Obi-Wan’s eyes were tighter with exhaustion every time Anakin saw him. On the long list of things he hated about this war, that one was near the top.
The most frustrating thing about it was that Obi-Wan took it as a matter of course. Sometimes Anakin wondered if he even tried to sleep, or if he only ever stopped when the weight of collapse pulled him under. It was like he thought he was expendable or something, as if he wasn’t the heart of the Order and his battalion and Anakin’s entire world.
Anakin tried dropping hints. He wasn’t particularly subtle about it, but that was probably for the best. Obi-Wan brushed off his pointed looks and appeals with such ease that anything less direct would have been ignored. As it was, at least he could hope that one day he might succeed in annoying Obi-Wan to sleep.
But as the war dragged on, month after month, the pattern held the same. If Anakin said, “At least we don’t leave until morning,” Obi-Wan replied, “Yes, I have a number of reports to get through before then.” If Anakin asked, “Have you even considered sleeping this month?,” Obi-Wan smiled and said, “Oh, I sleep every month, Anakin.” Sometimes Anakin thought about throwing him over one shoulder and just carting him off to bed—about tucking him in and glaring until he finally slept. It was embarrassing, really, but that fantasy ranked right up there with the ones about Obi-Wan’s arms around him, or Obi-Wan pressing him to the mattress.
Above everything, he just wished that Obi-Wan was even remotely interested in taking care of himself.
Or, better yet, in letting Anakin do it for him.
Obi-Wan was something else entirely. Anakin couldn’t understand how someone so measured and deliberate could be so reckless with himself, as if he thought that a few hours of sleep would betray the Republic.
After they somehow made it out of the Gaulus sector alive, with the blood and dust of Ryloth still in their hearts, Anakin cornered Obi-Wan on the bridge of the Negotiator.
Obi-Wan looked up at him and frowned. “You look terrible,” he said, and Anakin scowled back at him, because Obi-Wan looked crisp and composed but he felt blurred around the edges, his presence in the Force soft and subdued.
“Speak for yourself.” There was more bite to his tone than he’d meant to put there, but it wasn’t like Obi-Wan didn’t deserve it.
Because the second most frustrating thing about Obi-Wan’s lack of sleep was that he was, quite frankly, a hypocrite. Anakin would defend his Master’s sense of honour to Ilum and back, if he had to, with this one single exception: Obi-Wan made no secret about expecting Anakin to get the rest he himself refused to take.
“I will,” Obi-Wan said, and then promptly ignored the point Anakin had been trying to make. “And I say you should get some sleep, Anakin.”
The worst thing about it was that Obi-Wan wasn’t entirely wrong; Anakin was tired. Now that the battle was done, his limbs felt heavy and light all at once, like lungs devoid of air.
Maybe that was what made him say it, frustration boiling in his veins. Yes, Anakin was tired, but how could he sleep and leave Obi-Wan on this bridge?
“I will if you will.”
Obi-Wan watched him for a long moment, taut almost to breaking, and something about it made Anakin’s annoyance flare even higher.
“What, aren’t you going to set a good example?”
A blink, slow and sure, and then Obi-Wan’s voice sounded softly in the air. “I accept.”
“Seriously, Obi-Wan, you really need to…” Obi-Wan’s words registered suddenly over the sound of his own voice, and Anakin spent the next several seconds staring with his mouth open. “Wait, what?”
“I said that I will be happy to sleep if that is what it takes to convince you to rest. Force knows you need it,” Obi-Wan said calmly, and that almost distracted Anakin from his shock, because kriffing hell, that wasn’t what this was about at all. It was Obi-Wan who needed to sleep, eyes sunken and face pallor-grey. Anakin had just been trying to goad him, to corner him into realizing that Anakin was right.
But it was also the first overture Anakin had seem him make to the demands of his body in ages. If all Anakin had to do was take a nap, that was certainly a price he was willing to pay.
“I don’t believe you,” Anakin said, eyes narrowed. “The moment I leave, you’ll be reading reports or thinking strategy again.”
One of Obi-Wan’s eyebrows arched in amusement. “Oh yes?”
And that was how Anakin found himself curled, tight and uncomfortable, on his side in Obi-Wan’s small bed. One of his arms was draped over Obi-Wan’s waist—really, there was nowhere else to put it—and Obi-Wan’s back was hot and damp against his chest through their tunics.
“So you can keep an eye on me,” Obi-Wan had said by way of explanation. After a moment, he’d added, “And I on you.”
Anakin woke three hours later, mouth dry with sleep and Obi-Wan’s hair tickling at his nose. It was the best he’d slept in weeks. More importantly, Obi-Wan was still out cold, his body gentle and relaxed in the half-circle made by Anakin’s arm.
He couldn’t remember the last time he’d stayed still so long, but he didn’t move an inch except to breathe, slow and steady in time with Obi-Wan’s heart, until his Master stirred awake nearly an hour later.
