Learning To Mourn
Summary: Pre-TPM. Qui-Gon must help Obi-Wan deal with the death of a friend. Obi-Wan is around 20 years old.
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Disclaimer: Don't own anything or anyone. All the characters and their universe belong to George Lucas
Notes: Everything in // // is Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan talking through their bond.
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"Master Jinn, your presence needed is. Come to the Council Chambers at once, yourself only." Qui-Gon Jinn read the simple summons over again. Short succinct and cryptic. Just like Master Yoda not to include any details. The Jedi Master had found the message blinking on his incoming comm when he had returned to his apartment after evening lightsaber practice with his Padawan. Obi-Wan had requested to stay and watch some of the younger initiates duel. It wasn’t uncommon for Padawans and Masters to view the mock duels and so the older Jedi had consented.
Qui-Gon grabbed his robe on the way out the door and left for the meeting, already a few minutes late he hurried through the crowded temple halls. He could sense before he approached the chambers where the council met that something was wrong. Small knots of apprentices and Masters were gathered throughout the grounds huddled in whispered groups talking softly and sadly amongst themselves. As he drew near the huge sliding doors that separated the outer room from the inner gathering chamber his tension grew mounting wildly with the emotions he could feel raging beyond the wall before him. Hesitantly he faltered before entering, checking his Padawan's whereabouts and condition. The young man was in the practice hall and seemed to be enjoying himself. A wave of laughter and sense of wellbeing swept back along the open bond at the Masters gentle-questioning prod.
The doors before him swooshed open and Qui-Gon was almost run over by a hurried and upset Jedi leaving the chamber. The large Jedi stumbled into the man waiting outside looking up in time to barely avoid a collision.
"Where have you been? The Council sent me to find you. They've been waiting." Mace Windu grabbed his long time friend Qui-Gon Jinn and started to draw him inside.
"What's going on Mace? I sense a lot of fear and sorrow. What's happened?" Qui-Gon resisted the forward movement of his friend, pulling him aside and letting the doors close in his wake. When the other would not meet his eyes the Jedi's voice took on a soft harsh edge, a tone he reserved for his Padawan when the seriousness of the moment demanded complete and total attention.
Mace's dark eyes swept up and the anguish on his face froze the Master with a depth of sadness he had not felt since…… And then it hit him, he had not felt this amount of sorrow since Jedi Master T'nak and his Padawan had died when their shuttlecraft had exploded on a mission due to a faulty backflow preventer in the ion matrix system. Regular maintenance on all shuttles had been instituted after that mishap. He shook his head to clear the thoughts chasing one another down back alleys of his memory as he recalled the events surrounding the tragic deaths.
"Who?" His throat tight with emotion constricted the word down to a breathless whisper.
Shaking his head Mace palmed the door mechanism causing the great doors to part silently and gestured his friend inside.
The Council Chamber was full, every member had found their seat and the soft whispers that filled the rotunda echoed the perimeter as the two Jedi walked solemnly in. Mace separated from his friend and continued on to his own vacant seat to the right of Master Yoda as Qui-Gon stopped in the middle of the room ringed by his peers on all sides.
Respectfully he bowed to the older Jedi Master seated before him and quietly waited.
The voice that spoke was not Master Yoda's but that of Council Member Ki-Adi Mundi. The soft calm tone belying none of the deep emotions swirling about the Jedi present. Ki-Adi had always been the best at breaking bad news, thought Qui-Gon absently, his age and varied ways of seeing things had given him an edge in dealing with crisis issues.
"Master Qui-Gon Jinn, we thank you for coming at such a short notice."
Qui-Gon turned and bowed slightly to the speaker, fixing eyes upon the man that begged to be relieved of the news he would have to hear. But it would not be, as the other continued calmly recalling the events of a recent mission that a Master-Padawan team had been sent on. The Master, Master Ryin had been sent with his Padawan Vron, a friend of Obi-Wan's, to help settle a border dispute on a small planet in the Cyriad system that had requested assistance. To say that Obi-Wan and Vron were friends was an understatement, the two had been inseparable during their younger years, much as Mace and Qui-Gon had been. The mission had gone terribly wrong when the transport carrying the Jedi representatives had been caught in a cross fire in friendly territory and destroyed, all aboard had been killed in the resulting explosion.
