Alright, ner adate, I have a problem: I have over fifty pages of notes on character beats. However, aside from the finale —ten years from this point— I don't have many world interaction plot moments. If you have requests for what you would like me to put these characters through /Evil Laugh\, SPEAK NOW, or this story ends with a few more fluff chapters and a time skip finale :D
Chapter 20 - In These Small Hours
Obi-Wan didn't know what to say now that Mace was going to be his Master.
For once, his indeterminate age was not a problem. He had still been a Padawan at age twenty five and he needed help.
Holy Force did he need help. A part of him wanted to start right away, another part of him didn't want Mace to see how very far had fallen.
Obi-Wan stood, his buir catching his forearm to steady him off the bed. He waved Jango off, using the wall to get to the fresher.
He needed a shower, he smelled like bacta and the healthier he looked the sooner he could get out the healers wing.
He had no desire to run into Bant again.
Or any of his other creche mates for that matter, Bant was the loving and forgiving one.
Siri would probably spit on him.
He sighed, once he was alone.
Jango hadn't disowned him.
The Jedi, more specifically, Mace, wasn't abandoning him.
It was more than he deserved and he would be forever grateful.
Another man entered Obi-Wan's room, to which Jango had two simultaneous thoughts, where was Quinlan Vos and why the kriff were there so many giant Jedi?
Like Qui-Gon Jinn, this man was tall and broad shouldered. Like Jinn, his brown hair was long and pulled back from his face in a single braid.
"How is he?" the man asked without greeting.
Mace rose, "He's alright. Master Ali-Alann, this is Jango Fett, the man who adopted Obi-Wan."
"Which isn't past tense," Jango snapped. "So move along."
He had to tolerate Mace, Jango wasn't going to extend the curtsy to any other until Obi-Wan decided if they were going to stay or leave this place.
Ali-Alann stepped in to square off with Jango, and unlike the other Jedi, his face conveyed his emotions plainly, "He is my youngling, and you are the one responsible for throwing him into war."
Jango opened his mouth, but the Jetii cut him off.
"No, you will listen to me," his voice was low but heavy with emotion. "Jango Fett. You have endangered one of mine, and whether or not Obi-Wan agreed to it is irrelevant. You failed to keep him safe."
Jango snarled, "That's rich, I found him half drowned in a river."
The Jetii radiated hostility, reminding Jango of a fathier protecting its foal, "And I was the one left to repair the damage done to him when he was first brought to the Temple. Half-starved, dying from hypothermia, completely convinced that we would turn on him like your people had. Afraid to use his power, for fear of being killed."
Jango bristled, "Who in the hells are you?"
Something hard as Beskar flashed in the man's eyes, "I'm the one who raised him."
Mace stepped in, "Fett, this Obi-Wan's creche Master. Our younglings are raised by a community of Masters, but Master Ali-Alann was Obi-Wan's primary care giver."
Jango re-evaluated the man, but he couldn't quite hold his tongue. "Obi'ika has never mentioned you."
The Jetii seemed to grow larger, pushing further into Jango's space. "Except I can say with absolute certainty that Obi-Wan has never doubted me. Can you say the same, Fett?"
Jango thought of how easy it would be to kill this man. He never would, but he very much would like to do so.
Mace put a hand on Ali-Alann's chest, "Master, please, Obi-Wan needs a lodestone, not more conflict."
Jango frowned as he tried to figure out the dynamics between the two Jetiiese. Jango had thought Mace, a Council member and a Senator would have taken seniority over the babysitter. Instead, Mace's demeanour and tone were deferential.
Ali-Alann's anger deflated and he stepped back from Jango. He realized it wasn't anger the Jetii had been feeling precisely, he had been worried and protective.
Mace caught his confused gaze, "Jedi Knights are trained to control their emotions. But creche Masters, while being extremely skilled in shielding and defusing energy into the Force, need to be more emotive to handle the younglings. Their duty is to give comfort and provide safe shelter. It is the duty of other teachers to help guide the younglings in the greater world."
