Coruscant, 54 BBY.
If anything, Qui-Gon Jinn felt jaded.
It had never been in his nature to deny his feelings, unlike his former Master who tended to plough on, and whose shields were made of durasteel. Qui-Gon had no doubt that Dooku would have snorted at his alleged fatigue, sending him to the Archives for another endless research.
He never sent him to meditate, oddly enough, probably because meditation had never been Qui-Gon’s problem. Sometimes his Master had directed him to the training grounds for a round of sparring, raising a dark eyebrow at his definite refuse of Makashi and its flourishes.
There was a very good reason Qui-Gon had turned to Ataru – because it was a way to be alive, in the moment, and because it definitely allowed him to let out some steam.
“How a Padawan mastering meditation as you do could turn to such an uncouth way of duelling is beneath me…”, his Master would often say.
“Perhaps I am uncouth, Master”, Qui-Gon would then reply, voice even but eyes burning, and Dooku had never bothered to comment that.
Qui-Gon was very grateful of the apprenticeship he had passed alongside Dooku. His master was powerful, smart, grizzled, and was the epitome of self-command. But Dooku had never been precisely gentle and had a hard way of showing he cared – with him, it mostly looked like rebuke, and Qui-Gon’s trials had been a delicate cliff to navigate.
He had not been a very needy Padawan. Qui-Gon had always adapted, finding enough interest and life in the world around him – in the Temple first, then in Coruscant. He had friends enough, even in the underworld, and enough command of the Living Force to be perfectly able to stir himself, with or without his Master.
But Force, Dooku had been hard. The night before his last Trial, he had made a point to list every field which, in his opinion, Qui-Gon was still far from mastering. He could still hear his Master’s low baritone: the Cosmic Force and its warnings, thorough researching, strategy, self-command, diplomatic skills, defensive sparring… Qui-Gon’s head had been reeling.
He was glad that anxiety was not one of his main traits, otherwise he probably would never have made it through the Trials. Instead, he had rebelled internally, determined to take his Trials, despite everything – which had, perhaps, been Dooku’s intent all along.
Qui-Gon was not resentful either – Dooku had never been one to project, but he had felt his pride when he had taken his Padawan braid from him, and when he had closed their training bond.
But it had been hard – and Qui-Gon had been glad to be on his own, for a while. Able to choose his steps, the way he would let the Force guide him, able to focus on his skills, not only what remained to be perfected. Able to interact more with the people he was helping, to let them shape him in return, to feel the Living Force in them nourish his own flame.
Those days, however, Qui-Gon felt weary, and thanks to the stunt he had pulled on his last mission, he had had plenty of time to figure out why.
The doors of the Halls of Healing slid open before him, and Qui-Gon resigned himself to go in, hopefully for the last time this week.
How turning yourself into a living torch might have been helpful to the situation is beyond my comprehension.
Such had been Dooku’s comment, as soon as they had met again.
The burns on his chest, back and arms had been severe, their location complicating treatment. As Master Che had explained, immersing him in a Bacta tank could cause the tissues to retract – which was why Qui-Gon was enduring daily sessions in the Halls, letting them change his dressings before massaging the healing tissues.
It was testing his patience, but the healers helped, and were not responsible for his recklessness.
He probably should have avoided the flame throwers, on that last mission alone. But it was that or watching people burn – the delegates he had been sent to protect, and the opposite fraction. Once more, an extremist group had tried to bring down the negotiations, attacking the assembly in a self-destructive, suicidal assault.
They had not hesitated to turn themselves into living torches, in the end, after trying to burn down everyone else. However, Qui-Gon had manage to deflate most of the flames, and the fraction had eventually been dissolved. He came away with burns that would heal – and memories and smells that made him shudder even now.
What ends could possibly justify such horrible means?
How could a living soul contemplate to harm another, and to harm itself?
Qui-Gon was no innocent in treading the Way, and he knew these questions had no real answer and would never truly disappear. Conflict and lust of power never truly faded – but there was also courage, compassion and love to be found, and those were worth fights and burns.
He was weary, though.
It had been his third mission in less than six months, and while Qui-Gon had preferred to be on his own ever since his Trials, reluctant to pair with a fellow Jedi, he could not deny that it had been hard to carry the burden of these assignments alone.
