Baby Steps

Rating: T

Summary: Obi-Wan hits Anakin.

Time: Anakin is ten.

Disclaimer: I own nothing recognizable.

Obi-Wan had tried to bond with Anakin, truly he had, this past year. He'd wanted to honor Qui-Gon's commitment, keep true to the dying wish of his mentor. But Anakin was shy with him.

" 'M okay," the boy would mumble when Obi-Wan investigated whimpers coming from the small sleeping couch across the room from his own double-sized one. His Padawan refused comfort, accepting neither hugs nor hair-rufflings, and of course kisses were out of the question. Qui-Gon's gestures of affection, common enough from Master to Padawan, left Anakin cold when they came from Obi-Wan.

Obi-Wans attempts at horseplay in the pool hadn't gone over at all well.

"Ow! That hurts!" At nearly eleven, Anakin's 'tween dignity shattered easily.

"I'm sorry, Padawan. Here, let me help with some special tape." Luminara smoothed four strips of bacta-infused tape over the freshly-set nose. She touched bruised flesh with a feather's softness and sent Force-healing through the pained area as Anakin squirmed on the exam table.

"Padawan, look at me." Obi-Wan's hair still dripped as he clutched a towel about his bloodstained swim trunks. "Let's finish this and then go home. I've got that vid you wanted to see, and we'll fix a special dinner."

"Sliders?"

Anakin had had his quota of sliders for the week, but Obi-Wan gladly caved. "Certainly. We'll order them from Dex's."

Luminara flashed a small smile at the diversion as she finished the procedure, surveying the results. "Come see me tomorrow, and comm me if it gets worse. Obi-Wan, he'll need to breathe through his mouth for a while. Make sure he hydrates and has lots and lots of ice cream to soothe any dry throat developments. And no swimming."

Obi-Wan nodded, embarassment tinting his cheeks slightly pink. "Not to worry. Come along, Padawan."

The hallway's quiet soothed the Jedi Master's nerves somewhat. That is, until Anakin asked, "Why'd you do it?"

"Do what?"

"Hit me."

"I did not do it on purpose. I was playing with you and things got out of hand."

"I liked it until you hit me," Anakin said nasally.

"I did not --- Anakin, you must know that this was an accident."

From a Padawan's place, two steps behind and one step to the left, came a loud snort, then "Ow!"

"Anakin, please do what Master Unduli asked and do not breathe, or sniffle, or snort through your nose."

" 'S'all right."

"And we want it to get even better. Now back to the, ah, incident. I hoisted you out of the water after you won at 'Marco Polo' and splashed you back down and you seemed to like it, so when we played that other game ---"

"Bongo."

"--- Bongo, yes, I thought that you'd like it again. I didn't expect you to struggle and so my elbow came into contact with your nose."

Anakin considered this as he shuffled along. "It felt wrong that time."

"Wrong?"

The boy was quiet as Obi-Wan palmed open their apartment's door. "You got too rough, Master. You never grabbed me like that before."

Obi-Wan felt at a loss. "Were you frightened that I would hit you, Padawan? Because I never would." He hesitantly felt his way through this conversation, step by step. "I only wanted to play with you, the way Qui-Gon had played with me. We pushed each other into the pool many times and we wrestled, too. He said we both needed a break sometimes, him from teaching and me from studying."

Anakin plumped himself on the sofa before he said anything else. "Watto used to slap me sometimes. He wasn't very big so when I got older it didn't hurt like it did when I was little."

Obi-Wan rummaged in a closet and dragged out a blanket. He said, after a time, "Would you like me to stop touching you at all, except in training, Padawan? I will do that for you, if you wish it." He could do this. He could turn off his naturally affectionate movements, keep up his guard at all times, though it would strangle his soul. He sat beside Anakin and threw a soft plaid blanket over the two of them. "Here, let's warm up a bit."

Anakin stopped shivering. "No, um, I guess not. You can touch me. You're okay, Master."

There was the tiniest nudge towards Obi-Wan and the Jedi Master leaned sideways into it, just a little. "I'm ready for sliders, how about you?"

"Can I call it in, Master?"

a/n This based on a true story, about how single-mom kids lack the experience of horseplay and don't really know how to deal with it. The glaring Earthism in this story I do apologize for.