She doesn’t mean to chip off the strip of paint down the side. It crumples between her fingers, coating her gloves in a thin layer of dusted white, and it’s a nightmare to work off once she turns to her robes for help — but the table doesn’t look worse for it. Secondhand and bought with the last of the budgeted credits Obi-Wan has access to for now, it sits as the centre piece to this ordered chaos they’ve come to cautiously label ‘home’.
Ahsoka’s gaze simultaneously narrows and drifts right through the table. The off white is the same stirring colour as the baby’s room — Obi-Wan is in there now. She can hear him exchanging words with the youngling — Luke — though she wonders why he bothers. Their exchanges are more along the lines of, ‘Luke threatens to scream down the roof, while Obi-Wan stubbornly persists with his cooing’.
Ahsoka is keeping score... Obi-Wan isn't fairing well.
If before, she had assumed it was Padmé's lullaby that'd soothed Luke... she can now safely say it was more likely that his sister had been the centre piece to Luke’s little world. Now that she is gone... it is as if a switch has been hit. Little Luke Skywalker no longer lays quiet and docile, but rather has realised the full potential of those Skywalker lungs he possesses — he has weaponised them, much to the distress of her montrals. The jump from Polis Massa to Tatooine had been a week long — for a solid week, whenever Obi-Wan marked the fifth hour by swapping shifts, Ahsoka would divide her designated sleep time between staring at the military grey of the cabin’s decor, and the deep blue of Cal’s eyes. No one could sleep while Luke screamed for his sister… mother… father...
She wonders why they’d tried.
Once they had reached Tatooine, the funds Senator Organa had gifted them with went towards renting temporary accomodation. Everyday, Obi-Wan would venture out to scour the Jundland Wastes and leave her in charge — this, for the most part, meant maintaining the front of a widower travelling with his two remaining teenage children and a newborn grandson. For nearly three weeks, Ahsoka played the role of Ahsla Hardeen, telling the tragic tale of a dead mother on Mandalore to anyone who showed a hint of curiosity.
The old lady who sold local produce beneath the old tarp sail outside their rented room took pity on them. She and Cal were taught the basics of desert cooking and most importantly how to avoid burning snake. Luke would sleep in the hammock the old woman had fashioned for him, and every once in a while she would add onto some tidbit of knowledge Obi-Wan had imparted during Ahsoka’s crash-course in child-rearing. At the end of every day, Cal occupied his time by learning how to purify water, and Luke would familiarise his vocal cords with the acoustics of the room they’d rented. It was a blessing when Obi-Wan returned at suns down, sharing with her the perils he’d endured while searching for a suitable place to hide himself, a newborn and two Jedi padawans…
Ahsoka paused. Well. One Jedi padawan, and one knight.
... It hadn’t been much of a ceremony — the promised scene of gentle alabaster sconces and columns of rich bronzes and golds had been replaced with the trilling consoles and soft neons of Polis Massa’s medical facility. But still, there was the small comfort of Master Yoda performing the ceremony, despite having Obi-Wan stand to the side with his face so devoid of emotion that she’d wondered if he were even aware of what was taking place around him —which only added to her brimming worry for him at the time.
This worry had only been exacerbated by finding herself holding together what should could, while he'd fallen apart in that deserted room he’d lead them to (with the optimistic intentions of meditating). Even now she can’t quite shake the habit of hovering over his shoulder… just to make sure.
She is aware of the looks she is receiving.
She doesn’t care for what he thinks… because there is no one else. There is no one else to watch out for him.
Cal is only fourteen, and has a grand total of a handful of joint missions with herself and Master Obi-Wan to fall back on; while she knows Obi-Wan and Cal are both fond of each other, she knows Cal is nowhere near emotionally equipped to deal with the possibility of stumbling across the scene Ahsoka had been witness to in that deserted room on Polis Massa.
And Luke… Luke is barely three weeks old.
Of course, she trusts Obi-Wan with himself, but she simply doesn’t want to leave him at the mercy of his own torment.
… So that leaves only herself, Ahsoka, who has perhaps foolishly committed herself to the task of putting everything back together again, even if the pieces are mismatched and no longer want to fit together.
