"Miss you, Mom. Take care of yourself, okay?" Anakin instructed, as he always did at the end of their calls, wistfully reaching out to touch the screen.

"I miss you, too, my son. Don't worry about me, it's my job to worry about you! Please send my regards to Master Kenobi when you see him, alright?"

Anakin's face brightened then, his eyes flicking over towards the 'fresher and the steam billowing out under the door. "I will, promise." His face grew serious again as he reluctantly reached for the comm switch. "I...I love you, Mom...bye."

"We'll talk again soon, Ani. Goodbye and all my love."

Obi-Wan finished in the 'fresher and cautiously opened the door into his room—their room, now—pausing at the faraway look on his partner's face as he stared at the blank screen. "Everything alright?"

He never quite knew which Anakin he'd get after one of his holocalls with his mother—sad, lonely, angry, bitter, irrational, fulfilled, or any combination thereof. He knew Anakin needed these calls, they grounded him in a way that nothing else had ever been able to, and Obi-Wan had never once denied him that connection with his mother. While was still difficult for him to understand the complicated emotions they stirred up in Anakin, Obi-Wan was always there to share in the joy or pick up the pieces, whatever the younger man needed. "Anakin?"

"Huh?" Anakin mumbled absently, dragging his gaze up and offering a smile tinged with a hint of melancholy. "Oh, hey there," he greeted softly, warmed by the sight of Obi-Wan at the edge of their bed in nothing but sleep pants—stang, it still thrilled him every time. "C'mere. What took you so long?"

"I thought you might like some privacy." Obi-Wan climbed into the bed, carefully taking the pad from him. "Your mother—is everything alright?"

"Yeah..." Anakin sighed, curling into Obi-Wan's side and pillowing his head on his shoulder. "She sends her regards, Master Kenobi."

"That is very kind of her," he answered neutrally, combing his fingers through the mess of curls on Anakin's forehead. "I am to assume, then, that you haven't told her?"

Anakin shook his head minutely, lulled by the soothing fingers in his hair. "Nah...don't worry. Wanted to, but..."

It was Obi-Wan's turn to sigh, stilling his hand as he closed his eyes. "Anakin, you know...you know it's not because—"

"Yeah." Anakin propped his chin on his Master's chest. "I do. We don't know who might intercept our comms. It's just..." He nuzzled his cheek into the soft hair on the other man's chest. "Want to tell everyone you're mine, that's all."

Obi-Wan closed his eyes again, this time with a contented smile, hugging Anakin closer. "I am, I promise you. And I'm sorry that circumstances prevent us from being as open as you'd like to be. But we just cannot—"

"Shhh. I know, Obi-Wan, I know. But she's not just anyone, she's my Mom. But...yeah...can't tell her on the comm, and besides, she's not even met you." He sighed again, tracing patterns over the other man's chest. "Wish she could—she'd love you. Probably fall all over you once you opened your mouth, wouldn't even notice her son was home."

Obi-Wan snorted a laugh in disbelief. "Why yes, my first thought upon meeting your mother would be how best to seduce her. Honestly, Anakin." He slid a hand over Anakin's backside, petting softly. "I'll have you know, I'm rather smitten with her son, so she's unfortunately out of luck," he whispered, heated and playful.

Anakin whimpered needily, easing his hips back into the inviting touch. "I think I heard something about that—show me?" he begged softly, seeking out Obi-Wan's mouth with his own until they melted together in that perfect way that made him forget everything else.

I...I don't believe it. I just...I don't believe it.

Obi-Wan grinned almost manically to himself as he hurried back to their quarters, fresh out of an impromptu appearance before Masters Yoda and Windu at the crack of dawn. He'd assumed some sort of rebuke or flogging awaited him, or some condemnation of something Anakin had or hadn't done, but rather he'd been informed that the two of them had been granted a month's leave, effective immediately. No discernible reason had been given, though he'd have sworn he saw some sort of look pass between the two usually inscrutable Masters, and Obi-Wan had decided to ignore his usual instinct to go looking for trouble and instead bowed, thanked them, and beat a hasty retreat.

A month's leave...an entire month—it was still difficult to comprehend. I can finally catch up on some reports, perhaps take in that new production at the Galactic Opera House, read that new holonovel Luminara recommended, oh, I could start some research on—

"Kriffing hells, Kenobi," Obi-Wan swore as he skidded to a halt. We're given a month's leave and I've not even considered what we might do together. Reports and research, he could do that anytime. The opera and holonovel? True, they had their appeal, but what they didn't have was an insatiable libido, a wickedly talented mouth, and they certainly couldn't give him a single look that could melt his knees to jelly in an instant.

We should just get out of here, go somewhere without the prying eyes and be able to actually acknowledge each other without the all the blasted caution . It made him feel terrible that Anakin—for Obi-Wan's sake—couldn't even tell his own mother for worry that the holocall might be picked up by the wrong ears and the information used against them, from either those within the Order, or those in the Republic longing for any whiff of a scandal to discredit the Jedi.

The Force pretty much hit him upside the head then, and with renewed purpose Obi-Wan ran the rest of the way back like a pack of wild vornskrs were on his tail. He rushed into their darkened quarters, moving stealthily into their room to toe off his boots and slide back into bed, spooning up against a lightly snoring, toasty warm Anakin.

"Back...already?" Anakin murmured, pulling Obi-Wan's arm around him tighter. "What'd they want? Something stupid, I bet," he groused, pressing lazy kisses to his Master's knuckles. "Where're we going this time?"

"Actually..." Obi-Wan burrowed his face into the tangles on Anakin's neck, breathing deeply, the scent going straight to his groin as it always did. "How's Tatooine sound?"

"Huh?" Anakin smiled sleepily, paying far more attention to the rough tremor in Obi-Wan's voice than the actual words. "Klatooine? What a shithole...no better than Tatooine."

Obi-Wan pressed his forehead between Anakin's shoulder blades, shaking with silent laughter, until Anakin slowly rolled over. "Well, it is," he scowled, rubbing at his eyes. "What?"

Drawing closer, Obi-Wan smiled fondly, reaching out to tame some of Anakin's considerable bedhead. "Then I suppose we should probably just go to...Tatooine."

Anakin blinked open one eye, then the other, the words just managing to sink in. "Are you...are you serious?" he rasped, hope and fear criss-crossing his features in equal measure.

Obi-Wan nodded solemnly. "We have a month's leave."

"A month?" Anakin rolled onto his back, blinking back tears as he stared at the ceiling. "And you want to—" he croaked, throwing an arm across his face.

Frowning, Obi-Wan sat up and scratched at his beard with confusion, trying not to let his hurt show. "Oh. I suppose I just assumed...but yes, of course, if you'd prefer to go alone..."

Anakin's arm flung out and walloped Obi-Wan in the shoulder. "No, I don't want to go alone! I just..." he sat up suddenly, taking his Master's hands in his. "Are you sure this is how you want to spend your leave?"

Obi-Wan squeezed his hands in affirmation. "Anakin, this is our leave, and I wish to spend our leave with you."

Swiping the back of his hand under his nose, Anakin sniffled a short laugh. "Well, it's no Naboo, or Hapes, or, you know, anywhere civilized."

Obi-Wan scoffed in agreement. "I recall that all too well. After all, it's where you came from," he cracked, frowning his extreme displeasure as Anakin wiped his hand on the sheets.

"I don't hear you complaining all that much," Anakin huffed and rolled his eyes, knocking the other man over and straddling his waist. "We're...we're going to Tatooine, then?" he asked, still with a touch of disbelief, letting his hands absently straighten the lines and creases of Obi-Wan's now-rumpled tunics.

Resting his hands on Anakin's hips, Obi-Wan's eyes sparkled up at him, thumbs petting at the exposed v's of muscle on his slim torso."If that's what you desire, then yes. We're cleared for departure whenever you're ready."

"I...I'll be ready to go—" Anakin circled his hips and clenched his thighs with a soft groan, to which Obi-Wan responded with some garbled profanity which never ceased to make Anakin as hard as durasteel, "j-just as soon as I take care of this other d-desire. Only if you approve, Master, of course."

"Kriff yes, I approve," Obi-Wan agreed hastily, pulling and yanking at his tunics while Anakin fumbled with his sleep pants, tumbling them both back into the warmth and comfort of their bed and each other for a little while longer.

The trip aboard the Twilight was swift and uneventful, unless one counted the unfortunate collision between Obi-Wan's backside and the nav computer as it calculated the third jump of the journey, taking them off-course by several hundred parsecs by the time they'd come up for air and noticed. Obi-Wan had a spectacular bruise to show for it—not that he was showing anyone—and Anakin's unrestrained mirth at the entire experience had earned him the hidden string of marks Obi-Wan had gleefully and ardently made beneath the tussle of curls on his neck.

Anakin had chattered on nonstop, sharing stories—some old, some new—about his mother, about Tatooine, and a lot about sand in general, and while his enthusiasm was contagious, with each passing hour, Obi-Wan's anxiety grew. By the time the ship settled into the docking bay in Mos Espa, he was a tight bundle of nerves, though he would never admit that. He was excited and happy for Anakin, but old insecurities had unexpectedly resurfaced to pick at him, setting him on edge as they cruelly whispered reminders of how he'd not been worthy enough to be anyone's Padawan until it was almost too late, and he couldn't help but worry that Shmi Skywalker wouldn't find him worthy of her son, as well.

