Title: Cost Of Goods Sold
Era: The Clone Wars.
Characters: Anakin, Obi-Wan, Ahsoka.
Summary: Obi-Wan isn't nice anymore.
A/N: Extrapolated from gloomy predictions about violence being done to one *former Duchess, how did that happen, are Duchesses elected on Mandalore?* Satine Kryze, taken from last week's episode of The Clone Wars, "Shades of Reason."
Obi-Wan wasn''t nice anymore.
Anakin could not wrap his head around that fact.
His former and forever Master snapped a tart answer to Snips' reasonable question, and that was the last straw. Anakin had to break the shocked silence in the Skywalker-Tano common room.
"Obi-Wan, a moment?"
"I'm busy." Obi-Wan continued cleaning his blaster, the one that he had obtained from the Quartermaster. K'aki had twirled her tentacles alarmingly when the requisition came in, and the rumor mill that was the Jedi Temple could not disburse the coin of gossip quickly enough. A Master, a Jedi High General, a Councilmember, needed an additional weapon to supplement his integral lightsaber. It simply wasn't done.
"Ahsoka, catch up Rex on our status to go, would you? It'll be oh-four-hundred ship out time again. Tell him I'm sorry he'll miss his beauty sleep."
"Yes, Master." Snips was not herself. Ordinarily, she would have sparked a comeback to him or at least chuckled, but she left their quarters without comment, head high, montrals drooping and steps as sedate as Tera Sinube's.
Time, and more than time to bring up the subject. Anakin poured a finger of Cassandran Choholl into a shot glass, another finger into a snifter. He pondered on how to begin.
Obi-Wan began for him. "Didn't you want me here? If I'm in the way, I can go." He made no move to rise and Anakin could not help but sidle cautiously into negotiating peace with a masterly Negotiator. If for no one else, for Ahsoka. She was feeling her way along adult emotions herself, and needed a better example than her Master could provide. Obi-Wan filled that Grand-Master role. He had to.
"I am wondering why you visited, if it's only to keep polishing that same trigger guard on your DL-44."
"It's dirty." Obi-Wan swabbed the gleaming weapon. "I got it dirty when - "
Anakin knew what Obi-Wan referenced. "About that, Obi-Wan - "
"You can't help. No one can. Don't try it."
"There is no try. I'll do, instead."
"I'm not in the mood, Anakin." Obi-Wan dropped the blaster on the floor. It fell, balanced perfectly on its top.
"Obi-Wan! The safety isn't on!" Anakin flicked a finger and the catch clicked into place. "It could have fired!"
Obi-Wan's jolt of surprise in the Force rocked Anakin. "I could have injured or, or, killed. I'm sorry, Anakin." He ran a desperate hand through his shock of unwashed hair. "I'm outmatched."
"You can't be. We - I - depend on - " He broke off. The truth cut a little too close to the bone.
The Yavin ficus on the kitchen windowsill grew as it had since Qui-Gon's time. Anakin followed as Obi-Wan stalked to the window to play with a delicate green leaf, filled with sap as it stretched to the faraway sun. Outside, the day was clear and warm, a beautiful computer-appointed day. Inside, the endless aching stream of war deaths and grief streamed to the Force, surging, ebbing, never ending. Jedi statisticians tallied and posted averages: one death per day from the Jedi population over the span of the war, down to nine thousand Jedi from ten thousand at the time of Geonosis. Hearts bled, their pleas for respite lost in the Force. Master Yoda would have said that the Force worked in its own good time.
Obi-Wan had not yet reached that time. "Anakin, I can't forget."
A fellow Jedi of Obi-Wan's generation would gently direct him to weep, or scream, or meditate away these feelings of grief and regret for chances lost. Dex would have closed the diner, hugged his old friend and poured drink after drink into him. Anakin, cradling the reality of Padme's love to him, could not do these things. How much would it hurt if he had never known Padme or her love as an adult? If he had loved her, lost her to her duty for years on end and then seen her whisked away to the darkness of death, how much would it hurt? To never have known her and savored the promise of their future ... Anakin clenched his mechno-fist.
"Obi-Wan, I am here for you."
Obi-Wan fondled the ficus, pinching off an lively end shoot. "You have to do this, Qui-Gon said, so that the growth will spread to the bottom of the plant, you see, otherwise it becomes what he called 'leggy' and the growth is all to the tips of the leaves and the plant would not grow into beauty, beauty, beautiful - "
Anakin set the drinks on the kitchen table. Choholl may not have been a such a good idea. If Obi-Wan could loosen up on his own, it would turn out better.
