author's note: she's back from the dead! Or, she's just crossposting something she wrote over a year ago to ffn. As I explained on my profile, which I recently updated today, a few people have asked me to crosspost a few of my newer fics back to ffn. And since I checked my stats and thought wow and shit, I have over a hundred followers here, you guys, why not? This was written around April this year.
For those who want to know more about my writing situation/want updates/want to stalk me, check my profile. I updated it today. The last time it was updated was December 2009. It's ... worth a read? Anyway. MOVING ON.
All Our Yesterdays
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Their apartment is small, wrong, almost ostentatious. The bedrooms are cold and sparse, but Anakin's, unlike his own, is furnished with a window. Despite the blue tinge to his lips and the blankets around his shoulders, he is pressed to the glass, inhaling hungrily as the speeders flash past, vibrating with energy. The draught, here, doesn't seem to bother him.
(The room, in all its austerity, is white. Nothing in the desert is white, nothing but the clear bowl of the sky.)
"It's an interesting view, isn't it?"
The whisper is unexpected, cutting, and Anakin flinches, perhaps guiltily, perhaps in fear. For all his potential, he cannot interpret the Force. He doesn't listen. He only hears. "Yes," he admits at last, not looking back. "There's so much life."
(It's difficult for him, this whole new language. Not Standard, of course—he speaks that almost fluently—but the language of equality, of comradeship, of humanity. The words that he reaches for, the words that he merits, are untranslatable, unthinkable. Slavery and subjugation have their own dictionaries. There are no words. Not here.)
"Or a waste of it." He laughs, perhaps bitterly, and looks around the room. It's still bare, the bed unmade. "Aren't you going to unpack your things?"
"The things in your bag."
"Why would I unpack them?"
This puzzles him. "Why wouldn't you?"
Anakin frowns, looks at him properly. His eyes are huge in his face, an almost unnatural shade of blue. "Are we staying here, then?"
"Yes," he says, eyes flicking everywhere, unsettled. "The Council have allocated us these quarters."
"This is home?"
"You start lessons tomorrow." He says, avoiding the question. "Sleep."
"Mathematics, engineering, lightsabre combat. That sort of thing."
"Really?" Anakin's face lights up, briefly, before sinking back into blankness. "Okay." He whispers neutrally, and turns back to the window again, looking at the lights. There is a pause.
"You miss your mother, don't you?" He falters. Doesn't know what else to say. (Doesn't know what comfort is, let alone how to offer it.)
"It's not that." He whispers sullenly, and licks his cracked lips with his dry tongue. "It's just … I'm not …" A breath. "I can't …"
"Never mind, Anakin." He says, and closes his eyes against the chill. This, this well of fear, deep and real, doesn't concern him. Not yet. "You're tired, now. Sleep. There will always be tomorrow."
(Fear, Qui-Gon always says, is useful. It keeps you alive.)
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time
They develop a routine, eventually, a carefully constructed framework of times and dates, of jokes and insults, of casual conversation that papers over the cracks like love should have, if they knew how to do it. Together, they weave a history, one that is artificial, deliberate. There is nothing omitted, nothing added, nothing unplanned. There are no anomalies.
Anakin himself is an anomaly of course: a genuine teenager, a precocious adult in a world where childhood is marked by rank, not maturity. Whatever he tells him, he already knows; what he doesn't, he tries to invent. (It's not like that, Master, he says, or, I think you'll find it works like this. His overwhelming need to dominate, to control himself, extends to this aspect of his life too.) He himself feels like this sometimes, too, like he needs to invent rules just to understand, like it will all fall apart if he doesn't understand. He never understands—but that's not to say that they're never happy. Happiness comes with forgetting, and they do forget. They always have. And then, something breaks. They remember.
Forgetting becomes more difficult every time.
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.
"You've changed, Anakin."
"I don't need to explain myself to you any more." A pause. "Master."
He has always been this defensive—not always, but long enough for him not to recognise the change—but the way he avoids his eyes, fingers clenching and unclenching sporadically, is something new, something he fears. "I'm not asking you to."
There is a loaded pause, heavier than his fear, heavier than his guilt. "Anakin," he whispers, looking away. "What happened?"
A bitter smile. "You know."
"I know about Geonosis." He replies. "But not Naboo." He swallows, remembers Anakin's shaking hands, the other signs that he thought he'd imagined. "Anakin." He whispers quietly, voice filled with dread. "What is it? What did you do?"
"I did nothing." His face is as blank as the masks they wear, the light illuminating the shadows under his eyes and the new scars marring his skin. "Nothing."
It is the first time he will ever see him lie. All their yesterdays lie between them, nothing more than sand, than memories. Dust.
Out, out, brief candle!
Jabiim is hell. They both decide this thirty seconds after landing, simultaneously, sharing a look from under their sodden hoods made heavier by rain, the weight of the water and their guilt preventing them from raising their heads. It's not much of a difference, anyway. Anakin hasn't met his eyes since Geonosis.
"This place is hell." Anakin rasps, cursing as his heavy boots sink into the mire, and he almost laughs, or cries. (He isn't sure what he wants, not yet.) "No. I take that back. It's worse than hell."
"There are places worse than hell?"
"You ever spent time in Disciplinary with Master Nu?"
They both snicker, quietly, like children playing a forbidden game. (And this laughter is forbidden. Always has been.) "Can't say I have." He says pompously, playing the eternal Master, folding his freezing hands beneath his waterlogged sleeves in a vague attempt at acting himself. "I was far too good for that sort of thing."
"The Perfect Padawan."
"Oh, naturally." He senses, rather than sees, Anakin's smile. Even these days, it is bitter, reluctant. "In any case," he says lightly, trying to reclaim the mood, "Master Nu has nothing on Master Windu when it comes to punishing wayward Padawans."
