The first thing Qui-Gon became aware of was the low pulse of monitors. Then the scent of the Halls of Healing.
He dragged heavy eyelids open to find Vokara leaning over him, eyes wide with surprise.
“Welcome back, Master Jinn,” she murmured, Ryloth whispering through her voice.
Qui-Gon swallowed, his mouth feeling like it hadn't had contact with water in years. “Why am I not dead?”
“You had a committed and selfless Padawan.”
For a moment he simply blinked, and then alarm spiked through him. “I had ?”
“Easy,” the Twi'lek soothed. “You were in a coma and we didn't know when, or if, you would awaken. It was unfair to make him wait, so he was knighted.”
The fear eased into pride mixed with an ache that he hadn't been there to see it. “Oh.” He swallowed against the knives in his throat. “He deserved it.”
“You don't have to speak,” Vokara assured him. “It's been some time, so give your body a chance to adjust to being awake.”
“Months, Qui-Gon. Almost a year.”
He was too tired to feel much about the discovery. “Obi-Wan healed me? I thought for sure I was going to die.”
“You would have. To be honest, until you just opened your eyes, I wasn't sure the end result was going to be much different.”
His lip quirked up. “You're always honest, Vokara.”
Her eyes saddened, tension drawing lines around them.
“Did my knight take Anakin as his Padawan?” Qui-Gon asked the question, though he didn't need to. Obi-Wan had promised, and Obi-Wan always came through for him—
That drove all exhaustion from his mind. “ No ?”
“He didn't have what it took to do so.”
He betrayed my trust because he didn't think he was worthy of it? What kind of banthakark was that—
Displeasure flooded Vokara's face. “Perhaps concern would be more appropriate, than assuming he'd failed you.”
“He gave me his word— ”
“He gave you his mind. ”
They glared at one another.
The anger made it take a moment before her word choice sank in. “What?”
“I'm surprised you haven't sensed him yet. He hasn't left your side once. ”
“He should have been out there training Anakin,” Qui-Gon grumbled, plumbing his depths for the effort needed to stretch out with the Force, since he couldn't sit up to look around.
It ended up fairly pointless, all things considered.
“You picked a poor time to bring that up,” Qui-Gon scoffed. “Obi-Wan isn't here. If you think I'd mistake the child in the corner for my knight—”
At Vokara's expression, Qui-Gon's voice stuttered.
He gave you his mind, is what she'd said .
Qui-Gon struggled to sit up, but couldn't make his body obey him.
“Qui-Gon, he didn't betray you.” The anger had drained away from Vokara, leaving her looking grieved. “He had every intention of keeping his promise. But his gift is not healing. Your wound was far too severe for his slight affinity.”
“I told him it was too late, so he wouldn't try something foolish — ”
Vokara shook her head, her lekku swaying. “He's a Jedi first and foremost, Qui-Gon. He would give whatever it took of himself to save a life. Because he would be the only one harmed, he was willing to endure anything for that end. And because he loved you, there was no hint of remorse as he did.”
“I have to see— ”
Vokara left his side. Qui-Gon could hear her voice, now gentle, murmur, “Obi-Wan? Obi-Wan, can you look at me, sweetheart?”
Qui-Gon tried to recall ever having heard this woman use that form of endearment. Ever.
“Master is awake.”
There was a quickening in the faint signature—
No, not faint. Scattered. Roused from its torpor, Qui-Gon could see it now. The sculpture of Obi-Wan's mind smashed, the pieces hovering as a cohesive unit, but none of the bits connecting together.
He could sense pain, confusion, fear—
And such love.
It was love, pure, selfless, bright as a summer's dawn holding what was left of this tortured creature together.
Qui-Gon's throat closed, and it had nothing to do with months without drinking water.
Slow, cautious footsteps sounded against the floor, Vokara murmuring encouragement the whole way.
Obi-Wan reached the bedside, his gaze fixed on Qui-Gon's toes, and not budging an inch.
Qui-Gon took in the sight of him. Neat as always, his robes perfectly cut, the seams falling right where they should on his shoulders, the tabbards not hanging too long, the belt cinched just right. Obi-Wan had always taken such care with his clothing.
Qui-Gon's lightsaber hung on his belt, but where Qui-Gon expected his braid to be missing, it still hung, and the short tail at the back of his head was still in its binding.
He wanted to ask Vokara, but was afraid to. There was something so fragile about the young man.
He saved me... but at what cost to himself?
Blue eyes slowly, so slowly, shifted to his face, as if afraid—
No, no, don't be afraid, Qui-Gon's heart broke.
Surprise touched Obi-Wan's quiet face as he found eyes looking back into his own. “Master,” he breathed.
Qui-Gon fought another battle with his body, and this time won, holding shaking arms out.
Obi-Wan crumpled against him, allowing the once-strong arms to hold him as tight as they could.
Qui-Gon couldn't breathe, he couldn't believe this was all that was left of his bright, so clever Obi-Wan.
“How did he make it through the Trials?” Qui-Gon choked, horrified that Obi-Wan wasn't even paying attention to his words, simply the familiar tone of his voice. Obi-Wan's soul was lighting up like a Life Day greeting droid.
It wouldn't matter what I said, Qui-Gon realized.
“The Trials have always been about heart. Not brain,” Vokara chided. “Obi-Wan gave himself for the good of someone else. It's as Jedi as you can get.”
“He should have let me go, ” Qui-Gon groaned. “ That would have been Jedi too. I told him to. I'd lived my life, his was just beginning— ”
Obi-Wan stumbled away, looking distressed. He looked up to Vokara, eyes brokenhearted—
“Master,” he whispered, anguished.
And he didn't mean her.
“He senses your reproach,” Vokara hissed. “He thinks you are displeased with him.”
There was something ugly in the Healer's eyes, aimed for Qui-Gon, and he could feel it.
It joined the frustration he felt towards himself for having brought this precious child— oh, the accuracy of the endearment hurt now— pain.
There was a step in the door, and then Obi-Wan flew out of sight.
Qui-Gon tried again to sit up, and this time Vokara assisted him.
He saw Feemor in the doorway, Obi-Wan held tight in his arms as his younger Legacy Brother clung to him, shuddering.
“Easy,” Feemor soothed, his Force signature carefully comforting. “Easy.”
Qui-Gon struggled with his own expression in the Force, attempting to shape it into something Obi-Wan could find comfort in, but his heart was too broken, there was too much anger—
“Get him out of here,” Vokara ordered, still a sky with gentle clouds in the Force.
There was definitely a durasteel she was concealing from the fragile child-knight.
Feemor tried to draw him into the hallway, but Obi-Wan screeched, planting his hands against the older man's chest and pushing away, deceptive strength in his wiry frame.
He would. Not. Leave.
“Control yourself, Qui-Gon,” Vokara urged. “It's the least that you owe him.”
True. It's true. I have no right to burden him with something he can't understand— something he would read as disapproval—
Qui-Gon drew in a deep breath, allowed Obi-Wan's near-silent whimpers flow around him—
He sensed Feemor reaching out to his former master, holding out stable comfort.
Why didn't I turn to him before? Qui-Gon wondered. He'd wandered for years, lost by Xanatos...
But I had a beautiful knight here, who desperately wanted to help.
For the first time, Qui-Gon allowed him to.
He could sense Feemor's surprise, then the knight's struggle against suspicious moisture in his eyes.
I shut him out for too long.
Feemor had been knighted, and then Qui-Gon had focused only on Xanatos, nearly flinging the older one aside in favor of the Force-talented, exuberant newcomer.
I think I hurt him.
Inch by careful inch Qui-Gon quieted his spirit enough to ease the pain in Obi-Wan's mind.
When he opened his eyes, he found tearful ones peering at him again.
“I'm not angry,” Qui-Gon soothed, swallowing the grief. “Please come back.”
He could see the tiny flares in Obi-Wan's mind in response. His words triggered old pathways—
But all of the roads met at shattered angles, one thing did not lead to another, and all of the little impulses found themselves lost in the hopeless mess.
He recognized the words, but could draw no conclusions. Could make sense of none of it.
Force forgive me.
Obi-Wan turned away, moving to sit in his chair again, feet drawn up to rest the heels on the edge of the seat, cradling his knees in his arms. He hid his face in them and began to rock.
His Force signature folded in on itself, as if the effort to keep it up had grown too much, and if Qui-Gon closed his eyes, he could swear there was a small child occupying that corner of the room.
Feemor and Vokara exchanged concerned glances, and then Feemor moved to Qui-Gon's side.
“You're awake.” He tried to smile, but there was a tremble in it. “We weren't sure you'd come back to us.”
“ Always, ” Obi-Wan spoke up without looking up or stilling.
Feemor swallowed hard. “It's good to hear your voice again. I missed you.”
How had Qui-Gon not missed him ?
What am I?
He tried to find words, but they escaped him.
“I know.” Feemor looked away, gave a firm nod, and patted his shoulder. “I know.” He turned to Vokara, and in his shame, Qui-Gon allowed it. “I will notify the Council, though I'm sure they felt Obi-Wan.”
“Of course they did.” Vokara's eyes strayed to Qui-Gon's face. “He's the heartbeat of the Temple.”
“I'll bring Anakin to see him later.”
Vokara gave him a quick nod. “Return to him. He must be out of his mind with worry.”
“Or halfway here by now,” was Feemor's wry response. He glanced back at Qui-Gon. “Heal, my friend.”
Feemor paused before Obi-Wan, running a gentle hand over the auburn hair. “You needed him to wake up. He did. He's here when we need him.”
Obi-Wan showed no sign of having heard, not even in the Force.
Feemor walked away.
“Always,” Obi-Wan muttered. “Always. Always.”
His voice trailed into a whisper, mingled grief and hope.
Despite Qui-Gon's best resolutions, he fell asleep.
He only awakened when he heard the quick patter of small feet running down the hall.
A familiar tingle in the Force alerted the tired Jedi just who it was. He smiled, sensing the boy's eagerness.
Vokara was nowhere to be seen, but Obi-Wan sat on his chair in the corner. From the look of it, he'd been sitting there and rocking—
Qui-Gon checked the chrono on the wall—
His heart sank, though he attempted to hide it.
Obi-Wan stilled, and then the rocking started in, more intently than before.
Force, I have to stop hurting him!
Anakin trotted into the room, his face practically glowing. He looked absolutely adorable in his small Jedi uniform, with his short padawan braid and shining boots. Without a glance in Qui-Gon's direction, he raced to Obi-Wan; ignoring the knees at his face level, he wrapped his arms around the older boy, his hands barely reaching Obi-Wan's back. He held on despite the continued rocking that made it hard to do so. “ Hey !”
Fear skittered into Qui-Gon's mind. Surely this was going to scare his fragile Padawan. He was about to interfere when the rocking stopped.
Obi-Wan lifted his tear-stained face, finding himself nose-to-nose with the little one. For a moment he blinked, and then his face lit up.
“ You !”
Anakin beamed. “Me!”
Qui-Gon found himself staring in stunned disbelief at the grin Obi-Wan gave Anakin.
His knight, so composed by nature, so serious as a youngling, showing teeth when he smiled.
A lot of teeth.
This was... actually... the first time Qui-Gon had ever seen such an expression on Obi-Wan's face.
Somewhere deep inside, the fact it had been given to Anakin, not Qui-Gon himself, hurt.
It also hurt to see Anakin race to Obi-Wan, who had been here all along, and completely ignore Qui-Gon, who'd just returned in all practicality from the dead.
What kind of pathetic, sick, selfish— you should just be glad Obi-Wan's happy ! he inwardly railed, loathing it.
Obi-Wan's expression went plastic, then melted away.
Force, Qui-Gon, get a hold of yourself.
“Are you okay?” Anakin asked, nose still barely an inch from Obi-Wan's own.
A frown of concentration furrowed Qui-Gon's knight's forehead. In the Force, the older Jedi could see all the little pieces of Obi-Wan's mind trying to connect.
Qui-Gon knew from last time where it was going to end, how it would go— he cringed—
Anakin's signature reached out and cradled Obi-Wan's, taking all of the weight and pressure off of it.
Stunned at the display of sheer power, and the grace and delicacy with which it was wielded, Qui-Gon watched.
The struggle in Obi-Wan's mind stilled as he surrendered to Anakin.
And for a moment, Obi-Wan Kenobi was completely at peace.
Tired eyes sought out Anakin's, and Obi-Wan made a weak, small smile. One that didn't reveal teeth.
The child in body tipped his forehead forward to lightly bump into Obi-Wan's, and then he scooted backwards and ran to the bedside, flopping against it, his feet curling up away from the floor as he supported himself on his elbows and stomach. “Hey!”
“That was... very kind, what you just did for Obi-Wan,” Qui-Gon spoke up.
Anakin shrugged as well as he could in his position. It ended up more of a head duck than anything else. “I guess. The building collapses in on him, and he can't breathe.”
“You,” Obi-Wan murmured, sounding satisfied.
Anakin smirked. “See? Anyway. I'm a Padawan now! Look!” He held up his braid. “And I have boots too , they're really clean— ” He moved to sit on the edge of the bed, dragging a foot up so the sharp scent of synthleather could almost kick Qui-Gon in the nose. Yes, the foot was small, but it would still hurt if it beaned him—
Qui-Gon tilted his head away from the waving foot. “They're wonderful, Anakin.”
“And Feemor's the best. Except for you and Obi-Wan. You both are the best too.”
Anakin dropped his foot to the floor again. “Yeah.” He bounced on the edge of the bed experimentally, feet planted on the floor to give him leverage. “Your bed is bouncier than mine.”
“Don't ask how he found out,” came a fond tone from the door.
Anakin bolted up and flew to Feemor's side. “Master! I was showing him my stuff !”
“Did you show him the little droid?”
Anakin's face fell. “No. I forgot to bring it.”
“Next time, my Padawan,” Feemor reassured him.
Qui-Gon stared at him. “ Yours ?”
Eyes now tight with concern lifted to his.
Why does it shock me?
“The Council approved.” Feemor looked like he was bracing for a wound. “They opened his apprenticeship to volunteers. I spoke up. They chose me.”
“ No, ” Anakin corrected. “ I chose you. The inside you looks all... good. Very good. Like Obi-Wan. Only you've been alive longer. Seen more stuff .”
Qui-Gon started at the sound of Obi-Wan's voice.
Obi-Wan was watching first Feemor, then Anakin with a wistful expression.
“Not better, Obi-Wan,” Feemor countered. “Just a little bit more experienced. You'll get there too.”
No he won't. Why would you tell him something like that?
Obi-Wan winced and looked down.
“He means that it's better for you to train me than for him to train me, not that you're better than he is. He's not dumb, ” Anakin protested. “And he's right. I can feel it and he can feel it and you can feel it too.”
Feemor opened his mouth to speak, but Anakin had already moved on and was talking again.
“Yoda knows it too. Yoda knows a lot. Way so much. He's weird, but wizard. I thought he was mean at first, but he likes kids. I didn't talk his language at first, so I didn't get why he said what he did. Like most people don't talk Obi-Wan's language.”
So faint, Qui-Gon almost didn't hear it, Obi-Wan whispered, “You.”
“Yep. Me knows your language.”
“Yes? Qui-Gon— here, Master means Dad. I've always wanted a Dad. Now I've got one. Why didn't you tell me Master means Dad in this language?”
“I know Me is your way of speaking Obi-Wan's language. But unlike Huttese, we can't just interchange me and I. ”
“I put the ssss on the end of know , though. You saw that, right?”
“I did, and that was absolutely correct. Good job. But I think Obi-Wan will understand if you say I know your language. And if you say it that way, everyone else will understand too.”
I thought I had the energy to take on another one this talkative?
Raising Obi-Wan must have spoiled him.
For the love of Force, this one's charming, but Feemor must be tired to the bone.
Though... why the Council thought it was a good fit was... maybe not troublesome... but confusing. Feemor was a good man, a brave and kind man, perhaps even smart, but he wasn't spectacular, by any means. A very ordinary knight. Why entrust the Chosen One to him ? It was his first Padawan, for Force's sake.
You were going to entrust Anakin to Obi-Wan, who has less experience, and hasn't yet figured out who he is. Someone who would be dealing with the grief of a relationship severed too soon.
And yet he couldn't just trust that Feemor was the right man for the job?
Let's face it. Obi-Wan wasn't either.
A tiny whimper escaped Obi-Wan.
Frip, Jinn, stop thinking !
“...And I'll show it to you just as soon as I can. But I have to attend class first. Class is important, and I learn wizard things. And the other kids are fun. They know more than I do, and I felt really embarrassed, but Master said it's okay, and they don't look down on me. I thought they did. And then I asked them, and they were surprised and hurt. So I made that up. Feemor says that sometimes we make things up when we see other people, stuff they're not really thinking. And the way to find out is to just ask. And that's how I found out Master Windu doesn't hate me.”
Qui-Gon felt just a little lost. “He doesn't?”
Feemor sent him a scowl over his Padawan's head.
“Nope!” Anakin returned, so cheerful. “He was surprised too. And then he talked to me, and I tried to understand his language, and he tried to understand mine, and I found out that he sees reeeeally scary stuff. Sometimes I see scary stuff, but he sees it all the time. Which is why he frowns and looks mean. He's just always seeing monsters with spiderwebs all through time and space. Right, Master? That's it? Time and space. ”
“Yeees. Yes. That works,” Feemor confirmed, a bit tentative at first, then deciding something internally.
Anakin didn't notice. “It's his job to protect everybody. Jedi are really nice people, and they want to trust people and be kind. And it's a really good thing, but sometimes they trust the wrong people, because they want to give them a chance, and Master Windu's job is to make sure they don't get hurt. So it's his job to not trust anyyyybody. Anybody. Did you know he can smile? I saw him smile. Once we got it straightened out that he wasn't picking on me, he picks on everybody. It's okay, though, because he's supposed to. And he explains stuff really well once you tell him he's mean.”
Feemor's face twisted with amusement.
“Did you say Mace Windu can smile?” Qui-Gon asked in disbelief.
“It's nice, too. I like his shiny teeth.”
Obi-Wan grinned and sent a tiny laugh through his nose.
This time, Qui-Gon was careful to keep his thoughts very, very quiet, focusing more on seeing things than thinking about them.
“He's all growly on the outside. Like some of the dewbacks. Scary on the outside, wanting to bite you. Inside he's just super loyal. I get that. He wants to protect Obi-Wan. I want to protect Obi-Wan too.”
“We all do,” Feemor said, fondness all through his tone. He ruffled Anakin's now-short hair. “But you told Tru you were going to see him at what time?”
Panic flooded Anakin's face. “Wait, what time is it?”
Feemor pointed to the chrono on the wall.
“I have to go !” Anakin blurted, racing for the door. “Keeping promises is important ! Mom said so!”
Feemor smiled to the two invalids. “Wise woman,” he offered before jogging after his Padawan.
A tiny smile glowed on Obi-Wan's face as he stared at his knees.
