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before the morning sun, when life was lonely

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The first time Obi-Wan meets Satine, she’s arguing (debating, she’ll snarl, later, there’s a difference) with Master Yoda.

About lightsabers.

Obi-Wan walks into the salle one morning for Advanced Lightsaber Techniques to see a little girl with white-blonde hair and icy blue eyes standing only a few inches away from the small green Master and shouting at him. “Jedi are supposed to be peacekeepers,” she exclaims. “By carrying a weapon, we’re just as bad as--bounty hunters!”

Obi-Wan (ten years old and rather annoyed by being compared to a common bounty hunter, as if) frowns, stepping forward. “We can’t keep the peace if we’re dead,” he says, with the air of someone imparting a great truth. “Right, Master Yoda?”

“Correct, you are,” Yoda says, much to the girl’s irritation. “Important, self-defense is.”

“All fighting is horrible.” The girl’s eyes flash, and she clenches her small fists. “Killing people is wrong! It doesn’t matter what excuses you make, it’s still wrong!”

“But what if a hundred innocent people will die because you don’t kill an evil person?” Obi-Wan asks. Even she can’t argue back against that logic.

… right?

“Everyone can be reasoned with,” the girl says, sounding surprisingly mature for her age (with how small she is, Obi-Wan doesn’t think she could be any older than eight). “Maybe, if you’d tried talking instead of just killing, that one person wouldn’t have done… whatever it is he did. If you just kill him, you’ll never know!”

He groans, stares helplessly at Master Yoda. “Master--”

“Correct, Satine also is.”

Obi-Wan’s jaw drops open. “What?”

“A time for diplomacy, there is, and a time for violence, there also is. Knowing the difference, the true wisdom of a Jedi is.” The Master considers for a moment, looking between the two younglings. “Learn from each other, you can. Learn how to fight, you will, Satine. Teach Obi-Wan the value of diplomacy, you must.”

And then he hobbles away, leaning on his gimer stick, leaving the two children to stare at each other with matching expressions of horror.

 

Eight months pass by, and both Obi-Wan and Satine sprout upwards: both physically, courtesy of growth spurts, and in their skill levels, earning them places in more advanced classes. In fact, the only thing about the pair that hasn’t changed is the fact that they fight nearly every time they speak. Satine starts most of the arguments, but Obi-Wan instigates his fair share. (A few of the less conservative Masters and Padawans have a betting pool open for whether the two will murder each other or fall in love. A second betting pool tries to guess when.)

Despite the constant strife, it’s undeniable that they’ve learned quite a bit in this forced partnership. Obi-Wan is revealed to have quite the silver tongue, when he puts his mind to it; likewise, when she can be made to stop protesting violence long enough to focus on her katas, Satine excels at lightsaber combat, moving with an instinctive grace and a fury so visible in even her stumbling attempts at the more advanced forms that it has attracted the eyes of many a Knight or Master thinking of taking a Padawan.

Not that Satine really wants to be taken as a Padawan. She’d confided that to Obi-Wan, once, on one of those rare days when there was something like camaraderie between the two of them. “I would rather be a politician,” she’d said, randomly, startling him out of his meditation.

“Why would anyone want to be a Senator?” he’d responded, politeness the last thing on his mind (they’re supposed to be meditating, Force’s sake).

“Who said anything about Senators?” Satine had made a face. “The Senate is broken and corrupt. I’d like to be someone who could do real good in the galaxy: like the Queen of Naboo, or the Duke of Mandalore.” (For some reason, Obi-Wan had felt a strange resonance in the Force, when she said that last title.) “But since I can’t be a politician, I guess a Jedi is the next best thing.”

“I’ve always wanted to be a Jedi,” Obi-Wan had told her: information for information, after all. An answer for an answer, even though he’d never asked (and neither had she). “I don’t want to be anything else.”

It’s been a few weeks since that conversation, and for a few days he’d thought maybe there would be a change, after it, after those few moments of civility; maybe they can get along, he’d thought. Maybe she isn’t hopeless after all.

But nothing had.

And maybe if he could just be better at letting go of his emotions like a real Jedi, if he could just stop arguing with her when she started a fight, maybe things would improve. But he’s not and he can’t and this is just a hopeless endeavor. Why Master Yoda thought it’d be a good idea to force two people who hate each other to work together, he has no idea.