Silence rang through the room, pressing on Qui-Gon with a physical force as he absorbed the information. Master Ryin had been a valuable asset on many missions, his easygoing nature and ability to bring calm into any situation had made him the Council's first choice when a volatile issue arose which needed Jedi intervention. His death would be deeply felt throughout the Temple.
"Obi-Wan." The Master hadn't realized he had said his Padawan's name out loud, thinking of how the boy would deal with the death of his friend.
"Wise it would be to inform your Padawan yourself before find out from someone else he does. Close were he and Vron."
"Yes Master, I would…" Qui-Gon winced drawing in a sharp hiss of breath as a white-hot spike of anguish ran through the bond he had with his apprentice. Swallowing against the bile that had risen in his throat he shook his head trying to clear the tears welling up in his eyes with the raw emotions flooding into him; Obi-Wan knew that his friend was gone.
"It seems your Padawan has been told", the ancient Jedi sensing the new grief flood into the room, sadly affirmed what the Master was unable to voice. Shaking his head slowly he pinned weary eyes on the Teacher before him, "Find him you must. Wrong it was that he is told this way."
"Yes Master." The tall Jedi drew his robe around him and left exchanging a haunted look with his old friend before leaving the chambers.
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Obi-Wan had stopped running. Finally. He hadn't wanted to believe it when he had overheard the Masters at the practice duel talking so casually about the deaths of a Master-Padawan team. When he had inquired as to who had been involved and was informed that it was his long-time friend Vron, he had stumbled from the arena vaguely aware of Qui-Gon through their bond looking for him. He winced at the catch in his side as he tried to even out his breathing, one hand steadying him against the cool wall of the Temple's deserted hallway. He pressed his eyes tightly shut in an attempt to still the images of his friend that were tearing through his mind and heart.
Dark hair. Blue eyes. Shorter than Obi-Wan. The smile that was so infectious and his laughter that sometimes reminded Obi-Wan of a brek'ta barking. Besides Bant, Vron had been the closest to him. They had been brought to the Temple at the same time, their beds had been next to one another in the sleeping chambers. So it had been inevitable that they would become friends; that it would last for life had surprised even the two of them.
"For life…." The words echoed in his head now as fresh tears burned in his eyes and tracked down his face. His breath caught in a breaking gasp as another claw of pain raked across his aching heart. Dimly he was aware of Qui-Gon trying to reach him. Out of instinct he tried to sever the connection, his feelings of grief turning suddenly inward in a sharp spike of fear. He had lost Vron, he could loose anyone. He could loose Qui-Gon. Logic and realization hit him at once, the thought caused him to collapse against the wall and slide to the floor. He pulled himself into a tight ball, tucking his knees under his chin and hiding his head in his hands as grief, fear and guilt ran through him in violent tremors.
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Qui-Gon stopped at a junction in the path he was on. So many hallways and walkways, too many rooms. His Padawan could be anywhere and to make things worse, Obi-Wan had attempted to sever his connection through the bond. The last emotion that Qui-Gon had felt from the upset boy was fear, fear and guilt, washing through the constricted connection.
//Obi-Wan don't shut me out, young one. Not now.//
A small tendril of grief trickled through the bond. The emotions in the young man so great he was unable to keep the flow damped down, was unable to isolate himself.
With a sigh of relief Qui-Gon turned right and raced down the path before him.
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Without even realizing what he was doing Obi-Wan stood and walked slowly to the apartment Vron had shared with Master Ryin. The living quarters were not far. He tore the yellow tape from the doorposts that officially sealed the room the team had shared and stumbled into the darkened interior seeking out the last place his friend had been alive in his presence.
