3: How a Jedi Carries It
Anakin paused to wipe the sweat off his forehead with the sleeve of his tunic. He didn't like this Padawan haircut, the silly-looking puff of spiky hair around his head, but it did have the slight advantage of not being long enough to get in his eyes. That was something to be grateful for.
His master gasped. "Anakin! Be careful with that!"
The boy lowered his arm in confusion, and only then realized that he'd been rubbing his forehead with the same limb that held his ignited lightsaber. He hadn't even heard it sizzling dangerously close to his ear. Weird. But then, he was still gasping for breath, trying to recuperate from the tiring workout he'd just completed. He stared at the glowing blue blade in mild surprise.
Obi-Wan crossed the small space separating them in two long strides and pulled the 'saber from his hand, immediately turning it off. "Anakin! You could have cut your head off!"
Anakin blinked up at him. Obi-Wan looked really upset, like his mom did after that race when he almost crashed into the canyon wall. (Well, to be fair, he had crashed into the wall. But only a little.) It wasn't that big of a deal, was it? "I'm sorry. I forgot I wasn't using the bokken anymore."
The young master looked scandalized. "That's why you're supposed to treat the bokken with the same care that you do a lightsaber—so you get used to it without endangering yourself." He sighed shortly, pursing his lips as he studied his young student. "Maybe this is too soon. Maybe we should go back to the wooden sword for a while longer."
Anakin felt his eyes widen to the size of speeder headlamps. "Oh, no, please. I'll be more careful. I promise." This was the first time Obi-Wan had let him use a lightsaber, even a very low-power one. All the other Padawans had been using real 'sabers for ages and ages.
"It's nothing to be embarrassed about," Obi-Wan said, correctly reading the reason for his apprentice's reluctance to go back. He bent to one knee to look more closely into the boy's face. "Even Masters use bokkens sometimes."
"But only for special katas and some practices. Not for sparring." What did Obi-Wan want from him? Perfection?
"Anakin . . ." Obi-Wan's bluish-greenish eyes stared back at him for awhile, darting minutely back and forth. The boy held himself straight and steady, willing his master to find whatever he was looking for.
Apparently it wasn't there. The older Jedi released a soft, short sigh through his nose, his lips still closed in disapproval or—worse—disappointment. Anakin's shoulders slumped. "Please don't make me go back. Bokkens are for . . ." He lowered his voice, knowing that this was bordering on disrespect. ". . . babies."
"No, bokkens are not for babies." Yes, that was definitely disapproval in that cultured Coruscanti voice. "I use a bokken for certain katas, and I'm not a baby."
Anakin raised his head, a faint tendril of hope curling through him, sweet but hesitant. "Could . . . could you show me?"
Obi-Wan blinked, taken aback for moment. "Show you? Well, I suppose so."
"Would you please? Show me a kata with a bokken."
The master leaned back on his heels, still blinking. "All right. One moment."
He stood smoothly and moved to the side of the salle, then set Anakin's training 'saber on his carefully-folded cloak, already resting on a bench there. He shook himself out briefly, then took a bokken down from the wall, a slender length of polished wood, dark and innocuous, but as soon as it entered his hand, it became deadly. And suddenly Anakin understood that wooden swords could be just as important as lightsabers. It was all in how a Jedi carried it, and carried himself.
Obi-Wan stepped slowly to the middle of the salle and closed his eyes for a moment, settling into a guard position. The hairs on Anakin's neck prickled, and he felt the currents move around the man, then come to rest, completely still but thrumming with readiness, the silent energy of a boulder poised to fall or a river chained only barely behind a leaking dam. Obi-Wan made it look so easy. Anakin knew it was anything but.
The blue-green eyes opened, and a pleasant smile curved the lips that were usually so still and quiet. "This is the Falling Water kata, Anakin. You will learn it someday, so pay attention."
He lifted the bokken in a slow, smooth glide, his limbs moving in perfect concert, body in tune to a harmony Anakin could not yet hear. Gracefully he swept through one step and into other, move after move, full of grace, empty of effort. On and on the kata went, and Anakin watched, dazzled, and saw falling water, rivers, cascades, fountains, whirpools in gasping seas, tinkling and roaring and gently drifting down to cover him in a cool, refreshing mist.