With his Master, he had often felt unable to decide, obliged to conform himself to plans he did not always agree with, but Dooku’s way of managing the assignments had allowed him space and time enough to think, meditate, and feel the Living Force around him.
Now, it seemed to Qui-Gon that he was indeed sensing and following the Living Force - yet never truly part of it. And it had worn down his brain, his soul, and even his body.
He longed for Nature, unharmed by conflict, unpolluted by war. And he could not really find it on Coruscant, the Temple gardens making only a tolerable substitute. He longed for more.
He yearned for peace.
And though his injuries forced him to stay put, for now, though he had plenty of time to meditate, Qui-Gon was not feeling rested – something had been stirred inside him, becoming hard to bear.
Qui-Gon had finally found out that it was solitude – and that apparent contradiction in him left him puzzled, without worrying him.
After all, he was nothing but a walking contradiction, to quote Dooku, and it had never prevented him from finding his way.
“Good afternoon, Master Che”, Qui-Gon greeted the Twi’lek healer, entering the Halls and bowing.
“Good afternoon, Qui-Gon…”
The healer smiled at him, but she seemed preoccupied, blue lekku rubbing her forearms thoughtfully – Qui-Gon instantly felt his interest rise.
“What is it, Master Che?
- Oh, well…”, the Twi’lek healer answered, shaking her head. “It is a tiny three-year old boy Master Yoda seems to have forgotten here. I would have wanted him happy and clothed in the crèche long ago, but he is a bit poorly, we ran out of clean children tunics just yesterday, he needs his vaccines done as soon as possible, and of course my Padawan is attending her studies today – and I am really behind everything, your treatment included.
- That sounds like a handful. For you and the little Initiate…
- That is my point, Qui-Gon, he is not an Initiate, not yet. And it seems everyone has forgotten him. He is certainly quiet enough for that…”
Qui-Gon sensed Vokara Che was more worried than she let out – it was indeed highly unusual for children to be brought at the Temple at such a late age, and he suspected there was an interesting story behind.
Especially if Grandmaster Yoda was involved.
“Where is the little one?”, he asked. “Perhaps I could help – distracting him for the vaccines, for example. I can also look after him, for a while – so that you can resume your other duties. I have nothing better to do, after all…
- Well… I will not lie to you, Qui-Gon, it would help me along a great deal.”
And so, ere soon, Qui-Gon found himself sitting down on a narrow bed, facing a tiny, very silent Force-sensitive child who was gazing at its surroundings with wide, grey eyes.
The boy was thin, soft copper hair falling in wavy strands across his forehead. Freckles brushed his nose like stardust, and there were still dimples on the back of his hands. He was sitting barefooted on the bed, his threadbare, unadorned clothes giving no clue about him.
He was not crying, he was not moving, he was simply gazing up, but Qui-Gon could feel a wariness in the Force that should never have been projected by one so young and tender.
“Well, you are a calm little fellow, are you? What is your name?”
The child just peered up at him, and Qui-Gon noticed his too-bright eyes and the tired look on his face.
“I am Qui-Gon”, he said gently. “I am a Jedi Knight, and I live here. I studied with Grandmaster Yoda, who brought you here.”
This time something in the little boy’s face shifted, lightening up in brief, fleeting hope and recognition – no doubt Yoda had found the way to that young heart. Qui-Gon still remembered the serenity he had felt as a small boy, as his Grandmaster had introduced his group of Initiates to the ways of the Force – back then, when everything had seemed so simple.
“Do you know where you are, little one?”, Qui-Gon asked, trying to bring the little boy to talk – but to no avail.
The child gazed up at Master Che, seeming to ask her for the answer, and she sat down next to him, brushing a hand through his hair, feeling for his nape.
“Do you remember, sweetie? I told you before, I am sure you remember the planet where the Temple is – Master Yoda said you are very, very smart…”
The little boy leaned into her palm and Master Che rubbed his back.
“You are not feeling so good, are you? That little head here is all hot… I think we need to change that dressing on your thigh, and then I will give you those little shots we talked about…”
She poked him gently on the other thigh and Qui-Gon watched the beginning of a smile lift the boy’s lips.
“Core and sand.”
