When Obi-Wan was five years old, the Masters cut his hair. He couldn’t remember if anyone had ever cut it before, but Master Attibecca had been his guardian since before he could remember and she had never bothered with haircuts for the younglings in her charge unless they asked. Wookiees didn’t get haircuts, so Obi-Wan hadn’t gotten any either. However, Master Attibecca was very, very old and her grey hands shook sometimes. The Masters told them that she wanted to spend time on Kashyyyk getting to know her clan before she died, so a new master was taking guardianship of Dragon Clan, which meant haircuts for all the younglings that typically got them.
They cut his hair with scissors first. They told him to look down and he heard the soft snip snip snip. He watched the locks of his hair, curly at the ends, fall into neat little coils on the floor. No one would ruffle it into his eyes anymore. He wouldn’t be able to tuck it behind his ears or pull it into nerf tails or practice braiding it the way Padawan Kalia taught him on her own hair.
He closed his eyes when they brought out the clippers and winced at the feel of all the little hairs falling down onto his bare neck, but he didn’t make a sound. He didn’t cry. The other boys all got the same haircut and weren’t bothered. Obi-Wan wondered why it made him feel like he was missing something.
When he was ten, Obi-Wan was shuffled into the Human Adolescent Biology class with the other humans his age and stared pointedly at the wall just behind the Master’s left shoulder. The Master’s words sounded slowed down, like they were speaking underwater, and he felt cold. Some Initiates giggled at the diagrams and a few nodded knowingly along to the lecture about menstruation. Obi-Wan didn’t understand why he couldn’t feel the tips of his fingers or why he kept hearing his own heartbeat.
Afterwards during their free period, Bant and Reeft wanted to hear about their special class because they didn’t have to take theirs yet. Garen told jokes about erections, but Obi-Wan didn’t say anything.
There weren’t a lot of options with the Young. Obi-Wan had to eat what he could find and had to make do with what they could steal. Sometimes, he needed to wear different clothes for recon, but there wasn’t that much clothing to choose from. No one in the Young had parents willing to buy or make them new clothes. Most of them didn’t have any parents at all.
“Sorry, Obi,” Nield said when he tossed a new garment in Obi-Wan’s direction from the pile on the floor. “I think this is the only thing here that’s going to fit you until we do another supply run.”
Obi-Wan held up the dress. It was simple and had once been bright blue. The hem was just above his knees when he held it up against his chest. The seams had been mended more than once. He shrugged and moved to put it on while Nield hunted around to see if there were any trousers in Obi-Wan’s size that he’d missed.
There was a piece of broken mirror that had been wedged into the wall that was big enough that, if Obi-Wan stood in the right spot, he could see his reflection from his shoulders to mid-calf. The dress was a little tight across his shoulders and a little wide at his hips, but the skirt hung down straight almost like his tunic did. He watched his hand in the reflection when he brought it up to touch where the collar rested on his shoulders and the dip it made across his back, just below the neck. His tunics were fitted high against his neck in the back. They didn’t fit like this.
“You can keep it, if you want,” Cerasi said. “I’m never gonna wear it. Don’t have the right shoes.” She laughed and kicked her boots together. He blushed and pulled his trousers back on.
Siri Tachi had, eventually, decided that she and Obi-Wan would be friends and she had a knack for knowing when her friends were in Temple. Obi-Wan had emerged from more than one post-mission scouring to find Siri asking his Master if Obi-Wan was free for a couple hours to spar or go for a walk. Master Qui-Gon gave him this look every time it happened and Obi-Wan didn’t know what it meant, but it made him uncomfortable. He’d rather lose a hundred sparring matches with Siri than find out what awkward questions his Master’s look would lead to.
Sometimes they would just go back to Siri’s quarters instead of sparring. Siri would tell him all about the things she’d seen on the ‘net lately. She would show him holos of akk pups falling over and bantha calves bumping into each other. She would paint her nails sometimes.
“Not all the time,” she had explained. “Just sometimes, when I feel like it.” She had a little box that she kept the little vials of color in. Sometimes there were other makeup things for her to experiment with, but not always. Siri said she didn’t have the patience to learn how to use most of it effectively, but painting her nails was pretty straight forward.
“Do mine?” he asked once, hesitantly, as she finished painting her toenails.
“Sure,” she agreed. “But not this color.”
His Master didn’t say anything about his dark blue fingernails when he returned to their quarters that night, but his eyebrows did the concerned scrunching thing for just a second and Obi-Wan spent dinner and evening meditation with a fluttery nervous feeling in his stomach.
