Obi-Wan Kenobi’s voice rang out through the massive garage housed within the Jedi Temple complex. She stood in the entryway, her hands on her hips waiting to see if her truant Padawan heard her summons.
Gaging by the silence coming from his dilapidated speeder and the small crowd surrounding it, he had not.
Obi-Wan took a deep breath and then five more, pinching the bridge of her nose as she tried to gain control of her anger. It was unseemly for a Jedi Knight to be seen screeching at their Padawan learner like a hawkbat and, really, to be expressing any negative emotion stronger than a slight distaste for rotten food. She took another deep breath and reminded herself that she had a promise to keep.
Promise me, Obi-Wan. You will train the boy?
The Jedi let out a soft groan and straightened her shoulders before she marched over to her Padawan. I am training the boy, Master. He is impossible.
Anakin’s fawn-colored Padawan’s braid was hanging out from underneath a battered speeder held up off the floor by two heavy load stands. The guts of the machine were littered across the floor of the Temple garage, a ring of curious younglings and mechanics watching as the infamous boy from Tatooine muttered to himself in Huttese.
Or they had been, but now they were staring at her.
Obi-Wan curled her hands into fists in her sleeves and added another ten handstand push-ups to Anakin’s impending punishment.
The sudden appearance of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Sith Slayer and the only Padawan to be promoted to full Knighthood for bravery in the field in a millennium, sent the younglings scurrying back to their creche masters and reminded the mechanics they had other places to be. Places to be that would still let them spy on the ‘Chosen One’ and his irate master, anyway.
Obi-Wan walked up to the TX-7748 model speeder and stopped, her foot tapping as she waited for the Force to announce her presence.
Anakin’s small, oil-stained hand reached out from under the hood of the vehicle, straining for a tool that was just beyond the brown boots he failed to notice. His hand danced over the floor until it came into contact with said boots and then vanished back under the speeder.
Master? The faintest nervous question brushed against the durasteel mental walls of Obi-Wan’s mind.
Her mouth flattened into a line and she waited.
Anakin pushed himself out from under the speeder, covered in oil and dirt, his robes ruined and his Padawan braid almost unraveling as he reclined on the hovering mechanic’s creeper. He smiled up at Obi-Wan, an earnest attempt to win her over with his boyish charm. “Hello, Master! What brings you to the garage?”
Obi-Wan arched one copper brow at her Padawan. “What time is it, my young apprentice?”
Anakin twisted on the creeper to peer at the chrono on the far wall. “Uhm...fourteen hundred hours, Master?”
“And where are you supposed to be at half past thirteen hundred hours?” Obi-Wan patiently walked Anakin through his mental schedule.
She watched as realization followed by horror washed over her Padawan’s face. “I… was… supposed to report to the Council?”
Obi-Wan raised both brows and tilted her head ever-so-little to the right. “And what were you reporting to the Council for?”
Anakin paled. “Being late to my meditation and theory classes…”
Obi-Wan took a step back as the boy scrambled to his feet. Apologies spilled forth as he grabbed at a blue rag and tried to make himself look somewhat presentable. He gave up and stood at stiff attention, like someone waiting for the firing line, blue eyes full of fear as he looked up at his master.
Patience Obi-Wan. You must have patience.
She let out a sigh and shook her head. “You’ve missed your appointment and so you must make a new one. Unfortunately Master Plo will be leaving for a meditative retreat tomorrow and so you will have to make your report to Masters Yoda and Windu.”
Anakin turned grey, as if he had been told he was going to face nest of gundarks without a lightsaber and one hand tied behind his back. “I will…? Can’t I just wait until Master Plo comes back?”
“No. That will not be possible.” Obi-Wan did not envy her Padawan’s fate but she knew that he had to take responsibility for his own actions, or inaction, in this case. She would no doubt hear about this from both Masters tomorrow but she would cross that bridge when she came to it.
“Now, go clean up and report to the sparring grounds,” she sighed, waving one hand in dismissal. “And after dinner, you will clean up this mess.”
Anakin nodded and turned on his heel, running out of the garage as fast as his legs could carry him. He was halfway out of his ruined robes when he realized that Obi-Wan hadn’t given him a five-minute lecture on his appearance or the mess he made in the garage or the fact that he completely forgot to attend a meeting before the Council. He paused, sitting down on his bed, and wondered why she had been so nice to him.
Maybe somebody spoke to her. Maybe she had a vision of Master Qui-Gon and he told her to lay off me. Maybe I’m going to be transferred to another Master and that’s REALLY why I’m meeting with Master Yoda and Windu! Maybe…
But then a far more rational thought popped into his head.
