Chapter 23 Not Guided By a Compass But By A Conscience

After his session with Nik-Ka, Qui-Gon went back to his own quarters. They were quiet and lonely without Obi-Wan, but Qui-Gon wanted to be alone so he could think. Lost in his thoughts, Qui-Gon stared at a holo of him and Obi-Wan. He missed the boy very much, missed the warm glow that usually filled his mind. He wondered how much longer the healers would continue to shield.

Qui-Gon's thoughts were interrupted by the apartment's com system going off. Qui-Gon quickly jumped up to answer it in case it was news on Obi-Wan. He was both surprised and delighted to see Keiran and Bren on the screen, "Bren! Keiran! It is so good to see you both."

Bren smiled and bowed slightly, "Thank you Master Jedi. We have wonderful news for you. Is Obi-Wan there as well?"

Qui-Gon answered sadly, "No." Qui-Gon went on to explain all that had gone on.

Keiran's eyes filled with tears, "Master Jinn, we have found Jaret. Maybe if he knew this, it would help. Obi-Wan did so much, he protected us all."

Qui-Gon replied, "I think it may help Obi-Wan, but I would like for him to see it. Could you come here? I won't tell him. I think it would have more impact on his healing if he was able to see it with his own eyes."

Bren responded, "We will be there in two days."

Obi-Wan was bouncing off the walls, he needed to go outside. An-Paj took notice and told him that he could go out to the gardens right outside the medical ward and that Master Nik-ka would meet him there.

Obi-Wan was sitting on a bench when he felt something tickle his arm, he looked down, "Ahhhhhhh!" It was a small beetle, one that did not bite, and something that normally would not have bothered Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan jumped up and furiously brushed it off.

Nik-Ka saw this and was not surprised that Obi-Wan was now shaking. He sat down and motioned for the boy to take the seat next to him, "Are you all right?" The healer asked kindly.

Obi-Wan was embarrassed, "Yes, Master. It...it just spooked me."

Nik-Ka nodded, "I see, and why is that?"

Obi-Wan started to fidget. He did not answer at first.

Nik-Ka said, "Obi-Wan, if you want to heal, you need to talk about it. Only then can you come to accept what happened to you."

Obi-Wan blurted out, "I was scared! I was going to die, and I knew this. And I was going to die failing Master Qui-Gon, Jaret and Querin, Keiran and her baby. I was going to die a failure."

Nik-Ka knew that Obi-Wan was near his breaking point. Broken emotions had to be released so soul healing could take place, he continued to gently probe, "How do you gather that you failed them all? I don't see failure."

Obi-Wan replied, "I got injured, therefore I got caught. I was not focusing on the 'here and now', and Master always says that your focus determines your reality."

Nik-Ka then said, "Obi-Wan, you are a good fighter and an excellent padawan. You were only 14 years old. You did well."

It seemed like Obi-Wan did not hear that, he went on in a broken voice, "And then they came and took Jaret! And I did nothing. NOTHING!" Obi-Wan jumped up and began pacing back and forth.

Nik-Ka stood up and tried to put his hand on the boy's shoulder to try to calm him, "Obi-Wan, there was nothing anybody could have done."

Obi-Wan was sobbing now, "And then I came up with an escape plan. ONE THAT FAILED!" Obi-Wan fell to his knees sobbing.

Nik-Ka knelt next to him, "Obi-Wan, you did not fail, you protected those who could not protect themselves and upheld the code." Then, knowing who Obi-Wan needed at this time, Nik-Ka allowed the shields to drop. He knew that Qui-Gon would be there in moments. Nik-Ka then continued, "Obi-Wan, I have dropped the shields. Qui-Gon is on his way. I want you to tell him EVERYTHING that happened to you in that place."

Obi-Wan shook his head and moaned through tears, "I can't."

Nik-Ka said, "If you can't speak, open him to your mind and show him through the bond."

