I'm terribly sorry I'm so lousy at actually uploading chapters. I hit the biggest writer's block I've had in my life right after getting my degree. But I'm slowly getting my inspiration back. (I suspect my muse ran away screaming when she realized I still had a huge animation assignment to hand in...)
I also might have a surprise for you when I upload next (and I hope that will be soon).
The writer's block is also the reason why my writing style and grammar accuracy have been in steady decline. I hope you guys can read this without your eyes bleeding. .
I'm actually amazed I'm still getting reviews and alerts even after such horribly slow progress! Thank you! ^_^
Anakin fidgeted nervously as he waited for the big, and very shiny, doors to open to admit him into the council chamber.
A padawan had come and fetched him from the small house he had been waiting in. At least he thought it was a padawan, the girl had had one of those funny braids after all.
The trek through the temple had left Anakin awestruck and more self-conscious than ever. He almost felt how the dirt on his shabby boots stuck to the floor and just didn't belong there. Much like himself actually. He was getting more aware of that for every second that passed.
They had passed halls where younglings trained, where people were lectured on the great big things about the galaxy and across vast indoor boulevards with hundreds of pillars. What struck Anakin the most was the relative silence and serenity that seemed to be the very soul of the building. Hushed voices could be heard from all over, and occasionally a brief argument, but on the whole it was very silent.
Anakin himself was far from silent. He knew how to be conveniently silent so you wouldn't earn yourself a round with the stick, but he was a naturally cheerful and enterprising young boy, so he was almost never still – always curious about the wonders of the world around him and how to improve it. Besides, one never really noticed if someone was being a bit too rowdy on Tatooine anyway. Because there were always someone being rowdy. Not to mention that the space ports always had a rumbling noise that seemed to blanket everything. Add on the cacophony from the marketplace and well...
Anakin shrugged to himself and got a weird glance from his guide. He mentally rolled his eyes. Why were everybody here so serious all the time? Didn't their faces get stuck?
Suddenly the doors hissed open with a sharp sound, metal sighing as the hydraulics within the metal worked its magic.
Anakin started as though he had been stung with a gaffi stick.
He hesitantly took a step forward when a glance at the girl told him she wasn't going to move anywhere from her chosen spot on the floor.
Ok, Ani. You can do this. He thought to himself, squared his shoulders and marched in trying to mask his anxiety.
His effort was completely wasted.
He noticed Qui-Gon fussing over an unusually nervous-looking Obi-Wan, a small green troll and a towering black man. He didn't get to notice much else besides that it was a really bright, shiny and well... round... room.
The moment he put a foot inside the door, Obi-Wan's head snapped towards his.
Anakin hesitated and almost hovered in place as he looked from Obi-Wan to Qui-Gon. A soft tapping sound made him look back to the younger man. A beaming Obi-Wan was almost running towards him, meeting him halfway and lifting him up in the air, spinning in circles as if Anakin was a small toddler and not a big boy of nine years.
It wasn't easy trying to keep your head from spinning and paying attention to what people were saying at the same, Anakin mused as he giggled from the unexpected display of affection and sheer exhilaration of being spun around. He didn't really care what Obi-Wan was saying; most of it was impossible to understand anyway because of the babbling. He knew that it was something good and that was all that mattered.
He did notice that Qui-Gon looked a little shaken and... almost as though he felt like he was being tossed aside a little too fast. He also noticed the tall, dark man say something about much running today and saw the green troll whack him in reply.
Anakin laughed as Obi-Wan finally stopped spinning around on the spot and settled him on his hip –just like a baby! Anakin put his arms around Obi-Wan's neck so he wouldn't lose his balance and fall.
"Mister Obi-Wan", he said between giggles. "What did you say? You spun me so fast I couldn't understand."
Obi-Wan smirked and tousled Anakin's hair with his free hand.
"Ah, that would be Master Obi-Wan for you, young one. Not slave-master, but Master."
