The sequel to 'Understanding'. 'Understanding' doesn't need to be read before this for it to make sense or anything, but the two do go together. Read and enjoy!
Oh, and this story is separate to 'Those You've Known'. They will appear similar.
Disclaimer: Um, let me check…nope…
The first step over the Temple threshold removed none of the burden from his mind. As much as Obi-Wan appreciated being home – or as close as he had to a proper home– this time the first step onto the stone of the entrance hall gave none of the relief or comfort it usually did. Coming back here, after everything that had happened over the past few weeks…walking back in without Qui-Gon felt wrong. It was true he was not alone, but his companion was not the one he truly wanted to walk beside.
Next to him, nine-year-old Anakin Skywalker had gone from Tatooine slave to Jedi Padawan within next to no time at all. Obi-Wan had taken Anakin to train on the dying wish of his Master…no, his former Master…even if he didn't feel completely right about it. Looking down briefly at the boy walking beside him, Obi-Wan wondered what Anakin must be thinking right now – after all, this was his first time in the Temple as an actual part of the ancient Order; his first steps as a Padawan.
Obi-Wan almost spoke, but couldn't bring himself to. Anakin was his charge now, his apprentice…but Obi-Wan still couldn't bring himself to open up; not yet. This child, seen by him as another one of Master Qui-Gon's projects, was now alone here. With Qui-Gon…gone, and Queen Padmé Amidala home on Naboo, Anakin only had Obi-Wan as a familiar figure. And as much as Obi-Wan didn't want to admit it, he supposed that he only had Anakin, now that Qui-Gon was gone.
The Temple halls were quiet – it was late in the evening, many in bed or involved in deep study. Silently yet distractedly, Obi-Wan led Anakin through the halls and passages until they reached a door familiar to him. The dim lights of the dormitory corridor softly illuminated the panel on the door. Obi-Wan's heart twisted as he read it.
Tomorrow it would change forever; to read 'Kenobi/Skywalker'. Obi-Wan would take the old panel and keep it somewhere safe, to honour his Master's memory. He palmed open the door and stepped back to let Anakin enter first – it appeared to be a courteous action, but in truth Obi-Wan needed a moment to steel himself before he entered. Hearing Anakin's impressed low whistle, Obi-Wan took a deep, calming breath and walked inside.
Anakin was at the window, looking out over the balcony as the never-ending traffic of Coruscant sped by. The city was magnificent at night; the lights of the skyscrapers burning brightly and the soft neon glow of various signs and advertisements creating a kind of permanent twilight. Obi-Wan looked away, and around at the familiar common room.
A datapad on the table where Qui-Gon had left it. The small yet elegant glass sculpture the two of them had been gifted by a grateful planetary leader. One glowlamp that still needed to be fixed. Even the furniture…everything seemed so familiar, yet so alien. Obi-Wan felt the guilt and grief building in him again. To be here, without Qui-Gon? It wasn't right.
"Pada…" Obi-Wan stopped, the word still tasting foreign in his mouth. "Anakin."
The boy turned from the window, having not heard Obi-Wan's hesitation. He was smiling, overwhelmed by what he could see. "Yes, Obi…I mean, Master?"
Obi-Wan almost flinched at the honorific. It still made him feel sick whenever Anakin called him that. Putting the thought out of his mind, he nodded to a closed door. "Your room's through there," Obi-Wan said, then hesitated. "It was mine."
Walking over and pushing open the door for Anakin, Obi-Wan surveyed his now old room thoughtfully. A few of his spare tunics were thrown over the chair at his desk, and the starfighter models he had made as a teen were still in the corner – he had never felt any need to get rid of them. At least it was generally pretty clean – unlike some times in the past, when it had been so bad that one could hardly walk across the room without walking on something.
Anakin looked up at the models. "You made those?"
"Yes, when I was a few years older than you."
"I didn't know you were a built-it type person." Anakin looked around at him, a gleam in his eye. Obi-Wan recognised it as the look of someone finding common ground with another.
"I used to be; but not much any more. But yes, I was pretty handy with a hydrospanner." Obi-Wan smiled grimly as the memories of his teen years came to mind. He had liked to fiddle and create with mechanics, but overtime the want had faded – but he still had found his skills used on many a mission passed.
