Title: Questions Timeline: AotC, missing scene close to the end. Summary: Obi-Wan and Anakin talk. Or not. Disclaimer: Characters and situations owned by George Lucas.



QUESTIONS



The faint, bitter taste of sand and blood was still in Obi-Wan Kenobi's mouth, despite the hours of medical treatment and all the carefully given fluids. The stench of beasts, burning metal and death was still in his nostrils, and he wondered how long it would take for both to vanish. They were on their way to Coruscant now, and the sickbay was full of all the people who had been wounded in the fight. But not overcrowded, and the grief at the thought threatened to overwhelm him.. In the arena, he had believed at least twenty Jedi to have survived. So far, he had only counted fifteen, but he held out hope that some others were transported in one of the other ships.

For me, he thought. They died to rescue me.

At once, he chided himself for the egocentricity of the thought. This was not the time to drown in useless guilt. Besides, rationally he knew very well they had died because of Dooku, Dooku the traitor, who had escaped to cause more death and destruction.

Anger was an equally dangerous emotion, so Obi-Wan decided to do something productive instead. There was Anakin to worry about, and not for the first time since Qui-Gon's death this thought provided paradoxical relief.

He had insisted that Anakin, with his severed arm, should undergo treatment immediately, and had been assured the impromptu operation had been a success. Time, then, to worry about other questions, starting with Anakin's order-defying excursion to Tatooine and ending with the more than obvious fact his childhood adoration of Senator Amidala had grown into a full-sized obsession. Moreover, judging by the way Padme Amidala had embraced and kissed him when she had caught up with them after Dooku's escape, one couldn't exclude the possibility she had started to return his feelings.

He found Anakin in the section that had been set aside for those recuperating from losses of limb. His padawan sat on the ground, in a meditating pose. A tank filled with healing bacta fluid stood in front of him, and for a second Obi-Wan saw Qui-Gon again, sitting just like this, the tall figure somewhat distorted through an energy field, as he awaited what turned out to be his death. Obi-Wan shook his head. This was ridiculous. Qui-Gon and Anakin looked nothing alike, and the situations were not remotely comparable.

Nevertheless, his steps grew more hesitant as he circumvented the tank. There was something unnatural in Anakin's still figure, perhaps because Anakin had never found meditation to be an easy practice and for a long time had to be guided into the necessary peace of mind.

Anakin looked up as Obi-Wan came closer, and to Obi-Wan's surprise, smiled. It was a relieved, boyish smile, Anakin at his best, and despite an increasing list of topics that had to be dealt with, such as the completely brainless solo attack on Dooku when they had practiced fighting as a team often enough, Obi-Wan could not help himself and smiled back. They could have died, either at Dooku's hand or in the arena, and they had survived. They were both alive. Anything else could be fixed. "You're well again," Anakin said, sounding completely glad for the first time since the Council had told them they were to guard Senator Amidala. "Padme told me your wounds had been treated, but I thought she might have just been trying to calm me. She glossed over her own wounds, too."

"I am well," Obi-Wan confirmed and decided not to comment on anything related to Padme Amidala, not just yet. The time for that particular conversation was fast approaching, but considering he had expected to find Anakin in shock and despair at the loss of his arm, her visit must have been of some benefit.

"And you?" he asked. He had avoided looking at Anakin's right arm before, not wanting to make his apprentice self-conscious, but now he did. Anakin was still wearing a medical robe, so the arm was for the most part covered, but the hand resting on his knee shimmered in a diffuse mixture of yellow and orange. Obviously, the medical droids had equipped him with the kind of all-purpose limb which would serve until an individual replacement, modelled on Anakin's other arm, could be made.

Anakin followed his gaze and grew still again.

"Oh", he said. "That."

But when he met Obi-Wan's gaze again, there was still no sign of despair. Perhaps the shock still held, and the reality of his loss had not yet intruded. Besides, presumably they had pumped him full of even stronger painkillers than they had used on Obi-Wan.

"It's not pretty", Anakin said matter-of-factly, "and it doesn't work well yet. But I can fix that." Something in his voice changed, and Obi-Wan, reaching out through the Force to him, was startled and not a little hurt to find himself completely rebuffed.

"I'm good at fixing things", Anakin continued, and the sudden harshness in his tone only contributed to Obi-Wan's confusion. He could not reconcile this withdrawal with his padawan's earlier reaction.

His confusion grew even larger when Anakin bit his lips and asked: "Will you meditate with me, Master? It has been. a while."

That was true. Obi-Wan secretly doubted that they were in the shape for true meditation just now, but he recognized the attempt at reconciliation. Anakin probably wanted to talk with him as much as Obi-Wan felt the need for a conversation himself, but did not quite know how to start. So Obi-Wan nodded and sat down opposite his apprentice. There were so many things they had to discuss, and it was probably best to let Anakin begin.

For a while, they just sat together, silently, and Obi-Wan was surprised how good it felt. Again, the relief of being alive and together overwhelmed him. He could have lost Anakin today, and then the last thing to remember would have been an angry exchange about duty.

"I did not know Dooku had been Qui-Gon's teacher", Anakin said suddenly. "Or Master Yoda's padawan." His face hardened. "The Council, it appears, did not sense his future was clouded, or that he was too dangerous to be trained. Nor did Master Yoda."

