I'm sorry it's taken me so long to finish this! Things are getting rather hectic all of a sudden, so I figured that I'd better wrap this up. Thank you SO much for your faithful R & Rs! I appreciate it very much!
A week later, Qui-Gon walked into the apartment to find Obi-Wan on the sofa reading. This was the sight that greeted him almost every time he walked through the door. His padawan had not gotten back into his normal routine. Qui-Gon didn't like the way his apprentice was isolating himself. His friends kept trying to reach out to him, but he kept pushing them away. Except for their abbreviated visits and the daily visit from Yoda and Mace, Obi-Wan was having no real contact with other Jedi.
Qui-Gon was just returning from a visit with Yoda and Mace. They were just as worried about Obi-Wan's withdrawal. They had encouraged Qui-Gon to give his padawan no choice but to meditate with him. It was time for Obi-Wan to face his memories and truly start to deal with them.
Obi-Wan looked up from his datapad. "Hi, Master."
"Hello, Padawan." Taking a deep breath, Qui-Gon went over to sit by his apprentice. "Obi-Wan, it is time for us to meditate together."
Eyes getting wide, Obi-Wan shrank back. "No, I'm not ready yet. Please don't make me, Master!"
Qui-Gon had compassion in his eyes, but his voice was firm. "You will never feel ready, Padawan. You can't keep hiding from your memories. You have to face them. But you won't have to face them alone. I will be with you and I will help you."
Obi-Wan felt panicky. "I don't want you to see my memories!"
Qui-Gon put a comforting hand on the young man's arm. "I promise that I will not intrude on your memories. I will be there to help you in your meditation, offer you comfort and keep you calm. That is all." He got up off the sofa. "Come, Padawan."
Obi-Wan slowly got up and followed his master. They sat down on the floor in an open area near the bedroom doors. He sat facing Qui-Gon – knees close to his, but not touching. Obi-Wan quickly folded his hands in an attempt to get them to stop shaking. He had hoped to put this off for a while longer.
"Do not let yourself get caught up in the memories. Accept them, make them a part of you, but don't give them too much power. Remember, I'm right here with you." Qui-Gon took one last look at Obi-Wan before closing his eyes. He mentally prepared himself for whatever help his apprentice would need to get through this.
The next morning, Obi-Wan lay in his bed wide awake. He hadn't slept much at all. Meditating had opened the dam to his unwanted memories. The memories of his time on Aurelia had haunted him throughout the night. Obi-Wan felt wrung-out emotionally. He decided to sit up as he sensed his master's approach.
Qui-Gon walked through the door and took in the appearance of his padawan. There were dark circles under his eyes and he looked wiped out. "I have breakfast ready, Obi-Wan."
"Thank you, Master." Obi-Wan got up and went to the fresher. When he came back out, Qui-Gon was waiting for him at the table.
Qui-Gon watched his apprentice as he sipped his juice. "I know you had a rough night, Padawan. It will get better. The more you meditate, the more those memories will stop haunting you. They'll lose their power."
Obi-Wan looked at his master skeptically. "I certainly hope so. The memories just kept coming and coming." He poked at the fruit on his plate. "I saw the face of each man I killed, Master. But more than that, I relived each death just as if I were killing them all over again." A single tear slipped down his cheek.
Qui-Gon reached across the table for his padawan's hand. "Oh, Obi-Wan, I wish I could take those memories away from you. But let me tell you, the more accurate memory would be seeing Zirta in your place. She killed those men, Padawan, not you. Unfortunately, you were the tool she used to do it."
Obi-Wan kept hold of Qui-Gon's hand. He stared down into his plate, anger on his face. "Zirta," he uttered the word like a curse. "Yeah, she used me to kill and she used me for…" Obi-Wan glanced up at his master. "She used me for a lot of things."
"I know, Padawan, I know. There's nothing more painful or personal then to take from someone what she took from you. But don't continue to give her power over you by letting her change who you are. Let go of your anger. Let go of your shame and guilt. They have no place in you. Don't shut out those who love you, Obi-Wan. Don't push them away. You need them and they need you. Pull off the ultimate act of defiance by becoming again the young man you were before Zirta entered the picture."
Obi-Wan looked up at his master. "But how?"
"Keep meditating. Let the Force help take the power away from your memories. Don't isolate yourself. Get back into your normal routine. Take advantage of the time when your friends are at the Temple. Let them love you and help you."
Sighing heavily, Obi-Wan gave his master a faint smile. "Okay, Master. I here the wisdom in your words. I will try to put them into action."
Qui-Gon smiled. "Good! Now, how about eating something?" He was thrilled that Obi-Wan was finally opening up to him! For the first time, he felt truly optimistic about his padawan making a full recovery.
A few days later, Yoda and Mace Windu were alone in the meditation room adjacent to the Council chamber. They had just listened to a message from Prime Minister Lahrna. Mace was smiling. "I want to give this news to Obi-Wan myself."
