TITLE: The Child Is Father Of The Man
DISCLAIMER: If I owned these characters, I'd be a lot richer than I am right now.
DISTRIBUTION: Share freely. Credit always.
WARNING: Alluded child abuse.
SUMMARY: A clue to Anakin's adult problems lies in his childhood . . .
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Finally, something I've been meaning to do for a while now - contribute something to this group. Please enjoy, it's my first Obi/Ani fanfic/slash.
The taste of blood made Anakin crazy.
He hated the cold. As much as he hated sand, he hated snow even more. "Breathe through your nose," Obi-wan had warned on the shuttle over. "Hoth's climate is unforgiving. The cold air will sap your strength, faster than you might believe. If you breathe through your mouth, the air won't be sufficiently warmed – are you listening, Anakin?" Sure am, he thought, lolling in the passenger seat, listlessly toying with a damaged remote's wiring and half paying attention to his master's advice.
Now, leaning over a snow drift, heart pounding and coughing up that awful iron taste from his cold-singed lungs, he was too sick to chastise himself. He couldn't feel his nose or his fingers or anything below his knees. The whipping, merciless cold robbed every scrap of heat from his thin robes. He coughed and gagged and his hot spittle pierced the ground as needle-thin shards of ice.
A soft crunch-crunch-crunch percussed through the howling wind but Anakin could barely hear it. It was that taste, that burning metallic taste coughed up from abraded lungs that distracted him. It made him sick. Not just sick to his stomach. Sick in a deeper, rawer way.
Obi-Wan raced up behind him, his feet punching holes in the permafrost crust. "Anakin! Anakin, take it easy. Catch your breath." Anakin was hunched far over the snow drift, his body racked with spasmodic coughs. Obi-Wan reached out to his padawan. He placed a concerned hand on each shoulder.
Anakin wheeled around. Obi-Wan felt the heat of the lightsaber blade as it narrowly dashed past his face, the electric hum passing much too close to his ear to be comfortable. Stunned, he fumbled for his own weapon and caught the edge of Anakin's glare. The intensity of his gaze frightened him. Anakin's face was contorted in fear, the fury of a sleepwalker awakened from a dream. His knuckles were white against the weapon's hilt and his arms shook with rage.
Obi-Wan slipped behind him in one lithe move. He grabbed his wrist, exerting firm downward pressure, pushing the blade to the ground and pressing the meat of his other palm to Anakin's neck – a firm, gentle gesture, the kind of sustained pressure that calms Bantha and Dewbacks and any other sentient being in the throes of animal irrationality. "Easy, Anakin." He intoned, his voice deep and soothing like Yavin-harvested honey. He lifted his hand and pressed his palm to Anakin's brow, as if checking for fever. "Easy." The muscle underneath Anakin's brow unknotted and smoothed. He dropped the lightsaber. It hit the snow with a hiss of steam and sunk deep, its heat digging for itself a perfectly shaped grave in the snow.
Anakin gave a great shaky sigh, the sigh of a child who has finally calmed himself after a crying jag. He wrenched himself free from Obi-Wan's grasp and spun around to face him. His eyes were downcast, his handsome face dark with some stormcloud roiling beneath the surface.
"I'm sorry, master." His lips were tight with contrition. He couldn't even look Obi-wan in the eye.
Obi-Wan hesitated, then patted him on the shoulder.
"Let's get back on the shuttle," was all he said.
The taste of blood.
Anakin removed his welding goggles and wiped the grit from the rest of his face. The sweltering heat turned the mix of sand and grease andsweat into a sharp slurry that ground against the tender skin of his sunburned face. Watoo had parked him here, wanted him to realign several dozen ceramic capacitors, a simple-sounding task that quickly revealed itself as the kind of drudgery slave labor had been invented for.
He hadn't seen Watto for hours and figured it'd be safe to slip away for a lick of condensation off the cool surface of a desiccation tank when he heard the old trader's guffaw from the tent. His master never laughed unless money was flowing in his direction. Lately he hadn't been laughing at all. It had been an exceptionally dry season and the dearth in the moisture harvest had left everyone a little tight with their credits. But now Watoo was laughing, and Anakin swore he heard the clink of goblets and the unmistakable, musical sound of liquid pouring.
Anakin carefully lowered down the partially disassembled capacitor, taking care to not let the delicate inner rings smash against each other as he set it down on the workbench. On tiptoe, he crept up to the tent's open flap.
Watto saw him immediately but waited for a break in conversation to feign surprise. "Anakin!" he exclaimed with exaggerated felicity. "So good to see you!" His guests turned to look, too. Three men. Not from here. Gray hair, the prosperous bellies of bankers and spice dealers. They sweated in their dark citified suits and ran handkerchiefs over their bloated, sweaty faces. One smiled at him. Anakin shrunk back.
