Chaos on a Veranda

Pairing: A/O, O/OC

Beta: polgarawolf

Disclaimer: I own nothing recognizable.

Time: Anakin is twenty.

Summary: Anakin and Obi-Wan have adventures on a veranda, and other places.

Part One

"I told Anakin to sit up straight at breakfast today." Obi-Wan Kenobi sighed.

Luminara Unduli nodded. "It's true. We just cannot turn mastering off."

"I look at him sometimes and see the nine year-old that I carried in my arms, asleep after Qui-Gon's funeral. Then he stands, and I have to tilt up my head to converse with him."

"At least he converses civilly. Barriss has been a Knight for nearly a year, and her stubbornness just gets worse and worse. I think of her on Ansion, so eager to learn, remember?"

"Luminara, when will we see them as equals? Is it even possible?"

Her soft cowl shook in negation. "Maybe not until Barriss or Anakin takes a first padawan."

Obi-Wan could not reply to that. His boy, his Anakin, training a Padawan --- that would make him for all intents and purposes --- a grandfather? He squeezed Luminara's comforting hand in farewell. This day felt wrong somehow.

Part Two

Later that afternoon, the fountain on the veranda of the Kenobi/Skywalker apartment plinked an unsyncopated slurry of sound and the settee placed near it creaked as Obi-Wan shifted his weight. A small potted plant brought back from an unusually peaceful mission dropped a few more leaves in the gathering afternoon breeze.

"But why, Braylin? We got on well on vacation on Corellia, we enjoy the same artists, the same music, I adore your mother, and all those nieces and nephews, even that difficult one ..."

"I'll be honest. It's your religion, Obi-Wan. 'The Force is in everything, it penetrates us, guides us ... ' I just don't see it, sorry."

"It's who I am, Braylin. We discussed this. I did try not to be heavy-handed, but perhaps I ..."

"Obi-Wan, thankful meditation before each and every meal, when we arise and retire, saying 'Force bless you' when I sneeze, well, it's getting to me, that's all."

"I cannot change what I am."

"And I wouldn't have you even try. Let's call it off before we go any further."

"Do you want your key back?"

"No, you keep it. The fish might need feeding when I am off-planet, you never know."

"Very well."

Braylin forced a smile as he ran a hand over his smoothly-shaven head. "We did have fun. I'm going to keep an eye on your career. You'll be on the Council soon, I know it."

"I wish things could be different." Obi-Wan considered. "You'll be junior Senator come next election, if you put your mind to it."

They rose awkwardly, hands pressed to their sides. At last, Braylin Solo bowed to Obi-Wan and looked him in the eye. "I guess skepticism runs in my family, Obi-Wan. Goodbye."

"Goodbye, Braylin."

Part Three

In the apartment behind the freshly-lettered sign "Thel-Tanis, Darra," Anakin couldn't believe it. Obi-Wan had nagged him this morning to chew with his mouth shut. Again. "And then he told me to stop slouching, Darra."

The twenty year-old's rust-colored eyes blinked sympathetically as she adjusted her respirator, tapping it once to clear the intubation filter. "I ... know. Master Soara ... won't let ... me ... even go to ... the Outlander alone." Darra's knighthood ceremony had proceeded on schedule one year ago, despite her ongoing physical difficulties. She seemed headed for a long-term Temple career with Soara Antana, who had cared for her as a parent would after Darra's near-fatal injury on Korriban. Darra was Soara's permanent liaison, researching, dispatching backup when needed. Darra even wanted to add another Knight to her workload. Darra felt useful.

"I'll take you to the Outlander next month when we all go, Darra, if you want. Obi-Wan doesn't mind me going." Obi-Wan didn't mind him coming home drunk, either. Obi-Wan didn't mind much of anything that Anakin did, dating as he was a third-term Senatorial aide. The two attractive men were deep into the honeymoon period. Anakin appreciated the neglect.

"Darra."

"Hmmm?"

"Will you?"

"Will ... I ... what?" Darra knew what, but enjoyed Anakin's insecurity.

"Go with me to the Outlander."

"Sure." The two kissed lightly, and Darra's respirator hissed a little faster.

Anakin patted her hand. "See you later."

