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Pas de Deux

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Were it a year ago, or maybe even six months ago, if someone told Anakin he would get knocked on his ass in front of the Grandmaster and feel proud about it, he would have called them crazy.

Now, Anakin took the briefest moment to bask in the pride he got from Ahsoka’s perfectly-executed Force strike that had completely unbalanced him just as he had taught her, before hastily rolling away from the green arc of her training saber headed for his neck.

Leaping back to his feet, Anakin engaged his apprentice in a flurry of ripostes, the back of his mind feeling Yoda’s old eyes tracking the both of them across the practice room floor.

One of the things Anakin appreciated most about Ahsoka was her ability to keep up with him for sustained periods of time, a feat some of the other Knights couldn’t even manage in his opinion. Nevertheless, Ahsoka was still a relatively green Padawan, and Anakin was Anakin, so it only took a couple more blows, a quick feint to the right, and a flick of his saber underneath hers to hook it out of her hands and catch it in his own, using the Force to knock her legs out from under her.

Ahsoka landed with a surprised yelp that turned into a squawk of dismay as Anakin levered both crossed blades over her throat. “Really?!”

Anakin flashed her a smirk. “Sorry, Snips.” Through their Force Bond, he made sure to project positivity and approval as he extinguished the practice sabers and leaned down to offer her a hand. “Really good effort though, you had that turn and push down solid.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Ahsoka rolled her eyes, but as he pulled her up Anakin could sense her own glimmer of satisfaction at how their bout had gone.

A cough from the sidelines had both Master and apprentice stiffening to attention as they turned to face Yoda shuffling his way onto the mats towards them. Anakin could feel Ahsoka’s happiness from the match freeze into a quivering spike of nerves and apprehension across their Bond, but the prickling of his own rising anxiety prevented him from making any efforts to soothe her.

While this assessment was mainly to measure Ahsoka’s progression in her training, Anakin knew his own ability as a teacher was just as open for examination. Despite their relatively rocky start, Anakin had begrudgingly, and then not-begrudgingly, discovered just how well a team he and Ahsoka made. She was a quick and eager learner, she wasn’t afraid of his sharp tongue nor of wielding her own right back at him, she was funny and innovative and clever, and stars help him, Anakin liked her. He liked her as a person and he liked being her Master.

It was a constant fear for Anakin, then, the further along in Ahsoka’s apprenticeship they got, the more comfortable in their dynamic they became, that one day the Council would realize they made a mistake. They would realize Anakin had no clue what he was doing, that he was too young, too inexperienced, that he was reckless and that all of the above was going to get Ahsoka hurt, and they would take her away from him. Give her a Master who actually knew how to be a proper example of what a Jedi should be.

These fears needed to stay hidden, however, so Anakin pushed them down with a short smile and a bow as Yoda approached, pleased when Ahsoka dipped into one next to him immediately after.

“Well fought, both of you,” Yoda murmured, bowing back at them. As usual, it was impossible to guess his tone.

“Thank you, Master,” Ahsoka replied politely, and Anakin gave his own nod of thanks, more focused on the speculative look Yoda was giving his Padawan. Being under the full force of the look, Ahsoka quivered violently through the Bond, but outwards she held her head high and looked Yoda directly in the eye, and once again Anakin felt another burst of pride.

“Lost your saber, you seem to have, young one,” Yoda remarked, and Anakin resisted the urge to flinch along with Ahsoka. Damn, so the little troll really was going to come out swinging, wasn’t he?

“I did, Master,” Ahsoka admitted softly.

Yoda hummed, prodding her left leg with his gimer stick. “Happened, that would not have, if protecting your left side, you were. Too often, keep it open you do. Noticed this, I have.”

We’ve been working on it! Anakin wanted to protest, because they had. Yesterday, he had been doing blindfolded drills with her in an effort to get her focusing on all of her surroundings, especially her blindspots. They would get there eventually, and Ahsoka didn’t need the Grandmaster pointing out her failings when she was trying to fix them.

Ahsoka bowed her head, and Anakin hated the dejection he could pick up from her. “I’ll keep that in mind,” she said. “Thank you for telling me, Master.”

Yoda’s ear flicked, and he stared at her a while longer. “Fast you are, Padawan,” Yoda told her. “Teaching you how measuring size and speed into your movements against different opponents works, your Master is?”

Anakin held his breath as Ahsoka nodded. “Yes, Master Yoda. We’ve been practicing it for a while.”

“Tell, I can,” Yoda said, smiling slightly. “Think tactically while fighting, you do. Sharp, perceptive, like a Jedi must be. Nicely done, young Ahsoka. Not easy to knock your Master over like that, it is.”

Ahsoka gave a little giggle, and Anakin allowed the humor being poked at him. “He’s right,” Anakin told her, and relished as Ahsoka’s aura glowed even brighter while his mind whirled. So, not completely bad? Yoda liked it?

“Overall, good progress, you have made, Padawan Tano,” Yoda rasped, and Anakin allowed himself to relax the tiniest bit. Ahsoka had passed, he knew she would, there was no reason she shouldn’t, but that hadn’t made him any less on edge.

Yoda sent Anakin’s brief relief crashing down with his next words. “Go you may, Ahsoka, but a word with you, Anakin, I would like.”

There it is, Anakin thought. Of course if Yoda had found something wrong with Ahsoka’s performance, it would be Anakin he would scold for not instructing her better.

“Yes, Master Yoda. Thank you so much.” Ahsoka bowed to Yoda again, subtly sending Anakin a you okay? poke through their bond.

“Head back to the room, alright? I’ll talk with Master Yoda and then I can do something nice for dinner when I get back,” Anakin told her, doing his best to project I’m fine, don’t worry, at her with his face and his emotions. “Good job.”

She already knew him too well to be appeased by that if the slight narrowing of her eyes she gave him as she walked off was anything to go by, but Anakin was too focused on not sweating under Yoda’s scrutiny alone to care.

Yoda suddenly switched to a cross-legged position on the floor, patting the ground next to him. “Sit with me, young Skywalker.”

Anakin wordlessly sat down next to him.

“Doing well, young Ahsoka is,” Yoda commented. Anakin opened his mouth to thank him, but Yoda kept talking. “Doing well, you are with her training, especially in such a short time.”

Anakin’s mouth worked up and down, not entirely sure what to do with the unexpected praise. “Um. Thank you? She’s been great at adapting to whatever I’ve thrown at her so far, and I can see her starting to develop her own fighting style—“

“Know all of that, I do,” Yoda interrupted him. “Know what you plan to do next, is what I want.”

Anakin blinked. “Next?”

“Yes, next,” said Yoda, and was that an eyeroll? “Make her even better, how will you? Or think do you that already complete her training is?”

“Of course I don’t think her training is complete!” Anakin started, and Yoda gave him a warning look, but Anakin didn’t care, Yoda was putting words in his mouth.

“Then what next?” Yoda pressed and Anakin bit back a snarl. I haven’t got there yet! I’m still trying to focus on the now!

“Well...” Anakin searched his mind frantically for anything that wouldn’t let Yoda know Anakin’s teaching plan was basically just making it up as he went along. “I’ve noticed what you pointed out as well, that she keeps her left side too open. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to help her with that.”

“Hmm. Trying, you have been, but do what will you about it?” Yoda countered, and Anakin grit his teeth.

