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Taking Care

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Obi-Wan is tired.

Count Dooku and his Separatists have thrown the galaxy into chaos, and Obi-Wan is tired. In the scant few months since Geonosis he’s been given command of an army (an army), seen his young Padawan gravely injured and then knighted and then been promoted himself to the Jedi council.

“It’s not like you’re busy,” Quinlan says, flopping down on Obi-Wan’s sofa, uninvited.

Obi-Wan is so very tired.

“I told you I’m not free tonight. I don’t care how bored you are, or how thirsty, or—”

“—or in love? How about then?”

“Bad luck for them,” Obi-Wan says, ungenerously. But Quinlan is a Jedi, and also, obviously lying.

“Rude.” Quinlan crosses his arms and straightens up. “Fine, not love. But she’s beautiful, Obi-Wan. And there’s nothing in the Code that prohibits licking her until she’s incoherent. As you well know.”

Obi-Wan’s lips thin. “It rather sounds like I’d be in the way then, doesn’t it? Or did you want an audience for your debauchery?”

“Well…” At Obi-Wan's poisonous look Quinlan laughs. “No, I don’t. But I’m having a hard time with her. She’s so cold and standoffish—”

“Maybe she isn’t interested in you.”

“—and I could use a friend. It’s tragic going to a bar only to flirt with the bartender.”

“And showing up with a man you’ve browbeaten into accompanying you is somehow less tragic?”

“Browbeaten, please,” Quinlan huffs. “You owe me, Obi-Wan.”

Obi-Wan opens his mouth to argue, reflexively, that Quinlan has done nothing to earn Obi-Wan’s unthinking bar hopping companionship.

But then he thinks back to those dark years immediately after he lost Qui-Gon. When Anakin had been so young and so frightened, and Obi-Wan had barely had the sense to take care of himself, let alone a reckless little boy with no understanding of how to comport himself as a Jedi Padawan.

Quinlan and Aayla had been there for them. They’d always been happy to laugh with them, to help draw Anakin out of his nervous, hostile shell. Anakin had looked up to Aayla as an older, more experienced Padawan and Obi-Wan had looked to Quinlan as a source of easy friendship and reassurance when he and Anakin had still been grieving.

“If I go,” Obi-Wan begins, ignoring Quinlan’s look of triumph. “What would be expected of me?”

“Nothing much,” Quinlan says, and Obi-Wan swears he can taste the lie. “Just…talk me up a little. Maybe tell her about all the times I’ve saved your ass. And if you could find a classy way to mention that I’m incredible in bed—"

“I’m tired, Quin, I don’t have it in me to concoct a lie that elaborate.”

Quinlan clutches his chest in mock offense. “I have never been more insulted in my entire life.”

“Then I have been bereft in my duty.”

“Remember when we used to go on missions together?” Quinlan asks with a wistful sigh, as though they hadn’t spent half those missions being shot at. “You used to be so fun. You could drink anyone under the table, you started at least five barfights that I can remember, you fucked practically anything with a pulse—”

“Quinlan,” Obi-Wan hisses, his eyes reflexively darting around in case Anakin caught that. He’s been so careful to keep Anakin ignorant of his master’s storied youth.

But no, of course Anakin hasn’t heard anything. He got his own quarters upon being knighted, as is traditional.

These are just Obi-Wan’s rooms now.

Obi-Wan swallows the lump in his throat and stares down at his datapad stubbornly. He hasn’t heard from Anakin at all recently. He’s not even sure he’s on Coruscant. It would be…inappropriate of him to ask when no one on the Council has volunteered the information.

It would suggest attachment.

“What happened to fun Obi-Wan?” Quinlan says mournfully, kicking him lightly in the ankle.

“He grew up,” Obi-Wan retorts, nudging Quinlan away. “We’re at war, you realize.”

Quinlan’s jaw tightens, just slightly. “I do realize. That’s why I think it’s important we take these brief moments when we can. You’re so tightly wound, Obi-Wan.”

“With good reason.” Obi-Wan frowns at the report he’s been trying to read all this time. There are millions of people depending on him, on the Jedi. Obi-Wan can’t just take a break because Quinlan wants to harass a stranger at a bar. People are relying on him.

“I’m between missions, you’re between missions. Both our Padawans are grown up now. You can finally let loose a little without wondering what mischief Anakin’s getting up to for once.”

True enough. The last time Obi-Wan and Quinlan went drinking was when Anakin was seventeen. Obi-Wan had been called back to the Temple after an hour because Anakin had set fire to their quarters while trying to build a faster toaster. The poor thing had always struggled to learn patience.

His life has revolved around Anakin for so long that he feels a little…bereft. His rooms seem too big and too clean. Too quiet.

Obi-Wan sighs. “One drink, Quin. And I have to be back at a reasonable hour.”

 “One drink.” Quinlan nods enthusiastically. “This is going to be fun!”

***

After more of Quinlan’s wheedling (“you can’t wear your robes, Obi-Wan, this club is on the lower levels. I’m not counting this as a night out if you get shot immediately for dressing like a Jedi”) Obi-Wan finds himself in civilian clothing he hasn’t worn in years, pressed up against Quinlan in the back of a cab.

“This is it,” Quinlan announces, and wisely pays the driver instead of asking Obi-Wan to do it, perhaps correctly sending the mood of this speeder.

Because the lighting outside is somehow both flashy and dim. Because Obi-Wan is fairly certain he’s personally arrested at least three people he can currently see, not counting Quinlan.

Because the club they’ve stopped in front of looks less like a club and more like—

“I know I’ll regret asking this,” Obi-Wan begins, as a woman catches her reflection in the window and takes the opportunity to nudge her breasts further out of her top, “but where exactly have you taken me?”

Quinlan rolls his eyes and shoves Obi-Wan out of the speeder. “It’s nicer inside.”

