no mandate. And no expectations. The Jedi are still an unknown, Master Kenobi. I am also pursuing an opportunity."
"There is nothing unknown about us, Senator. Our allegiance is to the Republic."
"As is ours." She met his gaze again, and became aware of her heart beating faster. Politics was better than the hunt, a fight, a near fall; but how long since she had felt this almost wild joy? Strange she should feel it here. This was not quite politics at all. This was almost personal.
He was smiling at her - smiling back at her, she realised - but also shaking his head. "I do not know what use I - we - can be. We are not political, Mon. We cannot act directly upon the Senate. That will not change. That must not change."
"If something were to happen, though." Her mouth was dry. She was very near the edges of things she and Bail had not spoken of to anyone else. Things that would damn them both faster than she could blink. She lifted her glass and drained it. It did not help much. "Where would the Jedi stand then?"
"For the Republic," he said, watching her closely.
She watched him in return. "You lie, Obi-Wan." He blinked, and she almost smiled, to have surprised him in turn. "You are a politician, after all. That answer hints at everything and reveals nothing."
He laughed then, but shook his head. "Our priorities are simple. The war ended." He paused, then added, "The Republic restored fully."
It was a telling choice of phrase. It was enough - and more, more than she had had any right to expect from this clandestine meeting. When she met his gaze, her eyes wide and her face unguarded, she saw he knew she had understood. Her heart beating, she took a deep breath, trying to comprehend what this might mean for their plans. It was too large, too much to deal with right now. "I should go," she said, leaning forward to set her empty glass on the table.
"If you must." Obi-Wan stood with her, going to bring her cloak.
As he draped it around her, she said, "Will you meet with me again? Tomorrow?"
"So eager for my company?" There was teasing in his voice, over her shoulder.
It was surprisingly easy to match the lightness. "Quite desperate for it." Then less so, as she turned to face him. He was taller than her, but not so tall as some. She felt energised, invigorated, full of possibility. "Tomorrow evening, at my apartment. With Bail as well."
He hesitated, then nodded. She gave him the address, and reached for the door.
"Wait." Obi-Wan stepped close in front of her, and even as she lifted her eyebrows quizzically, his fingers brushed her brow, tugging a few wisps of short, red hair from beneath her headdress. "You might try to look a little less composed," he said, lightly.
Mon could not help but laugh. "Am I ruining your reputation?" she said, and slipped out the door.
The smile stayed with her all the way to the waiting air taxi. And the feeling of his fingers against her forehead. She did not brush the errant lock of hair back into place.
She had breakfast with Bail, which meant a cup of Chandrilan herb tea in the corridor between committee meetings. When she came out of the military provisioning meeting he was waiting without the appearance of waiting, and fell in beside her. From the corner of her eye he looked tired, but no more so than usual.
"I had a meeting last night," she said quietly.
Bail, flicking through minutes, said absently, "With whom?" before he caught her drift, and shut the folder abruptly. "You should have told me."
"There was no time." She kept the irritation out of her voice, her public mask effortless. There were many others in the corridors - senators, their aides, their secretaries - and she smiled and sometimes nodded in greeting as was appropriate. None of them would remember particularly that she was walking with Bail. They were frequently together. Rumours, remember? Hiding in plain sight. "And what would you have done; baby-sat me? Inappropriate, not to mention unnecessary."
He had the good grace to look abashed. "And?" he prompted.
"Distanced," she said. "And abstract. But promising nonetheless. I have arranged a second meeting. Tonight."
"Your apartment?" She nodded. "I'll be there."
For a moment, something twisted her. Something vehement and clutching; why did he assume he was invited? Why should she share Obi-Wan? For that moment, Mon wanted to deny him.
She said nothing. The corridor forked; he went left, she went right. She did not look back, and assumed he had not either.
They had been doing this for a long time now.
One thing bled into another, and it was much a typical day, and by the time Mon made it home that evening, the sun was loitering low on the horizon, even from the elevated vantage of her apartment.
Obi-Wan Kenobi was already in her receiving room. Her handmaiden delivered the news as Mon shucked her outer robe in the entrance, in the low and measured way the girl did everything (well chosen, and well trained). Mon nodded, and gave her permission (more an order) to retire for the evening.
Obi-Wan was standing by the window when she stepped into the room. "A fine view," he noted, without turning around.
"A timely view," she replied. In the deepening dusk, it was still possible to pick out the repairwork, the relics of Grievous's assault on the capital. The thing that had started this current tumult.
