Chapter 1: The Choice
A long time ago, in a galaxy far away...The legend of two brothers.
The path to the abandoned temple was slippery with rain and mud. The darkness stretched its arms around the swaying trees, hid all life – slumbering and nocturnal – into its embrace. The night was warm and deep and silent. The fresh scent of rain lingered, pure and lovely.
The company of six walked in a row along the narrow path with sure, confident feet, hardly making a sound. Their brown robes merged with shadows, their faces eclipsed by hoods. A company of faithful priests – a company of deadly warriors. They climbed the path higher, not faltering even once on the overgrown, wet track, until they arrived at the half-ruinous courtyard. The stone temple loomed above them, ancient and full of mysteries. The huge doors were cracked, spilling darkness and secrets. Despair hung in the air, thick and smothering.
One of the six took a step forward, one, and then another. The hooded figure looked at the stone doors and beyond, through the cavernous hall and twisting corridors to the inner sanctum. A heart beat strongly within.
“He is here,” one of the remaining five said, a statement void of emotion, although not lacking altogether sympathy.
“Yes.” The figure did not turn to face his companions, but drew his hood away, letting the night gaze upon his features. Shorn hair, the color of which was indistinguishable in the dark. Sharp eyes surrounded by deep lines, a scar disappearing under a trimmed beard. A man in his prime, although tired, weary, bruised. Resolved. Determined.
“Will he come peacefully?” One from the row of identical brown cloaks asked, sounding doubtful.
“I will go alone,” the man said, still looking at the doors and what lay behind them. Feeling the heart beat, beat, beat.
“You will do what must be done.” Not a question or a request.
“Yes – I will do what I must.” And the man stepped through the broken doors into the company of the dead and the one, whose heart still beat in a steady rhythm with his own.
In the dark, the man found the inner sanctum of the temple unerringly. A torch was burning near the stone altar, laying shadows upon shadows on giant rock figures, on their unseeing eyes and time-eroded faces. Surrounded by their silent regard was a man clad in dark leather and armor. He knelt facing the altar, upon which lay his sacred weapon. A tribute or the offering of a penitent?
“Brother,” the brown-cloaked man said evenly. He did not move further into the chamber, but stretched, reached out until his spirit touched the dark man, careful and hesitant. The other stayed kneeling, still as the stone figures all around him, but everything in him recoiled, rebuffed the gentle touch. He curled further upon himself, away.
“So the great Order has come to punish the wicked heretic at last.” The hilt of the weapon gleamed in the firelight, arrested both their gazes. The hidden blade called with pulsing blood, a color of deep crimson.
“Once fallen, one can never come back,” was the steady answer, the line old and weary from repeated recitation.
“I do not wish to come back!” The other suddenly roared, anger echoing against the walls. He rose swiftly and turned, facing his once-brother-in-arms. Bloodshot eyes, rimmed with yellow fire, met the older man’s gaze defiantly. “I won’t come peacefully or otherwise.”
“I know,” the man answered calmly. His clear-sky eyes did not turn away from the burning stare of the other. “Not even for me.”
Something softened ever so slightly in the zealous gaze, a remembered bond whispering of days and nights spent side by side, sharing everything and anything, both important and mundane. “Not even for you.” The words were honest, but not cutting.
“Then I must come to you.” The declaration was spoken with surety, with a blood-oath resolve. The brown-cloaked man stepped closer, ever closer into the circle that held his lost brother, closer until they were standing mere inches apart.
“It’s dark where I am,” the other warned, breath ragged.
“Not so dark as it is here without you.”
Hearts beat strongly in synchrony. One or the other – or both – cupped a cheek, touched the base of the neck, laid his forehead to rest against the other. Brow against brow, heart against heart.
“You will do that for me?” The darkly clad man asked, bewildered. “You love the light.”
The other smiled sadly. “I love you more.”
“They will never let me leave here alive.” The yellowish eyes closed, leather-clad hands took hold of the brown cloak, not letting go.
“We live together – and we’ll die together.” It was an old vow, religiously held, secretly cherished.
“Yes, Master,” the dark one exhaled, exorcising long-held fears and doubts. His spirit soared like a bird, flew higher and higher before coming back to earth, settling against the other, light and effortless. The man took his weapon from the altar, fastened it with sure hands back to its customary place.
Together they left the secret sanctum and walked through the long-forgotten corridors, out of the cracked doors into the courtyard. Together they faced the waiting five, with blue and red blades blazing in the dark night.
Together they fought and lived and died.
Chapter 2: Missing
Modern day AU, Obi-Wan as Anakin's legal guardian.
A suspicious silence greeted Obi-Wan as he opened the creaking backdoor and stepped inside the small kitchen, shopping bags hanging from both arms. The dishes from the hastily eaten breakfast were still lying unwashed in the sink, a glaring sign of neglected chores. He let the door slam shut behind him and put the groceries down on the scuffed table with more force than was perhaps necessary.
His holler, already laced with a fair amount of irritation and annoyance, was met with more silence. Where was the rascal? The clock on the wall had moved to half past six; the dishes should have been washed, the homework done and the week’s laundry should have been tumbling happily in the washing machine at that very moment. However, there was no sound of the ancient machine, and Obi-Wan could easily guess that the most loathsome of tasks – the homework – had also been left undone.
“Anakin!” He tried again, although he could already tell that the little devil had, so to speak, flown the coop. If the boy had gone to street racing or was again trying to peep at the neighbors, there would be hell to pay. Obi-Wan couldn’t decide which would be worse; that the brat broke his neck in some high-speed chase, or that the Naberries complained for the umpteenth time that their teenage daughter was being spied on.
He pondered – and not for the first time – what on earth had possessed Qui-Gon to take the small terror under his wing. The man had collected strays like some people collected stamps; he himself was a living testament of that. But how Qui-Gon had managed to spend a night with a downtrodden and destitute single mother and then return home with her young son in tow, was beyond even Obi-Wan’s comprehension. But the even bigger mystery was why he had practically bequeathed Anakin on his deathbed to Obi-Wan’s care and the biggest one of all: why had he accepted the maddening, monumental duty?
The cupboards yawned their emptiness accusingly, and Obi-Wan stacked the newly brought bread, mayo, cans of tuna and beans, and the boxes of mac and cheese carefully on the shelfs. When he opened the fridge, he noticed that the last of the milk and yesterday’s leftovers were gone: at least the fiend had eaten before embarking on his mission to terrorize the neighborhood. As he closed the fridge door, he was met with the smiling faces of Qui-Gon, Anakin and himself. He had seen the picture countless of times, but still it made his heart ache a little.
It had been Anakin’s ninth birthday. Qui-Gon, although already wrecked from cancer, was smiling broadly in the photo. He had been on exceptionally good mood the whole day. Under his arm stood Anakin, beaming with pleasure, the all too fleeting innocence of childhood momentarily restored by cake, presents and the attention and regard of the people who loved him. Even Shmi’s absence hadn’t managed to dim his joy. Obi-Wan was standing at the other side of the birthday boy, and he too bore a smile; but inside, he had already been grieving. Now he wished that he could have had that same uncomplicated joy that the other two in the picture had had; that the memories born that day had only been happy ones.
Suddenly, he craved a good, stiff drink. For obvious reasons, there was no alcohol in the house – the devious imp found all his hiding places – so if he wanted a drink bad enough, he would have to go to the local watering hole and suffer the torture of Tuesday night karaoke. The thought of that high-pitched screeching was enough to squelch his thirst, and he left the kitchen, stubbornly leaving the dishes in the sink, and wandered through the shabby living room and up the narrow stairs.
He peeked into Anakin’s small room, which was more of a closet – a tool closet with all the various machine parts strewn over every available surface – but the space was dark and devoid of life. The boy’s well-worn backpack lay on the floor, spilling books, papers and pencils from its open maw. Didn’t the brat have a math test tomorrow? Obi-Wan couldn’t remember; he would have to consult his calendar, where he had painstakingly marked every test, every junior engineering club meeting, every doctor’s appointment. He looked at his watch; almost quarter to seven. If the delinquent wasn’t home in half an hour, he would have to go hunting. And then, there really would be hell to pay.
His own bedroom was equally dark and lonely. Obi-Wan pressed the switch on the wall, and as always, the old lamp, hanging precariously from the ceiling, hesitated for a long moment. When it finally flooded the room with light, it was like someone had punched all the air out of him. Everything in him froze, uncomprehending, and then a million thoughts stampeded in his brain as his heart started to beat frantically.
The small safe, that he kept always locked – the safe that Anakin was to never, ever touch – was open. Its door stood wide open, and although the important documents seemed to all be still there, there was one thing that was glaringly, horrifyingly absent.
His service pistol, the Beretta M9, was missing.
Chapter 3: Missing: part 2
The story continues from chapter 2. Modern AU, Obi-Wan as Anakin's legal guardian.
The world kept turning, although for Obi-Wan, it teetered perilously on its axis, in danger of falling into a dark abys. For a moment, he just stood deathly still, staring helplessly at the open safe, petrified by his sudden terror.
A hundred and one outcomes, differently but evenly horrible, ridiculous but all too probable, flashed by his eyes: Anakin with a self-inflicted gunshot wound; Anakin abducted by gunpoint; Anakin running away from home, already hundreds of miles away; Anakin robbing the corner shop; police and child welfare knocking at their door…
He knew viscerally that there was not a moment to lose – he had to do something immediately. The right response of course would have been to call the police and then his commanding officer, but Obi-Wan found himself scrolling his mobile’s contact list down to Mace Windu instead. The man knew everything that happened in the rundown neighborhood, knew every crook and dealer and pimp. He was Obi-Wan’s best chance of finding the missing boy, whatever had befallen Anakin.
The dial tone rang and rang while Obi-Wan breathed deep, his heart still hammering heavily. Please, he begged silently, not really knowing what he was pleading for – for Windu to answer, for everything to turn out to be just some misunderstanding, for Anakin to be alright. Anything and everything, just – please.
The line crackled and then, a curt voice barked, “Windu.”
“I’m calling b–”
“Who is this?” The voice sounded suspicious.
“Sorry – this is Obi-Wan Kenobi, I am calling because my –” A faint bang sounded from downstairs. The sound of the backdoor closing. “Never mind. I’m sorry for bothering you.” Without waiting for an answer, Obi-Wan ended the call. He put the phone back into his jeans pocket, listening for any further sounds in the silent house. Soon he could discern soft footsteps; someone was moving up the stairs.
He turned to face the bedroom door, but otherwise stayed in the middle of the room. Taking deep breaths, he tried to wrestle his churning, volatile emotions under ironclad control. The footsteps came closer, until they turned hesitant and finally stopped on the landing, just out of view of the open doorway.
“Anakin.” Obi-Wan was proud of himself: his voice sounded even, steady, firm.
A moment of deep silence, then a reluctant shuffling of feet and the miscreant appeared at the doorway. Obi-Wan examined the boy quickly from head to toe; if one discarded the brat’s usual grimy and disheveled appearance, he seemed to be none the worse for his latest misadventure. Certainly there was no blood or gaping wounds anywhere to be seen.
“So…ugh, you are already home,” the little thief mumbled, avoiding Obi-Wan’s hard gaze.
“Yes. Imagine my surprise to discover that we have been robbed.” His voice was dry and acrid, making Anakin blush. The boy’s flushed face told of his guilt more efficiently than any lie detector.
“I came to put it back!”
“You had no right – no reason – to take it in the first place!” The fragile calm he had tried to maintain shattered as easily as a thin glass, his fury demanding to be heard. “It’s irresponsible, blatantly disobedient and dangerous!”
“I wasn’t going to shoot anyone with it! I just…”
“Well I bloody well hope so!” Obi-Wan snarled, the sight of the boy’s small, slight shoulders in a miserable slump not softening his tone one bit. In the past he had worried that he was perhaps too strict, too demanding, always falling short of the crucial balance of discipline and leniency Qui-Gon had somehow managed to establish. Now he wondered if he had been too lenient instead.
“Where’s the gun?” Anakin was not carrying a bag and there was no way the pistol would have fit inside any of his pockets. Obi-Wan couldn’t decide if he was relieved that the boy wasn’t carrying the weapon with him or vexed that he had left it somewhere.
“Right here, I didn’t lose it…” The brat’s arms reached backward and like in a nightmare, Obi-Wan watched him drew the black handgun from behind his back, where it had rested between the waistband and skin, covered by his Ironman t-shirt. Obi-Wan decided he never, ever, wanted to see Anakin hold a gun of any kind – he felt compelled to rush over and snatch the thing from the boy’s all too small hands.
He forced himself to stay where he was and to say calmly, “Put it on the dresser – carefully.” For once, Anakin followed his instructions without protest or questions, knowing he was in very serious trouble with his guardian. When the pistol was out of the boy’s hands, lying on top of the old bureau, Obi-Wan could finally breathe more freely, the tight pressure easing around his lungs.
“What on earth were you thinking?! What could have made you do something so stupid? You know better!” Traces of the terror he had felt were still echoing inside him, reminding him that the evening could have ended so much worse – it still could, if Anakin’s caseworker ever got wind of what had happened.
Anakin’s lips drew into a petulant pout, and his jaw settled into a stubborn angle. As usual, the boy’s guilt and shame were quick to turn into anger. Obi-Wan braced himself for the familiar tirade of I hate you! and I wish Qui-Gon was here!, but to his surprise none of these came. Anakin stood like frozen in his spot, resolutely mute.
Obi-Wan was suddenly out of his depth now that they had abandoned their usual script – he didn’t know what to say, how to impress upon the boy how very, utterly serious the situation was. What he ended up saying came without thought, straight from the heart; a ragged plea for the one that held all the important parts of Obi-Wan’s life in his hands. “Anakin – don’t you ever do this to me again.”
Instantaneously, the boy’s mulish expression melted into an acute misery. “I’m sorry!” He wailed sincerely, his tear-bright eyes tugging at Obi-Wan’s heartstrings. Both too relieved and too worried, Obi-Wan abandoned any effort at sternness and with a few strides was at Anakin’s side, drawing the boy into a tight hug.
Anakin pressed his face against Obi-Wan, his small frame shuddering from silent sobs, while his hands clutched at Obi-Wan’s shirt like he planned to never let go. The last time they had been thus had been the night after Qui-Gon had passed away. It seemed such a long time ago.
“Young man, you are grounded for a very long time, you hear me?” Obi-Wan forced the words past the stone in his throat. He felt the boy nod in answer. “Why did you do it?” He asked quietly, the anger and fear drained away, leaving him feeling almost hollow.
“I wanted mom to come home…that sleemo is awful to her and keeping her there and I thought if I could…I took the gun just in case, so we could get away from him,” Anakin hiccupped. Of course, Obi-Wan thought despairingly. Once again, it all came down to Shmi Skywalker. “But he wasn’t even there,” the boy confessed, hurt lacing every word, making Obi-Wan ache. “And mom…mom couldn’t leave – she just couldn’t leave.”
Couldn’t leave or didn’t want to leave, in the end it was all the same. Obi-Wan could imagine all too well how she had looked to her son: her body ravaged and too thin, her sunken cheeks and matted hair, arms full of needle marks. A skeleton halfway to a shallow grave. The way she had been the last time he had went by to check on her, to implore her to let him help her to no avail.
Too tightly tied to a life of degradation and cheap oblivion, she had rebuffed his every effort, only saying, “You already help me – you take care of my son.” The truth of that statement had never meant more than at that moment, when Obi-Wan held the still so young boy in his arms, feeling him shiver and pour out his grief for a woman, who could love him best by giving him away.
They had only each other now. And that, he decided, would be more than enough.
Chapter 4: Feral
Knight Terr has been tasked to bring the famous Team back to Coruscant. What she finds is certainly not what she expected. (Clone Wars AU, Obi-Wan/Anakin)
The LAAT shook upon landing, both the damage sustained by breaking through the blockade and the uneven ground making the descent a proper challenge for the clone pilot. Aliisa grabbed the overhead support rail, her body swaying back and forth with the tottering gunship. Not for the first time, she wondered why she had been appointed the task of bringing the Republic’s two most famous heroes back to Coruscant. She had never even met them.
But it was not for her to question; she was there to serve.
The outside world was bright compared to the dim interior of the ship; for a moment all her senses were under assault. The air reeked heavily of rot and explosives – of death – and a humid warmth enveloped her eagerly, dampening her robes. But the worst was the Force; it felt twisted and volatile, like a wild, wounded thing. It battered her shields, seeking a way in.