“I figured if I could get her to focus on it more without taking away her attention from everything else, that would be good. Leading with her left foot, things like that, but I don’t want her to become predictable...” Anakin was rambling, but what else could he do? “We’ve been working on weight adjustment and balance, maybe if I put another sword in her hand or something—“

“Jar’Kai?” Yoda cut in, ears pricking up. “Now that, an interesting suggestion is.”

Anakin came back to reality. “Wait, what? Jar’Kai? No, I just—“

“Fast, she is,” Yoda was musing like Anakin wasn’t even there. “Scores well in acrobatics, she does, and keen reflexes she has. Some control, she needs, but learned that can be. If holding a shoto blade in her left hand, she is, learn to protect that side she can without losing focus on the rest. With her Fifth Form, combine that with and... centering for her, it could be.”

Force, Anakin had just meant giving Ahsoka something temporarily to make her more aware of her other side, he hadn’t actually meant— And of course Yoda seemed all for it. Once again, Anakin was making himself seem a whole lot smarter than he actually was.

“You really think it’s that good an idea?” Anakin asked hesitantly.

Yoda gave him a side eye. “A possibility, it is. Teach her Jar’Kai, could you?”

Anakin drew up straight, feeling besmirched. “Of course I can.”

Never mind he hadn’t tried Jar’Kai since...

“Then highly recommend you consider it, I do,” Yoda told him. “To just anyone, I would not suggest this. But capable, Ahsoka is, and a talented swordsman, she has the makings of. Want our students to succeed to the best of their abilities, we do.” Yoda got to his feet, patting Anakin on the arm as he started to walk away. “And learn something along with them, we ourselves might, no?”

“Er, yeah,” Anakin called after him, still trying to figure everything out. “Thank you!”

He could have sworn he heard the old troll cackling quietly to himself as he left,

Anakin sat there on the floor by himself for a while, just thinking.

Yoda thought Ahsoka needed to be taken to the next level to progress like she should.

Yoda thought Ahsoka should learn Jar’Kai.

Yoda wanted Anakin to teach Ahsoka Jar’Kai.

Anakin stared down at his hands, fiddling with the leather of the glove covering his mechano-arm.

Kriff.

* * *
Anakin had put Yoda’s words to the back of his mind. They had only been a suggestion, after all, and Anakin was by no means obligated to follow it. He was Ahsoka’s Master, shouldn’t he know what was best for her? Besides, it wasn’t like Ahsoka had ever shown interest in Jar’Kai anyway— not that the subject had ever came up between them, but still.

The idea of just never bringing it up to his Padawan made Anakin feel unreasonably guilty for some reason though, so he decided to just mention it two days later when they were lounging around their apartment. Ahsoka was sprawled across the couch studying for a geopolitics test and Anakin was at the table putting off doing Grand Army paperwork he was fairly certain they had already made him do four times already.

“Hey, Snips.”

“Yeah, Skyguy?”

“What do you know about Jar’Kai?”

Ahsoka paused, putting her datapad down and sitting up straight to answer the question. “Uh. It’s a dual-blade combat form, it’s kinda tricky to perfect, but once you do it’s a really tough offense to break. It also works well defensively against multiple attackers. Master Plo and Master Secura did a little demonstration class for the learners a couple months back, it was really wizard— I mean, I liked watching them. It’s so graceful.”

Anakin pursed his lips. Of course she had already seen two of the Masters she admired most showing it off, that was helpful, but when he looked at her now, her face had shifted from admiration to something troubled. He sent her a nudge through the Bond. “Nexu got your tongue?”

Ahsoka wrinkled her nose at him, but then her face grew serious. “Nothing Master, it’s just that— well, Grievous uses elements of Jar’Kai, doesn’t he? Fighting him was... difficult.”

Great, and now Anakin was feeling far too murderous far too early in the day. Never a day went by when he didn’t regret Ahsoka being forced to defend herself and Rex against that slimy bucket of bolts alone. He should have been there. She could have died, and it would have been all his fault.

“Why ask about Jar’Kai?” Ahsoka’s question broke Anakin out of his brooding.

“Huh? Oh, nothing really. Just something Yoda said after your assessment that he thought might help you.”

Ahsoka’s datapad slipped out of her fingers and fell to the floor as her Force signature blazed with excited shock. “You’re shitting me. Master Yoda thinks I could do Jar’Kai?

Anakin jabbed a finger at her. “Firstly, watch the fucking language.” Why was she so excited all of a sudden? Where did this random interest come from? “Secondly, he said it might help you, fix your issues with your left side blindspot and all. He never said anything about something permanent.”

Ahsoka was all but bouncing on the couch cushion. “Alright, but does he think I could do it?”

Anakin was starting to regret this entire conversation. “Yes,” he admitted, not wanting to lie. “I think he does.”

Ahsoka made a breathy half-squealing noise, covering her mouth quickly but mumbling through her hand what sounded to Anakin suspiciously like “Holy shit.”

“Nice job getting a compliment out of the old Grandmaster,” Anakin told her, attempting to tease her into a subject change. “Just don’t let it go to your head—“

“Do you think I could do it, Master?”

Anakin paused. “What?”

Ahsoka was staring at him, big blue eyes wide and pleading. “Do you think I could do Jar’Kai? Because if Master Yoda says I could and if you think so, I think that if I tried I—“

“No,” Anakin snapped, and Ahsoka shrank back, face shuttering.

Anakin instantly regretted his harsh tone. “No, look, that’s not what I meant. I just think that maybe we should wait a little and consider—“

“Why not?” Ahsoka demanded, brow setting in that way that meant she was about to attempt to do the impossible and out-stubborn Anakin. “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t you think I can’t do it?”

“There’s nothing wrong with you!” Anakin protested. “And I’m not saying you can’t do it!”

“Then can I?” Ahsoka asked, eyes flashing.

Anakin glared at her. “Ahsoka.” She was just a kid, she didn’t know what she was asking for. She had never tried it, they were in the middle of a war, she couldn’t afford to compromise herself on the battlefield attempting risky new moves she didn’t even know if she’d be suited to or not.

Ahsoka scowled right back. “I don’t get what your problem is then. I’m a good duelist, you know I am—“

“I know you’re being cocky,” Anakin retorted.

“—and I think that Jar’Kai is something I’d be good at! Come on, can’t I just try it? If even Master Yoda says I can—“

Anakin slammed his hand down on the table, causing Ahsoka to jump. “Well, Master Yoda’s not your Master, I am.” At his apprentice’s incredulous stare, he amended clumsily, “Okay, technically he is, but you are my Padawan, and your training and everything that entails is my decision. Full stop.”

Ahsoka opened her mouth to argue again, but Anakin kept going. “As your Master, I’m saying that I don’t think it would be a good idea. You’re still young, and Jar’Kai can be more dangerous to you if done incorrectly.”

As if on cue, his metal hand pinged with a phantom pain.

“When we’re hopping from battle to battle, we don’t have time for you to experiment with fighting styles, especially when you haven’t mastered guarding one side yet,” Anakin continued, not looking at Ahsoka’s face. “It’s too risky, and we can’t afford to get you or someone else killed over it. I’m sorry, Ahsoka, but the answer is no. I shouldn’t have even said anything. Go back to your studying.”

