Well, I'm not really sure what I feel about this one. Though it does feel like I managed to keep Anakin and Obi-Wan in character- I wouldn't be posting if I didn't; their utterly complicated, amazingly deep characteristics is what we love about them, after all- I'm not all that certain of it.
For those who've seen the animated series of the Clone Wars, this one-shot is based loosely on the episodes "Blue Shadow Virus" and "Mystery of a Thousand Moons." [S01E17-18]. I say 'loosely' because the episodes are not what gave me the idea; it just felt right, using their story-line as background.
Anyway- I really do hope someone enjoys it :)
Disclaimer: As sad as it is, I do not own the downright brilliant world of Star Wars. I'm nowhere near talented enough for that. It all belongs to the man we've all come to love- George Lucas.
"Have you seen Ahsoka lately?"
Obi-Wan glanced up from the morning-news section he'd been reading on his datapad. After a moment of considering his former padawan- taking in the slightly distressed look on his features, as well as the way it seemed to pull at his scar, ever a reminder of Asajj Ventress- he replied with a quiet, "Yesterday morning, if it's any help."
Anakin sighed- a tired, frustrated sound that seemed somewhat foreign on his lips- and ran a hand over his face. "No, it isn't." Stepping over the threshold, he leaned against the door and let his head drop backwards against it, settling on staring at the wall across from him.
Absently placing the datapad on the mattress next to him, Obi-Wan crossed his arms over his chest and fixed his eyes on Anakin's face. The tightness in it, combined with the almost imperceptible locking of his jaw and- oh, here he bit his lower lip in a way that Obi-Wan had long since learned to recognize meant Anakin felt guilty about something- didn't bode well with a pleasant continuation of Obi-Wan's morning. Nor, for that matter, did the jumble of emotions he could feel in the Force.
None of that mattered, of course. Keeping the surge of uneasiness and concern off his voice- that he was undeniably good at- Obi-Wan asked gently, "What is it, Anakin?"
A tilting of his former padawan's head, followed by a brief eye-to-eye contact before Anakin hastily looked away, confirmed Obi-Wan's suspicion. Oh, yes. Most definitely guilt.
"I- we-" Anakin broke off, sighing again in surrender. "We had a fight."
Ah. "I see." Granted, masters and padawans had a tendency to disagree- tendency being a kind word for Anakin and Obi-Wan themselves, back in the time before the breaking of the Clone Wars and Anakin's knighting (had that really been just a year before?)- And while Anakin and Ahsoka were no exception, Anakin never seemed quite so… lost, after those kinds of arguments. Normally, Obi-Wan had to admit his former padawan was right in chastising Ahsoka- she was a good girl, showing an unusual amount of promise, but she was young, thrust into apprenticeship just as she'd been into war- but, still, just as he'd never voice his thoughts out loud- it wasn't his place- Ahsoka rarely took the reprimanding talks well.
Yes, something here didn't seem quite right. Anakin had every right to correct Ahsoka- it was his job to help her become the best Jedi she could possibly be, and he was a very good teacher, regardless of his unwillingness to become one- and guilt… meant this particular fight wasn't entirely the little Togruta's fault.
Eventually, as Obi-Wan knew he would- that was precisely why he'd simply kept quiet- Anakin spoke up again. "I can't find her. She's blocked our bond- I can't even feel her- and I have no idea where she is-" the words seemed to battle each other in their haste to slip off his tongue- "I've looked throughout the entire temple- even the Archives- and she's not- she's nowhere, and I'm about to go nuts, and why would she block our bond? She knows I hate it when she does that-"
In any other similar situation, Obi-Wan would have found quite the amount of amusement; in this one, though, he couldn't bring himself to feel one bit of that. As much as he sometimes… eh, took a certain amount of pleasure in seeing his former padawan go through what he'd made Obi-Wan go through-payback could be just a tiny tad sweet- he could never enjoy it when Anakin experienced this side of being a master. The memory was still too fresh in his own mind- the worry that had seemed to radiate from every fiber of his being whenever Anakin had somehow managed to get himself into a completely unnecessary, utterly life-threatening situation time after time. Seeing something similar on Anakin's face, even if in all probability Ahsoka's life wasn't in any danger… frankly, he found himself just wanting to make it better.
