Despite everything, and maybe because of everything, Obi-Wan clings to the hope of a better future.
He has felt hopeless before. Has felt the terror of a bleak future on Bandomeer, unwanted and worthless. Has felt the Force forsake him with one thrust of a double-bladed lightsaber bleeding as red as the wound left in its wake. Has felt so sure of his death in deep hidden caves, that he would never see anyone he loved again (because he is attached oh Force is he attached beyond all reason to a scar crinkling in laughter, to salmon pink cheeks, to deft little orange fingers). Has felt the echoing deaths of his brothers and sisters at the hands of those they had fought and bled with. He has felt bereft of anything good in his life as sickwrong yellow eyes burrowed deep into his soul and wrenched the last of his shattered dreams from his trembling fingers.
But even as Obi-Wan felt Padme’s life bleed out of existence, he clutched the tiny warm bundle in his arms and felt an inexplicable light tingle his palms, the tips of his fingers, warming where the weight of sorrow crushed him to the ground.
Luke and Leia.
So Obi-Wan was not lost in the sand-swept wastes on Tatooine, and he is not lost now as the twisted creature that should have been his brother stands before him and says:
“You should not have come back.”
Obi-Wan feels like he has no choice but to still hope. After all, his heart is ragged and bleeding and oh so weary, and if he didn’t have hope, he hardly thinks he’d have anything else.
Obi-Wan wishes he could sense the regret this creature’s words should bring. He wishes he could feel good in this thing before him, but he can’t.
He can’t even call him by his name. Can’t even think of him by his name because to him, Anakin is dead. He died on the fiery crags of Mustafar, along with Padme and Obi-Wan’s bleeding heart. Obi-Wan has spent years lingering on that day, and he finds that he can never truly move past it.
So no. He cannot call this twisted creature by his almost-brother’s name.
The voice is sweet in his ears. A glance and he can see him.
The boy shines as bright as the suns of his homeworld. His sister is just as fiery behind him. Between the two of them, Obi-Wan knows they’ll turn the galaxy on its head and right the wrongs of the past. His own failings.
Obi-Wan knows it’s time. He’ll leave the future to these bright souls. There is no place for a forsaken old man like him. Not someone who has failed so miserably in everything that he tried to do.
He cannot help but smile, letting out one long breath as he raises his lightsaber (and oh has it been so faithful to him), and lets his fallen brother cleave his way through his heart in bright hot scarlet fire one last time.
He always knew that Anakin would be the death of him. One way or another.
—the boy is whooping cheering they-
“-don’t count on it, Princess,” but he knows she can because they hurt to look at so bright they are like—
“-you traitor, you—”
“-I don’t want to lose you the way I lost—”
—he sits with hands up fingers outstretched the gleaming pieces floating before him and there is no green on this planet but for this pulsing light-
—the sands cause the age-old ache in his bones and he wonders if there could have been another way a way where the sands did not glisten and clump with blood and echo the screams of pain and that this planet could have been a place of love and warmth and not-
I will not leave you
—even as planets rumble with the cheers of people who had long lost hope and the cries build in the sky he weeps at the edge of flames as the darkness melts and crumbles and all that’s left standing is the memory of the boy beside him-
“—our little Ben”
-the boy’s smile is lined with age as he lays a tender hand upon a fragile shoulder and says—
—the little desert child withers and blossoms all at once and she turns her face to the sky with forgotten names upon her cracked lips-
“My name is Finn.”
-he does not know whether he is too weary or too sad to do more than echo words into her—
—a boy he had once known and loved so dearly would have whooped and cheered and challenged the sharp arcs and precise fire of this man who had such confidence in flight—
-he knew from the moment “bring him home” graced her lips that they were all doomed—
—and he was right—
the planet dies in a burst of flame and agony and the screams fill his very soul until he’s going to splinter and rupture like the last planet and the last and the last and the last and
—he wakes with planets dangling before his eyes and screams in his throat.
The Masters don’t know what to do. Bant knows this. She’s seen them whispering with hooded eyes and downturned lips. She heard the screams cut through the stillness of the night, had seen his limbs thrashing, eyes wild and unseeing, vomit spilling over the edge of his bed as their Crèchemaster fought to ease his mind. The Initiates of the Dragon Clan don’t know what to do either. Never before has one of their number fallen so quickly to reasons unknown. Even Bruck seems unsettled, unhinged at the edges and twitchy whenever he makes a crass remark, turning to face a snarky response only to be met by silence.
