This first part might be a bit confusing. That's all right, its meant to be. ;) Everything will be explained, have no fear.
As I stated before, this story is co-written by vader-incarnate. I'd give you a link to her bio, but since the find function of FF.N is a piece of crap, it appears that won't be happening. Sorry. Her fics are good, though, so look for'em. Specifically, go read 'Comes the Night'. It's very evil. :)
Disclaimer: I own nothing, the flannelled man owns everything. Archive: just ask, please. And give a nice link to your site. :) Rating: Oh, PG or thereabouts.
On with the story, such as it is.
The warehouse was not extremely large; it was designed to hold small but fragile cargo. It had been well built, made of steel with a foundation of duracrete. But the years and wars had taken their toll on the building; the duracrete foundation was crumbling, the steel walls were dented and had jagged holes. The most intact part of the building was the slowly deteriorating roof.
At least it keeps the rain out, the man mused. He sat on the floor of the mostly empty building, his black shirt and pants worn but still intact. He clung to an old, worn brown robe with rough hands like it was life itself. Shifting where he sat in a mediation pose, he wrapped the robe around his body, putting his arms through the loose sleeves and pulling it tight.
He gazed up at the roof, where a distant pattering sound could be heard. Little drops of water fell on his face, wetting his shoulder length ginger hair and trailing down unshaved cheeks like tears.
He turned his face down, letting the water fall on his thick hair instead of his face. Weary blue eyes blinked, looking at the stained duracrete floor. He sighed.
Finally, he rose to his feet, shaking unsteadily. His stomach growled, reminding him that he had to go out and find food soon. His cheekbones were clearly visible, his skin drawn and pale. He had been running for a long time on this miserable planet, shifting from location to location. The Empire had come and taken it easily – not that the government officials had put up much of a fight. The Empire settled down in the industrial oriented planet and suddenly he found himself trapped. A Jedi Knight, trapped within the Empire.
He frowned slightly, walking forward among empty boxes, rags from other homeless occupants – now gone – and other debris. He growled as he did not find what he wanted. How could he have just thrown it so carelessly when he come here? His lightsaber was his life. Blue eyes restlessly searched the area.
He closed his eyes for a moment. Then, with a growl of frustration, he kicked a box. Then his hand swept out, knocking over other boxes. Soon, he was kicking and striking out with both hands.
There was the sound of glass shattering when an empty bottle shattered at his touch. Shards of glass flew, striking the man's hands and arms. He hissed, drawing away. The pain told him he would likely have to pick out the shards.
He closed his eyes, making a sound almost like a sob. Quickly, though, self-control returned. He sat down, sighing softly. He gazed at his bloody hands and began picking out shards.
Blood. The sight seemed to draw his eyes, his attention. Like an arresting fascination.
Swiftly, he closed his eyes and turned his head away. He should not think of such things. "Come on, Obi-Wan. Get a hold of yourself," he whispered hoarsely, so unused to speaking.
Ignoring the pain in his hands and tiredness of his spirit, Obi-Wan turned back to where had sat. He walked over and slipped again into a meditation pose. It was the only thing that brought him any peace.
Since Anakin's fall.
Vader, he reminded himself. His name was Darth Vader, not Anakin Skywalker. Anakin was dead. So much easier to think of it that way. Dead, not turned to the dark.
As he had only a few times, Obi-Wan allowed himself to remember. He remembered the shock he had felt at Anakin's marriage. The sense of betrayal. He accepted that pain, and went on. He remembered how Anakin changed, how helpless he had been to stop it because of the war. He remembered Palpatine, his rise to power and his self-declaration that he would be Emperor. He remembered the fight with Anakin, where he had thought his Padawan dead – only to wish later that he was. He remembered Padme, her belly swollen with pregnancy, going into hiding to have her children. He remembered that with a sense of hope; she was with Yoda. The old Jedi Master, Obi-Wan knew, was more than capable of taking care of the former Senator.
He remembered that bill that was signed that made the very existence of Jedi a crime.
Tears flowed down his cheeks as memories, long repressed, came to the fore. But his eyes snapped open when the Force suddenly screamed to him of danger. It told him that he had to move, and quickly.
He rose to his feet with a grace not apparent before. He stretched out with the Force, thinking of the options he had.
