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Anakin keeps his hand clasped around Obi-Wan's for the duration of their flight back to the Temple, the worries he'd glimpsed in the other man's mind bouncing around in his head along with his worries about Padmé's future. He'd gotten used to Obi-Wan squeezing his shoulder or patting him on the back over the years; he had missed getting hugs like his mother used to give him but Obi-Wan wasn't his mother and he hadn't expected him to act like her. There was often a Force echo of warmthcomfortaffection whenever he addressed Anakin (though that was sometimes tinged with frustration or amusement or worry depending on what Anakin had gotten up to) that made up for the lack of physical hugs.

He hadn't thought about it in awhile but now that he's remembering it, he realizes that that comforting echo had come less and less frequently as he had gotten older. And Obi-Wan had gotten harder to read. He frowns. Why had Obi-Wan started pulling away from him? Was it because he had revealed his infatuation with him when he was still a Padawan?

"No," Obi-Wan says and Anakin startles out of his thoughts. "It's customary for the Master to pull back on the training bond as the Padawan nears his or her Trials. You didn't need as much guidance from me and it would have been more intrusive than helpful by that point. It had nothing to do with your feelings towards me—it's not unusual for Padawans to develop emotional and even romantic attachments to their Masters. They generally fade once the Padawans become Knights and start going on missions on their own."

"Mine never did," Anakin says.

"Yes, well, we didn't quite have the traditional separation because of the war. And I clearly underestimated the strength of your attachments."

"Not as perceptive as you had once thought, huh?"

"Anakin, my dear, you never cease to surprise me and I don't expect you ever will. Even when I think I know what feats of recklessness and idiocy you're going to pull, you still find ways to shock me. It was my own fault for even considering that you might do anything in the expected way."

"What can I say? I like ruining expectations. And plans and traditions are boring and restrictive. If you stick too closely to them, you can't adapt to the situation you actually find yourself in."

"Mm. That is why I've always striven to concoct the simplest, least risky plan possible in battles. So that when you veer off course and raise the risk level by a factor of ten, it's still within somewhat acceptable parameters."

Anakin chortles. "I'm quite sure there are those who would disagree with you on all counts. But see? That's why we're the best team the Order has to offer." He senses Obi-Wan wanting to roll his eyes but restraining himself.

He absently navigates around a slow speeder in front of them and then hops over into an intersecting lane. Obi-Wan idly rubs his thumb over the forearm of Anakin's prosthetic and he wishes for a moment that he isn't wearing his glove because it dulls the sensors, which are already more limited than natural skin.

As if he had heard him—and he probably did, given the new depth of their connection—Obi-Wan snaps open the buckles of his glove and pulls it off. When he closes his hands around Anakin's again, Anakin sucks in a breath at the feel of Obi-Wan's calloused fingers and the warmth of his skin; it always takes a couple of seconds for the sensors on the durasteel to recalibrate after he removes his glove.

He maybe takes the next corner more sharply than he needs to just to feel Obi-Wan reflexively squeeze his hand. He sees Obi-Wan shoot him a glare out of the corner of his eye and grins.

"What are we going to do about Padmé?" he asks. He can see that she worries about him and it makes him love her all the more that she sees so much goodness in him and has such faith in him but he thinks she's worrying needlessly about the risks involved in their trying to prevent her death. And even if there were risks...well, anything worth getting is not without some risk. Padmé is such an important figure, not just to him personally, but to the galaxy that she has to live. The entire universe would be a much darker place without her in it.

"We'll keep researching," Obi-Wan says and it sounds like a promise. "There's quite a bit we can try without turning to the Dark Side."

"Do you think the Dark Side would have a solution?" he asks out of curiosity as he navigates into the Temple hangar bay. If they do, surely there's a Light side version that can accomplish the same thing.

Obi-Wan shakes his head. "I doubt it. And if they do, it won't be one we'll want to take. The Dark Side leads to chaos and destruction, not healing. Any solution they can offer would surely only lead to a worse scenario for all involved. There have been rumors that the Force can be used to extend a user's lifespan but even if that were true, I don't see how it would work for a non-sensitive." Anakin sighs and Obi-Wan pats his hand once before letting go of it. "Don't worry. I have a couple of ideas that could help."

Anakin lets that soothe him; Obi-Wan's always been the planner between them, with multiple contingencies in place in case one doesn't work out. He glances at the chrono on the wall and smiles smugly. "See, we're back in plenty of time for you to get to your Council meeting! What did I tell you?"

