As Qui-Gon Jinn lay dying in Obi-Wan Kenobi’s trembling arms in the deserted melting pit in Theed, gasping through the pain of his ruined body, Mace Windu collapsed in the middle of a Council budget meeting. The Korun’s face grimaced, flickering between pain and horror as he twitched and writhed on the cool tiles of the chamber floor. Seconds turned to long minutes; Healers were called while the other Councilors gathered around him, murmuring with deep concern.
“Master Mace,” Depa Billaba called him, her soft voice urgent. This was not a Shatterpoint. This was something different and frightening. Her Master was moaning in terror. “Master, come back to me!”
The moment her hand pressed against his shoulder, Mace snapped open his eyes. In the wild, vivid memories of red and black, shards of glass, identical faces, and death—so much death, the death of everyone—he fisted his hands into Depa’s robes and started to sob.
It was dark, but someone was reading aloud—from the Holonet, or was it a book? He turned his head to find out, only to discover his muscles refused to obey. He tried to blink, but it took effort, and he was rewarded with a blurry slash of dim light and the agonizing feeling of sand rubbing beneath his eyelids. He hissed.
The voice immediately stopped its litany. A pause, then, “Qui-Gon?”
The blur changed colour, and Qui-Gon felt a gentle hand rest on his cheek. He still could not move his head, but maybe he could force his lips to open. “Obi-Wan?”
A gasp that sounded suspiciously like a sob answered him, thick with tangible joy and relief. “Yes, Qui-Gon, I’m here.” The young man’s voice was pitched low, as if he did not dare speak any louder. “I’m here, and you’re here.”
“Where did I go?” Qui-Gon asked. His mind felt like it was full of fog and cobwebs. “Where are we, Padawan?”
He felt Obi-Wan’s hand leave his cheek and press against his palm. “I need to fetch the Healer, Master.” Qui-Gon could hear the sudden, gentle tease in his words. “Don’t go anywhere until I return.”
While Qui-Gon could not have left the medical bed he was obviously occupying, it was a struggle to not slip back into sleep. His eyelids were made of stone, weighing them down. He was about to let them slide closed when Obi-Wan’s warm hand wrapped around his again. A different voice spoke, soft and rumbly and a bit familiar.
“Oh, Master Jinn, I’m so pleased to see you awake! Can you tell me how you’re feeling?”
“Fuzzy,” he replied. “I can’t really move.”
“Not surprising, Master Jinn, given how long you’ve been … asleep. I’m going to wipe your eyes so they aren’t so blurry, alright?”
“Yes.” He shut his eyelids, and he felt the gentle pressure of cotton against his lashes. Blinking rapidly, the scene slowly focused for him.
Obi-Wan stared at him, concern and relief naked on his face. He wore his tunics without tabards or cloak, and there was something else different about him that Qui-Gon could not place. The Chitanook Healer, he finally recognized as Obi-Wan’s crèchemate, Abella. She was making notes on a data reader while she checked his intravenous lines. There seemed to be lines everywhere, including one in his chest.
“Do you know where you are, Master Jinn?” Abella asked while she recorded his vital signs.
“No, other than I’m clearly in a medical facility.”
She hummed to herself. It sounded like a large insect. “Do you remember what happened to put you here?”
He tried desperately to clear some of the clouds infesting his brain. Red and black, and pain, so much PAIN. Qui-Gon saw Obi-Wan flinch and realized he was not shielding. He squeezed his Padawan’s hand, which really only twitched against Obi-Wan’s palm. “Sorry, Obi-Wan, I can’t—”
“I’m not expecting you to have shields right now,” Abella interrupted. She offered him a toothy smile. “We’ll save that for tomorrow. What do you remember, Master Jinn? The more you talk, the better off you’ll be.”
“The Sith. We were fighting him. I–I was tired, and I made a mistake.”
Obi-Wan huffed without amusement. “You could call it that. You’re a gods-damned fool, Qui-Gon Jinn, and the only reason I’m not yelling at you right now is because I’m too happy you’re awake.”
Qui-Gon took in the dark circles under his apprentice’s eyes, and the new lines carved in his forehead, and said cautiously, “How long have I been here?”
Abella and Obi-Wan exchanged unreadable glances. Qui-Gon stared at the young man, trying to figure out what was different about him.
“Four months,” Obi-Wan said quietly, without looking him in the eye.
The long, beaded braid was gone from behind Obi-Wan’s ear.
“Who the hell Knighted you while I was unconscious?!”
They had never left Naboo. Abella told him with clinical, detached accuracy exactly what his body had suffered, and the frankly frightening list of organs he had needed cloned and replaced: diaphragm, left lung, esophagus, a handful of major blood vessels, and his heart.
“You have a million-credit body now, Master Jinn,” Abella teased, trying to lighten the shock on the older Jedi’s face. “The Council will be garnishing your grand-padawans’ stipends.”