There weren't many. Vader was here; he could sense the Sith's presence, a dark malevolent thing that made Obi-Wan feel like he was suffocating. He extended his search, knowing that Vader would not come alone. Yes. There were stormtroopers, their minds alert and focused.
They were focusing on his location. It could only mean one thing; they knew exactly where he was. Which led to another conclusion – this had all been planned out. Vader knew that Obi-Wan would sense his presence, and by extension, that of his trained killers.
Hopelessness pervaded Obi-Wan's body. Turning away from the facts that the Force presented to him, he focused on his physical surroundings.
The smell of garbage. He was living in garbage. Fainter, he could smell the cleanness of rain. Little light came into the warehouse, and the clouds further depleted it. Obi-Wan stared into the shadows.
He looked down, gazing at his bloody hands, the color almost black in the dim light.
He stepped forward, a slight sheen telling where to go. Soft, worn boots hit the floor soundlessly and he crept past boxes without disturbing them, like a ghost. He knelt gracefully and picked up a silver cylinder.
His lightsaber. The familiar grooves and etches were comfortingly familiar; the heavy weight a balm to his soul.
He thought for long moments, his eyes rested on the lightsaber. What would Vader do? How would he kill Obi-Wan? Would they fight first, would Vader take him fairly? He was fairly certain that Vader could defeat him now, his skills honed by killing Jedi; it had been Padawans, at first, then he had graduated to Knights and Masters. He thought of how much Vader hated him, hated him for taking away Padme, hated him for – failing. Hated him for putting him in that horrid, black armor. For making him a monster to his own wife. Would Vader kill him?
Or did he hate Obi-Wan enough to prolong it instead? What if he took Obi-Wan to Palpatine, to show that he had truly turned? What if. Obi-Wan closed his eyes, his grip tightening on his lightsaber until his knuckles were white. He looked ahead in the Force and saw his capture, saw his torture. His begs for mercy.
The Force screamed at him to leave, that danger was coming. The sense of threat became more intense, like the fierceness of battle adrenaline. But Obi-Wan remained eerily calm, steady and unmoving. He didn't hurry, but he did not pause. He hefted the lightsaber, testing its weight. Remembering, letting painful memories fall into the past.
The Force told him to live.
But he didn't want to live. He wrapped both hands around the hilt of the lightsaber, and turned it inwards, so the blade would come out into his chest. He pressed the hilt to his chest, directly over his heart, a firm circular weight. He spared a thought for the irony of dying this way, the same way his Master had fallen.
His thumb found the ignition switch. He began to press down –
And there was only darkness.
sunny. By the Force, it was actually sunny.
The cream-clad figure in the doorway blinked several times, trying to accustom his midnight-blue eyes to the sudden brightness, and grinned. It was almost never sunny on Coruscant. There were places on this planet, he had been told, where the sun never shone. Slums on the lower levels, hidden forever from daylight, where a subhuman species was rumored to lurk, living on whatever fell from up high. Even on the higher levels, sunlight was a rarity, thanks to sudden, unpredictable storms. People spent most of their time indoors, many here never seeing the sun, even here, but by choice rather than necessity.
And it was sunny.
He glanced surreptitiously around as he moved to the edge of the catwalk, just to make sure that no one was watching. There was not anything wrong with enjoying the weather, per se, but some might object it while he had other things to do. More important things, they might argue, but sometimes just enjoying oneself was pretty important, too.
Leaning against the safety railing, he inhaled deeply, simply enjoying the tangy fragrance of the air. He would not have dared do this anywhere else on the city-planet, as crowded and polluted as it was, but this place, fondly referred to as the "Jedi Quarter" was different. The district that housed the ancient Jedi Temple had always, or at least to all living memory but perhaps Yoda's, been beautiful, serene, as different from the rest of Coruscant and as frigid Hoth from tropical Naboo.
The Temple, he had been told, while rivaling only Ord Mantell in beauty, far surpassed any other place in splendor. The catwalk he was standing on, for example, connecting two of the Temple's five graceful spires, soared over a magnificent botanical garden, featuring plants from every imaginable corner of the Republic.
Coruscant was a nice planet, all in all, as long as you shirked the lower levels. But none of it was as... green. No other place on the giant city-planet of Coruscant was so vivid, so alive. This was far from the untamed beauty of places like Dathomir, of course, but with a natural beauty, nonetheless, from a harmonious blending of all possible plants the Republic had to offer. Like those within Temple itself, a mixture of everything, from everywhere. Humans, of course, but so much more, too.
