Disclaimer: Yeah, right. I own nothing.
The first time that Qui-Gon brought home what Obi-Wan came to term a "pathetic life form", Obi-Wan had been his apprentice for only a few short months. He hadn't yet gotten a true sense of what his master was like, and in all honesty, seeing Qui-Gon exhibit such care for a small wounded animal that he'd just happened to run across was… somewhat insulting.
He'd been more than willing to leave Obi-Wan to a life in the Agricorps simply because he hadn't wanted another apprentice, but he could take the time to meticulously clean and dress the wounds of a non-sentient creature? It had chafed at Obi-Wan's sense of self-worth, even if he'd tried not to admit that to himself.
Unfortunately for that enduring trend of self-delusion, Qui-Gon kept on bringing home all manner of strange creatures. He never kept them—they were always transferred back into their habitats, found homes, or, at the very least, released into the Temple gardens—and Obi-Wan eventually managed to find some sort of solace in that. Qui-Gon didn't focus on him with the sort bursts of intensity that he did his pathetic life forms, but Obi-Wan stayed around long after they'd left. That had to count for something, right?
Of course, then there were the times when Obi-Wan was expected to actually interact with said life forms. Of particular note was the instance when Qui-Gon left him with a tumblebunny, presumably somebody's runaway pet that had gotten loose in the lower levels of Coruscant and had run across Qui-Gon's path.
"Master," Obi-Wan had protested, "I don't think this is how I should be spending my time."
"Don't argue, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon had replied, thrusting the squirming critter into Obi-Wan's arms. "He's mostly domesticated, doesn't shed much, and he will provide you with a good opportunity to strengthen your connection to the living Force."
"Don't get him wet, keep him out of bright light, and never feed him after midnight." He had paused then, glancing down at the three-eared creature that Obi-Wan had been valiantly trying to keep a hold of—domesticated might have been more of a hopeful speculation rather than fact—and frowned. "I find that, if you feed him too late at night, he won't go to sleep until the very early hours of the morning."
If Obi-Wan had gotten his way, the tumblebunny wouldn't have been fed at all.
Although, now, years later, Obi-Wan does have to admit that sometimes he wonders what happened to that creature. He hadn't seen it again after it had escaped his care and had somehow found a way into the Council Room, where it had proved itself particularly troublesome by gnawing on Mace Windu's chair. Interestingly enough, the Jedi Council had made an unusually intense effort to reunite the tumblebunny with its estranged owner after that incident, and Qui-Gon had even refrained from making Obi-Wan babysit anymore pathetic lifeforms, at least for a time.
Now, looking down at the little boy in front of him, Obi-Wan thinks that the tumblebunny may have been the better deal. Anakin may not be liable to chew on the Council chairs, it's true, but his capacity for mayhem and confusion—and for speech—is admittedly quite a lot greater than a bunny.
"I'll be out late, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon tells him, already heading for the door. Obi-Wan would like to bar the exit and refuse to leave him alone with this—this child—because, really, what does one do with a child?—but past experience has taught him that Qui-Gon is fairly undaunted by any protests that his apprentice might make. "I expect that this Council briefing will run long. Make sure Anakin eats dinner, takes a bath, and gets to bed at a decent hour."
Yes, and don't feed him after midnight, Obi-Wan thinks sarcastically, his mental tone plunging off toward bitter.
And then Qui-Gon has left, and Obi-Wan is left staring at a child. The child stares back.
One second. Two. Five more. A minute. Then, "Only girls have braids."
Reflexively, Obi-Wan's hand shoots up to his braid, fingering the familiar plait. "Just wait—if the Council decides to train you, you'll get one too." Girlish, indeed—this insolent child has no idea that he's criticizing years upon years of Jedi tradition.
Qui-Gon would probably laugh.
Anakin makes a face at that, and for a few seconds Obi-Wan dares to hope that the prospect of having something so feminine as a braid has derailed Anakin's tirade of questioning. Because there will be questions. He's seen this child interact with others. Talking is not his deficiency of choice.
Common sense, on the other hand...
Predictably, Obi-Wan's hopes are dashed a moment later when Anakin seems to decide it's not worth worrying about. "What are you making for dinner?"
At the rate they're going now? Probably nothing—they haven't moved from the spot they were in when Qui-Gon left, let alone taken any sort of initiative that would include the preparation of food. "I haven't really thought about it."
Anakin purses his lips. "Well, you should. Mom always knew what she was having for dinner first thing in the morning."
"I'm not your mother."
"Well, I know that. You're not a girl."
"Good of you to notice." Really, why is he standing here in the living area, trading words with a nine-year-old? Foolish. Simply foolish.
Turning away from Anakin, he stomps—no, not stomps, walks, because he does have self-control, and he isn't that irritated with Qui-Gon for making him babysit—to the kitchen. Dinner. Yes, he does have to feed the youngling. If he can manage to feed a runaway creature from the lower levels, he can manage to feed a child.
Anakin pops up at his side once Obi-Wan stops at the counter and begins to riffle through the various contents of the shelves. "Do you always wear brown?"
