Red lights swim before Anakin’s eyes, painting a sea of red, as the sirens of the police guard of Coruscant ring in his ears. Anakin feels numb. He isn't used to feeling numb. The Force is always overwhelming and bright and he feels so much all the time. He feels so much all the time, sometimes he wants it gone. Force, he has begged Obi-Wan before to take it all away from him. Not like this, though.
Now he feels nothing. It feels like someone cut him loose from the Force. Like he's some puppet without its strings attached to it, floating in oblivion. Maybe Obi-Wan was his strings―their bond violently cut when Obi-Wan's heart gave out and now there's white noise sitting where their bond used to sit, nestled into Anakin's mind so deeply, feeling it give out felt like half of his mind being ripped away from him. Having Obi-Wan be ripped away from him feels like some integral part of his entire being has been violated.
Anakin would burn it all down to the ground just to feel something again―just to feel the heat.
And now in the aftermath, he feels numb too. None of the rage he may have expected kicked in, not at the man who murdered Obi-Wan, not at himself for not being fast enough, not at anyone, only numbness. He brought Ahsoka back to the temple, like he was supposed to because he's her Master and he's supposed to be strong for her. Obi-Wan was never that weak. Even in death, Anakin is still failing him. Maybe he was never good enough to be apprenticed to Obi-Wan.
Dooku always knew apparently―it was clear in the way he talked to Obi-Wan and then in the way he talked to Anakin.
He brought Obi-Wan's corpse back to the Temple too. No one dared separate them from Obi-Wan then, in this cold and dark corner of Coruscant that shattered Anakin's life into pieces like it shattered Obi-Wan's bones.
He remembers Master Fisto being the first one to pry Anakin away from Obi-Wan's cold body with the Temple Guards taking over (they were friends too, Anakin knows) and gently guiding him towards Master Ti. Quinlan Vos wasn't even on the planet, not here to see his dead friend being brought back to the Temple. Luminara had some haunted look in her eyes he imagined somewhat matched his own.
Ahsoka was still clinging to his robes, small body pressed against his own when they reached the steps of the Temple and it wasn't until Master Koon showed up that someone was able to make her uncurl her fists from his robes.
Then they took Obi-Wan’s body away. Away from him and everyone was saying something, hushed voices, soft voices and still there was nothing at all that reached him.
He faintly remembers Master Windu's hand on his shoulder upon reaching the end of the stairs that lead up to their home and Master Fisto's head tentacles twitching (Obi-Wan once told him that he can pick up people's emotions with them and Anakin almost felt sorry for even standing in the same room as him) when someone else, maybe Master Gallia―he honestly couldn't tell―began stirring him into the direction of his quarters. Obi-Wan's quarters right next to them because you couldn't separate them for anything in this world.
Now he sits in the shower of his quarters. By now he’s pretty sure it was Master Gallia who took him back to his quarters. He faintly remembers her stern voice that used to indulge in Obi-Wan’s and his’ reckless plans, now laced with softness when she asked him if he needed anything else now. (Or at any point) He only shook his head before stepping into his quarters where the dark embraced him whole.
Anakin lets his head fall back against the cold bricks of the shower wall. He prays to the Force that Ahsoka will remain with Master Koon this night. At least for this night so he can… he doesn’t know what then. It’s a wish for Ahsoka’s sake so that she won’t see him like this. Not any more than she already had to see of him like that. That he hasn't broken down in tears yet is a wonder on its own.
The water is hot enough to burn him, scorching his skin where it replaces unshed tears. Anakin lets it all wash over him just to feel anything at all. Anything at all with his bond to Obi-Wan dead at his feet together with his Master. He draws his legs up against his body to bury his face in his knees, wrap his tired arms around himself in a desperate attempt to console himself.
Anakin closes his eyes and draws in a shaky breath and then exhales again. Breathe in. One, two, three. Breathe out. One, two, three. Breathe in. One, two, three. Like Obi-Wan taught him. Obi-Wan. His breath hitches again when Obi-Wan crosses his mind. Obi-Wan is gone and this time Anakin won't get him back.
No tears come and Anakin is left alone with the rushing of water in his ears and his ragged breaths that come from a torn-up lung. He remains until his skin burns and his bones are cold and ache along with his heart, his soul and his entire being for something―for someone―who isn’t there anymore.
When Anakin wakes in the morning it’s with aching bones and sharp pain in his head. The night had been horrible, he fell asleep in the shower at some point and his knees crack when he gets up. It’s late, later than he usually gets up.
Master Koon will inform Cody and the 212th today, not wanting them to find out from anybody else (after it had become evident within a few hours that Anakin wouldn’t be the one to tell them) and Ahsoka made it clear that she would go with him―probably to see Rex and the others. Guilt gnaws at him for knowing that he won’t accompany Ahsoka but she doesn’t need a second ghost following her around.
He squeezes his eyes shut upon getting up when the world tilts for a moment and he has to take a few breaths to center himself again (as far as that is even possible). Once the world stops spinning around and before him, he drags his feet towards the bathroom. Actually, he doesn’t know why he bothers to take a look in the mirror as if he doesn’t know what will await him there.
Yet what stares back at him through the mirror manages to make him wince in discomfort. His eyes aren’t of the sickeningly yellow the Sith adorn themselves with but they’re of the pained red people who have felt a loss so deep it threatened to rip them apart adorn themselves with. Anakin blinks at himself, as he burns with his eyes. If his sleep continues to worsen like that he can’t wait to see what his eyes will look like in a few days. The Younglings would be scared of him. He forces out a bitter laugh considering how there is nothing to be done that will make the testimony of his grief go away. What stares back at him makes him look like he maybe never was human at all.
So, keeping his head down it is when he leaves to go see Master Yoda, who wants to talk. See if he’s still keeping it together or whether he has already dissolved into whatever pathetic part is left of him after having Obi-Wan ripped away from him. Talking. Anakin can’t do that. He tried it once. Only once after Obi-Wan’s heart gave out in a dark and cold alleyway and at that point, the tears already nagged at the back of his throat, all too ready to break out with his next words and he couldn’t―couldn’t break down in front of Ahsoka. So he swallowed it all down. And now the tears that await in him are no longer small waves but full-blown storms and he can’t. He can’t cry for days when there are other things to do. Preparing for a funeral for that matter.
After he changed into his spare robes, the ones that don’t linger of Obi-Wan’s death (he watched those burn in the small fireplace in Obi-Wan’s quarters) he steps out of their quarters while rubbing a hand through his face. Ahsoka already went to the training rooms long before Anakin left his room so he assumed it would be safe to leave his quarters but―apparently not.
He almost runs right into Master Koon’s chest outside of their quarters. Wonderful. As if having to go and see Master Yoda wasn’t already enough. He can't tell him but he's grateful that he is looking after Ahsoka because he can't do it. Anakin opens his mouth to apologise but then closes it again. He can’t cry in front of Master Koon. Not in some irrelevant hallway. Not now. Preferably not ever, if Anakin can help it. So he presses his lips together and Master Koon seems to get the gist.
"Young Skywalker," Master Koon says when Anakin is done stumbling back into the door and they face each other outside in the hallway with the light pouring onto them through the windows. Anakin doesn't feel like there's any light shining down on him anymore. For about one heartbeat Anakin can bear to look at Master Koon before averting his gaze again.
