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23 November 2005 @ 11:35 pm
[J/D] [Obi-Wan/Anakin pre-slash/fluff/angst] [PG] "Much Ado About Lunch":  
This was actually inspired from another piece that patientalien and I are co-writing, involving Anakin and food, because we are actually obsessed with Padawan eating habits. But this was rather tangential and wouldn't have made much sense in the other story, so it gets its own.

Summary: The Chosen One is a solitary figure - including, it seems, at mealtimes. Anakin's probably 11-12-ish in here, and so there are bits and pieces of the Jedi Quest universe integrated, though it's not really strictly adhering to book canon. Possible pairings include Obi-Wan/Anakin pre-pre-pre-slash; Anakin/Tru friendship; Tru/cake. Rated PG.

*

Much Ado About Lunch

*


When he had first arrived at the Temple, he missed Shmi so much that it physically pained him even to think about her. At the time, he thought he'd never get over that raw ache, the heavy feeling in his chest when he pictured her face, or the way she would smile at him fondly, soft hands whispering over his cheek or stroking the crown of his hair.

Over time, the hurt lessened somewhat, dulled to a mere irritation that only crossed his mind sporadically, when he allowed it to. It still pained him, the idea that he had abandoned her on Tatooine, but he learned to control these thoughts, the way the Jedi taught him to control every other part of himself. Sometimes, he questioned whether or not this was always a positive thing.

It was odd, perhaps, that mealtime would be when he remembered Shmi the most, but sitting quietly by himself at an empty table in the Temple cafeteria, ruminating on how these people always had bountiful supplies of food when it was often that his mother had none, and how he had never gone hungry even in spite of this, the hurt flared up with a vengeance.

It wasn't that Anakin made a point to eat alone, exactly ; it had just sort of happened once or twice, eventually turning into a solitary routine. On Tatooine, he had made friends easily; perhaps it was that they were all equals there, most of the children he knew slaves themselves. The Jedi purported to be fair and balanced in their own treatment of students, of course, but Anakin had been different from the minute he'd set foot inside the Council chambers. He knew it, they knew it, and his fellow Padawans seemed almost to fear it.

Anakin's prowess, the ease with which he manipulated the Force, to say nothing of his highly talked-of destiny, had made it all but impossible to blend in. And after a while, he had stopped trying altogether. He was different; he was special. And yet, the thought did not comfort him as he watched his fellow Jedi apprentices greet each other across the crowded room, as he would try to avoid eye contact when one of them would politely imply with a satchel or book that their table was reserved for someone - anyone - but him.

Special and different did not equal popular, and while Anakin had never had any desire to be popular or even well-liked, he did get lonely at meal times.

So it seemed like only a natural progression for him to go from eating - alone and melancholy - in the Temple cafeteria with the other junior Padawans, to eating in Obi-Wan's apartment.

The first day he had done it had simply been a fluke. He had been running late for the noon meal after a sparring lesson, and Master Obi-Wan had suggested eating with him instead of fighting the crowds at the cafeteria. Anakin never had any qualms with Obi-Wan's cooking - in fact, he recalled fondly the all-too-few times he'd sat alongside Qui-Gon, noisily slurping stew while Qui-Gon complimented his former Padawan on whipping up something nutritious and filling out of essentially scraps. And to his secret relief, his Master nearly always took lunch in his private quarters, so after a while, Anakin did, too.

At first, Obi-Wan always greeted him with raised eyebrows and a small half-smile, as if he were pleasantly surprised that Anakin had decided to stop by. After awhile, he began to anticipate his Padawan's presence, always preparing enough food for the both of them, even keeping a small supply of sweets in the pantry, because despite the fact that he didn't particularly care for them, he knew that Anakin did. It was an unspoken agreement, of sorts, a small shift in their combined routine.

Until, of course, Obi-Wan happened to say something about it.

Anakin was halfway through the hearty stew Obi-Wan had made for him when it happened.

"You know, Anakin," his Master said, almost too casually, "I don't mind when you come visit for meals." He smiled ruefully. "I rather enjoy your company, but..."

Here it came.

"But I wonder why you would rather spend time with your old Master than your friends your own age?" Obi-Wan's tone indicated he knew the answer already, and Anakin wondered why Obi-Wan bothered asking questions he already knew the answer to.