He had chirped those words shyly and unexpectedly, like the robin he was, and for a while Master Che and Qui-Gon were at a loss to understand him – until Qui-Gon got it.
“Oh, Coruscant. Yes, little one. That is exactly where we are.”
The little boy had a small shiver and Master Che stroked his hair again.
“Now, why don’t you sit on Qui-Gon’s lap, sweetie? He is a tall fellow, he will warm you up and I can make your thigh all clean and pretty.”
The child did not stir, but Qui-Gon sensed no alarm through the Force as he gently moved towards him, placing his hands around his waist and lifting him on his knees.
“Force, you are a little furnace, are you?”
No wonder the boy was so calm and permissive, he was positively burning up – Qui-Gon could feel the heat of his skin even through the many layers of his Jedi clothing. As soon as he leant him against his chest, the little boy seemed to sag into his arms, eyelids drooping with exhaustion.
Green canopies of high trees. The smell of earth and fallen leaves. A hot, savage breath – teeth and grey fur.
Keep quiet, Obi. Hush.
Images and sounds seeped from the child’s mind into the Force… and then Qui-Gon felt the little boy – a three-year old child, nothing more than a robin – reach out for them in the Force and hide them back inside him, small hand rubbing his eyes to stay awake.
“In the name of…”, he let out. “Master Che, did you –
- Yes. That one is a fierce little shielder, it would seem…”
She had pulled down the little boy’s trousers and Qui-Gon saw a dressing of Bacta patches stretched across his right thigh. The child did not even flinch as Master Che removed them, gently – and for whatever reason, this struck Qui-Gon more that the sight of the wound itself. It was obviously a bite that had begun to heal, but still showed signs of infection.
“Let’s clean that up, sweetie…”
The little boy just watched her, slumped against Qui-Gon. His glassy eyes shone with fever – yet the Jedi could feel him once more reaching out for the Force, trying to centre himself.
Master Che changed his dressing, and then she swiftly injected an antibiotic in his thigh, and the first vaccine in his left shoulder. Qui-Gon was beginning to feel unnerved by that silent, composed demeanour that was absolutely unfitting for a boy this age. But the child’s command of the Force was but that - a child’s.
As Master Che was injecting the third shot, Qui-Gon suddenly felt everything slip from the boy’s tiny grasp. He went tense against him, letting out a small sound of distress as she removed the syringe. And suddenly tears were streaming down his face as he began to cry, almost silently yet hard enough to tremble.
“Oh, none of that, little one, I finished, it is over…”, Master Che tried to soothe him, but the little boy seemed to have reached his breaking point, small body turning towards Qui-Gon, hands fisting themselves in his tunic in a silent plea.
He was so tiny. So overwhelmed. Qui-Gon stood up, cradling the boy against him, and then he started to walk, rocking him gently.
“Peace, little one”, he murmured, quietly. “It is all done now. No more poking. Instead you can take a walk with me and have a look around. Because it is important to master one’s surroundings, don’t you think…?”
The child’s sobs slowly began to space, and Qui-Gon felt him stretch, readjusting his position in his arms to be able to peer across his shoulder. His hair smelt of pine needles and baby-sweat, and for some unknown reason, it soothed him – because it was the exact opposite of combat and fire.
“See…? Those are the Halls of Healing, where we all come when we are injured, or when we need shots or rest, just like you…”
The little boy took a thorough look around, and then he lowered his face on Qui-Gon’s shoulder. Unwiped tears still lingered on his cheek, and Qui-Gon brushed them away with his thumb.
His little charge had whispered those words, small hand feeling for his wrist – and Qui-Gon realised his dressing was poking out of his long-sleeved tunic.
“Yes, little one. But it was no wolf, for me…”
He went for that educated guess, and the little boy just nestled against him.
“Owen screamed loud. Obi made him go away.
- Are you Owen or Obi, little one?”, Qui-Gon asked, gently. “Who went away…?”
The little boy sighed, hot face resting again against Qui-Gon’s shoulder.
“The big wolf. But Owen was okay. He carried me.
- Mhmm… I see, and how did you stop the big wolf, Obi?
- I talked to him”, the little boy chirped.
“But he bit you…”, Qui-Gon tried to guess again.
