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DISCLAIMER: The following story is a non-profit, amateur effort not intended to infringe on the rights of George Lucas, Lucasfilm, Twentieth Century Fox, Industrial Light and Hocus-Pocus, Skywalker Sound, Guybrush Threepwood, Haggis MacMutton or anyone else affiliated with George Lucas and other assorted copyright holders. I make no claims to these copyrights, this story was merely the will of the Force.

by The Brat Queen

Spoilers: The Phantom Menace
Summary: Ten years after TPM, Anakin and Obi-Wan must deal with their emotional baggage with regards to each other.

Anakin Skywalker squared his shoulders and remained still as he listened to the voices rise and fall around him. As always, what they said did not make him happy.

"By next season, I think the time will be right for you to begin your studies with me," Kar-Alidar said, glancing at the other Jedi teachers for support and receiving it in nods and other gestures. "But not before."

Anakin felt the frustration inside of him but forced it down. He knew it would do him no good if his emotions showed. The Jedi Masters never listened to arguments of emotions. He took a moment to try to clear his head before he responded, doing his best to keep his voice level as he did. "Why, Masters?" he asked, his blue eyes meeting each one of his teacher's in turn. "I have passed the tests, I have the skills -"

"But not the age, young apprentice," Master Saren said, steepling his hands together as he looked down at Anakin. "You are too young to begin this stage of your training."

Anakin bristled at this, feeling his teeth grit together. Too young? It wasn't that long ago that his teachers had taken pains to remind him of how he had been far too old to train in the ways of the Force. "Masters, with all respect I am nineteen years - "

"Which is too young - " Master Saren began but Anakin only raised his voice and spoke over him in return.

"Which is two years older than Master Obi-Wan when he began this training! If my Master says I am ready I do not see..." Anakin's voice trailed off as he saw the looks that were exchanged between his teachers. A hot flush covered his face and neck, doubling his humiliation and anger before his teachers. He felt the world around him fade away as his teachers continued to speak and confirm his betrayal.

"Obi-Wan has spoken on this matter, young Skywalker. And Master Yoda agrees with him. You are too young. You will continue your current course of study for now and will begin your training with Kar-Alidar next season."

"Yes, Masters," Anakin said, unable to meet any of their eyes as he bowed and made a hasty exit from the room. The flush deepened as he raced to the private quarters with his blood pounding in his ears and drowning out everything except the thought of his Master's face.

Obi-Wan did not look up when his apprentice burst into the room. Whatever surprise his Padawan had hoped to gain over him had been ruined by the disturbance Anakin's anger had made to everything around him.

"The matter is not open for discussion," Obi-Wan said, knowing what had caused Anakin's strong emotions. "I have made my decision."

"Your decision is not fair, Master," Anakin said. He moved so that Obi-Wan was forced to look at him. Feeling a spark of irritation himself, Obi-Wan sat back to regard his apprentice. The boy's agitation was obvious in his face and motions. Though his eyes never left Obi-Wan's, the rest of Anakin's body was in constant motion as he paced back and forth, the shadows of the room flickering over the muscles that were beginning to define Anakin's maturing form and erase the last of the baby fat from him. "I am ready. You know I am ready. Why must I be forced to stay behind?"

Obi-Wan did not back down from the younger man's look. "Perhaps because you need to learn more patience, my Padawan? Or do you feel that this is an example of how well you have paid attention to all of your lessons thus far?"

Anakin's anger was now a palpable presence in the room. "Perhaps I would have more patience, Master, if I was allowed to show how well I have learned rather than having others assume on my behalf!"

Obi-Wan was on his feet in an instant. "Calm yourself, apprentice, or find yourself in worse trouble than this! Look at yourself. Is this the behavior of a Jedi? Is this something I should tell the Council we should be proud of? Your emotions are so out of control you are disturbing the very Force around you. Is that the kind of learning that deserves advancement?" Obi-Wan sat down again, brushing his robes down in quick, sharp gestures. "Prove to me that you are wise enough and patient enough and your advancement will continue. Until then be glad I am letting you stay on the level that you are."

