Obi-Wan supposed he was setting a bad example by encouraging this level of closeness, or at the very least, he was poking at the limits of the Code.
He also supposed the code was designed for peacetime, when spirits weren't rubbed quite so raw. And honestly, the Force had been poking at the limits of everyone's sanity lately, so it's not like he was the one who started it.
A blue eye cracked open and a wave of relief and gratitude flooded their bond as Obi-Wan slipped into bed next to his former apprentice. Anakin rolled over and draped an arm across Obi-Wan's waist, resting his forehead against his partner's shoulder.
Obi-Wan, as he found himself doing more and more lately, released his misgivings to the Force and gave himself permission to simply enjoy the moment. Granting himself the luxury of dropping his shields and embracing the warm flow of affection from the younger Jedi came more easily to him than it probably should have, but he wasn't going to focus on that right now. Surely this qualifies as serenity, he silently justified, nuzzling the top of Anakin's head.
"There you are, Master," Anakin murmured groggily, a sleepy smile on his lips. A tiny bit of fear slipped through the bond from Anakin's end however, and Obi-Wan sighed softly, craning his neck to kiss Anakin's brow. "I'm not going anywhere, Anakin," he gently reassured, trailing a finger along his friend's jawline.
Obi-Wan dropped his shields a bit further, allowing Anakin to feel the sincerity, the mutual affection, and Obi-Wan's intention to continue releasing any and all misgivings to the Force, because kriff it, if they couldn't find strength and peace in each other during the galaxy's darkest times, there was no point in fighting in the first place, and certainly no viable way to keep it up. Anakin needs this, Obi-Wan told himself, and in the back of his mind a voice spoke up, and so do you.
Anakin leaned into the touch and kissed the tip of Obi-Wan's finger, silently acknowledging the unspoken conversation, relief and warmth flooding the bond. He nuzzled in closer, muscles slack, then reached out to methodically trace the network of assorted scars that covered Obi-Wan's chest, as he'd frequently taken to doing while the two of them lay together like this.
"What is your fascination with my scars, young one?" Obi-Wan asked, lightly trailing his fingers down Anakin's back.
The gentle tracing continued, and Anakin's shields flickered. "I dunno, Master. I'm trying to see if they spell something in braille."
"Anakin." Obi-Wan breathed an exasperated sigh.
"I think it's an encoded treasure map."
"Anakin, really." Another sigh, but not without affectionate amusement.
"This one kinda looks like a dick."
"Anakin!" A shocked burst of laughter.
"They're familiar." Finally, the honest answer. "They're yours." Anakin trailed his flesh hand across the long, jagged knife scar that spanned nearly the entire width of his former master's chest. "No matter what we have to fight our way out of or what nearly kills us, these remind me we keep making it out alive." He flattened the palm of his hand over a patch of puffy red shrapnel marks, then brushed his thumb against the remnants of a blaster burn. "No matter what nightmares I have, or where I think I am when I wake up, or what kind of monster I'm facing off with...." He trailed off, softly tracing the perimeter of an old lightsaber gash with his fingertips, "I see these and I know I'm with you." He nuzzled the crook of the older Jedi's neck, moving his fingers to gently brush over one of the blaster burns again. "And this one really does kinda look like a dick." He gave Obi-Wan a wicked grin. "Guess it's a treasure map after all."
Several days later, and they were en route to yet another mission to resolve a conflict with yet more Separatists causing yet more trouble. Obi-Wan had seated himself on the floor by the foot of the bed in the ship's lone sleeping room, but his attempts at meditation had been, yet again, interrupted.
Anakin hassling his Master in search of amusement, attention, or both was certainly nothing new, but the restless desperation was a recent development. Their encounter with the slavers on Zygerria was still fresh in their minds, and though Anakin tried not to show it, it had shaken him terribly.