(Well, he doesn’t hate her, at least; she’s small and annoying and sometimes stupid, with those ridiculous pacifist ideals he’s not sure how she obtained, but she’s smart, too, and fierce, practically blazing with life in his sense of the Force.)

But he’ll try, because Master Yoda wants him to, and because he thinks maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if he could make her into a friend.

 

He’s twelve years old, less than three months from aging out of the creche and being placed in the Corps.

He still doesn’t have anyone interested in taking him as a Padawan.

Maybe if his lightsaber forms are better--

Obi-Wan sneaks out of the creche at night, every night, now, his lightsaber clutched in his palms; it’s laughably easy to slip past the few Jedi in the halls and make it to his destination unseen. The training salle he’s chosen is dark, empty, untouched; he uses the Force to flip the switch, turning on one bank of lights, and then he turns on his ‘saber and settles into the first kata for Soresu. He moves through the kata at quarter speed, first, goes through all the katas at that pace, and then at half speed--and, finally, at full speed.

Midway through the second kata, he misses a step, his toe dragging on the floor and unbalancing him.

He swears, a bad habit that the crechemaster is always reprimanding him for, and starts the kata over again. It has to be perfect.

Time passes; he pays no attention to the chrono on his wrist, instead pushing himself until he does the entire series of katas perfectly, without a single missed step or incorrect blade angle. He’s soaked in sweat by the time he’s done, but the success has managed to eliminate some of the crushing self-doubt. Only some of it, of course, but…

Alright, there’s his defense practiced. Now time for offense.

He’s been learning the Ataru katas, the jumps and aerials, but he’s still a long ways from mastering them. Maybe that’s the problem, the reason he’s not yet been chosen.

He has to get better.

Obi-Wan throws himself into the kata with renewed vigor; he’s nearly to the end when he attempts a spinning slash with the angle of his ‘saber just slightly off. It’s a small mistake, but because of it, his swing is wrong, and he overbalances, trips, and lands hard on one knee.

And for some reason, this is the last straw. All the frustration, the anger, the pain, the fear, the shame--it all boils over and spills out, and he hurls his lightsaber across the room, as hard as he can, with a shout.

The blade hisses out just before the casing smacks the wall and tumbles to the floor.

Obi-Wan stays there a moment, on one knee, poised, arm still extended, and then abruptly he sags, curling into himself and starting to cry.

And hating himself for it.

He’s a Jedi, or he’s trying to be; he should be better than this! He should be able to control his emotions by now, and to at least make it through a simple kata without messing up! It’s no wonder no one wants to take him as a Padawan--

“Um. Are you--okay?”

Her voice sounds so different when she’s not trying to bait him into a fight that he almost doesn’t recognize her. Almost.

(A part of him wishes he didn’t.)

He doesn’t want to say anything, to answer, but he’s got to come up with something, some credible reason for why he’s lying on the floor that doesn’t involve the words I’m having a temper tantrum and that will make her go away. So he pushes himself up to a sitting position, hastily swallowing back his sobs, scrubbing the tears from his face, and turns towards her. “Satine,” he starts as he turns, and then he stops, frozen in place.

Gone is the usual superior expression and familiar fire. Instead, she stands half inside the doorway, golden hair loose and curly, past her shoulders in length. She’s tired-looking, and pale, and… worried? Why would she be worried? “What’s wrong?” she asks, softly, slowly stepping the rest of the way inside the salle and coming over to sit by him.

He opens his mouth to make some sort of excuse. “What do you think?” comes snapping out instead--curse his stupid mouth (that’s probably another reason why none of the Masters will chose him). “I’m almost thirteen and no one wants me and I’ll never be a Jedi Knight!”

He slams his teeth together hard enough to jar him, chest heaving from his unintentional outburst. Satine didn’t need to know that. It’s not like she cares, she’s made that perfectly clear over the last couple years--

“There’s got to be something we can do,” she says, staring at him with determination in her eyes and durasteel in her voice. “I promise, Obi-Wan, you won’t get sent to the Corps. I won’t let them. Do you know why you haven’t been chosen yet?”

