It's been a year since I left you hanging with 'Breath of Night'.... I'll bet some of you thought I wasn't going to finish this. (Hey, even I thought that a few times! ;)
TITLE: SPINDLE OF FATE
TIMEFRAME: 1 year pre-TPM
CATEGORY: Drama/Angst, AU (Yes! I actually wrote an AU!)
SUMMARY: After five years of slavery, Obi-Wan is found and returned to the Jedi Temple. Time is caught up in flashbacks of Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon's time apart...But a darker future awaits.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Flashbacks are italicized. Also this is a sequel to 'Breath of Night', but I don't think it's necessary to read it in order to understand this.
ARCHIVE: Please ask first. Sites who have previously archived any of my stories, however, may archive any of them that they want to without asking.
DISCLAIMER: All recognizable characters are the property of Lucasfilm Limited. All the rest belong to me. I receive no profit from this.
WARNING: Character death; if it bothers you, go somewhere else.
No Slash, No Sex, No Profanity; Just good, clean angst! ;)
OO OO OO
SPINDLE OF FATE
"He's been found, Qui." Mace's deep voice sounded suspiciously fragile in the undying gloom that always seemed to inhabit Qui-Gon's quarters. Coruscant's traffic lights broke through the windows and moved haphazardly across the dark apartment like an invasion of tiny lights.
Qui-Gon stood frozen before the comm unit, hair a straggling mess, sleep clothes in disarray. Mace's call had pulled him from his sleep in the sorrowed pre-dawn hours of the night. Not that he was being deprived of precious slumber; he rarely slept at all these days, or rather these months.
Qui-Gon's breath caught and held, almost afraid to hope. He swallowed hard and then cleared his throat. "Is he . . ." No more than a vacant whisper. It was too much to believe after all this time.
"He's alive, Qui-Gon," Mace answered without inflection.
Alive? But what did that mean? Qui-Gon suddenly felt dizzy; he fumbled with shaking hands for the chair behind him. Sitting down heavily, he wiped his eyes before looking back at Mace's tension-lined face on the screen.
"Someone found him," the Jedi Councilor continued slowly, "out on the Outer Rim. A grain merchant saw him in a field . . ."
"A field?" Qui-Gon echoed hollowly when Mace's pause went on longer than he thought it should. He watched the dark-complexioned Councilor's small nod. Tightly gripping the table in front of him, Qui-Gon took a slow deep breath. "Where is he . . . now?"
Mace smiled solemnly. "In the hanger."
Qui-Gon leaned toward the comm, unsure if he had heard correctly. His voice grew stronger, a hint of hope glinting through. "The hanger? Now?"
A tiny nod. "Yes."
Qui-Gon's confusion showed. "Well, why didn't anyone . . ." he broke off and bounded toward the door without further comment.
"Qui-Gon?" Tiny lines creased Mace's mahogany brow. "Qui-Gon, are you still there?" He huffed loudly. "Fine! I'll meet you there, then!"
Waiting for the lift doors to open was testing Qui-Gon's patience. He paced the empty corridor, bare feet padding across thin purple carpet. He glanced out the floor-length windows every few seconds. There was minimal traffic filling the skies at this hour. Though he took a deep breath, nothing could quell the wild thud of his racing heart.
When he heard the lift arriving, he bolted to the doors. Only the barest restraint kept him from bowling over the woman who had started to disembark the lift when the doors opened. Even so, their shoulders collided, and the tall Jedi master had taken his place in the lift and punched the appropriate floor button before either had opportunity to speak.
"What in the Force are you doing?" she asked, watching the doors close, wondering why she had just missed her floor.
"Sorry, Depa," Qui-Gon's gaze remained plastered to the doors, as though any second they would fly open and he would pounce through. "I'm in a hurry."
Depa snickered softly as her dark eyes roved over her companion's attire. "In polka-dot pajamas?"
Qui-Gon swallowed nervously, then hesitantly glanced down at his appearance. "Oh."
" 'Oh' is all you have to say?" Depa crossed her arms in silent appraisal. She tried to keep from smirking, but knew she had failed entirely. "I think you owe me an explanation for nearly plowing me down . . . and for kidnapping me," she added with a mischievous sparkle in her eyes.
Qui-Gon's sapphire eyes widened in alarm. "Kidnapping?"
"Well, yes," Depa nodded, her deep chocolate braids swinging in rhythm. "I was on my way to my apartment for some much needed sleep before you redirected this thing." She sidled closer to the taller Jedi and leaned down and pushed another button. The lift jarred to a halt.
"What are you doing?" Qui-Gon bellowed, hands white-knuckled fists and nostrils flaring.
Depa moved to stand between the towering Jedi and the control panel. "Trying to find out what's wrong with you, Qui."
Qui-Gon looked hurt, like his heart had just been trounced upon by a herd of dewbacks.
Depa's expression softened. "I'm sorry," she said, suddenly sensing there was something serious behind the man's behavior. She turned and pushed the lift's button again to resume its course.
As a silent strain permeated the descending car, Depa kept to herself, mindful of her companion's privacy.
"Mace just told me," Qui-Gon said after a while, his tone anxious, but guarded, "that . . . that Obi-Wan's been found. He's in the hanger."
Depa's quick intake of breath barely preceded the lift's doors splitting. She watched Qui-Gon jump through and sprint down the corridor. After a quick wipe of her tearing eyes, she decided to follow.
When he stepped into the hanger, Qui-Gon swept the vast chamber with his gaze until he spotted a man standing at the end of a ship's lowered landing ramp talking to a Jedi. The man's rough appearance and his freighter ship indicated that this was probably the man who had brought Obi-Wan.