"Yes," he agreed, and then he did turn towards her.
There was something in his face. How strange, that she should think that of a face she hardly knew, and a face trained to serenity moreover. Then again, was she not in her turn trained to pick out the slightest nuances? "You are troubled by something," she said, circling the room to stand by him.
A smile tweaked at one corner of his mouth. "It's the end of a long day's work, and you still analyse me."
"My work is not yet done for today," Mon reminded him, not answering his smile.
He allowed that with the faintest tilt of his head. "I am not quite troubled. But I do have some news." Perhaps there was something in her face then, for he added, "Best kept until Senator Organa joins us."
She did smile then, sharp and thin. "We can wait that long, at least." A sudden jab of annoyance in her, and she tugged her headdress off, tossing it aside onto the cushion of a seat. She felt her hair fall loose, and his eyes on her.
"You too are troubled," he said.
A faint flash of amusement, and Mon let him see it. "You will win no praise for surmising that." She sighed, and leaned against the window ledge. She liked her view, now disappearing into the neon starburst night of Coruscant. She liked what it said about the recuperative powers of the Republic. About its strength, so nearly forgotten but still so present. When she leaned her forehead against the glass, it was cool on her skin. "We are up against the wall, General Kenobi. Everything is wound so tight, it must break, and very soon. We have no time."
There was near silence behind her, just the quietness of him being there. And then he said, "I thought we agreed you would call me Obi-Wan if I called you Mon."
She huffed a faint laugh, the glass fogged with it when she opened her eyes, and turned back towards him. He was standing near, and there was concern in him, and that was not at all incongruous with the lightness that had been in his voice. A man who mixed many things together equably. Flexible, but strong. She didn't know if that made him a good Jedi. She knew it made him something she liked. "I wish I had met you earlier," she said.
Faint surprise lifted his eyebrows, and he smiled, the one that made him young and even more handsome. "There may yet be time for us to get to know one another. And leisure for it, once the war is done."
"I am getting melodramatic," Mon admitted, and then admitted further, "It is feeling like the end of something, recently. I have learned to rely on my instincts."
"As have I." Obi-Wan was not laughing at her, but watching her closely - he would have made an excellent politician, she thought.
The doorchime sounded, making her blink. "That will be Bail. Excuse me."
When Bail stepped into her entrance hall, he was sumptuously and elegantly dressed, and her traitorous eyes must have asked the question before Mon was entirely sure she wanted to, because he smiled apologetically and said, "The opera with Breha. I'd forgotten. I have to go there from here. I can't stay very long."
The last was directed towards the receiving room, and Mon turned to see Obi-Wan in the doorway. He glanced towards her, and she looked down, to Bail's polished boots. Opera with his wife. This sort of thing happened all the time. Why wasn't she used to it? Why was she so silly?
"Then we'd best be quick," Obi-Wan was saying. He stepped back, and Bail went into the room.
Mon followed them, lifting her chin. "Obi-Wan was saying he had important news." They sat around the low table, Bail looking curiously at the Jedi.
"Yes," Obi-Wan said, now with a frown creasing his brow. That made him look older, more care-worn, though he sat easily enough in his chair. "The Council received news this afternoon of General Grievous's location. We hope to have him neutralised, one way or the other, within the next few days."
Mon took a breath. Momentous news indeed. With Dooku dead already, if Grievous was taken or killed... the war could be over. She looked over at Bail; he was looking back at her, all her own thoughts in his eyes, then he turned to Obi-Wan. "Palpatine knows this?"
"It was his intelligence that made the discovery."
Then he would use it. An announcement in Congress tomorrow, Mon imagined. Another piece of grand, inspired rhetoric. At this short notice, there was little they could do about anything he might push through with it. But they could begin preparing for the challenge that the end of hostilities would present. Little chance the Jedi would fail this time. They were determined, she knew that. Obi-Wan had told her as much.
Lifting her gaze from her nested fingers, Mon asked, "Who is the Council sending after him?"
But the moment her eyes met Obi-Wan's, she knew the answer. "Me," he confirmed.
She was not sure how she felt about that. But feeling was, at this point, completely irrelevant. "Even with the war over," Bail said, before she could, "Palpatine may not relinquish his powers."
"Do you think?" Obi-Wan asked, his face blank.
