The smell was strong and unpleasant, but both men were so used to it that they were able to walk through the room without a grimace contorting their features. The walls of the place – and old factory in Coruscant’s machinery district – seemed to be falling piece by piece, what had probably been shiny white paint broken almost completely to the point in which it was an ugly brown. The floor, covered in simple concrete, produced an echo when meeting the steps of both men.
“He is the fifth one, the second this month.”
Mace pointed at the laying figure on the floor, burying both hands on his black jacket’s pockets and looking away. It was the first time he saw one of the victims for real, and the pictures hadn’t prepared him for such a cruel reality.
“Who is in charge of the case?”
“Kit. He should be arriving now, Luminara, too.”
Obi-Wan hummed in acknowledgment and walked towards the lifeless body, crouching to examine it closely. It had been years since he saw something like this. He was a young man that couldn’t be more than fifteen, naked, both hands and feet were tied and he was visibly tortured. The hair had been cut with no precision and the skin of his lips had been torn away. An ear was missing. It was an image that made him remember the reason he had quitted this job. Or at least one of them.
“Same pattern?” he asked, looking up at Mace.
“Same pattern. No prints, no clues, clean, fast, professional cuts.” Mace sighed, shook his head. “He doesn’t leave us a thing to work with.”
“Or she, as far as we now.”
“No, and no apparent motive either; no notes, he doesn’t seem to have a purpose. Is the most mysterious case we’ve had in years.”
“And what do you want from me, Mace?”
“You know, same as always.”
Obi-Wan stood up and Mace followed the movement with his eyes, shrugging.
“Investigate a little, look at the pictures, help us. No compromise.”
“Mace, you know I don’t–”
“Do this anymore, I know. I know it’s not your job anymore and that you’re happy teaching kids at the university, but you’re the best and we’re desperate.”
Mace wished he could draw a pout to help his petition, but he just gave Obi-Wan his most desperate look, incapable of conjuring any other gesture. After all, he was the head chief of the Police Department and he had a reputation to maintain.
“No compromise, just give it a look.”
Obi-Wan shook his head, sighing. There were some things that were impossible to leave behind, and his old job seemed to be one of those.
“Good!” Mace widened his smile instinctively. "I’ll make Luminara give you all the necessary information, you see each other at the university every day, right?”
Obi-Wan nodded, looking at the lifeless body once again. This city was rotten.
“Can I ask you one last favor?”
Obi-Wan arched an eyebrow, adjusting his tie to the white collar of his shirt in a gesture born out of habit.
“You’ll choke if you keep doing that.”
Obi-Wan just finished the movement, straightening then some wrinkles his long black coat had gotten from the continuous rain that consumed the city in this time of the year.
“That other favor…?”
“Oh yes, could you talk to Quinlan? See if he knows anything about this.”
“Why don’t you do that? He is a police’s contact, not mine.”
“He doesn’t listen to me.” Mace crossed his arms over his chest, repressing a sigh. “And he annoys me to no end.”
“Sure, Mace, I’ll talk to him.”
“Long time no see.”
Quinlan left both beers on the table and sat on the chair that faced Obi-Wan’s, a smile adorning his features.
“Anyone would say you don’t have time for me anymore.”
“What business do a professor and a bounty hunter have, Quinlan?”
Obi-Wan leaned both elbows on the table, loosening his tie now that he was in a more casual environment. Quinlan always made him feel comfortable enough to lose the uptight professor look.
“Bounty hunter?” Quinlan arched an eyebrow, giving the yellow that covered part of his face a lighter color for a few seconds. “You offend me, old friend.”
Obi-Wan laughed softly, watching Quinlan take a sip from his drink.
Quinlan was certainly the most extravagant character that surrounded him. It was true that Mace, the police chief, and Luminara, professor and head of the police forensics department weren’t exactly normal either, but Quinlan definitely beat them all. His past was a mystery, so was the business that occupied him, but Obi-Wan knew he could trust him.
It had been Qui-Gon who had introduced them years ago, when Obi-Wan had been an idealist young man coming out of the academy and into the real world, and Quinlan… the same man he was now, just younger. To anyone who didn’t know him, Quinlan was just a bounty hunter like the hundreds that lived in the city, but to the police he was their most loyal contact with the streets.
“So tell me, what motivated such an urgent call? Police business?”
Quinlan sat back, looking around him in a way Obi-Wan had learned to like.
“You know anything about the murdered kids? Mace wants me to give it a look.”
“Curious business that one.”
Quinlan got closer to the table in a confidence gesture born out of years of paranoia. Quinlan knew the streets, and he was aware that someone could be listening all the time.
“A complete mystery, no one seems to know a thing and no one wants to talk about it… but I can investigate here and there if you want me to.”
“Sure, Mace seems a little desperate.”
“And why didn’t he contact me before?”
Quinlan leaned back again, a mockingly offended gesture on his face. Obi-Wan chuckled.
“I think you irritate him.”
Quinlan huffed and Obi-Wan widened his smile, fingers starting to tap unconsciously on the table, next to the bottle full of beer.
“How are you, Quinlan?”
Quinlan half smiled; Obi-Wan was one of the few people that genuinely worried about him. “As always Obi, a job here, a job there, surviving.” Quinlan shrugged, rescuing a cigarette from the pocket of his leather coat. “But I’ve lost Aayla definitely.”
“Did you ever have her?”
Quinlan smirked while he lighted his cigarette, inhaling strongly. “No, I guess not. I think she’s with Kit.”
Quinlan nodded, and Obi-Wan took the tapping hand to the bottle, clutching it but not taking it to his mouth.
“The case’s his.”
“Oh, cool. I bet they look good together, blue hair, green hair, a real match.”
“Me?” Quinlan arched an eyebrow, pointing at himself. “Of course not.”
Obi-Wan half smiled.
“Besides, I’ve got a new love now, don’t know why I never noticed him before.”“Is it a him?”
“It’s a him.”
“And who’s the lucky one this time?” Obi-Wan’s voice was mocking, but Quinlan preferred to ignore him. Obi-Wan wasn’t the only one who considered his seduction tactics a little bit excessive, after all.
“Mace? Are you out of your mind, Quin?”
“Of course not, Mace is in love with me, he’s been for years,” assured Quinlan, almost daring someone to deny the fact.
“Sure, he just doesn’t know it yet.”
Obi-Wan laughed, incredulous.
“And what about you? Any cute student willing to do anything to get a better grade?” Quinlan wiggled both eyebrows.
“Please Quin, what kind of–”
“I know, I know, too much morality to do such a thing, right? Sincerely mate, you need to get laid.”
Obi-Wan huffed, slightly infuriated. “What makes you think I’m not?”
“Just look at the way you’re clutching the bottle.” Obi-Wan looked at his hand, surrounding the bottle with firm fingers. He moved it away quickly, looking back at Quinlan. “You clearly need a quickie. I could–”
“Oh no, we’re not going there.” Obi-Wan crossed his arms over his chest, shook his head.
“I thought you were after Mace?” asked Obi-Wan this time, arching an eyebrow.
“Oh, you’re the first one on my list.”
“I’m flattered, Quin, really.”
The local was on the edge of the district that belonged to the prostitutes by right, close enough for the veterans to look for clients there, scantily clad in leather corsets and high heels while the pouring rain fell on their faces. Obi-Wan entered the place before any of them could spot him as a potential client.
Obi-Wan offered the guard a nod and walked towards his usual table without awakening any special interest on the rest of the clients: some regulars and some he had never seen, most of them bounty hunters and probably killers. Dex’s was probably the classiest local around there, but the alcohol, the fast food and the spectacle always attracted the most vulgar people.
The little scenario the tables looked at didn’t show strippers or live sex, as places like this used to do, but an entertainment that was sexual but not offensive. At that moment, a girl in a golden bikini danced to the rhythm of oriental music with as snake as only extra adorning; no one seemed to be paying her much attention, though.
Obi-Wan looked up when the waitress approached his table, answering the common salute with a kind smile.
“Same as always?”
Obi-Wan nodded, and the girl walked away.
It had been Quinlan who had taken him there for the first time, infatuated as he had been with the waitress. Aayla Secura, a blue haired young woman who felt quite comfortable in tight leather clothing and who had the guts to face any man who made a pass at her had obsessed Quinlan for years, until now, it seemed. Of course, that hadn’t stopped Quinlan from shagging anything that had motor skills, after all, and in his own words: ‘I’m only human.’.
From the day Quinlan had brought him here, Obi-Wan had become a regular. He went to the local four nights a week, sat on the same table with a glass of whisky he never drank and waited for Mimi – the snake girl – to finish her show. Just like she was doing now. And then, he appeared.
The old announcements that adorned the local’s door called him Anakin, but Obi-Wan couldn’t be sure that was his name, and he had never dared to ask. Anakin… he liked the way it sounded, anyway.
Said man appeared on the scenario then, and he seemed to attract all the looks Mimi hadn't gotten. Every night he appeared with a different outfit, a theme that was always ignored in favor of his deliciously swinging hips. This time he was wearing the one Obi-Wan had defined as ‘the rocker’, tight black leather pants, ripped in the right places, and nothing else.
Even if Obi-Wan closed his eyes, he could see the rip on his knee, the other one on his tight and the third one just where the leg became buttock, but why closing his eyes when seeing such a show? Naked chest covered in a light layer of sweat, bare feet and hips moving to the sexy beat of the music.
Oh, those hips were the best part of his day.
Before the Dean could start one of his stories about a battle she had never heard of and in which she wasn’t interested, Luminara stopped him with a soft smile and a penetrating look, announcing him in a tone that wouldn’t take no for an answer that she had to meet with Obi-Wan urgently. To that, the Dean just said his goodbyes and wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.
Luminara had been the one to recommend Obi-Wan as a teacher for the university when he had left the police department, and that was maybe why everyone firmly believed that their friendship was actually something else. Seeing how that gave them an excuse to run away from all kinds of events and to avoid uncomfortable flirting from other partners, none of them had denied it.
Luminara walked down the hallway with slow steps, nodding sporadically to faces she recognized as students from her classes, and she stopped in front of the door marked with the words O. Kenobi. She knocked on the door softly and opened it, not waiting for an answer, just in time to see Obi-Wan’s eyes look up and into hers. She smiled.
“Running away from the Dean again?” asked Obi-Wan while Luminara closed the door behind her, her eyes rolling almost imperceptibly.
“Maybe,” she said, sitting on one of the grey chairs that faced Obi-Wan’s. She wondered briefly how many pupils had sat right there just admiring their teacher’s eyes. “I actually came to bring you the reports on the case.”
Obi-Wan hummed in acknowledgment while she rescued some folders from her briefcase.
“Is this it?” Obi-Wan held the folders between his hands, surprised by their light weight.
“Yes. Reports, autopsies and interviews.”
Luminara chuckled bitterly. “We don’t have any of those, why do you think we decided to come to you?” Obi-Wan shook his head, falling on the back of the seat while Luminara crossed both legs and arms, cursing her decision of wearing skirt and heels in such a rainy day. “The interviews are quite useless, but I guess you could talk to Kit about that.”
“He doesn’t mind me looking at this, does he?” Obi-Wan had had far too many experiences with cops and the sentence ‘this is my case, Kenobi’.
“Kit is as desperate as Mace,” murmured Luminara, changing her serious expression for a playful one. “Besides, now that he’s in love he will appreciate any help he can get.”
“Oh yes, I heard the news yesterday.”
“Quinlan was so appalled.”
“I think he has recovered already.” Obi-Wan sighed, smiling then. “He has convinced himself that Mace has loved him for years, and has decided to make him realize it.”
“You are kidding.”
“So when I heard Mace scream at Quinlan to respect his personal space it wasn’t just Mace being his paranoid self.” Luminara laughed softly; Quinlan was quite an amusing character.
Obi-Wan smiled widely.
“By the way,” she started after a few seconds later. “Would you teach a couple of classes in my criminology course?”
“Criminology? What would I say?”
“Anything. The kids get bored, either that or they are afraid of me; the truth is most of them took the course for extra credit, so I guess it would be fun for them to have a real cop in class.”
“But you are one,” pointed Obi-Wan, raising a finger for emphasis.
“I just cut death bodies open Obi-Wan. They will have a good time with someone who has been there. Talk to them about… you know, chasing cars, bullets and bad guys; just a couple of classes, yes?”
“Alright,” sighed Obi-Wan, “send me the schedule.”
“This afternoon… now I better go or Mace will have a stroke.” Luminara stood up, mentally cursing the rain. “I’ll keep you informed about his upcoming romance with Quinlan.”
“Oh, please do.”
Obi-Wan leaned his shoulder on the doorframe and looked at both politicians with a frown between his eyebrows. He guessed the Dean had had a good idea promoting a debate about education at the university, where not only journalists and teachers could listen, but also students, but that didn’t make it any less boring. Obi-Wan wished he were a smoker so he could light an exasperated fag. He entertained himself looking around the room, noting the clear differences between the politics students, taking notes as if their lives depended on it, the journalism students, expecting a question round with anxious eyes, and the rest of them, probably dragged there by a friend. Those looked as bored as he himself was.
Perhaps he should just leave the place, but a sense of propriety kept him there, watching from the doorframe, even when nothing the Governor said could interest him in the least.
Governor Palpatine had stepped on his place after Governor Valorum had resigned by a general petition of the Senate, which had seemed pretty tired of his lack of action. Now, Palpatine was facing elections, ones Obi-Wan wished he didn’t win. Padmé Amidala was a strong competitor, indeed, but Palpatine counted with tricks and followers that would make him hard to take down, especially while he had his–
“Well, if it isn’t the detective turned professor.”
Obi-Wan turned his face around, frowning more determinately. Dooku.
“Dooku.” He bit the name, wrinkling his nose and not worrying to hide his disgust. Dooku smiled, or at least he tried to, leaning against the other side of the doorframe and looking at both politicians.
Before getting his place as Governor, Palpatine had financed the creation of a private security corps to support his campaign, based as it had been on the city’s security need. While Valorum had ruled, the mediocre members of Palpatine’s police had been easily rejected by Mace, but when Palpatine had won and Dooku had announced himself the head of his police, the real police had been laid in a second place, being forced to loose time in burocratic fights when the cases fell on the wrong hands. Obi-Wan was surprised they hadn’t said a thing about the kids’ case.
“I’ve heard Windu has been forced to beg for your wise advice once again, Kenobi.”
Dooku's voice surprised him, but Obi-Wan just shrugged, keeping his eyes on Amidala and his ears on her passionate speech.
“I thought you didn’t do this anymore. After all, what’s the use of so many solved cases when the one you couldn’t solve cost you Qui-Gon’s life?”
Obi-Wan fisted his hand, closed his eyes and focused on his own breathing. No. He wasn’t going to let him provoke him. “Goodbye, Dooku.” He pressed his teeth together and took his steps to his office, leaving the other man behind.
“Coward, coward kitty.”
Anakin looked through the window with an annoyed gesture between his lips. Was it always raining in this goddammed city? With a bit of luck the drops would have stopped by the time he left; otherwise, he would have to get wet – disadvantage of driving a motorbike instead of a car – and then Ms. Martin would lecture him for wetting the hallway. Although he should probably be grateful that she talked to him, which was more than he could say from the rest of his neighbours.
“Mimi, your turn.”
Anakin looked at the girl when Aayla’s voice crossed the door, and offered her a smile while she made the effort of putting her snake on her shoulders. Anakin found himself thanking that his hips were accessory enough to attract the clients.
With a dreamy gesture, he started thinking about what costume to wear. He wondered if his secret admirer, his knight in his shiny armour, had gotten wet while coming here today. Probably, he thought, he always is soaked when it rains, with his hair sticking to his forehead and his cheeks adorably flushed. Anakin sighed again, this time with a stupid smile between his lips.
Finally, he decided to wear the cowboy costume: he knew it was his mysterious visitor’s favourite.
Fifteen minutes later, wearing broken jeans, cowboy boots and hat and a lasso between his hands, Anakin stepped on the little place they called scenery. While he started his dance – an unconscious sequence of swings and thrusts of his hips, joined this time by the lasso – he saw his gentleman in his usual seat, leaving his drink forgotten in favour of his hips. There were tons of eyes on Anakin, but he had been dancing just for his attractive stranger for quite some time now. He felt tempted to throw the lasso and catch him, bring him to him, tied and at his mercy, but he just dropped the rope to the floor and allowed his hands to wander down his naked chest, caressing a nipple distractedly and insinuating with a final thrust. He got applauses; it had been a quite inspired act.
Once he had gotten a shower and had changed, Anakin sat on the bar, smiling when he saw the man was still there. He stayed sometimes, buried in his booth and not looking at him, but Anakin liked having him there, holding his glass with firm fingers. Anakin had a lot of regulars, but he was different. He was the only one who had never talked to him, who had never offered a lewd word or a warm bed, and he was the only one who looked like a nice person. He was a man who made him think of sex, hot, sweaty, steamy sex, but also of cuddling and smiles next to a welcoming fire. Anakin wanted it all, the sex and the cuddling and the smile. He had the most beautiful smile.
Anakin tuned his face around just in time to see Aayla put a beer in front of him. With a grateful smile, he took a long pull of his drink, feeling the cold liquid calm his dry throat.
“Why don’t you just go and talk to him?”
“It would break the spell.” He smiled.
Aayla snorted, drying some recently cleaned glasses and ignoring a client who seemed to think that his money gave him the right to touch her ass. “What spell?”
“He’s my stranger, my mystery. As long as he’s there he can be a poet or a medieval knight, anyone I want.” Anakin widened his smile when Aayla rolled her eyes.
“I could just ask Quinlan who he is, sweetie, he came with him the first time, but I really think you should do that yourself.”
“I rather let it be.”
“But it’s not real, silly.” Aayla caught one of his curls with a finger and pulled. Hard. Anakin batted her hand away.
“As real as I want it to be.”
“You’re falling in love with a shadow, baby. The reality is what it is, and you can’t change that.” Aayla returned to her initial position, drying glasses, and Anakin took a second sip from his beer.
“Oh, but reality is relative, right? What’s outside the cave and all that.”
“I didn’t know you engineering students read Plato.”
“Barriss forces me to go to the most boring courses.”
Aayla laughed softly, shaking her head. “Why don’t you send him a drink?”
Anakin opened up his mouth, then closed it again. That wasn’t such a bad idea. “What does he usually have?”
“The question should be what does he usually not have. Whisky, but he never drinks it; such a waste… you could try something more exotic, pina colada or daiquiri.”
“I’m thinking a shot.”
“Yeah, tequila. And one for me too.”
“Tequila? I like your style.”
Anakin held the glass between his fingers once Aayla had left the barstool. When he turned his neck around, he found blue eyes with his and, raising his glass slightly, he drank the tequila while looking at his gorgeous man do the same, an amused twinkle in what now where green orbs.
When the man left the bar, Anakin decided that perhaps it was about time he entered the cave.
“So, any conclusion?”
Obi-Wan looked away from the pictures held to the board with bright yellow tape and took his eyes to Mace’s, who was hiding a smile behind lips arched in a cryptic gesture. Behind him, seven or eight new agents looked at him with big expectant eyes and notebooks, expecting him to solve the case with a few obvious and fast deductions, as if they lived in a Sherlock Holmes novel. He should have known Mace was up to something when he had asked him to come down to the police office, but Obi-Wan had been easily tricked into this.
He repressed the sigh his lips were asking for and let his eyes wander past the small group and outside the room, from where Quinlan waved energetically and made lewd gestures and funny faces with the only purpose of making that little frown appear between Mace’s eyebrows. Seconds later, when Luminara appeared behind Quinlan and smacked him in the head with a stack of rolled papers, the police chief smirked. Obi-Wan had to get some new friends.
“Obi-Wan?” Mace’s voice took him back to the present. Obi-Wan smiled, nodded, and made his best effort to ignore the girl who was opening one of her shirt’s top buttons while caressing her cleavage in what Obi-Wan assumed was a coquettish manner. He couldn’t know, he had always been clueless when it came to women and their tactics. He coughed.
“He is good,” he murmured finally, looking back at the pictures. “He is very good.”
“That we know.” Mace crossed his arms over his chest and stared at him, a slight twitch threatening his left eyebrow. Obi-Wan understood it when he spied through the corner of his left eye Quinlan making kissy faces against the glass.
“This… person, he is not a psycho.” Obi-Wan made a pause, expecting a question, but Mace didn’t make it and the others were looking at him with so much fascination that they probably couldn’t even move their lips, so he continued. “He follows a pattern, sure, but he is careless with the details. A mental person is obsessive by nature, but this guy doesn’t care about the small personal marks.”
“So?” Mace changed his weight to his right foot and drummed his fingers on a table. “He wants us to believe he is psychopathic, ill.”
“Perhaps. He uses unknown factories, tools any person could posses, he erases prints, avoids direct marks against the body, it’s as if… as if he knew exactly what the police uses to look for someone.” Obi-Wan took his hand to his chin, felt Mace arch an eyebrow and continued. “An old police officer, or someone who might know the department’s methodology, perhaps someone looking for some kind of revenge."
“Do you think he might have any kind of personal inclination? Towards Kit or… towards you?”
“It’s too soon to tell.” Obi-Wan dropped his arms to his sides, leaning on a close table. “I would like to go to the crime scenes, make a second check.”
“Yes, sure, although…” Mace stopped then, looked at the group of freshmen. All of them straightened unconsciously, moving their amazed eyes from Obi-Wan to Mace. “You may leave now agents; as you can see, real cases aren’t solved with a wand. Agent Unduli will answer any further questions and then I want you to go back to work.” A choir of yes sirs filled the room and, minutes later, Obi-Wan and Mace were alone.
“You tricked me.”
“New people feel more comfortable around you; besides, you’ve got a reputation that–”
“Compliments won’t get you anywhere.”
“Oh well, at least–what is he doing?” Obi-Wan followed Mace’s gaze and saw Quinlan shaking the freshmen’s hands, smiling widely, winking at the girls and probably telling some crazy stories about how he saved some nonexistent girl. He did it every time. “Is he trying to torture me?” As if he had heard him, Quinlan looked at them, waved and offered them a cocky grin.
“He’s just trying to be cute. He’s in love with you, you know.”
“Sure he is, Obi-Wan, sure he is.”
“Are you going to talk to him today?”
Anakin half closed his eyes, avoiding the desire of taking them to his handsome and mysterious stalker.
Aayla repressed a sigh and put a bottle of beer on the barstool and between his hands. “Anakin, you’re impossible.”
Anakin smiled, but Aayla had already left the barstool with a tray between her hands, walking towards a table filled with drunken men the new waitress didn’t dare to attend. Not a strange thing that; she would learn how to deal with that kind of people in a few weeks.
“Hello, sweetheart.” The man who sat next to Anakin was big, perhaps too big, and he was holding a beer between a fat-fingered hand. Anakin bit his lip and looked forward, getting ready to put up with the same conversation once again. “How much?” Of course, the man didn’t disappoint him. The truth was it had been a while since someone had confused him with a whore, and he had gotten used to it.
“You’re confusing me, pal.” He took a long sip from his drink and kept his eyes down, expecting that to be enough to scare him away.
“Oh, come one, lil’ one-” apparently, it wasn’t going to be “-I’ve money.”
“No.” Anakin shook his head and looked up at him. “No,” he repeated.
“Allow me to explain meself, hon.”
And then, a huge hand was on his wrist. Oh, he was going to be one of those. He watched Aayla jump on the other side of the bar, but he shook his head, allowing the man to get closer and to lift his arm. Damn, he was bigger than he had thought.
Anakin looked behind him, and so did the man.
“Oh, damn!” The man stood up and took a couple steps towards the newcomer, dragging Anakin with him.
Anakin’s savoir, his knight in his shining armor, wrinkled his nose when the man entered his personal space, but kept staring at him.
“So you’ve a pimp. ‘s ok, we can make a deal.”
“Could you let go of me?”
“Could you let go of him?” murmured his stranger, making the man arch an eyebrow.
“Oh, I see, you want–”
“No, you don’t see. What I want is you to let him go, leave this place and use your free time to understand the deep meaning of no. Sounds hard, I know, but I trust you. Now, if you don’t mind…”
“’k, ‘k, who wants trouble anyway?” The man let go of Anakin’s wrist finally, pointing then a finger towards the third man. “But you, you be careful who you deal with, lil’ guy.”
“I assure you I will be, thank you very much for your concern.”
Anakin shook his head when the man left the bar; so much size and so little guts, anyone would have thought he was going to be more violent. Better like this, anyway. Seconds later and with a smile that could be called stupid, Anakin looked at his very own knight and cocked his head to the side. He was even more handsome this close.
“Thank you,” he whispered finally, taking one step forward. The stranger swallowed hard and looked into his eyes, visibly uncomfortable with the closeness. Anakin widened his smile. “Some people just don’t take no for an answer.”
“I see.” He smiled and buried his hands inside his pockets, arching an eyebrow when Anakin pointed to the barstool.
“Anakin, my name is Anakin.” Anakin bit his lower lip when the man sat next to him on the bar, suddenly self-conscious. He drummed his fingers on the barstool, stopped, put them around his already hot beer. If he didn’t talk, he was going to have a stroke. “Anybody would have thought that after coming here for so long you would have something to tell me.”
The stranger smiled, and Anakin wanted to melt. Slowly.
“And what makes you think I come here for you?” Oh, cocky.
“What other reason could you have? You look far too decent for this place.” Anakin clutched the bottle when the man blinked and smiled at the same time, throwing his mind into a chant of lips, eyelashes. Oh, God, he hoped this man was worth it.
“Best French fries in town.” And he had a sense of humor.
“Sure.” Anakin widened his smile, leaned a little but forward, surprised that such a man could feel intimidated by bodily closeness. “Are you going to force me to ask you your name?”
“Obi-Wan, Obi-Wan Kenobi.”
Anakin nodded, leaned back again, pondered. A good man, kind and with an amazing smile. Promising.
“I believe-” Obi-Wan's voice forced him back to the present “-I believe I must go.”
“Yes, I really should get some real food.” Obi-Wan stood up, leaving a bill on the barstool.
“I… I’ve got some real food in my fridge–er, well, no, that’s a lie, but we could always ask for some Chinese.”
“I think… I think I better leave.”
“Oh, well, I… sure, yes, bye.”
When the stranger – no, Obi-Wan – walked away, a pat on his back startled him.
“Well, that was a full conversation,” exclaimed Aayla walking behind the bar. “He even saved you from the evil dragon; what a knight.”
“He said no,” murmured Anakin, dropping his head into his hands. “I invited him home and he said no.”
“He said no?”
“Well… he implied it. Oh, God, why do all the good ones run away? Did you see him?” He looked up. “He’s kind and cute and has the most irresistible smile and, oh, God, why doesn’t he like me?”
“Don’t be like that, sexy,” said Aayla nodding energetically. “Forget about him.”
“Listen to me: forget about him.”
Quinlan’s car was more noticeable than his house. It was a shiny black sports car, complete with leather seats and bright platinum wheels that caught everyone’s attention. Mace had convinced him not to paint it red, seeing as that wouldn’t be all too recommendable in his line of work; he was still surprised Quinlan had listened.
His house was on the docks, and it was one of those ship-house things that weren’t really one or the other. Quinlan had inherited it from who knows who, who knows when and who knows why, but that’s how things tended to work with Quinlan. The true story probably included guns, threatens and bets, but Obi-Wan wasn’t going to ask. When he had met Quinlan, all that had gone through his head had been the question ‘are you absolutely mad?’; now, years later, after establishing that Quinlan was, indeed, mad, Obi-Wan knew it was better to keep some facts about him in the dark.
“Are you coming in or are you planning on staying there all afternoon?”
Years before, such a welcoming would have made him flinch, but now it just made his feet move by their own accord towards the place. Obi-Wan had never really liked it. It was too stable to be a boat and too unstable to be a house. He would get dizzy soon.
“What can I offer you?” Obi-Wan sat on the horrendous brown sofa that dominated the room while Quinlan took bottles and bottles from behind the barstool he had installed a couple of years ago. “Whisky? Brandy? Beer? A cocktail, perhaps? Bourbon? Tequila? Rum?”
Quinlan arched an eyebrow.
“Brandy it is, then.” Quinlan smiled, studying the full bottle before serving the dark liquid in two glasses. “A gift from Mace, his favorite. I’ll have to remember that.”
“Planning on a gift for him? How romantic.”
“I was actually planning on getting him drunk, but I guess the gift thing is not a bad idea either.” Obi-Wan laughed softly and Quinlan offered him a smile and one of the glasses. “Well, you see, I received a call.”
“About the case?” Obi-Wan leaned forward, interested.
“About you.” Obi-Wan arched an eyebrow; Quinlan kept his smile. “Aayla.”
Obi-Wan sighed. He was actually surprised it had taken her that long.
“She said you’ve been going to the bar, certain days and hours.” Quinlan wiggled both eyebrows.
“And that was the urgent thing you had to tell me? I left my windows open, and it’s raining.”
“It is urgent!” exclaimed Quinlan. “It’s not every day you act like a psycho.”
“Like a psycho?”
“Obsessed and all.”
“Are you calling me a psycho?”
“Oh, don’t get me wrong Obi-Wan, I think it’s healthy that you show interest for someone.” Quinlan smiled, took a sip from his drink. “I was starting to think you were a eunuch.”
“You know what I mean. Besides, the kid is handsome and young, you should talk to him and–”
“I already talked to him.”
“Oh, goody. It won’t be long before he asks you to his place and–”
“He already did.”
“Oh! So then you two already–”
“I said no.”
“You said no?”
“I said no.”