"Have you been able to rest for some time?"
Anakin can't even look at him. Even with the mask on Master Koon’s eyes seem warm and concerned and Anakin knows he couldn't handle it.
"Anakin," the Krel Dor Master repeats, "we don't expect you to be alright but―"
There’s a small pause in which he doesn’t talk almost as if he expects Anakin to interrupt him but Anakin remains quiet. He can hear Master Koon sigh.
Anakin wants to ask, though. But what? Obi-Wan is dead and he’s not going to get him back this time and no, he’s not alright. He will not be alright for a long time. However, he can’t exactly tell Master Koon that because he’s not about to get a lecture on attachments one day and a few hours after his best friend died. He doesn’t want to let go. Not when Obi-Wan was murdered by some vile criminal out of nowhere. Therefore―he doesn’t ask. Instead, he only stands there with his back to the wall and stares at some point he fixated on that isn’t Master Koon.
“I will look after Ahsoka for the day,” he then finally says and Anakin nods. He knows that. “If you feel… well enough...” Anakin almost laughs at that. He doesn’t feel ‘well enough’ and even the idea of claiming such a thing would be a fool’s play.
“―I’m sure Ahsoka would be glad to see you,” Master Koon finishes his sentence. Barely in time, Anakin manages to conceal an ill-timed flinch. And because he was listening, after all, he just can’t answer, Anakin nods at that.
It’s probably the liveliest reaction anyone has gotten from in the past hours. He won’t show up, he knows that already and he thinks Master Koon knows that too like Ahsoka does, but they can all pretend that he’s trying and not letting the dark drag him under into the deep dark blue.
Master Koon sighs again, even though it’s silent this time but Anakin watches as his shoulders rise and fall in a way Obi-Wan's shoulders would when he would give Anakin a particularly long sigh after Anakin had messed up again in one way or another.
“I will let Ahsoka know that you have matters to attend,” Master Koon says. He knows Anakin won’t come to them. And Anakin only confirms it by nodding again.
Once Master Koon is out of sight he falls back against the door and exhales shakily.
He doesn’t go see Yoda on this day while Master Koon goes to see Ahsoka.
Ahsoka’s eyes snap open in frustration and she lets out a gurgled sigh, sitting on the floor in one of the training rooms. Master Plo only regards her with a long look. She came here to train not to be forced into meditation by Master Plo after everyone else seemed to abruptly have to leave after she showed up. Sometimes every single Padawan certainly lacks any sense of discretion. Ahsoka can still interact with everyone else perfectly fine. It’s not like Master Obi-Wan would want her to suffocate in an endless ocean of darkness after his death.
Also, she already cried a lot―for today she hardly has any tears left if no one makes her think too much about it all. No need for everyone else to leave. She doesn’t need space. She can still function perfectly fine even with her Grandmaster, or just Master that line is a little blurred to begin with, dead and her Master not talking like Obi-Wan somehow took all of Anakin’s words with him when he left them here. She can… she can… she can’t concentrate.
Master Plo doesn’t say anything like he’s waiting for her to say something.
“I'm lacking concentration,” she settles on. The obvious. No sense in talking around it for too long. Master Obi-Wan told her that. These things are easiest to fix, he said with a small smile on his face. And yet she still doesn’t get an answer from Master Plo. Fine then.
“Unbalanced,” she corrects with a frown on her face. “I know, okay. I can’t help it.”
She still has to talk to Rex. And Commander Cody. He still doesn’t know and it makes her insides tighten up uncomfortably.
“No one expects you to be balanced in this situation,” Master Plo says from where he’s sitting cross-legged in front of her.
Ahsoka sighs, slightly slumping into herself before correcting her posture again under Master Plo’s gaze.
“It’s just,” she mutters, “everyone around me is walking around on eggshells. I don’t need anyone to act any different.”
“Maybe they are trying to be considerate, little ‘Soka. They know it’s a difficult situation for you.”
And Ahsoka gets that. She knows that none of them would ever be deliberately cruel in a situation like this but something about it makes something cold in her stomach turn. Sensing that she’s giving his words thought Master Plo continues talking.
“What is it that makes you upset about this?”
While Ahsoka normally doesn’t like it when people―mainly Anakin or Obi-Wan―worm things out of her like this… today talking is hard and she doesn’t even know where to start so maybe it’s for the best that Master Plo is making her take small steps in sorting her feelings out. She shrugs, releasing her hands from where they rest on her knees to wrap her arms around herself. For a moment it’s quiet between them. If they’re doing this they at least could be doing this in the gardens, where breathing isn’t as hard.
“It reminds me of everything that won’t be the same anymore now,” Ahsoka finally admits. Admitting to it lifts something heavy and cold off of her chest. Admitting to the fact that she’s so scared of what will happen now that Master Obi-Wan is gone because she couldn’t admit to it until now because admitting to it means accepting that he is gone.
“And also, I’m still here, aren’t I? I’m not,” she struggles to put her thoughts into careful words that don’t do more harm than good, “I’m not dead―”
“But you’re hurting,” Master Plo interjects, “things are different for you too.”
“Yes, but I’m not dead,” she shoots back, a little harsher than intended, “I’m not dead and I’m hurting but,” she sighs again, when she speaks again it’s much quieter, “I’m not hurting as badly as Anakin.”
And that’s the thing, isn’t it? It will take time but Ahsoka will be alright again someday. She will heal. She will heal and Obi-Wan would want that for her but she isn’t sure Anakin will ever be quite alright again. Even with his shields drawn up, as thick as his stubborn head, she can feel his grief wash all over the Temple. She’s sure that all the Jedi can feel it to some extent. His grief is all-commanding and it’s taking up all the space that there seemingly is. It’s suffocating them whole.
“Experiencing hurt and loss is not a competition, Ahsoka,” Master Plo reminds her with his gentle voice, “these feelings won’t go away because someone else is hurting too.”
Because someone else is hurting more, Ahsoka wants to correct. Anakin and she had their fair shares of talks about the bond between the Master and a Padawan. A bond they currently have. It sits somewhere curled up in her mind, in her heart too, and they talked about the said bond. They talked about it because they are at war and death is more familiar to them than it should be and Anakin could die in the war. It could happen.
What if, she asked him.
It won’t, he said.
And now it happened to him. It wasn't only mental hurt she felt from him in the Force when Obi-Wan died, no it was physical hurt too and it was as deep and bone-cutting as the pain their men feel when they die on the battlefield, gasping for air among broken bones.
“I know,” she says. Ahsoka knows. She exhales. “I’m sad and in pain.”
Master Plo holds one of his hands out towards her and she reaches for it, wrapping her small hand around his much bigger one.
“It’s alright to be sad, little ‘Soka,” Master Plo answers, “you only mustn’t let it control you.”
Ahsoka nods. She won’t. Master Obi-Wan wouldn’t want that for her.
She can pray to something, someone, anything, anyone that this monster of loss won’t dictate Anakin as long as his heart still beats on.
Rex has gotten his fair share of bad news during the war. They're fighting a war, after all, bad news is part of his life more than anything else.
However, the news of General Kenobi's death is one of the first things to leave him speechless in a long time. Like his men, his brothers, keep dying in the war, the Jedi keep dying too. Not General Kenobi, though. Rex almost fought as many battles at General Kenobi's side as he fought them at Skywalker's side, both of them joined at the hip ever since Rex met them both.
