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The Philosophy of Lost Chances

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“I take Obi-Wan Kenobi as my padawan learner.” The words echoed through the council chamber as large gentle hands embraced a small boy’s shoulders. The boy before them was eleven, not too young to be a padawan, but earlier than most picks.  He had been eligible for selection for almost a year, a year that had been wrought with schemes by one short green meddling troll. Mace had watched as the grandmaster of their order had manipulated situation after situation to push a broken man towards a talented young boy. It was a volatile situation that he had seen play out a thousand times with a different ending each time, none pleasant for his old friend or the innocent young man.

“Take him you cannot.” Yoda glanced around the room, his ears raised in contempt.

“Take him I will, if he will have me. This young boy is meant for so much more. We all respect your words of wisdom, but your feelings of attachment for your old padawan must be called into question.” Mace stood tall before the council, knowing he was giving up his council seat, knowing that he was taking on a responsibility that would change his life. “No one loves Qui-Gon quite like you do, but we all see what he’s become. We’ve all tried to reach out to the empty shell and breathe life into him. Yes, this boy may be that life, but at what cost? We cannot push them together in hopes of bringing back our Jinn just to lose such a spark of life.”

Adi Gallia looked at the tall dark-skinned man before her and felt awe at the force radiating around him and the boy, Obi-Wan Kenobi. He was speaking the truth and they were about to let Master Yoda push his will upon them. “Master Yoda with all due respect, Master Windu is correct. We have all seen Master Jinn walk the halls without a soul since the loss of his last padawan. Do you truly wish to sacrifice one of our precious younglings in hopes that Jinn will do the right thing?”

The oldest among them stood unsteadily, his ears drooping at the harsh words. “Padawan he is, wish no ill I did, but together they should be.” Mace kneeled before the boy and his hardened look softened. “This is your choice, Obi-Wan. Will you be my padawan?”

The young boy was confused at all the by-play but he struggled to stop the smile that painted his face. “Yes, Master Windu.” The red-haired youngling glanced once more in the direction of a morose older master. The sad look upon his face almost broke his heart, but he was immediately wrapped into the folds of a robe, arms embracing him in a deep hug. “I vow to be the very best master I can be, Obi-Wan. This I promise.”

Obi-Wan hugged the man before him, but looked over the shoulder to watch Yoda walk away. He suddenly looked older. “Meant to be they are, hope there still is.” Yoda whispered to the force before disappearing through another door. “Let us go home, Padawan. We have much to do.” Mace smiled down and clasped a large hand around the small smooth skin of his padawan learner. He still couldn’t believe he had dared to take on Master Yoda, but he followed the will of the force. It was not time for them yet, it wasn’t meant to be this way.


 

“Master!” The words were torn from his lips as he watched his master of fourteen years succumb to fatigue as he fought the monster with red and black tattoos. The sand whipped around in a frenzy as the two danced back and forth upon the surface of a planet he was coming to loathe. The ship started to take off as he rushed to open area, he would not watch his master die. Mace Windu jumped onto the ramp and promptly fell over leaning against some cargo boxes. His pulse was racing and his adrenaline was pumping. He had almost lost everything. He had never encountered something so vile and evil in his long life, it had to have been sith. “Padawan, I have you to thank for my life. That was quick thinking. Did you…Did you feel the darkness?”

“Master, I was so afraid for you, I could feel your fatigue. He was feeding off my fear. I’m sorry for my failure.” Mace lifted his chin. It was so like Obi-Wan to always take things so hard. Yes, he felt fear, he was human after all. “Obi-Wan, I know you do not need the fear exercises any longer. You felt fear but you did not let it overcome your duty. You thought quickly on your toes and saved not only those on board, but your decrepit old master.” He rustled the copper spikes and looked over at the blond boy that accompanied him. “You are not OLD master.” Mace chuckled and looked over his shoulder.

“Anakin Skywalker, this is my soon to be Knight, Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

“Pleasure to meet you Anakin.” Obi-Wan felt the pride radiate from his master and couldn’t believe the words. He knew his trials were not far off, but this was the first time that his master had spoken of them being imminent. “Will he be ok? Will you be ok?” The small boy’s eyes were full of fear.

“I’m ok, Ani. Did you get your mother settled in?”

“Yes, she couldn’t believe you talked Watto into letting her go.” Obi-Wan chuckled as he thought about his master’s negotiating skill. As much as he adored him, he was never one for gentle speech, negotiations tended to end up on the aggressive side with lightsaber drawn.

Mace smirked at him, knowing well where the thoughts were going. “Why don’t you see to your mother, Anakin? I need to see to my master. The small boy once again looked at Mace and then back to Obi-Wan. “It’s not dark anymore.” Mace looked up suddenly with worry. “The future, it doesn’t feel so…wrong.” The boy turned quickly and ran back towards the mess area, in search of his mom.


 

Five years. It had been five years since he had been back to the temple, five years too soon. He didn’t seem to understand why his master had called him back home. There were too many memories in these halls that he didn’t want to relive. “Too long it has been. Older you have gotten.” The tall, greying master looked down at the green troll that made it his life to meddle in his affairs. “Not long enough it has been and I am not that old master, just tired.”

They started to walk the halls, slowly, side by side. “Enough sulking you have done. It is time to come home and work with other Jedi. Alone you’ve been.”

“Master, I’m not in the mood for this discussion again. I thought once you stopped trying to push a padawan on me almost fifteen years ago, that you would just leave me be. I do my job and cause no problems for the council.” Yoda stopped in his tracks and let out a loud cackle. “Oh, Oh! No trouble you cause? Hair I have loss at your antics over the years.”

“Humph, well I try to not cause trouble, but you know I listen to the will of the force.”

“Listen you should to your heart as well as the force. Lonely you are, feel it I do.” Yoda’s ears lowered as Qui-Gon Jinn lowered himself next to the wizened master. “I know you worry for me, my master. I have not given into dark thoughts, please know that you are one of the reasons I continue on.” Qui-Gon knew he had worried the master after his padawan had turned, but he was doing the best he could. “Returning is Mace, darkness on the horizon it is. Need you we may.”

This piqued his interest. “I understand. How is Mace, I don’t think I’ve spoken to him since.” His words trailed off slightly. “Since he took a padawan.” The words were almost choked out. He was so against taking another young life in his hand that he had distanced himself from his oldest friend.

“Well he is, well they are. A knight he has almost raised. The boy is a bright spot in our numbers.”

“I’m sure he is. I’m going to head to my quarters. I’m very tired.” Yoda looked at him with bright eyes, knowing he was avoiding a subject that they had often fought over. Obi-Wan Kenobi was once thought to be his next student. The force seemed to radiate around them both anytime they were near each other, but he refused. He would not ruin such a light. This light was nurtured by a worthy master and he would not be jealous, he refused.

He felt a whack at his shins suddenly as he was ripped from his thoughts. “Jealousy and sulking not the Jedi Way.”

Qui-Gon closed his eyes and smiled. He had missed his master. Perhaps this wouldn’t be such a bad trip back home. “Yes, Master. I shall see you soon.”

Turning down the halls, his thoughts were still of his old friend and his almost padawan when a small bundle of energy ran straight into him and bounced off. “I’m so sorry!” This was not a prim and proper youngling from the creche, but he couldn’t help but smile. “It’s ok young one; you might want to take the halls a bit slower.” Just as the boy nodded he once again turned and ran off. “I’m sorry Master. He’s just a bit excited.” Qui-Gon turned and suddenly went dry in the mouth. The beautiful blue-green eyes seem to radiate warmth that pierced his soul. “Kids do tend to be that way, especially if they are not Jedi children.”

“I am beginning to wonder if the boy or my trials will be a tougher obstacle.” The long braid slung over his left shoulder, painted a picture of a perfect padawan. One again the older master ached from the past, his eyes shadowed with the pain of the past. The padawan felt the ache in the force and suddenly regretted his words. “I’m so sorry, Master…?”

“There is nothing to be sorry for, just long past regrets. I’m Master Qui-Gon Jinn. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Padawan?”

“Kenobi, Obi-Wan Kenobi.” The words seemed to stop time for a moment as their eyes met once again.

“I’m so sorry Padawan Kenobi. I just realized I have some place I must be. Good luck with your young ward.” Qui-Gon turned abruptly, he would not run away. He would walk, he wouldn’t look back, and he would make it to the gardens before he collapsed in shock and fear.ok

Obi-Wan watched the older man walk away, his beautiful grey streaked hair flowing down a strong muscled back. He had heard the name Jinn many times from his master and realized that the broken man before him was not him. Something had happened and he ached to reach out to ease his pain, but it was not to be. His comm immediately chimed, he was summoned to the council chamber. He would have to set aside the puzzle that was named Qui-Gon Jinn.

Chapter Text

Those eyes, so full of life, splendor and compassion, it was how they all regarded him now. He knew that he was an empty shell of a man, which only inhabited a body that continued with the preface of life. He was required to keep going, to keep breathing. It was a promise made to his master after a bad series of events that held him to this world, an oath he was sometimes loath to keep.

It was shortly after Xanatos, his apprentice, had turned. He was sent to a war torn planet in the outer rim, hoping to bring the conflict to an end, only to watch entire cities burn to the ground with bombing. Men, women and children lining the streets in bloodshed, he had failed, again. He approached a small hovel that was still standing, just barely, the concrete walls held cracks that screamed of an impending collapse, but there were signs of life inside. The faint crying of a young child, the screams of a mother in pain begging for help, these were the people he had failed. It was his fault that the two sides now fought for the annihilation of the other.

Qui-Gon rushed into the building without thought of his own safety, he didn’t care at this point if he lived or died, his only wish to save the mother and child. The air inside the building was filled with noxious fumes, as supply lines were severed in the bombing. The master wrapped his robe around his mouth, the fumes still permeating the cloth as he choked and coughed. He ignored the warning from the force. He would do what he must, he would save these two, and they would not slip from his hands. The faint cries of the child were starting to wane, there wasn’t much time left, he had to hurry, he had to reach them.

Pulled from his thoughts, Qui-Gon looked around the gardens to a child playing with a small kit. The creche masters were keeping a close eye as they explored the living force around them. He tried to focus upon his meditations once again, thinking back to that moment.  He had not been quick enough to save them. The building had exploded around him and he woke up two weeks later in the healing wards of the temple. His body ached, but his mind was torn. He could not suffer the loss of any more innocents. He was having a crisis of faith.

“Why?” That was the first word to pour from his mouth to a Master whom seemed to live by his bedside for two weeks.

“The force, not done with you yet, it is.” Master Yoda gave him much leeway since the loss of Xanatos, but he was at the end of what he could tolerate. “To die you wish, watch this no longer I will.”

Qui-Gon tried to sit up, his ribs protesting the movement. “I was not trying to die.”

“Trying to live you have not been. Enough of this I have watched, Qui-Gon. No longer can I sit by as you take everything to heart. Your heart has always been an open book, my young one. Knew I did when I saw you as a toddler, that take you I would. Where others saw pathetic creatures, you saw life. A protector you have always been, but protect your heart you did not.” Yoda moved forward, and gently clasped the cold hand in his claws. “Watch you wither and wish to die, I cannot. Breaking my heart you are.”

Qui-Gon felt the three fingers wrap tighter around his hand, feeling the overwhelming emotion in the force. “I will not seek my death, master, but I must find my own way through this. After I heal, I wish to take my missions away from the temple. I will return, when I am required, but I need, time. I need time to think, time alone and time for penance.

“NO penance you need. Made his decisions he did, Xanatos. Not your fault that gave him love and promise you did, and return it he did not. Think you, that lost a padawan I have not. Alone you are not, Qui-Gon.”

“He speaks the truth, Qui. You are not alone. You have Master Yoda, Tahl and even me. You scared us to death this time.” The words came softly from the shadows as Master Windu entered the room. He had spent many nights in this chamber speaking softly to his old crechemate.

“Take another you must. Padawan you need in your life. Padawan I know.” Yoda started to rise from the chair and gently tap his gimmer stick on the floor. The vision of a child with red hair made Yoda smile as he continued. “Yes, Yes. This is the path.”

Qui-Gon gasped and looked pleadingly at his friend. “I will take no other! I will not take a young child’s life in my hand and lead them to the darkness. I am….tainted.” Yoda sighed once again and continued on out the door. “See it I do, his pure soul is your salvation.” Mace watched as the master hobbled out of the room and turned to see the agony in the other’s eyes. He had aged so rapidly in the last year, his brown hair showing the first signs of grey.

“You scared him.” Mace stated plainly as he took the seat before the bed.

“I don’t wish to speak of it anymore Mace. I have made my decision. The Jedi may use me as they wish, but return to the temple I will not. I need, time.” The dark-skinned master shook his head and knew the stubbornness that was Jinn would prevail. This would be the last time he saw the master in person for almost six years, but Jinn kept his promise, he did not seek death.

“Master?” The words pulled him from his recollection and he looked down into the green eyes of the child playing with the kit.

“Yes, my young one?” He tried his best not to clench his jaw and scare the child away. “I lost my kit. Have yew seen it?” The precious child had tears falling down his cheeks, such innocence that it was heartbreaking.

“I have not, but I was not looking, perhaps we can find it together?” Pushing up from his kneeling position he now towered over the toddler that took a step or two back in fear. “There is no fear. We will find your kit. Does it have a name?”

“We aren’t allowed to name them. I’m not sure why, I heard the master’s say something about attackment?” Qui-Gon started to chuckle at the child’s confusion. “They do not wish you to get attached to the young kits, they will eventually be found homes and you will have to let them go.”

“NO!” the child started to scream, tears falling even more. “No want to lose my kit. I love him. How can they take him away?” Qui-Gon shook his head gently and kneeled once again before the young tow-headed child.

“Do you wish to be Jedi, Young…?” He paused for a moment, hoping for a name but the child didn’t catch on. “What is your name, child?”

“Quint Hawks.” The child was still looking around the area, in hopes of spotting the tiny creature.

“Do you wish to be a Jedi Quint?”

“I do.”

“You are a child now, still learning the ways of the force and the Jedi, but soon your time will be taken by classes and missions. If you were to keep your kit, what would happen to it then?” Quint stared up at the master and thought for a moment, his little heart still breaking. He knew the child had reached the right answer, but it still hurt and that was ok.

“If I get to close and keep him, he would be lonely. I wouldn’t have enough time to give him and be a Jedi.” Qui-Gon nodded gently and reached out to the young boy, gathering him into his large embrace. “It is ok to love, it is what makes us Jedi, but we must know when to let go. Yes?” The child just nodded his head, tears still streaming down his face. Qui-Gon then stood, his arms wrapped tightly around the small bundle. “Let us find your young kit, for now there is no reason to let go, he needs you and you need it.”

Reaching out with the force, Qui-Gon felt the presence they were looking for in a small bush along the creek. “Quint, reach out with the force as your master’s have taught. Do you feel it?” The young boy pushed away from the damp tunics and scrunched up his face in concentration. It was an adorable look, which lightened the old cynical heart. “It’s him!” The boy wiggled and pulled his way down to the ground and into the bushes to withdraw a scared and shaking young orange kit. “It’s ok, yew are safe. I will take care of yew.”

Qui-Gon smiled as the boy hugged the creature tightly to his chest. “I’m sorry Master Jinn for the disturbance. I see that Quint found his kit and learned a lesson.” Creche Master Antma smiled at the older master, knowingly. “Children can make believers of even the cynics. What do you say to Master Jinn, Quint?”

“Thank yew fer my lesson Master Jinn.” The boy turned, the kit held tightly in his embrace. “I shall learn to let him go, but for now I will keep him safe.”

Qui-gon closed his eyes, bowing to the Antma as he turned to leave. “You think you have lost your gift to teach, but we can still see it when you cannot.” He kept walking, refusing to acknowledge the lectures that always seem to come when he was in residence at the temple.


 

In another part of the temple, Mace and Obi-Wan stood before the council, relating their report from Naboo and Tatooine. Explaining the emergence of a sith like creature. “You expect us to believe this?” Even Piell was the first to chime in. “I expect you to investigate and hold my opinion as a seasoned master in high regard. That creature was nothing I have encountered before, if it is not a Sith then I should hang up my master’s robe and walk out now.” Mace was losing his patience with a council who seemed more worried about protocol then the reemergence of the Sith.

“Serious this is, believe Master Windu, I do. We will need to further investigate this matter but for now, you and your Padawan are to stay in temple. Mission with Queen Amidala over it may not be.”

“Masters, I have one last thing.” Obi-Wan looked at his master, knowing that things were about to go from bad to worse.

~Master, now might not be the time.~

“While we were on the planet of Tatooine, I believe I encountered a vergence in the force.”

“A vergence in the force, in what form?” Adi Gallia leaned forward in her chair, knowing that Mace did not believe in prophecy and tall tales.

“He is a young boy from Tatooine. I have brought him and his mother with us, we tested him and he is stronger in the raw force than even Master Yoda.”

The council gasped slightly and turned to the grandmaster. “Trained you wish him to be?”

Mace looked at his young padawan, reaching out through their bond to reassure him. “I have a padawan. I am not asking to train this boy. Too old he may be to train, but we shouldn’t leave him to those that would twist and turn him into a creature of darkness like the one I fought. I thought perhaps we could find him a place within our halls, with his mother, where we can teach him about his gifts. We cannot leave him to chance.”

The grandmaster stood from his chair and gently tapped his stick against the tile. The vibrations were the only thing heard in the chamber as they waited for his appraisal. “Bring him to us you will, test him we shall.”

Mace nodded and bowed to the council, leaving with his shadow just a few steps to the left, as was meant to be. “That didn’t go as well as I hoped but not as bad as I feared.” Mace turned and smiled at the boy, no the man, he was no longer a child. “It went better than the last meeting; we aren’t sequestered to our quarters until they find a proper punishment.”

“You my perfect padawan are an imp. I did what was right then, as I do now. Shall we go to the great dining hall for our meal tonight?” Mace started to walk down the hallway, the silence from his padawan something new. “Are you alright, Obi?”

“Yes, my master. I was just thinking.”

“Of?”

“I ran into this master earlier, he was deep in thought and not shielding very well. There was so much pain in his eyes and his demeanor, why would the Jedi not see and help him?”

Mace stopped in his tracks, turning to the young man whose eyes seemed to brighten with empathy the more he talked of the poor soul. “We all carry pain and heartache with us. Perhaps in the temple it shows a bit more than in the outside world, we don’t have to hide here.” The two continued to walk, this time side by side as equals, approaching a nearby balcony that shown off the beautiful city of Coruscant.

“You still have much to learn, my apprentice, but it is time for your trials. Only life can teach you the lessons you have left. Just remember that in times of great need and sorrow you can and should turn to those at the temple. The master you encountered I am sure is getting the help he needs, we take care of those around us, even our own.” Mace gently wrapped his arm around the shorter man’s shoulder. “You have a heart of gold, Obi-Wan and I know you wish to help those that need it, but please beware of your own heart. It can be just as vulnerable.”

“I am glad you think me ready, master. Since we have some time until this mission continues or we get a new one, I shall offer him what he seems to need, a friend.” The two had continued on, towards the dining hall, only to walk through the doors and smile at the mass of Jedi taking substance to their bodies as well as their minds through comradery. “So my young one, who is the would be Master that would be your friend?”

Obi-Wan looked around at the crowd and immediately pointed to a table with a lone figure, looking down at his plate and barely picking at its contents. “Him.”

Mace’s face paled as he looked on the broken master that would claim his padawan as a friend. It was Jinn. He wouldn’t allow this, he made sure that Obi-Wan felt wanted and needed, he would not give his heart, his son to a man that needed no one and wanted nothing.

“Obi-Wan, You do know who that is?” Mace wanted to reach for his head and rub his temples as the headache started to form.

“Master Qui-Gon Jinn. You used to speak of him often and with affection, but the man I met earlier was not him, he was…empty, broken.” Obi-Wan turned to his master, knowing that he was missing some piece of a puzzle.

“Watch your heart, my boy. I can protect you from harm, I can protect you from evil but even I cannot protect you from Jinn.” Mace gently clasped his hand around the shoulders of his apprentice and walked to the serving line. His instinct was to forbid it, but in this Obi-Wan was just like Qui-Gon. He was stubborn to a fault when his mind was made up about something.

~If you hurt him, so help you. I will tear you limb from limb and never will the council find the parts~

The words were no sooner thought when Qui-Gon’s head snapped up to eye his old friend. “Mace…” The words were whispered as their eyes connected, it had been too long, but even now they were strangers.

Chapter Text

It had seemed an eon since he had graced the massive refectory inside the temple walls. It was a great room in which all Jedi took their meals while assigned at the temple, but it was also so much more. It was an avenue where masters, padawans, and initiates mixed, there were no boundaries within these walls, and rank was just a word. He had almost forgotten how much he had missed interacting with his fellow Jedi, but it was still painful to observe those around him. They appeared to move with life, without effort, they were able to enjoy their meals, their friendships and their padawans.  

Qui-Gon sat and viewed a small table, filled with senior padawans, their carefree banter interrupted by a passing master that offered them greetings. There was a Mon Calamari girl, a Dressellian whom seem to be inhaling food from everyone and a young man whom reminded him much of young Kenobi from earlier. They seemed the same age and were probably crechemates with the young man that was too cemented in his thoughts, even now. Regarding his plate once more, Qui-Gon begun to pick at the cold bland food, he felt he was intruding on their lives from the shadows as he watched their bi-play.

After his encounter with Padawan Kenobi he had made it to the meditation gardens, but had no success in finding his center. If he was honest with himself, it had been years since he had achieved that peace within the force. He was now sitting with a half-eaten meal, alone in his misery as everyone seemed to shun his presence. Even his old friend, Mace, had looked on him with something close to disgust just moments ago.  How could he blame him? It’s not like he had returned any of the letters he had received over the years. Why should he show interest now that he was back at the temple?

Just as the master was about to forgo what was left of his dinner, he heard a small cough across the table. “I do hope you planned on eating more than that, Master Jinn?” He looked up to see the sparking eyes of Obi-Wan Kenobi once again. Eyes that seemed to be full of care and understanding, even though they did not know each other in the least, it was something that set his nerves on edge and urged him to feel once more.

“I was not very hungry, but I appreciate your concern, Padawan Kenobi.” It was a curt response, but he wanted this padawan to just leave him be. Was it wrong for a master of his age to just stand and disappear? No, it would not do for him to shun the young man in front of the entire hall; he would at least act like he deserved the title of master.

“Please call me Obi-Wan.” The soft voice seemed to speak to him as if he was a frightened animal. It was a soothing voice, which was low and even in hopes of not scaring away its prey.

Qui-Gon paused for a moment looking up from his discarded food and gazed at the young man before him. His bronzed, reddish hair was spiked in the ridiculous cut of a padawan and his braid rested over the left shoulder. The braid, a symbol of his time with a master, Master Windu not him, not his padawan, the words seemed to burn into his mind. There were many beads wound into the braid, marks of honor and accomplishments, finished off with a bright purple glass bead. It was a symbol of his devotion to his master, the color of Mace Windu’s lightsaber.

Obi-Wan seemed to let the moment continue on, the silence between the two a bit awkward as he stood before the master’s table, hoping for an invitation. He remembered his master’s words when they entered the hall and was eager to befriend such a lost soul, but he also knew that there was a reason his master was adamant about guarding his heart. The man before him was utterly broken and drowning in the past. He looked around for a moment and watched all the padawans and Masters around the room continue on with their conversations, but none seemed to pay attention to the man before him. How could they not feel the force around him, how could they not see the lifeline that reached out to them for a safe harbor?

Qui-Gon saw the young man looking about and figured he was desperately looking for a way out of the situation before him. “It was good to see you again, Obi-Wan, but I must go.”

“You didn’t finish your meal!” Obi-Wan was pulled from his thoughts.

Qui-Gon stood up and pushed his chair in, gathering the food try into his large hands. “I am old enough to take care of myself, Padawan.” The words were a bit icy, but Qui-Gon didn’t need to be coddled.

Obi-Wan bowed his head, chastised at the response. “I’m sorry Master Jinn, it wasn’t my place. I just…”

Qui-Gon quickly cut him off, the sullen face breaking his icy demeanor once more, “It’s ok Obi-Wan, I’m just tired. I’ve been gone from the temple a long while and I am just not used to interacting much.” The confession startled him, but he just nodded. It was time to back off, the force prodded him.

“It will get better, even if it feels foreign to you now.” Obi-Wan bowed slightly to the roughened master and headed over to the table with the Dressellian and company. They immediately started screaming the young man’s name, standing to give him gentle hugs. He seemed to be a welcome addition to their jovial banter as he handed over half his plate to the Dressellian. “Reeft, I will just give this to now and save us both the trouble.”

“Obi-Wan, we missed you so much.” Bant Eerin, the young Mon Calamari smiled.

“I missed you too, my old friend. I trust you’ve kept Reeft and Garen out of trouble while I was gone?”

“Hey, we don’t need a babysitter Obi-Wan!” They both spoke in tandem.

Qui-Gon watched them interact with each other so easily and stood silent for a moment. He longed for that same feeling of belonging and he once had it with Mace, Tahl and Micha. He could have it again if he just simply reached out, but he didn’t deserve it. He didn’t deserve to have that happiness.  Qui-Gon pulled himself from those emotions and emptied his tray. “You didn’t eat, Mastah.”  The small boy before him looked up showing off a brilliant smile.

“My young Quint, I promise I am quite full.”

“I ate all mah food, Master Antma say that if we don’t eat we won’t get big and strong.” Quint’s tiny hands were trying to push his empty tray on the counter to be washed. Qui-Gon reached out to help him, raising the young boy just a bit off the ground.

“Well that is very true, but I don’t think I need to get any bigger, do you?” The master set the youngling back down and gently ran his hands through the mop of hair. “It was good to see you again, Quint, make sure you tell Master Antma that you finished all your food, perhaps you will get frozen pallies for dessert.”

His cerulean eyes sparkled with delight as he ran off towards the creche master, speaking of frozen desserts.

“Well I will be damned; Master Jinn’s heart isn’t the frozen mass that we believed it to be. There is still a sliver of the man we once called friend.” Qui-Gon turned at the voice, the even steady melodic voice of his old friend, Tahl. She looked just as she had years before, beautiful and stoic. She stared at him, as if determining her course of action.

Years before she had been on a mission to Melida/Daan and was almost blinded, but the assignment of both Windu and Kenobi had seen her transported back to the temple quickly, saving both her life and her eye sight. As they stood before each other, she looked almost the same. The frown on her face lifting to a smile. “It is about time you returned, Qui.” Her voice softened just a bit.

“I’m not a monster; I can still manage to not scare small children and animals.” Qui-Gon started to step forward to leave.

“You’ve never been a monster, Qui, except to yourself.” She tried to pull his arm to hers, but he stiffened at the touch and pulled away.

“I’m sorry Tahl, I was just returning to my quarters. I’m still exhausted from my last mission.” He looked one last time to the table of laughing padawans and took a deep breath.

“That’s ok Qui, You can continue to hide for now, but sooner or later you will have to let us in. Tea, tomorrow?” Tahl once again moved forward and wrapped her arms around the stiff body. Her embrace was warm and comforting as it had been since they were little ones. He found his body contouring slightly around her as he heard someone clearing their throat behind him.

“Jinn.” Tahl let go and shook her head. ‘Don’t scare him away, Mace’ went through her head as she let go of her old friend.

“Windu.” Qui-Gon bit back, wondering when they had switched to such formal greetings, but how could he blame him. Mace had often sent communications after Xan…no, he would not think of that name now, he wouldn’t bring that darkness into his life right now. Mace had sent many letters, only to receive silence in return, especially after he had taken a padawan, THE padawan that Yoda declared meant for him.

“I can assume you aren’t here because you wish to be. How long did the troll say you would be in temple?” Mace tried his best to not scream at the man before him.

“I honestly don’t know, Mace. I’m here until I get another assignment, which could be in an hour or a month. It’s in the hands of the force and the council.” The need to run from the hall was tugging at his emotions. He felt his breath starting to quicken, along with his heart. He wouldn’t do this here; he wouldn’t do this in front of the masses and his old friends.

“I...I’m sorry but there is somewhere I must be. It was good to see you both.” He offered, wanting to escape the situation before it overwhelmed him. Tahl and Mace watched the slouched master flee from the room, as if the sith themselves had descended on the temple.

“You could have been more welcoming.” She spoke softly.

“Why should I? He is the one that chose to be alone. He is the one that never wrote, never visited all in the name of some penance. I took Obi-Wan as my padawan and I was suddenly a pariah that was off limits.” Windu started to burn with anger as the words raged on. “We loved him as if a brother, Tahl! He turned on us, when he should have turned to us.”

She allowed him to continue on, knowing that it was not anger but sorrow that made her friend’s words burn. “He’s here now. Perhaps he just needs a shoulder to lean on; perhaps he just needs someone to kick his ass?” No one really knew how to help Qui-Gon, but she ached to see the man he used to be.

“He might, but he isn’t going to hurt my Padawan!” His voice raised and flinched as he saw Obi-Wan look up from his friends and give him a puzzled look.

“I see.”

“No you don’t, Obi-Wan is determined to befriend him.” Mace whispered.

“I do see. You love Obi-Wan. You want to protect him, even though he’s almost a Knight. I look at Bant the same way, but you can’t control what is to come, Mace. You were right to claim him when he was younger, Qui-Gon might have grown to love him, but at what cost to that young man’s spirit?”

“I saw it all, Tahl. I saw a broken old man, alone and still agonizing over acceptance by the one man that meant the most to him, his master. I won’t see him that lonely old man, Tahl. I can’t.” Mace hung his head and rubbed his temples once more, the headache he had earlier exploding behind his eyes.

“One ripple, one decision made can forever alter the universe around us, Mace. Your taking of Obi-Wan may have already altered any future that brings about that sad old man. Would it really hurt to allow Obi-Wan to try, someone needs to get through to Qui before it’s too late. Would you have our friend fall to the darkside?” Her voice was lower as she said out loud what they all thought.

“Who’s to say he hasn’t already? I don’t want to risk his open heart, Tahl.”

“That is not your place any more, Mace. He’s of age, no longer a child and let’s face it, will do what the force wills of him, even if that means ignoring your great wisdom.” Laying her hand gently on his shoulder, she started to walk away, turning just slightly to offer one last word. “We all need a life line, perhaps Obi-Wan can be his. If he fails, he will always have you to mend his broken heart. Who does Qui-Gon have Mace?”

Tahl turned back to the doors and walked out, leaving the question unanswered. She knew that Mace would do the right thing, if he hated the outcome. He was a good man, a good master and a better friend, even if he had to be reminded of the latter.


 

As the walls started to narrow, his heart started to beat faster. Not now, not here. He had to make it back to his quarters; he had to keep his composure just a bit longer. Qui-Gon stalked down the hall, his hood around his features, hoping it would keep those around him from speaking. He was almost there, his door just within reach as his veins seem to turn to ice. Run, his body spoke, run and get away. Run away from the fear that only seemed to follow faster as the minutes continued on. His shaky hand ran over the reader as the doors opened.

Qui-Gon collapsed on his knees as the door closed behind him. His body was shaking with the effort to breathe as his heart seemed to thump from his very chest. Breathe, he told himself. Breathe and be still. Placing his hand on his chest, he tried to pull from the force to calm him soul. He had been having panic attacks for the last year, usually in times of great stress, but times he was alone. He had never felt so helpless and alone than he did at this moment.

His breath hitched as he seemed to be over the worse of the attack. “Reach out for help you should.” He heard the words of his master as he lowered himself to the floor into a fetal position. What happened to the strong man he had become, what happened to the master that he should be. He was now just a puddle of nerves and anxiousness that couldn’t be trusted around people he once called friends.

“Sleep.” He heard the words whispered, but from where he had no idea. It sounded like the best advice ever. When was the last time he had truly slept? Last week, last month…Last year, no, it had been the night before he had left for Telos and his entire life had changed in an instant.

“Sleep.” Yes, he thought, sleep. Maybe he wouldn’t wake up, the thoughts jostled him and he lurched back to his feet. Where had that thought come from, he had never actively sought death. He had never wanted to leave his life.

“What life?” The darkness of the room seemed to speak to him. Perhaps the shadows were right, no. No, he was just tired, he just needed rest. He just needed to make it to his bed. Discarding his robe, Qui-Gon struggled to the bedroom, where he crawled into the bed, clothes and all, wrapping his body around the large pillow. Sleep, just sleep. The last vision in his head before the darkness enclosed was sparking blue-grey eyes, those eyes that would haunt him even in sleep.

Chapter Text

The sun shone through the window of the room, as if it meant to envelope the snoring form on the sleep couch. The man’s mane was halfway in a leather bound braid, with graying streaks of brown falling over his face. Leg appeared to splay completely over the bed, as he clutched to a pillow as if it was his only line of defense against some monster or evil. Tahl considered her old friend with a frown and wished she could smooth out the ache and wrinkles that etched his appearance. Once upon a time the only creases that graced the beautiful man’s face were made from laughter and smiles. How she missed him. She missed his carefree grins and mischievous laugh, the young boy that was once the life of their little group. Micah was always caught up in his weapons classes, Tahl in her data-pads and Qui-Gon; he was the one that told them both to live in the moment. Live for today, watch the sun rise, the sun set and everything in between, it was his mantra growing up.

The wistful smile that came across her face, shattered in a heartbeat as she caught the faint sob from his lips. Nightmares, it was clear to see, but she let it go on for a moment, knowing that most masters could turn their own nightmares into dreams. But it didn’t turn the way she had hoped, a gut wrenching scream was ripped from Qui-Gon’s lips as he flew up into a sitting position, clutching the pillow for dear life.

“Qui?” Tahl spoke tenderly, not wanting to agitate him more than he already was.

Qui-Gon carried his fist to his mouth, trying to stifle the cries that always came with his nightmares. “I couldn’t…How could I….” He was making little sense, but Tahl knew he wasn’t quite wrenched from the nightmare yet.

“Qui, listen to me. It’s me Tahl, can you look up at me please?” She approached him slowly, hands still clutched to a bag of biscuits that she brought for sharing.

The extensive desolate eyes closed for an instant, and then started to glance intently in her direction. She could see the unshed tears in those blue orbs and she ached to make it all go away. “I-I brought tea and biscuits, remember we were going to have tea this morning?” She set the bag down lightly next to him and then followed suit, resting cautiously by his side.

“I never agreed to it.” The gentle words were once again accompanied by the stoic man from the night before. She shook her head and stood once more.

“If that is how you wish it, I will be in the other room. Please get dressed and have tea with me, I-I missed you, my friend.”

She turned and noticed him still clutching the large pillow in his hands. His body was soaked in sweat as he thought back to the viscous nightmare. It was always the same; he was standing over the dead body of his padawan’s father. He had had no choice in the matter; it was self-defense even if Xanatos didn’t believe it. He remembered the awful look of loathing from that scene, and how the sound of an igniting lightsaber rang through the room. That exquisite weapon had been raised not in defense or teaching but it rose in violence. It was an attack on the man that helped mold and cultivate him. Xanatos had turned from a loving, obedient padawan into an animal that only wish to wipe him from the face of the planet.

He would never forget the desperation in those eyes as the only man he would ever think of as a son rescinded his oath to him and the Jedi. His words only spewed hatred and vowed vengeance for a father he barely knew. Qui-Gon once again clutched at the soft foam pillow and closed his eyes against the memories. If only he had done more, if only he had tried harder, but in the end, he had let his padawan leave. He didn’t have the heart to kill his child and he had been paying for that deed every day since.

Shaking the thoughts from his head, Qui-Gon threw the pillow back down and headed for the fresher. Looking into the mirror, he almost didn’t recognize the man before him. His hair seemed to be greying more by the day, the split ends in disarray as it had been forever since he thought to groom himself. The beard was unkempt, he probably looked to most like some wild grizzly creature found in the outer rim.

He let out a long sigh as he quickly peeled the clothes from his body and slipped into the shower. He had lived by sonics alone for so long in the outer rim that the water seemed to absorb into his body with a pleasure very few would understand. Qui-Gon placed his long arms against the cool tile and let the warm water spray gently over old and sore muscles. This was a pleasure that you only seemed to get when within the temple walls, but one he was happy to indulge. When it seemed that the shower would go on forever, he heard the cough of someone just outside the door. “Qui-Gon, letting the tea get cold isn’t an excuse for me to leave; I will force you to drink it anyway.” His lip twitched slightly when heard the lovely voice of the past. He truly missed his friends.

“Very well, I will be out in a moment, Tahl.” Setting words to deeds, the master quickly dried his well-built body and slipped into fresh clothes. The comb on the sink seemed to call out, as he picked out the snarls and knots that had formed from lack of grooming. After about five minutes of cursing the state of his hair, he braided the hair in a tight plait that he tied off with a worn leather string. “It’s a start.” The words said gently to the mirror as he picked up a pair of scissors and groomed his beard to something more suitable. He took one last look into the mirror and was surprised at the difference. Perhaps he wouldn’t scare any children today, just maybe he would look a bit better and everyone would leave him alone.

“Qui-Gon, your room is utterly bare…” Tahl stopped in her tracks as she looked at the man she had once known. He looked as if nothing had happened, he looked stunning. Once again she ached to reach out and embrace him, but even she knew that looks could be deceiving. It was a start and one she would accept, but sometimes you had to take two steps forward before you took one step back.

“There was no need to keep clutter in these quarters. I told the quartermaster to pack my things up and reassign the room, but it would seem that even those wishes are not kept.” He stalked toward the dining table and sat down, bringing the tea to his lips as he sipped. “It’s cold…”

“Tough, you will drink it and like it. I wasn’t the one taking forever in the fresher.” Tahl smiled and finished her own tea. She was still as beautiful as he remembered and frustrating as well. She would not leave him be as long as they both walked these temple halls, he needed to get back out into the field before it wasn’t just Yoda and Tahl that meddled in his life.

“We had tea; you saw that I’m alive and healthy. Was there another reason for your visit? I do have things…”

She quickly cut him off, livid at his demeanor. “You listen here, Qui-Gon Jinn. Enough is enough. We get that you lost your Padawan to the dark. We understand the many horrors he has put you and other people through in the past years. You’ve chased him through every lead, you’ve followed every shadow that could possibly lead to Xanatos, but you don’t get to forget that you are a JEDI. You are our friend!” She took a deep breath and continued. “Where were you when Micah was hurt two years ago and they thought he would never walk again? They told him he might never pick up a lightsaber and teach those that he had grown to love over the years. His heart broke every time he thought of the crechlings that looked up to him as weapons master!” Tahl was up on her feet pacing the floor, an angry look turning to anguish as she looked back at his dejected eyes.

“I never meant…I didn’t know…Is he?”

“Not quite the master of words now, are you?” she snarled and closed her eyes at the onslaught of pain and remembrance. “Where were you when I thought I would never see another sunrise or sun set, where were you in our fucking moment of need?” Her words were screamed in bitterness at the man in front of her. She never wanted to unleash this on her friend, but he had left them to nothing. No words, no letters, and no options. He had simply chosen to wallow in his grief and despair alone.

Tahl wrapped the force around her body like a safety blanket, trying to purge the anger that seemed to take over, when she gasped and realized the reason. “Qui-Gon?” The tears started to flow down her cheeks as she remembered Mace’s words from the night before. “The darkness, it fills this room, Have we already lost you?” Her eyes pleaded for an answer.

“It’s just the nightmare, it was very powerful and I’m sure I wasn’t shielding very well. It will pass, I’m sorry Tahl. I never meant to hurt you or Micah. You were my family.”

“We are your family.” She interrupted him.

“You are my family, but sometimes we have to step away from even our family to find our peace. I should have returned more often and sought you both out, but I needed to find him before he hurt anyone else. You must understand that he’s still out there, waiting and plotting.” He stood and approached his friend whom seemed to huddle in on herself as the moments went on. “Let’s get out of this room and go to the gardens. Perhaps, you could…nevermind.”

The woman stood up straight, shoulders held back stiffly. “No, no more nevermind. What were you going to ask Qui?”

“Perhaps you could meditate with me?” The words were barely a whisper, embarrassment oozing off him like a teenager.

“I would be honored.” She quickly stopped him from retracting the question and wrapped her hands around his. “We missed you, Qui. I missed you.”

Qui-Gon smiled slightly and grabbed the robe that was hung up next to the door. “After you, my pushy friend.”


 

Obi-Wan turned off his saber, as the sweat poured off his body. He had been practicing a new kata, one that might be the last he learned under his master. Grabbing a towel and wiping his brow he felt a figure watching him and he turned around to smile brightly. “Master! You didn’t have to try to sneak up on me. I would have gladly had you watch.”

“You never cease to amaze me. You’ve almost perfected that form, it sometimes astounds me that you are truly still my padawan and not a seasoned knight.” Mace settled his hand gently on the warm shoulder.

Obi-Wan politely grinned at his master and set the saber down to pack up his training gear. “If you continue with such grand words, my head might not fit through the door, my master.” They both laughed as Mace sat on the bench to continue their conversation. “I have heard that the Queen of Naboo is to have her say with the Senate today and wishes to return home tomorrow. I have the feeling we are going to be dispatched to return with them.”

“It is the smart thing to do, Master. They know we cannot fight the war for them, but we can protect them as they do what they need to liberate their planet. Although I do think Padme, I mean…The Queen should at least talk to those that share the planet and unite together.” Obi-Wan remembered the creature, Jar-Jar, as he thought of the Gungan city. “They may not be the wisest of creatures, but once the federation is through with the Naboo they will start with the Gungans. They must work together.”

“Didn’t I just say, you cease to astound me?” Mace beamed with pride. He knew that the young handmaiden was the Queen in disguise, but wasn’t aware that his padawan had also caught on. “I have a feeling that you are correct, however we have to wait and see how it plays out and if the council wishes us to proceed. Have you spoken to young Anakin, to see if the council has started his testing?”

“I saw him this morning, early. His mother was getting him ready for the council’s questions. I do believe they have already offered Shmi a job in the creche. I think she will flourish there, as will the children she tends to.” Mace nodded and ran his hand over the smooth dome of his head. It was a sign that he was deep in thought and perhaps troubled about something. This was a sign that Obi-Wan had learned well throughout the years.

“I just don’t know if the boy should be Jedi trained or just taught to control his gifts. The force isn’t exactly speaking clearly on this particular matter.

“If I may be so bold, my master. That foul creature you fought is not done, he will not stop. I felt it when you were fighting him on Tatooine. We can’t lead that boy into his hands. One way or another we must protect him, as padawan or not. Let the council decide, they will do what is best.”

They both started to walk towards the locker room as Mace stopped suddenly. “Obi-Wan, About Master Jinn.” Mace stilled for the moment as he tried to gather his thoughts again. “I know I warned you to watch your heart, and I mean that in every way, but…”

Obi-Wan cut him off, knowing exactly what needed to be said. “He needs me. Maybe that’s arrogant to say, but he needs, if not me than someone like me. You look at the man, and he is so tall and stoic and he has a legend around him that makes most padawans shake. However, when I look at him, I see someone lost in his own shadow. I see a man that is hiding what he feels behind a wall that has so many patches in it that the damn is threating to break. What kind of Jedi would I be if I didn’t try to help him? What if I let him fall to the dark that is all around him without every reaching out?”

The words flowed from his padawan’s lips and Mace felt shame for them. This young man, who had never met Qui-Gon Jinn before seemed to understand and see everything, when his friends and the council had let him flounder on the outer rim by himself. He saw the good in him, even when the darkness threatened. If he wasn’t meant for his trials before, he certainly was now. He was a better man, a better Jedi than Mace had ever seen.

“I am no better than my master that took a chance on me so young. He just can’t see the forest through the trees at the moment and worries for my heart. I would yell at you that I am capable, if it wasn’t so endearing. You mean as much to me as I mean to you. Do not fear, the force will provide.” Such faith, such love, perhaps it was Kenobi that should be called the master.

“I’m not convinced that the man won’t hurt you, but I won’t try to come between your friendship. I do wish with all my heart that my old friend will return. I miss…him.” It wasn’t unusual for the master and apprentice to speak from the heart, but it was usually something to do with his padawan’s life, seldom his. It felt good to share this part of his soul with him, it felt right.

A few hours later, both master and apprentice emerged from the council chambers, Obi-Wan a few steps behind the other as they made their way to the balcony outside. “What I told them inside was true. You are ready.”

Obi-Wan just nodded and bowed his head in thought. He couldn’t believe that once they returned from Naboo he would partake in his trials. He didn’t fear being on his own, but he worried for the man that would once again be alone. Mace had been a quiet man before they started, he didn’t want him to return to that shell, and he needed to know that his master would be ok. “Are you ready, my master?” The words were unexpected, but Mace smiled evenly.

“I will never be ready for you to fly from the nest, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Don’t you worry about me; I have heard tales that I will be raised to the council once again. However I will miss you by my side.” Mace pulled Obi-Wan into a fierce embrace, as the force spoke of missed chances. He would make sure that the young man knew his worth, no matter what. “I had only wished they would have made a choice about Anakin, but I can understand their need to be cautious. Let us go break the news that he will have a guardian while we are out, and then we should pack.”

“Heaven help whoever is stuck with him. He’s a very easy boy to like, but full of energy.” They both laughed and head off to break the news to Anakin and his mother.


 

“Guardian, you will be.” Yoda spoke softly for the second time.

Qui-Gon whom had stood calmly before the council just moments before, now started to pace. “A guardian I will NOT be.” He stopped and quickly kneeled before his master, sorry for the mocking words. “I’m sorry master, you don’t understand. I do not wish to ever take another padawan. I won’t.”

“Qui-Gon Jinn, this council has put up with your demands for mission after mission. It has put up with “It’s the will of the force” more times than we can count. You were not a failure to your padawan, it was his choice to leave us and let the darkness inside. We are not asking you to take a padawan; we are telling you that you will be a guardian to this boy while Master Windu and Padawan Kenobi are on mission to Naboo.” Adi Gallia was frustrated and it showed. She very seldom raised her voice, but they were all at their wits end to break through to the stubborn master.

“Guardian the boy needs and available you are. Observed he will be by a master, and report on him to the council you will after they return.” Yoda stood from his chair and moved closer to the kneeling man. He loved his old padawan more than was considered healthy and ached to see him bowed from something as simple and innocent as watching a young boy.

“It would seem I have no choice. When this is done, might I be back on mission assignment?” Qui-Gon looked up into Yoda’s sad eyes. He hated disappointing his master, but knew no other way.

Yoda turned to the others on the council chamber and shook his head. “If that is truly what you wish, we will put you back on the roster after their return.” Adi once again sighed and stood. “May the force be with you, Master Jinn.”

Letting his shoulders sag once again, he stood and walked from the room that once used to warm him and now left him so cold. “Master Jinn?” He heard a small voice from the corner of the waiting room. “I saw you with Obi-Wan, not that long ago. Are you going to be my guard?”

The young blonde headed boy peeked from behind a lovely middle-aged woman. She bowed her head and closed her eyes briefly before speaking, “Anakin Skywalker, we discussed this and he’s going to be your guardian while Obi and Mace are gone. He’s going to be your guardian and help to get you settled into the temple to see if you and it get along. I’m so sorry for my son, Master Jinn. My name is Shmi, Shmi Skywalker” She offered her hand to the gentlemen before her and he shook it carefully.

“It is a pleasure to meet you Lady Skywalker. I wasn’t expecting to have a young boy staying with me, perhaps you can give me an hour or two to settle things in my quarters and see that he has some place to sleep?” The sudden headache behind his eyes seemed to explode in a few short minutes.

“Absolutely, I understand more than anyone, how much planning you have to do with young ones. We will go have second meal and then meet you at your quarters?” She grinned shyly at the man before her.

“I will see you both then.” Qui-Gon bowed to them both and quickly made a hasty retreat. This young brilliant light in the force would be his responsibility, what would he do. His heart started to leap inside his chest once again as panic started to roll in. He would not let this control him, not this time. He quickly ran down the hall into the nearest garden for shelter. Feeling the green around him, the living force quickly embraced him like a blanket. His breathing evened out and his panic receded as he pulled closer to his center. So help him, he would make sure that Mace Windu regretted ever leaving this boy with him. He stood quickly and stomped from the guardian, cursing that he had ever returned.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

After their evening meal, Anakin and Shmi strolled hand in hand to the quarters of Master Jinn. She still wasn’t sure why the council insisted that her son stay with this man. Anakin could quarter with her until a decision was made about his future. She had inquired with a few friends she had already made in temple about Jinn and was deeply disturbed with the rumors. She had heard tale that the man had lost a padawan, some insinuated that the master drove him to the dark and had never recovered. Jinn had stately refused after that to embrace any other child or friend for that matter. They told her he was an aloof, mulish man whom never stayed in temple long and many wondered if he was falling to the darkside.

Such tales were disturbing to a mother who loved her child more than life. Would he be able to take care of her son, would he see that he needed nurturing more than scowling and mumbling? Would he see the individual in front of him or just the phantom of a past filled with sorrow? There were just so many questions swirling in her mind that her feet brought her to Master Yoda’s door.

“Come in you will?” The door opened to reveal the tiny green master that Shmi was starting to call friend.

“Master Yoda!” Anakin leapt in front of his mother, the wide smile contagious as the grandmaster laughed.

“Good to see you it is, both of you. Heavy burden you are carrying, need advice you do?”  Yoda shuffled slightly and moved out of the walkway to allow them both entrance into his humid and warm rooms, motioning for them both to make themselves at home.

“I’m sorry to bother you, Master Yoda. I didn’t even realize I was heading here until we were at your door.” She shyly smiled, and sat on a low chair, her knees slightly bunching up. Anakin piled into the chair next to her, almost bouncing with energy.

“Cookies there may be, if check in the kitchen you do.” They both laughed at the child as he flew into the kitchen on a very specific mission. “Concerned you are, feel it I can.”

Shmi was grateful that the master had found a reason to get Anakin out of the room. She didn’t know Master Jinn and didn’t want to speak out of turn in front of her son, giving him reason to question his authority. She looked around the room once more before talking, amazed at how the rooms reminded her of a swamp more than a musty old temple rooms. She felt warmer in this climate than anywhere on Coruscant since their arrival. “I met Master Jinn briefly before taking Ani to supper. He was…Well, I…” Yoda waited patiently for the words to come. Shmi was such a sweet soul with a tragic background, but a fiercely protective mother. He understood her concerns even before she did, but he would let her have her say, it was her right. “The man that I met is broken. I’ve seen his type many times in our society. I don’t know what happened, and it’s really none of my business, save that you are asking me to trust the most precious thing in my life to him.”

Yoda’s ears drooped slightly at the words and he paused a few minutes before answering. “Hurt very long ago was Master Jinn. Betrayed by the one person in the world he loved most. Recovered he still has not.” Yoda rose from the chair in front of her to approach Shmi. “Ask you to think about young Skywalker. Close your eyes you will and picture.” Shmi looked at the diminutive looking troll and wondered exactly what he was trying to do, but she swiftly closed her eyes when it looked as if she would get no explanation until she did. “Good, Good. Picture of your son you have?”

“Yes.” She spoke softly.

“Small and ready for the world he is, taking on the world one step at a time he is. Looks up to you he does, innocent he is. Swear to look out for him for all time you do. Time moves on and grow he does. You teach him all you know, until ready for life alone he is. Picture the good times and the bad. Picture how much love you have for him. See this you can?” The force seem to flow between the two as her pictures of Anakin morphed slightly, seeing a young man with deep black hair and a long braid standing next to a man who’s eyes crinkled with laughter.

“I can, and I don’t need to pretend, I know how much love a parent has for their child. They would do anything to protect and love them.” Her words were a bit harsh as she wondered if the master was questioning her love for her child.

“See your love for young Anakin I do. Questioning that, no one ever can. Now picture that the son you knew, the one you loved most turned on you. Imagine that he raised a hand to you, in hatred. Imagine the words you will, “I hate you! I will destroy everything you taught me, I will make sure you pay with your life and I don’t care who gets hurt in the process.” Tears started to flow down Shmi’s cheeks as the force granted her the visual picture of Master jinn and his wayward apprentice.  Only one lightsaber glowing as the young man approached a surprised and stricken Jinn. She watched as he had no choice but to engage and fight the man he considered a son. Just as suddenly as the image came to her, it fled. She was relieved to have it was gone. She never wanted to picture her son in that position.