Qui-Gon approached the apartment seconds after his Padawan had entered. He stepped cautiously to the threshold, the yellow security tape fluttering softly in the wind. Absently fingering the violated physical barrier for a brief moment, he entered.
The lights had not been turned on and the interior though furnished and well cared for seemed somehow empty as though the very place itself knew that it's occupants would never be returning. The silence was deafening. The crush of carpet on the floor swallowed the sound of his steps and for a moment the Jedi Master thought that he had sensed his Padawan's presence incorrectly. He froze in his steps thinking that perhaps he had entered in error, when a fresh wave of anguish swept down the tightened bond and a small choked sob directed his attention to an antechamber on his left. Quietly he stepped through the doorframe. Obi-Wan stood in the room, his back to the door, oblivious of his Master's presence. He was holding something, turning it over and over in his hands gently reverently, shaking his head and speaking softly.
The Jedi was barely able to make out the whispered cry of his Padawan, one word asked over and over again.
The sorrow of the question caused the teacher to pause and collect himself before stepping cautiously up behind the grieving young man. Afraid to startle him too much Qui-Gon reached out to touch the student. But whether it was instinct, the Force or fate Obi-Wan spun around and side stepped his hand. That he had surprised the student was apparent as the young man tried to step back into the shadows of the room, not wanting physical contact, not wanting to be seen. Not just yet.
Qui-Gon watched him wordlessly in the little light that the growing dusk afforded. His Padawans face was streaked with tears and his breaths came in harsh hiccuped gasps as he dealt with the information and feelings coursing through him. His eyes were huge in the dark and luminescent from the unshed tears around their rims. Instead of stepping closer, the Master backed up and sat on the small bed behind him, undoubtedly this had been Vron's room. He was now able to see the small object that Obi-Wan was holding in his hands, a holocube. The little cube kept flashing a picture of Vron and Obi-Wan, arms about each other each holding a fish with their free hands. Qui-Gon remembered that day sadly. The two boys had gone fishing in Master Yoda's private tali pond and caught his prized talis. Somehow unaware that fishing was off limits on the Temple grounds. They had even made a holopicture of themselves and their prized catches, they had been so proud. Proud that is until Master Yoda had returned and found them. Master Ryin and Qui-Gon had had to do some fast-talking to get their Padawans out of trouble that time. The cost of replacing those tali had been surprisingly high. Tali were native to Yoda's homeworld and had to be shipped to Coruscant via special hibernation containers. He found himself smiling slightly remembering the whole fiasco. And then the same whisper caught his heart and brought his attention back again.
"Why?" It was a breathless plea from the young man that he knew could not be answered by the one seated before him but it had escaped before he could stop it, spilling out in grief like the hot tears on his cheeks.
Qui-Gon extended his hand to the Padawan. Obi-Wan stepped slightly forward and placed the holocube in his Masters upturned palm before returning to the shadowed corner of the room. The Master sighed and placed the cube on the nightstand next to him.
"No Obi-Wan," he gently extended his hand out again, "come here."
With a half shake of his head the student closed his eyes and turned away from the Master. He knew if he allowed Qui-Gon to touch him now, what little control he had on his feelings would be broken and then his teacher would know everything. He would know Obi-Wans grief at the loss of his friend, his anger at the Council for sending them, his fear at loosing Qui-Gon in much the same way and his guilt at his own selfish feelings that it was Vron and not he that had died, relief that it was Master Ryin and not his Master that would not be coming home tonight. Jedi didn’t behave that way did they?
"Yes. Sometimes they do." The soft words caught the student unaware. In his questioning of himself, he had lost control of his block on their connection and in the span of a heartbeat all his thoughts and doubts had tumbled through to his Master.
Wide eyes turn on the older Jedi. Obi-Wan couldn’t see the expression on his face, his head framed by the window behind Vron's bed causing the Teachers hair to take on a pale silvery glow in the evening light. He swallowed hard wondering what Qui-Gon would think of him now, not even bothering to stop the doubt from racing through their connection.