Anakin was looking around the room interestedly, his gaze falling on a black burn mark near the corner. It was a slash of a lightsaber, as if made by a vigorous swing. Obi-Wan saw him looking at it curiously. "That is the reason one does not practice lightsaber techniques in the confines of one's room."
Anakin stared at him. "You did that? How?"
"By trying to do a trick technique with not quite enough room." His gaze fell on the mark. He could have had it repaired years ago, but never had…it had served as a reminder not to run headlong into things, to think before acting – and to be aware of your surroundings. Qui-Gon had accepted the decision and explanation, and told the fifteen-year-old Obi-Wan it was a sign he was maturing…
Breaking out of his thoughts, Obi-Wan looked back at Anakin. "Goodnight, Anakin."
"Night, Master." Just as Obi-Wan closed the door, he saw Anakin looking at him strangely; a worried, slightly pitying look. Presumably he had picked up that something was wrong; as Anakin was quite perceptive. Obi-Wan wasn't going to give any information willingly, especially if Anakin didn't ask. So he left, closing the door softly.
Back in the common room, and now alone, Obi-Wan's gaze fell on the door across the room. It was the Master's quarters – once Qui-Gon's, and now his.
When Obi-Wan was younger, it had been a room of great mystery and privacy – his Master's inner sanctum. As he grew and matured, it was merely Qui-Gon's room, but still a place where Obi-Wan did not tread without invitation out of respect for his Master. Palming the door open lightly, Obi-Wan entered and sat on the bed.
He could feel Qui-Gon around him – this place emanated his presence. It was much the same as Obi-Wan's old room – bed, desk, shelves and en suite – but held a greater number of objects and was slightly cleaner. Obi-Wan couldn't help but smile at the tunics over the desk chair and the data pads all over the desk itself. Jedi Masters may be in tune with the Force, but that didn't mean they were impeccably clean.
The shelves were home to a few random objects – some Obi-Wan recognised, others he didn't. The ones he did were things from missions and planets, and a few lifeday gifts he had given to Qui-Gon (but only after he had gone to effort to find out the date, as the Jedi Master had always been sketchy on the subject).
He sat for a while longer, amidst the belongings of his former Master, feeling the Force ripple around him. Here, it was almost like Obi-Wan could sense him again, feel Qui-Gon right beside him…opening his eyes to the darkened and empty room. Obi-Wan's strongest thought from the last few days rose once again to the surface.
It shouldn't be like this.
Away from the world, Obi-Wan once again cursed himself. He hadn't been fast enough. He had let Qui-Gon die; failed him. He had watched as Qui-Gon fell…if he had been faster, if he had not been struck and fallen those few levels on the catwalks, if he had been a better fighter, if he had been more in tune with the Force…
That's what it all came down to, one simple word. If.
Obi-Wan stood, unable to stay in this sanctuary any longer. It hurt too much. He had to get out, sort his head, try to forget the image of Qui-Gon being stabbed. He couldn't bear to be in here right now…he knew, tomorrow, he would have to be – he would have to move in here – but right now, he just couldn't handle it. He left and closed the door quietly.
Moonlight was beginning to seep into the common room. It was a pale pass-off of the true light, thinned by the ambient light of the city. Obi-Wan reached out to the Force and the person in the other room. Anakin, he could sense through the Force, was asleep. Good. All Obi-Wan wanted to do was go down to the gardens, to try and meditate and make his peace with what had happened. With Anakin sleeping, he felt better about leaving him in the apartment alone – yet still left a hastily scrawled note should his charge wake.
The gardens were deserted. Obi-Wan was thankful – but it was the middle of the night, so the lack of sentients was hardly surprising. He made his way through the dimly lit gardens – for only the thin moonlight and the city light gave any kind of illumination at such a late hour – and sat at the base of a sweeping tree. It was a place where Qui-Gon would sometimes meditate…but he never would again.
