title Fear is the Heart of Love
word count 4321
summary Anakin and Obi-Wan are captured by Ventress
notes written for an Extra on hc_bingo using the prompts "upset at higher being", "whipping/flogging", "lacerations/knife wounds", and "hospital stay". Kind of more of the same from me ;) Title from "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" by Death Cab for Cutie (but based on the cover by Amanda Palmer)
warning graphic torture and blood
It wasn't so bad that the ship crashed. Obi-Wan Kenobi supposed he should be used to that sort of thing by now. Anakin, for all his brilliance, seemed to be unable to parlay his impressive piloting abilities into safe landings. "Excellent work, Anakin," Obi-Wan commended sarcastically, pulling himself out of the wreckage. "That's another billion credits you've wasted."
Anakin coughed into his sleeve and scowled at him. "Hey, we're alive," he countered. "That oughta count for something."
Obi-Wan had to admit, he had a point. But still, he wasn't about to let such a ripe opportunity slip by. "Yes, we're alive," he replied. "But honestly, you say you love machines and yet you keep destroying them. Such an odd way to show affection." He smirked. "I suppose I should count myself lucky you don't like me that much."
Anakin's face contorted. "Don't say that, Master!" he exclaimed. The title was now superfluous, Anakin with a Padawan of his own, now, but still he used it. "I like you plenty!" His eyes twinkled. "So you might want to watch your back."
Obi-Wan laughed, and clapped Anakin on the back. "Well," he said, looking out over the prairie. "We'd best be off if we're to complete this mission in any semblance of timeliness."
"Timeliness is overrated," Anakin announced, shouldering their supply pack and starting out through the high grasses.
Chuckling, Obi-Wan followed him, letting Anakin take the lead, this time. He was truly coming into his own as a Knight, as a leader both in the Order and on the battlefield. There were still times when Obi-Wan wished his former apprentice would be more balanced in his emotions, would not take things so personally to heart, would give over to the will of the Force instead of trying to fix things he had no hope of repairing. But those things were what made him Anakin, Obi-Wan had determined, and if eleven years of training couldn't change him, nothing could.
"Hurry up, Master!" Anakin called over his shoulder. "Dooku's not gonna wait for you!"
Shaking his head, Obi-Wan jogged to catch up.
The ambush was sudden. Obi-Wan sensed it a split-second too late, and suddenly 'droids were everywhere. Anakin's lightsaber flew out, and he began to fight, Obi-Wan close behind. Even with all of their skill, there were too many.
"Ventress!" Anakin cried out, pointing towards a lithe figure running through the grass, his lightsaber still whirling, deflecting what Obi-Wan quickly determined were stun bolts. Regardless, he would much rather not be shot at all, stun bolt or no.
Ventress didn't seem to be interested in engaging them, which Obi-Wan found curious. He didn't have time to dwell on it, though, because a stun bolt got past his defenses, and he fell. Through blurred vision, he saw Anakin running to him, but the boy's distraction proved his own undoing. Anakin gave a strangled cry and disappeared into the tall grass. Obi-Wan closed his eyes, and gave himself over to the will of the Force.
The sound of dripping water woke him up. Obi-Wan opened his eyes, wincing at the pounding headache that accompanied the movement. He took stock of the situation; chained to the wall by a thick collar around his neck, which also seemed to serve as a Force-suppressant. Lightsaber gone, but no surprise there. Lingering discomfort from the stun bolt, soreness in his limbs that indicated he'd been asleep for some time. All in all, he'd expected worse, especially with Ventress.
Deciding he was in one piece, he looked around. The walls were bare rock; he was underground. A dim light filtered in through a filthy window in the door to the cell, the floor was stone. A pit in the corner served as latrine, if the smell was any indication. Rivulets of water ran down the rock face, dripping onto the floor in steady rhythm.