Part Four

Anakin pulled on his oven mitts and produced a souffle from the depths of Obi-Wan's pride and joy, a state-of-the-art oven. It had multi-temperature controls, hottest in the middle for baked goods and cooler toward the interior's edges for meats. An entire meal could be prepared at once, which satisfied a Master's time constraints.

"Dinner!" He couldn't help being cheerful. He had a date!

His Master emerged from his room, steps a bit slower than usual, but calm mask in place. Six hours, Obi-Wan mused. Six hours ago I had a relationship, maybe not a galaxy-class one like with Qui-Gon, but, well, satisfying at least. Now nothing.

"It's veggie souffle, Master, those purple and stripey things that you like, plus atef cheese and sticky crumb topping." Anakin was full of himself.

"Dinner meditation, Anakin." The two bowed their heads and in a strictly Jinn-to-Kenobi-to-Skywalker mealtime tradition, clasped hands through the brief invocation.

"What to drink, my Master?"

"Whyren's, I think. Mix it with branch water, will you? Half a glass to one jigger."

"All ... riiiiight." Anakin studied the elder Jedi's calm features. No worry lines, no creases at the corners of the mouth that he could see, anyway; the beard made observation difficult. Yet something troubled Obi-Wan. "Here you are."

"Thank you, Young One." Oh, yeah, something had happened. Obi-Wan only called him a sentimental "Young One" when the reserved Jedi's deeper emotions had been touched.

They dined quietly, enjoying this second week of Temple life between missions. Moving to the veranda for after dinner caf, Anakin sat closer to Obi-Wan than he usually did on their off-white-striped-with-beige wicker settee. He decided to start with his good news. "I'm taking Darra to the next Outlanders get-together, Master."

A slight breeze swept cool drops from the fountain onto Obi-Wan's boots. "Anakin, that's news indeed! I'm happy for you."

"Thanks. She's been a great friend all these years. And she needs some time away from her Master."

"Oh. Why, may I ask?"

Anakin ladled more sweetener into his "Galaxy's Number One Padawan" mug. He shrugged. "Nothing bad. Soara's so protective that it gets on Darra's nerves now and then. Ever since Darra's moved out to her own quarters, Soara hasn't let up at all. Calls Darra twice a day if they haven't contacted each other at work."

Obi-Wan smiled gently. "Comes with the bond, my young ex-Padawan. You won't know the true meaning of fear until you care for a learner of your very own."

Anakin couldn't absorb this. He had known deep, true fear upon leaving his mother, and in Geonosis' arena when he thought his dear friend Padme could die, and as for thinking then that Obi-Wan, too, would end his life there ... He shivered. "It's --- let's not talk about it, Master."

Obi-Wan's control crumbled a bit. "Anakin, it's 'Obi-Wan'! For two months now. Please try to remember."

"I'm sorry ... Obi-Wan. Well, that's my news. What's yours?" Blunt was okay. Blunt was even good.

"Braylin and I broke up."

"Kriff!"

"Anakin!"

"I'm sorry, again, but, well, you two seemed well-matched. He likes opera, you like opera, he likes the beach and sand, you like the beach and sand, he's tall, you're ...um ..."

"...I'm a Jedi, he doesn't believe in the Force ..."

"Oh. Our faith, then. Ohhhhh, that's a toughie. That's ... I'm sorry, Mas-- Obi-Wan."

Obi-Wan couldn't sit still. He rose and paced a three-meter track in front of Anakin. "We did get along, Anakin. But at the base of every relationship that I will ever have is my faith. And to hear someone discount it completely --- oh, not cruelly, Braylin could never be cruel --- it had to end. Braylin knew that before I did, I'm afraid."

Anakin said slowly, "You don't seem too broken up about it."

"Oh, no. It's been six, no, seven hours now." He sighed almost imperceptibly. "We did enjoy being together, I'll miss his company."

Anakin touched his former Master's aura briefly, a whisper of a talent that he was becoming better at using. Obi-Wan's melancholy about Braylin covered mostly all his Force-presence, yet underneath that melancholy was concern about ... Anakin? The new Knight ended the perception before Obi-Wan noticed. "I'm here for you, my M --- Obi-Wan."

Obi-Wan stopped pacing. He knotted his hands together and shook the sleeves of his robe out to cover them. "For a while, Young One."