Obi-Wan closed his eyes, relaxing and breathing deeply. He reached out to the Force, letting it fill him, and fell into meditation. Images came to mind. Images of Tatooine; of Qui-Gon and the Zabrak fighting in the desert. Fleeing together from Destroyers on the Trade Federation ship. Running through the Naboo swamp, alone, sensing Qui-Gon and feeling joy and relief. Standing at the edge of a sandstorm, hoping Qui-Gon would find them way off Tatooine. Standing before Boss Nass. Piloting the sub through the planet core. Seeing the Zabrak for the first time in the Naboo hangar. Standing before the Council, hearing Qui-Gon put Anakin over him. Holding the dying Qui-Gon in his arms…
Obi-Wan inhaled sharply, opening his eyes. His breath caught in his throat. It was his fault – his fault the Order was now one Jedi less. He should have been faster, stronger, more focused, been better. He should have died.
Groaning quietly against the oncoming grief he had gathered inside him, Obi-Wan drew his legs up and wrapped his arms around them, pressing his head into his knees. He felt he hadn't properly wept for Qui-Gon, not yet. He couldn't bring himself to on Naboo – he had shed tears but they had not eased any grief, nor been drawn from the deep hurt he felt.
And then there was Anakin…Anakin, the supposed 'Chosen One', or so Qui-Gon had thought. Too old for training, to angry and attached for training – and now Obi-Wan's to train. Anakin, a slave from Tatooine with a higher Midichlorian count than Yoda. Strong in the Force. Strong in emotion. The boy who Qui-Gon would fight the Council for, defy the Council for…and put above Obi-Wan.
He couldn't train Anakin. Every time he looked at him, he heard Qui-Gon's words about training him, casting Obi-Wan aside…
He looked up, through dulled, tired eyes. The figure next to him, standing in the shadow of the tree he was beneath, knelt down to his level and put a gentle hand on his shoulder. Their blonde hair glinted softly in the pale light. Siri sat down next to her friend, putting her arm fully around Obi-Wan's shoulders.
"Obi-Wan…I heard about Qui-Gon. I'm so sorry."
It was the first time someone else had said it to him – and it made him feel all the worse.
He leant slightly against her. "I wasn't fast enough. It was my fault."
"No," she said immediately. "It wasn't. It just…happened. There was nothing you could have done."
He laughed bitterly. "Yes, there was! You weren't there; you don't know; don't understand!" He bit his lip, instantly regretting lashing out at her. "I'm sorry, Siri. We…we were separated. There were laser gates…I was cut off from him. I had to watch him fight…and die."
He looked down at his hands. "And now, he's gone and he's never coming back. And that's my fault. I wasn't fast enough – I should have been there! I should have died, not him."
"Don't think like that," said Siri, tightening her arm around him. "What happened, happened. It was the will of the Force." She fell silent for a moment. "I can't even begin to imagine how you feel."
"I pray you never have to."
They sat in silence for a while, Obi-Wan taking comfort in her presence. He was glad she was here with him – she was the only one he could bear talking to right now, even if it had been a subconscious decision.
"Congratulations on your Knighthood," Siri said quietly. "Unless I was misinformed?"
She nodded against him. "I'm hopefully taking my Trials in a few months."
"Congratulations. Yoda said I undertook my Trials fighting the Sith."
"I can't believe they're back," she said, shifting slightly next him – a nervous habit of hers. "After a millennia…suddenly, they reappear."
"I know," Obi-Wan said softly. "They reappear and take one of our own. And now I'm left with Anakin," he added, as if to himself. As it was, it was so quiet Siri hardly heard it.
"Anakin. He's my…apprentice."
Siri turned to look at him, incredulous. Taking a breath, Obi-Wan told her about being stranded on Tatooine, and checking the blood sample himself. He told her about Anakin and what he possibly represented, the Council meetings…
"I still can't believe what Qui-Gon said. It was as if he didn't care. He was prepared to throw me straight into the Trials, with no warning, so he could train Anakin. Thirteen years of apprenticeship, and it was like it had never happened." Obi-Wan paused, running a hand through his hair. "It hurt. It hurt a lot. And his last words to me were about training Anakin. Didn't I deserve something more?"
"You didn't need it, Obi-Wan. And when you stop being so narrow minded you'll remember." She ignored the glare he gave her. "You know I'm right. True, Qui-Gon's actions in the Council Chamber sound less than tactful. But you know how much he cared about you. You know the strength of the bond you had formed together. You know he loved you; and he didn't need to tell you."