Ahsoka gave a frustrated growl. “But—“

“End of discussion,” Anakin said curtly, trying his best to mimic how Obi Wan would shut down their arguments when he got tired of them.

Ahsoka was quiet for a moment before loudly standing up from the couch, stomping off towards her bedroom while muttering under her breath and blatantly misusing the Force to pick up her dropped datapad and float it along behind her as she went.

Anakin, refusing to give her the satisfaction of calling out the Force misusage, waited until she managed to angrily swish her door shut to thunk his forehead onto the kitchen table.

He wasn’t in the wrong here. He wasn’t. He had started the conversation about something he wasn’t sure of like a mature adult, realized throughout it that it wasn’t what he wanted, and made a decision. Ahsoka was the one who decided to be unreasonable about it.

Anakin balled his hands into fists, hearing the satisfying creak of the leather in his glove.

He was just trying to keep Ahsoka safe, that was all. If he thought she was able and ready to do Jar’Kai, he would absolutely teach her.

All he wanted was to be the good Master Ahsoka deserved.

Force, why was it so hard?

* * *
It was about an hour after midnight when Anakin finally dragged himself out of bed, unable to sleep.

Ahsoka didn’t hold grudges like he did— then again, almost no one held grudges like he did —and she had been nothing but cordial to him after emerging from her room a couple hours later, if not a little distant.

Padmé had to attend a dinner party that evening that would run well into the early morning, so it wasn’t even like Anakin could run off to hers to take his mind off of things. Laying in his own bed for hours plagued by his thoughts had proven less than productive, so now he was pulling on a robe and trudging barefoot out of the apartment, ready to prove a point to himself.

The walk through the Temple to the practice rooms was quicker than Anakin expected, making his way into the one with the storage closet, opening it up and guiding out one of the newer practice droids that lived there.

Anakin reached for the box of practice sabers, picking one up and giving it to the droid, then picking one up for himself. After a pause, he reached in again and gave the droid a second saber. After another pause, he reached into his robe pocket and pulled out his real one.

I don’t have a problem with Jar’Kai. I don’t.

Shaking off his robe, Anakin turned the droid on, set the setting to the highest level, then stepped back to face it. With his flesh hand, Anakin thumbed the familiar ridges and lines of his newest lightsaber hilt. He hadn’t had this one that first time he had faced off with Dooku. His last lightsaber had been green, like Ahsoka’s.

When he closed his eyes, he could still remember the dizzying spiral of verdant light as Dooku sent his saber flying away from him, still attached to his severed—

Anakin shoved that memory away, letting the comforting blue of his current saber wash over him as it ignited along with the fainter teal of the practice saber in his metal hand. The droid’s twin sabers lit up teal as well, illuminating its glowing white eye sockets, so different than Dooku’s black ones tinged with a hint of glowing red like coals.

One of the droid’s sabers came arcing towards Anakin’s head and he had to lunge back to avoid it, frantically bringing up the practice blade he was using as a shoto. As soon as he blocked that, the other blade was coming around to stab him in the front and he had to sloppily swipe that one aside too.

He was out of practice, and he wasn’t thinking straight. That was all.

Anakin refocused, trying to find that zen that only seemed to come to him while he was in the middle of a good fight.

The peace wouldn’t come, though, Anakin finding himself stepping backwards and parrying the droid’s strikes far more often than he liked, and ridiculously more often than he should.

His mechano-hand gave another twinge of pain and Anakin almost fumbled his saber. He was going to have to reset some of the circuits. Some of the transmitters were obviously acting up.

Readjusting his grip, Anakin pushed forward at the droid with all his weight behind it.

His karking hellbrain kept on replaying that fight, how he had blatantly ignored Obi Wan’s warning, how Dooku had mocked him with that frigid smile, how he had been so angry and then his Master had fallen and wasn’t getting up and Anakin knew he had to defend them both and then Dooku—

Dooku, who had always managed to get in a taunt about Anakin’s thrice-damned hand every time they crossed paths.

Dooku, who had always been able to best Anakin, always been able to escape and run away to hurt more people because Anakin was never good enough to stop him.

Anakin, who couldn’t even master a saber form enough to protect his Master.

Anakin, who was supposed to be the fucking so-called “Chosen One”.

How in the Sith hells was Anakin supposed to be able to teach Ahsoka anything at all when he couldn’t even master his own lightsaber skills?

Saber fighting was supposed to be one Jedi thing he was actually good at, and here he was...

Pathetic.

Dooku stood in front of him, dark eyes accusing. Roaring, Anakin went right for the damn throat.

In a shower of sparks, the droid’s head went sailing off in one direction, the body shooting straight backwards with the force of his rage to shatter into multiple pieces against the far wall.

Anakin stood there in the dark in nothing but sleep pants, hair plastered to his sweaty face, breathing harshly, flesh hand squeezing his real saber hilt so tightly he knew it would leave marks. Faintly, he realized that he had somehow managed to decapitate the droid with the dulled practice saber, the one wielded by his metal hand.

Alright. So Anakin might have a slight issue with Jar’Kai.

Sighing, he extinguished his sabers, summoning the droid head with the Force from one side of the room, walking to the other to pick up the pile of metal body parts. He had been looking for something to tinker with recently anyway. He’d have this droid fixed up better than it ever was before.

It wasn’t like these training droids had ever posed a challenge to him since he was Ahsoka’s age...

He left the training sabers in a pile on the floor, putting his robe back on and gathering the droid parts up as he made his way for the exit.

This all just further proved Anakin shouldn’t be teaching Ahsoka Jar’Kai, he told himself as he walked back to his rooms.

So because you failed, that means she should never learn? a small voice in his head asked.

No one else was karking going to, Anakin told it fiercely. Ahsoka was his Padawan, his responsibility. What kind of Master would he be if he couldn’t do the one thing he was supposed to do and teach his own student? He might as well just hand Ahsoka over to someone else for everything if she was going to be learning her primary saber skills from them.

No, Anakin was going to be the one to teach Ahsoka like a proper Master should, and the way he was doing things was just fine.

Yoda’s voice echoed in his ear. Want our students to succeed to the best of their abilities, we do. And learn something along with them, we ourselves might, no?

Anakin waved the memory away and stopped outside the quarters door, raised his hand to key in the code.

Except this wasn’t his door.

Anakin’s groan was much too loud for a residential hallway in the middle of the night, but he couldn’t help it, staring in defeat at Obi Wan’s door that his obviously sleep-deprived legs had so traitorously walked him to.

No, Anakin was not going to bother his Master— his former Master —about this, not now at a ridiculous hour in the morning, and not ever.

Anakin was a Knight now. He could solve his own problems.

His completely sleep-deprived brain brought up the images of a recent battle in response.

Anakin had caught the bad end of an explosion and been flung through the air. His saber had been lost, and laying dazed and wounded in a smoking crater, had been unable to keep the enemy droids from dragging him off back to their commander. Forced to kneel in front of an entire firing squad of them, he had been thinking that he was going to die in the most humiliating way possible.

Then Obi Wan had happened.

The only sound to signal his arrival was that of waves of droids being felled at the back, getting closer and closer until out he came, soaring over the last row in a halo of blue. Obi Wan twirled the two cerulean blades in almost a dance as he cut his way through the droids, the light casting an ethereal sheen over his entire figure. The two sabers flicked out around him so quickly, to Anakin’s half-dead eyes it almost seemed like his Master had wings.

