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I Should Have Known (That I Feel Colder When I Walk Alone)

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you’re the sky that I fell through

He’ll never forget hoisting his Master’s literally dead weight atop his yet broadening shoulders, how odd it had felt to tuck Qui-Gon’s lightsaber, formerly almost sacrosanct to him, into his own utility belt. The sea of faces registering concern, horror are a blur, but he’ll be able to recall thinking how many times he’s going to have to say the words, “Qui-Gon Jinn is dead,” as though he’s only the messenger, rather than Qui-Gon’s grieving, widowed Padawan.

And then, there’s Anakin, flush-faced, hair mussed from the helmet under his arm. The only reason Obi-Wan is even certain of the boy’s name is because it’s been seared into his memory by a heated Council session that now seems so long ago. It’s the smallest of miracles that the child did not see him lug his Master from the throne room where he’d been felled, and yet. “Did you see it?” Anakin asks, and then looks around with almost comic eagerness. “Where’s Master Qui-Gon?” he continues, and Qui-Gon would have sunk to one knee, would have braced the boy’s shoulders with large, comforting hands, priming them both for the onslaught of tears, but Obi-Wan remains standing, and Anakin sobs just the same.

risk it all ‘cause I’ll catch you when you fall

Master Yoda meets with him alone, another unspoken kindness amidst a bittersweet mission that has ended in unforeseeable pain. And yet, it is merely a placeholder, a way for the High Council to wrap up loose ends from afar, because after all, from its perspective, there’s no good reason for the boy to even be there anymore.

It’s strange aligning himself with Qui-Gon’s ideals; scant days ago, they had seemed so misguided, but now, as he makes the case for Anakin’s training in soft, diplomatic tones, he almost believes it himself. Even Master Yoda has to hide a proud smile as he chastises him, though he lobs off Obi-Wan’s own Padawan braid just the same. “Knew I did, trouble it was pairing the two of you together,” he muses, and Obi-Wan says nothing; then: “Not the apprentice he wanted, were you, but the apprentice he needed, you were. Healed his heart, you did”; and then, because these are old wounds made fresh, as evidenced by the anguished meeting of gazes from Obi-Wan, the wizened Jedi Master pats the newly-made Knight with a small, wrinkled hand. “Never able to see the boy for what he was otherwise, would he have been.” Yoda retrieves the discarded plait, placing it gently in Obi-Wan’s upturned palm, and then takes his leave from the dimly-lit chamber, and Obi-Wan’s still-bowed head.

I walk slowly when I’m on my own (do you feel alive?)

Wearing a cloak is both a Jedi intimidation tactic and a sign of deference depending on how it’s used, but at Qui-Gon’s funeral, Obi-Wan dons his to hide, to sink into its folds and conceal his tightly-crossed arms and skittish gaze.

Beside him, Anakin sits, muted, legs swinging with gentle restlessness, even as his tiny face reflects visible devastation in a way that Obi-Wan envies. “He can’t stay here for long, he’s too old,” the Crèche Master had told him in low, regrettable tones that morning, and Obi-Wan had watched Anakin share the toy with which he’d been playing with a tiny female youngling, who had beamed happily. In the same vein, Anakin’s far too young for the Padawan dormitories; effectively, he is homeless, and Obi-Wan suspects he realizes this, even though he hasn’t bothered to ask, even though they’ve barely said two words to one another since Obi-Wan had come to collect him that night.

“The Council has granted me permission to train you” earns him a reassured nod, but Obi-Wan still can’t bring himself to stop hiding, or to let the boy in. It’d be so simple to scoot incrementally closer and offer him a place flush against his side, improper though it would look – Obi-Wan almost suspects that Anakin is unwittingly placing the image of them cuddling in his mind – and yet, for as strong as the seeming mental suggestion is, his arms remain crossed, his cloak drawn yet tightly around him, and Anakin only shivers once Obi-Wan has looked away again.

yeah, but frankly, I still feel alone (oh, but you’ll survive)

Anakin’s seemingly boundless energy, his excitement over each and every new development and nook and cranny in what used to be Qui-Gon’s and Obi-Wan’s shared living quarters, both helps and hurts. On one hand, there are far worse things than being too concerned with immediately helping his new apprentice get settled in to let the full weight of Qui-Gon’s abrupt departure from this mortal coil sink in. On the other, Anakin seems to have a need to ask questions in a near-constant bullet-pointed stream; he also appears to find it necessary to touch everything.

