He knew he should go. Anakin was well cared for. The healers and the army of medical droids were keeping a close eye on him; they would be alerted to the smallest change in the boy’s condition. Obi-Wan had no reason to be there. He was no healer, could be of no help to anyone. He couldn’t even reach his own padawan through the Force.
The bond was still unstable, their connection tenuous, new, untried. All efforts reaching Anakin through the Force had failed; it was little comfort that the healers had patiently explained that that was to be expected. The poison wreaking havoc inside Anakin was distorting the connection, the dangerously high fever muddling the boy’s consciousness. He slept uneasily, dreaming galaxies away from the people who tended to him in the Halls of Healing.
Obi-Wan should go. Even now, despite looking the very opposite of healthy, Anakin was slowly getting better. The Force was repairing broken cells, connecting and soothing that which had been torn asunder. The boy would get better; soon he would be endlessly questioning, recklessly running, restlessly fidgeting. Unlike now, when he lay so unnaturally still, the painful cure making him burn and hurt with the full force of Tatooine’s punishing suns. Obi-Wan had tried to send reassuring thoughts, had coated their fledging bond with what comfort he could offer, but it all seemed to be to no avail.
The healer on rotation had given him a few pointed looks, hinting that he should rest, go get some sleep or meditate; he had steadfastly ignored her, pretending not to understand. He knew he should go. He had no reasonable purpose to stay; therefore it was impractical for him to slump in an uncomfortable chair next to his young padawan’s bed. Obi-Wan staying didn’t alter or better Anakin’s condition, all it did was twisting the muscles on his back into painful knots. He knew he was behaving in a manner the healers were not accustomed to – the visitors only stayed, when the patients’ condition demanded it or if they wished to say their last goodbyes before their brethren became one with the Force. Staying without an explicit purpose was not forbidden, but still something a little…frowned upon. It was uncommon enough that Obi-Wan was uncomfortably aware of the looks aimed at his way by other patients and healers. And still he could not make himself leave.
He looked at his padawan’s small form on the bed. The boy looked so much smaller than usual, quiet and still. His chest rose laboriously, the sound of his feeble breaths too loud in the silence. Anakin’s cheeks burned red, his brow glistening with fever. His fair hair had darkened from sweat, and the short braid was stuck behind one small ear. Obi-Wan felt a sharp twinge, a rare spell of tenderness at the pathetic sight. He firmly dispelled it away, although the familiar ache remained. The ache of caring, of wanting to take all the ills and sorrows of another, sparing them from pain, unhappiness, disappointment. He told himself it was compassionate; suspected it bordered on something unseemly.
Anakin would get better. Still, Obi-Wan couldn’t remember ever feeling so helpless, so out of his depth. It was his duty to teach the boy, to take care of him, to protect him. This felt like failure of all three, although he wryly acknowledged that the fact that Anakin would have an adverse, dangerous reaction to a rare plant that grew only on the planet they had been sent to aid in relatively easy negotiations would perhaps have been difficult even for a seasoned master to predict. Nonetheless – he had failed in his duty.
Obi-Wan could not help but think of Qui-Gon, although the thought, as always, sent a dull ache echoing through him. What his old master would have done in this situation? Would he have stayed? Qui-Gon would have been compassionate, would have done his all to help, Obi-Wan was certain of that. He was equally certain that Qui-Gon would have acknowledged the futility of sitting beside the sickbed with nothing to do, would have retreated to a private meditation, certain that the Force’s will would be done. Why couldn’t he do the same?
He did trust the Force – he knew that Anakin would get better. Although, wasn’t the fact that he couldn’t leave the boy alone, a sign that deep down, he doubted the Force? That he wanted to keep watching over him, even when it was no longer necessary, but a sign of his hubris – or worse, of his attachment? And leaving Anakin alone; what a ridiculous thought. Anakin was not alone, he was in the Temple, in healers’ care, among many Jedi, with the Force all around him. To somehow suggest, that without Obi-Wan at his side, he would be alone, was not only untrue but dangerous. In the end, all a Jedi needed was the Force. Nothing else.
And still, he could not stand up, could not walk away. Because Anakin did look alone; hurt and small and alone in a bed far too big for him. He was lost among distressing dreams, confused and afraid. Obi-Wan could feel it. To leave Anakin now would be to leave him face his sickness, his poisonous dreams alone, even if Obi-Wan could do little to soothe him. He was painfully aware how the boy still hadn’t found his place in the Temple, how he was apart from other padawans even when among them, how the peculiar circumstances of his admittance in to the Order had set him apart – perhaps forever – from other Jedi. Obi-Wan was all Anakin had, even among the thousands strong Jedi Order. It would be a betrayal, a neglect of his duties to leave him now.
Anakin twitched on the bed, his small hand dropping to the side, close to Obi-Wan. A quiet, almost inaudible moan fell from his lips. He had no strength to toss and turn, but his distress was still evident even in these small movements. The boy was so young yet; despite his harsh upbringing on Tatooine, he was still just a child. Sometimes, when Obi-Wan let himself acknowledge his deepest, buried fears, he thought that Anakin wasn’t only too old to be trained, he was also at the same time too young. Too young for Obi-Wan – too big a responsibility, too huge a chance to go astray. Beside Anakin, he felt old, impossibly old, but also too young himself, unqualified, not enough. What if he failed?
He released a deep breath and pushed the fears ruthlessly aside. He knew he would have to meditate later and find a way to learn from them, to make them harmless, to release them away. Obi-Wan longed to truly gain the mantle of certainty he now donned falsely, to really habit the role of a teacher he playacted. Like all trials, this too would pass. Most beginnings were uncertain, muddled, difficult. He just wished he and Anakin would soon pass this first awkward stage, find their footing among the Order, but most of all, find the correct balance between the two of them, as a master and a padawan.
Anakin’s hand was smaller than his, quite a bit smaller. It hadn’t yet grown accustomed to a training sabre’s handle; although the boy could be surprisingly graceful when he concentrated, his grip was still often clumsy and uncertain. Like Obi-Wan, he loved sabre practice, wanted to be good – best – at it, had the talent and the will to someday be. But now he was still a boy, sometimes frustrated, sometimes excited, rarely peaceful, always on the move. Not a Jedi yet, not even a full six months in the Order. Too often Obi-Wan forgot that, demanded perhaps too much, too soon. But he knew no other way; it was how he had been taught.
Now Anakin’s small hand lay unmoving next to Obi-Wan’s, short fingers slightly curled inwards, as if seeking to take hold of something. Obi-Wan stared at the empty palm, knowing he should leave, that he should have left hours ago, when the healers had reassured him that Anakin would soon be fully recovered, when it had become glaringly obvious there was nothing he could do to help. He should go; he took a hold of Anakin’s hand instead. Without letting himself think about it too much, Obi-Wan took his padawan’s clammy hand in his own, stroke carefully his palm. Anakin, he thought.
Anakin, he sent reverberating through the bond. It crashed against the boy’s confusion, struggled to get over the unconscious walls surrounding his mind. Soon you’ll be well, he thought.
I’ll stay with you, and all will be well.
For a moment, Anakin’s hand pressed against his. Nothing else happened, but Obi-Wan knew the boy had heard – and believed – him. He kept holding Anakin’s hand until the night turned into morning and his padawan finally opened his eyes.