TIME:10 years pre-TPM, Obi-Wan is 15
SUMMARY:When Obi-Wan falls seriously ill during a simple visitation to a tropical island, Qui-Gon realizes how much the padawan means to him.
AUTHOR'S NOTE:This little incident was mentioned twice in another story of mine, Remnants in the Mind. But it is *not* relevant to read it to understand this better.
ARCHIVE:Please ask first. Sites who have previously archived any of my stories may archive any of them that they want to without asking.
DISCLAIMER:All recognizable characters are the property of Lucasfilm Limited. All the rest belong to me. I receive no profit from this.
Cagonor was a world of glittering turquoise water dotted with countless islands. Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his fifteen-year-old apprentice, Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi, had been sent to observe various primitive tribes across the islands.
Obi-Wan loved the tropical climate; his face beamed with an innocent joy. He savored the sensuous feel of ivory sand between his toes, even the parching hot radiance of the blinding white sun, so distinctly foreign from Coruscant. To Obi-Wan, this was paradise.
"Look, Master," said Obi-Wan, holding a large pearly conk shell in his hands. "I've heard about these, but I've never actually seen one." His fingers ran over the hard-ridged surface and then held it up to his ear, and he closed his eyes.
He looked so innocent, so precious in that moment, that Qui-Gon felt an odd sense of joy blossoming deep in his heart. A joy he had not felt since . . .
"I can hear the roar of oceans in here, Master," the boy quietly said, opening eyes as blue and sparkling as the sea. "Almost like there's a giant sea contained in this little shell. Want to listen?" he asked, offering the shell with a disarmingly sweet smile.
Qui-Gon took it and placed the shell to his ear, while his padawan stood and watched, a sea breeze tossing the boy's padawan braid against his chest.
"It sounds beautiful, Padawan. Maybe we can take the ocean home with us."
Obi-Wan laughed in the sunlight.
The locals of Kontu said the trees protected them. Their exotic curves lined the coast, hiding the people from warring tribes that traversed the waves. Delicate lacey chartreuse fronds waved lightly in the sea breeze as it carried the faint fragrance of bangi nuts.
Obi-Wan had taken the liberty of scampering up the stringy-barked glomhuel trees to fetch the large fibrous nuts that grew in the upper reaches.
"Master," the boy shouted from the top of one such tree. "Which ones did they say were the best?"
"Look for the ones with the husk about to split," Qui-Gon yelled back, watching with apprehension as the boy held on by one arm wrapped around the trunk. "Be careful, Obi-Wan," he added with masterly concern.
"If I was careful, then you'd never get any practice for keeping your Jedi serenity," the boy replied with a smirk.
"You enjoy teasing me, Padawan," said the master, plain-faced and feigning sternness.
"Of course, Master," the boy went on with his charming impertinence. "Why do I sense that you enjoy it too?"
A smile spread unbidden across Qui-Gon's face. "Perhaps because you've had an exceptional teacher, young Padawan."
A small shuttle ferried them among the scattered islands, dropping them off and returning to pick them up, only to take them another island after a few days. However, engine trouble had left them stranded on the Kontu island. It would be many more days before the shuttle could return.
"I've never seen such a beautiful sunrise, Master," Obi-Wan whispered almost reverently, captivated by the liquid wash of lilac and silver glowing across the skies. His face was softly painted in the growing light.
They sat on the beach, at the junction of where powdery sand met lush vegetation. The deep ocean had begun to shimmer like a many-faceted precious jewel from the waking sun on the edge of the horizon.
No one had touched Qui-Gon's heart - not since Xanatos. Because of the wintry chill that he had so carefully wrapped it in on that day of betrayal when the raven-haired padawan had raised his weapon against him.
Too much pain to go through again.
"Sometimes I think I'm in heaven." The padawan's voice, as soft as a whisper, drew him from his wondering thoughts.
Qui-Gon smiled ruefully inside as he watched morning's light dance in the boy's eyes.
No, he would not hurt again. Not if he could help it.
The day had been long and hot, but the night promised the soothingly cool air off the ocean.
"How much longer are we going to have to stay here?" Obi-Wan asked, trying to not sound whiney.
"Hmm?" Qui-Gon looked up from his datapad.
