by ardavenport

#### Part 1

The sky hopper flew high over the ordinary traffic lanes of Coruscant. Out of the corner of his eye not blocked by the white med-pad, Obi-Wan Kenobi watched his Master, Qui-Gon Jinn pilot the craft over the endless gray plain of the city below. The shadows were long and tinged with pale yellow, the sun just risen. They had crossed the entire planet night from the Lurimee Embassy on their short sub-orbital trip.

He gently probed the numbed cuts and jagged edges of teeth inside his mouth with the tip of his tongue. He tasted antiseptic fumes through his nose. The nerve pain that had shot through his left cheek and the whole side of his head immediately after the blow remained a vivid memory.

Qui-Gon's eyes flicked in his direction and, embarrassed as if he had been caught picking at a scab, Obi-Wan stopped his covert investigation of his injury. The hopper dove down and Obi-Wan glimpsed the massive Jedi Temple below, its spires casting long black shadows over the top of the gray metalloid roofs below it.

A wide, open hangar port waited for them at the base of one spire and they passed from morning light to inside gloom past rows of space and sub-orbital transports. Qui-Gon's large hands guided the sky hopper into a yellow-line marked parking lane. Obi-Wan saw a medical droid, medical capsule and a Jedi waiting for them.

"Stay," Qui-Gon commanded when he fumbled for the side release. Obi-Wan waited as his Master released the hatches on both sides, climbed out and spoke to the Jedi, Winna Di Uni, an older Master who served as a medic with the med unit. Obi-Wan's eyes looked up at the black head and golden eye sensors of a medical droid. Cool, padded metalloid fingers gently touched his chin while the droid scanned him. Winna's brown eyes sized him up as well. The bleeding had been stopped and bandaged by the droid medic back at the embassy, his face and jaw numbed, covered and immobilized for transport back to the Temple. The brace on his neck and shoulders was padded, but kept his head fixed forward.

"What was the cause of the injury?" the medical droid inquired with detached calm.

"It was a heavy, spiked orb on the end of a chain. The entire thing was thrown at him. Please," Qui-Gon turned to a dock attendant droid, "send another transport to pick up Master Tahl and her Padawan; they are still at the Lurimee Embassy answering questions for the authorities." The attendant acknowledged him and moved on.

"Was he the target of the attack?" The medical droid's fingers lightly touched the bandages that went all the way around Obi-Wan's head and then descended to the brace under them.

"No. It was aimed at another person. My Padawan . . . deflected it."

"We need to take him to the med unit." The droid nodded to Winna and she inclined her head back, confirming the obvious. Qui-Gon leaned down. He took Obi-Wan's bloodied, soiled robe off his lap, pulling it from his hand and put it aside.

"Leave it for the droids."

Obi-Wan was sure that he was capable of walking to the Temple's med unit on his own, but Qui-Gon had already twice admonished him to not try to speak, so he literally had no say in the matter. His Master's strong arms slid under him, easily lifting him up from the seat and carrying him to the medical capsule. Winna helped lower him into it. His head, still supported in the brace just barely touched the minimal head rest that pressed against his Padawan's lock. He stared upward at the dark high ceiling; Qui-Gon's hand briefly passed over his forehead and Winna leaned close over his bandaged face. He could feel the Force, like warmth emanating from their touch but their eyes only seemed to see his injury. They left the clear-plas canopy open as they exited the hangar.

Darkness above changed to high, vaulted ceilings and the ornate tops of pillars supporting them. Then a silvered grate of a lift, then a series of plain, lower ceilings leading to the med unit. He grasped the upper sleeve of Qui-Gon's tunic as his Master lifted him up onto the examination table as if he weighed nothing at all.

The medical droid - Zee-Zee-Ten - asked what caused the attack as it freed him from the brace and put it aside. The machine's fingers untied the lock of hair at the back of his head and Qui-Gon's hand appeared to take the band. His Padawan's braid was tucked away behind his right ear.

