Rating: G (for major mush)
Archive: Telly's Site, anyone else please just ask.
Feedback: Always welcomed, Siobhancl2@aol.com
Timeframe: This story takes place when Obi-Wan is about 20 years old.
Summary: Obi-Wan deals with the emotional effects of killing and Qui-Gon must help him work through it.
Disclaimer: All of these characters belong to George Lucas. I am just borrowing them for a little while and I promise to return them unharmed. No money is being made, only lots of fun!
Notes: All conversations bracketed by // are the Jedi talking through their bond. Many thanks to Katie for the great idea of a non-torture story, we thought the poor boy needed a break.
* * * * * * * * * *
The slight breeze was cool as it rifled through his hair catching in the folds of his tunic, gently pulling against him. Obi-Wan Kenobi sighed as he leaned against the balustrade that penned in the small garden outback of the apartment that he shared with his Master Qui-Gon Jinn. The short yard overlooked a grassy slope below that framed one of the many well kept garden areas open to the temple occupants. Their small little piece of paradise overhung with the ancient valla tree did not soothe the young Jedi’s spirit this day as it usually did.
He had been released from the Healers Wing two days ago. The injuries he had sustained while on the lower levels of Coruscant were healing nicely but the poisons in his system had left him drained and weakened and the ache in his soul left him vulnerable and lost. He hadn’t talked to his master about the events that had happened while he was lost below, he had simply locked them away deep inside and now like the poison still working its way out of his system they were surfacing again; unbidden, unwanted and overwhelming. Every time he closed his eyes he saw the dead swoop riders in his mind, saw the fiery crash and heard the anguished hate-filled words of the young boy…“That was my brother.” They echoed in his dreams and haunted his waking hours. No amount of meditation had helped and he couldn’t quite bring himself to share his thoughts with his Master. Not yet, not just yet.
Qui-Gon leaned in the doorway at the threshold to the garden watching his Padawan. He knew the boy was suffering but he didn’t want to rush him. When Obi-Wan was ready to talk he would talk, he knew from past experiences that pushing him would only prolong the inevitable and so he waited. The Jedi Master tested their force bond, though it was opened, Obi-Wan had still shielded his innermost feelings. The shields were not strong, Qui-Gon could have easily gotten past them, but rather they were a simple request not to ask quite yet.
It had been a long week by the young man’s side as the healers had worked with the padawan; the poison from the spider attack was not easily eradicated. Obi-Wan had quickly gotten worse and had sustained a high fever for several days, the infection weakening him considerably. Only twice had Qui-Gon allowed himself to be forced from his padawan’s side and it had taken both Master Yoda and Mace to coerce him to leave long enough to shower and relax for an hour or two before he resumed his vigil. He wondered absently if the healers had been too quick to release the youth, but he had been just as eager to get Obi-Wan home, as the young man had been to leave.
The smaller Jedi breathed in deeply and with a sigh let his head fall down onto his arms crossed atop the smooth stone railing. Qui-Gon started, the weariness flowing from the student through their bond was too much and he had determined to end it when a hand clamped down on his shoulder stopping his forward movement.
Startled the tall Jedi turned quickly only to be met with the smiling face of his friend, Mace Windu.
“Mace”, Qui-Gon breathed the word out quietly, “you scared me half to death. I never heard you.” He glanced back into the apartment to the now open exterior door, “Did you just let yourself in?”
Mace laughed, “Yeah. But I did knock!” The skepticism in the other face was priceless and under any other circumstances he would have goaded his friend on. “No Jinn, really I did. Really.” His answer was soft and quiet as he looked out onto the garden scene and the hurting apprentice that had recaptured the Master's attention. “How is he?”
“Not good.” Blue worried eyes turned back to gaze into the dark brown ones beside him, “He’s tired and worn out and he won’t talk to me about what happened. I know he’s hurting. He’s just not healing well Mace. I’m worried about him.”
Mace nodded and glanced back out at the youth, “Qui-Gon, I’m sorry but the Council is waiting. We still have a few more questions to answer about our little escapade.”
Qui-Gon rounded on his friend pushing him back into the interior of the dwelling out of the hearing range of the young Jedi. His look was fierce and intense and at once Mace knew he had a fight on his hands.
