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There Is Peace

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Obi-Wan did not know what to expect when he passed into the Force, but the sharp tug low in his abdomen and the sensation of his stomach dropping out from under him is still a surprise. He opens his eyes to find himself in front of the Jedi Temple, but this one bears several differences from the one he knew so long ago. There is no bustling metropolis surrounding the temple, but instead grassy hills with trees and flowers. In the distance, he thinks he sees small houses. He does not know what he will find inside this temple, and memories of what he found last time he stepped inside the one he knew come flooding back.

He steps away from the structure as images of—he cannot even think about it.

“Obi?”

He turns at the sound of his name. His best friend Garen smiles at him from several paces away. Sorrow feels cold and heavy in the pit of his stomach, knowing his friend has been here for so long, but what did he really expect? He was one of the only remaining Jedi to last so long after the purge. At least his friends have been happy all these years.

Obi-Wan is suddenly enveloped in his friend’s arms, held close and tight, and he melts into the contact. He hugs him back, relishing the sensation of being touched by someone he loves. It has been so long.

Garen does not let him go too far after releasing him, holding onto his waist. Obi-Wan is grateful he does not have to give up the contact so soon.

“We’ve all been watching you. You’ve done the Jedi proud, Obi-Wan. You gave more than your fair share of service, and now you can finally be at peace,” Garen says, bringing one hand up to touch Obi-Wan’s cheek.

They had always tilted on the precipice of friends and lovers since becoming young adults, and Obi-Wan is glad to find that even in the Force nothing has changed.

“There are a lot of people who are eager to see you,” he says, smiling almost conspiratorially. “But that can wait. Someone important needs you first.”

He is suddenly filled with fear at having to meet all the people he has not seen in decades.

What is he supposed to say?

Hello, I’ve been hiding from Darth Vader for twenty years, I trained his son, and then he killed me. How have you been?

“You think far too much,” Garen teases before leaning in and kissing him softly on the cheek.

Obi-Wan closes his eyes and relishes the touch for a moment before looking up at his friend again.

“How do I find . . . this person?” Obi-Wan asks.

His voice does not sound so roughened and weathered anymore

Garen turns him around. “Do you see that tree?”

He points to a blooming cherry tree several meters away.

“Touch it, and it will take you where you need to go. I promise.”

Obi-Wan turns back to his friend. “Will I be able to see you again? Can I come back here?”

Warm hands cup his face. “Yes, we will see each other again, and yes, you can come back. The person you need to see will explain everything. Go on.”

He gives Obi-Wan another kiss on the cheek and a little nudge toward the tree. Obi-Wan walks slowly, trying to muster up the courage to be brave one more time. When he reaches the tree, he turns back and Garen is still there watching him. He waves to Obi-Wan and smiles encouragingly.

Obi-Wan takes a deep, shuddering breath and rests his hand on the trunk of the tree. The temple and the grassy hills all tilt and shift until he is forced to close his eyes lest he be sick. When everything stops spinning, he stumbles and falls to his backside with a surprised sound underneath the tree. He is now in a little forest clearing lined with dense trees. There is a creek running somewhere nearby, and he can hear frogs and insects and birds. What catches his eye is the cabin in the middle of the field.

He gets to his feet and is startled when the hand on his knee is not wrinkled and gnarled with arthritis. His joints do not ache and his skin is no longer sun-damaged. He touches his face to find he has no beard, and then his fingers come in contact with something that makes him freeze.

His Padawan braid.

It rests against his chest like it did over forty years ago, tied off with the colored bands of his various accomplishments. He grasps it tightly in his fist for a moment.

His attention is drawn back to the cabin when he hears booted footsteps on the porch. Time itself seems to slow to a crawl when he sees who is standing in the grass at the base of the steps. He suddenly cannot breathe and he feels as if his chest will burst with all the emotions warring inside of him. Joy and grief and trepidation and love and melancholy all vie for control. His heart has climbed into his throat, choking him, and he just stares for a long moment.

Finally, he takes off running across the grass separating them, tears already slipping down his cheeks. Obi-Wan has never pushed himself as hard as he does in this moment, desperate to reach the cabin. He pays no mind to the wind whipping his robe out behind him or the soft earth under his feet. He does not take in the scenery around him because his eyes are focused on the person who has always meant the most to him. The feeling of those familiar arms wrapped around his waist is what breaks him.

Qui-Gon folds them down onto the grass and Obi-Wan grips the back of his tunic, burying his face in his broad shoulder. He weeps for all the time stolen from them and the struggle of what he went through without the man who had not yet finished teaching him. He turns the dry tunic damp with his tears and only sobs harder when Qui-Gon’s hand comes up to cradle his head. It has been far too long since anyone held him so gently and so lovingly. Anakin had been a great companion—when he was still Anakin—but no one could match the purity of his master’s touch.

