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Sun Kissed

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He hated crowds. He really, truly did. They were loud and pushy and noisy, and it was generally a situation Obi-Wan avoided if at all possible. But the crowded slave market on Tatooine had to be one of the worst. Not only were the people rude and brash but it was a slave market. How Obi-Wan ended up in this part of Mos Eisley he couldn’t really be sure, but what he did know was that everything around him only served to make him more and more uncomfortable with each passing moment as he was shoved along with the crowds.

He was packed in so tightly with species of every variety that it would have been near impossible to try and turn around and leave, if he could even remember the way he came. The mind tricks he had learned at the Jedi Temple were almost entirely useless and there were too many bodies seemingly focused on a large platform they were crowding around.

From the yells, jeers, and hollers it was a slave auction. Completely despicable in the eyes of the civilized and the Republic; how he had managed to pull the short straw for the trip to this miserable desert planet he could only imagine. The others had to be manipulating the draw with the Force because he had been using it to cheat too and look where it got him.

Obi-Wan sighed and coughed at the smell of the bodies around him and the unsettled sand and dust that floated up to choke his nasal passages. Whatever complaints he had had about Bandomeer he could forget them completely. Tatooine was much worse and there wasn’t really all that to look at…except sand…and sand, and some more sand. At least his adopted home planet had water, and the mountains were nice.

It was a far cry from Coruscant though, and the Temple that he had been raised in since practically birth. All he had known about the galaxy had come from the teachings at the Jedi Temple. It was his home, his sanctuary, his school, and his training ground. And then like so many other failed initiates - it wasn’t.

His heart sunk again at the memories that pushed their way through to the surface. It had been nearly twenty years since he had joined the AgriCorps and yet his thoughts still wandered back to that day. That sad, lonely day that he had been packed onto the Monument with what meager possessions he had and shipped off to Bandomeer to become a farmer.

He had left his home and his friends and had to create an entirely new life with new people, and new roles on a completely foreign planet. It was nothing like the busy traffic and endless buildings of his old home planet. Not at all. It was fresh air and inland fields, the large ArgiBuildings stretched high, but not as high as others he had seen. Oceans and rocky plains that could be seen for miles on the hillside by the little cottage he deemed to call home. It had been a nice change to get out of the dormitories and live on his own. The small crops he tended to were only a few miles away as was the small town that overlooked it in his area. It was funny almost, how alone he’d always been and now the solitude was really all he had.

Obi-Wan grunted as he was forced back a few paces, and shoved forward as the being whose toes he had accidentally stepped on didn’t appreciate it all too much. He couldn’t help but glare at the dark shape as it continued shoving people out of the way to get a spot closer to the stage which, Obi-Wan now realized, begun the bidding war for slaves.

How did he get himself into things like this? All he had to do was pick up a few seeds.

Their contractor had apparently been “shot down” and couldn’t make it to Bandomeer as the repairs would “take months”. Right. Months his ass. When Obi-Wan had tracked the man through the Force he had found him in a bordello of ill repute having the time of his life. Obi-Wan was definitely going to have a talk with the genius who had arranged this deal, or at least write a strongly worded letter. He hated the main AgriBuilding, it was to him a reminder of all his failings to become a Jedi. All that work, and where was he? Living near the coastline and farming. He could have been out in the galaxy doing who knows what, saving how many lives? Living up to the Jedi Code and being the best Jedi he could have been.

But that was the past was it not? There was no use dwelling. Master Yoda probably had a quote for that but he he’d be damned if he could remember it.

Obi-Wan shifted and fanned his robes. This planet was much too hot.


 

He couldn’t be sure of how much time had passed, but it felt like forever. And in that forever probably more than a dozen slaves had either been purchased or bartered and he had only managed to struggle maybe a good four feet from where he had initially been standing. The shuffle of people moving to collect slaves had jostled him to and fro, the majority of buyers being much bigger and heavier than he was.

It was uncanny how nobody moved unless a slave owner was heading to the stage.

Again, he hated crowds.

“Get off me! Son of a bitch! Miya bata! Slimo do belia nok!

Obi-Wan started at the shouting. His attention was drawn to the platform as a struggling and swearing young man was led out by his captors. Shouts and catcalls rose from the audience as well as the crowd’s increased mutterings. The announcer seemed to agree with them as he started prattling away in Huttese.

The words passed over Obi-Wan’s head as he just stared at the struggling being in front of him. The slave kicked one of the guards hard in the knee that sent him to the ground. The slave was rewarded for it with a shove and backhand across the face.

It had to have hurt to land on his back with his arms tied behind like that.

Obi-Wan didn’t realize he was staring and at what for the matter, completely eluded him.

But it was bright. And spirited.

The slave was gripped roughly and hauled to his feet as he glared at the entire crowd. His anger and pain echoed in the Force, uncontrolled and fierce.

It was all Obi-Wan could do to tighten his shields. The slave was Force sensitive. He had to be. And there was something there, an ache in Obi-Wan’s chest that became so tight he may have well had stopped breathing.

And when the guards stripped the young man’s shirt off his back, he was sure he did.

Nothing but the most perfectly Force-touched golden skin lay bared for all to see.

And before he realized it, Obi-Wan had raised his hand to bid.

Chapter Text


Chapter 2

Anakin Skywalker cursed as he was shoved inside the holding cell alongside a quarter of the slaves Kerr had previously owned.

Growling, he shoved himself ineffectually against the bars; he knew it was no use, that they wouldn’t give, but it was always something to do to vent his frustration against an immovable object.

Anakin’s jaw clenched as the handlers banged their steel rods against the bars of the holding cells, counting down the minutes until the auction.

He hated auctions. Hated them with every fibre of his being. They brought back nothing but painful memories and forced him to relive the last time he was bought at one and  of losing the only person in the world that mattered.

It was how he lost his mother.

The pain and fear he had felt those nine years ago had long since turned to anger inside of him. For the slavers, the handlers, the buyers who had no use for a child…

The brothel he was eventually sold to.

And it was that very brothel that his owner had lost in a bet. But sleemo that he was, he had managed to get all of his pleasure slaves on the market. He may have lost his bordello, but Kerr would still make a final profit off of his slaves. He had, after all, only lost the brothel deed. Though Anakin highly doubted that the man Kerr had lost the sabacc match to thought the same thing.

Those were the rumours anyway, that the serving girls had relayed back to the slaved pleasure workers.

Anakin wiped the sweat from his forehead. Sweat and the sickly sweet scent of various perfumes fanned throughout the air of the slave holding cells, the heat made it rise and shift. Being locked in close quarters with a dozen people all crushed together made the temperature worse than it usually was.

Moving away from the cage bars, Anakin made his way through the warm bodies and found himself a place against the cooler carved wall of the cell. His stomach tightened as the handlers shouted out the last call. The auction would be starting any minute. And soon they would all be led out onto the platform to be stared and jeered at. Catcalls and whistles, especially when their clothes were torn from their backs…stripped and put on display like animals.

It was humiliating and the handlers knew it. They took every opportunity to run their hands over the bodies of the slaves up for show. Bids and offers before they were finally hauled off stage and shoved into their own personal cage awaiting the new masters to take them to Goddess knew where.

Anakin closed his eyes and hit the back of his head against the wall. There were only so many things he was good for; and he knew he’d be bought by either another brothel or be used as someone’s personal pleasure slave. There was no other use for a used whore. There were no other talents the buyers cared for. After all, why would he need any other talent when his trade was sex?

He clenched the frayed ends of his shirt and twisted violently (it had always been a nervous habit of his). He might be sold to someone better than Kerr or to someone much, much worse.

Thoughts of Dejiak immediately came to mind as he shuddered. The taller man had on occasion offered to buy Anakin from Kerr. It was one of the only times the boy was glad for how many clients he brought into the brothel. Kerr’s greediness at the business Anakin generated had been the only thing that saved him from belonging to Dejiak.

He was also thankful for the rule against mutilating slaves even though he came out with deep cuts and bruises every time. Every part of him feeling like he’d had his skin peeled off slowly.

Dejiak was one of the few who liked to see him bleed and scream. The man brought nothing but pain with him, and if he was at the auction today…

Anakin shuddered violently. Running away and having his head explode sounded better and better every time he thought about that fate. He tensed and hit his fist against the wall behind him. It would not happen. It couldn’t. And somewhere in his mind, despite the situation, there it was again - that weird feeling that always surrounded him, took hold to calm him. It had to be an angel - that warmth, the foresight, the things that sometimes moved on their own. Something had to be watching him, no matter how little, there had to be something there with him.

His thoughts were cut off abruptly as the handlers descended into the barracks with their rods and whips. The cell door was wrenched open and the first batch of slaves were corralled and led up the stairs at the end of the hall.

The anger that had become so familiar to him blocked out all feeling of calm as they were led out in groups to the platform.

Anakin stood his ground.

He wouldn’t go willingly onto the auction block. They would have to drag him kicking and screaming.


 

And drag him they did. Wrists crushed in a bruising force, his legs kicked out from under him. He cursed at them and lashed out as much as he could as they shoved him roughly onto his stomach and bound his hands behind him.

Why couldn’t Kerr have left him with the new brothel owners? The greedy son of a bitch. Anakin’s old clients would love to take him home now that he was available.

Struggling did him no use, but a well placed kick sent one of the handlers holding him tumbling once they were out on stage, the hit to the face was nearly worth it. It made his vision swim and thankfully blocked out the crowds, if even for a little while. The pain in his wrists from where he landed made the rope bite into his skin; he’d have even more bruises forming there.

Anakin grunted as he was hauled up and the shirt ripped clean from his back. He stood shirtless as prospective owners looked at him with undisguised thoughts and desires etched clearly on their faces. Lust, interest, and on some - disgust, as his profession was announced. The shouts, the whistles…

Anakin glared out at the buyers and their leering, tormenting faces. He would give them nothing but defiance.

He hated every one of them.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

It was no use to struggle. One would have thought, after all these years, he would have discovered that, but the fact was Anakin just didn’t care. As long as he made it as hard as possible for the handlers or traders to do what they liked with him, he could at least have some small satisfaction in being a complete inconvenience.

He doubted very much that any change had been made to how slaves were transported. When he had been twelve, he had been shoved into a small permasteel cage for his new owners; and now at twenty-one, he knew it would be the same.

Digging his heels into the floor, Anakin pulled back as much as he could against the two handlers dragging him roughly along in a bruising grip. The cages were well into view now, lining up for cargo and then to be shipped out to the new masters.

There was no way he was going to fit in a cage that small.

Wrenching back wildly, he twisted frantically to get out of their grip. Though being much larger than he was, the most he managed to do was secure a few new bruises for himself.

As they dragged Anakin to his temporary ‘home’, one of the guards let go as the other jerked him still from behind.

“Hey!” Anakin wrenched his legs away from the second man who had gone for a knife from his own belt. Foregoing the knife for the moment, the handler grabbed Anakin’s legs and roughly tied them tightly together -- ankle bones crushed painfully together as the handler went about his original task of ridding Anakin of his remaining clothes.

Jerking to the side may not have been the best thing to do as white hot pain laced up his leg when the knife shred across the top of his thigh.

“Are you supposed to wreck him like that?” asked the handler behind Anakin.

“Little fuck won’t stop moving,” said the other as he finished his task and stood. “’sides, he’s damaged goods anyway.”

Anakin hissed in fury and sent a wad of spit straight into the handler's face.

The backhand that struck him was much more welcome than some lecherous bastard pawing at something he wasn’t paying for. And if he had been paying, Anakin would never would see any of the money anyway.

He cursed and tried to bite the men as they forced him into the small cage, throwing his shoulder against the metal as the lock clicked shut and the cage tagged for identification. Cursing out in frustration he fought with his bindings. He couldn’t stay in this cage, he couldn’t. It was too small. Screaming out, he finally let his body go lax against the cold steel that pressed against him on all sides. Chest heaving, leg and face throbbing, he gave in for now. Locked here, there was no where to go and no escape.

Cursing again, he shut his eyes tight and tried to block out the cries around him.


 

It was cold.

The drink in his hand.

The icy chill of the liquid permeated the glass he was holding and reminded him of the pit of his stomach, for it too felt like ice.

Obi-Wan swilled his drink in its glass as he tried to think about what he had just done. It was unthinkable. It was wrong. And he had blown almost his entire credit savings.

For a slave.

How could he have bought a slave?

And not only that, but a pleasure slave.

He was an AgriCorps worker! A former potential Jedi! He lived within the Republic! A Republic that had outlawed slavery millennia ago and had penalties against those caught smuggling or trafficking slaves into Republic space.

He had principles. Principles that he had learned long ago growing up in the Jedi Temple, principles that he still held near and dear to his heart no matter what direction his life had taken. He lived by the Jedi Code, or at least he tried to. He may not have been a real Jedi, but it was still ingrained within his heart. It was all he had really.

Things were different in the AgriCorps, the Code and many dictated principles were waived for the workers. They were farmers. They used the Force to assist in the greater growth of their produce so the poor and the starving on other planets could eat.

What did it matter if they had families? They weren’t involved with intergalactic politics -- no life and death decisions, no need to be completely neutral in all situations. Yet Obi-Wan still clung to the Code. Grasped at it.

It was probably one of the many reasons why his neighbours and age-mates had gradually given up on him. He could still remember the bitter depression he felt when he was passed over, time and time again, as no Master would claim him. He had wanted it so much, tried so hard, but still wasn’t good enough. Those feelings had only festered his isolation and low self worth. He was as big a failure as Bruck Chun had always said he was.

He had shied away from people and refused to make friends, preferring instead to keep to himself in those early days; hoping against hope that he would wake up and his life on Bandomeer would all have been a nightmare. But it wasn’t. It was his life. His boring, mundane, repetitive life. Living alone on the hill overlooking the village, was it any wonder why everyone called him a hermit? Force, only a week ago he had heard a few boys scaring some younglings about ‘Crazy Old Ben’.

He laughed mirthlessly.

The only good thing that had come out of the incident was the look on the older boys’ faces when he had cleared his throat behind them. He could have sworn they were about ready to piss themselves.

He shouldn’t be bitter. But he was.

And now this.

He could only imagine.

‘You know Crazy Old Ben up the hill? He bought himself a pleasure slave to keep himself entertained. Can’t get it anywhere else you see. Depraved old pervert.’

Obi-Wan pushed his drink away and buried his face in his hands.

What was he going to do? Could he just set the boy free and be on his way? A few thousand credits short, mind. But…he couldn’t keep him.

True, there weren’t really any border checks when entering one Rim to the next, but there were Republic patrols. He couldn’t bring a slave into Republic space. That alone violated his morals, not including the fact that he had already bought said slave.

Force…

Obi-Wan grabbed his glass and downed it.

This could not be the will of the Force. No matter what blind pull had led him to bid on that slave, it had nothing to do with the Force. Nothing.

Obi-Wan groaned despairingly. What was he going to do?


 

Anakin Skywalker may have been a slave, but he was first and foremost a person. That was the one mantra he had left in life and he clutched at it every time a whip came crashing down hard upon his back, or during the countless times he had been used and discarded in the dark rooms of the brothel.

He was a person. He was a human. He was in a cage.

The cold metal grated into his skin and his legs were cramped. There was only enough space for him to sit awkwardly with his knees pulled up to his chest and the bindings on his wrists and ankles did nothing to alleviate the situation.

The wound on his thigh had stopped bleeding some time ago. Luckily it wasn’t as deep as he thought, but that didn’t make it hurt any less. He had spent his time watching the blood cake and dry as it ran down his leg and through the bars beneath him. During that time, the majority of the slaves had been carted away by their new owners and there were now only a few left.

It made him curious, being left for so long. He remembered Kerr picking him up almost immediately, or what he thought it was immediately. Nothing had seemed to last very long after the shock of being ripped from his mother’s arms. He remembered trying to go after her, shifting through the bodies in the cell only to have the cage door slam shut in his face as he only had one look, one last glimpse as she was led up the steps.

And was gone.

He never saw her again after that auction. Where she was, who had bought her, or even if she was still alive were questions Anakin had no answers for. They plagued him. Especially on nights when he was left alone long enough to think. And ashamedly there were times when he was almost glad she wasn’t around, to see what her beloved son had become.

When he had been sold to Kerr’s brothel he had kept looking and looking for her face in the crowd, and when he couldn’t find her, he had panicked.

Tatooine was suddenly so much bigger without her. There’d be no more hugs, no more kisses. She would never hold him again or tell him stories to calm his fears. There was no one to look out for him anymore, no one to love him. He was alone.

And when he had finally realized his mother was gone for good, he couldn’t stop crying. All he wanted was his mother and she was gone.

He could vaguely recall in that time the three Twi’leks who had pulled his sobbing form into their arms and tried to comfort him with kisses and brushes and petting, like he were a wounded kitten they were trying to coax.

It had taken him two years to learn the basics of what his future had in store. The majority of those early days had been filled with waiting tables in the main hall and his nights contained more beatings then he cared to remember.

Waiter by day, whore-in-training by night.

Anakin's mind returned grimly to the present and he tried to stretch his legs, as futile as it was. It couldn’t have been Dejiak who bought him. He wouldn’t have been waiting here for so long if it were. The Nar Shaddaan would have been one of the first to gloat over his new prize and let him know just what life had in store for him.

He could just imagine being locked in some small room on the Smuggler’s Moon. He had heard some of the slaves that had been traded from the spaceport talk of the squalor found there and it made Tatooine sound downright comfortable.

It would probably be cold, and he was sure he wouldn’t be wearing much to combat the chill. The warmest thing he’d feel would be the blood that ran down his back or from the tearing in his ass.

Anakin gripped the bars behind him and tried to breath calmly. He was probably working himself up for nothing. Unless that nothing was another brothel owner who Dejiak was paying for Anakin right now…that would explain the wait…

“No!”

Pushing himself backwards, he cried out when his elbow met permasteel. Pain laced up his arm as he drew back, glaring through slitted eyes as the handlers walked back into the slave holdings.


 

“…delivery surcharge.”

Obi-Wan fought the urge to run his hand over his face for the umpteenth time since this ‘meeting’ had taken place. The trader was more than happy to collect his share of profits and send the rest onto the slave’s previous owner.

But now, he wanted a delivery charge.

“What’s this again?”

“Name the place, we deliver the purchase,” said the Er’Kit smoothly.

“He’s got legs, he can walk can’t he?” asked Obi-Wan. When he had finally pulled himself off his bar stool to come pick up what was now ‘his’, this wasn’t what he had been expecting.

“True, but you never know when a slave will decide to run. And when that happens your entire purchase tends to explode.”

“Explode?” Obi-Wan listened in silent disgust as the trader told him about the implants that were placed somewhere in the slave’s body to ensure that they didn’t run off on their owners. How could something like that still be legal? Something so…uncivilized.

For once he couldn’t wait to get back to Bandomeer.

Only this time, he was apparently bringing back more than just harvesting seeds.

Chapter Text

Chapter Four

The looks, the pointing, the jeers…he was used to it all.

Being carted through the streets of Mos Eisley naked and caged did little for his pride, but then, neither did his trade. The slave transport hummed through the city en route to his destination – the space port. So he was going off-planet. Tatooine would be left far behind him as his body tried to adjust to a different climate.

The sand and dwellings from the slave quarters to the market tents of the main road seen through cage bars would be his last sight of his birth planet. He may very well never set foot here again. Even for all the pain it held, it was still home. Stars, even the one thing he cared about seeing wouldn’t be possible.

It had been years since Anakin had been to the small dwelling in the slave quarters that he had shared with his mother. It was small and humble, but just so comfortably home. The best memories of his life were held within those walls and he lamented the fact that he would never see the familiar place again. It had long since been given to another slave family anyway; the meager possessions he and his mother had possessed were either sold for next to nothing or the new family was using them.

The corner of Anakin’s mouth twitched up as he imagined another young slave boy accidentally turning on See Threepio. The eccentric droid he’d built would make even the dullest of lives a bit more interesting. At least he would if he hadn’t been sold or melted down into scrap.

His smile wavered as his mind drifted to the conditions of his last sleeping arrangements.

The brothel quarters could never have been called a home to him. More like a permanent place of forced employment. When not using the rooms above for clients, the slaves, no matter how successful, were made to sleep beneath the main floor. Anakin liked to call it a cellar. The cooler temperatures would have been a better reprieve from the desert heat had they not been forced three to a bed. Though in his case, he was more often then not being pushed out onto the floor.

The sandy floor.

He hated sand.

Sighing, Anakin supposed that his attitude never did garner him many friends. They were all either intimidated by his brash personality or annoyed by it. The professional prostitutes treated him a lot worse than the slaves though. The looks and threats thrown his way for ‘stealing’ the clients from them. Hells, if they wanted them, Anakin would have been more than happy to oblige. It’s not like he enjoyed spreading oil on his fingers and slicking himself up for his clients. And he was only allowed to do that after Kerr started losing money from the damage he was taking.

But he wasn’t going back there. And that was either for the best, or for the worst.

His stomach clenched as they neared the port and he felt as though it would drop out of his body as the hoverporter stopped. The cargo hold of the large Corellian freighter was open as gear and rations were restocked for the next interstellar flight.

If he wasn’t locked in a cage he would have loved to explore the large ship and watch the mechanisms in the engine room work, or see a working hyperdrive engine. The cockpit on something this size must be huge, room for at least a few people inside. The only cockpit he'd been inside of was a podracer.

He missed flying those.

The speed, the acceleration…it was as close as he ever got to flying, to feeling free. It had been an incredible rush and a complete thrill to know that he was the only human alive who could do it.

But that was years ago, his last race had been when he was eleven – a year before he was auctioned. He wondered what had happened to his old pod, and everything else in Watto’s shop anyway…

Anakin’s brow furrowed.

Watto just hadn’t been there one day…nor any other day after that. He had simply vanished. It was four days before the benefactor of Watto’s belongings had come. Anakin assumed he was the Toydarian cousin Watto would talk about every once in a while. Everything after that had been confusing and it was Anakin’s mother who had told him that Calda meant to sell them. He had no use for slaves but could use the money they brought in.

There were rumours that Watto won big in a sabacc game and left Tatooine, other rumours had him getting into trouble with the Hutts, and another about a dark shape that had arrived at the shop late after closing. Whatever had happened to him though, gave Anakin a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach every time he thought about it.

He just wished the Toydarian had been more careful about who he was dealing with. If he had, then Anakin would still be with his mother, he’d still be racing, and he’d still be doing something he loved in fixing the junk at the shop.

Watto had never been a horrible owner. He was strict but fair, and no matter how much debt he got into or how much he wanted to make money, Watto would never have prostituted Anakin to do it.

Anakin winced as metal squeaked against metal. His holding cage was now firmly set in the ship’s cargo bay and locked in tight. The drop in air temperature was one of the first things he noticed. It was much cooler than outside, as if it had just landed planet-side and was still trying to warm up.

Prattling from across the bay caught his attention, as two Twi’leks in their own respective cages conversed with each other.

So he wasn’t the only slave on this ship after all.


 

Obi-Wan groaned as he made his way onboard the Calypso’s Homage. His transport back to Bandomeer was right on time, as he expected it to be, but it was Guyrek’s slave handlers who had been early. The slave was already in the cargo hold, they’d told him, all set and secure and could he sign this?

Not only that but two other slaves had been put on as well. That was one thing that surprised Obi-Wan. Not the other slaves, but the fact that the Calypso’s Captain had no problem running slaves. He would have thought the AgriCorps transport unit would have discovered that little tidbit. Though he supposed it was always a risk one took with operators who mainly did business in the Outer Rim.

Palming the door open to his cabin, he entered and sat heavily on the bed, dropping his face into his hands. He really hadn’t wanted the boy in the cargo bay during their ascent and jump to hyperspace. Who knew how cold it was going to get in there? The temperature was usually always set to keep extra food in their prime and he didn’t know what this ship had its set to.

It was one of the reasons Obi-Wan had wanted to beat the handlers to the ship. He was planning to let the slave out and board together like regular people. It probably would have been better to meet under those circumstances, create a modicum of trust perhaps.

If he was even capable of trust; a pleasure slave was quite different from a pleasure worker. The workers chose their profession and did so willingly, a slave on the other hand, had no choice. Their owners told them what to do and they did it; if they didn’t, there were many barbaric forms of discipline if they did not comply. Discipline, that the slave trader had been all too helpful in informing him about.

Obi-Wan knew he would have to tread carefully. It wasn’t as though he was planning on using the young man. But it was him that Obi-Wan would have to convince of that. Having him stuck in the cargo hold made Obi-Wan feel as though they had already started on the wrong foot.

Force, he couldn’t even ask him if he had family on Tatooine or whether there was anyone important he was leaving behind. A mother? Father? Brother and sisters, friends he considered family? Or was he an orphan, perhaps? Was everyone he cared about sold or taken away from him?

Obi-Wan may not have been a slave but he could understand what it felt like to leave what you loved most behind.

The Jedi were his family. The only one he had ever known. And they were parsecs away on another world in a Temple he could never return to. He missed the Room of a Thousand Fountains especially. The crashing waves of Bandomeer's beach front wasn’t nearly as relaxing as the smooth, cascading waters in the Temple.

And then there had been his friends. Bant, Garen, and Reeft who were all chosen to become Jedi when he was not. The day he left he hadn’t said good-bye to any of them. He was far too ashamed.

Obi-Wan felt the jump that snapped him out of his reverie and looked out the window. The stars streaked by in their characteristic stream pattern inside of hyperspace. Now that their coordinates were locked in, he probably should go see about releasing the slave.

And learn his name.


 

He was so cold.

The chill inside the cargo bay was the only thing Anakin could focus on as he huddled his knees closer to his chest for warmth. He knew it wouldn’t do anything but he had to try, he had never been so cold in his entire life and couldn’t imagine ever getting used to it.

The bars of the cage had also grown cold with the atmosphere, making every part of his body they touched feel like ice – or what he imagined ice would feel like.

Everything had been tolerable before, and even when he felt the ship start to move and the inertial dampeners kicked in, the temperature was still something he could stand. It was only when it kept dropping and dropping that he started to worry.

He would freeze to death. He was certain of it.

And coming from Tatooine, Anakin didn’t think that freezing to death would have been an option for him.

His teeth chattered. Looking over at the Twi’leks, he was glad to see that he wasn’t the only one suffering and at the same time, feeling sorry for them at having to feel the cold like he was.

At least they have clothes though, he thought. Even the small amount was better than nothing.

He jumped as something in the distance hissed open. A tight feeling filled his chest as he felt another person before he heard the footsteps on the durasteel floor. He could have brushed it off as some crew member coming in to check on things now that they were - supposedly- in space, but something told him otherwise.

This was it. Him, actually. His new owner. And if it was Dejiak, he swore that he’d find someway to escape or kill himself before the flight was over. There was no way he would be subjugated like that. He’d rather die. Being used by him was one thing, to be owned by that sadist was another entirely.

He unconsciously tightened his legs together as a figure in a hooded brown robe drew closer.

Anakin clenched his jaw and tried to force himself to stop shivering.

If it wasn’t Dejiak though, he just might fuck the man or being out of pure gratitude for buying him.


 

When Obi-Wan walked into view of the cages, his eyes widened as he was taken aback. The boy had had clothes the last time he saw him. He had pants the last time he saw him. Where were his pants? Glancing at the Twi’leks he noticed that they hadn’t been stripped.

Why was he…?

Steeling himself for an entirely new, and probably awkward first impression. He was letting a human being out of a cage for Force sake! A naked one at that. How does one go about creating a positive rapport after that? Why couldn’t those Sith begotten, completely uncivilized, bantha herders just let him take him minus the whole cage thing?

It looked like it hurt. The bottom wasn’t even solid, just the same bars like everywhere else. It just wasn’t right.

Obi-Wan’s eyes narrowed. And neither was tying his limbs so he couldn’t move. He could see the bindings around his ankles, and…blood…what had they done to him!?

Shoving back his hood, Obi-Wan reached for the lock on the cage and snapped the crude key into place. As the bars swung open, he had a better look of the damage. Bruises, some small cuts in his upper arms (most likely from fingernails), a gash on his leg…

“Force, what have they done to you?” he muttered

Surprise. Confusion. Disbelief.

Obi-Wan could read every emotion coming off of him, as with most untrained Force Sensitives they projected strongly without knowing how to shield. But this, his projecting emotions were far stronger than anyone Obi-Wan had previously encountered. Tightening his own shields, Obi-Wan grabbed a small knife from the inside pocket of his robe and started to cut away the bindings on his legs. He ignored the grimace as he worked through the thick rope. Once it was off, Obi-Wan motioned him out of the cage.

He resisted a wince when he saw that the slave was taller than him. Glancing at the small space to which he’d been confined, it seemed nearly impossible. Obi-Wan couldn’t imagine how uncomfortable that must have been.

“What’s your name?” he asked walking behind him to cut through the bonds on his wrists. The boy’s back tensed as if he expected a surprise attack. Once he was finished, Obi-Wan walked back in front of the blonde.

The boy held his eyes and raised his chin slightly.

“Anakin Skywalker.”

Keeping Anakin’s gaze, Obi-Wan nodded and shrugged off his robe, wrapping it firmly around Anakin, ignoring the start and confusion that poured off of him.

“My name is Obi-Wan Kenobi,” he said. “How bad is it? Your leg?”

The boy blinked.

More confusion.

“Come on then, if you can stand I’m assuming you can walk. We need to take care of that.”

Obi-Wan turned and started walking out of the bay. He turned after a moment when he realized Anakin was still standing by the open cage. Their eyes locked and slowly, Anakin trailed after him.

He would first have to clean the would and then wrap it, it looked like the bleeding stopped on his own which meant it probably wasn’t that deep. He’d also have to find Anakin something decent to wear once they arrived at his quarters. Obi-Wan knew that everything he had would be short and possibly a bit tight in places, but it was better than wearing nothing at all under that robe.

Proper clothes would be at the top of the list once arriving back on Bandomeer. Turning back to the matter at hand, Obi-Wan stopped, looking up and down the corridors before setting off again. With any luck, they could avoid being seen by any of the other few passengers. He really didn’t want to deal with anyone seeing him bring back his ‘slave’ to his room and having to hear their misinterpreted and lewd assumptions.

All in all though, their first meeting was a lot less awkward than he thought it would be.


 
Confusion didn’t even begin to cover what Anakin was feeling. Sure, a new owner would be pissed that his property was damaged but that didn’t explain the direction in which this man’s displeasure was sent in.

Most owners would have taken it out on Anakin, blaming him for forcing the handlers to be rough with him. But to actually have been asked how bad his wound was? He’d even asked his name.

Anakin followed his owner, this Obi-Wan Kenobi, as he led him through the ship.

He had seemed -- stars, he didn’t know what to think of him. It wasn’t what he was expecting at all. Being let out of the cage was one thing, but then being given something to cover up in? He shivered and pulled the scratchy robe closer around himself.

Anakin tried to focus on the copper-haired man in front of him. He couldn’t get a decent read from him. And he was usually pretty good at reading people. It was almost like he could read their minds a bit, like he could look at them and feel their intentions. Kenobi gave him nothing. There were snippets but nothing he could really grasp.

When they reached the end of the corridor, the door chimed open and admitted them to a small room. The cramped space consisted of a bed on one wall and a small couch near the other, separated by a single nightstand.

”Sit down,” said Obi-Wan, waving his hand towards the bed.

Anakin swallowed and reluctantly sat on the edge as he disappeared through a smaller door across the room.

Obi-Wan reappeared a few minutes later with a bowl and small towel. When he set it on the nightstand Anakin’s eyes widened. He barely noticed Obi-Wan dip the cloth in the water until the wet fabric was being handed to him.

“Here. It’s to clean the blood off your leg, we don’t need it getting infected.”

Taking the cloth, Anakin bunched the fabric of the robe up and started to wipe away the crusted blood as Obi-Wan turned and rummaged through a cabinet. The cloth was completely red when he was finished with the skin around the wound.

Turning the cloth around in his hand seemed enough for Obi-Wan to take it from him, and to Anakin’s horror, dumped it back in the clean water and rang it out without a second thought. Anakin was sure he had never seen so much water in one place in his life. The bowl wasn’t exactly small and the once-pure water was saturated with his blood.

He didn’t realize how long he’d been staring until a pain in his leg made his refocus on the man pressing the cloth to his cut.

“Sorry.” Obi-Wan winced as he felt the boy jump. The cut looked clean enough now, so he could apply the bacta and bandage him up. The younger man seemed to be in some sort of shock.

“If you need to use the facilities the refresher is just through that door,” he said, applying the rest of the dressings to Anakin’s leg. When he was finished, he stood and carried the bowl and cloth back to the ‘fresher.

Anakin blinked down at his wrapped thigh.

And blinked again.

None of his previous owners had ever helped him with an injury before. None of them had wrapped it themselves. Each and every one of them had looked at him in disgust, like his blood would contaminate them, as they told him to clean himself up and try to look presentable.

But this one had…no. No, it wasn’t right. Nothing was what it seemed. This man who seemed so concerned with his well-being couldn’t possibly be his new owner. He was just someone to baby-sit him until he could be delivered to his real owner.

Maybe Dejiak really had bought him. Maybe he had been bartering with whomever won Anakin at the auction. Maybe this man was a hired hand or something.

Maybe this was all a deception. A trick for him to let his guard down. A pretense, a game; it was all an elaborate plan to get him to hope, and then that son of a bitch would be there, ready to rub it in his face.

Anakin’s breathing quickened as he glanced towards the door.

“Anakin?”

His name startled him; he turned his attention to Kenobi, who stood hesitantly just outside the ‘fresher door.

“Look, you don’t have to be worried about what’s going to happen to you. I did…I was the one who…I-“ Obi-Wan stumbled. “I bought you.” Just saying those words made him feel extremely dirty. Like he’d just rolled in celuchua slime and bantha dung.

Anakin looked at him suspiciously. “You…really bought me?”

“I did.”

“I belong to you?”

“Yes.”

Stunted relief seemed to flow from him as his shoulders dropped from their rigid, defensive position.

It might be okay then, Anakin thought to himself. 'It might also be because this is a public transport though…

But either way, if he belonged to this man then it meant that he did not belong to Dejiak. He was sure that he had been in the crowd, but if he belonged to Kenobi that meant he beat Dejiak’s bid for him…

He let out a large breath of air. With luck he might never see him again, and he could put Tatooine’s brothels behind him…unless he was trading one brothel for another…

Anakin shook his head. He was getting ahead of himself. He wouldn’t know anything for sure until they reached their destination. But until then…

He did swear to fuck his new owner if it wasn’t Dejiak, didn't he?

Anakin looked Kenobi up and down as he was busy setting the Med Kit back into the cabinet. He wasn’t bad looking and if he jumped at the chance at sex then Anakin would know exactly where he stood and what his purpose was. He hated feeling out of control, and this confusing mind game Kenobi was playing with him had him off balance.

“Do you have any lotion?”

“Um, yes. I think so.”

Obi-Wan moved around to the foot of the bed and rifled through his belongings. One of the Healers that had cleared him for the trip had given him some softening cream as his skin was prone to drying out in hot, dry environments.

From what he’d glimpsed earlier, Anakin’s wrists looked pretty raw and his ankles were probably chafing as well. The cream would help with those.

Handing it to Anakin absent-mindedly, Obi-Wan went back to his bag. The blonde needed clothes, but it was finding some that would reasonably fit that was going to be difficult, as he didn’t bring many options.

Engrossed in his mission, he barely noticed Anakin sliding up the bed to the headboard and shrugging off the robe.

Coating two fingers in the lotion, Anakin spread his legs and smoothed them across his opening; allowing himself to relax enough, he carefully inserted his first finger and worked it inside of him. Adding a second, a soft noise escaped him at the stretch.

Obi-Wan looked up at the sound and felt his chest contract painfully, his eyes nearly fell out of his head as his entire body stiffened.

“Wh-What are you…doing?” He choked out.

Anakin looked at him for a moment before sighing. “You’d rather do it dry then?”

Removing his hand and spreading his legs further caused the bag in Obi-Wan’s hands to drop to the floor.

“I…you, ah…we…I…no, cover…cover up.” Forcing his body into action, the older man backed up awkwardly and made a dash for the door.

Anakin blinked.

Okay. Not what he expected. Anakin huffed. Sure, a part of him - a big part- was happy that he wasn’t getting fucked, but to have someone just up and leave him like that just…didn’t happen. Ever. No one left him alone for long.

He was confused. And cold.

He hated both.

Pulling the robe back around himself, Anakin made his way over to the couch and laid down. He supposed that Kenobi could be exclusively into women, because even if he had bought Anakin, he could still be a gift for someone else, right?

Anakin shivered and pulled himself into as much of a ball that the couch would let him. He hated not knowing what was coming.


 

Obi-Wan leaned heavily against the door, breathing deeply. That had not just happened. He had not just…

Groaning, he buried his face in his hands. What was he going to do? He could not put up with that, if that was what Anakin was going to offer so…wantonly…spread out like that with his hands -

Obi-Wan cursed himself and his body for reacting to the images Anakin elicited. Yes, his first reaction had been surprise, but none of him could forget the fact that Anakin was a very, very beautiful young man.

Shaking his head to try and clear it, Obi-Wan leaned back against metal and took a few calming deep breaths. He would have to meditate these feelings out. And give Anakin the first pair of clothes he grabbed out of his bag. He didn’t care anymore as long as he was dressed.

Force, what had changed from the auction until now? That was not the struggling, angry boy that he had first seen in there, that was…was…something else entirely. Obi-Wan didn’t know what to make of it. Defense mechanism? Feelers? A test?

This was not his day.

Chapter Text

 Chapter 5


Obi-Wan was a strange man.

Strange, confusing, and he didn’t make sense.

Anakin had offered himself up to him and he…ran?

He huffed and rubbed his arms and legs to generate some more heat. He didn’t ever want to get used to space travel, hell even if he was fully and properly clothed he was sure that he’d still be as cold as he was now. Though he supposed the sex-he-wasn’t-having would have warmed him up somewhat.

Anakin made a disgruntled noise. Was it wrong to feel off about being…rejected like that? Was it a rejection? Anakin knew what he looked like and everyone said that he was irresistible…maybe Obi-Wan was the shy type? Virgin? Anakin laughed. He was really losing it. Shaking the thought away, he rationalized his thoughts to the confusion of the situation and being out of his element

The only consolation of this trip was the view from the window. He could remember a time from his childhood where he dreamed of traveling between the stars and visiting each and every one of them. He just hadn’t thought about how damn cold space was.

Dragging his gaze from the window, Anakin’s eyes caught sight of the thin blanket atop his new master’s bed.

He bit the inside of his mouth.

He wasn’t told he could take a blanket…but then again, he wasn’t told not to. And he was cold. Anakin also made a mental note to ask about the Twi’leks that had been on board with him. They were probably dead by now. He was sure he would have been.

Sitting up and reaching across the space, Anakin nicked the blanket and wrapped it around himself. It offered little warmth, but at least his feet were properly covered. Was this the only blanket they gave everybody? How the hell did anyone stay warm?

If Kenobi came back and didn’t like Anakin’s blanket stealing then he could beat him all he wanted. But he was sure no matter what happened to him, he’d already been through worse.

Though thinking about it…if Kenobi wouldn’t fuck him…would he beat him? Anakin blinked as he considered.

He had looked shocked or…something. Well, what else had he expected Anakin to do? He was a pleasure slave, he was there for sex wasn’t he? And if Kenobi didn’t want it then that meant that someone else did. His body could be rented out like it was the last time.

A whine, that he would later deny, came strangled from his throat as he considered his options. Despite not knowing his options, he could probably guess accurately. So Kenobi was his owner, maybe he was one of those anti-social sorts? The ones who delve out the slaves and collect the money from their loyal bodyguards in his darkly lit office? Or maybe he was just always skittish?

Anakin sighed. He reminded himself that they were on a public transport and that his master’s attitude could change dramatically once they reached their destination. Even when Kenobi had reacted, Anakin couldn’t read him at all. The only thing that had slipped through, or at least he thought it came from Kenobi, was surprise. And that surprise could easily have come from not expecting Anakin to give it up so quickly. He might have slipped into his act again and left, purposely confusing him.

Maybe Anakin would try seduction again, something not so blatant this time.

Even if it was never something he enjoyed, it was survival…and it would tell him what Kenobi really thought.

It was weird really. Anakin had discovered years ago that he could read people more easily when they were lost in the throes. He could feel their elation and tenseness at orgasm, but under that he could feel something else entirely. A being was left completely open and he could feel the basest part of them.

It was unnerving to constantly feel nothing coming from Kenobi, he didn’t want the brief flashes, the glimpses that left him wondering if it was imagined. He wanted an actual read. The post-coital accessibility would tell him if he was honestly genuine when he told Anakin he didn’t have to worry, or it would out him as an actor and complete liar and no different than the rest.

Lying back down and curling up, he tried to contain his body heat within the robe and blanket. He would just lie there and think about things. Maybe calm down somewhat. He had to admit that he wasn’t in control of things. A feeling that was more than familiar.


 

For the second time since coming into ownership of one Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan found himself nursing a drink. Sitting in the galley, he really hoped that it wouldn’t become a habit, but if Anakin kept doing -things- it just might.

Obi-Wan sighed heavily. He supposed that now would be a good time to make his intentions, or lack thereof, known to Anakin. To tell him that he wasn’t a slave anymore, and there was certainly not going to be any pleasuring of any kind going on. Obi-Wan would explain to him that he was bought because the Force willed it, that he was Force Sensitive, and he should start learning how to control it.

Obi-Wan rubbed his temples. He hadn’t thought it was possible for shields to hurt. Anakin needed training desperately - in meditation and shielding at the very least. So he would stop thinking so loudly. A lesson in shielding and not projecting one's every emotion would be excellent starting points. Very excellent.

But then what? Make the young man a farmer? Put him into a life that Obi-Wan had grown complacent with, that was his duty? Though being a farmer was a big step up from slave, he supposed. Now it was just a matter of convincing Anakin that he wasn’t going to try and touch him. Taking pleasure from an unwilling participant was loathsome on so many levels. Just seeing Anakin with the expectation had turned his stomach after he had gotten over his initial shock and physical reaction.

No one should be forced into that kind of life.

Obi-Wan sighed and found himself longing for Bandomeer, a planet over-seen by the Republic; where civility, common decency, and democracy had ruled for over a thousand years.


 

He was dreaming again. Or at least he thought he was dreaming. It was an odd sense to be trapped between the state of unconsciousness and the real world, fluttering fluidly in the middle of some great divide. For moments at a time he would sink back into sleep to dream about a permacrete room and someone choking, a hand tightened and he was awake again, staring at the bed across from him until he once again drifted under.

Sometimes he saw his mother, other times he dreamed of a tall man with long hair and clever eyes, another with a circular room filled with people he couldn't really see, and a red setting sun behind them. Those dreams were never clear, just fleeting images in the scheme of his remembered dreams; and at times - nightmares.

Hands that scarred, words that burned; faces of people and beings long and forever gone.

Dreams were never pleasant, just another torment of jumbled thoughts and things that could feel all too real.

The weight of two heavy blankets being draped across his still form brought him nearly out of his dreamscape limbo. He already felt warmer with them on top of him than just the robe. Ignoring what his new owner might think, Anakin grabbed hold of the ends and wrapped himself in the quilts completely, making sure they were entwined snugly around him.


 

Obi-Wan couldn’t help smiling. Even half asleep, the Force quieted Anakin’s thoughts enough for Obi-Wan to relax his shields. When he woke up they’d be tightened again though, but for now he could take a small reprieve.

He also noticed Anakin had borrowed the blanket from his bed to wrap himself up in. It wasn’t much, but the two he had brought for him were “donated” by the Captain. He didn’t like using mind tricks that much, but it was for a good cause.

Walking to the end of the bed, he retrieved his dropped bag and pulled out a shirt, socks, and a pair of pants. Folding them neatly, he placed them on the nightstand for Anakin when he awoke. Getting him into them would be the first order of business. The second would be more reassurance and information. At least that was the plan.

Sitting down on the bed and facing Anakin, Obi-Wan dropped his face into his hands and stared at the floor. After a few minutes, a subtle shift in the Force was the only thing that made him look up. Anakin’s blue eyes met his and for a long moment they just stared quietly at each other until Obi-Wan started picking up more of Anakin’s stray thoughts.

“You don’t have to worry, you know,” he said softly. “I’m not expecting you to do anything, or…anyone…you’re not -- I’m not selling you to someone else.”

“So you’re what? A mind reader?” asked Anakin. Now that he thought about it, Kenobi did seem to answer his unspoken thoughts.

“I can sense your emotions. They’re quite loud, actually.”

And that was probably as light as he could put it. It didn’t sound too bad and he didn’t want to scare him, Anakin was Force Sensitive, but still ignorant in the ways of the Force. That was another thing Obi-Wan would have to explain to him.

Anakin sat up, keeping the blankets around him and faced Obi-Wan. “You can feel my emotions?”

“Yes.”

Anakin eyed him oddly. He could do the same thing, at least he thought he could. How many times had he just looked at someone and swear he could feel their thoughts sliding over him. There was always a feeling of something coming from people. Kenobi, on the other hand, gave him nothing. He felt almost like a droid.

“I can’t feel you.”

Obi-Wan gave him a small smile. “I know. They’re called shields. Other Force Sensitives use them for a number of reasons.”

Anakin’s brow furrowed. “Force Sensitives?”

“Yes, it’s what I am. You’re Force Sensitive, as well.”

Obi-Wan continued at Anakin’s perplexed look. The confusion came off of him in waves now. “Have things ever moved on their own around you? Or you saw something happen before it actually happened?”

Anakin nodded slowly.

“That’s part of the Force, the gifts it gives us. You were born with the ability to feel it. All beings are touched by it, but those of us who are Force Sensitive are more highly attuned with it. We’re connected to it like no other life form is.”

Anakin listened as Obi-Wan explained what the Force was and how something called ‘midichlorians’ strengthened that connection. Every instance that he was describing had happened to him at some point in his life. He could feel things from people, and on one occasion or another, objects had thrown themselves across the room for seemingly no reason at all.

And now he was being told that other people shared this ability? He wasn’t alone with these odd occurrences. That he could eventually learn to control them, quiet his thoughts, form his own shields -move things purposely with his mind- it sounded surreal.

“And you’re just going to teach me? For nothing?”

Obi-Wan sighed. “Anakin, you don’t have to use your body like…that…anymore. You’re not a slave and once we get to Bandomeer, the Healers will have to give you a medical exam. While they’re doing it, they can find the slave implant and remove it.”

Remove his implant? He could run and not worry about exploding? He could…Anakin shook his head. This was all wrong. Nothing this good could ever happen to someone like him, no one would...

“You think I’m stupid enough to believe that someone just bought me in order to free me?”