Their first meal together is likewise awkward. Anakin makes appreciative slurping noises while he eats his stew, and compliments Obi-Wan’s modest cooking finesse in a way strangely parallel to Qui-Gon’s (though the boy couldn’t possibly know that, of course), and there’s a lot to consider besides whether it’s normal to still feel vaguely repulsed by the thought of eating after three days, and so Obi-Wan shovels down a few mouthfuls before it gets too cold. Probably, he thinks, the boy needs a bath, but he’s not sure he’s up to misstepping through the song-and-dance of Anakin being able to articulate whether he needs help, at least not tonight.

Instead, he takes the boy’s eventual yawning as a sign that he may soon be able to escape moderately guilt-free into sleep himself, and begins contemplating how bedroom arrangements will work now. Naturally, Anakin gloms onto the crux of the problem the second Obi-Wan hesitantly opens the door to his own small quarters. “This is yours,” the boy says reverently, and Obi-Wan pauses, and then bends, balancing gracefully one on knee as he crouches to meet Anakin at face-level. He puts a hand on the boy’s shoulder, and Anakin blinks at him with wide, trusting eyes.

“This was my room, yes.” He pauses, bracing himself. “But now it belongs to you. My private quarters will be at the other end of the hallway.” He thinks he’s in the clear as he stands again and begins making his way towards Qui-Gon’s closed door, but then Anakin voices with uncanny aptitude almost precisely what he’s thinking: “It’ll probably be weird to sleep in there, yeah?” Irritated, Obi-Wan starts to whip around, but the boy is yet unfailingly and politely curious, and it takes him off-guard anew. “My mom didn’t like me to go in her room much either,” Anakin says. “She always kept the door closed. It always smelled a little different than the rest of the house, too. But I guess it’s just a room,” he shrugs, and both sets of eyes slide back towards the still-closed door. It seems silly to be nervous, and so Obi-Wan palms it open almost defiantly.

Inside, Qui-Gon’s large, yet modestly adorned bed stands most prevalently, with small shelving units along one wall and a neatly arranged closet adjacent to it. An end table holds a small potted plant, the same green as Qui-Gon’s lightsaber blade, and a book, left open and unfinished. This must catch him off-guard, the unwitting reminder that Qui-Gon never meant not to return from this mission, because Anakin shifts restlessly beside him. “It’s just a room,” he finally repeats, and he can feel the boy watching him carefully. “It’s my room now.” But he still feels like an imposter, even as he hunkers down in Qui-Gon’s expansive bed, leaving his own head imprints in the pillows. He leaves the book sitting where it is, as though doing so means that Qui-Gon will be back to finish it someday.

so I may as well ditch my dismay

It doesn’t particularly surprise him to hear the late-night shuffling, though what wakes him fully is the sliver of light from a slightly propped doorway, one which illuminates both the hallway and the tiny boy standing in it. “It’s hard to sleep,” Anakin says plaintively, not begging or crying, but making a case nonetheless, already challenging his Master. “It’s cold here. Even on Tatooine, my mom used to give me extra blankets at night.” He pauses, glancing at what must appear to be Obi-Wan looking positively dwarfed in Qui-Gon’s bed. “Does it feel like your room yet?” he asks precociously, and it’s easier than it should be to succumb to the mental image this time.

“Not yet,” Obi-Wan replies, voice thick with sleep, though the lifting of the covers is an unmistakable invitation, one which Anakin happily accepts, hurrying across the room and practically diving onto the mattress. Sleep welcomes him back quickly and Obi-Wan gratefully allows it to pull him in, his own arms around the boy’s warm, prone form mimicking its resilient embrace.