Then his master had stopped in front of him and he wasn’t an angel anymore, he was Obi Wan, and his eyes were very wide and very worried, but he still gave Anakin a crooked smile along with Anakin’s missing saber.

“I found this, I believe it’s yours?”

Anakin glowered at the door. Why hadn’t his Master taught him how to do that?

Obi Wan could teach Ahsoka...

Anakin shook his head. No. By virtue of the two of them working together in the field as The Team so often, Obi Wan was already much more involved in the training of Anakin’s apprentice than the typical grandmaster. Still, Anakin was not his Padawan anymore. He was just as good as Obi Wan now, he was a Knight and a General and perfectly capable of handling his own life and his own apprentice.

If anything, letting Obi Wan teach Ahsoka would probably open the door to him trying to micromanage even more of Anakin’s life if he found Anakin was that incompetent.

Anakin recalled his last meeting with the Council, where Obi Wan had spoken up in support of him, saying that he trusted Anakin to get the job well, how warm the weight of those words had made him feel. Anakin needed to keep that trust.

Resolving himself, Anakin walked away.

He didn’t need Obi Wan. He didn’t need anyone.

He could do this.

* * *
The afternoon of that very same day found Anakin lurking behind a pillar in the Temple hallway that he knew Obi Wan would be walking through after finishing up a class he had been covering for another Master who had been called out.

Anakin was not, for the record, being creepy.

He wanted to have a conversation with his Master who he hadn’t seen in a while, that was all. A regular, normal conversation. No other reason.

Ah. There he was. And he was alone, perfect.

“Obi Wan!”

Obi Wan didn’t even startle at Anakin suddenly materializing from behind the pillar, simply leaning backwards slightly with a surprised blink. “Oh. Hello, Anakin.”

Alright, now what? Anakin rocked back on his heels awkwardly, having gotten his Master’s attention but not quite knowing what to do with it.

Liar. You know what you want to ask him.

Anakin told himself to shut up. Obi Wan was still standing in front of him, offering him a curious smile, radiating that unique calmness like the breeze off a lake that always managed to make Anakin feel just a bit warmer inside.

“So…” Anakin broke the silence. “How was your day?” There. That was a casual question for a casual conversation.

Grey eyes narrowed and no, bad idea, bad idea, Obi Wan knew Anakin, knew something was up—

“My day’s been fine, thank you,” Obi Wan said slowly, and Anakin was not going to fidget under his stare and admit guilt. “I finished covering a class for the Initiates, which was a nice change, and now I was going to head to the archives to do some personal research—“

“Right, okay, you’re busy, sorry.” Anakin started to back away. He shouldn’t be bothering Obi Wan with meaningless chatter anyway, he obviously had things to do. “I won’t keep you from your—“

A hand caught him lightly around the metal wrist. “Actually, if you would let me finish, I was saying that I can no longer do the planned research because Master Nu informed me today that she wouldn’t have what I needed ready for another couple of days,” Obi Wan told him. “Now I find my afternoon rather open. Did you want to talk to me about something?”

It was obvious that Anakin very much wanted to talk about something, and even more so that Obi Wan had already guessed this, which wasn’t really fair at all.

“Not exactly,” Anakin blurted out. “I mean, it’s always nice to talk to you, but it’s not like there’s anything really important to talk about right now, so—“

“Do you want to go for a walk?” Obi Wan suggested, still giving Anakin that searching look that Anakin knew meant his old Master thought he was being weird and was trying to figure him out. Too bad for him, there was nothing in Anakin that needed figuring out. Nothing except—

“Yeah, a walk sounds great,” Anakin agreed. “The weather is nice today.”

He was fairly certain today fell on one of Coruscant’s rain cycles.

Obi Wan laughed. “I’m sure it is. Shall we?”

“What, now?” Shit, now he was getting one of the patented eyebrow raises. “I mean, yeah, now works good. Let’s go.”

Anakin more than expected Obi Wan to pounce on what was clearly bothering him right away, but instead found them aimlessly wandering through the Temple for a lengthy period of time, and Ahsoka hadn’t even come up. He had forgotten just how easy it was to talk to his Master sometimes, the way they were able to bounce off the other’s jokes, the gentle teasing, the genuine questions as Obi Wan actually paid attention to Anakin’s blathering about mechanics, and his light amusement when Anakin tried in vain to keep up with Obi Wan’s theories about the difference in grammatical conjunctions between two obscure Outer Rim linguistic dialects.

They had ended up in the Room of a Thousand Fountains, staring at the dancing spray of one of the water plumes when Anakin was describing a common ignition issue in the new standard Aethersprites that he’d already dealt with twice.

“Until they can get the problem fixed on the production line, there’s no telling when it could happen again, so I should probably show you and Snips how to fix it before it happens to either of you.”

“I’d be happy to learn, and I’m sure Ahsoka would be too. How is her training going, by the way? You mentioned a couple of days ago she had an assessment coming up, and Master Yoda told me yesterday that he was impressed.”

A jolt tore through Anakin, chasing away all the newfound calm. “Oh, he did?” Dammit, why was his voice so high? “That’s good, that’s good. Yeah, she did fine.”

Obi Wan was definitely staring at him now and Anakin was stubbornly not meeting his eyes, focusing on the roar of the waterfall and trying to let it drown out the roar in his head. “Did— did Yoda say anything else to you?”

“Not really,” Obi Wan said.

“Alright,” Anakin said.

After another period of silence, Obi Wan took a seat on the mist-stained ground. “Can we stop here for a moment? I like the ambiance.”

Anakin plopped down next to him. “Sure, no problem.” Just focus on the water.

Obi Wan still wasn’t saying anything.

The rushing of water and the soothing balm of the presence next to him wasn’t doing Anakin any good either, he still felt ready to vibrate out of his own skin. His hand was aching again and he couldn’t focus on anything but his own thoughts.

The words were bubbling up inside him, and before he exploded, he found himself saying, “Yoda thinks Ahsoka should learn Jar’Kai.”

He expected a reaction from Obi Wan, surprise, or more awfully, laughter or scorn. Instead, he just heard a neutral hum from beside him. “Jar’Kai? I could see that.”

Anakin winced.

“You’re her Master though. What do you think?”

Anakin whipped around to stare at Obi Wan, but he wasn’t even being looked at in return. Obi Wan was focused intently on the waterfall, silvery eyes holding the current within them.

“I,” Anakin hesitated. “I don’t know what I think about it. I asked Ahsoka about it and she was all for it, but I’m worried she could get hurt.”

“Yes, well, teaching them how not to get hurt is part of the training process,” Obi Wan teased, and Anakin felt the words stick under his skin like a burn.

“Well I can’t teach her that,” Anakin spit, earning himself a disapproving look from Obi Wan for the harshness. He felt something inside him wilt at the disappointment. Fine, let him know the full truth. It wasn’t like Obi Wan hadn’t seen Anakin screw up before. Anakin waved his gloved hand in Obi Wan’s face. “Last time I tried Jar’Kai, this happened. I am literally the worst example for someone wanting to learn.”

He couldn’t read the emotions off of Obi Wan’s face as he was stared at again, his Master’s eyes traveling down to fix on his glove, and Anakin resisted the urge to hide it behind his back and out of sight.

