It wasn’t helping he had known for some time that it wasn’t. But it made him feel like he was at least doing something. He dipped the warm cloth into the basin of water at his elbow and leaned over the bed his apprentice lay on, gently replacing the cool square of cloth on the young mans feverish forehead. The procedure had become automatic over the past 24 hours since his Padawan had become ill. The Healers said he had been poisoned. Mercifully they had allowed him to stay in the isolation wing with Obi-Wan without a fight this time. But the afforded luxury did not give him any consolation. If the young man were truly going to get well soon they would have had Mace or Yoda in here to drive him out by now. Few visitors had been allowed and those that had come were quiet and somber.
Qui-Gon Jinn searched his memory yet again for anything out of the ordinary that could have happened to his Padawan yesterday. His hand strayed to the boy’s face smoothing the sweat-drenched hair back and speaking softly to him as the youth moaned quietly caught in the grip of the poison that was attacking his system. His agitation ceased at the words and the touch and he shifted his head unconsciously toward his Master.
“Tell me young one, where did you pick this up?”
Yesterday had been a rather normal day. Qui-Gon had allowed Obi-Wan to sleep in late as they had no pressing duties to see to and had been given a day off by the Council. He and his apprentice had practiced katas in their own private practice room mid morning and eaten in for lunch, Qui-Gon had made Obi-Wans favorite hot sandwiches. Later in the evening they had attended the training exhibition exercises held after evening meal. It was a gathering of Padawans and Masters where the pairs would spar for points against other Master/Padawan teams. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon had been slated to participate and the student had been looking forward to it all week long.
It hadn’t been until their turn at saber practice that either had even noticed anything was wrong. They had been on the practice mat, Obi-Wan was sparring perfectly, blocking his Masters every advance. His Padawans footwork was graceful and quick, and he remembered how proud he had been of his student and the advancements he was making. That was when it had happened. Qui-Gon had spun and deflected Obi-Wans attack and he countered the swing and brought his lightsaber down to bear on the boy when his apprentice faltered. A wave of dizziness had unbalanced the younger Jedi and he had collapsed on the mat. Qui-Gon immediately deactivated his lightsaber and was at the young mans side. Obi-Wan holding his head in his hands complained of a pain at the base of his skull and blacked out. The older Jedi quickly picking up his student had rushed him to the healers’ wing and they had been here ever since.
His Padawan had been drifting in and out of consciousness, his lucid moments less and less frequent. He sighed in frustration as Obi-Wan tossed restlessly on the medical bed, shivering from the affects of the poison at is proceeded to ravage his body. From what the healers could tell the young Jedi had been poisoned sometime yesterday afternoon perhaps even late in the day before the sparring competition. The poison had been fast acting and was relatively illusive for the team of specialists trying to identify it. It seemed to attack the midichlorians in the boys system, consuming them and it was multiplying.
Qui-Gon took his Padawan’s hand in his own and held it to his chest; leaning in over the distressed youth he laid his other hand atop Obi-Wans head.
“Obi-Wan, it’s alright. Listen to me, relax, I have you. You will be okay.”
Glassy sea green eyes opened slightly unfocused and dull, they locked on the older Jedi. “I don’t feel so good Master.” The slurred soft words begged for release.
“I know Padawan. The healers are working on finding an antidote for you. I’m sorry young one.”
“Its okay…not your fault. Can’t hold out much longer Master…. hurts too much.”
“Shhhh…don’t speak. Save your energy Obi-Wan. I promise you it will be okay.” His large hand moved down over the young mans eyes, closing them so they would not see the tears in his own. Had he just lied? Maybe this time it wouldn’t be all right, he could only hope they would find a cure to stop the advance of the poison and soon. He felt the young Jedi relax beneath his hand as consciousness slipped away from him again.
Stretching tired, knotted muscles he stood beside the bed and watched the sleeping youth. There had to be something he was missing, he needed to remember.
A quiet tap at the door caught his attention and he turned as Healer Collran and Mace Windu silently entered. With a nod the healer moved passed him and began checking the monitors over Obi-Wan’s bed, quietly moving around the room making minor adjustments in the medications that were keeping his apprentice alive.
Mace grabbed Qui-Gon’s arm and pulled him gently out with him to the small waiting lobby outside the room, shutting the door behind them for privacy.
“Mace what is it? What have you found?”
“We searched the Temple Qui-Gon and found nothing but we think we might have turned something up in your apartment.” Mace stopped his questioning and pressed him into an overstuffed chair near the door. Seating himself opposite his friend he continued, “Did Obi-Wan spill something on himself the night of the exercises?”