Obi-Wan tightened his shields to their maximum. His headache was starting to come back and he made a mental note to keep Anakin calm. If this was his mind when he was a little upset, he really didn’t want to feel the full weight of a very strong and untrained Force Sensitive out of control. He could feel fear and anger, disbelief and pain, the frustration, all fueled into that one sentence.

“The Republic banned slavery millennia ago,” he explained. “Bandomeer is located within the Republic. You’re not a slave.”

“Republic? You’re taking me into the…”

Obi-Wan nodded. “We’re en route to Coruscant right now and from there we’ll be boarding another transport to Bandomeer. We’re traveling the trade routes.”

Coruscant. He was going to see Coruscant? That was a Core World! The centre of everything and even he knew it was the very heart of the Republic.

“But, but I still belong to you…” he started and was surprised when Obi-Wan shook his head.

“Slavery is illegal, and we’ve already crossed into Republic space. You’re your own person Anakin, and I…the Force led me to you at that auction, it has to be the reason we met. You weren’t destined for that life,” said Obi-Wan. “And I know you have no money or anywhere to go, but I work for the AgriCorps. It’s a branch of the Jedi Order -- ”

Anakin’s head shot up. “You’re a Jedi?”

His heart leapt. He knew that word. Everyone knew that word. They were warriors, peacekeepers of the galaxy, heroes. They protected people on worlds that had no help…and why was Obi-Wan shaking his head?

“I’m not a Jedi,” he said quietly. “I work for the Corps. You see, there are only so many Jedi Masters and those younglings who aren’t chosen as Jedi Apprentices are sent to the AgriCorps. We grow crops for people and planets with less than ample supplies of food.”

Anakin blinked and tilted his head. “Oh…but…” he thought for a minute. “But you were almost a Jedi?”

“Almost.”

“You grew up around them.”

Obi-Wan nodded. “In the Temple.”

Anakin leaned against the back of the couch and mulled it over. The man in front of him could have been a Jedi. He had bought Anakin and was bringing him into Republic space, where there were laws protecting him from ever going back into slavery. This man who seemed separated from the world around him. Anakin wondered what went on beyond his shields.

Despite it all, the excitement in his chest was still there, even though it had slightly waned, he dared give it hope.

He didn’t know how one became a Jedi but if Obi-Wan knew, had gone through it...

There are only so many Jedi Masters.

So that meant there were more younglings than Jedi to train them, enough that there was a whole other place for them to be sent if they weren’t trained. It was a sad thought for him, knowing that there could be even more Jedi if there were more to teach them. To have potential Jedi sent away like that sounded like such a waste…

“So…how are Jedi trained?” he asked.

As Obi-Wan began, Anakin listened with rapt attention.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

Coruscant was beautiful.

For a planet that was covered in one gigantic city, it was beautiful. The buildings were taller than anything he had ever seen, and the way the sun peaked out between the buildings as it set was gorgeous - golds and reds reflecting off an endless sea of durasteel as stray beams shone between. It was as different from the desert as one could have gotten, so different from the dry streets of Mos Eisley. Even the largest of buildings on Tatooine were nothing in comparison to the capitol of the Republic. But that wasn’t the best part.

Anakin could see the Jedi Temple.

From where they had landed at the port, Obi-Wan had pointed it out to him as they changed ships. A single building standing tall and proud above the entire city, raised, and overlooking everything entirely. He could see the five great pillars stretching to touch the sky. He could see the glistening white even from the distance that was between them. It was beautiful.

Just seeing it created an ache of longing deep inside of him. It felt like he should be there. Felt like it could have been home in a completely different life. He had the abilities. What if Tatooine hadn’t been so far out of the Republic? Would they have found him?

The clothes Obi-Wan had given him to wear were too short and a little tight in places, but it was better than being shipped in a crate. Anakin pulled the brown robe tighter against his body and shivered. It was so cold here. The slowly disappearing sun did little to warm him. He wondered if it was any warmer when shining at its zenith.

Pulling his eyes from the Temple, he reluctantly followed Obi-Wan to the transport that would bring them to Bandomeer. The slippers on his feet were much too snug; he was at least a good size or two bigger than Obi-Wan. It was uncomfortable but he was used to discomfort. What was odd for him though, was to see Obi-Wan uncomfortable for him having to be. He still didn’t understand the man. Though he felt he knew a little more of him since Obi-Wan had told him of the Jedi.

Anakin’s head kept turning to keep the Jedi Temple in his sight as he walked behind Obi-Wan, turning his head to the man and back to the Temple again. The last thing he needed was to lose Obi-Wan in the crowds, get too far away and lost, and have his head explode by activating the slave chip. He could do without that, thanks. With one last look at the Temple's centre spiral - the last thing he could see over the buildings that now obscured his view - he followed Obi-Wan onto the transport.


 

He was finally going home. Or at least as close as he could get anyway; Bandomeer had never really felt that way and watching the Temple with Anakin had made Obi-Wan's heart ache. It was a home that didn’t want him. One that threw him away because he fought too hard, tried too hard, wanted so much to prove himself worthy, tried so damn hard…

Do or do not, there is no try.

Obi-Wan swallowed the painful sigh that wanted to escape him. Master Yoda had had faith in him. And it was that faith that had given Obi-Wan hope that somewhere out there, a Master would want him. Yoda had begun his training when no one else would, had tried to get Qui-G…

He wrenched his eyes away. Why hadn’t Yoda just taken him on then? If he had so much of the potential the wizened green troll said he saw in him, why did he let him go? But he knew. Mace Windu had been Yoda’s last Padawan, and he would take no other. Obi-Wan was tired of thinking of the injustice of it all.

He pinched the bridge of his nose and winced. Anakin’s thoughts were getting louder. He glared at the Temple for that.

Upon hearing their transport’s final deport call he started walking, feeling Anakin’s Force Signature following obediently behind him, though he could feel the reluctance. Obi-Wan felt that if he could, Anakin would have stood there all day staring. The Jedi Temple was impressive, even more-so up close. Maybe one day Anakin could see it that way. He wasn’t a slave anymore, and if he decided he wanted to leave then…well, he could…Obi-Wan’s brows furrowed. He was…he could go if he wanted. But Anakin was an odd one, and with everything he’d been through, Obi-Wan worried about where he would end up if he was just cut loose completely, on his own out in the universe. There were still many places in the Inner Rim that weren’t very reputable. Force, even the lower levels of Coruscant were bad enough…

They entered the Proserpina’s Hope and found their way to their cabin.


 

It wasn’t that much further to Bandomeer, but a few more hours like this and Obi-Wan’s head just might explode. The trip from Tatooine to Coruscant had been one thing, but now? If anything Anakin’s thoughts had only grown even louder since their discussion about the Jedi’s way of life and seeing Temple. His thoughts were reverberating against his shields and leaking through in a way he had never experienced before. It was starting to more than hurt.

He reminded himself again that he was dealing with a very, very untrained Force Sensitive, one who couldn’t control his thoughts at all, hence the emphasis on untrained. He needed to see Mi’aka and have her test Anakin. She was Bandomeer’s Head Healer and not only would she be doing their physicals and getting that damn slave chip out of Anakin, but she would test his midichlorian levels as well. Force…Obi-Wan had run into a few untrained Force Sensitives over the years, but never anything like this. Nothing like Anakin.

Obi-Wan rubbed his temples and winced.

“Are you okay?”

Obi-Wan raised his head, looking up pitifully. Anakin’s thoughts were now focused directly on him. Forget the Jedi using lightsabers on their enemies, they could just use Anakin’s mind.

“I’m fine.”

“You’re really quiet.”

“I’m always quiet.” Trying to raise his shields any higher than they were only dimmed Anakin’s thoughts somewhat. Was the boy meaning to scream everything in his head?

“Do you have a headache?”

Understatement. Of. The. Century.

“Force…” he groaned, fingers digging into his temples. “You’re too loud.”

“I’m not yelling.”

Force, he sounded so petulant.

“Not your mouth, your mind,” Obi-Wan gritted out. “Stop thinking so loudly.”

“I’m no-“

“I can’t explain everything now, but it’s the pressure through the Force. You’re bleeding through my shields…”

And again the thought entered into his mind that he really, really didn’t want to feel this at its full force. Jedi could break through shielding techniques, but a heavily guarded shield being ripped through in such a way was an extremely painful, if not excruciating, thing to go through. But Anakin wasn’t trying to break anything, it wasn’t an attack or an attempt to get into his mind, all it was was the weight and pressure of his uncontrolled thoughts running rampant in Anakin’s mind. At certain points in their journey, Anakin’s mind settled itself to a level that Obi-Wan’s shield could manage to keep out; but now his mind was going a mile a minute looking out over Coruscanti space.

“My thoughts are giving you a headache?”

“You have no idea…”

“I don’t sound loud though…”

“I’m extremely sensitive, always have been…” he managed. “A trained Jedi could manage much better, but…”

Force, had he completed training as a Jedi he probably could have dealt with Anakin’s loud thinking. But leaving at thirteen, and being an AgriCorps farmer didn’t require much shield training. Instead, they were taught to open themselves much more fully to the Force, to allow it easier access into them so they could help the crops to flourish. That openness also let them feel the very subtle changes that happened inside the plants they were working with. The sensitivity levels of the AgriCorps workers were higher than any other branch of the Jedi Order. He’d never cursed that sensitivity until now.

“Force, get down here.”

Obi-Wan slid away from the small desk and off his chair to sit cross-legged on the floor. He motioned for Anakin to sit in front of him the same way. He would teach Anakin meditation and how to tell his mind to shut the hells up even if it killed him.


 

Obi-Wan was in pain. Anakin could see it; hell he could feel it. And it was because he was thinking too loud? It didn’t make sense to Anakin, none of this Force stuff did. He knew things moved at odd times, and that he could read people. Stray thoughts even entered into his mind, but hurting someone by thinking? That he was even capable of that had never once entered into his mind. And why should it have? It wasn’t like there were other Force Sensitives around to tell him.

But he supposed if it really was him doing this then it would do well to listen to the man who had promised him his freedom, whether or not he really believed it. Obi-Wan might just be his last chance. For freedom and to learn to control his Force abilities. The more control he had over all aspects of his life the better. Internally, as well as externally. Anything Obi-Wan had to teach him about what he could do could only serve to help him in the long run.

Sliding off the bed and in front of Obi-Wan, he sat and crossed his legs the same way.

“Okay,” he said. “What do I do?”


 

Obi-Wan was impressed. Not only was Anakin strong with the Force but he picked up on it very quickly when put to a task. After only a few short hours, the pounding in Obi-Wan’s mind had receded to a dull throb. He had never known anyone to pick up shielding techniques that quickly before. Even if they were new and still extremely fragile, Anakin picked up the basics and incorporated them naturally.

Now if only he would meditate properly, he might just stop the stray thoughts that ran against Obi-Wan’s shields every now and then. The meditation would also help keep his mind calm. Like before, Anakin had his moments of peace but if he could manage to tap into the calming presence of the Force he could settle himself down consciously.

Still, it had only been a few hours and frankly Obi-Wan hadn’t expected as much progress as he had gotten, but there was still much work to be done…and yet, the seeming ease at which Anakin had taken to the Force was…amazing, as well as perturbing. It was uncanny.

There was something about him, and the sooner he could get him to Mi’aka the sooner Obi-Wan could figure some things out. He could feel Anakin’s connection with the Force, and the strength of it that he could gather secondhand was…raw.

Regarding him now, Obi-Wan felt one of his eyebrows raise as he touched Anakin's mind lightly. The soft snore that came from his upright form also confirmed Obi-Wan’s sneaking probe.

Anakin had fallen asleep. During meditation.

A light smile was followed by a quiet laugh as Obi-Wan stood and walked to the door. He would take this quiet reprieve to procure a meal for them from the galley before returning to meditate again himself while Anakin slept.


 

Bandomeer was…as different from Cosuscant as you could get. There was only one main building and while it was big, it wasn’t as big as the buildings Anakin had seen briefly on Coruscant. It was kind of a disappointment from being woken up just to see…not much.

Anakin couldn’t believe he had fallen asleep again. He could usually go for days without sleep, yet he had fallen into it a few times since his journey began. With a man he didn’t even know no less. And that just…didn’t happen.

Sighing, he looked out the window of their hover vehicle and watched as they approached the building. All he could see was red and brown dirt and rock all over the place. The planet looked barren from what he had seen, how could anyone farm here? He’d had his suspicions as soon as they touched down. Obi-Wan answering his fears and questions before he could say anything was starting to get a bit annoying and a little creepy.

His thoughts still bled out but during most of the journey Obi-Wan had coached him in meditation and creating shields of his own. He could even feel the difference within himself. Obi-Wan had told him he was a quick learner, and the rate at which he gained the knowledge to shield was impressive. It also meant that his thoughts were dulled and Obi-Wan wasn’t wincing anymore. He still had to work on it a lot though. Only time and practice would make his shields stronger.

And that wasn’t all he learned. He learned that all Jedi used shields. The Force opened all sorts of possibilities to them and they had to be ready to face them all. They had to be ready to focus and let the Force guide them. Shielding served many purposes. They kept people out, as well as protected other Jedi from the accidental onslaught he had given Obi-Wan. He also learned that a stressed shield could break. He’d experienced a lot of pain in his life and from the extreme example Obi-Wan gave him, he didn’t want to try it. A broken shield could shatter a mind.

Anakin shook himself and watched as the red dust rose around the vehicle. They were slowing to turn around the winding parkway that would take them to the main doors. And after those main doors, there’d be people who were going to poke and prod him. After every mission, those who went off-planet had to get checked out and approved by the Healers here. And with Obi-Wan bringing Anakin in, he was going to have to be checked too. The only thing that stopped him from wanting to bolt was the promise of having his slave chip removed.

He didn’t know where it was in his body. No slave did. When he had still been Watto’s slave he had been determined as a child to build some sort of scanner that would be able to locate the damn thing. But he never succeeded. The only thing he knew was that the chip location was different in every slave. That way if it was ever found, the location would be useless to any other slave. It prevented a mass removal and newly freed slaves. It could be anywhere in Anakin’s body, but the outcome was always the same if tried to run. Head explosion. The chip was wired in some way that caused the same reaction in every slave.

Following Obi-Wan into the building, Anakin followed his fate.


 

Healer Mi’aka Leueka considered herself to be almost completely free of surprise. There were the odd things that the AgriCorps workers sometimes did to get themselves injured in unusual ways but it was really quite rare. She dealt with checkups of her patients as well as their return physicals when they returned from off-planet. She looked after illnesses, cuts, and scrapes, the odd broken bone.

But the surprise she received as she went to meet her next arrival was not something she was expecting. And it came in the form of a young man standing by Obi-Wan Kenobi’s side. Mi’aka had never seen him before, and he was much too old to be a new arrival. The clothes he was wearing were much too small for him as well. He looked awkward where he stood, regardless of his height, and the wary way he was looking around made her brow furrow.

The closer she got, the more she wanted to hear the story from Obi-Wan. The man wasn’t one to pick up strays; that she knew. But there was just something off with this boy. As she reached out gently with the Force her confusion grew. She could feel him pulsating with it, but his barely there shields made her wonder.

What have you gotten yourself into this time, Ben?

Chapter Text


Chapter Seven

Mi’aka sighed.

Only Obi-Wan Kenobi could leave Bandomeer to pick up new crop seeds and come back with a pleasure slave. It could only happen to him, and if circumstances were different she might have been tempted to laugh.

The boy was nervous. She could see the suspicion in his eyes as he looked around the Healer’s Ward, trying not to fidget.

Most of the story of their meeting had come from Obi-Wan to her through the Force - the slave market, his unbroken spirit, suspicion, contradiction, confusion, and the Force potential. That in itself was interesting. Not that it would do him any good as to the Jedi Order, but he would benefit from training in the Corps if the Council allowed for it. And they should, from what she had gotten from Obi-Wan’s mind – the quickness and ease which this Anakin had picked up shielding was quite rare, especially for one so old and untrained, never knowing the Force even existed…

Once she’d gotten Anakin situated for the exam, she was surprised by his cooperation. She didn’t expect it. Being a pleasure slave, he was probably skittish with touch and it wasn’t something he’d readily welcome. His shields sharpened constantly on edge - she could feel it - but they were still new enough that parts of thought bled through.

He would allow the exam because Obi-Wan promised the slave tracking device could be found and removed, and the fact that Mi’aka was female and a Twi’lek acted as a comfort buffer zone. She was glad that with the gift of the Force she could avoid the majority of touching that non-Force Sensitive Healers had to do. She could find injuries within the body through her mind alone.

She could understand too, as she took a blood sample with a calming smile and some small talk.

Almost ninety percent of all female Twi’leks were found in slavery. It was the curse of their grace and beauty; as well, the universe’s desire to own such elegance. She could feel Anakin’s respect for Twi’leks and good memories of the ones he had met. They were his equals back on Tatooine, one of the races who had first hand knowledge of what the pleasure market was about. They shared the same experiences of use and abuse.

He was growing more comfortable with her, and as a Healer, that helped her a lot.

“How’d you become a Healer?” It was one of his many questions.


 

A Twi’lek Healer.

Anakin had never heard of such a thing. All of the Twi’leks he had met in his life were fellow slaves, not that he’d had the chance to meet anyone else anyway, but a Healer! A Twi’lek Healer!

He’d always had a soft spot for them. When he had been ripped from his mother’s arms it had been a group of Twi’leks that had taken him in and cared for him when they had been under no obligation to.

Over the years though, he had either watched them all be sold one by one or waited as some went to see a client and never came back.

Ieiya had been the last to go, and the one who had been with him the most. He still missed her, and he missed his mother.

People had been ripped from him time and time again.

“Found it.”

The Twi’lek Healer’s voice brought him back from his thoughts.

“Mi’aka?” asked Obi-Wan.

“The slave implant. Middle of his right arm.

Anakin’s eyes flashed to his right arm.

Middle.

Right.

That’s where his implant was? It had been, quite literally, in front of him the entire time? So close by and he didn’t even realize… He could have had it out! He could have, if he’d gotten his detector to work. If Watto hadn’t disappeared! If he had remained in the Toydarian’s ownership, he could have freed himself.

He could have freed his mother…

Stars, even if he had remained a slave and had the same life, it would have been worth knowing that she was free. That she wasn’t owned. But now, he didn’t even know where she was.

He looked at Obi-Wan as he talked with the Healer. Would this man help him find her? With all his talk of the Republic and the Jedi, would he help? Anakin still had suspicions, those would take long to leave, but for another first time, he let himself continue with the hope that had started on the Proserpina.

Please don’t let this be a mistake.


 

Obi-Wan loved the Force. He truly did. Especially how it let the Healers check for physical injury without intrusion. Anakin hadn’t been severely injured or sexually assaulted before his auction but Obi-Wan suspected, with an uneasy stomach, that it would have brought down his sell price if he had.

Mi’aka redressed the bandage on Anakin’s leg from where he’d been cut by the handlers. It was already beginning to heal, but he really ought to start teaching Anakin how to go into a Healing Trance. It would help with the cut and minor bruising on his arms and wrists, and it would help him with his concentration too. The increase there would in turn help with his shields.

Obi-Wan nodded to Mi’aka as she left to find Anakin some clothes that would fit, there were always extra kept in storage. The Temple kept them well stocked. Especially in cloaks, which always seemed to be the most misplaced in the AgriCorps, and especially the Jedi, for some reason or another.

He turned his attention towards Anakin, whose own attention was all over the room.

“It wasn’t so bad, was it?”

The boy focused on him and considered. “She didn’t touch me much.”

“The Force can show us where we are injured. It can also help us heal. I’ll teach it to you when you like.”

He felt Anakin’s face melt into wonder. If he hadn’t been so affected by Anakin’s thoughts, he would have taught him about healing trances earlier. But shields were a must unless Obi-Wan wanted his mind to shatter. He quite liked his mind as it was and -

“She’s a Healer.” Anakin’s statement interrupted his thought. “But she’s a Twi’lek.”

“Yes, she is.”

“It’s different.”

“It’s the Republic.”

A space with no slavery, a Twi’lek allowed to live without being someone else’s property, Anakin still couldn’t shake the ‘if it’s too good to be true, it probably is’ thought. It was ingrained.

“And she…” he started hesitantly. “She can take out the implant?”

“She’s already scanned it. Now she only needs to bring up a model and see how it works, before finding a strategy on removing it safely.”

Anakin nodded and resumed his earlier task of, once more, looking around the room. The AgriBuilding’s Healer’s Ward was large and pristine – so much different than what he had experienced in the past. When he had been with Watto, the slave clinic had been little more than a hovel and for slaves whose Masters didn’t want to spend money on buying new slaves. Most owners though, if they were rich enough, would just let their slaves die and buy a healthier one. When he was with Kerr, an injured slave meant loss of profit, so a Healer was brought into the brothel. Though most slaves, if they required a Healer, were too broken to move.

It was a nice change.


 

When Mi’aka came back with extra clothes she told them they could head home.

“He’s healthy enough to leave with you, once I get all of the blood work done, and get the schematics for that implant I’ll send a comm. Should be only a day or two at most.”

Obi-Wan smiled and nodded. “Understood.”

“Then you’re both free to go. After we’ve done your post-mission exam, Obi-Wan.”

Obi-Wan winced. “I’d rather hoped you had forgotten about that.”


 

But she hadn’t. Mi’aka was always the one to catch him trying to sneak back home without the standard exams that he knew were required. But it still didn’t stop him.

In the hover flight from the AgriBuilding, Obi-Wan shifted restlessly.

“It wasn’t that bad, was it?”

He turned to see Anakin looking at him sideways.

“Of course not, it’s just –“ Obi-Wan shuddered involuntarily. “I’ve never been good with Healers.”

“Why?”

His gaze shifted to watch the rocky plains shift to grass behind Anakin’s head as he considered his answer.

“I was sick a lot when I was a youngling. As I grew older and out of the illnesses I became quite accident-prone actually. The Healer’s Ward was almost a second home. I hated every second of it. Haven’t ever been too keen on Healer’s since, even though I know it’s their job to help.”

Anakin nodded and looked back out the window of the vehicle. What was once barren rock had gradually transformed into bright grass, green intermingled with blue, and what he assumed were crops further out in the fields.

It was so different this planet.

From Tatooine’s golden deserts, and Coruscant’s heavy durasteel; from what was once unforgiving red rock, Bandomeer slowly transformed into something bright and natural. There were rock formations still around but now with a multitude of different colours and plants surrounding them.

A comfortable silence fell between him and Obi-Wan as he continued to look at the new world around him and they eventually came through a small town. Obi-Wan told him that it was a farming community. A ways past the communal housing, there was a large glass building that held all the seedlings that the AgriCorps workers procured throughout the galaxy. It was there that they were nursed and utilized until they could be seeded and spread into an area of the planet to grow.

Every town had one, and they all worked together to produce enough fruit and grains for the planets that needed them most.

Passing through the town they continued on their way.

“You don’t live in the town?” asked Anakin.

“Hm? Oh no, I um…I’m a bit further out.”

And he was indeed. Slightly beyond the town, yet still in fair walking distance, a pinnacle stood out near the coast. He had built his home there, far from prying eyes, and those who would try and engage him. He had lived in the small village when he was younger, and still disheartened about not being chosen by a Master, had tried to shy away from all the people who wouldn’t leave him alone. All he wanted to be was alone.

And by moving he had been. He had become something of a recluse, a hermit almost. There were times when he was bothered by it, but the feelings always left. He had very few friends and, just like his Temple days, it was all he really needed. He was a very simple man.

And Anakin. What was he going to do with him?

The hover vehicle touched down outside his small house. The compact hut overlooked the town from its hillside perch, and a taller rocky mound sprang up behind it. Around the foot worn path from many years, a trail led around to over look the ocean.

Obi-Wan smiled. Ankain’s brows were already furrowed in the direction that the waves rocked into the shore. Deciding, Obi-Wan led Anakin from the vehicle and around the house to be met with a view of deep sapphire down below.

Anakin’s expression was priceless.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8


He sat.

The grass beneath him was soft and lush, the ground reassuringly solid.

It wasn’t anything like sand.

It didn’t shift, it didn’t stick, it didn’t get anywhere it shouldn’t. But the ground held only a small part of his attention. Everything inside of him was drawn to the magnificence of the deep blue water sparkling far down below.

Over the edge and far past the grassy knolls that slowly shifted to white beach, Anakin watched the sunlight sparkle and reflect off of the surface of the water. The waves swelled and crashed in white foam over the beach.

And sand, his mind supplied absently.

But the water... The ocean, as Obi-Wan called it. It was beautiful. It was more water than Anakin had ever seen in his entire life. More than anything. And it was everywhere! The ocean stretched in front of him for kilometers on end, more than he could count and depths that he couldn’t work out, couldn’t comprehend.

It was…he didn’t have the words.

He just knew that this planet didn’t need to be worried about water, or the lack of it. They didn’t need to conserve it…

It was…

Anakin stared. He didn’t think he’d ever get tired of looking at it.

“Here.”

Obi-Wan’s voice startled him out of his thoughts. He’d hardly noticed the other man come and go, so wrapped up in the scenery presented to him. Obi-Wan shook out a blanket and draped it across Anakin’s shoulders.

He shivered as the wind picked up and drew the blanket tightly around himself, silently thankful. The breezes blew past every now and then, a much cooler air than the winds of Tatooine had been before a storm.

“It’s big.”

Obi-Wan nodded. “Very. You can see the ocean from orbit, it covers fifty-five percent of the planet.”

Anakin turned back to the ocean.

“I’ve never seen this before.”

Obi-Wan smiled at his wonder. “You should see Mon Calamari some day. Close to ninety-eight percent of the planet is water. There are small coasts, but the species there are water dwellers.”

And how Bant had loved the water. When he had been at the Temple he could always find his old friend in the Room of a Thousand Fountains, swimming, and floating in the pools. Obi-Wan had been a decent swimmer, but nowhere near her grace and natural agility. Master Tahl had seen it.

Even if it made his heart ache, he was more than happy that his best friend had been apprenticed. Bant had become a wonderful Jedi, a skilled Healer. He really did miss her.

Obi-Wan shook himself, and turned to his new charge.

“There’s dinner ready, if you’re hungry.”

“Really?”

Obi-Wan smiled. Their meals on the flight had been less than accommodating. “Really.”

He turned back to the house. “Come, Anakin.”


 

He was staring again. Just…water. More water.

And it was just…for him.

Obi-Wan had fed him and it had been one of the best meals of his life; an actual meal instead of blue milk and belthin cakes, actual food instead of the textureless gruel served in the brothel.

Anakin wandered closer to the bathtub and sat on the edge.

He closed his eyes and thought of the fruits and meats, the soup that he had just had. Spiced, and flavoured, full and textured; Obi-Wan hadn’t planned on starving him…and with this…

Anakin hesitantly dropped his hand down and let it dip in the water. After he had eaten, Obi-Wan had drawn him a bath. He could relax, scrub the dust and sand that still clung to his skin since Tatooine, bathe…properly?

Sonic showers he had used, it was the most economically viable way to do it on Tatooine, but only if one had the money to install them. The money the pleasure slaves brought in to Kerr, paid for the expense. Water was never wasted on them; it was too precious a resource.

It was different though with his mother, back then it had been a shallow basin and a washcloth to be shared. Sonic showers too expensive, and water had to be carefully measured out.

Anakin stared at the bath water.

It was certainly deeper than a basin. And Obi-Wan had still only filled it half way. It was both scarily comforting and disconcerting how Obi-Wan knew what he was thinking. But he’d probably known how Anakin felt about water from observing his reaction so far.

Even with his new shields, Anakin knew his thoughts still came out sometimes. And the way he effected Obi-Wan…

He was the first Force Sensitive Anakin had met, and just knowing that there were other people like Anakin, that the Jedi had started out like him. Well, it was something.

Taking a deep breath, he began to shed his clothes, carefully folding them and setting them on the rack beside the towels that had been laid out for him. Soft towels, incredibly soft - they were nice. And he was stalling.

Taking a deep breath, he cautiously dipped his foot in the water. Sitting on the edge of the tub, he brought his other foot to meet the water as well.

It was warm. Actual temperature warm.

The desire to just get in was starting to overwhelm, the fact that he could have this was trying to outweigh the thought that he would somehow contaminate the purity of the water. Before he had seen the ocean, the bath water would have been more than he had seen in one place.

Taking a deep breath, he lowered himself into the water. Felt the heat and small ripples wave and wrap around his body. It was all right. He wasn’t on Tatooine, Bandomeer had lots of water, Obi-Wan said it was all right.

Immersed to the waist, Anakin sat. He was warm.


 

Obi-Wan could hear light splashing as he walked passed the ‘fresher door and sighed in relief that he wasn’t going to have to push Anakin any more than he had to. He had been a bit worried about Anakin’s reaction, given his reaction to the water aboard the ship they had taken to Coruscant. Water had been the most precious commodity on the desert planet Anakin grew up on. Water meant life, everywhere, on every world, but Bandomeer had plenty, and a bath would do Anakin good.

Obi-Wan had only filled the bath half way though, after having felt his trepidation as he mentioned him taking a bath. But it was more relaxing that a ‘fresher shower, or sonic shower. Sometimes you just had to let yourself lean back and relax. And Anakin needed to relax, and Obi-Wan would make sure that he could without fear of reprisals or insult. He had been through enough and he wasn’t going to make it worse on him.

He wanted to…help.

Which was odd to say the least. Though at some point it wouldn’t have been. It was why he wanted to become a Jedi in the first place - to help, to save, to do everything in his power for the people of the galaxy. But once his fate with the AgriCorps was signed and sealed, he had shut that part of himself away, and over the years it had been buried, that feeling of wanting to reach out to another life form.

He had no problems picking things up, being a glorified delivery boy, or working the fields, and larger stations within the complexes…but to work one-on-one with someone?

He had liked his isolation for the most part. He did it to himself out of a warped sense of self-preservation, if he hardened himself to people around him, he couldn’t be rejected like that again. He couldn’t fail again.

But one look at Anakin and he had gone against years of repressed emotion. And he didn’t understand why.

Obi-Wan sighed. Ignoring his thoughts, he got to work making up the couch for Anakin. Sheets tucked in, pillow, and warm blankets over top. He would have been willing to take the couch himself and let Anakin take the bed, but rethought it quickly as he imagined Anakin’s reaction. He had been a pleasure slave. When had he really been left alone in a bed, and would he even trust Obi-Wan enough to let himself fall asleep?

So the couch would have to do for now. He supposed he could convert his study into a bedroom for Anakin as he was going to be staying with Obi-Wan for an unforeseen amount of time.

What the Force had he gotten himself into?


 

Mi’aka’s shift was ending. Soon she’d be able to go home and sleep until the sun rose again and brought her back to the Healer’s Ward. She had finished her tasks and handed off her duties to the Night Healers, stopping into her office space to finish with the information regarding Anakin.

She had been successful in finding the schematics for the slave chip in his arm. It was a crude design, yet decidedly effective and deadly. She found that it had an active sensor that would detonate at any attempt at removing it; most likely a fail-safe for any slave trying to dig it out themselves. Luckily, she could prevent that reaction and hold the chip piece sensors together with the Force long enough for it to be removed safely. Mi’aka was thankful for her status as a Force Sensitive. It allowed her to do more for her patients than modern medicine, however advanced, could do alone.

Slave chips were never meant to be removed; once property, always property, especially if the slaves never left Outer Rim space. It was barbaric to do to sentient species, and as a free Twi’lek she knew the plight of slavery.

Sitting at her console, Mi’aka set to work sending off the chip schematics so she could look them over at home. She wanted to get this done as soon as possible, and knew Anakin and Obi-Wan felt the same. She’d comm. Obi-Wan tomorrow to set up a time to remove the chip.

A distant rumble made her look up from her work. Looking out her window, she watched the sky light up a ways away. It looked like another storm rolling off the oceanfront.

Beeping distracted her from the light show, and brought her back to her console.

Anakin’s midi-chlorian count had finished, and by the looks of it had been for a while. The process was quick, but she’d been preoccupied until now.

Clicking the report open, Mi’aka nearly choked. She stared at the screen, unblinkingly.

There had to be a mistake.

Opening and closing her mouth, she got up and left for the lab, intent on re-running the midi-chlorian test count. Something had to have gone wrong with the count the first time. There was no way she was reading those numbers right.

And if she was, she wanted to be completely certain before alerting the Council.


 

Anakin’s heart pounded. Shooting up into a sitting position on the couch, he looked around desperately for the noise that woke him. It had sounded like the biggest krayt dragon he ever heard barreling down on the small home. It shook him, seeped through his bones and rattled the windows.

Maybe it was a greater dragon; the ones that buried themselves and moved through the sifting sands with the ease of their awful strength.

What was that pounding? It sounded like the fiercest sandstorm, but…different somehow. He could hear it, on all sides, just outside; torrenting, and slapping everywhere, pounding.

His eyes darted quickly to the window as a brief flash of light filtered through the curtains.

He stood cautiously and began carefully making his way towards the window. Halfway there, Anakin froze and his heart leaped into his throat at another rumbling crash.

Thunder. It was thunder.

The sandstorms on Tatooine had been bad enough, but even worse when there was thunder. It just brought back memories he didn’t want.

Creeping closer to the curtain, he parted it to the side, and his eyes widened. It wasn’t sand. It was water.

Water that fell from the sky; it was like the entire ocean was falling down from above. From what he could see, when the lightning flashed, the entire ground was soaked. Sheets of water collapsed onto the ground and…bounced? The sheer force of it was bouncing the water.

A light clicked on behind him, startling him, as he jumped around. The hall light was on, and Obi-Wan shuffled into view, rubbing his eyes and clutching his robe.

“Force, at least I’m not the only one who can’t sleep,” he said, catching sight of Anakin.

Anakin watched him move to the kitchen, and after another thunderclap shook him, he hurried across the room to sit at the kitchen island behind Obi-Wan, in the newly turned on light.

Obi-Wan’s back was to him, his hands reaching to open cupboards, taking out a well-worn canister, and a teapot. Filling the latter with water, he set it on the hot plate to let it boil.

Anakin watched him turn away from the counter and face him. A crease marred Obi-Wan’s forehead as he looked over him.

“Are you all right?”

“What?” Anakin paused and looked down. His hands were clenched tightly around his biceps; he hadn’t noticed how tense he was. Slowly releasing his arms, he shrugged.

“I’m fine.”

“Is it the storm? I’ve never liked them much myself.”

“There’s…there’s water.” Anakin pointed towards the window.

“Rain.” Obi-Wan smiled lightly. “It happens when enough moisture is evaporated into the atmosphere. Being near the ocean makes it happen more here than other places on the planet. It’s good for the crops though.”

“And it just…falls from the sky. This…rain.”

“It does.”

Anakin breathed. This wasn’t Tatooine. He’d always known there were other planets, other environments. Not every place in the universe could be like the desert world.

Coruscant had been nothing but city. And Bandomeer…aridlands, farmland, grassland, ocean…

He blinked as Obi-Wan moved from the kitchen to the front door. “Come on.”

His heart leapt as Obi-Wan chimed open the front door and stepped outside. The sound of the driving rain was even louder than before. Moving jerkily and swallowing his heart that had leapt into his throat, he made his way to the front door and stood on the cusp.

Obi-Wan was a few feet away, already soaking wet. Hair plastered to his head, and robe drenched around him he nodded towards Anakin.

Holding out a hand cautiously, palm turned up, Anakin felt the hard drops fall onto his hand. They didn’t bounce as high as they did on the ground, but they still moved in a way he’d never seen water move.

The water was slightly warm though; colder than his bath had been, but not uncomfortably cold.

The sky lit up above him, and his eyes were immediately drawn to the forks of lightning running across the sky. Blue and purple streaks danced within the clouds, the thunder rumbled distantly.

Before he knew it, he had moved out into the storm to stand beside Obi-Wan. The rain beat down on them, wet and slick. He could see the sky when it lit. He could watch it all moving in a way the sandstorms never allowed.

Standing next to Obi-Wan, the rain sluiced down around them. The lightning continued its winding forks, and the krayt dragon - a water dragon - in the sky roared.

Later on, back inside. Anakin sat by the window watching the storm. He was comfortable in dry clothes with his blanket wrapped tight around him.

Obi-Wan handed him a cup; the tea warmed his hands.

Chapter Text


Chapter 9

The Council had been in session for hours.

It had started as a scheduled meeting with the beginning dedicated to discussing considerations of Knights to promote to full Masterhood. There were a few promising talents they'd been watching for quite some time, and now it felt right, the chosen Knights deserved their new commissions. There was also the matter of finding a replacement for Coleman Trebor’s seat on the Jedi High Council. It had been debated before and, the more they talked, it seemed likely that Kit Fisto would be offered membership to the Council.

Then the report had come in.

Urgent meeting required with the High Council, the messenger said.

One of the Temple’s Healers had been brought into the Council Chambers, holding a data pad in her hands. Ran the work three times, she said, before displaying it before the Council.

A midi-chlorian count of over 23,000.

Human Male. Former Slave.

Twenty-one years of age.

That’s when the debates started, and continued well into the setting sun.

“There’s no question, the boy is too old; and I use that term loosely. He is more than too old, beyond it.”

“We agree with you Mace, but I still think we should meet with him.”

Mace Windu stared hard at Adi Gallia from across the room. “There is no point. Even if the midi-chlorian readings are correct, he’s too old to ever be a Jedi. He would be far too dangerous. The boy has been a slave all of his life, and with the missions we do he would never be able to control his emotions. They would rule him. Why are we having this discussion?”

Mace folded his arms and looked around the Council Chamber. When the Bandomeer Healer’s report had been brought to their attention earlier, he had hardly believed it. Others couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t believe that there was a boy out there with a potentially higher midi-chlorian count than that of Master Yoda. The levels they were seeing were unprecedented. The Council had talked, they had debated, and Mace would not back down from his position.

If the boy was Force Sensitive then let the AgriCorps deal with him. He was far too old, and despite the mystery that surrounded his midi-chlorian count – he was of no use to the Jedi Order. They would sanction his entrance into the AgriCorps, and there he would learn to control his abilities and would be put to work helping with food production and crop growth. There was nothing there that would aggravate his emotions, and he wouldn’t be a danger. Mace felt that he constantly had to remind his fellow colleagues just how bad this could go for them.

“We’re not talking about training him, Mace.” Adi’s tone was deceptively calm, but he could feel her underlying frustration with him held tightly beneath the surface. “We want the Healers here to take a look at him, make sure there are no mistakes in the blood work.”

“And then what? Test him in front of the Council? For what purpose?”

Mace took his eyes off of Adi and glanced towards Yoda. He had been quiet throughout the latter half of the meeting, head bowed, claws scratching idly at his gimer stick, lost in deep thought.

“We have to do something with the boy Mace. He’s not an AgriCorps worker, he’s not a Jedi, and he’s no longer a child as you’ve mentioned,” said Eeth Koth. “And if his midi-chlorian levels are correct...”

“It could be dangerous. If anyone were to get it in their heads to train this boy and turn him to the Dark Side of the Force, with a count higher than Master Yoda’s, I’m not sure any of us would be ready for that kind of raw power. This boy would have none of the control that we have been trained with all of our lives, he’d be completely unstable.”

“Is it best he remain with the AgriCorps?” asked Ki-Adi Mundi.

Mace nodded. “For now I think it best. The workers are Force Sensitive, they should be able to teach him some control.”

“They aren’t trained for that. And if this boy is that in tune with the Force? It will take more than a former Initiate with only a basic knowledge of -”

“Who found the boy?” asked Shaak Ti, she glanced apologetically at Eeth.

“Found by Obi-Wan Kenobi, the boy was.”

The Council members turned towards Yoda.

“Kenobi… The name’s familiar,” said Mace leaning forward.

Yoda’s ears dropped minisculely, as he bowed his head and dropped into silence once more.

“I remember him.”

Mace glanced over at Adi.

“He was a bright boy, if a bit lonely.” There was something in her eyes, something knowing as she looked at Yoda. Mace had the feeling that he was missing something.

“Go to Bandomeer myself, I will.” Yoda nodded determinedly.

“Master Yoda –“

He waved a tiny clawed hand. “Decided, I have. Go, I must. See this boy, I will.”

Mace sighed and sat back in his chair. Yoda held up a hand to stop Adi Gallia from what she had been about to say. Once Yoda made up his mind, it was nearly impossible to change it. If he said he would go to Bandomeer alone, then he would. He would meet with the boy, and conference with the Council about what should be done. They trusted his wisdom, and the Force was circling calmly around them.

“It’s for the best?” asked Mace.

“Is so, I believe.”

The Council considered Yoda’s pronouncement. If it was the safest way, then they would all agree.

“There’s only one more matter left then,” said Mace. “Are we all agreed that what has been discussed here will not leave the Council Chambers? If knowledge of this boy got out and into the hands of the wrong people, it could be a disaster for us all. If a Dark Jedi or worse were to hear about this...the consequences could be dire. Healers Leueka and Eerin are the only ones aside from us who know of this boy’s midi-chlorian count, can we keep it that way?”

Agreement was reached from all sides of the Council. The boy’s connection to the Force had to remain quiet. The connection he had to the Force and his status as a former slave made him vulnerable. With the resurfacing of the Sith, this knowledge had to stay with as little people as possible.

The Council session was pronounced concluded after all had agreed to the call for secrecy and Yoda’s self-appointed task. The two coincided well, if the boy had been brought to the Temple, many Jedi and younglings would sense him, especially if he had no handle on his abilities. By Yoda going alone they were limiting contact with other Jedi, and Yoda’s departure could be readily explained if need be.

As the Council members filed out, Mace remained seated waiting for Yoda. The wizened, old creature didn’t move from his contemplative position, so Mace didn’t move either. He just sat, and waited for Yoda to speak. He always had the patience for his old Master, when he was deep in thought he stayed that way until a solution presented itself through the Force.

“Better will it be, to go to them,” said Yoda finally.

“Master?”

“Uncomfortable, for young Obi-Wan to once again walk these halls. Pain and failure he feels, sure of it, even now am I. Do that to him, I will not.”

“Who was this boy?”

“Remember, you do not?”

“It’s familiar, how long ago was he here?”

Yoda sighed. “Taken by the AgriCorps he was. Twenty-four years it has been.”

That was why Mace couldn’t remember him. He had seen so many younglings in the Temple, ones that stayed, ones that left. He couldn’t remember them all, especially those who weren’t chosen by a Master for apprenticeship.

Yoda continued. “Qui-Gon’s apprentice, Obi-Wan should have been. Much potential in him, saw it I did. Swayed, Qui-Gon was not.”

Mace’s brow furrowed. He remembered this.

“Kenobi. That was the boy’s name? The one you took a liking to?”

“Trained him, I should have.”

“He was too passionate. Unpredictable.”

“Control, he needed. Learn, he would have. Great talent, the boy was. A great Jedi, become, he could have.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Felt it I did. Train him, you I should have asked.”

“Master –“ Mace began, but Yoda was already shaking his head and waving his hand.

“Depa Billaba, your last apprentice I know. As mine, you were.” Yoda sighed, “So many younglings, too few Masters.”

Yoda finally vacated his Council chair. Curling to the edge and dropping himself to the floor, his gimer stick hit the ground as he moved towards the door. Mace stood and walked with him. Out of the chambers they went, down the spiral’s elevator, and across the floor. It wasn’t until they were walking down through the wide corridors that Mace spoke again.

“Do you really think Qui-Gon and Kenobi would have been a good match?”

“A light, Obi-Wan had. Good for each other, they would have been.”

“Xanatos’ betrayal hit Qui-Gon hard. Whether or not training Kenobi would have eased that pain remains a moot point now.”

“Something else to focus on, he would have had.”

“The solo missions he took with Master Dooku helped him with the loss. It was as well anyway,” said Mace thoughtfully, “that they were partnered together when the Sith re-emerged on Naboo. A Padawan Learner wouldn’t have been ready for that.”

“Perhaps.”

“Anyway. Despite Qui-Gon’s leanings, he has taken on another Padawan.”

Yoda nodded. “Orphaned he was by his previous Master’s death. Will of the Force, this time it was. Listened, Qui-Gon finally has.”

“Zett Jukassa should be good for Qui-Gon. Dooku’s taken a liking to the boy as well.”

The two continued their journey to the hangar bay. The sooner Yoda made his way to Bandomeer, the sooner the Council could get a hold on what was going on. It was essential that they form a plan concerning the boy’s future and even though the Force had been steadily clearing, there was still darkness that could touch him.

“Return I shall, when complete my task is.”

Mace nodded. “Yes, Master. This is where I leave you.”

“Appointment you now have?” asked Yoda, as he watched across the bay as his shuttle pod was readied.

“Supreme Chancellor Organa has called for a brief meeting. Now that the Trade Federation has surrendered, and peace is steadily returning, he feels it’s an appropriate time to hold Chancellor Palpatine’s funeral.”

“Appropriate, it is.”

“If we receive word from Master Vos about General Grievous, we’ll contact you immediately. May the Force be with you, Master Yoda.”

“May it be with you, as well, my once-Padawan.”


 

“It’s all wet.”

Obi-Wan stopped slicing the muja fruit in front of him and turned towards Anakin. He was staring out the kitchen window looking at the wet grass and puddles left by the week’s steady rain. The sky was still a dull grey in the morning, the pressure system slowly moving past.

“It will be until the sun decides to come out and dry everything. It’s going to be chillier out as well. For a few days at least, it’s what the forecast said.”

“I don’t like the cold.” Anakin folded his hands into his sleeves and glared at the grey sky.

Obi-Wan smiled. “In time, you’ll be used to it.”

Anakin looked over at him dubiously. “I’ll never be used to this much water.”

The downpour a few days ago had astounded him in so many ways, and now to see the aftermath of such a storm – of water instead of sand; a grey, wet chill in the place of a dusty, hot sun. He’d never be used to this.

Glancing over, he watched Obi-Wan add another fruit to an already fruit-ladden tray. His mouth watered as he kept his eye on the carefully cut black slices. They were incredibly juicy, and undoubtedly his favourite.

Obi-Wan stacked a few cuts of bread on the side and placed the completed plate behind him on the counter island.

“Go ahead, Anakin.”

Leaving his place by the window, Anakin pulled out one of the stools and sat down while reaching for one of the dark pieces.

“What are these?” he asked biting into it.

“It’s called Barabel fruit,” Obi-Wan answered. He rinsed the knife he used to cut the fruit and bread in the sink before putting it back into the drawer. Grabbing two cups from the cupboard, he moved to the hot plate and filled them with water from the kettle. “I believe I have some Barabel tea if you’d care to try it.”

“Yes, thank you.”

Anakin watched Obi-Wan’s back as he worked, and picked up another piece of fruit. He’d been in Obi-Wan’s ownership for nearly a week, and those days had felt like a reprieve. He wasn’t doing anything that he had done before. He wasn’t put to work - no labour, no sex; he wasn’t beaten or starved.