Across the room, Anakin began to stir. Chained like Obi-Wan, only Anakin's wrists and ankles were bound as well; Obi-Wan couldn't help thinking the boy must have put up a fight. A welt on the side of Anakin's head confirmed the suspicion. "Well, we're alive," Anakin commented, pulling himself into a sitting position and gently pressing on his wound.
"So it would seem," Obi-Wan agreed, readjusting himself on the floor into a cross-legged position. "I must admit, I'm a little wary."
Anakin nodded. "Yeah. I'd've expected Ventress to have us drawn and quartered already," he added. "We're relatively unscathed, and, uh, that kinda makes me nervous." He pulled experimentally on the chains. "Not charged," he commented. "Nice change not to be electrocuted every time we move."
"Hmm," Obi-Wan replied, standing. The chain around his neck allowed him to stand, but he wasn't able to walk to the other side of the room. It stopped him just short of being within an arm's length of Anakin, whose chains were much shorter and thus meeting in the middle was out of the question. "Well, I suggest we use this time to work out an escape plan."
Anakin grinned. "Way ahead of you, Master," he replied, grabbing his right gauntlet in his teeth and tearing it half off. Working carefully with his flesh hand, he drew a small, thin length of metal from within the inner workings of the mechno, brandishing it in triumph. "I knew that'd come in handy," he said with a grin.
"Did you insert a lock pick into your arm?" Obi-Wan asked, impressed, but not surprised, by Anakin's ingenuity.
Anakin nodded, bent over his ankle restraints. "Uh huh," he said, tongue between his teeth as he worked. "I figured it would be worth the trouble." He made a noise of success as the ankle cuffs popped off and he began working on the wrist restraints.
"Anakin..." Though lacking the Force, obi-Wan's hearing was still keen. Anakin was so involved in his task that he'd missed it; footsteps. "Anakin, stop," Obi-Wan hissed as the light outside the cell was blocked and the door began to open.
Anakin freed himself of the wrist restraints just as Ventress stormed into the room. "Clever boy," she sneered at Anakin, lifting him up with the Force and letting him dangle in the air.
Obi-Wan stood, moving as close to her as he could. "Let him go, Asajj," he said, lilting. "You know he's not the one you want." Anakin was choking, scrabbling at his throat.
Ventress turned to him. "No," she said. "But it doesn't matter what I want right now, Kenobi. I'll get it eventually." She extended a hand, and Anakin flew across the room, as far as the chain around his neck would allow, and fell into a heap on the stone floor.
Obi-Wan schooled his expression into passivity. He knew Ventress enjoyed trying to get a rise out of him, and he would not take her bait. "You can't win, Asajj," he said, calmly, and knew it to be true. Even without the Force, he was still a Jedi.
She returned his gaze, her cold eyes burrowing into him, probing. "Oh, so naive, Kenobi." She gestured, and a pair of super battle 'droids entered the cell. "You really think this has anything to do with me."
The 'droids lifted Anakin to his feet and re-chained him to the wall, back to Obi-Wan. "Whatever you're planning, just know it will never work," Obi-Wan informed her. He resisted the urge to swallow, to show apprehension. He could sense somewhere deep in his subconscious that she was going to test him, would test him and use Anakin to do it. She'd done it before, on Rattatak, but that had been different. Anakin had been safe, then, and he'd known that.
She wanted to see if she could break them, and Obi-Wan was not going to give her the pleasure of seeing him squirm. Ventress gave him a smirk. "We'll see," she said.
Obi-Wan forced himself to stand still, to remain aloof, as Ventress withdrew a cruel-looking whip, braided with sharp razor wire, from her robes. She ghosted the metal-studded leather over Anakin's back, and his muscles quivered. "Feel familiar, slave?" she hissed, and Anakin bucked, kicked at the wall, pulled at the chains.
Obi-Wan wanted to tell Anakin to remain calm, to ignore her taunts. But opening his mouth would show her she'd gotten under his skin, and he would not allow her the pleasure of victory so soon. The battle 'droids held Anakin's arms above his head, and Ventress lashed out with the whip, the tip cracking as it hit Anakin across the back, slicing open his tunic and leaving a welt of blood.