“That was before…”
The child - Obi, apparently - was whispering now, clearly exhausted, gaze unfocused, small hand almost hidden in Qui-Gon’s hair. Qui-Gon rubbed his back and watched him close his eyes. Before he had finished crossing the Halls to bring him back to his bed, Obi was fast asleep against him.
He laid the little boy down, covering him. Obi’s arms were circling his head in that unique way only small children achieved – he looked even younger asleep like that, and Qui-Gon brushed his hair from his sweaty forehead.
His fingers were still touching Obi’s skin when he saw them again, fleetingly: high pine trees, the sky, and an older, grey-eyed boy, scooping him up.
Not me. Obi.
That day Vokara Che treated his burns with Qui-Gon seated on Obi’s bed, almost without him noticing – so deep immersed in thought was he, trying to solve the riddle around the little boy.
“Almost cured from fire you are, young Qui-Gon?”
Qui-Gon smiled at his Grandmaster, recognizing the familiar way Yoda leant his folded hands above his walking stick.
“I guess it depends what you call fire, Grandmaster…
Yoda nodded, slowly, brown eyes casting an amused glance on him.
“Met young Obi-Wan, you have, I see…
- Oh, so that is his name? He has been quite cryptic about that…
- Cautious, that young one is. Good reasons for that, he has. Not easy, it has been for him. Very gentle, but also reckless with himself, little Obi-Wan is.
- I have seen that…”, Qui-Gon observed, turning towards the boy.
Obi was still asleep, cheeks flushed and heart racing in the Force – every bit the little furnace Qui-Gon remembered. He was frowning slightly in his sleep and, though Qui-Gon knew his fever was nothing but a defence mechanism, he could not help reaching out, trying to alleviate some of the discomfort Obi was feeling.
His fingers ran gently above the little boy’s head and chest, trying to quell the fire burning through the Force, and Qui-Gon watched the tiny frown disappear, Obi plunging even deeper into sleep.
“In need of evening things out, you are, young Qui-Gon…?
- Maybe, Grandmaster”, Qui-Gon answered, still looking at the sleeping child. “I have felt… lonely.
- Missing your Master, you have been?”, Yoda asked, and Qui-Gon had a soft snort, turning towards him.
“Not exactly, Master Yoda.
- Hmm. This time, heeding Dooku’s advice, perhaps you should…
- About not getting burned, Grandmaster?”, Qui-Gon quipped lightly, and Yoda hummed again, approaching the bed, perching himself on it next to Obi’s head.
“About the next step to becoming a Master…”
“You mean – taking a Padawan?”
Master Yoda did not answer, warm brown eyes watching him – and Qui-Gon took a minute to ponder these words. He had never really thought about it. Sure, Dooku had already begun to make some insinuations, but Qui-Gon had brushed them away, convinced that he was too young, and unwilling to relinquish his new-found autonomy.
Now, however… He could not deny that sharing the Force with Obi, watching him struggle with his tiny shields and his emotions and calming him down had felt good. Soothing. Full of purpose.
“Grandmaster, Obi is way too young”, Qui-Gon objected – and then he paused, quite shocked at the words that had left his mouth, because they made absolutely no sense at all.
“Forgive me, Master Yoda, I do not know what I was thinking – of course you did not mean him. Neither did I.
- Hmm… Very endearing, little Obi-Wan is. The Force around him is strong. Hide and seek, within him, it loves to play.”
Yoda smiled, placing a hand on Obi’s shoulder, and Qui-Gon could feel the little boy relax, small hands uncurling, head lolling towards the Grandmaster.
“From Stewjon, our young one is. Trouble to find him, I had. Sustaining a bite, Obi-Wan had to, to reveal himself to us.
- Stewjon? I cannot recall that name, Grandmaster.
- A very small, very hidden planet, it is. The Nature is still strong, there. Unknown to the people, the Force is. Old gods they worship, but in human strength, they believe. What they do not understand, hunt down, they do. Forced to hide in the woods, the little one was.
- He spoke about someone – Owen, I think…?
- Owen Kenobi. Brother to little Obi-Wan. Protect him, he did. Hid him from the village people, when they discovered Obi-Wan’s abilities, young Owen has. Obliged he was, to teach Obi-Wan to conceal them.
