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grief is its own beast

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The first thing Anakin notices when the Jedi ship touches down in Theed and the cargo ramp lowers is not the wizened green being clutching a cane, nor the dark-skinned Human man standing next to them, but instead the massive green and blue crested lizard creature that is just behind them. It is visibly restless, shaking its long-necked head back and forth and tamping its feet. Trills fill the air as it calls out its distress. 

Beside him, Obi-Wan makes a quiet pained noise, and Anakin looks over to him quickly. 

Obi-Wan has… not been doing well, he doesn’t think. Master Qui-Gon died a few days ago, the same day that Anakin blew up that ship and killed all those droids. When Anakin managed to land, he expected it to be the biggest day of celebration ever, and it was, a bit, but one look at Obi-Wan’s tear-stained face as he carried Master Qui-Gon’s body had quickly made the smile slip off his face. Obi-Wan made sure Anakin was okay and set up with one of the nice handmaidens, Sabé, then disappeared for a while. 

Anakin asked Sabé where he’d gone, and Sabé had gone all quiet and said that Obi-Wan was sitting in vigil with Master Qui-Gon’s body until they could hold a proper Jedi funeral. 

“Is he okay in there?” Anakin had asked. “Can we ask him if he needs food or anything?”

“We can leave food out here for him,” said Sabé. “But a vigil is a very private thing, and we should not disturb him. We barely know Master Jinn, it would be disrespectful to assume a place at the same level of Padawan Kenobi.”

Anakin isn’t sure. He feels like he did know Master Qui-Gon – that was who took him from Tatooine and to that big city planet and told him he was going to be a Jedi. But maybe Sabé has a point. If his mom had died and Kitster or someone had tried to say they were just as sad as him, he would be a little annoyed, he supposes.

So Anakin has dutifully kept away, occupying his time in other ways, like getting flying lessons from the real life pilots. But then Sabé told him the other Jedi coming for Master Qui-Gon’s funeral would be arriving soon, so he went to the hanger with Queen Amidala (who was maybe Padmé?) and Sabé and, to his surprise, Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan was waiting there in the same bloodstained robes he’d been in the last time Anakin had seen him. His face was pale and his eyes were rimmed with red, but his spine was straight as he bowed to the group. 

“Your Majesty,” Obi-Wan said, voice slightly raspy. “My apologies for my inattentiveness these past few days.”

“No apologies necessary, Padawan Kenobi,” Padmé responded in that Queen voice they all used sometimes. “We grieve with you.”

Obi-Wan bowed his head again at that, but before he could say any more the sounds of thrusters broke through the atmosphere and everyone turned to watch as the Jedi ship came to land. It was much bigger than he was expecting – Sabé had told him there were only a few people coming, he’d thought, but maybe Jedi were super rich and could afford a big ship. 

Then the cargo ramp had opened and Anakin realized why the ship needed to be so big. 

The creature makes another trill and then pushes past the two people in front of it to come bounding over in their direction on the landing pad. Anakin’s eyes go wide as it races towards them, limbs going in all directions as it picks up speed, crying into the air as it goes. He almost ducks behind a nearby canister – runaway animals were not uncommon on Tatooine, and could be dangerous – but something keeps him planted still. The others with him, the more politician-y types, they get a lot more scared, Anakin can tell, but the Queen holds firm so they must as well.

But the creature comes to a screeching halt right in front of them – right in front of Obi-Wan , whose face seems to crumple a bit.

“Boga,” he chokes out, and then his hands are buried in its crests and his face is tucked into the side of its neck. The creature trills again, a lower-pitched cry of mourning, and cuddles closer to the man who is clutching it like it is his lifeline. 

Just as Obi-Wan starts visibly shaking, breaths shuddery and uneven, the other people from the ship reach them. 

“Missed you very much, Boga did,” the tiny green person says as he looks at the mix of Obi-Wan-and-the-creature. Anakin has never seen one of their species before – either of them, the person or the animal – but all kinds come through Mos Espa, that is nothing new. 

