AUTHOR: Cascadia


Containing a vast wealth of near-infinite knowledge gathered by innumerable individuals over many centuries, the high vaulted chamber was filled with enormous, tall shelves running on endlessly. Its copious knowledge lay unrivaled by any collection in the known Republic. Almost any information that the Jedi required was contained within the wondrously large collection of the Archives Library at the Jedi Temple.

Settling down in front of a computer screen, Obi-wan laid several data discs down on the desk beside him. Sensing his master's drowsiness after trying to get him to talk about what happened with Tarren, the padawan had sent subtle Force-suggestions to Qui-Gon, lulling the man to sleep while he waited for Obi-Wan to come out of the 'fresher. After he was sure that Qui-Gon was asleep, he had slipped out of his quarters and fled to the Archives Library to complete some reading assignments that he had fallen behind in.

It had proven extremely difficult for him to get his mind off of Tarren recently and to concentrate on learning anything. Although Qui-Gon knew that the padawan was suffering in his studies, he had not pressured him, nor said anything to dishearten him. Obi-Wan was sure it was because his master felt sorry for him. Qui-Gon had undoubtedly figured out what happened with Tarren. The events earlier today had proven that. But, Obi-Wan preferred to never talk about it. If he could just forget about the whole thing, then maybe he would be fine.

Another fear the padawan had was that Qui-Gon would dismiss him because of the... attack - as he preferred to call it. Why would his master keep him now? The terrible episode would definitely sully both of their images - Qui-Gon's simply because of his association with him as his master. The Jedi master was well respected and dignified, and a stain like this would undoubtedly bring shame to him - shame and embarrassment. Obi-Wan knew he himself could never escape that, but Qui-Gon could by distancing himself from his padawan.

Inserting a data disc in the computer, Obi-Wan accessed the appropriate chapter where he had left off - or rather the last chapter he had read three times and still not remembered. It was about the ceremonial customs of the Fajar race on Darrit in the Mid Rim. Obi-Wan had never been there, but the planet was having trouble with political instability recently, and many Jedi talked about a probable outbreak of civil war there.

After reading one sentence four times - trying to keep his mind on understanding it - he felt as if he were being watched. Looking up, Obi-Wan saw three padawans that he knew who were standing several feet away. They quickly looked away from him, pretending that they had not been watching him. He knew that everyone probably had guessed by now the grisly nature of what had transpired between himself and Tarren. And these three padawans had - undoubtedly - been talking about him, about what had happened to him. Staring at them, Obi-Wan noticed them nervously glancing at him several times before walking away and disappearing between two shelves.

It always hurt him when something like this happened. This wasn't the first time that he knew someone was talking about him and what had happened to him. At other times he recognized looks of sympathy or even fear, as some padawans did not seem to know what to say or do around him simply because of the assault. Even his friends had become distanced from him, looking for excuses to not be around him anymore. But, Obi-Wan recalled how he tried to keep away from them, too. So, perhaps there was some fault on both sides. But, it nevertheless still hurt.

He was dirty, and he knew it. Why would a nearly violated padawan be allowed to stay in an Order that inculcated virtue? Perhaps they were just waiting until he told them, so they could throw him out from his own admission. That way, there would be no need for an investigation to prove his loss of innocence. They already had kept him from any missions or anything else important.

Fighting back a swell of tears that threatened to form, Obi-Wan stood up from the computer and left the library. He walked as quickly as he could from there to a conservatory on the other side of the Temple where he knew few Jedi ever go. It was small compared to the Room of a Thousand Fountains, but the quiet, solitude that it offered made up for anything else.

Entering in the room, the padawan found the place empty as it usually was. He crossed the chamber, stopping in front of an oval pool of water dashed with plum Brakken satin-lilies. The still pool was strikingly beautiful to gaze in - especially during the day, when the sunlight broke through the conservatory's transparent ceiling and teasingly played along the surface of the pool, reflecting intense rays of light and the sprays of lush foliage from the surrounding trees and flowers. He sat down there beside the pool, gazing at the mirrored reflections, letting his troubled mind wander.