Bant sits huddled at night with Garen in Obi’s bunk, Reeft tucked into her other side. They clutch each other’s hands and find no peace between their tense silences and worried mutterings. They cannot even force laughter from their parched mouths.
Not when their friend lies in the infirmary, lungs trembling in agony as he breathes a litany of confusing words.
She heard Yoda murmur that he might have been visited by a Vision. A Powerful Vision. She and Garen and Reeft have whispered at night and don’t know what to make of it. Obi-Wan’s gifts have never favoured precognition. Bant is more the one for that. She gets vague feelings sometimes. A sickness in her stomach she can’t explain. Reeft gets them, too. But neither of them felt anything before Obi-Wan got sick. Garen’s too frustrated to do anything but lash out as he demands answers no one can give.
They’re calling in other Masters, Reeft heard. Masters who specialize in different things. Who might be able to explain the sobs tumbling from Obi’s lips. His confused gaze that hazes into a sightlessness that scares Bant more than she can explain.
No matter how close she huddles with Garen and Reeft, a chill settles down her spine, and Obi’s raspy voice does not leave her ears.
Please no not again.
They’re all dead.
Please not again.
Please I beg of you—
The plastiform and papier-mâché planets dangle above them from some long forgotten assignment. Obi had spent hours, tongue caught between his lips, painstakingly painting swirling colours and lopsided continents onto their surfaces, lighting feathery rings about their edges, laughing, spots of colour upon his cheeks and glitter and paste on his nose as he said:
“Bant, what do you mean you won’t keep yours? If I’m going to put the effort into it I might as well wake with them dangling above my head and the knowledge that I made these blasted, tiny things. Besides. We’re making different systems of the same galaxy. If you didn’t keep yours, it’d be like it didn’t matter at all.”
Bant had kept hers. As did Garen and Reeft.
She stares at those silly planets above her head and thinks:
We wouldn’t be complete without you.
“Know what to do, we do not. Seen many Masters, he has, and still understand what has happened, no one does.”
“I am sorry to hear that, Master, but why—”
“Called your name, he has, among many others. But yours…Fear, we do, that he has seen a great vision. He has become too sensitive to the Force. Met with great resistance and emotion, any healing is. Feel him struggle, we do. Thought it is, with your great understanding of the Living Force, that discover why his mind and body suffer, you could.”
“If this is some ploy—”
“I assure you, it is not.”
“…Very well, I will be there within a fortnight.”
“Thank you, Grandpadawan.”
On the best days, he is one person. He is ten and smiling, raising trembling, exhausted fingers to his friends who crowd his bed with grasping hands and teary eyes and too-loud laughter. Sometimes he is thirty-eight and fire burns along the edges of his vision, eats away at his hands and feet and he cries out No Anakin why please. But then he’s twelve and Master Vant’s words are ringing in his ears that he has to go to Bandomeer and I’m sorry Obi-Wan you weren’t good enough nobody wants you and suddenly he’s fifty-seven feeling like one-hundred-and-three and so bone-weary there are days he just wants to drop and not get up again but he can’t because he’s already dead and watching Luke train overeager children in the ways of the Force and he feels so proud because he’s five and he knows what it feels like to have someone watch over you as you nurse the Force between your hands to flutter like a bird so bright you could cry.
On his best days he is one person. But even then he is in the wrong time and even then he is usually fiftyfortytwelvethirtytwentyfiveandcrying because he should feel that bright hot tang that is Anakin in the back of his mind and he should feel the steady warmth like a hand on his shoulder that is Qui-Gon and he should feel Cody’s loyalty and Luke’s laughter and Leia’s tenacity and Ahsoka’s determination and even Rey’s fire-flower existence because they should all be there but they’re not and his mind reaches, crying out, seeking things that have never been but always will be.
He shudders when anyone touches his shoulder because it sears hot and aches because his brother cleaves his way through shoulder and collarbone and aching heart. And when he speaks he never knows if it’ll be a young boy just learning to love the unrelenting power of the Force or an old man too weary for more than a few words.