Nothing bad had happened to Anakin since he’d met Obi-Wan. Anakin had been freed from his bonds, given food, medical care by a Twi’lek Healer, he’d been taught about the Force and how to shield, given a soft, warm place to sleep, an honest to stars bath – he hadn’t asked for any of it. It had been given to him, without anything being asked in return.

That usually made him suspicious. Nothing in his life had ever come without a price, unless it came from his mother. She was the only one who ever gave to him without expecting anything in return. After she was gone, no one had cared.

He still didn’t know exactly what was going to happen to him, but he hadn’t had any incredibly bad feelings like the ones he used to have on Tatooine. Though there was still a matter that he needed answers to.

“What happens to me now?”

“What?” Obi-Wan finished his attention at the counter and sat down on one of the stools, placing their tea in front of them.

Anakin ran a finger along the rim of his cup.

“I mean...you keep telling me that I’m a freeman but...what now? I’ve been a slave all my life, what happens to me now since I’m not here for labour or sex?”

“You’re Force Sensitive,” said Obi-Wan. “Not only that, but the Force is unusually strong in you. You could be a very big help to us here, and if you’d like I could petition the AgriCorps for your entry. If you didn’t want to join them, then maybe odd jobs? Get you some form of income of your own, anyhow.”

“Like, actual paid work? A real job?”

“When you’re ready. There’s no rush right now, I know you’re still adjusting.”

Anakin’s mind was reeling. Would Obi-Wan ever cease to confuse him? Everything he heard seemed to come out of the last place Anakin expected. He was completely out of his element, without direction.

“Why did you buy me in the first place?”

Obi-Wan looked up at him startled, as if he didn’t think to be asked that question. Why did he buy him? Why did he take him from his homeworld? A thought from before came back unbidden, had Anakin left any family behind? His mouth opened and closed a few times, before he answered.

“I-I don’t know. I just...our meeting was the will of the Force, Anakin. It was a complete accident that I was there that day.”

“What happened?” asked Anakin. He was curious now, about how he came to Obi-Wan, how this man had ended up at a slave auction when he seemed to have no intentions to own a human being.

Obi-Wan sighed. “I was on Tatooine picking up harvest seeds. The transport agent who was supposed to bring them to Bandomeer contacted us saying he had been shot down. I was the one they sent to find him, and by the time I did, he was in one of the brothels.”

And how happy he looked too. Obi-Wan could remember his annoyance with the man, and he doubted very much that any ship had been shot down at all. The Captain had come across one of the first planets in his long journey that promised some entertainment and instead of meeting his bargain with the AgriCorps, he had sat back on Tatooine. The man’s thoughts had been clear as day.

Obi-Wan shook his head and continued. “After I got everything settled there, the crowds were incredibly pushy in that part of town. I ended up in the auction quarters, watched after a few slaves went by. That’s when I saw you. Or rather I heard you first.” He picked up a piece of bread off the plate and started shredding it with his fingers. “You were Force Sensitive. It was obvious; I could feel you. There was something in you Anakin, and it was bright.”

He had felt it. As clear as anything, Anakin had radiated with the Force. But even still, Obi-Wan wasn’t about to tell him everything about that day. That despite everything, how beautiful Anakin had been. Still was. It was...embarrassing to say the least. That he should be affected so much by this boy. It was disconcerting.

Anakin picked up another piece of fruit. “There’s nothing bright about me.”

Obi-Wan frowned. “You’re wrong,” he argued. “Your past doesn’t dull it.”

Anakin bit his lip; he could feel a flush heating his neck. “Is that the mind-reading things again?”

“No. I won’t pry like that. But your emotions are clear.”

It felt like a stone had lodged in Obi-Wan's stomach, to feel Anakin’s self-disgust. None of what happened to him had been his fault, he had been a victim of circumstance on a planet of uncivilized creatures. The universe was an unfair place. If there was any fairness about it, Anakin would have been discovered by the Jedi as an infant and taken in, away from the Hutt controlled planet of his birth.

“It wasn’t your fault.”

Anakin shrugged. “I was born a slave.”

Obi-Wan’s brow furrowed. Maybe now was the time...

“Did you...I mean, did you have family on Tatooine?”

At first, he didn’t think Anakin was going to answer. His eyes stared at the wall behind Obi-Wan’s head, and the loss and hurt was obvious. Obi-Wan was drowning in it. What had he done? He may have gotten him out of slavery, but to bring him off-world to a planet on the opposite side of the galaxy without saying good-bye. Not that he’d had much time, but...Force how could he fix this?

“Anakin...”

“My mother,” he said, eyes shifting down to his tea. “I don’t...I don’t know where she is though.”

“Auction?” asked Obi-Wan quietly.

“They separated us. I went to the brothel and I don’t know where she went. I don’t even know if she’s on Tatooine anymore. It’s been...almost a decade now. You kind of lose track of time.”

Obi-Wan opened his mouth, and then shut it again as his mind started to turn.

He would have been a child, he thought. But then…Force…a cold chill lodged itself inside Obi-Wan’s stomach and chest.

How young had Anakin been when sold to the brothel? Ripped from his mother, and sold into the sex trade. He couldn’t be more than twenty now, give or take a few years…stars end, who could do that to a child?

His expression remained neutral despite the horror gnawing in his mind. He didn't regret buying Anakin out of that life, but it was only now that he realized that it didn’t matter what he had gotten himself into, all that mattered was that Anakin was never going back.

“Do you have family?” Anakin blinked up at him, abandoning his tea in favour of Obi-Wan. His blue eyes were both hesitantly curious and filled with an age-old sadness.

“I –“

Obi-Wan couldn’t help the shock that played within him, and he didn’t doubt he looked startled as well. It wasn’t a question he had ever thought to be asked. He barely thought about it himself.

“Somewhere. I suppose.”

Anakin frowned. “What do you mean?”

“I was given up by my parents,” Obi-Wan sighed. “When they found out I was Force Sensitive, I was handed over to the Jedi to raise.”

“Why would they do that?”

“It’s the way it is, Anakin. The Jedi believe in non-attachment. If they aren’t attached then they can do what’s best for the greatest amount of people for the higher good, without worrying or favouring only a select few. Family is an attachment, a distraction.”

“But that’s wrong.”

“That’s the Order.”

“But you’re not a Jedi, why didn’t they give you back to them then?”

“For what purpose?” That I failed. So they could know they gave up their son for nothing.

“Don’t…don’t you miss them?”

“I don’t know them.”

Obi-Wan had few memories of his life before the Temple. He could remember a planet of grassy plains, a younger brother – but nothing more. He couldn’t remember his mother. He couldn’t remember his father. He didn’t know. The option to meet them had come up after he had been reassigned to the AgriCorps and had come of age, but he had no interest then. And he had no interest now. It was just yet another reminder of what sort of life he could have had. But he didn’t know them, and they didn’t know him. He doubted he would have been very welcome after an eighteen year absence, despite any familial relation.

Anakin opened his mouth again to speak, but was interrupted by a steady beep from the common room.

Standing and excusing himself, Obi-Wan made his way out of the kitchen to answer the comm.


 

Anakin watched Obi-Wan walk towards the beep before lowering his head to stare into his tea. It had been so hard without his mother for the longest time. Even now there were times when he wished that she was with him, that she could hold him one more time and tell him how much she loved him. She had been everything to him. He couldn’t imagine never having known her love for him.

But Obi-Wan…Obi-Wan didn’t know his mother. Had never known her. She gave him to the Jedi, as did every parent of every Jedi who ever lived. They were given away to become the greatest defenders of the galaxy.

The Jedi were amazing, but the way they came to be just seemed…cold.

His mind was swirling when Obi-Wan came back into the kitchen and stopped on the threshold.

“That was Mi’aka, the Healer you saw when we arrived. She’s done all the research and gone through the datapads. They’re ready to remove your slave implant.”

Chapter Text


Chapter 10

It had been a week.

One entire week of bar brawls and drinking, a week of hunting and extortion; one full week of bribing information out of slave traders, and trying to follow a ship route that had ended seven days ago.

He should have had one entire week already of breaking in and crushing that boy.

The boy who had eluded his ownership for years thanks to his caution and then Kerr’s refusal to sell. Kerr never wanting his property damaged, especially property that brought in a large percentage of business.

Dejiak ground his teeth.

All of his planning, all of the details were always, always ruined by auctions. He couldn’t believe it. He should have this thing. There shouldn’t have even been an auction. He had been so prepared. Kerr, that idiot, was a greedy bastard and he liked to drink. Not only that, but he loved to bet. That was how Dejiak won the brothel from him in the first place. A well-played sabacc match against a moron who thought he couldn’t lose and it was his. More importantly that damned slave was his to do as he finally pleased with.

Only Kerr, that two-timing giwa chita, wouldn’t take his loss lying down and had turned around and sold every single slave he owned. Kerr told him he’d only won the brothel, not the slaves since they weren’t part of the deal and they weren’t tied to the building at all. All of them were bound to Kerr, and after the lost sabacc game, he decided to sell them all, since what use were they without his brothel. He decided to take the money and leave Tatooine since they had made the damn koochoo enough money to retire.

So all Dejiak was left with was a near empty brothel. And if that wasn’t enough to piss him off, the kriffing slave auction had sent him over the edge. The Skywalker boy was the most frustrating creature he had ever encountered. From his loud mouth and defiance, to a spirit that, with what was left of his pride, wouldn’t allow to break.

A slave with pride.

Would miracles never cease? The boy should have been in his hands for years now. That fucking Toydarian that had previously owned him had point blank refused to sell. A beautiful kid like that and he was working in a junk shop. Quite the pity. The “disappearance” that had left the boy without an owner had been easy enough to arrange, but Dejiak hadn’t expected ownership transferred to a cousin. By the time he had gotten back from disposing of the body, the boy was with Kerr.

The fact that he was owned by a brothel helped to somewhat dispel Dejiak’s anger. Though the wait during the boy’s training period was maddening. But when he finally had him… So sweet, so tight, the boy had been worth waiting for. In the beginning it had been enough, but the rush to own started coming back stronger over the years, even though he was a regular. He didn’t like other people using his boy, but Kerr wouldn’t sell. Dejiak wasn’t stupid, he knew Kerr had Hutt ties and didn’t want to be on the receiving end of that backlash. He could only petition to buy the boy every now and then, but he wanted more. And for a few hours he’d thought he had accomplished just that.

But what good was a brothel deed without the pleasure slave ownership papers?

And that second damn auction. He couldn’t believe someone actually outbid him. He’d been enraged! Dejiak had only caught sight of Skywalker’s buyer momentarily before he was shoved out of place as the auction continued. He had seethed, robbed of his prize for the third time in almost a decade. Every single time, they boy just slipped right through his fingers and he was sick of it. The man who bought his property was going to die slowly.

From his quick glimpse, he assumed the buyer was human, short, maybe a bit stocky. The brown robe he wore didn’t give away much, and the hood had concealed much of his face. Though luckily for Dejiak, the slave trader who dealt with him had been more than happy to talk for a fee. He had a name from the records and a ship.

But finding Ben Kenobi turned out to be much more difficult than he anticipated. Nobody knew who he was. Nobody had ever seen him before. Nobody knew anything about the man. This led Dejiak to the conclusion that he was an off-worlder. The ship name Guyrek supplied also helped. What didn’t help was that the transport Kenobi boarded had made stops to multiple planets, with its final destination set as Coruscant.

Just thinking about the Inner Rim gave him hives, not to mention the Deep Core. The boy was a slave, he was property. The traders shipped slaves in cages, which the Republic tended to frown upon so those planets were out. It had been a week and that was as far as he had gotten. But there had to be a trail somewhere; and he would find it. The boy was meant to be his, and he had waited this long, what were a few more weeks or months? He was following an obsession. And when he found said obsession, he was going to carve his name in the little slut’s back.

What were a few more scars to add to the ones he had already left?


 

Sitting in his bed, Anakin stared at the bacta patch on his forearm again. Mi’aka had told him it probably wouldn’t scar, that he wouldn’t be able to tell where she had made the incision to remove the slave chip. His arm still ached where the muscle had been cut into, but with the healing trance Obi-Wan had been teaching him, the Force would help it heal faster than it normally would have on its own.

Obi-Wan had kept his promise. The implant had been taken out, and he had seen it destroyed.

When they had been on their way to the Healer’s Ward Anakin had been worried about how they were going to take it out. He didn’t want to be unconscious for it, not for any of it. It was Mi’aka that assured him that he didn’t have to be. She had numbed his arm, he couldn’t feel anything below his elbow, it was like a disconnect. She told him if he didn’t want to watch he just had to turn his head, but he didn’t want to. He wanted to see that damn thing come out, he wanted to see the implant, he needed to see it. He had to be sure, and positive, and assured that it was out, the last remnant of his slavery gone for good.

Afterwards, he smashed the damn thing himself.

It was out. And just thinking about that made him wonder. If he had been able to find his implant back on Tatooine, as well as his mother’s, would he have cut it out himself? An arm was one thing, but if it had been lodged next to his spinal cord or something else vital…with no access to medicine, proper equipment, or pain killers… An idea was one thing, implementing it was another.

He shivered. He could never hurt his mother like that. Watching Mi’aka and the robotic drones laser their way into his arm with some of the best technology he’d ever seen, he logically knew that trying to dig it out himself would not only hurt worse than anything else he’d been through, but in all likelihood, he would have bled to death before he’d even gotten to the chip. There were a lot of veins and tendons in an arm, and Mi’aka had been careful. Not only that but she was trained for these types of procedures.

Anakin touched his arm one last time before starting to pick at his bed sheets. They had gotten back a few hours ago, that was when Obi-Wan had suggested he try the healing trance again. He would try again later, since his thoughts were just too clouded now. Memories of how things had been before the brothel, his mother’s smiling face replaced by her look of worry and pain as she had been ripped away from him at auction…

He missed her so much . She was always there in the back of his mind, always nestled close to his heart where they couldn’t take her away. It had been so long, even if he wanted to find her he had no idea where to look. Transaction records had probably long since been destroyed or misplaced, the traders didn’t care where the slaves ended up, and the datawork after the first few months was considered expendable. His mother could be anywhere. The transport ship, if she had left Tatooine, could have been raided. She could be somewhere else entirely from where she was supposed to end up.

Anakin wiped at his face furiously. Tears were a weakness he could never afford. He had been without her for the longest time, but every now and then the past came back unbidden, and he missed her more than ever.

I’m not a slave anymore, mom. I’m free.

There was no more slave implant. He was on a Republic controlled planet. The people here were farmers, Force Sensitive like he was. His Healer was a Twi’lek. Obi-Wan wasn’t going to hurt him. For the first time in nearly a decade, he finally recognized the feeling in his stomach, the echo in the Force surrounding him - safety.

If he opened himself up to the world around him, he felt no danger. No malice, no sadism, no impure thoughts, no pain. All he felt were the ocean waves crashing on the shore below the cliffs, the peace of well-cared for fields, the light rain that fell against his window.

He wished his mother could see it. He wished he knew where she was.

“Anakin?”

Glancing up sharply, Anakin noticed Obi-Wan standing in the doorway.

“Are you all right?”

He shrugged, “M’fine.”

Obi-Wan’s brows furrowed, and Anakin thought he could recognize the look on Obi-Wan’s face. Concern wasn’t something he was used to, and it made something jump inside of him. It didn’t look like pity, he knew that look too. He’d seen it enough during slave transports or when Kerr had him outside the brothel walls. Not everyone on Tatooine was a bastard.

Obi-Wan hesitated before moving further into his former study, now Anakin’s room. He set the tea cup he had been holding down on the night stand beside the bed.

“I-I brought you some tea.”

Anakin nodded. That was when he noticed a small wet splash fall on his hand. He didn’t even notice his face was wet. Blinking, he ran a sleeve over his face to get rid of the tears that his thoughts had brought on. Hadn’t he willed himself to stop?

“It’s about your mother, isn’t it?” asked Obi-Wan softly. “It’s just…I could feel…”

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be. You should drink some of that. It’ll help.” He turned to leave.

“You really…” Anakin stopped him. “You really don’t remember them? Your parents?”

“No. I don’t.” Obi-Wan hesitated again before he sat down on the mattress facing Anakin. “Attachment was forbidden.”

“But then…if you ever fell down and got hurt, who would hug you?”

“No one.”

Anakin looked at Obi-Wan, really looked at him. No one. It was so cold. How Obi-Wan even said it, like it was so matter-of-fact for him, like anything beyond that would confuse him. But how could someone be confused over a hug? Over comfort? He could imagine in his mind, a Jedi youngling falling down and scraping their knee, a Jedi Master putting them back on their feet, and telling them to stop crying.

“Why?” he choked.

“Jedi are taught to release their pain into the Force.”

“But, but a youngling-”

“It starts in the crèche.”

“It’s not fair.”

“It’s the way of the Jedi.”

Anakin had been right. It was cold. The detachment, the loneliness…Anakin was glad he was never found. He couldn’t have left his mother for that life, it would have driven him crazy. He missed her, he missed her so much right now. He was free, he wasn’t a slave, he was far, far away from Tatooine, and she wasn’t here to see it. She wasn’t free with him, she was lost, and he couldn’t find her.

He was so lost in his thoughts that he didn’t remember leaning into Obi-Wan and burying his face in his shoulder. Tears wet the tunic beneath his face, as they were shed for his mother, for himself, and the Force for bringing this strange man to the auction that day.

It had been a long time, such a long time since someone held him. He could numbly feel Obi-Wan’s arms around his back, Anakin’s own hands were gripped tightly in Obi-Wan’s shirt.

Just a hug. Such a long time. No pain, no sex, no ulterior motives, just innocent contact, just comfort. Just being held, the first time in a long time. And it was holding onto Obi-Wan, the smell of spice and grass in his nose, that Anakin fell asleep.


 

He had been concerned. Of course he had been. Anakin’s shields were better than they were but he still bled through. Obi-Wan worried he might always bleed through. He could sense Anakin’s wonder and happiness at the slave implant being removed. But hours afterwards, once they were home, he had started to feel wave after wave of sadness radiating from Anakin’s room.

He knew he had to do something. Should to something to comfort him only…

Only he had never been any good at offering comfort. He didn’t know what to do. Tea had always calmed him down, had been Obi-Wan’s comfort for years. It was soothing, like a balm to old wounds. But Anakin was different. He had learned different ways of pushing back his emotions, but he still clung on to a mother’s love that he had once had.

When Obi-Wan came into his room, he hadn’t been prepared for what he saw. He wasn’t expecting the tears that ran unnoticed down Anakin’s lowered face. It made him look…so lost. Vulnerable. Obi-Wan could only assume that having the slave implant removed was what finally hit home. At least Obi-Wan hoped so. He’d been trying to tell Anakin he was no longer a slave, and without the implant, he hoped that he would finally believe him.

Obi-Wan had set the tea on Anakin’s bedside. He thought he should leave to give Anakin some privacy, but Anakin asked him about his own parents again. Obi-Wan hesitantly sat down next to him and tried to explain as best he could. He couldn’t understand Anakin’s loss over a parent, but he could compare it to his loss of the Temple.

It had been twenty-four years since he had left the Order, but the ache was still present every day. He had grown attached. Attached to the Temple, the Jedi, their way of life…Force, even the ratty stuffed bantha he had hidden away in his closet. The only thing his parents ever gave him, their one gift before they gave him away. He had never been able to let it go. Was it ever any wonder why no Master had wanted him? How could he ever have believed he was fit to be a Jedi when he had attachments? He knew his failure.

The hurt was ever present when he recalled it for Anakin, but it seemed to help him earlier before he knew about the separation of infants and their parents. And to help him, Obi-Wan had opened his own wounds so he could take on some of Anakin’s pain, it was the least he could do.

When Anakin hugged him, it was…awkward, to say the least. Obi-Wan didn’t know what to do, so he had inelegantly settled his arms on Anakin's back. It was foreign to him. He wasn’t used to being touched, and to suddenly have Anakin leaning against him, hands entwined with his tunic, needing some form of comfort Obi-Wan doubted he ever got from anyone other than his mother, he was stuck. Obi-Wan remembered Mi’aka hugging him a handful of times, but other than that he was always alone. Until the Force had dropped Anakin into his life.

When Anakin fell asleep, Obi-Wan gently laid him down onto his pillows. Pulling the blankets up around his shoulders, Obi-Wan watched him sleep and wondered what the future would bring.

Chapter Text

Chapter 11

By early the next morning, the sun had finally started to break through the grey, cloud-covered sky. Obi-Wan watched the bright rays from the kitchen window as they streaked through the dissipating cloud cover to form small, sunny patches over the calming ocean. It had always been beautiful to watch the sun come back after a long rain. It was one of Obi-Wan’s favourite things.

The sky, once dark-filled with gloom and thunder and harsh winds that seemed to expand over the whole planet, it would quiet again; the sky becoming light once more. Bright, unparalleled radiance that had been hidden and consumed by the dark brought out once again after the cloud cover was no longer holding it back. The light pierced through the darkness, like it was raging a battle. The clouds blocked out the sun for a time, but eventually the sun would overcome and shine brightly through.

The storm seasons were Bandomeer’s renewal. Without much snow, the crops grew year round. The rains were typical of the environment that produced mass agricultural exports. The seasons had slowly shifted back to the way they had once been, natural seasons - balance. There was a time, decades ago now, that Bandomeer had almost become a strip mining wasteland.

The day Offworld Mining Corp. was ground into the dust was a day celebrated by every sentient being on every planet the company had ever set foot on and destroyed. Offworld’s greed and corruption had cost many planets their viability. The destroyed ecosystems threw the seasons and rains off of their normal schedules, as plants and animals died, the world unable to sustain planet-wide life.

With Offworld’s ore mining operations gone from Bandomeer, the Jedi began setting it up as a protected planet; for the ease at which Bandomer was able to produce an abundance of crops, and as the locale for many former Jedi hopefuls now placed with the AgriCorps, it had to be kept safe.

Took them long enough…

Obi-Wan scowled at himself and tried to shake that thought. It wasn’t the fault of the Jedi. Force, he knew how thinly spread they were. The galaxy was vast, and there were trillions of people who needed help, and there were so few Jedi, only a few thousand if that. It wouldn’t take much to over-extend themselves.

Bandomeer hadn’t been the only world where people had started dying at the hands of an insidious corporation. Hadn’t been the only ones who tried to fight back. When the Jedi had finally come it had been a relief. But if the Jedi had been watching where they were sending new AgriCorps members - their former Initiates - more closely… Offworld might not have gained such a foothold in the first place. It was the Jedi’s ignorance to what had been happening on Bandomeer that further cemented Obi-Wan’s feelings of betrayal and isolation from the Order.

But he knew, rationally, that it wasn’t their fault. There was so much going on in the galaxy, other worlds that were in worse positions, that needed help before Bandomeer did. The Jedi were forced to put the galaxy’s planets into triage.

He knew it. He understood it. And he tried to let his emotions go, to let it all go. He wasn’t supposed to feel things personally. He understood the Jedi philosophy, he understood casualties, and he should have been able to rise above it, rise over and conquer his emotions. Civil wars happened all over the galaxy, he wasn’t the only being to have been caught in the middle of one. But he still felt it so keenly.

He wouldn’t have made a good Jedi. Maybe mediocre at best if someone had pitied him enough to take him on. Because that was what it would have been - pity.

Even though he had eventually found his inner calm, peace had always remained elusive. He ignored his conflicts, tried to bury them, hide from his failures. He couldn’t move forward.

Obi-Wan was stuck.

And he’d been stuck for a long time. So long that he had accepted it. He knew nothing would change. Watching the shadowed cloud cover slowly dissipate and give way to the rising, brilliant sun, Obi-Wan could only hope that one day, he would be free of his shadows as well.


 

The light clink of plates echoed throughout the kitchen as Obi-Wan set about on breakfast. Sunlight streamed through the opened windows and reflected brightly off the plastisteel counters. Blue sky spread for kilometres.

Obi-Wan added another helping of the Barabel fruit Anakin was so fond of onto the plates, and stirred the pot of porridge he had boiling on the hot plate. Breakfast was the most important meal of the day; it readied the body for a long day of work and helped to maintain the energy of the morning. It was one of his rituals, a peaceful morning breakfast. And it had been something he did alone, until the Force handed him Anakin.

Peace had, more or less, gone out the window in the last week. Obi-Wan had been…so off balance. Glancing towards the hallway to Anakin’s room, Obi-Wan sighed. The boy had been so lost the night before, and Obi-Wan doubted his clumsy attempts at comfort did anything to ease his misery.

Lost in thought, the light rapping at the door made him jump. Had the wind blow something into his door?

Obi-Wan turned his head and listened. When the rapping came again, he wiped his hands on a cloth and went to answer. No one ever came up to his house. He never had visitors.

At the third rapping, Obi-Wan finally managed to open the door. His brow furrowed in confusion, until something rapped against his knee, and forced him to look down. His eyes widened.

“M-Master Yoda?”

Obi-Wan blinked down in surprise. Beyond surprise actually, he was in shock. It had been over two decades since he had seen the small, green Master. The last time had been before his deployment to Bandomeer. Obi-Wan had thought that Yoda seemed sad at the time.

Yoda chuckled and inclined his head. “Good to see you it is, Obi-Wan. Tall, you have grown.”

Obi-Wan couldn’t help the smile that tugged his lips. Out of all the Temple Masters, he had always felt closest to Yoda. He was strong and wise, powerful and just, everything Obi-Wan had aspired to be one day. And Obi-Wan had grown, he didn’t remember Yoda being quite so small as he had been when Obi-Wan had been thirteen.

Force, he had been short for his age.

“Master, it is good to see you again, but…what are you doing here?”

“Hmmm. Straight to the point, you always were. All is well with you, hmmm?”

“Um, yes I…I suppose.” Obi-Wan was still in shock. Not only to see the small Master again, but to once more, re-familiarize himself with Yoda’s unique way of speaking.

“Suppose? Suppose? Hm. Well or not well, how is it you suppose?”

“Master-“

Yoda held up a clawed hand. “Mysterious is the Force, for all things a place for them. For meditation, the key it is. Well you shall find, when content you gain.”

“Yes, Master.” Obi-Wan squinted his eyes. As much as he had missed Yoda, his sometimes cryptic babbling had not been missed. It had certainly never been understood, anyway.

“Master, why-“

“A Force user in your care, I believe you have?”

“I…” Obi-Wan glanced behind him into the house. “A-Anakin?”

Yoda sighed. “Here to meet him I am, the will of the Council it is.”

Obi-Wan’s brow furrowed. “You'll forgive my confusion, Master. He’s in his twenties, what use is he to the Jedi?”

Batting Obi-Wan’s leg with his gimer stick, Yoda manoeuvered past him into the living room. Following silently behind him, Obi-Wan shut the door and trailed the small Master to the couches. Using the Force to help him hop up onto the cushions, Yoda waited for Obi-Wan to sit opposite him.

“Stay here, the boy will. Decided it was. Too old he is for training.”

“Yes.” Obi-Wan realized that, of course the boy was too old. But still, why the Sith would the Council send someone to see Anakin? Why would Yoda come himself?

“Noticed have you, anything about this boy?”

“Um.” Flashes sprang unbidden to Obi-Wan’s mind. Anakin’s eyes, his lips, the way he looked when he…Obi-Wan pushed the thoughts away, locking them tight against guarded shields. There was no place for that, there would never be a place for that. Even with Anakin’s beauty, there was something else that Obi-Wan had noticed above all other physical things:

Anakin’s light. The one that surrounded him the day Ob-Wan first placed his bid. The headaches on the transport home…

“He’s very strong in the Force. Very strong. I mean I…I’ve met untrained Force Sensitives before, but never anyone like Anakin. He’s so…loud.”

Yoda nodded all the way through Obi-Wan’s description, like it meant more than it should have. It only served to confuse him further. Why all the interest in a former slave?

“Pardon my asking Master, but how did the Council even know about Anakin?”

“His midichlorian count, we received from Healer Leueka.”

“I still don’t understand.” Why would Mi’aka do that? “The count’s irrelevant is it not? He’s too old for training, and with the shielding techniques I’ve been teaching him he’s getting better at not projecting his thoughts.”

For some reason that Obi-Wan couldn’t discern, that seemed to make Yoda smile.

“Master Yoda, why would Mi’aka contact the Council over Anakin?”

“A midichlorian count of over 23,000, he has.”

Obi-Wan was floored. It felt like the bottom of his stomach had dropped out all at once.

“There has to be a mistake.” His voice seemed to crack on the last word.

“Healer Leueka, three times she checked. More times did our Healers check. Correct, the count is.”

“But. But that’s higher than yours, Master.” Obi-Wan was out of breath. “It’s higher than…nobody on the entire Council has counts that high.”

“Loud, you say he is.”

“He’s completely untrained, of course-”

“No other, like him, you have felt. Said this, you did.”

Obi-Wan needed tea.

Something like this could only happen to him.


 

He had been preparing tea, or trying to prepare it anyway. The pot tipped over, he burnt himself, and the hotplate chipped when he dropped the nearly tipped pot. After all these years, the first acknowledgement from the Jedi had not only been Yoda, but he was here for Anakin. Anakin, who apparently had an unprecedented midichlorian level.

It was…he didn’t know. He should stop thinking about it though.

Force, had Anakin been found earlier…what kind of Jedi would he have become? There would have been a long line of Masters assembling to train him. A child with such Force potential would never have been rejected…never be…

Stars. Anakin was an even greater victim of circumstance than Obi-Wan had originally thought. It wasn’t his fault the Jedi hadn’t found him in time. The universe…it wasn’t fair. He knew that better than anybody.

A vibration in the Force had him turning to the hallway.

Anakin was standing huddled against the wall, looking suspiciously into the living room.

What would he have been?

Shuttering his thoughts, Obi-Wan made his way over to Anakin. Anakin glanced at him and then back into the living room.

“There’s a green troll on the couch.”

Obi-Wan’s heart very nearly gave out at Anakin’s deadpan.

“That’s not a troll!” he hissed quietly. “That’s Grand Master Yoda.”

At Anakin’s blank look, Obi-Wan continued. “He is over 800 years old, and has a permanent place on the Jedi High Council. Most consider him the unofficial Head of the Jedi Order. Master Yoda is the oldest living Jedi, incredibly wise, and is one of the strongest Force wielders in the galaxy.”

“Doesn’t look it,” whispered Anakin.

“Hear you, I can. Not for decoration, these ears are.”

They both jumped and looked over at Yoda, who stared at them with an amused smile.

“Master, I-”

Yoda chuckled, and waved a hand. “Apologize, not. The boy, this is?”

“Yes, this is Anakin.”

Anakin looked between them warily, but followed Obi-Wan over to one of the couches. He found himself seated in front of the tiny, green creature. Now that he was fully in his presence Anakin felt a strange feeling settle cold in the pit of his stomach. He didn’t like how Yoda looked at him. Like he was seeing straight through Anakin. It left him…exposed, vulnerable.

He hated that. Anakin’s jaw clenched as Yoda’s ears twitched and his face melted into an unfamiliar expression.

Yoda’s hands rested on his gimer stick, as he drew in a breath and released out a sigh. His initial feelings about Anakin could be summed up in only six words.

“Much fear, I sense in you.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 12


Much fear, I sense in you.

Much, much fear.

What fear, have you.

A path to suffering, fear is. A path, to anger.

From anger, hate. Hate, a gateway - to the Dark side, it is. Too dark, a cloudy path to walk, danger lies, temptation waits. Crooked, the path is. Walk it, you must not.

If to see your mother again, you do, the will of the Force it is.

Anakin’s eyes opened. He blinked once, twice; his eyes focusing on the wall close to his bed. The wall did not blink back. But why would it, it was a wall after all. He sighed, and shifted in his bed. Turning onto his back, Anakin stared up at the ceiling.

The dream hadn’t jerked him awake as if from a nightmare this time. Now he had taken to just…waking up. He was wide awake. Not tired, or sleepy. His heart beat in the same, steady rhythm it did when he was up. It wasn’t erratic, or fast. He felt…

He didn’t know how he felt.

The dream had been coming off and on ever since Yoda had left. The encounter had been a little over two weeks ago, but he still couldn’t shake his unease.

Yoda…unnerved him. It was the way the troll had looked at him when they first met, a look that had never let up; like he had been trying to stare into Anakin’s very soul and search out all his secrets to lay them bare.

Slatt. He hadn’t just not liked it, he hated it.

Hate leads to the Dark side.

Whatever.

Anakin sighed and turned his head towards the window. The sky outside showed nothing but blue sky; the past few days had been warm, and reminded him of the mornings back on Tatooine; the mornings when he and his mother had belonged to Watto, anyway. They used to watch the suns rise together. Standing on their small outcropping of balcony side by side, as the rays slowly inched their way over the horizon.

He missed her.

If to see your mother again, you do, the will of the Force it is.

They had touched on his mother, when he had talked to Yoda. He hadn’t liked it. Anakin knew he had weaker shields than they did, but his thoughts were his own, and Yoda hadn’t any right to pluck things at will and put them to his backwards and meaningless syntax. When the troll pulled things from his mind it had felt like a violation. When Obi-Wan did it, it felt…unintentional. Obi-Wan didn’t like prying into his thoughts, and he had taught Anakin shielding so he wouldn’t have to. Anakin could see Obi-Wan’s discomfort at invading Anakin’s privacy.

Anakin had never thought about the privacy of his own mind before. Never had to. Before Obi-Wan and those who could sense his thoughts, his mind had been his own. Even when his body was not, his mind was. He could think and feel when and what he wanted. But then he discovered Force Sensitives, and his mind was no longer his own. Not unless he could shield himself from those he inadvertently projected to.

Obi-Wan respected his mind’s privacy.

Yoda had no such reservations. It was like he was looking. Deliberately digging. It was one of the reasons he made Anakin so uncomfortable.

The other reason, was the talk of fear.

Much fear, I sense in you.

Of course there was fear in him! How could there not be? After an entire lifetime in slavery, and a quarter of it getting fucked for a living - of course he got scared. He'd watched slaves leave and never come back. On rare occasions, slaves were carried back down - bruises, welts, and open wounds marred their flesh from the more…sadistic clientele. And Anakin had his own scars. Kerr may have liked his slaves in good order, but they were pleasure slaves, not personal slaves. No one could touch a personal slave without repercussions, but a pleasure slave? They were all expendable in the end.

Of course he was afraid.

When Obi-Wan had bought him, he had no idea what was going to happen to him. The entire thing had been an unknown element that threw him off balance. Even when Obi-Wan had brought him into the Republic…even when his slave chip had been removed… Everything that had happened since the auction was an unknown. Obi-Wan’s treatment of him. Mi’aka’s. He wasn’t used to such…care.

And that’s what it was. Wasn’t it? He hoped that was it. It would be a month soon, that he had been in Obi-Wan’s care and the man had yet to beat him. Had yet to yell at him, belittle him, humiliate him. Rent him out.

Obi-Wan just…was.

Anakin may not have been able to sense much through his shields, but there was nothing in Obi-Wan’s demeanor to suggest malice. He was a quiet man, gentle, passive, calm. Characteristics Anakin would never possess.

Characteristics that didn’t waver in Obi-Wan. He didn’t act one way in public, and another in private. He was the same he always was. The Obi-Wan he had first met ship-board, was the same one he had been living with. It was…a nice change.

The corner of Anakin’s mouth quirked up into a half smile.

The more time Anakin spent with Obi-Wan, the more he found himself liking the man. That was a nice change too. He hadn’t had something like a friend in a very long time.

And Obi-Wan didn’t keep him locked away in the house either. He was a man of his word. He had once told Anakin that he could seek employment when he was ready, get paid for work in the AgriCorps if he so chose.

And three days ago, Obi-Wan had taken Anakin to his place of work; to get his bearings, to look around, to explore what Bandomeer could offer. He had recognized the large, glass building (which Obi-Wan called Agro-II) from his first day planet side, and remembered seeing it in the distance of the town. If he wanted to work, it would probably be there, with Obi-Wan.

When Anakin had first stepped into the building, all he could feel was life.

He could feel the energy of the plant forms, the energy from the workers as they nursed seedlings, and encouraged them to grow stronger with the Force. They were raising strains to plant, to harvest, to feed millions.

Anakin didn’t know anything about plants, but they were something he might end up working with. Before Yoda left, he had told Anakin that the Jedi Council would create a space for him within the AgriCorps if he wished it. It was what Obi-Wan had offered him as well, but for now he was still thinking on it. Still adjusting to not having to do anything. He had never not worked for so long before; and Obi-Wan had told him there was no rush. He himself had taken a leave of absence from work to stay with Anakin.

Anakin never had this sort of calm before.

He shifted in bed and ran a hand through his hair, combing through some tangles. He should probably think about getting up. He laughed a little. He could actually think about getting up or not.

Anakin had stayed in bed almost all day a week ago; and in no way did he expect Obi-Wan to bring him breakfast. That shocked and surprised him, along with Obi-Wan telling him if he wanted to sleep the day away, he was more than welcome. So Anakin had stayed in bed. It was only his stomach that roused him from his room that day and into the kitchen for lunch. Obi-Wan had been in the garden just outside the kitchen window.

It had been particularly hot, the sky full of sun. Obi-Wan had been shirtless, his skin damp with sweat as he worked. Anakin had never seen him without his robes before. He didn’t expect Obi-Wan to be as well-built as he was, but he could see the sleek tone of muscle, his strong back, and again the unexpected hit - Anakin’s heart had beat faster.

He shifted on the bed, seeing that day clearly in his mind. Anakin felt the twinges, could feel a slight heat in his abdomen start to burn.

It had been years since he’d gotten himself off. Even longer since it was by his choice alone. His hand moved across his belly, and beneath his sleep pants. He cupped himself gently, and thought of Obi-Wan’s skin. His cheeks reddened as he stroked his thumb over the head of his cock.

It wasn’t enough to get him fully hard, or even half. But he could feel the start. And that was something he didn’t think he would feel again. He didn’t know if it was arousal he was feeling per se, but…it was definitely appreciation.

Obi-Wan had freed him. Had taken him into his home and looked after him.

Anakin wanted to thank him. He just had to think of how.


 

In hyperspace, all distance was relative.

From Tatooine to Bespin. From Nal Hutta to Telos. Jumping through hyperspace to those planets would take a day or two. Travelling to another planet in the same star system would only take hours. The galaxy may have been over one hundred and twenty thousand light years across, but with a top hyperdrive engine, the distance from one edge to another becomes a reality in a few weeks to a month.

Distance was relative.

Time was not.

In the past month, he had searched out most of the planets on the Corellian Run trade route; moving closer and closer to the core despite his earlier misgivings.

The Calypso’s Homage had made stops to several different ports, and in all he had checked, in all he had threatened, and intimidated, there was no Ben Kenobi to be found. And no Kenobi meant no boy.

Dejiak pinched the bridge of his nose.

One month. It had been a month of searching up and down that Sith-begotten trade route and it had gotten him nothing but a cold trail.

His initial anger had dispelled into an icy stillness. It settled just under his skin, keeping the raging inferno beneath quiet while he worked. Time was not on his side and he knew this. Any more fits of temper at this point and he would further lose the trail.

Dejiak resisted a shudder as his ship came out of hyperspace above Corellia.

Core world. He didn’t give a shit that a good number of Corellians were pirates and smugglers by trade; their world was still within the Republic. The Republic with their rules and civility. The Republic that liked to pretend anything outside the Mid Rim just didn't exist in their perfect little order.

It made him sick.

He just wanted to find something. Anything! Just one little muttering about this Kenobi, who seemed to move through the galaxy like a ghost. Just one word was all he needed.

Dejiak did not want to have to go as far as Coruscant. He didn’t think he’d be able to stomach stepping foot there. But he would if he had to. The obsession would force it. He’d had his eye on the Skywalker boy for almost a decade, and wouldn’t lose sight of him now.

He would find them.

All he needed was patience.

Chapter Text

Chapter 13

“Master Windu, I assure you this isn’t necessary.”

“With all due respect Chancellor, it is.”

Mace watched as Bail Organa sighed and moved to the window of his office. The Jedi hadn’t expected such a bold attack, but given the late Chancellor Palpatine’s kidnapping it shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

It felt like a warning. A message that even though the Clone Wars had fallen in the Republic’s favour, it wasn’t over - the Sith still remained. But how many?

A Master and an Apprentice. Always two. But given how much darkness had left the Force, and how much light was coming back into the universe…were there really two left?

It was entirely possible that the apprentice had slain her mentor. It was entirely possible that Asajj Ventress had become the new Sith Master. But had she found a new apprentice? Regardless, it was something the Jedi would stop. They had to. As long as the Sith existed, the peace and stability of the Republic would always be in danger.

The failed assassination attempt on Organa's life was a key to the mystery, and Vos and Secura were on it. After Master Vos’ defeat of General Grievous on Utapau, the Jedi Council put him on the trail of the Sith, accompanied by his former Padawan.

The Republic was winning the war, and would finish in complete victory.

“Chancellor, the Council is concerned with your safety and that of those around you. The Jedi will not allow the Republic to lose another leader. We failed Palpatine, we will not fail you,” said Mace resolutely.

“I don’t believe you failed him. No one could have predicted what happened,” said Organa, turning to look at him.

It was a cold comfort, but Mace would still be damned if anything happened to the new Supreme Chancellor. The Republic needed stability, and Organa was a great leader. Losing Palpatine had shaken many people, and loosened resolve. Losing Organa could turn the tide of the war once again. Especially if Ventress remained free.

“We’re still assigning you Jedi protection,” said Mace. Organa would be protected.

“There’s no arguing with you is there?”

“No.”

Organa quirked a smile at Windu’s deadpan. “Who have you assigned?”

“Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his Padawan will be accompanying you while the threat remains.”

Organa nodded. “Then they’ll be accompanying me back to Alderaan. Besides the recent…unpleasantness, it should be safe enough should it not?”

“We’re taking the highest precautions.”

“Good. With the Separatists in shambles, I may be a target for some time; but I refuse to live in fear over something that may or may not happen. I’ve been away from Alderaan for too long, and I am looking forward to meeting my new daughter.”

“My congratulations, Chancellor. I hope the trip is uneventful.”

Organa laughed, knowing full well what the Jedi was referring to. “As do I. These last few weeks have been enough excitement.”

“Jinn and Jukassa will be sent shortly. May the Force be with you.”

“And you as well, Master Jedi.”

 


 


Night cascaded over the plains. Pitch black darkness, offset by the twinkling of a million stars shining down upon a lone figure.

The ocean’s waves crashing gently on the shore line was the only thing Anakin could hear.

Swell. Break. Retreat. Over and over the pattern repeated itself, never breaking its rhythm. It was calming, soothing, and relaxing in a way he desperately needed right now.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

What had he been thinking?

Anakin dug his feet into the sand. Awful sand. Coarse, gritty, rough, abrasive sand.

It only served to remind of where he’d been. Of what he’d been.

Slave.

Tramp.

Whore.

Hell, he just wanted to stop thinking about it. About everything.

Anakin ran a hand roughly through his hair, and kicked at the sand angrily. Turning to stare up at the rockside cliff, he could make out the lights that were still on inside Obi-Wan’s home.

Obi-Wan.

Anakin deflated.

Obi-Wan with his warm smiles, and calm nature; with his tea, and simplicity.

He was…he just was. Was unlike anyone Anakin had ever met. He was kind, and shy; quiet, and…a little sad at times, Anakin thought. He didn’t know why, but he hoped one day, maybe, Obi-Wan would tell him. He sighed audibly.

It was his kindness though, that confused Anakin the most at first. And it was his kindness, now, that Anakin had wanted to thank him for. It was difficult for him to think of anything for Obi-Wan, so he had fallen back into his old trappings. His old world. He did the only thing he knew.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Anakin groaned, angry at himself once more. He didn’t know what else to do, what else to give. He didn’t understand the reaction.

Anakin knew he was beautiful, so that couldn’t be the problem.

On Tatooine, he didn’t need his former owner to say it. He didn’t need his clients to say it. All he had to do was catch his own reflection and he knew. The slight curl of his hair, the bright blue of his eyes; his full, sinful lips. He was attractive. If he wasn’t he wouldn’t have been on the floors, wouldn’t have kept so much of Kerr’s business. His beauty was a commodity. A pretty thing to be used.

Anakin was beautiful, and who wouldn’t want to fuck such beauty? No one had ever passed him over before.

It was honestly the only thing he could think of to give Obi-Wan.

He wasn’t doing it for business, or payment, or because he was a slave. He was doing it to say thank you. It was okay. Republic or not, he was still Obi-Wan’s, wasn’t he?

And Obi-Wan himself was pleasant to look at. Nothing Obi-Wan did was ever overtly sexual, but Anakin still found himself watching. Watching the little things: Obi-Wan’s hands on cups and silverware, the curl and tuck of his legs when they meditated. Had he ever noticed Anakin watching?

He decided it was the best way. The best thing he could think of.

Sex was all he had.

And when Obi-Wan had left for town that evening, Anakin thought it was as good of time as any.

He’d bathed. He’d stripped. He’d positioned himself on Obi-Wan’s bed indecently. And waited.

Anakin dropped his head in his hands and groaned.

He hadn’t embarrassed himself like that in a long time. A brand new form of humiliation that he - now that he was calmer - realized was of his own making.

“It’s what you paid for. My body, this, it belongs to you. So use it.”

Obi-Wan had choked. Grabbed a blanket and covered Anakin, muttering, “You should go to bed.”

Then left.

Anakin had sat up on his heels slowly, wrapped the blanket around himself and stared - baffled - at the spot where Obi-Wan had been standing. It was a situation of his own making, but of course he just had to misunderstand and ended up blowing everything out of proportion.

It was just so confusing! Obi-Wan was confusing! He just… Anakin kicked the sand again and raised his head in a huff, watching the sand fly through the air and splash into the water. This was the second time Obi-Wan had rejected him. And now that Anakin thought about it, Obi-Wan had looked at him the same way as he had the first time Anakin offered to let him fuck him. Shocked. Wide eyed. Stuttering.

He…didn’t understand the reaction. Was there something wrong with him? Was he not…desirable?

Anakin felt lost. He had no idea how to respond to Obi-Wan’s reaction. He was offering himself freely, wasn’t he? He just…wanted to say thank you.

Thank you for being kind to me.

Thank you for not beating me. For not selling me, or raping me.

What was so wrong about that?

The rejection confused him as much as the first time; but this time instead of staying confused, he was stung by the rejection. The sting that turned white-hot and flushed through his chest to settle like a knot in the centre of his stomach. He was confused. Then embarrassed. And then angry. Trying to figure out what went wrong, why Obi-Wan didn’t want him, why he kept rejecting him, it brought things up in his mind that he didn’t want to think about.