His thoughts drifted back to Valan and his scheme to cover up his experiments at the medical facility. Qui-Gon had explained the whole thing to him later. Valan was using small sentient beings as unwilling test subjects for new drugs. The beings were being kidnapped and kept there at the medical facility against their will. A few had died and some had suffered abnormal reactions, developing serious problems. When Quaykin discovered Valan's experiments, he threatened to tell authorities if his son did not stop. Valan, preferring to continue his questionable experiments, contacted Nim Tarren to pose as his father. Valan had met Tarren before on a business trip to Kyllmott, where he first contracted a man who knew Tarren there to capture beings to be used as lab subjects. So, when Valan decided to prevent his father from ever telling anyone, he thought of Tarren and contacted him to pose as his father - at least until Valan could decide what to do about the whole situation. Tarren agreed to for a large sum of credits. And, since Dajer's scheduled visit to the Jedi on Coruscant was something Dajer was looking forward to so much, then Tarren agreed to go through with the visit to prevent anyone from suspecting he was an imposter. However, Tarren made the mistake of trying to rape a Jedi padawan.

Obi-Wan tightly closed his eyes, praying for the unwanted images and feelings from that terrible encounter to go away forever. But, he knew that there would always be something there to remind him - a stray thought, an uneasy feeling, a word, a touch.

He shuddered.

There was no danger now, he tried consoling himself. Tarren could not touch him anymore. The man was dead. Now, the padawan was alone. All alone.

But, the suffocating loneliness that surrounded him now could be directly attributed to that assault.

Suddenly, gentle waves of the Force stirred around him, tenderly touching his consciousness. It softly blew through his tortured spirit, sweeping through with pure lovingness, engulfing him in a peace beyond any comprehension. Then, it was gone as quickly as it came. A strange phenomenon. He had not asked for that touch from the Force, but it came none-the-less, with no apparent reason or conditions. Perhaps it was a small reminder that he was not alone in his turmoil, that the Force would be there beside him, carrying him if it became necessary.

"Need a friend, do you?" a familiar, scratchy voice broke onto his thoughts.

Startled, Obi-Wan looked behind him to find Master Yoda watching him. The little, green, old Jedi master hobbled over to sit stiffly beside him.

"No, Master Yoda. I-"

"Came here to be alone, you did," Yoda interrupted. "This, I know. Nevertheless, a friend you need."

Obi-Wan opened his mouth to protest.

"Deny it, you will. But know you, I do - better than you know yourself, Padawan." The little master laid his gimer stick across his lap and stared at the reflecting pool before them.

Obi-Wan desperately searched for any excuse to leave. It was achingly apparent that Yoda was settling in to stay for awhile. But, the padawan did not want to talk to him. Since his return from Jaross, he had worked hard to avoid any activity with the wise Jedi Councilor - mostly succeeding in that respect - for the little master was very perceptive and would not avoid a subject if he felt that it demanded attention.

Yoda turned his eyes upon the padawan. The young man's face looked so young, so pure and innocent - even angelic - and so heart-breakingly troubled. The sunlight set fire the padawan's silken hair to a glistening gold. His strong jaw was set with determination - or perhaps it was stubbornness. And, his aquamarine eyes - tempestuous as icy light blues mixed with billowing oceanic greens - glared rebelliously at the pale, ghostly reflections in the mirrored pool.

The padawan knew that Yoda must suspect what had happened to him. EVERYONE must, he thought miserably. He was sure that everyone - his friends, masters, councilors - knew the nature of the frightening assault.

"A many things still have you to learn. A danger fear is, young padawan," said Yoda, his ears drooping slightly. "Court it you must not."

"Fear?" Obi-Wan said, looking over at the little Jedi. The padawan frowned, taken aback by what he perceived as a personal attack. But the compassion clearly present in the little master's eyes quickly melted the spark of anger.

"Stray you from your destiny, it will," the little master continued, calmly. "Release your fear to the Force, you must. Or suffer, you will." Yoda stared into the distance, as if seeing something in the far distance, something that only he could see.

Obi-Wan sat in silence, unsure of what to say. Was he afraid of something, he wondered? Was Master Yoda right?

