Title: The Sun
Shall Not Smite Thee
Summary: "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." The mission to Glatier.
Timeframe: JA –
Obi-Wan is 15 or so
Category: Angst/Drama . . . oh, who am I kidding. It's pure unadulterated mush. That's all it is.
Characters: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn
Notes: We had a power outage the other night, which got me to thinking about poor Obi-Wan in "Nor the Moon by Night." A reviewer asked me for a prequel to that vig, and I have to admit that I was quite willing to write one. So here it is.
Disclaimer: Crazily enough, I don't own these people. So sad. I could really use a good masseuse, and someone to feed me chocolates while I read and write fanfic.The Sun Shall Not Smite Thee
The line of pure white against the blackness struck his eyes like a needle of agony, slicing into his brain, piercing to the center of what little thought he'd been able to manage and shredding it into an incoherent mess.
"No! Please don't! It hurts it hurts it hurts! Turn it off, please turn it off!"
His voice was a hoarse croak, and he was shocked when someone heard him and answered. But he couldn't understand the words—everything was a confused jumble, and the light burned behind his tightly shut eyes just as painfully as if they were open. Nothing made sense—things were being moved, strange sounds and feelings struck his benumbed senses, a voice that ought to be familiar murmured nonsense in his ear.
Then someone pulled his arm, tried to move him out of the position he'd been forced into by his tiny cell, and he screamed in protest, his stiff muscles locking up. "No, don't make me, please don't make me! It hurts it hurts!"
More words, more urgent voices, strange flashes of light beyond tightly sealed eyelids. Something soft touched his forehead, and the pain diminished, the light lessening.
And all he could think was how cruel it all was. He'd been in the dark for such a long time, and all he had wanted, had longed for all the hopeless desperation of his imprisoned heart, was the tiniest glimpse of light. How cruel, now, to discover that the light hurt more than the darkness had.
Qui-Gon had been longing for this moment ever since his Padawan had been captured, made a pawn in this ridiculous political game when all he'd wanted to do was protect Candidate Loyer's daughter on a visit to a playground. Now the master knelt with a pair of Glatierian soldiers in a white-lit hall in the deepest level of an abandoned bunker, waiting impatiently for the laser-cutter to eat through the little door that held Obi-Wan from him. Purple and blue sparks fled from the edge of the red beam, making the Jedi Master wince even more strongly than the eye-hurting luminescent on the ceiling did.
He tried to contact the boy through the bond, to let him know that help was coming, but Obi-Wan's thoughts were incoherent and unfocused, and he wasn't sure that anything had managed to get through. Qui-Gon sensed that Obi-Wan was horribly lonely and terrified, but not in any great physical pain. At least he'd managed to escape injury, for once. But that did not stop the older Jedi from yearning for reunion, to see his boy safe and sound, to press him to his heart and assure him that they had never stopped looking.
He was on the edge of suggesting that the soldiers step aside and let him have a go with his lightsaber when the young woman holding the laser-cutter let out a satisfied, "Ah!" and turned it off. Immediately she reached forward with a gloved hand to grab the steaming edge of metal and wrench it back. "There you go, Master Jinn, we got it just fine . . ."
". . . please turn it off!" a frantic voice pleaded, so rough and cracked that Qui-Gon barely recognized it as belonging to his dulcet-toned Padawan.
The Glatierian soldier started, then leaned forward as her partner set to work tearing the door off its hinges. "Hey, kid! It's all right, we're here with your master. Everything's going to be all right." The boy's only response was a choked whimper.
Qui-Gon pushed forward, wincing at the screech of rending metal in his ears, and stooped further down to look into the knee-high cubicle. His heart wrenched at the sight. Obi-Wan was curled up into a tight ball—it was the only way he would fit into the cruelly small cell, barely more than a box—and his eyes were screwed shut, his head turned as far away from the door as his obviously stiff neck would allow.
Qui-Gon leaned in, as close as he could get to the boy's sweating face. "Obi-Wan, it's me. I'm here, Padawan. When the elections went on despite the kidnappers' demands, they abandoned this place, and the Glatierian army was able to trace an informant back here. We came as quickly as we could, I swear we did. I'm very sorry it took so long. But we're here—we're going to get you out of there now."
The soldier nodded and tugged on Obi-Wan's arm to drag him out. The boy spasmed, yelling in pain, an agonized shudder possessing his rigid body for a few horrible seconds. "No, don't make me, please don't make me! It hurts it hurts!"
The soldier jerked back, her brow furrowing and lips pursing as if she took offense at the youngster's pain. Qui-Gon quickly laid a hand on her shoulder. "Thank you, Lt. Boralis. I can take it from here." He looked at the other soldier. "Would you call for medical back-up, please? It looks like this isn't going to be as simple an extraction as we thought."