Obi-Wan doesn’t know whether to call himself Obi or Padawan or Master or Kenobi or General or Hardeen or Grandmaster or Old Ben or Failure—
And whenever anyone touches him with the Force, feather-light, meant to heal, his mind lashes out and his limbs quake and he cries out becauseitistoomuchtoomuchtherearetoomanythingsatonce—
He is too many people at once. He should be in the crèche, on Bandomeer, in a starship, in his quarters, on Tatooine, standing in that cold hallway with AnakinAhsokaQuiGonCodySatineLukePadmeLeiaReyBen.
He should be dead.
But he is not.
Obi-Wan doesn’t understand anything anymore (not that he ever thinks he did because he’s been wrong so manymanymany times he cannot even count anymore) and whenever he reaches to ask the Force to plead and rant and sob and scream to ask why—
Nothing answers but the whispers of a past that is a future that can never be again.
Even as he steps into the Halls of Healing, Qui-Gon still thinks that his conniving little Grandmaster has ulterior motives. He cannot help but think it, as Yoda has demanded his return once a year around the time of the Padawan Trials. Yoda has not given up on him as Qui-Gon knows he’s given up on himself.
The Master is solemn beside him, gimerstick thudding against the floor with every step. “One of the better days this is, for young Obi-Wan. With him now, his friends most likely are. Heading to Ilum tomorrow, they are, to continue their Initiate Trials. Young Obi-Wan will not be among them and grieve, they do.”
Qui-Gon frowns. “Was the Initiate supposed to go originally?”
Yoda’s sigh is heavy. “Promising, the youngling is. Had many hopes, I did. But with his mind in turmoil, go to Ilum to choose a crystal, he cannot. Not when the Force twists from his grasp and settles so violently about him.”
Qui-Gon cannot lift his foot for the next step. He seems rooted to the ground, an ache deep in his chest, a fear he tries to release into the Force building in his throat. “Master Yoda—”
“Like Xanatos, he is not.” The Master has stopped, too. His gaze burrows into him, deep and unforgiving and a touch sad.
“How do you know?” Qui-Gon’s voice tears his throat, too harsh for the healing halls.
“You will see.” Yoda’s tone leaves no room for argument. He sounds too knowing for Qui-Gon’s liking. Then again, Yoda usually does.
They settle into silence once again and weave their way through the busy healers until they reach the isolated rooms in the back where Qui-Gon knows the trickiest cases are kept. The door is closed, a temporary card slipped into the name slot that reads Kenobi, Obi-Wan, and there is the distance murmur of voices. Qui-Gon glances down at Yoda as he raps his gimerstick against the door.
The voices stutter to a halt. Qui-Gon can feel the tension through the Force. Can feel the fear. The desperate hope.
This does not settle Qui-Gon one bit.
Yoda does not hesitate to open the door and enter, Qui-Gon more hesitant at his heels.
The room is small and white. Like many healing rooms. The occupants of the room are crowded around the bed. Like many patients’ visitors. Their faces are scrunched, stress-lined. Qui-Gon’s fingers ache to smooth their cheeks and foreheads and trembling mouths into something resembling peace. There is a Human boy. His hair is dark and stringy and his limbs awkward and long in the spirit of youth. He lounges with practiced ease. But there is a hidden tension in his shoulders, in his hands. Qui-Gon suspects that in a few years the boy’s hand will be a constant companion to the lightsaber on his hip.
There is a Dressellian. He hunches forward, nervous energy practically quaking his limbs. He’s almost grey with worry and he spreads himself in a way that begs protectiveness, of desire to give and give until there is nothing left.
There is a Mon Calamari. She sits at the head of the bed, small, soft pink hands grasping something between them. Her silver eyes flash fire and her spine is rigid and Qui-Gon can feel no he knows in a few years that she will be the hidden hurricane. The bite behind the smile. A knife in the back after a blind embrace. The flash of shadow hidden in the depths of dark, dark ocean.
Then there is the boy. And he is nothing and everything like Qui-Gon expected.
(he is reminded of a different boy, a lost boy, a boy he’ll never see again)
The boy is a slip of pale colour in snow. Barely more than a fading star in the dawn of the day. The Mon Calamari grips his hand tight, Qui-Gon can see now, and those fingers are tiny and delicate and look like they could break in a breath. His cheeks are hollowed like the dip in his throat. There are lines at the edges of his eyes that speak of an age the boy should not be. Because he is a boy. A ten year old boy who woke screaming and vomiting in the dead of the night and flinched at steady hands and could not help but weep as the Force touched him and bruised his soul.
Force-shock, the healers had murmured. From what? they had wondered.