"Fearful of the past, the future," Yoda supplied, as if reading his mind. "Fearful of your position within the Order... fearful of Qui-Gon," he added softly, his large eyes closing.

"I'm not afraid of Master Qui-Gon," Obi-Wan argued, looking back at the little master. Annoyance smoldered beneath his countenance.

"Then why here are you?" Yoda's large eyes blinked slowly, sadly.

"I... just wanted to be alone." He stumbled over the words, looking back at the pool. Then, he clasped his hands to stop their slight trembling.

"Alone, a heart will suffer, even die. Love, it needs to keep it strong."

"I'm not alone like that," the padawan explained. "I have friends... And there's Master Qui-Gon," his voice quivering at the mention of his master's name.

"And trust you must have in them, or else alone you are. Trust Qui-Gon, you must. Still loves you, he does." The words fell softly from the Jedi master's lips.

After a silent moment, Obi-Wan quietly replied, "I trust him." Although, his tone sounded more as if he were trying to convince himself.

"Then go to him, you must," said Yoda, belying urgency.

"Why?" Obi-Wan quickly blurted out before realizing how insubordinate he sounded to a Jedi master. But, he was well aware of the nature of what Yoda suggested.

The wizened little master sighed, turning his huge eyes to the young man beside him. "Know you do, what must be done. This burden alone can not be carried. Release there must be or healing there will be not."

"I'm not alone if I have the Force," Obi-Wan countered.

"True, young padawan. But tried to claim you the dark side has. And when completely surrender to the Force one will not, then needed outside help is."

Obi-Wan stood up abruptly - upset by the Jedi master's words and intent on leaving. "I need to go," he said absently.

Yoda watched him sadly, his large eyes widening. "If go you must, remember, solves nothing running away does. Only makes matters worse. Your destiny alone, you must walk. None other can traverse that path which the Force has chosen for you. But prepared now you are not. Listen not to the Force you do, or leave now you would not."

After the Jedi master's words sunk in, Obi-Wan turned and left the conservatory.

Returning to the Library Archives, Obi-Wan wondered among the shelves, trying to find a quiet place to think - where no one would watch him. He stopped in the middle of a row where no one was and just stood there, thinking.

Yoda had said so many things. The circling questions left his head spinning. Wasn't he listening to the Force? Was he afraid of Qui-Gon?

Just then, his com-link beeped. When he didn't immediately answer it, the beep sounded again.

Hesitantly, he turned it on. "Yes?"

"Padawan?" came the voice of his master, crackling over the transmission. "Meet me in the hanger now," he ordered in his masterly tone.

"The hanger?" he asked, in unbelief.

"Yes, Obi-Wan. Now." The transmission clicked off.

Replacing his com-link in the pouch on his belt, Obi-Wan wondered what Qui-Gon was planning. Why was he supposed to meet him in the hanger? Were they going somewhere? Did they have a new mission?

Surely not a mission, he thought. His master would not think the padawan was prepared for that. Qui-Gon had not said anything to that effect, but Obi-Wan knew the Jedi master thought that he needed to talk about Tarren before they resumed their regular schedule. And, that was exactly what Obi-Wan did not want to talk about... ever.

But, he could not allow himself to avoid Qui-Gon ultimately. The man was his Jedi master, and he would obey him as best as he could - until he felt threatened into talking about Tarren, that is.

Slowly, the padawan walked to the hanger, hating every step there. As soon as he entered, the tall Jedi master motioned him over.

Qui-Gon stood by a shuttlecraft with his folded hands concealed by huge sleeves, patiently waiting until Obi-Wan came to a nervous stop a few feet in front of him. Qui-Gon felt sure that his earlier 'nap' was brought on by more than just normal drowsiness, and that the deception had emanated from the young man before him. At another time, in another place, he might find some humor in the situation, but definitely not now.

"Get in the shuttle, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon firmly said.

Confused about the turn of events, the padawan did not obey immediately.

"Now," the Jedi master ordered - noticing Obi-Wan flinch slightly from the gruff order - ending all debate that the padawan might provide. Fiery midnight blue eyes warned against any more rebellion.