"I disgust you." He’d spit those words so scornfully at Obi-Wan before he left. Now though, the anger had faded and rational thought returned; and really, he didn’t think he believed that. Obi-Wan had never once acted disgusted with him. Anakin knew what disgust looked like on a person’s face, he’d seen people look at him like that before, like he was something slimy and vile  that had crawled out from under a rock.

He knew disgust.

Obi-Wan was just…bewildering.

Anakin sighed, and scrubbed a hand over his face.

He supposed, in hindsight, that he could have been a bit more subtle. Obi-Wan was shy after all. Maybe it was his blatant approach and display that…embarrassed Obi-Wan? Had he been blushing?

A cold wind drifted off the ocean making Anakin shiver, he rubbed his hands up and down his arms in a futile attempt at producing some warmth. If he stayed out here any longer wallowing he would surely freeze to death. He didn’t think he’d ever get used to the temperature difference between Bandomeer and Tatooine. In his great stupidity he didn’t bother grabbing a jacket or blanket or anything. The light tunic and pants he wore did nothing to ward off the night’s chill.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Freezing to death would be just what he needed to complete the disaster that the night had been. And now he had to go back. There was nowhere else for him to go, and as much as it scared and embarrassed him, he had to go back. He had to face Obi-Wan again. Maybe try…apologizing?

For what? His mind supplied.

For making him uncomfortable, he shot back.

And now he was arguing with himself.

Anakin groaned and got to his feet, shaking off the sand from his pants.

“Maybe he is a virgin,” he muttered.

 


 


Wandering back, Anakin moved faster than he wanted to. He didn’t know what he was going to say to Obi-Wan, or what Obi-Wan was going to say to him. All he knew was that he was cold, and now that he wasn’t angry anymore he would rather sit inside awkwardly with Obi-Wan, than freeze alone.

What he hadn’t counted on was Obi-Wan sitting on the grass outside the house looking up at the sky. For a while, Anakin just stood watching him. He seemed lost in thought, the look on his face was one Anakin had become familiar with and not for the first time, he wished Obi-Wan’s shields weren’t as strong as they were. He wished he could just get one, single glimpse into the other man’s mind.

Anakin started when Obi-Wan blinked and turned his head towards him, noticing Anakin’s presence. They stared at each other, before Obi-Wan quirked a small smile his way. It was only after that that Anakin felt the tension he didn’t know he was holding slide away.

He slowly made his way towards Obi-Wan and sat down next to him wordlessly. Glancing up at the same sky he had been watching on the beach, Anakin sighed and wrapped his arms around himself.

“I got cold.”

He smiled a bit when Obi-Wan let out a short, quiet laugh. Glancing over at him, Anakin relaxed further when he saw Obi-Wan’s eyes were a bit brighter. The silence that followed was a more comfortable one, but Anakin still felt like he needed to say something else. Needed to explain himself, or the situation.

“If you wanted to,” he started. “I would.”

Anakin winced as he watched Obi-Wan’s face drop, and his eyes dim. He didn’t mean to make Obi-Wan look…sad.

“I know,” said Obi-Wan quietly. “And as hard as it is to believe, that’s not why you’re here. I don’t own you. This is Republic space. Slavery is outlawed. You belong to no one but yourself.”

“What if I want to?” What was wrong with sex for thanks? If he was free to offer it?

“Not like this.”

Then like what? Anakin wanted to ask. He didn’t understand. But…did that mean there was hope? Did Obi-Wan want to sleep with him? Eventually?

“Anakin…what did you do before the brothel?”

“What?” he asked in surprise.

“You weren’t always a…pleasure worker…were you?” asked Obi-Wan uncomfortably.

“No. I…I wasn’t…” he started. Before the brothel…it felt like eons ago. Watto, the junk shop, the hovel he shared with his mother, the machinesthe pod racing

Anakin’s mouth turned into a slow smile. It was hard to believe that those had been the happiest years of his life. He was three when Watto won them from Gardulla the Hutt. And the nine years he and his mother spent with Watto were the most free of his life until Obi-Wan.

“I worked in a junk shop,” he finally said. “I used to fix things for Watto, my owner. I guess I was his mechanic.”

“What did you fix for him?”

“Anything. Everything. I loved building things, fixing things. Figuring out how they worked, how they went together, how I could improve them, and make them run better than before. I even built my own protocol droid.”

“You built a droid?”

“Yeah. But he was never finished. Poor Threepio, he never got coverings. I wonder what happened to him sometimes…” He trailed off. Hopefully Threepio had been sold to someone who would appreciate him, maybe even finish him.

“That’s quite the achievement, Anakin.” Obi-Wan offered him a soft smile.

Anakin smiled back. “You should have seen the pod racer I was building. Have you ever seen a pod race?”

“Uh, I…no. But I hear they’re very dangerous.”

“I’m the only human that can do it,” he said, proud colouring his voice.

Obi-Wan’s eyes widened.

“Watto used to make me do it. Mom hated it, but I loved it. The speed, the excitement… I just wish I’d been able to finish a race…”

“The Force can sharpen reflexes. That’s probably why you could race at such speeds.”

“Yeah…” he trailed off.

“You know, Anakin, I’m sure the AgriCorps could use another mechanic in some capacity.”

“You think so?” he asked. His heart started beating faster, just the thought of being around machines again…

“It never hurts to ask.” Obi-Wan gave him another small smile that he returned almost sadly; his mood shifting once more. Anakin hadn’t thought about life outside his previous profession for a long time. The pain of his mother’s loss was too great, and thinking about how things used to be only filled him with an emptiness - and longing. The longing of tools in his hands again, as he took things apart and made them anew, the motor grease and oil staining his tanned skin.

Racing. Feeling the wind whip by his face, the force and speed pushing him back against the seat as he turned and manoeuvred the pod among caves and canyons. The thrill and exhilaration…what would it have felt like to finish a race? To win?

The pod races scared his mother, but if he’d won, would she have looked upon him with pride? Anakin frowned. Now though, he would never see that look on her face. He knew she would be happy that he was free now…but as to what he had become?

“Anakin?”

He jumped slightly at the feel of Obi-Wan’s hesitant hand on his back.

“I was just…” Anakin stopped. He knew the look on Obi-Wan’s face. He’d seen it before, the last time Anakin had been thinking of his mother.

Concern.

Obi-Wan already knew what he was thinking about. There was no need to tell him. Tears started to burn in his eyes like they always did when he thought of her. Would his mother be ashamed of him? She had loved him before, but he’d been innocent then. What was he now? Ruined? Dirty? A disgrace to her memory? Would she have still loved him after everything he'd done?

Leaning into Obi-Wan, he laid his head on his shoulder and tried to force back the tears. When Obi-Wan’s hand smoothed over his shoulders, he took it as permission to wrap his arms around Obi-Wan’s waist, face turning to bury into a surprisingly strong shoulder.

It was the second time he got to hug Obi-Wan. And just like the first, it was comfort without expectation. Something he still wasn’t used to, but he would try. He would try to figure out who he was now. He wasn’t a slave, so what was he? He’d been owned his entire life and now to have that suddenly lifted, it confused him as much as Obi-Wan did.

Leaning against him like this, Anakin knew he truly liked being close to Obi-Wan. He enjoyed his company, enjoyed talking with him and learning from him. How easy it was becoming to touch him, and how it made him feel to do so.

Something did nag at him, though. Every time he touched Obi-Wan, or offered him more, he never seemed completely comfortable, but startled, formal. Unnerved. In Anakin’s earlier anger he had assumed it was disgust, but if it wasn’t then…

Kriff.

“You’re not used to it, are you?” Anakin asked, his eyes widening in realization.

“What?”

“Being touched.”

The shoulder beneath him stilled and tensed. How could he have missed it? When Anakin thought about it - really thought - certain interactions between them suddenly made sense.

Obi-Wan had been raised like the Jedi. Cold, unattached, and seemingly unfeeling; that’s what they were becoming in Anakin’s mind anyway, and after meeting Yoda - Anakin was sure his new view was right.

He’d once wondered, the last time Obi-Wan held him like this, how someone could be confused over a hug, over comfort. And now he knew it was because none was ever given.

You can’t treat people like droids, he thought. One day, it’ll be too much.

Force, they were a pair. Anakin had been touched too much, and Obi-Wan too little.

Guess we’re both pretty messed up.

“Is it another Jedi thing?”

“Physical distance made emotional detachment easier,” said Obi-Wan after a beat. “How’s your Force progress coming?”

Anakin blinked at the question; it was…abrupt. A feeling once again started nagging at him. Obi-Wan was deflecting the question. It made him curious about what Obi-Wan wasn’t telling him. There had to be more to the story than the simple statement that Anakin was given. Whatever it was, it was bound to come up again. Anakin didn’t like leaving things alone, but this time he’d let it be…for now anyway. After tonight, they could use a more neutral subject to focus on.

“Better,” he said, answering Obi-Wan’s question, “a lot better. I can even…”

Anakin spied a few rocks on the ground. Unwrapping one arm from Obi-Wan’s waist, he held out a hand, and reached out with the Force, slowly raising the rocks into the air, and spinning them around. Moments later they fell to the ground.

“Not just my shields I’m working on.”

Of all the things Obi-Wan had been slowly teaching him about the Force, learning to control the telekinesis had been his favourite.

“That’s good, Anakin. You catch on fast.”

Obi-Wan’s praise always felt like a warm blanket stretching over him. It was honest, and the complete opposite of the “praise” he was used to.

Damn-baby-that’s-good-suck-it-like-that-Sith-those-lips-are-pretty-such-a-good-boy

He shuddered.

“Anakin?” The concern was back in Obi-Wan’s voice.

“I’m fine. It’s nothing. I was just…it’s nothing.”

“…if you’re sure.”

“I am.”

He wasn’t going back there. Not his mind, not his body. That part of his life was over. He could choose for it to be over. There was no brothel, there was no Kerr, there were no clients, and thank the stars there was no Dejiak.

There was only him, and Obi-Wan. The warmth of his arms, the house on the hill behind them, the cliffs, the ocean, and a stray wind. All on this little agricultural world.

Obi-Wan said he wasn’t a slave.

And just maybe he was finally starting to believe him.

Chapter Text


Chapter 14
 
Pitch-black night wrapped the room in darkness as he slept. Bandomeer was a moonless planet - the only light that filtered through the open window was from the muted stars.
 
Chapped lips sucked wetly on the heated skin beneath them…
 
A quiet breeze swept gently across him.
 
Warm bodies welcoming the hard press of the other, sliding, moving, straining for completion…
 
His breathing hitched.
 
Hands slid along narrow hips, teeth and tongue bathing the gentle curve of his neck…
 
Temptation.
 
Hands stroked him intimately. Thumb rubbing his tip, smearing fluid and making him jump.
 
Caught in a dream, caught under a spell. Not the first time his mind’s eye wandered into such territory.
 
Taking hot, hard flesh into his mouth. Sucking, licking, tasting. As much as he could get, wanted more, more, more. Deeper, wanting to go deeper, taking it all…
 
Groaning in sleep, his hips thrust into the air unconsciously.
 
“Obi-Wan…” Moaning. Rough, winded voice. “Obi-Wan…”
 
Obi-Wan shot up in bed with a gasp, hands flailing until he found a solid grasp on his sheets. Heart pounding and breathing heavily, he looked around his room wildly, trying to collect his bearings.
 
Running a shaky hand through his sweat damp hair, he leaned forward and groaned. He was hard. Achingly so.
 
Would the mortification never end?
 
It was a dream…just a dream…
 
And not a dream he wanted. He couldn’t. He drew in a frustrated breath and let it out with a harsh self-depreciating laugh. Why. Why was this happening now? He’d been able to control most of his thoughts for the past month. He’d managed to shut out and forget about the first time Anakin presented himself for sex, ignored his shameful reaction when they’d met, but the second time… Oh, Force, the second time.
 
Anakin had been waiting for him in Obi-Wan’s own bed.
 
The bed he was in now actually.
 
“Oh, Force,” he muttered helplessly.
 
It wasn’t right. Obi-Wan could still hear the words Anakin had said to him about paying for him, belonging to him, using him. Obi-Wan had been horrified. Sick to his stomach that Anakin could still think that of him despite doing everything in his power for Anakin to not think that of him. He’d been so confused, even more so when Anakin had sought him out afterwards in anger.
 
Star's End, I was never disgusted with you Anakin. If anything I’m disgusted with myself.
 
It had shocked him more when Anakin left. He was at a complete and utter loss for what to do. Thankfully, Anakin hadn’t gone far and his shields thinned when he was emotional. What he got from him was enough to help come to terms with what had happened and to meditate on what to do when Anakin eventually returned.
 
Obi-Wan was both relieved and worried that Anakin had meant to sleep with him to thank him for not sleeping with him and not that he expected Obi-Wan to eventually demand it. The logic was twisted, but given Anakin’s experience with people it should not have come as a complete surprise. Anakin simply had no idea how to respond to people who treated him with kindness and expected nothing in return.
 
And Obi-Wan honestly expected nothing in return. After everything Anakin had been through, he resolved not to lust after him like everyone else. But here he was doing the same things to Anakin - in his dreams anyway.
 
Obi-Wan forced himself out of bed, ignoring the heat between his legs, and sat down on the floor in a meditative position. He would release this to the Force. Try to release it.
 
"Do or do not, there is no try." He could practically hear Master Yoda’s voice.
 
He rubbed his forehead wearily. …it’s all I can do.
 
"Cling to the past, a Jedi does not."
 
…but I do. I’m not a Jedi. I can’t help it. All I do is fail.
 
No. No, he…didn’t have to fail Anakin. He could get over this, stop this, move past it. He’d buried it before, and he’d bury it again. The fleeting thoughts of…
 
Sithspit, it was so much easier before. Easier when Anakin’s rampant thoughts were battering his shields, easier when he was teaching Anakin with a dull throb in his head to distract him.
 
Didn’t have to think about his skin.
 
Didn’t have to think about his eyes.
 
Didn’t have to think about his lips, hands, waist.
 
His smile.
 
Didn’t have to remember that his first sight of Anakin on Tatooine had taken his breath away.
 
It was thoughts like these, he considered in frustration, that were not productive to his currently aroused state.
 
Force. Just… calm your mind.
 
But the harder he tried, the more his mind seemed to wander.
 
Stars help him, it wasn’t just Anakin’s beauty that got to him either. It would be easier if it was, but the attraction and these emotions were not skin-deep. Deep down past the pain, anger, and trepidation, Obi-Wan knew Anakin was a good man. From guarded to vulnerable, passion to sadness, uncertainty to calm…Anakin threw so many different emotions at him it made him dizzy. Anakin felt things with his whole being. And as much as it threw Obi-Wan, it also drew him in.
 
The longer Anakin stayed, the more attached Obi-Wan found himself becoming. Maybe it was because of his self-imposed isolation. Maybe he actually sort of…liked having another person around. Someone to talk to, someone to teach, someone to care for. Someone to spend time with.
 
Not being alone.
 
Had he been lying to himself, all these years? That it was better to be alone? That it was sensible and safer, to be alone. Anakin made him question it all. Made him want to reach out.
 
It terrified him.
 
Obi-Wan groaned and buried his face in his hands.
 
Why did he continue to do this to himself? He’d lived on Bandomeer twice as long as he’d lived in the Temple, yet he still tried to follow the teachings he’d learned as a youngling. While he’d felt anger at the way the Jedi ignored Bandomeer’s suffering under Offworld Mining, he still clung to Jedi principles, clinging to a life that had long since been denied to him. The teachings were meant for Jedi, and after his reassignment he learned the majority of it no longer applied to him. He never embraced that ‘freedom’. His time with the Jedi Order was twenty-four years in the past, yet it still dominated his life.
 
Perhaps it’s time to let it go, Kenobi.
 
By the stars, he wanted to let it all go. He had denied and repressed so much over the years. Who knew all it would take was one Anakin Skywalker to turn his world upside down?
 



 
Streaming sunlight hit him in the face many hours later. Cracking an eye open, Obi-Wan winced in pain at the light, then winced again when his neck cracked.
 
Damn it straight to Sith Hell, he was never falling asleep while meditating again. Forcing himself from off the floor and trying to ignore the pins and needles in his legs and the crick in his neck from leaning again the mattress, he finally fell back onto his bed. Massaging his neck with his hands, Obi-Wan groaned. This was not a good way to start his day.
 
The bad start to his day got worse when, after throwing on his robe and stepping outside his room, he stepped on something sharp. Biting back a hiss – more due to the startle than the actual pain – he glared down at the object, then sighed loudly. Thinking of many colourful choice words that he didn’t really mean, he bent down to pick up a small metal rivet.
 
Anakin.
 
Anakin and his tools and it was all Obi-Wan’s fault, really. In an honest attempt, hope-filled, and what he wouldn’t call desperate (at all, really), he’d asked what Anakin had done before the brothel. The change in Anakin’s face and demeanor was almost immediate. He’d smiled as he talked about the junk shop, about the machinery…he’d looked happy. If the AgriCorps needed someone with mechanic abilities, Obi-Wan thought it just might be a better fit for Anakin to be in that area rather than in tending plants.
 
When Obi-Wan brought Anakin a box of machine parts and some old tools the day after their, well, second incident, it was probably the happiest he’d seen him thus far. The ‘incident’ was almost a week ago, and in that time Obi-Wan watched Anakin blossom. Something had changed in Anakin after that night, a weight had lifted off his shoulders. He moved lighter, his step was surer, and his smiles came more easily.
 
But blossoming or not, there was no reason Obi-Wan had to keep tripping over or stepping on machine parts.
 
Rubbing his eyes blearily and stepping into the kitchen, he was pleasantly surprised to see breakfast already made. He’d started teaching Anakin basic meals a while ago. Breakfast was by far the easiest meal to make, so they started there. Unfortunately, unlike the Force, cooking was… not something Anakin picked up on quickly.
 
But he was eager to learn. Spying the lumpy looking oatmeal, Obi-Wan spared a quick glance at the stove. Besides the days old scorch marks everything seemed in place and relatively unharmed. How Anakin managed to set fire to the wall behind the stove, Obi-Wan was sure he’d never figure out in forty lifetimes. Anakin was now only allowed to use the hot plates furthest from the wall while Obi-Wan was not present.
 
“You look like a bantha trampled you,” Anakin said, glancing up from his food.
 
“Good morning to you too, Anakin,” said Obi-Wan dryly as he watched him pile spoonful upon spoonful of sugar onto his oatmeal. Just watching it made Obi-Wan’s teeth ache. The amount of sweet foodstuffs Anakin consumed on a daily basis was nothing short of astounding.
 
Would you like some porridge with your sugar, Anakin?
 
“You’re not getting sick, are you?”
 
Obi-Wan blinked. “Of course not, why?”
 
Anakin raised an eyebrow. “You’re not dressed, you haven’t shaved, and you look horrible.”
 
Fair enough.
 
“I’m just a bit tired, didn’t sleep very soundly,” he replied, trying to ignore why he hadn’t been able to sleep soundly. In the harsh day of light it was easier to ignore what went on in the back of his mind, easier to forget what came out in the dark.
 
“Oh.” Anakin took a mouthful of his porridge slowly, looking at Obi-Wan closely. “You’re growing a beard.”
 
Obi-Wan gave him a wry look. “If I stopped shaving for a few days altogether I’d have a full on beard.”
 
And Force was it true. At the rate at which his facial hair grew, it would take less than a week; his five o’clock shadow showed up at noon.
 
 “I made you breakfast,” said Anakin proudly, interrupting his thoughts.
 
“And how much motor oil is in it?”
 
Anakin laughed. Obi-Wan dropped the rivet he had stepped on onto the table and surveyed said kitchen table with a bit of dismay. Not that he could even see parts of the table underneath the half-built whatever it was that lay near Anakin.
 
“What is that?”
 
“Thought I’d built you a vacuum bot,” he remarked and went back to spooning sugar.
 
“A vacuum bot…?” Obi-Wan repeated, then shook his head. “Anakin there are machine parts everywhere. I thought we’d agreed they’d be kept to your room?”
 
“We did. But then I found out I work better on different parts in different areas.”
 
Through sheer self-restraint, Obi-Wan managed not to wince and purposely tried to not look into his living room.
 
“Of course you did.”
 
“I’ll pick them up, honest.”
 
“I know you will.”
 
He couldn’t even stay pretend mad or exasperated when challenged with that pout, even while he imagined bits of metal and haphazardly discarded tools all over the floor.
 
Anakin smiled and continued eating. “You might want some sugar on yours, I think I burned it a bit.”
 
Obi-Wan by-passed the sugar and stirred milk into Anakin’s attempt at porridge. It was a miracle at all that Anakin would cook and eat porridge. The first time Obi-Wan had presented him with it, he’d scowled at it and likened it to gruel, poking at the stuff distastefully and probably wondering about how best to set it on fire without Obi-Wan noticing. After much convincing and debating Anakin had finally taken a bite. The thicker texture and option of adding whatever he wanted to it had brought him around eventually.
 
“Healer Leueka commed earlier while you were sleeping. She wants to talk about how my Force abilities are coming and feed me. Says I’ve been ‘cooped up’ for a while.” Anakin rolled his eyes. “I’ve been into town with you before. It’s not that exciting or anything.”
 
Something ugly Obi-Wan’s chest expanded.
 
And…that was a weird feeling. Obi-Wan was hard pressed to keep his face neutral as guilt snuck up on him. Should he have been encouraging Anakin out more? Taking him to town more often? Ankain should be going out, he should be meeting people and making friends within the community. He couldn’t isolate Anakin like he isolated himself. Mi’aka had been sanctioned by Master Yoda to oversee the aspects of Anakin’s Force control, his shielding, or anything else he needed that Obi-Wan required more help in teaching him. Surely Mi’aka and Master Yoda would agree that Anakin’s lack of socializing was not a good thing.
 
Obi-Wan started when he felt Anakin’s hand on his forehead. He didn’t even hear him move.
 
“You don’t feel warm.”
 
“I…” Obi-Wan said, mouth dry. He cleared his throat and tried to continue. “You should go get ready.” 'Don’t think. Don’t think about his hand.'
 
“You’re spacing out. If you’re not feeling well-“
 
“Anakin, I feel fine,” he lied. “I’m just tired. Truly.”
 
Anakin went to his room after Obi-Wan finally managed to convince him, leaving Obi-Wan alone in the kitchen. He pushed his bowl out of the way and laid his head miserably on the table.
 
He was not fine.
 



 
Bail Organa laughed, tears in his eyes, as his new daughter was placed into his arms for the first time. She was beautiful. Absolutely exquisite, the most perfect being he had ever laid eyes on, and she was the spitting image of her mother. He smiled openly at Breha, his love, his Queen.
 
For years, he thought, we’ve been waiting for this moment, and it’s perfect.
 
Princess Baileah Organa would be loved and cherished by her parents and their entire planet. She was their miracle, and Alderaan finally had an heiress to the throne.
 
So many years of trying and of not being able to conceive - of devastating miscarriages and false hope - the universe finally came through.
 
So many things had been going wrong in the Republic for years: Separatists, Ventress, the Sith, Palpatine’s death…but now things were looking up.
 
Incredible, he considered, watching his daughter’s peaceful face, how the birth of a child can create such hope.
 
The war was almost over, his time as Supreme Chancellor had been well spent so far, and now he had a little girl to watch over with his wife. They had been so cautious when Breha had told him of her pregnancy. They kept it quiet not wanting to get anyone’s hopes up - not wanting their hopes up. But every month that the pregnancy progressed, every milestone passed, every scare that ended in relief had raised their hopes. When Breha reached six months they knew should anything happen, the child was viable and had a chance to survive in an incubation chamber once outside the womb.
 
It was with a heavy heart he missed his daughter’s birth, but if he could stabilize the Republic for her and her future then it was a worthy price for her to grow and live in peace. Sitting on the edge of the bed, his wife by his side, and daughter in his arms, all was right in his world.
 
 



 
Qui-Gon Jinn smiled at the Organa family from his position outside on their room’s adjacent balcony. The trip to Alderaan had been, thankfully, uneventful. No assassination attempts, no disturbances in the Force… after everything the galaxy had been through these past few years, it was a comfort and relief to watch a family reunite. Chancellor Organa had done so much to salvage the Republic, to keep hope alive and despair at bay, particularly after Palpatine’s death aboard the Invisible Hand.
 
What happened to Palpatine was a tragedy, but Qui-Gon had never been able to shake the feeling that there was just something off about the former Chancellor. Instinct told him that it may have been more than just a coincidence that the Force started clearing after his untimely death. He had his suspicions, and he knew he was not alone in them. With luck, once they drew out and captured Ventress, things would start to fall into place.
 
But there was one thing he knew for sure that the Force was telling him: the fate of the Republic was much safer with Organa than it ever had been or would have been with Palpatine.
 
Turning from the window, he looked out onto the spacious balcony where his Padawan was practicing his katas. Watching the fluid way he moved, Qui-Gon couldn’t be more proud.
 
Zett was undeniably gifted – already he had far surpassed his age-mates in his lightsaber skills. Raised by the Temple from infancy, the boy was a quick learner and loyal to the Order. There was a certain strength and maturity about him that pleased Qui-Gon – it was because of these traits he could see exactly why Master Unill had taken the boy on as a Padawan.
 
Let the Force guide your actions, Qui-Gon always used to say. When Unill was killed, Qui-Gon did as he preached and let the Force guide him to Zett, and in doing so broke a thirty-three year oath.
 
Thirty-three years since he trained a Padawan. Thirty-three years since Xanatos.
 
Although it was long in the past, the memory still stung. Oh, Xanatos, Qui-Gon thought as he watched Zett.
 
Master Dooku had warned him long ago, before Qui-Gon had been Knighted, that his greatest weakness was his compassion for all living things; and that eventually, he would taste betrayal from someone close to him. For it to be his own apprentice had been agonizing.
 
Xanatos had held so much promise. He had such a strong connection to the Force. Gifted and powerful, but he was also aggressive, manipulative and deceitful… traits that Qui-Gon ignored due to his affection for him.
 
Hindsight was as much a curse as it was a blessing.
 
I let my emotions get in the way of training Xanatos, and it cost us both dearly, he thought. I treated him as a son rather than a pupil. I refuse to make the same mistakes with Zett. I’ve learned that lesson.
 
The only good thing that came out of the situation with Xanatos was that it was the catalyst for reuniting Qui-Gon with Dooku. His old Master had been distant after his Knighting. Then again, Dooku had been distant during his apprenticeship as well. Even though they’d been one of the finest Master-Apprentice teams in the Temple, Qui-Gon and Dooku had never been close. After Xanatos’s betrayal, it had been something of a comfort to be in Dooku’s company again. Subsequent ‘I-told-you-so’s’ stung, but the joint missions were a relief and through them Qui-Gon had come to understand his former Master more deeply than he ever had during his years as a Padawan Learner. Dooku was more than a former Master - he was a friend.
 
A friend who never stopped reminding Qui-Gon of just how much he still had to learn, of course.
 
He would always be grateful for Dooku’s companionship, friendship, and wisdom. He hoped that Dooku in turn was thankful to Qui-Gon that he had persuaded him to not leave the Jedi Order.
 
It would have been a great loss, he mused.
 
For years, Dooku had been growing discontent by the way the Order functioned. Annoyed by the interference from the Senate, the politicians who misled and used the Jedi to further their own agendas rather than watch out for their own people. The corruption and bureaucracy of it all.
 
It had taken time, but Qui-Gon still managed to convince his old Master that he could do more good from within the Order than from outside it.
 
His presence, in Qui-Gon’s opinion, helped make the Jedi stronger and encouraged the them to stand further apart from the dealings of the Senate. The Jedi were the peacekeepers of the galaxy – they fought for all the people, not just what the politicians told them to fight for. With the appointment of Bail Organa as Supreme Chancellor, Qui-Gon could see a new light in Dooku, hope that Organa could put an end to the corruption that had long plagued the Senate.
 
There was now light at the end of a dark tunnel.
 
Zett’s blade moved through the air and Qui-Gon nodded, pleased with his precision.
 
Yes, the boy was a good choice. And Master Yoda was finally appeased. No longer did his visits and meetings with the small Master end with, "A new Padawan you should take, hmm?".

He appreciated the confidence Yoda had in him despite his failure with Xanatos. He also appreciated not being cornered into attending any more of the Initiates tournaments. He had only ever attended one, and it was enough to convince him he wasn’t ready. Aggressive students seemed drawn to him. It was best for everybody that he chose to distance himself from Initiates after that.
 
Movement from inside the Queen’s chamber caught his attention. Several handmaids made their way in with the mid-day lunch.
 
The Queen motioned to one of her handmaids to take the princess back to her nursery. As she took the child into her arms, with all the grace and care instinctive of a mother, Qui-Gon couldn’t help but feel a tug in the back of his mind. The Force seemed to draw him towards this woman, but there was something about her he couldn’t quite place. She appeared happy, smiling for the Queen and her newborn daughter, but past her mask he could sense… a deep longing, almost painful.
 



 
Late afternoon found Anakin sitting by the window in Obi-Wan’s home. He alternately watched as the rain fell softly onto the ground outside and rolled down the glass pane. He liked it when it rained like this the most. Thankfully it was usually like this, and not like the storm that greeted him the first night he spent on Bandomeer.
 
No more sandstorms, he smiled. Yes, he definitely liked the rain.
 
He also liked how much more comfortable he and Obi-Wan were becoming with each other, and now that Anakin was surer of his place, he found himself opening up. And Obi-Wan reacted to that with a bit more than his usually reserved nature.
 
The off-hand quips he could make!
 
It made Anakin start to grin thinking about his discovery that Obi-Wan possessed a very dry sense of humour. He also liked that Obi-Wan didn’t seem offended when Anakin sometimes said the wrong things. He knew he had a big mouth and could have a bit of an attitude. It could be annoying or irritating to most, but to Obi-Wan it was almost as if the older man was amused.
 
Once Anakin started letting his guard down and finally accepted his freedom he found his mouth trying to play catch-up. And he found he loved verbal sparring with Obi-Wan and trying to get different reactions out of him.
 
He gets so flustered sometimes. Anakin laughed to himself. It’s…kind of adorable.
 
Whenever that perpetually calm veneer cracked, Anakin got a look at the man beneath the surface and found himself wanting to see more.
 
The Jedi taught Obi-Wan to be distant, but Anakin would teach him the opposite even if it killed him. He’d always had a bad habit of pushing things.
 
He would start small, or try to anyway. He still wanted to thank Obi-Wan for everything, and since he wouldn’t accept sex, Anakin would built him a bot. It was a small little thing, but it would clean the floors. Which meant Anakin wouldn’t have to if he spilled oil or something, but that was beside the point. He did eventually manage to clean up all the machine parts from Obi-Wan’s kitchen and living room.
 
For the time being, anyway.
 
He’d been so excited when Obi-Wan had dropped the box of tools and machine bits in front of him. The sheer joy that bubbled up inside of him was something he hadn’t felt in… kriff, in years. In a way, Obi-Wan had unknowingly given him a part of his mom back. All of Anakin’s mechanical skills were inherited from her. His mother could fix anything; there had always been parts of circuitry and machinery around their hovel. She’d been the one to teach him the basics and encouraged him to start building things himself. Having tools back in his hands made him feel closer to her.
 
Mom…
 
Good things always seemed to leave him.
 
He desperately hoped Obi-Wan wouldn’t.
 
He was worried about Obi-Wan this morning. It wasn’t often he came out of his room not fully prepared to meet the day, and it wasn’t often he slept later than Anakin either. He looked like he was coming down with something. His skin was paler, his eyes darker… but the way he winced when his neck moved calmed Anakin down, thinking that maybe it was just because Obi-Wan didn’t have a good sleep, like he said.
 
It still worried him, though. Obi-Wan getting sick… His stomach twisted at the mere thought. Even though he knew Mi’aka was around to help in any and every available capacity, and that this was a Republic planet and the healthcare was light years beyond what was available on Tatooine, the memories of sick and dying slaves plagued his mind. On Tatooine, falling ill was as good as a death sentence.
 
Obi-Wan hadn’t felt feverish, though, thank the Stars.
 
But more than that, it also served to prove something to himself. He hadn’t hesitated to touch Obi-Wan.  Thinking back, it astounded him that he never had. He knew he liked physical contact with Obi-Wan, but realizing how much he himself initiated it? It was hard to believe – something he’d never considered was possible from himself after the brothel.
 
It was…nice.
 
What is it with you, Obi-Wan Kenobi?
 
Anakin suspected he already knew a lot of the answers to his own question, but hearing Obi-Wan enter the living room derailed his thoughts. Turning, he was glad to see Obi-Wan looking better than he did that morning. When Anakin got back from his visit with Mi’aka (who had kindly informed him that ‘Healer Leueka’ was a formality he didn’t need to have with her), Obi-Wan didn’t look as drawn. Anakin’s own relief was palpable.
 
“It’s doing that rain thing again,” he said, hoping for that small smile that sometimes played on Obi-Wan’s lips. He wasn’t disappointed.
 
“It’ll probably rain all night by the looks of it.”
 
“It was a nice day until I got back.”
 
Obi-Wan sat down on the window’s bench across from Anakin. “How was your day, anyway?”
 
“Mi’aka told me some things about Force Signatures. Said she’d leave it up to you if you wanted,” he said. Just remembering the Twi’lek Jedi talking about sensing people’s presence in the Force filled him with anticipation. It was another aspect he wanted to learn and hone as soon as possible. He couldn’t sense Obi-Wan’s thoughts through his shields, but just thinking about being able to feel his presence made Anakin feel almost giddy.
 
“Then she talked about that little troll thing…”
 
Master Yoda,” Obi-Wan groaned, letting his head fall back against the wall.
 
Anakin shrugged. “Whatever. Mi’aka was talking about him and the things he can do with the Force, but great Jedi or not, he still creeps me out.”
 
Anakin watched a small smile play on Obi-Wan’s mouth, before Obi-Wan turned to stare out the window into the distance. The sadness was there again, creeping into Obi-Wan’s eyes. Anakin moved his head to one side, thinking. Was it the Jedi who brought -
 
“He was the only one who believed in me…”
 
It was said so quietly Anakin barely heard him. He stayed quiet, hoping Obi-Wan would continue. That, and he didn’t really know what to say. But Obi-Wan shook himself and Anakin saw him trying to detach from the subject.
 
“It was a long time ago, it shouldn’t matter-“
 
No, no way you’re getting out of this one!
 
“Do you really miss it?” he interrupted. There was more to his insistence than mere curiosity. True, he desperately wanted to know more about this intriguing man’s past, but this… this was important. It felt important.
 
“All I ever wanted was to be a Jedi. It’s what I was trained for, but…but it wasn’t my destiny. I’m a farmer. ”
 
The derision in Obi-Wan’s voice shocked him. Why would he think that’s bad? Anakin could admit that when Obi-Wan first told him he worked for the AgriCorps he thought it was boring, but the more he learned about Jedi training the more distant he felt from it. He knew the Jedi were still heroes, but their perfect shine had dulled.
 
“I like it better here,” said Anakin softly. “This world, the AgriCorps, you all still do great things. You’re still doing good even if it’s not on the front lines. People are starving out there.” He paused and wet his lips. “Trust me, I know what that’s like.”
 
Obi-Wan met his eyes. Anakin continued with a shrug.
 
“Way I see it, Bandomeer represents as much hope to the starving as the Jedi represent to the oppressed.”
 
And stars, did he mean it. The people of this planet used their skills to grow food for others who were in need of it. And Bandomeer itself was beautiful. It was safe. It was the complete opposite of everything Tatooine had been, and he couldn’t have been luckier that he ended up here with the man in front of him.
 
Anakin stood and held out his hand to Obi-Wan.
 
“Come stand in the rain with me?”
 
After a brief hesitation, Obi-Wan’s eyes were wide, perhaps a little dazed, but his hand in Anakin’s was warm.
 



 
Light years away on Alderaan, a Queen smiled happily, a Supreme Chancellor relaxed for the first time in months, a Padawan switched from saber practice to meditation, a Jedi Master went to follow up on a feeling, and a handmaid walked the corridors unaware of a Jedi’s interest.
 
The halls of the Aldera Royal Palace were sleek and seemed to exude serenity. The princess’s nursery was decorated in colours of white and yellow -purity and happiness - the joy to all her people.
 
The handmaid smiled as she placed the princess gently into her bassinet. She was a beautiful girl, dark hair and midnight eyes, and the handmaid was more than happy for the Queen and Chancellor. They’d gone through so much for a child. Her heart warmed for them. People as good and as deserving of happiness as they - were few.
 
But it was bittersweet.
 
For every time she watched the Queen hold her child close, Shmi Skywalker’s heart broke.
 
 

Chapter Text

Chapter 15

It was the worst idea he ever had.

It was inexcusable, stupid, and could have been entirely avoidable. Yet here he was, sitting alone, while Anakin screamed.

He could have prevented this.

Prevented all of this.

He wouldn’t be suffering as he was now. It was agony. Torture. It was all his fault and for the Cosmic sake of the Force if Anakin jumps off that ledge one more time and screams like he’s being murdered I just might kill him.

“Oh, Force.” Obi-Wan buried his face in his hands and groaned miserably as Anakin took another running jump off the rocky outcropping, plunging straight into the ocean, all the while screaming like an idiot.

Teaching him to swim was decidedly a mistake.

He didn’t know what possessed him.

Oh, wait. No. He did know.

Mi’aka and her ideas.

“He needs more training Obi-Wan,” she’d said. “All AgriCorps workers have some level of combat training and self-defence from their Initiate days. Anakin doesn’t.”

So learn Anakin did. Mi’aka and Obi-Wan took him through the paces, and yet again his learning curve surprised them. It wasn’t just his prowess in the Force that he picked up on quickly, he was just as adept a student in hand-to-hand combat as well.

He picked up swimming just as quickly. Obi-Wan expected the nervousness, Anakin was from a desert planet and the ocean was vast, but swimming was something Anakin quickly learned to enjoy. He found it exhilarating once he stopped inadvertently trying to drown himself.

Obi-Wan was glad for the smile it put on Anakin’s face, but by the stars Mi’aka and her ideas.

“He could try swimming. You’re right by the ocean; it’s too good an opportunity to miss.”

One mention of swimming and Anakin had been asking what it was, leading Mi’aka to launch into an exlanation about the form of exercise and how many benefits there were to it. Obi-Wan would have been happy with a run or a jaunty skip - nothing to teach there, no half naked young man Obi-Wan was trying to avoid thinking of in certain inappropriate ways.

Force, just teaching Anakin to swim had been…trying. He had anticipated Anakin barely clothed, but hadn’t anticipated the amount of time Anakin’s bare skin would be pressed to his. Hadn’t anticipated how warm he was.

Obi-Wan shook his head and picked up his sunscreen. He needed a distraction, he decided, but there was no such luck: Anakin’s laughter echoed from the bay, causing Obi-Wan to instinctively glance up.

Why did I teach him? Obi-Wan lamented as he rubbed his eyes wearily. Nearly every day for the past two weeks Anakin had dragged him out to the water. It was tiring, torturous, and that wasn’t even mentioning the sorts of creatures in the water that could eat him…

Loud splashing broke him out of his paranoid reverie as Anakin waded out of the water, soaking wet, and fell down next to Obi-Wan. Panting and leaning back on his arms, Anakin was giving Obi-Wan much mental fodder that would likely haunt his dreams. He busied himself with his sunscreen.

“Why do you always put that goop on?”

“It’s so I don’t get a sunburn, Anakin. You should put some on too.”

“I never do.”

No, no he didn’t. Because Anakin somehow never burned. Obi-Wan assumed it was a perk of living on a desert planet, and it was inherently frustrating. Obi-Wan himself didn’t just burn - oh no, his fair skin blistered, peeled, and turned an ungodly shade of red. As if that weren’t enough, he always found himself extremely dehydrated after a bad burn as well.

He couldn’t imagine ever living on a world like the one Anakin came from. The heat and twin suns would likely take an incredible toll on him, aging him faster, drying him out like parchment.

Anakin, on the other hand, glowed. His skin looked healthier, golden. He looked…stunning.

“Something’s going to eat you!” He blurted, trying to refocus. “Out there. Attracted by your noise.”

And they would, he justified. As pretty as Anakin was, he was also loud. Force, there was nothing about the boy that was quiet. Most of the time, he admittedly found it amusing, like the way Anakin would question him and debate everything. It was exasperating at times, but more often than not it was a mental challenge he hadn’t had in decades. And when Anakin said something that was completely outlandish and downright ridiculous complete with that pout -

Refocus, Kenobi.

Ocean. Noise. Dangers. Eaten.

There had to be dangerous things in the oceans here. He knew, because he read about them. And if he gets himself eaten by sharks then what will you look at. Obi-Wan blinked. Lecture at. Talk to.

He had to remind Anakin. Again.

“You might get eaten.”

Anakin looked at Obi-Wan oddly for a minute before his face split into a wide grin, laughing openly and carefree, obviously over-enjoying the incredulous look on Obi-Wan’s face.

“I’m not going to get eaten, Obi-Wan,” he said, grinning.

“There are things-”

“That we’ve gone over.”

“-in that ocean-”

“Yes, Obi-Wan.”

“-that could seriously harm you. Poisonous stinging things, and things with big teeth, and-”

“Yes, Obi-Wan.”


 

Anakin continued his faithful litany of ‘Yes, Obi-Wan’ as the man went over exactly what type of species could be plotting his tragic demise. In Anakin’s opinion – and Mi’aka’s as well – Obi-Wan sometimes got just a little bit paranoid. Beginning a week ago, Obi-Wan developed a penchant for making him think maybe, just maybe, the fish of Bandomeer were forming underwater gangs and roughing up unsuspecting swimmers.

Upon relaying this to Mi’aka, she had laughed and told him the biggest fish that came into the bay Obi-Wan’s house overlooked were maybe just over a foot and a half long and completely harmless.

“-and the way you scream when you jump off that ledge, it sounds like you’re dying, and further more-”

“Yes, Obi-Wan.”

Anakin found himself hard pressed not to smile. Obi-Wan was lecturing, he must pay attention. Or not. Mostly not. He usually missed everything Obi-Wan told him when he got like this. But it wasn’t Anakin’s fault, and it wasn’t like Obi-Wan was boring either; it was just that Anakin had other things to focus on. Other important things to focus on.

Like Obi-Wan’s voice. Whether he was teaching Anakin something that Anakin himself found interesting, or now when it was going in through one ear and out the other…the content didn’t matter, only the way Obi-Wan sounded. Anakin liked his voice. He found something quite soothing about the way he spoke, the crisp tenor was unlike any Anakin had heard before.

 “Your accent’s different from the others.” He remembered telling Obi-Wan.

“It’s a Coruscanti accent.”

“Were you born there?”

“No, I wasn’t. I was three when I came to the Temple, but the Creche Master that raised me was a native of Coruscant and I sort of picked it up from her.”

Anakin had briefly entertained sending her a thank you note.

He wiped a hand over his mouth to hide his brief smile from Obi-Wan. He wasn’t ready for him to throw his hands up in complete exasperation and stop talking just yet. Obi-Wan was a quiet man, but the more time Anakin spent with him the more he got Obi-Wan to talk. He didn’t care if it was a lecture about the dangers of sea life, his messiness, or the second fire he managed to start in the kitchen.

The lectures amused Anakin to no end, and it gave him the chance to do what was quickly becoming his favourite thing: Obi-Watching. And today he was going to focus on a particularly amusing discovery.

Obi-Wan had freckles.

Lots of them.

And they became quite prominent after a few hours in the sunlight.

And the most grin-worthy moment of all? Discovering that Obi-Wan hated them. Loathed their very existence and was none-too-pleased-thank-you when Anakin had laughed at him. It was so completely out of character for everything Anakin thought he knew about Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Just when I think I have you figured out, you do something that surprises me.

But as much as Obi-Wan hated his freckles, Anakin lov-liked. Liked them.

Blink and respond. “Yes, Obi-Wan.”

They were amusing. And made him smile every time he got Obi-Wan out of the house to swim with him.

The embarrassment of not knowing what he was doing had been quickly dismissed every time Obi-Wan’s bare skin touched his. There may have been a time or two that Anakin had purposely pretended to be worse off when he was, just to get an arm around Obi-Wan, or, if he was extremely lucky, to have Obi-Wan’s chest pressed to his.

It was during one of those lucky times when he noticed all the spots dotted along Obi-Wan’s shoulders. Who knew that blurting out his discovery would send Obi-Wan into a tirade about freckles, fair skin, ginger hair, and the lethality of the sun?

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d laughed so hard. Obi-Wan had just looked so… affronted while he’d bemoaned his freckled fate. How could he not have laughed?

He probably shouldn’t have made a show about counting the freckles, but the exasperated huff and the way Obi-Wan rolled his eyes had been completely worth it.

He liked that Obi-Wan had freckles. They highlighted his nose and cheeks, spotted along his arms, dusted his shoulders and upper back. Obi-freckles were cute. It was all he could think of, really. As such, he of course missed whatever Obi-Wan was saying.

“Anakin, are you even listening to me?”

Yep,' thought Anakin, Obi-Wan is definitely adorable when he’s frustrated.

“Sorry.” He managed to give Obi-Wan a cheeky smile.

He imagined it looked obnoxiously unrepentant. Suppressing a chuckle, he watched as Obi-Wan eyed him suspiciously and continued with his sunscreen.

Anakin blinked. “Why are you putting all that goop on again?”

“Had you been listening to me you would already know that.”

“Is it because of your ‘delicate constitution’?”

Obi-Wan’s glare was welcomed.

“I need it so I don’t burn. Just because you are a genetic anomaly-”

 “I’m from a desert planet.”

“-who doesn’t have even the decency to get a bit reddened-”

“Tatooine has two suns.”

“-with the amount of time you spend out here-”

“Now who isn’t listening?”

His mouth quirked up into a half smile as Obi-Wan continued on about Anakin’s complete inability to get a ‘sunburn’, whatever that was anyway.

While Obi-Wan distracted himself with his ranting, Anakin took the chance to watch him slide his hands over his chest and arms. He knew what that skin felt like, but their contact was always much too brief.

Anakin unconsciously licked his lower lip.

“Anakin?” Obi-Wan’s tone had changed.

“Hmm?” Anakin snapped himself out of his appraisal.

“Just be careful.”

Anakin swallowed. The soft tone and the gentle way Obi-Wan was looking at him made his heart beat faster. No one had ever made him feel like that before.

“You told me this part was safe for swimming,” he managed.

Theoretically safe.”

“Wouldn’t I sense something? Through the Force?”

“Possibly…Probably,” Obi-Wan amended. With Anakin’s midi-chlorians as high as they were it would be almost impossible for him not to feel the Force shout at him in warning.

“You worry too much.”

Obi-Wan smiled. “Always.”


 

Folding another shirt and putting it aside, Shmi Skywalker sighed. Maybe she’d take a different blouse this time. Maybe it would bring good luck if she changed something. It was always the same. The same bag, the same clothes, the same familiar route back to the planet she had unwillingly left behind so many years ago.