Qui-Gon looked back at the holo by the bed, picking it up he re-examined it more closely. It cast soft odd shadows on the wall when he touched it, activating the picture within.
"I remember this day when you and Vron went fishing in Master Yoda's pond. I remember Master Yoda's face when he called Master Ryin and I in to discuss our Padawan's." He let a small smile creep into his tone. Looking to the still standing Padawan out of the corner of his eyes he saw that the memory was having the desired effect on the young man. Obi-Wan was holding his face in his hands, his shoulders shaking under the weight of silent sobs. The sight of his student in such distress broke the Jedi's heart. He knew this was good for the boy. He had to deal with his feelings and deal with them now. Repressing them would only cause him to turn inward and withdraw - experience had taught him that. He moved from his seated position, slowly closing the distance between himself and the young Jedi. Gently and tenderly he pulled the young man to him. He wrapped his arms around the shaking body and allowed the grief to wash through them both.
Obi-Wan fell against him as the last of his resolve gave way and let the older man hold him, rocking him slightly as his fears and loss crashed against him in their intensity. After a few moments he pulled the young man back with him and seated them on the bed. Obi-Wan moved slightly away from him, bringing one knee up on the bed between them and repositioning himself so he faced the older man. Qui-Gon reached out and brushed the remnants of tears from his cheek.
"I feel guilty."
Qui-Gon nodded but didn’t respond, prompting the other with his silence to continue. Obi-Wan looked down at his hands now clutching the holocube again absently looking at the picture that seemed to have been taken a lifetime ago; someone else's lifetime.
"At first I was just sad because Vron was…gone." The word caught in his throat but he continued. "And then when you were looking for me I realized that it could have been you and I there on that mission. Or worse…", his voice trailed off into a whisper as though even speaking the words were not allowed, "that one day you will die when we are on a mission and I will be left alone. And then I felt guilty because I was relieved that it wasn’t you or me, that it was Vron and Master Ryin."
"What kind of a friend is that?" He asked in a rushed angry voice as his eyes sought out Qui-Gons.
The Master recognized the anger for what it was, self-hatred at being alive. How many times had he felt exactly the same way? And what was it Mace had told him?
"If you didn’t feel that way, you wouldn’t be alive and you wouldn't be human." And the words sounded as empty coming from him as they had from Mace, he'd have to thank him for that later. "Obi-Wan," he started again, shaking the thoughts from his mind, "It's normal to feel that way. I have felt that way, all people feel that way in the wake of the death of someone they loved. Its part of the grieving process Padawan and you must let all of those feelings surface. We will deal with them, together."
Blue-green eyes shown brightly in the darkness that now settled completely over the room, the stars and twin moons reflecting in their depths.
"It feels wrong."
They locked eyes; Master and Student, the one questioning the validity of the statement of his elder. And trust won out as the Padawan looked down and softly conceded, "Alright."
"But as for you questioning my death and separation from you, there you are wrong." Qui-Gon lifted his chin with one hand. When his eyes were again looking into the others he pressed his hand against Obi-Wan's chest pushing slightly against the young man for emphasis. "What have I told you?"
Obi-Wan looked from his Master to the hand on his tunic, feeling the warmth through the fabric, confused momentarily he refocused on his Teachers face.
"I will always be here Obi-Wan." Another small tap against his chest. "Always. We are all one in the force my young Padawan. If you look you will even find Vron there, waiting for you. We are never separated one from another we simply can't see each other now as we used to, but we will again. And you have my signature written upon your own, death will not erase that not mine and not even yours."
Obi-Wan closed his eyes, centering himself, using the warmth of Qui-Gons hand on him to calm and quiet his heart he reached out to the force. There, it was there, his Masters signature was written in the current and light of the force swirling around him, enveloping him and hemming him. Now one with it. A laugh caused him to turn in the bright maelstrom of feelings and life that caressed him and soothed his aching heart. Vron stood not inches away smiling at him shaking his head like he always had in life.