Yoda studied Mace. "Great affection you have for Obi-Wan, hmm?"
Mace returned his gaze. "Yes, I must admit that I do." He knew where this was going.
A glint was in Yoda's eye. "Be careful you must. Show not your affection for Obi-Wan in front of the other padawans."
An ironic smile crept onto Mace's face. He had spoken very similar words to Yoda several years back. "I guess we'll both have to watch that now."
Mace walked into the Temple gardens looking for Obi-Wan. He could sense his presence nearby. Mace followed the stone path around a row of hedges and saw Obi-Wan sitting on a bench. He paused to watch the young man. He was staring off into space – very obviously lost in thought and not meditating. Mace shook his head as he continued up the path.
Obi-Wan was suddenly aware of footsteps heading his way. He looked up and immediately brightened. "Master Windu." He quickly got up and bowed. "Would you like to join me?"
"Yes, thank you." Mace sat down on the bench next to Obi-Wan. "We received a message from Prime Minister Lahrna. She had some interesting news and I wanted to tell you about it myself."
"What kind of news?"
"You probably don't know this, but while you were at Zirta's compound, word got around to all the slaves about your defiant attitude towards Zirta. They were amazed that you were standing up to her. Then after they were freed, they found out what Zirta had been holding over your head. They found out that you went through what you did in order to save them." Mace couldn't hide his smile. "All of those former slaves have now banded together to form a social and political action group for equality for Aurelian men. Men from all over Aurelia are lining up to join. And get this, they've named themselves Kenobi's Knights!"
Obi-Wan looked dumbfounded. "What?"
"Those men see you as the example of how they should be. That's why they named their group after you. They said that your strong will and strength of character is what they want their group to embody." Mace reached out and squeezed Obi-Wan's shoulder. "You are a one-man revolution!"
Obi-Wan tried to digest Mace's words. "This is really hard to believe, Master."
"It shouldn't be. All of the gladiator arenas being closed down was a huge first step. And guess what caused that first step? Lahrna respected you and liked you very much. Your experience gave her a change of heart about slavery in general and gladiators in particular. Again, YOU were the catalyst." Mace kept his hand on the padawan's shoulder as he leaned closer. "The Force works in mysterious ways, Obi-Wan. Yes, you went through a horrible experience. But the Force is now using that to change an entire planet for the better. You WILL heal from this. And you will find that you are all the stronger because of it. The Force will see to that."
Obi-Wan was thoughtful for a moment. He turned back to Mace and spoke quietly, but with conviction. "If this actually does bring about real change to Aurelia – freedom and dignity for the men there – then it was worth it."
Mace just stared at the young man sitting next to him. What an amazing thing for him to say! "You may be a padawan for several more years yet, but you already have the heart of a knight."
Obi-Wan's eyes lit up with joy. "Thank you, Master Windu!"
Mace gave Obi-Wan a rare grin. "Now, instead of getting lost in thought again, meditate. I do believe that's what you were supposed to be doing here in the first place." As he finished speaking, he could sense a young male padawan coming up the path behind him. It was now time to act like a lead Council member. Mace deliberately raised his voice a notch. "Is that understood, Padawan Kenobi?" He gave Obi-Wan a wink.
Obi-Wan saw the young boy as well. He lowered his head and tried to sound dejected. "Yes, Master Windu."
"Good." Mace got up just as the boy approached the bench. "Padawan Chin." He nodded at him and walked away.
Padawan Chin watched Mace leave and turned back to Obi-Wan, wide-eyed. "What did you do?"
Obi-Wan lowered his head. "It's nothing." He got up and left before his smile could show. He'd have to go meditate elsewhere.
Obi-Wan and Bant were sitting on the grassy bank beside the lake in the Room of a Thousand Fountains. Obi-Wan was picking at the grass while Bant studied him. He finally turned to look her in the eye. "I'm sorry for pushing you away, Bant."
"It's okay, Obi-Wan. I understand. I mean, I don't know what you went through, but I know it was horrible for you." Empathy shone in Bant's eyes.
"I'm still not ready to tell you about it, Bant. I don't know that I ever will be. But I want you to know how much I value your friendship and support."
Bant smiled. "You'll always have it."
Hiding in the bushes not too far away, skillfully masking his Force presence, Qui-Gon watched the two friends. He was thrilled that Obi-Wan was taking his advice. Qui-Gon had to hear the news about the revolution starting on Aurelia from Mace. Obi-Wan had not mentioned it to him. That was typical, though. Obi-Wan would have seen that as self-promotion.
Obi-Wan truly seemed to be on his way to recovery. It was a testament his apprentice's inner strength and indomitable spirit. He knew that the healing wasn't over yet. It would be a continuing process. Qui-Gon vowed to help him every step of the way.