Disclaimer: I don't own anything. George Lucas still has that particular privilege.
Author's Note: Hi, everyone! This is my first attempt at a multi-chapter story, and I'd appreciate all the feedback that I can get. All mistakes (grammar, plot, etc.) are my own, so if you notice anything, I'd be grateful if you'd point it out. Thank you!
It's morning. The rays of the sun are just barely beginning to sneak through the blinders to spill onto the bed in a warm golden glow that's slowly creeping in to light the room. Under the covers, where skin meets soft sheets, it's pleasantly warm and cozy—the same feeling permeates the room itself, aided by the favorable temperature that it has been warmed to by the first vestiges of sunlight. Even the air smells of sunlight, if that even truly has a smell. Freshness, perhaps... at the very least, it has the sense of a lazy, relaxed morning. The situation should be comforting. Perhaps it would be, if it didn't signal the start to another day.
The seventh day since the world fell apart.
Obi-Wan doubts that it will ever again be just another day.
As much as he wishes otherwise, the morning sun has woken him, and he knows that he should get up. Avoidance has never accomplished anything. Best not to save for later what he can do now. Qui-Gon might have told him that once, though he can't remember if it's a saying his master made up or if it's some wise adage by someone like Yoda. It hardly matters anymore, now that it's nothing more than a principle of an extinct Order.
It's been seven days since the Jedi Order was destroyed. There should be an impossibility in that statement, but the situation—the very room that he's in—proves that it is true.
"Time to get up, Obi-Wan."
He works not to wince. If the room he's in isn't proof enough of his failings, that voice certainly is.
"Come on now, I need to change your bandages."
There's no point in ignoring the command—it's not as if he's in any position to fight, injured as he is. Even if he weren't hurt, his lightsaber has been taken away and, worse, he's been cut off from the Force.
The thought alone makes him shudder. Without the Force, he feels as bereft as a man who has lost a limb. Anakin could attest to that, but at least he'd had a prosthetic. Obi-Wan is hardly as lucky—there is no prosthetic for the Force. It's something he's had since birth, and without it the world seems to have suddenly gone quiet, irrevocably and eerily so. The feeling is maddening. This entire situation is maddening, more so because of his inability to do anything but what he knows will eventually have to happen anyway.
Giving into that inevitability, Obi-Wan rolls over and faces the owner of the voice.
Anakin favors him with a soft smile. "Good morning." His voice is a pleasant rumble, indicating that he's genuinely pleased to see Obi-Wan awake. "How's it feeling?"
By "it" Anakin means the large lightsaber burn on Obi-Wan's right shoulder and down his side. The wound is a deep, deep slice, the initial blow having burned down to the bone. It's serious enough that even bacta patches aren't enough to quickly heal it, and while Anakin has given him the option of submersion in a bacta tank, Obi-Wan doesn't relish the idea of being unconscious when the galaxy is in this state. He'll take the pain and the slower recovery.
"Don't lie to me." Annoyance sparks in Anakin's voice, but it seems to fade away just as quickly as it came on. "Really, Master, if it hurts, don't tell me it doesn't. I'm trying to make it better."
Which is ironic, considering Anakin is the one who gave him the wound in the first place.
"Roll over so that I can look at it."
He complies with the order, sliding over onto his stomach as Anakin peels the covers back. The rush of cooler air leaves him shivering for a moment, the warmth of sunlight and the relative peace of an uninterrupted doze quickly becoming little more than a pleasant memory.
A soft sigh of almost-concern escapes from Anakin's mouth as he pulls back the bandages. "It's a little red, but it seems to be healing nicely."
"Good to know." The flat sarcasm of his tone goes unmentioned, though he can't imagine that Anakin didn't catch it.
"Padme is already up. She'd like to see you, I'm sure. There are guests coming later today, too. She would probably appreciate your company while she's setting up."
"Bail Organa and his wife."
Only years of Jedi training allow Obi-Wan to clamp down on his shock. It's crucial that he do so, of course—Anakin can feel his emotions through the Force—but the idea of Bail coming here so soon after everything that's happened... Well, Bail is either very brave or has absolutely no regard for the value of his own life.