"Anakin," Watto began, choosing his words carefully, "these – ehhh – gentlemen . . . have come a long way to Tatooine. I've been telling them all about you. They're very – ehhhh – excited to meet you." He was speaking Galactic Standard. His guests probably couldn't sully their ears with Huttese.
Anakin glared warily. The liquid in the cut glass shimmered like an ocean. It made the dry taste in his mouth sharp and dusty.
"They'd like to see Mos Eisley. You'll show them around."
"Chee booska napa nee wanta?" Anakin glared.
"You'll do it whether you want to or not," Watto drawled, "and you'll speak properly to them while you're doing it, understand?"
Anakin didn't say anything.
Watto turned to the men, his palms up in an expression of resigned exasperation. "He'll need some softening up. You'll know what to do."
The men nodded, placed credits in Watto's hand, took long sips of their drinks. Something musical clinked in their glass, like free floating pieces of glass. Anakin wondered what it was. Sometimes after lightning strikes, long dry thunderous bouts of charged air but no rain, he would find melted globs of fused sand dotting the surface of the desert. That's what it looked like, but he couldn't imagine why the man had it in his drink, or why he absently swirled it around between swallows.
One of the men caught him looking at his drink. "Go ahead," he smiled. His rheumy eyes sagged on his flushed face. He passed the glass to Anakin.
Anakin reached out and jumped in surprise when his fingers touched the glass. It was cold, cold enough to startle a boy born on a desert planet. He reached out again, cupped his boyish palms around the cool glass and relished the tingle that spread over his hands, a minty charge that stretched all the way to his shoulder blades. It was like taking off a too-tight garment he hadn't realized he'd been wearing all his life. Tentatively, he raised it to his lips. The liquid inside was cooler than any shadow, any hole dug deep enough to touch the unscorched sand beneath. It made him gasp and exhale and trace the icy swallow all the way to the pit of his stomach. The shards of glass bounced against his lip and he was amazed to find them even colder than the liquid they floated in. He had no idea there were things in this world unsubject to scalding, baking heat. It was like discovering a new law of gravity.
A meaty, hot hand clapped on his shoulder. "Come on, boy." The man said. "Time's wasting."
Watto slid himself off his stool. "I'll leave you to it." He said. "Call me when you're done."
"Done with what?" Anakin said but a sharp stinging slap caught him across the cheek. He looked up, stunned. The man, the one who gave him the drink, had his swollen hand balled up into a fist. He drew it back and Anakin would have dodged or run or something had he not dropped the drink. The icy sensation of the liquid splatter all over his bare legs shocked him with such force he momentarily lost track of where he was and that was all the time the man needed to land a blow. The blood gushed from Anakin's nose and flooded the crease of his lip and as the three men fell upon him, their meaty hands fumbling with his belt and their hands clamped on his shoulders that iron animal taste of blood flooded his mouth and made him sick . . .
Obi-Wan's brow furrowed. It was now evening. Anakin hadn't touched his dinner. He sat in their sleeping quarters, his long teenage limbs folded fetally in a chair, his face hard and troubled and lost in thought.
This was unsettling. Never, not even at the close of the most trying, most frustrating, most painful day of his padawan training had Obi-Wan ever sunk into a state like the one Anakin simmered in now. A deep, unstaunchable pain hovered at the edge of Obi-Wan's telepathic link. Anakin, amazingly, could hide the specificities of his thoughts from even his master. But his emotions still frothed out of his control. They licked up against Obi-Wan's consciousness like ocean waves flooding and receding but always threatening a hidden undertow.
Obi-Wan was mulling what wise words Qui-Gonn would have used at this moment when Anakin spoke.
"I don't like it when people touch my shoulders." he said. His voice was flat, devoid of life. He stared straight ahead, boring a killer's gaze into the empty wall ahead. "I don't like it when people sneak up on me. And I don't like the cold."
A hunch simmered in Obi-Wan's subconscious.
"Something happened to you." he said.
Anakin didn't answer.
Obi-Wan's shoulders sagged. "I'm sorry." he said.
Anakin stood up. How quickly those teenage limbs could unfold into a man who stood taller than Obi-Wan, whose dark eyes stared at him with palpable pressure. Obi-Wan swallowed hard and stared into a spot right above Anakin's sternum before gathering his courage and meeting his padawan's powerful stare.
"It will never happen again." Anakin intoned.
"That's right," Obi-Wan nodded, regaining his composure. "And do you know why?" He readied the lesson in his head. Because the Force was his ally. Because the past is illusion and the present is filled with a Jedi's practiced serenity. Because the Force allows us to see the good in all, no matter how they may have wronged us. Because -
The ZORCH of the blade hummed again, this time right under Obi-Wan's adam's apple. Anakin's eyes shone with fierce bloodlust. Obi-Wan swallowed hard and felt a few hairs on his throat singe with the movement.
"Because now," Anakin hissed, his teeth bared and touching and exposed in a half-mad smile, "I'm the one in control."
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