Unfortunately, though, Obi-Wan wasn't sure he could. All in all, it wasn't his place- Anakin was Ahsoka's master.
And yet, he couldn't bring himself to turn his back on Anakin, either. On those rare cases his former padawan actually asked for help- even if not verbally- he just couldn't. Not on other cases, either. Not when the thought of how easier things could have been if he could sometimes ask Qui-Gon for advice back when Anakin was his padawan still tore something in him whenever he thought of it.
And so he pushed himself to his feet, allowing his expression to soften as he walked the few steps separating them and halted in front of his former padawan, each of his hands now gripping the other's elbow. "Anakin."
The three syllables cut off the somewhat desperate stream of words, leaving a vulnerable expression in its stead that was so… unlike Anakin that it made something in Obi-Wan's guts twist rather unpleasantly.
Anakin inhaled deeply, then let it go and finally caught his former master's eyes without looking away. "What am I supposed to do here?" he asked helplessly, a touch of weariness beginning to creep into his voice. "Go look for her all through Coruscant? Wait for her to come to me? What-"
And he did, because Anakin had always reacted to kindness far better than he had for reprimands, and in all likelihood he'd recognized that in Obi-Wan's tone. He did stop, and he just looked at him, wordlessly looking for advice from someone with enough experience whom he trusted to see him like that.
And Obi-Wan would do his best to help, regardless of whether or not it was his place. Because… just because. "First of all- what exactly happened?"
Just like that, Anakin looked away. Again. Guilt would do that. He said nothing for a few moments; then- "I don't want to talk about it."
Obi-Wan sighed. Of course he didn't. "I cannot help you if you don't tell me what precisely this is all about. The answer to your question depends on the situation."
Anakin pushed himself off the door then, striding into the middle of the room- Obi-Wan's eyes followed him as he leaned his shoulder against the door, positioning himself almost exactly as Anakin had up until a few seconds before- and turned around, his hands flying to from his sides in a frustrated gesture. "I- what was I supposed to do?"
Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow at him. "I do hope you're not expecting me to answer that, Anakin."
His former padawan managed to roll his eyes at him, though the motion lacked its usual sarcastic edge. "You're already big help, Master."
Ignoring that last sentence, Obi-Wan repeated, "What happened?"
Anakin just stared at him for a few seconds. And yet, as Obi-Wan looked, he noticed his former padawan's eyes weren't precisely focused. It was rather as if they were fixed on something that wasn't in the here and now, but not very far back, either- somewhere in between.
And that… that could be dangerous.
"You remember our last mission on Naboo?"
As if he could forget. "Of course."
Anakin's eyes caught his then, the pure blue in them burning with an odd sort of intensity- but one that wasn't altogether a stranger with its current owner. That was simply who Anakin was- intense in everything, from his inability to sit still for a second to his emotions- he felt so strongly, so keenly- and it was, from time to time, a bit frightening, because Obi-Wan didn't always know how to deal with it. He'd never admit it- he barely did so to himself- but it was one of the main reasons why he loved the other man like his own flesh and blood. Anakin cared- he cared so much- and that caring had defined who he was; and how could Obi-Wan not love a ten-years-old boy the moment said boy had looked up at him with this big, bright smile that stretched his childish features into something innocent- even after years of slavery, he still had innocence in him, and there was something beautiful in that- and so much trust in his eyes, as if it weren't even in question that Obi-Wan could make everything wrong in the galaxy right?
