Obi-Wan comes to see Anakin in the Healer's Ward after he loses his arm. Title comes from Linkin Park's "Numb," because why not. Written for patientalien in-between one of our joint 'fic projects (stay tuned?).


Caught in the Undertow


Numb. After a lifetime spent feeling everything so much more strongly than anybody else, even his fellow Jedi, he now found himself emotionally bereft, gutted, empty. Everything was still there - his mother's death, his horrible revenge, Padme's confession of love, being crippled by Count Dooku - but he could feel nothing. It was the other extreme of the same spectrum, brought on, he'd overheard the Healers murmur, by a combination of painkillers and plain and simple shock, and it hurt, because, of course, it didn't.

He hadn't seen Padme since Geonosis. They had been boarded onto the same ship back to Coruscant, but it had been crowded and busy and they hadn't been able to speak privately, though there was so much to be said. He also had yet to see Obi-Wan. He presumed the other man had also needed medical attention - Dooku had dealt swift blows to the both of them - but his Master's injuries were less significant. It was entirely possible that Obi-Wan had been treated and returned to their shared quarters alone, bypassing a visit altogether.

Anakin shifted a miniscule amount on the thin mattress, drowsy, yet restless. His new arm had already been fashioned, and the reality of it was both amazing in its technological complexity and incredibly tiring. It was the type of thing he wouldn't mind discussing with Obi-Wan, but, well, that would require Obi-Wan wishing to acknowledge his existence. He sighed. Much had been left unsaid between himself and his Master that day, as well. It wasn't the Jedi way to hold grudges, but disobeying direct orders from one's superior still had consequences, and Anakin feared one of them would be needing to earn Obi-Wan's trust - what little of it he had come to acquire throughout the years of his apprenticeship - all over again.

He fell in and out of sleep for the next several hours, in part from boredom, and also from the ebb and flow of exhaustion as it wore off and then set in again and again. He rarely slept well as it was, for reasons both silly (strange places disquieted him) and obvious and terrifying in their implications (the fact that his dreams had a habit of happening), and would likely have been at least somewhat more comfortable in the small bedroom adjacent to Obi-Wan's, but obviously, with the nature of his injury, the Healers had practically ordered him to stay put. "Can I go yet?" he mumbled anyways when one came to do a routine check of his vital signs.

Their answer was unsurprising. "We're concerned about infection setting in at the site of amputation. Maybe in a day or so." The sparse room did contain some tomes, even a handful of logic puzzles and solitary activities for just this sort of occasion. None of this particularly interested him, however, and he opted for thinking about Padme's warm eyes and the way it had felt when she confessed that, at last, she reciprocated his feelings for her, until sleep overtook him yet again. He didn't think he dreamed, but at some point, a soft voice drew him out of whatever fugue state he had managed to drift into. It persisted even when he ignored its gentle query. "Anakin," it said again, calm with an undercurrent of impatience, and his neck was a little stiff from where his head had lolled back during the majority of his latest nap. His eyes opened then, and ...

There. "Master." There was something bulking up Obi-Wan's left arm around the bicep underneath his (clean, Anakin noticed) tunic; he presumed it was bandages. The older man looked tired, but cognizant. For the first time since Geonosis, Anakin felt a surge of ... something. "Obi-Wan," he muttered, and Obi-Wan perched gingerly on the edge of the bed.

"How are you, Anakin?" Unsure of how to answer, he just kind of shook his head a little. "Probably a ridiculous question," Obi-Wan murmured. He glanced down, then, and Anakin proffered the prosthetic, knowing that it was impressive even given the circumstances. The hand and forearm glinted in the relaxed, artificial light, and Obi-Wan was overwhelmingly respectful as he held it up with splayed fingertips. "Does it hurt?" he asked, and Anakin shook his head.

"It did, but they've been pumping me with lots of drugs. I don't really feel anything." In lighter circumstances, it would have been almost funny; Anakin was no stranger to recreational substances, or even more insidious ones, like the Zone. It was odd: Given the choice between something that dulled his abilities and made him strangely compliant, or a substance that simply stamped down on his emotions, locking them away where he could see them plainly, but was unable to access them, he knew which one should have been the obvious preference. As a Jedi, being controlled by outside forces should have repulsed him to the edge of the galaxy and back. And yet, while he had always privately considered Jenna Zan Arbor's treatments an all-too-temporary reprieve from feeling everything swirl around in his head in a chaotic mass, this significantly more benign and even Jedi-approved medication did, quite literally, nothing for him.