Maybe she was just being nice because he was really in it now.
Anakin groaned and flopped backwards onto his pillow, one hand over his eyes. Were they going to throw him out of the Order? Where would he go? What would he do? He didn’t have his own lightsaber, not yet, and he would need one to go rescue his mom and free the rest of the slaves on Tatooine. And he would need a ship to get him there, and credits for food and probably a droid to help around the ship and…
“Anakin?” Obi-Wan’s voice crackled over the comlink in the door control panel. “I do hope you haven’t died of embarrassment. Master Drallig is demonstrating a most interesting technique and it would be a shame if you missed the practice session.”
The young boy sat straight up in bed and reached out with the Force for his boots and robes, which flew unerringly to his hand. He was dressed in three minutes and out the door in two more. Six minutes later he was sprinting out of the turbolift and skidding into the practice arena, afraid he was missing out on something important.
“I’m here! I’m here! I’m sorry I’m late, Master!” Anakin gasped, panting at his sudden exertion.
“Glad to see you’re early for once, Skywalker,” Master Drallig chuckled, marking out sparring areas from the control panel on the wall. “We’ll start when the other Padawans file in. But, since you’re early, you can help me demonstrate the technique.”
Anakin looked around, confused for a moment until he caught sight of Obi-Wan, standing in the shadow of a column, her arms folded into her sleeves and something that might be a smile in her eyes. He looked at her, confused and worried he had fallen into some kind of a trap. But when she shook her head and waved her hand in a gesture that said Go! Have fun! he decided to trust her and asked how he could assist the Battlemaster.
“We’re learning the first part of Soresu today,” Master Drallig smiled down at the talented Padawan. “I wonder if you’ll be as good as your master?”
Obi-Wan watched the lesson, first from the sidelines and then from the balcony overhead. She walked in slow circles, always keeping an eye on her Padawan, watching for weaknesses to be improved on and strengths to be honed. Power, speed and endurance came naturally to Anakin but flexibility and agility were things he was lacking in.
That and patience, which was a must for a true master of Soresu.
By the time the lesson was finished, Anakin looked exhausted. His blond hair was pushed back from his forehead, sticking up in odd spikes, and his tunic was soaked with sweat. He collapsed against a taupe stone pillar, drinking greedily from a canister of water.
Anakin looked small and alone amid the chattering swirl of Padawans and their masters. No one spoke to him and a few outright ignored him as they passed, perhaps annoyed by what they wrongly viewed as his unearned skill in combat.
Obi-Wan knew otherwise and swept into the hallway, her head high and countenance calm and beautific. In moments like these, were the Temple and its members exposed their weaknesses and petty jealousies, she felt it was important to fake the calm and serenity expected of a truly great master.
Even if she felt like taking every single one of them to task for their uncharitable behavior.
“Well done, my young apprentice,” Obi-Wan said, standing over Anakin and casually blocking him from the view of others with the folds of her brown robe. She wanted to say more to the others, to show Anakin that she was on his side, but that would be unbecoming of her and disrespectful to her peers. She had no business judging how others trained their Padawans.
The soft chimes of the evening meal rolled through the Temple, in harmony with the small roar of hunger coming from Anakin’s stomach. Obi-Wan covered a smile with her hand and nodded. “Go wash up, and I will see you in the central hall.”
Obi-Wan had already gone through the line of the main hall and found a spot for herself and Anakin at a small table with a few of her friends. She watched the entrances as she idly picked at her sauted Chandrillian bass, wondering what in the blazes was taking Anakin so long.
“Do be patient, Obi-Wan,” Luminara Unduli advised, taking a long sip of a berry juice from Pantora. “I’m sure the boy will be along shortly.”
“I’m sure this is Anakin’s favorite room in the whole Temple,” Quinlan Voss laughed, leaning back in his chair. “What young human boy doesn’t like eating?”
As if to demonstrate his claim, the Kiffar took a large bite into his own piece of fish and downed it with a swig of juice. “When I was his age, I think I spent more time in here than anywhere else.”
Obi-Wan rolled her eyes. “Where IS he? It’s not like him to be late for a chance to fill his belly.”
Luminara laughed, a bright trill of humor. Quinlan shrugged, finishing off his drink. “I’ve heard from the younglings that Anakin is… less than popular. Maybe he just doesn’t want to be ignored en masse.”
Obi-Wan frowned, stabbing at the vegetables that accompanied her steak. She wasn’t blind. She knew that Anakin usually took his meals either back in his room or down in the garage. When he did eat in the great hall, he sat with her, a blond shadow focused on eating as fast as possible before running back off into the shadows of the Temple.
