Disclaimer: Star Wars belongs to George Lucas.
Summary: Set immediately after "Attack of the Clones" (read: just after Anakin returns from escorting Senator Amidala home to Naboo), I originally referred to this in my head simply as "Anakin arm angst". It's still a pretty effective working summary, but alas, a rather shitty title.
He'd felt his Padawan's unique energy signature through their bond with the Force - strengthened, of course, by having trained together for over a decade and a seemingly unavoidable affection that had grown from their chance meeting on Tatooine all those years ago - more than he heard the boy's entrance through the door of the small-yet-comfortable quarters that they shared.
Anakin had returned.
"Master," he greeted upon entry into the cozy sitting room. It was still customary for all Padawans to refer formally to their Jedi teachers, at least until they'd become Masters themselves, but for Anakin, it had always been very natural, the admiration he had for Obi-Wan palpable. And each and every time he uttered the honorific, Obi-Wan was reminded how much he should deter it from becoming a term of endearment, and how much he'd come to enjoys that it already sort of was.
"Ah, Anakin," he returned with a warm smile. "You're back." He set the book down that he'd been pretending to read for the past hour, relieved at last of the burden of deception. His smile faltered slightly, however, as his eyes came to rest on his apprentice's latest development: the bionic arm now hanging restlessly at his side.
Anakin looked down at it as well and frowned, as if only just remembering that his once-matching set of hands, with long, nimble fingers and the warmth of the Force flowing through them had been replaced, the balance upset by this thing, this glaring imperfection. Worse yet, Obi-Wan thought, Count Dooku, the one who had disfigured Anakin in the first place, had gotten away. That had to eat at his student more than anything, a young man already consumed by far deeper feelings of hurt and amassed love and bitterness than the average Jedi should have felt.
Anakin was a special case, of course - he was the Chosen One, after all - and always had been. He possessed an incredibly amount of emotion, of passion. It was the source of his power, that much had been obvious ever since Qui-Gon had decided to bring him before the council. And, Obi-Wan dreaded, it would be Anakin's downfall, if he couldn't properly instill in him how to control himself.
Anakin clenched his new metal limb experimentally, as if testing it out. He grimaced, almost imperceptably, but Obi-Wan saw. Obi-Wan always saw. "How is it?" he asked, already knowing the answer.
Anakin shrugged. "Hurt worse coming off than having this put on." He looked up again, and Obi-Wan's breath nearly caught at the wildly skittish expression on his Padawan's face. "Come sit down," he said, patting the couch. "I'll make tea." He hustled into the small kitchen area in their shared suite, both men knowing full well that he was stalling, waiting for Anakin to relax and for Obi-Wan to summon his nerve. They had much to discuss.
"How is Padme?" Obi-Wan asked, attempting - rather lamely, he admonished himself silently - to assuage the boy a bit with idle chatter.
Again, Anakin was noncommittal, a sure sign that he had a lot on his mind, as the boy rarely passed up a chance to gush or look positively smitten when the former Queen of Naboo came up as a discussion topic. "She's fine," he mumbled. "She has been escorted home safely, as the Council requested." There was an undertone of ridicule in Anakin's tone, not entirely uncommon, really, and Obi-Wan recognized this particular defense mechanism immediately. The boy was practically begging him to interrogate.
Obi-Wan set two steaming mugs on a tray and carried them into the sitting room, placing them gingerly on the low-slung table in front of the couch. He watched a bit in fascination as Anakin carefully practiced picking it up with his bionic hand, the movements of his metal fingers nonetheless graceful as they curled around the handle. Anakin's face registered gratitude as he blew gently across the top, then took a sip.
Obi-Wan finally returned to the spot he'd previously been sitting before Anakin had arrived, setting his own mug on the table. Anakin immediately seemed to sense the seriousness pervading the air, and looked up, almost resignedly.
"Anakin." Obi-Wan's calm, gentle cadence nonetheless was firmly no-nonsense at this point. "I am not going to punish you for anything that transpired on Geonosis. I feel that, given the circumstances, the repercussions have more than spoken for themselves." Anakin nodded, staring at said 'repercussion' angrily. Obi-Wan paused, then reached over and grasped it, weaving his own fingers between the metal ones purposefully. Anakin looked a little incredulous but did not pull away. Obi-Wan reached out tentatively through the Force and felt his Padawan gradually begin to calm.v
"I am also grateful that you came to my rescue," he continued when he was secure in thinking that Anakin was not going to bolt off the couch at any given moment. "And that you notified the Council of my predicament. But I am curious to know," he broached, careful to keep the suspicion and accusation out of his voice, "why you received it on Tatooine."v
Anakin drew in a breath. "I had ... business there," he muttered; he tugged his hand away from Obi-Wan's, cradling the metal with his remaining real fingers.