Anakin's eyes flickered but his face had calmed. "Yes, Master," he said, his voice low, but not low enough that Obi-Wan could not hear the anger behind it.

"Go now," Obi-Wan said, waving him away. "Your work is done for today. I suggest you spend the rest of your time thinking about what you've learned."

"Of course, Master," Anakin said, giving Obi-Wan a barely respectful courtesy bow before leaving him alone to thoughts of his own.

As the door closed behind him Obi-Wan felt the tension drain from the room but not leave his mind or his shoulders. He leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes and concentrating on calming himself.

It isn't fair, Anakin told himself again and again as he banished himself to his room for the rest of the night. It wasn't fair and it wasn't right. And he knew his Master knew it.

Anakin sighed as he thought of his Master. Why must things be so frustrating with him all of the time? Why had his training been nothing save fight after fight with Obi-Wan? It seemed to him that every time he tried to do something Obi-Wan had been there to shoot it down.

It made no sense.

In the beginning Anakin had tried to do what he could to please but it had been a failed venture at best. After Qui-Gon's death they'd both drawn back into themselves. Anakin had felt too uncertain about his place with the Jedi's to try to push things with Obi-Wan and Obi-Wan, for his part, had just been quieter after Qui-Gon had died. Anakin assumed it was grief over the loss of his Master but now, over a decade later, he wasn't sure.

Once Anakin had tried to apply for a new Master. Obi-Wan so clearly disliked him it had seemed the right thing to do. The Council had destroyed that idea at once. And when Obi-Wan found out about it their relationship had only gotten colder. Amazingly, Obi-Wan had seemed surprised. And hurt.

But why?

Not for the first time Anakin missed Qui-Gon. He'd known the former Jedi Master for such a short time compared to Obi-Wan but he felt that he knew Qui-Gon better. Qui-Gon had been kinder, treating Anakin like the son he had never had. Qui-Gon had picked him out from everyone around him and told him he was better. Qui-Gon had even tried to save his mother.

Anakin knew for certain that Obi-Wan would not even have bothered to try to save him.

Anakin sighed again, turning his thoughts away from his frustrating Master and focusing instead on his latest hobby. Taking out a set of tools he began work on repairing a droid he'd found thrown away by the kitchen staff. To them the droid had been useless garbage, but Anakin knew with just a little work he could make it even better than it had been before.

"Right about the boy, you were. Ready for further training, he is not," Yoda's voice came up to Obi-Wan hours later as the two Jedi Masters came together for a formal dinner. The tension Obi-Wan had felt earlier had not yet left him. Yoda must have sensed that.

"But maybe he has a point," Obi-Wan said. "Stunting his growth will do him no good. He does have the ability, after all." Obi-Wan grimaced. "He's got that and more besides."

"Ability is not readiness," Yoda said. "Able, he is. Ready, he is not. Since nine was he able. But able in form is not able in his mind. Wait, he must. Wait until he is ready."

"He says he's ready now."

Yoda made a dismissive grunt. "Ready, he says. Ready, he thinks. But know, he does not. Say you he is ready?"

Obi-Wan was quiet for a moment before responding. "No."

Yoda nodded, "Then ready he is not. His Master, you are. Know you when he is ready. Not before."

"Of course," Obi-Wan said, but in truth he did not feel it. While it was true that Anakin did have a lot to learn about patience and not letting his emotions overpower his focus on the Force, it was not true that Obi-Wan felt that Anakin was not ready.

At least, not entirely true.

Or at least not entirely sure.

The truth of the matter was that Obi-Wan was certain about nothing when it came to young Skywalker. Ever since Qui-Gon had brought the boy into his life back on Tatooine Obi-Wan had felt uncomfortable around him. First as one of Qui-Gon's strays, then as his ward, then - and most especially - as his Padawan while he alone was held responsible for training Anakin as the "chosen one."