While she was momentarily stung, trying to find her equilibrium, the clones fanned out around her. Soldiers had already been sent to scout the surrounding area, when Aliisa managed to wrestle herself under tight control and turned to face the Captain. Face covered by the customary helmet, his expression was impossible to read and as usual, his flat voice revealed nothing.
“Knight Terr, the main camp is about twenty klicks from here, but there is a battle going on just south of that ridge.” He hadn’t called her general since the first time she had corrected him about her title.
Dismissing the unease pooling in her gut, Aliisa nodded. “Then let’s go aid them in the fight. I’m sure we shall find the generals there.”
The distance between their landing spot and the battlefield was quickly covered, not least because the terrain had obviously been molded by the continuous fighting. Were once had been a lush, almost impenetrable forest, there was now just a decimated ground filled with potholes, ripped trees and warped metal. Her wish for the clean, appropriate walls and halls of the Jedi Temple was fierce and sudden; she fought to release it into the Force, but oddly turbulent, the Force denied her and pushed back.
As the sounds of war grew louder and the ground started to shook, Aliisa’s hand settled against her lightsaber. Always concentrating mastering other talents, she had done only the most necessary lightsaber training. She had never meant to be a warrior – no Jedi really had. And yet the Order had been mired in a brutal war for over half a decade.
The field of carnage that finally spread out under her eyes left her breathless; bodies and noise and war machines and the Force howling in ecstatic desperation. The pitch of it was deafening and terrible, awakening a nameless terror inside her. Unconsciously, she took a step back, almost colliding with a trooper standing right behind her.
The Captain’s helmeted head swiveled to look at her. “It looks they have the situation well in hand. The enemy is retreating.” Retreating was a generous assessment. Being slaughtered, seemed a more correct term. Clones were shooting the fleeing droids and the planet’s native people, explosions ripping the few remaining Separatist positions apart. Among the chaos of death danced two blades of blue.
Aliisa found herself morbidly mesmerized by the graceful, brutal arch of the blades, slashing and parring and flying in perfect sync. Never before had she seen the famous Team fighting, and it was a wondrous thing indeed. Terrible, but marvelous. Admirable, but formidable.
“Mam,” the Captain’s voice drew her gaze away from the arresting scene the twin blades continued to make cleaving through the battlefield. She turned to face the direction he was pointing; a lone clone was half-jogging to meet their small group. It took a moment for her to recognize the faded markings on the armor beneath the grime: he too was a Captain.
“General,” the newcomer said as he came to stand before her, head tilted almost curiously. Although the helmet covered his face, she had a sudden notion that she was being judged – and found wanting.
“Knight Terr,” she corrected him, inwardly bristling. “I have a message for General Kenobi and General Skywalker. But first, do your troops need any assistance?” She asked, although all of them knew the answer.
“Not at this moment Knight Terr,” he answered. “It would be better if you waited here. The Generals will come to you.” The clone gave her a sharp salute and walked away.
Thus effectively dismissed, Aliisa stayed on the hill overlooking the fighting ground, observing the end of the battle. In her mind, she once again thought of how she was going to express her message to its recipients. The most direct way was always the best; she would simply say, the Council requests your presence on Coruscant. The order in it would be impossible to miss, unlike the dozens of holomessages that had went unanswered and unheeded.
To her immense relief, the fighting tapered off soon. She watched as the blue blades were switched off and the only two non-armored figures approached one another, their steps never faltering as they weaved their way through the dead and the wounded. They were close enough for Aliisa to make out the filthy state of their outer garments, the tangled hair, the unkempt beard. One of them had a face half covered in blood spatter, and there were numerous dark red stains on their clothes. They looked altogether like the Force felt in that cursed, damned place: feral.
Aliisa had thought that nothing could shock her anymore; that she had already seen everything there was of the decay and the ruin in the brief time she had been on the planet. She could not have been more wrong. As the two men, the two Jedi, finally came face to face in the middle of the bloody field, they grasped hands and then fell into each other like starving beasts. The ensuing kiss was hungry, indulgent and wholly unapologetic.
She trembled, mortified, while the clones went along their business like nothing out of the ordinary was happening. Like their two generals weren’t licking into each other’s mouths with a passion that was unnatural, dangerous and most of all, forbidden.
And that was not even the worst of it. For she knew, without a doubt, that the two Jedi knew she – the herald of the High Jedi Council – was there, watching. And they did not care.
Chapter 5: Crush
It's not easy being a fifteen year old Anakin Skywalker. Least of all, when her Master's former apprentice decides to visit.
The maintenance droid whirred back to awareness, its white, round head swirling around slowly. Its censors took in the small cramped room, the tools and machine parts strewn over every available surface, and the room’s sole living occupant. The droid popped an extension arm out of its socket, examining it with a series of enquiring peeps.
“I fixed it, changed the joint,” Anakin said and looked critically at the extension arm that had a wide array of different tools attached to it. “Try the broom.”
The droid peeped and the small broom slid downwards into its ‘hand’, clicking into place. The droid started to glide forward, happily sweeping the small nuts and bolts out of its path.
“Hey, that’s enough!” Anakin quickly scooped a circuit board out of the way. “It works fine.” The droid came to a sudden halt and tilted its head at Anakin, whistling and chirping. “No, my room doesn’t need any cleaning.”
The incredulous peep told that the maintenance droid clearly disagreed, but at the receiving end of Anakin’s hard stare, it reluctantly withdrew the broom. “Don’t look at me like that. You can clean the rest of the apartment.” The droid brightened visibly; its head spun around as it dashed out of the open doorway into the living room. “But don’t touch Master Qui-Gon’s plants!”
Anakin followed the droid, not really trusting it to stay away from the plants arrayed against the windowsill. Soil, dirt and mold were like catnip for cleaning droids. If something happened – again – to his beloved plants, her Master would be most displeased and extra meditation exercises were sure to follow. And that was not something Anakin was willing to risk.
But all of it – her Master, the plants, the droid still whirring around the room – were abruptly sidelined, as Anakin noticed a familiar presence approaching the Jinn/Skywalker apartment. For a moment she stood frozen, her mind and heart racing at double – no, triple – the speed as usual. Then she darted into her room, pulling the oil-stained tunic over her head and frantically searching for a clean one.
Where was it? There had to be a clean one! Anakin ransacked the dresser, ignoring the inquiring chirps of the droid. Why did she never had clean robes, when she desperately needed them? Why did she had to always be such a clumsy slob? As no clean tunic suddenly materialized from the depths of the drawer, she moved into plan B.
Anakin ran past the confused droid into the bathroom, attacking the pile of laundry that was still luckily at the basket. Among the clothes were several of her tunics and after a quick sniff at each of them, she picked the one that smelled the least foul and lacked any major stains. It would have to do. Pulling it on, she smoothed her clothes and looked into the mirror. Her brown hair was a mess; Anakin grimaced and tried to uncoil the unruly locks.
The buzzer rang.
She dashed back into the living room, pushed the droid into her bedroom with the words “Be quiet!”, and then slammed the door closed. Then Anakin turned towards the front door. The buzzer didn’t rang again, but she could sense the slight vexation and the growing impatience of the visitor.
Smoothing down her tunic one more time, Anakin went to the door, trying to quieten her tumultuous thoughts or at least hide them behind a placid façade. But the man had probably already sensed how flustered she was; the mere thought of it made her blush. She could already see his teasing grin, hear his wry voice. Her heart beat faster.
Damn it! She just hated Obi-Wan Kenobi.
I do plan to continue this :)
Chapter 6: Crush: part 2
The story continues from chapter 5.
Anakin opened the door and came face to face with Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi. Her heart seemed to skip a beat before resuming its restless pacing.
He was half-leaning against the doorjamb, looking tired but still as clean-shaven and immaculately dressed as ever. The man had been on a prolonged mission somewhere on the Outer Rim for five months, facing continuous mortal peril judging by her Master’s sometimes tense and distressed demeanor. More than once, Anakin had lain awake, Qui-Gon’s barely suppressed worry bleeding through her shields and joining her own.
And now he stood before her, whole and healthy, a small grin flickering at the corners of his mouth.
“You’ve cut your hair!” Anakin blurted, immediately grimacing inwardly. It was not what she had meant to say, but Obi-Wan’s shorn hair arrested her gaze – the last time she had seen him, the Knight had still sported a shoulder-length mane.
“Well, I have to confess that the choice of hairstyle was rather taken out of my hands, but a Jedi must adapt to every situation – however distressing they prove to be,” Obi-Wan said solemnly, blue eyes twinkling with mischievous mirth.
Quite without her permission, Anakin’s lips stretched into a wide smile. “I said you would have to cut it soon. I’m only sorry I wasn’t there to see it.”
“Ah, but as I did not hold the shears nor consented to their use, I could argue that if the opportunity had not been so cruelly robbed from me, I could have grown quite a lot of hair – at least as long as Qui-Gon’s mane.”
“Luckily we were all spared that monstrosity.” Anakin couldn’t help but look at the short spikes of reddish-brown hair; even as she had first met him, when Obi-Wan had been just a padawan, his hair hadn’t been as short as it was now. It made him look younger than his thirty years.
“What? You don’t think it would have looked fabulous?” He adopted a wounded expression that slowly melted into a small, genuine smile. “But I do admit that long hair suits you infinitely better.” He tucked one of Anakin’s stray curls behind her ear, his fingers a warm but fleeting touch upon her cheek.
Suddenly struck quite dumb, Anakin could only stare at the floor, hoping the warmth flooding her insides was not apparent on her face.
“So, are you going to let me in?” Obi-Wan asked wryly, drawing attention to the fact that they were still standing in the open doorway, for every passerby to see and hear.
Anakin hastily stepped aside, letting the Jedi Knight enter the apartment. “Master Qui-Gon is not here, he has a meeting in the Senate District.”
“I know, I commed him earlier. It seems that he has been snared by politicians’ prattle and have to suffer at least another hour. I tried to entice him to save himself, but was promptly told it would be impolite.” Obi-Wan sat down on the worn couch, his sharp eyes examining the room.
“I was just tidying up,” Anakin pointed out sharply, keenly aware that the living room was far from clean. The cleaning droid hadn’t had time to do much; there was still a thin but visible layer of dust on the shelves, a pile of holobooks and holovids was stacked precariously on the small table, and next to them stood her abandoned, half-full mug of tea.
“I didn’t say anything,” Obi-Wan tried to defend himself, but the obvious smirk on his lips rather belied his words.
Arms crossed, Anakin stood beside the couch, reminding herself strictly that she should act polite and offer the visitor some tea. But what came out of her traitorous mouth instead was a question, jagged and raw. “Where have you been?”
“I’m afraid it’s classified.” His answer was almost flippant, but beneath it was a core of steel.
“You made Qui-Gon almost sick with worry!” Anakin retorted hotly, knowing all the while – and not particularly caring – that she was failing to calm her raging feelings as a Jedi should. But Obi-Wan had an unprecedented talent of making her furious and insecure and jealous and awkward. And happy.
“I know. That couldn’t be helped, but I am sorry nonetheless.” His solemn gaze seemed to saw into her very soul, peeling off all her defenses, taking all her secrets apart. She felt her throat tighten, her eyes stinging with unshed tears. “Anakin…”
A thump and a distressed peep broke the tense moment. Only barely, Anakin suppressed the Huttese curse willing to break free. Another loud thump was followed by a crash, both obviously coming from inside her bedroom.
Obi-Wan’s eyebrows rose. He didn’t even have to say anything, she could hear his wry comment as clearly as if it had been said aloud: What have you done now?
Anakin blushed crimson, reluctantly trudging to her bedroom door. When she opened it, the small maintenance droid sped past her, whistling and peeping, and crashed straight into the couch. The force of the impact toppled it over.
“I fixed it,” she explained, instantly on the defensive. Still upended, the droid’s extension arms flailed around frantically, its different tools flying around with alarming speed.
“Hmm, somehow I get the feeling that you missed some crossed circuits.” Obi-Wan’s voice held an undercurrent of suppressed laughter, good-natured and lovely. As always, it eased something nameless in Anakin, while at the same time it tautened her insides into tight knots.
“It’s fine,” she claimed as she kneeled on the floor to shut the droid down, “it’s just…confused.”
“Of course,” Obi-Wan snorted, the words heavy with disbelief. “If you have tinkered enough with the droid, I thought we might spar.”
Anakin immediately perked up, her embarrassment fading in the face of an opportunity to spar with Obi-Wan. “Now? I mean, sure, why not.” She tried not to sound too eager, but knew it was a lost cause.
“Yes, now,” he said, standing up and heading for the door. “Come on then, grease monkey, let’s see if you have come to any closer on besting me on the dojo.”
Anakin scrambled to follow him, grinning wildly. “When I’m through with you, you have no idea what even hit you!”
“With you, I never do.” Obi-Wan’s answer was so quiet, she almost missed it.
And then he was out the door, and not willing to let him out of her sight, Anakin went after him, her heart a joyous symphony of excitement, pleasure and relief. After five months of worry, fear and doubt, their strange little family of three was finally complete.
For the purpose of this story, let’s pretend that the Jedi Council has decided to ease the regulations concerning padawans’ haircut. And so Anakin doesn’t have to wear that horrendous nerf tail and short hair, although she does still wear the padawan braid. (In my headcanon they finally realize that it is a rather too distinctive trait – especially if the Master-Padawan team has to stay incognito.)
Chapter 7: Drifting
Clone Wars AU, the aftermath of a battle.
Outside, there was only the deep emptiness of space. The last fires of the Resolute had burned out hours ago, the torn-apart pieces of her hull left drifting, twisted and nearly unrecognizable, a stark tomb for thousands of men. Quietly, unhurriedly, the broken remains of the once-great ship floated among the cold stars, desolate and abandoned.
A damaged escape pod drifted along with the debris of the Republic attack cruiser, the burnt wreckage casting the viewport of the pod regularly in shadow, obscuring what little light there remained. Each spell of darkness made Obi-Wan held his breath; he could only exhale, when the ravaged ship parts had passed them by and Anakin’s face became visible again.
Even in the dim greyness Anakin’s face was too pallid, his messy hair looking almost black against the white of his brow. He was so unnaturally still, so uncharacteristically quiet, it unnerved Obi-Wan, made him strain to listen to his friend’s labored breathing, to feel his feeble heartbeat against his palm, to see the open eyes watch him back. He ran his fingers through Anakin’s blood-crusted hair, tugging at the sticky strands gently, just like he pulled at the immutable bond that connected them. I’m here. Stay with me.
Anakin blinked, the blue of his eyes dull and clouded. The empty gaze was horribly unfamiliar, until it finally found its focus on Obi-Wan’s face. “Master,” he rasped, the word torn out of his throat with great difficulty.
“Anakin.” Obi-Wan needed all the strength and fortitude he had ever possessed to keep his voice calm and level. “Can you keep talking?”
The young Jedi swallowed and couched up painfully, stubbornly trying to move. Although his efforts were completely futile – Anakin couldn’t even lift his head from Obi-Wan’s lap not to mention shift his limbs – Obi-Wan pressed his hand more firmly against his friend’s chest. “Don’t try to move. Just talk to me.”
Anakin yielded alarmingly fast, his body going motionless. His cheek felt cold to the touch, colder even than the frigid air of their surroundings. “Whe – re?”
“Still in the pod, I’m afraid,” Obi-Wan answered, glancing at the open console panels spilling out wires, the innards of the gutted machine on display – dead and useless. Even with Anakin’s halting instructions, he hadn’t managed to fix the pod to resemble anything other than a floating tomb.
“Ahsoka?” Anakin’s eyes turned from side to side, trying to see the rest of the pod in vain.
“It’s just us here, Anakin. But I’m sure she got off the ship and is probably searching for us right now,” Obi-Wan lied, his heart twisting painfully with every false word.
Panting, Anakin managed to take hold of Obi-Wan’s soiled tunic, his fingers gripping it with surprising force. “I can’t…I can’t feel her…it’s – all empty.”
“I’m sure she’s alright,” Obi-Wan murmured, the ache in his legs, pressed so long against the cold metal floor, suddenly flaring all over his body. He watched as Anakin closed his eyes wearily, not refuting his old Master’s hollow words. His fingers continued to clutch at Obi-Wan’s tunic like a lifeline.