Qui-Gon watched his friend a frown deepening the lines of exhaustion around his eyes as he searched his memory of the previous night. With a sigh he dropped his head into his hands.
“Was it only yesterday? It seems like such a long time ago Mace.”
“I know. But it’s important you remember. We found Obi-Wan’s tunic he was wearing. There was a strange spot on it like a water stain so on a hunch I took it to the lab. Its definitely not a liquid compound in fact they think it was the carrier for the poison in Obi-Wan’s system. Its possible he absorbed it through his skin.”
The Jedi Master’s head shot up, his eyes hard and cold as he locked eyes with the other man.
“You’re telling me he was poisoned on purpose? This wasn’t an accidental ingestion of something?”
“No we don’t think it was anymore. That’s why I need to know if anyone gave him something to drink or spilled anything on him.”
Qui-Gon stood and began pacing the small area, his eyes darting to the observation window, watching his Padawan as the healer worked with the sick student. He forced his mind to concentrate playing and replaying the events of the day over and over again in his mind. How had Obi-Wan gotten poison spilled on him?
Spilled on him?
Catches of a conversation filtered into his tired memory and he recalled an incident right before the competition started he had been searching for his Padawan:
“Obi-Wan where have you been, we are up next?”
“Sorry Master I was coming out of the fresher and ran into a man. He could have been another master I forget the newer ones sometimes. He had a drink in his hand and it spilled on me, I ran back to the apartment to change quickly, I thought I had enough time.”
“That’s all right Padawan, you made it back in time, come our turn to compete is up let’s go.”
Stopping mid-step the Jedi Master pulled himself out of the memory and recounted the occurrence to dark Jedi.
“But he never told me who the other man was. We didn’t have time. It didn’t seem like it was anyone he knew.”
Mace stood, nodding. “I’ll check the Temple records to see if there were any arrivals or departures within the last week or so. It sounds like the man Obi-Wan ran into was the one who intentionally poisoned him. He could still be on the Temple grounds.”
His friend turned to leave just as an alarm sounded from within the room where the young Jedi was. The Master was running for the room when three of healer Collrans apprentices charged into the waiting area and pressed past the two men.
Mace entered the room after the others and stopped short. Qui-Gon had reached Obi-Wan’s side first, and was in the process of breathing for the student. He tipped the young mans head back opening his airway and breathed into the still body causing the students chest to rise and fall. Healer Collran was barking orders to his aides as they rushed machinery into the room that would keep the Padawan breathing and relieve Qui-Gon from the task. When the equipment was up and running the head healer gently but forcefully pushed the Jedi Master aside and went to work on the boy. With the older Jedi away from the youth the aides crowded around the bed to assist Collran as he hooked the dying young man up to the life support machine.
Qui-Gon walked dazedly towards his friend standing at the back of the room. His steps faltering and slow. Mace wrapped an arm around the tall Jedi and steered him out the door to the waiting room once again.
“He isn’t going to make it Mace.” The mans eyes were bright and red rimmed, “Is he?”
“We’ll find who did it and we’ll find the cure Qui-Gon.” The dark Jedi seated the other in the large chair once again. “Healer Collran is one of the best. He wont let him go.”
“Neither will I.” The statement was fierce and soft.
“I know.” Mace leaned back into view of the doorway and motioned to one of the aides inside. “I have to go Qui-Gon. I need to get back to the lab and tell them what you remembered.” A young blonde man stepped from the room, wearing the white smock of the healer trade. Mace nodded at the healer apprentice and knelt before his friend. “I’m going now but you call me if you need me. This man will get you whatever you need.” He looked back at the student, “Right?”
“Of course.” The healer placed his hand gently on the older Jedi and smiled softly into the upturned face.
Qui-Gon nodded his thanks and looked back to his friend, “Thank you Mace. Let me know what they find out.”
“I will.” He clasped his hand on the others shoulder and stood to go. “I promise.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“He’s incapable of responding to you now. It wont be long Qui-Gon.”
It wont be long.
It wont be long….
The words reverberated in his mind. Reported clinically and coldly they cut deeply into the Masters heart as he sat next to his Padawan, holding the young man’s hand in his own, his large thumb absently stroking the soft skin. He sniffed softly to himself his emotions out of control as he kept up a constant conversation with the still form beside him.
“I need to you to know young one that I don’t think I can handle it if you leave me. There is so much left unsaid, so many things I want to show you, teach you. I truly believe you will be one of the greatest Jedi ever. There are many things in the galaxy you should see, experience yet. There many things I wish I had said when you could hear me.”