Actually talking about his feelings - and therefore discussing both his past and his vulnerabilities - was, of course, out of the question, so he'd been coping by seeking out physical contact at every available opportunity. Tonight was no different, and when Anakin had wandered into the room after spending the day pacing around the ship and halfheartedly tinkering with engine parts, Obi-Wan couldn't bring himself to shoo his friend away - even if he could have used the meditation time. They both could have, really, but that was a battle Obi-Wan had given up fighting years ago.
So Obi-Wan had shelved the meditation plan for the evening, welcomed Anakin into his arms, used the Force to summon a book from the other side of the room, and embraced both his padawan and the peacefulness of hyperspace. Anakin promptly fell asleep curled into his Master's side, head pillowed on the older man's shoulder, when the door flew open and Ahsoka bounded in. Anakin barely stirred, but Obi-Wan nearly dropped the book he was reading, very much startled and wondering how in the name of the Force he was going to explain this.
If Ahsoka thought anything was odd, however, she certainly didn't show it. At most, she seemed slightly amused, one corner of her mouth twitching into a playful smile. "Aww, he looks so deceptively sweet!" she said, far louder than necessary. Without even opening his eyes or moving his head, Anakin reached up, grabbed a pillow off the bed, and hurled it in her direction. She yelped and leaped over it, then grinned at Obi-Wan. "Like I said. Deceptively." And she headed off to the 'fresher.
Obi-Wan was nonplussed. Any other Jedi or Padawan in the Order would have been thoroughly taken aback witnessing such a blatant display of affection between two other Order members. Harmless and innocent though it was by civilian standards, it was thoroughly scandalous by Jedi ones. Ahsoka, however, didn't seem remotely scandalized, or for that matter, any more surprised than if she'd walked into a the room and found Anakin meditating or tinkering with a droid.
On second thought, that may not be a fair comparison. Ahsoka would likely be thoroughly shocked and deeply concerned if she were to ever walk into a room and find Anakin meditating of his own accord.
Obi-Wan heard the sound of the shower start up from inside the 'fresher, and Anakin's body relaxed against his. "Smartass little squirt," he muttered, reaching for another pillow. "I'll get her when she comes out."
Ahsoka eventually emerged, but no attack was imminent. Anakin had gone from lightly dozing, to fully napping, to solidly passed out cold. His head still rested on Obi-Wan's shoulder, his body leaning against his friend's side, a pillow from the bed loosely clutched by its corner in his hand.
Obi-Wan looked up from the book he'd been reading and tried to gauge Ahsoka's reaction. The only thing he could tell without actively prying into the girl's mind was that Anakin had been teaching her some excellent shielding techniques. She seemed to sense Obi-Wan reaching out to her though, and she very slightly dropped her shields.
Warm affection mixed with gentle concern flowed from Ahsoka as she regarded her sleeping Master. Not the passionate, sometimes volatile cocktail of emotions that flooded Obi-Wan and Anakin's bond on a regular basis, but uncomplicated familial love, genuine and solid.
"Armed and dangerous, I see," she said with a hint of amusement in her voice, noting the pillow clutched in Anakin's hand. She gave him a careful, closer look, then closed her eyes for a moment - no doubt checking through their bond to see if he was asleep. Seemingly satisfied that he was, she whispered to Obi-Wan, "Is he okay?"
Anakin had read Obi-Wan the riot act several times over for disclosing his past to Ahsoka, and he certainly wouldn't have wanted his Padawan worrying about him. Or worse yet, pitying him, which is surely how he would have interpreted her concern, even though it was obviously nothing of the sort. But reality and Anakin weren't always on the same page, and Obi-Wan was pretty sure Ahsoka was directing her concerns to him since she knew asking Anakin directly would earn her nothing but a smartass retort and a subject change.
Ahsoka seemed to be reading Obi-Wan's mind. "You know how he is," she said, rolling her eyes toward Anakin's sleeping form. "He's allowed to worry about everyone else, but nobody's allowed to worry about him."