A Wookiee gives Obi-Wan an appreciative one-over and then takes a bite out of what looks like a single raw kidney. “It would have to be.”

But Obi-Wan is a man of his word. He adjusts the fall of his hair against the collar of his tight shirt and trails after Quinlan through the grimy doors.

The first thing Obi-Wan notices is that it is classier inside, as promised. The music is loud, but not deafening. The lights flash pink and blue but it’s almost…subdued. There’s a strange sort of intimacy in the air, or perhaps in the Force, despite the size of the venue.

Possibly because the woman standing some meters away is wearing only her underclothes.

Obi-Wan takes in her lace ensemble and collar and throws Quinlan a withering look. “Am I overdressed?”

Quinlan snorts. “Always. But no, she works here. Come on.”

Obi-Wan both does and doesn’t want to ask what he means by that, but as his eyes adjust he begins to understand. The servers circling the dance floor are all dressed in skimpy little outfits, all giggling and preening as hazy-eyed patrons hand them piles of credits.

It’s crass, yes, but he supposes it is an effective marketing strategy. So many people are weak to a pretty face, or a pretty ass.

Present company included. “Shall I be seeing a lot of your paramour this evening?” Obi-Wan asks, brushing against Quinlan teasingly. “If this is how they dress their employees?”

“Maja is a bartender, not a server,” Quinlan corrects vaguely, leading them towards a pair of stools by one of the bars. “No one sees her from the waist down anyway. Except me, with any luck,” he adds, his eyebrows wiggling.

“You always were a class act,” Obi-Wan says, fondness seeping into his voice despite himself.

“She’s not here yet though,” Quinlan says, needlessly, for the current bartender is a Trandoshan, and Obi-Wan knows that Quinlan learned that particular lesson ten years ago and has the scars to prove it. “But she’ll be here soon.”

“How do you know?”

“It’s my job to know these things.”

“I can guarantee that the Council has not instructed you to stalk a bartender—”

Quinlan shoves something cold and damp into Obi-Wan’s hand, effectively silencing him. “Drink up, spoilsport. I’ll need you to be a little looser and less high-strung before she gets here.”

Obi-Wan studies the little glass. The liquor is a noxious yellow that reminds him unpleasantly of sulfur, as do the fumes wafting off the bubbling surface. “A shot? I promised you one drink, and you’re giving me a shot?”

“I think you’ll stick around a little longer,” Quinlan says with a shrug, his locs spilling across his bare shoulders. “You need to relax.”

Obi-Wan takes in the sea of writhing dancers, the servers in their scraps of clothing and the scent of death sticks in the air. He shudders to think what Quinlan means by ‘relax.’ “Not likely,” Obi-Wan insists, and eyes his drink suspiciously.

“I’m an eternal optimist,” he says, clinking their shot glasses together. “Speaking of which…”

Quinlan’s posture shifts and his smile shifts into something passably charming as he looks over Obi-Wan’s shoulder. Obi-Wan recognizes his look from their bar-hopping days and knows what tends to follow: Quinlan is going to make an ass of himself.

Obi-Wan swivels to a new bartender rather than the Trandoshan who served them their shots. She’s a tall, slim woman with short hair and an expression of vague contempt. She doesn’t spare Quinlan a glance and continues serving the gaggle of drunks a few seats further down the bar, her movements quick and precise.

“That’s Maja,” Quinlan says, unnecessarily, for Obi-Wan is not blind to his glazed staring. “Isn’t she beautiful?”

The bartender has a certain elegance about her, but also a certain sharpness. She’s beautiful the same way a loth-wolf is beautiful.

(With any luck she’ll eat Quinlan before the night is out.)

“She’s out of your league,” Obi-Wan says, more to be contrary than anything else. “Why don’t you ask her out anyway? I could use some entertainment.”

Quinlan throws him a wounded look. “I’m working up to it. And if you’re bored, why not check out the crowd? Maybe there’s someone here who will let you work out your…frustration.”

“I’m not going to—”

“How about her?” Quinlan points at a total stranger like he’s been raised in captivity, and he’s only now learning how to behave in a society. “She’s got long legs. I know you like that.”

Obi-Wan spares a glance at the woman, a server from the looks of her, and for an unworthy second does follow the lines of her shapely legs, wrapped as they are in shimmering stockings. “I’m not looking to pick someone up.”

“Then what about him? He looks like he could pick you up,” Quinlan snickers, gesturing at a burly Nautolan server in microscopic shorts. “One handed.”

Obi-Wan remembers meeting Quinlan in the creche, a runny-nosed little boy with a sharp sense of humor and unflinching accuracy for Obi-Wan’s weak points. Obi-Wan had graciously allowed Quinlan to join in his block tower construction, despite his constant wheedling and unsteady grasp of proper block structural integrity.

He should have pushed him into the fountain instead.

“I think it’s best if only one of us makes a fool of ourselves romantically tonight. Don’t you?” And Obi-Wan downs his shot and turns pointedly away.

It’s not that Obi-Wan has lost all interest in matters of the flesh, far from it. He’s hardly been a monk since he and Quinlan were drunken Padawans: he’s had dozens of…entanglements over the past decade. He’d taken the odd night off, and he’d been assigned enough solo missions to afford him the opportunity to meet new people.

Of course, any mission with Anakin made it nearly impossible to get some alone time, or, well, alone with someone not his Padawan time. Anakin had the most dreadful tendency to cling on those missions. He had been so uniquely ill-suited to diplomacy, so completely out of his depth when asked to behave himself in uncomfortable situations. A fourteen-year-old Anakin had nearly started two separate civil wars because he thought a politician had treated them ‘disrespectfully.’

It had been difficult to find time for romance with a live grenade as an apprentice.

