Brotherhood and Family
The atmosphere on Cato Neimoidia had cleared from the low storm clouds that had previously blanketed the skies over the Republic encampment. From beneath the dark indigo horizon, little bits of light peeked out, peppering everything in view with stars.
What a beautiful way to end the day, Obi-Wan Kenobi thought as he absently rubbed the mud and grit from the surface of his beloved lightsaber. He hadn't been able to take his eyes from the heavens since twilight.
He became aware that Anakin hadn't spoken in his normal teasing manner about Obi-Wan's attention span yet, and looked around to find his friend bent over a table, his rucksack and it's contents splayed everywhere, concentrating on the act of writing something on flimsiplast. A twinge of guilt, and then he breathed it in and out. He would allow Anakin this now. There would be time after the war to deal with the ramifications of any attachments he may hold. He wondered how many holos between his former padawan and the Senator had actually passed back and forth over the space of three years. He turned back to the window with a sigh.
Qui-Gon, what would you have done in this situation? What would you have me do? I find it harder and harder to break the bond I have with Anakin, yet I know I must do my duty someday. He still needs me, though. So tenuous is his relationship with the Council. I begin to see some of your misgivings with them, Master. You may now retrieve your jaw from the floor.
If Qui-Gon heard him, there was no evidence. Unless the slight breeze that wafted in open tent window counted. How he missed him on these nights. All that surrounded them in the camp was silence and one's own thoughts. He reluctantly turned from the window and placed his lightsaber on his belt. Anakin looked to be finishing up.
Anakin looked up defensively as his friend and mentor approached the table. There was an air of hesitance around Obi-Wan and Anakin knew why.
"It's not what you're thinking," he said. The words came out sharper than he intended.
"Oh? What am I thinking then?" Obi-Wan asked.
The look on his face was one that Anakin would have abhorred when he was younger. Eyebrow cocked and patient face waiting, smirking even. He had now come to appreciate it as one of the many parts of his beloved former Master's make-up as he had gotten older and the strains of the Master and Apprentice relationship had given way to real and mature affection. They shared a bond, he and Obi-Wan. One that he was not sure he could ever totally sever, and it would present problems one day, of this he was sure. He would have to choose when the war was over. He only hoped that Obi-Wan would understand when he realized he had already made his choice the day he married Padmé. He desperately hoped that they could still share each other's life in some capacity, he didn't think he could easily let Obi-Wan go. He was too important to him. There it was again, that pesky attachment rule. He sighed inwardly and drug his thoughts back to the here and now. To Obi-Wan standing patiently, waiting.
"It's not to…her," he said with downcast eyes.
He didn't know why he couldn't say her name aloud to Obi-Wan. It wasn't as if saying it would make his marriage any more real. He loved Padmé and she was his life after the war, which was already as real as it could possibly be. Still…he didn't want to rub salt into a wound. Even if the wound was internal.
"I didn't say anything," Obi-Wan answered and sat down at the table. He tried to keep his eyes away from the flimsiplast.
Anakin looked up at him and grinned. "It's killing you, isn't it?"
"Absolutely not," he answered. "It is none of my business who you are corresponding with. I am not your Master, remember?" He narrowed his eyes jovially at Anakin and was rewarded with laughter.
"Here, you can read it. As long as you promise that there will be no lectures on attachment." Anakin pushed the flimsy towards Obi-Wan and got up. "I have to go set Artoo up for recharge, anyway."
"I don't want to read it," Obi-Wan called to Anakin as he walked away.
"Blast," he muttered as he pulled the flimsiplast to him
I am terribly saddened to hear the news of your father's death. I received the news from a holo transmission from Senator Amidala. Thank you for making sure she got the news to give to me. In the short time that I got to be around him, Cliegg seemed to be a very good man. I will never be able to repay your family for the kindness you showed my mother, and I regret that I didn't get to stay longer, but my duty has never kept me at one place for very long. Just know that I am thinking about you, and wish you peace. Please give my love to Beru.
With a sigh, he laid the flimsiplast back on the table as Anakin sat back down across from him.
"Don't, Obi-Wan…just…don't," Anakin said.
"Anakin, I was not going to bring up attachment, but now that you mentioned it, I have to say that I understand these feelings…but as Jedi, sadness at death is not something we are supposed to feel."
"Obi-Wan, I know what the Jedi say about attachment and grief." Anakin leaned closer to Obi-Wan, his eyes intense. "It is harder than you can imagine in practice, but I try."
He leaned back with a sigh, and ran his hand over his hair.
He leaned over the table at Obi-Wan, his blue eyes snapping. "Do you not ever grieve Qui-Gon? Does your heart never hurt when you think of him? Of his kindess? His irreverence to all things political and stodgy? Don't you ever feel him with you? I only knew him a short time as my Master, Obi-Wan and I miss him. I miss him. Sue me. Kick me out of the order. I miss him. I know the order can't bludgeon something like that completely out of one's soul. I see you sometimes, with that far off look in your eyes, and I know. I know, Obi-Wan, that you miss him. You cannot fool me."
