A/N: Yay! Epilogue is up! Well, this may sound really ridiculous, but this is the first story (multi-chapter, at any rate) that I've ever finished. Yes, only four chapters, but... I'm happy!
In the days that followed, whispers traveled around the temple – Master Jinn was smiling again! Word had it that he was even laughing! No one was quite sure if it was true or not, and many Jedi around the Temple were trying to discretely catch a glimpse of the master with a grin on his face. Tahl, for instance, was setting a deliberate walk for Jinn's quarters. It may be nearly midnight, and she may be blind, but her stride was quick and exact. Rounding corners and boarding lifts, she eventually came to the master's doorstep.
She knocked quietly on the door, knowing that it was quite late to be having visitors. But she knew Qui-Gon; he would answer at any hour. Sure enough, the door slid open with a hiss a few seconds later, and Tahl could feel Qui-Gon's strong presence in front of her.
"Tahl?" She heard him say quietly. "Back from Corellia already?" His voice was slightly surprised, but pleasantly so. Pleasant. Tahl hadn't associated that particular emotion with Qui-Gon in a while. Perhaps the rumors were true.
"Rumor has it," She started, "that the great master Jinn has undergone an overnight transformation." She paused, to gage his reaction. She sensed nothing but acceptance from the man. She smiled friendly. "I came to see for myself.
"Come in." Qui-Gon said, stepping aside so that Tahl could step in.
"So?" She asked, "Is it true?"
"Is what true?" Qui-Gon replied. Tahl could tell that he was stalling.
"Is Qui-Gon Jinn actually smiling again?" She asked, quietly.
"Oh." He said. "That." Tahl held her breath. Was it just her imagination, or did that sound like a smile in his voice? There was a long, suspenseful pause, before Tahl could sense a ripple in the Force - like he was laughing. "Yes, it is true." He finished. Tahl knew he was beaming now. She could have sworn that she felt something like tears forming in her sightless eyes. Whatever it was, her friend must have seen it, because he stepped forward and wrapped her in his embrace, childish joy radiating off of his being. Tahl smiled and closed her eyes. She had so hoped it was true. And it was.
Albeit a bit awkwardly, Tahl returned Qui-Gon's huge embrace. "Care to explain?" She asked, letting her hand rest on his cheek, which she could feel was turned up in a grin. It was the closest to seeing him smile she would ever get.
"Well," Qui-Gon started, "I suppose you can thank a certain young boy, when he wakes."
"Obi-Wan?" She asked, surprised as she pulled back.
"Mmmhmm." He said, leading Tahl over to the couch in the dark living area to sit. "You see, it all started when his teacher, Vianro Dleka, found me in the halls..." With that, Qui-Gon retold the story of the past few days; how Vianro had unknowingly revealed one of Obi-Wan's secrets, how he had found the sketch in Obi-Wan's room, and how deeply the boy and his work had effected his master.
After he was done, there was a long, comfortable silence between the two friends.
"Remind me to hug the life out of that boy later." Tahl said wistfully. Qui-Gon chuckled quietly.
"I'm not sure if I'll let you kill him, but I'll definitely let you hug him." He smiled. "He's still being very shy about his work, though. Apparently, not even Bant knows." Tahl raised her eyebrows. "He showed me some of it earlier," Qui-Gon continued, "I wish you could see it, Tahl, he's an amazing artist. He drew a picture of you, actually." Qui-Gon glanced down at her. Tahl's eyebrows rose.
"He's a sweet boy." She said, leaning against Qui-Gon with a content sigh. "You're a lucky man, Jinn." She closed her eyes, as if to fall asleep.
"And don't I know it." Qui-Gon said quietly, more to himself than anyone else. "And not a moment too soon." Qui-Gon sat there for a moment, smiling down fondly at his half-asleep friend. "You helped me too, you know."
"Really?" Tahl inquired, her eyes still asleep, her voice slightly slurred.
"Yes," He said, "You were there in my head the whole time, giving me the truth when I need it most – whether I wanted to hear it or not." He leaned down to kiss her on the crown of her head. "Like you always do."
"Hmm..." She hummed with a sleepy smile, "Force only knows you need it, Jinn. I'm glad I could be of help to you." She paused, and seemed to fall deeper into sleep. "And I'm glad you're smiling again." After murmuring something about giving Obi-Wan the biggest hug in the galaxy, Tahl promptly fell asleep, her cheek pressed up against Qui-Gon's shoulder. With a light touch of the Force, Qui-Gon called a throw blanket to the couch, and pulled it over his friend. After a moment, he laid his cheek on her head and closed his eyes. He was glad too.
Kin-Wan Terius smirked happily as he caught sight of Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon in the archives together. They were currently standing in front of Obi-Wan's temple drawing; Qui-Gon was examining it carefully as Obi-Wan gestured to different elements of the piece. Kin-Wan could tell the padawan was explaining different techniques he had used in the drawing. The elderly master watching them couldn't keep the triumphant gleam out of his eyes. He had held Obi-Wan secrets for months – years, even. And now, after nearly a year of waiting for the right time, Kin-Wan had finally gotten it out of the boy, and his master finally knew. It was all a matter of time, the master mused to himself. When he had asked Vianro Dleka, a good friend, to help him with his plan, she had readily agreed. And now that their mission was complete, she had noted how much the boy's mood had changed. With a childish grin albeit one with quite a few wrinkles, Kin-Wan turned back into his office. It was all a matter of finding the right time for everyone.
