DISCLAIMER: *side tackles Mace and snatches the Ring* Finally! I have recovered the ORCUP and now own Star Wars, Jedi Apprentice and all other stories! Go me! *Lucas randomly rocks up, dropkicks me and takes the Ring* Ow! Hey!
George Lucas owns Star Wars at the moment. I don't. *scowls*
Many, many, thanks to all of you who have stuck with me from the beginning of the story, and also to those of you who just became converted within the last few chapters or so. You all are amazing! And so, I present even more mush for your squeeing pleasure!
The soft swoosh of the door opening awoke Obi-Wan. Looking around, he saw Zara sitting up, finishing up a breakfast tray. Qui-Gon and Master Drallig were just entering the room, looking worn out. Glancing at the chrono on the wall, Obi-Wan was surprised to find out it was late in the morning. They must have just come from the Council meeting. "Morning, Masters."
"Good morning to you, Obi-Wan." Qui-Gon sat beside Obi-Wan, checking on the teen's wounded shoulder. "Did you sleep well?"
Obi-Wan nodded, stretching his good arm. "Yes. Were you just with the Council?"
Qui-Gon nodded, making a face. "Yes, Padawan. With the information you gave us, they're launching an investigation on Ylesia with Senate backing. They'll be looking into any other suspicious Jedi disappearances in the area to see if anyone else from the Order was imprisoned there."
Zara squeezed Master Cin's fingers as he sat on the edge of her bed. Her facial injuries had improved to the point where she could speak, as long as she didn't open her mouth very wide. "When are we getting out of here?"
Master Cin shrugged as he brushed a stray lock from Zara's face. "I'm not sure, Padawan. I can ask a healer though. As it stands, both of you are off active duty for the next month for recovery."
Zara nodded, squirming slightly as she sat up a little more. "Good. I want out!"
That earned a chuckle from the tall Master. "I figured as much. Want me to go find a healer and find out?"
"Yes, please." Zara smiled at her Master as he rose, earning a responding grin. Obi-Wan noticed that Master Cin appeared to be a little less tense than he had in the days before. He wondered what had passed between his friends, but knew it wasn't his place to ask.
Cin left the room in search of a healer, returning within moments with a slender Mon Calamari in tow. The healer first checked over Obi-Wan's wounded arm and ribs. "Well, Padawan Kenobi, I believe you'll be good to go anytime today. You'll need to come back in a couple of weeks for a checkup, as well as for therapy on that shoulder, but you'll be fine at home."
Obi-Wan grinned as Qui-Gon responded, "Thank you."
The healer smiled before going over to Zara. "As for you, Padawan Taerich, you'll be good to go tomorrow. I just want to keep you here for a little longer to make sure there'll be no complications with that broken cheekbone. Keep the talking to a minimum today, and as of now, your diet has been restricted to soft foods that don't require too much chewing until those bones heal completely. I don't think the scarring will be too bad though."
Zara nodded, resting on her pillow as Master Cin thanked the healer, who left not long afterwards. The four Jedi remained in the room for a while, talking about everything and nothing, until a knock at the door stole their attention. "Come in!" called Qui-Gon.
The healer re-entered, pushing a hoverchair in front of her. "You should be all right to walk home when you're ready, Padawan Kenobi, although if you'd prefer you may use this."
Obi-Wan thought for a moment. He didn't want to experience the humiliation of being pushed through the Temple in a hoverchair, although he admittedly did feel horrible. "I'll see how I'm feeling then, I guess."
"No problem at all, Kenobi." The healer parked the chair in the corner and turned to leave, before pausing. "Oh yes. Master Windu wanted to speak to you two."
As if on cue, the dark-skinned Jedi entered the room, smiling at the two teenagers. "How are you two feeling?"
"Good, Master." Obi-Wan straightened, ignoring the sudden flare of pain in his arm.
Zara nodded as the Councillor came over to her bed. "I can talk now, so that's an improvement."
"For you, maybe. Now the rest of us shall have no peace." Master Windu grinned and ruffled Zara's hair when she scowled. "I'm teasing you, Zara."
"Was that for the comment about your hair, or lack thereof, yesterday?"
Master Windu thought for a moment. "Perhaps. And if you weren't already injured, you'd be doing penance for the rest of your apprenticeship for that."
"That," piped up Master Drallig with a grin, "and he's really a soft-hearted person underneath that grouchy exterior. And he likes you."
"Cin, do you like having eyebrows?" Master Windu glared at the younger Master, who immediately reached up to protectively touch his eyebrows. "That's what I thought. Shut up."