From nothing and everything, the boy had rasped into the dusk of the day, eyes old and shadowed and then he had swallowed, choked, rasped out a where am I where is my Master where is my Padawan where is the child where where wherewherewhere
Qui-Gon had seen the holo-footage.
Nothing had prepared him for the feel of a dying star bursting at its seams, bright and weary and troubled in the way only a star can be.
But the star is a human is a boy is a youngling that has not even found his ‘sabre crystal yet.
He looks into the boy’s eyes, which are wide and suddenly bright. Colour like swaying grass over a tumbling stream.
“Master—” the boy chokes, then coughs.
The Mon Calamari jerks forward to pat him on his back. The boy flinches at the touch, then relaxes into it. The Mon Calamari just rubs his spine like it is a routine they’ve grown weary of but cannot help but complete and repeat because she’d do anything for him. For them.
“Master Qui-Gon Jinn this is, yes.” Yoda’s voice is somehow grave and amused all at once.
The young Initiates jerk and glance at their still coughing friend. Their eyes are wide and curious and seem to half-recognize his name. The Dressellian half-mouths something and the human boy shakes his head, eyes fixed on Qui-Gon like he is the answer he’s been waiting for all his life. The Mon Calamari’s attention is on her friend upon the bed only.
Young Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon forces himself to think. Initiate Kenobi who woke screaming in the night and raved about burningburningburning.
Qui-Gon feels the Living Force swell about the boy, like he is the eye of a storm that no one has yet realized is forming.
Qui-Gon tilts his head at the younglings. “Well met.” He fights the urge to sigh as the younglings fight to bow all at once, the human boy almost forgetting to before the Dressellian reaches across the bed and yanks at his hair.
Finally Qui-Gon smiles.
The boy on the bed simply stares at him.
Qui-Gon loses his budding grin.
“Initiate Obi-Wan Kenobi,” he says.
The boy jerks like he’s been burnt. His lips part and his mouth gapes like nothing in the world exists but Qui-Gon Jinn.
This makes Qui-Gon feel more uncomfortable than he is willing to admit. Qui-Gon Jinn is never uncomfortable. He is calm and peace and pleasant smiles in the face of wrath and storm and vulgar jokes.
(but who will tell?)
“Sorry I am, younglings, but off you must go. Much we have to discuss.” Yoda’s smile is indulgent and with some reluctance the Initiates give their farewells and hugs to the still-silent boy in the bed (the Mon Calamari whispers something close to the boy’s ear and shakes her head when the boy simply frowns back).
“We will be back,” the Mon Calamari says, voice gentle and firm.
This time the boy’s lips quirk into a fatigued smile and he says, “I know.” The absolute certainty in his voice is startling.
The Mon Calamari stares at Obi-Wan for a long moment, feet rooted to the spot, utterly still. Young Kenobi does not drop her gaze.
“Yes,” she finally says. “You do, don’t you.”
It is not a question.
The boy only smiles.
His friends leave the room.
“How fare you today, young Kenobi?” Yoda smiles and moves forward to sit at the seat the young Mon Calamari vacated. Qui-Gon stays standing at the foot of the bed.
The young boy glances at Qui-Gon, face tight, before he faces the old Master. “That is the second time you’ve asked today, Master, in as many hours. One would think you’re losing your touch.”
Qui-Gon gapes as Yoda and the young boy share a laugh. Yoda lays a tender hand upon the Initiate’s forearm. “Fare well, you do?” His scrutiny is a touch more solemn this time.
The boy glances at Qui-Gon again, inexplicably tensing for a brief moment, hand spasming. The light catches oddly on his face as his eyes drag to Yoda’s insistent gaze once again. “Yes,” he breathes. “As well as can be.”
“‘As well as can be?’” Qui-Gon echoes, voice incredulous. He makes an abortive move forward. Confusion wars in his tight chest. “And how is that? Why is that, Initiate?” He’s too demanding. He knows he is. Too forceful and off-kilter and he just wants to know because something feels so incredibly off and something tingles in the back of his mind like a long-forgotten reminder and his mind is filled with XanatosXanatosXanatos and yet—
It is not.
Something he’s not quite getting here.
The boy’s eyes suddenly look so flat and dim Qui-Gon can already feel Yoda’s scolding the moment they will leave the room.