Desperate not to break the precious moment, Qui-Gon fell back on breathing exercises and allowed nothing else to matter. The only thing of importance was drawing in, holding, releasing—
And somewhere along the line he fell asleep again.
“Do you think he's ready for this?” Qui-Gon protested, looking to the young man who sat curled up in the chair, staring at his toes.
“The Trade Federation needs to be held to account. People died, Qui-Gon. The inquiry has already been put off far too long,” Adi Gallia pointed out. “To be honest, we were only able to shield Obi-Wan because he's not likely to communicate enough on his own for their tastes. With you conscious and technically able to expend the effort, they've secured subpoenas.”
Qui-Gon sighed. “And we need to obey them because we're not vigilantes.”
“Unless there's something you've been needing to tell me,” Adi teased, grim-faced. “I've never actually seen you and the Avenger of CoCo Town in the same room at the
Qui-Gon snorted a laugh in spite of himself. “I'd like to think I'd have better taste in colors.”
“Don't make fun of bright colors. I'm sure the children love him. And plenty of adults.”
“I'm sure.” Qui-Gon arched an eyebrow. “Alright. Let's get this done.”
He stood up, swatting away Adi's outstretched hands. He didn't need steadying, thank you , it's not the first time he stood up after waking up.
Moving over to his knight, he placed a large hand on his shoulder. “Obi-Wan? We have a meeting we have to attend.”
No sign of having been heard.
“Don't worry about it, Qui,” Adi spoke up. “Anakin has been given permission to attend. We think Obi-Wan may be more willing to communicate if he can see Anakin in the audience. I have no doubt he will walk with him.”
Qui-Gon drew back his hand, a pang in his heart.
I've been replaced by a child we found such a short time ago.
He stifled another sigh. “Alright.”
* * *
On the witness stand, Obi-Wan stood, staring out to where Anakin sat, quiet as a mouse. Every few minutes, Anakin would make a gesture, from a tiny hand wave, to something more exuberant.
A smile never cracked Obi-Wan's face, but he tracked the movement with his eyes.
Qui-Gon found himself sagging in his chair, knowing he should probably go back to the Temple, since he'd already given his testimony. He needed rest .
Not until Obi-Wan's done.
The Defense Examiner had been professional with Qui-Gon, working to trip him, yes, but at least not belligerent. He hadn't tried to slander Qui-Gon's name in order to invalidate his statements. He would have been happy to have found him lying in his testimony, but he wasn't going to make this a slur campaign. He'd been respectful.
But as the Prosecution Examiner questioned Obi-Wan, the Defense's affect began to change.
The Prosecution was clearly well aware of Obi-Wan's current speech capabilities, and only asked questions that could be answered with one-word replies. Some of them didn't receive answers. Others did. Most of it was unintelligible.
Qui-Gon had anticipated that since he knew Obi-Wan, he'd be able to decipher it.
Apparently, that was not so.
The knowledge hurt his ego, just a little.
Fortunately, the case against the Trade Federation and certain individuals within it did not need Obi-Wan's testimony in order to be solid. He was just there to complete its thorough nature.
The woman didn't keep Obi-Wan long, and soon stepped away.
“Defense, your witness,” came the announcement.
The dark eyed human moved to lurk just out of Obi-Wan's range of vision.
In response, Obi-Wan turned around to look at him.
Qui-Gon winced, expecting there to be an official reprimand, but none came. Everyone is clearly trying to make this work.
It warmed his heart a little. The system might be difficult to work with, but it was solid, and most of the people within it were kind at heart.
“You are the apprentice of Qui-Gon Jinn?”
“Tell me, in your own words, what happened on Naboo.”
Concern bloomed in Obi-Wan's face. His gaze wandered, all over the floor, the ceiling, back around to the faces of those watching—
What he saw there seemed to give him strength. He drew in a deep breath and offered up:
“ Pain. ”
“Pain,” the Examiner mimicked. “Elaborate.”
Obi-Wan's eyes widened, and Qui-Gon saw him mouth the shape of the long word to himself, as if the feel of it with his tongue would explain its meaning .
“We don't have all day,” the Examiner prompted.
Obi-Wan thought, thought, thought— opened his mouth—
The Examiner pinched the bridge of his nose. “ Fine. Can you please explain to me why my clients are being accused of inflicting pain, and why the Court should care ?”
Qui-Gon could feel Obi-Wan's heartbeat stutter.
“ Objection, ” yelped the Prosecution, leaping to her feet.
Qui-Gon tuned out the ensuing squabble, listening instead to Obi-Wan's struggling mind. A thousand little tones going off, none of them particularly helpful now, but would have been if the paths between them would just stop moving . Each time he thought he had something figured out, the pieces of his brain would rearrange and he was left more baffled than before.
“Your Honor, I was told that two Jedi witnesses were going to be produced for this inquiry. A Jedi master and a Jedi knight. So far, I have seen a Jedi master.”
“Examiner, please desist from the pointless commentary, either ask your witness questions or sit down.”
“As you wish.” The Examiner turned back to Obi-Wan, an angry gleam in his eye. “Knight Kenobi. Would you say you are competent to raise an accusation against greatly respected and intelligent individuals?”
Qui-Gon felt anger burning inside him as he saw Obi-Wan desperately try to make sense of the words, since he could sense the hostility with which they were punctuated.
“Objection. Relevance? ”
“Knight Kenobi. May I call you Obi?”
Obi-Wan winced, and Qui-Gon cringed. It was a nickname Obi-Wan absolutely hated. Almost as much as the dreaded Oafy-Wan—
Obi-Wan opened his mouth, but no sound came out, and the Examiner ignored his clear need to speak.
“Obi, when a padawan becomes a knight, there are important and difficult tests that must be passed. Trials, they are called.”
Clear as a crystal bell Obi-Wan spoke, “Yes.”
“Yes. Look at that. A real answer.” The Examiner smiled, looking for all the world like a vicious arachnid ready to wrap up its victim and make it suffer for a long, long time while it drained the life from it. “Is it true you did not take your Trials?”
A long silence. Then, “Pain.”
“Curious.” The Examiner walked away, as if to peer at his datapads for notes.
It's all a show, all a farce— something tickled the back of Qui-Gon's mind. A familiar presence. He craned his neck around and saw Dooku standing by the door, looking equal parts horrified and disgusted.
Qui-Gon had yet to speak with him since awakening from the coma—
“So even though you had done nothing to deserve their trust, they gave you more authority.”
“Objection, leading the witness.”
“Sustained. Rephrase your question.”
The Examiner sent them both a frustrated glare. “You didn't earn your knighthood. There's a reason your hair hasn't been cut.”
“Ask a question, Examiner. My patience is wearing thin.”
Obi-Wan's hand drifted up, a hesitant motion, to touch his braid.
“Is Qui-Gon Jinn still your Master, or are you a knight?”
“ Objection— ” she didn't even get the reason out before it was sustained, but in the background of it all, Obi-Wan's gaze tracked to Qui-Gon's in utter confusion. “Master,” he whispered.
And Obi-Wan sensed Qui-Gon's agitation. He paled, grit his teeth, looked to the Examiner again.
“You're at the end of your rope, Examiner. Wrap it up.”
“Your Honor, I would like to bring the Jedi Council to the stand so I could ask them just what was going on in their minds when they chose to knight a half-wit so clearly incompetent, if not a bribe for cooperation in this whole sordid attack on my clients' good names! He's an embarrassment to their Order.”
“Half-wit,” Obi-Wan murmured, barely audible against the Examiner's raving, his voice echoing his just a moment behind. “Incompetent. Embarrassment.”
“ Examiner! ”
“ Unqualified imbecile and waste of air— ”
“Unqualified,” Obi-Wan whispered, pain choking his voice. “Imbecile. Waste.”
“Sit down, or I will hold you in contempt of court!”
Obi-Wan's expression crumpled.
Qui-Gon knew it was coming, even as his soul begged for it to not—
Obi-Wan's broken, tear-stained voice gasping out, “Retard.”
And then he ran.
“We will reconvene tomorrow— ” came the call over the sudden chaos of voices through the room. “For now, get the frip out of my courtroom.”
In the flood of people heading out the door, Qui-Gon remained close to the doorpost, knowing he wouldn't be able to see Obi-Wan until it thinned a bit.
He felt the cold presence of his master at his side. “I am mortified,” Dooku rumbled.
“I understand the feeling.” Qui-Gon rubbed at his aching head with the back of his hand. “I don't see how anyone could think that ridiculing someone that way is—”
He sensed before he heard that he'd come to the wrong conclusion.
“Our Legacy is very old, very elite,” Dooku interrupted. “Your inability to rein in your apprentices is a disgrace, Qui-Gon. Not to you, but to all who have come before.”
Qui-Gon stared at him in dread.
“Feemor was bad enough, being so mediocre—”
“Feemor is compassionate !” But... hadn't he made the same slur against his own apprentice not that long ago—?
“—And Xanatos was a problem too. Fallen. Do you have any idea how hard I've had to work to erase his memory?”
He shouldn't be forgotten, he should be mourned—
“But this is worse than all of it. That gibbering fool in there—”
Qui-Gon snarled. “Go.”
Cold, bitter eyes met his. “Excuse me?”
“Get out of here !” Qui-Gon thundered at him, not caring that several dozen heads turned his way. “ Go !”
Dooku took a menacing step closer. “You think you can drag my name through the mud like this? Where is your gratitude, boy?”
“You're just as Fallen as Xanatos,” Qui-Gon growled. “The first lesson a Jedi ever learns is kindness and compassion, and I've never seen either in you.”
“How dare you insult me like that? I chose you to carry on my line! I could have left you to be trained by one of the commoners whose Legacies don't even have a title— ”
“Maybe all of us would have been better off,” Qui-Gon shot back. “Get the frip out of here and stay the hell away from Obi-Wan. I swear, if you terrorize him, I—”
Dooku drew himself up and fixed Qui-Gon with a look that could make most men quail—
Qui-Gon was far too angry to care.
His former master swept away, cape slapping Qui-Gon's ankles with the flare of his turn.
A subtle final word.
Qui-Gon watched him leave, hating how, yet again, Dooku managed to look regal and calm in the face of persecution, while Qui-Gon was left behind looking unreasonable and whiny.
Thank the Force Feemor had snagged Anakin before Dooku had a chance.
Feemor might not have your reputation , but at least his, small though it might be, is as a Jedi to his core. None of this richer-and-higher-born-than-you kark.
Qui-Gon had yet to encounter a case where a Jedi with knowledge of their birth circumstances was a good thing. He'd seen Xanatos torment Feemor over the fact of being prince and peasant.
All Jedi should be equal. Each child should make their name based on their own merit. Not some accident of birth.
The Order was one of the very few places in the galaxy where it honest-to-Force didn't matter where you started. All that counted was who you were as a person. Clean slate. Determine your own destiny.
Dooku thinks he was inducted into a Very Old Line because he's got a planet just begging to bend the knee to him.
Qui-Gon tried to still his anger so he could search for Obi-Wan.
He sensed an anger blazing even brighter than his own, and saw the crowds parting like a wave.
Eventually a short figure came into view. “Where is Obi-Wan?”
“I don't know, Ani. I'm looking for him.”
“Me too. I don't know where he is.”
Feemor shoved his way through the crowd, the distracted mass not bending to give him passage the way it had his young apprentice.
And then it was the Prosecutor, and the Council, and a whole bunch of people Qui-Gon didn't know, all worried about Obi-Wan. Civil servants and civilians alike.
How in blazes did he end up with so many people who care?
The question would have to be answered another time.
For now he was simply grateful for this many individuals organizing themselves into a search pattern.
They'd been searching for an hour. Shouting his name, searching the Force, checking everywhere—
More and more people joined the hunt, wanting to help.
They were meaningless.
Someone had gone to access security footage, but Qui-Gon felt far too much urgency to do nothing while he waited.
The area he searched now might be a bit farther away from the origin point than reasonable, but—
He heard the loud blare of a horn, looked up, saw a speeder spin one direction, Obi-Wan go flying another.
With a cry of panic, Qui-Gon gave a mighty Force leap and reached his side.
Obi-Wan was curled up on the duracrete in a fetal position, arms clutching his head.
“Easy,” Qui-Gon soothed, “easy.” He tried to ascertain if there were any injuries—
All he could get were flashes of bewilderment, terror, and pain—
He didn't realize the speeder could hit him.
The driver had clambered out of his ride, and came stomping towards them, cursing the while. “What the frak was he thinking? Standing in the road like that? Is he high on somethin'? Freaking druggies !”
“Back off,” Qui-Gon snarled. It was a ferocity that cowed most beings the galaxy over, but not this one. It stirred the stingfly nest.
“He's clearly an adult. It's his responsibility to stay the frak out of the road ! If you stand in the way, you're gonna get hit. He's frakking lucky I've got such good reflexes, or he would have been really hit instead of grazed!”
Qui-Gon felt the rage longing to menace the man all the way back to his vehicle, but Obi-Wan curled in on himself even more, keening now.
He thinks I'm angry with him.
And something had jumped out at him from nowhere, bowling him over—
So many aggressions against a man who has simply tried to do what was asked of him today.
Compassion flooded Qui-Gon's soul, driving away the anger.
The idiot yammered on, but his words were meaningless now.
Qui-Gon commed for help, knowing better than to move Obi-Wan until the professionals could have a look.
It was the whine of sirens that sent the driver running back to escape.
And now it's a hit and run.
Given the way the civil servants Qui-Gon had interacted with responded to Obi-Wan, he didn't think the driver was going to have a very pleasant time of it when they caught up.
And they would catch up. The cams were far too good this close to the Senate.
* * *
He wasn't hurt.
Thank the Force.
A few painful scrapes, a severe case of terror since he didn't actually understand what had hit him and why , and a bit of a stutter.
That seemed to be what Obi-Wan had collected from his day in court and speeder accident.
Anakin burst into the room the second the Healer permitted it, racing to Obi-Wan's side.
This time, the hug was returned with fierce need.
* * *
It was no surprise when Obi-Wan flatly refused to set foot in the courtroom again, let alone the witness stand. Not with any of the Council members, not when Qui-Gon offered to stand with him the whole time—
“I'm not really sure there's a point,” Adi sighed. “The Defense isn't asking questions in a way that Obi-Wan can meaningfully answer.”
“We have to let him finish cross examining the witness,” was the reply. “Trust me, trouble will ensue otherwise.”
“He did too say meaningful stuff,” Anakin spoke up from his post by Obi-Wan's side. “You guys just don't get it. He told the Attack Lady—”
“Prosecution,” Feemor supplied.
“The Pross-Electrocution everything that happened. He and Qui-Gon fought the guy with the horns, and the security cams say the guy with the horns was hired by the Weird Hat People, and the Weird Hat People broke the law to hurt the Queen's people—”
Obi-Wan, listening intently, blinked.
In the Force, it felt like an exclamation point flared up.
“You,” Obi-Wan said, excitedly.
The Force flare fell silent, but Obi-Wan gave a hopeful look to the various authorities conferring.
“Obi-Wan only understood half of what the Defense said yesterday,” Adi pointed out. “Mostly the insults. If Anakin's on the stand with him, he could translate both the questions and the answers.”
“This is going to be most irregular,” was a worry.
That's when Windu intervened. “It's nonnegotiable.”
And fortunately, the Judge agreed. The Defense's protests were met by the Judge's cold, “Either you go through the kid, or you doesn't get to the question the witness. You'll just have to get over it.”
So that was that.
Qui-Gon watched amazed as Anakin took Obi-Wan's hand and led him into the courtroom. There wasn't a hint of reluctance about the older young man.
The day began with a wry insult from the Defense, to which Anakin drew himself up to his full height.
“That was uncalled for.”
The Examiner stared at him. “He can't even understand it. He doesn't have the IQ to—”
Qui-Gon could see the room cringe, those not Force sensitive able to see just as clearly as those with the Force Obi-Wan's flinch, his helpless misery.
“Yes he does understand you,” Anakin proclaimed. “And you will stop being mean to him, or we go home, and you can fill out your papers all by yourself. ”
Stunned silence fell across the entire hall.
As the Examiner began to scoff, “Well, I'm afraid you don't—”
“Those are the terms, ” Anakin said with the finality of a crime lord.
Obi-Wan brightened and announced the earth-shattering agreement, “ You. ”
The fun taken clean out of the Examiner's sails, he looked around the room to find countless cold eyes aimed viciously for him. He took one last spite-filled glance at the angelic-looking Obi-Wan, and muttered, “No further questions, your Honor.”
The room burst into cheers and applause, and the Judge allowed it.
* * *
Obi-Wan walked with Qui-Gon without a fuss as they headed back for the Temple early. Feemor and Anakin had an errand to run and parted ways.
Obi-Wan had bestowed such a look of appreciative adoration on Anakin that it nearly stole Qui-Gon's breath.
To be so reliant on a child for something so basic as defending his dignity...
But it doesn't seem to embarrass him.
That was his humble, sweet Obi-Wan.
He sensed a hint of pleasure in the young man who walked by his side, undoubtedly sparked by Qui-Gon's fond thoughts.
Maybe you're not as different as I assumed.
A whirlwind of blue synthsilk and positively massive headdress nearly collided with them, emerging from one of the doorways along the hall. “Pardon me, I— Qui-Gon? Obi-Wan ?”
“Duchess,” Qui-Gon realized, noting that the seven years since they'd seen her last had taken the last of the child out of her face and left her looking quite a bit older than twenty five.
So opposite his Obi-Wan, who could still be mistaken for eighteen.
“It's so good to see you,” Satine said, positively glowing. “How have you been?”
The question might have been asked of them both, but she was looking at Obi-Wan.
The calm watching of his mind suddenly burst into frantic activity, trying to come up with the appropriate response.
“Pain,” he offered.
Concern flooded her face. “What? What's wrong? What happened?”
“I was injured in a fight, and Obi-Wan gave quite a bit of himself to save me.”
Obi-Wan gave a nod. “Master pain. Then no pain.” He sounded so pleased...
Qui-Gon felt his heart ache.
Understanding dawned in Satine's eyes.
Her people were no strangers to brain damage of all sorts.
She gave him a gentle smile. “So brave,” she murmured.
Delight spilled through Obi-Wan's Force signature.
“Satine,” she whispered, moisture obscuring her eyes. “My name is Duchess Satine Kryze.”
“Duchess,” one of her guards murmured, “Senator Taa is waiting.”
“He can continue to do so.” Satine lifted her chin. “This is more important.”
“As you wish.”
Obi-Wan struggled for words, and Satine simply waited, no sign of impatience anywhere about her.
Obi-Wan nearly gave up in frustration, then looked at her face one last time—
To confirm she's run out of patience—
But she hadn't.
With renewed vigor he sorted through his broken mind, piece by methodical piece— what made him go for that one, he skipped over three?
Realizing Obi-Wan couldn't even keep track of simple progression and patterns anymore was like a kick in the gut.
He could almost hear the beloved voice attempting to count to ten, sounding like a little child.
One, two, three, seven, nine—
Only somehow Qui-Gon knew it would be worse.
Seven, nine, eight, ten.