He stopped as his voice choked into silence and the tears spilled once more down his cheeks sparkling brightly as they caught in his beard. Behind him the soft hum of electrical equipment, machinery that kept his Padawan alive, created an odd soothing sound.
“I need you to stay with me Obi-Wan. Do you hear me?”
He didn’t bother trying to reach the boy through their bond it had collapsed hours ago as the midichlorians in the young mans system were demolished by the poison.
Shakily he placed one large hand against the student’s chest, feeling the artificial rise and fall of breath as air was compressed into the unresponsive body. The beat beneath his fingers was erratic and shallow.
“Please…” And the sobs stole his words away again.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It was becoming more difficult to hold on now. It hurt to try to keep connected to the force and when their bond had collapsed the silence in its wake had crushed the weakened Padawan. The pain was intensified and the darkness beneath him beckoned. It promised relief, release, peace and most of all rest. Briefly he attempted touching his Master through the force one last time, again he was met with the dark emptiness. He could barely feel his Master in the force and he knew the larger Jedi was next to him but communication was beyond him. His concentration faltered and he could feel his strength slipping, his grasp on the force was eroding. He wasn’t going to make it this time but the realization did not cause him to panic instead he resigned himself to it and waited for the force to call. The darkness had been beckoning him and somehow he knew he was going to have to obey.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The room was still, his Master asleep beside him. There was no day or night in this place and time was warped by the darkness swallowing him.
At last he could relax…
It was time and he knew it. He could feel it; the force pulled him in, called to him. He grasped the pain and dove into the center of the dark maelstrom. Only in surrender could he find peace.
Healer Collran rushed into the room followed closely by his assistants. They pulled Qui-Gon from the boy and forced him from the room. On the wall the monitor behind Obi-Wans head was screaming and the display ran one single line repeatedly across the face of it. As the youth’s bodily functions went off line one by one more alarms joined the first adding to the confusion and the chaos surrounding the dying apprentice.
It was as if all their attempts to save the young man were blocked. Nothing worked. The stimulants pumped into his system went unnoticed, the energy forced into him by the machines and the Jedi themselves seemed to be absorbed into the darkness that Obi-Wan had fled to. Undaunted they continued to attempt to revive him. Undeterred the apprentice delved deeper into the darkness and surrendered his body to the force. He shut out the cries and shunted the power back into the weave of the fabric of light around him and with a heart wrenching decision he closed himself off and rested at last.
Healer Collran touched the assistant closest to him, stilling the frantic aide as he tried to get the young Jedi’s heart to respond.
“He’s gone. Let him go. He’s with the force now.” Silence hung thick in the air as the words set in.
Slowly the aide stepped back and hung his head in defeat. The loss crept through the room, touching them all. Collran moved away and headed towards the door that held back the one person who would not deal with this loss very well. His harsh words to the Jedi Master echoed in his mind, he had never thought he would loose the young patient; he simply hadn’t let the possibility touch his thoughts. And yet now… With a sigh he opened the door and stepped out into the small waiting lobby.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
They hadn’t let him in. They had forced him out and restrained him from being near his Padawan. He wasn’t allowed to be there when Obi-Wan left, he had felt him leave, had called to him but wasn’t able to reach him.
It had taken all the strength Mace had to keep Qui-Gon from re-entering Obi-Wan’s room when the healers were working on him. Now as they filed slowly out he gently released the pressure he had kept up on his friend, letting him move out of the iron grip of his arms. He was almost afraid to let go of him as watch the tall Jedi slump forward defeated. Healer Collran had threatened the Master himself if he didn’t leave and Mace hadn’t wanted to see the teacher restrained the way the doctor had in mind.
Qui-Gon avoided the eyes of the healers focusing his gaze on the carpeting near his feet, his face steeled and hard. He moved out of reach as Collran walked up to the two Jedi. The Master brushed roughly past the healer and entered the quiet still room that held his apprentice. He stopped just inside the chamber unable to move any farther into the interior.
The monitors and life support equipment had been turned off, the familiar hum of machinery stilled, gone. Like the life of his Padawan, slipped away. The boy was pale in the harsh lighting, so still. The blankets and coverings that had kept him warm were pushed down away from his bare chest, falling in soft cascades off the sides of the table and discarded in piles on the floor, far away from the cold body. His lips were parted slightly as if in sleep not death, the sight caused the Master’s heart to clench in his chest.