Obi-Wan finds he cares little that he is cradled in his master’s lap like a child. He has suffered through so much and he deserves this small reward. Qui-Gon does not seem to mind at all, rocking him slowly and stroking his hair as he catches his breath. When Qui-Gon eases him back just enough to see his face, Obi-Wan finds it difficult to hold back the tears again. He looks slightly younger than Obi-Wan remembers, less grey hair and his beard is shorter, but he is undeniably his master.

Calloused hands cup his jaw and Qui-Gon brushes his thumbs over his cheeks soothingly; he smiles sweetly. “Hello there.”

Obi-Wan loses his battle and more tears fall. He sobs and turns his face into one of those palms, leaning into his touch.

“Is this real?” He manages to ask.

Qui-Gon laughs softly. “Yes, Obi-Wan, this is real. I’ve been waiting for you, and watching you. You were never truly alone, little one. I was always there with you.”

Obi-Wan closes his eyes, his chest still hitching. His throat tightens with emotion when Qui-Gon’s lips press lightly to his forehead. He had always wanted this easy affection from his master, but the shadow of Xanatos’s betrayal made Qui-Gon keep him at arm’s length. Something tells him that is no longer the case.

“No, it’s not.”

Oh, Gods. He heard that.

“It’s much easier to hear what someone is thinking here in the Force. We can work on your shields after you’re settled,” Qui-Gon says, and Obi-Wan nods.

Qui-Gon continues, stroking Obi-Wan’s braid. “I was furious with myself for a long time after I died because I never treated you as kindly as I should have. I was fearful of losing another apprentice so I held back on affection and a lot of praise that you rightfully deserved. When I realized how flawed my plan truly was, it was too late. It was more hurtful to you than helpful, and I plan to make up for lost time.”

Obi-Wan smiles, his heart feeling lighter than it has in a long, long time.

“Oh, how I missed that smile.”

The door to the cabin opens and Obi-Wan looks up in surprise.

“Let me see that smile; it’s been even longer for me.”

Tahl is coming down the steps, and Obi-Wan is overwhelmed with the rightness of it all. Qui-Gon and Tahl are finally together as they should have been a long time ago, and he hopes that he is welcome to join them.

Tahl settles down on the grass beside them. “Force, Qui-Gon, you certainly did this poor boy no favors. Of course you’re staying with us, Obi-Wan. I don’t think Qui will ever let you out of his sight again, and I don’t blame him.”

Despite his cheeks burning at having been heard again, he leans out of Qui-Gon’s lap to hug Tahl, tucking his face against her neck. She squeezes him gently and rubs her hand along his back, tilting her head to kiss him on the cheek. He only knew Tahl a fraction of the time Qui-Gon has known her, but she always made him feel so loved. She leans back and cups his face in her hands. Her eyes are clear and there is no scar on her face, showing all the signs of her sight being returned.

“Oh, Obi, it’s so good to have you back. You were such an incredible young man when I knew you, and then you were so strong through such horrible times. I’m so sorry you had to experience everything you did. No one deserves that, but especially not you. We’re so proud of you and I’m so glad you’re finally home.”

She kisses him firmly on the forehead and then lets him go. He sinks back into Qui-Gon’s arms, almost gasping at how easily they shift to accommodate him and curl around him protectively. It does not feel wrong at all for him to lean against that broad chest and allow himself to relax. He closes his eyes when Qui-Gon kisses his hairline softly. They rest there for a moment and Obi-Wan reacquaints himself with the strong beating of his master’s heart.

“Do you want to go in and see the cabin?” Qui-Gon asks.

Obi-Wan looks up at the house. “Yes, I do.”

Qui-Gon helps him up onto his feet and then follows him. Tahl is already up on the porch and she urges Obi-Wan in ahead of her. The cabin is cozy inside and very much what Obi-Wan could see Qui-Gon living in if he had not been a Jedi.

It is one level with a living room, kitchen, and dining area in the front and two bedrooms in the back with one ‘fresher. The front of the house is open with no walls or doorways. A hallway going to the back of the house has one bedroom off each side.

“Your room is on the right,” Qui-Gon says, pressing him lightly to go see.

He opens the door to find a bedroom that has certain similarities to the one he had back in the Temple, but it is different enough that he enjoys exploring it. He immediately sits on the bed and then falls back onto it.

“It’s been so long since I’ve had a nice bed,” he tells the ceiling. “Wait. Do we even need to sleep?”

He pick his head up to find Qui-Gon standing just inside the doorway, where Tahl is leaning. He shrugs.