Grudgingly, Obi-Wan walked up the landing ramp, disappearing inside. Whatever his master had in mind, the padawan did not like the way it was going.

With Qui-Gon piloting and Obi-Wan in the co-pilot's seat, the tiny shuttle blasted out of the Temple's private hanger and disappeared into the engulfing vastness of outerspace.

Obi-Wan unstrapped his safety harness and stood self-consciously.

"Where are you going?" Qui-Gon said in a clipped tone.

"To lie down and sleep," the padawan explained quietly, afraid of Qui-Gon's response.

"Sleep if you want. But the trip won't take long. We'll be there in a few hours," Qui-Gon explained as he stared out the front viewscreen.

Pausing just behind Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan contended whether to inquire about where they were going and why.

"We're going to Lorminth, Obi-Wan - where we'll stay a few days," the Jedi master explained as if knowing the questions that he had but were afraid to ask.

Why Lorminth, the padawan wondered to himself. It was a green timberland planet in the Core Worlds - peaceful and sparsely populated. Satisfied to not ask any questions, Obi-Wan drifted to the back of the shuttle to sleep and - most importantly - get away from Qui-Gon for awhile.

Master Yoda had contacted Qui-Gon concerning Obi-Wan, advising that the Jedi master needed to get his padawan away from the Temple to seek restoration for Obi-Wan - and for their strained bond.

With the suggestion of several healers Qui-Gon chose a planet with unspoiled beauty. A small cabin there on Lorminth sometimes was used by the Jedi for various reasons, and it was situated in a wide valley with crystal-pure streams and tall, stately trees. The only wildlife present was non-threatening and would pose no threat.

After the shuttle deftly landed in a small clearing near the cabin on Lorminth, Qui-Gon led Obi-Wan to the small housing where they would be staying for... however long the Jedi master deemed it necessary. The Council had granted permission for leave of absence for both of them - and they would not be bothered by the Temple for any reason.

Quietly, the padawan followed Qui-Gon into the sturdily constructed cabin. Providing a private retreat from everyday life, the remote lodging stood at the edge of a grouping of trees - the roof half concealed by reaching tree limbs and draping moss.

Placing their bags about the room, Qui-Gon glanced at Obi-Wan, who stood barely beyond the cabin's doorway. The padawan stared at the floor, sullen and distant.

"Would you like to go hiking, Obi-Wan? There are some fine hiking trails nearby," the Jedi master asked - hopeful.

A slight shake of the head was the only answer Qui-Gon received.

"Something to eat?" he gently said.

Another negative response.

"Then what would you like to do?" Qui-Gon stood in front of his padawan.

Shrugging his shoulders, Obi-Wan kept his eyes downcast.

Qui-Gon drew in a deep breath. Releasing it, he reached to the Force for some guidance in this gloomy situation. Before he finished, Obi-Wan walked over to a lumpy chair and sat down. The padawan just sat there - unmoving, uncaring, staring at the dusty floor.

It was then that Qui-Gon made up his mind. He would force Obi-Wan to go hiking with him - if only to keep the padawan from withdrawing completely. Knowing that Obi-Wan would go with him if he ordered it, the Jedi master spoke up - his voice calm and forceful, "we will go hiking now. Come on."

Qui-Gon waited patiently as his padawan hesitantly stood and trudged out the door. Outside, the fresh forest scents and warm, rushing breezes assailed them as they headed toward a wooded area.

Obi-Wan slowed to allow his master to take the lead. He did not relish the idea of coming here to this planet, nor did he wish to walk through the forest. Keeping his eyes glued to the ground, he tried to ignore the quiet, pristine environment. However, it proved difficult to completely block out the verdant, regal beauty of the tender woodlands and mossy forest floor. Just being in this primeval place filled one's senses with the pure, unspoken praises of life. The Living Force sang here... but not joyously to a broken spirit.

He wondered why Qui-Gon had made him come here, but would not dare ask him. He had a suspicion that this was all a ploy to get him to open up and talk about Tarren, but he had no desire to do such a thing. The silent gap that had grown between them kept him from speaking up when he normally would have. If he never again spoke to his master as he once did, it would not be a surprise.

