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Pay it Forward

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The fresh smell of rain, the suffocating darkness of the Empire, bright flashes of blaster fire, the soft whimper of a child, and an enchanting melody...

Ben Kenobi’s eyes snapped open as he left his meditation in a rush. Taking in a deep breath, he re-orientated himself with his surroundings and was relieved to find that he was still sitting in front of his poorly made fire, deep within the Judland Wastes. For a fleeting moment he had been sure he was somewhere else. Somewhere rife with fear, and recent death.

It was just a vision, he told himself as he stared into a sky that was painted with stars; though, he knew that wasn’t quite right. It didn’t explain the bad feeling that roiled in the pits of his stomach, or the Force’s strange, insistent pull that threatened to sweep him off his feet. Or, why both of which had been slowly getting worse all day long.

The forty-five-year-old desert-dwelling former Jedi had hoped to meditate it all away, but the once comforting waves of the Force had offered no peace. Instead his prescience had flared to life, gifting him with vivid feelings and colorful images that came and went in quick flashes. It all but screamed that something, somewhere in the galaxy was very wrong, which he found rather disconcerting... Especially because the Force seemed to think that he was going to do something about it.

Ben swiped at the strands of his graying hair with his hand as his gaze focused on the flickering flames of the dying fire. Its licks of red and orange brought back memories of another time and place, and the reasons for his isolation. Those same reasons were why he willed away the silent tug at his soul. No matter what the Force thought, he wasn’t that man anymore. That man had died on Mustafar eight years ago and what was left was bitter and tired. Plus, he had a duty here on Tatooine, and he planned to see it through to the very end.

“Ignoring the call will only make it louder,” a warm voice informed him, the deep tones echoing eerily in the stillness of the night.

Ben let out a long sigh, and wondered if there was anywhere in the universe he could seek out for true solitude. For if it wasn't the Force, it was him, and if it wasn't him, it was a farmer or traveler or even his ward who had been led to Ben by the Force, or by him. And as much as he appreciated the company, he was one of last beings that Ben wanted to see that night. Especially because he had undoubtedly come to debate Ben's decisions.

“Perhaps Master Yoda would like the benefit of your infinite wisdom tonight,” he replied, as he gracefully rose to his feet. He didn’t bother to acknowledge his visitor but instead set about snuffing out the fire with a bucket of sand.

The newcomer chuckled, “I’m afraid he’s rather fed up with my wisdom. Though he was much more diplomatic in his dismissal than you just were.”

Ben sighed again. “I’m tired,” he stated, not bothering to explain why.

“That has never been an acceptable excuse for poor manners," the voice chided as its owner walked into Ben’s line of sight. The towering blue Force ghost of Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, his old master, looked upon him with compassion etched in his features.

“My apologies, Master. Perhaps if you waited for an invitation you would receive a warmer reception on your arrival,” he countered coolly.

“Ah- well, that might explain why Yoda never seems to appreciate my visits,” the ghost mused thoughtfully, a small smile playing on his lips.

Ben let out yet another sigh. “Qui-Gon, I understand what you are trying to do but--”

“You would rather I leave you to drown in your sorrow?” he cut in sadly, “and yet my leaving has only ever dragged you down further.”

Ben tugged at his cloak, wrapping it tightly around him as the remaining warmth of the dying fire fled. “My failings are my own. If I handled my attachments better perhaps Ana-- he would have learnt to handle his own and everything would be... different.”

Perhaps if I hadn’t loved him, or you, the galaxy wouldn’t have suffered so much, Ben thought.

“If Anakin’s or your attachments are to blame for what happened then the responsibility falls on my shoulders, not yours.” His old Master told him as he reached out to touch Ben’s cheek. “But I don’t want to have this argument again, Obi-Wan. That is not why I’m here.”

Ben turned away from the whisper of a touch and closed his eyes. It was like a cruel joke, after longing for the man's company and advice for years, when he was finally granted it, all he wanted was the man’s touch.

