During the birth, Obi-Wan holds Padme’s hand. It’s hard to tell how present she truly is, especially through the bloody trauma of the whole wretched affair. Each ragged gasp for breath rasping painfully through a nearly collapsed esophagus is a terrible reminder of how they got here; him and her. Obi-Wan shoulders a little bit more of the pain, siphoning it off through the Force, and she squeezes his hand just the smallest bit harder.
He only lets go of her hand when the emdee droid announces that both of the babies— both of them, twins, and both just as bright in the Force—are healthy and moves to place them into Obi-Wan’s arms.
Perhaps it is an act of gratitude that Padme meets his eyes and smiles at him when she names the twins— Luke for the boy and Leia for the girl—or perhaps it is forgiveness. Whatever the case may be, Obi-Wan never gets the chance to ask.
Padme meets his eyes with something so soft and so warm in them—something weighed down with grief but absent of any malice, absent of any pain—names her babies, and slips as gentle as a sigh into the Force. She is dead before Obi-Wan can promise the babies’ safety, dead before he can apologize for all the ways in which he has failed her (both as a pseudo-sort of brother-in-law, as a mentor to her husband, and as a Jedi), dead before he can beg her not to go.
Another life amidst a thousand others that have been lost today.
An infant fist bursts free of the blanket intended to swaddle them, wet and warm and breathtakingly new when it collides with Obi-Wan’s cheek in a flailing smack. The culprit—Leia—scrunches her wrinkly, red face up like a grouchy old-man and screams. Luke kicks off not a second later, both of them wailing with all their tiny might, their distress painful and obvious in the Force.
Obi-Wan all but collapses back into the chair at Padme’s bedside, fumbling with trembling hands to re-secure Leia as best as he can into her blanket. He presses them as close as he can to his skin, remembering as if from a distant, dream-like place what Bant had once told him about human (and near-human) babies needing skin-to-skin contact for some reason or another.
He doesn’t tell the babies to quiet down, doesn’t even dare to hush them. What right does Obi-Wan have to quiet the only means of vocalizing their displeasure at feeling their mother slip away merely moments after being born? Instead, he just holds them, nudging his soot-streaked and smoke-smelling robes parted with the Force so that they can feel the touch of skin, so that they can feel their heartbeat and know that he, at least, is here.
It isn’t much, Obi-Wan knows. He never quite has been enough. But it’s all he has to offer, anymore.
Like a child, he tucks his knees up towards his chest, balancing the balls of his feet on the edge of the chair and bracketing the crying new-borns between his chest and his legs. When Obi-Wan ducks his head down, pressing his own wet face atop their warm, still faintly-sticky heads, they begin to settle down some, their nova-bright presences in the Force flickering with awareness of his own.
“I’m so sorry,” he rasps, voice torn to shreds from screaming on the banks of Mustafar, trying vainly to get through to someone already long gone, “I’m so, so, sorry.”
And in that moment, Obi-Wan knows what he will do next. He hardly has the thought before he knows it is what he will do.
He has always struggled with attachment—he has always felt strongly and worked with bone-splintering intensity to temper those feelings, to follow the Code like the Jedi he wanted to be, wanted to prove he was capable of being. But he’s known the face of his weakness for a decade or two, now. Has known that he loves too strongly, that he becomes attached too easily, and has hated himself for it.
But here, at the end of the world he’s always known, his strength has all but abandoned him. Obi-Wan is grieving and furious and so weak . Not a Jedi. Not a general. Just a man that has lost nearly everything and still came out on the other side.
It all comes down to this: the babies in his arms are just so little.
How could he ever put them down?
The end of the world begins approximately twenty-four hours prior on Utapau when Commander Cody receives an unexpected transmission from a figure obscured by a thick robe. Cody thinks nothing of it before answering and by then, it is too late. The jaws of the trap have already closed—the vode are the teeth and the Jedi are poised right on the tongue.
“Commander Cody, execute order sixty-six.”
Meters below the cliff, Obi-Wan feels a cry of danger, danger, get away from the Force like nothing he’s ever felt before. Not even a moment passes before the steady, familiar Force-presences of his men blink out of existence.
On instinct alone, Obi-Wan reaches for their minds, feels them slipping out of his grasp like oil, feels their confusion and fear and thinks: oh, Force, please no.
He digs his metaphorical fingers in and pulls with all his might.
The technique that prevented utter catastrophe from occurring on Utapau at the end of the world began approximately a year and a half previous in a shoebox-sized conference room aboard the Negotiator.
It came after a campaign that was, by all rights, a complete and utter disaster. The 212th battalion faced their highest ever casualty rates after the Separatists had sliced into and subsequently scrambled their comms, leaving each squad deaf to the warnings of the others and deaf to the voices of their commanding officers. It was a kriffing bloodbath.