They made it through more hopeless situations than Rex can count, more than Rex expected them to survive, but they always did; dirty, battered and bruised but always alive. Always alive and now General Kenobi is gone and Rex heard about it from Bly in the middle of the night.
It's been a day now ever since it happened and Rex still hasn't seen Skywalker. He saw Tano when she stopped by with General Koon in the afternoon and she looked at him with empty eyes―in him the sudden urge to hug her. Everyone had been eerily quiet when Ahsoka joined them at their table, wringing her hands together and her eyes cast downwards when she finally started talking.
Now, almost twenty-four hours after it all happened, Rex steps into the 79's, searching for Cody because they still haven't gotten the chance to talk. Rex slides through the bodies on the dance floor in search for Cody, already knowing where to find him.
He spots Cody at the bar where he slams his shot glass down on the bar with enough force that the rest of the liquor swaps out of the glass as Rex slides onto the barstool next to his brother. He raises his hand at the barkeeper, motioning towards the drink in front of Cody so that he can get the same.
"Drinking the night before a mission?" Cody asks Rex with a raised eyebrow. "You're not Fox."
The barkeeper sets the shot down in front of him and vanishes again. He doesn't hesitate to pick up the shot immediately and down it before he tips the glass into Cody's direction.
"I'm not Bly either, though," he mutters. Cody almost smiles at that. "Also, looks like the five-oh-one's not shipping out any time soon."
Rex shrugs. Because Cody is a Marshal Commander he gets sent out with the 212th on his own more frequently while Rex and the 501st normally don't get that treatment. Extended shore leave for them.
"Skywalker got injured?" Cody asks, staring at the wall that's stacked with bottles of alcohol.
"Not really." Rex scraps a hand over his head, going back and forth until finally resting it at the back of his neck.
"Ah," he mutters, staring into the liquid before him, "the General's not really talking at the moment."
"What?" Cody asks, raising one sardonic eyebrow, masking bitter pain, "too busy to-"
"No," Rex interrupts him quietly, "he isn't talking. Ahsoka says he hasn't said a single word since it happened."
At that Cody clicks his mouth shut. "Not even to her?"
Rex presses his lips together and shakes his head. "Hasn't talked to anyone. Skywalker's not… he's not handling it very well."
"You seem worried," Cody remarks.
"I am," is all that Rex says because it's the truth and there's no denying it. He hasn't seen Skywalker since it happened, he wasn't with the Commander when she stopped by.
"It's Skywalker, he doesn't stop… working. Not like that."
Cody swirls the clear liquor around in the glass. Rex rarely ever sees Cody at loss for words and looks over to him. He almost feels foolish for asking―the Kaminoans didn't make them like that―but he has to.
"He will be okay, right?"
Rex immediately winces when Cody involuntarily tenses up the moment the words come over Rex's lips. Because General Kenobi certainly isn't alright. He is dead. Then Cody sighs.
"You've ever seen them apart for more than a week?" he mutters. Rex doesn't need to answer that. He hasn't. Not willingly at least.
And that is probably enough to answer his question. The General won't be alright for a while. Rex fears he might never be alright again.
"So," Rex says quietly, "you're shipping out again?"
"Yeah, looks like it."
"When is the―you're going to miss the funeral, aren't you?"
"Missing it is a funny way of saying it." Cody's voice vibrates in bitterness and no longer masked resentment towards… Rex actually doesn’t know who Cody is angry with. Maybe with the Jedi, even though it isn’t their fault but Umbara is a wound which hasn’t healed yet and it was a Jedi then who betrayed them, or maybe with the Senate for making these choices, maybe it’s the Chancellor (but that would be treason and they don’t commit treason, they are loyal to the Republic) or maybe it’s all of this war altogether.
“‘s not your fault.”
Cody’s words are quiet but they are earnest and genuine.
Then Cody orders another round of shots for them and Rex doesn’t protest, because how could he? If the General would cease to exist like that one day it would take so much more than this to keep him grounded―but Cody always has been the better one between the two of them. Better leader, better clone, better everything. Rex is okay with that. So; he doesn’t protest, instead he drinks with Cody and they say nothing for a while.
By the time it’s time for Cody to leave because as much as they may not want it, he has to lead the 212th into battle again while Rex remains on Coruscant, Bly has somehow found them at the bar and Rex is thankful that he won’t be alone.
Before he leaves Cody turns around to them, his eyes are sunken into his skull and the circles under his eyes are more black than anything else at this point.
“Tell Skywalker…,” Cody starts, raising one hand before aimlessly waving it through the air, sighing, “actually I don’t know what to tell him.”
And Rex can hardly blame him for that. Both of them are messed up and Rex feels like he can do nothing to make it alright again.
“Tell me if he starts talking again, about the funeral too. If they tell you anything,” Cody says, voice almost carried away by the life in the 79’s that moves on around them. And with that, he leaves. Rex slumps in his chair.
If the General starts talking again. Not when the General starts talking again. If.
Bly gives him a long look.
“He won’t be alone when it happens,” Bly says finally; his voice always a little softer than the rest of them.
Rex decides not to question why Bly is familiar with the Jedi and their funeral customs… for both of their sakes. Instead, he lets his knuckles turn white around his glass filled with bitter oblivion as he stares into it.
“He will feel like it,” Rex whispers. And maybe that’s the worst part of it all.
When the night has claimed Coruscant once again Anakin leans in the doorframe to Ahsoka’s room. It’s the second night without Obi-Wan here. When Anakin didn’t come to see Master Yoda he came to see Anakin and they sat in Ahsoka’s and his quarters and Yoda talked while Anakin took to staring out of the window into the gardens.
Master Yoda didn’t make him talk either. He’s thankful enough for that.
Now it’s night again and Anakin is alone with his thoughts. He doesn’t make a sound as he looks to Ahsoka’s bed where she’s curled up into a small ball. She slumbers deeply and she won’t be needing him tonight.
Ahsoka closed the door when she went to bed tonight. She leaves the door open, only a bit, on days where she comes crawling into his bed a few hours after dusk. His Padawan is good at knowing herself, certainly better than Anakin was at knowing himself at that age―she told him once, quietly, that she can sense the bad nights when they’re about to come. Mostly. Sometimes the door won’t be open and she will still crawl into his bed. However, for tonight, she will be out of it. Master Che gave her something to sleep through the night. So, Anakin leaves.
He’s swift and quiet when leaving the Temple. He knows how to after years of engaging in this sort of activity. The way to Padmé’s apartment is familiar but offers only little comfort this night. By now she must know about Obi-Wan’s death too and it took Anakin a whole day to come and see her. He was her friend too, he knows and he’s handling it like this. Not good.
When he arrives at her doorstep she takes him in wordlessly and only when the door closes behind them he wraps his arms around her and they drown each other out in their embrace. It reminds him of Tatooine not too many years ago. It’s comfort for them both and there are not many words between them as they make their way to the bedroom. Anakin squeezes her hand a little tighter than he usually does.
They are quick in undressing and it goes without any sensual feelings. They both know these days, not as bad, not ever before as bad, but they know them. Sometimes when there was too much death on the battlefield, that time when Ahsoka was kidnapped or when Padmé feels like she’s talking to a dozen faceless people who aren’t willing to listen in the senate or when the senate pushes for yet another sanction that will draw out the war.