In any case, Obi-Wan had the good sense not to take the bait. With continued care, he gently moved Anakin's new wrist, flexing it forward and back; then, reaching out, he poked a golden fingertip with one of his own. "Can you feel with it?"

"Sort of. There are no pain sensors in it." Anakin smiled a little at Obi-Wan's obvious fascination, and also when his Master briefly wrapped his fingers around Anakin's newest appendage, squeezing lightly. "I felt that."

Eventually, their collective train of thought moved to other subjects: Dooku, mainly - that Obi-Wan had been absent for so long was, in part, due to a seemingly endless spate of meetings with the Council; also, in truth, Anakin wasn't precisely sure how long he'd been there at this point - and the implications of a Clone Army for the Republic. It all seemed like a lot of endless planning and ruminating over the ethics of war, and Anakin could feel himself getting tired again. "I'm sorry, Master," he whispered at one point, and it held an unintended weight. Suddenly, Obi-Wan was quiet again. Slowly, he reached out and stroked Anakin's braid, and then, more questioningly, the boy's cheek.

"Anakin," he said softly, and Anakin stared hard at his bed coverings, afraid to move. "Anakin, what happened on Tatooine?" Obi-Wan asked.

Anakin did not answer. "An-" Obi-Wan began again, but stopped when the boy finally met his gaze with tear-filled eyes, large and sad and threatening to spill over. "Was it your mother?" Obi-Wan asked again, very, very quietly, and water splashed down his Padawan's face, making tiny rivulets and, occasionally, if they lasted long enough, falling soundlessly below onto his sleep tunic. "Anakin-"

"She had gotten ... she needed my help, Master." His breath was coming faster now, his heart thudding. The last time he'd seen his mother, she had looked worn, sad, but ultimately healthy, thriving even in the scorching, unforgiving heat of Tatooine's two suns. It was an image he had tried to keep in mind throughout the years, even though he had been forbidden from contacting her; even when the dreams showing her bruised and beaten and thrust into particularly dark corners of a world he had been fortunate enough to escape. His face felt sweaty, now. "She d-died," he managed to get out, and then he wrenched his face away, turning it sharply to the side while he gasped and heaved and tried to get himself back under control. His chest felt tight; he had broken through the Jedi's programming, and now everything was violent and harsh and cruel again. He had nobody now, not even a distant memory of feeling loved, of being told openly that he was cherished.

He half-expected Obi-Wan to get up and walk away, to declare this an untoward display, even to force him to stop. The thought made him choke a little, a sob bubbling and then dying in his throat, and somehow, this allowed him to pull himself together. Still sniffling, Obi-Wan's voice in his ear, implying his continued presence, was welcome: "Anakin, I'm so sorry. I know what she meant to you, how hard it has been for you without her." Slowly, he turned back towards his Master, eyes damp. "Padawan," Obi-Wan said. He reached out then and grips the boy's shoulders bracingly. "You will get through this. I will help you. We will help each other." He squeezed Anakin's upper arms, and then relinquished the embrace. The boy nodded finally, and then his head began to droop.

"Sleep, now, I think," Obi-Wan smiled. He motioned to Anakin to lean forward, and then rearranged the pillows behind him. He nodded again, and Anakin sank back into them. "I'll arrange for you to come home tomorrow," he heard Obi-Wan say, but it sounded distant. He blinked sleepily, Obi-Wan's stout frame becoming increasingly fuzzy. Still, his Master's voice was kind, and then that hand was once again warm upon his cheek, cupping warm skin and wiping away traces of tears. "Sleep," Obi-Wan commanded gently, probably with the aid of the Force, and the boy's eyes slid shut completely. Images came to mind then (a glowing sunrise on Naboo), fragments of thoughts (where was home to him, anyways?), but he pushed them away. 'I have to sleep now,' he thought, and wondered just before the healing trance took him under whether the faint cradling of his mechanical hand with flesh fingers had really happened, or whether it was yet another product of his overworked mind.