He shrugs, staring down at the floor, unable to face the faith in her eyes. (Why does she want to help him?) “I’m just not good enough,” he mumbles. “I can’t control myself, can’t even finish a kata without messing up…”

“But you’re amazing,” she says earnestly. “I was watching, Obi, you’re already so much better than the others--”

“If you knew anything about lightsaber combat, you’d know I’m terrible,” Obi-Wan snarls, surprising himself with the amount of venom in his voice. “Now leave me alone. And don’t follow me again!”

With that, he stands, jerkily pulling his lightsaber to his hand, and storms out of the room. It’s past midnight--he needs to sleep, or he’ll be too exhausted to function tomorrow. He tries to focus on that, instead of the wounded shock on Satine’s face as he left her.

(He’s not very successful.)

 

It’s been three days since she talked to Obi-Wan in the salle. Every night since, she’s seen him sneak out to train, but she hasn’t followed him, like he’d asked; she’s not sure why she obeys his demand, when usually she does everything possible to annoy him. Maybe it’s the naked pain on his face. The anguish in his soft brown eyes sticks in her memory.

She has to help, somehow. He’s too good to get sent to the Corps.

Master Windu approaches as she darts through the hallway; Obi-Wan isn’t in class yet, which is really unlike him, and she’s worried. Worried enough to go check his room.

Of course, that plan gets derailed the moment Master Windu shows up. “Initiate Kryze,” he says warmly, a smile spreading across his face. “Just who I was looking for.”

“Master Windu,” she says, stopping and looking up at him. “What do you need?”

He bends down, to be more on her level. “I have a very important question for you, Satine.” There’s a pause. “Will you be my Padawan learner?”

Satine freezes, staring at him, her eyes wide. Master Windu wants to take her as his Padawan? There’s a yes hovering on the tip of her tongue, but something makes her hesitate; Obi-Wan’s wretched, tearstained face flashes in front of her eyes, and something inside her clicks. “You want to choose me, but you’ll let Obi-Wan be sent to the Corps?”

He frowns, the smile vanishing in an instant. “I don’t understand--”

“Obi-Wan’s the best out of all of us,” she says proudly. “He deserves to be chosen. But he’s almost aged out, and no one wants him. Did you know that he’s been going to the training salle every night and working himself to exhaustion trying to perfect his katas?”

“I did not.” Master Windu frowns, but a different frown this time: a worried, thinking one. “Hmm. He’s almost too old to be a Padawan--that might be part of the problem… but he’s too important to the future to let the Corps get him. And no,” he says, before she can ask, “I don’t know why, just that he is.”

“Help Obi-Wan get a Master, and I’ll be your Padawan learner,” she says, and offers her hand to shake. “Deal?”

Master Windu nods solemnly, shaking her hand. “Deal.” And then his expression brightens. “Every night, you said?”

She nods.

“Right. Meet me outside the salle he uses at 2100 tonight. I have an idea…”

 

Stupid, stupid, stupid, Obi-Wan chants silently, messing up again as he tries to run through the second Ataru kata at full speed. He can do it at half speed (well, mostly); why is it so hard to get it right when he speeds it up more? “No wonder nobody wants you,” he mutters to himself, adjusting his grip on his ‘saber hilt and settling back into the opening stance for the kata. “Stupid…”

For a moment, he thinks he hears footsteps outside the room; he freezes, but no one comes in, and so he shrugs and starts through the kata, as smoothly and fluidly as he can.

This time, he makes it almost all the way through before he messes up.

“I see what you mean,” a voice says, from outside the room; Obi-Wan nearly drops his lightsaber in shock. “He’s very skilled, for an Initiate. You said none of the Masters intend to choose him?”

“As far as I know, that’s correct,” someone else says; he recognizes them to be Master Windu. “I know you weren’t planning on taking another Padawan, after Xanatos, but from what I know of Obi-Wan, the two of you would be a good match.”

He freezes. A good match? Another Padawan? What?

“Hey, Obi-Wan!” a very familiar voice chirps. It’s Satine, of course. Of-kriffing- course.

“I told you not to follow me,” Obi-Wan says through gritted teeth, not turning around. Instead, he takes up his position again, and starts the next kata.