“Pro – promise me,” Anakin demanded, his voice hoarse, as if he had been screaming his throat raw. But all Obi-Wan could remember was the terrible silence of the aftermath. There was no sound in space.
“Prom…promise that…she’s okay – Master – she has to…be…” Anakin forced his eyes again open, the diluted blue of his gaze begging and pleading, willing his Master to continue to keep the cracking galaxy together. The jagged, broken pieces of their reality were sharp, cutting Obi-Wan to the core, but he kept holding them firmly, so Anakin didn’t have to.
“I promise – Ahsoka is in no distress. She’s…in a better place than we are.” As he spoke, he saw again, through the flash and heat of the explosion, the pitiless image of her small body, sucked out of the gaping hole – so fast, so mercilessly – into black space, before he could do, or even think to do, anything other than grab Anakin tightly and hold onto him.
Every time a shadow fell over the viewport, Obi-Wan was afraid to look, dreading to see her drifting by, lifeless and small, just another discarded thing of the war.
“She –she’s…so headstrong and…” For a moment Anakin fell silent, each word a struggle to get out past his bloodied lips. “Fear – less…I never…unders…understood how hard it…it must have been…for you…when I was –.” Another moment of silence, the thud of Obi-Wan’s heart sounding too loud in his ears. Anakin’s mouth pulled upwards, half a grin and half a grimace. “When…I was a padawan. Never knew…it…would be – like – like this.”
“And now you understand how much and how often I wanted to either throttle you or lock you up in the Temple,” Obi-Wan said, his caustic tone rapidly softening into sad fondness.
“I just…want…her to be – alright.” Anakin’s admission was ragged, barely audible. His eyes slipped close once again, his fingers slackening, loosening their hold on Obi-Wan’s tunic.
“I know,” Obi-Wan whispered, taking his padawan’s fingers into his own hand and squeezing them as a reminder – I’m here. Stay with me. “That’s what I want too.” When everything else was stripped and peeled away, that was all he had ever wanted – for Anakin to be fine, alive, long after he himself had perished in some forgotten battlefield or the deep emptiness of space.
Obi-Wan gripped Anakin’s cold fingers tighter, listening to his precious, halting breaths. Stay with me. Stay. They would get rescued – both of them.
If not, they would forever drift among the stars with little Ahsoka.
Chapter 8: Borderland
Modern day AU, inspired by the movie Sicario.
The black row of vehicles sped forward without impunity; the highway patrols had cleared them a path straight to the border crossing. The desert shimmered outside the tinted windows of the car, reflecting the heat of the forenoon sun. Inside, the air was cool and processed as the air-conditioning worked with maximum capacity. Still, droplets of sweat found their way down Anakin’s forehead. Just barely, he resisted the urge to swipe them off. He hated the desert – why had he even agreed to come along?
The lead vehicle maintained good speed all the way to the border, where they slowed down to go through the checkpoint. But even then, they did not stop. Anakin watched uneasily as they passed by the tollbooths and the barriers; aware that from then onwards, their authority was nonexistent. Just by crossing the border so heavily armed, they were already breaking dozens of laws. Almost inadvertently, Anakin’s hand slid towards his belt, reassuring his badge and pistol were resting securely against his hip.
He reminded himself why he was there: to make a real difference, to strike a decisive blow against the worst kind of criminals. Or so he had been promised.
Anakin cast an eye over the person sitting next to him in the backseat. Kenobi was looking outside the window, as calm and collected as he had been yesterday, when he had assessed Anakin with sharp eyes. The only difference was that now gone were the wire-rimmed glasses and the proper suit; they had been replaced with a flak jacket, cargo pants and combat boots. Before meeting him for the first time, Anakin had been told with hushed whispers what a legend Kenobi was – suffice to say he had been disappointed to meet a man that looked like a bureaucrat or the worst kind of Company man. Now, holding an assault rifle comfortably in his arms, Kenobi at least looked the part.
“Have you ever been this side of the border?” Kenobi asked, breaking the silence that had reigned since they had left the base. He didn’t look at Anakin.
“Once, on spring break, but I don’t remember much of it.” He certainly didn’t remember the ramshackle buildings or the littered streets they were now driving past. Nor the people that turned to watch the column of cars with weary eyes.
“Must have been some spring break.”
“Oh yeah – or so I’m told.” Anakin tried for levity, hoping his nervousness wasn’t too evident. Whereas annoyingly Kenobi looked and sounded like they were taking a regular trip to the office; Anakin couldn’t decide if the man was a good actor or just that confident that things would go according to plan.
“Well, this certainly is no holiday. Keep your eyes on those rooftops.” Kenobi’s own eyes had never strayed from the side window – Anakin looked quickly outside, trying to catch a glimpse of the rooftops as they sped by the endless row of squalid houses.
“Do you think they know we are coming?” He knew how fast the news could travel, especially when informants were surely employed on both sides of the border.
“Undoubtedly,” Kenobi said dryly, eyes still scanning relentlessly every side street and building they passed.
“They would be mad to try something now,” Anakin reasoned, but the skin at the back of his neck prickled – a sure sign that something was about to happen.
“Oh, it would be quite reasonable from their point of view.” Kenobi turned to look at Anakin, his solemn blue eyes flinty, seeing straight to Anakin’s very core. He forced himself to meet the older man’s penetrating gaze. “You are a stranger in a strange land, agent Skywalker. Nothing will make sense to you, but in the end, you will understand.”
The car came to a sudden halt among the traffic, jerking the passengers forward. The radio crackled to life. Obstacle on the road. Looking for alternative route.
“Take your weapon out,” Kenobi said as he opened the side window and raised his assault rifle. Anakin drew his pistol from the holster, heart hammering. Possible hostiles on the right, blue Toyota. Anakin’s eyes searched his side of the street, assessing every passerby, every vehicle. They all looked suspicious.
All seemed to still, and yet go fast-forward with sickening speed. Kenobi stepped out of the car, rifle at the ready; doors were opening all along their halted column of cars and Anakin scrambled to follow suit. People on the sidewalk started to run or seek cover, while others just stopped dead on their tracks and stared. Sitting by the roadside was a blue Toyota, four men inside.
“Stay inside the vehicle!” Kenobi commanded the hostiles, weapon trained at the car. The others fanned out and formed a protective barrier around their escort. Anakin stayed by the car door, behind the solid body of the vehicle and pointed his pistol towards the suspicious Toyota. The men inside it looked tense, their hands dangerously out of sight.
The whole situation was ready to explode spectacularly, if someone didn’t soon cave in. Anakin was suddenly certain beyond all doubt that someone would never be Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Slight movement. The door of the Toyota started to open and immediately the air filled with the explosive sound of gunfire; the men inside the car jerked violently and then slumped over their seats. Dead.
Anakin stared at the bullet riddled car. He tried to find the familiar shape of a gun inside the car, but his gaze was arrested by the bloody, burst-open skull that rested against the steering wheel. A slight sound from behind him and he knew; but it was too late, too late even as he pivoted around, pistol raised – and watched as a man dropped to the ground, like his strings had been suddenly cut. There was a bullet hole in the middle of his forehead. Anakin kicked the man’s weapon outside his reach, although it was quite clear the man would not move again.
“Get inside the car,” Kenobi barked and instinctively, Anakin obeyed. The second he closed the car door, they were on the move; once again the row of black vehicles was speeding forward, further away from the border.
“Aren’t we going back?” Anakin asked, stupefied.
“Whatever for? We haven’t yet got what we came for.” Kenobi’s voice was impassive. He looked unruffled, like he hadn’t just shot and killed at least two men.
“But what? Should we run back, with our tails between our legs?” Kenobi sneered and for the first time there was real emotion – fire – in his gaze. Anakin stared at the man, who had just saved his life. All the reasons – the proper procedure, the rule of law, the sure-to-come investigation, his whole career – of why he should desist from following Kenobi flitted from his mind. He understood now why the man was a legend, both respected and resented.
Kenobi’s intense eyes settled over Anakin, drew him in. “This is it. The general public is oblivious and our leaders won’t admit it, but this is war. Brutal, full-scale warfare. Now, the only question that matters is: what are you willing to do to win?”
“Whatever it takes,” Anakin answered and meant it.
Kenobi grinned. “Then I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Chapter 9: Marked
Clone Wars AU, Obi-Wan/Anakin. Happens in the same verse as chapter 4, Feral.
The tepid, brownish water started to tint towards red the second Anakin dipped his hands into it. He scooped a handful of water from the battered drum and washed the worst of the blood and grime from his face. The taste of mud and iron still clung stubbornly to the insides of his mouth. Another scoopful of water down his neck, hopelessly ineffective against the layers of dirt and sweat that had accumulated over his skin, and Anakin gave up on washing, making room for Obi-Wan beside their makeshift basin.
He went to sit on the cot, heart still beating with the fierce rhythm of the battle, blood still rushing through veins at intoxicating speed. Currently, he felt like he could easily fight for another day, but Anakin knew from experience that this heightened, thrilled state would not last long; every moment the flattening exhaustion, the numbing fatigue was steadily creeping upon him. He looked at Obi-Wan, who was wetting his face with weary movements, and saw his own feelings mirrored back.
Obi-Wan didn’t bother to wash himself any more thoroughly than Anakin had; the muddy and bloody water, although better than none at all, would not get them clean. Anakin couldn’t say that he minded their disheveled, dirty appearance all that much – it was just a fact of life he had gotten used to. Perhaps their next assignment would be to a planet that had unspoiled lakes or seas, but that wish was distant and muted. In truth, it mattered little where they went, only that they went there together, as a team.
“Let me take a look at your back,” Anakin said, his voice coming out as a low, gravelly growl. He realized those were the first words he had spoken – and not screamed – in hours.
Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow, adopting his signature all-suffering look, but acquiesced easily enough, realizing that his former Padawan would not leave the matter be. Settling before Anakin on the cot, he unfastened his vambraces and then took off his tabard and overtunic while Anakin waited none too patiently. When that task was done, Obi-Wan moved to lift his torn and bloody undertunic, but halted the movement almost immediately, breathing heavily. Without a word, Anakin took hold of the well-worn fabric, gently lifting it up. The tunic ripped free from the skin caked with blood, making Obi-Wan wince.
Anakin took a long look at the bare back, his first thought – as always – appreciation and fascination. The muscular expanse was covered with black lines, now streaked with red, from the very lower back up to the shoulders and twining around the upper arms. He traced the edge of the dragon’s left wing with his finger, drawing his own line over the inky one with smeared blood.
“I knew it,” Obi-Wan huffed, more fond than annoyed. “Admit it. You just wanted to look at the tattoo.”
“I always want to look at it,” Anakin confessed without any shame, admiring the fearsome creature that adorned his Master’s entire back. Beneath those black features of the roaring beast were scars, almost too faint to be visible and too many to count. But Anakin knew they were there, just as Obi-Wan did, every scar a memory of shared pain. The dragon had not been meant to cover those memories – but to transform them into a mark of endurance, strength and survival.
After giving the tattoo the admiration it deserved, Anakin examined Obi-Wan’s back more clinically, cataloguing the cuts with practiced eye. Luckily the damage from the explosion was not as bad as he had feared; the shrapnel wounds were shallow and most of them had already stopped bleeding. Still, they needed cleaning, which presented a small, but annoying dilemma.
They had used up their own medical supplies down to the last disinfectant pack some days ago, and although the medics were surely to have some left, Anakin knew that Obi-Wan would never consent to asking for even the smallest plaster as long as there were men in need of those. Their muddy wash-water would do probably more harm than good, and the only water left, that was clean enough, was the less than inch of liquid that was still at the bottom of Anakin’s water bottle. He fished the canteen from the ground, where he had abandoned it with his utility belt. The water sloshed despondently in the almost empty bottle.
“Are you going to do something anytime soon?” Obi-Wan sniped, fidgeting slightly.
“Patience, Master,” Anakin smirked. He rummaged under the cot blindly with one hand, finally getting hold of an old tunic that had been shoved there. It was torn badly enough to be unfit for its designated job as a garment, but it was clean enough to be moderately effective as a source of makeshift bandages. Several strips of brown fabric had already been ripped from the tunic. This time, Obi-Wan didn’t need bandages, but Anakin wanted something to clean his cuts with, so he tore couple of pieces of fabric and carefully poured little water on them.
With infinite care, Anakin started to clean the cuts, wiping them carefully with the wet cloth. Soon, all the fabric scraps were colored red and the canteen held just a few mouthfuls of water. It was apparent it wouldn’t be enough to clean Obi-Wan’s back to Anakin’s satisfaction.
“My thanks,” Obi-Wan said, reaching for his undershirt, apparently mistaking the pause in Anakin’s movements for the end of the treatment.
“I’m not finished yet.” Anakin yanked Obi-Wan closer to himself, glaring at the water bottle. He could command someone to bring them clean water or…
“The Council’s representative is waiting for us,” Obi-Wan protested half-heartedly.
“Let her wait.” Anakin didn’t want to think about her, much less the blasted Council. He took a small sip of the water, rinsing his mouth with it. Then he pressed his lips against one of the cuts, first sucking it lightly and then licking it clean.
“Ah – Anakin…” Obi-Wan gasped out, voice hoarse. “What on the Force…this is…”
“Hmmm…” Anakin put his mouth on another cut, continuing his unconventional nursing. “I’m cleaning your wounds…”
“Yes, I rather gathered that!”
“We don’t have enough clean water to do this properly.” He took another sip of the water, rinsing some of his Master’s blood from his mouth, then bent down to tend to the cuts again with his tongue and lips.
“Leave it to you to make the best out of every situation,” Obi-Wan snarked, but there was an undercurrent of wry humor in his words.
Anakin grinned. “I think I’m not the only one enjoying this.” His mouth moved to unblemished skin, kissing and nipping one of the dragon’s claws. After lavishing enough attention to that particular spot, he moved lower, mouthing along the curving line of the creature’s tail.
“Perhaps,” Obi-Wan conceded, sighing deeply. Under Anakin’s kisses, his muscles relaxed, his shoulders’ lost their rigid line, his breaths became even. He didn’t resist, when Anakin pushed him to lie on his stomach, just closed his eyes. Anakin undressed his own upper body, leaving his pants and boots on, a habit they had both adopted long ago. After all, sudden and surprising attacks were better met with at least partially clothed than stark naked.
A pleasant thrum of arousal quivered in him, but as they were both too tired to really do anything, Anakin let it hum inside his skin, content to huddle up close to Obi-Wan, skin to skin. He pressed his face against his Master’s shoulder, staring at the tip of the black wing.
“They are going to split us up,” he whispered, only now finding the voice to say the thought that had been plaguing him.
“They may try.” Obi-Wan’s voice was quiet but firm. No other words were needed, for both knew what the other was thinking.
Let them try. They will not take you from me.
Thank you so much for reading these little AU scenes and for leaving kudos and comments! I have so much fun writing these chapters. As a thank you, you get to decide which AU verse continues in the next chapter. So write a comment here about what verse (The Choice/Missing/Feral/Crush/Drifting/Borderland) you want to read more of in chapter 10 - I'll follow the results of the vote next weekend :)
Chapter 10: The Oath
Clone Wars AU, Obi-Wan/Anakin. Feral-verse, follows chapters 4 and 9.
A big thank you to all the readers and especially to those who left comments. Most of the people voted for Feral-verse to continue, so I hope you like this chapter :)
Obi-Wan donned his tunics and tabard like an armor and fastened the vambraces with practiced ease. Ignoring the slight twinge in his back, he clipped his lightsaber back to its customary place, where it rested assertively against his hip. While Obi-Wan dressed, Anakin did not stir; his face was squashed against the thin pillow, his long limbs monopolizing the narrow cot. The bare expanse of his back rose and fell slowly with even breaths. He had succumbed to exhaustion not long after laying down to rest against his former Master. Obi-Wan didn’t begrudge him his sleep, but rather wished he could have stayed there right beside him. However, there were things that had to be taken care of first.
The humid, oppressive evening enveloped him the instant he exited their tent. The dark sky yawned above him, the open maw devoid of any stars. The camp was illuminated with electric lanterns that cast long shadows over tents and equipment. The clones on duty saluted him and Obi-Wan acknowledged them with a nod, letting his appreciation and pride filter through his gaze. His men had fought ferociously that day; their losses had been minimal, the enemy had been all but decimated and soon they could leave this rotten planet behind.