Although he knew that Qui-Gon had guessed what had transpired between himself and the fugitive posing as Quaykin, he tried to pretend that his master did not know. He tried to pretend that he himself did not know. But, it was always there reminding him.

Glancing up as they topped a steep incline, he saw a sharp drop-off that led into a wide, bone-dry streambed. Rocks of various sizes lay scattered about the descent. It looked challenging - but not too difficult to traverse.

Qui-Gon stepped down the drop-off, choosing his steps carefully, then turned to make sure Obi-Wan would make it safely. The padawan made the descent gracefully, until a rock came loose from the soil and caused him to slip, landing on his backside.

Without thinking, Qui-Gon reached down and pulled the padawan to his feet - only for Obi-Wan to answer by violently yanking his arm from Qui-Gon's grip, turning his back toward his master.

Obi-Wan's sullen and angry mood hovered as an aura around him. Qui-Gon had brought him out here to annoy him, he reasoned. To get back at him, someway... perhaps for not being the virtuous, untouched padawan that he once was. He had long ago disposed of the idea that Qui-Gon was in any pain over Dajer - since the man was not dead and his evil son now lived behind prison walls.

Since then, the young Jedi had passed from disheartening guilt to woeful unacceptance of his victimized state. Better to deny things unpleasant than to live in their agonizing, sobering light - or so the padawan assured himself.

He feared that he had been permanently tainted by that one, brief encounter with Tarren, and nothing could ever - no matter how cleansing - restore to him his pure, undefiled innocence. It was a past not reclaimable. And what would Qui-Gon do with a sullied padawan?

Staring at the dry, dirt-clod ground, Obi-Wan noticed the rock that had caused him to fall lay with its underbelly side that previously lay sunken into the dirt now exposed. Now free from the soil, its innate beauty glimmered startlingly from the overhead sun's light - kissed unashamedly by the blazing light - revealing a brilliant crimson-flecked olive stone.

Dropping to one knee to look closer, Obi-Wan forgot all about his resentment toward Qui-Gon and focused on the palm-sized, resplendent treasure now before him. He picked the stone up, turning it in his palm, feeling its smooth texture, warm from the sun's baking rays.

Seeing Obi-Wan's interest in the stone, Qui-Gon said, "let's see if we can find a stream nearby. You can wash it in the water and remove all the dirt. Alright, Obi-Wan?"

The padawan nodded slightly as he stood, grasping the small stone, waiting for Qui-Gon to forge ahead on their trek.

They travelled further on along the trail for a few hours before stopping to rest. The sun now hovered at the edge of the tree-splattered mountain range to the west, peeking through the canopy of the tall, noble trees - shooting soft, ethereal rays of radiant light upon the splendored sanctuary of undergrowth where the two Jedi sat on a fallen tree trunk, quietly regaining their strength for the rest of the journey.

As the quietness of the forest lingered, Qui-Gon identified a low, steady flowing sound. "Do you hear it?" he whispered.

Obi-Wan paused to listen intently. After a momentary silence, he said, "water?"

"Yes," Qui-Gon answered, standing.

Taking off in the direction of the sound, they carried on at a quick pace until they emerged from the timberlands, coming to a halt at a wide, rushing stream. The tree cover picked up just to the other side of the stream, making the watercourse a hidden feature - meandering gently, passively through the forest. Its pure, running water splashed and swashed frantically over rocks and boulders rushing onward.

Kneeling at the stream's edge, Obi-Wan dipped the stone in the babbling water, rubbing its surface with his thumb to clear away all the grime. When he was satisfied with the stone's washing, he turned the stone over and over in his hands, marvelling at its exposed beauty. The fiery crimson flecks shimmered like a fireworks display, mesmerizing him.

"It's beautiful. Isn't it, Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon said, noticing the padawan lost in the stone's brilliant demonstration. It was beautiful. Layered beneath the dirt was a wondrous stone - perfect in its natural existence - once dirtied by grime, now redeemed by the cleansing waters of the stream.

"Yes," Obi-Wan quietly answered.

"The stone was beautiful before," Qui-Gon said. "Only we couldn't see it until the dirt was removed. But that made it no less beautiful... even with the dirt covering it."