Qui-Gon moved slowly to the side of the bed. He gently reached down and pulled the blankets up over his Padawans chest. With trembling hands he caught Obi-Wan’s limp hand in his own bringing it up to lay it on the still boys chest. His breath was coming in ragged choking gasps now and the tightening in his throat threatened to close up the air way completely. The small grasp he had on his emotions was slowly eroding as he looked into the face of his Padawan. So still, so calm at peace at last. Tears splashed on the cheeks of his apprentice.
“No.” The word was soft tortured; he was surprised he had spoken at all, as he gently wiped the tear off of Obi-Wan. His hand stayed there, resting on the side of the young mans face as though willing the warmth to stay, the life to return, the eyes to open any minute.
He should have been here when Obi-Wan needed him the most. He should never have let them remove him. His sorrow turned to anger, mourning to self-hatred and he lashed out.
* * * * * * ** * * * *
Mace was talking to Healer Collran outside the small room when he heard the force thrown yell it ricocheted through the room caught by the force-dampening walls and reverberated in the small area of the waiting lobby. At the sound of crashing equipment the dark Jedi started and moved towards the door of Obi-Wan’s room.
Healer Collran caught him. “No. Let him be.” His words were sad but firm as he turned to watch the grieving Jedi Master through the small observation window. “He needs to let him go. It’s okay.”
Reluctantly Mace complied.
* * * * * * * * * * *
The anger and pain gripped him, dragging him down and he lashed out at them blindly. Ripping the monitors from their station near Obi-Wan’s head he threw the equipment across the room venting his grief and frustration.
It couldn’t be. Obi-Wan couldn’t be dead. He would not allow it; he could not. But his eyes kept telling him that his Padawan was gone even though his heart would not relent.
At last he could take it no longer, his heart broke, and he collapsed in tears across the body of his silent apprentice. One hand twisting into a fist in the soft blankets at the youth’s side the other gripping the Padawans wrist unwilling to release him just yet.
He threw himself into the force before he lost all control, diving wildly into the light but denying the comfort that it normally afforded. He pressed deeper harder and faster. Searching, he had to find it. He had to; it was here – but where? And then he found it; Obi-Wans signature, brightly etched lines of living light. They were purer, brighter, and more alive than he had ever seen them before. He watched them as they twisted and looped the colors sparking and flowing over them and through them. Hesitantly he reached out and touched a curve of the burning light. Images and feelings burst into his mind, sensations shot through his awareness. He saw Obi-Wan as he had been in life. The boy’s thoughts, feelings and experiences poured into him, and the love the student had for his Master crushed the big mans heart. He thought his heart had been broken at the sight of the young man lying on the medical bed but nothing prepared him for the crushing blow of his apprentice’s admiration and love. Love he could now never return. And as his heart was rent into a thousand tiny pieces he knew that he would never recover from this loss. He collapsed in the force, sobs catching his breath and stealing his energy, his will to live slipped away and he silently called out to his Padawan.
//Obi-Wan, please don’t go. Please come back Padawan. I’m so sorry I never told you in life what you meant to me. Give me another chance young one. Obi-Wan please//
Softly the coils of his apprentice’s signature fell about the grieving man covering him in warm comforting light, sheltering him from the rest of the force and holding him together as the grief tore at his heart. Weariness claimed the tears and the hitched breathing slowed as Qui-Gon was gently rocked in the arms of living light. There was no more left to give, no more tears left to cry, the heart in his chest was dead and as still as his Padawan. He simply let himself be held by the force and gave up.
And in the stillness he heard a voice.
Afraid he had simply imagined it, Qui-Gon stopped, holding his breath he waited.
Again. A small voice. Muffled. Distant.
Not wanting to believe it the Jedi Master focused his concentration and reached out towards the sound.
//Padawan?// Perhaps he too had now become one with the force Qui-Gon surmised, after all just how much can ones heart break before it kills them.
//Master!// The relief in the voice was real and the joy the word invoked sparked the dead heart of the older Jedi.
//Obi-Wan where are you//
//I don’t know. Its dark here. I can’t get out. I am having trouble breathing. I cant find you//
//Padawan listen to my voice and follow it. Let it guide you out//
//I can’t. I’m too weak. I had to come here to let the force eradicate the poison. Help me Master please// Qui-Gon shunted all distractions away. Wherever his apprentice was he would find him. If Obi-Wan were not one with the force then he was not dead and there was hope.
//Obi-Wan hold on, I will be there soon Padawan// Concentrating on the pinprick of the lifeforce he could feel from the young man he reached out into the darkness of the trapped students mind and found him. He drew the apprentice with him out of the dark recess that he had pressed himself into when he had surrendered himself to be consumed by the pain and poison, allowing the force to leave his body and in so doing destroy the foreign substance attacking his system. And as the light touched the young mans mind, the body beneath Qui-Gon arched in response, gasping for air.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Without a second thought Qui-Gon disengaged from the force and pushed himself back off of his apprentice. He held Obi-Wans small face in his large hands as he watched the color return to his cheeks.