Quinlan blinked a couple of times, not looking away from Obi-Wan and, right then, he rolled a newspaper that was resting innocently on the table and used it to smack Obi-Wan on the head.
“Ow! What was that for?” Obi-Wan avoided a second blow and, clutching the newspaper from his free end, he pulled it away from Quinlan’s hands.
“Well, someone had to do it, and who better than me?” Obi-Wan half closed his eyes, Quinlan sighed. “I don’t know why you reject easy, fun sex.”
“I don’t want easy, fun sex.”
“Everyone wants easy, fun sex.”
“Not ev–this is stupid.” Obi-Wan leaned against the back of the seat, leaving his glass on the table and out of his reach. “He's a kid.”
“Obi-Wan, you… how do I say this with tact?”
“Quinlan, you have no tact.”
“Oh, great then.” Quinlan smiled, then he shrugged. “Qui-Gon is not coming back.”
“This is not about–”
“Yes, it is. I’ve seen you reject more people than it is healthy in the last few years.”
“But I have been with–”
“Far less people than you should have and never for more than a night. Trust me here, it’s not healthy to stalk a boy and then leave him like this. You don’t know him, you may like him, you may not, but I want you to find out, so you better kneel in front of him and beg for forgiveness and, if begging doesn’t work, then you’ll be in a position in which you can do certain things that will grant you at least a second chance.”
“Oh, God, could you be more vulgar?”
“Of course.” Quinlan offered him a smile and Obi-Wan rolled his eyes. “Now, let’s get drunk.”
The phone rang once, twice, three, four times and, finally, someone on the other side picked it up.
“You’ve reached Quinlan Vos’ answering machine, pleas–”
“Quinlan, you don’t have a answering machine.”
“Obi! Well, no, I don’t, but the unpleasant people I don’t want to talk to don’t know that, now do they?”
“Should I feel flattered, then?”
“Of course! You know you have a very special place in my lil’ heart.”
“Before or after your lovers?”
“Depends on when you ask.”
Obi-Wan chuckled softly and, with a heavy movement, he sat on his couch. He knew Quinlan was smiling on the other side.
“So, then what–”
“White or red?” asked a female voice from the kitchen, dragging Obi-Wan’s attention to said room.
“Whatever you feel like.”
“Who’s that? You’ve company and you’re wasting your time with me?”
“It’s just me, Quinlan.” Luminara entered the room with two glasses and a bottle of red wine, which she left on a nearby table, and smiled towards the phone as if it was Quinlan himself.
“’Nara! Am I on the speaker?”
Obi-Wan nodded, not realizing Quinlan couldn’t see him until Luminara didn’t answer for him.
“Yes, you’re on the speaker, Quin.”
“Well, so midnight, wine… red if I know you well enough ‘Nara, have you two finally decided to hit it off? Sincerely, it was about time, sexual tension is just not good between friends. You’ll have to invite me for a threesome sometime, though, so I won’t feel left out or anything.”
“We are just working,” murmured Obi-Wan while rolling his eyes. “You know, police work, autopsy talks, not very erotic.”
Quinlan sighed on the other side and Luminara laughed while she sat next to Obi-Wan on the couch.
“Just so you know: you two are very boring… although I guess a romance with Luminara would have stopped your affair with the kid, and we don’t want to break his heart, right?”
“What kid?” Luminara arched an eyebrow and Obi-Wan looked away before he blushed.
“Obi-Wan hasn’t told you about the boy he’s been stalking?”
“I haven’t been stalk–”
“His name’s Anakin, and he shakes his hips in the bar where Aayla works. He’s gorgeous, Obi here has really good taste.”
“Quinlan! Could you–”
“I think it’s healthy,” interrupted Luminara, finding Obi-Wan’s eyes and smiling. “It’s been years since you haven’t been genuinely interested in someone.”
“That’s what I said.”
Obi-Wan sighed, resigned, and took one hand to his temple.
“Of course, if you hadn't rejected him…”
“You rejected him?” asked Luminara. Obi-Wan wasn’t looking at her, but he knew her penetrating gaze was on him, amused but accusing. “He rejected him?” This time Luminara talked towards the phone.
“He just does–”
“Can we please focus on the purpose of this call?”
“You mean to say this conversation has a different purpose than just annoying you?”
Luminara laughed again, and Obi-Wan just sighed.
“I need to get me some new friends.”
“Pffft, as if you could find someone better than us.”
Late. Late, late, late, late. He was going to be late and Barriss was going to cut his throat in the cruelest way possible.
Anakin ran through the university’s hallways, bag on his back, books between his arms and half combed hair falling annoyingly over his eyes. This would have been easier if he had just checked the classroom’s number before leaving his home as if running a race – and effectively tripping with a neighbor and being lectured by it. Or perhaps he should have just attended class regularly.
He had only taken the criminology course because he needed the extra credit. He had actually wanted to take this very interesting robotics class, but his schedule didn’t allow him to and Barriss had pouted so he joined her in this one, imparted by her adored professor Unduli. Barriss liked her a lot, but Anakin found her quite scary. The result had been that he didn’t assist to class, simply begging Barriss for her notes and using the free time to study something else. If he had decided to go today it had been only because Barriss had told him that the class was going to be given by a professor who had been police agent, and Anakin just hadn’t been able to resist.
And he was going to be late.
“139, 140, 141… 142!”
Identifying the correct classroom, Anakin opened the door energetically and let it close behind him with a loud crack while he supported his weight on his knees and tried to catch his breath. Unaware of the noise he had caused, he almost jumped when he heard a severe voice talking to him.
“Would you please take a seat, Mister…”
“Skywalker,” he answered. “Anak–” And then he looked up. And oh, eyes and lips and hands and hair and oh, he was a teacher. A teacher and a former police officer.
In front of him, wearing dark trousers, white shirt and green tie, Obi-Wan Kenobi looked at him with half green half blue eyes hidden behind a pair of thin glasses. He looked edible. His eyes were surprised, but they stayed firm on him.
“Coul-could.” Obi-Wan coughed softly and looked away. “Could you take a seat, Mister Skywalker?”
“Yes, sure professor, sure, I… seat, yes, right.”
With a soft cough and a few hurried steps, Anakin sat next to Barriss in the front row of the classroom, receiving an instant blow from the girl.
“You okay?” she asked while Anakin searched for pen and paper inside his bag. Hard job, seeing as his hands were not working properly.
“Yeah, I’m fine, fine.”
Shrugging, Barriss turned her attention back to the professor, just as Anakin did seconds later. Deep voice and light eyes that were there for the whole class and yet, just for him. Oh, this was going to be one long class.
Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t. Obi-Wan talked fast but clearly, moving his hands a lot and accepting the stupidest questions, smiling widely, folding his sleeves, narrating almost as if he was a storyteller and sitting on the edge of the table in a way he wasn’t supposed to. The whole class seemed to be bewitched, and Anakin didn’t know if the fact that Obi-Wan wasn’t paying him any special attention was a good or a bad thing. Any case, Anakin didn’t do anything that could drag the teacher’s attention towards him.
“Anakin, Ani… Ani!”
“Ow!” Anakin looked at Barriss while massaging the spot in his arm she had pinched, insinuating a pout on his lower lip. “Care to explain why I deserved that?”
“You were late.” Barriss poked him in the chest with an accusing finger and frowned until, finally, she shrugged. “Although I guess I should be thankful that you showed up at all.”
“You’re never going to forgive me that, are you?”
Anakin sighed, shook his head and started putting paper and pen back on his bag. “Well, I’m sorry anyway; I fell asleep.”
“That’s what I thought,” murmured Barriss while biting distractedly the back of a pen. “If you didn’t spend so much in that hellhole.”
“It’s just a job.” Anakin just shrugged; they had had that conversation at least twenty times.
“A job that consists on shaking your hips half naked in front of perverted men who fantasize with screwing you.”
“Don’t be that exaggerated. It’s a nice place and the payment is good; besides, Aayla is there, and you know she wouldn’t let any–”
“Excuse me if I don’t think Aayla is strong enough to protect you from horny pedophiles.”
Anakin laughed softly and shrugged: Barriss had always been a bit melodramatic. “Have you seen the guy that guards the entrance? He’s huge.”
Barriss sighed softly, relaxing her arms and pulling from one of Anakin’s rebel locks, which went back to its position when she let go. “I’m sorry, you know I like worrying about you.”
Anakin smiled, hanged his bag on his left shoulder and pressed his lips to the girl’s temple. “And you know I like you doing it.”
“Come on, no need to get touchy-feely… are we leaving?”
“Actually, I would like to have a word with the teacher if you don't mind.” Anakin pointed at the sitting figure and Barriss arched a curious eyebrow. “Wait for me outside?”
Barriss looked at Obi-Wan once again and then shrugged.
“I’ll see you in ten minutes in front of the library,” she murmured while looking at her watch. “Don’t be late.”
One more smile and Barriss had walked out of the room.
Obi-Wan looked up when he heard his voice, and all Anakin could do was offer him a smile. Seconds later, he was still smiling. Obi-Wan kept looking at him while he changed his weight from to foot, played with his dark blue sweater sleeves and pretended to hold his bag more securely.
Finally, Obi-Wan spoke.
“I didn’t know you studied here.” Obi-Wan wondered if those had been the best words to use, he didn’t want to sound offensive. The thing was, he was as nervous as Anakin seemed, he was just better at hiding it.
“I didn’t know you were a teacher. Or a cop. Or… well, I didn’t know what you were, you know, professionally, I mean–” Anakin stopped when Obi-Wan smiled widely at him.
“You study medicine? Psychology perhaps?” Obi-Wan leaned back on his chair and kept his smile. It was weird how much safer he felt here than at the bar.
“No, I’m actually an engineering student, but I needed the credits and Barriss, my friend-” Anakin pointed at the door as only explanation “-well, she asked me to take this with her. I’m not really much into it, but she loves it, besides, she really likes professor Unduli. I think she’s scary, but Barriss wants to enter this program she offers and then she wants to enter the corps and work with her, so I’ve been almost forced into this, I never even come to class and… and I babble when I’m nervous.” Oh, cute. So cute.
“I can see that.”
“Well, I… I just wanted to say hi, so I better go.” He pointed towards the door once again.
“It’s been good to see you,” murmured Obi-Wan before he could stop himself. He bit his lower lip when Anakin looked back at him and smirked, resembling more the cheeky dancer and less the shy student.
“Can I buy you lunch?”
“I… I’d love that.”
Quinlan took his cigarette to his mouth, looked at the man from the corner of his eye and then returned his eyes to the front. Thirty, perhaps thirty one years old, big, hard muscles hidden behind a long black coat, dark hair and eyes, squared features, a gun on his back and another one on his ankle. And he had been following him all day. Quinlan couldn’t wait to find out what he wanted.
He left his cigarette on the closest ashtray and stood up from his seat on the greasy barstool. He put on his own coat and left the place through the back door. He waited for a couple of minutes and, as he had expected, he found himself with his back to the dirty wall of the alley and a gun against his stomach. It was risky, but perhaps this would tell him more than any investigation he did.
“Nice coat,” he murmured while he looked up at his attacker.
“You’ve been investigating something, haven’t you?”
Quinlan smirked, lowering his eyes to the gun that was against his dark shirt. Nowadays killers had no class, but he had to admit this one carried a good weapon.
“And I’m guessing you want me to stop,” he said finally.
“That’s what my mom used to say.”
The stranger laughed softly and Quinlan widened his smile. If things got ugly, he would have to reach for his own gun.
“This is just a warning. If you insist in this, there won’t be a second one.”
This kids nowadays started sounding more and more like a bad cop TV show.
“And why don’t you just shoot me now?” It was a reasonable question, but Quinlan suspected whoever had hired this guy didn’t want to spill more blood than it was necessary. “Someone forbade you to or you just don’t have the balls to do it?” A hollow sound and oh, he hadn’t been expecting that. Well, a bullet in his stomach, that was new. Quinlan found himself thanking that the guy was holding him so firmly. “That was completely unnecessary, and very unprofessional, too.”
Quinlan tried to nod, but the man was leaving already and he was falling to the floor.
Oh, it hurt. It hurt a lot.
Sometime later, Quinlan was falling heavily on Mace Windu’s arms.
“Uff, Quinlan.” The police chief held him more firmly and dragged him inside his apartment. “What did you do this time?”
“I swear it wasn’t my fault. There was a guy… in the alley and–”
“Shut up, Quin.” For the first time ever, Quinlan actually did. Mace suspected it had a lot to do with him having a bullet inside his stomach.
With a few more uncomfortable steps, Mace dragged Quinlan to his bed, were he fell like a dead weight. He got rid of his boots and then opened the dark shirt to look at the no longer bleeding wound.
“I better call Luminara,” Mace murmured.
“You don-don’t… Just take it out.” Mace was going to protest, but Quinlan continued before he could do so. “It’s not the first time and I’m sure you still have some of that ether you used last time."
“You realize that it’s addictive?”
“You realize I have a bullet in my stomach?”
Mace sighed and shook his head. Quinlan was going to take him to an early grave, he was sure.
The ether had been a rushed solution Luminara had thought of when they had realized that Quinlan always got the worst and most painful kind of wounds ever. It wasn’t the best of solutions, but it was good enough to make him sleep.
“You need a doctor, Quinlan,” sentenced Mace when he returned to the room.
“No, you know–”
“You’re a bounty hunter and can’t go to see a doctor,” he completed while looked at the wound and started to clean it. “I don’t know why you still are. You should become a policeman.”
“And start from the bottom?”
“You would have to go to the academy, but I would move you to the homicide department right then. Your job would be the same one, but you’d have a badge, a legal weapon, and you could go see a doctor when you were shot."
“Careful there Macey, you sound almost worried.” Mace pressed his lips in a thin line and Quinlan laughed softly, regretting it when a spasm of pain went through him. “Come here, Mace.”
Mace did just because Quinlan was wounded and suddenly, a pair of lips brushed his quickly.
“Why would you do that?”
“It must be the ether.”
Mace preferred to ignore the fact that the ether was on the floor, untouched.
“... the cylinder capacity of the bike is a bit low, and it could use some new stuff, but I’m actually saving for a car. I’ve a model that...”
Anakin rambled. A lot. Obi-Wan found it strangely charming. When the invitation for a meal had left his mouth, Obi-Wan had started to freak out. What were they going to talk about? Where were they going to go? What was going to happen? Obi-Wan just didn’t know how to act in spontaneous pseudo-dates. But once they had chosen a small and cozy little restaurant close to the main building of the university, Anakin had taken care of the conversation.
Anakin was witty, a little bit nervous, a little bit hyperactive, and ever changing. He would go from a cocky and bold young man, to a shy and insecure boy, in less than a second. He could spend full minutes talking non-stop of motors, wires, vehicles and velocity, almost losing his breath, with shiny eyes, and waving his hands around, fast and excited. All in all, he was quite adorable.
“… black, or red! Or... or yellow; I’ve always wanted a yellow car and... I’m babbling again, ain’t I?” Anakin looked up, insinuating a pout in his lower lip. “Sorry.” He looked at his empty plate, and drew a small shy smile.
Obi-Wan laughed softly, amused. Anakin’s facial expressions were open and simple, and they didn’t hide a feeling. Obi-Wan found himself completely mesmerized by the man in front of him.
“You like cars,” sentenced Obi-Wan, after a short pause. Anakin nodded energetically. “Is that why you picked engineering?”
Anakin nodded again, putting both elbows on the table and leaning forward. “I was always fixing things when I was little. I built a motorbike with different parts.”
“Then why criminology as an extra class?”
“Barriss. A friend of mine. She dragged me to criminology and philosophy, although I managed to escape from this really boring class… something like classical culture or–”
“I teach that class.”
“-which, on the other hand, I’m sure is fascinating and–”
Obi-Wan chuckled, supporting his face on his right fist. “Nice try, but I’m not buying it.”
Anakin half smiled, trying uselessly to avoid a light blush. “I’m sorry, I’m just no good at those kind of things. Philosophy is killing me; there’s too much to read and, it’s… it’s like living in The Matrix.”
“The Matrix?” Obi-Wan arched an eyebrow, considering if he should feel intrigued or offended.
“Yes, the movie, you know? Everything is, but really isn’t, and then you never know what exists and what doesn’t; just like in The Matrix.” Anakin nodded, totally convinced, and Obi-Wan chose to smile.
“I think Plato is shaking inside his tomb right now.” Anakin pouted. “I can help you with philosophy, if you want me to.”
Oh, private lessons. It had always been one of Anakin’s fantasies; he was just lacking the hot teacher, but he had found him.
“I have to do this essay on–isn’t that your cell phone?”
Obi-Wan looked up, registering for the first time the high-pitched sound. He looked inside his jacket’s pocket, producing a small black phone, which rang insistently. Quinlan must have been playing with his ring tones; he didn’t remember programming Come what may.
Obi-Wan looked at the caller-ID, and then looked up at Anakin. “I have to take this, sorry.”
Anakin nodded, watching Obi-Wan stand up, walk a few steps away and start talking on the phone. He caught something that sounded like ‘what do you mean he was shot?’ from the conversation, but he preferred to ignore it, and use his time in something much more addictive: watching Obi-Wan.
He hadn’t been wrong in his first impression; Obi-Wan was a good man. A teacher, a cop; who cared? He was kind, he had an amazing smile, and he took him seriously, not only as a piece of meat, or a stupid kid. He was a bit uptight, too serious perhaps, and shy, but he was also witty and sarcastic. Anakin found him more attractive than any of his fake fantasies.
He wondered what exactly had dragged such a man to the bar, what he could possibly see in him, an ignorant kid. But Anakin wasn’t going to talk about Obi-Wan’s trips to the bar just yet.
When the call was over, Obi-Wan walked towards him, and Anakin offered him a wide smile.
“I must leave, I’m sorry,” murmured Obi-Wan.
“Oh, well, I… I’ve class anyway, I should leave, too.” Anakin stood up, grabbed his backpack and looked up. “I… well, we’ll see each other, right? A-Around, yes?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Good, I…” Anakin pointed behind him and at the university. “See you later.”
And with that, Anakin took off, and Obi-Wan sighed. He grabbed his jacket and put it on, returning the phone to the front pocket.
Mace insisted that his presence wasn’t necessary, but after all, Quinlan had been shot. Not that that was something new. Any case, a visit seemed logical.
“Obi-Wan!” Obi-Wan looked up, seeing Anakin enter the restaurant again, a pen in his hand, and his hair ruffled.
“Anakin?” Obi-Wan arched an eyebrow, and then the second one too, when Anakin gripped his wrist and pulled him close.
Obi-Wan looked down at the soft and warm fingers that caressed the underside of his wrist, telling himself that such an innocent gesture shouldn’t feel so intimate. He looked up again, and Anakin smiled at him.
“It’s just that, well, in case we don’t see each other–” Anakin broke the visual contact, lowering his eyes, and leaning the pen against Obi-Wan’s hand, “--you should call me, you know?” Obi-Wan felt the pen scratch his hand, drawing clumsy numbers. His eyes, though, stayed fixed on Anakin’s face. “Any time.”
Obi-Wan found himself nodding, smiling a little when Anakin didn’t let go of his wrist after writing the number. Seconds later, Anakin’s face was descending over his, and a pair of lips were leaving an almost ethereal kiss on the corner of his lips.
Obi-Wan stood there for a few seconds, dumbfounded.
“Obi, thank God! She’s lecturing me.”
Obi-Wan looked at Quinlan, sitting on Mace’s bed, and then at Luminara, wearing her famous and scary lecture face. Obi-Wan just smiled a little, shrugging, and letting Mace’s voice talking over the phone on the next room fill the silence.
“Well, you deserve a lecture,” sentenced Luminara, sighing.
“Oh, come on, I’ve been shot, you should be indulging me.”
Both Luminara and Obi-Wan chuckled, and Quinlan pouted a little.
“How are you feeling?” asked Obi-Wan, sitting on the edge of the bed.
“I’m perfectly fine, Obi!” exclaimed Quinlan, smiling widely. “Now, since we are going to indulge Quinlan–”
“—how about that threesome?” Quinlan leaned one hand on Obi-Wan’s thigh, and then pulled Luminara to the bed, keeping a firm grip around her waist.
All the answer he received were a pair of raised eyebrows.
“Come on! We’ll make it a foursome; I bet I can convince Mace to join us.”
“And why do I feel no one would be paying me much attention?” murmured Luminara.
Mace leaned back on his seat, sighing, while putting his hand to his tired eyes, and rubbing them hard. When he looked forward again, the reason for such a gesture had already crossed the office, had glared at all the people in it, and was in front of his desk, a defying look in her eyes.
“Senator,” murmured Mace, his eyes fixed on the woman in front of him.
Padmé stayed silent for a few seconds, looking at the police chief with her penetrating dark eyes. It wasn’t a secret that senator Amidala trusted the police department blindly, and that she considered it an important part of her campaign, but that didn’t help with the fact that Mace found her occasional visits unnerving.
“Chief Windu,” murmured Padmé, finally. “I need you to solve this case, now.” Padmé punctuated her demand with a strong blow to Mace’s desk, and a firm look.
“The whole department is working on this, senator.” Mace preferred to skip the part in which he asked her what case she was talking about; they both knew exactly what this was about.
Padmé sighed, raised both arms, and finally, dropped heavily on a chair, getting rid of her uncomfortable blue coat. “Who is in charge of the case?”
“Officially, Kit Fisto. Unofficially, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luminara Unduli and Quinlan Vos.”
Mace didn’t hide his smile; it was no secret that Luminara and Quinlan weren’t two of the senator’s favorite people. And, speaking of…
“Senator! Long time, no see.” Quinlan entered the office as if it belonged to him, sitting on the edge of the table distractedly. “What brings you here?”
“What are you doing here?” asked Mace, before the senator answered. Ha had left Quinlan in his bed, firmly tucked under kilos of blankets, and with a couple of sleeping pills in his stomach.
“I came to pay you a visit, sweetcheeks.” Quinlan squeezed one of Mace’s cheeks and, despite herself, Padmé found herself smiling when the police chief smacked Quinlan.
Before the conversation could move on, the door opened again, and this time it was Luminara the one to enter. It didn’t take her more than a second to identify the senator, forcing both Quinlan and Mace to flinch when Padmé met her gaze. It was true that Padmé found Quinlan annoying, but the hate-hate relationship that joined her with Luminara was a completely different thing.
Both women held their gazes, and the only thing that managed to distract Mace from the silent battle, was an arm sliding down his back, and a pair of lips on his ear.
“You look for a pair of bikinis,” murmured Quinlan, “I’ll go get the mud.”
Despite himself, Mace smiled. “Senator, please,” he said, before a verbal battle could take place inside his office. “Is there something else?”
“Dooku is after this case,” said Padmé, quickly. “I believe he has started an investigation already, and it won’t take him long to take this to court. I’ll try to keep him away as long as I can, but I need you to give the press a clue, a suspect, something. If this falls in Palpatine’s hands, he’ll allow as many deaths as he considers necessary. The future of the city depends too much in this case, chief Windu.”
“A man who eats broccoli.” Obi-Wan looked up when he heard the voice next to him, finding Anakin looking intently at his cart. Suddenly, he looked at him. “I’m afraid this relationship is not going to work.”
“What’s wrong with broccoli?” asked Obi-Wan, resting both arms on his cart.
Obi-Wan chuckled, lowering his eyes to Anakin’s cart. “Because pre-cooked pasta is so much better?”
“I’m a very busy person,” said Anakin. “Besides, I’ve been known to burn ice, but I’m a microwave expert.”
“You’re going to kill yourself with that kind of food,” murmured Obi-Wan, pointing at the cart. “Here—“ Obi-Wan selected a few oranges, put them inside a plastic bag, and offered them to Anakin, “—take some oranges.”
Anakin arched an eyebrow, but he still took the fruit. “Ok, but I won’t be going to the dark side of broccoli.”
Obi-Wan smiled, pushing his cart slightly. “Do you come here usually? It’s funny we’ve never met here before.”
“No, not really. What else do you need?”
“I’ve finished, actually.”
“Come with me for some ice-cream, then, and we’ll leave together, yes?” Anakin smiled widely, and Obi-Wan answered him with a smile of his own. God, Anakin was dying to kiss him.
“Ice-cream, another healthy product.”
“Oh, come on! There’s nothing better than sitting in front of the TV, putting on a good movie, and eating ice-cream from the container.”
Obi-Wan rolled his eyes. “I don’t eat ice-cream from the container.”
“What do you do with it, then?” asked Anakin, considering which ice-cream flavor to buy. He chose chocolate, which was Obi-Wan's favorite, if his cart filled with chocolaty products was any indication. He might lure him to his house with the promise of some chocolate ice-cream and then… oh, kinky.
“Put it in an ice-cream cup.”
Anakin shook his head, steeping out of his fantasy and into reality. “An ice-cream cup?”
“Yes… cups, where you put the ice-cream?”
“Are there cups just for ice-cream?” asked Anakin. “That sounds like a very limited use.”
“Well, I guess you can put other things in them, too.”
“Like… I don’t know, caramel? Desserts, mostly.”
“Shouldn’t they be called dessert cups, then?”
Obi-Wan arched an eyebrow, laughing softly. “You’re being purposefully annoying.”
“Part of my charm.”
A few minutes later, both men left the place, bags in hand.
“Can I invite you to a cup of coffee?” asked Obi-Wan.
Anakin bit his lip unconsciously. “I can’t, I’ve got to get to work.” Obi-Wan arched a questioning eyebrow, and Anakin expanded his explanation. “I work in a nearby coffee shop three afternoons a week. Perhaps some other day, though.”
Obi-Wan nodded, a little bit sadly. “Yes, sure.”
“But… would you do something for me?”
Obi-Wan arched an eyebrow, but then he nodded. “I guess.”
“Would you drop your bags?”
Obi-Wan kept his eyebrow arched, but he did what he had been asked, leaving his bags on the floor. The moment he did so, a pair of warm lips were on his, firm but shy, articulating a silent question. Obi-Wan clutched the front of Anakin’s shirt, and then everything was a whirlwind of colors. Anakin brought him closer, wrapping his arms around him, and his lips, shy until then, became bold, until the simple gesture became a battle of tongue versus tongue, getting lost between a pair of mouths that seemed to be just one.
Anakin bit Obi-Wan’s lower lip, and repressed himself from cupping his ass with his hands. Perhaps next time; now he was happy keeping them on his lower back, which gave him a rather possessive grip on Obi-Wan. Anakin loved that Obi-Wan was tinier than him, because he could surround him completely, make him fit perfectly within his embrace.
“You kissed me,” whispered Obi-Wan, once his lips were free.
Anakin, not letting go of Obi-Wan, chuckled. “How very observant of you; no wonder you were such a good detective.” Obi-Wan decided not to grace that comment with an answer. “I was dying to.”
This time, it was Obi-Wan the one to lean into a second kiss. Obi-Wan didn’t do this, he didn’t kiss far too young, far too sexy young men in the middle of the street, but it had been so long since someone kissed him so thoroughly, so slow, and wet, and soft. Besides, he guessed a small part of himself had been thinking about sex when he had being going to the bar. Ok, a huge part. But then it had been a harmless fantasy, not a pair of very soft and very real lips above his. But Anakin felt all kinds of nice, so Obi-Wan clutched him tighter, and allowed his tongue to brush Anakin’s, and his teeth and lips to find Anakin’s clumsily, fast and perfect.
“I have to go,” whispered Anakin, when they parted for the second time. Obi-Wan nodded, feeling a little bit dizzy. Anakin cupped his face with both hands, and pressed a last short kiss to his reddened lips. “Call me.”
"He's not coming, is he? I rushed things, and now he's not going to come and-"
"Oh, Anakin, shut up." Aayla cut off the boy's next comment with a determined look, and pointed at his clothes. Anakin sighed, and followed the silent order.
Aayla left the room and walked behind the barstool, looking once again at the spot where Anakin's admirer was not sitting tonight. She shook her head, looking then at Barriss, who had come with Anakin to the bar, worried as she had been for his mental health. At least Aayla knew that if that man dared to hurt Anakin, Barriss would support her in her murdering purposes.
"He hasn't arrived yet," she murmured, making Barriss look at her with a pair of red eyes. "Are you alright?"
"Of coooourse; another drink?"
Aayla sighed, raising two fingers. "How many fingers do you see, Barriss?"
"Well… I'm seeing four, but I'm conscious of the fact that you're only holding two, does that count?"
"No, it doesn't. No more alcohol for you tonight."
Barriss whimpered, but she ended up accepting the sweaty glass of water Aayla put in front of her before going to attend the rest of the clients. None of them was Anakin's stranger. Who would have thought that professor Kenobi spent his time stalking young male dancers? No wonder Anakin was worried about such a relationship; now that the teacher's identity had been discovered, Barriss didn't think that he was going to show up here again.
Anakin was, indeed, worried. Had he rushed things? Had he scared Obi-Wan? Kissing him hadn't been a good idea, but he had wanted to so badly… But it had been too soon, too rushed, too impulsive, too stupid. Obi-Wan was never coming back, he knew. Still, he hoped he did.
But he didn't.
An hour after his show, holding an empty glass with both hands, and acting as a human pillow for Barriss, who had fallen asleep minutes before, Anakin sighed.
"Don't be depressed, sexy," said Aayla for the fifth time that night. "You deserve som-"
"It's ok, Aayla, I'm fine. I better leave, and get Barriss home."
"Oh, Anakin, don't y-"
"'Night, 'Yala, I'll see you in a couple of days."