Nodding, Obi-Wan stood, waiting for Qui-Gon to decide what to do next. It pained Qui-Gon to see his padawan this way - withdrawn, passive, lacking the usual cocky confidence he displayed before the evil Tarren took it from him.

Turning away from the rushing stream, Qui-Gon set a slow pace in the direction they came from - Obi-Wan walking behind him. When the Jedi master noticed that his padawan seemed content to follow him, he quickened his pace.

They arrived back at the cabin just as night swept in. Qui-Gon busied himself with preparing dinner from the supplies they had brought with them. He glanced periodically at Obi-Wan sitting at the table, turning the stone over in his hands, gazing at it.

At least Obi-Wan found something that interested him. Lately, he had withdrawn so much that he seemed to take no interest in anything. That had worried Qui-Gon very much. Perhaps it was a good idea to bring the padawan here, to get away from everything else.

"Don't move. I'll slit your throat if you move again," Tarren breathed.

The man's large hand slid slowly down the padawan's throat and down his bared chest to his abdomen, pausing, caressing.

"Stop," the padawan begged, unsure of what else to do.

"Why should I do that?" the man's voice whispered in his ear.

"Please," he begged again, hoping.

"Just relax. You'll never get anything like this at your Temple," the man chuckled softly, sadistically. "Besides, we haven't gotten to the best part yet. You'll never be the same."

Crying out, Obi-Wan sat up abruptly, finding himself safe in the cabin on Lorminth. He knew he would never be the same. He hadn't been since. What followed with Tarren had only gotten worse - slowly degrading until the padawan's thoughts became clear enough - and desperate enough - that he was able to pull the knife away from his throat and send it far across the speeder garage floor. Although Tarren did not finish what he started, Obi-Wan had experienced more than enough to ever let him forget.

Sensing a familiar presence, he glanced at the doorway just as Qui-Gon walked through. Quickly he tightened his mental shields to keep his master out. Since they had been here he woke up every night like this, with Qui-Gon always coming to check on him.

"Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon said, concerned, as he stopped beside the padawan's bed.

"I'm fine, Master. Go back to bed," he said, glancing at Qui-Gon, but avoiding his eyes.

"Don't you want to talk?" the Jedi master asked gently.

Shaking his head, Obi-Wan waited until Qui-Gon left the room before settling back down into bed. He laid awake there for hours before succumbing to exhaustion.

After a few days Obi-Wan had accumulated a large collection of rocks from the dry streambed where he found the first one - all of them just as beautiful, yet distinct in appearance. He kept them lined up on the table where they ate.

Looking over the assortment of eye-catching stones as they sat at the table eating lunch, Qui-Gon asked, "which stone is your favorite, padawan?"

The padawan glanced over the beautiful stones, pausing in consideration of each one. Then, he reached beneath his robe and pulled out the little birthday stone the Jedi master had given to him shortly after their master/padawan pairing.

"This one, Master," he said softly, clutching the stone possessively, like it was the most precious treasure, before placing it back in its resting place in the padawan's pocket.

It was apparent that the birthday stone was no where near the beauty if the other rocks. But the small stone meant more to Obi-Wan than any of the others, because it was from Qui-Gon. So, it was more precious by default.

"Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon cleared his throat, attempting to bring up the subject he had been avoiding for far too long. He had hoped that the change in atmosphere would make Obi-Wan open up to him, but that had - so far - not happened. "We need to talk about Nim Tarren," he said cautiously. The Jedi master watched the padawan pause in his eating, putting his fork down slowly. After spending seven days here - with no change in Obi-Wan - Qui-Gon decided that a change in strategy was needed.

"Master, I-" Obi-Wan started, never meeting the Jedi master's eyes.

"Obi-Wan, we can't avoid this discussion forever." The words were gentle, compassionate. "This is important, and we need to discuss it."

"No, Master-"

"Yes, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon interrupted. "You have not talked about what happened, and it's been long enough."

"Master, I don't want to," Obi-Wan's voice rose slightly.

"Obi-Wan, you have to move beyond this sometime. And I can't see that you moved from it at all," Qui-Gon's voice came with a forceful edge.