Obi-Wan finds himself tucked away in the war-room with his most trusted commanding officers and about four pots of caf between them all. Towers of pad after pad obscures their view of one another as they pour over reports in grim silence, but Obi-Wan knows their presences intimately by now. He knows that Cody is at his right, teeth gritted to the point of pain while Steady, the 212th's chief medical officer, carefully debrides a nasty wound on the commander’s thigh. Steady, for his part, is practically radiating frustration and despair. What part of that frustration belongs to the simple difficulty of being a war-time medic and what part belongs to the fact that Cody adamantly refused to actually go to the medbay, forcing Steady to follow him here to treat his wounds, Obi-Wan could not say. Waxer sits at his left, working shoulder to shoulder with Boil in silent, stone-faced solidarity. Pidge has been loudly and colorfully cursing out his frustration in the corner while he vainly attempts to repair their communications array via skillful slicing and code.
As he reviews another page of their ever-growing list of casualty reports, Obi-Wan reaches for his men’s presences in the Force as a balm to soothe his nerves. He’s far too sleep deprived, devastated, and hopped up on stims and caff alike to deny himself this weakness, and he reaches for their minds like a youngling grasping for their crechemates after a nightmare.
This is when it hits him.
Obi-Wan sets down the flimsi in his hands and steeples his hands under his chin.
“Gentleman,” he begins, absently swirling the dregs that remain in his fifth—sixth? seventh?—cup of the standard-issue sludge that counts as caff. “How much do you know about force-bonds?”
Waxer peers around a tower of flimsi to respond, blinking at him with puffy, tired eyes.
“Not much, General.”
“Kriffin’ nothing,” Steady chimes in. A shard of metal shrapnel pulled from Cody’s thigh about the size of Obi-Wan’s fingernail clinks against the metal dish Steady is using to collect them in punctuation.
“What are you thinking?” Cody asks.
It’s crazy. Sith hells, it’s certifiably insane. The council might well and truly dismiss him if they ever find out. But the simple fact is that Obi-Wan is already attached to his men. And further, he’s entirely unwilling to let this happen again.
“Force-sensitives have a unique ability to connect to the minds’ of others. A curious mix of empathic and telepathic abilities, Jedi have long practiced the creation of bonds between Masters and their padawans as a way to allow the padawan to safely explore their connection with the Force, buffeted by a Masters’ shielding and guidance. These Force-bonds, if strengthened and tended to, can allow rudimentary emotional communication over great distances, a keen awareness of the others’ well-being, and even, in some cases, functional telepathy.”
Cody, a step behind him in everything, is the first to hear what Obi-Wan has not yet said. “You want us to find a way to use your Force- osik to communicate on the battlefield,” he says, slow and deliberate.
Steady scrubs his free hand across his face and throws back the rest of his caff like a particularly unpleasant shot.
“But clones aren’t Force-sensitive,” Waxer blurts with a hasty, “Sir” tacked onto the end.
"Damn right we aren't," Pidge mutters, never once looking up from his pad.
“Force-bonds with non-sensitives are possible, albeit difficult and… frowned upon, if I’m being frank. I am confident that a handful of us could manage, given that I am… familiar with your minds already,” Obi-Wan admits.
Cody closes his eyes in a gesture that might be pained or perhaps just exhausted, Obi-Wan can’t really tell. Well. He could tell, if he reached out for Cody’s mind, but it feels extra invasive to do so while in the process of admitting to them that he has been doing so for months now without their knowledge.
(It’s reflexive, quite honestly. Obi-Wan has always been naturally empathic, far more attuned to the living presences of others than most Jedi. And one can hardly blame him, given the unavoidably close company he keeps with the men both while on campaign and aboard the Negotiator. It doesn’t make it excusable, but. Well. This war continues to prove to Obi-Wan every day that it trudges onwards that he is not quite the Jedi he wishes he was.)
“You’re telling me you’ve been reading our minds, General?” Cody asks.
“Nothing so drastic, I assure you,” Obi-Wan rushes to clarify. “I would never enter your minds without consent. To do so would be, quite frankly, an unforgivable violation. However it is… rather difficult to shield from… well, let’s call it the… background noise of a sentient mind in such close quarters.” At the perplexed looks of the men and Bones’ particularly ferocious and open curiosity, he continues, “Impressions of strong emotions are easy to pick out if I focus on a particular person. For lack of a better metaphor, it’s akin to moving closer to someone and inhaling quite deeply with the intention of picking out a particular scent from them, like a perfume, soap, or other scent, except instead of a physical action, it’s an extension of ones’ Force-sense towards that of another.
