Word Count 2202
Summary In the jungles of Drongar, Anakin gets sick.
Notes For the "Major Illness" prompt on my hc_bingo card. Thank you to citizenjessfor telling me it didn't suck. :)
Drongar was an unpleasant world. Even eleven years out of the desert, Anakin Skywalker still didn't like hot, humid climates - and Drongar had that in spades. Even more than the heat and humidity, Anakin was annoyed by having to use a rebreather throughout the entire mission. He hated the rebreather; it made his lips chapped, and more than that, it made him feel incredibly claustrophobic. He couldn't wait to get the Separatist base good and destroyed so he could return to his ship and spit the damn thing out.
He could see the base in the distance, and held up a hand, fist closed, to halt his troops behind him. Captain Rex came up to him, hoisting his rifle over his shoulder. "Plan still in place, General?" he asked, and Anakin nodded, unable to speak around the rebreather.
They made their way down the hill, stumbling and tripping in the thick underbrush, the air heavy and cloying. Ahead, the base loomed, battle 'droids flanking the outer gates. It would, Anakin knew, be easy enough to get past them.
Or, it should have been. When his troops got closer, Anakin suddenly realized the 'droids were not the standard skinny tinnies - they were the lethal commando 'droids. Well, that didn't change the plan any, just made it a little more tricky. Giving the motion for his troops to open fire, Anakin ignited his lightsaber.
In the midst of the heated battle (he couldn't yet tell who was winning, but he knew it would be him, eventually), Anakin felt a hard kick to the back of the head. His mouth opened reflexively and the rebreather dropped into the mud. Instantly, Anakin felt dizzy as the oxygen-enriched air assaulted his senses. He shook off the feeling, kept fighting, kept persevering.
Soon enough, the wall of the compound was breached and the clones rushed in, planting their charges. Anakin's head swam as he, Rex, and the survivors ran to a safe distance before detonating the explosives. Once the smoke and cleared, he felt, distantly, Rex putting a hand on his shoulder. "Sir, your rebreather!" The Clone Captain sounded worried.
Anakin gave him a lopsided smile. "No worries, Captain," he said, deciding he was already feeling better. "Let's get back to the ship." Rex's head tilted in a way that suggested he was skeptical of Anakin's words, but nonetheless led the march back to the ship.
The terrain was even more difficult than Anakin had remembered it being on the way down to the base. Sweat made his robes stick to his skin and even though he knew the air was hot, by the time they'd reached the ship, he was shivering. "General, you need to go to medbay," Rex insisted. "If you were breathing in the air for any length of time..."
Anakin waved him off. "I'm fine, Rex," he replied, heading towards the cockpit even as his legs threatened to give out - there was no way he was going to crash out at the very end of a mission, after all. His first solo mission since losing Ahsoka, he wasn't going to give the Council any more of a reason to distrust him. He didn't need babysitting, he just needed the battle. And he'd gotten a battle, today, and had won it, and now just needed to follow through with the Council, and then maybe he wouldn't feel so alone anymore and maybe... His knees buckled and he felt Rex's hands under his arms, holding him upright.
"There we go, Sir," Rex said, hoisting him to his feet. "You were saying?"
Anakin rubbed a hand down his face, taking a deep breath, feeling a weight settle in his chest. "Just tired," he tried, but it was no use. It was definitely not just tiredness, nor was it just the lingering grief of losing his apprentice. This was... something different.
"Medbay," Rex repeated. "Now, Sir."
It took both Rex and Coric to get him to the medbay; by the time they arrived, his vision was blurred and a cold sweat was dripping off him. "Fester lung," Coric ventured, and Rex nodded his agreement. Anakin barely heard them; it felt like he was underwater, in very cold water. He shivered, struggled to wrap himself in blankets on the bunk he'd been lowered onto. He couldn't even work up the energy to put on a show of being unaffected anymore, much to his chagrin.
"General, no," Coric said, putting a restraining hand on his. "We need to bring your fever down, no blankets."
Anakin wasn't sure he understood; he was so cold, why wouldn't they let him have the blankets. He heard one of them say something about ice packs, and the thought of being even colder made him lash out, the Force still obeying his will, crushing the medical equipment surrounding him. He stopped just short of crushing Rex and Coric, his energy sapped. He heard one of them say Obi-Wan's name, felt a cold hiss against his neck, and was suddenly, blissfully, asleep.
"It's technically called ascomycetous pneumoconiosis."
Obi-Wan Kenobi frowned and ran a hand over his beard. He hadn't been expecting to be contacted while Anakin was on his mission - if no other reason than because Anakin was trying so hard to prove himself again. He'd made himself available, though, on the just-in-case possibility that something went wrong. Obviously, something had gone horribly wrong. "And it's caused by spores in the air on Drongar?" he asked, watching through the view-wall of the Twilight's tiny medbay as Anakin moaned and writhed, sweat plastering his hair to his scalp, restrained at the wrists to keep him from pulling out the hydrating IV. Several pieces of equipment were floating in the air; as the fever grew higher, Anakin had begun losing control of his powers.
Coric nodded. "Yes, Sir," he replied. "General Skywalker lost his rebreather during the mission. The symptoms began almost immediately. He needs a bacta tank as soon as possible - Fester Lung has been known to make people cook inside their own skin."
Obi-Wan closed his eyes, drawing calm and strength from the Force. "Resolute is on standby over Raxus," he said, turning away from the view-wall. "It's not too far from here."
Rex nodded, but Coric looked concerned. "It might be best if we met in the middle, General," he ventured. "As it is, we're going to have to take drastic measures to lower his internal temperature, and there's no telling what kind of damage has already been done without full diagnostics."
