Obi-Wan's teacup shattered as it hit the floor, sending droplets of warm liquid in every direction. He crumpled forward, falling off of the sofa, holding his head in his hands.
First, he'd felt a sense of growing anxiety, then a stab of panic and anger, and then... nothing. Absolutely nothing was there in that place in his brain that was always aware of Anakin. He always felt Anakin there, sometimes as a buzz under his thoughts, sometimes as waves of unpredictable and inexplicable emotion, sometimes in directed thoughts that were so loud they made his head hurt. But now it was gone. There was nothing.
His vision was blurry and his ears rang. He pushed himself up on his hands and knees. His brain buzzed from the pain and confusion. He took a deep breath, reaching out to the Force, trying to feel for his padawan.
It hurt. He doubled over anew in pain, clutching his head, pressing hard on his temples. He let go and the pain started to fade. His first lucid thought was that something had happened to Anakin. Something terrible had happened to the child who was his responsibility, whom he was supposed to teach and protect.
Panic set in, and the flare in his emotions eased the pain in his head unexpectedly. He let them flow a little more strongly. No, that wasn't right -- he shouldn't do that.
Pull yourself together. You're of no help to him in this state.
The pain of the training bond being so abruptly broken was slowly fading from a sharp stabbing sensation to a more tolerable pounding ache in his temple. He took several deep breaths and opened his eyes. Siri was staring at him, pale and wide-eyed. She looked as if she might throw up.
It took two attempts before his voice obeyed his command to speak. "Can you feel Ferus?"
"I can't feel Anakin at all. He's just... gone."
Why the fuck was he still sitting here? He leapt to his feet and headed for the door. He didn't have to look to see that Siri was right behind him. They headed towards the gardens and were inexorably drawn in one direction. The eddies of the Force had been greatly disturbed somewhere nearby, and they could see it, feel it, hear it. The very emptiness in the Force where there had once been two Jedi screamed loudly in their ears.
Obi-Wan's mind stormed as he ran, unbalanced by the loss of the bond. What had happened? He had never felt, or even heard of anything like this before. Was Anakin hurt? Was he dead?
That thought brought on nausea almost instantly, which made him stumble slightly. He steeled his stomach and forced it back down. Anakin couldn't be dead, could he? Obi-Wan had experienced a bond broken by death -- when Qui-Gon died -- but it had just faded gradually. It had not been severed like this. He remembered the feeling of it slipping away, like smoke through his fingers, like a dream that fades when one first wakes. It was horrible and devastating and one of the worst moments in his life.
He began to realize this was worse.
There was a small power station ahead, and when they reached it, he knew -- this was the place. Anakin's fear and anger and a flash of betrayal hung in the air like a dingy cloud. He gathered as much of it as he could, sweeping around himself with the Force. There were images there, and emotions, but he couldn't focus. They began to slip away, to slip through his fingers. He reached out, but the Force seemed to evade him suddenly, backing away, abandoning him.
He ignited his saber and slashed at the power station housing in frustration, screaming, his head pounding. Then he was suddenly hit hard in the chest, and pinned to the ground, face down. He struggled to breathe.
"Obi-Wan, stop!" Siri's voice was heavy, commanding. She must have Force-pushed him, he thought, in order to knock him off his feet from a safe distance. His anger spiked again, and he broke free of the invisible restraints she'd created with surprising ease, feeling the Force fill him easily now. He climbed to his feet and called his saber to his hand, glaring darkly at her. She flinched and stepped back, clearly frightened. Then she stepped forward again, and then again, and again. And slapped him hard across the face.
"Damn it, Obi-Wan, do not lose it now! I need you here, with me!" Her eyes were flashing blue, and her face flamed. Her hair stuck out in strange directions. She looked a little crazy.
Obi-Wan swallowed hard, slowly realizing what had just happened to him -- how close he'd come. He couldn't lose himself, not now. They would never find the padawans if he didn't pull himself together.
"Obi-Wan, answer me!" Siri stepped forward, hand raised, ready to slap him again. Her other hand gripped her lightsaber firmly, just in case.
Just in case...