Qui-Gon had been so certain about the boy. His devotion to Anakin's cause had been obvious as soon as Obi-Wan had heard about it. And it was for that devotion - and his own devotion to his Master - that he had agreed to train the boy after Qui-Gon's death.

But that agreement had not meant that he believed in Qui-Gon's vision.

That the boy was special was certainly true. And the Council felt that Anakin was the legend come to life, or at least had the potential to be. Qui-Gon had been certain of Anakin's destiny and his words had managed to convince a great deal of the Council.

But Obi-Wan himself remained uncertain. And Yoda had agreed with him.

Even before he had officially taken Anakin on as his Padawan Yoda had come to him and advised caution. Yoda had made it clear that he disagreed with the Council's decision to train Anakin and that he would hold Obi-Wan responsible for making sure Anakin did not stumble or fail in his training. Go slow, had been his advice. The boy should not be trained at all, but since that decision could not be unmade the only choice left was to take each step as slowly as possible to make sure everything was done right.

Obi-Wan had to admit that much though he wanted to fulfill his promise to Qui-Gon it had relieved him to have Yoda's support of his initial misgivings about Anakin. The boy was dangerous. Had been as a child, was still as a man. Still and perhaps even moreso. Obi-Wan, for his part, knew that whenever he was around the boy he felt tense and uncertain. And his memories of Anakin's affect on Qui-Gon had not helped.

It had not been jealousy as such when Qui-Gon had given him up for Anakin. Obi-Wan had been hurt, certainly, but mostly because Qui-Gon had not spoken of it with Obi-Wan first. To hear of his desire to sever the relationship in front of the Council had been something of a cold shock. And evidence of how passionately Qui-Gon had felt about the boy.

It was that passion that Obi-Wan distrusted.

Qui-Gon's passions for things - lost causes especially - had always been his undoing. And Anakin, the slave boy who had been taken for granted by his owner then dismissed by the Jedi Council had been the best lost cause of all. Of course Qui-Gon's soft heart would attach itself to Anakin at once and blind him to all else, even the dangers around him.

Secretly, Obi-Wan was certain that if it had not been for Anakin Qui-Gon would be alive today.

Not that Anakin had lead to Qui-Gon's death. At least, not directly. But simply that Qui-Gon had become so distracted by all he had needed to do for Anakin that he had left himself too weak to defend himself against the Sith Lord who had attacked him. If Anakin had not been around, perhaps Qui-Gon could have stopped focusing on the Force's place with the young boy and instead focused on using the Force within himself during the attack. If he'd been able to do that, perhaps he'd still be alive.


And maybe, Obi-Wan thought to himself, if I did not connect the boy so strongly with my Master I would not react so strongly to him today.

And that was Obi-Wan's true secret. One he'd trained himself to hide even from Yoda, as best he could. He knew his emotions about Anakin were too strong for him to be a true and accurate judge of the boy's strengths and weaknesses. He'd fallen into the same trap that Qui-Gon had. Only where Qui-Gon had leapt without looking, Obi-Wan instead retreated for safe cover. If he did not act, if he did not push, he would not fail.

Or at least he could tell himself that, and have Yoda's support in that. The Council had scratched its collective head at him but trusted him, the apprentice of Qui-Gon, to know what he was doing.

Which left Anakin stuck right where he was.

Small wonder the boy felt such anger and frustration.

As if sensing Obi-Wan's continued uncertainty about the boy, Yoda met his eyes and gave him a gesture of support across the dinner table. Obi-Wan smiled, nodding his gratitude while secretly glad that Yoda was not fully able to read his thoughts.

Anakin had just finished his repairs of the droid's motion stabilizers when Obi-Wan entered his room. He looked up, not putting his work away. "More lectures, Master?" he asked. He knew the question was rude, but he also knew his voice was more tired than it was angry. Hopefully Obi-Wan would see that.

