Note: Sometimes,. I amaze myself . Like writing this update, for instance. :))) . To A.NuEvil (with your granola bars and everything – here's to your patience), rkccs (it has been long – hope you won't mind ;), Yasona Black (More of your fave chocolate fix!), Jedi Keliam Kenobi (Put away that lightsabre !) , amber75 (More is what you'll get :), Cinnamon (Welcome), Hakkai – Gojyo –Goku – Sanzo (Thanks :) and DiabloCat (Thank you very much!) – you have all my gratitude, for your excellent feedback. Without more ado, I present…


Part 9

Obi-Wan lay on his bed in the quarters he shared with his master, feet propped on two cushions, covered in a tangle of sheets. One hand held a rough dreslin cloth, while the other held a needle, poised to prick said cloth.

His attention, however, was far away—and certainly not on the moment, as Qui-Gon would have noted, with a hint of disapproval. Not that he had sensed any such emotion from his master, following his second encounter with what he privately termed 'that sith-blasted marble.' Qui-Gon, he learnt when he had recovered consciousness, had carried him all the way to the Healer's Ward—and the Force alone knew how many knights and padawans had raised their eye-brows at such a spectacle—and had stayed with him until the healing process had begun. After a fashion.

Qui-Gon had later divulged the fact that healer Han'yaie finally knew the secret of Obi-Wan's repeated visits to said Ward—it was not possible, nor advisable, the master had said with a ghost of a smile, to keep the Chief healer of the Jedi Temple in suspense about what had prompted numerous injuries resulting from energy bolts—particularly within the relatively safe confines of the Temple. Qui-Gon had, however, preserved a discreet silence regarding Han'yaie's reaction to the master's explanation—and Obi-Wan had come to the correct, if unverified conclusion that it had not been good.

The padawan smiled as he stared at the dreslin cloth in his hands, crumpling it in an absent-minded manner. Few could withstand healer Han'yaie's blistering reproaches, particularly when the healer felt he was in the right. Obi-Wan had not regained consciousness in time to hear that tirade—he wished he had been. On the other hand, if he had been conscious, he might have probably ended up defending his master…ah, well. Perhaps it was for the best that his injuries had healed within the day, and he was left with little more than a vague stiffness in his joints.

That was puzzling too. Injuries such as those he had sustained did not usually heal so quickly—

/Padawan?/

Obi-Wan sat up with a jerk, wincing slightly as he did so. Staring down at the cloth in his hand, he released a sigh. He had done no work—

/How many stitches have you set?/

Ah…er. /I gather the lecture on Sebullian Customs is complete, then./

/Quite./

Obi-Wan grinned, threading the needle for what appeared to be the sixth time. /All that's required now is a mission to Sebullia—and you may test out your new-found knowledge./

/As, I'm sure, you are. I repeat, padawan, how many stitches have you set?/

Obi-Wan closed his eyes, and slumped on the bed./Master…are you certain that stitching sessions can be a worthy substitute to meditation?/ He still remembered his amazement, that morning, when Qui-Gon had settled him in bed; had produced the necessary implements, and proceeded, with consummate ease, to demonstrate his skills in stitchery. It was, he had realised, one of his master's latent-talents - one, which the master emphasized, worked well towards providing peace of mind - something the apprentice had longed for desperately, ever since he had regained consciousness. When and where his master had acquired this skill, Obi-Wan knew not...but of the fact that he had learnt it very well, he had no doubt. That was part of the mysticism of an apprenticeship with one such as Qui-Gon - one never knew what project one might end up doing, regardless of whether it was favoured by the male or female of the species. Any species.

Qui-Gon Jinn's fascination with needle-work aside, Obi-Wan still had considerable doubts about the efficacy of a needle and thread in calming him - especially as the very basics of the skill eluded him. This, despite his reputation for nimble fingers. Force...it was needle-work. Try as he might, he could not keep his scepticism from rearing its head...

…and knew, at once, that the master had sensed it. /Were I certain, my padawan, that you could meditate…besides, meditation does not provide all the answers, all the time. Sometimes, one needs to…improvise./

Obi-Wan twisted his lips. /Indeed. Am I to believe that you suspended an important negotiation process at some point, held off two or more aggressive teams, and sat down with a needle and thread to collect your thoughts?/

He could not be sure, but was fairly certain that he heard the mental equivalent of a snort at the other end. /So sure, are you, that I did not resort to that? I am, after all—ah—known for my unorthodox methods./

Silence prevailed for a few seconds, as master and apprentice indulged in mutual amusement. Obi-Wan spoke then, hesitation colouring his thoughts./ Will I be able to meditate? I'm afraid…I can't concentrate. My thoughts keep…/ He stopped, unaware of how to continue.