There had been a time, he had been told, when the Temple had been smaller, consisting of only the five towers, not the elaborate grounds it contained today. Not so anymore. The Jedi were the protectors of galactic peace, defenders of the people, and loved as such. The grounds had been the gift of the Republic, a private district of Coruscant reserved for Jedi and Jedi alone.
It was good to be home. Especially so after being away for as long as he had, he reflected. That feeling would, he knew from experience, quickly wear away as the weeks wore on, until he was just itching to be on the move again.
Xanatos smiled, running a hand through his long, dark hair. It had taken a while for him to adjust to having long hair, especially after the short Padawan haircut, but it was simply a part of him now. Most Jedi, he had found, wore their hair long; all except Master Windu, actually, but then again, his hair problems were nearly legendary with the Temple youth.
He regretfully pulled away from the railing, casting one last look over his shoulder. Today was his first day back home, and he had things to do, things that had piled up during his long absence. He needed to find Qui-Gon, first of all, and--
"Xanatos!" a voice called out from somewhere behind him, followed quickly by the staccato thuds of running footsteps.
"Ani!" he exclaimed, whirling around to face the younger man. He quickly pulled the boy into a rough, fraternal embrace before thrusting him back to get a better look at him. "Look how you've grown! It's been, what, three years now?"
"More," Anakin Skywalker corrected with a grin. "Closer to five, actually." He had grown. A lot. He was taller now, taller than most men Xanatos had ever seen, tall enough, even, to give Qui-Gon a good run for his money. Dressed in the traditional, drab Jedi robes, cream-colored, as usual, he looked more like a man now than ever. The innocent little boy was still there, though, still there in the infectious grin, the twinkling blue eyes.
"So it has," he agreed. "Tell me: are you a Knight yet? Or still the little troll's Padawan?"
Anakin ruefully stuck out his tongue. "Still a Padawan," he admitted with a wry grin. "But Master Yoda thinks I'll be ready for the trials in only a few weeks! You've made it back just in time.... You are staying this time, aren't you?" he asked cautiously.
"Don't worry," Xanatos reassured him, hastily patting the younger man on the shoulder. "I wouldn't miss your Knighting for the world. I'm not going anywhere soon, Ani."
Ani grinned teasingly. "You're the only person who calls me that, you know. I'm just 'Anakin' to everyone else."
Xanatos chuckled. "I'll try to remember that. You're not a boy anymore." This boy, no, young man, could easily have been his own Padawan, he reflected. He had known Anakin for most of his life, had already been a Knight long before Anakin was ready for apprenticeship. The Council, though, having decided that Anakin was too powerful to be trained by a mere Knight, had apprenticed him to the disgruntled Master Yoda instead. Anakin, Yoda's newest apprentice in a long, long time, had been subjected to all his little petulant fits and frequent whacks of the legendary gimer stick.
Looking back, Xanatos had to admit that the Council was right. He would not have been ready to take the boy, would have botched his training miserably. And Anakin's power, already potent, would have been terrible if supplemented by the corruption of the Darkside.
He knew what the Darkside could do. Kenobi--
"Isn't it beautiful?" Anakin asked, lifting his face and arms to the sky, eyes closed. "It's finally sunny! And I can see the sky!"
"Yes," Xanatos agreed with a smile, leaning on the railing, back to the gardens but still carefully watching the boy with midnight-blue eyes. "It sure is lovely, isn't it? I've been craving sunlight for weeks now."
"Where did you go?" Anakin asked curiously, looking back down at him. Down. Five years ago, it would have been Xanatos who was looking down. Things sure changed a lot in five years. People, too, hopefully. "Where you just got back from, I mean?"
"Kamino, actually. I thought it'd be nice, a little rain after spending the last few months on Tatooine, right? Turns out, no one ever thought to tell me that it never stops raining on the Force-damned planet!"
"Lucky," Anakin sighed gloomily, leaning forward on the rail, gazing at the long expanse of green. "I can't wait until Knighthood! Master Yoda may be a good teacher and a powerful Jedi, but he sure is boring."
"Action? Adventure?" Xanatos queried, smirking. "Heh, a Jedi craves not these things."
