"Storm's coming up, Ani... you better get home quick."
Anakin awoke from a thin, restless sleep, old Jira's voice still ringing in his ears. He heard it often. The dream only came back to him in fragments -- her warning, the storm rolling up over the desert, the fire...
He shuddered. The fire was the worst of it. It seemed to come with the storm, to rain out of it. His face...
"Are you all right?"
He jumped at Kenobi's voice, then chastised himself for it. How distracted was he, to not feel a presence as strong and distinctive as Kenobi's coming into his small sleeping room at the Temple? Focus. Learn focus. "I'm all right," he said. "Nightmares."
"I know. They've been getting worse over the past few months, haven't they?"
There wasn't much point in arguing. Anakin had been Kenobi's padawan for almost three years now, and if he'd learned nothing else (and he sometimes thought he had learned nothing else), it was that he couldn't lie to Kenobi once the man got in his head to find the truth. And, at any rate, Anakin hated lying, and had never done it well in any case. He nodded. "What does it mean?"
"I can't tell you what your own dreams mean, Anakin. Particularly when you tell me so little about them."
Anakin started to say, "I can't remember," but stopped. There were ways a Master could help remember dreams... but something told Anakin that he didn't want to remember this dream in Kenobi's presence. There was something about it, some shameful secret, some...
Kenobi was looking sharply at him. "Anakin?"
Tell him now, and let him help. "It's just dreams."
"You should not ignore your visions, Ani. With your talent... "
The rest began to simply wash over Anakin. At first, it had felt good to be told he was special, that he was supposed to have all this talent and destiny. Now, it felt oppressive, like a huge
weight bearing down on him. And it made him sad -- Kenobi was a good Master, he thought, and sometimes a good friend. But when he talked like that... Anakin felt like he'd stopped being Anakin Skywalker, and turned into some stranger named "The Chosen One," who would never be anyone's friend. Certainly not someone who could be bothered by plain old bad dreams, or someone who just needed to be told that it was safe to go to sleep again.
He shook his head. He was thirteen. He was too old to need the human equivalent of a nightlight, anyway.
Too old to be homesick (was there ever a right age to be homesick for a waste of rock like Tatooine?).
Too old to still miss his mother.
Mistake. Her face rose in his mind -- wise, tired eyes, sad smile, gentle touch...
There was real concern in Kenobi's voice, and Anakin noticed that Kenobi's hands were on his arms, pushing him back. He was confused for a moment -- why was Kenobi pushing him? -- but he looked at himself and understood. Kenobi wasn't pushing him; he was catching him. He himself was leaning forward bonelessly. "I'm sorry," he said, embarrassed. "I guess I need to go back to sleep. I'm tired."
"Tell me what you saw."
Anakin shook his head. It wasn't a refusal. He just couldn't think of what to say. "My mother," he muttered. "That's all I know."
Kenobi's grip loosened, and he let Anakin slip back down into sleep.
Storm's coming up, Ani... better get home quick.
He stands at the edge of the desert, and hears the voice, but he sees no one. Padmé was there a moment ago, holding his hand, but now she has been swept away, and he can't find her. He can feel her heart beating inside him, somehow, and knows she is alive... but she has disappeared into the rising wind. Beyond, the harsh sail of sand and dust and rocks is sweeping across the Dune Sea, coming at him with inexorable patience. There was a ship out there, but it has already been swallowed. Perhaps that is where Padmé has gone. Maybe she's gotten away.
He has a moment's hope, then something shimmers in the sky, and the howling wind tosses the ship into the face of the cliff. He hears a scream in his mind, then the storm is upon him...
Anakin looked across the meditation room. No one else seemed to be disturbed. That was good. The first time he'd tried to see through the Force, he'd called it so loudly that half the other students in the Temple had heard, and had snickered about him being clumsy. He felt worse that some of the younger children had caught the edge of what he saw -- he never seemed to see anything pleasant -- and had been frightened by it. He'd gone to try and comfort them by telling the nice stories his mother used to tell him when he was upset, but the older padawans had sneered at him for it, and Yoda had explained to him (more gently than he'd expected) that the children needed to lean on the Masters or on themselves when they were troubled. "A kind heart you have, Skywalker, but a stranger's heart here. Learn our ways of living, you must."
He had done his best. Now, he could call a vision without disturbing every Jedi on the planet. Lots of progress. He also never told the little ones stories anymore (well, okay, almost never), and most of them had stopped asking.
In the three weeks since Kenobi had caught him dreaming, he'd determined to find the root of the dreams, to remember them awake and be able to explain them to himself. Once they were explained, they would go away, like the monster that had turned out just to be a pile of old droid parts in his room when he was little. He'd accidentally left a small fan running, and it had malfunctioned in themiddle of the night and made the whole junkpile seem to be breathing loudly, and it had frightened him until Mom came in and turned on the light; they'd found the problem together and --
He saw an older student looking at him, and clamped down on the thought. He could not start remembering his mother. They always knew. And they didn't like it.
