Also, I got an AO3 account finally \o/ and my username is tronzler for those who want to find me there. Right now I only have Liberatio posted but eventually I need to write some other stuff. I need to get around to finishing the Coulson and Hawkeye story I was working on (COULSON LIVES) someday and that'll go up there. Anyway, chapter.
I want to promise that the next chapter will have Dooku but these chapters have minds of their own so it's hard to say.
They did their best to keep it confined to the more open training areas in the garden, trying to avoid other Jedi meditating or seeking a quiet and undisturbed place. The gardens were big enough that they could certainly accommodate it, but it also provided cover and obstacles which made the activity much more interesting for both of them.
At 15, Obi-Wan was still growing into his longer legs and bigger feet, but he was much smaller which gave him the advantage through thicker brush. He could leap over rocks and tree roots, duck under branches and bushes, and squeeze through smaller openings that would catch his much larger pursuer. In fact, he had gotten so good at the skills that it took to outrun someone in the gardens, that he took a sharp turn and darted across the pathway, narrowly missing Mace Windu and Master Yoda, spinning to keep from running into the larger Master and losing some of his lead.
“Sorry, Masters!” Obi-Wan called over his shoulder.
But before Windu could actually reply, Qui-Gon burst out from the trees next to the path and ran across in front of them. For a moment, he turned his head, gave a respectful nod, and greeted them with a simple, “Masters.” Then he went about catching his Padawan in the grass clearing next to circular fountain.
Windu paused, folding his arms over his cloak and watching them disappear behind some further brush. The disapproving look on his face was not entirely mirrored by his companion, who smiled just slightly and gave a hum of a chuckle. Mace’s frown deepened at the sound of young Kenobi’s shriek and he simply rolled his eyes.
“Qui-Gon Jinn is training his third Padawan and he has yet to grow up himself.”
“Teaching lessons Master Qui-Gon does, even through laughter,” Yoda commented.
The brush parted for them again. Qui-Gon appeared carrying a desperately squirming Padawan who quickly ceased in his activities seeing that the Masters were still there watching. Then he just looked sheepish. “Master Yoda, Master Windu,” Qui-Gon said, giving a more formal bow of his head. “A pleasant day for a walk in the gardens.”
“I see you’ve collected your Padawan. I do hope that the two of you will be more careful,” Windu said.
Qui-Gon nodded again. “Yes. We didn’t mean to disturb you. Now, if you’ll excuse us.” He quickly shifted his grip and hoisted the boy up over his shoulder, much to the dismay of his Padawan who gave a short cry.
As they were walking away, Obi-Wan turned his head to try to look back at them, simply mouthing a ‘help me.’ Windu rolled his eyes again and turned to walk the other way with Yoda chuckling softly at his side.
Kenobi pushed himself further and faster into the forest, trying not to reach out and sense how close they were to catching him. There was no looking back, just running. He jumped over bushes and tree roots, ducked under branches and swerved around trees. He still had an advantage of being smaller and more agile than some bigger, more muscular soldiers. In fact, Obi-Wan was smaller than the clones—it wasn’t by much, but it was enough to make a difference. In the thick forest, he rocketed ahead and pushed on until he was certain they weren’t following, and then he went further.
It was because they were always coming. They would always be hunted. How they had gotten close again, he wouldn’t know, but when the blaster bolts hit a tree near his head, causing him to change directions quickly, he kept pushing forward. There was a lot more to it than that though.
“Anakin, keep up!”
The boy was 15; cocky and brash, surging ahead of them at the sign of the blasters behind them. It was Anakin who looked back to see how close they were, stumbling but not quite tripping over the tree root. Obi-Wan grabbed his arm and pulled the boy forward, keeping his attention focused on what was ahead of them. He knew this game well.
He knew how to weave around the trees, how to use the patches of dirt to slide and then get up and run again. He could sense ditches, troughs, rocks and roots, and with his senses so attuned, he could leap without looking. In fact, rugged terrain was what suited him the best. On the short distance sprint across flat land, Obi-Wan was only average if that and was easily overtaken by Anakin or the clones who were built for speed. But in the forest, he showed his mastery.