Obi-Wan gave Ahsoka a knowing smile made of equal parts affection, amusement, and exasperation. "Indeed I do, and I'd say you know your Master too well." Obi-Wan looked down at the mop of blond curls on his shoulder, then raised his eyes back to Ahsoka. "He's strong, Ahsoka," Obi-Wan said quietly, "and he's had a unique set of obstacles in his life. I do have faith he'll overcome them, but the best thing we can do for him is lend him our strength when he needs it. Even if he's too much of a stubborn nerf to ask."
Ahsoka's face mirrored Obi-Wan's affectionate exasperation. "I don't think there's any 'if' about it," she said, rolling her eyes toward Anakin again. For a moment she looked like she was about to lean down and ruffle his hair, but thought better of it and headed for the door. "I'm gonna go check on Artoo," she said. "I think he's getting lonely, and he's been worried about Anakin too." She stopped and gestured toward the pillow. "In the mean time, you might wanna take that dangerous weapon out of his hands. There's really no limit to the mayhem he might cause."
Obi-Wan softly laughed. "Wise words, young one," he said. Ahsoka slipped out the door and Obi-Wan confiscated the pillow, tucking it safely behind his head as he leaned back to continue his reading.
Later that evening, Obi-Wan managed to drag Anakin onto the sleeping couch in the corner of the room. He'd intended to take the recliner for himself and leave the bed for Ahsoka whenever she returned, but Anakin seemed to have other plans.
"No, you don't get to leave," he muttered in his half-awake state on the couch, reaching for Obi-Wan's arm and holding him in a literal steel grip.
Obi-Wan sighed and sat down, brushing Anakin's hair out of his face. "And just what do you propose we tell Ahsoka when she comes back and finds us curled up like a couple of kybuck pups?"
Anakin shrugged. "That you're snuggly?" he offered hopefully.
"Force help me." Obi-Wan massaged his temples with his free hand, shook his head in resignation, and tried to ignore Anakin's triumphant grin as he pulled off both their boots, removed Anakin's glove and leather tabards, and arranged both their bodies on the couch, spooning himself behind Anakin. "If this gets back to the Council, I'm telling them you mindtricked me," he added.
Sometime in the middle of the night, Obi-Wan awoke to a blood curdling shriek and felt Anakin practically launch himself of his arms. By the time Obi-Wan's eyes adjusted to the dim light, he saw Anakin's silhouette leaning over the bed across the room, and Ahsoka flailing wildly in the dark.
Anakin vaguely hoped he hadn't woken Obi-Wan, but his main concern was his terrified Padawan, apparently caught in the clutches of Force-knows-what kind of horrifying nightmare. He reached his hand out to her, gently brushing her brow.
She screamed louder and frantically swung her arm at the hand touching her face. "Back off, get away! Don't touch me! I'll kill you, I'll kriffing kill you!" Anakin jumped back, raising his arms in a gesture of startled surrender.
Ahsoka continued to thrash on the bed, then desperately cried out for help, her mind still miles and worlds away. Anakin reached out with his metal hand this time and gently pressed the back of a smooth knuckle to her cheek. "Snips, it's me. Wake up. You're safe." Her eyes flew wide open and she sat straight up, eyes darting wildly around the room in an unfocused panic. A split second later, she was reaching for the hand against her face and grabbing hold of it with both of her own, pressing it fully against her cheek before leaning into it and choking back a sob. Her breaths came rapid and heavy, but the blind panic began to subside. Anakin climbed onto the bed and sat cross-legged in front of her, calm and still. He made no further movement, save for brushing his thumb against her cheek, patiently waiting for her to relax and for her mind to realign itself with the current moment and surroundings.
The haze slowly evaporated from her expression as reality settled in. Her now-alert eyes widened as she realized where she was, and she immediately looked embarrassed and began to stammer an apology.
