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Walking towards you

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‘and you, my mountain, will you
never walk towards me?’

 

1.
His day is neatly structured from sunrise to late dark. Meditation, instruction, meals, exercise. Even recreation, though that is another form of instruction, he supposes. They are rotated through groups to enhance learning. Sabre practice with droids, and Master Yoda looking on. Grains for first meal, fruits for second.

It is always like this for the Initiates. The timing changes, the lessons advance, but the structure remains the same. Just as it was yesterday, and as it has been for the past five years, at least. He can’t remember much beyond then. The days are steady, ordered and similar.

Except today. Today he noticed, as though for the first time, a Master and a Padawan walking the halls near training salle Seven. They spoke quietly together, their serenity smoothing the Force currents around them.

The Master’s hand was resting on the young Padawan’s shoulder.

Obi-Wan turns over in his cot, and stares into the darkness of his small cubicle.

 

2.
There was a time when the fresher would be near full with Obi-Wan’s agemates this early in the morning, before the sun crept over the horizon. The unit holds only eight shower recesses, and it is always quiet bedlam just after sunrise, when most Initiates get there in time to prepare for first lesson. Often has he wondered if the Council were trying to teach them patience, or perhaps something else he was not yet wise enough to know about.

Obi-Wan had grown to dislike negotiating that crowd throughout the last year. More than once he had seen his own blush in the fresher mirrors, and caught curious young eyes being averted.

It did not take him long to realise the other older boys showered before the dawn.

He was even quicker in getting used to padding down the hallway in the grey darkness, nodding to his fellow agemates as they greeted him cheerfully. The floor was always cold beneath his bare feet, the water hot. Sometimes they abandoned Jedi serenity for water fights.

Most Initiates were chosen around the age of ten. Few were left by twelve.

This morning he showers alone in the slowly lightening dusk.

 

3.
His hair is too long. Shaggy, even, which is hardly appropriate for a Jedi. His Initiate tunic is crinkled, and surely the sleeves shouldn’t be so short! There is a tight emptiness pulling at his stomach. Worse, when he tries to picture the movements of the First Form in his mind they skitter away from him before he gets halfway through, leaving him in a mental vacuum.

It’s going to happen again. He won’t be chosen.

He hopes that isn’t Jedi prescience finally manifesting itself.

Around him the training salle is buzzing with eager voices and activated lightsabres. Everywhere along the walls stand Knights and Masters, dozens of careful eyes following flashes of colour as expectant Initiates demonstrate their skill.

Those still waiting to take the floor make a neat and nervous line, Obi-Wan among them. His borrowed practice sabre rests next to his knees on the hard wooden boards. The room is noisy, cavernous and stuffy.

Master Yoda enters through the main doors, a tall and imposing Master at his side. They move with patience, with the great care of Jedi, coming to a stop in front of him.

Obi-Wan looks up, and up, into terribly blue eyes.

 

4.
The bruises are turning yellow. A vibrant reminder all along his side of what happens when he lets his attention wander. The red, painful slice on his Master’s hand serves to remind him he is not alone in suffering for his dangerous lapse in judgement.

He had nodded silently as Qui-Gon had spoken to him about his behaviour. Had promised to try harder. Had swallowed down surprising, hot tears when his Master looked at him with tired eyes. Qui-Gon had simply turned and boarded the ship.

The mission had been difficult. He is sore, the blazing orange of sunset too bright as he follows his Master into their quarters. He hopes night will fall quickly, so they can meditate together and then separate to sleep, their custom for these three years of Obi-Wan’s apprenticeship. Perhaps while their minds are joined in reflection, Qui-Gon will be able to sense his sorrow, his embarrassment at his failure.

Obi-Wan waits on his meditation mat as the colours fade from the sky.

 

5.
The evening is heavy with clouds when his Master returns. He has steaming tea waiting on the table, a stark warm scent rising from the twin mugs. Next to them, a data pad with Master Lu-mn’s report. Today had been Obi-Wan’s review, administered by one of the Instructing Masters, set at the approach of his fifth year of apprenticeship. Obi-Wan had spent the previous night in meditation when sleep failed to come.

