This was written for my friend zigsternenstaub over at LJ (it's also posted there, if you're curious). I decided to post it here, since it's actually a companion to the same fic I wrote for Han Solo. Anyway, enough of my rambling. Away we go.
Five Times Anakin Skywalker Fell In Love (And One Time He Didn't)
The first time Anakin Skywalker falls in love, he's seven years old and bleeding with a cut on his knee and it is indefinable, intangible and the defining moment of his life.
It's the fifth time that he's been in the pod -- maybe the sixth, or the seventh, if you count the first times -- and it's the only time that he's managed to stay airborne for longer than a minute. (The other six-seven times he crashed, instantly, bruised ribs pounding hard and real into his lungs even as Watto raised his cane and threateningly called for more.) The racer is unfamiliar, and impossible with it, and he knows, like he knows everything else that's irrefutable in his world, that his mother is standing on the threshold of the shop, watching the speck in the sky with her tired eyes, rags in her hand in case he comes back hurt again, a prayer on her lips in case he does not.
(She'd pray anyway, he knows. There is nothing else she can do.)
"You're having me on, Watto." The Twi'lek snarls, lekku twitching in anger. "There's no way a human could race."
"This one can!" He is nervous now, and it shows. "I'm telling you! Saw him messing around with the parts for this thing back at the shop. And the first time --"
He turns to face the wreck, glaring at the boy hidden in the depths. "Come on, boy." Watto is impatient, voice cracking on the syllables. "Fly."
If he knew how to refuse, he would have. As it is, he bites his chapped lip and complies, fingers shaking on the controls. The stabilisers need to be recalibrated, he decides. The seat is too low. If the thing were his own --
(if he were able to own anything, just because he could --)
-- he would change everything, just because he owned it, just because he could. But that line of thought is addictive, dangerous, and he shies away from it by rote.
The pod rises into the air again, operated by rote, and, possessed by a sudden flash of recklessness -- and by that voice in his mind, alluring and sure, that tells him what to do -- he punches the accelerator and makes for the sky. The speed is intoxicating, dangerously so, and the wind eats at his hair like a starved child, raking at him with taloned fingernails, sharper than knives. And this, this is unreal, the world he has been searching for: the feeling of vastness, of space, of his own, insignificant body, lost in the sky --
("If you win the race," Watto says, "that's more glory than anyone can imagine.")
-- of being able to escape the leaden weight of reality, of living, of being at one with the stars, endless, free. And here, if only for a moment, he can walk the skies. Untouchable. Alone.
"I told you," Watto boasts to the Twi'lek, eyes gleaming. "Human podracer. Unbeatable."
Bib Fortuna's upper lip curls in distaste. "The Almighty Jabba will give you ten thousand for the boy."
"Ten thousand? What -- you think I'm selling him?" It's a low laugh, cruel and mocking in its calculated condescension. "This one's going to win me a fortune. I can tell. No. You give me fifteen, and we have a deal."
(The sky puts no prices on another man's life. )
Fortuna shakes his head. In the tiny shop, under the awning, Shmi Skywalker brings her hands to her eyes, throws down the rags and, with the weight of the future heavy on her heart, cries.
(He only returns to earth when the transmitter buzzes warningly in his body, the sharp pains shooting down his spine. He lets go of the controls, of course, and is barely surprised when he crashes. Should have expected it. He was stupid to forget that he isn't really free.)
The second time Anakin Skywalker falls in love, he's nine years old, a newfound idealist and unused to daydreaming and she's a fourteen-year-old Queen with more guilt than he can imagine and eyes harder than a durasteel bar. (He doesn't know the first two yet, and is too old to know how to avoid the last, so he pays no attention to either of them, and lives in the moment.)
"You're a slave?" She asks, manicured hands shaking slightly on her knees. Later, he will tell her that this is how he told her apart, those white-pure hands with the fingernails filed clean, but that's another lie for a different time. The scent of power rolls off her in intoxicating waves, her disguise as apparent as her routinely-applied perfume, and it is this that attracts him, this that brings in him with it's brilliant strangeness, more foreign than she is.
(He doesn't know that she'll still be foreign to him years later, that he'll still search for her in the sweat-soaked mess of their tangled sheets even as she searches, hands crossing his skin as though she could pull him out from behind the mask, his breath hot on her neck as he whispers, I'm here, Padme, please.)
"I'm a person." He snaps, as though he were free, and had the power to mean it. "And my name is Anakin."
She frowns, and that's when he knows that she's still unattainable, because being a person isn't good enough for her, and if she can't have a person, that what else can she be? (He knows that, at least, knows that there are the Masters too jaded to see anything other than profits and the whores too far gone to care about lives. But her talk is too ready to be worth any money, and her hands are too pure to have groped impersonally, and he knows -- or, more like, he hopes -- that the idea is wrong, if only because he loves what he sees.)
"Are you an angel?" He asks, and is gratified when she smiles. (She won't smile, years later, even though he asks her the same question in between kisses, his desire hoarse in his throat and his hands shaking with fear -- you are an angel, aren't you?)
"You're a funny little boy."