Head partially inside a cupboard, he answers, "Yes."
"Because all Jedi wear colors like this. You will too if you become one." Perhaps something simple like nerf patties will do. A child can't possibly dislike something that plain, can he?
"Why didn't they pick something nice like blue, or maybe even yellow?"
"Because that would be far too ostentatious. Jedi do not draw attention to themselves."
"What's ostentatious mean?"
Obi-Wan pulls some patties out of the cooling unit and reaches for a pan. "It means you get people to look at you."
"Well, what's wrong with that?"
"A Jedi does not crave attention." He opens the package and tosses the patties into the pan.
"Well, why n—?"
"Anakin!" Immediately, Obi-Wan takes a deep breath. He's better than this. He can handle a nine-year-old youngling. He can. "Why don't you go finish tinkering with that droid Qui-Gon gave you?" he suggests with false cheer.
Anakin doesn't look convinced. "I can do that anytime."
"Yes, well, no time like the present."
Judging from the little wrinkle on Anakin's brow and the way his face screws up until he resembles, in Obi-Wan's opinion, some sort of contorted fruit, he doesn't quite grasp the meaning of that. Apparently, that's grounds for dismissal in his mind.
"How old are you?" he asks instead, eyeing Obi-Wan speculatively.
Obi-Wan just grits his teeth and pushes the patties into place in the pan. "Twenty-five."
"So, you're—" He pauses, ticking off numbers on his fingers and glancing upward as he counts, like he thinks the ceiling will give him answers, "sixteen years older than me!" he announces finally, looking pleased with himself. "You could be my father."
"Force forbid," he mutters under his breath.
"Well, I don't know," Anakin says, lifting his small shoulders in something like a shrug. A small smile plays across his face, pushing up the baby-fat around his cheeks. "I wouldn't mind. I think you're nice."
And that… just sort of stops Obi-Wan.
"Really?" he asks before he can think better of it.
Arching an eyebrow, Anakin nods. "Well, yeah," he says, dragging the second word out and looking at Obi-Wan like he thinks that ought to be obvious.
How… odd. None of Qui-Gon's pathetic lifeforms have ever taken to Obi-Wan before. They all just tolerate him, and he in turn does the same, because what else can he do? It's Qui-Gon they feel at ease with, and it's Qui-Gon who took an interest in them. Obi-Wan is always there, but in the kind of permanent way that doesn't get him much notice in the short-term, neither with the lifeform nor with Qui-Gon, who is perpetually concerned with the moment… and Obi-Wan is always the long-term. Not the moment. Cared about, respected, but not given the concentration and rapt interest that the pathetic life forms always seem to garner. And the pathetic lifeforms themselves certainly don't pay attention to him.
It takes Obi-Wan a moment to regroup. "That's… nice of you to say," he says a little awkwardly.
Anakin just keeps staring at him. "You're kind of strange, you know that?"
Ah, yes, this is more on par with what he'd expect. Somehow, that makes him feel more comfortable. Connecting with beings is more Qui-Gon's territory, and this just proves it. Best just to forget about the whole business and concentrate on making something edible.
"But I still like you."
Or, maybe not. Will Anakin cry if he doesn't tell him he likes him too? Force, he really doesn't want Anakin to cry. What does one do with a crying child?
"I… like you too."
Oddly, that… seems quite effective: Anakin's face splits in a smile, and he cautiously shuffles forward, scooting a little closer next to Obi-Wan by the stove. "What color is your lightsaber?"
He flips one of the patties over. "Blue."
"I like blue."
"So I assumed when you stated that you wished Jedi robes were of that color."
Anakin shrugs. "Well, it would be kind of nice." A pause, and then, "If I become a Jedi, could I have a blue lightsaber like yours?"
"You shouldn't get ahead of yourself, Anakin. You might not even become a Jedi."
His lips twist into a pout. "Qui-Gon says I will."
"And he could be right."
"Don't you think I will?"
"It's not for me to decide."
He doesn't like that answer—Obi-Wan can tell. What he can't understand is why he's slightly disturbed by the fact that he seems to have, at least on some level, hurt Anakin's feelings. Since when does he care about the creatures he's temporarily charged with?
"But if you could decide, would you let me?"
"I'm not the one who decides."
Scowling, Anakin rolls his eyes. "I know. I only asked what you'd do if you were."
Obi-Wan doesn't answer; he just flips the patties. And, really, why not just give an answer? Tell the boy straight out that, no, if it were up to him, he wouldn't be trained? That's logically what he ought to do, but the memory of the hurt look on the boy's face moments before stills his tongue.
Anakin seems to take his silence for incomprehension. "You know," he says, tapping Obi-Wan's leg with his hand, "Qui-Gon said you were smart. But I think he lied." Tap, tap, tap. "It wasn't a hard question."
Is this child baiting him? And did Qui-Gon really tell Anakin he was smart? Well, if he did, it was probably followed up by some comment about how he still had much to learn—which he did. Just, sometimes, it might be nice to hear a compliment without a qualifier.
"Why are you tapping my leg?"
Tap, tap, tap. "I dunno. Why are you taking so long to cook dinner?"