Anakin shook his head and reached for her. "Hey, c'mere," he said softly, pulling her toward him. She stiffened for a moment, then met his eyes and gratefully crumpled into his arms. "Nightmare?" he asked, adjusting her weight in his arms. Force knew he was an expert in that department, but Ahsoka didn't respond. Anakin continued to prod. "Vision? Flashback?" Still nothing. "Disturbing image of Representative Binks addressing the senate in the nude?" She choked out a surprised laugh, then pulled back enough to give Anakin genuine smile. Anakin smirked ruefully, then pulled her back against his chest. "Forget I said that. Some things are too horrific even for nightmares." Her shoulders shook again in a silent laugh and the tension started to melt from her body. Anakin slightly loosened his arms around her but didn't let go, giving her freedom to pull away if she wanted, but not breaking contact himself.
She stayed exactly where she was. Anakin traced soothing patterns on her back with his flesh arm, letting his metal one drop to his side, where she immediately grabbed hold of it. Baffled but unsurprised, he curled the metallic digits around her palm.
This was a strange habit of Ahsoka's that was becoming more of a regular occurrence - any time she'd reach for one of Anakin's hands, it was always the metal one. At first he'd found it odd that she could even stand to look at the monstrous thing, let alone want to touch it for any reason other than morbid fascination, but she clearly seemed comforted by it somehow.
Her grip tightened as her breathing slowly evened out, and as she methodically ran her thumb over the smooth, shiny knuckles, a realization finally dawned on Anakin: she was doing it for the exact same reason Anakin lay in bed tracing the healed wounds on Obi-Wan's chest.
Their battle scars weren't disfigurements, not in any usual sense of the word, and certainly not to each other. They were unique, personal markings, and proof of their determination to survive, to keep surviving, for themselves, for one another, and for everyone they swore to protect.
And as much as Anakin had been convinced by certain unhelpful wermos that his robotic arm made him less than human, he was seeing now that the very thing he'd been led to believe made him a monster was his Padawan's assurance that no monsters would ever get anywhere near her. He supposed in the back of his mind there was some Wise Jedi Lesson about perspective or some other bantha fodder to be gained from this, but he already had a big enough headache that he didn't need to exacerbate with philosophy right now.
"Am I staying here?" he asked, the same warm affection flowing off him toward Ahsoka that he'd felt from her earlier in his semi-conscious daze.
"Yep." There was a casually perky tone on the surface of her voice, but it was paper thin, waves of shaky terror continuing to radiate from her mind.
Obi-Wan watched the two of them from his position on the sofa where he was feigning sleep. He took great care to shield the combination of fascination and pride that filled him as he saw his former apprentice comfort the girl who had come to mean so much to both of them.
Still clinging to Anakin's arm, Ahsoka rested her head on his chest and closed her eyes. "Thank you, Master," she said softly, almost timidly. Relief and gratitude were thick in her voice, but she stumbled over the word "Master" like it pricked her tongue, and Anakin visibly flinched, a mixture of horror, sadness, and guilt flashing across his face.
"If you don't want to keep calling me that, it's okay," he offered quickly. "Don't worry about getting in trouble. I'll just say I asked you to call me something else, and if the Council's stupid enough to drag me in front of them and make me explain why I'm not about to force a sentient being in my care to call me Master, they'll have much bigger problems to worry about than some piss-ant protocol violation when I'm done with them."
Ahsoka breathed a short laugh. "As much as we all enjoy your...um...spirited encounters with the Council, you're gonna have to wait and start a fight with them some other time, Skyguy." She grinned at the thought, then craned her neck to look up at Anakin, her expression warm yet serious. "I'm proud to have you as a master, and I'm not going to call you something different just because some sleemo creeps…" Anger rose in her voice, but she stopped, took a breath, and continued more calmly. "What I mean is, that word is an honor, and I don't think we should let a bunch of slimeball slavers turn it into an insult."
"...But it still feels kind of wrong, yeah?" Anakin hugged her as best he could without pulling his arm out of her grip, and she gave a small, guilty shrug. "I get it, believe me." He sighed and then added, "I just wish you didn't have to get it too."
She nodded in understanding, and he continued. "I know it feels weird to call anyone that after everything that just happened, no matter how you reason through it." He paused for a moment, gathering his thoughts and possibly trying to decide whether to volunteer more information. Then Ahsoka spoke up.