Anakin grunted, but did not cry out. Obi-Wan hadn't expected him to; the boy was strong, and knew as well as Obi-Wan what was happening. Ventress turned to Obi-Wan as if to gauge his reaction. Obi-Wan remained stoic, took a deep breath to slow his heart rate. Frowning at his lack of response, Ventress snapped the whip again, crossing the first wound in a bloody "X" across Anakin's back. The boy jerked and let out a soft sigh, but his control was remarkable.
Obi-Wan wanted to close his eyes and turn away as Ventress snapped the whip again and again across Anakin's back. He didn't, kept watching, meeting her eyes every so often, which seemed to only further enrage her. Finally, she waved her hand and the chains uncoiled from Anakin's ankles, and the 'droids let go of his arms. Obi-Wan was surprised when Anakin remained standing, even turned to face his assailant. "Is that the best you've got?" he rasped, eyes cloudy with pain.
With a feral snarl, Ventress slammed him against the wall with the Force and stormed out of the cell. Anakin slid down the wall, leaving bloody trails down the stone. "She's... always so... pleasant," he managed.
"It's only going to get worse," Obi-Wan said softly, lowering himself to the floor. He wished he could reach Anakin, inspect his wounds, just touch him and reassure him. Instead, he had to content himself with observing from a distance.
Anakin nodded, wincing as he shifted. "I figured," he said, and looked up at Obi-Wan. "Don't worry, Master. I can handle whatever she's got planned." His voice was full of bravado, but he was shaking. "Just, whatever happens to me, don't worry." He paused. "Y'know, don't be me." Because they both knew if their roles had been reversed a moment ago, Anakin's inability to remain still in the face of a friend being tortured may have cost them both their lives.
"It's not my desire that she hurt you," Obi-Wan protested. He didn't want Anakin to think him heartless, to think he hadn't ached inside to watch the blood flow down his friend's back, to hear his pained gasps.
Anakin tilted his head back against the stones and closed his eyes. "I know," he said. "Don't let her get to you. That's what this is about, you know. Getting to you. Don't let her. I can take care of myself."
Obi-Wan knew Anakin was more than capable of taking care of himself, but he worried that even Anakin's remarkable resourcefulness would not be enough for what lay in store for them.
They were left alone for the night, and spent the time trying to devise an escape. Anakin's lock pick had been knocked out of both of their reaches, which made Obi-Wan feel an uncharacteristic surge of frustration. "Maybe I shoulda put two in," Anakin muttered, poking at his arm. "I could probably use another part from it..."
"Not yet," Obi-Wan said, holding up a hand. "Better it be fully functional for the time being." If he could find another way to get out, he'd need Anakin's physical strength to help them escape. "How's your back?"
Anakin shifted and frowned slightly. "Hurts," he admitted. "I kind of expected worse, though." He shrugged. "I'll live."
Stroking his beard, Obi-Wan leaned up against the wall. "I get the feeling 'worse' is on its way," he mused.
"Let it come," Anakin replied sharply. "That harpy's not going to win." He gave Obi-Wan a mild smirk. "We'll get out of here."
Obi-Wan nodded, but he wasn't feeling so confident at the moment. He knew it was a weakness, to let himself get discouraged, knew that they had gotten out of tighter predicaments. But Ventress had something against him, personally, and he knew the longer they stayed, the more danger she posed. "I'm going to meditate," he said, finally. "I suggest you get some rest."
"Oh, sure," Anakin grunted as he worked to find a comfortable position. "I love sleeping on rocks. I asked Master Yoda if I could move into that cave in the Room of a Thousand fountains, but he looked at me like I was crazy."
"Sleep, Anakin," Obi-Wan replied with a light chuckle.