- Is he Force-sensitive too?
- No, Qui-Gon. Young Owen is not. But understand little Obi-Wan, he did, because his heart is full of love. Heart-breaking it has been, for him, to let his brother go, but also a relief. Scared for Obi-Wan for a long time, Owen has been. In the Jedi Temple, safe he will be.
- And his brother? What will become of him? There are wolves out there…
- Wolves indeed there are, but only in the woods. Leave them now, Owen can, and live his life on Stewjon. A capable, loving boy he is.
- But how did you find them?
- Bitten, little Obi was, because he jumped in front of his brother when a wolf attacked them. Defend his brother once more, he did, using the Force to talk to the beast and lure it away. Very strong in the Force, he appeared doing so, and was finally revealed to us.
- Master Yoda, he is three years old…”
And Qui-Gon was struck, once more, by the contradiction in his words. Because the little boy was way too young for mastering the Force like that. And already too old for the usual Jedi way of training Initiates.
Obi remembered his brother, that much was obvious. And he had already been forced to use the Force to survive, without any proper teaching, without anyone to show him how to channel his abilities.
“Difficult, Obi-Wan’s path may be. But willing enough to adapt, and smart, this child is. Very observant and gentle. Safety, Obi-Wan needs - finding out that he is not alone in the Force. And bloom, our young blossom will.”
Qui-Gon nodded, slowly, watching the little boy sleep. There was no true reason to linger here anymore – his dressings had been removed, and his wounds would heal on their own now. There was nothing more he could do for little Obi, either, yet Qui-Gon remained seated on the bed.
“He is still sick. And Master Che told me they have no clean Initiates’ tunics right now…
- Recover, little Obi-Wan must, before joining the crèche. Time enough to get better, and to find proper clothes, we will give him.”
Qui-Gon nodded again, and rose slowly, bowing to Master Yoda.
“Thank you, Grandmaster. I shall think about a Padawan and seek your council and Master Dooku’s.
- May the Force guide you, young one.
- And you, Grandmaster Yoda.”
Qui-Gon left the Halls feeling lighter than when he entered them, and immediately sat down in his quarters to meditate. A Padawan… Indeed, a Padawan was the perfect answer. He would still be able to enjoy new horizons, to hone his skills during missions – but he would not be alone and would be able to share his experience. To learn and teach, both facets of the Way perfectly interwoven…
Yes, he would try to find a Padawan willing enough to accompany him.
And if, during his meditation, the fleeting image of a little boy leaning against his shoulder or a tiny hand tangled in his hair rose, every once in a while – Qui-Gon supposed it was his way of wishing little Obi luck on his own journey.
Obi had boots now. And he was looking at them as he walked, hand in hand with Master Che who had made the bite on his thigh disappear.
Obi liked Master Che because she was talking to him and explaining things. Master Che had soft, blue not-arms, not-tentacles called lekku that always made him feel safe when they touched him. It reminded him of Owen.
“Obi, you must not cry, you must not be sad, can you promise me that? You will be safe now, you will not need to hide anymore.
- You too…”
Obi had wanted Owen to come along so, so much. It had made him cry. Deep down in Owen’s tunic, where nobody could hear him. But Owen had explained to him that this was impossible because Owen could not feel the Force. Even though Owen was part of it.
Master Yoda, who had found them, and who was not tall, just a bit taller than Obi, had explained it all to them. It had been very difficult to understand for Obi, and Owen had to explain it to Obi all over again, several times until he remembered.
It had taken some time for Obi to feel comfortable around Master Yoda, because he had never seen anyone like him. The people he knew were Owen, and the men and women from the village who were not nice to him anymore and had thrown stones at him because Obi made things lift around him without noticing. It had frightened Obi. He had quickly learned to trust only Owen.
“Obi, you can trust Master Yoda. He will help you. He will keep you safe, better than I could. Better than I have.
- Not true.
- Yes, Obi. Be brave now.”
Obi had been very brave. He had almost not cried in the ship taking him to Core-and-sand, not even when his leg had begun to hurt really, really badly because of the wolf’s teeth. And Owen had been right, Master Yoda had been very nice to him because he had helped him with his leg and made the pain almost go away. Obi had felt very, very sleepy, and when he had woken up, he had met Master Che.