"Because I'd rather not poison you with uncooked food."
The tapping stops. "Really?"
What? Does this child actually think Obi-Wan wants to kill him?" "Yes, really, Anakin." Scowling, he tries his best to just concentrate on the food in the pan.
He cocks his head to the side. "That's nice of you."
"You know what would be nice of you? If you'd set the table." Yes, give the child something constructive to do. That is a much better alternative to this line of incessant questioning.
"Okay." And just like that, he's hopping off toward the other side of the counter, hoping up on said counter, and reaching into the cabinets.
Right. Giving him a job where he had to climb things may not have been Obi-Wan's best plan. "Would you be careful?" he snaps, glancing over his shoulder at the child now perched on his countertop, precariously balancing as he grabs for some plates.
"I am being careful."
Or not. Because a few seconds later, plates clutched to his chest, he tips backward. The plates fly from his hands as he scrambles for a grip, half gets one, and goes pitching off the side of the counter, just barely managing to escape a straight backwards fall by the one-handed grip he'd gotten on the edge of the counter. Instead, he jerks to the side, his hold on the counter pulling him up short of falling on his back, and instead smashing him straight into the lower cupboards.
Obi-Wan forgets about the nerf patties.
"Anakin!" By the Force, this child has the reflexes to podrace, but he can't stop himself from falling off the counter? No, that's not what this is—this is simply a result of the fact that Obi-Wan is the one who is watching him, and Force knows, he's never had much luck at this sort of thing. This is just what happens when he's left alone with Qui-Gon's life forms. They chew on Council chairs. They fall off counters. It's just how the Force had deigned for these things to go.
Anakin doesn't cry—not right away. He just sort of sits there, stunned, staring up at Obi-Wan, who most certainly has not rushed straight over to him, and who is not running his hands over any place that looks vulnerable, checking for bumps or bruises or, Force forbid, broken bones.
And then he launches himself into Obi-Wan's arms and sniffles.
Yes. Hmm. This is… unexpected. Corrupt politicians, murderous ex-padawans, and irate citizens he can handle, but a small child clinging to him, trying not to cry—that's not on his list of situations he can navigate. And Anakin is clinging so very tightly.
Letting go, apparently, is not going to be an option.
"I'm-m-m sorry," Anakin sniffs against his shoulder. "Didn't mean to break the dishes."
The dishes? Oh, yes, the dishes. Obi-Wan had frankly been quite a lot more worried about Anakin getting broken.
"Are you all right?" Obi-Wan asks tentatively after a few moments, trying awkwardly to detach Anakin from him. Then, because he feels like he should, he adds, "I don't care about the dishes." And, honestly? He doesn't.
Anakin latches on more tightly. So much for the idea of detaching him.
"Mmmhmm," he murmurs, head still buried against Obi-Wan's neck.
"Anakin, if you want me to make you dinner, you're going to have to let me go."
"I don't want dinner."
"A few minutes ago, you declared I wasn't making it quickly enough."
"I don't want dinner."
He never wants a padawan. Never. They complain; and they're confusing; they give you heart attacks when they fall off counters; and, worst of all, they make you feel bad when you hurt their feelings. No, no padawan for him. Not ever.
"What do you want then?"
Anakin clutches him a little more tightly. Presumably, then, he wants to squeeze the life out of Obi-Wan.
"Fine," he grumbles, standing up, one hand under Anakin's bottom to keep him steady—though he probably doesn't need it, considering how tightly he's got a hold on Obi-Wan—as he picks him up, turns off the stove, and heads for the common area of the quarters. "Do you really need to hold so tightly?" he asks as he settles down on the couch, Anakin in his lap.
Anakin doesn't answer, and he doesn't let go.
Fine. Obi-Wan will just… sit here. He'll let Anakin cling, and he'll just lean back into the couch and stay put until Anakin decides to let go of him. After all, how long can he possibly hold on? He's got to get hungry eventually…
Five hours, Qui-Gon thinks irritably. He'd anticipated that meeting would take a good amount of time, but it had exceeded even his expectations. And that is… worrisome. He's left Obi-Wan alone with Anakin all this time.
It's not that he doesn't trust Obi-Wan. He does—it's simply that Obi-Wan has something of a… questionable record when it comes to caring for the "pathetic life forms", as Obi-Wan prefers to call them, that Qui-Gon brings home. In particular, there is that one memorable instance with the tumblebunny and Mace Windu's council chair…
A little more urgently than he would admit, Qui-Gon palms open the door to the quarters he shares with Obi-Wan.
What he finds induces, not panic, not worry—not even concern. It just makes him smile.
Sprawled on the couch, head back against the cushions, chest rising and falling softly in sleep, is Obi-Wan. On his lap is Anakin, cuddled up into his chest, and with a decidedly contented expression on his face. How long they've been like that—or how they got that way—he will not hazard to guess.
And Obi-Wan says he doesn't like Qui-Gon's projects.
Smiling, Qui-Gon just a spreads a blanket over the two of them and congratulates himself on always suspecting Obi-Wan's dislike was just sheer nonsense.