Anakin set the half-eaten sandwich he'd been happily chewing on only a moment ago, no longer hungry. "I'll leave you alone, Master," he said bitterly, feeling stung. "I just thought ... I didn't ..." 'Shut up,' he told himself angrily. 'He doesn't want you around when you don't have to be there, don't you understand? Stop whining and confirming everything he already thinks.'

He stood quickly, nearly knocking his chair over in his haste. "I'm sorry," he muttered, hurrying to his room, tears prickling at his eyes. He loathed himself at that moment, for the fact that he was about to cry, for the realization that his own Master couldn't even stand him. What was wrong with him, he wondered. Why didn't anyone want him around? Was he that repulsive? If he'd just stayed on Tatooine, never knowing for sure just how Special and Unique he was, would his mother have turned from him eventually, too?

A soft knock on his bedroom door sounded. "Anakin." Obi-Wan's voice sounded weary and embarrassed. "Anakin, please, open the door."

Anakin sniffled, and buried his head deeper in his pillow. He knew Obi-Wan was just coming after him like this out of obligation, that he didn't really care one way or the other if Anakin opened the door or not. "Just leave me alone!" he called, wincing at the way his voice broke on his tears.

There was a sigh from outside the room, and Anakin heard/felt Obi-Wan rest his forehead against the wall beside door. "I'm sorry, Anakin," Obi-Wan called, weakly. His voice was strained, and Anakin wondered if his Master was close to tears himself.

"I did not mean to imply in any way that I don't want you around, Anakin," Obi-Wan continued softly. "I merely worry that you're lonely, and I hardly think I'm the best choice you have for company. If it sounded like I was pushing you away, then I deeply apologize, Padawan." The other side of the door was silent, and Anakin listened to hear whether Obi-Wan had shuffled away. Eventually, he lifted his wrist and flicked the small lock on his side with a strand of the Force. The knob turned, and Obi-Wan peered inside. When Anakin made no indication that he wanted him to go away, he crossed the room, perching on the end of the boy's bed.

"All better, then?" Obi-Wan smiled and smoothed a hand over Anakin's softly-spiked hair, then patted his cheek in a way that reminded him of Shmi. Anakin leaned into it in silent acquiescence of Obi-Wan's apology, and then scooted closer and wrapped his arms around his Master's waist.

Obi-Wan hugged him back. "Oh, Padawan," he sighed affectionately, the smile apparent in his voice. "We have so much to learn from each other, don't we?"

*


Over the next few weeks, Anakin tried to branch out in his lunchtime destinations. He had tried to eat in the cafeteria more than once a week, but the loneliness built up to intolerable levels, so he decided to work his way back into the world of his peers a bit more gradually.

Surprisingly, the loneliness he felt now when he was in the cafeteria for meals was not loneliness for his mother, or his friends on Tatooine. It was for Obi-Wan. Anakin had realized that Obi-Wan was just as alone as he was, now that Master Qui-Gon was gone, and Obi-Wan had all but admitted that he himself was lonely.

So Anakin made his transition slowly, as much for Obi-Wan as for himself.

Obi-Wan was gone on a small solo mission for an entire week at one point, leaving Anakin to his own devices. It wasn't all that difficult to keep himself occupied - he did have coursework and various training exercises, after all - but meals still proved a bit of a sticky spot.

At this point, he had worked his lone cafeteria exploits into a sort of a mixed eating/studying hybrid; it was essentially what he would have been doing cooped up in the Archives, only Madam Nu would have flipped her lid if he'd so much as set a water bottle next to her precious collection. Burying his head in a datapad, he was able to tune out the noises of socializing and friendship around him, which, he told himself firmly, suited him just fine.

On the fourth or fifth day in a row of this, Anakin was interrupted from his Interplanetary Politics texts by the slight scuffling of feet. He looked up to see Tru Veld standing on the opposite side of his table, one long, flexible arm - a characteristic of his Teevan heritage - resting lightly on an unoccupied chair. "Yeah?" Anakin grunted.

Tru seemed rather taken aback by this. "I, uh." He cleared his throat. "Is, um, is this seat taken?"

Anakin shrugged noncommittally. It wasn't exactly the first time he'd been in this situation. "Go ahead," he said with a brief wave of his hand. "There are too many at this table anyway."

Tru tilted his head. "What do you mean?" he asked, setting his tray down and looking at Anakin curiously.

Anakin shrugged. "Go take it wherever you need an extra chair," he explained, wondering if Tru was always this dense, or was it he just being unclear in his antisocialization.