Obi-Wan stood just inside the door, a fine line between his brows. "I said how long are we going to be here?" he repeated, respectfully. "I thought the shuttle would have returned by now."
A huge sigh escaped Qui-Gon. "I thought you liked being here, Obi-Wan. It's not like we're permanently stranded. And besides, this is a good practice of patience - something you, evidently, still need to learn."
"Yes, Master," the padawan murmured, quickly looking at the floor.
After a moment of silence, Obi-Wan raised his gaze back up to his master and saw the man was back to reading his datapad. Tentatively, he stepped further into the room. "Master, I don't feel so well," he said, passing a hand through his hair.
"It's probably just the heat," Qui-Gon told him, his interest held by the datapad. "Here, use this hand fan." He pointed toward a small table where a paper fan lay.
But I'm not hot, the boy thought.
Seeing that Qui-Gon was going to say no more, Obi-Wan took the pink paper fan and walked back outside to the covered bamboo porch to settle into a woven chair which was mildly uncomfortable.
The padawan had been left to himself for most of the day as Qui-Gon worked on their mission report. He could have gone back to the beach or done any number of other things that he and his master had enjoyed over the last few days, but for some reason today he had felt terribly tired . . . and sick.
Qui-Gon had not noticed. He had also suddenly become very distant after the padawan's desperate attempts in the last few days to win his everlasting favor.
Master Qui-Gon will always be that way, a weary voice whispered in his head. You will never be more to him than just a pupil kept at arm's length.
A soft liquid warble disturbed the gentle silence. The babble of an evening auruler.
Normally, he would have eagerly searched for the location of the night bird, attempting to see its fabled velvet gold feathers, even in the budding shadows of twilight. But a sudden sick feeling swept over him and roiled in the pit of his stomach. The pink fan fell to the floor with a soft rustle when he rested his face in his hands, waiting calmly until the ill feeling passed.
These nauseous spells had started earlier in the day and were growing in intensity. Previously thinking they were nothing out of the ordinary, he now considered that prognosis wrong. And despite the blazing heat in the air, he felt cold.
Standing, Obi-Wan swayed slightly as the world tilted beneath him. He grasped the back of the chair for support until his equilibrium returned, then he went back inside.
"Master, I still feel sick." Obi-Wan swallowed back his returning nausea and, seeing his robe drapped over the back of a chair, pulled it on. He was freezing, even here with the warm summery breezes wafting through.
Qui-Gon looked up to see Obi-Wan's cheeks rosy-red. A concerned frown formed on his forehead. "Padawan, come here." He tossed the datapad aside.
"Master, I . . . " Obi-Wan edged nearer as Qui-Gon blurred out of focus. "I feel . . ." He tried to finish, he wanted to finish, but the trip to his master took the breath out of him.
Qui-Gon pressed his large palm to the boy's fevered brow. "Why, you're burning up, Obi-Wan." He sounded surprised.
"But I'm cold, Master," the padawan protested meekly, and bowed his head until it rested against Qui-Gon's chest, but two strong hands pulled him back to arm's length.
"Does your head hurt?" Qui-Gon asked, staring at the top of the russet-haired youth's head.
Obi-Wan nodded once, shivers racing through him.
"Perhaps you're sick," Qui-Gon thought out loud. Of course he's sick, he silently berated himself. Now do something about it.
Two large hands guided Obi-Wan to their sleeping room with two sleeping pallets on the floor. Qui-Gon eased the boy down so that he was sitting on the mess of soft blankets and then went about removing the youth's robe, tunics, boots and socks.
To Obi-Wan, the whole event was only marginally real, and before he knew it, he was comfortably lying down. Why was Qui-Gon doing this? Didn't he remember this was his padawan? The reserved master had never shown so much care before.
The padawan raised shyly pleading eyes. "Master, I'm cold." Meeting the deep blue pools of his master's eyes, he noted the worry that was almost hid in them. He looked at Qui-Gon, who gave a small smile for assurance.
"I know you are, but your temperature needs to come down. I'll bring you some water," Qui-Gon informed him and stood to leave.
Wide turquoise eyes watched Qui-Gon's receding back in disbelief - and hope.
Within seconds, Qui-Gon returned with a metal cup in his hands. "Here, drink this."