“I am not going back there again today.” He shoved a finger hard against the dark Jedi’s chest. “I have told them everything. That boy…,” he pointed sharply with his hand behind him to the back door, “…that boy is hurting and I am not going to go and debate my actions to twelve grown adults who can make up their minds without me. No Mace, I’m not going back today.”
His friend didn’t respond.
“Let them decide what they want to do on their own!” The tall Master stomped off into the kitchen quietly talking to himself, “I just need sometime alone with him that’s all.”
Mace watched him move away and sighed. He had known he was walking into a fight, he just hadn’t known how bad it would be. He looked between the kitchen and the garden and made up his mind. Walking over to the comm unit he palmed the switch and made a quiet request of the computer operator.
“What are you doing?” Jinn walked up behind him.
“Arranging for some time away for the two of you.” He turned his attention back to the screen in front of him as the image of an elderly man in a white laboratory overcoat appeared on the display.
“Mace? Is that you?” The gentleman, squinting, adjusted his glasses and leaned in closer to the screen on his side of the device.
“Yeah Tormin. How are you doing today?”
“Well we have recirculation problems on the second level and Master Ploon brought one of his tarses down here with a nasty case of the….”
“Tormin. Tormin!” Mace interrupted the man, cutting him off mid-sentence, “I want to collect on that favor you owe me.”
“Hmmm… I knew this day would come.” The elderly man smiled, “And what can I get you?”
“Well you guys are closed today right?”
“Who is that you are talking to?” Qui-Gon moved in closer to the comm unit trying to look over his friends shoulder. Mace pushed him back out of the way. “This is my house.”
“Will you be quiet?” The dark man turned on the Jedi and silenced him.
“Yes, yes we’re closed today. What of it?” Mace glanced back at the display.
“Good. I have a friend who has a young Padawan that is in need of your marine services if you know what I mean.”
“Marine services? Mace what are you getting us into?” Qui-Gon moved back closer again. This time his friend only held up his hand and continued.
“I see.” The line went silent as the man on the display began referring to something off screen.
“Mace?” Jinn whispered in his ear.
“Yes, yes I think that can be arranged. Send them on down now and we’ll set up the room. Besides those darn creatures could use some exercise!” The smile creased the elder man’s eyes as he gazed back through link.
“You got it, thanks Tormin. We’re even.” Mace cut the link and turned back to look at his friend.
“We are not going back to the healers Mace.”
“No not the healers,” he couldn’t help the smile that broke across his face as he watched the confusion in his friends eyes, “well not the ones you are used to anyway.”
Mace sat down in the over-stuffed chair next to the comm and waited while Qui-Gon seated himself across from him on the couch.
“Have you ever been to the underground zoo?”
The Jedi Master nodded his head, confused.
“Well they just opened a marine wing down there. The whole thing is a simulation of a beach on TriferusIV in the Golon Sector. You can’t even tell you are underground, I’m not kidding you, it’s amazing!” Qui-Gon nodded encouraging him to finish. “Anyway they have a small dolphin pod there, only three or four dolphins I think.”
“Yeah big fish.”
Again the confused look, “Mace what are you getting at? You want us to go visit big fish?”
“Okay well they really aren’t fish, they are mammals but they look like fish. Anyway let me finish will you!” His frustration was mounting as his friend again tried to interrupt. “But I have heard that they know when people are hurting and yes they do help. I bet if you took Obi-Wan down there, they could help draw him out.”
“I don’t think so but still. I have heard it works; look it’s worth a try! And I’ll go take care of the council. Even if it doesn’t help, Tormin told me that the beach area alone is worth seeing. Think of it as a mini-vacation, you’ll have the wing and the beach all to yourselves. Torm’s setting it up right now for you, just try it okay?”
A wave of despair washed through the Jedi Master as he was about to decline. He stood up quickly and looked out into the garden to where his Padawan still stood unmoving. The emotions had belonged to the young man but there was no outward sign of them that the teacher could see.
“You’re right. It can’t hurt and I can’t get to him on my own.” He looked back down to his friend seated beside him and smiled. “Do you know I have never taken him to the zoo?”
