Obi-Wan went looking for Anakin, and suspected he knew where he'd find him.
He was down at the shore of the lake with the children. Dripping, smeared with mud, up to mid-thigh in the water. He looked like one of them, and barely at all like a Jedi.
"We're done," Obi-Wan said, crouching on the pier.
Anakin waded over, laughing, every step a slog through clinging black mud. Thundering feet on the pier behind Obi-Wan, and a child leapt shrieking into the water, splashing everyone. Anakin put a hand on the edge of the pier, held up the other one (water-crinkled, mud under his nails) to Obi-Wan. "Help me out," he ordered affably.
Obi-Wan gripped his clammy wrist, and Anakin's cold fingers tightened on his wrist in return. He held too hard, abusing gravity, with that mischievous grin, and for a moment, Obi-Wan's going to fall.
Anakin used to dream about Obi-Wan. Maybe he still does. He doesn't always remember his dreams. Likes it better that way.
He has not yet dreamt of Padme. Not while asleep, though she is in his waking thoughts nigh on constantly. But in full sleep, she has not yet appeared. He likes it that way, too.
Sometimes she rolls over, sleepy smile against the curve of his neck, and tells him she's dreamt of him. He likes that best. When every part of her is saturated with him, when every part of her is his, perhaps he'll lose this niggling feeling that when he turns around she'll be gone.
He never gets that with Obi-Wan. Even when they're on opposite sides of the galaxy, he knows they'll be back together eventually. Knows. Like he knows when he puts out his hand and calls, his lightsaber will arrive in his palm. Like coming home. Certainty.
Obi-Wan wonders, sometimes, whether Anakin feels at home on Coruscant. He assumes he must be, but he never seems as relaxed as when they are somewhere out in the Empire. Maybe it is that he simply does not see him as often in the capital. At home, they have their own lives, of necessity separate, and when they do meet up outside of Jedi business, more often than not Padme's there too. On assignment, there is only the task, and the two of them dealing with it.
Nights like this one are rare; nights when they are together without other distractions beyond the urban warmth that envelops them on Obi-Wan's terrace. But Anakin is not easy, lost in thought. He prefers action. Obi-Wan is coming to appreciate peace.
"Master," he says this night, and Obi-Wan reminds him the honorific isn't necessary any more, especially not in private. He is, as expected, ignored. "Master, what do you regret about becoming a Jedi?"
What surprises him isn't that Anakin's asked, but that he's assumed there must be something. Obi-Wan opens his mouth to say there is nothing, that this is who he is, and regrets are not part of a Jedi's nature, when he hesitates.
Anakin looks at him.
"Summer," he admits. "The long, hot days, in the outdoors, when nothing else mattered but wringing every skerrick of enjoyment out of the hours." So long ago. So incredibly long ago. He smiles ruefully at Anakin. "You don't know how little the younglings truly get to play."
Anakin looks up, towards the stars completely obliterated by the seething glow of Coruscant. "But now that you're a Jedi," he says, "the whole universe is at your fingertips."
He must look perplexed; Anakin grins, and explains. "It's always summer somewhere, Obi-Wan."
Every time Anakin turns around, he runs into a rule. It's getting hard to remember which ones he's broken already. Harder to remember the ones no one knows he's broken. Yet.
Hardest to remember that were he truly a Jedi, he wouldn't have to remember at all.
He wonders, sometimes, why he doesn't resent Obi-Wan. Not resent his restraints, the perpetual curb he's laying on Anakin's actions just with a look, just with his presence. Not that, because half the universe knows he resents that. But when it comes to Obi-Wan himself, who he is, the perfect balance of the Force within him and his ease with the universe...
...well, how can Anakin resent that?
He wonders, usually hard on the heels of the first, why Obi-Wan's ever bothered scolding him for anything, when with every single movement, every moment, he's a living remonstrance. "No, like this," he whispers, loud as the whirl of the stars, and it's just one of the things Anakin can't understand about himself. How he can see it, clear as day, can want it, but find emulation entirely beyond him, blown away in an instant.
The rules don't apply to Jedi Masters, because they simply live them without thought. But every time Anakin turns around, he runs into a rule.
Obi-Wan helped Anakin up onto the pier, wet muddy handprints on the sleeves of his robes. "You're a disgrace," he offered, without any censure at all. Anakin grinned. Obi-Wan glanced out over the sun-bright lake and its shrieking contents before they turned and walked back down the pier. Anakin left footprints, drying rapidly under the hot sun.