Especially when she gets a look at his neck. So utterly uncivilized. Nevertheless , Obi-Wan smiled proudly to himself, recalling Anakin's writhing and soft little moans as he made each and every one. Civility never tasted as good as that, he thought with a heated flush through his core, eagerly anticipating the next opportunity he'd have to savor each one in turn with a lingering swipe of his tongue...

Obi-Wan sighed and shook himself out of his lascivious reverie. Before any of that, he had transport to secure, a son to reunite with his mother, and a very important woman he hoped he'd be able to impress.

As he set the Twilight's engines to cool-down, Anakin took a deep breath, trying to calm all of his nervous excitement and energy. He was home; instead of fuzzy holo transmissions, his mom was just a few clicks away, and he couldn't wait to see her. "Hey, Obi-Wan, I'm just about done here, just need to flush the port manifolds and grab my stuff," he called out, hands flying furiously over switches and dials. "That little detour of ours means First Sunset is a lot closer than I'd like, and we still have to find a speeder or a couple of bikes."

Obi-Wan had gathered his gear and came down the passage, regrettably lounging against the cockpit door with a wince. "Ugh. May I remind you, that 'detour' was entirely your fault?"

Anakin flicked the last set of controls and spun around with a knowing smirk. "Hey, it wasn't my ass that sent us all the way to Telos III."

"Be that as it may, your point about First Sunset being upon us is noted. I've already made inquiries, and apparently some upcoming festival has severely limited our transportation options." Obi-Wan curled his lip with feigned distaste. "We'll have to share a bike, it seems."

Anakin's expression was one of pure mischief and delight. "I call driver!" Besides the thrill of flying over the desert on a hoverbike at sunset, he'd have Obi-Wan pressed against him, leaning with him into every curve, clutching at him with every drop and roll.

Folding his arms across his chest, Obi-Wan watched curiously as Anakin haphazardly shoved random tools and parts into a small satchel, and then crammed it inside his own kitbag. "Yes, well there's a surprise. Though it's generous of you to make it seem as though I ever had a choice."

"You don't even know where to go, so it makes sense that I drive," came the muffled response as Anakin crawled under the nav computer's console to retrieve some loose credits, a mini vibroblade, and a button that had gone missing from Obi-Wan's trousers, which he handed over with a pleased smirk.

Obi-Wan snorted and tucked the button into his pocket, raising a critical eyebrow. "Why yes, of course. Because as a Jedi Master, I have absolutely no sense of direction."

Anakin stashed the credits and stood, reaching up for the hatch release. "Well, since you brought it up—"

Sliding up behind him, Obi-Wan took advantage of Anakin's upstretched arms to graze his fingers against the exposed sliver of skin along his belly. "You were saying?"

Convulsing with breathy protests and heartfelt laughs, Anakin quickly spun around in Obi-Wan's arms. "Nothing...nothing...s-s-stop...you...you can d-drive, you can d-drive!" he acquiesced, collapsing against his Master's frame.

"Are you kidding me? And miss the chance to feign utter terror at your recklessness as an excuse hold on to you for dear life while speeding across the sands like some kind of insipid holonovel?" He framed Anakin's face in his hands, pressing a lingering kiss that clearly promised so much more. "I'm stubborn, my dear Anakin, but I'm not stupid. Let's get going."

First Sunset was well past and Second was nearly there as Anakin kicked off the bike's engines near the entrance to the homestead. By Tatooine's standards, the dwelling was modest but well maintained, and the abundance of vaporators they'd passed on the way were indicative of the success the Lars' were able to eke out of the harsh environment.

"Mom! Mom, we're here!" Anakin called out, almost frantically, tossing his gear aside as he dismounted and scanned the area. "Mom?!"

"Easy, Anakin," Obi-Wan cautioned, making a face as he smoothed a hand through the grit in his windblown hair. "She's going to think something's wrong. I'm sure she'll—"

"Ani! Is that you? Ani!" Shmi came running up the steps two at a time and flung her arms around her prodigal son. "Oh, Anakin, you're home!" She clapped him on the back, even as she hugged him tighter. "You foolish boy, it's nearly dark, you know better!"

Obi-Wan hid a smirk behind his hand. He'd thought much the same, but knew it would have been pointless to try to convince his eager partner otherwise. Seeing them together now, crying and laughing and so obviously happy, he could hardly deny the decision.

Rolling his eyes over her shoulder at Obi-Wan, Anakin nodded and gave her a sheepish look. "Yeah, I know, I know. But I couldn't wait!" He hugged her tighter, ducking his forehead into her neck to hide the tears pricking his eyes. "Force, I've missed you, Mom, so much."

Shmi felt her son's outpouring of emotions in a way she'd not since he'd left her, bringing tears to her eyes as well. "Oh, my son, I have, too...I have, too," she whispered, rubbing soothing circles across his back.

Rather embarrassed and feeling out of place, Obi-Wan quietly went about unpacking their gear from the bike's storage panniers. It felt like a very intimate moment that he had no business being a part of, and not for the first time questioned his inclusion on this trip. True, he had offered to go, and Anakin had rather insisted, but...well, this was Anakin's family, and that was something Obi-Wan had no capacity for understanding. Friends and colleagues he had in abundance, but not family.

But, he had Anakin, and that simple thought immediately eased some of his discomfort. He was here for him, and just to feel his joy radiating through the Force was all the reminder he needed.

"Master? Forget about the stuff, come here, come meet my Mom!" Anakin beckoned, waving him over as Shmi discreetly wiped at her eyes.

Obi-Wan steeled himself, dusting off his hands as he approached the pair. He bowed in greeting, offering a polite, if reserved smile. "Madame Lars, it is such an honor to finally make your acquaintance. I thank you for your hospitality, Anakin and I are most grateful."

Anakin gave Obi-Wan a bemused look, not exactly surprised by his Master's formal manners, but more by the flutter of nerves he'd felt along their bond—it wasn't like Obi-Wan to be...nervous. "Mom, this...this is my Master—well, my former Master now..." he laughed, suddenly shy and nervous in his own right and feeling stupid for it. "Anyway, this is Obi-Wan. Kenobi. I mean, Obi-Wan Kenobi," he finished in a jumbled rush of mangled introductions.

Shmi chuckled at her son's exuberance, seeing once more the little boy she had known in the young man standing next to her. She extended her hand to the Master Jedi, her smile warm and welcoming even as she side-eyed Anakin—curious, the impression she'd had all this time was of a wizened, serious elder statesman of sorts, not the surprisingly youthful and handsome gentleman with polished manners bowing before her as though she were nobility. "Master Kenobi, please, call me Shmi. And I'm the one who should be thanking you, for so many reasons. But come, let us get inside before the last of the light leaves us."

"What was that?" Anakin whispered under his breath as they descended to the common room of the homestead.

"I have no idea what you mean," Obi-Wan muttered back, offering Shmi a polite nod when she suggested tea and disappeared into the kitchen.

Anakin gave him a skeptical look as the other man sat down. "Mom, let me help you with that," he offered, giving Obi-Wan's shoulder an affectionate pat as he passed behind him.

Obi-Wan reached up and squeezed his hand, grounded by the brief contact, letting out a slow, steadying breath. It would be fine. It would be.

Anakin reappeared, carrying a noisy tray of refreshments, and sat next to Obi-Wan, brushing against his leg casually. "Mom was just telling me the Boonta Eve Classic is coming up—guess that's why we could only get a bike to come out here."

"Oh?" Obi-Wan waited for Shmi to sit before reaching to pour out three cups. "As I recall, that's the highlight of the racing season, is it not?"

Shmi nodded as she accepted the cup. "Yes. Cliegg and Owen picked up some carpentry work at the stadium—they've been there for a few days now, and Beru has been serving in one of the racers' dining taverns." She shrugged. "It's not glamorous work, by any means, but it can be more income than we'll see during the rest of the year."

Obi-Wan nodded in understanding, but Anakin just scowled. "They left you here alone?"

Shmi tilted her head with a small smile. "It's not every day that my Jedi son comes home, is it? Ani, I've been fine—I shut down things early, make sure everything's locked up tight before First Sunset. And now you're here, so I'm not alone, am I?"

Anakin sighed heavily, sitting back and folding his arms across his chest with a petulant pout. "I guess, but I still don't like it," he muttered grudgingly.

"Then my darling, it's a good thing I didn't ask your permission," his mother chided with a touch of amusement, reaching over to pat his knee consolingly.

At that, Obi-Wan choked on his biscuit, covering his mouth to cough. "Does that ever sound familiar."

Anakin pouted further and leaned into Obi-Wan's shoulder, hard. "Oh, shut up. I've never—okay, yeah...I totally have."

Shmi listened to the two men bicker, warmth filling her heart at the easy camaraderie between them despite the jibes they so effortlessly tossed at one another. "Still finding ways around the rules, I see?"

Obi-Wan rolled his eyes dramatically and blew across the top of his cup. "Oh, you have no idea."

Anakin just shook his head. "Hey, it's our first day here. Stop trying to get me into trouble already!"

"Get who into trouble?" Obi-Wan asked, turning to Anakin with a raised eyebrow. "Shall I enumerate your talent for getting me into trouble? Just before we left—"

Anakin put a hand over his Master's mouth. "Okay, okay. No need for threats! Mom, send Obi-Wan to his room, he's getting cranky."

