Jedi Knight Feemor Altane trudged up the Temple stairs, unbelievably sore and stiff. He'd just completed an almost year long mission on the Outer Rim world of Firrerre, trying to placate a rebel faction and prevent civil war. As he made the despairingly long trek to his quarters, all Feemor could think about was how nice it would be to finally get some sleep.
Of course, that was before he collided with a distraught twelve year old boy in the hallway.
When they ran into each other, both far too preoccupied with their own thoughts to be paying enough attention to their surroundings, the boy stumbled and nearly fell over. Feemor reached out and caught him, helping the kid regain his balance. They looked at each other, and Feemor was struck by the incredible sadness in the boy's brilliant blue eyes.
"Are you alright, Initiate-?"
"Kenobi," the boy answered, "Obi-Wan Kenobi." He dropped his gaze. "I'm not actually an initiate anymore."
Obi-Wan shook his head.
"I'm going to join the Agricultural Corps on Bandomeer."
Feemor blinked, dumbfounded. The Agri-Corps? No, that couldn't be right.
He was pretty much blind and deaf where the Unifying Force was concerned, but even Feemor could see this kid wasn't meant to be a farmer. The Force was a veritable whirlwind around him, strong and bright and singing a single word with crystal clarity.
Then Feemor processed the rest of Obi-Wan's sentence, and he felt a distinctly un-Jedi like anger flare in his chest.
Something was wrong.
"Hold on," Feemor held up his hands, "you're telling me the Council assigned a thirteen year old to Bandomeer? That Force forsaken rock?"
Obi-Wan tightened his grip on the strap of the bag slung over his shoulder.
"Well, I won't be thirteen for another four weeks, but-"
"You're not thirteen yet?"
As he looked into Obi-Wan's suspiciously bright eyes, Feemor swore he would make every member of the Council regret the day they were born.
"No," Obi-Wan tilted his head, "why?"
Feemor pinched the bridge of his nose and tried to take deep breaths. He didn't want Obi-Wan to think he was angry at him. The kid was clearly having a bad enough day already.
"Well if you're not thirteen, then you still have time to find a master."
Obi-Wan looked back at the floor again.
"No other masters are looking for an apprentice. Today, Master Jinn, he was my only hope."
"Qui Gon Jinn?" Feemor asked, fighting the near overwhelming urge to scream.
Force, that stubborn old-
"Did he say why he wouldn't train you?"
For a moment, it almost seemed that Obi-Wan wouldn't answer, and Feemor made a conscious effort to project patience and understanding rather than the frustration that was beginning to take hold.
"I'm too aggressive." Obi-Wan's voice wavered. "Master Jinn said it'd be better not to train me, since I'd probably turn Dark."
There wasn't so much as a whisper of darkness around this kid. Obi-Wan had the purest Force signature Feemor had ever seen.
Something was very wrong.
Feemor pushed his anger aside. He'd take care of that later. Right now there were more important things to deal with, like making sure Obi-Wan didn't get shipped off to the most miserable little mining planet in the galaxy.
"Alright, Obi-Wan," Feemor crouched down to be on eye level with him, "now I can't promise you that you'll find a master, but as long as I have anything to say about it, you're not going to Bandomeer."
Obi-Wan's face took on a look of guarded hopefulness.
"What are you going to do?"
This made Feemor pause for a moment.
He had no idea what he was going to do; he wasn't even sure where the unexpectedly intense urge to help this kid had come from. It just seemed right, somehow.
A lot of Jedi liked to say there are no such thing as coincidences. Feemor wasn't sure about that, but something about this meeting felt... destined.
"We're going to talk with Master Windu," Feemor said finally, standing up again.
The Force, which up to this point had felt like it was twisting itself into knots, relaxed, apparently satisfied with Feemor's answer.
A ghost of a smile crossed Obi-Wan's face, and the Force flooded with gratitude. Feemor's anger melted away into sadness.
What had happened to this kid to make him so thankful for such a simple act of care and consideration?
The smile faded, and Obi-Wan tilted his head again, reminding Feemor of a Tooka kit.
"Is something wrong, Obi-Wan?"
"I-" Obi-Wan seemed embarassed- "you're doing so much for me, and I don't even know your name."
Feemor grinned at Obi-Wan's shyness, wondering how anyone could ever deem him too aggressive to be a Jedi.
"Feemor," he answered, "my name is Feemor Altane."
Obi-Wan bowed respectfully, catching Feemor off guard.
"Thank you, Master Altane."
"It's my pleasure, Initiate Kenobi."
"If that's all-"
"Actually," Feemor interrupted, acutely aware of the surprise that rippled through the Council chambers, "there is another matter I'd like to address."
Feemor's bright green eyes turned to the Head of the Council, and Mace Windu nodded in reponse to his silent query.
"You may continue, Master Altane."
"Upon my return to the Temple last night," Feemor said as he walked towards the door, "I discovered something unsettling, which I discussed with Master Windu."
Feemor palmed open the door and ushered the waiting Obi-Wan into the room. When they reached the center of the circular chamber, Feemor placed a hand on Obi-Wan's shoulder comfortingly, sensing his anxiety in the Force.
"I'm sure you all know Obi-Wan, as the Council apparently saw fit to assign him to the Agri-Corps base on Bandomeer." One Councilor looked as if they were going to interrupt, but Feemor simply set his jaw and barreled on. "I found him on his way to a transport that I later found out had miners from two rival corporations, which included, on one side, Hutts." Feemor cast a challenging look around the room, satisfied to find that most of the Council wouldn't meet his eyes. The few that would (Plo Koon, Ki-Adi-Mundi, and, of course, Mace) were clearly as unhappy as he was with the whole mess. Good. "Now, I'm certain the Council, in all their infinite wisdom, realizes how dangerous this situation would have been for a young boy."
