When Obi-Wan emerged from the Council Chamber Qui-Gon stepped out of the shadows he'd been waiting in. The Council assistant threw him a scowling glance from her desk. He replied her with a conspiratory smile and a wink. Obviously despite herself she smiled in return.
"Irresistible to the women, aren't you, Master? Just as I remember." The younger man smiled.
"Didn't think you would remember such things about your old Master," chuckled Qui-Gon putting a hand onto Obi-Wan's shoulder.
"Well, I do."
"How did your meeting with the Council go?"
Obi-Wan's smile faded, and he shook his head.
"Not as I hoped, rather the way I thought it would. They did not believe a single word. Even Yoda. Somehow I hoped they would have more trust in me. Perhaps, I deceived myself remembering them from the time I was on the Council."
"Were the sessions as boring as I think them to be?"
"Sometimes. Though there were more squabbles than anything else. And they tried to forbid me sitting with my legs crossed."
"Tried?" There was a twinkle of laughter in Qui-Gon's eyes. "Unsuccessfully, I take it."
"More or less. Your school, by the way."
The two Jedi reached the Room of a Thousand Fountains. Artificial sun, muted to match the evening outside the Temple walls, basked the two men in its warm light. Gravel rustled under their feet as they moved with trained grace along a path. Fresh scent of greenery and blooms washed over them, and Obi-Wan paused to breathe it in.
"I almost forgot..." he whispered reverently. He walked to the nearest tree and brushed his fingertips over the leaves, the branches. "There's so much life here."
"Do you feel..."
"The Force in here? No, I don't. But I still can feel their energy, I can tell that they're alive, not dead."
If he expected Qui-Gon to tell him that his sense of the Force will probably return, he was wrong. The moment hung suspended in its awkwardness until a call broke it like an arrow breaking fine glass.
Kenobi froze. His fingers squeezed a leaf. Steeling himself he abruptly turned. Lips parted in an uncertain but happy smile.
The young Mon Calamari launched herself at him. She smelled of water and sault. Cool arms hugged him.
"Obi, you're back!" She finally distanced herself slightly to look at his face. Frowned. "Something's happened? You look different."
"Yes, something has happened."
"Tell me all of it."
He smiled. "I will."
"Ahem," Qui-Gon broke in. "Obi-Wan, I'm expecting you at our quarters when you're done."
And with that said the Jedi disappeared around the nearest bush, leaving two friends to each other. As he went he thanked the Force for Bant to have come their way. He might be the Master, the substitute father, but the closest friend had infinitely more chances to heal Obi-Wan's soul wounds.
"Come," Bant tugged her friend by the sleeve, pulling him to a pond nearby. They sat on the grass and leaned against a large boulder. Obi-Wan watched small fish darting under water, glinting in light. Bant studied him.
"You are different," she finally said.
"Yes, I am." He continued to stare at the fish. She ruffled the hair at the back of his neck.
He did. She listened quietly, never once interrupting. When he fell silent she wordlessly rubbed his back.
"I am leaving tomorrow."
"What are you going to do now? Find proof for the Council?"
"I don't think so. I doubt there is any use to waste time and effort to make them believe. I will see what I can do myself."
"But..." Her silver eyes grew concerned. "Didn't you just say even Yoda couldn't defeat Darth Sidious?"
"You are well aware that there are ways of blunt force and then there are other, more covert ways. I am not going to barge in and challenge him. We'll see if I can outsmart him." He smiled, and it was not a smile familiar to Bant. It looked oddly out of place.
"That doesn't suit you. Please, don't smile like that."
Obi-Wan stood, made two steps to the pond and kneeled on the very edge. He leaned forward, looking into water. For a moment he studied the reflection.
"I forgot I ever looked so wide-eyed, so youthful. You're right, that smile doesn't suit this face." He turned to Bant, giving her a genuine smile of affection. "Better?"
"Much," she laughed and scurried to sit next to him, dipping her legs into the water.