He tried to close down the morbid line of thought.
“Satine... knows ...?”
“I know...” Satine searched his face. “I know you saved Qui-Gon?”
His face blanked, then he shook his head.
“I know there is pain in your mind now?”
Another head shake.
“I... you, ” Obi-Wan whimpered.
“Oh, Obi-Wan.” Tears flooded Satine's eyes.
Qui-Gon realized something—
“Obi-Wan, you want Anakin here, to translate.”
A desperately relieved nod that someone understood that last cry for help—
“ You is his name for Anakin,” Qui-Gon explained.
Satine nodded. “Is he available?”
“Not at the moment. Give me your comlink?” When he had it, Qui-Gon inputted his frequency. “Call me, and we'll arrange a time where the two of you can talk in private, with Anakin there to translate. He's nine years old, and very kind to Obi-Wan.”
Obi-Wan's brow was furrowed in concentration as he tried to follow the abstract concepts of his former master's words. “ Knows ? Satine knows... Obi-Wan? Obi-Wan knows Satine? Kind. Satine kind. ”
Qui-Gon and the Duchess figured it out at the same moment.
“Oh, Darling,” Satine breathed, her fingers reaching out to lightly stroke his cheek. “Yes. I was in pain once, and you saved me. In so many ways.”
Qui-Gon could read the longing in Obi-Wan's face, the desire to be able to access and understand his own life.
And then the hopelessness as Obi-Wan ran a broken calculation and determined he couldn't.
So he bowed low to the Duchess and grabbed Qui-Gon's sleeve. “Go . ”
Qui-Gon could sense Satine's grief as she watched them walk away.
The day had seemed pretty good.
Now it felt... defiled.
The brave young spirit behind them who had willingly linked her soul to Obi-Wan's despite every warning from the “experts.”
Seven years apart, with only audio calls once every several months.
And yet she's true to him.
Most beings didn't think it possible.
There's something different about her.
The fact that Obi-Wan couldn't remember her broke Qui-Gon's heart all over again.
I might as well leave it in pieces. I put it back together only to have it shattered, every time. When will I learn?
Cold fingers slipped into his, gripping his hand tight.
“Pain,” Obi-Wan whispered, sorrowful eyes lifted to meet his.
Mine or yours?
“I know,” he whispered, drawing him close and planting a kiss on the top of his head. “I know.”
Qui-Gon became aware of his surroundings slowly.
Jedi rooms were meant to hold one, but a second bed had been forced into his since other than the one speeder incident, Obi-Wan refused to stray very far away from his former master. When they put him in the room next door or the one across the hall— the Jedi who had lived in both places for years willing to let the injured one try— he hadn't slept at all, simply whimpering the night through. So Qui-Gon's room was a bit more crowded than usual.
Qui-Gon dragged himself upright, trying to see in the dim light.
Obi-Wan wasn't in his bed.
Qui-Gon became aware of what he was hearing.
His heart sank. He remembers.
“Obi-Wan?” Qui-Gon stepped to the door of the refresher, found Obi-Wan staring at his reflection, eyes so large his face looked drawn and gaunt.
“Obi-Wan,” Qui-Gon corrected, realizing only after it had come out of his mouth that it sounded harsher than he'd intended, “we don't use that word.”
The gaze shifted just a little so he could meet Qui-Gon's gaze through the mirror. Worry filled that empty space. “ M-me, ” Obi-Wan choked, clearly afraid Qui-Gon thought he'd been calling someone else that.
“I know you meant you.” Qui-Gon stepped forward, wrapped his arms around Obi-Wan's middle. “We don't use that word. Not on other people, not on ourselves.”
“ Stupid. Slow.”
“Not true.” Qui-Gon rested his forehead against the back of Obi-Wan's skull. “You are perfect the way you are.”
Obi-Wan struggled against his hold, so Qui-Gon released him.
“ No. ” Obi-Wan looked distraught. “ Broken toy. Throw out. Yes. ”
“We don't throw people out, Obi-Wan. You have been hurt, yes. You have pain. That doesn't make you worth any less than anyone else. You are important. To Yoda, to Mace—” And, holy kark, he actually believed that now. Anakin was right about misinterpreting. “To Adi, to Anakin, to Feemor, to me. ”
“Master deserve smart. ”
Qui-Gon caught his gaze and ensured he held it, giving emphasis to his next words. “I didn't choose you for your brain. I chose you because of your heart. And your heart is not broken.”
Tears filled young blue eyes. “Not?”
“ Not. ”
Obi-Wan gave a fierce nod of his head and swiped at his eyes.
Qui-Gon could sense just how heavy the sadness hung around his knight. “I have an idea. Come.” He made it to the door to the hall and looked back to find Obi-Wan standing still, looking at him, confused.
Remembering Anakin's earlier actions...
Qui-Gon returned and held out his hand. Hesitant, Obi-Wan took it. And this time when Qui-Gon took a step, Obi-Wan's feet followed.
A hush lay across the Temple, the path lit by gentle runner lights along the base of the walls. There was something almost magical about this place in the hush of very early morning. You could almost expect the statues to move, the paintings to reach out to you. You could hear the phantoms of a thousand generations of children laughing.
The Temple itself almost seemed alive, reaching out arms to wrap you close and whisper love in your ear.
The building was certainly haunted. And it certainly was more aware than it had any right to be. It was well known that Sith temples had a malevolence all their own, a knowing they shouldn't posses.
This temple was far more sly. She wasn't going to slap you in the face with her awareness.
Instead it crept up behind you, and you continuously had the feeling that if you could just look over your shoulder at the right moment, you'd see something ducking into one of the doorways behind you.
Qui-Gon led Obi-Wan into the youngling wings. Most were sound asleep, but some of the littlest ones were awake to eat.
He located a room where Jedi caretakers soothed the infants towards slumber again. They looked up and smiled as the two entered, but no one challenged them or asked why they'd come.
Instead, as Obi-Wan's expression turned wistful, they moved to bring their small charges closer.
Awe whispered into his eyes as he reached out to brush a finger over tiny fists, the wispy hair; as he smiled down into tired eyes.
This, at least, hadn't changed. Obi-Wan loved the little ones.
He always will.
Small green arms reached out for him, and he took a step back, startled. Instead of giving up, the other knight showed him how to hold the Rodian infant, bending his arms to support body and head, giving encouraging, silent smiles as Obi-Wan accepted the baby and stared down into eyes that seemed full of constellations.
“Her name is Ganodi,” the caretaker murmured.
Fingers tipped with tiny suckers reached up to touch Obi-Wan's lip. It triggered a smile. The sight of it closed Qui-Gon's throat. He looked so content.
“Force sensitive children this age happen to be very quick judges of character,” Qui-Gon murmured.
Ganodi's guardian nodded. “That's right,” he confirmed.
A stunningly bright Force signature reached up for Obi-Wan's, nudging into it.
“The little ones don't think there's anything wrong with you.” Qui-Gon moved so he could look his knight in the eye. “Can you see it?”
Obi-Wan studied his eyes for a moment, intent, and then looked down at the eyelids remaining more shut than open... the blinking slowing...
The little one pressed her face against Obi-Wan's chest, sighed, and her antennae drooped against his bicep.
“Asleep,” Obi-Wan murmured.
“Because she feels safe with you,” their new acquaintance explained. “She feels loved.”
Obi-Wan ran reverent fingers over the top of her head, the gesture almost a kiss.
And then he handed the baby back, and Qui-Gon found Obi-Wan curling into his chest, eyes falling shut.
Qui-Gon hugged him, misunderstanding—
And then his knees buckled.
Surprised but realizing in time, Qui-Gon swooped him up in his arms, cradling his sleeping knight close.
A woman nearby gave a quiet laugh. “Guess who else feels safe and loved?”
Oh, Force, I hope so. I hope he never feels unwanted again.
With a murmured thanks for their assistance, Qui-Gon carried his knight back to their room.
Sleep well, dear one.
* * *
He awoke again to find Obi-Wan missing.
The fear that exploded through his soul sent him out into the hallway.
His neighbor to the left was leaving as well, recognized his panic. “I saw him head out,” she explained. “I followed him to the lift, and T'Seely kept an eye on him from there.”
He followed the trail, discovered T'Seely hard at work the next level down. He directed him to the stairs. “And I commed Master Secura.”
He felt mildly stunned by the fact that his fellow Jedi, some he knew, others he didn't , had taken it upon themselves to keep an eye out for Obi-Wan.
Not to interfere with his autonomy, but just so someone was there, if needed. In as unobtrusive way as they could find.
Once again, Qui-Gon was faced with the realization of why he loved his family.
The path ended in Qui-Gon's room in the Halls of Healing, now empty.
Obi-Wan sat in his chair in the corner, holding knees and rocking.
For the love of the Force.
Qui-Gon tried speaking to him, but there was no response. Vokara poked her head in the door. “Everything all right?”
“He won't look at me, and won't say anything. He spoke so much yesterday, even last night— ”
“A lot has happened. He needs to process it.”
“I don't think you understand,” she interrupted him. “Obi-Wan spoke more in the last two days than he has in months. He moved to a new room, he traveled to several locations and encountered all kinds of mystifying and unkind creatures. What you're seeing here, is normal. He hasn't regressed, Qui-Gon.”
But we had a conversation last night.
He'd thought, during the mirror incident, that perhaps life wouldn't be too different... “Oh.”
A gentle hand patted his shoulder. “Be patient with him.”
For the first time, Qui-Gon allowed himself to consider the future.
So far, he'd been acting as if Obi-Wan still studied as his apprentice.
But he isn't.
Qui-Gon could keep up the illusion for a time, perhaps. Maybe even a long time.
I assumed he could accompany me on missions. That I'd need to look out for him a bit more than usual, but that it would be feasible.
But with Obi-Wan so closed off, so completely nonfunctional—
I couldn't take him with me.
Was Qui-Gon prepared to stay here instead?
He had a severe case of wanderlust, needing to always move, never stay long in one place— Mandalore had been difficult.
Perhaps I can take short missions, then come back to visit a while. It's not like he really needs me, with Anakin here.
But when Anakin and Feemor set out on missions?
It would be cruel to rob Anakin of his travel experience. The boy wanted to see the stars, visit them all.
Qui-Gon had no doubt that he would stay here with Obi-Wan, confine himself to the Temple from the sheer selflessness of his heart—
But it would be wrong to allow it. It's part of his education.
What would happen to Obi-Wan when the rest of his Legacy wasn't home?
A grim thought inserted itself into his mind. Sit in the chair like he always does.
If he wanted me here, he would be communicating, or at least making eye contact. Acknowledging he knows I'm here and likes it.
With a sigh, he left the room, and didn't hear the near-silent moan that escaped Obi-Wan as he was left alone.
Qui-Gon found his way down to the Halls of Healing again, expecting to find Obi-Wan in his chair.
It was empty.
Knowing that with a Temple full of beings dedicated to protecting the helpless, Obi-Wan's chances of staying safe were fairly solid, Qui-Gon located Vokara without having a heart attack.
“Anakin's taken him to the park.”
“The one you can see the Temple from.” Vokara shrugged. “Obi-Wan likes the view.”
“I thought he never left my side.”
“He didn't. Anakin would go and bring back holos of it. Obi-Wan wanted to see it, so they went.”
Qui-Gon stared at her. “And you thought this was a good idea?”
“I didn't see a problem with it.” Vokara crossed her arms. “Feemor seemed to think the same, since he accompanied them.”
Qui-Gon scowled. “You could have said that to begin with.”
Vokara shrugged and walked off.
Why would you think that I wouldn't find Anakin and Obi-Wan off somewhere alone to be frightening? There's speeders out there, for the love of the Force! What would Anakin do if Obi-Wan just took off again?
Though a terrible whisper in his mind made him wonder if Obi-Wan would run, with Anakin present.
* * *
Obi-Wan stared up at the tree, his hands planted gently on its bark.
Anakin could feel the warmth that flowed between his friend and the plant, could see the plant was happier for Obi-Wan's gift.
“Master?” Anakin whispered.
Feemor glanced down at him.
“How can he do that? Can you do that? Why can't I ?”
Feemor patted his shoulder. “Some Jedi have a gift with plants. Some don't. Some have a gift for healing, some don't. Some have a gift for machines, some don't.”
“I'm good with machines.”
“And Obi-Wan is good with plants?”
“Then why isn't he with the— the plant Jedi?”
“Because he wanted to be a knight.”
“Why? The tree loves him.”
Feemor shook his head. “Sometimes, our dreams don't line up with our gifts. So we learn new skills so we can follow our dreams.”
“I want to be a Jedi.”
“Then you will be one.” Feemor smiled down at him.
“Obi-Wan healed Qui-Gon. But it hurt him.”
Feemor crouched in front of Anakin so he could look him in the eye. “Healing is not his gift.”
“So if I tried to help a plant, I would end up hurt?”
“Only if you tried too hard.”
Anakin was fairly sure he was never going to love a plant enough to do such a thing.
“Excuse me? Excuse me please, Master Jedi, could you help me?”
Feemor gave Anakin one last smile and then turned to assist the Rodian woman.
Anakin watched Obi-Wan, amazed that he wasn't bored yet. He's been standing there forever.
Apparently, he wasn't the only one who'd noticed.
A group of kids playing nearby edged closer. They were nudging one another and pointing, giggling to each other.
Anakin scowled. They're making fun of him.
They looked a bit older than Anakin, some of them quite a bit bigger. None of them were as big and grown up as Obi-Wan, though.
Obi-Wan blinked, then his hands fell away from the trunk as his connection to it snapped.
Obi-Wan looked around, confused, trying to find the source of the interruption—
The kids took that as an invitation to move closer.
“Hey,” one called. “What's wrong with him?”
Obi-Wan's eyes widened.
They laughed, mimicking him.
Anakin glared, stepping in front of Obi-Wan. “Go away.”
“But he's a freak. There's nothing in his eyes. He doesn't even understand what we're saying .”
Anakin's expression turned ugly. “That's not true. He's a Jedi. We're both Jedi. Go away now. ”
“It's a free planet,” mocked one of the bigger boys, moving closer and bumping into Anakin's shoulder. “Besides. You don't have a lightsaber.”
“I'm going to make one soon.”
“You?” Obi-Wan sounded worried.
“Yeah?” challenged the bully. “What about me ?”
“He didn't mean you, idiot,” Anakin muttered.
“What's that?” The bully feinted a lunge towards Obi-Wan, and the older Jedi stumbled back, arm flying up to protect his face, fear in his eyes.
“Leave him alone !” Anakin yelled, furious now.
A comforting shadow fell across him, and without looking around, Anakin knew who it was. Not just because he could sense it, but because of the mean kids' expressions as they looked over Anakin's shoulders.
They turned and fled.
“ Cowards !” Anakin screamed after them, just because he had to have some form of last word.
Obi-Wan keened and dropped to his knees, holding himself and rocking.
“Easy,” Feemor soothed, crouching beside him. “They're gone, Obi-Wan. I'm sorry I didn't get here sooner.”
Obi-Wan didn't soothe.
The fury in Anakin's soul burned deeper, a vicious hatred of those who would hurt his Obi-Wan this way. They were like the slave owners back on Tatooine, who didn't care when they hurt other people. They weren't people, they were like... like animals, since animals didn't care when they hurt people, they just did , and—
A cry escaped Obi-Wan and he clutched at his head.
And suddenly Anakin realized something.
It wasn't them.
Tears flooded his eyes as he dropped by Obi-Wan's side, flinging his arms around him. “I'm sorry,” he whispered. “Please forgive me.”
He ignored Feemor's surprised look.
Anakin knew. The Force said so.
It wasn't the mean kids who broke Obi-Wan's connection to the tree. It was me being angry.
Obi-Wan clung to him, sobbing into his tunic.
I hurt him.
He never wanted to hurt him again.
* * *
Padawan Ukella worked her way through the reports, fixing her master's atrocious spelling, deciphering illegible codes that no one seemed to be able to make sense of except for her, and writing the translations down for the benefit of those who might come after.
A fireball walked into the cool quiet of the room.
Stunned by the sheer weight of the Force against her, Ukella looked up, expecting to find an ancient master, older than Yoda, since even he didn't feel like this—
And found a tiny boy.
An adorable little boy.
Ukella's mind glitched. I'm missing something.
“I'm here to make an appointment,” the little one announced, prim and grave.
Ukella's eyes widened. “Alright,” she said, using every scrap of willpower she possessed to make sure she didn't condescend. She remembered how terribly grown up she'd felt at his age, and how ugly it felt to have adults act like she was a cute little kid. “With which Mind Healer?”
She glanced surreptitiously for the door, but it appeared that the young one had come alone.
“Who fixes anger the best?”
“Seyrim, perhaps?” She would leave it to the master to explain to the little one that no one could change his internal state but himself.
“When can I see Master Seyrim?”
“Let me check.” Ukella put the call through. “Yes. I have a young man here who would like to see you... I will let him know.” She smiled down at the earnest face raised to hers. “She'll see you now, if you'd like.”
“Follow the hall, it's the third door on the left.”
“Thank you,” he said precisely, and then raced down the corridor, dignity forgotten.
Ukella smiled to herself. I hope you find what you're looking for, little one. May the Force be with you.
* * *
“You went to a Mind Healer?” Qui-Gon stared at Anakin in bewilderment.
He nodded, apparently oblivious to the fact that it was unusual.
“Ani, why would you think you needed to go?” Qui-Gon felt worried. “There is nothing wrong with you. You're young, and you've only just begun to learn of your abilities.”
Anakin raised sober eyes to his. “My anger hurts Obi-Wan. So it has to go away.”
Just that simple?
“You need to be patient with yourself,” Qui-Gon cautioned. “And Feemor could help you with that.”
Anakin considered it for a long moment, and then he announced, “I'm pretty sure I need more help. Master Feemor is helping a lot. But I don't seem to get it. When I told him I went to see Master Seyrim, he wasn't upset. Why are you upset? My Master said it's always good to ask for help when you think you might need it. I think he was proud of me. Do you ask for help when you think you might need it? I don't think you do, since you don't like that I did.”
The child's mild accusation stung. “Most of the time, we can manage our own minds on our own.”
“My brain is really loud. I'm happy to have help.” Anakin shrugged. “If your brain is quiet, that must be nice.”
Quiet? Oh, you have no idea.
He still didn't like the idea of this pure hearted little child going to see a Minder as if he was one of the... deviant ones who might grow up into monsters if they didn't have help. It was insulting.
Anakin scowled up at him. “Why don't you like Master Seyrim?”
“Master Seyrim is a very kind person.”
“She's really wizard. And she knows how to talk so I understand. And she doesn't ever tell me not to say something, or not to think something. She said she likes to use something called guided discovery, which means I figure things out for myself while she asks questions. Sometimes her questions make me angry, and then she asks more, and we figure out why. It makes me feel better.”
“You're a good boy, Anakin. Never doubt that.”
“I think you should see a Mind Healer.”
Qui-Gon arched an eyebrow. “Is that right,” he asked, tone flat.