He found the right tent easily enough; her out-of-place presence was at odds with the rest of the beings in the camp. Obi-Wan rapped his knuckles against the support beam, but rather than wait for summons, he entered the small tent the Council’s envoy had been given. Seated in a cross-legged position on the ground, Knight Terr startled, her eyes flying open. Cheeks flushing crimson, she jumped to her feet. If Obi-Wan had been a true enemy, she would already have been dead.
“Knight Terr.” He did not apologize for interrupting her meditation, nor did he offer any explanations as to why he had made her wait several hours after the end of the battle before meeting her.
“General Kenobi.” General, not Master. Obi-Wan smiled thinly at the young woman, knowing the title had been meant as an insult, although to him it was just a fact. A truer depiction of him than most. “Where is General Skywalker?” Knight Terr looked behind him expectantly, as if at any moment Anakin would appear through the doorway.
“He had other matters to tend to,” Obi-Wan answered, letting the implication of more important matters than this be clear in his voice.
The young Knight’s mouth pursed up with displeasure. “The message I have been tasked to give is for you both.”
“He will hear it from me,” Obi-Wan said with finality, his thoughts flashing back to Anakin, who was hopefully still slumbering peacefully on their cot. There was no need for him to be there to receive the order they both knew was coming; no need for him to fall into needless agitation and anger. Not when Obi-Wan was perfectly capable of facing the envoy of the High Jedi Council – of which he was still technically a member – by himself.
“Very well,” Knight Terr agreed grudgingly. Her eyes, however, betrayed her. There was a small sliver of relief in them; she was relieved by Anakin’s absence. No doubt their earlier display of unseemly affection had left the poor girl rather rattled. Obi-Wan gave her a sharp grin, studying the envoy of the depleted Jedi Order from head to toe. Immaculate robes of unassuming brown covered a slender form, but there was a rigidness on the lithe body, inability to bend. Her bright eyes spoke of an intelligent mind, but also laid bare her ignorance. No doubt she was a good and proper Jedi, at least from the Council’s point of view, but good simply wasn’t good enough anymore. Not if they wanted to finally win the war.
“General Kenobi, I have been sent by the High Jedi Council to –”
“I know why they have sent you,” Obi-Wan interrupted her, not letting his hard stare stray from her face. “Do you?”
She refused to contemplate his question, reciting faithfully, “The Council requests your presence on Coruscant. You and General Skywalker are to travel there immediately.” The expectant pause filled with silence. Knight Terr glanced away from Obi-Wan, seeking respite from his effortlessly commanding gaze. When she finally realized that he would not break the silence, she continued, “Admiral Yularen will break the Separatist blockade around this planet soon, and from what I saw today at the battlefield –” Her words halted for a moment, a slight blush coloring her face. “– I am certain you have beaten the enemy’s ground troops. You have no reason to linger here.”
“True enough,” Obi-Wan acknowledged, “but once we leave, we will join the forces near Bespin, by the order of the Republic High Command – as the Council very well knows.”
Knight Terr could not mask her discomfort; her rigid shoulders and thinning lips spoke louder than any words of her uncertainty. She hadn’t known about the High Command’s order then. “Your troops will go, but you are both expected to arrive in Coruscant as soon as possible.”
“Expected?” Obi-Wan snorted, his patience starting to wear thin. The farce had gone on long enough. “I assure you, the Council isn’t yet so deluded as to expect that two generals of the Republic will abandon their troops and ignore the orders of the High Command to travel to the other side of the galaxy just to be chastised by the Jedi Council.”
“But you are Jedi!” The young woman exclaimed, aghast.
“Knight Terr, you have done your duty and delivered the Council’s message. Now, I have heard the Council’s reminder of my duty and this is my answer to them: Both I and General Skywalker will continue to fight for the Republic, together, against all threats and injustices that threaten it. We will command and support our troops with the best of our ability. We will serve the Republic, its citizens, our comrades and brothers with loyalty, strength and honor.”
Knight Terr was looking at him with round eyes, quite dumbfounded. Obi-Wan couldn’t feel any sympathy for her, although she was obviously just a pawn in a much bigger game. “I trust you will deliver my message to the Council in its entirety and without delay. The LAAT is already waiting for you. Have a speedy and safe journey back to the Temple.” He turned to go, not waiting for her to agree. She would do as she was told.
”You have forgotten yourself.” The young Jedi’s voice shook with all the emotions she couldn’t quite repress.
Obi-Wan didn’t bother to answer. He strode out of the tent and back towards the one, who waited for him; his comrade and brother, whom he was fully planning on serving that night, and every night and day to come, with his unfailing loyalty, strength, honor – and love.
Chapter 11: Sleepless
She was an adult now, a Knight. Her failure had somehow been twisted into victory. (Continues the Crush-verse, but can be read separately from chapters 5 and 6. Anakin is eighteen.)
The lights of the never resting Coruscant bled through the blinds, painting the walls and ceiling with dark shadows. Anakin stared at the twisting shapes with dry eyes. When, as a child, she had first settled into her new, unfamiliar room, sleep hadn’t come easily. She had watched the play of shadows, making up stories. In all of them, she was the greatest of the Jedi, freeing the slaves and adventuring across the galaxy. Not in any of the stories, was she ever alone.
Outside of her small room, innumerable beings, people and machines, continued their everyday life ignorant of the profound change in the galaxy. Unaware, or perhaps simply indifferent about the looming war that stretched its bloody maw and bony fingers ever closer. Impossibly, they continued existing as before, when nothing would ever again be as it once had been.
Even Anakin continued to exist, to breathe, however irreversibly changed, other she was. She was an adult now, a Knight. She had earned her knighthood with her Master’s sacrifice, had gained her place at the forefront of the war with others’ blood. Her failure had somehow been twisted into victory.
The dim room was suddenly too small, the walls bending over her with unbearable nonchalance. The worn furniture mocked her with their familiarity, the machine parts and tools strewn over her workbench as alien to her now as they once had been an extension of herself. Anakin did not belong to the room anymore. She did not want it.
As she left her old room behind, Anakin found that the shadows had also seized the living room, slithering in from the partly closed balcony door. The noise of the planet was a relentless hum just outside the still quiet of the apartment. She could easily discern Obi-Wan on the couch, laying on his back without any cover. He had refused to take Qui-Gon’s bed. Anakin knew he wasn’t asleep.
She took a deep breath, but still felt as if her lungs couldn’t get enough cool air. Dressed only in underpants and a loose top, Anakin shivered, the chilly apartment slowly numbing her skin. The rooms were as cold as the space. Neither of them had bothered to turn the thermostat on.
It took just a couple of steps to reach the couch. Obi-Wan’s eyes met hers in the darkness. There were countless things she wanted to say to him, but the funeral pyre had burned all her words into ash. Without hesitation, Anakin climbed onto the couch, straddling Obi-Wan. She bent down, kissed his lips and thought, I know it’s my fault. Obi-Wan’s mouth remained immovable under hers, shocked into uncharacteristic passivity.
With deliberate slowness, Anakin raised her head and looked at him. Obi-Wan’s hands had taken a firm hold of her hips, and the indecision was plain to see on his face. He meant to push her away, even as he wanted to draw her closer. In the end, Obi-Wan did neither, but continued to hold her in place. Giving no quarter, Anakin pressed down, rubbing her cunt against him. With a dark and deep satisfaction, she felt him grow irrefutably hard. You want me.
She was warm all over, the heat spreading into her from his bruising fingers and stiff cock. She wanted more, and so she made small undulating movements with her hips, rising and falling, pushing against him. Obi-Wan was big and solid beneath her, but when he whispered her name, hoarse, he sounded like he was shattering.
Anakin bent down again and sought his lips. When Obi-Wan’s mouth met hers, it was a hollow victory. He nipped her lips gently, kissing the sobs out of her. Oh brother. We are orphans now. Alone. As if he had heard her, Obi-Wan suddenly flipped them over, and arranged them so they were laying on their sides, with Anakin’s back against his chest, his arms tight around her.
Shivering, she fixed her gaze at the shadows that crept along the walls towards the couch. Obi-Wan’s mouth against the nape of her neck was moist and soft, his body strong and unyielding behind her. Neither of them spoke or slept, as slowly, the darkness faded into the dusky promise of a coming day. Only when the shadows melted into light, did Obi-Wan let go of her.
Chapter 12: A House on Grosvenor Square
Victorian London AU, heavily inspired by the wonderful Penny Dreadful series.
The house looked like any other house in the identical row of grey, stately houses; solid, three-story block of stone, utterly respectable and wholly unimaginative, except for one thing. Unlike its neighbors, it had an iron door that looked it could withstand the most protracted siege. Another matter entirely was what need could a gentleman and a well-respected professor had for such a door, but that Anakin guessed, would probably come clear quite soon. He had a hunch it was related to why he was there in the first place.
Still, he looked at the calling card one more time, confirming that the address printed there in firm, elegant script, was the same one he was standing in front of. It was. Anakin strode up the half a dozen steps that led to the curious iron door and knocked. The sound reverberated and seemed to echo in the still, foggy London night. He waited, but nothing happened. The back of his neck started to itch and he glanced behind him, suddenly viscerally aware of the empty square and the row of solemn houses surrounding it on all sides, boxing him in, their windows like empty, staring eyes.
BANG! The door’s small peephole clanked open and dark eyes peered through, looking piercingly at Anakin. He willed his heart to settle, and slowly unclenched his fists.
“I’ve come to see Professor Kenobi,” he explained defensively, “I was invited.” The dark eyes seemed dubious, no doubt taking in Anakin’s threadbare jacket and hat that had seen better days. Anakin waved the calling card in front of the peephole, half in mind to turn around. Damn these British snobs! But he needed the money more than he needed to soothe his wounded pride over a slight he faced every day on even the murkiest, dirtiest streets of London. Londoners were quick to turn up their noses at foreigners, even if they were themselves in similar – or worse – straits.
The heavy door opened, and Anakin came face to face with a very tall man. However, the man’s height was the least remarkable thing about him. He had very long hair, bundled up in a peculiar twist around his head and a beard that covered half of his weather-beaten face. The man was dressed in a loose cotton pants and a tunic and lacked any garments common to civilized men, like waistcoat, cravat, dress shirt or such. Most peculiar thing about him was that Anakin could not tell if the man was British or if he belonged to one of those races that dwelled in East Asia or beyond.
The man let Anakin wordlessly inside the foyer and gestured to the left, where there was an open door that led to another room. Anakin took that to mean that he was supposed to go there, so without any attempt at conversation or general empty niceties of polite society, he went to the other room. And gaped.
The room was unlike any other he had ever been in. Dark wooden furniture, wholly respectable if a little unfashionable, was at peace with curious artifacts, whose purpose Anakin could only guess, with mountains of maps, Orient masks, otherworldly statues, African spears, American guns and heaps of books, everywhere…It was a surprising but exiting mixture of strict Victorian sensibility and exotic, chaotic blend of other worlds and other times. Not unlike the owner of the room.
Professor Obi-Wan Kenobi was standing in front of a huge map that covered one of the walls, turning to face Anakin with a slight smile on his face. In spite of his immaculately cut auburn hair and beard, he looked slightly disheveled. His shirt was open at the collar, the sleeves rucked up to elbows, exposing strong arms. The waistcoat had been abandoned in the back of an armchair that was precariously full with towering books.
“Ah, Mister Skywalker. Good of you to come.”
“Well, I was…intrigued by your offer.” Anakin tried not to fidget under the other man’s blue eyes, their gaze too intense, too…knowing.
“And you needed the money.” Professor Kenobi didn’t miss the slight stiffening of Anakin’s shoulders and added, “I’m sorry if I have offended you. I’ve spent many years in various uncivilized wildernesses, of which the King’s College is surely the worst, so I have grown rather blunt in my manner. But then I took it, when we last met, that you were rather the same. I hope I was not wrong?”
“No,” Anakin admitted, remembering how his first words upon meeting the other man, having just come out of the boxing ring, bloody and victorious, had been no less than who the fuck are you and what the fuck you want. Slightly embarrassed, he turned his eyes away from the professor and looked around him, taking note of the various different weapons strewn around the room. They weren’t just for decoration, that was for sure.
“Preparing for an invasion?” He asked, only half-joking.
“Always,” Kenobi answered without any pause. “I’m in need of talents of a man like you.”
“A man like what?”
“A man of great violence, but also unwavering loyalty and hidden depths. I think you are that man. Are you?” Kenobi’s words were softly spoken, but certain, and they seemed to burrow into Anakin’s very marrow. Just like his eyes, somehow so familiar to Anakin and still wakening in him an undisputed desire to seek, to explore. To step into this curious, dangerous new world the other man seemed to be offering to him.
Anakin could only nod his assent. He was that man. They both knew it.
“You live here alone?” He asked, wanting to settle the strangely charged air in the room.
“Almost.” There was a small half-smile on Kenobi’s lips. “You met Qui-Gon, he has taken upon himself to take care of me.” It was clear from his voice that he thought he hardly needed to be taken care of. Then Kenobi continued, more serious, “I had a wife once, but she was…taken from me. But that was some years ago. You are welcome to stay here if you want. We have more than enough room.”
“I’ll stay,” Anakin found himself agreeing – promising – and after that, nothing in his life was ever the same again.
Chapter 13: A Place in the Shadows
Victorian London AU, follows chapter 12 (A House on Grosvenor Square) and inspired by Penny Dreadful. To make things simple, let’s just call this verse Penny Dreadful AU :)
The flames flickered in the fireplace, casting shadows against the forest-green wallpaper, making the patterns of leaves seem alive; like they were among gently rustling, swaying trees. The illusion was further heightened by the fact that the gas lamps had been left unlit. Instead of a common sitting room with plush carpets, tall bookcases and solemn furniture – the room’s character far more properly English than that of the exotic study they had been earlier – Anakin felt he was in another space entirely, some secret place few ever got to see.
His gaze was drawn to Professor Kenobi, who sat in a high-backed armchair next to Anakin’s own, his eyes staring fixedly at the flames, but seeming to be somewhere far away. The drink next to him remained untouched. They had sat thus for many uncounted minutes, Anakin unwilling to break the hushed stillness with his many questions. He knew Kenobi would tell him all he wanted to know, but he was strangely reluctant to disturb the professor’s deep, silent contemplation.
“Have you ever walked those foggy, dark streets and thought – felt – that there is something more in the shadows than just the downtrodden and the wicked?” Still looking intently at the fire, Kenobi’s voice sounded almost unnatural; deep and mesmerizing. “That we are watched and seduced and hunted, relentlessly?”
Anakin swallowed, but couldn’t answer. The acknowledgement, the simple but damning yes refused to be voiced. He could only listen, heart hammering, as Kenobi told of things that seemed preposterous, blasphemous, the rantings of a lunatic, but which he knew with deep, knee-jerk instinct were completely true.
“There is a place, between our reality and the great unknown, a place of shadows. A dominion of the Night Creatures, those who revel in the darkness, those who are not men, but something…quite other.”
Kenobi finally turned his face away from the fire, and his burning eyes seemed to scald Anakin. There was pain in his handsome face – weary and familiar, like an old, constant friend. Anakin felt an answering ache in his own heart and fought to squash it down, to block the flood of unwanted memories. He would not fall into the trap of the past. He would not go there, not ever.
“And there are people, those who by the grace of God or because they are…cursed, can walk in that place, among shadows. They are all that stand between our world and utter darkness, between the beasts and demons and those they seek to hunt like sheep.” Kenobi took a big gulp of his whisky, mouth narrowing into a thin, forbidding line. After a heavy pause, he said harshly, “It’s not too late. You can still walk out of that door, leave this house and pretend I am just a crazy man, my brain addled from suffering too many jungle fevers.”
Anakin shook his head. It was already too late – it had been too late years ago. “I said I would stay,” he reminded the other man, watching with sudden satisfaction as Kenobi grinned sharply, clearly pleased.
“Well, it’s your funeral – and I mean that quite literally. What we do, our small band of…shadow-walkers,” Kenobi’s voice grew wry, as if the moniker was a source of private amusement, “it’s dangerous work, and we are certainly outnumbered and outgunned.”