“I can see now why he looks so haunted, but…” She was embarrassed to question the seasoned master, but she didn’t understand how the Jedi could see the man flounder and not help him. Yoda just motioned for her to continue. “He’s a living walking misery. Everyone must see it! He looks as if he hasn’t slept in years, his body while large, is sickly from lack of eating. He reminds me of some of the harshest slaves on Tatooine. Why do you not help him?”

Letting out a bitter sigh, Yoda climbed on the chair next to her. “Tried, I have, but help he will not take. Love him as you do Ani, I do, once my padawan he was. Never stopped caring and loving him I have, but cut me out of his life he has.”

“Forgive me, Master Yoda, but why would you put my son into the hands of a man who could at any minute unravel?” The fierceness was evident in her tone.

“Unravel he could, but never harm your child he would. Watched him I have with another young boy in temple. Younger than your son, but full of fire as well. When no one is looking, Qui-Gon’s eyes light again. He sees once more the unconditional love that children bear. Hurt young Ani, he will not or put them together I would not. Help them both this could, harsh path Anakin will have if Jedi he is to become.”

Shmi sat there for a moment and shook her head. “You are asking me to trust you with something beyond precious to me, in the hands of a man that you yourself admit is broken. I just don’t think…” Shmi was about to quickly shut this down. She would go back to Tatooine before she let her son get hurt once again.

“Mom! I found the cookies! Can we bring some to Master Jinn; I bet cookies would cheer him up.” The boy flew into the room, still bristling with energy. Yoda looked on at the two, letting her make up her own mind. He wouldn’t push her, he wouldn’t insist.

“I don’t know Ani, I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be better to stay with me.”

“Mom, you are going to be busy settling in with your new job in the creche. I don’t want to stay with the babies. Perhaps Master Jinn will show me some wizard things like Obi…I mean Padawan Kenobi did.” He looked at Master Yoda shyly.

“More things to teach, Master Qui-Gon has, but grumpy he can be. Task you are up to?”

Just like that, the decision was made. “Of course! He’s not grumpy, just sad and lonely. He just needs a friend.” Out of the mouth of babes, Shmi thought silently to herself.

“Ok Ani, Let us get you to Master Jinn’s. I’m sure he’s wondering where we got off to.” Shmi kneeled in front of Yoda and whispered softly. “I will see Ani to his quarters, but mark my words. That man will not hurt my son, or deal with me he will.” She mocked the wizened master who only chuckled softly, knowing her words to be true. She was full of fire and he mourned the Jedi she would have been.


 

“Master Jinn, I hope you were able to get everything you needed.” Shmi smiled as Qui-Gon opened the door. She took a deeper look at the man before her. His long brown hair, which had a smattering of grey, was pushed back into a braid. His deep blue irises were stark against the dark circles under his eyes; the frown on his face starting to slightly wrinkle what she was sure was once a beautiful face.

Qui-Gon Just nodded at the young boy and mother. He had made sure his quarters were ready. He managed to get a small pallet for the second room and clothing for the lad. He even brought fresh groceries for breakfast. He hadn’t cooked in his room for years, but he remembered how much children ate. Of course he had done all this while cursing the council and his old master. How dare they continue to meddle in his life? There were many in the temple who would have taken the young boy in. “Please come in, Lady Skywalker.” His voice didn’t betray his anger; he still remembered his diplomatic training, even in this case.

Shmi looked around the sterile environment and almost laughed because she knew it wouldn’t stay that way long, not with her son. She turned and kneeled in front of Anakin and ruffled his hair slightly. “Thank you, Master Jinn, but I have creche duty in a few minutes and don’t wish to be late.”

“Please call me Qui-Gon.”

“Shmi.” She nodded at him. “Be good Ani. Don’t give Master..I mean, don’t give Qui-Gon any trouble.”

“I’m sure we will get along fine.” ~Who are you kidding, you are petrified to be alone with a young boy~ Qui-Gon couldn’t help but thinking as the words were thought simultaneously.  Anakin looked at the older man and quickly ran by, flinging himself into the couch.

“Good Luck, Qui-Gon” She almost laughed, but turned to depart instead, leaving the two to get better acquainted.

As the door slid shut, Qui-Gon’s heart started to beat faster, panic settling just at the edge of his emotions.  “You’ve had dinner?” The words were barely a whisper, his heart still thudding harshly in his ears.

“Yup! I was able to pick anything I wanted and they even let me have seconds, it was wizard. We never got to eat that much back home. Then I got to have cookies at Master Yoda’s.” The boy let out a small yawn, his energy starting to wane.

“Master Yoda always kept the best cookies. I’m glad you enjoyed it, but it’s already getting late. I made up a pallet for you in the other room. Go use the fresher and get ready for bed, we will talk more tomorrow.” He knew he was postponing the inevitable, but he needed to get his emotions back into control. The young boy left the room and headed into the fresher and he leaned against the wall, slouching once he was out of view. “He’s just a boy. He will be gone in a few days once Mace and Kenobi are back. I can do this…” He turned to his own room and started to get ready for bed; even though he knew sleep would be long coming on this night.


 

Qui-Gon had managed to fall asleep a few hours after he had tucked Anakin in, but was suddenly pulled from his haunting dreams. The quarters were silent; the only sound that of the air-cooling unit. Something dark seemed to creep within the walls, the force tugging at the master to leave the bed and investigate. He was pulled into the common room, the silence still almost defeating as the force screamed at him to keep going.  Qui-Gon walked barefooted into the hallway, remembering the young boy that was sleeping inside. Was this the reason he had awoke?

Standing just before the door, Qui-Gon reached his hand out and ran it gently over the paneling, remembering the old padawan that used to sleep there once upon a time. No, that was the past, this was the present, and he wouldn’t go there. “NOOOO!” The scream startled him out his thoughts as he opened the door and saw the young blond boy thrashing under the covers, tears flowing from his eyes.

“Anakin?” The soft words were spoken from across the room, Qui-Gon was afraid to go to the boy and offer more comfort, but the boy didn’t respond.

“Please, don’t hurt him…” The words were shouted as the boy shot up in the bed, shivering and crying.

“Anakin, it’s just a dream. It’s ok.” Qui-Gon carefully inched closer, unable to keep his distance as the boy ran out of the bed and into his arms. Letting out a sigh, Qui-Gon wrapped his arms around the trembling young man and started to rock him gently. “It’s ok Anakin, it was just a dream. You are safe and sound in the temple. Nothing can harm you here.” They were words that he had often whispered to another, but they were just as true now as they were then.

After a few minutes of weeping, Qui-Gon settled them back on the small pallet, his back against the wall for support as Anakin wrapped around him for comfort. He let the boy get it all out, waiting for the sniffles to come less. “Anakin?” He looked down and gently lifted the sad face towards his. “It’s ok, I promise.” What was he doing promising anything? It wasn’t like life couldn’t smack you down in an instant. “Would you like to tell me about your nightmare?”

The boy shook his head slightly, still unable or unwilling to talk about anything. Qui-Gon just nodded and held the boy as he cuddled closer to his body, seeking warmth. He then realized that Anakin was used to two suns and was probably always just a bit colder than most. Wrapping a blanket around them, he continued to rock them back and forth as the shivering finally stopped and he heard the even breathing of sleep. 

“I’ll just stay and watch over his dreams, to make sure he’s ok.” That’s what he thought to himself as he wouldn’t admit that it felt good to hold onto something so innocent once again. He closed his eyes and settled into meditation, alert to the bundle in his arms. Nothing would harm him again this night, he would make sure.


 

Anakin opened his eyes and realized he was in the tall master’s arms, sleeping like a baby. What had happened last night, “Oh…” He let out the small noise as he remembered the vivid nightmare that had awoken the master. He had fallen asleep crying in Qui-Gon’s arms. Qui-Gon opened his eyes from the long meditation and settled them on bright blue eyes that seemed to panic at the situation. “I’m sorry, Sir.” The boy started to crawl out of his lap, looking ashamed.

“It’s ok; Anakin and you can call me Qui-Gon. There is no need to call me sir. Would you like to get cleaned up while I get us breakfast?” The boy, still looking embarrassed fled to fresher. Qui-Gon stood up, his back aching from sitting against the wall most of the night. Stretching and listening to his joints crack slightly, he made his way to the kitchen and started a pot of tea and another pot of some sort of oats for breakfast.  Anakin appeared; face washed from the dried tears and looking much better.

“Have a seat young Anakin. I’ve never been a great cook, but it will be edible.” Anakin chuckled and scooted up the table, digging into the oats without a word.

After they both ate breakfast, they just sat in uncomfortable silence until Qui-Gon finally couldn’t stand it anymore. “Anakin, about last night...”

“I don’t want to talk about it!” The boy got excited and quickly starting to pull his legs up to his chest in the chair. Qui-Gon knew that Anakin was withdrawing and slowly approached him, kneeling so that they were face to face.

“It’s ok. We all have nightmares and sometimes need comfort.”

“But it wasn’t a nightmare…” Anakin whispered.

“What was it then?” Qui-Gon felt the force light around him.

“When I have dreams like that, they aren’t just dreams….They…” Anakin trailed off, his face scrunched up and miserable.

“Anakin, are you having visions? Do your dreams come true sometimes?” Qui-Gon was one with the living force, but he knew that those closer to the unifying force often had to suffer with visions of the future.

“Yes…Don’t let it happen, please don’t let it happen!” The boy once again flew into Qui-Gon’s embrace, crying uncontrollably.

“Hush, little one…hush. Live in this moment with me, the future will take care of itself, it’s not in your hands.” The force swirled around the master, urging him to listen, but quickly it faded when Qui-Gon ignored its call. “How about we get dressed and visit your mother, than we can head to the training salles and I will start to show you the first kata?”

Anakin shot up with enthusiasm at those words. “Really? Obi started to show me some, but then he had to go. Would you really teach me more?” Qui-Gon chuckled, letting the boy down from his embrace. “Indeed I will. We can see just how good of a teacher Obi-Wan was, go get dressed.” Qui-Gon watched the boy go from depressed to excited in a snap as he ran from the room to dress. Children were always so resilient.

It had been four days since Master Jinn had taken over guardianship of a wayward boy from a dessert planet. He was full of questions and energy, but Qui-Gon had tried his best to channel that energy into exercise. The first time he had drug the young lad into the training halls and set to teaching him the first kata with bare hands he thought that both himself and the boy would run for the council begging to part each other’s company.

It had been so long since Qui-Gon had tried to have the patience to correct stances and lazy posture that had built up after nine years. “Anakin, you must keep your wrist locked, if you let it lay limp your opponent will quickly take advantage.”

“But, why must I do this bare handed, the other children are using training sabers!” The Anakin’s anger was building as the moments went on.

“Would you run before you walk? Would you swim before you can float? They have been practicing for years and therefore are ahead of your lessons.” The tall man quickly brought himself to the young boy’s level and looked deep into wide eyes. “Anakin, do you truly wish to be a Jedi? Ask yourself why you are even considering this?” He had come to enjoy the young man’s company the last few days, but he knew how hard the road would be if they accepted him into the temple.

“I don’t want anyone else to feel like my mother and I. There are so many slaves, so many who can’t protect themselves. I want to help them!” Qui-Gon’s heart went out to Anakin as tears started to roll down the still chubby cheeks of youth. “They hurt my mom, every day. She never did anything wrong, but they treated her like she was less than human…”

The boy was full of emotions, both hurt and anger but it wasn’t anything out of normal for the way he had grown up. It was understandable, the question was if he could put that aside and fulfill the Jedi code. The moment seemed to drag on as the boy’s emotions continued to overwhelm him, the master just knelt in front of him, wanting to comfort him but stuck in a loop of denial.

“Anakin, I can’t change your past, and neither can you. However, you can change your future and that of your mother. You have a great gift that could help many, but keep in mind that you don’t have to be a Jedi to help those in need. Only you and your mother can decide what path you will take. I just ask you to think heavily, because once you start to walk the path of a Jedi it is not a simple life.”

Anakin reached out and gently touched the elder master’s cheek. He was overcome with feelings of guilt and remorse, not his own feelings but that of Qui-Gon Jinn. “Oh.” The only words that could leave his lips as the master pulled the young boy into a gentle hug. “I don’t wish to scare you Anakin, I just want you to have a chance at a life that should have been yours since your first breath. Don’t let anyone push you into something you don’t want to do. Don’t be a slave to your past; accept the future for all that you wish from it. Qui-Gon quickly let the child go and stood straight as he watched Master Yoda walk through the doors of the training room.

“Master Yoda, what can we do for you?” The small master’s ears twitched, hobbling closer to the two. “Your mother, waiting she is, young Anakin.” The words were hollow and Qui-Gon knew immediately something was wrong. “I will see you soon, Ani. Tell your mother how well you did today and please think on what I said.”

The boy ran from the room as Qui-Gon kneeled on the floor closer to his old master. “What is it?”

“Mission we have. Trouble on Naboo there was.” Qui-Gon watched as the small master seemed to fold in on himself. Something was seriously wrong, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to ask.

“Mace?”

“Gravely hurt he was. Vile creature he fought on Tatooine, there he was. Fought the darkness both Mace and Obi-Wan did. Mace’s padawan defeated him, but not before he struck Mace. Know not we do, if live he will. His padawan, ready for his trials, but all alone he is. Need you to head to Naboo, take over the mission and give you support Kenobi will.”

Mace was hurt, critically hurt. His mind was swirling with all sorts of questions. He always thought his old friend was beyond anything that could hurt him. He was able to still beat anyone in the training halls, but yet this dark being had bested him. “Questions we all have, but need you there, we do. Work with a padawan you can?”

Qui-Gon quickly stood up to his full height before the wizened Grandmaster. “I will do what I must, Master. I may not want another padawan, but that doesn’t mean I can’t work in tandem with someone else’s.”

Yoda watched as his old padawan left the training hall to prepare and settled to meditate on the future. What was once clear and bright was muddled and tainted. He no longer saw their path, he no longer saw his padawan’s bright future, and dark times were coming. “No, here they are.” Yoda whispered to no one, hoping that Qui-Gon would make it in time to help both Mace and Obi-Wan.

Chapter Text

The darkness was a comfort that Obi-Wan was coming to depend on in the tiny medical ward on Naboo. His master was kept in a minute room that seemed way too slight to hold the larger than life man that he had come to know over the years. There were no windows, no sunlight that caressed his skin as it turned ashy and lifeless by the hour. The dark-skinned man that Obi-Wan always came to depend on; to love was no longer there to offer his advice and his smile. He lay there unresponsive, nothing but machines for noise.

Minutes after getting Mace to the healers, they descended upon him, pushing Obi-Wan away gently. They rushed him to surgery to repair burnt and bleeding organs and then dumped him into the bacta tank. Obi-Wan was left to wait in a lifeless hallway as he fought back the tortured screams that seemed to wrench from his very soul. He had never been without his master’s presence since he was a boy. They had always been bonded, the link flooding him with purpose and comfort in even the worst of times, but that was no more. Their link was silent, naught but a gentle buzz that said Mace Windu was still alive.

Mace Windu was alive. Those were the only words of comfort anyone could offer the young man at this moment. Perhaps it was because for a brief ten minutes, that was not the case. As Mace lay bleeding from his gut on the cold floor he muttered a few words of comfort to the one person that meant the most to him. He then slipped into the comforting arms of the force. There was no heartbeat and no breath, just the silence of force fields turning off and on in the background, and the sobs of a broken heart. Obi-Wan Kenobi sat on the floor, grasping his master’s limp body as he rocked them back and forth, asking for forgiveness, asking for him to come back.

In that moment of vulnerability, Captain Panaka and his guards flooded the room with a field medic. The medic pushed the padawan to the side and began his work, asking questions about how long he had been gone. Obi-Wan barely whispered, “I don’t know, minutes, hours…I….” The tears were starting to flow down his cheeks as he no longer felt his master through their bond, it was unraveling the longer time flew by.

The medic turned to the master and began his work, trying to restart a lifeless heart that seemed beyond saving. He titled Mace’s head back and offered him his own breath as his hands thrusted against his chest, the sound of ribs cracking unavoidable. Panaka knelt down and offered his help as he happily shouted, “I’ve got a pulse. It’s weak, but it’s there!”

The medic continued to offer his breath, the damage to the Master’s lungs unable to take over the task.  Obi-Wan felt powerless in this situation, he couldn’t muster the care to ask about Naboo. He couldn’t bring himself to stand and offer assistance with his master. He just knelt on the cold floor, numb and defenseless. “Obi-Wan?” It was said a bit louder as it was the third time Panaka tried to get the padawan’s attention. They could both tell that he was going into shock, so another guard wrapped his coat around the padawan for comfort and protection. “Obi-Wan? We need to get to the healers if he’s to have any chance.” Panaka had tried again, gently shaking the young man.

Still no answer, just hollow eyes that ran with tears.  Panaka looked at the medic who was now on the hover bed with the master, still breathing for him. “Go, we will be behind you. Obi-Wan, please talk to me?” Panaka had been on this mission from the beginning with the two Jedi and he had grown to admire them both. They moved in tandem for most things and you could see the love they both bared the other. It was a love that he had witnessed so many times between father and son or even siblings; it was a family connection that would never falter.

Obi-Wan was still reliving the fight with the horned creature, living each and every moment prior to this one. What he couldn’t have done better, why he wasn’t faster? Why did he allow himself to be separated from his Master?

“My fault…” The words, barely whispered were hard for Panaka to hear.  He turned to the young man and kneeled slowly beside him on the steel floor, his hands gripping tightly to a lightsaber, one that was made for larger hands than that of Obi-Wan Kenobi.

“Obi-Wan, this was no one’s fault but the Trade Federation and that ugly creature that attacked.”

There was a soft moan that focused the padawan once again. “I…I can feel him again.”

“He’s alive for now. The healers will do everything to keep him that way.” The guard stood up and reached to help the padawan up, the adrenaline of the fight fleeting as he swayed back and forth. His back ached from where he fell against the bridge. “We need to get you to the healers as well. Master Windu would be upset if we left you in this state.”

                                                                                                *

Obi-Wan opened his eyes once again, watching the machine breath for the man he would call father in any other situation. He ached for the machines to silence, to hear the normal whispers of snoring as his master naturally slept. His hand was clasped over the unresponsive master’s, trying to provide warmth and comfort as he waited for the council to send help. He had reported everything as his master taught him, he did his duty to both the Jedi and the Naboo, but now duty was over. He could sit vigil over the man that was still on the precipice of life and death.

“Padawan Kenobi?” The deep growl behind him was ignored. He had no wish to speak to another healer, to another mind healer. The queen had insisted they keep trying to offer the padawan comfort.

Obi-Wan closed his eyes as he felt the heat of another body just behind him. Why couldn’t they just let him be, leave him to tend his master in peace?  “Kenobi?” The word was said just a bit harsher this time, betraying the owner as something other than a healer.

“What do you want?” The last word echoed in the room as he turned to face a tall and unkempt master. It was Jinn.

“Did Master Windu teach you such disrespect? You had no idea whom you were speaking; I could have been someone in the Queen’s delegation.”

“Fuck you! I don’t need a lecture from YOU!” Obi-Wan held tighter to his master’s hand, closing his eyes at the pain. He would pay for speaking such words to a master of the order, but he was exhausted and at his wits end. He didn’t have the desire to do this now. Obi-Wan startled as he heard a chuckle echo the room. How could he find humor in a room where his friend lay dying? His master warned him that Jinn had issues, but how could he be so callous.

“You were definitely raised by your Master…” Qui-Gon had watched the young man from the door for several minutes, feeling his emotions swirl in the force. He was strong, he was doing his duty, but he wasn’t dealing very well with his own emotions. He knew that position well. The padawan didn’t need his pity, he needed a purpose. One he would be sure to give him. The boy needed someone to focus his anger on, before turning it inside on himself; Qui-Gon could very quickly play that role. “I was sent by the council, Padawan Kenobi. I need to be briefed on what has happened here.”

“The Sith are back. The Naboo are freed. My master…” The words broke as the young man turned to hide his face.

“Your master may not make it.” Qui-Gon offered the words that didn’t come.

“I guess you would like that!” Obi-Wan turned on Qui-Gon and scowled at him. The anger and hatred were churning faster and faster through his body, unable to be controlled any longer.

“Mace and I have had our…differences.” Qui-Gon had started.

Obi-Wan stiffened and looked back at his master, the machines beeping just a bit faster. “Differences? He warned me away from you. He…He told me you were bad news. I should have listened. Your first words aren’t about him, they are about duty!  What kind of friend are you?”

“You need to calm your emotions, young Obi-Wan.”

“So I can be like the great Master Jinn? So I can watch everyone in my life turn or die! So I can turn into the shadow that you are?” Obi-Wan was screaming at him now, even as his mind swirled and tried to stop. It was just all coming out now and the man before him was taking the brunt of his anger.

Qui-Gon turned his body, glancing at his old friend in the bed that reminded him of pyres past. Mace’s body was still as the force swirled from around him, out towards his padawan. Even in this state, the bond was trying to offer his ward comfort. The only problem was that Obi-Wan was shutting himself off from that comfort with his harsh emotions.

“Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi, you will treat me with the respect that I’m sure I have earned over the years. You will do your duty to the Jedi and to your Master, Mace Windu.” The padawan immediately stopped in his tracks, the words finally breaking through as Obi-Wan sunk to his knees sobbing.

“I…I’m sorry Master Jinn. I wasn’t…” Qui-Gon closed his eyes and tried to reach out to the heart broken young man before him. His hand suddenly stopped just before it rested on the reddish padawan cut. His touch was unwanted, his sympathy not needed. He had a role to play in this, but friend wasn’t it.

“Enough, Kenobi. Please purport yourself as the Padawan that your master would be proud of. I will expect you in my quarters in thirty minutes, cleaned and ready to continue your assignment. Understood?”

“Yes, Master….” The words were said without respect, without feeling, but they still chilled Qui-Gon to his very core. Obi-Wan gave Mace’s hand one last squeeze before he turned and left the room.

The room was once again silent, save the machines the kept his old crechemate alive. Qui-Gon took the chair next to the bed that still held the strong life signature of Obi-Wan. He had probably spent every moment here, next to his master. “Please, don’t leave him.” The words surprised even him as they poured out. “I can see you reaching for him, even now. You were a good match, you were right in taking him. He would have floundered with me.”

The beeping and steady heartbeat of Mace Windu started to increase, without his notice. “He’s angry and bitter right now, he can’t feel you, my friend. I can’t feel you. Don’t leave us.” The long hair that was only half pinned back started to cover his tears as he bowed his head. “I miss you, Mace. Please stay.” With that last word, the alarms from all the machines started to echo through the room. Qui-Gon screamed as the healers started to descend, pushing the tall master to the corner.

“We are losing him, he is flat lining!” The doctor pushed everyone out of the way as they tried to restart the heart that once again went silent. The scream from the hallway startled him, as Qui-Gon heard medics restraining someone with words of comfort. “Let them work, you must let them work. You can’t go in there Padawan.”

The master looked to the still body on the bed and left the room to assist with Obi-Wan. His face was stained with tears as four large medics held him tightly. “Let him go.” The words were said softly, but with the force behind them. They all immediately released the padawan whom ran towards the door to his master, only to be held in place by Qui-Gon. He gently took the young man into his arms, feeling the fists and punches to his chest and abdomen. “Let me go! I need to see him, I need to say goodbye, NOOO!”

Just as the last word was uttered against the chest that held him tightly, the doctor appeared from the room, his eyes sad. Qui-Gon turned toward him, the padawan still clutched against him, stroking his back gently in support. “Is he?”

The doctor shook his head, the exhaustion evident in his stride. “We got his heart to beat once more, but his organs are starting to shut down. We have been working on cloning his lungs, but they are still unready. If he has too many more episodes such as this, we will have no choice but to let him go.  He’s…” The words trailed off as he watched the very tall master rock the younger man gently in his arms. His words might not help the young man now.

“He won’t break, doctor. What is it?” Qui-Gon ran his hands through the short buzz cut of hair, trying vainly to offer any comfort.

“He’s in extreme pain. We are trying to keep him comfortable, but even in this state of coma there is a degree of pain. You and the council may wish to think about what is best for him.” The doctor watched as Obi-Wan’s shoulders shook even more, knowing the words hurt the boy. He hated to bring this news to families, but he had to give them all the options. “You may want to consider letting him go if it happens again.” The doctor left the master and padawan in the hallway to their very hard decision.

“Why are you keeping me from him?” Obi-Wan looked up, anger still evident on his face.

“You have so much hatred and anger right now, Padawan.”

“Don’t call me that, don’t you ever call me THAT!”

Qui-Gon winced, still not letting go. “You can be mad at me; you can send all those negative emotions straight at me, Obi-Wan. They have to go somewhere, but they are not good for your Master right now. Even in this state, he’s reaching for you, but because of those emotions, you can’t feel him.”

“I can’t…I can’t let them go. I haven’t been able to meditate since the Sith. I’m so mad, about everything. I don’t know how to let it go.” Qui-Gon pushed Obi-Wan back just a bit to look into his red-rimmed grey eyes.

“I know what it is like, Obi-Wan. To have such hatred and fear that it consumes you. I knew when I walked into the room that you needed to release it, so I gave you an avenue. Release it to me, I will take it.” Qui-Gon gasped as he felt the force hitch between them.

“Master!” Obi-Wan flew from Qui-Gon’s arms and around into the open door to be greeted by the barely opened eyes of one Mace Windu, tears streaking his cheeks.

Mace opened his mouth, words not coming as he reached out a weak hand for his family, his son. “Oh Master! I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry for everything. I’ve…failed you.” The words echoed through the room as Mace looked back to the door and saw his old friend, looking sadly upon the boy that was begging for forgiveness.

“Don’t need forgiveness... Love….you.” Mace choked at the words before slipping back into unconsciousness once again. Obi-Wan crawled closer to the bed and whispered, “I love you too, master. Please stay with me.”

Qui-Gon once again reached out and felt them both wrapped in the sweet embrace of the force. Mace Windu would live, this he knew. Retreating back into the hallway, he rested against the wall. His own emotions were out of control as he remembered the tight embrace of the young man in the other room. He had felt comfort and had given comfort, a part of the human interaction he had missed for so many years. Qui-Gon Jinn had much to think on this night, but he would leave the two together, there would be time for briefings tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Qui-Gon had spent the morning in meeting after meeting with both the Naboo and the Gungans, trying to sort out their complicated future.  There were so many logistics that needed to be covered before the healing could begin, but it seemed that the Queen would ensure that all Naboo would be OK. It was exciting to watch the young woman weave in and out of the reports, she would be a strong leader, Qui-Gon could see why Anakin had spoken so highly of her.

Letting his feet wander around the palace, Qui-Gon’s thoughts started to drift to Mace and Obi-Wan. He had inquired about the two before the meetings had started. They were very hopeful about the prognosis since the master had woken the evening before, but had voiced their alarm where the padawan was concerned. He refused to leave Mace’s bedside for food or sleep, they were considering their own means of subterfuge if the young man didn’t start listening to medical advice.

Qui-Gon had happened on one of the numerous gardens in the Queen’s considerable home. It astonished him how much nurturing went into the palace grounds. It almost felt like the temple, like home. The living force was alive around each and every color; it helped to calm him as he renewed his thoughts of the red-haired imp that seemed to consume his thoughts as of late. He couldn’t fault the young man for his devotion to Mace, his master. He remembered how inconsolable he had been when Xanatos had been ill or hurt.  “Xanatos…” The word was wrenched from his lips as memories overwhelmed his thoughts. He remembered waiting for his apprentice to awake after a bad concussion that left him in a lifeless coma. The time he was just a young boy and contracted a deadly alien flu from a distant planet they had visited. Time and time again his thoughts were sitting by his bedside, the cold lifeless hand in his as he prayed to the force to return him.

Qui-Gon had seen that same silent plea when he entered the healing halls the night before. The utter look of despair of a person trying to bargain with their gods as they tried to justify a solution that would allow the person they loved most to come back to life.  The feelings started to pummel him from each and every direction sending the master crashing down heavily on his knees. The dirt and stone digging into older flesh that no longer could take such punishment, as the memories started to extend harder and faster at the master. 

“Not here, not now.” The faint words were wrenched from his lips as the pounding in his chest seemed to get thunderous and brisk.  He began to picture the jet black hair of the man he raised and loved as a son, lightsaber raised to strike and kill. The words of hatred that spewed from his lips as the moments continued on, only to have the image morph into a small, compact red-haired padawan. Obi-Wan’s blue lightsaber raised above his head to strike out at Qui-Gon. The hatred that was sparked towards a man that he barely knew but still loathed, his heart was now completely out of control. He felt as if it didn’t slow down he would die here, beneath the green canopy of the living force, once again alone.

Qui-Gon recalled all the darkness that he had seen last night, directed at him, as he absorbed it all into his own mind to prevent the turn of such a valuable padawan. He felt the hatred of the moment. He knew that Obi-Wan had struck back at the Zabrak with anger and hatred, not the Jedi way. The darkness had tainted the young man and up until last night he had not purged it into the force, he had not let it go.

“Nooo….”

The word was wrenched from the master’s chapped lips as the emotions continued to swirl around him. He was in an endless loop of darkness and hopelessness.  The exercises that once let him calm down from the panic were not succeeding. As the moments lingered his heart beat out of control. His breath coming in shallow gulps, as the moment of helplessness continued.  The darkness was here and it wasn’t letting go.


 

Obi-Wan was clutching tightly to his master’s hand, when he awoke and looked up into smiling eyes.  His master was looking better, if not completely healed, he was on his way. “Master.”  The single word was said with such reverence and caring that it almost broke Mace’s heart to see his apprentice so out of sorts.

“My Obi-Wan, you look like hell.” Mace chuckled softly and immediately stopped as the pain ran through his body.

“Master, please don’t do anything that will do more damage to your wounds. Would you like some water?”

“Thank you, Obi. I’m OK. I’m worried more for you, it looks like you went twelve rounds with a Sith.” The dark circles under his apprentice’s eyes said it all. He knew that boy, no the young man now, probably never left his side. They had many rules as Jedi and attachments were one of those, but he knew without a doubt that they were both attached to the other. You couldn’t spend most of your young life with one person and not form a bond, one that seemed unreasonable in every other instance. They both loved each other, as a family and no one would ever stop them from caring for the other.

“Really Master, you think to joke now?” Obi-Wan looked away, trying to hide the smile that the banter invoked.

“There is no better time for levity then now. You fought and defeated a Dark Lord of the Sith, Obi-Wan. You saved my life and in that have proven without a doubt that you are ready for your knighthood.” The pride in his master’s voice only made him feel guiltier about everything that happened in the last two days. He had defeated the Sith because he gave into his emotions, he had unleashed that anger and hatred toward another Master of the order. He didn’t deserve his knighthood; he didn’t even truly deserve to call himself Jedi.

“Obi-Wan, what is wrong?” Mace started to cringe slightly as the overwhelming emotions flooded their bond.  He could feel the self-loathing and recrimination that crushed the young man before him and tried desperately to put it to rest, sending all the love and admiration he felt through their ever strengthening bond.

Obi-Wan released his death grip on the still pale and clammy hand that kept him grounded to the present. “I don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve anything but to be sent away. You made a mistake when you took me, you should have let me age out.” The cold words flowed from his lips, but they were said without feeling, as it they were being recited by a protocol droid.

Mace tried to sit up, his muscles clenching with pain as they argued that this wasn’t something they were meant to do, but he would see to his padawan in his time of need. “Obi-Wan Kenobi, you will look at me, NOW!” The words were harsh and meant to break him from the trance that seemed to keep hold.

“M…Master.” Obi-Wan looked up at Mace, a look of utter despair upon that beautiful face. The dimples that always showed his happiness no longer there, his face presented a very haunted man that was drowning in his own feelings.

“Speak to me, Obi. No matter what you tell me, I will always love you. Nothing will change that.” Mace quickly drew the boy from the chair and pulled him up on the bed in his embrace. “Darkness can’t consume you if you don’t let it. Speak to me, Padawan.”

“When I watched him pierce you, and I was helpless to do anything until the force field lifted. I felt anger. I felt despair. I wanted to go to you, but I knew I had to defeat him to do that. In that moment, I hated him, I wanted revenge for the pain he inflicted.” The young man let his head drop to his chest, tears now flowing down his cheeks as he continued. He knew that his master would let him finish, not interrupting until it was over. He remembered how he felt in the moments leading up to the confrontation between him and the Sith, it seemed like a century ago, so far away.

“Go on, Obi.” Mace ran soothing circles against his padawan‘s back, trying to be patient.

“When the force field dropped, I attacked, not to end this, but to make him hurt. I wanted him to feel the pain that was running through our bond. I wanted him to know what it was like to hurt as bad as you did! I was so overwhelmed that I lost my balance and fell into the melting pit. In that one moment, I had failed you, I had failed the Jedi. I let my emotions dictate the combat and I was going to leave you alone to die. I never felt so helpless.” Obi-Wan started to sob, his sentiments finally releasing to the force as he continued to talk.

“Obviously, you didn’t end up burnt to a crisp.” Mace tried to offer a bit of levity to the situation knowing that when it was over his padawan would be quite embarrassed.

“In that moment, I let go of the hatred and anger and centered in the force. I felt your drifting presence and knew I had to end it or you would be gone. I was able to locate your saber and call it to me as I jumped from the pit and cut the Sith in half.  I didn’t stick around to watch him; I just ran to your side and attempted to heal you. I couldn’t let you go.”

The silence fell over the room as Mace realized the boy had said all he would for now. “Tell me, young padawan. In all that you told me, what do you believe to be your greatest sin?”

Obi-Wan glanced up and wiped the tears from his eyes, feeling like a foolish child once more. “I struck out in anger. I broke the code.”

“The code. I do believe I once knew a man that told me that the code was a guideline that sometimes needed to be broken. In fact, I think the exact words were, ‘Fuck the code’.” Mace traced the tear tracks from the padawan’s face as he remembered the boy he once used to be. “You may have given into your emotions, but you forgot the most important thing in your speech. You felt your passions and centered in the force, you gave into it at the lowest point and came away clean. You did not walk the dark path for long, young one.  I do not believe that once we go down that path that it will forever alter our destiny. You will remember that moment forever, and recognize it if it happens again.” Mace pulled Obi-Wan into a tight hug and felt the boy flinch and then relent as the words and meaning started to wash over him.

“Have you been able to assist the Naboo, or have the council sent another Knight to assist?” Mace felt Obi-Wan tense once again, knowing that this was something else that was bothering him. “What happened, Obi?”

“The council sent Master Jinn.” Obi-Wan swallowed and crawled back out of the bed and into the chair before his master. “He came by last night and…”

“If he hurt you, I swear to god I will cut his precious fucking hair!” Mace growled.

“He didn’t…I hurt him. I was so upset and he came in and asked about a debriefing. He didn’t seem to even care that his friend was lying lifeless in a bed. He cared for nothing but the mission.”

Mace nodded and knew that wasn’t the case. His longtime friend just hid any emotions that might make him vulnerable. “I’m sure he cared, Obi-Wan. You just have to understand everything Qui-Gon’s been through. You once wanted to be his friend, are you giving up on him?”

Obi-Wan shook his head and tried to put his thoughts together. “Master, I lashed out at him, I let the darkness that I felt from the fight focus on Master Jinn. I know that he was letting me and taking it all into himself to protect me, but I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t…”

“Obi-Wan, I know how much you’ve been through, but you would need to know the story in order to understand just what Qui-Gon offered you by taking that darkness inside himself. I’m not the person to tell you that story, however. Today is a new day, with a promise of new beginnings, perhaps you should find him and talk to him?” Mace patted his apprentice’s hand and gave him a weak smile. “Besides, I’m tired and need to rest. I suggest once you have sorted this out that you do the same.”  

Obi-Wan stood from the chair and looked back at the drowsy master. “You’re going to be OK.” It was both a question and a statement that Mace just nodded.

“When Qui-Gon is struggling, you can certainly find him in a garden.” Mace dismissed his apprentice with a wave of a hand and the young man disappeared behind the door.


 

After his talk with Mace, he felt lighter. He knew that he would have to recount his anger and emotions to the council but he knew that his master was correct, he stepped away from the darkness and didn’t let it take over, however he needed to find Qui-Gon and apologize. The master had his own issues. He didn’t need to take on Obi-Wan’s. This palace had too many gardens; the young man thought to himself, this was the fourth garden and no sign of the tall troubled master. Just as he was about to give up and go back to his quarters he felt the force swirl around him. Something was off, wrong.  The compact padawan started to trace the feelings and was led to yet another garden off the beaten path, he was starting to run as the force called for urgency.

Qui-Gon Jinn was on his knees, his body toppled over in what looked to be agony as he gasped for air. The rocks around him were flying faster and faster as the force whipped around him. Tears were streaming down the cheeks of the older man as he projected his thoughts outward for anyone to hear. This wasn’t the control of a seasoned master; this was the plea for help from a man that was drowning in his fears. Obi-Wan closed his eyes and tried to center himself in the force before getting any closer. He could feel everything this man had felt. He felt betrayal, guilt, darkness, but the strongest emotion was loneliness. How could they have let this man flounder for so long? How could the council and the other Jedi not see just how damaged the older man had become?

“Master Jinn?” Obi-Wan let the soft word slip from his lips, but there was no recognition in it. Just a bit louder, Obi-Wan spoke more forcefully. “Qui-Gon Jinn, please listen to me…”

The rocks seemed to spin faster around the master as he approached him. The fear of failure radiated off him in sheets that made the padawan feel sick to his stomach. He then realized that some of the feelings were familiar, they were feelings from the night before. The master had taken them all into himself to help the padawan, even if he could ill afford it.

“Qui-Gon, please, listen to me. You are having a panic attack and your shields are down.” Obi-Wan shifted a bit closer and was able to deflect the rocks against a nearby tree allowing him to reach out gently to the man on his knees. He lightly took the larger than life hand and pressed it against his own chest. “Feel my breath and breath with me, Qui-Gon.” Obi-Wan started to exaggerate his breathing to assist. “That’s it, it’s just a panic attack, and we can get through it together. It’s not the end of everything. It’s just the beginning.”

Obi-Wan sensed the master start to match his breaths, his feelings starting to swirl a bit less as a tiny shield wrapped around the master’s thoughts once again. “That’s it. It’s OK. Just breathe with me Qui-Gon.”

As the shields began to establish once again and Qui-Gon seemed to come back to the moment, he felt the master pull back in embarrassment. “There is nothing to be embarrassed about. You helped me last night and I’m just returning the favor. Master Mace says that it is strength to ask for help when everything seems hopeless. Something tells me you’ve been alone in this for a long time, Qui-Gon.”

The cerulean eyes lifted and just stared back in confusion. Obi-Wan knew this was the moment that would change everything. The master would either take the help offered or retreat. He knew that the force was telling him that if he retreated then all would be lost. “Please, stay with me.” The younger man reached out and gently wiped away the tears that fell down Qui-Gon’s face. It was such a simple thing to do, but it broke through the walls that were Qui-Gon Jinn, the master collapsed into his arms, letting everything wash over him.

“It’s going to be OK. I will help you. We will help you.” The words were said over and over as Obi-Wan rocked the older man in his arms, the force stilled as one of their favored was being cared for, “Finally” it seemed to whisper.

Chapter Text

Obi-Wan wrapped his body protectively around the trembling form of Master Jinn.  He felt the tremors start to abate as the moments went on. The soft sobs and tears slowly starting to settle. “That’s it, come back to us Qui-Gon. It’s going to be ok.” The words were spoken as a soft mantra, over and over until they seemed to penetrate the panic stricken master’s fog.  Obi-Wan felt Qui-Gon tense in his arms, his body language showing shame and mortification for his situation. “There is no need for that, Master Jinn. Everyone needs help now and again; at least that’s what Master Mace taught me.”

Qui-Gon squirmed in the constricted grip that the padawan had on his body. He was embarrassed and wanted nothing more than to push him away and run. Run and hide, it seemed to be his own mantra as of late, especially around this young man. He squeezed his eyes shut, letting the last of the tears fall down his cheeks. “I…” He had no idea what to say. Qui-Gon Jinn, the great negotiator was out of words.

Obi-Wan let his grip on the man waiver and titled his chin to look at his face. Bright blue eyes gazed at him in confusion and fear. “Fight or flight.”

“What?” Qui-gon croaked out from a sore and parched throat.

“That’s what I see when I look into your eyes. Fight or flight seem to be the only choices you see, but there are numerous more. “Obi-Wan settled in front of the master, letting a bit of distance separate them now. He watched as the master before him pulled a curtain over his emotions yet again.

“Thank you Padawan Kenobi for your…assistance, but I’m fine now. You may go.” Qui-Gon squared his shoulders and took a deep breath.

“Bantha poodoo.”

Qui-Gon couldn’t help but chuckle, this was an apprentice that was raised by Windu, how could he expect anything less than a foul mouth and stubbornness.  “That is not a way to talk to a Master, young Kenobi.”

“You are right it’s not, but right now I’m not talking to a master, I’m talking to a man who just had a massive panic attack. Everyone knows the tales that are spoken behind your back Master Jinn. They talk of your last apprentice, and how you refuse to ever take another padawan. Everyone walks on egg shells around you and no one reaches out to help. Perhaps one time they did reach out, but they stopped trying when you needed it most, didn’t they?”

Qui-Gon stood and wrapped his cloak tightly around himself, closing his eyes at the mention of his lost padawan. “Yes, I’m sure they do all talk about how I failed my apprentice and lost a bright and loving student. Do you have a point?” Obi-Wan could tell the walls that Qui-Gon had built over the last years were once again building up and he fought to keep them down for the moment.

“Everyone else has talked about it, but have you?” Obi-Wan stood and eased himself a bit closer to the retreating man before him.

“I told the council.”

“You told the council everything that happened, I’m sure, but have you ever told anyone how it made you feel? Better yet, have you even told yourself how you truly feel about everything that happened?” Obi-Wan reached out and gently placed his hand on the master’s chest, feeling the strong heartbeat beneath the wool cloth.

Qui-Gon’s breath hitched at the touch, staring into the soft blue-grey eyes of the man before him. He didn’t understand the pull towards this young man. He wanted nothing more than to share everything with him. He brought his own hand and laid it on top of Obi-Wan’s, closing his eyes as he thought of the words to explain.

Just as Qui-Gon opened his mouth to speak, Obi-Wan dropped his hands to the side and turned around toward the walkway. “I’m sorry to interrupt, Master Jinn, but the Queen requests your presence. Chancellor Palpatine will be landing within the half hour and she would like to invite you both to an informal lunch.” Captain Panaka was standing at attention, waiting the response.

“We would be delighted, lead the way please.” Qui-Gon took a deep breath and glanced at the padawan. “We will talk again later, Padawan Kenobi. I promise.” 

“As you wish, Master Jinn.” Obi-Wan waited for the two to proceed and took his place a few steps back from the master. It was the position of a padawan and it made Qui-Gon’s shoulders tense. He stood still for a moment and looked back over his shoulder, lightly tugging at the Obi-Wan’s cloak. “I’m not your master, please walk at my side.”

“As you wish, Master.” Qui-Gon once again cringed at the words, but let them go. This man seemed to get under his skin at every turn and he wanted to run as much as grasp him in his arms. He just didn’t understand what the force was trying to tell him.  “Shall we go?” Qui-Gon nodded and they started toward the great hall in the palace.

“Master Jinn and Padawan Kenobi, I am so glad that you could join us. How is your Master, Padawan Kenobi?  The queen spoke with concern.  The formal setting didn’t allow for first names and other pleasantries, but the young man bowed to the Queen and smiled.

“I’m happy to say that he’s awake and healing. I’m sure it won’t be long until he’s beating me in the salles once again.” A servant led them to a stretched table where others were already sitting and conversing. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were seated next to each other, just on the left hand side of the queen with empty chairs across from them.  Qui-Gon could still feel the energy that Obi-Wan was sending, the reassuring thoughts and warmth flowed between them both.

Just as they were all settling into mundane conversations around the table, they were all alerted of the chancellor’s arrival. They stood up and gave the new leader the respect that was due, even though Qui-Gon hated how he came to power, replacing the man that he had come to call friend, Finis Valorum. It didn’t seem right that he was replaced so suddenly and with little proof of the collusion he was charged with. Looking down the table at the older man, shaking hands and smiling to those around him, the force nagged at him. He gently probed around the chancellor and flinched at the sudden headache that permeated his skull. Obi-Wan looked over with concern as Qui-Gon gently rubbed at his temple and bowed his head in attempt to hide his discomfort. “Master Jinn, Master Jinn. You don’t look so well.” The man before him stopped and sat opposite of them, a large smile plastering his face. There was no other word to describe it, but slimy.

“I’m fine, Chancellor. We are glad you could visit Naboo, they will need aid to help rebuild, help that you could ensure with the senate.” Qui-Gon shrugged off the headache and put away his own personal feelings for now and concentrated on doing his job.

“This is my home and I serve at the pleasure of my Queen. I would not be chancellor otherwise. I wanted to visit and see the damage myself and offer what sympathies I could. I was very sorry to hear about Master Windu, he will be ok?”

“My master is resting and will recover.” Obi-Wan’s voice was calm and collected but Qui-Gon felt his annoyance through the force. It would seem that Qui-Gon wasn’t alone in his loathing of politicians or maybe just this particular one.

The meal was brought out and they all began to eat as the conversations turned to ordinary topics of politics. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon ate quietly, not really offering much to the conversations. They just watched and listened as trained to do.

“Padawan Kenobi, I heard you killed the creature that attacked your Master? He must be so proud of your skills.” The smile never seemed to leave his face, even as his words came out harshly. There was just something off about this man and Qui-Gon wasn’t going to let it go.

“Padawan Kenobi did indeed dispatch  the threat to the Queen and the Naboo. The Jedi council will investigate this matter further as the man was a force wielder. He was fallen or something…more.” Qui-Gon looked Palpatine in the eyes, almost seeing a flash of anger at his words.

“I did what I had to do to save my Master.” The words were soft, but the pain of remembrance was still there in his voice.

“I’m sure you will earn your just rewards for such a feat, young Kenobi.  If the council does not recognize such heroism, then I must.”

Obi-Wan just looked at the older man and then back to Qui-Gon, not really knowing what to say to such a thing. “We serve the Senate and the people, Chancellor, we do not seek rewards.”  Qui-Gon felt Obi-Wan’s tension through he force and stood up. “We do thank you for the meal, my Queen, but there is much left to do before we head back to Coruscant.” He turned and took the queen’s small hand in his and brought it gently to his lips in a small kiss of custom as Obi-Wan turned and bowed.

“It was nice to see you Chancellor, I’m sure we will see you again soon.” Qui-Gon pushed his robe back and bowed low to the man before him.

“Thank you again for your aid. It will not be forgotten.” The chancellor turned to his side to continue his conversation as the Jedi walked out of the hall.

Qui-Gon walked quietly down the hall, lost in his own thoughts about the garden and the lunch with the chancellor. The force was trying to speak to him, he knew it, but it wasn’t making any sense.  The only thing heard in the hallway was the tapping of two sets of boots as they wandered back to their rooms. Obi-Wan stared at the maverick before him. He had heard so many stories from both other padawan’s and his master about Jinn’s many adventures. He would drive the council mad, but always seemed to get results.

As the doors opened to their suite, they stood momentarily still in the common area, silent. “Credit for your thoughts?” Obi-Wan broke the silence, unable to stand it any longer.

“I was just thinking.  Would you like some tea?” The man was going to hide again, push it all down; Obi-Wan could feel it. He would act like nothing happened and try to move on as normal.

“Tea would be fine, but only if you talk to me.” Obi-Wan hung his robe on a hook by the door and helped the master do the same. The silence still deafening as the moment dragged on. “I know I’m just a padawan, but I want to help.”

Qui-Gon let out a soft sigh and ignored the tea for the couch, resting his tired body against the cushions. “You are not just anything, Obi-Wan. You never have been and never will be. Your master has taught you well and I agree with him, that you are ready for your trials. I wouldn’t be surprised if they knighted you upon your return and count this AS your trial.” The words were soft and faint, but they did fill Obi-Wan with a sense of pride that he found him capable.

“You are more than capable, young one.” Obi-Wan flinched as the words were said.

“I’m sorry, I’m not prying, your shields are just very open to me right now.” Obi-Wan gently probed his own shields and found them completely solid, except to Qui-Gon. He tried to raise them but found he didn’t really want to hide from this man. “I guess you’re right, but I don’t much feel like raising them against you.”

“You should, I’m not a man that is worthy of such trust.”

“Are you saying that you will corrupt me?”

Qui-Gon exhaled and lowered his head into his hands, his head still ached from the chancellor. “I’ve corrupted a young one before.  He was such a loving boy when he was younger. He was always so inquisitive and wanted to learn so much. He pressed himself at every turn to please me.”

Obi-Wan sat next to the master, knowing that this was a story that needed to be purged.  “I gave him everything he wanted. I gave him knowledge, praise and my love, but it never seemed to be enough. Everyone talked to me about it, but I didn’t see it. I only saw a perfect padawan. As he got older, he started to pull away from me; he was moody and always questioned anything I said. We started fighting, but I figured it was just the normal boundaries of a padawan on the cusp of knighthood, wanting to stand on his own.” Qui-gon stood up swiftly, rubbing his chest somewhat as the story continued. “I told the council that he was ready for his trials. They did not agree and said he needed a test.  We were sent to his home planet of Telos to assist, where his father was a ruling factor.”

Obi-Wan continued to watch Qui-Gon pace back and forth against the carpet, his breathing starting to quicken. He could see the panic starting in his eyes and reached out for the master’s hand pulling him back onto the couch next to him.

Qui-Gon paused his story and gazed into the concerned eyes of the young man before him. How could someone he barely knew care so much for his well-being. He felt the strong fingers lace through his as Obi-Wan held on tight to offer comfort. “Go on.” The soft accented words echoed in the silent room.

“There were riots in the city against his father. His sister was caught in the riots and died.  The governor came down harsh on the citizens and seemed to try and groom Xanatos to side and away from the Jedi. I saw it happening and I tried to help. I tried to talk to him and ease the pain and conflict but he wouldn’t listen.” The words were starting to pour out of his mouth faster.

“His father lured him into his own madness after his sister’s death and he started to help him. I tried to reach them both and pull him back to the light, to talk him into coming back. This only angered his father more and he insisted on dueling me. I had no choice, I tried to stay on the defensive until he tired, but he had an errant strike and I countered and pierced his body with my saber. Xanatos screamed and ran to him, crying and cursing me.” Obi-Wan noticed the master’s eyes were closed as if he were reliving that very moment. He squeezed the hand he held so tightly, offering comfort to get through the rest.

“His aura changed in that moment. What was once light and love was now dark and full of hatred. He rose from his father’s body and drew his lightsaber against me. He vowed his revenge and started to fight me.  I couldn’t really believe what was happening; the boy I had raised hated me and wanted me dead. I could feel his loathing through the bond and then it snapped. The pain overwhelmed us both, but he was able to flee before I pulled myself together. I still watch the shadows for him, he’s out there waiting.”

“That is why you refused another padawan?” Obi-Wan’s voice seemed to startle him from the memories.

“That is exactly why. I will not infect another promising young life.” Qui-Gon thought back to when Obi-Wan was just a boy and Master Yoda tried to manipulate them together. “Do you know why your master took you so young, Obi-Wan?”

“He said I was like a bright light in the force and he wanted to lead me to knighthood. Why?”

“Mace took you for that reason and more. He took you to keep you safe from me. Master Yoda was trying to push us together and I’m sure in the end he would have been successful. I’m broken and your master saw that, it’s why he didn’t want you near me.”

Obi-Wan let go of the warm hand and clenched his teeth as he processed everything he was told. He wasn’t sure why, but he felt, betrayed. He couldn’t stop thinking about what his life might have been with the man before him. How he could have helped him heal. But then he thought about Mace and how he took care of him, taught him and loved him.

Qui-Gon felt everything from the young man and couldn’t blame him. Perhaps this was his way of pushing  Obi-Wan from his life. It just made it confusing and difficult to let another person into his twisted world.

“I’m sorry Master Jinn.” The soft words were laced with bitterness. “I need to meditate on this.”