"You're his father," Jango said, more confused by Jetii culture than he had ever been.
"I'm his family," Ali-Alann returned.
Jango had a sinking sensation that what he had previously thought had been a small circle of loved ones was much larger than he had perceived.
How much of himself had Obi-Wan hidden away?
They all turned to the ad'ika, who was barefoot but wearing cream tunics and brown pants.
Jango was used to seeing Obi-Wan, they lived on the same small ship after all. But over the last few years, it had been blacks or in full armour.
But the Jetii robes suited him, hiding his brilliance as a fighter and war leader, and yet brought out the softer side of him. The part who would let himself be led around by three little girls, the boy who enjoyed tea, and the presence of green things.
"Young one," Ali-Alann said with so much warmth, Jango felt like an outsider.
Oki'ika's face crumbled and he ran into the Master Jetii's arms. Burying his face in the Master's robes, Obi-Wan's whole body was shaking with silent tears as he was enveloped in the older Jedi's outer robe.
Master Ali-Alann was murmuring soft nothings as he rubbed Obi-Wan's back. Unabashed tears fell from his closed eyes into Obi-Wan's hair that was still damp from the shower.
Mace jerked his chin toward the door, and Jango nodded, grabbing his helmet as he left with the Senator.
Obi-Wan didn't notice them leaving.
"Jealousy won't help either of you," Mace said as they walked through the halls that were shot through by tree branches. Jango didn't know where he was going, and he honestly didn't give a kriff.
In answer to the Senator's commentary, Jango signed a particular vulgar swear.
Mace didn't speak sign, but he got the message.
Good for him.
The Jetii let out a long sigh, "You aren't going to learn a completely diverse culture from your own overnight, Jango."
"I thought you said our cultures were similar," Jango bit out.
Obi-Wan had said that.
"Will you expect me to understand all the hierarchies and nuances of your people?" Mace asked casually.
Jango opened his mouth then closed it.
"Obi-Wan has lost who he is, you must give him space to do so. I believe he will waver between our cultures—"
"Again, he chose us. He is a Mandalorian."
"Stop that," the Senator chastised before continuing. "Until he finds who being of both our peoples. He will be unique, extraordinary, but you know as well as I do that being different isn't easy, no matter how gifted or talented one is."
Jango let out a long breath.
"There is a saying in the creches," Mace said.
Jango glared at him, "To be clear, if you keep talking to me in metaphors or ancient proverbs, I'm going don't punch you in the face."
Best to be upfront.
Mace smirked as if to say, 'I would like to see you try.'
Jango's hand twitched.
Mace went on, "Creche Masters don't judge."
Jango glared at him, "Saying what, that he's a better father than I am?"
"We are religious people."
"Weapons are my religion," Jango said, unimpressed.
Mace quirked a brow, "And Jedi's weapons are sentient. To use them properly, you must have a spiritual bond with them."
Jango sighed, deciding this was going to be a looooong road.
"But what I mean is that creche Masters act as a counterweight to our traditions of attachment. They are their youngling's confidant and safe harbour. We also have policies to keep creche Masters especially well guarded. They are not permitted to go onto missions or to wander far from the Temple."
"You keep them prisoner?" Jango asked.
"Life will teach death. The life of a Jedi is often one of abrupt change. A creche Master is stability, they are home. As too often happens in a culture like ours that teaches restraint and in which attachments are looked at with a critical gaze, many suppress their feelings rather than deal with what is troubling them.
"Ideally, they should go to their Masters, and there aren't many Jedi in the Order who wouldn't help if asked. We also have healers for trauma. But when worst come to worse—"
"Creche masters don't judge," Jango finished, sort of seeing how that was different from a parent.
But only somewhat.