"No, young Padawan," Obi-Wan said, sitting down on his bed as he regarded him. "You have had enough lectures for today."

Anakin paused. This was not the reaction he had been expecting, which was especially surprising for him since it was rare that his connection with the Force did not give him at least some hint of what was about to happen to him. Rather than being angry, as he had expected, Obi-Wan instead seemed uncertain. Anakin could not think of a time when his Master had seemed that way. Ever.

"Then what may I do for you, Master?" he asked, putting his tools aside to look up at Obi-Wan better. If Obi-Wan had truly come to him to talk, Anakin wanted to encourage him as much as possible.

"What are you doing there?" Obi-Wan asked, nodding at all of the parts scattered on the floor around them.

"Repairing a droid," Anakin said. He held up the stabilizer he'd just finished. "I'm about halfway done. I figure with a few more nights I'll be able to turn it into something good."

Obi-Wan took the stabilizer from him and turned it over in his hands. "Very nice." He looked down at the parts again. "Turning it into a research droid, are you?"

Anakin nodded. "The kitchen used it for inventory. With the new parts I'm making this should be an easy switch."

Obi-Wan nodded, handing the stabilizer back. "I imagine that would help you out with your studies."

Anakin was taken aback. Had Obi-Wan just smiled at him? Anakin tried to look closely without drawing attention to himself. He couldn't be certain, but he was fairly sure that Obi-Wan had just made a small joke, and not one at his expense either. Anakin decided to try to joke back. "Yes, I thought maybe it could. You know research is my biggest weakness. I've got no patience for it, after all."

Obi-Wan smiled again, this time enough for Anakin to see. He reached down and picked up another droid part at random and gazing at it thoughtfully. "You're so much like him, in this," he said softly. He spoke more to himself than to Anakin.

"Who, Master?" Anakin asked, unable to help his curiosity.

"Qui-Gon," Obi-Wan replied. He looked at Anakin again. "I see so much of him in you, sometimes."

Anakin grew still. This was the first time in nearly a decade that Obi-Wan - or anyone for that matter - had mentioned Qui-Gon to him. Anakin was almost afraid to speak, finding himself scared that he would say the wrong thing and end the moment forever. "Oh?" was all he managed at last.

"Yes," Obi-Wan said. He held up the part for Anakin to see. "This is just like him. Finding something no one else wants and making it his own." Obi-Wan looked back at the part again. "Making it something worthwhile," he said, softly.

For the second time that day, Anakin could hear the pounding of his pulse. This time, though, it was centered in his chest as his heart beat became louder. He held his breath, again terrified he would say the wrong thing. When Obi-Wan showed no signs of speaking further, though, he decided to chance it. "Worthwhile, Master?"

"Yes," Obi-Wan said, still lost in his own thoughts.

In a daring impulse, Anakin continued. "Like me, Master?"

"Of course," Obi-Wan said. And when Obi-Wan looked up sharply and met Anakin's eyes, Anakin knew that Obi-Wan had spoken without thinking. That the words had been his own true thoughts and not ones he might have shared otherwise.

Anakin sat up. He was now kneeling at Obi-Wan's feet. "Truly, Master?"

"Yes," Obi-Wan said. But he drew back as he spoke. And now Anakin could see the shades of his former Master, of the Obi-Wan that he knew, the man who regarded him coldly and without caring.

"Master, please," Anakin said, reaching out a hand to Obi-Wan but drawing his hand back when he realized he did not know where he could touch him. Desperately he tried to reach out to Obi-Wan in some other way. "Do you feel this, truly? That I am worthwhile?"

Obi-Wan regarded him silently for a painfully long time. Finally he spoke. "Yes."

A flurry of emotions passed through Anakin. Anger, frustration, desperation, need, hope... he could not even begin to identify them all. He gave up, looking at Obi-Wan helplessly. "Then, Master, why not treat me that way? How have I angered you so that you would treat me like this?" He gestured to the room around him, indicating Obi-Wan's earlier punishment of him. "What have I done wrong?"