"Yes," Obi-Wan says dryly. "And miraculously in one piece too."

Anakin rolls his eyes. "Always have to have the last word, don't you?"

"Yes," Obi-Wan says with a smirk.

Anakin huffs out a laugh as he pulls the speeder into one of the docks. They climb out and bow their heads at each other. "Have a good day, Obi-Wan. I'll see you later."

"Indeed. I'm sure you'll have a much more entertaining day in the Archives than I will in the meeting," Obi-Wan says wryly.

Anakin watches him enter the Temple proper and then goes to collect Artoo. He briefs the droid on their mission for the day as they make their way to the Archives. At the door, he pauses and looks down at Artoo who swivels his dome at him in question. "So you're sure you know what to do?"

Artoo beeps exasperatedly and pushes through the doors. Anakin follows closely behind, keeping an eye out for Master Nu. They make straight for the terminals in the middle of the room. It's a little too exposed for Anakin's taste, especially since they're about to break into the Temple records but he figures they have a better chance at cracking one of these than in trying to sneak into Master Nu's office or the holocron vault.

He sits down at one of the terminals at the end so that Artoo can pull up next to him. Then he opens the casing to expose the socket for Artoo to use and the droid gets to work. Windows and files flash across the screen in front of him, too quickly for him to follow. So instead, he focuses on locating Master Nu's Force signature and tracking her in the Archives. When he senses that she's about to step out into the open space between shelves and see him and, more importantly, Artoo, he jumps up and hurries over to intercept her.

"Master Nu!" he says—a little too loudly going by the glare she levels at him. "Sorry!" he whispers, though there isn't currently anyone else in the Archive besides the three of them.

"Yes, Knight Skywalker? I wasn't expecting to see you in here during your downtime." She says this politely but Anakin can practically hear the wariness in her voice.

"I'm looking into something. About, um, Force bonds. The different types and how they're formed and…." he trails off when he sees that she's still eyeing him with suspicion. "It's for Obi-Wan," he says instead and her eyes soften, expression relaxing into fondness.

"Ah, of course. Has he changed his mind about researching Force-sensitive pregnancies then? I had set aside some old tomes for him."

"Oh no, he'll still want those. And I'm sure he's very appreciative of your assistance in that. You're so...thoughtful and organized...and helpful and....anyway, the Force bonding research is a little side project. Questions about it came up during a discussion and you know how he gets."

What are you doing? Obi-Wan asks him through their bond. Are you flirting with Master Nu? Please tell me that's not what you're doing.

"Yes, of course," Master Nu's saying. "Always curious, that one. Such a thirst for knowledge!"

"Yup, that's Obi-Wan. Never gets tired of learning," Anakin says out loud. Mentally, he says Of course I'm not flirting with her! She's ninety-something years old! I draw the line at, well, you when it comes to romantic anything with another Jedi.

Are you saying I'm old?

Hush, you're distracting me. This is for a good cause. And shouldn't you be attending to your Council meeting?

I am but it's becoming quite tedious. We're dispatching a battalion of troops to reinforce Quinlan's because they've sustained some losses. But we can't agree on how many of what type of bombs and blasters to send them with. I've already given them my thoughts on it. Whatever you're doing sounds much more interesting.

"I think it's wonderful. And he's gathered so much data throughout his travels, expanded the Archives so much. I'm rather hoping that when he's retired from active fieldwork, he'll consider coming here and taking on the mantle of Chief Librarian," Master Nu is saying.

What do you think? Chief Librarian? Anakin sends to Obi-Wan with a hint of his amusement. He can't imagine Obi-Wan ever retiring from fieldwork, no matter how much he enjoys spending time in the Archives and researching.

Obi-Wan gives a mental shrug. You never know. Oh, they're calling me. I think it's time for a vote. And then his presence fades back to the constant background hum that Anakin's had in his head since they had further solidified their bond that morning.

"I'll pass on that thought to him," he says to Master Nu. "Do you think you could direct me to where I could find some information on Force bonding?" he asks since he's already here and it is something else he wants to look up. He makes sure to stand between her and Artoo the whole time she's pointing out where he might be able to find information on Force bonds in general and more advanced information on Force bonds that might be of particular interest to Obi-Wan.

