Summary: Obi-Wan Kenobi intended to spend his life as a Jedi, a servant of the galaxy... until he met Anakin Skywalker, and his purpose soon became radically different. Through struggles with everything from pride to desolace, envy to compassion, betrayal to hope, Obi-Wan must find the strength to carry out his purpose to its end: seeing balance brought to the Force.

Rating: PG (for... Star Warsyness)

Timespan: TPM-ROTJ (that's right, all of it)

Author's Note: This is, for me, an extreme labour of love. We all know the story of Anakin and we somewhat know the story of Obi-Wan, but I've always felt that my favourite character (and, in my opinion, the most interesting character) has been somewhat neglected. The SW saga is, after all, the Skywalker story, and I'm not blaming GL for making it as such. I just think that Kenobi is a really interesting character who is far more complex and important to the story than one might be lead on to believe. Besides, I really think he's a surrogate part of the Skywalker family.

I have taken great care in studying Obi-Wan's evolving character and personality characteristics throughout the saga. Great care. Seriously, you don't want to know how many hours I've put into this or what kind of ridiculous notes I've taken on the subject. I hope this will result in a realistic portrayal of the character's story. But please, please take the time to write reviews when you read. I take positive or negative comments, honestly, I just can't stand lurkers. It's really disrespectful to authors.

A word about the format of this Saga. There are several 'Episodes' within it, which are different time spans in the TPM-ROTJ saga. There will be 9 such episodes. Each of these contains numerous scenes which are either scenes from the films or 'delted and extended' scenes, if you will (those will make up the majority). The exceptions will be the episodes filling in 'gaps' between the films. I have tried to keep these stories as close to the films as possible in dialogue and action where bits have been taken directly from the films. However, I might also occasionally draw on the Jedi Apprentice books just slightly. But if I do, it will be very slightly, just for ideas on what apprenticeship is like.

Fanfiction.net readers: Please note that I will only be posting each episode rather than each 'chapter' within these. If I didn't, I would probably break a chapter number record by the end. Unfortunately, this means there will probably be large gaps between updates (It took me about 2 months to write Episode I, for instance). If you're *really* motivated to read each chapter as it comes (usually several per week), you can visit the thread for the story at theforce.net in the FanFiction Saga board.

*****

Episode I: A New Beginning

Anakin Skywalker was the boy's name. He looked so young, his face so open and honest as he gazed in admiration at Obi-Wan. "You're a Jedi too?" he asked in a tone of awe. Obi-Wan gave a small nod. "Pleased to meet you!" the boy said with an enthusiastic grin as he shook Obi-Wan's hand. The young man couldn't help but smile a little at the boy's demeanor. He was so sincerely eager and excited. Clearly the last few days had been the most exhilarating of Anakin's young life; the boy was experiencing freedom for the first time.

Obi-Wan's amusement quickly gave way to reproach as he remembered all that had been riding on the boy's pod race. It was one thing for Anakin's own freedom to depend upon it, but Obi-Wan was still dismayed with Qui-Gon for putting all their fates in the boy's hands. Their mission was very serious, yet the older Jedi seemed to treat it like a game. It wasn't the first time the Padawan had been less than thrilled with his Master's tactics. It wasn't even the first time this mission. But, though he might disagree with Qui-Gon's methods, Obi-Wan had to admit they had yet to fail. He wasn't sure how long that would last, and if they kept picking up strays they might never complete the mission.

"This is the first time I've ever been on a starship," Anakin commented, gazing around admiringly.

"Would you like to see the cockpit?" Qui-Gon offered.

The boy's eyes widened slightly. "I can? Really?"

Qui-Gon chuckled. "Of course you can." He stood up and motioned for the boy to lead the way down the hall.

Despite the light-hearted mood the others were in, Obi-Wan suddenly felt apprehensive. "Master," he said abruptly, standing up.

Both Anakin and Qui-Gon stopped and turned towards him. "Yes Obi-Wan?" Qui- Gon asked.

"I'd like to speak with you," Obi-Wan replied. Their mission had become even more complicated upon picking up Anakin, and he felt the need to talk with Qui-Gon about the matter soon. His eyes flicked to the boy, then back to his Master. "Alone, for a moment."

Anakin looked up at Qui-Gon questioningly. After a quick glance down at the boy, Qui-Gon replied genially, "I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to talk later. It's a long trip to Coruscant."

Obi-Wan resisted the urge to argue. "Yes Master," he said with a polite nod. His eyes met with Anakin's for a moment, and the boy gave him an amiable smile before turning to head eagerly for the cockpit. Qui-Gon followed the boy, glancing back at Obi-Wan expectantly. The young man hesitated a moment. Then, realising he must be patient, he resigned himself to silently following after them.

******

The ship was quiet save for the din of its engines. The lights were dimmed and most aboard were asleep. Obi-Wan paced the corridors quietly, looking for Qui-Gon. He was sure the Jedi wouldn't be asleep yet. He always found something important to do with his downtime. Obi-Wan found him at a computer terminal gazing intently at the screen.

"I haven't been able to find anything on our attacker," Qui-Gon said without turning around.

The young man had entered the room silently. Anyone else would have been oblivious to his presence, but the Jedi knew he was there immediately through the bond they shared in the Force.

Obi-Wan looked over Qui-Gon's shoulder at the screen. "Could it have been a local?"

"I don't think so. My guess is it tracked us there looking for the Queen," Qui-Gon said, letting out an exasperated sigh and turning away from the terminal.

A confused look passed Obi-Wan's face. "But how could it have tracked the Queen? We sent no messages out, just as you had requested."

Qui-Gon's expression became worried. "Perhaps it used other methods."

"Other methods?"

Qui-Gon stood up and looked solemnly at Obi-Wan. He spoke in a subdued tone, even though everyone else on board was asleep and well out of earshot. "I have reason to believe our attacker was a Sith."

"A Sith?" The Padawan's eyebrows raised before furrowing into a concerned expression. "Nobody's encountered a Sith in ages."

"I know. Which means if it was a Sith, he has chosen this exact moment to reveal himself." Qui-Gon sounded worried.

"What do you think it means?"

"I'm not sure. I shall have to consult with the Council once we reach Coruscant." The Jedi walked past Obi-Wan, heading towards his room.

The mention of Coruscant reminded Obi-Wan why he had come to see Qui-Gon in the first place. "Master," he called out, causing the Jedi master to stop and turn back to him. "What are you planning on doing with the boy once we reach Coruscant?"

"He will stay with us," Qui-Gon said matter-of-factly.

"What about after the mission," Obi-Wan said more insistently, taking a step towards Qui-Gon. "Will you take him back to Tatooine?"

Qui-Gon's brow furrowed. "Why should I take him back when we've just brought him out of there?"

Obi-Wan faltered slightly under Qui-Gon's stern gaze. He wanted to say more, but ended up muttering instead, "He would no longer be a slave."

Qui-Gon replied firmly, "You're aware that I'm taking him to the Temple, and I know you disagree with my decision. But you must learn to trust my judgement."

So he's still planning to take the boy to the Temple, Obi-Wan thought. He had suspected as much, but had hoped Qui-Gon might change his mind. The Council will never accept the boy, and then what will he do with him?

"The Council will accept him, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said solidly, picking up on his apprentice's thoughts. The young man shot him a look of slight chagrin. "It is clear that Anakin has a special gift. The Council will undoubtedly see as I have that it was the will of the Force for us to find him. You cannot account for all that has happened with the boy with coincidence."

Obi-Wan had nothing to say to counter that. The sequence of events did seem rather auspicious. But he still had his doubts about the Council accepting the boy. It would be an anomaly to a society which was heavily structured and which adhered strictly to its rules. That was the way the Jedi Order had to be in order to function properly. It was doubtful that they would make an exception for this one boy; Obi-Wan didn't understand what Qui-Gon saw in Anakin anyway.

"Master," he said gently, "I don't think it will be as easy to convince them as you believe it will be. The boy is obviously Force sensitive, but there are many children at the Temple who have already been properly trained in the Jedi arts since birth."

Qui-Gon shook his head. His voice took on a distinctive tone of firm insistence and conviction, "I have never encountered anyone with Anakin's potential, even at the Temple. Have you?"

A moment of indignation passed over Obi-Wan. He managed to swallow his pride and reply, "No Master," obediently.

Qui-Gon nodded in contentment. "We should arrive at Coruscant sometime tomorrow, but it won't be too early. You should have time to get some rest. We still have our mission before us."

Obi-Wan silently wondered if they would be picking up any more strays along the way. He was beginning to feel as though this mission would never be completed.

******

As soon as they had landed on Coruscant, Qui-Gon requested a meeting with the Jedi Council to give a detailed report of their mysterious attacker. The Council was troubled at the prospect of the Sith resurfacing, but also a little incredulous. Obi-Wan wasn't sure what to think. He thought it strange, as Mater Windu had pointed out, that the Council would not have known about it. But the Council could not seem to come to an agreement on the issue.

"With the Naboo queen you must stay, Qui-Gon. Protect her," Yoda said, after some deliberation.

Back to Naboo, Obi-Wan thought somewhat glumly. It seemed this mission would truly never end. He and Qui-Gon had been on countless missions in the past, but they rarely spanned so many planets or involved so many parties. Obi-Wan's mind had drifted for a moment, but was called back with familiar words.

"May the Force be with you," Yoda said sincerely. Obi-Wan made a courteous bow and turned towards the exit. After a few steps, he noticed Qui-Gon had not yet followed. He hoped in vain that his Master would follow, but it was immediately clear that the Jedi was not finished.

"Master Qui-Gon, more to say have you?" Yoda's distinct voice inquired.

Obi-Wan turned back to face the council, trying to hide his annoyance. He had known this was going to happen but had clung to some hope that Qui-Gon might change his mind. He was only wasting time and embarrassing himself and Obi-Wan, but the young apprentice wouldn't dare to questions his master in front of the council. Instead he stood obediently and said nothing.

"With your permission, my Master," Qui-Gon began, "I have encountered a vergence in the Force."

"A vergence, you say?" Yoda asked with cautious curiosity.

"Located around a person?" Master Windu added.

"A boy," Master Jinn clarified, "his cells have the highest concentration of midi-chlorians I have seen in a life form."

Only a slight twitch of a cheek muscle betrayed Obi-Wan's frustration. He had processed the data himself, but he still wasn't sure it was correct. Besides, even if the levels had been correct, what did that really mean? It took more than midi-chlorians to be a Jedi, that much Obi-Wan was sure of.

"It is possible," Qui-Gon continued, "that he was conceived by the midi- chlorians."

The Council exchanged meaningful looks as Obi-Wan struggled to contain his surprise. Qui-Gon couldn't be proposing what he thought he was.

"You're referring to the prophecy of the one who will be balance to the Force," Mace stated blatantly. "You believe it's this... boy?" He sounded sceptical.

Obi-Wan realised that he had underestimate Qui-Gon's interest in the boy. He had never imagined that his Master thought the boy such a key personage in Jedi lore. The Padawan's disbelief seemed to be echoed by that of the Council members.

Now Qui-Gon seemed to realise the weigh of what he was implying, and hesitated. "I don't presume-"

"But you do!" Master Yoda interjected sharply. "Revealed your opinion is."

The Jedi remained unfazed. "I request the boy be tested."

"Trained as a Jedi, you request for him?"

"Finding him was the will of the Force, I have no doubt of that," Qui-Gon spoke with great fervour. "There is too much happening here..."

The Council members looked at one another, exchanging private thoughts. Obi- Wan shifted his weight slightly in impatience. There was a pregnant pause before Master Windu replied, somewhat reluctantly, "Bring him before us then."

"Tested he will be," Master Yoda said, eyeing Qui-Gon carefully.

The Jedi and his Padawan bowed reverently before exiting the chambers.

*****

A few hours later, the two Jedi stood with Anakin outside the Council Chambers. The boy was anxiously chewing on the inside of one cheek. Qui-Gon knelt down next to him. "Try to relax. There's nothing to be afraid of."

"I'm not afraid," Anakin said boldly, lifting his chin a notch.

Qui-Gon smiled. "I know you're not." The Council door slid open, and the boy gave the venerable Master a questioning glance. "Go on in. I'll be here when you're done," Qui-Gon said. Anakin nodded and entered the Council chambers, leaving Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan outside to wait.

"It will be at least an hour before he's done," Qui-Gon said. "Why don't we stretch our legs? It's been a while since we've been here anyway." His apprentice nodded in unspoken agreement.

They walked along the busy Temple hallways silently. Obi-Wan was trying to figure out why the council had entertained Qui-Gon so much about the boy. He was almost positive that they wouldn't accept Anakin for training; the boy had been through too much to simply have his mind reprogrammed to an entirely new lifestyle. It was wrong to get the Jedi Master's hopes up.

Qui-Gon easily sensed that Obi-Wan wanted to say something to him, but knew the young man was only comfortable speaking with him in private. "It's a lovely evening," he said, motioning towards the door to the west balcony, "why don't we go outside?" The Jedi Master gazed appreciatively out over the beautiful site of the sunset as he strolled onto the veranda, Obi-Wan following at his side.

Obi-Wan didn't want to upset Qui-Gon, but he felt someone needed to keep his hopes for Anakin's future grounded in reality. "The boy will not pass the Council's tests, Master," he said, letting more of his annoyance creep into his voice than he had meant to. He felt Qui-Gon's mood shift. "He's too old," Obi-Wan added, looking away. The argument was only a fraction of what was really on his mind. He could think of half a dozen reasons why Anakin should not and would not be trained, but his confidence always seemed to falter when Qui-Gon disagreed with him.

"Anakin will become a Jedi. I promise you," Qui-Gon replied with firm assurance. Obi-Wan knew the tone all too well. It always came when his Master had his hearty set on something, especially something the Council and others disagreed with.

"Don't defy the Council, Master," Obi-Wan pleaded, "not again." He had grown weary of Qui-Gon's constant defiance. Sometimes he understood the elder man's reasoning, but at other times such as this, he simply wished his Master weren't so stubborn.

Qui-Gon's reply was predictable. "I will do as I must, Obi-Wan." He turned and walked over to the railing, gazing out over the endless city illuminated by the glowing sunset.

Still, Obi-Wan was not quite ready to give the matter up. "If you would just follow the Code, you would be on the Council," he said, following after Qui-Gon. He said nothing in reply. "They will not go along with you this time," Obi-Wan finished in frustration. He meant it, too. Master Qui- Gon was an extremely well-respected Jedi, but sometimes he flat out defied the Jedi Code. It was unfathomable to the young man. He had insisted to Qui- Gon many times that if everyone refused to follow a set of rules, there would be chaos, but the Jedi Master had always wholeheartedly disagreed. The battle was an exhausting one which Obi-Wan felt might never end.

"You still have much to learn, my young apprentice," Qui-Gon said, a hint of amusement creeping into his voice as he placed a friendly hand on Obi- Wan's shoulder. The young man remained grave, and looked away from his master to watch the speeders zooming about the city below him.

It was at times like these that he wished Qui-Gon would take him a bit more seriously and treat him like an adult instead of an inferior apprentice. Don't be ridiculous, Obi-Wan admonished himself. You are the apprentice. He's supposed to be teaching you. He sighed deeply. Qui-Gon was right. There was still so much to learn; so much he didn't understand. He wondered silently if his apprenticeship would ever end.

*****

The two Jedi arrived at the Council Chambers just in time to see Anakin exiting. His carefully held posture relaxed as soon as he saw Qui-Gon. "Master Qui-Gon, sir," the boy greeted him excitedly.

The Jedi Master kneeled down to the boy's eyelevel while Obi-Wan remained standing. "How did the testing go?"

"It lasted longer than I thought it would." Anakin hesitated and reddened, "I was pretty nervous, too. I hope I did ok."

Qui-Gon smiled and patted him on the shoulder, "I'm sure you did fine."

"What do we do now?" Anakin asked.