“I…” The boy’s voice trails off. “I—”
Qui-Gon can feel the Force swirling about Kenobi in mad flurries, ebbing and swelling like the tide and this young boy is caught within it, being shoved and yanked this way and that at the whim of something much greater than Qui-Gon can understand. There’s something at work here. And Qui-Gon isn’t sure if it’s a vision like Yoda had suggested.
“There’s fire.” The boy is watching Qui-Gon with eyes unseeing. Yoda is so utterly still beside him. “And it eats and eats and eats.”
Kenobi lets out a long, unsteady breath. His eyes flicker. Caught in a storm they cannot see. “You asked and I gave and he took and clung and pleaded because what else was there to do but give and give and give until—” His breath hitches. He sways, lurches, unsteady even as he sits. “I thought it was done. I thought I was done. But nothing was, nothing ever is- if I had just— If I had only- but that’s arrogance. To say one person can change everything. But- but it’s true one person can, he did. He did and he did not stop—”
The youngling’s hands are spasming and his breath is coming fast and uneven and he’s trembling all over and Yoda is pressing a button on the wall even as Qui-Gon steps back, startled, voice lost as this child breaks in front of him.
Several healers rush in, and Yoda is suddenly by his side, ushering him out and murmuring, “Exhausted the day, we have. Return tomorrow, we shall.”
They leave the room and the Halls of Healing and still Qui-Gon cannot be rid of the ache in his chest and temple and the ragged words in his ear that say:
You asked and I gave and he took and took and took
His steps falter.
I thought I was done but nothing ever is
Some days are better than others. Obi-Wan can attest to that. And he is Obi-Wan. Not, not General or Old Man Ben or Master. Not quite. He is Failure. He knows he is. Perhaps he always has been. He cannot change the past. But he can perhaps change the future.
The days have been long, no matter if they were good and bad. And Obi-Wan has lain in this soft bed surrounded by white, and thought. And thought. And thought. He is Obi-Wan Kenobi. He has always been Obi-Wan Kenobi no matter if there were times when he was the only one who knew his name as something other than Hardeen or Ben or Sir. He is Obi-Wan Kenobi no matter what age he may or may not be (and sometimes it is difficult to tell, even for him). He is Obi-Wan Kenobi and he knows this:
He has lived and died and continued to live.
He has been a cast-out. A Padawan. A Knight. A Master. A General. An exile. A ghost. A memory.
He had thought balance had been achieved.
He had thought he had been redeemed.
These are untruths.
He had not.
This he also knows:
One man changed the fate of the galaxy. And another, too. And another. And another still.
Things he is unsure of:
If he can do the same.
Things he also knows:
No man who has changed the galaxy was ever quite alone.
Something he is also unsure of:
If he should follow by example.
It’s getting easier to ground himself. Bant and Garen and Reeft fill his hands with theirs and he only knows of one time when they could allow themselves the luxury to do so. Qui-Gon stood before him live and whole and as guarded as when Obi-Wan had first met him. There was only time when Qui-Gon had been so mistrustful of Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan is ten and twelve and twenty-fiveandcrying but he is also thirty-fiveandweary and thirty-eightanddying and fortyandalone and fifty-sevenanddeadeaddead. He is also the ghost over a boy’s too-narrow shoulder and the whisper in a lost girl’s ear. He is all of these yet he is just ten. He is just ten. Tenandconfused. Tenandweary. Tenandlost. But he is grasping for footholds. He is hanging on and sorting knowledge in the clutter of his mind. Stitching together shattered memories. Arranging and pasting and tossing out and clinging to the fact that—and yes, he knows this to be true:
Obi-Wan has lived his life. He has died. He has been a ghost. But then the galaxy was turned violently on its head and all was lost and the Force shovedtossedthrust him back and now he is in his ten-year-old body when everything was so much simpler.
He doesn’t quite know what to do, but he is trying.
He thinks he needs to do this:
Tell the Council something Dark is coming. War is coming. Things are corrupted and have been set in motion already.
He does not know what is too much. Does he tell them about Sidious? Probably. He’ll let them know and they can keep an eye on him instead of rushing in, forcing the Sith to flee and conduct his plans out of sight. Out of their grasp. Does he tell them of the clones? But, no, that hasn’t happened yet. And how can he terminate the existence of billions of men who fought and died and bled with him? Who had been his brothers? His loyal friends?
If he could somehow change Order 66…
But that is not for him to decide.
(yet he must)
Something went wrong somewhere and he’s been given the chance to fix it.