When she finally leaves him to it, he turns back to find Artoo waiting for him, computer interface arm already retracted. "Finished so quickly?" he asks, mostly just to hear Artoo's indignant beeping at daring to suggest that he was slow. "My bad, buddy," he says with a small laugh when Artoo's tirade ends. He claps a hand to the droid's dome. "Let's go find a viewing room."

They settle on one in a back corner of the Archives and Artoo projects the files he downloaded onto the wall.

"Let's start at the beginning, Artoo," Anakin says and Artoo obediently scrolls to the very first file, labeled "Intake 943 PRR." It opens onto a youngling intake form, which Anakin vaguely remembers from when he had been accepted as a Padawan. "'Name: Obi-Wan Kenobi'," he reads. "'Planet of Origin: Stewjon. Parents' names: redacted.' Redacted?" he exclaims. Then he groans. "Figures." He rolls his eyes at the Jedi's secrecy but moves on. He's got thirty-eight years of records to get through, after all.

 


 

Obi-Wan manages, more or less, to pay attention to the rest of the Council meeting after Mace had to call him several times to pull his focus back so that he could cast his vote. Whatever Anakin's found in his old records is making him cycle through excessive fondness and burning rage, though, and it's highly distracting. He's never looked through those records himself so he doesn't quite know what's in them. He doesn't think there's anything that should incite such volatile emotions but then again, it is Anakin who's looking through them. And he's capable of working himself up over nothing at all. Obi-Wan almost leaves the meeting early to go check on him, but every time he asks him if he's okay, Anakin says that he's fine. And the feelings of rage come and go rather quickly so Obi-Wan contents himself with monitoring Anakin's surface level feelings to make sure they're not getting stronger.

He forces himself to sit still through the meeting and focus on the discussions at hand. He's rather eager to leave by the time it ends but as Force would have it, Mace stops him.

"Walk with me, Obi-Wan. I wish to get your thoughts on something," Mace requests.

Obi-Wan frowns but acquiesces. The exit the Council chamber and make their way to the residential sector of the Temple. It isn't until they've passed the main entrance than Mace finally speaks.

"As you know," he starts, "we've had some reservations regarding the Chancellor. The future remains clouded and a lot of the darkness seems to center on him and the rest of the Senate."

Obi-Wan nods. This has been a topic of Council debates since before he was sent to the Outer Rim, but without resolution.

"We feel that the Chancellor no longer trusts us. Most of us."

"Oh?" Obi-Wan asks. That's new.

Mace nods. "He's been secluding himself with his advisors. The Jedi are present to give report on missions but many decisions are made without us. He's starting to rely on his own agents more than the Jedi for information gathering and to execute his will, at least within the Core worlds."

"Well," Obi-Wan says, trying to think of a reasonable explanation. "The Jedi have been spread thin in the past couple of months. It could just be that he's prioritizing our time to the war efforts abroad."

"Perhaps."

"But you don't think that's it. Or, not all of it."

"No. Many of us feel that the Chancellor is trying to sever the relationship between the Senate and the Order."

Obi-Wan remembers Anakin asking just that morning, Why tether ourselves to the Republic? We could be helping so many more people if we could act on our own! "Well, that might not be such a terrible thing. For thousands of years, the Jedi have served as peacekeepers for the Republic but perhaps it's time for a change. Perhaps the Republic will be maintaining its own peace with the army and the Jedi will be able to conduct our own affairs instead of the Republic's."

Mace frowns. "The Order's mission is to support the Republic. And it was made to be that way to prevent a recurrence of the Sith War. You know this."

Hearing the same argument that he had given come from Mace makes him realize how rote it sounds. Just how was serving the Republic meant to prevent another war? Given that they're currently in the midst of a war, it doesn't seem to have helped. Committing themselves to be supposed public servants was meant to keep Jedi from going to the Dark Side but Xanatos, Bruck, and Dooku all turned to the Dark regardless. He thinks about Padmé saying that people would be frightened of the Jedi if they were to act as independent agents rather than as ambassadors of the Senate and wonders if perhaps the real reason the Jedi had placed themselves under Senate authority was because of fear—fear from the public and fear among the Jedi themselves at the level of destruction they're capable of. But all that would have done was shift liability and accountability for their actions to the Senate. Which also would have given power over the Jedi to a body of people who don't truly appreciate the Force and what the Jedi could do with it.