Ventress returned with the sun. Obi-Wan pulled himself from his meditation - he hadn't been able to get far with it, without the Force, but he had tried anyway - and stood. Anakin remained where he was, sitting, looking defiant. "Sleep well, Kenobi?" Ventress asked, sing-song.
"The accommodations are lacking," Obi-Wan replied coolly.
"Yeah," Anakin added. "I wanna talk to your manager." Obi-Wan shot him a look, but Anakin merely glared at the back of Ventress' head.
Ventress turned to Anakin. "Oh, Skywalker," she said with a sighing laugh. "We'll see if your cleverness lasts through today." Obi-Wan frowned as again the super battle 'droids pulled Anakin to his feet and held him still, facing Obi-Wan. This time, though, instead of the whip, Ventress pulled out an ornate knife. She flicked the edge with a fingertip, sucking the droplet of blood it produced with purposeful sensuality. Obi-Wan looked up at Anakin, whose expression was blank.
Years ago, Anakin had admitted to him that, before his Force powers had truly manifested in a way he could control, he would 'phase out' whenever the slave owners would beat him. At first, Obi-Wan had thought he had meant the Force skill of disappearing, but now he realized that Anakin had the ability to withdraw, at least on the surface, in the face of physical pain. He hoped the skill would hold out. Ventress ran a hand down Anakin's face, tracing the burn scar along his eye - the one she'd given him. With a glance at Obi-Wan, she raked the knife down the scar, blood spilling from forehead to cheek. Anakin winced, but otherwise did not respond.
She moved downward, pressing the knife into Anakin's chest, carving crude designs in his tan flesh. Anakin flinched, and Obi-Wan could tell even his well-honed skills were being tested. It was all Obi-Wan could do not to cry out himself. Ventress continued her twisted artwork, and Anakin began to whimper, biting his lip hard enough to draw blood, trying to keep himself from reacting. Ventess punctuated her work with a sharp stab to Anakin's shoulder, and he gasped.
Obi-Wan covered his mouth with his hand, but struggled not to make any further movements. He would not allow her the satisfaction, and he knew Anakin wouldn't either. He only hoped Anakin would forgive him.
When Ventress let him down this time, Anakin sagged against the wall, breathing hard, blood flowing down his chest and stomach. "Nice try, Ventress," he gasped, clutching his abdomen. Ventress gave a cry of fury, and kicked Anakin in the jaw, sending him sprawling. With a flick of her wrist, the 'droids followed her out of the cell.
"Anakin!" Obi-Wan exclaimed as soon as she was gone. "Are you alright?" He cursed his lack of the Force, the short reach of the chains.
Anakin rolled onto his back and moaned. "Don't worry 'bout me," he offered. "Nothing a long bath isn't gonna cure." He laughed, hollowly. "I can't wait to get outta here."
"You and me both," Obi-Wan sighed.
He was beginning to believe the Force wasn't going to protect them. The daily torment at Ventress' hands continued, and soon Anakin could hardly stand, his flesh ripped and hanging in shreds along with his tunic and pants. By the fourth day, infection had begun to set in, the wounds raw and red and oozing. They smelled septic, rancid.
The Force had always been a source of comfort for Obi-Wan, but there was no comfort to find. He'd always believed that, even without being able to grasp its power himself, the Force would always find a way to keep him safe, to make sure he knew the place he held in the galaxy. Had, after meeting Anakin, always thought the Force had a soft spot for his apprentice, if the Force had such anthropomorphic qualities. But he was beginning to no longer believe it. Even when being held by Ventress on Rattatak, Obi-Wan had been comforted by the fact Anakin was safe, that the Force would guide him. And sure enough, Anakin had come for him.
Now, though, Anakin wouldn't be rescuing anybody, and Obi-Wan felt helpless to intervene. "Anakin," Obi-Wan prodded once Ventress had left, taking her razor whip with her.