Obi-Wan is rather inclined to hope it's the former.
"He's an important political figure. He's also sworn allegiance to the Empire—he's willing to help work to make this a smooth transition. I'd say it's likely that he'll be given some sort of office by the Emperor."
"And will you kill him the first time that he disappoints you?"
A stupid comment, yes, but it slips from his lips far more naturally than he's comfortable with. He'll have to think on that later. However, right now there is little time to think—not in the face of what he expects to be a violent reaction.
Anakin surprises him. Instead of pain, all Obi-Wan gets is a nasty little half-smile, so acidic that he just barely stops himself from visibly recoiling. "I haven't killed you yet, have I, Master?" he asks, his voice a deliberate parody of innocence, as if he has no idea just how biting his words really are.
But he knows. Oh, he knows.
"All but, Anakin."
This time, he's not disappointed: Anakin goes for his throat. He doesn't use his hands, but that's not out of mercy—he simply doesn't need to. The Force is enough. Just the tightening of his hand in the air—a gesture that would look absurd if there weren't so much power behind it—and an invisible presence tightens around Obi-Wan's neck, leaving him to struggle for air. He can't breathe, can't even get enough air to croak out any sort of message that could ease Anakin's aggression.
Instead, he looks up into Anakin's eyes, straight into his gaze. He hasn't seen anything familiar there in the past days, but he's still not willing to believe that there's nothing left for him to connect with. But instead of the familiar blue which always reminded him of the skies over Coruscant when they were clear, he's faced with that same blue run through with yellow and red, like the cracks left behind after an earthquake.
How startlingly appropriate.
"I was generous, Obi-Wan. You should be dead. I had to end that duel, and we both know that you gave me the opportunity to kill you."
"It's over, Anakin! I have the high ground."
A pair of harsh eyes and a familiar face twisted by something horribly dark stares back at him. "You underestimate my power." Even the voice sounds wrong—it's too tight, too harsh and raw.
"Don't try it!"
Anakin has never listened—Obi-Wan doesn't really think he will now, but he still has to try. It's—he owes it to everything he loves in Anakin. He just—he can't let this happen without some sort of indication that this isn't what he wants—that he cares more for Anakin than a common enemy.
Don't go through with it, Obi-Wan mentally pleads again, but Anakin is—he is. He's always done what he wants, and now isn't going to be any different, but it's not enough. The jump isn't high enough, and he's left himself open. A brief second of decision, of assured victory. Then, nothing.
Obi-Wan realizes that he never took the swing.
He's rewarded for his mercy with a searing pain across his shoulder and side. It's like fire—Mustafar coming alive and melding with his back, twisting and burning him until he can hardly think. Pain—so much, and it hurts, like nothing Obi-Wan has ever felt. Or maybe that's his heart, because he's never felt betrayal like this before, and that—that is more painful than anything Anakin can physically do to him.
As soon as his body hits the black sands of Mustafar, he knows it's over. Anakin has won. This is his end.
"You let me win."
Maybe, yes—yes, he did. It doesn't make any sense. Nothing does anymore, but Obi-Wan is in too much pain to think—to even contemplate an answer for Anakin.
There's the sound of crunching gravel, and then Anakin at his side. Obi-Wan's cheek is pressed to the dirt as he groans in pain, but he's still never been more aware of Anakin's presence. Impending death seems to have heightened his senses.
"I made a mistake, and I know you could have killed me. But you couldn't do it, could you?" he murmurs, sounding almost pleased. "You couldn't kill me."
"I—Oh, Force," he gasps. It hurts so much.
"You didn't do your duty to the Jedi, Obi-Wan." Anakin's voice is closer now, nearer to his ear. A soft touch brushes his hair. "I know you think I'm evil, but you still couldn't end my life."
He doesn't know why Anakin insists on repeating it. Is it to torment him further before he finally makes his kill? Obi-Wan knows he's failed, feels it with every searing pain that rips through him and steals his breath. He doesn't need Anakin to remind him.
