Sunlight streamed brightly through the windows of the common room, touching off the brilliant petals and vibrantly healthy leaves of Qui-Gon's vast collection of flora. The warm light illuminated delicate veins skittering through the textures of multicolored leaves, raising tiny lines on the surface that his large fingers bumped over lightly as he traced the paper-thin foliage. Qui-Gon stood at the window, idly drifting a hand across a flower that bloomed on the sill: the Alderaanian lily he'd put on Obi-Wan Kenobi's desk so long ago, when the apprentice had taken up his first temporary residence with Qui-Gon. The Jedi Master couldn't believe the plant had survived this long but it had, clinging tenaciously to life when better odds said it shouldn't - much like the young man he had gifted it to nearly two years before.
Qui-Gon's gaze was unfocused, the heavy traffic outside his window just a blur as he recalled that day, and the many days that had followed it as he'd struggled to be an unwilling teacher and master to a padawan who should have already taken his trials but had been denied. Qui-Gon hadn't known at the time the extent of damage Obi-Wan had already suffered in his young life, but he had learned, slowly, that there were many layers of scarring both mental and physical to Kenobi, and even now as he thought on his padawan Qui-Gon heard the whisper in his mind of Obi-Wan's quiet request to just let him go, heard Yoda's plaintive voice agreeing that it might be for the best.
He hadn't wanted to believe that was best. Stubborn to a fault, determined, desperate, he'd thought he could save Obi-Wan after Dooku had nearly killed him.
Force, how he'd tried.
When Qui-Gon opened his eyes, he was most struck by the vivid blackness surrounding him, broken only by arcing, jagged streaks of brilliant lightning that sliced though his vision and made him squint reflexively against the assault. Shielding his eyes was a purely instinctive response; he didn't have the corporeal presence to back it up but it made him feel like he was doing something.
Qui-Gon was immediately assailed by the prevailing and almost panicked thought that he was scared, that he didn't want to be here in this hellish limbo, but the Jedi Master had enough control and presence of mind to realize that the emotion was not his own but rather belonged to the young man whose psyche he was visiting.
"Well, Padawan," he said softly into the darkness, "it seems we are once again at a point of decision."
The shift of coarse fabric drew his attention to his right where he could now see Obi-Wan sitting, alone and quiet. The Padawan didn't look up at Qui-Gon's gentle words; he was slumped forward, arms wrapped around his knees loosely, his entire conjectural self radiating defeat and despair, and a glimmer of hope that was almost entirely crushed by apathy.
"Are we?" Obi-Wan asked listlessly. He didn't seem at all surprised to see Qui-Gon manifested in his mind. "Perhaps we should just wait and see what happens, instead."
Qui-Gon nodded. He could tell the padawan was hurting, knew that in the outside world Obi-Wan Kenobi was dying, but as long as he was here, as long as they were here, there was a chance.
"We could, I suppose." He gingerly settled himself next to his apprentice, bending stiff knees into a cross-legged position he knew he'd pay for later - well, would if he were actually doing the physical movement. "That doesn't seem like a very productive choice, though, does it?"
Obi-Wan lifted his head fractionally but long strands of ginger slipped into his face, obscuring it mostly from Qui-Gon's view. He said nothing, just sat quietly, waiting.
Qui-Gon didn't like the blackness, he didn't like the defeat crushing Obi-Wan's shoulders.
"So, you knew?" Qui-Gon continued, tilting his head curiously. You knew about Dooku, knew he would come after you eventually, but you went along with it anyway?" He didn't want to feel the spark of anger that jumped to life inside of him, anger at this one more hoop the bastards on the Council had forced this guilt-ridden boy to jump through to prove that he was still worth something.
His anger, however, evaporated with Kenobi's startling next words.
"It was my idea," Obi-Wan said simply. "He would have kept at you until he swayed you to join him."
Qui-Gon knew as soon as the padawan spoke the words that they were true; he didn't even offer a token denial. Dooku would have eventually convinced Qui-Gon to leave the Order; the Council would have declared him rogue and hunted him down.
"You have yet to fulfill your purpose," Obi-Wan added, sage and strangely distant. To Qui-Gon's surprise, tiny slivers of electric blue started to hum in the air around Obi-Wan; it reminded him of the discordant buzz that used to fill Obi-Wan's space, when his walls and control were jagged and damaged. This noise, this feeling, however, was warm where it had before been cold, calm where it had been anxious. Obi-Wan didn't seem to notice the blue light casting against the shadows on his pale face.
"You chose to save me," Qui-Gon pointed out, "at the risk of leaving your own purpose undone."
Obi-Wan huffed a little laugh through his nose. "You were - you are - worth it, Qui-Gon." There was no emotion in his blank gaze as he looked into the darkness surrounding them. "I have fulfilled my purpose."
"No," Qui-Gon said shortly, unwilling to believe that this was what the Force had ultimately called and cultivated this young man for: to sacrifice himself so a stubborn old man would stay in the Light. He crossed his arms defiantly. "I don't accept that."
"Master Jinn," Obi-Wan said with a small smile, "Will you challenge fate?"
Even now, Qui-Gon had to laugh at Kenobi's quiet words. Challenge fate? Question the Force? Of course he had to. He didn't, couldn't, ascribe to blind faith, to a power that refused to be questioned. If he didn't ask, how would be find the answers?
