Author: Laura of Maychoria
Category: Erg . . . Contemplation? Probably angst, mush, my usual stuff.
Characters: Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan
Summary: A soliloquy by moonlight.
Notes: I should be doing homework. But I wanted to write something else. (If the style is weird, it's because I've been reading too much Victorian fiction in literature class lately.)
Disclaimer: Still don't own them, sadly.
The moonlight wasn't as lovely anymore.
Upon a time, the pale, clear translucent light pouring over the garden and seeping in pools and puddles of luminescence on the ground was a thing of magic. Long green leaves like the drooping blades of swords beaten into works of art were gilded and transformed by the silver light. But there was no metal in this silver, nothing of weapons and fighting and death, only the beauty of a long-sought dream-treasure suddenly revealed before the waking eyes. The quiet flow and tinkle of distant fountains seemed a part of the moonlight, as well, a gentle background chorus for the symphony of night and air, cool and sweet and refreshing.
In the past, Qui-Gon had come to the starlit garden after difficult missions and just sat here, sometimes meditating, but often only watching the moonlight. And he felt it pour over his spirit like a gentle cleansing wave, teasing away the dirt and grime that caked his flesh like invisible dust, rather than scrubbing it away in the white tide of a river rapids. Sometimes he needed the rough cleansing, but often he appreciated this gentle flow and ripple, instead, the caress of the softest breeze.
But it wasn't working tonight.
It was Obi-Wan who had first shown him the mysteries of the moonlight. The Master had always been the one to rise early and enjoy the sunrise, to meditate in the creamy yellow and flushing rose of the new day. He liked the scent of the morning, the opportunity to complete important tasks while most of the Temple slept peacefully around him. He did not feel lonely in those times, though he was alone.
The Padawan was the late-riser, the sleepy birdling who wished for nothing more than to tuck his head under his wing for "just five minutes more," who burrowed into his bedclothes at the first touch of sunlight rather than lifting his face joyful to meet it. At first Qui-Gon had rather disparaged this, and had tried to change his apprentice, to lead him to what he saw as a better path, just as he led the eager boy along the path of a Jedi. Obi-Wan always rose obediently, with his "five minutes more" if they were allowed, without them if Qui-Gon insisted, and rather more often the latter than the former. He would blink around in a daze for half an hour or so, but he never complained and never shirked.
And then something extraordinary had happened, something well-nigh magical, as they grew in trust and strength together. Obi-Wan was yet thirteen—it was in their first half-year. They had just completed another difficult mission. Again they had fought for peace, and again they had seen death spilt in its place . . . a terrible thing, something no thirteen-year-old should see so soon, be he Jedi or no. Though it was too late for Obi-Wan, who had seen far too much death even in their first month . . .
Still, Qui-Gon had grieved, more for his boy than for the people who would not see peace, and that too had stung his heart. So he had laid awake that night as he rarely, rarely did, staring at the ceiling of his bedchamber and failing to meditate. Then came the moment when he realized that the Padawan was no longer in their rooms, that his sense through the bond had become distant and muted, and he started up in alarm.
It wasn't difficult to feel the bond, strangely quiet as it had become. Through silent halls Qui-Gon padded, pulling his robe about his shoulders, trying to quell the worry that persisted in rising in him like a spring in a wetland, low and damp and murky. At length he found himself at the doorway of one of the smaller meditation gardens, one on an upper level. The roof was open to the sky, and high enough here that the omnipresent lights of Coruscant were hidden or dimmed, and only the moonlight and starlight remained.
And there he found his wayward Padawan, sitting cross-legged in a patch of green and silver, his hands on his knees, his clear blue eyes open and strangely luminescent in this light, the kind rarely visible on this metal planet. Qui-Gon paused, unsure what to do. Then he decided to forgo words, and merely sat beside his apprentice to see things more at his level, trying to understand what he saw.
Together they watched the moonlight flow over the garden. Qui-Gon never knew how long they sat there, saying nothing, only being. But at some point he realized, with another slight start of not-quite-alarm, that the guilt and grief were gone, subsumed in peace. And here was his boy sitting at his elbow, likewise silent in understanding. They were unharmed—and perhaps someday they would also be unmarked. For now they sat here in the moonlight. Together and free.
It was all they could ask for.
