Obi-Wan Kenobi stood tall and straight, his back to the door.
Any other place, any other time, it would not have been remarkable. This time, this place, it was. Not so long ago, his very existence had been in doubt; somewhat more recently it was his health that had been in question.
There could be no more doubts. Hers had fled the day before, only to sneak up during the long hours of the night, but seeing him standing there in the light of day – this new day – they had simply ceased to exist, evaporated into the Force.
Shadows still remained, but even they were fast dissolving in the light of truth, to leave behind only faint traces of the residual horror that had so plagued the Jedi.
Instead, a feeling of peace and acceptance greeted Siri as soon as she stepped into Cielan's office, so strong it nearly took her breath away. Obi-Wan's revelations had freed him. It was nothing tangible, yet very real –his faint presence in the Force seemed washed clean of the faint murkiness that had so clouded it, the veils of doubt torn asunder to let the light of his presence shine unhindered.
After all the pain and the doubts, the terrors and the fears, Obi-Wan was free. He might never be free of the memories, but they no longer had the power to hold him hostage.
She just stood there, basking in normalcy, smiling a little as the Force hummed in the room. All those there felt it – whatever they might know, or not – they felt it.
Perhaps it was the way they were clustered around Obi-Wan: Cielan, Neille and Yoda. Siri could feel their pleasure and happiness quietly radiating through the Force.
Perhaps it was the way he stood facing them, the lines of his body reflecting the quiet grace he could display even when still.
She knew she wasn't the only one who had found it hard, so terribly hard, to watch a Jedi with Obi-Wan's strength struggle so hard or suffer all the attendant emotional conflict. His friends, padawan and healers, they had all wanted to help him recover, each and every one of them, yet all knew that his recovery could not be forced upon him. Finding a balance between helping and hindering had been fraught with treacherous currents to navigate.
Now he had found his strength and his healing, and the healers and Yoda knew it; perhaps Obi-Wan had already spoken some of what had been hidden for too long. Even now Neille was clapping him on the back, Bant was hugging him and Cielan was standing by with a pleased smile as Yoda beamed. It was nearly overwhelming to observe; the Jedi apparently found it just as overwhelming to be in the middle of it.
Obi-Wan merely threw up his hands and retreated, a step or two, a bit overcome.
"Why Master Kenobi, there is no fear," Siri intoned solemnly, in a deep voice very unlike her own – before the mock severity turned to giggles. "Fears leads to - looking a fool when it's fear of your friends and colleagues."
He turned in surprise, grinned, and grumbled good-naturedly, "Well, when they all but squeeze you to pieces…. " In two long strides he was at her side, his eyes crinkling at her in the way she found irresistible.
To Siri's utter astonishment, Obi-Wan wrapped an arm around her shoulders as he told those gathered that it was thanks to Siri that he had found the strength and will to move forward.
"Thank you," he said as he turned his gaze back to her and gave her shoulder a little squeeze. Two simple little words, yet such deep emotion backed them that Siri could only ever so gently elbow him in the ribs with an affectionate, "You gundark." Without missing a beat, he turned back to face the others, not relinquishing her shoulder, and thanked them for their support as well.
"Your weakness you have found, Obi-Wan," Yoda said, nodding in approval and poking his gimer stick at the Jedi's ankle.
"And found my strength in turn." The Jedi did not flinch, but a corner of his mouth twitched in amusement.
Yoda turned complacent eyes towards Siri, and she could almost swear she saw him wink at her before he spoke in quiet amusement. "Indeed, for lean on her you still do."
Obi-Wan's arm immediately dropped to his side, though his eyes twinkled. "I will try to stand on my own, Master."
The Jedi was clearly teasing the elder and they both knew it, for at the word "try," Yoda merely grunted, letting it pass without comment. There was no doubt in Siri's mind, then. Yoda had winked at her and now had just done so again – and she knew that Obi-Wan saw it this time, too.
