Title: Final Priority
Characters: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn
Summary: Eleven years ago, Qui-Gon begged the Force for a favor—the only time he ever asked such of that all-powerful ruler of his life. Now has come the reckoning.
Author's Note: This is along the same story arc as "Priorities" and makes reference to that story, but it isn't necessary to read that in order to understand this one.
Disclaimer: Still not mine. Still not getting paid.
It . . . it's too late . . . it . . .
Obi-Wan, promise . . . promise me you will train the boy . . .
Yes, Master. Frantic nodding. Anything. Obi-Wan would promise anything.
He . . . is the Chosen One. He . . . will bring . . . balance.
Obi-Wan nodded, his eyes begging for more, for something else, for some indication, instruction, something to guide him for the rest of his life. Qui-Gon touched his cheek with one weak finger, felt the tears slicking the smooth, warm flesh.
Train him . . .
Obi-Wan tried to hold him by the sheer force of his love, his anguish. Qui-Gon tried to stay. And failed. One last time, he failed his Padawan. His eyes fell shut against his will, closing away the weeping boy who filled his vision.
Not enough! He roared against the bonds of his fading life as the Force surged in to take him in an embrace of pure white, cold and formless and absolute. Not fair! If I must leave him now, let me give him something else in my last moment, not this cruel imperative! Let me tell him how much I love him, how proud I am to have been his teacher, his confidant and friend through twelve years of strife! Don't make me use his love for me to chain him to a burden he is not ready to bear! Not fair!
But the inexorable will of the Force did not care about what was fair or right or loving. By the time Obi-Wan had finished the battle—and oh, such a beautiful sight it had been, even couched in fear and anger and grief, the sight of his Padawan coming into his own with the Force singing a glorious aria of triumph and power around him—by the time the boy had rushed over and drawn Qui-Gon's heavy, limp-necked head into his arms, the precious grains of sand had all but finished trickling through the hourglass, and the ragged thread, fast unraveling, had all but snapped. Every breath was rationed, every word a struggle; only a few remained.
And the Force made its last demand of Qui-Gon Jinn. Anakin Skywalker must be trained. This must be seen to first. Nothing else matters.
But it does! Qui-Gon screamed. Obi-Wan matters! He does, he does!
Qui-Gon had followed the will of the Force all his life, and that priority overrode all others. Now, at the end, he suddenly found that he wanted to change that, just once, wanted to forget the commands of this mystical energy field and follow a different voice. He struggled, but could not overcome more than half a century of inertia, not with the weak and failing shreds of strength left to him. His mouth moved as the Force dictated, even as he would have sold his soul to change this.
Obi-Wan, promise me you will make sure someone trains the boy, make sure it goes as well as it can, oversee from afar, be involved, but don't bear the weight of the universe on your young shoulders, oh, my Padawan, my son . . . .The words he wanted to speak emerged from lips numb and trembling, distorted, truncated, and wrong, wrong, wrong . . . .
Qui-Gon Jinn had never been one to see visions and dream dreams, so it was the cruelest irony that now, when it was too late, he saw far ahead. The Force was all but tangible now as his grip on his corporeal form loosened and faded, and the images swirling in the pristine depths made him want to laugh with bitterness, cry with horror, empty the stomach he could no longer feel. This mission was supposed to be just another negotiation—short, boring, political. Now he saw that it was the catalyst of a very long chain reaction that would end with the destruction of all he held dear.
And Obi-Wan would see it all, and bear the blame. Oh, a few others would whisper, but what really mattered was the young Jedi's own self-condemnation. He would survive while the rest of the galaxy tumbled into chaos, and he would believe himself to be the cause.
Too much, too much for his tender-hearted Padawan, always quick to apologize, to volunteer his own slender frame for the hanging of all the guilt and approbation he could remotely claim as his. Qui-Gon knew that the bright smile he treasured, the light laughter that had become increasingly rare even in recent years, would soon fade almost to extinction. And he had no time to lighten that burden even with the small comfort of his pride and love, for Obi-Wan would never know. His last words had been spoken, and they had not been for his Padawan, but for a small boy from the desert, the soldering of the final link in the fetter that bound Obi-Wan Kenobi to his fate.
Not fair! He raged, and was rebuked with pure white silence.
Still he could not be silent against that blank wall. Only once did I ever ask anything. I begged, pleaded for one favor. 'Don't ask that of me!' I prayed. 'Don't command me to sacrifice his life, or his well-being, or even a scrap of his happiness. Take me first. Don't ask that of me.' I asked because I knew that if it was asked of me, I would do it. But I would die in the process.
And now comes the reckoning. My one prayer is refused. I saw clearly, that bitter afternoon more than ten years ago. I did it. I sacrificed his happiness to a will I do not fully understand. And now I have abandoned him to live with the consequences, alone and unguided.
Of course, the Force did not answer. Why would he expect it to? It served the galaxy and stars, the life in every corner of the universe. It did not serve a dying man, nor a heartbroken boy left alone to his task, his burden.
Qui-Gon felt his spirit being drawn away, urged to disperse in that all-encompassing energy like motes of sand washed from a beach. He fought, bitter in his despair, to keep himself together. He would not accept this last, comforting embrace.
He was not strong enough to stay in his body. But his rage against the thing he had surrendered his life to was enough to retain his spirit in coherence, the rarity of a personality within the impersonal Force. He knew this had been rumored of, but never confirmed. It did not matter. In this final matter, he followed the dictates of something besides the Force.
If Obi-Wan would bear the reality of what he had done, Qui-Gon would at least bear the sight. He would watch, for as long as he could, even though he knew that every moment would only tear him apart a little more. He would watch.
It was all could do.