“You haven’t?” Standing to his feet Mace feigned shock, “What kind of Master are you?”
His friend cuffed him lightly on the arm, “Get out of here, I have a Padawan to see to.”
The other willingly obliged heading for the door. Before he stepped out a soft voice caught him and turned him back, “Thank you my friend…for everything.”
“You’re welcome Jinn.” He smiled devilishly back at the Jedi Master as he stepped into the exterior hallway, “Now you owe me!”
Qui-Gon moved back towards the garden area, walking quietly up behind Obi-Wan. The young man did not hear his soft approach and tensed slightly as his Master laid a large hand against his back.
The apprentice quickly wiped teary eyes on the sleeves of his tunic and turned slowly to face the older Jedi.
“I’m sorry Master I did not hear you.”
Qui-Gon reached up gently and touched Obi-Wan’s tear-stained cheek wiping away a glistening drop that his padawan had missed. The young man dropped his gaze and searched the ground at his feet.
“I’m fine.” The answer was too clipped and too quick.
“No young one you are not, but you will be.” He dropped his hand down to the young man's shoulder and squeezed it tenderly. “I want you to go collect your things and get your robe, we are going somewhere.”
Fear shadowed the sea-green eyes searching his and the smaller Jedi tensed under his hand, “No, not the healers master, not again. I am fine really. I promise.”
Smiling softly Qui-Gon shook his head, “No not the healers Obi-Wan. I think you have been there quite enough lately. We are going to the zoo.” The same confused look that he had worn earlier stared back at him from his apprentices face, “Now no more questions, quickly get ready, we need to leave.” He pushed the young man towards the apartment and followed him back into their quarters.
* * * * * * * * *
“Master I don’t understand, I really don’t feel like going out. And why the zoo?”
“I know you don’t Padawan, but I think this will be good for both of us.” Qui-Gon walked beside the young man, his arm thrown around the youth's strong shoulders guiding him through the traffic on the upper level walk ways as they made their way to the nearest lift tube.
“Mace says they have dolphins there.”
“Dolphins?” The student looked up at the teacher in confusion, his face scrunched up in bewilderment, “And so?”
The Jedi Master tried not to laugh, “Yes they are big fish…”
“Fish. Great, you want me to go visit fish and it will make me feel better.” The sarcasm in his voice and disbelief in his eyes caused the Master to laugh out loud. “Well I am glad you think it’s funny.”
The apprentice stopped walking and pulled away from the taller man. Qui-Gon immediately sobered and stared into the haunted tired eyes of the young man. He placed one large hand at the base of the young mans neck and pulled him back in close.
“Listen to me young one. You don’t have to talk to anyone until you are ready. I am not trying to force you into anything. I *need* this. I need this time away with you somewhere quiet. This is for me as much as it is for you. We have both been through a lot, you more than I. Lets just get away for the day and relax, the change of scenery will do us both good.”
The young man watched him for a few seconds weighing his words. With a sigh he dropped his eyes.
“I am sorry Master.” The words were soft and whispered. Qui-Gon moved closer and wrapped his arm back around the young Jedi’s shoulders and pulled him in tight. “I didn’t mean to be testy with you.”
“Its alright Padawan. You’ve got a lot on your mind, I understand.” Obi-Wan nodded and looked up at him with a small guilty smile, “Shall we go then?”
“Yes, lets go.” His smile broadened as they walked into the lift tube and began the descent.
“Well now this feels familiar.” The sarcastic joke from the youth caused the Master to smile.
“That’s not funny Padawan.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The underground zoo, located two levels down was carved into a granite cliff that had long since been buried under the multi-level buildings that covered Coruscant. The lift let the two Jedi off directly at the opening of the zoo, gates, huge foot thick metal blast shields that had been implemented as doors years ago, now held intricate pictures of animals from all over the galaxy etched into their bronze faces.
The doors were locked tightly shut and the mechanism indicators blinked red. The zoo was closed.
“Master the zoo is closed.”
“Yes Padawan, but Mace made special arrangements for us.” Qui-Gon stepped towards the shield doors. As he neared them, lights came on in the small rock foyer they stood in and a disembodied voice addressed them.