With that, Obi-Wan stood abruptly, his bleary turquoise eyes staring defiantly at his master's determined gaze. The young Jedi opened his mouth, searching for words to say. When none came, the defiance in his eyes faltered, and he dashed out of the cabin.

Running full-blast until he reached the dry streambed, he stopped, glancing over the scattered stones. He could almost always find one with concealed beauty if he looked long enough. The bed was wide and long, and was littered with stones of all sizes, and the overhead sun gave the perfect amount of light for a search.

Kneeling down, the padawan turned over several rocks, seeing what they looked like without all the dust and dirt accumulation that usually collected on top. Just as he found one that appeared to be a gleaming gold, a long shadow fell over him, blocking the sunrays from setting the stone afire.

"Obi-Wan," the steady voice of Qui-Gon said.

The padawan ignored him and stared at the rock, moving it out of the shadow and into the glaring sunlight.

"Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said again, moving closer. He stopped beside the padawan, reaching to grab his arm. But just as he touched it, the young man pulled away, leaping to his feet. Quickly, the Jedi master grabbed the padawan's arm before he could flee and pulled Obi-Wan's back against him, wrapping his arms around the padawan's lithe form in a tight hug to insure no escape.

"Let me go," Obi-Wan called, struggling to free himself from the tall master's hold.

Tightening his arms around Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon tried to still the young Jedi's endeavor to escape. "Obi-Wan, this has gone on long enough," he said gruffly.

"No," the padawan cried.

"Obi-Wan, you need to talk about it. That's the only way you can be healed from it," Qui-Gon continued. "Now, we're going to talk about what happened with Nim Tarren. He tried to rape you, didn't he?"

"No, Master. Let me go," Obi-Wan gasped.

"Yes, he did," Qui-Gon said matter-of-factly as the padawan continued in his futile struggle against the larger man. "And we're going to talk about it."

"No, please," Obi-Wan's voice trembled. He dropped the small, golden stone he had found. Landing with a dull thud, it stirred up a tiny cloud of dust around their feet.

"Did he use some kind of weapon on you? Something to put you to a disadvantage?" Qui-Gon waited in vain for an answer as Obi-Wan continued struggling to free himself. "Then, he tried to rape you," he added knowingly, waiting for a reaction.

"No," Obi-Wan shouted, his tone clearly indicating a tapped sensitive emotion.

Hearing the padawan's breaths becoming more labored, he went on. "He tried to rape you," Qui-Gon stated plainly.

This time the padawan gave no answer, but only continued his frantic struggle to escape from Qui-Gon's death grip.

"He tried to rape you, Obi-Wan," he calmly said. "And he ripped your tunic doing it."

Obi-Wan gasped for breath that he couldn't seem to catch. How could Qui-Gon know about the ripped tunic, the padawan wondered, panicking. Frightening images flashed mercilessly before his eyes. He tightly closed his eyes, willing them to go away.

"He tried to rape you," Qui-Gon repeated. "Didn't he?"

Overwhelmed by the swelling emotions - fear, terror, helplessness - fanned by Qui-Gon's persistent questions, and shocked by the terror of the nightmare played out in his mind again, the padawan could hold it all in no further. The rigid walls of his mental shields - made brittle from the recent strain - collapsed, pouring out everything - every carefully guarded secret - as a violent deluge. Stopping his struggles, Obi-Wan could not keep back the tears now welled up in his eyes from the untamed release of raw emotions.

Qui-Gon reeled from the sudden, overwhelming onslaught of emotional pain and disturbing images that he felt through their bond. The shame, humiliation, and fear that had all fought to remain imbedded there in his padawan's psyche, came gushing out, unable to maintain a foothold any longer.

Feeling the padawan go limp, the Jedi master sank to the ground, still holding Obi-Wan against him. "Didn't he try to rape you, Obi-Wan?" he repeated more firmly.

"Yes, Master," the young man whispered, his breathing coming slower, more controlled. He relaxed in his master's arms, sinking back against the larger man. A stream of tears trailed down the padawan's face.