Before Obi-Wan could respond Qui-Gon charged into the gardens. He took one look at Obi-Wan and went to him. Pulling the boy up, he gathered him into his arms. Obi-Wan pressed his face tightly against Qui-Gon's tunic and sobbed.

Qui-Gon tightened his embrace and looked at Nik-Ka, "What happened?"

Nik-Ka responded, "He is on his way to healing. He needs to open up to you, I will leave you both alone."

Qui-Gon stood there holding Obi-Wan tightly for a few moments, "Shhhh, it's all right Obi-Wan. You are safe."

Obi-Wan nodded against Qui-Gon's chest, Qui-Gon pulled away a little and took Obi-Wan's chin in his hand and raised it so they were looking eye to eye. Qui-Gon then said in a gentle voice, "Obi-Wan, I want to see you whole again. I want to help you. Let me in. Show me your pain so I can lessen it."

Obi-Wan nodded again and took a deep breath. Not being able to say the words aloud, Obi-Wan dropped his shields and let his Master see.

It started with the blaster fire hitting him, and went onto Obi-Wan waking up on the crowded transport. Obi-Wan befriended Keiran and saved her from being searched. And then it went onto the small kindness that Obi-Wan showed the little brothers by giving them his cloak so they would be warm.

All the time Qui-Gon could see that his apprentice had tried to search for him. Qui-Gon held Obi-Wan tightly and encouraged him to continue.

Qui-Gon's own eyes filled with tears when he saw his padawan being whipped to save Querin from a beating. He saw his apprentice forgo food so that the others could be sustained. He saw Obi-Wan protect Keiran's secret. He saw Jaret sold.

And when the time came for Keiran to deliver her baby, Qui-Gon saw Obi-Wan handle it better then some knights would have. Obi-Wan came up with the escape plan. Even though the plan was well conceived, Obi-Wan had to sacrifice himself so the others would be safe.

Qui-Gon winced at what came next, Obi-Wan was beat within an inch of his life and was placed in the terrible hothouse to die. It was dark and there was little air. Qui-Gon saw Obi-Wan to weak to brush off the insects that were crawling all over him, in a feeding frenzy over the blood that flowed from the padawan's body.

Obi-Wan stopped there, he was sobbing hard and gasping for air. Qui-Gon hugged him even tighter and rubbed his back, "Shhhh, please Obi-Wan. It is all right, your safe, and you have made me so proud. You are a Jedi through and through. You are pure light."

Obi-Wan managed to choke out, "But there is more."

Qui-Gon nodded, "I know."

Obi-Wan added, "I was dying, but I heard you crying, so I came back, I did not want to leave you. I always want to be by your side, even if you don't want me anymore."

Qui-Gon almost burst into tears, "Not want you? I always want you by my side. You have taught me to trust and love again. You have removed all the pain left by Xanatos. You are my son. You will always have a place in my life, even after you are knighted and have an apprentice of your own."

The tears finally stopped and Obi-Wan managed a small smile and allowed himself to feel safe in his master's embrace.

Chapter 24 To Become Whole Again

Both An-Paj and Nik-Ka agreed that it was time to allow Obi-Wan to go home, Nik-Ka warned Qui-Gon that Obi-Wan's mind was still very fragile and to keep a close watch on him in case of a relapse.

Obi-Wan was glad to be home. After a dinner that he ate all of, he went to take a shower. When he came out of the refresher dressed in his sleep clothes, Qui-Gon noted with approval that he had gained back some of the weight that he had lost.

Qui-Gon then took a look at Obi-Wan's hair. The padawan cut had grown out, and Obi-Wan's padawan braid and tail were disheveled. Without a word Qui-Gon got out the scissors and comb. Qui-Gon steered Obi-Wan to the sofa and sat him on the floor in front of him.

As Qui-Gon gently combed out Obi-Wan's hair, he spoke in a quiet voice, "When I awoke on the cruiser and you were not there, I was beside myself with worry. All I wanted to do was find you." Qui-Gon separated the tail and the braid from the rest of Obi-Wan's hair and picked up the scissors, he then continued, "Then after I received permission from the Council to search for you, I meditated constantly, trying to find you through the force."