Motioning toward a bench positioned along the wall, Qui-Gon replied simply, "We wait." He sat down on one end. Anakin crawled up and seated himself next to the Jedi Master, his feet dangling above the stone floor.

Obi-Wan glanced at the empty space next to Anakin, but remained standing, focusing his attention out the window.

"You can sit here if you want," a small voice offered.

Obi-Wan glanced over his shoulder to see Anakin smiling at him politely and patting the empty space to his right. The young man drew a hesitant breath, then smiled tentatively and took his place next to the boy. He folded his arms up in his heavy cloak and waited in silence for the Council to call them in.

"Were you nervous when you were tested to become a Jedi?" the voice pierced the stillness again.

It took Obi-Wan several seconds to realise the boy was speaking to him. He turned his attention down to Anakin. "It was...different. I grew up in the Temple."

"You've lived here your whole life? Wow." Anakin gazed up at the delicately crafted ceiling in awe, then back to Obi-Wan. "You must be a really good Jedi by now."

Qui-Gon chuckled softly. "I remember when Obi-Wan was only a few years older than yourself." He smiled fondly, then whispered conspiratorially to Anakin, "Don't let him fool you. He was nervous too. Not to mention clumsy."

The Jedi Master spoke light-heartedly and smiled at his apprentice, but Obi- Wan still reddened and looked away, more in embarrassment than in anger.

"But he turned out to be a wonderful Padawan," Qui-Gon said, privately sending Obi-Wan a comforting message through the Force as he did. When the young man looked back up, he was met with a sincere smile and the momentary sting was forgotten.

"How long have you been his Padawan?" Anakin asked.

Obi-Wan, not used to being addressed often, wondered why the boy didn't just ask these questions to Qui-Gon. He had to think a moment before replying, "About 12 years." Had it been that long? He was surprised at how accustomed he had grown to being Qui-Gon's Padawan, and just how quickly the time had passed.

Anakin's eyes widened. "Wow, that's longer than I've been alive."

Qui-Gon grinned, "You'll be surprised at how much you can learn and grow in that amount of time, Anakin. By the time you're Obi-Wan's age, you will have more skills than you can possibly imagine."

Obi-Wan's immediately tensed. He shouldn't be getting the boy's hopes up, Obi-Wan chastised silently. He doesn't even know yet if the Council will allow Anakin to be trained. But before the young man could say anymore, the door to the Council Chambers opened.

"It appears the Council is ready to see us," Qui-Gon said happily as he stood. The boy followed after him, a hopeful spring in his step.

Obi-Wan fleetingly wondered if the boy's hopes would be fulfilled. I suppose we'll know soon enough, he thought as he entered the Jedi Council Chamber.

*****

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan waited in the center of the room with Anakin standing motionless between them. It inevitably made almost everyone nervous to stand before the Jedi Council, but Obi-Wan believed that if one had nothing to hide, there was no need to worry. He had full faith that the Council had come to the right decision about the boy.

"Completed the testing Young Skywalker has," Yoda began

"...and you have reached a decision?" Qui-Gon asked anxiously. It was abundantly clear what the Jedi thought the right decision would be. He had made it clear from the moment they'd left Tatooine.

"Patience," Mace admonished.

After a deliberate pause, Ki-Adi Mundi spoke. "The Force is strong with him," he admitted.

Obi-Wan saw his Master's countenance brighten. "He is to be trained, then?" Qui-Gon replied, though it was more a satisfied statement than a question. Anakin glanced back at him hopefully.

The slight pause that followed seemed to support Obi-Wan's prediction: what was about to be said would not be good news to Qui-Gon. His eyes turned to Master Windu, whose generally serious features held even less levity now. After a brief, but intense moment, he replied with assurance, "No, he will not be trained."

All the Jedi sensed Qui-Gon's disbelief before he said a word. It was just what Obi-Wan had feared would happen. The Jedi master had never even considered the very real possibility that the council might not allow Anakin to be trained. He turned to see what Qui-Gon's reaction would be; he could already feel his Master's calm exterior slipping away.

"No?!" Qui-Gon practically spat the word out. His hands went immediately to his hips in a characteristic gesture of defence.

Obi-Wan gritted his teeth. How could Qui-Gon not have foreseen this decision? He knew the Jedi Council even better than Obi-Wan did, but once again had allowed his passion for a cause to blind him to reality. There is no passion, Obi-Wan recited internally, half wishing he could say it out loud to his Master, there is serenity.

"He is too old," Mace said. Obi-Wan seemed to remember telling Qui-Gon the same thing. He knew the Jedi Master would have none of it. The Council probably knew this, too, but how more clearly could they state their decision? They were the authority, and it was their decision to make. Why had Qui-Gon still not learned this?

Qui-Gon put forth his most pleading argument, "He is the Chosen One, you must see it."

The conviction lining his Master's features evoked mixed feelings from the Padawan. He knew he should not be too quick to judge Qui-Gon's opinions. Such fervour had, admittedly, led them to seemingly impossible success on missions before. However, this was eclipsed in the young man's mind by his annoyance and slight embarrassment at the subject of that myth being brought up again. He resisted the urge to shake his head, and instead turned his attention back to the Council.

Master Yoda closed his eyes and drew a thoughtful breath, as if searching for something hidden. "Mmm, clouded this boy's future is."

There was a moment of silence, and Obi-Wan wondered what Qui-Gon could say in response to the wisdom the Council had provided. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his Master glimpse almost regretfully at him, which he thought strange. Then Qui-Gon spoke.

"I will train him, then." Obi-Wan's head immediately turned at the remark. Qui-Gon stepped forward and placed his hands on the shoulders of the small boy in front of him. "I take Anakin as my Padawan learner," he finished resolutely.

Obi-Wan set his jaw firmly to keep it from loosening in astonishment. Of all the things he had thought Qui-Gon might do to insure Anakin's training, he had never dreamed of this. Hadn't Qui-Gon just been saying how good of a Padawan Obi-Wan had been? How could he now just pretend as if Obi-Wan didn't exist? The young man could not completely keep his anger from growing, and was sure it was showing in his eyes. Qui-Gon didn't look at him, though he must have felt his apprentice's indignation through the Force. Then Obi-Wan was reminded that the Council could certainly feel his strong emotions as well, and attempted to calm himself.

"An apprentice you have, Qui-Gon," Yoda replied. "Impossible to take on a second."

"The code forbids it," Mace was quick to note.

He isn't asking for a second Padawan, he's asking for a new one. Obi-Wan suspected the Council understood this as well. He did his best to remain passive, staring straight ahead and out one of the windows so as not to risk locking eyes with any of the Council members.

"Obi-Wan is ready," Qui-Gon said with confidence.

"I am ready to face the trials," Obi-Wan spoke up earnestly, stepping forward before even thinking. He didn't want to have to think about what was occurring too much. It would only anger him further. He could only try to salvage some dignity.

"Our own council we will keep on who is ready," Yoda chided, always ready to keep the Jedi humble.

Then Qui-Gon spoke up, "... he is headstrong, and he has much to learn of the living Force, but he is capable."

Obi-Wan dropped his eyes to the floor, realising that the only positive thing his Master had said of him in his defence was that he was 'capable'. If that was truly the most Qui-Gon could say of him to the Council, perhaps he really wasn't ready to face the trials. But why had he waited until now to say anything? Certainly Obi-Wan had known his Master to be frustrated with him, but there had to be something positive he could say about him.

"There is little more he can learn from me," was all that Qui-Gon added. Or little more you will teach me, Obi-Wan thought bitterly. He felt a dangerously familiar anger building within him, which he conveyed to Qui- Gon with a sour expression and undoubtedly through the Force. His Master cast a tentative glance his way, but seemed unable to look directly at his Padawan. Yoda brought their attentions back.

"Young Skywalker's fate will be decided later."

Obi-Wan realised that he had completely blocked out any thought of Anakin. The boy had been standing still the entire time, but Obi-Wan had not been paying attention to his emotions. Now he sensed apprehension and fear radiating from the boy. And this is the Chosen One? A frightened child? But clearly it didn't matter what he thought or said; Qui-Gon had shown firmly where he stood on the issue. The Council members were speaking of the continuing mission, which Obi-Wan knew he should pay attention to. He did his best to calm himself, and it worked a little; but he still couldn't really focus on what the Council was saying. Suddenly he just wanted out of the room. He heard Mace say something about going back to Naboo. Then the words finally came.

"May the Force be with you," Yoda said in dismissal.

Obi-Wan was the first to bow, an automatic gesture, before turning and quickly exiting the Council chambers. Anakin and Qui-Gon followed him, a few paces behind. They walked the entire distance back to the ship without so much as a word or an exchanged glance. *****

As soon as they boarded the ship, Qui-Gon headed towards the cockpit to send a message telling the Queen they were prepared to escort her back to Naboo. Anakin followed eagerly in his footsteps. Without giving a justification, Obi-Wan headed in the other direction, toward his sleeping chamber. He suspected Qui-Gon knew his reasoning already, and the Jedi Master did nothing to stop him. Once inside the small room, he locked the door for privacy and sank down onto his sleepcouch. He sat with his hands folded under his chin and elbows resting on his knees. His eyes roamed around the room, not looking for anything in particular, and not really seeing anyway; his brooding thoughts consumed him.

He had been trying to indicate to Qui-Gon for the past few months that he was ready for the trials. Of course, he would never come right out and say it out of respect for his Master's judgement. Qui-Gon had expressed his feeling that Obi-Wan still needed a greater understanding of the living Force before he was made a knight. He was constantly reminding his Padawan to focus on the present and draw on the strength of the Force as it flowed around him. But didn't someone have to be mindful of the future? Obi-Wan was receiving premonitions more and more often, and he hardly felt he should be ignoring them. Master Yoda seemed to want to encourage this skill, but Master Qui-Gon stressed the importance of the aspect of the Force he himself felt most connected to. Obi-Wan was caught in the middle, struggling to find a balance.

Now suddenly he feels I'm ready? Obi-Wan could not understand it. He knew Qui-Gon would not have changed his mind so easily. It was clear that he had simply given up, and moved on. And to what? Anakin Skywalker? Some foolish notion of bringing balance to the Force? Obi-Wan exhaled angrily. He had wanted to be made a knight, but not like this. Yet the Council had not even said they would make him a knight. Quite the opposite, actually. It had seemed as though they too felt he was not ready. What was he to do, then? Complete his apprenticeship under Qui-Gon while Anakin tagged along on every mission? Bringing the boy to Naboo was foolish and dangerous. The only reason for having him there was that Qui-Gon wanted him to be there.

Obi-Wan rubbed his forehead and tried to draw his thoughts away from what had just happened with the Council, but to no avail. He needed something to distract himself. His eyes suddenly focused on a round metallic object setting on the floor at the end of the sleepcouch- a training probe. Without hesitation, he grabbed it and exited his room. With the Queen and her entourage gone, the hallways were empty and still. The young Jedi made his way to the main hold, hoping Qui-Gon and the others were still in the cockpit. Thankfully, there was no one there.

Obi-Wan held the probe out and pressed a small button on it, causing it to hover at eyelevel, waiting. He drew his lightsabre and flicked it on in one ingrained motion. Sensing the weapon's ignition, the training probe buzzed to life and began moving in slow, random arcs. Suddenly, it fired at the Jedi, who deftly blocked the blast. He kept his eyes locked on the floating figure, and readied himself for another attack. The probe fired at his right knee, quickly followed by a shot at his head. Obi-Wan blocked both with one upward motion. His momentum forced him to continue spinning around in the same direction, barely making it back in time to see the next shot at his chest so he could block it. The blade hit the bolt in a swing, sending the shot ricocheting towards the other wall. An astromech droid gave off a series of annoyed beeps as it narrowly missed being scorched. The sound caught Obi-Wan's attention, and he threw a glance towards the little blue droid. When he did, the probe fired again, this time catching him off guard and landing a stinging shot on his right shoulder. The mild pain stirred up Obi-Wan's latent anger, and he made a quick cut at the buzzing sphere. The probe quickly dodged backwards and fired at Obi-Wan's left shoulder, again hitting his target.

The young man drew a sharp breath of frustration and deactivated his lightsabre, causing the training probe to idle. He reached up and took it in his hand, switching it off as he did. He leaned against the wall and let out a sigh of frustration. "Stupid," he muttered. The little astromech unit bleeped in what Obi-Wan could have almost sworn to be agreement. He cast a glance at it, then sat down at the table. It was stupid to let himself get angry, he should know that. If only he could learn to tap into the Force, he would have been able to relax. He probably wouldn't even need to see the probe to deflect its shots. But he just couldn't do it, and it left his reflexes slower than he would have liked. Maybe he really wasn't ready to be a knight yet. He'd probably get himself shot on his first mission.

Anakin, on the other hand, already had amazing reflexes. There was no denying that the boy must have a great natural connection to the Force to be able to pilot a podracer like he had. Obi-Wan had never denied that. In fact, he had nothing personal against Anakin. There just seemed to be too much danger in training someone with so much resentment in him. Being in slavery his whole life had to have effected the boy. Why couldn't Obi-Wan make Qui-Gon understand that? Perhaps the problem was that he had been making it too personal. Qui-Gon probably saw him as jealous or spiteful of the boy. On the contrary, Anakin had been very polite and amiable towards Obi-Wan and he seemed like a nice enough boy. But none of that could cover up the fact that he should not be trained.

Just then, Qui-Gon and Anakin came into the hold from the direction of the cockpit. Obi-Wan looked up at Qui-Gon. When he spoke, he made sure to keep his tone neutral so as not to convey any anger towards his Master; anger would only cloud his mind. "Where are you going?" he asked.

Qui-Gon seemed to notice the shift in Obi-Wan's demeanor, and relaxed a little. "The Queen should be arriving anytime. We're just going out to greet her."

"Then I'll come too," Obi-Wan said as he set the training probe on the table and stood. There was a bleep behind him, and he turned back to see the astromech droid wheeling down after them. He shook his head.

"Come on Artoo," Anakin said, smiling at the little droid. "Let's go get some fresh air." The two led the way down the ramp.

Qui-Gon did not follow immediately, but instead turned to his apprentice. Obi-Wan spoke first, "Master, I'm sorry if I've let myself become angry with you. It's just that I think you're letting your personal feelings about the boy's potential cloud your judgement. I think you should accept the Council's decision." The words sounded a little stronger than he had planned.

Qui-Gon looked mildly irked at the comment. "Disagreement is no reason for disrespect, Obi-Wan," he rebuked as he made his way down the ramp.

The Padawan matched his stride as they stepped onto the landing platform. "It's not disrespect, Master, it's the truth," he said, a hint of his own ire creeping into his voice.

"From your point of view," Qui-Gon replied easily.

Obi-Wan hated it when he said things like that. It was only an excuse to not have to admit that one of them was ultimately wrong. "The boy is dangerous," he replied pointedly. "They all sense it, why can't you?"

"His fate is uncertain," Qui-Gon said, as he turned to face his apprentice. "He's not dangerous. The Council will decide Anakin's future, that should be enough for you," he said with a touch of irony. "Now get on board," he commanded.

Obi-Wan wanted to say something more in reply, but he was all out of arguments. He looked up at his towering Master and the last of his resolve crumbled. It was useless to argue with a Jedi Master when he was only a Padawan. Slowly, he turned away, noticing for the first time that the boy had heard everything they'd just said. Obi-Wan felt slightly regretful as he headed back to the ship, defeated.

*****

Neither Qui-Gon nor Obi-Wan was sure exactly what the Queen hoped to accomplish in returning to Naboo, but they had been instructed by the Council to accompany her back to her home planet and they did not argue. They had been on enough diplomatic missions to know that things usually didn't turn out the way they had planned, but they turned out nonetheless. After two days of travel, the Queen's transport quietly landed in the foggy marshes of Naboo. The small party exited, grateful for a breath of clean air, but aware of the imminent danger that awaited them in the days to come.