Realizing belatedly that everything in his mind about the assault had already escaped his shields and lay naked before his master, the padawan felt a sudden rise in embarrassment and shame flush his face.

Qui-Gon gentled his hold on Obi-Wan, allowing the padawan a sense of comfort. "It's nothing to be embarrassed about, Obi-Wan," he whispered in his padawan's ear, continuing as his padawan wept in his arms. Now, with Obi-Wan's shields destroyed by the violent outpouring, the Jedi master could easily sense the padawan's thoughts and feelings. "There's no shame in what happened to you... And, I have never loved you more that I do now, my son." He paused, wondering what else to say to - hopefully - start Obi-Wan on a path to healing.

Obi-Wan was now sobbing uncontrollably. Qui-Gon carefully repositioned himself and gently pulled his padawan to sit sideways in his lap. Then he pulled him closer, cradling him against his broad chest. They sat there while Qui-Gon rocked him.

Obi-Wan's sobbing abated after awhile, continuing to gradually lessen until he was quiet.

"We need to talk about what happened, Padawan," Qui-Gon urged, after several moments of silence.

"I'm not sure if I can, Master," came the hushed reply, slightly embarrassed.

The padawan felt so confused, with the raging feelings clouding his thinking. He really did not want to talk about it, but he felt that Qui-Gon was probably right in that respect.

Qui-Gon rocked him gently, patiently, while Obi-Wan sorted through his thoughts. They sat there in silence for what seemed like along time. The Jedi master was beginning to wonder if Obi-Wan was going to say anything at all.

"Master," he said softly, grasping for a fragment of the courage he needed to continue.

"Yes, Obi-Wan?" whispered Qui-Gon.

A brief, uncertain pause.

"What happened, Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon prodded softly.

"You know what happened, Master," whispered the padawan.

"I want you to tell me, Padawan."

"You know he... attacked me," came the padawan's shaky voice. It was so difficult for him to talk about it.

"Yes." Qui-Gon continued rocking him gently. "Did he have a weapon?"

"He... had a... a knife." Obi-Wan's voice caught on the last word. He gasped, trying to keep from losing his composure. "I... didn't- he was too fast," his words coming out in a rush before stopping abruptly.

Qui-Gon closed his eyes, vainly trying to stop the tears threatening to spill from his eyes.

"He touched me and..." Obi-Wan hesitated, tensing slightly. "He tried to... to..." A broken sob escaped as a well of tears spilled down his cheeks. After a moment he continued. "He tried to rape me," he said barely audible.

Fresh tears stained both of their faces.

"I feel so alone, Master. Does anybody even care about me?" Obi-Wan whispered. "I'm so dirty."

"You're not alone, Padawan. I am here. And you're not dirty. Remember the stones, Obi-Wan?" he began. "How they were beautiful even with the dirt covering them? There was still the same beauty in them that was ever there, but we just couldn't see it. All they needed was to be cleansed in the water. Then we could see they were just as beautiful as they ever were. What happened to you was not your own doing. Let the Force cleanse your mind, Padawan, and heal you so we can leave this behind."

Sensing Obi-Wan hesitantly reach for the Force with difficulty, Qui-Gon drew the waves of Living Force power around them, sending them rushing into the young man in his arms.

Obi-Wan trembled as the sudden violent - yet loving - gush filled him, the crest of the whirling waves rising and falling with a mad passion - the raw power touching and filling the padawan's mind and soul with peace. Slowly, the maelstrom subsided, mysteriously buzzing around them, through them.

Gradually, Obi-Wan opened up more and more as they sat there, telling everything in greater detail - talking of his fears about the near-rape, his fears of what his fellow padawans thought, and his fears of Qui-Gon leaving him in favor of a clean image.

They both knew there would be a long way to healing. But at least Obi-Wan had made the first step and was willing to ask for - and accept - help. Although things would never be as they were before, together they had begun the journey, and together they would walk it, and each day would be better than the last.

They sat there as the hours slipped past, talking and mending Obi-Wan's wounded heart, shattered from savage emotional turmoil. They were still there when the blazing red sun slid over the horizon, transforming another day into a quiet moonlit night - ushering in a shining new dawn of healing.