Before Obi-Wan is apprenticed, he has a distinct idea in mind of how his life will play out: He’ll attract a Master who is charmed by his intellect and quiet curiosity, and they’ll spend years together, keeping peace across the galaxy. After being Knighted, and slumming on a few solo missions alongside a small pack of age-mates, he’ll take his own softly bright Padawan and help him realize his Force-given gifts.
After Obi-Wan is apprenticed (barely), Knighted, Mastered, Generaled, he wonders when it will stop feeling like he’s playing catch up to an ideal he fears was unattainable all along.
He knows of Dooku, of course, but their paths infrequently cross until Obi-Wan discovers his Master’s Master in the Archives, idling with Madam Nu. “Padawan Kenobi,” he beckons. He’s there the next time Obi-Wan has research to do, and the next, too.
Dooku is a patient listener. “Xanatos is Qui-Gon’s biggest disappointment,” he intones, after hearing of their disastrous mission on Telos. “You would do well not to follow in his footsteps, child.” Obi-Wan stumbles over himself to assure Dooku that he has no intention of being anything like Xanatos.
Dooku’s smile is thin, hand firm. “I know you won’t.”
The Prophecy of the Chosen One is inscribed on the inside of a Holocron that’s locked away into one of the Archives’ many nooks. In truth, Obi-Wan thinks, it seems like an awful lot of fanfare for some easily misconstrued words. “It’s probably not real, though, right?” he asks Dooku, and maybe there’s some anxiety in his voice, maybe because if there was a spectrum of Jedi abilities and specialness, Obi-Wan, maybe still waiting for the day when Master Yoda declares that they made a mistake keeping him, would fall about as far away from “Chosen One” status as possible.
He’s a late-bloomer when it comes to sexual experimentation, is in his late teens before he tries anything at all, and it’s some time after that before he realizes that he’s attracted to his Master. It’s not unheard of, certainly; all the same, uncertainty, fear that he won’t be good enough, won’t be taken seriously, won’t be wanted, stay his hand. It’s not even something he can bring to Dooku - though he’s long realized just why Qui-Gon’s Master spent so much time ‘talking’ with Madam Nu, it seems to overstep boundaries - and so he keeps it to himself.
There’s a mission, perhaps as bad as Telos or even worse, somewhere called Galidraan, and rumors begin to fly, though it’s not the Jedi way to gossip. Dooku stops coming to the Archives, and then he’s gone entirely.
“He should have had faith in the Order to make the right decisions,” Obi-Wan tells Qui-Gon. His Master is quiet these days, like when Tahl died, and distant, and it disappoints Obi-Wan not to be able to comfort him, to prove that he’s learned much since Melida/Daan. He brings tea at dawn anyways, and waits for Qui-Gon to let him in again.
The midichlorian reading is bizarrely high, and Obi-Wan runs the test strip through the machine twice, and then twice more. “Whoever he is, he’s stronger in the Force than even Master Yoda,” he breathes finally, and the thoughtful silence on Qui-Gon’s end is deafening.
“Do you think he might be the one, Obi-Wan?” He’s knows precisely what Qui-Gon is talking about; it’s the most excited he’s ever heard his Master. His stomach churns. He runs the test one more time, just to be absolutely sure.
“Maybe, Master,” he says weakly, somehow knowing that this boy is about to change everything.
Anakin at nine is terribly advanced in the Force in some ways, terribly behind in others, and his opinion of himself also dances between the two extremes. He’s angry, frustrated, brilliant, and sad, and more than once, he makes it clear that he knows he’s being cheated by having Obi-Wan as his Master, bitter, strict, and dull.
They’re both being cheated, though, Obi-Wan thinks. He tries not to be jealous of Anakin’s raw talent, to feel infuriated that Qui-Gon’s last thoughts were for a child who won’t ever have to fear not being chosen or wanted. Sometimes, he even succeeds.
Anakin makes his sexual interests proudly known, much to Obi-Wan’s chagrin (and envy). Padawan-on-Padawan fumbling and punishments for sneaking off to the Outlander, even the occasional chaste snuggle in Obi-Wan’s modest bed after one of Anakin’s infamous nightmares give way to awkward, aggressive come-ons and, eventually, a reluctant promise regarding Anakin’s seventeenth birthday.
Lots of Padawans fall in love with their Masters, Obi-Wan tells himself; but Anakin is still warm and willing and wanting, and he thinks that perhaps this isn’t something the boy would ask for from Qui-Gon, and the thought fills him with equal parts pleasure and dread.
Dooku was always a formidable presence, but leaving the Order has sharpened him. His clothing is richer now, though impeccable as always, and he makes it his own. His eyes slide from Obi-Wan’s bound frame to his face, equally disdainful and intrigued; his expression hardens, however, when Obi-Wan refuses him flat-out.
Still, the mention of Qui-Gon successfully makes the younger man bristle. “He would never join you,” he spits, and then Dooku’s smile is back in full-force, menacing and matter-of-fact.
“There are many things about your Master that you never understood, child,” he intones, and Obi-Wan flinches and looks away.
“How was he ever a Jedi?” Anakin gestures angrily at the bust of the Count that has recently joined the Archives’ collection of Masters ‘lost’ to the Order. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is the most freshly dusted of the twenty.) To Anakin, there is no redeeming value in anything Dooku says or does; he is the face of this war, a symbol of pain and suffering. It’s not a nuanced characterization, and Obi-Wan reaches automatically to correct it.
His response earns him a curious glance. “You knew him well, Master?”
Obi-Wan meets the marble statue’s slack gaze. “Qui-Gon did,” he replies.