"No, stop!" Anakin commanded with a little laugh. "I've heard that more times than I can count!"
"I'm sure you have," Xanatos agreed. Living with the old troll must have been a living nightmare for the impetuous Skywalker. Truth be told, Master Yoda was a bit stiff; tedious, even. Anakin, on the other hand, was... not, to say the least.
"I can't wait until my Knighthood, Xanatos," Anakin confided. "I'll be off this rock before you can say 'Kashyvyk'!"
"That's what you say now," Xanatos warned, "but just wait until you actually get there. Things always seem a bit better when you don't have them yet."
"Says the man who takes three times as many assignments as anyone else in the Temple!"
Xanatos smiled wryly. "True," he admitted. His restlessness was somewhat of a legend in the halls of the Temple nowadays. Before this morning, he had not set foot inside for years. "I'm sure it wears off in time, though."
Anakin sighed morosely, gazing at the greenery below. "That's exactly what Master Yoda says."
"If Master Yoda says it, then it has to be true."
"Oh, I wouldn't say that. He didn't know about the time that I replaced his gimer stick with bitterroot. It took him three days to figure it out. I personally think the centuries have killed off his tastebuds."
Xanatos raised an eyebrow, suddenly very, very happy that he had not taken this boy as a Padawan. "I see." Whose living nightmare was worse, he wondered, Master Yoda's or Anakin's? "How many hours of meditation did you get for that one?"
"Nine," Anakin admitted. "But that's not the point. Besides," he added, "the years haven't done anything about Count Dooku's wanderlust. He's been off for almost as long as you have. Qui-Gon, though...." he trailed off, looking uncomfortable.
Xanatos could not blame him. They both knew exactly what had killed Qui-Gon's love of adventure. Just as they both knew exactly why Xanatos had been away for so long. The last time he had tried go come back, things had not been exactly pleasant between him and his still-grieving Master.
That had been five years ago. Ten years since--
No, he would not think of that. What was done was done, and he would be a fool to want to change it now. He had had no other choice at the time, dammit, but, looking back, sometimes he just had to wonder.
"How is he, by the way?" Xanatos asked carefully, after a tense moment or two of awkward silence. "Qui-Gon, I mean? I haven't seen him in ages."
"Oh, he's all right," Anakin responded with a vague wave of his hand. "I think teaching suits him. He missed you, though. Talks about you everyday."
"He... he does?" Xanatos repeated, dazed. "I thought he might--"
"Oh, he got over that a long time ago," Anakin assured him quickly. "He's been over it for years now. He was asking the Council when you'd be coming home for months. The only reason he wasn't there to meet you at the landing bay, actually, was because he couldn't find anyone insane enough to sub for his class. They gave him the rowdiest group of initiates at the Temple, just out of spite, I think, but I heard that he's got them pretty much under control now..." Skywalker rambled on, even though Xanatos had not really heard anything past the first sentence.
Xanatos felt a smile slowly creeping up his face. His Master had forgiven him, then? "Where is he? Why don't we go see him?"
Anakin blinked, startled. "N-now? He-he's teaching a class! He should be done at about--"
"Now," Xanatos insisted, firmly pulling the younger man back towards the door. "Let's go."
= = = = =
"Xanatos, wait up!" Anakin called running after him.
Xanatos ignored him, if anything only going faster as Anakin struggled to keep up. They were in the Temple, going as fast as they could yet not quite sprinting. Although Anakin was easily the taller of the two, he reflected sourly, Xanatos' state of near-panic gave him quite an advantage speed-wise.
Qui-Gon's door was just ahead. Xanatos strode over and put a hand on the door panel. "Wait!" Anakin called again, in a vain attempt to stop him. Force, but Qui-Gon hated being interrupted...
To Anakin's surprise, though, Xanatos did not barge in. He was just standing, still standing at the door when Anakin caught up, panting and more than a little winded. When he caught his breath, he glanced up, only to see Xanatos still mesmerized-- and gazing through the glass and into the classroom. Anakin shot him a strange look and snapped his fingers. "Hello? Coruscant to Xanatos? Come in, Xanatos!"
No answer. Anakin shrugged and peered in above the older man's head.