Obi-Wan took a sip of his coffee, and cursed when he felt the liquid cold against his tongue. The mug had been sitting next to him for hours, completely forgotten, just like the rushed dinner he had cooked for himself, and the photographs that were scattered on the floor. That was one of his methods, putting all the evidence together and close: photos, prints, clues; and keeping the informs close, in case a ray of light entered his mind and told him where to start looking. But Obi-Wan wasn't focused of the case.
Anakin. Anakin, Anakin, Anakin. It seemed to be the only thing his head registered, and it was rather frustrating. He had decided not to go to the bar that night, and if he had to be honest with himself, the main reason had been fear. Yes, fear, stupid and irrational. The thing was, since Qui-Gon, he had had one-night affairs, but nothing that could come close to a relationship, nothing that made him get close to someone again. But Obi-Wan had rejected an affair with Anakin the night he had offered it, and now he was facing the fact that he liked Anakin. He liked Anakin a lot. And Obi-Wan wasn't ready for that.
Despite that, he couldn't stop feeling guilty over not showing up on the bar, right after Anakin had kissed him in the middle of the street, impulsive, sweet and nervous. Right now, he just wanted to fix what he had messed up, and the knowledge that he really wanted this to work out was doing nothing for his nerves. After all, Anakin was too young, too beautiful, too… too much!
Obi-Wan lay back on the sofa, and offered his mug an offended look. He would have to prepare some more coffee. Obi-Wan decided that the destiny was mocking him when he discovered that he had run out of coffee, and that if he wanted a sip, he would have to walk five blocks to the old coffee shop that was open 24/7 all days of the year. He sighed, resigned, and went looking for his coat.
The night was dark, and the rain fell noisily on the grey streets. Obi-Wan repressed a curse, and started walking on the border of the street, trying to protect himself of the water under balconies and terraces. And then, he felt it. Obi-Wan sometimes thought that the sixth sense he seemed to possess had formed through years of police work, but sometimes he believed he had simply been born with it. Any case, a soft prickle on his scalp told him that someone was following him. He kept walking, stopping in front of a shop, which crystal acted as a mirror in the night light. The man who followed him was tall and dark, and he covered his eyes with a pair of sunglasses that were as dark as his skin and as his coat, which hid part of his face.
Obi-Wan buried his hands in the pockets of his own coat and kept walking, taking his steps towards an illuminated street. It didn't take him long to reach a wide avenue filled with stores, restaurants, and people. He started walking faster and, looking at the man over his shoulder, he went inside a Chinese restaurant.
"Mister Kenobi," said the waiter automatically, opening his arms in a welcoming manner. The restaurant was small and cosy, and Obi-Wan was a regular costumer.
"Mister Wong, may I use your back door?"
The waiter didn't feign surprise or frowned, simply pointing at the back of the restaurant. "Of course, Mister Kenobi."
Obi-Wan offered him a thanking nod, and crossed the local and the kitchens, reaching the back door. It led to a poorly illuminated alley, which was usually the home of cats and drug addicts, but this night there was none of those. In their place, a man dressed in a grey coat and hat, who smoked a cigarette slowly, watched him with smiley eyes. For a moment, Obi-Wan felt as the leading actor of a Humphrey Boggart movie, or perhaps a John LeCarré novel, but the illusion only lasted a few seconds.
"I see you haven't lost your old instincts." Dooku moved the cigarette away from his mouth, and let the ashes fall to the floor. He half smiled, taking one step towards Obi-Wan. "I'm afraid, though, that you have become rather predictable."
"Now you're spying on me? I didn't know I deserved such attentions."
Dooku laughed softly, and Obi-Wan leaned his back against the wall, looking around him. Dooku didn't have to be dangerous, but he was famous for his dirty tricks and his stabs on the back; although perhaps Obi-Wan was too old a rival to be attacked in such a vile way. Any case, every precaution was necessary.
"How is the case going?" asked Dooku, letting the cigarette fall to the floor, and putting it out with a shiny black shoe. "Did you find anything out?"
Obi-Wan smiled, crossing his arms over his chest. "And what makes you think that I will give you any kind of information?"
"I thought you might want to help." Dooku shrugged. "After all, the case is mine."
Dooku laughed again, forcing Obi-Wan to dig his nails on his palms. "It will be soon. Do you really think the senator's attempts to support the police are going to work in any way?"
"Is strong, yes, and completely annoying, but that's all."
Obi-Wan stayed silent, facing Dooku's look. It was the same look that had left the police corps to follow Palpatine, the same one that had watched Qui-Gon's burial, and the same one that had defied him every second of his life. Cold, calculating, and hateful. Obi-Wan dropped his arms to his sides.
"What do you want, Dooku?"
"I want you to leave the case." Obi-Wan snorted, crossing his arms over his chest again. "Either that, or join us."
This time Obi-Wan laughed openly. "Are you being serious?"
"I told him that you wouldn't accept the offer; after all, you have an strange self-destructive tendency, but he insisted."
Obi-Wan shook his head. "I will not work for you, and I won't leave the case. Now, if you excuse me, I would like to leave. And please, make sure no one follows."
"Of course. Although, if I were you, I would watch my back."
Mace looked through the spy hole, and was surprised when he saw Obi-Wan behind the door.
"Obi-Wan," he murmured, after he opened the door, looking at the soaked man. "What are you doing here?"
"I need coffee."
Mace closed the door behind Obi-Wan, and walked towards the kitchen. This promised to be bad. "What happened?"
"Dooku." Obi-Wan leaned against the kitchen's table, trying to comb his wet hair. "He's been watching me, and he has an strange interest in the case. I think he knows something."
Mace turned the coffee maker on, facing Obi-Wan then. "How bad?"
Obi-Wan shrugged. "As far as I know, he could be bluffing, but this behaviour is unusual. I don't know what to think."
"Obi!" Quinlan jumped Obi-Wan, trapping him between his arms before he could protest. "You're wet."
"Ugh, Quin, I can't breathe."
Quinlan let go of Obi-Wan, cleaning then his now wet arms. "You're so cold to me."
"Quinlan," stressed Mace, putting his hand to his forehead, "why are you wearing my t-shirt?"
"Well, I'm running out of clothes, Macey."
"And why don't you go back home?"
"I'm hurt! Would you leave me alone and vulnerable?"
"You're not vulnerable, and you're not hurt anymore!"
"Actually," murmured Obi-Wan, getting the attention of both of them, "we don't know if Quinlan is in danger or not, so it would be better if he stayed with you for a few days." Quinlan smiled widely, and Mace offered him a look that could kill. "And don't go out much."
"Yes, sir!" Quinlan saluted, and Obi-Wan chuckled.
"What time is it?" asked Obi-Wan suddenly.
"Midnight," answered Quinlan. "Do you have a hot date with your kid?"
"I…" Obi-Wan sighed. "I just have to fix something; I better go."
"I'll walk you out," offered Mace.
Mace walked with Obi-Wan towards the door, offering him an annoyed look while Obi-Wan put on his wet coat. Obi-Wan preferred to ignore the look, until Mace's left eyebrow started to twitch.
"Is there something wrong, Mace?"
"He's going to drive me nuts, Obi-Wan. He's going to kill me, or I'm going to kill him. He can't stay here, he can't b-"
Obi-Wan chuckled when Quinlan gave him the thumbs up from the living room. "Come on, you know I'm right."
"And why can't he stay with you?"
"Because he wants to stay with you."
Mace raised both arms, repressing a scream. "Great, just great. And what am I supposed to do?"
"Relax." Obi-Wan nodded, straightening the collar of his coat, to protect himself from the night's cold air. "Or you can sleep with him, I bet that will relax you both."
"You know? You shouldn't spend so much time with him, he's a bad influence on you."
"I'm fine, I promise," murmured Anakin against the phone. "You reall-"
"But Aayla said that-"
"Padmé, I promise you I'm fine." Apparently, Aayla had phoned his most loyal friend, and Padmé, having that monstrous tendency of worrying too much, had ran to the closest phone.
"Are you sure? You're not playing the big, strong macho, are you? Are you sure you don't want me to go?"
"Positive. Don't you have some meeting to attend, or some law to vote?"
"Anakin Skywalker, are you saying that I work too much?"
Anakin laughed against the phone. "You could use a vacation; we haven't seen each other in ages."
"A couple of weeks, Anakin."
"Ages to me, you know I can't live without you.” This time, it was Padmé's turn to laugh. "I'm telling the truth."
"Do you want to meet this weekend?"
"I don't want to interfere with your political business. You have an election to win, you know?"
"You know I always have time for you, Ani."
Anakin groaned, but decided not to remind Padmé how much he hated that nickname. “How emotive.”
“Don’t mock me, or I won’t give you any privileges once I win.”
“Blackmail, coercion and influences. I’m surprised, senator.” Anakin chuckled, and so did Padmé on the other side. “Perhaps you sho–” He stopped his words when he heard the doorbell ringing. He looked at the big round watch he kept on his kitchen wall, and then lowered his eyes. “Someone’s at the door.”
“This late? Don’t open.”
“It might be a neighbour.”
“Anakin, don’t open.”
“I have to.” The doorbell rang again, and Anakin walked towards the door. “I better hung up.”
“I will look through the spy hole, I promise. Call me, and take care.” Not allowing Padmé time to protest, he hung up, and then got closer to the door.
And oh, surprise, Obi-Wan. Wet, and too cute to deny him anything. Anakin moved away from the door, and bit his lower lip, breathing deeply before opening it.
“Before you say anything,” started Obi-Wan, the moment Anakin opened the door, “I want you to have in mind that I had to risk my life to get here.” Anakin arched and eyebrow, but Obi-Wan nodded, serious. “I though Aayla might tell me how to get to your apartment, and let’s just say that she is very good at threatening people.”
Anakin smiled, and all his face seemed to illuminate. Bright mouth and eyes, and Obi-Wan had to stop to look at him before speaking again. Anakin was wearing wide pants and t-shirt, and his hair was all ruffled around his face. Adorable.
“I’m sorry, I’m really sorry,” said Obi-Wan.
“Did you bring something to bribe me with?” Anakin pointed at the plastic bag Obi-Wan had forgotten he was carrying, and Obi-Wan nodded.
“Oh, you’re good.” Anakin grasped the front of Obi-Wan's shirt, and pulled him inside the house, closing the door behind him. “I can’t say no to cheesecake.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
“No, you’re not allowed to do this again, because I get depressed, and it’s very annoying for everyone around me.”
“Anakin, I’m so sorry I–”
Anakin stopped him by cupping his face with both hands, and smiling widely. “Kidding,” he whispered, getting his face closer to Obi-Wan’s. “I think you’re even more paranoid than I am.”
And finally, he closed the distance that separated them. The bag that contained the cheesecake fell to the floor the moment Obi-Wan decided Anakin’s waist was something much better to clutch, and Anakin seemed to agree. His own hands went from Obi-Wan’s face to his shoulders, insinuating a tingle on Obi-Wan’s neck. Obi-Wan’s lips parted for Anakin’s, and Obi-Wan decided that he had acted like an idiot, because at this moment he couldn’t think of something better than Anakin’s lips caressing his, and their tongues meeting in neutral ground, curious and soft.
The first kisses were always special, different, mischievous and sweet. Obi-Wan was feeling like a teenager, clutching Anakin and kissing him as if there was no tomorrow. It had been too long since he had done this like this, slow, sensual and passionate, almost abrasive.
“Right,” murmured Anakin when they separated, blinking a couple of times before he found his voice. “Cheesecake… I’ll get spoons.”
Anakin woke up with someone else’s smell next to him, and even before he opened his eyes, he grazed his lips with the smile that would adorn his face for the rest of the day. He buried his face in the mattress and hugged his pillow, fighting the beginning of the day for a few more minutes. He could hear Obi-Wan’s voice on the other side of the door, and he decided to allow himself a little bit more of happy fantasizing. He felt as if he was living inside a fairy tale, and thinking about it made him feel stupid for acting as a fifteen year old girl.
Obi-Wan had spent the night there, sleeping next to him, after the cheesecake had been finished between laughter and chatting. Obi-Wan had wanted to leave, but Anakin had insisted on this neighborhood being too dangerous during the night; Obi-Wan had wanted to sleep on the sofa, but Anakin had insisted on the fact that his bed was so big, and he was such a tiny person. Anakin liked to cuddle in his sleep, and Obi-Wan was possibly the most huggable person he had ever met, fitting just so perfectly inside his embrace.
He stretched his arms and tried to do a happy dance under the covers, thanking whoever was watching for him up there. Anakin hadn’t been too lucky when it came to personal relationships, going from disillusions to cheating all too easily, but Obi-Wan seemed all kinds of perfect so far.
Finally, Anakin decided that it was the moment to say good morning to the day and, with a swift jump, he got up from the bed, letting the white sheets fall carelessly on the wooden floor. While he scratched his head unconsciously, he half closed his eyes and looked at the city through the big window that covered one of the walls in his room. It wasn’t raining, but the grey clouds promised that it would. Great.
Anakin didn’t bother with a shirt, and walked through the door and into the living room, both arms falling down his sides, his expression sleepy and his hair sticking up. Someone had told him once that it was his most adorable look, and Anakin had decided, a long time ago, to believe those kinds of comments. He looked towards the kitchen, where Obi-Wan said something close to ‘he did what?’ to his cell phone, while his right hand caressed Anakin’s white cat, who purred dreamily. Anakin smiled, and Obi-Wan did too, once he hung up and saw him.
“Is everything ok?” asked Anakin, pointing distractedly at the black phone that now rested on Obi-Wan’s left hand.
“I have to leave. I’m sorry, but I have to stop someone from killing himself.” Anakin arched an eyebrow, but he preferred not to ask when Obi-Wan shook his head. “I made some breakfast. I… I’ll call you later?”
Anakin smiled, nodding. “Sure.”
Obi-Wan returned him a shiny smile, and Anakin started wondering why exactly had he taken so long to talk to him. Before Obi-Wan could ran away towards the door, Anakin clutched his arms and brought him closer to him, surrounding his waist with a firm arm. He descended his lips upon Obi-Wan’s, caressing them with his own until Obi-Wan held his shoulders and opened his mouth for him, meeting his tongue half-way.
Obi-Wan left the apartment with an honest smile between his lips, forcing Anakin to bite his lip not to sigh like a teenage girl. He dropped his arms again and sat by the kitchen’s table, where Obi-Wan had left a full breakfast.
“I do believe he just deflowered my kitchen,” he murmured to himself, caressing Yoda’s white fur, which had the cat rubbing his cold nose against his wrist. “You like him, don’t you?” The cat purred, turning around inquisitively for a while, and then laying next to Anakin’s arm, who caressed the space between his tiny ears. “Yes, I like him, too.”
The building was tall and grey, like a giant with one eye rising above the rest of the city, announcing constant vigilance over its citizens. Quinlan liked to say that it was a bit like Sauron, a huge eye which saw it all, and through his twisted logic, he was right. The highest floor held Palpatine’s offices, from where he lead his campaign, and the rest of the building was filled by his many services, including his private police force, which situated Dooku’s office right where Palpatine’s was, one floor down.
Quinlan, being… well, Quinlan, had decided that if Dooku had something up his sleeve, an illegal search of his office was in order, and so, he had proceeded. Obi-Wan didn’t want to know how Quinlan had gotten inside, if he had managed to do it, or if he had gotten himself arrested on the way, but Mace’s hysterical screaming on the phone had taken him there. He considered his options, deciding to go through the most legal way, expecting Quinlan hadn’t gotten himself in trouble yet.
He crossed the street, raising the neck of his coat in a futile attempt to cover himself from the insisting rain, and took refuge under the building’s doors, taking advantage of a huge group to make his entrance invisible. Obi-Wan had been there too many times already, and his face was too well known; the fewer people that saw him, the better. God, he was going to kill Quinlan, if he got out of this alive. As every big office building, the waiting for the elevator was eternal, but the mass of people that entered it next to Obi-Wan gave him the necessary camouflage.
Once he was in the place he needed to be, Obi-Wan walked towards Dooku’s secretary: a woman with a huge smile, and an even bigger cleavage. He offered her his most natural smile, after trying uselessly to imitate that half grin Quinlan used when he wanted to get something. The curve of his own lips seemed to be enough to convince the woman that Obi-Wan was to be treated nicely, though. The discussion that followed was short and direct, but enough to convince the woman that there was no better place for Obi-Wan to wait for Dooku than his own empty office. Obi-Wan smiled at her once more, and entered the place.
The first thing Obi-Wan felt when entering the office was the canon of a gun against his temple, but that didn’t evoke any sort of reaction from him. “Quinlan.”
“Obi!” Quinlan moved the gun away, and gifted him with a huge smile when he looked at him with severe eyes. He put the gun away, and changed his expression for an innocent one, even when he knew it wouldn’t do a thing for Obi-Wan.
“Have you lost your mind?” Obi-Wan looked away and around the room with calculating eyes, stopping then on the open window. He saw Quinlan shrug through the corner of his eyes while he walked towards said window.
Quinlan walked next to him, keeping one eye on the door. “Maybe just a small part, although there aren’t any clinical proofs so far.”
“You must at least have suicidal inclinations,” murmured Obi-Wan, looking at the window and down to the street. “Did you climb up those pipes?”
“From the floor directly under us; I did the rest on the elevator, as civilized people do.” Quinlan leaned against the wall, shrugging again when Obi-Wan gave him an accusatory look. “But I got something.”
“There’s no time for that now.” Obi-Wan raised his arms up, exasperated. “You’re going to have to go out the same way. I’ll see you at the back of the building in ten minutes, and then we’ll go to see Mace.”
Avoiding the secretary on his way out was as easy as convincing her to let him in, and before he could realize it, Obi-Wan was inside the elevator of a very different building, going up to see Mace next to Quinlan, whose face wasn’t capable of erasing a self-satisfied smile. Obi-Wan made one last attempt at glaring at him, but when Quinlan gave him a wet kiss on the cheek, and announced him that he loved it when he worried about him, Obi-Wan had to chuckle.
Mace… Mace was a completely different business.
“Is it necessary that I explain you the irresponsibility and risk of your acts?” Mace crossed his arms over his chest, leaving the folders Quinlan had brought him on his desk. “Why do I even bother? You won’t listen to a word I say, will you?”
Obi-Wan sat in front of Mace and next to Quinlan, crossing his ankles in front of him, and shrugging of his wet coat. “Calm down, Ma–”
“And don’t you dare defend him.” Mace pointed an accusing finger at his face, frowning. “This is serious. Dooku already has a grip on our necks as it is, for us to go and play with his patience.”
“We can always ask the senator for support here,” murmured Obi-Wan. “It’s risky, but if there’s something inside that folder that might help us, maybe it was worth it.”
“I don’t think the senator would agree to these methods.”
“Don’t tell her how you got them, then!” exclaimed Quinlan, leaning forward and resting both elbows on the grey table. “Ask ‘Nara to talk to her, she will convince her.”
“How? By ripping her head out? I don’t think Luminara is the best choice here,” scowled Mace, throwing a pencil at Obi-Wan when he chuckled.
“Of course she is. You know that all there is there is just sexual tension.”
This time Obi-Wan laughed openly, playing with the pencil between nervous fingers. “Is sexual tension your explanation for everything?”
Quinlan smiled, and Obi-Wan regretted his question the moment he did. “Of course.” Quinlan nodded, convinced. “Take Mace here, for example,” he started, grasping Mace’s fingers between his own, before he could move them away. “He clearly needs to relax, and what better way than–”
“If you dare finish that sentence, I’ll kick you out of my house.”
Quinlan pouted, offended, but leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. “You’re so cruel to me.”
“Oh yes, a real ogre.”
“Obi-Wan, why don’t you leave? You’ve working on that for hours.” Mace sat across Obi-Wan, who had been working for hours, reading documents and more documents that had come out Dooku’s office, classifying them, and trying to get something from them. Quinlan had left an hour ago with Luminara, and Mace had just stayed to close some last hour files.
Obi-Wan looked up, and rubbed his eyes under his black-framed glasses. “There’s still a lot to do.”
“You better finish tomorrow. Take it home if you want to.”
Mace sighed, shrugging. “Alright, but close when you leave. I better go home before Quinlan manages to burn the place.”
Obi-Wan laughed, nodding. “He’s just trying to be nice; let him.”
“Sure. Of course.” Mace sighed. “See you tomorrow.”
Obi-Wan watched Mace walk away, and returned his eyes to the papers in front of him, ignoring how lonely his figure looked under the low lamp light. He was tired, but the truth was that there was something interesting there, even if he hadn’t connected it just yet. Nevertheless, it was clear that Dooku seemed to know a lot more than they did, even when he had no extra clues. This was becoming more dark every day that passed, and Obi-Wan was annoyed at not being able to pinpoint exactly why.
He sighed, rubbing his eyes again, and sat back on the chair. In a weird impulse, he clutched the phone and dialed.
“Hello?” Anakin’s voice sounded sleepy on the other side, and Obi-Wan was forced to look at the big clock that hanged in one of the walls for an instant.
“Hey, it’s me.”
“Hey… you sound tired.”
Obi-Wan fought himself not to rub his eyes again, and nodded, realizing then that Anakin couldn’t see him. “There’s this case that has me working late these days.”
“A case?” Anakin’s voice had become more awake, and Obi-Wan smiled against the phone. Anakin had a nice voice. “I thought you didn’t do that anymore.”
“I don’t, but this is a favor.” The other side stayed silent then, and Obi-Wan could picture Anakin biting his lower lip insistently. “I know it’s late, but perhaps you might consider… I don’t know, would you like to take a walk?”
“Yes, of course!”
“I’ll meet you at your place in half an hour?”
“Where are we going?” Obi-Wan let Anakin drag him, even when he got no answer. They had been walking for ten minutes, but Anakin hadn’t said a word, leading Obi-Wan by the hand, and going to some mysterious place with the only promise that ‘you will like it’.
And, indeed, Obi-Wan liked it. After walking down what seemed like millions of grey streets, Anakin went through a small gate that took them, through a dirt path, to a huge garden filled with gigantic trees and flowers of different types, shining brightly among the bushes. There were a few couple here and there, and a group of friends sharing a drink, but it was still pretty empty.
“A garden?” murmured Obi-Wan, incredulous, still being dragged by Anakin’s insistent hand. “In this city?”
Anakin finally stopped, turning around and taking Obi-Wan’s second hand in his own, wearing a smile between his lips. “I found it a while ago,” he explained, pulling him until they reached a huge tree and then sitting close to it, bringing Obi-Wan with him. “It’s my favorite place in the city.”
“I didn’t think these existed anymore.” Obi-Wan kneeled in front of Anakin, and then sat back against the huge tree, allowing Anakin to curl on his chest. It was something Anakin did, Obi-Wan had noticed, crouching and curling as close to his body as he could. He put an arm around Anakin’s back.
The night was cold, and the tree didn’t stop the wind that cut their sensitive skin, but Obi-Wan knew this was one of those moments that he would always remember, one of the few images that his mind would evoke in harder times. He let his gaze wander down Anakin’s face, whose blue eyes were fixed in front of him, perhaps in one of the raindrops that fell down a rose’s petal.
He moved a lock of hair away from his face, dragging his attention to him, and let one of his fingers caress the scar that cut Anakin’s right eye. “How did you get this?”
“You want the truth? Or a lie?”
Obi-Wan smiled, keeping a soft finger on Anakin’s cold cheek. “Maybe both.”
“Maybe… maybe I had a car accident,” offered Anakin, sitting up straight, and kissing Obi-Wan’s fingertip. “Or perhaps I got bit by a swan.”
“A swan?” Obi-Wan let his fingers glide down to Anakin’s lip, caressing the lower one when they parted instinctively.
“A big, scary swan.”
Obi-Wan smiled and descended his fingers until they reached the collar of Anakin’s shirt, pulling him until their lips met midway. Obi-Wan had had a lot of one-night stands since Qui-Gon, but he had never allowed himself to enjoy the simple pleasure of kissing someone, of licking another pair of lips and getting lost inside such an easy and perfect sensation, like the one Anakin’s mouth evoked. He felt Anakin move between his arms, and clutched his waist when he straddled his thighs, holding himself by grasping his shoulders.
Anakin separated from him for a few seconds, enough to catch his breath and kiss him again. The kiss was slow, almost languid, all tongues curling between both mouths, fighting from side to side with no intention of winning. Obi-Wan slid his hand above the fabric of Anakin’s jeans until he found the edge of his shirt, and caressed the small of Anakin’s back with the palm of his hand. Anakin got closer to him, sitting more comfortably, and smiling against his mouth.
Anakin descended from Obi-Wan’s lip to his neck, licking his way up to the back of his ear. “Can I ask you something?” he said, panting, and biting the soft lobe.
“Why do I feel it’s going to be a tricky question?”
Anakin smiled against his neck, and then separated his face from his neck, so he could look at his eyes. “Why did you say no that first night? At the bar.”
Obi-Wan sighed, dropping his head against the tree. Anakin blinked a couple of times, putting both hands to Obi-Wan’s neck and caressing his collarbone. “I… well, it’s just that it’s been a long time since I do this,” whispered Obi-Wan, returning his eyes to Anakin’s, who was looking at him with a confused pout.
“This? But you look like the kind of man who would be married and with children.” Anakin bumped his nose against Obi-Wan’s, leaning back again. “Which you aren’t, right?”
“Of course not, Anakin.”
“Sorry; I’ve had some bad experiences.”
Obi-Wan nodded, and stayed silent. Anakin smiled softly, and leaned his head on Obi-Wan’s shoulder, kissing the skin he could reach, and caressing the other side of his neck with a firm thumb. Obi-Wan closed his eyes, breathing slowly, and shivering when Anakin started sucking softly on his neck. That was going to leave a mark. He smiled a little, moving his hand on Anakin’s back, and very close to purring.
“There was someone,” he confessed suddenly, holding Anakin’s waist with one arm and getting him even closer. “Someone important.”
Anakin licked one more time the spot of his neck that now looked red, and lifted his face. His lips were reddened and his eyes half closed, giving him a younger aspect. “What happened?”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” He pressed his lips together, clutching Obi-Wan’s shoulder stronger, and looking away.”
“It was a long time ago.”
“You don’t have to tell me about it.”
“Maybe… maybe some other time.”
Anakin nodded, burying his face between Obi-Wan’s neck and the fabric of his white shirt. He breathed his scent in, closing his eyes and sifting slightly. A warm hand on the back of his neck, another one caressing the small of his back, and Anakin was shivering involuntarily. He looked up, searching blindly for the pair of lips that found his easily, and accepted the inquisitive tongue that curled around his own.
“I really like you, Obi-Wan,” he murmured against lips that were searching for his again, licking his own and finding soft skin. He bit Obi-Wan’s upper lip, and then let himself be guided into a deeper kiss, moaning and clutching a piece of white fabric. “Will you stay tonight? At home?”
Obi-Wan just nodded, playing with the soft curls on Anakin’s scalp. “If you want me to.”
Anakin kissed him again, moving his fingers to the point in which his shirt opened, and arching his back. He breathed slowly, not letting Obi-Wan’s lips get away, but not quite kissing them, just teasing Obi-Wan’s searching tongue. “Well, my cat kind of misses you.”
“Your cat, huh?”
“Yeah. He likes you, too.”
“Fancy enough?” Anakin extended both arms, turning around slowly, and hitting then the floor with his very shiny black shoes.
Obi-Wan rolled his eyes, taking his hands and pulling from him until they were both inside the car. Obi-Wan didn’t trust the chauffer not to get tired and leave them there. When Obi-Wan had talked with Anakin about the possibility of taking him to the annual ball of the Police Department, and after mentioning how very boring it could be, he hadn’t expected Anakin to be so excited about it, and to rant for hours about the fancy suit he never got to wear.
Anakin unbuttoned one of the buttons of his black jacket, getting more comfortable against the door, and crossed his arms over his chest. He looked at Obi-Wan, and pouted. “Shouldn’t you tell me how incredibly gorgeous I look, how you had never seen anyone as beautiful as me, how I’m the living image of Adonis?”
“That’s a little bit melodramatic.” Obi-Wan smiled, raising an eyebrow almost unconsciously. Anakin kept his pout in his lips, and produced an offended ‘hmmmph’. “You look great.”
“Thank you.” Anakin got closer to Obi-Wan, entwined their fingers over his own leg and kissed his cheek. “I only get to wear this when it’s Padmé’s birthday, and–”
Anakin smiled, kissing the frown between Obi-Wan’s eyebrows, and sliding through the leather seat until he was as close as he could be to him. “An old friend of mine. It’s… a long story.” He sighed, lowering his lips to Obi-Wan’s cheek, kissing the soft skin, and trailing down to his ear.
Obi-Wan put his arm around Anakin’s waist, closing his fist around the white fabric of his shirt. “Tell me about it. I know almost nothing about you, you realize? You could be a psycho for all I know.”
“I’m not the one who stalks young, sexy dancers in filthy looking bars.”
“That. Was a cheap shot.”
Anakin laughed against Obi-Wan’s ear, sliding his fingers down the bridge of his nose, until Obi-Wan caught his thumb between his lips and bit it slightly, kissing then Anakin’s exposed neck.
“You don’t come so much anymore,” whispered Anakin, arching unconsciously towards Obi-Wan’s body, while biting his earlobe. “Now I actually notice all those pervs looking at me.”
“This case has been keeping me busy–” murmured Obi-Wan, biting his Adam’s apple. “I’ll go tomorrow, alright?”
“Ok.” Anakin moved his face blindly until his nose bumped against Obi-Wan’s, and then looked for his lips, kissing them softly and letting Obi-Wan chase the kiss later. A short kiss, one on the corner of his lips, another one on his cheek, behind his ear, and Obi-Wan was hiding again against his neck, licking his pulse point.