"It's been thousands of years since that war, Mace," Obi-Wan finally says. "Taking that path may have been what the Jedi felt was necessary immediately after the war but many things have changed in the universe since then. It may not be what's needed any more." He thinks about some of the injustices he's witnessed on planets that he hadn't been able to correct they were outside the scope of his mission, the slavery on the Outer Rim worlds, the illicit drug trades, the oppression of people by corrupt governments that remain in power only because no one on the planet had enough support to overthrow them and because the Republic didn't want to interfere when the ruling government provided them with goods and services that they liked. "In fact, it may be time for the Jedi to change too and focus on helping the people who need it rather than serving politicians."

Mace shakes his head. "The Order's mission isn't what's in question right now. Right now, we have to determine what it is the Chancellor is up to. And we can't get close enough to him to find out anymore. But Skywalker is still in his confidence. We'd like for him to observe the Chancellor and report on his activities to us. Well, to you. This mission will be off the record."

"What? You want Anakin to spy on the Chancellor?" Obi-Wan feels dread curl in his stomach. "No. Absolutely not. Anakin sees the Chancellor as a friend and he has for years."

"And that's exactly why he's the best person to do this."

Obi-Wan flashes back to the argument they'd had the other night over Obi-Wan putting the mission above his relationship with Anakin and he knows, he just knows, that this would not end well if the Jedi were to pursue it. "He would never betray the Chancellor's trust like that and asking him to do so would cause a rift between Anakin and the Jedi."

"Anakin is a Jedi Knight, Obi-Wan. He'll put the mission first over whatever friendship he thinks he has with the Chancellor."

"No," Obi-Wan says, starting to feel a little hysterical. He had never shied away from choosing the most expedient method of completing missions even at the cost of personal relationships—which he had considered to be of less importance in the grand scheme of things—but suddenly the thought of asking Anakin to do so is appalling, particularly now that he has a better idea of how much Anakin values relationships. "No, he will not. Anakin certainly would not be able to separate his friendship with the Chancellor from the mission. He's not even very good at stealth missions. Get Master Tholme to do this. He's trained for this type of work and he has no personal connections to the situation."

"But it is Anakin's personal connections that we need."

"You would be— I would be, because I'm assuming that you're coming to me now so that I can be the one to relay this mission to him?—I would be asking him to betray his loyalties." His hands clench into fists. "Anakin would never agree to that," he reiterates flatly.

"His loyalty is to the Jedi," Mace says sharply.

Everything okay, my starbird? Your emotions are getting quite strong. Anakin's anxiety washes over him.

Obi-Wan takes a deep breath, forces himself to calm down and send soothing thoughts back. I'm okay, Anakin. Just having a bit of a disagreement with Mace.

Sounds like more than just 'a bit', Anakin opines but his mental presence subsides.

Obi-Wan refocuses on Mace, who's saying, "You're the one he listens to most. He wouldn't refuse the mission if it came from you."

But it would put a strain on their relationship. And Obi-Wan's not willing to do that again. He takes a deep breath to settle his emotions. Then he says evenly, "So. The Council have already voted." Mace nods. "And the majority agreed." Mace nods again. "Except for me."

"Master Plo Koon opposed this as well," Mace admits.

Obi-Wan nods. "But everyone already had a say. And you waited to speak with me last because you knew that I would be most resistant."

"I knew you would speak on behalf of Anakin and cast a nay vote. More and more you have been Anakin's partisan in front of the Council," Mace says with more than a hint of rebuke in his voice.

"I've been Anakin's partisan since I started training him. Many on the Council viewed him with suspicion and distrust. That's no way for a boy to grow up."

"And you have been far too attached to him from the beginning. That is no way for a Jedi to be trained. And you have been more and more defiant of the Council's mandates when it comes to Skywalker. You have too much of Qui-Gon in you."

Obi-Wan presses his lips together. "Is that undesirable? Qui-Gon may have been a maverick Jedi but he was a firm believer and follower of the Force's guidance."

You're really distressed. What's happening? Anakin pipes up again, sounding concerned.

Obi-Wan shakes his head. I'm fine, Anakin. Don't worry about it.

Mace narrows his eyes at him. "What are you saying, Obi-Wan?"

You're not fine. You're upset. I can feel it. Where are you? Are you by our quarters? I'll meet you there. Obi-Wan gets the sense that Anakin's standing and instructing Artoo to pause the playback and shut off the projector.