She watches him with a careful eye, and mourns the time when Obi-Wan would be seated where she is now, watching her with that worry only parental concern could incite. She would say it is strange, how the tides have turned... but the past month has been a formative experience, and it feels desperately foolish to want to hide behind a broken man.
Once Obi-Wan had finally found the abandoned hut atop the hills in the Judland Wastes, Cal had taken care of nappy changes and feeding while she and Obi-Wan tackled a womp rat infestation, decades-old-desert-mould, crumbling mortar, gutting and refurnishing the hut, and rewiring the moisture vaporator out front (she’d burnt a hole into her good gloves on loose wires, and Obi-Wan had returned from Mos Eisley the following day with a new pair, apologising for the quality, or for the whole predicament in general, she wasn't sure... she couldn’t say why exactly she’d started crying he’d handed them to her).
… And here she sits now, peeling paint from the miserable table Obi-Wan had paid (far too much) for. In many ways, she can empathise with Luke's constant need to scream… In many ways, she is envious of the fact that is acceptable for him to scream and cry for all he’s worth, whereas she must stay her mind, and quieten it with meditation — meditation that simply refuses to come.
No, it is not that it refuses to come… It is because she refuses to surrender herself to the Force. Out of everything, perhaps it is most foolish that she refuses to connect once more with that omnipotent presence. It has been nearly a month… but it failed her. It has failed them all. Why should she place her trust there anymore?
Ahsoka fights the urge to seethe. Necessity is beginning to win out though; she can no longer stave off the itch, the sweat gathering at her Temples… she is itching for something… something to sink her teeth into, to take away the edge.
“Ahsoka? Are— are you alright?” Cal, who has most likely returned from the cave below with that updated inventory she’d asked him to collect, breaks the odd calm that has fallen over her despite Luke’s best efforts.
“Yeah… Yeah, I’m fine, Cal. How about you?”
“Is ‘fine’ some special code between you and Master Obi-Wan for ‘not really fine at all’?” he places his datapad down on that cheap table, and settles himself at the large window sill. His brows turn up, and she thinks to resume the task of counting his freckles. “Because I’m fine too, Ahsoka.”
She smiles, and resettles the fold of her legs. “I think we’re all fine, Cal.”
The moment Luke’s crying subsides is the moment she hears them both take in a breath, and neither let it go until Obi-Wan is calmly moving out of the room and motioning for them both to be silent…. Like they’d be stupid enough do otherwise.
But the opportunity has finally come, and Ahsoka does her best to limit the fractious edge to her movements as she all but pounces up from the tabletop with her intentions loud and demanding in her mind.
… She won’t ask Cal, solely because she has seen the way he clings to Master Tapal’s lightsaber… and neither does she intend to beat a fourteen year old boy into the sand. Obi-Wan, however…
“Perhaps it would be for the best,” he says at her request, moving around the table to locate his lightsaber gathering dust atop an abandoned shelf. “It has been nearly a month since…” she sees the lifetime flash before his eyes, and it scares her when it doesn’t deter her from pursuing this. “Since we last had an opportunity to spar. Very well then, Ahsoka.” His hand hesitates over his blade. “Grab your saber, my dear. I’ve been meaning to see how you’ve been fairing with your kredlick katas.”
He smiles, and she hates that she can see right through it. But soon he is moving through the doorway of the hut, and Cal is close on his heels, almost giddy at the prospect of a distraction — his excitement moves like a wave through the room.
Ahsoka follows them out into the blinding light of Tatoo One and Two, wishing the suns could be two degrees lower, and the temperature at least another fifteen. But still, she watches Obi-Wan strip off his robe, and Cal is kind enough to safeguard it from the sand as they both take position.
When she feels the familiar call of the Force coiling over her, moving through her bones and whispering through her soul, she shivers despite the heat. And she realises in that moment that she knows Obi-Wan perhaps too well — the same tremor moves along his shields.
He knows instinctively what she wants — something to bash, something to channel all her frustration into, someone to beat her over until she has a real reason to truly gnash her teeth and lash out.
— Because she’s been robbed, and didn’t even have the chance to defend what was hers. And now Obi-Wan has to bear the brunt of her rage, because she knows he’ll forgive her.