"Worried once I was for you, Obi-Wan," he observed with a slow blink of an eye. "Ready are you now to speak to the healers what you have spoken to Siri? Help you take those final steps they will but know all they must to help you find the Force."
The gentle words were not meant as a reproof, but Obi-Wan bowed his head, a slight wash of red staining his face. Yoda was perfectly correct, yet the man had been so wounded that physical healing and time had been necessary to give him the strength to even get to this point. Not until his revelations had Siri understood the depth of those wounds or the scars they had left on his soul, which made it so breathtaking to now see the spring in his step and the sparkle in his eyes.
"I am, but…," he again reddened slightly as he looked at Yoda, then Siri in turn. The sparkle faded a bit, muted with the knowledge of what he must once more speak, but didn't disappear.
"I'd like you both here; I'll understand if you'd rather not. Siri,' his eyes searched hers, concern and worry in their depths that didn't diminish even with her nod, "I think it would help you. Master Yoda," he turned to the diminutive Jedi, "I'd like you to hear it directly from me – someone on the Council needs to know and I would prefer it be you."
Yoda grunted and Obi-Wan nodded, before turning his attention back to Siri. "Siri, I've told them because of you I am ready to put this behind me. The scars are still there, I know, but…."
… but he knows it won't be easy, Siri mentally filled in the unspoken words.
In Obi-Wan's eyes she saw only strength and determination, tinged with a hint of unease. He knew how hard it had been for her to listen the day before, probably even knew how she had slept on his couch wanting, needing to stay near him – how more than once she had stood in his doorway reassuring herself that he indeed slept peacefully before her – before slipping back to her own room in the early hours to catch a few hours of exhausted sleep.
"Of course, Kenobi." I can listen to it again, for Obi-Wan's sake! She put her finger on his lips before he could ask if she was sure. "Don't worry so much – really, Kenobi."
"I do what I must." His smile was a bit strained, his concern for her real even as he tried to tease her. He winced theatrically as Siri lightly smacked him on the arm.
"Thank you for helping Obi, Siri," Bant said; such delight in her eyes that Siri just had to smile, despite knowing the horrors that she would soon hear once more. The gentle healer would be devastated by what Obi-Wan would reveal. "This morning he walks in with this sheepish expression and says, 'I've been hiding something from you – as well as myself. I'm ready to talk about it.' I knew then our Obi-Wan was just about back."
Bant suddenly frowned as if suddenly aware that the next step would be far from pleasant. Her lips pressed together, and Siri realized the healer had a spine of durasteel that would serve her well over the next time period.
Cielan added, "Knight Tachi, your support and friendship have greatly accelerated Obi-Wan's recovery in my opinion; you have accomplished what would have taken the two of us longer to achieve."
Now it was Siri who felt overwhelmed. She had done little, except what Obi-Wan asked – she had lent her strength and her ear, but he had been the one who had had to go into those memories and face them.
"I needed you," the Jedi said, facing her squarely, his eyes apologetic as if he shouldn't have needed her, shouldn't have had to burden another with the knowledge of his pain in order to get beyond it. "I was hesitant to face those memories, hesitant to speak when I did, and hesitant…."
"Hesitant of my reaction, Obi-Wan?" Siri finished for him, her gaze soft even if her voice came out a bit sharper than she wished. "Or making them real by speaking? Scared to be vulnerable and needing someone?"
He shrugged uncomfortably, clearly unable to articulate a response. He squawked as she tugged him into a seat with a sudden yank, surprise and shock in his face at her triumphant grin.
"Idiot!" She smiled at him, for she did understand. How could he fully trust anyone if he couldn't trust himself? He had chosen to trust her.
"Idiot Obi-Wan is not. Stubborn he is," Yoda pronounced sternly. The others sat as he threw an exasperated but fond glare at the Jedi. He suddenly chuckled, "Like his master he is – but stubborn is what saved you, eh, young one? Stubborn can be good under the right circumstances. Glad I am that stubborn you are."