“Hello. Do you have business with the zoo today?” The Jedi Master recognized the voice of the elder Tormin from the discussion his friend had had with him earlier.
“Yes. Mr. Tormin? We are friends of Mace Windu, he told us you would be expecting us.”
“Ah, yes, come in, come in!” The huge metal doors swung ponderously in, “And please just call me Tormin. I will join you momentarily”
The Jedi entered the cool cavern walkway on the other side of the doors. They could hear the sounds of creatures farther back in the interior calling and chattering to one another. Rock orchids and foliage grew on the sides of the passageway and huge creeping vines covered the ceilings and edged into the unoccupied places, their large flowers hanging in various shades of blues and whites from the tips of feelers.
Obi-Wan stared in awe at the foliage around them. The floor of the cave was smooth and polished while the walls and ceiling were rough, jagged, as if they had just been cut yesterday, if not for the plants and the lighting he would have been fooled. A small elderly man stepped quickly from a recessed hidden doorway to the young Jedi’s right, his nose buried in a report he was hurriedly scanning.
Obi-Wan started and stepped back to avoid colliding with the man who simply readjusted his glasses and stared hard at the youth. The apprentice uncomfortable with the scrutiny looked to his Master who was watching the odd interchange.
“Yes you are the young one that Mace spoke of.” He brought a wrinkled small hand up pointing at the student, “Dark circles under your eyes. Have you been sick for a while?”
“Well….yes…but,” confused Obi-Wan stammered, the comment taking him by surprise. “But I am better now.”
“Of course you are.” Stuffing his report into an oversized pocket in his lab coat he directed his attention to Qui-Gon and motioned for them to follow him. He led them away from the main area of the public part of the zoo and ushered them into a service passage, the doorway built into the wall, was concealed, disappearing seamlessly into the rocky tunnel. If one did not know the exact placement of it, the entry would be easily overlooked.
“We have prepared the marine wing for you. I believe you’ll find it to your liking. The temperatures and climate control have all been set to accommodate humans and we turned the radiant heaters built into the floor of the cave a little higher when we heard you were bringing someone who has been ill for a bit. The warm sands can do wonders to overly tired bodies.” He turned and glanced back at the youth trailing behind them, inspecting him over the rim of his glasses with sharp bright eyes. “You are welcome to swim in the pool. Its three feet deep near the beach but there is sharp drop to simulate a coastal shelf, its thirty feet deep at the lowest level. At this time we only three dolphins. They love to play and we can never exercise them enough, so you’d be doing us a favor.
He stopped walking and turned back to Obi-Wan who almost ran over the zoo administrator in his haste to keep up with them.
“Young man, you may swim with them all you want. They will play with you until you are tired, you don’t have to be afraid of them.” He reached out and grabbed the young Jedi’s wounded wrist turning it over in his hands and tracing the scars left in the soft flesh. “Hmmm, they are going to enjoy you a lot I think. They can sense things about people did you know that?”
Obi-Wan gently removed his hand from the elderly mans grasp and looked back into huge wise eyes that seemed to be searching his own. “I think you will find today to be …….therapeutic.” An odd cryptic smile split the wrinkled face and the youth couldn’t help reflecting it back.
“But”, and the small man began walking swiftly turning down a length of passage on their left and descending a constricted winding stair case, “I must caution you to keep your eyes on your …son? Student?”
“Student.” Qui-Gon corrected with a small laugh.
“Student then. The dolphins can get rambunctious when they get a mind to.” He warned. “For the most part they are careful, but one never knows.”
“Thank you Tormin. We appreciate your hospitality. We will be careful, and I will keep an eye on my apprentice.” Qui-Gon stepped back smiling at the young man who had become increasingly more tense as they descended into the lower wing. Placing a hand on his back he ushered him through the doors into the lobby of the marine wing.
When they crossed the threshold they could hear the elderly Tormin talking to them as he turned back and ascended the stairs, his voice floating back down the passageway, “This is the private area of the wing, used for special gatherings or one on one with the dolphins when people need extra attention, like yourselves. The zoo is closed today so you will be uninterrupted. Let yourselves out when you are through I am sure you know the way.”