“Yep.” And without an explanation, Anakin trotted off to find Obi-Wan again.
I can handle my own problems, thank you very much.
He hoped no one saw Anakin headed into the Healing wings, but somehow he doubted the boy was being subtle about it.
Qui-Gon Jinn felt frustrated.
Obi-Wan had moved out of his room.
That was the only way to explain it. Obi-Wan never returned there, instead, he seemed intent on always heading back to the empty med room.
He never left me when I was in a coma, but now that I'm awake, he's nowhere around.
Qui-Gon tried to spend time with him, but with Obi-Wan refusing to communicate, it made it difficult. How long was he supposed to just sit there while Obi-Wan stared at the wall, his head ninety degrees in the wrong direction to make eye contact with his former master?
The young man didn't seem to like being touched by Qui-Gon, even though he let Anakin crawl all over him, and the most Qui-Gon managed to get out of him were single word statements.
Mostly Master or always.
Once, when he'd really pushed for something, he'd received, “ Missed .”
Unfortunately, none of it meant anything, so Qui-Gon had given up.
Anakin would make grandiose tales out of monosyllables, insist he knew something more was happening inside Obi-Wan's brain than what was coming out of his mouth.
Anakin has an imaginary friend with a physical body.
He was making Obi-Wan into what he wanted him to be.
And Obi-Wan, pleased with Anakin's pure hearted intent, unwittingly encouraged the travesty.
In a moment of weakness, Qui-Gon had hinted it to Feemor.
His former Padawan had looked at him in pure horror, then reproach. “Surely you can
the truth in Anakin's voice.”
“I can sense his belief.” Which proves nothing.
Feemor scowled. “Fine. Ask him about his braid, then. He wouldn't let anyone touch it, and whenever his hair started growing out, he insisted on having it trimmed. Ask him about the braid.”
So that's where he was off to now.
He wanted to leave the Temple. He'd been here for two months after waking up, and he needed to move .
Obi-Wan definitely wasn't coming with.
He found Obi-Wan alone in the Room of a Thousand Fountains, cradling a blighted tree with his arms. There was a look of pure bliss on his face as he communed with it, and Qui-Gon almost thought he heard a slight groan from the tree as its disease lost ground to Obi-Wan's insistence.
Twenty-five. Almost twenty-six, now.
His favorite activity, besides staring at a blank wall and rocking, was tending plants.
Something that all his life he'd resisted doing.
You aren't my Obi-Wan.
He'd lived with a hope-inspired delusion those first few days. It had died a slow, painful death.
But just so he could look Feemor in the face when he returned— if he ever returned— he waited with what patience he could muster until Obi-Wan noticed him.
“Master.” Obi-Wan's expression turned wistful.
Qui-Gon gave a nod, forcing himself to look him in the eye. “Obi-Wan, you're a knight. Why do you still wear the braid?”
Obi-Wan's face went blank.
Qui-Gon steeled himself against the broken shards scraping in the Force, walling himself off from it, locking it away outside his shields.
Obi-Wan's eyes widened, and he drew in a small breath.
He waited, for fifteen minutes, as Obi-Wan struggled for words.
And then, heart sore, he turned around, and walked away.
There was nothing left of his apprentice in this broken shell.
* * *
“Excellent. Who can tell me what the—” Peritte's head snapped around as the door to her classroom hissed open and a grim figure walked straight to Anakin's desk.
Once there, Obi-Wan collapsed to his knees, dropped his head in the child's lap, and sobbed.
Anakin's eyes widened, his hand moving instinctively to brush Obi-Wan's hair as his gaze found his teacher's. She gave him a silent nod.
A hush lay across the room as Anakin coaxed Obi-Wan to his feet and drew him out the door and shut it behind them.
“Class, we're going to take a break now. I want you to focus on the hallway just outside. You're going to work together to create a pocket of calm and safety around our friends.”
As sober heads nodded, and kind hearts reached out to one another, using their combined strength to shield the hurting child-knight, Peritte smiled to herself. It wasn't just a good exercise for the little ones in her charge, it also taught them hands-on what she kept trying to impress on their minds.
Jedi put others first, even when “inconvenient.”
Allowing her eyes to drift shut, she reached out to add her goodwill to theirs, to lend comfort to the one who couldn't find it on his own.
Easy, Dear Heart. You are safe here.
You will never be alone here.
You are valued and precious and protected.
* * *
“And he didn't understand.”
Obi-Wan's heartbroken whimper was answer enough.
“Don't worry. We'll find him and tell him. He understands me. ”
“Gone,” Obi-Wan whispered. “Gone, gone. ”
Anakin reached out to the Force, realized Obi-Wan was right.
Qui-Gon was no longer in the Temple.
He stretched out farther—
Not on planet.
“We'll call him,” Anakin soothed. “We'll talk to his hologram. It's going to be okay. He'll understand.”
“Left Obi-Wan,” he whispered. “ Left. ”
“He'll come back,” Anakin promised, hoping it was true. “Always. Remember? He loves you. Always .”
Obi-Wan shook his head, tears slipping from his shattered eyes.
And then he let Anakin hold him and pat his back for long moments.
When he finally spoke, his voice was a barely audible whisper. “Not always. Doesn't want. Doesn't want Obi-Wan.”
Fury flared deep in Anakin's soul, aimed for the man who could walk away from someone who needed him so much.
How can he not care? Qui-Gon cares about everybody ...
The doubt whispered through his mind like an evil thing, fueling the anger.
Obi-Wan wailed in agony.
Anakin closed his eyes and breathed, forcing himself to count very slowly to ten.
That accomplished, he felt a tiny flare of victory, and set into the second half of his counterattack.
Listing in his mind every good thing about Obi-Wan he could think of.
Little kids love him.
Trees love him.
When he smiles, it looks like singing made seeable.
The way Obi-Wan would rest when Anakin cradled him in the Force.
The way Obi-Wan laughed.
The desperate, pleased rightness when Anakin spoke up to give a voice to someone who'd lost his own.
Anakin's soul calmed almost without his realizing it, and it instinctively reached out to shelter Obi-Wan's.
And seeing no anger, no threat, no displeasure...
Obi-Wan surrendered to him again, allowing him to soothe the pain and grief away.
Very quietly, Anakin began to sing a lullaby his mother had taught him.
* * *
He was in hyperspace en route to anywhere but Coruscant when he received another call from Satine.
“Master Jinn. How is he today?”
He'd kept telling her to try another time, since he'd yet to see Obi-Wan be able to communicate the way he had before. There was no point in wasting all of their time with a young man who would simply stare at his toes while Satine wanted to visit.
He was beginning to believe that he'd imagined that night at the mirror, that he'd dreamed it, invented it to make himself feel less guilty.
It had probably been a dream, or at least exaggerated by his post-coma state.
“Today isn't a good day.”
“I wouldn't mind just sitting with him,” Satine urged. “I just want to see him—”
“He's not going to care,” Qui-Gon muttered, cutting the connection even as Satine started to growl at him.
Everyone wanted to pretend like Obi-Wan was still here.
But his knight had died on Naboo. It was cruel to all of them, cruelest of all to Obi-Wan, to keep pretending otherwise.
His heart couldn't take it anymore.
He set his holodisc to deny all future calls Satine might make.
He needed out.
He needed to be free.
* * *
“Thank you for seeing me, Master Yoda.”
Yoda smiled at the young duchess. “Convinced your people to stop hunting Jedi, you did. A friend of the Jedi you are.”
“Master, I would like to see Knight Kenobi.”
“Ah. Like that, I think he would.”
“Master Jinn has been stonewalling me.”
Yoda sighed. “Much confusion, there is in him. Thinking of himself first and Obi-Wan second, he is.”
“Isn't that the dark side, Master?”
Yoda sent her a keen look, once again warmed by her respect for the customs of his people. “In a dangerous place, Master Jinn is. Hope for him we must. Comfort Obi-Wan, all we can do. Force Master Jinn to change we cannot. His own choices, will he make. Our own choices, all of us make.”
“I choose to help Obi-Wan, if you will permit me.”
“Know, you do, how to assist a hurting mind. Glad of your help would I be.”
She gave him a faint smile. “I'm glad something of my people's past could be used for good.”
He lightly poked her shin with his gimer stick. “Kind, you are. Much good you do. Doubt it, you must not.”
* * *
Pain was back. It was all through the inside of his chest, through his head, and Obi-Wan had no words to express it.
So he suffered in silence.
You had been very kind. You had made the pain quieter.
But it was still there.
Others had brought him to the trees again, and You wasn't there. So much of the time You wasn't there. You had important things to do.
Obi-Wan used to have important things.
Now he couldn't. No one gave him important things.
He couldn't be trusted with them. He'd break them.
Not even Master wanted to have anything to do with him, and Master liked broken people. He collected them.
But not Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan wasn't the right kind of broken.
He didn't know why he was here, now, and he couldn't find the words to ask.
“Obi-Wan. Do you remember me?”
Obi-Wan looked up to find a gentle face.
Satine kind, his mind supplied.
He wasn't sure which one was her name, so he took a stab in the dark for a guess. “Kind.”
Her face lit up. She was happy.
Tears stung his eyes. He hadn't made pain in her, and she wasn't angry.
On pure instinct, his hand reached out and took hers. He lifted it to his face, staring at it, not knowing why—
What was he supposed to do next?
But this is where the memory cut out.
His breath trembled, he raised broken eyes to Kind's own.
Moving slowly, she placed her other palm against the side of his face.
Everything inside him went away, replaced by utter calm and safety.
He felt cherished. Held, adored, valued, precious, forever—
Every muscle in his body went slack in response, and he found himself lowered carefully to the grass. He couldn't move. There was too much contentment coursing through his system.
Kind sat and pillowed his head on her lap, fingers tracing over his hair and forehead in a continuous arc.
He didn't understand his response to her, but there was a quiet happiness in her eyes that pleased him.
He couldn't make people happy these days. He always made them sad, no matter how hard he tried.
Her mind was a castle with the doors thrown wide open to him. No one's mind was like that. Obi-Wan found his own drawn inside, yet another example of instinct. He had no idea how to make this work, it just happened.
And then he could feel how deeply she treasured him.
More than anyone else in the universe.
And, unlike Master...
She didn't feel revulsion and guilt when she looked at him.
Obi-Wan would have been content to stay here, like this, forever— staring up at the swaying branches and simply existing together. She didn't ask him any questions, she didn't try to start a conversation. She simply sat there with him, hand caressing his forehead, her presence unspeakably healing to his soul.
A tiny bird perched on the branch above, peering down at them and whistling. Obi-Wan pointed to it, twisting his neck to see Kind's reaction. She smiled down, and then she whistled an answering call back to the bird.
Obi-Wan's eyes widened, and he looked back to the wild creature.
It sang again, a bit more insistently this time. Obi-Wan laughed.
* * *
The pure delight in that laugh, the joy lighting his face—
Satine had never seen him so happy. By the time they'd met, he'd already suffered through two rounds of rejection by Qui-Gon, and years of trying to please a man who didn't really seem to care, because he was more interested in tending the souls of strangers than that of the boy he'd adopted. Obi-Wan's intense natural compassion had to struggle for survival, a desperate fight to stay, but Qui-Gon interpreted Obi-Wan's occasional bitter-tinged comment as a sign of self-focus and a lack of care for others.
He didn't begrudge the others, he just wanted to be cared for too.
The young man she'd met had been solemn, pondered deeply but kept most of his thoughts locked away in his own soul, and his smiles were rare, and almost never showed teeth unless he was injured and in pain, or desperate and about to try something insane to save their lives.
The individual with his head pillowed on her lap, grinning up at a tiny avian?
This was new, and just a little surprising—
But he was Obi-Wan, and however his soul manifested itself, her own was tangled with it. It made her heart sing when she realized that he'd recognized it still.
Though she hadn't been expecting him to utterly collapse on her.
For the first time in a long time, she gave thanks to her early combat training for the reflexes to catch him.
Obi-Wan held out his hand to the small creature again, not really pointing this time. With a flurry of wings it perched on his finger.
Given the startled expression on his face, Satine didn't think he'd been trying for this. He raised wide eyes to Satine's face, and then he grinned, eyes sparkling. Teeth, dimples, not a care in the world—
Satine found herself helplessly chuckling. He just looked so damn happy. For such a little thing. She whistled, and the bird cocked a head at her. Filling tiny lungs full of air, the little one let loose a song that left both Jedi and Mandalorian laughing as the bird would not stop, determined to end this once and for all.
When it stopped, small frame heaving for breath, Satine gravely bowed her head. “I concede defeat.”
It remained a few moments longer, peering around at everything moving by, and then it saw an insect and lunged away.
Satine glanced at her chrono and stifled a sigh. Worried eyes watched her.
“I'll have to leave soon,” she explained. “I will come back.”
He made noises that sounded like the attempts for a few different sentence openings, then frowned. Five minutes later, he started looking panicked.
“Shhh,” she soothed. “Take your time.” She smiled at his surprise. “No pain, Obi-Wan.”
He drew in a shaky breath, and settled in to consider.
In the end he managed to find something in fifteen minutes' time.
“Wish... stay. ”
“I wish I could too,” Satine agreed. “Your home is... so clean, Obi-Wan. There is so much peace and compassion here, so much life. History and the present and the future, all in one.”
“And there's Obi-Wan,” she concluded with a smile.
That brought his grin back. “Obi-Wan.” The smile faded into an earnestness that tugged at her heart. “Wait for... leave Obi-Wan...
Not quite sure how to put the pieces together, Satine simply watched as Obi-Wan dragged her hand up to press into his face again as he let his eyes drift shut.
“You want me to stay until you fall asleep?”
“ Yes. ”
“I can most certainly do that.”
Satine arched an eyebrow though he wouldn't see it. You remember that, do you?
She searched her repertoire of lullabies for one that didn't actually include instructions on killing and mayhem— wasn't succeeding—
When I get home, I need to find a bard and we need to create new lullabies.
Obi-Wan hummed a few bars of Vode An, and then squinted an eye open at her.
“All right, then.”
It felt strange to sing that song here, of all places. She hoped other Jedi wouldn't pass by, to be traumatized by terrible memories of it. They hadn't all struggled through terrible wounds, clinging to the sound of her voice as she sang whatever she knew, however inapplicable at the time. Obi-Wan's encounter with Vode An wasn't exactly the usual for Jedi.
Obi-Wan lay quiet in her care, a gift of utter trust.
Minutes slipped by, taking his awareness with them.
When she rose to leave him, she unclasped her cloak and tucked it around him, letting her fingers brush against his cheek.
Sleep well, sleep deep.
And may all of your fears forget to find you in the realm of dreams.
So when I first posted this this morning, it said it was Chapter 9. Which confused me, because my Word doc says 8, and they usually match. So I glanced at the fic, missread the numbers, typed 8 into the "What chapter is this" place. Which meant it initially posted the new content before the chapter I posted before. So I think I've gotten it straightened out now, but now I need to find out why the numbers don't match.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Would that be alright?”
Feemor rubbed at his forehead, having the mind-numbing realization— “I'm the closest thing he has to a guardian, aren't I?”
The woman winced. “Qui-Gon didn't really leave behind instructions.”
No. That would require thinking ahead, considering more than just This Current Moment. Feemor gave a grim nod. “Um.... Alright.”
Depa smiled. “Left with two charges at once. Not an easy task.”
“Neither are a burden,” Feemor promised, “but I have no idea what to do with Obi-Wan. Or Anakin, but with Anakin, at least I lived a form of what's supposed to be happening now.”
“Would you like me to sit down with you and go over that?”
Feemor peered down at her. “You know?”
“I grew up aware of one of the Jedi with Down Syndrome. She is several years younger than me.”
“See— I didn't even know we had Jedi...” Feemor shook his head as he sat on the nearby bench. “But Obi-Wan, what am I going to do for him?”
“He has a measure of responsibility he can take for himself. To deny it to him would harm him. He needs to be allowed to do what he can.”
“And... the things he can't?”
“He'll need help.”
“How much help are we talking about? It will soon be the time when I would be taking my Padawan away from here for long periods of time.”
“From what I have observed, he is capable of bathing himself without injury, so long as someone reminds him and directs him to the refresher. He seems capable of finding the dining halls, and asking for someone to help him by carrying the food tray.”
“I've seen that, yes.”
“He's aware of the fact that when he carries it himself it dips and the contents fall on the floor. He can clothe himself, but tending to his own laundry seems a bit beyond.”
Feemor counted the days since Qui-Gon's abandonment. Three weeks now. “As for sleeping, I think he's been staying in his room.”
Depa nodded her head. “He has. It's also spotless, so he hasn't forgotten how to clean.”
Feemor stifled a light laugh. “So... he seems to be fairly functional on his own. Would he be better off with a schedule, or should we just let him continue mapping out his own time?”
“It would help him to feel needed. He sees Jedi setting out to help, soon you and Anakin will leave. He's keeping himself from becoming a burden, but he needs more than that.”
“And so your idea about the younglings.”
“Yes, if he likes them.”
Feemor nodded. “Yeah, he does. Can he keep track of days and clocks enough to be reliable?”
“We'll find out,” Depa promised, “but in a way he can't fail.”
Feemor rubbed at his eyes. “Your friend. What is life like for her?” He appreciated that she thought for a long time before answering.
“She's happy.” Depa gave a gentle sigh. “And she makes others happy.”
“Does she have a full-time caretaker?”
Depa nodded. “One of the nurturing Jedi chose her at the age of five. She'd been watching her for three years before that, studying, considering. They'll be together for as long as they live.”
“Qui-Gon doesn't have that temperament,” Feemor murmured. “He didn't choose Obi-Wan for that kind of long haul. It was supposed to be a finite number of years, and then done.”
“I don't know that Obi-Wan needs quite as much watching over as my friend. He may not be able to remember, but his feet and hands do. He knows how to swim should he fall in the water. He knows not to touch things that could burn him. My friend struggles with water. She sinks like a stone.” Depa shivered. “Forgets to move her arms. But, she enjoys teaching 'babies' how to paint. They seem to understand when she speaks, and are young enough to not notice— or care— that she's a little different. I would like to put Obi-Wan with older ones, because I caught him executing a beautiful kata a week ago.”
Feemor's eyes widened.
“Not with a saber, open-handed, but his form was perfect, and he was alone.”
Feemor's eyes fell shut against the pain. Obi-Wan's silent song of grief and loss.
“I fear he feels he's given everything, and has nothing left to offer,” Depa whispered.
Feemor nodded, blinking back tears. “I agree.”
“Teaching the little ones the early katas can be so healing. They want so badly to please, and they adore those who invest in them. That kind of affection and acceptance can only help Obi-Wan.”
“Then I will see if he will help me, and if he is willing, I will watch over this particular endeavor.”
“Do I need to find someone to be in charge of him while I'm away?”
Depa considered it. “Someone should have some form of authority, in case he is unconscious and needs medical decisions made.”
“Dooku would be the obvious pick,” Feemor rued, “but he has shown little patience for Obi-Wan's current condition. I will speak with Yoda about it. Perhaps he will have wisdom.”
