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In Time

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Obi-Wan watched as the Vigilance jumped into hyperspace. It only took a heartbeat, and then the space was still, empty and dark, Anakin and their troops already lightyears away.

“General Kenobi,” the medical droid lectured behind him, “standing is detrimental to your health. An optimal position would be a slightly elevated lying position on your assigned bed.”

Obi-Wan sighed. He was already regretting his decision to hop abroad the medical frigate, and not only because of the fussy med droid. Why was it that he could barely be in the same room as Anakin, and still, being apart from him made Obi-Wan feel even worse? Why did it seem like he had just nudged them closer to a certain disaster?

Anakin had been vehemently opposed to leaving Obi-Wan behind but had not been able to fire off his usual barrage of passionate protests. They had all agreed that getting the holocron back to the Jedi Temple as soon as possible was paramount – a task only to be trusted to a Jedi. But even at top speed, it would still take at least a week for the Star Destroyer to reach Coruscant, and although Obi-Wan had been loath to admit it, a week was probably too much time for him to be without the aid of a Jedi healer.

The Council and Anakin, no doubt spurred on by the never-before-to-be-heard confession from Obi-Wan that he needed medical help, had quickly agreed. And therefore, that only left Anakin to deliver the holocron, even if his Padawan’s quiet displeasure about it had been crystal clear to everyone. Anakin had wanted to stay with Obi-Wan and Obi-Wan…

He had been relieved to get some space, some time away from Anakin’s brooding mind and the heavy silence between them. But now, as the Vigilance had vanished from view, Obi-Wan could not help but second-guess himself.

General Kenobi,” the droid huffed, somehow managing to make his robotic voice sound disapproving, “you are exhibiting behaviour that does not aid in your recovery. My diagnostic tools indicate that there is an 82.532 percent chance of you falling down and causing damage to your extremities. Please return back to your assigned bed immediately.”

Bestowing one more glance to the empty spot in space where his ship had been, Obi-Wan turned away from the viewport. He was a keeper of peace after all and judged that it would be better to avoid an unfortunate altercation with the overbearing droid – for the time being. His acquiescence certainly had nothing to do with how his legs were like jelly, how his stomach churned like he was in the co-pilot’s seat in the middle of Anakin’s more hare-brained flying stunts.

Luckily for everyone involved, the medical droid left the ward as soon as Obi-Wan had settled on his bed. A blessed quiet descended. Obi-Wan knew he should meditate: Knight S’ghan would soon start the first healing session and before that, Obi-Wan had to get his conflicting thoughts in order, his shields ready. Although no healer would ever unearth that which their patient had given no permission to seek, it was only prudent to make sure that certain things were buried so deep behind his shields none could glimpse them. After all, Obi-Wan thought derisively, I am a keeper of secrets now.

Obi-Wan had stood before the Jedi Council, had looked straight at the hologram of Master Yoda, and he had given them a report about the holocron, about the places and times they had been transported to. It had been brief and clinical, a sufficient summary of the events but still a wholly inadequate telling of all he and Anakin had gone through. He had not told them about Anakin’s wedding to Padmé Amidala, nor about his frantic confession of slaughtering the Sand People.

At the time, the omission had seemed only sensible. It had not been the right time to tell, not to mention, it was not his responsibility to tell – it was Anakin’s. Even if that was clearly something Anakin had no desire, no wish to do, so it in all likelihood would fall on Obi-Wan regardless, but shouldn’t he at least give his Padawan the chance? Besides, the telling of it all could wait until they were both back in Coruscant, for no lives depended on the secrets. What was done, was done. There was nothing Obi-Wan or anybody else could do about it now. Padmé and Anakin were married. The Sand People were dead. A few days or weeks would not change that. So, the omission had only been sensible.

At least, that was how Obi-Wan had reasoned it, when Anakin had stood so tense beside him, facing the Council afraid but hardened, ready for his secrets to come out, and Obi-Wan had found himself saying nothing.