Obi-Wan was looking back up the twisting stairs watching the administrator retreat. “What an odd man. Did you see the way he looked at me?” He glanced back at Qui-Gon but the Master wasn’t paying any attention. He was standing at the doors staring into the room they were to enter; the entryway, blocked by an outcropping of rocks, was not visible to the young man.
“Master? Are you sure this is a good idea?” The student was tired and his body was aching from the short walk to the zoo. The uncertainty of the whole situation had caused his anxiety to grow and he wanted nothing more than to be home amidst the familiar.
“Padawan, you have to see this.” Not looking at his apprentice he reached his hand out to him beckoning him to come. When the youth did not move Qui-Gon glanced back into the landing near the stairs. The young Jedi was pale in the soft artificial illumination and it was obvious that he was tired and hesitant. The Jedi master stepped away from the glass doors and they slipped silently shut behind him. With a small smile he walked back the few steps to his reluctant apprentice.
“At least have a look for me. If you still want to leave after you have seen the room, then I promise we will go.”
Obi-Wan nodded and walked toward his Master, his movement triggered the transparent doors and they slid apart at his approach. The sight before him caught his breath and without a second thought he walked awestruck into the cavernous room of the beach simulation.
The ground beneath his feet was covered with sand that shifted and caved beneath his steps. The air was cool and heavy; a slight breeze, thick with the smells of the ocean, ruffled his hair. The large cavern swept back out of sight and the ceiling was lost in the glare of a simulated mid-day sun. Soft cries of unseen birds floated through the room, which no longer seemed closed or limited. The receiving area of the beach was wide, framed on either side by rocky outcroppings that dropped into the clear blue green water lapping in ceaseless waves on the sandy shore, creating the effect of a private sheltered beach. A wind worn log, hollowed out long ago lay turned to the false bay.
Qui-Gon moved past the young Jedi into the room, removing his robe he placed the soft cloth on the ground draping it over the driftwood and sat down leaning back against the wooden support. Crossing his arms behind his head he stretched on the sandy floor and crossed one booted foot over the other. Glancing back at Obi-Wan he watched as the young man removed his boots sinking his feet deep into the warm sand, shuffling them back and forth until they disappeared surrounded entirely by the fine grains up to his ankles, a satisfied look on his face.
“Padawan?” He laughed as the young Jedi caught his eyes a devious look on his face.
“The sand is so warm, it feels good on my feet.” He looked back down to his buried feet smiling. “Helps the ache.”
“Your feet ache?”
“Everything aches Master.”
“Then I want you to take it easy.”
“Then I think I’ll just bury myself in the sand and stay there. How’s that?” His eyes were bright and he laughed for the first time since he had been released from the healers’ hall.
“If you wish my Padawan. Tormin did say the room was set for human occupants and I’ll just bet the water would feel good on your tired muscles too.” He turned back to watch the waves letting their drift and pull hypnotize him into a sense of peace.
“Hmm… probably so.” Obi-Wan wrestled out of his robe and dropped it to the ground, unlatching his utility belt it joined the robe in a pile of clothes that was soon added to by the youth's tunic.
Reluctantly he pulled his feet up from their sandy captivity and walked to the edge of the water. Waves lapped gently at his feet covering them with foam before dragging the white fluff back out with them. The water was cool and refreshing. The deeper onto the sandy shelf he walked the more the pull and lull of the water he felt as it rose higher around his calves and thighs.
Even though he had been warned about the depth of the interior pool the crystal clear water made the bottom of the cave appear to be deceptively close. He continued walking deeper into the cave, splaying his fingers and playing them gently across the top of the water. When the shelf gave out beneath him, the Padawan was not prepared and plummeted into the depth of the interior pool.
Qui-Gon jumped to his feet and ran to the waters edge as his apprentice surfaced sputtering and wild eyed, gasping for air.
“Padawan are you alright?”
The young Jedi grabbed the lip of the shelf and pulled himself back onto the solid ground. He stood on the edge of the simulated continental shelf and peered back into the deeper water. Shaking the water out of his hair it fell about him in glittering drops as he turned to answer his master.
Before the words left his lips a silver head shot out of the water behind him chirping and whistling causing the young man to stumble back in surprise.