"Gunga City issen berry far," Jar-Jar's loud voice disrupted the calm scene, causing Obi-Wan to wince in irritation. The gungan, once again oblivious to the annoyance he was causing, continued. "Meesa go und spek wit da Boss Nass. Graaand Gunga army can be helpen to da Naboo, youssen see!" Obi-Wan gave Qui-Gon a questioning look.

"Perhaps Obi-Wan should accompany you. It could be dangerous," the Jedi Master suggested tactfully, with a glance at his padawan.

"Ah, no, dats okay. Mesa know da way," Jar-Jar insisted.

"Just so he knows the way," Qui-Gon added, "It may be of use in the future." He threw a sidelong glance at his apprentice, who smiled subtly. Obi-Wan understood the real reason Qui-Gon wanted him to go with Jar-Jar- the Jedi Master did not trust the gungan to be left alone. It was refreshing to Obi-Wan to know that his master shared in this opinion of the creature, even if Qui-Gon was more sympathetic towards him.

"Uh, okie day," Jar-Jar said with a shrug. "Come on Obi, disa way!" he trotted enthusiastically into the woods.

Obi-Wan gave Qui-Gon a skeptic look, which provoked a smile from the Jedi Master, before slowly following Jar-Jar through the marshy woods. The gungan was quite a ways ahead of him, but he was in no hurry to catch up. As long as he could keep him in sight, Obi-Wan was fine with keeping his distance. Jar-Jar was well-intentioned enough, but his antics had been grinding on Obi-Wan's nerves since the moment they'd met. He knew he should show compassion, but what good was it if it was false? And it wasn't as though Obi-Wan were cold hearted. He had always thought of himself as caring, but on a broader level. Qui-Gon had always been fond of growing attached to individuals in need of help, but Obi-Wan didn't understand the point of jeopardizing a mission just to save an individual. After all, the mission was of great importance to all the people of Naboo, and risking it on this one bumbling gungan seemed to be very dangerous. Qui-Gon had taken the same kind of risk trusting their fates to Anakin. You can only gamble so many times before you'll lose, Obi-Wan thought.

"Hurry! Wesa amos dare!" Jar-Jar called from up ahead, waving back wildly to the young Jedi. In his exuberance, his feet became tangled in a fallen branch and he stumbled forward into the marsh. He immediately began thrashing about, getting himself more tangled.

Sighing, Obi-Wan slowly approached the excited gungan and placed a hand on his shoulder. After using the Force to calm him, Obi-Wan grabbed Jar-Jar by the arm and yanked him up to a standing position. The gungan smiled sheepishly and Obi-Wan had to keep himself from shaking his head. Pathetic, he thought in exasperation, but was immediately glad he had not voiced it. He had jokingly referred to Anakin as a pathetic life form, and though Qui- Gon knew it was in jest, Obi-Wan could sense that it upset his master. It had been a rash comment, sprung from jealousy, and Obi-Wan now berated himself for it. A Jedi was not jealous or petty as he had been. Qui-Gon was right; there was still much for him to learn. Yet, in spite of that, Qui- Gon believed he was ready for the trials. He suddenly realised that he hadn't even thanked Qui-Gon for his faith.

"Obi!" Jar-Jar called, bringing the young Jedi out of his thoughts. "Yousa comin?" he motioned towards the lake.

Obi-Wan hesitated before answering. Perhaps he should stop acting so condescending towards the gungan. He was, after all, supposed to be helping the peoples of Naboo, not belittling them. "You can go on by yourself. I trust you can find your way back to the ship from here."

Jar-Jar looked pleasantly surprised. He nodded his head fervently, "Don worry, Obi! Mesa no let da Jedi down." He let out a joyful cry as he somersaulted into the lake, splashing water everywhere.

Obi-Wan stepped back quickly to avoid being drenched. He hoped he was doing the right thing in letting the gungan travel to the city alone. Qui-Gon had sent him along with Jar-Jar to make sure nothing happened. Or maybe it was just a test of Obi-Wan's patience. After all, the Jedi Master had always seemed to delight in making Obi-Wan face the things he had difficulty with. At first, such tests had annoyed Obi-Wan to no end, but he had gradually come to realise that Qui-Gon was only trying to teach him. He had to admit, though he rarely saw the point at the time, such exercises had always taught him valuable lessons, when he had bothered to pay attention.

He sighed raggedly as he turned to head back to the ship. It was unfair to have judged Qui-Gon's actions so harshly. He had always been an excellent mentor and teacher, and he often displayed wisdom and kindness that Obi-Wan knew he himself could not match. As the young man trudged through the shallow, murky water of the bog, he began to feel ashamed of his actions on the mission, especially regarding the boy. Anakin had, after all, saved them all; but so caught up in his own anger over Qui-Gon's blind faith in Anakin was he that Obi-Wan had not so much as uttered a thank you to the boy. It was more than his caution that had made Obi-Wan so opposed to the idea. Though he had tried to push it to the back of his mind, an underlying jealousy had fuelled his wariness of Anakin.

Obi-Wan was humiliated by his childishness. He had known Qui-Gon long enough that he should trust his judgment, and yet he had completely ignored the boy's clear potential. It wasn't out of pity that Qui-Gon had freed Anakin from slavery, Obi-Wan realised; the Jedi truly had faith in the boy. Obi-Wan was mortified by his presumption that he knew better than Qui-Gon what Anakin's fate should be. He was still only a padawan, and yet he'd had the nerve to openly tell Qui-Gon he was wrong. What had Qui-Gon done to deserve such treatment? He had only ever cared for Obi-Wan and given him gentle guidance all the years he had been his master. He had been patient with his hard-headed padawan through tough times, but had not failed to acknowledge his accomplishments. Announcing before the Council that he felt Obi-Wan ready to take the trials was not a snub- far from it. Qui-Gon was displaying his faith in his apprentice and Obi-Wan had been nothing but rude towards him because of it.

If Qui-Gon wished to take Anakin as his new apprentice, Obi-Wan should be happy. He had known no better teacher than Qui-Gon, save for Yoda, and no one else was better equipped to train someone of Anakin's potential. That guidance was not something strictly for Obi-Wan. Masters typically took on several apprentices throughout their lifetimes; Qui-Gon had had several before Obi-Wan. It was both foolish and selfish to think that he would never take on another, but Obi-Wan had never really considered that he probably would. Now that it was a definite possibility, he was finding it curiously difficult to let go. Jedi were not supposed to have specific attachments. They were all as one large family, but Obi-Wan could not help but feel that Qui-Gon had been nothing short of a father to him. The thought of becoming a knight and being on his own was both an exciting and daunting prospect. Still, he had to remind himself that Qui-Gon would be there still, still a part of the nebulous family of the Jedi. But whether or not the Council granted Qui-Gon's request to train the boy, Obi-Wan knew he would do it anyway. Qui-Gon had never had a problem defying the Council, and Obi-Wan had a hard time believing they would do anything so drastic as throwing him out of the order. The young man resigned himself to the fact that some things were simply meant to be by the will of the Force. Who was he to argue with that?

As he entered the clearing where the Queen's ship had landed, Obi-Wan saw Qui-Gon standing just where he had been before. He knew he had to apologize to him, but wasn't quite sure how to. He had never been the best with words.

"Jar-Jar is on his way to the gungan city, Master," he said as he approached, wondering how Qui-Gon would react to his returning without Jar- Jar.

Qui-Gon did not seem in the least surprised. "Good," he replied without turning around. He seemed distracted, and Obi-Wan realised he must be thinking about the mission. He silently cursed himself for becoming so caught up in personal matters that he had almost forgotten about their objective.

"Do you think the Queen's idea will work?" Obi-Wan asked.

"The gungans will not be easily swayed. And we cannot use our power to help her," Qui-Gon seemed worried, and perhaps upset with Obi-Wan, which the young man understood.

Obi-Wan struggled to find the right apologetic words. "I'm...I'm sorry for my behavior, master," he said, staring at the ground remorsefully. "It's not my place to disagree with you about the boy." Slowly, as his padawan's words registered, Qui-Gon turned his attention down to the younger man. "And I am grateful you think I'm ready to take the trials," Obi-Wan added sincerely.

"You've been a good apprentice, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said with a sincere smile. A wave of relief passed over the young man. He was glad Qui-Gon was not angry at him, but then again, Qui-Gon had always been more understanding that himself. "And you're a much wiser man than I am," the Jedi Master added, laying a hand on his apprentice's shoulder. "I foresee you will become a great Jedi Knight."

Obi-Wan didn't quite know what to say. "I shall try, Master," he managed after a moment. Over the years, Obi-Wan had learned that his Master's judgment was more often than not right, but he wasn't sure he deserved this praise. He wasn't sure if he could live up to Qui-Gon's prediction, and he certainly wasn't sure about his own wisdom. But if Qui-Gon's faith was not earned easily. Obi-Wan only hoped he would not fail him.

*****

"Obi-Wan," a familiar voice gently seeped through the grey haze of the young man's sleep, accompanied by a light nudge on his shoulder. As he crept into consciousness, he drew a deep breath and cracked his eyes open so as not to be blinded by the morning sun. He found, however, that Qui-Gon was squatting next to him in an almost eerie predawn light. He opened his eyes all the way and blinked a few times.

"It's early," he noted, suppressing a yawn. For a moment, he had a peculiar urge to roll back over into the mossy ground, cover his head with his cloak, and go back to sleep. When the rest of the Queen's entourage had arrived yesterday, the Jedi and Anakin had voluntarily given up their places on the Queen's ship and opted for a tent outside with the gathering gungan troops. Naboo had such a pleasant environment that the night had almost been more restful than sleeping aboard the sterile starship.

"It is early and there is much to be done," Qui-Gon replied as he stood.

He was right, of course. Lying around in the woods all day was not a luxury they could afford. Obi-Wan quickly pushed the brief, frivolous thoughts from his head to focus on the serious task that lay ahead of them. He propped himself up on his elbows and saw Anakin across the tent, sleeping peacefully. "What about the boy, master?"

Qui-Gon glanced at the sleeping child. "Let him sleep a while longer. He has enough ahead of him today and enough already behind. We should afford him a few more moments of peace."

Obi-Wan nodded slightly as he sat up, glad that they agreed about the boy for once. It had only been a few days ago that Anakin had been a slave on Tatooine with little hope for a different future. Obi-Wan worried that the rapid changes in the boy's life would only compound the emotional difficulties he already had. It created even more doubt in his mind as to whether or not he should be trained, but he tried to suppress them. Qui-Gon believes in him, he reminded himself. As he has always believed in me. Even when I did not. The Jedi Master's faith was not something to be taken lightly.

Qui-Gon extended a hand to his apprentice and helped him up off the ground. Obi-Wan picked up his cloak, dusted the remnants of moss from it, and put it on. He noticed the older man seemed worried as he gazed out the opening of the tent. "Do you think this plan will work?" he asked.

A frown creased the edges of the Jedi Master's mouth. "I'm not as worried about the plan as I am about... other complications..."

Obi-Wan knew exactly what he was speaking of. "The Sith," he said, finishing Qui-Gon's thoughts.

"The Council instructed us to come here in order to protect the Queen from him."

"But you're not certain it's the Queen he's after." Obi-Wan had sensed the feeling through their bond. Qui-Gon gave him a knowing look. "I believe you may be right."

Qui-Gon rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "There's some deeper evil at work, you sensed it yourself from the beginning of the mission." Obi-Wan looked surprised, but happily so, that his master had not forgotten his premonition. "It is no coincidence that the Sith has chosen to reveal himself at this time. But I can't say I know why he has." After a few moments of deep contemplation, Qui-Gon wiped the worry from his face and took on a more natural tone. "We should not let this keep us from the moment. There is too much of importance to be done here to let ourselves be caught up in the elusive."

Obi-Wan recognized the gentle counselling; he had been reminded to focus on the moment quite enough times to recognize the suggestion in all its forms. "Yes, Master," he replied dutifully as he followed Qui-Gon out of the tent.

The sun was just breaking over the hills, but already the gungans were up and preparing for battle. They were scattered about in a very loose fashion, some suiting up in their armor, some eating, and some readying the bipedal steeds the select warriors would ride. The bunch looked somewhat ragged, but what their organizational skills left to doubt, the stolid looks on their faces made up for. It was clear that they were prepared to do their part in the fight against the Trade Federation. Assembled in a more orderly fashion, the Nubian pilots stood in full gear around the Queen, who was giving a speech. The Jedi waited until she had finished and the group had disbanded to approach her.

"Master Jedi," she greeted regally.

Qui-Gon bowed and offered a polite, "Your highness." Obi-Wan bowed as well, though he had not been specifically addressed.

"Will you be accompanying my strike team to the palace?" she asked.

"Our duty is to protect you," Qui-Gon answered.

"My guards are capable," the Queen said with slight indignation in her voice, indicating her handmaidens and Panaka's small group. Then she added, "But your presence is always welcomed and appreciated." She paused, as if hesitating, then added, "And will you be bringing Anakin with you, as well?"

Obi-Wan was a little surprised at the use of the boy's first name, but if Qui-Gon shared the sentiment, he did not show it. Instead, he smiled slightly and replied, "It would not be safe to leave him here. Anakin is my charge and therefore he will come with me."

The Queen seemed happy to hear this, or at least as happy as her position allowed her to seem. Obi-Wan realised that he had underestimated how much she must care for the boy. Clearly they had become closer friends in those few days in Mos Espa than he had thought. Both he and Qui-Gon had known about the decoy- it was very hard to fool a Jedi- but he had never really had contact with the Queen while in her handmaiden persona. Anakin, however, had been visibly shocked when he learned that his friend Padmé was in fact the Queen. The two had not spoken since then, and Obi-Wan had forgotten all about it. But it was nice to know the Queen had not, and that behind all the formality lay a human being. Obi-Wan understood her position perfectly well- the Jedi were often thought of as hollow façades of people by many.

The ever-present Captain Panaka, however, disagreed. "Your highness, if I may say so," he interjected in his reprimanding tone. "I do not believe it is wise to bring this boy into battle with us."

"It would be more remiss of us to leave him here at this battle. If you fear he will get in the way, you are mistaken," she scolded, then glanced at Qui-Gon. "And Master Jinn is correct. The boy's mother entrusted him with her son. It is the safest place for him. Besides, Anakin is brave." Panaka's face registered distinct doubt, but he nodded and backed down.

"He is not coming with us to fight," Qui-Gon assured them. "He is coming so that we may insure he stays out of the fight."

Obi-Wan realised he had not even thought of what would happen to Anakin during the battle, but he agreed that Qui-Gon was right. It was not a perfect option by any means for the boy to come with them; he would be in the heart of a heated battle. Yet it was the only viable option. He only hoped Anakin would be safe as Qui-Gon had promised. If anything happened to the boy, the Jedi Master would surely be devastated.

*****

It was midday by the time the small group reached Theed. The Trade Federation's defensive forces were significantly diminished due to the battle with the gungans. The distraction was working. The Queen, with the Jedi, Anakin, and several others, approached the palace from one side of the street. They all walked softly so as not to alert the battle droids on patrol. The Queen pulled out a laserlight and signalled silently to Panaka, who was hiding under a bridge across the square. He motioned to the rest of his group to join him as soon as he received the signal.

Qui-Gon turned quickly and knelt down in front of Anakin, placing his hands on the boy's arms. "Once we get inside, you find a safe place to hide and stay there," he ordered seriously.

"Sure," Anakin replied nonchalantly.

"Stay there," Qui-Gon advised more light-heartedly. To Obi-Wan, it sounded like the boy was not entirely set on keeping his promise, but Qui-Gon did not seem worried about it, so he said nothing. After all, Qui-Gon had such an understanding with Anakin, and Obi-Wan had hardly even said anything to him. But he did know Qui-Gon and his teaching methods very well, so he was in no position to doubt him.