His eyes were becoming as big as saucers, he couldn't see it for himself, but he just knew it. Anakin couldn't do anything but stare. He couldn't have heard that right, right?
Obi-Wan seemed to understand his unspoken 'really' and winked.
"So", the voice sounded just a little bit faint and came from another direction. Anakin turned his head and saw a pale Qui-Gon taking a slow step towards them.
"What you're trying to say, Obi-Wan, is that the Council has decided you are now a knight and will take on Anakin as your chosen Padawan?"
Anakin felt a pang of guilt at this. Not that he would become Obi-Wan's padawan, but that Qui-Gon's eyes looked so sad. It was well hidden, but for one used to misery, it shone like a beacon in the dark. He turned his head to look at Obi-Wan and caught his slow nod.
The room seemed to darken a bit as Obi-Wan stopped smiling and looked sad instead.
Faint rustling of fabric made Anakin look around for the first time and met the Jedi Masters' curious stares. Suddenly he felt anxious again and wanted nothing more than to retire to... wherever... with Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon.
He tugged on Obi-Wan's tunic and was reluctantly let down on the floor.
"I, uh." Anakin began. "Mister Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. Can we go now?"
He knew that it was probably completely inappropriate, but he just couldn't stand the slightly depressed air any longer.
The older Jedi seemed to understand this for they nodded in agreement, bowed to the Council Masters and begged to retire to their rooms.
Anakin took Obi-Wan's hand in his and held out his other for Qui-Gon to take. Qui-Gon's calm, grey gaze met his, and after a moment he accepted the proffered hand. Anakin beamed and let the older men, that he had secretly begun labelling as family, lead the way.
Obi-Wan was so happy that he felt like doing completely silly things now that the initial shock had passed. Come to think of it: he already had. It was with a new spring in his steps that he all but bounced to his and Qui-Gon's quarters.
Anakin was to be his padawan again... or rather was already if Yoda was correct. He reached out tentatively for the training bond that would lead him to Anakin. And found it. An incredible sense of relief and giddiness filled him. He had gotten a second chance to hopefully do the right thing this time around.
He ignored the stares the trio received when they walked hand in hand to their quarters. Whispers echoed after them, wondering who the new kid was. Padawans and novices clustered together in small groups whispering amongst themselves and staring wide-eyed at them as they passed.
The doors to their quarters slid open with a soft hiss and as Obi-Wan stepped through he was hit with a strong sense of homecoming. He had never really felt at home in any other quarters than his and Qui-Gon's.
He took advantage of Anakin's running around and curiously poking about to make his own inventory of the rooms. They were just as he remembered them. But compared to the last time he had been in them, the atmosphere was alive and vibrant, not dead and grey. He remembered dragging his friend Bant into the rooms to help him pack – and to distract himself and Anakin, as the nine year old had been pretty depressed himself.
Obi-Wan halted in front of a bookcase that had one shelf reserved for personal mementos. Bant had asked him if she should pack those particular things, and Obi-Wan had agreed. But at the last moment he had been struck with a fresh wave of grief and batted Bant aside and refused to let anyone come near him for the entire evening as he lovingly wrapped and put away the dear things.
He cast a glance over his shoulder and noticed Anakin poking about with something in the kitchen and Qui-Gon who lounged comfortably on the couch, watching the two of them with an amused smile.
"It's good to be back, isn't it, Obi-Wan?"
"Yes, master." Obi-Wan nodded.
Qui-Gon made a small motion with his hand that seemed to take in both Anakin and Obi-Wan. "So, are you going to tell me why you not only ascended to knighthood but got Anakin as your padawan in the process?"
"Er-" Obi-Wan cringed. "I..."
Not quite meeting the older Jedi's curious gaze, he sat down in a chair opposite the couch and stared at the small glass table in front of him. He suddenly felt embarrassed, as though he had done something wrong, when in effect he had done absolutely nothing. The training bond had performed some kind of necromancy and revived itself all on its own.