"Not I," Cielan interjected. "Stubborn made my job much harder."
Padawan Kenobi might have rolled his eyes; Master Kenobi only sighed and offered a soft-voiced apology.
The light-hearted teasing was as much from relief as it was preparing for the tale that lay ahead. Cielan clearly thought that Obi-Wan was going to find this more difficult than he expected.
Cielan summarized what Siri already knew. With Yoda, it was harder to tell, though he grunted every now and then as if he knew much of what was said already. Knowing the fond affection and deep respect Obi-Wan had for the diminutive master, a regard returned in equal measure, she wouldn't be surprised if Yoda knew a great deal.
It wasn't until Obi-Wan slowly began to recite his experience with the Sith mask that Yoda's ears curled back and his attention grew even more focused. The healers had much the same reaction, while Siri's fingers tightened at having to hear this all over again.
At one point, Obi-Wan's gaze met hers and he faltered. Stilling her fingers, she managed an encouraging smile. Hearing all this a second time was easier, just as speaking it seemed a bit easier for Obi-Wan as well, though he was paling as he spoke.
Talking about the mask was not – and never would be – easy for Obi-Wan. Such trauma left permanent scars; scars that healed but scars that never quite disappeared. It took Yoda and Siri at his side, lending their emotional and physical support, for the Jedi to describe the physical and mental sensations of the mask to the healers.
I stared evil in the face – and the face was mine – Siri was sure he barely noticed her arm wrapping around his shoulders as he leaned forward, head in his hands, shaking, suddenly shaking. She pulled him close to her side as he fought to continue; silently rubbing his arm and her own eyes closed against the horrors that he spoke of once more.
If either Cielan or Neille questioned the embrace, neither one reacted as if it were the most common of sights. With Yoda's small hand resting on one forearm as well, Siri could feel Obi-Wan fight past his constricted throat by drawing on the offered Force strength of those who surrounded him.
"Easier it is with the support of others," Yoda grunted, nodding gently. "This lesson you have finally learned, eh?"
Will he still reach out to others – to me – once he's fully beyond all this? It was a selfish thought, she knew, this wish that his new-found need for closeness would not evaporate with his healing, but the thought of losing this made her blink back an unexpected tear.
She looked down as she felt her fingers lightly squeezed, as if the Jedi sensed her emotions. His hand was warm and gentle; his touch both a promise and assurance that he had changed for the better in some ways, changed by what was done to him and changed by the help he had accepted from others.
Having already confessed all to Siri, once Obi-Wan got beyond the initial words he seemed to find it easier to speak in coherent sentences, only broken by the occasional shudder and silences. It made Siri realize it had been as much fear of judgment, of revealing vulnerability, which had initially impeded his story.
The eyes of all settled into deep compassion, though none interrupted the Jedi's flow of words. Slow tears dripped from Bant's silver eyes, for the tenderhearted healer was easily the most emotionally expressive of them all; her lips were tightly pressed together indicating deep concentration on the words.
No dramatic pause or triumphal chorus marked the end of his story. It ended simply, with Obi-Wan rubbing his eyes and slumping back in his seat as Siri's arm tightened around him.
For a moment no one spoke. What words, really, were appropriate?
The silence was finally broken, by Obi-Wan himself. He straightened up and looked at each in turn, ending with Siri. He gazed at her, savoring the moment to come. He had found the words that the others could not. Two words, deceptively simple yet with a wealth of meaning, punctuated by a smile.
The worst was behind him – and the future beckoned.
Sequel is here: .net/secure/story/story_?storyid=4801119/1/ Truths of the Heart. I wanted to reign in this story a bit, continue the romance, have the freedom to go further AU and bring in more humor. The change in tone seemed jarring unless split off, and so far I've managed somewhat to pull back on my tendency to overindulge in pretty sounding phrases.