But all that’s changed now, hasn’t it? Obi-Wan is unencumbered. Not that Anakin had been a burden, far from it. Yes, he’d been a handful, and indeed still is. But no one, not even Mace Windu, could stay mad at the boy for long. Not when he’s so earnest, so clever, and so very passionate.

But Obi-Wan is still encumbered by his duties, his responsibilities. Anakin might not need his constant care anymore (although having seen the state of his bedroom growing up, he does wonder), but the rest of the galaxy does. Obi-Wan shouldn’t be out tonight with Quinlan, not when he has so much still to do. What if he approves a mission plan without reading it carefully and someone gets hurt? Someone like one of his men? He hasn’t known Cody and the 212th that long, but Obi-Wan takes personal responsibility for their safety.

What about another Jedi? He might be sending a fresh knight into the jaws of danger with insufficient resources just because Obi-Wan wanted to work some stress out with a random stranger. Well. Obi-Wan is a Jedi Master now, a member of the Council. He’ll simply tell Quinlan that he’s on his own, wish him good luck—

A willowy young man crosses the floor, something arrogant and graceful in his gait. He’s partially obscured by his tray, but Obi-Wan sees a flash of smooth skin and the enticing sweep of lace against a hipbone.

On the other hand, if Obi-Wan is already in this club with a drink in hand (a new drink, Quinlan works quickly), maybe he should take a few minutes to savor it.

And Obi-Wan does savor the play of light on the pretty server’s skin. His legs are as long as Obi-Wan likes them (Quin is occasionally right about some things), and although the boy is slim, Obi-Wan can see the definition of his naked abs and chest, glistening as they are in the muted blue light.

Obi-Wan feels a jolt of heat. What a lovely creature to be working in a place like this. Maybe now that he doesn’t have his Padawan hanging off his robes and scaring people away (someone touches the server’s arm, and he throws off the hand dismissively), Anakin always sulking and pouting (the server rolls his eyes and his lower lip juts out) and crossing his arms (the server’s gloved ones shift across his bare torso)—

Hang on.

“Quinlan.” Obi-Wan stares across the crowded floor, his heart in his throat. “Is that Anakin?”

Quinlan looks away from the bartender, one eyebrow cocked. “Hmm? Who?”

The server laughs at something a different, less handsy patron says, throwing his head back and exposing the long line of his throat and Obi-Wan is transfixed. “What do you mean, who? The man who looks like Anakin, talking to the Nautolan, the man wearing” —he drops his voice as though saying it quietly will make the idea less obscene— “lingerie. Black and red lingerie.”

Quinlan tilts his head and studies the man. “I guess it sort of looks like him. Isn’t your Padawan’s hair lighter?”

“I think it’s just hair product.” Obi-Wan narrows his eyes. The server’s hair is slicked down, but there’s a hint of a curl in the dark blond locks around his ears. And the slope of his shoulders is unthinkably strong and broad, to the dip of his collarbone and the golden sweep of his pectorals—

“Okay.” Quinlan takes a swig of his drink. “Maybe it’s him then.”

“Why would Anakin be here? And why would he be dressed like a—like a—” Obi-Wan’s words fail him as he watches the Nautolan slip Anakin some credits and accept a steaming drink.

“Then maybe it’s not him.”

“But—” Obi-Wan spreads his hands expressively. “Look at his jawline, his legs.” They’re absurdly long and wrapped in nothing but sheer stockings. Obi-Wan swears he’s seen those very legs every single day of his life, propped up on their table despite Obi-Wan’s near constant scolding. “Who could it be, if not him?”

Quinlan looks at him askance over the rim of his drink. “I guess you’d know best. Me, I’m not sure I could recognize the naked legs of your Padawan quite so quickly, let alone while he’s wearing a thong.”

Obi-Wan’s mind goes blank. What? Quinlan’s angle is a little different than his, Obi-Wan can really only see the man’s profile, the cut of the lace across his slim hips and the straps of the garter cutting into muscular thighs. So, Obi-Wan leans to his right dramatically, almost across Quinlan’s lap to check and—

Quinlan was right, he realizes distantly, barely aware of Quinlan though he may be. The club lights shift to a muted pink bathing Anakin ( the strange man ) in their warm glow, and the red fabric of the flimsy underwear does indeed draw into a single strap between his cheeks. The tantalizing strip of red follows the curve of each cheek before disappearing between the rounded, absolutely perfect skin.

“Oh.” Obi-Wan breathes and feels Quinlan shift against him irritably. “That’s…indecent.”

“Congratulations, you figured out what kind of club this is.” Quinlan shoves Obi-Wan back to his own stool and he goes, eyes still trained on the alluring server. “Go talk to the boy.”

“What?” Obi-Wan spares a split-second glance at Quinlan before looking back at the Anakin doppelganger in fascination. “And say what? ‘You look a lot like my former student except that your entire ass is visible, and you aren’t smeared in motor oil. Do you have any good ales on tap?’”

“That sounds slightly less creepy than gawking at him from across the room.”

“I’m not gawking.”

“You are, Obi-Wan, and it’s making things awkward.” Quinlan sighs, far too condescending for the man who dragged Obi-Wan to this awful, intoxicating place just to hit on a bartender. “Look. Either it’s some random boy who looks like Anakin and you can go over there and pant all over him like everyone else and try your luck. Or it is Anakin, and you can go over there, grab him by the ear and drag him back to the Temple and put him over your knee like he honestly deserves. Either way, leave me out of it.”

Yes, Anakin would deserve some consequences, for once. For being in this club when he is barely old enough to drink. For clearly forgetting the sense of propriety that is required of him as a Jedi Knight. For being dressed like a table dancer. For letting everyone paw at his gorgeous, sculpted body, his naked ass—

“I’m not doing—that’s absurd, I wouldn’t put him over my knee, I don’t desire—I raised him—”

“You’re normally a lot more eloquent than this,” Quinlan notes with a frown. “Pretty boy has got you all bothered?”