Every year Shmi made her return to Tatooine to search for the son she lost.

She’d even calculated the date. Every year, on the day they were separated, she went back. Perhaps it was in vain, an old woman’s folly – but still she had hope. A fool’s hope as it was, but it was still something to hold onto.

The trail had gone completely cold years ago, not that there was a good one to begin with anyway. Many auctions kept no records of slave transactions. All sales were considered final. It also wasn’t unheard of for a slave to be sold to one master only to be sold to another a few short minutes or hours later if the deal was good enough.

By the Goddess Ani, please be safe, she thought. It was her most desperate prayer; it had been for years.

Losing Anakin had been the worst moment of her life. It left her gutted, frantic, like a ship burning up upon re-entry and plummeting straight into the ground. It was the first time she’d ever fought back. She never got to say good-bye, never got to say ‘I will find you, Ani’. She wasn’t expecting the hands that reached for her, the slavers who threw her son to the ground as she watched him disappear between other slaves. They had taken her half way up the stairs before the shock wore off and she started struggling. Refusing to move, scratching, hitting, kicking, doing anything she could to get back to her son. She didn’t even feel it when they hit her. Didn’t feel it as they dragged her up the steps and showcased her. She was drowning in grief.

Having Anakin ripped from her arms was like losing a piece of her soul.

She often tried to comfort herself by hoping that the piece she left behind had stayed with Anakin - that even though they were parted, he knew how much she loved him and how much she longed to see him again.

She sat down next to her open bag on the bed.

After she’d been sold, she and four other slaves had been led to a hangar. The realization had taken a while to sink in, but once it did the devastation and the hopelessness of the situation had been too much. She became numb. Just shut down completely as they were loaded onto the ship and Tatooine disappeared among the stars. She wasn’t even going to be on the same planet as her son. Kilometres wouldn’t separate them – light years would.

She’d never known such despair or heartache. So lost in her pain, she lost track of how much time had passed. The jumps in and out of hyperspace hardly registered. She barely notice when their ship came under fire.

A misjudgement on the part of her new masters cost them greatly, and it gave Shmi her unexpected freedom.

She found out later that her new owners had decided to attack a ship that was leaking anti-protons. What they hadn’t counted on was confronting a crew of trained military officers. They’d been arrested for attempted murder, thievery, Spice and Human trafficking. The lawlessness of the Outer Rim no longer applied as they had come into Mid Rim space. Into Republic space.

They were freed.

Landing on the Officers’ home world had been crushing and bittersweet. She had her freedom, but not her son. Had they been sold together she would have had the joy of seeing his face light up in wonder at the greenery and splendor of Naboo. The Queen herself greeted them, gave them food and lodging. It had been too much. Everything was too much, too fast, the stress, the despair, the heartbreak. Shmi had broken down, inconsolable as she sobbed out her pain. She managed to get her story out somehow, and the realization that she now had the freedom - that she could go back one day to try and find Anakin - left her breathless.

But she hadn’t expected to be back on Tatooine so soon. She had expected to settle and to work, to gather the funds to make the trip back.

She hadn’t counted on Queen Amidala’s kindness or compassion. Shmi always thought that the biggest problem in the universe was that no one helped each other. But there on a world of colour and water, she found aid.

Within the week she returned to Tatooine with an armed escort. She knew with every minute, every hour that she wasn’t searching the chances of finding Anakin grew less and less. The week she spent waiting for the Queen to find the opportunity and resources to send her had been spent with a returned sense of hope and pleading to the galaxy.

But her pleas fell on deaf ears.

The auctioneers had moved on and the traders gone to find new supply. No one around the small, now abandoned auction quarters had any information. The traders moved around so much, different all the time. The beings who came for the auctions got what they came for and that was the end of it. The arenas weren’t places that beings usually stayed at for long periods.

And while she hadn’t found Anakin, she did find his old protocol droid. She’d been able to barter for C-3PO’s return from the Jawas, getting him for less than asking price. He’d apparently been bought and returned often due to his inability to be silent, his voice box unable to be removed due to her son’s work. It wasn’t Anakin himself, but it still felt like she found a small piece of him. She’d been able to fix up the droid’s circuits and finish his plating in gold.

Shmi picked up a shirt lying beside her. Blue. I’ll take blue this time.

Setting it into her bag, she couldn’t believe how much time had passed. She’d spent four years on Naboo, making a living fixing the palace’s ships, and working on Threepio in her spare time. Padmé became a dear friend whose friendship had stopped her from losing her mind. Shmi had thought about going back to Tatooine permanently to continue her search daily.

“Shmi, you’re free now. I couldn’t bear the thought of you being forced back into slavery. It’s dangerous to be by yourself in Outer Rim space. If you’re ever going to find your son, you need to be safe. Be smart about this. Please.”

Padmé had been right. Had Shmi gone back to Tatooine she might not have survived long enough to find Anakin. And if he’d been sold to one of the rougher sectors there was little chance of retrieving him by herself. As a slave she could only be touched or disciplined by her master. As a free woman there was more risk involved. She had resources on Naboo that she never would have had on Tatooine. There was also the disheartening possibility that Anakin had been sent off-world like she had been.

She watched the gulls fly past her window.

Anakin would have loved this world too.

She’d met Senator Organa through Padmé and when Padmé herself became a Senator, Shmi went with her to Coruscant. It was there that Shmi became closer with the Organa family. When she heard about Queen Breha’s most recent miscarriage, she felt in her heart that she should be on Alderaan. Though they lost their children in different ways, Shmi understood the pain of that loss all too well.

Now though, the Organas had finally found their joy in their beautiful young Princess.

Oh, Anakin, she thought. My heart tells me you’re alive.

She had to find him. She had hope, but it had been so long that the chances of ever seeing him again were almost non-existent.

Ten years. Ten long years. Even if she passed him somewhere, would she recognize him now? A month and a half ago she had lit a candle on a small pastry she made that would have marked her son’s twenty-second birthday. He wouldn’t be a child anymore, but a man.

“Shmi?” A dark head poked in through her open door. “Are you ready to go?”

Shmi smiled at Owen. “Almost.”

Hr step-son was a wonderful boy, and she loved him. But he couldn’t fill the void in her heart. But being able to love him and his father had been cathartic. Cliegg Lars was a good man, they’d met on one of her voyages back to Tatooine, and he eventually followed her back to Alderaan out of love.

He was usually the one to come with her on her annual journey, but a broken leg prevented him from making this year's trip.

Shmi longed for Anakin but her duties to Breha and Cliegg were tangible. People she could be there for and not let down like she let down her son. She would always search for Anakin - would always think of him, miss him, and love him - but time passed regardless, and she needed to stay sane. Letting grief consume her would have destroyed her.

Shmi and Owen would spend two months on Tatooine searching, trying to unravel something that no one else on the desert planet cared about.

And more cause for hope, though I’m not sure how much.

Master Jinn had promised her he would keep an ear open for any word of her son during his travels. Maybe the Jedi would be able to find what was lost so long ago.

Closing her travel bag, she lifted the strap over her shoulder and paused.

“Shmi?”

“Do you know what I’m most afraid of?” she said. Owen’s hand was warm on her shoulder as he waited for her to continue. “I fear that I won’t recognize him. He’ll have grown so much. What if I pass by him without notice?”

“He’ll know you,” said Owen.

She looked up at him, searching.

“He won’t let you pass him by.”

Shmi smiled and squeezed his hand.


 

Mace Windu’s footsteps echoed through the cavernous halls of the Jedi Temple. The setting sun filtered through the many windows, surrounding him, providing a sense of serenity and calm. The Council had ended its session an hour ago, but Mace felt the need to walk. Masters Vos and Secura had returned to Coruscant after too many weeks of dead ends. Any leads pointing towards the Sith ended with them being no further than they had been before. The trail was cold.

Asajj Ventress, or Darth Vadius, as she was calling herself now, had gone completely underground. She was good, Mace had to give her that. But the Jedi would be better. It was only a matter of time before they found her. The sooner the better, though. If the Sith Master was indeed dead, then they needed to find Ventress before she took an apprentice. The Sith had come close to destroying the Republic once, and they weren’t going to have the chance to do it again. Not on Mace’s watch.

It was unfortunate that General Grievous hadn’t been able to be taken alive. He could have provided at least some information about the movements of the Sith.

Mace could feel the darkness starting to swell once again within the Force.

“Good evening, Mace.”

He turned and resisted a deep sigh as Qui-Gon came up behind him.

“Shouldn’t you be back with the Chancellor by now?”

“Zett’s with him. He’s a capable boy.”

“Qui-Gon.” His voice held a warning.

“I’m heading back now, Mace. You can even walk me to the hangar.”

“Is there a reason you didn’t go back immediately after you gave the Council your report?”

“I had some things to pick up for Zett. It seems we forgot some of his coursework. He can meditate and run through katas only so many times. He needs to stimulate his mind, and what we had brought he’s finished already.”

“It took you long enough to gather these lessons.”

“I stopped by the library on my way. Madame Nu was kind enough to find Zett some extra reading materials. I think he might be ready for more advanced work. That, and I feel our time protecting the Chancellor will be very long and very uneventful. Not that I would want my Padawan duelling a Sith should I ever fall. Particularly one such as Vadius. And here I mistakenly thought Darth Maul had been well trained.”

“Indeed.”

“Has there been anything new about her whereabouts?”

“Nothing,” Mace confirmed. “Quinlan and Aayla are doing the best they can but I think we need to put more teams on it. Now that the Clones aren’t in need of as many Generals we should have more Jedi to spare. Master Mundi and Master Dooku have already volunteered.”

Qui-Gon smiled. “Well my old Master has already defeated one Sith. Has he asked the Council why he wasn’t sent in the first place?”

“Of course he has.”

“And?”

“And I told him if he wanted to make all the decisions himself of who went where and why then he could just take a thrice Sith damned Council seat already.”

“I imagine he shot you down again.”

“Not exactly,” said Mace wryly. “He told us that when a seat vacated he would. As we were desperately in need of his wisdom and counsel.”

“His words?”

“His words.”

Mace shook his head as Qui-Gon laughed and they came up to the Temple’s hangar.

“It will work out, Mace. We’ll find her one way or the other. Some solution will make itself known.”

“Mmm.” He looked steadily at Qui-Gon. “You are certain that nothing unusual happened on Alderaan.”

“I gave my full report. Nothing strange, no trem…well, I wouldn’t call it a tremor, more a feeling…” Qui-Gon trailed off in thought.

Qui-Gon,” Mace ground out, releasing his frustration to the Force. So help Qui-Gon if there was something important he missed that could lead them to Ventress.

“Well, I wouldn’t call it unusual even,” he started. “Just a feeling I had about one of the Queen’s handmaids. It has nothing to do with the war Mace, don’t give me that look.”

“What happened?”

“The Force drew me to her.”

“Oh, not this again…” Qui-Gon and his pathetic lifeforms.

“She was hurting, Mace. I couldn’t ignore it,” he said. “She lost her son many years ago, so I promised I would keep an eye out for him. And before you say anything, it felt important at the time that I promise her this.”

“If I ask why, you’re only going to tell me the Force willed it, aren’t you?”

“You know me well. And after my duties to the Chancellor are complete, if there are any missions to the Outer Rim I’d like to request one.”

“You want to look for this woman’s son.”

“When I’m finished, whatever mission the Council assigns, a brief stop on Tatooine couldn’t hurt.”

A quick twitch of his left eyebrow was the only thing that would have given Mace Windu away if one looked hard enough. Luckily Qui-Gon’s attention was briefly taken away from him by a fighter engine starting up.

“What was this handmaid’s name?”

Qui-Gon looked up and thought for a minute. “I believe it was Shmi. Shmi Skywalker.”

Skywalker. The boy’s lost mother.

“Anyway, I felt like I should mention it. Do you have any idea why?”

Mace shook his head. “None.”

The entire Council had sworn to it. Any and all knowledge of Anakin Skywalker would remain in secret. In order to protect and prevent the boy from falling into the wrong hands, the Council was determined to bury their discovery entirely. Ventress could be looking for an apprentice. They couldn’t risk it.

And there was another thing Mace himself wasn’t willing to risk. He knew of Qui-Gon’s penchant for the old prophecies. Too interested, some might say. The last thing they needed was Qui-Gon flying off on a crusade and claiming the boy to be the fabled Chosen One.

The boy was too old, too fearful, and much too powerful.

The prophecy was a Jedi prophecy; as such it made sense that the Chosen One would be a Jedi himself. The Skywalker boy may have an unprecedented midi-chlorian count but it was highly unlikely that he would be the one to destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force.

The Force was balancing itself enough as it was. And they were on the verge of destroying the last Sith without any Chosen One at all.

“Is there anything I should know, Mace?” questioned Qui-Gon, a thoughtful look on his face.

For the first time in his life, Mace Windu was glad his old friend kept refusing a seat on the Jedi Council every time it was offered.


 

“Ow.”

“Sorry.”

The pathetic sounds coming from Obi-Wan were both endearing and worrisome. It wasn’t entirely Anakin’s fault, he considered with a wince. Sure, he probably should have let Obi-Wan finish putting on his sunscreen before grabbing him and shoving him into the water so they could swim together… but Obi-Wan did forgot to go back and finish putting it on anyway. So the blame was shared.

But still, he couldn’t believe how red Obi-Wan’s back and shoulders were.

 “So…that’s a sunburn.”

“Yes, Anakin. Yes it is.”

He winced slightly as he squeezed more Bacta salve out of the tube and carefully smoothed it over Obi-Wan’s blistered skin. He’d never seen anything like it before. Tatooine had two suns and Anakin’s skin had never blistered under them. No one he knew blistered like Obi-Wan did. It amazed him how different their skin was. How fair Obi-Wan’s was. His freckles stood out even more on the reddened skin. And try as Anakin did, and reminding himself that Obi-Wan was in some pain, he still couldn’t help but enjoy being able to touch Obi-Wan like this. He couldn’t reach his own back comfortably, so that left Anakin free reign to soothe every burnt part of him he could reach. It was a double-edged sword, though. On one hand, his hands got to map out almost every inch of Obi-Wan’s back and feel the muscles play beneath his hands; on the other hand, he wished he got to do it in any situation besides the one he found himself in.

“Ow. Right, well, I think you got all of it, didn’t you?”

“I think so,” he said slowly, eyes lingering on Obi-Wan’s exposed back. “When are you going to be okay?”

“It will be relatively healed by morning, though one more application might be necessary. It’s not the highest concentration of Bacta available.”

“I think from now on you put that sun goop on before we leave the house.”

He didn’t have to see Obi-Wan to know he was rolling his eyes. Anakin knew he was only partially to blame for the burns, always asking Obi-Wan why he wore it on every occasion, and getting him in the water this time before it was fully on. He understood why now. And he’d make sure he was the one barring the door next time so Obi-Wan would put it on inside. It was the first time he saw Obi-Wan physically hurt – and he hated it.

“Is there anything else I should know? About things that can hurt you?”

“Directly? Um, well, there is Hoi-broth. I’m quite allergic to it, though the chances of coming across it on Bandomeer are quite slim.”

“Never heard of it,” said Anakin. Though he was quite relieved that it wasn’t anywhere around them in abundance.

“It’s an Aqualish dish originally from Ando, I-“

“Ando Prime?”

“Different planet, though they’re both in the same system.”

“There was podracing on Ando Prime.” Anakin smiled. “I heard the Ando Overland is huge! Only second to the Boonta Eve Classic. I heard racers talk about other ones too. The Vinta Harvest Classic and the Aleen Classic. It would have been amazing to race all four.”

“When was the last time you raced?”

Anakin’s sigh was filled with longing as he put the salve on the bedside table and laid down next to Obi-Wan on his stomach, turning his head to meet the other man’s eyes.

“I was eleven. Built the pod I raced from the scraps in Watto’s shop when I was nine,” he explained. “He didn’t know I built it, and I knew telling him would get me at least a beating but…but I just wanted to race so badly that it was worth it.”

He could still remember the feeling. The rush it always gave him, the way his skin vibrated and his pulse pounded as he narrowly avoided crashing inside the canyons. The Boonta Eve Classic was the one thing he looked forward to every year.

“I lost the race when I was nine. One of the steering arms broke and I spun out. I was so close, though. Watto bet against me so he made a small fortune after Sebulba won. My punishment for building the pod behind his back wasn’t even that bad after I accidentally made him so much money. My pod was still in good enough shape that he entered me the following two years. Lost them both. Didn’t even make it to the finish line.”

“Not many do,” said Obi-Wan quietly. “You’re lucky you have your life.”

“I think you and my mom would have gotten along great.” He smiled as he said it, but the smile quickly waned. “Do you…do you think they’ll even look for her? The Yoda-troll said something like the will of the Force find her you will also I can’t speak properly.”

Obi-Wan pressed his face into his pillow and shook his head.

“He creeps me out, you know that. But since he was the only Jedi really there for you…maybe I can learn to not be so creeped out one day,” Anakin conceded. “I’ll give him that.”

“It’s something, I suppose.” Obi-Wan turned his head back to Anakin. “As for if they’ll look for her, I don’t know. The Republic has been at war for the past three years and the Jedi are spread incredibly thin.”

“Some Outlanders used to talk about it. It’s all pretty vague, though.”

“It’s nearly over now, anyway.”

Anakin nodded, eyes lowering. “Do you-do you think my mom could be alive?”

“When you listen to the Force, what does it tell you?”

“How-”

“Close your eyes.”

He did so and waited for Obi-Wan to speak again.

“Find that place inside you that can feel all the things in this room. That part of you that reaches out and inside. Listen to it. When you think of your mother, when you concentrate on her, what feeling do you get? Do you feel she’s in danger Anakin? Do you feel her pain?”

“No.” He opened his eyes. “I don’t know what I feel, honestly. But I worry sometimes. I miss her.”

“Those are your own emotions, not the Force.”

“I know.”

He looked away as his eyes started to sting. Obi-Wan’s warm hand on his shoulder startled him out of his burgeoning hurt.

“Is there any way to find her?” asked Obi-Wan.

“None. The records aren’t kept and it’s been so long…” he trailed off.

“Trust in the Force, Anakin. I know you only discovered it recently-“

“The Force didn’t make you a Jedi.”

He regretted it the instant he said it. He didn’t mean it to come out the way it sounded. Anakin braced himself for the sad, pained look that usually found its way into Obi-Wan’s eyes - but it didn’t come.

“No, it didn’t. But it brought me to you. Had I been a Jedi we likely would never have met.” Obi-Wan smiled. “I…I consider you a good friend, Anakin.”

Anakin smiled shyly. “We’ll be the best.”

So they were definitely friends then. Yes, Anakin could work with that. I think I want more Obi-Wan, but I’ll work you up to that.

“She really would like you, though. All worrying about me and all.”

“What are friends for?”

Soft laughter echoed through the small room.


 

Lying in his own bed, Anakin stared at the ceiling, unable to sleep. Every now and then he’d look out his window and not for the first time, wished Bandomeer had a moon. Tatooine had three, though depending on the time of year it could seem like there were only two. The third of Tatooine’s moons had a strange orbit that would take it far from the planet. He missed the way the moons lit up the night and made things appear different. Anakin wondered at times what Obi-Wan would look like under the moonlight.

Anakin wondered if he’d look like an Angel, with his pale skin and ever changing eyes. It was quite difficult, he felt, to be able to tell just what colour Obi-Wan’s eyes truly were. He couldn’t decide if they were blue or green, but even then he swore they sometimes appeared grey.

Anakin sighed as he closed his eyes, trying to picture it.

They’re on a balcony somewhere, the waves hitting the rocks in the bay below them, the moon gleaming down and bathing Obi-Wan in its gentle light, the silver beams all around him making him look almost ethereal. His eyes welcome him and he smiles at Anakin with that soft smile Anakin always tries to bring out in Obi-Wan.

He’s not wearing much. He can see Obi-Wan’s bare chest clearly.

Anakin pressed his hand to his shoulder and trailed it slowly across his collar bone, across his chest. He paused for a minute, feeling his own skin. His chest was so different from Obi-Wan’s; smooth skin was such a contrast to the roughness of Obi-Wan’s chest hair. He could still remember how it felt against him in the water. Chest to chest, hip to hip. The way his hair had tickled. Obi-Wan pulls him close, his hands, his warm hands move up Anakin’s chest. Touching, caressing, feeling every muscle.

Obi-Wan affected him, had so for a while now, and he only felt it growing stronger.

It was enough to finally realize that he felt desire. The feelings that came when thinking about Obi-Wan aroused him. Made him actually want. Made him wonder just what it would be like to be with someone he chose. Freely and willingly.

His fingers brushed his left nipple.

What would it be like to kiss Obi-Wan?

In his mind he did so, pressed their lips together, a real kiss, not rushed or hurried, not an afterthought or an insult. Obi-Wan would kiss him like he meant it, like Anakin wanted him too. His mouth would be soft, or maybe a little dry. Obi-Wan’s mouth trails down his neck, kissing, even licking. His mouth closes on Anakin’s nipple as Anakin runs his hand through Obi-Wan’s hair. He wants to see it messy, out of place.

Like when it dried wet. He remembered Obi-Wan coming out of the water, hair everywhere, having to comb through it with his fingers and slick it back. Water trailed down his body. Anakin could still feel the way his blood heated. He felt the pangs so much these days.

Kicking off the covers, he shoved his sleep shorts down. He was more than ready to try this again. Running a hand over his stomach and downward, he cupped himself and slid a hand up his cock. Adjusting his grip, he tried to figure out what felt better.

Slow and tight, hard and quick - he relearned his own body as he tried to figure it out.

Stroking lazily, he twisted near the head, stroked down and squeezed at the base. He moaned softly, hips arching. He liked that.

Obi-Wan’s hands trail over his chest and hips, mouth pressing wet, open kisses down his stomach. His tongue swirls around Anakin’s naval and further down to his –

Anakin started and broke off in frustration. His body shuddering in revolt. 'Damn it, damn it not with this again.'

It was where he got stuck. Always.

Whenever he started to think of Obi-Wan doing something purely sexual, whenever he thought of himself doing it to Obi-Wan – he lost it. Lost the mood, the rhythm, everything came to a crashing halt. He hated it. Hated that his own body rebelled against him, over something he actually wanted for once. He hated that when he thought about Obi-Wan going down on him that it felt like he was using him - that his mind threw images of his own past at him. And when he imagined himself taking Obi-Wan into his own mouth, Obi-Wan had a habit of disappearing, replaced by others.

Anakin huffed at himself in disgust.

It was supposed to be over. The past - done and finished. He had a new life now. A new path to follow. One that didn’t include him on his back or knees for strangers.

There was only Obi-Wan in his life now. Obi-Wan and his kindness, his generosity, his freckles, and lectures, his dry sense of humour, his smile, his eyes…

Why couldn’t he do this? Anakin sighed, glaring at his cock. Instead of stroking again he just cupped himself and ran his thumb under the head. He could do this. There had to be some way to do this. Closing his eyes he concentrated on the light pressure of his hand, petting himself slowly. He started soft then switched the pressure a bit a harder, thrusting up minutely, rubbing himself into his palm.

Closing his eyes, Anakin tilted his head back, continuing his ministrations.

Up, down, up and down. His hand trailed a little too far back and his fingers ghosted over his balls. Fingers brushed raised lines. Anakin’s eyes snapped open and his hand flew off himself as if burned.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck.” His heart twisted tightly as his stomach rolled in protest. He didn’t want to remember that. Closing his eyes tightly to get rid of the images starting to play only made it worse.

Aggressive hands pushing at him, teeth biting painfully across his chest. His legs being pushed apart, fingers playing then nails digging suddenly into the most sensitive part of his body.

The nail imprints Dejiak left embedded in him scarred. The scarring across his lower back was from that same session.

Anakin’s erection waned.

“Fuck.”

His head fell back onto the pillow and he slammed his fist against the sheets.

Dejiak had told him he wanted him marked. That one day Kerr would sell Anakin and he’d be there to collect. When Kerr found out about the marks on his sac, Dejiak had been banned from the brothel for months; Kerr had felt it violated his rule on not mutilating slaves, yet the marks on Anakin’s back had barely been glanced at. In some ways though, Anakin thought the scars were worth it to be free of the bastard for a time.

Anakin let out an angry breath. He was now away from Dejiak for good. He could admit it now. He would face it now. And Gods damn it, he wasn’t going to let this ruin the new chance he got on life.

He glared at the ceiling, eyes hardening.

He would not be controlled. By anyone. By anything.

Those days were gone.

He was free.

He was living on a planet fill with former Jedi Initiates.

The Healers of Bandomeer were fully trained Jedi Knights.

He was safe.

He was not a whore.

Fuck you, you kriffing bastard. You’re only a memory, and you are not going to stop me from getting some actual enjoyment out of this for once. NONE OF YOU ARE!

“I’m not a whore,” he stated, steel lacing his voice.

Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, he released it and brought back his image of Obi-Wan. Reaching out through the Force, he felt the small tug and warmth that he’d come to associate with Obi-Wan’s Force Signature. He was still beginning to pick them up, and he would continue to progress. He couldn’t feel past Obi-Wan’s shields, but being able to pick out his presence through the Force filled him with such joy, such feeling.

Anakin didn’t think he would take such comfort from it, but he did. Obi-Wan’s Force Signature was dulled, foggy with sleep, but still hummed softly around Anakin. The whole house was saturated with Obi-Wan’s presence.

He licked his palm and returned it to his reawakening erection. His left hand grasped his balls and gave them a gentle tug. Heat ran up his spine and pooled hot in his belly. Who knew he could get pleasure from that.

Consider this in spite of you, you son of a bitch.

In his mind’s eye he could see Dejiak melting away. His dark, curled hair straightening and shortening to the ginger he would know anywhere. Cold, possessive eyes turned into a mixture of blue and green - soft, welcoming, accepting. Height and width both decreased, and he had to laugh.

Obi-Wan’s shorter than I am.

He could remember the day they met. The too small clothes Obi-Wan had given him to wear. The way he’d treated him, taken care of him. How far he’d been able to come under Obi-Wan’s guidance.

He sighed and stroked himself faster, tightening his grip on every upstroke.

“So…that’s a sun burn.”

“Yes, Anakin. Yes it is.”

“I need it so I don’t burn. Just because you are a genetic anomaly-”

“-and the way you scream when you jump off that ledge, it sounds like you’re dying, and further more-”

“Something’s going to eat you! Out there. Attracted by your noise.”

"If I stopped shaving for a few days altogether I'd have a full on beard."

“…as hard as it is to believe, that's not why you're here… You belong to no one but yourself."

 “There was something in you Anakin, and it was bright."

“…our meeting was the will of the Force... It was a complete accident that I was there that day."

"Is it the storm? I've never liked them much myself."

"There's dinner ready, if you're hungry."

 “I work for the AgriCorps. It's a branch of the Jedi Order… "

"Bandomeer is located within the Republic. You're not a slave."

"I can sense your emotions.”

"I'm not expecting you to do anything, or…anyone…you're not - I'm not selling you to someone else."

"Force, what have they done to you?"

"My name is Obi-Wan Kenobi."

It was enough. All Obi-Wan was, all Obi-Wan is, all Anakin never knew he wanted. It was enough.

Tightening his hand and thrusting desperately, Anakin threw his head back in ecstasy as he finally – finally - achieved his long sought after release.

Thick ropes of creamy fluid covered his chest and stomach in victory. He wrung the last sputtering drops from his spent cock and let himself collapse onto the bed, breathing hard.

He couldn’t stop the breathless laugh that burst forth from his chest. The laughter continued as he ran a hand through the mess on his chest, his mouth breaking into a large happy grin. Anakin took a deep breath and it turned into a deluge of chuckles. He never wanted to stop laughing.

He did it. He actually, at long last did it.

Under his own power, his own hand, his own want and need and desire, on his own time.

He was in control. After the Gods knew how many years he was finally in control of his own body again.

It felt good. Really good.

And Anakin resolved that he would never lose that control again.

 

 

Chapter Text

 Chapter 16

 

“That’s not how you do it, boy!”

The hand struck him hard and fast. Anakin’s teeth cut into his lip and blood welled in his mouth.

“Next time you choke me like that, I’ll bite it off!” He snapped, spitting out blood.

Yuzsa slapped him again.

“Clean yourself up, you’re getting blood everywhere,” said Yuzsa. “That big mouth of yours is for sucking sock now. Not smart-ass comments. Threaten me again, and I’ll just fuck you. Think first, boy. But thinking really isn’t something you’re good at, is it? You’re a whore. Accept it. How we get you trained I couldn’t give a shit about.”

In his sleep, Anakin moaned and jerked to the side, his breathing coming in short, little gasps. A light sheen of sweat covered him.

“You’re so pretty.”

Not him. Not him again. Please not this again.

Hands. Hands all over him. Touching him, pulling at him, taking his clothes off.

Shut it out. Shut it all out. This wasn’t his life. He never left Watto. Watto was fine. This wasn’t his life.

On his stomach. Legs shoved apart. He didn’t want this, didn’t want this, didn’t want this...

“I want you to say my name.”

Anakin gripped the sheets when a dry finger was forced inside him. This wasn’t how he was trained. Where was the oil? He couldn’t...he couldn’t do this dry...he was going to bleed -

“I want you to say it. I want you to scream it. I want you to scream.”

He winced when the finger was yanked out of him.

“Dejiak,” said the man. “Don’t you ever forget my name. I’ll be seeing a lot of you.”

He heard him chuckle before his world became nothing but pain.

Anakin jolted awake with a shout, his body snapping and limbs lashing out at invisible bonds. Covers twisted around his legs as he kicked hard. Heart racing he threw them off the bed. Didn’t want anything on him, didn’t want anything touching him, wanted it off, off, OFF.

Too dark, it was dark, darkness everywhere, where am I? Disoriented, his arm trembled out fast, his hand colliding with something solid. Seconds later, his fingers fumbled with the switch of his bedside lamp and his room was bathed in a muted orange glow.

He breathed in unsteadily, body shaking.

This is my room.

He was safe. He was safe here. He was in the Republic.

On Bandomeer.

The little house by the sea.

Obi-Wan.

Breathing harder, he tried to ignore the tears trailing down his cheeks, tried to stifle the harsh sob strangling his throat and pushing against his chest. He would not cry over this. They were just memories – memories that had no place with him anymore. No place in his life, in his head, in his sleep – no where.

Anakin coughed and choked back any sounds that attempted to escape his throat. He tried to slow his breathing and wiped his hand furiously across his face, removing any traces of fallen tears. It was a betrayal when they defied him and fell anyway. The sweat on his skin was slowly drying and turning his skin cold. Shivering, he swallowed down the bile that threatened to rise in his throat.

You’re safe here. You’re safe, you’re safe, you’re safe...

“You’re gonna scream, aren’t you whore?”

“You love it when I’m inside you.”

“Such a sweet ass.”

“Shut up. Shut up, shut up, shut up.” His hands twisted through his hair and he pulled hard, hoping the pain would distract from the nausea.

“I faced this,” he choked. “This shouldn’t be happening.”

He flinched when someone knocked swiftly at his door.

“Anakin? Anakin, are you all right?”

Obi-Wan.

He didn’t even feel himself move. One minute he was sitting up in bed and the next he was wrenching the door open and pulling a surprised Obi-Wan into his arms.

He ignored the pained grunt he heard and buried his face into Obi-Wan’s neck. He was so warm against Anakin’s clammy skin. He shivered as Obi-Wan’s arms wrapped tightly around his back and held him close.

How does your touch not repulse me? How do I always feel so safe with you?

“Anakin?”

He shuddered in Obi-Wan’s arms and pulled him closer, wishing he could just melt into the other man. Was this going to be his life? One step forward and five steps back? Damn the whole universe, he dealt with this. At least he thought he had.

Why can I control my body, but not my fucking mind?

“Anakin?”

Pulling away slightly, he looked at Obi-Wan’s pale face and could barely read the emotion in his eyes.

“I just- please I just need…please…” he stammered, then angled his head and pressed their lips together firmly.


 

The shock of Anakin kissing him was almost enough to dull the flashes Obi-Wan had been getting from Anakin’s mind. Almost.

The jumbled mess that ran through Anakin’s head shifted and spun, jarring him hard from one memory to another that he found himself recoiling in horror. The Force flowed around Anakin in frenzied waves, and the things he projected... Oh Force, the things that bombarded Obi-Wan’s mind, even with his shields tightened to the point of breaking...

Obi-Wan ignored the stinging on his back from his sunburn as Anakin clung to him tighter, his mouth moving against Obi-Wan's desperately. His lips were soft, so soft and perfect. Better than any shameful dream or parting thought.

A tongue parted his lips, and stars help him he let it happen. Anakin’s lips were demanding, his kisses growing harder and more fervent. He let it happen and he shouldn’t, but Force if this was what it took – if it’s somehow what Anakin needed...

Let go, Kenobi.

“It’s okay,” Obi-Wan said, breaking the kiss before Anakin could reclaim it. “You’re okay.”

He didn’t understand. He didn’t understand why Anakin held him so tightly, kissed him so desperately, when the shadows of his past were running rampant through his head. Force, how did he survive? He knew he’d only scratched the surface of Anakin’s tangled thoughts, but what he saw was enough. After everything Anakin went through, how he could still smile and laugh, be surprised and full of wonder... Would this man ever cease to amaze him?

His body relaxed into Anakin’s, hands sliding up scarred back, caressing and comforting. After everything, Anakin was still somehow a creature of touch. He never shied away from Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan’s assessment proved right when he felt Anakin calm against him, melting into his arms.

“Release it to the Force,” he whispered against Anakin’s mouth.


 

The early morning light filtered in through the curtains of Obi-Wan’s room highlighting small dust particles that floated through the air. He stared up at the ceiling, eyes blinking only when they started to burn from the dryness of the air. His breathing was measured, carefully counted out and controlled as if it would somehow slow the staccato beat of his heart. Ever since Obi-Wan woke and remembered the events of the previous night, he had been trying to sort things out in his mind. Trying to make sense of his actions. Trying to ease the guilt.

But no matter how much the shame twisted in his stomach, he still couldn’t move. He still couldn’t pry his arm from around Anakin, or remove his fingers from gently playing with Anakin’s surprisingly soft curls.

Obi-Wan’s fingers froze when Anakin sighed deeply in his sleep, his weight pressing more firmly against Obi-Wan’s side as he shifted. Obi-Wan held his breath while Anakin’s hand fisted more of Obi-Wan’s sleep shirt as he settled back to slumber.

Obi-Wan exhaled.

How had he even gotten here? How did he let himself...kiss Anakin like that? Especially with what had been racing through Anakin’s mind last night, how could he do that to him? The fact that Anakin initiated the kiss meant nothing because Obi-Wan had kissed back. That was the problem. He kissed him back and they somehow ended up in Obi-Wan’s room, in his bed, holding onto each other like it was all that mattered.

Thank the Force that’s all we did, Obi-Wan thought. Thank everything I didn’t betray him more than I already have.

Hurting Anakin was the last thing he ever wanted to do. He cared about him. Too much. He could feel it. Every time Anakin looked at him, smiled at him, laughed and argued with him...

He didn’t know what to do. It was just too new, too foreign. He was just Obi-Wan Kenobi, always the detached one, the distant one. What the Sith could he ever offer Anakin?

“You’re as cold as Hoth, you know that Kenobi?”

He closed his eyes and sighed at the remembered words of a past association. His affairs had always been brief; former lovers, few as they were, always expected more. Obi-Wan never understood why, because he never made promises.

His previous –liaisons- had always been no strings attached sex for the most part. It never went any further than the physical. He always preferred to keep people at a distance, choosing his solitude over trusting something outside of himself. He’d been angry as a young man, viewing his partners as being just as meaningless as his whole life had been.

Eventually the anger cooled and he’d been left empty. Obi-Wan spent years shutting himself away from people, minding his own business, never reaching out, only holding back.

He never considered a life with anyone.

Until Anakin.

And he wanted. Force, how he wanted, he could admit it now, but the things he had seen in Anakin’s mind last night gave him even more reason to pause. To reflect.

The emotions Anakin brought forth in him were confusing and he didn’t understand them. So he buried them, ignored them. Thought he was doing the right thing. But the way Anakin had clung to him, needed him...

He would not take advantage. He didn’t want to be like...them. Obi-Wan shuddered, freezing immediately when Anakin stretched out along him. Without anymore movement, Obi-Wan went back to staring at the ceiling.

Anakin was...Anakin. He was different. And Obi-Wan stood by his past statement when he told Anakin that his past did nothing to diminish how bright he was, the light that was inside him, even after the glimpses of darkness he had seen last night. Nothing with Anakin could ever be as meaningless as Obi-Wan’s past associations.

Blinking at the sunlight, the weight in Obi-Wan’s stomach dropped again.

How can I be thinking of any of this right now?

He barely suppressed snorting at himself in revulsion. Disgusted and ashamed of thinking about Anakin after the things he now knew about him. Things he wouldn’t tell Anakin that he saw. He was starting to hate himself for it. Hate himself for wanting Anakin. For wanting things he shouldn’t. Hated himself for falling -

A Jedi shall not know anger. Nor hatred. Nor love.

It came as softly as a gentle wind into his mind, an age-old component of the Code. He shouldn’t be angry...he shouldn’t hate...and he shouldn’t lo-

“I’m not a Jedi,” he said softly.

Let go.


 

He was warm. Comfortably warm and content, sandwiched between blankets and a firm body, Anakin didn’t want to move. The body next to him didn’t trouble him, nor did the arm around his shoulders or the fingers stroking his hair, drawing lazy circles against his scalp.

It was the nicest anyone had touched his hair in a very long time.

The chest beneath his head rose and fell in a steady rhythm, the movement causing his lightly stubbled cheek to rub against a rumpled sleep shirt. It was an altogether pleasant sensation, he decided.

He smiled lightly. Obi-Wan was always pleasant.

Then it hit him. His eyes shot open and his body tensed, like someone had dumped him in cold water. He barely noticed Obi-Wan going as still as he did, so caught up in his own thoughts. Memories of last night slammed straight into his mind like a podracer crashing in Beggar’s Canyon.

He didn’t...he couldn’t have...

“Nobata... Uba koochoo...” he muttered in Huttese. No... You idiot...

“Anakin?”

The way he’d panicked last night, the emotions his nightmares brought racing to the surface... There was no way. There was no way his shields were in any condition to keep himself from accidentally projecting. Oh stars, what had he done? What had Obi-Wan seen?

Kark. Kark, damn it all. Damn it, damn it, damn it. I never wanted him to know

Fingers running through his hair distracted him from his thoughts. Where –?

Re-focusing on his surroundings, he realized that they were in Obi-Wan’s room. In Obi-Wan’s bed. How –?

His eyes fell shut and he stifled a groan, more memories flooding back.

He kissed him. He actually kissed Obi-Wan.

The entire night had been disaster. The first time he got to kiss Obi-Wan and he was in a near blind panic. And over what? Some stupid dreams that had no business being in his head in the first place. His jaw clenched tighter and tighter the more he thought about it.

Never should have kriffing happened. I’m in control of myself. I have control. I control my body, and fuck it all I will control my blasted mind. Stars know what Obi-Wan thinks of you now, idiot, he berated himself. After all the times you threw yourself at him in the past, and now you succeed in actually molesting him, good job. Amazing he hasn’t thrown you out yet.

Why hadn’t he? Obi-Wan knew he was awake. Had he been talking to him?

“O... Obi-Wan?” he asked, hesitatingly.

The fingers in his hair stilled. That, Anakin took notice of. He’s still touching me... Letting me lay here...

“Are you back with me, Anakin?”

“I, um...I’m...good.” What was wrong with him? He was ‘good’? Right, because he’ll believe that, stoopa.

Anakin didn’t expect the deep breath of air Obi-Wan released, like he had been holding it for quite some time. His tense body relaxed and Anakin unconsciously relaxed with him.

“You’re sure? I thought you were having a flashback of some sort.”

“I’m...” Okay? Fine? Not broken? They’d all be lies straight from his lips. “Why would you think that?” he asked instead.

“You spaced out, Anakin. Started talking in what I’m assuming was Huttese. I’m not fluent enough to know what you were saying.”

Anakin's laugh was dark. “Just insulting myself, really.”

But when he actually thought about it, he could see how it might have looked to Obi-Wan. Waking up together, then having the crazy boy practically on top of you start speaking another language and stop reacting seemingly altogether, could be seen as worrisome.

I’m an idiot.

“You shouldn’t –”

“I’m sorry.” He couldn’t look at Obi-Wan. He stared at the white sleep shirt covering Obi-Wan’s chest instead. He hadn’t moved to get away yet so Anakin would take what he could get. After last night  –  

“I’m sorry...about last night. I...how much did you see?”

He didn’t want to know. He really didn’t, but he had to ask. Anakin himself could barely remember what he’d been dreaming about. Most of it was half forgotten, back into the abyss of his mind where it belonged. But there were other memories... He shuddered, then paused.

Obi-Wan’s left arm came to wrap itself around Anakin, joining the one already around his shoulders. Holding him.

He’s touching me... Has he ever been so relaxed when touching me before?

Ankain sighed into Obi-Wan’s arms and closed his eyes. He had no idea what was going on, but it was certainly welcomed. What had Obi-Wan once told him...?

‘Physical distance made emotional detachment easier.'

Distance and detachment; even though it’s what the Jedi had taught him, Obi-Wan seemed to be getting the hang of it anyway. The stiff formality that was usually present in whatever physical contact they had had been steadily melting away since his swimming lessons started. Obi-Wan hadn’t shied away the least bit when Anakin had been  –

“Your sunburn!”

Anakin all but leapt off Obi-Wan’s chest, he found himself half-straddling the man beneath him as he and Obi-Wan finally made eye contact.

“Is it all right? Did I -” hurt you? Last night he’d held him so tight. “I hurt you, didn’t I? Last night? I know I did.”

“It’s fine. Really, it barely stings anymore.”

“I didn’t mean to -”

“I know. I know you didn’t. Force, Anakin, the way I found you, I -” He cut himself off.

Yeah, looks like neither of us want to talk about it, Obi-Wan.

“You never answered me...about what you saw,” Anakin looked away. He couldn’t look at Obi-Wan while he asked, too afraid of what he’d see in Obi-Wan’s eyes. Pity? Disgust? Repulsion?

“I...” He heard Obi-Wan sigh. A warm hand fell from Anakin's shoulder and smoothed down his arm. Anakin wondered if Obi-Wan even realized how much they were touching.

“Fragments. Fast and fleeting. Your mind was everywhere at once. Some...images were stronger than others. I tried not to look, Anakin, I wouldn’t -”

“I know you wouldn’t.”

Obi-Wan never pried. He never looked, and even after the onslaught of last night, he still tried to respect as much of Anakin’s privacy as possible.

“What you’ve been through...”

“I try not to think about. It’s over.”

He risked a glance at Obi-Wan, and he saw it. Obi-Wan hadn’t been disgusted with him before, but that was before he’d actually seen it, seen what Anakin had done, as jumbled as it may have been. But now that he had... Anakin still couldn’t see disgust. But there was something in those eyes...

“What?”

“It - it’s not my business.”

“Ask.”

There was a question on Obi-Wan’s mind; Anakin could see it written all over his face. He watched Obi-Wan’s mouth open and close a few times, probably trying to determine how best to say it.

You’re always careful with your words, Obi-Wan.

Obi-Wan’s lips pressed together in a firm line. Lips I kissed. He knew he should look somewhere else, to stop staring at Obi-Wan’s mouth. But once he did, his attention was captured by Obi-Wan’s bright blue eyes and his soft ginger hair splayed out against the pillow.

“Mesh’la.” Beautiful.

“What?”

Anakin shook his head. “Nothing.”

Obi-Wan’s slight confusion was gone, replaced by the same questioning look he'd given Anakin earlier. Fierfek. Might as well get this over with. He’d dealt with his past physically, and now talking about it might help him deal with it emotionally. It was worth a try. There wasn’t anyone in the galaxy he trusted more that the man beneath him, and stars knew he didn’t want meditation to be the answer to his nightmares. It would probably give him more with the amount of time he spent falling asleep during it.

“Sorry,” Anakin said. “You were asking something. And yes, ask it,” he said when he saw Obi-Wan gearing up for another 'none of my business’ blah, blah, blah.

“Just ask. I can handle it.”

Obi-Wan met him with a steady gaze and sighed.

“There...was one consistent thing that I kept seeing,” he said. A ball of cold dread started to grow in Anakin’s chest and dropped down to settle in his stomach. He knew where this was going.

“Who was he?”

Anakin jerked and sat up fully, moving to sit cross-legged to face Obi-Wan.

“Anakin?”

He cleared his throat and shook himself. He could do this. He could talk about this.

“Do you remember the first time I tried to sleep with you?”

He took the blush that appeared on Obi-Wan’s face as a ‘yes’.

Anakin laughed. “Hells, it wasn’t even an hour after meeting you, was it?”

Obi-Wan sat up and cleared his throat, “That’s true.”

“There was a reason for it, you know. I promised myself I’d sleep with my new master if you weren’t him; out of pure, kriffing gratitude for not belonging to that psychopath. If he had bought me and I couldn’t escape from him... I would have killed myself. I’d rather be dead than owned by him. You don’t know what he was like. Being owned by the brothel was the only thing stopping him from really hurting me like he wanted.” Anakin paused, and took a deep breath. “All the scars I have, they’re from him.”

“Anakin...”

He didn’t understand the look Obi-Wan was giving him. It wasn’t pity, it wasn’t shame. But it had to be one of those comforting things Obi-Wan did because he felt comforted, understood without being understood. Obi-Wan never judged him, and instead of backing away, Anakin was surprised when Obi-Wan scooted himself closer, their knees touching. Anakin reached out a hand to curl around Obi-Wan’s ankle.

Dejiak. His name was Dejiak.

He thought it, but he didn’t say it - refused to say it. For all Dejiak wanted him to remember, he would deny the bastard his name. Fuck him.

“You beat his bid. I know he was there. And I bet he was pissed. I can never thank you for that. For any of this.” He waved his hand around the room. “And I know you keep saying that I don’t have to, but... Obi-Wan, you have no idea.”

“You’re right, I don’t. But I don’t need to be thanked with -”

“Sex? Yeah, I figured that out. Eventually anyway,” he smirked cheekily at Obi-Wan’s ever reddening face.

“Vacuum bots,” Obi-Wan flushed, “is what I was going to say. They keep eating my socks.”

“I’ll fix them. I swear.”

Obi-Wan exhaled and rubbed a hand over his face, which was slowly regaining its normal colour.

“Of course you will. I...Force, Anakin... You’ve been here for months and have never had nightmares as bad as this. Did anything happen to trigger this or...or...something?

It was Anakin’s turn to flush. “No.”