"I somehow formed a training bond with Anakin as we were en route..." the words sounded feeble even in his own mind.
His master seemed to sag a little in relief.
"So there was a reason after all..."
Obi-Wan reeled back as though he had been hit.
"Master!" he spluttered. "Surely you didn't think I managed to convince them myself, to bully Master Yoda and Master Windu into accepting Anakin as my padawan?"
Qui-Gon seemed to pick up on his sense of astonished shame and shook his head gently.
"No, of course not Obi-Wan. I merely did not understand why. I assumed—"
"You assumed you would be the one training Anakin, didn't you?"
The words were sharp and perhaps a little resentful and bitter. They sure tasted bitter on Obi-Wan's tounge. He was so sure he had put that hurt behind him, but apparently he was wrong. His eyes snapped up to meet Qui-Gon's in silent defiance. The older man conceded his point by giving a small nod.
"Please do not misunderstand me, Master." Obi-Wan sighed. "I know you aren't casting me aside, but it hurts a little knowing you had everything planned out but did not deign to tell me."
"I am truly sorry. But I did not wish to give you false hopes if the Council Masters had fought me on your earning the rank of knighthood."
The two men sat in silence, looking at each other and thinking about the misunderstandings and how they could have affected the future of their relationship. They had completely forgotten about Anakin as they boy hadn't made a sound for a while.
Anakin had merely sat still in the kitchen, looking back and forth between them, trying to clamp down his anxiety. He just did not want to see the two of them fight. Not ever.
But he had decided that the time to intervene was now, if not only to lighten the mood so he could get some dinner.
"So, is that why I can sense you?" a voice piped from behind Qui-Gon.
Obi-Wan looked up and saw Anakin standing behind the couch, somehow sneaking up on them without either Jedi noticing. He nodded.
"Yes, that is why you can sense me more specifically than other beings."
"But, what does it mean to be bonded?" Anakin asked nervously. Not that he minded being bonded with Obi-Wan, and he was sure it was nothing like slavery… but the word did hold negative meanings to him.
Obi-Wan considered the question seriously, met and held Anakin's gaze before answering slowly but very clearly.
"It means we are family now."
Obi-Wan lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. Anakin hadn't said a word after the declaration Obi-Wan had made earlier, but he had looked at the older men with huge eyes that seemed to shimmer with happiness but also partly hid a look of anxiety. Dinner had been conducted in a quiet manner, and as soon as he had been able, Anakin had slipped off to check something in his bag.
What was Anakin anxious about?
Before Obi-Wan had any more time to brood, he heard a light knock on his door. A moment later the door opened hesitantly to a crack, spilling warm light into the dark room.
Obi-Wan smiled. Only one person would both be impatient enough not to wait for an answer but shy enough to actually catch himself.
"Come in, Ani", he called out gently.
A light tapping of feet against the floor and a gentle dip of the bed next to him was all that told him of Anakin's progress towards him as the boy shut the door silently behind him.
Obi-Wan let his eyes readjust to the dark again and slowly came to focus on the boy-shaped shadow beside him, searhing for – and finding - the barest glimmer of a pair of sky blue eyes.
"Does this mean I have to give up mom more than I already have?"
The sentence was rushed out, laced with evident fear and Obi-Wan blinked in surprise.
"No!" he blurted out, then grimaced and slowly sat up as he considered his next words.
"When I said we are family, I meant that the family that you and Shmi have and the one Qui-Gon and I have, have just been extended a bit. Grown bigger."
Obi-Wan could practically hear the wheels whirring in Anakin's head as he processed this.
"So it's like we adopted you and you adopted me?"
Laughter rang out in the room before Obi-Wan could contain it. Trust Anakin to take something he had completely jambled and put it in blunter but more effective terms. He ruffled Anakin's hair.