Anakin's eyelids fluttered. He'd given up trying to escape from the pain, unable to keep screams from ripping from his throat at the touch of Ventress' weapons. "Master..."
"Anakin, it will be alright," Obi-Wan insisted, though he had no idea how it possibly could be. The Force had abandoned them to die. He'd never felt more empty.
"Good thing chicks dig scars," Anakin quipped hoarsely, but the energy it took him was monumental, and he passed out soon after, leaving Obi-Wan alone with his thoughts.
She began to pull out Anakin's fingernails. Obi-Wan turned away as Anakin screamed, and every time he screamed, she shoved the knife against his skin harder. "Your pretty face is next, I think," she said, standing, scowling at the blood on her skirt, as if Anakin had consciously decided to bleed all over her.
When she left, Anakin's moans turned to pained, choked sobs. "Anakin," Obi-Wan said, moving as close to him as the chains would allowed. "Anakin, we'll get out of here."
Anakin looked at him with glazed eyes. "My arm," he said, holding out his mechno. In a flash, Obi-Wan knew what he intended. Reaching as far as he could, Obi-Wan was able to grasp the metal fingers. Anakin braced himself against the wall and closed his eyes, and Obi-Wan pulled. The mechno came off with a sickening tear of flesh, and Obi-Wan staggered backward. Anakin sagged against the wall, spent.
Obi-Wan knew he had to work quickly; Ventress had taken to performing several sessions a day, and she could return at any time. He wasn't anywhere near as good with machines as Anakin, but he could fashion a tool out of a piece of metal as well as anyone. After what seemed like an hour of twisting and prodding and maneuvering, he had a working pick.
The Force flooding through him again was like a breath of fresh air, but he still shyed away, distrustful, sure that any moment Ventress would be back, and this time, she might have more in mind than flesh wounds. He rushed to Anakin's side, propping him up in his lap. The young man's flesh was in tatters, and Obi-Wan had to be careful not to tear strips off of him by accident. He had a fever, and was shaking from shock and blood loss. "Here," Obi-Wan breathed, undoing Anakin's collar.
Anakin opened his eyes, and even smiled. "Never thought I'd feel that again," he coughed, and darted his gaze to the door. "She's coming back," he said, urgently. "I hope you have a plan."
Obi-Wan nodded, and returned to his side of the cell, put the collar back around his neck, loosely, unfastened. He could still harness the Force. Ventress strode in, her razor whip trailing behind her. Before the door could close all the way, Obi-Wan called the lightsabers at Ventress' waist to his hands. She shrieked in fury, and Obi-Wan ignited the 'sabers. "I'm so sorry to cut this short, my darling," he said, moving back to Anakin and easing him to his feet, "but our date has officially come to a close."
With Anakin leaning heavily on his shoulder, Obi-Wan Force-pushed Ventress against the far wall, and slammed the cell door, using one of the lightsabers to fuse the locking mechanism. They'd be safe, for now.
"Wow... Master," Anakin gasped, his energy already spent. He sagged against Obi-Wan, letting out a low moan.
"I'm going to go find a means of communication," Obi-Wan said, leading Anakin down the hallway. Reaching out with the Force, he could sense a maintenance closet out of the way. Though the Force was guiding him now, he couldn't help the gnawing sense of frustration that it would turn on him again, before he could get Anakin to safety. "Stay here," he said, settling Anakin on the floor.
Anakin gave him a sardonic look. "Oh... I thought I'd just... take a stroll..." He closed his eyes. "I'll... be here... Master." Obi-Wan left one of Ventress' lightsabers by Anakin's side, and closed the door.
Obi-Wan was reluctant to leave him, but knew he'd move faster on his own. He stole down the corridors, ducking around corners, reaching out with his senses and the Force, though he tried to use the Force as little as possible, still not trusting that it wouldn't turn against him, lead Ventress back to him, and to Anakin.
