Title: The Unchosen
Author: Laura of Maychoria
Category: AU (the what-if kind)
Summary: Qui-Gon's parents chose not to give him to the Jedi as an infant. Now he lives the simple life, content in doing good where he can. But missed opportunities have a way of coming around again, and the Force has a way of finding the right path regardless of individual choices.
Notes: It was some discussion on the Qui-Gon character thread that got me thinking along these lines, I think. And writing the romance challenge gave me a good character and a bunch of ideas. Plus I just wanted an excuse to write angst and fluff (as always.) I don't know how far this will go, or how long I'll be able to keep it up. It's probably the most complex plot I've ever attempted, as I usually hardly bother with a plot at all. Hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Disclaimer: I don't own them! (sob, sniffle, sneeze) And I don't get paid, either! (sad glance at empty wallet) I write this for my own pleasure, and that of my lovely online friends. (hugs, kisses, and kittens for all)
Chapter 1: Jedi on Bandomeer
"I heard that a shuttle from the Jedi Temple is landing today."
Qui-Gon Jinn looked up from the morning newsflimsy, taking a moment to savor the sight of his wife as she sat across the table, bathed in early morning sunlight that caught her rich, dark hair in subtle highlights. He lived by the creed that every moment was precious, but this certainly was a delightful one. Letting the flimsy droop in his loose grip, he willed the moment to continue for as long as it wished.
Julune's full lips lifted at the corners, tiny wrinkles appearing around her eyes, and faint color rose to her cheeks. "Dearheart, I just made the bed. It's very neat and tidy and I don't want to do it again."
"Who said anything about the bed?"
She smirked at him.
Qui-Gon grinned mischievously and shook the flimsy out, laying it beside his plate. "Sorry, sweetheart. What were you saying? Something about a shuttle?"
"A shuttle with supplies for the Agri-Corps is landing at tenth hour." She shrugged lightly, toying with her teacup. "Just a bit of news I thought you might find interesting. Do you have any plans for the day?"
Qui-Gon shook his head, loading his utensil with scrambled girok eggs and lifting it to his mouth. "Maybe I'll stop by and see if they need help unloading." The eggs all but melted on his tongue, with just the right hint of salt and spice. "Scrumptious as always, darling. And you? Any exciting plans in the offing?"
"Just more harvesting and culture monitoring. They're coming along very well—we might actually have something worth studying from Bandomeer."
As always, Julune's color rose when she thought or spoke of her research. She sloshed her tea, spilling a few drops, and did not notice, to Qui-Gon's ever-fresh delight. He loved this side of her, the curious scientist forever excited by what new discovery might be around the next experiment or data sheet. Her eagerness sometimes made her clumsy, fumbling over her own feet like a puppy with paws too big for its body, and he found this endlessly endearing.
Julune's dark eyes softened, and she looked at him with a gentle smile. "I'm looking forward to returning to Thyferra, though."
She fidgeted suddenly, and stood to begin clearing the empty dishes. Qui-Gon rose to forestall her, placing a hand on the tender swell of her belly. "I am too," he murmured against her ear. "Our garden will need tending. And we'll be there all through the growing season, for once."
"Maybe longer," she whispered back, leaning into his caress. "I'm tired of hopping about the galaxy studying climates. Let another young researcher take over. Our garden is full of rare specimens that need special care, and we've neglected them too long."
He smiled, breathing the scent of her rich hair, slowly stroking the warm flesh beneath his fingertips. Soon there would be more to feel there, he hoped. They had tried in vain for years, too many, and now they would savor every moment of this new development in their lives.
"He will be a strong, compassionate boy, just like his papa," Julune murmured, her cheek on his shoulder.
"She will be a beautiful, loving girl, just like her mama," he corrected.
She laughed warmly. This argument would not be resolved for another seven months, but neither minded. It was a sweet dispute, made the sweeter by the knowledge that the time was coming when it would be answered.
They cleared the table together, taking pleasure in frequent brushes and light nips. At one point Qui-Gon paused abruptly, his head tilted slightly to one side, the washcloth limp in his hand. Julune recognized the glazed look in his eyes and touched his cheek softly to catch his attention.
"Getting one of your feelings, dearheart?"
Qui-Gon shook his head, clearing the cobwebs, and looked back at her with a slight frown. "Mmm . . . perhaps. Change, maybe, if events happen in a certain way."
Her brow wrinkled. "Change for good or bad?"
He sighed. "It isn't clear. Perhaps it will become so later." Or perhaps the feeling would pass, as it sometimes did. He gave her a smile. "Nothing to be done about it, in any case."
Julune patted his cheek gently. "Very well. Keep me informed, though."