“You’re a terrible distraction, did you know? You own me a talk, but we’re here now.”
“Could this party get any more boring?” Quinlan crossed his arms over his chest, pouting involuntarily. He swayed from side to side, surveying the room around him. It was filled with people talking in small, closed groups, and just thinking about what they might be talking about made Quinlan take a ship of his cheap champagne. That was probably why people at these things usually found him rude.
Obi-Wan sat next to him in the big, round table he had commandeered, being immediately followed by Anakin. “It’s just like every year; you should be used to it.”
“I thought they might have decided to hire some exotic dancers this year, or something.” Quinlan sighed exaggeratedly, and left his glass on the table. He leaned forward then, letting his eyes move from Obi-Wan to Anakin, and smiled widely. “Anakin, right?” He looked back at Obi-Wan. “We have never been introduced formally.”
Anakin shook the hand Quinlan offered him, smiling. “Aayla’s stalker, I’m guessing. I’m disappointed you let her go.”
“Funny. I like that. By the way, speaking of exotic dan–” Quinlan stopped talking when Obi-Wan’s foot fell on his. Hard. “That was completely unnecessary,” he said through gritted teeth.
Obi-Wan smiled a little, pressing Anakin’s hand under the table. The room was filled with people, just as every other year, and even if the ball was boring and pointless for most, a lot others knew that it was the best place to plot. Everyone who was someone in the city was there, but it was not a meeting, a debate, or a press conference, but a room filled with soft music, little food, and too much cheap alcohol.
“Where is Mace?” asked Obi-Wan, looking at Quinlan, who was studying the room, probably looking for a dance partner. Last year, he had ended up dancing with Senator Amidala, who had been talking about the pain in her feet for a month.
Quinlan pointed at a small group, where Mace chatted – or at least listened to – with some people. “In the lion cage.” Indeed, the group couldn’t have a better name than that. Palpatine, Dooku, Amidala, Mace and Luminara were there, although the last one seemed more interested in glaring at the Senator than any other thing.
Obi-Wan sat back on the chair, offering Mace a smile and a shrug when their eyes met. “Should I take him out of there?”
“No, he’s having fun. Maybe you should get ‘Nara out of there, though, before she decides to rip the Senator’s head off.” Obi-Wan laughed, but Quinlan nodded. “Really, the show would lose so much with no mud included in it, don’t you think?”
Obi-Wan started to roll his eyes, but he stopped when Anakin’s soft laugh echoed next to him. Both he and Quinlan looked at him, questioningly. “Padmé always tells me that all that is some kind of old university rivalry, but I’ve always thought it’s just sexual tension.”
“Thank you!” exclaimed Quinlan. “Someone who underst–wait a second there, you know the Senator?”
“When you talked about Padmé, your old friend, you were talking about Senator Amidala?”
Anakin nodded, smiling, and that was the exact moment the Senator chose to notice them in the multitude, almost as if she had been hearing their conversation. Obi-Wan watched her lean forward, half-closing her brown eyes and moving a few curls away from her face, and suddenly, a huge smile appeared between her lips, and she waved. At Anakin. Obi-Wan looked at Quinlan, then at Anakin, and then back at the Senator, who was walking towards them now. Nevertheless, before she could reach them, Anakin stood up, and hugged her tightly after almost running towards her.
Quinlan whistled, smiled, and leaned back. He took the abandoned glass with agile fingers, and put his other hand to his tied hair. “Your kid’s full of surprises.”
After getting nothing more than rejections from the Senator, Luminara, Obi-Wan, Mace, Kit, Aayla, the rest of the police corps, and a dentist's wife who had nearly passed out, Quinlan had sat, frustrated, and had offered his glass a pout. Maybe it wanted to dance with him.
“Dance with me,” he asked Obi-Wan one last time, making his eyebrow raise elegantly.
“I’m not going to dance with you, Quinlan.”
“Why not? You should know I’m an excellent dancer. Besides, I’m bored.”
“And who isn’t?” asked Luminara, crossing her legs under her terribly uncomfortable dress and staring at her nails. “Every year we come, expecting this to be at least as bad as the last year, and every year it get worse.”
“So dance with me!”
“Last time I danced with you, my feet hurt for a week, Quinlan. Dance with Mace.”
Quinlan smiled at him widely, but Mace just offered him a severe expression, which left no place for hopeful petitions. “Anakin!” Quinlan exclaimed suddenly. “Dance with me.” He extended both arms towards Anakin, keeping the huge smile between his lips.
Anakin laughed, shrugging. “Yes, sure.”
Obi-Wan wasn’t very sure how Anakin dancing with Quinlan had evolved into him dancing with Anakin. It was true that the people in the room where already too drunk to care about men dancing together, but Obi-Wan was starting to think that Anakin made him act far too spontaneously. It was also true, though, that the party seemed much more interesting now.
Quinlan hit Mace’s arm with his elbow, grabbing his attention. When Mace turned around towards him, Quinlan had already become a part of his personal space, and was smiling in a way that made his teeth shine as if he was the Cheshire cat. Mace didn’t move back, though, choosing to ignore the smile Luminara was surely wearing by now. He wasn’t very sure why everyone seemed to support Quinlan in his questionable seduction plans.
“What?” he asked finally, seeing how Quinlan wasn’t saying a word.
“Do you see that? Our baby,” he whispered, pointing at Obi-Wan and Anakin. “They grow up so fast. And now he’s in love.”
“It’s a bit too soon for that, don’t you think?”
“It’s never too soon, Macey. Trust me on this one.”
“Quinlan, are you trying to te–” Mace stopped talking when his cell phone started ringing and vibrating insistently inside his left pocket. Apologizing to the table, he walked a few steps away and took the call, returning only a few minutes later. “We need to go; there’s been another murder.”
Mace, as head chief of the Police Department, found the city more frustrating every day that passed. He was conscious that he couldn’t possibly take care of every single citizen, especially when most of them were bounty hunters, whores or killers, but he guessed that the random killing of young men was too much for him. He was tired, but he had to keep working, because he didn’t have a clue. He had the best people working on this; the united forces of Obi-Wan, Quinlan and Luminara had proved to be infallible in numerous occasions, but even they weren’t getting any results.
He buried his face between his hands and rubbed his eyes. He had been trying to see something he hadn’t seen before for hours, but how much longer could he stare at pictures of mutilated young bodies? At least he wasn’t alone. Obi-Wan had been completely immersed in this for the past couple of days as well, although Mace wasn’t too sure about what he was doing. After going to the warehouse where the last body had been found, a little light bulb had seemed to appear on top of Obi-Wan’s head, and he had spent the last few days asking for archives of old cases, and studying the documents Quinlan had “borrowed” from Dooku’s office. Mace hoped he was onto something.
Quinlan had disappeared a few hours ago, supposedly in the search of his doubtful sources, even when he insisted on the fact that not even people on the streets where discussing this. It seemed that they were in deep waters, and unable to get out.
Mace groaned, resting his head against the couch, and looking at the white ceiling. There was a grayish stain that was threatening with dripping, if only it kept raining like it had been for the past few weeks. He would have to fix that. Before he started to sigh, he heard the front door opening, and Quinlan’s voice giving a hello to the silent apartment. Ungh, he was too tired to talk to Quinlan.
“Hello, Macey. Ugh, you look awful.”
Mace shifted his gaze from the ceiling to Quinlan when he felt the couch sinking next to him, and before he could smile his million dollar smile, Mace got closer to him, trapped his head between his hands, and kissed the lips that were beginning to curve into a smirk. He was tired of fighting everything.
“I slept with Quinlan.”
When Obi-Wan had answered the phone, grateful for even a few minutes of rest, he hadn’t been expecting that. At all. “Mace?”
“Did you listen to what I said? I slept with Quinlan!”
Obi-Wan could almost see the picture: Mace pacing, one hand holding the telephone, the other one on the back of his neck. “Were you drunk?”
“Did you… well, did you like it?”
“Then I just don’t see the problem here, Mace."
Apparently, that wasn’t the answer Mace had been expecting, if his next affirmation was clue enough. “This is Quinlan were talking about, Obi-Wan!”
“Mace, listen to me. Relax, breathe, go cuddle him or something, and you can freak out tomorrow when we meet, yes?”
“I have a call on the other line, Mace. I have to go.”
Obi-Wan smiled a little, shaking his head. Quinlan always got what he wanted. He held the phone on his right hand, letting it ring a couple of times while walking towards the window. He moved the curtain away and looked at the wet street, letting his eyes wander towards the black car that had been parked there for a week now. It seemed that Dooku was still keeping him under vigilance, although if the theory Obi-Wan had was actually true, he had reasons to have a pair of eyes in every corner of the city. Any case, there was still a lot of work to do.
The phone rang one more time, and this time Obi-Wan answered it.
“Well, hello there, stranger.”
Obi-Wan didn’t even try to stop the smile that crossed his lips. Anakin sounded tired, as if he had just woken up, and his low, hoarse tone of voice made him shiver. “I’m sorry, I know I’ve been unreachable for the past couple of days.”
“You should be ashamed of yourself.”
“Will you let me make it up to you?”
Anakin laughed on the other side, slow and soft. “I guess you could take me to a fancy restaurant, or something.”
“Any time.” Obi-Wan let the curtain fall back on its place, covering the dark night outside, and walked back towards the sofa, sitting heavily on it. “You have a lot of things to tell me.”
“About your old friend Padmé?”
“It’s a boring story.”
Obi-Wan smiled, imagining the pout between Anakin’s lips. “Tell me about it,” he insisted, slouching a little on the sofa.
“I’ll make you a deal. I’ll tell you the story of my life, and you'll tell me what you’re wearing.”
Obi-Wan arched an eyebrow, putting a hand to his hair unconsciously. “Those don’t look like very fair terms, but I’ll accept them.”
“Ok then. You see, my father left when I was little, so mom was forced to get a job.” Anakin stopped for a few seconds, and Obi-Wan could almost see him biting his thumb. “So, she got a job working in Padmé’s house, for her father. She was in charge of the kitchens, or something like that, which wasn’t much, but enough… until she died.”
They both stayed silent then. Obi-Wan inhaled sharply, nodding and half-closing his eyes. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, finally.
“It was a long time ago,” Anakin said, his voice husky. He continued almost immediately. “Padmé´s father decided to take care of me then. He made sure I went to the best schools, and that I got a scholarship for the university. He even offered me a job when I turned eighteen, but I decided to… well, try to look for my own lifestyle.”
“So you grew up with the Senator.” The line was silent again, and Obi-Wan knew that Anakin was nodding, unconscious of his own movements.
“Yes,” he answered finally. “She’s my family.”
“You’re full of surprises, did you know?”
Anakin laughed, openly this time, and Obi-Wan smiled. “So, what are you wearing?”
“I really don’t see the point in this, but alright. Black trousers, black shoes, a white long-sleeved shirt, and a black tie.”
“I can’t believe you’re wearing shoes and a tie at home! There’s no one looking, you know?”
“Oh, well, what are you wearing, then?”
“Well, I just got out from the shower, so just a towel.” Obi-Wan swallowed hard, and Anakin laughed on the other side. He was trying to kill him or something, acting as a wet dream come true. “Take off the shoes and the tie, yes?”
“Oh no, we’re not doing this.”
Obi-Wan touched his own face, covering his red cheeks, and then realizing that Anakin wasn’t watching. “Because… because we aren’t doing this.”
“What? Having sex?”
Obi-Wan sighed, removing his glasses and rubbing his eyes. Anakin was definitely trying to kill him. “It’s not… it’s not like it is a conscious decision. Taking this slow, I mean. It’s just that–”
“Things are falling into place. I know. I like that, but I don’t see why this should embarrass you.”
“Because… I don’t know, Anakin.” Obi-Wan sighed again, letting his glasses drop on the table and leaning back on the sofa.
“What was that noise?”
“Oh, I just took off my glasses, but the thing is–”
“Glasses? You hadn’t mentioned the glasses.”
“They’re just… glasses.”
“Oh no, Obi-Wan. I have wet dream about those glasses. Probably all the university has wet dreams about those glasses.” Obi-Wan just grunted softly, expecting Anakin not to hear it. “Put them back on, yes? And take off the shoes and the tie.”
Obi-Wan shook his head, feeling beaten. “I don’t know why I’m letting you talk me into this.”
“Because you want to be talked into it.” Obi-Wan felt Anakin’s smile through the phone. “Hold on a sec, yes?”
“Mmm, sure.” Obi-Wan dropped the phone, exhaled slowly, and started untying his shoes, which he left close to the sofa once they were off. He got rid of his tie then, left it on the table, and put on his glasses. “Anakin?”
“I’m here. I turned on the radio. 97.9. Background music?”
“Yes, sure.” Obi-Wan stood up and turned on the radio on the chosen station. “How romantic,” he murmured, when soft classical music filled the room.
“Ok. Where are you? Can you… lie down? Bed, or sofa or–”
“Sofa.” Obi-Wan nodded, lying down on the couch, and leaning his head on a cushion. “Why do I feel like a clumsy teenager?”
Anakin laughed, and Obi-Wan relaxed immediately with the soft sound against his ear. “Can you… can you, umm, unbutton your shirt? Slowly. God, I would rip it off, but… I guess you are more patient?”
Obi-Wan smiled, unbuttoning his shirt, and caressing the skin he freed with slightly trembling fingers. “Were you serious when you were talking about that towel of yours?”
“Completely.” Anakin’s voice was lower now, a little bit breathless. “Do you want me to take it off?”
“Yes, I do.” Obi-Wan exhaled, finally opening his shirt and letting his own fingers wander down his chest and around his navel, with an expertise learned from a lot of lonely nights. He heard Anakin swallow on the other side, and then the sound of fabric against fabric, and of something falling on the floor. “Are you… are you on your bed?"
Obi-Wan bit his lip, closing his eyes so his imagination conjured what his eyes weren’t seeing.
“I know…” Anakin stopped to breathe for a second, and continued. “I know there’s a scar on your left shoulder, small and round. Is there… is there any other?”
“That one is from a bullet. There is a another one, on my hip. It’s a little cut from the first time I rode a bike.”
“Does it go inside your pants?”
“I would like to lick that.”
“God.” Obi-Wan slid a little bit more along the sofa, lifting his hips almost unconsciously.
“I’ve got… a tattoo. A little sun–”
“Next to your navel, I know.”
Anakin laughed on the other side, and all Obi-Wan could do was hide a moan with a sigh. “I want… I want you to touch yourself for me, and I want you to think about-ab-about-Jesus about my hands when you do it.”
Obi-Wan didn’t hide the moan this time, while he lowered his hands to his pants and unbuttoned them, opening then the zipper. He heard Anakin groan, and he bit his lip when his hand reached his erection. “Your hands are bigger than mine,” he whispered.
“Yes, but yours are prettier. They’re the second most important part of my wet dreams… are you still wearing your glasses?”
“Yes.” Obi-Wan opened his eyes then, letting his hands slide up and down slowly. “Are you… are you…
“Yes. Yes, yes, yes… I don’t sound so coherent anymore.”
“Keep talking, please.” Obi-Wan swallowed hard, bit his lip again when Anakin moaned. “Tell me how you want me to–”
“Slowly, but not too much, and hard so-to-for-I… I don’t have the will to make this tortuous right now… I would like to be there.”
“I would like that, too.” Obi-Wan smiled, his eyes closed and his body arching to an already established rhythm, hearing Anakin on the other side, not talking, but lost in his own concert of gasps, groans, and moans, with some surprised sound, a whole world Obi-Wan wanted to see with his own eyes, and create with his own hands.
He felt a sweat drop fall from his neck to chest, and he moved his hand faster unconsciously, breathing hard and heavy, and whispering Anakin’s name against the phone, which he was still holding in a firm grip. His eyes were closed so tight that he could almost see Anakin, writhing on the white sheet of his beds, clutching them with nervous fists, one hand around himself, moaning softly, thinking about him.
“Anakin…” The name left his lips as a soft sigh, when the orgasm hit him and made his whole body tremble and his toes curl, while his own name abandoned Anakin’s lips a few seconds later in a low and husky tone.
It took Obi-Wan a few more seconds to gain back his breathing, but when he finally did, he smiled.
“Yes?” Breathless, low, satisfied.
“You’re going to be the death of me, I can tell.”
“I certainly hope so.”
“That’s the end of the class, you may leave now,” announced Obi-Wan, putting his hands to his face and removing his glasses with a gesture that was more habit than necessity. While the students started picking up pencils and papers in a frenzy in order to run away from the classroom, Obi-Wan leaned back against the table and coughed to get their attention again. “Remember that Monday is the last day to turn in you papers. Have a good weekend.”
While people started getting out of the room, Obi-Wan sat on the chair behind his desk and started picking up his own papers. He put his glasses back over his eyes, just close enough so that he could read the big titles in the newspaper he had bought that morning. As he should have known, journalists seemed even more willing to hide information than the Government itself. With a sigh, he dropped the paper on the table, and then–
“Good morning, professor.” Anakin raised both eyebrows while he put his elbows on the desk, leaning towards Obi-Wan in a gesture innocent enough that the slower students wouldn’t suspect.
“Good morning,” answered Obi-Wan, smiling slightly and leaning back on his chair. Anakin offered him a shiny grin, and Obi-Wan bit his lower lip.
Anakin looked around and to the last students leaving the room, and once he made sure they were alone, he sat on Obi-Wan’s desk with a tiny, agile jump.
“I was thinking, professor,” he murmured. He propped both feet on the chair where Obi-Wan was sitting, trapping him there, “that there might just be something I could do to get a better grade.”
Obi-Wan arched an eyebrow, keeping himself plastered to the back of the chair, and looking up until he saw Anakin’s playful smile. He was holding a pen between his fingers, and he dropped it on his lap in order to put both hands on Anakin’s booted feet. “But you’re not in my class, are you, Mr. Skywalker?” he said finally, letting one of his fingers travel inside the leg of Anakin’s jeans, and caress soft skin.
With a sigh, Anakin leaned forward and sat on Obi-Wan’s lap with a fast slide. “I’m sure that you a have a lot of influence with the dean, though,” he whispered against Obi-Wan’s lips, leaning a hand on his chest and curling a finger of the other one around a reddish lock of hair. “You could always put in a good word for me.”
Obi-Wan bit his lower lip again; Anakin was going to drive him insane. “And what’s your idea exactly?” he asked. His lips were all but touching Anakin’s, and his hand slid casually until he was cupping his ass, bringing Anakin closer.
Anakin smiled, and wiggled both eyebrows. “Oh, I’ve got a few things in mind.”
Licking his upper lip, Anakin leaned closer to Obi-Wan’s mouth, breathing hot air on the wet skin and– A knock against the door, hollow, if not too strong, made both their heads turn towards the intruder. Leaning against the doorframe, book in hand and amused smile between thin lips, Luminara raised an eyebrow. Anakin jumped away from Obi-Wan, taking a couple of steps back. What? Luminara was scary.
“Am I interrupting something?” she asked, leaning one hand on her hip and using the other one to straighten her white blouse. Her smile widened and then she took one step into the classroom, crossing her arms over her chest when Obi-Wan managed to stand up with a clumsy gesture.
“Luminara,” he welcomed her, blushing cheeks and nervous hands on the papers Anakin had disorganized when he had sat on the desk. “Are you going down to the Office?”
“Yes. I thought you were coming with me.”
“I am, of course.” Obi-Wan nodded, picking up the last of the papers and putting them all inside his brown leather portfolio (it was old, he ought to get a new one eventually) with no order whatsoever. Before he started walking away, though, he looked at Anakin, who was looking down while toeing the floor. “I’ll see you tonight?” asked Obi-Wan, his voice a whisper.
Obi-Wan gave Anakin one last smile as goodbye, and taking his portfolio, he picked up his jacket, his coat, took off his glasses, and walked towards Luminara. Once they had reunited at the classroom’s door, they both walked down the old university building’s hallways to Luminara’s car. It was an old grey Bentley that had belonged to her father, which kept shutting down whenever it went too fast, but Luminara wouldn’t get rid of it. Besides, Quinlan insisted that it was a classic.
“You could have kissed him goodbye,” said Luminara once she was behind the wheel. She threw her hair behind her ear, wanting secretly to put it on a bun, and looked at Obi-Wan from the corner of her eye. “Exhibitionism in a classroom with a student, Obi-Wan? Quinlan would be proud.”
“Oh, shut up.”
“He’s been in there for hours now,” said Mace when Luminara crossed the door to his office. His eyes were looking in the direction of one of the old, grey desks of the Department of Homicides, where Obi-Wan, glasses over eyes and pen in hand, examined papers and took notes with an obsessive strike that couldn’t possibly surprise Mace anymore. The desk wasn’t his – after all, Obi-Wan wasn’t part of the corps anymore – but he had taken it as such after he had been spending the past few weeks immersed in the case.
Luminara looked in the same direction and shrugged. She walked towards the sit opposite Mace’s and sat down, crossing both fabric covered legs and resting her hands on the desk’s wooden surface. She leaned forward, and finally, her penetrating gaze went to Mace’s face. “Do you think he’s got something?”
“I don’t know.” Mace sighed and covered his face with his hands, rubbing his eyes and his three-day beard. He was tired, and his red, puffy eyes and general demeanor talked silently about it.
Luminara leaned her chin on her hand and blinked. “You look awful,” she sentenced a few seconds later. “Are you sleeping at all?” When Mace just shook his head, Luminara smiled, raising an eyebrow. “Is it Quinlan?”
Mace huffed. “You have no idea.” And, automatically, “what documents did he ask you for?”
It took Luminara a couple of seconds to understand that the conversation had gone back to Obi-Wan, but when she did, her eyes turned towards his hunched figure. “Old cases.”
“All of them. Including Qui-Gon’s.”
Mace seemed to wake up fully with that, if his shaking shoulders were any indication. He looked at Luminara with big eyes. “He never even mentions it.”
Luminara shrugged. “Maybe it’s useful for this. Besides, he has got someone now, doesn’t he?”
“I have a theory,” announced Obi-Wan when he went through the door.
Luminara was still in Mace’s office, taking care of boring paperwork, when Obi-Wan entered the room, and they both looked at him. There had never been one of Obi-Wan’s theories that had been wrong, so they may just have found the beginning of the thread that would lead them towards their answer.
Mace smiled, and when he saw the sun coming in through the window, he wondered if that wasn’t a celebration of their fortune. “I’m all ears,” he said.
Obi-Wan pointed at him with a folder, eyes serious and strict, far away from his shy professor look. “There’s some more things that need to be checked before I throw myself into the ring,” he stated. He closed the door behind him with a soft click, and put his hand to his beard, wrinkling his nose when his glasses started to slide down. “I need the psychological profiles of some people checked up. They have all been accused and incarcerated for serial killing.” While he said that, he gave the folder to Luminara.
“Why do you wan–”
“Luminara, please.” Luminara nodded, and Obi-Wan took one step forward, putting his hands behind his back. “If you can contact Senator Amidala, Mace, tell her to keep her eyes open, and to keep Dooku occupied. You two should be careful, too.”
“Obi-Wan, what’s going on?”
“I’m not sure Mace, but if I’m right, this way bigger than we thought.”
Obi-Wan entered the local with a smile between his lips. The truth was the general situation was tense and not the best one to smile about, but it had been a good day. He had a theory, a dark one, yes, but it was a theory, and Anakin was doing his policeman routine today, and damn if he hadn’t just winked at him from the stage. It was plain lewd.
Anakin’s costume was nothing more than a pair of worn, blue pants, a stick hanging from one of his hips, and a pair of handcuffs on the other. They shook with each of his movements, just to hit his thigh and then go up again. Obi-Wan bit his lips, repressed a sigh and sat on one of the tall chairs of the barstool.
Suddenly, he couldn’t breathe.
And Obi-Wan would have worried if the reason for that was any other than the fact that Quinlan was hugging him as if his life depended on it.
“Obi!” exclaimed Quinlan, lifting his face and leaning his forehead against Obi-Wan’s temple. “I missed you.”
“Quinlan, what are you doing here?”
“Getting drunk.” The third voice that had intruded on the conversation and clarified the situation belonged to Aayla, who was rubbing a glass clean on the other side of the barstool. Her hair was tied back in a long, blue ponytail, and she was looking at Quinlan with pity in her eyes. “I tried to stop him, but I don’t know what’s wrong with him.”
Obi-Wan nodded, and took his eyes away from Anakin in order to look at his friend, who was fighting sleep on his shoulder. Anakin came down from the stage a couple of minutes later, and all of Obi-Wan’s attention went to Quinlan.
“Is there something wrong, Quin?” he whispered finally, taking one hand to Quinlan’s hair and another one to his shoulder, in order to drag his attention to him. Quinlan’s head bounced a couple of times on his shoulder, but his glassy eyes found Obi-Wan’s after a while.
“Obi,” repeated Quinlan, forcing Obi-Wan to wrinkle his nose when the smell of brandy reached him. “You’re the only one who loves me, you know? You’re always there and-and-and-you’re my best friend, you know? I love you Obi and–”
“Is this about Mace?”
“He used me!” exclaimed Quinlan suddenly, pushing himself up and stumbling back. He smacked the barstool, making a few glasses clink loudly, and then threw his head back.
Obi-Wan sighed, and nodding towards Aayla, he asked, “can you keep an eye on him? I’m going to call someone to pick him up.”
“Sure.” Aayla nodded, and ripping a glass of whisky away from Quinlan’s hand, she smacked him in the head and made him lean on the barstool.
Obi-Wan smiled from the corner of the bar, and shaking his head, he searched his coat’s pocket for his cell phone. The moment he found it and brought it out, a pair of arms encircled his waist and pulled him close to a warm chest.
“Hey,” whispered Obi-Wan, leaning back against Anakin’s chest and putting the phone to his ear. “Let me make sure that Quin gets out of here alive, and then we can go, yes?”
Anakin just nodded, and buried his nose in Obi-Wan’s neck. Obi-Wan smelled of nice cologne and brandy, and Anakin breathed him in slowly, tasting the scent until his lips found the skin behind Obi-Wan’s ear. He pressed a soft kiss there, and then licked the same spot. Obi-Wan shuddered in his arms, and Anakin smiled.
On the other side of the phone, someone picked up.
“Mace? Yes, it’s me… Come pick up Quinlan, will you? Yes, yes… No, Mace, I don’t care, he’s drunk and… This is your fault, you know? Will you just come?”
“Is that Macey?” Quinlan appeared out of nowhere, throwing himself against both Anakin and Obi-Wan, and leaning on them in order to keep his balance. Obi-Wan held the phone as best as he could manage, keeping Anakin right where he was.
“Tell him, tell him,” continued Quinlan, “tell him that I hate him! That I can’t stand him and that he used me and that-and that-and that I love him very, very, very much. I luv you, Macey!”
“Mace, come and get him,” said Obi-Wan finally, finishing the call and closing his phone with a clack. Then, he turned to Quinlan. “You really do love him, don’t you?”
“’Course I do!” Quinlan looked at Obi-Wan sternly, and with that, walked back to the barstool where he could demand another drink. Not that he was going to get any from Aayla, but at least Obi-Wan knew he could leave him there unharmed until Mace decided to collect his will and come down to the bar.
“You need to get some new friends,” murmured Anakin against his neck, his hot breath tickling him.
“Tell me about it.”
Anakin chuckled, and then looked up from his warm spot, entwining his fingers with Obi-Wan’s. “Come on.”
“You’ll see.” And Obi-Wan couldn’t say that he wasn’t excited about the way Anakin’s eyebrows wiggled.
As soon as Anakin got Obi-Wan alone, he slammed him into the closest wall, which was the greasy, grey one of the changing room. Not that he cared, really, because he had been wanting to do that since Obi-Wan had been nothing more than a lonely stranger in the back of the bar. Anakin pushed a thigh in between Obi-Wan’s, and grinded down on him, exhaling a whimpering sigh.
“The changing room, Anakin?” asked Obi-Wan with a slightly amused tone to his ragged voice. His eyes were scanning the darkened room, but soon they were back on Anakin’s, which were bright and on his.
Anakin nodded. “Can’t wait anymore,” he murmured, and with that, brought his lips to Obi-Wan’s and crashed with them in a heated kiss. He had kissed Obi-Wan for what seemed like thousands of times now, but he couldn’t get enough of that perfect tongue curling around his own and taking him all in.
Obi-Wan’s hands were on his waist, and Anakin yelped when they went down and straight to his ass, cupping it and bringing him closer to Obi-Wan’s body. His hard on brushed Obi-Wan’s through denim, and Anakin was melting like a horny teenager. He moved away from Obi-Wan’s lips, and traced an irregular pattern down his jaw, while his hands worked on getting under his shirt. Once he did, he sighed contentedly, caressing Obi-Wan’s neck with hot puffs of air.
“Jesus, Anakin,” breathed Obi-Wan. “C’mere, c’mere.” Obi-Wan brought Anakin’s face to his own, and kissed him again, hard and wet and messy, making sure he left him breathless, and those pretty lips of his reddened and puffed. It had been too long, Obi-Wan thought, too long since he had kissed someone who mattered.
Obi-Wan smiled at Anakin, and while bringing one hand to the front of his jeans, he sank to his knees.
“You’re not… oh.” Anakin let his head hang forward when Obi-Wan traced the outline of his cock with a delicate finger, teasing him through his pants. Then, he placed a kiss on Anakin’s hipbone, and the proceeded to lick his way up his lucky trail to his navel while his fingers worked deftly at Anakin’s belt buckle. “Such a tease,” murmured Anakin, and when his pants were down and around his ankles, he pushed his hand to the wall and held on for dear life.
