Fandom: Star Wars
Characters: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker
Word Count: 1,410
Written for: sandystarr88
(Mis)quotation from Matthew 7:24-27. The story of Cain and Abel is from the fourth chapter of Genesis.
Summary: I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me.
Obi-Wan was used to solitary contemplation; all Jedi were. But he was used to that contemplation being interspersed with the highly communal temple life, with missions out into the wider world, and, in the last few years, with the constant strain and adrenaline of war. He had expected the solitude and stillness of Tatooine to be a welcome respite; at the very least, he had thought it might not be unwelcome. A few months of solitude in his hovel on the fringes of the Jundland Wastes had cured him of that misapprehension. He had never suffered from claustrophobia before, but seemed to have developed a slight touch of it; as well, the heat brought back sense-memories of Mustafar, stirring emotions not even hours of meditation could calm and release to the Force.
If he’d had a more imaginative mind he might have fancied himself going mad from loneliness, truly the crazy old hermit the local people—moisture farmers, Sand People, Jawas, all—had named him. If he’d been as reckless as Anakin, he might have risked everything by making himself friendly to the neighbors, any of whom might remember him from the holonet news of better times as the partner of the Hero Without Fear. Perhaps even reckless enough try to contact Organa or Yoda for the sight of a familiar, friendly face.
Being neither fanciful nor reckless, Obi-Wan went to Mos Eisley as one more anonymous, ordinary desert dweller in town for supplies and recreation. His brown cloak was not immediately identifiable as Jedi wear, and he took the added precaution of subtle misdirection through the Force, a minor encouragement to all to disregard him as unthreatening and uninteresting. Any trouble, no matter how minor, could spell disaster if someone were to recognize him. Obi-Wan sat out the midday heat in a spacer’s cantina, drinking jawa juice and immersing himself in the hum of the Force through the myriad creatures around him. The Force was everywhere, whether or not there were many living things around, of course, but it was not the same.
Once he finished his drink, he wandered out through the streets of Mos Eisley, letting the cacophony of street merchants, pedestrians, beasts, droids, and vehicles wash over him. He stretched out with his senses and noted every detail, treasuring it up for the months ahead—even with subtle misdirection, he dared not come to town often. He paid little attention to where his feet took him, trusting in the will of the Force. With the absence of solitude pressing in on him, the heat also seemed less oppressive, and the ugly circle of thought that had chased round his head even during meditation seemed to evaporate. Obi-Wan found it possible, for the first time since finding Anakin had betrayed him—them—to trust the Force.
Eventually, he found himself before the old, gutted hulk of a colony ship that jutted so incongruously out of the sand in the middle of town. He felt the urge to go on walking, but there were monks out today preaching from the open windows and doors. The Jedi religion was one of tolerant syncretism; as the Force connected and bound all living things together, so all revelation must flow from it. No religion was perfectly correct; no religion was closer to correct than that of the Jedi; each had its own insights which might be enlightening and worthy of incorporation into the Jedi religion. So it was the custom of the Jedi to observe and (where possible) participate in whatever religious ceremonies and observances they found, out of respect and a desire for whatever wisdom there was to be found. It had been too long since Obi-Wan had had the leisure for it.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock,” said the monk in the window closest to Obi-Wan. He was a short, portly man, but his booming voice could be clearly heard without amplification. “The winds came, the sand blew, and the sun beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The winds came, the sand blew, and the sun beat on that house, and it fell—and great was its fall! Not everyone who calls on the Mighty Bantha—”
Obi-Wan sighed and left. All religions had their own insights, but the Bantha-worshipping monks of Dim-u had … less than average. Pity. He had not had time to listen to a street preacher since … since the first campaign of the war, shortly after Geonosis. He smiled, letting the memory wash over him. It was one of the few from that time not tainted with what came later. He and Anakin had completed their mission with few casualties, and had not had another immediately waiting for them. They had taken the time to walk through a local market untouched by war. While there they had stopped to listen to a local itinerant preacher.
The man had told stories with morals—parables, the locals called them, from the same root as “parabola,” meaning literally “to throw alongside.” Obi-Wan felt it was an apt description; the message was thrown alongside the story, never quite hitting its mark, open to a myriad of interpretations. The morals the man drew from his story were admirable, a teaching on the dangers of jealousy and hatred that yet lifted up the need for mercy and forgiveness, but Jedi philosophers had written many essays on those subjects that were clearer and directly addressed to the lives of Jedi. So Obi-Wan had listened politely, admiring the man’s turns of phrase while calculating probable next moves for the Separatist forces that had managed to escape.
Anakin had been captivated. The story drew him in, riveted his attention, and the message, presented in that way, seemed to penetrate where all Obi-Wan’s instruction, all Yoda’s lectures, had not. That was the effectiveness of teaching with stories; but it was a manipulation, using emotion instead of reason, and Anakin relied too much on emotion as it was, as well as on his status as Chosen One and his growing reputation as legendary pilot and combatant to win him forgiveness for any violation of the code. So Obi-Wan had tried, subtly, to curb his enthusiasm on the subject, and Anakin had (for once) taken the hint, and the Council had sent them their next mission, and Obi-Wan had forgotten all about the street preacher, while treasuring the stroll through the market place as a lull in an otherwise grueling string of missions, battles, and sieges.
Now, looking back, Obi-Wan wondered. It was perhaps the only time Anakin had ever truly shown an interest in philosophy, religion, or morality, and not just a dutiful (sometimes grudging) acceptance. If he’d taken the time, then, to draw Anakin out and engage his enthusiasm, could he have given him a framework that would have resisted Palpatine’s corruption even at that late date? Would the blood of his Jedi brothers and sisters that cried out to Obi-Wan in the middle of sleepless nights (but never with a voice, never as Yoda claimed Qui-Gon could speak) have remained unspilt? As Anakin’s master, he had been—in the preacher’s words—his brother’s keeper, and more than that, his brother’s guide and teacher and example. He’d failed, in the most horrific way possible, and others had paid the consequences, and that punishment was too great to endure. Was that moment just one more moment of failure to add to the list?
He realized, as a Rodian shoved past him with a muttered curse, that he had been standing in the middle of a busy street obstructing traffic for some time. Hardly inconspicuous. And the Force felt cloudy, indistinct, as if he perceived it through glass, dimly; in his current state of self-recrimination and loss, he could not count on it to give him warning, at least not one he might notice. It was too dangerous to remain in Mos Eisley in this state. He closed his eyes, remembering his earliest lessons from the