No, Anakin, you really don't have to. Obi-Wan protests but he knows it's a lost cause. He sighs and says to Mace, "Nothing. For now. I have to go. I will speak with you at a later time. But I really must insist that you and the rest of the Council reconsider your tactic. I cannot condone it and I will not be your messenger to Anakin."

I want to, Anakin replies stubbornly and Obi-Wan doesn't doubt that he's already on his way, long legs eating up the distance from the Archives easily.

Mace purses his lips. "Very well. Your protests are duly noted." He bows slightly in farewell and turns back down the hall they had just walked through, robes billowing out with the force of his disapproval.

Obi-Wan frowns, feeling disquieted, and makes for their rooms to make tea while he waits for Anakin to come storming in.

 


 

Anakin stalks down the corridors of the Temple, heedless of the Padawans and Initiates dodging out of his way with alarm. Artoo rolls sedately behind him, chirping out greetings to some of the Jedi that he recognizes.

Anakin's mind is a jumble of confused worry over what's upset Obi-Wan and constant loops of some of the holovids Artoo had projected for him from Obi-Wan's Temple records:

A calm and poised Obi-Wan at eleven standing before the Council and having to explain that he'd fought with Bruck Chun again because the other Initiate was taunting Garen Muln.

Obi-Wan in a duel with Bruck Chun, fighting fiercely with moves that were clearly better than the bigger boy's. Obi-Wan winning the duel was overlaid with an audio of Qui-Gon's voice saying that though he was talented in dueling, he was too dangerous to train as a Jedi given the level of passion he had displayed.

Obi-Wan at twelve standing before the Council and being told that because he hadn't been chosen by a Master he was to be sent to join the Agricorps on Bandomeer. Even through the grainy recording Anakin could see the tears that Obi-Wan was holding back but the boy maintained his composure the entire meeting.

Qui-Gon in the next video reporting that Obi-Wan had been taken hostage by his former apprentice and that the request for Jedi aid had been a trap.

A video dated just a couple of months later of Qui-Gon standing before the Council and holding out Obi-Wan's lightsaber, saying that his Padawan had chosen to stay behind on Melida/Daan.

Obi-Wan kneeling before Master Yoda on Naboo insisting that he will train Anakin, even against the Council's wishes.

Obi-Wan with a fourteen-year-old Anakin before the Council debriefing after a mission and then staying after Anakin's sent out with a strong suggestion by the Council that he further work on his control of the Force. Obi-Wan sharply telling the Council telling Master Windu and Master Yoda that Anakin was coming along very well in his training and that he would take their suggestions into consideration but that he would thank them to give their criticisms of his teaching to him directly instead of to Anakin in the future.

Anakin blinks rapidly to clear his eyes. He's emotional right now, he knows. He feels infuriated and righteous and affectionate and grateful and loved and loving and he wants more than anything to just go straight to the Council chamber and give them a piece of his mind over how Obi-Wan's been treated over the years. But he forces that urge aside—and thinks that Obi-Wan would be proud of him for doing so—in favor of going to Obi-Wan who's upset right now.

When he enters their apartment, the familiar aroma of sapir tea—Obi-Wan's favorite—hits him and the scent helps him refocus his mind. He pauses for a microsecond at the entryway while Artoo zips around him over to a wall outlet and plugs in to charge. Obi-Wan calls out a distracted greeting from the kitchenette and Anakin finds himself drawn over like a missile to a homing beacon.

When he spies the other man, he grits his teeth. Obi-Wan's shoulders are slumped and his head hangs down; he looks tired and like he's carrying the weight of the galaxy on his back. What had he and Mace been talking about?

Anakin wants to wrap him up in a blanket and bundle him off to bed. He wants to put up a shield around him to protect him from the world. He wants to go find Mace and demand to know what kind of burden the Jedi are placing on his former Master now .

Instead, he walks up to Obi-Wan, throws his arms around him, and pulls him back against his chest.

"Sithspit!" Obi-Wan hisses when the unexpected jostling causes him to splash some of the hot tea onto his hand instead of into the cup he's holding. Anakin sends a silent apology. He floods their bond with all the affection and love that he feels for him and channels the Force into what he pictures to be a rushing river around them to separate them from the rest of the Force users.

Obi-Wan stiffens, emanating surprise and wonder and uncertainty through their bond. "Anakin, what in blazes are you doing?"

"Hugging you," Anakin says and drops his chin onto Obi-Wan's shoulder. "Is that okay?" He buries his nose in the crook of his neck, breathing in the wholly familiar and unique combination of lightsaber, sandalwood, and sapir tea that belongs to Obi-Wan.