A strong, but gentle, hand raised and tilted the boy's head, and he drank slowly, careful of his twisting stomach while keeping his gaze lowered to avoid all eye contact.
"Enough?" The query fell softly, but was quickly followed by a gruff clearing of the throat. Then Qui-Gon spoke in his usual serene detached manner. "After some rest you should feel better, Padawan." He quickly stood and retreated to the other room.
It was past bedtime. Why was he still up? He was not getting any more done on their mission report. After staring at the datapad for a long time, the words not registering, Qui-Gon got up and stopped at the doorway to their sleeping room. He leaned on one arm against the sturdy bamboo doorframe and peered in at the young padawan lying in a pale flush of light.
Thin blankets were twisted around the youth's waist, a sheen of moonlight softly gleaming on a smooth forehead and bare chest. Then a faint moan fell from slightly open lips, and the boy's head slowly rocked from side to side.
A stab of worry sliced through Qui-Gon's heart. Quick steps brought him to the boy's side where he slid the back of his hand across the glowing brow and found that the boy's temperature had risen a great deal higher than it was earlier. Obi-Wan was smoldering.
Thickened lashes drifted apart to reveal a brilliant glaze of turquoise, just before the eyes rolled up and the heavy lids slid back in place.
"Padawan," Qui-Gon whispered roughly, his hands gripping the boy's arms tightly and lifting the small limp body inches off the floor. The boy's head lolled back lifelessly, exposing the ivory column of a vulnerable throat. "Padawan, answer me." Eyes clouded in worry roved over the waxen young face.
Being as careful as possible, he lowered Obi-Wan back to his welter of blankets and stared out at the silence of night. The restless sounds of ganji-nids chirped as a gathering chorus against the endless roar of tides.
The universe swirled, beckoned into the haze of an uncertain future.
He knelt closer to his feverish charge and pulled the smaller form across his lap. Faint breaths brushed their warmth against the hollow of his throat as he held the boy tightly against him, but it was the body smothering in torrid heat that worried him. He peered down upon the child's face, so innocent and boyish in unconsciousness. Gently, he combed his large hand through the silkiness of Obi-Wan's hair and marveled at the softness.
A small cough shook the boy's body, and then young arms began to struggle in earnest against the grip he was held in. Qui-Gon loosened his hold and tenderly rubbed Obi-Wan's strong back until the boy calmed.
Pulling the invisible tendrils of Force energy around him, the Jedi master poured a steady stream of healing power into the ailing body. . . .
Tiny twinks of starlight faded.
Morning crept over the horizon and Qui-Gon opened his eyes.
Obi-Wan was still in his arms, snugly cradled against his broad chest. The large master whispered the backs of his fingers over a pale cheek, and then released a small huff of breath at the still sizzling temperature of the boy's skin.
"Obi-Wan?" his voice softly scratched. He watched diligently for any reaction.
There was none.
In one swift movement, Qui-Gon stood gracefully with the boy still in his arms and left their bamboo house in search of help. He would have to seek the Kontu for any healing remedies they had, since they were stranded here for days.
Thick, mushy aubergine ooze had been extracted from a ruiji root and mixed with water. It smelled disgusting, and Qui-Gon had the feeling that Obi-Wan would be hard-pressed to swallow it, even in his feverish stupor.
He pushed the metal cup against the boy's lax lips and tipped it. When the dark liquid entered Obi-Wan's mouth, the boy scrunched his face and turned his head aside, letting the medicine drip from his lips and trace a slow trail down his jawline.
"No, Padawan," Qui-Gon rebuked lightly, as he wiped away the escaping moisture. "This is medicine. You need it. Please, Obi-Wan. Please drink it."
Jeweled eyes drifted open, unfocused, but trained on the master. There was confusion in the pallid expression.
"Please, Padawan," Qui-Gon whispered with a gentle tone. "You need it. Medicine."
There appeared to be a tiny flicker of understanding in the boy's dulled gaze. Qui-Gon nodded, encouragingly, and pressed the cup to the boy's lips again. This time the padawan drank it down. But not without a pained grimace from the taste.
Qui-Gon smiled and, thanking the Kontu for their help, hefted his charge in his arms. The primitives had said it was Jelogian Flu and was highly contagious. They remained cautious, refusing to come near either of them, but Qui-Gon wrapped himself in a cloak of Living Force energy, hoping it would be enough for him - and praying that the medicine would be enough for Obi-Wan.
