|Anakin's Golden Years
Author: pronker PM
Anakin faces the natural changes in his life with as much grace as possible. AU. Slash.Rated: Fiction M - English - Drama/Friendship - Anakin Skywalker & Obi-Wan K. - Words: 5,497 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 9 - Follows: 1 - Published: 01-27-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3363061
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: Anakin's Golden Years
Time: Fifty years after ROTS
Complete in Six Parts
Disclaimer: I own nothing recognizable.
Summary: Anakin faces the natural changes in his life with as much grace as possible. AU. Slash.
Anakin faced his last class of the day. "Class, you have my complete and undivided attention. Class!"
The room quieted as much as a roomful of just-teens could quiet. Anakin had taught the Junior Padawans when he was off-mission for fifty-one years, and full-time since last year. They spoke to his nature as did no other age group, a fact that Obi-Wan had teased him about constantly. "Class, I am as gratified to teach Astronavigation With Aspects Of Force-Enhancement as much as you are to learn it." He began to pace, foregoing stillness as much as ever. "As you all know, this is my final day here. I retire to Ragoon-6 tomorrow. When you and your Masters see me there someday, I want you to show me how much you have paid attention here." The class tittered appreciatively. "I have taught many of your Masters as well. You are the new generation of Jedi, however, and I expect you to show them up." The class guffawed. "Let's begin."
The twenty-six students continued yesterday's lesson, half the time spent studying the holocharts, half the time curving Force currents around themselves to virtual-navigate through the assigned space routes. Anakin expected his last day to go uneventfully and it did. Several older instructors in the lounge made a to-do over their former Chosen One. The middle-aged Corellian Makashi instructor gave him a sloppy kiss in post-Jedi Code Revision openness as he left her the holo-chip to his office. When he departed the instruction center with his box of personal desk items, Anakin felt replete.
Back in his quarters, Kopi tea in his mug and his feet up, Anakin sorted through years of amusing lifeday holocards --- The forests of Endor are timeless, inspiring, primeval ... Thank you for planting them. Happy 70th! --- dried flameflower arrangements and his divorce documents. Finally he placed the last, the most precious item onto the padded arm of his recliner.
It was his favorite holo of them together, unanimated for a change. They remained frozen from their chests up in subdued smiles, shoulders not quite touching. Anakin studied the features of his ex- and forever Master. Here was the touch of silver in hair and beard, there were the slightly slouched shoulders. The holo was taken at ... Padmé's farewell party the second year of the war, yes, that's right, the party where she had danced first with Obi-Wan, then with him, then with Bail, then with her aides, then with her pilot, then with the paparazzi covering the event. Anakin forgave her all over again, then as now. It must not have been easy, waiting for him to return, if he ever did. When Queen Jamillia discovered Padmé's pregnancy, she requested firmly that Padmé return to Naboo to allow the unencumbered Junior Senator to take over. No wonder Padmé had danced so frantically that night; Anakin chuckled a bit. She was leaving her lover, not that she had ever named the father of her twins, plus she was leaving Coruscant for beautiful-but-sedate Naboo.
Anakin brought the holo with him as he went into the kitchen to reheat his tea. He set it at Obi-Wan's old place at their table. "We did it, Obi-Wan. It's all over, and I'm tired." He sat down gingerly at his own place and fingered the scar over his eye. "I'll give this last assignment all I've got, though, don't worry. I can take Master-Padawan teams on exercises they'll never forget. Maybe, at the end of each exercise, into that cave where we nearly drowned. I'm considering adding a holo-menace there, what do you think? A nexu, put the projector in a clump of cortosis so that they'll think it's the cortosis that's blocking their Force-perception of the nexu, see, and then maybe I'll step out from behind that large stalagmite, you remember the one, and surprise them. I think I'll record their faces so they can have the holo for a souvenir."
Before he went to bed, Anakin pressed a hidden button on the holoprojector's shiny base and the rest of the image came into view, the private image showing them from crown to booted feet. The two of them stood now with hands resting lightly on each other's behinds, neither pinching nor grabbing, just cupping gently. Now that he thought about it, it was this sight that had set Padmé off on her wild dances.
Interlude: Year Eleven
" --- mmmmrruhhh, s'good --- "
" --- grrruhhn, I'm --- "
"You're too kind."
" --- 'nkin --- "
"I'll remember you said that, Negotiator."
" --- don' be f'cetious, An'kin."
"Morning, Obi-Wan. Great morning."