“You can. The nights get a bit long if you don’t have something to focus on so sleeping is a good way to pass the time. Even if you only sleep an hour, you won’t get tired, but sometimes it is easiest to keep your usual routine,” he explains.

Obi-Wan lays back and thinks about his daily schedule on Tatooine, collecting water from the vaporators, walking kilometers just to get to a town for supplies, tending to a little garden underneath his hut, watching the suns set and the stars come out. He is surprised to say that he misses it, but he does. His routine at the Temple was so different, especially during the war.

“Hey.”

A hand cups his jaw, tilting his head, and he meets dark blue eyes.

“Come back to us,” Qui-Gon says gently, rubbing his thumb over the dimple in his chin. “There will be plenty of time for that later.”

He levers himself upright. “You’re right. What next?”

Qui-Gon’s reply is cut off by a loud crack of thunder. Obi-Wan’s eyes widen.

“Does it rain here?”

Before his master can finish saying, “Yes,” Obi-Wan is bolting through the house and out the front door. A few raindrops are already falling by the time he leaps off the porch and into the grass. He looks up at the sky, the dark clouds moving sluggishly as though weighed down by the water they carry. He cannot hold back his soft gasp when a raindrop lands on his face. By the time he was on the Death Star, it had been months since he had last felt rain.

Obi-Wan stands there in the yard, surrounded by trees and grass and the Living Force, and the clouds finally release their burden. He lets the rain soak through his clothes. His skin prickles at the chill, but not uncomfortably. Nothing here would ever cause discomfort or pain. After decades of his life spent fighting and grieving, he is finally somewhere he no longer has to search for peace for it has already found him. He reaches out for the Force and feels swallowed up in its dense, thick eddies. It envelopes him and cradles him and promises he will never feel fear or pain again. He is tempted to never surface.

He feels the gentle brush of someone’s mind against his and it eases him out of his reverie. Qui-Gon and Tahl are standing on the porch, watching him. Tahl has a towel in her arms. The touch returns.

Come inside.

A few tears mingle with the rain on his cheeks. He has not heard that voice in his head in far too long. The presence in his head fills a gaping wound he had long since stopped tending to and his lips tremble with his attempt to keep from crying again. His nerves and emotions feel raw and exposed, but Qui-Gon had always had that effect on him. That touch croons something sweet to him in an attempt to soothe him and he smiles.

He plods along the wet grass and relishes the last few drops of rain on his skin before he reaches the porch. Tahl smoothes his hair back where it had plastered to his forehead, and Qui-Gon tugs his robe off his shoulders.

“We have some clothes here for you. We weren’t sure what you were going to look like when you found us so we prepared for anything,” Tahl says as they help him peel off the soaked layers.

“The ‘fresher is at the end of the hall on the left,” Qui-Gon tells him. “You can go warm up and we’ll get your clothes together.”

Obi-Wan pads down the hall in just the towel now, his wet braid clinging to his skin, and feels content. When he sees himself in the mirror over the sink, he freezes for a long moment, studying himself. He looks to be about twenty, although that might also be stretching it a bit. As the shower warms up, he undoes his braid and leaves the bands on the sink along with the tie holding his Knight’s tail. The water feels scalding against his cold skin but it keeps him grounded in the moment, not allowing his mind to drift. When he steps out of the shower, the small linen closet has stacks of fresh towels and he dries himself off before slipping into the soft loose pants and tunic left for him on the counter. He pulls his longer hair back into its tie and slips his braid’s colored bands into the pocket of his tunic.

He comes out into the living room to find Qui-Gon and Tahl sitting on one of the cushy sofas. When Qui-Gon reaches out for him, Obi-Wan takes his hand and allows himself to be drawn onto the couch beside him. He curls up against his master’s side and Qui-Gon’s arm comes down to wrap around his back, keeping him close. Obi-Wan finds himself resting his head on a broad shoulder and dozing lightly. He has not felt this safe since before the Clone Wars and he intends to enjoy the feeling.

When he wakes, it is to the soft press of lips on his forehead and a warm hand smoothing his hair. Tahl is leaning over him, stroking his hair as he regains consciousness. He smiles up at her and realizes he is curled up on the sofa under a soft blanket with a pillow.

“Would you like to eat?” She asks him softly, brushing the backs of her fingers against his cheek.

Obi-Wan smells something delicious from the kitchen and he sits up slowly because his life no longer revolves around quick, precise thoughts and actions. He can finally relax and let all his guards down with no worries other than how to occupy himself for the day.

A thought occurs to him. “Did Master Qui-Gon’s cooking get better after he died?”