Anakin was sweating. He was hard and horny, and he had never seen anything more beautiful than Obi-Wan and the soft, teasing smile that now adorned his lips. Obi-Wan’s eyes were shining bright blue in the room. Anakin loved how they would change from time to time, making Obi-Wan into the stern teacher, the strong detective, the kind man, the shy partner and now, the teasing lover. It dawned on Anakin how in love he was with those eyes, and just about everything else that came with them.
When Obi-Wan leaned forward, pressing his mouth to Anakin’s cock, Anakin’s legs buckled under him, and he only stayed up because Obi-Wan held hips straight, caressing the sensitive skin there in slow circles with his thumb. His mouth was wide and red, and perfect around Anakin, bobbing up and down slowly, just like Anakin had pictured it would be.
“God, you’re gonna kill me.” And it had never been truer. Because this was sex, and a lot more altogether, and Anakin had wanted this since forever, and good God that thing Obi-Wan had just done had to be illegal. Anakin shuddered, and bent forward, leaning his head on the cool, grey wall. “Jesus, yes, please, just… just like that.”
Obi-Wan’s hands went around him and cupped his ass again, this time with no denim around them, and his tongue flicked against the underside of Anakin’s cock, sucking him harder when he felt him closer. Anakin was dying, sweating and holding himself, wanting to make it longer and unable to, because, yeah, just the thought of Obi-Wan blowing him in a dark changing room of a dirty pub was enough to make him come. Which was exactly what he did when Obi-Wan dragged a nail softly around him. Anakin didn’t see just white, but a whole set of colors behind his eyelids, and with a, “good God, sweet Jesus,” he was going down on his knees and right into Obi-Wan’s arms.
Obi-Wan chuckled, bringing him close to his chest and seeking his mouth when Anakin couldn’t quite find his. They kissed, slow and warm, all tongues and teeth and breaths mingling in between the wrong set of lips. It was as close as perfect as Anakin would ever know, and he was happy for it.
Anakin pressed Obi-Wan down until they were on the floor, still kissing, slowly and stopping only the necessary time to breath. Anakin could feel Obi-Wan hard against his tight, and so he dragged his hand down his covered chest, but when he reached his waistband, a hand on his wrist stopped him.
“Wait,” murmured Obi-Wan, kissing his reddened lips softly.
“Why?” And Anakin was whining, because he wanted and needed to touch Obi-Wan.
“Let’s go to your apartment. You do have a nice bed there, don’t you?”
“And a bathtub. And handcuffs.” Anakin wiggled his eyebrows. “God, the things I want to do to you.”
“Let’s go, then.” And God, but Obi-Wan was happy.
Barriss turned off the TV once the credits to the program started to roll, and dropped the control on the empty space beside her on the sofa. She stretched her arms, and only yawned after Anakin did, containing her with the gesture. She smiled a little then, and slumped forward on the sofa.
“Well, your friend the Senator sure knows how to talk,” she stated after a while, seeing as Anakin was enthralled with her new mechanics book. Is not that she cared much for the subject, but Professor Unduli has said once that she thought a wholesome education was something everyone should have, and Barriss was working on getting herself one.
Anakin closed the book finally, and let his head drop against the sofa. He was sitting on the floor, legs spread and shoulders bent forward, a pen dangling from his lips. “Yeah, I know,” he said. “Think she stands a chance?”
“Against Palpatine?” Barriss shrugged. “Who knows?”
“Obi-Wan says that she is very good, and that people are just starting to realise that, but that Palpatine still has a powerful grasp on certain sectors of the population.” Anakin stared at Barriss, cracking his neck with his right palm and rubbing the sore spot then. He should have sat on the couch.
“Obi-Wan this, Obi-Wan that… You’re so into him, aren’t you, Ani?” Barriss smiled a little, sliding forward on the sofa until she was laying on it, her face propped on her hands. She wiggled her eyebrows. “So have you two… already?”
Anakin huffed, turning his head to hide his reddening cheeks. “Well, we have… but we haven’t… So not really.”
“Oral totally counts as sex, Anakin.”
“Oh, really.” Anakin made a show of hitting Barriss with a cushion, which she avoided easily, proceeding then to giggle happily. “You need to get laid, Bar, if you’re so interested in my sex life.”
“Hey!” Barriss grabbed the cushion and hugged it, resting then her head on it and letting her hair fall down the sofa, where Anakin’s hands found it and started braiding it unconsciously. Barriss rolled her eyes, having almost forgotten just how Anakin’s hands could never stay still. “What do you know about my sex life, anyway?”
Anakin snorted. “Lack of it, you mean, right?”
Barriss whacked him on the forehead, scrunching her lips in that fashion Anakin had learned to associate with fake annoyance. “What do you know?”
“How do you feel about that guy on your Bio class, the one with the glasses? He’s kind of cute.”
“Why is it that as soon as people start dating they feel that they have to pair everybody up?” Barriss shook her head, freeing her hair from Anakin’s twitchy hands. Then she sat up on the sofa, crossing her legs and reaching for her already warm Coke on the table. “I don’t have time for a relationship, Ani.”
“Have a fling, then!”
“Oh, fantastic, this coming from the guy who wouldn’t talk to his actual not quite lover because it would break the fantasy.” Barriss smiled when Anakin snorted, avoiding then the second cushion thrown her way. “Admit it, you’re a true romantic.”
“So what if I am? It turned out just fine,” pointed Anakin, poking Barriss nose.
“Really? Are you happy, Anakin?”
“She said, turning serious all of a sudden.”
“Oh, Ani!” she whined, pouting just for added effect. Anakin was sure she had stolen that move from him.
“I am happy, Bar, I promise.” Anakin stood up then, pressing both hands to Barriss shoulders and leaning forward. “I think–I think–well, I think–”
“That you love him?” interrupted her. “Well, of course you do, silly, can’t you tell?” She laughed a little when he blushed, and pushed him backwards. “So cute, Ani.”
Anakin huffed, crossing his arms over his chest and standing straight. A while later, he stuck his tongue at Barriss and then ran away from the wrath of her own cushion throwing.
“Don’t you have to get going?” asked Barriss later, after they had finished picking up all the discarded cushions and all that had fallen to the floor when interrupting their fatal flying.
“You kicking me out?”
“Hey, I told you you could crash on my couch,” she said, pointing at the mentioned piece of furniture.
“Nah, it’s ok.” Anakin shrugged. “But yeah, I better get going. I’ll see tomorrow, then.”
“And don’t be late!”
As Anakin stepped outside, he started his iPod and then put it back in the back pocket of his jeans, letting a play list run. After taking a couple of steps, he looked up at Barriss’ balcony, from where the girl was waving him goodbye with a smile. He waved back and started walking to his apartment. It was a long walk, but the sky had been sunny that afternoon and he had felt like walking; now, as he cruised the dark, empty streets and felt the sky threaten with rain, he regretted that decision. He sighed, and hummed along his iPod.
Anakin walked fast, and wrapped his jacket tighter around himself when he felt a blow of cold wind caress his face. Damn weather. He sniffed, and kept walking. He couldn’t hear his own steps on the concrete, what with his ears deaf with the music, but he knew the sound was echoing on the streets. He passed a couple of prostitutes who smiled at him, mouthing something he couldn’t hear, and walked even faster. He hated this city at night, and maybe he should have taken Barriss offer and stayed at her place for the night. Well, there was nothing he could do now.
With his music so loud, he couldn’t possibly hear the second set of steps that seemed to be mimicking his own, but he did feel the presence behind him. A man, clad in only dark clothing and covering his head with a hat, had been following him for the last couple streets, and even if Anakin’s hand was trembling a little inside his jacket pocket, he had decided that the best way to deal with the situation was to act as if he wasn’t aware of it.
There was a creaking sound somewhere, loud enough for Anakin to hear, and then three birds came flying at eye level, making him take a step back. He stumbled a little, lips poised in a disgusted grin, and flinched when he felt the man stop with him. Not good.
He kept walking, faster with every step, but not wanting to run. He was ready to turn a corner, maybe try and distract the man somehow, but before he did, he stopped on a building’s door, and looked up the bright earthy bricks; hadn’t Obi-Wan once told him that he lived there?
Mace leaned forward, elbows firmly planted on his desk, and eyed the pen on Obi-Wan’s hand suspiciously. “So? Are you going to tell us what’s on your mind, Obi-Wan?”
Next to Mace, Quinlan crossed his arms over his chest, letting then his legs rest under Mace’s desk, ankles crossed. Luminara, on her side of the room, was looking at a few papers uninterestedly, darting glances at them every few seconds. Obi-Wan leaned back on his chair.
“This is going to sound crazy, alright?” he said finally, dropping the pen on Mace’s desk and sighing softly. He passed his hand over his face, and the other three could tell that this was big. “I have been looking at old cases, as you know, and studying not only the victims but also the supposed murderers and–”
“Supposed?” interrupted Quinlan. “As in supposed?” He highlighted the word with a move of his fingers, his eyes opening hugely.
“Yes, Quin, like–”
“Ohh, this sounds like a conspiracy theory. How cool!”
Mace heaved a desperate sigh, and pressed the heel of his hand to Quinlan’s arm. “Quinlan, do you mind–”
“Sure, Macey.” Innocent, big smile.
Obi-Wan hid his own little smirk, and continued. “The thing is, during the last few years we have followed patterns that lead us nowhere, whereas Dooku’s police, even when we didn’t see them investigate, were always one step ahead of us. And all this murders, they have been almost staged a–”
“What do you mean staged?” Luminara piped in, leaving her papers aside and turning her full attention towards Obi-Wan by piercing him with her bright eyes. She crossed her legs, and made a show of reattaching her bun.
Obi-Wan moved her eyes from Mace to her, ignoring the way Quinlan had managed to make Mace’s hand stay on his own. “You said so yourself: book cases. For years we have dealt with nothing more than perfect book cases.”
“So let me see if I get this straight,” murmured Mace, “are you implying that someone has been playing us? Staging murders?”
“In order to solve them later, yes.”
“This is crazy, Obi-Wan.” Mace lifted both arms up, effectively painting a half pout on Quinlan’s face when his hand moved away, and then brought them back down. This couldn’t be right. If it was, it meant that his last years of work had meant absolutely nothing. “We’re talking dead people here, Obi-Wan. All of them sacrificed for what?”
“For the government,” stated Obi-Wan. He knew this was going to sound crazy. “Look, Palpatine’s power is based in his ability to put people in jail, it’s based on Dooku’s ability to get the bad guys, and what better way to do that than by creating them too? Look at this case now, Mace. Big, bad assassin killing young men, and what does the police corps do? Nothing. Now, Dooku? Find the killer. It will crash Senator Amidala in the elections.”
Mace sighed, dropping his head back on his chair. “Too much,” said Mace finally. He was feeling more and more tired by the second, specially because Obi-Wan was not only making sense, but because Mace knew he wouldn’t say something like this if he didn’t truly believe it himself. Despite himself, he smiled a little when he felt Quinlan’s thumb drawing a lazy circle on his wrist. “What do you think?” he asked, alternating his eyes between Quinlan and Luminara.
“Conspiracy theory, Macey! Is what every cop waits for in his life, isn’t it?” Quinlan beamed, stopping short from clapping his hands. “I can ask around.”
“You do that.” Mace nodded. “Try not to get shot this time, though.”
“So sweet of you to worry about me.” Quinlan smiled, and if Mace’s lips saw the traces of a mimicking gesture, that was only because he was tired.
Mace groaned, and Obi-Wan smiled when Luminara looked at him. He wouldn’t’ have thought the situation would take this exact turn when all this had started. It was good, though, Mace definitely needed someone who made him laugh, and Quinlan needed someone stable.
“But how do you plan to prove this, Obi-Wan?” wondered Luminara after a few seconds of silence. She stood up, and walked towards Mace’s desk, leaving her papers behind. “A few reports won’t do you any good, not even supported by criminologists. Besides, there’s nothing that links this to Dooku.”
“Provoke him,” said Quinlan, arching his lips in that quirky way that meant that he was onto something. “He’s proud, so he will jump if you indicate that you may know something, right?”
Mace nodded. “There’s an idea. Why don’t you set up a meeting with him tomorrow, Obi-Wan?”
“I will then, and let’s see what comes out of that.” He sighed. “Should we alert the Senator?”
“Yes, if this takes a bad turn we’ll need her support… Luminara, will you take care of that?”
Luminara’s shoulders hunched forward, and she would have whined if she hadn’t thought that too childish for her own sake. She did have a reputation. “Sure, I will.”
“Fantastic. Now home with all of you, and keep a sharp eye.”
Obi-Wan heaved a sigh while shrugging out of his soaked coat and put it on his arm, still hearing the squishy sound his shoes made with every step he took. He hated rain with a passion. He searched for his keys on his pocket, and as he walked down the hallway, he combed his wet hair back and away from his forehead. When he looked up, he saw a sitting figure in front of his door.
Anakin looked up from his position of the floor, where he was hugging his own knees tightly. As soon as he spotted Obi-Wan, he smiled and stood up, wrapping his arms around Obi-Wan’s waist once he was close enough. He buried his face in his neck, and breathed him in.
“Is there something wrong?” Obi-Wan brought his arms up and around Anakin’s shoulders, pressing him closer. It felt funny, trying to protect someone who was taller than him, but the way Anakin’s muscles seemed to relax instantly under his touch told him that he must have been doing it right. “Anakin?”
“You’re wet,” said Anakin, feeling the coldness of Obi-Wan’s clothes.
Obi-Wan chuckled. “Well, it is raining. Care if we go inside now?”
Anakin nodded, removing himself from Obi-Wan’s body and taking one step to the side so Obi-Wan could open the door. “It’s kind of cold in here,” he murmured.
Obi-Wan just nodded, opening the door and letting himself and Anakin in. He hanged his coat neatly in a closet, and then left briefcase and keys on a table nearby the entrance. Those were gestures born out of pure routine, so he was almost surprised when he turned around to see Anakin standing there and moving his eyes quickly from side to side of the place. He looked intrigued, and it made Obi-Wan smile.
“So, is everything alright?” he asked again, walking towards the bathroom, now barefooted, but carrying his shoes in his right hand. They were almost ruined, soaked as they were, but Obi-Wan could try and save them. He’ll let them get dry first, though, but there was no point in leaving them in any other place than the cool tiles of his bathroom. “Anakin?”
“Oh, yes!” Anakin, mesmerized as he had been, was surprised by the sight Obi-Wan’s backside walking. And man, was it a nice backside. “Yes, yes, everything is fine.” He didn’t see Obi-Wan’s arched eyebrow, but he could guess it was there.
He followed Obi-Wan’s steps to the bathroom, and smiled softly as he toed off his trainers and shrugged off his jacket. Obi-Wan wasn’t even looking at him, staring at his shoes while looking miserable and cute at the same time, and if Anakin didn’t jump him now he was going to go nuts. Nothing good ever came from pent up sexual energy, anyway.
“Are you sure ab–”
Obi-Wan’s speech stopped short when he felt himself pushed back against the sink, and with a mouthful of eager Anakin. He was still very much wet, and the contrast of Anakin’s warm hands with his cool clothes made him shiver and arch his body inside Anakin’s embrace. He kissed back, slow, almost lazy, letting Anakin part his lips with a curling, exploring tongue as he dropped his head back, resting his neck on the palm of Anakin’s hand.
Obi-Wan could feel his breath getting ragged, even as his lips skimmed Anakin’s softly, moving down and then back up again, managing a short intake of air between caress and caress. He didn’t care, not as long as he had Anakin’s body pressed firmly against his, a thigh sneaking its way between his and big hands keeping him firmly in place. The sink digging on his back was terribly uncomfortable, but a small price to pay for this sensation.
He almost yelped when he felt himself being pulled forward, and was glad for Anakin’s mouth being there – close enough, not nearly as much as it should, though – to drown the sound. He stumbled forward, fingers clawing at Anakin’s forearms as he was dragged up and inside the shower, fully clothed and with Anakin far too close for him to think clearly.
“Shower?” he managed to murmur, pressing himself closer to Anakin, and dragging his hand down, where he could touch the soft skin of Anakin’s stomach.
“You’re wet and cold.” Anakin smiled at him, cocky and secure, a far away expression from that shy curve of lips that he drew sometimes. Then, he turned around, and after fumbling for a few seconds with the shower, a hot spray of water fell right on Obi-Wan’s face. “Good?”
Obi-Wan nodded. “Yes, good. Come here.”
Anakin didn’t need more than that to get into Obi-Wan’s personal space yet again, and to press wet lips against Obi-Wan’s. The pressure of the shower was fantastic, far better than that of his own, and he welcomed the warmth against his body. He brought his hands around Obi-Wan’s waist, and insinuated his hands over the curve of Obi-Wan’s ass, forcing him closer still. There wasn’t enough he could get of him, and he needed him right there, but probably with fewer clothes. Obi-Wan’s thoughts must have been going in the same direction, because the next thing he knew, his t-shirt was coming up and off of him, wet and squishy. Obi-Wan dropped it outside of the shower, and then pressed his mouth back on top of Anakin’s.
Obi-Wan smiled into the kiss, tasting warm water inside Anakin’s mouth as his hands roamed down the skin of his back, one hand dipping lower until it was playing right under the waistline of Anakin’s jeans, digging blunt nails into the soft skin there. Anakin moaned into his mouth, low and ragged, getting his thigh right back in between Obi-Wan’s. He could feel Anakin’s hard on against his thigh, and a responding one building inside his own dark grey pants which, by the way, had probably been completely ruined by now. His fingers downed further inside Anakin’s jeans, and squeezed.
“Ok. Bed. Now,” grunted Anakin suddenly, turning the shower off with a blind arm that reached back, and then stumbling out of the shower with feet that complained when meeting the cold of the tiles.
“That was articulate.” Obi-Wan chuckled, but was promptly quieted by a smart mouth crushing against his and a hand skating its way inside his shirt and pressing flat against his back. He groaned.
The path towards the bed, as short as it may have been was… awkward nonetheless, but once they were there, Anakin pushed Obi-Wan onto the soft mattress and then straddled him, staring at him from his position and enjoying the view. Obi-Wan smiled up at him, bringing his hand up and entwining it with Anakin’s damp curls. A drop of water felt on his now naked stomach, and Anakin bit his lip, following the trail of the drop with tongue.
Anakin climbed up Obi-Wan’s chest with small bites and licks, and when he got to the shell of his ear, where his tongue curled lazily, he thrust his hips hard down against Obi-Wan’s, shuddering at the sensation of rocking cocks in between denim.
“I’m gonna ride you so hard you’ll forget your name,” he murmured to Obi-Wan’s ear, hot puffs of air warming the skin.
Obi-Wan didn’t say a thing, feeling incapable of it, but he did smile, and then let his hands run down Anakin’s back, one of them going back inside Anakin’s jeans and the other opening the button of his jeans and freeing him from the wet fabric (there was nothing more uncomfortable than wet jeans, after all). Anakin half-moaned, half-grunted when Obi-Wan’s fingers found the perfect spot to wrap around on his cock, and then started stroking far too slowly, at the same time his other hand gained more space on his backside, reaching for one of his buttocks and squeezing.
“Lube?” he groaned, and even before Obi-Wan pointed at the bedside table, he was already searching for it there. That taken out, he popped the tube open, only to be stopped by Obi-Wan’s hands.
“Get this off first, yes?” murmured Obi-Wan, sitting up on the bed and pressing a soft kiss against Anakin’s neck. He mouthed the spot, licking slowly then, and Anakin’s eyes rolled inside his sockets. He was still rocking on Obi-Wan’s lap, though, and once he found enough strength, he pulled himself away and stood up, getting rid of jeans and underwear in one desperate move. He was all lean muscle and sweaty skin, but before Obi-Wan could enjoy the view properly, Anakin was back there, taking care of his own pants and throwing them onto the floor, where the buckle of his belt clattered loudly.
“Wanted to do this for so long,” Anakin murmured, face now buried deep within Obi-Wan’s neck, and body back to straddling Obi-Wan’s.
Obi-Wan cursed under his breath, placing his hands on Anakin’s hips as he felt the firm touch of skin on skin all too suddenly. There was a sharp intake of air on both their parts, and then Obi-Wan was searching blindly for the lost lube. A few minutes later, and he was breaching Anakin open with three fingers – one a time, Anakin, just… let me, all right? – as Anakin writhed on top of him.
Anakin’s lips were firmly planted on Obi-Wan’s neck, leaving marks here and there, as he did his best to thrust back into Obi-Wan’s fingers, feeling his cock slide against Obi-Wan’s at the same time. Obi-Wan felt firm under him, all muscle hidden under nice professor shirts, and skin sweaty from the exertion.
“Ok, ok, let me,” Anakin said finally, slapping Obi-Wan’s hand away. He guided him inside him slowly, and then sank down in one hard thrust that had Obi-Wan moaning his name. He smiled, and then there was a hand squeezing his ass, and he was moving up and then down slowly.
Obi-Wan arched his back, meeting his movement with soft thrusts, and Anakin stared at him, flushed cheeks and hair sticking to his forehead. He liked Obi-Wan like this, bare and open for him to see, not the cop or the teacher, but an Obi-Wan that was just for him to have. He leaned forward, and kissed Obi-Wan’s parted lips.
It didn’t take long, nothing more than grunts and forced, uncomfortable moves and a chuckle here and there. Obi-Wan sat up, hugging Anakin close to his chest, and clawing at his sweaty back while Anakin stayed buried in his neck, letting the rocking movement drive him right there. There weren’t bright lights or fireworks, but it was great, it was fantastic, it was them, and Anakin knew they were good like this, all tangled limbs and sweaty skin and breathy moans. Yeah, they were perfect like this.
“Jesus,” Anakin murmured, and with one more twist of Obi-Wan’s wrist on his cock, he was coming almost lazily, his teeth sinking deep in Obi-Wan’s collarbone. He rode his orgasm on Obi-Wan’s lap, and before he was finished, he could feel the other man following him into the brink and staying.
It was only later, when Anakin fell back on the bed, that he exclaimed, “That was great! Let’s do it again, yes?”
Obi-Wan just chuckled.
Anakin buried his spoon in the ice-cream, and then brought a mouthful up to his mouth. Obi-Wan looked at him, perplexed, and then chuckled. “Now tell me, for real, what happened?”
“What do you mean?” articulated Anakin while trying to lick his lips clean from the chocolate left there.
“Why did you come here? You were almost trembling, Anakin.”
“Erm. Um. Surprise?” Obi-Wan arched and eyebrow, and Anakin smiled sheepishly. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to tell Obi-Wan, but he didn’t want him worrying, much less when everything might have been a silly coincidence (never mind that he didn’t believe in those). “Ok, so maybe there was someone kind of following me, and your apartment was closer, but that doesn–”
“Following you?” Obi-Wan stared at him, eyes piercing and heavy in a way Anakin had never seen them before. It was intense, they way his gaze locked into his, as if trying to read something more from his expression, and Anakin couldn’t help but think that he looked beautiful like this, even if worry was marring his features. “Did you see who it was?”
Anakin shrugged, leaving the cup of ice-cream on the table. “Some guy dressed in dark clothes.”
“Hey, it’s ok, I do–”
“I want you to stay here,” said Obi-Wan suddenly. He was still looking at Anakin with that piercing gaze, which seemed to be turning grey in the low light of the room. Obi-Wan licked his lips, and pressed one of Anakin’s hands between his own. “Just for a little while, yes? Until this whole case is solved, at least.”
“Really?” Anakin was almost beaming. “I’d love to! Although I’m a terrible roommate, I gotta tell you. I’m disorganized, I’ve got a cat–” he started counting with his fingers “– I can’t do a bed properly if my life depended on it, I leave everything everywhere, and I burn stuff, and I–”
Obi-Wan shut him up by pressing his lips to his, soft and tender in something that was more a caress than an actual kiss. Anakin stayed quiet, and then, “so what’s so terrible about this case?”
“I can’t even begin to describe it.” Obi-Wan sighed, letting himself slouch further into the couch where they were sitting.
Anakin recovered his ice-cream, and pressed the spoon to his lower lip thoughtfully. “Why did you leave it? Your work, I mean. You clearly love it, and you’re good at this.”
Obi-Wan shook his head, staring at Anakin again with a piercing gaze, if sadder this time. “Do you remember that I told you that someone important had died?”
“Yeah, yeah.” Anakin nodded wildly, ice-cream forgotten on the spoon.
“He was my partner, had been my mentor before, and… well, he was shot, and I couldn’t do a thing to stop it. Someone found the killer eventually, but I was unable to–”
“Hey, it’s ok.” Anakin stopped him, pressing a cold hand against his own and entwining their fingers. “I don’t the details, it’s ok.”
“Yes, yes it is.” And as Obi-Wan rested his head on Anakin’s shoulder, he realized that yes, it was.
The flash illuminated the dark room, and the sudden click of the camera made Obi-Wan’s eyes flutter open. His eyelashes were tangled, moist with sleep and mostly too god dammed comfortable for him to actually open his eyes. Still, he did. He wished he hadn’t, because the last thing he wanted to see when waking up comfortably nestled against Anakin’s body was Quinlan smiling at him widely with a camera in his hands. Why exactly was Quinlan there and how had he gotten in weren’t even necessary questions, more like facts Obi-Wan had learned to accept after so many years of dubious friendship. One of these days, he was going to kill Quinlan. In the mean time, he just groaned.
“Awww, aren’t you two just adorable?” Quinlan beamed at him, so bright and happy that Obi-Wan almost forgot to be angry there for a second. Almost. Quinlan took the photo (he had always carried a Polaroid, claiming that instant photos were one of the greatest invents of humankind, much better than all those digital, fancy stuff kid’s used nowadays), and started shaking it so the ink would dry. “I think I’ll put this in one of the boards next to your office at the university. I bet kids will love it.”
Obi-Wan just groaned again, making a mental note of getting that photo from Quinlan and possibly making it disappear (or maybe keeping it in a secret, hidden box in the darkest corner of his closet); he didn’t put doing exactly as he had said past him. God, if he didn’t love the man as much as he did.
After a couple of uncomfortable blinks, he disentangled himself from Anakin’s long limbs and made as if to stand up, barely remembering that he was naked and Quinlan was still there, smiling wide. “Do you mind?” he grumbled.
“You’re such a prude, Obi,” said Quinlan. “But ok, I’ll wait outside. Mind if I make some coffee?”
Obi-Wan sighed, shaking his head in resignation. “Since when do you have to ask?”
A few minutes later, wearing sweat pants and an old white t-shirt, Obi-Wan stepped into the kitchen. He was barefoot, and the tiles were cold and uncomfortable, so he almost stumbled on his way towards the hot coffee Quinlan had taken the time to make. The room smelled like it, and Obi-Wan had to remember to dump half of the sugar bowl inside his cup because the taste was probably just as strong as its scent; Quinlan had always said that coffee must taste like coffee, and not like something else.
He had left Anakin asleep on the bed and burrowing closer to the place he had left, as if looking for him even in his sleep. It was cute. Hell, it was adorable, and Obi-Wan knew he was completely gone by now. And happy about it, too.
“What are you doing here, anyway?” he asked, sitting on a chair opposite Quinlan and taking a sip of his coffee. He grimaced, and considered whether he should make some he could actually drink or simply swallow this down. “This coffee is awful.”
Quinlan smiled at him, leaning his chin on his palm and taking a sip of his own cup. “Pansy. And hey, I said I’d drive you to Dooku’s office, remember? Or has hot, steamy sex erased your memory?” Quinlan wiggled both eyebrows, and Obi-Wan would have laughed if only he didn’t know that was his subtle way of asking for details. Quinlan had never been too good at subtlety.
Obi-Wan would have answered something witty if only he hadn’t actually forgotten about his upcoming visit to the town’s badass, and he should probably be worried, because these kind of things? So never happened to him. He was anal retentive, kept his books organized by genre, size and author, his shocks by colour and his schedule updated and inside his head. Anakin was going to be the death of him, in the best of ways.
“So, am I right, am I right? Are you living in some sort of sex induced fantasy, uh, uh? Just asking for research purposes, have to keep ‘Nara informed, you know? She thinks it’s good for your health.”
Obi-Wan groaned. “Let’s not discuss this, Quin. Oh, and that photo you took? I want it.”
“You’re no fun.”
“Let me get dress and we’ll leave.” Obi-Wan left the half-full mug on the table, deciding to get some decent coffee later. There was no point in torturing his tongue with that thing Quinlan had made, really.
He heard Quinlan rummage through the kitchen, but decided not to wonder about what he was doing, walking instead to his room where he could get dressed. Formal attire, if he wanted to give the best impression. It wasn’t so much that he wanted to look good in front of Dooku, far from it, but he did want to feel presentable and secure enough to deal with the man. It was stupid, really, but a suit and a nice tie would make him feel good inside his own skin, and that would take a big advantage away from Dooku. Dooku was nothing more than a bully, especially when it came to Obi-Wan, but he knew better than to be intimidated by such tactics.
He truly didn’t know what exactly had set the man against him, other than he had been Qui-Gon’s partner from the beginning, and for all practical purposes, his apprentice. Agents fresh from the academy where always turned to experienced ones, and after a period of low-profile cases, they would change from partner to partner, until a few years passed and they stopped being considered as those young men useful for little more than making coffee. Obi-Wan had stuck with Qui-Gon, though, something that he knew had been his own petition. Time had made them partners, and later on, lovers. Obi-Wan couldn’t truly guess what part Dooku had played in Qui-Gon’s life, but he could pretty much guess. It was going to be one long morning.
He stepped into the bedroom, only to see Anakin crouching on the floor, pile of sheets hastily wrapped around his waist. He held something between his hands, and even if Obi-Wan couldn’t see it, the mess that surrounded him on the floor clued him in.