“I’ve done dangerous work,” Anakin contested, looking meaningfully at his trusted revolver that was even now strapped to his gun belt and secured against his hip.
“Not like this.” Kenobi gazed at him, blue eyes assessing, cutting to the very core of Anakin.
“Maybe, but no less dangerous,” Anakin claimed, deadly serious. An old image flashed in his mind like lightning, there and gone, of limbs torn and covered in blood – “You sought me out. You saw –” He stopped abruptly, not wanting to speak truths that were, even now, better left unsaid.
“Yes,” Kenobi admitted, “but I want you to be certain. Once you commit yourself to this fight, there is no going back. Once you reveal yourself to them…forever will they hunt you, to the ends of the Earth and beyond.”
“I am certain.” And he was. For too long he had stood already half in shadows, unwilling to acknowledge that it was there he belonged –
“Very well,” Kenobi said and Anakin knew the matter was settled. And just like that he was now among a band of secret fighters, among people who could offer him the camaraderie he could admit to himself he had sorely lacked – the company of likeminded, intelligent men. He was part of a fight that would give him a purpose beyond the mindless violence of a boxing ring or a street fight. Something that could perhaps even bring him some kind of redemption, however unlikely or undeserved.
They sipped their drinks in easy silence, each of them deep in their own thoughts. Anakin had so many questions he wanted to ask, so many secrets about this new shadowy world he wanted to know. He was now an equal partner in a highly dangerous endeavor – he had to know all about those dark forces they were up against. But when Anakin finally broke the silence, he found himself asking about the man that was sitting next to him.
“How did you come to be…a shadow-walker?” Anakin imagined how the professor had stumbled upon the Night Creatures in his studies of ancient myths and religions or during his many travels through unexplored, wild lands.
Kenobi barked a short, self-depreciatory laugh. “By being born.” He looked at Anakin with a small, bitter grin. “From the time I was merely a boy, I could always sense those lurking in the shadows. I had such dark dreams…I convinced myself it was nothing, and didn’t dare to breathe a word of it to anyone in fear of being locked up in Bedlam. For years I was quite good at self-deception, at pretending I was as normal as everyone around me. In hindsight it is obvious that even then I was drawn to the shadows, for I began to study all that could possibly explain what I saw and sensed, to give reason and order to the chaotic dark…”
Anakin listened, spellbound. He knew he was hearing something only very few got to hear, a confession so sacred he would remember it always. He had been granted a rare glimpse into the soul of a man who, Anakin could already tell, was like none other.
“But I kept still denying what I knew to be true, hiding behind books and ancient scrolls, writing about myths as if they were nothing but fairytales…Until the Dark didn’t content itself to just stare back anymore, but yanked and pulled and ripped me with such force I thought myself utterly destroyed…until all that was left was that place in the shadows…”
Anakin dared hardly to breathe, could look at nothing else than at the rigid, noble profile of a man recounting his most personal struggles with the utmost dignity.
“They took my wife.” Kenobi’s words crackled with barely suppressed pain, every line and muscle in him hardening. “And I swore I would never again cowardly turn away from this fight, but face the Dark and all those creatures it nurses – and give them all Hell.”
Nothing needed to be said after that.
Chapter 14: Counting
Part one of Truelove Verse. Modern day AU: Anakin is a young, aspiring true crime writer, interested in the case of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
He drummed his fingers against the dashboard. The clock showed he had been waiting for two hours and twenty-eight minutes. Although he had arrived in the parking lot well in advance, it was now fifty-eight minutes past the time Obi-Wan Kenobi should have exited the prison’s side gate.
The tall gate remained closed. Gray concrete walls, topped with barbed wire, stood imposing and silent. The visitor parking lot was almost empty. Anakin reached for his well-worn backpack, taking out the neat bundle of white envelopes. There were precisely a hundred and ten letters written in small, neat script; one letter for each week during the last two years and forty-two days. Each letter had exactly three sheets of A4 sized paper, written on both sides of the page, from the uppermost left corner to the very bottom right corner. That amounted to six hundred and sixty full pages of writing. On one page, there was an average of four hundred words. Altogether, there was two hundred and sixty-four thousand three hundred and two words in those letters.
Anakin didn’t need to open the envelopes; he knew each of those words by heart. But he liked reading them, liked seeing the black ink against the whiteness of the page, liked counting the letters. He imagined that every small wrinkle and tear in the papers had a corresponding one in those sheets he had sent inside the gray walls, a proof of a similar response to his own: of re-reading and re-reading each word until he felt he must have written them all by himself.
And between the words, in those empty spaces, were silences, all the unanswered questions Anakin had kept religiously track of in his journals. The mystery he wanted to solve. The secret he needed to unlock. The story he wanted to write.
He pushed the bundle of envelopes back into the backpack and reaffirmed that his notebooks and journals were there too. In spite of studying all the police files, court documents and transcripts, news articles and interviews, until he could recite them from memory, Anakin felt more confident with all his research with him. He never went anywhere without his backpack.
The gate clanked open.
Anakin threw the backpack hastily onto the backseat and then unconsciously gripped the steering wheel, until he forced his fingers to open, to let go. Obi-Wan Kenobi stood alone outside the prison walls, the gate already drawing shut behind him. He stood motionless, eyes fixed far away on the horizon. Anakin thought to step out of the car or to press the car horn, but he could only sit, as motionless as the freed man.
Eleven years and seventy-eight days. That had been the length of imprisonment for Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Five hundred and eighty-tree weeks and one day. That was how long ago Obi-Wan Kenobi had last seen a sky that was not bordered by bars and barbed wire.
Their eyes met.
Obi-Wan Kenobi strode to Anakin’s car, opened the front passenger side door and sat down. He closed the door after him carefully. In an ill-fitting suit, but with a freshly barbered haircut and beard, he looked somewhat at odds with himself. He carried a small backpack that looked to be only half-full.
“I wasn’t quite sure that you would be here.”
“I promised I would be,” Anakin said, feeling a small, irrational twinge of hurt.
“And so you have given me the day’s first pleasant surprise,” Obi-Wan Kenobi said, slightly teasingly. From the corner of his eye, Anakin could see the man was smiling.
“Are you hungry?” Anakin hurried to ask. “Before we head to the cabin, we can grab a bite – there is a couple of places nearby –”
“I’m fine. They did feed me before they released me into the wild.”
“That’s good then…Mr. Kenobi, is there anything you need to buy or anywhere you need to go before…?”
“Anakin.” Obi-Wan Kenobi’s voice was soft and gentle, although there was an undercurrent of amusement in his tone. “I asked you to call me Obi-Wan, when we last met. And I was very happy when you addressed me thus in your letters. So there is no need to be formal now.”
Anakin felt himself blush dumbly like a mere schoolboy, his thoughts flashing to their only face-to-face meeting, six months and four days ago. Meeting those gray-blue eyes had been unsettling and exiting; it had given all those letters even more meaning, more weight. In person, Obi-Wan Kenobi was much more than any picture of him could ever show or suggest. He had presence, a unique gravity that pulled everything and everyone inescapably towards him.
“Obi-Wan,” Anakin said, and with voicing the name came a rush of sudden pleasure. “Just say where you want to go, and I’ll take you there.” For the first time he found the strength to fully turn to the side and look at Obi-Wan. The man seemed calm and collected, but he was perhaps breathing too deeply.
“I need nothing else but peace and quiet. Drive us straight to the cabin, please.”
Anakin did as requested and started the car. He drove out of the parking lot, the gray walls receding in the rear-view mirror until the prison was no longer in sight. In the backseat, his backpack sat half-open, spilling white letters onto the leather seat.
He started to count the miles they drove ahead and the hours they sat side by side silently in the car. He counted every time Obi-Wan looked at him and every time he smiled or frowned; he counted the beats of his own heart and imagined he was counting Obi-Wan’s too.
Chapter 15: Under Siege
Truelove verse, follows chapter 14. Modern AU, Anakin/Obi-Wan.
The cabin consisted of only one room and a small kitchenette, but the lack of space had never bothered Anakin much, not until he was watching Obi-Wan seemingly take up all the room, all the air, with his mere presence.
“Nice place,” Obi-Wan said, sounding sincere. He was looking appreciatively at the sturdy, plain timber walls and the old, but simple furniture. The cabin had an ageless atmosphere; nothing had changed there much since Anakin’s great-grandfather had built it with his own hands and little else.
“My great-grandfather built it after he came back from the First World War. He couldn’t really stand the company of people anymore, so he bought this piece of land in the middle of nowhere. It’s remained old-fashioned – there’s even an outhouse at the back of the property.” He didn’t know why he sounded so apologetic suddenly.
“This is great,” Obi-Wan grinned and something loosened slightly inside Anakin. The place was old, but not dirty; he had been there just a week ago, cleaning and airing the cabin, and stocking it with all the provisions and gear needed to live there. “Really, Anakin.” Obi-Wan was looking at him with an amused smile on his lips, his gaze oddly indulgent. “And I am not merely saying it because I have been living in a six by nine feet sized cell.”
Anakin ducked his head, blushing a little. “I’m glad.” He hastily put his backpack on the armchair and gestured at the small closet next to the bed. “You can put your stuff in there if you want. I bought some clothes and other things, if you need them.”
Obi-Wan stepped up to him and touched his cheek lightly. “Such generosity,” he murmured. “Did I already thank you? For I can’t thank you enough, Anakin.” The warmth of his touch burnt Anakin to the core.
“Well…I…” Anakin swallowed, trying hard not to lean forward, ever closer, until all of Obi-Wan would burn all of Anakin. “I’m hardly that altruistic. There’s the…”
“The interview, yes. For your future literary masterpiece.” Still, Obi-Wan’s fingers lingered against Anakin’s cheek, and his eyes kept their relentless gaze firmly on Anakin’s mouth. “Or is there something else you want from me?”
“I…I don’t think…” It was suddenly very hard to form coherent thoughts, let alone speak in anything more than single, fragmental sentences. “No…of course not.”
“No?” Obi-Wan shifted closer, so that there was hardly any space left between their bodies, the air moist and warm. “I confess I find that disappointing.”
“You do?” He whispered, heart beating in an erratic, wild rhythm.
“Yes,” Obi-Wan confessed, his fingers tracing the line of Anakin’s jaw, gently pressing against his throat. “When you started to write to me, first I was just intrigued. And answering, examining each word, it gave me something to do. But with each letter, I found myself more and more alive…More like myself…or something I didn’t thought I could be ever again. You gave that to me…” Anakin didn’t dare move an inch, hardly dared to breathe, as Obi-Wan’s fingers and words continued to caress him feather-light, but so certain, so confident.
“If I assigned more meaning to your words than there were in truth, if I saw in them just the reflection of my own wants…then I beg your forgiveness.” Obi-Wan’s quiet words struck him like a sledgehammer, the aim accurate and deadly. Anakin wondered how the man had ever needed anything more than words to smash people apart.
“You…you don’t have to – to apologize…” Anakin searched for the right words, but they all deserted him, left him with just a bumbling, awkward mess of raw feelings that he could not articulate. He had always been better at writing than speaking. “I mean…I do want…”
“What do you want?” One of Obi-Wan’s hands pressed firmly against Anakin’s lower back, pulling him against Obi-Wan’s solid, powerful body. “Do you want me to hold you like this?” They were so close that Obi-Wan’s lips brushed Anakin’s ear, his hips were flush against Anakin’s, the heady hardness of his cock unmistakable. “Do you want me to kiss you?” The words were followed by the trail of small, nipping kisses along his cheek to the corner of his mouth. Anakin lifted his chin, silently seeking Obi-Wan’s lips.
“Yeah, like this…” The low rumble of Obi-Wan’s voice stopped with a deep kiss; Anakin’s mouth was plundered mercilessly, Obi-Wan’s tongue exploring and claiming until Anakin was helplessly moaning, his own prick standing at attention. When Obi-Wan’s lips left his, Anakin could not help the small, bereft sound that escaped him.
“What else do you want?” Obi-Wan continued his sweet, slow torture by stroking the back of Anakin’s head, feeling his way leisurely down Anakin’s back until finally the warm hand found its way under Anakin’s shirt. “Do you want me to touch you?” The callused fingers drew invisible lines along the rib cage and backbone, gently, making Anakin’s skin tingle.
“I could touch and kiss you for hours…” Obi-Wan’s teasing lips landed at the joint of Anakin’s neck and shoulder, sucking hard. “I could lay you down on the bed and kiss and touch every single part of you…until you were begging for release…”
Anakin felt almost faint with surging desire. He was trembling and gasping, wholly adrift in stormy currents there were no fighting against. Even in the most secret part of his heart, he had never dared to imagine it could be like this.
“Or do you want it fast and hard?” Obi-Wan gripped Anakin’s backside and rubbed up against him, continuing hoarsely, “Do you want me to just take you –” Anakin was shoved harshly against the wall, “– right now? No foreplay, no teasing, just –” and his jeans and boxers were suddenly dragged down his thighs, “– my fingers and mouth and cock in you.” The pressure and feel of Obi-Wan’s big erection coupled with the dirty words made Anakin breathless.
“I’ll do that – and more – to you…” Obi-Wan whispered, his hand finally closing around Anakin’s aching dick. “Is that what you want?”
Anakin finally dredged up enough voice to answer, “Yes.”
Chapter 16: Confession
Part of Truelove verse. Follows chapter 15. Modern day AU, Anakin/Obi-Wan.
A beam of light, warm and golden, filtered through the small window and landed on the pillow, next to Anakin’s head. The angle of the descending sun told him there was a few hours still left until the evening would turn into pitch-black night. They had yet to eat dinner, had only gulped down hastily done sandwiches hours ago in between bouts of eager fucking. But even after all they had done, he wasn’t hungry – at least not for food.
Anakin blushed, feeling the echo of the helpless, furious desire that had run him ragged, left him elated and perplexed and sated and still wanting. Everything in him ached deliciously, hurt in a way that was more a pleasure than any serious hindrance. He pushed a finger against the bruise at his hip, shivering.
“I never thought I would have this again.” Obi-Wan’s voice was quiet, his eyes pools of deep, dark water as he watched Anakin’s naked form from the doorway. Anakin hadn’t even heard him come in.
I never thought I would have this at all, he thought. The words were too heavy and stuck to his throat. Instead, Anakin said, “You are wearing too many clothes.”
“Am I?” Obi-Wan grinned sharply, pulling his boots and jacket off. Anakin’s gaze was eagerly tracking his every movement, anticipating how the fingers would lift the shirt, baring the skin…but Obi-Wan’s hands stopped tantalizingly at the hem of the fabric. Whatever he saw in Anakin’s face made him smile wider. Still fully clothed, he came back to bed and settled next to Anakin.
“You are still wearing too many clothes,” Anakin complained, pressing his own naked body against the roughness of jeans, the softness of the plaid shirt. At the first opportunity, he would build a proper bathroom in the cabin and demolish the outhouse – then they would never have to leave the bed but for supplies. He wanted Obi-Wan naked, but he was wearing the clothes Anakin had bought him and that made something in Anakin purr in satisfaction; he burrowed deeper into Obi-Wan, nuzzling his face against the flannel, stroking the denim covered thighs. Even the woolen socks felt good pressing against his bare feet.
“You’re like a bloody cat,” Obi-Wan laughed, his arm snaking around Anakin, drawing him closer. Anakin grinned and licked his bearded face.
“You know, we used to have a cat…I don’t know what happened to it.” Obi-Wan sounded contemplative, his thoughts turning into past that was years away from the moment he and Anakin would meet. “Maybe Sara’s sister took it.” Obi-Wan said her name calmly, matter-of-fact, and his hand never stopped stroking Anakin’s back gently.
Anakin couldn’t help but feel the sharp cut of her name, irrationally jealous, although he had waited – had wanted – to hear about her. The wife that had died. The woman that Obi-Wan had loved and lost. The reason he had languished in prison all these years, discarded and forgotten.
The backpack was still in the armchair where he had left it, his notebooks and pens and tape recorder tucked inside. The question-filled pages waited answers, the sentences needed finishing. Anakin stayed firmly against Obi-Wan, quiet and still.
He was halfway to a dream, when Obi-Wan said, “I thought she was my truelove…” His voice was just a whisper against Anakin’s ear, a breath of warm air. “I thought we would be together forever.”