She had lifted the head of the medical bed so he could sit up. The muscle weakness in all parts of his body was rapidly becoming tiresome. Abella held up a mirror so he could see the scar he could not raise his hand to touch. He caught a glimpse of his face, too, and a gaunt ghost with a nicely-trimmed beard stared back at him. “Even with bacta treatment, the wound refuses to heal cleanly.”
“I can see that.” A dark, purplish mass of scar tissue, circular and the size of his fist, marred the centre of his chest. Someone had done their best to stitch together the cauterized edges of the hole left by the Sith’s lightstaff. “Why not a skin graft to cover the wound?” It would have been less disturbing to look at.
Abella sighed and offered a foreign gesture that radiated helplessness and frustration. “We tried, actually. Twice. There is something about this wound that resists treatment. I’m hoping to get ahold of that lightstaff and do some research. I don’t know if it was the weapon itself, or some trick of the Sith that corrupted the wound, but I am going to find out,” she said, her voice hard with determination.
“Sounds like work to do in-Temple,” Qui-Gon hinted dryly.
“Not any time soon.” Abella eyed him with that expression all Healers possess when their patients say something they find ridiculous. “You can’t board a ship until you’ve regained your basic muscle tone and function. You need to walk out of here under your own power.”
“Then let’s get started.” Qui-Gon took a calming breath and focused on wiggling his fingers and toes for the rest of the afternoon.
Dusk had fallen on the medical ward, which Qui-Gon had learned was a diplomatic suite that Queen Amidala had ordered converted for his continued use. The heavy, brocaded drapes were pulled back on the two tall, narrow windows, letting the light from the rapidly darkening sky fall on Qui-Gon’s medical bed. He watched weeping trees sway in the gentle, warm breeze, enjoying the feel of the Living Force, when a soft, hesitant knock at the door interrupted his light trance.
Obi-Wan poked his head into the room. “May I come in?”
“Of course,” replied Qui-Gon. As Abella had instructed, he did his best to turn his head, but only moved minutely towards the younger man. Even in the dim light, he could spot the small but obvious signs of anxiety in his Padawan: a furrow between his eyes, a tightening of his lips. “What’s wrong, Obi-Wan?”
Obi-Wan surprised him with a slight chuckle. “Why did I even think you wouldn’t notice?” he said wryly. “I have to go, Qui-Gon. The Council is sending me on a mission of some urgency.”
Anxiety flittered into resignation. “Unfortunately, yes. I’ve delayed them longer than I should have, I fear.”
“You, put off the Council?” he asked, half in jest and half in deep surprise, and was rewarded with a brilliant smile that transformed his apprentice’s—former apprentice, he reminded himself—face.
“All those lessons in insubordination finally sank in. Besides, who knew that if you kill a Sith, the Council will happily gift wrap a bantha and deliver it to you in person if you even mention you once dreamed of owning one?”
They shared a laugh, easy and familiar, but Qui-Gon could sense the impending finale of their Master-Apprentice relationship. It was inevitable. It had to happen, but as Qui-Gon gazed at the young man, pride filling his heart, he wished he could have kept him for just a while longer.
“A credit for your thoughts,” Obi-Wan said.
“Oh, I’m just regretting that my apprentice is too competent for my own good. Go on, complete your mission and you can tell me all about it later while I relearn to walk.”
Obi-Wan gently took Qui-Gon’s hand and could not quite look him in the eye. “The mission is undercover. I go dark, and I cannot have any contact outside the prearranged signals with my handlers. I won’t be able to even send you a letter, Qui-Gon. I’m sorry.”
“How long?” It came out sharper than he had meant, but Obi-Wan simply sighed and tightened his grip on his Master’s hand.
“One standard year. Depending on the outcome, it could be longer.” His free hand came up and pressed Qui-Gon’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, but my transport is leaving, well, five minutes ago. I have to go now, Qui-Gon.”
Had he been able to, the Jedi Master would have engulfed his newly-minted Knight in a hug. Instead, he squeezed Obi-Wan’s hand as hard as he could. Obi-Wan squeezed back. “May the Force be with you, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Safe travels.”
As Obi-Wan closed the door behind him, Qui-Gon lay in the darkened room and felt something in his mind, like a plucked string under tension. He managed to focus inward, dust away the cobwebs that still threatened to take over, and find the source.
A delighted grin slowly crept over his features.
Obi-Wan Kenobi, normally the source of his daily badgering to follow the rules, had neglected to sever their training bond upon his Knighting.
This story is partially inspired by Suzukiblu's delightfully imaginative headcanon Mace Windu Unfucks the Timeline, in which Mace has a vision of what is to come and takes Anakin as his Padawan instead of Obi-Wan and proceeds to do insane and right things.
The character of Jedi Healer Abella is on gracious loan from Flamethrower, and can be found in her full Healer glory in Re-Entry and Re-Entry: Journey of the Whills. If you haven't read them, what are you still doing here?