"What do you mean?"

"It's only natural that you'll want to spread your wings, get your own private quarters now that you're a Knight, and well, especially now that you have dates, you need someplace to take the ladies afterwards, um, you know ..."

For the second time that day, Anakin couldn't believe his ears. Could you get to be a Jedi Master and still be this dense? Years of meditation, training, apprenticeship to a Living Force talent of astounding degree and still it was possible that Obi-Wan didn't know? "Master. I mean Obi-Wan, sorry. My friendship with Darra Thel-Tanis, with Padme Naberrie Amidala, with Jocasta Nu, for Force's sake, is just that: friendship, That's all it can ever be, ever will be."

The freshening breeze blew in a smell of incense from someone else's quarters.

"You ... imp! You ... I ... we ... no, I didn't know. It seems that I was too involved with my romance to see you, really see and notice things these past months ,,,, um. Well." There was such a jumble in Obi-Wan's aura that it made Anakin dizzy, and this time Obi-Wan did notice the Knight's slight touch.

"Anakin."

"Mmmm?" Yes, it was good to be a full-fledged Knight, even if he wasn't, or didn't want to be, fledged enough to fly from his cozy nest. A nest that could very well become even cozier.

"You shouldn't 'touch' me without permission."

"Sorry." He had said that a lot tonight. "No, wait, I'm not. You were hurting, I wanted to help. So, no, not sorry."

Obi-Wan smiled forlornly. "Not changing your calling to be a soul healer, are you?"

"Much too sedentary, my --- Obi-Wan."

"Too bad. You would be good at it."

Anakin rose and stretched. "Good caf. It'll keep me awake and up for a while, though."

The now-crisp zephyr blew two stray leaves in a tiny whirlwind. As Anakin placed an ushering-along hand in the small of his back, Obi-Wan palmed the door open. "Let's go inside where it's warmer," he said.

Part Five

One Year Later

BREAKING NEWS: Galactic Senator Chi Eekway from Wroon and two of her top aides have been kidnapped from her home by General Grievous in an attempt to force the Republic to cease decanting its latest batch of clones. Approximately ten citizens perished in the kidnapping incident, including three demonstrators who were outside Eekway's home, protesting her close ties with Senator Terr Taneel. Coruscant Security requests that the Jedi be called in and Master Obi-Wan Kenobi and Knight Skywalker, our go-to team, are reportedly awaiting the return of a Jedi transport from another team before they can embark on the rescue mission.

"Tell me again, Obi-Wan, why the Jedi haven't a larger fleet?" Anakin's voice echoed in the south hangar.

"Anakin, before the war Master Yoda faced charges of building up a Jedi fleet. You know how some Senators trumpet Jedi abilities as being vaguely dangerous." The Jedi Master snorted inelegantly. "And now here we are, stuck for another three hours while Grievous does who knows what to the Senator and Braylin and that other aide, what's-her-name ---"

"Jamil. It's Jamil."

Obi-Wan studied his ex-Padawan. "Oh, that's right. When Braylin and I were dating, you and Jamil spent some time together."

Anakin couldn't smile. "She likes scramball, I like scramball. We went to a few games together." He snugged his glove and tightened the clasps unnecessarily. "She's a smart lady. I hope she survives this."

"So do we all." Obi-Wan said solemnly. "May the Force be with them."

Part Six

"Who knows when we'll eat again," Anakin said as he elbowed the chromium doors of Dex's Diner open.

"Okay, let's eat. We've got two more hours. You could use a break from cooking. You're running out of ideas."

"You try coming along grocery shopping for once, instead of begging off."

Obi-Wan smirked. "But you love shopping, Anakin. It's your spice, your deathsticks. I'll just slow you down."

"None of that. Next time you come along."

"Yes, Master."

"Oh, stop."

Dex's was jammed. "Obi-Wan and company! Come in! Always room for you." Dex didn't stop flipping sliders as he whistled shrilly. "WA-7! Special customers!"

WA-7's wheel had begun squeaking again, Anakin noticed. "Right this way, folks. Pardon us, please. Coming through. Excuse me, sir." The ktchen provided the last available seats. Anakin and Obi-Wan perched on stools at the chopping block, watching Dex and his staff perform small food miracles.