"I still can't believe you and Master Dleka planned all of that." Sounded a teasing voice from the corner. Its owner was Luna Gorij, a former padawan to Master Terius. Kin-Wan simply smiled.
"Sometimes, young one, a Jedi must intervene; when necessary. This was one of those times." Kin-Wan slowly walked over to Luna, who had her nose in an old book, and put a hand on her shoulder. She shut the book and looked up fondly with her green eyes.
"You're nearly as bad as Master Jinn himself." She said, her dark brown hair swinging above her shoulders as she rose from her seat.
"Really?" Kin-Wan replied innocently, faking a shocked face. "I would never have thought so myself... Though I suppose you're right." His face broke into a smile. "We are a bit alike, I suppose. I'm just a bit less stubborn."
Luna snorted, and refrained from bursting out into laughter.
"And," Kin-Wan continued, "he hasn't gotten to see any grand-padawans yet." He wrapped and arm around Luna's shoulders. "I, on the other hand, have had that privilege." He paused. "Which reminds me – Obi-Wan gave me something that I think you'll like."
Kin-Wan left the room, and came back with a plastic-protected sheet of flimsy. He handed it to Luna. The younger woman took it, and a smile broke out onto her face. It was a drawing, one of herself and her own padawan, Kyaan. They were both filthy, and Kyaan was covered in mud. Luna's dark hair was a mess, and her robes ruined. But, they were both beaming largely. Kyaan's cheek was pressed to Luna's, as if so they would both fit into the picture, and their white teeth and crinkled eyes expressed the sheer joy they felt – even in their dirty state. Luna vaguely recalled the 'incident' in the gardens that had resulted in such a mess. She wasn't aware that Obi-Wan had been there.
"He drew this?" she asked. Her former master nodded with a grin. She looked back at the drawing. "That boy is good."
"That he is." Kin-Wan agreed. the master raised the blinds to his office slowly, and peeked out into the archives, where he could see Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. Apparently, Qui-Gon had made some smart joke, and Obi-Wan was laughing, his face turned up in a joyous smile. Master Terius couldn't help but grin himself. It was wonderful to see Obi-Wan like this again. "And he will only get better."
In the following weeks, the change in both Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan was noticed happily among their close friends. Master Terius and Master Dleka were more than pleased that their efforts had paid off, and, of course, Tahl, Bant, Clee, and Garren were all more than happy. Bant had spent a whole afternoon with Obi-Wan, going through his sketches. Master Yoda even came to inspect the Padawan's work, and was quite flattered when he found several drawings of himself. The green Jedi was also more than pleased that Qui-Gon had finally learned to smile again.
As it turned out, Tahl did end up giving Obi-Wan one of the biggest, warmest, bone-crushing thank-you-est hugs in the galaxy, and Obi-Wan, in turn, blushed like a sun-burnt Galatian. Qui-Gon spent several hours in helping Tahl 'see' his work, thanks in part to his way with words, and it part to the special bond the two shared.
Obi-Wan let Qui-Gon look through his entire portfolio, which was of no small size, and took his master through the art he drew from the time when he was a young initiate, up through his still-going apprenticeship. The drawings became a strange sort of bond between master and apprentice, giving Obi-Wan a chance to share his emotions with his master without actually speaking. It soon became a tradition; after every return from a mission, Qui-Gon would sit on the couch, a cup of tea in his hand, and Obi-Wan would sit nearby, paper and pencil put to work. Just as Kin-Wan had said, his drawings improved greatly, and, more and more often, included a smiling Master Jinn; though the open expression of joy was hardly a fantasy anymore.
In months and years to come, even after many padawans and initiates had come and gone, the sketch of the Jedi temple hung in the archives proudly, only growing in beauty with age. Many a young Jedi would be inspired by its majesty, and even more Jedi would search for a signature, wishing to know the name of the skilled artist. Master Dleka and Master Terius, though, would only smile knowingly, and point to the west-bound road.
But, the most beloved drawing of all, though not publicly seen, would have a special meaning for Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan for years to come. It was a symbol of the bond shared by the Master and Apprentice, even in the darkest of times. As the years of their time together wore on, the artwork, though aging in years, grew stronger in significance. Though seemingly simple, it signified something much more important than its simple brown wood frame portrayed, hung humbly on the wall of the Jinn/Kenobi residence. The portrait was simply drawn, in varying shades of gray and ebony, and simply portrayed; a smiling master, a happy apprentice, sharing a loving embrace. And, just underneath the carefully stationed picture, was tiny plate bearing a title: By Strokes of Colored Grey.
A/N: Hope y'all liked it! My very first story to finish... I am quite happy. Please review!