Just then, fire broke out from Panaka's squad under the bridge. The droid sentry immediately turned their attention on their attackers, failing to notice the smaller group led by the Queen on their flank. A few droids caught site of them and fired, but the Jedi already had their lightsabres ignited, and easily deflected the shots. The group sneaked into the large side doors of the palace before any of the droid tanks could turn their cannons on them. The Queen quickly led the way down the hall to the hangar. As soon as the door opened, the two Jedi stepped in and started deflecting shots. The Queen and her guards were behind, firing at the droids guarding the Nubian fighters. Anakin was in the back with R2-D2, shielded by everyone else.

The droids on guard reacted quickly to the invading presence, asking no question as they had when the Jedi had escaped Naboo with the Queen before. This time, they were in battle mode right away, firing upon the invading group. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon had no trouble deflecting the blaster bolts back at the droids, but the others had no protection. They had to make their move quickly.

Suddenly, Anakin was right next to Qui-Gon with no one else to guard him. "Ani, find cover. Quick!" The Jedi Master's voice held no hint of joking this time, and the boy obeyed immediately, running off to the side and taking cover behind a crate.

"Get to your ships!" the Queen yelled to the pilots, who obeyed as quickly as possible. The others did their best to shoot down the droids, but a few were shot in the process. Once one ship was away, however, the droids began faltering in their attack, and the others were also able to take off. They quickly got rid of the remaining droids, and everyone was able to take a few calming breaths. Both Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon extinguished their lightsabres. The Queen led the remaining Nubians back the way they had come. Their job was to capture the Viceroy. The Jedi followed after them.

"Hey," a small voice called out. Obi-Wan turned his head to see Anakin standing in the cockpit of one of the parked fighters. "Wait for me!"

"Anakin, stay where you are, you'll be safe there," Qui-Gon said sternly as they continued walking.

"But I-"

"Stay in that cockpit," Qui-Gon ordered. The boy said nothing more, which Obi-Wan took to mean that he would stay there. Hopefully. They had other things to worry about without having to keep track of Anakin.

The now even smaller group headed for the large hangar doors. Before they had reached them, however, they opened, revealing a single shadowy cloaked figure standing on the other side. Panaka jumped back with a start and the rest of the group came to a sudden halt. Except for the Jedi. The cloaked figure slowly gazed up, his yellow eyes staring steadily ahead. The Queen was right in front of him. He probably could have killed her in one quick movement if that were his objective. But instead he stared past the Queen and her guards. He stared right at the Jedi. Just as we suspected, Obi-Wan thought. He was never after the Queen at all. Though it reassured him of his earlier summation, the thought made Obi-Wan tense considerably.

"We'll handle this," Qui-Gon said calmly.

"We'll take the long way," the Queen said, her guards following her to the side without questioning.

Obi-Wan had suspected this confrontation would occur- so had Qui-Gon- but he could not say for sure that he was prepared for it. But who could? The Jedi had not fought with the Sith for ages. True, he had prepared thoroughly in one-on-one lightsabre combat at the Temple, but who among the Jedi had really expected to face a Sith? Obi-Wan pushed away his thoughts as much as possible. Focus on the moment, he reminded himself. Don't think. He tried to push away all emotion- apprehension, fear, exhilaration- and instead called on the living Force. He could already feel it radiating from Qui-Gon, who was standing next to him.

The Sith removed his hood. The Jedi removed their cloaks. For a moment, both sides simply stared each other down. Either could have easily made a quick move in hopes of getting the upperhand, but instead there was a strange sense of almost hallowed waiting. This was the sort of battle that had not been fought in ages. The Sith drew his weapon with a flourish, holding it horizontally and igniting it. After a meaningful beat, he ignited the other side, so that both were glowing lethally red. The double- bladed lightsabre was not one either Jedi had practiced with or against. It's all for show and intimidation, Obi-Wan thought. The Sith certainly had confidence; he would match it with his own. Without flinching, he drew his white-blue sabre into a ready stance. Qui-Gon's emerald blade glowed next to him. With a low, guttural growl, the dark warrior struck out at the Jedi.

The Force surged through Obi-Wan, and before he even realised what was happening, he leapt over his opponent's head in a powerful twisting move. He immediately struck out at the Sith from behind as Qui-Gon attacked from the front. They worked together, communicating without exchanging words, allowed the Force connection between them to control their actions. But the Sith was also attuned to the Force, and quickly ducked the initial attack. He advanced on Qui-Gon with a series of his own blows. Obi-Wan unleashed a series of attacks from behind, only to be blocked each time. He realised with latent indignation that the Sith was only attacking Qui-Gon, trying to brush him away casually in the process.

Determined to remind the Sith of his presence, the young man spun around, throwing his weight into a strike at his opponent's legs. To Obi-Wan's disillusion, the Sith managed to block the attack, at the same time kicking Qui-Gon and sending him to the ground. Obi-Wan was momentarily alone in his battle. The Sith spun in the air exorbitantly, flinging a stray piece of scrap into the air with the Force. Obi-Wan easily recognized the grandstanding, and refused to back down. This dark lord might believe the padawan was not a threat, but Obi-Wan was determined not to let himself be belittled. He strutted confidently towards his opponent, twirling his lightsabre confidently. In reply, the Sith flourished his double-blade and locked lightsabres once again with Obi-Wan. Suddenly, Qui-Gon was on Obi- Wan's left, boosting his padawan's confidence even more. Calling on the Force for a burst of strength and speed, Obi-Wan whirled around, brandishing his lightsabre in a spectacular strike. But instead of trying to block the young man's blade, the Sith lashed out, unexpectedly kicking Obi-Wan in the head. The blow was filled with the power of the Force, and sent an unsuspecting Obi-Wan flying backwards across the room.

Obi-Wan rolled to a careful stop so as not to impale himself. Qui-Gon charged ahead after the Sith, and his apprentice cursed himself for being so stupid and leaving Qui-Gon to fight alone. As he picked himself up off the ground, he burned with indignation against the dark warrior for making him look and feel like a fool. He caught up to the duelling pair, determined not to let himself be humiliated again. This time he locked blades with the Sith and tried to engage him long enough for Qui-Gon to make an unhindered attack. The dark lord somehow managed to spin himself away from both Jedi, retreating out of their reach to the edge of a platform and taking on a ready stance. Obi-Wan briefly took in the new room- it was a maze of narrow catwalks with no railings. The fighting would be much more precarious, and he would have to watch not only his opponent but his footing. As the Sith stared them down hungrily, Qui-Gon sent Obi-Wan a wordless message of reassurance, but it seemed to also say, as always, Do not lose sight of the moment, Padawan. Obi-Wan stared at the Sith intensely, then lunged forward as if to attack, but drew back at the last second. Having already anticipated his apprentice's move, Qui-Gon struck out at the Sith. But he had not fallen for it, and easily blocked Qui-Gon's blade, then flipped backwards over a gap onto one of the catwalks.

The two Jedi leapt after him, and for a moment, he seemed confused as to who he should be focusing on. Master and Padawan struck at the same moment, but the Sith caught both blades with his own. For a moment, all three stood locked together. In a surge of power, the Sith pushed both men off to his left and sprinted off down the catwalk. The Jedi jogged after him, but failed to reach him before he made an enormous Force-jump up onto the next level. He stood several stories above them, looking down with a wicked, taunting grin. Obi-Wan stared up, gauging the distance. After doing the same, Qui-Gon gave his Padawan a questioning look. Without hesitation, the young man nodded fervently. He was sure he could make it. Qui-Gon gave no hint of doubt, which encouraged Obi-Wan even more. In a split second, both men hurtled up to the catwalk where the Sith awaited, landing on either side of him with lightsabres ready. The Sith, predictably, chose to attack Qui-Gon, guarding Obi-Wan behind him without so much as a backwards glance. He forced the Jedi Master closer to a large, luminescent cylinder of energy. He followed Qui-Gon onto the rounded catwalk, and Obi-Wan was right behind him.

The air crackled not only with the sound of lightsabres clashing, but with the sound of the energy field. It was so close to the combatants that Obi- Wan could feel the air around him tingling. The Sith was completely occupied with both Qui-Gon and trying not to fall into the energy field. Obi-Wan saw his opening. He slashed at the dark warrior quickly, but had underestimated the Sith's level of Force awareness. Obi-Wan found his blow deflected and his lightsabre blade pinned helplessly to the Sith's. He tried hopelessly to pull away, but the Sith quickly whirled around, delivering another intentionally demeaning kick to the head. This time when he rolled to the floor, he found himself on a ledge. He lost his grip on his lightsabre as his momentum pulled him helplessly over the edge.

As he sailed through the air, Obi-Wan was afforded a moment of extreme clarity, and he pushed aside all other distractions to reach out with the Force. He guided his lightsabre onto the catwalk below him, and tried his best to land there himself. Unfortunately, he was not able to come to a complete stop, and he rolled over the edge. For once, though, he was able to focus on the moment, and was very glad he did. Without even realising it, his hands grasped the edge of the catwalk and prevented him from plummeting any further. With a small boost from the Force, Obi-Wan was able to pull himself back up onto the catwalk. He immediately grabbed his lightsabre and gazed up to locate Qui-Gon and the Sith. He spotted them one level above himself, heading for a hallway at the other side of the huge room. Without hesitation, Obi-Wan called on the Force once more, putting as much energy as possible into another tremendous jump. By the time he had reached the catwalk, Qui-Gon and the Sith were several hundred meters away, heading into a hall filled with numerous red laser shield walls. Obi-Wan ran as fast as he could to catch up, but his strenuous use of the Force was wearing him down. He wanted to use it to give him the super speed needed to catch up to the others, but found he could do no more than run as quickly as his body would allow. He had thought that the two of them would be able to defeat the Sith easily, but he had vastly underestimated their opponent. It was clear now just how well trained he was in the Force and in sabre combat. Obi-Wan could not leave Qui-Gon to fight him alone. He could catch up to them, and he and Qui-Gon could work together- really work together as opposed to Obi-Wan letting his emotions distract him- to overpower the Sith. His muscles strained as he sprinted down the catwalk.

Just then, the shields began to close. They started at the far end of the hallway, and Obi-Wan pushed himself harder in a vain hope to catch up with Qui-Gon. It was too late. The Sith and Qui-Gon wound up in adjoining compartments, and Obi-Wan was still at the other end of the hallway. He had to skid to a stop to avoid running into the shield that snapped in place in front of him. He watched as Qui-Gon extinguished his lightsabre and dropped calmly to a knee. Obi-Wan likewise turned his weapon off, but chose to remain standing. The Sith tapped the shield with one end of his lightsabre blade tauntingly, then turned it off and began pacing back and forth, waiting. He seemed agitated by Qui-Gon's quiet, meditative stance. Obi-Wan marvelled at the willpower it must take his master to calm himself and call on the Force in the middle of such a fierce battle. He wished he could do the same, but he was simply too anxious, too worried about whether or not he was going to be able to reach the other two combatants the next time the shields opened before they closed once again, locking him out. He ground his teeth, resolving to reach the other end of the hallway no matter how difficult it was. Qui-Gon had repeatedly expressed his faith in Obi-Wan, and the young man was not about to let him down now, at this crucial moment.

Obi-Wan waited for what seemed like hours, but what he knew was only a matter of minutes. All the while, the Sith continued to pace back and forth like a caged animal waiting to be unleashed so it could pounce on its prey. Pacing, pacing. The shields would open at any minute, he could sense it. Unable to wait any long, he ignited his lightsabre. A second later, the shields at the far end of the hall where Qui-Gon and the Sith were opened up, and the two began duelling fiercely once again. Obi-Wan stood in a ready stance as one by one the other shields opened. Finally, the one in front of him released and he bolted down the hallway, lightsabre in hand. There were only four shields left to pass. Now three. Now two. Now only one remained- and closed inches in front of his face. He screeched to a halt and took a few ragged breaths, cursing himself for being too slow. Now he could only watch helplessly as the Sith backed Qui-Gon around the edge of a circular pit that went for who knew how deep into the ground. The young man swayed side-to-side, clenching and unclenching his fists nervously as he watched. He gripped his now extinguished lightsabre tightly in his sweaty right hand. He watched as the Sith attacked mercilessly, one blade after the other, and Qui-Gon struggled to block each move.

A horrible sense of urgent worry coursed through Obi-Wan, but it was not so much due to what he was seeing take place as what he could sense was going to happen. It was an ominous, unclear premonition that he could not completely decipher, but certainly could not ignore. His jaw slacked as he watched the fight grow in intensity. The Sith blocked an overhead strike, pushing Qui-Gon's arms backwards. Suddenly, he hit the Jedi Master under the chin, stunning him momentarily. It was just long enough for the dark lord to spin around and stab one end of his blade straight through Qui- Gon's chest.

Obi-Wan felt as though he himself had been stabbed in the heart. All the air in his lungs rushed out in an involuntary cry of horror. The single word of disbelief that escaped could not begin to express his shock. This could not be happening. It wasn't possible. There were two of them against only one Sith, and they were both among the most skilled Jedi swordsmen. They had been through so many dangerous situations, but always somehow come out of it all right. He had always believed that things would continue the way they were, that Qui-Gon and he would still be close friends for decades to come. Even after he became a knight, Qui-Gon would be there to offer his gentle advice when Obi-Wan needed it most and had no where else to turn. He would always be there to be Obi-Wan's mentor. He would always be his father.

Father. The thought surprised Obi-Wan. He had never before used that word to describe Qui-Gon, but it rang so true that he could not deny it. Qui-Gon was the only family he had ever had, the single person in the galaxy who had ever really been closed to him and cared about him. And now this stranger, this twisted demonic thing that glared at him and paced around like nothing better than a sewer creature dared to take that away from him? Obi-Wan's shock quickly melted away as a new, more powerful emotion rose in him. He had felt the fringes of it before, but had never truly been engulfed by this feeling as he was now. It was a rage that pushed away the indescribable pain he was feeling and turned it outward. But it was more than just rage. The young man swallowed hard as he turned his burning eyes upon the Sith on the other side of the sizzling red wall. This feeling was focused. With the power of a beam of sunlight through a lens, this burning rage was focused on the single dark entity in front of him. It was more than rage that Obi-Wan felt; it was hate. He hated the Sith, and would not be satisfied until he had destroyed him.

Obi-Wan ignited his lightsabre in anticipation of the shields opening. A split second later, they unleashed him like a pent up animal. The adrenaline pumping in his veins mixed with a strange new power that seemed greater than anything he had known before. There was a very bitter feeling to using this power, as though it were controlling him more than he was controlling it, but Obi-Wan embraced it anyway and used it to his advantage. When he struck out, his movements were quick and precise. The Sith moved even more agilely than before, but this time it was as if Obi- Wan were completely in tune with the movements. He moved to block every blow before it was thrown. He ducked every slice at his head and jumped a swipe at his legs, landing perfectly balanced and ready. Obi-Wan was no longer fighting on behalf of the Jedi; he was fighting for his own revenge. Furiously, he pushed the Sith's blade to the side, leaving the hilt exposed. In one clean cut, he sliced the blade in half and sent the Sith sprawling to the ground. But the dark warrior still held on to the functioning half of his blade, and he struck out at Obi-Wan, who leapt over his head in a twisting motion. The Sith scrambled away, just out of reach of Obi-Wan's blade, then spun and connected one foot with the young man's jaw.

This time Obi-Wan kept his concentration, and instead of flying backwards across the floor, he managed to flip backwards and land on his feet. He would show this foul demon that he was not someone to be ignored or pushed to the side. He avoided a swipe of the Sith's blade as both twisted around each other. When the Sith struck, he blocked it and countered with a strike of his own. They exchanged a few more blows until finally Obi-Wan threw his weight into a powerful over handed strike. His lightsabre blade met with that of the Sith, and he pushed down with all his might, gritting his teeth in anger. They stayed locked that way for a few seconds, until suddenly the Sith pushed him back violently. One gloved hand went up and instantly Obi- Wan was pushed backwards by a dark wave of the Force. He tumbled, out of control, towards the edge of the precipice and went over. So blinded by his rage was he that he might have kept falling if a voice had not suddenly entered his mind.