"I won't say everyone remembers that, or that many return to their creche Masters, but there's no stigma against it. Creche Masters are also under no obligation to share what they learn with others, including a Padawan's Master or the High Council. There is no shame in turning to a creche Master."
"Unconditional love," Jango said, watching a breeze shake the leaves outside the windows.
"Yes. It is my understanding that a parent's duty transcends that one responsibility. Creche Masters are guardians, but a Master-Jedi bond is closer to your definition of a parent. A Master is both guardian and mentor, a creche Master is simply cherished."
Jango rubbed his eyes, "But a Master Jedi is less and more than a parent. You people divide up your relations unnecessarily."
"But it is necessary. A Force sensitive life is in danger of those who would use them. We have a commercial value through no act of our own. Then there are the gifts themselves, our philosophies, our connections to others, our connection to all things. The Force is both a living thing, and our faith, our religion defines who we become and how we treat others. Those are complex relationships. Although we are not perfect, our culture exists as it does to support our people through this life and onto whatever path they choose."
Mace put a hand on Jango's shoulder, stopping them beneath a canopy of trees, a light missed cooling the air.
"Obi-Wan needs those supports, he has lost his way, but never forget, that path he chose was you and your people. He needs the Order, but he wants to be a Mandalorian."
"You think he doesn't want to be a Jedi Knight?"
Mace smiled sadly, "I think he already is. Regaining control will mark his independence, freedom from his emotions that the Force will take advantage of, like water carving its way to the ocean. But he had control once, and he was not content with the man he became."
Stupid time travel. It wasn't that Jango didn't believe it, it was merely that he wished Obi'ika wasn't suffering as much as he clearly was.
"What he is; is a Mandalorian." Jango choked, "And he tried to kill himself."
Which until this moment, wasn't something he had been able to admit to himself. He had blamed the magic, but he couldn't blame it all on that.
The Jetii met his gaze with dark eyes, "He cut himself into pieces trying to be perfect for both our peoples. We must show he doesn't need to break to be who he is in either of his homes."
Jango nodded, pulling away. He was grateful when the Jetii made no attempt to follow him.
Obi-Wan had made himself forget how wonderful Master Ali-Alann was even though he knew part of that was the type of Force training they underwent.
It was a bit like being trained to trick minds or influence animals.
A creche Master had the technique to drop a full grown Master into a sleeping trance. They carried lightsabers, or at least, most did, but what they specialized in was emotions and shielding. Obi-Wan had learned shielding from Master Ali-Alann, who had been the only person in the Order he had allowed to touch him when he was brought to the Order.
Obi-Wan dimly remembered some worrying about him, about his fear and anger. But that had dissipated, because of Master Ali-Alann and his health improving, and likely being around people who didn't hate him on site.
Obi-Wan remembered trying to bring Anakin to Ali-Alann, but Anakin had lost his temper repeatedly. Anytime he mentioned the creche Masters to his apprentice, Anakin had two explosive reactions, I am not a baby and How could you replace Qui-Gon?
None of Obi-Wan's attempts to explain were ever listened to, and the few times he invited Ali-Alann over, he had walked out.
The disrespect, admittedly, had upset Obi-Wan. He became increasingly more embarrassed by Anakin's behaviour. Which had only survived to backfire, driving a wedge between them.
Anakin wanted Obi-Wan to be as expressive as someone like Master Ali-Alann could be when the moment called for it. But Obi-Wan might have been skilled in shielding, controlling his temper, not letting his depression rule him, simply didn't leave him a whole lot of energy to be expressive.
It certainly wasn't something Qui-Gon had ever desired from him.
Obi-Wan had held out hope that when Anakin overcame his youth, he might apply himself to the creches. It required a few years of healing training and intensive training, but training that Anakin would have likely excelled at.
Hells, Anakin had had the power to calm and shield every clan in the Temple from harm.
But that's not what happened.
Ali-Alann ruffled his hair, "Do you want to talk about it, young one?"