Obi-Wan quickly grabbed his cloak from the rack and flew out the door, not even looking back at the man whom watched with bated breath. Qui-Gon was once again alone. He told himself this was the way it should be, forever alone and paying penance for the loss of a promising knight. He at least had some solace in the fact that Mace had raised a fine man, full of light and hope. He had not ruined this one and he wouldn’t start now.

Chapter Text

“Meditate”, it’s what Obi-Wan kept repeating to the desperate whisper that echoed inside his head. The force willed them together, he was meant to be someone else’s padawan. It was always in the back of his mind that something wasn’t quite right, but he was so grateful for his relationship with Mace that he never truly tried to follow that line of thought. He thought back to the moment in the council chambers when he was taken by such a kind and powerful master. He never thought to question why a councilor would step down from his responsibilities to take on a very young initiate. He now had a very hard answer to that particular question. “Jinn.” The word was barely whispered from his lips as he sank to his knees into the comforting arms of the force.

Time passed as Obi-Wan extended out into the force for what he could only conclude were answers. He needed to know why. He needed to understand his own emotions that seemed to grow darker the more he asked. Jedi are meant to follow the force, they are mean to listen to its guidance, if that was the case, whom was truly listening?  Had it been Master Yoda that always seemed to look a bit sad when gazing on Mace and Obi-Wan when they trained? Had it been Master Windu, when from time to time he looked like he wished to speak on something but stopped? So many questions, so many different answers inside the young man’s head, but he only wanted to feel the comfort of the force, to get the answers from the one thing that had never failed him.

The garden around him started to change color from the beautiful sunshine into the shadows of the night. He had been on his knees for most of the day and yet he was no closer to an answer, it was as if the force was refusing him. The soil around his knees started to itch and ache as he came out of meditation, frustrated and still vexed.

~It’s been years since you had issues meditating, young one.~ The thoughts flowed through his bond with his master and he couldn’t help but smile at the warmth. Their bond that had been in place for years, how could he now question any part of it.

~I didn’t mean to disturb you, Master.~ Obi-Wan rose from the dirt and brushed off aching knees as he felt a sudden wave of guilt for his thoughts. ~You need to rest Master. Don’t worry about me.~

He could almost hear Mace’s larger than life chuckle through the bond. ~That is like asking water to not be wet, my own. Would you join me, I wish to speak to you face to face.~

Obi-Wan Kenobi, Padawan to Jedi Councilor Master Mace Windu was many things, but afraid of confrontation was not one of them. He had always thrived on diplomacy and negotiations. Why now was he so reluctant to stand and face the man that had meant everything to him for more than a decade? “Because it’s personal.” His mind told him. ~I shall be there in a moment, my master.~

The bond closed and Mace allowed his apprentice to ensure his shields were holding and to take a moment of self-reflection.  He was starting to feel physically better, and couldn’t wait to get out the healer’s bed, but he knew he had at least a day or two more before he was out of their clutches. He had awoken to his padawan’s confusion and sadness, knowing something had happened for his shields to be at such a level. He felt him enter meditation and settled to wait for him to come out. He was almost positive this had to do with Qui-Gon. That man always seemed to be at the heart of everything when it came between the three.

Suddenly the door slid open and revealed a pale faced man that looked overwhelmingly tired. Mace realized that he no longer thought of him as a young man, just a man. When did that happen? He had to ask himself as he continued to look on his form.  The pale skin was just the surface of what were lines of worry in his face, hands stuffed into his cloak in a nervous habit from the past. This only happened when something was bothering him that he didn’t want to talk about. Just as Mace was about to speak, his Padawan approached the bed and kneeled before it. His head pressed lightly against the sheets as he started to speak. “Forgive me, master.”

Mace reached out and gently stroked the spikey threads of hair that were so soft under his fingers. His padawan was never this penitent unless he truly thought he had done something wrong, so Mace decided to allow Obi-Wan his leeway. “And what am I forgiving you for, young one?”

“I have not been faithful to your teachings.” Obi-Wan pulled his shielding tighter, not wanting his master to feel his doubts.

Mace just smiled weakly and lifted his chin to see Obi-Wan’s deeply grey eyes. “You have always done my teachings proud, Obi-Wan. You are your own man now, ready to be a knight. Have the courage to tell me what is bothering you, please?”

Obi-Wan looked sincerely into the caring eyes of his master. He had been so much to the young boy, teacher, father and friend. He taught him what it meant to be a Jedi, more important, he taught him to be a man. How could he now question if he was the one meant to do it? His eyes shadowed over and he fought the courage to express himself. “Why did you take me?”

Mace knew this talk was a long time in coming, especially when a tall brooding maverick had re-entered their life. He didn’t misunderstand the question, even though he could have. “You know that sometimes I see shatter points in the force. Moments that can instantly change the course of the future. I often thought them a nuisance and ignored them. Until one day I met a scrawny little initiate that questioned everything, including the force itself. Upon the moment, I had a vision.”

Obi-Wan looked up into the eyes of the man he loved like a father, knowing this was the story he should have heard ages ago. “It is no longer your future; at least I hope it’s not. So I won’t tell you the details, other than it was not a life I would wish on anyone, especially such a bright light as yours.” Mace swallowed and looked down on the confused padawan.

“I don’t understand, you only took me because of a future that may or may not have happened?”

“Don’t misunderstand me, Obi. You were a bright child in the light and had I not seen that bright light, I would not have taken you as my padawan. I just had a little help from the force. Master Yoda was pushing hard for another master and I didn’t want that future for you.”

“Master Jinn…” The two words were like a benediction from the lips of Obi-Wan.

“Yes. Many people look on me and think I hate Qui-Gon. They think we grew apart and only more so because I stole “his” padawan. Nothing could be further from the truth. We grew up together. We trained together; we even took our trials within a few weeks of the other. He was my best friend, my brother in arms and once upon a time there may have even been…more.” Obi-Wan watched Mace speak and saw how his eyes softened at the recollection of their past together.

“You…You loved each other?” Obi-Wan almost squeaked, not really thinking about his master’s love life before.

“It was never like that, young one. We never, acted on our feelings. I think in the end we just realized that we were meant to be less, but more. It’s all very hard to talk about or put into words, but I still care about him. It tore me apart to see him become this shell of a man.”

“Then why did you not help him!” Obi-Wan raised his voice, unable to understand how a council member would watch him sink.

Mace sighed once again and sat up straight in the bed, patting the younger man’s hand. “It sounds so simple from your words, but it was anything but. When Xanatos first broke from our ranks, we thought for sure that Master Jinn would follow. We offered him help, we had mind-healers take a look, we even each tried to offer comfort and support in our own ways.”

“He wasn’t ready, was he?” Obi-Wan once more softened his look and tried to make sense of such a mess.

“No. He wasn’t ready for anything. He refused the healers; he just sat silent when we offered to listen. He demanded mission after mission to avoid the temple and after a while, I guess it was just easier to give him what he wanted. He seemed successful at each and every mission, so we figured he had healed himself, at least enough to function.” Mace felt guilty at this, knowing that his friend was coping, but not healed, he should have done more.

“Please tell me the truth, why did you take me as a padawan?” Obi-Wan steeled his body for the answer.

“I took you because of your light and your heart, Obi-Wan. I took you because I saw what you could become at someone else’s’ hands.” Mace swallowed, knowing he had to finish this thought. “I took you because you would have healed Master Jinn, but the cost to yourself was too high.”

“Obi…” Obi-Wan raised his hand to stop his master. This was the secret that seemed to always be around the corner, this was the reason he always felt just a bit off.  “Please, Obi-Wan, listen to me.”

“There is nothing to listen to. I don’t really know how I feel about all this, but you have nothing to say that will change the past. You took me in and taught me everything I know today, including compassion and love. How exactly do I put that together and face that the force meant for me to have another?” It was all so confusing and a single tear ran down Obi-Wan’s face.

“Forgive me, please. I only did what I thought was best for you.” Mace wiped the tear away, hoping against hope that this hadn’t broken what they had.

“I only hope I will love someone enough to do the same one day. I cannot fault you with caring for me, Master. I just wish you had told me sooner.” Obi-wan stood up and gently crawled into the already too small bed of his master. His arms wrapped tightly around the man he would call father and he let it all go, perhaps not into the force, but just into the world around them. He let his master feel his confusion, his love, his bitterness, everything.

“Never have I regretted having you in my life, never.” Mace pulled the man closer to his body, hugging him tightly in an embrace that he hoped would never end. He let his apprentice ease his emotions the only way he knew how at the moment, small sobs turning into sniffles and hiccups. “It’s ok Padawan mine.”

They rocked together, sharing their thoughts and emotions through their bond. “Did Qui-Gon tell you all this?” Mace felt he needed confirmation.

“Yes. He was not doing well, and I talked him through it.” Obi-Wan didn’t think they needed to know about Qui-Gon’s panic attacks just yet, it wasn’t his place. “He told me the story of his Xanatos.”

This brought a gasp from Mace. “Qui-Gon has never spoken of that time since his account in front of the council. He refused to speak of it with anyone else after that day.” Maybe the force was right, maybe his padawan could heal his friend, perhaps it just wasn’t time until now.

“After the story, I asked him if this was why he refused a padawan.  He then asked me if I knew why I had been taken so young.” Obi-Wan squeezed Mace’s hand when he felt guilt through their bond. “I was shocked to say the least. I felt as if I had been lied to and something was taken from me. I really couldn’t explain it.”

“I’m sorry…” Obi-Wan cut him off quickly.

“No more. I am not sorry that you took me in. I won’t lie and say I don’t wonder what it would have been like to be Qui-Gon’s padawan, but it’s in the past and nothing can change that now. You were a great man, master and friend and I regret nothing. You were my past and my present and perhaps maybe he is my future.” The padawan blushed slightly, wondering where the feelings of warmth had come from.

“You truly are ready, Obi-Wan Kenobi. I can teach you no more.” His master beamed at him proudly.

Obi-Wan reached out through the force, trying to pinpoint the brooding master that had entangled his life so quickly. There, in another garden. He was starting to see a pattern with the man that oozed the living force. He reached out just a bit, brushing the shields of a man he hoped to call friend one day.

The smile on Obi-Wan’s face lit up as a small shield was lowered and warmth was answered with warmth. “You should go to him, Padawan.” Mace smiled knowingly.

Just as he was pressing his body upward to do just that, an intense pain lanced through his head and brought a gut wrenching scream from his mouth. There was pain, excruciating pain and then suddenly nothing as his body started to breathe once again.

“Padawan?! Obi-Wan?!” Mace was pulling Obi-Wan up to the bed once more, trying to offer comfort as he called for the healers. Something was wrong, something had gone horribly wrong. “Obi-Wan, please talk to me.” The master was rocking the young man back and forth.

“Qui…He was t-there and in pain. Gone…” Obi-Wan was breathing through the retreating pain. “I had reached out to him and he let me in at the same time….” Obi-Wan started to panic and pushed back at the hands that were trying to hold him.  He needed to get away, he needed to find Jinn. “I need to find…Please let me go.” No one could get through to the panic, until Mace uttered the word, “Sleep…”

Obi-Wan collapsed into the hands of the healers, his face flush from the panic. “Someone please contact security and check up on Master Jinn.” Mace started to push himself out of the bed, only to see the healers gasp. “You are no ready to be out of bed yet.”

“If something has happened to Master Jinn, I will be needed there, not in a bed.” The doctor pursed her lips and knew he would go no matter what. “If you die, it’s on your own head.” Mace just laughed slightly. “Understood.”

Mace walked sluggishly as he let the force flow through him, it led him to a small garden off the pathway. He saw signs of knees in the dirt, large knees. It had to be where Qui-Gon had been meditating, but why would he be in danger within the palace. There were so many questions running through his head at that moment he barely heard the queen and her guards enter. “Master Windu, it is good to see you up and around.”

“Thank you, my lady. Something happened to Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan was…Well he felt extreme pain in the force and then there was nothing. It was as if Qui-Gon Jinn simply disappeared and didn’t exist.”

Panaka started to look around the area and noticed slight drag marks away from the meditation area. “No really signs of a struggle, other than these drag marks. I would think that if something happened to Qui-Gon he wouldn’t have gone this quietly.” Mace nodded.

“Who was the last one to talk to him, does anyone know?” Mace wobbled just a bit, catching his balance within the force.

“That would be me, I believe.” The words were spoken softly, but with authority as they all looked upon Chancellor Palpatine. “I saw him meditating in the garden and wanted to thank him again for everything the Jedi have done for Naboo. He seemed to have a slight headache, so I left him to his meditation.”

“Did you see anyone else around the area, Chancellor?” Mace interjected.

“I’m sorry I did not, do you think the master was taken? He has seemed trouble in the two times I’ve seen him. Perhaps he just went for a walk outside these walls.” Mace closed his eyes for a moment and let the force stretch around them.  His own head exploding into a headache the more he stretched out for answers.

“I don’t know. I can’t feel him in the force, at all.” Panaka stood to his left and gently offered a hand to Mace, trying to keep himself upright.

“I’m sure he is fine and just taking a walk, nothing to be concerned with.” The politician waved it all off and excused himself.

“We will find Master Jinn, Mace. I promise.” The queen gave him a soft look and escorted Mace back to the healers ward to look after Obi-Wan. He was in a bed, his eyes closed, but not sleeping gently as his body reacted to something else. He was…dreaming. Mace sat by his side, clasping his hand as he tried to puzzle what was going on.


 

Deep below the surface of the palace there was an underground chamber, its walls damp and musty from the depth. The room itself blank, except for a chain and a man. The man was naked as the day he was born, expect for a collar that held him in place to the chain. Suddenly the darkness of the room was illuminated and he looked at the dark hooded figure before him. He couldn’t feel the force, he couldn’t feel the breath of life that had been with him since birth. He started to panic and pull at the chain, bloodying his hands and neck with his pulls.

“Yes, Yes. Keep struggling. I felt your darkness before, your loathing, your hatred. You, Qui-Gon Jinn shall become my new apprentice…” The man lowered his hood and looked directly at him.

“No…You’re extinct, children’s stories…” Qui-Gon back up against the wall, his body was thrumming with adrenaline and fear as he looked on the yellow eyes of their long gone extinct enemy, a Sith.

The loud cackle sent chills down his spine. “You will find that you are mistaken about a great many things, MY apprentice.”

Qui-Gon pushed his back up against the corner of the room, his body shaking. “No…No…NO!” The words only seem to excite the man before him more. “Obi-wan…” The soft word was barely audible as the beating began.

Chapter Text

The smell of copper was in the air when Qui-Gon finally opened his eyes. No light was in the room, only the darkness that he was becoming used to. His life had become a constant barrage of beatings, some with questions, other times just the viciousness of the attack. The tall master once again pulled at the chain on his neck, the collar that kept him from the sweet comfort of the force.  How long had he been here, he kept asking himself after each beating? Was it days or weeks, he felt utterly cut off in the blackness of the room, it felt like a time without end.

“I see that you are awake, my apprentice.” The emotionless words were spoken from the opening to the room, allowing a trace of light that almost blinded Qui-Gon.

Qui-Gon had learned after the third beating that it was better to say nothing; it only provided the man pleasure to see him struggling. He fought to stand up, still refusing to bow to a Sith, he would die a Jedi.

“You will be such a delight to break, but our time here is growing short. We must leave the planet and continue your training elsewhere. That young brat that killed Maul refuses to leave well enough alone. I was trying to relish his undoing, but he may have to be dealt with soon.” The disgust in the man’s voice was quite evident.

“NO!” Qui-Gon was on his feet and lunging at the cloaked figure, his anger getting the best of him.

There was a cackle as the man was just out of reach from the chain. “You are learning. Perhaps I should allow you out of the chain, allow you to strike out at me. To embrace your destiny and take my place.”

There was a small gasp and all the air was let out of his body. He collapsed back to the ground and tried to release his feelings, which felt like an impossible task without the force at his side. “No, I will die a Jedi and Obi-Wan and Mace will make sure that the Sith are defeated.”

“Oh? I suppose I forgot to tell you. There was an incident at the healer’s ward and Master Windu took a turn for the worst. Your old friend is part of the force now. That whelp of his, walks around like the wounded, but he refuses to give up on finding you.”

Qui-Gon closed his eyes at the Sith’s words. Mace couldn’t be gone. No, he had been fine and healing. “You are lying.”

“If it makes you feel better, you can believe what you will. Perhaps instead of killing Kenobi in revenge, I could turn him as well.” The figure left the room swiftly and the dark once again invaded the room. Qui-Gon was holding his head in his hands, trying to think through the pain and confusion. Mace couldn’t be dead; Obi-Wan would never turn.  They both had to be safe, he had to do something.

“You can’t do anything, you’re worthless like this.” The voice that penetrated the blackness sounded oddly like his own. “If you just gave into the darkness like he wants, you could save him. All you have to do is let go.”

The voice continued to talk to him throughout the hours, never relenting. “Obi-Wan, please.” The plea was whispered to no one in particular. He was losing faith; he was starting to feel he was losing his grip on reality. He held tight to the picture of a young man with gorgeous red hair that had never given up on him. He needed to hold on to that hope. He had to make it through this nightmare, or end it himself to save Obi-Wan. He needed him to be safe.


 

It had been three days since all hell had broken out in Obi-Wan Kenobi’s life. He had woken up from the force induced sleep, screaming Qui-Gon’s name, but quickly was comforted by the strong arms of his master. Mace had quietened him down; allowing the young man to settle before the healers once again filled him with drugs to calm him. Once he was finally quiet, Mace had filled him on all they had done to try and track down Master Jinn, but it was as if he had disappeared completely.

It was hard to believe that it was all so much better three days ago. He had felt the comforting warmth of the man he desperately wanted to get to know better, only to feel it ripped out violently from his mind. “Credit for your thought, Ben?” The nickname from his past was a comfort.

“Master, they released you?”  Obi-Wan watched the man walk gingerly towards him. He wasn’t healed completely, but he was glad to see him up and about, even if there was nothing else to be happy about in this moment.

Mace simply walked up to the younger man and wrapped his arms tightly around the smaller form, consoling him with everything he could. “They did because my padawan and best friend needed me. I can’t help from a bed.”  He heard a soft sob muffled in his robes and knew that his padawan was trying his best to be strong.  “Did I ever tell you the story about how Qui-Gon broke his nose?” Mace knew he needed to offer a distraction to them both.

With another sniffle beneath the robes Obi-Wan lifted his head to look up at Mace. “No, you never really talked about him much.”

“I should work on that. We really did have many good times together; I think I was just afraid that you would start to ask questions before I was ready. I am sorr…”

He was once again cut off by a stern look, “No more apologies. We agreed.”

“Yes Master Kenobi.” They both let out a soft chuckle, the lightness a welcome relief from everything else. Mace directed them both against a tree, sitting down with Obi-Wan against his chest. They had often sat like this when the padawan was just a boy. They would talk about the day’s teachings and sometimes just tell each other silly stories.

“I’m almost sure that I am too old for this master.” The boy looked over his shoulder to the smiling Korun.

“You are never too old for comfort. I guess I have a few more things to teach you.” Mace let his chin rest gently on the young man’s reddish spikes. “So let me tell you about Qui-Gon, shall I?” Obi-Wan just nodded his head up and down, holding back the tears he still felt when he reached out for the non-existent presence in the force.

“We were Crechemates from the very beginning. However we were not always the best of friends. I hate to say that once upon a time I was quite the bully to him. I would tease him and call him Qui-Baby.” Mace felt his padawan tense, remembering his own run in with Bruck Chun’s teasing taunts. “It wasn’t something I am proud of now. Back then, Qui-Gon was connected to the living force much more than anyone else. He felt things more deeply, that led to many tears being shed over different things.”

“How did you go from bully to friends?” Obi-Wan looked back at his master, a bit disappointed at the revelation.

Mace ruffled Obi-Wan’s hair. “It isn’t something I am proud of, but back then I was self-conscience about a great many things and was trying to deflect it on someone else. It was hard dealing with shatter points at my age. It’s no excuse, but it was the reason.” Obi-Wan nodded for him to continue on with the story.

“It had happen about a year after we had both been taken as Padawan’s.  We joined the yearly tournament for the first time. I would say we were both trying to prove something to ourselves and our new master’s. Qui-Gon had worked for months on getting his kata just right and sparring with anyone that would let him. Towards the end of his training, he had a growth spurt. Believe it or not, Qui-Gon Jinn was a short padawan at first.” Obi-Wan chuckled at the thought of his huge friend being a tiny padawan. It just didn’t fit his image now.

“You can laugh all you want, but the man was almost the runt of the creche at one point. However, in the weeks prior to the tournament, he shot up like a weed. He was all limbs. As you can remember when you had your own growth spurt, well…”

“It’s hard to grow into your limbs. It makes you quite clumsy.” Obi-Wan nodded once more.

“That is correct. Qui-Gon was so worried about the tournament that he had taken to living in the salles from morning to night. He was trying so hard to overcome what he felt was a horrible defect. His balance was off and it wasn’t a body that he wanted to accept.” Mace paused for a moment, letting the story bring him back to that moment in time…

“You know, if you keep living here, they will make you move from Master Yoda’s rooms.” The small Korun boy just flashed a smile at him.

“What do you want Mace?” Qui-Gon wasn’t in the mood for the boy’s rude comments and taunts. He was frustrated and just wanted to feel like himself once again. This was not HIS body.

Mace just shook his head back and forth at the boy. “Perhaps I wanted to offer my help?”

“Yeah and Master Yoda is the most gorgeous Jedi ever.” Qui-Gon snorted back.i

“Well, he’s your master so I can’t really comment on that, but you do seem to be without a partner. Shall we?” Mace knew he had been a handful for Qui-Gon in their creche years and after a year in his master’s presence he realized all the hurt he had put on Qui-Gon for his own insecurities.

Qui-Gon looked at him, trying to determine what he was up to. This wasn’t the same boy he grew up with. “No tricks, Mace.”

“No tricks, Qui-Gon.” Mace watched the smile on his face when he was actually called by his real name. It was a smile he could grow to like. They both started in a defensive stance. They sparred for hours, both offering counters to each other’s moves, teaching the other. Mace offered techniques to assist with compensating for the longer legs and arms, Qui-Gon showing Mace some of the aerial things he had learned from his master. After hours together, they were both immersed in the force, they didn’t realize they had an audience. They were focused on each other and force, it was all that had existed in this one perfect moment. They had let go of their emotions and forgiven the past. It was all quite dizzying in its perfection.

Qui-Gon had just completed a flip over Mace when his saber was going for a kill shot to end the match, when they heard clapping, bringing them both back to their surroundings rather abruptly. Qui-Gon pulled his saber back, trying to avoid the boy before him as he felt himself off balance once again by his gangly limbs. Just as Qui-Gon pulled back, Mace had been lunging forward to try to escape the blow by going low. Everyone that was watching gasped as Mace’s head connected to Qui-Gon’s face and blood flew.

They collapsed on the floor, both laughing hysterically as Qui-Gon held his broken and bleeding nose. “Going on, what is?” They both looked up, still giggling as Master Yoda looked on them both.

“M..Master, it was an accident, really.” Yoda’s ears drooped as he looked to Qui-Gon. “Accident it was, Padawan Jinn?”

Pinching his nose, Qui-Gon struggled to kneel before the grandmaster. “It was just an accident. I had never felt so one with the force, and I forgot my surroundings. It was as much my fault as Mace’s.” Mace looked on with shock. He could have told the story differently and gotten the padawan in much trouble.

“To the healers, you should go. Broken nose, not attractive it is.” The master smiled and walked away.

“I don’t know, I think it adds character.” Mace blushed slightly. “Why didn’t you? You could have?”

“The past is set; I wish to live in this moment. Perhaps we could start again?” Qui-Gon offered his non-bloody hand to the padawan before him. He felt the blushing of his own cheeks, feeling the warmth of friendship around them.

“I would like that, but we should get you to the healers before that is permanent.” Mace smiled and offered his hand in assistance. Qui-Gon held onto it just a bit longer than he should, but felt himself drawn to the padawan that was once his worst nightmare.

“It’s just a little broken nose; I can set it and go into a healing trance. As you said, its character and well, I want to remember this moment. Nothing is ever hopeless, if you just keep trying. Shall we go have lunch?” Mace just smiled shyly and nodded. It was the beginning of many meals together and many more intimate moments as friends.

Mace finished his tale, smiling at the memory. He had remembered that slightly crooked nose and how lucky he was to have such a wonderful friend in his life. He had mourned his loss after Xanatos and never wanted to give up on him.

Obi-Wan turned in Mace’s arms and kneeled before him to look deep into the other’s eyes. “You really should listen to Master Jinn’s words from back then. You should live in this moment. We will get him back and you can make a new start once more. He…isn’t lost to us, he can’t be.” Obi-Wan felt his face flush once more, as the force tried to whisper to him. “Master, can you feel that?”

Mace stood up and offered his hand to Obi-Wan, pulling him up once more. “Yes, it’s something. I don’t know, it’s something fleeting, but urgent. It’s as if the force itself is trying to send a warning, but it’s not strong enough.”

“We have to find him, Master. I need to know what this man is to me. I…”

“Well, Master Windu and Padawan Kenobi, this is a sweet scene. Have you stopped searching for Master Jinn?” They both turned around at once and saw the chancellor before them. “I’m sorry to disturb, I was just going to visit the gardens before it is time to return to Coruscant.”

Obi-wan looked to his master that was once again the stoic Jedi Master of the order. “You did not disturb us. We were just remembering what we were searching for to bolster our efforts to keep going. We will find Master Jinn, if it is the last thing we do.” Mace still wasn’t sure about this man before him. Every time they were in his presence there was this strange buzz in the force and it caused him to get a headache. Why would that be, he thought to himself. Why did he suddenly have the desire to investigate the Supreme Chancellor more?

“I’m sure you will do everything in your power. I have the upmost respect for you both. May the force guide you to your friend. I do hope it isn’t too late.” Palpatine turned a small smirk on his face as he left the garden.

Mace felt his padawan stiffen. “What is it padawan?”

“That man…I swear he was downright happy and pleased just now. Why would that be?”

Mace looked at the pale face once more, feeling the emotions flow over their bond. “Why indeed. Let us visit the Queen once more. I have some more questions.”

Obi-Wan closed his eyes for a moment and whispered into the force. ~Hang on Qui-Gon. We will find you, Hold on for me, hold onto hope~

Chapter Text

Mace stalked the halls of the palace with his padawan close on his heels. His master was on a mission and he could feel the urgency through the force that was propelling them both to find the Queen of Naboo. They both knew that something wasn’t right and it appeared to only increase in the presence of a man that should by all means be a force null.

They continued to walk from room to room in the overly enormous palace, Mace’s resentment and feelings fermenting the longer he hunted for the young woman. “Captain!” Mace shouted out at Panaka, trying to get his attention.

The man turned abruptly and gave them a puzzling look. “Did you find any more information on Master Jinn?”

“Not directly, but I have a few questions that I need to ask Queen Amidala, could you please direct us to her?” Mace stood rigidly, knowing that he really shouldn’t be demanding an audience, but his friend was missing and each hour meant less hope of finding him.

“Your Highness is in a meeting with the Chancellor; they are signing a peace treaty with the Trade Federation and talking reparations. She left strict orders not to be disturbed, Ser Jedi.” Panaka motioned off to the side. “If you would like I can escort you to her office and I will let her know you need to speak.”

Mace shook his head and offered the man before him an apology. “I’m sorry Captain; this cannot and will not wait.” Mace swept past the officer to the room behind him, feeling the Queens presence, his padawan offered a weak nod of his head to Panaka.

“Your Highness!” Mace shoved the doors open as everyone in the room stood quickly, assessing the danger of the interruption.  Chancellor Palpatine scowled at the disruption trying to calm the room.

“We will have order here, what is the meaning of this Master Windu! How dare you bully your way into this room and interrupt the peace process.”  Mace cringed at his lack of manners and diplomacy but he was tired of playing these games. His friend was missing and they were negotiating about trade contracts. If he wasn’t careful, he would get another lecture on attachment from Master Yoda. He turned to the Queen and softened his look. “Please forgive me, your Highness, but I implore your help.”

The young woman before him seemed so regal dressed in her best robes and make-up. She was no longer the small handmaiden who always stood up to him. She turned her head and nodded to the master. “Master Windu, you have done so much for the people of Naboo, forgiveness for breaching protocol is the least we can do.” Obi-Wan smirked; she was going to be a force to reckon with, even with only being a teenager.

“Thank you, your Highness. Might we speak in private for just a few moments? I pledge to keep it short and return you to your meeting, post haste.” Palpatine glimpsed at them both and the sneer was evident in his posture. Obi-Wan let his senses stretch out in the force toward the elder man and he immediately retreated as the darkness seemed to seep around him, a headache once again quickly forming. Darkness, not light, not neutral but absolute evil was pouring from this man. How could they have missed this, how could they think him force null. The emotions that surged were making him nauseous as the moments passed his face paling. He was suddenly being tugged on, staring into the eyes of his worried master. “Padawan, Are you well?”

Obi-Wan shut his eyes, letting the sensations fall away into the force, catching his breath as he did so. “Yes, Master. It was just; I think maybe I left the healers too soon. I’m sorry.” The boy looked chastised and embarrassed to cover what he sensed from the chancellor.

“Perhaps you should look to your apprentice and not interrupt important meetings. I will be talking to the Council about this breech of protocol Master Windu. It’s unacceptable!” Palpatine concentrated on the young whelp, trying to size him up. They were getting too close and he would have to get his new toy away from this world in a hurry.

“I promise you Chancellor, I always look to the welfare of my ward. I am sorry for the interruption and will take any sanctions the council wish to impart.” Mace gestured to the Queen, watching as Panaka nodded and followed the Queen from the room.

“I know that you are worried about Ser Jinn, but this is a meeting that needs to be completed for the welfare of my people, Master Windu. We owe you much however, so please be brief.” The Queen opened the door to the room across the way, and walked into the small office.

“Again, I am sorry, my Queen.” Mace looked reprimanded, but he pressed on. “Something is off, in the force. I don’t know how to explain it to you, but it converges on the Chancellor. How long have you known him Padme?” Mace used her real name in hopes of relaying the importance of his words. He paced around the room, not looking at Obi-Wan, waiting for his answers.

Padme looked on the two Jedi and sighed softly. “Mace, Obi-Wan, You know it’s not good form to question the Chancellor of the Republic even in private rooms.” She was starting to look all her fourteen years, as she took a seat and sighed. “However, I will answer your questions. I have known Sheev Palpatine most of my life. He was an advisor to my father before he was assassinated. He has always been very ambitious, but never dangerous. He cares about the people of Naboo.”

Mace rubbed his hand over his forehead and then lightly rubbed his chin in thought. He didn’t quite know how to put this diplomatically. He was speaking treason if he was honest to himself. “Padme, something about that man is not right. When he’s in our presence we feel a buzz where the force should be and get an overwhelming headache. The force itself screams at our senses.”

“I do not understand to know how the force works, Mace. However, you are asking questions about the most powerful man in the Republic on nothing more than feelings in the force.”  Mace groaned at the words and knew this was the truth.

“Ask yourself a few questions, My Lady. How does a man that was once just an advisor to your father a few years ago get propelled into the world of politics just in the right moment to save your planet by his appointment as Chancellor?” Mace waited for a minute and continued on, hoping to get through. “This invasion happened so rapidly and without any build up. I find it interesting that the Federation’s plans pushed the former Chancellor from his position only to be replaced by the senator from Naboo. You must see between the lines. Sheev Palpatine out of all this was the only person to prosper from this war between the Federation and the Naboo.”

Padme looked between the master and padawan and back to her Captain, whom looked on the situation with sheer neutrality. “Panaka, your thoughts?” She always knew her captain would be honest with his opinion if asked for it.

“My Highness, I know there is no evidence for what the Jedi says, but I’ve always felt different in that man’s presence. I’ve never thought him up to good, but without proof I just sat back and made sure that you were safe.” The captain bowed his head to the Queen; he could only give his opinion in this, and nothing more.

“Thank you, Pana.” The nickname was something she always reverted to when they were in private. It was an endearment that always meant she appreciated his presence in her life. He smiled back at his queen.

“Padme?” Obi-Wan opened his mouth, as of yet he was still silent and recuperating from his incident in the other room.

“Yes Obi-Wan?”

Mace turned to his padawan, knowing he wasn’t one to speak often when in the company of his master unless he felt the need to add something helpful. It was the job of the padawan to defer to his master, but Mace had known for some time it was time for that deferral to end and the Knight to emerge. “I beg your forgiveness, but I have something else to add. Before, in the room…” Mace sent reassurance through the bond, urging him to continue. “Normally when I’m in the Chancellor’s presence, I feel nothing but a null in the force, buzzing and a headache, but before.” He stumbled over his words. “I felt, darkness, an intense overwhelming hatred roiling from him.”

Mace let his senses reach out around him and into the opposite room, feeling nothing but the normal buzzing when in the Chancellor’s presence. “Are you sure, Obi?”

The pale look on his face returned as he stared at Mace. “Ok, you’re sure. We need to find Qui-Gon and contact the council for instructions on how to proceed. I have a bad feeling about this all.” Mace glanced back at the Queen who seemed to slouch from the headdress upon her head.

“Without proof, without some evidence of wrong doing…You know I cannot act.” She appeared sorrowful and lost for a flash before she elevated her shoulders to stand tall once again. “However, I do believe you and I will keep my eyes and heart open. Thank you for the warning, Ser Jedi. We owe you much and will never be able to repay you for the service to Naboo.”

Mace just took her diminutive hand in his and shook his head. “You owe us nothing. It is our duty as Jedi. We only want what is best for the people of the Galaxy. Would you keep our secret for now?”

“It is the least I can do. However if you find proof of what you speak, I would like to be one of the first to know. I will not tolerate a traitor to the Naboo, parading as a savior.” The harsh words were bitter on her lips. This woman would be a formidable force within the political circle one day.

“I promise. You will be one of the first to know. We will contact the Council for further instruction. I fear for Qui-Gon more now, then ever.” He looked at Obi-Wan and lowered his eyes to the ground. He had come between the two, would they ever get a chance to connect again?

“We will find him. The force wills it.” Obi-Wan offered a shy smile and opened the door for the Queen. “I believe we’ve kept you from your meeting long enough.”

“May the force be with you both.” The Queen nodded and strode out the door with Panaka not far behind, just like a padawan.

“That went better than I hoped; we need to contact the Council. We’ve looked everywhere for Qui-Gon, it may be time to return home and continue our search there.”

“But master! We can’t just leave him, what if he is still here?” Obi-Wan’s voice almost squeaked.

“We are not abandoning our friend, Obi. However, what you felt, what It could mean to the galaxy around us. We have to be Jedi first.” Mace hated to give up on his friend, even for a moment, but they were Jedi, they had to do what was best for the masses first. He pulled his padawan into his arms and embraced him tightly. “Don’t give up on him, Obi. We will find him; he is stronger than anyone else I know. He’s been through so much and still he perseveres.”

Obi-Wan clutched his master, his chest thumping against his ear. “That is what scares me. He’s been through so much. He’s been having panic attacks. I don’t know how much one man can take before he breaks.”

“Panic attacks? By the force, we shouldn’t have been so blind to his needs. I promise, we will find him and help him.” Obi-Wan just shook his head, still thinking of the dreams he had the previous nights. The strong broad shoulders leaning against his, the warm breath of lips dragging slowly over his, it was the same dream he had been having for days. This man that he knew little about, but seemed to be entwined into his very soul, it was disturbing to say the least. ~I’m sorry, Qui. Hold on for me. We won’t stop looking for you.~


 

In an obscure room deep below the palace there was a blinding light that sent the tall bare master into the corner, cowering. Three large guards entered a hose in their hands as they opened it up and sprayed the filthy man all over. The water scoured his flesh of dirt and waste; it burned at the cuts and bruises that had become his life. “The master wants you ready for departure. Why I don’t know, you are nothing but a shivering waste of life.” The guard snarled and kicked him in the ribs once again, the resounding crack just one more broken bone to endure. The whimper was barely audible as the water continued to flow over him.

He would not beg. He would not give them the satisfaction. He would endure this, he would remain Jedi. His own darkness was wrapped around him like a cloak, but in the center of his soul was a spark of light, it had always been there, even threw all the bad times. It kept the darkness at bay, it protected his soul and it felt just like Obi-Wan Kenobi. He had never noticed before, he never wanted to feel that kind of protection because he felt he didn’t deserve it. Qui-Gon reached deep into that bright light and was able to remove himself from the darkness and hide within that hope of the future. ~I will wait for you, Obi-Wan. Please don’t make me wait long.~

The guards grabbed Qui-Gon with a disgusted snarl, one holding him while the other pushed pants and tunic over the broken and bruised body, in preparation of their departure. “I don’t understand why this one is so important. He is broken, he has no more spirit. We could snap his neck with just a bit of pressure…” The words were cut off as was the air from the guard’s lungs. “M-M-Mast…”

With a flick of his wrist, Sideous snarled at the broken body that fell to the floor. “It is not your place to question my orders or thoughts. Broken, not dead, do you understand?”

“Yes Darth Sidious.” The murmur from the other guard was barely audible inside the room. “He’s cleaned, dressed and ready for transport. Should we drug him?”

Sidious sneered as he reached out for his apprentice, feeling his soul muted, withdrawn inside. “There will be no need, the coward is hiding, but once we are back on Coruscant that won’t last for long. Get him aboard my ship; I grow weary of this planet.”


 

“Return you must.” Master Yoda’s ears were standing straight up, the force radiating about him at Mace’s new information.

“Be careful Master Windu, we do not have enough information to act.” Master Micah Giiett’s blue form nodded to both master and apprentice.

“Of course, I don’t plan on stomping up to the senate and confronting him. That would be Master Jinn’s tactic, not mine.” Mace yearned to retract that statement as he watched his padawan’s shoulder’s drop further. “I will not forget about our brother in arms. I will do all I can to bring this monster down from his high perch, but we will not leave Qui-Gon to suffer at his hands.”

Yoda’s sigh brought all eyes to bear. “Suffer he will, but not alone he is. Find him we will, no matter the consequences. Damn the senate.” The gasps came from all directions at the ancient master’s words. “Enough I have had. Change we need, or extinct we will become.” Yoda stood from the viewer and mumbled as he left the council chambers, leaving everyone stunned.

“Hurry home, Master Windu. We have much to plan and discuss.” Micah looked at his friend, hoping they weren’t too late to save Qui-Gon. The holo closed and left Mace and Obi-Wan alone on their ship. They had just left orbit after a tearful goodbye to the Queen. She wished them well and asked to be kept in the loop about their mutual friend and Qui-Gon’s rescue. Obi-Wan had boarded the ship; he hadn’t spoken a word since they entered hyperspace.

His padawan was probably lost in his own thoughts, but he didn’t need to be alone to do so. “Obi-Wan, we will find him.”

“I just keep trying to find him in the force, b-but there is nothing there. Not a trace, a hint. What if he’s already…” Obi-Wan swallowed the last word, closing his eyes at the pain. “dead.” He finished.

The hand that gently ran down his cheek, traced tears he knew were held until they were away from Naboo. “Close your eyes, Padawan mine. Close your eyes and reach out into the force.” Mace waited patiently for Obi-Wan to do what he asked. He felt the moment tension was released from the young man’s body. “Just drift in the arms of that energy. Let it float over your mind, body and soul. Let it keep you safe. Do you feel it, my young one?”

“Yes, master.” The soft words no longer felt so emotionless.

“Good, now reach for the place that you once felt Qui-Gon. That spot that once brought you comfort and concern for our Jedi Maverick. Do you feel that place, Obi?” Mace rubbed his shoulders, trying to ease the tension as Obi nodded his head. “Good, now let yourself go deeper into the force. Deeper than you normal reach, search for that presence in the galaxy, that absence that your soul cries for.”

Obi-Wan felt his body slip deeper and deeper until he no longer felt his master’s presence beside him. He sensed that bright spot in his life where Qui-Gon had been right before he was taken. He felt the force flow through him, tugging him along with the currents of space. Stars, darkness, it was all there in this one moment. For just the slightest moment he connected.

~Qui-Gon…~

~Obi~

It was just a fraction of a second, but it was enough to send the padawan into a joyous shout as he was abruptly cut from the trance. “He’s alive, master! He’s alive and in space. He’s no longer on Naboo, but he’s still with us. How?”

“The force is a wondrous thing, my son. Not even we can put limits on what it can do. It does as it wills.”

“He answered me; I hope he knows that we are looking for him. He felt so close for a few moments.” They headed for their quarters because they both needed rest before they reached the temple. Entering the room each lay down on separate sleep couches. “He knows my padawan. He knows you care for him and will not give up.”

Obi-Wan closed his eyes, sleep quickly overcoming him. There in his dreams, he saw a large gentleman, under a cherry tree with blossoms falling over the long silvering locks and onto the green grass. “Have you been waiting long?”

“I would wait forever, my Ben.”  

Chapter Text

It was just a slight whisper in the darkness that surrounded the light within, “Qui-Gon.” Was it a trick of his mind? Qui-Gon had pulled his consciousness so deeply inside that he no longer knew reality for fantasy. His mind disconnected from what had been done to him in the days since his capture. The violation of his mind and body were just distant memories while he was here in the light, surrounded by the life force of Obi-Wan Kenobi. He wondered how long he could find solace in this space, only to find his answer. Qui-Gon was yanked from his sanctuary by a blood curdling scream, his body tensing in pain as he opened his eyes to another dark room, with a single light source above him.

“I told you, that you would not hide from me long, my apprentice.” The cold words were sneered as a blow struck his face again, adding to the faded bruises of days past. Qui-Gon just grunted somewhat, still not allowing the darkness to take over. He would continue to battle until his last breath left his failing body.

Sidious glowered down at the motionless body, seeing the broken ribs through the thinning skin. “I will break you, Qui-Gon Jinn. I know your weak spot. All you have to do is give in to your agony and revulsion for me. Give in and it all starts to go away. Say yes to me and your precious Kenobi will be left to his own existence.”

The raspy voice that came out sounded so foreign to his ears, “I will not betray his light that way. I will not give in and neither will he. You will NOT use me against him.”

The cackle that came from Sidious was off putting, but Qui-Gon didn’t flinch before him, he only tried to stand once more, he would not willingly bow before this lowlife. “The more you struggle, the more you feed me. The more you despair, the more it gives me strength. What you do not realize is that everything you do is for MY benefit. You cannot win.”  Sidious acquiesced to someone in the shadowy corner, one of the guards from Naboo stepped forward, his face emotionless. “Remember, Broken, not dead.”

“Yes, Master.” The guard looked down at the already beaten and bruised man. He wondered how much one person could take before he gave into the insanity or just perished. Sidious turned once more before leaving, “By the way, we have gone home. How does it feel to know we are no more than a few blocks from your precious temple? They’ve forgotten completely about you, they can’t even feel what is so close to them.” The glee floated from the room as Qui-Gon’s eyes opened wide.

The guard paused for the door to close behind him before he once again considered the stripped man in front of him. The chain touching his neck was chaffing and bleeding from being tugged on for so long. Bruises covered him from head to toe, in various stages of healing. Some were bright purple and others had the fading yellow around them. The giant man was once quite healthy looking, but now his ribs showed from lack of substance. His lips were split and bleeding as he licked at them with obvious thirst. “Broken, not dead.” The guard reiterated the words in the darkness of the cell.

“I’m already broken. Dead is the only answer.” It was wrenched from the Master Jedi.

“Oh no, because of you my friend is dead. You are not broken yet.” The snarl was just the warning as hands started to beat him once again. “You will not die, but you will wish it.”

Hours later, the guard left a beaten and bloodied figure on the cold floor. His chest was rising with breaths that were ragged from the broken ribs. He was as close to death as he could come without giving in to it all. He missed the sanctuary he had found within himself, that bright spot where Obi-Wan had promised nothing would harm him again. If he could just concentrate again, maybe he could reach that calm once more. He just needed to close his eyes, just a moment to catch his breath. Just as Qui-Gon took a deep breath, the darkness he was met with was that of unconsciousness.

Looking back into the cell once more to ensure that the Jedi’s chest was still rising and falling, the guard turned to Sidious and smirked. “Broken, but not dead, my master.”

“Good, good…I have to attend to my meetings. I will be back later to check on him. I think he might be willing to cooperate soon. I’m working on his leverage tonight.” The swirl of the cloak behind the dark master was all the guard saw.


 

“Obi-Wan!” The delighted giggle of young Anakin was the only thing he heard as he suddenly had an arm full of pure light.

Obi-Wan ruffled the blonde’s hair and tightened his hold on the young boy he had meet just weeks before. How could he have such affection for a boy he had just met? Then again, he had just meet Master Jinn and the man was quickly becoming his whole life. The force worked in mysterious ways. It was all as the Force willed it. He repeated those words in his mind. “Anakin, it is good to see you. Are you settling into the temple? Have the council made any decisions?”

Just as the words left the padawan’s lips, Master Windu appeared down the ramp of the shuttle. Anakin’s eyes were wide with surprise. “You lived, you didn’t die! I saw…” The little boy let go of Obi-Wan chocked up with emotion, threw himself into the tall dark-skinned master’s arms.

“Hush little one, I am all right. Obi-Wan protected me. It is ok.” Mace tried to calm the trembling form, unable to understand why the boy was so upset. Mace looked over the head of the boy into Obi-Wan’s sad and confused eyes, shrugging his shoulders. As the moment continued on for longer than they both were comfortable with, Shmi appeared along with Tahl and Micah.

“Anakin, you must let Master Windu breathe, he is well now young one.” Shmi knew his son often had nightmares that he believed always came true. This was a dream that he had had within the rooms of Qui-Gon Jinn, but it seems the force intervened to bring the master back to them.

Mace gently lowered the boy to the ground, letting his feet once again touch the ground as he smiled and pushed the young man towards his mother. “We will have time to talk soon Anakin, but Obi-Wan and I need to speak to the council.” Micah closed his eyes, knowing most of what had happened on Naboo would change the temple as they knew it.

Anakin just nodded to his elders, his face scrunched up in confusion. “I’m sorry. I am glad you are ok, Master Windu.” He turned to Obi-Wan and drew the young man closer to whisper, “Don’t give up on him, he’s waiting for you.” As the last syllable left the boys lips, he grabbed his mother’s hand and tugged her towards the door. “We’ll miss late meal!”

Mace laughed at the young boy’s demeanor and then glanced to the pale form of his padawan. He wondered what was whispered, but left that thought for another time. They had information and planning. They had an evil man at the helm of the Republic at the least and at the most, they had a Dark Lord of the Sith in charge of the senate. They had little time. “Have the council been called, Micah?”

“Yes my friend. We are ready for you.” Micah reached out lightly for Tahl’s hands, gently entwining their fingers together. “Qui?” The words were barely whispered.

Tahl’s shoulders tensed, knowing she didn’t have the strength to speak just yet and allowed her friend to speak for them both. They saw Obi-Wan turn, his head bowed. “He is still missing. Obi-Wan was able to feel his presence, if briefly. He’s still alive. The only other thing he could sense was that he was in space. He is no longer on Naboo.”

Tahl curled into Micah’s embrace as the tears streaked her face. “We can’t lose him again.” Mace just stepped forward and gently touched the woman before him. “Our friend is strong. He is stronger than all of us put together and he will not give into the darkness. He has so much to fight for. He has the faith of his old friends.” Mace reached out and pulled Obi-Wan into his side. “And he has the promise of new friends. He will hold on for us, we will find him.” They all stood there for a moment, relishing in the comfort of the other. “Let us get to the council chambers, the longer we wait, the longer Qui-Gon is at their mercy.”

The massive doors to the council chambers opened to admit master and apprentice. Everyone was in attendance, with none set with the blue light of the holo projector. It meant that the councilors had been recalled to the temple. ‘This was it, it was all coming to a head’, Mace thought to himself as he stepped into the center of the open room.

The bright lights of Coruscant shone through the windows. The shadow of the tall master and apprentice were upon the floor, in contrast to the light within them both. “Master Windu and Padawan Kenobi, safe you are, happy we are.” Master Yoda’s demeanor was odd to Mace; he had never seen the master’s emotions so hard upon his face.

“It was a rough mission, but my Padawan was too stubborn to let this old man die.” Mace tried to lighten the mood, as he could feel Obi-Wan’s presence next to him. He was nervous and trembling behind him, although trying to hide it beneath his cloak as he clutched his hands together in front of him.

“Reports we have read. Before we speak of the future actions, we wish to address the past mission.” Yoda scooted out of the chair and shuffled slowly in front of both master and apprentice. “Kneel you will Padawan Kenobi.” Mace heard the gasp from behind him as they both realized what was happening. It had been decades since a Padawan was knighted for their field work and not given their trials.

“No trials do you require. Faced your greatest fears on Naboo we are sure you have and come out of it with understanding that even the brightest light can be tinged with darkness.” Yoda stretched out and laid his claws gently on the bowed head that once upon a time could have been his grand padawan. The old master then peered into Mace’s eyes and gave a slight smile. “Take his braid, is your right.”

Mace shifted to stand in front of his padawan, the boy before him, now a man in every right. He gathered the long and distinguished reddish plait in his hand and withdrew his saber, setting it to the lowest setting. “You were once a young boy. It was my job to lead you into the arms of the force and teach you to listen to its guidance. I thought for many years that it was my job to lead you to this moment, but you....” He stopped for a moment to tilt Obi-Wan’s chin up to look into his eyes. He was going to step into the light and confess before the council his attachment. “You were more than my student. You were the boy who took my heart and taught me what it meant to have a family. You gave me the joy and pleasure of knowing what it is like to have a child and watch them soar into the future. I love you as I could love my own flesh and blood. May you be blessed in your future as you take this step from my shadow and shine brightly in the force, your own Knight.”

Obi-Wan inhaled at the confession and barely felt the braid sever from his body, his hands were suddenly holding the symbol of years of hard work, determination and love, love above all. “Stand you will, no longer a padawan you are. Present Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi to our ranks, I do.” The council all stood and offered their brethren a deep bow of respect.

Obi-Wan wanted to weep in this moment. He still didn’t feel worthy, he didn’t want to leave his master, and he just wanted to find Qui-Gon. This didn’t feel the right moment for this, but he couldn’t help but relax when he saw the pride in his master’s eyes, for he would always be his master. “This is yours, it was always yours. Never will I regret walking by your side. Never will I wish to ever be another’s.” Obi-Wan pressed the braid into Mace’s hand as he knew the words would have meaning to them all. He was telling not only his master, but the council that he didn’t regret any of the decisions made when he was child. Qui-Gon may have been his past at one point, but he did not mourn that loss.

“Thank you, my knight. May the force be with you, always.” The sworn words of every ceremony were uttered at the end of the moment, as Obi-Wan stood side by side with Mace Windu, knowing he no longer had to defer to that presence at his side.

“We have a Dark Lord of the Sith in our presence, I killed the apprentice on Naboo. The master is out there and he is more dangerous to our way of life then we could ever imagine.” Mace stood at his side overcome with pride for the man he raised. He didn’t even wait a moment to take in his knighting before delving into their mission on Naboo.

“How can you be sure that this so called Sith apprentice was not just a fallen Jedi or a dark force user? The Sith have been extinct for ages.” Adi spoke up, knowing they were all thinking much the same.

“The Red and Black entity that we battled was young. He was gathering strength from an outside source; I could feel it as Obi-Wan was stuck behind the shield. If he was the master there would have been no need to draw more power.” Mace titled his head to Obi-Wan to continue.

“As Master Windu stated, he was drawing on support from someone stronger than himself. This was a darkness that I had never felt before in my life. I have seen fallen Jedi. I have felt the darkness of those who call themselves Grey Jedi, this was nothing like that.” He stopped for a moment, knowing this would be the turning point of this conversation. “It was a darkness I only felt one other time.”

“Felt this darkness, when and whom Knight Kenobi?” Yoda’s ears perked up.

Obi-Wan peered at Mace, who sent reassurance through their bond that would be muted later. “We interrupted a meeting with the Queen of Naboo and Chancellor Palpatine at the Palace on Naboo. To say that he was irate about the disturbance would be an understatement. However, Master Windu and I had discussed earlier how the Chancellor radiated oddly in the force, giving us a headache in his presence. I stretched out once more to see if it would happen again. It was then that I was overcome with the darkness. It was the evil and hatred that emanated from Palpatine. This was not a force null reaction, and it unsettled me forcing me pull back to recover.”