Tahl cracks up, and Qui-Gon peers around the wall of the kitchen. He gives Obi-Wan a dark look, but Obi-Wan just grins at him.

“I’ve had thirty years to learn how to cook, but I’ve also had thirty years to learn what plants out in that forest are poisonous. Don’t tempt me.”

Obi-Wan joins Tahl in laughing.

His chest feels full of light.

—x—

Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are alone in the living room while Tahl is out at the Temple. Qui-Gon had been napping on the longest sofa and Obi-Wan had settled on the smaller one with a datapad to read. When Qui-Gon woke, he and Obi-Wan talked about things each of them had missed in the other’s life.

While Qui-Gon completed his training with the Shaman of the Whills after his death, he had missed part of Anakin’s apprenticeship. Obi-Wan tells him what happened during that time although there was not much of importance. Mostly Obi-Wan grieving for Qui-Gon during the nights and barely making it through the days. Anakin excelled in everything and adored his master, but Obi-Wan struggled to adjust to his new life. Finally, he managed to find comfort in Anakin’s presence and their friendship blossomed.

Qui-Gon explains that while it took him a long time to manage the skill of showing himself physically, he always watched over Obi-Wan as he went about his life.

“If you had called for me, I would have been there, but I did not want to startle or worry you by only speaking and not showing myself,” he explains.

Obi-Wan smiles wryly at him. “Even in death you were a rebel.”

Qui-Gon laughs, and Obi-Wan feels warmth unfurl in his belly at the sound.

Obi-Wan is curious about one topic, but he does not want to hurt his master by bringing it up. He decides to take a chance, since so much time has passed.

“Do you know what happened to Xanatos?” He asks softly, glancing at Qui-Gon worriedly.

He is surprised when Qui-Gon smiles.

“Shortly after Xan died, he was in a state of limbo and he realized the mistake he had made. He renounced his actions and promised to better lives instead of destroy them and was allowed to join the Force. Now, he spends most of his time at the Temple. He visits occasionally.”

“Oh.” All of his words finally sink in. “That’s great!”

Qui-Gon laughs. “You weren’t expecting that at all.”

Obi-Wan shakes his head. “No, but I’m glad for both of you. Does he seem more at peace?”

“Yes, he does. He likes to spend a lot of his time in the crèche.”

At the mention of a crèche in the Temple, Obi-Wan feels like he was punched in the solar plexus. All the air seems to be sucked out of the room. He drops his head into his hands, rubbing his forehead. His throat tightens and he tries to swallow against it. The cushion beside him sinks and a big, warm hand smoothes over his back.

“Obi, I’m so sorry. I know you found them in the Temple, but they’re so much happier here. The current créchemasters are trying to recruit Xan because the younglings love him so much.”

Obi-Wan manages to smile at that. He would love to see Xanatos surrounded by tiny Jedi younglings. He wipes at the tears that did not fall.

“Can the younglings grow? Do they age?” He asks.

Qui-Gon nods. “They do. It’s not easy to explain.”

He runs a hand through Obi-Wan’s hair, cupping the back of his head.

“Everyone is at peace here. You did all you could, and we are all so grateful. As soon as he came here, Mace sought me out to tell me how incredibly skilled you had become and how glad he was I chose to train you after I had sworn never to take another. Every council member has expressed their gratitude to me since you were not available. Pride is not a Jedi trait but they sure do sing your praises as often as possible. I’m sure you have most of the Temple waiting to speak to you.”

Qui-Gon strokes his face, rubbing his thumb over his cheekbone. Obi-Wan is still terrified to think about facing the entirety of the Temple.

“I have a feeling it will take me several centuries to tell you all of the things I never said when I was alive. We may still be Jedi, but I don’t think the Code applies here in the Force. From the moment I accepted you as my Padawan, I have loved you. I was stubborn and foolish and refused to accept that I was meant to teach you until you offered your life to save mine. It never should have come to that, but when it did, I realized how wrong I had been to reject you.”

Obi-Wan feels his face flush and his throat tighten with tears, but Qui-Gon brushes away any that manage to fall.

“I know I never made you feel this way, but I always thought of you as my son. I loved you so dearly. Any time you were injured, I was practically inconsolable and drove the healers crazy. I always hid that from you because I was afraid it would be considered an example of my attachment to you. I didn’t want you to see me fretting excessively over your wellbeing. I often went to close friends to speak about my feelings to keep you unaware. Tahl will attest to that, and after her you can ask Yoda. He will immediately jump at the chance to rat me out and get a “told you so, I did” in there too.”

They both laugh, and Obi-Wan takes a moment to move closer to Qui-Gon. His master accepts him eagerly, leaning back into the sofa.