“Certainly not.” Obi-Wan sniffs and tries to stifle the completely insane, inappropriate arousal coursing through his veins. He’s just confused by the venue, the smell of cheap perfume and sex and Quinlan’s unhelpful insinuations. Not Anakin (not Anakin!) in his skimpy outfit and ridiculous, endless legs.

“Obi-Wan.” Quinlan’s voice is amused. “You’re not wearing your robes. I can see—”

Obi-Wan shifts his legs furiously, crossing them to try to hide the evidence. “It’s nothing.”

“If you say so.” A wicked gleam appears in Quinlan’s eyes. “I always thought your Padawan was more of an overgrown annoyance: trailing after you on missions, pouting and sulking whenever your attention was elsewhere. But dressed like that?” He nudges Obi-Wan conspiratorially. “You could find a better use for that insolent mouth, couldn’t you?”

He could. Obi-Wan could thread his hand into Anakin’s short curls, his hair only partially grown out of the awkward, unfortunate Padawan haircut. And he could guide his cock to those perfect pink lips, Anakin looking up at him with those expressive blue eyes, all fluttering lashes and murmured ‘master.’

No .” Obi-Wan scrambles to his feet, ignoring the huff of laughter from Quinlan. “That’s outrageous. I can’t talk to you when you’re like this, Quinlan. I have to go.”

“Sure,” Quinlan agrees with a smirk. “Let me know who you end up fucking: a pretty stranger or Skywalker.”

“Shut up, Quin,” Obi-Wan bites out. “I will not be fucking anyone.” And Obi-Wan stalks away from him and into the crowd, his heart thumping painfully in his chest.

Obi-Wan lasts about a minute lurking at the edge of the dance floor before his resolve fails him. The server looks more and more like Anakin by the minute. He’s wearing elbow length gloves but the way he’s been favoring his left hand makes Obi-Wan suspect that he too might have a prosthetic.

But that’s not all. There’s something in the set of those broad shoulders, in the way the boy cocks his head at sudden movement, that speaks of training, that speaks of enhanced senses, of experience in dangerous situations. It seems obvious to Obi-Wan now that he’s watching him (but not gawking, thank you Quinlan) that this is no ordinary server.

This is someone special.

And so Obi-Wan waits for a break in conversation and positions himself as he has so many times in his own apartments over the years, ready to dole out punishment for Anakin’s latest transgressions.

Obi-Wan leans against a table and crosses his arms and waits for this ridiculous, mostly naked creature to explain himself.

He isn’t waiting long. When the boy turns his head there’s a flash of recognition in the Force for both of them. Obi-Wan knows this face better than his own now that he’s seeing him properly and out of the disguising shadows of this seedy club. His bright, curious gaze, his strong jaw, his kiss-pink lips—

Master?” Anakin gapes at him, his kohl lined eyes raking over his body. “What are you doing here? And what are you wearing?”

Obi-Wan stares back at the absolute vision that is his ridiculous, obstinate Padawan in clinging lace, the line of his cock in his translucent red briefs and shakes his head. Yes, of the two of them, Obi-Wan is the one who needs to explain both his presence in this place and his attire. “I went out for a drink with Quinlan. What in the Force are you doing?”

He’s very muted in the Force, and for a moment Obi-Wan revels in the surge of pride at how well his shielding has come along. His Padawan is so clever—

But now is not the moment to celebrate Anakin’s accomplishments. Now is the moment to question every decision the boy has ever made.

“I’m working,” Anakin answers with a raised eyebrow, as though the answer should be obvious. And Obi-Wan supposes it is, since Anakin is clearly attired in this club’s…uniform, as it were. “Did the Council send you? I’m sorry I don’t have anything definite yet, but I think I have a lead. There’s this weird guy who works under the manager, and I’m trying to get on his good side.”

Dressed like that, in scraps of fabric, Obi-Wan shudders to think what Anakin means by ‘get on his good side.’ But then another thought occurs. “Do you mean to say the Council is aware you’re down here?”

“Of course.” Anakin blinks, his dark eyelashes sweeping against his cheekbones. “They sent me here. Did you…not know that?”

No, Obi-Wan knew nothing. No one thought to warn him that at any moment he might stumble across his barely legal Padawan (former Padawan, his mind supplies unhelpfully) in silk and lace like something out of a cheap holo. “No, I didn’t.” He leans in closer to preserve Anakin’s cover (and with any luck, some of Anakin’s modesty) and regrets it, the scent of Anakin far more potent with the faint sheen of sweat and whatever oil he’s rubbed into his glowing skin. “You’re on a mission?”

“I am,” Anakin whispers back. “There’s something big going on in the lower levels, and it seems like a lot of trails lead back to this club. They wanted someone on the inside, someone who wouldn’t draw too much attention.”

A man walks past and stares brazenly at Anakin’s naked ass, his eyes unfocused and his desire palpable. Obi-Wan resists the urge to throw him out the window. “Ah. Good thing they sent you in such understated clothing.”

Anakin rolls his eyes, looking so much like Obi-Wan’s usual sullen Padawan that it makes his heart ache. “You know what I mean. I blend in. I’m hearing a lot of chatter, but nothing conclusive yet. You can tell the Council—”

“Why did they send you ?” Obi-Wan asks, still trying desperately not to stare more than necessary, constantly fighting the urge to put his hands all over the boy, to pluck at the gauzy straps, to trace the lines of the stocking up to the tantalizing bare strip of thigh on display.

“Rude.” Anakin sniffs and pushes his lips into an exaggerated pout. Is he wearing lip gloss? “Fine, they asked Aayla first.”