The boy grinned at this, a flash of white brightly illuminating his shadow. Then he frowned and hung his head.
"But what about mom?"
Obi-Wan sighed and laid down again, patting on the bed next to him to make Anakin do the same. Once they laid on their backs, comfortably snug against each other but not uncomfortably crowded, Obi-Wan tried to explain the half-formed plan he had.
"We cannot go after her right away. Firstly because we do not have the money, secondly because we can't let you back on Tatooine without some basic training. It would be too dangerous." He met Anakin's eyes at this. "Trust me."
"I don't know when we will be ready to go back-", at this he felt Anakin almost crumple inwards and pressed on. "-but I promise that we will go as soon as we can."
"Ok", the boy said slowly. "Watto wasn't that bad, so I guess…" he left the sentence hanging in the air, then quickly changed the subject. "Can I stay here tonight? My new room feels so big."
The response was a headlock and the Hair-Tousling-Of-The-Century.
Qui-Gon slipped back to the sofa with a huge grin plastered on his face. He had persuaded Obi-Wan into taking his own former room until it could be arranged to open a door into the adjacent quarters from where they had stolen a room to add to their own. He would sleep on the sofa until then.
He had noticed when Anakin tip-toed to the door and pretended not to notice him, but buried his nose in an extremely dry report on the tax system of Chandrila.
The earlier silence had troubled him, so he had sneaked up to the door to eavesdrop… but from the look… or rather, sound, of things, Obi-Wan was handling everything quite well.
The command echoed against the wall in the small training salle.
Anakin lay sprawled on his back in a ungraceful heap from where he had fallen from the unforeseen backlash to one of his Force control assignments. He glared up at Obi-Wan who was standing a few feet from him, barely concealing his mirth. But the way his eyes danced with laughter, he didn't really seem to try very hard.
"Again." Obi-Wan's tone was softer and he seemed to have taken pity on his young padawan as he extended his hand to help the young boy up. They had been training since sunrise on empty stomachs and he suspected it was beginning to take its toll on Anakin. Boys were very hungry beings by nature, after all.
"Come on", he encouraged the disgruntled boy. "Just one more and we'll go eat breakfast."
Anakin grumbled and made sour faces but complied. This time he compensated for the rebuffing excess force but still swayed a little.
Obi-Wan put a hand on his shoulder to steady him.
"That was better, Ani. Just a little more and you will be able to both hold a shield and redirect the strikes to where you want them."
The small praise was met with a huge beaming smile and Obi-Wan felt his own lips stretch into a smile of his own in response.
"Well. Let's go get something to eat, shall we?"
The boy didn't need to be asked twice but sprinted out the door, dragging his adoptive parent after him.
They all but rushed towards the mess hall when a slightly annoyed-looking Qui-Gon finally managed to hunt them down.
Obi-Wan turned around and tugged a little on Anakin's sleeve to make him come to a halt as well. He took the opportunity to study his master a little closer as the older man hurried to catch up with them. Qui-Gon didn't seem to have gotten much rest as his hair was less neat than what it usually was and he had that particular frown that he usually wore when being dragged out of one of his beloved meditations and flung in front of the council.
Obi-Wan sighed mentally. When would the council stop to purposefully antagonize his master? Probably when Qui-Gon started obeying all orders to the letter. Which would be… never.
"Yes master?" he queried reflexively.
"It's 'Qui-Gon' now, Obi-Wan." The reply sounded just a little bit irritated.
"Of course, master."
Ok, bad move Kenobi. Obi-Wan thought to himself as Qui-Gon didn't relax but instead shot him a small glare.
"The Council", Qui-Gon gritted out between clenched teeth. "Has given us a new mission. We are to escort Queen Amidala back to Naboo."
Obi-Wan felt his heart drop and an icy feeling settling in his stomach.
"No!" he blurted and with an extreme use of his willpower continued more calmly when both Qui-Gon and Anakin stared at him incredulously. "We cannot abort Anakin's control training in the salles right now. He's at a crucial stage."