The Glatierian man nodded, and Qui-Gon turned back to his Padawan. "Shh, Obi-Wan. I'm here, I'm here. No more of that, now. You don't have to move a centimeter, I promise. I'll take care of everything." With a swift, hard pull, he ripped the sleeve off his robe. He folded it in half lengthwise, then leaned forward and gently wrapped it around Obi-Wan's head, blindfolding him. "Better? The light down here is harsh even to my eyes. I'm not surprised that it hurts you, after being in dark for such a long time."
Obi-Wan simply sniffled and fell limp, or as limp as he could with his body still wadded up into a ball. Qui-Gon just looked at him for a moment, a lump rising in his throat, then leaned in a little farther and carefully gathered the stiff body into his arms. He withdrew as gently and slowly as he could, bringing his Padawan with him, but the boy still whimpered in pain, apparently unable to stop himself. A few tears trickled beneath the rough brown fabric tied around his eyes.
Qui-Gon sat back on his heels, cradling the boy to his chest. Obi-Wan was too pale, and shaking like a sapling in a gale. Had they really done all they could? He wondered suddenly. Couldn't there have been any way for them to get here sooner? But no, Qui-Gon had been part of the search efforts from the very beginning, and he knew that they had done their best.
Still, they should have gotten here sooner. Those . . . people . . . had locked his Padawan up like an animal, abandoned him in the dark, in a space that wasn't large enough to keep a pet. For more than a week, Obi-Wan had been utterly alone—he obviously hadn't been able to touch the Force for comfort or help. No wonder he was nearly delirious with isolation and confusion.
Suddenly, Qui-Gon couldn't stand to be in this building for another second. He glanced around, shuddering, then looked back at the young face that lay tensely against his shoulder. "Come, Padawan," he murmured, gently wiping away the tears with a large, blunt thumb. "Let's get you out of here."
He rose smoothly to his feet, carefully adjusting Obi-Wan's weight his arms, and Lt. Boralis jumped up to face him. "Aren't you going to wait for the medical back-up? I mean, you're not going to carry that kid all the way out of here by yourself, are you?" She wrinkled her nose, eloquently expressing her opinion on that matter. "They obviously didn't let him out for necessities—he stinks."
Qui-Gon just looked at the young woman for a moment. He did not doubt that she was a splendid warrior and a good leader and a crack shot with the two blasters that hung on her hips, but none of that mattered right now. "I. Do. Not. Care."
And he walked away before he said something else.
Come on, now, Padawan. Qui-Gon watched two nurses work over his boy, massaging clenched muscles, urging him to uncurl from his fetal ball. I need to see your eyes again, young one, so like a calm Alderaanian sea. I need to see you blush like a sunset when you realize that two young ladies are touching you, and I need to see your shy, lovely smile when I tease you for it. I need to hear you complain about med centers yet again, whining about the food, questioning why you always seem to end up in bacta even on the simplest missions. Come now, my Padawan. Open up. It's not like you to keep your old master waiting.
Qui-Gon felt a presence at his elbow and glanced over. A healer stood there, looking over several screens of information on a datapad. He felt the Jedi's eyes on him and met his gaze.
"We have the results of the tox screen back. It's as you suspected—Obi-Wan's body has been flooded with drugs. I won't bore you with the details. Suffice to say that they seem specifically designed to keep his body unstable and his mind incoherent. There are also a few rather nasty side effects with this particular mixture, including muscle spasms, sensitivity to light, and general confusion. I don't dare give him even a pain reliever or a muscle relaxant, as I'm afraid that one more drug might overload his system completely."
Qui-Gon swallowed. "What treatment do you prescribe, then?"
The healer shook his head apologetically. "There isn't much we can do except wait for the drugs to purge. It might take a few hours, or as long as a day. I'm sorry, Master Jinn. I wish we could do more."
The Jedi sighed. "And otherwise? Is he physically healthy, besides the drugs? No internal injuries or untreated concussions or anything? Does he need to spend time in a bacta tank?"
The healer blinked. "No. No injuries. He does have some rather bad sores, the kind an immobile patient gets without proper nursing. But we can treat those topically. No dunking required."
A deep groan drew Qui-Gon's attention back to his Padawan. Obi-Wan was slowly uncurling, though tremors shook his entire body, seeming particularly strong in his hands. His eyes were still screwed shut, though the lights in this room had been dimmed to simulate twilight. The nurses murmured encouragement, but the boy didn't seem to hear them.
Qui-Gon stepped forward. "Thank you. I'll take it from here."