“His life isn't over now, you know,” Depa murmured as Feemor rose to go fetch his now-waiting Padawan.
“He's lost a lot, but his life isn't over.”
“Some would say it is,” Feemor pointed out. “Yes, he can do some things for himself still, things that could have been taken... but it's so much less than what used to be open for him.”
“I think no one is more keenly aware of that than him.”
Feemor nodded. “Part of what makes it so sad.”
“He wants to feel genuinely important. He doesn't want charity, he doesn't want to be toyed with. He wants to actually help and do something useful.”
* * *
A month later, Feemor traveled through the youngling areas of the Temple, seeking out his Padawan.
A silent crowd around the open door of the dojo caught his attention.
He pushed his way through them and into the room, finding it crammed with spectators and a small group of younglings. In the center of the sand, Obi-Wan performed with the grace of a dancer.
Feemor's feet fell still, his breath caught.
When Depa said she'd seen him perform Sorrow's Fall...
I had no idea.
There was something so raw, so open about Obi-Wan's movements, his soul on display, his entire being thrown into the sad tale of the kata.
Feemor saw tears running freely down many a face.
For the injured soul, not a creature existed in this dojo, nothing at all mattered except the flawless execution of a story told in trailing finger tips and pointed toes.
Feemor had seen this same series of movements done well through the years. He'd even seen it done masterfully.
But he'd never seen anyone embody its soul, translate something so close and painful into movement.
His cheeks felt wet, and he wasn't sure how the tears had gotten there.
Obi-Wan fell into the final form, kneeling, his body still, his expression distant, called by a far-off melody, hand held out, waiting for the departed one of the story to take it.
He dances for you, Qui-Gon.
Feemor felt his heart shatter. Felt so many others do the same.
He feared applause would break out, would startle the beautiful one.
Instead, one by one, the watchers gave silent, heart-felt bows in Obi-Wan's direction and slipped away.
Still Obi-Wan held his pose, and Feemor wondered if he hoped against hope that the one he danced for would some time come and take his hand.
Small red fingers grasped it, blue eyes sought Obi-Wan's out.
One of the younglings had decided to make her move.
The small Togruta smiled, reaching up to dry the tears that lay silent on Obi-Wan's cheeks. He caught her up, holding her close, and Feemor, far away as he stood, heard the soul-deep sigh that escaped Obi-Wan.
It sent Feemor to his comm unit, blinking moisture from his eyes as he put the call through.
Qui-Gon didn't answer.
It didn't stop Feemor from leaving a message. “Anakin and I will be leaving the Temple four days from now. The others are looking after Obi-Wan, and he's safe, but... Force, Qui-Gon, he misses you. If you could find it in your heart to visit him while we're gone, it would make a universe of difference.” Feemor dragged his hand down his face. “ Please, come back to him.”
Feemor killed the connection, knowing Qui-Gon would likely be mildly unimpressed with his begging...
But at this point, he didn't really care. He needs you.
* * *
“Leaving Obi-Wan.” Blue eyes looked down into Anakin's own. “Not come back.”
Anakin took Obi-Wan's face between his hands. “I am coming back.”
“Change. Bored. Not want Obi-Wan anymore.”
“I won't change that way. I've got to grow up, Obi-Wan. I've got to get big and strong like you.”
A faint smirk touched Obi-Wan's face.
“No, you are. And when I get home, we're going to heal some trees. You need to take care of those younglings and teach them their katas while I'm gone. Okay?”
Obi-Wan gave a nod, the dread in his eyes alone.
Cold fingers came up to brush against Anakin's cheek.
“Waiting. Waiting for You.”
“I will always come back to you,” Anakin promised in a whisper. “You wait for me. I will come back.”
And then they were tangled in a hug that could split stone with its power.
* * *
“Did he know?” He didn't receive an answer. “Adi, tell me, or I'm leaving. I have better things to do.”
And since Adi Gallia had only now managed to get through to her friend...
She sighed. “Yes, Qui-Gon.”
“How much did he know?”
“According to the Healers, there is no way he could have healed you without knowing exactly what was going on, feeling each part of his mind being given away. He chose to keep going, knowing what it was doing, what it would do, to him.”
“Damn fool,” Qui-Gon swore. “What was wrong with him?”
“He felt you were worth something eating away his mind for.”
Qui-Gon swore again, looking haggard and worn.
Adi's feet stilled and she looked up at Obi-Wan, who stood basking in the Room of a Thousand Fountains, the Force twining and coiling around him, cherishing him in its caress.
Younglings out on a walk stared, pointing, eyes tracing the light that seemed to wreathe around the human's form.
Adi angled her the pickup of her holodisk.
Qui-Gon's sharp gasp didn't escape her.
Small creatures stared up at Obi-Wan in almost as much wonder as the children, Obi-Wan oblivious to them all, his soul adrift in the waves of reality.
“You've been letting him tap into the Cosmic Force?” Qui-Gon hissed. “What were you thinking ?”
“It's his gift, Qui-Gon,” Adi pointed out, her own gaze captivated by the sight of Obi-Wan's surrender to his skills. It was about time he was unfettered by your teachings.
“If he submits to it he's going to lose any compassion and care for others!”
“Look at him, Qui-Gon, that's not a risk!”
Obi-Wan seemed to glow, his body mirroring the utter peace and joy in the boy's face. With a deep breath of contentment, he toppled over backwards, arms outstretched. Instead of hitting the ground, he hung there, held on the cushion of the Force, strands of light spiraling around him, embracing him—
Exactly how he was supposed to be.
“He's happy,” Adi pointed out. “Shouldn't that please you?”
Qui-Gon watched, grim heartache on his face. “He is a shadow.”
“How can you say that, looking at him?”
“How much time does he spend meditating? Not really present, not here?”
Adi sighed. “He sees beautiful things in the Force, Qui-Gon. He sees the universe wheeling overhead and feels accepted. Let him find joy where he can. It's not like you're here for him to focus on.”
Qui-Gon shook his head and turned away.
“You know he never asks. Never asks why you don't come back for him, never asks why he's not good enough for you anymore.”
Qui-Gon's breath audibly caught.
“He just assumes he's not good enough anymore. He accepts it. The idea that he gave up everything to save you, and now he's not enough to hold your attention. He thinks that's normal. He doesn't blame you, he just misses you with every fiber of his being.”
“Adi, trying to guilt me does not become you.”
“Of course I'm trying to change your mind—”
“As you so aptly pointed out, he's happy. And apparently without any of my constricting rules. Last thing he needs is me.”
The connection cut.
Adi was left closing her eyes against frustration.
When her eyes opened, they found Obi-Wan's staring at her, yearning within them.
He stepped away from the Force's embrace, walking for the door, and it seemed that shadow and cold fell in his wake.
Hey, guys. So I wasn't about to try to come up with a Star Wars name equivalent for Down. A, I wouldn't be sure people understood, B, Down is what I have experience with.
Also, Word had more issues with Ao3 today than usual, so sorry about the paragraphs not being even. They were in the original document, but I don't have time to turn this into html and fix them each go around. Maybe someday in the future. Who am I kidding?
Found out what happened. I tried to post Chapter 6 and it failed, so I tried it again the next day. Ao3 lovingly saved the failed attempt, and had it in there saying "Not posted yet." ;) I got rid of the duplicate Chapter 6 and the number problem seems to have disappeared.
Also: Thank you to everyone who has left a comment.
“Hey.” Fourteen-year-old Anakin sat beside Obi-Wan at one of the dining tables. “Alicka said you haven't been eating.”
Obi-Wan didn't look at him. The tired gaze tracked Anakin's hand instead.
Anakin left the one where he could see it and put the other around his shoulders, leaning his head against the side of Obi-Wan's so he could lightly blow air into Obi-Wan's ear.
When that didn't seem to cut through Obi-Wan's fog, Anakin stood behind him and placed his hands on the older boy's shoulders, pressing down to give a gentle sense of weight.
Seyrim had suggested that he try some of the tactics that sometimes helped children on the autistic spectrum, and taught a few to him.
“Alicka's made muffins, especially for you,” Anakin murmured, making sure not to speak too fast or loud. “It would make me very happy if you could eat one.”
Obi-Wan dropped his head to the table top.
Anakin took the plate from Alicka, gave her a smile, and set it down. Lifting a muffin in one hand, he settled himself straddling the bench, reaching up with his free hand to gently rub the lobe of Obi-Wan's ear.
For a long moment the thirty-one-year-old didn't move. And then he slowly turned his head and opened his jaw.
Anakin broke off a small piece of the muffin and popped it into his mouth.
It took careful attention, but finally Obi-Wan held a second muffin, working on it himself.
Anakin leaned his head against his shoulder and smiled. “You'll never guess what I saw while we were on mission. A star that orbited a planet. Didn't think it was possible.”
Obi-Wan didn't respond.
“I also saw a cat with ten different sets of limbs, and mountains covered in snow.”
Obi-Wan sighed. “Tired, You. Obi-Wan tired.”
“Waiting and waiting.” Obi-Wan clutched his Padawan braid tight in a fist. “He never comes.”
“He's not—” Anakin blurted, and then bit his tongue hard.
Obi-Wan's haunted eyes shifted, moved to look in his face.
He's not coming back.
Anakin placed his hand over Obi-Wan's fist, gently squeezing. “You don't need him. It's been five years, Obi-Wan. You've done just fine on your own.”
Obi-Wan let go of his braid to grab hold of Anakin's comforting hand.
“And maybe when Feemor knights me, he can cut your braid too.”
Obi-Wan shook his head and looked away.
“He'll come back,” Anakin whispered, hating himself for lying to him.
Obi-Wan looked back, the faintest flicker of hope in the empty eyes.
“Always, remember?” Oh, he deserved to burn, he deserved—
“Always,” Obi-Wan whispered.
Anakin pressed a kiss to the top of his head and fled.
He was surprised when Qui-Gon actually picked up. For a heartbeat, he didn't know what to say, and then the floodgates let loose.
“How can you
him like that? He gives up
for you and you leave him to endure the consequences of it
“He shouldn't have saved me.”
Anakin's jaw dropped. “So you're punishing him for it?”
“He saved me to live, didn't he? Chaining me up is not living, Anakin! You of all people should know that.”
“What's that supposed to mean?”
“His greatest interest is in plants now, Anakin. His personality doesn't have room for anything more.”
“The immediate feedback of him giving healing and having it received with happiness is what draws him to the trees,” Anakin snapped back. “And if you were here, you'd hear him say the trees are happy. Unlike certain people.”
“How are those anger issues?”
Anakin sighed. “I'm doing well, actually, since I'm going to pretend you actually care and didn't just ask to needle me.”
“Right.” Anakin shook his head. “Why does he love you so much?”
“You. From what I was able to find from the archives and memories of people who were around, you were terrible to him most of the time. Yet all he wants is to know he did well. To have you look him in the face and tell him you're proud of him.”
“I did tell him. I told him before I left.”
Anakin lowered his head and bit his lip. “I told him you'd come back.”
“Why would you do that?”
“He looks so sad, and he's fading away. He's losing interest in what goes on around him. He eats— or he doesn't. He does what is asked of him, he demonstrates katas for the young ones, helps them with form, takes them into the gardens, but he doesn't do anything to entertain himself anymore. He just sits there, looking out at nothing.”
“I seem to remember that's exactly what he was doing when I left.”
“It's different. ”
“Sure it is, Anakin.”
“You have no right to sit wherever you are and judge his condition. I have been with him for years, I know him, and he's not well. He misses you and it's eating away at him.”
“Give it another couple of weeks. He'll forget I existed.”
Anakin squeezed his eyes shut, simply breathing. “You... you are cruel, and ungrateful, and utterly unworthy of his devotion,” he murmured at length. “And I wish I could save him from this. I wish that I could tell him how wasted his tears are, and that it would heal his heart and he could move on, never give you another thought. But for me to tell him any of that would simply hurt him, because Master loves him always. Always will come back for him. Always save him.”
“He should be saving himself by now.”
“He's yours— ”
“He was mine. He would have been knighted on the return from Naboo—”
“He was! ”
“Oh, right. Except for the braid he refuses to give up.”
“He wants you to cut it,” Anakin blurted. “It was your right, your privilege—”
“Anakin, stop. He's barely more than the vegetables he tends now. This pretending is harmful, for you, and for him. Let him go. He belongs in a different sphere now. Let the nurses and healers fuss over him, stop trying to drag him after you into an actual life. It must be confusing for him.”
“ Anakin— ”
“ No. ” Anakin blinked back the burning in his eyes. “We don't need you. We'll need to just figure it out. Enjoy your vacation.”
But the teenager cut the connection without a second's hesitation.
And then he let his head fall against the wall and the tears took over.
Oh, Obi-Wan, I'm sorry...
Please let him go. Please.
* * *
Four years passed.
Anakin found himself an adult... but not knighted.
Even though he knew it was unreasonable to expect knighthood quite so soon, it still felt... frustrating.
Feemor said that's one of the ways Anakin would know he was almost there. That all Padawans this close felt that ticking clock.
Obi-Wan said nothing about it. He listened to Anakin's complaints, understood some of it—
Patted Anakin's hand, gave him a weary, sad smile...
And would absently reach up to touch his own braid.
The decade lay lightly on Obi-Wan's looks. People outside often mistook them for age-mates.
The weight of it lay in his eyes, and the silence of his laughter. The years had stilled the smile, left it faint and small. Anakin never saw his teeth anymore.
They'd re-purposed Qui-Gon's old medical room, trying to make it no longer comfortable for Obi-Wan to retreat to, but he would return. Around patients, around rearranged furniture or the lack of it, around it being turned into a storage closet—
Anakin was never surprised to find him there, staring at the wall and rocking, a locked book, a jumbled painting, an aching soul.
* * *
He'd done something terrible.
He'd suffered, his soul had been ripped to shreds—
Anakin found Obi-Wan in the Room of a Thousand Fountains, saw his friend watch his approach.
He needed Obi-Wan. His soul needed the clear purity of Obi-Wan's own.
The older man didn't give his usual greeting. He watched Anakin with an unreadable silence in his face.
“Force, I've missed you.” Anakin stepped close, desperately needing a hug—
Obi-Wan took a step farther back.
“It's me,” Anakin soothed. “You know me. I haven't been gone that long.”
But there was something in Obi-Wan's eye that scared him.
“I'm You , remember?”
Obi-Wan stepped closer, but Anakin's relief died as Obi-Wan seized his hand and held the palm to his nose, peering at it with a concentration that whispered desperation.
Anakin's heart thundered in his chest at the scrutiny.
“Not You, ” Obi-Wan announced, spitting on Anakin's palm. “Obi-Wan don't know. Killer. ”
The younger Jedi recoiled in stunned horror.
“Little ones. Babies. Baaabies. Kill. ” Obi-Wan clutched at his head. “ Baby screaming, baby dead— ”
“ Stop, ” Anakin pleaded, breaking—
“You is dead,” Obi-Wan sung softly to himself. “You is dead, You is dead— ” his voice broke in a sob.
“I swear I'm not, please, Obi-Wan, it's me— ”
“Baby died. You died. Obi-Wan alone. Obi-Wan alone, alone, alone— ”
Tears streamed down Anakin's cheeks. “You don't know how they hurt me, Obi-Wan, please— I made a mistake, but it was a mistake, Obi-Wan—”
In that moment, the grieving blue eyes met his and Anakin wished he could hide from them forever. They saw into the depths of his soul, and Anakin had nothing to hide
And suddenly Anakin knew.
He wanted to claim forgiveness, pardon under the statement he'd made one mistake—
But if he wanted that to be the measure, how could he hold the murderers accountable for what they'd done to him ?
“Not You. Not You. You dead. Obi-Wan alone.”
“Never. You will never be alone, I swear it, Obi-Wan—”
But the other wasn't listening anymore. He turned away, his shoulders hunched, looking like he'd aged five decades in a second. His breathing pained, his heart broken—
“Go,” he whispered.
Anakin felt as if a brand had been burned across his face, marking him forever. He stumbled as he turned, finding his way to the door. He'd just stepped into the hall when he heard Obi-Wan's scream of utter anguish.
He paused, tears coursing down his face, and heard another.
The heartbroken grief of Obi-Wan mourning the loss of his You.
And Anakin knew.
To Obi-Wan, every child was just as important as Anakin himself.
And how many did I...
Anakin ran forward, Obi-Wan's agonized wails haunting every step. He tripped and fell—
Anakin's eyes flew open and he sat up gasping, utterly disoriented.
He stared around, desperate—
Dream, just a dream, he realized.
The memory of Obi-Wan's destroyed heart gutted him, and he cried out. It had felt so real, so deep—
Anakin trembled, saw Feemor moving towards him, his master's eyes exhausted.
“What is it?”
Anakin stared up at him, feeling hopelessness collapse in on him. After all of his struggles to protect Obi-Wan from Anakin himself...
I will fail.
He was going to do something utterly unforgivable.
He didn't know why.
“Is it a dream?” Feemor asked.
“What did it mean to you?”
“I'm going to hurt him.” Anakin dragged hands over his hair. “I'm going to do something terrible. ”
“Do you know why?”
Anakin squeezed his eyes shut and pressed heated palms against them. “No. Something's been done to me. I've lost... and I did something... and I didn't think about him until after, and then he turns away from me—”
“You fear losing his friendship?”
Anakin dragged haunted eyes open. “I fear me,” he whispered, voice hoarse.
Feemor pulled him close, holding him as he sobbed.
“No one can
you do anything,” he murmured. “No one.”
“What if I lose you, and I take revenge? What if I'm not strong enough—?”
“Strong enough to save me, or strong enough to resist murder on my behalf?”
“To save you.”
“Oh, Anakin.” Feemor sighed into the short-cropped hair. “Losing is part of being mortal.”
“I can't. I can't. ”
“You are stronger than you know,” Feemor promised. “Loss happens as you grow up. One of these days, you're going to lose me.”
“ Don't— ”
“I cannot live forever, and I wouldn't want to.”
“How can you say that?”
“Remember when I promised to always tell you the truth?”
Anakin pulled back to peer into his face. “Yes.”
“There are some things I would like to experience before my death. I want to knight you, I want to see you take your first Padawan, I want to fight by your side as equals. I want to see you knight your Padawan.”
Anakin stared at him. My Padawan? That's never going to happen!
“And there's some things I'd like to happen during my death. They're not musts, but I would like them. I would like you to be there. I would like to get to say goodbye to you. I would like your Padawan to be there to comfort you.”
Anakin shook his head. “Please. Don't talk like that.”
“That's what I would like. What I need is for you to not close yourself off. I need you to remember all those wonderful things Seyrim taught you.”
“You're afraid. So am I.”
Anakin's eyes widened. “What?”
“I'm afraid you'll go first, or that something will happen to you.” Feemor gave a faint smile. “I can't imagine what Qui-Gon feels every time he's reminded of what has happened to Obi-Wan.”