Obi-Wan grew taller. His voice changed. The shape of his body changed. Some days it didn’t feel right. Some days he couldn’t stand to see his reflection or hear the deeper timber of his new voice. Some days he touched his Padawan braid and wondered what would happen if he refused to cut the rest of his hair, too.
His first kiss was an accident. He was trying to lose a tail that had followed him back from the embassy and he had stumbled into a party. He got so turned around in the crowd that one of the girls, a humanoid that he guessed was a little older than he was, held his hand and danced him out to the quieter edges of the room. She kissed him while he was keeping an eye out for his pursuer and he held very still in his surprise. She called him a “handsome boy” before flashing a bright smile and dancing back into the crowd. It burned like shame in his belly.
The first time Obi-Wan had sex was with a young human man who liked handjobs and kissing, but wasn’t really interested in long-term romantic relationships. Obi-Wan wasn’t in a position to have a long-term romantic relationship and was curious to see what sex was like. The young man told him that he had pretty eyes and pretty lips. He told Obi-Wan that he loved the colors in his hair. He made Obi-Wan smile. After they finished, the young man had laughed to himself and told Obi-Wan that he was so pretty that, if he hadn’t had the proof in his hand a minute ago, he could believe that Obi-Wan was a girl. Obi-Wan put his clothes back on and tried to ignore the hollow ache in his gut.
Obi-Wan had read about the Queen’s handmaidens and their roles on their way to Naboo, but the information didn’t come to mind until after Master Qui-Gon had gone into town for the new hyperdrive. He’d been distracted with finishing the repairs he could do on his own so that they could leave Tatooine as soon as possible. It was while he was idly stripping spare wiring that his conscious mind had realized that the woman that had boarded the ship and was now in the royal makeup had not been the same woman in the royal makeup holding court during their journey to Tatooine. They were a close match, but the shape of their faces were slightly different. The red of the lipstick sat a little differently on each woman’s lips.
After the message from the Queen’s Governor came through, Obi-Wan sat with Her Highness after the rest of her attendants left. She had allowed her sadness and worry to show on her face when they were alone. He imagined it must be hard, Queen or handmaiden, to keep a stoic public face when so many people depended on her for so much during the years she would be in office. He apologized for being so brusque when the message first came through and the Queen accepted the apology graciously.
When the lights started dimming for evening cycle, the Queen sighed, leaned back in her chair, and reached up to start pulling pins out of her hair. Obi-Wan held his hand out for them while she worked, watching curiously. She shook her head as she pulled off the ornate headdress and set it aside.
“You know I’m not the Queen, don’t you?” she asked, royal accent slipping away. Obi-Wan shook his head.
“I knew there were two women wearing the Queen’s wardrobe. I didn’t know which, if either of you, was actually the Queen.” She chuckled, took the pins from his hand, and leaned in to press a quick kiss to his mouth before he could respond.
“Thank you for keeping the secret, Master Jedi.”
After she left the room, Obi-Wan followed out into the dim light of the corridor and ducked into the fresher nearest the room where he and a couple of the rescued pilots were bunking down. The kiss had left an imprint of her lipstick on his mouth. It wasn’t vibrant, but it darkened his upper lip and the center of his lower lip noticeably. His hand was shaking when he touched his mouth and he washed his face, ignoring the warm feeling in his chest.
Obi-Wan realized that he didn’t have to keep cutting his hair as he was prepping the trimmer. He and Anakin had tried to keep to a routine to keep Anakin’s mop trimmed properly over the past three years, as long as missions allowed, and he had cut back his own hair as a matter of course. It hadn’t occurred to him that he didn’t have to anymore.
Anakin, gangly limbs awkward with his first proper pubescent growth spurt, clambered onto the barstool that they had maneuvered into their tiny fresher. Obi-Wan tucked a towel around his shoulders and tipped the boy’s head to start trimming his hair. Obi-Wan winced when he started the trimmer the way he always had and Anakin sat still as he worked, eyes closed and humming contentedly when Obi-Wan used his fingers to comb through the freshly shorn hairs.
Obi-Wan clicked the trimmer off and Anakin hopped off the stool, leaning into the shower stall to shake out the hair clippings from the towel. This was usually the time when Obi-Wan would sit down himself, take the towel from Anakin, and start trimming his own hair. He considered the trimmer in his hand for a moment and he felt a wash of cold at the thought of turning it back on. By the time Anakin had turned back around, Obi-Wan had put the trimmer away.
“Oh,” Anakin said, surprised. “You’re not cutting yours?”