The yell brought his friend running into the room, skidding to a stop by the bed.
“Get the healers. He’s not dead.” The tall Jedi turned to the disbelieving man beside him, tears streaming down his face.
“Qui-Gon….”, Mace laid a hand on his shoulder not sure what to think.
“No Mace look.” He moved slightly aside so the other could see the young mans chest rising and falling with the slow deep breaths he was taking. “Hurry!” Turning his attention back to his Padawan, Qui-Gon scooped up the forgotten blankets and wrapped the shivering body with their soft warmth. Taking the boys face once again in his hands he gently placed his forehead against the students encouraging him with soft words and pulling the healing flow of the force around them.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The laboratory personnel had finally been able to pinpoint the origins of the toxin. The Caldarians, a hostile race that existed outside the force and had opposed the Jedi for centuries, had originally conceived it. The poison was designed to kill force sensitive creatures and had been banned and widely denounced by the Republic all systems friendly to the Jedi. It was hard to obtain and even harder to keep alive until it could be ingested, most often by osmosis, into the intended victim. Introduced into a force sensitive being the destructive work of consuming midichlorians was waged and a total war of the immune system was immediately engaged. As the body drew on the force to sustain it the activity of the poison was heightened. The poison was in fact a microorganism that once introduced into the system would replicate exponentially, then consume and repress normal body functions, dampening the autonomic systems until complete failure occurred using the same energy the body drew on for life. At the point of death as the force left the body the microorganisms died unable to continue to feed without the life giving aide that permeated the Jedi and unable to transfer to a new host.
The course of action Obi-Wan had taken by repressing his system and allowing his body to die momentarily had in fact saved him. When the youth had hidden himself away in the darkness of his own mind outside the brush of the force and let the force leave him the microorganisms responsible for his illness had died also.
Qui-Gon sat on the edge of the bed one long leg stretched out along the length of the narrow medical bed the other dangling over the side. He rested his tired head on the wall behind him. His Padawan held securely in his arms was sleeping soundly in the warmth of the force the Jedi Master had pulled around them. The blankets were skewed across the two Jedi tucked along the body of the young man and wadded behind the back of the older for support. When it had become apparent that Obi-Wan was stabilizing and healing once again the Jedi Master had climbed onto the sleeping table and pulled the young man closely to him disregarding the healers requests that he go rest himself and get something to eat. Collran had finally relented and allowed the teacher to remain tucking the blanket around the sleeping youth and making the pair more comfortable. The lights had been dimmed and the heat adjusted to warm the room that now held live occupants once again.
Now sleep was reclaiming its final victim as it tugged at the edges of Qui-Gons awareness. Settling himself deeper into the blankets he pulled his Padawan tightly to him, relief-washing weariness through his entire being. Obi-Wan had yet to fully awaken but the master had reached him through their bond several times and Collran had assured him it was only the after effects of the poison leaving his system as his midichlorians count began to rise again.
He touched the sleeping mind once more.
//Yes I am here// The sleep fogged answer came back edged with humor. In response Obi-Wan shifted slightly against his master repositioning himself in the strong arms, his breath gently caressing the older mans wrist with each exhale, a comfort of the life he held.
//I know young one. Rest// Laying his cheek against young mans head he closed his eyes.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
He didn’t know how long he had slept and the slight jostle that woke him touched him again. Trying to catch his bearings and wake his weary mind Qui-Gon glanced around the dimly lit room.
"Qui-Gon, wake up." The hissed voice whispered in his ear.
Turning quickly to his left he was confronted with Mace, bending down eye level with his friend.
"Does it look like I'm awake?" The softly growled words evoked a smile.
"Good put Obi-Wan down and step outside with me, it's important."
"Mace can’t it wait?" His frustration at being woken and asked to leave his Padawan caused his words to be sharper than normal.
"No. I…we have a plan to catch the person who did this to Obi-Wan. We need your help and we need this room empty except for Obi-Wan." He motioned with his head to the door and helped Qui-Gon move the young man back onto the bed without waking him.
Gently placing a large hand against his student’s chest, the older Jedi felt the strong heart beat beneath his fingers. Satisfied he turned and followed his friend out into the small waiting lobby.
"What is so important that…” His words were cut off as he caught sight of Master Yoda stepping away from Collran. The healer had a syringe in his hand and was anxiously watching the other Jedi.