Once again in the shelter of their little guesthouse, Obi-Wan was laid on his sleeping pallet. The temperature was cooler today, so the many open windows and doors allowed soft breezes to bank through the house, cooling the air within.
"Obi-Wan, how do you feel?" Qui-Gon asked in a soft breath, his face filling the padawan's view.
Brushing the short, russet spikes off of the boy's brow, Qui-Gon watched with barely contained worry as the feverish child struggled to respond to him.
Those usually radiant eyes were darkened from suffering, the face that framed them, drained of all color. Obi-Wan worked his mouth to say something and tried to ignore his head pounding in agony.
Qui-Gon leaned closer, turning his ear toward the youth.
"Feel . . ." Obi-Wan panted, swallowing thickly, "terrible."
Qui-Gon nodded. "I know," his soothing baritone crooned. "I know."
The Jedi master held the boy until he drifted off into feverish dreams . . .
Until the sun fell again and took the light with it.
Obi-Wan was very ill. Qui-Gon was coming to realize that. And the medication was showing no effect as the padawan slipped into the grip of delirium.
"No." The boy's voice was hoarse from sickness. "No!" he shouted as he thrashed in Qui-Gon's arms. "Keep . . . keep them away from me," he frantically pleaded.
Qui-Gon strengthened his embrace. "What? Keep what away?" he asked in perplexity, seeing nothing out of the ordinary that should have caused Obi-Wan to be frightened.
Eyes, glazed and dilated, stared back. "Keep them away, Master," he shouted and tried to pull out of Qui-Gon grasp.
Qui-Gon was confused. "What, Obi-Wan? What?"
"The . . . the ghinas," the padawan panted. "Keep them away."
Realization dawned. "I will," Qui-Gon nodded emphatically, remembering the time the padawan had been attacked by a pack of the carnivorous creatures. Apparently, he was hallucinating about that event.
"No . . . no you won't," the boy shook his head furiously, turquoise gaze wild. "They're . . . they're going to . . . going to kill me."
"No, they're not, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon tried to soothe the boy's distress in a gentle tone. Tender hands rubbed the padawan's back.
"They are!" Obi-Wan shrieked. "Help . . . help me!"
Qui-Gon sent Force waves of peace and watched helplessly as the young padawan writhed in his arms. Abruptly, Obi-Wan fell limp and his hands curled within the folds of Qui-Gon's tunic, tugging gently. The Jedi master loosened his grip and stared worriedly down into the padawan's face.
He was so pale, and his pallid skin gleamed with the softness of moonlight. Then, those eyes that were wide with fear just seconds ago gazed up at him, now pooled with the welling of tears.
"You don't want me," Obi-Wan whispered in despair. "You . . . don't want me." His voice pitched higher and filled with the ache of sorrow.
Qui-Gon flinched from the accusation that he knew had basis. Unable to look away from bleak blue eyes that pinned him, he struggled to deny. "Th-that's not true."
"You . . . YOU DON'T!" Bitter despondency colored the boy's words.
Shaking his head, Qui-Gon objected. "No . . . no, you're wrong."
"I'm . . . not good enough." Obi-Wan spoke haltingly. "I never . . . never will be. And you . . . you don't want me."
His breath taken from him, all Qui-Gon could do was shake his head in denial.
"You don't," Obi-Wan wailed, tears spilling from tightly closed lids. "I've tried," he gasped, voice husky with pain, "so hard to be what . . . what you want me to be."
Swallowing was hard with his throat suddenly dry. Qui-Gon pulled Obi-Wan closer to him and cradled the smaller body against his broad chest, allowing the boy to burrow his head deeper in Qui-Gon's robe, while violent sobs jarred the boy's small frame. Then he rocked Obi-Wan gently in the quiet of night.
Obi-Wan was right, Qui-Gon admitted ruefully. He had not really wanted another apprentice. Not after the trust he had placed in the last one had been cruelly betrayed.
Since then, the ice of winter had frozen over his heart. It was a shield to keep everyone away, to prevent himself from being hurt.
He had selfishly pushed this boy away, loathe to give himself, afraid to feel any more love.
No one could touch his heart again.
Or so he had thought.