And now the almost unbearable weight of Anakin’s secrets – which had also become Obi-Wan’s secrets – pressed against his thoughts, colouring them with dark shade. Eight hours had passed since Anakin’s horrible, heart shattering confession in a Geonosian cave, and still Obi-Wan could hardly believe it, let alone understand it. Perhaps he never would.

He needed to think and sort it all out into something rational, something steady, for he was just a tangled mess of raw emotions, his judgement very much in question. Therefore, although Obi-Wan disliked medical wards of any kind with their prodding and probing healers with an almost zealous passion, he had voluntarily placed himself in one, just to get some time alone to think.

Obi-Wan closed his eyes against the bright fluorescent lights of the ward. There was an insistent throbbing in his head, a sharp ache that had never really gone away after Zigoola. He needed to meditate, to immerse himself in the Force. And yet his thoughts stubbornly turned to Anakin, to their last conversation – to the tense, awkward goodbye that Obi-Wan knew would prey on his mind, until everything could be finally resolved between them.

--

“You did not tell them.” Anakin sounded surprised, hopeful. “Does that mean…?”

“It only means that I judged the time and place to be unsuitable for that conversation,” Obi-Wan said, shame sharpening his voice. He had lied to Master Yoda, for a lie of omission was still a lie. Something Obi-Wan had certainly done plenty before, but never to Master Yoda and never with such big – astronomical – scales.

“Are you…when are you going to tell them?”

“It should not be my task to tell them,” Obi-Wan remarked pointedly.

Anakin said nothing, resolutely watching the nearing medical frigate. Obi-Wan sighed, deciding they had no time – and he had no desire – for a conversation they clearly had to have.

Still watching through the viewport, Anakin broke the tense silence: “I should stay with you.”

“That would hardly accomplish anything. Delivering the holocron safely –”

“Is highly important, I know, I heard the Council, same as you.” There was a familiar petulant note in Anakin’s voice that somehow rankled Obi-Wan more than ever before.

“Do you really hear them at all? Sometimes I wonder.”

“I hear them, I just a have a mind of my own too,” Anakin sniped, the entirely too-old, too-familiar argument raising Obi-Wan’s hackles suddenly so much that he retaliated blindly. For that was the only explanation for what he said next.

“Yes, a mind to deceive and commit mass murder.”

Anakin winced. Obi-Wan swallowed painfully. How had they come to this?

“I’m sorry,” he said, meaning it. “That was cruelly put.” But it was the truth nonetheless.

“I know you despise me now. I know you can never understand.” Anakin sounded miserable, but yet at his very core he was still defiant. Obi-Wan did not think his former Padawan quite realized the magnitude of his actions, of what he had done – or at least Anakin did not let himself understand it. It was not a way of thinking that could be changed in a moment, and that was all Obi-Wan had. Just a moment, soon not even that.

“I have to go.” Obi-Wan looked at Anakin, at his bleak and sad face, and despite everything, Obi-Wan hurt for him. He wanted to make everything better for Anakin, as always. Wanted to grip his friend’s shoulder and tell him that everything would be fine. Wanted to stay with him, not let him brood in these dark thoughts and actions any longer. But Obi-Wan could not. And so the only thing he did was to tell him goodbye.

“Anakin…travel safe.”

Anakin turned to look at him and said quietly, “You too.”

“I’ll see you back in Coruscant, we’ll talk then,” Obi-Wan promised, trying to keep the small smile he had mustered up on his face from wavering. “And I think I owe you a dinner at Dex’s.”

As Obi-Wan left, he did not look back, not until he was abroad the medical ship and there was the vacuum of black space between them.

--

His Master’s words (deceiver, murderer) still echoing in his ears, Anakin finally turned away from the viewport, where he had watched as the Star Destroyer had entered into hyperspace, leaving the medical frigate behind.

Obi-Wan’s regard and good opinion of him was lost – perhaps forever. He had made clear of what he thought of Anakin; even before the damning words, he had looked at Anakin like...like Anakin was a stranger to him. Like he couldn’t fathom that it was his former Padawan, who had married Padmé and avenged Shmi’s murder and lied about it all.