“Master Windu, felt this you did?” Mace shook his head.

“We adjourned to speak with the Queen and Obi-Wan told me about his encounter. I reached out into the force, but still only felt the strange buzz and headache I often get in his presence. I however saw the pale features of my padawan and did not question what he felt. It was as he said.”

Even Piell spoke up instantly, “You expect us to believe the word of a new knight, then padawan, on such a serious matter?”

Mace was going to answer when he was interrupted by Obi-Wan, “I expect you to treat me with the same courtesy that you would show any member of this order. I’m telling you right now that our ties to the republic are so entrenched with the Senate that the Sith now hold our very existence in their hands.”

“Truth he is speaking. Felt a great darkness coming, I have. Hide in the shadows it did. Question now, how to proceed?” Yoda’s ears sagged again, just as he did when he had damned the senate days before.

Obi-Wan took that moment to stand tall. “He’s got Qui-Gon, I’m sure of it. He seeks a new apprentice. We must find Master Jinn, before it’s too late.”

Ki-Adi-Mundi spoke harshly at his statement. “If you are sure that Qui-Gon Jinn is in the hands of a Sith, then turned already he has. We have known of his lingering darkness for ages. We reached out to help but were rebuffed. No, we need to concentrate on the Sith presence in the Republic, Qui-Gon is lost to us.”

At that statement, Yaddle, Micah, Yoda, Adi, Even and Plo stood up to protest such a statement. “Enough this is. Qui-Gon Jinn not lost to the darkness yet. Speak of my padawan in such hollow statements we will not. Done we are turning our back on those of us whom need help. Jedi he is, Jedi we will save!” Yoda’s words were harsh, as he pounded his gimmer stick against the hard marble flooring.

Obi-Wan quickly approached the diminutive master and bowed before him. “He will give his own life before turning, this I know above all else. I do not wish to live without him.” Obi-Wan’s words were gentle and whispered.

“Live without him, none of us wish.” Yoda just examined the young man’s eyes for a moment, before a smile blessed his face. “Live without him, you will not.” The grin turned into a smug look, before he tapped the young man with his stick urging him back up. “Master Windu, to the healers you should go. Ensure that healthy you are. Many things the council has to discuss. Obi-Wan, meditate you should, our only link to Qui-Gon you are.”

They were quickly dismissed as the large doors once again shut behind them and raised voices were heard. “I can only imagine the arguments that are about to ensue in that room.” Mace rubbed his head, still weary after Naboo. “I know it was unexpected, but I am so proud of you, Knight Kenobi.” The words made him beam.

“Thank you, My Master. I wish it was for different circumstances, but I wish to make you proud.”

“No longer your Master, Obi-Wan. You have earned the right to call me by my name.” Mace leaned slightly on the door behind him for support.

“You will always be my master, but I shall endeavor to call you Mace once in a while to please you.” His precious teasing imp was still there. The last weeks had not driven it from him fully and Mace was glad for that.  “Does a new Knight get a special request?” Mace raised his eyebrows in question.  “May I accompany you to the healers?”

Mace just mumbled, knowing he was stalling. “I can deny you nothing, my imp. Lead the way.” The two men turned to the closed doors once more, wondering what would come of the future now that darkness was so close. “We will know the outcome soon.”

“I just hope Qui-Gon can hold on while they discuss it like a committee.” Obi-Wan once more sent out a plea through the force, hoping with all his being that Qui-Gon might feel it. It would have to be enough, until he could once again meditate and clear his mind. Maybe then he could feel more than just his presence, maybe he could find answers.


 

Sidious stood before the door that held his prize, reaching out into the force for the man inside. His pain and his anguish were at odds with his light. Even if it was just a spark of illumination, it was something that Sidious would slaughter eventually.  Now that they were back on Coruscant, he need not hold back on his punishment. With all the dark souls that dwelled in the lower levels of the planet, he could hide Qui-Gon’s emotions from being felt by those that would try to save him.

No, this was no longer Qui-Gon Jinn; this was Darth Acheros, his river of sorrow. Sidious closed his eyes and let the name flow over his lips. Yes, Darth Acheros would be a much stronger apprentice than Maul. He could see now a future with this tall magnificent Sith by his side.

Chapter Text

The room of a thousand fountains, it was a much-loved place to meditate for Jedi when in temple. It was a calming atmosphere in the chaos that mission after mission wrought a room that had been in place since the construction of the Jedi Temple. It existed to be a retreat from the concrete and steel of the enormous capital outside. Obi-Wan strolled through the massive wooden doors that opened into the multi-storied greenhouse, his thoughts still with his master whom he had left in the hands of the healers. They had insisted that the obstinate Jedi needed more time in the bacta tank and they wouldn’t take no for an answer.

As Obi-wan strode through the doors, he inhaled deeply to smell the fragrant scent of flowers, mixed with the crisp smell of flowing water. The minute room behind the immense doors was just a tease to what lay just a short walk down a narrow hall. Obi-Wan took the walk slowly, wanting to savor this moment, a moment when he entered the sacred room as Knight for the first time. As the hallway gave way to a small platform, the dirt trails led in several directions. The winding paths led to tiny alcoves for meditation or to the large waterfall that was centerpiece to the entire room. You couldn’t go anywhere in this room without hearing the soothing calm of running water. It was breathtaking.

Obi-Wan knew that main fountain would be filled with Jedi that were there to socialize. They needed the comfort of brethren after being out in the wilds of space for ages, or gone to diplomatic stations that saw them away for years. This wasn’t a place Obi-Wan wished to be, no at this moment he wanted to be alone with his thoughts, alone with his visions of the future that included a very present and happy Qui-Gon Jinn.

He started his walk across the many wooden bridges that crossed bubbling brooks and barely running water. Deeper into the wilderness of the room, hidden away from the masses, where people knew not to disturb those in meditation. Obi-Wan realized that he had a destination, a pull in the force that was guiding him to a place within the room that he had never been. Ducking behind a large bush and then wading into a shallow creek bed, he was drawn to a small island in the middle. It was a beautiful sight, a great tree was in the middle of the island, its branches reaching out to shade the ground from the artificial light that helped the plants continue to thrive on this harsh planet. The smile that graced his lips was grand e as he stretched out into the force and felt the presence of someone he knew. It was warmth he hadn’t felt in years, it was like a gentle caress from a long lost lover. His soul grasped out to that presence, even as faint as it was. This must have once been Qui-Gon Jinn’s meditation spot. Of course it would be the living force was so alive here that it caressed Obi-Wan as he ignored his wet shoes and pants and fell to the ground in reverence. ‘Qui…’ the thought reverberated through the force.

The force seemed to whisper to him in this spot, ‘No one will disturb you here.’

Obi-Wan took the time to remove his boots and robe, laying them out to dry away from the shade of the tree. He then moved closer to the trunk of the tree, the massive trunk that gave sustenance to the leaves, which supported the wildlife in its branches. Laying his hand upon the trunk, Obi-Wan sunk to his knees and bowed his head in meditation.  

At first his meditation was nothing special, nothing out of the ordinary. It calmed his soul and allowed him to release the stress and emotions of the last few weeks. It allowed him the time to come to terms with his master’s injury and the unexpected knighting, but it wasn’t the balm to his soul that he needed. No, he needed to go further, deeper.

 ‘Qui-gon’, his heart whispered into the force.

Deeper and deeper into his meditation the young man ventured, in search of his friend, in search of someone that would be more one day. ‘Qui.’ It was a word that seemed to be his mantra while he fought to immerse himself in the force, his soul almost one with it as his body waited its return. Quickly the force swirled around him, images and thoughts pouring into him. A river, a large river that was held back by a rickety damn that had sprung leak after leak, it was a river that was dark and muddy, filled with a type of sorrow that threatened to overcome the new knight.

Obi-Wan felt the water starting to drag on his body, as his feet stuck in the muddy waters. ‘Qui-gon!’ Obi-Wan saw a large and broken body lying in the water behind the damn, beaten and bloody, but moving.  He tugged at his boots, trying to get closer, only to feel the force hold him back, a dark force.

‘He is no longer yours.’ It was a nefarious and creepy voice, but familiar to the young man’s ears. He just couldn’t place it, but it wasn’t a voice that would keep him from Qui-Gon. Obi-Wan fell to his knees in the water, trying to crawl closer and closer to the damn, the damn that even now was starting to crumble before him.

‘Even the best cannot hold out forever. My apprentice, my river of sorrow, will run free.’ The cackling only pushed him harder and with more determination.

‘Qui, please, look at me!’ Obi-Wan was pleading, tears trickling down his face as he felt time slipping away. The body that had yet to move just beyond started to struggle, the long partly silvered hair hanging in his face as he slowly looked up at the man beyond the damn.

‘No.’ it was the only word that could sum up the horror before him. The yellow eyes of a man consumed with the dark. ‘You would never give in, no…’ Obi-Wan struggled more and more to reach the man whom was now being helped up by another, a dark figure in a robe that concealed its identity.

‘Kneel, my apprentice and raise Darth Acheros.’

Just as Obi-Wan watched in horror as Qui-Gon started to kneel before the man, he was torn back into the real world, his body hunched over trying to breathe once again. “Breathe you will, calm you need.” Obi-Wan felt the small clawed hands on the back of his neck as he leaned over and started to throw up the little that was held in his stomach. “Vision you had. Not real it is. Not real it has to be.” The ancient master continued to sooth the young knight by offering him support within the force.

“Qui-Gon, he was. He. Kneeling…” The words made little sense to the Yoda, but he continued to listen, waiting for Obi-Wan to once again start to make sense. It took several moments, more throwing up and deep breaths before he could sit up and look the small master in the eyes once again.

“Better you are?”

“I can function again, I’m not sure I’ll ever be better if what I saw….” He didn’t want to finish that sentence.

“Show me, you will?” Obi-Wan quickly shook his head back and forth, not wanting to relive that moment again or have Yoda see his old padawan kneel before a sith and call him master. “If show me, you can’t then tell me you will.”

Obi-Wan swallowed, not sure his lips could reveal what the force had shown him. “Master, I don’t think you want to know what I saw.”

“Old and feeble I am not! Love him, I do.” Yoda’s ears once again slumped and he looked down at the ground, only to look up into Obi-Wan’s eyes, imploring him.

“I saw the Master, the dark one, the one that was feeding the Zabarak on Naboo. I’m sorry, Master Yoda but Qui-Gon was kneeling before him with frightening yellow eyes.” Yoda closed his own eyes and murmured to himself.  “The Sith Lord had named him, Darth Acheros.” Obi-Wan could barely choke out the words, the words that he himself refused to believe could happen.

“Forever in motion is the future, not happen yet it has.” Yoda just nodded to the young man and started to hobble away.

“That’s it? That’s all you have to say? No, ‘We need to find him right away.’ No, ‘Qui-Gon would never give into the dark.’ How can you say you love him and just walk away?!” Obi-Wan was losing his temper, his voice rising more as the troll continued to walk away, hunched over more and more. “Does he mean NOTHING to you?”

That had been the final straw. That had been the moment that the fragile master in front of him turned, eyes burning with anger and passion that no one had seen in ages. “Nothing? Nothing? Watched many turn I have, no greater sadness would I know than to watch my Qui-Gon turn to the darkness, but believe it I do not.” The anger seemed to subside just a moment before Obi-Wan found himself hanging just a few inches off the ground, the force slightly wrapped around his throat. Then Obi-Wan felt himself shiver as Master Yoda concentrated on the moment. “Do not misunderstand my silence for apathy. Do not take me as being complacent just because I do not show my emotions on my sleeve. I do NOT have that luxury as grandmaster. I love Qui-Gon Jinn as my son and will do everything to see him back in the light with us, but I cannot save him at the cost of masses.” Obi-Wan couldn’t believe the speech, it wasn’t broken, it wasn’t in that strange dialectic.

“Tired I am, tired I have been. Wish to fight with you, I do not. We both, wish the same thing. We both wish to save the stubborn old man.” Obi-Wan fell to the ground, his knees once again muddy against the ground. “Done with this discussion, we are?”

Obi-Wan looked up at the master and realized what he had done. “I’m sorry, Master Yoda. I just…”

Yoda approached him and lightly patted him on the head once again. “Understand I do. Love him, you will. Love him already you might.” Obi-Wan just blushed, not wanting to voice those words out loud just yet, it was absurd, he didn’t even know Qui-Gon Jinn.  “Absurd to others, to me it is not.” The master laughed slightly, the smile not quite reaching his ears. “Clean up, you should, much we have to plan.”

Obi-Wan pushed off his knees and tried to calm his emotions. He had to focus, he had to be in the here and now, or the future might just be set.


 

“Mom!” Anakin ran into the creche, his mouth full of cookies that he had hoarded from the refectory. Shmi looked up from the data-pad she was reading to the younglings, laughing at her boy, free and happy for the first time in his life.

“Anakin, please do not shout in here, they just got the babies to nap. I’m sure if you wake them, they will insist that you help put them back to bed.” Anakin’s face scrunched up as he tiptoed closer to his mother. “What are you in such a hurry for?”

“The council, they said I could stay!” Anakin smiled, once again trying to keep his voice quiet.

“Well of course you can stay, that has never been the issue, my Ani.” She was teasing him, but wanted to hear the full story.

“They are accepting me into the..the..” Anakin struggled to remember the word for it. “Creche. They said I have much to catch up on, but in many ways, I’m ahead of the curve in some things, like mechanics.” Anakin smiled brightly with pride and achievement.

Shmi stood and laid the child in her arms on the mat to continue their nap, laying a small kiss on the youngling’s forehead to settle them back down. “Ani, I am so proud of you, no matter what happens in the future, you will always be my son and I will love you. You can be a farmer, a mechanic or a Knight and nothing will change how I feel about you.”

Anakin knew that his mother loved him, but this was special. This was something he never thought would happen to them both. They would lead a life that was theirs and theirs alone. They would never again be owned, they would be able to do the things in life that made them happy. He could be anything he wanted, but he was meant to be a Jedi, he knew it in his bones. “Are you happy, mom?” Anakin moved into her arms, feeling them wrap around him tightly.

“You’ve always made me happy, Ani.”

“I know that, but are you happy without me? I mean…You know what I mean.” Anakin struggled with the words.

“I am content in my role here. Perhaps sometimes I get a bit lonely, when you are not around, but that happens to all parents who have to watch their children grow and mature.” Shmi always made it a point to be open and honest with her son, they needed that on Tatooine.

“I could turn it down. I could stay with you.” Anakin looked down at his boots, feeling awkward in the moment.

“No, you couldn’t. You were meant for this young one and no one, not even me has the right to hold you back from your dreams and desires. You will be a great Jedi and I will be here waiting when you return from missions.” She rubbed his bronze hair, pulling him tightly in a hug.

“I love you, Mom. I know you won’t be alone for long.” He gave her that bright knowing smile and ran back out the door to head to his first class. Shmi just chuckled at the boy that could be serious one moment and gone the next. She looked down at the children asleep at her feet. She had a moment for tea; perhaps she would ask the Master of the Creche if he would like to join her.


 

The chancellor sifted through data-pads that were piling up on his desk, his assistants were busy trying to help him sort through the mess that had been waiting since his return from Naboo. “My dear, please see that this is straightened out into some sort of system.” Palpatine sneered slightly at the incompetence of Valorum’s former staff.

“Yes, Chancellor.” She continued on with her job, shivering slightly at his demeanor.

“Also, please see to it that a message is sent to the Jedi Temple. I wish to see Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi at his earliest convenience. I wish to officially thank him for his aid and assistance on Naboo.” Sheev moved to the door, knowing that the mess would take a while to work out.

“Of course, would you like to invite Master Windu as well?” She managed to squeak out as she continued sorting out the mess.

That was the last person he wished to see in his office, but he had to play his part, didn’t he? “No, I wouldn’t want Master Windu to feel pressured to visit when his health has not been hundred percent. Please just invite the young Knight Kenobi. Thank you.” Palpatine quickly left the office, heading down a long hallway, his guards stilling at the door. He took the hallway to what many perceived as his personal chambers, to only turn from the room and open a concealed door in the corner. After a brief walk in the dark, the light shown once more and opened up into a large room, that was underneath the senate chambers.

“I hope that our guest is still broken, but not dead?” The cold words were spoken to the guard who just smiled in return.

“Still breathing, my master.”

“Good, Good…” Pulling his cloak over his head, he immediately changed from the kindly old man that ruled the Republic to the darkness that would soon consume it. Opening the door to the cell, Sidious looked down at the shivering form of the master Jedi.

“I am one with the force, the force is with me.” It was barely a whisper from Qui-Gon’s lips, but it set the sith off.

“The force has left you. All is as the FORCE wills it. You will bow before me and call me master, or Young Kenobi will suffer the consequences. He will be my guest soon; perhaps I will allow you to see him, digitally of course.” Sidious kneeled closer to the broken man, twitching his nose at the stench of blood and filth. “I wonder what that beautiful young creature would think if he saw you now. Thin, covered in your own waste and cowering on the floor. Do you think he would think you so grand? I can feel you calling out to him; I can feel your need. I can give you want you want, I can give him to you.”

Qui-Gon groaned, trying to push himself up onto his knees as to stand before his most hated rival. “You cannot give what doesn’t…belong to you.” He started to cough at the last word, blood dripping from his mouth, signs of a punctured lung perhaps. He wondered if broken truly might lead to death.

Sidious quickly turned on him, his hatred for the light burning like a fire. “I will show you what belongs to me.” The man pushed his hood down revealing his true form, Qui-Gon’s eyes widening with recognition. His horror replaced with pain as blue lightening converted on his already bruised and battered body, sending him to the floor in convulsions. “You will give in, or you will die!”

“I will never surrender.” Qui-Gon spat the blood from his mouth in the Sith’s direction.

Just as Qui-Gon was about to respond, the guard entered the room. “Master, Kenobi is in your anti-chambers.”

“Splendid! If you won’t surrender, than perhaps he will. Your life for his, yes?”  Sidious turned to leave the room, then he heard a resigned sigh.

“I…” Qui-Gon felt the tears run down his cheeks at the realization that the force had forsaken him. He had no way of winning this moment.  ‘I’m sorry Obi-Wan, I won’t let him hurt you.’ He thought, knowing that no one would hear him.

“I surrender.” Qui-Gon slid to his knees and looked up in to Sidious’ eyes. “Master…”

 

Chapter Text

Two years. Two years of investigating between missions. Two years of visions, of nightmares, that were laced with the sinful golden eyes of a man he craved to call beloved. It all seemed long ago when he had collided with the over-sized Master in the refectory, and had felt the force push them together. Obi-Wan Kenobi, no, Knight Kenobi had been on mission after mission after his return from Naboo. He had constructed quite a name for himself as a negotiator, even if they were of the aggressive sort. The missions appeared to get more difficult as the cycles moved on. It was as if the galaxy itself was starting to suffocate with the shadows.

His latest mission had seen him coming face to face with mortality, once again. He was sent to discuss reconciliation between the two factions on Mandalore. The Jedi council had been approached by the new Duchess, Satine Kryze; she wanted to see the war on their planet come to a conclusion. Obi-Wan was sent to attempt to broker that peace between the two factions, yeah it sounded easy enough at the briefing.

He had made the mistake of misjudging the Duchess’ passion for complete nonaggression. She demanded no violence at all, even in defense of her people or to defend her rightful place as their leader. She would participate but she would brook no interference that came at the hands of Obi-Wan’s lightsaber. It left the knight at the mercy of a young man by the name of Pre Vizsla. He wielded an odd black saber. Obi-Wan sensed the wrongness in the force as the saber’s blade was held inches from his throat. His body was heaving from exertion, the mission had offered little time for sleep, food and meditation.

Obi-Wan recalled the moment vividly; he had shut his eyes and sank himself into the force, feeling for the man that hadn’t answered him in two years. ‘Qui-Gon, I will wait for you in the force.’ After what felt like ages, he opened his eyes to find Vizsla on the ground in front of him, neck broken, eyes hauntingly open and soulless. He had heard nobody, no words, no steps, nothing but a slight wind at his back before he opened his eyes to this scene. It had been this way now for two years, when things seemed impossible; they were suddenly under control. When death seemed at his door, he was suddenly pulled back and safe once more. He felt as if the shadows themselves would keep him safe, perhaps he was starting to feel paranoid.

At long last it was time to return home, it was time to find ease in the hands of the Jedi Temple yet again. That is where he stood now, on the ramp of a transport that had landed near the massive compound that he called home. The planet felt, out of the ordinary. Coruscant had always felt buzzing with the massive life force of the people, being overcrowded as it was. However, it now felt, dismal. It was hard to pinpoint, but maybe it was because he had been gone for so long that he was just imagining things. He appeared to be stuck in this spot, not knowing truly how to begin again. He was grateful that he might have more time to search for Qui-Gon, more research into what had happened, but after so long; he had little hope of finding the same man.

“Bite you, the temple will not.” He heard the amused laugh, pulling him from his deep thoughts.

“That is not true, Master Yoda. Master Windu once thought blowing on my stomach as a young boy and then nipping at my skin was the epitome of comedy.” Yoda beamed a wide smile that hadn’t appeared in ages.

“Impudent you still are. Devil we were speaking….” Yoda focused in the direction of the hallway, Obi-Wan’s former master dashing toward them, with a winded youngling in tow.

“Padawan!” This was not the stoic Jedi before him; this was the man that nurtured him. He snorted as he was encompassed within the well-built arms, the warmth of familiarity embracing him tightly.

“My master.” It was such a soft murmur that Mace barely heard it, but grinned wider. He had missed this presence in his life. Not that he wasn’t kept busy with a new padawan, but there was only one Obi-Wan Kenobi.

“Obi.” The timid voice behind Mace seemed almost shy. Mace released the knight, but kept his hand clasped in the others for connection.  Anakin Skywalker stood before him, sporting an adorable spiky crew cut, with a short padawan braid on the left side. His master had taken another padawan.

“Padawan Skywalker, I see that I’ve missed quite a bit of gossip while I was out in the stars. Congratulations, my brother padawan.” Obi-Wan kneeled to the ground, winking at the young boy that seemed unsure about his presence. Anakin’s face all of a sudden lit up, the adolescent boy he had first met appeared and Obi-Wan suddenly had an arm full of happy padawan. “Remind me later to give you some tips on handling our Master.” He whispered loud enough for both Mace and Yoda to hear, the cackling warmed his heart. It had been so long since he had felt warmth; in fact he had felt nothing but cold since that day two years ago in the office of Chancellor Palpatine. It felt like the very universe had turned on its axis in those few minutes that he had spent with the man. It was an uncomfortable meeting; he didn’t want congratulations when so many had died, so many were still missing. He needed to be out there looking for Qui-Gon. Instead he got lip service from the politician, but the council insisted he stay on the Chancellor’s good side.

Mace turned to Anakin, his master face composed once again, “You got to greet Obi-Wan, but it’s time to get to your classes young one. Perhaps we can convince Obi-Wan to dine at our table this evening. Then you can plot your treason against me.” Mace ruffled Anakin’s hair affectionately. “Be sure to stop by and ask your Mother and Master Ezak to join us, please Ani.”

“Yes, Master.” The young boy bowed to all three of them and shot off once again. It made Obi-Wan chuckle at the bundle of energy.

“Are you sure you are young enough to keep up with that?” Obi-Wan squeezed the hand still embraced his. “Was I ever full of that much energy?”

Yoda just tapped his gimmer stick beside them and nodded. “Sometimes I wondered if good for you, Mace was. He once fed you so much frozen pallies, that bouncing off the training walls you were. Never sleep again he thought.”

Mace drew the young Knight back into his arms, giving him a tight squeeze. “I have missed you, Obi. I was wondering if we would ever see each other again. The council has kept you so busy, but that last mission.” The words sounded as if they were filled with emotion, which meant that Mace had already read his mission briefing. “Please, be more careful. I may have a new padawan, but I still adore his predecessor.”

Obi-Wan just held on tighter for a moment, yet again wondering why he always looked to have an avenging angel on his missions.  “It wasn’t something I planned for Mace. If I’m honest, I just don’t understand how I keep…” The words trailed off, as he didn’t want to give voice to his thoughts.

“There is still no word of Qui-Gon, Obi. I know you think you see him from time to time, but we both know that he’s no longer within our reach.” Mace hated to bring up the subject when this was to be a joyous reunion. “You have always seen the best in people, my gentle knight. We might never know why, or how, but Qui-Gon Jinn is lost to us. The reports we have heard from the outer rim, have talked of a tall figure, with long greying hair. They describe darkness that swoops in, causing chaos. Once you go down the path of darkness, there is no coming back. You know this Obi-Wan and I hate to watch you hide yourself away from those that love you because of that hope.”

He didn’t realize he had done it, but Obi-Wan ripped his hand forcefully away from his old Master. His emotions worn on his sleeve as he turned around to gather his thoughts together. “Hope is sometimes all we have, Mace. Don’t take that hope from me. I refuse to believe that people can’t change. The code may say that there is no coming back, but the force keeps telling me there is hope.”

Mace heaved a sigh and Yoda nodded his consent. “I didn’t want to do this here, but I can’t conceal this from you, my Padawan.” Obi-wan turned back to them, his eyes threatening tears. His master very seldom used the words ‘My Padawan’ anymore. He would call him his former padawan, padawan mine, but these were words that showed his honesty and openness as no other could. “We have reports of knights disappearing. For the last two years, we have lost about forty in total. Most statements have witnesses that say they saw a dark figure fighting with them before they vanished. Those descriptions talk of a tall man, brown-silvered hair, with eyes of yellow, red lightsaber ignited. Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon has killed over a forty of our brethren. There is no saving his soul, there is no hope.”

Obi-Wan felt the bile threatening to burst from his mouth as the words started to sink in. He would not lose his cool in front of his masters. He would behave like he had earned his knighthood. “I…” The words died on his lips as he centered himself in the force; however, the force had another idea. His eyes closed as he was swept up into a vision, a planet on fire, a dark figure huddled in the corner, his eyes opening quickly to show the amber pupils before flashing back to an incredible shade of indigo. “I understand, Masters. I think I need time to meditate.”

Mace glanced at Yoda, knowing that his padawan would not accept that Qui-Gon was lost until he saw it with his own two eyes, but he couldn’t blame him. It took report after report for Mace to accept that his friend was dead, replaced by a viscous man that resembled him. “Please come for dinner this evening, Obi. Anakin, Shmi and her new husband would love to see you.”

“Husband?” This pulled Obi-Wan from his thoughts of Qui-Gon. “When? Who?”

Mace just chuckled. “About six cycles ago and Creche Master Ezak.” He let that sink in for a moment before continuing. “I won’t spoil their story; I will let them tell you over dinner. You will come, right?” Mace worried that the tired knight would refuse, but was thrilled at the small nod.

“I will see you at evening meal, Master.” Yoda just watched the by-play, as Mace walked away, leaving Obi-Wan alone with ancient master once more.

“Hope you still have.” It wasn’t a question.

“While he still breathes, I have faith. I know that it isn’t the Jedi way, but no one is beyond salvation if the force wills it.” The knight turned to leave, only to look back once more. “I may look weak and pathetic for my faith in one man, but I can’t help what my heart and the force accepts as true. He’s not lost to us yet, Master.”

Yoda observed the worn Knight leave after those brief words. He had a hard time seeing the future recently; it was clouded with darkness and deceit.


 

Booted feet connected on the solid floor that led into a barely lit chamber, the towering form quickly moving in front of the figure seated in an elegant chair. “You called for me, Master.” The rumbling voice of Darth Acheros began as he kneeled obediently before Sidious.

“I never dreamed you would be so beautiful in your darkness, Acheros. My striking river of sorrow has wrought havoc on the Jedi. They have no idea what is happening right under their noses, the many death’s that have been wrought by your hand have made us stronger.” Sidious rose from his chair to tower over his apprentice. “You’ve earned your rest. I set up your old chamber, I thought it…fitting.”

Darth Acheros finally stood, looming over the elder man, wondering if he could squish him like the creepy crawling bug he was. ‘Not time.’ The force echoed. No, not the force, the force had forsaken him. It made him betray those he cared for and loved. “Thank you my master. I shall retire to the quarters you provided. How long will I be here?” It was a cold, even speech.

“For as long as I will it. I can feel your thoughts; do not misunderstand my approval of your skills as license to rebel, my APPRENTICE.” The words were spat out.

“No, Master. I do thy bidding, and only your bidding.” It sounded like a haunted recording of a man who once was so full of life. This was a shell, a walking shadow of what once was.

Sidious approached him, forcing himself deep into his mind. The involuntary presence sent his body to his knees in agony. He no longer screamed out in pain, he no longer gave into those urges. Even though he had surrendered to the dark, he was still a maverick, a rebel and he would not give the monster before him the pleasure of his cries. His master’s presence made him shake with fear, anger and pain as he probed his thoughts. Nothing was off limits; nothing was a secret from his dark lord.

“You were supposed to deliver Mandalore to the Separatists, yet you slew Vizsla and left that young twit in place! Perhaps it’s time to violate my promise and get rid of that meddling red-headed Jedi!” The loathing was spat at the kneeling man. He knew that he had messed up, but even through the darkness he could not bring himself to sacrifice the dear man that had been everything to him, since day one. He had lost all his chances at a life with Obi-Wan Kenobi, but he would make sure Obi lived to have his own chance at happiness. Acheros knew he would take a brutal punishment, but he also knew that Sidious could not afford to kill him, at least not yet. His plans weren’t complete. He still had the boy to win over. Anakin had to be his before he could be rid of his current apprentice.

“Speak! Scream, you fucking shell of a human!” The silence only infuriated his master all the more, and it made him want to smile for the first time in two years. It was a balm to his soul that little else could provide. He peered up into the yellow eyes of his master, a smirk on his face as he was held by the neck, an invisible hand wrapped tightly around his flesh as the air started to thin. “I thought we were beyond this rebellion, but perhaps you need another lesson. Perhaps, Obi-Wan needs a new lesson.” Sidious knew that beating Acheros would not help; the man would just use the pain to strengthen himself. However, he knew all the soft spots. “Ventress, The Jedi is all yours. Finish what this pathetic creature cannot.” He spoke the words into a comm attached to his chair.

“NOOOOOOOOOOO!” Acheros was instantaneously on his feet, his saber ignited and aimed at the dark lord before him.

“Yes, Yes. You are finally letting your hatred fuel you. You could strike me down, but then what would hold you in check. What would prevent you from doing all the evil that you now fear?” Sidious brought himself closer to the blade. “Do it.”

Qui-Gon, no he couldn’t think of himself like that anymore. Acheros closed his eyes and gathered himself. “Please, call her off. I will do anything you wish.” This was the moment he had dreaded for two years. He had given up everything. He had given up the light, the Jedi, he even gave up the living force as he didn’t deserve its comfort. He knew the salacious desires that his master had for him, and knew that this one act would finally break him completely, but it was just his body. His heart would never be there, he would never love this hideous creature.

“Your new quarters will have to wait a bit longer. Tonight you will grace my chambers.” Acheros’ saber was extinguished as his master came closer. His fingers lightly dragged over his cheek in some masquerade of caring, making his skin crawl at the touch. ‘Forgive me, it’s only my body.’ He thought to no one in particular as he followed his master to his sleeping chamber.


 

Obi-Wan had again found himself in front of the towering tree in the middle of the island in the gardens. Its branches a bit withered since the last time he had been here. The aura that he had once sought was barely a whisper in the force. Could it be that the tree drooped and wept for the aura that was fading? “Perhaps you are just going mad.” Obi-Wan spoke to no one in particular, just into the humid warmth of the garden. “I miss him as much as you do. It’s been three years since I met that stubborn man with the brooding attitude. How do I keep moving forward, how do I keep my hope alive when everyone is telling me it’s all lost?” He knew that he would find no answers here, but it felt good to be in the same place that Qui-Gon had once been.

It had felt like an eon since he had time to meditate. Obi-Wan sunk to his knees, feeling the soft grass under his knees. The sun focused on his body, warming him up. How long had he been cold? Had it been so long since he felt anything but coldness? The force enveloped him suddenly, whirling around him anew. This didn’t feel like a vision, no it wasn’t a warning in the force, but it was calling to him all the same. He let it guide him as it desired. He sensed Qui-Gon, the loneliness and the feelings of shame as he was overcome with pleasure. No, please no. He didn’t want these feelings, it was wrong. Wrong, WRONG, WRONG! The force seemed to shout for him to stop it.

“Obi-Wan!” The words were wretched from Qui-Gon’s lips as he felt a sharp pain.

“How dare you scream his name in pleasure? You are mine, mine to love!”  The words were sharp and viscous as he felt Qui shout in pain, until the connection was broken.

“Qui-Gon…” He gulped as he regarded the gardens again. The darkness started to swirl around Obi-Wan as he thought about someone taking what was his, what was meant for him. How dare that THING try to take his place? He was supposed to possess that heart, that body.

“Obi?” It was a small timid voice that came closer and closer.

“Mine!” It was low growl that would frighten most anyone.

“Obi-Wan, please…” Obi-Wan wrapped his hand tightly around Anakin’s upper arms. His body tense from the vision. What was he doing? His arms quickly let go of the child, falling back on his ass in shock.

“Ani, I. I’m so sorry.” The boy just rubbed at his probably bruised arms and shook his head.

“I shouldn’t have interrupted, but I felt.” He struggled for the right words. “I felt something black, something muddled. I don’t know the right words. I was scared for you.” Obi-Wan shook his head, still unhinged from the experience.

“You did nothing wrong Anakin. Do you understand? I was, caught up in something and you helped me break that.” Anakin looked to his feet, still unsure of himself. It was a look that Obi-Wan often wore before Mace had taken him as padawan. That need for an adult to provide guidance and reassurance.

“He loves you.”

Obi-Wan pushed the boy away just slightly to look into his eyes. “Ani?”

“I felt, some of what was happening, but I could feel his love and it wasn’t for the other.” Anakin felt uncomfortable with what he felt, but he wanted to comfort his brother.

“Thank you Ani. Can we keep this between us?” He hated keeping secrets from Mace, or asking Ani to, but he wasn’t ready to speak of this yet. He had no idea how he felt. He never wanted to possess someone so entirely in his life. These feelings were not of the light, they were not the Jedi way.

“I won’t tell, Obi.” The young boy looked suddenly shy and awkward. “Master sent me to get you for dinner. He thought you might have gotten sidetracked.”

Obi-Wan hadn’t even noticed that the sun no longer shown, what had felt like minutes to him had been hours. “I guess I did. Lead the way Ani.”

“Did I tell you that I might get to learn to fly? Master Mace said you have a friend that would show me around some of the transport and fighters.” Obi-Wan was still lost in his thoughts when he finally caught up.

“Garen?”

“I think so, I haven’t met him yet, but Master said I had to ask him about you. He said you would fill me on all the embarrassing things.” The boy giggled, no longer phased by the scene before. It was amazing, how quickly his brother padawan could forgive. He was blessed with that forgiveness and promised to not take it for granted.

“Hmm, I might have to have a talk with Garen and remind him that there are secrets I too can share.” He winked at the boy and motioned ahead of him. “Lead the way, let’s not leave your Master and Mother waiting.”

Chapter Text

The darkness of the room seemed to swallow any movement; the quiet breathing of someone next to him was the only sound. He turned over carefully, body aching at the slightest movement. He expected to see the beautiful blue-green eyes that embraced his dreams, but that was not the case. ‘No’ the soft word was only uttered in his mind as he thought back to the previous night, the terrifying nightmare that was now his existence. He had given into his Master’s dark desires, to save his heart, to save Ventress from going after his Obi-Wan. ‘His’, it was such a foreign word, but was it true? Could the Jedi Knight, whom seemed devoted to the light ever be his? Was it even a question that he should be considering as if he were the ideal person to possess him?

Acheros calmed as the aged man turned over and bound his arms tighter around his discolored and marked body, trying to dominate him in sleep as much as he did awake. The notion flared to life, the force whipping violently within his mind. The revulsion for this one man appeared to be the only thing keeping him going through these moments. ‘That isn’t true and you know it.’ Acheros had grown used to talking to himself, trying to keep tethered to the moment. It wasn’t true, yes the hatred and anger that he bore Darth Sidious kept him going, but it was the promise of those beautiful eyes shining with happiness that made it all worthwhile. He would do as he must to keep Obi-Wan safe from this darkness, no matter his personal cost.

The arms that constricted around him now seemed to cut off the actual air he required to breathe. He would not have a panic attack here. He would not bestow this monster with the satisfaction of knowing he was ruined. The space started to thin as his lungs inhaled the precious gas needed to keep living. He was going to die alone. No, it wasn’t the thought of being alone that hurt, it was the feeling that he would die a dark and hated creature. Acheros started to see stars in front of his eyes as he fought to sit up, clawing at the arms that only tried to hold him down. “Let…me…go” The words barely made it out of his throat, as a hand struck him hard against the face, launching him off the bed and onto the floor.

“You still haven’t learned your lesson, my dark love. Perhaps you need more than my lessons from last night to drive that point home.” Sidious rose from the bed, the sheet wrapped around his bare form, the white paleness of his skin showing the blue veins running through his body. It was enough to make him wretch as the bile threatened to purge from his lips. This wasn’t what he wanted, this wasn’t the man he wanted to share his bed with, and now it was too late. It was too late to take it all back and tell Obi-Wan that he was sorry for everything.

“You are correct, my apprentice. It is too late; your precious Kenobi will not want such a ruined soul in his bed, much less in his life. He will feel my dark bond to you, and know that I have tasted your sweetness and given you pleasure that pup could only dream of! You ARE MINE!” Acheros didn’t even flinch as the hand struck across his face once more, highlighting another scar that had been placed there almost a year ago. He almost lost his eye to this man’s evil plots, but now he had the scar to remember. Acheros struggled to his feet, his head down in defeat, even as he towered over the older man. “I am…yours.” The words were repeated with a robotic intention.

“See to it that you are cleaned up.” He sighed. “We have plans to discuss before I send you out on another mission.” Sidious dismissed him toward the fresher and sat at his data pad to look over his morning routine. He really hated to keep playing this game, but it wasn’t time to reveal himself yet, it wasn’t time for the Empire to rise from the ashes of the Republic. He had a few more pieces that had to be in play to ensure HIS victory. He was growing weary of the brooding moodiness of his apprentice and hoped to have Windu’s young one under his wing soon. Perhaps with Anakin Skywalker at his side, he could simply use a force collar on Acheros and chain him to the bed. The thought entertained him as he started to titter softly at the image. A chime from the comm drew him from the wicked thoughts back to the present. “Your highness, I am sorry to interrupt, but there is an emergency.” The sweet sound of the woman on the other side often soothed him, even when it was bad news.

“What has happened?” He was no longer Darth Sidious, but the charming Chancellor Palpatine at the flip of a switch. He had a role and he knew how to continue to play the politics of this corrupt system.

“The Jedi have demanded an immediate emergency session of the senate.” Her words were soft, yet even. She had seen the man angry, and didn’t want that wraith focused solely on her.

Palpatine gritted his teeth, squeezing his palm as the finger nails dug into his flesh. He would not lose his cool, he would not show his hand when they were so close to achieving everything. “My, it must be quite important to demand an immediate session. Did the Jedi give any indication as to what the matter was?”

“I’m sorry Chancellor Palpatine. They did not elaborate and they are being backed by both Naboo and Alderaan.”

“Very well, I shall endeavor to dress quickly and be in the senate halls within the half hour.” Palpatine slammed his hand down after the call was finished, the blood from his palm smearing against the desk.

“Master?” Acheros sauntered from the bathroom, his hair still drenched, droplets running down his chest and falling between the cracks of the towel wrapped tightly around his body. Palpatine, no he couldn’t think of him that way anymore. Sidious was concentrating on something within the force. He knew the dark master had a gift that rivaled that of Master Yoda when it came to the ebb and flow of the future.

Sidious turned on him, lightening suddenly flaring to life from those same bloody fingertips, crashing into Acheros. The water evaporated immediately as a scream was wrenched from his lips. He could take beatings, the mental anguish of the master playing his sick games, but even he could not stop the automatic response that this act wrought. “Nothing will save your PATHETIC Jedi now. NOTHING. He has meddled in my affairs for the last time.” Sidious stood over the panting man, trying to breathe once more as his heart fluttered from the erratic electricity still floating through his body.

“N. N. No.” The stutter was pronounced and would take hours to wear off if the past was any way to judge.

“I have given in to your weaknesses because of my feelings for you. I have allowed that man to live in hopes of keeping you to me, but no longer.” Sidious turned from his gasping apprentice to another comm channel that came to life at his touch. Standing before them, in a small blue fog, was Asajj Ventress, a very young woman that was once also a padawan with the Jedi. He often wondered what had happened to lead her down this path, but refused to ask. She had a thing for his knight. She wanted to watch him writhe under her torture, she wanted to flirt with him and compel him to the dark. Something was happening and he had to think quickly, even through the intense pain of this moment. “We are done waiting for Knight Kenobi to give up his hunt. He is yours, but I expect you to turn him or finish him. Do NOT fail me; I will not be as easy upon you.” Sidious turned to smirk at Acheros, watching him try to come to his feet, despite the agony.

“Master, please?”

“Enough!”

“If he must turn, or die, please let it be me. I’m the only one that can.” The words were still stuttered, but he was trying his best to ground himself in the darkness. “You know I speak the truth master. Ventress may be able to torture him, but she will never have the chance to turn him to our cause. If that is your goal…” Acheros flinched as those sunken eyes were upon him once more. He had spent these last two years, hiding what he could, building a solid wall in the force that even Sidious couldn’t break. He had to keep going; he had to keep his Obi-Wan alive.

Ventress hissed through the comm channel, “Master, I can do it! Give me a chance where this fool, failed. He’s no Sith, he’s still holding on to his past. Do not trust him!”

Sidious unexpectedly snarled at the image, watching Ventress back up even though distance prevented him from striking out at her. “You overstep your boundaries young one. I will see that Lord Acheros shows you the error of your ways when the two of you meet again.” Sidious’ eyes softened for a moment as he looked upon his apprentice’s sorrowful eyes. “I am no fool, Qui-Gon Jinn. I know your love for him, your attachment. That being said, I believe it is his attachment to you that will be his undoing. See that you do not forget whom you belong.” With that said Sidious shut off the comm and pulled the man down by his neck, plunging his tongue fiercely between now dry lips. It was a kiss that claimed ownership. Acheros closed his eyes and wished that things had been different, that he hadn’t spent years in the darkness that welcomed this man into his life. This was his punishment and he was damned if Obi-Wan would pay the price.

“You will hide yourself in the shadows, be prepared for anything. The force is too shaded at the moment to show me much of the future.”

“Yes, my Master.” Acheros spun to get dressed into the all black uniform that hugged his body. He no longer chose to wear a robe. He didn’t need a cloak to wrap himself into, not when the shadows now clung to him so easily. He would see his Knight again today and for once it wouldn’t be a moment of danger. He might be able to get a better look, a moment to see how he truly fared. Was he still thin, tired looking, did he still have signs of insomnia upon his face. One day he wished to see his beloved as he once did, full of life, happy and smiling. He just had to wait, it was coming. ‘Wait for it Obi, It will all come to a head soon.’


 

The senate building was as full as ever. The hustle and bustle of Republic members from every planet hurrying to the Senate floor, wondering what had caused the Jedi to request an emergency meeting. It wasn’t unheard of, but it had been decades since such a thing had happened. Obi-Wan Kenobi looked out into the chamber, observing as each delegation moved to their pods. Typically the Senate was sparse with only minimal attendance. The member’s only showing up for causes that meant something to them or their constituents. This was excitement that no one was going to miss.

“Credit for your thoughts?” There was a rich accent behind him, which drew the Knight from his reflections.

Obi-Wan turned to the voice and smiled as he saw the impeccably dressed Senator from Alderaan, Bail Organa. He was only a few years older than Obi-Wan, but had been entrenched in politics since birth. He had taken over his father’s seat only a few years before. They had met on a mission with his Master to Alderaan, when there was threat  to over throw his father’s regime. They had been together, taking a hike in the wilds when militia had taken them both. Obi-Wan had reached out to his master through their bond immediately, only to have it obstructed with a force suppressor. It was the first time Obi-Wan had ever been without his Master’s presence since he was elven years old. Distressed, and screaming from the pain, it was Bail that had nursed him through the panic, keeping him sane in the moment. They had been rescued shortly after, but their bond of friendship had been forged forever in those short hours together. “I’m not sure if this is the right move. Something in the force tells me that none of this is right, Bail.”

Bail raised a hand to the young man’s shoulder and gave an indulgent embrace. “I know how you feel about him, Ben.” Obi-Wan smiled at the nickname that he had shared with his old friend. “With all the intelligence we’ve gotten from the Outer Rim, along with holo-vids. Ben, he’s not the man you knew. He’s done unspeakable things in the name of the Sith. I…” Bail never faltered when speaking, Obi-Wan immediately realized that something was being held from him.

“Don’t hide this from me, Cricket.” It was a nickname that Bail’s friends had given him as a young boy who loved to get dirty and play games that royalty were supposed to bulk at.

“Ben, I don’t want to hurt you.” Concerned eyes looked at him, knowing that Obi-Wan wouldn’t give up on this line of questioning.

“I wish people would stop treating me as if I will break. I know what is whispered behind my back. I know that everyone thinks me foolish for my faith in the force and in Qui-Gon Jinn, but faith is the only thing that keeps me going, Bail. If I give up on that, there is nothing left to fight for.” Obi-Wan lowered his head, not wanting his friend to see the tears that were welling up. “Be my friend, Cricket. Trust me to handle it, please.”

Bail regarded the crowd that was almost fully assembled once again before turning back to the sullen sad eyes of his Ben, his loyal friend. “We have had new reports about disappearing Jedi.” Bail closed his eyes, knowing how much this would hurt. “The newest Jedi to be added to the presumed KIA list is Garen Muln. He had been on a flight mission to the Outer Rim; the last reports have a lone man, with long greying hair, black clothes and a blade of red running him through.” Bail tried to hurry the words from his lips, closing his eyes to not see the heartbreak on Obi-Wan’s face. After a few minutes of darkness, he had to open his eyes, as there had been no response from his friend. “Ben?”

He looked at the horrified face, a expression that had heart break and disillusion upon it. It was a look that Bail never thought he would see on Obi-Wan Kenobi. He had seen the look on many men and Jedi, but not on this one. “Ben, are you ok?”

“Ok?” He repeated the words, still blinking with sadness, confusion and horror. His best friend since the creche, the man he had just spoken to days ago, the one that Anakin had planned to share stories with. No, this couldn’t be, this couldn’t be happening. “No…” It was a breathless whisper as he caught his face within his hands, his mind unable to fathom the story that Bail delivered. “I don’t, believe. He wouldn’t, he knows of my friendship with Garen. He wouldn’t kill…” The words were franticly pouring from lips that seemed on the verge of melt down.

“Obi…Ben…It’s ok, I understand it’s not easy.”

“Not easy? You tell me that the man I thought to spend my life with, the man that I have held on to for years, hoping beyond hope that the force would lead back to us…” Obi-Wan turned towards the smooth heavy wall and started thrusting his fist against it time after time.

Bail tried to pull the hand back, watching the bloody mess that his knuckles had become. Obi-Wan turned at Bail and growled. Yes, he had growled, a low and menacing sound. “Ben, come back to me, come back to us. There is still hope, he’s only presumed…”

“Hope, faith?” Obi-Wan wiped the blood upon his white tunic and stared at Bail with hollow eyes. This was not his faithful friend, this was a broken man who just found out that Life Day was a farce, disillusioned by his convictions. “It’s time; the Sith must pay for his crimes.” This was the first time that Obi-Wan had used that term to refer to him, Mace was right; Qui-Gon Jinn was gone.


 

Darth Acheros hid silently in the shadows of the hallway, where Chancellor Palpatine would enter his personal pod. This gave him a great vantage point in which to watch the proceedings and keep an eye on those that might surprise his Master. Acheros had to cloak himself, this was taxing on his system, but with so many Jedi in attendance, he needed to keep himself invisible. It was just a slight tug, but his eyes were focused on the Alderaan Senatorial entrance. Something, no someone was radiating their confusion and hurt in the force. It was but a muted presence, but if he could feel it, then so could any other force sensitive.  His eyes focused on the shadows that were hiding two forms, Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan was huddled forward, being held tightly by Senator Organa. Shaking shoulders, letting him know that the distress he was feeling had come from Obi-Wan. There was a low growling in the shadows that brought him back to reality. It had been his own growl, his own jealousy. How dare Organa hold and comfort what was supposed to be his. “How precious. It looks like the pup has finally found someone else to sniff at.” The words were cold, but they had hit their mark. Acheros turned on his master and quickly went for the throat, surprised when he held the aging master against the wall with force. “That is the Acheros that took my dark heart. He’s not worth your time, it’s now our time to shine.”

Qui-Gon looked back at Obi-Wan, still held tightly in Organa’s arms. He wished the young man happiness; perhaps this was as it was meant to be. It was time to let go of the past, it was time to bring this whole farce to an end. “As you wish, Master.” Palpatine was let down gently, smiling at the victory.

“Let us see what the Jedi have planned, keep your eyes open.” Palpatine strode from the hallway into his pod, which took flight to waiver over all in attendance. “We have convened on behalf of the Jedi for an emergency meeting, as allowed in articles of tradition, 1.245.66. Who in the order is here to speak on their behalf?” The chancellor was surprised when the pod from Alderaan moved forward. Senator Organa, flanked by Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi, with Master Windu and Yoda behind him.

“I shall be speaking on behalf of my temple.” Obi-Wan declared flatly.

“State your name and rank for our constituents, please Knight.” Palpatine was honey sweet and it made Acheros nauseous to watch him address Obi-Wan in such a way.

“Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi, I was assigned to speak before the Senate by the Jedi Council and Grand Master of the Order, Master Yoda.” The words didn’t waiver, they were even and full of force.

There were whispers from other pods, as they all realized that they were going to be addressed by a meager knight, when the Grand Master stood behind him. “Objection, it is not proper that we be addressed by a subordinate of the Jedi when the Grand Master stands just behind him. What kind of farce is this by the Jedi?” The words were spewed from the Viceroy Gunray from the Trade Federation. Numerous other worlds cheered in agreement.

“Order! We will have order.” The Chancellor gave a saccharine smile at the Jedi. “Under this emergency session, they are allowed to pick their advocate, even an unseasoned Knight.” The last words were spoken nicely, but meant to undermine the Jedi. “Please Knight Kenobi, why have you called his meeting?”

“Chancellor Palpatine, Honorable members of the Senate, I am before you today with a grave matter that needs to be voiced within these halls. Years ago, the Jedi lost a member of our family, he was believed to be kidnapped by a dark force.” Obi-Wan felt his emotion would burst the more he continued.

The senator from Naboo, Senator Amidala came forward with her pod to offer assistance. “Qui-Gon Jinn, you speak of the man who was taken from our home. The Jedi who helped us rebuild after the Trade Federation’s invasion?”

“Objection! We did nothing of the sort; we were within our rights and have never been convicted of invasion. How dare she muddy our name in this chamber?”  Viceroy Nute Gunray bellowed.

“You are out of Order Senator Amidala. The floor is not yours at this moment. Please carry on, Knight Kenobi.”  Palpatine glared back into the shadows at his apprentice, wondering where this was going.

“It is with a heavy heart and sorrow that the Jedi Order must strike Qui-Gon Jinn from our records and forever refer to him as a Sith. He has…” There was a slight falter that hurt Acheros to see from his light. “He is responsible for the deaths of at least forty-one Jedi Knights. We had hoped to retrieve him from the hands of the master before it went this far. Jinn is now the hand of the Dark Lord of the Sith. This is not the stories that are told to crechlings in front of camp fires. These are not the stories from the old wars between the Jedi and the Sith, they are current and happening around us. The Sith have returned and they are threatening our Republic. We owe it to the Senate to bring this to your attention, even if it hurts the reputation of our Order.” Kenobi took a breath, and listened to the hushed and shocked murmurings of those around him. He had to finish this, he had to make it through this assembly like the Jedi he was trained to be. “That being said, we the Order of the Jedi proclaim Qui-Gon Jinn, Darth Acheros, a traitor to the force and an enemy of the Republic. There will be no trial, there will be no mercy. When we find him, he will pay for his sins.”

