selenak: (Ashoka and Anakin by Welshgater)
[personal profile] selenak
After marathoning The Clone Wars, I was awash in Star Wars feelings in general, and feelings about the Anakin and Ahsoka relationship in particular. Which inevitably resulted in fanfiction. This story is a bit too long to do a commentary for the entire text, which you can find here, so I’ll focus only on some of the, to quote the summary, “Eight lessons Anakin Skywalker learns through Ahsoka Tano, and one Darth Vader does”.



I.

"Remember, Anakin," Obi -Wan tells him when he is still fuming about Yoda's decision to assign a padawan learner to him, "the master learns as much from the padawan as the padawan learns from the master."

"Oh, really," Anakin retorts, unable to pass up this opportunity. "And what did you learn from me, Master?"

"Patience, of course," Obi-Wan says, dead-pan, and the corners of his mouth twitch, with for Obi-Wan is the equivalent of kneeslapping hilarity. In truth, Obi-Wan seems to regard this entire situation as a source of endless mirth, and if Obi-Wan wasn't above any such concept as petty revenge, Anakin would have a strong suspicion as to why this is the case.

Just for the record, Anakin may think Obi-Wan is above Schadenfreude, but I don’t. Mind you, I also think Obi-Wan was determined to look out for Ahsoka if Anakin had turned out to be incapable of mentoring her; I think in that case, Obi-Wan would have told the Council they really needed to assign her to another Master. But this turned out not to be the case, and so I suspect Obi-Wan regarded the early phase of the Anakin and Ahsoka relationship as the ways of the Force being very very just.

Anakin, thinking of the thirteen years old girl he's just been given responsibility for, is entirely prepared to believe Yoda meant this to be a moral lesson, but surely, there would have been other ways to give it than to throw a child at him. What's he supposed to do with her, repeat lessons in the middle of a war?

The Jedi throwing children and young teens in war situations before you can say “child soldier” is its own murky hell of a premise. Note that Anakin doesn’t really get that part of the problem; he wouldn’t, given Watto started to let him race in lethally dangerous races for profit when Anakin was five.

"She's older than you were," Obi-Wan says abruptly, the teasing note in his voice entirely gone, "and you're not much younger than I was when Qui-Gon died."

Anakin opens his mouth to protest that the situations aren't remotely comparable, sees that Obi-Wan isn't kidding anymore, and stays silent. The idea of Obi-Wan not as an adult who had all the answers and knew what he was doing but as a young man with confusion in his heart when their time together began is new and startling enough to make Anakin stop the entire argument, for now. Both his love for and resentment of Obi-Wan Kenobi have always been mixed up in the assumption that his Master is and has ever been the perfect Jedi, effortlessly so.

The way Anakin sees Obi-Wan and the way Obi-Wan sees himself, and how they see their relationship with each other, being so very very different is part of their tragedy. Just look at Anakin’s “you’re the closest thing I have to a father” in “Attack of the Clones” versus Obi-Wan’s “you were my brother” in “Revenge of the Sith”. The age gap between Obi-Wan and Anakin isn’t quite enough for a father-son type of relationship (unless Obi-Wan had been a teenage father), but it’s a bit too big for a purely fraternal one, and the Master/Padawan situation creates inevitably a certain hierarchy. That said, I think the fact that their relationship is arguably at its best in the first twenty minutes of “Revenge of the Sith” (if you only take the movies) and through the entirety of the “Clone Wars” series has a lot to do with them being in a somewhat more equal footing there, partly due to the war, but also partly due to the existence of Ahsoka and Anakin experiencing what it is like to be in the mentor position.

But maybe Obi-Wan hasn't always been. Maybe he has felt just like this when faced with the responsibility of raising someone to be a good Jedi: not so secretly scared, and aware that admitting to fear was impossible.

Later, he wonders whether that was the first lesson taking Ahsoka as his padawan has taught him.
________________________________________
The next excerpt came to be because Anakin teaching Ahsoka how to do repairs is something the Clone Wars include every now and then; Anakin’s affinity to machines throughout the prequels is impossible to miss, but it makes points beyond the obvious Vader foreshadowing.

