A/N: Slightly AU from Book 2, I guess, in the sense that I'm rewriting Obi-Wan's past. I don't particularly like the idea of the inciates going to visit home, I feel like that would just breed more people like Xanatos and Bruck. So, anything to do with that, I generally ignore. Therefore, I suppose while it is AU for some people, for me it isn't. If that makes any sense at all.
Disclaimer: If I were George Lucas, Qui-Gon would have at least said good-bye.
Summary: A small encounter changes the fate of the universe, and nobody notices.
Twists and Turns of Fate
A Padawan's first solo mission was always nerve-wracking for the Master left behind, but Qui-Gon thought he felt it more acutely than most. Obi-Wan had some kind of talent for ending up right in the middle of situations he shouldn't be in, and trouble dogged his shadow.
Sometimes, the boy laughingly put it; it seemed the whole universe was out to prevent him from reaching the level of Jedi Knight. Qui-Gon found it less humorous, as he himself occasionally thought that the Dark Side was attempting to thwart Obi-Wan from achieving the potential everyone knew he had—if it couldn't turn him, and it couldn't, then it would kill him.
This time, Qui-Gon would not be there to help him. He would not be able to rescue the young man when he, inevitably, got himself in over his head.
The thought was maddening to Qui-Gon. He wanted nothing more than to hop on the nearest transport, and be the careful guardian of his Padawan he was supposed to be. Dark feelings through the Force did not help, but the older Master could not decide if they were Force warnings or if they were just his own shadowed thoughts.
He'd come to the garden's for meditation, as being surrounded by living things so often calmed him, but not today. No, today it seemed everywhere he turned there were ghosts of memory flitting about, just out of sight. Times he and his Padawan had spent in the gardens. Sometimes they would meditate. This had gotten more successful as Obi-Wan had gotten older, and his ability to focus increased. As a very young boy, he would inevitably become restless, and their meditation would dissolve into discussions that almost always ended as some sort of game. Obi-Wan's high, delighted laughter echoed down through the years, derailing Qui-Gon's focus in the present.
He couldn't allow himself to think about what would happen if he ever truly lost Obi-Wan, and yet, how could he not think about it?
He sensed Master Yoda long before the small Master spoke, but Qui-Gon didn't move to leave. He knew he'd sensed because he'd been meant to, which probably meant the old Master had something to tell him.
Yoda sat stiffly on the grass beside him, and Qui-Gon couldn't help smiling. If he was settling in like that, they were in for a long discussion.
"Focusing on possibilities, you are," Yoda said, not looking up at the man beside him. "Dwelling on the future, I think."
"Probably not even the future," Qui-Gon answered honestly. Obi-wan was old enough and more than capable enough for this assignment. He knew this, but making himself believe it was another thing entirely.
"Worry for your Padawan, you do. Natural this is, Qui-Gon. Resist it, you should not. Face it and let it go." Now Yoda looked up at him, his droopy eyes kind.
"As usual, such things are easier said then done," Qui-Gon muttered to himself. He wasn't dismissing Yoda's advice, really.
Yoda chuckled in appreciation, and looked out over the gardens. For several moments, a calm slice stretched between them, before the old Master spoke once more. "Remember, do you, the day you first met Obi-Wan?"
Qui-Gon did remember, too well, the first time he has spoke to Obi-Wan, and the heart-ache he had caused the boy by refusing to take him as his Padawan learner that first time. But the first time he met him? Qui-Gon couldn't say for sure.
Yoda chuckled again, quietly. "Surprised, I am not. Not the first child you brought to the temple, though unusual circumstance, it was. Gave him his name, you did."
"I did?" He probably should have remembered that. After all, most children came to the temple with names already, families and heritages they were allowed to learn about but never see.
The small Master 'hmmed' to himself, obviously amused but little showing it. "Remember now, do you, the small boy you saved?"
And Qui-Gon found he did…
"Master," Xanatos called back from the cockpit, his voice sounding interested, but not concerned. "I think you should come take a look at this. We're receiving a distress signal."
Setting down their half-made lunch, Qui-Gon made his way to the cockpit to check. As his apprentice had said, the small light indicating a call for distress from another vessel was blinking.
"This area is known to be filled with pirates, Master, it might be a trap."
"Or it might be a genuine call for help, for the same reason," Qui-Gon observed. "We are a small passenger shuttle, with limited weapons. If it turns out to be a trick, they will likely leave us alone was we wouldn't be worth the effort to board. If it is genuine, then we are bound to help them, Padawan."
"You and your sense of duty, Master," the young man said, though not without humor, as he carefully brought the ship back into normal space.
The remains of what was once a passenger shuttle filled their view. The ship was still held together enough to leave the hope of survivors, but it was a small hope. It was obvious the pirates had already been and gone.
"Should we stop, Master?" Xanatos asked, turning his dark head to look.
Qui-Gon closed his eyes, scanning the ship. He did not really expect to find anything, so when he found that there was something alive on the ship, he couldn't help the surprise. "Someone survived the attack, Padawan, and I doubt they have much time left. We should at least try."
The teenager didn't look overly enthusiastic about this idea, but Qui-Gon didn't have the heart to blame him. They had been away from the Temple for months, and searching such a large vessel would take time, with no guarantees that whatever Qui-Gon had sensed would still be alive when they found it. Xanatos was eager to return to the Temple, knowing his Knighting ceremony would be soon.
The docking bays for the vessel where slightly damaged, but not enough so to make boarding dangerous. The two Jedi picked their way through the rubble and, far worse, the dead bodies that lay in the hallways.