They both have these bad days, more frequently than they would like to have them, and therefore they know how to work it out. This day is worse than the others. A lot worse.
“Hello,” is the thing she says when Padmé speaks to him for the first time, as she slips into the bed and curls up in his arms. Her words are so quiet they’re barely above a breath.
“I’m sorry.” The second thing.
Anakin wordlessly presses his lips against her soft hair and closes his eyes. No need for talking. Talking won’t bring Obi-Wan back.
Padmé curls up against him, with her face pressed into his chest and Anakin holds her tighter than he possibly ever held her before.
Anakin presses another kiss on top of her head when he feels the familiarity of tears against his skin. He’s no stranger to them, whether they are Padmé’s, Ahsoka’s, Rex’s or Obi-Wan’s. Or his own.
Often they are just his own tears against his skin too.
Padmé wraps herself around him, silencing her tears and Anakin engulfs her whole. He falls asleep to the sound of her beating and her steady breaths. It almost makes him smile. The familiarity of her falling asleep faster than him is enough for him. Anakin falls asleep after her and when he opens his eyes again sometime after; he dreams.
In his dream he wakes up to Obi-Wan, crouched down before him where he kneels in the dark. It is comforting in the dark. Anakin melts into Obi-Wan’s hand on his cheek, relaxing into the touch and closes his eyes. Obi-Wan combs the fingers of his other hand through Anakin’s curls and the touch is almost too much for him to take. He missed Obi-Wan’s warmth so much.
“Little one,” Obi-Wan whispers and Anakin wants to cry upon hearing Obi-Wan’s voice again. Instead, he melts further into Obi-Wan’s touch, lets his Master’s hands guide him and comfort him in gentle ways.
“How do you sleep?” Obi-Wan continues and Anakin furrows his brows. It doesn't quite sound like Obi-Wan anymore. A coldness etched into his voice now. "How do you sleep, Padawan," Obi-Wan says, "knowing you have failed me?"
Anakin snaps his eyes open, wrenching his head into the direction of Obi-Wan's face. No. He wants to reel back but his Master's hands lock him firmly in place. Cold and hollow eyes stare back at him. No words come out of his throat when he opens his mouth, a cold hand locks around his throat. Squeezing.
"How could you let this happen?" Obi-Wan presses a kiss against Anakin's forehead and it burns him from the inside out, laying his soul bare. Squeezing. "It should have been you, little one."
Anakin's neck snaps.
Anakin shoots up in the bed, with his chest heaving and clawing at his throat like a dying man. There are hands-on his back and Anakin wrenches away from the touch. He squeezes his eyes shut―can't have Obi-Wan hurt him again when he's not supposed to. He's supposed to… "'kin, Anakin," a voice snaps him out of his thoughts. It's not Obi-Wan's voice.
"Love, it was only a dream."
Anakin stops moving under Padmé's careful hands once he realises that it’s her. He draws in a shaky breath. Accompanied by his still uneasy breaths Anakin slumps over, arms resting on his knees.
Padmé folds herself around him and presses her head in between his shoulder blades. "You're okay, Ani," she whispers and loops her arms through under his armpits to draw him in closer. "You're okay, love."
Noticing his trembling hands Anakin clings to Padmé's arms around him. Now more than ever he wants to cry but now the tears won’t come. Instead, there’s an emptiness haunting him, something cold has burned him all out and taken the tears with them. Obi-Wan has taken them with him. Like he’s taken everything with him.
“It was only a dream,” Padmé repeats, moving again behind him, unwrapping herself from him, so she can place her soft fingers on his shoulders and draw him back in. She sits upright in the bed, leaning against the headboard as Anakin sinks against her upper body. He shivers with the blanket gone while simultaneously heating up and so Padmé draws her arms around him and he clings to them again.
Only the steady rhythm of Padmé’s heart allows him to close his eyes and focus on anything else than the Obi-Wan he just saw in his dream. If he didn’t know any better he’d claim it was reality. But Obi-Wan is dead and he can’t kill Anakin any more than he already did when he died in a trivial cold alleyway.
Padmé presses a kiss against his temple while tracing her fingers over his chest in soothing up and downs.
“I will miss him too,” she whispers, “not quite the same, but I will.”
Anakin leans forward so that he can press a kiss against her knuckles before falling back against her chest again.
“I’m sorry,” Padmé says again. Anakin squeezes her hands again.
This time she can’t take his pain away. She doesn’t have to; she has her own pain to carry too. Anakin will carry his own pain because it’s his and it’s that kind of pain that comes with being intertwined with Obi-Wan for more than ten long years. It’s not a pain anyone else can share.
Anakin doesn’t sleep again.
Luminara has always known of Obi-Wan's and young Skywalker's habits. She has watched them grow up together. She has watched them grow into and around each other in ways she has not seen before.
It's similar to the way Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano are attached to each other now. Something about Skywalker and making people love him so dearly. About him loving people so fiercely. Now his love must feel like a punishment.
Everyone is looking at him where he sits in the gardens. In the spot, Obi-Wan liked so much. He liked to have tea there, liked to meditate there and most of the time he just liked to have Skywalker’s company there with him. So when she sees Skywalker sitting in the spot Obi-Wan used to sit so many times before him, with everyone watching him like you watch a star burn out, she quietly sighs and gets up from her bench to make her way over there.
It’s the most all of them have seen of him in days except for Master Yoda, Master Koon and his Padwan. Force knows why he has decided to leave his quarters today. But she is glad―Obi-Wan used to hole up in his quarters too after Qui-Gon’s death and getting him out of them only was a success because he had Anakin to train. But only after a few days. In the first few days of his apprenticeship, Anakin walked in the gardens with Kit, had tea with her and would go to the training rooms with Quinlan and young Secura.
Moving across the grass that’s already wet again with the approaching evening, she sits down beside him.
“It’s always quiet here, isn’t it?”
The slight tilt of his head is the only acknowledgement she gets from him that he has heard her at all. Luminara supposes it’s better than no acknowledgement at all. And if it’s acknowledgement because they used to go through these things before, then it is better than nothing too.
She used to sit with him too sometimes when he was still smaller and not yet torn apart by the death of his Master.
“It will get better someday,” Luminara says, she hopes. She didn’t lose her Master, she couldn’t imagine but she has been with Obi-Wan after losing Qui-Gon―has seen what losing your Master will do to you. A wound that will never fully heal.
He still won’t look at her and his quietness is almost eerie.
Where she was met with so much defiance when she asked him if he would be ready to let his student go, she is now met with silence and impossible tight shields that only defy the ordeal of letting anyone else in on his pain. Not that they don’t know about his pain.
Skywalker is powerful, unlike anyone else they have seen before and even with his shields drawn suffocatingly tight around himself his feelings seep through some of the cracks and even then it’s enough to bury all of them under it. It makes her head hurt, sitting in such close proximity to him. She remembers Obi-Wan’s headaches when they first established a training bond and Skywalker didn’t yet know of the usage of a shield.
Luminara is honest with herself and therefore she is aware that they all expected a different reaction. Having observed Skywalker, Skywalker and Obi-Wan, for a long time now, she expected him to rage, to scream and to yell until his throat would give out. All of them must have expected it. Instead, Skywalker is quiet and his pain seeps through the cracks in his shields.