Qui-Gon's paternal instincts flared. His anger heightened at the sense of danger and urgency he felt from the three Jedi standing with him.
"Just what do you think you're doing?"
"Speak to him like that you will not. Here to help he is at my request." The diminutive Master backed down the other.
"Qui-Gon," Mace cut in quickly sensing his friend’s need for an explanation. He halted the healer from approaching the door now guarded by the Jedi Master. "No one at the temple knows that Obi-Wan has recovered. They all think he is still dying. We are going to spread the word that he has gotten better and knows who poisoned him but passed out before he could tell anyone."
"You mean to draw the attacker here? You think the man is still in the Temple?"
“There have been no arrivals or departure since Obi-Wan’s poisoning and no one arrived at the Temple in the past week. Whoever did it, has been here and still is here.”
“Believe him to be a Jedi we do.” Yoda stepped forward and interrupted. “Who else keep alive the poison could? Motive we do not have yet.”
"Exactly." Mace continued noting the tension release from the Jedi Master, "Healer Collran was going to give Obi-Wan a sedative just to help him relaxed so he wouldn’t wake up or try to stop the attacker. That’s all. The last thing we need is to put him through anymore than he has already endured."
"Agreed. But do you really believe a fellow Jedi would do this?" The words were more forceful that he had intended them to be and he realized just how on edge he was.
Mace shook his head in frustration, “We have no other explanation. If it was intentional the person responsible will surely return to end it. Why this person attacked Obi-Wan is a mystery. You have no known enemies in the temple nor does your apprentice.” He shrugged and turned to Yoda.
“Work this will you see.”
"But I want to be in that room when this happens, I will not leave him alone again."
"Fine, we can work that out." Mace nodded and let the Healer pass by him. “You can stay hidden in the storage closet on the far side of the room. If you cloak your presence no one will ever know you are in there.”
Collran walked up to the tall Jedi Master and glanced at him cautiously. Slowly reluctantly Qui-Gon moved aside and watched as the man approached his Padawan, pushing the blankets aside he inserted the needle into the young mans arm.
//Trust me Padawan//
//Always Massst…// As the drug took effect the young man slipped further into unconsciousness.
With a sigh Qui-Gon turned back to the Jedi standing before him.
"Informed the Temple we have." Master Yoda closed the comlink in his hand. "Wait we will now. News will spread quickly."
Nodding Qui-Gon stepped back through the doorway intent on concealing himself and waiting out Obi-Wans attacker.
“I’ll be in here.” Mace stopped him placing a hand on his shoulder and turning the tall Jedi back.
"Alive Qui-Gon. We need the attacker alive."
"I know. I wont him kill." He turned back into the darkened room, "At least not right away." He murmured to himself.
"I heard that."
"I'm sure you did. You’re always listening in when you aren’t supposed to be."
"Jinn, I am not!"
Qui-Gon smiled to himself and turned back, “You just make sure you are close by.” Mace nodded seriously and moved away to conceal himself and wait.
The Jedi Master paused by his Padawans bedside. "Soon young one this will be over." He brushed his hand across the cool forehead of the apprentice and moved to the medical storage access on the opposite side of the room. Stepping into the small alcove he closed the door and waited.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It seemed like he had been waiting in the storage closet for eternity. The hours had passed so slowly. He had watched as Healer Collran had entered several times to check on Obi-Wans progress. He had re-administered the sedative once more at least an hour ago. Quietly Qui-Gon shifted in the small confine and pressed a button on his chrono the face lit up revealing the hour. Well past midnight, perhaps the man would not return to finish what he had started; maybe Yoda had been wrong this time.
He let his mind stray and his concentration slip. He wasn’t paying attention to the outer room until he heard a whispered voice talking to his Padawan. Straining to make out the words the Jedi Master silently opened the door to the closet just a crack and watched the room from his hiding place.
“They thought he deserved you. They kept him for you.”
The man was pacing next to the Padawans bed.
“All the while *he* was out mourning his loss.” He spat the word out harshly, “You deserved better. You should have my Padawan. Damn that Yoda! Always meddling.”
Qui-Gon reached out through the force and touched the mind of his apprentice but the boy was unconscious, drugged into unawareness. The invader stopped, freezing his steps and whipping around toward the main door, he had felt the ripple the Jedi Master had created contacting his apprentice.
