When Obi-Wan dies, he knows he will be reunited with those he loves.
But he doesn’t quite expect the sheer scale of it.
He supposes he should have known; his old Master never did do things by halves.
The transition from the physical world to a Force presence is as easy as taking a single step. He simply closes his eyes and gives himself to it, somehow more at the peace with the moment than he’d thought possible.
When he opens his eyes again, he is still standing. And the world is blue.
“Obi-Wan,” someone calls, and he turns immediately.
Beside her is Garen, and behind them both is Reeft.
He hasn’t had the luxury of friends in nineteen years.
“Don’t cry,” Garen warns, and then grabs him in a hug that threatens to squeeze the last bits of oxygen out of his tight chest.
“Get off him,” Bant chides, “Give him a minute.”
Garen snorts. “Time is something we have in plenty. And I can’t hurt him now.”
Obi-Wan meets Reeft’s droop-eyed gaze over Garen’s shoulder, and starts to laugh.
“Garen,” he says, and hugs back, and then hugs Bant, and then hugs Reeft for good measure. Even though Reeft never did like physical contact and settles for patting Obi-Wan on the shoulder like he did when they were children.
It’s been over forty years since they were initiates together but even the faint smell of salt water from Bant’s clothes feels like no time at all has passed.
When he’s calmed down, they sit him on a bench and Bant smiles at him with her gentle eyes wide.
“You took it better than we were expecting,” she says.
“Yes,” Reeft agrees, “We really did think you would cry.”
He can only grin like a fool and shake his head.
“There is nothing left to cry about,” he says, “I’m with my friends, at one with the Force, and there is no more physical pain and…”
His smile slips into horror.
“Force’s sake,” he remembers, “Luke has just seen me die. If he’s anything like his father…”
“We lose,” Bant tells Garen.
Garen glares at Obi-Wan. “Do you know, I did think even you would want to see the new Temple before worrying about the living.”
Obi-Wan’s brow furrows. “The new Temple?”
Which is roughly when he deigns to look around properly, and realises that he is essentially on the grounds of a place in the Force that looks remarkably like the old Temple on Coruscant. Even the old cityscape is recreated, full of traffic and walkways crowded with a melting pot of species and races.
“We… How?” he asks.
His three friends exchange looks.
“Maybe we’d better take you inside now,” Garen says gently, “It’s always kind of a shock for new arrivals.”
So they do, and he feels his throat constrict at the sound of their soft footfalls on the polished concrete of the reception hall. The wide, open space calls to him, so uniquely shaded in spite of the transparisteel and high ceiling.
“This isn’t right,” he says, and comes to a complete stop. “How are you three here anyway? You never learned to retain your consciousness. You never went through the training.”
“Obi-Wan,” Bant says gently, uncannily, “We promise, this is truly us. And you are truly where you belong in the Force. But you must give yourself time to adjust.”
He folds his arms obstinately.
“Look,” Reeft says, “There are answers, but can we do this somewhere more comfortable?”
“I just spent the night sitting on a crate teaching a young man of nineteen how to ignore his scepticism and sense the Force, and then I died. This is far more comfort than I have had in a long time,” Obi-Wan points out calmly.
The three exchange glances again.
“He won this round too,” Garen says.
“What round?” Obi-Wan demands.
“Of bets,” Bant says sadly, “Qui-Gon was certain you would not accept any of this at face value.”
His arms fall to his side immediately at the thought of his old Master. “Qui-Gon is here?”
“Of course,” Garen says, “Who do you think organised all this?”
Obi-Wan looks around. “He didn’t!”
“He did,” Bant tells him. And from the tone of her voice, she admires the man even more for it.
Obi-Wan can’t blame her.
They were raised on the belief that death released a soul back to the Force, but no one had ever believed there was any consciousness that remained beyond that horizon. Only peace. Like drops of rain falling into the ocean – no longer individual but a part of something greater.
Except Qui-Gon had learned it could be different.
And he’d turned it into a planet.
“Right,” he says, “You’d better take me to him. I’ve got some questions to ask.”
Garen shrugs and gestures vaguely around the hall. “You know the way,” he says wryly.
And Obi-Wan does.
He can even guess where his Master will be.
Tahl’s rooms are just as he remembers them – organised in carefully designated spaces. Light streams through the window in a blaze, picking out the rough texture of a hooded robe hung on a stand.
Ensconced on the couch, Tahl talks in a low voice about something that stops the minute he enters the room.
Qui-Gon is standing by the desk, and he turns his head immediately.
Then the small smile that Obi-Wan has taught himself not to miss for thirty years is angled down at him and suddenly he really does find himself feeling a little teary-eyed. A little – though he dares not admit to it – emotionally overwrought.
“Obi-Wan,” Qui-Gon says, and Obi-Wan gives up.
His former Master’s embrace is warm and solid, even though they’re both glowing blue and look slightly transparent in the sunlight through the window. Qui-Gon’s beard scratching against his brow is just as rough as it was the day Obi-Wan stroked his Master’s face for the last time.
Well, the only time he ever stroked his Master’s face. Qui-Gon had never encouraged cuddling during their apprenticeship.
He laughs, and sniffs, and Qui-Gon considerately does not notice that he wipes off a tear against the broad shoulder so conveniently in reach.