"Filet of grampus, full meal for you, sliders, soup but hold the salad for you. Here you go, kids."

"The usual. Thanks. Dex." The two Jedi tied into the delicious smelling meal. Twenty minutes later, they inhaled rather than drank three cups each of Dex's special caf blend.

"Crowd's thinned out some, now. 'M gonna take a break." Dex's crest rose and then flattened tiredly as he hauled up another stool. "How's it going?"

The two humans glanced at each other.

"Nah, don't answer. I can see it in your eyes. You're fine. What'd I tell ya, Ani? He's worth it."

Obi-Wan choked on a snickerdoodle. "You told him what, Dex?"

"Ani came to me a year ago. Said he was worried you'd be lonely after he left home. Ah, I knew you were starting to see Braylin Solo, but I knew it couldn't last, too."

"Obi-Wan, I only asked Dex if I had a chance with you," Anakin blurted. "He said wait it out, that's all."

The elder Jedi's eyes grew round with indignation. "Discussing me, were you? Anakin, that's a bit much."

Anakin didn't know if his former Master were truly ticked off or what and he wouldn't ask the Force about something like that. "Well, I wanted to know --- Dex knew you before me --- and ---"

Obi-Wan poked his arm. "Anakin, I'm teasing. I don't care how we got to where we are now. It's where I want to be."

"Me, too."

As the three discussed things of a more galactic nature, it took Dex all of ten minutes to pinpoint Grievous' location. He apologized for the lag. "Sorry it's just to the nearest sector, Obi-Wan. Folks seem to forget I got whatcha call a ee-detic memory. Two spacers came in here last week and crabbed about some cloaked corvette that fouled up their re-entry from hyperspace. Had to be Grievous. Kaleesh design, way far from Kaleesh space. Flicked out of cloak long enough for them to see that."

"'Eidetic' memory, Dex, 'eidetic,' and don't you apologize. This ties together with our intel from Master Tholme. When we contact Master Yoda with this data, I'll see about getting you a commendation, or reward, or something."

Dex grinned with all his teeth. "Just recommend the diner. We'll take it from there."

Part Seven

The General's breath would have been foul, if he had had a proper mouth to breathe with, Braylin thought. He tugged at his nape where Grievous had manhandled him yesterday during the capture, yearning to wash his scalp.

"First one. Out the hatch." Grievous flared his cloak dramatically and left, his IG-101 droids doing likewise. The two super battle droids remaining in the cabin wheeled at Braylin's left.

"Goodbye, Braylin, Senator," Junior Aide Jamil Troz quavered. Her gold-and-green striped eyes dilated fully in terror as she muttered a prayer to her god who was also her planet, Noor. She seemed resigned to her fate as the Senator whispered a shocked farewell.

And then the hatch to the passageway opened in front of Jamil; the two droids pulled her through. Endless minutes later, a jerking, pinwheeling form --- Jamil! --- spun by their cabin's lone port.

Braylin pushed forward, face pressed towards the woman --- the girl! his mind screamed --- mouthing her name against the transparisteel. Jamil's beautiful eyes blinked once in recognition, then they reddened and bulged. Her body had died, Braylin was sure of it, but he still stared at her, sending all his goodwill, all his fond memories of her, out to her in an aching strain until tears blurred his own vision.

A decent time later, the Senator spoke. "It will be one hour more until he comes again. Then I will volunteer." Chi Eekway's voice, calm as it always was, whether on the Senate pod or at a noisy convention, soothed Braylin. He found his own voice.

"Senator, Grievous designed our seniority as the order. I will be next."

"Are you doubting me, Braylin? You know that I am five years younger than you. At least." Her blue dewlaps quivered as she smiled tremulously at him. She was fifty-seven standard years to his forty-two.

He bowed. "Far be it from me to doubt a lady's word." Oh, he would do what he could to give her an extra hour of life.

Half an hour crept by, punctuated by odd reverberating clanks and whirrs. Once, Braylin thought he heard shouting. No other interruptions occurred until the ship lurched hard to port. "What ---" Braylin and Eekway stumbled against the bulkhead, Eekway's headdress flying off to shatter against the deck. A klaxon blared.

