A/N: Inspired by the song "You Are My Home" from "The Scarlet Pimpernel" (the Broadway musical). It's a great show with awesome songs. If you are unfamiliar with it…find a way to fix that.
Disclaimer: I don't own anybody.
Summary: Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan have a talk about belonging on their way back to the Temple. One-Shot.
A World of Strangers
Fourteen-year-old Obi-Wan Kenobi frowned down at the empty cup in his hand like it had committed some great transgression, condemned by the whole universe. To Qui-Gon's knowledge, the poor utensil was responsible for no such crime, so he decided to rescue it from his Padawan's condemnation. "More juice, Obi-Wan?"
"No thank you, Master," the boy muttered, though surrendering the cup when Qui-Gon held out his hand for it.
The deep frown on his Padawan's face did not disappear once the cup was removed; it now just seemed to lack a target. This confirmed Qui-Gon's suspicions, and he put the innocent cup on the counter before rejoining his apprentice at the small table. "You are still bothered about our mission, Padawan?"
It hadn't been a particularly trying mission, physically. The prince and princess of two rival planets had fallen in love and eloped; naturally, each planet had blamed the other monarchy for being behind it. Their task had been to protect the two while they returned to their homes and attempted to explain what they had done, and establish a peace.
As far as that kind of mission went, there had been an almost surprising lack of twists and fighting. Mostly, the parents had just been relieved to see their children again, and had proved surprisingly willing to listen and open to negotiations.
That didn't usually happen, so he could understand why the young boy might be a bit confused about it. Qui-Gon himself could scarcely believe their good luck.
"Not exactly about the mission, Master." Obi-Wan pushed the remains of his lunch around on his plate with his fork, looking thoughtful. "It's just something Princess Aurelia asked me. I…I was unsure how to answer."
Qui-Gon nodded, encouraging the boy to continue, even as he reached over and removed the plate to begin cleaning up from their meal.
Obi-Wan fidgeted, a habit the Master had noticed before and always found amusing. He usually started doing it when he was unsure as to how Qui-Gon would react to something, and was concerned about being thought childish. It was almost endearing. "She wanted to know if I thought it was possible for home to be a person, and not a place."
The Jedi Master turned, surprised and confused. That seemed like a ridiculous question to ask a little boy. Perhaps it had made more sense in the context of their conversation, but that didn't excuse her asking such a young child. As to why, exactly, it bothered him that she'd asked, he didn't really have an answer. "What did you decide, Obi-Wan?"
"I still haven't decided," the young teenager answered honestly, looking dejectedly down at the table. "Do Jedi have a home, Master? We call the Temple our home, and yet we are so rarely there it does not quite seem that way."
It had finally occurred to Qui-Gon why the Master's had insisted all students be taken by individual teachers before they became teenagers; then, nobody at the Temple had to deal with the really hard questions of rapidly growing individuals. They could make the Padawan's Masters come up with answers instead.
Obi-Wan's question was valid, and in their case particularly so. Qui-Gon had gained a bit of a reputation as a negotiator in the years since he first became a Knight, and was also personally acquainted with the Chancellor. If there was precarious situation going on anywhere in the galaxy, it was often requested specifically for Qui-Gon to go. If Qui-Gon was going that meant Obi-Wan got to come as well.
Spending more than a week or two at the Temple was a rare experience for them. Obi-Wan had even taken to always having a pack ready—and with him in classes—in case they had to rush out for a mission on very short notice, as had happed occasionally.
Qui-Gon hadn't really put much thought into it before, but now that thought made him a little sad. His rapidly growing Padawan needed stability in his life. He was changing enough without having everything else around him being constantly in motion as well. From this question, it seemed Qui-Gon had failed to give the young boy that.
"Well, Padawan, let's start at the beginning. Words, you will find, mean different things to different people." Qui-Gon sat himself down on the chair across from his apprentice, readying himself for a long conversation.
Obi-Wan frowned up at him, looking both curious and frustrated. "Aren't words meant to communicate, Master? How can they do so with no set meaning? Isn't that what a dictionary is for?"
"Yes and no, Padawan." Qui-Gon smiled at the boy's obvious frustration with that idea. He would not be the first nor the last to feel it. "What a dictionary gives us is the basic definition of a word. From there, each person adds his or her own supplementary definitions based on their own experiences. They may not be known definitions, but they are no less valid."