“Shh,” Feemor whispered, interrupting Anakin with a light shake of his head. “He faced loss, and could not find the grace to meet it. Isn't that what you fear?”
Anakin shivered. “Qui-Gon hasn't done anything terrible. ”
“Hasn't he?” Feemor squeezed Anakin's shoulder. “Neglect.”
“How can he do it?”
“He's afraid.” Feemor gave a sorrowful nod. “He's afraid he cannot endure this loss. He's letting fear close him off from something beautiful, because from where he's standing, all is... hell. You only find the beauty if you walk through the fire, Anakin. Hiding... you only see the ugly. You can't see what waits for you should you endure.”
“I can't lose you.”
Feemor bowed his head. “I know you believe that. And I treasure your love for me. But I do not believe it would break you.” Feemor reached out, took Anakin's face in his hands. “I believe in you. No matter how much pain or fear you endure, I believe you will come through shining brighter.”
“Not much of a consolation prize.”
Feemor breathed a laugh. “You say that now, but a life well lived is all any of us have, in the end.”
Anakin held his mother's dead hand in his, and couldn't believe the pain shattering through his soul. It hurt worse than he'd feared, worse—
It was so senseless, he could have saved her if he'd just been in time—
* * *
“ Pain! ” Obi-Wan shrieked, his body convulsing against the hold of the two Jedi who caught him, kept him from falling to the flagstones. “Pain! You! ”
His screams tore through the Temple, horrifying his family.
Lost to them all, Obi-Wan suffered with the second half of his soul.
* * *
Yoda felt his heart break as he heard the screams of Anakin's heart mingle with the ragged sobbing of Obi-Wan. The anguished keening echoed through the Temple's halls, cutting through the hush that fell in response to his suffering.
To Mace Windu's horrified questions, Yoda merely looked up, tears in his old eyes. “Skywalker is in pain. Terrible pain. Something horrible has happened.”
How he wished he could spare them, the two beautiful, young souls.
But nothing could shield a mortal forever.
How he hoped they would endure, not shatter against the strain.
* * *
Anakin opened his eyes to find himself in the Halls of Healing and alone.
Not quite alone.
Obi-Wan stood at the foot of his bed, staring off at nothing.
Anakin tried to sit up, Obi-Wan raised shattered eyes to his face, and then they were clutched in one another's embrace, tears mingling as they grieved.
I didn't do it.
I didn't kill them.
The temptation had been strong, so terribly strong— he hated how strong it had been—
Obi-Wan clung to him, soothing, pressing kisses to his head and murmuring, “Shh,” in a tiny, loving voice.
You know, don't you. You know so much more than you should.
Anakin's hand came up to touch Obi-Wan's face, and it glinted.
Horror flooded his mind.
An arena with dozens of Jedi dying, dying; a duel where he nearly got Feemor killed, where he lost his hand , and now he had one of metal—
Physical pain hit, the memory of fire carving through his arm—
He curled forward with a cry.
Obi-Wan tangled his fingers with the metal ones, and pressed kisses against the twisted metal tendons and bones.
Anakin tried to pull it away, disgusted—
Obi-Wan whimpered and buried his face in Anakin's chest, refusing to let go of the hand he now held in both his own.
“It's okay,” Anakin soothed, running his left hand over Obi-Wan's head. And then he shook his head, eyes filling anew— “It's not okay. It's really not.”
“Not,” Obi-Wan agreed through sniffles.
“But someday, a long time from now, we're going to be okay, you and me. Someday.”
“Someday,” Obi-Wan sobbed, pressing one last kiss to the new knuckles before shifting to crawl onto the bed beside Anakin.
They clung to one another and allowed the tears, and that is where exhaustion found them.
When Feemor awoke from his passed-out-from-pain state, that was what he found. The two of them asleep, faces damp, souls raw.
Ignoring all of the healers' recommendations, Feemor dragged a chair to the bedside and settled himself to sleep there, needing to be present for the wounded two when they awoke.
And to be honest, he needed Obi-Wan's soul as well.
A war had just started over Feemor's life and death.
And oh, would he have gladly died rather than that be the case.
He braced his uninjured arm on the bed and leaned his aching head against it.
And if tears slipped from his eyes before he fell asleep, who could blame him?
On the brink of giving in, when reality warped into pseudo-dream right on the edge of sleep, a pale hand moved to rest on his head, gently brushing the hair back from his eyes.
* * *
Hand in hand they waited outside the Council chamber.
It wasn't easy to find reconciliation with this new hand of his... but feeling Obi-Wan holding it, and having seen Obi-Wan accept it as part of him, part of his You...
Anakin drew in a deep breath, knowing today was the day.
Feemor stepped out and smiled to them both.
“Obi-Wan, I'm about to make Anakin a knight.”
Anakin's heart leaped into his throat.
“I'm going to cut off his braid. I would like to cut yours too.”
Obi-Wan smiled, an expression so unfettered Anakin hadn't seen in years. And then it faded and he shook his head. He gave Anakin's hand one last squeeze, and then stepped back.
“Are you sure?” Anakin asked, heart breaking for him.
“Obi-Wan wait. Always.”
Feemor's face twisted with compassion. “Obi-Wan... he's not coming back.”
Anakin's eyes widened. “What?”
Obi-Wan reached out, patted the back of his hand. “Yes. Left Obi-Wan always.”
Qui-Gon's word had remained the same, but its meaning had terribly changed.
Faith you would always return for him has turned to faith that you never will.
And the man didn't know, didn't care.
Anakin pulled Obi-Wan into a fierce hug. “I wouldn't be here today without you,” he murmured in Obi-Wan's ear. “You helped me just as much as anybody else to make this possible.”
Obi-Wan leaned his head against Anakin's, the smile returning. “Earned this, You.”
“Force, I love you.” Anakin squeezed him tight, smiling at the strength of Obi-Wan's mirroring embrace.
“It is time,” Feemor murmured.
Anakin nodded, and stepped to his master's side.
Feemor lightly caressed Obi-Wan's cheek with his palm before the three stepped into the chamber.
Obi-Wan stood to the side, watching with a mixture of pride and hunger as Anakin's braid was cut.
And when Anakin sent a message to Qui-Gon later, he tried to be clever.
I've been knighted. I'd like to see you.
Not a word about Obi-Wan...
But the old man seemed to see through Anakin's plotting...
And never responded.
Obi-Wan simply endured it, delighting in Anakin's hair as it grew, giggling with ridiculous joy.
I wish you were growing yours with me.
Someday, he was going to hunt Qui-Gon down, kidnap him, and somehow force the man into severing Obi-Wan's braid, so help him Force.
* * *
“You would never have made it as Feemor's Padawan, but you might make it as mine.”
Cautious hope sprang to life in blue eyes—
“ If, and it's a big if— you fit.”
The girl stared at him, blank. “If I fit in what?”
“ With. Not in. ”
And that's all he would say on the matter until he got her back to the Temple and Ahsoka Tano found herself face-to-face with Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Anakin watched them, evidently in need of something.
“I know you!” Ahsoka blurted. “The man who danced.”
Obi-Wan watched her, confused.
Ahsoka grinned, then knelt to minimize her height. She reached out, took Obi-Wan's hands in her own, then stood again, reaching out to brush away imaginary tears from his cheeks.
Obi-Wan blinked, squinted at her face—
Ahsoka wrapped arms around him, a gentle embrace.
Surprise washed over his face, but he hugged her back.
“I was little. I'm not surprised you don't remember me. Just one of many younglings. You were teaching us, got distracted, and started performing a grieving kata. You completely forgot we were there. I sensed you felt sad, so I took your hand and gave you a hug.”
Obi-Wan's brow furrowed with concentration.
Anakin watched Ahsoka, clearly expecting something—
Her soul shuddered against the grating glass of Obi-Wan trying to follow paths through his mind. They reminded her of the thought-puzzle pictures some kids were fond of. You tried to follow one path through the maze, only to discover the lines formed physical impossibilities.
His mind is like that.
He sighed at last, shaking his head. “Obi-Wan not know.”
“That's okay,” Ahsoka promised, “because I do. And I know how close you and Anakin are. And I'm going to be your Padawan.”
Obi-Wan's eyes went wide. “No. You's Padawan.”
“No. Both of yours.”
Obi-Wan snorted a laugh, his expression incredulous.
Anakin cleared his throat. “She might be on to something, Obi-Wan.”
Obi-Wan stared at him. “ Us ?” he finally asked, the word tentative, and tinged with a hope that nearly gutted Ahsoka.
“Yeah,” Anakin agreed. “ Us. ”
And then Obi-Wan smiled at Ahsoka, a dazzling, brilliant smile.
Anakin clapped a hand on the shoulder of one and the other. “Yeah, Obi-Wan. Our Padawan.”
Obi-Wan nodded, then turned an earnest look to Anakin. “Tell him? Master?”
“I... don't know how to get in contact with him.”
A look that Ahsoka read as pure don't-banthakark-me flooded Obi-Wan's face. “Lie.”
Anakin winced. “Tell him what? That we have a Padawan?”
“ Yes. ”
“He won't answer, and he won't respond,” Anakin warned.
Obi-Wan's chin came up, he nodded once, and then looked expectant.
“You want him to know anyway.” Anakin sighed and gave one last nod. “Okay. Just please.” He stepped closer, lightly touched Obi-Wan's chin with his metal fingers, “don't stop smiling.”
Obi-Wan gave him one right then, but it was sad, small, forceless.
Anakin deflated, gripped his shoulder tight, and then walked off.
Not knowing what to do, Ahsoka stayed with Obi-Wan, simply sitting there, wondering what was happening.
Obi-Wan sat there as well, staring off into the distance until Anakin returned. Obi-Wan's eyes sought out his brother's, and Anakin gave him a small, sad shake of the head.
Obi-Wan nodded, stood, and walked away, shoulders drooped.
Anakin came to a stop by Ahsoka, staring after him in grief.
“Go after him,” Ahsoka whispered.
He looked down at her, uncomprehending.
“Go,” she pleaded.
He ran after him, falling into step beside him. Obi-Wan looked without slowing his steps, and Anakin wrapped an arm around his shoulders.
Obi-Wan's feet hesitated a moment, and then his arm came up to go around Anakin's neck as well.
Ahsoka blinked back tears as she watched them.
Who? Who is the sad dancing man yearning for?
She was going to find out.
“Who are you?”
Enough was enough. Qui-Gon kept getting these bizarre messages from a young woman, and he had no idea who she could be. He'd finally picked up when she called, just to ask that question.
“I'm your worse nightmare,” she announced before cutting the connection.
That was it.
Qui-Gon stared at the empty disk and thought, excuse me?
He was going to to find out who the hell this young Togruta was.
* * *
“If you want information, you can look it up in the archives yourself.”
“I'm not your personal aide, Master Jinn, look it up yourself. ”
“But that would require my presence
the Temple, and I'm busy
Jocasta gave him an unconvinced look. “That's unfortunate. I suppose you'll have to reconcile yourself to not knowing, then.”
“It would only take a minute—”
“It would only take eleven years.”
Eleven years? Eleven years what— oh.
“I can't help it he decided to save me.”
Jocasta looked prim. “No. None of us can help that.”
“So to punish me for not being dead you're refusing to do your job?”
“My job is not to do research for you, my job is to make sure the archives are well tended. And they are. Spectacularly well tended. But you wouldn't know anything about that.”
“ Madame— ”
“It's not like you're doing anything important out there,” she sniped.
He stared at her. “ Excuse me ? I'm following the will of the Force— ”
“Sure you are. Perhaps the Will of the Force should be given a backseat when a child you're responsible for needs you.”
“He's been knighted, Madame Jocasta.”
“Until that braid's gone he's
“He still refuses to let it go?”
Jocasta sniffed and cut the connection.
She hung up on him.
Him. Qui-Gon Jinn.
They all hate me these days.
How could he blame them? He hated himself.
Obi-Wan would be thirty-six.
Thirty-six, and running around like some overgrown three-year-old. It made his heart sick. He couldn't risk accidentally running into him, just for the sake of trying to figure out the identity of his loud stalker.
After so many years, what would he say ?
* * *
Ahsoka checked her missed calls, a hand absently petting the head resting in her lap.
“Padawan,” the owner of the head murmured. “Kind here.”
Ahsoka reached out to the Force, but couldn't sense her. She knew better than to question Obi-Wan's unerring sense of the Duchess, however.
“Good. That should keep you busy for a little bit.”
Obi-Wan sighed, not budging from where he lay on the ground.
Qui-Gon Jinn, Qui-Gon Jinn, Qui-Gon Jinn—
And oh, look, another missed call from Qui-Gon Jinn.
Ahsoka allowed herself to smirk.
Need a name for the restraining order, do you?
She tucked the holodisc back into her belt with a satisfied nod, only to realize Obi-Wan was still
and hadn't gone dancing off to worship at his Kind's feet. “Hey. You okay?”
“You always feel more rested after spending time with Satine. Half the time you sleep. You'll feel better if you go see her.”
“Anakin's with the Chancellor.”
“Chancellor no patience.”
“Yeah, he doesn't like me either. Grumpy old coot.”
She expected a snicker, or at least a faint smile, but Obi-Wan's expression didn't change.
Ahsoka sensed Obi-Wan reach out to the Force, a languid, tense movement, and then he recoiled from it again. A bone-deep sigh escaped him.
Ahsoka's fingers danced over his short-cropped hair. “It's pretty bad.”
Ahsoka nodded and leaned her head against the wall. Obi-Wan's gifting with the Cosmic Force meant he had very little protecting him against the large-scale atrocities from pouring through his soul.
It wore on Mace Windu as well, sharpening his words, tightening the muscles in his face and shoulders.
Obi-Wan, instead of turning sour, grew listless.
“Anakin will be back soon. Want to go to Dex's once he gets back?”
Obi-Wan didn't respond.
“Maybe the park?”
Again no response.
“Okay. I think I'm going to take you to wherever Satine is.”
Ahsoka looked up to see the Duchess stepping into the Room of a Thousand Fountains. “We're over here.”
Obi-Wan didn't look around.
The Mandalorian's expression turned from smiling anticipation to concern in three seconds flat. “What is wrong? What has happened?”
“I don't know,” Ahsoka admitted. “He says he's tired of the war. Doesn't seem to care about much of anything right now. He knew you were coming, though.”
A satisfied smile tugged at Satine's lips and lit her eyes.
Ahsoka was aware of the Force and mind games Satine played with the man she clearly loved, but she wasn't quite sure of the extent of them. Obi-Wan didn't like it when others tried to read Satine's Force signature. His eyes would go large and sad, and he would look at you like you were trying to steal the world from him. Ahsoka hadn't tried twice.
As Satine sat beside Ahsoka on the stone path by the wall, Obi-Wan didn't move an inch.
“Did you bring a book to read, or anything?” Ahsoka asked.
“For me or for him?” Satine clarified.
Ahsoka shook her head. “Either.”
“Not this time.”
“Okay, because I have copies of the ones he likes best in my room. I can go get—”
Thin, strong fingers snaked up and caught hers. “No,” Obi-Wan whispered.
Shocked by the pain shooting through her hand, Ahsoka stared down at agonized eyes. “Alright. Why?”
“Padawan leave,” Obi-Wan whimpered. “Padawan leave soon. Forever. Like Master.”
Outrage spilled through Ahsoka's soul. “I wouldn't leave you. None of us would do that to you.”
“Soon,” Obi-Wan repeated, near inaudible.
Ahsoka shook her head. “You saw that? A vision, or something?”
Obi-Wan closed his eyes with a shudder, and Ahsoka felt a tear bleed through to the skin of her leg.
“Whoa! Hey!” Ahsoka pulled out from underneath him, gathering him up to sit with his back to the wall between herself and Satine. “Easy, you're okay, I'm not leaving, Obi-Wan, you're safe!”
“Promises, cannot keep. Don't. Don't. Like Master. Always. Never.”
“He breaks promises, I keep them, ” Ahsoka protested. “When have I ever broken a promise to you?”
Obi-Wan's lifeless eyes slowly tracked to hers. “Soon.”
“That is not going to happen.” Ahsoka looked to Satine for backup, but felt a chill run down her spine at the concerned, grim expression on her face.
“Obi, do you know why Ahsoka leaves?” Satine asked, voice soothing.
How can you ask him that—
“Doesn't want anymore,” he sighed. “Doesn't want You. Doesn't want Obi-Wan.”
* * *
Ahsoka stood on the steps of the Temple, back turned, ready to leave forever.
Anakin had come after her, begged her to stay.
She'd been angry.
She was still angry.
But what she wasn't expecting to find was Obi-Wan, standing at the base of the steps, waiting for her.
“Goodbye,” he spoke without looking up.
You warned me.
You knew this was coming.
Ahsoka shook her head and stepped to meet him. “Are you okay?”
It was so blatant a lie that Ahsoka knew she couldn't walk away quite yet. “Why do you think I'm leaving?”
“Complicated,” he mumbled. “Important things.”
“Yeah. Yeah, that works.”
“Don't want anymore.” She could barely hear his voice. “Don't want You. Don't want Obi-Wan.”
“No. I need space from Anakin, but I'm not just giving him up forever. Okay? And you have nothing to do with this.”
Something almost like a laugh escaped him, but it had all the joy of a man digging his own grave. “Obi-Wan not at fault. Doesn't matter. Same end. Obi-Wan abandoned again.”
“I'm not abandoning you,” Ahsoka swore. “I would never do that.”
“Walking away,” he pointed out. “Not coming back. Promises, promises, guilt and pretending. Come back to Obi-Wan, never happens. Goodbye.”
Ahsoka placed her hand on his shoulder but he pulled away.
“Hurts. Just go.”
“Look at me, please. ”
For a long moment he stood still, and then he raised anguished eyes to her face.
“You are going to be okay. Anakin is still here, he's going to watch over you. Feemor is here. Satine. You don't need me.”
He stared deep in her eyes, as if he could read her soul. “For
Padawan says such things. Not for Obi-Wan. Don't bother. Tell yourself some other time. Goodbye.”
Slightly stunned by the complexity of the idea he'd just presented, Ahsoka fumbled for words. Decided against it.
Instead, she pulled him into a hug, closing her eyes against the tears that fell to his neck and shoulder.
And then she pulled back, turned around, and walked away, leaving him standing there, watching after her, tears rolling down his cheeks.
* * *
Anakin cursed himself for his self-focus. It had taken him half an hour of wallowing before he realized his other half might be in trouble.
“Feemor, I can't find Obi-Wan.”
His former master's eyes looked just a bit red and puffy. Is he grieving for Ahsoka too? I guess so.
Then again, he hadn't really been paying attention to anyone but himself and Ahsoka through this whole ordeal.
“Could he have gone after her?” Feemor asked.
Cold fear spilled through Anakin's soul. “She wouldn't let him just walk into traffic.”
“Was she paying enough attention to notice, if he's trying to be inconspicuous?”
The fear deepened.
Anakin raced for the main doors, clattering down the steps. He caught sight of a small figure huddled up against one of the giant pillars.
“Found him!” he called back to Feemor.