After Ryloth, Anakin and Ahsoka found themselves sent to Aros II, and the next time he saw Obi-Wan was three weeks later on Coruscant. Anakin made his report before the Council, eyes drawn to the weary sprawl of Obi-Wan’s limbs. Somehow, Anakin thought that Obi-Wan always looked more tired than ever when he was sitting in that chair. At least when he was moving, on the battlefield or on his ship, it seemed that the momentum might be enough to keep him going. Here, framed by the stiff lines of his Council seat, he seemed weighted. Spent.
When he was done, Anakin lingered outside the Council Chamber until Obi-Wan emerged in low conversation with Depa and Mace. Obi-Wan bowed his head in parting and peeled off towards Anakin the moment he saw him, and Anakin tried to keep a tight leash on his exasperation as he got a better look at Obi-Wan’s eyes. Obi-Wan always said that they just had to get through this war, and Anakin was entirely in agreement; he would do whatever he had to in order to make that happen.
But at this rate, there wouldn’t be much left of Obi-Wan when the war was done.
“You have a few days on Coruscant, Anakin,” Obi-Wan said, coming to a stop before him. “You should make sure you get some rest.”
Anakin should have been used to this by now, but he still stared, incredulous, because Obi-Wan looked like a ghost. If Coruscant meant sleep, then Obi-Wan clearly hadn’t gotten his own memo. “Are you serious right now? You look like you haven’t slept in weeks.”
“Well, I’d be happy to get some sleep,” Anakin said, and smiled grimly at the look of surprise on Obi-Wan’s face. He aimed for casual, though in the end he was pretty sure he only got as far as blunt. “If you’d care to join me, that is.”
For a moment Obi-Wan almost looked like he might laugh, and it was the best thing Anakin had seen in…well, since he’d woken up with Obi-Wan fast asleep beside him. That was an image that haunted him, trembling into his thoughts at the most inopportune moments.
“That sounds fair enough,” Obi-Wan said, a slow drawl that spiraled lazy shivers down Anakin’s spine, and if Anakin had known Obi-Wan would be so agreeable about this, he would have tried it months ago.
They wound up in Anakin’s quarters, ostensibly because they were closer. Really, Anakin insisted because he knew Obi-Wan would be distracted by a dozen different tasks in his own rooms.
It made him a little self-conscious to admit it, even to himself, but Anakin wasn’t particularly fond of his new quarters. He’d hardly had a chance to begin settling into them yet. The bed felt strange and wrong somehow, which was ridiculous; it wasn’t any different than the one he’d claimed as a Padawan, just a few feet away from Obi-Wan’s.
But it turned out it wasn’t so bad with Obi-Wan in it. When they woke, the light of early evening had turned to dawn, but the sight of Obi-Wan’s head on his pillows was brighter than sunrise.
Enough of Anakin.
But slowly, their new pattern solidified.
“Go take your nap,” Ahsoka said slyly on the way to Quamar, and it had been too much to hope she hadn’t noticed. “We’ve got things covered here.”
“General Skywalker,” Cody said quietly after Breda, and Anakin swore the look on his face was conspiratorial. “General Kenobi could use some sleep, sir.”
“Let me guess,” Obi-Wan said in the aftermath of Chal Hudda, something in his eyes that Anakin couldn’t decipher. “You’ll sleep if I will?”
All in all, it was a pattern that Anakin found he could be content with.
After a brutal battle above Almak that left Anakin shaky and weak, Obi-Wan took one look at him in the landing bay and pressed his lips together in a thin line.
It was all Anakin needed to know about how bad he looked. He didn't even try to argue.
“Are you…will you come with me?”
There was silence, and it took a second for Anakin to realize that it was because he’d made no ultimatum.
“Anakin…” Obi-Wan hesitated, but when Anakin made no move to speak into the space it provided, he reached out to straighten the singed corner of one of Anakin’s sleeves. “Do you want me to?”
Anakin didn’t even know if he could find the energy to say “yes,” not without somehow tripping over the word, so he simply nodded once, the movement rough but sure. He felt open, exposed, as if he was revealing too much of himself, but he couldn’t find it within him to care.
It was Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan’s eyes searched his face, and eventually he seemed to find what he was looking for. “Okay,” he said, and guided Anakin through the corridors of the Negotiator, one hand firm at his back. Contorting himself into Obi-Wan’s small bunk felt like the first time he’d been able to breathe in hours.
“In the morning,” Obi-Wan said as he curved himself around Anakin’s body, “when we’ll both be able to remember it, I’m going to kiss you.”
Anakin thought about complaining, about demanding it now, but Obi-Wan was so warm at his back. He could feel wakefulness slipping through his grasp like water. In the end, all he could get out was, “You better not forget.”
And then he was drifting off, but in that last single moment between wakefulness and sleep, he could feel Obi-Wan drift beside him.