Qui-Gon will be pleased. The review was good.

Obi-Wan is fairly humming with anticipation, a smile hovering at the edges of his attention, one foot tapping slightly against the floor.

His Master’s cloak slips off like water, folds of deep brown that catch and draw the light into themselves. Tension grips the long back, the broad shoulders. A late Council meeting, a post-mission debriefing, these things will never be good for Qui-Gon’s mood. Always his Master thinks he should have done more. Always their mission successes are not quite good enough. Qui-Gon seems to want to go to sleep at night knowing every heart in the galaxy is at peace.

The Council’s disagreement sits in heavy lines along the beige stoles that cover his chest; soft disappointment weighing on the strong brow.

Obi-Wan passes warm tea to his Master, leaving the review aside.

 

6.
The courtyard is open to the sky, and it is raining softly. This is the beginning of the long harvest season on this planet, when the locals fondly indulge in ancient rituals to celebrate the wet and the blossoming of trees. He is old enough now to understand the meanings they attach to it, to analyse the social norms and cultural structures. He has observed the people closely throughout this mission, putting practice to theory learned back in the Temple.

The rain is impossibly sweet and fresh. It is too clean to be falling on him.

There is mud on the toes of his boots, harsh grit between his fingers that he can’t seem to brush away. Blood is drying on the silver handle of his sabre. Qui-Gon is instructing, helping others move the bodies. His Master is a natural leader; the soldiers are swift and efficient in obeying.

Obi-Wan turns from it, locking his eyes on the horizon, letting the rain drip coldly through his short hair.

He senses the presence behind him, large and steady, and his Master’s hand takes hold of his shoulder. The firm warmth of it bleeds through his tunics until he can feel it against his skin.

For just a moment, everything else falls away.

 

7.
There are very few planets besides Coruscant where they will relax. The peaceful sovereignty of Alderaan is one of them, though Jedi missions here are few and far between. Obi-Wan has been here once before, in years past; Qui-Gon has been sent enough times that he has acquaintances amongst the ruling party. Friends, even.

The Alderaanians are greatly respectful of Jedi. This evening’s banquet, seeming lush and decadent in comparison to their more ascetic Temple-bred tastes, is proof enough of that.

Obi-Wan has been making polite conversation since they arrived. He has asked seven different people about their enjoyment of the reception, and commented eighteen times on the fair weather. His praise has been sought - and given - for the floral arrangements by both the Queen and the Minister of Trade. He has gently fended off more than one expression of a more particular, private interest.

Now he is being more or less left alone, having dispensed his pleasantries. He sips his drink, gazing into the colourful, milling crowd. The evening is warm, the wine pleasantly sharp on his tongue.

Across the room, his Master laughs.

It is a rare and wonderful sight, and Obi-Wan finds himself smiling too, his eyes drinking in Qui-Gon’s pleasure.

If the smile is slightly wistful, it doesn’t matter. No one is looking at him to see it.

 

8.
The return flight was deafening. A talkative young boy too often at his side, twelve Masters trying to counsel him, a thrumming hyperdrive engine making the walls hum in a deep voice.

This noise is all separate to him. On the inside there is a great, numb silence. It has been there since his Master died on the floor, as Obi-Wan clutched the strong body to his chest.

In that last moment, he had wanted to say all the things he had never yet found speech for. But that would have meant keeping his Master from speaking, and Obi-Wan would take all the words he could get from Qui-Gon. Anything his Master was willing to give.

Now there is an absence that follows him everywhere, like an unwanted Padawan, an invisible chasm in the air beside him.

He has work to do. The days remind him of this. They are structured, orderly. Meditation, instruction, meals, exercise. Missions also, though they involve a great deal of instruction for his unruly apprentice. Grains for first meal. Incredibly blue skies beyond the Temple windows.

Obi-Wan sits on his Master’s neatly made bed and stares into the darkness.

 

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