"A fight broke out at the reception we were attending at the Lurimee Embassy. Obi-Wan stepped between one attacker and her target when she threw her weapon. It was a ceremonial weapon, but heavy enough to do considerable damage."

The medical sensors whirred. "I received the transmissions from the embassy's medic-droid at the site and I concur that there is no appreciable brain trauma, but the lacerations on the face are serious and three of his teeth will have to be removed and re-grown." A padded metalloid shape closed down on top of and on either side of Obi-Wan's head, neck and shoulders immobilizing them again.

"Will the recovery take long?"

"He will only be partially incapacitated for a few days. Full recovery will take longer. I must first remove the damaged teeth and stimulate new dental growth and repair the damage to his face."

"Very well. I must report to the Council." Qui-Gon's large hand closed over his shoulder, a firm touch of warmth. "I'll return soon." Obi-Wan wanted to answer back, but he felt as if he were looking up at his Master through a thick transparency, because he could not speak, could not move. Then he was gone.

"Please relax," the droid advised. Obi-Wan did not think he had any choice about that. Another droid briefly joined Zee-Zee-Ten to help remove his boots and belt and clothing, the tunics bright red where he had bled on them and spattered with sticky pink, yellow, brown and blue from where he collided with the refreshment table when he was thrown back. Qui-Gon had retrieved his lightsaber from where it landed after flying out of his hand. The droids covered him with a loose body drape before beginning.

Obi-Wan stared upward, ignoring the motions of the black appendages and silver instruments moving in and under his field of view. The ceiling of the med unit had a white tile pattern and he started counting them, but they were so identical that it was difficult to keep track of a place to start until his eye spotted one with a small black nick by one corner. He felt no pain, but sometimes there was a strong upward pressure on his jaw and once he glimpsed a bloody tooth root passing by, distracting him from the tiles. And he could smell the blood, and the teeth, like cooked bone. His improvised tile-meditation continued through the various clicks of instruments and suctions of flesh.

Finally the activity lessened. The medical droid applied a last bandage layer and then asked him to close his eyes. He saw a bright buzzing green line cross over his eyelids. He heard noises, the droid retreating, exchanging cascades of of beeps with other machines.

Viewed through a pair of wide eye holes, Zee-Zee-Ten's cylindrical black head appeared, blocking out some of the light above.

"To facilitate healing, you will need to wear this mask for several days. Other than when you return here for further bacta treatments, you should wear it at all times. Do you have any questions?"

"Uuuuhh." It was the first noise he had made for hours. His tongue was a numbed lump, but he could still feel it collide into a barrier formed from his undamaged teeth and a smooth plastoid barrier where the broken ones used to be.

"Please do not speak," Zee-Zee-Ten cut him off.

From behind him, Obi-Wan heard a chuckle.

"How often should he return for the treatments?" Qui-Gon's hand touched his shoulder, brushed by his braid. He had not realized that his Master had returned. It seemed like too short a time for him to report to the Council and come back, but Obi-Was suddenly felt very unsure about how long he had been lying there.

"Twice daily at first. Once daily after that at least until the dental regeneration is established.."

"Thank-you." Obi-Wan's eyes looked up to his Master's chin and beard from below and framed by the eye holes. Then the droid and Qui-Gon helped him sit up. He touched the smooth curves of the mask. It seemed to have adhered to the bandages. He supposed that was how it came off, when they were changed. He twitched his numbed lip; it hardly moved at all.

"Please refrain from moving your face. That could cause unnecessary complications for your healing."

Grimacing - - at least as much as he could - - he wondered how the droid could tell what was going on under the mask. Along with the eye holes, there was a hole for his nose to poke through and an oval opening for his mouth, but otherwise it covered his whole face chin to hairline and nearly ear to ear. He wondered why it had to cover everything when he had only been hit on one side. After putting soft coverings on his feet, Qui-Gon helped him off of table. His Master's strong arm supported him as he found his balance. Obi-Wan tugged at the flimsy and drafty body drape.


