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Title: Hair
Author: Elektra Pendragon elekdragon@yahoo.com
Author's website: http://elektra.slashcity.tv/fanfiction.html
Archive: Yes at MA and the Obi/Ani archive, elsewhere ask first.
Category: Pre-slash (pre-pre-pre-slash, actually), Obi/Ani
Disclaimer: Belong to George Lucas they do. Forgot to put this in his movie, he did, so fill in a blank, I will. There is no ownership, there is Lucasfilm.
Rating: G
Warnings: None
Spoilers: TPM.
Summary: The day after Qui-Gon's funeral, Anakin makes his first public appearance as a Padawan. Only, he's missing something.
Feedback: Talk dirty to me: elekdragon@yahoo.com
Notes: While there is no exact slash in this, there is the tender taste of possibility in the years ahead, and their bond grows. This is from a first-line challenge I gave myself a long time ago and that I finally finished.

"Obi-Wan, I don't think mine will ever be as big as yours," Anakin said, sadly fingering his newly shorn hair. It used to hang down, whisping against his eyes or tickling his neck, but now it was much too short to do anything but stick out in rough tufts. It itched slightly as Obi-Wan used the towel that had been around his shoulders to dust off the back of his neck. The tight band on his ponytail felt heavy at the back of his head. A very small patch of hair, the only other part that was still its original length, stuck out from behind his right ear, hanging just barely below his earlobe. It was to be the start of his Padawan braid, and it felt woefully too short. He twirled his finger in the not-braid again, and asked, "Do you think it will be long enough when I'm a Knight?"

"It'll grow with time, Anakin," Obi-Wan said wisely, "just as your skills and perception will grow." Anakin's Master held up a creamy-white shirt in his hands, waving it a little as a crooked grin crossed his face. One of the Council members--a woman with flashing, serious eyes and a spot on her forehead--had thought to bring a Padawan's outfit, which she gifted to Anakin as soon as Qui-Gon's funeral was over. He was already wearing the pants and the boots. Now that his hair was cut to the short-shorn Padawan style, it was time to finish off the costume with tunics and belts.

Anakin slipped off the edge of the high stool he had been sitting on and walked over to Obi-Wan. The boots felt strange on his feet as he crossed the tiled floor of the refresher room. The soles were too thick; he could hardly feel the floor beneath this feet. He would have to get used to them eventually--after all, he was finally going to be a Jedi. They made him feel a whole foot taller, and perhaps a few years older. When he reached Obi-Wan, he turned around and slipped his arms into the sleeves. The shirt was a little stiff, but the fabric was thick and warm. He automatically flipped one edge of the tunic over the other, copying the look he had studied on Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan's tunics.

Obi-Wan took his shoulders and turned Anakin to face him. He looked down at Anakin's hands holding the flaps of the shirt together, smiling with a sort of approval in his face. He handed him the sash to tie around his waist, watching as Anakin fumbled with the unfamiliar fabric. The young boy figured it out soon enough, and held out his hand for the belt. Once he was completely dressed, Obi-Wan stepped back and examined Anakin.

"Well, they are a little big, but I'm sure you will grow into them. We'll requisition a few sets once we reach Coruscant." Obi-Wan adjusted Anakin's sleeves once more, then his face got a curious look on it.

"What?" Anakin asked, his hands patting over his clothing. Though his neck felt naked without the beaded collar his mom made for him, Anakin was sure his Jedi uniform was perfect. Just like Obi-Wan wore his. He looked down and made sure his boots were on the right feet.

Obi-Wan smiled, his hand rubbing his chin to half-hide the grin. "I do think we are missing something..." His hand came down from his now serious face to tug at the hair behind Anakin's ear. He smoothed the tiny patch down, measuring it with his fingers as Anakin held really still. "You are right, Anakin, it is much too short."

Anakin's heart fell at Obi-Wan's admission. He knew that he was different from the other Padawan Learners he had seen during his short visit to the Temple; he hadn't had several years to grow his braid like they had. His own hand came up to hide his shortcoming from his master, a frown darkening his face.

Obi-Wan took the hair shears from out his belt, and without a hesitation he reached up and clipped off his own braid, very close to the skull. Anakin gave a little cry as he watched the plait slide down to land in Obi-Wan's hand. He had admired the long lock of hair as a mark of all that his Master had accomplished; now it was just a piece of hair ready to be thrown away like the sandy locks that littered the ground.

Only, Obi-Wan didn't throw it away. He carefully removed the bands from the braid, then measured out a handspan of hair before unbraiding it and cutting it off from the rest. Then he tucked the sheers back under his belt and tipped Anakin's head to the side. Anakin held still as Obi-Wan's fingers worked with graceful diligence in the periphery of his vision. When Obi-Wan's hands moved away, the hair was gone from his fingers, and Anakin could feel a little more weight behind his ear. He moved his head to try to get a look, and he felt something brush the top of his shoulder. He looked up at Obi-Wan, astonished.

Obi-Wan smiled down at Anakin, and moved to the side to allow him to see into the large mirror in the corner of the room. Anakin couldn't breathe. There, across the room from him, stood a Jedi Padawan Learner. He could have been any Padawan roaming the rooms and halls of the Temple, with tunics, boots, and a braid that reached to his shoulder.

Obi-Wan appeared in the mirror, looking how Anakin imagined himself to be in ten years. He placed a hand on either shoulder and looked with what could have been pride at Anakin's reflection. Anakin reached up to squeeze one of Obi-Wan's fingers before he twirled his fingers through his new Padawan braid, testing the strength of the grafted-on hair.

"The bond is strong, Padawan," Obi-Wan said, his soothing voice lilting with his accent. "Just as our bond will be strong in the years to come. You are my apprentice, but I also wish that you will be my friend, as I was friends with my master." Obi-Wan's voice grew lower, becoming slightly husky. "Qui-Gon would have wanted it to be that way."

"I miss him," Anakin said, feeling that painful emotion welling up in his chest. He missed Qui-Gon terribly, perhaps even more so than his own mother. At least he knew he would see Shmi again someday.

"There is no death, there is the Force," Obi-Wan stated sagely. "The Force speaks to us, if we quiet our minds to hear it."

Anakin grew silent, listening carefully. He could hear his breath, his heartbeat, Obi-Wan's sigh. Try as he might, he couldn't hear the Force. He couldn't hear Qui-Gon's voice calling from within it. But he would, someday. He would become the greatest Jedi ever, and make Qui-Gon proud.

From outside, the noises of cheers and music grew louder and louder. The parade was winding its way towards the palace. It was time to join the others on the steps of the Palace to celebrate the liberation of the planet, and the new union between the Gungans and the Naboo. Obi-Wan led the way from their guest quarters to the hallway leading outside. Anakin followed, a step behind him to his left. Before he stepped outside, Anakin took a moment to feel the braid again, reaching up to where the two different braids came together--one dark, the other light--weaving together into a single strand.

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