Anakin imagined the story as he had pieced it together from old photographs, carelessly thrown words, written testimonies, the silences between. The story of a brilliant young man and a beautiful girl, meeting in college, falling in love, eventually marrying. A common story that was remarkable only with the way it had ended.
“I knew I could never get away with it, however carefully I planned it. I had too good a motive. So by chance I left work early that day and by chance the golf cubs had been left in the bedroom after the weekend…and so it was by chance that I caught them in the act, fucking on our marriage bed, and so I could not control myself, could not see past the rage and the hurt…And instead of first-degree murder, it was voluntary manslaughter.”
Anakin had seen the scene in his mind thousands of times, but instead of red-haze fury, there was now black-cold calculation. Instead of mindless rage there was the passion of a razor-sharp mind, planning and executing because it could never do anything else, anything less. It made sense, the pieces of the story for the first time fitting seamlessly, clicking into place with ease. He wondered why he – or anyone else – hadn’t seen it before.
The shattered skulls, the broken bones, the two lives gone, the call to the police after – that had always been planned. Probably from the very first moment Obi-Wan had learnt of his wife’s lover.
“Does it bother you?” Obi-Wan asked evenly. “What I did?” His hand pressed against Anakin’s spinal column, trailed down to the small of his back, petting him with slow, even rubs with his callused fingers. Anakin wanted to draw that touch inside of him, to let it stoke the heat in him until he burnt.
He found he didn’t have to think hard or long for his answer. “No. I don’t really care what you did or how or why you did it,” he confessed.
Obi-Wan smiled, bright and so, so lovely. “You’re just for me, aren’t you? My own…my truelove.”
Anakin hid his answering smile against Obi-Wan’s cheek, knowing he could feel it, could hear the words.
As you are mine.
Chapter 17: Hollow
The aftermath of a mission gone disastrously wrong.
After – the first time he opened his eyes, after, there was only blackness. A pitch black darker than the blackest corner of space. No light, no stars. His hands groped around in the dark, seeking – and meeting only emptiness.
The second time he opened his eyes, there was still only darkness. But he knew instantly he was in a different place and that he wasn’t alone. The silent, cramped concrete cell had changed into a much larger space filled with the hum of machines and the soft murmurings of people. The hard floor had transformed into a familiar bed. He was in the Halls of Healing.
With some effort, he raised his right palm, searching – a strong hand caught it in a firm hold. He grasped that hand tightly, breathing deep. He was home.
It was a good dream.
The third time he opened his eyes, the healers deemed him lucid enough to be told the truth. But even before they spoke with sympathetic yet detached voices, he already knew the dream from the reality. He was in the Halls of Healing. He had been rescued. And he would never see anything but the dark again. The long list of his other injuries rather paled into insignificance beside that crucial, cruel fact.
After, when the tribe of healers and their apprentices and their droids and whatnot had finally moved to pester other unfortunate souls, he closed his eyes. Closed and opened them. Closed and opened. There was no difference.
He startled. Anakin had come to his bedside unnoticed. Or had he already been there the whole time?
“Master,” the boy tried again, his voice uncharacteristically soft.
“Yes.” His voice was hoarse, shredded from thousands of screams. It sounded like someone else’s voice.
“Do you need anything? I could…” Anakin’s words tapered off into silence.
“No. I don’t need anything.” Obi-Wan was fully cognizant of the fact that it was the biggest lie he had ever told.
At first, it was a struggle to walk without stumbling, to drink and eat without creating a mess, to dress himself properly. It was a struggle to go to a kriffing refresher. Sometimes, it was a struggle just to breathe.
The quarters that met him upon his release from the confines of the healer’s ward were silent and still. And immaculately clean. The space didn’t feel like his old quarters, although all his belongings were – supposedly – still there. Slowly, with faltering steps, he reacquainted himself with the walls and corners, with the nooks and doorways.
He could feel Anakin following his every move with sharp eyes, could hear the boy tiptoeing after him with careful movements.
It was wrong. He didn’t recognize the cool walls, didn’t know the sharp corner he banged his knee against – could have sworn that the couch had been moved to a different spot, that the doorway to the kitchen was in another direction entirely – that some elaborate prank was being pulled on him and it wasn’t, couldn’t possibly be, his old apartment.
And Anakin – boisterous, mercurial, ever-moving Anakin– was so silent, so still.
It was all wrong.
He only had a half a day of peace in his own apartment, before they came with solemn words and heavy pauses.
After Yoda had said his customary spiel about the will of the Force, it was all business. Obi-Wan’s recovery was important. It would take time. All the help he needed, would be given. He needed not be alone.
I’m not alone, Obi-Wan thought, aware of Anakin sitting rigidly beside him. But of course – suddenly there was now a huge part of the former life they had led together that he could not share with Anakin anymore. Sparring, missions, flying…the list seemed to go on and on. So he stayed quiet. And so did Anakin, the defiant words that would have flown out of the boy’s mouth before – just a few months before – absent.
The decree was finished with a particularly mortifying parting shot: Obi-Wan was obligated to see a healer every day until he would be deemed fit both in body and mind.
Before leaving, they gave his lightsaber back to him. Obi-Wan could appreciate the sentiment behind it. Still a Jedi. Always a Jedi. Nevertheless, a rather hollow gesture in the end.
It took a tremendous amount of patience, numerous nicks and small cuts to his jaw and throat, and a whole new level of stupid stubbornness to learn how to shave again.
“I could help,” Anakin offered. He was standing somewhere behind Obi-Wan, giving unnecessary advice. As if Obi-Wan hadn’t already been shaving when the boy had still been in nappies.
“No thank you,” he said firmly, raising the old-fashioned razor against his skin. “I like my throat quite intact and my robes bloodless.”
“Suit yourself – at least you can hardly make yourself look worse.” Anakin’s laughter was like a clear blue sky, bright and blinding.
He wondered what he looked like. For once he was glad he could not see himself; the underlying worry and pity in people’s voices suggested he still looked haggard and feeble.
It came to his mind then that he would never see his Padawan’s face again, would not get to see how the still so boyish face would mature into adulthood. He nicked himself on purpose, just so the sharp pain would cover the gaping, ever-growing hollow inside him.
Sometimes, when he opened his eyes after fitful, tormented sleep, he was surprised to be faced with the darkness. Somehow, in the midst of the most crushing of dreams, he had managed to forget.
He would always close his eyes again, seeking refuge in nightmares rather than be awake and remember.
The Healer had been taught well the most common platitudes. She almost sounded like she believed in them.
“It’s perfectly normal to feel anger after suffering such a devastating loss.”
“I’m not angry.”
“I can sense the pain in you.”
“The wounds are almost healed by now.”
“Your blindness has shaken your identity as a Jedi, made you question your worth.”
“I know what I am worth.”
“Denial is the first step in the long road to recovery.”
“I’m not in denial. I know I am blind. I know I am useless.”
“You must let yourself grieve, to acknowledge the anger and the pain, only then can you release those emotions –”
“So I should feel sorry for myself, mourn all that I have lost?”
“Yes, it’s only natural. Mourn for what was done to you; mourn for your lost sight and mourn for the loss of your Padawan. He was –”
“Anakin is not -!”
Ah. So it turns out that he might be a little crazy.
After – the first time he opened his eyes, after Anakin was killed, there was only blackness. A pitch black darker than the blackest corner of space. No light, no stars. His hands groped around in the dark, seeking – and meeting only emptiness.
Figures that after a six month hiatus I return to writing with this angstfest :) I try to write something a little happier next time.
Chapter 18: Haunted
Follows chapter 17. An uninvited visitor doesn't make things any easier for Obi-Wan.
"Am I?" Anakin contemplated, sounding curious. The boy was sitting opposite him, only the low coffee table between them. Obi-Wan couldn't see him - on account of not being able to see anything - but he knew Anakin was there. He wondered if he could have seen the boy were he not blind. Would he have seen Anakin as he had been in life, filling every room with his magnetizing presence, his strength and courage? Or would he have seen the young man as he had been in death, cold and still, a mere shell of decaying flesh? Or would he be something altogether different - a mere spectre, a dark reflection of Obi-Wan's sick mind?
"Yes, I'm afraid you're quite dead. Didn't anyone tell you the news?" Obi-Wan took another generous sip from the half-empty glass. The Corellian whiskey went down smoothly, the burn of alcohol pleasantly warming him. The room was cold. Or he was cold. It didn't matter.
"It seems the rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated," Anakin intoned with fake gravity before chuckling, "and not for the first time." Obi-Wan could hear him shifting on the couch, the soft rustle of Anakin's tabard more familiar to him than the sound of his own breathing. "How many times have I died according to gossip? I think I lead in this, although you are very talented too - I mean, just look at what happened in Jabiim."
Obi-Wan grimaced. Just the mere mention of that cursed place, so flippantly, was proof that this Anakin was not real. Anakin had never managed to say the planet's name without a complex surge of emotions - not after Obi-Wan had fallen in battle there, thought to be dead, but ending up in the clutches of Asajj Ventress instead.
"Just like you were in Jabiim. But you came back. You came back to me." Anakin's voice was sincere, solemn, and so persuading.
"And now I have come back to you. I'm right here."
The sound that tore loose from Obi-Wan's throat was half a sob, half a laugh. "I saw you dead. And after - after I couldn't see anymore, I felt you dead. There was only emptiness. I crawled…I crawled until I found you and when I touched you…there was just a cold body, a dead body with broken bones and flesh ripped apart…you were not there. You were not there."
"And yet I am here now. You know I am here."
"Clearly I have lost my mind." Obi-Wan drank another long sip, draining the glass. "You have finally managed to drive me insane. It was a long time coming." He put the glass too forcefully on the table and it banged loudly against the wood, the sound echoing in the desolate room.
"Now, that is not nice - and not true." Anakin sounded petulant. "It's not my fault that you are too stubborn to believe what is right in front of you." The old couch creaked and the air in the room seemed to vibrate; Anakin had stood up. "You never believed only in what you could see - how many lectures did I had to listen about reaching out with all my senses, to see with the Force and not my eyes?"
"They all say that you are dead." He groped around with shaking fingers, seeking the bottle of whiskey. It had to be somewhere on the table. "They burned your body."
"I didn't come back for them." Anakin's voice was coming from somewhere close and suddenly strong hands grasped hold of his fingers. Obi-Wan startled, heart hammering. Force, it all felt so real.
The hands tugged and pulled, until despite of himself Obi-Wan was rising up, coming to stand only inches from Anakin. Obi-Wan could feel the solid body near him, warm and deceptively alive. He breathed deep. It even smelled like Anakin - machine oils and sweat and underneath it all the slight hint of desert. The hands drew his fingers against the soft leather of Anakin's tabard, keeping them gently pressed against the heaving chest.
"Feel how I breathe?" The hands guided his fingers upward. "Feel how my heart beats?"
"Just leave me be," he whispered, "this is too cruel."
"My poor stubborn Master…" Lips ghosted across Obi-Wan's brow, the warm exhale of breath against his clammy skin somehow more intimate than any embrace. "Sightless…alone…captive of your own pride and fear…"
"You are just an illusion created by my own mind." Obi-Wan squeezed his eyes shut, the irony of the act not escaping him.
"If that were so, what would it tell about you? That you would imagine me like this?"
Obi-Wan refused to answer. He knew exactly what it told about him - that he was sick with grief and despair, mind twisting towards dark paths.
"Have faith Master," Anakin murmured, relinquishing his hold on Obi-Wan's fingers only to lift his hand to Obi-Wan's face, "have I ever led you astray?" The warm hand, undeniably flesh and bone, stroked Obi-Wan's cheek with a sweet tenderness Anakin had never possessed.
"Plenty of times," Obi-Wan barked with a hysteric burst of laughter. Oh Anakin…the sharp longing pierced through him like a blade.
"Yes, and you have always followed me anyway…" Anakin's hand came to rest against Obi-Wan's neck, thumb rubbing small circles to the skin. "You followed me anywhere…no matter what trouble waited us there. As I followed you."
Obi-Wan sighed, any resolve he had to cling to the fraying edges of his sanity fast diminishing. He had tried so hard, but he was exhausted.
Anakin pressed his forehead against Obi-Wan's, asking quietly, "Why don't you follow me now?"
Obi-Wan had tried so hard, but he could not let go as a Jedi should. Force knew he had tried, but he could not. With trembling hands, he took hold of Anakin's forearms and felt his way up to the wide shoulders, to the messy locks of hair. With bated breath he explored the familiar, beloved features of his Padawan’s face.
"There you are," Anakin gasped and beneath Obi-Wan's fingers his lips pulled into a bright smile. "Obi-Wan, we have so much to do."
Chapter 19: Honeyed
Follows chapter 18. Mace Windu comes to tea and Obi-Wan has a new career path.
In the darkness, Anakin's smile burned bright. The smile singed Obi-Wan's fingertips, boiled his blood, set his heart on fire. It scalded him to the marrow, scorched him into ashes, burned all the grief and heartache out of him until there was nothing left and he was made anew in the dark.
"How are you feeling?" Mace Windu asked, straight to the point as usual, before taking a sip from his teacup. "Mm, good tea, is this one of Qui-Gon's blends?"
"Partly, I did some experimenting with it - it was a little too bitter for my taste." Obi-Wan took a measured sip from his own cup, the taste pleasantly honeyed, but still not too cloying. Anakin had never liked the bitter teas, whereas Obi-Wan had disliked overly sweet flavours. This was the perfect blending of both of their tastes. He could feel Anakin's mirth from where the boy was sitting next to him.
"La' Shien told us that you have made remarkable progress." Obi-Wan knew that Windu's penetrating eyes were trained on him, trying to weigh if the Healer's assessment was accurate. The older Jedi's mind was probing Obi-Wan's shields, testing the Force around him.
Obi-Wan rebuffed the intrusive attempt easily, not letting his irritation show on his face or voice. "Well, if she said so, far be it for me to contradict her. She is exceptionally good at poking people's minds at any rate." He took another sip of tea, savouring the taste. "But jokes aside, I do appreciate everything she has done for me. She managed to get me to see the truth - no bun intended."
"How are you feeling then?" A clink of china; Windu must have set his cup and saucer back on the table.
"Didn't La' Shien made a full report?"
"Obi-Wan, I'm asking as a friend, not a member of the Council," Windu said, trying to sound sincere. Anakin snorted loudly and Obi-Wan knew they were both thinking the same thing: liar.
"I'm better…I'm…" Obi-Wan paused for a moment, trying to find the right words. It was distasteful to flay himself open like this, to spill his guts all over the other man, but besides that, there was no harm in telling little of the truth to the Jedi Council. "I feel like a great burden has been lifted from me, like I can breathe properly again."
"That's good. I never doubted that you wouldn't recover. You have always been among the strongest of us." A hand came to touch his shoulder and Obi-Wan recoiled, retreating further back along the couch and dislodging Windu's hand. "Still, you should take your time - no one is expecting you to take on any heavy duties until you are ready." The words were almost placating, like Obi-Wan were a shy animal to be soothed.
"I think it would do me some good to do something useful. I'm quite sick of being cooped up here," Obi-Wan said dryly. Anakin pressed himself against Obi-Wan, shoulder to shoulder, side to side, thigh to thigh, the warmth of him setting small fires ablaze inside Obi-Wan. "So, do you mind telling me what the Council has planned for me?"
"Well, we feel that you would be ideally suited for teaching," Windu answered, not even trying to deny that the Council had already decided on Obi-Wan's future. Obi-Wan nodded, stone-faced. Inside, he was sneering; of course it was teaching, it was all a blind man was good for. But Windu was still talking, trying to justify Obi-Wan's new career path: "You have the experience from the field, but also a keen mind for academics. And you were a good teacher to Anakin."
"And yet I got him killed."
"That's not true," Windu said.
That's not true, Anakin whispered, squeezing his hand with bruising strength. It was their fault, not yours.
"I know that." Obi-Wan squeezed the hand back, reassuring. Although the old, sharp self-accusations had made deep cuts, the wounds had finally been cauterised - the truth had burned all the blame and doubt away.
"Good. You must know you did more for the boy than perhaps any of us could have." A clink of china, a throat swallowing liquid; Obi-Wan listened with a hungry focus for the smallest of sounds of Windu drinking his tea. Anakin's squeeze had turned into a caress; he was smoothing the lines on Obi-Wan's hand, playing with his fingers, breathing his appreciation into Obi-Wan's ears. For once, he's right. You did more for me than anyone. You still do.
