It was Leia. It had to be Leia.
She was the one wailing in her arms when the birthing droid had placed her there. While her mother could only gasp that cruelly brief hello and goodbye, she’d reached a woeful pitch that had Ahsoka almost clamping her hands over her montrals (with all the unavoidable guilt and shame to accompany). Ahsoka could barely see Leia’s pink little face then, scrunched and screaming through the mist of tears clouding her eyes. She’d panicked, started shaking, didn’t want Padmé to die…
In hindsight, it was ludicrous… but maybe if she tried giving her the baby, Padmé might open her eyes again. Not her, please no...
Padmé had smiled at her, the edges of it forced and so very broken; she couldn’t help but see another face, wearing that same contrived smile. It was cruel by design, meant to mislead. The dying Satine had fashioned it just so in the hopes that it might soothe her surrogate daughter’s breaking heart. But this time, there was nothing Ahsoka could do. There was no Maul to bash till he was begging for mercy (the mercy Obi-Wan had forced her to give him); no Death Watch to swear vengeance against… there was only a wailing baby, her Master clinging to another far too quiet… and nothing. There was nothing. Everything was gone.
She’d peered over at the observation screen, and through the tears and over Leia’s screams, she could just make out the tired and weary faces of Bail Organa and Master Yoda. They wore the weight of their failure and the universe on their shoulders, and Ahsoka had realised, she too bore that weight now. Her shoulders ached, her lungs were burnt, and Leia's shrieks were harrowing against her montrals.
Her gaze drifted to little Kestis, who stood so still and quiet behind Master Yoda, she could barely make out the whites of his eyes.
But Ahsoka could recognise the wail of Leia Skywalker by now. She cried nonstop, while her twin lay as quiet as the tomb beside her. Master Obi-Wan had claimed her as an extension of himself for the first few hours, bouncing her up and down and trying to soothe the youngling with gentle waves from the Force. It was of course, futile. While Ahsoka stroked Luke's belly, Leia's wails only crescendoed.
She wanted her mother.
But all she had was this strange, broken man trying to work a bottle teat between her lips, and to not wet her cheeks any further with his own tears.
It frightened Ahsoka Tano; a very rare thing indeed. But it frightened her to see Master Obi-Wan so very close to breaking. He tried humming a few notes to the baby he held, and as his pitch warbled and cracked, Ahsoka’s heart broke all over again. She had to look away, had to focus on the steady rise and fall of Luke's tiny chest to give herself a rhythm to breathe to. She couldn't see him like this, it felt so innately wrong to see him struggle to breathe and force a smile. Him being ever the advocate for deconstructing the emotional complex at a later time, she was waiting now... waiting for him to finally snap, and the tenter hooks she was dangling by were beginning to make her nauseas. Perhaps it was selfish and terribly cruel, but she was frightened at the prospect of having to be the one tasked with putting him back together again — to hold and safeguard all the pieces of his broken heart.
However, she'd listened to the gentle tune he'd hummed, haunting as it rose up those chromatic steps, and fell once more. Closing her eyes, she pressed her hand to the sleeping baby in the cot...
She knew the tune. Anakin had sometimes hummed it absently as he’d tinkered, or to fill the long hours lost to hyperspace travel. She'd caught a few words here and there before. It was a Nubian lullaby, something she'd had confirmed by Padmé when she'd hummed a particularly nagging phrase to her once.
It hurt just that bit more when she realised what Obi-Wan was attempting to do — he'd picked a melody he hoped Leia would know.
Luke began to stir when she felt another wave of grief tear up from inside. She cooed, employed that same counterfeit smile his mother had given her not a few hours ago, and smoothed a thumb over his forehead. He yawned, and fell back to his disturbingly restful slumber. Ahsoka wished Leia would follow her brother’s lead, but no. She seemed intent on bringing the full force of the Empire raining down upon them with her wailing.
Eventually, Senator Organa, who'd been watching through pitying looks, had relieved them of their creche-sitting duties. Master Secura had offered to make tea. Ahsoka was sure she'd caught Commander Bly pouring something much stronger into Obi-Wan's steeping tea while his general wasn't looking.
Kestis stole her away, eager to sit her down in front of a window to watch the meteorites float past — but she found little-to-no comfort in observing their aimless wandering. They had no destination, no set path to follow, and perhaps it was something that hit a little too close to home right now.
Eventually, after everything was said and done, Ahsoka found herself pulling a robe over the sleeping form of Cal Kestis — she didn’t know whom it had belonged to, but Master Yoda had supplied it… and she highly doubted the robe designed to fit a man of at least six foot could ever belong on the small frame of Master Yoda.
She’d taken to strolling the medical facility of Polis Massa, stringently ignoring the meteorites out every window for what felt like hours, until she found herself stopped outside the unassuming door to the operating theatre once more. The medical staff had darkened the observation screen, and coded the doors… Ahsoka doubted she could bring herself to enter the room, even if they had left it unlocked.