“I see,” Obi Wan murmured, still looking way too calm for the situation.

“No, no you don’t,” Anakin retorted. “I agree with Yoda, damn it, I think Ahsoka would be great at Jar’Kai, but I feel that if I try and teach her she’s just going to end up losing a hand like I did or worse!”

Anakin swore he saw the flash of a wince from Obi Wan when he mentioned losing his hand, but just as quickly his Master’s face was smoothing back into one of earnest concern. There was care brimming in his eyes when he looked at Anakin, and Anakin couldn’t bear to see it. “Anakin, you know it wasn’t your fault—“ Obi Wan began.

Anakin laughed over him. “Please, Master, don’t start with that poodoo. I wasn’t good enough to go after Dooku, you knew it, you told me not to. I tried anyway and it is my own fault for failing—”

“It was an accident!” Obi Wan exclaimed. “Even master swordsmen can have accidents, it’s not pleasant but they happen! One accident doesn’t reflect on your entire—”

“An accident caused by my mistake,” Anakin retorted, holding up a hand when Obi Wan opened his mouth to reply. “Look, Master, I didn’t want to argue. I had something else to say.”

Obi Wan exhaled sharply, pinching the bridge of his nose. “You’re infuriating sometimes, you know that?”

“It’s a gift,” Anakin told him humorlessly. “Look, I’ll just let Ahsoka down if I try and teach her now, but if I don’t teach her at all I’ll be letting her down in the future by preventing her from being the best she can. If Jar’Kai is what she needs, then she has to learn it, and I won’t get in her way.”

“I’m not following where you’re headed, Anakin."

Anakin shifted uncomfortably in his seat, not enjoying being pressured to spit the question out. This hadn't been a good idea to begin with, he really should go now...

Obi Wan didn't stop pushing. "Is there something wrong in particular that you're thinking about—"

"You're good at Jar'Kai," Anakin burst out, and Obi Wan did look startled now.

"Thank you," Obi Wan began slowly, looking expectantly at Anakin for further clarification and damn him, Anakin was trying.

"You're not Ahsoka's Master, I am, so you can't teach her, but you can help me," Anakin informed him. Blast, Obi Wan's brow was still furrowed, and Anakin wasn't sure how to make exactly what he wanted come across.

"Help you... teach Ahsoka?" Obi Wan clarified.

Anakin was glad he was sitting down and couldn't physically stomp his foot like a child. "No, that's my job, I told you. I meant teach me." Now Obi Wan's eyebrows were shooting up into his hairline, and Anakin was ready to pull his own hair out. "No, no, not teach me, I'm a Knight, you're done with that, I just meant—"

"Would you like to take a couple nights and practice your Jar'Kai just to freshen up before you try to show it to Ahsoka?" Obi Wan asked him evenly, and Anakin felt himself deflate in relief because yes, there it was.

"I just want to make sure I won't be doing anything wrong," Anakin explained. "Not that I'm too worried or anything, but if there were any, any issues, you would..." Anakin stumbled over his words. "You might know just a bit more than me on this one."

Dry humor curled around Obi Wan's words. "Wow. That seemed painful for you."

Anakin glared at him. "If you're not going to take this seriously—"

"Of course I'll come help you, Anakin," Obi Wan told him, and while Anakin could still sense amusement from him, he could tell his Master was being honest.

"Cool," Anakin told him. "Thanks a lot, I didn't want to bother you, but—"

"On one condition," Obi Wan interrupted him, and Anakin bristled uneasily. Conditions?

"Just so I'm clear, you are asking me to come watch you do Jar'Kai and see if you need improvement, correct?" Obi Wan asked him, and Anakin felt like he was being asked a trick question. "Isn't that what I just said?"

"Making sure," Obi Wan replied. "Then in that case, my condition is that you actually let me help you improve."

Anakin frowned. "What's that supposed to mean."

Obi Wan's eyes narrowed. "It means that I'm not your Master anymore. I'm doing this because I want to, because you asked."

Anakin flinched at the words. "Right. Understood. Your point?"

"My point is," Obi Wan went on. "I think I've trained with you long enough to know you, and my condition is that I am not snapped at whenever I do what you asked me to do and offer advice."

"Why would you be snapped at?" Anakin asked, bewildered.

Obi Wan's eyes glittered. "Look me in the eye and tell me you don't have a habit of biting someone's head off when given criticism."

Anakin shot up. "I do not!" Obi Wan's eyes closed, and Anakin realized just how loud he had said that, others walking nearby turning heads in their direction. Feeling his cheeks heat, Anakin ducked his head, lowering his voice. "I don't! Not unless it's unwarranted," he hissed.

"I don't wish to argue with you over this, Anakin," Obi Wan told him tiredly. "I've named my terms. Do you accept?"

"Yeah, sure, whatever, I'll be nice," Anakin grumbled, mollified. "You'll only say anything if I'm really messing up, right?"

"I'll tell you if I have any input," Obi Wan responded, rising to his feet and dodging Anakin's question at the same time. "How about I message you later, find a place to meet tonight if that's alright with you?"

Tonight? That was soon. "Don't we have some time?" Anakin asked him. "The 501st's stuck planetside until we can get the necessary ship repairs and those won't be done for a while, and I thought you were here until at least another Council member is back from the field."

"Do you not want Ahsoka to begin as soon as possible?" Obi Wan countered, and Anakin gnashed his teeth. Of course he did, Ahsoka was his Padawan.

"Yes, but—" Anakin cut himself off, not wanting to fight it. "Never mind. I'll see you tonight?"

Obi Wan bowed to him slightly. "Until then." He brushed past Anakin and down the path, Anakin watching him go.

His mechano-hand was still aching slightly, but his flesh hand felt clammy. It must be the mist from the fountains, he decided, looking back up at the spray.

* * *
That night, Anakin snagged a sandwich from the Temple commissary and ate it on his way down to the room he and Obi Wan had agreed on. He had decided to get there about twenty minutes early, allowing himself time to warm up and clear his head— plus, that way Obi Wan couldn’t go after him for being late.

Of karking course when Anakin arrived, there was Obi Wan already twirling around with a practice saber, having waited patiently for however long before Anakin had shown up.

“I thought we weren’t starting for another twenty minutes,” Anakin told him by way of greeting.

“We weren’t, you’re fine. I just went to check and see if the room was open yet and figured I might as well wait here,” Obi Wan replied.

I was planning on doing the same thing, Anakin thought mutinously, extending a hand out to catch the practice saber Obi Wan tossed at him. “We haven’t used these in years,” he commented.

“Since we’re doing something a little different from our usual song and dance, I thought it might be best if we didn’t use real sabers just yet. We both only have one and pairing them with a practice saber sounds to me like a recipe for imbalance. Better to start with two practice blades.”

“Yeah, we wouldn’t want anyone losing a limb, right?”

”Anakin.”

“Sorry, sorry, I was kidding, I swear.”

Obi Wan was still glaring at him so Anakin held his arms up in surrender. “I’ll be nice, I promised, remember?”

Obi Wan sighed, muttering something that sounded like “There are promises and then there are miracles”, but his lips were curled in a slight smile and Anakin sensed no true irritation from him.

Good. It would be just like Anakin to sabotage this thing they were trying before it even began.

