JAOA: A New Hope
Year of the Republic 24,982
The lightsaber met his hand squarely, the grip smacking solidly into his palm even as he thumbed the controls, bringing the blade to viciously humming life as he spun and brought it around.
Anger and rage and fear drove the blow, gave it a strength that even the Force could not. There was a different feel, cutting through flesh; a subtle difference in the resistance than there was when one cut through inorganic droids. As different as the lightsaber in his hands, almost perfectly matched to his own but not - the grip worn at different points beneath his fingertips, the controls spaced for a larger hand, the weight and shape just strange enough that his hands must compensate for the difference.
But not enough to stop that final blow. Nothing could stop that. All the dark wailing shades of his rage fueled it, a strength he welcomed and grasped hold of eagerly. It flowed through him like cool oil in a towering wave, strong and unstoppable. The blade hissed and cracked as it sliced through flesh, humming triumphantly as it ripped free. Red eyes met his, frozen and fading as the life was leeched from them to add heat to the burning anger within his heart.
The body tumbled down and away and it wasn't enough, it wasn't nearly enough to quench the fires of anger. It shrieked inside of him, demanding vengeance, rending, tearing, ripping to find an outlet for the storm that raged within. He trembled at the edge of the abyss, feeling it gape open beneath his soul in terrible majesty, inexorable as the force of a gravity well.
It was the sound that drew him back. A small sound, more felt than heard, the wet, choked sound of a whispered breath. It tugged him from the edge, quieted the rage - and in its place the sound unleashed the howling fear.
He thumbed the blade off, silencing its eager hum. The hilt hit the ground, clattering, as he turned away from the melting pit towards that small noise. The floor was smooth beneath his feet, hard beneath his knees but he hardly felt the jarring shock as the strength drained from him and tumbled him down, boneless, beside the still body.
The echo of breath still moved the broad chest, as Obi-Wan lifted his Master's head into his lap. His fingers moved fitfully over the planes of the face and through the tumbled fall of greying hair. Within the lines of the throat beat a thready pulse, slow and shallow beneath his searching hand. "Master..." He was crying and not crying, the sobs too tight in his chest to let the tears flow.
Blue eyes, gone nearly black with pain and shock, focused only slowly on his face. Qui-Gon's breath was a thin gasp, drawn in reflex and expelled in choked words. "Too late..."
The fear yammered in hysteric fits, pouring burning cold acid through his veins. "No."
"It's too late," Qui-Gon breathed softly, insistent. The light in his eyes was fading with each breath, slipping away before Obi-Wan's despairing gaze. One large hand stirred, reaching up with a trembling touch to brush his cheek as it had so many countless times before. "Promise me, Obi-Wan..."
"No." Soft at first, and then a defiant cry that howled in sheer denial. "NO!"
His hands stripped away the charred layers of tunic to bare the chest beneath. A gaping hole nearly the size of his palm, blackened and seared, cauterized straight through. He could see the ragged twitch of muscles with each breath, blood welling wetly from the red flesh of the heart itself, every pulse a spasm visible to the naked eye.
Dark and cool and smothering it came to his call, born of desperation and violent need. Born of fear and grief that tore through him with needle sharp claws, driving him to reach for the source of it. A flame kindled of the unquenched anger and rage, sparked with fear, it flared at his touch and poured its cold strength freely into him until he burned with the fire of a thousand stars within the icy cold of space.
His hands touched the empty place where tissue and muscle had been, felt the shuddering jerk of the flesh that remained. He held that failing pulse cupped against the palm of his hand, feeling it skip raggedly over its rhythm, every movement a beacon of pure life.
His Master's voice was calling to him from beyond the rushing, ongoing cry within his own heart. [Obi-Wan, please... listen to me...]
"No." The tears were falling from his eyes in brilliant shards of helpless light. Love and hate, grief and desperate determination - fire and ice, they both answered his call, mixing within him with a hiss and rush that streamed agony through his flesh but it didn't matter... he had that faltering heart in his hand and the Force that seared through him cushioned each beat, vibrated with it, coaxed forth another. His own heart pounded in his chest, pulse echoing the other, and he willed that strong beat to pulse through the flesh beneath his hand.
[NO.] Stronger, more insistent, the voice that echoed through him gave him hope even as it pushed to turn aside the strength he poured into it. [Don't, love. Let go. Listen...]
"Be quiet," he gasped, the words wailing forth like the cry of a newborn. At once brittle and stone hard, he wrapped his will around the Force linking them, sinking it deeper, keeping it from being shoved away. [Let me... I can't lose you... I can do this... I will do this...]
Memory in those words, the birth of all memories, and before the weight of them Qui-Gon's defenses crumbled with a ragged cry. Obi-Wan furiously willed the strength of his own body into the one he held, feeling the crushing weight against his chest as rope after rope of Force bound them together until his heart beat for them both, his lungs drawing air for two bodies in desperation. Pain knifed through him, forcing a cry from his throat, but nothing mattered beyond the pounding throb of his heart and the next breath drawn into burning lungs that would sustain the body cradled in his arms. Pulse and breath in, pulse and breath out, and endless repetition that became the central heart and outer limit of his entire world until even the conscious knowledge of that faded away.
Yoda found him in the medical bay, the diminutive Jedi Master's stick tapping a heavy counterpoint upon the floor. Obi-Wan did not turn, eyes fixed unblinking upon the clear surface of the bacta tank that dominated the room.
Yoda settled himself beside Obi-Wan on the low bench with a heavy sigh. The Jedi Master eyed the tank in contemplation for a time, then nodded slowly. "Live, he will," he said at last.
