Chapter 45

Fear not for the future, weep not for the past. (Percy Bysshe Shelley)

Obi-Wan was almost to the Temple when he felt frustration coming through the bond he shared with his padawan. Opening the connection, he was surprised by how loudly the youth was broadcasting the situation. Having listened to the conversation, he rubbed a hand over his face before tugging on the connection to let Anakin know he had heard everything. Giving the youth the day off, he hoped the younger man would take advantage of it and get some much needed rest in whatever form it came in.

His thoughts then found their way to Khloe. She was the closest thing Jamiyan had to a mother figure in her life since Siri's death. With the missions he and Anakin had been on these past years, he had had to leave his daughter with the Lars' for safekeeping. He visited at every opportunity and missed her terribly during their separations. In his absences, he had discovered through a conversation with Shmi that Jaims had taken a liking to Khloe, the two visiting together often.

He rubbed a hand over his chin in thought. On their way to Naboo after the Tusken camp incident, Shmi had told him that Khloe was engaged. He still missed his wife terribly. But he was beginning to understand Siri's last request of him even as a part of him fought against it. Having returned to Tatooine with Qui-Gon and Anakin after she died, Obi-Wan had isolated himself for some time, only spending sporadic moments in the company of his makeshift family.

It wasn't until Khloe had come to visit that he discovered life continued on even in his grief. She had helped him as only a true friend could. Due to their time spent in one another's company years before, she was familiar with his idiocies and never once allowed him to wallow in self-pity no matter how much he would have liked to at times. She was always straight with him even while understanding his pain.

It was during this grieving process that he and Khloe had rediscovered and rekindled the close friendship they had shared in the earlier years of his time on Tatooine. He hadn't thought to ask Khloe if she and her fiancé had ever tied the knot, but then he and Anakin hadn't been invited to a wedding and he assumed she would have invited them so he guessed that maybe they hadn't yet gotten that far. The joy he felt upon seeing her at Padmé's apartment was quickly replaced by a flood of worry: how could he concentrate on what he had to do if he was worried about his friends and family? That was the whole reason he and Anakin had left them behind. Attachments meant liabilities.

"This is ridiculous," he whispered to himself. Arriving at the Temple parking bay, he pulled the speeder in and parked the vehicle. Having turned off the engine, he took a few minutes to try and gather his thoughts, to reign in the frustration at knowing that his stubborn master was once again butting in where he didn't need to be.

"Jamiyan's fine you know. She practically pushed me out the door when I told her I was coming to help you…whether you wanted it or not."

Berating himself for not being more aware of his surroundings, he convincingly acted as if he had known the man was there all along. Not bothering to turn toward the voice, the Knight clenched his jaw before replying, "I don't need your help." Getting out of the vehicle, the Jedi walked toward the temple entrance, his former mentor trailing behind him.

"Of course not!" the elder Jedi snapped at his former protégé. "You would rather put yourself in harm's way and when there's no way out, then, just maybe you might ask for help!"

Turning around with such force that his cloak swirled around him, Obi-Wan snidely replied, "You're supposed to be protecting my family!"

The two were oblivious to the other occupants in the hallway who were now hurrying to leave the two to their disagreement. Open arguments were not a common sight in the Temple and these two were, at one time, the last two Jedi that anyone would have expected to see in a heated discussion in public. Ever since Jinn returned from the force and Kenobi returned from an extended absence, it seemed the two couldn't help but be at odds over one thing or another.

Those around them often wondered what had happened to disrupt the friendship between the two, not understanding that their disagreements were a result of a closer relationship due to the events the two had endured. Obi-Wan's experience with the dark side and Palpatine wasn't common knowledge within the Order; an occurrence the Council had kept under wraps along with much of Obi-Wan's time on Tatooine raising a child he had taken as his apprentice.

"As I told you, she's perfectly safe! Captain Panaka and his men are keeping watch and Master Muln and his padawan are also on hand if need be."

"Garen's on Naboo?" Obi-Wan asked, a faint sliver of hope in his voice.

His mentor offered a small smile. "I promised you I would make sure that your daughter and your family were protected. Do you really believe I would leave them with less than the vow I made?"