But that wasn't the time for this kind of thoughts, especially since Anakin had started speaking again. "We were sparring today, and- I don't even know what brought it on- when we were taking a small break, Ahsoka made this off comment about being sure she'd die in that facility. And then- then she just said that was the kind of way she'd like to become one with the Force." He took a deep breath, eyes once again glazed-over, and Obi-Wan frowned at the sight; Anakin carried on, voice thick with shimmering anger. "Her words, Master, were- 'Not from a stray blaster shot, Skyguy-' Force, she managed to put Skyguy in there- 'or as a bargaining tool for Dooku, but for something good, like stopping a plague that could otherwise mean the death of countless of people.' And then she babbled something about it being for a good purpose with good people, and-"
"You snapped," Obi-Wan finished softly.
And when his eyes once again focused on his former master, his shoulders were trembling with- something; the Force hummed with it as well, and the feeling was disorienting- his eyes, in comparison, were filled with an emotion very like sadness. "Yes," he murmured. "I did." He took a deep breath, running a hand over his face. "Force, I did."
Once again, Obi-Wan felt as if someone had reached inside his chest and squeezed.
Still, he wasn't "the Negotiator" for nothing. He wasn't "Master Kenobi" for nothing, either. He hadn't raise Anakin from the age of nine without learning to deal with this onslaught of emotions, preventing it from affecting him more than it should.
Or, at the very least, showing how much it affected him.
He had never been the master to teach Anakin about attachment.
He couldn't help the sigh that escaped his lips, though. "Oh, Anakin." Because, really, what else could he say? Anakin obviously knew he shouldn't have done what he did. He clearly knew what Ahsoka had said was right, was exactly what a Jedi should believe. Jedi were, ultimately, fighting for good and justice. They were keepers of the peace… even if, for now, fighting for peace and good meant being generals and commanding a bloody war, sending countless of men to their death and knowing each day could bring your own.
Obi-Wan could see in his former padawan's eyes that he knew he'd been wrong. He knew he'd made a mistake. Obi-Wan was well aware of where that mistake had originated from, but he found that he couldn't quite make himself utter the reprimand. The thought of losing one's padawan… while Obi-Wan believed he would be able to cope it if the unthinkable happened, the mere thought of it still felt like someone had stabbed a lightsaber through his guts. He'd be able to deal with Anakin joining the Force, but it would not be easy. Most likely, it'd be agony.
Besides, Anakin had all the knowledge in his head. He did. Putting it to use, though- that was simply easier said than done.
The point was another thing entirely. It was the fact that even though Obi-Wan had a nagging suspicion Anakin would most likely never be able to let go of attachment, and even though Obi-Wan wanted to change that- attachment was not only forbidden, but it could also be pure pain, pain a Jedi should be able to avoid- chastising him right now would do the very opposite of any good… and so, Obi-Wan would not chastise. Contrary to what his former padawan clearly believed, he did not like reprimanding.
Once again, he crossed the space separating the two of them and halted just in from of his former padawan, reaching out and lightly gripping both his shoulders. "Anakin. Look at me."
Blue eyes caught his, and Obi-Wan was more than a little relieved to see they didn't hold as much desperation as he'd previously thought. "Take a deep breath."
Something glimmered in Anakin's eyes, but he did. "I don't see how this is any-" he started muttering, but was cut off as Obi-Wan squeezed his shoulders and said, "For once, Anakin, just shut up and listen to me."
Anakin's eyes widened in surprise, but he closed his mouth. Thank the Force for small miracles. "Now, calm down. You know Ahsoka. She may be reckless and impulsive, but she is most definitely not the irresponsible padawan that you were-"
"-and so she wouldn't throw herself into mortal danger because of a fight with her master. If she's not at the Temple- and it is possible that you missed her, Anakin; the Temple is, as you're aware, quite large- she will come back. And she will find you-"
"How can you be so sure of that?" Anakin, Mr. Stubborn.
Obi-Wan would not roll his eyes. He would not. "Because I think with my brain, while you do so with your heart. Now, would you please be so kind as to stop interrupting me?"
Anakin, as expected, had no problem whatsoever with the slightly childish gesture of rolling one's eyes. Frankly, Obi-Wan allowed himself to do it as well. Occasionally. From time to time. Sometimes. "I'll think about you."
