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28 October 2005 @ 11:45 am
[J/D] [Obi-Wan/Anakin] [Fluff/Pre-Slash] [G] "Swimfan":  
This was a collaboration between citizenjess and patientalien, which came with the following disclaimer: This fic exceeds the recommended daily requirement of sweetness. Do not read if you are experiencing heart or stomach problems or are nursing, pregnant, and/or diabetic.

Summary: Obi-Wan is commissioned with the task of teaching his new Padawan how to swim. Takes place shortly after TPM. Could be construed as Obi-Wan/Anakin pre-slash if you wanted to conceptualize it that way. Rated G.

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Swimfan

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Nine years would not at first seem like an age that would cause somebody to be declared "too old" for many things, but the Jedi Temple had certain rules in place for a reason. At nine, they felt, a child, no matter how gifted in the ways of the Force, would have difficulty growing accustomed to a life of servitude and minimal possessions when they had lived so many years in the luxury of family and normalcy.

But Anakin Skywalker had never lead a normal life; growing up as a slave on Tatooine, he had never known the luxury of many possessions. And while the Council questioned his ability to be loyal to their cause when the prospect of family and freedom still existed, they allowed him to begin his training under the tutelage of Obi-Wan Kenobi, against all better judgments.

And while Anakin was certainly gifted in the Force and eager to learn, he still had much to contend with as a late-comer to the Order. There were things that Temple younglings learned soon after their arrival on Coruscant that Anakin's age put him at a disadvantage about, knowledge of ceremonies and traditions and skills that he simply didn't have. Such was the way Obi-Wan found himself solely commissioned with the task of teaching his new Padawan how to swim.

Anakin's first visit to the Temple pools had been one full of excitement and endless questions. "Where does all the water come from? What happens when the pool gets too full? Does it ever go away? Why is it that color? Why does it smell like that?"

Obi-Wan tried to answer his new Padawan's questions as best he could, but realized that he wasn't quite sure of some of the answers himself. He refused to admit that to the boy, though. He didn't want to come across as a moron in his first month of training. He knew it wasn't the Jedi way, but Obi-Wan eventually resorted to making things up.

"Master Obi-Wan, sir, are you sure we have to do this?" This time, Anakin's tone was fearful rather than inquisitive. The little boy's blue eyes were wide with apprehension as he gazed out at the large pool.

Obi-Wan laid a hand on Anakin's shoulder. "It is best you learn now, young one," he replied, trying his best to sound wise and experienced. "You never know when you will need such a skill."

Anakin chewed on his lower lip for a moment, and then took a deep breath. "Ookkay," he said. "But you'll be here, right?"

Obi-Wan smiled reassuringly at him. "Of course, Anakin." He squeezed the boy's shoulder, trying to channel Qui-Gon's seemingly boundless wisdom and patience. It wasn't that he didn't understand Anakin's hesitancy - raised on a planet that was some ninety percent sand, he almost certainly would have had no need for such an activity.

However, he had meant what he said about it being an important tool for a Jedi; he couldn't recall how many times he had used it on his missions with Qui-Gon. Even with a rebreather - which he had intentionally left in his quarters, not wanting Anakin to rely on artificial breathing devices until he had the basics of swimming down - there were still important muscle strengthening and cardiovascular lessons to be learned.

Anakin watched Obi-Wan sullenly for a moment as his Master stripped out of his clothes, folding his cloak, tunic and pants neatly over a small stool. Obi-Wan had instructed him to wear his Temple-authorized swim trunks underneath his robes, and had done so himself: plain blue, and loose-fitting enough to be comfortable but not overly so to restrict movement, Anakin admired his Master's strong chest and limbs. He secretly hoped that he would have a body like that someday; he shivered, partially because the cool Coruscant weather was still new to him, and also due to a sudden bout of shyness.

If his Master noticed, however, he politely decided not to show it; instead, Obi-Wan slid into the shallow end of the pool, the water barely lapping at his calves. "Come on in, Anakin," he instructed comfortingly. "It's rather warm."

Anakin took a tentative step forward, and stuck his foot into the water. His Master was right - it was warm. Anakin stepped in all the way, and stood on the top step, looking around. Although they were alone, he felt a little self-conscious. This was only the second time in his entire life he had been in water like this, and the first time had been after he had crashed one of Watto's pods, so he hadn't really been able to enjoy it.