“That, young one must be a dolphin.” Qui-Gon laughed as he watched the apprentice gain his footing for the second time and cautiously move back to the creature that was excitedly talking to him.
The animal bobbed upright in the gentle swells its flippers and powerful tail balancing it perfectly as it curiously watched the human approaching it. Obi-Wan noticed two more shadows speeding through the depths in their direction. Within seconds two more silver faces were staring at him talking loudly back and forth to each other with whistles and clicks, their jaws set in such a way that they perpetually appeared to be smiling. He could hear the soft expulsion of air as they breathed through blowholes on the tops of their heads behind their eyes, sending up a soft misting of water every so often.
“Careful Padawan.” Qui-Gon watched as Obi-Wan leaned out and slowly extended his damaged hand to the creature nearest him. The animal sensing his intent rose out of the water and touched the tip of its pointed nose to his fingertips falling back into the sea gracefully. The other two crowded in trying to duplicate the touch reaching for his outstretched hand. Relaxing a bit Qui-Gon retreated back to his place on the beach and sank down onto the warm sand, keeping a watchful eye on the young man and his new friends.
Excitedly the dolphins began to increase their activity, ducking beneath the water and shooting up into the air a few feet from the edge of the shelf. Returning to the ledge and the padawan they would tease him into trying to touch them and then move back out of reach with a flip of their fins. Taking the hint the young man gathered the force to him and vaulted into the air somersaulting over the heads of the marine mammals and diving perfectly into the clear blue depths of the pool. The chatter of the three increased at the invitation and they dove straight down after the boy.
Within moments he was surrounded by the crush of three alien bodies as they twirled around him weightless in the buoyant water, circling his ascent brushing their sleek smooth bellies against the warmth of his own. He could still hear their clicks and whistles muted by the water that did not enable him to respond.
Reaching out he let his hands slide against the firm muscular sides of the animal closest to him, his fingers catching on the large dorsal fin. As if in response to a command the creature accelerated pulling him with it, the current of the water around him pressing him close against the side of the animal as it circled the pool at incredible speeds. His laughter resounded through the bond he had with his master as the exhilaration of the ride sheared away his sadness and the heaviness in his soul. The ache in his body was forgotten in the weightlessness of the water.
On the beach Qui-Gon smiled softly, closing his eyes and allowing the heat of the sand beneath him to lull him to sleep.
Obi-Wan surfaced with the dolphin at the far side of the pool. The animal holding him up above the water as they both breathed heavily. After only a few minutes he could feel the dolphin tense beneath his hand eager to play some more, but he wasn’t ready to submerge yet and he didn’t feel like swimming the length of the underground cave to reach the beach.
“Wait. Please.” he whispered breathlessly. The dolphins wet black eye nearest him rolled back to watch him carefully, knowingly, and he was amazed when the creature simply relaxed and floated next to him whistling softly, waiting. Its two mates surfaced not far away calling, begging. But the animal didn’t move calmly resisting the urge to return to the deeper water. Finally having caught his breath the young man simply nodded and the dolphin ducked back into the water guiding the Jedi back into the middle of the pool to join the others.
When they reached the other dolphins Obi-Wan released his grip on the animals fin and floated in the water suspended between the bottom and the surface watching them twist and twirl around each other. As one they turned to him and surrounded him, weaving their bodies in intricate patterns around his own. He slowly somersaulted in the water, the dolphins responding by looping through his own trajectory spinning and turning, brushing by him gently and shooting away quickly only to return and soundlessly tirelessly weave their hypnotic dance over and over again. The four of them surfacing and diving, swimming and dancing in the glittering depth of the cavern sea.
Finally having worn himself out completely, the padawan surfaced again. The shore was a bit away; he could see Qui-Gon sleeping against the log placed strategically on the beach. He knew he could swim the distance but he had tired himself out beyond his limit and his body was begging for rest. As he started to swim the small pod of dolphins surfaced around him, the breath and steam from their blowholes covering him in a fine warm mist. One of the animals pressed up underneath him encouraging him to take hold of its dorsal fin as they slowly swam together towards the shore. As if knowing the condition of their human friend, they did not dive this time and Obi-Wan was able to rest against the back of the animal as it towed him on the surface of the water through the waves to shore.