Obi Wan stepped away from him, igniting his practice blade. “Why don’t we go a round in our typical styles first, warm ourselves up?”

Anakin nodded, appreciating how Obi Wan was phrasing everything as suggestions and opinion rather than just taking total control of the training session like a Master would do with an apprentice. Given, that had never really been Obi Wan’s style even while he was Anakin’s Master, but it still settled some of the unease that drifted through Anakin’s thoughts.

He decided to stop worrying for the moment and lunge without warning at Obi Wan, enjoying his Master’s indignant sputter as he dodged out of the way of Anakin’s swing. “A little warning, perhaps?”

“A Jedi must always be aware in the Force,” Anakin intoned mockingly as he whirled around to counter Obi Wan’s parry with a thrust of his own.

Obi Wan tsked “Cheek,” dancing out of Anakin’s range before striking back in again so quickly Anakin had to do an inelegant side twist to avoid the hit.

Anakin felt a wild laugh escape him, baring his teeth in a grin and darting forward to meet Obi Wan once more.

This was just what he needed, Anakin thought as he fought. No one challenged him quite like Obi Wan did anymore— he fully expected Ahsoka to do so one day, but she wasn’t there yet —so he always savored the times when it was just him and his Master and the clash of plasma, sweat running down his neck and Obi Wan’s bright eyes and nothing else in the universe he needed to worry about right now besides his breathing and his next move.

So it was when Obi Wan called a draw, Anakin found his mind clearer, his blood buzzing, and their Bond shimmering merrily— until Obi Wan started walking towards the practice sabers and reality crashed back down. He shook out his cybernetic as it gave another twinge of pain. He really did need to fine-tune it.

It only got worse from there when Obi Wan handed Anakin a second saber and said, “Let’s start by running through the basic forms.”

Anakin snorted. “Very funny.” Obi Wan’s face didn’t change. “Wait, seriously? Obi Wan, I’m not an Initiate.” Does he actually think I’m that bad at it?

Obi Wan’s tone brooked no argument. “I’m fully aware of that. However, it’s impossible to perfect a more advanced version of anything if there’s something wrong with the basics.”

“Is there something wrong in particular that you expect to find?” Anakin challenged, trying to keep a lid on his temper. He had promised Obi WAn he wouldn’t give him a hard time, but that was on the explicit condition his former Master didn’t try to treat him like a kid!

Obi Wan’s eyes flashed. “I would hope not. Care to prove it to me?”

Anakin grit his teeth but stalked to the center of the mat. “Fine.” The sooner he got this part over with, the sooner they’d get to what Anakin actually needed to know.

Obi Wan followed and took up a position next to him. “I’ll do it with you.”

Anakin grunted at him in response.

He could hear the familiar huff of breath through his nose that Obi Wan did whenever Anakin tended to push his buttons, but his Master only waited a heartbeat before saying, “Ready? Begin.”

Anakin made his way through the form motions with the robotic instinct drilled into every youngling at the Temple, tempted to half-ass it out of spite but ultimately choosing to keep his motions perfectly sharp upon seeing Obi Wan’s flawless movements and not wanting a scolding for slacking on top of everything else.

The movements were a bit different with two sabers, but nothing too difficult, and Anakin was already rearing to move onward after the second count of eight. Obi Wan, on the other hand, seemed in no such hurry, counting quietly to himself as he led them through the forms again and again until Anakin had lost count.

Finally, Obi Wan stopped them, extinguishing his sabers and turning to face Anakin. Anakin offered him a quirked brow, expecting to hear Obi Wan say they were going to do something else. Hopefully this would be a bit more complicated.

Instead, Obi Wan cocked his head and said, “A couple of things you did stood out to me.”

Anakin couldn’t help it. “Already?” he blurted, wincing as Obi Wan’s disapproving stare returned.

Obi Wan sighed. “I thought we agreed that part of helping you meant—“

“No, listen! I promise I am not trying to be difficult on purpose. It’s just—“ Anakin floundered, words escaping him. “We were doing the basics. How did I possibly mess up that badly that quickly?”

“Where did I say you messed up badly?” Obi Wan countered. “I never said anything of the sort, Anakin, I was only trying—“

“You didn’t say it but it was implied! It wasn’t perfect enough for you—“

“Of course it wasn’t perfect—“

“See!”

“Because no one is perfect! Stars above, Anakin, I did not think you did badly, you did fine! There were simply a couple of suggestions I had that could make things easier for you and help you become even better!”

Anakin stared furiously at his feet, wishing he could kick himself. What was he thinking, even trying to improve for Ahsoka, he couldn’t even get the basics down without screwing them up? No wonder Dooku had gotten him so easily—

“Well?” Obi Wan’s testy voice broke through Anakin’s thoughts. “Do you want to hear what I have to say? That is why you asked me here, correct?”

Anakin sighed. “Fine. What was it?” It was clear Obi Wan was jumping to point out what he had done wrong, he might as well let him.

Obi Wan’s lips thinned into a line, but he didn’t speak. He moved forward, placing light hands on Anakin’s shoulders and shifting him around. “Could you show me the first position?”

Anakin reluctantly obliged, and then his Master’s soft voice was in his ear, tapping fleetingly on his hip to get him to shift around, gently pressing on his back, guiding his right elbow up and his left elbow out, pointing out little things that Anakin could do if he wanted to maximize his speed or his strength or such and such.

Eventually, Obi Wan took a step back and flicked his eyes over Anakin once. He nodded and said, “Alright, now the second if you don’t mind?”

They worked through the other positions the same way, Obi Wan talking through how Anakin could improve without directly insulting anything until they had completed the last one to his satisfaction.

Obi Wan clapped his hands. “Now can we try running through them all again?”

Anakin had stopped caring about five positions ago. “Fine by me.”

He was given another long look at that before Obi Wan slipped back to his side, readying his own sabers and signaling to begin.

They repeated the steps for what felt like forever before Obi Wan halted them, this time for the night. He gave Anakin a grin. “Well done. We‘ll move on tomorrow?”

The crumb of praise barely did anything for Anakin, and he shrugged. “Great. See you then.”

Obi Wan squeezed him lightly on the shoulder with another meaningful glance before walking off. “Goodnight, Anakin.”

“Night,” Anakin called after him, once more finding himself alone in a practice room with his hand hurting. Obi Wan seemed positive, but to Anakin it didn’t feel like anything had changed at all.

* * *
The next day wasn’t much better. Anakin trained with Ahsoka in the daytime, single sabers in the form she was currently doing the best in, but it didn’t take much to realize from her face that the thought of Jar’Kai was still on her mind. She didn’t bring it up, which Anakin was infinitely grateful for, but he still regretted telling her about it in the first place. She deserved better than to get her hopes up.

That night, Obi Wan had Anakin going through the basics once again. Thankfully, he seemed content with Anakin’s performance after the first couple of times, and he also seemed to sense Anakin trying not to vibrate out of his own skin, so they moved on to one-on-one combat.

Anakin was ready to move and ready to prove himself, so he again struck first, throwing everything he had into the fight, only to end up on his knees with Obi Wan’s sabers at his throat in no time at all. He glared upwards, expecting to see some sort of triumph or disappointment on Obi Wan’s face, but his Master’s expression was as neutral as ever and Anakin hated it even more.

“I have some comments,” Obi Wan said, because of kriffing course he did.