III.

Ahsoka is good with her lightsaber, and becomes better once he starts training with her, but being constantly in the field together, often in cramped ships or hastily built camps, means there is a distinct lack of opportunity for traditional meditation. Anakin, aware meditation isn't a strength of his anyway but that it is a part of any padawan's training which can't be allowed to be neglected, decides to teach Ahsoka how to be a mechanic.

One early episode where we see how this is useful to Ahsoka is the one with her and Barriss trapped under a lot of rubble and steel. A few seasons later, on Mortis, she’s the one conducting repairs. Now of course there’s an obvious Doylist explanation - i.e. the order in which the SW movies were written – as to why neither of Anakin’s biological children show his particular gift for mechanics, whereas Ahsoka seems to have taken to it like a duck to water, but on a Watsonian level, I like the idea that because he actually did spend years with Ahsoka, he could share this part of himself with her and bequeath it to her.

"It'll help you hone your focus, Snips," he says. "Teach you to keep out all the noise of the galaxy around you. And there are never enough good mechanics on a ship anyway, so there's never a lack of opportunity. "

"That's how you meditate?" she asks doubtfully.

"Absolutely," he affirms, though it would be more precise to say that this is his way of calming down whenever he's upset, which isn't exactly the same thing. It's something he doesn't have to think about, something he's always been good at, something from the past that's not tainted and was never taken away. And he does feel one with the Force when he's doing repairs.

I think my favourite example of Anakin using repairs to not explode is when he sees Watto again in “Attack of the Clones” and keeps repairing Watto’s whatever-it-was throughout the conversation, which is about how Watto sold Shmi.

"You mean it makes you happy," Ahsoka says, not challengingly. He sees the curiosity and wonder in her wide blue Togruta eyes and swallows the instinctive denial born out of the awareness that any emotion stronger than serenity could be somewhat suspicious, and that working with machines, while a necessity of life, should be regarded as inferior to the spiritual inspiration contemplation of an idea can provide.

"Yes," he says.

That Anakin can be emotional around Ahsoka without having to feel guilty about it is part of what makes the relationship. For both parties; when Ahsoka tells her older self on Mortis “he’s like no other Jedi”, I doubt she’s referring to Anakin’s anger management problems. (Especially since she’s defending him.)

Her nose crinkles.

"Do I get to hone my focus on installing a holo music transmitter?" she asks, with both mischief and some eagerness in her voice.

She might be maturing through the show, but she is a teenage girl. And I think that's another reason why this most unlikely of master/padawan relationships works out: he's not that much older, and occasionally they get to be kids together.

Admiral Yularen had declared just the other day that while he has nothing against soldier bringing recordings from Coruscant bands with them, any communications channel on board should only be used for the exchange of command news, not to download entertainment programs.

"Sounds like a worthy meditation project to me," Anakin says, and in the bond the Force has created between them, he feels her delight.
________________________________________
On to a darker segment, because the fact Ahsoka grows up in the middle of a war and that Anakin among other things also has to teach her how to be efficient as a killer is also part of their situation.

V.

The fact the Separatists keep using Droid armies means Ahsoka is a seasoned soldier before she kills an organic, living and sentient being for the first time, with her own hands. It's one of the Neimodians, not a coward like Nute Grunray but one who actually stays around when the battle turns against the Separatists. Ahsoka had intended to take him hostage in order to end the fight, but he fired a blaster at her which she deflected with her light saber, and the backlash killed him.
There was no time during the battle, but afterwards, Anakin finds her wandering aimlessly through the mess hall instead of eating with the Clones, which is what she and Anakin usually do.

"There's something not quite right with the Twilight' air system," he says, ushering her out of the mess hall. "Help me out, Snips."

Continuing the repairs-as-emotional-grounding theme.