“Then, at least let us get inside. Force knows I need a cup of tea, if not something stronger... especially so if you are here to ask more of me,” Ben said as he eyed the ghost warily. He waited, perhaps out of nostalgia or long trained habit, for his Master to give a nod. Then, he packed up his things and began up the sandy track, towards the small hovel he called home.

It was not a long walk and once they were inside Ben went straight to the small kitchenette and set about making his tea. As he worked, he felt his Master’s eyes follow him. It wasn’t an uncomfortable feeling, in fact it was a reminder of better times, at least until his mind moved on from his apprenticeship to his knighting, to his apprentice. Then, he would sink deeper into his despair.

“I would make you one…” he muttered, shaking himself out of his thoughts as he poured boiling water into his teapot.

“But it’s rather pointless? It's alright Obi-Wan. I’m sorry if my staring has bothered you. I did always like watching you make tea,” Qui-Gon confessed.

There was an unusual shyness to his voice that made Ben glance over at him with a quirked eyebrow.

“Not long after our mission on Cirrus, I noticed that you alter the procedure for brewing each of the different types that you enjoy. From then on, every time you made tea for us I would attempt to guess which type you were making from the water to tea ratio, how long you left it to brew and whether you added milk or sugar,” the ghost admitted fondly. "It became a personal challenge of sorts."

Ben smiled. “Which explains why, whenever I asked you for your preference, you always said--”

“Surprise me,” the ghost finished, smiling back. “I had planned to ask you to teach me after you were knighted. I always enjoyed the cups you made far more than my own.”

Ben took a sip of his finished tea and sighed in relief as the relaxing warmth spread through him, calming his buzzing nerves and replacing the bad feeling with content. But it didn’t last, and soon not even the tea or cherished memories of his apprenticeship could distract him from the present. The pull of the Force was too strong.

“So, do enlighten me,” he started, as he settled into a lean against the counter, his cup nursed in his hands. “Why does the Force want me to race across the galaxy as though my life depends on it?”

Qui-Gon frowned, clearly unhappy about the subject changing so soon, and as soon as he began speaking Ben understood thr hesitation… and his own bad feeling.

“There’s a child, a girl--”

There was a crash as the teacup Ben was holding slipped from his fingers and hit the ground. Steaming tea and shattered pieces of ceramic flew across the floor.

“Blast it all…” Ben muttered, turning back to the kitchenette to grab the dishcloth, and then dropping down to one knee in order to mop up.

“Obi-Wan--”

Please, just… don’t!” he begged. He stared at the broken cup with tears in his eyes, wishing he could get his hands to still, wishing he could get in a breath.

Ben closed his eyes and forced himself to focus on his breathing. As he slowly inhaled and exhaled he let go of as much of the emotion as possible. It was almost impossible to function with the sadness he carried in his heart. Especially, when it rose up from the depths in which he had buried it.

“I can’t train another Master. Please don’t ask me to... I-- Kriff it all! No wonder you didn't want me!” he cried, suddenly truly understanding the reasons for their mess of a beginning.

“I didn’t,” the ghost agreed, “but you helped me heal, dear one.”

“Be that as it may, Xanatos was not quite in the same league as An- Ana-kin…” he said, and upon realizing his mistake he held up his hand before his guest could argue the point. “I don’t mean it hurt any less, just that when Anakin fell he took every- the Temp-le with him,” he explained, having to force out the words. “The Force may have me guide young Luke one day, which I will do out of... for his Father... but I will not take another Padawan.”

The ghost nodded quietly, his face revealing his own heartbreak at seeing the younger, living, man in such as state. “I understand Obi-Wan,” he whispered, moving closer but seeming to know instinctively that an echo of a touch would not help right now.

“But?” Ben snapped as he stood up and moved to put the pieces of the broken cup in the garbage.