Life as a team-building instructor suited Anakin at this point in his life. Ragoon-6 was a restricted-status world, a truly scenic one fiercely protected in its privacy by its inhabitants. He worked three or four day shifts followed by weeks or even months of rest, kept up with Temple gossip and enjoyed shaping satisfying and effective Master-Padawan bonds. When he had been the Chosen One, he had asked for one favor, and it was a dandy: a retirement home on the broad plains of Ragoon-6 and honorary citizenship in its standoffish populace. Anakin's Temple status as Permanent Synergy-Building Consultant I: Core Worlds Division meant that he had a free hand in designing exercises, and having a free hand was what Anakin was made for.
Ragoon-6's caretaker cabin sported more technology than Shmi's slave hovel, but was approximately the same size. In the nine years since he had been made an honorary Ragoonian, Anakin had been back to Coruscant only once, when he'd sprained both ankles badly enough that he'd thought them broken. "How did you manage both?" asked Barriss Offee absently as she soothed bacta-gel on the now-reduced sprains.
Anakin wiggled his toes. "Haven't felt anyone touch me in a long time, Barriss. Feels good." He looked down. "You'll laugh." Barriss merely gazed levelly at him. "All right. I was on a ladder --- "
" --- I know, I know, and there was the strangest thing on the roof where I was repairing shingles." He looked abashed. "It was blue and highlighted against the sky, hard to see, but ... it looked like Obi-Wan."
"I'll examine your eyes next, Anakin."
That had been three years ago. Anakin had not had any more contact with the Temple, except for daily check-ins, receiving assignments and the occasional comm with friends. Each day he got up, checked his comms and had breakfast with Obi-Wan. Life passed interestingly enough, with ever-young Anakin and ever-masterly Obi-Wan smiling in the holo. Life was even good.
"You know why it's a good morning, Obi-Wan? Barriss is coming today with her newest Padawan. I don't think even you could've stomached more than one of me. What do you think about the cortosis set-up? It doesn't actually block Force-perception, I know, but it does jolt the teams when they recognize it, and that's enough window for me to make my appearance. Word got out about it, but I've an idea to put it in a new place. She'll never know what hit her. I should be mindful not to shock her too much; she's getting on, you know." Anakin long ago stopped worrying about his sanity. Barriss had checked that out, too. He felt great today, breathing much easier than yesterday, as a matter of fact.
When the Jedi transport landed, Anakin assumed that Barriss had already begun allowing her Padawan to lead their team because the craft scooted downwards, snagging a strut on a tiny hillock, and tipped alarmingly before clumping down to settle in, vibrating slightly. Looked like Padawan flying to him. After introductions and unloading of their small effects, the Padawan departed to fill their canteens at the stream.
"Barriss, are you out to break a record?" Anakin exclaimed when Barriss' Padawan, Rigat Royel, was out of earshot. "Five Padawans!"
"I like having Padawans, Anakin, what more can I say?"
Anakin brushed off accumulated dust from the holoprojector, shutting it down regretfully. He took a last look around and hefted his pack. The double-door hinges creaked as Anakin closed and locked the entrance.
"You lock?" Rigat dispersed the full canteens.
"Stray animals. Canids like malia can be cleverer than you think. Had one steal my speeder bike once."
Rigat goggled at him. "For reals?" he breathed. The Mon Calamari rippled in waves of reddish orange, shading to pink.
Anakin turned to hide his wink towards Barriss. "Yep. Must've seen me ride, I suppose. Anyway, it climbed right up on the seat, Rigat, sat down, pawed over the controls and drove away."
Barriss busied herself with the daypacks. "I've heard this one."
"What happened next?"
Anakin had learned impishness from Obi-Wan. "I jumped up on the bitch seat and we took off like Force-lightning. Good thing it's open country here, because we'd have racked up for sure."
Rigat pulsed a steady magenta now. "Kri--- uh, mercy! And then what?"
"Padawan, less talk, more packing."
"Yes, Master." Rigat flipped out his compressed airbed, folding it into a square and crimping until the whole thing became a three-cornered hat to protect his bulging cranium from sunburn. They set off into the warming sun at a fair pace.
Flowery fields turned to bracken by midday, the smooth terrain to rolling hills. In the far background rose the cool shadowy Rost Mountains, looking appealing in the day's glare.
"Remember Ansion's great plains? Could use a suubatar right now."
"I remember falling off one, Anakin, right into an icy river."
"I rescued you."
"You thought you did."
