There was the moment when everything seemed fine, and then there was the moment when Qui-Gon Jinn realized that something was seriously wrong… and that nothing might be completely fine ever again.
He looked across the room at his partner, Obi-Wan Kenobi, who was sitting in the plush chair by the window that looked out onto the vastness of Coruscant. Obi-Wan had only pulled on trousers that day. The sunlight fell on his bare chest, still supple and muscled but with the looseness of skin brought by age, and gleamed on his white hair and beard. Obi-Wan had a datapadd on his lap and poked at it occasionally, but randomly, not methodically as if he was truly studying the text.
"Obi-Wan, are you alright?"
Obi-Wan looked at him impatiently and frowned. "Yes."
"Are you sure?"
Obi-Wan did not deign to answer, looking out the window instead. He'd been unresponsive for several hours, shaking his head with disinterest when Qui-Gon offered breakfast, and speaking only in yes or no answers.
"What are you reading?"
Obi-Wan looked at him and held up the padd, then put it down on his thigh again.
Now seriously alarmed, Qui-Gon stood up and crossed the room. His love was a complex man – intelligent, dedicated, sexy, observant, demanding, sincere and yet flippant – but he was never simply non-communicative. They'd had a fight the night before, a discussion of the seminar they were to teach evolving into a pointless argument about the decaying state of the political structure, Palpatine's newest mandates, and how the overburdened Jedi should respond, as if the Jedi could make an effective difference these days. Obi-Wan was often quiet after such a fight, depressed by a galaxy that seemed on the verge of collapse, but his moodiness was never this extreme.
Qui-Gon knelt by his partner. "What is wrong, Obi-Wan?"
Pressing his lips together, Obi-Wan shook his head and still didn't answer.
"Obi-Wan, can you say anything more than yes or no?"
His love looked directly at him, and Qui-Gon could see the misery in his eyes, a slight sheen of tears making them appear startlingly blue-gray. "No."
"I think we should take you to the healers' ward."
But Obi-Wan looked away, and Qui-Gon knew what he was thinking. Obi-Wan hated the healers' ward. They'd both needed medical assistance too many times in their long careers as Jedi, mostly on other worlds as a result of emergencies, with follow-ups on Coruscant for recovery and routine evaluations. No matter the healers' skill and dedication, the thought of visiting them was never pleasant. "Obi-Wan, if you can't say more than yes or no, you need to see a healer."
Obi-Wan sighed and didn't let his eyes meet Qui-Gon's, but he dipped his chin, indicating his assent.
"Let me get your tunic," Qui-Gon said. "Stay here."
Qui-Gon waited for Obi-Wan to subtly roll his eyes and make a flippant remark like, 'Take too long and I'm going jet-gliding with Knight Sampoth,' or something that would be more quietly clever than anything Qui-Gon could ever hope to snap out, but no reaction came. Qui-Gon brushed Obi-Wan's hair back, still so thick and full even though all white, and hurried off to their bedroom. At least on Coruscant, he wouldn't have to worry about filling out medical forms or providing a cred-chip. A healer would determine whatever was wrong with Obi-Wan, fix it quickly, and they'd return to preparing for their seminar. They were rarely allowed downtime between their missions.
In the bedroom, Qui-Gon had to stop and pause at the sensation of tears forming in the corners of his eyes. He took a deep breath and blinked rapidly, brushing away the tears. Concentrating on Obi-Wan's health right now was the priority, not his own fears and worries. He quickly found Obi-Wan's tunics and slippers. Boots seemed overkill for a walk across the Temple.
Droids were waiting when Qui-Gon escorted Obi-Wan into the healers' ward. Droids, instead of a healer in training.
"I'm C-3PO," the protocol droid said cheerily, "and this is my counterpart R2-D2. How may we assist you?"
"My partner needs to see a healer."
"Yes, sir Jedi. May I tell her the nature of the medical emergency?"
"Are you a programmed medical droid?"
"No, sir Jedi. I'm a protocol droid, fluent in - "
Qui-Gon slapped his hand over the droid's lips, not that the droid needed his lips to move to speak, but as a protocol droid, he would understand the silencing gesture. "I want to speak to a healer." He removed his hand.
"The healer isn't available, sir Jedi. But I can escort you to an examination room while my counterpart informs her of your request."
"The healer?" Qui-Gon asked incredulously. Had things gotten that bad, that only one healer would be available for the hundreds of Jedi who should be at the Temple? If there were hundreds. Qui-Gon had seen no one while escorting Obi-Wan here from their quarters. At first, he'd been grateful, knowing that Obi-Wan wouldn't want to be seen in his reduced state, but now he feared how much the decades-long political turmoil had devastated the Jedi ranks.
"Yes, sir Jedi. The other healers have all been assigned to assist with the war efforts. My counterpart and I are on loan - "
"This is insanity. The Jedi need more than one healer. Where are the trainees?"
The other droid gave a whistle, and Qui-Gon glanced over at it. Its head swiveled toward Obi-Wan, who wasn't doing anything, just standing, staring blankly at the wall. He wasn't even inserting any words of wisdom or distracting humor to calm Qui-Gon's temper, which was his normal practice. Qui-Gon sighed, taking Obi-Wan's hand. "Yes, please escort us to the exam room."
"Master Qui-Gon?" The voice was soft and respectful, not at all like the whiny or grating tones of the droids.
Qui-Gon looked toward the doorway to see a young man and woman standing there. The man was dressed in a black tunic and trousers, while the woman wore a long white dress. There were few obvious physical similarities in their faces, and his hair was blond while hers was dark but …they had a presence that marked them in the Force, a very powerful presence. "Luke? Leia?"
"We weren't sure if you would want to see us," Luke answered, his voice still gentle.