He couldn’t afford to slow down for Anakin, but the boy kept up, visible out of the corner of his eye. Getting pinned down in the forest would be the end of them—they had to lose the troopers.
That was the second problem. Six or seven years ago and they would have been pursued by droids who would have been baffled by the forest, but these were clones. These were the Emperor’s clones—younger and all spawned of different templates to give them a broad spectrum of military accuracy. They proved to be a much more difficult enemy.
It would have been fine, it should have been even, but while Obi-Wan practically flew over large roots and rocks, Anakin’s focus was not so attuned. It should have been, he was the Chosen One after all, but the atmosphere in which Anakin was learning the Jedi arts was far different than the one that cradled Obi-Wan for so long.
Anakin slipped, twisting his foot on a rock he wasn’t expecting and tumbling down into a short creek-bed with a pained shout. The sound stopped Obi-Wan in his tracks and he ducked back behind a tree, sliding down next to him. He could feel ripples of pain before Anakin even said anything to him and Obi-Wan did the only smart thing he could think of and clamped his hand over the boy’s mouth just as he opened it.
“Stop. Don’t move.” It was barely a whisper into Anakin’s ear. The boy—his brother—eased back into Obi-Wan’s grip, wide eyes staring back where they had come from, where they both still felt the danger.
They had lost too much of a lead now. If they got up and moved, they’d be spotted and the troopers’ lack of accuracy was too much to gamble against with their numbers. Obi-Wan breathed hard, allowing his body to feel the fatigue of the constant running—his lungs burned and his tunic was soaked with sweat. The creek that Anakin had found was actually refreshing, but the forest wasn’t comforting, only holding its breath in silence before it would become a warzone.
Obi-Wan moved his hand down from Anakin’s mouth and risked a glance at the boy’s ankle. The only thing it told him was that they weren’t running again. Before it had started, before they raced into the forest to take cover, he’d reprimanded Anakin for being careless. “This isn’t a game. You have to be more careful, we don’t get second chances.”
This wasn’t a game. He hoped Anakin could forget that now.
“Remember when I used to chase you,” he whispered. Obi-Wan felt Anakin move against his chest and saw him turn his head to look back at him. “Remember when I chased you through the halls of the ship and you’d hide. I could never find you.”
Anakin’s fear was nearly as strong as his own and holding him close to mitigate the pain of an injured ankle and provide shelter also gave Obi-Wan the feeling of Anakin’s pounding heart. He could feel it pounding through his back while Obi-Wan’s heart was pounding just as hard.
“You hid in the air vents, but we’d walk right past you, even Master Qui-Gon. We couldn’t sense you. You didn’t want to be found.” As he spoke, he could see the light of understanding come over Anakin and the pounding of fear in his heart started to fade just enough as he remembered his focus. Obi-Wan gave him an encouraging smile. “Hide us now, just like your game.”
“I don’t know if I can hide you. Don’t even know how I did it the first time,” Anakin whispered back.
“You have to try. If you can’t hide me, then hide yourself. You have to be the one to get away from here.”
Anakin reached up to grip Obi-Wan’s arm that was holding him across his chest and his eyes flared at him. “No,” he said a little louder than he intended.
The snap of a twig nearby made him bite back his words. Anakin clenched his jaw shut.
“Do it,” Obi-Wan said, closing his eyes. He buried his head against the back of his brother’s shoulder. “Hide, Anakin. Do it now.”
He thought it might take more focus than Anakin could muster, but they were so close that Obi-Wan could feel them. This boy was the Chosen One, his ability to manipulate the Force was far more than Obi-Wan could ever hope for and if anyone could summon the energy of the forest, the air, the very universe around them and swallow them up so that a wave of Imperial troops would walk right over them, it was Anakin Skywalker.
The first scout stepped down into the creek-bed, blaster aimed and ready, looking down from one side to the other. He never saw the two Jedi huddled at the base of the tree and as he motioned for the rest of his company to follow along, neither did the rest.