That does make sense. Aayla would fit in perfectly here, a pretty blue Twi’lek woman would be almost expected at such a seedy establishment. But Anakin? Attractive though he may be (Obi-Wan squashes that thought for the thousandth time tonight), he’s an…unconventional choice for such a mission.

“—but she turned them down. And then she told me she refused a Council mission without going into details, and you know I wanted a solo mission, Master, so I volunteered, and…” Anakin shrugs expressively, as though this excuses being dressed in lingerie.

“You didn’t know it was this sort of undercover mission?” Obi-Wan asks, more for something to do with his mouth other than suck the sweat off Anakin’s gleaming collarbones.

“No.” Anakin shifts, his cheeks pinking sweetly. “But can you imagine Windu’s face if I backed out after making a big stink about wanting my own mission? He’d be so smug ; I couldn’t live with it.”

Obi-Wan has a difficult time imagining Mace’s expression during any of this. The moment Anakin volunteered to dress in lingerie and flirt with strangers probably gave the man an aneurysm. “Did the Council provide your…wardrobe?”

“Ew, what?” Anakin grimaces and takes a clumsy step backwards. “Gross, no. You think Master Yoda picked this out? Master, how much have you had to drink?”

Obi-Wan raises his hands in surrender. “I just wondered!”

“No.” Anakin shakes his head, one short curl coming loose and hanging over his eyebrow. “Aayla helped. First, she tried lending me some stuff, but the fit was all wrong. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried wearing underwear meant for women, but they crushed my balls like you wouldn’t believe.”

Obi-Wan hears nothing but static. The idea that Anakin tried women’s underwear first, sliding the fabric up his strong, masculine legs and then, his cock struggling against the lace, maybe slipping out as Anakin tried fruitlessly to—

“I have not,” is what Obi-Wan manages to say, his voice coming out in a low croak.

“She found a place that sells stuff cut for men. I think she felt a little bad when she realized what she’d gotten me into.” Anakin shrugs, and Obi-Wan follows the line of his shoulders absently. “Anyway, I should probably go, or you should order something. My manager only likes for me to talk to people for so long if they’re paying.”

“Right.” Anakin is working. Anakin is here at the behest of the Jedi council because they hate Obi-Wan and want him to suffer. “Don’t let me keep you,” Obi-Wan says, and Anakin gives him a crooked smile.

“See you back at the Temple,” Anakin whispers, then turns to make his way to a cluster of dodgy looking strangers that have been eyeing him.

Right. Back to the Temple. That’s where Obi-Wan should be going. He didn’t even want to come out tonight, he was dragged here. He’s already had a drink with Quinlan. His obligation has been fulfilled.

And it’s not like Obi-Wan could try to pick someone up, not while Anakin is in the same room. The very idea is laughable. Anakin takes up all the air in the room: he always has for Obi-Wan, and he always will.

But Obi-Wan doesn’t like the idea of leaving now, for reasons he doesn’t care to dwell on. Anakin is so young, so wild, so vulnerable right now. He needs his master to look out for him, as Obi-Wan has done for the past ten years. It’s not that he doesn’t think Anakin is capable, exactly.

It’s just that he can’t leave Anakin unaccompanied. Not looking like that.

So instead he returns to his abandoned barstool and Quinlan’s far too smug silence. Obi-Wan makes sure the angry-looking bartender’s attention is elsewhere and leans in close. “It is Anakin. He’s here on some fool’s errand for the Council.”

Quinlan hums. “I didn’t ask.”

“What were they thinking?” Obi-Wan folds his arms, realizing belatedly that without his robes he just looks sulky. “They let Anakin take this mission. Anakin? He’s going to get himself thrown out the first time he bites someone for looking at him the wrong way.”

Quinlan tries making eyes at the bartender and is met with silence. “Your boy seems to be doing okay so far. He certainly looks the part. Besides,” he adds with a leer, “some people here might not mind the odd biting.”

Obi-Wan narrows his eyes. “I regret ever having met you.”

Quinlan wraps an arm around him. “You’re my closest friend too. Are you going to do as you promised and help me woo this lovely lady—”

“I promised nothing of the sort.”

“—or are you going to ogle your Padawan all night like some deranged pervert? Former Padawan, by the way. The boy’s been knighted.”

“Yes, thank you, I was there.” Obi-Wan had been there as Anakin knelt before the Council, head bowed respectfully for possibly the first and only time in his life, then looking up at Obi-Wan through his lashes, all demure pride and full lips bitten red with nervousness. At the time Obi-Wan had thought of nothing but how far Anakin had come, from a scared little boy to a man fully deserving the honor being bestowed upon him, but now—

Now Obi-Wan can’t stop seeing how alluring he’s become, and how dangerous that realization truly is. It was a scant few months ago that Anakin made an idiot of himself over Senator Amidala, and Obi-Wan is not blind and deaf. He knows something happened between them. At the time he assumed the senator had suffered some sort of head trauma, to find Anakin’s ridiculous flirting appealing.

Now he simply assumes Anakin disrobed for the woman. It would be easy to forgive any social missteps with all that sun-kissed skin on display.

“You look like you need a drink,” observes Quinlan. “Let me order you one from the sexy bartender and you can make a big deal about how I’m paying for you.”

“I don’t want a drink.” Obi-Wan’s eyes track Anakin’s movements as he slips between people on the periphery of the dance floor. “Anakin is going to get murdered tonight and I need to be sober to protect him.”

“Great, that’ll be a fun anecdote to tell her. Thanks for helping me out.”

“Actually.” A thought occurs to Obi-Wan. The bartender, Maja, might be a valuable insider to this bizarre scenario. “Can you ask your bartender friend about Anakin’s time here? Never mind, you can’t be pleasant—”

“Excuse me?”