“What are you doing?” he asked, noticing his tone a little more cutting than he had intended it to be.
Anakin’s head turned around in a fast movement, his blue eyes setting into his own with a bit of a guilty expression on them. He was biting his lower lip, and he held a photograph in his hand. “I’m, well… I just hit the shelf and this box fell down and. Sorry, I didn’t mean to pry.”
“I. Sorry. Ok. I’ll just… go take a shower.” Anakin stood up, still holding the sheets, and as he walked towards the bathroom – fast pace, eyes on the floor – he pressed the photo into Obi-Wan’s hands.
Obi-Wan didn’t say anything, his eyes set on the contents of the box, which had been spilled on the floor. The sun was bright outside, and he guessed that Anakin must have opened the blinds to let the light in; it glowed yellowish on the floor, displaying the mess that were Obi-Wan’s memories. He crouched on the floor, picked the contents of the box, and then left it where it had been. There was nothing there other than a few old pictures and some trinkets, memories of a lost life with Qui-Gon. He hadn’t meant to be harsh with Anakin, much more in such an irrational way, but he still had a hard time letting go of such a past. He hadn’t gotten on time to save Qui-Gon, and now he was dead, gone forever. It wasn’t Anakin’s fault; it wasn’t anyone’s fault, probably not even his. He knew that if he told Quinlan about this, he would probably smack him with the closest newspaper he found. Obi-Wan thought he deserved it.
He sighed, shook his head and got dressed – tailor suit, nice tie – and after gathering his courage (which wasn’t really much when it came to Anakin) knocked softly on the bathroom door. “Anakin? I have to go, but could you please… Can I talk to you?”
The door opened a crack, enough for Anakin to stick his head out, all wet curls and small pout. “Are you mad at me?”
“No, I’m not.”
“I’m sorry.” He pouted just a little bit more, if only because he knew that it always got the desired effect. The shower was running inside the bathroom, and the sound had almost silenced Obi-Wan’s whisper. Anakin cocked his head to the side. “As much as I have played with the mad teacher-naughty student fantasy, I really don’t want to see you angry.”
Obi-Wan blushed, straight up and in a single second, and damn Anakin for being able to do that to him. “Well, I’m not mad, and I’m sorry. Can we talk about this later? I really have to go.”
Anakin smiled, bright and sunny, and Obi-Wan combed his hand through Anakin’s wet curls, resting long, cold fingers on the back of his neck.
“You should bring some stuff here, probably,” Obi-Wan said.
“I will. Have a nice day.” Anakin leaned forward, pressed a soft kiss to Obi-Wan’s lips and smiled again. It was going to be a nice day, he could tell.
Obi-Wan opened his mouth, ready to give his own goodbyes, when the second flash he had seen this morning illuminated the room briefly.
“You two are so cute, you have no idea,” exclaimed Quinlan behind him. “Can I keep this one? For the family album.”
“No, you can’t.” Obi-Wan sighed, shook his head, and removed his hand from Anakin’s curls with no little effort. “Let’s just go.”
“Such a spoilsport, really.”
“I’ll be driving around the block. Gimme a call when you get out.” Quinlan stopped the car in front of the building, which towered above them, tall and imposing.
Obi-Wan nodded next to him, hands poised on the car’s door and eyes looking up – and up, and up – at the window where Dooku’s office was. Quinlan knew Obi-Wan didn’t fear Dooku, but he was also aware that there was a certain reticence on his part to go and face the man; he could understand it.
“It shouldn’t take long, but keep a sharp eye anyway,” murmured Obi-Wan finally, looking at him one last time before stepping out of the car. Quinlan saluted him, lips forming half a grin, and then the car whooshed past him and into the city’s wild traffic.
Obi-Wan stood straight, and walked towards the building, finding himself at the door of Dooku’s office sooner than he had expected. He should have gotten more time to build some momentum, he thought, after all, if he was right – and he truly believed he was – this meeting right here would probably be one full of empty threats and resentment. He knew, though, that he would be able to tell whether Dooku was lying or not right away. No point in delaying the visit anymore, though.
“Isn’t this a surprise?” Dooku was sitting on his chair – a pompous, horrid piece of furniture – elbows firmly planted on his desk and eyes set straight forward, right into Obi-Wan’s own. Obi-Wan thought that he had never seen the man in a relaxed posture, legs shot to the sides or arms leaning casually. Dooku was always alert, no matter what.
“Will you take a seat?” asked the man then, head cocking to the side and eyes half closing until Obi-Wan was forced to think of an angry cat.
“I’ll rather stand,” he said. He sounded cutting and edgy, and perhaps that was the best strategy here.
The door was closed behind him, and Obi-Wan stepped forward until his stomach was almost touching Dooku’s desk. The other man was still looking at him, eyes travelling up so they could stay right on Obi-Wan’s own. His lips were a thin line, always at the ready. Obi-Wan smiled kindly, resting a folder on the table and keeping his hand splayed above it.
“Do I have to explain you the reason why I’m here, or are you smart enough to guess?”
“How blunt, Kenobi.” Dooku’s hands came to rest on the desk, the points of his fingers almost touching Obi-Wan’s. His jaw was set in a hard demeanour, but his eyes stayed still, expressionless.
“I think we passed the point of subtlety a long time ago.”
“We did, didn’t we?” Dooku laughed, a hard, controlled sound that never stopped Obi-Wan from feeling nervous. Dooku threw his head back, just a little bit, and soon his eyes were back on Obi-Wan’s, where he met a defiant look. “And just what do you suppose we should talk about, then? Apparently, you have the upper hand here, so I’d say the ball’s in your court.”
Obi-Wan stood his ground, shoulders slightly hunched forward so he could lean closer into Dooku’s personal space. He pushed his fingertips on the folder he was still holding. “You know what’s going on, and you know I have enough evidence to send you and your Governor into jail for longer than you’ll live.”
“And just what do you think you are going to do with that, uh? Judges are ours.”
Obi-Wan snorted, bit his lip. Fuck the man; he might as well play all his cards. “Not all of them,” he deadpanned. “Besides, you know very well that many people are willing to accept bribes, but that they will stop short as soon as they hear about the amount of people that has died for the Government to stay as it is. You’re killing fifteen, sixteen year old kids, and the city won’t forget this time, Dooku.”
Dooku stood up, fast and rushed, fists pressed hard into the desk. His eyes were a hard, thin, dark grey when they found Obi-Wan’s yet again, and Obi-Wan yippeed internally; he knew perfectly well when the man crashed into something that unsettled him, and such a frontal attack must have been just the right thing to do just that.
“You don’t actually expect me to admit a thing, do you, Kenobi?”
Obi-Wan shook his head, leaning back. His right hand wrapped easily around the folder, and he lifted it, looking at it in an almost uninterested way. “Don’t worry about admitting or not, Dooku, I’m not carrying a tape recorder. You know very well I don’t need more proof than what I already have.”
“Then perhaps, my dear, stupid boy, you should start thinking about what you have to loose. After all, the press wouldn’t be so surprised about one more murder, and you do know the killer likes them young and with curly hair. I don’t assume you know anyone that fits the profile, do you?”
“You wouldn’t dare,” stated Obi-Wan simply, eyes falling forward.
“Oh, I don’t know what you’re talking about, Mr. Kenobi. Now, if you could please leave? I have things to do. Important business, I’m sure you understand.”
The car was already outside when Obi-Wan ran towards the street. He felt panic rising low inside his belly, but he tried to pull the sensation down, trying to think slow and rationally. It wasn't an easy thing, much less when all his body was vibrating and screaming at him to just run and find Anakin, wherever he was. He knew, though, that Dooku mouthed many things than never became realities and that he was mostly trying to rile him up, and to let him know that he was being watched. It had been nothing more than a warning, and he needed to get a grip. Still, as he was walking towards the car, he pulled out his phone and dialed Anakin's cell. He was sent to voicemail; it didn't make him any less nervous.
"Anakin, it's me. Please, call me as soon as you listen to this. And... And–Just call me."
The car’s door closed with a hard, hollow sound. The sun was setting, and the sky was grey, threatening with rain as Quinlan pulled away from the building and back into the traffic. Obi-Wan was distressed.
“Obi, not to scare you or anything, but we’ve got company.”
“What do you mean?” Obi-Wan stared at Quinlan, noticing his tight expression for the first time since he had sat inside the car. He was thinking about Anakin, he couldn’t help it, but the set of Quinlan’s eyes would have to occupy his mind for a while; something was wrong.
Quinlan’s eyes stayed on the road before him, his knuckles turning white from the pressure on the wheel. “Behind us and to the right, two black cars. Have been following me around the block, now–”
“They’re leading us,” stated Obi-Wan.
The cars were set around them, forcing them to move in a certain direction. It was an old strategy, something done to get a car to stop right where it was supposed to stop. Obi-Wan’s eyes shot upwards, as if he would be able to see Dooku staring at him through his window, a sly smile on his face; perhaps his threatens weren’t so empty this time. He thought about how far he was willing to go, and then he thought about Anakin.
“Where to?” he asked after a while.
Quinlan was tense, all his body wired and ready, but he looked nervous, too surprised to over think the situation. Obi-Wan knew that, pretty much, they were screwed. The car to their right moved towards them, and so Quinlan took a turn, following the set trail slowly, probably thinking about the best move; they both knew, though, that they would have to change the path the black cars were setting for them.
“Look there,” murmured Obi-Wan after a while. “The bridge.”
“Oh, no fucking way. Obi, hold on.”
“Hold on, damn it!”
Mace’s phone rang once, twice, three times, and kept ringing until the sound was nothing but a lingering memory in the office. The vibration moved it over the desk until it was close to the edge, ready to fall if only it dared to ring again. Mace ignored it. Before him, a few pale agents stuttered something, only Mace couldn’t bring himself to remember what it was; he had stopped listening a good twenty minutes ago. He was tired.
“Look, Agent,” he said, suddenly.
One of them, a short, red-headed cute girl, squeaked, and Mace sighed. There was no point in trying to pretend that he was actually interested in what they had to say, but he couldn’t just stop worrying about everything only because Obi-Wan had done a few crazy speculations on a conspiracy he couldn’t bring himself to believe on. Only he kind of did, because it was Obi-Wan after all, and the man always made more sense than any other person he had ever met; if it had been Quinlan or Qui-Gon saying something like that he would have dismissed them immediately, but not Obi-Wan.
The phone started ringing again, and Mace placed his hand on it with a hard thud. He was ready to throw it to the closest wall.
“Just…” he continued, looking up at the three agents that were still there, ready to follow orders, and craving to be dismissed. “Come back in an hour or so, please. I’m busy right now.”
There was a single yes, sir coming from the three mouths, and soon enough, the agents were rushing out of the office, closing the door with what was probably an unwanted slam. Mace winced, and cursed silently when the phone started ringing yet again. He let it, feeling the soft buzz under his palm, and long after it had started, he picked up.
“What!?” he hollered, annoyed and tired and not willing to take any bullshit. This better be good.
“Mace? Oh, thank fucking God!”
“Listen to me, ok? There was an accident, well… we were followed, I kinda crashed the car and Obi’s hurt, but–”
“God, is he–”
“He’s fine,” assured Quinlan. Rushed, distressed, never a good sign coming from the always relaxed, easy-going man. “Remember how I said conspiracy theories were cool? ‘Cause I take that back.”
“You need help? Where the Hell are you, Quinlan?”
“I–Well, look, I don’t think the hospital is safe, I’m–I’m–I’m, well, not sure. I called ‘Nara, and she’s coming to get us; she’ll take care of Obi-Wan and… just, he was so fucking distressed, Macey. Please, make sure the kid’s alright, Anakin, yes? I think Dooku… Well, I’ll keep you informed, just do that!!”
“Quin! Wait!” But the call was already over.
Anakin was happy. Absolutely and stupidly, grinning like an idiot all day happy, and he never wanted to stop feeling like that. It was understandable, wasn’t it? When he pushed the keys through the keyhole to enter Obi-Wan’s apartment, he smiled, wide and bright, pushing then his way into the place. He was carrying a couple of boxes, containing some clothes, bathroom supplies and books, mostly. Exams were close, after all, and as much as he was planning on living in a sex induced fantasy for a while, he would probably have to take a few breaks to solve thermodynamics problems. It wasn’t as if Obi-Wan wasn’t occupied himself, anyway.
His phone beeped inside his pocket, and he cursed. He hated not taking calls, but it had rang when he had been riding his bike, so he had allowed the call to go to voicemail, and now it kept beeping and beeping every two seconds. It was unnerving.
He left both boxes on a nearby table, trying not to break anything in the process; he was utterly clumsy, and the last thing he wanted was to ruin anything in Obi-Wan’s apartment. It was nice place, cozy and roomy, homey in ways that his own place would never be. It smelled of clean sheets and home-cooked food, and Obi-Wan’s cologne lingered around, too. All in all, it was amazing. As he set the boxes down, Anakin noticed a couple of papers thrown carelessly to the floor, probably belonging to a thick pile that rested on a desk. He picked them up, and put them on top of the pile, shrugging a little; it was weird for something to be out of place, but maybe… Oh, well, the window was open, so perhaps that was the reason. He walked towards the window, pulling his phone out on his way, and pressing the code for the voicemail. He looked outside, closed the window, and pressed the phone to his ear.
"Anakin, it's me. Please, call me as soon as you listen to this. And... And–Just call me."
He looked at his phone, his expression confused, and when he was pressing it again against his ear, he felt someone coming behind him, and something – a cloth, he thought – being pressed hard into his mouth. When he passed out, there was no sound.
Mace paced, feet moving quickly on the floor of Luminara’s living room, even if there was a slight drag to his step. He was ready to jump out of his skin, and the idea that he could do nothing but wait had him going back to the old habit of biting his nails. There were calls to make and units to send, but before doing any of those things, he had to wait. Any small mistake would cost them more than any of them could afford at this point.
“Will you stop? Pacing is not going to fix anything.” Luminara walked inside the room, getting then lost behind the door of the kitchen. Her feet were bare, and Mace missed the sharp echo of her heels on the wooden floor.
“How’s Obi-Wan?” he asked, raising his voice over the clattering he could hear coming from the kitchen. He was still pacing.
Luminara came back then, a couple of mugs between her hands. She offered one to Mace, and then shrugged. She looked tired, her shirt outside of the waistband of her skirt and some locks of dark hair falling around her face, escaping the tight embrace of her bun; so unlike her usually formal, perfect look.
“He hit his head, but he will be fine,” she said after a while, taking a sip of her mug. “I sedated him, but it won’t last long, and he will want to know what’s going on as soon as he’s up.”
Mace sighed. “But we don’t know what’s going on. That kid of his is probably alright, and Dooku is just being a fake bastard, and all this conspiracy can be nothing more than a few badly made assumptions.” Mace looked down at his own mug, his hand tightening around it before he took it to his lips.
When he looked up, Luminara was glaring at him.
“Denial is not going to solve a thing, Mace,” she stated, pointing at him with an accusing finger. “Elections are in a week, and you know how far Palpatine and his people would go to keep their positions and their asses saved.”
He looked back at Luminara, his eyes boring into hers. And she was right, damn she was, but Mace wanted to believe that there was some other explanation. The truth was that no matter how many proofs they gathered, unless they found Dooku and someone close to Palpatine’s party in a crime scene, there was slight chance that any of them would be condemned. Palpatine not only was the Governor, but his hands were everywhere: press, police, all big companies in the city. They had no chance against him.
“Do you have anything stronger?”
Luminara sighed, defeated, and walked towards her liquor cabinet. Yes, maybe she needed something stronger, too. She served a couple of glasses of whisky, and just when she was reaching towards Mace, arm stretched over a small table, a buzzing sound filled the apartment.
“It’s downstairs,” she said, leaving both glasses on the table and padding towards the door, where she punched the button of the intercom. She asked, “Who is it?”
“It’s me, ‘Nara, let me up.”
Not two minutes later, Quinlan was barging inside the place, long black overcoat drenched in rainwater. All of him was wet, but just for this time, Luminara decided to ignore the stains his shoes were leaving on the floor. Quinlan looked distressed, hurried, and before he said anything, he located the glass of whisky Luminara had poured for herself, and drank it in one long, single sip.
“Fuck, I needed that,” he said, smiling sheepishly when Luminara glared at him, hand reaching out for the empty glass. He gave it to her, and watched her steps as she refilled it, her back to him.
“Quin,” said Mace then, voice strained and eyes heavy on him.
“The kid’s gone. Window open and a few scattered things. It didn’t seem like there had been a fight, so he was probably drugged or something. Other than that, Obi’s apartment is clean. He was being watched, but there weren’t even microphones or anything.”
Mace swallowed the curse that was burning at the tip of his tongue, and finished his drink in the same fashion Quinlan had. When he set the glass back on the table, a hard clicking sound accompanying the move, his shoulders were set in a tensed posture, and there was a frown between his eyebrows. He started pacing again.
“We need to warn the Senator,” were his first words. He needed to think slowly, and to make any necessary move, but he couldn’t let people see what he was doing. As far as the government knew, the police knew nothing, and that was the way it was supposed to stay. Dooku wouldn’t be a problem; Dooku was using this as an opportunity to not only follow his boss’ orders, but to get to Obi-Wan. He was conceited, and that would be the cause of his fall.
“I’ll deal with her.”
Mace looked up again, and Luminara was already covering herself with a heavy brown coat and retying her bun in a more formal fashion. She was wearing sneakers with her suit, but Mace saw her pack a pair of dark blue high heels inside her purse. Luminara and the Senator didn’t have the best of relationships, but only the hard edge of the doctor’s eyes would be enough to have Senator Amidala understand the urgency and graveness of this business.
Mace nodded, and held Luminara’s look. “Don’t tell her about the kid, though. He’s her personal friend,” he explained after a pause. “We need her sharp.”
Luminara nodded back at him, lips set in a firm line, and then she opened the door, closing it behind her with a soft click. Mace wished for a second that she had slammed it.
After Luminara was gone, his eyes went back to Quinlan, who was looking at him with a determined glare. His eyes were light in the room, and despite everything, there was a certain trace of a smile on his lips. Count on Quinlan to see hope everywhere.
“I’m going out,” Quinlan said then, holding Mace’s gaze.
“Well, we know Dooku does this in warehouses, don’t we?” Quinlan’s shoulders hunched forward, tired.
Mace snorted, eyes flying up towards the ceiling as he took a step forward towards Quinlan. “There are hundreds of warehouses in the city!” he exclaimed. “Besides, it’s not like Dooku will be there himself.”
“But now that I know what we’re looking for, I know who to ask. We need to do something here, Macey, if not for the city and the universal good and all that jazz, then for Obi-Wan.” Quinlan bit his lip, taking one step forward so he could meet Mace’s eyes from up close. “You know he can’t lose Anakin, you know it,” he whispered.
Mace sighed, one hand behind his neck. God, but he hated it when Quinlan was right. “You call me as soon as you know anything, and for Christ’s shakes, be careful.”
Quinlan smiled, almost beamed. Then, he pressed closed lips to Mace’s strongly, hard enough to bruise, cupping Mace’s face with two big, warm hands. And fuck if Mace didn’t give in quickly, sagging against Quinlan’s body all too easily. He felt defeated, tired, and it was nice to know that maybe he could lean on Quinlan for a while.
“I’m always careful, Macey,” Quinlan said, eyes sparkling with mischief and hands tight on Mace’s face. “Don’t worry about me.”
It wasn’t that Luminara hated the Senator, not really. Hate was such a strong word, such a hard feeling, and she didn’t have the time to spend on an all-consuming emotion such as that. But… Well, they just had never gotten along. Luminara knew why, and it wasn’t only stupid, but it was thoroughly ironic. It was a men’s world out there, one in which a girl with a profession had to fight and bitch and be as hard and edgy as possible to be taken seriously. A city as the one they lived in assumed that women were only good to be wives or whores, and a woman that was neither one nor the other was something strange in town.
Luminara had fought hard to get to where she was, and it was true that she had found good friends in the way, but also that those were few and rare. She had found mostly bastards ready to screw her at every step she took. So when she had met a woman as successful as herself, a young politician fighting her way into power, it seemed as if both of them, Senator and Doctor, had sprung to their feet as angry cats, ready to fight for what they had won. They should have been friends, good friends. Luminara should have given Padmé the benefit of her experience, and Padmé should have given her the new ideas of youth. It should have been refreshing to find a companion, but instead of that, all they had found had been a strange sense of competition. Now, well now they were doomed.
It didn’t matter much, though.
The situation was edgy, tense, and everyone involved needed to be sharp, just as Mace had said. Senator Amidala needed to keep coming as strong as she had against Palpatine, so as soon as they had more tangible proofs, or at least one saved victim, the people would be convinced of the corruption that had been going on right under their noses. The truth was, the Senator was their only hope, at least politically speaking. The police corps? They could save people, yes, but they had no power.
“Doctor Unduli,” murmured Padmé when she entered her office, feet silent on the floor.
Luminara was sitting comfortably on a big brown chair, and her eyes had already scanned the place while she waited for Padmé to appear. It was an elegant office, with a beautiful view of the city.
“What can I do for you?” asked the Senator after she had taken a seat herself, heavy looking clothes in perfect arrange around her. The truth was Luminara and Padmé had a little bit too much in common for both their likings.
“Brace yourself, Senator, because we’re counting on you here.”
It wasn’t one of Quinlan’s favorite places in the world, as a matter of fact, it was the last place he wanted to be in. He had no choice, though. When he entered the pub, a dark, slightly creepy place, he noticed pairs of eyes flying to him, and another couple of shrugs as he walked by the regulars. He sat on the barstool, looked around over his shoulders, and ordered a drink when he was addressed.
The man he was looking for was in a nearby booth, hidden by the darkness of the place and by the long, black hood he always wore. Quinlan had never known what to make of that appearance, but it only made the man look scarier than he already was. Only a few knew where Maul had come from, and Quinlan was only aware because once he had contacted him for the first time, he had stolen his record from the police department, back when Mace still wasn’t the Head Chief. He had been one of Dooku’s minions once, and Quinlan couldn’t know why, he had been betrayed. Now he was an informant, an expensive and dangerous one. It took little to nothing to anger Maul, and anyone who did ended up dead.
Quinlan shook his shoulders, and left his glass on the table, tying his rebel wet locks in a tight ponytail. He approached Maul’s booth with slow, heavy steps, making sure the man saw him as he did so, also watched him seat in front of him. Maul’s eyes were dark pits, and when he smiled, his teeth shone brightly in the dark. Quinlan peered under his hood, looking at the bright red and black tattoos that covered all his face and skull.
Maul acknowledged him with a single nod, keeping his lips closed and in a tight line, as if he would be saying too much just by opening his mouth. And hey, maybe he was. It was no secret that Maul knew everything that happened in town, especially when it had to do with his former boss.
“There’s been some murders going on lately, as I’m sure you know,” started Quinlan. He leaned forward, one elbow on the wooden table and chin propped on his hand. His other hand was inside his coat, clutching that old gun Obi-Wan had given him all those years back, and that Quinlan had never used. “I know they use warehouses, and I know who they are, but I need you to limit my search a little here.”
“It won’t be cheap.” Maul’s voice was low, dark, almost robotic. It never sounded higher than a whisper, as if he was afraid of being caught if only he raised it too high.
Quinlan shook his head, leaned back. “What do you want?”
“My record clean.”
“What? You know I can’t do that.” Quinlan shot forwards again, hands flat on the table this time, and eyes intense on Maul’s. Still, he got no reaction. “No one has that much influence.”
“Oh, but you do.” This time, there was a single smile coming from Maul’s lips, a razor blade sign of knowledge Quinlan had seen before in his face, and hated every time. “I’m sure there must be some privileges to sleeping between the Head Chief’s sheets.”
“Fuck you.” Quinlan shrunk almost unconsciously, feeling exposed under Maul’s knowing gaze. Of course, something like that hadn’t escaped the man’s web, Quinlan shouldn’t be surprised at all. “Alright then, I’ll pay your price.” Mace was going to kill him.
“Do I have your word?”
Quinlan took his hand to his heart. “Scout’s honor.”
“Good. Then listen: there are ten warehouses in the outskirts of the city, they belong to the mob. Dooku negotiates with them occasionally, and he’s been using them in exchange for not looking into some dirty business with the casinos. That’s where you need to look.”
Quinlan nodded, and stood up with no other word. He left the pub, being followed by the same gazes that had watched him when walking in, and stepped into the cold afternoon air. It was still raining outside, and he covered himself further with his coat, taking his phone out only after he had walked a few blocks away from the pub. He dialed Mace’s number, and pressed the black phone against his ear.
Anakin woke up slowly, dragging himself out of the stupor he had been submerged in. Even through the haze that were his senses, he could recall perfectly well the moment in which everything had turned black, back at Obi-Wan’s apartment. Now, no matter how unawake he still was, he had no doubt that there were some strong drugs coursing through his system. He could feel his head hanging, heavy, on the rim of what he assumed was an old, ratty chair, and after trying to coax it into moving for a while, he decided to let it rest, closing his eyes against the low light of the place.
It smelled of paint and ammoniac, both smells strong enough to overpower any other that may have clued him in as to where he was. He was scared. Fuck, he was more scared than he had ever been, but even that emotion seemed to be dulled by the drugs. He tried to move his hands, but they were numb, so much that Anakin could barely distinguish the feeling of actually having them.
There must have been a reason… Yes, there must have been, and he knew it was probably Obi-Wan, rather than himself. This was probably about politics and power and old rivalries, and Anakin didn’t want to die for such stupid reasons. He’d die for Obi-Wan, though. He’d die willingly if only someone would tell him that Obi-Wan wasn’t going to come for him, probably stepping into a trap. He wanted to yell. Yet again, he found himself unable to do so.
He heard something far away, a plopping sound of falling water, and pictured and old, ruined place around him, water fighting its way inside the place. It must have been raining. There were more sounds, though, voices, murmuring voices and the raspy sounds of low steps. He tried to sharpen his hearing, make out a word, but it was pointless.
Soon enough, unconsciousness took him back.
Mace closed his cell phone with a sharp clack that echoed inside the room, and as he turned around to face Obi-Wan, he was already regretting having the conversation in his presence.
“What?” asked Obi-Wan, hands tight on the sofa. “What?”
He had woken up not an hour ago, demanding explanations and ready to take the city, but he was weak and tired, and Mace hadn’t let him take one step outside of Luminara’s apartment. Besides, it wasn’t as if they had known anything back then, so there was no real point in searching the whole city. Obi-Wan looked pale, and too scared for Mace’s liking. His eyes were nervous, moving from side to side of the room continuously, and he looked close to panicked
Mace got it, he did, but Obi-Wan needed to calm down.
“Quinlan’s got a location,” he said after a while, a sigh escaping from his lips. He saw no point in keeping Obi-Wan in the dark, no matter what. This concerned him more than anybody, after all.
“Where?” And Obi-Wan was already on his feet.
Mace thought he must have been feeling unstable, the blow to the head and the pain medications still coursing through his system, but Obi-Wan could be one stubborn bastard.
“I’ll tell you,” Mace started, “but we’re going to sit down, develop a strategy, and think things slowly and rationally.”
“I’m not a child, Mace.”
“I know, but I also know what’s at stake for you in here.” This time, he pointed an accusing finger in his direction, keeping his voice low and steady. He needed Obi-Wan thinking, not just acting.
Obi-Wan had lost a lot, maybe more than any of them when Qui-Gon had left, and Mace got that. He knew he loved this kid, too, and he knew he couldn’t afford to lose him, but Mace couldn’t afford to lose Obi-Wan, either. This team needed a clear, rational head at this point, and given the situation, it was going to have to be his.
“There are this warehouses,” Mace started, and soon enough, the whole story was out of his mouth. Locations, hours, ideas, the whole lot. Obi-Wan was still the best they got, no matter what.
They were both distressed, the situation being a little too much to handle. Hell, Mace hadn’t signed for governmental conspiracies when he had accepted the place as Head Chief, and Obi-Wan couldn’t be any more calmed about this than he was. God, what would loosing Anakin do to Obi-Wan? It was impossible to tell, but no matter what his friend was feeling, Mace had to make him stay, make him think, force protection and back up on him. That was why when he went into the kitchen to get some water after Obi-Wan’s request, he almost smacked himself for the stupidity of leaving Obi-Wan alone long enough to disappear from the apartment.
Well, fuck. Things just got better and better.
Quinlan’s shoes made a squishy sound as they kept their continuous movement against the ground, Quinlan’s steps being fast and secure. It was raining tremendously, and the water had already soaked the streets, making them turn that ugly dark gray color that Quinlan despised so much. He hated the rain with a passion, and as it kept plastering his loose curls to his forehead, he repressed the curse that was coming to his mouth. The ponytail he had tied minutes before had been useless, and now he was soaked to his bones.
He was walking back to Luminara’s, ready to listen to the course of action Mace had decided to take. If they didn’t solve this they were doomed: the city, the people and all of them. If they didn’t solve this and all they managed to find was Anakin’s dead body, he didn’t know what would happen to Obi-Wan. They had all seen what loosing Qui-Gon had done to him, the way he had clutched the memories as something precious, not allowing himself to move forward and keeping himself stuck in a past he couldn’t reach. Quinlan had thought things would be good now that Obi-Wan had someone adorably devoted to him that made him laugh in that way Quinlan had almost forgotten. He hoped Mace had a solution for this.
