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Pro Patria Mori

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The planets are starting to blur together, and Anakin hasn’t slept on any of them.

He’s tried, of course, a few worlds ago, when Obi-Wan’s suggestions that he get some rest transformed first into stern requests and then, when those proved fruitless, sharp-worded commands, but as soon as he closes his eyes, the nightmares start again. Death, destruction, a world on fire--and Padmé .

He’s in no hurry to see that again.

The Resolute is in hyperspace, hurtling toward the next dirty Outer Rim planet, the next bout of dead clones, the next population of civilians Anakin can’t save. The ship is on its night cycle with a skeleton crew and low lights, and everyone who’s able is catching a few hours’ sleep before the next battle. Anakin’s in the hangar bay, pieces of his starfighter spread out on the deck around him. There’s a persistent itch behind both eyes and a throbbing headache that isn’t helped by Artoo’s pointed trills.

“Yes, I’ll put it back together,” he snaps at the droid. “I don’t--kriff.” He breaks off as a loose wire sends a spark of electricity through his non-mechanical hand. He pops the zapped fingers in his mouth and glares at Artoo. Artoo gives him a low-pitched blat in return, his tone so clear that Anakin can practically see the eyebrow he’d have raised if he had eyebrows.

“Yeah, yeah,” Anakin mutters, wiping his fingers off on his tunic. He turns back to the open access panel in front of him. What had he just been doing? Something to do with shield efficiency, he thinks. Everything is just a little fuzzy, like a haze has settled over all of his senses. He snaps his fingers at Artoo. “Hand me the hydrospanner.”

Artoo beeps at him. “What do you--oh.” Anakin looks down to see the spanner right at his feet already. He grabs it and pushes some wires aside to get to the part that needs to be adjusted. He ignores Artoo, who, by the tone of his trills, is about thirty seconds from electrocuting Anakin and dragging him bodily to bed.

Anakin pushes a lock of curly hair out of his face and leans into the open panel to better see what he’s doing. He almost gets zapped again, but he moves his hand just in time.

He loses himself in the ship. Fixing things, repairing droids and starships and whatever other mechanical gadgets he can get his hands on, is a lot like what he supposes sinking into the Force is supposed to feel like. Obi-Wan talks a lot about the healing peace of a deep Force trance, but Anakin can never quite let go enough to get there.

Anyway, tinkering with the ship, doing something productive, helps with the tired, jittery feeling he gets whenever he sits still for too long. Not a lot, not enough, but some, and it’s better than nothing. It’s better than the screaming and the helpless choking fear--

His concentration slips and he mis-crosses a wire, sending a surge of electricity through his artificial hand. It burns out a couple of servos in the hand and passes the rest of the current as pain. He rears back out of the access panel, overbalances, and lands hard on his tailbone on the cold floor of the hanger, smacking his elbow for good measure.

He’s sprawled out on the ground, letting loose a string of expletives that would curl chest hair on a hutt when he hears footsteps on the deck behind him and feels a familiar presence in the Force. He turns to aim a pithy remark at his former master, only to find Obi-Wan standing barely a meter from him, his arms crossed, and a concerned look on his face.

“You’re getting sloppy,” he says, arching an eyebrow. “I can’t usually sneak up on you so easily.”

Anakin hauls himself to his feet, rubbing what is sure to be a spectacular bruise on his backside. “Yeah, well,” he grumbles articulately. There’s engine grease on his face, his arm hurts, and the fingers of his right hand are responding sluggishly to his commands, not to mention the pounding in his head that no amount of temple massaging can rub away, so he’s not feeling particularly witty at the moment. He sways a little and has to put out a hand to steady himself against his fighter.

Obi-Wan just looks at him for a moment, lips pursed. “Anakin, you need to sleep,” he says. His voice is carefully devoid of emotion, but Anakin can feel his particular brand of judgemental concern anyway.

“I’m fine,” Anakin tells him. “Besides, I’m not finished.” He has to finish with the fighter before they get to… whatever the next planet is, and Anakin has to repair his hand. It’s delicate work, and he doesn’t have the right tools here. Where does he keep the small ones again? He starts to turn away from Obi-Wan.

“Anakin,” Obi-Wan says again, a distinct note of warning in his voice now. Anakin ignores him. “Do not make me get Kix to drug you.”