"We'll need to head straight back. The message said something about Cato Niemoidia," Obi-Wan was saying, when Anakin laid a hand on his arm. Obi-Wan paused and turned, eyebrows raised in question.
Anakin was grinning, and that twisted Obi-Wan's stomach, as always, with the knowledge that he was about to suggest something Obi-Wan couldn't possibly imagine. "No," he said.
"No?" Obi-Wan repeated.
"We're not leaving," Anakin said, fingers curling in the sleeve of Obi-Wan's robe, "until you have just a little bit of fun."
Obi-Wan has never been prepared for Anakin. The years since the boy was first sprung upon him have not changed that fact. He has simply become more used to it.
When the boy (no, young man, no longer a boy, not for a long time now) leaps into the fray, Obi-Wan's heart doesn't leap with him. Anakin has proven and proven and proven again his ability to look after himself, his ability to deal on the instant with anything that crosses his path; his measure, his strength, his flair, his capability. Now, in the whirl of battle, Obi-Wan feels relief when his shoulder touches Anakin's not because now he can protect him, but because now he has no fear of anything from that direction. It's not trust; he knows. Not a thing will get past him.
That is not to say he is not still full of surprises. The day Anakin ceases to surprise Obi-Wan... well, it's incomprehensible enough that no comparisons leap readily to mind. One of them would probably be dead. Something he prefers not to think about.
Obi-Wan is still never prepared for Anakin. For that glint in his eye, that bounce of his heels, that tightening of his fingers that is all the warning even he gets before the unexpected happens. Especially never prepared for that grin, when Anakin's actually thought about it, which is more warning but no reassurance. But he's inured to the shock. Mostly.
These days, when Anakin says something like how Obi-Wan is a perfect Jedi, the surprise is familiar, almost a comfort.
Which doesn't at all lessen the surety with which Obi-Wan knows Anakin is wrong.
Since he first encountered the option, being a Jedi was what Anakin wanted. And yet even for him (especially for him) there are... regrets. Things that he can't have - or shouldn't have, at least. Things that they'll tell him he has to give up to be what he knows he was born to be.
Everyone has to face this. Everyone. He knows that.
He asks Obi-Wan, because he always asks Obi-Wan, even when he can only do it in his head because of distance or the unthinkability of what he wants. For a moment, he's sure Obi-Wan's going to tell him that there's nothing, absolutely nothing he regrets, and for that moment, Anakin doesn't know what he's going to do.
He wants, so much, to be Obi-Wan. But he isn't. He can do things his Master can't, in ways that he'd never imagined possible, and Obi-Wan is so proud of and delighted for Anakin that he can forget about the things that he can't do. Achieve that balance. Reach for that utter stillness and simply drop down inside himself. Put aside the things he shouldn't want. Have that perfection.
Once, in a moment when he hasn't forgotten, Anakin tells Obi-Wan that he's a perfect Jedi. Obi-Wan just laughs.
Later, much later, far too late, Anakin will realise it's not so. Obi-Wan was never perfect. The best of the Jedi (he will realise, wrapping the universe forcibly around his will, finding them all) never leave a trace of themselves, no ripple in the Force. They just aren't there, have taken themselves from the universe even before Anakin removes the physical anomaly.
But Obi-Wan. He always felt Obi-Wan. Didn't realise how used he was to the presence until there was absence, the universe echoing hollowly around him, full of emptiness that wasn't Obi-Wan.
Too late to tell him he was not so perfect after all.
He was the Chosen One.
Later, when he has all the sand-blasted years of the rest of his life for dwelling fulsomely on any topic at all, Obi-Wan will think about that. On what it meant, purely by the book. And he will conclude, with no small bitterness (something rarely absent from his days) that his old Master was right. Anakin was the Chosen One.
Two of them. Two of us. Years of their dominance, for all those years when we had thought them extinct. Balance.
But that was never what it meant, when Obi-Wan called him that in his heart - Anakin the Chosen One. Surely, somehow, that should have been all that mattered.
Thundering feet down the pier, the two of them, feet drumming on wood just off unison. Exhiliration caught them (one whoops with it) as they launched themselves off the end of the pier -
- and hung, caught in the glorious rays of the slanting sun, balanced between leap and impact, suspended above the mirrored surface of the lake. Here, forever, in the last day of endless summer.
The Last Day of Endless Summer by dee