A tiny laugh, like the tinkling of broken glass, reaches his ears. For a few moments, he doesn't realize that it's Anakin laughing softly. Maybe now he's finally going to end this. It's not as awful a prospect as it might once have been. At least all of the pain he's feeling—both in his body and in his heart—will stop.
Except, Anakin doesn't kill him.
Instead, he gently uses the Force to pick him up.
The pressure makes the wound pull, stretching and ripping it further that it already was. It's agony—it burns, it hurts, it hurts, and he wishes Anakin would just kill him, not play like this, and...
"Shhh," Anakin murmurs, right before he sends a soothing wave of the Force to smooth over Obi-Wan, brushing gently against his tortured skin, easing the pain enough to let him breathe again. The feeling of just being able to inhale is wonderful, and for a few moments it's possible to forget everything that's happened.
The feeling doesn't last long.
Anakin's grip tightens as he tries to ease some pressure off the wound. "Go to sleep, Master. You won't want to be awake when I have to clean that cut."
Another brush of the Force—more insistent this time—and Obi-Wan has no choice but to comply. He can feel himself relaxing, sinking down into Anakin's hold, even though he knows that recent events have warped it into one of the most dangerous places in the galaxy to be. He should stay awake, should try to...
Slowly, his eyes flutter shut.
Darkness takes over.
Anakin had saved him, yes, Obi-Wan admits as he continues to struggle for breath. He saved him on the sands of Mustafar, in a fiery inferno of a world, but the fate he'd given instead was hardly better. Death would be preferable to seeing everything Obi-Wan loves come crumbing down around him while he remains powerless to do anything to stop it.
Death would be better than being unable to touch the Force—and he's not sure if he'll ever be able to touch the Force again. Anakin has put an inhibiting implant in him in some unspecified location, and he's not about to start randomly cutting at himself.
"You didn't deliver that killing blow," Anakin says slowly, as if he's remembering all over again. The red and yellow that had seeped into his eyes at the onset of his anger begins to recede, leaving blue in its wake. It reminds Obi-Wan of the time he saw the clouds of a polluted world part just long enough for him to witness the reality of the sky that they were hiding. "Why didn't you, Obi-Wan?"
It's the first time that he's asked why. Obi-Wan would have thought it would have occurred to him to ask sooner, but logic has never really been one of Anakin's strong points, at least not when emotion is involved.
The invisible grip eases from around Obi-Wan's neck, indicating that Anakin really does want an answer. Immediately, Obi-Wan begins gulping in air. That chokehold isn't an attempt to kill him, and he knows that, but it's always frightening, wondering if this time will be the time that Anakin's intentions change.
"You know why I couldn't kill you, Anakin," he replies once he has enough breath to answer. It's a struggle to keep his voice even and fairly unemotional, and he's pleased that he mostly succeeds.
A look that could be described as bemused skitters over Anakin's face. "I want to hear you say it."
"And that right there is the root of this whole problem, isn't it? You always needed people to..." He pauses. This is what Anakin wants. He craves knowing that people care about him—and that is what Anakin desires to hear him say.
"To what?" Anakin prompts, smirking.
It's always about manipulation with Anakin. He's set up this situation masterfully, and Obi-Wan knows it, but to not finish his sentence now would be even more humiliating than to admit what Anakin already knows.
"You always needed people to tell you that they care."
"So, you do care about me?"
Anakin is nothing if not relentless. "I fear I've done both you and the galaxy a great disservice by doing so."
"Love is never a weakness, Master."
"The majority of the Jedi Order would disagree."
Anakin's lips press into a thin, straight line, belaying his displeasure and downright annoyance. "They're wrong. Forget the Jedi Code, Obi-Wan. I don't care what the Jedi think." Except, that's not completely right, and Anakin seems to catch himself, his lips twisting into a cruel smile. "What they thought."
"That wasn't what I meant."
Grinning, Anakin flops back on the bed in a lazy sprawl. "No?" he murmurs as he curls up against a pillow. "What did you mean, then?"
It irks Obi-Wan how easily Anakin moves into his space—how comfortable he seems, as though he's been invited to be here. Anakin owns all of the things in this apartment, it's true, but the way he seems so at ease in this moment—it belays a familiarity and affection that Obi-Wan has no current desire to play out with him. He will not pretend their relationship hasn't changed. He doesn't want Anakin to be comfortable.