/You haven't been able to find your centre yet. /

A small chill ran down the padawan's back, as he recalled his continuous efforts to still himself. Not even Qui-Gon's efforts to assist had helped, he remembered. After years of practice, one would think I knew the basics well enough.

/You're still recovering, padawan. I would advise waiting a day more, before indulging yourself in a fit of unnecessary panic./

Obi-Wan bit his lip. /I apologise, master. /

/None was necessary. And having successfully diverted my attention enough from asking about your progress with a needle, you may now proceed with your work. I expect to see a substantial amount of it done, when I get back./

Obi-Wan chuckled, feeling a twinge of embarrassment. /You will…when I have had some success threading my needle./

/ A Jedi's trials are never complete./

Obi-Wan laughed out loud. Force, but he revelled in these bursts of conversation so very much. Perhaps, he thought ruefully, it was wrong to blatantly enjoy such exchanges…if so, his master was guilty of them too—and Jedi Masters certainly knew better. Certainly, looking at the stern and unyielding profile of Qui-Gon Jinn, one would never guess that he was capable of any finer emotion. It had been an enormous surprise even to him, Obi-Wan remembered, during his early teen years. Once he had received a taste of it, however…it was curiously akin to an addiction to Breli juice—one could simply not have enough of it.

He stopped in mid-chuckle, however, as a strange feeling assailed him. A numbing sensation—reminding him of the time he had been stranded in a mission on Hoth—pervaded his mind. Of a time, and place, when he would be ripped of that warmth. Alone. Desperate. Friendless.

Stop. He commanded himself. This is not the time to indulge in…'fits of unnecessary panic', as your master said only a moment ago—

A long stretch of blackness seemed to expand before his eyes. He reached out with his mind unconsciously, trying to touch it, to see if it possessed tangible dimensions—it had none.

I cannot go into this. And yet, I will have to. I will not survive, else.

Force no. I can't, I can't. I will not step in, I shall fall…

A sharp voice broke through the fine mist enveloping his mind. /Padawan. Lie back. Now. /

/Master? But I have been.../

/ You were shielding…/ The master paused. / Breathe deeply./

A brief shudder passed through Obi-Wan as he dropped all pretence at work, and proceeded to follow his master's instructions.

/Master…what's happening?/ Must not panic. Must not. Countless missions. Worse situations than this. No Panic. No.

/A side effect of your encounter, nothing more. Your body and mind are mending themselves./

/Was that all?/ What exactly had his master felt?

/ That was all./

A minute later. Obi-Wan felt his wayward senses returning to a sense of normalcy. Relief, and exhaustion poured themselves into him. Force, what if this happened again?

/Concentrate on the present padawan—the future will take care of itself./

Obi-wan raised trembling fingers to his face, wiping away the sheen of perspiration that had appeared. The numbness had gone—as if it never existed.

/How do you feel, now?/

/Better, thank you. / Not.

A moment later, he cast about for Qui-Gon's presence…which seemed to have faded slightly. Was he moving about?

As if on cue, he felt Qui-Gon's voice again. /I was about to tell you, when…other things interrupted./

Obi-Wan bit his lip, and forced his mind off the Ischila. /What was it?/

/This might come as a surprise to you./ Was it his imagination, or did Qui-Gon's voice hold a twinge of delight in it?

/Yes?/

/ Schen is arriving at the Temple. I received news a few moments ago, and am going to meet her shuttle./

Obi-Wan blinked. /You are? /

/Yes. We'll be at our quarters soon enough, I gather. Look forward to it./

Qui-Gon's voice faded away, and the padawan sat still, shoulder slightly slumped, eyes gazing sightlessly the endless stream of air-traffic, washed in the golden evening, on Coruscant's crammed airways. Certainly he would look forward to it. He had to.

Obi-Wan frowned. His feelings were jumbled at the moment…regardless, an insistent voice at the back of his mind said that he should feel something other than what he was feeling now. Considering who Schen was.

Schen. Jedi Knight Schenalya Den'ru…

Qui-Gon's first padawan.

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Tbc…