There was a short pause as the boy digested it, in that eerie way he had that made Qui-Gon think Obi-Wan never forgot a single thing anybody ever said to him. "I think I understand, Master. Sort of like, when someone says the word 'nutritious' you get happy, but my appetite suddenly goes away."
"Yes, something like that." The twitch of the corner of his mouth was completely involuntary, but Obi-Wan's rather unique sense of humor tended to have that effect on him. "Tell me, Padawan, how do you define the word home?"
There is a pause as the boy thinks about his answer, grey eyes distant for a moment. "I guess I would define home as the place where you feel welcome. You can be just yourself, and nobody minds."
"Then, Padawan, by your definition is the Temple home?" Qui-Gon is surprised when his apprentice looks away. "You don't think so?"
Obi-Wan pulled his knees up to his chest, resting his chin on them. "At the Temple, we are always striving to change ourselves. Who you are is never good enough."
"It is true, we do always strive to improve on our weakness," Qui-Gon said slowly. There was something important going on here, though the Master couldn't place exactly what it could be. "That does not mean, Padawan, that what makes you who you are is not welcome in the Order."
"But our weaknesses are part of who we are, aren't they? Whenever anybody talks about you, they mention how headstrong you are." Obi-Wan's mouth slammed shut the moment he'd finished that thought, and he looked mortified. Obviously, the boy had not meant to say such a thing aloud.
The older Jedi can't help chuckling lightly. "They do at that, Padawan. Do you think that's all that I am?"
"No, Master," it came out in a rush, as if saying so would erase his earlier slip. "I think you are wise, loyal, and just. If you do go against the Council, it is never a rushed decision, and only when you feel there is no other choice."
"Thank you, Obi-Wan, that was a much more flattering analysis than most would give." Though not entirely true, as Qui-Gon knew. If he went against the Council's direct orders, then that held. However, most of how he worked on missions required a bending of the rules not encouraged by other Masters. How was Obi-Wan to know that, though, in his limited experience?
The boy was blushing, and Qui-Gon tried to give him a reassuring smile. Self-consciousness was a perhaps the biggest flaw his Padawan had, and one they were both working to fix. "A person is not so easily defined by just one trait, are they?"
"It does give a very incomplete picture," Obi-Wan murmured thoughtfully, slowly lowering his feet to the floor again. "But, Master, for many individuals an incomplete picture is all we can have. I certainly don't know everyone at the Temple well enough to tell you about them."
Qui-Gon 'hmmed' softly, a habit he had long ago picked up from Master Yoda. "A very good point indeed, Padawan. I am sure not everyone at the Temple knows you so well either. Perhaps, then, you are correct and the Temple is not home for you."
The boy looked crest-fallen at this, shoulders slumping.
His heart went out to the boy, even as Qui-Gon mentally kicked himself. Hadn't he just told himself that his Padawan needed stability in his life? "You definition, Padawan, can also change, or we can add to it. Such things are not fixed just because they have been said once. How else might you define home?"
There was no pause this time. "Home is where you feel safest. The place you do not wish to leave. Where your family is."
Qui-Gon arched an eyebrow, but the boy didn't recant the last statement, and Qui-Gon mentally shrugged. The concept of family for a Jedi was rather loose. They were discouraged from forming attachments to other individuals, yet it was acknowledge that no man could function alone. Just one of the many paradoxes of the Jedi lifestyle. "Does this change your view on the Temple, Padawan?"
Another quiet pause. Qui-Gon could feel the boy adjusting himself, finding his center in the Force. Calming himself. The Master smiled patiently, even a little amused. For such a discussion, Obi-Wan seemed to be taking it quite seriously.
"I do feel safe at the Temple, Master," Obi-Wan stated, once he'd collected himself. "I know there are few things that could harm me there. And I have many friends that are sometimes there also, but I do not believe I would call them family."
Probably a good decision, as keeping in contact with your friends once you were all Padawans and Knights could be quite difficult, as Qui-Gon knew. "You said you feel safe at the Temple, Padawan, but your definition was 'the place you feel safest'. That is not the Temple?"
Slowly, looking wide-eyed, the boy shook his head.
