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Lost Kitten

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"Anakin?"

Obi-Wan had just walked into the quarters he shared with his Padawan, only to find them empty. He gently knocked on the door to Anakin's room.

Several seconds passed without a response. When Obi-Wan finally swung the door open, it was to the sight of an unkempt but deserted bed and droid parts scattered all over the floor, as usual. He'd have to remind Anakin to clean it later.

"Anakin, are you here?" Obi-Wan spoke loud enough to be heard throughout the small apartment. "Come out, please. I'd like to talk." Still no response.

Obi-Wan resigned himself to checking all of Anakin's usual hiding spots, starting with his bedroom closet. On one hand, Anakin wasn't there, but then again Obi-Wan hadn't been immediately crushed in an avalanche of gadgets and dirty robes either, so he counted it as a win. Anakin wasn't under the bed, either—just a large pile of socks, several of them Obi-Wan's. Typical.

In quick succession, Obi-Wan performed the same inspection in his own, much neater room before looking in the front closet, the 'fresher, and behind the couch. He even checked the cabinet under the kitchen sink, although it would prove a very tight fit for Anakin since he had shot up to be taller than Obi-Wan a few years ago.

Still nothing. In the quiet of the deserted sitting room, Obi-Wan was forced to admit that Anakin wasn't here. Wonderful. It was getting late, and now he would have to search every nook and cranny in the entire Temple. Obi-Wan could only hope that his wayward apprentice hadn't snuck out into Coruscant proper. He didn't relish the thought of wading into the crowd at a Lower-Levels podrace to retrieve him.

Obi-Wan tentatively reached out with the Force, searching for Anakin's presence. He had left the training bond closed since their argument earlier in the afternoon. Anakin had stormed tearfully out of the apartment and Obi-Wan had let him go, taking it as a sign that his Padawan just needed some space. Leaving the bond alone was a way of respecting that.

He'd left for a scheduled Council session soon after, thinking that Anakin would be back by the time he returned and they could work it out then. But now that he was here and Anakin was not, he had to accelerate the process and touch Anakin's mind.

Almost immediately, Obi-Wan felt the roiling nest of frustration and hurt that was Anakin's psyche brush against him in the Force. It was quite strong, as Anakin's presence always was, but Obi-Wan felt it flinch away from his mental touch as the boy tried and failed to erect shields. He was relieved to feel the distance between them was relatively small. Obi-Wan pressed in a little further and was rewarded a quick impression of his Padawan's senses. The caress of a cool breeze, a flash of sky.

So Anakin wasn't in the Temple, but he was very close by. Somewhere outside. Obi-Wan left their shared apartment and started down the hallway, guided not by his conventional senses but by Anakin's presence in the Force, which grew brighter by degrees as the distance between them lessened.

Eventually Obi-Wan's feet carried him to the eastern entrance of the Temple. The moment he stepped outside, Anakin's Force signature became suddenly blinding, as it always was when he opened the bond fully when they were physically quite close. Obi-Wan walked across the terrace to the top of the grand staircase, beneath the towering statues of the Four Masters.

It now felt as though Anakin was standing right next to him, and yet he was nowhere to be found. Obi-Wan paced around for a minute, fruitlessly searching the shadows cast by the deepening dusk. Fine. If Anakin wanted to hide like this, he would have to live with Obi-Wan calling out for him like a lost pet.

"Anakin, come out now." Silence. Obi-Wan took a deep breath and tried again, even more loudly. "Padawan! I know you're here!"

"Go away." There was the unmistakable surly voice of his Padawan, coming from... somewhere above? With a swiftly sinking feeling, Obi-Wan cast his eyes up the bulk of the statue standing nearest to him, and—he should have known. A golden brown tail lay, clearly visible, draped over the statue's arm. As soon as he noticed it, it quickly retracted, disappearing into the nook where its owner was no doubt hiding.

"Anakin." Obi-Wan fought to keep his voice level. "I can see you. What in the galaxy are you doing up there?"

