Qui-Gon Jinn woke up in the predawn coldness again, the soft, dull glow of the perimeter lights blunted by the dirty plastisteel and durasteel bars the small rectangular windows were covered with. It was nice that they let them have that at least. Other prisons weren’t as accommodating and had nothing for them to know what time it really was other than the prison lights.
From past experience, he knew he had about an hour or so before the lights were turned off and the watery sunlight gradually lightened the day. It was then that day would begin and the wind and Force from the outside would pick up in full force. It was always cold, but it was better than being surrounded by synthetics and cut off from the Living Force like in other prisons.
Qui-Gon had been in one place like that in his early days of captivity. It had nearly killed him being so cut off from the Living Force. The cell that they had placed him in was nothing but dingy grey duraconcrente blocks, no window, durasteel bed, sink and toilet completed the decor. Even the blankets and uniforms they had clothed him in had been synthetic materials.
All of the synthetics he was surrounded with made him horrifically ill. And depressed, since he couldn’t feel or connect with the Living Force. It had robbed him of mental and physical strength, leaving him weak and fragile. It left him harmless enough that by the time they pulled him out of his spartan eight by ten cell, despite his imposing build and training, he had almost no fight left in him. He had nearly slipped into a coma due to the deprivation and had been in the medical wing of the prison for a month before his transfer.
He closed his eyes and huddled into his musky and dirty clothing and blankets as he recalled those days spent by an open window and plants around him. He longed for those days, when he could connect so strongly with the Force in a way he hadn’t been able to ever since he was imprisoned. He missed them as much as he missed the elusive freedom that once had been his and maybe wouldn’t ever be again.
He had nearly cried when they had put him on that shuttle to a farther away prison. He had been shackled to the seat and it was then that he had been given a glimpse of Obi-Wan and Anakin before he was taken off. He had tried to give them comfort, smiling a bit when they had caught the brief flare that his signature had become. He had seen Obi-Wan’s grey-blue eyes soften and Anakin give him a small nod and that had made the trip bearable.
As much as Qui-Gon had hoped to see them again, he was certain he wouldn’t. Not physically and not in the Force. They hadn’t put any suppressors on him, but the deprivation of earlier years had done its job well. He was a low-level user now at best. That month had served to not only hurt him, but also turn his dark blue eyes dull and sunk into his bony, craggy face. His hair had gone grey and white last time he had looked at it. Right before it had been shorn off and kept that way.
Qui-Gon wasn’t sure if the colour had come back, since he constantly wore a thick woollen hat he had traded a couple of packets of death sticks that Anakin had sent. The care packages were infrequent, but always seemed to arrive when Qui-Gon needed new clothing, blankets, or boots. It made Qui-Gon wonder if Obi-Wan was aware of Anakin’s gifts.
If they had regular communication, he would have asked. He missed his former padawan and spent many nights before sleep would finally come wondering what he’d look like after seven year cycles of not seeing him. Or Anakin. It hurt, knowing he wasn’t there to see them grow and change, but he had resigned himself to the unfairness that had landed him in prison in the first place.
He still had no idea what charges had robbed him of the chance to see his padawans grow into their abilities. He only had enough time to heal the wounds inflicted on him by the Sith in Naboo when he was arrested and dragged off to a holding cell. No one would ever tell him and his own grandmaster, Yoda, had turned his back on him. His Master, Count Dooku now, had been long gone and Qui-Gon couldn’t help but to wonder if that had been engineered so that he wouldn’t have a fighting chance against the vague charges that had seen him expelled from the Order and treated like a common criminal.
He had only just enough time to wish Obi-Wan and Anakin good luck before he was dragged off to that first Sith damned hole. He had, to his horror, started to forget what they looked like. Then the transfer happened, giving him that small mercy and small gift that had become so precious to him.
Qui-Gon only had that glimpse of Obi-Wan and Anakin to tide him over in the jail. Both of them frozen in time in his mind’s eye. Obi-Wan was still the newly minted knight to Qui-Gon, with his coppery hair grown out and gleaming brightly, his beard neat and reddish, and his carefully kept tan and cream robes. Anakin, tall and lanky, darker robes and long braid lying against his shoulder with many beads strung on it. Both clean and neat and the epitome of what Jedi should be.
He sighed and rolled over, wincing at the sour smell of unwashed clothing and skin. He hated it and tried to not recall the days when he had access to regular showers and soap that was a step above lye and fat stuck together. And a laundry service. He missed that, despite the years he’d been put away. He curled up into a tighter ball and sighed.
As much as he wanted clean clothing and skin, he wanted to be warm even more. So he tolerated the stench and burrowed deeper into the nest of blankets and rags he’d managed to make after years of being in his prison. He had worse as a Jedi, he knew. He could tolerate it, but it was different when there was no promise of comfort. Or no end in sight.
It was worse due to his species. Yavinese, even the Northern ones, couldn’t tolerate that much cold. Even with his endurance, he was starting to see the effects of being on this planet. He had a cough that rattled his chest and his joints hurt more. At least he wasn’t spitting up blood. Yet.
