It was not often that Obi-Wan was recalled from the field to return to the Temple for ‘an emergency’. And by often he meant ‘never’. There had been times when an unexpected revelation or occurrence changed the parameters of his mission or a more serious situation arose that demanded his immediate attention but nothing quite like this. It was concerning to be recalled so urgently and yet not be told anything of the reason. Master Yoda had given an impression of being almost...wary over the holocall, voice pitched lower and words spoken a little slower, most of his attention not on Obi-Wan but on something, or someone, he couldn’t see.
It was hard for him to imagine anything this urgent that required him specifically. Try as he might he could think of nothing he could do that another more experienced and skilled jedi could not, and there was certainly no shortage in supply of those. No matter how people liked to harp on his ‘people skills’, he was hardly the only person around who could sway others to his side with his words or the best at applying a light force touch. He was a practiced duelist, yes, but again not the best, for all that it was likely he was being recalled for something related to combat. He was a Guide, and one of the few Five-Point Guides at that, but his skills were rarely called on because of his alpha nature.
It was not rare, exactly, for Guides to be alphas, though certainly it was usually omegas and betas who swayed that way, but it did make him something of an oddity among his peers, as did the high marks in the Five Points. As a five-pointer he had more aspects of his empathy that he could manipulate than most, but it mattered little when most Sentinels instinctively fought against him. It was hard for alphas to push past the territorial part of themselves, being an innate and inborn trait they all possessed to some degree, and that was especially true when it came to allowing another alpha access to their hearts and minds.
The more serious a situation the harder it was for Obi-Wan to get through to an alpha Sentinel; when their higher brains shut down that left only the hurt and angry instinct driven brain to take charge. Alphas in that state were likely to attack on sight, if they’d gone feral, or come out of their Zone violent, or retreat even further in his presence. Training with Master Qui-Gon, a four-sense alpha Sentinel, had done a lot to help him when it came to masking his presence, making his empathic touch lighter, and keeping himself tightly controlled (when he was young and just coming into himself there had been...incidents.) so as not to put other alphas off but all the same unless a situation was near hopeless and required what Master Windu called ‘Delicate overwhelming force’ there were better always Jedi for the job.
Tought, it was possible he had been called to help with a newly presented omega Sentinel. He’d considered that on his hurried return to the Temple and when he landed and was directed directly to the medbay as soon as his boots were on the ground he became more sure of it. He wasn’t even to stop in his quarters or debrief, which was an indicator of how serious whatever was happening must have been.
He considered it more as he walked the, unfortunately, familiar path to the Healing Halls, wondering how likely it was. Omega Sentinels were actually rare, occurring at a quarter of the rate of alpha Guides, and while alpha Sentinels usually came into themselves gradually omegas tended towards their senses trying to come online all at once. It could be overwhelming, especially if they weren’t already set up with a Guide, but that never happened. If an omega Sentinel wasn’t on the path to being pair bonded by their first heat they were reassigned to the Service Corps.
But if, somehow, one needed help and wasn’t yet paired Obi-Wan might be called in. There were other alpha Guides, but maybe they’d needed someone with more than one or two Points controlled or maybe he was the closest unbonded one available. Maybe he just have more experience than those more readily available.
Obi-Wan had only had the dubious pleasure of meeting only two omega Sentinels, Dooku, his former master’s master, and Quinlan Vos, and that had been enough to let him know that if another arrived at the temple he wouldn’t offer himself as a pair bond candidate.
He wasn’t always sure if it was because he doubted his ability to be everything an omega of that nature would need, to become the complete center of another person’s world, or just because he hadn’t been able to let go of his feelings regarding Quinlan, who had decided to bond with his Master Tholme rather than any of the other options available to him, as well as he should
Obi-Wan was unsure of his emotions far more than he liked to admit to, but he was very sure what he felt when he was directed to a private room and found Master Windu and Master Jinn waiting for him was Dread.
It might have shown on his face because Qui-Gon’s smile was wan. Or maybe his former master just knew him that well even now. They hadn’t spoken often in the years since Obi-Wan’s rather forceful promotion to Knight; he had jumped headfirst into his duties and avoided the temple as often as he could and Qui-Gon had moved on to Anakin without a glance back. When they did cross paths there wasn’t much to be said and the air was always...stilted.