“I will walk back to your quarters with you,” she says gently. He nods and she feels affection for him. It’s not a first for them.
They expected the world around him to burn but it didn't, only the Force knows why. Luminara knows, if she would hand him a flame he would make it burn.
When he looks at her his eyes burn in pain and loss and she finds herself averting her gaze with a heavy heart.
He finds himself on Tatooine as soon as sleep claims him again against his will in the night before Obi-Wan’s funeral. Anakin stares up to the sky. Only one sun shines down on him―the one painted in red and the white sun nowhere to be found. It’s wrong. It’s so wrong. The red sun is angry and it cannot shine down on Tatooine on its own. Anakin lets some of the sand slip through his fingers and the sun wanders across the sky with the slipping sand until he’s left in darkness once again.
“The desert is hardly forgiving, Padawan,” a voice calls and Anakin spins around in the sand. He’s no longer alone on top of the dune. There, across the sand ocean, Obi-Wan stands, with his arms crossed behind his back. “You shouldn’t bring anyone here.”
Anakin frowns. He hardly wants Obi-Wan to be here. Not the wrong Obi-Wan anyway but the wrong Obi-Wan keeps moving, coming closer and closer until he finally stands before Anakin.
Anakin can't move. He wants to but he can't. He stares up to Obi-Wan who combs his fingers through his curls, kneeling in the dark. He's sinking into the dark of the Tatooine desert and Obi-Wan is not trying to stop it―why isn't he trying to stop it?
"Do you know what you have made of me?"
When the tears come Anakin doesn’t stop them. Instead, he lets them rip his chest open as they burn through his lungs and throat. Even though he knows better than to waste tears in the desert… maybe it will take him wherever his Obi-Wan went.
Obi-Wan, who is not his Obi-Wan because his Obi-Wan would never be this deliberately cruel, brushes some of the tears on Anakin's face away. He would never let Anakin drown in his own darkness.
"I never should have trained you, little one," Obi-Wan murmurs. "Look what you have made of me."
Anakin struggles to catch his breath. He wants to move but he can't. Please let him move again.
"I am gone because of you."
Anakin squeezes his eyes shut in pain and misery. The combing stops for a moment and he thinks, for a moment, that maybe this twisted version of Obi-Wan is finally gone. Then―there are fingers under his chin tilting his head up.
"Won't you look at me, my dear one?"
Obi-Wan's voice is soft again, it sounds like him again, not like the bastardised version that's hell-bent on destroying him. "It's all alright, Padawan."
Another hand on his cheek, drawing soothing circles with a thumb over his skin. And Anakin wants to believe so badly that the nightmare is finally over, that this cruel Obi-Wan is finally gone.
Anakin opens his eyes. Fool, the air of the desert whispers around him. Foolish boy. Or maybe it’s Obi-Wan who’s talking.
“You’re a foolish boy,” Obi-Wan whispers and his voice blends in with the whispers of the desert; both of them hell-bent on destroying him. Anakin curls up in the dark. Nothing is left of the battle-hardened general they perceive him as, left is only a small boy who aches for his Master to take his hand and lead him out of this darkness.
"And they call you the chosen one," Obi-Wan murmurs, hands crossed behind his back, circling him like a hunter circles its prey. Anakin hasn't been the prey in years. "Are those the instincts of the chosen one, I wonder? Not very impressive, I must say."
A hand reaches for Anakin again but he ducks away. The touch is too cold, too careless to be his Master and still it would burn him altogether.
"It's a pity that my Master died for you wretched potential," Obi-Wan continues and even when Anakin moves his hands to cover his ears the sounds don't stop. "That I had to die for it too."
Obi-Wan crouches down in front of him again.
"Tell me, little one, why is it that death follows you everywhere you go?"
No. No no no no no no. Anakin wants to wake up, he wants to wake up in the reality that no longer has Obi-Wan in it but is still better than this horrifying emptiness that haunts him to no ends. Where all that remains are him and this twisted person his Obi-Wan could never be.
Obi-wan takes Anakin's face into his hands. "Oh, you poor thing."
Anakin can feel tears well up in his eyes and then there's Obi-Wan embracing him, resting his head on top of Anakin's. It's not his Obi-Wan, he has to remind himself. Don't forget. But this embrace is of comfort and gentle hands rubbing circles into his back and combing through his curls and Anakin clings to Obi-Wan's robes like a drowning man.
"There, there," Obi-Wan mutters. "You should be released from this burden of being the chosen one, little one."
He closes his eyes again, resting his head against Obi-Wan's chest where he can feel the quiet thud of his heart. It's not his Obi-Wan, Anakin reminds himself again, but he looks like Obi-Wan and he talks like Obi-Wan―only the words are different―and for him, that's enough. Just for the moment.
"I have never chosen you," Obi-Wan whispers, holding him tight, and something in Anakin violently snaps, "and I never will."
The first sound Anakin makes in days is something between the wounded whimper of a dying animal and a cry full of agony as he shatters to his Master's feet and the desert of Tatooine takes him back again.
Anakin wakes, violently shaking and with the most desperate wish to never sleep again and Ahsoka bolts awake the moment his shields drop for a single moment and she is hit with so much it rips her out of whatever Master Che gave her to help her sleep through the night.
Ahsoka is still dizzy when she sits up in her bed but she can hear Anakin moving out of his room and towards the bathroom. Quickly Ahsoka slips out of her bed and room, towards where Anakin is. Their quarters lay in the dark still but Ahsoka doesn’t need the light to find her way. The sound of Anakin heaving up is really enough of a pointer for her. It took a lot of quiet pleading to get him to have dinner and now he empties it all out again. Never making it easy for her; Ahsoka sighs.
Ahsoka enters the bathroom where Anakin is slumped over the toilet and crouches down beside him. Asking whether he is okay or not would be a waste of both of their time and energy. Instead, she puts a hand on his arm and watches and he barely contains wincing under her touch.
Anakin looks at her and she wants to hug him. With all the things they have been through she hardly expected that any of his appearances could still shake her but he looks worse than ever. His eyes are red from tears or lack of good sleep, she doesn’t know, and his cheeks are sunken in. His skin is ashen. For a moment they look at each other then―Anakin turns his upper body again and vomits up whatever remains of the dinner she practically forced him to have. She has seen worse on the battlefield, however, that doesn’t mean she has to like vomit. Especially the smell of it since her enhanced senses make it worse.
Ahsoka rubs one of her hands over Anakin’s back while his body still heaves and trembles like he’s not getting enough air in his lungs. She doesn’t dare ask whatever he dreamt of that made him react like this. The remains of silent tears on his face are the only proof at all that he was dreaming in the first place.
“Is it over?” she asks. Not ‘are you okay?’ only whether it’s over or not. Anakin pulls back from where he hung over the toilet and nods. She regards him with a doubtful look. “Are you sure?”
At that she doesn’t get a nod anymore, Anakin moves to lean against one of the walls in the bathroom. That’s her new answer then. After a moment she moves too, to settle down beside him on the cool floor and against the wall.
It’s only a second of hesitation before Anakin moves an arm around her shoulder and draws her in closer. Ahsoka curls up at his side and when she starts to shiver he hugs her tighter. Anakin hooks his chin on top of her head, between her montrals, while Ahsoka wraps her arms around his waist.