She's gotten good enough to hand him the right tools before he asks, good enough, in fact, to know there's nothing wrong with the air system and that what he's doing is nothing but a routine check up, but she doesn't comment on it. Instead, she says, with a small voice:

"I always thought it would be somebody I hated. I was afraid it would be. It's so hard, keeping away from hate when you see some of the things the Seppies do. But I didn't feel anything about him when it happened. It just - happened. Is that worse or better than hate, Master?"

Not the best question to ask the future Darth Vader. Or perhaps it is.

Above all others, there is one memory connected to killing in hate that's burned in his mind, but he shoves it aside and tries to focus on what she needs from him now, which is reassurance.
"He would not be dead if he hadn't attacked you. You did what you had to do."

"I know that," she says. "But he was alive. And now he's not. It should - shouldn't it feel like more?"

"Before I came to Coruscant," Anakin replies, not looking at her but at the intricacies of the ventilation system, "I thought Droids were alive, just as we are. I mean, I knew we built them, obviously. But it never occurred to me that this made a difference."

Usually, he doesn't talk about his past with her, not even the good parts, because she's so curious that one question would lead to another. But not in her current state of mind.

"Sometimes I still wonder."

This of course entirely my own speculation and head canon. SW always shies away from going too deeply into the question of just how sentient the droids are. The closest we get is the three parter where it turns out that Anakin against orders hasn’t wiped R2D2’s memory, and while he gives some not very convincing excuses for this, the implication certainly is that he didn’t do so because he sees R2 as an individual sentient being and a friend. Otoh, Anakin – and all the rest of the Jedi – certainly take out Droids by the thousands in both movies and tv shows, and once I started to wonder about the possible meaning if Anakin sees Droids as sentient life, well, it led me to this segment.

He hears her sharp intake of breath.

"Droids are machines," Ahsoka protests. "Property."

He doesn't say he used to be property, too. That is a secret for another time, if ever. "Rex was paid for, too," he says instead. "He was engineered. They all were. And they're the best men I know, other than Obi-Wan."

"The Clankers aren't like the Clones," Ahsoka says indignantly. "They're stupid, vile machines and... Why are you telling me this? You're not helping!"

See, if she’d come with this to most other Jedi, they’d also have said “you did what you had to do”, but would have followed it up with something like “yes, it’s important not to become casual about killing; meditate on that for a while, but keep your mind on the will of the Force”. Anakin instead says something which might actually make her feel worse, not better. But he’s being honest to her. And that, too, is quintessential for their relationship.

He waits.

"Do you really think they're alive? And that we kill them? That I've already been killing people all this time?" she whispers.

"I think those we fight would kill us if we didn't," Anakin says. "Just like the Neimodian who shot at you today. I think a lot of people - organic or otherwise - who need us to protect them would die if we don't."

She falls silent, and while he continues with his routine check up of a perfectly functioning system, trading instruments with her, he worries that he made the wrong decision. That he should have recited the Code to her instead, starting with "there is no emotion, there is peace". But that has never helped him when Obi-Wan did it.

He wonders when he stopped counting the people he killed, of either variety. He knows exactly how many there were during that night, the night he tried to drown in blood. He still knows the exact number, and how each looked. But not since then.

Whether being in a non-stop war situation for years contributed to or deterred Anakin’s Fall is debatable. My own guess is that it did contribute to him building up more and more of a “the end justifies the means” mentality, but at the same time, it didn’t make his going Sith inevitable. It doesn’t turn him amoral. He’s very aware that executing disarmed prisoners is wrong when he kills Dooku at the start of RotS, for example.

You can bring back droids. You can bring them back and return them to life from almost everything. Organic bodies are so fragile, and when they are broken beyond a certain point, you cannot fix them, not ever.

That’s the other side of Anakin’s pov on Droids.

He's always thought he should figure out a way, though, but that is neither here nor there, and Ahsoka next to him quietly takes up a tool that's not needed, either, and starts to tighten a few bolts on her own.

"You're terrible at this," Ahsoka says suddenly, but her voice doesn't sound lost anymore.