"Just a minute," someone said, "Initiate Kenobi is perfectly capable of taking care of himself."
Feemor cleared his throat. He'd been waiting for this argument.
"Obi-Wan," he began softly, "have you ever been out of the Temple by yourself?"
"No," Obi-Wan leaned back against Feemor as he answered, seeking reassurance, and Feemor squeezed his shoulder gently.
"Did anyone inform you of the potential danger before you left?"
"And how long until your thirteenth birthday?"
Feemor's eyes blazed with what could only be described as righteous vindication.
"So," it took significant willpower not to snarl, "a child who knows nothing of life outside the Temple, who still has almost a month to find a master, and what do the Order's best and wisest do? Send him blindly into the middle of a corporate warzone, with some of the galaxy's most notoriously vile and selfish creatures and no supervision." Feemor lifted his chin defiantly. "It seems to me that the Order has failed in its most sacred duty, protecting the children in our care."
A slight movement from the left side of the room drew his gaze.
"Thank you for bringing this to our attention, Master Altane," Plo Koon said, "we must discuss the matter further, but Initiate Kenobi will be allowed to remain in the Temple."
Feemor could tell that the Kel-Dor Jedi Master would have taken Obi-Wan as his own apprentice right then, if it were possible. He resisted the urge to smirk; he'd done his job well.
If I earn censure for this, Feemor thought, it'll be worth it.
He'd given Obi-Wan another chance.
As the third week passed with no assignment, Feemor began to get suspicious.
The Council hadn't officially punished him for his outburst, which was surprising in and of itself, but it was even more surprising that they didn't immediately send him off on some appropriately grueling mission for his impudence.
Not that Feemor was complaining, after all, this meant he could keep an eye on a certain red headed Jedi Initiate.
Feemor visited Obi-Wan pretty much daily, mostly just talking or watching him in the training salles with the other initiates.
Through their conversations, Feemor learned that Obi-Wan was exceptionally clever, excelling in almost every subject, and he had quite the mouth on him, once he got past his initial timidity.
Then there were his natural skills with a lightsaber. It was clear enough that Obi-Wan was at the stage where he had to get used to awkward growth spurts, but he managed to anticipate his clumsiness and work around it. Every misstep and stumble was turned into part of the dance.
Feemor found himself wondering, not for the first time, how no one had offered to train Obi-Wan yet.
Sure, he did have bit of a short temper, but Feemor had seen much worse, and it was almost completely overshadowed by the boy's compassion and dedication.
As Feemor sat in his quarters, hovering on the edge of meditation, a sudden jolt of fear made his throat close up. It took the Jedi a moment before he realized it wasn't his own and traced its true origin.
The initiate dorms.
Feemor rose and quickly left his quarters.
As Feemor neared the site of the disturbance, he slowed his pace, silencing his approach. He soon found what the Force had warned him of.
Two boys, initiates by the looks of them, had trapped a third against the wall. The bullies spouted taunting insults and cruel laughter at their victim, who cowered against the wall with his hands balled into fists, radiating an overwhelming mixture of terrorangerhelplessness.
Feemor cleared his throat, drawing himself up to his full height.
He'd promised himself that he'd never use his stature to intimidate the Order's younger members, but today Feemor believed an exception could be made.
The bullies turned to face him. They looked horrified, though it was clearly less at their reprehensible actions than at being caught.
"Tell me," Feemor crossed his arms, "do you two believe this is acceptable behavior for Jedi?"
"N-no, Master," the boys stammered in unison
"You knew what you were doing was wrong, yet you continued to do it?" Feemor was sure to make it clear that that was a question, forcing the initiates to answer.
Feemor kept his expression carefully blank as he looked at them.
"As I thought," he finally said, "you can be sure that your clan leader and Master Yoda will hear of this." The young bullies looked even more afraid than before. "Well? Return to your dorms, I think you've done quite enough here."
Bruck Chun and Aalto Evane scurried away as quickly as they could, not once looking back.
Feemor kneeled down, softening his expression and voice.
"Obi-Wan," he waited until the boy was looking at him, "this isn't the first time something like this has happened, is it?"
"No," Obi-Wan admitted, quietly.
Feemor placed his hands on Obi-Wan's shoulders.
"You could've told me."
"I know," fresh tears ran down Obi-Wan's already salt stained cheeks, "I'm sorry."
Feemor pulled Obi-Wan into a hug, and the boy clung to him.
"It's alright," he said, "you have nothing to apologize for, Obi-Wan. It's not your fault." Feemor could still feel Obi-Wan shaking in his arms. "It's not your fault."
The significance of those words, beyond what had just transpired, were not lost on either of them.
Qui Gon's rejection, the bullying, almost being kicked out of the Order for good... It's not your fault.
Sometimes it seemed the Force could change its mind in an instant, suddenly throwing new events into motion. Or maybe it was never really sudden at all.
Either way, sometimes all it took was a moment, a thought.
But Bruck was right, I'll never find a Master.
He'd heard it as clearly as if Obi-Wan had spoken aloud, perhaps moreso.
If he hadn't been holding Obi-Wan, Feemor would've dragged his hands down his face in an appropriately dramatic and self deprecatory fashion.
Sometimes, he thought, I can just be so Force damned stupid.
"There's something important I need to ask you."
"By unanimous vote, Master of the Order abstaining, the Council approves your partnership."
Feemor could see Obi-Wan's eyes light up at Mace's words.
"Congratulations, Padawan Kenobi."
The Force sighed in contentment.
It's about time, it seemed to say.
Feemor privately agreed.
(Sometime he'd have to remember to go back and tell his former Master what a stubborn fool he was for turning down such a bright student, but that was for another day.)