It starts with an explosion, setting the tone of things to come. To be honest, as an active Jedi Master, well known in the Order for taking difficult missions in worlds when sometimes blasters spoke louder than diplomats, Qui-Gon is no stranger to explosions.
Still, this is a big one. His fifteen-years-old Padawan and he are on a supposed-peaceful mission on the moon of Tatevles when things start to go sideways. The theoretically-peaceful royal party and the republican one, also supposed to be peaceful, are full of bloodthirsty idiots. The young king is, strangely for a man coming from a long bloodline of people that thought of decapitation as a light sentence, the most diplomatic and pacific of men, but totally incapable of making his own party obey.
Probably because he’s not thinking of decapitation as light sentence. His own people seems to resent that as a sign of immaturity. If someone had given him a credit every time Qui-Gon had heard: “It wouldn’t have happened like that in his grandmother’s reign. That woman knew how to treat rebels, with a lot of firepower!” the Order would have the money for a new shuttle. Also, he needs to check who exactly gave the famous grandmother permission to make that world a part of the Republic because a lot of her opinions about political opponents seemed violent violations of almost all Coruscant’s laws.
Two days after they touched down on Tatevles, Qui-Gon has the king safe with him and a giant headache that refuses to be released in the Force. But he’s missing his ship, the exact location of their enemies’ base, his poor Padawan, half his whiskers (thanks to a raging fire), his cloak, and a plan. And soon his patience if the officers don’t start making sense and don’t stop bickering like Weequay pirates after a full barrel of Chandrila liquor.
Then the gigantic speeders factory complex in the north part of the capital explodes.
“Master,” says his Padawan from a public communicator, ten minutes after that. “Master, they took me to blackmail you in killing the King for them, but someone helped me.”
“…Perhaps you should come. I’m not sure how to explain it.”
Unfortunately, there really isn’t a good explanation for how Qui-Gon managed to return to Coruscant with two versions of Obi-Wan Kenobi. One is the dutiful little spitfire of a Padawan he left with. The other is a sarcastic, time-traveling General who believes aggressive negotiations are best solved with explosives. That Obi-Wan has two settings: charming flirt or cold-eyed remover of limbs. That Obi-Wan comes straight from the thickest, most violent part of the Clone Wars and is something the galaxy hasn’t seen for generations: a true Jedi warrior.
The galaxy is very much not ready and Qui-Gon is fascinated. His poor Padawan seems baffled by the man. Master Kenobi is…well, he’s polite and cultivated and calm, perfect Coruscanti accent and nice smile, all things a Jedi should be after one thousand year of almost peace. He offers perfectly brewed tea to his old Master, he’s nice to children and small animals, he likes to discuss Wookie poetry with Master Tyvokka. He’s all these things until someone puts an innocent in danger or tries to start a war or a slave ring or a committee in the Senate to bury a problem. Or all three at once like in one particular occasion best forgotten because even Qui-Gon, maverick as he is, has a limit for exploding war-ships and revolutions. He won’t pretend he hasn’t started one or two in his youth but the entire docks of Kuat Drive Yards are burning and Obi-Wan Kenobi Senior has started not one, not two, not three, but four separate revolts on different moons and planets.
Yes, when innocents are in danger or exploited or denied, Master Kenobi’s gloves come off. He’s cynical, without mercy, crashing ships left and right and leaving a trail of fire, still smoldering craters, injured criminals in need of bacta, and horrified officials in his wake. He has spent too long in a galaxy in war to play nice.
The little vein on Mace Windu’s temple is throbbing most of the days now but that doesn’t seem to preoccupy Obi-Wan, older version. No, he prefers to disappear for long weeks and to come back to the Temple, his tunic charred, with a long trail of lost creatures in need of housing and health checks. And when the Council reads him the riot act about rules and laws, he has the gall to play innocent, all perfect robes and calm presence in the Force, and big innocent eyes, grey and trusting under his red fringe, an image of the perfect son-in-law every sentient would want for their children.
“With the property damage your older time-traveling ex-Padawan made on Tatooine, we could buy a small moon.” Adi Gallia sighs, reviewing the numbers.
“But the slave trade will never recover from it!”
“A good part of the planet is on fire, Qui-Gon! The Hutts are suing us! And what are we supposed to do with five thousand ex-slaves that refuse to be separated from him! The Senate is throwing a fit and two Senators had heart attacks reading the report! Heart attacks! ”
“They should eat healthier and do more exercise?”
After a time, the young Obi-Wan gets more comfortable with his time-traveling version, treating him more as the cool older sibling every teenager would dream of. So Master Kenobi becomes a frequent visitor in their quarters. They take missions together sometimes and it's quite a shock for Qui-Gon. His rule-following Padawan who gets a vexed expression every time Qui-Gon plays fast and lose with the rules, grew up to be ten times the maverick he is, all while still pretend to be a bland and generic master!
After a time, he finds that funny. What's more unpleasant is the day he understand Obi-Wan has no sense of self-worth or survival instinct.
'The Force will help in time of need.' Indeed, but the Force itself is probably running itself raged trying to stop him from killing himself in a stupid last minute save.
And then one day Obi-Wan goes too far and three people are dead in an exploding shuttle. One is the Senator, newly elected, from the small world of Naboo.
With the death of Senator Palpatine, the High council finally threatens Master Kenobi with expulsion from the Order.
Qui-Gon is preparing himself to lose his friends but suddenly it's like the fight has left Obi-Wan.
He is bound to the temple and ordered to perform community service. Obi-Wan accepts each of his punishments with a smile and an oath to follow the orders of the Council. Qui-Gon worries that Obi-Wan has given up. He wonders if the man has completed some sort of mission or if he has lost faith in himself. Despite his new-found obedience, there is still one thing he refuses to do: attend the mandatory therapy sessions.
“It would probably help you,” Qui-Gon tries to plead, the memory of Obi-Wan throwing himself from a moving speeder into a burning building to catch a slaver fresh in his mind. Sometimes in his dreams, Obi-Wan doesn’t make the jump.
“I beg your pardon?”
“If I speak with a mind healer, would you do it too?”
“I don’t see why…”
“You Don’t? I can think of a few reasons. Xanatos comes to mind.”
“Some of them didn’t happen and won’t in this timeline!”
“Yes, you could still do worse. This is a bargain, my ex-Master. I will do it if you do too. And Obi-Wan, my poor younger self, would probably need too.”
“I take perfectly good care of my Padawan!”
“He was ready to blow himself up at thirteen-years-old on Bandomer. It was only after I took a Padawan myself that I realized how horrifying that is.”
And, for the first time in a long time, Qui-Gon takes advice to heart, stupefying everyone. Mace Windu has him checked for spice!
After months of work with the mind-healers, Master Qui-Gon Jinn can recognize the wisdom of Obi-Wan’s blackmail. He can see the change in himself and the two Obi-Wans. He has a long and important discussion with his Padawan to check that the young one will understand and not deduce horrible things.
And then, one evening, after a pleasant joint meditation session with the older Obi-Wan, he takes the man’s left hand and asks a question, a very important one.
And when the man that will never be a General again smiles, blushing, and says yes, Qui-Gon kisses him.
The world has a new chance and they do too.