The Marionette's Dance

Chapter Ten

Authors note: I'm SOOOO sorry I didn't write this sooner, but real life and vacation, then a silent muse made the time creep by and frustration run high. I'm happy to say that I am back to finish this sucker off, and prepare the next series I'm working on.

Also, there shouldn't be any mistakes in this chapter, as it was written with a new system, where as the other chapters were written on a `cardboard box' of a puta.

And now.. without further ado....

The conclusion...

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Several healers entered the room, seeing Healer L'Tash hovering over Obi-Wan that was passed out on a chair by his masters' bedside.

"L'Tash, what's going on?" A Rodian healer asked.

"Master Jinn is showing the same chemical imbalance that Padawan Kenobi showed earlier. Somehow, the two of them are connected, when one seizures, the other follows suit. It's like a chair reaction. I need you to take Padawan Kenobi to his room and set up a neuroscanner, and do a thorough exam." Healer L'Tash spoke quickly, turning and checking the monitor readouts for Qui-Gon.

The Rodian healer went to Obi-Wan and positioned him so she could reach under the youth and lift him up to be carried to his bed for his scan.

Obi-Wan's sleepy blue eyes fluttered open in surprise and he yawned, "What's going on?"

"Padawan Kenobi!" L'Tash exclaimed. "Are you ok?"

"I'm fine. What are you doing?" Obi-Wan asked the Rodian as she began to use the force to scan him.

"I'm making sure you are stabilized before you go to your room." She replied.

"Stabilized? But I'm not `unstable'." Obi-Wan snapped, still groggy from his wake up call. "Why would I be need to be stabilized?"

Healer L'Tash read over the now normal readings on Qui-Gon, then turned to Obi-Wan, "You and your master were having seizures. When one of you would stop, the other one would start up."

Obi-Wan frowned at the healer, "Seizures?" He thought for a moment, his brow furrowed as he tried to make sense of the new information. "Healer L'Tash, I don't think that is what was happening."

The healer watched the padawan intensely.

"When I fell asleep, I was able to see places, people, and sense some terrible things. I think it was a shared nightmare." Obi-Wan spoke uncertainly to the healer, his face showing his confusion.

"I don't see how that is possible." The Rodian healer shook her head.

"Masters, you know that the creature shared Qui-Gon's mind and memories. Well, whats to say that it shared them with me too, through the bond and when it invaded my body?" Obi-Wan hypothesized.

"WHAT?" Healer' L'Tash shouted and leaned down, placing a hand on either arm of the chair the padawan sat in. "It invaded your body? When? Where?!"

Obi-Wan leaned forward, pulling his collar away from his neck and pulled the top of his tunic down to allow the healer to look. "When I came in here to.." The padawan broke off. "When my master died, I sort of disobeyed your orders, and went to his side, ignoring the creature still attached to him. When I was crying, it stuck me with one of its `legs' and I felt a strange sensation in the force."

L'Tash ran his fingers over Obi-Wan's spine, and detected a miniscule pinprick between his neck and shoulder. "How could you have overlooked this?!" He snapped at the other healers.

The other healers shook their heads, mumbling about it being so tiny and basically invisible to the naked eye and being more interested in stabilizing the padawan when he passed out.

"Obi-Wan, can you still access the force?" L'Tash asked, turning his fuming attention back to the padawan.

"Yes. In fact, I think its stronger." Obi-Wan closed his eyes and concentrated. "It feels funny. I don't know how to explain it."

"Obi-Wan, I need you to allow me to access your mind. I need to have a clear idea of what you sense, and maybe be able to figure out what that creature did you to. It may help us later if Qui-Gon has the same problem."

Obi-Wan sighed, hating the idea that another being was going to intrude into his mind. Very reluctantly he agreed. "If it will help my master, then do what you have to."

Healer L'Tash nodded and closed his eyes, extending his mental tendrils of force energy towards the young padawan and felt the youths shields drop to allow inspection.