"Oh, that's right." A solitary whistlewhite fluttered onto a blue heather bush. It flapped creamy leather-like wings with small spiracles rimming their dark borders. The holes had pursing membranes that remained open to release pheromones in this autumn mating season, also producing cheery whistling notes in two octaves. The Force whispered, the three Jedi listened, and Anakin raised his mechno-hand.
"Stop, group. Here's our rendezvous when the exercise is over. No matter what, in three days we'll meet here, whether you find me or not."
Rigat bounded into the air and sailed his hat and caught it again. "We'll find you, Master Anakin."
"Mmmm, so certain are you?" Anakin's Yoda impression fooled no one. "Let's Force-imprint." The three faced the mountains, each pattern of peaks delineating itself in their minds, then they absorbed the ground. Lines of magnetism and crystal fractals mapped onto their psyches. They could not lose this place now. "Done and done. May the Force be with you." Anakin trotted off on his two-hour headstart.
On his roundabout way through the forest foothills towards the cave and the grand finale of their exercise, Anakin found an astonishing thing. The malia pup shouldn't, couldn't be out here all alone, but it was. A tiny snarling scrap, Anakin supposed it had fallen from the teat in its dam's pouch. He cast about for another malia presence. Nothing. More than that, he did sense a primal presence in reptile form, slithering slowly along the pup's thermal trail. "No, I'm playing good Ragoonian citizen today, Puppy." Anakin grasped the tiny scruff and held the pup to look it in the eye. The creature's fur was a baby's soft chartreuse; one eye was still sealed, though the right one was open a bit at one corner. Hmmm. Anakin placed it inside his tunic next to his heart and the thing stopped trembling. After a while it slept. Anakin slogged on.
"Puppy." Puppy awakened, stretched and yawned, showing triple rows of gums where sharp milk-teeth would erupt. "Puppy, I need your help." Anakin's Force senses were attuned to a spot past the cave where he wanted to go, up on the peak above the cave, perhaps a half-kilometer further on. Malia breathed there, a group of six, two adults and four young. A small disturbance withered the Force around one adult, a scratching distress that felt of sorrow. Anakin found Puppy's speck of a mind. "There, there, fella." Anakin pressed a suggestion of Staying Still onto the minuscule frontal lobe. Puppy's tiny glowing slit of visible eyeball held something of cognizance, Anakin thought. He swiped a finger along the fat stomach; the short tail wagged. A clump of dried grass cushioned the no longer squirmy body. He Force-leaped to a large limb of a nearby tree for safety, and commenced to broadcast, amplifying Puppy's presence in as powerful a wave as he could towards the other malia.
After twenty minutes, a patch of bluish-gray showed between the bushes, crawling slowly on its belly. Only one, then. Puppy didn't move. Another twenty minutes passed. Then, as the shadows deepened even more, a single malia crept from cover, nosed its infant and crouched. It was the mother, Anakin saw, because she moved her tail aside to allow Puppy to slip inside her backwards-facing pouch. The female surveyed the clearing before departing. She looked upwards only once, to lock eyes with Anakin before slinking away. Anakin perched on his branch until her presence faded into the white noise of the Force and listened for a while to the wind soughing through the tree's thick needles. As the sky deepened to indigo, he released the last infinitesimal minim of doubt over whether Luke and Leia Naberrie belonged to him. Despite the almost-right timing of their birth, he would have known if they were his. He would have known.
Stargazing kept Anakin awake longer than usual that first night. On Tatooine and on Ragoon-6, they were a wonder to behold. The thermal quilt conformed to his body, starting just under his nose. He picked out Coruscant's primary, and Naboo's. "I've been to so many planets, but no one can visit them all," he whispered, and the Force was still.
Interlude: Year Twenty-four
"Anakin, I'm sixty-three now. I've got to expect this to happen, I suppose."
"But it's not fair to me, Obi-Wan. Won't you try it for both our sakes?"
"It's not natural."
"If you've dealt with my arm for all this time, you can deal with this. It's just a pill."
"Does it have to be that wretched shade of blue?"
He sat up abruptly as he was drifting gently into sleep. Something blue and glimmering sat on the rock that he had settled upon not twenty minutes before. The Ragoonians never ventured out after sundown and it couldn't be a malia; malia did not sit upright, except in Anakin's tall tales, though they did have bluish-gray fur and phosphorescent eyes. No, this vaguely resembled a human shape. Anakin leapt up like a youngling, but stumbled over a bit of firewood and when he'd recovered, the glowing shape had vanished. Shaken and shivering, Anakin wrapped himself in the lovely warm thermals and regarded the stars once more. Before Barriss departed, he'd ask her to examine his eyes again. He awakened to an extremely nice and extremely rare hard-on the next morning.