The communications hub took some hacking in order to transmit a Republic distress signal, and by the time Mace Windu answered, Obi-Wan was almost ready to give up. Was this what Ventress did to him? Destroy his patience, shatter his faith? "Master, Anakin and I were captured by Ventress. We've escaped, but are still in the compound. Anakin's been badly injured, we'll need a medivac." He spoke quickly, looking over his shoulder.
Windu's voice was comforting. "We'll have ships to your position within the hour. Can you hold this connection open?"
Obi-Wan shook his head. "No, Master. I'm afraid it's a Separatist comm hub, and I can't leave Anakin for much longer." He frowned. "He's lost a lot of blood."
Windu nodded his understanding. "That's fine. We'll find you." Obi-Wan waited as long as he dared, and then he cut the connection and headed back to Anakin.
When he arrived, Anakin's breathing was shallow, his face pale, eyes closed. "Anakin?" Obi-Wan asked, putting a hand on his shoulder, trying to avoid the worst of the wounds, realizing it was futile. "Anakin, Master Windu is on his way, we'll be going home soon."
Anakin's lips parted; he moaned, but did not open his eyes. Obi-Wan brushed his hair out of his eyes, gently traced the cut along his eye. The cut was swollen, angry red. Much, Obi-Wan realized, like the rest of him. "Just hold on a little longer, Anakin," Obi-Wan urged, listening to Anakin's harsh breathing and hoping the Force would stay with them.
Mace Windu was always fairly unflappable, but Obi-Wan could tell Anakin's condition had surprised him. Truth be told, back in the sterile confines of the Indomitable's medbay, the reality was horrifying. They couldn't submerge him in bacta until he'd been given blood transfusions, and in the meantime, he writhed on the bed, leaking blood through the bandages.
"This is my fault," Obi-Wan admitted. It was not self-depreciating, it was merely truthful. It was his fault; if he'd been less emotionally detached, if he had been more willing to fight, they would have gotten out of there sooner. If their roles had been reversed, Anakin would have freed them both before Obi-Wan could have come to serious harm.
Windu put a hand on his shoulder. "It's not your fault, Obi-Wan," he said. "The Force guided you, and..."
Obi-Wan walked away. He didn't want to hear about the will of the Force right now, he wanted to go back and make it so he didn't have to worry about Anakin's survival hinging on the will of the Force. He went back to Anakin's bedside, used the Force to send pulses of healing to his former apprentice. The Force, at least could provide that.
"Don't... don't be angry, Master," Anakin said, slurred from the painkillers, reaching out with his flesh hand and grasping Obi-Wan's. "I can tell... something's wrong. You feel different."
Obi-Wan shook his head. "Nothing's wrong," he said. "Just rest."
Anakin's eyes fluttered closed. "The Force protected us," he said, "And you protected me."
Obi-Wan swallowed as Anakin fell asleep. Sometimes his young friend did show some wisdom. Not often, but when he did, it was usually something Obi-Wan couldn't have thought of on his own. Anakin was merely grateful to be alive; throughout it all, he hadn't lost his faith that the Force would guide them through, and it had. Not in the way Obi-Wan would have liked, but it protected them nonetheless, and he found he could no longer hold on to his frustration.
"Thanks for letting me bleed all over you," Anakin said, a week later, propped up in bed. His color was returning, and the wounds had healed; some scars would remain, but it was a far cry from the flayed, fleshless mess he'd been only a few days prior. "I think I threw up a couple times too. Sorry about that."
"You did," Obi-Wan replied with an exaggerated grimace. "But all is forgiven. You did well, Anakin."
Anakin twitched the fingers of his new mechno against the white sheets. "We're alive," he said. "That's what matters."
Obi-Wan nodded, reached out with the Force to adjust his friend's pillows. "Yes it is," he said, squeezing Anakin's hand. "Try and stay that way."
Anakin nodded, closed his eyes, and settled into Obi-Wan's touch. Obi-Wan stayed for a long while, just feeling Anakin's gentle breathing, and the Force flowing between them.