He bared his feet, rolled up his pants and lowered his feet into the pond as well. They started to splash the water with their feet, frightening the fish away. Laughter rang over the pond.
"I can splash farther."
"No, you can't."
Suddenly Obi-Wan started then stiffened. He held the end of his waist-long braid in his hand, looking at it in wonder. Bant's face darkened. Obi-Wan brushed his fingers over the plaited hair, then turned to his friend and unexpectedly gave her a boyish grin.
"My memory seems to be awfully off these days."
"It seems to give you many pleasant surprises," Bant playfully added.
"Is that Count Dooku over there?" Obi-Wan asked Bant as they quietly walked through the Gardens.
The girl looked where he pointed and nodded. "Yes, Master Dooku has returned from his mission. You want me to introduce you to him?"
"Huh? Oh, no, no, thank you. I don't think that is needed." Obi-Wan suddenly looked grim.
"What's wrong? Obi?"
"It's nothing. Just thinking about some possibilities."
Dooku disappeared behind the trees, and Obi-Wan turned to look at worried Bant. He gave her a flick on the nose.
"Don't be upset, little sister. Everything's going to be all right."
"Up until you get yourself into some trouble over your head."
"You think I'm that rash?"
"Yes. You were and always will be." Your accepting that deal and coming here is the best proof of that, Bant thought but never voiced the idea. He smiled that wide boyish smile of his, and she smiled too, unable to resist. "This didn't change either," she laughed.
All too soon they parted warmly, and Obi-Wan came to the quarters he shared with Qui-Gon. Fond memories warred with sharp pain creating a turmoil reflected only in Kenobi's eyes. Fingers automatically punched in the code for the door before he could even think of remembering it. Inside the apartment Qui-Gon greeted him from the sofa where he was reading. Obi-Wan closed his eyes and breathed in the air of his childhood and youth. Made several steps, letting himself to stay lost in memories for just a minute. Then he forced himself to return to reality.
"Where's Anakin?" Obi-Wan asked, taking his boots off and walking to the small kitchen.
"I left him to the care of crèche masters. Best I could think of. You hungry, Padawan?"
Obi-Wan's fingers tensed momentarily around the fridge handle at the way Qui-Gon addressed him but quickly relaxed. He slid his hand over the handle, refreshing the memory, then turned to the Master.
"I wouldn't mind some food, actually."
Light meal, pleasant company - what could be better? At the moment, Obi-Wan decided, nothing.
"Are you sure you want to go?" Qui-Gon suddenly asked. "Coruscant's life isn't easy."
must." Obi-Wan looked at the older man. "Qui-Gon, I am not
only a Jedi
Master, I am also a former general and former fugitive. I will survive."
"You're still my Obi-Wan." It was obvious that those words didn't come easily.
Obi-Wan only shook his head with a small smile with just a
bitterness to it. His eyes strayed to the window, watching threads of air cars weaving through the darkened night sky. Pale moon painted silver the rooftops of the highest buildings. Lower artificial light sparkled. Life never stopped.
"Please, teach Anakin well so that we have a future better than what I have witnessed." So softly spoken it could have been a thought. But Qui-Gon picked on it nevertheless.
"So, you've changed your mind about this?" The Master leaned back folding his arms over his chest.
"Erm... I considered the options. Maybe... Maybe the prophecy can be reverted."
"On Kashyyyk Yoda found a part of the
prophecy about the Chosen One
that we never knew of before. It said..." Obi-Wan appeared to be in thought for a moment, recalling the prophecy. "In twilight times a Chosen One will come, conceived by the Force itself. Bring balance to the Force he will. First destroy he will the light in himself and the path he walked to it. Then destroy he will the darkness in himself and the path he walked to it. And thus balance will come."
Silence. Qui-Gon's eyes grew distant as he sat, lost in thought. Obi-Wan watched him.
"The first part has already taken place: the Order was destroyed, and later I let Anakin kill me. Now, maybe, we can do something, change something. And destruction wouldn't be needed anymore."