Despite himself, he smiles. (Her hands relax, he notes. That's always a good sign.)
The third time Anakin Skywalker falls in love, he's nine years old and learning to taste freedom and it is forbidden, unusual and all the more dangerous for it.
"You're a Jedi Knight." He whispers, the hope choking him like sand, bitter, dangerous. (Jedi and freedom both exist in fairytales, and if one is here and obviously real, than the other must be, and if the other must be --
-- there's no time for rationality.)
The man -- Qui-Gon -- frowns, the expression stealing across his face like a shadow. "What makes you think that?"
(You're untouchable and invincible and you have no need to ever fear death.)
"I saw your laser sword. Only Jedi carry that kind of weapon."
"Perhaps I killed a Jedi and stole it from him."
He laughs. "No one can kill a Jedi." And this he knows, knows it like he knows nothing else, that Jedi are invincible, and to be invincible is the only way to cheat death. (He knows death too, sees it too many times in back alleys and cantina brawls and the frozen faces of his friends, their Master's laughter still ringing harsh in their ears. He knows the fear, too, the fear that death, with its cold, greedy stare and blank, lost eyes, will claim him, too, and then there would be nothing.) He doesn't hear Qui-Gon's -- the Jedi's -- wistful reply any more than he hears the warning sounds in his heart, because he realises that this, this is power, and this -- this -- is freedom.
He asks Qui-Gon as much, and isn't abashed when he refuses. Jedi have power. Power frees slaves. He knows that when he's a Jedi, he can free the slaves too. It's only a matter of time.
"I dreamed I was a Jedi, once." He says, and when Qui-Gon nods his head, the acceptance real in his eyes, he hides his face and smiles, and holds on to the certainty.
The fourth time Anakin Skywalker falls in love, he's eighteen years old, hotheaded and full of himself and he's thirty-four, panting, and underneath his boots.
"I win." Is all he says, lightsabre humming an inch away from the other man's jugular. Not the traditional acknowledgement of victory, in the proper way. Not something quiet, or modest, or awed. Not mocking, boastful. Simply, I win, as though it was only a matter of time until it happened,
(and it was, he tells himself, pride saturating him like blood)
until everyone else had to see it all. Until the Masters saw it all too, their faces bright with displeasure even as they paused in their own duels to watch. Until he saw it too, until he felt the raw burn of humiliation in his veins
(or so he thinks, because he's never know just how the other man feels and will be damned if he will)
and understood it all, that it was over, his superiority, his power. That he was free. That I win.
Obi-Wan nods his head, closes his eyes. "I yield."
He gives a twisted smile, lets him hover there for a minute or more. Finally realises that despite all of his years of acceptance and guessing, he more than merely likes his Master, that it's more than the dutiful love of a brother to another, that he actually loves the man here, now, like this: the great warrior, the Jedi Master, writhing there beneath his boots, yielding to him, acknowledging his superiority, his surpassing of him. His power. His ability.
(He'll think the same too on Mustafar, sure in his power even as the world crumbles around him and it all goes to hell.)
"You win, Padawan."
Padawan. The title has too many connotations to not pack a punch. Inferior. Subservient. Slave. He helps him up silently, all glory gone, and turns away from his Master, pride souring his mood into displeasure. Remembrance. Reality.
("Don't try it!")
"Yeah." He mutters, the suddenly leaden braid clicking again his shoulder. "I do."
"You still haven't called me Padawan, you know."
A pause. "Haven't I?"
"It's been three weeks." Ahsoka sighs, looking away. "I ...
('m too fragile, and I know this, and you fear responsibility and the authority that comes with it, and I won't take it away)
Have I done something wrong?" "No." He knows he did, though, and so does she."You don't want me." Is all she says, and her voice cracks as she whispers it.
"No!" He says almost before he's aware of it, aware that it's his own fault for doing this, for taking on this burden, this concept that he can't handle, the authority a foreign language on his tongue. "It's just -- I --"
(I can't handle dominating you, and you can't handle the strain --)
"I guess I'm just unused to it." He smiles, and it doesn't reach his eyes. "Padawan."
The fifth time Anakin Skywalker falls in love, he's twenty three and realising that it's over and it is a constant, the one Master who he unfailingly serves.
The feeling is tangible, and bitter with it -- years of deeds unpunished and guilt and lies,
(punching the slave until he fell back against the sand, anger burning hotter than his blood even as his Master pulled him away and his mother shouted herself raw and Kitster still didn't get up)
of forbidden dreams festering away, of anger, of falling, of pain,
(he crushed the slaver until he screamed for mercy, killed the unarmed man and relished it, guiltily, that final, forbidden pleasure)
Jabiim, Dooku, Padme's smile, calm and serene, and his child -- his child -- waiting for him in that possibility-land, the hope of redemption just around the corner --
(and it's so welcoming, that endless abyss)
and he knows, as he knows everything else, that this moment is everlasting, that this moment will change him, that this is final, irrevocable, intangible --
"I pledge myself to your teachings." He rasps, and shakes as he says it, and knows he is lost.
The Darkness opens its arms, in triumph, and welcomes him home.