He steadily ignored Obi-Wan’s look of disbelief, but appreciated it when he let it slide. He always granted Anakin his privacy, if he didn’t want to tell, he never forced it. Kriff, what was he supposed to say to Obi-Wan anyway? Well you see, I finally managed one fantastic orgasm on my own, for the first time in, oh you know, ever. Was thinking of you the whole time too, by the way.

Instead he settled for, “I can control my body, but not my mind - apparently. And don’t tell me the key is more meditation.”

“Meditation can be -”

“Really not interested in hearing it.”

“If you would stop falling asleep -”

“If it wasn’t so boring maybe I wouldn’t.”

“If we could do this at least once without you interrupt -”

“When do I ever interrupt you?”

“You just did it, Anakin.”

“I don’t want to meditate.”

“We meditate quite often.”

You meditate quite often, I sit there and think.”


 

The choking noise that gurgled and died in his throat as he attempted to contain his exasperation did nothing but bring a smile to Anakin’s face. Obi-Wan wasn’t quite sure if he’d suffered some form of aneurysm or just an Anakin-induced mini-stroke.

Scrubbing a hand over his eyes, Obi-Wan hung his head and shook it slowly.

Will he ever take meditation seriously?

I doubt it, he thought, answering his own question.

“Is there anything else that helps, then?” he asked. “Your nightmares were never this bad before.”

And they hadn’t been. Every now and then, Obi-Wan would find himself awake in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. It wasn’t until he reached out though the Force that he felt the slight tremors from Anakin’s room. They had always subsided quickly, though, Anakin settling eventually. Obi-Wan had never felt anything from Anakin like the panic he saw and felt last night. That was entirely new.

And hopefully not recurring.

Whatever he could do, however he could help Anakin through this, he would. He cared too much. Anakin just slid into his world and in through his shields without even having to try – and Obi-Wan just let him in.

Bloody fantastic predicament you’ve gotten yourself into, Kenobi.

“Anakin...”

He looked up and Obi-Wan’s heart turned a beat too fast.

Those eyes...

Bluer than any ocean he’d ever seen. The weight of his gaze pierced straight through him. Shields or no shields, sometimes he wondered if they even did anything.

Can he see straight through me?

“Are you okay?” Obi-Wan asked.

Anakin looked away, sighing. Turning back to Obi-Wan, he shook his head.

“No,” he said. “But I will be.”

Anakin’s admission touched something in Obi-Wan. He could feel something building in the young man, but couldn’t quite grasp what it was. He opened his mouth to respond, however he found himself interrupted by a solidifying within the Force.

“I’m not a whore,” said Anakin, meeting his eyes directly.

The strength of his gaze left Obi-Wan breathless.

There it is.

The spirit, the fight, the passion, all that Obi-Wan was taken in by the day he first saw Anakin on that slave platform - the passion that seemed to wane during his confused first days of not being owned anymore, that diminished while he spent months trying to find himself - the passion that always stayed just beneath the surface. But it was there. That glowing strength he had seen was back. And it was stunning.

“No,” he agreed, unequivocally. “You’re not.”

You’re more than that, Anakin. So much more.

Chapter Text

Chapter 17

The teacup in Anakin’s hands warmed him as he slowly breathed in the spicy citrus scent of it. Obi-Wan was a man of many teas, and while they both had their favourites, there was usually a new flavour first thing in the morning for Anakin to try. The one he drank now would probably become a comfort drink for him, the citrus already making him more relaxed than he’d been when waking in Obi-Wan’s bed earlier.

His face flushed with heat, and he was glad that Obi-Wan was too distracted with what he was reading to notice. Anakin took another sip as he lost himself in his thoughts.

The conversation he’d had with Obi-Wan a mere few hours ago helped to relax and reassure him. No harm done. He was surprised at the tranquility he felt, the peace. He knew it wouldn’t last, though. Something was bound to ruin it, some other dark memory buried deeply in his subconscious just waiting to claw its ugly way out. He didn’t really know how much of it was buried and how much he actually remembered. The things he remembered were bad enough, and the things he had forgotten were better left alone.

But Anakin knew that in order to truly overcome his past he would have to face everything eventually, one step at a time, while continuing to stride forward with his new life and freedom.

Every day was a step forward, one lap closer to the finish in a never-ending pod race. But last night… well, that was a crash. He was sitting in a broken pod with cuts and bruises and a sense of defeat as he fell behind again.

But like all crashes in the pod races when he was younger, Anakin was determined to finish this race – or if not finish, then try his damnedest to get back out there and keep moving forward.

I am not a whore, he thought, hard, and joined the race again with renewed vigor.

It was that recognition and the strength of his resolve that would see him through. The brothel hadn’t broken him, Dejiak hadn’t broken him, and he would be damned if memories of the things he’d already lived through would be what finally did it. No matter how much the dreams terrified him, he would not give into that fear. It was what Kerr and Dejiak always wanted and he would not give them that satisfaction. He defied them then and he would defy them now.

To move on, to live. It was what he wanted, and he would make it happen.

“I think I’m ready.”

Obi-Wan glanced up from his data pad. “For what?”

“To start working with the AgriCorps,” Anakin said, and grinned. “I believe I was promised more machines to tinker with.”

Obi-Wan smiled. “You were. And if you’re sure, I can comm Aadi and get you started this month if you’d like.”

“I would like. I need something to do.” He took a sip of tea. “My hands are itching to work on something bigger.”

“You’re sure that’s why?”

Anakin sighed. Of course Obi-Wan could see right through that. “Machines have always been something to distract me. They also help me think.”

“I just don’t want you-“

“-doing something I’m not ready for,” he interrupted. “I know. And I’m not. I need to do this, Obi-Wan. I’ve adjusted to freedom, and now... I’m going to get my life back.”

With honest work, he thought. Working in the mechanical division of the AgriCorps, Anakin couldn’t think of a job he’d love more - machines all day and every day - fixing, mending, building, maybe even designing. Despite his time in the brothel, the box of machine parts Obi-Wan had salvaged for him and the vacuum bots he designed (slight malfunctioning sock eating aside) proved that he hadn’t lost his gift for it. He was looking forward to it.

“I’ll put in the call later today.”

Anakin grinned. “Wizard.”


 

Obi-Wan’s worry of the day – that the events of last night and earlier in the morning morning would linger and colour the entire day with awkwardness – eased and lifted, he was glad once he felt things going back to relative normalcy.

Only this time, Anakin seemed sharper, more focused. When he asked to start at the AgriCorps, Obi-Wan was a bit surprised.

I just want you to be ready. Don’t rush into something because of last night.

He hoped Anakin was ready. Mi’aka advised him to wait until Anakin brought it up himself, and now that he had they could start to move further forward. Obi-Wan could also return to his own work once Anakin started. Not that he really missed it, that is. Nothing but cultivating new seeds and watching them start to bud, and then eventually ready to be taken and sown into fresh soil imbued with the Force – and that process was repeated again, and again, and again...

His extended “vacation” with Anakin was really the highlight of his life. Helping him adjust, working on his Force potential, teaching him shielding and other talents he had the power to posses.

They would still work on those things, but in the evenings when they were home...

Home.

Funny, or sad really - the little house had never quite felt like that before. Home had always been memories of wide, open corridors, more steps and elevators than he could count, and a small sleep couch in a room shared with other Initiates...

A place that he would never return to, never be a part of.

But now here he was, with Anakin across from him, feeling for the first time like he belonged.

It was a feeling he hadn’t had in quite a long time.

Was it selfish of him that he didn’t want it to end? That the guilt lifted from his mind in the morning light? The things he felt for Anakin were so foreign, so different than anything else. It both scared him and relieved him that once Anakin started working he might decide to live elsewhere, away from Obi-Wan. Scared because when he really admitted it to himself, having Anakin in his life brightened up what was once a very lonely existence. He took away a loneliness that Obi-Wan had purposely held onto. A loneliness that he did to himself, thought he deserved, too afraid of letting anyone in.

His defenses when it came to Anakin were truly pathetic.

And that’s where Anakin’s imagined absence relieved him.

After what he’s been through, he doesn’t need me thinking about him the way I have been...

The guilt returned to gnaw and churn inside his stomach. I shouldn’t want him the way I do, the way I’ve admitted. Force, I’m twice his age...

Obi-Wan didn’t even know what Anakin was saying to him. All he could do was just watch those lips move.

Lips I’ve tasted. He blinked, trying to focus. I’m a horrible person.

“Obi-Wan? Obi-Wan?”

He blinked again and looked across the table into Anakin’s concerned blue eyes.

“What?”

“Are you all right?” asked Anakin. “You were kind of spaced out for a while there.”

“I’m fine. Just fine.”

“What were you thinking about?”

“Nothing.”

Anakin raised an eyebrow but said nothing further. Obi-Wan did notice, however, an odd look in his eyes. Obi-Wan checked his shields on the highly improbable situation that they had somehow weakened.

He raised his cup to his mouth.

“Are you a virgin?”

Tea sputtered all over the table, as Obi-Wan choked, all but slamming his cup down to cover his mouth as he coughed violently.

“I...b-beg your...pardon?”

“Had to shock you out of your mood somehow,” Anakin grinned.

“By asking me if I’m a, a vir- by asking me that?”

“I’m curious. They way you act sometimes.” He shrugged. “We both know I’m not.”

Obi-Wan coughed and wiped his mouth with his sleeve. Never did he imagine that that would be something Anakin would ask him. Thought in hindsight, he really should have.

Given his history and what I know of it, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.

“No. No, I’m not a v-”

Really?

“Why are you so surprised?”

“Are you sure?”

Obi-Wan glared. “I think I would know the status of my non-virginity, Anakin.”

“Congratulations on not stuttering on the word this time.”

“You kept interrupting me!”

“Excuses.”

Anakin.

“Sorry.” He ducked his head sheepishly. “It’s just... you’re so proper all the time. And whenever I’ve been naked you turn bright red.”

“I do not!”

Anakin laughed. “You do! The day we met, you ran out of there so fast it made me wonder. And the last time I tried to, uh, ‘thank’ you.”

“It doesn’t-”

“You’re kind of red right now, actually.”

And Force be damned if Obi-Wan couldn’t feel the heat creeping into his cheeks. The way Anakin was so candid and blatant made his face burn.

“It’s just...not something that’s brought up in polite conversation.”

“Has it been a while?”

Obi-Wan’s silence was the only answer. He was turning things over in his mind, trying to come up with an answer, all the while willing his face to stop over-heating. Playing absent-mindedly with his cup, he didn’t notice the teasing sparkle in Anakin’s eyes start to die and be replaced with distressing worry.

“Did...did someone hurt you?”

Obi-Wan’s eyes locked onto Anakin’s. He straightened up and forced himself to speak once he realized what was being implied.

“No. No, Anakin, no one... It was nothing like that.” He barely noticed himself take Anakin’s hand in his. The need to reassure him, to take that look from his face overwhelmed him. Their circumstances were so different. He knew Anakin’s, had caught the horrifying glimpses of it last night. Maybe it would help, to talk about his own. He’d never talked to anyone about it. Ever. It was always just something that happened, something he did then forgot about, and the times he didn’t forget he just regretted.

“Cold as Hoth...” he whispered to himself.

“What?”

“Nothing... No.” He stopped himself. “Something. It was something someone told me a long time ago. I barely know where to begin.”

Anakin waited for him to continue. Obi-Wan hesitated, opening and closing his mouth. Where to even start? It was best to get it all out, he supposed. With everything Anakin's told him about his own past, didn't he deserve the same?

“When I first came here to Bandomeer, I was numb,” said Obi-Wan. He still carried the feeling with him at times. He was unsure if it would ever truly go away, even. His thumb traced the pattern on the edge of his cup.

“It took a while for it to sink in that I was no longer an Initiate, but a...a failure. I had failed at the one thing I had been raised for. I didn’t know what to do so I just shut myself away.”

He could remember all the feelings. The grief, the sadness, the overwhelming depression; the way it choked him at night, twisting and churning inside him. His feelings of failure, of uselessness - he was worthless. Brought into a world of saber combat, tactics, and galactic knowledge only to be cast aside to become a farmer; to completely relearn how to channel the Force. It was a life that was never meant to be his. And when he got older it had made him -

“-angry. I became quite angry in my twenties. I didn’t care about anything. I did more stupid things on off-world pick-ups than I care to admit. It shouldn’t surprise me, the Masters didn’t take me on as an apprentice because I was too aggressive-“

You?”

“It’s what I was told.” Obi-Wan hating remembering it. Practically begging to be taken on as a Padawan only to be told he was too aggressive, too passionate and uncontrolled. It was the last time he’d seen Qui-G- The last time he’d seen the Temple, as his last hope saw him off to Bandomeer.

“So I decided why not? Why not give them exactly what they thought I was? Not that anyone cared what I did, anyway. My relationships with people, Anakin, I’m not proud of. I’m not proud of how I treated them. I didn’t love them. I didn’t want anything lasting, even when I knew they did. I made it impossible for people to get to know me. I made them want to stop trying. And not only past lovers, but everyone. You’ve had to have noticed by now that Mi’aka is really the only person I talk to.”

“And me.” The simple words and the light squeeze of his hand made something well up inside Obi-Wan's chest.

“And you.”

“You’re not like that anymore. You’re not angry.”

“No, I’m not. It was a long time ago. Now I’m just... here.”

“There’s nothing wrong with here,” said Anakin. “So you didn't want to be a farmer. I didn't want to be fucked every night."

Obi-Wan winced as Anakin continued. “You’re not a failure. Our pasts might suck, but they don’t define us. The things you’ve done for me, no Jedi could do that. I have a second chance thanks to you. And whoever called you cold is welcome to bite me.”

Obi-Wan couldn’t help the small smile that graced his mouth.

“Same thing to the bastard who told you you were aggressive. You were a kid. That’s what training is for, isn’t it? And there’s nothing wrong with passion.”

“Anakin...”

“And can you stop beating yourself up for all of this? I can hear it in your voice how much it bothers you. And... I mean, you told me once that our meeting was the will of the Force, and that we might never had met if you didn’t work for the AgriCorps. Do you think that maybe, the Force led you down this path so you could find me?”

Obi-Wan had said that. And if he had been a Jedi, then he wouldn’t have been on Tatooine that day, and Anakin would have been...sold to that man.

"I would have killed myself."

“How old were you?” The question was out before he could take it back. It just slipped out, and Obi-Wan was sure he didn’t want to know the answer.

Anakin looked at him silently before answering, keeping their eyes locked. “Fifteen.”

Obi-Wan swallowed hard, trying to keep down the bile that threatened to come up.

“Stars alive, Anakin.” He squeezed his hand tighter.

“I’m fucked up. I know I am. But trust me, it could have been worse. “

“How-”

“If Watto had been a bastard I could have been on my knees when I was ten.”


 

Anakin really wished he hadn’t been getting so good at shocking Obi-Wan into silence sometimes. When it was about things that weren’t so serious, he got a kick out of watching the man grasp for words. Not times like these though. He would take it back if he could, he shouldn’t have said it. But it was true nonetheless. Had Watto been a greedier bastard than he was, and if he was into the whole child prostitution thing, Anakin’s life could have been just that much worse.

“I shouldn’t have said that,” said Anakin. “All things considered, Watto was a decent master. He was never into that.”

“Thank the stars.”

“Yeah.”

Anakin picked up his cup and drank deeply. The tea had cooled enough so his throat didn’t burn. The spicy tang ran over his taste buds as he and Obi-Wan lapsed into silence. It should have felt uncomfortable but it didn’t. They were just two people stepping back into their own minds, adjusting from uncomfortable topics. Talk of sex would probably always lead him back to his own past, but he didn’t have to let it overwhelm him. While he was awake it was easier to push things back from the front of his mind. The real test would be the nights to follow.

At least he had Obi-Wan. He couldn’t imagine trying to work through all of his issues without the other man by his side. He really didn’t want to do any of it alone. Anakin had always beenalone. After the Twi’leks that cared for him in those early days in the brothel had been either sold or killed, he never bothered trying to get close to anyone again. He didn't want to and he kept them away.

He kept people away, and so did Obi-Wan.

I guess we’re more alike than I thought. Different circumstances, but we both have trouble opening up and trusting, don’t we?

Anakin hid a smile behind his cup as his gaze landed on his hand still intertwined with Obi-Wan’s. The heat of his hand warmed Anakin’s, and Anakin could swear he could feel it all along his arm.

Does he even realize we’re still holding hands?

It was nice - a comforting, reassuring touch. It had always felt like that between them. At least that’s how Anakin felt. How Obi-Wan felt... well, that was an entirely different arena.

Just once I would like your shields to lighten up. I can be an open book a lot of the time, but you keep yourself so guarded, Obi-Wan.

But the fact that Obi-Wan had opened up to him a little bit, told him more about his past, made his stomach flutter

It was hard to believe though, Obi-Wan being anything other than the calm, rational-minded man that sat before him. Anakin couldn’t imagine him angry, or falling into bed with someone just for the hell of it. Though the latter did make him think. The Jedi believed in non-attachment, neutrality, the less emotion the better. Anakin knew all too much about meaningless sex, he supposed that neither of them had ever experienced it with someone they cared about.

Obi-Wan said he wasn’t proud of it, and Anakin could practically taste the self-loathing in his voice when he did.

"It took a while for it to sink in that I was no longer an Initiate, but a...a failure."

Everything comes back to the Jedi for you, doesn’t it Obi-Wan? They’re not worth it, not after all this time. You’re so much more than anything they said. So much more.

Anakin believed that with every beat of his heart.

Chapter Text

Chapter 18

Anakin blatantly ignored every irritating tick of the chrono on the wall as he twisted yet another wire inside the disassembled vacuum bot.

Where did I go wrong with this? he wondered. I know I didn’t program sentience, so why all the love for destroying socks?

Anakin rubbed his eyes and fought hard against a yawn. He would finish it. He needed to finish it. The vacuum bot was something he could fix - something that he could open up, take apart, and have working better afterwards than it did before. Machines were simple, even when they were complex. But even with complexity - they didn’t dream. Not like him. He’d hoped last night would have been the end of it. It would have been too good if it was.

Anakin hated it. Hated that every time he closed his eyes, his mind wanted to shove it all in his face - all the things that he could compartmentalize and push back when he was at the brothel. He was always too caught up in wondering what was coming next, too focused on the future to dwell on the past. But now that he was free, it seemed to be starting to work in reverse. It’s why starting at the AgriCorps was now so important. It would give him a solid grasp on the fact that he did have a future here. That he could look forward without worry, that he could be something. Be more than what he was. Maybe then he would stop re-visiting his past. Or be so tired from working that he would fall into a dreamless sleep.

Fierfek, when did I become such a coward? What was I thinking? That I wouldn’t give in to the fear?' he admonished. 'I’m so brave in the daylight, aren’t I?

So lost in his thoughts, he paid no attention when his hand slipped.

“Kriff!” Anakin jerked his hand back quickly. His thumb stung with pain, and he brought it instinctively to his mouth to soothe it. The copper taste was disgusting and just brought back more of what he wanted to forget.

How often have I tasted my own blood?

Taking his finger from his mouth, he wrapped it in the bottom of his shirt instead.

“What is wrong with me?” he whispered bitterly.

“Anakin?”

His heart leaped into his throat as his head snapped to the right - startled at Obi-Wan's quiet appearance in the room.

“Do you have to walk so quietly all the time?” said Anakin, his hand rose to his chest as if it would calm his rapidly beating heart.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.” Obi-Wan looked concerned, twisting the sleeve of his bath robe.

Anakin shook his head. “It doesn’t matter, I’m sorry, I’m just... I don’t even know.”

Obi-Wan sat on the couch beside Anakin’s place on the floor. He looked at the dissected vacuum bot laying in a mess on the small caf table in front of him.

“Any progress?”

“Not particularly.” Just get to the point Obi-Wan.

He had to wonder at times if he did have psychic powers, or maybe he was projecting in which case he attempted to send a small apology Obi-Wan’s way for the tone in his head.

“Anakin, it’s three-thirty in the morning.”

“It was only one when I came out here.”

He heard Obi-Wan sigh and get off the couch. Anakin kept his eyes on the bot, barely noticing Obi-Wan’s movements, or the opening and closing of a cabinet. It caught him off guard when Obi-Wan sat down on the floor next to him and pried his hand out of his shirt.

“What have you done to yourself?” Obi-Wan asked, opening the medi-kit he’d retrieved.

“The bot did it. It has a taste for your socks and my fingers.”

“I’m sure it didn’t attack you on purpose. My socks on the other hand...”

“Maybe you shouldn’t leave them on the floor, then? I thought you were supposed to be Mr. Tidy. You shouldn’t complain about what my room looks like.”

Your room, is a disaster area. I’m not sure what war you started in there –“

Anakin let Obi-Wan’s voice wash over him as he dressed Anakin’s cut with a small bacta patch. If he let himself drift he knew that Obi-Wan’s calm tenor would put him to sleep, but that wasn’t something he wanted. Anakin knew he couldn’t stay awake forever - but maybe... just enough to sort himself out? To stop dreaming of things best left forgotten?

Hn. Wishful thinking.

“Anakin?”

“Yes?”

“Do you want some tea? Or cocoa?”

“Aren’t you going to ask me why I’m not sleeping?”

“It’s not that difficult a guess.”

“Yeah,” he murmured. “I guess not.”

“Have you tried, or just not slept at all tonight?”

“I did try. I thought last night would be all of it, but my mind just isn’t done with me yet. I think I was asleep for an hour before I woke up. After I tried again and woke up the second time I decided not to even bother.”

“You can’t stay awake forever.”

“I can try.”

“It’s not healthy for you.”

“My dreams aren’t healthy.” Anakin paused, something else creeping into his mind. “Can I ask you about something? About dreams?”

“What about them?”

“Have you ever...dreamed about something and it came true?”

Anakin watched as Obi-Wan’s brows furrowed.

“Has this happened to you?”

“Every now and then. Nothing of what I’m dreaming right now. That’s all from the past. But there have been a few times where things started playing out exactly as I dreamed them. The dreams were always a little hazy though, like looking through a tunnel.”

“Force visions,” Obi-Wan nearly whispered. “You have Force visions?”

Anakin let out a breath. “So it is a Force thing? I wasn’t just losing my mind?”

“No, you weren’t. There are accounts of Jedi having visions for millennia. Master Yoda and Master Windu are both known to have experienced them.”

“Who’s Windu?”

Master Windu,” Obi-Wan emphasized, “is a legend among the Order. He’s a member of the Jedi Council, one of the youngest ever appointed and the next highest ranking member after Master Yoda. He’s also one of the best swordsmen among the Jedi. Watching him duel, even only in a spar...it’s like nothing I can describe to you.”

Anakin smiled a little at that. It was the first time Obi-Wan had spoken of the Jedi with something other than sadness or detachment. Anakin swore he heard actual wonder.

“Anyway,” said Obi-Wan. “Force visions are extremely rare, Anakin. They were thought to be both a gift and a curse.”

“I think they’re just messed up,” he said. “And I think tea would be good. That kind I had this morning.”

“Of course.”

“You have a lot of tea.”

“It’s comforting.”

“Yeah,” Anakin agreed. “I get that.”

When Anakin thought about it, really thought about it, his teas were probably the only thing to have ever comforted Obi-Wan when he needed it. The Jedi’s detachment, a life on Bandomeer he never expected, isolating himself from everyone, and his feelings of failure.

You’re too hard on yourself Obi-Wan. I wish you could see yourself the way I do.

Obi-Wan’s smile was warm as he got up and moved into the kitchen. Anakin glanced at the vacuum bot on the table before standing and following him. Sitting at the island in the kitchen, he watched Obi-Wan opening cupboards, gathering all that he needed. Maybe the tea would help him sleep without dreaming? Anakin nearly snorted. Like that would happen, there wasn’t anything that pushed them back. Yet...

He fought to keep a blush at bay, feeling the heat start to creep slowly up his neck as he remembered. He didn’t dream the previous night. Not after falling asleep with Obi-Wan, and being held safely in warm, comforting arms. But Gods how he ended up there was embarrassing enough. He tried not to think about it, and was honestly happy that Obi-Wan hadn’t brought up their ki-

He paused. Brows furrowing as he thought. Why did he suddenly feel like he was missing something?

I heard you at the door. I held onto you...

He vaguely remembered that. Not even realizing what was happening until he had Obi-Wan in a death grip in his arms. Holding you so tightly as if it would push out the memories. And then -

Then I kissed you. That was...

Anakin froze.

“You kissed me back.”

The dropped kettle nearly shattering the hotplate and spilling water all over the counter was all the confirmation he needed.

He kissed me back.

Anakin’s heart beat in his throat as he stood up and made his way around the counter to stand behind Obi-Wan. The older man hadn’t moved at all since dropping the kettle.

What am I doing? I just...have to see, I have to know. Really know. This is different than before, different than the other times I - He kissed me back...he-kissed-me-back-he-kissed-me-back-he-kissed-me-

Tucking a finger into the belt of Obi-Wan’s robe, he pulled until Obi-Wan turned to face him, the older man’s head lowered, not meeting his eyes. Anakin moved closer, backing Obi-Wan against the counter.

“Anakin... Anakin, I - ” Face red and eyes closed, Obi-Wan tried to speak.

“No.” Anakin’s finger pressed against Obi-Wan’s lips to silence him. “Don’t.”

Trailing his finger past Obi-Wan’s mouth, he slipped it under his chin and tilted his face up. He bent his head down before he could come up with reasons why this was a bad idea, before the fear and doubt crept up inside him, before any thoughts of Obi-Wan rejecting him again, even though this time it was honest. It was only Anakin. No motives or agendas, or thank you’s involving his body. Obi-Wan meant something to him. Obi-Wan kissed him back. There had to be something there, Anakin couldn’t be imagining it. The way Obi-Wan opened up to him and touched him, was becoming comfortable with him after a lifetime of pushing people away.

Don’t push me away. Please don’t push me away now, Obi-Wan.

Anakin bent his head down and pressed his lips softly to Obi-Wan’s. It was a light kiss, the complete opposite of the rushed, hurried mess of the night before. Obi-Wan didn’t respond, his body had gone stiff the moment Anakin’s mouth touched his, but Anakin didn’t move. He just stayed still, pressing their lips together, Obi-Wan’s stubble scratching his chin and upper lip.

I guess that’s it, he thought, heart sinking in despair.

Pushing his mouth against Obi-Wan’s more firmly for the last time, Anakin moved to pull away but was stopped abruptly by Obi-Wan’s hand twisting in the front of his sleep shirt to hold him there. His eyes flew open in surprise, and he quickly closed them again as Obi-Wan kissed him back. His entire body felt electrified, the hair on his neck stood straight up, his hands were shaking, his legs melting to liquid. Anakin placed both his hands on Obi-Wan’s hips, grounding himself. Their lips moved slowly over each other's, soft and unhurried. He’d never been kissed so gently before. Back on Tatooine he hated being kissed, most often refusing unless forced to (it was too rough, too violent), but with Obi-Wan...

I want to. I always want to.

Pressing another firm kiss to Obi-Wan’s lips, Anakin finally pulled away, resting his forehead against Obi-Wan’s and panting lightly. Pulling his head back a bit further, he saw that Obi-Wan’s eyes were finally open. Blue-green eyes stared up at him with something that Anakin couldn’t put a name to. All he knew was that it made a deep warmth spread all throughout his body, from chest to toes, and he felt right. Everything was right. Everything was -

 “Sorry,” said Anakin, blinking and looking away. His eyes were wet.

“Anakin.” Obi-Wan lifted his arm, hand hovering just beside Anakin’s cheek, fingertips barely touching.

“That was a real kiss, right?”

Obi-Wan’s hand cupped his cheek. “Of course it was.”

Anakin closed his eyes and leaned into it, sighing softly before letting out a self-depreciating laugh. “Gods, I really am tired.”

“It’s late.”

Anakin nodded and pulled Obi-Wan into his arms, bending down to rest his head in the crook of his neck. Obi-Wan’s warmth seeped into him, everything melting away, his exhaustion finally hitting him, and he could feel just how much he just wanted to sleep. But it still scared him - what was waiting for him in his unconscious.

“Is this ever going to end?”

“Dreams pass in time.”

“What about memories?”

“Focus on the good ones.”

Anakin touched their foreheads together again. “You’re a good one. And you just...whenever I need you, you just show up.”

Obi-Wan lowered his eyes and bit his lip. “I didn’t do anything.”

“You do more than you know.”

“I should clean this up,” said Obi-Wan, flushing and waving behind him “And you can...fix that cotton-eating monstrosity of yours.” He motioned towards the living room.

Anakin laughed.

The last thing he remembered that night was falling asleep on Obi-Wan’s shoulder while sitting on the couch, half drank tea cooling on the table next to a disassembled vacuum bot.

He didn’t dream.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 19

The couch was a bad idea, Obi-Wan winced as he shifted. The crick in his neck made itself well known as consciousness and feeling started to return to his body. He didn’t even remember falling asleep, let alone tipping over to the side and having his head lay awkwardly against the armrest. He huffed, and then stilled instantly as the warmth against his side snuffled in sleep.

Right. And that would be why my arm is numb.

A head of blonde curls rested contentedly on his chest, Anakin’s body was wedged between Obi-Wan and the back of the couch, his arm trapped under the younger man’s back. Anakin’s weight was solid and warm against him.

Just let me have this, he thought. Just let me have this for a little while. I don’t want to feel guilty for this right now.

He could do without the emotion for a few hours; there were more important things for him to be dwelling on.

Like the fact that he wanted Anakin to be okay. He didn’t want to start something when the younger man was still plagued by his past life. Obi-Wan didn’t want to take advantage of any vulnerability. Would a relationship help or hinder? What could Obi-Wan even offer him? He had no idea why Anakin wanted him, other than being the first person in a long time not to hurt him, and that was not a reason to get involved romantically. They were both emotionally stunted. How could anything ever work between them, anyway?

But by the Stars, wrong or not Obi-Wan knew he could be selfish. He knew he wanted Anakin, had finally admitted it to himself, and the feeling of Anakin pulling away from him last night had been too painful.

With Anakin’s shields frayed and shuttering, he could feel his fear of another rejection. He hadn’t wanted Obi-Wan to push him away - pushing him away like he’d been doing since they’d met. And he knew it then; that it was the last chance he was going to get. The last time Anakin was going to attempt anything more than friendship with him. Obi-Wan had denied him over and over again, and he was finally giving up. Obi-Wan’s stomach had clenched painfully, and it was his complete undoing when he’d caught a thought burning into his mind as bright and strong as a supernova -

‘I want to. I always want to.’

It had been his downfall. He wanted. He wanted in a way that was wrong and selfish and probably damaging. Anakin stretched in his sleep and curled himself closer to Obi-Wan, if it was even possible. But Anakin, of course, found a way anyway.

What am I going to do with you?

It was harder and harder to resist the pull of Anakin’s gravity. He was growing in leaps and bounds. The awkward tension, the suspicion and uncertainty that had plagued Anakin in the beginning had given way to this magnificently passionate young man, completely unafraid to sass him in their playful arguments; cheeky, loud, and bright-eyed. The change was startling

Anakin’s eyelashes fluttered.


 

He dreamed of his mother in the last moments before waking. It was a nice dream. Nicer than any he’d had recently. She was as beautiful as he remembered her, if not older. She looked out at the stars and pressed a hand over the window of the ship, whispering something he couldn’t quite make out. She was wearing blue.

The bittersweet nature of the dream left him as he became fully aware, fading back into his subconscious and tucking itself away gently. Anakin was warm when he woke, pressed against something soft, yet firm. Yes, his mind supplied, I’ve woken up like this before.

He wished that he could wake up pressed against Obi-Wan every morning. It brought him to consciousness languidly. Comfortable. Calm. And this time, he wasn’t jerking back in a panic. He hadn’t attacked Obi-Wan’s mouth last night, hadn’t held onto him for dear life as nightmares ran rampant in his mind. Last night had been mutual. Obi-Wan kissing him back, hands tangled in his shirt, and a warm, calloused hand cupping his cheek.

He kissed me back. A slow smile formed on his mouth. Twice.

Both times that they kissed, the first frenzied kiss or the light, slow kiss that they shared last night, Obi-Wan had kissed him back. There’s something there. He feels it too.

“Good morning, Anakin.”

“Mornin’.”

“Comfortable?”

“Very. You?”

“My arm’s asleep and there’s a crick in my neck.”

Anakin snorted. Always with the aches and pains. Rolling over Obi-Wan, Anakin slid onto the floor, stretching as he did so. The table was still littered with his tinkering from the night before. Metal and wires decorated most of the surface. Turning back, he watched Obi-Wan shake his arm out and rub at his neck.

“I will get this fixed,” Anakin said, pointing at the bot.

Obi-Wan offered him an amused smile. “I’m sure you will.”

“And I know we probably have things to talk about after these, uh, past two nights.”

“We do.” Obi-Wan’s face coloured. His mouth opened and closed in an abortive attempt to say something. Anakin wished he wouldn’t censor himself or tip-toe around things. It was more than once Anakin had to pull it out of him. And it made him curious, too; he wanted to know what Obi-Wan wanted to ask, but didn’t think he should.

“I know that look,” Anakin said. “Just ask.”

Obi-Wan sighed and met his eyes, hand still rubbing out the pins and needles in his arm.

“I just- I don’t understand how... with everything that was going through your mind that night, how could you stand to, to kiss me...like that?"

The answer didn’t even surprise Anakin. It was there in his mind in an instant.

“Because it’s… It’s you. I trust you. And believe it or not, I do actually like you.”

And he did. He did in a way that was completely foreign to him, new and exciting. Obi-Wan was something he’d never experienced before. Sincerity, genuineness, kindness, warmth, Obi-Wan radiated so many good qualities it made Anakin’s head spin. He’d only ever seen such qualities in his mother, and now he had Obi-Wan to add to his very short list. But he didn’t think Obi-Wan would see it that way. The more time he spent with Obi-Wan, watching him and listening to him, he saw that Obi-Wan didn’t see himself the way Anakin did. What Anakin saw was guilt. Shame. Self-depreciation. But the worst of it was Obi-Wan’s self-hatred.

He couldn’t see how good he was because he was wasting his time focusing on the things that the Jedi sent him away for. Anakin thought it was ridiculous. The qualities they didn’t want would have made Obi-Wan a great Jedi, he thought. Obi-Wan would have been one of their best.

It pained him, seeing how much hurt Obi-Wan still carried though the years. It’s what made him isolate himself and hide away. Curling loneliness around him and attempting to turn it into a shield, to keep everyone out. He was protecting himself. Anakin could see it because he had done the same thing many times, except instead of silence and isolation to push people away, he’d used his loud mouth and arrogance. After he’d lost the Twi’leks who had cared for him as a child, he didn’t want to get close to anyone else. They were all expendable and he’d already lost too much.

Obi-Wan, though. Obi-Wan was someone he just might be able to keep. And he wanted to, it should have terrified him how much he wanted Obi-Wan, but instead it just relaxed him. Obi-Wan was a calming presence to every part of his screwed up mind. And he knew that these feelings weren’t because Obi-Wan was the first to treat him with kindness in Goddess knew how long, no. If it had been anyone other that Obi-Wan who had freed him from slavery, he would have cut and run. Combing the universe for his mother would have been his only goal.

But here with Obi-Wan he could rationalize it, understand what had to happen. Anakin knew he would search for her eventually, but he needed the means to do so. He needed credits, ships, and time to look. And deep down he knew that she would never have wanted him to try looking for her half-cocked. If he went searching the minute he’d been freed, he’d very likely be paying his way on his back. Obi-Wan had given him options, a home, and respite from his nightmares.

Today was a new day and Obi-Wan’s gentle smile and light eyes were already brightening it.


 

The AgriCorps Building’s Mechanics and Engineering Department was something Anakin could never have imagined. Blueprints and schematics spilled on holo-screens around the entire room. Workbenches filled with machine parts, half finished and waiting for completion. Breathing deeply, Anakin felt a wave of nostalgia wash over his mind. If he closed his eyes he could almost see Watto fluttering in through the door, tossing a piece of metal onto an overcrowded table and telling him to start piecing together whatever he wanted done.

Obi-Wan had told him he would comm someone he knew about Anakin starting work, and start he would be doing. Obi-Wan didn’t come with him - he offered to, but Anakin felt the need to do something on his own. They parted ways at Obi-Wan’s section of the building and then he had found his own way. Obi-Wan’s colleague was waiting for him when he arrived.

Anakin turned to the sound of a voice greeting him. A dark-haired human pulled himself out of an engine and walked towards him.

“Aadi Tharin,” the man greeted, shaking his hand. “Good to see a new face, Skywalker.”

Anakin was at ease with him immediately. His presence in the Force sparked bright, and they quickly fell into an easy camaraderie. It felt unusual to Anakin, but he got along with Aadi like he did with Mi’aka. It was a good feeling.

They spent the morning going through routines, components, and he learned exactly what Mechanics and Engineering did. (“Seriously, we just call it Mech-Enge, everything else is a mouthful.”). Aadi ran him through a few paces as well, to try and determine Anakin’s skill and proficiency levels, and where best to put him to work. Lunch found both men outside - the cafeteria pasta was good, nothing on Obi-Wan’s, but Anakin had no complaints.

“You’re a mystery, you know?” said Aadi. “You and Ben, shut away up on the hill.”

“Ben?”

“It’s what he’s always preferred us to call him.”

“He’s never told me that.”

“He must like you then,” said Aadi, “if he lets you use his real name.”

“It’s how he introduced himself to me.”

“Hmm.”

“Do you… do you know Obi-Wan well at all?” Curiosity was starting to get the better of him. He knew Obi-Wan was secluded by choice, never seeming to take any calls but from Mi’aka. But did anyone in their area know anything about him? Ben, huh?

“We’re cordial and I respect him,” said Aadi. “I knew him back at the Temple. He helped me with sabre practice. I was two years younger and he was so talented; very skilled in sabre combat, his last fight was brilliant. The boy who lost to him, Bruck Chun, got a Master. A lot of us were surprised Ben didn’t. We can’t believe he’s here.”

Something hot laced through Anakin’s chest and he breathed out hard trying to dispel it. Aadi had known Obi-Wan from their Temple days - he was a window to some part of Obi-Wan’s past. Anakin knew Obi-Wan hadn’t been chosen to become a Jedi, but to hear confirmation that he’d been talented, that he had what it took to be as great as Anakin thought he would have been? It was just another mark against the Jedi, for passing him up.

“I remember him the last day he was at the Temple. He didn’t talk to anyone, didn’t say good-bye. He was just gone. A few of his closer friends were in the library talking about it. They were hurt, but I get it. I get why he didn’t want to face them. I didn’t want to see anyone when I was brought here either.”

“But if they’re your close friends-“

“It’s a stigma, Anakin,” Aadi explained. “To be one of the Unchosen. The other Initiates, those selected to be Padawans - most looked down on us. We were ‘inferior quality’.”

Anakin glared. “How can they call themselves Padawans when they’re just little assholes?”

“Because Jedi or not, they’re still adolescent children. Kids pick on each other, no matter what the vocation. They didn’t have the self-discipline yet.”

“It still isn’t right.”

Aadi shrugged. “Every Agri-worker here is a failed Initiate-”

“There’s that word again. Failed. I don’t like that word.”

“Call it what you will, it’s true,” said Aadi. “Every one of us has gone through the process, tried to piece our lives back together afterwards, and moved on. They told us it was the will of the Force that we’re here, and that this was what we were meant to do.

“We’re afforded freedoms the Jedi aren’t. A lot of us formed families, some taking in or adopting the new generation every year, some get married, have children of our own. The majority of the infants go back to the Temple-“

“Why?” Anakin demanded. “Why would you send your children away after what the Jedi did to all of you?”

“It wasn’t the Jedi’s fault that we were Unchosen, and we do it because it’s still our duty. We might not have made it, but our children might. It’s for the good of the galaxy; a Force-sensitive child from two Force-sensitive parents? The odds of their midichlorians being greater than ours are quite high.”

Sounds like selective breeding, if you ask me, Anakin thought in disgust. The Sand People bred their Banthas the same way, for strength and speed. Was this a side project for the Jedi? Breeding the Unchosen to give them stronger younglings? Having a planet full of Force-potential and parents already willing to give their children up for the ‘greater good’ would make it a lot easier for them. How hard was it then? For Obi-Wan’s parents to give him away? Were they told he wasn’t trained? That he didn’t want to see them?

“What about your parents?” Anakin asked. “Do you know them?”

Aadi shook his head. “I chose not to.”

“Do they know? Do the Jedi tell them that you’re in the AgriCorps?”

“No. Nothing. Once we’re taken from them, most never hear from us again. The only reason I know anything about my own son is that Mi’aka keeps us informed, those of us who want to know.”

“You had kids?"

“Just the one. He’s a Padawan.” Aadi’s eyes brightened, he flashed Anakin a smile. “I couldn’t be prouder. He’s fourteen now, under Master Muln. That’s all I need to know.”

“Does he ever contact you?”

“No. There’s no reason for him to.”

Anakin sighed. “That’s the whole attachment thing, isn’t it? It’s not allowed.”

“Exactly. It can’t be that easy to understand, you didn’t come from the Temple. You’re Force Sensitive, but they never trained you. It’s...quite unusual, your situation. It’s never happened before.”

“How so?”

“With only so many Jedi, it can be difficult to find those with enough potential to become Jedi. Some aren’t found, they grow into adulthood, and their Force abilities remain neutral. There might be increased reaction times, strength, and intuition, but to properly wield the Force, you need training.” Aadi continued, “You on the other the hand came to us as an adult. That’s never happened before. People are curious. There are rumours that Master Yoda himself came to see you.”

“So what?”

“So the head of the Jedi Order doesn’t come to see just anyone.”

Anakin shrugged. “My midi-whats-its are pretty high, I guess. I could have done without the visit, he creeps me out. And don’t even think about telling me his good points. Obi-Wan does enough of that.”

Aadi laughed. “Master Yoda can take some getting used to.”

“Obi-Wan has a lot of respect for him.”

“There were rumours that Yoda was going to train him. But in the end it was just that - rumours. Yoda spent a lot of time with Obi-Wan, guiding him one-on-one. It’s a shame things happened the way they did. Obi-Wan’s never liked it here, he’s never kept that a secret. He just keeps to himself and I don’t blame him. Most of us here, we knew it was coming. When we weren’t chosen it wasn’t as big of a shock as it was for Obi-Wan. It was a shock for a lot of us. Someone that talented...just thrown here. What a waste.”

“How much more can you tell me?” asked Anakin. He wanted to know. He wanted to know as much about Obi-Wan’s time at the Temple as he could. He wanted to know just how badly the Jedi could have screwed this up. What had they really thrown away. Just how strong of an Initiate was Obi-Wan? And how in the ever loving Sith hell did Obi-Wan get passed over? Obi-Wan would never talk about how skilled he was. Anakin knew that. He was too humble, and knowing him he probably thought the Jedi were right in passing him up.

Even finding out more about Obi-Wan, Anakin knew nothing could be done about it anyway. The past couldn’t be changed. Obi-Wan was a different person now, and for that matter so was Anakin. He couldn’t play ‘what if’ with him as he could with himself. What if Watto hadn’t disappeared? What if he hadn’t been a pleasure slave? What if the Jedi found him? He had no idea what his life would have been like, what Obi-Wan’s life may have been like if circumstances were different. He didn’t try thinking about it a lot, but when he did it felt like a black pit opening wide in his chest, chewing up his heart from the inside and leaving him hollow. Obi-Wan was with him now; they’d found each other. And Anakin wanted nothing more than to keep what he thought they were moving towards.

Nothing would stop that.


 

As the sun dipped below the planet city’s horizon, Mace Windu sat in his Council seat silent and still as he stared ahead. Empty chairs were the only things staring back at him as his thoughts drew him into deep contemplation.

One remaining Sith. There was only one more and the Council was positive she hadn’t yet sought an apprentice. The Force hadn’t darkened in warning, hadn’t clouded over like it had before. Asajj Ventress was powerful, but unstable. He fought her on Geonosis before she had made her escape. He was probably the one who had had the most contact with her throughout the war, her skills growing with each confrontation. It was Mace and Depa Billaba who had tracked her. It was how he lost Depa.

Mace breathed deeply, trying to release his emotions to the Force. He knew it was unbecoming of a Jedi, particularly a Master of his status but… he had attachments. He was attached to Depa, his long-time friend and former Padawan. In another life, maybe they would have become more. But not this lifetime, nor in any other life where he remained a Jedi. Losing her to the Dark Side, and watching it shatter her mind had fuelled his resolve to find Ventress and bring her to justice for all that she had done. It was his driving force to end the war and save his last remaining attachment.

The Republic.

He had an attachment to the Republic. To what it stood for, to what it had achieved in the millennia after the old Sith Wars. It pained him greatly to watch it disintegrate before his eyes. Greed and corruption everywhere.

He had been losing faith, but Organa and Amidala had helped him regain it.

The Clone Wars were all but over. Ventress was the only remaining threat.

We have to draw her out.

He sighed. There was something he had been thinking about, something he had tried to stop himself from thinking about. It was dangerous to all involved, to people who would undoubtedly be put into the crossfire.

If we don’t take her out now, how many more will die? The good of the many have always outweighed the good of the few.

But it could go wrong. Spectacularly wrong. The odds weren’t in either sides favour. Light or Dark, his plan could tip the scales either way.

It was a Shatterpoint.

He could feel it, every time he thought about it. Every time he meditated and opened himself to the Force, every time he came back to the idea, he could see the fault lines - a single moment in time that could be affected by the smallest of actions.

It was a risk to draw Ventress out like that. They could lose everything. Stars end, just months before it was Mace himself who had sworn the Council to the utmost secrecy.

But a potential like this… Ventress wouldn’t be able to resist. He knew she wouldn’t. It just might be the only thing to bring her out of hiding. But if they failed…

If they failed, they might not be able to withstand the fallout.

Mace sighed heavily. He rubbed the tension from his eyes; pain sparked at the base of his skull, but he didn’t have energy or will to release the oncoming headache to the Force. The war had taken a lot out of the Jedi as a whole. Jedi were never meant to be field Commanders, Generals – they weren’t meant to lead armies into countless, brutal battles.

They had to end this. Truly end this. Ventress was gone, vanished without a trace and if something didn’t give soon, she would just cause more suffering.

If this goes badly we may have just helped her along, Mace mused dourly. Leaning back in his chair, he stared around the room, eyes hardening.

It was time to talk with the Council - and if he had their agreement, he would contact Chancellor Organa himself.

Chapter Text

Chapter 20

“I can’t believe you got yourself suspended on your second day, Anakin!”

Anakin rolled his eyes. Of course Obi-Wan would have a meltdown over it. It was kind of adorable though, Obi-Wan flustering himself over it. Not that Anakin would ever say it out loud - it might make him more irritable. He could already hear Obi-Wan’s voice in his head: My perfectly justified annoyance is not adorable, Anakin, nor is it cute. It is entirely inappropriate to have these feelings when I’m scolding you. Pay attention to my lectures!