The light spilling from the small window set in the door shone fully into the face of the man standing in the room and Qui-Gon recognized him instantly. It was Knight Chey’laBinsk. Chey had been deemed unstable when he had undergone his trials. Although he had passed them with flying colors his mental condition was shaky, prone to fits of anger and valleys of deep depression he was unreliable and sometimes dangerous. The healers in the Temple had worked with him and helped to balance his unstable thought processes but it had been determined that he would never be able to train a Padawan let alone be released to active duty as a Jedi representative. He had assisted the grounds keepers and the cooks finding solace in the solitude of working without the constant pressures of people always around him. Something must have happened to trigger his instability again. He had always been rather aloof and cool towards the Jedi Master.
Turning back to the prone Padawan he began his tirade once more.
“I’m sorry you have to take the brunt of this, but they have to learn. They must be taught. They can’t deny me forever, I deserve a Padawan. You were the best, you should have been mine.” He slipped a pillow from beneath Obi-Wans head and gently laid it over his face. “You should have been my Padawan!” With that final outburst he pressed the pillow tightly around the young Jedi’s head denying him air. Obi-Wan subconsciously fought the attack his body responding automatically to the lack of oxygen.
Qui-Gon burst out of the closet, the slamming against the wall behind it in his fury to reach his Padawans side.
“ENOUGH!” The force thrown words caused the intruder to stumble back momentarily and start as he caught sight of the dark form approaching him. The pillow fell to the floor and Obi-Wan dragged in deep lungfuls of air, his body responding to the sudden release.
Green light threw shadows around the small room as Qui-Gon ignited his lightsaber and stood between the bed and the student’s assailant.
“They were wrong you know.” The words were soft and malevolent. A violet colored blade hiss to life, extending from the pommel of the lightsaber in the others hands. “You aren’t fit for an apprentice either, you should have been denied like me. I know the stories; I know what you tried to do when Xanatos betrayed you. I know.”
The Jedi Master did not respond to the idle threats but stood his ground. The words caused him to wince inwardly; he had tried to kill himself when Xanatos had turned. But he was over that and the one person who had saved him and restored his heart lay behind him. With his left hand he reached back and felt for Obi-Wans pulse his fingers touching the warm skin at the base of his neck and feeling the familiar beat beneath his fingertips.
Relieved he adjusted his stance, “This is not necessary Chey. We can talk…”
“I’m through with talking! Everyone thinks they talk me into believing them, talk me out of this, talk to me and my head won’t be so messed up.” The muscles in the mans legs tensed, and the Jedi master steeled himself. “No more talking.”
Chey threw himself at the tall Jedi his anger making him clumsy. Qui-Gon deftly stepped to the right and spun his blade crashing against the others and throwing the attacker off balance. In one swift move he arced his weapon and brought it down on the pommel of his opponents cracking the casing in two and destroying the blade. Chey stumbled back and hit the floor as the lower part of the severed saber exploded in his hands charring them and knocking him momentarily senseless.
Mace charged into the room and hit the light switch bringing the lights up in the darkened room. His light saber dropped to his side as he took in the scene.
“A lot of help you were!” Qui-Gon stood defensively in front of Obi-Wan’s bed his lightsaber still ignited, tensely watching the intruder.
Mace glanced at him quickly taking in his ragged breathing and the anger still etched on his face. He gently raised a hand and stepped toward the Jedi Master circling the fallen man now regaining consciousness on the floor. Qui-Gon stepped towards Chey as he attempted to stand and the unbalanced man cringed at the site of the angry master. Siding up next to him, Mace slowly put his hand on Qui-Gons arm and pressed his weapon done moving his hands to the activation switch and turning the saber off. The Jedi Master slumped backwards catching himself on the edge of Obi-Wans bed and turned quickly towards the boy, hiding the tears threatening to overwhelm him.
Mace moved towards Chey and helped him stand as several Jedi filed quickly into the room accompanied by Collran and his assistant. He gently took Chey by the arm and led him out surrounded by several guards. They bound his hands behind his back in the small lobby, while healer Collran spoke quietly with them.
Yoda entered the evacuated chamber and took note of the spent Jedi Master and his friend trying to comfort the man. Both turned at the sound of the small Masters approach.
“Taken to where he can hurt no one else he has. Disturbed his thinking is.”
“Yes Master.” Qui-Gon turned to the small Jedi. “He believed Obi-Wan should have been his Padawan. You never told me he asked to take him.”
Yoda looked at the floor for several seconds his eyes straying to the Padawan on the bed behind the men. “Ask he did. Denied he was.” The tap of his glimmerstick echoed in the room as the older Master began to pace. “Believe he would do this I didn’t foresee.”
He stopped and turned towards the others, “Sorry I am for this. Happen it will not again.”