“As if he could,” mutters Anakin, scanning around fuzzily for the instrument roll. When had he had it last? He can’t connect the mental image with a chronological reference--have they been away from Coruscant for five weeks or six? The past is a greasy smudge--the present is getting a little smudged as well.

Everything goes sideways for a second, then suddenly Obi-Wan is right beside him, holding him up with an arm around his waist.

“I see medication will be unnecessary,” Obi-Wan remarks wryly. “Come now, my young friend.” He starts to tug Anakin toward the corridor that leads to the sleeping quarters.

Anakin resists. “The ship!” he protests. “And my hand!” He holds it up to show Obi-Wan the damage, the blackened fingertips of his glove.

“One of the techs can put the ship together,” Obi-Wan tells him, injecting a calming Force command into the words.

Anakin bats it away. “They won’t do it right,” he says sullenly.

“Then you can fix whatever is wrong after you’ve gotten some sleep. Your hand as well.”

Sleep--no. Sleep means the dreams, the fire, Padmé, and Anakin can’t, not again, not ever. He tries to pull away from Obi-Wan again, but the older man’s grip is like permasteel, and Anakin finds himself manoevered steadily toward the barracks. “Master, I can’t--”

“You can,” Obi-Wan cuts him off. His mouth is a firm line and he marches Anakin down the hall like a youngling, even though Anakin is a head taller than he is. “You are responsible for the men on this ship, and you are no good to them if you’re dead on your feet. You require rest.”

Appealing to Anakin’s sense of responsibility is a pretty low blow in Anakin’s opinion, but it’s no less effective for it. He frowns at Obi-Wan but has no rejoinder to offer.

Obi-Wan steers him to a wing of bunks on the outskirts of the clone barracks. They had left Coruscant with a full complement of troops, but this sector hasn’t been kind to the Republic’s army. An oppressive silence fills the small area, only the hum of the Resolute’s engines where there should have been snoring, shuffling, the quiet but constant sounds of a ship full of soldiers, still alive, still breathing.

Obi-Wan presses Anakin down onto a lower bunk, then unclips his belt and lightsaber, stowing them safely on the bunk above him. Anakin tries to sit up again, but Obi-Wan pushes him down firmly with a hand to his chest.

“Sleep,” Obi-Wan commands, the Force layered in his words.

Anakin tries to resist, but his eyelids are suddenly so heavy, and the bed so comfortable. “Stop that,” he murmurs, eyes slipping closed of their own accord. “‘m not… weak-minded.”

“You are when you’re exhausted,” Obi-Wan says gently. He sits on the edge of the bunk and brushes a lock of hair out of Anakin’s face. Anakin leans into the touch, a rare display of physical affection from the usually stoic Jedi Master, and he hears Obi-Wan sigh softly.

He’s so tired, exhaustion pressing on him like a physical weight. Maybe if he just rests a little while--doesn’t sleep, not with the ever-present threat of the same terrible nightmare, but just rests here with his eyes closed, it’ll clear the fog from his mind so he can focus on keeping his men alive.

His breathing slows, evens out, and Obi-Wan starts to get up. Moving feels like running through quicksand, but Anakin catches Obi-Wan’s wrist in his good hand. “No, stay,” he mumbles on an exhale.

Obi-Wan sighs again, but he settles back down without further comment. Anakin holds onto his wrist and lets sleep chase him down, blissfully blank and silent and free of fire.

 

When he wakes too few hours later to the taste of panic and a swallowed scream, he notices Obi-Wan has drawn his feet up on the bed and dozed off against the bulkhead. A faint, fond smile quirks the corner of Anakin’s mouth, and he crawls over Obi-Wan the best he can without disturbing him.

He looks at Obi-Wan for a long moment as he flexes his hand to test the damage. It’s not quite as bad as he’d feared, but it will be a fiddly repair. Obi-Wan’s face is slack, expressionless in sleep. There’s no sign of emotion, of distress, of dreams.

It’s unbecoming of a Jedi Knight, but Anakin feels a pang of jealousy anyway.

He lets Obi-Wan sleep. These lulls between worlds are too few, too short, and none of them are getting enough sleep--at least Anakin is used to it. He retrieves his belt and his lightsaber, clips them both on, and heads back to the hangar bay.

He fixes the damage in his hand, then loses himself to putting his starfighter back together in the remaining hyperspace hours. When Obi-Wan finds him again later amid the sound of alarm klaxons, neither of them comments on the weariness in the other’s face.

The war goes on.