He took another step down, marvelling at how the water slowed down his movements and made him feel lighter all at once. "One more step, and then we can work on kicking, okay?"

Anakin took a deep breath. He wasn't sure he liked this, but he couldn't turn back now. He wouldn't turn back now, he told himself. After all, he was training to be a Jedi. Buoying his resolve, he placed both feet on the bottom of the shallow end of the pool, the water lapping a bit above his knees and wetting the ends of his swim trunks. He watched how it surrounded him, swirling softly, cooling his skin.

He'd rarely taken baths when he'd lived with his mother; their abode had been humble (and rather exceptionally accomodating, given that they were slaves and technically could have been kept in a dungeon, had Watto been a crueler owner), and showers took up less water. Additionally, the few times he had filled up their large metal washbasin - an accessory that Anakin had swiped from Watto's junk shop, his old master having been none the wiser - he'd only ever sat in a few inches of water.

And now Master Obi-Wan wanted him to -- he gulped. "All right, Anakin?" his Master asked, a friendly smile - tinged with slight amusement - on his face. He reached out a hand and Anakin walked close enough to grasp it, Obi-Wan's palm warm and comforting. "I want you to try treading water first," he said decidedly, and began walking backwards into the deeper middle section of the pool; the water rose higher, nearly to Anakin's armpits now. "Don't be afraid, Padawan," he continued, sensing the boy's apprehension. "I won't let go of you until you are ready."

Anakin followed his Master out into the deeper reaches of the pool. Finally they got to a point where Anakin could no longer touch the bottom, and panic welled up inside him. He sucked in a deep breath of air, feeling tears prickling in the corners of his eyes. He didn't know what to do! But before he could even consciously recognize his fears, he felt strong arms wrap around him and hold him tight.

"It's okay," Obi-Wan said, his voice soothing. "It's okay, I'm right here." He ran a hand over Anakin's water-slicked back and thought for a moment. "Until you get more used to the feeling, I think you should have a little reinforcement," he commented, reaching into the Force to whisk a couple of small, plastic life preserver rings into his hand. He helped his Padawan slip them on, and held Anakin at arm's length as the boy practiced tentatively floating with them. "How does that feel?" he asked.

"Better," Anakin affirmed, then blushed. "Thank you, Master." He looked down, startled a little by how close the lapping water was to his chin now. "You probably have lots of important things that you could be doing instead of this. I'm sorry I'm a burden to you," he mumbled.

Obi-Wan chucked him under the chin, waiting patiently until Anakin's gaze met his. "You are my apprentice, Anakin. My Padawan. There is no where more important for me to be, as long as that holds true." He watched the apprehension in Anakin's eyes disappear and exhaled briskly. "Now, then, I want you to start kicking. Your legs are the most powerful part of your body to use in keeping yourself afloat. Eventually, you'll be able to sustain yourself above water without the aid of those rings, and leg strength is the key to that."

Anakin kicked tentatively, feeling a little off-balance. He was afraid the rings around his arms wouldn't hold him up all the way, afraid that if he kicked too hard he would go under. But Obi-Wan was there, smiling, arms outstretched in support. Anakin took a deep breath and kicked a little harder, moving his arms from side to side.

He was doing it!

A kick that was a tad too enthusiastic in the wrong direction pushed Anakin momentarily underwater. He popped up almost immediately, but for that very brief instant, he'd been sure he was going to die. Once more, Obi-Wan's arms were around him.

"Did you swallow any water?" Obi-Wan's face was noticeably amused this time, and Anakin huffed a little. He swiped at his eyes, blinking against whatever had been added to the pool water to keep it cleaner. Eventually, he nodded in affirmation. "That will happen more than once," his Master promised him. "But practice makes perfect. Once you master this skill, you will never forget it."

"Like piloting a ship?" Anakin offered.

"A bit like that, I suppose," Obi-Wan considered. "You were not always able to run the Boonta's Eve Classic, for instance. You had to practice and build up your flying experience and tactics. The same goes with swimming." He let go of Anakin again, pleased when the boy automatically began treading water on his own. "See? Already you've improved from your original effort."

Anakin nodded, concentrating hard on pumping his legs, envious at how naturally his Master kept his own body afloat. He clenched his small hands into fists momentarily, and felt the tips of his fingers start to feel wrinkly. "Whoa, look at my hands--" he started to say, forgetting to continue to kick. "Mas-" he gasped, thrashing about in a panicked frenzy, his head disappearing underwater for the second time.