"But you call Obi-Wan Master even though he's not in charge of you anymore," she pointed out. A hint of a smile crept into her voice and she added, "not that anyone could ever really be in charge of you."
Obi-Wan tried to stifle a snicker. Oh, how true it was.
Anakin ruefully smiled at the addendum but didn't otherwise respond. When he finally did, the amusement was gone from his eyes and he lowered his voice in a way that sounded uncharacteristically apprehensive and unsure, a stark contrast to his usual playful, conspiratorial whisper. He swallowed nervously, then spoke.
"When Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon first took me away from Tatooine, it upset me to hear them using that word. Kriff, it completely freaked me out. And it confused the hell out of me. The Jedi were supposed to be the good guys! The superheroes of the galaxy, and here was Obi-Wan calling Qui-Gon the same word people like me were forced to call sleemos who beat us, sold us, and split up our families." Anakin paused again, closed his eyes, and took a deep shaky breath that he lamely tried to disguise as a cough.
Obi-Wan froze, absolute horror dawning on him.
Ahsoka said nothing aloud, but she leaned further into his chest, wordlessly encouraging him to continue. He rested his chin on the top of her head between her montrals, clearly not having an easy time talking about this, but gratefully accepting her show of support. He curled his fingers around hers and went on, his voice sounding disconnected and just a little bit further away. "I swore I'd never use that word to address anyone ever again. But. The more I heard Obi-Wan say it to Qui-Gon, the more I realized it wasn't the same thing at all. At least not to them. 'Master' didn't mean slaver or tyrant. It meant teacher and protector, and that's what it came to mean to me too. It's what it still means, and it's why I still call Obi-Wan that, even though I'm not his Padawan anymore. Master is my word for him, and I'm keeping it. The sleemo squad can't have it."
Ahsoka took a moment to process this, then nodded cautiously. "And it's my word for you too."
Anakin looked down at her. "If you're sure you're okay with it, yes. But I don't want you calling me anything that gives you nightmares so bad you wake up screaming." He suddenly grinned. "Besides, I'm pretty sure I'm a big enough nightmare in my own right. That's what Obi-Wan says when he gets stuck as my copilot, anyway."
She returned his smile and shrugged. "My Master the nightmare. Sounds about right!" The smile turned into a slightly predatory smirk. "Just ask the Council."
A faux-indignant choke escaped Anakin's throat, but he couldn't disguise the genuine laugh. "Touche, Snips," he said with affectionate amusement as he leaned back against the pillows, arm still loosely draped around Ahsoka as he gently pulled her with him.
For the first time since waking, Ahsoka, too, looked to be genuinely at ease - small smile still playing on her lips, eyelids drooping as her fingers absentmindedly traced the scar tissue on Anakin's arm where durasteel melded with flesh.
Anakin suddenly snorted as his shoulder gave an involuntary twitch. "Stop it, that tickles!" he half-laughed, half-grumbled in an exhausted-sounding voice.
"Oh, that's ticklish?" she asked in a teasing tone. "That's useful information. I'll file it away for future reference."
Anakin said nothing, but he silently extended his middle finger, the delicate machinery softly whirring as he did.
"Rude!" Ahsoka laughed, sounding truly back to her regular self. "You're setting a bad example, you know."
"Good," he said casually. "I'd be setting a bad example if I wasn't."
"Wait. You...what?" Ahsoka laughed again and shook her head, releasing the last few bits of tension remaining in her body.
"Not to mention disgracing a proud tradition," Anakin added in mock seriousness. "I'll have you know we come from a long line of masters and padawans bonding through exchanging irreverent bullshit."
Her gaze briefly shifted to where Obi-Wan was pretending to sleep. "Well in that case, I'm honored you're passing me the torch." Still smiling, she finally closed her eyes and brought her cheek to gently rest against their joined hands. "Goodnight, Master."
"Goodnight, Snips," Anakin replied softly, and the room fell silent for the night.