It is very hard for a Jedi to remain wholly innocent. It's hard for me to even define what the word means. Certainly, I'm sure, it doesn't mean me, or anything in the carefully catalogued archives of my soul. I've so often, in these last few years, defined the word by looking to Obi-Wan, who was always a child, who had never given up on the moral game-board, with everything so crisply black and white. He wouldn't like it if he knew I thought of it that way-that, in the end, all that mattered was what side you chose and how well you could play the game. Obi-Wan believes, as he should, that there is something more-he believes that an individual can make a difference. He named every piece of every game I bought him, to give them an identity, and make them real and equal to each other.
I haven't been innocent for most of my adult years, and if there once was a speck of innocence inside of me, it has long since been eroded away into nothingness. Xanatos's fall, Tahl's death… but he made me hold on and he kept me standing when I would have fallen, too. If I'm lucky, the dust of that innocence I once had managed to fall to Obi-Wan, who needs something between him and the outside world. He had the brightest eyes of any child that I've ever seen, and whatever lanterns burned inside of them didn't dim as he went through his apprenticeship. The glow didn't even falter when all I could offer him was a pat on the shoulder and a callused hand that was clumsy as he shook it.
That glow never faltered until today, when I put my hands on Anakin's shoulders, and chained that boy into my footsteps. I didn't have to turn around to see his eyes dim, all I had to do was hear his voice, absent of any dry humor that it had contained before, filled instead with a shaking rage that I could feel without the bond; a rage that I could hear even through his voice.
"I am ready to face the Trials."
He is cooler with me now, as he tries to walk with a Knight's crisp, staccato stride, trying to sever his allegiance to me before I sever his braid. Before, he had been angry, and that had been something; there had been some spirit to tether him to his body, but now, he is far from me, and he offers only facts, things I could have seen for myself. I will miss his insight on the missions, and I suspect that I will have a hard time reigning in young Anakin, who burns all over but refuses to glow. Quite the fireball, my new "pathetic lifeform." Obi-Wan eyes him with noticeable distrust, fighting back his natural inclinations to be friendly, because he is jealous of this young one. He sees that I show far more affection to a sunburned child of the sand than I ever have to him.
Poor child-but not my child. That is the most important distinction that any Master can make. The Council remains disdainful of connections, and to consider an apprentice (nothing more than an employee, really) to be your child is beyond their collective belief. I tried to tell them once that I would like to have maybe a week with my Padawan in the Temple, to give him some time to recover from our latest stressing missions.
What hurt was that they thought I was joking. And when they found out that I was not actually joking, they were outraged.
They told me:
"Compassion is fine, but do not value that one life above the others you could save. Why in the galaxies, when it comes to it, would you choose to lose everything else for this one single person?"
I do it because I love him, and I told them that, standing in that chilly, serene tower with everything behind me and beneath me.
They reminded me with that cold condescension that a Jedi shall not know love, and then they watched me from that tower, judgmental and waiting for me to make a mistake. They waited for me to become so devoted and so attentive to him that I let everything else fall.
Because they remember Xanatos.
I tried to pretend like I'd been wrong, for a while, but there's only so long that you can pretend that you don't love this child that's been so neatly inserted into your life. I spent so many nights putting my pillow up to my ears so that I wouldn't hear Obi-Wan crying in a nightmare, but I finally got up and went in to his room, and told him that it was fine, that I was his Master, that he was going to be safe with me forever.
And it was a mistake. Then, Obi-Wan knew that I cared, and he waited for further signs-he waited for a hug, he waited for more than a passing word of praise. He waited, and he wilted in waiting, because I couldn't give him anything that he wanted, so he assumed, as the Council would not, that I had, indeed, changed my mind. After that, the wilting was done. He grew into a man that I could be proud of, and a Jedi that I could trust. Above all else, he was a Jedi, so of course he could understand why I never showed him too much affection. That thought helped me get through the harder times, even if it is only partially true.
Obi-Wan could make me no prouder of him than I have been in the last few days. He watches me carefully as I talk to Anakin, and I think that he is beginning to see everything but the other half of my motives for giving him away.
One half is Anakin's unrelieved, concentrated power; the boy walks in a dream of destiny, and he never falls from where the fates have placed him. I know that he could be great: greater than maybe anyone else in the galaxy.
But that isn't my only reason. The other half is that Obi-Wan needs his Knighthood. He needs to walk without having to stay to my left, and fight without having to guard my back. He needs to go-he needs to be free, he needs to stop waiting for signs that will never come.
The Council allows more freedom for the Knights. Obi-Wan could have friends, certainly, and he can fall in love. He can fall in love if he understands that it must be kept quiet, and if he knows that he cannot ever try to validate that relationship. He could be happy with whomever he chose… as long as they never assume that they're going to live happily ever after.
And once he is a Knight, I will be free, too.
If he isn't my Padawan, then I'm not his Master, and there is no official attachment. I can tell him that I always wanted to be his father, because I'll never get a chance to give up everything for him again. I can be a father when he no longer needs one in his life, and that is cold comfort.
I wonder why I am never content. After all, I'm allowed to be his comforter and his teacher. But the trouble is, I'm only allowed to be his father when he can no longer be my son. That thought haunts me in the worst possible times-in the midst of battle, sometimes, when I'm afraid he might die without making it to his Knighthood, and without making it to those realizations and that conversation I must have with him.
I hope to have a chance to tell him, when we come back to Naboo. I want to clap him on the shoulder, and pull him into a tight hug. I want to tell him everything, but for now, he just obeys me mutely, silent at my side, and holding back questions that he wants to ask, as I deny him answers that he needs to know. It's okay. I know what I'm going to do. I know that I'll tell him everything-but some rules cannot be broken. Some don't even bend. They're made harder than stone or the look in Obi-Wan's eyes.
I will tell him everything that is allowed.
Original cover by FernWithy. HTML formatting copyright 2003 TheForce.Net LLC.