And she doesn’t really mean the repair at hand.

Instead, it sounds firm and aggrieved, a young girl complaining. "That air system has been modified so often that it's a wonder it's still working at all."

"It's working, that's what matters," Anakin replies.

"I guess so," she says, and for a moment, he feels her hand on his when she takes the tool away from him, slightly squeezing. "Thank you, Master."
________________________________________

And for my last commented excerpt from the story, here’s the last but one segment, which uses the Clone Wars fifth season mini arc of Obi-Wan faking his death to go undercover as background:

VIII.

When Obi-Wan dies - when Obi-Wan fakes his death, though Anakin won't find out this for a few more weeks, and when he does, the sense of betrayal won't go away for a long while -, Ahsoka is right next to him, and it's this that keeps Anakin from listening to the voice that tells him to drown the rage and loss that engulfs him in the way he has done once before.

Obi-Wan wouldn't want to be avenged, would undoubtedly be horrified at Anakin even contemplating it. But Obi-Wan isn't there anymore, won't be there again, not ever, and there is no justice in the scum who is responsible still being alive.

Ahsoka looks at him, and Anakin uses all the willpower he has to contain himself. This is no vision and no planet on another plane of reality. If he gives into the darkness again, nobody would be able to reverse it, and it would betray everything he tries to be for her.

The last time a parent figure died right in front of Anakin, well, we all know what happened. Of course, at this point in canon only two people other than Anakin himself are aware of this, Padmé and Palpatine, and Palpatine is busy arranging his own kidnapping. (One day I’ll write a Padmé pov story set during this period where in addition to Anakin being in silent brooding mode, she’s got a grieving Satine on her hands.) Ahsoka doesn’t know, but I do think her presence really is largely responsible for Anakin not losing it again at this point.

Somehow, they muddle through the next few days, tracking down Obi-Wan's killer, or so they think, bringing him in alive. Then there's a funeral and an endless parade of Obi-Wan's friends to go through ; and an emptiness of weeks threatening to stretch into months in which Anakin has time to consider everything he never told Obi-Wan, and just how much he failed him.

When he finds out Obi-Wan is alive, well, and has in fact built the entire scenario of his death around Anakin's reaction because Obi-Wan doesn't believe him capable of faking it for the benefit of his targets, Anakin is seriously tempted to strangle him. Ahsoka keeps him from giving into that particular impulse as well.

"Well, you are a terrible liar, Master," she says matter of factly when he's fuming about the deception, not bothering anymore to keep up the pretense of not critisizing another Jedi in the earshot of a padawan.

"That's not the point! Even if it were true. Which it's not. He could have let me know afterwards, at least."

And he didn't. None of them did, Yoda, Master Windu, the rest of the Council: they'd rather have him believe in Obi-Wan's death for weeks than trust him with the truth. Well, he should have expected this from the Council. They hadn't trusted him since they first saw him. But Obi-Wan...

I’m with Anakin at this point: I’d want to force-choke them as well. Okay, more seriously: this is where Yoda & Co. not having much of an emotional clue plants another seed for future havoc.

Anakin hits the Temple wall with enough force to put a slight dent in it, centuries hardened carbonate density of the material not withstanding. Which would be deeply satisfying at this point, but unfortunately, this is also enough force to leave some circuits in his artificial hand damaged, which he senses right away. He curses in Huttese, which feels far better than Basic to him right now.

Anakin cursing in Huttese is one of those SW fanon things where you’re almost sure it has to have happened in canon because it’s basically everywhere. But I think it never did, at least not on screen. Otoh he did grow up with the language (we see him talking in it in both PM and AotC), so it’s a more than plausible fanon for me.

"Do you think they'll make you repair it?" Ahsoka asks, staring at the dent in the wall and looking downright impressed.

"They'll have to wait until I've repaired myself," he mutters, and explains the problem.
"You don't have to," Ahsoka says immediately. "Let me do that."

And we get to the pay off for all the repair scenes before.