“Has he made no friends?” Luminara asked, her gentle voice showing that she was trying to be helpful. “What of other younglings his age?”
“He…” Obi-Wan sighed and ran a hand down her face. “He fancies himself above them. After all, he is a Padawan and they are not. He is stronger in the Force than those his age but not as skilled as the older Padawans, who seem displeased whenever he is included in their activities. I cannot make people like Anakin.”
“Pity,” Quinlan mused as he bit into a crisp, pickled vegetable. “Any advice from Masters Yoda or Windu?”
“Trust in the Force,” Obi-Wan snorted. “Master Windu seemed to imply that Anakin’s unpopularity had something to do with my tutelage.”
“Perhaps Kit would have an idea,” Luminara mused. “I do not know a soul who doesn’t like him.”
Quinlan gestured with his utensil. “Give him time, Obi-Wan. He’ll find his people.”
Luminara nodded in agreement and noticed Obi-Wan’s far-away face. She followed her gaze, turning around to see the boy in question, standing on the edge of the great hall, hiding in the dove grey shadows thrown by the monolithic columns.
Anakin’s eyes searched over the collected group of Jedi and when he didn’t find who he was looking for, he darted back into the Temple, his mangled Padawan braid trailing after him.
“Oh dear,” Luminara murmured.
Obi-Wan stood up quietly, gathering her tray and utensils before bidding a good evening to her friends.
She marched over to the waste processing droid and handed over the remains of her meal before she hurried out of the hall, her departure noted only by the most observant of Masters, some of whom shook their heads and wondered if taking in the slave from Tatooine was a good idea.
Anakin’s stomach roared in protest as he catalogued the speeder parts he had ripped out of the vehicle earlier in the day. Lightsaber instruction was always exciting but all that hard work made him ravenously hungry and that meant eating in the hall with Master Obi-Wan and…
The rest of the Jedi Order.
He let out a huff and told his belly that there would be food later. In the past, when he was a slave in Watto’s shop and hunger was as familiar as the twin suns in the sky of Tatooine, a firm thought made his gut behave until he was free to go home to his mother. She always had something warm and filling for him and the promise of seconds if he asked. He never asked because he knew that would be stealing her dinner but it was the thought that was important.
His missed his mother so much right now. Anakin rubbed at his eyes and lined the bolts up on the floor, making sure they were in the right order for reassembly tomorrow.
He wondered what she was doing, if Watto was being mean to her. Was she safe? What if there was a sandstorm? Maybe Watto had sold her?
The thought of Watto selling his mother sent stabs of fear and anxiety through him and he barely held in a sudden sob that tried to claw its way free from his throat.
Anakin scrunched his eyes close and tried to remember what Obi-Wan taught him.
There is no emotion. There is peace.
He couldn’t remember the next line and let out a curse as he threw a wrench to the ground, listening to it chime against the floor as it bounced and then skidded over to a pair of brown boots. Anakin rubbed his sleeve over his eyes, trying to hide his tears from whatever “peaceful” Jedi was coming to lecture him on his unseemly tears disturbing the Force.
Anakin wondered angrily how something as powerful as the Force could be “disturbed” by a miserable, homesick ten-year-old.
“I think you dropped this,” Obi-Wan’s voice floated into the misery clouding Anakin’s mind as she held out the chrome wrench to her Padawan.
Anakin looked up at Obi-Wan, his blue eyes rimmed with red, his nose a dismaying shade of crimson and bright tears threatening to overwhelm his equilibrium and that of any sentient nearby. Her Padawan was mightily strong in the Force and any time a truly powerful wave of despair settled over him the Force sensitives around him noticed, complaining of sudden headaches and rogue thoughts pressing against their mental shields. It was only through constant exposure and her own innate gift that Obi-Wan was able to keep a relatively cool head around her fiercely emotional whirlwind of an apprentice.
“Thanks,” Anakin mumbled, taking the wrench back and putting in his tool belt, made of soft grey bantha leather and a gift from his mother. Another sob bubbled up from the depths of his soul and Anakin curled his hands into fists, trying to control it.
He wasn’t a baby. He was a Padawan! One of the youngest in the history of the whole Jedi Order! He wasn’t going to cry. He was stronger than that. He had to be stronger if he wanted to return to Tatooine and free his mother.
Obi-Wan put one arm around his shoulder and gently pulled him to her side.
“I miss Qui-Gon Jinn,” Obi-Wan sighed, looking out at nothing. “I still think he’ll come back one day.”
Anakin looked up at his master, stunned at her openness. Obi-Wan hardly ever talked about her Master and when she did, it was usually to demonstrate how NOT to do something.