Obi-Wan's eyes widened in shamed surprise as he peeled Anakin's hand away. "Oh, I do apologize, I meant no offense, Madame—er—Shmi. I suppose the journey has tired me."

"Ani!" Shmi scolded, standing and shaking her head with a small laugh. "No apology is necessary, though my rascal of a son is right, it's late and you both have traveled a long way." She showed them down the short corridor, past the 'fresher and kitchen to a small bedroom. "With Owen and Beru away, you can stay in their room—I'm sorry, I wish we had more spacious accommodations."

Anakin gave her a one-armed hug and kissed her cheek. "Nope, this is great, Mom. We'll do just fine here. Right, Master?"

Obi-Wan felt the heat in his cheeks again, and hoped Shmi attributed it to the twin suns and not his strange attack of propriety. "Yes, thank you. It was very kind of them to offer, I'm sure we will s-sleep very well." Blast, am I thirteen and sneaking anatomy books out of the Archives? He reddened further at the salacious look Anakin gave him behind his mother's shoulder at his stammering—Anakin clearly had very little intention of sleeping any time soon.

They both bade Shmi goodnight, with Anakin promising to take a look at a wonky dust reclaimer in the morning and Obi-Wan offering to help with the morning meal. Shmi would hear nothing of the sort, insisting that they were guests and that she wanted the pleasure of making breakfast for her son once more, and Obi-Wan joking that she might just change her mind when she saw how much he ate. Anakin pouted as they shared a laugh at his expense, kissing her goodnight once more.

Anakin let the door hiss shut, then turned to find Obi-Wan sinking heavily onto the bed. "I don't really eat that much."

Obi-Wan bent to pull off his boots. "You do." He tossed them under the bed and glanced up at Anakin with a grin. "Happy?"

"Maybe because someone makes me burn a lot of calories." Anakin clicked off his belt and let it drop to the floor, pulling his traveling tunics over his head as he approached the bed. "Ecstatic."

Pulling at Anakin's belt loops, Obi-Wan drew him onto his lap. "Is that so? I make you?" He ran his hands up the warm expanse of Anakin's back, finally feeling some of his own tension easing now that they were alone. "I'm glad you have this time with your mother, it's clear how much she's missed you."

Anakin stroked his long fingers through the whiskers along Obi-Wan's jaw affectionately. "You could, but I promise you, I want to. Kinda all the time. Definitely right now." He leaned in, kissing Obi-Wan slowly, gently, little soft presses to reacquaint their lips. "Yeah, I've missed her, too. But you know what?" He pulled Obi-Wan's tunics apart, letting his hands trail over the other man's chest and abdomen. "I've kriffing missed you, wanted to touch you all night."

"That might have...might have been awkward," Obi-Wan hitched, as a finger grazed one of his nipples. "And probably not the best first impression. 'Hello, nice to meet you, I'm off to ravish your son, you don't mind, do you?'"

Anakin laughed into Obi-Wan's shoulder. "Well, no? But I wouldn't be surprised if she already knows—even without the Force, she's always been pretty perceptive. 'I'm sure we'll s-s-s-sleep very well'. Subtle, Negotiator, very subtle."

Reaching behind Anakin, Obi-Wan made quick work of the buckles on both boots, pushing at the heels until they clattered to the floor. "I didn't notice you offering to help the situation whatsoever."

"I tried to help," Anakin countered as he nudged Obi-Wan's arms out of his sleeves and threw the tunics on a chair, playfully biting at a patch of freckles.

Obi-Wan scoffed, tossing Anakin onto his back as he worked on the ties of his pants. "Oh, yes. By helping, you mean this?" Hovering over Anakin, he imitated the expression the younger man had made.

With a throaty chuckle, Anakin raised his hips as Obi-Wan slid his pants off, reaching up to tuck away that stubborn bit of bangs that always fell into his Master's eyes. "Not my fault you didn't find it helpful."

With a roll of his eyes, Obi-Wan tossed the pants aside and clucked his tongue. "My dear Anakin, no one would find that helpful."

Fully naked now, Anakin scooted back up the bed, eyes darkening as he licked his lips and took himself in hand. "Is this helpful?"

"Is what—" Turning around, Obi-Wan choked at the sight spread out before him. Bloody hell, he'll be the death of me yet. "With your mother? I should certainly think not!"

"For love of the Force..." Anakin sighed dramatically and sat up on his elbows. "Do you want to talk about my Mom? Because that's fine, but I don't really want to do it while I'm naked."

"I am much relieved to hear that," Obi-Wan quipped, stepping out of his pants and folding them neatly on a chair next to his tunics. "I don't suppose there's anything you want to do while you're naked?"

Pulling open the homespun bedcovers, Anakin spread his arms wide. "Uh huh. C'mere, I'll show you."

Obi-Wan climbed into bed next to Anakin, pulling him into his arms. "I missed you too, today," he whispered into Anakin's hair, self-conscious and embarrassed by his neediness. "It...it almost seems harder here. At the Temple, we know what's expected and what people will think, but here...I worry—"

"That she won't approve? She will, I can tell already how much she likes you." Anakin mouthed a line of hot kisses along Obi-Wan's neck. "And even if she didn't, I wouldn't care. I love her, she's my Mom, but you're my everything, Obi-Wan, and that will never change."

With the bed creaking its protest, Obi-Wan rolled them over, pinning Anakin beneath him. His thumb smoothed over the beginning of stubble on Anakin's chin and swiped at the sensuous swell of his lower lip that shone in the dim light of the bedside glowlamp. "Y-you, you don't have to say that."

Anakin frowned with concern, nipping at his thumb while his hands moved down to rest on Obi-Wan's lower back. "I do, because sometimes I think you forget that. You forget that I don't give two fucks about what people think of us, who approves and who doesn't, but I know that you do, and I respect that because I respect you." He caught Obi-Wan's chin in his hand, eyes dark and serious. "Look at me. Obi-Wan, look at me. No one, not even my own mother, could convince me that you're not a gift sent to me by the Force. I need you, I love you, I don't ever want to be without you."

"Oh, Anakin..." was all Obi-Wan was able to get out, shaking as he was with all of the strong emotions Anakin had stirred in him once more. He felt the same way—Anakin was everything and more to him, in ways he couldn't yet fully express but felt no less ardently. He was still getting used to this—to being so open and free with emotion and attachment, and as exhilarating as these feelings and experiences often were, they still threatened to overwhelm him just as easily. "You...you..."

"I know, it's okay, it's okay..." Anakin soothed, stroking Obi-Wan's face as he tangled their legs together and drew him into a fervent exchange of slick tongues, hungry lips, and claiming mouths. "Kriff...more...nngghhh...please.."

"N-need you...ahhh...want you, too..." Obi-Wan promised breathlessly, moving down the younger man's body he already knew so well, but would never tire of exploring.

Eventually, they did sleep.

Very, very well, too.

After lingering over a simple breakfast of porridge and stewed sweet tubers, Shmi declared it was time to make the rounds to the vaporators. Noting the worried crease in Anakin's brow, Obi-Wan suggested he accompany his mother, offering to take care of the cleanup. When Shmi left the kitchen to ready a tool bag and a hoversled, Anakin brought the rest of the dishes to Obi-Wan at this sink with a grateful smile. "Hey, you gonna be okay here?"

Obi-Wan nodded, placing the leftovers in the conservator. "Of course. After this, I'll take a look at that dust reclaimer. I know I'm not the better mechanic, but I have been known to fix things from time to time. Go, enjoy your time with your mother. I promise not to burn the place down, though if you see smoke, perhaps you should consider coming back."

"Very funny." Anakin kissed him long and thoroughly, ending it with a reluctant sigh. "Okay, I'm going...I'm going."

Obi-Wan reached out and grabbed Anakin's hand as he started to leave. "Be mindful," he hinted, with a pointed lift of both brows and a firm squeeze of his fingers.

Squeezing back, Anakin just grinned brightly and spun on his heel, trotting up the stairs and out of the homestead.

Making their way along the southeast ridge, Anakin and Shmi talked nonstop, sharing stories and filling each other in on all of the mundane details they never had time for over the holonet. Anakin told her all about current events in the Core, while Shmi confided about Owen and Beru's difficulties in having a child and the dismal lack of medical advancements in the Outer Rim.

"Do the Jedi have children? I mean, I know they don't have families, but...the children must come from somewhere?"

Anakin knelt down to make a couple of adjustments to the oxygen converter at their fourth stop. "Uh...no? I mean, I know at least one Master who was allowed to have children—it was a 'survival of the species' kind of thing, but...yeah, Jedi don't usually procreate on purpose." He shrugged, giving a bolt a hard crank. "Most of the younglings are given to the Temple as infants by their families."

Shmi frowned sadly at the thought, unable to imagine willingly delivering over a newborn. It had broken her heart to let her child go after nine years with him, and that was out of extreme necessity, not by choice. "Does Obi-Wan miss his family?"

"It's not the Jedi way to miss something you never had. He...he has no concept of family. Well, not personally, anyway. I have you, and of course we meet plenty of family units on missions, but...well, it's not the same, you know?"

Shmi let this sit awhile as they moved on to the next unit, Tatoo II rising over the horizon to join its brother. "So it must have been difficult for you both. You had family that you missed, and he could not understand why you would."