Just after the second midday, Anakin nearly giggled in nervous anticipation as Rigat crawled into the cave. Its phosphorescence had dimmed since Anakin and Obi-Wan had been here as Master and Padawan, although what was left showed the pinkish-gold and silver strata that made it memorable. Anakin always left a cream thread from his leggings' hem on the entryway's sandy floor, a clue that few Padawans noticed. Rigat had not, a small blot on the purely mental report card that Anakin filed away on each team; there were no grades on this exercise, not even pass/fail. Barriss followed slowly, crawling as they had on Ansion when encountering Tooqui in the Gwurrans' cave-home. Anakin sensed her stiffness as she rose slowly to her feet, brushing off grit. Her eyes went directly to the old position of the holoprojector and widened slightly as she noted its absence. Ah-ha, Barriss. Where am I now? Anakin masked his Force-presence effortlessly; the urge to giggle had dissipated.
"Rigat, any more tracks?" No, Barriss, I raked the sand and shielded myself down here.
"No." Rigat looked around slowly in the small amount of light filtering in from the crevice high in the wall.
That's it, Rigat, use your physical senses first, then the Force. Anakin felt a small pressure, like a powderpuff of Nar Shadaa talcum, drifting over his skin. It was Rigat stretching out with the Force, a tremulous effort entirely within his age range's capabilities.
Barriss made herself comfortable on the ground after a suspicious look around for the projector, Anakin noted. Probably telling herself not to jump when I appear. Rigat, to his credit, circled the cave, spiralling into where his Master sat. "I've lost him."
"Patience, Padawan. Look beneath the seeming." Oh, she knows.
Rigat poked a boot into the sand.
It's time. Anakin flicked on the holoprojector in its new position in the dark crawl-through passage. A nexu snarled, whipped its tail and sauntered into the middle of the expanse of sand. It used to spring, but Anakin had toned the action down for Barriss' sake. Rigat whirled, lightsaber at the ready, while Barriss merely looked on curiously. Anakin shoved aside the one-half meter thickness of sand away from his body and sat up next to the crawlspace entry, spitting out his rebreather. Rigat gasped and then whooped in joyous glee.
Barriss blinked slowly after the holoprojector's flash had captured their expressions. Anakin was haloed in dust motes, laughing wildly along with Rigat and the sun's angle made her friend's outline as nebulous as Mirialan ice-mist in autumn. She joined in the laughter after a moment.
"So how'd you take out Darth Sidious, anyway, Master Anakin?"
Anakin poked a stick desultorily at their campfire. This policy of allowing Padawans to lead in the exercises sometimes led to conversations that he'd rather not engage in. This time, eluding Barriss and Rigat hadn't been as easy as it had been with other teams. Barriss had a ruse that she taught each of her Padawans and Anakin always assisted her. When he left them at their rendezvous and again at the cave, once out of sight he made it a point to walk backwards, a fair effort even with Force abilities. The trick was to perceive that his toes bore the first brunt of his weight, not his heels, and thus conclude that the quarry needed to be backtracked. They had indeed found him again this evening, Barriss huffing along behind the eager Rigat, her cowl nearly pulled from her head by the underbrush. Everything worked out to finish at dusk on the second day, back here at the rendezvous. Anakin no longer wanted to prance about in the dark of Ragoon-6. He had nothing to prove anymore.
"Oh, that. Why go over ancient history?"
But that had never before stopped a Padawan. "Why? Because it's just the most important event in the last one thousand years, that's why."
Rigat clearly was not about to settle down until Anakin spilled his guts. But he gave it one more try, accompanying his words with a look that said 'you're on the verge of being disrespectful, so watch it.' "Rigat, Barriss has heard this many times. Let's not bore your poor Master."
Barriss surprised him. "Anakin, I could hear it again. It's a quiet night, the fire is cozy, you know ... "
"All right." Anakin took a deep breath. "But you're wrong, Rigat. My Master was the first to defeat a Sith in over one thousand years. He and Master Qui-Gon alerted the galaxy to their reemergence. He gets first credit. Barriss, you haven't heard part of this, but it's time to tell all. Now or never, as they say." Rigat slouched back away from the fire, protecting his moist skin, while Barriss leaned forward, looking interested.