Here they are. On the bathroom floor in the middle of the night. Just the two of them. There won’t be anybody in the morning to nag them about it and it will be worse than the pain her back will be in.
When the tears start slipping over her cheeks again Ahsoka takes comfort in Anakin’s presence and lets his thin sleeping robes soak up her tears.
Ahsoka has met death and it was cold, always so cold. With Anakin death are heat and something burning inside of him. It radiates off of him and warms Ahsoka in the night while it destroys him slowly.
“Thank you,” she whispers. For letting her stay with him this time, for comforting her, for being with her through every step of the way. I love you. Anakin hugs her tighter and she knows that he knows. It brings her some peace amidst all this pain.
"Anakin?" Aayla's voice is soft when she enters Obi-Wan's quarters. He's back here after barely making it through the funeral with the Duchess of Mandalore sobbing, Padmé besides her and the worry in Ahsoka's big eyes swallowing him whole; guilt replaced grief for a single heartbeat.
He didn't have to look for him to see it. Or feel it. His bond with Ahsoka is still there, though faint after withdrawing from everything completely. His shields never have been as strong as Obi-Wan’s―he knows he projects in the Force and that he's too much, always too much, giving other Jedi headaches after spending too much time with him, but with Obi-Wan gone, withdrawing from the Force seems cruelly easy. He must have been so easy to handle these past few days.
When Qui-Gon was buried and cremated Anakin didn’t understand any of it. Now he had to stand and watch his Master burn.
"Anakin," Aayla repeats and for the first time in three days, Anakin looks someone else in the eyes properly. Aayla crouches down in front of him and he sees his own eyes reflect in hers. He looks miserable; like he hasn't slept in days. And isn’t it funny that he has slept during these past few days but Obi-Wan always used to say that bad sleep is like no sleep at all and substituting through meditation is only allowed when he does that (that he didn’t say but he didn’t have to for Anakin to get it). And oh, his sleep is so very bad. Every night Obi-Wan haunts him and tells him cruel things.
Are they cruel because they are the truth or are they cruel because Obi-Wan is lying to him?
For all the time he hasn't spent getting any good sleep he hasn't even talked to Padmé yet, because he hasn't talked to anyone he reminds himself, but he should be better than this. Padmé lost a friend too. But what good will a silent husband do her in this situation? He has been enough of a burden the one night he spent in their home. Anakin rubs a tired hand through his face.
"Anakin," Aayla says again and third time’s the charm. She reaches out for his hands and he doesn't object when she takes them in her own. With her fingers, she traces circles into the back of his hands. "We're worried about you. You haven't been yourself."
Of course. For sure they must've expected him to rage and scream and project even more in the Force and if he's being honest Anakin expected the same because this is how he deals. The Chancellor says because he's strong and can't be contained. (Anakin isn't so sure after the past three days, he feels horrible, not strong and not powerful)
The Chancellor tried talking to him too and seemed surprised enough, maybe even irritated, he was too tired to tell when Anakin wouldn't answer. He'll have a lot of apologising to do, he’s aware of that, but at the moment he can’t find himself to care quite enough.
For Ahsoka, he cares enough though and he feels awful that he isn’t strong enough for both of them. Force knows she needs his support and he can’t give it to her because without Obi-Wan the thin thread of light that leads him on his way is gone and he’s lost―so lost.
"You don't have to be yourself, of course not," Aayla continues quietly and he almost forgot she was there in the first place, averting his gaze so he’s staring at some point over her shoulder, "you know how Quinlan was like a father to me too," her voice has grown to be barely above a whisper, "I understand how much he means to you. Just, Anakin, can you try talking to us? Anyone, really. We're worried. I'm worried about you."
She would talk to him like this when they were Padawans still. After Anakin got in trouble she would talk to him like that or when talking to Obi-Wan, telling him how he felt in all honesty, was too hard on him.
Anakin meets her eyes again and then he opens his mouth. The motion alone is enough to make his throat burn with the air that enters his lungs that way for the first time in three days. He closes it again and Aayla’s expression falters for a heartbeat before she catches herself again and gentle serenity takes over her again. Anakin opens his mouth again, ignoring the burn it causes in his throat.
"How am I supposed to go on without him?" The words stumble out raspy and fast and then his voice hitches after the last word because ‘him’ means Obi-Wan and then the first miserable sob forces itself out of his chest. His vision goes blurry with all the tears he forced down, taking their revenge now. He feels his shoulders shake and hears his breaths coming ragged and distorted.
“I don’t know how.” He breathes the words out rather than actually speaking since it hurts and he knows Aayla will understand him anyway. Admitting to it is admitting to his many failures as a Jedi. Oh, he knows.
One of Aayla’s lekku twitches, in discomfort or pity or both things at the same time, and she stares at their intertwined hands between them.
“Sorry,” he adds quietly.
“You have nothing to be sorry for, Anakin.”
He has too many things to be sorry for. And yet Aayla continues rubbing small circles and waves into the backs of his hands as they sit almost in complete silence with only Anakin’s sobs filling the room. At one point Aayla moves her body so she can sit next to him, shoulders pressed against each other.
“Aayla, it hurts,” he whispers, his whole body shaking now with tears as heavy as the galaxy he carries on his shoulders.
"I know Anakin," she says quietly, "but you are here and you will heal."
Anakin isn’t sure if he wants to without Obi-Wan. So he sits next to Aayla, under the window sill with the wilting plants on top of it, and lets her hold his hands like she used to do when they were still Padawans and the world used to be a little brighter.
In the morning after the funeral, Anakin steps into their shared kitchen. Aayla brought him back to the quarters he shares with Ahsoka because Obi-Wan’s quarters are technically only Obi-Wan’s quarters now. Or they were. He’s gone, Anakin whispers in the back of his mind.
Ahsoka is already there with a cup of tea in both of her hands. There’s another cup on the table between them, still steaming.
“Hello,” Ahsoka whispers, voice hoarse from tears. She’s wrapped up in a robe that’s too big for her. It’s not one of his’... they are much bigger on her. With a thud, he realises that it might be one of Obi-Wan’s considering how he always left them everywhere. Anakin sits down at the table.
“I’m sorry,” is what he offers. Her eyes widen upon hearing his voice again. His voice is a mirror of her own. Quiet, hoarse, miserable. Only worse. He truly is sorry. For everything that he has done or rather not done during these past three days. Ahsoka sits down as well, at the opposite from him and raises the cup of tea to her lips, sipping at it slowly.
“It’s okay,” she says quietly.
“No, it’s not,” Anakin responds, “I should have been there for you.”
“You still can be.” Ahsoka shrugs. “It’s okay, Master. You don’t have to be okay.”
“I can’t,” Anakin starts and breaks off again, by lifting the cup of tea to his lip and mirroring Ahsoka in her small sips. It all reminds him of Obi-Wan. He coughs because his voice still isn’t used to being used again. “I have to go talk to the Chancellor,” he settles on.
“To the Chancellor?” Ahsoka repeats.
“Yes,” he mutters, not quite meeting her piercing gaze. Sometimes it’s uneasy, not that he would ever admit that to her. “I have to…”
“You have to what?” Ahsoka interrupts him, raising one of her markings at him. He never got the feeling that she liked him particularly much―maybe Obi-Wan’s distaste of politicians got to her too.