Obi-Wan does not respond for a few seconds, but then he draws his face out again. It’s all blotchy now, and his voice is even more shaky.  

“I m-missed her too.”

The other Human man gives Obi-Wan a small, sad smile, then turns to the large group. In unison, the two Jedi bow. 

“Your Majesty, honored leaders of Naboo, I am Jedi Master Mace Windu and this is Jedi Grandmaster Yoda.”

Padmé dips her head ever so slightly. “Masters Jedi, we are honored by your visit, though we wish it could be under better circumstances.”

“As do we,” says Master Windu. “Qui-Gon Jinn was a great Jedi, and a good man. His loss will be felt throughout the Order, though we’re sure he rests easy in the Force knowing the good that has returned to your planet.”

At the mention of Master Qui-Gon’s name, Obi-Wan chokes a little. Most of the group is tactful enough not to visibly stare, but a few of the politicians cannot help themselves.

“Come, walk with me, Obi-Wan will,” says Master Yoda. “Have a large garden or similar, do you? Needs lots of room, Boga does, and separated from Obi-Wan she should not be. A licensed service animal, she is.”

Anakin can feel the faint surprise in the group at that, and notices a few of them subtly (and not so subtly) peering around to look at the bright “SERVICE ANIMAL” vest Boga is wearing. Padmé has more class than that, and is not fazed outwardly. “Of course, Master Jedi. Sabé can show you a proper way to get there.”

She nods at Sabé, who quickly detaches herself from the ranks of the other handmaidens and steps to Obi-Wan and the green Jedi’s side. 

“I will come find you later, Master Yoda, Padawan Kenobi,” says Master Windu. “In the meantime, I would like to discuss relief efforts for your planet, your Majesty.”

“Come,” Padmé says. “There is much work to be done.”

Obi-Wan is beyond relieved when all the other presences in the Force drop away. It is only him and Boga and Master Yoda and Sabé – that’s the upper limit of what he can handle right now, and it’s only that high because Boga is back with him. Boga, his rock. Boga, who has been missing these past few days, which have been by far the worst of Obi-Wan’s life, and it’s not like there was no competition. Boga, who is currently rumbling her chest underneath his ear and making faint trilling noises to try to get him to notice her. But he can feel himself dissociating further and further as the seconds pass. He’s been walking a tightrope line of anxiety these past few days, high above the ground, and now he is falling, falling. 

The large weight he’s been pressed against shifts and Obi-Wan almost loses his balance, but then there is something wet licking his face and the world comes into focus slightly more. 

“Walk with us, will you and Boga?” Master Yoda asks. His face is carefully passive, but his ears are dipped slightly in concern. 

“Of course, Master,” Obi-Wan says automatically, feeling still like a droid made hollow. 

He isn’t concentrating at all as Sabé leads them around outside to what must be a private courtyard. Boga nudges him left and right, and it’s all he can do to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. 

“Stay here as long as you need,” Sabé says, then leaves with a dip of her head. 

Obi-Wan barely notices. He’s gone cold again, inside. Boga trills and licks his face once more. He blinks once, twice, but the heavy fuzz does not lift. She makes another cry, softer this time, and settles down on the grass, then twists her heavy head to rest on his shoulders and pushes until he sits down up against her. Her head goes in his lap, up against his stomach. The feathers on her crest tickle the bottom of his chin. Then a deep rumbling sound fills the air again. He can feel her vocal cords vibrating. Slowly, his hand comes up to rest in her plumed crest, and his fingers twitch a few times before beginning to give her scritches there. The rumbling sound grows in volume, and Boga shifts to a more comfortable position. He leans back against her and lets his eyes close. He still doesn’t feel right, like his body isn’t real, but it’s better now. He just has to think about the weight of Boga’s head on his lap and the feel of her feathers beneath his palm and things make a little more sense. 

After a minute or two, Boga’s tail thumps twice in warning. Her head doesn’t move, but he can feel her attention shift just slightly. Master Yoda has come too close, apparently, and Boga does not like it. 