Obi-Wan closed his eyes briefly, letting the words sink into him like a soothing balm. He had known it already, knew it with every beat of his own heart that still echoed, faintly, with the steady throb in that other chest. Still, it was hope and life to hear it given voice in physical words.
Within the tank, Qui-Gon's body seemed smaller, frailer. Wrapped round with sensors and life support, drifting gently in the heavy bacta, the Jedi Master seemed unreal, distant and dim, an illusion that Obi-Wan clung to desperately, unwilling to tear his eyes away less they play him false.
But there were other things, and he focused upon them reluctantly. "Has the Council met?"
Yoda's ears lowered slightly, small dark eyes focusing intently on the human beside him. "Decided, we have."
"Ah." Obi-Wan tried to feel some of the emotions those words should have sparked within him, but it had all drained away, exhausted past caring. To sit on the bench at all was more than the medics had wanted to allow him, but he had demanded with stubborn insistence until they had deemed it easier and more restful to simply allow him to do so. Each second played out into an eternity, each one hoarded preciously as the steady report of the tank lifemonitor continued to pan out before his eyes. Only the shift of the Jedi Master beside him brought his thoughts once again to the rest of the world. "What was decided?"
He had given his report from a medical bed during one of the periods of lucid thought that came between exhausted sleep. The words had spilled forth, brutally honest, too tired to think of leaving anything out or cushioning the impact of them. The Masters had listened, faces grave and silent, until the words had died away and sleep had claimed him once more between one breath and the next. Yet even in sleep he listened to his own heartbeat, his own breath, trying in vain to send the strength of them to the other life he loved far more than his.
But he had known, on waking, what it was that he had done. Could still feel the memory echo of it, the cold fire that had given him the strength needed. Icy and dark, untamed, it had come to the beckoning of his rage like moths to the flame. He needed no one to tell him what it was, and though he shivered at the memory of it he acknowledged it all the same and was grateful for it. Had related it to the Council without judgement, placing the transgression within their hands without regret. They would decide as they would. For himself... he could not regret the outcome, no matter the means.
"Decided, we have," Yoda repeated, and Obi-Wan nodded dimly. /"Obi-Wan is ready..."/ Qui-Gon had said, words that seemed far distant, words that belonged to another life. /I'm sorry, Master/ he thought tiredly, but even that did not have the power to call forth emotion. None of it mattered, nothing but the continued life before him.
"Confer upon you the rank of Jedi Knight, the Council does," Yoda continued firmly. And that, at last, brought Obi-Wan's attention solidly back to the world around him.
Blinking eyes long since gone dry, he turned slowly towards the Jedi Master. "What?"
"Jedi Knight, you are, young Kenobi," Yoda said, his stick tapping the floor for emphasis. "Decided, the Council did."
Obi-Wan blinked again, almost painfully. The syllables ricocheted through his tired mind, searching in vain for something to connect to, for some way to make sense of them. "But... Master Yoda, I told you what happened."
"Power you used that you should not have," Yoda agreed mildly. Dark eyes half closed, expression turned inward. "Gave in to your emotions. Defeated a Sith, you did. Saved your Master, you did." The eyes opened, regarding him piercingly. "You will be needed. We have seen it."
The words wrapped around him, sending a shiver through his spine. He forced a faded, humorless smile upon his lips, feeling muscles too tired to sustain the expression tremble slightly. "Despite my flaws?"
"Or because of them." Yoda's expression communicated nothing, still and serene. "Young, you are. Desperate, you were. Overcome and outgrow this, you will."
A second chance, handed him freely. A new hope. Obi-Wan sighed softly, feeling a tension he hadn't known was there drain from him. "I am honored."
Yoda nodded slightly. "Agreed, the Council did," he began again. "Train the boy, you will."
For one brief moment of exhausted hilarity Obi-Wan wondered if the entire conversation wasn't, perhaps, a dream within his aching mind. If the Jedi Council and the entire galaxy had not gone mad, and he the only sane one left. Yoda continued on. "The Sith you killed, but two there always are. One remains. Strong, the boy is. Too dangerous to leave untrained."
Ah, then that made a cautious sort of sense. Anakin, set adrift by the Jedi, would be a jewel left out where the Sith might pluck him forth. Better, then, by far, to train him. But why...
"Know what you have done, you do," Yoda answered the thought sharply. "Frightens you, it does. Good. Cautious, you will be. Good for you and the boy, it is."
Irrefutable logic, simple and clean. He knew what the dark side of the Force felt like. He would carry it forever, stark in his memories, terrible and magnificent. Seeing it in others, he would know it for what it was - know it not as a hypothesis, a distant threat, but as an intimate part of his own memory that he could never set aside. A mirror, to remind himself always of where that path lead.
"Then I will train Anakin," he said simply, accepting. His eyes were drawn back to the bacta tank and the still form within it. "Master Qui-Gon..."
"Will live," Yoda completed, firmly. The Jedi Master glanced at the tank, expression unreadable. Shaking his head slightly, he slid from the bench. One small hand touched Obi-Wan's knee in passing, a reassuring comfort. "Well, you did," he said softly, and then the tap of his stick echoed as he moved away.
Obi-Wan, left with the quiet steady beep of the lifemonitor and the gentle, comforting silence of the medical bay, forced himself slowly to his faltering feet. There were only a few paces between the bench and the tank, a distance he nearly fell crossing. Hand pressed to the cool transparent surface, he lowered himself cautiously to the floor, his side resting against the tank. Sighing, he bowed his forehead against the surface. "Together," he breathed, letting his aching body relax. His thoughts reached out, twined indelibly with his lover's. [Together...]
The answer came, the whisper of an echo, faint and distant but all the hope he would ever need. [Always...]
[...to next stage]