The nurses eyed him with an expression of skepticism that he recognized from Lt. Boralis's face. It seemed to be his day to get on the bad side of Glatierian women. But they stepped aside graciously enough, and Qui-Gon sat carefully on the bed beside his boy, still half-curled and breathing hard. He laid his palm on the rigid shoulder blade, and ran the fingers of his other hand through the freshly-washed hair, causing it to stand up in the familiar sandy-red spikes.
"Hello there, Padawan," he said. "Can you open up for me? I want to see your eyes. I've been waiting as patiently as I can, but I think it's been long enough now."
Obi-Wan shuddered under his hand, then slowly, weakly began to push himself over to lay on his back. Qui-Gon scooted over, giving him room, and in a moment Obi-Wan lay flat, blinking up at him. Tears trickled down his cheeks, probably because even this low light was too much for him, and his forehead was furrowed deeply with pain. But he had responded. At long last, the Padawan had heard his master's plea and opened his eyes.
Qui-Gon smiled, deep relief pouring through him. "Hello," he said again, very softly. "I'm very glad to see you, my Padawan."
The boy shoved himself into a half-sitting position, grunting with effort, and fell into his master's arms, still shaking, still confused and unstable, but home again at last.
Qui-Gon held him tenderly, feeling a few tears escaping his own eyes, though he could not claim that the light hurt them. "It's all right. Everything's going to be all right."
And finally, he believed it.
The first touch had been comforting. Along with his yearning for the smallest glimpse of light had also been a desperate need to know that he was not alone, to feel another's warmth beside him. Finally that warmth had come, had wrapped around him in soft waves, and he had sunk into it with the gratitude of a storm-tossed sailor finding safe harbor.
But then the touch had changed. There was more of it, hands on him, pushing, pummeling, trying to make him move, and strange, muffled voices blasted commands he could not understand. He had tried—Force knew he had tried. But it hurt so, even the smallest movements, burning needles sweeping along his limbs, piercing outward from under his skin. His head throbbed and pounded, and he almost longed for the darkness again, if only to escape the endless bewilderment.
Fortunately, the touch changed again before he could even form that longing into a coherent thought—for might not the mere desire, set in the mind-stone of syllables and words, have sent him back to that cell, if his desire to escape had fulfilled itself by that method?—and he knew the new touch ought to be familiar. It would be familiar, once his mind started working again, he knew it would be. He had looked up into stars of deep blue, set in a blur of dusky twilight, and he knew he would recognize them in time. If only that time was now.
Since then there had only been that gentle touch, like the first comforting warmth that had lifted him from darkness. The hand on his back moved in easy patterns, helping him relearn how to be touched, what it felt like not to be alone. He rested in a cocoon of peace and listened to the soft rumbling beneath his cheek, so like the murmur of a rising tide gradually bringing the sea into the land. Though his body still shook with constant tremors, an eternal earthquake that refused to follow the natural order of such things and finally finish its work, he knew that it would be done soon. He was waiting, he understood. Waiting for the confusion to pass, for the shaking to stop, for the dim light around him to stop burning him.
It didn't happen all at once. The clouds before his eyes drifted away slowly, like the gradual lifting of mists on a warm spring morning. But then came the moment when Obi-Wan blinked, and realized that the bewilderment was gone. He knew who he was and where he was, what had happened and what had brought him to this point.
And the knowing was almost worse than the confusion.
Qui-Gon didn't know how long he sat there on the med-bed, holding the shuddering body of his Padawan, rubbing his back and feeling him slowly relax, talking of everything and nothing to fill in the cracks of the boy's silence. It was more than one hour, less than ten, he supposed. At first he had tried a number of different positions that would allow him as much contact with Obi-Wan as possible, as it was immediately obvious that the youngster craved human touch, but he soon found that it was easiest simply to draw the boy into his lap and hold him like a little child. Obi-Wan would protest it if he were himself, but in his current state he merely clung to his Master, trembling fingers twisting in the tunic's fabric, tear-damp face pressed into the hollow of his throat.
"We never stopped looking, Obi-Wan. I wanted to be sure you knew. I felt it through our bond when you were ambushed and overwhelmed, and we sent soldiers out immediately, looking for you. Master Hayde and I were both nearly frantic, despite all our Jedi calm. Don't tell the Council, please. Every hour that I could not feel your presence in my mind felt like a year. It's been such a long time, my poor Padawan. But here you are at last, safe and sound. They didn't hurt you, not physically at least. Is it wrong for me to feel grateful? I do. I am deeply, eternally grateful. I imagined such horrors, young one, such terrible things."
He laughed softly. "When you are yourself again you'll rebuke me for that—aren't I always telling you to live in the moment? Not to dwell on your anxieties? You are wiser than I, my Padawan, for I cannot follow my own commands, yet you do so every day. And always you strive to better yourself. Yes, a wise child, indeed you are."