Obi-Wan shook off the thoughts, finding it easy to ground himself here, surrounded by growing things and other Jedi than on either Coruscant or Mandalore.
It helped that this place was both familiar, yet foreign, so none of his faulty memories could confuse him.
Ali-Alann hummed, "Finish your food, Obi-Wan."
Obi-Wan winced, "I'm not really hungry."
Ali-Alann smiled and though he said nothing, his silence was an end to any argument.
Obi-Wan supposed there were reasons people tended not to return to their creche Master's for help.
They could be worse than the healers in their fussing.
Which is why a knock came and Quin came in, Obi-Wan was relieved for the distraction.
"Obi-Wan!" Quin said brightly, his braids pulled back by a ribbon, his black clothes were casual, and Obi-Wan suspected strongly that something had happened to his personal wardrobe.
Obi-Wan could count on one hand the number of times Quin had worn Jedi robes, even if they were black and deepest brown like Anakin had prefered.
Obi-Wan smiled, "Hi, Quin."
Quin grinned, "Hi, Master Ali-Alann."
Obi-Wan's smiled until Quin hopped onto the bed beside them.
Moving back from him, Obi-Wan said in a rush, "Quin, wait! My shields-"
Master Ali-Alann rested a hand on Obi-Wan's shoulder, "I've got you, youngling. No harm will come to you here."
Obi-Wan relaxed despite himself as Quinlan wrapped an around him and leaned into his side, "My shielding is getting better too, Obi-Wan. You're not the only one who has grown."
Obi-Wan poked Quin's bicep, which even beneath the robes gave some definition. "Really? Hadn't noticed."
Quin laughed again, then kissed his cheek, "Whatever, Sith Slayer."
Obi-Wan stiffened, "Jango and Jaster killed him."
Quin snorted, "You took off his hand and that's after blowing the infamous Tor Vizsla sky high, oh, and that was all after winning a war, bringing peace to Mandalore, being kidnapped by a terrorist organization, and being sold into slavery."
"You didn't tell anyone, right?" Obi-Wan asked.
Quin laughed, "No, your badassness is a well guarded secret. You miraculously coming back from the dead as a Mandalorian, not so much so."
Obi-Wan shook his head, not excited for the Temple's drama, but he still teased Quin back. "You know, I thought you would be the first to visit. Mace has already asked me to be his Padawan."
Quin froze, "What did you say?"
Obi-Wan hugged Quin's braid, "That I'll have to start growing out a Padawan braid. I'm taking bets on how quickly my buir complains about the practicallessness of them."
Quin hugged him back, Master Ali-Alann remained quiet, present, but content to give them space.
"Welcome home, Obi-Wan," Quin said with earnest.
Obi-Wan inclined his head, but diverted the conversation. "Really though, I don't think I sensed you when I woke up yesterday."
"Master Tholme and I were bringing some of the Zygerrian captives back to their rightful homes."
Obi-Wan was about to reply when another knock came to the door.
He reached out with the Force to sense who it was and momentarily forgot how to breathe.
Sensing the change, Ali-Alann pulled the hospital tray away and rose to greet whoever was at the door.
The door swished open and Master Ali-Alann stepped aside to reveal a woman with dark tumbling hair. She wore Jedi robes and though she was clearly Force sensitive, she didn't precisely feel like a Jedi.
Obi-Wan thought he recognized her, but he couldn't place her.
He was, at any rate, more distracted by the bundle of blankets in her arms.
She offered him a kind smile, her voice was as soothing as Master Ali-Alann's as she said, "Mandalorian Obi-Wan, I heard you were here and I wanted to see if you were alright and to thank you."
"Thank me for what?" he asked after swallowing hard.
"I tripped in your path, you helped me not to get trampled and directed me to the Jedi's ships. You saved our lives."
Obi-Wan took in a shaky breath, remembering the woman who had helped to her feet before Satine had been killed.
He hadn't seen the light of her or the one she held in her arms.