Mace Windu moved just a bit closer to his former padawan. They still shared a small bond, it was currently filled with sorrow and hurt. There would be time for words, but that was not here and now.

“In the matters of the Force, the Jedi hold precedent. Let the record show that Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn is no longer a friend of this Republic. However, I would question how someone could so easily turn if the Jedi Order had policed its own to begin with.” The Chancellor would not let the Jedi look superior before this audience. “I would think if you had control of your Order, than this man would never be allowed to continue. Perhaps we need another investigation into the order’s programs to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

Master Yoda, tapped his gimmer stick against the pod, allowing Obi-Wan to move to the back and give him the floor. “Not your business is the Jedi’s methods. Look over our own programs we are. Work on more mind healers for our forces we will. Remember, the Order serves all and does not answer to this Senate, but choose to offer transparency we do. Give report to the Chancellor we will, but investigation into Qui-Gon Jinn we will not allow.”

There were rumblings, even from those sympathetic to the Jedi at those words. “Why do they think they are above the senate? What makes them so different then us? If we don’t police them, who will?”

Yoda’s ears lowered as he softened. “Not above the law we are. Love Qui-Gon Jinn, I do, Padawan to me he was. Joy this does not bring to me, but bring him to justice we must. Open we shall be, but separate from the Senate we must stay, or all is lost.”

Chancellor Palpatine finally stepped in to stop the back and forth. “The Jedi Order have been friends to the Republic for as long as we have recorded their history. We should respect their honor and allow them to correct what has gone wrong. We will give them the leeway that they ask for and honor that they will return with a way to keep this from happening again, lest we do it for them. We are adjourned.” Palpatine swept back into the hallway that would lead back to his chambers, looking on the yellowing eyes of his apprentice. “They have forsaken you. You must see now that I am the only one you can trust. You will return to Mustafar and await my instructions.”

“Yes, Master.” The hallow words rang through the hallway. He was still shocked at the vehemence he felt from Obi-Wan and the heartbreak from his former Master. It was as it should be, but it ate at his soul to feel that hatred aimed toward himself. He had prided himself on keeping that small light hidden deep inside him that was named Obi-Wan Kenobi. Could he continue to hold on to that hope when all seemed pointless? Would Obi-Wan finally find him and end his life, embraced by the darkness for eternity? Acheros hung his head and preceded down the hall, this would speed up his plans. It was time to get back to work.


 

The pod came to rest once again. Everyone turned to look upon Obi-Wan with sad eyes, “Ben, are you OK?”

“Yes, Master. I’m fine.” Fine was such a incomprehensible word upon his tongue. His heart had been ripped out from his very soul. The vision of Qui-Gon’s large form striking down his old friend kept flashing before his eyes, but he was fine.

“Fine you are not, but understand we do.” Yoda tapped him gently. “Know how you feel I do. Sorry I am.”

Obi-Wan shook his head, trying to wipe away the cobwebs that seemed to hold down his thoughts. “I know.” It wasn’t true, however, they had no idea how he felt. They may have loved Qui-Gon, but they hadn’t spent the last two years making excuses, holding out hope that the man would come back to them. They hadn’t had faith in the force that told him it wasn’t too late. Faithless, tired and emotionally drained, the Knight turned and bowed to those present, whirling to find comfort under his tree. It was the last connection to the man that was and he would mourn that loss, alone.

Chapter Text

With hood up and features concealed, no one hindered Obi-Wan once he was within the temple. They sensed the force rolling off him, misunderstanding, suffering, it all said, ‘Leave him alone’. As if the energy itself was shielding a fragile light in his time of need. They would not rupture that bubble, no matter how they longed to help their brother in his sorrow. Obi-Wan knew eyes were on him, they had all been privy to the holo-feed. They all saw as he stood before the Senate and denounced the man that he safeguarded for two years.

“It’s him, I wonder…” The words broke away, as Obi-Wan grew closer. Gossip was one thing that would never go away. It was what the Jedi seemed to live for in downtimes between missions or healing. It kept them grounded in the only family most of them would ever know. “You can feel his broken heart. He defended that, that THING.” No one had the nerve to use his name. It was as if he was just a wraith that was now used to frighten the crechlings to eat their tubers and keep them from leaving clothes on the floor.

Before today, Obi-Wan would have turned on those voices and set them straight. He would have defended Qui-Gon Jinn to his final breath. It was mindboggling how five minutes with a friend could turn your world upside down completely. What you had thought was up, was now down. What was once good was bad. ‘Will anything ever seem normal again?’ It was the only thought that seemed to run through his mind, over and over. Obi-Wan wrapped the dark brown cloak tighter around his body, using it as a shield against all the ache that lay outside the tattered fabric. Obi-Wan staggered toward the Room of a Thousand Fountains, the murmurs and whispers turned into white noise, no longer having any effect on the young man.

It had seemed like an hour’s expedition from entry to tree, but the revelation that met him left him on his knees wailing. That brilliant, flourishing tree that had given him comfort for years was nothing but a black withering mass. There were branches on the ground, only a few still tethered to the lifeless trunk. It felt as if it had come from everywhere, but the shouts that drew him away from the tree were his own. This had to be the final straw that would fracture him; he held his exhausted head in his hands and wept. He cried for his friend Garen. He sobbed for those other forty Jedi whom had been sacrificed for what exactly? He whimpered for the monumental man that once smiled at him so sweetly that he thought nothing in the universe could compare. Then he wept for himself. Spent, tired and body aching from lack of sleep, Obi-Wan curled under the black corpse, wrapped tightly in the force as it shielded him.

Hours later, lashes fluttered open as they were still slightly crusted over with tears. The feelings he had recalled seemed quite distant now, as the numbness of the moment roused him from peaceful dreams. ‘Peaceful dreams?’ The words came quickly inside his head forcing him to sit up instantly. He stared into the russet irises of a concerned master. Mace had found him and safeguarded his dreams, ensuring he had a peaceful rest. “How long, Obi?” Mace reached out and cuddled the Knight into his arms.

He could try to play it off, as if he had no idea what was being asked, but Mace had never allowed that in the past. He doubted he could do it now. “Two years.” He spoke softly, not meeting Mace’s eyes again.

“It is not weakness to ask for help.” It was a simple statement, meant to comfort, not condemn.

Obi-Wan finally met his former master’s gaze and opened his mouth to respond before stopping once more. He didn’t really know how to describe this situation to anyone, not even the man closest to his heart.

“I know, my Ben. Sometimes words don’t do justice to what we are feeling in our hearts. That does not mean that friends and family can’t offer comfort without explanation.” Mace continued, pressing the young man closer to his solid body. “Just because I cut your braid, does not mean I care any less. You are forever my family. I will always love you, no matter what happens.”

Those words were why he felt so uncomfortable at the moment. “No matter what?” Mace knew this had been coming for a while and just indicated his agreement.

Obi-Wan looked up at the tree and then towards Mace, misery still written all over his features. “Even if I turn to the darkside?”

Mace shut his eyes, clenching the tears that wanted to flow. “Force help me, even if you turn. We don’t stop caring. We can’t stop loving those that wound us, even if we wish it. I could not condone your actions and I would have to do what the light calls me to do. But I would love you; I will love you until my last dying breath, little one.” Those were the words that broke Obi-Wan Kenobi and hurled him into his master’s chest, sobbing uncontrollably. “It’s ok to grieve his loss, your loss. There is no shame in that. I will miss Garen, just as I will miss Qui-Gon. There is no disrespect to those in the light if we mourn the ones we lost to the dark. Do you understand, Obi?” Mace ran his fingers through the silky red hair that was finally growing out after his knighhood; his only answer to his question was the shaking of shoulders.

“I feel like a fool, Master, I thought the…I thought the force spoke of his salvation. I truly believed that it would work out. Perhaps Bruck was right all those years ago. Perhaps I am Oafy-Wan.”

Mace lifted his chin and gently wiped away the tear tracks. “No one is allowed to demean my family, not even you, Obi-Wan. Your faith in both the force and others is what makes the idea of you turning comical.”

“Master…The tree?”

Mace turned his head back towards the black trunk he was currently leaning against. “Do you know the story of this tree?”  Obi-Wan sat straighter, feeling more composed as they spoke and he just shook his head. “Well, allow me another lesson?”

“I will always continue to learn from you, Mace. Please tell me?”

“Very well, I suggest you get more comfortable, perhaps I can lull you back to much needed sleep.”

Obi-Wan chuckled; Mace used to tell him stories to get him to sleep. “I am not cuddling into your lap. I’m too big and old for that.”

“That is a shame. I still manage to snuggle into Dooku’s lap, it is quite the sight.” They both laughed and the force around them seemed to grow warmer at the sound. Mace then pulled Obi-Wan down and laid his head gently on his lap, stroking the auburn hair between his fingers. “Now, as I was saying.” Obi-Wan just laughed quietly and then paused when he realized it. “It does no disservice to those we mourn to laugh and enjoy life. We must continue to live in their place, young one. Now this tree, as I’m sure you are aware of by now, is force sensitive but more than that it is a sentient being within the force.” Obi-Wan’s eyes widened at that, feeling even worse for the state it was currently in. “They bond when they are young to those around it. Those beings are usually one with the living force.”

“It was bound to Qui-Gon, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, it was bound to Qui-Gon. When we were in the creche he would try to visit his tree. I think he even named it, but I can’t remember now what it was. He would even snuck out of bed at night and fell asleep in its branches. Needless to say, he got into much trouble over this large vegetation, but when Master Yoda stumbled on him one day, meditating deeply under the canopy of leaves. He saw their connection in the force and could not deny the boy his attachment.”

“I have never been able to imagine Qui-Gon as a youngling. He just seemed so larger than life.” His eyes were starting to grow heavy as his Master ran light circles on in chest.

“Qui-Gon was and always will be larger than life, however those giant’s among us often have the biggest hearts. It makes those hearts hard to protect and leaves them vulnerable to all sorts of hurt. Remember the story I told you about Qui-Gon and I before we after became Padawans?” The knight just nodded his head, still not wanting to remember his master as a bully. “It was this tree that started to show me the error of my ways, it was the tree that truly bound Qui-Gon and I as friends. I was so angry when I heard that Master Yoda was to pick him as an apprentice. I was so scared that I would be left to the AgriCorps that I rushed to find him and found him kneeling here in front of his tree.”

Mace bowed his head slightly and rubbed at his smooth head. This was such a bad time in his life and he hated to share this with anyone, much less someone who looked up to him, but he was human and fallible. “He was so wrapped up in his meditation, with what I thought was a stupid tree that it only angered me more. I pulled out my saber and was determined that he would listen to me or I would cut down his stupid tree.”

Obi-Wan shot up in horror, looking into sad eyes. “You didn’t?”

“I did. I ignited my saber and took a swing at one of the branches. As it fell to the ground, I swear I heard the tree scream with Qui-Gon. I had felt the connection between the two, and I immediately fell to the ground, throwing up my lunch. You see, they were so strongly connected that if one was hurt, the other felt it. When Qui-Gon lost Xanatos, the tree wilted as if weeping for its friend.” He paused for a moment. “I visited this tree after your fateful meeting in the mess hall. Do you know what I found?”

“W-What?”

“The tree was in full bloom. Its flowers completely open, a magnificent sight that I had never thought to see again. It was filled with happiness because it was so deeply connected to Qui-Gon. It saw what no one else did. It saw his deep connection to you, Ben.”

“And now, it’s dead. Just like him.” The words were harsh, and Mace hated to hear that inflection from his fiery friend.

“Perhaps, but remember that sometimes the farmers have to set fire to the land to watch it come back to life better than before. Some trees need that process to bloom ever brighter.”

“There is no hope, Mace. I just don’t think I have it in me to continue giving him the benefit of the doubt. He killed Garen! Garen whom has never harmed a soul, even in defense, he’s never taken a life. Qui…Darth Acheros cut him down like he was nothing!” The anger was starting to build. He didn’t know if he could stop it this time.

“To a Sith, I’m sure that is exactly what it was, Nothing. But that was the Sith, NOT Qui-Gon. You can separate the two, Obi. There is no more of our friend left in that man and soon you will have to face him. You can’t afford to cloud your emotions, and must find peace in that fact if we are to protect the Galaxy.”

“Is it that simple for you? You can just put all he ever was into a box and bury it in the dirt?”

“Nothing is simple, young one. But yes, I have buried my old friend, and he was a great man. I will not allow that creature that wears his face to change that.” Mace stood from the tree, and patted it gently. “This is a place of mourning now. Let us not dwell in this darkness any longer. Shall we go find Ani and see if we can focus on the living?”

Obi-Wan stood and brushed off his tunics, looking solemnly at the dark branches. “Good-Bye my friend. I will miss you.” Standing just behind his former master, he was ready to face the future, now that he had said goodbye to the past. As the two Jedi moved side by side from the small island clearing, they did not notice as a small green bud appeared on a darkened branch. It reached out towards the red-haired man who was bound to its life force as much as Qui-Gon Jinn.


 

The stars rushed by the view screen as Acheros settled into his thoughts. He had quickly left Coruscant as ordered by his master, but he would not find himself going to Mustafar, at least not just yet. He had a few stops to make upon the way. He had hi-jacked a ship, leaving his own lying empty on the landing pad of Coruscant. He would use some excuse if asked about it, but he didn’t want to chance being followed. He was still going through the memory of Obi-Wan in front of the Senate, feeling the heartache of that moment. He knew that the man had no choice, he’d killed his best friend, what did the Sith expect?

The beeping began, jerking him out of his contemplations, warning him that the ship had exited hyperspace and was approaching the planet of Kamino. It was such a dismal planet, covered in water and constantly raining. The living force was so potent in those waters; it made him yearn for the past when he could find comfort from those pathetic creatures. The ship came to rest on the landing pad. He was met swiftly by three lanky figures. They were Kaminoans, an elegant but mysterious race known for keeping to themselves. They ran this this facility, this cloning machine. Acheros had become to know them quite well over the last two years. They were the main piece in Sidious’ plan to overthrow the Republic and end the Jedi.

“Master Jinn.” He had bade them to stop calling him Master, but it never seemed to stick, he swore it was in their DNA to hold to that diplomacy.

“I hope that everything is going as planned and that our Army is coming along as prearranged? It is nearly time to expose them to the galaxy.”

Lama Su moved his long neck slowly up and down in acknowledgement. “They shall be ready. Jango arrived just shortly before you, ensuring that the training was being conducted properly. He also inquired about his end of the deal.”

They strode into the accommodations, the icy downpour soaking Acheros from tip to toe. On Kamino he was Qui-Gon Jinn. He was the embodiment of the Jedi Master that he should have remained. His presence was keeping the Republic safe by overseeing their clone army, at least that was his cover story. It was all beginning to come together satisfactorily. “I require my rooms so that I may switch into dry clothes, please send Jango to me and we will discuss his concerns”.

“Very well Master, We will also send some warm soup. There are many others that are asking to see you. They have agreed to stay here for the time being, but as you can understand. They are becoming antsy.”

“I will see them at my convenience. Please tell them I have tasks to tend to, which include much needed rest. Thank you Lama Su.” It was hard to pretend to be that courteous, diplomatic Jedi Master after being in the wicked embrace of Sidious, but he was learning how to manage the two faces of Qui-Gon Jinn.

Once more he was alone in his quarters. He began to peel off the rain-soaked clothes that fit tightly to his physique. He was aching from his evening with Sidious, but he made an effort to ignore the pull of muscles and bruises that seemed to cover his flesh. Shedding the dripping tunics, Acheros strode to the fresher, grabbing a towel to finish drying. The luminescent lights highlighted the toll this existence was leaving on him. He peered into mirror to see the reflection of eyes that were sunken, black circles from lack of proper sleep. His skin was pale, almost translucent from living in the shadows, hardly ever seeing the sunlight. That is what he was, a specter of what he once was, someone who played in the darkness and kept the light at bay. What would Obi-Wan think of him now if he saw him? No, that was not a thought he could afford at this moment.

Grabbing a white towel and swathing it around his hips, he was astonished that he still had the form of a middle aged man. His muscles were still well-defined, his age not making him soft in the middle like most. As he entered the main room there was a low cough. “It’s about time, Acheros. I do have other business deals to see to, not just yours.”

It was hard not to roll your eyes when you were dealing with Jango Fett. He made everything seem overly important, no matter what the situation was. “I’m sure you do, Fett. However I would suggest that you make this deal your priority, or else my master my no longer look the other way on your other…projects.”

Jango loathed playing this game, but credits were credits. “Speaking of other projects,” Jango scrutinized the room before continuing. “I have done everything you have asked of me, I want what you promised.” Acheros just hummed slightly at the bounty hunter. Of all the bounty hunter’s requests, this was the one that astounded him the most. Fett was a man of honor, even among bounty hunters. His love for Mandalore, of family took precedent above anything else. So when Jango asked for an unaltered clone to raise as his son, it had rendered the Sith speechless.

“You have gone above and beyond what we have asked of you, Jango. I don’t know if I can ever show you more gratitude then this.” He waved at the door, watching as it opened to reveal CN-2224, in his arms a small bundle of warmth. “He has been unaltered, as you requested. He is yours to raise now, raise him well, my friend.” Jango just considered the fidgeting infant, wondering how a Sith could appreciate this moment as much as he seemed to.

“Sir?” The clone looked to them both, bouncing the baby in his arms as it started to fuss.

“It’s ok Cody, Jango will treat him well. I promise.”

Cody gave the infant a smile and reluctantly gave a small kiss to the youngling’s forehead. “I will miss you, Vod.” Jango was suddenly brought back to the moment as he saw himself in the clone’s eyes.

“He will be in the best hands, I promise.” Cody warily handed the crying child over to Jango, amazed when the child immediately went quiet.

“Ner ad’ika.” Acheros just nodded to Cody, dismissing him. This was a moment between father and son; they didn’t need witnesses to this spectacle. The door slid shut and the room was quiet except for the small gurgles of a little one. “Gar cuyir ner Cin Vhetin, Boba Fett.”

“You will find quarters just down the hall, with the supplies that you need. I’m sure you will be able to rely on the rest of your Vod’s to help out.” Acheros tugged the towel closer to his body, wanting nothing more than to reach the bed that offered some comfort.

Jango tore his eyes from the baby in his arms to glance towards the Sith. He had been around this man now for over a year, and he still couldn’t figure him out. One moment he was the scariest monster in the galaxy and in the next he seemed to radiate a peace that Jango only hoped to achieve one day. “Thank you, Lord Acheros; my family is in your debt.”

“You owe me nothing, Jango. Just take care of young Boba, I find I have already grown quite attached to the young one.” Jango was surprised at the admission but was quickly ushered from the room.

Alone, something that seldom happened, even as a Sith. He was always surrounded by his master’s contact and schemes. Here he was far enough away from the man that he could let his shields slip. He could take out his emotions, and let them bleed out of his conscience. He could allow himself to step from the shadows and access the light, that little spark of illumination that even now remained with him. He could not give up hope; he could not accept Obi-Wan’s words in the Senate chamber. “It’s almost time, Obi, please don’t lose that faith.” The words were barely a murmur as he slid the towel from his hips and dropped onto the bed, covering the silk sheets around his unprotected form. The caress of the sleek fabric had sent desire through his body as he envisioned the friction being young calloused hands that haunted his dreams.

It didn’t take long before exhaustion sent him into a deep slumber.


 

“Why are you here?” The words reverberated in the blackness.

“Where is here, exactly?” It was a smart ass comment, but there was little to his vision.

“Why are you HERE?” It was a solemn voice that repeated the words.

He was about to replicate the same response, when he was blinded by a bright light that caused him to blink away tears. Once he was able to focus again, he realized where he was. It was a small atoll, set between a flowing creek. “My Sleeping Elder,” The words were soft as Qui-Gon finally identified the voice and place. “I have miss…” The words were suddenly wrenched from his lips as he turned to find the once beautiful tree a charred mass.

“No, Ki, what has happened?” The child that once was threw his arms around the trunk of his forever friend.

“Only what you have permitted to happen, young one.” There was no judgement in those words, just the facts. “Your actions have consequences.”

The man wept, wrapping his arms around the trunk that seemed to crumble under that touch. “No, it can’t be. You can’t leave me!”

“He never left you.” It wasn’t his Ki that spoke this time; it was someone from behind, with a soft melodic tone. “I never left you.”

“Obi-Wan,” Qui-Gon choked on the name.

“Good-Bye, Qui-Gon. I have to let go, I can’t hold on any longer. I’m…sorry.” The tears were streaming down his beautiful face as Qui-Gon strained to comfort his knight, but he could not budge.

He felt the roots of the tree wrap around his body, holding him taut and drawing him against the blackened stump, like chains. “You are bound in your darkness, you made your choice and I cannot follow.” Obi-Wan began to turn from the island, his body concealed by a deep fog that grew closer and closer to the tree.

“You are my servant!” The cackling grew louder from the fog, as the tree’s roots started to wrap around his neck and pull tighter and tighter, obstructing the air. “Ki, please...You were my friend, please.”

“I only reflect our bond, Acheros. I only reflect what’s inside you.” He was suffocating slowly from the vines that wrapped around every part of his body, leaving bloody gashes.

“Qui-Gon, you know me as Qui-Gon. Please don’t call me, THAT. Not you, not you who knows me better than all else.” The daylight that was shining had turned to night, the cackling of his master, the vines of his friend, it was all too much. He was going to die in this darkness.


 

“Sir? Sir?!?” Acheros was quickly torn from the nightmare as he came face to face with the silvered protocol droid. “Sir, your vitals are off the charts. I didn’t mean to disturb you, but I feared the worst.”

The vision still clung to him, knowing that only part of that dream was fantasy. His Obi-Wan had given up on him. “Tea, please.”

“Yes, Sir.” He had no desire for the drink, but even the droids eyes appeared to be filled with pity.

'You just have to hold It together a while longer. This is almost done.' The man looked down upon his quivering hands; they once seemed like such gentle, strong hands, steady in their embrace. Sleep would elude him on this night, which wasn’t an unknown experience. It had been years since he had a peaceful sleep.

“Master, your tea has been set on the table. I will shut down if you have no need of me.” Acheros just nodded to the droid and slipped the robe around his frame, tying it at the waist. He might as well get up and return to his plans. Falling onto the couch, he gripped the hot cup around his hands for warmth when the door chimed.

“What now!” Acheros roared, slamming his tea on the table and spilling it all over. He would never get time to himself, he was sure of that. “What do you want?” He declared as the door slid open to reveal an incredibly pissed off Jedi.

“Are you out of your fucking mind? What were you thinking?”  The young man flew into the room, arms moving about in agitation. “Why would you do that to him and not tell him the truth?! You stupid bastard, how can you break him that way?” Even though he was half the size, there was no appeasing the Jedi as he punctuated his statement with pokes to the chest.

There was a delicate moan as fingers were pressed firmly against a bruise.  “Why don’t you just come in Garen…”

 

Chapter Text

The solitary sound in the apartment was the harsh pant of the man who had raced down the passages in pursuit of a quest.  It wasn’t his standard assignment, mind you; it was something that had been steeping inside his mind for almost a day.  Had it only been one day since he had observed the emergency Senate meeting on the holo-vid with more than a dozen clones surrounding him? Garen reflected that it had been an eternity since he had looked upon the one time smiling padawan turned knight, Obi-Wan Kenobi, but this was not that same individual. What he observed on the screen caused his skin to crawl and his body ache to embrace his old friend. He seem to be everything that Jedi should be. His tunics were pristine, his posture perfect and most of all his tone rang with the hollow unemotional tinge that only the eldest Jedi mastered.  In short, his friend, no his brother looked grown-up, wiser and utterly broken at the words he was meant to say.

Acheros massaged at his chest, not fighting off the young man in the least. He deserved this and more, but he wouldn’t fight with him. “Would you care for some tea, Garen? I seem to have…spilt mine.” The lanky man just gestured over the coffee table at the spilled liquid as if this was just an everyday visit.

“How could you watch that display, in person no less, and allow this all to continue, Qui-Gon? You left him in the dark, totally alone!” The questions gushed off his tongue with a deep hatred only to patter out in the end as he whispered the master’s given name.

Acheros turned to the kitchen, setting the kettle to simmer once more. He was dithering and they both knew it, but Garen allowed it anyway. He knew not to pressure this man who was precariously standing on the edge of a cliff between the darkness and the light. They had gone down that road when they met in an obscure corridor on an outer rim planet just weeks ago. In fact, had the Sith not been toying with him, they would both be worse for the wear. Garen had quickly ignited his saber and attacked. He thought to maim now and ask questions later. Garen had decided he wasn’t going to be number forty-one on this monster’s execution list.

It happened to be a long drawn out bout that had the Sith completely on the defensive, he would not launch an attack at the young Jedi. The battle had meant to wear him down both physically and emotionally but Garen persisted to press forward until the Sith stretched out his hand and without any effort held him against the filthy wall. Garen recalled that moment with perfect clarity, which his life looked to be at an end. He seized the moment to whisper a prayer to his friend, knowing how this would break Obi-Wan. To know that his greatest hope had destroyed his oldest friend, it all felt too fresh as Garen watched the man before him make tea.

“I would ask that you not use that name, even in private. Qui-Gon Jinn died on Naboo.” The words were bitter, but brooked no argument.

“I’m sorry if you don’t like my honesty but to be fair I don’t like your lies.” Garen wasn’t so forgiving this time.

Acheros tightened his hands on the clean white surface of the counter, bowing his head to the darkness that threatened his every waking moment. “Truth gets you killed. Love gets you hurt and being real gets you hated.”

“You don’t get off that easy, QUI-GON.” Garen was known for being a little shit when his hackles were raised, especially when it involved his friends. “I want an explanation as to why you aren’t letting him in on your secret?”

“I gave you the answer. If I tell him the truth, he will not play his part. The truth will get him killed and I can live with many things, but not that.” He gestured for the Jedi to sit at the table, two cups sat before them as he poured the steaming water. “I know you think I’m a monster and I can live with that, because it’s simply the truth. However, in order for my plans to continue, he must believe me to be that monster. It’s for his protection, Garen. Do you think if he even suspected there was a sliver of light left in my soul that he would give up?”

Garen palmed the warm cup in his hands, not wanting the comfort of the liquid set before him. “So this is all for his protection? What of his soul, Qui…Acheros?” He really couldn’t stand that name on his lips “He may live, but what good is living without the beautiful soul that has always made him our Obi-Wan?”

“I’ve had enough of this questioning. I made a decision, and you will either have to live with it or I WILL turn our secret into a reality. This is bigger than you or I and I will see him survive.” Acheros rose to his full height before the new Knight, his eyes going from a crystal blue to deep amber.

“He will not forgive you.” The words were soft, as Garen stood to leave.

“If he lives to be happy one day, then it is something I can live with. That is what love is, you know?” Acheros paused for a moment, thinking back to Obi-Wan’s first smile. “Wanting what’s best for someone, even if it’s not you.” Garen paused and stared into the strangely glowing amber.  He looked like he was going to say something but only continued on towards the door.

“If you believe any of that, you are a bigger fool than I ever believed, Qui-Gon Jinn.” The words had a sad inflection as he stepped through the open door to his own quarters. He would stay on Kamino for now, ready for a future that was in the hands of a rogue Sith, my how things had changed.

As the door slid shut, Acheros tried to ease the headache that was brewing within the force. “That could have gone better.” He sat with his tea between his hands for comfort, his head pounding from stress and lack of sleep when the door chimed once more. If Garen had come back for more, he might forget he was once Jedi and gag and chain the young man to the wall. “What else could you…Oh, Cody?”

The clone had a bewildered look on his face as if he wished he had not chosen this moment to have an audience with his leader. “I’m sorry, Sir. I can come back.” Cody took in his appearance and sighed. “Sir, are you ok?” Acheros had come to depend heavily on this clone, no this man. The more he thought of them as men, the more humanity he held onto, the light.

“Yes, Cody. I’m sorry to growl at you. It’s been a rough day, month, year….lifetime?”  The tall figure gestured for him to enter and lightly rubbed at his sore head.

“It’s no wonder you have a headache you know. You hide from your master; you hide from the Jedi, hell you even hide from your allies. Qui-Gon, when are you going to let anyone in?” Cody had no fear of the Sith, he never had. Acheros marked it down to regarding him and his brothers as human and not a commodity to be bought and paid for as they had been bred for. Cody observed as the elder man collapsed into the sofa, his bathrobe untying somewhat to expose battered and bruised flesh. “You’re hurt? Why didn’t you report to medical? Kix would gladly assist with those.”

“It’s just my body and will mend. Sidious has this fixation with me. I suppose deep down he believes he loves me.” It was such an unorthodox statement to make to a subordinate, but Cody had turn out to be his greatest confidant. He was someone that under no circumstance appeared to judge him for his past or his present. His friend didn’t entice him to stay in the light and in no way attempted to seduce him to the dark. He could just be himself. He had grown to depend on their quiet moments.

“Please be careful, obsession can lead even the most powerful to their demise, and he could bring you with him, Ner kotir verd.” Cody rested next to him, not uttering another word, just allowing him the companionship that had been missing for so many years.

“Cody, are you happy?” The question stunned him.

“I haven’t really thought about it. I am content.”  Cody regarded the man fretting with the cord to his robe, deep in his reflections.

“Content is not necessarily happy. Is this the life you would choose if we weren’t all pulling your strings?” It was a topic that they had both talked about in detail, but his Commander never appeared to let it go. It was hard to put in plain words to someone born to freedom, to choice. It just wasn’t something that Cody or his Vods had thought much about. They were born, they were instructed and they did their job. It was only when the long haired man was introduced to them did they learn to question. It was then that they met Jango, whom was ever protective of them, like a true father would be.

“Honestly, I don’t know that I could tell you what happy means. I have my vods around me. I have met my Buir that seems to honor us. I thought I would pay tribute to my clan and die to guard the Senate’s wishes.” Cody hesitated and turned the worn face towards him, gently caressing the slightly greyed whiskers. “Through all this, I met you. You don’t see the man we see, the nobleman I see. You see a destroyed Jedi, a reviled Sith. It’s black and white for you, and others that would know you, but we see beneath your façade.”

Acheros all of a sudden felt uncomfortable in his skin. He had portrayed this game for so long, that he wasn’t used to anyone glimpsing underneath that hard exterior.  “Cody, I…” That gaze was set so firmly on him that he didn’t know how to react to the moment.

“You will never love me that way, I know. However, knowing I’m in a world where you exist, Yes, I am happy.” Cody looked away and let his fingers linger just a moment longer before letting go.

Acheros sighed, reaching out to take his friend’s hand inside his. “I will always love you, Cody. I just…”

“I understand, Qui-Gon. Your heart will always ache for your lost chances. I hope he knows one day how lucky he’s been to have you in his life.” Cody just stood and pulled the exhausted form to his feet. “Time for bed, no arguments.”

“I wouldn’t argue. You would have the entire platoon in here sitting on top of me.” Cody laughed and it brightened the darkened room. “Thank you Cody, for being my friend and understanding…” Qui-Gon pulled the cord from his robe and let it fall to the ground, quickly slipping between the cool sheets. Cody tried to turn from the sight, the sight that wasn’t meant for him, and the bruises that he wanted to soothe. “Jate ca ner cabur.” They were the last words Qui-Gon spoke as sleep finally overtook him.

Cody lingered just a moment longer, wanting to keep the nightmares that plagued him at bay. “Ni Kelir ratiin kar’taylir darasuum gar. Ni vercopa kaysh buyca pehea pirusti kaysh cyuir cyare.”

Cody returned to the sparse room, putting up the tea cups and cleaning up the mess on the coffee table. He would not leave just yet; he wanted to ensure that their leader rested this time. “I am happy with you, even if you don’t love me in return.” The words were spoken to no one in particular as he picked up a book and started to read,  he wouldn’t  leave just yet, he still had a place here.


 

“Anakin, you’re still leading with your left.” Mace yelled down toward the mat as he watched his former padawan spar with his new one. He was hesitant to let Obi-Wan out of his sight after the senate hearing and then after the tree incident. Anakin was a blessing in disguise as he bolted after the new Knight and begged for a saber lesson.

“Sorry…” The youngling looked a bit dejected, but readied his saber once more.

“I think that is enough for today. Thank you for my lesson, Ani.” The Knight bowed to his brother padawan and saw the shocked smile form.

“But, You…Won.”

“There are still lessons to be learned when you win. The world is a classroom, Ani, and you will never stop learning, even from those younger than you.” Obi-Wan brushed the shaggy haircut and smiled at his master. “I think I’ve had enough for one day.” Mace’s smile turned to a frown. “I just need a shower, some sleep and honestly…I need some time alone to meditate. I’m ok, Master, I promise.”

Mace just nodded at Obi-Wan and quickly ushered his padawan to the showers. “You know where I am if you need me?”

“Of course, but I’m not going to break.”

“Never thought you would, but you do tend to brood.” The master smirked.

“I do NOT brood.” Obi-Wan wiped the sweat from his forehead with a white towel.

“Brood you do.” They both chuckled as the gimmer stick came in contact with his delicate shins. “Proud of you, I am. Easy, today was not. Jedi you were.”

Obi-Wan let the towel rest over his head, his ears heating  with the compliment. “Thank you, Master Yoda, but I just did what anyone…”

This time the gimmer stick connected much harder with his bone. “Learn to take a compliment you did not.  Fault your master, I do.”

The two masters just laugh quietly at each other. “Well if you two are quite done, I’m going to get a shower and sleep.” He suddenly felt a deep guilt wrench at his insides. How could he laugh and joke after what he had done today? He denounced Qui-Gon Jinn forever. No longer to be spoken about in public, forever shamed and shunned in the eyes of the Jedi. Every bit of hope was gone.

“Ben?” Mace had been speaking to him.

“Sorry, I still. I guess I still need some time. Forgive me, masters.” Obi-Wan quickly bowed and practically ran to his quarters. Feeling the door shut behind him he finally let go of his emotions and wept. “I’m so sorry, Garen. I should have stopped him. I should have been by your side not his. I’m not even sure I’m worthy of the name Jedi any longer.” He was speaking to no one in particular, but he had hoped to feel his friend within the force. “They said there is no death, only the force. Where are you Garen?”

Obi-Wan forwent the shower and just drug his body to the unmade bed. Tomorrow he would have to get up and plan for the future. Tomorrow would start a new mission, a new life, but tonight he could mourn for the tomorrow that his friend would never see. “I will find him, Garen. I will make sure Darth Acheros pays with his last breath. He will not harm another Jedi, another innocent. It may destroy me, but I will do what I must.” Tears fell to the pillow as sleep finally overcame the knight. Tomorrow was truly a new day, with a new purpose.

Chapter Text

“I am getting weary of your falsehoods and deceit, my beautiful apprentice. I have provided you with much leeway, since the results have been more than I ever hoped for.” Acheros shut his eyes to the azure figure before him. He was functioning on less sleep than usual, and he didn’t have time to soothe his master’s suspicions.

“I am sorry, my Master. It has been a long two weeks. I had a lead on a possible rogue Jedi. I thought they may possibly be swayed to join our cause and report back from the inside.” He had spent a considerable amount of his time on Kamino, going over future plans with the clones. Honestly, just resting in the arms of the clones he was starting to call brothers seemed to help. “It would appear that my source was wrong and has been dealt with befittingly.”

Sidious was numerous things, but foolish was not one of them. “I know you conceal much from me. You WILL report to our quarters on Mustafar. I believe it is time to once again show you why I am the master. Do NOT fail to listen to me again, my exquisite one.”

Acheros deliberately knelt before the blue image. “As you wish, my master.”

The untouched walls of his home on Kamino were already starting to close in on him as the image flickered a few times before disappearing. “You have to go?” Acheros stood quickly, turning to face the voice that was hovering in the archway of the door.

“You know that the more time I remain here, the further your brother’s lives are in jeopardy. I will require that you see to our guest and make sure he doesn’t do anything ill-advised.”  He in fact did hate to leave; Acheros had found a certain peace here. It was a calm that he had not felt since even before Naboo.

“We will see that Garen does nothing to put our plans in peril, but you know it may involve sending a battalion of troopers to sit on him.” Cody smirked, offering him the black robe that always hung on a hook by the door when he was in residence.

The robe slid around his frame, hiding him in the shadows he had learned to live in for the last few years. This would perhaps be the last time he would come back to Kamino, it was all approaching a conclusion. It would all be over, one way or another. “Cody?”

“Yes, Qui-Gon?” The name made his head jerk up.

“Don’t…please.” Acheros ached every time that name passed someone’s lips.

Cody just shook his head and shuffled closer to the towering man, his hands casually reaching out beneath the robe and gently stilling over his heart. “I just can’t call you by a name that was given by him. You think you haven’t earned the right, but one day you will see, there is honor in your given name, it was never gone.”

Acheros’ eyes closed as he brought his roughened palms over the hand close to his chest. “Please be careful, my Cody and remember that should anything happen to me before…” He was quickly cut off by a cough behind them.

“If you two are quite done making eyes at each other.” Cody just bent his head and pulled his hand away. “Cody, Rex wanted you to show the newest vods around the facility.” Jango kind of just glared at the Sith, wary of anything to do with his “children”.

“Yes, Buir. Good luck, Qui.” Cody just nodded to Jango and quickly fled the room.

“I don’t have time for another lecture, Jango. I must get back to Mustafar.” Acheros went to side step the bounty hunter before he felt the barrel of a blaster against his gut.

“I told you to leave your hands off him.”

“And I told you, that I don’t have time for this father act of yours. Cody is my greatest friend and he knows where my heart belongs. I have never led him on, or promised him anything.”

“It is not an act! How can you continue to let him pine for you? It’s not our way.” Jango was seriously considering pulling that trigger, knowing it wouldn’t kill him.

Passing his hand from his forehead to pinch the bridge of his crooked nose, he had no desire to talk about emotions with Jango. “Jango, it may not be your way, but they are no longer your clones, they are individuals that have their own feelings and personalities. I have tried to gently redirect Cody’s affections. I even bluntly told him to no longer seek me out.”

Jango lowered the blaster and just sighed. “He got my stubborn streak.”

“That is an understatement. I do not wish to see him unhappy, I hope you know that. Honestly, if my heart didn’t ache for another…” Jango didn’t allow him to finish that declaration before waving him onward.

“Just go.”

“This is almost over, Jango. I don’t. I don’t know if I’ll return, will you?”

Jango shrugged. “Do I have a choice? I will make sure Cody is taken care of, no matter what happens.”

Acheros called his saber to his side, not looking back as the door to his quarter shut for probably the last time.


 

“OBEEEE!” The nickname was squealed as Anakin ran into his arms, hugging his brother padawan tightly.

Obi-Wan chuckled as he disheveled the short blonde hair and squeezed Anakin firmly. “I’ve only been gone a week, Ani. Your mom looks really happy; I would say the new husband is agreeing with her.”

“He’s ok. They are too mushy for me.” The boy wrinkled his nose as he thought about all the wet sloppy kisses. The Knight, with a bag over his shoulder scanned around the landing pad once more, looking for the missing piece of the puzzle.

“Anakin, where’s our master?”

Anakin’s smile disintegrated at that question. “He’s on a mission.”

“Then why are you not with him?” Obi-Wan had begun to feel anxiety and apprehension in the force. “Anakin, what is it?” The amused and happy apprentice was no more. He now had an armful of weeping child in his clutches. “Ani? I’m sure he’s ok. Please tell me what happened.” He looked over his shoulder at his concerned mother, mouthing, “Give me a minute.”

“I’m afraid. I’m not supposed to be afraid…the…code...says.”

The quivering lad was drawn closer and wrapped around Obi-Wan’s body as he stood and walked to a nearby bench and sat down, not allowing the padawan to move from the embrace. “First, we are human, Ani, everyone is afraid. We just can’t let the fear overwhelm us and take over. I’m sure our master has told you that before. I know he drilled it into me from about eleven to twenty.” No words were uttered from the sniffling mass, just a slight nod of his head. “Ok, what are you afraid of, Ani?”

“I.” Anakin withdrew from Obi-Wan’s chest to look into the warm blue-green eyes. “I had. I had a dream.” Obi-Wan just settled back, watching Shmi turn into her husband’s arms for comfort as she watched her little boy fall apart. “I tried to stop him, Obi. I tried to make him take me.”

“Shh, it’s ok young one. I know our master quite well and if he had orders or his mind made up, there was nothing you could do.”

“BUT!” The words were coming out louder than was considered proper, but neither cared. “I saw him die. He’s going after the Sith, Obi-Wan and he won’t survive alone.”

“What?!” Obi-Wan rose hastily, throwing Anakin to the ground. “I’m sorry Ani, I don’t understand. Why would he go after Acheros alone? Why would the council let him make such a stupid decision?”  He was starting to ramble as he thought of the red blade piercing his mater’s chest in the same manner of Garen. NO, surely there was a part of Qui-Gon left that would not kill his closest and oldest friend.

“It wasn’t his fault, Obi. The council…” Just as the last word left the young boy’s lips, Obi-Wan was off the bench and flying down the corridors of the temple, leaving three confused people in his wake.

“Are you ok Ani?” His mother offered a hand up.

“I’m fine, mom, but I’m afraid my master and Obi won’t be.” Shmi hugged Anakin in a tight embrace. Her husband was standing behind them and offered his support as well.


 

“The meaning of this, is?” Yoda inspected the irritated knight that had burst in to the council session without permission.

“You directed Master Windu to confront Darth Acheros, alone. I want to know why you have lost your marbles!”

“You will not disrespect this council, Knight Kenobi. We have sent your FORMER Master on a mission and its parameters are not for you to question.” Adi was usually the voice of reason upon the council, but even she had her limits. Obi-Wan knew that he was letting his emotions get the better of him, but he had lost his best friend and forty other knights to this madness and they had just sent out his family as bait.

“That man, no that THING has kilt forty-one beings. How can you send him with no back-up?” Yoda’s ears flattened at his former padawan being called a thing, but he had argued against this action almost as passionately as this knight was. “Has there been word?”

“The last transmission we received was that he had a contact that was hopeful. To Mustafar he was going. Be there soon he should, then hopeful he will check-in.”

“Masters, please? When he checks in, tell him to wait. Tell him he needs back-up. We cannot lose any more to the Sith. Let me head to Mustafar to help?” He knew it was a long shot, but he would never live with himself if Mace joined the force because he did nothing.

The full council spoke amongst each other, leaving the young Knight to wait before them, helplessly. “We are sorry, Obi-Wan. We know how much you care for your master, for all that we have lost, but Mace asked for the chance to end this and we dishonor the man if we don’t allow him time to bring about his plan.”

“You are sorry alright.” The knight didn’t bother waiting for them to dismiss him before turning and storming out. The council watched as the doors slammed loudly behind him.

“Kenobi is quickly starting to lose his control, we’ve already lost one to the dark, are we going to allow a second?” Ki-Adi-Mundi swayed his head somewhat to look at the others.

“Blame him, I do not. Allow Mace to confront Darth Acheros, we should not.”  Yoda just closed his eyes, trying to search in the force for an elusive answer.

“We’ve been over this, time and time again. We do not have the numbers to confront him together. The Chancellor keeps asking for more and more Jedi to be dispatched around the galaxy.”

Just as the arguments had begun to start once more, they were interrupted by an image of a small padawan. “Pardon the disruption; I have a priority one incoming message from Master Windu.”

“Patch it through immediately you will.”

The small representation of a blue Master Mace Windu came to life before the twelve members of the High Council. “Masters, I have arrived near Mustafar. I came out a bit further away, to avoid any entanglements that might arise. I have ascertained that the ship stolen from Coruscant a few weeks ago is in orbit above the planet. What are my orders, Masters?”

The mummers and mumbles were disturbed by the padawan on secretarial duty outside the chambers once again. This time the young boy pushed his way through the doors and look at the angry masters sheepishly. “I would not interrupt, but this is important.” Mace had ceased talking, listening to the padawan out of screen shot.

“Go ahead, young one. Not angry we are.”

“Masters, Knight Garen Muln’s fighter just registered as leaving the planet.”

“Obi-wan….” Adi groaned.

“What about Obi-Wan? What is going on?” Mace’s visage started to break up.

“Mace, you may have company soon. Your young stubborn Knight seems to have stolen a fighter.” Adi wished they had just told the Chancellor to go to hell and sent a whole team with Mace.

“I understand, so I need to finish this before he arrives. He will do what he must to protect the light, but I will not let it destroy his soul.” Mace bowed to the council and secured the channel before they could order him to stand down.  


 

The trip to Mustafar had been the longest of his young life; Obi-Wan looked over Garen’s console as he came out of hyperspace and cried out in agony as his head exploded in pain. “NOOooo!” The single word was ripped from his lips as he felt his master’s presence within his mind fray and become silent. ‘Master?’ Obi-Wan directed down their bond as he watched within as the lovely strands of blue and purple unraveled before him.

‘Take care of Ani, my son. Know I will always love you.’ They were barely whispered words that echoed into his mind as the space that had been part of him for over fifteen years vanished.

“Obi-Wan, I didn’t want to kill him. He gave me no choice. You both are giving me no choices.” The words echoed through the comm channel as Obi-Wan realized they belonged to Qui…Acheros.

“I hate you! You are not the man that I thought you were. You…You…I wish I had never met you, I wish I had listened to Mace and left you alone.” The words were spat at the Sith, who cringed with each new word.

The dead air only angered Obi-Wan more, “I will kill you. I will make sure you don’t hurt another Jedi!”

Acheros tried to breathe through the hateful words, to center himself as much as possible before he answered. “Just make sure there isn’t forty-three, Obi-Wan, please.”

“Stop running, Acheros, and I will guarantee that no more die by your hand.” Obi-Wan desired nothing more than to stop this monster, but it would never be that easy.

“Some other time, perhaps, my master calls.” Acheros felt Sidious’ dark presence growing closer and closer. “I do not wish to see you follow Mace, please Obi-Wan. Leave and fight another day, Anakin needs you.”

“Don’t speak his name! Don’t you dare ever speak any Jedi’s name from your evil lips.” Teardrops were falling from his eyes as he felt a slight tug in his mind where Mace had once been. ‘Don’t make my mistake, little one. Live to fight another day, with help. Anakin does need you. Please.’

Obi-Wan cut the transmission, sobbing uncontrollably. ‘Master, don’t leave me…’

‘I’m always in your heart.’ The words cut off suddenly as he saw another ship exit hyperspace, the darkness invading his every thought. It was the master, he had a chance. ‘NO! You can’t take them both, run Obi, RUN!’

He felt his hands moved by another force as he was flung back into hyperspace in a blink of an eye. “Mace, no….” The distraught knight collapsed against the controls as he knew he had to return to Coruscant for Anakin’s sake. He would honor his master’s last request; he would make sure that Anakin was the better of them both.

As the two ships orbited the atmosphere of Mustafar, Sidious reached out to his apprentice. “What is the meaning of this? Why was that brat here, and why did you let him go?”

“He was useless to us, besides I got you a better present than Kenobi, Master.” Acheros looked down at the unconscious dark-skinned man that had quickly passed out when the force collar was locked around his neck. Obi-Wan had been so effected by the loss of his bond that he didn’t even notice the words he heard weren’t from his master, but from the Sith trying to keep him safe.

“Oh?” Sidious observed as the viewer scanned to the deck and revealed a battered and torn Mace Windu. “Oh, Oh, Wonderful, another Master to play with.” The dark cackle set the hairs on the back of Acheros’ neck at attention.

“I don’t think we should stay on Mustafar, my master, the Jedi may come back.” He prayed Obi-Wan wouldn’t come back, he didn’t think he could protect him if he kept being brash. The silence over the channel told him that Sidious was sinking into the force for the answers.

“We will stay. The Jedi won’t expect us to stick around. Besides, my plans are almost set. With the clone army you have ensured our victory over the Senate and the death of the Jedi.” Acheros just beheld a now awake Mace, giving him the signal to stay quiet. “Yes, My Master. I shall meet you on the surface.”

“Be sure that you secure the Jedi, just as you were on Naboo. Then I need to feel you under my body once again, I have missed you my dark lover.” The words made Mace’s skin crawl. “Yes Master.”  The screen went blank.

“Mace…”

“How could you give up the light? Death would be preferable to what you’ve become. Why didn’t you just let him kill you?” Mace hissed the words, he just couldn’t understand how Qui-Gon could choose the darkness over the force.

“Death would be a blessing to me, but would you wish Obi-Wan to join me in that blessing?” Mace just narrowed his eyes at the mention of his former padawan. “Don’t threaten him; I thought you cared about him?”

“I wasn’t threatening, Mace. It was my death, or turning. If I took the easy way out, he would have then moved on to Obi-Wan, who would have the same choices. I gave him my loyalty, my light and my body, but I didn’t give him my soul. He can never have our Obi-Wan.” Mace just couldn’t understand any of this, why he was alive, why there was so much sorrow in his eyes when there should just be hatred and darkness towards the Jedi.  Then it suddenly hit him, this was darkness, but this wasn’t a Sith.

“You have a plan, don’t you?” Mace slanted his eyes towards the horizon as the shuttle started to land in front of an impressive dark castle, surrounded by heated magma.

“Perhaps, but I’m sorry that my plan didn’t include my master finding you here. I don’t know that I can protect you, Mace.”

“Force help you Qui-Gon because the Light can no longer keep you.” The man silenced his tongue as the hold opened and guards surrounded him. They were troopers covered in armor of white, they moved as if they were one. “Sir, Commander Cody sends his regards and asks that you keep in touch.” The voice came through the speaker in the helmet.

“Thank you, Vod. See that Master Windu is striped of clothing and left to think about his choices. Master Sidious will join him soon and show him the error of his ways.” The steady emotionless voice sent chills down his spine as Mace wished Acheros had truly just killed him.


 

Obi-Wan parked the fighter upon the landing pad near the Jedi Temple. He had not responded to any of the communications that were sent to him on the way home. He had no desire to speak to the council; he just wanted to find Anakin, who would understand just how it felt to lose a master, your entire world.

“Sent message we did.” The words tore him out of his inner thoughts. “Answer you should have.”

“I didn’t want to speak to you, or the council. I need to find…”

“To the healers we must go.” Yoda pointed towards the lifts and hurried towards them. “Why are we going to the healers? What’s happened?”

“When broken was the bond between master and apprentice, fall from the obstacle course did Anakin. Not woken has he.” Yoda suddenly looked all his 800 years old. “Sorry, fight more with the council I didn’t. Your Master was insistent that he save you from confronting…”

“There is nothing more to save me from. I’ve lost my soul, my father and my best friend. Now you are telling me that I might lose my Padawan as well. I will see the Sith ended Master Yoda and then I am done with the Jedi and if Anakin lives, I will take him with me.  The balance we need is between the light and the dark.” Yoda didn’t argue, he just nodded his head and watched from a far as Obi-Wan sat quietly next to Anakin’s still form, his mother crying on the other side.

Obi-Wan didn’t even acknowledge anyone in the room, he just closed his eyes and clutched tightly at the torn edges of the bond with Mace, knitting them together with his own, feeling his own psyche heal as they connected together. ‘Master?’ It was the small voice of someone that would forever rely on him for guidance and comfort.

‘I’m here Ani, rest and come back to us.’ Obi-Wan sent as his posture finally relaxed into the back of the chair.

‘Master Obi-Wan, is he?’

‘He’s gone, Ani, but his last words were to take care and watch over you. I promise I will do that and more. I will give you all the love he gave me.’ Obi-Wan felt the first tears streak his cheeks as he opened his eyes to find his body embraced tightly by the young boy. They were both sobbing as Shmi let out a sigh of relief, her son would live.

‘Obi, I had a dream while I was sleepin. I saw a planet on fire. I saw the darkness defeated by the light, in a large castle there. Do you think it’s the future?’

‘Just rest Ani. We will speak to Master Yoda about it later, right now you need to rest.’ Anakin had yet to offer any vocal words, so Obi-Wan looked up from the blond hair to look at both Shmi and Yoda. “He’s going to be ok. My padawan just needs to rest, he will be ok.”

“Oh, thank the little gods.” Shmi rest her head in her hands and cried in relief.

“Yoda, we need to recall all those in the order. Anakin has seen our last stand against the darkness. We are few, but if we are to have a chance, we must do it together.”

“Make sure the re-call is sent, I will. Know you do where this stand will take place?”