Obi-Wan had spent many hours meditating through the tangled knot of emotion his master had left him with, unraveled it as best he could, looked frankly at the roots and then gave it all up to the force, released it like a Jedi should. He’d spoken to the Guides in the healing circle, appreciated their council as well as their ability to help center and purge one's heart and mind, distanced himself, and taken all the steps one should. He’d learned to turn the anger he felt at the mention of Qui-Gon into something quieter and smaller. He’d accepted, with the fading of time, how things had turned out.
But none of that made his stomach not turn over with unease as he approached the waiting men. “Master Windu, Master Jinn.”
Qui-Gon inclined his head in acknowledgement but it was Mace, brows furrowed and expression pinched, who spoce. “Knight Kenobi, thank you for returning to Coruscant as quickly as you did, and accept my apology for the...secrecy of what you were called for.”
Obi-Wan nodded his understanding, keeping his face carefully blank. It would have been rude, after all, to gape in the face of an apology from Mace Windu, even if the only other time he could recall it happening was right he’d become a Knight in the same breath that announced Anakin would become Qui-Gon’s padawan. Windu had taken him aside after, offered genuine congratulations and then said he was sorry.
“This isn’t how your knighting should have happened.” Windu’s eyes were focused on the hall before them but Obi-Wan knew it was he who actually had the man’s attention. “Know the Council would have done things differently, if we could.”
“There’s no need for that.” He said instead then, eyes darting to the closed door the men were flanking, he added lightly. “But I must confess I am curious about what you are guarding and what you need me for.”
Mace looked askance at Qui-Gon. “It’s Skywalker. It would seem Master Jinn has failed to inform the council of certain developments and found himself in a situation he cannot manage on his own.”
“Oh?” Obi-Wan looked at his former master, an image of just what was happening already starting to piece itself together. An image that, unfortunately, painted the picture of a situation he had no issue believing Qui-Gon would get into if he thought the end result was worth it. An image that was a bit concerning, to say the absolute least of the matter.
Qui-Gon’s face changed minutely but Obi-Wan could read the impatience in the lines around his mouth and the set of his jaw as well as he’d been able to a when they'd parted ways. He could also smell, through a nose burningly heavy mask of incense and sweat (his former master was lucky that his sense of smell was the one of the five that wasn’t enhanced) the faintest hint of irritation. Obi-Wan doubted most would be able to pick up on it, but years in the man’s company had made if not an open book then one translated well enough.
“If I had believed the council would accept Anakin knowing what he is I wouldn’t have hidden it.” Qui-Gon spoke with the air of one who had already explained himself many many times, and would prefer to not do so again. “And things were well in hand before the...situation on Raydonia, which even you must concede couldn’t have been foreseen.”
Windu rolled his eyes then pinched the bridge of his nose, a gesture that always came when he was attempting to stay calm. (Obi-Wan went from mildly concerned to ‘officially worried’.) “The ‘situation’ on Raydonia wouldn’t have become this out of control if you had taken care of matters with Skywalker as you should have-”
“I can hardly-”
“You have a responsibility to him, and you have neglected it!” Windu snapped. Obi-Wan slipped right into ‘alarmed’; He looked down the hallway, wondering if stepping away and returning in a few moments would be the best course of action. Qui-Gon stopped short, expression shuttering. “You are aware of the needs of an omega Sentinel and instead of seeing them taken care of, and allowing the Council to know so his needs could be accounted for, you kept the truth to yourself, because you disagree with our practices. Harm has been done and there is a chance it cannot be fixed.”
“What will become of your prophecy if Kenobi is unable to reach Skywalker?” Windu shook his head, deflating some as he fixed dark, tired eyes on Obi-Wan. “Skywalker is a Five-Sense Sentinel. He was injured during a fight on Raydonia and Dropped. Master Jinn was unable to coax him out, as he’s done multiple times in the past.”