Anakin hesitates. He's taught her a lot, but as much delicacy as working on droid circuitry requires, his hand is yet another issue. After the initial adjustment by medical droids, he's made some modifications when necessary and has never let anyone else touch it. That's why he's wearing gloves most of the time.

"Don't you trust me?" she asks, and he gives in.

They're sitting in his room for an hour while she removes the outer shell to get at the damaged circuitry, just like he taught her; utterly focused, no gesture wasted, though when she's replacing a wire, she hesitates for a moment, and Anakin has to bite his tongue so he doesn't tell her which one to choose. He knows she hates it when he does that.

Does she ever. Anakin as a terrible back seat driver is featured early on in the show, think of scenes where Ahsoka is supposed to brief the ground force, and he does it instead.

"There," Ahsoka says triumphantly after putting back the last bit of durasteel. "Told you I could patch you up, Master."

He's known she could for a while, but he hadn't understood how much he depends on it until now.
And a few months later, of course, he loses her forever, thank you, Jedi Council. Anakin and Ahsoka: still breaking my heart in the best way. If I broke yours with the story, I’m evilly satisfied.

Date: 4 Jul 2017 19:50 (UTC)
musesfool: Ahsoka Tano (dynamite the dam on the flow)
From: [personal profile] musesfool
Thank you! You've got some great insights into Anakin and his relationships with both Ahsoka and Obi-Wan here.

And yeah, Anakin never realizes how young he was to have those responsibilities, let alone Ahsoka! I guess in a universe where 14yos can be elected ruling monarchs, 19yo generals can be a thing, but it seems like a bad idea all around to me.

Date: 7 Jul 2017 15:09 (UTC)
musesfool: Ahsoka Tano (dynamite the dam on the flow)
From: [personal profile] musesfool
. I do wonder what level of violence padawan learners in peace time were exposed to, age wise. Make that "teenage padawan learners"

From what little we've seen of Anakin's padawan days (afaik), it's less than a full scale war zone, but not by much? At least in the Anakin & Obi-Wan comic that I read that's still canon - they get shot down over a planet that's having an internal war and Anakin gets kidnapped at one point and a lot of people get killed. And that's not even taking into account the 'unofficial' trip Palpatine takes him on to a skeevy cantina which he is much too young to be in (I think he's 14 at the time?) that Obi-Wan doesn't know about.

Date: 4 Jul 2017 20:46 (UTC)
dhampyresa: (A most terrible case of the Star Wars)
From: [personal profile] dhampyresa
He doesn't say he used to be property, too. That is a secret for another time, if ever. "Rex was paid for, too," he says instead. "He was engineered. They all were. And they're the best men I know, other than Obi-Wan."
That's such a great line.

(One day I’ll write a Padmé pov story set during this period where in addition to Anakin being in silent brooding mode, she’s got a grieving Satine on her hands.)
I look forward to it!

Date: 6 Jul 2017 02:46 (UTC)
msilverstar: (viggo 09)
From: [personal profile] msilverstar
I am not a SW fan, but I enjoy these commentaries so much, they are great.

Date: 6 Jul 2017 04:30 (UTC)
labingi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] labingi
I really admire your ability to pull psychologically realistic and nuanced readings for Anakin and Obi-Wan out of what we've been given: ex. noting the discrepancy between "father" and "brother" as ways of seeing their relationship. The Clone Wars is definitely a better text for Anakin development than the films, but even so, I think your generosity with and attention to the canon does a lot of good work in bringing to life a somewhat sloppy body of work (at least compared to what it could have been).

One question:
...neither of Anakin’s biological children show his particular gift for mechanics.

Really? The farm boy so bent on power converters doesn't have the gift for mechanics?

Seriously, while I grant the Star Wars movies don't devote much time to actually showing Luke doing mechanic stuff, I'd always assumed that being mechanically inclined was about his third-most natural talent after being Force sensitive and being a great pilot. I always assumed they pushed Anakin's mechanic skills from The Phantom Menace on to push how much father and son are alike. Different readings, I guess. :)

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