Qui-Gon was sitting on the floor with his group of initiates, his voice softly floating over them as the varied hopefuls listened with rapt attention. They had pushed the desks back to the wall, leaving an open space for them to sit. He was telling them a story, some story about the defeat of the Sith long, long ago, making the tired tale come to life for the younglings. They gathered around, all sitting on the floor, all eyes shining with wonder and awe.
"Force, I wish we could hear what they were saying!" Anakin exclaimed to no one in particular. Xanatos turned his head, arching an eyebrow, and gave him a very strange look. Anakin blushed. "Oh, I forgot about that," he admitted. Xanatos nodded wisely but did not comment as Anakin reached out to the Force.
"Are you ready for the story, children?" Qui-Gon whispered, leaning in as if he was going to tell the children a wonderful secret.
"We're ready, Master Jinn!" one of the children piped, a tiny- even by initiate standards- youngling with waving red lekku.
"Shh!" Qui-Gon ordered, glancing quickly around. Anakin stifled a laugh. He made it seem like such a wonderful secret, this tired old tale. "You don't want anyone to know that I've been telling this to you, hear?" he asked. "This material is much, much more than the Council thinks you're ready for, but I know you will be able to understand. So you can't just go telling one of the Council members about this, okay? Is that clear?"
The initiates nodded silently, their eyes still shining with awe. "We're ready, Master Jinn," the first one repeated, whispering this time.
Qui-Gon smiled. "Of course. Now, you all know what happened after the battle on Ruusan one thousand years ago, correct?" Nods. "Does anyone want to tell me?" A blonde human girl quickly raised her hand. Qui-Gon nodded at her, "Yes, Kiely? Would you like to tell us what happened?"
"The planet of Ruusan was the last great battlefield between dark and light," she answered primly. Ah, the class brain, Anakin thought with a smile. "The Sith brotherhood of darkness battled with the Jedi army of light and lost. Only one of the Sith survived: Darth Bane. Darth Bane established the rule that there would only be two living Sith at a time: a Master and an Apprentice."
Qui-Gon nodded. "That's absolutely right. Does anyone else know what happens next?" No one answered. "Anyone? No? Well, that's all right. I'll tell you now. Are you ready?" Eager nods. "Are you sure? Well, if you're absolutely sure, lean in very, very close, and I'll tell you." They all scooted closer. Despite himself, Anakin found himself leaning in, too, even though he had heard the story countless times.
"After Darth Bane established that rule, the Sith went into hiding. Because Bane and his apprentice were the only Sith now, hiding was easy, as compared to trying to hide the legions of the Sith Empire before. Bane wanted, above all, secrecy so that, when the time came, the Sith would be ready to overwhelm their Jedi rivals."
Silence. "So what happened then, Master Jinn?" one of them finally asked breathlessly.
"Are you sure you want to know?"
"Well, it would have worked perfectly if it the Sith hadn't made a crucial mistake," Qui-Gon paused significantly for a moment as the younglings waited with bated breath. "About two hundred years later, the Sith Master Darth Nacht made a drive for power before he was ready-- and failed. Have any of you heard of Alderaan?"
They shook their heads.
"No?" Qui-Gon asked, arching an eyebrow. "Are you sure? Well, Alderaan was a beautiful planet that was destroyed in the conflict. Alderaan was the place where the Jedi clashed with the Sith Master and Apprentice, finally exterminating the Sith Order once and for all. The clash between light and darkness made the beautiful planet completely uninhabitable, impossible for any creature to survive upon. "
Silence. Then, after several long, drawn out moments, a child spoke. "Wizard!" one of them breathed. Anakin giggled. A few of the other Padawans had picked up on his speaking habits and it looked like that had passed on to the initiates, as well. "They destroyed the entire planet?"
"The entire planet," Qui-Gon confirmed. "The planet of Alderaan-- once legendary for its beauty and peace-- is no more."
Utter silence as the gathered initiates contemplated the full meaning of this. "Wizard," one of them finally whispered again in awe.
To Anakin's surprise, Xanatos abruptly turned away and started walking back out the door. Oh, Force, not again... "Wait!" he pleaded, catching up with the older man and grabbing his arm. "Where are you going?" he demanded harshly. "You wanted to see Qui-Gon and--"
Xanatos did not even look at him. "He's happy," he muttered.
"He's happy," Xanatos repeated again, utterly emotionless. "He doesn't need me. He'd be much happier without me."