“I’ll do it.” Obi-Wan consciously relaxes his body language and rests one arm on the counter, twisting his face into the most charming expression he can muster even while every cell in his body screams at him to turn around and make sure Anakin hasn’t yet died or killed anyone. “Miss? I have a question for you if you have a moment.”

Maja hands off a drink and walks over to Quinlan and Obi-Wan. She reminds him faintly of someone, now that he looks a little closer, but he’s not entirely sure who. It hardly matters anyway.

“I’d like to ask about one of the servers here,” Obi-Wan continues. “The one over there. Blond hair, tall—”

“Sure, the new kid with the cocksucking lips.” She flicks a lock of dark hair behind her ear. “The one you’ve been staring at.”

Obi-Wan’s mouth drops open and Quinlan snorts a laugh into his glass.

“I—” Not the description he’d have picked for either of them. “Yes, fine. Him.”

“He’s been around a couple days. He’s a bit brooding, but that works for some people.” She rakes her eyes over Obi-Wan’s form judgmentally. “He’s settling in well, as you can see.”

“What?” They all look over to see that Anakin has dropped a cocktail napkin and has bent over at the waist to pick it up, apparently blind to the leers of everyone around him as his ass flexes.

“Maybe,” Quinlan says. “He might just be very stupid.”

“He’s not stupid,” Obi-Wan bites out, deeply offended. Anakin is brilliant beyond all measure. Could Quinlan’s Padawan devise battlefield strategies in the blink of an eye?

(Yes, actually, Aayla is quite capable too.)

But could she, after mere hours alone with the schematics, have improved the design of every single Republic warship? No, only Anakin has that sort of mythical talent, that drive, that dedication.

“If anything he’s a little…naïve,” Obi-Wan continues, watching in mounting horror as a patron trails her nails across the curve of Anakin’s bare bicep. Is she leaving marks? “He’s always been unaware of the effect he has on others.”

Obi-Wan remembers countless missions where the locals chatted them up, trying to coax Obi-Wan’s sullen Padawan into conversation. Anakin never noticed the way their eyes would linger, the pointed jokes they’d make to try to see Anakin’s face split into his trademark dazzling smile.

Which is why this mission worries Obi-Wan, and which is why he’s going to have words with whoever authorized it (uncomfortable though it will be to forbid his own great-grandmaster from ever dressing his Padawan in lingerie again).

Anakin is capable and quick-witted, yes. But Obi-Wan spent ten years trying to teach the boy a shred of diplomacy, a shred of etiquette, all for naught. Anakin could easily subdue every single person in this club without breaking a sweat.

What he can’t do is behave himself and blend in.

The bartender, who has clearly lost interest, chimes in. “Are you going to order a drink? Or just keep eyefucking one of our servers? Because we usually charge extra for that.”

Obi-Wan makes a pained noise in the back of his throat.

“He’s having a crisis,” Quinlan says, not without sympathy. “It’s kind of a buzzkill, isn’t it?”

“We get a lot of those,” Maja says. “At least your sexual awakening is the same species. If I had a credit for every time someone stumbled out striped with glitter and claw marks from one of our Wookiee servers—”

“I am not having a crisis,” Obi-Wan lies, before Quinlan’s girlfriend can traumatize him further. “Or a sexual awakening.” Obi-Wan is thirty-five, almost thirty-six. He’s plenty awakened, thank you.

“Yeah, he knew he was into pretty boys,” Quinlan adds, unhelpfully. “It’s this particular one that’s got him all hot—”

“—I was surprised. But I’m fine now.” Obi-Wan watches Anakin slink across the floor and evade the grasping hands of drunken patrons. “I’m fine.”

“Good!” Quinlan smiles. “You should be. The boy is a knight now, Obi-Wan,” Quinlan adds in an undertone. “He can handle himself.”

Unbidden, Obi-Wan thinks of the last time Anakin handled something himself on an undercover mission, and how banished they both are from Occo IV as a result.

“Of course he can,” Obi-Wan agrees, and turns around.

The doubt in his throat tastes even worse than Quinlan’s shot.

***

“—and the blurrg had finished the entire cask of brandy. So there I was, force-feeding it bread and praying that Master Tholme wouldn’t—” Quinlan pauses and Obi-Wan feels a sharp jab to his ribs. “You’re not listening to me at all, are you?”

Across the room Anakin is passing out drink to a table of Togruta. One of them says something, indecipherable under the pulse of the music, and Anakin laughs, a whisper of his amusement leaking out into the Force. His bare abdomen expands under his garter belt while he catches his breath, his skin slick with what Obi-Wan assumes and prays is sweat.

“I am not,” Obi-Wan confirms. “But in my defense, that story happened twenty years ago and unlike the priceless brandy you fed to a blurrg, it has not improved with age.”

Quinlan wrinkles his nose. “Well, I’m carrying the conversational yoke all on my own tonight. Forgive me for revisiting my greatest hits.” He takes a swig of his drink. “Why are you so distracted? You’re not obsessing over Anakin again, are you?”

Obi-Wan tears his eyes away from the delicate curve of Anakin’s throat. “Absolutely not.”

“Uh huh.” Quinlan politely (by his standards, at least) does not lay his hands on Obi-Wan to test the veracity of that claim. “I do understand, you know. To some degree.”

“Oh yes?” Obi-Wan asks, even as he reaches out to brush against the bright glow of Anakin’s mind in the Force. Their training bond was so recently severed that it’s still easy to feel the frayed edges where they used to be connected.

“When Aayla was knighted it was difficult to get used to our new dynamic. She went from a kid I was responsible for to a friend and equal, pretty much overnight. It was…jarring.”

Jarring, yes. That’s what Obi-Wan is experiencing here tonight. He’s being jarred. It’s natural that he’s worried about Anakin, that he’s fixating on his vulnerability in this objectively dangerous situation. Until recently that was his sole purpose in life.