“I didn’t follow you this time,” she says with a smugness he can feel radiating through the Force. “My Master told me to come here.”

Her… Master?

He goes still, mid-swing, and turns to face her, eyes immediately landing on the distinctive braid hanging just behind her ear, a single bead on the end. “You’ve been chosen?” he breathes out, shock and something like horror settling heavy in his gut.

She nods, smiling brilliantly. And then frowns. “Well. Kind of. Master Windu!” she adds, turning and half-yelling out into the hallway. “Can you two hurry it up? I’d like to be an official Padawan!”

“You already are an official Padawan,” Master Windu points out with a little sideways smirk, entering the room and indicating her braid. “Sorry to keep you waiting, Initiate Kenobi. This is Master Qui-Gon Jinn.”

The man who enters next is very tall, with long blond hair, half pulled up and back from his face in a tail. His long cloak swirls impressively around his narrow form when he walks, and his face is tired and dusty, but his blue eyes are alert. “Hello, Obi-Wan. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he says.

Something about his voice just seems… right.

“Nice to meet you, sir,” Obi-Wan says quietly, dropping his eyes to stare at the floor, fiddling with his lightsaber hilt.

“I think Master Windu is right,” Qui-Gon says decisively, after a moment of studying him (Obi-Wan can feel the Jedi’s eyes burning through him even without looking up). “Initiate Kenobi, would you do me the honor of becoming my Padawan learner?”

This time, Obi-Wan does drop his lightsaber.

 

“Satine! Watch out!”

By the time Obi-Wan shouts, Satine is already moving, pulling on the Force for additional speed as she sprints across the disintegrating bridge, chased by blaster shots and the occasional wild blast from a pulse weapon. Still, she’s at least three meters from the end of the bridge when a pair of expertly-aimed blaster bolts take out the supports on Obi-Wan’s side, and the entire structure collapses.

“Jump!” her closest friend and frequent mission partner shouts.

Satine does.

She lands on the rocky ground hard, going down to one knee, accepts Obi-Wan’s offered hand to help her up, just as the bridge slams into the rocks at the bottom of the wide canyon. Igniting her pale green lightsaber, she helps him deflect the last few stray blaster bolts coming from the far side of the chasm.

And then, abruptly, the fire stops.

“Well, that went better than expected,” Obi-Wan says, which is of course when the destroyers show up.

“You just had to say it!” Satine yells, exasperated, as she shifts rapidly into a defensive position and starts deflecting the plasma shots. The destroyers have shield generators (of course they do), but at least with only two of them, the two Padawans can hold their own. “I really hope our Masters are almost here,” she adds, more quietly.

“Don’t worry!” Obi-Wan says, almost cheerfully, as the destroyers force them slowly back towards the edge of the canyon. “Master Qui-Gon probably won’t let us fall to our deaths.”

“Reassuring,” she mutters, rolling her eyes, and then there’s a sudden line of fire burning along her upper right arm. “Kriff!”

“Are you alright?” he asks, immediately, his worry strong enough to radiate out into the Force.

“I’m fine,” she snaps, “and you’re broadcasting again.”

“Sorry,” he apologizes, looking over at her--taking his eyes off the destroyers for just a second.

The bolt catches him in the shoulder, and the impact is enough to knock him over the edge.

Satine freezes (no, please no, this is all her fault, she distracted him, this is why she hates fighting so much--), shock and horror and terror turning her blood to ice in her veins, and then there’s a thrumming sound she’d missed beneath the destroyers’ constant firing, and their ship lifts up from the canyon floor… with a grinning Obi-Wan perched casually on one wing.

He’s practically pouring his smugness into the Force.

“I told you he wouldn’t let us fall to our deaths,” he shouts over the sound of the ship’s engines, and then he winks.

He winks.

She’s not sure if she wants to kill him or kiss him.

And then the destroyers make their presence known again by a bolt that flies just past her ear, close enough it nearly takes off her Padawan braid, and she decides that escaping with her life is probably more important than sorting out her complicated and rather contradictory feelings for one Obi-Wan Kenobi.

She jumps.

 

“Master Windu is going to kill me,” Satine says, sighing heavily and dropping into the seat next to Obi-Wan at the cafeteria table.