No Obi-Wan! Let go of your anger! Qui-Gon's voice seemed to slow down time. He remembered all the endless lectures he had been given and cast out with the living Force, just in time to sense a small knob on the side of the pit and grasp it with both hands. His feet thrashed about wildly as his arms were jolted with the sudden stop, and time once again sped up to normal. Obi-Wan could feel his heart beating at an irrationally high pace. As he took a few deep breaths he struggled to bring his body back to a normal functioning state. He was shocked at what had just happened, and could not explain it until he calmed himself. Then everything he had learned over his years of Jedi training came rushing back to him. Anger, hate, and aggression, he repeated Yoda's lesson to himself, are of the Dark Side. Obi- Wan looked up at the angry face towering over him and was filled with shame. He saw in the yellow eyes the same hatred which he had harboured himself. How could he have abandoned all he believed in so quickly?

The Sith glared at him and tauntingly kicked his lightsabre into the pit. He watched as it disappeared into the abyss. Suddenly he felt hot sparks on his head and glanced up to see the dark lord scraping his lightsabre along the ledge. It was meant to rekindle his anger, but Obi-Wan had hardened himself against such feelings. Instead, he searched for his calm center and embraced the light side of the Force as it flowed around him. The Sith stopped the scraping to give him a curious look. Obi-Wan focused all his attention on Qui-Gon's extinguished sabre lying only a few feet away. He glanced back at his opponent, and the Sith gave him a distinct look of confusion. Obi-Wan turned his attention inward, grasping onto the Force as it moved through him. He took one last deep, calming breath, then let go of himself. The young man flew into the air, over the head of the Sith, and Qui-Gon's lightsabre flew into his hand. It had happened very quickly, but seemed to the Jedi like a slow, easy process. The Sith turned around to face his opponent once more, but it was too late. In one movement, Obi-Wan ignited the green sabre and made a smooth horizontal cut through the Sith's torso. The yellow eyes registered a mix of shock and pain, then the dark lord tumbled backward, the two halves of his body clattering down into the vast darkness.

After a few seconds of mixed surprise and happiness, Obi-Wan remembered Qui- Gon, and all the pain and sorrow he had felt before the hate came rushing back. He turned off his master's lightsabre and rushed to his side. He knelt next to Qui-Gon and held his head in his arms. The Jedi Master gasped frantically before finally getting out the words, "It's too late."

Obi-Wan reacted with immediate denial. "No," he insisted, refusing to accept it. Qui-Gon was strong, he had always been strong. This was going to be just another close call after all. Obi-Wan could save him, he knew he could. They could continue with things the way they were supposed to be.

"Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said hoarsely. "Promise," he began. Obi-Wan hung on his every word. Whatever it was, he would do it without question. "Promise me you will train the boy."

"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan replied immediately, though it surprised him somewhat. He had completely forgotten about Anakin in the heat of the fight and everything that had happened. After all, what place did Anakin have here at this final moment, in the last words he would ever exchange with his Master? But Obi-Wan did not question. He simply agreed.

Qui-Gon almost smiled at the reply as he gently reached up to touch Obi- Wan's face. The action sent a new wave of grief through the young man as he realised it was the last time Qui-Gon would be there to offer a comforting reassurance with a hand on his shoulder or a satisfied smile. "He is the Chosen One," Qui-Gon continued fervently. "He will bring balance." The conviction in Qui-Gon's words struck Obi-Wan deeply, and he wondered how he could have ever argued with him about the boy. He nodded his agreement. "Train him," Qui-Gon said in a whisper, and Obi-Wan nodded some more. Something in Qui-Gon's eyes gave him the feeling that there was more to say. There had to be more to say. So much had not been said, by either of them. Did Qui-Gon even know how much he had meant to Obi-Wan? Did he know how much his faith in him meant? The two locked eyes, and Obi-Wan had an overwhelming urge to tell him everything he had ever wanted to, but could find no words. Then it happened. He could feel it through the Force more than he could feel it in the body he cradled in his arms. At that moment, Obi-Wan's father died in his arms. Where their bond had been, constant and comforting for 12 years, a cold, empty void was left. He had known pain before, had cried a few tears in his youth; but he had never imagined anything like this. For the first time in his life, Obi-Wan Kenobi wept.

*****

The red shields shut down as the guards made their way down the corridor to Obi-Wan. If only it had been that easy, he thought regretfully. Or perhaps it wasn't that hard. I could have run faster if I'd shut my sabre off. I could have still been with them if my concentration hadn't waved. I could have- Obi-Wan quickly stopped that line of thinking. It was the will of the Force that things had happened this way; it had to be. Wasn't everything? It was a question he didn't want to have to deal with at the moment, and for once he was glad to see Panaka coming down the corridor towards him. Four other guards guiding a long floating cot silently went to where Qui- Gon was lying and put him on the flat board.

Panaka glanced from the body to Obi-Wan. "He was a good man," he said softly.

Obi-Wan nodded slightly, but said nothing. He couldn't begin to know what to say. So he simply followed the procession back through the hallway of deactivated shields and across a series of catwalks. It was only as he began to walk that he realized how exhausted he was, and began to notice a few dull aches, which he did his best to ignore. Had he had more energy left, he would have been able to use the Force to help. As it was, he felt completely exhausted in mind, body, and spirit. He simply followed behind the others silently, breathing deeply but softly.

When they reached the hangar, the Queen and what remained of her party were waiting for them. Without her ceremonial white makeup, the agony on her face was apparent. She looked down at Qui-Gon's body, which was floating between the solemn guards, then back up. It took Obi-Wan a second to realize she was looking at him. He stepped forward, past Panaka, and stood before the Queen. He had only spoken to her once and was not at all used to addressing people, so he settled for a silent bow.

"I believe it is I who am indebted to you, Jedi Kenobi," she said softly.

Obi-Wan was not sure what to say. He was only a Padawan, used to deferring to his Master. He had been a bit bolder in speaking as of late, but that was when Qui-Gon was there to back him up. In truth, he was surprised the Queen even knew his name. He was in no place to disagree with her, but felt undeserving of praise. He had simply been doing his duty.

He did not have time to reply, however, as just then the starfighters began roaring into the hangar. One by one, the pilots exited their crafts, greeting one another with hugs and happy cheers. They all flocked over to one starship, slapping its pilot on the back and ruffling his sandy hair before he could even climb down from the ladder. The pilots lifted the boy on their shoulders, and Anakin joined in their cheers, pumping his fists in the air and enjoying the moment of glory. When he caught site of Obi-Wan, his eyes immediately began searching for the young man's master.

Anakin's eyes settled on the still form resting on the palette between the palace guards, and the smile on his face faded into a blank, shocked stare. "Qui-Gon?" The name was choked out in a soft sob. The pilots holding the boy on their shoulders quieted as they saw where he was looking. "Qui-Gon!" he shouted in horror, jumping down and running over to the body. Obi-Wan stepped aside as the boy rushed past him. He watched as Anakin rushed to Qui-Gon's side. With tears streaming down his face, the boy buried his face in the Jedi Master's shoulder and sobbed audibly.

Everyone was standing around awkwardly, obviously not wanting to stare and upset the boy further. The pilots and most of the Queen's party exited the hangar quietly. Obi-Wan shifted his weight, wondering if he should do something. Suddenly, he remembered his promise to Qui-Gon that he would train Anakin, and felt he should help in some way, but didn't quite know how. He began to move towards the boy to lay a supportive hand on his shoulder, just to offer some kind of consolation, but to his surprise the Queen quickly knelt next to Anakin before Obi-Wan had a chance to do anything.

"I'm so sorry Anakin," she said in a tone that was not only informal, but was quite caring as well. The boy immediately turned towards her and threw his arms around her neck, hugging her tightly. Obi-Wan was surprised once again to see the depth of understanding and friendship that had developed between the two. It seemed a little odd, but at the moment he was very glad the Queen was doing something to alleviate the boy's pain. He wasn't sure what he himself could have done to help, but he was almost certain it wouldn't have been as effective. Anakin was already calming down and drying his tears, though still clutching to Amidala. She quietly signalled for her guards to take Qui-Gon's body away.

Obi-Wan cautiously approached Anakin and the Queen, who stood up as he did. "Your highness," he said politely. "I don't mean to neglect my duty to you, but I must contact the Jedi Council immediately. I should inform them of Qui-Gon's death," he found himself almost unable to say the words, and had to work to keep from breaking down once again. What kind of an impression would that make on Anakin? Jedi do not cry. How am I supposed to teach him if I can't lead by example? That was not to mention the fact that it would simply be embarrassing. Amidala was more than a decade his junior, and yet she had faced an attack on her entire planet without losing her composure. Obi-Wan clamped his jaw tightly and tried to clear his mind.

"Of course, Master Kenobi," she replied. Obi-Wan noted but ignored the misnomer. He supposed he would have to get used to being called Master if he was to take Anakin as his Padawan. The idea seemed very odd to him, that he could go from a Padawan to a Master in charge of his own Padawan in such a short time; it had happened in an instant, really. But he shouldn't jump to conclusions. No one could take a Padawan without the Council's approval, and he wasn't even a knight yet anyway. Those were only a few of the things he had to speak with the Council about.

"Thank you your highness," he glanced down at Anakin, and hesitantly asked, "I hope it wouldn't be too much trouble for Anakin to stay with you until I return?"

"It would be no trouble at all," Amidala replied, sharing a small smile with the boy.

"Then I shall find you after I've completed the call. Thank you," Obi-Wan gave a small bow. The Queen turned to lead her remaining party away, taking Anakin's hand in her own.

Obi-Wan watched them leave. His eyes settled on the boy, and he let out a silent sigh of anxiety. Qui-Gon had been right- Anakin had unmatched Force potential. After his success in the battle today, Obi-Wan could hardly deny it. Now he had only to convince the Council of it. He knew they did not overturn decisions lightly. It would be extremely hard to convince them to allow Anakin to be trained, especially by someone as inexperienced as himself. He rubbed his forehead as he turned to head to a quiet place where he could send his message to the Council uninterrupted. Then he noticed the two brown cloaks lying on the floor of the hangar. They had been discarded by he and Qui-Gon only an hour ago when they had prepared to fight the Sith. Yet for all of his preparation and attempts at tapping into the living Force, Obi-Wan had failed. He put his own cloak on quietly, then carefully picked up Qui-Gon's and draped it over his arm. Though it was empty, it seemed strangely heavy. Obi-Wan fingered the tattered edges morosely. Then, clenching the fabric determinedly, he went to contact the Jedi Council.

*****

Obi-Wan was almost relieved to find that the Council was busy when he contacted them. He wasn't sure he was ready to give a full report of the mission yet. It was all too fresh in his mind for him to reflect on it clearly. Besides, he was not sure yet how he was going to try to convince the Council to let him train Anakin; he had to know if they would make him a Knight first. No, he was not at all prepared to answer all the questions he knew were inevitable. He barely knew what to say in the message he was instructed to leave. Speaking with the Council was yet another thing he had never really done on account of only being a Padawan.

"This is Obi-Wan Kenobi reporting from Naboo," he began, immediately realising it was a stupid thing to say- they knew who he was and where he was. He shook it off and continued, "The Trade Federation blockade of the planet has been ended. Queen Amidala is in control once again. As the Council had predicted, the Queen's return drew out her attacker. Master Jinn and I encountered him at the Palace." He paused a moment, drawing a deep breath. "Ultimately I was able to defeat the attacker, but not before Master Jinn was fatally wounded. He died this afternoon." The last sentence came out as almost a whisper. "I would like to speak with the Council as soon as possible about the mission, as well as other complications stemming from it." He was fairly certain they could guess which complications had arisen. "Thank you, and may the Force be with you."

He ended the message with the push of a button on the communications module. It was only after doing so that he realised he was still holding Qui-Gon's robe. The Council would surely notice it in the message. A quick glance down at his belt reminded him that he had clipped Qui-Gon's lightsabre to it. What would he do with these items now? They had been Qui- Gon's only real possessions, the only solid reminder of him save for his file in the Jedi Archives. As he exited the small communications booth, Obi- Wan took the lightsabre in his hand and examined it. This weapon represented the very life of a Jedi, so it seemed odd that Qui-Gon's would be in such pristine condition when he was gone. Furthermore, Obi-Wan's own lightsabre had been lost. He felt a pang upon realising this: it had been the first and only lightsabre he had ever constructed. Now it, like his Master, was gone. What had so recently been his normal life seemed to have been washed away in favour of a new one. He wondered if he would have to construct a new lightsabre. Perhaps the Council would let him keep Qui- Gon's. No, it would be too sentimental.

Having wandered down the nearly empty palace hallway without even realising it, Obi-Wan was surprised to suddenly hear someone calling to him. "Jedi Kenobi!" Panaka hailed him from a side hallway. Obi-Wan quickly snapped the lightsabre back onto his belt and tried not to grip the robe too tightly as he turned to face the guard. Nevertheless, Panaka noticed the garment in his hands and gave him a questioning look.

"Qui-Gon's robe," Obi-Wan replied. "It was left in the hangar."

"Oh. I could find a place to put that."

"No, that won't be necessary, thank you."

"Well it might be for a while anyway." Panaka went on to clarify, "The Chancellor is arriving and the Queen is going to turn over Gunray to the Republic. She'd like you and the boy to come out with her."

"Of course," he replied without hesitation. Panaka stopped a passing servant and instructed her to see that Qui-Gon's cloak made its way to the Queen's secure quarters. Then Panaka started leading Obi-Wan another hallway towards an exit. The few people left in the palace seemed to be rushing to prepare for the Chancellor's unexpected arrival. The news had somewhat surprised Obi-Wan. Palpatine must have anticipated the Queen's victory and been on his way to Naboo even while the battle was still raging. It seemed like an extremely optimistic move, but then again it was the Chancellor's home planet; he was probably deeply concerned with what was going on there.

After wandering through several large, high-ceilinged hallways, the two men found the Queen- along with her handmaidens, several officials, and Anakin- waiting by an exit. The Queen was once again in full regal makeup, and though Anakin stood next to her, he seemed considerably less casual. Obi- Wan also noted that the boy's eyes showed no signs he had been crying recently. By these clues, Obi-Wan had guessed it was the Queen's reassurances and presence that had consoled the boy so effectively. It was such an odd pairing of friends. At times like this, with Amidala in full regalia, one would never guess that she and the dusty little boy even knew each other. While it was puzzling to a degree, Obi-Wan thought he understood the duplicity of it. Different situations called for different degrees of decorum, as he knew well. The Queen might be able to pass for a reasonably normal teenager in her handmaiden guise, but now she had the perfect air of a monarch.

Whatever the Queen's attire and regardless of the humanity she had shown earlier in consoling Anakin, she was still the Queen. Obi-Wan bowed courteously to her and waited to be spoken to.

"I assume Captain Panaka has already told you of the Chancellor's arrival?" she asked in her dull, low tone.

"Yes your majesty," Obi-Wan replied simply, standing with his hands behind his back. He thought he saw, out of the corner of his eye, Anakin mimicking the stance. "I'm sorry for having delayed the party."

"It's quite alright, Master Kenobi. The Chancellor is just arriving now." She looked to Panaka, who led the way outside into the palace square.

Obi-Wan was surprised to see a sizable number of Naboo guards lining the street. They had arranged themselves quickly for having so recently been in battle. The Queen quietly led her group towards a small group of guards surrounding the Trade Federation Viceroy and his assistant. As they approached, Anakin fell in step alongside Obi-Wan. The young man realised he had still hardly spoken to the boy, yet Anakin seemed to take his place beside the Jedi naturally. Obi-Wan still wasn't sure how Anakin would take to the idea of being trained by him, but it was evident that the boy at least felt some level of comfort with him.