Obi-Wan shivers. "It is but why ?" He sounds off-kilter and bewildered and it's this along with his earlier hesitancy over physical affection that makes Anakin want to take up his lightsaber and challenge the whole Order to a duel. He pushes that thought away. Obi-Wan wouldn't want Anakin to fight the whole Order.

"Because I want to," Anakin says. He congratulates himself for not screaming it. "Because you're upset by something. Because you had a terrible childhood and I don't think you got enough hugs during it."

He feels Obi-Wan gradually, methodically, relax his muscles and slouch into Anakin's hold. "That's a little dramatic," he says lightly. "I didn't have a terrible childhood."

"Hmph, I don't even know where to start!" Anakin says, not in any mood to banter about semantics. Agitation starts building up again. "Your parents gave you up to the Jedi when you were six months old. Six months, Obi-Wan! I knew the Jedi took children young but six months ? You never even knew your mom! Force, no wonder you never seemed to understand why I missed mine so much!"

"Is that what's bothering you?" Obi-Wan covers Anakin's left hand with his own, rubbing soothing circles into the skin. Anakin shivers at the sensation, the warmth and pressure of Obi-Wan's touch grounding him to their conversation rather than his own thoughts and memories.

"Not all of it," Anakin says bitterly, "I just thought I'd start at the beginning."

Obi-Wan sighs. "Then first of all, the Jedi don't take children. You know that. We encourage parents of Force sensitive children to consider sending them to us for training. But it's completely voluntary and we don't pressure them to do so if they don't wish to."

Anakin does know that. He's gone on a couple of missions with Obi-Wan to test Force-sensitive children and to speak with their parents about what the Jedi do. He's never understood how some parents can give their children away—it's not something he could ever see himself doing—but he can see how difficult of a decision it is for them so he tries to respect that it's the way of the Jedi and accept it (or at least, to not throw a fuss while in front of the parents and make things even more difficult for them; this separation from family is one of the perpetual points of disagreement he has with the Order). But it's nearly impossible to just accept it when he thinks about Obi-Wan as a baby being given away. "It's not voluntary for the children! They— you —had no choice in the matter at all! Your whole future was decided for you by someone else!"

"You mean by my parents ?" Obi-Wan asks sardonically. "Anakin, it's not as if they were abandoning me or that I was unwanted. I was Force-sensitive and they knew that I could be of great service to the Republic. So they gave me into the care of the Jedi. I'm sure they believed that it was the best choice for everyone. It's not as if I could have made the choice myself when I was just a baby."

"Exactly! You were too young to make the choice! But it should have been you who chose, not them! The Jedi shouldn't be taking them that young! What's even the point of doing so?"

"Because learning how to control the Force and use it properly is very complicated and requires years of education. Children learn much quicker at a young age; their brains are primed to absorb new information and assimilate it. By teaching them early, manipulating the Force becomes second nature. It's much harder to do at a later age."

"Well, I started later and I did fine, didn't I?" Anakin asks, and then feels a spike of uncertainty. What if he hasn't been doing well after all? The Council had been so set against him being trained. What if they had been right and his whole argument had no basis?

But Obi-Wan just squeezes his hand. "Of course you did. Anakin, you're an exceptional Jedi. Better than I could have imagined. And better than I could ever be."

Anakin shakes his head. "No, never better than you."

"You are, though. You're strong—in the Force and in your conviction to help people. You're the most compassionate Jedi in the Order, though you're also reckless and stubborn."

"I learned all that from you."

"Nevertheless, I'm proud of the person you've become. I'm proud to fight and stand by your side. But you are an exception. Not all children would be able to learn as much as you have in as short of a time."

"How do you know if you don't try?" Anakin persists.

"I—" Obi-Wan starts, and then he stops. "I must be losing my touch. I don't know, Anakin," he admits and Anakin wants to crow about winning another argument. He settles for radiating his happiness into their bond. "Don't brag, it's unbecoming," Obi-Wan chides but there's a smile in his words and a sense of pride in their bond. "It hadn't worked a long time ago but the current system's been in place for hundreds of years."

Anakin sobers and tightens his hold on Obi-Wan. "And because of that system, you grew up without your parents. You never got to spend any time with them. Do you even know what their names are?" Part of him wants to track down Obi-Wan's parents to see what they're like. He doesn't know if he would be more likely to tell them (at length) what a great Jedi Obi-Wan is or if he would be more likely to demand to know how they could possibly give him away like they didn't care about him. His heart starts pounding with the strength of his anger and he feels lightheaded.