He raises an eyebrow, glancing up from his datapad to make a face at the seventeen-year-old. “What did you do this time?”

“I did nothing,” she says. When he raises his other eyebrow, disbelieving, she adds, “I swear! It was Quin!”

“Say no more,” Obi-Wan immediately says, chuckling slightly. Quinlan Vos, another Padawan about the same age as the two of them, has a… reputation in the Temple for being a bit of a troublemaker. “Allow me to revise my question: what did he do this time?”

“We… might’ve accidentally set one of the salles on fire,” she mumbles, rushing the words out.

He blinks, impressed despite himself. “How did you manage that?” he asks, and then shakes his head. “Never mind, I’m not sure I want to know.” And then he frowns. “We?”

“It was his idea, I just was dragged into it--”

“Satine Kryze!” Master Windu shouts from one of the hallways, the Councillor’s voice faintly echoing into the cafeteria.

“Quick, get me out of here,” she hisses, and he sighs.

“I just want to say, for the record, I am not involved in this,” he says, and then he stands, tucks his datapad away in his robes. “Come on, I know the perfect place.”

“Thank you, Obi,” she says fervently, and leans forward to press a kiss to his cheek.

He freezes, for just a second, feels his cheeks heating up (breathes, in and out, release it to the Force--except she just kissed him and that’s way harder to give to the Force), and then leads her across the room and into another hallway.

Of course, halfway to his hiding spot, they run into Quinlan, who is more than a little bit singed, smells of smoke, and has a massive, bantha shit-eating grin on his face.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Obi-Wan has time to murmur as an aside (a comment to which Satine hums instant agreement), and then the other Padawan is upon them.

“Kenobi, Kryze!” Quinlan’s grin widens, if that’s even possible. “Just who I was looking for!”

“What do you want, Quin?” Obi-Wan asks tiredly.

“Master Tholme isn’t very happy with me right now,” Quinlan says, wincing a little, his smile dimming. “I, uh, assume you’ve heard of the accidental fire I caused?”

“If I hadn’t, I certainly would know something happened by now.”

Quinlan frowns, not catching on, and Satine makes a vague gesture that encompasses his whole body. “You are rather… well… a bit burnt-looking,” she says, attempting to be diplomatic about it.

He looks down at himself and then grins roguishly. “Just adds to my charms, sweetheart,” he says, and winks.

(Obi-Wan definitely does not want to reach out and slap the flirtatious look off his friend’s face. Nope. Because he is a Jedi, and Jedi are above such base desires. Jedi don’t get jealous, and they certainly don’t harbor illicit feelings for their best friends. After all, attachment is forbidden; the Code is quite clear on that subject.)

“Anyway,” the other Padawan continues, “I had an idea.”

“No,” Obi-Wan says immediately. He’d learned long ago that any time Quinlan Vos starts out a sentence with I had an idea… there will be trouble.

“Aw, come on, Kenobi. You don’t even know what it is yet!”

“And I quite prefer it that way.”

“What’s the idea?” Satine asks, justifiably wary.

And Quinlan grins.

 

“Why, exactly, did you think this was a good idea again?” Satine hisses, clinging to the durasteel support beam and inching her way up to the precarious maintenance platform from which one could hear every word said in the warehouse above.

“Look, we’ll be fine,” Quinlan whispers back. “Imagine how grateful the Council will be for our help. We’ll get out of trouble for sure!”

Obi-Wan rolls his eyes before his face goes utterly still as he concentrates on silently pulling Quinlan onto the platform. Once the teenage boy is secure, Satine quickly climbs the rest of the way, and Obi-Wan helps her up too. The three Padawans silently huddle together, listening carefully.

“Look, I know Force-sensitives are worth a lot on the black market, but are they worth this much? Breaking into the Temple is paramount to suicide!” a man exclaims.

“And where do you suggest we find them, if not the Temple?” a woman says archly. “Besides, I have manufactured something that will make our job much easier.”

“What is that?” the man asks, curiosity clear in his voice.

Satine can almost hear the woman smile. “It is a drug, effective only on Force-users. It causes extreme pain--sometimes rendering them unconscious--and makes them weaker-willed, more susceptible to manipulation. I’m working on an airborne type right now that can be released into the Temple itself.”