The care and keeping of Anakin Skywalker.

“Although I don’t think I took it nearly as personally as you are,” Quinlan continues. “It was nice to see her grown up and taking missions on her own. The first time we had an assignment together, both as Knights, she really impressed me. We were on our way to Jedha when we ran into some pirates—”

Quinlan’s words fade into the background, not in the least because Obi-Wan has already heard this story a dozen times before too.

But also because he feels a pull in the Force, an answering flare from Anakin.

Anakin? Is everything all right?

Yes, comes the reply, Anakin brushing against him. But you keep tugging on the bond.

Obi-Wan flushes and tamps down on his embarrassment before that too can reach Anakin’s perception. Anakin used to tug on the bond while they were on missions. He’d been a demanding young thing, always needing to know where Obi-Wan was, what he was doing and who he was doing it with.

It seems Obi-Wan has picked up some bad habits from his Padawan.

Or rather, his former Padawan. Apologies, Anakin. I was just checking up on you. Your shielding is much improved.

It really has. Obi-Wan remembers a time when he and every nearby Force sensitive had been subject to Anakin’s various moods. Yes, he’d (mercifully) improved during his teen years, but now? If Obi-Wan hadn’t known to look for him, Anakin would be nearly invisible in Force, while startlingly and unavoidably visible in the flesh.

It’s impressive, is what it is. The amount of control necessary to hide a Force presence like Anakin’s.

There’s a swell of pride in the Force, quickly tamped down again before Obi-Wan can ask about it.

I’ve been working on it. Since I’m a knight now and all. Somehow Anakin pushes an eye-roll through the Force. And you don’t need to check up on me.

Obi-Wan knows this, rationally. But the rational part of his mind has long vacated the premises. Now all that’s left is his completely mortifying arousal and a constant throb of concern for the defenseless young man across the floor. What if something goes wrong? It’s not like Anakin has his lightsaber.

Obi-Wan flicks his gaze across Anakin’s slim hips, clad as they are in nothing but crimson lace. Where would he even keep it?

Best not to continue that line of thought.

I know this type of mission isn’t usually to your tastes, Obi-Wan sends back. Anakin likes action. Anakin likes the thrill of the chase, the satisfaction of a well-placed strike. The heat of an explosion after crashing a ship (Obi-Wan assumes, or else Anakin would surely take pains to crash less often).

Maybe not, Anakin agrees, but we’ve had worse.

Worse? Perhaps. Obi-Wan and Anakin have been sent into all sorts of sewers and ventilation ducts and the gaping jaws of various monsters.

But at least Anakin had been wearing clothes for those missions.

An improvement over Vanqor, at least? Although the man watching you from the table does look a bit like a gundark .

A bubble of delight bursts from Anakin. Don’t make me laugh, Master. He’ll think I’m making fun of him. And he already doesn’t tip.

A part of Obi-Wan wonders why Anakin cares if the stranger tips since it’s not like he needs the credits. What would he buy? A speeder? Another droid to hang around their quarters and scream at Obi-Wan in incomprehensible binary? More skimpy, clinging outfits that cut into the soft skin of his inner—

On that note, Obi-Wan can’t imagine not tipping the poor boy. Not when he’s so sweet right now, a smile clinging to the glossy corners of his lips and his cheeks flushed with exertion.

Obi-Wan gathers his thoughts into a more productive and less dangerous direction. I’ll concentrate on being as dull and dry as possible. And I’ll give you some space.

This is Anakin’s first solo mission since being knighted. Obi-Wan should be like Quinlan: proud and somehow still talking his ear off from the adjacent stool.

But all Obi-Wan can think about is the vulnerable stretch of Anakin’s bare skin and the predatory gazes of the people around him. They look like they want to push the boy over the nearest table and devour him whole. And Anakin is all long legs and big, expressive eyes.

He’s never looked more like prey.

But Obi-Wan accepts Anakin’s silence for what it is and turns back to Quinlan.

“—and then the miners stormed the palace. Aayla and I got out just in time before anyone realized we were the ones who gave the foreman the keys.” Quinlan takes a deep breath and then sighs, something like resignation in his voice. “You’ve been ignoring me again, haven’t you?”

***

Time passes around Obi-Wan as a blur of Quinlan’s digs, the bartender’s unsympathetic asides and Anakin’s sultry face swimming around the edges of his perception. He feels unmoored, unmade, intoxicated, even though he stopped drinking over an hour ago. 

Quinlan talks and flirts with the bartender and tries to drag Obi-Wan into conversation. Obi-Wan feels bad, or almost does, because if he’s not going to participate he might as well just go back to the Temple. 

But he absolutely can’t. Not while Anakin is loose in the club. 

Obi-Wan sees the way the other patrons look at him. He can taste their lust and desperation in the Force, and why not? Obi-Wan feels it too just looking at the boy. 

But more than that he feels afraid. 

Anakin is no longer his responsibility, but then, what is he to him? 

Why can’t Obi-Wan stop watching his progress around this club? Why is his every sense trained to him, like a seeker missile attuned to the low cadence of his voice, the sticky-sweet scent of his skin, the untamed solar flares of Anakin’s Force presence when something catches him by surprise. 

Anakin has long been the sun of Obi-Wan’s life, a constant for Obi-Wan to orbit.

Obi-Wan is on the council now. He’s a general. His responsibilities have shifted from a single defiant Padawan to thousands of Jedi and clones. To the galaxy at large. 

None of them matter, not tonight. Not in the face of Anakin.

This is your Padawan, a part of him insists. Your boy. Your sacred duty is to keep him safe. To take care of him.  

The Force flickers in warning and Obi-Wan spins around to find the boy in question in the sea of dancers and other, less relevant servers. 