He rubbed at his nose and scooted a little closer. “You do?”
Obi-Wan nodded, still not looking at her padawan but sensing the ebb and flow of his emotions, the fickle strength of the hurricane that was Anakin Skywalker. “I do. Sometimes I wonder if it would have been better if I died on Naboo instead of him.”
Anakin’s heart seized and he shook his head. He didn’t know why but the very idea of a universe without Obi-Wan Kenobi in it seemed like a terribly lonely place to him. “No, Master. That wouldn’t be better. You should both be here.”
Obi-Wan turned to smile at Anakin and leaned in close, her blue eyes warm. “That is kind of you to say.”
Anakin loved it when Obi-Wan smiled at him like this, a soft, shared secret between the two of them. It was almost like being back on Tatooine with his mother.
Almost, but it would have to do for now, until he was strong enough to free all the slaves and not just his mother. The “all” lingered in his mind, strong and undeniable.
“I think you’ve cleaned up enough for today,” Obi-Wan announced, standing upright and offering her Padawan a hand. “Time to retire for the evening, and we must do something about your braid. This is unacceptable, Anakin.”
The boy let out a sigh at the return of Master Kenobi, which meant this quiet warmth between them was over. Anakin would go back to being “my young apprentice” or, even worse,
“my very young Padawan”. He hated it when she mentioned how much younger he was, like it mattered when he was already two lightsaber forms ahead of younglings the same age.
“Right,” Obi-Wan announced to no one in particular. “Last one there has to clean out the filters on the refresher.”
Anakin frowned and looked up at Obi-Wan, who had already taken off running back to their suite. He let out a yelp of protest and dashed after his master, who loped lazily through the hallway, chuckling as her young charge pushed himself forward with the Force.
He caught up to her and rushed again, the Force singing with joy at his passing. Anakin did not need to know that she was going to have a droid change out the filters or that his dinner was waiting for him. It was enough to hear him laugh and see that bright smile on his face as he turned the corner towards their room and let out a whoop of victory.
Later that evening, after some childish gloating, a few admonishing eye rolls and a modest acceptance of defeat on her part, Anakin and Obi-Wan sat on his bed. The Padawan sat in front of his master, frowning at an astronavigation chart while his master ran a comb through his short hair, setting his trainee tail and padawan braid to right.
“What are the coordinates for Pantora?” Obi-Wan asked, her voice soft as she brushed Anakin’s tail into something far more credible to the Order.
Anakin closed his eyes and set down the star chart, answering perfectly. He liked this, liked feeling like Obi-Wan was taking care of him.
Like she wanted to take care of him.
“And the coordinates for Kashyyyk?” Obi Wan murmured, holding a few ties in her mouth as she ran the soft blond hair of Anakin’s tail over her hands. She nodded in approval as he recited the answer and the next two after that. Her fingers worked deftly over the little lock of hair, one that just brushed his shoulder. She tied the strand off, hoping this knot, the Rathtar’s Kiss, would hold when all of the other ones had barely lasted a week with Anakin Skywalker. Hopefully it would be stronger than the chaos that seemed to swirl around her padawan.
“Master?” Anakin yawned, slumping back against Obi-Wan’s chest. “Do you know the coordinates of Tatooine? I do. They’re…”
Obi-Wan cut him off quietly. “Quadrant Besht, Sector Arkanis, System: Tatoo, ex two niner, why five six and zed eight four.”
Anakin blinked, surprised. “Yeah… You know… I like you better when you’re like this.”
“You mean when I’m not shouting at you?” Obi-Wan asked, a smile in her voice. She looked out at their shared room, full of Anakin’s knicknacks and droid parts. There was his pod-racing flag and a model of the Naboo cruiser they took to Tatooine, where Qui-Gon had found this small, blond-haired bundle of power and destiny.
Her Padawan yawned, his head growing heavy. “Yeah… don’t like Master Kenobi.”
He is the Chosen One, the Force whispered. Or was it just a memory of her old master’s voice?
No, Obi-Wan thought. He is my Padawan now. You cannot have him. Not yet.
Anakin sighed, a sleepy smile on his face. “I like Obi-Wan best.”
Obi-Wan gently slid out from behind Anakin and tucked him into bed. She bundled the covers up around him and laid another blanket over him since the night was forecast to be cooler than usual. Her desert boy had not yet adapted to climate control and temperate weather. “Good night, Anakin.”
“Good...ahm….night….Obi-Waaaaaahn…” And with a loud yawn, he was out cold.
“Good night, little one,” she murmured to the room and then walked over to her bed, happily sinking into the warm embrace of sleep herself.