Part One: Jedi Temple, Coruscant, 32 BBY
He had lived.
Had the molten red blade been one iota to the left, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn knew that it most certainly would have killed him. He’d spoken fervently with Obi-Wan, after his padawan had dispatched the Sith Lord, begging him to care for Anakin, to train him. Wrung a promise from the distraught man’s lips. He thought he was going to die.
But he had lived.
As it was, the gaping, cauterized hole in his side had left Qui-Gon in the medi-bay, trussed up and fussed over. His surroundings stank of the sickly-sweet bacta, and eventually, the scent of it left an irremovable taste in his mouth. As always, he detested his stay.
But none of that mattered, because he was alive.
If Qui-Gon had not lived, Anakin Skywalker’s fate would have been drastically altered.
In the months following their duel against the Sith, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan had been on enforced leave. His apprentice had been knighted, after Qui-Gon was well enough recovered to leave the medi-bay. That, of all things, was the only certain factor to be determined in the aftermath. Obi-Wan had shown considerable skill in his victory, and had maintained his inner serenity despite the rage of the Sith. Qui-Gon had been immensely proud, but, as always, felt a strange distance from the young man of whom he was immensely fond.
Despite the imminent knighthood, or, perhaps, because of it, Qui-Gon had seen an awful lot of Obi-Wan, especially during the early stages of recovery. Obi-Wan doted on his Master incessantly, but was still quick to become agitated by his infuriating ways. Especially on the consideration of one factor in particular.
Young Anakin Skywalker.
With Obi-Wan’s impending knighthood, Qui-Gon, as soon as he was able, had announced that he intended to take Anakin as his new padawan. Instead, the council had rejected his request once more. Qui-Gon had pushed. The council pushed back, harder. And Obi-Wan, ever the shrewd peacekeeper (though in Qui-Gon’s head he thought Obi-Wan’s a diplomat; in spite of his general distaste for them, he’d have flourished in a political arena) had attempted to drip honeyed words into his obstinate master’s ear. It wasn’t that Obi-Wan disliked Anakin. Much to the contrary, they seemed to have grown far closer than Qui-Gon had ever anticipated. Obi-Wan mothered Anakin as much as he did his old Master. All the same, no words from Obi-Wan could change his mind on the matter of Anakin’s training.
Qui-Gon, however, was steadfast.
He had lived, and the Force was urging him, persistently, relentlessly, to act.
He had lived, and he would not let that gift go to waste.
“Masters, I have come before you this last time to ask your permission to train Anakin Skywalker, to take him as my padawan learner,”
Mace Windu’s elbows rested on the arms of his seat. He steepled his fingers, resting his chin on the tallest two, before fixing Qui-Gon with an inscrutable gaze. The Korun master let out a sigh, but said nothing. He would wait to speak his stone willed words. Wait until others had dithered first.
Qui-Gon’s attention was drawn to the other end of the room, where Ki-Adi-Mundi had leant back in his chair.
“I quite like the boy,” He stated with simple finality. “I believe that under your tutelage, he would become a great Jedi. But it is not my opinion that matters. We made this decision as a council, despite how each of us may feel about the matter independently,” The Cerean stroked his beard, pensive. “However much potential young Skywalker has, we have made our final decision,”
There was a general murmur, verbal as well as physical, heads nodding here and there. Shaak Ti seemed particularly staunch, her montrals shifting gently against her shoulders in her earnestness. She had been particularly vocal in the case against him.
“The council has made its decision, Master Jinn. You must abide by it,” Mace Windu finally spoke. As Master of the Order, it was his ceremonial right to the last word, unless Yoda decided to speak as well. Curiously, the wizened Grand Master remained silent.
Gracious, Qui-Gon turned to sweep the room’s occupants with his glance. “If that is your decision, Masters, then you leave me no choice,”
“Hrmpf,” Yoda scoffed at his Grand-Padawan. All eyes drew to the ancient Master. “No choice, have you? Always, a choice, there is, Master Qui-Gon. Always, more than one path before us,” Yoda pointed one of his three fingers accusingly at Qui-Gon. “Already chosen another path, you have,”
“What is this, ‘other path’, Master Jinn?” Plo Koon asked calmly. Only a hint of intrigue spilled into his tone.