They finished their morning routine and parted with their usual kiss at the door. Julune was eager to return to her azhali cultures and record the overnight developments. Qui-Gon thought that perhaps he would meet that shuttle, after all.
Bandor was a dirty city on a dirty world, the sky above gray and flecked with the detritus of burning, the land about parched with neglect and ravished by deep, constant mining. Of all the worlds Julune's research had taken them to, Qui-Gon felt the least happy and the least at home on this one. He knew it was because of his instinctive connection to the Living Force, which Jedi Knight Dooku had explained to him. The Knight had been astonished by how strong his connection was, even without the training and nurturing it would have had if Qui-Gon's parents had chosen to give him to the Jedi. Surrounded by a dying nature, his connection faltered and gasped, begging for something to hold onto.
The only places on Bandomeer that Qui-Gon felt truly at peace were in the Enrichment Zones set up by the Agri-Corps. Surrounded by green growing things, his bare toes mucky with dirt and his face raised to a clear, domed sky, he felt whole and complete, simultaneously a part of the universe and aware of the totality of existence. Lately he had taken to visiting the domed areas whenever he could, as the daily sight of the plundered planet burdened him more and more.
Not that Qui-Gon had found nothing good in Bandor—far from it. Even as he walked down the street, beings on all sides greeted him in the Meerian way, arms outstretched with the palms up, calling cheerfully to him. The night shift was returning home from the mines, trudging wearily, the day shift moving to replace them with hurried steps to avoid tardiness, but many found time to greet the big human who had been a part of their community for a scant few weeks.
Qui-Gon returned their greetings pleasantly, compassionate understanding burning bright within him. Even before he had married his beloved scientist, he had never settled down to a job. Nothing seemed to fit. He wandered from pilot to gunner to cantina owner to dishwasher without lighting on any occupation that satisfied him. He had just decided to look into farming, as a matter of fact, when he met Julune. Perhaps he would have found some peace there.
But as it was, Qui-Gon found a great deal of pleasure in wandering about the galaxy with his well-paid wife, doing whatever came to hand that brought help to others and a warm glow to himself. He had always had a natural knack for settling disputes—he had an instinct for whether a being was trustworthy, and an intuitive sense of the wisest course to take. His broad, easy strength often served those who could not complete some weighty task on their own, and his gentle demeanor won him a simple trust from many who turned their faces from most authority figures. Helpful, too, was his "nose for trouble," as Julune called it. And a large nose it was, bent but unbroken.
He had endeared himself to the people of Bandomeer within a few days of arriving here, when he helped with a collapse in the Home Planet Mine, saving several miners who otherwise would have perished. Soon enough the people had begun to come to him for help and advice, sensing a large heart that would turn no one away. On every planet they had visited so far, Qui-Gon's stay had followed the same basic pattern, with innumerable interesting variations, of course.
Qui-Gon had learned to trust his feelings, as the Jedi Knight had long ago instructed him. He was, indeed, getting one of them now. As he strolled amiably toward the tiny spaceport it became a bit clearer, though not enough to provide direction. He sensed only some sort of need. Either he needed something on that shuttle—which was likely, as he'd been thinking about getting a new pair of trousers for quite some time—or something on the shuttle needed him. The second possibility made much less sense, so he focused on the first, hoping for the feeling to clear further.
Jinn often helped with the unloading of supply shuttles—much the way that a kind young man would help his friends move again and again and again—so the dockmaster, BonMi, was not surprised to see him. They spent the time until the shuttle arrived in easy gossip and light-hearted chit-chat, only resorting to BonMi's sabbacc deck when it became clear that the shuttle was going to be late. BonMi had heard that this particular shuttle had encountered some trouble on the way—pirates—and he shared the sketchy details he knew while they waited.
It wasn't yet eleventh hour when the damaged shuttle began to descend from the speckled gray sky, hull plating scorched in places, steam drifting from a vent that wasn't on the ship in the original design. The six workers from Agri-Corps had arrived at tenth hour, greeting the dockmaster and the now-familiar human with friendly smiles and gestures, and now the eight of them watched the landing gear shakily extend from the bottom of the shuttle.
The pilot had a delicate touch, and Qui-Gon only heard the slightest rattle of damaged plating as the vessel set down. A hiss from the hydraulics as the wings folded upward and the ramp descended, and the Agri-Corps workers converged to greet their contact from the Jedi Temple. Qui-Gon and the dockmaster stood back, giving them room, but they watched with curiosity. It wasn't often that the Temple sent one of their own, and Qui-Gon, in particular, hadn't seen a Jedi for several years.
A swirl of long brown robes, and Qui-Gon blinked. There were two of them. A tall man with black hair and pale blue eyes . . . and a young boy.