With Qui-Gon leading, they left the medical theater. Going down the corridor of bronze doors, Obi-Wan saw Winna coming toward them on the padded floor. She balanced a tray she carried with one hand as she touched a black square on the wall and one of many curling-patterned doors slid open. She followed them into the room. It was small and spare, two bunks on either side with shelves and inactive medical monitors inset in the walls above. On the far wall, pale simulated daylight shone through the wide shutter slats. Qui-Gon sat him down on one of the bunks.

"You're going to have to sleep in the med unit until the mask comes off." Winna set her tray down on a shelf as Qui-Gon continued. "And you'll have to rely on liquid nutrition until then as well." She smiled, but Obi-Wan looked at the covered cup and protruding straw that she held out to him as if it was a punishment. He took it as Qui-Gon slid a stool out from under a bunk and sat down. The straw fit easily into the mouth hole to his lips. His clumsy tongue could not reach it, but he could still suck the liquid in through gaps in his teeth. He tasted warm savory broth, thickened and featureless, nothing that would challenge his injuries. He could feel the eyes of the two older Jedi watching him like he was a performer.

Looking back up at them, he put the mostly empty cup aside. Winna took it and put it on a shelf.

"Now, my young Padawan," Qui-Gon laid a hand on his shoulder. "I have trained you in Jedi healing techniques. It is now time for you to apply them." He patted the bunk and Obi-Wan lay down. The upper half was partially elevated. His Master held his hands out to him.

"Your injury has not seriously weakened you, but I wish you to take the Force I extend to you. Feel the strength in your body, healing and getting stronger." Qui-Gon held his hands out.

He nodded back, took a deep breath, made his mind as still as he could manage and laid his hands in Qui-Gon's palms. It was there instantly, a warmth from Qui-Gon to him, spreading up his arms into his chest, suddenly making him feel normal again, ready to jump up and this time bring his lightsaber blade up to deflect the weapon hurled at the son of a Lurimee dignitary staff where they stood together at the refreshment table - - -

He gasped, his shoulders falling back onto the bunk. Qui-Gon had pulled awya his hands.

"No, Obi-Wan. Do not take it. Your body wants to heal as quickly as it can, but you must control it. Let the Force flow into you and heal you. Quiet your mind and your body."

The shocking withdrawl left him breathing hard and feeling the aftermath of the blow and medical treatment. Or maybe the anesthetic the droid had used was wearing off. The treatment had taken down the swelling in his bruised and mashed face, but the skin still felt tight. Taking several calming breaths, he nodded and waited for Qui-Gon to extend his hands again, palms up. His own hands looked very small as he again lay them in his Master's.

He pushed away the memories of the Embassy and the fight and anger that suddenly flared, the embers of which both Qui-Gon and Tahl had sensed as soon as they arrived for the reception.

Eyes closed, Obi-Wan saw darkness mixed with aural shapes that touched him again. No thought, no emotion, no regret at not being fast enough, no shame that he was so easily distracted by a lavish banquet of offerings for refreshments.

Obi-Wan was not sure if he had completely banished his body's desire to heal, but Qui-Gon did not withdraw his touch again until a long time after which the Force had become an aura around his whole body, but glowing most brightly around his bruises, fractured cheekbone, cut and reattached flesh, and tooth sockets.

"Concentrate on healing, but relax. Your body knows its own pace now. You are doing very well, my Padawan." Qui-Gon's voice whispered very close to his ear. A large hand touched his forehead, his braid, a last touch before that was gone, too. Except the Force remained. Obi-Wan had an impression of the tones of Qui-Gon and Winnas' voices, but he pushed away the distraction and turned all his attention inward. He could do it. There were only bruises on parts of his body. The fleeting sounds of the impacts, fighting, shouted insults and his fall ghosted by in the Force, but he easily let them go. He dispassionately saw the glowing lines of mangled and repaired flesh and blood vessels where the healing progressed. Time, time, time . . . . the healing was both slow and plodding, but also relentless, like a river gradually wearing away the damage. The Force gave his strength to help it along, but even without his attention, it would continue. Slowly rebuilding, cell by cell. Slowly . . . . slowly . . . .

#### End Part 1