This is just a brief epilogue. It probably wasn't needed, but I liked it.This story began as a gift to a friend. As I kept writing I decided to put it up online: but behind it all, this story is dedicated to, and always has been to, Tawa.
One Month Later…
Qui-Gon palmed opened the door to an empty apartment. When he had left, Obi-Wan had been sitting on the couch, reading a datapad in the central room of the apartment – now he was nowhere to be seen. It was early evening – the room was dimly lit with floor and wall globes, their light brightening as night set in, but they still illuminated an empty room.
Placing his own datapad on the table, Qui-Gon reached out to the bond, trying to find Obi-Wan. The presence was strong - he was close, evidently, and within a few moments Qui-Gon saw him – he was on the small balcony off to one side of the apartment, leaning on the railing, watching the city.
Qui-Gon walked over and out of the open door, feeling the cool air of the evening wash over him. Obi-Wan looked up briefly as he approached, before turning his gaze back to the city before him, but looking past the buildings and lost in thought.
The past month had been…interesting. After Obi-Wan had recovered enough to support his own weight and be able to move around, he had returned to the apartment he shared with Qui-Gon, to finish his recuperation somewhere more familiar and private. Qui-Gon himself had heard the rumours of what had happened on his daily business around the Temple, and, although most had faded by now, he had been slightly thankful the truth had not been among them. Some of the younger Initiates would presumably have been affected had they known what really went on – trust was a fragile thing to those that young.
But with Obi-Wan's recovery had come the normal, accepted story: a Padawan injured on a mission – it was not uncommon, and so there was no real reason for others to oppose it with speculation.
Qui-Gon studied his apprentice for a moment. Obi-Wan had been changed due to the ordeal – after all, who wouldn't have? – and was quieter than he had been before. The light had not completely returned to his eyes; he kept to himself a lot, meditating alone for long periods of time; and Qui-Gon had not seen him truly smile since that day in the infirmary. It was a change from the restless yet mature Jedi Qui-Gon had become accustomed to. Obi-Wan also had not spoken of the ordeal itself, aside from a few general comments in response to Qui-Gon's searching questions, and all Qui-Gon knew other than that was from fragmented dreams that he sometimes saw.
At the moment, Obi-Wan appeared to be deep in thought, but Qui-Gon could feel the guilt swirling within him. It was obvious what he was thinking about; as it was never far from his mind.
Qui-Gon moved up to stand next to Obi-Wan, copying his stance and leaning on the railing. "Let it go, Obi-Wan," he said gently.
Obi-Wan looked down at his hands where they were resting on the rail. "It's so hard to, Master. I've been trying, but it seems to be etched into my very soul. The guilt is never ending…I can't get my actions out of my head."
"I have noticed. You must have faith in yourself, look past the things you've done and concentrate on the now. What's done is done; you and I cannot change it. Right now, right here, is what matters. Dwelling on it will do no good."
Obi-Wan took a moment to consider his mentor's words. Qui-Gon was right, of course, but it was hard. He had tried time and time again to let everything go, let life resume, but something always remained that pulled everything back to him and he felt worse than he had before he tried releasing it. He sighed quietly.
"I still cannot come to terms with my actions, Master. I became a monster…how do I know that I will not turn back?"
"You know yourself, and no one else can tell you otherwise."
Obi-Wan reached out to the warmth of the Force, letting it fill and calm him. "Perhaps I am looking at this wrong. I should not dwell on it, I know that. I should look on it as a lesson, or perhaps a warning, do you think?"
"I think that would help put things in perspective, yes." Qui-Gon said quietly.
Obi-Wan was quiet for a moment. "It was a lesson about the Dark Side and the effects of it…what it does to a person in themselves, what it does to those around them, how it tempts in the times of despair and pain."
"And as a warning?"
"As a warning, it is a warning against the Darkness and how easy it seems to take, the illusions puts upon those who use it. Perhaps there will come a time when I will have to face it again, or be careful not to give into it…maybe this ordeal will end up saving me." Obi-Wan looked thoughtful, staring into the empty air.
Qui-Gon noticed with a slight smile how far Obi-Wan had progressed in his training. Who knew how much longer they had together as Master and Padawan? Obi-Wan was mature beyond his years, his skills were formidable and he was wiser than many. The chain of reasoning here, for instance, was an example of Obi-Wan's understanding and control over the situation.
"I am going to meditate, my Padawan," Qui-Gon said, placing a hand on Obi-Wan's shoulder. The Force was hinting to him that Obi-Wan needed to be alone, to try and come to terms with himself and forgive himself. Obi-Wan looked up at him and smiled briefly – a mere shadow of the expression Qui-Gon knew – as his Master returned inside.
Obi-Wan continued to look out at the city. No matter what the reason the Force had behind what had happened to him, and to Qui-Gon and those that helped, Obi-Wan knew one thing – never again would he tread anywhere near the Darkness. Not if the Temple fell, or his Master died, or something else horrible happened. He would always know the Light was with him and never turn his back on it again.
Taking a deep breath, Obi-Wan attempted, once again, to let everything go into the Force, like he had been taught. He felt something leave, fade away, and felt a little better.
He wanted to let it all go, but what was blocking him? He felt guilty, shocked, disappointed in himself and like a failure to the Order and Qui-Gon. Frowning, Obi-Wan reached deeper into the Force, searching for the answers and guidance.
"You know yourself, and no one else can tell you otherwise."
Qui-Gon's words, spoken minutes before, came back to him. He had to forgive himself. He had thought he had succeeded weeks before, but now, with the help of the Force, Obi-Wan realised what it was; what was hindering the healing. He had forgiven himself, meaning he had been regretful, and apologetic, but he had not accepted his own apology. It seemed strange to think about, but it was true.
Calming himself, he considered his actions and who and what he had affected. He remembered the feel of the Darkness and accepted that he had used it knowingly. He accepted what he had done, and who to, and the consequences of those actions. He confronted the fears about his return and re-acceptance to the Order, and about his standing in the eyes of the Jedi Council and those he cared about.
And, finally, he let it go.
Not all of it, as he could still feel a residing guilt that would fade with time, but much of the burden on his mind was lifted. He would move on, as was fit for a Jedi, but remember the experience and learn from it.
'Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. Those who live in the past are condemned to never escape it.' The old lesson, drilled into him from early years in the Temple, came back to him. It was true, he supposed, and what he needed to do. Move on but not forget, remember but not dwell.
Obi-Wan sighed, feeling happier for the first time in weeks, and headed back inside. Qui-Gon looked up as his apprentice entered, noticing Obi-Wan's change in demenour. His steps were lighter, not those of one weighed down by a terrible experience, and his eyes showed the humourous light shining from within - the same light that Obi-Wan had always had.
And, he was smiling. A true, relaxed smile.
Qui-Gon rose and embraced his Padawan, smiling himself.
Even the darkest night will end, and the sun will rise.
The last line is from the musical Les Miserables, which I'm currently rehearsing for.
If, by some miracle, you like my writing, keep a look out for a new story – Going, Going, Gone! Coming soon… Jedi are going missing. When Qui-Gon becomes the latest to vanish, Obi-Wan is teamed up with Kit and Siri to get to the bottom of it: but what they uncover is more than they bargained for…an auction for Jedi slaves.
Once again, thank you all for your support and kind words! May the Force be with you all...always.