He was pulled out again by a chuckling Obi-Wan. "It's important to concentrate," his Master admonished gently. "That is a crucial lesson for a Jedi." He smiled, and pulled his hands away, allowing Anakin to take over. "Now, what were you saying?"

"My hands are all wrinkly!" Anakin replied, careful to keep his legs and arms moving, resisting the temptation to raise his hands out of the water to show Obi-Wan.

Obi-Wan chuckled again. "That happens," he replied. "Mine are, too."

Anakin tilted his head to the side. "Why does it happen?" he asked.

Obi-Wan felt a slight flicker of panic. He didn't know! Should he admit he didn't know and maybe lose some of the respect his Padawan had for him? Or should he just make something up and hope Anakin never figured it out?

He took a deep breath and let it out, trying to picture his own Master in such a predicament. Suddenly, the answer seemed obvious. "I think," he replied at last, "that this would be an excellent question to ask Madam Nu to help you find the answer for when we visit the Temple library later." Anakin seemed satisfied with that, and he could almost hear Qui-Gon's voice in his head: 'nice one, Padawan.'

They continued to work on treading water for a while yet, until Anakin was able to keep himself afloat for several minutes at a time. "Shall we try moving through the water a bit, now?" Obi-Wan asked him, trying to gauge how tired the boy was. He smiled to himself, thinking how easily his usually restless Padawan would get to sleep later on.

For now, however, Anakin still looked energized. "I'm ready to try, Master," he asserted, clapping his hands together a little for emphasis, then beaming when his steadily kicking legs kept him above water this time.

Obi-Wan smiled at Anakin’s enthusiasm, and moved closer, gripping the boy under his arms and tipping him forward. Anakin made a surprised protesting sound, but quickly realized that Obi-Wan was not going to let go. “Now you kick,” Obi-Wan instructed.

Anakin kicked, and Obi-Wan moved with him, offering words of encouragement from time to time.

“Okay, now move your arms like you were before,” he said, and loosened his grip a bit to give Anakin more room. The boy's first few tries were awkward - he moved his arms too vigorously, resulting in a face full of water, and trying to move all of his limbs in sync seemed to frustrate him. "It's all right, you're doing very well," Obi-Wan murmured encouragingly, one palm pressing gently on the small of Anakin's back to keep his middle supported.

Another hour or so passed; the sky was slightly overcast now, and Obi-Wan assumed it was probably close to dinner-time. "I think this is a good place to stop for today, Padawan," he said, rousing Anakin, who was floating on his back and staring up at a small white cloud. Obi-Wan started to move him towards the edge of the pool, but Anakin shook him off.

"Can I swim back to the other end, Master?" Anakin pleaded, eager to prove what he'd learned. Obi-Wan started to shake his head, but Anakin was persistent, as always; he had a feeling that this would never change. "Please, Master Obi-Wan, sir?"

"Okay," he relented, smiling fondly as Anakin uttered a tiny "yippie!" and quickly kicked off the far wall of the deep end. Obi-Wan stayed close, inching forward as Anakin slowly but surely made his way across the pool on his back.

A misplaced armstroke left him sputtering at one point. "No, don't wanna stop," Anakin coughed as Obi-Wan made to help him sit up. He took a deep breath, seemingly trying to center himself; Obi-Wan found himself impressed and a bit surprised with his obvious dedication.

After some coaxing, Obi-Wan finally got Anakin out of the pool. The sky was beginning to darken with the coming night, and the air had chilled, causing Anakin to begin shivering almost the moment he emerged from the water.

“C-cold,” the boy stammered.

Obi-Wan grabbed a thick blue towel from his chair, and dropped to one knee beside Anakin, wrapping his Padawan up in the warm fabric and his own arms. “Better?” he asked.

Anakin nodded mutely, his eyes wide. “Thank you, Master Obi-Wan. Sir.”

Obi-Wan chuckled, and stood, scooping Anakin up as he did. “You know, Anakin, you don’t have to call me ‘sir’,” he commented, walking back towards the Temple’s doors. “We’re friends, right?”

Anakin grinned at him, and Obi-Wan felt whole.

*


Ah, cavities.
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