He dropped to his knees at her feet and pressed his forehead into her stomach. The emotion rose hard in his throat, and he couldn't stop it, couldn't push it back down. It demanded release, and it was more than he could manage by himself -- more than he could bear. He sobbed into Siri's bare abdomen, smearing hot tears on her smooth skin. His hands grasped at her hips, trying to find purchase on the slick leather. His breath hitched in his chest. He moaned, the sound muffled against her damp skin.
Siri pulled him against her body tightly, stroking his hair, breathing deeply. Her emotions were ragged now, and hearing and feeling his despair wasn't helping. They were wasting valuable time by letting their emotions overwhelm them. She clenched her fingers in his hair, frustrated.
"Obi?" she whispered.
Obi-Wan pushed away from her then, sitting back on his heels and wiping his face on his tunic. He didn't look at her.
He felt much more even now, and the Force was easier to touch. He extended his senses again, sweeping the area, sieving fragments of emotion from the wind. He had lost much of it already, and what was left did not make sense.
He glanced up to see Siri wiping her face with her hands. He tried to center himself before speaking. "I can only pick out a few feelings and images, but something happened to them very suddenly. I think they were surprised."
Siri took a shaky breath. "Do you think they're alive?"
"Yes, I do. I can't explain it."
"He's gone," Siri sighed, hand caressing her forehead. "There's nothing where he used to be." She met Obi-Wan's eyes. "It must be ten times worse for you. I know that your bond with Anakin was very strong."
Obi-Wan could only nod, wincing at her use of past tense. "Yes. Anakin isn't just a presence in the Force. He's a fucking beacon. I feel a bit like someone's turned off all the lights." He sighed, pressing the heels of his hands against his temples. "My head is splitting. Siri, I know what it feels like when someone dies, and it doesn't feel like this. I'm sure they're alive. They must have been cut off from the Force somehow. That's the only explanation."
"Then they can't be far away." The determination in her voice was a familiar, steadying force. Siri walked towards the power station again, scanning the area.
Obi-Wan climbed to his feet a little more slowly, feeling surprisingly drained. He closed his eyes and centered himself once more before jogging to catch up with Siri. They searched the immediate area, but found nothing. There was no trace of their padawans at all. Siri leaned heavily against a tree.
"Obi-Wan... we should inform the ambassador, and the Council. We're going to need help." She slid to the ground, wincing.
Obi-Wan wondered if she was in the same shape he was. He was in pain and completely exhausted. He extended a hand to pull her back to her feet. She stumbled slightly and he caught her.
"To the ambassador's office," he said.
The assistant blinked his large pink eyes slowly. "I'm very sorry, Master Jedi, but the ambassador is busy at the moment with an important guest. He left strict orders not to be disturbed."
Obi-Wan struggled to keep his voice level. "As I've already told you, this is an emergency. We must see the ambassador immediately."
The assistant tapped the data pad built into the surface of his desk, frowning. "He has an opening at ninth hour, tomorrow."
Obi-Wan clenched his jaw and raised one hand before the assistant's face. "We need to see the ambassador now," he growled.
The assistant promptly fainted onto his desk.
"I think I overdid it," Obi-Wan sighed. He was having a difficult time centering himself in the Force. The implications of that worried him.
"He'll be all right," Siri said. "There's an easier way to do this." She ignited her saber and sank it into the locking mechanism of the door leading to the ambassador's office. The door emitted a pained whine and slid open.
Startled, Obi-Wan left the limp form of the assistant and followed Siri into the office. The ambassador, a small round man with errant wiry hair and a bright red suit, was sitting at his desk, face pale and sweating, staring at the intruders in shock. Obi-Wan glanced around the room. It seemed to be empty, despite the assistant's claim that the ambassador was in a meeting.
Then he noticed the pair of feet sticking slightly out from under the desk. Obi-Wan wrinkled his nose, trying to contain his frustration. This was what was so important that the ambassador could not see them?
He crossed the room and placed both hands flat on the desk, leaning over so that he was eye level with the anxious man. "If you're quite finished being sucked off by the delivery boy, we'd like to have a word with you." His voice was eerily calm in his ears. The desk emitted a slight thumping sound -- a head hitting it from beneath, most likely. He attempted a smile, but it came off as something more like a threatening grimace. "It's an emergency."