He saw his master's hands fly up, then land somewhere near his mouth and hip.
Yeah. He's way too close to where he could just take off.
“Hey,” Anakin breathed as he inched close, not wanting to scare the broken man.
Obi-Wan simply continued to rock, shoulders shuddering with sobs.
Anakin sat beside him, wrapping an arm around him.
“You,” Obi-Wan choked.
“Me.” Anakin blinked hard, but couldn't seem to hold back the silent tears.
“Padawan left us. Like Master.”
“It's different, but yeah.” Anakin tried to swallow against the burning loss in his throat.
“You leave? You leave Obi-Wan?”
“No. That's something that's never going to happen.”
Obi-Wan shivered in his embrace. “Padawan said same.”
“I know.” Anakin pressed a kiss to the top of his head. “Let's get you back inside.”
Obi-Wan stood with him, stiff and slow. Anakin had seen his clone troopers looking like that, but Obi-Wan rarely left the Temple—
He's getting closer to forty.
It was hard to remember, sometimes. Anakin felt them to be closer in age.
They turned to slowly work their way up the steps.
The two looked back to find a drooping Ahsoka behind them.
“I can't do this. I can't just leave the two of you.”
Anakin winced. “Just say it.”
“I can't leave Obi-Wan.”
Obi-Wan sidled closer to him, an arm snaking around his waist. “You and Obi-Wan together. Team.”
Anakin felt his heart warm. “Yeah, Obi-Wan. You and I are a team.”
“I'm going to go hunt Qui-Gon down. I'll come back when I find him. I will stay in touch, so you'd better answer my calls, Skyguy. If you don't, Obi-Wan's going to think I abandoned him.”
Obi-Wan tucked his head against Anakin's neck with a sigh.
“I don't... I don't want this to break us,” Ahsoka whispered. “Please?”
Anakin swallowed hard and nodded. “Yeah, 'course not, Ahsoka.”
“I will be back, ” Ahsoka promised, pointing a finger at Obi-Wan so he knew for sure she was talking to him. “Don't lose faith in me.”
“You'll always have a home with us.” Anakin swallowed again, frustrated his eyes were still burning with tears he didn't want Ahsoka to see.
* * *
Anakin took Obi-Wan back to his room, sparing a glance around at the perfectly neat space. It looked so different from his own, where droid parts always lay strewn across the floor.
In fact, here there was enough room to—
It took Anakin only a few moments to have Obi-Wan's favorite music playing. Slow and sweet, it was filled with bird calls and the sound of falling water.
Obi-Wan simply looked at him, patiently waiting to see what this was supposed to mean.
Anakin smiled through his grief, took Obi-Wan in his arms, and began to dance.
Obi-Wan's feet, long trained for diplomatic events, moved exactly how they were supposed to. In, out, back...
Obi-Wan's brow furrowed in concentration, then confusion as he tried to read Anakin's face.
“Whatever gets thrown at us, the two of us together are going to be okay,” Anakin murmured in explanation. “You're sad, and worried, and tired, and so am I.”
Obi-Wan patted his arm.
“But there are good things left. I swear, Obi-Wan.”
Obi-Wan's eyes narrowed in skepticism.
“Good things. And they're worth fighting for,” Anakin repeated, giving Obi-Wan the cue to lean backwards.
“Trust me,” Anakin whispered, moving through a few steps and then giving the prompt again.
This time, Obi-Wan allowed himself to be tipped backwards.
“I will not let you fall,” Anakin promised. “ Ever. ”
Obi-Wan watched his eyes, allowed Anakin to drag him up, spin him and pull him close.
“Obi-Wan not chosen,” Obi-Wan explained. “Obi-Wan not first. Ever. Not most important. Optional.”
“Not to me.”
“Lady,” Obi-Wan pointed out.
Anakin's step faltered but he pushed himself through it. “Padmé is very important to me, Obi-Wan.”
“But she's not more important than you.”
Obi-Wan shook his head. “Different.”
“Yes. I— I'm in love with her.”
Obi-Wan nodded. “More important.”
“Not true. You and I go together. If she wants to join us, fine, but she's not going to take me away from you.”
“Feemor chose You. Master chose You. Padawan chose... else. You chose Lady. Obi-Wan, unchosen. Always.”
I hate how always doesn't mean hope anymore.
“Satine chose you. She chose you and she hasn't left you. She loves you now just as much as she did before.”
“Held back.” Obi-Wan sighed. “Not living. Should leave Obi-Wan. Find... find love. ”
“She has found it, Obi-Wan.”
Obi-Wan pulled away from him, scowling up at the ceiling. “Misses other Obi-Wan. Not him. Obi-Wan not him. Master doesn't pretend. Kind pretends. Kind lies. Says happy endings. Master doesn't lie.”
“Satine Kryze is a grown woman. If she decided she needed some other form of boyfriend, she could act on that.”
Obi-Wan shook his head. “Too loyal.”
“She's happy with you. She sees you more often now than she used to, before you saved Qui-Gon. Hell, she's here a lot. Everyone likes her, the cooks make special dinners when they know she's going to be here—”
Obi-Wan winced. “Kind stays with Obi-Wan... pity. Pity.”
“You can sense that's not true. She doesn't pity you. It certainly wouldn't keep her coming back year after year.”
“Chose other Obi-Wan. Stays anyway. This Obi-Wan, never chosen.”
“ I chose you.”
Obi-Wan watched him with sorrowful eyes. “ Given. Given to me, You. But I couldn't.” He reached out, traced his fingers over Anakin's long hair, then his own braid. “Final request... failed. Failed Master. Master left. Padawan left. You here. Not long. Leave soon. Lady.”
Anakin's gut tied in a knot. “Did you see it? Like you saw Ahsoka?”
“Leaving soon. Will not choose Obi-Wan.”
Anakin turned off the music. “Please don't say that.”
“No one chooses Obi-Wan.”
“You need to get out of this self-pity thing you've fallen into.” Anakin pulled him into a hug that Obi-Wan didn't reciprocate. “Do you want to go make a tree happy?”
“Dance for the younglings?”
“What do you want to do?”
“Speak to Master.”
Anakin's heart dropped into his stomach. “Oh.”
“You leave messages. Padawan left many messages. Obi-Wan?”
“Okay,” Anakin nodded. “If that's what you want. But you'll be leaving a message. He won't pick up, and I don't think he's going to respond once he gets your recording.”
Obi-Wan nodded. “Need to say something. Alone.”
“Okay. I'll set it up.”
There is this chapter, and then two more after that. I intend to post the final two chapters at the same time, probably day after tomorrow, if mysterious things do not intervene. So many of you have left kudos, comments, or subscribed, and I thank you all. I write these stories for me, but it delights me when other people enjoy them as well.
“ Who are you ?” Qui-Gon Jinn snarled, shoving the small body into the wall. The hood fell back revealing her.
“I'm your granddaughter. ”
He stared at her in baffled amazement. “My what?”
“Your sons had a daughter. It happens.”
“There is no such thing as a joint Padawan.”
“For me, there was. ”
“So you're Anakin's Padawan. He mentioned you once.”
“I'd be insulted except I know he'd have talked about me more if you'd given him the chance to talk at all.”
“Is he here?” Qui-Gon craned his head around, trying to see or sense—
“No. He's at home with my other Dad.”
“Feemor. How is Feemor doing?”
“You'd know if you'd keep in touch.”
Qui-Gon gave her an unimpressed look. “Trust me. Nobody wants me around.”
“You're an idiot,” Ahsoka muttered. “They need you.”
“What? Feemor? Feemor's fine, he's been on his own a long time now. And Anakin has Feemor. Don't think I haven't seen the holonet's talk about The Team, the two of them racing off to save the universe.”
“And what about the one who gets left at home? Because Feemor isn't my second Dad.”
“You claimed Obi-Wan ?”
“Why are you even here ?”
“I sort of ran away. I mean, I warned them first, but...” Ahsoka sagged against the wall. “I don't know what the hell I'm doing.”
Qui-Gon dragged a hand down his face. “That runs in the Lineage.”
Ahsoka shook her head, squinting up at him. “Then why do you keep running?”
“Why did you start running?”
Ahsoka thought of the vision on Mortis, warning her against Anakin's dangers— “There are seeds of the dark side planted in you by your master. You will never see your future if you remain his student. Leave this planet!” “Something I can't exactly tell Anakin.”
“Because he wouldn't understand?”
Ahsoka looked away. I don't want him to think I could think so poorly of him. To realize that a vision could put such distance between us.
She'd been outraged by her “older self”'s words, had raged against them for weeks. Months.
And then the truth of them settled into her soul, her shielding against it apparently as effective as netting.
“Yeah...” Ahsoka hedged, “that's not the reason.”
“You think Obi-Wan wouldn't understand that you coming to visit him means you love him.”
Qui-Gon scowled at her. “Any other way you want to ridicule me or are you quite finished?”
“I don't think I'll ever be finished.”
Qui-Gon huffed a laugh. “Force, you sound like me at your age.”
“I sure hope to hell not ,” Ahsoka blurted, eyes wide with horror. “You are the last person I want to grow into!”
“You seem to be well on that track.” He shrugged. “Running away, needing to escape someone you love but can't bear to look at anymore.”
“That is not the same thing—”
“My Padawan died for me and is still walking around!” Qui-Gon thundered at her.
“He's not gone for the love of the Force!” Ahsoka yelled back.
“Yes, he is , and there's this message waiting for me that I just cannot bring myself to watch!”
Ahsoka's eyes widened. “Anakin allowed that?”
“How would I know?
I doubt Obi-Wan can operate a link on his own.”
Ahsoka sent him a dirty look. “Frip you.”
Startled, Qui-Gon stared at her. “Feemor allowed more language than I would have thought he would.”
“ Feemor didn't teach me.” Ahsoka scowled, but she also looked a bit resigned. “Play the message.”
“I really doubt it was meant for you.”
“So? You're just going to leave it sitting there forever and never actually see it. What's worse, having someone who wasn't supposed to see it seeing it, or the person who's supposed to never getting around to it?”
* * *
Obi-Wan lay on the grass, head resting on Anakin's stomach as the other Jedi lay perpendicular to him, staring up at the stars as well, what could be seen of them through Coruscant's traffic.
“Where did your joy go? You used to have so much of it.”
Obi-Wan didn't reply.
“I miss it, Obi-Wan. Your smile would light up a room.”
* * *
“Master. Obi-Wan. Missed. Missed Master.”
* * *
“I miss the way you would run to meet me, the way you would laugh at the smallest things.”
* * *
“Missed Padawan. So much pain. Everywhere. Inside, outside.”
* * *
“I miss seeing you find peace in the Force, just standing there and glowing, so safe in its embrace.”
* * *
“Kind leaving soon. Then You.”
* * *
“I miss watching you help Ahsoka improve her katas. The way you knew exactly what needed fixing. The concentration on your face as you would nudge her foot, move her hand just a little.”
* * *
* * *
“I miss seeing other people light up when you stepped into a room, because you brought this cloud of joy with you that no one can resist.”
* * *
The hologram Obi-Wan's eyes filled with tears that he tried to brush away. “Goodbye, Master.”
* * *
“I miss hearing your voice. Why don't you say anything anymore?”
* * *
Qui-Gon's hand, holding the disk, shook. He risked a glance at Ahsoka, who stared utterly horrified at the ended message.
“I have to go,” she whispered.
Qui-Gon shook his head. “Why? It was a meaningless jumble of words.” Overwhelmingly sad words, most of them, delivered with a gravity and anguish that tore at Qui-Gon's heart, but...
“His gift is the Cosmic Force, he feels the future,” Ahsoka explained. “He knew I was going to leave.”
“And... he thinks Anakin's going to leave him?”
“Anakin and Satine.”
“Why didn't he ask me to come and visit?”
Ahsoka's shoulders flinched, and when she looked up into his eyes, he saw fear in her own blue orbs. “He doesn't think he's going to be there. That was... that was for you, after he's gone. Weren't you listening ?”
Even as she dragged her comlink from her belt, Qui-Gon hit his own replay.
“Master. Obi-Wan. Missed. Missed Master. Missed Padawan. So much pain. Everywhere. Inside, outside. Kind leaving soon. Then You. Death coming. Goodbye, Master. Goodbye.”
“I don't understand,” Qui-Gon protested. “How does he—”
“Anakin, where is Obi-Wan?”
“I— right here next to me. Alicka made a cake. Obi-Wan's actually eating.”
“Obi-Wan sent a goodbye to Qui-Gon.”
There was silence, then, “What?”
“He sent Qui-Gon a message to say goodbye.”
“That's... good. He's moving on. Maybe he'll start smiling again. ”
“It looked like he's trying to comfort Qui-Gon.”
Qui-Gon stared at her. What are you talking about?
“I— kark. He's looking at me.”
“Ask him what's up.”
“Obi-Wan, Ahsoka's worried about you.”
“Padawan,” came the familiar voice.
“Hey.” Ahsoka bit her lip. “Obi-Wan, what did you mean by
“If Anakin and Satine are in danger, we need to know. ”
“Falling. Fire. Pain. Screaming. Clones.”
“Is there a battle? On Mandalore?” Ahsoka prompted.
Qui-Gon was trying to fight against his throat closing over and his vision blurring, twisting— hearing Obi-Wan's voice again—
“Not enough. Never enough. Falling apart.”
“Anakin, what are you getting?”
“I don't know, Ahsoka. He's still eating cake. Doesn't seem too afraid. Very... resigned. It's scaring me.”
“You,” Obi-Wan comforted. “Obi-Wan stay with You. Not leave You until it.”
“Something's coming, Ahsoka. I have no idea what it is. I'm going to let the Council know.”
“Good. See if anything's rumbling at Mandalore. I'm going to go there and see what I can find.”
“Be careful, please. You don't have backup.”
“Sure I do. I've got you.”
“Padawan. Never leave Padawan, us.”
“I know, Obi-Wan. I know I can count on you.” Ahsoka's face glowed, just a little, under the force of her quiet smile even though her Dads couldn't see it. “See you soon.”
“You take every dire prediction seriously?” Qui-Gon asked, trying to breathe.
Ahsoka shrugged. “We've learned not to ignore him.”
“But the future is very changeable. To base your current behaviors on a possible— ”
“Yeah, I'd heard that you used to stomp on Obi-Wan's gift. Things are run differently now that you're gone. We don't shut him up and shut him down. We trust his judgment, we trust his sight, we trust his heart. It's saved lives before.”
Qui-Gon arched his eyebrows. “If I'd done that, we'd never have gotten anything accomplished.”
“You must be really inefficient.” Ahsoka shrugged. “I came out here to find you and bring you back. Looks like I've got something more important to do.”
“You certainly aren't concerned about familial respect, are you.”
“When Anakin's life might be on the line? You can go frip yourself.” Ahsoka turned to walk away. “Ta.”
Qui-Gon jogged after her. “Listen. I don't have anywhere I really need to be right this minute.”
“I knew that three years ago.”
“You're a jerk. The Duchess of Mandalore is a friend of mine. I'd be interested in accompanying you—”
“I think she might take issue with your use of the word friend .”
“— and maybe I'd like to get to know my granddaughter a bit better.”
“I value Obi-Wan. I don't believe in throwing his opinion or love aside as meaningless. I want to make your life hell. That's all you need to know about me.”
“You're very loyal. I see a lot of Anakin in you.”
“You don't know what the word loyal means until you've seen Obi-Wan dancing for you.”
“It looks like it. Sorrow katas. They're always about you. Breathtaking, heartbreaking. It's what first drew me to him as a youngling. I could see his soul, and he missed you so much. He could see what he'd lost, but he didn't resent giving it up for you. He just desperately wanted you to stop rejecting him for it.”
“I'm not rejecting him!”
“You abandoned him. You left him to fend for himself in a strange, terrifying new world.”
“He had good people around him, nurses and healers who could take much better care of him than I could— and all the youngling caretakers there too. He couldn't tell the difference if I was in the room or not, and I cannot sit there and watch him stare at a wall for hours on end!”
“And because you're unwilling to wait for the moments when he surfaces, you miss who he is! No! He doesn't come out of it on your timetable. Force, Qui-Gon, is his life supposed to revolve around your busy schedule? There are moments when he can communicate, and hours when he can't. That doesn't make him lovable one moment and not for the rest of the day! Friendship shouldn't be about what use you get from someone.”
“You think me absolutely terrible,” Qui-Gon marveled.
She sent him a look. “Pretty much.”
“Join the line of people who wish Obi-Wan hadn't saved me.”
How could he say this? How could he break this news—
His other half looked up at him, calm dread in his face.
Anakin drew in a shaking breath. “The Sith who hurt Qui-Gon? He's trying to take over Mandalore. Ahsoka's there, Qui-Gon's even there, helping out. I sent some of my clones to help them. They might save the planet.”
Knowing entered Obi-Wan's eyes.
“But, um... Satine...”
“Dead,” Obi-Wan spoke, voice clear like a bell.
Anakin cringed. “Yeah. Force, I'm
Obi-Wan. It happened on the attack on Sundari. The— capital city.”
Obi-Wan gave a brief nod.
Given how much Obi-Wan had sacrificed to save Qui-Gon, how would he respond to having lost Satine? Anakin feared—
Obi-Wan stepped close, patted Anakin's shoulder comfortingly before wrapping his arms around him. “You next,” he murmured.
A chill ran down Anakin's back. You were waiting for this, for this news. And now you're waiting again. “Obi-Wan?”
“You afraid.” Obi-Wan squeezed tighter. “Obi-Wan stay with You until last.”
“What do you see, Obi-Wan? We don't have to let this keep happening, we can fight back, you don't have to lose me— tell me what you see. ”
“Lady threatened. You falling, falling.”
I run off to save Padmé and I don't take adequate backup.
“Is she okay?”
The fear built.
“Obi-Wan stay, Obi-Wan die. All die.”
“Is it— is it at an event? An assassination attempt? Or is there a battle, or the Sith—”
“Cannot see. Just pain. Just death.”
Anakin squeezed his eyes shut. Obi-Wan sounded too familiar with the idea. Too convinced.
What happens in there when you're staring at a wall?
If this is what he'd been bearing for the last several months...
No wonder he doesn't smile anymore.
“Feemor is going to Utapau to face Grievous.” Anakin sighed. “I can't go, because the Chancellor needs me on the Council.”
Obi-Wan pulled back and squinted up at him.
“Confusing important stuff,” Anakin explained. I'm... I'm not going to drag you into this mess. Spying and counterspying... though Force could I use your advice.
“I think he's going to need me.”
Obi-Wan shook his head.
“What? What is it? Have you seen him in danger?”
“No? Yes? Obi-Wan doesn't know. All important things confusing.”
“Yeah. I feel the same way.” Anakin dragged a hand through his hair. “What's right is supposed to be clear. If not easy to do, at least easy to see. ”
Obi-Wan watched him with sorrowful eyes.
“I want to save you and Padmé and Feemor and Ahsoka and Qui-Gon, and I just can't see how, and now you're saying you're going to die, and so am I— ” Anakin blew out a sigh. “It looks bad, Obi-Wan. Really bad.”