“Master Yoda it was not your fault. The man is sick. Maybe now he will be given the proper help he needs.”
“His fate decided by the Council will be. Removed from the Temple most likely.” Yoda nodded sadly, “Many are the possibilities for his recovery but on this planet it will not happen. Your Padawan safe will be.”
Qui-Gon bowed respectfully. “Thank you Master Yoda.”
Mace had stood by silently through the entire exchange. “Well thank goodness that’s over!”
The tall Jedi Master reached out and smacked his friend roughly. “A lot of help you were!” He glared at the other, “Where were you anyway?”
The dark Jedi’s face colored as he pointed down to a ripped section of his robe, “Tripped on my robe and fell, got tangled for a minute and couldn’t get up.” The murmur was not lost on the Master who broke out laughing.
“Only you Mace, only you.” He slapped the embarrassed Jedi on the back and doubled over in laughter.
“Teach you to wear clothes that fit it will.” Master Yoda pointed at him with his glimerstick and left leaving the two friends to argue the finer points of Jedi robes.
“It is not too long!”
“Well obviously it is! Lucky for you I had the whole thing under control.”
“Under control my...”
“I saw the way you were shaking.” The voices of the two men faded from the small Masters hearing as he walked out into the waiting area and closed the door behind him with a slight shake of his head.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Obi-Wan shifted slowly, the blankets wrapped around his body and the tubes still connected to his right wrist made movement difficult. His Master was lying on the narrow bed next to himself asleep and he didn’t want to wake him. The older Jedi’s head had slipped off the small pillows and rested on the hard cot. He looked so uncomfortable. Carefully maneuvering himself the Padawan was able to push himself gingerly into a sitting position. His body was stiff and every joint hurt like the time he had Tulvarian Flu. He felt weak and his head was fuzzy, concentrating on any one thought was impossible and his vision swam if when he moved too fast. Leaning his head against the wall behind him he caught his breath and let his body relax for a few minutes.
Refocusing his attention back on the sleeping Jedi next to him he noticed that long strands of the older mans hair had come unbound and trailed across his face. Obi-Wan caught the stray hair and brushed it aside tucking the strands back behind the teachers ear. With precise slow movements he shifted Qui-Gon until the mans head was cradled in his lap, the extra blankets tucked into a makeshift pillow. Taking his Masters larger hand in his one he leaned his head back again and closed his eyes content in the warmth of the room and the soothing touch of the force as it wrapped around the two Jedi.
Something touched his awareness seeping into his thoughts and permeating his mind. He tried touching on it but wasn’t awake enough to fully capture the sensation. Qui-Gon snuggled down into the warmth and softness around him and burrowed deep into the feelings of peace and contentment that washed through him wending through his bond with his Padawan. Jumbled thoughts floated to him and with startling clarity he realized that his apprentice was awake and attempting to sift through the confusion of his memories of the last few days.
With a start he shot upright, bringing Obi-Wan fully awake instantly. The young Jedi jumped back knocking his head against the wall behind the bed and hissing with the impact. Qui-Gon turned and stared into the clear sea green eyes. He took the boys face in his hands searching for any sign of sickness or ill effects. Surprisingly Obi-Wan felt much better than he had before. He smiled softly back at the confused Jedi and wrapped his own hands around the large ones of his Master.
"Padawan. How do you feel?"
"Better Master. Much better." His voice cracked, rough from lack of use and dry from all the equipment that had kept him alive over the past couple of days.
Qui-Gon pulled the apprentice into his arms and held him tight. The young mans head cradled against his chest and gently rocked them both.
"Oh Obi-Wan I was so afraid I had lost you."
The beat of the Jedi Masters heart sounded softly in the Padawans ears and he rested into the embrace. "I am sorry Master. I couldn’t hold on. I tried, I just…” He wrapped his arms around the solid back of the older man, soothingly rubbing his hands in circles.
"No Padawan, its not your fault. You were poisoned young one. The decision you made to leave your body actually saved you." He rested his chin on top of the young mans head. "When I thought you were gone, there were so many things I wanted to tell you, so many things I had never said before and just assumed you knew." The hands on his back stilled.
"I do know Master."
"Perhaps but they need to be said." The silence was companionable between them and stretched into moments. "Obi-Wan know that I love you and that you have become more dear to me than any child I could have ever had. I don’t want you to ever go anywhere again without knowing that."
"Thank you Master” The words were soft and choked as he spoke into the folds of the others tunic. Shifting slightly he looked up into the yes of the older Jedi piercing him with his gaze. "I love you too Master."
"Yes young one I know you do. I know."