The ambassador seemed to have lost his voice. "Y-y-yes," he whispered. "Of course." After some awkward fumbling, he rolled his chair back and a terrified young man emerged from the desk and bolted for the door. The two Jedi ignored him completely.
Siri moved to stand beside Obi-Wan, her demeanor calm and serene. "Our apprentices were abducted from the southeastern section of the embassy grounds approximately half an hour ago. They vanished without a trace."
The ambassador gaped at her. The news seemed to have helped him regain his composure. "That's... impossible! Our security is impenetrable. Are you certain?"
"Yes. They're gone. We've searched and can find no trace of them."
The ambassador's gaze faded for a moment, and he sat back in his chair. "Your apprentices are quite young, aren't they? Perhaps they've just gone exploring, or are playing a prank? Why must you jump to the conclusion that they were abducted, if you have no evidence?"
Obi-Wan couldn't help glaring at the man. The ambassador shrank in his chair, swallowing hard.
Siri stepped forward slightly, drawing the man's attention. "Ambassador, we each have a mental connection with our apprentices, and those connections were violently and simultaneously severed in the last hour." She paused, wondering if the man had encountered Jedi before, if this made any sense to him at all. "We are no longer in contact with Anakin and Ferus. We traced them to their last location before the event, but we have found nothing more."
The ambassador stared back at her blankly. Perhaps she should just tell him what to do. That usually worked.
"We need your help, Ambassador. We can do no more alone. Are there any factions who might resent Jedi presence on Krisilia? Is there anyone who would have cause to interfere in the political process we came here to help negotiate?"
The ambassador nodded and thought for a moment. "Honestly, I can think of no one. The interim governor would be the only person who might stand to benefit from a prolongation of the political process. But--"
"But the interim governor is missing," Obi-Wan interjected.
The ambassador's eyes narrowed. "Yes, he is, though that knowledge has not been made public. He disappeared two days ago. His family is quite distraught."
"Why weren't we informed of the governor's disappearance?" Obi-Wan's voice was tight again.
"I-I... I'm not sure. I assumed someone had told you."
Siri focused her gaze on the ambassador. He was not lying, but he was definitely hiding something.
"No one told us," Obi-Wan continued, "despite our frequent and persistent inquiries."
The ambassador swallowed. "I am terribly sorry about the confusion. And I am most troubled to hear of the disappearance of your apprentices. Perhaps the two events are related? As the official liaison to the Republic in this system, I will help you in any way I can, of course. Perhaps I can start by notifying the local authorities?"
Siri considered this, glancing at Obi-Wan. He nodded. She realized that he was so exhausted he was barely standing. They both needed to rest, and very soon.
She turned back to the ambassador and nodded her consent. "Our entry documents contain holos and physical descriptions of both boys. Those may be helpful to the authorities. Are there security cameras on the grounds?"
"Yes. I'll have the footage from that sector downloaded and sent to you as soon as possible."
Siri nodded curtly. "Thank you for your help, ambassador. We must contact the Jedi Council. We'll be in our quarters."
The ambassador bowed slightly in return. "It is my honor and privilege to assist you, Master Jedi. I will inform you the very moment that I learn anything of importance."
Siri grasped Obi-Wan firmly by the arm and steered him toward the door.
They both slumped before the communications console at the desk in Obi-Wan's quarters, gathering themselves before initiating the call. Siri prayed silently to the Force as she keyed in the code. Please, not Mace. Anyone but Mace.
Predictably, the Master's stern face filled the viewscreen. "Knight Tachi?" He seemed surprised to see her. "Where is Kenobi?"
Obi-Wan nudged Siri to slide forward on the stool so that he could slide onto it behind her. He peeked over her shoulder at the viewscreen. "I'm here, Master." He placed his chin on her shoulder and slid his arms around her waist, leaning against her heavily. Siri was surprised at the sense of security she gained from the pressure of his body against her back. She leaned into him and placed her hands over his, thankful that the camera would only pick up their faces.