"Yeah", Anakin muttered sullenly. "Just ask my bruises."
Obi-Wan put a calming hand on the boy's shoulder even as he fought his own panicked feelings. If we go back there now, Maul might… the memory of his master dying in his arms flashed before him again and he felt new tears in his eyes. But I'm a better warrior this time. I won't let him die. But even as he thought that a small voice that sounded ominously like the Emperor cackled in his mind, belittling him for even thinking his master's death could be prevented. Maybe it was the will of the Force for his master to die. After all, Obi-Wan's failure in the last fight with Maul was that he was too clouded by emotions and too inexperienced. But I have experience now… The voice cackled again. Yes, he had experience, but did he have enough control over his emotions?
"Obi-Wan?" the deep voice came from directly before him and Obi-Wan opened his eyes, not realizing he had closed them and looked straight into Qui-Gon's. "Are you alright?"
"No", he confessed silently. "I'm not."
"Do you want to tell me about it?"
Tell Qui-Gon? About his own death? Obi-Wan stiffened and drew back so quickly that it almost looked like a small jump. He averted his eyes and looked just about everywhere that wasn't his master or his padawan.
"I… can't." He felt his throat close up. "I need to see Master Yoda. If you will excuse me." He darted off without waiting for their reply.
Obi-Wan sat next to Ric in the cocpit of the ship that would take them all back to Naboo. The talk with Yoda had left him in a negative and brooding mood. 'If death, the will of the Force is. Change anything you cannot.' He says. Obi-Wan sneered to himself. But what should I do? I can't just stand back and watch him die again. I couldn't live with myself.
He had avoided Qui-Gon and Anakin as much as he could during the past two days when they prepared for departure. His master had shot him pointed stares but distracted Anakin and took over his training temporarily.
I am a very bad master. Obi-Wan berated himself. Abandoning Anakin as he had could not be good for the youngster. On the other hand. If he continued to train Anakin while in this mood, it might be dangerous as it would introduce an element of additional emotional instability.
"We're ready for the hyperspace jump now, master Jedi" Ric announced.
Obi-Wan nodded his 'go ahead' and quietly exited the cocpit.
Only to be immediately ambushed and dragged by the neck of his robes backwards into a small compartment and cornered by a very angry Queen Amidala.
"Explain yourself!" she demanded angrily, eyes flashing.
Obi-Wan blinked dumbly at her. "What?" he managed.
"What is the meaning of your behaviour towards Ani?" she hissed.
He was cut off with a short and angry wave of her arm as she pinched the bridge of her nose with her fingers. Her expression clearly said she thought he was daft.
"Let me rephrase that", she said slowly. "Did Anakin do something that has made you dislike him in any way?"
"No!" he shouted.
Padmé's angry expression softened a little as she noticed his shocked look.
"Then why did he seek me out last night in tears and asked me why you don't like him anymore?"
Obi-Wan could only gape at her.
She sighed and sat down on a bench and motioned for him to do the same.
"He doesn't think I like him anymore?" Obi-Wan echoed and she nodded in confirmation.
"But why? I heard Qui-Gon explaining to him that I needed to think about a few things in private but that I would be back as soon as I could."
Padmé gave him a long, searching gaze.
"He says you feel all icy and angry inside. And it started when you had just ended your last training session." She sighed. "He started crying just thinking about it and wouldn't let go of me all night long."
Guilt overwhelmed Obi-Wan as he sat there, baffled. Wait. All 'icy' and 'angry' e? He quickly sought out the training bond and found it as he had left it; muffled to dissipate any negative feelings before they could reach Anakin. Realization dawned on him with a big shock as he found the family bond without similar protective measures.
How could I have forgotten about the second bond?
He tentatively sent an apologetic probe down the bond, pushing feelings of warmth and love with it. The young mind reflexively reached out to accept it, but quickly stopped and curled back in on itself before it made contact. As if he didn't dare to hope.