"And you would know?"
"No, never. I'm just saying." A pause. "I don't know why I thought flooding the female washroom was a good idea. I don't even think I did at the time."
This admission—personal, private, wrenched from him—has the desired effect. Anakin laughs openly this time, a short blast of mirth, revealing a flash of bone-china teeth. "You! I'd never believe it— you, a junior voyeur?"
"It wasn't that!" A note of the defiant twelve-year-old, childish and high, breaks into his voice. "It was a mistake!"
"Please," Anakin giggles, suddenly invigorated by the topic, "you're a teenage boy—and you're trying to tell me that if you'd never seen a woman before, you wouldn't even—"
"How much did you see?"
"Did it live up to your expectations?"
"I had no—"
"Did someone drop their towel?"
"And Master Tachi's dignity—"
"How much of this have you heard?"
"A lot." He shrugs evasively, playing the part. "News gets round fast."
"Indeed." He says sourly, the humiliation burning. "It only took twenty years."
"Good things come to those who wait." A flash of a smile, almost guiltily. He waits, perfecting his timing. "So, Master, after you had viewed this forbidden fruit, so to speak, did Qui-Gon—"
"I've told you enough about myself, Anakin." And the moment is lost.
They tramp on in silence through the bog, the only sound the squelch of their useless boots and the whistling of their breath. His Padawan abruptly falls back, soaking robes plastered to his tall frame by the wind, and he frowns. Despite the layers of cloth, he looks thinner, more gaunt. (The part of him that will never admit to being protective wonders if he's been eating properly.)
"Padawan!" He calls, walking back toward him to prevent himself from sinking into the ground. "Keep up!"
"My foot!" Anakin shouts, cheeks scarlet with frustration. "It's got my shavving foot!"
Obi-Wan swallows, tries to hide his fear. They've barely been on the planet an hour and they are already showing just how ill-equipped they are. The droid armies, he knows, have specially-designed tanks. "Can't you get it?"
"No!" He snarls, flushing with rage. "It's just taken off my shoe!"
They both pause for a moment, still staring, watching the boot, stiff with mud and the tension in the laces, sink slowly into the earth. He grins for the sake of it, just to prove that he remembers how, even as Anakin swears under his breath and tries to tug the shoe back on. The mud refuses to yield.
"I don't think it's going to move, Padawan."
"It had better." Anakin spits through gritted teeth, panting. "I'm not going to lose a battle to a bit of shavving mud—"
"I think," he mutters, watching the slime creep up his leg, "you just did."
The silence is broken by rain. This time, nothing has been shared. Nobody laughs.
Life's but a walking shadow—
War changes him, them both. There are some days, of course, where things are still the same (or as near to the same as can be), days where their only talk is of battle, of war and tactics and their equipment, which is consistently substandard. The rich bankers, with their oh-so-important credits, have joined the Confederacy. They sleep with their boots on.
Then there are the unfamiliar times, when they talk of the past, and not of the present, reembroidering past encounters until memory's thread wears thin, until some encounters, told too many times in their hunt for significance, lose meaning altogether.
"It was just a smile, Obi-Wan." He—a Knight now, a grown man, with eyes older than his ever were—mutters, hunched on his bunk. "A smile."
("I know what happened on Geonosis. But not on Naboo.")
"There is nothing between Senator Amidala and I!" He hisses, looking away. Radiation has scarred him, here, left lines on his face and grey in his hair that no amount of peace can heal. He looks closer to thirty than twenty-one. "Nothing more than what you saw."
(He doesn't know what he saw. Doesn't want to.) "Nothing more than what I saw." He repeats blankly, the words thicker than wool in his mouth.
"No." A pause. A slight exhale. "There's nothing in it, Obi-Wan."
(They never talk of the future, of course. There are some things that are better left unsaid.)
a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more:
It all happens too quickly after that, the story told in short blasts, in fits and stages:
The Chancellor captured; Dooku killed; the Separatist forces weakened. Anakin becomes more reserved, distant. He never speaks about what happens there, even though the old Anakin, that one in the past (the past which is dead, and which they cannot speak about) would have told him already, told him every minute detail of the conquest and kill. (He neither sees, nor speaks to, Senator Amidala. Does Anakin—?)
Anakin sees the Senator; Anakin grows even more preoccupied; Anakin shouts in his sleep. He never tells him why, though. Just one, sharp sentence, unfailingly oblique—"you are there. And you, you watch her." And he doesn't even know what that means anymore.
The war spreads into the Inner Rim; the Senate talks of chaos; the Council talk of evacuation; Anakin talks of sleep but never does it. And he, he talks of nothing, because there is nothing that he has left to say, nothing that would be heard. (Does Anakin even see Master Yoda? He wouldn't know and he guesses not.)
The Chancellor extends visit after visit to Anakin, who accepts, even though the bags under his eyes stand stark against his skin and he sweats when people watch him. The Council watch, and say nothing. He sees, and cannot speak, doesn't speak.
Greivous is located. He is sent, at the expense of the man who should have been.
"You're like a father to me." He says, and this is real, all of it.
"You are a great Jedi." He replies, and this is a lie. Anakin Skywalker was never a Jedi.
And then is heard no more:
(The slaughter on the security holo, the deeds harsh and real. The bodies, piled high in the halls. And the words, simple and stark: "what is thy bidding, my Master?"
And Anakin, Anakin betraying him.)
it is a tale
of failure, a failure in brotherhood, a failure in salvation. Ashes. Mustafar. Nothing more.
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
(His anger, his pain – his fury. The empty Temple. Death, with its empty eyes. And Anakin, Anakin defying him.)
"She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing." — Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)