It’s on one of Obi-Wan’s first missions as a Padawan that he first notices it.
His Master’s hands are careful with the small knife digging into the chunk of wood he holds. One of Qui-Gon’s many odd talents, Obi-Wan thinks distractedly, as he watches him from across the campfire.
He has tried his best to get to know his Master, to look past the impassive front of the perfect Jedi Master he presents to the world. Over the year and a half he has spent at Qui-Gon’s side, Obi-Wan has found his endeavour to be harder than he had anticipated.
Qui-Gon is decidedly stubborn in any and all aspects of his life, whether that be in defiance of the Council, or brewing caff in a pot meant for tea. And Obi-Wan has learned that stubbornness extended to how much of himself he revealed to others, too.
The slow, deliberate movements of Qui-Gon’s knife cutting at the wood speak of another kind of persistence. Head bowed over the work in his lap, Qui-Gon carves delicately around knots and cracks in the wood. This had been the first block of wood he had picked off the forest floor, cracked and splintering at the ends, and even as the wood proved fragile and difficult to work with, Qui-Gon had not cast it aside for a block that was better-suited to carving.
Obi-Wan can’t hear the slicing of the wood grain over the sounds of the dark forest and the crackling of the fire, but as he looks on, he imagines it echoes the motions of his Master’s careful hands.
It had been too dark to see what his Master was carving over the fire that night, and Obi-Wan had not dared to ask. In the early years of his apprenticeship, he learns that the front Qui-Gon presents to the world extends to his Padawan, too.
That his Master keeps his heart hidden away is telling in itself. It is the way of one who has suffered and vowed to never be brought down by his own heart again. If he does not hold out his hand, there is nothing for darkness to clutch and tear at.
It’s Qui-Gon against the universe, and Obi-Wan has the misfortune of existing as another being. He would not be privy to vulnerability.
As the years pass, Obi-Wan learns more of his Master’s ways. The languages he speaks, how he likes his tea, how many times Obi-Wan can stumble on a kata before his Master clucks his tongue and corrects his stance with his hands.
The first is unavoidable. Years of diplomatic missions meant Obi-Wan has discreetly catalogued each language he hears rolling off his Master’s tongue. Something out in the open for anyone’s eyes.
The second is a kindness. A piece of information dangled in front of him for the sake of familiarity. The teacher letting his student roam his quarters and prepare the tea. It is normal. Expected.
The third is a necessity. Obi-Wan has long ago learned the ways in which his Master prefers to teach. Demonstrations lead to observations lead to corrections. Rinse and repeat, a kata in its own way that has burnt itself into Obi-Wan’s memory.
But none of those are trust .
The little things Qui-Gon carves in the night on missions and never brings back with him are somehow too dangerous for Obi-Wan to know.
He figures it’s one of Qui-Gon’s quirks, a skill he has picked up from locals while wandering the villages on some backwater planet on a solo mission.
He probably struck up a conversation with a farmer’s wife or an old carpenter, always on the hunt for stories and legends. A gesture of thanks, a knife lesson the only thing someone could offer him for his services.
Obi-Wan finds no satisfactory answer as for why Qui-Gon would leave his creations behind, however.
Perhaps he doesn’t have the time to finish them, and discards the half-shaped blocks when Jedi business demands his attention in the morning.
Perhaps it is meant to be meaningful, a secret never to be seen again by its creator, losing its significance as soon as Qui-Gon turns away.
Perhaps it is the will of the Living Force that Obi-Wan cannot decipher as clearly as his Master. Leave what you take, dust to dust. A piece of the world that would not be separated from the forest floor of its motherland.
Or perhaps his Master is just bad at carving, and none of his creations are worth keeping after he has entertained himself for the evening.
But Obi-Wan looks once more at his Master’s reverent form under yet another alien night sky, and knows the last explanation to be impossible. Those hands could split the wood in half, and each piece would somehow still be whole by virtue of existing near Qui-Gon Jinn.
Another mission, another night spent under the stars. The long-cooled remnants of a wildfire are their only company where there is no home for the forest life to dwell anymore.
Obi-Wan does not need to strain to hear the scraping of a knife on wood. There is no rustle of life here, and no trees left to announce the wind through their branches. It’s warm enough to forgo a fire, and so his Master is sat near the tent, carving by the light of the two moons hung in the sky.
It’s not enough light for anyone to risk using a sharp knife, but Qui-Gon is determined, and he is careful.
The assurance of his movements are his mistake. The wood gives way, and Qui-Gon flinches as the knife slices his palm. He refuses Obi-Wan’s offer to help clean the cut, and goes to retrieve the bacta in the tent.
He leaves the knife on the ground, but takes the wood block with him.
He cannot trust it, Obi-Wan thinks. Whatever Living Force was left in the charred piece of wood had not deigned to warn Qui-Gon. Or had not been enough. No matter the care, time and skill Qui-Gon had put into molding the wood, it had still hurt him.
Am I a risk he takes? Something for him to mold and carve into the perfect Jedi, at the expense of his own flesh? The thought comes unbidden, and he feels dread, without knowing why.
Obi-Wan watches his Master sit back down besides the tent. He wonders what pain trusting had caused Qui-Gon for him to take such care tending to the privacy of his mind. The same care he takes wiping the soot from the cut that sliced his hand open.
There is no sign of the wood Qui-Gon had been working on.
A Padawan is a piece of wood his Master is risking himself for. Qui-Gon idly comments on the negotiations that took place that morning, and Obi-Wan pushes his questions far from mind.