Anakin had known that Obi-Wan would not understand, and now everything was rapidly going down the drain. The Council would soon find out and then…it would be a karking sithstorm, he knew that much. Perhaps he would be ordered to give up Padmé – which he would never, ever do. In all likelihood they would kick him out of the Jedi Order; Anakin had a sudden sharp desire to not give them that pleasure and leave the Order himself, in his own terms. But how would he help in the war then? What was he, if he was not a Jedi?

Force, how he wished that they never would have found the stupid holocron. That the things he had so long kept secret would still be safely hidden in the dark, concealed by lies and omissions and Anakin’s utter belief that everything would be ruined if they were revealed – if Obi-Wan found out. And yet some small, childish part of him was relieved, glad, that Obi-Wan now knew everything; that Anakin didn’t have to lie to him anymore. However, that little bit of relief came with an enormous cost, with a grief that eclipsed it completely: it was frighteningly possible that he had lost Obi-Wan for good.

His Master despised him now. What if he never looked at Anakin with warmth and acceptance again? Obi-Wan was too honourable, too Jedi, to come to terms with Anakin’s transgressions, to brush them to side. He would not understand why Anakin had done what he had, could not see it anything but a betrayal of the Jedi teachings. How could he? To Obi-Wan, to love and care about someone passionately, unconditionally, was the greatest sin, an affront to the rigid Jedi way.

And the kicker was, although it would have been painful to stay behind by his Master’s side, the terrible heavy silence between them eating at Anakin’s soul bit by bit, it would have still been better than being alone, en route to an uncertain future. It felt wrong to leave Obi-Wan behind, still suffering gravely from the effects of the holocron. At their parting, Anakin had noticed how gingerly Obi-Wan had moved; how white his face still was. It had been a welcome lucky break that the old medical frigate had been so close to their location and had a Jedi healer on board. And if his Master wouldn’t have uncharacteristically wanted to go there, Anakin would have hog-tied and transported Obi-Wan to the ship himself.

Frustrated, Anakin strode towards the hangar. He did not want to think – not about the future, the Council or Obi-Wan. Unfortunately for him, there was a whole week of traveling ahead, of nothing much else to do but think, sink deep into dark thoughts. There was only one activity that might stem the flow of agonized what-ifs, years’ worth of old fears.

Anakin’s fighter was in prime condition, but there was still sure to be something he could do to enhance its performance. The trusted machine sat on the hangar deck, waiting for action. Anakin had a sudden wild want to take it out, to just fly off and vanish into dark space. Instead, he picked up a toolbox from the maintenance area and crawled under the belly of the fighter. No one would bother him there. R2 was nowhere to be found, and Anakin didn’t know whether to be disappointed or grateful about that. At the present, he could not stand company, but the little droid’s comforting presence might have helped ease the building tension in him.

For a moment, Anakin just lay under his ship, unmoving and staring at the undercarriage. The familiar cacophony of sounds faded into the background, until all Anakin could hear was his own ragged breathing, like he had run for miles. He wanted to stretch his mind out into the black – knew that he could still reach Obi-Wan. Their connection had always been strong, able to withstand great distances. He ached with the wish to just touch Obi-Wan’s mind, to feel his Master’s reassuring presence.

But at the last moment Anakin drew back into himself, afraid that at the other end of the bond, there would be nothing but the words

deceiver murderer

He didn’t want to – couldn’t – hear them again. Not from Obi-Wan, who was one of the few people Anakin trusted above all else, looked up to. He was a man of integrity and honour and goodness. Anakin had always known that his old Master would not understand the rightness of Anakin’s union with Padmé, the righteous wrath of justice he had meted out to his mother’s killers, but what if –

Anakin’s whole universe seemed to falter again, a terrible doubt taking root in his mind.

What if Obi-Wan was right? What if Anakin really was –

No. Obi-Wan simply did not understand. But he would, for Anakin would make him understand. He would not lose his Master without a fight. And fighting, if nothing else, was something Anakin was very good at. He would do anything at all, fight with everything he had, as long as he had to. There was no other option.

He could not lose Obi-Wan.