"I… I have made a big mistake." Obi-Wan admitted weakly. "We Jedi have bonds of a sort that connects our souls together when we are in a master-padawan relationship."
Padmé looked at him curiously.
"I share two such bonds with Anakin. I had protected one but forgotten the other."
Lost in a new sea of guilt and remorse, he only snapped back to himself as Padmé laid a small hand on his arm. He looked at her and found sympathy and understanding in her eyes.
"I think I understand, Obi-Wan", she said quietly, using his first name for the first time. "But you need to reassure Anakin quickly. He is a very unhappy boy right now, but his former life as a slave has made him very good at concealing such feelings."
Obi-Wan nodded his thanks and stood up to leave. As the doors slid shut behind him, he heard a faint "Good luck" whispered to his back.
Anakin wasn't in the mess hall and none of the crew had seen him since takeoff. Obi-Wan frowned as he closed the door to the mess hall after peeking inside. If he were Anakin, where would he go? He had already checked the mechanic's room, but it was empty.
Obi-Wan hunted through the ship, looking the oddest places for Anakin. Qui-Gon was nearly knocked down by his determined former padawan when they collided when rounding a corner. Obi-Wan didn't seem to notice Qui-Gon, however, as his gaze was fixed through the wall on the maintenance tubes that ran throughout the ship. Qui-Gon stared after him bemusedly as Obi-Wan found an access panel and climbed inside.
Finally Obi-Wan spied a blob of cream-white through the grill of a panel and smiled triumphantly.
Anakin jumped as a loud clang echoed through the small droid storage closet where he sat keeping Artoo company, or so he told himself. He looked wildly at the source of the noise and was met with the sight of his master grinning goofily at him through a hole in the wall.
"Hello there!" his master greeted cheerfully and sent him a small wave with his hand even as he tried to climb out.
Anakin could only stare mutely as Obi-Wan rubbed off a smudge of dirt from his nose as he sat down in front of Anakin.
"I was worried I wouldn't be able to find you before we landed", Obi-Wan said, ignoring the fact that the young boy was still gaping at him.
Anakin looked first at Obi-Wan and then at the, now closed, panel, and back at Obi-Wan.
"You climbed in there?" was all he managed after a few moments of spluttering incoherently to himself in his mind. His master merely raised an eyebrow.
"But why?" Anakin blurted. His master was decidedly weird. This new fact pushed away all gloomy and dejected thoughts he had previously been preoccupied with.
Obi-Wan scratched his head before shrugging slightly.
"I thought that if I couldn't find you by looking in all the compartments, then I could probably spot you from the maintenance tubes."
Blue-grey eyes regarded Anakin for a few moments. Anakin found himself fidgeting slightly and he tugged at the unfamiliar tabards of his Jedi apprentice uniform.
"I'm sorry." Came the gentle voice and Anakin's head whipped up. What? But Obi-Wan wasn't done. "I'm sorry that I forgot to shield you from some… negative thoughts I had. I assure you that they have nothing to do with you, Ani. And I was not trying to get rid of you. I simply thought that you would be more comfortable with Mas—Qui-Gon while I figured some things out on my own."
Hang on. His new master was not angry with him? Anakin was actually wanted? Again, he could do nothing more than stare completely dumbfounded. Something was irritating his eyes. They felt prickly. Oh no. He would not cry. He wasn't a baby anymore.
Baby or no baby. Obi-Wan seemed to ignore that fact as Anakin found himself folded into a hug the next moment and a warm feeling of love flowed down the family bond. He buried his face in his master's chest and cried, letting go of all the self-doubt, fear and loneliness that had plagued him. All the while, Obi-Wan kept up a steady stream of reassuring words and rubbed his back in soothing motions.
"We're family now, remember? I will never try to 'get rid' of you. I promise you that, Anakin."