“We are going back to Mustafar…”

Chapter Text

The force appeared to flow better on the over-populated capital world of Coruscant. The obscurity that had inhabited the planet in the past years was all of a sudden lighter, as more and more Jedi were greeted with a warm embrace by friends and family.  The re-call had been sent, devoid of Senate inclusion, it was long past time that the Jedi continue on their own, away from the Governing body. They could protect the Republic without political interference, if they weren’t too late. Obi-Wan beheld the landing pad as two more Knights from the Outer Rim disembarked. They were Knights that he had never met before.

“Too long have we kept them in the Outer Rim, too long from home have they been.” Obi-Wan was startled from his observations.

“We lost our way, Master Yoda. I know it wasn’t done on purpose or with malice but with inaction we have brought about our own destruction.” Both Knight and ancient Master just viewed as long lost friends embraced after years away from homes. Neither wished to disturb the silence, they were both still grieving the loss of Mace Windu, father and friend.

“Right you are, but live in the past we cannot. Future is ever in motion; we now live in the moment.”  Yoda choked on the expression, his own feelings crashing over his features as the saying reminded him of his lost padawan. The monster they now pursued without prejudice. His padawan, that was once the talk of the temple for his radiant light and his Jedi skills, was now only a whisper of death and destruction. His tale was told in stories of the creche, a boogeyman to scare the little ones at night around glowing lights.

“I.” Obi-Wan halted suddenly, turning to face Master Yoda, he felt for the older being within the force. “I sense that everyone has gone out of their way to offer their condolences for the loss of my Master.” His features gradually softened as he kneeled down before the revered Grandmaster of their order. “It isn’t fair that I can weep and mourn but you cannot.”

“I mourn for the loss of a great friend and Jedi Master. Proud of you Mace would be, if see you with Anakin now he could.” Yoda gently touched his clawed hand against the newly bearded cheek.

“I know you loved Mace and mourn him with us, Master, but that is not what I was referring to. You lost your padawan, your Knight, your own son. It may not have been to death but you have lost him just the same. I’m sorry that things didn’t…” Obi-Wan had to choke back his own tears as he thought about the lofty form that he had bumped into years before, the sad and depressed aura that he wanted so much to help heal.

“Mourn I do, but show it I do not. Appropriate it is not.”

“It will always be appropriate to mourn the loss of that light. You owe it to what he once was to release it into the force. What you feel now, is some of what Qui-Gon felt after Xanatos, it is the reason we are now on the precipice of extinction. You do know that when you see him again, it won’t be that same lanky, awkward teenager that you raised?”

Yoda let go of his cheek and just nodded sadly. “Gone is the man I raised, but still love him I do. Honor him I will when the last of his breath he does take.”

“Anakin, it’s ok. You can come out of the shadows.” Obi-Wan gave a wane smile to the young boy. He no longer looked so pale from his fall and the shadows that had been under his eyes had faded. Obi-Wan had taken to sleeping in the chair next to Anakin’s bed to keep the dreams at bay. The boy needed his rest, not the dreams and haunted nightmares that he had been overcome with over the last months.

“I’m sorry to disturb, Master. I was sent by the council to retrieve you both. They have called an emergency session.”

This got Yoda’s ears to peak in interest as he had not been informed of such a need. It could be that they did tell him, but he had been distracted by so much lately. “Attend we will, thank you young Skywalker. Well you look, for that I am glad.”

“Thank you Master Yoda.” Anakin bowed to the diminutive master and gave him a weak smile. Obi-Wan couldn’t help but feel his uneasiness in their fledgling bond and sent warmth and reassurance down its deep blue strands. “Did you wish me to attend with you, Master?”

“Of course, Ani, your place will always be at my side, at least until I have severed this.” He smiled and tugged on the darkening padawan braid, with both a purple and blue bead of apprenticeship weaved into its strands.


 

The arid conditions of the castle were the extreme opposite of his life on Kamino. What had been humid and moist air was now a dryness that settled on his skin and in his breath. Acheros was lying completely bare, with nothing but a silk sheet and the clammy flesh of the monster against him. He could bare this; he could continue this path for just awhile longer, if only to protect his soul, his Obi-Wan, the light of his soul that once could have been much more.

“You are thinking of him.” The words were hissed against his torso as the warm mouth settled upon his nipple, suckling faintly before his master bit down harshly against the swollen flesh.  It sent a wave of pleasure and pain through Acheros body, straight to his groin, the organ that betrayed everything he was for years now.

“I’m sorry, Master.” He didn’t even bother lying; he had learned that lesson long ago.

Sidious sat up from the bed and drew the sheet from Acheros’ body and wrapped it around his own naked pale skin. “I’ve been patient; I’ve even allowed you to deviate from our plans in hopes that you would see the darkness before the dawn and how sweet it can be.” The words rang hallow to the Sith, but he knew in his own sick and demented way that Palpatine loved him.

“I think I am growing bored with you, perhaps I need another toy to break.” Acheros closed his eyes, hoping beyond hope that he would be able to spare Mace the same fate as him.

“Master, it is late. He will be there to play with tomorrow. Let him sit in the darkness, wondering about what the future holds for him and those he loves. Let the darkness seep into his mind, the madness of not knowing his future keeping him awake.” Sidious turned to address him, but was quickly shocked by the lips that tugged at his neck, leaving small bruises of passion upon him. “Come back to bed….”

Sidious sighed and allowed the younger man to lead him back into warm welcoming arms. “I see through you. I can only be distracted by your charms for so long before Mace Windu will see my own.”  Sidious was going to protest once more, but the lips that now worked their way down his body told him to keep silent.

Acheros felt his soul slip, just a bit more. This was the right path, this was the right thing to do, but how it took its toll. ‘I will keep him from you as long as I can Mace, but I’m afraid it won’t be much longer.’ He hid his thoughts deeply as he was once again turned into a personal mattress once more. He was possessed by the master of his darkness, but not the master of his soul.


 

In a chamber below the main castle Mace Windu tried to adapt to the sinister chamber. There were no windows, not even the slightest sliver of light that had shown. Before he had been thrown to the ground and chained to the wall by his force collar he had tried to grasp the force. It was the purest form of torture he had ever felt in his long life. “I’m sorry my friend. I’m sorry that you had to endure this and more at that monster’s hand.”

“Shut up in there, or I’ll make your current situation look like a vacation on a pleasure planet,” Mace heard the guard banging on the outside door.

Dropping his head to his knees, Mace tried to calm his emotions. He didn’t have access to the force, but he knew it was still there, it was still embracing him tightly in its grip. Had it truly been hours since they had placed him here, minutes, days? Without the light, he was lost in the darkness. The burning lava from outside the castle had a Sulphur smell to it as he tried to concentrate on something other  then what was in planned for him once Sidious paid him a visit. Did Qui-Gon really allow that twisted monster to touch him, willingly? Had his friend really sunk so far, that he allowed his body to be violated as much as his mind and heart were? It just didn’t make sense, something was off. Then he remembered aboard the ship, his realization that Qui-Gon Jinn was dark, but not fully tainted. He had not become a Sith, he felt it through the force, the closer he had been to him. There was a puzzle around the long-haired man of his childhood and he certainly had the time and space to think about it, sleep would not be coming anytime soon.


 

“Meaning of this meaning, I would like to know, since informed I was not.” Master Yoda hobbled into his council seat as Obi-Wan and his new padawan stood obediently in the middle of the room.

“We are sorry, Grandmaster, but we felt that your thoughts on this matter were…” Master Gallia paused for a moment to steal her words. “Biased.”

That certainly piqued the interest of not only Master Yoda, but Obi-Wan and Anakin. “Hmph, argue with you now I will not, tell us why we were summoned so quickly, you will.”

“Yes, Master. We have convened here today to go over our plan to invade Mustafar. We have re-called those Jedi that we could. It was unwise to pull everyone, as we cannot leave the innocent without protection.” It would seem that Adi was going to be the spokesperson for this meeting. That meant that it was going to be a brutal one. Most would not be disrespectful to the younger Master. She had a soft heart, but a steal fortitude that made it hard to argue with her.

“Yes, Yes, re-called they have been. The numbers lower than even we realized, they were.”

“How many total do we have?” Mundi spoke up.

“Those in a position to actually fight, perhaps thirty, when we had done physicals upon their return, it was appalling. We will not risk the health and mental wellbeing of our brothers and sisters any longer, we have learned from that mistake. Those that our healers have found healthy and mentally stable will be at our side, but they are mostly negotiators. I’m not sure how much this is going to help us.” Adi lowered her head, saddened by the healer’s reports. How had they let themselves get to this point, without even being noticed?

Kenobi let out a loud sigh, no longer able to remain quiet while they discussed his brethren. “Masters, It doesn’t matter if we think it will be enough or not. It has to be. We have to defeat this darkness at Mustafar or it is over, we are over. I can feel it within the force that this is our last stand.”

Yoda just nodded to the Knight. “Speak the truth he does, go with him we will.”

“But master, the council must stay…” Obi-Wan protested.

“Stay we could, but live on the Jedi will not. Live and die beside you we will.” Obi-Wan and Anakin watched as each master stood and nodded to them both. In the dark times before the Republic, the Jedi fought the Sith and it was well known that the council remained apart from the battles. They were the assurance against extinction, they could rebuild once again if the worst happened.

Adi smiled tenderly at Obi-Wan and then turned to Yoda. “The reason we kept you out of the loop for this meeting wasn’t just to discuss the stand against Acheros and Sidious.” She hesitated for a moment before stepping down into the middle circle to stand in front of Obi-Wan Kenobi.  “Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi, it is with great pride and somber hearts that in this time of our darkest need, we the council of twelve asks that you become number thirteen. Will you accept our offer to be our warrior against the Sith, our voice for the disenfranchised and our heart against the darkness?”

Anakin watched his new master, the council and then back to Obi-Wan. He didn’t quite comprehend what was going on, but he knew it was a significant moment in his and Obi-Wan’s life. The silence continued, far longer than he had thought was appropriate. Why was his master not responding? How could he not want to sit on the council?

Adi stood patiently in front of the pair, letting the moment sink in. “Obi?” She prodded at him gently, knowing this was much to take in on top of everything else.

“Are you sure that you wish to ask this of me? I will not be quiet to the wrongs I see, I will not go along with the status quo that the Jedi have established in these last decades. I will see that we are reformed if we survive the next days”

Yoda cackled slightly behind them, as he waddled closer. “Biased I am, and biased I would be. Smart decision the council has made, perhaps we are not as lost as you once feared, young Obi-Wan.”

The tension that had been building was suddenly gone as Obi-Wan smiled and nodded to them. “I accept.”

Adi let out a breath she had been holding, not sure they would be able to hold on to this bright light. “Please kneel before us, Knight Kenobi.” Obi-Wan fell to his knees before the full council, he bowed his head in reverence as he felt the presence of twelve other minds converge on his, pulling them into their bond, ‘Welcome to the Council, Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi.” The words were spoken in unison by them all.

“Now that we have that out of the way, we have mission briefings to prepare for. We leave for Mustafar within two hours. We have to hit them quickly, before they get wind of our plans.” Mundi had spoken and got them back on course. They would soon all be on their way to Mustafar to end this, one way or another.


 

“Mace?” The soft name broke through the darkened thoughts of the balding man, whom was curled into the corner.

“Come to beat me? Turn me? Gloat?” The words were spattered at Acheros.

“If you had just left well enough alone, Mace. Just as you said, I have, well had a plan. I’m not sure how that’s going to go now that you’ve gotten involved.” Acheros had disposed of the guard, holding a set of clothes before the naked master. “Put these on, I’m not sure I can get you out of here, but I will try.”

Mace held the clothes, staring at his former friend with even more confusion. “Why? Is this an excuse to kill me, while easing your conscience?”

The growl that formed in his chest was from frustration. Acheros had planned this all out to the last minute detail and it was all unraveling before him. “Fuck, you are annoying. Get dressed, or I might not be able to keep you from Sidious much longer.”

“Should I thank you, for spreading your legs to keep me safe for a few hours longer?” Mace knew he was being unfair, but he couldn’t help himself. He had no access to the force, his bonds no longer there. He was grumpy, tired and fed up with the Sith.

As the last words left his lips, he found himself quickly picked up by the throat and held against the rough wall. “You were my first friend, but you are padding on dangerous ground, Mace. You may think me some dark slut, but I do what I must to keep going.”

Mace felt the hand around his throat release, choking slightly as he started to dress. “I know you say that you are doing this all for Obi-Wan, but how can you…”

“Mace, please let it go. Maybe one day you will understand everything, right now I’m just hoping that I can keep you alive to see that chance.” Mace closed his mouth, knowing that he would get no other information from the stubborn man before him.  “He will not be happy that you let me go.”

“No, but if the force is merciful, then he will think you persuaded the guard to open the door and then overcame him.” Acheros motioned to the guard that was laying on the floor close by. “I cannot take off the force collar, it will alert him. This is all the help I can give to you.” Mace wrapped his hands around the silver tubing of his lightsaber.

“The next time we meet, I will have to use this against you. I hope you understand that, Qui.” Mace would not use that detested Sith name right now.

“Perfectly, and when we next meet, hopefully I will not resist. Death would be welcome, but not until I have seen Obi-Wan safe, even from me.” The sad eyes met brown ones. “I know you won’t understand this now, but you have always been my greatest friend. When everything is over, take care of him Mace. I know he won’t forgive, but hopefully one day someone can help him forget.”

The soft words shattered Mace’s fragile understanding before he realized he was alone in the room, except for the unconscious guard. Now wasn’t the time to think about the future, he had to find a way out of this situation.

“What do you think you are doing?” The words were growled against his skin as he entered the bedroom they shared. “Do you think me a fool?” Acheros felt his body convulse against the force lightening that encased his body.  “You let him go. You have been playing me all this time. You may have given me your body but your heart still belongs to that whelp.” Hatred flowed from the force as the current ripped through his body.

“M.M.M.Master.” The word could barely rip from his lips as he struggled to sit up from the floor.

“No, you will pay for your insolence, for your betrayal, Lord Acheros. I know that your precious one is coming here. I did not get into my position without covering all my bases. I have spies everywhere. He’s on his way and I will allow him to come. I will chain you to the wall while you watch me take his light. Little by little he will beg for release, and then you will watch as his blood runs cold against the floor.”

Acheros buckled against the pain and anger, screaming in agony with each word. “P.P.Please, no.” It was but whispered words in the now silent room.

“That’s it, beg for it, and beg for him. I don’t know why I thought you could be a strong Sith, you are pathetic!” Sidious turned from his apprentice and quickly called the other’s saber to his hand, igniting the blood red blade. “I will keep this, for now. Perhaps you will earn it back. Until then I have released my pets to find your Jedi, hopefully they bring back a few pieces.”

Qui-Gon collapsed against the cool floor, his body still wracked from the electricity that flowed through him. Everything was going wrong, all the plans that he had spent years on were unraveling. How would he keep Obi-Wan safe now, damn Mace Windu.

“Sir?”

The word startled him, but Acheros looked up into the dark eyes of the white helmet. “Yes, Trooper?” ‘What was wrong now?’ He couldn’t help but thinking.

“It’s time; they have exited hyperspace just within sensor range. What are your orders?” The words softened just a bit through the voice recorder. “Qui?” That last word sent a smile to lips. Maybe all was not lost.

He wasn’t sure how or why his friend was here, but perhaps all was not lost yet. “Cody, Execute Order 66….”

Chapter Text

Mace fled from the shadows of the rising castle made of molten rock, trying to get his bearings after being cooped up in the darkness that seemed to have gone on forever. A trembling hand ran heavily over the bald surface of his head, quivering from the trauma and the lack of force presence that snapped his bonds to both Obi-Wan and Anakin. It was so hard to concentrate without the aid of the force, the aching hole in his presence that had kept him in comfort since he was a babe.  Mace caught his breath as he heard the unmistakable howling of several beasts from the hallowed halls of the castle. The time for rest was over, he was currently not only prey to the Sith, but now a stalked being by beasts that sounded anything but friendly.

The Jedi looked around briefly, trying to establish some sort of plan. He may not have the force as his guide, but he had his saber and over forty years of Jedi Training. Mustafar was a mining planet with a mostly liquid surface of flowing lava, the islands of rock held on to existence just out of spite. It had been ages since he had read about the nature of this planet, but if he could quiet his thoughts for just a moment, he might be able to remember the basics. “Yes, yes there were caves. Caves that housed the beings of Mustafar.”

Just as the rangy Jedi strode closer to the stalwarts, searching for the tunneled out caverns that the Mustafarians lived in, he stood frozen. The bone chilling howl of the creatures had grown closer while he planned his next move. Mace glanced up at the rocky entrance before he ducked into the unstable cavern; he suddenly had a very bad feeling about the situation. Vornskrs, a pair of them had been sent out to hunt him. The only saving grace was that the Vornskrs used the force to hunt their preferred prey, the Ysalamir, and like their great prey, Mace was currently null within the force.  ‘I never thought I would be so happy to be without the touch of the force.’ He amused to himself.

As the magnificent creatures sniffed at the arid air, in search of their prey, Mace couldn’t help but feel the irony of this moment, of course it would have to be vornskr. Mace was proficient in the lightsaber Form VII, which he had perfected into what was now called Vaapad; little did many remember that it was once named the Way of the Vornskr. “Damn you, Qui. You could have given me a little bit more help.” He stammered and began his journey deeper into the caverns, cringing as the echo of clawing and snarls filled the tunnel.


 

This was the moment that Obi-Wan had prepared for and dreaded for three years. This would be their final stand against the darkness. They would not hide in the shadows like a Sith and wait for the proper moment to end this farce. They would not let a war form that would drag them into the endless bickering of the Senate. The writing had been on the wall ages ago, but because of Acheros’ atrocities it made them pay closer attention; it forced his fellow brethren to open their eyes and take notice.  “Master?” The faint word behind him brought him back from his thoughts as the stars stopped their streaking before the view port. It seemed like such an odd word to be directed at him. He had previously cherished his brother padawan, but to hear that word from Anakin’s lips left him feeling empty. To think that he would never again say that word with such obedience and love. This was not the time to fall apart, to grieve, but his soul wept for the loss of his family.

“Yes, Anakin?” Obi-Wan turned to offer a wayward smile to the young man. He still looked a bit pale from his fall, but there was no keeping him on Coruscant. He insisted that his place was now by his side and he would not allow another man to leave him behind to mourn their loss. He was such a bright spot in the force, it was truly almost blinding. He only hoped he could offer the same love and encouragement as the great Master Windu, to be even half the man that taught him how to live, love and be a Jedi.

“You’re sad.” Anakin shifted closer and enfolded his pint-sized arms inside the inviting robe and embraced Obi-Wan. “It hurts, but we’re here now and he’d tell us to focus on this moment. We can’t win if we don’t focus.”

Obi-Wan gazed down at the flaxen hair that was slowly darkening into its true color, running his hand over the padawan braid and gently stroking the purple bead that once had been his. “You are such a wiser young man than I ever was, do you know that?” Anakin just nodded and offered a weary smile. “I knew I couldn’t keep you at the temple, but I need you to listen to me, Ani. I will not allow that man to get his claws into you as well. If I tell you to run, you run back to the ship and take off. You do not look back, do you understand me?” 

Anakin buried his head into the warm fragrant scent of his master’s robe, not wanting to offer a promise he didn’t intend to keep. “What if….”

“No, Anakin. If you do not give me this promise, than I will leave you on this ship. I know you want to bring justice for our master, that is why I reluctantly said yes, but I need to know you will listen to me, Anakin. It’s important.”

“Yes, Master, I promise.” The younger boy let go of the threaded robes and looked up with tear swollen eyes.

“Good, it’s time to end this. It’s time to say goodbye to the past.” The words were spoken so softly that Anakin wondered if they were meant for him.

“Time it is.” Yoda slowly ambled through the doors, ignoring the fact that he had been listening in on their conversation. The old master was against taking the young padawan on this dangerous mission but he owed it to both Mace and Obi-Wan to listen to their wishes.  “Ready we are.” Yoda nodded to them both as the full council stood behind him.


 

Acheros looked up into the emotionless black eyes of the trooper armor and offered a wane smile. His body was still twitching slightly from the electricity that had flown through him minutes before. “This is finally the end, isn’t it?” Cody’s mechanical tone cut through the silence.  The clone reached out to help steady his leader, friend and brother and flinched as Acheros pulled the helmet from his head.

“Wanted to see your face, just one more time…” The words were rumbled from the deep voice. ”And Death appeared before him in armor of blackest night and said, ‘It is time…’ and the warrior smiled and said, ‘What took you so long, Vod?’” The ancient words that left his commander’s lips, only made him respect him all the more. Rex had once asked him why. It was such a simple question that Cody never pretended to misunderstand. Why the Sith, why did he love a man that couldn’t or wouldn’t ever love him in return?

It had been such a humble query, which had nothing but a complex answer. How could you spend three years in close quarters, standing and fighting side by side and not see the true heart of the man you served under. Yes, it had begun as friendship. It was something that kept him warm on the coldest of nights on Kamino. However, he had information that most others didn’t. He was privy to the true intentions of a man who would give his life to protect the man he loved. His values may have been smudged but they were not tarnished. Yes, it would be simple to ignore his feelings and move on, but he would not dishonor his own feelings that way. Cody would love from afar until he found his own soulmate, half the soul that called to his. 

Cody reached out and lightly stroked a fallen wisp of hair from the weathered and worn face. “When all else falls. It is our actions and our actions alone that will live on through the centuries. To be remembered with love…it is a rewarding end to a life.” He offered his own Mandalorian proverb.

“This is it, Cody. The future of the galaxy will rest on this god-forsaken planet. When he gives the order, everything will fall into place, correct? Organa and Mothma will receive the files?” Cody allowed the Sith to move away, to distance himself from the overwhelming emotions of the moment. They had more to focus on; it was their lot in life to put their own needs on hold for the many.

“It has all been prepared as you ordered, Qui-Gon. Are you sure this is the way you want this to end? You know, he may still yet forgive you?” He was done hiding behind the shadows of future plans; he would no longer use that wretched Sith name that Sidious had given him.  It made him cringe with disgust whenever he heard it.

“Cody,” Acheros paused for a moment, knowing this would be the last opportunity they both had to communicate again. He didn’t wish to leave the ends undone. “When we first became acquainted, you were just one more clone, a device that could help me get to my goal. I suppose at that time, I was not a worthy creature.” Cody was going to disrupt that reflection, but the larger man waved his hand to silence him. “I never comprehended in that instant, how much those first moments would mean to me, just how much you would end up meaning to me. You have seen me through the horrific periods and never asked for more than I could give. I…”

The seconds began to drag on and Cody swiftly turned to the door, unable to keep his own emotions in check. “Don’t, Qui, please. This won’t be goodbye, it won’t.”

Acheros seized him and gently rested his calloused palms against the armor clad shoulders and drew him back into an unyielding embrace.  “We could not have this life, but perhaps we will meet as characters in the next chapter, maybe there we can share a lifetime.” The prose was murmured softly into the chestnut hair, before he let him go.

“Perhaps, but this chapter is not over yet, I will see you get your fairytale ending, Qui-Gon Jinn.” The words caused both men to smile. They stood lost in their own selfish thoughts for a few brief moments.

“I never took you for a romantic.” The rumbling voice turned and swept the room for something, something missing, remembering that Sidious had taken his saber.  He opened a hidden compartment that revealed the worn casing of an old friend.

“Don’t tell Rex, he already thinks I’m hopeless. Buy’ce olar, kar’ta ogir.” Cody replaced his helmet and turned to salute his comrade in arms, pulling the band aid quickly away from the wound by leaving the room.  ‘Don’t look back.’ Jango’s words rang through his head as he walked toward a new future.


 

They were a troupe of thirty Jedi, it wasn’t exactly an army but it was the closest they could muster in the short time available. Included in their numbers were Master Tahl, Master Micah and his oldest friends Reeft and Bant. It was a poignant moment for several in the group, knowing that they came to lay an old friend to rest. Obi-Wan still pondered if he had it in him to turn his saber to those beloved blue eyes that once promised a beautiful potential. No they were no longer the sky-blue orbs of his dreams, they were the amber yellow of nightmares, they weren’t Qui-Gon’s eyes, they were the eyes of a monster.

“Ben?” The word was soft and meant only for his ears. “Ben, are you ok?” Bant had always been there through the good and bad times. She had taken Garen’s death so hard, but she was here now to offer her strength, not for revenge, but to offer comfort when the task had been done.

Obi-Wan offered a wane smile that did not meet his eyes and nodded to the question. How could he put words around such a hollow feeling? Just as they were approaching the dreary and disturbing castle, they all turned to hear the baying of a beast, the salivating growl of an animal stalking its prey. “Vornskr!” Micah leapt into the path of the creature as it came at Anakin, the brightness of his force signature making him a prime target, his saber ignited quickly to sever the poisonous tail. Just as the boy was yanked out of the way, another blue saber struck and took the creatures head.

Obi-Wan grabbed the boy, making sure it had not harmed him. “Are you OK, Anakin?” The boy seemed frozen in fear. “Anakin?” Obi-Wan repeated the word and then just pulled him into another tight embrace. He remembered all the times Mace had held him when frightened, he didn’t believe that letting children flounder was the right method to raise padawans. It wouldn’t strength them, it would just make mentally unstable Jedi.

“I’m OK, Master. I was just…” Anakin peered up into the grey-blue eyes of a concerned being. “I guess it scared me, but I’m physically OK.”  Obi-Wan winked, trying to offer a bit of levity to the situation.

“Not meant for this planet, they are. One purpose they have. Meant to hunt force users, they are.” Yoda looked around, hearing another in the distance. “Hunting something, they are, but time we do not have to assist.”

The group acquiesced and moved to the castle door as it released to reveal a battalion of troopers, all dressed in white. They were all shapes and size, but all human. The force seemed to radiate differently around them. Some seemed to have the same aura, where others were force null, as if they were absent in the eyes of the force. “Master, they feel, funny.” Anakin spoke, his saber igniting alongside the others.

“They do feel, different; keep your senses on them, Anakin.”

The soldiers remained motionless, blasters extended in response to the Jedi at their door, a hooded man at their back, cackling with delight. “Welcome, JEDI!” The name was spat at the unwelcome guests. “It would seem that you had enough of hiding in your temple. I never expected you to grow a back bone, but that doesn’t mean I was unprepared.” The Sith was barely visible behind his army of soldiers, Obi-Wan couldn’t help but wonder why a creature that believed himself all powerful had to hide behind a mass of innocent soldiers. It was criminal, this was between the Jedi and the Sith, no one else need perish for their ancient crusade.

“Darth Sidious, call off your…Soldiers. I know that you may fear us, but surely someone as powerful as you does not need to hide behind others.”  Obi-wan attempted to taunt the master, but lost his breath as a giant figure approached from another entrance. “Qui-Gon…” It was said in such a soft defeated voice that only Anakin had heard it.

“I do believe that Knight Kenobi may have the right idea, my Master, there is no need to spill more blood. It’s time for us to make a stand.” Darth Acheros’ eyes smoldered to a brighter yellow as he beheld the Jedi just past the troopers. “It is good to see you, my master, Micah….Tahl.” He tipped his head in acknowledgment to the Jedi.

“Acheros there is no escaping this. Surrender to us and maybe we can…” Tahl, the cherished friend of his youth that always saw the best in people, was going to try to diffuse this tense situation. In another time it would make him chuckle at her eternal optimism.

“Oh, she’s attractive, Acheros, perhaps we could use another…pet?” The words oozed from the slimy wretched lips of the older man. “However, I grow weary of this. Execute Order 66, CC-2224.” Sidious looked to the white and yellow armored trooper. Little did Sidious realize that his order had already been executed, with new perimeters.

“As you wish, Chancellor Palpatine,” Sidious’ smile faded as the order reverberated through the chamber to each and every clone among them. “By order of Chancellor Sheev Palpatine, Dark Lord of the Sith, I hear by order the execution of edict 66.” Cody was smiling under the helmet as he spoke the order into his comm unit. It was done; there was no going back now.

“Enough of this, we have had. Out of the way you will get, or subdued you will be.” Yoda spoke to the army of white before them.

“Grandmaster Yoda, and those Jedi among you, we humbly request that you stay put for now. We have our orders to keep you back, please trust Master Jinn to finish this; we do not wish to harm any among you.” Cody spoke forcefully but with a calm demeanor that would make Jango proud. He never agreed with this part of Qui-Gon’s plan, but orders were orders.

Obi-Wan skimmed past the troopers to see a saber of green ignite behind them, it wasn’t the crimson blade of the sith that was held in Acheros’ hand, but the elegant weapon of the Jedi Qui-Gon had once been. “I will no longer call you, Master. Your time is over, Sidious.”

The Sith Master pushed the hood down over his shoulders, revealing the Supreme Chancellor. It was shocking to see the toll the darkside had taken on the revered leader, on the other hand not totally a shock. There had always been something about that man, which made Obi-Wan’s skin crawl. What surprised him now was that Acheros seemed to be on their side. “What is going on?” Micah puzzled next to him.

“Watch this we will not, disarm the Sith, we must.” Yoda looked on as his former padawan dropped his robe and prepared for the battle to come.  He had seen the look in those eyes before, on many planets that refused to see the will of the force. No monster had his son become; he was merely a shadow that had to wait for the sun to present itself.

“Did I miss the party?” The low voice came from behind the Jedi and caused them all to turn and gasp. Mace Windu, Jedi Master stood before them, he was filthy, tattered and bruised but smiling at his friends and family.

“Master!” Obi-wan and Anakin both exhaled at the same moment.

As the group accepted the presence of their lost brother in arms, Obi-Wan advanced toward him and cast his hand slightly over the hideous collar that clenched around his former master’s neck. Mace had not been lost to them; it was just the loss of force. “I thought, you were, I…”  He remembered the words that had whispered into his mind after the loss of contact with his master. The words that begged him to leave Mustafar, begged him to run. They could not have been the words of his master, no they couldn’t be. “Qui-Gon…”

“It’s OK, My Ben. There is much more going on here than we thought.” Those words made the Jedi once again peer behind the rows of guards, to see lightsabers clash in battle. “Are we going to just stand here and stare at them, or help?”

This was the moment; this was the flicker of hope that Obi-Wan thought was gone. His master, his father was alive. He was standing before him, saber drawn and breathing. “We cannot allow you to interfere, we have our orders.” The commander of the group looked directly at Obi-Wan, making his skin crawl at the gaze.

“You may have your orders, but that does not make them right. The Sith are our responsibility, not the Republics’.”

“That may be, but for now, you watch.” Cody’s words allowed no argument as he watched the Jedi push forward, only to be blocked by the a field. “He’s planned this to the tee, Sir; allow him to finish it, please?” Cody pleaded to the red-head before him.

Lightening suddenly illuminated the hall as it flowed from the fingertips of the Master into the convulsing body of the apprentice. Acheros had spent many days and nights getting used the blue electricity that flowed through his muscles and tissue, and had managed to deflect a major part of the attack. “I guess you have discovered some new tricks?” Sidious snarled and lunged forward to skewer his apprentice's left side.

“I took what I needed from you, and improved on it. I learned to lie and manipulate the situation into my own benefit.” Acheros grumbled, feeling the force wrap around him in a way it had never before. “I will see this end. You will harm no one else, MASTER.” The word was no longer said with obedience but with hatred.

“Over-confidence will be your downfall my apprentice. These pitiful clones are no match for me, and you have blocked the Jedi from helping you.” Sidious and Acheros continued to fight, both tiring from the battle, the clones and Jedi watching from a far.

“I have a secret, my dark lover.” The words were spoken softly and meant only for Palpatine.

“I can only imagine the secrets you keep. Does your whelp know how prettily you scream in the throes of passion? Will he ever touch you the way I do?” The words were loud enough for the Jedi to hear, and Obi-Wan cringed at the images it provoked.

“My most precious secret will die with me.” Acheros leapt quickly at the older man, trying to sever his head in one thrust. “My secret is….” Sidious’ blade had pierced his upper shoulder, as everyone in the room gasped in dread.  

“I’m not…alone.” Acheros fell to the deck, trying to inhale as the breath seeped from his body. He was never meant to live through this battle. It was a distraction, a way to wear down the Sith. “Even in the darkness, the light can endure.” Qui-Gon twisted his head and pointed it towards the clones in his way. “Vurel marir’shekmir, draar solus.”

The force shield that had been holding the Jedi back, suddenly dispersed, allowing them to approach the soldiers before them, “Obi-Wan?” The voice stopped him in his tracks as helmets were removed to reveal the lost forty Jedi, including one Garen Muln. “I’m sorry Obi-Wan. I never thought he would keep you all blind to his plan, but I can see now that it was the only way. He needed to keep Sidious oblivious to everything he had planned.”

“Why can we not feel you inside the force? You were dead?” Obi-Wan stared past the group of soldiers, as Sidious sneered at his fallen apprentice. “Garen, what is going…Qui-Gon?” Obi-Wan was speechless as the past years dawned on them all. By Qui-Gon’s hand they had suddenly turned from a group of thirty Jedi into a group of seventy strong. As the words on his old friends’ lips silenced, Garen pressed buttons on his forearm and gasped at the sudden influx of the force. The dark castle was a light with the force, suddenly. The beautiful light of the Force that said this was all coming to an end.

“You can have a hundred, no a thousand Jedi and still not defeat me. You may have stacked the deck, my apprentice, but the clones will take care of the rest of the Jedi.

Qui-Gon sat up slightly, holding his side and shoulder, the pain threatening to send him into shock. “Have you not noticed the clones, my MASTER? Have you seen them fire upon the Jedi? I altered their orders; they are now beholden to no one. They can fight by my side, by the Jedi, or they can drop their arms and live their lives as farmers. You will no longer use them to further your agenda.” Qui-Gon managed to stumble back into a vertical position, glancing at Obi-Wan’s stunned eyes.

“This was all a lie…” Obi-Wan mouthed, feeling Anakin and Mace’s arms hold him gently in place.

“It was the truth, from a certain point of…view.” The words were choked out as the moment fled.

Sidious unexpectedly flew towards his wounded apprentice. “You will NOT defeat me; I will see you dead before I see you in the arms of that brat.” Just as quickly as the words were said, Cody stepped in front of the Sith Master taking the blade meant for his friend.

“CODY!” The words echoed from both Acheros and Rex as they moved forward to catch the fallen soldier.

Yoda approached the dais, ready to battle their ancient foe. “Surrender or die.”

“I will surrender to no one, and if you kill me, the Jedi will still fall. How will you explain the execution of the Supreme Chancellor?” Sidious had backed away to the left of the dais, looking down an empty corridor.

“When you executed order 66, you brought yourself down, Palpatine.” Qui-Gon was standing in front of Cody, who was being held in Rex’s arms as he whispered words of comfort to his Vod. “As soon as that order was executed, all information on your dealings as Darth Sidious was transmitted to both Bail Organa and Mon Mothma of the Galactic Senate. They have the proof they need to impeach you. It shows your dealings with secret organizations that are meant to bring down the Jedi and the Republic at the hands of “Separatists.”  

Cody coughed a little, blood poured from his lip and dribbled down his chin. “Rex, get him out of here, find Kix.”

“Not leaving must protect you.” Qui-Gon offered a small smile that reached his eyes for the first time in years.

“You already did that Cody. Let Rex take care of you now.” Qui-Gon watched as Cody and Rex fled the battle area, Rex supporting his brother and looking at him with concerned eyes. Trying to drown out the pain in his side, Qui-Gon turned to the remaining Jedi. “There are things I’ve done in the name of good, but he’s yours now. If it was my choice, I would kill him and be done with it, but it’s in your hands now.” Obi-Wan had been silent through the whole situation; it was as if he was frozen in the moment.

“Look past your own crimes, we cannot promise. However, revenge not the Jedi way. Into custody he will go, dealt with by the Jedi and Senate he will be.” Yoda’s ears lowered as Qui-Gon collapsed against the stone floor.

“It’s too late for me,” The words ripped through a bloody cough. “I was never meant to survive Naboo, I’ve been a dead man walking since the moment Sidious laid claim to me.”

“NOOOO!” Obi-wan was finally ripped from his silence as he stammered to Qui-Gon’s side to look into bright blue eyes. “You can’t leave, not like this.”

The small chuckle was pulled from pale lips. “There was never any other option, my Obi-Wan.”

“You coward, you can’t leave it like this!” Obi-Wan started to cry and pound at the wounded body before him. “Everything was a lie, I fought for you, then…Garen, your tree…Damn you Acheros…” The words made little sense to anyone else, but they flowed like the white waters of the stream inside the room of a thousand fountains.

“Qui…Gon…” The soft whisper showed the waning strength of the man underneath him.

“What?”

“Never Acheros, always…Qui-Gon.”

Sidious watched as the two lost souls seemed to come together in one final moment. Acheros was his and no one would take that away. With everyone paying attention to the two, Sidious used the force to call his saber to his palm and quickly struck at the man whom had ruined everything.

“Obi…behind…” Qui-Gon pushed the man out of the way, only to ignite his saber and run his dark master through, the last of his strength had waned as the bliss of darkness took him away.

 

Chapter Text

The green blade penetrated the Sith like butter through warm bread, Sidious’ eyes opening widely in astonishment. This wasn’t meant to be the end; this wasn’t the future that he had witnessed. He was intended to reign supreme over the Galactic Empire with the young Anakin at his side and Acheros in his bed. Death would not come this way, it couldn’t. He strained to get closer to the huddled pair on the ground, the pain seizing through his body, offering him more strength through the darkside.

“He’s not,” Sidious coughed up blood as he spat out his last words. “He’s not yours, he will never be yours.” The older man fully collapsed against the cold floor, everyone watched in stunned silence as the moment played on. “Acheros belongs to the dark…” Sidious stretched out and gently touched Qui-Gon’s leg only to have it ripped away by the younger Jedi.

“He never belonged to you, Sidious. Perhaps you loved him in your own sick and demented way, but love cannot cage such a free heart.” Obi-Wan continued clenching Qui-Gon’s hand tighter in his. He turned to the watching Jedi, who appeared to be frozen in shock, “We need a medic, he’s…letting go.” The words barely formed around the lump in his throat. He couldn’t let it end this way, he wanted the chance to forgive the stubborn man.

Mace at last broke the silence and began shouting orders to those around them. “Get this damn force collar off me!”  Anakin kept his unrelenting stare on the tall dark master, tears falling down his cheeks as he watched the collar release from the tanned skin of Mace’s neck. “Oh, my child,” his words were tempered as he caught his padawan in his arms, clasping the trembling boy tightly. “It’s ok Ani, I’m ok. We will re-build what was broken.” They both clutched each other tightly as the other Jedi ascended on Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, helping support the master’s life force until they could provide better medical assistance.

“I thought you were…I tried to be brave, master. Don’t hate me, I couldn’t control my feelings.” The young man in his arms was stammering his words, hiccupping through the emotional outburst. For all the training, their padawan’s were still children, with all the emotions and fears that a normal child had to endure.

“Anakin, please look at me,” Mace washed away the teardrops that ran gently down his still chubby youthful cheeks. “I could never hate you, especially not for having feelings. I know you are confused by our traditions, but your feelings give you strength. We will get through this, and become stronger for it, I promise.” Mace mumbled to himself, ‘I will get that damn code changed if it’s the last thing I do.’

Anakin sobbed, shutting his eyes while in the snug hug of the man he thought was gone forever. “Will they be ok? Is he…going to die?” Anakin stared towards the crowd of people that tended to Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan.

“I,” Mace heaved a sigh, worrying for his old student. “Honestly, Anakin, I’m not sure. Qui-Gon’s spent so much time in the darkness. He had no plans after this moment. He expected to die with Sidious. If I know my old friend, he has given up, thinking he doesn’t deserve to live past this moment in time.”

Mace and Anakin held each other tighter as the Jedi helped levitate Qui-Gon’s limp body on to a stretcher, Obi-Wan refused to separate himself from the worn body. “Let them take care of Qui-Gon, you should.” Yoda suggested to Obi-Wan.

“No.” Obi-Wan’s voice was lifeless and cold even with such a simple word. “Never again will I leave his care to someone else. If I had followed my own instincts from the very beginning perhaps we wouldn’t be in this position.”

“Blame yourself, do not. Much blame to go around, none focused on you.” Yoda stood at his full height, as if volunteering for the position.

“Will he live, Master Yoda?” Anakin peeped from behind his master’s robe.

Yoda’s ears sagged unexpectedly at the question. He closed his eyes falling deep into the ripples of the force. Every force sensitive around Yoda felt the deep tug in the force as their grandmaster manipulated the strands of the future. “See his future,” there was a brief pause as the elder being seemed to collect his thoughts. “I cannot.” Mace frowned, knowing how much the troll cared for his former padawan. “Fear to lose him yet, we do.”

“Fear?” Mace parroted. “Fear leads to the darkside.” He squeaked as the gimmer stick connected to his shin.

“Mock me, you should not. Go with them, we should. Help Obi-Wan might need, in saying goodbye.”

The voyage home had seemed like days, not the true hours that it took to get from Mustafar to Coruscant. The council had taken the wounded with them, but left the others to clean up the mess that Palpatine had created. In the medical bay, Qui-Gon had been hooked up to life support; his still body was resting underneath sterile white sheets.  Obi-Wan was sitting next to the bed, refusing to move, as he clasped Qui-Gon’s hand firmly, and whispering nonsense to keep the hissing of machines from driving him mad.  In the bed next to Qui-Gon, Rex continued to sooth a beaten and battered Cody that also wanted to sit by Qui-Gon’s side.

“I need to be there.” The soft words were spoken through a spasm of pain.

Rex clenched his eyes shut and then gazed down into orbs that mirrored his own. “I know, Cyare, but he would not want you to hurt yourself for him, you foolish man.”  Rex ran his hands through Cody’s short brown military cut, loving the soft feeling between his fingers.

“Cyare?” The word startled Cody, as Rex comprehended his mistake.

“Cyare.” The word was repeated as it was such a simple word, a declaration of all he felt for the man laying prone against white bedding. “While you were pining for him, I was pining for you.” The self-deprecating laugh startled everyone in the quiet room.

Cody’s face softened at the thought, remembering all the times they fought about Qui-Gon. How he always tried to steer him away, knowing that Qui-Gon would never reciprocate his feelings. It suddenly all came into focus. “Why didn’t you say something?”

“Honestly, Cody, You would have never seen me through the same rose colored helmet as you did him. How could I live up to…” Rex let the words trail off and then tilted his head toward the occupied bed next to him. “That?”

Cody exhaled and drew Rex towards him, letting their foreheads connect, gently resting against the other. “I’m sorry, Rex. I never meant to hurt you.”

“I know, but do you think…” Rex was a man of action, not words and he struggled to get his feelings out.

“I don’t know Rex, but, I’d like to try.” Cody didn’t need him to finish his thoughts. Rex was opening his heart and asking for a chance to have that love returned. Cody wrapped his arms around his old friend and pulled him in closer, snuggling against the warm body. He would always love his long haired General, but Qui-Gon would never wish him to stop living. He knew this would have his blessing, no matter where it led.

Obi-Wan bowed his head, sealing his eyes and his heart, unable to keep from hearing Cody and Rex’s conversation. He knew exactly how the clone felt. It was difficult to not love the giant of a man that struggled to breathe beneath him. A soft whimper passed Obi-Wan’s lips as he thought of the time Cody and Rex had spent with Qui-Gon, the times they had his trust and presence. It was a darkness, to feel such jealousy, but it was there nonetheless. He wondered now if Qui-Gon were to survive, would that feeling of possessiveness always be there? Could he forgive all the lies and deceit even in the heart of such good intentions?

Obi-Wan pressed his head to the cool sheet next to the prone body, his emotions overwhelming his control. “Ben?” the words were whispered so softly that their presence made the knight jump slightly.

“Master?” He looked up and tried to offer a wane smile. “Is Anakin settled in?”

“It took a while, but I was finally able to get him to sleep, I may or may not have used a force suggestion.” Mace pulled up a chair and looked upon them both, bringing his gaze to the hands that were connected. “Are you ok, Obi?”

Obi-Wan closed his eyes and tried to hold back the emotions that threatened to escape from those four little words. “I’m so conflicted, Mace. I want him to open his eyes so that I can tell him I’m sorry, that I forgive him.”

“But?”

“I want him to open his eyes so I can yell at him. So that I can tell him how much I hate him for all he did to me. How can I claim to care so much and then have such hatred and jealousy for things he’s done or did?” The younger man’s eyes started to swell with tears.

“The how is the easy part. You have always been a caring human being, my Obi-wan. You love and care deeply, or not at all. You never accepted your friends easily into your life, but once you did, that was it. That doesn’t mean that when the people we love make mistakes that we can’t love them and hate what they’ve done at the same time.” Mace reached out and took Obi-Wan’s other hand and squeezed it slightly.  “It won’t be easy, Obi. I’m not even sure how this will all play out if he does wake again. The Supreme Chancellor is dead by his hand, and we don’t know what evidence he had against him.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt so conflicted in my life, master. I know I can’t let him go, not without a fight. However, even if I can learn to forgive, I don’t know if I can trust, and that is no way to build a life. I will see that he is exonerated in the eyes of the Senate and the Republic, though. He’s the reason we don’t have a self-proclaimed Emperor and they must see that.”

“I know you will do the right thing, Padawan.” Mace tilted his chin up and offered another small smile. “Obi, I have to ask you something else, and it can’t really wait. I’m sorry.”

“You have nothing to apologize for, I’m just happy to see you here. I never thought…” No, he wouldn’t continue that thought, Mace was here now and he would be for some time to come.

“Obi-Wan, we need to speak about Anakin. Our bond, your bond.” Mace was struggling with the words. “Do you wish to continue on as Anakin’s master?”

Obi-Wan opened his mouth to protest the question. He wasn’t the boy’s master, Mace was. Then he realized the question. The padawan bond had been broken and reestablished with Obi-Wan. Mace was no longer the boy’s master. “Oh.”

“Yes, Oh. I am so proud of you, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You showed him such compassion and love when he needed it most, not that I would ever think anything different, but I know how much you hurt when you thought I was gone.”

“I only did what you taught me, Master. He’s very easy to love and cherish.” Obi-Wan smiled while thinking of the sleeping boy in the other room.

“Yes, he is. If you wish it, we can continue on as it is.” Mace swallowed the emotion that came at that thought. He didn’t truly want to give Anakin up to anyone, even his former Padawan, but he would do what was right for them both.

“If I’m honest, I don’t want to let him go.” Obi-Wan started. “However, he deserves to be number one in his master’s heart and life. Any Padawan does, and you saw that many years ago when you took me from Qui-Gon’s side.” The young Knight’s head just nodded towards the too still form on the bed before them.

“Oh, Obi-Wan, I know he would be first in your heart, don’t be so hard on yourself.” Mace interrupted.

“No, Mace. If I’m honest with myself and you, he wouldn’t be first. Even if I don’t know how the future will play out, Qui-Gon will always be first in my mind. Even if I never speak to him again, this will all weigh on my heart and mind.”

“That is probably true, Ben, but promise me no matter what happens you won’t retreat into your own mind like he did. Reach out for help. You can come to me, Master Yoda, or the mind healers, we will all offer to listen and find the help you need.”

“I won’t make his mistakes, Master. I had you to guide and teach me that it’s not wrong to reach out for help. He was raised in a temple that left him to flounder, just as you were. Things need to change, but that’s another topic for another time. I would ask that you give me time to talk to Anakin and ask him what he wants. I feel like we both owe it to him, to include his thoughts in our decision.”

“And the student becomes the Master.” Mace smiled and pulled Obi-Wan into an embrace, pulling his hand away from Qui-Gon and into the warm arms that made everything feel safe in the galaxy. Obi-Wan closed his eyes and treasured the all too brief moment as the medical alarms started to go off, one by one. Obi-Wan’s eyes went wide, as he scrambled away from Mace back to Qui-Gon’s side, snatching his hand once more in his. “No, please, No.” Obi-Wan cried out, focusing once more on the body lying prostrate on the white sheets, his chest no longer rising.

The medical droid was at their side immediately administering medication and checking vital signs, trying to ask both Jedi to move away and let him work when Adi Galia pushed her way into the room, to offer her assistance. She glanced at Obi-Wan and Mace for just a moment before closing her eyes and concentrating on Qui-Gon’s force aura.

“Adi, you don’t know how healing him will affect yourself or him, with the darkness.” Mace objected.

“I’m Jedi and a healer, Mace; I can’t just stand by and watch him slip away from us.” Adi very gently ran her hand over the softened features of the unconscious man before them. “Obi-Wan was right, he’s giving up. He’s trying to drift away, but something is holding him here.”

Obi-Wan glanced at their connected hands and let out a small gasp. “I’m holding him here; it’s my connection to him that tethers him.” The young knight’s eyes widened at the insinuation. “I stopped touching him when the machines went off.”

Mace gave Adi a startled look, “That cannot be a good thing.”

The Jedi Councilor just nodded at Mace. “Obi-Wan, I know you’ve been through so much. I am very sorry that this will put more responsibility on your shoulders. This connection that you have with Qui-Gon, even if he is not a Sith, he no longer has the same light and this could bring you into the darkness with him. You very well might have to let him go.”

“Let him go?” The words were only a whisper. Obi-Wan wanted nothing more than to bolt from the room and find a dark corner to huddle in. However, he couldn’t, he had to keep this connection, he had to support Qui-Gon within the light.

“Ask yourself something, Obi-Wan. He’s suffered more physical and mental abuse over the last years than we can possibly imagine. He had to live in a life of lies and deceit, keeping everything from the person, the people he cared most about. Would it be a blessing to bring him back from that, maybe we should let him go as he wishes?”

Cody strained from the bunk to let out a strangled scream. “NO! You can’t let him go; he’s stubborn and not thinking about himself. He thinks he doesn’t deserve to live that he doesn’t deserve to be loved. How can you let him go that way?” Rex attempted to gently push Cody back to the bed.

“Your wound is going to open again, Cyare, please lay back down.” Rex gave the Jedi a cold stare. “That man that you are discussing like a piece of meat did everything for you. Not just for you personally, but the order as a whole. He made sure that any blame for the Chancellor’s death would fall on him to keep your order in power.” Cody moaned as the pain shot through his body.

“How can we care more about him, then you, his family since he was a babe?” Cody spoke weakly from the bed, sweat starting to form on his brow from the intense pain.

“I have never been as close to Qui-Gon, as Cody has. Honestly, I had my own issues to work through and took them out on our General. However, he always treated us with respect and kindness and gave us the freedom that we would not have had under Palpatine. I know one thing; through it all he loved you.” Rex stared into the blue-grey eyes of Obi-Wan. “You ask how you can forgive him, I ask how you cannot?”

Adi looked back and forth between Obi-Wan and the Clones, knowing that none of this hostility was good for either patient. “Qui-Gon is stable for now. I would suggest you get comfortable, Obi-Wan. You may be at his side for a bit longer, at least until we can get him settled in the healing halls. As for the rest of you, please let them rest.”

Mace just nodded his acceptance and gave Obi-Wan one last smile. “Try to get some rest, my Ben.”

Adi glanced at Rex, the man staying put with an icy stare. “You too, Rex, your Cody needs his rest.”

“It’s ok, Rex. Go get some food and a shower; I can smell you from here.” Cody chuckled and grabbed his side in pain. “Ow, remind me not to do that again.” That got a small smile from Rex, whom leaned down and laid a gentle kiss on Cody’s forehead.

“Don’t get into any trouble while I’m gone.”

“As if I can move from this spot.” Cody replied as his brother in arms left the room.

Adi nodded to both Obi-Wan and Cody, leaving them as well. The silence in the room was deafening after the door closed behind her. Cody looked over to the large man whom had not moved since Mustafar. “I guess that leaves just us.” Cody tried offer some levity to the moment.

“I guess so.” Obi-Wan’s lips pursed together as he once again was overcome with how much the man across the way knew about his Qui-Gon.

“For what it’s worth, he never wanted to do any of this. He thought about telling you the truth a hundred times.”

“Then why didn’t he, It wasn’t like I would run off and tell everyone.” The words were bitter on Obi-Wan’s tongue and he wasn’t proud of his current emotions. “He could have trusted in me, let me make my own decisions.”

Cody just grimaced as he tried to sit up a bit more, to look directly at the Jedi Knight before him. “I think you know the reason, even if you don’t want to accept it. Do you know how hard it is to pretend to grieve? It all had to be real.”