No. Faith was meant to be stretched, tried, pulled, questioned. And Qui-Gon had not yet run out of questions.
"My dear Padawan," Qui-Gon said gently, "what is my worth compared to yours?"
Obi-Wan looked confused, as though he couldn't quite comprehend the inquiry - or that Qui-Gon had even asked it. The Jedi Master was sadly unsurprised, however; young Kenobi had spent his entire life being told and treated like he had no value other than to be used as those who controlled him saw fit.
"I don't…" Obi-Wan started hesitantly, his brow rumpled as words skidded to a stop at his thinned lips. "You're Qui-Gon Jinn," he finally settled on. "I'm … " a vague wave toward a robed body that Qui-Gon knew in real life was scarred, burned, and torn. "… well, this."
Qui-Gon leaned forward over his knees, bending closer to catch Kenobi's flitting grey gaze with his own steady stare. "Obi-Wan," he said carefully, "You are getting caught up in your emotion, caught up in the moment. What you ought to be thinking of is your future."
"Future?" Obi-Wan didn't laugh, but skepticism was heavy in his tone. The blue flashes, Qui-Gon noted, were increasing in intensity, and Qui-Gon could hear that Obi-Wan's breathing - even here, in Kenobi's own mind - was becoming labored. He had to hurry.
"How can I, Master Jinn, focus on a future that is 'always in motion,'" Obi-Wan quoted rotely, "when the past that has already solidly occurred dictates my every step?"
"It need not be that way," Qui-Gon protested, trying to keep the anxiety he was beginning to feel from creeping into his voice. His confidence began to falter. "But we don't have much time, Obi-Wan. I will help you, if you'll come with me now."
Obi-Wan shook his head ruefully. "I … appreciate the offer, Qui-Gon, I truly do. But I am ready to join the Force. I am ready for peace." He looked suddenly, horribly anxious as he stuttered quickly, "Have I not earned it, Master? Is there more I must yet do, more I must give to pay for what I've done? If there is, Qui-Gon, please tell me," his voice trailed off, pleading yet, hopeful still. "Please."
The question was so heartbreakingly simple, the apprentice's tone so heavy with hurt and despair, that Qui-Gon's breath shuddered to a halt, his heart slamming against his ribs painfully. Obi-Wan's grey eyes lifted and looked into Qui-Gon's, and they were heavy with shame and recrimination but a faint gleam of desperate hope burned brightly in their aching depths.
"Just tell me," he said softly, "what more I need to do so I can finally rest."
There were tears running down Qui-Gon's face that he lifted a shaking hand to brush away. Even now, with days of joy and sorrow that had passed since that quietly rending conversation, he couldn't think back on his former apprentice's pain without feeling an ache in his chest that hadn't gone away.
Qui-Gon gathered up his robe and shrugged into it slowly, feeling more than a physical weight shroud him as he settled the heavy fabric over his shoulders.
It was time to go.
The walk to the Council chambers seemed so far tonight, and Qui-Gon trod slowly, his mind adrift in a swirl of thoughts. His step was measured, his shoulders bowed; at one time he had stalked proudly through these halls, head high, tall and commanding and unassailable.
No one had called Qui-Gon Jinn proud in some time.
The Jedi had changed the day when he brought Obi-Wan Kenobi home and Master Dooku back to face justice. No longer hard, and cold, and rebellious was the Jedi Master who had been legendary for his forceful and continuous defiance and rebuttal of Council decrees.
He reached the heavy doors to the large chambers and drew his hood over his sharp, leonine features and graying hair: he wanted to look the part for his padawan tonight. Qui-Gon drew a deep breath and pushed open the doors to enter the dimly lit room; he moved noiselessly to the center, taking in the solemn faces peeking out from hooded robes; he felt their eyes following him as he slowed to a stop near Master Yoda.
There was no noise amongst the assembled and Qui-Gon shifted uncomfortably. Be it a funeral or a Knighting, the Jedi could staunchly be counted on for their rigid upholding of tradition.
Tears he had earlier pushed away threatened to crowd Qui-Gon's eyes once more as he looked upon the still, finally calm form of Obi-Wan Kenobi, shrouded in his robe, lightsaber at his side.
Obi-Wan's choice still rang loudly in his mind, made Qui-Gon now consider the repercussions of decisions he made daily just a half second longer before charging ahead like he'd used to.
Qui-Gon glanced at Yoda and the small master gave him a nod, his large eyes content yet proud. Qui-Gon returned the nod and swallowed past the catch in his throat as he prepared to speak the ritual words as required, turning his gaze out to face the assembled. He hoped Obi-Wan had found the peace he'd wanted so badly…
The journey of Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi had finally ended.
I can't believe this story is over. I intentionally left the ending ambiguous so the reader is free to choose their ending: whether Obi-Wan goes on to join the Force and this is a funeral, or he stays and this is his Knighting. I find both endings equally satisfying. :D
That being said … lol … for those who chose for Obi-Wan to live, I'm considering writing a few (much) shorter stories about the continuing adventures of Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan in this AU universe, starting with why Obi-Wan decided not to join the Force yet. Let me know if you're interested! I promise they won't take so long to finish. ;D
Thanks for reading! I have greatly appreciated every single review and the continued support of readers. Like the Rewrite, some of you have been with this fic since the beginning and I am awed and humbled by your continued attention. Thank you!