(that is the question that Obi-Wan cannot answer)
Qui-Gon returns the next day. Yoda is with him. Young Obi-Wan Kenobi sits up on his soft white bed, leaning against pillows. His gaze caught on the gardens outside through the tiny window that leaks light onto his sallow face.
“And how fare you today, youngling?” Yoda asks, voice soft and quiet. He sits in the same chair as yesterday. Qui-Gon now sits opposite him. Uneasy. Jittery. Silent.
The boy’s eyes flicker to the wizened Master and the smile that turns his lips is real, if weary. It unnerves Qui-Gon to see how weariness seems to seep from this child’s entire existence.
“I am well, Master.”
Kenobi’s laugh is a huff. “Yes, truly.” He falls silent. His lips slacken and his fingers twitch. “I— Master. I have, I have been thinking.”
Yoda gives him a slow nod. “You have, have you? Ready you are now? To speak?”
Kenobi’s eyes flicker to Qui-Gon once again. “Yes, I— It was-” He clears his throat. “It was a vision. Of sorts. I’m still, still trying to figure it out. Understand myself.” His eyes drop to the blanket draped over his lap. His hands come together to fiddle with the folds, to grasp and steady his shaking hands. “There is Darkness ahead. Unbalance. The Galaxy has been unbalanced and we did not see—” His voice shakes. He clears his throat again.
“Master. I wonder if we were wrong. The Sith—”
A jolt spikes up Qui-Gon’s spine. He’s electrified. Yoda is completely and utterly still still still.
“They are coming.”
Kenobi’s voice is but a whisper. Pained. Solemn. Knowing.
Just like that Mon Calamari said.
Qui-Gon wonders if their questions are really about to be answered by a vision.
“The Sith have been gone for thousands of years,” Yoda admonishes. But Qui-Gon can hear the reluctance in the old Master’s voice.
“They haven’t,” Kenobi says. “How can there be a balance in the galaxy with only Light? There is no light without shadow, and there is no shadow without light. We have delusioned ourselves. The Sith have lived because there cannot be only goodness in the galaxy. And because we think we are safe, because we think we are in control—” he chokes. “We have doomed ourselves.”
Yoda leans forward. “What have you seen, young one?”
Kenobi continues to stare at his hands and the white clutched between them. “Tell me you won’t go after him right away. He’s more powerful than- please.” He looks up at Yoda then. Desperate. Eyes brimming with unshed tears. “If you go after him he will only slink away and then I cannot help you. You must watch him only for now. Please. If you all go after him he will destroy you.”
“Set into stone, nothing is, youngling.”
“But I know—”
“Ruled by fear, you are. Control your feelings, you must.”
Tension shudders through little Kenobi’s entire body. “How can you say that? How can you say that to me you don’t know you haven’t seen—”
“Just a vision, it was, young one. Still, tell us you must.”
At this, the Force churns like a hurricane, battering the Masters like branches in a storm, as the Initiate screams, “It wasn’t just a vision I lived it I lived it and I died it and everyone I know and love will die and they will keep dying and dying and there IS NO END!”
They sit in stunned silence, all out of breath as young Kenobi pants, tears streaming down his scrunched cheeks. He buries his face in his hands. “This is how it happened before,” he sobs. “You didn’t listen to my Master and we didn’t listen to my Padawan and now you don’t listen to me. You hear but you do not listen.”
He sucks in a shuddery, wet breath. His voice is muffled by his hands as he speaks. “I am sorry for my lapse in emotion. I just— Master Yoda, this is more than just a vision. You must tell the rest of the Council.”
“Young Kenobi, I do not think—”
“He has spent years planning and years he has yet. Watch for change in the Senate. Watch for an allegiance of Clans that begrudge a young Queen. And watch the man who says he has her best interests in heart.”
Qui-Gon continues to stare as the Initiate still heaves for breath. Hands clutching his face in slight trembles.
Light scatters along the room. Catches the copper in the boy’s hair. Turns it to fire.
Yoda lets out a great heaving sigh. “Perhaps the best of days, today is not.”
The boy still trembles. Still does not look up at them.
Yoda bows his head, like it is too heavy for his neck, and his ears droop. “Speak with the Council, I will. Tell them what you have told me. But young Kenobi…” he trails off. “Bode well, this does not. Know this, you do. Mindhealers, perhaps you need.”
The boy is completely rigid. Like stone. A cornered animal.