“I will not allow a day to pass without telling you I love you because I let nearly a decade pass without telling you once. I never allowed myself—and the Jedi Order never allowed me—to act as I really wanted toward you, and I’m done suppressing it. You deserve to know you are cared for and loved. I never let you know how you impacted my life. Your mere presence changed everything, and it was for the better. You were exactly what I needed to heal and move on, and I am forever grateful for you being at my side for all those years. I am beyond thrilled to have you back in my life again. I’ve missed you terribly.”

Obi-Wan feels a unique thrill go through him when Qui-Gon pulls him close and kisses him on the forehead. He looks up at him, sees that absolute, unadulterated affection in his eyes, and feels something inside himself loosen and unlock. His soul is finally at peace. Qui-Gon gave him that release.

“I love you too,” he says softly, and sees tears shine in his master’s dark eyes.

Warm lips and a bristly beard brush lightly over his forehead again and he closes his eyes.

“I’m so grateful to have you. You are a blessing to me, and I’m so happy you are here beside me again,” Qui-Gon murmurs. “Even Tahl has been eager for you to join us. Not for you to die, but for—”

Obi-Wan laughs softly. “I understand. I was very eager to see you too. After a while, it was exhausting to keep waiting. I just wanted to feel you again.”

He leans his head on Qui-Gon’s shoulder and places his hand on his chest, over his heart, focusing on the strong rhythm. Qui-Gon rests his head against Obi-Wan’s, and the Force surrounding them suddenly glows with warmth and adoration and love. It is the most incredible sensation Obi-Wan has felt since before the war. He drinks it in and tries his best to commit it to memory.

“Tahl told me how sad she was for never getting to know you better before her death. She wanted to know the boy who managed to pull me out of my shell and steal my heart so quickly. But even though she did not get to spend much time with you, she loved you as much as I did simply because you are a part of me. As we were watching you, she was so excited when it was drawing close to the time you were to join us because she could finally create the relationship she has always wanted with you. She made me tell her everything about you several times over while we were waiting.”

Obi-Wan laughs. “I can’t wait to get to know her better too. That . . . day was one of the worst of my life. I couldn’t do anything to help you, and I felt partially responsible. I don’t think I ever truly worked through it and simply put it out of my mind instead.”

Qui-Gon pulls away to look at Obi-Wan incredulously.

“You felt responsible for Tahl’s death?”

“I was the reason for so much of our lost time. And I couldn’t help but think you blam—”

A strong hand grips his chin and forces his gaze upward.

“I never blamed you for her death. Even if your injury cost us time and then the miners were killed, it was not your fault. That man took her life and there was nothing either of us could have done. The outcome would have been the same if we were two hours faster because he had already given her the drug. Tahl will have your head if she hears you say anything of this.”

Qui-Gon’s tone is firm, but softens as Obi-Wan wilts slightly.

“None of the individuals here in the Force lost their lives because of you, Obi-Wan. Everything that happened was out of your control. You need to realize that the work you did was what allowed these Jedi to live as long as they did.”

He goes eagerly when Qui-Gon pulls him bodily onto his lap and Obi-Wan leans contentedly against his chest. His master’s warm hand smoothes up and down his back.

“We will take a trip to the Temple soon. You need the chance to heal. No one should have to carry those burdens, but especially not you.”

Obi-Wan nods, melting into Qui-Gon’s embrace as his hand rubs along his spine. He rests his head on a broad shoulder and allows himself to relax, soothed by Qui-Gon’s presence and touch.

—x—

Laying on his bed and meditating lightly, Obi-Wan feels when amorous pleasure fills the Force inside their cabin. He smiles despite his concentration. He may outwardly appear to be young, but he has lived a long life, and he knows what sex between Jedi feels like to other people sensitive to the Force. Either his housemates forgot to shield themselves or feel comfortable enough in his presence to forgo the distraction completely. He does not mind either. Feeling the physical representation of their love is more comforting than anything because it has been so long since he has felt anything but loneliness permeating the Force.

Of course the density of the emotions coaxes his body into reacting, but he ignores it for the time being. He allows himself a fleeting moment to imagine his master and Tahl in the throes of passion. He will not deny that they are both very physically attractive so he indulges in the fantasy of them together. Dark skin against pale; long hair either tangled around fingers or twisted up neatly out of the way; mingled breath and soft moans; a hand grasping at sweat-slick skin; quiet laughter and sweet kisses. A surge of emotion and Obi-Wan basks in it. Nothing has felt this pure in more than thirty years.

He thinks of Garen. Maybe he will reach out to him soon. In all his years, he has never gone farther than heatedly kissing another person. Garen will most likely jump at the chance to be a participant, having propositioned Obi-Wan several times during their apprenticeships only to be politely denied for one reason or another. Obi-Wan is eager to finally explore his sexuality where there is nothing to disrupt and ruin a relationship like war or covert missions.

