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Mud

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Anakin is dancing in the battle. His Force Signature shines as he cuts down another droid.
'My Anakin,' I think foolishly.
He's not mine. Not my Padawan nor anything else.

He walks backwards and stops when his back touches mine. We fight like this, breathing at the same pace, feeling one in the Force, until there's nothing left moving. All is silent, except for our short breaths and the wounded soldiers' wails.

"I'm calling Rex," he whispers.

I kneel to touch the nearest Clone's throat in search of life signs. He tells our coordinates to the comm.

We spend the following hours dividing the fallen soldiers from the wounded ones. It's a Republic's victory, but it may be hard to keep it in mind when you're soaked in your men's blood.

Near the debris of an explosion, a dim light glares in the Force.
I dig frantically until I see the white of armour. The glow fades a moment before I can pull him out.
Suddenly, I am aware of how tired I have become over last weeks.
I mutter a curse, my knees in the mud.

A light touch on my shoulder makes me wince. Rex is behind me, his expression blank.

"My men will take care of this, General."

He's touching me with concern. Highly unusual for a Clone, even for Rex; they tend to avoid every unnecessary physical contact.

"You are right. I'm of no use here," I say, getting up. "I'll try to get some rest."

I thank him for his solicitude, but my words sound empty. I feel his eyes on my back as I walk away.

 

When I enter our shared tent, Anakin is sitting on his bed. He already took off his wet tunic and is trying to do the same with one of his boots, kicking it indolently with the other one. Without a word, I take his leg in my hands and pull to help him. He sighs in relief and throws himself back on the mattress.

The late afternoon light looks green through the fabric of the tent, and all smells of mould. We are so used to this now that it somehow feels like home.

"Do you think one can get his bones wet? Because I haven't been dry in weeks."

Whining.
I roll my eyes, but smile inside.
This is his way to keep death images at bay. It's awkward and annoying, but I appreciate the effort.
Wait, am I enjoying Anakin's grumbling? This is alarming.

"Look. Mushrooms growing in my armpit."

I manage to hold back a snicker. "Anakin, certainly you can't think it's my desire to check your armpit growths. Now, be a good boy and let me write my report."

I should know better; this is the best way to make him go on forever.

"Are you going to do nothing as I rot? My Master should take care of me!"

"I have not been your Master for a long time now, and it is my profound belief that General Skywalker is perfectly able to take care of his own mushrooms."

He ignores me and stares at the ceiling with his arms under his head, huffing and pouting. I do my best to keep my eyes on the holopad.

The truth is, I like this; stay together in silence, feel him near.
'In silence' is the key word, I think with a grin.
The last months have worn us out. We're exhausted. Despite this, when we are far away from Coruscant, we're home to each other. I hate to admit it, but this makes me want to stay.
His presence is toxic, every moment we spend together makes me want more. This scares me. Often, running away is all I can do.
At moments, it seems that he plays with me like a cat with its prey, both conscious and unconscious of what he does to me. Still, at the end of the day, here is where I want to be; under the same roof, safe and sound, rolling my eyes to his whining.

I shake my head and try to get back to my writing.

"It surely must be a complicated report. It's taking you forever."

The rain noise on the tent roof forces us to raise our voices.

"Why don't you take care of it, for once?"

"Bureaucracy is not my thing, you know. And I don't want to rob you of something you find so funny. You keep smiling."

I can't find anything sharp to answer back. Anakin stares at me with a questioning look, and I quickly check my shields.

"I really want to get back home," he finally says.

I know far too well what he really means. My stomach gets sick, and I hate myself for this.

"Me too," I do my best to sound light. "There's little left to do here. We will be back to the Temple soon, and we'll try to stay there for a while."

He smiles sadly. "I really must be a boring partner. Always fishing for comfort, for someone to tell me that everything will be ok. And you keep looking after me, a lie after another."

I should say mine are not lies, but, before realising, I'm telling him that he has been my Padawan, and I won't stop taking care of him easily. I really must be tired, I can't trust myself anymore.
It will get better when we're back. I'll ask the Council to split us.

"You know you won't," he says, and I almost choke.

I look away, upset by my lack of self-control and by his unrespectful attitude. We do not mess with each other's thoughts; it's an unspoken pact as old as our relationship.

"I'm sorry. You're always so tight that when something escapes your shields, it's as loud as a shout."

I do not move until that thing that makes my throat pinch washes away. When I turn back to him, my face only shows the baffling serenity of the detached Master. I smile and nod, saying that it doesn't matter, that it was my fault and that you can't totally avoid this when you spend so much time with someone. This is going to make him mad.

"Judging on how the idea of another mission together frightens you, you really can't stand me anymore."

As usual, he gets bitter to mask his wounds. My experience says that it's better to extinguish the fire as soon as possible. "Don't be silly, this is not what I thought. You said it yourself; you can't wait to leave too."

"I hate this planet, but I've never wished to be here with someone else."

For a second, one of my eyebrows raises in disbelief, and I regret it immediately.

"What do you mean with that?" He comes closer, looking down on me as he always does when we argue, since the day he became taller than me.

I keep my eyes steady, but I try to look more resigned than challenging.
"We're tired. Let's stop it here."

"You run away. Typical."

"Anakin, please, it has been a long day. You are the one I trust with my life every day. You are the one I want beside me on the battlefield. This doesn't mean we should stick together all the time. Sometimes it may be better to take a pause, for the both of us. I would appreciate if you could see it too."

If I were someone else, his furious stare would have petrified me. Being me, all I see is his sadness.

"Tell me what that damn mocking face of yours meant."

Things are getting risky, and Anakin has never had enough common sense to realise it. I should quickly find something to satisfy his curiosity remaining on the safe side.

"I only mean that that of your old and boring Master can't possibly be the only company you look for."

He tries to dig for a hidden meaning, but only gets doubts.
I'll never understand how the Chosen One, the Hero Without Fear, can be so clueless to believe that I do not know, that nobody knows.

"You're not old." It's all he manages to say.

"But I'm boring. Goodnight, Anakin."