Anakin shrugged again. "Yeah, I guess. I mean, I know he doesn't understand, but it's not something he's tried to force me to let go of. Sure, the entire blasted Council wanted me to conform to a whole way of life that was so foreign...so unnatural...to me, but Obi-Wan...he was different. I cried every night for two weeks—Qui-Gon had died, I was with a teacher I hardly knew, and I missed you so much."

He absently turned a microwelder over in his hand. "You know that first time I called you? That was him. I thought I'd been doing a good job of hiding it, and he called me out of my room one night—I thought I was in so much trouble—and there you were on the holoscreen."

Shmi nodded. "I remember—Watto came pounding on my door, complaining that some Jedi was demanding to talk to me, and when I got to the shop, the line was open and I heard someone call your name, and then my precious boy appeared." She looped an arm through Anakin's with a hug. "It sounds like he was very good to you. I'm glad."

"Well..." Anakin laughed a little. "It wasn't always that easy between us. I...had a lot of energy."

"You certainly did. It was hard enough for me to keep you out of harm's way, and I knew all your tricks. Was Obi-Wan a harsh...Master?" She stumbled over the word, never quite able to silence the fear that her son had been traded from one degrading form of servitude to another.

"'Master' is a title, an honorific, for the Jedi, you know that, right? Obi-Wan was my Master, but he didn't own me. I was his Padawan...his apprentice, his student...neither of those are exactly right, but close enough. He wasn't harsh, no...but he was...oh...demanding? Exacting? Let's just say he's got very high standards and he expected the same from me. Gods, did we get into it sometimes."

"He was Qui-Gon's...Padawan, right? I would have thought they'd be similar in temperament."

Anakin snorted and shook his head. "Not even. I didn't know Qui-Gon for very long, but he was a complete rebel compared to Obi-Wan. People probably say the same thing about me and Obi-Wan, wondering how two opposites could get along. But we do." He looked away over the sands, smiling to himself. Now more than ever. "Obi-Wan's relaxed quite a bit—don't get me wrong, he's still totally into what's right and proper and civilized, but he's...he's able to...I don't know...trust in the Force, and in himself, more."

"And in you, I would guess? I admit, I was surprised by how...young...he is. I had assumed he would be like a father to you, but seeing you together...it's more like a brother? No...a best friend?" She stopped, and turned to her son, the answer startlingly obvious. "Oh. That's not quite right, either. Is it?"

To his credit, Anakin smiled bashfully, digging the toe of his boot into the loose sand. "Well, he has been like a brother to me, and he is my best friend, but...yeah, it's...it's more than that, now." He lifted his chin, eyes big and hopeful like they were when he was a little boy seeking her blessing. "We're...together. Like...together."

Taken aback, Shmi smoothed back the loose strands of hair blowing around her cowl. "Is...is this something you want? I mean, did you even have a choice, or is this commonplace for Master Jedi to take their Padawan as...I don't know...some sort of concubine? Is that what you are?" Shmi was visibly upset, imagining all the ways her beautiful son had been violated by some strange Jedi ownership ritual and how she had failed to protect him from a cult of deviant predators.

Horrified, Anakin shook his head vehemently in denial. "What? Mom, no, no, no, it's not...oh my gods...no, it's not like that at all." He realized that given her upbringing and the misinformation spread around the galaxy about the Jedi, it was a logical—if not totally, hilariously, wrong—assumption for her to make.

"It's very frowned upon, let's say, and I'm not sure I 'officially' know about any other Jedi who are together, but I can guess. Even if I'd outright tried to seduce Obi-Wan before I was Knighted—and believe me, I thought about it, a lot—he would have never. I doubt it would have even occurred to him to acknowledge any feelings he might have had for me before then."

"But with what you've told me, it's obvious how much he cared for you, even when you were young."

"Uh huh. With Obi-Wan, his actions speak far more than his words when it comes to his feelings. It was hard, sometimes, to figure that out, but now? I look back and see all the ways he showed me, over the years, and how different it was for me, than it was for him growing up with Qui-Gon. It's still hard for him."

"Then how did you ever—"

"Figure it out? It...just...it kind of just happened. Or maybe it's that it was always happening, I don't know. A couple of months after my Knighting, we were sent to some jacked up system that was fighting some three-sided civil war over mining rights or something equally stupid. Obi-Wan worked himself nearly into the ground trying to keep all the parties at the negotiation table, while I was out patrolling with some of our troopers in the capitol city. A bomb went off nearby and killed the son of one party leader and the wife and child of another. That was enough for Obi-Wan to finally negotiate an armistice to begin at midnight that night."

"At the celebration marking the signing of a peace treaty, Obi-Wan was making the rounds with all of the delegates, and I..." Anakin blushed and ran a nervous hand through his sand-blown hair. "I'd had a lot of...offers?...to dance...and stuff..."

"Oh...I see." Shmi smiled proudly, patting his arm. "I'm sure that isn't an unusual occurrence when a handsome, brave Jedi Knight saves the day."


"Okay, so...you were very popular, and..."

"And...I was about to...um, leave...and Obi-Wan...he...well, asked me not to."

Obi-Wan had been exhausted after working round the clock for weeks on the peace treaty, and he was just about out of fucks to give for these savages who had only signed the treaty not because of the bloodshed, but because surveys of the mine at the center of the dispute had indicated it was just about tapped out. He tipped back the last bitter dregs of the local ale as a honeyed head of curls caught his eye crossing the ballroom.

He'd not seen Anakin all evening—he'd been inundated by last-minute changes to the signing roster and had told his former apprentice to go on ahead when he'd stopped by to pick up his dress robes that had somehow been packed in Obi-Wan's valise. Instead of their usual Jedi garb, they'd opted for more civilian-inspired robes to help diminish their Jedi presence should a peace be reached, Anakin's a deep blue embossed with golden thread on the collar and cuffs, and Obi-Wan's a dark green edged with silvery-grey embellishments.

Anakin, as usual, was at the center of everyone's attention—the blue of his robes accentuating his eyes and the gold reflecting the highlights in his hair. Obi-Wan frowned; it wasn't any surprise—Anakin was young, charismatic, and attractive to all genders and species, it seemed, but something stirred dark and tight in his gut when he saw Anakin smile and nod at one particular courtier who had been shadowing him all week.

Emboldened by that single ale, he cut through the throng until he reached Anakin. Anakin greeted him warmly, a little tipsy in his own right from the fermented ambrosia they'd all shared in a toast to peace, his smile all bright white teeth and shiny red lips. "Master, you made it!" The flirty courtier stood on tip toes to whisper something in his ear that made Anakin's eyes flutter and Obi-Wan's narrow. "I hope you enjoy yourself tonight, Obi-Wan—I sure know I will," he winked and nodded his head to the side as the courtier let out a nauseating peal of laughter.

"Anakin." Stomach churning now with emotions he dared not name, Obi-Wan reached out and gently put his hand on Anakin's arm as the courtier started to lead him away. "Don't."

Startled, Anakin frowned with confusion, even as he felt the sincerity in their bond...and something else he'd never dared to hope for: Jealousy. Need. Desire.

A different heat suffused him, darkening his eyes as he pulled away from the courtier to step into Obi-Wan's space. Leaning close, his lips brushed against the other man's ear. "I don't need to, now." Taking Obi-Wan's hand and lacing their fingers together, he wordlessly led them away to their suite.

They missed the rest of the celebration, in favor of several of their own.

"Ani, how romantic!" Shmi exclaimed, hugging Anakin close and laughing as he ducked his head with a shy, soft smile. "So, things are good between you? You're happy?"

Anakin stopped at the last vaporator, checking the gauges and plucking off a clutch of edible mushrooms that tended to grow on the vents. "They are," he beamed, handing over the fungi to his mother, his voice soft as he looked back toward the homestead, spying Obi-Wan in the shade of a solar panel digging up denga roots for the midday meal. "I'm in love, Mom, and what's more, I've earned that man's love. Of course I'm happy. But...I mean...are you okay with all this?"

"As long as this is what you want and you're happy, I am happy for you both." She gave her son a sidelong glance. "Though I have the impression that it isn't my approval you're seeking?"

Anakin barked a laugh. "If the threat of expulsion isn't enough of a deterrent, my mother's opinion isn't going to be. We can't...we can't really tell anyone, and it's been hard to try to hide my feelings all the time. It's a relief to be able to share this with the one other person I actually care about, Mom. You have no idea." Starting back, Anakin tugged the sled behind them with one hand, and took Shmi's hand in the other. "You'll like him, I know it."

"I already do. After all, he puts hearts in your eyes when you talk about him, how could I not?" She reached over, patting his cheek affectionately. "Love is a rare gift, Ani. Treasure it like you would the rarest jewel or the purest water."

Anakin happily swung their hands between them. "I do, Mom. Believe me, I do."

Obi-Wan sat back on his heels, scratching at his beard as he regarded the dust reclaimer with a bemused quirk of his lips. "Blasted mechanicals," he muttered, pulling open the maintenance panel again. The time went quickly as he worked, his focus split between rewiring a circuit board that had probably never seen better days, and methodically trying to dissect that persistent twinge of anxiety that flared to life each time he allowed himself to imagine the conversation that was very likely happening out on the sands of Tatooine at that very moment.