It was on the verge of Obi-Wan's tongue to reprimand Anakin for the disrespect towards the Council this remark showed. He opened his mouth, then reconsidered. Disrespectful as it might have been, the observation itself offered an interesting insight, not into the Council, but in his padawan's mind. When the Council had initially rejected Anakin, Obi-Wan had not bothered to wonder what the boy might have thought about this because he had shared the Council's point of view, and had felt hurt Qui-Gon dismissed it. Later, when events and a promise to a dying man had changed his mind, the loss und grief and the attempt to channel them in the way appropriate for a Jedi had not left him any room to wonder, either. It had simply never occurred to Obi-Wan the rejection might have rankled enough for Anakin to nurse a grudge, carry it with him for over a decade. The idea disturbed Obi-Wan. Surely he had taught Anakin better than this.

"The future", he said in his mildest voice, paraphrasing Yoda, "is ever in motion. And though we aim for the best, none of us is perfect or all- powerful, padawan. You should know that."

Anakin flinched, almost imperceptibly, but he flinched.

"I know", he replied in a very low voice. If anything, this worried Obi- Wan further. Only ten days ago, his apprentice would have given a flippant, cocksure reply, and they would have started their usual banter, which had grown ever more edged during the last year as Obi-Wan felt the increasing necessity to cut his moody, rebellious prodigy of a padawan down to size. What, he wondered, had happened to Anakin?

He was about to remark on Anakin's unusual humility to draw the boy out a bit, when Anakin spoke again. His voice sounded very young and unsure.

"If Qui-Gon had been alive, do you think he would have fought against Dooku?"

"He would never have joined him", Obi-Wan returned, a bit more vehement than necessary. It startled him. If he closed his eyes, he could still feel the sensation of static electricity on the skin, could hear Dooku's dark, elegant voice speaking of Qui-Gon with what sounded like affection and grief. It had to be faked, of course. Dooku was a traitor and had no right to claim sharing grief for Qui-Gon, or anything else.

Anakin looked at him, brows drawn together. "That is not what I asked, Master", he said, looking somewhat startled at Obi-Wan's reaction as well. Obi-Wan composed himself. It appeared, he reflected ruefully, that the way Dooku had tried to use Qui-Gon's memory had scared him more than he had previously admitted.

"Yes, Anakin", he said, answering the original question with what he hoped was his usual calm serenity, "Qui-Gon would have fought against Dooku. It would have grieved him to do so, but he would have seen it as his duty as a Jedi knight."

"It is just. it would have been like a son turning against his father, wouldn't it?"

Obi-Wan shook his head. In his mind, he started to look for ways to turn the conversation towards another topic. It had been bad enough to hear Dooku daring to name himself and Qui-Gon in the same breath, but to hear Anakin make inappropriate comparisons was almost worse. Yet he could not bring himself to call for silence. It was the first time since their conversation in Padme Amidala's apartment that they had talked of important matters, and he didn't want to give Anakin cause to withdraw again, not when there were still so many unspoken things between them.

"No. It would have been like a good man bringing an evil man to justice, to prevent him from causing further harm."

Involuntarily, he looked at the inhuman, artificial hand resting on Anakin's right knee. He thought of all the Jedi who had died on Geonosis. They had still not finished cremating all the bodies. And many more would die in the war Dooku had started.

"So you don't believe", Anakin asked, hesitantly, as if treading a way on uncertain, treacherous ground, "Qui-Gon would ever have forgiven him?"

Obi-Wan felt his hold on serenity and calmness slipping away. Again, he withheld his original retort and tried to reply in a manner befitting the teacher he had to be. Think about the question, he told himself. Don't think about your own feelings.

"Compassion is important to us", he finally said. "It was very important to Qui-Gon. As I told you before, it would have grieved him to see Dooku fallen to the Dark Side, as indeed it has grieved Master Yoda and Master Windu, and he would have mourned for the man he thought Dooku had been. But to fall to the Dark Side means to lose your way forever. What Dooku did was murder, Anakin. He is responsible for a massacre, there is no other word for it. He betrayed everything the Jedi stand for. Forgiveness, in this context, would not have been for Qui-Gon to give."

Anakin had been staring at the ground since asking his question. Now he raised his head, and Obi-Wan was shocked by what he thought he saw in the blue, intense gaze. There was horror and self-loathing, anger and hatred, and above all, a deep, bottomless despair. For a moment, all this was there, held out to Obi-Wan like a cup full of broken glass, and then Anakin's face went curiously blank, so completely and utterly that Obi-Wan was uncertain it had not been a trick of the light. But the bright, steady light illuminating the sickbay had not flickered once.

"I understand", Anakin said tonelessly.

"Anakin", Obi-Wan asked carefully, "why all the questions about Dooku? Are there not other things you want to talk about?"

The expression in Anakin's face did not change. It remained blank and immovable, as if somebody had made a mask of his expressive, animated features and forced them to remain frozen. For some reason, the image chilled Obi-Wan beyond words.

"No, Master", Anakin said, looking at him again, steady, without even a flicker of emotion. "There is nothing."