"Steady, Anakin." Obi-Wan turns his head and Anakin pulls back just enough to meet his eyes. He arches his eyebrows and takes a slow, deep breath.

Anakin takes the hint and follows suit. They take a couple more breaths together, falling in sync with each other. With each inhale, they sink deeper into their bond and Anakin feels himself calm down more and more as he immerses himself in Obi-Wan's mind and welcomes Obi-Wan into his.

"I don't know my parents' identities, though I could have asked at any time. The Council keeps the information in a holocron for safekeeping but they don't withhold it from Jedi who ask though they do want to know why it's being requested," Obi-Wan says and Anakin feels an uptick of ire but it disperses before it has a chance to really set in. "I've never wanted to know," Obi-Wan continues. "I've never had a relationship with them, I don't have memories of them, I don't have any plans to find them. I've never missed them the way you missed your mother because I never had them around. So their names would mean nothing more to me than any others."

"But aren't you curious about who they are? Why they gave you away? What they're like?"

"Not particularly. None of us had parents growing up. I never felt like I was missing anything. We rarely even saw non-Jedi until we became Padawans and left the Temple."

Anakin was aghast. "But surely, you learned about how other children had parents. Didn't you wonder what happened to yours?"

Obi-Wan's voice takes on an academic tone. "We had several courses on intergalactic society and cultures. Family units are structured differently across the galaxy so we knew that at least some of us had come from societies where we would have had parents had we stayed there. But it didn't matter. We were meant to become Jedi, we had to devote ourselves to learning how to use the Force, the crechemasters made sure our needs were met, our classes taught us the rules of society and how to interact properly with other beings, and we had companionship in each other. We had everything we needed."

Anakin's heart clenches. "Everything except love and affection and unconditional acceptance. Someone to say they were proud of you, someone to hug you when you were upset, kiss you goodnight, tuck you into bed, tell you stories, tell you that everything's going to be okay." He feels sick, imagining all the younglings growing up in the creche under the guidance of elderly Masters who were kind but distant, hearing only that attachments were wrong and that their emotions were going to lead them to the Dark Side. He doesn't realize he's crying until he feels teardrops spill out of his eyes and down his cheeks.

"Anakin?" Obi-Wan says, sounding and feeling worried. He raises one hand to cup his cheek and Anakin turns into it, presses a kiss to the palm. "It really wasn't that bad."

"You're just saying that because you don't know what you're missing," Anakin mutters. "You were basically raised just like the clones, to serve a single purpose. And the Jedi are treated the same. We're given orders and expected to follow them, not question them; mission objectives that we're expected to complete without any divergence. We're sent out at the head of an army, and never mind that some Jedi aren't suited to lead soldiers or fight in battle, never mind that Jedi have been dying left and right in this war, never mind that we haven't even had time to really train the next generation of Initiates, we're just out there fighting this neverending droid army that they keep making in factories and no one ever asks why or how things ended up this way!"

Obi-Wan stills.

"I'm sorry," Anakin says, breathing harshly. His heart pounds so loud he can hear it like a syncopated drumbeat in his ears. "This just... really got to me."

"No," Obi-Wan says slowly, thoughts racing through his head and spilling over into Anakin's though they're going too fast for him to catch any of it. "You've given me a lot to think about."

Anakin's startled. "Really?"

"Yes. Do you want some of this tea?" he asks suddenly, tilting his head up to look at Anakin out of the corner of his eyes.

"That better not have any caff in it. You had far too much of that yesterday," Anakin responds disapprovingly.

"I think I'm old enough to decide what's too much for me, thank you," Obi-Wan says curtly, but his gaze is soft and warm.

"I'll dump all the stim teas into the compactor if I have to," Anakin threatens.

Obi-Wan pinches his arm and he yelps at the sudden, sharp pain. "Don't even think about touching my tea."

Anakin pouts against his skin and sighs loudly. "Fine, fine. I'll just have to find some other way to keep you away from caff then." He deliberately pictures himself very creatively helping Obi-Wan stay awake late at night and bites his lip when he feels Obi-Wan flushing.

Obi-Wan says, sounding a little strangled, "Very well. That's acceptable. Now, do you want some of this tea or not?" He gently rubs at the spot that he'd pinched.