Anakin fought the urge to smirk. It wouldn’t do to smile in the middle of a lecture. And okay, so he was suspended. But it was for an entirely noble reason. He didn’t regret it. The son of a bitch had it coming. And really, would Obi-Wan just stop it already? The aghast lecture was cute at first, but it was starting to grate as he was told that he should have just ‘let it go’.

“He was talking shit about you,” Anakin interrupted.

“They always ‘talk shit’ about me,” Obi-Wan grimaced, spitting out the phrase. “I know what they say.”

“That doesn’t make it right!”

“Just ignore it.”

Ignore it? Anakin’s mind raced. Ignore people who are so kriffing ignorant of who you are? Who think there’s something wrong with you because you prefer to keep to yourself? You know what they say about you and you don’t care? I care, Obi-Wan. I care a damn lot that some asshole thought the best way to hit on me was to insult you.

“They don’t know you.”

“I don’t want them to know me.”

“Why not? There’s nothing wrong with you,” Anakin protested. “If anyone could understand the way you’ve felt about the Jedi all these years, it’s them.”

“Anakin -”

“If they knew who you were, they wouldn’t be making all this bantha poodoo up to make up for the mystery of ‘Ben Kenobi’.”

“There is no mystery,” Obi-Wan said bitterly. “He’s a miserable old hermit who lives alone by the sea, no more to the story.”

“You’re not miserable. And you don’t actually live alone, anymore, by the way. You know you’re never getting rid of me, right? You’re stuck with me.”

“I don’t want-“

“They’ve been through it too you know, they would understa-“

“Stars’ end, Anakin! By that logic, the only person who could understand you is another slave.”

“Well, you are a slave!” Anakin’s eyes flashed, angrily. “To yourself and to your past.”

Silence fell between them. Anakin could see the regret Obi-Wan had for his words sitting in his throat as his stiff posture deflated rapidly, shoulders hunching in on himself, eyes pained and sad. Anakin’s gut twisted, his own anger completely gone as he watched the fury drain from Obi-Wan to be replaced once again with that quiet self-loathing Anakin had come to hate.

“I’m sorry,” said Anakin.

“Don’t be. You’re right, you know.”

“I shouldn’t have said it.”

Obi-Wan shrugged. “I started it.”

“Please don’t do that.”

“What?”

“Just- you always just shrug everything off, or make it your own fault. Trying to act as though none of it matters to you, when it actually does matter.”

“If you can shrug it off, it can’t hurt you.”

“Even though it does?”

Obi-Wan pinched the bridge of his nose. “What do you want from me?”

“The truth.”

Obi-Wan sighed and ran his hands through his hair, then turned and wandered into the kitchen. Anakin followed, and they both took a seat at the island counter. Many of their talks happened in the kitchen, most of their important ones. It’s where they kept coming together.

“I’ve told you about the Jedi, about how I preferred to keep to myself when I came here,” Obi-Wan finally said. “I’ve been here for almost thirty years, Anakin. In that time, a lot of half-truths get spread around. Particularly with newcomers, or older adults wanting to scare the younglings. I just happen to be the target of a very bored group of people. They’ve never said any of it to my face, but I’m not deaf. And when it’s behind my back, they don’t lower their voices quite enough. Sometimes they don’t even try. They know I’m going to ignore it anyway.”

Anakin scowled. “Well, I’m not.”

“Anakin…” Obi-Wan sighed again.

“They don’t get to treat you like that. That’s a shitty thing to do to a person and I’m not going to stand for it. They want to say it behind your back, then I’ll make sure all of them know that they’ll have me in their faces when they do.”

He had always been ruled by his heart, and always would be. The self-loathing was leaving Obi-Wan’s eyes, letting in room for that little glimmer, that light that had started sparking in them more and more when he looked at Anakin. It was a light Anakin craved, a look that he coveted more than any other.

“You mean a lot to me,” Anakin kept going. “You’ve helped me so much. I’ve overcome things with you by my side that I don’t know if I would have ever made it through by myself. You’re always there for me. What makes you think that I’m not going to do the same for you?”

Obi-Wan’s mouth twitched into a shy smile. “There’s no one like you, Anakin Skywalker.”

Returning the smile, Anakin stepped around the island counter and boldly straddled Obi-Wan’s lap. Wrapping his arms around the older man’s neck, his fingers carded gently through his ginger hair. Obi-Wan’s arms wrapped lightly around his waist.

“I just...” Anakin started. “I disappointed you today, didn’t I?”

“Anakin…” Obi-Wan leaned forward, their foreheads touching.

“Forgive me?” Anakin asked.

“Always.”

He smiled.

“I do have one question, though,” said Obi-Wan.

“Yes?”

“Did you have to punch him in the face, Anakin?”

Anakin’s cocky smirk and laughter was the only answer.

 


 

The cantina band played yet another irritating tune, and not for the first time, Dejiak wondered why he hadn’t shot them all to put them out of their misery. Or he could have just left, but why leave when one could make a statement?

Swirling the whisky in his glass, he drained it and motioned the barkeeper for another. His cold blue eyes followed the woman. The dislike between the two of them was wholly mutual, yet he kept coming back because she sold the strongest fire water on Tatooine. It was worth getting his drinks spat in (half of them), or her finding something to have her bouncers throw him out for (chatting up her servers, planting Spice on him, or the one memorable time he punched her brother – really the boy was an ass, he deserved it).

He thought she was a bitch.

She thought he was a monster.

Dejiak smiled at her lewdly as she slammed another glass down in front of him, a quarter of the contents sloshing over the rim onto his hand. He licked the liquid off his finger then took a sip of his drink before nursing it as he thought. He ignored the suspicious glares Ackmena sent his way. She wasn’t used to him not trying to cause shit. Dejiak chucked to himself; it was good to know he could still worry people by not doing anything.

Tatooine. He’d come back to Taooine. But not in defeat, oh no. No, no, no. To regroup. He was there to regroup after getting nowhere with the Inner Rim. He shivered.

From Corellia to Talus. From Talus to Nemoidia.

And Coruscant. Finally Coruscant, where he spent the first hour fighting his nausea and trying not to vomit. The Senate buildings and Jedi Temple were both clearly visible from the platform he’d landed on. Both made him want to retch.

It hadn’t even been worth it in the end. Skywalker’s trail was cold.

Ice. Fucking. Cold.

He’d moved too slowly. Taken the wrong trails. Should have gone straight to Coruscant to begin with instead of wasting time elsewhere. He had a feeling now that Coruscant had indeed been the boy’s ultimate destination. It lingered. Gnawed in his chest and roared. He needed to hit something. Again, anyway. And soon. Maybe strangle a box of baby jawas and set the corpses on fire, he didn’t know. He needed to do something, in any case. It would make him feel better.

It was his own fault he lost Skywalker’s trail. His own arrogance in dealing with Kerr, the belief that the little shit was too afraid of him to sell the slaves from under his nose. Hesitating instead of going straight to the Core.

And now back to Tatooine. Back to square fucking one.

A bell chimed as the bar’s doors slid open, admitting more patrons. That was another thing Dejiak hated about this place. That damn bell going off. He had half a mind to shoot the kriffing sound box. Knocking back the rest of his drink, his eye caught a flash of blue settling into a table. A woman. Not a young pretty thing, far from – hardly anything to look at at all, utterly plain. And yet he couldn’t draw his eyes away. Dejiak’s brow furrowed as he was hit by a strange sense of familiarity. He kept on staring, turning over the feeling in his mind. Where had he seen…

It clicked then, after all these years and he felt his lips twist into a grin.

The Gods saw fit to smile on him today.

Skywalker’s mother.

He ordered another drink.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 21

“Ow.”

“Don’t be a baby,” said Mi’aka cheerfully pushing the syringe’s plunger down.

“I don’t know why we need another vaccination shot, the next round isn’t due for six months. And trust me, I’m keeping count.”

“I know you are, Ben. But there are some new strains cropping up and the Temple wants everyone in the Agricorps immune. And as you know, we do send you off world sometimes. Who knows what you could catch.”

Obi-Wan grumbled as Mi’aka hummed a tune while applying small amount of bacta spray to the site.

“It wasn’t that bad,” Anakin said. Obi-Wan narrowed his eyes at the younger man who stood next to him grinning.

“Maybe next time Anakin can hold your hand,” said Mi’aka.

“You’re both horrible. Absolutely awful. I want you to know that.”

Anakin slipped his arm through the crook of Obi-Wan’s elbow and pulled him to stand. “If that’s everything, I take it we’re free to go?”

Mi’aka shooed them with her hand. “We’re done. Finished. Mission complete.”

“Thanks, Mi.” Anakin sent her a wink and pulled Obi-Wan along. The older man fussed and poked at the bacta in disgust. His arm hurt.

 


 

“I can’t believe you sometimes.”

“It’s not funny, Anakin. That quite hurt. I think she did it on purpose,” Obi-Wan said. “Do you suppose I upset her at some point during the week?”

“You mean do I think she was waiting for a shipment of vaccines she didn’t know she was getting just so she could poke you extra hard? No. No, I don’t.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

“You didn’t piss her off, no.”

“How do you know?”

“You didn’t,” Anakin affirmed.

“Yes, but how do you know?”

Anakin snorted and changed directions. Obi-Wan’s interactions with Healers would always be a source of amusement for him. It was all he could do not to shake with laughter every time Obi-Wan not-so-covertly tried to get out of something medical. For all the fuss he put up, none of it was particularly serious and Anakin could swear that half the time it was put on just so he and Mi’aka could playfully snipe at each other back and forth. Even if Obi-Wan kept few people close, it was nice to know that he hadn’t been completely alone before Anakin had come to stay with him.

Anakin led Obi-Wan through the corridors to the AgriBuilding’s café. It was a lovely area that he particularly enjoyed. Potted trees surrounded the area, and the skylights from above let the sun shine in, giving the area natural light. The bubbling from the fountains and small artificial river in the area gave it a sense of serenity; he felt peaceful there.

“Sit down, I’ll buy you lunch,” he said, letting go of Obi-Wan’s arm. Immediately he missed the warmth.

“Lunch is free,” Obi-Wan reminded him.

“Then embrace the sentiment,” Anakin called back, moving towards the line while Obi-Wan found them a place to sit. He breathed in and turned his attention to the menus. It was a modest selection as were most things concerning the Jedi. He had hoped they had Obi-Wan’s favourite soup, but looking at the screen it wasn’t to be. The soups were different daily and it seemed they’d missed the Tuttle root stew by however many days. Anakin wasn’t fond of it - it was much too sour for his tastes. He ended up ordering two bisques and some sandwiches to take over to Obi-Wan.

“Only the carrion bisque?”

“That’s it.”

“It’s still pleasant, not like the mourshin soup. That is just-“

“Completely disgusting and probably scraped off the side of the ships?”

“Yes, that,” agreed Obi-Wan.

Anakin took a bite of his sandwich, relishing the softness. He decided a while back - the first time he had bread on Bandomeer - that he would never get over it. The softness of the centre, the crisp crusts. It was amazing. There was nothing stale about anything on the planet; it was all fresh, all grown planet-side or harvested from the ocean. He’d never had fish before Bandomeer, or any type of crustacean, and just thinking of how Obi-Wan fried them in butter and garlic was enough for him to make a mental note about stopping at the market before they went home. He knew what he wanted tonight for supper. Some cherry wine would make a good complement to it as well.

He watched Obi-Wan take a break from his soup to wind his upper arm in a circle.

“If you keep doing that it’s just going to hurt more,” Anakin pointed out.

“It already hurts.”

“Then stop it.”

“I hate needles.”

“You hate everything Mi’aka does to you.”

“I can’t help it, I was conditioned.”

Anakin snorted. “I remember you telling me you were sick a lot, care to elaborate?”

Obi-Wan waved his free hand. “It was just colds and flus and the like.”

“Were other younglings sick, too? How can you catch those in the Temple?”

“New younglings sometimes brought in illness. Most were well cared for, but others… sometimes they had no one. They were orphaned, often times sick because of what they had been eating. When I wasn’t in lessons, I was helping the Creche Masters and I was exposed to quite a few illnesses. I seemed to pick every thing up, like a bloody little sponge.”

“And then you stopped getting sick.”

“I became an Initiate and got away from younglings,” said Obi-Wan wryly as Anakin snorted. “But then came sparring accidents and other mishaps, which all could have been avoided if I’d just slowed down and wasn’t so… hell bent on overachieving.”

Obi-Wan’s voice was tinged with that lingering pain again – the hint of bitterness and loss for a life that might have been. “I should probably stop overachieving on suspensions,” Anakin quipped, yanking Obi-Wan’s focus from his failed Initiate days to Anakin’s climbing suspension rate. Obi-Wan spluttered, and Anakin grinned. He now had the most suspensions in all the AgriCorps. And all within a few weeks too.

It had quickly garnered him a reputation, not that he cared that much. He was happy with his little group. Obi-Wan, Mi’aka, Aadi, and now Shinda and Teeva rounded them all out. He didn’t need anyone else, particularly those he knew for certain talked behind Obi-Wan’s back.

As of now he was back to work, his probation once again lifted three days ago. The time off gave him a chance to fix the vacuum bot and try some new features. The voice feature had been an utter disaster: it kept following Obi-Wan calling “Beeeeeeeeeee”. Obi-Wan had not been pleased, but Anakin fixed it again, like he said he would. Though on his next days off he was going to have to look at it again - the bot ate another of Anakin’s socks the other day.

He was happier at work, though. And it was true, he missed working on more complicated machines and being able to work on engines and circuits that weren’t his own designs cobbled together from scraps. But working on actual engineering marvels… they were amazing, truly. And maybe… maybe he could do that one day. He was a gifted mechanic, but taught purely by his mother and then himself once he surpassed her own considerable skills. But to maybe one day study engineering? To design ships and build them up himself from scratch? To make them faster, and sleeker, and safer? It was a thought he had entertained more and more lately. He didn’t know if Bandomeer had programs like that - he doubted it, but he was sure they would know to get him the education. And they could use more engineers. But if he had to do it off planet, he hoped Obi-Wan would come with him.

“Are you even listening to me, Anakin?”

“Hmm? Oh yeah, ‘stop getting suspended, you know better’.”

“Sometimes I wonder if you’re just guessing.”

Oh, Obi-Wan, I don’t have to guess when you repeat the same thing every time.

Anakin smiled and asked about the bisque.

 


 

“Honestly Obi-Wan, what is your problem with my driving?” Anakin grinned, not even bothering to hide his amusement as Obi-Wan white-knuckled his seat. “There is literally nothing out here for me to hit.”

“Do you have to drive so fast?”

“Nothing. Out. Here. To hit. And it’s a hover car, do you know how safe these are?”

“Who the bloody Sith hells taught you to drive?”

Anakin snorted. “Uh, you did. But you forgot about the pod racing, didn’t you?”

“Please focus on the road.”

“What road? It’s a dirt line.”

“It’s a road, Anakin. A road you are supposed to be following, you don’t need to keep veering off into the grass and reconnecting.”

“Then why isn’t the road straight? What’s with the turns?”

“There are hills.”

“Pfft. Then they should have leveled them out.”

“I, I – maybe they made turns so sentient beings didn’t get bored driving straight.”

“That’s… Yeah, yeah actually I can see that.”

“Of course you would.”

“You know, you could have told me you wanted to drive.”

“I can barely raise my left arm, Anakin.”

“Tensing is not going to help.”

“Then for the love of the Force slow down you wretched speed demon!”

Anakin dissolved into fits of laughter, his belly hurting from the force of it. Pure joy lit up his face as he eased off the accelerator. He could give the old man a break, given all the grief he’d given him since he arrived and tipped Obi-Wan’s world off its axis.

“I want to take you to a pod race someday.”

“I don’t think I could handle it,” said Obi-Wan, relaxing marginally as they slowed back to a normal speed limit. “All I would be thinking about was that you used to be in of those death traps as a child.”

“Can I be in one of them as an adult?”

“Anakin! What? No!”

“What? I never finished a race. I’d like to at least do that one day,” said Anakin glancing his way. “I feel cheated.”

“You’re unbelievable you know that? Utterly unbelievable.”

He grinned. “I know.”

Obi-Wan let out a deep breath. Leaning back into the seat, he let the light vibrations from the vehicle lull him into a more relaxed state. Anakin’s speed had slowed dramatically – an immense relief. Thank everything in the galaxy that they didn’t live on Coruscant; he didn’t even want to imagine what driving with Anakin would be like in that sort of traffic.

Obi-Wan smiled lightly, as he felt Anakin reach over the console and take his hand. He could be a dear when he wanted to be.

“I need to make a food run in town.”

“What do we need?”

“I want seafood tonight. Tell me how to cook it with the wine and I can handle the rest.”

“Your cooking has vastly improved,” Obi-Wan admitted unwillingly.

Anakin grinned, eyes shining with laughter. “No more stove fires.”

“Thank the heavens.”

“I mean it, I can cook if you’re not feeling up to it.”

“We can do it together, you do what I can’t.”

“You should try milking this a little more, you know? Make me wait on you hand and foot.”

“I don’t need you doing that for me, and you know most of this is just me whining and feeling sorry for myself.”

“I’ll help make you feel better.”

“Looking forward to it.”

 


 

Dinner was good, Obi-Wan had to admit. Anakin’s cooking was improving everyday, and once he came to the conclusion that recipes were just engineering manuals for food he really started to perfect his skills. The garlic shellfish over pasta with red wine sauce had been quite impressive and the caffe cake Anakin had picked up in the market had made the perfect dessert after dinner. Obi-Wan was comfortably full.

He sighed as he lay back in the warm water, having decided to bathe after dinner. His movement produced small currents that rafted along his form. Dropping a little deeper he submerged himself up to the neck and gently rubbed at his arm. It had been a nastier shot than ones he had gotten before, and hadn’t been exaggerating that he couldn’t really lift his arm. But it was a small price to pay, he supposed, in order to be protected from some of the galaxy’s foulest diseases. Some of his travels took him to places where the Republic’s vaccines were not yet commonplace. It had pained him greatly to see so many people sick and dying, horribly disfigured or permanently altered due to illnesses that were completely preventable.

Shaking himself out of his reverie, he leaned forward and pulled the plug. Baths always helped him sleep better, and hopefully by morning he would once again have full use of his arm.

Drying off and pulling on his sleep shirt and shorts, Obi-Wan made his way to his room and turned down the covers. The sheets were old cotton and a bit worn in places, but they were the most comfortable ones he owned and would use them until they fell apart. Settling on his back he pretended to drift off and waited. Not five minutes in bed and his door predictably hissed open as it had more often that not for the past week. He felt, rather than saw, Anakin pad around his bed and slip under the covers on his right side. He draped his good arm behind Anakin’s head as the man leaned against his shoulder and breathed a contented sigh. After their mutual kiss Anakin had been growing bolder with him, and in all honesty he was glad. He felt awkward at times making the first move due to Anakin’s youth and the shadows that lay in his past.

But I love this, he thought, Force help me, I love this.

And he loved Anakin. Which was why -

“I’m afraid I’m going to hurt you,” Obi-Wan whispered to the dark. “If we start something, I’m afraid it will set you back. I worry that I’m taking advantage of you, pushing you into something. That I’m not good for you and that this is happening too quickly for you. The progress you’ve made is amazing. It’s stunning.”

Anakin shifted, his head burrowing into the crook of Obi-Wan’s neck and his arm settling across his waist in a gentle but firm hold.

“It’s thanks to you. Because of you,” said Anakin. “I’m not scared and angry anymore. You’ve given me something I haven’t had in ten years.”

His thumb brushed over Obi-Wan’s hipbone.

“You gave me a home, Obi-Wan. That’s what this is to me - you, this house, this planet. This is my home. I know you’ve done all this for me without asking for anything, and I’m not giving you anything I don’t already want to give. This isn’t about gratitude or thinking that I owe you – not like before. I can take it slow. I am more than fine with taking it slow. I think, that’s what we need to do anyway. We’ve both come through a lot of shit, we’re both learning.”

Obi-Wan watched the ceiling with a fixed gaze, eyes threatening to tear.

“You respect me. And I respect you too so much. And I’m glad that you let me sleep next to you, I don’t dream when I’m with you.”

Obi-Wan turned and pressed his lips to Anakin’s forehead, squeezing his eyes shut hard.

He loved him.

He loved him so much.

Chapter Text

Chapter 22

“I’m taking you to Mi’aka.”

“Honestly, Anakin. I’m not sick.”

Anakin rolled his eyes. The statement would have carried a lot more weight if it hadn’t been wheezed out of a rattling chest and followed up by a fit of coughing. Obi-Wan was obviously dying, and Anakin couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t just accept help.

“You sound like you’re dying.”

“I’m fine.”

“You’re not fine. You’re sick. You have a fever, I can see you sweating, I can hear you wheezing every time you breathe, and what do you call that coughing fit just now?”

“It wasn’t a fit, it was a single cough.”

“That went on for a minute.”

“I don’t need a Healer. It will be gone in a few days.” Obi-Wan cleared his throat as he tried to manoeuver around Anakin yet again. Anakin, however, would not be moved from blocking Obi-Wan’s bedroom door.

“Go lie down.”

“I have things to do.”

“It’s a weekend. There’s nothing for you to do, except get in the vehicle with me and go the Healers' ward.”

“If I drive with you like this, I will throw up.”

“Ha! You are too sick.”

“Driving with you always makes me nauseous, that’s nothing new.”

“Why are you fighting me so hard on this? Either we’re going, or you can turn around, march your ass to bed and lie the kriff down and rest.”

“Anakin-“

“Lie down and I’ll make you tea. I know you hate being sick, but denial isn’t going to cut it today,” said Anakin, “You’ve been getting worse for the last three days, I would know since I’ve been with you the entire time.”

“You’re always with me…”

“Exactly. Which means that I am the most qualified to tell you about your health.”

“I think I would be-“

“Oh, I’m sorry who keeps telling me he isn’t sick? When he obviously is? You look like you’re going to fall over. If I pushed you right now, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be able to keep your balance. There are bags under your eyes, your nose is running, and you look like shit.”

“Thank you, Anakin.”

“You’re welcome.”

“That was sarcasm.” Obi-Wan shook his head, and to Anakin’s satisfaction, turned around and wandered back to bed. Obi-Wan coughed again as he laid down. It made Anakin nervous, that cough. It was sounding wetter by the day. This wasn’t some random cold, and it would likely take longer than a few days to clear. Logically, Anakin knew that Obi-Wan couldn’t have picked something up from Tatooine or Coruscant. It had been a long time since they’d been off world, and nothing he knew of could incubate for months. Bandomeer had illnesses but nothing that the Healers couldn’t fix. Which was why Mi’aka needed to see Obi-Wan. For a friend, he knew she would make a house call - they both knew how stubborn Obi-Wan was when it came to the Healers’ ward.

“Can you please rest for a bit?” Anakin said, exasperated now. There was no response. “Obi-Wan?”

He peered at Obi-Wan, then laughed quietly to himself. Obi-Wan had fallen asleep.

 


 

“He thinks it’s just a cold.”

“That sounds like more than a cold, Anakin,” said Mi’aka. Her blue holo-image flickered gently on the screen before him.

“I know! That’s what I told him, but is he going to listen? No. He thinks it’ll go away on its own; but what if he needs medicine?”

“If it’s a virus he’s contracted, it’s just going to have to run its course anyway. There are remedies I can give him to ease the symptoms, but that’s about it. That’s why we inoculate so viruses can’t be contracted in the first place. If it’s a bacterial strain though, then we can set him up with an antibiotic course.”

“What do you need?”

“I can stop by after my shift is over to get a sample. Is he spitting anything up when he coughs?”

“He’s starting to. Is that bad?”

“He’s just coughing up what’s making his lungs so congested. The more he can bring up, the better.”

“Okay then, thanks. I’ll see you this evening then.”

“You know it. Until then, Anakin.”

Anakin collapsed back against the couch and sighed. He hated illness. And he supposed it was a part of life and that it was only a matter of time, but he hadn’t wanted Obi-Wan to ever get sick.

He knew it was different on Bandomeer, that Mi’aka would be here in a few short hours and make Obi-Wan better again. It wasn’t like the slave quarters where medicine was hard to come by, or the brothel where treatment depended on how popular you were and if Kerr wanted to ‘waste’ the money.

Things were different here. Which was something he kept reminding himself as he tried not to worry.

“Anakin?”

His heart leaped into his throat as he spun to face Obi-Wan. He hadn’t heard him come into the room. He wasn’t even that far in the room; rather, he was leaning against the wall, still in the hall.

“Obi-Wan?”

A sick feeling rolled through his gut, like his intestines had been replaced with squirming snakes. His skin prickled as he watched Obi-Wan. His face was near ghost white, eyes unfocused, he hadn’t responded to Anakin at all.

“Obi-Wan?” He stood up, but only reflexes born of the Force gave him the speed to catch Obi-Wan as he collapsed.

 


 

“He just passed out! He looked worse then ever, he wasn’t answering me, and he fell, he just fell.”

Anakin ran beside the Healers as they carried Obi-Wan on a stretcher towards the main Healing ward. He barely remembered the drive, could barely recall getting Obi-Wan in the hover vehicle and taking off. He just knew he needed to get Obi-Wan to Mi’aka, that whatever it was that had been brewing had been worse than a common cold.

Dammit Obi-Wan, why didn’t you just go to her when you first felt it?

“He has to be okay. Tell me he’s going to be okay!"

“We don’t even know what he has, we need to examine him first.”

“You-“

“Anakin, what happened?”

Mi’aka ran down the hallways to reach them, and helped the team bring Obi-Wan to the beds. Everything was a blur. He didn’t know anything else, he could only watch. He barely heard Mi’aka asking him questions, couldn’t remember if he responded or not. Anakin’s entire focus was solely on the pale man being transferred to a bed. All he could hear was the rattle from Obi-Wan’s chest, all he could see was the clammy skin, the sweat from the fever that ravaged his form.

He had to be all right. He had to be. Obi-Wan was all he had.

“Anakin?”

Was someone calling?

“Anakin?”

The world went black.

 


 

“I did not pass out.”

“Then how do you explain that bump on your head?”

Anakin glared at Healer Thuuki as he accepted the ice to press against his throbbing temple.

“Fine. I may have panicked. A little. But I’m fine now. You can go, I’ll wait for Mi’aka.”

“You hyperventilated until you passed out. We’re monitoring you for any signs of head trauma, you hit the ground pretty hard. I’m surprised you’re not bruised.”

“Just focus on him. You ran your scans, my head is fine. It’s harder than a damn rock.”

“That might be true, but you’re here for the night anyway for observation. I doubt you would have left anyway given Ben’s condition.”

“You’re right, I wouldn’t have.”

It was another half hour before Mi’aka came to find Anakin, but to him it felt like an eternity. His head and heart both throbbed, for very different reasons. But hearing Obi-Wan would be fine with the right medication made Anakin feel like he could fly.

“He’s really going to be okay?”

“He will be. He’s contracted Idolian Fever. We had a few cases here when you both came to get your immunizations. He must have touched something contaminated.”

“I was with him, why didn’t I get sick too? I touched practically everything he did.”

“When was the last time you were ill?”

“I…” Anakin stopped, realizing. “I’ve never been sick in my life. Is that weird?”

“As an infant, perhaps?”

“No. My mom said I was healthy, that was one thing she was glad she never had to worry about.”

“It…could be your midichlorian count. Given the range…”

Anakin shook his head, not caring about that. “Whatever. How soon can you give the cure to Obi-Wan?”

“That’s another thing I wanted to talk to you about, actually. Idolian Fever isn’t that common on Bandomeer. Our stock is limited and it was used up with the previous cases.”

“Then what-“

Mi’aka held up a hand, stopping him. “I’ve already contacted the Temple. They’ll synthesize the medication there. But there’s another problem.”

“What now?”

“The Jedi have launched ships again to finish the last remains of Separatist resistance, and all of our pilots are off world due to the war ending. Aid is being requested on a number of worlds and it’s a busy time for all of us.”

“There has to be someone to bring this to us. A commercial flight, some ship like the one Obi-Wan brought me here on.”

“In a few days there may be something available.”

“That’s not good enough.”

“Unless you want to go yourself?”

That made him freeze. “I-“ he stammered. “I haven’t been off world since I got here.”

And not alone. I can’t remember the last time I was on my own.

“Anakin,” Mi’aka said softly, laying a hand on his shoulder, “he’s stable if you’d prefer to wait.”

“No. No, I’ll go. I’ve taken the ships up with Aadi. I know how they work and hyperspace isn’t hard. I’ll be fine.”

“You’re sure? Coruscant is quite large…”

“All I have to do is fly directly to the Temple and-“

“The Temple is on alert, they’re on a no fly zone after threats were made. Someone will meet you at the West Space Port.”

“Threats?”

“Likely all talk,” Mi’aka said reassuringly. “I wouldn’t worry. And the flight computer will give you directions to exactly where you’re going.”

“I know.”

Anakin swallowed. He could feel the anxiety trying to claw it’s way into his chest with sharp, icy fingers. He’d never been so far from Obi-Wan before.

“Can I see him?”

 


 

“I wish you would wake up for just a second to give me your advice,” said Anakin. Obi-Wan’s hand was hot and limp cradled in his own. Mi’aka said that he had been in and out of consciousness while they were treating him, but now he had slipped into an exhausted sleep.

“You scared the hell out of me, you know that? I thought you’d died or something. The way you dropped. You’re lucky I didn’t let you hit the ground. I, um… I’m going to get that medicine for you. You’d probably tell me that it could wait, but I don’t want to wait. Not for this. You look terrible. If it was me, you’d be half way to Coruscant by now, I know you would. You’d never let me lie here like this for days if you were capable of helping me. And that’s why I’m going. Because you’d do the same for me. I’m just going to go there, pick up what we need to get you better, and then I’m coming home. Right back to you. And then Mi’aka is going to make house calls for the rest of our lives because knowing you, you are going to pick up every bug going through this ward. And seriously, Obi-Wan, we just can’t have that.”

Anakin wasn’t patient, that he knew. And he wasn’t going to risk this getting any worse. Stable or not, how long until Obi-Wan became unstable again? What if his breathing got worse? His fever spiked higher? Obi-Wan’s condition deteriorated within three days, what would three more do to him?

Anakin didn’t like the odds. And he couldn’t just sit and do nothing when there was something he could actually do. Seeing Obi-Wan like this – he could do it. For Obi-Wan, he would do anything.

“I’ll fly as fast as I can,” said Anakin. “Uma ji muna.”

 


 

“It’s done. He’ll be on his way in the morning.”

“Good work, Healer. If this goes the way we hope it does the Republic will commend you.”

There was a short, fraught pause. “Master Windu, if I could say something?”

Mace leaned forward in his Council seat, steepling his fingers as he watched Mi’aka’s holo-image.

“Yes?”

“It doesn’t feel right hiding this from them. It’s not something he should be walking into blind.”

“Healer Leueka, I understand they’re your friends but as Jedi we must put the needs of the many over the needs of the few. This is for the Republic. We are trying to end a war. And as I’ve told you before, Kenobi and Skywalker do not need to know. No real harm will come to Kenobi.

Skywalker is a risk we have to take to take in order to draw Ventress out. His abilities in the Force are becoming more controlled, but they are not anywhere near where they should be for someone his age. He is still too unrestrained. With the added stress of what we would of ask him, he wouldn’t be able to hide it. Ventress has been trained her entire life in our ways, she would sense something wrong and vanish for good. The Sith menace would continue and we cannot let that happen. We have a chance here and now to end it for good. She is the last.”

“Yes, Master Windu. I understand.”

“Good.” Windu leaned back in his seat. “Release your worries, and may the Force be with you.”

“May the Force be with you as well, Master. Good luck.”

The blue holo-vid blinked out and the Council room was silent save for the breathing of two Jedi.

“Careful we must be, moving forward.”

Mace inclined his head towards Yoda.

“Dangerous, dangerous move this is.”

“Yet it is the only option open to us.”

“If goes wrong this does, suffer – many shall.”

If this goes wrong, the boy could resist her.”

“Hope, you have?”

“Do you?”

“Strong was his fear, when first we met. Changed, now he might be. Hope in Obi-Wan, I have.”

“Do you think Skywalker could resist Ventress for him?”

Yoda looked down and palmed his gimer stick. “Cloudy, the future is.”

It wasn’t the answer Mace hoped for, but it was all he would get. The future was cloudy, they all could feel it. It was uncertain which path would lead to the best outcome, but they had to try. They were out of options.

Within a few days the war would be over, one way or the other. The Force was rippling, clearing and clouding again, light and dark writhing together in a way he had never experienced.

But there was one thing he knew for absolute certainty, one thing that could not be doubted - it was coming closer. That he could feel even through the haze of the Force. He could feel the bends and breaks, the spider lines arching out across from one single moment; the tension through the Force, fragmenting and splintering.

The end of the Clone Wars.

And it would all come down to a single moment.

Chapter Text

Chapter 23

So this is it. Our maiden voyage together, Anakin thought as he re-checked the engines on his dash. He’d worked on this ship, knew it inside and out, and helped build a lot of the components. It would get him to Coruscant safely - there was no doubt. Breathing deep, Anakin took in the scent of circuitry and durasteel; being surrounded by the tech made him feel alive in ways that he couldn’t explain to anyone. It felt right, like he belonged there. In another way it was almost like coming home to a place lost long ago.

Ships, hover vehicles, pod racers…he loved them - all of them. They would always have a special place in his heart because mechanics was the one thing his mother had been able to truly gift him with. She taught him all she knew about machines. Some of his first memories were of sitting on her lap as she showed him how to put something back together. Technology reminded him of her. Whenever he worked on wiring, he could feel her hands guiding his. When he was selecting the right parts, he could imagine her pointing out what he would need – the way she used to when he was learning.

Shaking himself out of his reverie, Anakin flipped the broadcast switch.

“Command, this is Red One, ready for orbit. Over.”

“Go ahead, Red One. You are cleared for take off orbit.”

The engines hummed as he pushed the throttle forward, and compact ship moved effortlessly down the runway. He gained speed, and the rocky fields of Bandomeer blurred red around him. Lift off always felt amazing. Like he could truly fly.

Before he knew it he was hitting the atmosphere. Despite the turbulence the tiny ship felt comfortable and familiar under his hands. He could feel a warmth, a trill through the Force easing the way. Now that he was able to recognize it, it amazed him how it had always been with him, always surrounding him, guiding his actions.

He cleared Bandomeer’s atmosphere and met the stars with a smile.

‘I’ll be home soon, Obi-Wan. You won’t even know I’m gone.’

As he left the planet behind, his dash gave him the location of the hyperspace rings that he would connect to. They would enable the small craft to reach Coruscant without a problem. For now though, he just enjoyed being in space. With the stars surrounding him on all sides, Anakin glanced around at them and laughed. It reverberated through his chest, his grin hurting his face. Anakin remembered a time when he wanted to visit them all. He was so young, and despite everything – innocent. His mother had shielded him from so much and without her, he had been so lost.

But I’ve been found again, mom. And one of these days, I’ll find you. I know I will... You’re really going to like Obi-Wan.

The Force sang to him.

Anakin connected the ship to the ring with all the ease of an experienced pilot, and set the coordinates to it from the ship.The ship lurched side to side as the ring heated up, and in seconds he was gone. He jerked in his seat and laughed again. Stars blurred out from around his cockpit window as he leaned back in his chair for the journey.

He wished Obi-Wan could see this with him, but it was for Obi-Wan that he took the journey. Obi-Wan would be worried if he knew. He always worried, but it was always for other people, never for himself. He was selfless in ways that Anakin couldn’t begin to understand.

All it took for Anakin was someone saying the wrong thing and he was in their face. There was still so much anger in him, so much fight and rage. His temper flared white hot when provoked, and Anakin knew that he had to learn to tame it. Was learning to tame it. But he had a feeling that no matter how content he grew on Bandomeer, that flame would always be there burning in his belly. He had been made into an object for others to use, had been too hurt, and too abused to ever stop being angry.

It would always be there, whether he willed it to be or not.

The AgriCorps workers weren’t terrible, and they quickly learned not to say certain things around him, particularly about Obi-Wan - but if someone didn’t let up, Anakin wasn’t sure what would happen. If he was thrown out of the AgriCorps one day, would Obi-Wan come with him?

I think he would, thought Anakin. That place made him nothing but bitter.

Whatever happened though, if they had each other they would be fine. Anakin fully believed that the Force brought them together. Obi-Wan had told him that he had sensed Anakin the day they met. That he had gotten swept away with the crowd into the slave market, but he didn’t have to be. Obi-Wan probably could have used the Force to make his way through that crowd, he could have, but he didn’t.

Anakin was grateful. He always would be. He didn’t want to imagine going back to where he’d been before and that’s exactly where he’d be had Obi-Wan not been there.

He still woke up sometimes not believing it was real - that he was living a blissful life on a modest farming world within the Republic. It was amazing where life had led him, the twists that it took. It led him to the man he loved beyond reason. Obi-Wan was everything.

And that’s why I’m here.

The stars around him slowed, and as he came out of hyperspace, Coruscant loomed bright in front of him.


 

“This is so cliché that it hurts me. Physically hurts me,” said Quinlan Vos, glancing over at Aayla Secura. Master Windu had given them the Idolian Flu medication and the location that they were to meet Skywalker.

Why in the name of the Force do we have to be on the lower levels of Coruscant? Like anyone from the Temple would drop something off for someone here. Especially a flu medication. Sure we have to lure Ventress here, but honestly this just reeks of a trap. Quinlan sighed and glanced around. The lower levels could be dark and damp, filled with poverty and crime but there were worse areas than the bar they were supposed to be meeting Skywalker in.

We should be fixing this, he thought, looking around. Every world has an underground but Coruscant is rich. It’s the heart of the entire Republic, the epicentre of trade and commerce. The lower class shouldn’t be living like this. The Jedi have to change sometime. Since when did protecting the Republic mean kissing the Senators asses? We’ve lost our way…

“You don’t think it’s right?” asked Aayla.

“Ventress has hidden in some questionable places, but she has class. Would she really be down here?”

“Maybe she wants us to think she’d choose something more high class?”

“And be down here instead? I’m done thinking about how her mind works.”

“Either way,” said Aayla, straightening her skirt, “wherever she is, once she feels him, she’ll come running.”

“Is it going to make sense to him that we’re meeting him in a place like this?”

“He doesn’t know Coruscant-“

Quinlan cut her off, “We could have just met him at the docks.”

“That’s how it would normally be done, but these are not normal circumstances.”

“The kid should have been warned. Why all this cloak and dagger?”

“You voted against the plan?”

“It went against everything we first spoke of. When that healer brought Skywalker to our attention, we agreed to keep it secret. That no one would know about him. And now what have the majority decided? To feed him to the Sith.”

“What was the vote?”

“Nine to three.” Quinlan sighed and rubbed his face. He, Kit fisto, and Shaak Ti were the only ones who thought not telling Skywalker what he was walking into was a mistake. Windu and Yoda had managed to convince the rest of the Council that it was for the best, and that with the amount of Jedi weaved throughout the lower levels they’d be able to sense or spot Ventress before she got to him.

Quinlan doubted it.

If Ventress had proven anything to them it was that she was a ghost. The ways that she vanished, the amount of darkness she could shroud herself in was uncanny. She used the Force for stealth, and she was brilliant at it. The times that they had managed to pin her, she had let her anger get the best of her and her rage had exploded through the Force.

And now they were baiting her.

“I feel bad for this kid. He’s been used all his life, and here we are doing the exact same thing. Only he has no kriffing idea. And to make Obi-Wan sick?” Quinlan snarled in disgust. “We were in training together. He’s a good person and didn’t deserve to be caught in this.”

“Neither of them did,” agreed Aayla. “But people aren’t the most logical when trying to end a war. Not even us. We’ve been fighting for almost five years now. We’re not generals, we’re not war leaders but that’s what the Republic has been using us as.”

“It’s what Palpatine used us as,” noted Quinlan. “Say what you want about Organa, he seems to understand the Jedi more than the rest of the Senate. I think he might actually do something about the corruption too. Let us do our actual damn jobs instead of playing babysitter when a senator needs an escort somewhere.”

Aayla nodded. “Agreed. I never liked Palpatine much, though I cannot say why… It was a strange feeling.”

“I know.”

Quinlan’s communicator beeped, and when he checked the message he sighed and stared hard at Aayla. “Show time. Kid’s here.”

 


 

“Oh, are you kidding me?!” Anakin snarled. The messenger jumped back in alarm. “Is there anything else you need?”

“Uh, n-no, sir. I was just told to deliver the message for you.”

“Then you can go.”

Anakin watched the little man scamper off. He clenched his fist around the data pad and bared his teeth. He couldn’t believe, how could they - they were supposed to be here to give him the damn medication!

Growling, Anakin read the datapad again. It was a new address, Force knew where in this damn maze of a city. How the kriff a bar was more important than doing their jobs and being here to meet him were questions he intended to ask with a fist when he saw them. What sort of people did the Jedi trust with their drop off runs? He added this to just another item on the ever growing list of reasons why he disliked the Jedi.

Obi-Wan’s sick, he needs that medicine, I need to get back to him, but oh no, let’s go get drinks first and make me, someone who’s been to this planet literally one time before, yeah let’s make me the one to chase after them. You kriffing bastards!

Anakin kept up his internal rant as he moved, trying to dodge people and manoeuver around them.

Do you people even have any awareness of those around you? Anakin grit his teeth. It was like the crowd only thought they themselves existed and that no one else might be trying to get past them. No awareness of others whatsoever.

Clenching his jaw, Anakin dodged a green skinned humanoid with tentacles all over its head and tried to find the taxi stands.

Kit Fisto watched him go.

 


 

He’s leaving the docks now.”

“Good,” said Windu into his comm. He was on the ground on the lower levels, six blocks from the bar Vos and Secura were waiting in. Most of the Council members were on this mission, spread out in his general location, as were many of the strongest Knights, most of whom had once been Padawans of the serving Council members.

And he’s angry,” said Kit. “It’s coming off of him in waves. If Ventress is here, she is going to feel it. He’s strong, Mace. What could have been if we found him twenty years ago.

“We’ll never know. It was the will of the Force, we shouldn’t dwell on it."

If we lose him to her…”

“I know.”

Mace, he should have been told. If we lose him and he finds out what we did, he will never trust us. This is a mistake.”

“Or it’ll work.”

How you’re willing to chance that without his cooperation-“

“There was no guarantee he would have helped us or risked his life for us. This isn’t his battle, Kit. It’s ours, and by not stopping Ventress we are failing. It’s costing lives. The good-“

“-of the many outweighs the good of the few. I know, Mace. And I believe it. But we could have done this differently. We could have convinced him. Or Obi-Wan could have convinced him. Quinlan was friends with him back in their Padawan days, they could have been persuaded.”

“You don’t know that.”

Neither do you.”

“What’s done is done. And whatever the result, I’ll have to live with it,” said Mace. “Best case scenario we close in on her before she gets close and Skywalker walks away like nothing happened.”

When do we ever get that lucky?

Mace remained silent and bowed his head. They all knew the risks going into this, but they had to do it, they had to find her and Skywalker was the only card left to play. It was a great risk to him, but if all went well he wouldn’t even know. That’s what Mace hoped for anyway. The boy had been through a lot in his years, why add one more trauma to the pile when they could avoid it entirely? He wasn’t keeping Skywalker in the dark out of malice, he was trying to protect him.

The Dark side was seductive. It called to you in ways the Light didn’t. Mace skirted that edge every time he fought with Vapaad - the seventh form of lightsaber combat, it took the user’s own darkness and turned it into a weapon of light. The edge was thin and it was fine, and it was easy to cross without even realizing it. The Dark side could twist your experiences and your mind and make you think that what you were doing was for the greater good.

There was anger in Skywalker, and there was fear. He already walked a fine line he didn’t even know he was walking. By keeping him on Bandomeer, Mace hoped that anger would fade with time. Yoda thought Obi-Wan was a good influence on him. He hoped Yoda was right; because as it was now, the boy could tip either way if Ventress got a hold of him. She could put him into conditions that would make him fight for his life, until his mind broke. Torture the likes of which he could not endure.

Mace would not let what happened to Depa happen to Skywalker. He would not lose anyone else to Ventress. He would lose Skywalker only over his dead body.

Chapter Text

Chapter 24

 

“I’m sorry, Obi-Wan.”

Mi’aka sat by Obi-Wan’s bedside, shoulders hunched as she dipped the cloth into the bowl of cool water on the table. She wiped the sweat from his face before folding it and setting it on his forehead.

“This never should have happened to you.”

I’m sorry for my complicity in this. But I’m a Jedi first…

She sighed and slumped in her chair. She couldn’t continue to justify it, not anymore. Obi-Wan was her friend, and she had betrayed his trust along with Anakin’s. She betrayed them both for the Order, because the Council had deemed it their best chance at ridding the galaxy of the Sith once and for all.

This is why the Code forbids attachment, thought Mi’aka. And she was attached; to all of her friends and patients on Bandomeer. She had been stationed on the planet for many years, far from the Temple, and not recalled for the war. It was a separate community and while there was still communication with the Temple, she and the other Healers were primarily left to run their wards how they saw fit. The AgriCorps itself was not completely beholden to the Jedi Code. Its workers benefited from freedoms that the Jedi were never allowed. It was difficult not to respond to that, especially when living with it daily. Many Healers only did short rotations on Bandomeer to prevent themselves from growing used to it. Mi’aka however – stayed. She had a trust and rapport with those in this sector, and she was part of their community, Jedi or not.

Breathing deep, she tried to release her emotions to the Force. Obi-Wan would understand, if the truth of what they did ever came out. He knew the edicts of the Order had to be followed. The Council made their decisions for a reason, and their reasoning for all of this was that the good of the many outweighed the good of the few.

But this could go so wrong. We could lose Anakin to the Sith or lose him altogether.

The Force offered her no answers, no reassurances. There was a stillness to it that lingered from the war. The Force had been clouded for so long…

Bring him back. If anything, help lead him back. Let this plan of the Council’s work.

 


 

 The pulsing music from the club across the street assaulted Anakin's ears as he made his way down the boardwalk.

“Well, this looks inviting,” he muttered to himself. Anakin looked around at the neon signs of the bars flashing around him. People milled about, some pushing past him when he didn’t move fast enough from where he’d exited the taxi. He’d gotten a few confusing directions from the Tarnab driver along the way, but if he was completely honest with himself, he had no idea where he was going. The driver said he could get him close but not drop him right at the door since there was a protest that had started on the street not too long ago. The people were upset that so much could be spent on the Clone Wars, but not on cleaning up the lower sectors and helping those in need.