"Rigat, the day that I realized Palpatine, my friend, was Sith was just before my divorce became final. I confided in Palpatine some personal issues."
"Sir, I'm going to shock you with some news ... "
"My boy, very little shocks me these days."
"He seemed kind enough to listen."
"My divorce becomes final tomorrow, as you know ... and ... "
"It was the same tone as other conversations, soothing and understanding ... "
"I'm pursuing a relationship with Obi-Wan, well, at least an open one, now."
"But that changed. He turned to me with dead eyes."
"You've been a fool for love once, Anakin. Don't be a fool twice."
Barriss sucked in her breath. "How could you not know, then." She patted his flesh hand. "That monster."
Anakin looked at them both, embarrassed no longer. "I wish that I could say I knew instantly, but I didn't. I was too hurt. I made some excuse and went home. Obi-Wan, now he was the fast learner, pulled out of me what was wrong and we pieced together evidence --- took about a day --- of Palpatine's actions through the years towards me furthering Sidious' plans. It made sense, little things adding up."
The fire dwindled to coals. "Now here's what everyone knows: Sidious blundered in going to Mustafar to talk peace with the Separatist leaders after Dooku's death --- "
"You killed Darth Tyranus also, I remember," Rigat whispered.
" --- uh, yes --- to allow Palpatine to appear peace-loving. Obi-Wan and I had gone to the Council, convinced them and we two set out with Masters Fisto, Tiin, Kolar and Windu to bring him to justice. Only Obi-Wan and I came home."
"But what form did Sidious use and how did you defeat him?"
Oh, this kid wanted everything. Anakin drew his cloak over his legs and pulled down his hood fully against the chill. When he spoke again, he was invisible, with his words almost echoing from the hood. "One, two, three, four Jedi Masters, my fellows, fell quickly to a red blade and a style we'd never seen before. He prevailed, we retreated, always toward Mustafar's flames. Obi-Wan had studied the facility en route, you see. We nearly danced onto the pipeline, leading him on, intending to sacrifice one of us so the other could kill him, which was my contribution to our plan, although I didn't tell Obi-Wan that I myself meant to leap forward onto the red blade." Anakin leaned forward to clasp his hands inside his warm overhanging sleeves. "We climbed the tower, always in defense, but three people's weight tilted it impossibly. I think Sidious' rage at being found out blinded him to everything else, Rigat, for he lost his footing and fell."
--- yellow eyes widened as robes billowed to slow but not stop his fall ---
"But he pulled you down, too, Master Anakin."
--- a final clutch at a Jedi's boot, Obi-Wan's cry of despair ---
Anakin shrugged. "Yes, but I was ready to go. My bags were packed, so to speak. He fell all the way in the lava river. I fell to the lowest tower platform. It was red-hot. I burned."
--- flames eating his flesh fingers, frying his mechno-hand's circuits so that his brain knew that they were fried, though they gave no pain ---
"Padawan, when Obi-Wan brought Anakin home, Master Luminara and I knew he would not survive. Imagine our shock when hours later he still lived and had even improved! It was his high midichlorian count that saved Master Anakin."
"There was a price, Rigat," Anakin went on. "I used them up or strained them, or something --- "
"We never figured out what exactly transpired," put in Barriss.
" --- so when I recovered, my count became average. And that's why," Anakin said, forestalling Rigat's next question, "I am no longer the Chosen One."
Anakin eased the cock ring onto Obi-Wan, smoothing the way with licks and kisses, distracting him as much as possible. Obi-Wan's dignity grew more tender with time, although Anakin enjoyed tinkering with the devices in their toybox, frankly. Knowing it was Obi-Wan, however, made Anakin timid about exploring new territories. There were some absolutely fascinating ideas on the Holonet, for instance ... He murmured phrases that neither of them would remember as they settled into a rhythm that neither knew would be the last.
attenuated foreplay --- Anakin, now! --- quickly get into position, easy, easy --- pillows really need to be firmer to support my weight --- there, my Obi-Wan --- you're doing so well --- ohhh, just right --- better, that's better --- I wonder if the sling that I ordered would offend him --- yes, your hand there, underneath, oh --- guh, he came first, good for you, Obi-Wan --- I'm coming, c-c-c-coming --- ahhhh Obi-Wan!
Something poked his shoulder. "Master, wake up. Your shields are slipping."
"Your shields, they, they, I can hear you, Master."
"Sorry, Rigat. Uh, where's Barriss?"
"She's at the latrine."