"I would not," Mon said, and both of them looked at her. She smiled a bitter smile. "Were I him, with so much at my fingertips to work my will upon the Republic, unhindered by a fractious and dissolute Senate, I would find it difficult to resist the temptation to hold on just a little longer. Just until I had solved the problems."
Bail laughed. Obi-Wan did not. He tilted his head, an acknowledgement just short of a nod. "Times have been uncertain. There has been much doubt. But once order is restored, the proper scheme of things must be so as well. The Jedi will do what they can to ensure it." He tapped a finger against his knee, then added, "I ask that you take your cue from us."
He was watching her, and she said what she was expected to, feeling that warmth of enjoyment again. "I thought you were not political."
"We are not," he responded smoothly. "We stand for order and the Republic. That is all."
"And we will stand with you," Bail promised. When Mon glanced at him, there was a wide smile on his face. "This is better than we could have hoped for, Obi-Wan. We will spread this news, quietly of course, and hold ourselves for your action. But for now," and he rose to his feet, "I had best be moving, or I'll be late, and I'll never hear the end of it." He leaned forward, and clapsed hands with Obi-Wan. "Good luck, my friend. All our thoughts go with you."
"Thank you, Bail." A smile, genuine and friendly. "Enjoy the opera."
"Unlikely," Bail laughed. "Mon; tomorrow morning?"
"I have half an hour after the first session."
"We'll talk then. Good evening."
She didn't look after him; his boots sounded hollowly against the floor until the door closed behind him.
When she looked up at Obi-Wan, though, there was knowledge writ on his face. It disappeared almost as soon as she saw it, but it had been there. And Mon wondered how, in all the wide universe, Bail could see nothing for so long, and this man see it all in the space of half an hour.
"His wife is a lovely woman," she said.
"I know," Obi-Wan responded. "I met her once."
Mon stood, and was aware of Obi-Wan doing the same as she crossed to the window. She was calmed by the city view; she always was. She did not love this city, but she loved what it represented. What made it possible. Not the same way she loved Bail. She did not want to talk about it. Not even obliquely. She did not, she realised, want to think about it. The heaviness around her had only been made worse by Obi-Wan's news. She had no nervousness, just a deep foreboding. "Something is ending," she said. "One way or another."
"Yes." He was just behind her, and she turned to face him, sure there was more than that. He smiled, and obliged, "Things are always ending. And other things beginning. That is the way of things, Mon. All things pass, some in a moment and some in centuries. But all things pass."
His face was serene, but there was still a wrinkle between his eyebrows, where his frown had been and would be again. If she pressed a finger there, she would feel the memory of his concerns. "Are you worried about going after Grievous?" Another question she already knew the answer to.
Another answer he gave her anyway. "It will be as the Force wills."
He was not as other people. Then again, neither was she. Knowing that, Mon asked, "Do you ever do what you want?"
He smiled, a smile that she shared. "About as often as you do, Senator."
It was as simple as that. As simple as stepping forward from the window and letting her fingers touch his face - his cheek, the faint prickle of his beard. He did not step back, nor turn his head away from her hand. She had been almost certain he would not. "Should you be going?" Mon said. "To get a good night's sleep before your fate descends?"
"I thought you weren't that sort," he said; her finger brushed against his bottom lip, then fell away.
"I'm not," she said.
For a moment, she thought he might go anyway. That had always been a possibility. Obi-Wan wasn't that sort either. And then, "I know," he said, and there was a smile on his face, and always there was something new in his smiles, something to see. She did not collect them so much as enjoy each as it came.
He closed the space between them, his hand warm on her elbow as he drew her closer. He leaned down as she tilted her face up to meet his. His mouth was firm but gentle and shifting, and she kissed him back without thinking about how. His beard against her face was softer than she'd thought it might be. She'd considered the matter. Bail had a beard too.
Mon opened her mouth into Obi-Wan's kiss, and reached her arm around his neck, pulling him closer. And resolved not to think about Bail again.
Obi-Wan's hands were wide, square-palmed, almost average, with a ridge of callous striping the palm from years with a lightsaber. That snagged a little against her silken shift as his hands smoothed over her, hip and flank, spanning her spine. There was a confidence there, but she was not reliant on it. Was not dependent on him, as he was not on her.
There were, actually, no politics here.
She leaned back, again against the window, and his heart beat beneath the palm she laid against his chest, tugging at his tunic, or at least at the outermost. He was wearing his full complement. "I suspect this will be a challenge."