Obi was not really sure, but he thought there had been someone else, a very, very tall Man who had taken him in his arms and shown him around and been really gentle with him. Obi hoped he had not cried too much – what was happening to him was still difficult to remember, because he had slept a lot.
He was trying to remember it all, though. He wanted to be able to tell Owen – just in case Owen came along, because maybe Owen and Master Yoda had been wrong.
So Obi was trying to keep everything in mind. It made his head ache a little, because there was so much to remember. But Obi looked at his new boots as he walked and began the list for Owen all over again.
I have boots now, and they have no holes, and my feet don’t hurt, we threw the old shoes away along with my clothes saying goodbye to them.
They gave me real Jedi clothes because I have to cover and protect my body to respect the Force and it feels very warm but they scratch a little bit.
Master Che healed my leg with something called Bacta that stings a lot, but it works really well and there’s just a little scar now.
Master Che is a Twi’lek and it means she has two lekku that are like arms with feelings.
She is nice and taking me to a place called crush or crèche I’m not really sure and that’s where I’m going to live and I’ll find out if there’s a bed for you as well.
Master Che was crouching in front of him now, drawing her arms around his waist, and her lekku around his shoulders. It felt good, and Obi leant into her, burying his head into her chest.
“Sweetie, you remember what we talked about? About Owen…? And about your new life here?”
Obi nodded. It had frightened him a bit, but Master Che had explained to him that all Jedi were connected in the Force and that they could read each other’s thoughts. Especially if they were very strong. And that he would learn how to keep them to himself very soon, but that for now it was okay.
“He is not going to come along, Obi, you know that, do you? He stayed on Stewjon. He let you go. It is time to do the same, sweetheart.”
Obi swallowed, very hard. He missed Owen so much. He did not want to go through that door and leave Master Che. She was the only one he knew here, except Master Yoda and the nice Man.
“Oh, little one…”
Master Che’s lekku gently touched his cheek and Obi realised he was crying. He hid even harder in Master Che’s chest, and then he felt something warm and soft flow through him, from her lekku to his heart, along with the Force.
Little one, I am here, in the Temple. You won’t really leave me. We will see each other again, but you will have friends, and be very busy, and you will soon not have any time left to miss me.
“Not true…”, Obi whispered, and Master Che smiled, brushing his tears away very, very gently.
“Are you ready, little one?”
Obi looked at her, and then he nodded, trying to be brave. Master Che opened the door, and Obi walked next to her as he entered, looking at his boots because he was afraid. He did not want people there to throw stones and to yell at him. But he trusted Master Che not to leave him with people like that, and so, when she stopped walking, Obi forced his eyes to leave his boots and look around him.
There were a lot, lot of people, but they had all gone very silent and they were all staring at him and Master Che. There was a tall person with a white and red face and long, long blue and white lekku, wearing the same brown robe as Master Yoda, who smiled at them.
“Good morning, Master Che. And good morning…?”
She was looking at Obi, now, and he felt something flow between her and him, once more.
Do not be shy, little one. Tell us your name…
He had whispered the words clutching Master Che’s hand.
“Good morning, Obi-Wan Kenobi. I am Master Shaak Ti.
- Hello, Master Shaak Ti.”
He heard stifled laughter around him, and someone whispered: “It’s Master Ti”, and giggled. Obi felt his face go very red and he looked at his boots, squaring his shoulders, just in case. People had laughed at Owen and him, before, and after that they had made them run.
“Master Shaak Ti is fine as well”, she said, and then she extended a hand towards Obi.
Do not be afraid. No one here is going to hurt you. You are safe. We are glad to have you joining us.
Obi placed his hand in hers but did not look up.
Goodbye, Master Che.
He tried to think these words through the Force. He did not want to talk anymore and make everybody laugh. It was much better to listen and be silent and find a place to hide.
Goodbye, my sweet little Obi. Take good care of yourself.
He blinked, hearing Master Che go away, feeling his throat go very tight, and he did not really notice Master Ti drawing an arm around his shoulders, telling everybody to go on playing.
“Do you want to take a look around?”, she asked, gently, but Obi shook his head, biting his lip.