Not many had trusted Mace back in the day, when he had been awarded his position as Police Chief. He had been young and too strict, and the city had been drowned in debts and corruption. Now… Well, now things weren’t all that much better, but anyone had to recognize that what little good had been done in the city in the past few years had Mace’s name behind it. He was a strict man, but there was much more to him than that, even if not many had dared to look past his hard exterior. God knew Quinlan had, and now he was stupidly in love, and for real this time.
He sighed, never stopping, and lifted the collar of his thick coat in a useless attempt at covering himself from the water. Cold raindrops kept crashing against his neck, face and hands, and he could only guess how messy his hair must look. Rain totally killed his style. He was shaking his head when he heard a loud screech, and even before he had time to turn his eyes towards the sound, he saw a big, black car parked right beside him, the wheels turned sharply due to the edgy turn they had just taken. And oh, yeah, it was his car, which he had left back at Luminara’s before going to see his old acquaintance Maul.
The door swung open, and Quinlan peered inside instantly, just to see Mace reaching out towards him and urging him inside.
“Get in, come on.”
Quinlan did as he was told, taking the passenger’s seat and closing the door a second before the car’s engine roared, throwing them into the road at high speed. He threw his head back in surprise, searching for the seatbelt blindly and breathing slowly only when he managed to put it in place. He blinked a couple of times, and looked at Mace with bewildered eyes. He looked terrible, rushed and panicked in a way Quinlan had never seen him, and Quinlan was scared because he was the second of his rocks that he saw going into hysterics in a very short period of time – the first one being Obi-Wan, the second one being Mace. What the Hell had gone wrong now?
“Fuck, what is it?” he asked eloquently, trying to ignore the fast paced traffic swirling around them, or the fact that the wheels of his precious car were probably suffering terribly with the velocity treatment they were getting.
“Obi-Wan is what happens,” started Mace, and his voice was a little bit too high pitched sounding for Quinlan’s taste. “He just left. Bam, left. Just like that.”
Mace shook his head, his knuckles turning a pinkish white as his hands clutched the wheel. “You have to get to him, Quin, before he does something silly. I’m sending a couple of units behind you with Kit, but you need to be discreet. I haven’t heard from Luminara yet, but I want to know what the Senator is planning before we go breaking into warehouses.”
“Hold it, hold it!” Quinlan turned huge eyes on Mace, bringing his hands upwards in an unconscious move. “Fuck, Mace. Have you–have you–Fuck!”
“It’s a trap, you know it’s a trap. We can’t just leave Obi-Wan alone.”
Quinlan had time to swear another twenty times before the car screeched to a stop in front of the Police Office, throwing both him and Mace forwards. Quinlan grasped the seatbelt once again, and thanked the Lord for it. Beside him, Mace was already getting rid of his own and searching for his jacket in the back seat, hands trembling slightly. Quinlan grasped them without even thinking about it.
“Relax, will you?”
Mace looked at him, eyes dark with fear. Mace wasn’t one to show such emotions, and Quinlan wondered how much of them should he be feeling right now.
“Just bring Obi-Wan and the kid alive, and be careful, Quin. I will take care of things here, and Kit will follow right behind you.”
Quinlan nodded, squeezing Mace’s hands once before letting him go, and searching then his lips for a quick if strong kiss. Mace kissed back with no doubts, and Quinlan took the time to enjoy the idea that he had finally gotten past all his walls. He didn’t have time for this now, though, and soon enough, Mace was getting out of the car and Quinlan was moving to the driver’s seat, and pulling the car back into the traffic.
Anakin woke up to a hard, edgy voice filling the big empty space he was held in. It took him some time to realize what exactly was what he was hearing, and another while to remember where he was and that this wasn’t just a passing nightmare. The voice that had woken him up was barking orders, not going up or down, but keeping a calmed, if angered tone in it that said more of danger than any scream would have.
Anakin sagged against his seat, keeping his eyes closed but trying to comprehend the words that were being said not too far away from him. He wasn’t able to, though, his brain being still too muddy for him to make sense of the conversation. He wanted to scream, but all he did was let his head loll to one side, the back of his neck resting against the chair he was tied to. He felt tired still, but he couldn’t feel the drug going through his system anymore, and he assumed that the effects were mostly gone. He reached forward with both hands, feeling the ties keep him in place, and parted dry lips in a soundless gasp, sprawling his legs before him. He was just so tired, and he wanted to get out of here, wherever this place was.
He nearly jumped when the voice quieted, and was only stopped by the heaviness of his own body. He felt much like a sack of potatoes probably felt, and the idea brought a twitch that might have turned into a smile to his mouth. There were steps then: one, two, three and four, all from the same pair of echoing shoes.
“Look who’s here with us.”
The voice was directed his way this time, and Anakin fought his own eyes in order to get a glimpse of the man who was now probably directly in front of him. His lashes felt sticky, and as they separated slowly, Anakin had to hiss to the feel of the phosphorescent light against his retinas. He moved his head back, blinking uncomfortably before he managed to squint to the owner of the voice without having his eyes fully open. It was uncomfortable, but Anakin stood his ground, eyeing the man up and down.
Dooku was the kind of man who didn’t need an introduction, not with the way he had stood next to Palpatine in every debate and press conference before he had been elected, and not with the way he had appeared almost everyday on the television as the new hero of the city. He was, perhaps, a little older than Anakin would have guessed, but that didn’t mean that he was any less dangerous. He had heard from him, millions of times: from Padmé and Obi-Wan in the first place, and from the thousands of political discussions that nobody could avoid these days.
“You might as well have stayed unconscious, Skywalker.” Dooku made a sign at the second man on the room, a tall, bodyguard-looking kind of guy, who walked through a door, as he probably had been instructed to do.
Anakin tried to scramble back on his chair, barely managing to sit up straighter. For a moment, he wished he was standing, so he could face the other man in his full height, but then he realized that his legs probably didn’t have the strength to hold him up. He made no sound, though, and stayed still, eyes firmly locked with Dooku’s. Dooku was staring right back, a certain kind of amusement written in his face, as if looking into Anakin’s half panicked, half stubborn expression was the most fun he had ever had in his life. And hey, maybe it was, morbid bastard that the man had more than once been accused of being.
The bodyguard looking guy came back a few minutes later, his steps echoing inside what Anakin assumed was a big warehouse, and it was only then that Dooku’s eyes lost his own. He was holding a needle, and Anakin immediately stuck his back to that of the chair, moving his eyes towards his already prickled arm. So that was the plan: keeping him drugged. What for, though? Why keep him alive if what they needed was death? Perhaps to be sure that Obi-Wan was lured in here, perhaps for something Anakin just couldn’t understand.
He thought back to the moment before the nightmare had started, to the stupid happiness he had been feeling, and though that it just wasn’t fair. He had been happy, ready to live a full life with a man he loved. So what if things with Obi-Wan would have gotten bad in the end? It wasn’t fair that they weren’t going to at least get the chance to try. They were good together, and Anakin wanted to know how it felt waking up next to Obi-Wan every morning, and going to the supermarket and even fighting over something as stupid as the color of a curtain. He wanted his chance at living, and it wasn’t fair that he wasn’t going to get it because a man wanted power, and he only knew how to obtain it with death.
Dooku walked towards him, needle in hand, and Anakin thought of many others who had died for a cause they couldn’t understand, about how young they were and how little they had enjoyed life. And fuck, but he was scared that he was the next one in a long list, another name to fill in the records. He looked up, eyes angry as they searched for Dooku’s, hands tight on the arms of the chair.
“You must feel really brave,” he started, “drugging a tied up, defenseless person.”
There was a chuckle from Dooku, and a shadow of a smirk that stayed between his lips. “Feisty. That must be why Obi-Wan likes you.” Dooku stopped himself, looked up pensively, and then took another step forward. “Too bad you’re nothing more than a tool, boy, and that you don’t get an opinion.”
“I’m not your fucking tool! And I’m not a boy, old man.”
“Proud, as well. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure your downfall matches your ego.”
Obi-Wan had never been in love before he met Qui-Gon. He had thought it… unnecessary, almost, and had sneered at the way everybody around him seemed to focus their lives around finding the one. Obi-Wan had always been a bit of a skeptic in that field, believing that people looked for comfort and stability, and that passion was something that only existed in movies and books. As it turned out, he had learned that passion was nothing like written pages and vivid images suggested, but something entirely different. So he had fallen, and then had had his heart broken.
The night Qui-Gon died, Obi-Wan heard a single shot in the dark, and by the time he had reached the place where it had come from, all he had found had been an almost dead lover. It had tore him apart, and for years after that he had told himself that if only he had been a bit faster, a bit smarter… But he hadn’t. The weeks that had followed Qui-Gon’s death had been the worst of his life, and Obi-Wan barely had memory of dragging himself to work and drowning himself in coffee. He hadn’t slept, he had barely breathed. Finally, months after the incident, he had left the Police and had locked himself up inside his apartment, asking for something, anything, capable of making him react. A position as teacher had.
Luminara had been the one to recommend him for the job, seeing as she had been teaching at the university even before she had become a part of the police corps. She had gotten Quinlan to drag him out of his stupor, dress him up properly, and drive him all the way to the Dean’s office, where a single look from the man had gotten him the job. It had been a lifesaver, a chance to put his mind in something he was good at, and soon enough the smiles he had gotten from thankful students had become a part of his life. It had never been quite enough, though.
Many had told him to stop holding onto the memories so hard, to try and live his life a little, but that wasn’t who Obi-Wan was. He was reserved, almost shy, and he was convinced that he wasn’t going to be granted a second chance at love. Why try, then? But oh, how Anakin had changed that, barreling into his life as a messy whirlwind of colors. And now he was going to lose him as well? He didn’t think so.
The inside of the Senator’s car was stuffy, and Luminara found herself struggling out of her coat in a attempt to stop the heat bordering on unbearable. At the same time, her ear was plastered to her cell-phone, her lips mouthing half complete words to a more than hysterical Mace on the other side of the line. She ended up holding the phone in between her chin and shoulder, and shaking her wrist desperately in an attempt to get rid of the annoying piece of fabric her coat had turned into. She groaned after ending the call and closing her phone with a sharp clack, and then went to fight her coat, still attached to her from the wrist.
“I think you just need to unbutton it.” The Senator turned her head around, looking in Luminara’s direction with half a smile, and then reached out, unbuttoning the cuff on the coat and finally setting Luminara free. She made no further comment on that, but set her eyes forward and pressed her lips together tightly. “Any news?”
Luminara bit her own lips, folding the coat on her lap and refusing to bring back the subject herself; there was no real point in embarrassing herself any further, thank you very much. She looked at her phone, still firmly tucked inside her hand, and put it back inside her jacket’s pocket. Mace had said one too many things, and she couldn’t just blurt them all out at the Senator, much less when she didn’t know exactly what Padmé was planning on doing. Luminara had faith on her strategic brain, but that didn’t mean that said faith was blind.
“Mace–That’s Chief Windu, sorry–”
“Do save the formalities, Agent Unduli, please. I think we’re facing desperate times, and the least thing I care about is you using the correct ranks.”
Luminara snorted, crossing her arms over her chest and looking into Padmé’s eyes. She had turned herself into such a strong woman, and despite herself, Luminara was glad that she was on their side.
“He’s found out where they are hiding the… Um. The latest victim, and he’s sending in some units,” Luminara said finally. Just as Mace had said, she hadn’t explained to the Senator exactly who it was that had been kidnapped; after all, there was no place for personal feelings at this point.
“I can expect them to be discreet, can’t I?”
Luminara frowned, instinctively getting closer to the Senator and crossing her arms over her chest, breasts jutting forward in a way Quinlan had called both mesmerizing and indecent. “I would rather like it if you told me exactly where we’re going and what you’re planning, Senator.”
“Home, we’re going home,” Padmé said, elaborating then with, “I need to change.”
“I hardly see how that will–”
“I called a press conference, and I need to look my best.” Padmé looked at her firmly, pressing both hands to her own lap. There was a sad glint in her eyes when she said, “You know the press will pay more attention to my attire than to my speech if it’s not impeccable.”
“And what exactly will they be paying attention to, if I might ask?”
“I’m accusing Palpatine publicly of what you’ve told me.”
Luminara sat back immediately, eyes huge on the Senator. It wasn’t that the idea was bad, but it sounded so straight forward and direct that Luminara didn’t know what to say for a moment. She had expected a little bit more of subtlety and subterfuge.
“If the Police does their part correctly,” continued the Senator, “then there will be no chance for Palpatine to save his neck, no matter how many judges he manages to bribe.”
“But if the Police doesn’t, then it’s your neck on the line,” stated Luminara. Not that the Senator didn’t know that already, but she felt it was necessary that she heard it from an objective voice.
Padmé nodded, looking down at her own hands on her lap for half a second and then back into Luminara’s piercing gaze. “I’m not so worried about risking myself… I fear for the life of whoever it is those bastards have in their hands this time.”
Luminara bit her lip, nodding. She stopped to admire the fire in the Senator’s eyes when she said that, and once again, was glad that this was the person they were putting their hopes on. When Padmé looked in her direction, Luminara smiled at her.
Obi-Wan left the car he was riding – Mace’s – some streets away from the warehouses, and continued his way by foot. His steps echoed against the silence, and he willed them to be quiet, or at least lower, so no one was alerted of his presence. He had no hopes on not being expected, but he at least wanted to be unseen for as long as it was possible. He walked the few necessary streets quickly, and once he reached the warehouses Quinlan had indicated what seemed like hours ago, he went immediacy to number seven.
Dooku is a bit of a superstitious man, Obi-Wan, and his favorite number is seven.
Qui-Gon had told him that many years ago, and he was pretty sure that Dooku knew it. If he was expecting him to go after Anakin, then he probably wanted to be found, didn’t he?
Obi-Wan clutched the gun he was carrying tightly inside his fist, even as he kept it hidden inside his pocket. It was his old, trustworthy gun from when he had still been an officer, and that he had only kept because Mace had insisted on it. He had gotten himself a legal permit for it, anyway, because the last thing he wanted was to give people excuses for accusing him of anything. He had long forgotten the days in which he was close to the weapon, but right now he was holding it with precision and strength.
He was panicking, that was true. His mind was reeling furiously, thinking of all the scenarios he could find himself presented with. He didn’t want to think that he could find Anakin hurt, much less dead, even if his most objective sense kept telling him that it was a possibility. He was taking it all step by step, focusing on the now, trying to put his brain into this the same way he always did when having to perform a task. He tried his best at leaving his heart behind.
But it was hard.
As he approached the gates of warehouse number seven, he had to force himself to breath in slowly, and to calm his heart rate, at the same time that he fought to sharpen his instincts. He had been a detective once, and he had been a good one, both in the investigation and on the field. He knew how to do this, knew how to go about it successfully, and he was going to.
As he entered the place, he pressed the gun tighter inside his fist, and told himself that no matter what he was forced to face, Anakin would be safe, and Dooku would be dead.
A warehouse, Obi-Wan was forced to think, was perhaps the most clichéd setting Dooku could have ever chosen for what would be their final confrontation. Useful of course, given their placing a little away from the city, and the almost certainty that nobody would go looking for trouble in such places. Still, clichéd. Obi-Wan entertained the thought that it had been done in purpose, almost as a mockery of the movie like atmosphere his life had taken in the past few months, but he didn’t really think Dooku was one to appreciate such irony. Whichever the case, though, warehouse number seven was guarded by one of Dooku’s minions, a big man dressed in black, and it was time Obi-Wan faced his demons, and walked out of there with Anakin safe and sound. Any other out coming… well, Obi-Wan refused to dwell on it.
He kept himself hidden, his hand still curled tightly around the gun inside his pocket. It was dark, and he took advantage of the shadows, trying to keep his steps silent. It was cold, too, and the streets were still wet from the rain that had only now decided to stop. A novel would have called this an appropriate night, but Obi-Wan’s head wasn’t clear enough to think of such things. All that plagued his head was Dooku, his plans, and making sure that Anakin didn’t end up as a part of them. That was all, really, just… keeping Anakin safe.
Obi-Wan spied the guard for a few minutes, searching then for any other around. There was none, and that was surprising. To keep only one guard was a risk, but then again, if Dooku wanted him to fall into his trap, perhaps it was deliberate. Or maybe, this was just another sign of Dooku’s pride. Any case, Obi-Wan had to act. Now.
He stepped out of the shadows, eyes focused on the back of the guard and hands tensed, his muscles ready, almost as if they still remembered his past as a member of the police corps. The guard was huge, almost a giant, but in this case Obi-Wan’s smaller size was an advantage, for the man didn’t even see him coming. Obi-Wan aimed for the man’s head, and went straight for it with the butt of his gun, hitting him there, firm and strong. There was a single surprised gasp, and then the guard was falling to the ground, all his weight being dragged to the floor by gravity. There was a low puff like sound, and dust was lifted around the now still body. Obi-Wan covered his mouth, stepping back a little, and once everything was silent again, he breathed out slowly. His eyes searched his surroundings, instinct kicking in, and before he knew it, he had found some old cables hanging from one of the cracked walls and had used them to tie the hands and feet of the unconscious guard. It was surprising how easy this seemed now that Obi-Wan wasn’t stopping to think things through, but was just going with his gut. It reminded him of old times, of a badge in his pocket and a gun always at the ready.
Once Obi-Wan was sure the guard wouldn’t be escaping his ties in a long time, he stepped forward, walking inside the warehouse but trying to keep himself hidden in the shadows, behind pillars. God, but it been so long since he’d been in such a situation, since he’d been the man of action instead of the brain behind the desk. But there was no time to dwell on such matters; there wasn’t even time to think. As far as Obi-Wan cared, there was only time to get Anakin out of there, and if he was lucky, to get Dooku arrested. Any case, Anakin was his priority, the reason why he’d run away from Mace and had jumped into a car instead of waiting for an organized police team to get here. He was surprised of his lack of common sense, to a certain point, but Anakin had proven over and over again how good he was at messing with his head.
There was light somewhere at the back of the big building, and Obi-Wan followed it, eyes focused. As he got closer, he could make out a standing figure, and soon enough he was able to distinguish Dooku’s back, the hard, tense muscles of his neck, the wide frame that his shoulders formed, his white hair almost shining in the low phosphorescent light that hung high above under the ceiling of the warehouse. Obi-Wan would have recognized him anywhere. He stayed behind a column, daring glances at the man whose back was to him, and let his eyes wander around. His breath stopped when he caught sight of Anakin, and he had to consciously avoid a gasp. Anakin was laying on the floor, arms and legs extended widely. His hair was a riot, his clothes dirty and his eyes closed. Still, he looked mostly unharmed, and his chest was rising and falling steadily, so Obi-Wan closed his eyes for a second and let himself breathe easily.
“Are you planning on staying behind that column all day, Kenobi?”
Obi-Wan half smiled, having expected something like this. He wasn’t stupid, and he knew not to underestimate his enemies, much less someone as powerful as Dooku. He knew there was no point in trying to fool him, especially since this scenario had been prepared for his own benefit, and not someone else’s. Obi-Wan wasn’t surprised that Dooku had been able to predict his every move, and even if he’d tried to be quiet, he had already known that he wouldn’t be counting with the element of surprise.
He stepped away from the column, keeping both hands inside the pockets of his coat, trying for nonchalant and calmed. He wasn’t, though, and he didn’t know if he had the strength to try and fool Dooku right now. Still, he kept his attention on him, looking at Anakin from the corner of his eyes. He wasn’t supposed to be here, he wasn’t supposed to be a part of this, and no matter what happened in the next few minutes, he’d be walking out of here, keeping all the promising future he deserved.
“It’s funny, you know?” Dooku threw him a grin from above his shoulder, smug and sure. He knew Obi-Wan wouldn’t shoot him on the back. “All these years of you being sooo untouchable, and your sudden weak point is this… child?” Dooku stepped closer to Anakin, his eyes appraising his laying figure.
Obi-Wan watched him, but stayed put, his hand curled tight around his gun. Dooku liked theatrics and big speeches, and it was better if he let him get his words out now.
“I thought you were smarter than this,” continued Dooku. “I’m slightly disappointed, I must admit, you falling for a little whore like this and risking your precious life to come and get him. On the other hand…” Dooku turned on his heels, now fully facing Obi-Wan. His eyes looked mischievous under the almost white light. “I guess I should be thankful that I found a way of getting to you. To think it was so easy in the end.”
They stood still, tension cutting the air, Dooku’s expression amused while Obi-Wan stayed impassive, his own features expressionless, as if playing an important game of poker. Finally, Dooku laughed.
“Look at you, all serious.”
“What do you want, Dooku?”
“Oh, but I thought that would be obvious.” Dooku smiled in Obi-Wan’s direction yet again, and in a swift move, he pulled a gun from the waistband of his black slacks and aimed it at Anakin’s sleeping form.
Obi-Wan knew he was bluffing, he knew it, but damn if that stopped the air in his nose from feeling short. His eyes searched for Anakin’s face, frenetic, and he had to force his brain to stop imagining him covered in his own blood. But Dooku wouldn’t harm Anakin, at least not yet. Obi-Wan grasped his own gun tighter inside his pocket and then pulled it out, aiming it at Dooku. His hand was steady, and his stance sure. If he had to shoot, he wouldn’t miss.
“Ah, so you believe you will be faster than me, don’t you?” wondered Dooku. “Last I remember, you were too slow to save Qui-Gon.”
Obi-Wan’s features twitched, his brows furrowing and his lips twisting uncomfortably. All these years and it still hurt. He’d blamed himself for years, and some part of himself still insisted on doing so, but the rest of him was convinced of Dooku’s guilt, not only in Qui-Gon’s case but also in so many others. When he’d discovered what had been going on all these years in the city, the corruption and the unnecessary deaths, he’d known Dooku would pay for it, and no matter how many tricks he used against him, Obi-Wan’s hand wouldn’t falter, but would be steady and firm on his purpose.
“You’re not going to kill him,” stated Obi-Wan, letting his eyes wander to Anakin for just a second. “You still need him.”
“Is that so?”
“It is if you’re planning to frame me for the murders.”
Dooku laughed, open and quick, and then, his aim changed directions and went straight towards Obi-Wan. They looked liked two old cowboys out of a bad western, standing one in front of the other, waiting to see who would be faster, and who would die.
“I keep forgetting how smart you can be,” said Dooku then.
Obi-Wan half smiled at him.
“I’ll admit that you came sooner than I expected. I had a big welcoming party ready for you and to get rid of the kid, but I guess I will have to take care of you myself.”
“What?” asked Obi-Wan. “You’re not used to doing the dirty work?”
Obi-Wan saw Dooku’s hand twitch where he was holding his gun, and his shoulders tensed even more. He would shoot sooner or later, and Obi-Wan had to be ready to get out of his way quickly enough. He could feel sweat pooling at the back of his neck, but he chose to ignore every outside sign and focus his attention on the man in front of him. At least, Dooku’s attention was not on Anakin anymore.
“That’s the point of having minions, Kenobi. Then again, you wouldn’t know, would you? It’s a shame that you were always such a goody two shoes; you would have been so much more than a teacher if you had only supported us.”
“Oh well, excuse me for not wanting to kill people to ascend in life.” Obi-Wan snorted, feeling offended by the implications. It was possible that Dooku’s ambition had managed to turn him completely nuts… then again, maybe he hadn’t had any scruples from the very beginning. Any case, for as long as Obi-Wan could remember, they had always been in opposites sides of the line. He couldn’t imagine himself living the life Dooku had.
Dooku said nothing, and neither did Obi-Wan. It was completely silent around them, and it had been some time since Obi-Wan had been somewhere completely devoid of sound. It was creepy, to a point. His eyes and attention were now completely focused on Dooku, on the hand that he kept curled around a black, heavy gun. Dooku hadn’t denied his implications before, so Obi-Wan had been right and the plan had been to kill both him and Anakin and then accuse him of the string of murders, make of an ex-detective and actual teacher a madman who had been killing for months now. This meant that sooner or later, Dooku would shoot him, and then there would be no one to save Anakin from a terrible destiny.
“It’s a shame, you know? If you had gotten here a little later you would have probably see us finish your boy… But I guess I’ll have to change my plans.”
Obi-Wan saw it coming before Dooku pronounced the last syllable of what was probably supposed to be his big last great speech, and when the sound echoed inside the warehouse Obi-Wan had already jumped to the side, barely missing the bullet that had been aimed at some part of his body. He fell to the ground, and heard more than felt his shoulder crashing against the hard concrete. Soon enough, though, pain exploded where he’d hit the ground and his hand opened, letting his gun escape from his sweaty fingers. He closed his eyes, grunting, and breathing hard as the tension from the blow expanded through his arm, burning pain almost immobilizing his limb. There was no time to think, though, and no time to dwell on his pain, for Dooku’s gun was once again being aimed in his direction.
Obi-Wan jumped from the floor, old reflexes kicking in. He run towards Dooku, ignoring any pain he might be feeling, any fear or any outside feeling for the time being. He reached Dooku and growled, grasping the gun with both hands and forcing Dooku to lift his arms, so the gun was hovering above both their heads, pointing upwards. They held on like that, wills fighting, but Obi-Wan’s right arm couldn’t take the effort any longer, and it fell limply to his side, now only his left arm fighting all of Dooku’s strength. They both grunted, effort obvious in their eyes, but Dooku was starting to win, starting to pull the gun down until it was no longer in the air but in between them, pointing towards Obi-Wan.
A few more seconds passed, the fight becoming fiercer, but it wasn’t long before a second shot was heard inside the warehouse.
Anakin’s groggy head brought him back to consciousness slowly, as if pulling him from underwater with heavy arms and prying hands. At first, he felt nothing, but heard voices somewhere in the distance, slow and monotone. He couldn’t make out the words. Then, he felt cold. He didn’t feel himself shiver, but he wished he was, because he could feel every single part of his body frozen to the point that it was painful. Little by little, the world started to take shape around him, and he started noticing his surroundings, remembering where he was. He was laying down somewhere, possibly the floor, if the uncomfortable hardness under his head was any indicative. It was cold and the light was low, if his closed eyes were able to perceive that right. He felt dizzy, wobbly, and soon enough his mind supplied him with memories of drugs that had before kept him still and unsteady. He risked a move, and it wasn’t until he consciously commanded his finger to twitch that it did.
The voices started turning higher, and Anakin knew that they weren’t as far as he had initially had thought but right next to him, close enough that he should be able to understand the conversation that was going on. There were two people, that much he could tell, even if a raspy, dark voice was more persistent than the second, warmer but tensed. He pressed his eyelids tight together, making a small mental victory dance when he felt his body starting to respond more naturally, and forced his ears to comprehend the conversation, just so he could understand what was going on around him. It didn’t happen, though. But even if the words weren’t clear in his head, he did recognize the voices. Dooku’s, which he would now recognize anywhere, and Obi-Wan’s, which he had buried in his mind to keep forever.
He wanted to jump, to tell Obi-Wan to get out of here and to run, because this was a trap, and as much as he wanted to be rescued he didn’t want to be at the expense of Obi-Wan’s life. But his body, as much as it was stretching on the floor now, was pretty much unresponsive to any sudden move. He wondered if he should move at all, or if it would be better to stay still and feign unconsciousness. He kept moving, though, just because he wanted his body to be able to move freely if it was necessary.
Without realizing it, his ears started making out the conversation, but at the moment he didn’t care, focused as he was on blinking his eyes open. The light was painful against his retinas, shining low but direct against him. He half closed them, scrunching his face at the same time. He stretched his limbs as well, smiling when they moved without much effort, bending easily enough. He rolled to his side, grunting with the effort, and thankful that no one seemed to be paying him any attention. As far as he knew there might be someone watching him closely, but it didn’t seem likely. He was smiling yet again, when he heard it: a hollow bullet sound that echoed against the walls repeating itself over and over again and hitting Anakin’s ears as if mocking him. He sat up abruptly, groaning when his body complained and his head started turning, dizziness and nausea hitting him full force. He ignored everything, though, in favor of his beating heart, now going twice as fast at the sight of Obi-Wan on the floor, pain contorting his features.
Anakin watched the scene that followed as if he was watching television and he was nothing more than a thrilled spectator. It took him minutes to react, and by the time his body chose to move, Obi-Wan was fighting with Dooku, one gun between their joined hands and hovering above both their bodies. Anakin surged forward without thinking about it, going straight for Obi-Wan’s discarded gun on the floor. He crawled on the floor, nausea threatening him every second and sweat sticking his hair to his forehead, his breathing ragged and heavy. He kept his eyes on Obi-Wan and Dooku all the time, his eyes widening in fear when Obi-Wan’s hurt shoulder forced him to fight Dooku with just one arm. Anakin tried to go faster, but by the time the second shot was heard, his hand was still a few inches away from the second gun.
Obi-Wan fell to the ground, his body heavy and his stomach covered in thick, dark red blood. Anakin gasped, staying still as Dooku’s smile widened on his face, a couple of steps bringing him closer to Obi-Wan’s laying body. Dooku pointed his gun at Obi-Wan and Anakin didn’t think, just jumped forward and grasped the gun on the floor with a firm hand, pointed it in the right direction and shoot. It was Dooku who fell to the ground this time, his grunt echoing inside the warehouse and his free hand going to his now bleeding thigh. He growled in pain, but Anakin didn’t stop to hear him, just shot again, this time aiming at Dooku’s chest.
Time stood still, and Anakin didn’t register what he’d just done until his hand didn’t start to tremble, his fingers untangling themselves from the gun and letting it fall to the floor, where it clacked loudly. Anakin breathed out slowly, eyes wide and nausea stronger than ever. He brought his arm back towards his body, as if burned, and was ready to freak out when a pained grunt brought him back to reality. He turned his head in Obi-Wan’s direction, and had to stop a sob from emerging when his eyes caught sight all over again of the blood spreading through his stomach and now his hands as well.