He took her hand in his, turning it to kiss the inside of her wrist. "Easier last night," he agreed.
A touch of surprise. "Were you really considering it?" she asked.
"Seriously? No." He smiled, and she pulled him closer. He spoke then with his mouth by her ear, his breath tickling at her hair. "You were beautiful enough to tempt anyone."
The warmth in her was pleasure, the glow of a compliment received, not a blush, and she braced herself against the glass. His fingers brushed through her hair, and she remembered them on her brow last night. "Anyone," she murmured, before remembering that she was not going to think of him. What she planned and Bail rarely coincided, of course.
"Even him," Obi-Wan said.
It was not unpleasant to hear, but Mon shook her head. Not a denial. "That is not what I want," she said. Not him tempted. Not a tawdry affair. A partnership, equality, respect, him by her side. Love.
Part of that she had already. Part of it she could never have. She knew that. She knew it.
Mon curled her fingers back under Obi-Wan's tunic, and wrapped the fabric around her knuckles. "Come," she said, and led him to her bedroom.
Obi-Wan's hands were warm and just gentle enough, that ridge of callous even more apparent against her bare skin. They were capable, but also graceful. He was a man of contrasts, of flexibility, and he matched her perfectly in this darkness, in these shadows, here and now.
She should have fallen in love with a man more like herself. For a moment - the span of time when he tipped her dizzyingly over into orgasm - she thought maybe she would.
When they lay together, sweat cooling on their skin, Mon stroked her fingers over his face, touched that crease between his brows, and thought, no. She wouldn't, after all.
She was not a stupid girl.
She dropped her hand from his face to the sheet, and they were two separate people again. Strange bedfellows.
"I should go," Obi-Wan said, not ungently, and she nodded. Given the shape of things to come, there were matters she should attend to this evening; she imagined it was much the same for him. He shifted across her bed, air spinning cool against her skin in his wake. "May I use your--"
"Of course," Mon said.
When he came out of the refresher, she had pulled on a robe, tidied her hair somewhat, and begun gathering up the layers of his clothing. She helped him dress, a process as convoluted as donning full senatorial regalia.
Clothed, he stood a moment, no longer suited to this space. Mon considered kissing him goodbye, but that would not be right. It was done, what they had had. Passed in a moment.
So she smiled instead, and clasped his hand, not quite as Bail had done, and said, "Good luck, Obi-Wan Kenobi."
He smiled in return. "May the Force be with you."
And he went out, towards his fate, waiting out there in the universe to be faced.
Mon wasn't sure about her own. Here, probably, and not now but very soon. For the first time, she felt something beginning.
Endnotes: Ah, the curse of the minor character. There was practically no information on Mon Mothma, and what there is conflicts with itself. I have, variously, found information declaring she was born in 48BBY and was the youngest senator ever at age 21 (i.e. in 27BBY), and that her term as senator started in 19BBY (the year of the formation of the Empire, which would make her born in 40BBY). I've gone with the former, because it seemed to me that in the Episode III novelisation she had far more influence than could be expected of a brand-new senator, and most blurbs describe her as "influential in the last days of the Old Republic". Plus, the actress who played her in Ep III is older than Natalie Portman. Interestingly, this actually gives her five years more senate experience than Bail, though he's twenty years older.
Is the general public allowed into the Temple archives? I couldn't find an adequate answer to this question anywhere, but Bail's excuse when he visits the burning Temple in the Ep III novelisation - "I have an appointment with--" - suggests that they are allowed into the Temple, at least, and I could see no reason why the Galactic Conspiracy of Librarians shouldn't work in Mon's favour to smuggle her in to see Obi-Wan. (I also think the bored Coruscanti trophy wives would've totally gone for the Jedi.)
I'm playing with the idea that when Palpatine's talking about rumours of Obi-Wan and "a certain female senator", they could actually be about Mon. (Of course, he wants Anakin to think they're about Padme.) There is, however, absolutely nothing in any canon to suggest that Obi-Wan did indeed get drawn into the political meetings of the nascent rebellion. That's why this is fanfiction, and not a meta essay on how Obi-Wan and Mon and Bail were having a hot rebellious threesome. (But, you know, they totally were. *G*)
The Quiet Ones by dee
SWhetgenathon; Mon Mothma, unrequited love. For reasons of creative license, I have shuffled some events of the novelisation a tiny bit. (Copious further notes at the end.)