Title: Nor the
Moon by Night
Summary: The night may pass, but sometimes it lingers, hiding out in deep shadows and waiting to pounce on the unwary. Once again Qui-Gon realizes this lesson, and tries to show Obi-Wan how to carry a light.
Timeframe: JA – Obi-Wan is 15 or so
Characters: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn
Notes: I'm stealing bunnies. This was just one in a long list dianethx gave LuvEwan. It wouldn't leave me alone. Blame the bunny for begging to be snitched. I'm sure LE's version is quite different, and I'm very much looking forward to reading it. (And I hope she forgives me for writing this first.)
Disclaimer: Mine mine mine! All mine! Not yours! . . . Whoops, there goes my crazy voice again. Pay no attention to that little fibber.
Nor the Moon by Night
Qui-Gon opened his eyes, instantly awake, and stared straight up at the ceiling invisible in the blackness. Something was wrong.
It was a not a shriek of warning, of imminent danger, so much as it was a shiver of unease, fear, terror, of deep dread whispering a dim undercurrent through the Force. Not for Qui-Gon, but for another. The Jedi Master sat up and swung his legs over the side of his bed, reflexively rubbing at his eyes, causing blobs and blurs of red and orange to burst on his non-existent vision.
It didn't do a thing to increase his ability to see in this warren. The Judza, the sentient race of Pyritia, lived underground in winding, twisting tunnels sometimes relieved by skylights above, but more often lit only by widely-spaced halogen torches and globes. It was a unique, duskly-illuminated culture, adapted to living in enormous family groups, with great closeness and clannishness and much wordless communication between twitching whiskers, ears, and ruffling fur. Qui-Gon rather liked it, even though each clan, being extremely close-knit and turned inward, seemed to have ongoing feuds with every other clan on the planet. That's why they had called for a Jedi team to negotiate a land treaty between three different factions. Or was it four?
He was aware that Obi-Wan might not like it quite so much. Rather, he'd been keeping an eye on the Padawan ever since their arrival on Pyritia. Their last mission had been very rough on the youth, and Qui-Gon wanted nothing to interfere with his recovery from that bad experience. But Obi-Wan didn't seem to feel even the slight twinge of claustrophobia that Qui-Gon had felt, and had expected to notice in his apprentice. The young man seemed to be handling it all with amazing aplomb, and the Master was impressed by how quickly and completely he had bounced back. Checking the bond now, he felt only the usual medium shielding Obi-Wan erected before letting sleep take him.
All seemed to be well. So what had wakened him?
Was that a glimmer at the corner of his eye? For a moment Qui-Gon thought his eye-rubbing had actually made a difference in his ability to see. No, it was a very faint light glowing sporadically under the door, probably down the hall in these small guest quarters. It was too dim to see by, but Qui-Gon didn't need to see in order to get around. The Master let the Force guide him as he rose and padded softly to the door, let it lead him around the sparse, low-built furnishings of his small bed chamber. It had been years since he had stubbed a toe in the dark, and he had no desire to begin again now.
Qui-Gon opened the rounded doorway and peered out, blinking like a large-eyed nightbird in the gloaming light. Only one globe seemed to be lit, around the corner of the gently curving tunnel. The Master walked toward it, then passed it, as well as the door of the refresher, and found Obi-Wan standing at the edge of the sphere of radiance.
The boy had not noticed his approach. He was standing in front of the open doorway to his own chamber, staring into it. It was as black as the mouth of a cave—which it was, come to think of it. Black as the heart of a Sith. Black as the space between the stars, depthless and absolute and very, very cold.
Qui-Gon shook his head distractedly. Why was he thinking such thoughts? He found the warm darkness of the warren rather comforting and interesting, himself, like seeing life from the point of view of a root. Even the slight claustrophobia had been more intriguing than frightening, and simply made him look forward to seeing open sky again.
"Obi-Wan? Is something going on?"
The Padawan did not respond—didn't blink, didn't twitch. His eyes remained fixed on the blackness. Still, nothing came through the bond, only the kind of mental static of shielding. But Qui-Gon abruptly realized that the boy was trembling.
"Obi-Wan? Padawan. Talk to me." Qui-Gon stepped forward, concerned now. "Something's troubling you. Tell me. Obi-Wan!"
Obi-Wan shuddered visibly and shook his head, though it did not seem to be in response to the Master's words, but to something only he could see. Qui-Gon took another step to stand by the boy, who was now shaking violently. He reached out to touch his shoulder, then slid his hand around the nape of his neck, feeling the coolness and rigidity of the shrinking flesh. "Padawan. I'm here. Let me in."
He reached around to touch his boy's cheek, and carefully pulled him around to look at him. At first he thought Obi-Wan's expression was blank, but then he recognized it for what it was. Stark, unyielding terror.