"I meant that they would disagree not because of our code, but because that love prompted fear, which prompted you to kill them."
The grin fades. "I'm sure they would be sorry about that. In some ways, I am, too."
"Not nearly sorry enough."
"Don't push me, Obi-Wan."
There's enough danger in that tone to make Obi-Wan stop and briefly consider just how far he wants to push. Anakin isn't known for his mercy. Still, just a little further, perhaps, because he's not willing to concede quite yet.
"They were your friends, Anakin, just as much as they were mine. You've asked me why I made the decisions that I did. So now let me ask you the same question: Why?"
Anakin looks almost a little sad as he sits up, trailing his fingers across the sheets of the bed. Skin on silk, reality on the luxury, nightmare on dream—Obi-Wan has altogether too many comparisons for Anakin and what he's done. "It had to happen. The Jedi were plotting to take over. I've come to the conclusion that you were truly ignorant of this plot—it must have been planned out while you were on Utapau—but it's still undeniable that the other Jedi were part of it. My allegiance lay with the Republic and with the Chancellor. I had no choice."
"And with Padme?" he all but whispers. It doesn't matter. He knows Anakin hears him. He's listening too closely not to.
"With Padme," he agrees, nodding. "And with you. And with my children. My family."
"Not with me, Anakin." Inactivity is making him feel awkward, and in an attempt to push that feeling away he gets up to pull on one of the new tunics that Anakin has gotten for him. Anakin's stare never bothered him before, but after everything that's happened—after seeing the red in those eyes on Mustafar—he no longer feels comfortable. The tunic is something to hide behind. "Your allegiance isn't with me. You destroyed everything that I love."
"Didn't you love me?"
"You killed the person I loved."
"I'm right here, Obi-Wan."
"You are not the boy I trained."
Carefully, he pulls a blue tunic over his head. The loss of his Jedi robes is disconcerting, but he's not surprised that Anakin has taken them away. It's certainly expected that Anakin would want to dispose of as many of the remnants of the Jedi Order as possible.
Apparently, the exception of that is Obi-Wan himself.
"I'm not the boy you trained simply because I now hold to different ideals than you? Master, don't be that closed-minded."
"I hold to justice and democracy; you hold to murder and dictatorship." He winces when the cut on his back pulls. Getting dressed was never so painful before. "That's a chasm of difference that can't possibly be bridged."
At the first sign of his pain, Anakin hurriedly climbs off the bed to help him. "Careful, that wound is just finally beginning to heal properly." With seemingly no reservations, he bats Obi-Wan's hands away and helps him pull his tunic the rest of the way on. "I want justice just as much as you do, Obi-Wan. I just recognize that it will take a strong leader—not a senate—to achieve it. I'm going to bring justice to my new Empire."
"Yours? And what happened to Palpatine?"
Anakin dismisses the question with a shrug. "Only a matter of time. Once I've learned everything I need to from him, his life would only be a needless threat."
"You can't just kill everyone who displeases you."
"Your concern for his well-being surprises me. I'd have thought that the need for his removal would be at least one thing we both agreed on."
"It's not the emperor's health that I worry about—it's your state of mind."
Amusement dances in Anakin's eyes, though he somehow still manages to look pleased at the fact that Obi-Wan cares. "You don't need to worry about that. I know exactly what I'm doing."
"Which makes you responsible—"
"A responsibility I'd willingly take on—"
"—for everything that you've done. If you know what you're doing, that makes you a mass murderer."
"Or it makes me the man who will bring peace and justice to the galaxy."
That's hardly true but, suddenly, Obi-Wan just doesn't want to talk about it anymore. Arguing with utter madness is nearly impossible. He's not even sure why he's trying.
"If you say so, Anakin."
Anakin smiles. "I do say so."
The discussion is closed. It doesn't matter, as Obi-Wan hardly knows what else to say. He may have come to be known as the Negotiator, but, as such, he knows better than anyone else that sometimes words just won't make a difference. There are times when nothing does.
In cases like that, silence is quite often the wiser course of action.