“The only ‘but’ is that you should not be torturing yourself over the actions of another. Anakin was no longer a child when he chose his path, and even if mistakes were made… the burden of his choices are not yours to bear. This selfish self-imposed penance is ridiculo--”

“Selfish!” Ben interrupted, suddenly furious. “If I had inclination to be selfish, Qui-Gon, then I would have thrown myself into that lava to burn beside Anakin! And now! Now! I could hardly be considered indulgent. I live in the middle of the desert and spend my days watching over the child of a man who all but destroyed me, and looking after the strays that the Force, or you, wish to bring to me. Perhaps if I had solitude, or peace… or even sleep, maybe then this would be selfish.” He closed his eyes, his sudden anger shifting aside so that infinite sadness could take its place. “And what good am I to the galaxy really, Qui-Gon. I helped create the weapon that destroyed it and I wasn't strong enough to stop it when I had the chance. Now, I would only be putting it at further risk. It- he- Anakin- Vader would destroy systems to take my life... I don’t think I can handle any more deaths on my shoulders…”

“They would not be your burden to bear," Qui-Gon told him, sagely.

“After what I did? I can hardly lay the blame of his anger for me and the resulting actions on anyone else... I only wish he understood that...” he trailed off as he dropped into one of the chairs and placed his head in his hands.

“That taking your life would be a mercy,” Qui-Gon finished gently.

“It would be a gift,” he muttered. “And if that doesn't make me an unsuitable candidate to care for another child then I don't know what does.”

“Then don’t.”

“What?” Ben said, raising his head to look at the ghost, clearly surprised.

“Don't care for her. Rescue her, and find her somewhere safe where she can learn and grow. She is Force sensitive but not significantly so… her future will remain intact regardless of whether she is trained as a Jedi, so long as someone finds her.”

Ben let out a small sigh. His old Master was making it sound simple and that meant it would probably be anything but. And yet, even with that knowledge, he couldn't help but give in to his curiosity. “Alright, I'll bite, who is she? Why her? Why now?” he asked.

A small smile made its way onto his old Master's lips and his eyes twinkled. “Her name is Jyn. She was hidden from the Empire, and is waiting to be found… but the man her family put their faith in is no longer coming. If no one goes to her, she will die Obi-Wan, and the lighter paths of the future will fade,” Qui-Gon replied cryptically.  

The ghost's obscurity was not unusual, but that made it no less frustrating. Though, Ben did understand one point that his old Master was trying to make. “She’s a shatterpoint?” he guessed, his hand now absently stroking his beard.

“A large one, yes. Without her there is a chance that the path that Luke is destined to walk will disappear," Qui-Gon replied.

Ben suddenly looked pained as his thoughts returned to the boy who shone brighter in the Force than the twin suns did over Tatooine. “And what of young Luke. Who will look out for him in my absence?”

“I will remain to watch over him, and you can warn the Lars'. Though I cannot imagine Vader would pay much mind to a boy on a backwater planet if he suddenly receives reports of his old Master popping up across the galaxy.”

Ben closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “So long as he doesn't find that this was where I was hiding.” He dropped his hands into his lap, feeling lost. Why did it have to be him? Surely he had done enough. Surely there was someone better. “I don't like this Qui-Gon. There must be someone else. Yoda and I were not the only ones to survive…”

“The others are already walking the paths the Force has laid out for them,” Qui-Gon replied.

Ben took in a sharp breath and closed his eyes. The words weren't said to cause pain, but they stung none-the-less. He was already on a path too. One that he had believed was the will of the Force… but perhaps it was simply him trying desperately to make amends for what he did to Anakin. Maybe he had become selfish. Or, perhaps, it was just a matter of not having the ability to care anymore. Caring had only ever led him to heartbreak, and he wasn't sure that he could live with any more sadness. There was already so much.

“If you will not treat this as an opportunity to move forward Obi-Wan then see it as your reparations to a galaxy lost,” the ghost sighed as he looked upon him with mirrored sadness.

“I want none of this.” Ben said honestly, his voice thick with sorrow and defeat.

“I know, dear one, I know.”