When they reached the rocky shelf he let go and slid up into the shallow water. The lighting in the cavern had changed as the simulation cycled through a day on the beachfront.
The dolphins sensing the need for the peace of the evening nuzzled him quietly and sped off to the back of the cavern. Obi-Wan wondered absently if it were feeding time as he lost track of them beneath the surf. His body ached again anew but his heart felt rather light compared to when he had first enter the beach room. Slowly he waded back to the sandy shore and silently collapsed atop his outspread robe letting the receding glow of light and the radiant heat beneath his body warm and dry him. Without waking his master he slipped into a light dreamless sleep.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
When Qui-Gon awoke he found his apprentice seated near him, sitting cross-legged on his own robe gazing off into the horizon of the back of the cavern. His eyes were unmoving, unfocused blinking slowly, his heart rate and breathing even and calm. His hair and skin shimmered slightly in the dimming light where grains of sand had stuck to him as he had dried.
The Jedi master touched him briefly through their bond, sensing his weakened shields and the sorrow within. With the mental constraints of his apprentice dropped slightly, he was able to tell that it had been the deaths of the men on the lower levels that had affected his padawan so adversely; of course, he should have known. Obi-Wan sensed his touch but did not withdraw; rather he simply relaxed, closing his eyes not daring to move.
The patterns of light on the waves caught the master’s attention and he let the silence grow thick between, comfortable in their companionship alone he would wait.
“I had no choice, I didn’t want to.” The words were soft and thick with emotion and they startled the older Jedi when they were spoken.
He didn’t respond not wanting to stop the youth, encouraging him with his silence. Sea-green eyes caught his momentarily before they dropped and he saw the war of emotions going on inside of them. Getting up from his resting place he laid his robe next to Obi-Wan’s and sat down next to the boy.
“They didn’t give me any choice.”
Artificial waves crashed softly against the rocky outcroppings creating a soothing sound in the stillness.
“It was his brother. And the other…”
The whispered cry of an avian species filtered through the room carried over the sounds of the surf.
“I told him we didn’t have to do it.” His left hand absently caught his wrist and gently rubbed the still healing scars the chain had left. “He wouldn’t listen.” He choked a sob back and looked out to the horizon, it seemed to go on forever even though he knew they were in a cave miles underground. “What if he’s alone now? I had to hurt him to make him stop. He was going to kill me.”
The soft simulated ocean breeze caught his short hair blowing it gently about his face.
“They knew I was I a Jedi…” the words trailed off into silence.
Qui-Gon caught the wayward strands of his hair tucking them back into his ponytail and sweeping them out of his face. He was watching the student carefully; this was what he had been waiting for. The tears that the young man had been trying so hard the past few days to hold back overwhelmed him as they streamed down his cheeks. Pulling his knees up to his chest he buried his face in his arms and let the sorrow over take him.
The Jedi Master gently laid his hand across the bare warm back of his padawan, moving slowly in soft circles, the fine grains of sand brushing away with his soothing touch.
“They knew what I was capable of, why did they push it?” His voice was muffled and rough.
Qui-Gon stilled his hand and shook his head. Scooting closer to the distraught young man he pulled him carefully but determinedly into his arms until Obi-Wan was resting against him the sobs still wracking his body as he tried to control his frustration and anger and grief.
“You don’t understand.” The apprentice tried weakly to pull away from his Master but the older Jedi resisted his attempts and he gave up sagging against the man, spent and worn out.
“I do understand.” Qui-Gon rested his chin on Obi-Wan’s head his words whispered into the soft spiky hair were warm and comforting and he began to rock them both gently as he continued to speak, “I do my young one, I do. I have been where you are and I know what you are feeling.”
He felt the young man in his arms relax a bit, his mental shields falling in response to the emotions that were radiating through their bond.