He wanted to be alone. He wanted to find a place to hide and start talking to Owen again in his head. Owen would take a look around and scowl down at the people laughing at him – but Obi was not Owen and he missed him.
Master Ti knelt in front of him, her hand never leaving his shoulder.
“I know the perfect place to hide”, she whispered, and at these words Obi finally looked up.
She had very dark eyes, with long lashes that looked pretty against her red skin. There was a beautiful chain around her face, and a golden pearl on her forehead that looked even more wonderful – Obi really wanted to touch it but had the feeling it might be forbidden.
Master Ti reached out for his hand, and gently placed it on her forehead.
“This was given to me when I became a Master”, she told him. “Some years, but not very long ago.”
Obi touched the golden pearl, shyly, and Master Ti smiled at him.
She showed him a small nook where he could sit down, and play with some toys, and then she left him alone. Obi raised his knees and drew his arms around them, half hidden between a big ball and a table.
Maybe, if he did not move at all, nobody would find him, nobody would talk to him, and everything would be fine.
For a while everything stayed fine. Obi even managed to take a look around, peering behind the ball – and found out that there were a lot of children in the room. They all wore the same trousers and shirts as him, they all had boots and a belt, but some were really, really strange.
They had horns or looked like big fishes, some had really long necks and one of them had four arms – Obi took them in, brow furrowing, trying to make sense of it all.
Maybe they all came from different planets. Maybe every child was from a different home. And maybe that was the case with every Jedi, because Master Yoda looked very different from Master Che or Master Ti. Owen had told Obi that there were even more planets than stars in the sky, so of course there would be many sorts of Jedi.
“May I borrow the flimsi?”
The voice rising next to him startled Obi, who found himself staring into very, very beautiful blue eyes. A girl had found his hiding place – she was wearing a long hat hiding her hair, and her skin was light green, like the grass on Stewjon. She was looking at him with a kind expression, and Obi felt himself grow very calm.
It felt like… sitting down after running away. Like… looking at the stars.
“You found him, Nara!”
This time, Obi flinched, all calm forgotten, hitting the wall with his head, and got up, ready to run away. Because a boy had jumped on the ball, bouncing up and down, legs dangling and heels drumming against the rubber. He had dark, tousled hair, and yellow lines under his eyes – he looked tall and had a big, big smile that showed all his teeth.
“Quin, you’re scaring him.”
Another boy had showed up, peering behind the other’s shoulder. Obi at least supposed he was a boy – he had big, shiny eyes and hair that looked like tentacles, standing up on his head. His skin was green but a bit darker than the girl’s, and he was even taller than the one he called Quin.
“Hello. I’m Kit.”
Obi just stared at him, backed up against the wall.
“My name is Luminara”, the calm, beautiful girl said. “This is Quinlan. He always misbehaves, but he is nice. Kit and Quin are my friends.”
She pointed to a stash of transparent sheets on the ground next to Obi.
“I am borrowing some flimsis. Can I sit down and draw?”
Obi nodded, still too stunned to think about anything. And then he watched the girl place her hand above the… flimsis… and just lift them, placing them on the table.
She just lifted them. She did not hide. She did not hide.
Obi’s heart was pounding really, really hard in his chest, waiting for the boys to react, to shout, to start getting mean. If they did, he would yell and strike them just like Owen would. But the boy called Kit just came along, sitting himself next to Nara, and Quin stayed on the ball, heels hitting it rhythmically.
“You don’t talk a lot”, Quin observed.
“Leave him be”, Kit muttered, starting to draw circles on the flimsi that looked like snails. “He’s shy.”
He lifted his head then, black eyes shining, smiling at Obi. And Obi felt himself begin to relax, because he looked nice. Even though his snails were really, really crooked.
“Is it true you fought a wolf?”, Quin asked, whipping up and down the ball. “I heard Master Che tell Master Ti. What’s a wolf, anyway?
Kit sounded annoyed, but Obi did not even have to answer. Because, suddenly, the ball slipped between Quin’s legs and he fell, hitting the ground on his belly, chin slamming against it.
“Quinlan Vos!”, Master Ti snapped.
Quin had whispered the word, eyes slowly filling with tears as he sat up, holding his chin. He had bitten his lip as he fell, and a drop of blood was beading slowly on his lower lip.