As the Chancellor's rusty coloured ship landed at the other end of the street, the Queen stopped her party before the captive Nemodians. "Now Viceroy," she said, staring up at him sternly, "you're going to have to go back to the Senate and explain all this."

Panaka stepped forward. "I think you can kiss your Trade Franchise goodbye," he commented glibly as he passed, leading the prisoners to the awaiting ship . Obi-Wan followed towards the lowered gangway, with Anakin in tow. A group of Senate guards in deep indigo uniforms descended, followed by Chancellor Palpatine, who headed towards the Jedi first.

Obi-Wan bowed deeply, and Anakin copied the move. "We are indebted to you for your bravery Obi-Wan Kenobi," Palpatine said in a tone that was perhaps a little more curt and cadenced than he had expected to hear. The Jedi did a quick study of the man's appearance, and found his meek smile to be forced. The thought crept into his mind that perhaps the Chancellor's motives for arriving on Naboo so promptly were more strategic than sentimental. Then again, he was a politician, used to making speeches rather than sincere conversation. In any case, Obi-Wan had not done what Palpatine considered to be acts of bravery for the sake of accolades. He was simply doing his duty.

"And you, young Skywalker," the Chancellor said, a smile brightening his face and tone. Obi-Wan looked down to Anakin, who looked surprised at being addressed. "We will watch your career with great interest," Palpatine said, placing a hand on the boy's shoulder as he passed. Obi-Wan's eyes flicked back up to the Chancellor, studying him curiously.

His line of thought was interrupted, however, when he saw the members of the Jedi Council. He was surprised to see them there and wondered why they had come. They could not have known of Qui-Gon's death before departing, but he saw now in their eyes a subtle compassion that told him that his message had been transmitted to them. So why had they come in the first place, then? It was not unheard of, however also not common for the Council to visit a planet in the wake of a crisis, and Naboo was not too far from Coruscant. With the event being tied to the election of the new Chancellor, it also made it a high profile event. However, it was the glance that Mace Windu cast down at Anakin that tipped Obi-Wan off to another possible motive. The Council must have heard of his involvement in the space battle. They were probably both intrigued and upset. Obi-Wan put a protective hand on the boy's shoulder as he turned to follow the Chancellor back to where the Queen was standing.

"Congratulations on your election, Chancellor," Amidala said, a rare smile breaking through her stoic white visage.

"Your boldness has saved our people, your majesty. It is you who should be congratulated," Palpatine replied in a polished manner that, to Obi-Wan at least, seemed rehearsed. "Together, we shall bring peace and prosperity to the Republic."

"I'm afraid it takes more than the work of two people to bring about such a drastic change in such a society," Amidala replied. "But I am glad to have your support in doing what we can to improve it."

The Chancellor's speech had felt like little more than frivolous words, and Obi-Wan was happy to see the Queen take it in with a grain of salt. Surprisingly, Palpatine seemed unfazed. "Well we shall see what two people can do nonetheless," he said with a smile. Turning towards Obi-Wan and Anakin, he said, "We would be honoured if you would join us for a banquet a little later this afternoon."

The boy looked up at Obi-Wan questioningly. "Thank you for the offer. I'm not sure if I will be able to make it. I have some matters to discuss with the Council," the young man replied.

Palpatine took in the gathered group of Jedi, then replied shortly, "Ah, yes."

"Sabé," the Queen addressed the nearby handmaiden. "Show the Jedi to the west conference room." The young woman nodded and began silently leading the group away. "The Banquet will be open should you wish to come by," Amidala said to Obi-Wan as the palace guards and officials began to disband, heading off in the opposite direction the Jedi had gone.

As everyone else began to walk away, Anakin looked up at Obi-Wan apprehensively, obviously unsure of where to go. Obi-Wan didn't know if the Council would want to speak directly with Anakin again or not. More than likely, they would only want to hear his report as well as speak with him about Anakin without the boy present. But what could he say on Anakin's behalf? He suddenly realised he wasn't even certain what the boy wanted now. Kneeling down beside the boy, Obi-Wan looked him steadily in the eyes as he spoke.

"I'm going to speak with the Council," he told the boy, who nodded. "You don't need to come with me, but it's important that I know what you feel." He paused before asking, "Do you still want to become a Jedi." Anakin nodded his head immediately and fervently. It was clear the boy still wanted it more than anything, but his eyes betrayed his anxiety over if it would actually happen. He had clearly earned Qui-Gon's good faith in the matter, but Obi-Wan had said nothing up until this point in favour of Anakin being trained. In fact, he had clearly expressed his opposition to it. Obi-Wan felt a twinge of guilt as he remembered how Anakin had overheard him on Coruscant stating adamantly that the boy should not be trained. He felt apprehension radiating from the boy now, and knew he must immediately do something to remedy the situation. Taking a deep breath, he slowly and clearly said, "You have more than proven yourself worthy of being trained, Anakin." The boy's demeanor immediately perked up. Obi-Wan went on. "I will do my best to convince the Council to train you. You have shown even more of your potential today."

Anakin looked straight at Obi-Wan and smiled. "Thank you," he said sincerely.

Obi-Wan smiled softly and paused a moment before continuing. The boy might be eager to become a Jedi even without Qui-Gon to teach him, but he had probably not yet considered who would be left to it. Gazing steadily and seriously at the boy, Obi-Wan struggled to pick the right words for what he had to say next. "If it's alright with you, I'm going to ask the Council for permission to train you." In the moment of silence that followed, Obi- Wan wondered for the first time whether or not Qui-Gon had considered when he made the request of Obi-Wan that Anakin might not want to be trained by him. Of course he didn't think of it, he was dying, Obi-Wan thought bitterly. But he himself had to wonder what the boy would think of being trained by an almost perfect stranger who had really shown nothing but resentment towards him. Now Obi-Wan was berating himself for having been so callous and jealous. Qui-Gon had been right about the boy all along; Obi- Wan had committed himself to believing that now. But would Anakin be able to trust him?

"You would do that?" Anakin asked.

Obi-Wan nodded solemnly. "If the Council will grant me permission," he added. It was still a major hurtle to cross and he was sure it wouldn't be easy to change their minds on the matter. The boy's face seemed to fall a little, so he quickly added, "I promise to try my best to convince them to."

"But... they told Master Qui-Gon he couldn't train me," Anakin said hesitantly.

"Nothing about the future is ever certain," Obi-Wan replied. Though he nodded, the boy still looked a little downcast. Of course, he did not understand the nature of the Force and how it shaped events. Obi-Wan felt he himself still didn't have a solid grasp on it, and it constantly frustrated him. "I promise to do my best to convince them," he said. "You don't need anymore to worry about, though. You should go on to the banquet."

"Okay," Anakin said, somewhat reluctantly, but obviously trying not to sound too glum. "Thanks," he added as he headed off in the direction all the guards were heading. As Obi-Wan watched him go, he couldn't help but feeling he had somehow already failed the boy. His inability to offer Anakin the assurance of training frustrated him; but what was more, he was beginning to wonder if he'd be able to live up to his promise to Qui-Gon. The Council had been firm with their decision on Anakin before, and though it was true that they sometimes overturned their decisions, it was very unusual. He had promised Anakin he would do his best to convince them, but he had a feeling his best might not be enough.

*****

Obi-Wan stood before the door to the meeting room the Queen had designated for the Council to use. He had rarely been nervous when going before the Council, but now he noticed his heart rate had increased slightly. I haven't even made it in yet, he thought, breathing deeply to calm himself down. He could not let himself be afraid of what might happen once he was inside. The Council would immediately notice his fear and point it out to him. They always seemed to spot every weakness in a subject, and Obi-Wan knew he could not afford to highlight his own faults at this crucial moment. He had to be assertive no matter how nervous he was. This was a crucial moment in deciding not only his own future, but Anakin's as well. He straightened his stance and entered the room confidently but quietly.

The Council members had established themselves in a circle around the outside walls, just as they were arranged on Coruscant. It was a configuration that not only implied unity but also served to remind the subject that everything was exposed to the Council members- they saw you from all angles, making it nearly impossible to hide anything. As Obi-Wan stood alone in the center of the circle, he felt all eyes on him. It was a new feeling to be the focus of the Council's attention, and the young man was determined to do his best to use the opportunity to prove himself.

Obi-Wan locked eyes with Yoda, who was gazing at him serenely from his seated position a few feet away, and waited for the wisened old Master to speak. "Padawan Kenobi," he said in a gentle tone, "most saddened were we to hear of Master Qui-Gon's death." Unsure of how to reply to the statement, or even if he was supposed to, Obi-Wan nodded slightly. "A most unfortunate thing it is to lose such a Jedi," Yoda continued, adding with sympathy, "and such a friend."

"Yes," Obi-Wan replied cautiously, fearing he would betray the grief he had felt earlier if he were to say too much. Though he knew it was useless to try to hide his feelings from the Council, he could not help but wanting to spare himself the embarrassment of appearing weak. He pushed the memory of Qui-Gon's death out of his mind and staunchly refused to let it creep back in. Several Council members exchanged glances, no doubt passing private thoughts to one another through the Force. Obi-Wan could not stand to let them communicate around him and make all the decisions without ever hearing what he had to say. Quickly, he added, "But I do not wish to dwell on Qui- Gon's death," all eyes turned back to him, and he hesitated before finishing, "but rather on what he wished for those who are still alive."

"You refer to the boy," Master Windu stated plainly.

Obi-Wan nodded and replied, "I refer to both Anakin's future and my own."

"You wish to be made a knight," Ki-Adi Mundi stated matter-of-factly.

"Master Qui-Gon believed I was ready," Obi-Wan replied cautiously.

"And what do you believe?" Master Windu asked, staring at the young man.

Obi-Wan was trying to think of a tactful way to answer without sounding too proud. He had been a padawan longer than nearly anyone he'd known, and yet Yoda had long since praised him for being wise beyond his years. But Obi- Wan knew he could never simply say that. He was trying to look for another way to put it when Yoda's gimmer stick suddenly struck the floor, emitting a loud banging sound that echoed off the stone walls and gave the young man a start. "A time for prudence this is not," the old Master reprimanded. "See your mind, we can. Of little importance are your words. Speak what it is you feel."

Having failed miserably at giving the right answer thus far, Obi-Wan forgot his caution for once and blurted out, "I've felt ready for sometime, but I've been waiting for Master Qui-Gon's approval. I've been unsure, but now I feel there's little left for me to learn as an apprentice." Obi-Wan felt relieved at having gotten the words out, but once they were, he immediately began to worry that they had been too bold. He awaited a reprimand, but to his surprise, the reply he got was much different than he had expected.

"Glad I am to hear your true feelings at last," Yoda said.

"We weren't certain if you thought you were ready or were simply trying to avoid embarrassment," Master Windu said. "It was clear that Master Qui-Gon had not discussed the matter with you ahead of time."

Obi-Wan clearly remembered the last Council meeting with Qui-Gon, when he had declared his intention to take Anakin as his Padawan. "It was a surprise, but I've come to understand Master Qui-Gon's motives," he replied, adding resolutely, "and to agree with him."

Masters Windu and Yoda exchanged glances before Mace turned a serious expression on Obi-Wan. "If you refer to the boy being trained, the matter has already been decided."

"If you'll pardon my frankness," Obi-Wan interjected, "I do not see how you can so easily ignore everything that has passed since our last meeting. I was set against the boy being trained myself, as I'm sure you all knew. But once I re-examined the situation, I realised I was being selfish. Anakin's potential is phenomenal. We would not have escaped so easily from Tatooine if not for him and the battle today might not have been won."

"So quick to think of victory are you!" Yoda huffed. "See you not the grave danger in the reappearance of the Sith?"

"I see it as all the more reason for Anakin to be trained. What will happen if he is not? He will still be as powerful as before, but that power may not be used for good." The Council members seemed surprised and stirred by the young man's boldness. Obi-Wan had always held strong convictions about many things, but generally kept his thoughts to himself or only confided them in Qui-Gon. As of late, however, he had been less and less able to hold his tongue and sit by without saying anything. The impassioned words spoken from someone who never spoke lightly of anything seemed to be affecting several Council members who stirred in their seats and glanced at one another.

Master Yoda was one of the few who seemed unmoved. He stared evenly at Obi- Wan and asked calmly, "And who would train such a powerful pupil?"

Obi-Wan locked his eyes stoically with the old Jedi Master. It was clear that Yoda had realised Obi-Wan would request to take Anakin as his Padawan and had asked the question to reveal the intent. The prospect of butting heads with the wisest and most respected of Jedi Master's made the young man falter. But then he remembered the promise Qui-Gon had asked of him, how he had given his dying breath to ensuring that Anakin would be trained. Obi-Wan set his jaw and replied, "I will train him."

This made all the Council members stir in their seats as they exchanged looks and thoughts. "And how can you be sure you will even be made a knight," Master Mundi questioned.

"I am willing to face whatever trial the Council deems I have not yet passed," Obi-Wan replied confidently.

"I believe I am not mistaken in thinking that it was you who killed the Queen's attacker," Master Windu said. Obi-Wan replied with a nod, and the venerable master's expression seemed to register grave contemplation. After a moment, he asked, "Do you believe it was a Sith?"

The question seemed to be out of place, but Obi-Wan did not have to think about his reply at all. "I am certain of it."

"As you are of many things as of late, it seems," Yoda said in a chiding tone. "Why so certain of this are you?"

As Obi-Wan's thoughts flashed back to the vicious fight he had engaged in with the dark warrior, the hard exterior he had put up slid away. The memory made him forget the staunch battle of wills he had been waging with the wisened Jedi Master. It was only after thinking over the fight in his head for a moment that he was able to reply. "It wasn't just his appearance, nor how he fought, nor his weapon... it was something different, something I could feel radiating from him. It was a pure hatred of everything good. His only purpose was to destroy and cause suffering."

"And did he accomplish that?" Master Windu asked evenly.

Obi-Wan's eyes shot up to the dark-skinned Jedi, then dropped back to the floor. His reply came slowly. "When he killed Qui-Gon, he made me hate him. And I used that hate against him."

"Mmm, use the Dark Side you did," Yoda said.

Obi-Wan felt all eyes intently gazing at him, and was too ashamed to say anything. What have I done? he thought. I betrayed everything I believe in. He was shocked at how quickly he had forgotten the powerful hatred he had felt during the fight. Had he subconsciously tried to hide it? The fact that he hadn't even though of it worried him immensely. He been so proud and confident that it had blinded him to how weak he really was. Why had he promised Qui-Gon that he would train Anakin? There was no question now that the Council would never allow it and that he was incapable of it. "Forgive me," he said softly, wishing to be anywhere else in the galaxy.

There was a heavy silence. Obi-Wan remained staring at the floor, waiting to be asked to leave so they could make their decision. He was surprised to hear Yoda instead ask him a question. "How felt you with this power?"

Obi-Wan looked up meekly, shaking his head. "When I realised what was happening, I felt terrible. I felt like a traitor."

"Mmm," Yoda mused, eyeing Obi-Wan carefully and searching his mind through the Force. This time the young man did not fight the Jedi Master's power, no longer feeling he had the right to. "But relinquish this power freely did you," the old Master said. Obi-Wan looked up slightly, nodding. Yoda paused, rubbing his chin and closing his eyes for a few moments. When he opened them, he looked straight at the young man. "Better it may be to believe in what is right than to know how to achieve it."

"I'm not sure I understand," Obi-Wan replied, utterly confused. Yoda had seemed to be half talking to Obi-Wan and half to himself, yet either way it didn't really make any sense.

"Mmm, clouded the future is," Master Yoda said gravely. "Dark times I sense. Need those who are able to resist will we, not only in body, but in mind. Always mindful of this future should you be." The old Jedi's wrinkled face looked extremely saddened and worried.