“Obi-Wan,” he murmured, crawling towards him on unsteady knees. He reached him quickly and brought his head up so it was resting on his thighs rather than on the floor. He pressed one hand on top of Obi-Wan’s, right where the bullet had gone into his stomach, and in no time felt his own fingers getting coated in thick blood. “Fuck, Obi-Wan.”
But Obi-Wan was looking at him, barely conscious even when his lips where drawing a small smile. Anakin wished he could just kiss it all better, wrap Obi-Wan in his arms and go to sleep with him and wake up in a month and never let go. Instead, he just felt tears starting to well up in his eyes, threatening with starting to fall down his cheeks. He sniffed, and held on tighter to Obi-Wan, forcing his mind to do the rational thing. Almost frenetically, he looked for Obi-Wan’s pockets, and in no time he was pulling a black cell phone out of one of them. He laughed a little, hysterical, and after realizing that he didn’t know where he was, he stopped himself from calling for an ambulance and instead went through the agenda, dialing the first name he recognized.
Two rings later:
“Quinlan, it’s–it’s Anakin, I need–”
“Fuck, kid, thank God! Stay put, where getting there, you hear me?”
“Ambulance, Quinlan, need an am–”
“Fuck! Right there!”
Anakin dropped the phone the second the call ended, not even hearing the crack sound it made when it collided against the floor. He turned all of his attention to Obi-Wan, ignoring the small, silent tears now wetting his cheeks.
“Don’t you dare, Obi-Wan, you hear me? Don’t you dare die on me.”
Two minutes after the television had been turned on, Mace was furiously dialing Luminara’s number, surprised that his most levelheaded agent had actually allowed something like this to happen. The Senator had called an emergency press conference, and the moment she had, Mace had started suspecting her ideas, but he had still counted on Luminara, knowing that with her right next to Senator Amidala, he at least had a point of control on the Senator’s actions. But he hadn’t expected Luminara to let Padmé run wild and actually accuse Palpatine publicly of staging murders for the past few years. As far as Mace understood, that was political suicide, and damn, but he’d been counting on having a political arm on his side. He didn’t know what the Hell the Senator was trying to pull, but this couldn’t end in victory for them, that much he was sure about.
Luminara only answered her phone after Mace had tried four times to reach her, and when she did, she murmured a court, “Agent Unduli.”
“Luminara! Why am I watching the Senator say what she’s saying on the TV? I thought you were there to control her!” Mace fought himself not to scream, but he knew he wasn’t actually accomplishing it. He walked to the door of his office and slammed it shut.
“And that I did, Mace,” said Luminara. Mace could picture her perfectly, her bun in disarrange and her suit now looking uncomfortable on her, but her eyes still clear and focused. “She sounded awfully sure about this, and I think she knows what she’s doing.”
“By putting all this out there?”
“Well, yes. If you get Dooku then Palpatine’s government has nothing to hold onto now.”
“If being the word here, Luminara. We don’t even know what we’re going to find or if this is going to give us any advantage at all. It’s a shot in the dark.”
“Then I guess we’ll just have to hope that everything works itself out, won’t we?”
Mace snorted, but before he could retort to his way too smart agent, she had hung up and he was listening to the continuous sound of an empty line on the other side. He scowled, and crashed his cell in between his fingers, sighing then in resignation. He looked at the people outside of his office, running frantically from one side to the other and answering phones frenetically. The lines were being attacked mercilessly already, and they would be for the next few hours, Mace was sure. God, he hoped the Senator knew what she was doing, and that any of his agents got to those warehouses as soon as possible.
Luminara had been right: if they managed to get one single proof out of that warehouse this could mean the end of Palpatine’s political career and Dooku’s reign of terror. If not… well, there was no point in thinking ahead of the facts.
Mace jumped when his cell phone vibrated inside his palm, its shrill ring reaching his ears a second later. He answered it without looking at the caller ID, and stuck it to his ear, receiving his caller with a, “What!?”
“Quinlan? Where are you?”
“Almost there, Mace, but I need you to send an ambulance to the warehouses. The city is a fucking riot and every line is almost dead. So use your powerful Chief influence and get me an ambulance!”
“But, Quin, what happened? Is everything–”
“I’m not really sure, but Anakin’s alive, that much I know. Just send me that ambulance!”
The hospital was busy and a little crazy, but Anakin wouldn’t have noticed it if a bomb had exploded next to his head. He was sitting on one of those gray uncomfortable hospital chairs, his eyes plastered to his own hands resting on his lap. A couple of steps away from him, Quinlan spoke to someone on the phone, and looked happy enough. And he should be, because a police team was currently at the warehouse, where they had enough proofs to last them a lifetime, and Obi-Wan was out of danger, or so had the doctors said. A broken shoulder and a bullet to his stomach, but he was strong and he had survived an operation and was now resting somewhere behind one of the white doors of the hospital. But Anakin could still see the blood spreading through his clothes, covering his own hands, and he couldn’t help but be a little scared still. He needed to see Obi-Wan sometime around yesterday, but the doctors wouldn’t allow it just yet.
He had been forced to go through a check up the moment he had arrived at the hospital on Quinlan’s car, right behind the ambulance that had brought Obi-Wan in. He had gotten out of it mostly untouched, not wanting to take any more drugs or to get his stomach pumped or whatever it was the crazy doctors wanted to do to him. He felt fine, mostly, anyway, and he didn’t want to do any other thing than see Obi-Wan and possibly hug him and never let go. He’d thought he was going to loose him, he’d been so sure for some time that he was surprised he had already stopped trembling.
“Relax, will you?” Quinlan patted his back strong and suddenly, but the blow managed to bring Anakin back to the reality around him, making him realize the chaos and noise that surrounded them.
He looked up. Not too far away, a television showed Padmé giving a speech full of certainty and confirming what she’d declared some hours ago, and with a smile that had to be telling the people how she planned on winning the next elections, and on doing something about the corruption consuming the city. Some part of Anakin was still attuned to the world enough to be happy about her, even if he knew that the woman on the screen wasn’t actually Padmé, but Dormé, a double that with good enough make up few people could discover.
Almost as if thinking about her had summoned her, some time after two pairs of heels added themselves to the noise of the hospital. Anakin looked up to see Padmé, closely followed by Professor Unduli, both of them looking tired but satisfied. The moment she saw him, Padmé extended her arms towards him, and soon enough Anakin had his face buried in between her breasts, a place that he’d learned to associate with safety. He put his arms around Padmé’s tiny waist and said nothing, relaxing into the embrace and trying to forget, even if just for a little while.
“If it isn’t the happy Senator!” exclaimed Quinlan next to him. “Aren’t you supposed to be somewhere talking to the press so we can see you on the TV?”
Padmé smiled softly, tangling her fingers on Anakin’s hair for comfort. “That’s just my double, Agent Vos.”
Quinlan lifted both eyebrows, understanding, and then turned his attention to Luminara, who had sat next to him and was currently trying to pull her outfit together. Her hair was loose and her clothes in disarray, making her look even more tired than she already did.
“Wow, ‘Nara, you look so disheveled. It’s kinda hot.”
Luminara snorted, and then swatted tiredly at Quinlan’s shoulder. “Did you talk to Mace?”
“Yeah.” Quinlan nodded. “He’s trying not to kill anybody at the office and stressing himself, so you know, nothing out of the ordinary.” Quinlan breathed in, entwining the fingers of both his hands and putting them to his right cheek at the same time he batted his eyelashes prettily. “He’s so responsible and handsome.”
Luminara laughed softly next to him, shaking her head slightly. “Joke all you want, Quin, but you are obviously crazy about him.”
“If I didn’t know it already…” Quinlan sighed, and then passed one arm over Luminara’s shoulder, bringing her closer to him. “So how about you ‘Nara, huh? We have to find you someone! How is it going with…?” He pointed discreetly at Padmé, and that got him a sharp jab on his rib. “Ouch, woman! That was completely unnecessary.”
“Serves you right.”
“Um. Excuse me? Are you here for Obi-Wan Kenobi?”
The four of them lifted their heads almost immediately, looking at the too young doctor. His coat was crisp white and it contrasted tremendously against their generally disarranged appearances, but he kept a warm smile all the while.
“Yes. Yes,” answered Anakin finally, almost breathless.
“Oh, good. He’s awake now, so if any of you would like to see him, it will–”
“I’ll go!” exclaimed Anakin, standing up fast and sudden. No one questioned his words, and soon enough, he was following the young doctor through a series of corridors and inside a private room.
Anakin wiped his sweaty palms on his dirty jeans before entering the room, and then offered a small smile to the doctor, who let him in and then closed the door, leaving him alone inside the room. Not two seconds later, he all but run towards the bed, where a groggy Obi-Wan welcomed him with a little smile.
“Hi,” murmured Obi-Wan his voice low and raspy, as if he’d just waken up (which was probably the case).
Anakin said nothing, just smiled a weak little smile. Before he could hold himself, he had thrown himself on the bed and almost on top of Obi-Wan, surrounding his shoulders with both his arms and burying his face on Obi-Wan’s chest.
“Thought I’d lost you,” he murmured. “I really thought I’d lost you.”
Obi-Wan nodded above him, the move slow and careful, and then brought a hand to Anakin’s hair, threading his fingers through his curls slowly. “You weren’t that lucky.”
“Jerk.” Anakin lifted his head a little, sniffing as he looked into Obi-Wan’s tired eyes. “You’re so never going back to being a detective. You’re gonna be a hot boring teacher forever, ok?”
Obi-Wan smiled even wider, his features tired and his movements heavy. “I think I can do that.”
Anakin nodded, and then he nodded again. He brought his hands to Obi-Wan’s cheeks, framing his face and pushing a few hairs away from his forehead with his thumbs. He swallowed, thick and hard, and then leaned down, kissing Obi-Wan for all he was worth. Obi-Wan’s lips were dry, and when they parted under his questing tongue his mouth tasted of sleep and medicine, but Anakin didn’t care. He’d been so afraid, so sure that he’d lost it forever that he didn’t care about the hospital like smell around them or about just how tired Obi-Wan felt. He breathed out slowly, tasting Obi-Wan’s mouth, his lips, letting himself enjoy the soft burn of his beard on his face.
When they broke apart, Anakin held on, pressing his forehead to Obi-Wan’s and breathing slowly. Obi-Wan brushed a curl out of his face, and then wrapped his hand around Anakin’s wrist, holding still.
“Are you alright?” he asked, voice low now that Anakin was close and could hear him.
“Yeah, yeah.” He closed his eyes, nodding a little, and when he opened them again, he blurted, “I love you.”
“I could have guessed that.” Obi-Wan smiled at him, just a little. “I love you, too.”
And as simple as it sounded, it was. Outside the world was righting itself again, politicians had a long fight waiting for them, and so did police officers and every thief and murderer in town. It would be chaos for a while, even if they were walking down the right path this time. But as long as Obi-Wan and Anakin cared, they were alone in this room, and everything was good.
Chapter 15: Epilogue
Obi-Wan stepped into the office and felt a pang of melancholy, smelling the already cold coffee and burning cigarettes in the air. The police station hadn’t changed much since he had left it, and the idea of it never failed to make Obi-Wan think of the past. It had been too many months since he had been in the place, and maybe he should come visit his friends more often, if only to grasp those shreds that were still a part of him. Then again, with the way his life had turned around in the past few months, he didn’t feel like he needed to cling to the past all that much anymore.
He smiled as he entered the place, nodding slightly at a passing officer. The station was the definition of chaos: empty mugs, opened folders and ringing phones all around. After all, Senator Amidala had won the elections four months ago now, and the police corps was a big part of her program. Besides, there was still much information to uncover, given just to how many places the corruption of the last government had reached. They were living in hard times, but it seemed that they were heading towards something good.
In the mean time, though, Quinlan had assured Obi-Wan that he had some very important news, and that he must come to the station in no time to share them with him. Obi-Wan didn’t even want to think about what Quinlan had prepared this time. As it was, it didn’t take him long to find out, for as soon as he had stepped a little further into the office, Quinlan had run towards him and was already clinging to his neck as if his life depended on it.
“Obi, my dear friend!” Quinlan screamed right into Obi-Wan’s ear, a big smile spreading on his face.
“Oof, Quin,” Obi-Wan protested, even as he smiled softly at Quinlan’s antics. “You’re choking me.”
“And you’re exaggerating, as always. You’d think that getting some regularly would make you less uptight.”
Quinlan just smiled at him even wider, squeezing him as if to prove a point. “Yes?”
Obi-Wan shook his head. “Sometimes I wonder why we’re still friends,” he murmured, fighting his way out of Quinlan’s grasp and making then a show of straightening his clothes. At least it was summer already, and he wasn’t wearing any coat or jacket for Quinlan to wrinkle with his ever-present effusiveness.
“Because you love me!” singsonged Quinlan.
“I guess that must be it.” Obi-Wan shook his head again, offering Quinlan a small smile. “So, what is this so important thing you had to tell me right away?”
“Oh, we still have to wait for–‘Nara!”
The moment the name left Quinlan’s mouth, Obi-Wan looked back, just to see Luminara walking towards them, as elegant as ever. It was proof of how much noise there was around them that he hadn’t heard the sharp echo of her heels against the floor. Quinlan ran towards her, putting his arms around her thin waist and actually lifting her from the floor.
“Quinlan Vos, put me down this instant,” she ordered, not a trace of joking in her tone.
Quinlan did as he was told. “Yes, ma’am. Sorry, ma’am.”
Luminara straightened her clothes, just like Obi-Wan had done seconds before, and then checked her bun. After she seemed happy with her appearance, she punched Quinlan’s shoulder lightly, affection evident in her eyes. Still, Quinlan made a show of whining and pouting.
“He dragged you here, too, then?” asked Luminara after a while, offering Obi-Wan a smile.
“And yet he refuses to tell me the reason.”
They both looked at Quinlan expectantly, and after a few seconds of smiling, he pulled something out of his pocket and threw it in Obi-Wan’s direction. Obi-Wan grabbed it, reflexes fast and always at the ready, and then opened the small, black wallet that was now in his possession. Inside, there were official credentials, giving Quinlan the status of detective. Obi-Wan smiled softly. To think he had spent years trying to convince Quinlan to actually do this, and that in the end Mace had been the one to manage it.
“Congratulations.” Obi-Wan smiled, hugged Quinlan tightly and even stood of his tiptoes to reach him properly.
Luminara imitated the gesture, and then added, “I don’t know how happy we should be that you have an official excuse to break havoc now.”
“’Nara, I’m hurt, real hurt.” But even as he was saying so, he was smiling.
God knows how Mace had convinced Quinlan to enter the academy five months ago, but he had, and now Quinlan was an actual member of the corps. Just as he had promised, Mace had given him the rank of detective without going through any previous status, no matter what anyone else thought of the matter. After all, Quinlan had been their official contact for many years now, and had helped solving as many cases as many of the actual agents. Obi-Wan found relieving that Quinlan was more protected now, just as he knew Mace did. Still, he had chosen not to mention that he knew just how much Mace wanted to have Quinlan were he could control him and make sure he didn’t get shot constantly. It was kind of silly how much Mace cared for Quinlan, really, but it was good to know that they had each other.
“So, should we celebrate?”
Luminara shook her head, not one hair moving out of place as she did. “I have work to do, you know that.”
“Are you even sleeping these days?” wondered Obi-Wan. Luminara took her work so seriously that she usually forgot about her basic necessities, but it wasn’t like she accepted any friendly advice on the subject.
“Oh, she’s sleeping alright, and I know with who-o.” Quinlan smiled, brought one arm around Luminara’s shoulders, almost dwarfing her. “Then again, maybe you’re not doing any actual sleep.”
“You know absolutely nothing, Quinlan,” Luminara stated. “Now if you excuse me, I have to go back to work.”
“But we’ll meet this weekend for dinner, right?” Quinlan screamed at her retreating back, not getting a straight answer.
“You need to stop that,” murmured Obi-Wan. “She’s not really sleeping with the Senator, and you’re starting to get on her nerves.”
“Just fun between friends, Obi. Besides, how do you know she’s not? She seemed offended enough that it might just be true.” Quinlan nodded, confident in his reasoning, and Obi-Wan chose to let him believe whatever it was he wanted to believe. There was no way of stopping Quinlan’s trains of thoughts, anyway.
“So, how about a drink, you and me, old friend?” asked Quinlan.
“I think I better go home.”
Quinlan sighed, rolling his eyes. “Right, I keep forgetting that you’re practically married.” He sighed again, just for effect. “Diner this weekend, then?”
“I guess I’ll just go annoy Macey for a while. He gets the cutest frown when he’s trying to be mad at me.”
It was Obi-Wan who shook his head this time. He crossed his arms over his chest, and smiled a little at Quinlan. “You’re lucky he loves you.”
“To think that you didn’t believe me all those months ago when I told you he was in love with me.”
Obi-Wan chuckled, bringing the conversation back to memory. It felt like years, almost, given how many things had happened since back then. Still, he wouldn’t have fathomed that Quinlan and Mace would actually end up where they were. Then again, he wouldn’t have thought he himself would end up where he had.
“Come on, go home and get laid already. I’ll call you about dinner.”
Obi-Wan chuckled again, ignoring Quinlan’s efforts to tease him, and then pressed his hand to his shoulder in a half hug. “See you then, old friend.”
“Hello!” Quinlan screamed in the empty kitchen the moment he heard the lock of the door being turned. Mace’s apartment – theirs now, he guessed – was big enough, but the sounds traveled easily through the place, so there was no hiding when someone arrived.
Sometime later, Mace appeared in the kitchen, jacket thrown carelessly over his shoulder, and tie already half untied. He rubbed his eyes, and murmured, “Hi.”
“You look awful,” stated Quinlan. And he did, all red eyes and tired features.
“Gee, thanks. It’s lovely to be home.”
Quinlan chuckled, shrugging off the comment with the experience of years, and turned to look fully at Mace. “I made dinner.”
“Ok, so I was gonna make diner, but I know how you get about me burning your kitchen, and stuff, so I just ordered Chinese. Happy, love?” Quinlan crossed his arms over his chest, pouted a little. Mace smiled at him.
Quinlan couldn’t help but smile as well, and walked the couple of steps that separated him from Mace, standing then in front of him. He smelled of stale cigarettes and sweat, and he looked like he was about to pass out.
“Tired?” whispered Quinlan, batting away Mace’s hands when they went to finish untying his own tie. Quinlan did it for him, sliding the fabric away with practiced ease, and then letting it fall to a nearby table. He felt Mace lean forward, and wrapped one strong arm around his waist.
Mace smiled at him, resting his forehead against Quinlan’s shoulder. “Better now, I think.”
Anakin sighed, throwing away his pen and stretching his arms above his head. He watched the pen bounce once against his ink covered notebook, and then stop when it crashed against the side of his calculator.
“I give up,” he said, bringing his arms back down and letting them rest against the couch behind him. They should have sat at the big table in the living room, but instead they were uncomfortably folded on the floor, and fighting for space in a too small TV table. But Barriss had always had a thing for sitting on the floor, and Anakin just wasn’t good at denying her anything.
Barriss dropped her own pen, resting then her cheek on her fisted hand. “Yeah, I guess we’ve done enough. These exams are going to kill me.”
“At least you’ve got those practices with Professor Luminara to look forward to during the summer, right?” Anakin pouted a little. “I’m just gonna be stuck here with nothing to do.”
“Oh yes, poor you, all summer stuck in bed with you hot lover. Such an effort.”
“Shut up!” Anakin chuckled, and then threw a cushion in Barriss’ direction. She avoided it easily, probably out of practice, and then stuck her tongue out at him.
“It’s true,” she said.
Anakin pouted again, resting his chin on both his hands. “But all my friends are going to be so busy,” he complained. “You know I haven’t seen Padmé in almost a month?”
“But she’s fixing the city, isn’t she?”
“I guess.” Anakin shrugged, grabbing then a pen from the table and twisting one of his curls with it. “You’ll still have time for me, right?”
Barriss smiled a toothy grin at him, poking his nose softly. “Of course, silly.”
Anakin smiled back at her, curling his hands in his hair once the moment had passed. Exams were close, but if he studied any longer he was going to drop dead right then and there. Right now, all he wanted was a shower, dinner and a nice bed to sleep on. Fortunately, he had all close right where he was.
Right after everything that had happened, Anakin had gone back to his own apartment, but after seeing that he spent more time at Obi-Wan’s, moving in had been an almost natural process. Now Obi-Wan’s apartment was covered by Anakin’s mess, but it already felt like home. They had talked about getting a new place, something that was theirs, but for the time being, they had settled quite nicely at Obi-Wan’s.
When Anakin snapped out of his reverie with a goofy smile adorning his face and was ready to offer Barriss a drink, he heard the lock of the door, and soon enough, Obi-Wan was walking inside the small room, briefcase in hand and glasses perched on his nose. He looked all kinds of edible.
“Hi,” said Anakin, smile between his lips.
“Hello.” Obi-Wan smiled back, dropping his briefcase on a nearby chair to walk towards them.
“Hello, Barriss. Studying?”
“We were just finishing,” murmured Anakin, right before Obi-Wan sunk down and pecked him hello. He blushed a little, still not used to the familiar feeling of such a simple hello. He could almost feel Barriss looking at them adorably.
“I’ll go make diner, then,” said Obi-Wan, straightening up again. “Would you like to stay?” he asked in Barriss’ direction.
“Thank you, but I have plans.”
“Maybe some other day, then.” And with that, Obi-Wan disappeared into the kitchen, letting one hand linger on Anakin’s shoulder just a little too long.
“Aww, you two are so cute.”
“Shut up,” whined Anakin, just to smile wide a second later. “So, you going out?”
Barriss nodded. “With Aayla. Because I love getting drunk while she scores, you know?” She shrugged. “I guess I better go. Wanna have diner tomorrow night?” she asked while she was picking her stuff up and packing everything on her backpack.
“I have work tomorrow night.”
Barriss nodded again, standing up as she did so. “I don’t know why you still work at that awful bar, seriously.”
Anakin stood up as well, ready to walk his friend to the door. “We’ve already discussed that. Besides,” he wiggled his eyebrows, “Obi-Wan likes it.”
“O-kay, way too much information, cowboy.”
Anakin chuckled, opening the door for her while stopping her from poking his stomach. “Maybe the day after tomorrow, after studying?”
“Sure. See you then, lover boy.”
The moment he closed the door, Anakin all but bounced into the kitchen, smiling a little when he saw Obi-Wan apparently analyzing the pros and cons of two different pans. He wouldn’t put him past that.
“They look the same to me,” he murmured, walking inside the room and towards Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan turned slightly towards him, and then settled one of the pans on the fire while he put the other back inside a cabinet. Anakin thought it was terribly cute how anal he could be about certain things.
“Why did you arrive this late?” he asked some time later, standing behind Obi-Wan and taking a peak at what was being cooked. It smelled nice.
“I stopped at the station,” answered Obi-Wan, hands and eyes busy with his cooking. “Quinlan is officially a detective since today.”
“Ugh, is that safe?” wondered Anakin, leaning just a little forward and pressing both hands to Obi-Wan’s hips. He slid them easily over the clothed skin, and let them rest there.
Obi-Wan chuckled, seemingly unaware of any inappropriate touching. Probably because it wasn’t, Anakin mused. They had gotten used to always touching each other, to the familiarity of hands here and kisses there with no other purpose than saying hello, or stating that they were together. They just couldn’t be in the same room and not touch each other, it seemed. But Anakin liked it. It felt good to have this something that made him realize that Obi-Wan wasn’t going anywhere.
“Mace seemed to think so,” answered Obi-Wan after a while. Then, “By the way, is there a reason for a white sock to be on top of the television?”
Obi-Wan shook his head, his hands now busy with cutting a tomato in perfectly symmetric pieces. “We need to make you more organized.”
“I don’t think that’s actually possible. Others have tried, you know?” He laughed a little, leaning even closer, so he could press his nose to Obi-Wan’s head and breathe him in. He smelled of shampoo and coffee, nice and warm. “Turn around?”
Obi-Wan stopped for a second, but then continued cutting tomatoes. It wasn’t until he was finished that he dropped the knife, checked the fire one last time and turned around to face Anakin. He leaned back against the counter, and looked up into Anakin’s eyes. “Hi,” he murmured.
“Hi,” Anakin echoed.
Anakin leaned down with a teasing smile playing on his lips, but Obi-Wan beat him to the kiss, crushing their lips together quick and hard. Anakin’s yelp was swallowed by Obi-Wan’s mouth, and soon turned into a soft breathy sound. He wrapped both arms around Obi-Wan’s waist, bringing him closer and letting his hands roam his back, pull his shirt out of his perfectly pressed pants.
“Dinner will burn,” whispered Obi-Wan, but Anakin was kissing him again soon, not letting him get any other word in edgewise. They kept their eyes closed, now sinking furiously inside each other mouths with the practiced ease of familiarity and knowledge.
Anakin came up for air only to press his mouth softly to Obi-Wan’s neck right after, peppering his white skin with kisses. “I’ll be quick, I promise,” he murmured, his tongue now drawing a line on Obi-Wan’s neck, dipping into his collarbone. But Obi-Wan didn’t seem to care all that much about dinner anymore, because he just moaned his agreement, eyes half closed and mouth slightly parted.
Anakin brought his hand to the small of Obi-Wan’s back and spread his fingers there. The skin was hot from the proximity of the kitchen’s fire. He took some time undoing the button’s of Obi-Wan’s shirt, and was so concentrated on the task that a surprised gasp left his mouth when Obi-Wan forced one thigh in between his own, pressing softly against his groin. Damn tease.
Anakin smiled, raked his nails down Obi-Wan’s chest, and kneeled down quickly, before Obi-Wan could figure out what he was doing. But his intentions were made clear when the metallic sound of Obi-Wan’s belt filled the room, and Anakin pulled his pants down a little, just so they rested right under the curve of Obi-Wan’s ass. Anakin looked up before freeing Obi-Wan from his underwear, stared into his eyes. He smiled a little, cocky, and then pulled Obi-Wan’s boxers down, taking him into his mouth with no preambles. He had promised he would be quick, hadn’t he?
“Jesus,” murmured Obi-Wan above him, and Anakin had to look up just so he could see him throw his head back, letting his short hair fall freely on his face, and curving his neck and back invitingly.
Anakin moaned a little around Obi-Wan, pressing his lips tight and sure on his cock as he put one hand to Obi-Wan’s hip and the other one to the small of his back. Obi-Wan was already sweating, the slick sensation making Anakin dig his fingers hard on his skin.
One of Obi-Wan’s hands came to rest on the back of Anakin’s neck, the other curling itself on the edge of the counter. Anakin looked up to see Obi-Wan staring at him, pupils dilated, mouth parted in a breathy moan. And he could almost see himself on Obi-Wan’s eyes, mouth red around his flesh, sweaty curls sticking to his forehead, tongue working easily around him. He loved it, that Obi-Wan could see him like this and get turned on, that Anakin was the one who could make Obi-Wan feel like this, look like this. He kept moving, hands steady on Obi-Wan’s skin, eyes fixed on Obi-Wan’s own, mouth tight around his cock, tongue teasing, stroking, licking, searching for that perfect little moan that–ah, there.
It never failed to incense Anakin, the way Obi-Wan sounded when he came, the way his features expressed simple pleasure and nothing more. To know that Obi-Wan was letting go of everything, that he was just there, with him, letting himself feel, was more exhilarating than any other feeling in the world. And fuck, but Anakin was so in love in was kind of pathetic.
Anakin let himself lick Obi-Wan for a while longer, driving his orgasm out of him, and once he leaned back, looking up, he barely had time to yelp before Obi-Wan was falling to the floor, lips hard on Anakin’s own. They kissed, open mouthed and dirty, tongues meeting outside of their mouths while Obi-Wan’s hand searched blindly for Anakin’s zipper, and made a quick job of his erection, pressing and stroking in just the right way with those calloused hands of his Anakin had already gotten used to.
“God, your hands…” he whispered, breathing hard through his nose right before Obi-Wan kissed him again, lips firm and experienced on Anakin’s own, driving him nuts.
It didn’t take long, barely a few touches before Anakin was coming, a groan escaping from between his lips as he let his body drop against Obi-Wan’s, who did his best at supporting him. They ended up half laying on the floor, half sitting on it, backs against the cupboards and arms and legs tangled, one last kiss twisting their tongues.
“We’re so doing this more often when my exams are over,” murmured Anakin, bringing Obi-Wan’s hand to his mouth so he could lick come from his fingers, tongue teasing softly at Obi-Wan’s fingertips.
Obi-Wan chuckled a little, pressing his cheek to Anakin’s temple and letting him do whatever he wanted. “Why don’t you get cleaned up, and we have dinner, huh?”
“Just a minute, until I get my motor skills back.”
Obi-Wan chuckled again, a soft sound Anakin had gotten used to, and had learned to love. They stayed there for some time, leaning against each other in an easy cuddle, whispering something every once in a while. It was easy and familiar, and it was them. It felt as if they still had a lot of time ahead of them, many more changes to go through and new things to learn about each other still, but resting there in between Obi-Wan’s arms, Anakin couldn’t bring himself to believe that their future would be bad. Obi-Wan was his constant already, a rock to stayed glued to for the rest of his life.
“Are you falling asleep on me?” asked Obi-Wan in a whisper sometime later.
“Maybe a little.”
“Have something to eat, and then you can sleep.”
“And you with me?”
“Unless you’re planning to make me sleep on the couch.”
Anakin smiled a little, pressed one hard kiss to Obi-Wan’s lips. “Nah, I don’t think so.”