There were things that had
to be done. A dozen small details that should have been taken care of weeks ago, but he felt strangely numb, as if a fog had descended on him and left him blind and cut off from everything he knew and felt. The thought of them nagged at him, made him restless in the middle of the night.
Yes, he should have attended to so many things.
Obi-Wan knew there were tasks that had to be finished and put away from him forever, but he had been unable to summon up the energy to do them. He supposed that all of it could wait until he was ready. He had other things to occupy his time and attention.
Young Anakin was among them, the Padawan he had taken so reluctantly. Every time he turned around, there was Anakin staring at him with wide blue eyes. There was a wariness in them that broke Obi-Wan?s heart, unable as he was to change it.
The apartment was still filled with memories that echoed within that hollow place inside him. There was Qui-Gon?s favorite mug for tea, the throw he had wrapped around himself on cool evenings, an extra pair of boots tucked into the corner of his closet. Remnants of Qui-Gon?s life surrounded him.
Now Qui-Gon?s room belonged to Obi-Wan, and Anakin slept in the room that had been Obi-Wan?s for more than a decade. He had been offered new quarters but that would have meant cleaning out their old apartment, and that was a task for which Obi-Wan was not ready. It seemed almost easier to face those painful memories every day than to pack them away forever.
He pushed aside the mementos of an old life just as he pushed aside his grief. He was only delaying the inevitable and he knew it. Both would catch up with him.
Slowly, things had begun to change in their quarters. Gone was the light scent of Qui-Gon?s favorite soap and the soft strains of jizz, the music for which Obi-Wan could never develop a taste. He could not bear to look at the few holos they had collected over the years and had quietly put them away in a cabinet. Anakin had not asked where they were.
Now Obi-Wan was likely to step on spare droid parts if he ventured to the ?fresher in the middle of the night. The first time he had done so, he had just barely contained his curses; mindful of the example he had to set for the boy, he had clenched his teeth and held onto his foot. Thereafter, he had been more careful in the dark.
Some of the foods only his Master really liked had slowly been replaced with items more palatable to Obi-Wan and his Padawan. More complicated meals had given way to simpler fare; he had never been particularly motivated in the kitchen. He had caf in the morning now. The last time he had had tea had been in their apartment and Qui-Gon had been there to share it with him. After he had served the last of Qui-Gon?s favorite tea to Anakin, he had gone to his bedroom and quietly wept for his lost Master.
Then he had meditated on the forbidden attachment and vowed to do better.
It was a promise he was not sure he would be able to keep.
Finally, he had packed Qui-Gon?s boots in a box and he kept telling himself that tomorrow he would give them away, or throw them out, do anything to get them out of his room. The box stayed in the corner, however, and he could not forget what rested within it. Soon? he would say, and then he would put off the task yet again.
There were so many ways to delay, so many reasons that made perfect sense.
When Obi-Wan had hung his own robes in the closet, he had done no more than move Qui-Gon?s aside. He was not quite ready to remove them, sensing that the empty space would haunt him, and so their robes hung side by side. He found a small comfort in that, though he did not know why.
If Qui-Gon?s robes no longer hung there, that would mean his Master was never coming back, but he could not put that thought into words.
On the surface, he had adjusted well. He was attentive to his duties as a new Knight and Master. He had even learned to smile again, though he did not yet quite feel like smiling. Still, the mask he wore was most impressive and everyone believed it, except perhaps the boy.
Every now and then, he would catch Anakin?s solemn gaze on him, as if he saw through all the layers and knew what was going on beneath the surface. Of course, the child was dealing with his own anguish, so perhaps he understood better than anyone else could.
Anakin had slowly started to make his room his own. Beyond the droid parts on his desk, there were several data pads in various stages of repair, or disrepair as the case might be. It had not taken long for others in the Temple to learn of Anakin?s mechanical gifts and they had started bringing him things to fix. Anakin found joy in it, but only Obi-Wan realized that it was a way for the boy to feel as if he belonged and had something to offer.
One day, he would have to make it clear to Anakin that he had every right to be a Jedi. He was the Chosen One, and if anyone should be a Jedi, it was Anakin Skywalker. Qui-Gon had made that clear, and it was a cause Obi-Wan had taken on as his own. Doubt was not part of the equation, not anymore. So yes, he must tell Anakin very plainly that he was destined to be a Jedi. Not today, but he would reassure him soon. It was a promise he made every day.
Their meals were usually quiet affairs, Anakin not sure of what to say and Obi-Wan being unable to speak. It was a silence that was only strained on occasions. When Obi-Wan looked across the small table, he always expected to see Qui-Gon sitting there, a half-smile on his face as they shared the events of the day. There were three chairs at the table-?two for the occupants of the apartment and one for guests--but Obi-Wan had subtly discouraged Anakin from using one of them.
