I'm about halfway done with the new One Path chapter, but was attacked by a plot bunny. Plus, I need to talk to my partner to check on some details. So, we're stepping back in time tonight. A missing scene for One Path set during the Clone Wars era.
The Bond of Brotherhood
Obi Wan stood with his arms crossed, staring pensively out at the blue-white tunnel of stars as the Republic assault cruiser rocketed through hyperspace. Anakin was somewhere onboard, but the two men hadn't seen one another since the mission briefing shortly after they left Coruscant. He wasn't sure whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. This wasn't the first mission they had been on together since he'd left the Jedi Order, but it would be the first without the buffer of Mace Windu between them. Anakin's Master--and the phrase still caused a slight hitch in Obi Wan's chest--would be directing a concurrent assault on Dantooine, but the Chancellor had specifically requested that Anakin join General Kenobi's strike force. It unnerved Obi Wan both that Palpatine would suggest such a thing and that the Council would agree. It wasn't unheard of for a Master and Padawan to be sent to handle separate aspects of any mission or military objective, but these circumstances were unusual.
There was nothing he could do to change it, however. He had no objection to working with Anakin; he only wished that his former Padawan would learn to trust him again. Perhaps it was a good sign that Anakin had come to Naboo hoping to talk to him before little Ani was born. Obi Wan had certainly been thankful that the young man had been there to save Padme from the assassin droid. Afterward, he had been comforted to think of his old friend beside her on Coruscant, both for her sake and that of their unborn child. Then when Ani was born, he had been profoundly grateful for what Anakin had done to save him. He could still feel the crushing weight of grief and fear as he helplessly watched the monitor lights which had been registering his newborn son's vital signs slow, stutter, then completely stop. The world had closed in on him, squeezing the air from his own lungs, and he could only wonder how the bleeding mass that had been his heart was still managing to pump inside his chest. Then Anakin had stepped in to do what had seemed impossible--use the Force to massage the baby's tiny heart until it began to beat again.
"You did it, Anakin! You saved my son!"
Obi Wan swallowed several times, trying to work out the tightness that the memory still brought to his throat. The field of streaking starlight in front of him swam with unshed tears, and he drew in a raggedly unsteady breath. His entire existence--everything he was and everything he believed--has been altered in that moment. Looking into Anakin's eyes, he had seen his own internal shift mirrored there. If anything could heal the breach that had developed between them, he knew that it would be little Ani, but that reconciliation had not completely happened yet--at least not as far as Anakin was concerned.
Thinking of Ani, he had to smile as his mind turned homeward. Padme would be trying to put him to bed now, and he wondered if he would settle easily. He tended to be a quiet baby, thankfully, but he was more inclined to be fussy late in the evening. He liked to be rocked and held before bed, but he also seemed to like it better if both parents were nearby. Obi Wan supposed he couldn't blame the child; who didn't long for the security of loved ones nearby in these uncertain times?
The Jedi didn't, he realized with a sigh. Although he thought of them as his family, he knew that there was a marked difference between the way that they perceived close bonds of familial devotion--and even friendship--than Obi Wan had come to. Once he had thought as they did, but that was before he had become Padme's husband, before her family had welcomed him so readily and openly, before he had held his boy in his arms for the first time.
Footsteps and a familiar Force presence drew him out of his memories. He let out a soft sigh and turned his head as Anakin walked in. Artoo trailed faithfully behind him, tootling a greeting as they approached the window. Anakin smiled a little nervously and stepped up beside him. Though he knew it wasn't possible, it seemed to him that the Padawan had grown even taller since they had last stood together this way.
Does he ever stop growing? he asked himself with an inward smile.
"Something on your mind?" Anakin asked.
"I was…thinking of home," Obi Wan replied.
"How is he?"
"He was fine when I left," Obi Wan smiled.
Artoo beeped again, and both men glanced curiously toward him. The little astromech activated his holoprojector, and after a second or two, the blue spray resolved into a life-sized image of Padme, who was holding little Ani in her arms. She smiled brightly and shifted the baby so that he was facing them.
"Hello, Daddy. Uncle Anakin!" she said cheerfully as she waved his chubby little fist at them. "Ani and I wanted to send you a little reminder of exactly what it is you're doing out there. Stay safe. Come back to us soon."
Then the message winked off. Obi Wan and Anakin stood smiling for a few moments, then Obi Wan looked down at the droid.
"Thank you, Artoo," he said sincerely.
Artoo whistled softly, then moved back a bit, seeming somehow to realize that Obi Wan wished to speak to his former pupil. A silence fell between them that was not quite the old, comfortable silence that they used to share but was also not as awkward as it might have been. Obi Wan let it stretch for a while, turning his attention back to the window as he gathered his thoughts. There were many things he had considered saying to his former Padawan already. Now that the moment had arrived when he could speak to Anakin, though, he wasn't sure which of them mattered most, which would help, and which would do more harm than good. That in itself was unnerving; he and Anakin had often butted heads, but they had always been able to talk freely with one another.
"Anakin, I will never be able to thank you, let alone repay you, for what you did when you saved my boy," he said at length.
"You don't have to," Anakin quickly shook his head.
Obi Wan gave a nod of acknowledgement. "Thank you. But now there is something else I must ask you to do for me. For Ani."
"Anything," came the instant reply.
"If anything happens," he began. "If I don't make it back…"
"If?" Anakin regarded him with raised eyebrows. He waved his right hand dismissively. "Focus on the moment, isn't that what you taught me? The possible is only a distraction."
"Yes," he nodded. "And I promise you, I don't intend to allow myself to be distracted. But this is different. Everything is different for me now, Anakin. I…have a son. Thanks to you. I am still trying to learn exactly what that means in terms of the way I think about the Force, the things I taught you. But there is one thing I do know, and that is that I need to provide for him. I need to know that he will be taken care of, that he will have someone to guide him and watch over him if I am not there."
"And…" Anakin swallowed. "You're asking me?"
"Anakin, I know that we have had our differences. I know that--you felt betrayed when I left the Jedi Order. I can only ask you again to forgive me for that," Obi Wan gave his head a slight shake. "You are the best friend that I have ever had--the best friend I will ever have. There is no one else I can ask such a thing, no one else I would I trust with my son."
Anakin inclined his head. "It would be my honor, Obi Wan. I give you my word, I will care for him as if he were my own son."