The old Master is not fazed. “Worry not, young Boga,” he says. “Interrupt I will not.” And with that he retreats a few feet and settles down in a meditative pose. 

Boga gets overly territorial sometimes, that’s how Obi-Wan describes it. His mind healer calls it “being protective” and “knowing what you need best”. It’s like this: sometimes the thought of anyone other than Boga getting near him makes his skin crawl. It reminds him too much of hiding on Melida/Daan, deep in enemy territory where he cannot be caught. His heart will start thumping and the area around him becomes too wide-open, it’s not safe . So Boga will cover him as best she can and make sure no one gets too close. 

He can’t deny he does a lot better with Boga in his life. Those few months after Melida/Daan were… rough. To be honest, a lot of his memories from that time are fuzzy, distorted, warped. He remembers being on edge all of the time, constantly scanning for danger. The healers say he had multiple panic attacks a day and would hide under things if there were any loud noises or if someone entered the room too fast. He wasn’t able to talk a lot. He was… scared, all the time. 

And then Boga came into his life, and there was an immediate shift. He remembers that moment clearly. He was curled up on the couch in their quarters, covered in a blanket that Qui-Gon had wrapped around him a few hours before and that he had not moved. He hadn’t moved anything for all that time, not even his arms or his legs or his neck or his expression. He couldn’t move, because if he moved then someone might notice him and he would die. 

And then Qui-Gon did a quiet mental tap through their bond from down the hallway to prepare him, and knocked with their special signal on the door, and so when the door opened he did not get quite as frightened as he normally would have. Someone else entered the room with him – someone new, which made them bad – but before he could start freaking out about that too much, his eyes latched onto the creature the person was carrying in her arms. 

It was a young varactyl, probably six months old. Its hide was a soft mix of green and blue, with a bright crest of feathers ringing around its neck. Its mouth – beak? – was open in a yawn that ended in a high-pitched trilling noise. Its presence in the Force was good-kind-soft-safe

His arms were stretching out towards it without even realizing.

“Hello Obi-Wan,” the woman smiled, standing next to Qui-Gon. “This is Boga. May I set her next to you?”

His nod was quick and certain. The woman carefully reached down and set Boga on the couch next to him. She curled in a little circle a few times before setting down.

“Can I–” Obi-Wan’s voice cracked from disuse. “Can I touch her?”

“Yes, of course,” the woman said. She was a Togruta with a kind looking face. “She’s been very eager to meet you.”

And so Obi-Wan hesitantly, ever so hesitantly, reached out and stroked the top of the varactyl’s – Boga’s – head. She raised her head to lean into the touch. He stroked her again, brushing up against the soft feathers, and Boga began… well, if she was a tooka he would have said she was purring, but he wasn’t quite sure what this was. He looked up to see that Qui-Gon had a strange look on his face, like he might have been about to cry. And then Obi-Wan turned his head back down to Boga, who was staring up at him and blinking her big black eyes, and in that instant he knew he would never want to be parted from her side. 

He is glad he is not, now. These past few days on Naboo have been hellish without her with him. She doesn’t travel with him all the time, not on missions where they know they are going into danger and not just a diplomatic negotiation, so when he said goodbye to her on Coruscant he gave her a big hug and some scritches on her crest and thought little of it, just the usual pang in his heart and feeling of absence in his soul. He had no idea what was waiting for him on Naboo, the terrible Darksider – the Sith – who would take Master Qui-Gon away from him for good. 

The thought of Qui-Gon makes his heart pang so strongly that it’s more of an actual pain. Boga picks up on his distress and nuzzles deeper into his lap with a little huff. He rhythmically strokes the top of her head a few times before glancing over at Master Yoda again. He is deep in meditation, sending out calming energy into the Force and blanketing Obi-Wan and Boga with it. Obi-Wan takes a deep breath and closes his eyes, preparing to join him. He leans back further against Boga’s body and clutches a soft tuft of feathers in between his fingers, savoring the silky feel. 

These past few days were hard and the ones upcoming promise to be worse. But now that Boga is at his side once more, he has faith that they will make it through. Together.