"Anakin," Obi-Wan said, following in his footsteps. "Anakin!"
He continued storming away from the cruiser's ventral landing bay, his ripped cloak swirling in the air menacingly with the heavy stomps of his boots. Two approaching clone troopers nearly collided with him, only narrowly skirting to each side. Anakin paid them no mind. Obi-Wan didn't require his eyes or even the Force to recognize the crew's tension, the dead silence filling the air said enough.
He turned to address the crew chief observing the scene. "Please, contact me or Commander Skywalker the moment you receive word from Coruscant."
"O-Of course, sir." The chief replied with a fairly good approximation of nonchalance. Obi-Wan nodded and continued after Anakin, trying his best to ignore the whispers already going around the bay. His trail was easy enough to follow: if there was a bewildered clone or ship officer staring after seemingly nothing at all down the corridors, it was a good bet Anakin had passed or certainly pushed his way through.
I should have seen this coming, Obi-Wan thought. Ever since their assault on Nute Gunray's estate on Caito Neimodia some weeks ago, Anakin had become gradually more and more impatient. They finally had a lead to discovering the truth behind the Sith, ending the war once and for all and returning home to Coruscant after months away. It was far from an easy investigation, however. Between being assaulted by Xi Char, infiltrating a remote prison without their lightsabers, witnessing the evacuee massacre at Belderone, Obi-Wan could very easily sympathize with Anakin's feelings of frustration. Particularly after just narrowly missing Dooku.
Thankfully, the Force was with him, Anakin's march concluded in one of the smaller ship's crew areas where men and women responsible for keeping their various ships function slept.
"Out! Now!" Anakin's voice resounded from inside, sending a trio of engineers scurrying from the room.
"Please accept my apologies," Obi-Wan gave them a small smile. "We won't take long."
The room was large enough to house a dozen people with bunk beds situated on the eastern and western walls. In the middle, there was a table with freshly opened food rations, certainly abandoned by the three engineers unceremoniously ushered out. Anakin stood before the northern wall, hands behind his back, legs spread wide, seemingly staring at nothing at all. One might mistake him for meditating but Obi-Wan knew better from the harsh, strong way his chest went up and down.
Locking the door behind him to ensure more privacy, Obi-Wan slowly walked over next to Anakin's left side. Though he tried not to let it show, there was worry, tension, and anger present in the young man's face. His eyes locked into a scowl, his jaw clenched. Neither one said anything to the other for a few moments.
"We were wrong to come here, Master," Anakin ended the silence. "I was wrong to come here. We're being kept away from Coruscant, I can feel it."
"You wouldn't be saying that if we'd captured Dooku."
"But we didn't, Master. That's what counts. And now no communication with Coruscant? You don't even see it, do you?"
Obi-Wan regarded him carefully. "See what, Anakin?"
Anakin started to speak, then cut himself off and began again. "You should keep me fighting. You shouldn't give me time to think."
Obi-Wan rested his hand on Anakin's shoulders. "Calm yourself."
Anakin shrugged him off, and at last turned to face him, a new fire in his eyes. "You're my best friend. Tell me what I should do. Forget for a moment that you're wearing the robes of a Jedi and tell me what I should do!"
Stung by the gravity in Anakin's voice, Obi-Wan fell silent for a moment, then said: "The Force is our ally, Anakin. When we're mindful of the Force, our actions are in accord with the will of the Force. Tythe wasn't a wrong choice. It's simply that we're ignorant of its import in the greater scheme."
Anakin lowered his head in sadness. "You're right, Master. My mind isn't as fast as my lightsaber." He stared at his artificial limb. "My heart isn't as impervious to pain as my right hand."
Obi-Wan felt as if someone had knotted his insides. He had failed his apprentice and closest friend. Anakin was suffering, and the only balm he offered were Jedi platitudes. The realization shocked him almost as much as Anakin's own words did. Once more, it did not take the Force for him to know why his apprentice was so troubled by the thought of Coruscant in-danger. Oh, the Temple, Jedi and even Palpatine were certainly a factor there but Obi-Wan knew of one person who superseded them all in importance. But, did he dare say it? The question hung in his mind, a whole series of arguments against it already springing to mind.