Obi-Wan cursed the Council's decision to send Anakin in the Twilight - the small ship was equipped with nothing but the most basic medbay, and a holographic med 'droid who was fairly useless when it came to major problems, or humans in general. "Captain Rex, contact Resolute and give them the coordinates for the rendezvous," he ordered, trying to get himself back into some semblance of control. "Sergeant Coric, you and I are going to enact those drastic measures you mentioned."
Rex nodded smartly and strode into the cockpit. Together, Obi-Wan and Coric entered the medbay. Obi-Wan was almost overwhelmed by the smell of sickness, sweat and bile, that permeated the air. Anakin opened his eyes, bloodshot, glassy, unfocused, and looked at him without recognition. "We're going to help you," Obi-Wan told him, flanking the bed while Coric began filling the tub on the other side of the room.
Obi-Wan reached out and stroked Anakin's flesh arm, the heat radiating off the younger man in painful waves. He tried to send cooling, soothing pulses through the Force, but Obi-Wan was no healer, and Anakin was resisting. "Ready, General," Coric said, coming up to Anakin's other side and undoing the straps around his wrists. "On the count of three," he said, leveling one arm under Anakin, Obi-Wan following suit.
On three, they got the young General into a sitting position, but the force of the movement and the sudden change of position had obviously not been appreciated by Anakin's body. With a violent retching noise, Anakin vomited. "Well," Obi-Wan said, "It's a good thing he was going in the tub anyway." Coric gave him a curious look, but ended up chuckling as well.
Getting Anakin to and into the tub proved challenging; the boy was heavy, and was not even remotely cooperating. Not that Obi-Wan could blame him, of course. It seemed unlikely that Anakin was fully cognizant of what was going on around him at all. He did, however, react when submerged in the cold water. "No!" he shouted, hoarse, furious. A shelving unit behind him went flying off the wall to clatter violently across the room. "Let me go! Stop!" Coric and Obi-Wan gently held his shoulders, tried to keep him in the tub. "Stop! I'll do anything you want! Just let me go!"
Obi-Wan felt a chill run down his spine. "All we want is for you to get well," he said softly, reaching out his other hand to smooth back Anakin's sweat-soaked hair. "Please, Anakin." Anakin finally met his gaze, his glazed blue eyes seeming to find recognition through the haze of fever.
"Master," he breathed. "Master, please, if this is..." He coughed violently, tears pushing out from behind his closed eyelids. "If this is because of Ahsoka... I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, please, please, I can't... Master, stop, I can't do this anymore, please, please, I can't, I can't."
Obi-Wan took a deep breath. "Anakin, you can. You must hold on. This is not punishment for Ahsoka, you're very ill. Anakin, look at me." He gripped Anakin's chin and raised his head to look him in the eye again. "Believe me, Anakin, I don't want for you to be in pain. Do you trust me?"
It seemed to take everything Anakin had left to nod. "Yes, Master." And he sank down into the tub, bonelessly.
The bath had not lowered Anakin's fever below the danger level, but it at least had the benefit of making him slightly more comfortable after he was back in bed, cool wet cloths draped over his exposed skin. "I can't keep doing this, Master," Anakin informed him in little more than a croak. "You need to just let me go."
Obi-Wan gripped Anakin's flesh hand tightly in his own. "No, Anakin."
Anakin gave him a sickly smile. "Will of the Force, Master. No attachments, right?"
"That doesn't mean I can't do anything in my power to get you well," Obi-Wan replied. "Don't tell me you wouldn't do the same."
Anakin's eyes drifted closed. "Of course I would," he slurred, and was asleep.
By the time the Resolute arrived, Anakin was unresponsive. Despite the temporary respite of coherence, it had disappeared just as quickly, and now Obi-Wan found himself running alongside the medics, a race to get Anakin into the bacta tank before his internal organs cooked.
"We won't know the extent of the damage until he's out of the bacta," Coric told him. "We'll do our best."
"I know you will," Obi-Wan replied, clapping the sergeant on the shoulder and heading for his own quarters. He needed to regroup, to prepare himself for the long vigil he knew he would be holding at Anakin's side.
Throughout his time as Anakin's Master (and, more recently, Anakin's friend), he'd gotten used to spending time in the Halls of Healing, in medbays on dozens of ships, waiting for his former apprentice to heal from whatever trouble he'd gotten himself into. This time, though... for some reason, this time seemed different. Perhaps it was how much Anakin had fought treatment, perhaps it was how easily it could have been avoided; a mistake that he wouldn't have expected Anakin to make. Obi-Wan worried that he was seeing a side of Anakin that had not been exposed until Ahsoka's death had ripped away the shielding. That, more than anything, made Obi-Wan's blood run cold.
Anakin remained in the tank for a full standard week. When he emerged, his fever had dissipated, and the spores in his lungs had been neutralized. Still weak, he at least looked healthy.
"You gave us quite a scare, Anakin," Obi-Wan informed him once he'd woken, clear-eyed.
Anakin picked at the hem of his blanket, then looked up with a smirk. "Well, who else is going to keep you on your toes?" he asked, though Obi-Wan could tell the strength it was costing the boy to remain jovial.
He took a breath. "You can talk to me, Anakin," he ventured. "About anything. You know that, right?"
Anakin frowned, went back to picking at his blanket. "Thank you for saving me," he said. "I guess that's six to eight now."
Obi-Wan sighed, realizing that he wasn't going to get anything out of his former apprentice now. "I think I should get extra points for being vomited on," he said.
Scowling, Anakin barked out a laugh. "And what do you think you did to me on Nal Hutta?" he shot back.
It wasn't an admission of despair. It wasn't a confession. It wasn't true healing. But Obi-Wan knew, for Anakin, it would be enough for now.