Of course, as soon as Master Windu turned his back, Master Drallig rolled his eyes, earning poorly-stifled laughter from Zara and Obi-Wan, and a smirk from Qui-Gon.
Master Windu sighed. "I'll pretend to ignore that, Drallig." He turned to Zara. "You have a visitor."
"Who?" Zara looked up at the Councillor, confused.
In response, Master Windu turned to the door and waved someone in. Zara and Obi-Wan both gasped in surprise and delight when they saw Dorlea enter the room.
She had been cleaned up, and already looked better-fed than she had in the mines. Now that the grime from the mines was gone, Obi-Wan could see that she had been beautiful in her youth, and still held a semblance of noble beauty on her features. Her soft grey hair was tied back, and she was wearing warm-looking robes. Her green eyes landed first on Zara. "Oh, you're alive!"
"Dorlea!" Zara grinned at the older woman. "How'd you get to Coruscant?"
"The Jedi gave me a lift, child. I stayed on the ship on Nar Shaddaa though. Oh goodness, I thought we were going to lose you two..."
"We're all right now though," spoke up Obi-Wan. "Thanks for taking care of us, though."
Dorlea smiled at Obi-Wan, seeming to notice him for the first time since her arrival. "Any time, young one." She turned back to Zara, focusing her attention on the petite redhead.
Zara squirmed slightly under the intense gaze. "Um, Dorlea, why are you staring at me like that?"
Obi-Wan frowned. Force, what's going on? Maybe Dorlea was just making sure Zara was all right... but that stare was still disconcerting, even though Obi-Wan wasn't on the receiving end of it.
Qui-Gon glanced at him, the tiniest of smirks on his face. He whispered through the Force, Doesn't Dorlea look like someone else you know?
Obi-Wan studied the older woman's features. Now that he thought about it, those cheekbones were familiar... and that nose... her green eyes had a distinctly familiar look to them... No way. She couldn't be...
Qui-Gon simply smiled and asked, "What was your last name again, Dorlea?"
Dorlea paused, before murmuring "Taerich. My last name is Taerich."
Zara's mouth fell open as she made the connection. A soft whisper escaped her lips, forming a word that most Jedi never got to say. "Mommy?"
That was enough of a trigger for Dorlea. She rushed forward, hugging her long-lost daughter close to her. "Oh, child..." For her part, Zara hugged her mother as tightly as she could, softly crying into the woman's shoulder.
Obi-Wan felt his throat tighten at seeing the reunion in front of him. Brushing at the tears that wanted to escape, he tugged on his bond with Qui-Gon. Can we get out of here, Master? I think they want privacy... and the hormones in this room are overwhelming!
A grin on his face, Qui-Gon bent to help Obi-Wan out of bed. Master Cin quickly moved the hoverchair close, for which Obi-Wan was secretly grateful. He still felt weak, but he'd practice working on walking away from Zara and Dorlea.
The male Jedi quickly left the room. Master Windu smiled as he shut the door on the mother and daughter inside, nudging Master Cin with his elbow. "What's this, Cin? Are you crying?"
"Me? Of course not." Master Cin wiped at his eyes. "My eyeballs are just sweating, that's all. What's with your eyes, Mace?"
Master Windu sniffed. "Uh, allergies. Minor allergy to, um, bacta. Yes, that's it. Do you need any help with anything, Obi-Wan? Qui-Gon?"
Qui-Gon shook his head, smiling at his friends. "I'll just take him home, or maybe to the gardens if he'd rather go there for a bit."
"Gardens, please." Obi-Wan looked up pleadingly at his Master. He'd been cut off from the Force long enough that he actually wanted to meditate.
"Gardens it is then." Qui-Gon removed his robe and draped it around Obi-Wan, covering the flimsy healers' tunic. "Can you walk or do you need the chair?"
"Can I try walking?"
"Certainly." Qui-Gon came around to Obi-Wan's side, helping the teen stand up as Master Cin kept the chair from moving. "Slowly now. Easy..."
Obi-Wan closed his eyes against the sudden light-headedness that rushed him. He leaned heavily on Qui-Gon. "Oh, Force..."
He felt an arm wrap around his shoulders. "Try to walk forward, Padawan." Qui-Gon squeezed him close. "If you can't, we'll just use the chair." On Obi-Wan's other side, Master Windu wrapped an arm around his waist, helping him stay up.