They all sat in easy silence for a while, enjoying their tea. As the seconds ticked by, Obi-Wan's heart started beating faster with excitement, the anticipation quickening his pulse. Soon.
The silence was broken by a sudden hacking cough. It was a loud, violent sound in the stillness, followed by rattled, laboured breathing. "Pardon me," Windu croaked, "I don't know what…I…I think - something is wrong." The cup and saucer shattered against the floor. Anakin's thrill was palpable, mixing headily with Obi-Wan's own.
"Obi…Obi…Wan," Windu exhaled weakly, the halting words tapering off into silence. It sounded like he was trying to rise up from the chair, but Obi-Wan knew the man couldn't move, couldn't talk and very soon couldn't even breathe.
"Shh…it will be over soon," he soothed with a smile. "The poison was already in the cup, not in the tea. It was Anakin's idea." The Force was swirling with Windu's alarm, thick with dark strands of confusion and fear. Carefully, Obi-Wan wrapped all of it into a tight coil around them, preventing it from leaking outside the apartment. No need to alert the rest of them yet.
The man's breathing stopped. The strong heart slowed and slowed, until it drummed its last weak beat. Obi-Wan exhaled deeply and felt free.
"He looks kind of small now," Anakin marvelled, still playing with Obi-Wan's fingers. He had moved even closer to Obi-Wan, was on him, in him, over him, everywhere, a bright smile in the dark.
"I wish I could see it."
"You don't have to, he is nothing now." Anakin's voice hardened and Obi-Wan could almost see the crumpled form of the Jedi Master, the body slack in the chair, staring unseeing, growing colder. The flesh just a thin shell, covering a hollow, empty cavern where life used to be. A nothing-body. Oh, how he wanted to see it!
"From now on, I will be our eyes. You will be our bone and muscle, and together we'll be the heart that beats." Anakin's promise was sealed with a honeyed kiss that was the best kind of sweet. The perfect blending of their wishes and wants, past and future.
"Yes," Obi-Wan sighed his agreement, the taste of the kiss lingering. They had so much to do. "What next?"
"Master, we should visit Padme."
Yes. The word came from them and together they rose from the couch, stepping over the body, going to the door, opening it. Outside waited the galaxy.
Oops...this AU escalated kind of quickly... :)
Chapter 20: Backwards/Forwards I
Anakin's and Obi-Wan's time travel shenanigans, part 1.
Light. Blinding, pulsing, pounding. Like a rough ride inside a white wave. Less than a second, more than an eternity. Nothingness that bursts into colour, sound and movement so intense it must be what being born is like.
“Yeah, this is definitely NOT the Vigilance,” Anakin groaned somewhere behind Obi-Wan. The grey steel of the Star Destroyer had changed into lush greens and sparkling blues, the recycled bland air into an exotic blend of sweet and salty. He was laying on something soft and damp that his brain recognized a moment later to be soft green moss. Mindful of the drunken reeling of his insides, Obi-Wan carefully sat up. Yes, they were most definitely not on his ship. In fact, it looked suspiciously like…
“This looks like Naboo,” Anakin marvelled, his long legs appearing on the periphery of Obi-Wan’s sight.
“You just had to open that holocron.” Obi-Wan scrambled to his feet, trying to prevent his nauseous stomach from emptying itself all over the ground. “You just had to. You couldn’t listen to me this once –”
“I think this –” Anakin spread his arms around, gesturing to the mossy clearing surrounded by thick green growth, the water cascading over the rocks to a small pond – “is evidence enough that it was not, in fact, a holocron.”
“That is not the point!” Obi-Wan dry heaved, feeling even more wretched. “That is most definitely not the point, Anakin...at least tell me that you have the holocron?”
“Ah, no…I don’t think it came with us – to wherever we are.”
“Of course it didn’t.”
“Are you alright Master?” Anakin’s face suddenly came into focus right in front of Obi-Wan, his former Padawan’s brow wrinkled with concern. “You usually aren’t this panicked over the shit we get into.”
“You think this is something bad then?” Obi-Wan swallowed, trying to get himself under control. He was not panicked, but the whole blinding light-strange wave-whatever they had just experienced-thing had twisted his stomach into more knots than he knew how to untangle.
“Well, it’s us so…yeah.” Anakin’s hand came to rest on his shoulder. “You’re alright though?”
“Yes, just a little queasy,” he confessed, drawing the Force around himself like a soft blanket, letting it numb the horrible swaying bile wreaking havoc to his insides.
“So…just your normal airsickness then,” Anakin grinned. Obi-Wan did not bother to dignify that with an answer.
There was nothing for it, but to start walking around, to try to ascertain not only where they were, but when they were. Obi-Wan had read about ancient Force objects that could transport people to the other side of the Universe in the blink of an eye and through time itself. Those objects were notoriously fickle and seemed to be the catalysis’ for the most disastrous incidents. There was no proof yet that was what had happened to them, but as Anakin had said – it was the two of them. Weird – bad – things always happened to them.
It didn’t take long for them to confirm that they were in fact on Naboo. The planet’s Lake Country to be exact. When they broke the cover of the forest and a view of beautiful lake surrounded by sloping green mountains opened up before them, Anakin exclaimed in surprise.
“That’s Varykino! Naberrie’s lake retreat.” On the opposite shore stood a grand villa, its golden stone glittering in the sun, reflected brilliantly from the smooth surface of the water.
“Oh?” Obi-Wan raised his eyebrows in silent question.
Anakin blushed. “I came here with Padmé, when I was assigned to protect her from those assassins.” As that hardly narrowed things down, he added, “just before Geonosis.”
“Well, lead the way then. Let’s see if anyone is at home.”
First, it seemed that nobody was home. The lake retreat was old, lavish and silent. There was no one to be seen on the front side of the villa, and wary of going straight inside, they went around to the back, where there was a large veranda overlooking the lake. Three humanoids and two droids were standing next to an ornamental railing, and with a sudden jolt Obi-Wan realized what he was seeing –
R2-D2 and C-3PO – how had the droids got there?
Padmé, who was wearing a white dress that even Obi-Wan, who knew nothing of fashion, could tell was a wedding dress if ever there was one.
Anakin, who still had his Padawan haircut and braid, and was NOT the Anakin, who was now standing next to Obi-Wan and gaping like a fish out of water.
The third humanoid, an older man, was almost an afterthought. He was the only one of the strange gathering Obi-Wan did not recognize, although he could guess –
Some detached part of Obi-Wan, the part that could analyse calmly the most clusterfuck of situations and act accordingly, noted that time travel seemed to be real – or he was hallucinating something fierce.
”So hey,” his Anakin said nervously, “now we know not only where we are, but when we are. That’s a plus.”
“You got married?!”
Anakin’s wince was engulfed by a bright, blinding light. Typical, Obi-Wan thought just before the white wave swallowed him up.
Chapter 21: Backwards/Forwards II
Anakin's and Obi-Wan's time travel shenanigans, part 2.
Light. Blinding, pulsing, pounding. Like a rough ride inside a white wave. Less than a second, more than an eternity. Nothingness that bursts into colour, sound and movement so intense –
It was hot. That was the first thing that came to Anakin’s mind after the vertigo inducing trip through kriffing time ended. The second one was that he was so very dead. The cat was out of the bag, beans had been spilt, shit had hit the fan et cetera and Anakin was going to be dead the minute Obi-Wan stopped trying to dry heave his insides to the outside.
“You married senator Amidala?” Anakin’s former Master muttered disbelievingly next to him, and Anakin couldn’t help but wince again in guilt and shame. He could NOT ever regret marrying Padmé, but all the lies he had had to tell Obi-Wan because of it – those he did regret deeply. But it was not the right time or place for apologies; they were standing on burning sand under merciless suns and Anakin knew this planet –
“Master,” he croaked, throat suddenly so dry he could hardly speak, “we’re on Tatooine.” Why would the blasted holocron bring them to this cursed place? And how could it even do that when the holocron was still in Obi-Wan’s cabin aboard the Vigilance, sith knew how many years into the future? He could not be here, he could not, what if they were to see –
“Anakin,” Obi-Wan’s rough hand cupped his cheek, grounding Anakin. He tried to settle his hammering heart by focusing on his Master’s firm touch, attempted to slow his erratic breathing by watching Obi-Wan’s self-possessed face. “Calm your mind.” The irrational panic dissolved as swiftly as it had come, leaving only the fear which Anakin pushed deep inside himself.
“I hate this place.” The words were torn from him without any conscious thought, like a plaintive plea from a lost child. Anakin grimaced, ashamed by his own weakness.
“I know,” Obi-Wan said, not without sympathy. His hand lingered on Anakin’s cheek for a moment, before he took a step backwards, looking at the vast barren wilderness that surrounded them. “Do you have any idea where on Tatooine we are?”
Almost reluctantly, Anakin took a look around. Before him, sand dunes as far as the eye could see, the desert sea where all wretched were eventually lost. Behind him in the distance rocky bluffs rising brown-yellow from the sand, a harsh jagged wasteland. He wanted to say that everything on Tatooine looked the same, but…”We must be on the edge of the Western Dune Sea. That’s Jundland Wastes,” he pointed to the rocky cliffs. “Mos Espa is behind it.”
“Maybe about 120…130 klicks?” In the harsh environment, it would take them days to reach the spaceport. They would have to find shelter and water long before then, preferably soon. Their only hope was the Jundland Wastes, which was no kind of hope at all.
“This day just keeps getting better…” Obi-Wan sighed, tugging the hood of his robe over his head. Anakin had no such cover for his head and face, having discarded his own robe the moment he had dashed inside Obi-Wan’s cabin what seemed like ages ago.
“Let’s go before I melt,” Anakin ordered, turning towards the distant rocks. He was already hot, sweaty and thirsty – and knew it was going to be so much worse the further they had to travel in the punishing heat.
“Anakin.” Obi-Wan’s solemn voice halted him in his tracks. With some difficulty, he met his Master’s sombre gaze. “After this is over…after we are back on the Vigilance, we are going to talk about the marriage and everything that entails.”
Anakin could only nod miserably and start walking.
They were silent as they trudged across the sand dunes with heavy feet and heavier thoughts. If one were to assign any luck to their current situation, it would have been that the karking not-holocron had flung them moderately close to the Jundland Wastes; it took them only two hours to reach the edge of the dune sea. If they had found themselves in the middle of the desert – well, that would not have ended well for them.
It still might not end well, Anakin thought morosely. The suns were only halfway-up the sky and he felt himself wilting with every step. The hated planet dragged everything from him, sucked every vein and bone marrow dry as dust. Everywhere else would have been better than this – how he wished they had stayed in the green-lush Varykino, Obi-Wan’s disapproval and awkward questions be damned. He would have seen Padmé…
“Anakin,” Obi-Wan’s weary voice halted his thoughts. Anakin got the impression it was not the first time the older man had called his name. He turned around; Obi-Wan had stopped against a rocky wall that was shadowed by an overhang. “Let’s rest here,” he said and obediently Anakin shuffled to stand next to him. It was so hot – even the rock at his back scorched him through the clothes.
Anakin closed his eyes, but could not escape the burn of the twin suns or his mother’s agonized face. When he next opened his eyes, Obi-Wan had taken off his robe and was placing it on Anakin’s shoulders. “But…” he tried to protest, “it’s your robe…”
“And I’m far too hot to keep wearing it.” Obi-Wan let go of the robe, leaving Anakin hastily trying to keep it from falling to the ground. “I say it’s time you carried it for a while.”
“Like I said, it’s your robe,” Anakin protested more out of habit than from any real opposition. He was already pulling the hood over his head, a blessed darkness falling over his face.
“And you can surely do your old Master a favour?” Obi-Wan smiled lightly, but there was a worried look in his eyes that Anakin was intimately acquainted with. He had been the recipient of that measuring look regularly when he had still been a Padawan, and lately, as the war progressed with no end in sight, the look had become more and more frequent again.
Before Anakin could turn his eyes away from Obi-Wan’s gaze, his Master gestured to their left, “Let’s go this way, I have a…feeling about it.”
Anakin looked sceptically in the direction Obi-Wan was pointing. It didn’t look any different from the rest of the rocky terrain. “A good feeling?”
“That still remains to be seen.”
“Yeah, that’s what I’m afraid of,” Anakin snorted, but followed his Master’s lead.
I was writing part 3 to the Backwards/Forwards verse, when I realized that I had way too much plot and ideas. Instead of writing just small scenes from the verse, I want to start a whole new story about it. So, this verse has become a story named "In Time", the first part which I'll soon publish. I don't yet know how long the story will be, but I'm quite excited about it! I'll leave these two parts of the verse here, although the same text is also in "In Time".
Chapter 22: Homecoming
After a long absence, Anakin finally returns to the Lars farm. (Western AU.)
Anakin went to see her first.
He knelt in the hard ground, the soil cracked and parched. The arid winds had worn the writing, the edges of her name, not yet fourth year on the stone, smooth. The B of Beloved had turned into E.
Anakin traced her name slowly, felt the familiar shapes of her. Imagined her long dark hair flowing in the breeze, the curve of her sweet smile.
“I’m back,” he said, throat dry. “I got him, just outside of Fairville. The bastard tried to run, but…well, I got him.”
Her brown eyes had a sorrowful look, silently reprimanding him.
Anakin coughed, the dust making his eyes water. “The money is good. I can – I can stay for a while.”
She didn’t answer. She never did.
Under the immense clear blue sky, the Lars farm was small and colourless, standing in the middle of a field of brown grass. Anakin left his horse in the empty paddock, carrying his saddlebag on his shoulder. He took the rifle with him.
Beru had come to stand on the porch, shading her eyes from the sun’s direct glare. Her white apron swirled in a sudden gust of wind, like she would take flight.
As he stepped nearer, he tipped his hat to her and tried not to fidget under her discerning gaze. Wordlessly, Beru turned back inside the house. Taking that as a permission to enter, Anakin followed her in. The main room was composed of shadows and light that slithered inside between the drawn curtains. Although sparsely furnished, the room was neat and tidy.
After leaving the rifle to lean against the doorjamb, Anakin put the saddlebag on the table with a thud. Beru cast a meaningful look at Anakin’s gun belt, but he pretended not to notice. He gestured at her round belly instead.
“When’s the baby coming?”
“A month still to go,” Beru said, a small smile flitting across her face.
“That’s good,” Anakin grunted, awkward. He had spent so many days and nights with only his horse for company, he had quite forgotten how to converse with proper people. “How’s…how’s things?”
Beru pursed her lips. Her hands came to cradle her belly, protective. “We’re getting by. Biggs has hired Owen to do some repairs on his farm. That will be enough until…”
Until a miracle. Until water turned the dead ground into a green valley of the promised.
“I have…I brought…” Anakin pulled a heavy coin purse from the saddlebag, thrusting it into Beru’s hands. “I thought I might stay awhile, do some work around here.”
Beru clutched the coin purse, but her eyes were on Anakin. There was a soft, almost pitying look in them that made Anakin want to leap on his horse and ride far way. “This is your home too, Anakin. Of course you can stay.”
“That’s…yeah…” Anakin tried to say, but was interrupted by exited twin cries of “Papa!”
Anakin turned towards the door just as it slammed open, his children rushing in. They were a tangle of willowy limbs and red cheeks, eyes bright with joy. They collided into him, small arms circling his waist with surprising force.
“Papa you’re back!”
“We saw your horse!”
“How long are you staying Papa?”
Overwhelmed, Anakin wrapped his arms around them, heart aching from happiness. They were so alive, so dear to him. He had missed them terribly.
“Papa, are you going to stay?” Leia asked, her large brown eyes – her mother’s eyes – looking at him with such earnest hope.
“Yes,” he whispered, only then knowing for sure, “I’m staying.”
Anakin groomed and fed his horse, the twins eager to help him. After, he chopped firewood, Luke and Leia sitting on the ground next to him, chattering of all that had happened, all that he had missed. When they grew bored of sitting, they carried small loads of wood to the kitchen, running back to get more. Anakin tousled their tangled hair as they passed, laughing at their indignation.
When Beru called the children to help in the kitchen, they grumbled, but went obediently enough. The yard grew silent, only the wind creaking against the barn. He listened for the clear sound of his children’s voices, only relaxing when he heard the echoes of their piping words, telling Beru how they had helped him.