"I appreciate that," Obi-Wan said dryly. "Now, even if Ahsoka doesn't actively go and look for you, she will at least allow the bond to help you track her. She will be fine, Anakin. You will be fine. Calm yourself. Release your emotions to the Force. Actually plan on how you want to say 'sorry' instead of plain throwing yourself into it."
Anakin opened his mouth- and then, abruptly, closed it.
And then- just like that- he calmed down.
Before Obi-Wan could allow himself the luxury of gaping, though, his former padawan leaned forward, resting his forehead on the crook between his former master's neck and shoulder, and took another deep breath. "I'm sorry."
Well. That was unexpected. "What about?" Obi-Wan asked hesitantly, one hand slipping around Anakin's shoulders in a half-embrace as if on its own accord. The last time they'd been this close- not taking into account occasional sleeping next to each other on the field, because the proximity of someone you trust implicitly after a day of mayhem, destruction and death was sometimes one of the only means of keeping their sanity- was when Anakin had been a boy. Back then, whenever he'd suffered from a nightmare, he'd come and snuggle against Obi-Wan. He'd slip under the blanket and press himself into Obi-Wan's chest, clutching his new master's night tunic. And Obi-Wan- he'd slip a hand around him- just like now- and hold him close, wordlessly telling his young charge he'd always be there, and hoping he'd understand, because saying it out loud… Obi-Wan had never been very good at that. He doubted he ever would be.
"You have enough on your mind as it is," Anakin was muttering, "and I shouldn't have thrown myself on you- Ahsoka is my padawan, this is my problem-"
Oh, Anakin. You never learn, do you? "Stop it, Anakin. Just stop. You know you can always come to me. So, please, don't insult me by apologizing."
Anakin pressed his forehead a bit harder against Obi-Wan's shoulder. "Sorry, Master."
And that- that brought on a smile. How could it not? Anakin had never been good at listening. "Nice to know some things do never change."
A small chuckle was the only response that reached Obi-Wan's ears. He turned his head a bit to the side, tucking his chin on top of Anakin's head, and they stood like that, silent, for a few moments. The quiet wasn't awkward- it was comforting. They were home- after months on the front lines, they were home- and this- whatever it was- meant that some things, indeed, never changed; one of them being that some people would always be there for you, even for small things such as an argument gone wide off with your padawan- an argument that shouldn't have affected you like it did.
"Is this how you felt every time we had a… eh, argument?"
Obi-Wan started. "What?"
"Don't make me repeat that, Master," Anakin grumbled into his shoulder. "This is annoyingly hard enough as it is."
It took him a few short moments, but eventually he figured it out. This time, Obi-Wan did allow himself a small roll of his eyes. Anakin wasn't watching, after all. "I take it this is your way of apologizing for my current mental state?"
"Your current mental state?" Anakin repeated incredulously, still not moving. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"Do you honestly need for me to spell it out for you?"
Of course. "Well then, I don't particularly wish to. Make your own conclusions."
Obi-Wan could almost feel Anakin grinning. "Fine. I will."
Blast. "Why don't I like the sound of that?"
"I don't feel like spelling it out for you. Make your own conclusions, Master."
"Very funny. Turning my own words against me. Where did you learn that, might we wonder?"
"It's just one of my many natural gifts."
Obi-Wan snorted. "Right. And I'm Master Windu."
Anakin visibly shuddered. "Force, Master, don't say that."
Obi-Wan grinned. A little.
He closed his eyes then, relishing how flat-out good it felt to simply stand, holding Anakin and just... being. Right now- for just a moment- it didn't feel as though a war was tearing the galaxy down, smothering everything that was good in it and making one feel as though it would never end. It didn't feel as if there was anything wrong in the world.
Anything at all.
"You'll be fine, Anakin," he murmured. "You and Ahsoka will be fine. We will be fine, and so will the galaxy."
"I... I think I know that."
"That's all that matters."