Qui-Gon cut away the overgrown hair, leaving the short, spiky padawan cut. He never stopped speaking, "When I found your lightsaber on the administrator, I wanted to throttle him, but I needed to find you first."

With the comb, Qui-Gon combed out the hair in the back of Obi-Wan's head and then took a yellow tie and put it in the ponytail, "When I found you, I wanted to scream at the heavens. My beloved padawan, my son, was dying in front of my eyes, and I could not help him."

Qui-Gon then moved to the braid, he combed that out to and then started to re-braid it, "When An-Paj had to open your chest because your heart stopped, I was on my way to a breakdown. I thought I was going to lose you. I don't know what I would have done if I did. I am so very proud of you and all that you did. Because of you a baby has a chance at life, and his mother is alive because of you. Querin is alive also because of you. You did well Obi-Wan, so well. I am proud of you."

With that, Obi-Wan's braid was tightly braided and tied with another yellow tie. Qui-Gon cleaned up the hair and led Obi-Wan to the padawan bedroom, there he tucked him in and kissed his forehead. Obi-Wan said in a small voice, "Thank you Master, I love you."

Qui-Gon smiled and responded, "And I you."

Obi-Wan started to close his eyes and asked in a tired voice, "Will you stay with me until I fall asleep?"

Qui-Gon replied, "Of course." He took a chair and sat next to Obi-Wan's bed.

Obi-Wan then said, "I looked for you through the force too. And when I could not find you, I thought I was not strong enough in the force to do it."

Qui-Gon answered, "But you know that is not true, don't you?"

Obi-Wan nodded slightly, "I never wanted to give you a reason to think I was not worthy to be your apprentice. I wanted to take away the shadow that Xanatos left. That is why I thought I failed you."

Qui-Gon placed a gentle hand on the boy's forehead and said, "You have always been worthy to be my apprentice, it is I who has failed you."

Obi-Wan looked at his Master in surprise, "You failed me? Oh no Master."

Qui-Gon sighed, "Obi-Wan, you have done so much for me. You took an untrusting old an and taught him how to trust and love again."

Obi-Wan yawned, "Your not that old."

Qui-Gon laughed and replied, "Imp. And you have taken the shadow away that Xanatos left, you took it away and filled it with light. You are my son, and you will always be my son."

Obi-Wan gave a slight smile and drifted off to sleep. Qui-Gon left the room and thought to himself, And tomorrow, you will see how well you really did.

Qui-Gon smiled to himself, it would do Obi-Wan good to see the young brothers and Keiran, Bren and the baby. They were due to arrive on Coruscant in the morning. Qui-Gon had made arrangements for Obi-Wan to be surprised.

Obi-Wan woke up the next morning, he could tell that Qui-Gon was awake also. Obi-Wan closed his eyes again, but then he felt something. His stomach was growling, telling him he was hungry. Obi-Wan smiled and thought, I must be getting better, I am starving and I want to eat.

Obi-Wan got up and dressed. He saw that his tunics and leggings were not as loose as they had been. They were still a little big, but Obi-Wan was definitely gaining back his weight. Once he was dressed, Obi-Wan went into the main living area. Qui-Gon was there and he smiled broadly at his apprentice. Qui-Gon noted that the color in Obi-Wan's face had returned. His complexion had a rosy glow to it, instead of the paleness it had taken on in all of the suffering that the apprentice had gone through.

Qui-Gon also saw him smiling a real smile, and when Obi-Wan said, "Master, I am starving, what is for breakfast?"

After breakfast the door chimed, Qui-Gon said, "Will you get that while I clean up?"

Obi-Wan got up and answered the door, it was Bruck, "Hey Obi, I have to run an errand for Master Darick. It is in the entertainment quadrant, do you want to go with me?"

Obi-Wan nodded, "Let me ask my Master."