Silence again. Obi-Wan folded his arms and stood there. He'd never failed to wait Anakin out. Sure enough, in only a few seconds the tips of two tufted ears crested the arm of the statue, followed by Anakin's face. In the deepening gloom, it was difficult to make out his expression, but his eyes shone like tiny lasers.

When he saw Obi-Wan, Anakin's ears flattened and he opened his mouth, showing the small points of his fangs and letting out a loud hiss. Honestly.

"I said go away!" Anakin shouted down to him, pushing his upset feelings through their bond.

"No," said Obi-Wan firmly. "It's getting late, Anakin. I need to speak with you." Obi-Wan pinched the bridge of his nose. "What... why are you hiding on a statue?"

"I came here to be alone," said Anakin petulantly. "So leave me alone." He hissed again, although more softly this time.

"You've had plenty of time alone. Now, I'm not leaving until you come down from there and talk to me."

A new emotion filtered across the bond. Was that... embarrassment? Anakin ducked his head and mumbled something Obi-Wan couldn't hear.

"What was that, Padawan?"

Anakin's voice was still muffled, but audible at least. "I said, I can't get down, okay?"

"Can't get—Force, how did you even get up there?"

The tip of Anakin's tail appeared again, twitching nervously back and forth. "Dunno. Climbed."

"Honestly, Padawan. Do you ever think, just for a moment?"

An annoyed chirp was the only response.

Obi-Wan sighed. Clearly, scolding would get him nowhere at the moment. He tried adopting a softer tone instead.

"I'm sorry, Anakin. I'm not upset with you, I just want to talk. So, please, let me help you down from there before Master Windu comes along and I get in trouble."

As he expected, Anakin's Force signature was pleased at the idea that his fastidious master might be at risk of a dressing-down. Obi-Wan often thought Anakin was secretly insecure about his propensity for misbehavior, especially when he perceived his peers and teachers to be irreproachable.

Perked ears and shining eyes reappeared. "How?" Anakin asked suspiciously.

Obi-Wan stretched out his arms hopefully. "You jump, and I'll catch you with the Force."

"...fine." Anakin vanished behind the statue's arm again for a second. Then he clambered onto the statue's elbow, where he crouched on all fours, glaring down at Obi-Wan. "You'd better not drop me, master."

"Of course not, my apprentice." Obi-Wan beckoned Anakin, a little impatient. It would be just his luck if Master Windu were to stumble across this little tableau.

"Okay. I'm going now," said Anakin without moving.

A few seconds passed, and Obi-Wan was about to urge him to hurry up, when a tiny warning in the Force alerted him that Anakin had finally decided this was the moment and was already jumping.

For a heartstopping moment, Anakin plummeted towards the flagstones. Then Obi-Wan was reaching out and cradling him in the Force, carefully arresting his momentum. Suspended in midair, Anakin yowled and clawed at the air, rotating slowly, limbs and tail akimbo. Obi-Wan had to suppress a laugh as he guided Anakin slowly downwards to his waiting arms.

As soon as he was within reach, Anakin threw his arms around Obi-Wan, panicked. Obi-Wan winced at the feeling of Anakin's claws piercing the back of his neck, but let Anakin settle firmly into his arms, anyway. His apprentice's body was as hot as a furnace in the chilly evening air.

"It's alright, Padawan," Obi-Wan said soothingly. "I've got you." He set Anakin down, trying not to make any sudden moves that might elicit further scratching.

Characteristically, as soon as Anakin felt solid ground under his feet, he immediately released Obi-Wan and pushed him away with a petulant expression.

Sighing, Obi-Wan pulled Anakin to the side of the statue, out of the immediate view of passersby.

"Anakin," Obi-Wan tried very hard to sound non-judgemental, "What were you thinking?"

Anakin ducked his head, a trick that didn't work nearly as well now that he was taller than Obi-Wan. His ears were pinned back, and Obi-Wan resisted the urge to scratch between them until they perked up again.

"You didn't come to find me," Anakin pouted. "I just wanted to sit alone for a minute. I was stuck up there for two whole hours." His lip was trembling.