Eventually they rose and went back to their rooms. Before Obi-Wan slipped into his bed he looked up at his master and gave him a smile, quiet but wide, true and real with the moonlight still shining in his eyes. With that smile he gave the gift to Qui-Gon, the gift of the starlit garden and the peace that waited there. Qui-Gon could only marvel at such generosity, and he nodded in thanks. And he went to bed and slept, and woke with the midmorning sun streaming in the window.
After that he no longer tried to change Obi-Wan. He understood that there were different blessings to be found, whether under the sun or under the moon. If they needed to rise early, they did so, but if there was no need, the starlight was always waiting. After difficult missions they would take turns, depending on which had been more deeply and terribly affected by the experience. But always they shared the sunrise or the moonlight.
Except this time. Now Qui-Gon sat alone in the night garden, waiting for the peace that was not coming. Could five years change the moonlight so much? It seemed tinged with red where it pooled on the ground, changing the very air it passed through, no longer gently flowing, but clinging ragged to the plants, hiding even the sound of the distant fountains.
Though it was a bare whisper, rough and cracked and all but inaudible, it broke their years of tradition. Qui-Gon raised his head sharply, inhaling unhappily at the sight of his bruised and battered Padawan swaying on his feet. "Obi-Wan. You should be in the Healers' Ward."
"I'm sorry, Master. I . . . I felt . . ."
The young man swayed again, more sharply, grasping blindly at the leaves as if they could hold him up. Qui-Gon was on his feet in an instant, wrapping an arm around the too-bony shoulders, still bearing the marks of hardship borne, again in the pursuit of peace that could not be found. "Sit, Padawan," he said more gently. "I can guess what you felt."
Again they sat in green and silver, but this time it was not enough for Qui-Gon to watch the moonlight. His being was focused on the shoulder pressed against his, the shivers that possessed the slender frame, on each ragged breath that seemed captured in discomfort. Oh, Obi-Wan. You should not be sorry. I was not there.
"I'm all right, Master. I'm fine." But the jagged cough said otherwise.
Qui-Gon passed his robe around the shuddering boy and held him against himself. In moments Obi-Wan stilled, his breath coming more easily. He nestled his head on Qui-Gon's shoulder and sat quietly, watching the moonlight.
Qui-Gon could not help smiling, though it was neither very large nor very true. Still my little birdling, Obi-Wan, lover of the moonlight and the darkness beneath the long green leaves.
Still, he could not deny that the fine young boy who had earned his father-heart was quickly growing into a fine young man, and would soon be a fine Jedi Knight. Even this last mission proved it. When they had been separated Obi-Wan had acted with the leadership and wisdom and fortitude of a man twice his age. He had saved lives, leading endangered people to what safety could be found. That he had been captured and mishandled was none of his fault.
Only Qui-Gon's. As the failure of the mission was his.
No, he would not think of that now. He listened to Obi-Wan breathing, felt the young shoulder warm against his, and decided to think of nothing else. With that decision, red no longer tinged the moonlight, and he was able to watch it without shuddering.
"Thank you, Master." A whisper still, but no longer cracked and broken.
Perhaps it was better for Obi-Wan to be out of the Healers' Ward, after all. Perhaps there was something in his endless insistence that he be allowed to leave even when all the healers said otherwise. Already his body was more at ease than it had been for days, his breath coming with less effort, the terrible, wracking coughs banished, if only for this short time.
"Don't think," Obi-Wan murmured. "Just be."
The words were so absent and soft that Qui-Gon was not sure if they had been intended for his ears. Perhaps Obi-Wan was only advising himself. If so, it was wise advice indeed, and Qui-Gon decided to take it.
Sometimes there were no answers. He had known that. How had he forgotten?
Sometimes there were only mysteries. In the blood-soaked dirt of a torn planet. In the silvered leaves of a moonlit garden. In the clear blue eyes of a wise young man.
Eventually Obi-Wan slept, his weary head drooping against Qui-Gon's chest, the slight edge in his breath no longer a grating rasp in his lungs, though it had not disappeared entirely. Qui-Gon rested his chin on the top of the tousled head, red and silver in this light, and watched the quiet garden shift as the moon began to set.
The moonlight had not changed, after all.
Qui-Gon should have known it. Some mysteries had no solution. But this one was not hard to discover.
It was Obi-Wan who made the moonlight magic. It had been all along.