* * *
The rest of the week went much the same. Obi Wan would routinely kick Anakin’s ass. Sometimes he’d hold out longer than others, but he never won. Then Obi Wan would tell Anakin he was doing well and Anakin would refrain from calling him a damn liar, and could he please stop treating Anakin like some fragile, bumbling Padawan?

It all came to a head a week after they started; Anakin was on the defensive and trying not to let Obi Wan knock either of his blades out of his hands.

Obi Wan came at him and Anakin readied his blades, but then Obi Wan feinted left when Anakin wasn’t expecting it and neither of Anakin’s sabers were where they needed to be, and Anakin was not getting knocked on the karking ground again, so he panicked, dropped a saber, and threw a wild punch.

Obi Wan’s head snapped sideways and Anakin watched in horror as he went sprawling to the mat. “Shit! Master— Obi Wan, I am so incredibly sorry; I know what it looks like but you have to believe that wasn’t—“

“It’s alright, Anakin, you only partially connected,” Obi Wan told him quietly, sitting on the ground with one hand over his eye. “I’ve certainly had worse.”

“I didn’t mean to,” Anakin said miserably, fingers on the guilty hand twitching agitatedly— and sithspit, he had caught Obi Wan with the metal one, Force, he was an asshole.

Obi Wan didn’t say anything, just took his hand off his face to reveal a red blotch blooming on his cheekbone under his eye and stared at Anakin wearily. “This isn’t working,” he said.

Anakin’s stomach dropped. Of course it wasn’t. This whole idea had been stupid, Anakin was missing a hand for a reason, and the past week must have been a sign from the Force telling him not to try and get a fourteen year old maimed the same way.

He waited for Obi Wan to say it himself, but his Master’s face into what looked like frustration. “Hang on, Anakin, what I mean is that—“ Obi Wan blew a strand of hair out of his eyes. “Blast. Could you sit here with me for a moment?”

Unable to say no, Anakin sat down next to Obi Wan, who apparently wanted to discuss this with him. “Can you let me heal your cheek?”

“Don’t ignore me,” Obi Wan warned with a huff, but he leaned forward and acquiesced to Anakin’s flesh hand tracing cautious fingers across his cheek without flinching.

Anakin focused on gathering the Force and directing it at the angry spot on Obi Wan’s face, hoping to fix something instead of breaking it for once, but as he poured cool Force energy over the spot, Obi Wan spoke up.

“You’re being far too hard on yourself, you’re letting it get to your head, and it’s distracting you,” Obi Wan murmured through motionless lips so he didn’t disrupt Anakin’s hand.

Anakin growled, trying to latch onto the peace his Master was still managing to project as he struggled not to let the energy he was working with dissipate. “I need to be hard on myself,” he said. “How am I supposed to let Ahsoka go into danger with the training of an incompetent teacher?”

Obi Wan didn’t answer him for a moment.

Anakin jolted and almost lost focus completely when Obi Wan gathered his prosthetic hand in his own. “Then by your logic, this,” Obi Wan held Anakin’s hand up, “is my fault.”

Anakin reeled back in shock, taking both of his hands from Obi Wan. He had healed the bruised cheek the best he could. “What the hells are you talking about? No it isn’t!”

Obi Wan stared at him calmly. “I believe you were telling me that any injury to the apprentice is automatically a failure on the Master’s part for not preparing them. I must have failed you for you to lose your hand like that.”

“That— that is completely different!” Anakin stammered. “You taught me perfectly, I already knew all the things you taught me, I was just an idiot and did it wrong myself and Dooku got me for it. Ahsoka still has so much to learn from me, I could impede her entire combat ability forever if I show her the wrong thing now!”

“I could have made a mistake earlier in your training and it just never manifested until your duel with Dooku,” Obi Wan pointed out. “I see no difference.”

“But you didn’t and it is!” Anakin protested. How could Obi Wan even think to use that in an argument— “Wait. Don’t tell me you actually think that, Master.”

Obi Wan wouldn’t meet his eyes.

“Obi Wan!”

“It is a common fear once you have a Padawan, that because you are the one training them, they will make every mistake you ever did,” Obi Wan responded, still not quite looking at Anakin as he spoke. “If they get hurt, you’ll always blame yourself for some unknown flaw— or a known one —you must have had and passed on to them. I can tell you right now that that fear will never go away. You will always worry about her, even when she proves she can take care of herself. I know because of course I still worry about you, and now I worry for her too. We’re supposed to look out for each other.”

Anakin tried to protest again, but Obi Wan continued, holding on to Anakin’s hand the entire time. “What you need to remember, Anakin, is that we cannot project onto them, as much as we may want to— and trust me, I am aware that it’s difficult.” There was a side eye at this, daring Anakin to argue with him.

“They are their own people, which means they aren’t guaranteed to make our mistakes. We may be teaching them, but all we can truly do is guide them the best we can, try and catch them if they fall and help them get back up again, and ultimately stand back and watch as they figure themselves out on their own, even if it may be painful to watch sometimes. I promise you that in the end, you're going to like the outcome.”

“How painful was I?” Anakin couldn’t resist asking, and Obi Wan swatted him on the shoulder with a scoff. “No, seriously,” Anakin persisted. “Are you only helping me with Jar’Kai now to try and fix what you think was your mistake in the first place?”

The next swat on the shoulder hurt a little, and Anakin found himself treated to a truly impressive eyeroll. “Honestly, Anakin. I am helping you because you are my friend. No ulterior motives needed.”

Anakin froze. “What.”

We’re friends? I’m his friend? The logical part of him knew that Obi Wan had to be hanging around him after his Knighthood for some reason after all, but then the other part had always figured Obi Wan still only saw Anakin as his apprentice and was merely tolerating Anakin’s own clinginess.

Rather than respond, Obi Wan gave him a wry smile before getting back to his feet. “I still intend to help you, if you’ll give yourself a chance. Not for Ahsoka. For you.”

Still scrambling to get over the “friend” comment, Anakin’s brain struggled to put things together. No matter what Obi Wan said— and Anakin was ninety percent certain that included an admission that Obi Wan liked how he had turned out as a person, maybe the strangest compliment he’d gotten, but he was going to take it, dammit —Anakin wasn’t going to ever stop worrying over Ahsoka having a dark future created by his foolish actions.

He could admit, though, that maybe his Master had a point that self-pity wasn’t going to help Anakin or Ahsoka. If he wanted to be of any use to her— and he would be —he was going to need to figure out how to get over himself.

Obi Wan was still peering down at Anakin, eyebrow raised. “Or, you can give it up if that’s what you truly want. I’d be more than happy to show Ahsoka some Jar’Kai myself.”

Anakin bit back his immediate ”No! at the sparkle of mischief in Obi Wan’s eyes. “Okay, I get the point,” he grumbled, standing back up. He needed to start improving, both for his own sanity as well as the alternative being the indignity of admitting Obi Wan would forever be better at something than him.

“Wonderful.” Obi Wan gave him another smile and this time Anakin let himself think that perhaps his friend wasn’t lying. “Don’t hate me, but do you think you could show me the basic forms again? I’d like to try something.”

Anakin held off the surge of annoyance at Obi Wan’s hopeful expression. “Of course, o wise one,” he drawled, earning himself a sharp mental poke through the bond as he reassumed the position. Before he could begin, Obi Wan was already stepping forward and taking both of his hands.