Qui-Gon had never seen this on his brave Padawan's face. It sent a shudder through his own body.
Determined now, he leaned close and pressed his forehead to Obi-Wan's. "Please let me in, my Padawan. What's wrong? Let me see."
He pushed against the shielding, and was abruptly rewarded for his pains. With the ferocious strength of an undertow, he was sucked into Obi-Wan's flashback.
. . . dark, cold, alone, can't move, can't breathe, it's dark so dark it's so very dark, please let me out, let me out, let me out please I can't stand this anymore, it's so very very dark and I can't move and it's cold and it's dark and I'm alone and lost in the dark please let me out it's so very very dark . . .
Qui-Gon gasped and squeezed his eyes shut, craning his head back involuntarily. The mental contact broke as the physical contact did, and then Master and Padawan were blinking at each other. Both felt a kind of horror, and it showed on their faces, but they had wildly different causes for the same expression.
The isolation cell on Glatier, Qui-Gon realized grimly. I just felt what he went through in that awful place.
They had been sent to Glatier with another Jedi team to protect the candidates in the election for Governor as the long-monarchical planet moved toward a democratic rule. Qui-Gon and the other Master had been overseeing at a meeting when one of the candidates asked for a Jedi to accompany his daughter to a local playground. Obi-Wan readily volunteered, and Qui-Gon let him go. It wasn't supposed to be dangerous.
But of course the candidate's main rival—or someone in favor of him, Qui-Gon never found out which—seized the opportunity to gain a bargaining chip. Obi-Wan was ambushed and overwhelmed. The girl was treated very carefully, but they punished the young Jedi for the crime of fighting back, locking him in a tiny cell barely large enough to sit in and pumping him full of drugs that kept his mind incoherent and his body unstable.
It had taken the Jedi far too long to effect a rescue—over a week. By that time Obi-Wan was nearly delirious, on the edge of madness from loneliness and fear caused by his inability to touch the Force. It had been hours before he was able to uncurl from the enforced fetal position, and then he had only clung to his Master, shaking, unable to speak. Qui-Gon remembered holding him, rubbing his back, just waiting for the drugs to purge. He also remembered being grateful that they hadn't physically harmed his Padawan, that they had "only" locked him away.
What a fool he had been.
"Master . . ." Obi-Wan's voice trembled as badly as his body had. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you. You need your rest. Please, go back to sleep. I'm fine."
"No, you aren't." Qui-Gon offered a sad, sideways smile, and tightened his grip on the boy's neck. "What happened just now? Please tell me."
Obi-Wan was silent, staring wide-eyed at the black hole that was his chamber.
"My Padawan, you are burdened. Please share it with me so I can ease it."
"I'm fine." It was a soft murmur, faint and absent and somehow childlike.
Qui-Gon realized that the boy's mind was slipping back again. He had to prevent that. "No, you aren't." He slid his arm around the slender shoulders, again shaking softly, and pulled Obi-Wan around to look at him instead of the lightless depths of the darkened room. "Padawan. Tell me what happened."
Obi-Wan blinked. "I . . . I went to sleep with a candle."
Qui-Gon nodded. He didn't know where this was going, but at the least the boy was talking. He was willing to let him get there in his own way. "Yes, I remember Teral giving you one. He said that young ones often like a little light to sleep by."
"Not young Judza. They feel safe and at home in the darkness of these tunnels. It was kind of Teral to give me the light. But, Master, I woke in the dark. It must have guttered while I slept."
"Yes. Candles do that."
"I . . . I got up to use the 'fresher. The globe in the hall lit, and I was all right. But, but when I came back . . ."
Obi-Wan started shaking hard again. Qui-Gon wrapped his arms more tightly around him, and pulled them both back to lean against the curving wall when the young man's knees started to buckle. "Stay with me, Padawan. What happened?"
"I . . . I couldn't go in." Obi-Wan's fingers dug into his Master's flesh, desperate, yet somehow weak. "I'm sorry. I can't go in. I'm sorry. I'm afraid! Master, I'm afraid of the dark!"
"Oh, Obi-Wan." Qui-Gon pressed the boy close and let them slide down the wall to sit on the floor. "Shhh. It's all right. It's all right."
"No, it isn't." Obi-Wan's voice was muffled against the Master's shoulder. "It isn't all right at all. I'm too old to be scared of the dark, far too old to be acting like such a baby. I'm sorry."
Qui-Gon sighed, gently rubbing the boy's back. "I don't think you ever get too old to be afraid of the dark, young one. You aren't acting like a baby. You had a very traumatic experience, and your mind is wounded. It's nothing to be ashamed of."
Obi-Wan turned his head to speak more clearly, though he still leaned heavily against his master. "Jedi aren't supposed to be afraid."