Qui-Gon unwound himself from Obi-Wan and rose from the bed. Obi-Wan seemed to be taking no notice of the visitors. Qui-Gon crossed the room and pulled both of them into a big hug, feeling their arms wrap around him and squeeze back. "How could I not? I was there when you were born, you know."
"We know," Leia answered, a smile in her voice. "You could hold both of us, one in each hand."
Qui-Gon laughed and gave them a final squeeze. He stepped away from them, looking at their faces. He hadn't seen them for … ten years? No, it must be closer to fifteen. They had been children, too young to understand when he and Obi-Wan had that last upsetting fight with Anakin over a mission where Palpatine had stepped in, changing the terms of the negotiations in a way that would ensure the likelihood of hostilities resuming in a few years. A bad treaty never made for an effective peace. Palpatine and Anakin had done that often over the years, as if they wished planets to remain fighting. "It's good to see you both so grown up." He glanced back at Obi-Wan, who was staring up at the ceiling. "I'm afraid Obi-Wan isn't feeling well."
"We heard. That's why we came."
"We can help," Leia added.
Qui-Gon frowned, not sure what they meant. "I appreciate the sympathy but – "
"Qui-Gon, please." Luke laid one hand on Qui-Gon's arm and squeezed. "I know you have no reason to trust our father, but please trust us. We know what we're doing."
They didn't say any more words, simply waited. Waited for Qui-Gon to decide whether to trust. And why should he, these people he barely knew? These children of his failed protégé, a man who'd turned his back on the Jedi Order, who seemed determined to help Palpatine slowly drag the Republic into disarray at best, anarchy or tyranny at the worst?
But they were confident and patient, two qualities Anakin had lacked, and did Qui-Gon really want to blame children for the sins of their parent? They were Amidala's children too, and she had always been a friend of theirs, even if a distant one over the last years. Besides, given the abysmal state of the healers' ward, he didn't see that they could cause any harm. "Anything you think you could do," he said humbly.
Luke nodded and went to sit on the bed. Leia sat on the other side, and the twins clasped hands, their faces relaxing into expressions of utter peace. Obi-Wan slipped into a deep sleep as Qui-Gon could almost see the Force glowing around his head, finding the damaged brain cells, repairing them, restoring the flow of blood. They weren't trained Jedi, but they were Force healers, with an unbelievable amount of power. Anakin was strong, but his children combining their power easily quadrupled his strength.
"He did have a stroke," Qui-Gon said hoarsely.
"Yes, he did." Leia gave a reassuring smile as she and her brother released each other's hands. "He'll be fine now."
Luke rose. "We should go."
Leia stood too, hugging Qui-Gon. "It was good to see you again, Qui-Gon."
Qui-Gon returned her hug. She seemed so fragile and slim, as if he could crush her, but that was a deceptive illusion. "We shouldn't be strangers. Our issues with your father should never have come between us."
Luke and Leia exchanged quick looks. "We hope that everything will change soon, and we can be friends again," Luke answered.
"That's not just a wish, is it?" Qui-Gon asked. He'd been close to the epicenter of political turmoil often enough to recognize when a participant - whether a rebel about to unleash a revolution or a monarch ready to quash a conspiracy - knew that events were soon to unfold.
"Please don't mention we were here," was all Luke said.
Qui-Gon placed a hand on his shoulder, squeezing reassuringly as he promised, "I won't. And if you need Obi-Wan or me - "
"We'll call you," Leia spoke with her mind, gently touching Qui-Gon's.
With that, they were gone, leaving Qui-Gon with renewed hope. Whatever Anakin had been doing these past years, he couldn't be beyond redemption. Not since his children had grown up to be such caring individuals. He wondered what had happened to them over the years, what other influences had shaped them. Amidala, certainly, but hopefully the memory of him and Obi-Wan in their early years had been a factor.
Obi-Wan yawned hugely, covering his mouth with one hand, stretching the other over his head as he woke up. "Qui-Gon? What happened? How did we come to be here?"
In relief, Qui-Gon sat on the edge of the bed, stroking Obi-Wan's hair. "You had a momentary spell, but you'll be fine now."
"A spell? What does that mean? And how could you bring me to the healers' ward in my robe and slippers? Really, Qui-Gon."
Obi-Wan was so much himself that Qui-Gon wanted to leap up and cheer, but contented himself with a beaming smile. "I'm sorry, my love."
"You don't look sorry. You look incredibly happy."
"I am only grateful that you are fine now."
"Hmphf," Obi-Wan grunted, swinging his legs off the bed. "Well, we certainly don't need to be here now. I feel fine. We have to prepare for that seminar on diplomacy that we're teaching tomorrow. You know it's even more vital these days to ensure that the Jedi can navigate political minefields."
Qui-Gon debated whether he should make Obi-Wan stay for a checkup. But the twins had been secretive, their presence probably unknown to their father. Their situation must be incredibly difficult. Perhaps he and Obi-Wan should leave now, to lessen any medical documentation of this incident. "Let's have a picnic."
"A picnic?" Obi-Wan gave him a smile he'd seen many times over the decades, a fond I-love-you-but-you-are-crazy smile, where one corner of his mouth quirked higher than the other, his dimples emerging.
"Yes, a picnic. We'll pick up food from the commissary and go to the flower garden on level eight. The blooms should be exquisite now."
"Do you think we have time? That seminar we're supposed to give - "
Obi-Wan didn't even realize they'd already lost several hours today. Qui-Gon cupped his cheeks, halting his words with a soft, sweet kiss. If revolution came, if life improved for all the galaxy, if this rotting decay was halted, or more importantly, if it wasn't, and life continued in this miserable decline... "We always have time to spend with each other, my love."
~ the end ~