Whistling, Anakin finished his work, knowing the supper would soon be ready. He took off his vest and shirt, tried to get himself moderately clean with a half-a-bucket of water. The cloud of dust on the horizon alerted him to visitors.
He strode to meet the incoming buggy, hands resting easily on his hips, knowing their nearness to the twin revolvers on his gun belt was warning enough for most folk. When the cart came closer, Anakin recognised his stepbrother’s lined face under the familiar beat-up hat. Next to him sat a stranger.
As the horse and buggy came to a stop, Owen got down, his bad leg almost making him stumble. The stranger stepped down too, his movements sure and confident. Anakin did not take his hands off his gun belt.
“Anakin.” Owen’s voice was flat.
“Owen.” Anakin gave him a small nod, but kept his eyes on the stranger. The man was simply dressed in trousers and shirt, hat covering his short hair. He was not carrying a gun. “Who’s the stranger?”
Owen sighed. “This is pastor Kenobi. He’s already been several months in town.”
Pastor Kenobi, who was not wearing a priest’s collar, tipped his hat to Anakin. His mouth stretched into a smile, visible even behind his golden-reddish beard. “Nice to meet you.”
Anakin did not answer, but he let his hands drop from the gun belt. Kenobi’s smile widened.
“The pastor has been generously helping me,” Owen explained stiffly.
“That’s very good of him,” Anakin muttered. He took hold of the reins and started to steer the horse and the cart towards the barn. He could feel the stranger’s eyes following his bare back, the intensity of it searing every scar on his skin.
In the cool darkness of the barn, away from heavy gazes, Anakin took a deep breath. He rested his head against the horse’s flank, felt the animal’s comforting warmth. It reminded him of all the days and nights he had ridden through wide valleys and large canyons and old forests, alone and still never, ever completely free.
“I’m here now, Padmé,” he whispered. “And I’m staying.”
Chapter 23: Ben
Anakin learns new things about pastor Kenobi. (Follows chapter 22, Western AU, Anakin/Obi-Wan.)
On Sunday, Owen drove the old buggy to town, Beru next to him in her best dress. The twins sat on the back, bouncing when the cart’s wheels hit potholes. Their freshly scrubbed faces smiled wildly at Anakin, who followed them leisurely on horseback.
The bell was tolling when they arrived on the yard of the ramshackle church. The twins leapt from the buggy the moment it came to a halt, Leia’s plaits already partly undone by the strong wind.
“Be good,” he reminded his children, feeling like a fraudster.
“Bye Papa!” Luke hollered, hurrying towards the open church door.
Leia wrinkled her snub nose, mouth a solemn line. “Remember to wait for us Papa.”
“Of course,” Anakin promised.
Owen helped Beru carefully down from the buggy, her small hand clutched tightly in his larger one. Beru’s tender smile was for her husband alone.
Anakin went to the saloon and bought a glass of whisky. He drank slowly, letting the burn of liquor cover the ache of well-worn memories. He ignored the others in the dim room, the dregs of the town who drank and gambled when the rest of the people gathered for service.
When he tired of the loud laughter, the coarse jests, Anakin headed outside. In the shadow, the air was cool, and the dry wind carried voices within it, the lovely notes of a familiar hymn.
The dust clung to his boots as Anakin walked back to the church. Owen was already harnessing the horse with forceful tugs, shoulders tense as he listened to what Dooku had to say. Anakin watched the tall rancher follow his stepbrother around the buggy, his smart suit and silk tie in stark contrast with their ragged surroundings.
Beru and the twins were gathered around pastor Kenobi, who was dressed for the part, like a respectable priest, the white of his collar distinct against the black shirt. His auburn hair, no doubt neatly combed that morning, was mussed.
“Papa!” Luke called out excitedly, the first one to notice Anakin. “Ben is going to teach us to read properly!”
“And sums too!” Leia added quickly.
“Is that so?” Anakin rested his hands upon Luke’s shoulders, the boy’s small frame vibrating with pure, childish enthusiasm.
“Since there is still no official school here, I thought the town’s children might benefit from a few lessons. A kind of Sunday school, but with a broader purpose.” The pleasant cadence of the man’s voice caught Anakin’s attention, spreading warmth through his weary bones. Whatever their content, the pastor’s sermons were sure to be enjoyable to listen to just for the sound of his voice.
“That’s very kind of you pastor.”
“Ben – please call me Ben.” The grey-blue eyes struck Anakin, the look in them lodging firmly near the heart, deadly as any bullet.
“That’s more than kind. I sure don’t have the time to teach these two rascals myself,” Beru laughed and herded the twins to the buggy.
“Ben,” Anakin agreed with a small nod. Ben’s answering smile stayed with him the whole journey back to the farm.
Next Sunday the twins stayed for Ben’s lesson after the service. Anakin took on the task of taking them back to the farm, Beru and Owen glad to get some time of their own. His children chattered non-stop the moment they tumbled out of the church, their excitement heightened by the opportunity to ride with Anakin on his big black stallion. As the twins waved goodbye to Ben, the pastor waved back. Anakin gave the man a polite nod.
It became a chore Anakin enjoyed. He liked the time spent on horseback, the twins squeezed in front of him, still small enough to fit. He spurred the animal into a lazy trot, listening to his children’s babble. As they crossed fields, the wide world open before them, the horse’s steady gait more often than not lulled the twins near sleep. Drowsy, their warm little bodies rested in Anakin’s arms, trusting.
As long as he was going to town on Sundays, Anakin decided he might as well do something useful there. It became apparent that the church was in disrepair, for the pastor used most of his time aiding others, but none would help him fix the ragged house of God. And so, while the town’s children spelt out letters in the pews, Anakin hammered the church’s crooked window frames into place.
The first time Ben thanked him, Anakin looked him in the eye and said, “I’m not a good man.” It was important that the pastor knew that.
Ben did not flounder in his reply, nor did he look away from Anakin. “In my experience, a man is only as good as his deeds. And you have certainly done plenty of good here.”
Next Anakin fixed the rotten steps, then he straightened the railings. Ben brought sandwiches and a pitcher of lemonade on the stairs, and Anakin gulped down his drink almost as fast as the twins did. Between bites of food, Luke and Leia told all about their baby cousin, then pelted across the road to chase Mr. Jinn’s dog.
“How did you end up here?” Anakin asked, gesturing at the poor, half-abandoned town before them.
“Why not here?” Ben mused quietly. “A slice of sky for my own. A quiet, helpful life.”
“Is that all you want?” Anakin fixed his eyes on the rusted nail on the railing. He would have to take it out.
Ben was silent for several beats of Anakin’s rapidly galloping heart, before confessing, “Perhaps not all.”
They were nearing spring, when Anakin ran out of little things to fix, so he tackled the biggest task.
Repairing the church roof with new timber boards took them a whole week. Owen helped where he could, but at evenings, when the sun dipped low behind the mountains, it was only Anakin and Ben left on the roof. They toiled in companionable silence for hours, the hard work wiping Anakin’s mind pleasantly empty.
“I think we might stop for today.” Sleeves rolled up, Ben brushed a wisp of hair away from his forehead. His golden-red head glowed in the setting sun. “A respectable accomplishment for a day’s work, don’t you think?”
Anakin nodded, his eyes drawn to Ben’s strong arms, his tanned neck, the shape of his collarbone. “Why don’t you always wear a collar?”
Ben grinned. “I don’t want to dirty it needlessly. I’m rubbish at doing laundry.”
The pastor’s small quarters were annexed to the church. There was only one room in addition to the little kitchen. Anakin, dusty and sweaty, stood uncertainly in the doorway, until Ben shooed him inside, telling Anakin to wash himself while he put the kettle on the stove.
The basin stood atop an old dresser, a cracked pitcher beside it. The rest of the space was taken up by a narrow bed, a small shelf full of books and a wooden soldier’s trunk. Anakin washed his face and hands carefully, eyes stinging from dirt.
The trunk was not locked. Inside was a deep blue officer’s uniform, a cavalry saber laid across the jacket. Tucked to the side was a small bundle of yellowed letters, addressed to Obi-Wan Kenobi.
“Does it matter?” Ben had silently come to stand behind Anakin.
“No.” Gently, Anakin let the trunk’s lid fall shut.
As they drank tea and enjoyed Beru’s custard pie, they talked about the wild horses Anakin intended to break in and sell. When it was time to ride back to the farm, Ben smoothed a crumb from the corner of Anakin’s mouth, pressed his chapped lips there.
The kiss felt like a beginning.
Chapter 24: To Love What Death Can Touch
A gift. A promise. A goodbye. (Homecoming Verse, follows chapter 23. Western AU, Obi-Wan/Anakin.)
This verse has been inspired by many great westerns, especially the Netflix series Godless. The title of this chapter comes from a poem (by Judah Halevi) that is quoted in the Godless. Nods also to the Godless soundtrack (by Carlos Rafael Rivera), which played on repeat as I wrote this verse.
The mustang mare stood tall among the small herd Anakin had caught and brought back to the farm. Surefooted and spirited, a leader among her companions, the horse’s dark bay coat shined in the sun. The mare neighed at Anakin imperiously, tossing back her mane. She was gorgeous.
“You already have a horse Papa,” Luke pointed out, leaning against the paddock and peering at the animals from between the planks. “Are you going to sell them? Can I get one?”
“Well, first they’ll have to be broken in.” The mare’s large, dark brown eyes followed Anakin closely as he slowly circled her.
“Can I get one tomorrow then?”
Anakin’s sudden bark of laughter made the more skittish horses move restlessly. “It’ll take more than a day.” He didn’t take his eyes of the mare. “First, you’ll have to gain their trust, their respect. Show them you mean them no harm, that you aim to take care of them. They won’t want to submit, give up their freedom. They’ll throw you from their backs, again and again. You’ll have to stand firm, never give up.”
Luke gazed at the horses, sombre. “Why can’t we just let them be free?”
Anakin stroke his son’s fair hair, touched his smooth cheek. “That’s a good question, son. I guess we need them too much.”
Backside smarting something fierce, knees scraped despite the sturdy fabric of his trousers, Anakin left the paddock for the day. Behind him, the mare whinnied in victory.
Owen was still standing in the yard, facing the road, hat shading his eyes. Dooku and his foreman were only small specks on the horizon, their forms hazy in the glare of the unrelenting sun. Like unwanted mirages, conjured old foes in a middle of a desert. There and gone.
“What did he want?”
“The same as always,” Owen grunted, hands clenched into fists, lips a thin line of anger. “I said I would sooner go to hell than sell the farm.”
“Look.” Anakin came to stand side by side with his stepbrother, both of them staring at the empty road. “Soon I’ll get money from the horses. We are doing fine.”
Owen nodded, touched Anakin’s shoulder briefly. They turned towards the house, Owen’s mouth drawing into a smile. Beru was on the porch, little John held securely against her hip.
“Come to dinner,” she commanded good-naturedly, the baby chasing a curl that had escaped from her bun.
“I have business in town, I’ll eat there,” Anakin said.
Ben had been reading Moby-Dick aloud every time Anakin came by. With his voice the sea roared into being, immense and wonderous, and the images of the great whale, the men who hunted it. Anakin wanted to know what happened next in the story.
“For me?” Incredulous, Ben’s eyes darted between Anakin and the horse.
Anakin held out the reins, embarrassed. “You need a horse, don’t you?”
“Anakin…thank you.” Carefully, Ben presented his hand for the mare to sniff. Not hesitating, the animal touched his fingers with her nose, curious. “She’s beautiful. I know it took you some time to break them in, I hope you at least got a decent sum from the other horses.”
“I got enough.” Anakin watched as Ben took the reins and petted the mare’s neck, scratching her just behind the ear.
“Good girl,” Ben whispered to her, voice hoarse. “Will you be my companion? I promise to take good care of you.” The mare cocked her proud head. Ben’s smile rivalled the sun.
“Let’s go for a ride,” Anakin suggested, heart already beating faster with anticipation.
They rode side by side out of town, across the great plain, towards the distant hills. Breaking into a gallop, Anakin felt the power of the horse beneath him, the thunder of the hooves as familiar and dear sound as his children’s laughter.
Faster, further, free.
Ben matched him with every move, riding beside him, never falling behind nor slowing down. Their eyes met and Anakin grinned wildly, spurred his horse to go faster still.
Later, they lay on the bank of a mostly dried up river, looking at the cloudless sky, the animals resting close by. The ground was rough, but Ben’s hand in his was soft.
“What do you want?” Ben asked after a long and comfortable silence.
“Someday, I would like to see the ocean.” Anakin thought about his secret dreams, most of them ground to nothing against the long, lean years. But against all odds, a few had survived. “I want to be a good father to my children. And I want to be with you, just like this.”
Ben answered by turning to Anakin, pressing them tightly together. Hip to hip, chest to chest, forehead to forehead. Between deep, heart-stopping kisses, he whispered a promise to Anakin’ ear.
After a reading lesson and drinks of lemonade, Ben accompanied Anakin and the children back to the farm. Already used to riding with their father, the twins bickered over who got to sit with Ben on his new mare. It was Ben’s calm and persuasive voice more than Anakin’s stern words that led them to compromise, switching places halfway through the journey.
Leia was sitting with Anakin, when they caught sight of the smoke. She gripped his arm tightly as he led the horse into a frenzied run.
The yard and barn were mostly untouched, but the main building was badly burnt, timbers still smouldering. Owen lay on his belly on the ground, arms reaching towards the house. The back of his head was a gory mess of blood and bone.
Anakin lifted Leia down from the saddle, her small arms wound around his neck, face buried against his chest. His clever girl, not wanting to see. She whimpered a little when Anakin moved her into Ben’s hold.
He found Beru and the baby inside the house, her twisted body curled up around her child, charred and black.
Insides clenching tight, hands shaking with rage, Anakin strode to his horse. The riffle was ready in its scabbard, the revolvers a steady weight on his gun belt. He had never stopped carrying them.
“Anakin! The sheriff –”
He swung up in the saddle, spat out the truth, ”There is no law! What justice we have, is what we take ourselves!”
After Anakin had washed Padmé’s battered body, dressed her in her Sunday best, and had buried her beneath her favourite tree, he had ridden away. His children’s cries of Papa, don’t go! had felt like another death. Now Luke and Leia were mute, huddled against Ben, looking at Anakin with dry eyes. The sound of their silence was more terrible than the most cutting screams.
“The dead are dead. You must look to the living!” Ben’s face was blanched white, eyes hard.
The large rocks gave him suitable cover to observe the Serenno ranch. Dooku and most of his men were outside, complacent and confident in their superior force. Even at hundred paces, Anakin could kill half a dozen of them before they realized what was happening.
Dooku’s tall form, the fancy black hat, easily separated him from the rest. Anakin took careful aim. Saw his children’s grinning faces, heard Ben’s promise. Lowered the gun with ragged breaths, sobs ripped free from smoke-torn throat.
When Anakin came back to the Lars farm, the bodies had been laid next to each other, covered with blackened blankets. Owen’s horse had been harnessed to the buggy that was loaded with the few things that had survived the fire: couple of tools, pots and cutlery, a chair, the old grandfather clock.
Luke and Leia were sitting next to the cart, nestled together. Leia was clutching her doll, its face and clothes grimy with soot. They looked at Anakin with twin expressions of hollow grief and naked surprise. They had not believed he would come back.
Ben came charging from the remains of the house, stopping dead when he saw Anakin. He had taken Owen’s gun, strapped it to his waist. He carried it with a quiet, resigned confidence.
He walked to Anakin, pressed their foreheads together. Anakin felt a little less like choking on ash.
They buried the small family next to Cliegg and Shmi. Anakin carved their names on a wooden cross, though he knew the wind would soon carry everything away, grind it to dust.
Last, he went to see her.
From beneath her favorite tree, he dug out a worn saddle bag. Half of the bounty money and most of the earnings from the horses were still there.
There was much he wanted to tell her. How he and Ben were going to take care of the twins, she needn’t to worry. Together, they were going to head for California, start a new life. He was going to see the sea.
In the end he settled for, “I love you. Goodbye.”
As they rode away towards the ocean, a storm rolled from the mountains with vicious force, bruise-colored clouds deluging the earth with cold rain.
Anakin imagined it washing the burnt timber, the twisted things away, wiping the whole farm clean, and leaving only a field, where green grass and flowers would grow next spring.