Oh, what a mess I've made, he thought, regret washing through him.
When the boy grew silent, he wiped at his own tears and stared through the window at the palmy trees fluttering on a midnight sea breeze.
Life never stopped, never slowed through the black dread of nocturne to the dazzling brilliance of day and back again into gloom. It was an endless cycle of joy and pain.
He thought he had closed himself to it all. But through the cracks of his heart's fragile armor, an innocent child had crept though.
"Force," he swore quietly, in the late hours. How could he love this boy after he had tried so hard to not?
He turned sapphire eyes, full of tenderness, down on the padawan's face. Still lacking healthy color, Obi-Wan was asleep, safe from his disturbing hallucinations.
Carefully, Qui-Gon laid Obi-Wan back down on his pallet and caressed a tear-stained cheek with his callused fingers. Obi-Wan sniffled, turning his face towards the large, refreshingly cool palm. Even in unconsciousness, the boy sought affection.
Qui-Gon felt his heart ache.
Obi-Wan was asleep, but those pain-filled eyes still haunted him. Still accused.
Slowly, he stood and, with one lingering glance down at the boyish face, slipped out into the gray mists of night, relieved to feel the cool swirling touch of a weakening ocean gale on his flushed skin. A mingling of sea and damp vegetation odors wafted along with the air currents, intoxicatingly more potent at night.
The island was adrift in the haze of sleep; all of the Kontu villagers were tucked away in their bamboo houses. He knelt among the trees that surrounded them and reached out for the Force. The air, and the soil, and the heaving sea all sparkled in the brilliant radiance of the Living Force. Vibrant and singing all around him, it spoke, mysterious and illuminating at the same time. Life was abundant here.
But he was alone.
When he surfaced from meditation hours later, the world was gilt with the warmth of sunlight. It spilled through emerald vegetation and fell upon the ground amid long shadows of tall trees. There was a beautiful tranquility that suffused everything, that rustled the leaves and scented the air.
Yet, his mind remained troubled.
Immediately, he stood and retreated to the confines of his guesthouse. Obi-Wan lay there where he had left him, the blankets tangled about his legs. Once again, he took the boy in his arms, held him through his delirious ravings, comforted him with nonsensical mutterings, and coaxed him into sipping water through cracked lips.
The Kontu conceded that they could do nothing else. The medicine had always worked with them, easily fighting off Jelogian Flu. A different physiology more than likely made the difference, and that could cost the padawan his life.
Another day wrought the same.
Insensate most of the time, Obi-Wan showed no improvement.
The padawan had been sick four days when a tropical rainstorm pelted the tiny island. Listening to the heavy drops of moisture drumming on the roof of their house, Qui-Gon pulled a rag from a water-filled bowl and wrung it out, heard liquid trinkling softly.
"Obi-Wan," he began, while he gently wiped the boy's waxen face and hair with a cool wet rag, not knowing if the boy behind the glassy turquoise gaze even comprehended or was aware of anything at all. "Do you remember the rainbow we saw on Pomylon last cycle?"
He paused in his ministrations and looked in Obi-Wan's eyes, unsure if the boy understood, then sighed and went on, "you thought it was the most beautiful sight you had ever seen." He chuckled slightly at the thought, his smile quickly fading.
"I want to take you to Rephné, once you're well." He spoke stronger now, more confident. "It rains very frequently, there. And every few days, the rains stop, and the sky glows a heavenly white and catches the moisture in the air, making the skies shimmer with a thousand rainbows. I wish you could see it, Padawan," he whispered longingly and eyes growing darker.
Qui-Gon brushed his hand tenderly over the padawan's glistening wet strands of hair, seeing for the first time the dark shadows beneath his eyes, the faintest rise and fall of the youth's chest, the shallow breath. Obi-Wan was growing weaker, barely responding to anything, anymore. Qui-Gon set his lips in a tight line and continued wiping a soaked rag over the feverish skin.
"Can I tell you a story, Obi-Wan?" the Jedi master hesitated, as if waiting for a reply.
A quick flash of lightning answered him, followed by the low rumble of thunder.