"Oh, Padawan." Obi-Wan gave in and began to pet behind Anakin's left ear. "I'm very sorry. My council meeting ran over. I didn't realize you were trapped up there."

Anakin leaned into the touch for a moment, but then shook his head to dislodge Obi-Wan's hand, still determined to be upset. Obi-Wan patiently moved his hand to the other ear, knowing that his gentle persistence would show Anakin his affection where words could not. Sure enough, Anakin let him continue this time, though Obi-Wan could tell he was trying very hard not to start purring.

Instead, he said "I don't understand why I can't come with you on this mission, Master."

"Well, it's quite dangerous."

"But I can handle it! I'm eighteen, too old to be stuck at the Temple like a youngling," Anakin whined.

"I agree."

Anakin jerked up his head suddenly. Unshed tears were shining in his puffy eyes. "What?"

"I agree," Obi-Wan repeated calmly. "I thought about what you said earlier, and you convinced me. So I brought up the matter again when I was meeting with the Council."

"You... you did?"

Obi-Wan let himself smile. "Yes. And they decided that you should accompany me after all."

"Really, master?!" Anakin's entire demeanor changed in an instant. "I'm coming with you?"

Obi-Wan nodded.

"Thank you so much!" A thousand-watt smile spread across Anakin's face, the points of his fangs pricking adorably into his lower lip.

"You're welcome, Padaw—oof!" Anakin had leapt straight back into his arms, all four limbs and tail wrapping his master in a tight embrace. Obi-Wan staggered a little but held him there, gently petting Anakin's back with one hand as he nuzzled into Obi-Wan's neck. The combination of whiskers and Padawan braid was quite ticklish, and Anakin was purring so loudly it felt like his whole body was vibrating.

"Easy there." Obi-Wan chuckled weakly.

"I'm sorry I ran away," Anakin said sincerely into his neck. A moment later, Obi-Wan felt a rough little tongue lick a stripe up his ear.

Obi-Wan blushed bright red and was very grateful for the darkness. "Stop that, Anakin!" His Padawan was getting far too old for such things.

"Sorry, Master," said Anakin, this time not sounding sorry at all. Obi-Wan stiffened at the sensation of Anakin giving his ear a quick nibble before thankfully releasing him to stand on his own again. He really needed to talk to the boy about this behavior. Some other time, perhaps.

"Shall we head back home, Padawan? It's about time for dinner."

Anakin nodded vigorously. The boy's appetite was truly insatiable—going two hours without food would be tantamount to torture.

"And—" Obi-Wan really shouldn't, but he so loved seeing his apprentice happy for once, "—I have a treat for you afterwards."

Anakin's ears snapped towards him. "Treat?" He wound in a quick circle around Obi-Wan, brushing his shoulder against his master's body. "What is it?"

"It's a surprise." Obi-Wan had some of Anakin's favorite joganfruit candy saved for a special occasion, and he supposed now was as good a time as any.

Anakin pouted again, though in the Force he shone with pure joy. Still, it was so hard to resist those wide eyes...

"It's sweets," Obi-Wan admitted, and was rewarded with another rare Anakin Skywalker smile.

"Yes!" Anakin crowed. "Best master ever!" Obi-Wan smiled back, and together they walked back into the Temple.

Obi-Wan knew that the Council looked askance at him for his Padawan's conduct, that the other Jedi sometimes snickered behind their hands at Anakin's behavior. In years gone by, many a youngling had wound up in the infirmary with severe scratches after making fun of Anakin's ears or tail.

But even with the arguments, and the climbing of sacred Jedi statues, and the scratching, and the backchat, and the crying outside his door at three in the morning, and the sneaking out, and the incessant plays for attention while he was trying to do paperwork, and the—well, a lot of things. Even with all of that, Anakin was his Padawan. His stubborn, talented, brilliant, apprentice who shone in the Force (and in Obi-Wan's reluctant heart) like a supernova. And Obi-Wan Kenobi could never stay angry at Anakin Skywalker, or wish him away. Not for anything.