Tahl watches them both with her own familiar smile gently curving her lips.
Something about her attention feels different, though, and it’s only when she raises an eyebrow at him that he realises what it is. Tahl can see him.
She is looking at him hug Qui-Gon and she can see him. His figure, his form, his colour.
“How?” he asks again.
“I taught you how to manifest,” Qui-Gon says, “Surely you can see how to build on the basic training?”
Obi-Wan has even missed the high-handed lecturing.
“Not yet, Master,” he says ironically.
And Qui-Gon has the grace to grin back at him, fond and understanding in equal measures.
“We can all manifest as we see ourselves,” Qui-Gon tells him, “For some it is how they last saw themselves, for others, it may be from a time in their physical lives that they remember most fondly.”
A slight shadow passes over his master’s face.
“For others it can be more complicated,” he adds quietly.
Obi-Wan looks at Qui-Gon’s brown hair, the deep lines beside his eyes and the prominent veins in the backs of his hands.
“You look like you did when we first met,” he observes, “Though you smile more.”
Qui-Gon huffs a laugh.
Tahl’s green and gold eyes sparkle. “Show him your favourite trick, Qui,” she says.
And before Obi-Wan’s eyes is suddenly a child. A very tall child, perhaps, but a child.
He blinks, wonders whether he should panic, and then his Master grows up again.
“We manifest as we see ourselves,” Qui-Gon repeats smugly.
Bant’s giggle behind him reminds him that his three friends are still here, and still watching.
Tahl stands up. “Find a place to sit,” she says, “I’m going to make tea.”
“Let me, Master,” Bant volunteers, and Obi-Wan turns his head just to relish the contentment in his friend’s face.
“You may help,” Tahl agrees softly.
Garen shakes his head. “I’m sorry,” he apologises, “But I have to go. Obi-Wan, we will meet again soon, I hope.”
“I know we will,” Obi-Wan says softly, and claps him on the shoulder.
He watches until the door shuts, and then he looks at Reeft.
“The last time I saw him, he was so weak he could not talk,” Obi-Wan says, “And now he is the same as he was.”
Reeft’s drooping eyes gaze steadily back at him. “Obi-Wan, we’re none of us the same as we were. Who we are is not our appearance, it’s our natures and memories. How we think and feel. That does not change in the Force.”
Obi-Wan knows this.
Reeft leaves too.
And for just a moment there is silence again.
Obi-Wan feels the unexpected urge to call out, to call them back. He has been alone for so long and fear briefly stifles his joy with darkness.
“Wise words,” Qui-Gon says behind him.
And his shoulders drop in relief.
He turns around. And remembers.
There had been a handful of days on Tatooine when he had not been truly alone in the desert. When he had been visited by a form and a figure who knew him and cared for him, and who treated him like a Jedi but remembered that he was only a man.
His master looks at him with compassion and Obi-Wan simply lets himself absorb it. Soaks it in like a sponge.
“Come,” Qui-Gon says, “I know you have more questions than just Tahl’s eyesight.”
“I do,” he hears himself says, “I heard there was some talk of betting on my reactions?”
He lifts a hand to stroke his beard, and is surprised to find his chin bare. Surprised that his hair is still severely short, but no braid is tucked behind his right ear.
“Yes, Qui-Gon,” Bant says, and carries out a tray, “You won.”
“I know my Padawan’s nature,” Qui-Gon shrugs.
“It has been many years since I was your Padawan. And time can change our natures.”
Tahl returns with two more cups. “Are we to discuss our natures or have we remembered yet that the physical world is still at war?”
Qui-Gon reaches out his hand to accept a full cup. The delicate porcelain is almost swallowed up in his large palm.
Obi-Wan takes his own and breathes in the steam.
He closes his eyes and centres himself, listens to the rustle of cloth and limbs, the low hum of the air filters and the datapad running numbers on the desk.
He opens his eyes and squares his shoulders.
“Perhaps we can do both,” he says briskly, “The nature of things will help us win this war.”
Tahl nods, a small smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. “I agree. I believe our first order of business will be to contact Master Yoda. Luke will need to be trained.”
Bant puts down her cup. “I suggest we also try to connect with his sister.”
“Leia?” Obi-Wan considers this. “I never met her after the day of her birth. Do we know her abilities?”
Qui-Gon nods. “She is open to the will of the Force.” And then he leans forward. “I’m unsure if you knew this before your death, Obi-Wan, but Alderaan has fallen.”
Obi-Wan feels his fingers tighten reflexively on his cup. "Yes, I thought so."
Qui-Gon’s eyes are exactly as he remembers during dark times – intent and compassionate. “Tarkin gave the order to fire the Death Star,” he elaborates.
Tahl and Qui-Gon both shake their heads.
“He’d returned to his family,” Tahl says, “But Leia is alive. And she is with Luke.”
“With Luke?” he echoes in surprise.
And this time Qui-Gon smiles. “She was on the Death Star,” he says.
And Obi-Wan marvels at the way the Force works.
“Then all is not lost,” he replies.
Bant raises a hand to tap something on the datapad. “It never is,” she says without looking up, and she sounds like she did when he last saw her as a Master leading her own troops in the War, “Our time has come, Obi-Wan.”
He sips his tea again and lets the warmth settle into his being.
Even here, the mission must always come first.