Another swell of sharp, heady sensations and then the Force sings with contentment. Obi-Wan smiles and shakes his head. The coming morning will surely be interesting.

Qui-Gon has the decency to look slightly embarrassed when he emerges from the bedroom after the sun has been up for several hours. Obi-Wan is sitting at their table with tea and he hides his smile in the cup. Seeing his master’s cheeks flush was not something he experienced as a Padawan and he finds that he enjoys it immensely.

“Now I remember why I never took lovers while teaching you,” Qui-Gon mutters as he takes two tea cups back down the hall.

Obi-Wan laughs to himself even when Tahl’s mental presence prods him sharply.

—x—

The cherry tree in the yard is a kind of vergence in the Force. It takes them wherever they wish to go, and today they are using it to get to the Temple. Obi-Wan is miserable with the idea he has to face all the people he failed to protect. He holds onto his braid in the nervous habit he has not displayed since he was taken as Qui-Gon’s Padawan.

“It’s all right, love,” Tahl soothes him, stroking his hair. “The Force will not give you what you cannot handle.”

He has heard that phrase too many times to count and each time it has only annoyed him. Qui-Gon laughs and wraps his arm around Obi-Wan, pulling him against his side.

“You’ll be fine,” he murmurs, kissing him on the forehead. “We’ll be right beside you.”

Their hands rest firmly on the tree’s trunk and that tickling, weightless sensation is back again. Obi-Wan loses his footing once more, but this time his master is there to catch him before he falls on his backside. He is soothed by the rumbling laugh in his ear and the strong hands on his waist that help him get his feet back under him.

“You’ll get better at it,” he promises, and rubs the back of Obi-Wan’s neck.

Obi-Wan stares at the Temple and has the sudden urge to flee. He feels sick.

“Obi, look at me.”

His face is cupped by big, gentle hands and then he meets Qui-Gon’s gaze. Those dark blue eyes are concerned and kind. It comforts him slightly.

“It’s going to be all right. No one blames you for anything that has happened. They want to see you so they can thank you and speak to you again. Don’t you want to see your friends?”

Not here, he thinks to himself. He hates thinking of his friends and mentors and younglings being here in the Force.

“Let’s go,” Tahl coaxes. “Garen is waiting for you.”

He perks up a little at the mention of his friend. Sure enough, Garen is standing several meters away, still looking like the twenty-year-old Obi-Wan remembers. They walk towards him and excitement replaces the trepidation in Obi-Wan’s belly.

“Hey, Obi,” he calls, his voice easy and lilting.

He is grinning, and Obi-Wan finds himself eager to speak to him. He jogs the last few feet to him and reaches up to hug him around the neck. Being wrapped up in Garen’s arms is something Obi-Wan did not know he missed. Garen was always taller than Obi-Wan and always seemed to exude comfort to him. Now Obi-Wan feels himself relaxing, face pressed into his friend’s neck. Garen’s hands spread out on his back, protective and sheltering.

“Are you ready to say hello to some people? Everyone is really excited to see you so don’t be worried,” Garen says.

With his master and Tahl—who he is starting to think of as something like mother—at his back and Garen at his side, Obi-Wan does not feel so frightened of facing the Temple.

“Let’s go,” he says, and Garen smiles at him.

They all climb the steps and Garen barely has to reach out a hand for the doors to swing open. As the individuals waiting for him are revealed, tears well up in his eyes. He sees Bant and Reeft and Siri and each of the Council Members he served under and beside. He is sobbing by the time he is surrounded by his best friends. They comfort him and tell them how much they have missed him and how proud they are of him and he cries into their shoulders.

Obi-Wan tries to get some semblance of control over himself before he has to face the Council members, but when he sees tears in their eyes too, he stops fighting. Some of them are apologetic for doubting him, and others hug him tightly as they express their gratitude. It feels odd to be clutching at the tunics of Masters he studied under and fought in a war with, but they do not let him venture too far. They are all desperate to have the last of their own back in their ranks.

After the initial excitement has worn down, Obi-Wan relaxes back into his usual camaraderie with his friends. The Force supplies everyone with whatever they may need and he gets proof of that. Reeft is never without something to eat, a fact that still amuses all of them, and Bant always has a lake or pond or pool in which to swim. Siri spends a lot of her time with her master, Adi Gallia. Garen likes tinkering with and flying an X-wing fighter he built himself—which just reminds Obi-Wan of how long they have all been here. When he goes quiet and sullen, they pull him back with soft reassurances and inside jokes. Garen roughs him up, hugging him tight and digging his fingers into his sides so he shrieks. Bant and Reeft and Siri laugh at him as he squirms in Garen’s arms.