The three teens exchange nervous looks. You didn’t mention they’re targeting Jedi, Obi-Wan mouths, making Quinlan shake his head, eyes wide.

I didn’t know, he responds in the same manner. I don’t think my Master does, either--

Quinlan’s commlink chirps, the sound echoing cavernously in the wide space.

There’s a second of silence, and then the trapdoor the three of them are positioned under suddenly flies open. “What do we have here?” the man asks. “Jedi kids, by the looks of them. What are you kids doing here?”

“Perfect,” the woman’s voice says, “another chance to test the drug.”

And then some kind of blaster fires three times.

Satine has just enough time to locate the dart in her neck before the pain hits and she starts to scream.

 

Never again, Obi-Wan thinks, staring fuzzily at the Force-inhibiting cuffs on his wrists. He is never doing anything with Quinlan ever again.

This, unfortunately, is about the limit of his coherency at the moment; his thoughts are thick and slow like molasses on a cold winter morning, and even just trying to process where he is feels like running through knee-deep water: heavy and sluggish and full of resistance. Probably the cuffs, he thinks muzzily, the aftereffects of whatever drug is raging through his system combined with his inability to reach for the Force. Still, he knows he needs to shake it off, to think through it (why?), because--

Lives could depend on it, right. The slavers, only they aren’t typical slavers, but slavers planning to steal from the creche, and--

Force preserve him, their scheme will probably even work.

“Obi?” A faint voice interrupts his muddled musings. (That’s a nice phrase, muddled musings, he should use that more often.)

He tilts his head to the right, manages to make eye contact with Satine. “Are you ‘lright?” he rasps out, surprised by the hoarseness of his voice.

“I’m fine,” Satine says, and then grimaces. “Or as fine as I can be, given that I’ve recently been drugged, had my lightsaber stolen, and locked away from the Force.” She lets out a soft breath. “The drug affected you worse than the rest of us, I think.”

“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry,” Quinlan says from Obi-Wan’s other side, genuine regret and fear and nerves in his voice. “I really didn’t know it was this big--”

“I know,” Obi-Wan answers, but he doesn’t look away from Satine. “If I could just--”

He reaches for the Force (it should be simple, all he wants is to access his training bond with Master Qui-Gon, something he’s done a thousand times if he’s done it once) only for his voice to cut off as he’s hit by a wave of sheer agony as he stretches for something that’s not there. There’s a hole in his mind where the Force should be (it’s like being blind, being lost alone in the dark, the Dark, the emptiness an endless black hole swallowing him whole), and he’s never felt pain like this before…

“Obi-Wan!”

Dimly, he recognizes someone’s shouting at him, shouting his name, and he struggles to bring himself back from the abyss in his head, but it’s pulling him down, dragging him under, too strong for him to resist, and he doesn’t know what will happen if he gives in but he knows it can’t be good (can you Fall if you can’t even feel the Force?). Satine, he says, or thinks he says, help me, please, Satine, but he’s not sure the words actually make it beyond his lips.

“--pick the lock,” someone’s saying, “we have to get those cuffs off--”

But such words are, for the moment, beyond his comprehension. The Force has always been there, in that place where mind and heart and soul meet, and to have it ripped away feels like a bloody gash torn in the very fabric of his being.

And then, suddenly, the cuffs around his wrists come unlocked with a click, and the Force rushes in to fill the void like a river released from a dam.

He sags forward into Satine’s arms, letting out a shuddering breath, a faintly choked noise, and for a moment he just lets himself lean into her. Her arms are steady, secure, comforting, and there’s a strange warmth blooming deep inside, related to the way she holds him close, as though she’d give him all the strength in her body without a second thought, without hesitation.

(He wonders if she would--he knows he would, immediately, if he could--and the thought that maybe she would too rushes through him like a storm, leaves him fizzy and light and tingling in its wake.)

(He wonders if this is what attachment feels like.)

(For the moment, he decides he really doesn’t care.)