He was certain Anakin wouldn't be able to contain himself much longer, and in all honesty, Obi-Wan didn't want him to, either. It was hard enough on Coruscant to have to put up walls and defenses with people he'd known his whole life, people whom he considered friends . It felt somehow more perverse here, the dishonesty and sneaking around when Shmi had so generously opened her home to them. It wasn't in his nature to keep secrets—discretion, yes, but not outright denial—and it was starting to feel suffocating. Obi-Wan knew that one person's opinion didn't matter in the grandness of the universe, but he wasn't so emotionally constipated that he couldn't acknowledge that it mattered greatly to him . What he couldn't seem to unpack was why.

Whatever happened here, perhaps it was the Force's way of telling him it was time to make their declaration to the Council and accept whatever censure awaited them. If he could pass muster with the Chosen One's mother, a group of stodgy old Masters should be a piece of muju cake. In theory, anyway.

He shut the panel, flipped the power switch, and was rewarded with a shower of sparks and a thin trickle of smoke. Biting back several choice words, he tossed the tools back in the box and scrubbed both hands through his hair with a sigh. He wandered back to the kitchen for a sip of water and then grabbed a bowl and trowel from under the sink. He'd make himself useful, one way or the other.

Stepping out the back entrance, he sucked in a sharp breath at the heat already oppressive even though it was just midmorning. Shading his eyes, he scanned the horizon, spotting two shimmering figures in the distance. It was easy to imagine Anakin as a child here, soaking in the warmth of the suns as he indulged in all of his inquisitive mischief, playing and running and—.

Obi-Wan frowned deeply at the sentimentality of it all. Anakin had known very little of that kind of life. He hadn't had much time for play, and while he'd still been a child when Obi-Wan first met him, Anakin's eyes reflected knowledge and experience far beyond his years. Anger swelled deep within him at the thought of Anakin being owned by anyone.

Qui-Gon had been dismissive of the Toydarian—a crude means to an end as far as his Master had been concerned. Even Anakin shrugged off any substantial resentment, assuring Obi-Wan that as slave masters went, Watto had been more benign than most—he'd rarely beaten either one of them, hadn't 'loaned' either of them out as pleasure trinkets to itinerant spacers, and most importantly, he'd kept them together, a rare indulgence in the slave trade of the Outer Rim. But Jedi way or not, Obi-Wan hated the kriffing sleemo, and he was thankful the piece of flying bantha dung was somewhere on the other side of the planet because he wasn't sure if his Jedi training would be enough to stay his hand should they cross paths.

Taking a deep breath and releasing his tense emotions to the Force, Obi-Wan knelt and began gathering herbs and roots as a meal took shape in his mind. He couldn't change the scars of Anakin's past, but he would do everything in his power to ensure happiness in Anakin's future. And knowing Anakin as well as he did, happiness often began with food, and that was one thing he could do right now.

Voices echoed off the sandstone walls as Shmi and Anakin returned from their rounds. "I'll let Obi-Wan know we're back, Mom! Yeah, I'll put the mushrooms in the conservator...uh huh, I'll fill the cooling tanks...alright, I'll let him know!"

Anakin loped into the kitchen to find Obi-Wan chopping some herbs while a savory root broth bubbled and steamed on the cooking grate. "Hey, we're back. Mmm, smells good, what is it?"

"So you are." Obi-Wan tossed the herbs into the pot. "Just a simple soup—I figured you'd probably be hungry. Are those mushrooms? Here, I'll add a few."

Anakin gave him a handful and put the rest in the conservator, noticing the lingering haze in the adjoining room. "So...no luck with the dust reclaimer, I take it?" he observed, with just a hint of mirth ghosting his lips.

Obi-Wan gave him a sour look and shook the knife at him. "No, but the blasted thing is clearly of Sith origin and I doubt you'll have any better luck."

Sidling up behind his Master with a chuckle, Anakin snaked his arms around his waist, nuzzling into the fragrant warmth of his neck. "We'll see."

Obi-Wan leaned into the embrace as he stirred the herbs and mushrooms into the broth. "How...how was your walk?" Did you tell her? What does she think? Do I need to run out in the dead of night to avoid a mother's vengeance for defiling her precious only son?

"Great," he murmured against Obi-Wan's skin, hugging him closer with a contented sigh. "Fixed a couple things, got caught up on all the local gossip, harvested some mushrooms..."

Obi-Wan sighed heavily. "Anakin."

Resting his chin on his Master's shoulder, Anakin laughed softly. "And I told her all about us."

"Oh? And?" Obi-Wan winced; he'd been going for nonchalance, but his rigid stance and the quaver in his voice betrayed any such implication of indifference.

"Obi-Wan, relax. It's okay, just like I told you it would be." He snuffled his way through the fine hairs along the other man's neck, leaving soft little kisses behind his ear. "She had some concerns, I answered her questions, she's happy for us."

Not about to be distracted from the topic, Obi-Wan flinched away, resisting his advances. "What...what kind of concerns?"

Continuing his exploration of Obi-Wan's neck and that very sweet spot between his ear and jaw, Anakin smirked against his skin. "Oh, you know...that you'd seduced my young innocent self—I think the word she used was concubine—and that because I still call you Master that it's some weird Jedi ownership thing."

"What?" Obi-Wan choked violently, cranking his head around to look at Anakin with eyes wide with horror. "She...I never...concubine?" It was so much worse than anything his cleverly anxious mind had plagued him with all morning long. "Anakin, I don't...please, tell me you—"

Anakin laughed all the harder, but quieted down when he felt all the anxious tension coming off of the other man in waves. "Relax. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have laughed, but it was just so...I mean, I just kept imagining me declaring myself your concubine to the Council and the look on Windu's face."

Mollified somewhat, Obi-Wan rolled his eyes, even managing to chuckle a little at the thought. "Yes, well...he probably thinks it's the other way around."

"Mmm...well now, there's a thought. Would you wear something gauzy and flimsy for me? Maybe some harem pants and a veil?" Anakin teased softly, letting his hands find their way to the edge of the waist on Obi-Wan's trousers to pet the soft, pale skin he knew lay hidden beneath.

"Abso...absolutely not," Obi-Wan stammered softly, melting at the fleeting touches, even if his pride was offended by the ridiculous suggestion. "Honestly. Harem pants?"

With a wicked low growl, Anakin's hands slid teasingly lower. "How about naked, then? Can I have that?"

Heat rushed from Obi-Wan's face to his groin in less time than it took for Anakin's mouth to latch on to his ear, and he let out a pained whimper. "N-now? I think this might not be the best time." He scrunched his eyes shut and sighed. "But I want to," he whispered longingly. "Very much."

Anakin growled again, slipping his hands back up to wrap around the other man's waist. "No, it's probably not, as my Mom's on her way down here. Later?"

"Mmm-hmm, I will hold you to that." Obi-Wan's hands folded with Anakin's across his abdomen and he turned to give the younger man a light, languorous kiss as a promise. "So, everything is alright, then?"

Anakin leaned his temple against Obi-Wan's and nodded. "Yep. No need to hide, no need to worry. We can just...be."

Shmi rounded the doorway and paused, obviously intruding on something meant to be private, but she found herself drawn to the sweet simplicity of the moment. The unrestrained joy on their faces said it all as her son held the other man in his arms, whispering something that put a radiant smile on Obi-Wan's face as he drew him into a tender kiss. She wondered how she hadn't seen it before, it was so obvious now, the depth of their connection to one another.

"Oh, uh...hey, Mom," Anakin greeted with a sheepish grin. Shmi stifled a laugh at the fierce blush creeping up Obi-Wan's neck as he fought to slip out from her son's embrace. "Um...look, Obi-Wan made lunch!"

"I could smell it all the way on the other side of the house, I'm sure it's delicious. Ani, in the pantry there should be a half of a loaf of bread. I think it would be perfect with the soup." She went to the cupboard and took out three bowls to set on the table. "What a wonderful treat, Obi-Wan. Thank you."

At her sudden appearance, Obi-Wan had busied himself stirring the soup, wiping the counter, anything he could to tamp down the heat he felt coloring his cheeks after being caught out like some libidinous Padawans in the quantum physics section of the Archives. "Really, it's just...soup," he demurred, bringing over the pot and setting it on the table.

Shmi laughed and patted his arm affectionately. "Nonsense. Now let's sit down, enjoy this wonderful meal, and Obi-Wan, you can tell me all the things Anakin doesn't want his mother to know."


Obi-Wan grinned mischievously as he ladled out the soup, eagerly jumping on the opportunity to relinquish some of his embarrassment to Anakin for a while. "Well, there was that time on Hapes..."


One morning, Shmi stepped away from the table to take a call, returning with a sad shake of her head. "The poor woman," she said despondently, in response to their concerned looks. "With so many farmers taking up extra work for the Boonta Eve, her partner's gone and she has a punctured water tank in her livestock paddock. Her vaporators can't keep up with the loss and she's lost a couple eopies already."

"Is there any way we can help?" Obi-Wan offered sincerely, his Jedi instincts taking over immediately and looking for solutions. He turned to Anakin. "It can't be much different from those coolant tanks you patched on Agamar, can it?"

Anakin pursed his lips, considering. "Probably not? Same principle, at least—make the leak stop. Mom, why don't you call her back and tell her I'll be out within the hour?"

"Do you want me to come along?"