It would be a small mercy to him if that were to happen. He was starting to think that he wouldn’t ever see the outside galaxy again. He was being worn down by the hard work and the crushing conditions inside. He was sure that if it wasn’t for the Force, he’d have already succumbed. But being Force sensitive could only do so much for him and he was starting to wear down and get glimpses of the end.
And he wasn’t sure if he was sad or glad about that starting to creep closer and closer.
News had trickled in even this far out in the galaxy and they were not good news. Qui-Gon didn’t recognize what the Order had become. Or why war was sweeping the galaxy. Or who the men with the same face were. And why he was getting the sense that not just his time, but the time of all that he had known was swiftly coming to an end.
He swallowed hard, bringing his hand up to muffle the cough building up in his throat. It wasn’t as bad as the other ones and he relaxed a bit. It would be a decent day. He wouldn’t run out of breath in the mines. He’d be able to fill his quota and maybe even get an extra bit of the protein rations they were fed.
He lay still, not thinking about anything else when it hit him.
His vision went black and his back arched off the bed,his heels digging into the lumpy old mattress, his hands clawing the frigid air as he fought to push the pain he was enduring away. Wave after wave it came, making him cry out and groan as it attacked every bit of him. His face was wet and it was only then that the torment stopped.
It left him lying on his pallet exhausted. His two inner shirts soaked as he lay bonelessly, panting and crying soundlessly like a child. Qui-Gon had no idea where the wave of agony and despair, anger and grief that reverberated through the Force came from. Only that it was crystalline and razor sharp.
And it left him full of fear and despair. For reasons he couldn’t explain, he was afraid for the first time in years. The Force felt wrong in ways he couldn’t explain or articulate, but left him lying there, unable to fully let it go or release the emotions that had been thrust upon him.
Emotions that he knew weren’t his, yet it still left him paralysed and unable to shake off easily. He lay there, quietly sobbing until the lights came on and the sounds of other inmates getting up made him come back to himself with a snap. He wiped his face and after breathing in and out a couple of times, he was able to shuffle out to the sink and get ready for the day.
As much as he was shaken, he figured that the back breaking, mindless work would be what he needed to put that episode behind him. He shivered again as he peeled off layers to swap out for dry ones and to sponge off some of the acrid sweat. He kept on shivering, but he was determined to ignore the tremors. He didn’t want to think about it, but the Force was pressing on him insistently.
Still,Qui-Gon stubbornly cleaned himself up, brushed his teeth and re-dressed. Once he was done, he stood in front of his cell door as he had done every morning and waited to be released for breakfast and then to his work allotment. He shuffled in the grooves he had worn in the duracrete and waited.
And waited, a twinge of fear starting to creep up his spine. He could hear the other cells being opened and saw others walk past him, none of them giving him so much as a glance as they went. He swallowed hard, watching them go as he wondered if his time had finally come up.
The idea made him sigh heavily and bow his head. He had known that there was a chance that it would happen. He hadn’t been as arrogant as to assume he’d die in the mines or in his pitiful excuse of a nest. He knew it could happen, but now that he was facing his own mortality, he found he wasn’t ready for it. He didn’t want to die in this prison. He didn’t want to die just yet.
He heard footsteps in the hall. Not two as it was the case, but three, maybe four. He had to wonder why four guards were needed to get him to the firing range. Surely it was overkill?
He heard them stop in front of him and the head guard speak.
“Look up, Jinn.”
He obeyed at once and it was all he could do to not give a reaction as he spotted three guards and an impassive Obi-Wan Kenobi dressed in non-descript civilian clothing. A haunted, older, and very much gaunter Obi-Wan Kenobi, but it was him nonetheless. He stared dumbly as the guard turned to look at Obi-Wan.
“This him? Your father?”
Obi-Wan made a show of examining him carefully before giving a sharp nod of agreement.
The head guard nodded to the other two with him, who grabbed Qui-Gon, shackled him and walked him behind the head guard.
“He needs to be cleaned. Deloused. We will bring him to you in the front. This way, Ser.”
Obi-Wan gave Qui-Gon one last look before he walked with the Head Guard and disappeared thought the front doors. Qui-Gon, true to the head guard’s words, was dragged to the showers.
He obeyed, shivering and shaking through the rough wash with a pressure hose and enduring the treatments before he was given cheap, barely adequate clothing, his boots, and a coat. His hat was gone and he wished for it back when he felt the dismay of Obi-Wan through their link.
It was cut off with such an abruptness Qui-Gon stumbled as he was given a shove forward, the cuffs on his wrists still as he was released.
“Come. I’ll explain it all later.” Obi-Wan whispered as he embraced Qui-Gon, then pulled away as quickly, pulling him out of the prison and into the outside and freedom.
Something that Qui-Gon didn’t think he’d ever get again.
They walked, Qui-Gon not noticing the time and length of the walk with how taken he was by his freedom. He was finally free! He could also feel the Force, welcoming and embracing him, soothing his hurts and cracking the wall he had built to keep his sanity.