“Try holding your sabers in a reverse-grip,” Obi Wan suggested, eyes examining the sabers in Anakin’s hands calculatingly. “It’s a rather odd way to think about, but I find it works better for me most of the time.”

Obi Wan was right, that did sound strange, but it wasn’t like anything else was working. Anakin flipped the shoto around in his hand, readjusting his grip and on Obi Wan’s nod, went through the eight forms again.

For the first time all week, something in him felt... right.

Upon finishing, Anakin turned to his Master, who was stroking his beard and watching him closely. “So?”

Obi Wan’s grin peeked out over his hand. “That’s more like it.”

* * *
Slowly but surely, things improved. The night meetings started ending less in disappointment and bruises for Anakin and more ties (and still a few bruises). Ahsoka seemed to have forgotten about Jar’Kai for the moment being, and Anakin wasn’t going to bring it up again just quite yet. Not until he was ready.

Every night his hand hurt a little less. Every night he felt himself moving faster. Every night he felt himself finding more of that synch with Obi Wan they were able to achieve during a fight. Every night, Anakin thought less and less of the fight with Dooku and more and more of what it would be like to go through all of this with Ahsoka.

His muscles were on fire constantly from the regular exertion, and training in the evening made going to Padmé’s for the night even riskier than usual— as well as more anticlimactic as some nights he was barely able to do more than slip through the front door, kiss his wife hello, then crash worn out on the bed until Padmé was poking at him and chiding gently about sweat all over the clean sheets.

About a month into their training, Anakin’s ship was done with repairs and the 501st was sent out to the Mid-Rim for a campaign that was estimated to take around two weeks.

The night before he left, Anakin finally managed to tally up more wins than loses for the night by the time of their last skirmish— he was proud to say they were back up to full speed against one another.

“When I’m back, I’ll beat you again. You better not let the Council put you anywhere when I do,” he told his friend as he helped him off the floor.

Obi Wan knocked his saber hilt against Anakin’s head before he could duck away. “If you say so.”

Anakin had made a commitment now, and he sure as hells wasn’t going to eat his words, so all through hyperspace and whenever he had a free moment during the assignment, he was practicing in his quarters, in the ship rec room, wherever he could. Some clones walked in on him looking undoubtedly strange a few times, but to his knowledge, Ahsoka herself was still in the dark.

Based on her not-entirely-innocent questions recently and knowing how perceptive she was, Anakin had the feeling Ahsoka suspected he was up to something, but as long as she didn’t know what that something was, he could still surprise her.

Anakin’s energy poured into all aspects of his life, and the two week campaign turned into a week and a half. Had he perhaps not played everything strictly by the rules? Maybe so, but what the Council wasn’t there to know couldn’t hurt him.

Obi Wan was there, he was pleased to find out when he returned to the Temple, and when Anakin sent a message asking if he wanted to spar again that night, Obi Wan replied saying that he had already been planning on practicing in the training hall that afternoon, did Anakin want to join him?

Anakin was aware of the eyes on him as he entered the room and caught Obi Wan’s attention; for some reason, their practice sessions tended to draw a crowd more often than not. Anakin wasn’t too concerned with crowds today, more focused on the challenging gleam in Obi Wan’s eyes as Anakin offered him a second saber.

The both of them now properly armed, Anakin stepped back and raised his twin sabers. “Ready?”

Obi Wan held up his own. “Begin.” He had hardly finished the word before he was moving right for Anakin.

“Hey!” Anakin laughed, catching his strike and pushing him back. “That’s my thing!”

“Testing your awareness,” Obi Wan chirped back, spinning away from him.

This match was their longest yet. While most saber duels tended to be short and punctuated with calculated specific movements, knowing each other like they did meant Obi Wan’s and Anakin’s took a while longer until someone slipped up or gained the advantage.

Anakin was not going to lose this fight, but Obi Wan had no intentions on making it easy for him. Sure enough, people had started showing up on the sidelines to watch them, and Anakin nearly let Obi Wan win as he sensed out Ahsoka’s surprised presence among them.

She’s here! I have to finish this now!

Deciding to go risky, Anakin waited for the opportunity then ducked underneath Obi Wan’s next assault, catching the insides of his sabers with his own and twisting them out of the way, leaving him an opening to kick Obi Wan backwards. Obi Wan went down and didn’t have time to get back up before Anakin’s sabers we’re crossed at his throat.

“Huh. It appears I yield,” Obi Wan said pleasantly, annoyingly sounding not in the least bit out of breath like Anakin felt.

Excited murmurings from the group of people on the edge of the mat loudened as Anakin helped Obi Wan back up, and Obi Wan shared a look and an amused snort with Anakin before addressing the crowd and fondly shooing them away.

“Wait up a second, Ahsoka,” Anakin called as he spotted his Padawan’s montrails turning to leave. Ahsoka paused, looking back at him uncertainly and Anakin grinned, beckoning her over to the mat.

Obi Wan bumped his shoulder as he came up to his side, murmuring, “Good luck,” to him before moving off the mats himself, pausing for a brief friendly exchange with Ahsoka as he passed her.

Anakin stared after him, projecting his strongest sense of gratitude he could over their Bond. Thank you, Master. For all of this.

Ahsoka stopped in front of Anakin, staring up at him expectantly. “Nice job, Skyguy. That was pretty cool.” Anakin listened for the bitterness in her voice over their previous argument, but there was none to be found in her words or her mind. She was genuinely happy.

Force, Anakin had the best apprentice.

“I’m glad you liked it,” Anakin told her, trying not to let his nerves show through. “Do you want to try?”

A sunny grin split Ahsoka’s face. “Really? You mean it?”

“I mean it,” Anakin promised her, gesturing to Obi Wan’s discarded practice sabers. “You want to start now?”

Ahsoka dove for the sabers instantly. “Yes! Yes I do, thank you so so much, Master!” She paused, looking hesitantly up from the sabers to Anakin. “You... you really think I can do it?”

Anakin looked into those earnest blue eyes and mentally kicked himself for ever troubling them like that. “Of course you can do it,” Anakin told her honestly. “As long as you listen to me and make sure to take every precaution to keep yourself safe, you shouldn’t have a problem.”

“I’ll work on it, you can trust me,” Ahsoka vowed, running her fingers over the two blades reverently.

“I know,” Anakin told her, and he meant it. He took a heartbeat to steady himself before clearing his throat. “Alright. Let’s start by seeing you go through all the basic form movements with the two sabers.”

Obi Wan would not know about this.

He braced himself for argument, but Ahsoka obediently moved right into the beginnings of the first position and stang, he really did have the best apprentice. Smiling to himself, Anakin moved back to observe. “I’ll count you through them. Ready, go.”

Ahsoka didn’t even get past the fourth position on the first round before Anakin called out, “Okay, I’m going to stop you right there.”

Ahsoka froze, the beginnings of an apology obviously on her tongue, but Anakin waved her away. “No, you’re not in trouble, you did fine, but I already noticed something you could do to make those moves easier on yourself.”

The trust in Ahsoka’s eyes as she nodded was absolute, and Anakin was not going to let her down.

He probably wouldn’t give her the full story of how exactly he lost his hand for a while, though.

“Have you ever heard of a reverse grip?”