It was joy and peace, power and silence, hyperspatial speed and utter stillness. Without trying, without speaking, Obi-Wan made him see the strength in patience and the kindness in a deed done at the correct moment. And still the water flowed and fell, an endless subsumation of will, a burying of self in the infinite control of the Force.
And only this did Anakin rebel at. Obi-Wan gave himself without thought, without tremor, immersing himself in a larger control. He had done so all his life, and it did not trouble him to lose the threads of his will in the tapestry of a larger whole. Anakin could not imagine such innocent trust. He could not imagine ever losing himself, knowing without question that he would come back when the time was right—it simply wasn't in him, not yet anyway.
This was what it was to be a Jedi, and so he would learn how to do it. But oh, the task was going to be long and difficult.
He remembered the words that were spoken not so very long ago, though it seemed an age since he had heard that rich, kind voice. It will be a hard life. But you will find out who you are.
He hoped it was true. I hope I don't let you down, Master Qui-Gon.
Obi-Wan finished the kata and held the last position for several moments, his eyes closed, bokken held in a high guard position. His chest moved sedately, and he had barely broken a sweat. He seemed entirely unaware of the fact that he had finished, and that there were eyes on him—not only those of his Padawan, but those of several Jedi who had been passing through the salle on some business or another, and paused to watch a Master at work.
And he truly was, Anakin realized with a gentle shiver. This man was a Jedi Master, not only because he had taken a Padawan the very moment he was knighted, but because he was. He lived in the Force just as strongly and securely as Master Qui-Gon ever had, only in a more subtle way. Less visible, but just as all-encompassing.
Anakin approached cautiously, and was only a little surprised to hear himself whisper. "Master Obi-Wan, sir?"
Obi-Wan opened his eyes and slowly lowered the bokken. "You don't have to call me 'sir.' Just 'Master' will do."
The boy nodded jerkily. "Yeah. But that was . . . that was wizard."
Again the soft, gentle smile, faintly amazed. "It's a common kata. Any knight or master or senior Padawan could demonstrate it for you."
"Not like you." Anakin shook his head adamantly. "That was something special. I betcha none of the other Jedi can do it like that."
"Of course they can." Obi-Wan scoffed, very gently. He was not rebuking Anakin, the boy understood. He simply didn't realize how amazing it was.
He didn't realize how amazing he was. Anakin quit trying to convince him. He could see it wasn't going to do any good, but he wished he had the words to explain what he felt, what he knew.
Anakin remembered being very little, before he and his mother had been gambled away to Watto. He had always been aware of something extra in the world around him, something that showed him things beyond sight, whispered secrets outside of hearing. For a time he believed that everyone felt the same thing. But he quickly learned that this was not so, that he was set apart. That he would always be set apart, different from everyone around him. It was both lonely and uplifting. He still hadn't escaped that, even here in the Jedi Temple. He was always separate.
Obi-Wan, he saw, did not feel that. The older Jedi had grown up surrounded by people who sensed the Force, and it had never been strange to him. And so he didn't realize, he didn't see, that even in an Order full of incredible people, he was even more incredible. And he would never believe that of himself.
Anakin shook his head, and held out his hand for the bokken. Obi-Wan gave it to him willingly. "Will you teach me that kata soon? Huh?"
The young master smiled. "Not so hostile against bokkens anymore, are you?"
Anakin shook his head. "Nope. So when can I learn that one?"
"You have a way to go yet before you'll be ready for Falling Water. But I have no doubt that you'll arrive soon." Obi-Wan reached out to ruffle his hair, and this time Anakin let him. "You have the aptitude, Padawan. You just need a little patience and perseverance, and you'll reach all of your goals in due time."
"I can be patient." Anakin bounced from foot to foot. "Can we start now? Please?"
Obi-Wan laughed, a rich, genuine chuckle that burst from deep in his chest to fill the salle with delighted peals. "Yes, yes. We can start now."