"Took you long enough!" The vibrant eyes of his friend held only mischief and Obi-Wan found himself smiling back. The boys outline wavered and became indistinct shimmering and fading, gathered by the power all about them. "I'll see you soon Obi-Wan!", his friend called with a wave of his hand before being collected back into the all living surge of the force.
Qui-Gon watched his student carefully. Fully monitoring his actions and emotions as he connected to the force. He did not move his hand for fear of breaking Obi-Wans concentration. When the young man smiled, relief brought an echoing one to the older Jedi's face.
Obi-Wan stayed there in the force staring at the place where Vron had been. It seemed like he had been there for minutes, hours, eternity - he wasn’t sure, he had lost all track of time.
The call brought him back to himself still wrapped in the force he reached out and touched the signature of his Master. Like a living jolt of electricity he felt and saw all of Qui-Gon's life, flashed before him at the speed of light. The aftertaste of Qui-Gon's care for the boy lingered in his heart as he detached from the force. Opening his eyes he saw that he was back in the bedroom sitting next to his Master once again.
Qui-Gon lowered his hand, a gentle smile on his face.
"I saw him."
"Yes I know."
Obi-Wan looked down once again at the cube in his palm. "Do you think?" he left the rest of the question unasked.
"I think Vron would want you to have it Obi-Wan. I am sure it will be alright."
"I felt you in the force too." Those blue-green eyes locked onto his own. "Thank you for telling me, thank you for helping me. I'm sorry no one helped you.'
Qui-Gon's eyebrows raised at the intuition his Padawan had discerned from his signature. No one had helped him with his first loss and so he had learned how to deal with grief incorrectly. That is until Mace had come along and straightened him out.
"Well, then the Force sent Master Mace and he helped me deal with it much better." He smiled as he stood and gestured the young man out the door before him. "But I think we had better leave these premises before Temple security finds out that we broke their seal."
"Too late for that Jinn," boomed a deep familiar voice.
"Well speak of the Sith. Hello Mace." Qui-Gon stepped into the living area as the lights turned on.
Mace Windu and a trio of Security guards stood in the small room. Obi-Wan followed sheepishly out behind his Master. The other Master leaned around Qui-Gon to glimpse the Padawan.
"You okay Obi-Wan?" The genuiness of the concern in his voice caused the young man to meet his gaze.
"Yes Master Windu, I will be." Qui-Gon looked back at his student as the young man smiled up at him.
"Good, cause I think these men would like to reseal these chambers until the Council decides on their next move," teased Mace jerking his thumb at the stoic guards behind him.
"We were just leaving." Qui-Gon pulled Obi-Wan next to him, draping an arm around the boy and steered him to the door. As they walked past the guards one stepped into their path and pointing at the cube in the young mans hand demanded it be replaced. Nothing in the home of a deceased Jedi was touched until the Council decided on how to redistribute their possessions. Mace intervened, gesturing at the cube questioningly.
Obediently Obi-Wan thumbed it on, the picture of he and Vron causing his heart to constrict even as he laughed softly, "That time we went fishing in Master Yoda's tali pond." He answered quietly in explanation.
Mace watched it and shifted his gaze to meet Qui-Gon's. Nothing was said, but the silence spoke volumes as the two old friends looked at each other. Mace broke off the look first and waved the security guard aside.
"It's okay Obi-Wan, you go on. You keep the cube. I'll tell the Council."
"Thank you my friend", whispered Qui-Gon. Mace nodded in acknowledgement.
"Thank you Master Mace." The student switched the cube off and walked out of the room turning back to look up at the older Jedi beside him. "Will you tell me what Master Mace did to help you feel better when you lost someone?"
A snort of laughter caught the Jedi Master before he could compose himself. Looking down at the apprentice he nodded slowly, "Yes Obi-Wan, when we get to our quarters I will tell you, over a nice cup of warm tea."
Together they walked back into the heart of the Temple as the moons of the city planet began to dip behind the highest spires in Coruscant. And two unseen shimmering figures smiling softly at each other walked off in the opposite direction into the brilliance of the Force.