Obi-Wan shook his head. He looked as though he did not wish to speak, but continued anyway. "Nothing, Padawan. You did nothing."

"Then what can I do, Master?" Anakin asked, pressing his cause.


"But - "

Obi-Wan silenced him with a gesture of his hand. "No, Padawan. It is not for you to do."

Anakin let out an explosive breath of frustration as he sat back on the floor once more. "Why? Why is there never anything I may do? Everything happens around me or to me and I am never allowed to decide or have a say or act on my own behalf. Why, Master? Why?"

"It is not like that, young Padawan," Obi-Wan said. He stood and came to Anakin's side. He leaned down and took Anakin's student braid in one hand, rubbing it lightly with his fingertips as he addressed Anakin by his title. "This is not something which concerns you."

Anakin met Obi-Wan's eyes. "What concerns you is of concern to me, my Master. Especially if it is about me." He stood up to face Obi-Wan better. "I wish to please you, Master. I am your Padawan. I want to learn, and make you proud. Can you not see that?"

Obi-Wan regarded him for a moment before responding. "Yes, I can see that. And you do try, Anakin. I do notice."

Anakin almost felt comically lightheaded from the shock of this admission. "But then, Master - "

"No," Obi-Wan said. Once again he held up a hand to silence him, but he brushed Anakin's cheek to do it. "Enough for now, my Padawan. There is more to discuss than this and the hour is late. It is past time you were in bed."

No! Anakin wanted to shout. He did not want his Master to leave the room and end the conversation. Not when he had only just begun to learn so much.

As though sensing his thoughts, Obi-Wan said "We will speak more tomorrow, Padawan. Come to me first thing, before your lessons. We will speak then, I promise."

"Yes, Master," Anakin said, breathing a sigh of relief and willing at that point to agree to anything if it meant the Obi-Wan he saw before him would not go away. "I will be there early."

"Good," Obi-Wan said. He gave him one last smile before he left.

As Obi-Wan walked back to his quarters he found himself thinking of his conversation with Anakin over and over.

He'd gone to the boy's room to comfort him. To let him know that he'd been aware of the unfairness and that he would try to fix it. What he had ended up with, he was not sure.

Anakin was an unusual boy. Unusual, Obi-Wan thought to himself with a slight grin, in that he was a man and moreso unusual in how he thought and acted. For some reason while they had talked just now Obi-Wan felt he had gotten a glimpse of Anakin himself. Not the memory of the boy he'd met on Tatooine, nor the body the filled the role of Obi-Wan's apprentice. Rather, the young man who was Anakin Skywalker, a grown-up version of the person Qui-Gon had found ten years ago and felt strongly enough about that he would literally dedicate the rest of his life to him.

For the first time, Obi-Wan felt that he could understand why.

Or, instead, could understand the desire to do so if not the why.

Qui-Gon had wanted to take care of Anakin because he'd felt fatherly towards the boy, and felt strongly about Anakin's destiny as the chosen one. Obi-Wan did not feel that. He felt that Anakin was intelligent, and possessed more charm than was good for him and a penchant for tender-heartedness that would undoubtedly prove as fatal to him as it had to Qui-Gon. But, for the first time, Obi-Wan felt he could appreciate this. Appreciate, and even like it.

Which, Obi-Wan thought, made his feelings for his apprentice now a thousand times more dangerous than before.

But, he decided, he would not look back. For ten years he had pushed the boy aside and Anakin's impatience and anger had been the only result. This was a far too volatile combination for someone as powerful with the Force as Anakin was. Nor was it good for him, who needed to accept his own emotions in order to further his own strength with the Force.

No, he would not lie to himself any longer. He'd been touched by Anakin. Perhaps as Qui-Gon had, perhaps in another way. And he would not deny that to himself or to Anakin any longer.

He could only hope that he had not held back for too long.

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