“It’s okay. It’s going to be okay.” Obi-Wan murmured as he sat Qui-Gon onto the medical bed in his ship and wiped the tears that coursed down Qui-Gon’s worn cheeks. He unlocked the cuffs and helped Qui-Gon out of the clothes and under the blankets, which where soft and thick and warm.
The feel of them made his tears flow harder and made him curl up on his side and grieve.
“It’s okay. Sleep. It will all be better after you sleep.”
It was a Force suggestion. One that he wouldn’t have fought even if he could have. He was drained and he welcomed sleep gladly, going under in no time.
When he came to, Obi-Wan was sitting by his bed, a cup of tea in his hands and sorrow etched into his features. A sorrow he wasn’t quick enough to wipe away when Qui-Gon turned bleary eyes at him. He turned away and schooled his features, but he knew Qui-Gon had noticed.
“Don’t. Not yet. When we arrive, I’ll explain.”
He rasped out, drinking the tea and turning to the small basket that was sitting beside him. A basket that pulsed with a bright enough light in the Force that even Qui-Gon noticed.
Obi-Wan put the empty cup on the table and pulled something-no, someone -out of the basket and showed Qui-Gon.
“This is Luke. And we’re taking him home. To Tatooine.”
He murmured, edging down the blanket enough so that Qui-Gon could see the infant and take in his hazy blue eyes and soft blonde fuzz on his head. And the familiar Force signature of him, that made Qui-Gon start and Obi-Wan shake his head.
“He’s gone, Qui-Gon. The Republic, Anakin, The Order. It’s all gone and he’s our hope.” He looked up from the baby and into the faded blue eyes of his Master.
“And I had to get you, because I couldn’t lose you too. After all those years of trying to get you out, of following leads, I finally managed to get you out...Only to make you a fugitive.”
Obi-Wan smiled wryly, looking down at Luke and smoothing his thumb over his forehead before meeting Qui-Gon’s thoughtful gaze. They both remained silent as Qui-Gon weighed what he had been told and what hadn’t been said. He had questions, but he could see Obi-Wan wasn’t in any state to answer them.
And he honestly doubted he was in any state to hear what they would be. Especially since he was all too aware that they were tied to the upheaval he had sensed. So he let it pass. There would be time enough.
“It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are. I am free. I am with you again. That’s all I care about right now. Thank you.”
Qui-Gon whispered, reaching out to stroke Obi-Wan’s cheek and rub his thumb across the prominent cheekbone, catching a tear as he did.
He embraced Obi-Wan, letting him finally have the desperately needed space that he needed to collapse.
“Let it out, Obi-Wan, Let it out. There will be time enough to be strong. You’re safe now. It’s alright.”
Qui-Gon murmured, holding him and their hope until the storm had passed, leaving Obi-Wan drained, but calm and at peace despite the uncertainty before them.
“Thank you. I guess we should eat. Maybe you should shower while I find clothes for you.”
Obi-Wan mumbled, wiping his face as he put a now sleeping Luke back into the basket and drawing Qui-Gon’s attention to the fact that he was only wrapped in the bedsheet.
“Oh. Right. Yes. Fresher?” Qui-Gon asked, standing up and wrapping the sheet around himself, following Obi-Wan’s instructions as the latter went off to the kitchenette to get some food sorted for them.
Qui-Gon got clean quickly, the hot water doing wonders for his speed and joints, the soap with its neutral scent heaven to what he had known. There was even shampoo and conditioner, which he used sparingly compared to before. He smiled at that and scrubbed at his hair, sighing in simple joy at being clean.
He stepped out in time to bump into Obi-Wan, making both of them drop what they were carrying and grasp each other. Qui-Gon swallowed, his eyes widening. Obi-Wan’s pupils widened, swallowing the iris as he pulled Qui-Gon closer and into a kiss.
A kiss that was tentative, then deepened as he tasted all of Qui-Gon, ending as quickly as it had started.
They stood in silence, neither sure of what had happened. Neither sure of what to do next when Qui-Gon finally dared to break the tenseness between them.
Obi-Wan exhaled, then pressed his forehead into Qui-Gon’s thin chest.
“I wanted...I wanted to...I wanted to make up for lost time, Master. I should have done that long, long ago.”
He looked up, visibly relaxing when he saw Qui-Gon smiling instead of scowling or pulling away.
“We missed our chance then. But we have it now, despite it all. And that’s what matters.”
Obi-Wan’s face brightened just a fraction at that. Smiling faintly, he reached up and caressed Qui-Gon’s face.
He pulled away to pick up the clothing he had dropped, handing it to Qui-Gon.
“Thank you for reminding me. I missed it. I missed you.”
Qui-Gon nodded, his own lips curling up into a small smile as he pulled on the clothes, letting Obi-Wan see the scars and marks of captivity. Showing him that despite it all, he would be able to fight alongside him again.
“Me too.” He admitted. “Me too.”
Obi-Wan smiled, the smile only just reaching his eyes.
It wouldn’t be the same. Or what they had hoped for.
But it was a start.