She thumbs her sabers on in tandem with her Master, readying herself for his usual defensive step into Form III. Routine dictated that she’d counter this by falling into Form II and attacking from both sides, and so would begin the dance.
She watches the blue of Obi-Wan’s lightsaber slice the brilliant yellow of the landscape, begin the turn into Soresu… and then falter. His blade never makes it over his shoulder, he never commits to the move… eventually, she watches as the saber is thrown down to the sand.
She too can see the ghost he sees, pulsing darkly through the Force and screaming.
“I’m sorry, my dear,” he shakes his head, and it is as if every ounce of anger and frustration that has welled up inside her floods out of her at that horrible pained expression of his. “There is little I wouldn't do for you…” his gaze rises to hers in earnest, and she wants to tell him how much she knows that to be true. “But I can’t do this.”
Cal hangs his head, the corners of his mouth turning up in a despondent smile. He kicks the sand below, and Ahsoka watches him for a distracted moment as she thinks of the right words to say.
She matches his smile, desperate to make it seem genuine despite her tightening chest. “That’s alright, Master.” Shrugging her shoulders, she clips her sabers back to her belt. “It might take us some time,” walking over to him, she makes sure to collect his saber from the sands as she goes. Once it is safely tucked back in his hand, she stands below him and smiles up at him like days of old. “But we’ll be fine… Won’t we, Cal?”
“Yep, ‘course, ‘Soka.”
Obi-Wan smiles at them both, and she takes heart in the fact that she knows it is genuine — it lies in the way the age lines around his eyes crease, and the bond rumbles with that familiar note of warmth. Hello, Master.
“Well then, who am I to argue with the wisdom of younglings? Lead the way, Ahsoka, Cal.” He motions for them both to go ahead, and Ahsoka collects Cal before they all turn back for the hut. She still wonders if Obi-Wan sees Anakin wandering beside them.
Ahsoka sighs. “Well, first of all I think we need a big tub of beebleberry ice-cream,” she wisely suggests as they step into the shade cast by the dune looming over them.
“And some dahna-mint cocoa! And maybe some fresh Dianoga cream.” Cal clucks his tongue, and she can see the boy already savouring the flavours in his mind. But she is glad he’s going along with the distraction.
“Ew, dianoga cream with beebleberry ice-cream? You’re crazy, Cal.”
“No, I swear it’s the best! With a side of dana-mint cocoa, you’ll never want any other dessert again.”
“It sounds like a recipe for gastric disaster.” Obi-Wan chuckles, but Cal gives him a lopsided smile.
“Ha, funny. Master Tapal used to say the exact same thing.”
“Always was a wise man, that Master Tapal.” Obi-Wan nods gravely as they step over the temperature threshold and into the relative cool of the hut.
“Yeah… But I swear, Master Kenobi! If your try it, you’ll swear by it.”
Obi-Wan’s eyes widen as he takes the robe from the boy, folds it over once and places it over the chair at the table. Cal follows him, and Ahsoka is sure she is only now envisioning the triple-threat-dessert because Cal is projecting the image.
“‘I’ll swear by it,’ you say? Well, Padawan Kestis… you’ve made quite the impression now.” Obi-Wan resumes whatever task he’d given himself before Luke had called him away, and Cal perches himself at the window sill once more, seemingly happy to resume the role of the child.
Ahsoka listens to their exchange, and she can almost place herself in Cal’s seat, bombarding a young Knight Kenobi with a thousand questions that he never failed to always have an answer to… just a pity about the absence of the Temple, and the constant thrum of a thousand other Jedi moving through the Force around them.
Ahsoka sighs and presses her lips together. She measures tea leaves out into the rusted pot, and waits for the kettle to finish boiling. She is sure, despite it all, that they’ll be fine. They have a nasty habit of being fine… despite the ghost Obi-Wan sees whenever she laughs, despite Cal’s constant nightmares of blaster fire and cramped air vents, despite her own pains and anguish, and despite Luke’s desperate, futile calls for his sister, mother and father…
They’ll be fine. She knows this, for the Force now whispers as much.