Anakin sat back up and took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, Master." He looked away as Obi-Wan's eyes met his.
Anakin's face was flushed with the intensity of his outburst and for a moment Obi-Wan saw the young padawan that had questioned him so many times on this same subject. Disgusted with his inability to not feel, but at the same time struggling with Obi-Wan's inability to understand.
And then would always come the inevitable apology from Anakin, real but not heartfelt. One more time that they misunderstood each other completely and Anakin felt he had let his master down. Only Obi-Wan was not let down, he did feel these things. He could just never let Anakin know. He hated that Anakin sometimes thought him cold and unfeeling, but the code was branded in him from the beginning and it was his duty to teach Anakin as he had been taught.
He kept his secret well hidden always, that he did form attachments. He had loved Qui-Gon, even as he now loved Anakin. He envied Anakin's ability to let it show, to wear it on his sleeve, to fling it in the face of the Council and the other Jedi. He knew Anakin's special connection to the Force was part of this. Qui-Gon had felt it. It was only one of the ways he felt the Jedi may be veering off their intended course. He sighed and touched Anakin's hand.
"I do miss him, Anakin. There are many times that I can see him in you, and I know that you were brought to me to take Qui-Gon's place in my life. We are a good team, and I know Qui-Gon is happy knowing that you have become a Jedi Knight. And I do mourn for the day I will have to let you go. But as a Jedi I will do what I must."
Anakin looked away at the emotion in Obi-Wan's eyes, layered with the steely Jedi determination that always accompanied it, as if he were fighting his own private battle. Obi-Wan always wins his, Anakin thought miserably. He looked back to his mentor with pressed lips and laid his metal hand over Obi-Wan's. "Then I am glad that we are brothers, because we will always have that."
Both men drew away from the conversation and into their own worlds for the moment. Anakin took the flimsy and folded it and put it in his rucksack. The war had changed many things, most of them for the worst, but it had allowed he and Obi-Wan to overcome their struggles as young master and obstinate student. And Anakin was well aware the burden his friend had carried as his master. In truth, Obi-Wan was the Jedi to him and the only link he had to the Order that wasn't clouded and twisted to the unknown fear and mistrust that prevailed on the Council. He knew Obi-Wan knew how much he wanted the Council's trust and respect and that it hurt him deeply when they shut him out and pushed him away, for nothing else than because they didn't know how to deal with him.
Anakin also knew that Obi-Wan had come to understand that he had no idea why this group feared him so, and played emissary between the two factions. Anakin had spoken of his concern that he didn't feel the Council listened to the Force with Obi-Wan before. His master would get a certain look in his eye when Anakin did find the courage to broach the subject. A mixture of fond memory and fear. Fear that the order was changing and only he – Anakin - saw what could be ahead. Anakin could tell it frightened Obi-Wan when he dreamed his visions, now. He paid attention. Neither he nor his best friend could overcome the heavy-hearted blackness that seeped into their thoughts if they allowed themselves too much time to think.
"So, Owen is your brother?" Obi-Wan's voice interrupted Anakin's reverie.
"My other brother," Anakin winked as he got up and threw the rucksack to his cot.
"And Cliegg is your step-father?"
"Yes. He freed my mother and then married her. I met them when…." Anakin's voice trailed off.
"When your mother died?"
"Yes," Anakin turned around to meet Obi-Wan's eyes.
"I am very sorry," Obi-Wan said. "I'm sure it is a sad time for them."
"Yes," Anakin offered. "They will survive, though. Tatooine does that to people. Teaches them to survive. It is a barren dustball, but it teaches the art of survival well."
Obi-Wan could tell Anakin was closing himself off from the conversation, shutting him out. He knew Anakin's feelings on his home planet. He looked up to his former padawan, now his best friend and brother, his eyes curious and wary. "So, are you ever sorry that Qui-Gon took you from there?"
Anakin sat back down at the table and studied Obi-Wan for a moment.
"No. I'm not."
He looked down at the table and clasped his hands in front of him.
"I am sorry that I didn't have time with my mother. I am sorry that she died. I am sorry I didn't get to know Owen and Beru while I was there, that in my grief I shut them and everything out. But I am not sorry I am a Jedi, Obi-Wan. I am not sorry I met the great man that was Qui-Gon Jinn."
He looked back to his former Master and mentor, his blue eyes open and intense. "And for that I have you to thank, Master. You have done the best you could with someone like me, and for that…I'm sure there's a special place for you in the afterlife," Anakin laughed, his eyes twinkling.
"Seriously, Obi-Wan. I know you are not my Master anymore, but you will always be my brother. Even past death."
"Thank you, my padawan," Obi-Wan said, fighting to keep the mist from his eyes. "That is all I could ever ask for."