There was a light lyrical laugh, and Tru settled into the empty chair. "I wanted to know if you wanted company," he replied, pulling a plate of mujaberry cake to the spot in front of him. "You seemed lonely."

"I --" Anakin blinked, feeling touched and a little stunned at once. He startled when Tru pushed some of the cake towards him, then took it and managed a small nod. He wondered what exactly he'd done to garner Tru's attention; oftentimes when he was approached by other Padawans, it was because he'd gotten into a spat with one of them or mouthed off to one of his teachers. He wondered if perhaps Tru really was dense, too naive to realize what being seen with Anakin would do to his own reputation. Already, Anakin had noticed a few covert glances in their direction.

But Tru seemed unphased by the silent criticism. "I see you in the lightsaber practice rooms sometimes," he commented after his mouth had been momentarily cleared of food. "You've got a really great technique. I think I'm getting better at 'playing to my strengths' like Master Gaul tells me to do, but you ... you make it look so effortless." He popped another piece of cake into his mouth, chewing and swallowing again before continuing. "Maybe if you're not too busy, we can spar a little sometime. I'd love to pick up a few tips."

"Sure." Anakin still felt a little punch-drunk; and tempting though it was simply to ride the high, the idea that he was somehow being set up continued to eat at him. He had to know. "If you don't mind my asking," he said, staring down at his lunch tray, "did you seek me out for any particular reason? Most people see me and run off in the opposite direction," he told Tru ruefully.

The other boy looked confused. "Well, that's their loss," he said after a long moment and a shrug. He shoved the last of the cake in his mouth, and Anakin couldn't help laughing at Tru's enthusiasm. "Why don't you come over after class tomorrow?"

Anakin's thoughts went to Obi-Wan, on his mission, wherever that was. Wouldn't his Master be surprised to learn Anakin had made a friend in his absence? "Okay," he said, trying not to sound as shy as he felt. "Okay," he repeated, feeling himself grin. Tru returned the smile with one of his own, and soon, his International Politics texts were forgotten altogether.

*


And only tangentially related to this, for all the Americans who happen by, Happy Thanksgiving!
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oh gallant piglet,: fingerpaintyaizome on November 24th, 2005 08:30 am (UTC)
Oh well gee thanks for making me hungry SEVERAL HOURS BEFORE ANY FOOD WILL BE READY! >f

(lol kidding on the anger! I loved! ^___^ Gyaaah, you guys kill me... *runs off to join the... er, trio-thingy*)
MadShrubbery®: Drunkmadshrubbery on November 24th, 2005 12:05 pm (UTC)
I agree, she has successfully triggered hunger pains that desire Obi-Wan Turkobi and Mashed Padawans.
Mr. Fancy Pantscitizenjess on November 24th, 2005 06:11 pm (UTC)
And we haven't even gotten to the ham sandwich, yet! :D
Mr. Fancy Pantscitizenjess on November 24th, 2005 06:13 pm (UTC)
OUR EVIL PLAN HAS WORKED. >:)
oh gallant piglet,: dohaizome on November 25th, 2005 01:15 am (UTC)
BTW, sorry about accidentally trying to join instead of friending the comm. I blame fever and the late hour, but it could also be that I am an idiot who wasn't paying attention to what he was doing. :p
Mr. Fancy Pantscitizenjess on November 25th, 2005 01:17 am (UTC)
You are forgiven. :P
the blue cat: childhood dreams by avalon_spirita_blue_moon_cat on November 29th, 2005 11:29 pm (UTC)
I *heart* this story a lot. I had always thought that Anakin would have problems making friends at the Temple for all the reasons you listed.

Special and different did not equal popular, and while Anakin had never had any desire to be popular or even well-liked, he did get lonely at meal times.
Those words are too true. :(

Ah, but in the end, someone has the sense to look past Ani's defenses, and make a friend.

Thanks for writing this! :)
Vee017: stop buttonaislinn_tredor on December 3rd, 2005 05:44 pm (UTC)
I love this. Your stories are always so fluid and the characters are bang on. I had the same thoughts about Anakin's beginnings. All the 'Chosen One' whispers that might folow him around, him being too old but let in anyway, the 'special case'.

Adored the little tiff and make-up between Anakin and Obi-Wan, and Anakin's thoughts as well as to why no one wants to be around him. this was great ♥