She didn’t know how long she’d been standing there, with the expanse of space so quiet and cold swirling beyond the bulkhead behind her, and the faintest traces of Padmé’s last moments still lingering in the room before her. Ahsoka closed her eyes and listened to the churn of the meteorites, and the fragile whisper of Padmé Amidala’s echoing laughter…
Of course, he came now. When did he not? She dreaded the day he no longer would. Ahsoka breathed in, and he breathed out.
“My dear, you’ve been standing on your feet for more than thirty hours now. I think it’s high time we found a quiet corner to meditate in.”
Hypocrite. He’d been going for far longer — while he’d remained on guard, she’d been able to sneak an hour or two of uneasy sleep aboard the one-man fighter they’d stolen from Utapau. That was, when she wasn’t busy fending off an oncoming panic attack and trying to scratch away the blood now marking her from the helmet she’d stowed behind Master Obi-Wan’s feet. The itch of Cody’s blood, burning through the armguards and blistering her skin beneath — she’d worked herself into such a frenzy that no matter how many calming exercises she took herself through, she couldn’t stop the tightening in her chest, or the phantom burn along her arms. Obi-Wan had been forced to unlatch the blood-soaked gauntlets for her, and stash them from view. His hands had cupped her shoulders, and when that proved useless, they’d cupped her cheeks. The pads of his thumbs traced the markings there.
“Sweetheart, look at me. Breathe.”
It was one of the very rare occasions he’d ever addressed her by some term of endearment rather than by her name. He managed to infuse enough warmth and affection into the usual, acceptable ‘padawan’, or ‘apprentice’ that anything else seemed entirely unnecessary — so this sudden change caught her attention fast. He’d addressed her as ‘my dear’ many times over the course of her apprenticeship, but usually in jest or when he’d been standing on his feet for over fifty hours and she’d swear he was no longer in possession of the mental capacity to remember her name.
He’d smoothed the pads of his thumbs once more over her burning cheeks, through the dirt and blood, and her breath had hitched. “Cody, I — I’d just persuaded him to come visit Senator Amidala with me once we were due back on Coruscant… You know what he’s like. He didn’t think it’d be appropriate, but I’d told him Padmé was — she’s bound to have the baby any day now. He’d agreed, and I—” she’d begun to choke, and that was all that was really needed before Obi-Wan did another preciously rare thing, and pulled her to — almost impossible due to their awkward arrangement in the cockpit of a one-man fighter, but somehow he’d managed.
“I know, Ahsoka… I know.”
She couldn’t blame him… neither Cody, nor Obi-Wan. She didn’t even blame Anakin… couldn’t find it in her heart to do so.
This last week… it was all too much to deconstruct on her own, so she’d found she was more than grateful when accepting Obi-Wan’s offer to meditate with her. She needed that beacon of Light above the tossing, frothing sea of the Force now more than ever. So she’d let him lead her to a room on the far side of the base, where the fields of stars stretched into eternity beyond every pane of transparisteel, accompanied by those meandering meteorites, ever untroubled. The doors remained open, spilling the warm light from the corridor into the room, and he’d gestured for her to make herself comfortable. She’d ignored his fractious pacing and distant gaze for the sake of his dignity, and folded herself into a familiar order of poised limbs and straightened spine. She’d closed her eyes and listened as Master Obi-Wan mirrored her arrangement not two feet from her.
He seemed so calm and collected — she always envied that part of him; that stoic reservation he maintained, accompanied always by a smile and a never-failing graciousness. Perhaps he’d already collected himself while she’d been wandering the long hallways of Polis Massa. Perhaps he’d come to assist her in obtaining the same peace he’d found.
She wished she could believe that.
When she gently entreated upon those carefully constructed shields, she nearly flinched at the tumultuous soul that greeted her there.
Here was a glimpse of the man she’d found on Mustafar, scrambling up the side of an embankment and unable to tear his eyes from what horrors he’d left laying, burning, behind him. Here was a glimpse of the man she’d been willing to rip through at the sound of Anakin’s howls. Here was the man who’d captured her before she could save him, and dragged her back to Padmé’s cruiser while she matched the screeching pitch of her brother's cries with her own.
And, as if reacting to the sudden flood of Obi-Wan’s emotions into the Force, those wails were back again. But rather than Anakin Skywalker, it was now the sound of his child crying that tightened every length of muscle in Ahsoka’s body.
It was Leia. It had to be Leia.
She was the one wailing in her arms when the birthing droid had placed her there. Ahsoka could recognise the screams of Leia Skywalker by now. She cried nonstop, while her twin lay as quiet as the tomb beside her.
… When his shoulders began to shake, Ahsoka could feel her nose burn hot with blood. Her eyes stung when that shaking progressed into a broken sob. His head hung in shame, and that familiar ginger hair, burnt and coated in ash, fell past his face… Her Master gurgled while Leia screamed into the night.
Ahsoka hastily wiped away the tears. Obi-Wan pulled at his own hair. She resisted the urge to stop him from ripping it from his scalp.
“Master,” she began, and watched as Kenobi pushed the palms of his hands into his eyes, and seethed. It was a horrifying sound, something primal and broken and so very unlike Master Obi-Wan that she flinched.
“I’m so sorry, Ahsoka,” he choked, unable to lift his head and look her in the eye. “I have failed you.”
