"Qui-Gon believed in him. I believe in Qui-Gon." Obi-Wan

Obi-Wan wrapped his fingers around the thin arm of his new charge. Anakin was nearly his size, would probably surpass him in the years to come, when Obi-Wan was his master.

For the thousandth time that day, he had to hold back the tears that threatened to fall. He would be a master, not Qui-Gon. How was that possible?

Flames threw up Qui-Gon's body, and Obi-Wan could feel his master enter the Force, another soft, familiar presence to help. Qui-Gon always said that Jedi don't truly go into the Force, the last oblivion, until their bodies are burned, which is why it was the worst disgrace to leave a Jedi for dead.

He remembered when one of his schoolmates had died of a lingering disease he'd picked up on a mission with his master. His body had been burned within an hour. "Why do they rush such things?" Obi-Wan had asked, stunned.

His master had wrapped his arms around his torso (but his arms would never again do that, would they, because it was now his body being burned, his body…) and had explained that, since the boy had died so slowly and in so much pain, they didn't want to prolong his suffering any longer.

Obi-Wan had leaned against the big man and told him, quietly, that if he was ever in that much pain, and death was imminent, Qui-Gon should just kill him.

And Qui-Gon had gotten quiet, had slipped past Obi-Wan's shields. Don't ask me to do that, Little One. I could never kill you. There was a pause, slow, long, And you cannot ask me to live without you.

Now, Qui-Gon, I am forced to live without you.

He remembered yesterday morning, feeling the thrill of the chase, knowing that they were going after a Sith, the biggest enemy of the Jedi, of balance to the Force. He had been so excited by the prospect of killing the thing, he hadn't even thought of the possibility that he or Qui-Gon might be…

Because how could they die? Really, after all they'd been through, all the different worlds they'd gone to help, to aid, to fight for, how could either of them die? Especially Qui-Gon, large, reassuring, with his calming, familiar presence, who had taken Obi-Wan in, who had given a blind boy a father. He couldn't die, not so atrociously, so uselessly.

But he had died, leaving Obi-Wan to finish off the Sith. He had faced the other being, whose entire body and soul was fueled by a black, cold fire. And there was Obi-Wan, backed by the entire pure Force, by his anguish at the loss of his master, his mentor, his father. He had to kill the Sith, and knew that.

Qui-Gon would be proud. Yoda and Mace Windu and the entire Jedi council couldn't have helped but to be proud, because in that battle, though he was furious, guilty, in pain, he had never called on the Dark Side, not once.

And after the Sith toppled over the edge, Obi-Wan powered down the lightsaber (Qui-Gon's lightsaber, which he had taken in order to finish the job) and ran, sprinted over to the man, bleeding out on the floor.

"Master!" he slid into place, cradling the man in his arms. He wasn't crying, not yet. Perhaps it hadn't yet hit him. "Master!"

"It's too late," but how was that possible? Just that morning, they had been plotting, scheming, trying to throw off the grip of the Trade Federation. Just that morning, he had woken up and, as always, made a cup of tea for his father, and, like always, had burned his hand making sure that Qui-Gon, as always, laughed, wrapped his hand in what he now referred to as "Obi-Wan's morning bandage" and told him that, at this rate, he would withdraw his recommendation for Obi-Wan to take the trials.

And then Anakin had walked in, pestering Qui-Gon with questions, and the big man was gone from Obi-Wan's side, but it had been just that morning….

"No!" He pushed his way into Qui-Gon's mind, not flinching at the pain that clouded the man's mind. Master, do not do this. I cannot continue without you.

You can….oh, my son, you can….

"Obi-Wan, promise," Do this for me…Padawan, you must. "Promise….you will train the boy."

Anakin, the child who glowed with the Force, who just that morning had looked up at him and asked how he could help such a great Jedi like Qui-Gon if he was blind, who they had left in a ship, under fire.

As he had for years, because he couldn't refuse Qui-Gon, never had, never could. "Yes, master."

"He will bring balance," and this almost made Obi-Wan laugh, quirked a smile to his face, because Qui-Gon had been saying the same thing for years, picking out different boys, some weeks old, some years, and telling Obi-Wan that this boy will bring balance to the Force…no, this one will. "He is the Chosen One. Train him!"

Of course, master….I'll train him with you. He had to keep saying this, that Qui-Gon would live, otherwise he'd have to admit that he would go on in the world alone, a true orphan, without a father.

It is too late for me, Little One. Qui-Gon grasped Obi-Wan's hand, able, as always, to cover up the tiny one with his massive paw. Qui-Gon's fist was slick with sweat and blood, but things had been bad before, and they'd always gotten out, right?

No….He stayed, watching, waiting in Qui-Gon's mind, unwilling, unable to do what he must.

You must…sever…the bond. Qui-Gon was panting, barely holding on, but Obi-Wan couldn't do this most important thing. If the bond wasn't severed before Qui-Gon's death, Obi-Wan's consciousness could get lost in the Force, unable to find his body again.

I love you, father. And here Obi-Wan started pulling back, tears leaking down his cheeks, his heart heavy, his soul scarred. He would never be the same again.

And I…I you…my son. Obi-Wan watched as the Force spark left Qui-Gon's eyes, as his face slackened. With a sickening, distant mind, he was able to think that his master looked, improbably, at peace.

As he lowered his master's eyelids, he heard the wail of the Force, of a nation at war, as his own scream filled the chamber, a wail, arching, primal, that didn't stop until Master Yoda himself came to told him that Naboo was still free.

It was days later, not an hour, like with his schoolmate, that Qui-Gon was burned. Obi-Wan kept vigil, accompanied, improbably, by Anakin. "You don't need to stay here," he'd told the child as kindly as he was able.

Anakin pressed his solid, damp weight of his body against Obi-Wan, a reminder, an anchor, "He saved me, too."

When Obi-Wan stood, listening to his master's body burn, when he pledged to the child next to him that he would train and guide him, he could only think of those words. "He saved me, too."

He saved us all.

And, with that last thought, just as he was about to let one betraying tear fall, he could have sworn he felt a nudge in his mind, achingly familiar, and his master's voice in his ear. You saved me, too, Little One.

The End.

Oh, this was such a good story to write. Little blind Obi grew up, and Qui-Gon learned to love, and even Anakin looked almost human at this point.

For the last time, guys, please review.