Obi-Wan couldn’t stop the sharp look he sent his former master’s way. Qui-Gon was a Sentinel, but his master was a Guide and he’d done quite well training Obi-Wan, so he had little doubt he could serve as an interim guide to someone in an emergency situation. But to do so more than once was a risk: it could cause an unnatural imprint and that would only hurt the imprinting Sentinel because reciprocation was impossible. Beyond that it could damage a Sentinel’s ability to connect to Guides later, as familiarity with non-Guide leading and soothing could make them reject the distinctly different presence of a Guide reaching out to them. And that was just doing so occasionally. If Qui-Gon had been acting as Anakin's Guide, however efficiently he may have done so, it was going to cause problems.
That Anakin was a five-sense Sentinel just compounded the issues. With all five senses acutely attuned to the force and able to be ‘dialed’ up or down at will, five-sense alphas were both an asset and a liability. They needed special handling and leading, because when they became overwhelmed it was harder to bring them out, and the chance of slipping from a surface Zone to a full drop or a coma increased with time. But Anakin had started in a Drop, which meant that all of his senses were out of alignment, and that he was under so much strain he'd disassociated to protect his mind.
The longer a Sentinel was Dropped the higher the chance that there body would shut down, organ by organ, as all energy was diverted to protecting the brain from overload.
Qui-Gon had always been unconventional in his opinions on omegas, pointing at his own master as proof that a pair bond wasn't needed. The system, Qui-Gon believed, was flawed, discriminatory to Omegas, and the allowance for attachment in some, under the guise of unchangeable 'natures' was one of the Order's greatest mistakes. Omegas, and especially omega Sentinels, could exist without a person taking control of them and their lives, and to suggest otherwise was just subscribing to outdated omega oppressive views that the Jedi should have evolved past, his former master had told him more than once. They were only a step or two away from collaring the omega members of their order and was that not just another step from keeping them as slaves? Were Jedi not above that?
Obi-Wan had never had a real opinion on that matter, aside from wishing his master would be less loud about his views in front of the High Council.
“How long has he been under?” Obi-Wan asked, feeling decidedly unnerved at the look the two older men exchanged before answering him.
“Ten days.” Qui-Gon said. Obi-Wan opened his mouth then shut it, words failing him. “Returning to Coruscant took most of the time. I kept him in a forced meditative state-”
Obi-Wan lifted a hand, very certain he didn’t want to hear any more about that, lest he decide to pull up his very first ‘Do and Don’t of being a Guide’ text on a datapad and force his former master to read the very first chapter about how forcing meditation almost always caused more harm than good. He lowered his hand when he was sure nothing else that would put his teeth on edge was forthcoming and, ignoring the amused tilt of Windu’s mouth, rubbed thoughtfully at his beard.
Ten days. That was-
“None of the Guide healers could help?”
“Anakin doesn’t care much for healers.” Qui-Gon said, fond. Obi-Wan’s fingers flexed, curled tight then opened. “He’s blocked all attempts to reach him.”
Obi-Wan processed that, distantly impressed that Anakin could block others out even after so long in a Deep Zone state (but then he was Qui-Gon’s chosen one, so maybe this was to be expected and, honestly, such bitter thoughts were completely unbecoming and unwarranted, why did proximity to Qui-Gon never fail to make him become childish, even if only in his private thoughts), and then set it aside to think about later. Only relevant information for now, his own musings another time. “And you think I can get through to him? I don’t think Anakin and I have exchanged more than a greeting in five years.”
He remembered the boy seeking him out a few times, years ago, but Obi-Wan had...not been as kind as he should have. Even when he’d felt Anakin’s fearlonelynesssadnessrejectionanger tapping against his shields he’d still retreated with little more than a handful of hollow words. He’d turned a blind eye to everything involving his former master, avoiding even the temple gossip when possible.
It had been unfair of Anakin, he knew it now as he’d known it then. Anakin was just a boy, pulled along by Qui-Gon and the will of the force, far from at fault for Obi-Wan’s petty hurt feelings. But for all that he’d been aware he’d never made the strides to correct the behavior in himself as he should have. It was a flaw, one he should have worked hard to purge from himself because Qui-Gon had taught him better than that, but there was nothing to be done about it now.
Windu had the grace to cringe before speaking, telegraphing that Obi-Wan was going to hate whatever he said next. “Anakin needs a five point, alpha Guide to bond with him. A bond will give a path to waking him up and stop an inevitable relapse.”
“And I’m the only unbonded Guide who can match with a five sense Sentinel.”