Images of a beautiful planet flashed before the healers subconscious eye, feelings flooded over him, most of them joyful, loving, caring, and filled with extreme pride. Others sentiments sporadically interrupted the gentle waves. These other emotions being terror, alone, deep emotional hurt, and a sense of great abandonment. The battling feelings tossed and twisted around one another, each jockeying for position and equality.

The sensations seemed to be originating from two different beings. The healer tried to concentrate on focusing on one individual, but the two seemed to be intertwined and permanently meshed together, each one beginning and ending with the other.

Suddenly, as if a lifeline was thrown in the middle of the chaos, a stream of strong, white, brilliant strand of light from the force carried through the jumble of emotions. An immeasurable impression of peace, kindness and tranquility dominated the sensations.

The answer to this shift was a swelling of force of the light side, cresting and seemingly filling an entire being with purity and affection.

A tender devotion and surge of extreme sense of paternal love and mutual protection passed subconsciously between the padawan and another source, which was now realized, by the healer, as linking him to his master.

The strongest bond ever encountered by the shocked healer.

The healer retracted his force probe from the youngsters mind and opened his eyes to see a set of bright, clear, knowing eyes staring back. "The imbalance I detected in both of you..." He started.

Obi-Wan nodded slightly, "It connects Master Qui-Gon and myself together. I'm guessing when the creature invaded me, its natural body chemistry was injected into me, as it was injected into my master. Since the creature knew we were bonded, and that it couldn't sustain his life after it died, it injected the same chemical compounds into me, strengthening the bond I already share with my master, hoping the bond would be strong enough to keep him alive."

"Amazing..." L'Tash whispered. "I would like to run tests and study this phenomena."

Obi-Wan winced, "Just promise no needles."

L'Tash smiled, "Deal."

* * * * * * * * * * (ONE WEEK LATER) * * * * * * * * * *

Healer L'Tash had run every test possible to identify the creatures biotoxin that made the chemical imbalance in Master Jinn and Padawan Kenobi, and true to his word, no needles were involved.

He was able to determine that the creature, knowing its life was going to end, and destroy another's life, had taken some very strange and unusual steps to ensure the host survived. The biotoxin running through both master and apprentice forged a strong bond between the two, though alternating their bodies natural chemistry, it wasn't fatal. In fact, it enhanced the two.

In the process of establishing such a link, the creature had combined the DNA of the two Jedi, making them more compatible to sustain Master Jinns' life. The crossing of DNA not only supplied genetic makeup, but memories -good and bad-, and underlying intuitive natures, were exchanged on a subconscious level, becoming instinctually hybrid.

Obi-Wan had spent every possible hour by his masters bedside, sleeping on a small travel sleepcouch a healer provided and helping with Qui-Gon's rehabilitation, which wasn't easy.

The Jedi master hated being weakened and then catered too like an incapable child. Grumbling, fussing, and arguing with everyone in the healers ward, he'd even gone so far as to make one of the padawan healers run from the room crying at his stubbornness.

That incident earned the master a very nasty tirade from the apprentices' master, and some very rough physical therapy that lasted twice the usual amount of time.

So when Obi-Wan entered the room with a hover chair on the day that was to be his release date, and the tempting prospect of freedom, Qui-Gon nearly jumped out of bed and raced the chair out of the healers ward.

"Remember, no strenuous activity for another week, then only light kattas, you can build slowly to the more strenuous ones. And no more desserts, your sugar is too high!" Healer L'Tash shouted at the retreating backs.

As the duo rounded the corner to the lift, Qui-Gon snickered, "I wonder who he was referring to? You or me?"

Obi-Wan grinned down at his master in the hoverchair, "Probably both. When he was doing the screenings to check the imbalance in our systems, he checked over my blood analysis and said I had three times the normal amount of sugar in my system. I argued that I needed the extra energy to keep up with you."

The commlink on Obi-Wan signaled an incoming call. He unclipped the comm and answered, "Kenobi."

"Padawan Kenobi, released your master has been?" Yoda's voice crackled out of the comm.

"Yes master. Would you like to talk to him?" Obi-Wan grinned at his master, who was now shaking his head and waving his arms.