Why protest down here though? Would they even be seen by those making the decisions? he wondered.

Anakin continued down the crowded street looking for The Barrow, but frowned and glanced side to side. He had a bad feeling about this. And every step he took, made the feeling worse and his pulse speed up. That churning, roiling sensation through the Force…

Looking behind him, he scanned the crowd. Why was he feeling this now? Everything had been fine on his journey here. It had been fine when he landed, fine when he was on the upper levels. But now?

Spinning and looking at the faces around him, he made himself dizzy. Did he know anyone? No. No, he didn’t know anyone down here. And if there was danger there were too many people around for anyone to try something.

So why is my heart pounding so fast? He wiped the sweaty palms of his hands on his robe and took a deep, steadying breath.

He hadn’t felt like this since…since Tatooine.

The warning pulsed low in his gut. He’d felt it before, but it had been so long since the sensation had overcome him. He never got warnings like this on Bandomeer. Nothing ever felt wrong there with Obi-Wan. But back at the brothel, the Force often made him feel sick to his stomach when something bad was coming. Is someone going to attack the protesters?

Stepping out of the crowd, Anakin leaned against a wall and surveyed the area.

Why am I feeling this? Please, give me something.

He wasn’t as good as he wanted to be when sensing out others, he could find Obi-Wan’s Force Signature without a problem. But locating something when he didn’t even know what he was looking for? He didn’t know how to do that. That wasn’t something they ever practiced. In the past, he only knew when it was right in front of him. The warnings started earlier, but the presence of the danger didn’t solidify until he knew where it was coming from or could see it. And the Force felt…different here. The more he tried to touch it, the murkier it seemed to get. It felt dimmer, clouded.

I should just find this damn bar and get out of here… but what if it is about the protesters? They might be in danger, and if I get caught in it too how am I supposed to get back to Obi-Wan?

Anakin squeezed his eyes shut.

What is going on?

 


 

“Do we still have eyes on him?”

“He’s stopped moving, Mace. Looks like he’s about to be sick,” came Tiin’s reply.

“What happened?” demanded Windu. The boy wasn’t trained enough to pick up on the Jedi around his location, but could he be feeling the Sith?

“He was moving at a good pace and just stopped. Started looking around-”

“Can you feel anything?”

“Nothing. I’m not sensing anything, no warnings, no signs. The Force is calm.”

“Keep monitoring him. I’m on my way.”

Mace stepped away from his place by the wall and fell into step with the crowds on the sidewalk. It didn’t make sense for Tiin to feel nothing if Ventress was close. Skywalker should not be able to pick up on something a Jedi Master could not. Was the boy getting sick? Mace shrugged off the thought, Obi-Wan couldn’t have transmitted the flu to him that quickly, nor would he be developing symptoms.

It can take twenty-four hours. That can’t be the case here.

Mace was tempted to call the Jedi in closer, but no. No, they had to wait. Ventress would reveal herself in time if she was sensing the boy. Four blocks away, Mace was starting to pick him up now too. It seemed like they boy had trouble blocking his emotions when stressed. Mace wasn’t surprised given his lack of formal training.

Master Tiin was holed up on the second story of a building close to The Burrow. Mace would make his way there and monitor the situation himself. He needed to keep Skywalker in sight.

 


 

Mother and step-son, Dejiak had learned through eavesdropping, had stopped for lunch at some dive. They were eating outside which allowed Dejiak to keep watch a good distance away. Mom had stopped earlier to see some junk dealer, her purchase sitting neatly by her feet.

Is this my life now? he thought. Following you round hoping you find that brat? You haven’t seen him in a decade, what chance do you have that I didn’t? Your son’s good at disappearing. Not that it was ever his choice, though.

Dejiak sighed and rubbed his eyes hard. Honestly, he had no other leads. Mama Skywalker was his best bet at this point. What else was he going to do? What other choice did he have? Give up and go home? Ha, no. I’ll chase that boy across the galaxy until I find him.

It was a matter of pride at this point. His earlier anger and rage had been burnt off months ago, and now there was nothing left but cold resolve. It didn’t matter how long it took.

He would see this through one way or another. It ate at him. Gnawed. Like dozens of muscle maggots were crawling through him. He needed to find Skywalker. He was the only one in decades that slipped through his fingers. There had been others, and he had taken such care and such pleasure in breaking every single one of them. Dejiak enjoyed the pain he caused, the flinches, the screams – nothing was better.

The boy though -

Skywalker was the only one that had escaped a fate of writhing in pieces at his feet. He was still intact mentally and physically. The resilience of the boy intrigued him, made him wonder how far he could go, and what it would take for that kind of spirit to finally break.

Damn Kerr for not selling him. How many times did I offer?

If he hadn’t been so focused on finding Skywalker he would have gone after Kerr for selling all his whores after losing the brothel deed.

A familiar anger rose up inside his chest, but he pushed it down. It was his own fault for not being clearer with his bet winnings. But still, killing Kerr was something he thought of often enough.

Glancing at the mother quickly, he turned his attention back to the crowds.

If only I –

Dejiak’s eyes widened as his gaze snapped back to the corner across from him. No. No, it couldn’t be. He felt light-headed, felt the laughter curling in his chest ready to be let out. But no. no, no, no, this had…

“I don’t believe it,” he said.

Dejiak stared at Anakin Skywalker from his awning, the sweep of it hiding Dejiak in near darkness and shadow amidst the flicker of neon from the streets. Even if he turned and looked his way, Dejiak would remain unseen to him. Your mother was the best thing that could have happened to me, sweetheart. Who knew?

He fixed his gaze on Skywalker before his face split into a wide grin and he couldn’t help the laugh that poured out of him. After all this time, after all the work he put into searching, it was not in vain after all. I’ve chased you for longer than you know.

Elated in the triumph ahead, Dejiak turned his head to look for something to put his plan into motion. It was a brilliant idea he had come up with a few days prior. The perfect way to get Skywalker alone if he ever ran into him again. Pulling up his hood, he left the awning and walked along the street and into the mouth of an alley. It didn’t take him long before he found what he was looking for. A group of kids were playing on the ground; in the lower levels like this it was common, as they were either bored, homeless, or orphaned. He didn’t care which.

“Hey kids,” he said, cheerfully. “Any of you want to make some money?”

A brown haired boy eyed him warily. “We don’t do sex stuff.”

Smart boy, but time will be the judge of that.

“Do I look like that kind of person?” Dejiak asked, feigning hurt. “What are you? Ten?”

“I’m twelve.”

“Whatever. Not important, and I don’t want anything from you. There’s a tall blonde in brown robes I need to get a message to,” he said. “This is what I want you to do.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 25

“Vos, Secura. Do you have eyes on him?”

No, he hasn’t come in.

“You’re sure?” asked Saesee Tiin over the comm.

Yes, why? What’s going on?

“If you see him, call immediately. Stand-by.”

Tiin scanned the crowds for Skywalker from his location and still couldn’t find him. His Force Signature had blunted. The anger was easy to track, easy to see, but then he had stilled somehow. Now he felt like a shadow.

“Dammit.” He clicked another channel on his comm. “Mace? I think we just lost him.”

What?

“I don’t know,” Tiin said. How could he have disappeared in the short amount of time Tiin stopped watching him to adjust his position?

Did he go into the club?

“Negative from Vos and Secura.”


 

Mace picked up his pace, and set his comm to all-call, his message would be heard by the Jedi teams surrounding the area.

“Does anyone have eyes on Skywalker?” he asked.

Mace felt out through the Force discreetly. Too much searching, and Ventress might be able to feel it, if she were even here in the district. Skywalker’s earlier anger had been palpable, easy to track. But now…

Where is that boy going?

Master Windu, I have eyes on him,” came Kolar’s voice. “He’s heading further west down the same street you’re on, and he’s going in a hurry.”

“Track him,” ordered Mace, switching his comm. “Vos, Secura. Things have changed, Skywalker’s heading west down Statecx. Follow him discreetly, I’m on my way.”

Searching through the Force, Skywalker’s signature was an erratic ghost.

I don’t even think he knows he’s doing it, thought Mace. I have a bad feeling about this.

 


 

Anakin moved worryingly down the sidewalk, his steps fast. He blinked quickly, vision threatening to blur. The rapid staccato of his heart did nothing to help the rapid, short breaths that he could barely manage to force through his lungs.

Breathe. Breathe deeper, or you’re going to pass out and then what good will you be?

Anakin stopped and turned into an alley for a brief moment. The durasteel wall behind him was cold and helped ease the heat that threatened to overcome him.

Stop panicking. Just stop. What did Obi-Wan tell you? Calm your mind…calm your mind…

Deep breath. One, two, in, out. Count to ten -- I DON’T HAVE TIME. Stop. STOP PANICKING -

The light-headedness returned with full force and he sat down heavily, panting hard.

Blinking back tears, he stared at the photo in his hands one more time.

Mom.

Blinking harder, he once again looked at the message scrawled sharply on the back.

He was here. Dejiak was here. That was it, the uneasy feeling he’d felt through the Force earlier. It had nothing to do with the protests, nothing to do with any of that. It was Dejiak. It had been that Sith-damned son of a bitch that the Force had been trying to warn him about.

He has my…he has my mom.

Shaking his head, Anakin tried to centre himself. Tried to get himself back under control.

She needs me.

Closing his eyes, he pictured Obi-Wan in his mind sitting before him, his ginger hair falling into his eyes, ducking his head as he looked up at Anakin, giving him that kind smile that made his eyes crinkle. ‘Try and release your emotions to the Force, Anakin. It will calm you and you will be better able to feel the Force moving through you, let it guide you.’

He tried, he really did. Not everything left, but enough of it that he was able to stop shaking. Release. Release, release, release….

Anakin took a deep breath and felt the tightness in his shoulders relax. The fear that had gripped him so strongly had let go a fraction on his heart. He felt for the Force. Feeling it surround him, he closed his eyes and let it flow through him.

I’m all right. I’m all right. The Force is with me.

Steeling himself, he clenched his jaw and stood. It was time he faced this, faced Dejiak - the last part of his past that still haunted him.


 

He followed the instructions on the back of the photo and found himself closer to the industrial district. The taxi he took to get here had asked no questions and dropped him off like he’d asked. Looking around, Anakin was struck by how empty it was. The buildings and gratings here all felt empty. It was far from the bustling centre of the streets he had just come from. The isolation worried him, but he expected it. If Anakin screamed here, no one was around to hear him. That was the point.

His stomach churned nauseatingly the closer he got to the stated location - a warning from the Force that he was getting close. The building he was directed to loomed high in front of him, however it wasn’t up he was going, but down. Entering the building, his footsteps echoed in the wide space. The only colours were blacks and greys, and the lights were all dimmed for power preservation. He found the staircase and started his way down. He counted twelve flights before he stopped. The Force echoed warnings to him, which he steadily ignored. There was no one to help him here. He was alone.

The stairwell’s door scraped loudly across the floor as he opened it; stepping through, he walked to the far end of the hall, hand reaching out to wave across the console to open the door. The hiss rang loudly through his ears as it opened to admit him, moving across the floor he found himself in a mid sized room. A table and chairs were scattered along the right wall, and the rest of the interior had probably seen better days. At the back of the room, part of the duracrete wall had crumbled, exposing a small space and pipes which ran who knew how deep. Moving to the centre of the room, he breathed out loudly, glad that he was alone for the moment.

It was all there, in the back of his mind. The memories that he had worked so hard to bury during his time on Bandomeer, the memories that Obi-Wan’s presence and blossoming affections had helped block out. He had been safe with Obi-Wan, safe on their little hill, in their little house; where he could finally focus on his future, his engineering. On Bandomeer he actually had a future. Not what he had come to endure on Tatooine, but now –

The Force hummed in warning, the skin on the back of his neck crawled like doop bugs were burrowing under his skin.

The door behind him hissed shut.

“Hello, dear.”

Anakin’s body shook violently as he shuddered. He never expected to hear Dejiak’s voice again. He feared it in the beginning, but it had been so long since Tatooine, that his presence had very nearly been wiped from Anakin’s mind. He was a phantom, something that lingered only in nightmares simply to be wiped out by the touch of Obi-Wan’s hand on his brow and being pulled into warm, comforting arms.

His heart beat wildly against his rib cage as he turned to face the subject of his nightmares.

“Where is she?” Anakin was proud of the way his voice didn’t shake. Setting eyes on Dejiak again threatened to bring up all of the memories of his past. All of the things he had done to him - the pain and humiliation, the torture that he could get away with under Kerr’s rules.

“Really? I don’t even get a ‘hello’? I’ve been searching for you since the auction and you can’t even greet me properly?”

Anakin’s stomach threatened to empty itself onto the floor in front of him.

All this time? He’s been looking all this time? How -

His jaw clenched. “I have nothing to say to you until I know what you’ve done to her!

Dejiak shrugged. “Nothing. Last I saw her she was having lunch with your step-brother.”

“What?”

“That picture,” he nodded to the photo clasped in Anakin’s hand, “I had taken a few days ago. I figured she’d be the perfect lure if I ever came across you again, and well, here we are.”

Anakin couldn’t speak. His tongue felt like lead and his mind fogged as so many things ran through him at once. Elation and relief that she was safe, suspicion at whether it was a lie, stupidity for running blindly down into an obvious trap but she…she was safe. That’s what mattered the most here wasn’t it? She wasn’t… Dejiak wasn’t hurting her. Hadn’t touched her the way he’d touched Anakin. If he had – Dejiak wouldn’t have lied about it. He would have marched him straight to her and made him watch. Dejiak’s mocking laughter pulled him abruptly out of his stupor.

“She was literally just across the street from you, Skywalker. You passed her on your way here.”

Anakin ground his teeth together painfully as he watched Dejiak start to circle him. Tears sprung unbidden to his eyes against his will. She was there… was she actually there…

“Do you know how long I waited for you? How much money I spent on you?”

“Not my problem.”

“I always did love it when you cried.”

“I am not crying,” said Anakin, but a treacherous tear escaped his eye anyway.

Dejiak grinned. “You were never supposed to end up at Kerr’s, you know. You were always supposed to be with me. I killed that Toydarian when he wouldn’t sell you to me, I didn’t expect –“

Anakin flinched hard. “You killed Watto?”

His breathing started to come erratically again. There had been rumours… Rumours of a dark shape that appeared after Watto closed for the night…

“I… I was-“ He choked. “I was twelve…”

Anakin barely managed to fight down the urge to vomit. He could feel it there, roiling sickly in his stomach. “You’re a monster.”

“He refused to sell you.”

“I was a child! I- I- I was -”

Dejiak shrugged. “You wouldn’t have been the youngest I’ve fucked. And you were so pretty; a small little thing – delicate, like a little bird. You’ve filled out this past year though.” He looked Anakin up and down, eyes lingering. “So come here, sweetheart. And when I’m done taking you apart, I’m going to hunt down that bastard, Kenobi, who thought he could touch something that wasn’t his, and make him wish he was dead.”

Anakin backed up with every step towards him Dejiak took until his back hit the cold wall. His eyes darted around the room until settling back on the man before him. Tears ran down his face as the past ten years in the brothel ran through his mind, the last seven of which he was whored.

Never again….

Never. Again.

Enough.

Dejiak had less than a moment to watch Anakin’s horrified expression turn cold and angry, eyes hardening to flinted steel.

 


 

Pain exploded along Dejiak’s jaw as his head snapped violently to the side. The floor was hard and cold when he landed on his side, but barely registered as a hard kick to his stomach knocked the wind out of him and rolled him a few feet across the floor. He laid there on the ground gasping for air.

“What the HELLS -” Coughing, he rolled to his hands and knees and glowered up at Anakin.

“I’m not afraid of you,” spat Anakin, glaring and shaking out his right hand. “Not anymore.”

Dejiak felt rage course through him, hot and white. Skywalker had always been defiant. But there had always been that thread of fear behind his eyes, a wary sort of terror that thrilled Dejiak to no end. But now…the defiance remained, but the strength behind it was new.

New and unwelcome.

I’ll put that scared look back on your face if it’s the last thing I do you kriffing slut.

Dejiak stood, forcing himself to ignore the pain. “You little bitch, I’ll,” he coughed. “I-, I’ll, ack…”

He couldn’t- why couldn’t he breathe?

 


Anakin turned his hand and squeezed. The coughing and spluttering that came from Dejiak made his blood sing. He felt the anger viscerally course through his veins and forge a pathway through every fibre of his being.

Passion.

Anger.

Hate.

Rage.

And oh, how those emotions burned. They licked their way along his spine and whispered to him. All he had to do was keep going and Dejiak would be dead on the floor in front of him. Dead and gone. Never able to hurt another living thing again - not another unfortunate person, not Anakin, not his mother, not Obi-Wan. No one. And all he had to do was choke the life out of him.

“You’re never going to touch him,” Anakin whispered. “Or her, or me.”

He watched coldly as Dejiak clawed at his throat, his face turning an unnatural shade of red. Oh, how Anakin wanted this, how he just wanted to kill. His hand tightened. The Force thrummed around him, darkly. Dangerous. And then, it shifted.

The grating metal of a door opening down the hall startled him sharply out of his trance. He heard no footsteps, but the Force vibrated.

Run.

Anakin blinked and released his Force hold on Dejiak, so caught up in the feeling that centred in his stomach and slid cold and oily up his chest. His heart pounded wildly, he couldn’t hear anything over Dejiak’s harsh, laboured breaths. It felt… he felt something

Blinking, he looked at Dejiak and shuddered. Had he… he’d almost killed him, what -

His skin felt clammy, and sweat darted down his brow. He kept looking back and forth to the door and Dejiak.

The Force whispered all around him.

Run.

His temperature dropped a few degrees, his sweat cooling and making him freeze. His heart contracted forcefully and beat into his throat. Danger. There was danger, the Force was telling him-

RUN.

Anakin ran. His body unlocked and he was gone in an instant, sliding through the break in the duracrete in the back of the room, there was nowhere else to go. He couldn’t go through the door, whatever was coming was out there. The Force was screaming at him. The hole he went through lead him out to a gangway, likely used for maintenance personnel to fix the pipes. It was wide enough for him to start running with purpose. He kept going, but breathing hard he turned back to look.

 


The Force had resonated powerfully with Anakin’s rage, it sung sharp with fury and trembled with its strength.

It had not gone unnoticed.

The Sith had come.

Chapter Text

Chapter 26

 

Dejiak gasped and coughed from where he’d been abandoned on the cold, unforgiving floor. Chest heaving, he clawed at his throat as he tried to suck in the air he desperately needed. He could still feel it. The invisible steel band that had wrapped itself around his throat and constricted until he was on the verge of blacking out. He tore at his throat, trying to get rid of the phantom sensation.

“What was that?” he wheezed.

“That,” came a rasping voice to his left, “was the power of the Dark Side of the Force.”

His head jerked towards the voice, wincing as his throat burned. A tall, pale woman leaned against the doorway; a mocking smile graced her lips as she looked down at him. “Now what stupid thing did you do to enrage an untrained Force Sensitive? Whatever it was, it got my attention.”

“What?”

“Not very bright are you?” Asajj Ventress stepped fully into the room, steps graceful yet predatory, as she came to stand in front of Dejiak.

“And what…the kriff are you?”

“I am now the last, but I need not be.” She glanced at the hole in the wall. “Is that where he ran off to?”

Dejiak raised himself to his knees, trying steadfastly to ignore the sharp pains in his throat and stomach. “I don’t know who or what you are, lady, but he is mine.”

She hummed. “You’re wrong. Belong to you? You are nothing.”

Anger coursed through his veins and he turned hot with rage as she just smiled and stepped away from him. Ignored him. Who was she not to take him seriously? To…to be amused? His teeth clenched as he watched her walk to the hole Skywalker had fled through.

“You skrogging schutta! I will never stop hunting him,” he rasped. “I will hunt you with him, I will fuck you like the goddamn whore you both are – you will never know peace, and I will kill you when I’m – “

Dejiak choked out a gasp as the air in his lungs was violently forced out. He barely felt himself move before his head and back cracked nauseatingly against the wall. Spluttering he tried to breath, but could barely draw in a deep breath.

Broken, my ribs are broken.

Stars and black spots danced in front of his eyes. A sticky warmth dripped down the back of his neck.

“You dare threaten me?”

Dejiak wheezed.

“I don’t even have to force my way inside of your mind to see what you are,” said Ventress. “It’s right there, playing out all over the surface of your thoughts.”

She walked slowly until she was standing in front of him. She held a single hand out before her, but when her fingers widened he felt his ribs widen with them. His nerve endings exploded with pain.

“You will never ruin that boy. Not now that he has felt the power of the Force. Not now that he has tasted the power of the Dark Side. Make your attempts and he will kill you. I would help him, I think. Encourage your death at his hands.”

An involuntary shudder ran through him, aggravating his ribs and causing him to cry out. His brow furrowed and sweat poured from him as the woman in front of him raised her left hand to join her right. Dejiak gasped as a tight band wrapped around his head, he could feel…it felt…it was in his head. It was in - he choked and shook his head trying to get away from the intrusive feeling. But then it pulled. And he screamed.

Ventress tilted her head to the side as she watched passively; to kill him or to offer him to her new apprentice? That was really the question. She could still sense him - his Force Signature a flurry of confusion and fear - not far from the room she was in. Could he sense her as well? His abilities suggested some grasp of the Force, some training, but not that of the Jedi. No…he was no Padawan. He was ultimately untrained and ready for a much broader apprenticeship.

“How does it feel, vermin?” she asked, releasing the painful band from his head. “How does it feel to be the hunted? To be vulnerable? You’ve never experienced this before have you?”

She wrenched Dejiak’s head up with the Force as he gasped wetly. “You are pathetic and helpless. I want you to know that. However it happens – you die here today. I don’t need your stubbornness getting in my way with him.”

“This party’s over.”

Ventress exhaled an annoyed breath as she turned to glare at the interruption. Multiple lightsabers ignited in tandem as Mace Windu led his Jedi team into the room.

“Only five of you? You should have brought more.”

“Put him down, Ventress.”

“With pleasure.”

Her hand curved high and Dejiak’s neck twisted sharply to the side. The crunch of bone reverberated loudly throughout the room. She released his body from her Force grip and let him fall gracelessly to the ground – dead.

“And now that’s out of the way.” Taking advantage of the distraction, her hands flew out and she managed to send Windu and Vos hurdling backwards through the door.

Dual lightsabers ignited. The battle would be quick.

 


 

“Master? Master, what is it?”

Qui-Gon glanced at Zett but remained silent. The last few hours had left him with an uncomfortable feeling deep in his gut. A wrongness that settled like ice and wormed its way deep throughout his body. Something wasn’t right.

Pardoning himself, he stood from his chair and made his way to the glass window of the Senate’s dining hall to stare out over Coruscant. He was only peripherally aware of his Padawan following behind him, worry etched across Zett’s young face.

“Master?”

“Zett, I want you to stay with Chancellor Organa. My presence is required elsewhere,” Qui-Gon said. “Do not leave his side. But before you go back to him I want you to contact Master Dooku and tell him to come to me at once. Do you understand?”

The Force was whispering all around him, harsher and increasingly urgent. Something was coming. He had no proof of it, only a feeling - but a feeling was all his old Master would need to come to his aid. If it was indeed the final stand of the Sith, he was lucky to have caught it through the Force. His instincts almost always paid off, even if the Council had continuously been more wary to pay them heed. But this… he could feel the stirrings of the Dark Side. He could feel them growing stronger by the second.

“Do you understand, Zett?”

He saw Zett nod, with only a slight hesitation lacing his frame, before racing off to do as he was told. Zett’s loyalty was admirable, but Qui-Gon would not lead his Padawan to his death. It had taken both Qui-Gon and Dooku working in tandem to stop the menace of Darth Maul on Naboo. He could still feel the heat of the lightsaber that just barely missed impaling him. Maul had been triumphant one moment then consumed by confusion and rage when his blade could not connect. He remembered Maul’s surprised yell as Dooku sent him hurtling through the air with the Force. By the time the Sith had regained his bearings, the force field that had separated Qui-Gon and Dooku had fallen and both Jedi had once again set upon him.

Qui-Gon was moving before he knew it, the doors parted and the warmth of Coruscant enveloped him, though he could hardly feel it. Whatever was warning him through the Force was far from the Chancellor; the darkness was not aimed at him.

Jumping into a speeder, Qui-Gon followed his gut.

Feel. Don’t think.

 


 

“You’re all alone now, Master Jedi.”

Mace kept his gaze locked with Ventress’s as she circled around him slowly. They had managed to destroy one of her lightsabers and wing her left bicep, but Ventress on the other hand…

“Aayla, no!”

Mace watched as Vos threw himself at Ventress with a scream of barely contained fury. He’d hardly got close before Ventress threw him back into a wall with a sickening crunch. As he fell to the ground, Mace watched a pool of blood form around his head, his Force Signature thready but present.

Mace gathered the Force around him, letting the darkness radiating from Ventress flow past his senses.

Saesee Tiin. Dead.

Agen Kolar. Dead.

He stood alone.

“So this is how the Great Master Windu falls. Know that the Jedi will pay for all that they have done,” said Ventress. “Vos will suffer for letting my Master die before our plans were realized. Secura has already paid for her part.”

“So Palpatine was your Master?” Mace said.

It was a guess - a gamble that she’d admit it - and he knew it. But it was the only thing he could think of that she could be talking about. Vos and Secura had been dispatched to rescue Palpatine when Grievous kidnapped him. Damage to the bridge of The Invisible Hand during the resulting battle had forced its crew to reverse the stabilizers, turning the elevator the three used to escape into a hallway. When the emergency boosters came back online however - Palpatine’s grip on Secura slipped and he’d fallen to his death.

After his passing, the amount of Light and clarity that came back to the Force had raised uncertainties about the former Chancellor’s true nature. Confirm it Ventress.

“A true Master of the Sith.”

Mace’s face never changed from its stoic expression. So Qui-Gon’s suspicions were correct after all. Palpatine was the Sith Lord they had been searching for, and right under their noses the entire time. He already had complete control of the Senate as Supreme Chancellor. It was one of the reasons why he had never been under direct suspicion from the Council.

“And what of your apprentice?” asked Mace.

“I will have the one I felt soon enough.”

Ventress lunged.

Mace gave himself over to the duel, meeting her strike for strike, funneling the darkness through Vapaad and releasing it back at her at every thrust. He became a conduit, a force unto himself.

It wasn’t enough.

Lightsabers clashed.

The Force echoed - fragmented and splintered -

This is it.

A deep purple blade met scarlet red.

This was the moment.

Mace screamed in shock as Ventress’s lightsaber caught his arm. His lightsaber fell, clattering uselessly to the ground along with the severed arm that had held it. He felt himself shoved to his knees, the crushing weight of the Force holding him down. Clutching his arm, he forced his head up to look at Ventress.

This was the shatterpoint.

“Good-bye, Master Jedi.”

She raised her lightsaber to strike him down. Distantly, he could feel Master Yoda’s presence getting closer. Qui-Gon and Dooku were close behind, along with a dozen other Jedi, but they would be too late. They weren’t going to make it in time.

Ventress would escape and take Vos. He only hoped Quinlan could escape from her in time and make it back to the Jedi without losing himself to the Dark Side. There wasn’t a doubt in his mind that the Sith before him would use Aayla’s death against him.

But Mace Windu would never go down without a fight. He gathered the Force to him and shoved it back against Ventress with everything he had. Her hold on him tightened as her feet slid backwards and her blade swung.

He was prepared to meet death in that moment of failure. What he hadn’t prepared for was the bright green blade of light that erupted through her chest. Ventress’s eyes widened as she sucked in a gasp, her Force grip on Mace faltering.

Mace watched frozen as Ventress reverse gripped her lightsaber in a desperate bid and thrust it back behind her, angle wide – connecting and searing flesh. Her lightsaber blade went out, and her grip loosened. The falling blade clattered loudly throughout the room.

When her body fell Mace expected Quinlan Vos, but instead a wide-eyed, Anakin Skywalker stood before him.

The Force blazed around him, a whirlwind that welcomed him in its embrace. His presence resonated in a way that made Mace’s chest tighten. He winced as he looked upon Skywalker’s face. With the adrenaline running through him, he likely wouldn’t feel it for some minutes yet but Ventress had left her mark. A lightsaber burn ran along the upper right side of his face, cutting through his eyebrow. It would leave a scar once healed.

“I-I did the right thing...didn’t I?”

Mace nodded slowly, wincing as he clutched his arm.

Was this boy – Could the prophecy…?

Both Mace and Anakin startled as Yoda and the other Jedi burst into the room, Qui-Gon and Dooku among them. Anakin dropped Quinlan’s lightsaber. Mace watched as Dooku moved across the room and crouched next to Secura.

Yoda tottered further into the room, tucking his lightsaber onto his belt, his eyes meeting Anakin’s.

“Meet again, we do, young Skywalker.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 27

“So what you’re telling me,” growled Master Dooku, stabbing an accusing finger in the direction of the Council, “is that only three of you on this Council have any sense left in your fool heads?”

Dooku’s jaw clenched hard and was ready to crack. He tried and failed to release his rising fury to the Force but it just wouldn’t be done. Newly sworn into the Jedi High Council, he was now fully aware of what had befallen his brethren - the plot that had delivered to them Asajj Ventress and what it had cost the Jedi – and he was livid.

Qui-Gon had been right this entire time - that Dooku himself should have taken the Sith-damned seat on the Council years ago, decades ago when it was first offered. But he kept turning it down. He was just too cynical and disillusioned to ever think he could have changed things. But now, he saw that he could have stopped this disaster with Skywalker. He could have talked sense into the Council; into Yoda, into Windu. He could have done something.

But I’ll never know, he thought, his fist clenching. But now though, now I will change it.

“How could you keep this from him?”

“We decided –” started Mace.

You decided –”

“Master Dooku, that’s hardly fair,” said Ki-Adi Mundi. “It was put to a vote. The majority agreed and –“

“Anakin Skywalker had every right to know what he was walking into. We are Jedi,” Dooku hissed. “And don’t give me that ‘good of the many over the good of the few’ - it’s Sithspit and you all know it. Where is your honour? To dangle this boy in front of a Sith like he’s a piece of meat you’re using to catch a Nexu. Who gave you the right to decide his fate?”

“If it went according to plan, he would never know,” said Mace.

“So that excuses it? If it goes according to plan. If. And did it go to plan? Were Kolar and Tiin’s deaths according to plan?”

“There are casualties in war – ”

“This was not a plan, Mace Windu, this was a gambit. A desperate, reckless gambit that saw two great Jedi lose their lives and an saw an untrained Force Sensitive with an unprecedented midichlorian count put in the direct path of a Dark Sider. If Qui-Gon’s ramblings are anything to go by, you almost gave up the Chosen One himself to the Sith!

“There’s no proof he’s the Chosen One,” said Eeth.

“There’s no proof he isn’t.”

“It worked out in our favour, Master Dooku,” said Adi, trying to placate him. “It was handled.”

“Two Council members are dead, Vos and Secura are injured, Windu lost an arm. How is that handling it, Master Gallia?” Dooku’s stare was glacial, cold enough to freeze the burning fires of Mustafar. His gaze swept over the room. “I am disappointed in this Council, in my brothers and sisters-in-arms, in my former Master, and my friends. There is no ignorance, there is knowledge. That is the Jedi Code! Anakin Skywalker had every right to know and on top of that, what was done to Obi-Wan Kenobi to get that boy here was inexcusable! Congratulations, you finished off Ventress, you ended a war, and it only took manipulating two of our own AgriCorps members to do it. I hope you’re proud of yourselves.”

“Necessary, it was deemed,” said Yoda, quietly.

Glaring at his former Master, Dooku continued to the Council, “Many things need to change. I have seen it for years and I now refuse to sit idly by with the hope that you all will pull your collective heads out of your backsides and do it yourselves. The Jedi are stagnant and weak, comfortable in our numbers - we haven’t changed for a thousand years, while the rest of the galaxy has moved on without us.” Turning in a full circle, Dooku met the gaze of every single Master in the room. “The Republic is full of corruption; corruption that Organa won’t be able to fully touch until the fallout from this war has settled. I am finished with this Order following the shallow whims of the Senate. We are not glorified bodyguards. We are not Generals. We are peacekeepers! Diplomats! And had we stayed out of the influence of the Senate we would have been able to deal with the Sith ourselves. Sidious used this against us. The Sith changed so much that we let one gain complete control of the Republic and didn’t even notice. We will never know how close the Sith came to ending us all. We were fortunate.”

Dooku turned his flinted gaze at Mace and Yoda, as the most senior members of the Council, this should not have been orchestrated by them. They should have known better. “And I will not stand here and let innocent people be manipulated by this Council again. This was sheer idiocy. Skywalker should have known what he was walking into. He had the right to decide to help us or not - like any sentient being - but apparently, only Vos, Ti, and Fisto agreed!”

Mace exhaled, shoulders sagging. It was like he had been holding his breath the entire time, unable to let it pass through his lungs until Dooku finished. He met the older Master’s steely eyes, and offered him the only thing he could.

“You’re right.”

“Of course, I’m right!” Dooku paused abruptly, his eyes narrowing in suspicion. “What do you mean ‘I’m right’?”

“There’s no hidden meaning, Dooku. You’re right,” said Mace, tilting his head. “Kit was right. Quinlan was right. Skaak was right. And once Skywalker finds out – once he wakes up - he’ll be in this Council room just as angry.”

“You’re all fools.” Dooku crossed his arms as he stared them down.

With the loss of Tiin and Kolar, their two Council seats had been vacated. He had known that one would be offered to him again. And with the Skywalker situation coming to light, he was glad he’d accepted this time. The Council needed his guidance now more than ever. They had lost their way during the Clone Wars. It had changed all of them – and not for the better. The constant warfare had strained them to the breaking point. Decisions were made without careful consideration, in a haste that would not have happened before the war. The darkness that clouded the Force effected them all.

Darth Sidious had manipulated them more masterfully than anyone else could have. Had he been planning to kill them all during the war? Most of the Jedi had been separated, isolated with only their Clone Troopers… The Sith had been trying to destroy the Jedi for millennia and, had whatever scheme of theirs come to fruition, they just might have succeeded. Pulled in so many different directions, spread out and isolated across the galaxy - the Jedi could have been destroyed. It was a chilling realization that crawled down his back and took root around his heart. The Clones…would they have turned on them? It would have been so easy…

“Send a team to Kamino,” he said, earning confused looks. Taking a deep, steadying breath he finally released all his anger, all his rage into the Force. Peace was slow to fill him, but the anger that had boiled over was now resting quietly beneath his breastbone; still ready to inflame at a moment’s notice, but for now - resting. It would be there for some time, but for now the danger the Sith posed had relatively passed, Skywalker and Kenobi themselves ultimately unharmed, and he needed to follow his hunch about the Clones.

The Jedi Order had its flaws, but it was a beacon of hope to the galaxy. At least it used to be. And under his guidance, Dooku would decrease the Senate’s meddling in Jedi affairs and return the Order to its former glory - true diplomatic missions, genuine peacekeeping, righting the wrongs of the galaxy. From the Core Worlds to the Outer Rim territories, there were people of all worlds suffering unjustly and under tyrannical rule.

He would not stand for that.

The Jedi should not stand for that.

The Jedi Order was not a part of the Senate, they were their own, independent entity and no longer would they march to the beat of another’s drum. He would need to start with the Council, and then speak with Chancellor Organa. If the Council members didn’t like his suggestions they were welcome to leave. The Jedi needed to change. And if the situation with the Sith had taught Dooku anything, it was that they were almost entirely too late.

“And I want Qui-Gon Jinn elected to this Council,” Dooku intoned. “You no longer have the excuse to bar him from it because he ‘doesn’t follow the Code’, as you yourselves have violated it with this stupidity. We would benefit from his alternate point of view. And Mace? I want a word. Privately.”

 


 

I did not pass out.

Anakin groaned as he slowly returned to consciousness. Squinting his eyes, he winced as the skin close to his right eye pulled tightly. A low grumble rolled its way up his throat as he tried to take stock of what happened, and he had to admit –

I passed out.

He slowly raised his hand to feel the skin around his right eye. Two bacta patches had been placed above his eyebrow and just beneath his eye. He remembered a red blade of light moving fast towards his head, remembered turning to avoid it and the sharp burn as it glanced off the side of his face.

I’m lucky I didn’t lose an eye, he thought. Stars, I’m lucky I’m not dead.

Anakin wiped the grit from his eyes and took notice of where he was. It looked almost identical to the Healers Ward back on Bandomeer: a long hall with identical beds running along the walls on both sides of him, but with a lot more white. Some of the beds were occupied; light curtains partitioning them off were the only indication of privacy.

He closed his eyes and remembered.

“Meet again we do, young Skywalker.”

He remembered Yoda being there. He remembered the Jedi behind the wizened Master, looking at Anakin with wide eyes and heavy stares.

He remembered – going back…

Anakin could feel something wrong, something far different than Dejiak. It made him pause in his flight. The Force was still urging him to run, but his legs had locked in place. His heart pounded against his rib cage, every beat sounded louder and louder in his ears, blood rushing and pulse racing. And then the compulsion he felt to run had just – stopped. Before he knew what he was doing, he had turned and gone back.

Looking through the hole in the wall, his heart dropped into his stomach. Lightsabers danced, clashing and cutting into each other. With every spin of the pale woman, another Jedi fell dead at her feet. A blue-skinned Twi’lek lay near Anakin’s hiding spot. A lightsaber burn ran along her back and her head was bleeding. He could barely make out her breathing, it was so shallow – but it was there. She still lived. The two others weren’t so lucky, struck down by a violent red blade.

Anakin winced as he looked at their killer, and almost retched. She dripped darkness like poison, a sick toxin that he could feel slide slick over him like oil – heavy and nauseating. He wanted to run, to keep going and to hide. She felt like Dejiak. The way he made Anakin’s stomach twist into knots, forming ice and spreading through his limbs, wanting to run but trapped – locked into place by the cold. She was just like that.

And Dejiak…where was –

Anakin’s eyes widened as he took in the rest of the chaos. Another Jedi lay bleeding on the ground, and so was…

Dead.

Dejiak was dead. He neck was bent at an impossible angle from where he lay, pale and lifeless on the unforgiving ground. And then, with a sick tug in his stomach he heard the pale woman speak.

“I will have the one I felt soon enough.”

Anakin blinked and focused his attention on the thin blanket over top of him. He ran a hand over the woven fabric and absent-mindedly picked at the pilling. She’d meant him. He shouldn’t have known what she was talking about, but he felt it. He could feel it. He could feel that oily sickness spread across him, as if she were reaching for him, as if knowing he was nearby despite the battle waging on.

The last Jedi she stood against met her blow for blow, he moved in ways Anakin never thought were possible. He never imagined the Jedi fought like that. He thought he would win.

The bottom of his stomach fell away as he watched the pale woman sever the Jedi’s arm. If she won, they were all in danger. The remaining Jedi were in danger, he was in danger. He couldn’t – he couldn’t let -

Anakin couldn’t quite remember moving, couldn’t quite recall the compulsion - the serenity he felt or the way the Force embraced him as he stepped out from the wall. The memory of picking up the lightsaber was hazy, his steps blurred, but igniting the saber – it was like an extension of his own arm.

Anakin grunted and tried to sit up. He winced as the room spun in a hundred different directions, spinning in a kaleidoscope above his head. Lying back down, he closed his eyes hard and took a few deep breaths.

“You’re awake.”

He jumped as he opened his eyes too quickly, slamming them shut again as the dizziness threatened to turn into nausea.

“I’m sorry to startle you.”

“It’s all right,” he breathed. Gathering his bearings, he opened his eyes. Keeping his head still helped with the dizziness. A Mon Calamari in white and beige robes greeted him.

“Try and take it easy, you’ve been unconscious for three days.”

“I’ve – what?

“My name is Bant Eerin,” said the Jedi. “I’m one of the Healers assigned to your care.”

“Three days?” he rasped. That couldn’t be – that couldn’t be right.

“Try not to move too fast, you’ll be a bit dizzy and sore. I can give you something for that, though.”

“How has it been three days?”

“You were under an incredible amount of stress leading up to your collapse. It seems like everything caught up to you at once, and once the adrenaline wore off you were further impeded by your injury.” She indicated towards his face. “It won’t leave a large scar, but there will be one nonetheless.”

“I need to get back to Bandomeer.” Anakin attempted to lift himself off the bed again only to be pushed back down by a gentle hand on his shoulder. It annoyed him how easy it was for her to settle him back on the bed. He’d apparently slept for three days and yet still felt exhausted. But he had to get back to –

“Obi-Wan –”

“He’s fine, Anakin,” said Bant and there was something in her voice that Anakin couldn’t quite place - a softness that wrapped itself around her words. “We received word that Obi-Wan woke up yesterday.”

Anakin’s entire body sank deep into the bed. Relief coursed through him, loosening tense limbs, slowing down his racing heart and mind. Obi-Wan was okay. He was okay.

“He’s still a bit weak and congested, but he’ll recover fully.”

Anakin let out a full-body sigh. Good. At least someone got the medication to him while Anakin had been out. He smiled, and a choked off laugh that turned into a half sob escaped his throat unbidden.

Obi-Wan’s awake. He’s okay.

 


 

Mace and Dooku walked the halls of the Temple in silence. It wasn’t as uncomfortable as Mace predicted it would be. Dooku’s earlier anger had long since burned out. He sensed a resignation from the older Jedi, but with it a resolve that would not be cast aside. Dooku would do all he could to bring them out of the darkness that clouded the Jedi ever since the Clone Wars began, Mace knew that with an utmost certainty.

Dooku’s steps slowed to a stop in front of a large window. Coruscant spread out before them, an endless expanse of high rises in the distance. The sun was starting its descent; twilight would come within the next few hours replacing the sun’s bright cast with an ever-deepening red.

“However did you convince them of this?”

“I was persuasive.” Mace crossed his arms and stared into the distance. “It wasn’t an easy decision - for any of us. I talked myself out of it more times than I can count. But in the end it was the only way to be sure of getting Ventress out into the open. Skywalker is the strongest untapped potential we know of. I didn’t doubt she would turn up… I doubted we’d be able to contain her. Everything was in place and then Skywalker vanished on us. No one knows who the man Ventress killed was yet, and Skywalker’s still unconscious.”

“If he’d been told –“

“Who knows what his reaction would have been? He’s untrained, Dooku. When Master Yoda first went to see him, his thoughts were everywhere. He may have gotten better at not projecting since then but would it have been enough to face the Sith? He could have unintentionally broadcasted the entire plan. We’ll never know, but his shielding levels and potential nerves were a few reasons we chose not to tell him. He’s not a Jedi. He isn’t trained for this. If it had all gone according to plan, he would have been none the wiser. It would have been a simple trip to Coruscant and then back to Bandomeer for him.”

“Did you really expect to get to her before she made any contact with him? And what about the location you sent him to? It was -”

“Crowded,” Mace finished, grimly. He ground his teeth together, the grit helping him to focus. “It wasn’t supposed to be. The protest came out of nowhere and by the time it formed it was too late to change anything. We had to follow through.”

“If Skywalker hadn’t left that in itself would have been a disaster. She was never one to care for casualties.”

“It could have gone wrong in so many ways. We went through all the possibilities we could think of, tried to look at every contingency we could see. The Force was with us. It could have been worse.” Mace looked down at his durasteel hand, the setting sun reflecting off of it. “In hindsight, he had the right to know. But at the time of the Council meeting, it was too much to risk. He could have refused outright and we would have lost Ventress entirely.”

“She would have resurfaced eventually,” said Dooku.

“And at what cost? How many more lives would be lost? How many more would suffer before we ended it?” asked Mace, turning to face Dooku directly. The look on the older Jedi’s face gave him pause.

“What? If you have something to say - say it.”

Dooku heaved a great sigh, as if a great weight rested heavily upon his shoulders. He looked older than he had when raging at them in the Council Chambers, but now Mace could see just how much the war had taken out of him. He looked at Mace with such sadness.

“This was personal,” said Dooku. “Wasn’t it?”

Mace’s jaw clenched and his mouth tightened at the corners. He looked away from Dooku.

“This desperation to end the war, to take Ventress at all costs…”

“Dooku – “

“This was about Depa, wasn’t it? What Ventress did to her on Rattatak.”

Mace closed his eyes. The dying light of dusk fit well his burgeoning mood. He would spend the majority of the night in meditation, he always did when thoughts of the past plagued him. It had been years since the disaster on Jabiim. Since Depa’s capture and transport off-world… of him finding her half out of her mind, and lost to the Dark.

“Has there been any change?”

“No.” Mace’s breathing was pained, like a steel coil wrapped itself tightly around his heart. “She’s still in a coma.”

It was difficult to think about it for long. Whenever the thoughts found him he would release it to the Force, keep the memories at a distance and attempt to let go of the past. But he never really could. Avenging Depa and saving the Republic had driven him to using the only card the Jedi had to play – Skywalker.

“Attachment is –“

“If you say forbidden, I may as well throw myself from this window,” said Dooku. “We all know it, but do you think you’re the only one who struggles with it? We all do.” His voice was sharp, but not without empathy. “We are beings that feel, no matter how much of our emotions we give over to the Force, we will never truly be rid of it. And I don’t think we should be. The Jedi are not in balance, Mace. It’s time the Council reviewed the Code. It’s outdated by a thousand years.”

Dooku turned to look out the window as he continued, “Qui-Gon Jinn is like a son to me. He’s the closest thing I’ll ever have, and I will admit – I love him as such,” admitted Dooku. “Had he fallen on Naboo, I would have left the Jedi Order. There was so much political maneuvering and ineffective handling of that entire situation that the needless death of my once-Padawan would have been all I needed to leave. I’ve only stayed because of him. I continue to stay because of him. You all know of my discontent with the Senate and the Council. The Order has benefited from my attachment.”

The coil in Mace’s chest loosened a fraction with Dooku’s admission. It was strangely cathartic to know he wasn’t the only one to struggle. It was never talked about, nearly taboo. The only advice repeated over and over again. Release your emotions to the Force. Attachment is forbidden. He knew the reasons. But perhaps, they had swung too far in one direction. Could they find a balance like Dooku was suggesting or would the pendulum swing too far in the opposite direction?

“The Sith changed whereas we have not,” said Dooku. “We have a chance to be better than what we were. There’s more to be discussed than the rule of non-attachment. We can be better, Mace. For the Republic and the galaxy – we have to be.”

Dooku clasped Mace’s shoulder and departed, leaving Mace with much to think on.

“And Mace?” Dooku hadn’t gotten a few steps away before turning back with a final parting word. “Spend more time at Depa’s bedside. Now that the darkness has lifted, she will find her way back to us. Let your presence be her guide, a beacon to follow through the dark. Trust in the Force. I have faith in her recovery.”

Mace leaned his head against the cool plexi-glass in front of him and closed his eyes.