"Roger, roger. Schedule been moved up." A regular battle droid had slipped through the hatch, unnoticed in their ungraceful tumble. Its magnetized feet slid not a bit in the suddenly uneven gravity as it grabbed Braylin's upper arm.

"Oh, no, you don't!" Eekway shrieked. She slammed her bulk into the droid's side and succeeded in loosening one taloned foot's magnetic tread. Braylin grabbed at the droid's blaster, but was headbutted by a deliberate jerk of its cylindrical chin. The tall man lost his footing, falling atop the stunned Senator.

"Out the hatch, organic."

It would be quick, Braylin supposed, as his heels skidded along the durasteel deck.

"Braylin!" Chi Eekway's calm fled. She rolled onto her side, grabbing his hand, tugging desperately.

He saw the droid's blaster begin to lower towards her now-bare lekku. "Stop, Senator! Help will come, believe me!" But too late for him.

In one powerful motion, the droid slammed Braylin's face against the bulkhead. A hatch whished open, he was propelled into an airlock. He couldn't help hyperventilating, each breath undeniably precious. Beyond an opposite hatch lay black space and his death.

Ten seconds. It was said by survivors of many disasters that ten seconds were the most any human could survive the cold, the vacuum. Braylin thought of things that lasted ten seconds --- the countdown to a deplaneting, the maximum overtime allowed in a match in the scramball finals, a farewell kiss of mild passion --- as he started to see spots. Calm, he needed calm. His life would end ... and then what? Nothing. Nothing to be afraid of, then. But nothing to look forward to, either. He sobbed once.

Wait. What was that? More clanks, coming closer, a grinding screech, a lightsaber's snap-hiss?

Before he could think, the opposite hatch --- the spaceside hatch --- did indeed open, the outwash of atmosphere plucked him from the comfortable airlock, and as he had nothing to hold onto, he catapulted from the airlock's farthest inboard reaches to a space five feet outside the hatch.

Cold, numbing invasive cold. Too fast to begin to shiver, his body registered floating, freezing, and ... just nothing. Instinctively, he'd held his breath, but now the vacuum wanted it. Very well.

Two seconds. Three. Four --- then something grabbed his hand, pulling him back to his life.

The most welcome sounds in the galaxy: the hiss of a closing airlock, a wheezing intake of air. Blindly, he breathed in unison with someone who pressed close to him on the icy deck, someone who flung a warm soft cloak over him.

Five minutes later, the someone spoke.

"Braylin, you're safe." No, this wasn't possible. Was there someplace -- but there was no "someplace" after death! -- where life's regrets haunted one, where friends, and those who were more than friends, taunted a regretful heart?

"Obi-Wan?" Braylin opened his eyes. A brown blur hovered over him.

"It's me." A hand clasped his shoulder. "You'll be all right."

Stomp! stomp, stomp --- clack, whish! "Master!"

"It's Braylin, Anakin. He's all right, thank the Force."

"The Senator's in good shape, too, just some scrapes and bruises, but Jamil ... didn't make it." The two Jedi grew silent briefly, and Braylin had a sense of communion between them that he couldn't quite grasp, some joint sharing of acknowledgement over the passing of Jamil. "Senator's worried about you, Braylin."

"I'll go to her." Braylin sat up, still clutching Obi-Wan's robe as his vision cleared, shivering. "Help me."

"Of course." Obi-Wan, and Anakin, too, led the man slowly down the passageway, each with an arm extended for his support. Braylin leaned more toward Obi-Wan.

Part Eight

Two weeks later, Obi-Wan basted a doiseybird as he wondered why Braylin wanted this visit so much. Only the three of them tonight for dinner, true, but why? As he spun the salad greens for two (Anakin wouldn't touch salad), he hoped that the meal would not be awkward.

"Caf on your veranda? Sounds divine." Braylin patted his stomach. "Terrific meal, Obi-Wan."

"Thank you." Obi-Wan smiled. "Anakin made the biscuits."

"Thank you, too, then, Anakin."

"Oh, you're welcome. Baking is good practice for my patience, or so Obi-Wan claims." The Knight grinned in his ex-Master's direction and Obi-Wan shot him a look back. Braylin filed away the exchange for further consideration.

"Shot of raspberry liqueur in your caf?"