And then:

“Come on, lovebirds,” Quinlan says in an easy drawl, shattering the moment (they spring apart like they’ve been caught doing something entirely illicit and against the Code). “I’d appreciate getting out of these cuffs, too…”

“Right,” Satine says, almost flustered, a hint of a flush on her pale cheeks (is it embarrassment from Quinlan’s words or is she just as affected by the contact as he is?). “I’m sorry, Quin.”

“Sure you are,” the other Padawan says drolly, but he flashes her a brilliant grin, a sure sign of a joke. Satine hurries over to him, using the pin she’d taken from her hair to pick the lock and release him. “Thanks.”

“If we could find our lightsabers, we could get out of here easily,” Obi-Wan says after a moment, struggling to put his thoughts in order, to get back some semblance of normalcy, of control. “I think…”

“We need to contact the Temple and warn them,” Satine contradicts. “Obi, can you reach Master Qui-Gon?”

“Why am I the one who has to contact the Temple?” he asks, only a little petulant. Only a little, because he’s a Jedi, and also he’s nineteen and far too old for whining. “None of this was my idea!”

“Master Qui-Gon likes you,” Quin says. “Also, you didn’t just burn down one of the salles.”

Obi-Wan hesitates, then sighs. “Touche,” he mutters, and then he takes a deep breath and centers himself. It takes a moment to get up the nerve to touch the Force (his mind still aches from the agony he’d felt the last time he tried this, and he has to suppress a shudder), to reach, to burrow into the filament connecting his mind with his Master’s, but once he does, he’s met with a warm curiosity. Uh, Master Qui-Gon? he starts, more than a little wary.

What is it, my Padawan? There’s an amused feeling accompanying the words.

There’s a… situation. He hesitates. None of this was my idea, by the way, I’m only here to keep Satine and Quin from getting themselves killed--

Satine and Quinlan, is it? The amusement grows stronger. What sort of trouble have the three of you gotten into now?

We… kind of got captured by these slavers who are planning to break into the Temple to steal the younglings and sell them on the black market? That shouldn’t be a question. They have Force-inhibiting cuffs and some kind of drug, and he flashes the memory of the woman talking about her drug and her plan to his Master.

There’s a burst of alarm, quickly muffled. Obi-Wan, this is dangerous. I will inform the Council, and Masters Windu and Tholme and I will come find you. Retrieve your ‘sabers if you can, but do not risk exposure to that drug.

And then he’s gone, and Satine and Quin are staring at Obi-Wan expectantly. “Um,” he says eloquently, and swallows. “He’s going to tell the Council about what we overheard. And our Masters are going to come find us. He said to find our lightsabers if we can, but don’t get hit by the drug.”

“Easy enough,” Quin says with a shrug. “Come on, let’s go.”

 

It’s not easy.

 

Four hours later, after the last of the slavers has been cuffed and taken away, Obi-Wan limps to the transport the three Masters had commandeered. There’s a burn on his leg where he’d been shot by a blaster before he’d managed to get his ‘saber back, and his left wrist is sprained, but… “I’m sorry, Master.”

“Apology accepted,” Qui-Gon says easily. “When we return to the Temple, I’ll escort you to the healers. After you’ve been treated, I want you to meditate on what you have learned from this… escapade.”

“To never trust Quinlan Vos,” Obi-Wan says, with feeling.

Qui-Gon laughs. “My young Padawan, one would have thought you would’ve learned that long ago. An incident with a rancor comes to mind…?”

Obi-Wan groans. “I thought we agreed never to speak of the rancor incident!”

“I did no such thing.” There’s far too much of an innocent look in his Master’s eyes for Obi-Wan’s comfort. “But relax, Obi-Wan, I won’t speak of it. After all, we must take care to remain in the here-and-now, yes?”

“Exactly, Master,” he agrees, nodding fervently. “The here-and-now.”

Qui-Gon is still laughing when the transport’s doors slide closed.

 

Obi-Wan is nearly twenty-five Standard years old when Chancellor Valorum calls upon the Jedi Council to send an ambassador to the Trade Federation, whose fleet is currently blockading the peaceful planet of Naboo. Mace Windu tries to get the mission for himself and Satine, but the majority of the Council doesn’t agree; instead, they decide to send Qui-Gon, and, by proxy, Obi-Wan.

He has no idea how much his life is about to change.