Bant pulls him aside and speaks to him about how eagerly Garen has been waiting for him to arrive.

“He’s always loved you, Obi. He just never had the nerve to say it to you before,” she says, and Obi-Wan feels something warm spreading through his chest and belly.

He grins. “He asked me a few times while we were Padawans, but our schedules never fit and I was usually nursing some kind of injury and then we were Knights and had the war. But I never stopped loving him.”

Bant smiles brightly at him. “You have to talk to him soon!”

“I will,” Obi-Wan laughs.

As everyone continues to mingle and talk, he feels a familiar warmth coaxing at his mind. He turns automatically in the direction of his master. Even forty years cannot rid him of a habit so ingrained it has become instinct. He excuses himself from his friends and starts toward his master’s place in the mass of people. He stops in his tracks only a few meters away when he sees who is standing with Qui-Gon and Tahl.

He is only an inch shorter than Qui-Gon, but just as handsome. Long, dark brown hair that looks nearly black is pulled back into a ponytail and it contrasts sharply with his fair skin. He is smiling as he talks, relaxed and completely at ease. Obi-Wan notices how happy Qui-Gon looks, and feels a little wash of regret for his master. Another man joins them, this one blond and a more average height though still taller than Obi-Wan. He has short hair and brown eyes, freckles dusting his nose and cheekbones. He looks kind and approachable.

Between the three of them, as all of Qui-Gon’s apprentices, they paint an odd picture.

Qui-Gon catches sight of him and grins. Obi-Wan is still taken a little breathless at the sight of his master’s smile being given so freely. He does not know what to think or feel in this moment.

Xanatos looks conflicted, moving as if to draw away, but Qui-Gon does not let him. He rests his hand on his arm to keep him there. Obi-Wan does not fear the man, but he cannot expel the distinct hesitancy that sets up in his chest.

“Obi-Wan,” Qui-Gon says gently, “you never had the opportunity to meet my first apprentice, Feemor.”

The blond man smiles at him and when they shake hands, his is warm and soft.

“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you,” Feemor says, his voice soft and accented.

Obi-Wan finds himself a little charmed. “You as well.”

“I’ve heard a lot about you—all good of course.”

Obi-Wan smiles shyly. “I have the feeling everyone knows far too much.”

Everyone laughs at that, and even Xanatos smiles.

“Hello again,” Obi-Wan says, keeping his tone light and pleasant to draw him out a bit.

“Hello,” Xanatos echoes, and then looks down, away from Obi-Wan’s face. “I suppose I should apologize—”

“You don’t have to,” he says, and he means it.

Xanatos looks at him incredulously.

“I’ve suffered far worse since we last met, and since then I’ve made peace. Falling to the Dark Side is not simply a choice. It requires some form of coercion, and I don’t think you were wholly Dark. You loved Qui-Gon. I think something blinded you to that.”

They all stare at him, and Xanatos swallows loudly like he is fighting back tears.

“Thank you.”

Obi-Wan realizes there is no scar on his cheek. Good, he thinks. Xanatos’s father had been a bad man, and he should not have to bear a mark that reminds him of that.

Loud, happy shrieks and giggling draws everyone’s attention away from their conversations.

The younglings from the Temple’s last days pour out of the hallway leading to the crèche. They all bolt straight for Obi-Wan—who takes several long strides towards them before dropping to his knees and does not hide the tears that slip down his cheeks. They surround him and hold and hug whatever piece of him they can grasp. One little hand curls around his braid but does not tug. He squeezes them tightly and leaves kisses on their heads. Soft hands touch his cheeks and some of them ask why he is crying. He simply tells them he is happy to see them.

Even during the war Obi-Wan had made an effort to visit the crèche and take care of the younglings. They were losing more masters every day and there was talk of lifting the rule on the number of Padawans a master could train. He wanted each child to feel loved and cared for in such a terrible time. The younglings always anticipated his visits and were excited but on their best behavior for him. He came to love them dearly and was ruined when he found them slaughtered by the Empire.

Obi-Wan finally sits down on the floor and lets them crawl into his lap and sit around him, holding onto anything their little fingers can find.

“I’ve missed you all terribly,” he tells them, his voice thick with tears. “I hope you haven’t gotten into too much trouble since I last saw you.”

He gets a chorus of “no” and “we were good” and “we missed you too” and feels like he might heal from all the pain he has endured. All the unique faces of little Jedi peering up at him brings a fresh sent of tears to his eyes and he hugs the ones in his arms tighter. They all shift closer and try to soothe him by putting hands on his face to stop his tears and resting their heads on his arms or back to mimic a hug. He presses a kiss to the top of a Wookie youngling’s head and gets a soft warble in reply.