Obi-Wan surrendered to his customary place at their table, folding his hands. "She was beautiful."
"You didn't know her."
"She was remarkable, I could see that. Her lifeview wasn't mine, but - "
"Nor mine. Maybe that's why I treasured it, because I saw it grow when she and I were young, we grew" - he crushed the leaf, the sap coating his fingers - "we grew in that year together and Qui-Gon was the root, he, he - did you know that she had lost both her brothers by the time our year together ended, even the one with the fiancee who carried his child, Korkie - she only told me about Korkie when I saw her again after all those years, he's a bright little chap - "
Anakin watched as his friend clenched himself off inside with control that Anakin had never wanted for himself. Something had to be done. Obi-Wan would implode.
Back to the drinks. "Here, Obi-Wan, join me." He led the way into the common room, taking the drinks with him. He handed the snifter to Obi-Wan. As he had assumed, Obi-Wan swirled the liquid, inhaling the hafa fruit aroma from the rim of the glass. Even now, he was the connoisseur of fine things in life, almost a Jedi conundrum on legs. Anakin thought of all the diplomatic tables his friend had presided over, followed by the inevitable banquet of rich foodstuffs. Obi-Wan couldn't help but be influenced by culture. Hoping that Obi-Wan would make a deprecating remark as was his wont, he downed his drink in one swallow, but the jibe did not happen. Uh-oh.
Obi-Wan smeared the snifter with the sap, drawing an experimental coil of hair or steam or maybe it was the lifeline on Satine's palm, Anakin couldn't be sure. When Obi-Wan slashed a mark through the line, he was sure.
"To absent friends," Anakin said. He filled his glass again, and Obi-Wan lifted his.
Five matched shots later, Anakin blurted, "Cost of goods sold."
"'S whut Watto usedta crab about. Business costs, he'd say. I didn't know what he was talking about. He always had plenty to spend, seemed to me."
Obi-Wan crossed his legs, then the effort was too much and he splayed them again. He leaned back against the sofa cushions, his head bunting against the wall behind. "Why'd you mention it, then?"
"'Cause I found out. Mom used to do hish booksh. She shaid - said - that inventory gets added onto, but that purchases cost something even with good sales to balance them and then you estimate how much your business costs. Then, see, you figure your profit margin from there."
"I'm in the dark."
"Never. Not you. No, Obi-Wan, what she meant was, is it worth it to expend your efforts? Is the profit enough?"
Obi-Wan downed another shot. "You're making a lesson out of a junk dealer's philosophy, how droll. Go on. I dare you." The snifter stuttered to the floor at a wobble of Obi-Wan's hand. "I've had enough." He doubled up his legs and lay his head down on the sofa's arm. He didn't bother to remove his boots, which was completely unlike him. Anakin felt it was desirable to push on with his lesson.
"I can't match you." Anakin had actually stopped at three full shots, slyly pouring the stuff little by little into the ficus pot when he got up to fetch napkins first and then later to turn on the pre-timed oven for his and Ahsoka's dinner. If Obi-Wan would stay for a meal, it would help the situation immensely. Anakin would make him stay.
"Sooooo, Obi-Wan, would you rather not have met her at all? Or would it be better now, this minute, if she were simply another acquaintance from a long-ago mission, like others you've come across again?" Anakin swallowed hard. "Was the cost too high for the profit gained?"
Obi-Wan's breath hitched. "Of course not." He turned over, pressing his face into the sofa's back cushions, one arm draped across his head, the hand flexing its fingers. If Anakin had not spent a few nights himself on that sofa, he would have called it an uncomfortable position, but the truth was, it was not.
Anakin suddenly found the overstuffed chintz easy chair the most welcoming thing in life. Soft as Padme's arms, firm where it needed to be in his support, it whispered to him that a nap was the most logical progression in his lesson. He struggled against the notion. Was Obi-Wan attempting a sleep compulsion through their well-worn bond to make him be quiet? He glanced at the sofa. Obi-Wan's chest rose and fell regularly as he rested, drifting in the Force before napping himself. Obi-Wan's boots moved in that way that he had, just before succumbing to sleep. It looked like he was trying to run. Run into dreams that are better than life, my Master.
When Ahsoka returned, the timer chimed, not awakening either her Master or her Grand-Master. She pulled their cloaks over them, ate her dinner, and awakened to another dawn. To her eyes, it was one of the more memorable ones, and when Obi-Wan turned in his DL-44 that morning, she bowed demurely to him and he bowed back, face still grave. She Sensed that he had changed, and was now ready to change back. For a Jedi, this was possible.