A sudden memory then, of a man who’d calmly approached her on a battlefield all those years ago, that smile he wore seemingly so out-of-place in the carnage of Christophsis surrounding them — he’d placed a careful hand on her shoulder, and she’d never thought twice about following him through the darkest hours, and over the steepest mountains.
She’d walked the length of scarred battlefields beside this man. She’d slept under strange skies, on distant worlds in obscure systems under the watchful gaze of this man. She’d endured his woeful cups of bitter tea until she’d grown fond of them. She’d sat through his lectures, soaking in the wealth of wisdom and knowledge he’d been so very eager to share with her — even now, she felt as though she’d only scratched the surface of what Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi had to offer.
She could do a mean impression of him. She’d memorised his every gesture and movement, until she and Anakin could entertain themselves with competing over who could best impersonate their beloved Master (the tally had finished now with her on 34, and Anakin on 40). She’d shared as many moments with him as she could, endured his careful scrutiny and worrying looks when she’d perhaps shown too strong an attachment. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours had been spent under his vigilant eye, teaching her to block and defend every strike he sent her way until the day he’d calmly deactivated his ‘saber mid-match and bowed so deeply, he’d startled her.
“I feel there is very little more I can teach you of Jar’Kai, my padawan. You have not only mastered it, but your attention to your studies is garnering the attention of the Council — well done.”
She’d put that one down to Obi-Wan showering her with his usual indulging compliments; you could never truly master something — you were always a student, needing to improve and keep moving forward. Perhaps that was the lesson he was trying to impart yet again, she’d reasoned. Or perhaps the lesson was to have faith in yourself… something he’d seemed to have forgotten.
How could he think that he’d failed her?
She gaped at him for a moment, the words she wanted so badly to say not seeming to connect from her brain to her mouth. Instead, she sat and watched as her father crumpled — collapsed in on himself until the tears were staining his cheeks and the sleeves of his tunics.
There was something profoundly disturbing about watching a parent break down — Ahsoka could hardly remember her biological parents, and it wasn't in the Jedi tradition to refer to your Masters in such a fashion... but if she had to use an analogy to best describe her relationship with Obi-Wan Kenobi to someone unfamiliar with the dynamics of the Jedi Order…
He was her father. Like Master Plo, he’d just adopted her one day and hadn’t thought twice about it.
He was that guiding hand, that voice of reason, the person who bought her socks when she'd worn a hole into the last twenty pairs she'd brought on that damn extended mission (“No, you can’t have the glittered ones, Padawan. Buy the durable ones — no, I don’t care if they’re a man’s size.”). He was the shoulder to cry on, the portable pillow, the man who wrangled her and her siblings when they were dumb enough to do something yes, very stupid. She’d lost count of the number of times he’d been willing to sacrifice himself in the hopes she might survive whatever predicament they’d managed to get themselves into — this was the man who’d beaten a Zygerrian slaver to the ground when they’d tried dragging her off to a dark corner on Kadavo, never mind whatever hell he’d incur by doing so.
He cooked, he cleaned (she did the dishes, mind you), he took her grocery shopping whenever they were back at the Temple (and always made sure to buy her a pink berry milkshake at Dex’s on the way back, never mind she was nearing nineteen fast). He told her off for leaving her clothes on the 'fresher floor, he told Anakin off for eating whatever leftovers he’d stolen from her in the conservator, he’d once embarrassed her in front of a gunship of clones over the state of her bedroom, but most of all, he cared. He never faltered, he'd never failed her...
So it was hard to watch him break. It was deeply uncomfortable to watch him break.
... Ahsoka sent a daring hand across the space between, and settled it on his shoulder. She hoped to still his trembling (couldn’t bring herself to smooth the tears from his face yet), so she sent another hand to hold his other shoulder — she missed, and caught the air instead with all the tears clouding her vision. Her nose stung, her secondary molars ached…
“Master?” she snivelled, but he still couldn’t meet her gaze.
So Ahsoka gently, steadily, almost mechanically shuffled into him. Brushing past his sudden start, her own arms moulded around him, her chin finding a perch on his shoulder. A few moments passed where she thought he might try and push her off, so she loosened her grip ever-so-slightly to allow him to do so…
Every length of muscle she held in her arms surrendered, and Kenobi fell forward until his forehead found her knee. She allowed her arms to tighten then, until she was sure her vice-like hold might bruise a few ribs. He shook, and she brushed away her own tears with the help of his hair. After everything, after Utapau, after the carnage of the Temple, after Mustafar and the operating theatre… he still smelt of Obi-Wan — Dahna-mint cologne, orlong tea, boot polish, musty tunics, and blaster fire.
“Why?” he asked, and of course, she had no answer to give. “What have I done, Ahsoka?”
Now, she had one. Gently, ever so gently, she lowered her head until her cheek was pressed against the space between his shoulder blades. Closing her eyes, she listened to the churn of the meteorites, and again thought she caught that fragile whisper of Padmé’s echoing laughter.
“What you had to do.”
She was learning too many things in one day — how loud Anakin Skywalker could scream, and how many tears Obi-Wan Kenobi could cry when he thought he was finally alone.