Obi-Wan managed to take two steps forward before admitting defeat. "Master, I think I'm gonna fall-"
Master Cin got the hoverchair in position just as Obi-Wan sat down heavily. "Maybe you shouldn't try walking yet, Obi-Wan."
"Maybe not." Obi-Wan rested his head against the back of the chair. "Dammit!"
"Language," reprimanded Qui-Gon lightly. "Don't worry, you'll be able to walk soon. Do you still want to go to the gardens?"
Obi-Wan nodded. "Yes, please."
Gently tugging the loaned robe tighter around Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon took control of the chair from Master Cin, pushing his Padawan out of the healers' ward. Master Cin and Master Windu followed the pair until they reached the main hallway, whereupon both excused themselves and headed off, already discussing a sparring match.
Luckily for Obi-Wan, the gardens were a short distance from the healers' ward. Qui-Gon pushed him to a secluded corner under a tall, flowering tree, within easy listening distance of the soothing roar of a waterfall. "How's that?"
"Perfect, Master." Obi-Wan tipped his head back, breathing in the scents of the flowers. He felt Qui-Gon carefully pick him up and set him on a soft patch of turf, leaning his back against the tree's rough bark. "Thank you."
Qui-Gon sat beside his apprentice. "Not a problem, Obi-Wan." He reached out into the Force. Would you like to meditate, Padawan?
Yes, please. Obi-Wan could almost feel his Master's smile as the older Jedi took his hands, immersing both of them in the Force. The teen breathed the Force in and out, letting his soul be refreshed by the substance that had been withheld from him for so long. I never thought I'd actually want to meditate on anything, Master.
He heard Qui-Gon chuckle through their bond. Neither did I, actually. I'm just happy I have you to meditate with, Padawan.
I'm grateful you found me. Obi-Wan smiled, despite the lingering memories of the torture. I was scared that you and Master Drallig had been killed by the engines when we were taken away from Ylesia, and then the Hutt, Korra, said you'd been killed on that satellite, and I didn't think we'd ever be found. But I knew if anyone could find us, it'd be you, no matter what.
He felt his Master rapidly come out of meditation and tightly embrace him. Oh Padawan, I'll always come for you. I promise. I'd rather die for you than watch you suffer.
Too overwhelmed with emotion to speak either physically or through the bond, Obi-Wan just held on to Qui-Gon for all he was worth. The elder Jedi held him close, not loosening his grip until a soft "Ahem" interrupted them.
A tall, grey haired man stood above them, watching the interaction between Master and Padawan. Obi-Wan recognized the man immediately. "The Count! I mean, Master Dooku!"
"Ah, you did remember me, young Obi-Wan." Master Dooku smiled. "It's good to see you again, and in much better condition."
Obi-Wan bowed his head to the older Master. "Thank you, Master. For everything you did for us and our Masters."
Dooku knelt beside Obi-Wan. "It was my pleasure to help you. I only wish I'd been able to get you and Padawan Taerich away sooner." The man sighed. "But what's done is done. May I meditate with you?"
Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon exchanged a brief glance before nodding their agreement and scooting over, allowing Master Dooku to join their small circle. The three lowered themselves into the Force, releasing any last traces of anxiety or grief from the time of captivity.
Obi-Wan couldn't help but feel a large wave of joy at being home in the Temple, surrounded by friends and people that he treasured as family, especially Qui-Gon. He felt a light nudge through the Force from his Master, sending his love and happiness along the bond. Master Dooku remained out of the intimacy of the link, although his Force signature radiated peace.
Healing would take a while. But Obi-Wan knew everything would be all right now. He relaxed against the tree, letting the Force flow through his spirit and mend his wounds. He was home and safe, where he belonged.
*sniffs* And my baby's finished! (Well, aside from the coming collection of one-shots and epilogues.) A huge thanks to all of you who have stuck around since pretty much forever: BlackDeath6, Loopstagirl, anakinpadmekenobi, ObiBettina7, Kbertsch1992, Geri K, SiriBauer, TamsynDell, and anyone else I may have missed, and of course all of you who have just started reading within the last few chapters. Your reviews mean a lot to me, and they make me squee when I get them in my inbox. :) (Which means, even if you see this story in a couple of years and want to review, go ahead! I'm still getting reviews on "Inner Death", which was completed by the time this one came out...)
Chocolate cake for everyone! *hands out cake*
And don't forget, epilogues, outtakes and alternate endings coming soon! Keep an eye out for those!
Thanks, guys! Do me a favour and leave one more review? *hugs*