It had been Qui-Gon?s chair.
Anakin had not argued or asked why, and Obi-Wan knew that the child was sensitive enough to realize his reasons.
It had been two months since they had returned to Coruscant-?without Qui-Gon. On this day, Qui-Gon would have celebrated yet another year of life. It was a celebration that would never take place.
It seemed that no one else remembered the significance of the day, or if they did, they were hesitant to speak of Qui-Gon?s Naming Day. Obi-Wan knew it would have been a relief to talk about him, even if it had made him sad. Instead, he found refuge in his quarters, hiding from what the day meant to him.
Obi-Wan had been restless all day, ill at ease and short-tempered with his Padawan. There were no classes today and so they had been cooped up together, a fact that had worn on both of them. Anakin did not know what was wrong, only that something was and, in his insecurity, he feared it stemmed from him. It was yet another thing that Obi-Wan could not find the inclination or energy to correct.
Anakin had passed most of the day in his room, tinkering. Obi-Wan had remained in his room, not doing much of anything but brooding. He knew that Qui-Gon would have scolded him for it, but an uncharacteristic streak of rebelliousness had prompted him to indulge in it. After all, he was the Master now.
With that thought, the tears had come, surprising him. It had been more than a month since he had shed tears for his Master, and he had done so only once since they returned. He wept quietly, his grief too great a burden to bear without tears. But he could not forget the boy who was in the room so close to his and so he was as silent as he could be.
A knock on his door shook him from his stupor. ?Go away?? he said softly, trying very hard to keep his tone even. He did not want to be angry with the boy but he could not help it. Sometimes he felt he would go mad if he could not just have a few moments alone. It seemed he had not had any real privacy since the day his Master died.
?Master?? Anakin asked hesitantly.
Master. How odd to hear the title applied to himself, he thought. It was enough, however, to remind him that he had responsibilities beyond himself. As always, the call of duty was enough to rouse him.
With a sigh, Obi-Wan got to his feet and opened the door. Anakin stared up at him, compassion shining in his eyes. ?I miss him, too,? the boy said and then threw himself at Obi-Wan, wrapping his arms around the young man?s waist and burying his face in his tunics.
Obi-Wan could find no words to comfort him, or even himself, and so he settled for picking him up and simply holding him. It seemed to be the right thing and Anakin held on tightly. Or perhaps it was Obi-Wan who held fast to Anakin.
Sensing that Anakin missed someone else even more than he missed his Master, Obi-Wan let the boy cry out his loneliness and did not admonish him for an unseemly show of emotion. It was true that the Jedi Code forbade attachment, but the human heart was an unruly student and the boy was just that?still a boy.
As he held the crying child, Obi-Wan realized that he had felt like a boy himself not so long ago. He had grown up in an instant, that moment the Sith?s blade had taken Qui-Gon. Now he needed to fulfill the role of mentor and Master. It still felt like an odd fit, but he would learn to fill the garment.
?Little Jedi?? Obi-Wan murmured as he stroked the boy?s hair. He felt Anakin?s response, the child?s desperate need for reassurance suddenly satisfied.
Anakin?s sobs slowed down and the boy relaxed against him. He heaved a few great sighs, his breathing hitching and then he closed his eyes, falling instantly into a child?s deep sleep. Anakin?s grief had been spent and he was exhausted by the release. Obi-Wan wished he could do the same.
Carefully, he carried Anakin to his room and laid him on the bed that had been his just a few months ago. It seemed far too big for the child now, but Obi-Wan knew that boys grew quickly-?sometimes too quickly. Surprising even himself, he placed a gentle kiss on the boy?s forehead. In his sleep, Anakin muttered and turned, hugging his pillow.
?Sleep well, young one,? Obi-Wan whispered, and stopped. Those were the very words that Qui-Gon used to whisper when he put him to bed at night.
Even though he had protested that he was not a cr?cheling to be tucked in, Obi-Wan had grown fond of the ritual, though he would never have told any of his age mates. It was their secret and theirs alone.
Now he had shared that secret ritual with another boy, a Padawan who would desperately need a Master?s guidance. He was the Master. For the first time, there was a pleasing symmetry to the thought. The circle had come round yet again, as it always does, as it had to.
Obi-Wan turned and went into his room, climbing into his bed and sprawling under the sheets like an exhausted child. He closed his eyes and tried to forget that he was the Master now. It almost seemed to feel right.
Sleep claimed him and he let go of his grief and loneliness.
Sleep well, young one.
He did not hear the words, but a smile tugged at his lips nonetheless. For the first time in many nights, he felt at peace.
The Master slept.
Original cover by Gina. HTML formatting copyright 2008 TheForce.Net LLC.