"But all Jedi are, of one thing or another. We just learn to release the fear, and to go on despite it."
"I tried to release it, and I couldn't. It was too big. And when I tried again, it pulled me in. I'm sorry. I failed you, failed your teachings."
Qui-Gon shook his head, running his hand through the boy's soft, spiky hair. "You have never failed me. And I don't think you ever will. It's no wonder you had trouble releasing this. As I said, your mind is wounded. We will deal with this together. I just wish you had mentioned it to me earlier."
"It's never fully dark on Coruscant. I never had a problem before. But now . . ." Obi-Wan glanced at the doorway of his chamber, looming like a mouth open to bite, to swallow, to consume. Another strong shudder passed through his wiry frame. "It's just so very dark . . ."
"Yes. And the last time you were in the dark, you were alone, in terrible pain. Of course you fear it now." Qui-Gon looked down and gently tipped Obi-Wan's chin upward in order to look into his eyes. "But I need you to understand something. You are never alone."
A brief spark lit in the blue-green eyes, warming the Master's heart. "Never?"
"Never. Never, my Padawan. Even when you are in the dark, you carry the light with you. Even when you can't feel the Force, when you can't feel our bond, it is still there. Always there, always with you. Shall I tell you an old verse that may remind you of this?"
"Please." Obi-Wan leaned his head on his master's shoulder like a child waiting for storytime.
Qui-Gon smiled, pulling his boy a little closer. "It may help you to memorize this and recite it when you feel alone. It helped me, when I was very young, and my master had to leave me behind in the Temple for a dangerous mission. I've never forgotten it." He leaned his head back against the wall, feeling his own mind slip back slightly, not to a place of darkness, but one of warmth and light.
"I'm listening," Obi-Wan said softly.
Qui-Gon could feel the waiting in him, the intense focus Obi-Wan brought to every lesson, great or small. He laid his cheek against the soft hair that glinted with ginger highlights in the gentle light. "'Fear not, for the Force is with thee. Fear not the pestilence in the morning nor the arrow at midday. The sun shall not smite thee by day nor the moon by night. Walk through the waters, and thou shalt not be drowned. Walk through the fire, and thou shalt not be burned. Fear not, for thou art never alone.'"
"'Nor the moon by night,'" Obi-Wan murmured, almost sleepily. He shifted slightly. "But I like the moon."
Qui-Gon chuckled, very softly. "I know. But you understand the intent. Say it back to me."
Obi-Wan dutifully repeated the old verse, Jedi mind techniques allowing him to memorize it with a single hearing. "'. . . for thou art never alone,'" he finished, and fell silent for a moment. "I like that. Thank you, Master."
"You're welcome. And here, let me show you another way that you carry the light with you." Keeping one arm wrapped firmly around his boy, Qui-Gon lifted his free hand, the palm cupped as if to shelter a small treasure. Slowly, gently, a ball of light began to glow there, spreading soft yellow warmth through the air, painting the walls and illuminating their faces.
"It's a simple manipulation, though very fine," Qui-Gon explained. "Speed up the air molecules in a contained space, and they grow warmer and begin to shine. Try it."
"Not try," Obi-Wan murmured, sounding closer to sleep now. "Do." He lifted one hand and concentrated, and soon held a matching ball of light, smaller than Qui-Gon's but quite a bit brighter, almost white in its brilliance. "Ouch. That's hot."
Qui-Gon chuckled. "Yes, you need to be careful not to burn yourself." He could smell the scent of burning, clean and clear, mingled with the rich earth scent all around them. It was as if sunlight had come to live beneath the ground.
Obi-Wan moved his hand away, letting the ball of light hang in the air like a tiny star. "That's nice."
"It's beautiful," Qui-Gon corrected. "It's absolutely beautiful, my Obi-Wan. You grasped the idea very quickly." He gently let his own light fade away. "It will consume oxygen, so you must take care when using this technique. But I trust you to use it wisely."
"Thank you, Master." Obi-Wan again turned his head to lean on Qui-Gon's chest, letting his eyes drift shut. "You always make it better. I'm glad you're here."
"So am I," Qui-Gon murmured. He watched Obi-Wan's little star begin to fade as the boy slipped into a true, deep slumber.
Gradually the radiant globe softened and dissipated, and Qui-Gon looked down at his sleeping apprentice, considering whether to carry him back to his bed or just sit here all night long. The latter option definitely had its appeal . . . but no. They both needed a good night of rest to prepare for the talks tomorrow.
Qui-Gon shifted the boy into his arms and climbed to his feet. He hesitated for a moment, then walked back toward his own chamber, cradling Obi-Wan's head against his shoulder. No, his Padawan, his son, was not too old to be afraid of the dark. And he was not too old to need his Master's presence now and then. Qui-Gon's bed was plenty big enough for two.