Qui-Gon sighed deeply. "And here I am, not living in the moment yet again, because I'm thinking about you coming back to yourself. It will happen soon enough, I know. You'll open your eyes and look around, and lift up your head and look at me. I will be very glad to see it. But that will be the end of this sweet little interlude of quiet. You'll be very embarrassed when you realize that I've been cradling you for this time. You're a young man, a young Jedi, and you have a great deal of dignity. I don't fault you for that. I'll let you go when you ask me to do so. But for now . . . for now I will sit here. I don't mind, my Obi-Wan. I don't mind at all . . . ."
Eventually Qui-Gon realized that the boy had gone still in his arms. The shaking had ceased. But the pattern of Obi-Wan's breath, soft and uneven, told him that the Padawan did not sleep. Was this it, then? The moment he'd been waiting for?
Qui-Gon paused his ministrations on the boy's back, catching his breath as he swallowed whatever inane words he'd been about to speak. They meant nothing now. "Obi-Wan?"
The silence held for only a moment. Then Obi-Wan pulled in a deep, shuddering breath. Still he did not move. "What happened to Masia?"
Candidate Loyer's daughter. Qui-Gon felt almost dizzy with relief. He should have realized that his boy's first concern as soon he regained lucidity would be for the young girl who had been his charge to protect. "She's fine, Obi-Wan. They didn't harm her—she was treated very carefully, though she never saw the kidnappers' faces, so she can't witness against them. We found her almost as soon as we entered that abandoned bunker—she was locked in one of the command quarters. I only wish they had treated you with the same tenderness."
"I fought back," Obi-Wan murmured, his voice still rough and drawn, but once again the sweet, lilting accent the older Jedi remembered. "That was a crime in their eyes."
Qui-Gon's arms tightened convulsively around his Padawan, as much to release his own sudden, surging anger as to provide comfort. "And they dared to punish you for it. I'm sorry we did not find you sooner, my Padawan. We never stopped looking, I swear to you that we did not."
"I know," Obi-Wan whispered. "You told me. I heard . . . I just didn't understand the words at first."
"Ah." Qui-Gon dipped his head to rest on the soft, unruly locks. Then all was well with their universe.
Except . . . "You don't blame yourself, do you, Obi-Wan?"
Qui-Gon was well-aware of how quick this boy was to assume that everything that could go wrong, would, because of him. It was a misapprehension that he had yet to train out of the boy, and one of the few lessons that he was terribly afraid would never quite get through. Not that he would stop trying.
"It wasn't your fault. You did everything you could. I saw a security holo of the fight with your attackers—I cannot criticize a single move you made. You fought to protect the girl above yourself, which was as it should be, and that was the only reason one of the stun bolts finally found its way to you. You could have done nothing else."
Obi-Wan didn't acknowledge this in words, but the last bit of tension he'd been holding leaked away at this, and that was answer enough. Qui-Gon smiled and pressed him a little tighter, if that were even possible. And the Padawan simply slipped his arms about the Master's waist and stayed where he was.
They did not move for a long time.
"Ready to see the sunlight again, Padawan?"
Obi-Wan hesitated, and looked up into the smiling face of his master, who stood with his hand on the med-center's door. He was tired of the med-center, true enough, tired of the poking and prodding and blood tests and intensely bright little lights being shined his eyes, and oh, the many, many questions . . . "Does this hurt? How about now? Can you rate that on a scale of one to ten?"
But was he ready to see the sunlight again? It had been such a long time . . .
Obi-Wan blinked, swallowed, and drew himself up straight. The drugs were gone. He was better. The healers had said so. He would just have to take their word for it. "Yes, I'm ready."
Qui-Gon's smile was soft and understanding. He gently pushed the door open, giving Obi-Wan time to squint his eyes half-shut. The Padawan waited for the light to pierce into his head, to burn, to hurt.
But it did not. After a moment Obi-Wan blinked, shocked and pleased. It didn't hurt at all.
In fact, it was beautiful.
"Master Qui-Gon! Obi-Wan!" It was Lindle, Master Nik'lai Hayde's little Padawan, bouncing up and down right outside the door. "We've been waiting for you!"
"I know," Qui-Gon said warmly as he stepped outside, still holding the door for his apprentice. "You've been very patient."
Obi-Wan slowly emerged from the center, blinking up into the smiling pale green face of Master Hayde, then down at the little Padawan, who was still springing joyfully from foot to foot to prehensile tail. "Little monkey-lizard," he teased in the old familiar way, and Lindle giggled in his usual delight, pleased even for a friendly insult from the older Padawan he looked up to with bright, starry eyes.
"Welcome back," Master Hayde said. "We missed you."
And Obi-Wan lifted his face to the sunlight, letting it soak into his skin, and silently agreed.