Mace's face was promptly replaced by Yoda's, much to her relief. The wizened Jedi frowned at them.
"A great disturbance, I sense. Your padawans -- missing, are they?"
Siri nodded. Master Yoda would know what to do, what to say. It would be all right, if she could just hang on a little longer. She explained the situation to him as succinctly as she could, noticing that Obi-Wan seemed strangely content to let her take charge. She could feel him drawing unconsciously on her dwindling reserves of strength. He must be feeling worse than she'd even realized.
"To Krisilia, a team will be sent. Assist you, they will. For now, rest you must and regain your strength."
"But Master," Obi-Wan interjected at last, "We must search for our apprentices. The longer we wait, the colder the trail will be. We don't have the time to rest." Even his voice sounded tired, gravelly.
"Rest, you need, Obi-Wan," Yoda countered, his face growing larger on the screen as he leaned forward into the camera. "In a dangerous state are you. You must heal, or help your padawan, you will not." Yoda closed his eyes and appeared to concentrate for a moment. "Mysterious are the ways of the Force. Meant to happen, this may have been. Help you solve the mystery of the governor's disappearance, it will."
"Yes, Master," they sighed, simultaneously.
Mace appeared again. "A team has been dispatched to your location, but they won't arrive for several standard days. Do you need medical assistance?"
"No," Obi-Wan replied sharply, before Siri could even open her mouth. "We'll rest, and we'll be fine."
Mace nodded his head, and the transmission was cut.
Obi-Wan pressed his forehead into Siri's shoulder. "Un-fucking-believable," he mumbled.
She pulled his arms more tightly around her. "Since when do you swear so much?"
"I always have," he replied, voice muffled slightly against her body. "But only around close friends."
She smiled at that; she couldn't help it. It suddenly seemed very important to be counted by him as a close friend.
"Let's get you to bed," she said softly, patting his hand.
He stiffened. "I don't want to rest. I want to find Anakin. I don't care what Yoda thinks we should do."
"What Yoda ordered us to do," she reminded gently. How ironic that she was now the one who was trying to convince him to follow orders.
"Siri, I can't. I can't rest, I can't sleep, I can't think." He took a deep, trembling breath. "I can't sit still while my padawan is missing, possibly in danger. I have to do something." Despite the resolve in his voice, he didn't move. He merely leaned against her more heavily.
She decided that arguing with him would be futile. She loosened his arms and stood, then pulled him to his feet. She wrapped her arm around his waist and draped one of his arms about her shoulders. "We can discuss it while I tuck you in. Walk."
He didn't argue. It seemed to take all of his concentration to get across the suite to the bedroom. He sat heavily on the bed and closed his eyes. She removed his boots, one at a time, and set them aside. Kneeling on the floor before him, she was struck by how utterly exhausted he appeared. She realized that she probably looked no better, but he looked as bad as she'd ever seen him. He was pale and sweating, and his eyes were glazed. His strength seemed to be waning by the second. She helped him out of his clothes, deciding after a moment's thought to leave his leggings on. He leaned back against the wall, legs splayed in front of him, dazed.
She climbed up to sit beside him. "Would you like me to stay? I could try to put you to sleep." That might be difficult in the state she was in, though. Who am I kidding? I don't want to be alone right now.
He nodded, his expression blank. She paused for a moment before standing and stripping out of her clothing, down to underwear. He wouldn't notice, and she hated sleeping in her clothes.
He'd stretched out on the bed, on top of the blanket. He mumbled something incoherent, and then was quiet.
Siri sighed and stroked his forehead before wrapping the top blanket around him as best she could. She slid under the sheets and stretched out on her side, spooned into his chest. His breathing was smooth and shallow, and it lulled her to sleep.
She dreamed they were children again, and had been captured and taken to the underground Re-Learning Center on Kegan. Uniformed security "guides" tried to separate them, but they held each other's hands fiercely and would not let go. The guides pulled so hard that their clothing tore, so hard that it hurt, but still they held on to each other by sheer will. Finally, the guides gave up and tossed them into a small room together. They collapsed on the sleeping pallet, arms wrapped around each other, and shivered.