Beyond the ship, deep tones of the sky sharply contrasted the hazy pale lights illuminating the cavernous sanctuary. Yet a tenebrous mist hung about the hanger.
Qui-Gon swept past the two conversing men and dashed up the ship's ramp. He quickly canvassed the narrow hallways and cargo-laden compartments, finding no sign of anyone else until he stepped into a lounge area. He stopped abruptly, his gaze fixed on a long-awaited sight, almost disbelieving, and stared with a longing born of five empty years.
The young man was pale, his eyes haunted, and he appeared to be lacking in healthy weight. He looked up just then, seemed startled, a little frightened by the unexpected intrusion, but did no more than stare wide-eyed and gape.
Qui-Gon broke from his own shock and stumbled forward awkwardly until he reached the young man and pulled him up into his arms. "Obi-Wan," his voice no more than a faithless breath. "Obi-Wan, I can't believe it's really you."
Obi-Wan simply buried his face in the older man's chest and tangled his hands in Qui-Gon's sleep shirt, twisting tightly, afraid to let go and loose touch again.
"Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon spoke the name softly, almost reverently, as he held the young man away from him to look him in the eyes. "I've looked everywhere for you, my Padawan, my Padawan. Everywhere."
A small smile graced Obi-Wan's face, and he gazed gratefully at the Jedi master.
But Qui-Gon's expression waxed regretful. "I'm so . . . sorry," he whispered in the stillness. "So sorry I could not find you, I searched and searched, but . . ." He shrugged sorrowfully, helplessly. "Tell me . . . where have you been? Are you all right? Are you hurt or . . . do you need anything?"
"I'm fine . . . now," Obi-Wan replied softly, his hands still clinging to Qui-Gon's shirt for some sense of security.
Obi-Wan looked so weary, the Jedi master judged. "Here," he gently directed Obi-Wan back to his seat, "sit down and rest." He settled himself beside the young man, pried the slender hands from his shirt and held them tenderly between his own.
Finally Qui-Gon took in more of Obi-Wan's appearance. His hair was slightly longer than the padawan cut, wispy russet bangs limp across his brow, a dark green tunic and breeches that tucked into brown ankle boots. He was neither filthy nor appearing in need of better clothing. His hair shone silky and clean and yet there was no padawan braid.
"Can I ask you something?" Obi-Wan ventured, a little uncertain.
"Of course you may." Qui-Gon's lips curled up in anticipation, glad to see his padawan inquisitive after all he had been through.
Pale blue eyes skittered over Qui-Gon. "Why are you dressed like that?" He failed to keep the giggle out of his tone, and he glanced back up, afraid he had insulted the man.
A wry smile tugged at one side of Qui-Gon's mouth. "That, young Padawan, is a story that will not be explained - at least not yet."
A quiet laugh from the doorway attracted their attention. Depa stood with a smirk playing on her face, while Mace's smug smile accompanied, "Let's get off this ship so its captain can get his haul on its way." He paused, spoke more softly, "He's already ten days off schedule for bringing Obi-Wan here. We should be grateful good people are still out there."
"Yes," Qui-Gon said as he rose. "Obi-Wan?"
The young man took the proffered hand and stood. His hesitance to move toward the door was noticed by all. "It's been so . . . long." It was a near whisper, yet filled the quiet room.
Mace was the first to recover. "We know it will seem strange to you."
"It's all right," Obi-Wan assured them. "I've waited for this, I've thought I'd never see the Temple again." He looked down. "I can't believe it's actually real."
"Come, then," said Mace.
The four Jedi exited the small ship and passed beyond the dark haze of the hanger, Obi-Wan's steps halting, his thoughts overwhelmed by coming home after years of that dream waxing dim.
"Home," Obi-Wan whispered as they reached the lift. It would take him into the heart of the Temple, to those long familiar corridors and chambers and richly adorned halls, once a waning memory, now poised to sprout into reality once more. "I thought I'd never see it again."
Depa stepped forward, pulling Obi-Wan into a quick, fierce hug. "Welcome back, Obi." She turned away when she released him just as fast as she had grabbed him and pretended to massage her temples. When she turned back, her eyes sparkled in the faint light.
Mace cleared his tightening throat. "I don't think much has changed around here, except," he glanced surreptitiously at Qui-Gon, who returned a miniscule shake of his head. "We can talk more in the morning, or whenever you feel up to it, Obi-Wan."
They stepped into the lift, the trip filled with casual chatter until the doors opened on a residential floor. Depa and Mace bid farewell and traveled on to a higher level, leaving Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan alone in the hall's nighttime stillness. Without a word they began striding down the corridor.
"Your old room," said the Jedi master at length, "it's just as you left it. I didn't change anything." He stopped and turned to face Obi-Wan. "I couldn't change anything. It would have been like giving up hope."
Unsure of what response to make, Obi-Wan attempted a smile, but it was spoiled by the tears imprisoned in his eyes.
Qui-Gon stared at the space above Obi-Wan's head, unable to meet that pair of young eyes.
"Did," Obi-Wan said in a fragile voice, "did you know I was coming?"
"No," the Jedi master shook his head, now examining the floor, "no."
"I wanted to surprise you," Obi-Wan said, mirth glowing through the moisture in his eyes.
"You did," Qui-Gon replied. He raised his sight to that young face again, the one he had missed and many times imagined in horrific circumstances that he was unable to rescue it from.
"I'm a little thirsty." Obi-Wan glanced longingly down the hall toward their destination.
Qui-Gon smiled. "A kettle of tartith tea coming right up."
OO OO OO
More coming soon (including flashbacks)!
And one more note: I know there was one or two more wanting me to e-mail them when I started posting this, but has apparently deleted them (as they sometimes do). So I apologize. More in about two days...