"What do you mean? Of course he needs you! He--"
"He doesn't need me!" Xanatos exclaimed, whirling around to face Anakin. His midnight eyes blazed with a flurry of emotions, hurt, sadness, self-hatred. In his fury, he seemed to be taller, more menacing than he actually was. Anakin took an involuntary step back as he finally realized why Xanatos was one of the most feared men in the galaxy-- until Xanatos deflated, the anger gradually seeping away.
"He doesn't need me," he repeated softly, yet again. "He hated me from the moment I took my lightsaber and-- he hates me," he finished sadly, catching himself from revealing any more. Not that Anakin needed to know-- the entire Temple knew about Xanatos and Qui-Gon's recent disagreements. "Qui-Gon's perfectly fine without me. He'd be so much happier if I would just disappear from the face of the galaxy." He smiled suddenly. "So maybe I will," Xanatos murmured. "Maybe I will."
Anakin blinked in surprise, letting his arm drop. If he did not know better, he would have said that that almost sounded like--
Xanatos quickly jerked away, striding once more down the hallway, his heels clicking sharply on the cold tile floor. "Wait!" Anakin begged again, running to catch up. "What do you mean?" he demanded, struggling to keep in stride.
Xanatos did not slow down, not even looking at the younger man as he opened the door. "The Council has offered me another mission," he explained, finally meeting Anakin's gaze with infuriatingly calm midnight eyes. "All I have to do is accept, and I'll be off-- away from Coruscant, away from the Temple, away from Qui-Gon. He doesn't seem to need-- or want-- me," he finished bitterly. "We'll all just be happier if I just disappeared."
He started walking again, only to have Anakin leap into his path, blocking his way. "You said you'd be here for my trials," Anakin reminded him accusingly. "You can't just go and--"
"Ah, Xanatos," a little voice called from somewhere by his knees. Anakin looked down quickly, and, sure enough, there was the little troll himself. "Found my wayward Padawan you have, I see, hmm?" Yoda queried, simultaneously poking Anakin with the stick. " 'Back in five minutes,' said he. 'Worry not, Master Yoda!' Hmmph!" Yoda snorted his disdain, whacking Anakin with the stick once more.
"Master Yoda!" Anakin exclaimed. "I was just--"
"Just escorting me to the Council," Xanatos interrupted smoothly. "I decided to accept the mission."
Yoda raised an eyebrow. "Accept it you will, then?" he queried. "Glad of that I am. For this mission, need our most experienced knight we do, Xanatos," he declared, patting Xanatos on the knee. "But seen your Master have you? Seen Qui-Gon you have not for over five years, yes?"
Xanatos gulped, even as Anakin smirked. "Um... I was--"
"So see him you must!" Yoda announced happily, rapping his stick on the floor. Anakin stifled a giggle at the chagrined look on Xanatos' face at that announcement. "Escort you to his office Anakin will," he decided. "And then finish his meditation this boy must," Yoda added, poking Anakin again and looking at him meaningfully with liquid green eyes.
Anakin groaned dejectedly, and it was Xanatos' turn to smirk.
Three more minutes, Xanatos thought to himself, checking the chrono once more. Three more minutes.
He got up from his chair and started pacing around the office. Qui-Gon's office, while neither large nor elaborate, carried a distinct charm that quite a few more spacious areas lacked. Decorated entirely in the soft creams and earth-tones that Jedi tended to favor, it was furnished for comfort, rather than vanity. It might have been the office of a middle-class businessman, and no one would be able to know the difference.
If not for the keepsakes on the walls, that is.
Xanatos smiled, stepping a bit closer to inspect one of the decorations on display. He remembered that one. It had been a gift for Qui-Gon's birthday, a silly little thing he had seen on display in a store window and bought on an impulse. He sincerely doubted that Qui-Gon had ever found use for a snuffbox, but it had seemed like a sensible purpose at the time.
Next to it, an old holo of Qui-Gon and Xanatos in much happier times, leaning on one another's shoulders, both grinning broadly for the holopic. Xanatos frowned, peering closer. Was his Master giving him bunny-ears?
And, next to that, another picture with Qui-Gon and another young man, smiling and--
Xanatos jerked his gaze away, looking at the chrono instead. Two more minutes, he thought to himself.