Anakin shakes his head. "I'll just take a couple of sips from yours."

"I'll get you a cup," Obi-Wan says instead. Anakin presses a smile into the curve of his neck. As he stretches over to one of the cabinets to grab a second cup, Anakin shifts with him, not wanting to loosen his grip. This is quite a long hug, Obi-Wan thinks.

Of course it is. It's going to be an epic hug, to make up for all the ones you didn't get.

Obi-Wan chuckles and pours out a second cup of tea. He holds it out for Anakin to take but Anakin just shakes his head and opens his mouth. "Seriously?" Obi-Wan asks, sounding both exasperated and fond. But he sinks into their bond a bit more and Anakin can tell he's using it to somehow gage where Anakin's mouth is in relation to his hand and tilt the cup at the right angle for Anakin to take a sip. He sets it down when Anakin indicates he's had enough and picks up his own cup.

"Now, what got you so upset earlier?" he asks, remembering the unusual flare of anger he'd felt from Obi-Wan while he and Artoo had been in the Archives.

Obi-Wan sighs heavily. "It's been diverted, I hope." But, they want you to report on the Chancellor's activities, he shares. He's shut the Jedi out of his decisions and that's making them worry. His thoughts are tinged with regret and worry and indignation.

They want me to WHAT? Anakin responds. He can't believe it. The Chancellor's done nothing to warrant the Council's suspicions, why would they be asking him to spy on him? What is it that they think he's doing?! Besides trying to hold the Republic together during this kriffin' war?! He only realizes he's tightened his arms further around Obi-Wan when he feels the other man wince. He loosens his grip with a silent apology but buries his nose in the crook of Obi-Wan's neck. I don't understand, he complains. And he doesn't. They're all on the same side, fighting for the same cause, why does it feel like things are splitting apart between them?

I know, Obi-Wan soothes. I don't believe the Council knows of anything untoward about the Chancellor. But it makes them nervous not to know where the Republic is heading. The Jedi are, for better or worse, on the front lines right now and if we don't know what to expect, we're more vulnerable. But it wasn't fair of them to ask you to be the one to do this.

But you don't think it's unfair for them to have someone spying on one of our own. Anakin feels very tired suddenly.

He's not really one of ours . He may care for you and consider you to be a friend but that doesn't necessarily mean that he sees the rest of the Order in the same way. And he's an elected official, which means he has constituents he needs to answer to and his own political career to think of which means he may be making decisions that the Jedi don't agree with. And the Jedi don't get a vote in the Senate. The only way their concerns are heard are by direct communication with the Chancellor. Which they haven't been able to do.

Anakin's heart sinks. So you think I should do what they're asking.

No, Obi-Wan thinks emphatically, surprising him. I think you should not be involved at all. Whatever the Council's concerns, they can find their own ways of assuaging it. Asking you to do it may be expedient for them but it's not right and I won't let them pull you into this.

Anakin goes boneless in relief. He's not going to have to go behind the Chancellor's back after all. He doesn't like that the Council is second-guessing the Chancellor but there are many things the Council does that he doesn't like. He's gotten used to the feeling.

It does make sense, though, what Obi-Wan is saying. Once he would have gotten angry that Obi-Wan seemed to be questioning the Chancellor as well but he knows that Obi-Wan is only thinking about the good of the Republic and he trusts Obi-Wan. And he's right. The Jedi can't be blind to the Chancellor and the Senate's plans in the war. If they don't work together to end this war, it'll just keep dragging on. Maybe we can talk to him. Directly. See what's causing the division. If anyone can bring us all back on the same page, it's you.

Obi-Wan feels hesitant about that, though. Let's not rush into involving ourselves. It may not be necessary and we've got a lot on our plate already.

Mm, okay. If you say so, Anakin thinks, feeling agreeable.

They continue to stand there for some time—Anakin with his arms wrapped around Obi-Wan, chest plastered to his back, cheek resting on his shoulder, and eyes closed against the harsh light of the kitchen; Obi-Wan with one hand absently stroking the back of Anakin's left hand, eyes staring unseeingly at the wall while he thinks. Anakin can sense him reviewing missions from before and after the start of the war, Council briefings and debriefings, interactions with the Senate and the Chancellor. He's not sure if Obi-Wan's looking for anything in particular but he's content to just relish the closeness with Obi-Wan and drift in the sanctuary of their bond.