"Good." The smell of powdered punko eggs frying in nerf shortening normally would have awakened him immediately. He supposed he was extra-tired. Leaving Rigat poking at the eggs gingerly as he leaned away from the flame, Anakin stretched out each achy twinge and attempted morning meditation, but it was no use; the sun had already risen. He missed the holo to talk to. Soon, he would see Obi-Wan soon.
Rigat and Barriss allowed him to slip away after breakfast, he was certain of it, but his pride didn't bother him much these days. The second day always perked him up, with its rousing finish. He smiled as he jogged along backwards, towards home.
At midday, by prior consent, the three rested and ate, Anakin just out of sight of the pair. The day was another warm one, bringing out the fragrance of the plentiful malia-bane blossoms.
"Mmmm?" Barriss removed her cowl, her straight silver hair in a practical bowl cut. Rigat would be her last Padawan, she mused. When he finished his training, she might find her own retirement. But not in a place like this. Barriss needed beings close by almost constantly; the period between Padawans always tried her spirit sorely.
"Master, what was your Master like?"
"Luminara Unduli was the bravest, the best Master that the Jedi Order ever produced. And when someone asks you years from now that question, I hope that you'll say the same."
Rigat adjusted his tricorn hat against the mid-morning sun to shade his liquid-gold eyes. He paled to cream as his chromatophores shrank in embarassment. "I apologize, Master. That was a personal question."
"Oh, I'm teasing, Padawan." Barriss scratched her skull surreptitiously before replacing her cowl. "Now then. Master Luminara was Mirialan, like me. Her tattoos were on her chin and lower lip and she smiled rarely, but when she did, the tattoos lightened and widened. She was a Healer like I am and like you will be. I'll show you her holo when we get home."
"I've learned a lot these past two days, Master."
I've chosen a sweet, open-hearted Padawan for my last one. "Have you now, my Padawan? And what did you learn?"
Rigat took his time to answer, in between chews. "Backtracking takes a real flip of perception. It doesn't seem natural, but it is correct. Oh, and not to believe or disbelieve what you see. Whatever is real and true will reveal itself."
And smart, too. "Very good, Padawan. I have also learned a thing or two this time." Barriss sipped her canteen. "I've learned that a story may not be told all at once. That some deep things rise to the surface only when they are ready."
Neither Anakin nor Barriss wanted to sleep on the ground a third night. As the Rost Mountains glowed salmon-pink with blue streaks at twilight, Anakin pressed ahead on the familiar path to allow the Master and Padawan some private time to discuss the advancing state of their bond. The air exhilarated Anakin, hurrying his steps to rejoin Obi-Wan. A good half-kilometer ahead of the pair, he splashed across the tiny stream that supplied his water. Might frost tonight. Better cover up the herb garden.
Anakin keyed in his code on the old-fashioned lock, crossed the threshold and put down his pack. He sat at the rough-hewn lammaswood table and pressed the hidden button on the base of the holoprojector. The pair of them stood eternally together, forever indiscreet. He pressed a smacking kiss to Obi-Wan's tiny transparent lips. "Missed you," he said and would have described his latest outing, but just then an enormous fist squeezed his chest and he doubled over. The galaxy roared as he saw himself dropping the holoprojector. He followed it down to the ground in a boneless heap.
"Anakin. Aaaaaannnnnnakiiiiiiiinnnn. Wake up."
Anakin opened his eyes. "Howja get outta th' holo?" he slurred to Obi-Wan. Must be concussed. He counted backward from ten, closed his eyes, opened them. Obi-Wan still stood there. "'N how'd you get so tall?" Yes, definitely concussed. The base of the holoprojector had tipped as it hit the floor and he glimpsed himself in its mirror-like surface. Thinning white curls haloed his heavily-lined face and a bloody streak traced the same path as his scar.
"Come along, come along. I've been waiting for you. There's lots to do here. Are you ready?"
Anakin felt even better than he had the other morning. It was marvelous what some fresh-air exercise and a little nap afterwards could do. "Where are we going?"
"Here and there, everywhere you haven't been yet. It's all good." Obi-Wan tilted his head. "Barriss and Rigat are coming, running in fact. Do you want to say goodbye to them?"
"Oh, so I'm going to --- No. We had a marvelous time. Let's leave it at that."
The galaxy flipped, derezzed and returned. It seemed remarkably the same. Just before Obi-Wan hauled him to his feet, Anakin spied himself again. No more white curls, okay, but that kriffing braid was back, and this time it was blue.
a/n Attempting chapter story construction.