Anakin stood and paused, then shook his head as he brought his bowl to the sink. "Nah, it really shouldn't take too long. I'll comm if it's more involved." He grabbed his satchel of tools and a few others from under the sink, along with a flask of water. "See ya," he said, bending down and stealing a not-quite-chaste kiss from a very red Obi-Wan. "Take care of him, Mom. Trust me, he has a way of finding trouble."

Completely affronted, Obi-Wan scowled, reddening further. "Anakin!"

The repair to the tank didn't take long, but word spread quickly of a talented mechanic in the area, and Anakin spent the entire day and the next several mornings making the rounds to several of the neighboring farms helping with small repairs.

Near the end of the week, he commed home just before midday, saying he was on his way and that he had a big surprise for them both. Obi-Wan had clicked off his comm with a frown, rubbing at his chin thoughtfully. "Hmm."

Shmi looked up from where she'd been cleaning some greens for a salad. "You look troubled, Obi-Wan."

Obi-Wan gave her a lopsided smile. "Let's just say I'm...cautious. I've learned from experience that when Anakin says he has a 'big surprise', it tends to be code for 'you're going to hate this, Obi-Wan'." He came over and took over chopping some roots and desert game meat to add to the greens. "But I could be wrong."

Wiping her hands on cloth, Shmi smiled sympathetically. "You could be...but you also know him very well. Could it really be so bad?"

"We'll see," he replied with a sense of dread.

As it turned out, it was worse. And he really, really hated it.

Anakin came thundering down the steps and burst into the kitchen in a swirl of dust and excitement. "I've got some news! Remember how I went out to fix that speeder for those Rodian brothers a couple of clicks over this morning? I didn't want to take any credits—they're really hurting with only two decent vaporators—and they had this podracer they needed to unload..."

Obi-Wan blanched, fearing where this was going, as the dread that had been pooling in his stomach solidified.

"It was just sitting there, gathering rust and dust, and I figured I could fix it, you know?" He grinned with unadulterated glee. "But then, I figured, why just fix it, when I can race it?"

Shmi glanced at Obi-Wan, who had gone very still, staring at her son as though he'd grown another head full of tentacles.

"So, what do you think? You'll help me fix it up, right? Time's kinda tight, but it's doable. After we eat, let's do a full diagnostic—" He stopped mid-sentence, looking from Obi-Wan to Shmi and back to Obi-Wan again. "What?"

"Have you lost your mind?" Obi-Wan asked in a very controlled, measured tone Anakin recognized all too well.

Instantly on the defensive, and unsure as to exactly why, Anakin's eyebrows went up in surprise. "What?"

"Shmi, I do apologize, but would you excuse us, please?" Obi-Wan waited for Anakin's mother to leave—he didn't want to make her uncomfortable by having to witness what was certainly about to be a heated discussion—before rounding back on him. "Have. You. Lost. Your. Mind? Anakin, you cannot race. Jedi do not podrace."

Anakin shrugged indifferently, slouching down into a chair. "Oh, come on, Obi-Wan! No one here cares, and besides, like the Council would even know. And seriously, there's no rule," he added with a petulant jut of his chin.

"Really? Do they not broadcast it everywhere from here to the Core? Do you think the Hutts would condone a Force-user as a participant? It's the same as cheating."

Anakin smirked. "It's only cheating from a certain point of view. Threats, sabotage, bribery, unregistered upgrades...it's all part of podracing—it's all about maxxing your advantage. Mine happen to be quick reflexes and a superior knowledge of machines—which, you know, is a hell of a lot better than, say, murder or kidnapping." He rose and moved in front of Obi-Wan, clapping him on the shoulders gamely. "Come on, it'll be fun! You've never seen me race, and this one's the biggest there is! It's the one that brought me to you, remember?"

Obi-Wan angrily pushed away his hands. "No, what I remember is a that you were a little boy exploited for the goodness of your heart by a naive girl and and a negligent Jedi Master who should have known better. I remember that you were the only one to finish and you were lucky to be alive!"

Anger and confusion bubbled up in Anakin. "Yeah, and by winning this race, I earned my freedom! I did that!"

Obi-Wan threw up his hands. "You didn't know that going in! You didn't know you'd been wagered ," he spat, his long-held disgust evident. "Any other outcome would have left you— all of us—trapped here. All because of this Sith-damned race!"

Anakin crossed his arms with a huff. "Is this about me, or Qui-Gon? Because it sounds a whole lot more like you're still pissed at him—don't take it out on me."

Pacing the floor, Obi-Wan whirled around, furious at the accusation, whether it had any merit or not. "This has nothing to do with Qui-Gon, it has to do with you and your reckless disregard for your own life! Why can't you understand that?"

"I want to feel that again, the thrill of being in control of my own destiny again. Why...why can't you understand that?" Anakin retorted hotly. "I'm the best there is at this, Obi-Wan, and I have the chance to prove it to you!"

"I don't care if you are!" Obi-Wan roared back, but the fight all but went out of him then. He needed space, he needed to meditate, he needed...he didn't know what he needed, but he knew he certainly didn't need...this. Whatever this was. They didn't do this anymore...they were past this, or so he had thought.

And if they weren't...

"It's clear to me that you've already made up your mind. If this is what you want, if it's truly something you must do, then my opinion matters not," he declared with a tired, quiet resignation, moving towards the doorway. " I...I can't be here right now. I need to...I'm going to ride into town for a few things. I'll comm if I won't be back before dark."

"Master, wait—" Anakin pleaded, reaching for Obi-Wan, desperate for him not to go like this.

Pursing his lips, Obi-Wan held up a hand and gave the slightest shake of his head as he backed away, then turned and left.

Anakin's hand fell heavily to his side as he sank back into a chair, banging his fist on the table with a frustrated growl.

"Dammit, Obi-Wan."

His head in his hands, elbows on the table, Anakin blew out a long breath as a chair scraped the tile next to him and a warm arm wrapped about his shoulders. "Hey, Mom. Sorry you had to hear that."

"Never mind me. What can I do, my darling?" Shmi offered, rubbing consolingly at his back. "Do you want to talk about it?"

With a groan, Anakin leaned into the embrace, comforted by her gentle voice. "I don't understand, Mom. You let me race, and I was a lot smaller and dumber back then. What's his problem?"

Shmi made a small noise and kissed his temple. "Watto made you race, and it scared me to death every time. I had no choice in the matter. You have a choice this time, and that is what Obi-Wan doesn't understand. And, my darling, he's terrified. Don't you see that?"

"Why? That's absurd, we face danger all the time! It's part of our job, why is this any different?"

Shmi cupped his face in her hand. "Because this isn't your job. You're choosing to put your life in danger, and he doesn't want to lose you. Think about it from his perspective—how would you react if he deliberately did something foolish and dangerous?"

Anakin snorted and scratched the back of his neck. "You obviously don't know him well enough yet, Mom, because that's, like, every mission with him."

She gave him a pointed look. "Then you know what he's feeling. That helplessness and dire certainty you feel deep inside that makes you absolutely sick with fear because there's nothing you can do about it."

Anakin nodded slowly, understanding finally starting to come through. "But...Mom, I'm really good at this. I know what I'm doing."

"I know that, and I'm sure he does, too. But does Obi-Wan believe any less in his own abilities, when he chooses actions that you disagree with?"

Anakin scowled sullenly. "No...but—"

"Anakin. If you're going to race, then race. But you need to accept that there are some things you and Obi-Wan do not understand about each other, and perhaps never will." She sat him up and took his hands into hers, looking deep into his eyes. "But as long as you are honest, as long as you have faith in each other and respect each other for all of your strengths and weaknesses, your love will only continue to grow. Talk to him when he gets back, explain why you want to do this, but don't press him to agree—he may, he may not. And then decide if it's still something you want to do."

"Okay." He gave her a dubious look, grudgingly acknowledging her advice. "Will...will you come watch, if I do?"

Shmi shrugged noncommittally. "Either I stay here with you and Obi-Wan, or I go and help Beru at the tavern. I'm sure I can find a holoscreen somewhere." She let out a small chuckle at the look he gave her. "Yes, Ani, of course I will—how could I possibly say no to you?" she promised, ruffling up his hair vigorously. "Even when I think you're being a stubborn, reckless nerfherder."

"I promise, I'll be careful!" he insisted, ducking out of reach with a squawk of protest. "You don't have to worry."

She couldn't help but roll her eyes at that. "Anakin. I've seen you race. Even Obi-Wan, I suspect, would spot that for the outlandish lie that it is. You may wish to try a different tack with him—from what I've seen, I think he could be even more stubborn than you."

"You have no idea, Mom. No idea."

Fuming and shouting a string of the foulest Huttese curses he could think of into the hot wind buffeting his face, Obi-Wan had taken the hoverbike on a circuitous route into Mos Espa, intent upon finding whatever passed for a cantina in this town with the hope he'd find serenity lurking at the bottom of a glass. Or two.

The ride had done little to appease his anger and frustration, and in his hurry to escape from Anakin and the sight of that speeding pod of imminent death parked at the top of the steps, Obi-Wan had neglected to check his pockets and found himself angrily punching in the code to release the lock on the Twilight. Still muttering under his breath, he stomped up the loading ramp and into their shared berth to root around for the stash of credits they kept onboard. Shoving a handful, and then another, into his pockets, he made for the ramp, when a flashing light on the comm console caught his eye while stalking past the cockpit. Obi-Wan glared fiercely, annoyed by the delay, but still felt enough of an obligation to take a look.