“Hard this is on you, I know. Perhaps best it is, to work on your fear, and your attachments. Touched the Dark Side, I fear you have. Cloud your mind, these visions do.”
A slight tremble. Barely a whisper of breath, “Is this how he felt…?”
Yoda lets out a sad hum. “All that we see, come to pass it will not. Many futures there are, many paths. Return tomorrow, we will. Decipher your visions then, we must. Rest now, youngling. Speak to the healers, I will.” He stands, joints creaking. Wordless, Qui-Gon mirrors him.
But when Yoda leaves the room. When Qui-Gon pauses at the door, head dipping in a silent farewell, Obi-Wan speaks once more.
“Master. Qui-Gon. Master Jinn. It- It isn’t your fault.”
The Master pauses. Turns just the slightest, hinting at cheekbone and the tip of a once-broken nose.
“It was never your fault. Some things—” The Initiate seems to choke on his own breath again. But when he regains his voice, it is steady and clear. “Some things are just out of your control. You are a good man. Any Padawan would be lucky to have you. Please. Just. It was never your fault. So please stop thinking that it is.”
Qui-Gon is shaken to his core. What right— How can he say or know or—
“You are the best Master anyone could ask for.”
Qui-Gon cannot hear the unspoken words. But he somehow knows they’re there. He just doesn’t know what they are. He shakes his head, long hair tickling his throat. When he speaks his voice rasps. “We will return tomorrow, youngling. We will talk again then.”
Qui-Gon leaves. He will go back to his quarters. Pace. He will then go to the Room of a Thousand Fountains. Sit at the water’s edge. Try to meditate. Attempt to sort through his numbed mind. He will come up with questions to ask and accusations to make (why how when did you learn of the things you speak). He will comm Tahl, and they will sit in her quarters and drink to lost days.
He will not see young Kenobi’s hands tremble once more. Twice. Thrice. Then still. He will not see the boy lift his head, eyes puffy and red, cheeks hot to the touch. He will not see the smile grace his lips. He will not hear him say:
“You may return, but I will not be here.”
Qui-Gon does return the next day with Yoda by his side. The boy is not there. The bed is empty. Has not been slept in. The healers do not know where the boy is. No one knows where he is. The Council is angered. They want to question the boy about the Sith what Sith there are no more Siths find the boy find him.
The Human and the Dressellian and the Mon Calamari return a few days later to an empty bunk. Blanket and pillow stripped. Mattress bare. The planets are gone. Shredded. Thrown out somewhere. Crèchemaster Vant speaks with a sad shake of her head. Distraught. But the loss will heal with time, she says. This is a lesson in attachment, she says. This is what it means to be a Jedi.
The three Initiates stand beside their lost friend’s bed long after their Crèchemaster leaves. They stand and grasp each other’s hands. Their shoulders do not shake. Their eyes are not wet.
If this is what it means to be a Jedi, Bant Eerin thinks, then maybe I do not want to be one.
Somewhere already planets away a young boy shudders from one step to the next. He hides his face in the folds of a cloak. He is tiny and fragile yet the shadow that trembles from his feet stretches long and steadies itself along the damp ground. Like a plant taking root. Like a comet along the horizon.
“I am looking for someone,” he will say later that night, voice a whisper in the mob. “I am looking for someone and he will be found.”
Somewhere in the Jedi Temple an old Master stirs. The words of a young Initiate he will never meet echo in his ears, itch at his hands. He sits by the window and watches the Senate Building through the mass of streaking lights. He sits and thinks and a plan begins to stumble from shadow and into the light of reason.
If there is to be a war… They will need an army.
In another part of the Temple. Somewhere. Another Master sits. But he does not sit by the window. He sits in shadow and cannot ignore the ache in his chest. The ache in his temple.
How is it not my fault? he wants to ask. How and why and where did you go?
He cannot help but feel that it is his fault. But he is not sure what he is guilty of.
Down they fell like the children of Eden
Down they fell like the tower
As the land relinquished her ghost
Heed the sirens, take shelter, my lover
Flee the fire that devours
But the sight held me fixed
Like a bayonet against my throat
Neither plague or famine tempered my courage
Nor did raids make me cower
But his translucent skin
Made me shiver deep within my bones
It was a pale white horse
With a crooked smile
And I knew it was my time
It was the raging storm
Of a foreign war
And a face I'd seen before
(“Pale White Horse” by The Oh Hellos)