“Nothing, I just…,” he says, rubbing a hand through his face, “I have to give more than one apology, Ahsoka.”
But that’s not the whole truth. She doesn’t need to know that. If she doesn’t believe him she doesn’t show it and continues sipping her tea. When she sets the cup down on the table, Ahsoka regards him with a long look.
“I’m glad you’re talking again,” she whispers. Oh, his honest Padawan. Anakin’s heart breaks for her.
“I am too, Ahsoka,” he whispers back.
Ahsoka puts her small hand down on his. It’s another morning, not necessarily a good one.
The pain is still etched into his bones.
It’s violent pain and Anakin fears it might replace whatever warmth and light Obi-Wan brought to him and will make him burn until the end of his days.
He doesn't force a smile. Ahsoka knows it would be hollow anyway.
This whole thing blows up in their faces. Dooku gets to the Chancellor anyway and Anakin stops him―to some extent but once again Dooku gets away anyway.
After they get back from Naboo Master Windu makes all three of them visit the Halls of Healing before he allows them to return to their respective quarters. To check over Obi-Wan, who is alive and not dead, for… quite possibly everything he could’ve suffered through during this mission, Ahsoka only for the few scrapes she got herself while protecting Padmé and the Queen and him for getting electrocuted once again. At this point, he’s rather unsettlingly unaffected by it. What’s one more time? It all goes in silence. None of them feel like talking. Anakin least of them all at this point. Their silence never has been that uncomfortable.
Ahsoka almost falls asleep standing up between Obi-Wan and him, which gets her another lecture from Master Che.
“Padawan Tano,” Master Che scolds, snapping her fingers in front of her face, watching Ahsoka startle awake, “what I have told you? Come to me when you can’t sleep.”
“I―” Ahsoka starts but then breaks off again as if she was about to protest. “I’m sorry, it won’t happen again.”
“It was my fault,” Anakin interjects before Master Che gets to speak again. He doesn’t look at anyone when he continues talking. “I’ve kept her awake lately.”
He crosses his arms in front of his chest, drawing his shoulders up.
“It won’t happen tonight,” he mutters, glancing at Obi-Wan, who’s eyeing him way too carefully. After all, the subject of his nightmares has returned to his reality again. It needs to be fine again because otherwise Obi-Wan will notice and then he will want to talk about it; Anakin isn’t too sure he would be able to handle it.
"Skywalker," Master Che says, "you get something to help you sleep too then."
"No," he protests, too loud, too fast, "I will be fine without."
He needs to be able to wake up and not stay trapped in his nightmares to no ends if they should happen again tonight.
"Got electrocuted again," he adds, forcing a smile, "I will sleep wonderfully."
Everyone winces in discomfort but Master Che lets it be. He won’t ask why but that she doesn’t force it on him is good enough for him. At this point, he doesn’t consider himself to be above fleeing from the Halls of Healing.
They can all leave together. None of them says a single word. Anakin has become familiar with the silence within a few days.
When they reach their quarters the last remains of the sun pour into the hallway. Ahsoka is the first one to break the silence.
“I’m glad you're back, Master,” she whispers, sounding close to tears and then it barely takes the quick moment of a drawn breath before she throws her arms around Obi-Wan and hugs him with enough force to make him stumble back a few steps. Obi-Wan’s hands hover in the air uselessly for a split moment before he closes his arms around her.
“I am glad too, dear one,” he says quietly. And Anakin believes every word he says. While it itches in Anakin’s fingers to reach for Obi-Wan too, to let his warmth conquer him whole, some irrational part of him remembers the coldness of Obi-Wan’s fingertips on his skins and he―he can’t risk it.
So he turns away and steps into Ahsoka’s and his quarters. If Obi-Wan feels pain he doesn’t let Anakin feel it. The plants in their quarters don’t seem as dead anymore. It’s Obi-Wan who takes care of them too, they keep them because it makes him come over. Anakin sighs. Tomorrow. Tomorrow he can try, but tonight his bones are fragile and his heart is weak.
He sits on his bed when Ahsoka steps into the doorframe.
“Hush up, Snips,” he says before she can beat him to it, “I know what you want to say.”
Ahsoka rolls her eyes at him but remains quiet.
“Tomorrow,” Anakin adds, “I promise you, Snips. Tomorrow. Not today.”
“Fine,” Ahsoka responds, “I will hold you to it.”
When Ahsoka brightens at the faintest smile that tugs at his lips in response almost all of it is worth it again.
“I know you will, Snips. Sleep well.”
“You too,” she whispers and then she leaves for her own bedroom, closing his door behind her and leaving him alone with his thoughts.
Anakin falls asleep the moment his head hits the pillow, exhaustion washing over him immediately.
In his dream, he walks through the Temple. Anakin knows he’s dreaming again because Ahsoka runs past him with a few other Padawans and she’s smiling and the light in her eyes is bright and not hollowed out by the war. It’s not a nice dream. Why aren’t the nightmares over now? Anakin wants to wake him.
Maybe he knows it’s a dream too because all of their eyes are a little too bright and when Anakin stares at himself in the reflection of the huge windows his eyes are too bright as well, they are flaring like little suns. Flare up, flare out, like a small heartbeat. The whole Temple seems eerie like that, not like the Temple he’s used to.
Anakin wanders through the hallways and they grow emptier until there are no longer any Padawans running around and it’s only ivy growing over the floor and through the windows. Abandoned, is the first word to spring into his mind. So Anakin forces himself to ignore his own sun-like eyes and the ivy that suffocates the Temple in his other life as he searches for the only door he hopes hasn’t been claimed by ivy and abandoned yet.
The hallway is familiar when he walks into it. The door is familiar too. Anakin closes his eyes, taking a deep breath as if opening his eyes again would free him of this dream. Instead, he finds himself face to face with Obi-Wan.
“Hello, dear one,” Obi-Wan greets him. Anakin eyes him slowly. He talks like his Obi-Wan used to talk, not like the Obi-Wan that has been haunting him. This Obi-Wan has no suns for eyes, though. They are cold like the Nebulae they observe from planets far far away together when the time allows them to. It’s not his Obi-Wan, Anakin knows.
Obi-Wan opens the doors to their quarters and holds his hand out towards Anakin.
“Will you come in with me?”
And because he is nothing but foolish at the end of the night Anakin takes Obi-Wan’s hand and allows Obi-Wan, not his Obi-Wan, to lead him into their quarters. Their quarters that haven’t been touched by ivy yet, their quarters that haven’t been abandoned yet. Anakin can feel the life in them, even in his dreams.
Anakin flinches when the door behind them closes abruptly. When he turns around to look at it, the doorknob is gone and ivy is growing into the room under the door, creeping its way in, like an intruder it seems to follow Anakin wherever he goes. Maybe he’s the intruder.
When he turns towards the room again another boy is sitting in his place, in his chair, holding a cup of tea in his still small hands and he’s not Anakin. Obi-Wan is there too. Not his Obi-Wan, but not the Obi-Wan made up of nebulae either.
“That’s not…,” Anakin wheels around to Obi-Wan. The wrong Obi-Wan.