"No, thanks, Anakin. I'm fine." Braylin stretched his legs out in front of him, unfastening his cloak's catch so that the folds of heavy veda fabric fell from his shoulders. "Quite warm for the season."

Obi-Wan settled beside Braylin on the settee. "Yes, it is. That's why wicker is so comfortable for a veranda. Put pillows on it in winter for warmth, take them off and let the breeze flow through in summer." For long moments, the two savored the balmy breeze that flowed through the furniture and over their legs.

Obi-Wan spoke first. "Anakin likes to get his caf just right, Braylin, so he'll be awhile. Did you want to say something privately?"

Braylin leaned forward, elbows on knees, hands clasped. "You know me so well, Obi-Wan. Yes, I did. It's about what happened on the corvette."

Obi-Wan sat very still. "If this is a thank-you speech, it's unnecessary. I do this for a living, you know."

But Braylin didn't want to lighten the atmosphere. "It's about when I knew that I was going to die. I have regrets, Obi-Wan, and one of them is you. I just didn't know how to deal with your philosophies, your steady faith. It's" --- he coughed --- "foreign to me."

"And it isn't now?" Obi-Wan couldn't see where this was leading. Did Braylin want spiritual advice?

"It's slightly less foreign, let me put it that way. I'd like to know if there is a larger world, as you put it, than what I can see with my eyes. Maybe sometime we could get together to talk, someplace private" --- Braylin's thumb brushed Obi-Wan's thigh --- "soon?"

"Chocolate for me tonight, folks! Can I put a few drops in your caf, Obi-Wan? Chocolate mixed with raspberry, yum!" Anakin's heartiness faded as he saw the placement of Braylin's hand.

"Ohhhh, Anakin, Braylin is thinking of studying our faith, isn't that right, Braylin?" Obi-Wan twitched a finger, and Braylin found his hand once again on his side of the settee.

"Yes, and I was hoping that Obi-Wan could give me some pointers on where to start."

Anakin sat on the settee's rolled armrest and curled an arm about Obi-Wan's shoulders as he balanced his "Galaxy's Number One Partner" mug on a crossed knee. "Master Yoda can spare him a few moments to help him along his way, don't you think, Obi-Wan?"

"Certainly. Master Yoda is the wisest being that I know, Braylin, much wiser than myself. I'll speak to him for you." Obi-Wan leaned back comfortably into the half-embrace. The three chatted as the setting sun touched the veranda in its full power.

"A little too warm for me out here, Obi-Wan."

"Must you go so soon?" Anakin rose to his feet as Braylin stood, the Jedi's height greater than the aide's by at least an inch. They regarded each other briefly as Obi-Wan said smoothly, "Don't forget your cloak."

"Let me wrap some leftovers for you to take, Braylin. I'll be just a minute." Anakin headed off to the kitchen.

"He's learning subtlety, Obi-Wan. You've trained him well."

"Yes, he's coming along. Braylin ---"

"Since when, Obi-Wan?"

"It's been six months, now. We're very happy."

Braylin fingered his cloak. "You bought me this at the Muja Blossom Festival, remember?"

"I do. It set me back a month's stipend."

The aide nodded. "I'll keep it, I think, even now."

Obi-Wan quirked a smile. "For the good times, of course. And Braylin, feel the Force. It's all around us."

Braylin snorted. "Obi-Wan, I'm about as Force-sensitive as, as, that MagnaGuard around Grievous. Oh, not that I'm not curious now about the Force, but I was hoping, too, that we could, you know, start over ... "

"Try to be happy for us. I'll get you an appointment with Master Yoda."

"Here you go." Anakin shoved a small bag towards Braylin with one hand while he sought Obi-Wan's hand with the other.

Braylin turned at the door. "You're a lucky man, Anakin."

"Yes, I know." The young Knight stood behind his former Master, switching from hand-holding to a full embrace about the waist. "Believe me, I know."

"Goodbye, Braylin. I'll comm you with the appointment time."

"If I don't see you first."

Anakin, to his credit, only nodded his head in farewell. It wasn't difficult at all anymore to bite back words. He had his focus and his reality between his two arms, and that was all he cared about.

The End

a/n Mostly a Padme Who? fic. Also, people didn't die who did die in the EU, which has left its mark on the characters. Their personal world is somewhat gentler than otherwise.