“I have meditated long on this matter, and I have not been deterred, Masters. Anakin is the One, and it falls to me to instruct him. He simply cannot go untrained. And if I must disobey this council to ensure that he is, I will,”
“Already decided, you have, so sure of our decision, you were,” Yoda settled back, gripping his gimmer stick tightly. “Pointless, this meeting was, if both are true,”
Qui-Gon only nodded firmly in response.
“Then we accept your resignation from this Order,” Mace concluded. His voice resonated with a firm, immovable tone, but his eyes were unreadable, as was his presence in the Force, much to Qui-Gon’s dismay. He was usually very adept at reading others emotions in the Force, but he suspected that Mace had been prepared for this probability long enough ago to be able to hide his reaction. Having been, up until that point, close friends, Qui-Gon had enjoyed sparring with the Vaapad master, and did not wish to damage their relationship. It had long been strained by his constant disagreements with the councils decisions, but he did not wish an end to that. His gaze flitted away from Windu, surveying the rest of the sitting members.
Ki-Adi-Mundi spoke once more. “I am sorry to see you go, Qui-Gon Jinn,”
“And I, all of you. But it is the correct course, of that I am certain,” He paused a moment, catching Yoda’s eye. “I renounce this Order only in name. I will maintain its principles,” He spoke carefully, choosing his words with precision.
Yoda leveled his gaze, and they stared at one another. “Happy with this decision, to leave, I am not." There was a long pause. "Accept your pledge, I do,”
Qui-Gon bowed, and, without and further discussion, or wishes of farewell, the meeting was adjourned. With a swirl of his cloak, Qui-Gon exited the council chambers. Despite the peace he’d come to feel about his decision, there was still one sore point. He had yet to speak with Obi-Wan. It wasn’t that he was worried about his former apprentice, but rather that he knew the young man would not understand. Indeed, Qui-Gon expected that when he found out, Obi-Wan would be quite cross. And so, Qui-Gon had decided, he would do the prudent thing: he would cross that bridge should it even enter their path. Inwardly, it rang out to him cowardly. But that too, Qui-Gon was at peace with. Only time would come to settle Obi-Wan’s feelings on the matter. And that, Qui-Gon now had in spades.
In the end, he did not have to face Obi-Wan. A small piece of his heart hurt at the thought of leaving the young man behind without another word, but the last time he had seen him, he had reiterated all that he felt – all the pride and contentment that Obi-Wan evoked in him. Obi-Wan simply wouldn’t know that it had been goodbye until it was too late. Better that they part on good terms, than on bad.
The council had gifted him several things, two training sabers were among their belongings now, and a set of new clothing for Anakin, who had so little to begin with. They’d also given him a small two man fighter; he’d fought against it, but in the end Qui-Gon had to concede. Anakin was more than happy to pilot the thing, that was certain. Within a day after the meeting, they were off. Once into their docking ring, hyperspace was quickly engaged, and Anakin, ever curious, yet tempered by the somber implications of his situation, had questions.
“If I can’t be a Jedi, Master, sir, then what will I be if you train me?”
Qui-Gon, ever patient, smiled kindly. “I have promised to train you in the ways of the Jedi, but I will do it as I see fit. You may not be trained in the temple, or carry the title, but membership alone does not a Jedi make, young Ani,”
Qui-Gon’s young charge looked back at him in earnestness. “I am sorry you had to leave the Order, Master. I could have returned to Naboo. Pad-The Queen told me I’d be welcome there if the Order didn’t have a place for me. I didn’t want this to happen, Master, sir,”
“Oh Ani,” Qui-Gon sighed. “It is the same for me, as it is for you. I am still a Jedi, not perhaps in name, but in action, and belief, and duty. I would not give up this chance to train you. Not for anything, young one. It is the will of the Force that you be trained. It is what is meant to be. I am only following the path that has been set before me. Do not take responsibility on yourself. You are not at fault,”
“Thank you, Master,”
“Perhaps,” Qui-Gon leant back in his seat, swiveling to face the child head on. “Perhaps we can begin your instruction now, with but a simple lesson. A first lesson,” The Force guided him, effortless, purposeful. There was something on the horizon, just beyond the reach of Qui-Gon’s penetrating gaze. Something was changing. Altering. Permanently. Something important. He could feel it. “There have been many iterations of the Jedi code over the years, altered and changed and then returned to a previous form, and altered again. But this is the code I will teach you…”
Part Two: Fields of Banir, Dantooine, 30 BBY
Emotion, yet peace.