"Wonderful," he muttered bitterly, recognizing the ID transponder, and with a heavy, imposed-upon sigh, he stabbed the call back button. It was probably a huge mistake, but Force knew he needed the distraction right now, and the cantina wasn't going anywhere.

"It's me. You called?" Obi-Wan sat in the flight chair with his chin propped on his hand. "Is something wrong, or is this a social call? To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure which to wish for."

"Yo, Kenobi! Nah, nothing's wrong. Didn't expect to hear back from you for a while—heard you were on leave. How's it going? Where'd you end up? Club scene on Zeltros? Nude beaches of Scarif? Kriff, you'd better not say you're doing some boring museum tour of Alderaan."

Obi-Wan just shook his head, wondering if perhaps he'd not be in this predicament had they gone to Scarif—as far as he knew, they didn't have naked podracing, though leave it to Anakin to invent such a thing. "No, as it happens, I am not anywhere nearly as civilized as Alderaan. Try Tatooine."

Quinlan Vos' raucous laugh came over the comm as a burst of static. "What in all the Sith Hells—oh, let me guess. You're with Wonder Boy? Finally brought you home to meet the family, eh? Aww, that's sweet."

Flustered by the spot-on assessment, Obi-Wan uncharacteristically fumbled for words. "I...I have no idea what you're implying, but I assure you—"

"So you're not with Skywalker, you just thought a little jaunt to the asshole of the Outer Rim sounded like a great place to spend an entire month alone?"

"No," Obi-Wan huffed, "I mean, yes, I mean...kriff you, Quin. Yes, I'm here, Anakin's here, and we are guests of his mother, though the rest of the family is away. Alright?"

"Hey, man, no reason to get all Huffy-Wan with me. Listen, knock it off with all the bantha shit evading. This is a scrambled line, no one's going to find out about your obvious-as-fuck romance with Skywalker from me, okay?"

"Quinlan..." Obi-Wan growled warningly.

"Seriously, do you think no one knows? How do think I was able to convince ol' Macey that you guys needed a break?"

Obi-Wan slouched defeatedly in the flight seat with a hand over his eyes. "Oh, that's just splendid."

"Calm the fuck down, would you? I didn't say why, and he didn't ask, so you can stop your nervous breakdown, alright? Kriff, I thought a little vacation couldn't hurt, but it sounds like you're wound tighter than ever. What's up? Skywalker's momma doesn't like you?"

"I'm fine," Obi-Wan said through gritted teeth. "I happened to be in town and saw your message. I'd assumed, for some stupid reason, that it was important. And since you asked, Shmi and I get along just fine, she's a kind, pleasant woman."

"If it's all so wonderful, why are you in town talking to me instead of out there playing happy family? 'Fess up, man, I can hear the frowny face all the way in the Core. Spill it."

Irritation flared to life and Obi-Wan groaned loudly. "Alright, fine. Everything was good and well until Anakin decided it would be 'fun' to enter the kriffing Boonta Eve Classic and revisit his misspent youth by trying to kill himself in one of those blasted podracers!"

"Aww, damn! It was fucking amazing the first time I saw him do it—still don't know how he managed to win, but the little shit did it. Man, I wish I could be there. So, what's the problem? You know he lives for this kind of stuff."

"The important word in that sentence is 'lives'! Purposely putting his life in jeopardy for the foolish thrill is just begging the Force to slap him down for his impertinence, and he doesn't even care! He doesn't care that if he kills himself, he's not the one left behind to scrape up what's left of him smeared across a canyon wall and present it to his mother with apologies for her son's idiocy!"

"Whoa, Obi-Wan. Slow down, take a breath, do some of that Jedi calming shit, and listen to me. Are you listening?"

"What," he snapped testily, leaning forward to hold his head in his hands, so very much not in the mood for Quinlan Vos' special brand of utter nonsense.

"First, he's not doing this to piss you off. If he was, he would have just done it and told you about it later. Second, the Force isn't gonna let anything happen to her boy, with all you've been through with him, you know I'm right. And third—are you still listening, because this one's the most important—Skywalker's so fucking in love with you there's no way he'd let anything keep him from you. You know that. I know that. Most of the people you two don't think know that know that, okay?"

"Yeahhh..." Obi-Wan slouched back in the flight seat with a heavy sigh, the unvarnished truth slapping him in the face exactly like it should for being such the insecure bantha's ass he was. "You're...blast, I can't even believe I'm saying this, but...okay...you're right."

"Of course I'm right. The only dumbass here is you. So go back there and make up, make out, make like a couple of Nubian fuzzbunnies in heat, whatever."


"I know, and you're welcome. Now, I'm off to find Fisto and head to the Outlander, I've wagers to place on a certain podrace. Tell Skywalker to watch out for the Phindians, they cheat like fuck, and tell him if he loses, he's gonna owe me double!"

"A pleasure as always, old friend," Obi-Wan signed off with affectionate sarcasm.

"Yes, I am, Obi-Wan, yes I am. Later."

Obi-Wan switched off the call and kicked his boots up on the console, turning over Quin's advice as he watched a flock of desert vultures swirling over the open docking bay holding the Twilight. He wasn't overly surprised to learn that he and Anakin were the topic of Temple gossip—Jedi Knights might renounce jealousy and envy, but that didn't stop their loquacious tongues from wagging incessantly.

What he found unsettling was that even Mace seemed to be not only aware of their relationship, but under Quinlan's influence—and what was that about, anyway...forget it, he didn't think he could handle the answer—Mace had offered them both a month's leave, apparently assuming they'd be going together. Heaving a disgruntled sigh, he forced himself up, his boots making a racket as his feet dropped back to the deck. There wasn't anything he could do about that right now, and he had a much bigger problem to deal with right here.

Talking to Quin—which was a lot like wrestling with a drunken Wookiee—had made him realize that he wasn't actually angry with Anakin. His former Padawan was who he always was, a risk-taker, a reckless adrenaline junkie, and there had never been, nor would there ever be, a pilot as naturally gifted as he was. He wasn't even afraid for Anakin, because Obi-Wan Kenobi was a devoted servant of the Force, and experience had taught him that the Force was in most aspects a devoted servant of Anakin Skywalker.

No, Obi-Wan was afraid for himself.

He was afraid of what would happen to him if he lost Anakin. It was no different, at a basic level, than all of his ridiculous anxieties about Shmi accepting him or what the Council might think of him should they discover the truth of their relationship. He'd opened a Pandora's Box when he finally allowed himself to experience love, desire, and satisfaction, because it also meant he was vulnerable to jealousy, need, and fear, not as tools of the Dark Side, but as the very natural consequence of being human.

With a derisive bark of a laugh, he exited the Twilight and climbed on the hoverbike. If Anakin had had half as much trouble restraining his emotions as Obi-Wan was having releasing his, he had a profound new appreciation of his former Padawan's surly adolescence. He kickstarted the engine and headed out for the Lars' homestead. He might still not want Anakin to race, but he owed him an apology and some honesty.

And then, maybe they could make up like a couple of Nubian fuzzbunnies in heat, he smiled to himself, pushing the throttle to maximum as he soared over the dunes and back to Anakin.

With an occasional glance to the desert horizon, Anakin sat in the shade of the canopy covering the steps, fiddling with the wiring on the motivator panel of the dust reclaimer. He made a face at the mess of scorched wires hanging out of the thing—Obi-Wan was right about it being of Sith origin, because only a Sith would torture a poor house droid with this level of incompetence.

He looked up again, shaking his head and sighing as he went back to work. Still no sign of Obi-Wan, and while he wasn't exactly worried yet, it felt wrong, like a sand burr under his skin, to know that his Master was out there, somewhere, because he didn't want to be here. With him. That hurt, but talking to his mom had helped Anakin understand Obi-Wan from...well...a different point of view, and at least he knew he'd not said anything colossally stupid, so that was an improvement over his Padawan years.

He thought of all of those times Obi-Wan had announced he was going on some kriffed-up mission on his own, or all of the times he'd had to bail his Master out of one disaster or another, and how each and every time Anakin had been so angry at the other man's casual disregard for his own safety and well-being. It drove Anakin crazy that he couldn't make Obi-Wan understand how it made him feel.

The stupid irony of it all was here he was, doing the same thing to Obi-Wan, and Anakin couldn't even claim it was out of honor or duty, it was just because he wanted to. He was being a selfish ass for no reason other than chasing a thrill, and now here he was alone and Sith damn it, he missed Obi-Wan. Being with him was the biggest thrill of all, and right now he couldn't even feel him, and it was a lonely, awful feeling.

Chucking the 'spanner into the sand near his feet, he drew his knees up and hugged his arms around them, staring off at the horizon again. He wanted—no, he needed— Obi-Wan to come back so that he could apologize and drag him off to some dark corner of one of the outbuildings on the farm and beg forgiveness on his knees. On my knees, on my back, against the door...whatever it takes, however long it takes... come on, Obi-Wan, come back to me, please...

The shadows were growing long and Tatoo I was racing for the horizon when Anakin finally felt a familiar flicker of warmth over their bond, and he raised his head to see a shimmering figure appear in the distance. Anakin closed his eyes and smiled to himself, sending his gratitude into the Force for bringing Obi-Wan back home to him.