Their crèchemaster calls to them and each of them hug him around the neck before they scamper back over to their master. He is frightened to let them go, but even the littlest ones promise that they will see him again. They are much smarter than any of the Jedi give them credit for. Obi-Wan watches as they cluster together and make their way back to the crèche.

His is left sitting on the floor of the Temple, tear tracks on his face and heart aching. He glances up when someone comes to his side and gives them a weak smile. Garen sits down beside him and leans back on his hands.

“Hey,” he says simply.

Obi-Wan swallows. “Hey.”

“Do you want to get up?”

“Not yet.”

“Okay.”

They sit there for a long time, Obi-Wan breathing in the scent of the Temple. Finally, he feels calm enough to rise and face his family again. Garen helps him to his feet and gives him a long, tight hug. He buries his face into Garen’s shoulder, holding his friend close. When they finally part, they walk back to the group with their hands entwined.

Obi-Wan speaks semi-privately with most of the masters. Adi Gallia had always had a soft spot for Obi-Wan and she is the one to admit that the entire Temple has been watching him and waiting to welcome him back. She tells him that the Council has been wringing their hands over how they treated him both as a child and a master. They constantly doubted him on the pretense of ensuring Anakin was trained properly, but now they have seen that no one could have prevented his fall—not even Master Yoda. She says they should have supported him instead of waiting eagerly for him to stumble so they could prove their concern was well-founded. She also apologizes on behalf of the entire Council for Knighting him so quickly and thrusting him out into the world within days of losing his master. She begins to cry when she says this, covering her mouth with her hand.

“You were so young, and you weren’t ready,” she says.

Obi-Wan knows why they did what they did and made peace with that decision a long time ago. He steps closer to her and she wraps her arms around him, holding him close for a long time before releasing him again. She continues to apologize for the Council essentially sending him to die on Bandomeer, which is what would have happened if Qui-Gon had not been sent as well.

“We were all so blind to your potential. We could not see what was right in front of us,” she says quietly, stroking his cheek. “You were already our Chosen One. No one—not even any of the Council—could have endured what you have over all these years. Anakin may have been very powerful, but he was not our savior. You were what saved us in the end.”

Warm hands settle on his shoulders and he looks up to find Qui-Gon smiling at him. The other Jedi gather around them, reaching out to brush his arms or shoulders if they are close enough. The Council members all stand near Adi, and Obi-Wan feels like he needs to give another mission report. Qui-Gon squeezes his shoulders comfortingly.

“You are so beautiful and so full of light,” Depa Billaba says, touching his cheek. “I wish we could have treated you with the respect you deserved.”

He looks out at the Council members he served with and feels his master at his back. He feels the ache of tears in the back of his throat and tries to swallow them down.

Adi smiles at him and then sinks down onto one knee. One-by-one, the rest of the Council follows her lead until they are all kneeling at his feet. Obi-Wan weeps openly. He does not feel worthy of their respect and submission. Qui-Gon smoothes his hands along his shoulders.

“You are worthy, Obi-Wan. You have done more than your fair share for the Jedi Order. You deserve our respect. Your service went above and beyond what was originally asked of you, and we are so thankful for your bravery.”

Obi-Wan swipes at his eyes and sniffles. “Please stand up before I start sobbing and you change your minds.”

They all laugh and shift to their feet as Obi-Wan regains his shaky composure. Qui-Gon strokes his hair, curling his fingers around his Padawan braid. Obi-Wan turns around to look up at him and is rewarded with a warm smile.

Qui-Gon pulls him into a hug and he melts into his chest, perfectly content in his arms. The rest of the Jedi melt away into silence. A kiss is pressed to the top of his head and a warm hand cups his cheek.

“My Padawan,” his master murmurs softly, and those words spread joy and warmth through Obi-Wan’s chest and out into his limbs.

His face is tilted up and another kiss left on his forehead. He closes his eyes.

“I love you, my Obi-Wan. I have always loved you and I will never stop loving you,” Qui-Gon says, his voice quiet and sincere and resonating through Obi-Wan’s chest.

He smiles and leans into Qui-Gon’s embrace, his breath catching when Qui-Gon accepts the change easily and winds his arms around Obi-Wan’s back. He tucks his face against his master’s neck, breathing in his unique scent that still serves to relax him deeply. One of Qui-Gon’s big hands comes up to cradle his head and Obi-Wan hums, pleased to be in the protective circle of those arms—the place he has always wanted to be and where he will spend the rest of his time.