Obi-Wan was silent. "You're right," he said quietly, the grief evident in his voice.
"And his last words were because he knew you could train Anakin. His last gift to you was his beliefs." Siri kissed Obi-Wan gently on the temple. "He'll always be with you, Obi-Wan. You know that, I know you do. You just need to remember it. And I'll always be here for you, too."
"Thank you." It was whispered, barely audible.
Siri embraced him tightly. He needed it right now, needed support.
"I don't know if I can train Anakin. It's all happened so fast…I don't want to mess it up. What if I don't do it correctly?"
"Obi-Wan, you're a brilliant Jedi – and now a Knight. You'll be fine. And the Council wouldn't have approved you as Anakin's Master if they didn't think you were capable of doing it."
"Perhaps." He was unconvinced.
She sighed. "You're so stubborn. You can do this, I know you can; believe me at least. If you can't do it for Anakin, or for yourself – then do it for Qui-Gon."
"I was right, you know," Obi-Wan said spontaneously. "When we were talking about emotions after the death of a loved one. I did get angry, felt the Dark Side near me. It almost killed me." He fell silent as Siri waited for him to clarify. "It made me stronger, I suppose, but left me vulnerable. I only defeated the Sith when I cleared my mind and reached for the Light. Now I feel numb."
Siri kissed him lightly again. "It'll be okay."
"I guess." His voice broke slightly, and Siri could see tears in his eyes. "I just can't get it out of my head. He died in front of me. I wasn't there with him! I should have been. It's my fault."
His shoulders dropped, and something within him gave way. How could he have let his beloved Master die?
Siri held him as he wept, trying not to cry herself. She had no idea how long they stayed like that, together in the dark gardens.
He pulled away, wiping his eyes. "I feel…better."
She smiled at him. "Good. And Obi-Wan, don't shut yourself away to Anakin. Think how he feels – he knows no one here. Except you."
Obi-Wan nodded, looking up toward the roof of the room thoughtfully. He sighed deeply, before looking back at Siri and smiling sadly. "Thank you."
She hugged him again. "My pleasure."
"By the way, how did you know I was here?"
Siri grinned embarrassedly. "I just did. I woke up and followed the Force…" Siri's face took on a serious look. "But he last time we talked – after that mission of mine – I had this weird feeling when you left. Like the Force was trying to tell me that something was going to go wrong…that you would need me."
"It was right." He hugged her tightly. "Thank you again. You don't know how much better I feel."
He rose, helping Siri to her feet. Together they left the deserted gardens, walking softly through the darkened halls. Anyone who saw them would have immediately picked up that there was something between them, but as it was they saw no one. Obi-Wan gave Siri a last embrace outside her quarters, before resting his forehead against hers for a moment.
Siri looked after him as he walked away, towards his own apartment. She could see the grief weighing upon him, and hoped that she had been of some help, even if it was only to put things in perspective. Shaking her head slowly, she slipped inside her quarters.
Closing the door quietly, Obi-Wan hoped Anakin had not woken. A few hours had passed since he left, and so he checked the sleeping boy, opening the door to his old room quietly. Inside, Anakin was deeply and peacefully asleep. Obi-Wan smiled and closed the door, letting him sleep.
He made himself a vow, then and there. He would train Anakin as he had promised, and train him as he saw fit. He would reach out to him, guide his growing up; and remember that Anakin had an unorthodox beginning to his Jedi career. And maybe Anakin would teach him something, who knew?
Obi-Wan returned to Qui-Gon's room, pausing for a moment to calm himself before he entered. The Qui-Gon presence was still here, and it enveloped him as he entered. But it was no longer stifling, no longer unbearable. It was soothing now, and Obi-Wan let himself take comfort in it.
Lying down on the bed, still fully clothed, Obi-Wan allowed himself to relax and put his anxieties and grief to rest, the sense of his Master helping him fall into much-needed sleep.
Love and Death was what the universe came down to. Love and Death.
Jeepers. That turned out differently to what I expected. I didn't think I'd dwell so much on Qui-Gon's death – as I know it's done a lot, and wanted this to be a bit different. But then again, I suppose such a thing would consume the mind for a time…anyway, I'm happy with it. Reviews are always appreciated!
(Apologies for typos, this was finished at one in the morning)