Obi-Wan did not know what to say. He didn't even know what to think anymore. Was Yoda suggesting he had some important role to play in the future, or was he simply making a broad statement? Did this have to do with his proposal to train Anakin? He thought back to what Qui-Gon had said about the prophecy, and felt trepidation. What if the prophecy was true? He was wary of such things, but there was always a chance that Anakin actually was destined to bring balance to the Force. The Council undoubtedly realised Obi-Wan's suggestion was preposterous. He stood in humbled stillness, waiting for someone to say something.

Master Windu carefully broke the tense silence. "Leave us to discuss these matters. We will call you back in later to hear the decision. May the Force be with you."

"May the Force be with you," Obi-Wan replied, bowing graciously even as he turned for the exit. As soon as the door closed behind him, he leaned into the wall and let out a deep, ragged sigh.

*****

Obi-Wan wandered down the hallway aimlessly. He realised he hadn't the slightest idea where the dinner was being held, but he figured he'd come across it sooner or later. Besides, he needed the extra time to decide how he was going to tell Anakin about what had happened with the Council. He desperately hoped what he hadn't gotten the boys hopes up too much. Already, he'd had to suffer through being rejected by the Council once. How could Obi-Wan break the bleak news to him again? His thoughts were cut off by the sound of voices coming from a large, well-lit room at the end of the hall. It was obviously the room where the dinner was being held. He hesitated, unsure of what he was going to say to Anakin. But it wouldn't be fair to wait any longer; the Council could call him back at any moment. If he could do nothing else for the boy, in the very least he owed him an honest assessment of the situation.

As he quietly entered the room, Obi-Wan searched around for Anakin. There were a dozen tables scattered about with groups of pilots, gungans, and guards chattering away happily as they ate, rejoicing over the recent victory.

"Obi-Wan!" a voice called from across the room. Anakin waved to the Jedi enthusiastically. He was seated with the Queen and Chancellor, both of whom smiled cordially at Obi-Wan.

He was unable to force himself to smile back. The atmosphere was so jovial, and Obi-Wan sincerely regretted having to disrupt it with his sullen presence. As he slowly made his way to the table, he tried to remind himself to remain positive around the others. There was no use in spoiling anyone else's good mood.

"I saved you a seat," the boy said, indicating the empty chair next to him.

Obi-Wan really wanted to speak with Anakin immediately and privately, but the boy looked so eager for him to join the table that he couldn't tell him no. He hesitantly took the seat next to Anakin.

"We're glad you could join us," the Queen said in a tone that was regal but somewhat relaxed. Still, Obi-Wan got the impression that his presence meant very little to her. He nodded politely anyway, but said nothing. "Would you care for something to eat?"

"No thank you, I'm not very hungry."

"I find that hard to imagine, after the day you've had," the Chancellor said. "Young Anakin was just telling us what an impressive swordsman you are."

"I told him about how you fought those droids on our way into the palace," Anakin said with a beaming smile. "That was so cool!"

Obi-Wan cringed inwardly. He had hoped the table would resume whatever conversation they had been having, but unfortunately they seemed intent on talking with him. It seemed he would have to say something. "Well I learned from the best," he replied.

The Queen nodded solemnly. "I saw Master Jinn fighting with my attacker on Tatooine. They were both very skilled. I was quite impressed." She spoke tentatively, treading carefully away from the subject of Qui-Gon's death.

"And I'm sure Master Kenobi must have been very skilled to have defeated such an opponent," Palpatine said with a smile that seemed a little forced. He glanced at Obi-Wan appraisingly for a moment. The young man stared back, trying to evaluate what the Chancellor was thinking, but not wanting to be too intrusive. All Obi-Wan got was an unintelligible mix of emotions, and before he could think about it anymore, Palpatine broke in with, "Anakin tells us you are going to train him. It seems there could be no better mentor."

Surprised and a mortified at the sudden mention of it, Obi-Wan desperately searched for a tactful way to break the news. He glanced down at Anakin apologetically, garnering a confused look from the boy. He looked away as he said, "I'm not entirely certain that's going to happen."

Though he wasn't looking at the boy, Obi-Wan could feel Anakin's sudden disappointment and worry. Even if he hadn't felt it, it was blatant in the distressed tone of his voice. "What do you mean?" the boy asked. Obi-Wan turned and forced himself to look down at Anakin. He saw a look of distress fall over the boy's bright face. "Did the Council say you couldn't?"

Obi-Wan could hardly stand the look in Anakin's eyes. They were so full of the disappointment he knew he would feel from the boy. It was the same disappointment he felt at himself, and was sure Qui-Gon would feel if he were there. As much as he hated it, Obi-Wan was powerless to change the circumstances. If he could do anything more to convince the Council, he would have. He knew he'd put forth his best arguments, but it didn't help to console his feeling of failure, which he saw reflected in the boy's downcast look. "They haven't decided yet," Obi-Wan replied. "But they don't seem to think it would be a good idea."

"They still think I'm too old," Anakin stated, looking down, dejected.

"You've proved your abilities," he said, trying to sound encouraging. "Perhaps if I were able to find someone else willing to train you, someone more qualified and capable," he trailed off. Clearly nothing he could say now could lift the boy's spirits. Anakin had gotten his hopes up twice now only to have them dashed. "I'm sorry," Obi-Wan said helplessly, turning his face down to the empty plate in front of him.

An uncomfortable silence followed, and Obi-Wan wished he had some food on his plate to at least push around instead of just sitting there awkwardly. After a few moments, the Queen spoke gently. "I'm sure everything will turn out for the best," she said. Though Obi-Wan was sure her steadfast optimism was only a natural part of her character, he couldn't help but feeling the words were only spoken to alleviate the pain her friend Anakin must be going through. It only made Obi-Wan feel worse- he knew Anakin would never be happy unless he could become a Jedi.

"I'm terribly sorry," Palpatine said. "It seems a pity that such a perfect match of Master and Apprentice could be passed up." Obi-Wan looked up at the Chancellor curiously. Why would he say something like that? He hardly knew either of them. The clear attempt at being politic failed to assuage Obi-Wan's feelings, but he forced a tight smile anyway. "If there's anything I can do to help, I will gladly do it," Palpatine continued. "I will even speak with the Council if you wish."

Obi-Wan was mildly offended at the suggestion. Palpatine might have been the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic, but this in no way qualified him to give suggestions to the Order. It seemed very presumptuous of him to even assume he knew what was best. Not wanting to be rude, Obi-Wan simply replied, "I doubt there's much of anything to be done now."

"Well, as her majesty has said, I'm sure everything will turn out for the best," Palpatine said, taking a bite of his food but all the while keeping his eyes casually fixed on Obi-Wan. The young man said nothing. "If you're really not going to eat anything," the Chancellor continued, "at least have something to drink. Naboo has some of the finest wines in this part of the galaxy."

It hardly seemed like a time to be indulging himself, but Obi-Wan had to admit he really could use a good drink. After a moment's hesitation, he rambled off a complex order to the table's attendant. Palpatine raised an eyebrow. "I had no idea the Jedi were such connoisseurs of spirits," he said with a chuckle. "How interesting," he said as he sipped his own drink.

"Not many are," Obi-Wan replied, adding, "but I don't think the Order is always as dour as some might make it out to be." He did not mention that, though he had been allowed to drink from the legal age by Qui-Gon, many Jedi still frowned on it. He refused to be embarrassed this time and was starting to resent the belittling tone Palpatine was taking towards the Jedi.

Just then, the commlink on Obi-Wan's belt went off. He glanced down at it and as he did, met Anakin's gaze. "That's the Council. I have to go," he said as he stood up. The boy's eyes followed him. "There's still a chance they will allow me to train you," he said, but he sounded doubtful even to himself. "I'm sorry," he stuttered again as he turned around to leave.

"Your drink, Master Jedi," the table attendant said, offering him a glass of light red liquid. He hesitated momentarily before swallowing the whole thing and quickly exiting the room without a word or backward glance.

*****

Obi-Wan made his way briskly down the hallway, not wanting to seem rushed but also not wanting to make the Council wait on him too long. He was a little turned around but soon found the main hallway he was fairly certain led to the Council's temporary chamber. Perhaps he should slow down a bit; after all, he wasn't especially excited to hear the Council's ruling. But there was no delaying the inevitable, was there?

As he strode towards the room, he replayed the previous meeting in his mind. Several Council members had actually seemed to have been seriously contemplating making him a knight. While the prospect made Obi-Wan happy, it was not necessarily all that surprising. He had been awaiting the decision for a while, and was glad they were finally acknowledging his abilities; he had, after all, killed a Sith. Then again, the manner in which it had occurred was not exactly something to be proud of. His own abilities had come to light, but the effort had been noticeably tainted by the Dark Side. But what had Yoda meant about knowing what was right but not knowing how to achieve it? Obi-Wan wasn't sure he ever really understood anything the old Jedi said. Consequently, he had no idea what Yoda would say to the other Council members behind closed doors. Fortunately, he was fairly certain Master Windu would recommend he be knighted, if for no reason other than that it would be too troublesome and pointless to find him a new Master for such a short period of time.

But Anakin was a different matter. There was no doubt that Obi-Wan would not be allowed to train him. He could hardly believe he'd proposed it in the first place. He had to have known it was ridiculous to think they would elevate him from a Padawan to a Master. Besides, what made him think that they would let him train Anakin when they wouldn't even allow Qui-Gon to? Qui-Gon had already trained several Padawans, and despite his roguish tendencies, was highly respected for his skills as a Jedi. Perhaps Obi-Wan would someday reach that level, but he certainly wasn't at it now. Admittedly, he was ahead of most Jedi his age, even some who had already been knighted, but he was constantly being reminded how much he had to learn.

His biggest mistake had probably been mentioning it to Anakin at all. The memory of the boy's disappointment was all too fresh in Obi-Wan's mind. What was worse, he knew he would still have to endure telling Anakin that he would have to go back to Tatooine. Obi-Wan could not fathom what it would be like to live out ones life in such an arid, bleak place, but he knew Anakin would be devastated to have to return there. The only decent thing would be for Obi-Wan to take Anakin back to his mother and personally apologize. But who was he kidding? What could he possibly say that would make up for it? He would have to confess to his own inability to follow in Qui-Gon's wake. But that wouldn't be the worst of it. The worst of it was knowing that he had failed the last promise he had ever made to Qui-Gon.

Obi-Wan paused for a moment and tried to calm his racing mind. He was standing at an intersection of two hallways, unsure of which one led to his destination. He tried to remember the way he'd come, but to no avail. Silently, he cursed himself for letting so many little things get to him today. There were more important things to be concerned with than his own confusion, but, as always, he seemed unable to focus. Wouldn't Qui-Gon be proud, he thought sardonically. Here he's entrusted Anakin's future to me and I can't even remember how to get to the Council room. The young man drew a deep breath and looked around for a place to sit down. He lowered himself onto a stone bench and leaned back against the cool stone wall, closing his eyes and breathing deeply. It wasn't like him to get so worked up over things. At least, he prided himself on rarely letting it show. If things continued like this, he would soon have broken down in front of nearly everyone he knew, and lost whatever modicum of respect he once had.

It had been hard, of course, being a Jedi all his life, but he had almost always felt he had at least been able to live up to expectations. But now he was uncertain. The bar seemed to have been set impossibly high. Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan lamented silently, why would you ask this of me? He sent the question out into the void, but of course there was no response. The only thing he had to go on were his own assumptions. He had assumed Qui-Gon believed he was ready for the challenge, but now he wasn't sure. Maybe he had only asked him because there was no one else to ask. It made sense, much more sense than believing Qui-Gon actually thought he would be ready to train Anakin. Clearly Qui-Gon had always wanted to see Obi-Wan do well, and he'd said he admired the young man's wisdom. Obi-Wan hated to admit it, but there was nothing radically special about him as a Jedi.

His pride had blinded him to the reality of things- Qui-Gon believed Anakin was the Chosen One, and wanted to ensure that he was trained no matter what. It was unfortunate that circumstances had not turned out better, but there was nothing Obi-Wan could do to hide from the truth. The Council had not denied that Anakin might be the Chosen One, and yet they staunchly refused to allow him to be trained by anyone. Obi-Wan certainly understood their reasoning; he was inclined to agree with them. But Qui-Gon's faith in the boy was undeniable. Obi-Wan had a hard time admitting it, but often when Qui-Gon had defied the Council, he ended up being right. So what reason did Obi-Wan have to believe this time would be any different?

Because this time Qui-Gon's not here to defy them himself, he thought drearily. Which meant it was up to Obi-Wan to decide what to do. There was no doubt in his mind that he firmly believed in the Jedi, in the Code, and in the wisdom of the Council. Was it possible that, even with all their foresight and knowledge, they could be wrong? Qui-Gon had often given him good reason to believe so, though Obi-Wan had always adhered to Council's rulings instead. His reasoning had been that if the Council was right 99% of the time, the best bet was always to go with them. Of course, Qui-Gon had never had a problem taking his chances. His padawan, however, was not quite as daring.

Obi-Wan let out a deep sigh and scratched the back of his neck. He couldn't sit here all day thinking about it. He realised, much to his chagrin, that he had already wasted a sizeable amount of time sitting on the bench. Standing, he surveyed the two hallways once again. They looked very similar, but he had a feeling for some reason that the one to his left was the one he had come from, so he headed in that direction. He soon saw the door he was looking for at the other end of the hallway. What would he tell the Council? They had made their decision and would no longer be in the mood to listen to arguments on the subject. The answer was clear, but it was one Obi-Wan dreaded confronting: he would have to tell them flat out that he was training Anakin no matter what. He could almost imagine the amused grin this would provoke from Qui-Gon. But this was no joking matter. While Qui-Gon had defied the Council before, he had never gone this far. Were a Jedi to take on an apprentice without the Council's approval, especially in a case where the Council had specifically denied the training, he would be subject to expulsion from the order.

Obi-Wan's mouth was becoming very dry as he approached the door. The entire Jedi Council would be on the other side waiting for him, and he was going to have to stand up to them, possibly the wisest beings in the galaxy, and tell them they were wrong. The inevitable harangue that would follow would undoubtedly be unlike any reprimand he had ever received, of that he was certain. But this was not about him, and he realised now it had never been. Qui-Gon had meant no disrespect to him in wanting to take Anakin as his padawan, just as his request of Obi-Wan had meant nothing about the young man's abilities. This was about Anakin and his future. Whatever role Obi- Wan had to play in it, there was no more room to be selfish. Even if it required him enduring heated diatribes, or punishment. Even if it meant expulsion. None of this changed the fact that he had made a promise to Qui- Gon. He couldn't live with himself if he simply gave up. It wouldn't be fair to Qui-Gon, and it certainly wouldn't be fair to Anakin. Obi-Wan was the only one left to fight for him.

The young man arrived at the door to the Council chambers. He remembered all the times Qui-Gon had gone to see the Council with much the same demeanour, and how he had always begged him to rethink his decision. But once Qui-Gon had decided something, he did not change his mind. The answer was always the same- "I will do as I must." Well, Obi-Wan knew what it was he must do. He knew he could be just as stubborn as Qui-Gon, even if he sometimes knew better when not to be. This was not one of those times. Gritting his teeth and setting his jaw, Obi-Wan opened the door and entered, prepared to face fate.

As soon as he had, he faltered. The members of the Jedi Council who had been seated around the wall were gone. Had he entered the wrong room? He would feel quite stupid if he had. As he studied his surroundings, however, he was almost certain it was the same room. It was possible there were rooms that looked similar to this one, but Obi-Wan could tell by the direction the windows faced that this was the right room. It did feel a bit different, though. In the light of the setting sun, the room took on a warm mauve tone which accented the designs on the marble floor. The resulting feeling was one of calm and quiet beauty. He had hardly taken the time to appreciate the room's design before, being more worried about the serious gazes that had pierced him from all sides. Now he was pleasantly surprised to find that the empty serenity of the room had a calming effect on his nerves. But where had the Council gone? Had he really taken so long to get here that they had left? Wouldn't they have called him again if they were becoming impatient?