“Even if you are not force sensitive, every being has their own particular presence in the force. No one person’s presence, or mind, feels the same as another's, and the vode are no different. I’ve told you before that each of you feels very different in the Force and I meant that. I have become… quite familiar with the particular shape of each of your minds over the time that I have known you. I can’t imagine that it would be a particular hardship to teach the most senior officers such as yourselves to deepen that connection and turn it into something of greater immediate utility on campaign.
“If any of this is… disturbing to you, I will happily teach you to develop mental shielding enough to guard your emotions from any Jedi, including myself. I am asking this of you not as your superior officer, but as myself, because I… I do not want this to happen again. I do not want to lose so many of you when there is a plausible solution, albeit an unconventional one, right in front of us. You are free to refuse without repercussion, and if you say the word I will never so much as bring this up again—”
“Let’s do it,” Cody says, immediate and without hesitation. It severs Obi-Wan’s embarrassed ramblings as clean as a lightsaber strike.
“Agreed, Sir. We’re with you,” Steady is quick to chime in. Waxer and Boil nod in tandem.
Pidge shrugs. "Sure, why the hell not."
Obi-Wan’s beard rasps against his hand. “Are you all quite sure? It can be… intimate, to say the least. And you are entitled to your privacy, I wouldn’t dare impinge upon that.”
“You aren’t. And I don’t think you would, General,” Cody tells him, firm as he always is. Obi-Wan is, not for the first time, viciously grateful for his Commander.
With the particular sadism only a medic has, Steady slaps a bacta patch over Cody’s wound and grins like a feral lothcat at the Commander’s startled yelp. That done, he turns his full attention to Obi-Wan, still bearing his teeth like a particularly self-satisfied gundark and says, “Where do we start, General?”
Eventually, the twins’ cries die down. It could be only minutes or it could be hours. Either way, they eventually settle, and Obi-Wan moves to the door with them in his arms without any conscious choice to do so. He just… doesn’t want to be in this room anymore. Not with the woman he failed to save (the sister-in-law he never got to have, never knew he had, but would have loved fiercely) and not with the fretting emdee droid who keeps prodding him gently about getting looked over himself. So he stands. He moves. He leaves the room.
“Sir,” Cody is the first on his feet, his eyes wide and locked on the twins immediately. Waxer is close behind, mouth frozen open in shock.
Obi-Wan takes a deep breath and exhales slowly, mustering any scrap of composure left in him and coming up short. (Absently, he wonders how he must look to his men, right now. He doesn’t exactly want to think too hard about what they must see.)
“The senator…?” Cody asks.
He can only shake his head in reply, throat working desperately to conjure up words that just aren’t there.
“Two?” Waxer breathes, something that’s half-panic, half-awe in his voice.
“Twins,” Obi-Wan manages. It’s the first thing he has said since the apologies he whispered to beings that can’t yet understand them, and stars only know how long it has been since then. He’s sort of lost the thread. “A boy and a girl. Luke and Leia,” he croaks, his voice sounding as ripped to pieces as he feels.
He threw his Force-presence over the twins like a blanket as soon as he realized that the feeling of it calmed them. As it is, he’s so far extended towards them that the faint impressions he’s used to gleaning from his men are completely absent. Or maybe his men are shielding from him. As much as the thought pains him… well, it makes sense. Obi-Wan doesn’t even want to be in Obi-Wan’s head right now, either.
He must have slipped away for a moment again, because the next he knows, Cody has a gloved hand on his elbow and concern written plainly across his face.
“You should sit down, Sir. Let Waxer and I take the tubies for a minute,” he gentles. Despite the even, easy tone, despite knowing that it’s Cody and that, as the last twenty-four hours have successfully proved beyond a doubt, Cody would rather die than see any harm come to him, Obi-Wan can’t suppress his immediate reaction to the thought of putting the twins— his twins, his now, and he’ll die before he lets anything touch them— down.
He flinches back, a truly pitiable sound strangled half-way out his throat , lurching a foot or so back out of Cody’s steady grip and tightening his own on Luke and Leia.
Cody—incredible, intelligent, perfect Cody—raises his hands slowly and takes a step back, like Obi-Wan is a spooked animal that needs space. Obi-Wan almost laughs at how accurate that assessment is.
These are his men, the ones that refused to leave his side even as their brothers started disappearing before their eyes, and they deserve better than Obi-Wan’s half-manic hysteria. He swallows, jaw working, and forces himself to speak.
“Full disclosure, I don’t believe I am capable of letting go of them, at the moment.” He thinks for a beat and then adds, “Possibly ever.”
Cody, utterly perfect Cody, nods and replies, “Understood, Sir.”
"You might be right about sitting down, though," he muses, only really half-there. He speaks not a moment too soon before his knees buckle and his vision grows spotty. Obi-Wan only has the wherewithal to keep his grip on the twins as he buckles into Cody's arms while Waxer cries out with alarm. He trusts them to take care of the rest.