“That’s not you,” Obi-Wan finishes his sentence for him, tilting his head to the right a bit. His touch is so cool it burns Anakin, turning him into part of the galaxy. Anakin watches as Obi-Wan lifts his hand and then tugs at one of Anakin’s curls―like Obi-Wan sometimes used to tug at his Padawan braid many years ago. It feels like this Obi-Wan is mocking him.
Obi-Wan rests his hand against Anakin’s cheek and turns his face until he’s looking at his Obi-Wan again. His Obi-Wan who’s sitting at the table with a boy that isn’t Anakin.
“Do I not look happy?” Obi-Wan whispers beside his ear. Anakin swallows down a sob. He doesn’t dare speak. Why is this still happening? Instead, he turns back to the twisted version of Obi-Wan that haunts him.
“Do you not want me to be happy?” Obi-Wan asks him, voice taunting but soft, angling Anakin’s head back to him. His touch burns; it’s too much of Obi-Wan’s familiar warmth, it’s agonising heat now.
“Yes,” Anakin whispers and even in his dreams, his voice is still hoarse and full of rasp after not saying a single word for days. It sounds as hollow as he feels because this Obi-Wan still haunts him. It shouldn’t happen anymore. Obi-Wan is alive.
“I would have been,” Obi-Wan remarks, “I would have been happy if it weren’t for the burden I had to bear because of you.”
Anakin stumbles back and out of Obi-Wan’s reach, knocking into the boy that is not him who promptly spills his tea all over the table. They don’t acknowledge him. For all the boy and the other Obi-Wan know Anakin isn’t even there.
“You don’t mean that,” he whispers.
Anakin shakes his head slowly, the doubt already eating him away.
“No,” he whispers again, trying to convince himself more than he’s trying to convince Obi-Wan at this point.
“How many times has the Council questioned me because you can’t follow simple orders and do as I say?”
Anakin opens his mouth but no sound comes over his lips and Obi-Wan laughs at that. It doesn’t even come close to Obi-Wan’s heartfelt laugh and it makes Anakin flinch as if he hit him.
“Oh, you know I’m right, little one,” Obi-Wan soothes, “search your feelings and you will find that I’m right.”
The world blurs before Anakin’s eyes and he tastes salt on his lips before he knows what’s happening.
“You are a burden no one should have to bear,” Obi-Wan says, “least of all me.”
Anakin’s shoulders shake in silent sobs as he stands face-to-face with Obi-Wan. This time Obi-Wan doesn’t touch him. He only smiles at him in cruelty Anakin can’t fathom.
“When I never wanted you in the first place.”
And then Obi-Wan turns around and leaves and while Anakin wanted this cruel Obi-Wan gone all the times before, now he stumbles after him because Obi-Wan can’t leave him like that because then it all will be true and Obi-Wan never wanted him at all.
Anakin pushes out of their shared quarters after Obi-Wan, reaching for him and into the dark. His fingers slip right through Obi-Wan and it’s cold cold cold like he was never there at all.
―His eyes snap open and he goes limp upon realising he’s awake again.
―Obi-Wan has heard his former apprentice scream in rage and in pain too, has felt him burn so brightly and then flare out again when all the anger left him but he has never heard him make these sounds so full of hurt and suffering. Crouched down by the side of Anakin’s bed he sees as Anakin’s eyes snap open and his body goes utterly limb. With his body going limp, his shields, the ones Obi-Wan has never experienced that strong drop too and Obi-Wan almost falls back as the combined force of all the things Anakin Skywalker feels too much and for too long hits him.
The moment Anakin’s eyes skim over the room and pick up on Obi-Wan’s presence he takes control over his muscles again, reeling back in the bed almost as if Obi-Wan threatened him with a knife.
“It’s me,” Obi-Wan whispers, to not wake Ahsoka. The poor girl deserves a whole night of rest. Looking at her for too long hurts a little bit too much still.
Somehow that sentence doesn’t calm Anakin down.
“You are not dreaming anymore,” he adds, picking up on Anakin’s process of thought with ease and years of familiarity. “This is real.”
For an agonisingly long moment nothing happens but then Anakin sits up in his bed, drawing his knees to his chest, making room in the bed and Obi-Wan moves to sit on it too.
“So,” Anakin whispers and for the first time Obi-Wan actually hears the supposed rasp in his voice after Mace told him that Anakin didn’t speak for almost three days, “you’re back.”
And it stings that somehow Anakin sounds bitter about it. Obi-Wan has long learned how to deal with his Padawan, his moods and his way of lashing out when he’s hurt. That doesn’t mean it hurts any less when it comes down to it.
“Anakin,” Obi-Wan sighs, “I understand to a degree that you are angry bu―”
"I'm not angry," Anakin snaps, then quieter, staring down at his still trembling hands, "not anymore."
This time it is not Anakin who steals Obi-Wan’s words from him by simply talking over him―this time he steals all words from Obi-Wan by finally looking at him in the dim light of the room.
Anakin looks at Obi-Wan and the only way he can describe it as is haunted. His former apprentice looks haunted and it shatters Obi-Wan’s heart all over again.
"I'm in pain," he whispers, voice cracking, threatening tears that are to come, "and it's everywhere."
And somehow that’s worse altogether. Anakin’s anger can be directed at him but this pain he has to carry on his own.
It surprises him when Anakin reaches for his hand but he lets his Padawan take it nonetheless. Anakin guides Obi-Wan’s outstretched fingers from his rips, over his collarbones and eyes to his temple and then back to his heart. His movements are uncharacteristically slow. He has to breathe every time he moves Obi-Wan’s arm.
“All these places,” Anakin says softly, “are on fire. And they hurt when you left.”
Obi-Wan knows of the pain a broken bond brings. He watches breathlessly as Anakin draws in another breath as if he’s mentally preparing himself to speak.
“When you…died.” Anakin’s voice has never been this quiet. “When I thought you died,” he corrects himself, “I thought I was being ripped in two. Why would you―”
Anakin bites down on his bottom lip instead of talking as his eyes turn into an ocean of their own.
Obi-Wan gently uncurls Anakin’s fingers around his wrist so he can rest his hand on Anakin’s cheek and Anakin stares at him with big eyes. Then he pulls Anakin closer until Obi-Wan can rest his chin on top of Anakin’s head and wrap one arm around him. He runs his fingers through Anakin’s hair.
“Oh, what have I done to you, dear one?” Obi-Wan whispers with his lips pressed against Anakin’s temple. His Padawan still trembles in his grasp but gradually relaxes until he goes pliant under Obi-Wan’s touch. “I’m sorry. I had to do it, but I’m sorry for the pain I caused you.”
“I was scared,” Anakin admits, his voice muffled against Obi-Wan’s chest and thick with tears.
“Oh, little one,” Obi-Wan soothes, “I never wanted to leave.”
“But you did.”
Anakin sounds as miserably as Obi-Wan feels.
Obi-Wan kisses the top of Anakin’s head and lingers.
“I will always choose to come back to you, dear one,” he whispers. Anakin starts to sob against his chest even more as soon as the words come over his lips like he waited his whole life for Obi-Wan to tell him. Gentle and careful as if handling glass, Obi-Wan puts both of his hands on Anakin’s cheeks so he can move his head away from his chest and look at him.
“Anakin,” he says, voice steady because there isn’t a thing he is as sure of as he is of this, “I will always choose you.”