Marking Time

by Tenshi

Obi-Wan never forgot. No matter what hopeless mission, what starry battlefield, or temple corridor they were in. Even if his Temple issue chronometer was the unfortunate victim of Anakin's latest brilliant plan, he still seemed to know exactly when the separate bands of Coruscant time, Regulated Hyperspace estimated time, and the hour of whatever Force-forsaken world they were on lined up just so to the closest thing their multi-world concept of time had to an exact date.

For Jedi, the date of birth was simply a fact for their data files; most of them would be hard put to recall it exactly, were it not for their exceptional memories. But for Anakin Skywalker, there had been nine birthdays as carefully kept as a poor slave woman on Tatooine had in her power to keep them. When the tenth one rolled around, and Obi-Wan noticed his unusual charge sinking deeper into depression, he didn't have the heart to let it slip away with only the usual murmured well-wishes.

Instead he mentioned, merely in passing, of course, that piloting crews working on a prototype Jedi starfighter designed for the diminutive Arooi species had run into a slight snag. The fighter was ready for testing, but all Arooi Jedi were on missions, and they needed someone Force-sensitive and small enough to fit in the cockpit, and he didn't suppose Anakin would be interested?

Instead of the hours of meditation exercises he had been dreading, Anakin spent the day among things he most liked, pilots and technicians and droids and fidgety bits of technology, with the wind howling in his ears and the odd bit of metal flying off when he pushed the craft to its absolute limits.

A sulky, taciturn padawan went into that fighter, and a windblown, flushed and talkative boy came out, yammering happily about thruster torque and response relays. The next day it was back to Form One saber grip lessons, but something came loose in Anakin that had been bound down since Naboo, and the breach between master and student found a single cable spanning its depths.

It never closed, as it had with Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon, as though no separation had ever existed. But the bridge grew stronger on the foundation lines of a simple remembered day once every standard year. There were no gifts exchanged, for Jedi had no real possessions, but there was a local delicacy to be had, or a skiff race nearby to watch, or a bit of discarded technology to be hotwired into an impertinent R2 unit.

For the last one, there was simply no time to take note. The war was going badly, and when the ticks lined up on Obi-Wan's battered and often-replaced chronometer, the two of them were standing back-to-back, sabers ignited, knee deep in bloody broken clone armor and the twisted remains of destroyer droids.

Anakin's scar was white with exertion on his tanned skin, and the rain of energy bolts was still falling all around them. It was twelve hours later before they got to the Republic dropship, exhausted and in need of a bacta pack each, and even then, Obi-Wan had not forgotten.

"Happy birthday," he said, grinning wryly under his beard, tossing the bacta kit into Anakin's hands. "Sorry I didn't get a chance to wrap it."

And Anakin looked at the aid-kit in his hands, realizing he had forgotten, and for a moment their laughter was louder than the roar of the dropship engines.

Years later, when the second sun turned her hot eye on a world long burned by her affections, one old man would mark her for longer than on other days, watching her follow her brother to the sky. There was a moment, just so, with the twin suns poised a certain number of degrees above the horizon, by which he had once set a band of his chronometer. He no longer carried such a device, but he had no need of it anymore. Time followed him, and the bridge was long lost in flames. But once a year, Obi-Wan Kenobi stood on his edge of the ravine, where the posts and raveled cables still hung, and knew that somewhere, in the cold dark heart of space, that he was not the only one remembering.


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