He'd narrowed the dream down to a few elements:
It was always Tatooine, and there was always a storm.
Jira always warned him about it, just as she had on the day Qui-Gon, Padmé and Jar Jar had first wandered into Mos Espa.
He always seemed to be looking for something, but he never knew what it was.
Other than those, the elements changed. Padmé was sometimes there; other times, he wasn't thinking about her (he found that he could sometimes go a whole day or two without thinking about her, though as soon as he noticed that he hadn't thought about her, he could think about nothing else for at least twice as long). Obi-Wan was almost never there, but sometimes, he showed up, and once he'd actually taken Anakin by the hand and walked him straight into the storm. Watto sometimes made an appearance, and so did Sebulba. Kitster had shown up in one version, and told him about some of the other people they'd known. The other students in the Temple frequently traipsed across the desert, skilled and carefree.
Qui-Gon was there about half the time, but Anakin had not been able to narrow down what he was doing. All he could remember clearly was the cry he'd given in real life -- "Anakin, drop!" In the dream, as in life, he did so. He was glad when Qui-Gon showed up in the dream. The storm always passed right over his head when Qui-Gon was there; when he wasn't, it hit, and it burned, and he couldn't breathe, and nothing was left when it was over.
Tatooine. The storm. Jira. Searching... but for what?
"I need to go back to Mos Espa," he said, standing at the center of the design on the Council Room floor.
Mace Windu's eyes narrowed, and he looked over Anakin's head, at Obi-Wan. "And your opinion of this, as his Master?"
Obi-Wan spoke quietly; he did not want to cause Anakin any more trouble, but he had been asked a direct question, and Anakin knew he would answer it. "Anakin and I disagree on this. That is why we wished to bring it to the Council."
Mace looked back at Anakin. "Your Master holds such decisions in his own hands, young Skywalker. We will not contradict him."
"I... " Anakin swallowed hard. "I've had nightmares of Tatooine. Visions."
"Which is it?" Yoda asked. "Nightmares, have you, or visions?"
"I'm not sure, sir. That's why I need to go back. I need to know."
The Council exchanged glances, and Anakin could feel thoughts passing from one to another of them. It occurred to him to wonder, for the first time, if he could eavesdrop on them, but that seemed not-very-nice. Not quite down there with the level of the mind trick, which he'd learned but refused to use (Kenobi had finally stopped arguing with him), but still not nice.
"And your refusal, Obi-Wan Kenobi, is based on what?"
Kenobi gave him a sorrowful look. Gone was the Master insisting on interpreting every image as an utterance of the Chosen One. As soon as Anakin had made his petition to go home, Obi-Wan had decided the dreams were merely childhood wishes. "Master Yoda, I believe strongly in Anakin's talent. But I also know that he is still too tied to his past, and I am not convinced that his dreams of home are visions... "
Don't look back...
Anakin felt his eyes widen as Kenobi went on. That was it. He had been following his mother's instruction so well that he'd even followed it in his dream. The one person who never appeared... because she was the one who was always there. The one he was searching for.
"It's my mother," he said, barely noticing that he'd interrupted his Master in front of the Council (in fact, barely remembering that he was in the Council room). "The dreams are trying to tell me that I need to find her."
There was silence. And he felt their eyes on him, cold and appraising. Ki-Adi-Mundi spoke gently. "It is well that you love your mother, Anakin, and it is my guess that your dreams are about her. But you need to learn to separate dreams from visions. You say yourself that you are not certain?"
Anakin nodded glumly. "Yes, sir."
"Then I see no reason to refuse your Master's authority," Mace said.
"In Kenobi's hands, it is," Yoda agreed.
They were dismissed.
Anakin stood with Obi-Wan on the walkway overlooking Coruscant. Obi-Wan leaned forward. "Anakin, I have not trained a padawan before. Perhaps I am making a mistake." Anakin didn't bother letting his hopes rise. "But I must do this as my instincts suggest. I need you to be fully here, not torn between worlds. You need to accept the life of a Jedi, as the other students here do."
"Yes, Master." Obi-Wan put an arm across his shoulders, and he was glad of the weight of it. Whatever else was true, he did want to be a good padawan, and he wanted to be a Jedi knight, and go back and free his mother and the other slaves. And he had to trust Obi-Wan's judgment. Obi-Wan knew more than he did. "I'm sorry for my behavior. I shouldn't have questioned you."
Obi-Wan smiled. "You have been spending time with me, haven't you? Never mind. Questioning is not a bad thing, and I will always hear your questions and think about them carefully. But I need you to accept the answers I give to them."
Anakin agreed, and they walked back to the living quarters in comfortable silence. Anakin would trust Obi-Wan.
(storm's coming up, ani...)
He had to.
(better get home... quick)