"Speak to both of you the council wishes."

"We're on our way." Obi-Wan assured the senior council member, then turned off his link. "Looks like we have a detour before we get home."

"Why does the force never answer my call to allow the floor to swallow me whole?" Qui-Gon groaned.

Obi-Wan grinned as he pushed his master to the lift and took the familiar route to the council chambers.

When they reached the doors, Qui-Gon stood, "I believe I would like to walk and stand on my own two feet."

Obi-Wan nodded silently, knowing his master had a strong will, and hated to show any weakness, even before a council that comprised of friends, colleagues and mentors that have seen him at his worst.

The massive doors hissed open and the Jedi master gracefully entered the room, followed very closely by his padawan, who knew it was an illusion and that the master was hiding his pain and still fatigued body.

The duo stood in the middle of the council room like always, and bowed, Obi-Wan more deeply than Qui-Gon.

"Master Jinn, better you feel?" Yoda asked, breaking the silence.

"Yes master, I feel a lot better. Its always great to get away from the healers clutches." Qui-Gon gave a weak smile.

Master Windu leaned forward in his chair, eyeing his long time friend carefully, "Are you sure you are feeling better?"

Qui-Gon regarded him for a moment, then defiantly nodded. "I will be able to return to active duty shortly."

"I see." The dark skinned master answered skeptically, reclining in his chair.

"Wanted to inform you we did of a transmission about Belarius." Yoda said, getting right to the point of the summons. "Admitted they did to existence of creatures, like the one that attacked you. Symbiotic with the race they are, neither one can live without the other."

Obi-Wan sensed his master waver slightly, his strength depleting. He took a small step forward, placing his shoulder against his masters back, allowing the elder to lean against him for support.

Master Windu continued where Yoda left off, "They were privy to the information that a rogue faction of the creatures was seeking leadership amongst the inhabitants, that's why they called for a peace treaty. The supporters of this faction were growing larger, and were considered condemned for their treatment of hosts, and somehow was able to survive without hosts."

"How?" Obi-Wan asked, his curiosity peaked.

"As far as the scientists we spoke with could ascertain, they mutated, their bodies adapting to a way of survival without humanoid hosts." Windu replied.

"Which faction found me?" Qui-Gon asked.

"We don't know. The information we have tells us that they creatures grow and mature in darkness, then take a Belariusian host when each is of age. There are no ways of detecting a rogue member, therefor, no way to tell if you were host to a peaceful symbiote or a rogue one." Master Windu answered.

"Have any clue Master Qui-Gon?" Yoda asked.

Qui-Gon shook his head, "I don't really know. There were so many conflicting emotions and feelings. It's hard to sort out what was real and what was illusion."

"Dispatched medical teams the Republic has, to study the culture. A small group of Jedi healers there will be also, led by Master L'Tash." Yoda said. "Placed warning beacons around Belaruis the Republic has, to ensure safety. Released it will be, when healers deem it to be safe and rogue creatures are destroyed."

Obi-Wan frowned, his thoughts back on the planet, and the injections the strangers had injected into him. "Masters, when we were on planet, we were captive and I was experimented on. They injected me with some sort of chemicals that burned and rendered me unconscious. Master Jinn rescued me, then gave me the antibiotics and antidote that was given to him by some of the sympathetic healers that didn't agree with our treatment."

"We have been in contact with the healers responsible for finding an inoculation against the rogue faction. They needed to develop an injection that would prevent the rogues from taking over any normal person, and to reject their mutated cells." Master Windu explained. "They regret that you were subjected to the experiments and wanted to send their sincerest apologies for the pain that you suffered."

Qui-Gon nodded, the last bit of his strength slipping out of his body faster than water through a sieve. "Thank you for the information. If you'll excuse me, I would like to get some rest."

All the council members nodded and quoted their favorite force expression.

As soon as the doors closed, Qui-Gon collapsed on the hoverchair, his eyes drooped, his breathing now ragged. All energy seemed to have just been sucked away by the vacuum of space.