"It was no problem. I think you know my name, Obi-Wan Kenobi, this is my friend, Quinlan Vos, and our creche Master, Master Ali-Alann."
She curtsied to them, "It is an honour to meet you." She stepped forward holding her arms down a bit so they could see the newborn. "I'm Aashmi, and this is my son, Anakin Skywalker."
Obi-Wan felt his world tip off its axis.
He had been so angry with the Force, for all that it had done to him, for all that he had shown him. Obi-Wan hadn't regretted time travelling, but he hadn't exactly wanted to survive the consequences of the things he had changed or seen.
Not until now.
"Could I hold him please?" he asked, not taking his eyes off the tiny one surrounded by plush blankets.
Aashmi's smile was soft, "Of course, without you, he wouldn't have made it into this world."
Quin pulled back so Obi-Wan could hold his arms out.
Obi-Wan fought not to cry. He had been doing enough crying lately and he wasn't sure if he could explain it to Aashmi.
She lowered the babe into his arms as if the baby were the most precious being in the galaxy.
And he was.
Burning as brightly as he ever had before, Anakin shone like a star with a heart of kyber.
"Hello there, Anakin," Obi-Wan said softly to the infant who looked up at him with curious blue eyes.
He was so very small. Obi-Wan couldn't get over how delicate his features were, nor how quiet he was, searching Obi-Wan's face as if he could see all of him.
And maybe he could as a moment later, Obi-Wan since an inexperienced light up a long dormant bound.
It shouldn't have surprised him, Qui-Gon had retained a ribbon of their old Padawan-Master bond where it had never existed in this time before, why shouldn't his connection to his own Padawan be any different?
It was an effort to break eye contact with the inquisitive newborn's gaze, to look up at Aashmi who was smiling down at both of them, none of the trauma she had endured in her life seemed to sway her current happiness and contentment.
"Are you both staying with the Jedi?" he asked because he had to know. Had to know if he would have the opportunity to glimpse Anakin grow up happy or if this would be another goodbye.
It was Ali-Alann who answered though, "Aashmi Skywalker and her son have been accepted into the Order. Ashmi has actually begun to undergo training to become a creche Master."
"That's wonderful," Obi-Wan managed to get out, his gaze pulled back down to the newborn.
Obi-Wan didn't so much tug on their bond as lay his happiness along it.
You're going to be free, Ani. You're never going to have to suffer the way you did before. You don't need to be afraid anymore.
Palpatine had been defeated before the Sith had ever learned of Anakin's existence.
Obi-Wan continued speaking through the bond, though he understood that Anakin was far too little to understand, You're mother is going to be cherished by our people. You'll never have to wonder what became of her, because you'll know and no one will ever separate you. You're both free and you can be absolutely whoever you wish to be.
Anakin's mother was as wonderful as her son had ever said she was, because she didn't rush Obi-Wan, allowing him to hold onto this proof of hope that they could all be better than who they might have been.
Obi-Wan startled when he felt Anakin communicate back over the bond. The newborn's eyes widened and Anakin made a sound that wasn't quite a laugh but a cooing that conveyed his startled happiness.
Another tug on the bond from babe resulted in that same cooing sound that even had Quin enraptured.
Obi-Wan tugged gentle back on that golden cord, I'm here, Ani. I'm here with you.
Anakin screeched his coo, beating his little fists out of the nest of blankets in his excitement. Obi-Wan offered him a finger which Ani immediately caught with a strength that seemed impossible for one so small.
For a space of time, the Darkness had no foothold in Obi-Wan, surrounded as he was by light and love, and the newly born hope that he believed he had abandoned long ago.
AN: Yes, she did show up in chapter 15, and yes, I cried as I wrote this. I also swear to the Force that when I finished this chapter, the song that started playing on my radio was "Little Wonders."
Thoughts, seahorses, or feedback on the chapter and/or requests moving forward, pretty please?