He hated it.
“You won’t be forced to do so.” Windu said, pensive again. “I don't think we should ask it of you, Skywalker is...a lot to ask any person to take on unprepared. It is very clear that Master Jinn hasn’t been training him as one should an omega.” Qui-Gon scoffed but only turned away, silent, when Windu paused. Master Windu eyed him for a beat before continuing. “The only other option is for Master Jinn to sever their training bond and hope the shock leaves Skywalker open enough for the healers to grab a hold.”
That could work. Or, Obi-Wan closed his eyes and reflected on the more extreme Sentinel handling techniques, it could cause a mental and physical trauma so severe Anakin’s heart gave out. With healers on standby the situation was in Anakin’s favor, he’d say 75% odds of a recovery, but.
But a bond and then drawing Anakin out would almost surely work.
The kind of bond breaking this would require would need to be violent and painful, they would probably stop Qui-Gon’s heart temporarily to feign death, and there would be no remaking it after. It would leave a wound in Anakin, one Obi-Wan didn’t even want to imagine. He still felt the jagged tear where Qui-Gon had torn away from him to focus on Anakin during and that more or less a normal parting, abrupt and unapproved by Obi-Wan as it had been. A death, even a fake one that lasted seconds...well, there was a reason it had the potential to be fatal.
Not that a forced bond would be much better, for either of them. Anakin would get the worst of it, and it would be good of Obi-Wan to remember that. The boy would be bound to him for life, all of his choices, needs, and wants going forward would be in Obi-Wan's hands. By contrast taking Anakin on as his responsibility, partner, and other half until one of them died was no where near as bad. It was not something one should be pulled into without their consent, and a proper courting period, but most would agree it was better than dying. A bond could be worked within and around but Death, for all that one became one with the Force and was never truly gone, was very...final. Whatever might become of a person after death the fact remained that their life, all of their potential, would be over.
He hoped Anakin agreed with that sentiment.
Either way Obi-Wan couldn’t allow such a thing to happen to anyone if he could prevent it. As the council no doubt knew and were counting on (there was no need to demand it of him when he would demand it of himself) but that too was a thought best set aside until later.
“I’ll do it.”
Windu sighed then, stood up straighter, face a mask of solemn resignation. “You formally accept all rights and responsibilities for Anakin Skywalker, as his Alpha and Guide? You will do him no harm, allow no harm to come to him, and allow him to do no harm to others? You will take over his training and discipline henceforth?”
The actual bonding ritual was longer, far more wordy, was meant to have witnesses representing both parties, and mindhealers to perform a handfasting after making certain both were entering with good intentions. And, of course, called for the consent of both parties, one couldn't forget or downplay how that was typically the most important requirement. But as far as a quick and efficient version went Obi-Wan supposed that covered everything.
“Then you have the permission of the High Council to pursue a pair bond with Padawan Skywalker, and the two weeks leave to see things put in order.” Windu inclined his head towards the door. “These quarters are keyed to you, to use until you feel Skywalker is able to be moved to your apartments. When you’re both able you’ll be fully debriefed, and the next step discussed. And Master Jinn will formally renounce his position as Skywalker’s master as soon as possible.” The last part was added almost absently, with a flinty look in Qui-Gon’s direction.
Obi-Wan didn’t know the full weight of it, he was sure there was much he was missing, but he understood that losing Anakin had been the only outcome for Qui-Gon, one way or another.
It was not as satisfying a revelation as he may have thought it would be, were he a pettier man who enjoyed those kinds of victories.
He tucked that away for later consideration as well, he was going to have so very much to think about and that was aside from gaining a mate he didn't want and who was very unlikely to want him. It went beside the panic and doubt that wanted to take hold of him, and was locked it all away where it wouldn’t trouble him until he was ready to address it. Calm and determination was left in its place; the force was comforting and warm as he pulled it closer to bolster his nerves. Time to meditate, to truly give the weight that was pressing down on his shoulders to the force, to prepare himself (to take time in the refresher so he didn't go into this smelling like stale, recycled air and sweat, bonding in such a state was a tragedy in and of itself) would have been ideal but there was hardly time to do anything but stand up straighter, take a deep calming breath, and then open the door to his new life.
Anakin didn’t have the time to wait.