"Your mother," Obi-Wan said perceptively.
"Yes." Even the affirmation sent pangs shooting through his chest, pangs of guilt, of grief - of anger. He remembered the way it had felt to hold his mother in his arms, how her life's essence had slowly but surely eased out of her. He still felt her fingertips ghosting over his cheek, and the small weight of her dead body as he carried her back to her well-meaning-but-ineffectual husband. He recalled how it had felt to dig her grave; the hand that Dooku had cut off had been calloused when he was finished, his nails still caked in dirt and sand.
Losing Shmi, he thought, had been infinitely more painful than having his arm severed with a lightsaber.
And then the anger surged in him, as thick as the sweltering Tatooine atmosphere that he'd been more than happy to leave again. He was furious at the monsters that had imprisoned and beaten his mother to her death, furious at her so-called family for having the opportunity to help her and not taking it, and furious at the Jedi Council for denying him the same opportunity. He met his Master's eyes at that moment, hatred searing in their dark pools; but Obi-Wan's returned gaze held only understanding, compassion, and he realized that in his mind, he separated Obi-Wan from the Jedi Temple and Coruscant and politics and even his disfigurement.
"Anakin." His Master's hand brushed over the same cheek that Shmi had touched, and a sob welled up in his throat. "What happened on Tatooine?"
He blinked his eyes rapidly, cursing his tear ducts and struggling to calm his voice. "The dreams," he managed to get out. "The ones I was h-having ... they came t-true. My mother is dead." It was strange; he had wrapped her corpse in fabric, had spoken at her makeshift funeral, but it was the first time he'd actually said the words themselves out loud.
"My mother is dead," he repeated in a whisper, and something broke inside of him. His chest heaved, and he began to curl into a ball, but strong arms intercepted his quaking form. "Master," he sobbed, his robotic hand curling ineffectually in the folds of Obi-Wan's robes.
"Shh, young one." Obi-Wan held him steadfastly, rocking them slightly back and forth. "I'm so sorry, Anakin," he said when his Padawan's gasps had quieted to sniffles.
"I was scared to come to Geonosis, Master." Anakin's voice still shook, his breath coming softly against the older man's neck as he spoke. "I thought you had been killed, too. But Padme c-convinced me." He drew himself upright, facing Obi-Wan. "I'm sorry I disobeyed your orders, Master."
Obi-Wan smiled, then reached up and wiped an errant tear on his Padawan's face away with his thumb. "While I did not wish for you to come to Geonosis, what occured there was far beyond the sphere of our control." He paused; in his early days of Anakin's apprenticeship, he'd often felt panicked, trying desperately to recall his own Master's words of wisdom in trying to instill necessary lessons in his own Padawan. It had been over ten years since Qui-Gon had been killed, however; and though Obi-Wan would have possibly given his own arm to have him back, if such a thing were fathomable, he had come to terms with coming up with his own words of guidance.
"Your tangling with Count Dooku had a very unfortunate outcome," he finally began. "Not only did he escape, but you have an added burden of accomodating your new arm to a life that requires very strenuous use of your limbs. But I have no doubt that you will do it, Anakin," he continued, grasping said arm again for emphasis. "I will be there to help you as much as you need. And when the time comes for your Trials, you will be even more powerful for them, because you will have overcome a much larger hardship than most apprentices." Hardships, he corrected himself, but pressed forward. "The Force is strong in you, Anakin," he finished. "You are strong. And this will only serve to make you stronger."
Anakin's eyes were still red-rimmed, but he looked very moved by Obi-Wan's assertions. "Thank you, my Master," he said graciously. He excused himself to his personal chambers, already noticing a slight improvement in how deftly his new attachment handled his various clothing articles as he readied himself for bed.
His mind flashed briefly to fresh memories of undressing in front of Padme - in front of his new wife, perhaps the only positive thing that had come from this horrid mission. It was not a victory he could celebrate with Obi-Wan - not now, he knew, and perhaps not ever - but knowing that he had her love, as well as his Master's, bolstered his faith in himself. He WAS strong, he told himself. He would overcome.
And then, eventually, he would be even stronger.
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