“No,” Obi-Wan said more quietly than he had intended. He cleared his throat. “No, I uh… thought I might try growing it out a bit.”
“Okay,” Anakin said, cheerfully tossing the towel into the laundry and squeezing his way past Obi-Wan to return to whatever he was doing before. Obi-Wan stood silently, clenching his fists and trying to calm his loud heartbeats.
Anakin started wearing eyeliner when he was fourteen, switching erratically between the black favoured by children his age loitering in Coruscant's entertainment sectors and a shade of brown that was usually adopted by humanoid Padawans of similar coloring. Obi-Wan never said anything about it. He didn’t asked where he’d learned to apply it or when he was finding time between missions and Temple training to go buy more.
Anakin studied hard and surpassed his age mates in his lessons, so the Council started sending them on more difficult missions. By the time Anakin turned sixteen, he didn’t bother putting the eyeliner on anymore. Obi-Wan told himself that it didn’t matter and that it wasn’t any of his business.
Obi-Wan started growing the beard by accident when he and Anakin were forced to escort a young Countess through her planet’s wilderness zones to escape persecution. A Republic ship was ready and waiting in secret in the mining zone spaceport, but their planet-side transport had been shot down. Not even Anakin’s considerable ingenuity could get it to fly again. They were forced to cross the dense forest and jungle regions on foot and it took them much longer than they had originally anticipated.
Anakin had, unfortunately, grown a scraggly, patchy mess on his face, which the Countess had taken great pleasure in teasing him about. When they reached the ship, the boy had immediately disappeared into the fresher with the copilot’s grooming kit and shaved it all off.
After Obi-Wan had ensured that the Countess was comfortable and that the pilot had the course plotted, he ducked into the fresher himself for a much needed cleaning. He almost didn’t recognize the face looking back at him in the mirror and he felt a small shiver at the thought. He had been told that he was also welcome to the generous copilot’s grooming kit, but the copilot favoured the electric trimmer. Anakin had started trimming his own hair after his last birthday and Obi-Wan had no desire to subject himself to using one of those devices ever again. He used the scissors in the kit to even out his beard to a respectable length and left it at that.
Geonosis was the start. The official declaration of war against the Confederacy of Independant Systems was made not long after. Anakin was still on medical leave when the announcement hit the news cycle. Obi-Wan was grateful. He didn’t want his Padawan to see him shaking and frightened in those early days. He had some time to force himself to not examine the consequences of this war too closely. Live in the moment, his Master had always said. Obi-Wan grit his teeth against his instincts about the things to come.
The Council assigned him a battalion and the Republic made him a General. They told him that he would be leaving the Temple. They told him that he would be leading these young men into battle. They didn’t tell him when he could come back.
The night before he was scheduled to start his life as General Kenobi, Obi-Wan knocked on Siri’s door. He might once have smiled to himself at the sounds of fumbling before the door opened, but he couldn’t bring himself to smile at much of anything anymore. Siri blinked at him sleepily, short hair mussed and sticking up at odd angles.
“I need you to cut my hair,” he blurted out, voice choking and hoarse in the quiet hall. “I just- I need to-”
Siri shushed him, pulling him into her quarters with a surprisingly gentle grip and closing the door. She kept her hands on his arms and kept her gaze steady on his face. Obi-Wan couldn’t look her in the eye. He didn’t know if he could explain if she asked.
“Okay,” she said softly and he let out a breath in relief.
Siri held his hand as she shuffled him and a chair into her fresher. She talked softly, voice low and soothing as she combed through his hair and fetched a pair of scissors. She told him to look down and he heard the soft snip snip snip. He watched the locks of his hair, curly at the ends, fall into neat little coils on the floor.
Obi-Wan closed his eyes, hands shaking in his lap. When she was done, Siri brushed the clippings off the back of his neck and wiped the tears off his cheeks.
Star destroyers, like planets, had their own particular atmosphere and General Kenobi couldn’t quite put his finger on why the atmosphere aboard the Negotiator unnerved him. There was no discernable reason for it, he thought. The ship itself was in fine condition. Commander Cody was admirably sensible and the men under his command were friendly once they’d realized that General Kenobi was not, in fact, as strict an officer as he was assumed to be.
The fact that this feeling started altering his habits over time bristled under the General’s skin. His quarters became a much needed sanctuary and, although he had always been prompt in writing his friends in the past, he found himself scribbling out messages to Bant and Siri with unusual frequency.