Xanatos nudged one with his foot, and didn't seem surprised when they did not stir. "It looks like the Pirates left none alive. We are wasting out time here, Master. Whatever you sensed is probably dead by now, or will be soon. The medical facilities on our ship aren't that advanced.
It was probably true, but Qui-Gon couldn't shake the feeling that something on the ship was calling to him. Not by name, not the way his Padawan could, but there was a definite tug of Force energy. A plea for help from something that was Force-sensitive.
It shouldn't be possible that he could feel, specifically, that call for help from anyone but his Padawan, or closest of friends. Xanatos, obviously, could not sense it, as he seemed intent to study the damage done to the cruiser.
The fact that it shouldn't be possible didn't change the fact that Qui-Gon was feeling it, and later he would find the time to meditate about it and find his answer. Right now, whatever was calling him was very frightened and needed him.
Pushing aside the feeling of Xanatos's annoyance, of the lingering feelings of panic and fear, Qui-Gon focused. Narrowed the field. Directed it towards the source that was reaching for him.
Kneeling down, he pushed aside a small panel in the wall—probably a small storage container for weapons or luggage. Curled up inside, much to his surprise, was a small boy. The little one opened eyes he had squeezed tight closed, and peered at him from underneath long red-brown bangs.
"Hello, little one," Qui-Gon said, not bothering to keep the surprise out of his voice. He didn't know what he had been expecting, but this certainly wasn't it. "Seems to me you need assistance."
To his surprise, the frightened child instantly held his arms out to be picked up. He couldn't have been very old, three years at most, and it was his experience that such young children were usually shy and cried for their parents. Particularly ones who had likely listened to a horrific battle after they'd been stuffed in a compartment for safety—or at least that seemed likely.
This child showed no signs of shyness, only an aching need for comfort. Like he understood that his parents were not there to seek it from any longer, and he was reaching out to the nearest available source.
Mace's taunts about Qui-Gon being soft heart flickered through his mind briefly as he picked the child up in strong arms. He'd like to see Mace resist a child in such an obviously pitiable plight.
Xanatos stared, before simply shaking his head. "Only you, Master, could find someone like that."
"He found me," Qui-Gon smiled, first at his apprentice, then at the boy in his arms. "I think he is Force sensitive. We should take him back to the Temple with us, to be tested."
"We don't really have a choice anyway," Xanatos sounded more annoyed then sad, which disturbed Qui-Gon just slightly. "There isn't anything left for him here."
"No," Qui-Gon shifted the child's weight so he was balanced on his hip, and offered his most reassuring smile. "You're very fortunate, little one. The Force is looking out for you."
"Or he got lucky," Xanatos muttered, already heading back to their ship, losing interest in the child.
"There is no luck or chance with the Force, Padawan, you know that." The reprimand was half-hearted at best, since Xanatos wasn't listening anyway. Instead, Qui-Gon returned his attention to the child as he walked. "What's your name, little one?"
The boy only shook his head, burying his face in the Jedi Master's chest, either unable or unwilling to tell.
"Well, I can't keep calling you child the whole way back," Qui-Gon laughed, using his free hand to lift the little boy's chin, so large grey-blue eyes met his own. "Shall I pick something for us to call you then?"
Slowly, the boy nodded. Obviously the boy understood speech, and Qui-Gon found it unlikely that he couldn't speak. Probably, he was still too frightened to find his voice.
Qui-Gon lapsed into momentary silence, trying to find something suitable to call the boy until he volunteered his actual name. To have stayed hidden during such an attack, he must not have made a sound. From a child so small, that took great courage…
"Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon decided when they reached the ship. Xanatos glanced at him, his curiosity obvious on his face as well as through their bond. Qui-Gon smiled at his apprentice. "It means 'brave one' in my native language. I think it suits him."
Xanatos looked unimpressed as he dropped into the pilot's seat. "I think you assume much of him, Master, but since you've already made up your mind, I won't argue."
Qui-Gon chuckled, setting the child in his lap as he dropped gracefully into the copilot's seat. "What about you, little one? How does Obi-Wan sound to you?"
The child just smiled slightly nodding even as he leaned forward, resting his head on Qui-Gon's large chest. His exhaustion was obvious, even without the light tickling of the Force telling him so.
This instant connection with the boy was unexpected, and Qui-Gon resolved to ponder on it later. Perhaps this was the Force's way of directing him where he should go after Xanatos had become a Knight. He would reflect on it later, he vowed. For now, the boy could use some sleep, and it didn't sound so bad to Qui-Gon either.
Qui-Gon had not kept that promise to himself. Their next mission had ended in Xanatos's betrayal, and that hurt had pushed all thoughts of the curious experience from his mind. He had not thought of it since.
Now the whole thing seemed terribly ironic.
If he thought about it, Qui-Gon could even see the young child in the tall, courageous young man his Padawan had become. "Yes, Master, I remember him now. I also remember he avoided Xanatos as much as possible the whole trip home. He only allowed me to hold him. At the time, I thought it was Xanatos's anxiousness that was upsetting him."
"Curious, the Force is. Often it tells younglings what it cannot tell us." Yoda smiled softly, getting slowly to his feet. "Glad, I am, that the Force led you to him. A great Knight, Obi-Wan will be. Good for you, he has been."
Qui-Gon nodded his agreement, and smiled, ever so slightly. "Yes, he has. He has taught me much."
"Taught him also, you have. Worry so much, you should not. A great destiny he has, as do you." Yoda started to make his way back towards the main path to the Temple, leaving Qui-Gon alone once more, but much calmer now.
The Force had watched over Obi-Wan before, many times, and it would do so now. His Padawan would return, and they would continue down the path that had begun that day. Such was the will of the Force, and Qui-Gon found himself glad of it.