As the hoverbike drew near, Anakin stood and brushed himself off, nervously trying and failing to keep his curls from blowing in his eyes. "Hey..." he started lamely, giving Obi-Wan a cautious smile once the engine had shut off. "I'm...I'm really glad you're back."

Obi-Wan carefully returned the smile. "Me, too." He gestured at the pile of parts littering the sand nearby. "That somehow looks worse. Any progress?"

"Nope, the whole thing's worthless. Remind me to talk to Cliegg about buying junk from the Jawas, I don't know what he was thinking with that thing. I think it was reverse-engineered to spew out dust, not collect it."

"Somehow that makes me feel better about my mechanical aptitude, if even you couldn't do a thing with it." They shared a strained laugh until the silence stretched between them once more.

Anakin cautiously moved to stand on just the other side of the bike from Obi-Wan, watching his hand as it smoothed over the still-warm leather seat. "So...uh...listen. Um...I'm sorry, okay? You were right, about me being thoughtless and reckless and I'm—"

Obi-Wan shook his head vehemently, placing his hand over Anakin's on the seat. "No. I am the one who needs to apologize—"

"No, Master," Anakin interrupted, beginning to fidget and shuffle his feet. "It's my fault, I shouldn't have—"

Obi-Wan gritted his teeth in frustration. He was keyed up enough as it was, he didn't need to have another argument with Anakin over who got to apologize first, for Sith's sake, and he really needed to get this out before he was pretty sure his skin was going to turn inside out from the emotions eating at him. "Anakin, please. Let me just...let me say this, alright? I need you to hear this."

With a dejected look, Anakin stepped back, letting his hands fall to his sides limply. "Fine...okay...what-whatever you want," he conceded, stung by the sharp edge in the usually fond, affectionate voice Obi-Wan reserved just for him.

Frowning at the younger man's reaction, Obi-Wan released a calming breath and hesitantly made his way around the bike. Closing the distance between them, he slowly took Anakin's hands in his. "Can we...can we sit?"

Anakin nodded wordlessly, walking them the short distance to a rise that overlooked the twin suns' breathtaking descent towards sunset and nightfall. He sank to his knees in the sand, pulling Obi-Wan down next to him. Obi-Wan made to withdraw his hand, but Anakin refused to surrender it, instead lacing their fingers together tightly. "Okay, talk."

Obi-Wan stared out at the suns and pursed his lips for a moment to gather his mess of thoughts and emotions into what he hoped would be some kind of coherent explanation. "What I said to you...it was wrong, and I am sorry. I'm not angry with you—", he shook his head and smiled slightly as Anakin's eyebrows disappeared into his hair, "—I'm not. Despite what I know was a convincing appearance, I wasn't angry with you, I was...I am...afraid," he confessed quietly, looking down at their entwined fingers as he let out a long breath. "And I didn't know what to do with that, to be honest. So it came out all wrong and I just...I had to be alone for a bit."

"I guess I can understand that, yeah." Nodding, Anakin bit his lip and mulled this over, recalling what his mother had illuminated for him, and he couldn't fault Obi-Wan for feeling the same fears Anakin had for years about him. "I don't want you to be afraid for me, Obi-Wan. I know how that feels, it sucks, I know it does, so if you don't want me to race, I won't."

"Yes, it does...suck...as you say. But..." Obi-Wan's shoulders slumped in defeat and he let out a short, disgusted laugh. "I don't want you to race because...because I'm afraid for me."

"What?" Anakin was genuinely confused, he thought this was about the danger to him, and suddenly they're talking about some unknown danger to Obi-Wan? "For you? Why?"

"Because I need you, and it scares me to death sometimes!" Obi-Wan blurted out, grabbing Anakin by the shoulders. "It scares me to imagine a life without you, to be the one left behind, whether it's a ricocheted bullet or a split-second decision on some fucking race course that takes you away from me, alright?!"

Anakin stared at him incredulously. "Obi-Wan, by the stars, that's not going to happen!"

"You don't know that! You don't know—"

"No, I don't," Anakin interrupted softly, a little confounded that he was the one trying to bring calm into the conversation. "But I don't need to. Someone told me that the Force is my ally, to trust in it always, and to focus on the here and now. 'Your focus determines your reality,' remember? So my reality is that I'm a kickass racer who's going to win and come back to you in one piece, okay?"

Dropping his hands in surrender, Obi-Wan's mouth turned down in a deep frown. "Kriff, you sound just like him, you know that?"

Anakin shrugged, drawing swirls in the sand with a finger. "I meant you. I learned those lessons from you, Master." He looked up from beneath his lashes curiously . "When did you unlearn them?"

"I didn't—" Obi-Wan paused mid-sentence, scrubbing both hands over his face. "I don't know. I suppose...I suppose when I realized I had something—someone—worth losing," he admitted in a small voice.

"Okay. Then it's very simple. I won't race." It killed Anakin to see Obi-Wan this way, so unsure, turning himself inside out trying to hide from his needs and fears. "If you don't want me to, I won't. Okay?"

"No, it's not okay! Don't say that like you're a Padawan asking his Master for permission!" Obi-Wan snapped, picking up a small stone from the sand and throwing it in frustration. "That's not who we are anymore, things are different...we are different. We're supposed to be equal partners now, and here we are, defaulting to our old roles of you wanting to push limits and me wanting to enact them, and we can't do that if we're going to do...this," he gestured emphatically between them, his stern expression softening. "You have to learn to be responsible for and conscious of your own decisions, and I...I have to learn how to let you do that and not have a kriffing aneurysm when we disagree."

Anakin smiled briefly, scooting closer until they were side-by-side. "Yeah...you're right, I know. I guess I kind of want it both ways, sometimes? I want my freedom, but then I also want you to be there to back me up, even hold me back, if I need it, and yeah...that's not very fair to you. I'd not thought about it that way before, but you're right, and I'm...I'm sorry."

He turned his head, studying Obi-Wan's noble profile, handsome and golden-red in the late afternoon suns. "But...but I...I still want your opinion, I want you to be honest with me, to share everything you're feeling, not just the good stuff, but the shavit that worries you, the things that make you doubt and question and fear, too. I know it's been hard, but it's been worth it, hasn't it?" he asked worriedly, concerned that maybe he'd pushed Obi-Wan too far this time in feeling and expressing his emotions.

Hearing his hesitation, Obi-Wan nudged Anakin with his knee and smirked. "You have more than made up for any discomfort I may have felt, you know that." Self-conscious now, he stared down at his hands in his lap. "I guess...I guess what I'm trying to explain is that I'm still learning how to...how to do...this. Us."

Sighing, Anakin reached back and rubbed a comforting hand across his Master's back. "We both are, Obi-Wan. You're not in this alone. I messed up, too. I should have asked you, and I'm sorry."

Obi-Wan gave him a searing sidelong look. "Anakin. It's not my permission to give, it's your choice to make, and because I respect you, I have to respect your choices, even when I don't like them, and especially when I think they're foolish, reckless, and that a gundark might have more sense."

Anakin threw back his head and laughed. "A gundark probably does, but it's not going to fly as well as me." Leaning over he rested his chin on Obi-Wan's shoulder. "So...does this mean you trust me?"

"It means I'm in no way sanctioning this lunacy, but yes, I trust you to not go and get yourself killed." Turning his head, he fixed Anakin with a glare hot enough to melt the glaciers of Hoth. "I shall be eternally cross with you if you betray my trust, Anakin."

"I'll remember that. Force knows, I better not tempt the Wrath of Kenobi," Anakin teased with that cocksure grin Obi-Wan found equal parts utterly insufferable and ridiculously irresistible.

"Kriff, but you are insolent, you know that?" he pronounced, though his tone was anything but scolding.

Anakin flashed one of his beaming smiles, stroking the backs of his fingers along Obi-Wan's cheek. "You say that like there's something wrong with that."

With a growl, Obi-Wan seized his fingers and yanked Anakin down on top of him on the sand. "Did I?" he inquired, using both hands to fondly tuck back the shroud of curls around Anakin's face.

"Uh huh," the younger man nodded seriously, making an exaggerated sad face. "My pride is wounded, Master."

Obi-Wan's head arched back as he let out a loud laugh. "Your pride, my dear Anakin, is impenetrable."

Anakin pretended to pout and poked his Master in the chest. "This doesn't sound like the making up part yet." He scrambled off of Obi-Wan and pulled him to his feet. "Let's get to the making up part, okay?"

Obi-Wan raised his brows. "I'm not sure what the making up part looks like," he said honestly, though given the tremor of need in their bond, he was getting a pretty good idea. "P-perhaps you'll need to show me?"

"I can do that." Anakin dragged him by the hand, heading for a lonely looking tool shed beyond the garage. "I'll show you mine, if you'll show me yours..." he drawled with a very naughty grin and a pulse of burning desire through their bond that went straight to Obi-Wan's cock, just like the arrogant miscreant knew it would.

"Ah, fuzzbunnies," Obi-Wan murmured to himself with a laugh as Anakin hustled them along. Force bless you, Quinlan.

Anakin looked quizzically over his shoulder. "What? Fuzz-what?"

Obi-Wan yanked open the shed with the Force and shoved Anakin inside, devouring his mouth in hungry kisses as door slammed shut. "I'll explain later."