Yet, seeing Anakin standing before him, saddened, defeated, Obi-Wan could not help himself. Doing what Anakin asked him to, he allowed himself to forget he wore the robes of a Jedi and followed his instincts.
"I know you miss Padmé."
The effect was instantaneous. Anakin's whole body froze, his breath caught, nervousness overcoming all other emotions. Obi-Wan fought the urge to laugh, it reminded him of the many instances his apprentice knew he had done something wrong as a boy and was about to suffer the consequences of it.
"W-What do you..." He licked his lips, looking everywhere but at Obi-Wan.
"I know, Anakin."
"What you feel for her, she for you and very likely what you do in the nights when I can't seem to find you at the Temple, on the rare occasion we're back home," The words came out with surprising ease. Obi-Wan had thought many times of confronting Anakin on this subject and imagined it going very awkwardly for the both of them. It was only half of the truth, Anakin was doing more than a fine enough job of being troubled for the both of them. His cheeks were red, his breathing haggard, his feet unsure.
Another moment and he'll collapse on the ground. Placing a gentle hand on Anakin's back, he guided his student over the table, offering a chair to him first before seating himself. Another few moments of silence passed until Anakin worked the nerve to look at him once again.
"Truthfully?" Obi-Wan ran a hand through his beard, taking a moment to think it through. "At least three years. Your feelings for her were quite obvious to me from the moment you were reunited. It helped you did a rather... Poor job of masking it."
"That doesn't mean anything," Anakin shook his head, a measure of resolve back in his voice. "It doesn't prove we're-"
"No, it doesn't," Obi-Wan cut in calmly. "However, sneaking away with her to Naboo on our last shore leave does not leave much to the imagination, Anakin. We very nearly came to blows when I went to retrieve you for the Ventress hunt there."
Anakin looked away again, left hand resting on the table, the artificial one running through his unruly hair. Noticing a glass of clear water, Obi-Wan offered it to him, making a note to refill it for the engineer once they were through there.
"Thanks," Anakin drank it the same way the unfortunates of Naos III tried to drink away their lost hopes, crushed dreams. Putting the glass aside, Anakin stared back at the northern wall. Face pressed against the knuckles of his left hand, completely unreadable. Even to someone without the Force who knew him, the look on Anakin's face alone showed how troubled he was by this.
"Who else knows?"
"Knows? With certainty? No one but me and Yoda."
His eyes blazed again in an instant, the scowl from earlier trained directly at Obi-Wan. "You told him?!"
"Not at all," Obi-Wan answered, unfazed. "Yoda realized it himself long ago from the few times he'd seen you and Padmé together."
"And he said nothing?" Nothing at all?"
"We may have exchanged a knowing or worrying glance once or twice but no, we've never spoken of it. I would never betray you like that, Anakin and neither would he."
"Really?" Anakin twisted into an ugly, angry smile. "You expect me to believe that Master Yoda, head of the Jedi Order, of the Jedi Council has known about me breaking the rules for years now and he's never, not once said a word about it?!"
Obi-Wan frowned at the sheer disbelief and sarcasm in Anakin's words. "Whether you believe it or not won't change the truth. Yoda has known and he has done nothing to oust or prevent you from continuing your relationship with Padmé. Why would you possibly believe otherwise?"
"Because he's never liked me!" Anakin's organic limb slammed the table, scattering trays and glasses in a messy pile of ruined food and spilled drinks. Obi-Wan took note to apologize for those as well. "Ever since I met him, all I've ever felt is disapproval for my very existence! Him! Windu and all the rest of them!"
"Anakin, Master Yoda has always been one of your most ardent supporters on the Council. When the decision was split on whether to accept you in the order at all it was he who voted for you to become my apprentice. When the Council convened to discuss the matter of your knighting, Master Yoda once again voted in your favor when other masters voiced their doubts."