"Its ok Master. I'll take you home and you can rest." Obi-Wan panted the elder on the shoulder and started to their quarters once again.

When they reached their quarters, Qui-Gon was apparently asleep in the hoverchair. Obi-Wan accessed their door and pushed his master inside. Tucking the elder in with a blanket, the worn out apprentice started to fluff up the pillows on the couch for a nap, but a rough voice stopped him, "Obi-Wan, go to bed. You are exhausted."

Obi-Wan sat up and looked into the tired, gray face of his mentor, who was stretching in the hoverchair. "So are you. You should get to bed too."

Qui-Gon smiled, "I may be recovering, but I'm still the adult here. YOU go to your room and sleep. I'll go to bed in a bit, but I need to do a couple things first." Obi-Wan opened his mouth to protest but Qui-Gon cut him off, "That's an order padawan."

Obi-Wan smiled shyly, "Yes master. If you need anything, don't hesitate to call."

"I know padawan, and thank you. Good night."

"Good night master."

The door to Obi-Wans room shut. Qui-Gon sat in the hoverchair, his eyes scanning every nuance of the familiar room, and all the memories it held, good and bad. His mind reeled through all the wonderful times spent, talking, laughing, or just sitting in respectable companionship as a quiet padawan sat in a corner reading a datapad, content to just spend the silence by his masters' side.

Tears welled up in the Jedi Masters eyes and started to trace lightly down his cheeks.

Though it was a terrible ordeal to live through, the mental exposure, the onslaught of emotions, and the terrible price his precious padawan paid by staying by his side through everything, the master felt a certain amount of gratitude to the creature.

A new, stronger bond was now formed between him and his apprentice, one so strong it could transcend great distances, possibly even death if it came down to it. The new bond, though seemingly costly, and very painful, had been an unexpected, but welcome blessing.

The creature had exchanged feelings, visions, fears, pain, and most importantly, love. Master and Padawan had never opened up fully to one another, each fearing a painful admission, or unhappiness. The creature had bridged the gap between the two, showing each other what their counterpart felt and saw, making each one admit their apprehension and misgivings, and creating a training bond that sealed the two lives together permanently.

Qui-Gon rose from the hoverchair and walked to the table between the couch and a couple chairs, and picked up the datapad his padawan had left there before the mission to Belaruis. Obi-Wan had a habit of laying datapads, papers, clothes, even his lightsaber, from time to time, all around the place, just tossing it aside and forgetting about it and not bothering to put things back where he found them. It was a quality that enraged the Jedi master at times, but loved the personality quark all the same. He hit the button and the information automatically scrolled across the screen about the planet Belarius.

He shuddered, closing the data stream and placed the datapad back on the table. He smiled as he spotted the slightly worn chair on his left, with the left side of the chair covered in a throw. The throw was an old sentimental gift from an elderly friend of the padawans, who always swore the boy would freeze to death one day. For a long time, the padawan wouldn't sleep without it. Now it resided on the arm of the padawans favorite chair, hiding the worn spot his leg rubbed onto the upholstery.

Obi-Wan wasn't comfortable in a chair unless he was reclined sideways in it, with one leg draped over an arm, usually resulting in the wearing thin of material on the furniture. Another quirk in the youths personality that used to irritate the master. Now it humored him.

Smiling broadly, the master felt his body tremble as fatigue washed over him once again. He turned to his room, taking the slow wobbly steps that had been walked so many times before. A blinking at the comm panel stopped the master from giving in to his weariness and sinking into his nice warm bed.

With a quick glance, he counted over two hundred messages, from all over the Temple. More than likely, get well wishes from his colleagues.

But one name of the senders struck him as odd.

Obi-Wan Kenobi

Curiously, the master hit the button to play back the message, and nearly dropped when the image appeared on the screen.

An exhausted, worn, dark circle eyed, drooping posture, tousled hair padawan appeared. His voice was more than a whisper as his gaunt face stared unblinkingly into the recording device.