“My head understands that, but it’s hard to justify his reasons with my heart.”

“Then I would say, he has less to apologize for then you do. His love is pure and offers no chains. He knew what he was doing and took the chance that one day you would understand.” Cody felt his body tugging him into sleep. “You are a fool if you don’t take that chance.”

Obi-Wan watched as sleep over took the clone. He hated that the man was right. He hated it even more that he actually liked Cody. He could see why Qui-Gon would seek his friendship and comfort. Lost in his thoughts, Obi-Wan barely noticed the small squeeze against his palm, tired blue orbs looking up into his. “O, Obi…” The word was hardly a whisper.

“Qui, don’t speak. We’re on our way to the temple. You’ll be ok.” Obi-Wan was getting tired of all the waterworks, as salty orbs streaked down his face once more.

Qui-Gon struggled to reach the tears with his hand and wiped at them gently. “Don’t…Cry.” The blue eyes closed for a moment before struggling to open again.

“Sleep, Qui, please. Stay with me, but rest.”

The deathly pale master closed his eyes once again, but nodded his head in response. It was a start, but maybe all was not quite lost yet the Knight thought to himself. Obi-Wan clasped the hand in his tighter and rested his head against Qui-Gon’s hip for comfort, feeling the darkness of sleep tugging at his own consciousness. They both needed their strength for what was to come; the future was no longer set.

Chapter Text

It had been three days since their arrival back on Coruscant. To most of the group, it had passed like a blink of an eye, their time taken with reports and endless questioning by the Senate. For Obi-Wan, it had been the longest days of his young life. When they had landed, the council had demanded his report immediately but he refused to budge from Qui-Gon’s side. The healer’s quickly led the tall man away on a hover bed, telling the knight there was nothing his presence would provide. He had nicely told the council to, “Fuck off, “ which elicited quite the smile from Mace and then told the healers that they could remove him from Qui-Gon’s side but they would then have more than one patient. He never said it would be himself, but the healers took it that way and allowed him to stay by the Jedi Master’s side. It took many manual surgeries to stabilize Qui-Gon and then two days in a bacta tank, but the man hadn’t opened his eyes since their journey back to the temple.

“Wake he will.” Obi-Wan was startled from his reflections by Master Yoda’s presence.

“The healers said they have done all they can. That the body is healed, but the mind has its own demons to fix. They said he could wake up in a few minutes or be like this forever. It is in the hands of the force now.” The words seemed so bitter coming from Obi-Wan’s mouth. He once had so much faith in the force, but now he was floundering. How could it allow one man to take on so much in its name and then leave him to fend for himself once it was finished?

Yoda hummed slightly to himself and levitated up to an empty spot next to Qui-Gon’s still body, allowing him to look more directly at the younger Knight. “Lost your faith, you have. Surprising it is not. Happen to us all it does.”

“Really, no lecture on how everything leads to the darkside?” Obi-Wan knew he was mouthing off to the grandmaster of the order and quite honestly had neither the patience nor the inclination to care at the moment.

“Need that, you do not. Perhaps another lecture, you need.” The diminutive green creature scooted closer to Obi-Wan, allowing his warmth and love to flow out to his former padawan, still lying still on the bed. “Slept, you have not. Healers called me, worried they are that two patients they will have.”

Obi-Wan closed his eyes and chuckled to himself, he should have known the healers would finally try to go around his own will. “I’m fine, Master Yoda. They told me that Qui-Gon was in the hands of the force now and I have to say I don’t have much faith that those hands will be gentle or forgiving. I want to be here whatever happens.”  Obi-Wan clenched the warm pale hand in his, not allowing their connection to waiver.

Master Yoda looked deeply into the young man’s eyes and lowered his ears in sadness. “To follow him would dishonor the sacrifice he made, better than that you are.” Obi-Wan’s head fell further to his chest, hating that the ancient creature was once again meddling in his life and affairs. “Care for him I do, as much as care for you. Secret I would tell you.”

That one phrase got Obi-Wan’s attention, looking up into the wise and ancient eyes. “Master?”

“Not alone you are in your doubts. Faith is hard to keep when those we love are hurting. Perhaps the appearance of calm too long we have kept. Old, I am, many Jedi have I seen killed or lost, and once many tears I did shed.” Yoda looked away from the sea-green eyes that made it harder to unburden his own soul. “When fall, Qui-Gon did, locked away in my room I was. Wept for the first time in decades, I did. I wept for the loss to the Jedi. Wept for the man that always brought home injured creatures because stand them hurt he could not. Wept for the future, that took you away from him, and the hope that one day, happy he would be. After hours alone, cried I did for the son that I would love, no matter what anyone told us he’d done.” 

Obi-Wan finally gazed upon the wrinkled features of the master, trying to imagine tears flowing over sunken cheeks and stopping in old whiskers. “I’m sorry Master Yoda; I know it must be hard for you to see him here, just as it is for me. I guess that I didn’t really think past my own emotions. I haven’t exactly been very Jedi-like the last few days.”

Patting his cheek gently with clawed fingers, Yoda offered a wane smile. “Not very Jedi-like have we been for centuries, afraid I am, but discussion for another time that is.”

“Master, does he? I mean will he?” Once again Obi-Wan stumbled over the words.

“Still hazy the future is, still nothing do I see where this one is concerned.” Green ears lowered even further in response and Yoda hopped off the bed, onto the floor. “Only this I know, need you he will. Decide you will if be there you can.”

Just as Obi-Wan was about to respond he noticed the room was once again empty, save himself and Qui-Gon. “I guess that is the question that needs to be answered; I still don’t know the answer.” Obi-Wan paused and straightened the covers over Qui-Gon’s body once more. “If Cody and Rex were here, I’m sure they would give me yet another lecture on loyalty and love. They are truly good men, and that directly reflects on you. Your friendship and care shine through with their deeds. I think Cody would still be in here, if Rex hadn’t dragged him out.” Obi-Wan laughed at the image. He could see the love that shown in Rex’s eyes and the spark of something in return from Cody. They had a long road ahead, but they seemed to be willing to walk it together, for now.

“The guards, I mean the healers, forced me to go get a shower and food earlier.” Was he truly having a full conversation with a body that had no response, could Qui-Gon hear him, he wondered? “I ran into Mace and Anakin. I had to finally have that conversation, but it went better than I had thought. He’s such a sweet and loving boy.” Obi-Wan paused for a moment as the machines interrupted his thoughts and words, throwing him off a bit as they settled out once again. “I didn’t know how to start that conversation. ‘I know we are bonded now as Master and Apprentice, but maybe you would be better off back with Mace?’ Yeah, I had no idea how to start, Qui.” Obi-Wan chuckled to himself thinking of the moment.

“Just like Ani, he looked straight at me and said, ‘I love you Obi, you will always be my brother, but Qui-Gon needs you as much as I need Master Mace.’ Just like that, he took the burden away from me and ran off for more food. Mace apologized. I think he felt guilty, like he was taking something special from me and in a way I guess he was, but I’m not ready for such a responsibility. We ate together, and they told me about their report to the senate committee. I guess they are set to start a mission rotation next week.”

Obi-wan continued to talk about everything and anything, hoping to keep the master bound to this plane, to this life that wasn’t ready to part with Qui-Gon Jinn just yet.

The door slid open, interrupting his conversation with the unconscious man. “Obi?” Garen Muln looked at his old friend and hesitated slightly, wondering if he was even welcome.

“Garen,” The word was sort of hollow and Garen started to turn to leave. “Don’t…go, please.”

“Nothing could drag me away. I wasn’t sure if you would want to see me. Mace suggested I give you some time, but they are shipping me out soon to collect some Jedi from the Outer Rim. The council is recalling most personnel that have been out 6 cycles or longer. How…How is he?” Garen moved a bit closer to the bed, not wanting to crowd the knight.

“Your death, it unhinged me, Garen. To know that my best friend was slaughtered by the man that I felt so close to, the man that I had spent years trying to protect. It…” Obi-Wan’s words trailed off, the voice choking up suddenly. “I don’t understand why you didn’t try to at least contact me, or the council to let us know you were ok.”

“After Qui-Gon told me his plan, it made sense. I had known about the others, the Jedi that were still alive and hiding upon Kamino. Old friends that I had also thought gone who sang his praises, they insisted this was the only way to save the Republic and the Jedi. I guess it came down to what was best for the masses or the individual. I can never say I’m sorry enough, Obi, but I know one day you will understand and forgive me, even if that can’t be now.”

“I do understand, you know. I understand why you did it, and he did it. I do forgive you Garen, but there is a difference between you and him, he fell.” Obi-Wan gulped and stood, letting go of the hand that had stayed in his for days.

“Obi-Wan, I watched this man for a good while and it got me to thinking. Perhaps the force isn’t all light and dark. Perhaps it’s the intention behind it that makes us evil and beyond redemption?  We are standing in this extremely sterile room, which is surrounded by the best shielding the Temple has to offer, but I feel no darkness here. Have you missed the forest because of its trees?” Garen dared to move closer to his friend that was now pacing back and forth in the small space before the medical bed.

“Honestly, Gar, I don’t feel anything. I’m so tired and worn. I just want him to open his eyes, and utter just one word. I’m worried he’s still giving up, thinking that he has no place here. I’m scared that he will wake up and then what do I tell him? What if I can forgive but never forget? I m-m-may love him.” It was the first time he had used that word, but he felt safe with Garen. “But what if that’s not enough?”

Garen finally breached the distance between them and gathered the russet haired man in his arms and hugged him tightly against him. When his arms tightened around the warm body, he felt the tension break, sobs pouring forth. “It’s ok to feel, Obi. It’s even ok to question. I honestly can’t answer any of the questions that you have; only time can. He may wake up in five minutes and you might decide that too much as past to give it a try. He would not blame you, trust me. Obi-Wan, I’m not his ally in this, but being stuck with him for as long as I was, I do know, he loved you. Even through everything that he knew he had to do, he loved you and ached for the hurt it was going to cause. I wanted to hate him myself for him not telling you, but I did finally understand his reasons. Perhaps once he’s able to wake and tell you himself you will as well.” Garen ran his hands through the tangled knots of unkempt hair, feeling the knight’s tension ease as the tears continued to flow.

“I want him to wake up so much, Garen. I want to yell at him, I want to hug him. I want the chance to forgive him and I’m not sure he’s going to give me that chance.” The words were slurred as the last days started to catch up to Obi-Wan. Garen was aware that the man had not slept. The healers and council asked him to intervene, finally, when no one else had been able.

“Obi, would you sleep for me?”

The body in his arms tensed at the words. “I can’t, he might wake…”

“What if you slept at his side, and I stayed to keep an eye? I would wake you if anything changed.” Garen led the man to a small cot that the healers had placed in hopes that they would get the knight to finally sleep. “I promise you, if anything remotely changes, I will wake you.” Garen was pleased that Obi-Wan slipped between the sheets, his head curving into the pillow. “That’s it Obi, rest will make thinking about the future more clear.” Garen continued to gently run his hands through Obi-Wan’s hair as the sleepy figure muttered more words that made no sense. “Just sleep, Ben, things will seem clearer after you rest.”

Chapter Text

Obi-wan opened his eyes, his body aching from the lack of movement. How long had he been asleep, he wondered before he jolted straight awake and screamed out Qui-Gon’s name. There was no response, except the still beeping of machines. “It’s OK Ben, he hasn’t woken yet.” Garen sat straighter in the chair and peered over at the other man.

“How long?”

“You’ve been asleep for about 12 hours. You really needed it.” Garen gave his patented smirk.

“And you’ve been here all that time?” Obi-Wan stood and brushed his tunics into a presentable manner after sleeping in them.

“I was here for most of the time, although I had help. Master Yoda and Mace took a shift to watch over you both. I promised that we would wake you, and I wasn’t going to let that promise slide.”  Garen stretched in the chair, his muscles aching after being in the same position too long.

“Thank you, Garen. I guess I did need the sleep, I feel more, centered.” Obi-Wan once again looked down upon the unconscious master and frowned. “He’s not going to come back to us.”

“You don’t know that, Obi. All is as the force wills it and it hasn’t let him go just yet.”

“Sometimes I hate how optimistic you are,” The banter between them was just like old times and Obi-Wan soaked in the feelings that brought.  It felt like hope. Hope for a future no matter what happened in the past. If only, he would open his eyes, he thought with sorrow.

The door slid open and revealed Master Windu and his very anxious padawan in tow. “Obi-wan, you look better for the rest.” Mace smiled at his former padawan and moved closer to embrace him. Anakin stood on his heels, eager to give his own greeting.

Just as Mace moved to the left, Anakin flung himself forward into Obi’s waiting arms, sending the room into fits of giggles. “Hello, little sprite. I guess you missed me?” Obi-Wan enfolded the young boy into his arms and ruffled his blonde spiky hair. “I know I missed you, how’s our Master treating you?”

“I always miss you, Obi. I got to learn a new Kata yesterday. Master said I was a natural!” The young boy was beaming with pride and Obi-Wan couldn’t’ help but smile in the eyes of such joy.

“I have no doubt you will do well at anything you put your mind to, including poetry.” Obi-Wan teased, knowing the boy hated any cultural subjects.

“Poetry is so boring; I don’t understand why we need…” The boy trailed off as he saw everyone chuckling around him.

“It’s ok Ani, I never much liked poetry either.” Mace smiled. “Garen, I was wondering if you and Ani could run to the rectory and fetch Obi-Wan some food, I need to speak to him alone for a few moments.”

Obi-Wan suddenly tensed, his mind working overtime at why Mace was clearing the room. “M-Master?” The words came stammering out.

Mace moved closer to his former padawan and gave a reassuring smile as the other two left the room. “It’s ok my imp. It’s just some things that need to be said and I felt it would come better from me, then the healers. I want you to be able to release your emotion and I know you won’t do that in front of strangers.”

Obi-Wan’s body tensed even more, his mind rolling through every option. Qui-Gon was going to die; he was going to stay in this state forever. He closed his eyes tightly and stopping breathing as he rocked back and forth.

“Obi?” Mace pulled the young man into his arms and rocked gently with him. “My Ben, please breath. Breath with me, there is no need to panic it will all be ok. That’s it…breathe.”  Obi-Wan suddenly started gasping for air, trying to match the rise and fall of his master’s chest. The panic was receding, but he still dreaded what words Mace had for him. “Shh, my son, I didn’t mean to startle you, but there are things that must be said.”

Obi-Wan wiped at his tearful eyes and pulled back slightly to look at his Master. “He’s not going to wake up, is he?”

“Oh Obi, I wish I had that answer, the healers don’t even know that one. They are still very hopeful, that the mental instability is being healed as he rests.  However, there are other things that must be said, things that you must hear.” Obi-Wan just nodded for Mace to continue, his hands holding tightly to the dark-skinned masters.  “The time that Qui-Gon spent with that monster was not kind to him. You saw all the bruises and scars. He was tortured probably for most of his stay there. We cannot be for sure without speaking with him, but there were signs of rough sexual activity. Even if it was willing, it was no doubt coerced.”

Obi-Wan pushed himself away from the master and closed his eyes to keep his composure. “No.” It was such a soft vile word that spilt off his tongue. “Everything he went through, Mace. Every dark turn, every scar and bruise was for us and to know that that man took everything from him, because of us.”

Mace felt the dark emotions filling the room and quickly pulled the young man back into his embrace. “Calm, young one, those dark feelings do not help yourself or Qui-Gon. I told you this now, so that when he awakes you can help him. He’s going to need lots of time with a mind healer and someone he trusts to see him through this. You must ask yourself if you can do that, because if you can’t, it’s better to say good bye and let you both heal.”

Obi-Wan let go of the anger into the force and thought on the words of his former master. He knew that this was the question he had been asking himself for the last few days. Could he put the past behind and help heal the future. “Thank you Mace, for telling me. I need, time to think.”

Mace nodded and lightly pressed a kiss to his beloved padawan’s forehead. “We are always here for you, Obi-Wan. Even if you decide this is your way, you will not be alone.”

“Thank you Mace.” Obi-Wan said before watching the master leave the room, leaving them alone once again.

“Oh, Qui-Gon, I can’t even imagine. I don’t want to. All the things you endured. I can see why you wouldn’t want to return, but I’m finding that I’m selfish. I want you to return, please. Please come back to me.” Lowering his head on the mattress next to his body, Obi-Wan started to cry in earnest. Letting out every emotion he’d felt the last few years. The sobs drowned out the noise from the monitors that were beeping just a bit faster than before.

“O-Obi?” The soft voice spooked the man, as a hand came to rest upon his head.

Obi-Wan looked up into the most beautiful blue eyes that had ever graced the galaxy. “Qui-Gon, you’re awake, oh little gods…” Obi-wan found himself making little sense as he grasped the big man’s hand in his and squeezed it tightly. “You’ve been, gone…for a while. I didn’t think you’d come back.”

“H-h-had to come back,” Qui-Gon swallowed his mouth dry and hoarse. “You asked me to.”

Obi-Wan gave him a brilliant smile and knew that all the worry the last few days was just that, worry. He could forgive and forget and love his man, as long as they worked it out together. He no longer had any doubts as he stared into the gorgeous blue orbs that lit up just for him.

“Let me get you some water, you must be thirsty.” Obi-Wan moved to get up, their hands still connected, when he was pulled back.

“Please, don’t go.” The heartbreak in his eyes was back, that lost soul that seemed to crawl back into his shell.

Obi-Wan’s heart broke at that moment, seeing just how much had been given in the name of the light, the republic and the Jedi. “I’m not going anywhere, I promise. I’m just going to the fresher to get you some water. It’ll be ok Qui.”

Once in the fresher, Obi took a long look into the mirror and tried to scrub away the worry that was mounting. This wasn’t the confident Jedi Master or the ferocious Sith, this was a broken man that was scared. How would he be able to help put all that back together again when he himself had issues to work through? 

~You work together and apart with those around you. You let time heal. You are not alone, remember that.~

Obi-Wan blushed slightly at his old master’s words through their bond, knowing he must have been projecting. Instead of responding, Obi-Wan just sent all his love and warmth down their bond.

When Obi-Wan came from the fresher with a pitcher of water in hand, he immediately dropped it to the floor as he ran to help Qui-Gon whom was trying to move from the bed. “What are you doing?!”

“I don’t belong here, in these halls. I’m no longer….Jedi.” The rough voice caught at the last word.

“Belong here you do. Jedi you are.” As Obi-Wan was getting the master to lay back down once again, Yoda limped towards them both. “Missed you, I have.”

This just made Qui-Gon lower his head even more in shame. He had done so much to shame his master and yet, the little troll still seemed to love him. “I’m sorry, Master Yoda, for the dishonor I brought on your teachings. When will I be sentenced?”

“Stubborn you always have been, Qui-Gon Jinn, but loved you are. Fighting for you, we are in the senate. A Jedi matter this is, and under our jurisdiction it should be. But worry that now, you must not. Healing you need.”

“How?” The word was so hallow from his lips that it broke Obi-Wan’s heart.

“One step at a time, Qui. I know that you expected to die on Mustafar and haven’t thought about what living might mean, but here you are now. Would you walk the path of healing with me and see what the future might bring?” It was a question that he needed to ask and left his heart completely open to heartbreak, but it was the only question he had left.

Yoda nodded to the two and interrupted, “Go, I will, much to talk about you do. Released into Obi-Wan’s custody you are, to his quarters you may go.”

“He really is a meddling troll, but he cares about you very much.” Obi-Wan smiled down at Qui-Gon, still awaiting his answer.

“Yes, it would seem he’s not that only one. I never thought you would be able to look on me again without horror and disgust, are you sure you wish to walk my path, I can’t promise it will be easy. “

“No…” Obi-Wan paused as shadows covered Qui-Gon eyes at the word. “I do not wish to walk your path, but I do wish to walk our path, together. We have been through so much in the years, and to be honest, we don’t know much of the little things. But I do wish to learn and hopefully we can both learn to trust.”

Qui-Gon laid back on the pillow and closed his eyes, tears starting to fall. “I never thought….”

“You deserve this as much as I do, Qui-Gon, let yourself learn to love and be loved in return.” Obi-Wan lowered his head and gently pressed his lips against the softly bearded cheek, feeling the force wrap around them.  The taste of tears upon his lips only made him move forward and turn Qui-Gon’s chin to face him. They both looked into each other eyes, the shadows of the past gone and only the future shining bright in them. Qui-Gon leaned forward, as Obi-Wan pushed ahead, their lips joining together in a sweet tender kiss. It was slightly awkward, as their noses bumped, but it was that of a first kiss. It was a promise for tomorrow and a hope for the day. Neither one, ready to push for more, they both pulled back and smiled warmly at the other.

“Shall we find a healer and get you home?” Obi-Wan curled his fingers around the other’s hand.

“The sooner, the better. I hate the healing halls.”

“Looks like we have that in common, I used to sneak out and Master Windu had to come find me.” Obi-Wan chuckled at the memory and watched the other man smile in return. This was the first step and they had many more to make, but it was a beginning. They would deal with the Senate and council tomorrow, but today they would return home to begin healing.


 

The council room was filled with banter and barking as they all pushed for their opinion’s to be heard. This had been going on for days, and many were growing weary of finding a solution. “Once you go down the dark path, you cannot go back to the light. It’s always been part of our teachings. He can’t be trusted.” Master Piell retorted.

“He gave his life, his very light to save not only the Jedi but the galaxay, are we to just give him up and sentence him to a life without the force or worse, death?” Adi stood, her own emotions starting to boil over. “This has to stop, we owe him the chance to come back, he deserves to walk in the light for that is what he is!”

Yoda watched and waited, not offering much to the debate as they all assumed that he would be on Qui-Gon’s side as his former master. His ears swayed up and down at both the hope that many brought forth and the damnation that the others were sure of. Finally, he had enough and pounded his gimmer stick to the floor. “Enough this is. Bicker about the light and the dark and the effects we can until the next cycle, but test there is to prove  the road Qui-Gon Jinn walks.”

All the councilors looked upon the small master, the older members closing their eyes at the thought and the younger ones looking a bit confused. “We will ask Qui-Gon to take the purifying ritual. If lost to the dark he is, withstand it he will not.” The council was quiet as they all thought upon the ritual that hadn’t been used in ages. “Force him, I will not, but offer the choice we will.”

Chapter Text

A few hours later and several dozen disagreements, Obi-Wan guided Qui-Gon out of the healing halls. The stubborn mule declined a hover chair and told the healers, he would walk on his own two feet and he would be just fine, thank you very much. Obi-Wan couldn’t help but snicker as the healer pursed her lips together and massaged her head. He could only assume that Qui-Gon Jinn was giving her a massive headache. “Fine, but if you fall on your face and end up breaking your nose yet again, it’s on your head!” Her typically calm demeanor was frayed to say the least.

“I promise that we will take it slow back to our quarters, Master. I’m sure I can keep him from the halls for at least a cycle.” The younger knight nearly winked at the healer with relief that they were finally leaving the sterile and noisy conditions.

“Hmph, I don’t know if I believe you, but if you could both stay out of this ward for good, that would go a long way in our own mental health.” She actually cracked a relieved smile that both men seemed to be better; however quiet Qui-Gon remained.

Obi-Wan looked over at Qui-Gon, dressed in a simple blue tunic with leggings, his hair bound back in a braid, still pale and drawn, but healthier than before. Just the image of him standing on his own two legs sent a rush of emotions through his mind, wanting to reach out and embrace him tightly, but afraid of going too fast. “Are you ready to go home, Qui?” The healer turned and left the two men alone; she had given them both instructions and further appointments. Her part in Qui-Gon’s healing was over.

Qui-Gon bowed his head slightly, staring at nothing in particular on the floor. His demeanor was that of a lost puppy that had been beaten, expecting another blow at any moment. It was enough to break Obi-Wan’s heart in two, but he waited patiently for his answer, he would not push. After a moment or two, he looked up shyly at Obi-Wan, his bright blue eyes shining with hope, confusion and what Obi-Wan could only describe as fear. “I don’t have a home anymore.” It was said so softly, that Obi-Wan almost didn’t catch it.

“Oh, Qui-Gon Jinn, “ He reached out and took the larger calloused hands into his and squeezed gently. “I know this isn’t easy, especially being back in temple, but you have a home, friends and family. They have not abandoned you. I can only imagine what you’ve been through and honestly, what I’ve imagined has made me want to rage at Palpatine more and more.” At the mention of that name, he saw Qui-Gon flinch and try to pull back. “No, no, it’s ok Qui, he can’t hurt you or us any longer. He’s gone, because of you, because you gave everything for us.”

Obi-Wan watched as Qui-Gon swayed slightly on his feet, feeling his strength draining as they talked. “We need to get you home, before you fall over and they readmit you” He almost laughed at the determined look that statement wrought. “Yes, I think you wouldn’t like that. Home?”

Qui-Gon heard the word once again and wanted to cry. How could he call this place home, especially when it included Obi-Wan Kenobi? Everything they had been through, every hurt that he put the young man through and he still wanted to walk this path. He didn’t deserve such loyalty. “I’m ready to return to your quarters.”

Obi-Wan let out a soft sigh, knowing that it would only get worse before it got better. “Let us go then, slowly.” He offered his hand once again to help guide him and smiled when Qui-Gon hesitantly reached out and embraced the gesture.

They slowly made their way from the healing center into the main temple corridors. Qui-Gon was slow paced, although his head very seldom glanced up from his feet, it was as if his feet were the most interesting thing in the world at that moment and it broke Obi-Wan’s heart. This man whom gave everything for the very roof that was over them and he didn’t feel worthy of its shelter. As the two made their way towards the living quarters, more and more Jedi started to stare at the two men, gawking as if they were on parade. Qui-Gon flinched at the thoughts that were so easily being broadcasted.

~He’s a Sith…He should be in lock up, not free to roam… Kenobi must be his guard, so he doesn’t escape… Why don’t they just hand him over to the senate and be done with it…~

Obi-Wan turned his head sharply at the gathered Jedi around them and scowled at their lack of empathy and shielding. Could they not see a man in pain; could they not see a brother that needed their love more than their scorn? Once again he was drawn to the idea of balance in all things. Just because they followed the code, there were still many among them that were bullies or worse. They had lost the emotions that connected them to others, that gave them empathy and love towards other creatures.

“T-They are right.” It was but a whisper from the tall man that seemed to shadow the other knight.

Obi-Wan ignored the others and turned to face Qui-Gon whom was still looking down at the ground, his eyes closed to stop the tears that he knew were coming. Gently leaning in and cupping the older man’s chin with his hands, he forced him to look up. He projected his voice just a bit, in hopes of the other’s listening. “You, Qui-Gon Jinn deserve to be here more than anyone. You fought the darkness within as well as the Sith. You saved our order and many lives that would have been forfeit under Palpatine’s rule. Those that look to judge you before they have all the facts are the ones that should be holding their head down in shame.” He took a moment to glance back at the small crowd who seemed ashamed of their display. ‘Good’, Obi-wan thought, ‘You should be ashamed of yourselves.’

Suddenly, a small boy flew through the crowd, pushing his way through and running straight into the confused arms of Qui-Gon Jinn. “Master Qui-Gon, I’m so glad to see you!” The padawan smothered him with lots of hugs and then kneeled down carefully to view the boy better.

“My Ani, you’ve grown.” Qui-Gon gave the boy a genuine smile before he glanced at the padawan braid and seemed to deflate quickly. “Anakin, I- I mean.” There were so many people to apologize to, but this one seemed the hardest compared to most. How do you explain to a child that you hurt his master and took away their bond? It was unforgivable.

Anakin fidgeted for just a moment, still trying to get used to standing still. “Master Qui-Gon, I know.” It was all he said and then he reached forward and hugged the man once more and leaned in to whisper into his ear. “I forgive you, but it won’t help if you don’t forgive yourself.” The boy let go and smiled up at Obi-Wan, his master watching from the crowd of Jedi that had formed.

“Thank you Ani, I will do my best to honor your faith.” Qui-Gon struggled to stand back up, Obi-Wan offering his support as they lingered in the walkway. “I’m sorry to say, I’m not going to make it to the rooms if we don’t go now.”

Obi-Wan nodded to the boy and smiled back at Mace, knowing that Anakin made that very public display for the older man’s benefit. “Thank you for seeing us Ani, I need to get him back to our quarters to rest. I will come by and see you and Mace soon.”

Anakin nodded and ran back to his master, the crowd finally starting to disperse. “Shall we try this again?” Obi-Wan once again held out his hand, the smile on his face the balm to Qui-Gon’s soul.

“Lead the way, my Knight.” Obi-Wan could feel the exhaustion rolling off the master as they got closer to their quarters and knew that his strength wouldn’t last much longer. “We’re almost there, Qui. Just a little further.”

As if on que Qui-Gon fell into the wall, holding on to it for support, his legs weak and his body covered in cold sweat. “Perhaps, I should have taken that hover chair…” He said with a slight smirk.

“You really must be in bad shape to agree with the healers, let me help?” Without waiting for the rebuff, Obi-Wan was at his side, wrapping the long arm around his shoulder for support. It was a bit awkward for the height difference, but Obi-Wan was determined to make it work. The sudden connection of their bodies coming together left them both with a gasp, as if electricity had run through them both. Qui-Gon’s instinct was to pull away quickly, but Obi-Wan just sighed and pulled him closer. “It’s ok Qui, we’ll talk about it later. Right now we have to get you back into bed.”

As they walked into Obi-Wan’s rooms together, Qui-Gon was struck by how barren it seemed. There were little signs of living here and it suddenly concerned the older man that perhaps he had done more damage than he first thought. “I haven’t been in temple much to make these rooms my own. I know it’s pretty plain and sometimes quite depressing.” Obi-Wan whispered softly in response to words unspoken.

“I’m sorry.” Would he be saying those words for the rest of his life, to everyone he met? He closed his eyes against the thought and sorrow that wanted to overwhelm him. How would he ever be able to make up these years to everyone? Why didn’t they just let him go into the force, it was better for everyone.

Obi-Wan turned from the support he was giving into a gentle embrace, trying his best to offer a light touch, not wanting to spook or hold too tightly. He ached for the other man, knowing that he had a long road of healing ahead of him. “Qui-Gon, your death would have been a loss to everyone that knows you and those you have yet to meet. Do not rush to that time when we must depart this existence, please?” Obi-Wan swallowed, trying to hold back his tears.

Qui-Gon drew away from the embrace, his anger and frustration almost overwhelming the knight before him. “Can you read all my thoughts? Will I have no privacy?” It was said bitterly, his aura darkening slightly as Obi-Wan came closer once more.

“I’m sorry; your shields are a bit off. We can work on that once you rest.” Obi-Wan knew this was just the first of many outbursts along this path. “But I won’t say I’m sorry for letting you know that I would not see you go into the force before it’s your time. Perhaps I’m selfish, but I want you in my life Qui-Gon Jinn.”

Suddenly contrite at his tantrum, Qui-Gon bowed his head to once again stare at his feet. “I’m s-“

“I know Qui, this won’t be easy on either of us and I’m sure I’ll have much to be sorry for alone the way. It’s been a long day and you haven’t gotten much sleep in the healing halls. The fresher is to the left and I’ve left some towels and a clean set of tunics. I’ll make something small to eat and then you can rest.” Obi-Wan moved towards the kitchen, only glancing at Qui-Gon to see if he was ok.

Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, Qui-Gon tried to center himself in the force, only to feel it slip through his grasp. With slumped shoulders and a sigh he entered the fresher, the door closing and locking behind him. The older man looked into the mirror at a reflection that seemed like a stranger. His face had more wrinkles that it once did and his greying hair now had a stripe of pure white on the left side. His beard was growing out and was in need of a trim. Long fingers reached out to trace his cheeks, beard and chin, to finally look up to see his own eyes reflected. Blue. They were deep blue and not the hated yellow that he had seen time and again. Just as relief was settling in, he suddenly saw a flash of yellow around the blue and screamed in horror, only to close his eyes quickly and look again to see deep blue.

“Qui?” Soft words from the other side of the door implored.

“It’s ok. I just…” What was he going to say, it’s no big deal, I’m just seeing things, I’m really a Sith? “I’m ok.” He looked from the mirror and wondered if he could trim his beard without looking into that thing again. Stripping his tunics off, he turned on the hot water and relaxed as it heated up and filled the room with steam. He could still feel the presence of Obi-Wan beyond the door, conflicted on a course of action. “I just had a moment, Obi-Wan. Please finish the tea. I will be out soon.”

“If you need me…”

“I know, thank you.” Qui-Gon moved into the stream of hot water, letting it pour over his worn and tired body. It was a blessed feeling of contentment as the water embraced his body. It expected nothing of him, it meant nothing to him. It just caressed his body and washed away the dirt and grime and impurities of the day. He rested in the stream for a moment before reaching out for the soap, the smell of Obi-Wan immediately coming to mind as he brought the soap to his nose. Oh how he had missed this smell, the essence of a knight that had haunted his dreams for three years. Running the soap over his body and through his long hair, he felt as if the young knight himself was all around him. Closing his eyes, he let his hands wander down his body, imagining young calloused hands and an impish grin. Qui-Gon leaned slightly against the back of the shower letting his hand fall down between his legs to grasp his half hard cock, his eyes closed as he tried to clear his mind of anything but the fantasy he’d had for three long years. With the soap in hand, he started to run up and down his hardening length, whispering softly to himself. “Oh, Obi, yes please…” He could see the young knight, kneeling down in front of him with kiss swollen lips, offering to take him with that sweet mouth.  Qui-Gon closed his eyes for a moment and then looked back down. It wasn’t his Obi-Wan but the yellow eyes of Sidious, his smile predatory as he spoke. “Did you think you could get rid of me so easy? Your body and soul are mine!” Qui-Gon quickly dropped the soap and let out a strangled sob, trying to hurry from the shower, still partly covered in soap.

Obi-Wan tried not to pry, but he had felt Qui-Gon relax inside the shower and felt his pleasure for a moment, only to feel it all go horribly wrong.  Using the force, he opened the locked door and walked inside. “Qui?” He stopped in his tracks to see a large huddled mass in the corner, soaked and still full of soap, cowering as if the boogeyman himself had appeared. “Oh, Qui, it’s ok.” He approached the man slowly, with open hands as he watched Qui-Gon try to make himself shrink smaller into the corner. “Can you look at me, Qui-Gon? Look at me and see just me.”

Through chattering teeth, Qui-Gon attempted to look at the warm voice that was calling to him. It was a light in the darkness, his light. No, what if it was just a trick again, Sidious was just going to take it away.

Obi-Wan had managed to get to his side without spooking him further. Mace told him to expect this, but to actually see if first hand was something totally different. “Qui-Gon Jinn, you are safe. You are in the temple in my quarters. You are no longer in that place.”

Words, they were just words. Tricks that had been played a thousand times, but they were such soft words filled with concern. Perhaps, just a peek wouldn’t hurt. Cloudy blue eyes looked up at Obi-Wan.

“That’s it, Qui. No one here is going to hurt you. I won’t allow it. You are safe with me.”

“O-Obi?” It was such a heartbreaking question.

“There you are.” Obi-Wan gave him a tender smile and pushed back a strand of soapy wet hair from his face. “Let’s get you rinsed off and into some dry clothes.” He waited a few moments, not wanting to push the man until he was ready.

“I-I saw him, he was here.” They were such meek words from such a considerable man.

Obi-Wan assisted him to his feet and led him back under the water, trying not to let his eyes gaze lower than his chest, no matter how much he had hoped to be with this man one day. “He’s dead; he can’t hurt anyone anymore, Qui. But this is why we have an appointment with the mind healers. They can help you work through this.” Obi-Wan helped him out of the shower once all the soap was washed away, and wrapped a large towel around his body. “I’ll be just outside while you get dressed.”

Qui-Gon only nodded, embarrassed that he had to be handled like a child. He rubbed the soft fabric over his body and slipped on the light tunic and pants, only to stand once again at the mirror. If he looked up once again, what color would he see? Taking a deep breath, he looked into the mirror and saw the natural blue irises and sighed with relief. Quickly brushing out his long hair, he plaited it, tying it off. After a moment of silent reflection, he took out the sonic razor and trimmed the unkempt beard. He looked once again like his old self, instead of some grizzly wild man, even if the outside didn’t match the soul inside.

He stood a few more moments in silence before he heard a polite knock on the door. “Are you ok?”

The door slide open and Obi-Wan’s frown turned into a sweet smile. “You clean up quite nicely.” He was delighted by the slight blush to the bearded cheeks. “I made us tea and some meat and crackers. I didn’t know what you liked.”

“That sounds wonderful.” Obi-Wan motioned over to the living room area where the platter of food and tea rested on a table.

Qui-Gon took a seat on the couch, relieved to finally be off his feet. His eyes shut for a moment, exhaustion weighing heavily on his body and soul. After a moment or two, he heard the clinking of a spoon against a cup. “Sorry, I didn’t realize taking a shower would be so exhausting.” He gave a weak smile and took the offered cup of tea and sipped it, followed by a few crackers. They both sat in silence, neither wanting to break the spell of contentment that seemed to surround them.

“Cody and Rex are just down the hallway. I thought you might like to have them near.” Obi-Wan offered as he swallowed the last of his tea.

“Is Cody ok? I know they released him, but he was stupid for taking that shot.” Qui-Gon almost growled as he spoke.

“He’s fine; Rex is taking good care of him. I think perhaps you have to stand in line behind him to lecture him on the finer points of being a martyr.” The deep rumbling laugh that came from Qui-Gon was enough to make Obi-Wan melt. It was music to his ears.

They both set their tea cups back on the platter, Qui-Gon resting his head back against the sofa, his breathing starting to slow from exhaustion. “Bed time I think.”

“If you can spare a blanket, I can sleep here.”

“I think not, Qui-Gon. You are much too large for my couch and I will not have your back in knots for the healers to yell at me. My bed will fit you much better.” Obi-Wan grew concerned as he watched several emotions pass over the older man. “Qui, I will sleep out here on the couch.”

“I’m sorry…” He wanted so much to offer to share. He was a grown man, who could share a bed without it meaning anything. Why was he so scared, what was wrong with him? Obi-Wan watched with concern, knowing that there was an internal struggle that he couldn’t help with.

“There is nothing to be sorry for, I usually sleep on the couch when I’m in residence anyways. I quite like it. Come, let’s get you settled in.” Beautiful green eyes looked down into his as he offered his hand in assistance.

“Thank you, Obi-Wan… For everything.”

After fetching a few blankets and more pillows, Obi-Wan had pulled back the sheets and helped Qui-Gon into the bed, pulling the covers up to tuck them gently to his neck, smiling the entire time. He was so grateful to have this man back in his life, and would wait patiently for his heart to heal. “Sleep well.” He leaned down and pressed a gentle kiss to his forehead before he realized the man was already sound asleep. He truly was exhausted, he thought to himself.

Letting himself slip from the room, he left a crack in the door, just in case. He cleaned up the dishes and tidied up the mess in the bathroom, only to sit back on the couch with a deep sigh. He was so tired, perhaps just a nap would help, but that wasn’t meant to be as he heard the door chime.

Groaning just a bit, he stood up and answered it. “This better be…” He quickly cut off his words as he saw a grim looking Yoda and Mace.

“Masters, please come in?” He motioned them inside.

“To interrupt, sorry we are.” Master Yoda hobbled over to the chair and settled himself. “Talk to Qui-Gon we wished.”

“I just got him to sleep, he needs the rest.” He wondered if he should mention the bathroom incident and thought better of it. “What is so urgent?”

Mace sat next to Obi-Wan on the couch and sighed. “The senate has agreed that Qui-Gon is the responsibility of the Jedi. There will be no sanctions or judgements from them.”

“That’s great, then he’s free to heal.” Obi-Wan frowned when the other two didn’t look as happy. “What aren’t you telling me?”

“Council, divided it is. Trust in Qui-Gon they cannot. Many calling for banishment, other’s permanent force removal.”

Obi-Wan flew from his chair, panic setting in. “They can’t! He gave everything for the Jedi and you want to…to...” Mace stood and placed a gentle calming hand on his old padawan’s shoulder, offering his support.

“Calm, young one, that is not all of it. Let Yoda finish, please.” Obi-Wan looked slightly chastised, knowing he was letting his emotions get the best of him, but he was so tired of fighting, for everything.

“Believe darkness within Qui-Gon, I do not. Believe balance he found. Long ago it was, when Grey Jedi there were. Balance perfectly between the dark and the light. The best of us they were, however easier for them to fall it was. When suspected they were, purification ritual was used.”

Obi-Wan listened, his hand clenched in Mace’s for support. “Obi-Wan, the council has ordered that Qui-Gon take the purification ritual.”

“Why do you look so worried, what happens if he doesn’t pass the ritual?” Dejected eyes looked deeply into his.

“The council would have no choice but to render him force null. He would no longer feel its embrace, but those that are not pure of heart normally do not live to bare that effect.” Mace hated to be the one to tell Obi-Wan the consequences, but he demanded the right. He would support his former padawan through this difficult time. It was the only thing he could offer.

“You want to put him through a ritual that would kill him! What is wrong with you both?” Obi-Wan stood once again, grasping at his hair and rubbing at his scalp. He thought this was pure madness. “He’s not dark; I can feel it we don’t need to put him through this. Hasn’t he been through enough?”

Yoda’s ears drooped, for he himself had suggested it, but it was the only way to keep the council from worse fates. “Only choice this is if stay within our ranks he would.”

“I will do it.” The deep grumbling words startled them all.

“NO!” Obi-Wan went to Qui-Gon’s side and clasped his hands. “You can’t do this, we can find another way. We can leave, we can leave together.” The knight was starting to lose his composure and both Yoda and Mace looked on him with pity.

Qui-Gon smiled sadly at his knight and ran his fingertips down his cheek. “You are Jedi; I will not take that from you. I can’t live in the dark, Obi-Wan. I don’t know that I trust myself if we are honest. At least in this, I would know. I will do the ritual, my master.” Qui-Gon looked down at a struggling Obi-Wan, knowing he didn’t understand the decision. “Do you trust in the force, Obi?”

“Yes, but…”

“Then trust in it, in me. I need this to be whole again.” Qui-Gon swayed on his feet.

“Wait until stronger you are, not physically capable yet are you. Know that I believe in you, Padawan. Love you, I do.” Yoda moved towards the door to leave. “Summoned you will be, when ready you are.” Mace approached them both, laying his hands on their shoulders. “Have faith in the force, as I have faith in you both.”

“Thank you Mace.” Qui-Gon spoke softly, seeing the sliver of the friend he once had.

Obi-Wan turned into Qui-Gon’s chest as the door closed behind them, leaving them alone in the silence. Qui-Gon hugged him tightly, feeling the trembling of sobs. “I just got you back…”

“This must be done, for both of us. I know it hurts, but in order to have a future, we have to deal with the present. I have done things against the code. I have done things against my own conscience. I cannot live with myself if I don’t know how far over the edge I’ve gone. Please understand that?” Qui-Gon tilted the cleft chin up, so he could see into the tear stained eyes.

“I understand, but I don’t like it.” He pursed his lips, hearing the other man chuckle.

“My stubborn one.” They both stood like that for a while, neither wanting to end the closeness.  Finally they both yawned and Obi-Wan forced himself from the embrace. “We should both rest.”

Qui-Gon nodded and turned to head back to the bedroom. “Sweet dreams, My Obi-Wan.” The door shut before Obi-Wan could respond, his face smiling at the sweet endearment. Moving back to the couch, he pulled up the covers and tried not to think of the coming days. How many more days would he have with the man that was his life? A single tear fell against his cheek as he turned and descended into a troubled sleep.

Chapter Text

The next three days appeared to fly by, as they were occupied with visits from the healers. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan had established a routine that made Obi-Wan wonder what it would have been like to be Qui-Gon’s padawan. Would they have had a similar routine? They would wake in the morning and break their fast, and then Obi-Wan would try to aid the timeworn man settle into meditation. The first endeavor only sparked rage in the Jedi Master. He had felt like a crechling that required assistance for the simplest tasks. The incident played out and left a heartbroken Obi-Wan gazing at a shut door. He knew this was hard on Qui-Gon, but it was difficult to take the brunt of his anger. He would do what he must, he would see him healed and once again in the Jedi ranks.

After that first outburst, Qui-Gon had approached him afterward. His eyes were teeming with remorse but after a few moments he expressed regret for his outburst. He tried to explain his actions, but was stopped by a single finger against his lips. Obi-Wan didn’t want to hear he was sorry, he understood that there was no easy way to healing. He just tugged the taller man back to the meditation mat and settled knee to knee with him, the touch of the other’s body warm and opening. It took about an hour, but Qui-Gon was able to center in the force with Obi-Wan’s help and for the first time in years, he felt harmony.

After meditation, the healers would arrive to check on Qui-Gon’s process and offer some physical therapy. They often bore the worst of Qui-Gon’s mood. Obi-Wan would almost laugh at the number of curse words coming from the bedroom in all different languages. Once the healers left, Qui-Gon would try to rest. The keyword in this was trying. He was still struggling with the nightmares and wasn’t getting much rest. Obi-Wan had recommended that he be allowed to watch over his dreams, to help him get a good night’s rest but the stubborn man refused. Qui-Gon didn’t want his Obi-Wan to see just what happened to him, hearing about it was enough. However to actually see it, he would not allow that.

After an hour of tossing and turning, Qui-Gon would emerge from his bedroom and they would take their mid-meal together. Obi-Wan would try to talk about some of the gossip around the temple, keeping things light and simple in hopes of coaxing Qui-Gon out of the dark shell he still seemed to be surrounded by. After the third day, Obi-Wan couldn’t help but notice that meals were merely pushed around the plate and not actually eaten. Of course, this created another argument, in which Qui-Gon told the knight that he was not his keeper and he would see to his own needs. Once again, that door to Obi-Wan’s room slid shut, locking him out of Qui-Gon’s life.

After their mid-meal came the hardest part of the day. Healer Kachiu came by for the mandatory mind healing sessions. The first day, had both Qui-Gon and Kachiu on their feet about to go after the other. This healer was not going to take no for an answer when it came to Qui-Gon Jinn and he was prepared to demonstrate that. After that first day, it seemed that the Healer had earned Qui-Gon’s respect and he agreed to the other sessions.  After Obi-Wan’s argument with Qui-Gon about not eating, the door chimed and Kachiu entered to see the tear stained face of Obi-Wan. “Are you ok?” His words were soft as he approached little by little.

“I honestly don’t know anymore. I care about him; I know he’s been through so much.” Obi-Wan was struggling with his own guilt over being angry at the traumatized man.

“You know, it’s ok to be angry at him when he’s acting like an ass or not taking care of himself properly? If you coddle him and protect him from everything, he will never get any better. In fact it very well could leave him worse off.” The healer had moved to Obi-Wan’s side and gently took his hand. “You have been through trauma yourself and this may not turn out the way you hope it will. May I suggest that you seek out a healer for your own mind?”

“I..I don’t think I…” The healer just gave him a hard glare. He wished that the Jedi were brought up to see mental health as a benefit and not a stigma. They saw him and his brethren as a weakness, when they were meant to keep them whole.  “I’ve been dealing with this ok. I’ve meditated over it…”

“Can I be direct with you, Obi-Wan?” The young knight nodded. “You’re not dealing with anything. You are getting through hour by hour. You have no idea what he’s been through; no one truly does at this point. You care about him, you want him to get well, but that includes taking care of yourself so that you are there when he needs you.” The healer gripped his hand a bit tighter, hoping to send his own worry and concern through the force.

“Perhaps you are right. I’ve been so focused on him that I haven’t really thought about myself. I will seek out some help, Kachiu. Thank you for what you are doing for him.” The red-haired knight tried to offer a wane smile.

“It’s understandable, but you can’t live for someone else. You must be prepared to let him go.”

Obi-Wan lowered his head, knowing the words were true even though they pierced his very heart. “My head knows that, my heart doesn’t know if I can.”

“And that is why you need to see a soul-healer.” The healer just patted his hand and let it go. “I take it, that he’s in their brooding?”

Obi-Wan nodded once again. “He’s not eating and barely sleeping. I offered to watch over his dreams, but he refuses. I don’t know how to get through to him.” He collapsed into the chair and just held his head between his hands.

“That is what I’m here for; I will talk to him Obi-Wan. Why don’t you get this cleaned up and meditate. You look as if you could really use it.” The knight nodded and observed as the healer entered Qui-Gon’s room without permission.

Two hours later, both healer and Qui-Gon emerged from the bedroom to see Obi-Wan still kneeling in meditation, but he quickly emerged from his trance when the company entered the room. He stood and beheld the tall man before him. His shoulders were slumped in defeat, his eyes red and swollen. He looked like he had been through three hours of sparing. “Qui?” Obi-Wan begun to move closer, but was immediately rebuffed as Qui-Gon backed up.

“Obi-Wan, there are a few things that Qui-Gon would like to speak to you about, but he needs to know that you will not touch him. That you will allow him to have his say without trying to comfort him, it’s importation that he gets this out.” The healer observed the two, Obi-Wan’s hands clenching at his side and Qui-Gon’s head bowed as if he had been beaten.

“Qui-Gon, stop it. You are safe here, in his quarters, in his presence. You know this.” The man lifted his head and tried to look at his Obi-Wan, the blue-grey eyes that were the center of his world. “Can you do this Obi-Wan?”

“Y-Yes.” Obi-Wan proceeded to the couch, settling in to keep him from reaching out.

“Very well, I will see you tomorrow, Qui-Gon.” Healer Kachiu bowed to them both and quickly exited the rooms.

Qui-Gon stood still in the same spot, trying to turn and face Obi-Wan. He was told some harsh truths by the healer and he owed an explanation to the one man who had forgiven him everything. “Qui-Gon, Kachiu was right. You are safe here, with me. I’m not here to judge you, I only want to help.”

Lowering his head, those words hurt more than anything else. “That’s the problem.” The gruff voice started and moved to a chair opposite the couch, so he could look at his knight in the eyes.  Obi-Wan just waited patiently for him to continue.

“I can talk to the Healers, I can talk to Master Yoda, I can even speak to Mace to a certain extent and it helps to get it out. They see my weakness and offer me comfort that I know I need. When you offer me that same comfort and understanding, it makes me angry. It makes me…” Qui-Gon started to choke on the words. “It makes me hate and resent you.”

Obi-Wan’s heart felt like it was going to explode at those harsh words. He wanted to say something to make them go away, but he realized this wasn’t about him, it was about Qui-Gon and he needed to let him finish.

“Once those thoughts begin running through my head, I start to hate and resent myself. I retreat back into the room and I curse you, and I curse me. Kachiu says that my feelings are normal and healthy after what I’ve been through, but that doesn’t make it any easier. After I’ve been in my room for a while, the feelings of resentment and hatred fade and I’m left with more guilt. Guilt about all I’ve put you through, guilt about yelling and fighting with you over minor things.” Qui-Gon sat forward in the chair, letting his head fall into his hands as tears started streaming down his bearded cheeks. “I can feel how much you care about me, but you deserve someone that isn’t broken, someone that will be whole for you.”

Unable to sit in silence any longer, Obi-Wan moved just a bit closer to the chair. “I understand your need to work through your feelings and when you leave me to retreat back into your room, I give you that leeway. Don’t think I don’t feel your resentment, it’s there, but it’s understandable. So much of your life in the last few years has been dictated to you. You don’t wish that anymore and I’m sure at times it can feel you have no more control of your life than before.”

Qui-Gon peered up from his hands, and gently wiped at his tears, watching Obi-Wan as he spoke. “I have perhaps been hovering a bit, not because I want to control you. I’m scared about the future and what is to come. I’m worried that this is the only time we will ever have together. As Kachiu pointed out, I probably need to see my own mind healer.”

“I don’t hate you,” The words were barely whispered.

“I know, Qui-Gon. It’s the trauma speaking. Its Sidious’ sick hold over you, still. It won’t go away overnight, you know?”

“I feel like it won’t ever go away. He broke me, Obi-Wan. He made me do things for him, things with him…” This was the first time that Qui-Gon had spoken of any details to Obi-Wan and it was this that Obi-Wan knew they both needed. “At first, everything that was done to me was physical. I would get regular beatings, whippings. They would withhold food and water. The force wasn’t there to comfort me, but I could take solace in the fact that you were safe from his evils.”