Obi did not really think. He just reached out, placing his sleeve against it, wiping the drop away. Just like Owen would have.
Quin’s eyes widened, and Obi watched a tear fall down his cheek, soon followed by another – before Quin wiped them away, fiercely.
“Quinlan Vos, what have I told you, again, and again, and again…?
- To watch my moves, Master Ti”, Quin whispered, eyes growing very dark.
“Did you hit your chin?
- I am fine, Master Ti”, the boy answered, but Master Ti still came, and looked at his face, shaking her head.
“Well, at least, it is not broken. Please try to be more careful, Quinlan.”
She left, smiling at Obi, and Quin sat down next to him, hand still pressed to his chin, dark eyes glaring at Master Ti. As soon as her robe vanished from their side though, Quin buried his face against his knees. Kit had risen, sitting on Quin’s other side, and Nara was facing him, concern evident in her blue eyes.
“It’s okay, Quin, nothing bad happened”, Kit whispered, but Obi still heard Quin’s soft sobs and watched Nara place a hand on his hair.
“He hurt his lip”, Obi heard himself say, and it was enough to still Quin’s crying, who looked up at him, eyes still shining a bit.
“You’re talking…”, Quin whispered – and Obi felt the Force around him lighten up, like the sun rising, warming them all.
Obi nodded, shyly, and they all smiled at him. Nara in that calm way of hers, Kit with his eyes, and Quin through his split lip, wrapping an arm around Obi’s shoulders and squeezing him tight.
That day, Obi drew a real snail for Kit. With two feelers and a proper house. He drew the pine trees as well – astonished to find out that his new friends had no idea what pine trees were.
And when Luminara asked for a new stack of flimsis, Obi lifted them for her. Just like she had. And his heart was only pounding a little bit because Quin was still right next to him. Quin was just like Owen. Fearless and strong, always bouncing back.
Quin liked hugs, too, Obi found that out soon enough. That night, when Master Ti showed him his bed in the boys’ dorm and Obi had lied down for a while, thinking about Owen again, Quin crawled in next to him.
He wrapped his arms around Obi’s waist and squeezed. And Obi let him, because it almost felt like Owen was there with him, especially than Quin knew, somehow.
“You miss him. I felt it when you wiped my lip. I’m sorry.”
Obi just leant his head against Quin’s shoulder and embraced him back. Quin soon fell asleep and Obi listened to the sound of his breathing, feeling strangely safe. Like he had always been there.
He was about to close his eyes when he suddenly remembered. Obi slowly entangled himself from Quin’s arms and rose as noiselessly as possible, heading for the door.
“And where do you think you are going, Obi-Wan Kenobi?”
Master Ti’s calm voice made him turn and Obi padded towards her.
“I want to see Master Che”, he whispered.
Master Ti tilted her head, concerned.
“Are you feeling unwell? Are you hurting?
- No, Master Ti. But I wanted to tell her something. I promised her.
- I see… Do you need to see her, or could we just call her?”
Obi pondered her words, rubbing his eyes.
“Calling works too…”, he decided, and Master Ti pulled him on her lap and switched on a bracelet around her wrist.
“Vokara? No, nothing wrong with the Initiates… There’s someone here who wants to talk to you…”
Obi felt Master Ti’s arm around his waist, and she placed her wrist before his lips, allowing him to talk to the bracelet.
“Master Che, can you hear me?
- Yes, little one… It is so good to hear your voice…
- It’s Obi. Do you remember me?
- Of course I do, sweetheart. How could I forget you?
- Master Che, you were right. I found some friends. They are called Quin, Nara and Kit. And they are very, very nice.”
He heard Master Che laugh, through the bracelet. She told him a few very nice things, and Obi answered back, until Master Ti switched the bracelet off, carrying him back to bed.
She shook her head, finding Quin in it, but she did not scold him. Instead, she tucked Obi in Quin’s bed, drawing the covers up to his chin. They smelt of Quin, and were warm and soft, just like Owen’s shirt had been.
Obi fell asleep in the middle of listing all the nice persons he had met during that first day, thinking that Owen had been right.
He was safe here. And he would be brave and learn a lot of things to make Owen proud, and never, ever forget him.