From the shadows off to his right, Obi-Wan suddenly heard a noise. It was a slow patter of bare feet and the clicking of wood on rock. The sound was unmistakeable. Master Yoda hobbled slowly towards the center of the room where Obi-Wan stood. The young man had not even sensed his presence. The Jedi Master must have been shielding himself. Obi-Wan politely dropped to a knee so as to be able to address Yoda without towering over him. The wisened old master eyed the padawan thoughtfully, but said nothing. Obi-Wan remained quiet. He knew better than to speak first. It would be too brash. Of course, the inevitable words to come would destroy all sense of decorum. "Master Yoda," he began hesitantly, "where are the other Council Members?"

Thankfully, the Jedi Master did not seem offended by the young man's speaking out of turn. Instead he gave Obi-Wan a serious and somewhat melancholy look and replied, "Arranging Qui-Gon's funeral they are."

The words hit Obi-Wan a little harder than he would have liked. He hadn't even thought about the funeral, but of course it made sense that it would be held here on Naboo, since the entire Council was already present. "Oh," he replied quietly, trying not to sound too shaken, "of course." His mixed emotions prevented him from saying anything more. Perhaps that was for the better.

"Nonetheless," Yoda said, "a decision we have reached." Obi-Wan's muscles tensed involuntarily. Master Yoda paused and paced a few steps. He was always forcing the lesson of patience on his fellow Jedi. It was a lesson Obi-Wan knew he needed to remember, but preferred not to have to be taught over and over again. It was infuriating, but of course Yoda knew that. It was why he did it. Obi-Wan staunchly forced himself to remain calm and wait for the Jedi Master to continue. Yoda eyed him carefully, then took a few more steps, speaking as he did. "Confer on you the level of Jedi Knight the Council does."

Despite all the circumstances surrounding the announcement, Obi-Wan could not a small smile from spreading across his face. It was what he had expected to hear, but it still lifted his spirit immensely to finally hear those words. This was what he had been working towards his entire life, and actually achieving it felt surreal. He could not help but allow himself a moment of selfish joy and pride.

The fleeting happiness was sobered instantly. "But agree with your taking this boy as your padawan learner, I do not," the Jedi Master said sharply, emphasizing his point with the pounding of his gimmer stick on the floor.

There it was, just as Obi-Wan had expected. The Council would never change their mind on the matter. He struggled to keep himself composed. "Qui-Gon believed in him," he argued earnestly. He knew that, despite their differences, Master Yoda had always held Qui-Gon in high regard. It was a futile argument, but Obi-Wan felt he had to plead his case in any way possible.

Yoda sighed in exasperation and stopped pacing for a moment. "The Chosen One the boy may be," he said solemnly, "nevertheless, grave danger I fear in his training."

It was clear by the Jedi Master's tone that he considered this a very serious matter. Obi-Wan had not come to his decision lightly either. It was useless to resist his only choice. Qui-Gon's last words rang clearly in his head and weighed heavily on his shoulders. "Master Yoda, I gave Qui-Gon my word." His voice wavered slightly as he spoke, unable to entirely block out his emotions. "I will train Anakin," he insisted stubbornly, eliciting a heavy sigh from Yoda as he began to pace again. Obi-Wan drew a deep breath. He was about to step over a line he knew he could not return from. It took all of his will to speak his next words. "Without the approval of the Council if I must," he said, eyeing Yoda unyieldingly. The Jedi Master tensed visibly, and Obi-Wan nervously awaited the reply, readying himself for an angry retort.

Much to the young man's surprise, Yoda simply sighed. "Qui-Gon's defiance I sense in you," he said in a frustrated tone. "Need that you do not," he muttered. Obi-Wan was surprised at how unfazed the Jedi Master was by his blatant defiance of the Council and the Code. It was almost as though he had been expecting it. This was nothing like how Obi-Wan had expected him to react. Now he wondered anxiously how Yoda would reply. The Jedi Master remained turned away, and there was a heavy silence for a few moments. Finally he replied with a hint of irritation, "Agree with you the Council does."

Had Obi-Wan been in a position to speak at the moment, he would not have been able to. Agree? The word echoed through his mind, but he was unable to grasp its meaning. They couldn't possibly have decided... He wasn't even able to finish the thought. The idea was preposterous. Of all the things he could have fathomed hearing, he would never in a million years have bet on this outcome. But what else could Yoda have possibly meant by his words. The young Jedi had no idea what to think. Obi-Wan was completely and utterly dumbfounded.

"Your apprentice Skywalker will be." Yoda's grave gaze alone was enough to unnerve the young man; but his dark, warning tone chilled Obi-Wan's entire being. Those words represented the incredible reality he was now faced with: just this morning he had been a padawan, and now he was a Master. As he thought back to Qui-Gon's proclamation of Anakin as the Chosen One, the added gravity of the situation sank in. The Council has just entrusted the training of a slave boy with unparalleled ability to a 25-year-old, newly initiated Knight. When he truly considered it, Obi-Wan had no idea what in the galaxy could have possessed them to do it. It was an unprecedented decision, he was sure of it. Obi-Wan was almost certain this could not be real. He could do nothing more than nod numbly and stare blankly out into the void, as all the while, Master Yoda's eyes studied him solemnly.

*****

The planet had turned itself away from its sun and into darkness by the time Obi-Wan reached the small, domed building. The night air was cool and full of moisture from the nearby lake, creating a serene atmosphere. The various Jedi and dignitaries of Naboo shuffled quietly into their spots around the tall pyre in the center of the room. Obi-Wan was already in his spot when Anakin entered with the Queen and Chancellor. The boy's distress was immediately apparent. Having come straight from his meeting with Yoda, Obi-Wan had not had time to talk with Anakin about the future. This was not the time nor place to have such a conversation. When Anakin spotted Qui- Gon's body, he swallowed hard and looked to be biting back tears.

For his own part, Obi-Wan had already cried his tears. At the moment, he was too dizzy with confusion to truly let the reality of the situation sink in. So caught up in the whirlwind of emotions and thoughts running through his mind was he that he was only vaguely aware of Anakin and the Queen taking their places on either side of him. Obi-Wan simply stared ahead at the pyre, his face frozen in a neutral expression. He was glad for the hood that obscured his face, though. He was feeling extremely on edge and couldn't be sure one of his emotions might get the best of him at any moment. So he stared blankly ahead.

But his eyes could not erase the scene before him. They had been fixed on Qui-Gon's motionless body from the moment Obi-Wan had entered. The only light in the room came from the torches Masters Windu and Mundi held alight at either end of the long stone pyre. The body was the only thing that could be seen clearly at the moment. Even as Obi-Wan stared at it, though, he was not sure he was really seeing it. He was not quite sure any of today's events had actually happened. They were all in their own right unbelievable, but combined, it was simply impossible. Maybe I'm dreaming, Obi-Wan thought to himself, though even as he did, he knew he couldn't be. He clearly remembered awakening that morning. The memory of Qui-Gon's good- natured smile was vivid in his mind's eye, seeming much more real than the present scene. Yet there was the truth for him to see himself: Qui-Gon Jinn was dead.

That fact did not weigh nearly as heavily on Obi-Wan's mind as did its consequences. He had accepted Qui-Gon's death, though he suspected it would take a long time to fully heal from it. He believed his Master was one with the Force, and he knew he had died in the most noble manner possible. It was a fitting end to such a brave and wise Jedi. But Obi-Wan could not imagine a worse time for it to have happened. In the wake of Qui-Gon's death, everything seemed to be happening in an alternate galaxy from the one Obi-Wan had become accustomed to.

Even his being made a knight, an event which both he and Qui-Gon had awaited for years, came with great caution attached. The future was uncertain. The boy at Obi-Wan's side sniffling softly to keep his tears from falling, he was the future. He held all its potential for success and ruin, and it was now Obi-Wan's task to guide him. But how could he even be certain he knew how to give guidance at all? He was great at taking advice, but had absolutely no experience giving it. As Obi-Wan continued to stare at the lifeless body before him, he was filled with a profound sense of how things might have been different. Had Qui-Gon lived... Obi-Wan shut his eyes tightly, pushing away the imaginary future beginning to take shape in his mind. There was no use wishing for what could not be. When he opened his eyes, nothing had changed. He began to realise that he had to accept this new fate and commit himself to it if it were to stand any chance of succeeding. It might not be perfect, but it was all he could do.

Everyone had settled in and the room took on an utter stillness, the only movement that of the flames flickering on the torches. From his perched seat, Master Yoda began to speak evenly and calmly. "There is no emotion," he began, "there is peace."

Obi-Wan closed his eyes and breathed in the humid air deeply. He had heard the Code recited thousands of times, but had always tried not to let it become mundane. It always reminded him of what it truly meant to be a Jedi. He focused his thoughts on the words and tried to heed them, drawing on the Force to set himself in a calm, meditative state. His eyes remained closed as he listened to Master Yoda continuing.

"There is no ignorance, there is knowledge."

That was an easy thing to say, but a difficult thing for Obi-Wan to make himself remember. It always seemed as though the answers to his questions eluded him, and it took a great effort on his part not to become frustrated with this. But the answers were out there, nonetheless, if only he kept seeking them out. Even if it took him years to find them. He silently hoped they would not go unanswered that long.

"There is no passion, there is serenity."

The memories of his fight with the Sith crept back into his thoughts. His first reaction was to push them away, but in his meditative state, his mind was working more clearly, and he saw the memories for what they truly were- lessons. He recalled how anxious he had been, and how his fiery anger had fuelled his aggression. It had taken the calming effect of the Light Side to overcome the seemingly insurmountable challenge. He tried to tap into that serenity now to push away his apprehensions of the future.

Obi-Wan opened his eyes and for the first time, really took in the sight. What lay on the pyre was now nothing more than a shell, a symbol of something that had once been. But what was more, Obi-Wan realised, it was a symbol of sacrifice. Qui-Gon had died ensuring the safety and future of countless others. And what sacrifice will be asked of me? Obi-Wan wondered. He had no way of knowing, only a vague sense of a long road ahead. It was not a matter of making the right choice or the wrong choice anymore, but of standing by the choice he had made. Perhaps the outcome was already decided, then, and he needn't worry. He tried to fix that thought in his mind, but could not keep himself from wondering how things could have been different. How things might have been if Qui-Gon were not dead.

"There is no death, there is the Force," Master Yoda said. It was as though the words were meant only for Obi-Wan. He reminded himself that the wisdom and strength of Qui-Gon would always be with him, as long as he sought it. As Yoda finished, Mace and Ki-Adi laid their torches on either side of the body. The wood began to crackle and in a matter of seconds, the flames were burning high, engulfing the Jedi Master's body. With it, they burned away the last remnants of Obi-Wan's old life, a life in which Qui-Gon would see him made a knight and the two would remain friends and allies for decades to come. That life had been the one Obi-Wan had always expected, but it was not the one he had been dealt. He suddenly felt Anakin stirring restlessly beside him, and for the first time since Yoda's announcement, felt his new reality. Slowly turning to the side, Obi-Wan was met with Anakin's fretful gaze.

"What will happen to me now?" the boy asked, full of apprehension.

"The Council have granted me permission to train you," Obi-Wan replied, grateful to finally be able to deliver the boy some good news. Anakin, however, still seemed uncertain. "You will be a Jedi," Obi-Wan stated resolutely. "I promise," he added with an air of finality. Had the boy known Obi-Wan, he would have realised the Jedi was not someone to make promises lightly, or to break them. He had promised Qui-Gon, and now Anakin, that he would train the boy. There would be no betrayal of those promises. But Anakin didn't know Obi-Wan; that was half the problem. The boy was sad and lost and light-years away from the only home he had ever known. As they both turned back to watch the flaming pyre, Obi-Wan contemplated what Anakin's response to the news meant. Had Obi-Wan expected him to be happy? Perhaps, but there was no blaming Anakin for being doubtful of such proclamations at this point. Obi-Wan realised that before he could even begin to train Anakin, they would both have to get to know each other better. It was imperative that Anakin understand how seriously Obi-Wan took his commitment to the boy.

It was all far too much to think about at the moment, however, so Obi-Wan focused himself on the old life that was burning away before his eyes instead. The flames were consuming Qui-Gon's body at an increasingly quick pace; soon, all that would be left was ash. But his will exerted itself even now. He had wished for Anakin to be trained, and now that wish was going to be fulfilled. Even though Qui-Gon's body would soon be gone forever, Obi-Wan was sure he had never felt his presence so keenly. Is it his presence? Obi-Wan asked himself silently. Or his absence? But the young Jedi Master could find no answers, only more questions.

*****

The scissors moved carefully along the nape of Anakin's neck as the boy struggled to stay still. The handmaiden's face was set in a look of concentration as she evened up the ends of the boy's hair. Finally, she stood back and eyed her work, then glanced at Obi-Wan.

"Very good, thank you," the Jedi declared. The young woman nodded and quietly exited the room, leaving Obi-Wan alone with Anakin.

The boy rubbed his hands ferociously through his newly cropped hair, sending shards of blonde clippings everywhere. A few landed on Obi-Wan's cloak. He brushed them off with mild annoyance. He tried to remember if this is what it had been like for him as a newly initiated Padawan. He wasn't sure whether to be saddened or happy to discover that he couldn't remember.

Anakin surveyed his new haircut in the mirror. "I like it," he said, a crooked smile slowly creeping onto his face. He looked up at Obi-Wan. "It's just like yours."

Obi-Wan studied the boy's admiring face for a moment. It made him a little nervous to be held in such high regard, but it did feel good to be the one looked up to for once. He turned around, hiding the small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "There is one more thing," he said over his shoulder.

"What?" Anakin asked curiously.

As Obi-Wan took Qui-Gon's lightsabre from his belt, his momentary smile faded into a solemn expression. Holding the hilt vertically, he flicked on the brilliant green blade, turning the power setting down. With his left hand, he grasped his Padawan braid, holding it out away from his head. In a careful movement, he cut through the strand. His neck tingled for a moment from the blade, and then he was holding his braid in his hand. Obi-Wan stared at the locks for a moment. The braid had been a symbol of who he was for so long, and now it was simply gone. Somehow, the moment lacked the ceremonious quality he had always thought it would have. He closed the sabre, clipped it back onto his belt, and ran his right hand through his hair. Where the braid had been, a scorched bit of hair remained. Not perfect, but considering he'd had to do it himself, not too bad. Anyway, he could fix it later.

Obi-Wan turned back towards Anakin, who was watching him intently. Crouching down, he waved the boy over to him. Obi-Wan studied the long lock of hair behind the boy's ear for a moment, then took the scissors off the counter and snipped off part of the braid in his hand. Anakin stood quietly, unquestioning as Obi-Wan carefully wove the strands together, tying off both ends with thin pieces of string. He rocked back on his heels and studied Anakin's new braid. "That should do until your hair grows long enough," he said.

Anakin turned towards the mirror and looked at the braid appraisingly. A smile spread across the boy's face. "I'm really a Jedi."

I'm really a Jedi Master, Obi-Wan thought. It was still incredible to comprehend. The thought struck him that this would come as quite a shock to his acquaintances back at the temple. He had been frustrated with being one of the last in his age group to be knighted, but now he would be ahead of them all. They would be speechless. But Obi-Wan couldn't afford to sit there all day. After all, the parade would be starting soon. He cringed inwardly at the thought; he had never been fond of such excessive celebration. Yet even that prospect couldn't dampen his spirits at the moment. The young Master allowed himself a small, satisfied smile as he stood and patted Anakin on the shoulder. "Come along, Padawan," he said, using the word quite deliberately. Perhaps it was a little ridiculous, but it felt good to use it.

"Yes, Master," Anakin replied. The two exchanged restrained grins before heading out into the hall. Obi-Wan could not completely forget the serious challenge that lay in front of both of them, nor everything that had passed the day before. But the long night's sleep had helped to put his mind at ease. Now he was determined to let both of them enjoy the moment. There would be plenty of time to worry later.

******