Obi-Wan let out a soft whimper at the images that his words brought. This was going to be painful for them both. “Everything came to a head when he gave me a choice. It was me or you. It was that moment, that I knew everything would change, but I had hope that perhaps I could root out the evil and help the Jedi. I gave into the dark for the first time, and kneeled at his feet.” Taking a deep breath, Obi-Wan continued to listen. “After that moment, I was his. He forced me into his bed. I…” He closed his eyes, wanting to scream and run back into his room, but he had to get this out. “In order to hide and put my plan into effect, I had to give him my body and that single act broke me, more than I thought. The sad thing, I think in the end, he truly thought himself in love with me. He loved me, and I destroyed him.” The words that went without saying were, ‘You love me and I could destroy you.’

Obi-Wan finally pushed himself off the couch and stooped in front of Qui-Gon’s chair, still not touching no matter how much he ached to soothe this man. “Would you finish lunch with me?” Qui-Gon was startled by the words, not what he was expecting, but then, what could be offered? There were no words that would offer comfort or understanding after such a declaration, but they were words that needed to be said.

“Yes, but I’m sure it’s cold by now.” Obi-Wan just looked up and gave him a truly bright smile that warmed his heart.

“That’s ok, I’m sure we’ve eaten worse things.” Obi-Wan held out his hand, giving Qui-Gon the choice to take it or not. The large hand hesitantly went out to the smaller one, wrapping it in warmth as Obi-Wan helped him up and pulled him into a tight embrace. “I know that wasn’t easy, Qui, but I believe we can get through anything, together. You don’t have to be alone.”

Qui-Gon let out a slow breath and wrapped his arms tighter around the slim frame, it was a step forward and he would take it. Just as they pulled apart, the comm unit started buzzing. Obi-Wan went over to answer it, “Kenobi.”

“No longer wait the council will. Physically healed enough, they believe Qui-Gon to be. Sorry I am that more time I could not give my padawan.” Master Yoda’s voice sounded somewhat dejected.

“It’s ok Master. I asked for this and if I’m honest, I’ll never be truly ready to heal until I face this. I will see you in the council chambers tomorrow morning.” Qui-Gon shifted behind Obi-Wan who was partially shaking.

“We will both see you in the morning.” Obi-Wan flipped the comm unit off and turned around to stare up at Qui-Gon. “No, you are not going alone. I will not allow it!” Obi-Wan was finally showing his anger at the situation.

“Obi-Wan, I would not have you watch my death, if it should come to that.” The gruff voice was once more, attempting to sooth the younger knight.

“I will be with you in this, every step of the way. You did this all to keep me safe, don’t leave me behind a closed door to wonder. I deserve to be by your side, I demand it.” The Jedi Master almost chuckled at his stubborn lover, well not quite yet, but hopefully one day. “You will make a formidable Jedi Master one day. I would be honored to have you stand by my side.”

“If we stand together, we can do anything.” Obi-Wan rested in Qui-Gon’s warm embrace, lunch was forgotten as they both relaxed in the love that was sent through the force. They would live in this moment, for as long as they were allowed. Tomorrow would take care of itself.

Chapter Text

It had been a lingering sleepless night for both Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, but it was spent together discussing their past. Chronicles of Obi-Wan’s exploits as an initiate in the creche with his arch-rival and bully Bruck Chun led to Qui-Gon’s own tales of Mace’s childhood torture. They didn’t speak of the last three years, or the future, they reveled in getting to know the other as new couples often do. It felt normal and carefree in ways that neither contemplated. They prepared late meal together, still talking as they set the table across from the other. The meal unimportant to the company, as Obi-Wan chuckled at another childhood story about his former master.

It was in the early hours of the dawn, they both sat on the couch when Qui-Gon reached out to the younger man and tenderly drew him closer, enfolding his arms around Obi-Wan as the embrace bathed warmth over both of them. They hadn’t touched a great deal in the previous days, the past still between them, but this was different, this was either a glimpse of their future together or the last time they would have together and neither desired to spend those hours with such mundane tasks as sleeping.

“It’s almost sunrise, I always relished watching Coruscant come to life in the first rays of sun. I used to sit on the balcony of our quarters and keep watch as the hustle and bustle of everyone’s life began. Mace would often shake his head at me, bringing me my morning breakfast out there. It was always my favorite time, but I haven’t watched the sunrise over the planet in a long time.”

Qui-Gon enticed the young Knight closer, squeezing him securely to his body before letting him go and pulling them both to their feet. “Would you do me the honor of watching the sunrise with me?” Qui-Gon’s lips upturned into the most beautiful smile Obi-Wan had ever seen. The shadows of the past weren’t present in this moment; this was the man that would have been if events had been different.

“It would be my honor to share this and every sunrise after with you.” Obi-Wan bashfully looked away, knowing he was offering a future that neither knew would be possible but Qui-Gon let it go, now was not the time for such sadness. This was the moment to make memories that would live on no matter what happened later in the day.

They both approached the sliding glass door that led outside to the balcony, two small chairs and a table with a drooping plant was the only things there. Qui-Gon peered at the almost green vegetation and suddenly let out a delightful laugh. “This…This plant took comfort around Banyan, the tree I’ve always cherished in the gardens. It only grows around that particular tree.”

Obi-Wan looked at the wilting leaves and nodded, not wanting to bring up the tree that had always given him so much pleasure growing up, was now nothing but black rotting wood. “I’m not very good with the living force, but I’ve tried my best to keep it alive. It was a piece of you.”

That got another genuine smile from Qui-Gon as he reached out to the plant and gently let his fingertips touch the velvety texture. They were both quiet for a moment as Obi-Wan watched the force swirl around both Qui-Gon and the plant, infusing it with love and warmth. “You can give a being food and water and it will survive, but it won’t necessarily thrive. Give them love, warmth and caring and they will blossom.” As the last word was said, Obi-Wan gasped at the revived plant that no longer withered, but stood proudly, with a single flower blossoming from its center. Tenderly plucking the flower from the plant, Qui-Gon brought it to his lips and lightly kissed the silky petals. “I once knew that life was give and take, that if we took care of one another in this world that nothing was impossible. I’ll just have to learn that lesson again, starting with this.” Qui-Gon pulled Obi-Wan closer and placed the small flower in his exquisite reddish-gold hair and adored the blush that came to his face. He turned the knight in his arms and they both looked out at the city, watching the horizon as the sun peeked from the buildings and started to ascend the sky.

Obi-Wan felt Qui-Gon’s chest rise and fall against his back, wondering if this was real. He had waited his entire life to feel this way and it seemed so unfair that this might be their last moments. “It does no good to think of what might be when we are in a perfect moment. The future will work itself out as the force wills it.”

“Yes, Master Jinn.” He couldn’t help tease the older man.

“Brat, I can see the handful you would have been as a Padawan. You must have kept Mace on his toes.”

“I was the perfect Padawan, I’m not sure what you are insinuating.” The teasing tenor of his voice brought another chuckle to Qui-Gon as they both turned from the balcony to see Mace standing at the entrance.

“Telling tales again, I see my Padawan.” Mace noticed that neither man had stepped away from the other. He was glad to see that they had made progress and wished that they had more time together, before going back into another battle.

Qui-Gon moved back slightly and gently grasped Obi-Wan’s hand to lead them both back into the living area. “I did tell him some of our stories from the creche.” Mace coughed at that and turned a darker shade from embarrassment. “That time was not my finest. You know I am sorry for those times.”

“Of course, Mace, I hold no ill will for how our friendship was established. If you will excuse me a few moments, I’m assuming you are here to escort us to the council. I need to wash up and change.” They both nodded to the man who was standing tall, as if nothing in particular was going to happen on this day. The door to Obi-Wan’s room slid shut, leaving Master and Padawan together once more, the silence saying more than words.

“He seems in good spirits today.” Mace startled Obi-Wan by speaking.

Obi-Wan just nodded, moving closer to Mace for the warmth that always made him feel safe. Without needing to ask, Mace pulled his son in all but blood into a tight hug. “No matter what happens today, he knows you love him. You know that right?”

The muffled words were almost unintelligible as he spoke into his master’s chest. “What if I said that makes all this my biggest nightmare?”

“Oh Ben, I can’t even imagine how this is for both of you. I ache for the friend I might lose, but you stand to lose your soul. I can see it between you both, your aura’s reach for the other. It’s a beautiful mixture of blue and green, that wraps around you both when you are close. You have to have faith. I know that’s easy to say, but have faith in him. I don’t believe he let the darkness touch what makes him Qui-Gon Jinn and if you can’t believe in the force, you can trust in him.” Mace ran his dark fingers through the grown out hair that once was the short spikey padawan cut and felt the young man start to sob into his tunics. “It’s ok to let it out, it’s ok to fear and worry. It won’t lead to the darkside if you don’t let it control you.”

Obi-Wan sniffled into the worn tunic, the familiar smell of the man that raised him and kept him safe through the years. “You will never stop teaching me, will you?”

“Not on your life, I love you too much to stop. I will always love you, my Obi-Wan. Never forget that you have many friends that care for you no matter what happens.” The last word was said as the bedroom door slid back open to reveal a cleaned and proper Qui-Gon Jinn. Obi-Wan had expected to see the brown Jedi tunics upon his body, but he was in a simple blue top with dark pants and leather boots.

“You don’t have to be so surprised. Until this is over, it wouldn’t be proper to be seen in Jedi robes. I will either earn that right today or not. Besides, I have grown used to this over the years; it’s much more comfortable then all those layers.” He tried to lighten the mood, noticing that Obi-Wan’s cheeks were tear-stained once again. He yearned to make it better, but knew there was nothing to be done in this instant.

Interrupting the moment, there was a chime at the door. Both Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan just stood there staring at it, almost fearful of what was on the other side, but Mace moved to the door and opened it. Without a word, the small grand master pushed past Mace and waddled over to his former Padawan. “My right it is to walk with you during this ceremony. Obi-Wan you have, but not alone is he.”

Qui-Gon couldn’t help the lump that was forming in his throat at his master’s words. He had done so many things against his teachings, but yet the ancient creature still believed in him. Just as he was about to kneel lower to speak with the man that raised him, he felt a pain in his shin as the gimmer stick connected to bone. “Ow!”

“Believe in you, I always will. Not against my teachings, just interpreted differently they were.” Mace and Obi-Wan chuckled, knowing that it was almost impossible to stay away from that hated gimmer stick.

“Thank you, My Master. If, I don’t….” He trailed off, not wanting to say the words.

“Know I do, little one.” Everyone laughed at the nickname as the silence once again settled over the room. “Go we should, waiting the council is.”

“Could you give us just a moment?” Qui-gon turned to Mace and Yoda as they both nodded and waited outside. Qui-Gon moved closer to Obi-Wan and gently reached out to wipe away some of the tears that had yet to dry against his cheeks.

“Don’t do this, please.” Obi-Wan closed his eyes tightly, knowing it was a pointless plea.

“Oh, my Obi-Wan, you know I must. I need to do this for you, for Master Yoda, for the safety of anyone I could hurt.” He lifted Obi-Wan’s chin up slightly to stare directly into sad grey-blue eyes. “Most of all I need to do this for me. I don’t sleep well, I constantly dream about him and his words. I need to know that they weren’t true.” The normally rough and rumbling voice was soft and pleading.

Obi-Wan bit his lip, to keep from crying once more. He wanted to be strong, to support the man before him but he feared the outcome. “I don’t want to live without you.”

Resting his chin against the top of Obi-Wan head, Qui-Gon let out a soft sigh, tightening his embrace on the trembling knight. “You will never live without me. I will always be in your heart, waiting for you in the force. No matter what happens today, please know that this isn’t said just because of the situation we find ourselves in.” Obi-Wan pulled back and looked up at him, quizzically. “I may not know the ins and outs of your life, I may not know your favorite color or how you like your tea, but those are things I can learn over time. I don’t need time to know that I love the man you are, Obi-Wan Kenobi. No matter what happens, I want you to know you were loved by this old man.”

Obi-Wan pulled away and started pacing as the words came crashing down on him. “I don’t want a dying declaration! It sounds like you are giving up.” Qui-Gon could feel the harsh emotions rolling off him. “I can’t…” Obi-Wan crashed down to his knees, knowing he was falling apart when he was meant to be strong for Qui-Gon.’ What good was this doing either of them’, he thought to himself.

At his side once again, kneeling before him Qui-Gon let his fingers run slightly over his cheek. “I’m not giving up. I will fight for the light, I will fight for you. I am however a realist and I just wanted you to know. I’m sorry if it upset you or you don’t feel the same.” That seemed to stop the knight’s trembling and got his attention but before he could respond, the door once again slid open to reveal Mace.

“The council is getting impatient, I’m sorry but we must go.” Mace looked at his kneeling padawan and yearned to protect him from this pain, but he watched as he stood up and brushed his tunics off, the mask of calm settling over his face.

“We’re ready.” Obi-Wan didn’t look back at Qui-Gon, as he walked out the door, pretending to be the perfect Jedi that everyone expected once more. Qui-Gon falling in step behind him, wishing they had been able to finish but time had run out. It was time to face the past, the present and what the future may hold.

As the four of them approached the council chambers, they were met by others that were waiting in the anti-chamber. Cody and Rex were standing almost at attention, shoulders brushing slightly to keep contact with the other. Shmi, Anakin and Padme were sitting together and speaking quietly when they all noticed Qui-Gon arrive.

Obi-Wan stepped closer to Qui-Gon as he approached the clones, watching him reach out to them, embracing their forearms in a sign of friendship and respect. “You didn’t have to be here.” Qui-Gon offered to all of them.

It was Cody that broke the silence. “Where else would we be when our family needs us?” Obi-Wan still felt a bit jealous of the dark haired Mandalorian, even knowing his love for Qui-Gon was unrequited. He was jealous of the time and knowledge the man had.

“You honor me, Cody. I hope you are taking good care of him, Rex?” The blonde nodded, knowing that he never wanted to be on Qui-Gon’s bad side. “Shmi, Padme, I appreciate your support as well.” Then he kneeled down and was level with the young Anakin who was for once just staring and not bouncing off the walls.

“I can’t…” The boy choked a bit on his words, “see anything.” And suddenly Qui-Gon had an arm full of sobbing teenager. Qui-Gon gently rubbed his back, offering soothing words as Shmi and Mace tried to intervene but were waved off. “I see nothing. The force won’t answer me.”

Pushing the boy back, so he could see Qui-Gon’s face, he spoke softly. “The force doesn’t answer to our will, Ani. I met a young boy, not long ago, on a desert planet; he was an initiate for the Guardians of the Whills. He had just lost his sight and was struggling to re-learn everything in his life. I thought for sure, that such an event would break someone, but not him.” Qui-Gon continued his story, watching Anakin wipe at the tears upon his face. “I asked him before I left how he kept on, how he managed to press on in such odds. He told me, ‘everything is as the force wills it.’ He had such faith, even after such a tragedy. Here was a young boy, not even Jedi and he believed in the will of the force more than I. It was a humbling experience, but I learned much from that young man.”

“But, why would the force will your death!” Anakin stood and ran back to his master, wrapped up in Mace’s embrace as he tried to calm himself.

Qui-Gon approached but didn’t reach out to the boy again. “Everyone has a part to play in our galaxy, Anakin and it’s not always going to be the way we wish it. But I believe in the force. There is no death, only the force.” Anakin turned and hugged him tightly. “No matter what happens, I will be with you, but promise me something?” Qui-Gon whispered low enough that only Mace would be able to hear, but the boy nodded. “If I don’t come back, don’t let Obi-Wan be alone, he’s your brother and will need you.”

The doors to the main chamber opened, turning everyone’s attention back to the moment, but Anakin hugged Qui-Gon and whispered into his ear, “I promise.” And then he let go to stand by his master’s side again.

Master Gallia approached the crowd solemnly. “It is time, Qui-Gon. You must come in alone.” She looked back at Obi-Wan with sympathy in her eyes.

“He’s not doing this alone. I will be by his side or he won’t be doing it.” Qui-Gon could see the negotiator coming out, pride filling him. “Shall we begin, or do we continue on with a more pleasant day?”  

Adi turned to Mace and Yoda, as the council seemed to talk amongst their bond. “Begin, we will. Know not how long this will be.” Master Yoda offered to those that were here for support. Mace calmed his Padawan and set him next to his mother.  Cody and Rex stood guard over the others, letting Qui-Gon know that they would help them, no matter the outcome.

Mace, Yoda and Adi walked through the chamber doors, taking their places among the council of twelve, which left Qui-Gon standing quietly next to Obi-Wan. “Qui-Gon Jinn, it’s time for the force to judge what’s in your heart.” The council all spoke at once, repeating ancient words of ceremony.

Obi-Wan reached out and held tightly to the larger hand, walking side by side, they entered the chamber, the doors closing behind them. “I love you.” Obi-Wan spoke softly, wishing he had said it earlier, but he would have no regrets today. Qui-Gon squeezed his hand and then let go, approaching the circle of masters.

“I give myself to the force, to judge what lies in my heart and my soul.” Qui-Gon then kneeled down and waited their verdict. Obi-Wan was unsure where to go, so he settled to the side of Mace’s council chair, closing his eyes to feel the force around them. The power of the council was immense, sending a chill down his body.

“Long ago, there were Jedi among us that skirted the area between light and dark. They believed in balance over everything else. The Jedi accepted them as brethren, even though it was a fine line to walk. There were a few that crossed the line of grey into the blackness, and for that reason, we are here today.” It was Mace that had been chosen to speak for the council. “Qui-Gon Jinn, the council has proclaimed you a Grey Jedi, the first to walk among us in ages, however because of your connection with the Sith, we must ensure that you have no crossed that forbidden line. Do you agree to abide by the judgement of the council?”

“Everything is as the force wills it. I give myself over for judgement.” Obi-Wan noticed that the man kneeling before the twelve strongest force users in the galaxy was not cowered. He kneeled proudly with his head held high.

The council members nodded to Mace as they all connected to each other. “There are several steps to this ceremony, are you aware of them, Qui-Gon Jinn?” Until the end of the ceremony they were forbidden from calling him Master, and it was a bitter taste in Mace’s mouth.

“I am, just start already.” Qui-Gon growled. Obi-Wan wasn’t aware of the ceremony details, but had assumed they would be explained. That Qui-Gon had known and kept it from him gave him a bad feeling about what was about to happen.

“What exactly are the steps, Masters?” Obi-Wan refused to learn as they went.

“Knight Kenobi, you are here against our better judgement, we would ask you to observe and stay quiet.” It was Master Oppo Rancisis that answered abruptly.

“I will do everything in my power to stop this if you do not tell me what is being hidden from me, exactly what does this ceremony do?” Obi-Wan stepped into the circle directly behind Qui-Gon as if protecting a mate.

There was more murmuring before Master Yoda spoke softly, “Several stages of this ceremony there are. The first connected the council’s mind to Qui-gon we must. Time this can take. Fight his subconscious we may have to. Once connected, second stage there is. Probe his mind, the council will, see his actions as if we had been there we will.” Yoda swallowed, continuing. “If fall over to the dark, his actions show, then end the ceremony does with a judgement of death.”

“What? This ancient ceremony amounts to twelve council members raping his mind? Most cannot take just a few souls inside their shields without going mad and you think he can withstand twelve of the strongest minds in the Jedi?” Obi-Wan was livid that no one told him, including Qui-Gon.

“Obi-Wan, it’s ok. This is the only way.” Obi-Wan turned on Qui-Gon, his eyes full of fury. “I knew what this entailed and I didn’t want you to worry.”

“You can’t! There will be nothing left even if he hasn’t touched the darkness. You are all planning to kill him or leave him a vegetable in his own mind.” Obi-Wan was losing control as he lashed out at everyone in the room only to feel twelve minds offer him calm.

“If stay you will, control you must have.” Obi-Wan fell to his knees next to Qui-Gon, feeling utterly defeated. “If pass the second stage, judged by the light Qui-Gon Jinn will be. Darkness cannot hide from the wall of light. Depends on the depth what happens it does if fight Qui-Gon does, then death still an option, if succumb to the light, force null he may forever be. If the light judges him worthy, embraced he will be by the Jedi once more.” Obi-Wan turned to Qui-Gon, “Please…don’t do this.”

“Trust in the force, My Knight, trust in me. I am ready, Masters.” Qui-Gon bowed his head, starting to lower his shields for them.

“Wait!” Obi-Wan turned to Qui-Gon and grasped his hand tightly. “If you must go inside his mind, allow him an anchor? Let me keep him from going mad.” All the members started whispering softly to those around them. “Obi-Wan, if you are his anchor we could lose you both.” Mace said sadly.

“We will not allow this, to lose one bad enough but two.” Adi spoke up.

“He is a Knight of the order and has a bond with Qui-Gon already, to not allow this would be torture to Obi-Wan.” Plo Koon spoke forcefully, offering Obi-Wan hope.

“Allow it we will.” Yoda’s ears drooped, looking all his 800 years suddenly.

Obi-Wan sighed in relief as he settled next to Qui-Gon. “Don’t do this Obi; I don’t want you to see…”

“We do this together or not at all. If you have faith in the force, have faith in me?” He brushed his shoulder against Qui-Gon’s and saw the answer in his eyes. “We are ready.”

Chapter Text

The two men kneeled before the council of twelve, Obi-Wan reached out to Qui-Gon’s mind first to tether it to his own, to present a safe haven for what was to come.  He considered Qui-Gon, seeing his shoulders tense and his features scrunch up at the intrusion. “It’s just me. You need to try and relax, Qui. I know that you don’t want me to witness this, but I promise there is no judgement, only love.” Obi-Wan paused a moment and watched as his shoulders relaxed merely a tad and stretched out to clasp their hands together. “That’s it, let me in…” Qui-Gon’s shields fell one by one in opposition to the light that was his Obi-Wan. They both shut their eyes and became lost in the connection.

Obi-Wan improved his center and grinned at the image before them. They were in the gardens, next to Qui-Gon’s tree, Banyan. It was flourishing, green and beautiful. Qui-Gon let go of the younger man’s hand and approached the tree, eager to greet it. “Banyan.” The single word sounded like a prayer as the man reached out a shaky hand to caress its bark. 

Obi-Wan drew near, not wanting to interrupt the intimate moment but sniggered softly to himself as he watched the Jedi almost hug the tree. “Growing up, the crechlings, well one in particular, used to call those with a heavy connection to the living force, Tree huggers.” Qui-Gon glanced back and gave a small laugh, feeling happy in the company of his two greatest friends.

“Well, I suppose that your particular friend was not wrong. Banyan and I have had a long complicated past, but I have missed him these last years.” Obi-Wan thought of Banyan’s current state and frowned, wondering if he should tell the Master what had happened, but as quickly as the thought had formed, the tree twisted and burned right before Qui-Gon’s eyes.  “NOOooo!” He cried out, trying to rush closer to its flames, knowing that nothing would stop its fate. “What have I done?” Qui-Gon fell to his knees, his eyes hidden in his palms, looking up into the black, warped wood.

“I’m sorry Qui, I didn’t want to tell you now, but I guess with our minds connected there will be no secrets.” Just as the words left his lips, they both felt the intrusion of the first council member, Master Yoda. They felt his soft caress and love flowing through them, offering hope before the other’s came. The rest of the council members then followed; one by one each with their own thoughts and judgements for what was to come. On the outside Qui-Gon’s body was still and motionless but on the inside he started to hold his head and scream at the many intrusions. “Don’t fight them, Qui. No matter what happens, we are together. I will let nothing harm you.”

Qui-Gon quickly lifted red and irritated eyes to Obi-Wan, “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.” The final council member was finally submerged in Qui-Gon’s mind, the pressure showing physically and emotionally on both forms of Qui-Gon. On the outside, beads of sweat were running down his face, his body tensed and ridged.

“Start we must, ready we need all be.” The words were spoken as the gardens around them changed swiftly. They were all on a war torn planet with explosions and screams coming from every direction, but as they turned around they saw a young woman, with rounded belly, she screamed and let out one last push collapsing against a young man that gently stroked her hair. The only noise was that coming from outside the room, the bombs and shrieks of war. “Why is he not crying?” The woman began to fret and strained to grab for the newborn, but was overcome with relief when the small form was placed on her chest, bright blue eyes looking at them both, unfocused. “Qui-Gon…” The young man whispered before they were whisked ahead in time to the same planet, the explosions no longer around them, but the devastation was overwhelming. Obi-Wan looked around the area, dead bodies everywhere, but then a soft cry grabbed their attention as they approached the dirty and starving infant, maybe no more than three months old in the arms of the same young woman, her body decaying for maybe a day.

“My mother,” Qui-Gon whispered softly.

They all watched for a moment as the infant let out a blood curdling scream. “Shush, little one.” A young woman, dressed in Jedi robes gently released his mother’s grip and he started to cry even more. “I know, I know. You’ve been a brave boy and your mother has protected you the best she could.” The Jedi wrapped the warmth of the force around the bundle and he immediately stopped his fussing and started cooing softly.

“You will be protected and watched over, I promise.” She looked down at a small bracelet wrapped around his wrist, a common practice for a planet in the throes of war for identification if the parents died. “Well Qui-Gon Jinn, you will be part of our Jedi family now.”

The images came faster after that, as they watched the boy grow from infant, to toddler, to full-fledged initiate. Qui-Gon was small for his age, but still brighter in the light than most anyone in the creche. They all watched as a dark-skinned boy pulled at his hair and called him names. Obi-Wan cringed at the sight, knowing this was his beloved master at his worst. “Did you hug your tree today, Qui-Baby?” Mace and his friends all laughed at him, but Qui-Gon never flinched. He just looked at the boys and smiled. “Banyan is quite well today, I’m sure he would enjoy if you spent time with him too.”

“Why are you so…weird?” One of the kids stammered.

“Let’s leave the freak alone. It’s not like he has any real friends, just trees and old trolls.” Obi-Wan watched the young boys face fall at the words and his heart ached to soothe him, but just as quickly as they came, they were off once more. They observed as Qui-Gon grew from a small boy, into a massive one in minutes. Obi-Wan watched as the quiet boy was accepted as a padawan by Yoda and overcame his bully, Mace to become friends. It all seemed so normal to Obi-Wan, but he wondered how it felt to be an open book, to feel so vulnerable before thirteen minds. It seemed unfair and untoward. As memory after memory came and went quickly, they were suddenly stopped.

There was a smooth, black-haired boy, standing before Qui-Gon. He appeared as he did now, just younger with less grey in his hair. Obi-Wan was once again ensnared by how beautiful the man was to him. Then he shrugged those thoughts off and focused on the moment. “You’ve got a lot of anger in you, Xanatos. Many Jedi have warned me of this fact and wonder if the AgriCorps might be in your best interests, but I refuse to see that. I see a young boy that just needs guidance and support. Xanatos DeCrion, will you become my padawan?” Qui-Gon looked at the shadows that were playing before him, he closed his eyes in pain at what was once a proud moment. If only he had listened, or tried harder, he would have the Knight by his side and not a monster fallen to the darkness. Qui-Gon felt a small caress through the force, Obi-Wan sent his love and support, knowing that this is where things got harder. “I truly thought I knew best. I didn’t listen and that boy paid for my sins.”

As the words poured from his lips, the years passed before them as they all watched the young padawan, turn into a man. They saw as Qui-Gon loved, taught and cherished his ward and observed Xanatos take advantage of that love time and time again.

“I can’t do this.” The words were gentle, and the force started to swirl about them both. Obi-Wan could feel through their connection that the council members were pushing forward, not relenting in their quest for darkness. “I can’t relive this again.” Qui-Gon kneeled to the ground and held his head in his large hands, sobbing as his mind felt torn apart.

“Don’t fight it, Qui-Gon that way leads to madness, or worse.” Obi-Wan knelt before the man and gently ran his fingers through the long hair, trying to offer some comfort for what was to come.

“I c-can’t.” His teeth seemed to chatter as his body tried to fight their intrusion into his private thoughts and memories. “P-please don’t do this?”

The council of twelve’s voice startled them both as they all spoke in unison, “Qui-Gon Jinn, you agreed to this ritual and we will see that the light shines over the dark.”

“Fuck you!” Qui-Gon stood up immediately. His eyes flew open as Obi-Wan backed away. He gasped as the yellow irises looked back at him, full of fury and hate. Their surroundings suddenly turned to nothingness, as the dark started to fall.

“Qui-Gon, don’t give in now, fight. Fight for me, fight for the clones, fight for…yourself!” Obi-Wan tried to move closer, only to be shoved away by a ghost from the past.  He looked over at Qui-Gon who was dazed and lost, but then looked into the eyes of this shadow. Long black hair, covered pale skin with a half circled scar under his eye, Xanatos.

“You think you can replace me? You think he will love you?” Xanatos pointed and smiled at Qui-Gon. “You won’t and he can’t. He lost that ability a long time ago, to me! I loved him, and he told me to go run off and play with my age-mates. At every turn, I was rebuffed, until I found someone that would love me and he killed him!”

This was the shadow of the man that haunted Qui-Gon’s very being for years, a manifestation of all his memories and fears, this was a part of the darkness that haunted him. “I pity you.” Obi-Wan ignited his saber, the blue light reflecting off his skin to glow in the darkness.

“The only pitiful one here is Qui-Gon Jinn.” Xanatos engaged his own saber and the two began to duel. It seemed like hours, but really only seconds as Xanatos gained the upper hand and held his saber to Obi-Wan’s throat. “Now I will take everything from him, as he DESERVES!”

Just as Obi-Wan had dropped his saber in defeat, he gazed into Xanatos’ eyes and saw the look of horror and surprise written on his features. “You will take no more from me. You made your choice and I have dwelt in those selections for far too long. Goodbye, my Xani.” Obi-Wan rose and viewed the two men, flinching as Qui-Gon deactivated his sword and Xanatos’ body disappeared before them.

Just as the darkness was subsiding around them, the council was once again back in control.  The air around Qui-Gon dissipated to show the meeting chambers, a young version of Obi-Wan and Mace stood before the Council of Twelve.

“I take Obi-Wan Kenobi as my padawan learner.” The words echoed through the council chamber as Mace’s large gentle hands embraced the small boy’s shoulders. Obi-Wan was shocked to see himself so young and so full of fear at the future.

“Take him I will, if he will have me. This young boy is meant for so much more. We all respect your words of wisdom, but your feelings of attachment for your old padawan must be called into question.” This was the moment that had forever changed both of their lives. This was the moment of their lost chances. It was the shatter point that Mace had seen and prevented. “No one loves Qui-Gon quite like you do, but we all see what he’s become. We’ve all tried to reach out to the empty shell and breathe life into him. Yes, this boy may be that life, but at what cost? We cannot push them together in hopes of bringing back our Jinn just to lose such a spark of life.”

Qui-Gon held his chin up, remembering the connection that he felt between him and the young Obi-Wan Kenobi.  It was a connection that would have made them a powerful master and apprentice team, and its loss started to infuriate him. “This was the moment he stole what was mine.”

There was a boast of laughter from deep within the shadows, as a voice cackled gleefully. “They took everything from you, my apprentice.” Obi-Wan ran to Qui-Gon’s side only to be thrown away like a doll. “You will not touch him again, he’s mine!”

Qui-Gon’s sad eyes turned toward him, as he kneeled once more to the ground, his head bowing to the floor in supplication. “My life for you, just don’t hurt him.” Obi-Wan felt the moment in time warp and realized that this was when it all started. Qui-Gon had given his light, his love for a newly branded Knight that he barely knew.

Before he could speak, the memories flashed and they all watched the physical, mental and sexual abuse that Sidious had made the Jedi Master endure, but through it all, in private moments, they watched as the man kneeled before the force and whispered for its comfort, its forgiveness. They viewed as he calculated and plotted to hide Jedi from the dark master’s grasp. The entire three years, seemed to fly by in moments. They observed his kindness and protection of the clones that were bred for nothing but war. One man, one clone with unconditional love that would protect Qui-Gon no matter what, they watched it all unfold.

Obi-Wan cried as he relived the instant that Qui-Gon sacrificed everything in the name of the Galaxy, expecting to become one with the force forever. Just as quickly as everything flew by, it suddenly stopped, leaving Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon back in the gardens, in front of Banyan, the twisted and warped tree.

“I was connected to him, completely. When I chose the darkness to save everyone, he was my sacrifice.” Qui-Gon reached up to gently caress the bark.

“Qui-Gon, what are you afraid of, truly? This is the crux of the darkness you feel.” Obi-Wan approached him but did not caress.

“Everything I touch turns to ash, to blackness. I, I’m afraid to touch you, to give into your light and taint you with my darkness.” Obi-Wan smiled slightly and moved closer upon the man. “How can you smile and act like this isn’t the truth of it all?” The young man didn’t say a word, but just pressed against his body and wrapped his arms around Qui-Gon’s waist, turning him slightly to face the tree.

“Look…” Obi-Wan reached up and pointed to a petite branch that had a small green bud. “Through the darkness and ash, light can be reborn and flourish.” Qui-Gon gawked at the small fledgling leaf and let out a broken sob, turning into Obi-Wan’s arms and feeling the warmth of the light against his skin.

“Anything is possible as long as we breathe. Walk the light with me and learn to forgive yourself?” Obi-Wan lifted the man’s chin to gaze into watery eyes. Just as he was about to answer, the council of twelve withdrew, severing the connection between them all.

The council chamber was silent, except for the panting coming from Qui-Gon. Obi-Wan opened his eyes to discover he truly had an armful of Jedi Master. Qui-Gon was alive, he was breathing, if a little worse for wear. “There is nothing we can’t do together.” Obi-Wan brushed his lips against the wet bearded cheek.

Someone cleared their throat to bring them back into the moment. “Passed, this trial Qui-Gon has. To endure what we saw, not many can. To come out, with a semblance of any light, almost impossible. Sorry for all that this council had to put you through, I am.” Yoda knew that invading his padawan’s mind would forever haunt him, but it was something he could live with, as long as his Padawan was still breathing.

“Obi-Wan, you must take your place outside the council circle.” Mace frowned and offered comfort through their bond. “You can stand with Qui-Gon in many things, but for this he must go alone. The force will be his guide.”

Qui-Gon watched as Obi-Wan fought his own demons, wanting desperately to cling to the older man and beg them to just accept that he wasn’t one with the darkside. Then Obi-Wan became still and gasped at the utter look of devotion and love on Qui-Gon’s face. He would love him with or without the force and he was ready to stand judgement. It was a moment of pride for all that knew and loved him. “I am ready for the light’s judgement. If darkness has crept too far, then I pray the force will forsake me, even if that means death.”

“The council prays that you find comfort, no matter the outcome. You are our brother Qui-Gon Jinn and will always be one of us. For all that you have sacrificed, we will not strike you from our rolls, we will remove your name from the fallen. You have earned your place among us, with or without judgement.” Mace’s voice wavered at the last words. Standing from their chairs, the twelve members concentrated their auras into the light, concentrating it all in the center of the room. The wall of light embraced Qui-Gon Jinn ready for its judgement.

Obi-Wan strained to see the man through the blinding light, but failed. He heard the screams, and paled at their meaning. Was this it, was this the end? Would Qui-Gon survive under such extreme scrutiny, he wondered if any Jedi could. The moments ticked by, the council members looking drawn and weak as the connection was abruptly stopped and the chamber once again dimmed.

They all looked to the center, the large man toppled over against the floor, his body not moving. The twelve ached to reach out, but each had fear in their hearts, even when their own codes forbid such a thing. Mace glanced over to Obi-Wan as the young man cried and ran to the center. “Qui-Gon? NO, please…Qui-Gon.” He rolled the man over, searching for a pulse, for his aura in the force, anything to tell him this wasn’t happening. “I love you, please don’t leave me.” Obi-Wan buried his face into Qui-Gon’s chest and started to sob, when unexpectedly the force flared to life underneath him, a heart beating stronger than ever before.

“Welcome back, Master Jinn. Take good care of him, my Ben.” Mace smiled at the two and the council filed out of the room to give them privacy. Obi-Wan wasn’t even sure he heard what was said, he only had eyes for the man beneath him, the one that had braved everything, even darkness to keep him safe.

“Obi-Wan…” It was said as a blessing to the force, before Qui-Gon closed his eyes and passed out from exhaustion. They had time now, time to heal and get to know the other. The force had provided and comforted in their greatest time of need, Obi-Wan would never forget that.

“Sleep for the moment, my warrior. You have fought well.” Obi-Wan moved Qui-Gon’s head into his lap, running his fingers softly through his hair. He knew that they should get up and let the other’s know all was well, but they could wait. It all could wait.”

Chapter Text

Heavy eyes opened to the intense lights overhead, taking a moment to focus. Qui-Gon struggled to keep them ajar, the brilliant light making his eyes water. “Lights at twenty percent.” It was a smooth honeyed accent that chased away the sluggishness; it was a tender voice that said everything would be OK. “Would you like some water?”

Qui-Gon shifted his head from the pillow, trying to sit up only to fall back from weakness. “Water would be a kindness.” Blinking his eyes a few times to try and bring the room into focus, he finally saw the stunning face that complemented the voice, it was his Obi-Wan, but something wasn’t quite right. Dark circles were under his eyes, facial hair starting to sprout into the beginnings of a beard. He was still as beautiful as ever, but there were worry lines etched between his brows, it was the look of a man whom had been awake for days. “Sip, slowly.” A straw was held between his lips as the precious cold liquid soothed his parched throat. Taking more of a gulp than a sip, he started to cough and choke. “I said sip, not inhale.” There was a nudge of amusement through the force, but he barely felt it and panicked blue eyes met with grey-green ones.

Qui-Gon’s eyes were watering again, this time from choking on the water. Each cough reminded him how much his body ached. Why was that? It wasn’t as if he had been in a battle. He then realized someone was speaking once again. “Qui, don’t you dare fall asleep again!” Obi-Wan sounded so desperate and sad.

“Why…sad?” That was a sentence he could be proud of after years of diplomacy, but he felt his strength waning with each moment. He focused again on the man that risked everything with him, seeing his tear-stained cheeks.

“You’ve been in a coma for almost two tens, Qui-Gon. They…told me that you might not make it back, that I would have to help you back or help you into the force. The master’s tried to force me to leave, but I…” Obi-wan held the pale and cool hand in his, squeezing it for comfort. “I couldn’t leave you. I could hardly feel you through the force.”

“Oh, Obi.”  The last thing in the world he wanted to do was hurt Obi-Wan, he could feel the ache in both their souls. “Come?” He tugged gently on his hand, scooting to the edge of the bed to make room.

“They are threatening to throw me out. If they find me in bed with you, they will almost certainly force me to go.” Qui-Gon thought that the blush that crept up his neck and into his cheeks was the loveliest vision ever. The words kept coming out of those beautiful lips but Qui-Gon only tugged harder, pulling him closer.

“I will protect you from the mean healers. They can’t throw you out, if you are attached to me.” The mischievous smile made all the past worries slip into focus once more and he had an arm full of crying Jedi. “Shh, my only one, I have you.” The two wrapped their bodies around each other, finding comfort and shelter together.

“I could barely feel you, needed you to wake up.” There was a hiccup between his words as Qui-Gon’s heart leapt with each sob. His hands came to rest on his rising chest, to feel the reassurance that the man was still alive. “The healers weren’t sure if…”

Qui-Gon pulled Obi-Wan as close to his body as possible, the warmth reminding him how exhausted he still was, he could only imagine how tired his Obi-Wan was. “It’s ok, Obi-Wan, feel me, I’m here. You’re so tired, it’s all overwhelming right now, sleep with me?” He felt the lithe body pressed against him flinch at the word sleep. “It’s ok now, my love. You no longer need watch over me, we can watch over the other in our dreams. Sleep…” Qui-Gon felt a bit guilty that he used the force behind the word, but there is little reasoning with a mind that had been that sleep deprived.  As he stroked Obi-Wan’s back and settled his head underneath his chin, he closed his own eyes and let the darkness of sleep once again descend.

The next time blue eyes opened to the bright lights of the room, it was much easier to orient himself, the force feeling stronger than the first time. Qui-Gon felt heaviness against his chest and looked down to smile at the still sleeping form of Obi-Wan Kenobi, the man that had went through hell for him. ‘How do you even say thank you for such a thing?’ he thought to himself. ‘Thank you seems like such hollow words.’

“I don’t need to be thanked for loving you, Qui-Gon.” It was a sleepy murmur whispered against his chest as the sinful body stretched against him, making Qui-Gon groan with desire. “Although, I’m sure we might be able to find a way to show each other later.” It was a teasing tone, which made Qui-Gon relax once more, knowing that the sleep must have helped. “I can feel you, in my mind.” The words were said reverently.

Qui-Gon shut his eyes and delved into the force for the first time in days, feeling the living force blossom around him. He could see the normal blue strands inside his mind, but wrapped in each was a soft faint green glow. Hesitantly, he touched one of the strands and gasped at the feeling. “My love…”

He felt Obi-Wan’s arms wrap tighter around him at the endearment. “Perhaps it wasn’t the way we imagined, but we are bonded by the force. Any regrets?” Qui-Gon turned the Knight’s face to look into his exquisite eyes, not wanting him to misunderstand any of his words. “The only regret that I have is that you had to suffer for this to happen, but I do not regret my love for you, Obi-Wan.” He then opened his end of the bond fully, collapsing inner shields that he had held steady since he was a toddler.

“All is as the force wills it. I would suffer through it all again, to be in this moment with you.” The words were uttered tenderly as he mimicked his bondmate and lowered his shields.  Allowing him to feel and know everything that was Obi-Wan Kenobi.

“Oh.” It was the only thing either could say, as they lived each other’s memories, both the joy and the sorrow. Obi-Wan saw as Qui-Gon grew up and saw firsthand, Mace’s mean words and deeds. He saw the happiness of a Knight made Master after his first padawan, Feemor. He was such a joy to work with, but it was different than raising a knight from childhood. He felt the longing after Feemor had left and swiftly watched as Qui-Gon took a solemn raven-haired child into his guidance. Just as quickly as the pride and happiness were there, it had turned to sorrow and guilt. He watched Xanatos turn his blade on his master, the guilt building day by day, year by year. He saw the Master try to reach out to those at the temple, only to be told to get over it. He saw as those friends that cared, stopped asking when turned away. Then it all flashed to a single hallway in the temple, bright blue-green eyes locking with blue as they both gasped. He was seeing himself through Qui-Gon’s for the first time and clutched tightly to the man as they both shared their lives in a moment.

“Qui-Gon Jinn, I love you for all the good and the bad. You are not made up of parts, but you are a whole of my heart. I know that we still have many demons to face together, but I do not wish to be apart. I want to help you through the every moment. Will you have me as a partner in life?”

“My angel, my all, I can only live with you wholly or not at all. There is no between for us. I can still see the good and the bad when I look back, but it is all beautiful because it led me to you. I would be your partner, your lover, your everything if you would find me worthy.” They were gentle words and eloquent thoughts that surprised Obi-Wan even now. He really was a gentle giant that was horribly misunderstood by so many. It made him yearn to protect and shelter that gentle heart.

Knowing that he could not speak finer words, Obi-Wan twisted and pressed a light kiss to dry lips. “Yes, yes to all.” It was a chaste kiss that warmed their bodies, Qui-Gon lightly licking his lips to taste his precious love.  

“May I kiss you again?” Qui-Gon blushed shyly, feeling like a teenage padawan once again. He would not take more than was asked for. Obi-Wan just nodded his head and moved closer to let Qui-Gon’s lips reach up to meet his, their lips pressing against each other in playful exploration. Passion brewed slowly behind the closeness, but it didn’t overwhelm the pair, Obi-Wan opened his lips to allow Qui-Gon entrance. Their tongues were gently touching, tasting the other as they moaned slightly at the contact.

“If finished you are, visitors you have.” There was a cough and a small giggle heard, as the dazed men broke their kiss and looked towards the doors. Master Yoda was followed by Mace and Anakin, whom all wore grins that knew they had interrupted something.  “Snogging wait until later it can. Humph.”

“Yes, my master.” Qui-Gon would always be his young padawan; he would never want it any other way.

“Obi-Wan, Mom has been cooking all week for when you both get released. You shouldn’t have to cook anything for at least three tens. I think she has to have an outlet when she worries about those she loves.”

Obi-Wan looked at the young man, suddenly choked up by those words. He knew that Shmi was found of him, but to know that she loved him as family. He was honored.

~How could anyone know you and not love you?~ Obi-Wan smiled at the soft words in his mind. He would never tire of having this man bound to him so tightly.

“That was very sweet of your mother. Please tell her that we thank her. She will have to come over and share some of her bounty with us.” Qui-Gon interjected, knowing Obi-Wan was a bit overwhelmed with the emotion.

“Invited, I better be.” Yoda cackled softly, knowing that Shmi was the best cook in the temple. “Come we have with news, social call this isn’t.”

Qui-Gon tensed against Obi-Wan, as panic started to set in. ~Breath my love, match my heart. Nothing can harm us together.~  Adoration and reassurance ran through their bond, as the quickly hitching breath slowed back to normal.  “What is the news, my master?” Qui-Gon forced his voice to be calm.

“Released you are to your own quarters. Passed one of the hardest tests ever given to a Jedi, you were Qui-Gon. One of us you will always be, have something that belongs to you, I do.” Yoda handed the large metal cylinder to Anakin, allowing him to walk it over to the older master. “Master Jinn, May the force be with you, always.”

Qui-Gon took the lightsaber in hand, feeling the light wrapped around it. This wasn’t the hated weapon that he wielded against the darkness, this wasn’t filled with a ruby kyber crystal, and this was wrapped in the living force. He knew when he ignited the saber, it would be a brilliant green, and it was as the force willed it. “Thank you, Master. I will never again let you down.”

“Let me down, you never did. Failed we did in getting help when needed it you did. Never will I ever ignore those in need again. New programs implemented will they be. Soul Healers will be required. Love you, I do, Qui-Gon. Happy you are home I am.” The master just smiled and tapped his way back out the doors, leaving a stunned Qui-Gon in his wake.

“He does like to make an exit. How are you feeling, both of you?” Mace approached the bed, with Anakin right behind him.

“Better, I really needed to rest.” Obi-Wan blushed, knowing Mace had told him that a million times before Qui-Gon awoke. “If we are really getting out of here, I have many things to do. Our single quarters will not work anymore. I need to contact the quarter master.

“No need, Obi-Wan. We took care of that for you and had all your things moved.” Mace smiled as Anakin quickly interjected, “You are on our floor, just a few doors away!” Obi-Wan chuckled at the young padawan’s giddiness and once again was a bit sad for the loss of guiding him.

“Well I guess that means that we will be seeing a lot of both of you.” Qui-Gon reached down and ran his hand over the padawan’s spikey hair. “I’m ready to get out of here, my love. How about you?” Obi-Wan just nodded and blushed at the endearment once more, knowing it was said in front of others.

“Blech, are they always going to be this mushy?” Anakin made a face as Mace laughed.

“I’m afraid so, and it might get worse. You better get used to it. Just make sure if you visit that you knock before opening any doors.” They all laughed, it was a beautiful sound.

Just then their healer entered and smiled at the men lying on the bed. “I told you, that you needed sleep Knight Kenobi. If I knew you just needed a security blanket, I would have pushed you into his bed sooner. Are we ready to go home?”

“Yes!” They both said it at the same time.

“Well, I know we are an acquired taste, but at least pretend that we aren’t so bad. Mace, Anakin, may I have a moment alone with them?” The healer had a few things that still needed to be addressed and it was best to keep it between them.

“Absolutely, we will see you both later. We are glad you are ok, Qui-Gon. You take good care of my former padawan.” Mace smiled and escorted Anakin out the door.

The healer took a seat next to the bed, looking them both over. “Physically, you are fine, Qui-Gon. Everything has healed nicely and you have been cleared for light duty. I would suggest starting with half speed katas and work up to what you feel comfortable with. I know you, don’t overdo it or you will end up back in here.”

“She really does know you.” Obi-Wan chuckled, knowing he was the same exact way.

“I promise to listen to my body; I have great reason to stay out of your clutches now.” Qui-Gon pulled his knight closer.

“Yes, you do, which is the next subject and what I’m truly worried about. Qui-Gon, you’ve been through more than anyone I’ve ever come in contact with. Not only the prior trauma with your former padawan, but the abuse you endured at the Sith’s hands.” She observed as Qui-Gon’s body tensed, knowing that Obi-Wan was offering his support.  “The fact that even mentioning it in general is causing you anxiety needs to be addressed. You will be cleared for temple duty, but there will be no missions until the Soul Healers sign off. This was mandated by not only myself but the council.” She watched as Qui-Gon’s head fell slightly, guilt and fear radiating off him.

“It’s ok, Qui-Gon. You need this, we need this.” Obi-Wan turned the head his way to look deep into those haunted eyes.

“I’m glad you feel that way Obi-Wan because you have the same orders. You’ve both been through so much. Your bond will allow for no secrets, you will feel what he does and vice versa. I won’t lie to either of you; there will be more bad days, then good at first, but eventually the good will out weigh the bad.”

Qui-Gon just nodded to the healer, his excitement at getting out of the halls quickly replaced by the fear of talking, of reliving past moments. “This is not a punishment, Qui-Gon Jinn. This is what should have been done for you long ago, and we are righting a great wrong against you. Trust in us, even though we have not earned it, I promise you will be better for it.” She reached out her hand and offered it to them both.

“I will be by his side, every step of the way and I will do whatever is necessary for us. “Obi-Wan spoke forcefully, trying to project his commitment to the shaking man next to him.

“Qui-Gon?” The healer jostled his hand just a bit.

“Why? It’s over. I don’t need to live through that again.” His eyes closed, pulling away from both Obi-Wan and the healer, his arms wrapping around his body for protection. “It’s over, he can’t-t hur-t-t me any-anymore.” The stuttering in the normally smooth voice worried them both.

“Qui, look at me, please.” Obi-Wan pleaded, flinching when Qui-Gon pulled away more. “Qui, please? I know you are scared, ashamed, and even angry about the past years, but nothing can touch you that way again. But if you leave it to fester like Xanatos, do you remember Naboo, before you were…”

“Of course I remember!” His voice rose, as did his head, cold eyes staring back at Obi-Wan. “It was that failure and weakness that brought that monster into my life, into…y-your life!” Qui-Gon started sweeping the room for an escape route, he felt trapped.

“You are not trapped here, Qui-Gon. If you wish to get up and walk out, we will not stop you.” Obi-Wan’s words were smooth and even. “I do not wish you to leave me, but you do have a choice, you always have a choice, we will not take that from you, like he did.” That was the crutch of this problem, and the healer smiled, knowing that Obi-Wan would be good for the older man.

“Don’t want to leave.”

“Then stay, with me, but you need help. We need help. Will you do this with me?” Obi-Wan opened his hand, palm side up in front of the still shaking man. “I won’t leave you, you won’t do this alone.”

Qui-Gon unfolded his arms, his heart still beating rapidly with anxiety and panic as he placed his hand gently in the open palm. “I know Master Yoda would hit me for this, but I will try.”

“Sometimes, try is all we can do, Qui-Gon. That troll needs to realize this.” The healer interjected. She just nodded back to the pair and stood once again. “You may leave when you feel ready. I will forward all the information to your comm unit. If either of you need anything, anything at all, please don’t hesitate to call me. I am here for you as well.”

They both just nodded their thanks as she left the room, the door closing behind and leaving them both alone again. “Can we go home?” It was such a soft whisper from the deep voice, that Obi-Wan almost didn’t catch it.

“Yes, my love, we can go to our quarters, because we are already home.” He smiled sweetly and wrapped his arms around the large man’s torso, touching his forehead against Qui-Gon’s.

“Will you always be so understanding, Obi?”

“Honestly, probably not, I would like to say that I will never doubt, or disappoint you, but we are both human. I will be cranky and annoyed, just like you will from time to time, but do not doubt my love for you. We can get through those moments, if we talk and work it out. That’s what the healers will be good for, they will give us the tools to do that.” Qui-Gon relaxed with those words, knowing that Obi-Wan didn’t expect perfection, it made it easier to move forward.

“Thank you, Obi-Wan. You were my only hope for so long, but now, now you are so much more than hope, you are my future.” They both stood up, hand in hand, helping each other dress, not wanting to part contact for long. Standing shoulder to shoulder, they both stared at the door, their lives an open book, this was not the ending, but the very beginning of forever.