The effect on Anakin was instantaneous once more, the fire subsided. Obi-Wan ordinarily would have thought this enough but today, it seemed it was time to let some things have their time out in the open.
"And three years ago, when I was captured by Dooku on Geonosis and you lost your mother," He sighed, giving Anakin a sympathetic look. "Yoda felt it all the way to Coruscant. He spoke of your pain, your sorrow. He has always been attuned to your feelings, Anakin, and sensing your despair wounded him."
The final embers died out with that. Once more, Anakin's head was lowered, body almost limply sitting in the chair. Reaching out to Anakin, he found his former apprentice more open than he'd been for a very long time to Obi-Wan's senses. Since before The Clone Wars were anything more than the rumblings of Senators and HoloNet gossip.
"What happens now...?" He asked, voice rough as though he were on the verge of tears. His insides knotting again, Obi-Wan leaned forward and placed a comforting hand on Anakin's left shoulder.
"We go on, old friend," A smile touched Obi-Wan's face. "We end this war at long last and help bring peace to the Republic and to ourselves."
"But Padmé and I-"
"Is a matter we will discuss when the time for it arrives. Yoda and I both will speak on your behalf, as we always have."
"What if..." Anakin shook his head. "What if I get kicked out anyway."
"Then the Council is as foolish as Qui-Gon always told me they were," The words came out, spoken with such ease and certainty they surprised Obi-Wan almost as much as Anakin. Finally, his student's head rose back to meet his gaze, shock clear on his face. Once again, Obi-Wan considered leaving it there and once again, decided otherwise. "And if they should remove the bravest, finest young Knight this Order has seen in a thousand years, then they shall go on without me as well."
Anakin's mouth hung open, making him appear like a Mon Calamari. "Y-You can't! Obi-Wan! The Order is your life! You can't do that! Not for me!"
"Why not? Qui-Gon would have, do you doubt my ability to?"
"Th-That's not what I meant," Sharply, Anakin rose, knocking over his chair. One more thing for Obi-Wan to fix whenever they concluded. "I just... This is too much... I-I never..."
"Thought you'd have this conversation with me?" Obi-Wan rose as well, gently. "Truth be told, I never thought it would happen either. Me playing the fool and you... Reluctant to share with me."
"... I'm sorry," Anakin said in a small voice. "I-I should've told you. A lot sooner, I should've trusted you..."
"Yes, well," Obi-Wan spoke with some hesitance for the first time. "I can understand why you wouldn't... Master Qui-Gon always said I was a bit too... Unapproachable, too in-line with the Council..."
There was a smile on Anakin's face all of a sudden, one he hadn't seen in some time. "You once told me Master Qui-Gon said your greatest flaw was your clenched-jaw insistence on absolute correctness."
Obi-Wan crossed his arms, eyebrow raised in suspicion. "And whatever made me say this to you?"
"It was the ahh, hoi-broth incident."
"Stars' end..." Obi-Wan muttered, fingers pressing against the sudden headache already threatening to overwhelm him. "I'm never going to live that down..."
Anakin laughed immediately, quite unabashedly. Obi-Wan managed a momentary glare before doing the same. It felt good, a welcome reprieve from weeks, no, years of tension and secrets on both sides. Once again, Master Yoda's advice to give a name to your fears to banish them was proven true once again. Though, Obi-Wan thought it wise not to share a Jedi platitude.
Eventually, the laughter died down, Anakin looking and feeling more at ease. Standing taller, as well, as though the weight of the ages had been finally removed from his shoulders.
"Well, Obi-Wan said, glancing at the table, "I suppose we should tidy up, we did ruin the crew's meal after all."
Before he could do so, Anakin stepped forward. Already, worry and anxiety suddenly permeated through him in the Force. To say nothing of the pained look he sent Obi-Wan's way.
"I... There's more I need to tell you..."
A/N: Next time, Anakin spills more of his guts out, no matter how much he'd rather avoid it.