The worst of it, he thought, was that it wasn’t a constant feeling. It faded in and out in the back of his mind and it made anticipation build up sourly in his gut. Weeks could pass by without notice before he would feel it again. He could be doing something as simple as standing in line in the mess or standing on the bridge when anxiety would seize his lungs, suddenly cold, and he would be sharply aware of the exact location and current action of every man in the room.
Joint deployment with the 501st did all of them some good, General Kenobi thought. The men seemed more relaxed during the dull, extended drifting between battles and it gave them an opportunity to congregate in a way that actual leave didn’t allow. Anakin always complained about it, mentioning repeatedly the Council’s belief that he still needed his Master around, but it was done in good humour and his presence in the Force always glowed in a way that expressed comfort. Ahsoka’s boisterous welcome hug never failed to make an appearance and the General didn’t quite have it in him to discourage her from it yet, which made her smirk and press her advantage to rope him into teaching her new saber techniques.
He liked to walk the ship during the night cycle, senses extended and brushing past the contentedly sleeping mixture of their men and the quietly dutiful soldiers still at their stations. The sleepy prodding of Ahsoka’s presence as he walked past her quarters and the inquisitive mental nudge from Anakin across the ship eased the stiff tension in his neck and allowed him to breathe easily.
Sometimes Captain Rex walked with him. The Captain always asked first with the justification of patrolling the ship in his request, but the General found him to be a quiet, reassuring presence and did not object to his companionship when offered.
The General and the Captain were walking together when they heard low voices from one of the aft storage bays. It wasn’t unusual for them to find pockets of men like this, and Captain Rex always made it a point to pop in and spook them into hiding any notable contraband. The General kept his smile to himself at the twinge of disappointment from Rex when there was no contraband to be found this time; just Gearshift and Trapper trading trinkets and gossip with Boil and Fives. Rex shifted to inspect the offerings and the General froze.
Fives had a little vial of dark blue nail varnish and was capping it when they had walked in. He had only painted the nails on his thumbs and third fingers, and was examining them as they dried. Obi-Wan felt that cold familiar feeling tingling in his hands and he gripped them tight behind his back to keep them from shaking.
“What do you think then?” Trapper asked as he ripped open the pouch of nerf jerky that had been part of Boil’s lot. Fives hummed.
“Nah,” he finally decided. “Don’t think it’s for me. It’ll chip off before the week is out.”
They lingered for a moment longer, but Obi-Wan didn’t register anything else that was said. He followed Rex out of the storage bay, silently hoping his heart would stop beating so loudly. When he could bring himself to speak, he excused himself abruptly and strode as quickly as he dared to his quarters, leaving a confused Rex in the dim corridor.
General Kenobi wasn’t surprised the next morning when a hesitant knock sounded at his door. He had hoped that it wouldn’t come, but now that it had, there was no avoiding it. He was grateful that it was early enough that it wouldn’t draw anyone else’s notice. He straightened his clothes and hoped he appeared more well-rested than he felt. Captain Rex met his gaze head on when the door opened.
“Captain,” the General said, deliberately not wincing at the hoarseness in his voice.
“Sir,” came the customary reply, followed by an unexpected hesitation. “Sir… forgive me for overstepping, but -”
Rex frowned and glanced to the side as if looking for the right words, then shook his head and held out a closed fist. General Kenobi held out his own hand and didn’t look down as Rex pressed the little vial of dark blue nail varnish into his palm. He closed his fingers over it, hiding it from view once more, and closed his eyes for a moment at the surge of warmth in his chest. Rex didn’t look away from his face and Obi-Wan supposed he must have been satisfied by what he saw there. The Captain nodded once, stepped back, and saluted before moving to attend to his duties for the morning.
The war was over. Anakin’s discovery of the Chancellor’s true identity had shaken the Republic, but the defeat of both the Sith Master and Count Dooku made room for those who were steadfast and good to tip both governments back towards the right paths. A truce between the Republic and the CIS was drafted in the wake of these revelations and the Senates of both sides forged ahead with more lasting agreements. Interim Chancellor Organa was performing admirably, pushing forward the Sentient Rights amendment for clone citizenship and striving for policies to restore economic balance after the decimation of several agricultural and manufacturing worlds.
The Jedi Council, too, was hard at work recalling whatever Jedi could be spared. It was agreed that a re-evaluation was needed. They should not have been so blinded by the dark. They should not have fallen so far from their mandate.
Obi-Wan Kenobi collapsed during one extended Council meeting. The Head Healer angrily cited the cause as exhaustion, and threw his combined service record as General and as Councillor with fewer leave days recorded than the legal minimum at the High Council when queried. Obi-Wan was ordered to a ten-day rest period, at the end of which he would be examined again and prescribed accordingly. For once, Obi-Wan found that he didn’t mind.