He ran through his katas, almost effortless, but sweating profusely, the purple and yellow grasses behind him swaying with him, as if they were one. The only sound in the air was the hum of the practice saber and the rush of the wind. He could hear his own breathing, the sound of the blood pounding in his veins, thrumming with adrenaline. He was utterly aware of everything going on around him; his conscious was the conscious of the bounding Iriaz in the fields beyond, the bugs beneath, the birds in the sky. They were him, and he was them. He felt the Force flow between them, around them, within them.
Ignorance, yet knowledge.
Several klicks away, rising out of the distance like a strangely shaped mountain was the ruins of an ancient Jedi Temple. As Anakin danced through the repetitive movements, he crossed in and out of the structure’s axis. It hovered behind him on the horizon like a shadow. The Force was particularly concentrated there, and its potency ebbed and intensified like waves on a shore; a push/pull between the Force and her Child. He drew on it, and she pulled him in.
Passion, yet serenity.
In his peripheral senses, he could feel Qui-Gon looking on as he drilled himself, but his focus was on the task at hand. He executed a particularly difficult kata, balancing himself with some extra effort. He recalled the movements, fluidly executing his patterns. Again, and again he had practice. Now, with each repetition, the movements grew more exact, less calculated. They were becoming…innate.
Chaos, yet harmony.
His blade, a green blur, twirled and flew, a flurry of quick, sharp movements, each falling in line with the next. The footwork for those moves was less involved, as he let his focus surge into his upper body, still keeping his awareness open and on everything Underfoot, he could sense the grubs and bugs, bustling, burrowing. He avoided stepping on something that slithered past, sidestepping as it continued on its way. The world around him was alive, and he was One with it.
Death, yet the Force.
The final kata of the sequence was intense, ending in an offensive position. Twilight was falling as the sun, Dina, gave way to the first of the planets two moons. A Kath hound howled distantly. Anakin was breathing heavily, his eyes shut, but not squeezed tight, shut so gently that they flickered, lashes leaving hinted shadows on his cheeks. The Padawan took several slow, deep breaths, expelling his excess energy and settling his body. Slowly, he came back to himself, his awareness receding. The blade retracted with a whoosh, and, slowly, languid, Anakin relaxed his body.
He opened his eyes.
Before him, his Jedi Master, the great Qui-Gon Jinn.
His hair was long; longer than it had been when they’d first arrived. Anakin had joked that, should they cut it, it would be useful to make rope, but Qui-Gon had only smiled in appeasement. All the same, Anakin had offered to braid it up for him, the way he’d often done for his mother, just the way she’d taught him once, long ago. Qui-Gon had acquiesced, and it had become a daily ritual between them. Anakin knew all manner of styles, and together they’d found something that worked. Qui-Gon would sip his tea and Anakin would stand behind him, braiding. It felt like home, in those moments. He could close his eyes, and pretend… But as much as he missed his mother and their traditions, the life he had been given, Anakin would trade for nothing.
The Padawan replaced the practice saber on his belt clip and bowed at the waist.
“Well done, Ani. That was excellent. You’ve improved greatly on that eighth position. Next time, we’ll add in the twelfth and thirteenth. I think you’re ready for the challenge. ” Qui-Gon always spoke with warmth in his voice. It filled Anakin to bursting every time, and he beamed with the joy of it.
Qui-Gon joined him in the field. The second moon was cresting the horizon. A sigh drifted through the air between them. Calm. Peace. Isolation.
“It’s been two years today,”
The clouds were purple against the last golden rays. Anakin could feel Qui-Gon’s presence reaching for him, content and companionable. After so long in each other’s orbit, the familiar tug was a homey comfort on a world that had once been so alien to the desert born boy.
“Two years is a long time for one as young as you, my Padawan,”
“It is,” Anakin’s head tilted in consideration. “But it still seems only yesterday, sometimes, that I was back home on Tatooine,”
The word had yet to leave Anakin’s vocabulary. Tatooine was home, for home was where his mother was.
“You’ve come a long ways, Ani,” There was a second meaning in Qui-Gon’s words. Anakin felt it as well as heard.
“I have a long ways yet to go,”
Every once in a while, Anakin offered an insight that truly astonished Qui-Gon. The boy was still very much the same excitable child he’d discovered on Tatooine, yet, even then, he had often had a wisdom that belayed his experience.
The pensive moment lasted until twilight had descended utterly upon the world, then, silently and in tandem, the Master and Apprentice walked back into their home.