"Well, then, there must be some place else you feel safer, correct?"
Obi-Wan nodded, again very slowly. Qui-Gon could already see the boy coming to some kind of realization in his head, but what that could be the Master did not know. A part of him hoped Obi-Wan would choose to share. Qui-Gon was, admittedly, curious as to where a teenager might feel safer than when he was surrounded by Jedi Masters. "Does this place fill any of your other requirements, Padawan?"
"Yes." The word was said slowly, as if being dragged from the boy. "When I am there, there is no place else I wish to be. I feel it is the place I belong."
"Then I would purpose that place is your home." Qui-Gon smiled, steepling his fingers in front of his face. "Would you mind telling me where that place is?"
A soft, barely audible swallow. "Yes, Master, it's right here."
"On the ship?" Qui-Gon arched an eyebrow. Not exactly the answer he'd been expecting. They almost never used the same ship twice.
Obi-Wan laughed, shaking his head fast enough for his braid to whip him in the face—though the teenager didn't seem to notice. "Not here, specifically, Master. Just here, where you are."
Now both of Qui-Gon's eyebrows shot up in surprise. Obi-Wan felt safer with him then he did in the Temple? Even though he was constantly dragging the child into situations that could get him killed, or worse? More then that, he felt he could be himself around Qui-Gon, where in the Temple he could not?
His cheeks were flaming, but Obi-Wan did not drop his Master's gaze. "I know that when I am with you, you will not let anything harm me. I know when I am your side that there is no place else in the universe I need to be. And yes, Master, you do correct my flaws, but you acknowledge my strengths as well. You know who I am."
"And what of your last requirement, Padawan. Of family?" Qui-Gon kept his voice soft and neutral. It was not a rebuke, but a question.
Obi-Wan finally dropped his gaze, and addressed the table top instead of his Master. "Family is, I think, another word like home. It has many definitions to many people. This is mine."
Attachments were dangerous. Qui-Gon knew this better than just about any other Jedi. He had been attached to Xanatos, and all that had come of that had been heartache. Master's were supposed to be guides and teachers to their charges, no more, no less.
He was more than this to Obi-Wan and, hate it though he did; the boy was much more than his student. There was no one in the universe, not even Mace or Tahl, that Qui-Gon trusted as much as this fourteen-year-old boy sitting in front of him. He knew how far he could push Obi-Wan, and how far the boy would let him push him—which was well passed the child's limits. He trusted Obi-Wan to follow his instructions, to guard him when he was most vulnerable.
Qui-Gon had shown the boy his own vulnerability, and that alone was more than he had consciously allowed Tahl.
Only fourteen, and already Qui-Gon had allowed the child more of his heart than any other being. They were more than Master and Padawan already, they were partners. That connection would only deepen, as more missions and years passed.
To have such deep attachments was forbidden, but Qui-Gon never had been one to follow the Code exactly.
A small, fond smile crept onto the Master's weathered face, and he put an affection hand on top of the spiked red-brown hair of his Padawan. "Then I suppose we have answered the question, young one. Home can be a person and not a place. Perhaps it even should be."
Obi-Wan looked up at him, grey eyes serious and voice quiet. "Isn't that dangerous, though, Master? You can lose a person much easier than a place."
"You really think so?" Qui-Gon's smile also became a little more serious, and he moved his hand a little so he could look in to the boy's face. "Tell me, Padawan, which do you remember better—the rooms of the Temple, or the people that live there."
"The people," a quick answer, unhesitating. "The Temple wouldn't be important to me at all if it were empty."
"Exactly. A place is just that. A place. Some walls and a roof. What is important are the bonds we share with others. When those bonds are strong, we cannot lose them. Not even in death."
A small, almost imperceptible nod under his hand, and a shy smile from Obi-Wan. "I think I understand, Master. Thank you."
"You're most welcome, my Obi-Wan." Qui-Gon stood, gathering the last of the dishes. "Now that we've got that cleared up, I believe you have homework to finish before dinner."
The good-natured groan from his Padawan was perhaps the best thing Qui-Gon had heard in a long time. They weren't a family, really, but they were as close as a Jedi could get—rules or not. For Qui-Gon Jinn, that was enough. He was home for Obi-Wan, just as the boy was for him.