"This is quite possibly the last transmission I'll ever send. I just returned from the council and have been told that a decision was made to terminate the creature. They insisted a Knight deliver the killing blow to the creature, but I couldn't allow them to decide that."

Large tears swelled up in deep blue eyes, spilling out and streaming down over his weary face.

"I demanded that I be the one to do it, though I know it's like signing my own death warrant. When the creature dies, it will not only take my master with it, but me as well.

"Ever since we rebuilt our training bond, we've been closer than master/padawan."

Qui-Gon stifled a sob as he seen Obi-Wan smiling onscreen at a distant memory. The truth was, he never really opened up completely to the boy, but, like the wonderful exception that he is, Obi-Wan had interpreted the silence and distance as a quiet, respectable, worthy companion at his side.

"He's more than my mentor. He is my father, the only parent I've ever known."

Qui-Gon began to weep openly, immense heart wrenching sobs, coming from the deepest part of his soul. Sobs so hard, they hurt, physically and emotionally. He took several breaths, watching the screen again when Obi-Wan's voice dropped even lower in a soft whisper.

"I'll be an orphan, but for a short while. When my father dies, I will too. Our bond is so strong that we can't survive without each other. And when half of your soul is gone, how can you continue living?"

Qui-Gon gasped his throat tight and constricted, his breathing ragged from his crying. There was a strange light in his bright blue eyes. Eyes that shone with so much fatherly love and pride that it was almost blinding. "I would never leave you Obi-Wan." He whispered back to the holo-recording.

Obi-Wan looked upwards on the small screen, tears running down his cheeks and splashing on his clothes.

"Oh force, help me. I don't think I can do this alone. Please give me strength."

Then, pain filled ocean blue eyes focused on the screen again, tears rolled down slightly red, puffy cheeks. A sense of steely resolution on the young, worn face showed his determination to see his master through to the end, and willingly accepting death as his fate as well.

"This is Obi-Wan Kenobi. End transmission."

Qui-Gon stood in tearful silence for a long time, staring at the blank screen.

Obi-Wan had thought he was going to die with his master, and was willingly going to allow it to happen. He was prepared to face the same fate as his master. Bravely. Stoically. In true Jedi fashion.

Composing himself, Qui-Gon centered his shoulders, feeling them tighten and stiffen as fatigue crept further into his still ailing body. But a defiant mind overrode the bodies cry of protest and much needed rest, and willed itself to remain standing and not give in to the weariness.

Clearing his throat of the harshness that lingers after prolong crying, the master hit the record button on the screen.

"Hello Obi-Wan. I am recording this message for you now, that will be sent when the time is right, so you know some important things, things I may not tell you enough.

"I wanted you to know that you have been the most wonderful thing in my life. You have always stood by my side, supported me, and guided me through some of the most terrible moments of my life, sometimes risking your own life in the process. For a long time I didn't see it, your goodness, your courage, your love. I was a blind fool.

"I have never been so proud of you. And so ashamed of myself.

"For years you were by my side, and I rarely showed you the kind of gratitude you deserve. I wanted you to know, I could have never gotten through life without your love and understanding. I should have told you how much you mean to me, and acknowledged your presence always at my side.

"I was an idiot in many ways, but I hope I have changed and seen the error of my ways. I promise you, from this moment on, I will give you all the attention and love I have, and hope that you can forgive me for my stubbornness and foolishness.

"I hope that you become the Jedi Knight you were destined to be, and that you know that your knighting will be the most proudest moment in my life. Know that I'll always be with you, in heart, soul, and spirit, if not always in body. You will always be my little padawan, and I will never again overlook your love and devotion.

"I love you my son. This is Master Qui-Gon Jinn, signing off."

The screen blinked and signaled the message had been saved. Qui-Gon typed in instructions that, if something should happen to him, the transmission would automatically be sent to Obi-Wan.

With tears still silently running down the masters face, he commanded his exhausted body to slip into Obi-Wan's room, and plant a soft kiss on the downy spikes of ginger hair. He smiled at his charge that was sleeping blissfully, and exited the room, feeling like the holder of the most precious treasure in the galaxy.