From behind him Qui-Gon said, "By all means go, Obi-Wan. Just be home in time for mid day meal." Then Qui-Gon gave Bruck a look and Bruck slightly nodded. Once the boys had left, Qui-Gon got ready to receive his quests. They would be there soon, and he wanted to make sure that Obi-Wan knew exactly how much good he did.

Obi-Wan enjoyed being in the city. It was so long since he had done anything just for the fun of it. Before they picked up the package for Master Darick, they had time to stop off at the holo game arcade. They wasted some time in there and soon Obi-Wan and Bruck were laughing at their performances on the games.

Bruck thought to himself how good it was to see Obi-Wan looking and feeling better. After a while, they left and arrived at the store where Darick's package was.

The shop keeper greeted Bruck, "Ah, Padawan Chun, your Master said you would be by. Here is his package, you can tell him that I put it on his account."

Bruck took the parcel and said, "Thank you Mr. Hanly, this is my friend Obi-Wan Kenobi."

Mr. Hanly shook Obi-Wan's hand, "Ah, yes, I know your Master. You are the joy of his life."

Obi-Wan almost blushed, "It is nice to meet you."

Mr. Hanly replied, "The pleasure is mine, Padawan Kenobi. Give both your Master my regards."

The two boy's then left the shop and hopped on the next air taxi to take them back to the temple. What they did not notice was a dark figure watching them from the shadows.

It was about time for mid day meal when they arrived home. Obi-Wan and Bruck were on their way to Obi-Wan's quarters when Obi-Wan heard his name being called. He turned around and saw Klea.

Klea ran to where Obi-Wan was, "Obi-Wan, I..I uh, just wanted to say that I am sorry, that you are not in the medical ward anymore." Klea then made a face, "No, that's not what I meant. I meant...I meant, that I miss you." Klea's face turned slightly rosy, and Obi-Wan did not think that she could possible look anymore beautiful then what she did. Bruck had a hard time suppressing a grin.

Obi-Wan smiled broadly, "I uh, miss you too, Klea. I need to go and meet my Master for mid day meal, but I was wondering...wondering...if you would like to join me for evening meal?"

Klea's eyes lit up like the twin suns of Tattooine, "I would love that, I am sure Master An-Paj would approve, he likes you."

Klea said her good byes and Bruck nudged Obi-Wan, "See, told you she liked you."

Obi-Wan did not say anything, he just smiled as he turned and walked towards his and Qui-Gon's home.

Obi-Wan opened the door to the quarters and saw Qui-Gon and Yoda seated on one of the couches. On the other couch there was Keiran, Bren, the baby, Querin, and Jaret! Obi-Wan could not believe his eyes. He barely had time to register the sight, when Querin and Jaret ran to him and hugged him fiercely. Obi-Wan felt his eyes fill up and when he looked at his Master, he saw love and pride.

Before Obi-Wan could speak, Bren came forward and said, "Because of you, I have a family. You protected them in that camp and I am forever indebted to you." Then he turned to face Qui-Gon and Yoda, "And because of the Jedi and the Republic, we were able to find Jaret."

Querin then looked up into Obi-Wan's eyes and said, "Thank you Obi-Wan."

Obi-Wan's eyes grew wide, "Querin, you talked."

Keiran laughed, "He has been talking up a storm." Obi-Wan noticed that Keiran's hair had grown longer and she looked healthy. And Bren-Kenobi was a chubby, happy baby. The way that babies should be. He was surprised when Keiran placed the baby in his arms and he felt how heavy he was.

Obi-Wan laughed, "Whoa, this one is going to be strong enough to wrestle gundarks."

Keiran replied, "Thanks to you." She then kissed him lightly on the cheek. Obi-Wan blushed.

They had a nice visit, and Obi-Wan finally saw that he did not fail, that he did what a knight was suppose to do. He protected the innocent. Qui-Gon knew that his padawan, would possibly be one of the greatest knights to ever live, and he closed his eyes in silent prayer giving thanks that he was given the honor of training him.