"There was once a man," Qui-Gon quietly said, "who had a son that he loved more than anyone he had ever loved before. The boy was handsome and dark. And very promising. So, he lavished all his praise on the boy, encouraged him, helped him, showed him everything he needed to learn. He kept nothing from his son. But one day, the boy turned on him," his voice caught slightly. Swallowing to alleviate his tight throat, he blinked eyes threatening to tear. "His son threw it all back in his face." His voice was rough with pain now. "I don't . . . he didn't understand it. And it was too painful for him to deal with."
The storm fell silent now, and the distant, gentle roar of the ocean broke through the stillness, as if it had somehow been mute before. Qui-Gon felt the burden of his desolate loneliness crushing down, the darkly future that he had mapped for himself looming. He turned his attention back to Obi-Wan - beautiful, bright, precious child that he was. A child who could love him. A child that he could love in return.
Unless he had waited too long.
He drew several deep, calming breaths, then said, "a few years later, he had another son. He didn't really want another one. He was afraid of being hurt again. So he tried to stay distant and unconcerned with the child. But . . . his new son deserved so much better, especially since he loves . . . loved the new son at least as much as he did the first one."
As tears spilled unheeded past his tightly closed lids, Qui-Gon ducked his head and pulled Obi-Wan's frighteningly wasting frame snuggly against his chest.
The sky was painted gray and dismal, the world soaked by fading rain.
He awoke, heard the ceaseless churning of the sea that seemed to echo the misery churning at the core of his soul. Peering to the windows, he saw the heavens beaming with its sun at the very edge of the horizon. There was also the cheerful song of birds, undisturbed by his inner turmoil.
When Obi-Wan stirred slightly, Qui-Gon pressed a large hand to the pale brow now gleaming with perspiration, surprised when he did not feel the searing heat he had come to expect. The boy's temperature had dropped; his fever had broken.
"Obi-Wan," he whispered in the cool breath of morning, his obvious elation bounding in his tone. "Obi-Wan." He smiled, pulling the boy in his arms.
Sleepy eyes slitted open to the call and immediately settled on the master's face. The mirth chiseled in the aging lines was enough to make Obi-Wan smile, had he possessed the strength.
"Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon repeated. "Your fever is gone. Do you hear me? Your fever is gone."
The sun smiled down on them as they strolled through silky sand along a turquoise sea that stretched into eternity. Both of them were barefoot, with trouser bottoms rolled up to mid-calf. They had one more day of being stranded here until their shuttle would arrive.
As they walked, Obi-Wan collected a jar-full of shell marl, seashell fragments that varied in size and color. The boy's health had returned, his body miraculously purging itself of the Flu overnight. It remained a mystery how he had been infected, and Qui-Gon had thankfully remained untouched by it.
"Master," Obi-Wan shouted over the sound of crashing waves. "Look at this." He picked up something and dusted off sticky sand that clung to it.
Qui-Gon walked over to him and peered down at the object that filled the padawan's hands. It was a golden, translucent hollow glass globe.
Obi-Wan's eyes were large with curiosity. "What is it?"
"It was used by fishermen," the master explained. "It was connected to the edge of a fishing net. It must have fallen off and washed up on the shore."
Turning the heavy globe around in his hands, Obi-Wan asked, "do you think they miss it?"
"Oh, perhaps," Qui-Gon answered. "But they can always replace it with another one."
Obi-Wan's sun-kissed lashes fluttered. "One that they love just as much?" The padawan's voice was soft and unsure.
Qui-Gon held his breath, then hesitantly looked into blue-jeweled eyes that glistened with hope, with forgiveness. As if the glory of morning had suddenly flared in his chest, he felt a lovely joy unfolding deep within.
The ice that had settled comfortably around his heart was melting, had been . . . melting.
"Yes, my Padawan," he replied, his voice slightly hoarse with emotion.
A shy smile crept across Obi-Wan's face, his eyes crystal bright and burning with rare purity.
Qui-Gon mirrored the smile and, after a short pause, pulled Obi-Wan into a hug. "I . . . love you, Obi-Wan," he said quietly, and marveled that the admission was like soothing balm to the aching wound that had festered within him for too long.
To love again, to give of himself.
It would be his salvation.
"I love you, Master." The boy's voice was soft and muffled against the Jedi master's tunic, but was heard, nevertheless.
No more clinging to yesterday's chill.
Qui-Gon stepped back and smiled upon the slender youth.
The pain was not gone. But it was starting to heal.