On his second day of rest, the news of Senator Amidala’s secret marriage hit the holonet. There was a little fanfare and some tabloids attempted to blow up the news, but the Senator was sensible and direct, Anakin wisely kept his mouth shut during their appearances together, and the galaxy was preoccupied with stabilizing itself. Master Plo Koon stopped by Obi-Wan’s quarters to let him know that Master Windu was furious at the news, but many of the others were unsurprised and they’d agreed that now was not the time to be so concerned with one Knight’s personal affairs. Anakin left him a comm message while he was napping apologizing for keeping the whole thing secret, launching into an amusing tirade of what he imagined Obi-Wan was thinking about the situation, countered his own imagined arguments, and ended with a quick note that he was staying with Padme for now in order to terrorize the paparazzi. He left a second comm message to say that Master Luminara had agreed to look after Ahsoka for a while and that Obi-Wan shouldn’t worry.
The seventh day of Obi-Wan’s rest period dawned quiet and crisp. Coruscant’s climate was fairly tightly controlled, but the planet’s own orbit still had some subtle effect and Obi-Wan inhaled the morning air deeply, tasting the faint change on the wind from an open window. He stretched languidly in his bed, pleasantly tangled in the blankets, and relaxed. He waited until the orange light of the sun crested into the valley between two skyscrapers before pulling himself up to put on some tea.
Obi-Wan felt settled in a way he couldn’t remember, grounded in the warmth of the tea and his simple breakfast. He showered lazily, having to brush his wet hair out of his eyes for the first time in years. He’d neglected to cut it towards the end of the war - the battles frenzied and blurring together into a continuous fight for months - and it now was reaching just past that awkward stage of growing out. He watched out of the corner of his eye as the ends curled a bit while he was towelling his hair dry on his way to the bedroom and smiled.
Obi-Wan’s disinterest in his usual set of standard clothing did nothing to dampen his mood and his hands reached out for the untouched hanger on the far left. He had known it was sentimental and probably boasted more Attachment than what was strictly approved, but after Naboo Obi-Wan had kept one set of his Master’s clothing. It had been years since he’d thought about it, but he picked up the hanger now and laid the ensemble out on his rumpled bed. He smoothed away the tabards to separate out just the tunic. His Master had been a large man, broad the in the shoulders and tall, so when Obi-Wan pulled the tunic on over his head, the neck of the garment opened widely along his own shoulders and the hem swayed around his knees. He returned the rest of his Master’s clothing to the wardrobe and fetched his own obi and belt to cinch the garment in at the waist.
Obi-Wan poured himself a second cup of tea and indulged in a little frivolous Force use to switch on the holonet to an absurdly silly drama. He settled into his old, worn couch and set the cup delicately on the low table in the center of the room. He half-listened to the drama while he rooted around in a drawer for the items that he’d hastily emptied from his belt pouches when he’d first returned to Coruscant after the cease-fire. He found the little vial of dark blue nail varnish that Captain Rex had given him, uncapped it, and began to paint his fingernails.
His comm chirped later, when he was letting his nails dry and watching the drama in earnest. Obi-Wan carefully pressed the button to answer the audio call.
“Mornin’ Obi-Wan,” came a yawning voice. Obi-Wan smiled.
“Good morning, Anakin.”
“You’re happy this morning.”
“Am I not allowed to be happy?” Obi-Wan teased, laughing.
“Sure, but you never are.” There was the sound of rustling and Anakin knocking something over before he said, “Did you eat anything weird last night? Drink anything?”
“No. Anakin, what’s wrong?” Obi-Wan could sense his uneasiness along their dormant bond.
“It’s just that the last time I heard you sound like this, you were hallucinating for days. I’m coming over.”
Obi-Wan paused, fear quickly pooling like ice in his chest, but he took a deep breath and forced it down. No, he told himself. His Master had suspected something by the time he was a Senior Padawan and it had been fine. His friends had suspected something as they were growing up and it had been fine. Captain Rex certainly suspected something and it had been fine. It would be fine. This was Anakin.
“Okay,” he said tightly, fighting the sudden clenching in his stomach. Obi-Wan could feel the weight of the choice he was making, but after a couple of deep breaths, he felt his heartbeat slowing back to normal. Anakin was his brother and his best friend. If he was going to ever speak these words aloud, he couldn’t make a better choice.
“Okay,” he repeated, sounding more sure. “I’ll see you soon.”