“I remember the first time I had to a kill a man. I must have been your age maybe a bit older. I was at a treaty signing with my master and an assassination attempt took place on the Senators who were attending. A large man, I can still see him clearly came at us from out of the crowd in the midst of the chaos that ensued. He rushed the platform we were on. There was no one to help me, I warned him but he wouldn’t stop. When he drew his blaster and I deflected the shot he became enraged. It was the first time I used my lightsaber against another living being and I will never forget it ever. I remember his eyes, the shock; I remember the last breath he took. I remember seeing him fall and feeling his life force leave him. I remember it all.”
“Yes.” He felt the soft whisper breathed against his forearm more than he heard it.
“I remember it all,” he repeated the words lost in memory, “And so will you my young padawan, for as long as you live.” He stroked the soft short hair as he spoke. "There are some memories we can never escape."
“I didn’t want to kill them.”
“Good.” The older Jedi pulled back and caught the apprentice’s chin in one hand tilting his head up till their eyes met. “Good, I am glad that you didn’t, and you never should. A Jedi should kill only as a last resort.”
“But was it the last resort? Did I use everything available to me to keep them alive?” Obi-Wan sat up in the circle of his arms and pushed back until he was staring straight at the other.
“Only you can tell me that. Did you padawan?”
The young Jedi looked back out across the bay watching the foam dance and shift on the sand as the tides of the pool pulled the water out in lapping waves.
“Why don’t you tell me what happened and let’s see if we cant figure it out together.” Obi-Wan turned back to his Master and nodded. With a small sigh of resignation he recounted the whole ordeal of finding the Wraiths lair and how he had escaped. Qui-Gon did not speak or interrupt during the explanation, simply nodding in encouragement as his Padawan told him what had happened. The tears threatened again as Obi-Wan finished and he closed his eyes hard turning his face into the ocean breeze and breathing in deeply.
They sat side by side for sometime letting the day and the information that had passed between them settle. The cavern lights had begun to dim simulating a brilliant sunset on the false horizon.
“What do you think?” Obi-Wan turned to gaze at Qui-Gon.
The master, eyes closed was facing the sea, sifting the force, reliving memories and sorting new ones. Slowly he turned and caught the Padawan’s questioning gaze.
“Do you think I did everything I could? Did I act in a manner becoming of a Jedi?” Almost afraid of the answer he swallowed hard, his eyes never leaving his Master’s.
“Yes Padawan. You did everything you could. I think you behaved very much in a manner becoming of a Jedi.” The smile that lit his eyes was echoed in the one of relief that spread across the young mans face. “You made a hard decision and I am proud of you. I am only sorry I was not there to help you. My master was with me when I was had to kill for the first time. He forced to me deal with it immediately and I think that helped. I am glad you finally opened up to me young one.”
“I am sorry it took so long Master.”
“Obi-Wan, you are your own person and I knew you would come to me in time. You can always tell me anything any Padawan, you know that.”
“Yes Master I do. But this,” Obi-Wan glanced back out to the receding light as tiny pinpricks of artificial stars lit the cavern ceiling and moonlight spilled across the water, “this helped a lot Master. Having you here was even better, thank you.”
Qui-Gon glanced back across the water, “Yes this has been nice. I am glad Mace thought of it.” He reached over and tousled the young mans hair, “Did you have fun with the dolphins?”
“Oh yes Master, they were wonderful.” Obi-Wan ducked out from under his Masters touch catching the large wrist in his own hand and smiling. “We should do this more often.” He flopped to the ground on his back sinking into the soft sand and gazed at the light patterns on the roof high above them.
“Hey, I think those are actually star constellations.” He began tracing patterns in the air with his finger, “Look Master, the Triferus System and over there isn’t that Solan's Chariot – those three there to the left, see?” He shifted closer to the older Jedi trying to show the other what he was seeing.
Qui-Gon lay down next to the young man, his head touching the apprentices as he tried to align his gaze with the students. “Yes Obi-Wan I think you are right and over there, isn’t that the Trifallion constellation?” He pointed across the young mans line of vision redirecting his gaze to the right of their position.
“I remember going there with you.” The small Jedi whispered into the artificial night. “Now *that* was a fun assignment. There are so many places we could go aren’t there?
“I say we visit them all young one”, He turned his head slightly to catch Obi-Wan’s eyes, “together. What do you think?”
The smile on the face of the one was reflected in the eyes of the other. “Yes Master. Together. I would like that very much.”