Unfortunately, the visit had to end. Bren, was on the cabinet of the new government of Anitan. Bren shook Obi-Wan's hand and again thanked him, "If ever there is anything you need Obi-Wan, never hesitate to ask."

Obi-Wan replied, "Thank you sir."

Bren turned to Qui-Gon and said, "You can be proud of your apprentice, you have trained him well."

Qui-Gon bowed, "Thank you, I am very proud of my apprentice, of my son. Safe journey."

Obi-Wan then turned to Keiran who hugged him tightly, she whispered, "You are pure light Obi-Wan Kenobi, don't let anyone tell you different."

Obi-Wan could do nothing but nod. Then the brothers said goodbye, and Jaret said, "Thank you Obi-Wan, will you visit?"

Obi-Wan thought for a minute, he never thought of going back there, to the place where he suffered and almost died. But after a moment he smiled and said, "Try to keep me away." They all laughed and then the group said good bye again and boarded their ship. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon stood there until it was out of sight.

They made their way back to the apartment and Qui-Gon was perplexed when Obi-Wan went to the fresher and took a long shower. He then dressed in his best tunic and robe and took extra care in braiding his padawan braid.

Qui-Gon finally had to ask, "I hope you are not going to all this trouble for me, Padawan."

Obi-Wan gave a half grin and said, "Nope, but Master, would it be all right if I did not eat with you tonight?"

Qui-Gon nodded, "Of course, Master Darick and I were going to eat together anyway, and who might you be dining with Obi-Wan."

Obi-Wan smiled and his eyes lit up, "Klea."

With that, Obi-Wan was out the door. Qui-Gon allowed a small smile, and said to himself, I am seeing the boy I once knew in the man growing before me. I must be getting old, my padawan is going on his first date. Qui-Gon smiled again, this one broader. This was going to be interesting.

Two months had passed, and it was time for Obi-Wan's sixteenth birthday. Qui-Gon was determined to make it a happy one. He even refused missions that came their way. Enlisting the help of Bruck and Klea, Qui-Gon planned a party. He invited all of Obi-Wan's friends from the temple as well as Bren, Keiran and the children.

Klea and Obi-Wan were always together, but they were not yet an official couple, in fact, they had not yet even kissed yet. Klea hoped that tonight Obi-Wan would stop being proper and just kiss her already!

The party was a hit, and Qui-Gon gave Obi-Wan another rock. This one was a rare piece of fire quartz. When you held it up to the light, it looked like there was a fire burning inside. Obi-Wan knew that his rock collection was growing and he knew that he would always cherish it. Qui-Gon also gave him a new data pad.

Bruck gave him the latest holo game, one that happened to fit in the data pad that Qui-Gon gave him and the Jedi Master said in a voice of mock concern, "Now how am I suppose to get you to study on missions?"

That night as the party was breaking up, Obi-Wan went looking for Klea, who was on the balcony. Klea smiled at him shyly and said, "I still need to give you your present."

Before Obi-Wan could respond, Klea pulled out a small package, inside was a necklace made out of a braided leather chain and on the end of the chain was a pendant made out of Alderaanian jade. Inside were the initials:

O.W.K

and

K.L

Klea started to speak, "I made it myself. Master An-Paj and I were given the jade after we treated the crown prince of Alderaan. Master An-Paj said I could use it for your gift. Do you...do you like it?"

Obi-Wan fingered it, it was beautiful, "I love it. Can you help me put it on?"

Klea reached around his neck and fastened the leather chain, when she was done, their lips were inches away from each other. Inches that soon disappeared.

On that balcony, under the Coruscant moon, Obi-Wan Kenobi had his first kiss. Qui-Gon watched for a moment and then turned away, he thought, He is definitely growing up.

Qui-Gon then said in a quiet voice, "As it should be. As it should be."

THE END

Remember to read, No Matter What, the second installment of the Survival of the Fittest series.