A man has his hands on him. A slimy looking man, dressed in nerfhide and chains. Obi-Wan dislikes him on sight, and not only because his fingers are digging little grooves into Anakin’s skin. 

Obi-Wan reaches into the Force to listen to their conversation, poised and ready to leap to Anakin’s defense, should it prove necessary.

(In ten years together, it had often proved necessary.) 

“I can’t dance with you, I’m working,” Anakin says, tugging against the man’s hands. He doesn’t look frightened, but he looks perturbed. Obi-Wan can see the strain of his thighs as he tries to regain his footing on the slick tile, the wrinkle of his nose as the man paws at his bare chest. 

“Just one dance, pretty boy.” The man’s hand slides to Anakin’s bicep. “Don’t worry, I’ll lead.” 

This isn’t the sort of dancing that requires leading, not really. The people on the floor are less performing steps and more attempting to fuck with their clothes on, writhing in time to the heady beat.

But Obi-Wan feels a spike of fury through the bond as Anakin’s jaw sets, his shoulders pushing back to draw attention to their breadth, to Anakin’s strength and height. 

Careful, Anakin, Obi-Wan pushes through the Force. 

I’m being careful. He’s still alive, isn’t he?  

It carries the cadence of a joke, but Obi-Wan’s heart clenches, nonetheless. If Anakin loses his temper, like he did— 

Fuck, Obi-Wan needs to intervene. 

He hurries across the floor blindly, ducking around the dancers. Anakin is a live wire, Anakin is a supernova, but Obi-Wan can step in and de-escalate. That’s been the rhythm of their relationship these past ten years: Obi-Wan is cool and calm where Anakin burns. 

“I said no.” 

“Fine, you little tease,” the man slurs, and raises his hands, palms forward, in surrender. 

Anakin rubs his bicep (did the man actually hurt him?) and pouts but turns around to meet Obi-Wan’s eyes. 

See, Master? Everything’s—

Anakin’s mouth drops open as he jolts, a sharp crack ringing through the music like a blaster shot. He spins around to face the drunk, his muscles tense beneath his golden skin, his eyes blazing—

The man spanked Anakin.

Obi-Wan’s Anakin.

The red handprint on Anakin’s skin stares back at him like a taunt, like an accusation. Obi-Wan looks at all that perfectly smooth skin, bare except for the string of lace between his sweetly rounded cheeks.

And except for a stranger’s mark, flushed crimson right at the juncture of his thigh.

How dare he? Forget Anakin killing him.

Obi-Wan will kill him.

The man barely has time to smirk, to delight in the feel of Anakin’s tight cheek against his unworthy palm before Obi-Wan is on him.

“Keep your hands off him,” Obi-Wan hisses, his hand curling around the man’s wrist.

The man frowns, his muddled, idiot mind taking in this latest development. “You’re not security,” he announces, with all the grace of a bantha piloting a starfighter. “What’s your problem?”

Several, but Obi-Wan doesn’t have all night to get into them. “He told you he wasn’t interested, and you struck him? What makes you think that’s appropriate? I should contact the police; I should contact the Jedi—”

“He works here. Have you seen how he’s dressed?” The man sneers. “He was practically asking for it.”

Asking for it?

Again: how dare he?

Obi-Wan can feel Anakin’s discomfort swirling around them, both the physical and the emotional. This random, drunken lout made Anakin feel this way, humiliated him, touched him, took advantage

Obi-Wan is supposed to protect him.

Master, back off, comes Anakin’s voice, low and insistent. I’m taking care of it.

Obi-Wan fights back a reflexive scoff. Anakin isn’t supposed to ‘take care’ of things, Obi-Wan is. Obi-Wan has a responsibility here, as a member of the Council, as a Jedi Master, as Anakin’s Master.

But then a man, a bouncer, most likely, with a shaved head and a face like an exhaust port steps between Anakin and the drunk. “What’s going on here?”

Obi-Wan clears his throat. “This”—grotesque buffoon— “unsavory gentleman just—”

“Wasn’t asking you,” the bouncer says, rudely interrupting. “Hey kid,” he continues, and his face softens when he meets Anakin’s eyes. “What happened here?”

Anakin sniffs and looks up through his lashes. “He hit me.”

The bouncer raises his eyebrows and the drunk stumbles and blusters. “I barely touched him! I was”—he hiccups— “he was being mouthy. I paid good money to be here, I’m a regular—”

“All right, I think you’ve had enough,” the bouncer sighs, and he uncrosses his arms. “You okay, new kid?”

Anakin nods and bites his lip, his lashes fluttering.

Obi-Wan is at least 75% sure he taught him that move. He nudges against Anakin affectionately in the Force and reels at the rebuff he receives from Anakin’s side.

He’s never felt his Padawan like this. So cold. So…aloof.

“You, outside,” the bouncer says, grabbing the man by the nape of the neck. He makes it a few steps before he stops, the combative drunk struggling in his grasp, and jerks his mouth in Obi-Wan’s direction. “This guy too? He’s been staring at you all night.”

Obi-Wan has not been—well, it hasn’t been inappropriate staring, at least.

Anakin’s nostrils flare and Obi-Wan feels his irritation bubble over in the Force. If Obi-Wan gets thrown out of a seedy nightclub on the orders of his own Padawan he will never hear the end of it.

Anakin fixes Obi-Wan with a piercing stare, his eyes narrowed to slashes of blue, as bright and devastating as his lightsaber. Obi-Wan has seen this expression on his face before: Anakin, his brows furrowed, and his lips twisted as he studies a broken engine. The calculation in his gaze, the haze of his frustration in the Force as he looks at Obi-Wan like he’s a puzzle he can’t quite figure out.

And the flash of understanding.

“No need for that,” Anakin says, dismissing the overstepping bouncer with a wave of his gloved mechno hand. “I’ve got this one under control.”