He smiled ruefully. Force, but hadn't he checked less than a minute ago? He could just hear his Master's voice now, reminding him, just as he had so many times before--
"Impatience is handmaiden to despair, and despair is of the darkside."
Wait a moment. Was that voice in his head, or was--
Xanatos whirled around to face the door, where, sure enough, Qui-Gon Jinn stood. He had aged over the past ten years, looking as if twenty years had passed rather than only ten. Perhaps that was to be expected after what he had been through, but it still gave Xanatos' heart a pang to see his teacher and mentor looking so different. His long, once-chestnut hair had grayed quite a bit, and his beard, too, had turned silver, lending him the aristocratic air that gray hair always seemed to give. The fine web of wrinkles on his face had deepened and spread, showing new lines of sadness, but, at the same time, the distinct lines that came from smiles and laughter too.
"Master," Xanatos greeted softly. He walked over to his mentor, teacher, friend, wanting so much to hug him, start sobbing like a small child, and apologize for everything that had happened in the last ten years--
He shook Qui-Gon's hand. "How have you been, Master?" he inquired politely, pitching his voice evenly, not revealing any of his long pent-up emotions. Just the student and the teacher. Not a son and father, not a--
Qui-Gon grinned at the title. "I'm not your master anymore, Padawan," he reminded him.
"I'm not your padawan anymore, Master," Xanatos returned.
They both chuckled a bit at that. "True," Qui-Gon admitted with a wry smile. "So- how are things in the galaxy lately?" He asked this in the same tone Xanatos just used. Polite, civil, but nothing more.
"Oh, not bad," Xanatos replied. "The same as usual-- peaceful, quiet, for the most part. The Council was hard-pressed to keep me busy," he admitted.
The galaxy had been peaceful for centuries. Even Master Yoda could scarcely remember a time when the Jedi had been called on in force, though they kept up their lightsaber skills and martial arts. The Sith had long ago been defeated, the dark side long ago put into a swift retreat; now was a golden age for the Republic, for the Jedi. Jedi were still needed, of course, as peace-keepers, as negotiators, and it had been in this function that Xanatos had served during his self-imposed ten-year exile.
Qui-Gon nodded. "That's nice," he replied vaguely.
An awkward pause followed, neither man knowing quite what to say or where to look. Xanatos shifted slightly from foot to foot.
"Would you have a seat?" Qui-Gon finally offered. Xanatos nodded, not quite trusting his tongue. They both sat down on opposite sides of the wide desk. More silence. "Care for a drink? I have blue milk, tea, and water."
"Water," Xanatos replied hoarsely. He needed it. Even though he had faced quite a few dangers during his time away from the Temple, his throat had never felt quite so dry.
Qui-Gon nodded curtly and pushed a button on the desk. A moment later, a kitchen droid entered, bearing a cup of clear, cold water. Xanatos chugged it down without pause.
It did not help.
They just sat for a few more minutes in silence before Xanatos finally decided that he had had enough. "Qui-Gon, I--"
They stopped and looked at each other somewhat sheepishly. "You first," Qui-Gon offered.
Xanatos nodded, licking dry lips. "Mast-- I mean Qui-Gon, I just wanted to tell you-- to tell you--" he stopped, not knowing how to continue
Qui-Gon raised an eyebrow. "Of course," he replied wisely. "I never thought I'd hear you trying to apologize, Xanatos-- I'd always rather sincerely doubted that you would. You're probably one of the most stubborn Jedi in the order. But you are trying to apologize, aren't you?"
Xanatos nodded dumbly. "Exactly," he admitted. "I guess I'm not that good with apologies, but after everything that's happened between us during the last ten years I thought--"
This time, it was Qui-Gon who cut him off. "You don't have to apologize, Xan," he interrupted, using the childhood name that Xanatos had not heard in ever so long. "It wasn't your fault. It had to happen, I know that now; I knew it then, too, but couldn't accept it right away. I'm the one who should be sorry for driving you away from your home, from your life." He smiled ruefully, holding his hands out, palms up. "So-- will you forgive me?"
Was it true? Could it be true? He had spent the last ten years trying to run away from his past, from his actions. Was it finally over? Xanatos stared at his teacher for a long moment-- and threw his head back with a laugh. "How about we just both be sorry together?" he suggested.
Qui-Gon smiled. "Deal." He offered his arms for a hug-- and Xanatos hugged him back.
It was good to be home.