Obi-Wan stepped close again, staying his pacing, stilling his gestures with comforting hands. “You. You said. Good things, still.”
“I'm not seeing them, Obi-Wan. Satine is gone, Padmé and I are apparently next on the list—” he swallowed, throat tight closed. “ What good things?”
“Together us,” Obi-Wan whispered, lifting Anakin's knuckles and kissing them. “Always.” More kisses showered on his hand until Anakin caught his face and pulled him up to kiss his forehead and hug him close.
“Is that a promise?”
“Not afraid. Obi-Wan not afraid.”
Calming hands pet his hair, gripped his shoulder. “Obi-Wan know. Obi-Wan here. Not leave You.”
“And what happens to you when I'm gone?”
Obi-Wan nestled closer into his embrace. “Not apart long. Obi-Wan not afraid.”
“You be careful, you hear me?” Anakin rasped, blinking back tears. “You stay alive as long as you possibly can. You be careful, you be safe— ”
A kiss landed on his shoulder. “You. And You.”
“I swear it.” I'm going to keep everyone safe.
His comlink signaled. “The Chancellor requests your presence.”
He pulled back from Obi-Wan to answer the droid, “I will be there shortly.” Dread built in his gut. Now what? He longed for Feemor's presence, but Feemor was out of reach.
Ahsoka too. At least Ahsoka had a good chunk of the 501 st there with her. There was no way in hell Anakin was going to let her face Maul alone, even with an army of Mandos and Qui-Gon Jinn at her side .
He looked up to find Obi-Wan staring out the window.
“Now it,” Obi-Wan murmured. “Now.” He looked over his shoulder, the lights of the evening city sparkling in the tears in his eyes. “Goodbye.”
“I will be very careful,” Anakin promised, kissing his forehead one last time. “I swear. Don't go outside. Stay close. You feel something going wrong, you tell a Council member. If there isn't one, you tell someone else and don't stop telling them. Understand?”
Obi-Wan nodded. “Same, You.”
Is this the last time I'm going to see this face? Anakin tried to memorize it, hoping to burn it into his soul.
Anakin tore himself away, fingertips brushing Obi-Wan's as the older Jedi reached out to him as he backed for the door.
“Goodbye,” Anakin whispered, hating himself for it, but somehow needing to—
He hadn't, with his mother, hadn't with Satine—
He turned and jogged down the hall, eyes burning with tears. As he went, he commed Windu, giving him Obi-Wan's warning.
“Be careful, Skywalker. Something is coming, and I'm not sure what. It's nebulous.”
“They're all ready to go.”
Anakin could feel the dread in his voice, translating into brisk, almost military harshness.
Anakin was personally floored that Obi-Wan could see the things he did and not respond in harsh protection.
He's... he's not fighting, though. Obi-Wan's accepted fate. Mace is still trying to save us all.
* * *
“With Dooku in prison and Grievous living on borrowed time, I think we should have a serious look at the future.”
“I don't understand why it looks so bleak,” Anakin murmured. “The future should be clearing— ”
“Is that what your dreams show you?”
Anakin's gaze slowly tracked to the Chancellor's face. “How do you know about those?”
“Anakin, there are many things I know,” Palpatine soothed. “I know Padmé doesn't deserve to die.”
Anakin's throat constricted. “What are you talking about?”
“I know how to save your wife.”
“How would you know this?”
“My mentor taught me much about saving life, using means doctors are unfamiliar with.”
“ What means ?”
“The Force, Anakin.”
Hand shaking, heart frantic, Anakin whispered, “You know the Force?”
* * *
Qui-Gon Jinn answered his disk without thinking about it, the current Mandalorian war foremost on his mind.
He was met with a distraught Obi-Wan.
“Needs.” Obi-Wan dragged a hand over his head. “
Qui-Gon recoiled. “Ah...” he looked around, but Ahsoka wasn't close enough to drop this on— “is Anakin in trouble?”
“ Yes. ”
“I'm not on-planet, Obi-Wan.”
“ Needs, ” Obi-Wan pleaded. “Told Windu. Told others. Can't find. Can't find You.”
“Okay. Where did you see him last?”
“ Going, talking , him—”
“I don't... I don't speak that, Obi-Wan, you have to use your words. ”
Obi-Wan tore at his face with fingernails, an absent, desperate gesture that horrified Qui-Gon.
“ Work, ” he begged his brain, “ work .”
Even across the distance Qui-Gon could sense Obi-Wan's desperate struggle through his mind's shifting, treacherous landscape.
“ You needs Feemor. You needs Master. You falling, falling— ”
“ Where? ”
“Padawan not answering.”
“She's in the middle of—”
“No time, no time !”
“Obi-Wan, it would take us hours to get to Coruscant. You have to communicate !”
“Not answering Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan calling. You not speaking.”
“You want me to call him?”
“I have to hang up with you to do that.”
“Alright... I'm doing that now, Obi-Wan...”
But Obi-Wan beat him to it.
Qui-Gon stared at the empty holo disk. Okay. He inputted Anakin's frequency, and received no answer.
He tried Windu.
“What the frip do you want, Jinn? I've got better things—”
“Do you know where Anakin is?”
“No. Do you?”
“Then go away.”
“ Wait. Something is badly wrong—”
“Hold on. I see him. And by the way, we knew something was wrong before the call. But thanks.”
Qui-Gon couldn't tell if that was supposed to be just mostly sarcastic or completely so. “Obi-Wan said Anakin is dying.”
“No, he said falling. Good bye. ”
And as Qui-Gon stared at another cut connection, the first stirrings of terror began.
* * *
“What is it, Skywalker?”
Anakin could read the heart-wrenching dread in Windu's eyes.
“It's the Chancellor. He's the Sith.”
“Are you sure?”
Hopelessness shattered through the Force, coming from Windu. “Wait here.”
“You're going to need me.”
“Stay here. Please.” Windu saw his resentment and shook his head. “If this is accurate, you will have gained my trust, but for now, wait until we return.”
Anakin lasted all of eight minutes before he followed the few Council members left on Coruscant.
* * *
“I'm sorry about Maul, I really am, but we have to go now, Ahsoka, if we're to be able to do anything at all.”
Qui-Gon expected a fight.
She beat him to the ship.
* * *
As Anakin stepped through the broken doorway, blood staining his boots, quiet whispers reigned in his heart.
Padmé, or everyone else.
Obi-Wan thought they were all going to die soon.
My potentially last act will not be betraying the people who took me in. I will fight to save Padmé, but I'm going to fight for all of us. I'm not leaving the others to die.
She wouldn't want me to.
As he moved into the room to find Windu threatening an unarmed Palpatine, Anakin felt one last, fleeting taste of humor.
You thought I was going to choose the Lady over you.
I'm choosing you.
* * *
Leaning heavily against the desk, blood running down his arm, Anakin realized something he should have guessed before.
A Sith is never unarmed.
Windu lay dead on the floor along with three other Jedi, and while Sidious lay sprawled on the floor, he'd sent out a message before dying.
Anakin keyed the comm he'd used, ordered the clones to stop, to pull back—
They refused his authority.
And then he felt terror from the Temple.
He tapped his comlink one last time. “Feemor, we need you back here—”
He received no response. Through the swirling thousands of deaths in the Force, he couldn't determine if he'd lost his master or not.
I'm on my own.
He returned to the Temple as fast as his limping legs and much faster speeder could take him.
By the time he arrived, the clones were filing away.
No. No, please—
Obi-Wan's dire predictions...
They weren't of battle.
He staggered up the steps, unchallenged, the deed done.
He stepped into his home, and found it to be the scene of unspeakable carnage.
* * *
“This is Feemor. Is anyone out there—?”
Ahsoka grabbed the comm. “ Master ! What is going on ?”
“I don't know. My clones turned on me. I need to be picked up.”
“We're on our way,” Qui-Gon promised.
Ahsoka bit her lip and looked to Qui-Gon. “Do you think anyone suriv—”
Qui-Gon silenced her with a heartsick look.
Ahsoka hoped they would be in time.
* * *
Anakin stepped across the shattered, blood-smeared glass in the Room of a Thousand Fountains.
Some of the plants were burning, and the little stream ran red. The crimson waterfall kept pounding a limp body under, only to have it bob to the surface to repeat the cycle all over again.
He caught sight of someone lying face-first in one of the shallow areas, not even deep enough to float.
His first instinct was to run over to keep them from drowning.
Seeing the hideous wound in the back of the head...
He turned away.
He pushed his way through the tattered foliage, seeking out Obi-Wan's special place.
He saw the bodies as he approached.
He allowed the tears to streak down his face as he tenderly stepped over each, careful not to crush splayed fingers or tattered tunics.
There, in the center of them, he found him.
Obi-Wan lay over a youngling, clearly having tried to shield the little one with his body.
Equally obvious, the wounds that went clear through him and into her.
Anakin crouched beside them, reaching out to feel for a pulse.
She was gone.
Obi-Wan was still there. Barely.
At the touch, his signature flickered, barely discernible in the murk of hell that surrounded their violated home.
Anakin pulled him away from the corpse, carried him past a bush that would conceal the horror from his view, and placed him on the trampled grass. He took quick inventory of Obi-Wan's injuries as his friend tried to surface.
Pained blue eyes finally dragged open, and in their depths, Anakin read hell.
Obi-Wan's breathing grew labored, blood gathering at the side of his mouth.
Anakin could feel the life fluid on his hands, against his arms and chest.
“You,” Obi-Wan whispered.
“Me.” Anakin's voice choked as fresh tears followed in the scarred tracks of those before.
“Didn't fall, You.”
The word— the word Obi-Wan had been using again and again—
Oh, Force. That kind of Fall.
“No.” Anakin caressed the side of Obi-Wan's head, forgetting the blood on his hands. “Do you hurt anywhere?”
Obi-Wan tried to think, it ended in a slight whimper. “Confusing.”
“Okay. Okay.” Anakin stroked his hair, wishing he could take it away. “I want you to know something.”
Obi-Wan squinted up into his face.
“There came a moment I had to choose, to fall or not. To give up or keep fighting. I chose what I learned from you. I chose to be what you think I am. I chose you.”
The look that crossed Obi-Wan's face broke Anakin's heart, and he stifled a sob. He seemed to glow, even while he sought clarification. “But Lady, You?”
“I don't know,” Anakin whispered. “I don't know if any of us are making it out of this.”
“So many not.”
Anakin's hand found Obi-Wan's, squeezing trembling fingers in his own. “Palpatine did things. I'm hurt. Bad, I think. I don't know if I'm going to walk out of here either, even if the clones don't find me.”
“Tired. Obi-Wan tired. You tired.”
Anakin nodded, trying to hold back the tears. “Of everything, Obi-Wan.”
“I think everybody in charge is dead. Except Dooku, but he doesn't have hands anymore and he's locked up.” Anakin shook his head. “I don't know— it's confusing. You're right. Important things are confusing.”
“Understand them, You. You clever.”
“I understand so few of them.” Anakin grunted as searing pain in his gut pulled him from a crouch to his knees. “And clever's overrated.”
“Better,” Obi-Wan countered.
Anakin dragged his eyes open again. “You saved me again and again through the years. From myself, Obi-Wan. Your heart did that. Your tender, shieldless soul. Cleverness couldn't have done that.” Anakin sagged to the floor, curling against the pain. “You taught me how to fight. You gave me a reason to fight. You raised the stakes so I had to.”
He hadn't had a choice in the matter. The thought dragged a smile to his lips.
He found arms wrapped around him, his head pulled to Obi-Wan's chest.
He rubbed his thumb into the back of Obi-Wan's hand. “Not anymore. Are you afraid?”
“You're the bravest man I know.”
“No. You saw this coming. You saw worse coming. Force, that must have been terrifying.”
“Sad. Sad then. Obi-Wan not sad now.”
Anakin saw the edge of a broken foot behind the bushes, his heart shivering. “Why?”
“Together, us.” Obi-Wan's body shuddered beneath him, the major systems shutting down. “Always.”
“Always means hope again,” Anakin murmured. “You stole back the word.”
“Chose Obi-Wan, You. Wanted me.”
“Always.” Anakin smiled, allowing his heavy eyelids to fall shut. “I hope you're wrong about Padmé.”
“ Yes. ”
“Do you think Ahsoka's alright? You never put her on the kill list.”
Obi-Wan didn't reply.
Anakin pressed a kiss to his knuckles, and then fell into a light doze. The pain was fuzzy, there, Anakin felt surrounded by warmth. Very little seemed particularly important, except for Obi-Wan, here with him.
That was important.
“Master? Master, are you here?”
The voice sounded young and familiar, but he was fairly certain he was dreaming.
“Anakin, please ?”
And then hands were pulling him away from Obi-Wan.
“No,” Anakin mumbled, fighting the hands. “Together, Us.”
The hands probed, demanding answers from his broken body. He groaned when they jabbed something that hurt terribly , but the pain seemed to be having a hard time cutting through the fog in his mind.
* * *
“Obi-Wan?” Feemor brushed fingers against the pale forehead as Ahsoka tried to revive Anakin.
Qui-Gon stood near, heart too full for speech. It hurt, it fripping hurt—
Obi-Wan's eyes drifted open, cloudy blue finding Feemor's face first. Qui-Gon's first Padawan was greeted with a wry smile that didn't make it to the third's teeth.
And then the gaze traveled on, found Qui-Gon's.
Obi-Wan's eyes lit with joy, and he grinned. The blood on his teeth marred the picture for Qui-Gon, but Obi-Wan seemed oblivious to any drawback, anything at all—
“Master,” Obi-Wan breathed, sunshine caught and released as a voice.
How can you look at me like that? How can you love me so much after everything—?
Feemor moved to check on Anakin, allowing Qui-Gon to kneel with Obi-Wan.
“Came back for Obi-Wan.”
A hand reached up to caress his cheek. Qui-Gon stilled the instinct to pull away from it.
The fingers were so gentle against his face.
The hand fell away, Obi-Wan's eyelids fluttering, his eyes rolling up in his head.
“Obi-Wan, please, ” Qui-Gon begged, not knowing what he was asking for. Maybe... maybe it was better for Obi-Wan to go, to no longer drag his shattered mind around behind him like glass against the shrieking floors, a cripple without a future.
The thought sickened him.
Do you really wish him death?
“Forgive,” Obi-Wan whispered, his eyes clear and staring up into Qui-Gon's own.
“There's nothing to—”
“Obi-Wan forgive Master.”
Every justification, every explanation and excuse cracked, a dam breaking and tears spilling through. Qui-Gon sobbed, uncaring that the tears were not quiet.
Fingers caught the drops, brushing them from his face.
Ahsoka looked up from where she cradled Anakin's head. “Cut his braid.”
Obi-Wan's eyes went from tired contentment to surging hope. “ Master? ”
Obi-Wan's brother moved to gather the wounded one up, propping him with Obi-Wan's head resting against Feemor's shoulder. Qui-Gon ignited his saber, taking great care not to burn Obi-Wan as he severed the symbol of padawanship.
Obi-Wan's eyes tracked Qui-Gon's hand as it lifted the cut braid away. “Keep?”
“Yes, Obi-Wan,” Qui-Gon promised, voice tear-roughened, “I'll always keep it.”
Feemor and Ahsoka stilled, eyes wide as they stared at Qui-Gon.
Obi-Wan's face lit with a breathtaking smile. “Always,” he repeated.
Ahsoka breathed an almost-laugh. “So you get your always,” she murmured, near inaudible. Obi-Wan didn't seem to hear it. He winced in pain, then patted at Feemor's arm.
Feemor lowered him carefully to the ground once more, Obi-Wan gritting his teeth and groaning.
Qui-Gon moved closer, the braid wrapped tight around his hand as he reached out to caress Obi-Wan's cheek.
“Master. Here,” Obi-Wan said, voice weak. “With Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan safe. Obi-Wan knight.” His head rolled, turning towards Anakin but still not seeing him, “You?”
Feemor guided his searching hand to Anakin's.
“You here.” Obi-Wan whispered. “Together, Us.”
Ahsoka moved, swiping at her own tears as she drew in a shuddering breath. “Obi-Wan. I'm sorry I didn't get here sooner.”
“No. Die too, then.”
“Please don't go.” Ahsoka's shoulders shivered. “Please.”
“Take care of Master. Master needs. Empty. Master so empty.”
“I left you. Just like he did, and now you're dying—”
“No. Not abandoned. Padawan with Obi-Wan, inside. All the time. Tired now. Tired, Us.”
Anakin lay still, barely breathing.
“Can either of you save him?” Qui-Gon asked.
They shook their heads.
“Hold,” Obi-Wan whimpered. “You hold.”
Ahsoka and Feemor replaced Anakin against his side. He stirred, just a little. “'Soka?”
Obi-Wan pressed a tender kiss to his forehead before wrapping arms around him.
“Lady safe,” Obi-Wan assured. “Shadow gone. Lady safe.”
Anakin convulsively grabbed his brother's hand. “Is that true?”
A sun dawned in Anakin's face. His arm shifted up to hold Obi-Wan. “Not afraid. See you soon.” With the glow still around him, his gaze lost its depth and his heart fell still.
“Not apart long,” Obi-Wan confirmed, leaning his head forward one last time. “Not afraid.” He pressed his lips to the top of Anakin's head. In between heartbeats, he too slipped away.
* * *
They were buried together, Padmé pulling strings to see it done without the Empire's knowledge.
The trees of Naboo would keep their secret.
And if Padmé visited that grove regularly... no one seemed to ask questions.
Ahsoka struggled with her heavy losses, missing the Team like a limb. Somehow she survived, and found herself stronger, when she looked back years later. She and Feemor set out into the galaxy together to find a way to live. A shipping job turned to smuggling, and from there to Rebel Allianceing, once they figured out it was a thing.
They contacted Qui-Gon, asked if he wanted to join them, but the older Jedi's response was a no.
He'd had enough of drifting through the galaxy chasing after missions.
He stayed with Padmé, at first because he couldn't find the will to budge from Obi-Wan's grave, and then later because she needed extra help when her twins were born... someone who could shield their Force presences from those who wanted to kill or claim them.
And somehow, he didn't find it strange when the children gravitated towards a grove where an unmarked grave lay, or that they would often choose that particular spot to lie on the grass and stare up at the leaves, talking about their hopes and dreams and childhood struggles.
At first it hurt to see them there, no idea of the significance...
But eventually it settled into a livable ache.
It reminded him, like the braid sewn into his glove, of just how terribly blind and neglectful he could become when suffering loss.
I'm not going to do the same to Luke and Leia.
They were going to have his attention when they needed it, not when Qui-Gon felt like it, and he wouldn't forget them when someone new came along. Not like he had with Feemor, and not like he had with Obi-Wan.
The words he clung to as he slogged through the grief were simple, but infinitely precious; and when he thought of them, Qui-Gon thought he could feel Obi-Wan's palm against his cheek in the caress of the wind.
“Obi-Wan forgive Master.”