"But you're still here," he accused. Not wanting to admit that the part of him that would always be this man's apprentice felt a sense of relief and safety knowing his mentor was there to back him up.

"I'm here to make sure she doesn't become an orphan," Qui-Gon said kindly but with quiet conviction. "Even if it means my end."

The young Knight took a step closer to his mentor. "You don't get it do you? You're a liability and I…." Swallowing, the younger man stared at the man he thought of as a father and then turned toward the lifts he had been walking toward.

Keeping pace with his former apprentice, the two arrived at one of the tower lifts and stepped inside. Pressing the button for the Council Room antechamber, the lift began its ascent.

"You keep forgetting that you don't have to do this alone," Jinn continued. "You and Anakin are in this together, it isn't one or the other. And if the Force allows, I plan to keep you both grounded." Pressing the stop button on the lift, the elevator lurched once before pausing in its pursuit to the top of the spire.

"Talk to me, young one," Jinn implored, knowing there was more to the anger and frustration that Kenobi was just barely holding at bay.

The Knight shook his head to the negative, his hands clenched tightly at his sides.

Having raised this particular Knight, the master knew the younger man wouldn't divulge what had him on edge until forced to, just one of Kenobi's quirks the Jedi had learned early on. Qui-Gon reactivated the lift, sending it back down to the main floor. At Obi-Wan's look of disapproval, the older man casually stood guard over the control panel until the elevator gently settled. When the doors opened, he took the younger man by the arm and pulled him through the corridors as if he were an errant apprentice who had overstepped some bounds.

Guiding Obi-Wan into the star map room, the closest non-occupied area he could find, Qui-Gon closed the door and entered a code to lock the door, indicating it was currently in use.

Turning around, he said, "Talk to me."

"I have an appointment with the Council," Obi-Wan said, not meeting the elder's gaze.

"I've spoken with Mace; they'll wait." Qui-Gon started to cross his arms over his chest as he had done many times in his life, but a brush from the force told him that that stance would only cause him to appear unapproachable and condescending. So instead, he took a seat on one of the cushioned benches in the room and waited.

Obi-Wan activated the galaxy map and walked around the room, knowing he wasn't going anywhere until his master got what he wanted. But that didn't mean he couldn't drag out the inevitable.

The corner of Qui-Gon's lips twitched but he refused to show his amusement. "You'd do well to remember I play this game well, padawan. And you'd also do well to remember how patient I can be."

Sitting forward, Qui-Gon clasped his hands together in front of him, deciding he would go first. "I came to Coruscant because I was worried about the two of you. I also came because you were both driving Master Windu to the retirement home." He caught a slight smirk on Obi-Wan's face with the latter of the statement, a twitch at the corner of the younger man's lips.

"My question is why did you confront him alone?"

"I don't know," the younger man answered, stopping in his perusal of the stars around the room. Turning toward his master, he said, "I guess I thought I could somehow get him to confess what lies underneath."

"From what I've been told, whatever the two of you discussed affected Palpatine's composure. Mace said he appeared rather frazzled after having dealt with you." Qui-Gon explained, his eyes studiously watching his former apprentice.

Obi-Wan rubbed a finger over his bottom lip in thought. "I wanted to know how much he knew," the Knight admitted, finally getting to the point of his visit. "On Naboo he was going after the bond I have with Jaims, and you more than anyone knows I couldn't allow that. I had to know if he knew."

"And does he?"

"He suspects something, but I could tell that he isn't quite sure what it is I'm hiding." The Knight walked over to the side of the room and leaned back against the wall. "Why is Khloe here?"

"She was concerned about you," Qui-Gon said matter-of-fact.

"You shouldn't have allowed her to come to the Capital," Obi-Wan reprimanded.

"I think you know how difficult the Senator can be when she's lobbying for someone's rights," Qui-Gon replied.

Obi-Wan rolled his eyes in an exaggerated sigh. "You're a Jedi Master and you couldn't stand up to a politician and a young woman from Tatooine?"

Qui-Gon smirked. "I was following your example when Siri arrived on Tatooine with Garen."

"That doesn't even deserve a response!" the younger man chided.

Qui-Gon held back the chuckle that tried to escape at the Knight's indignant response. "Padawan, when are you going to realize that she wouldn't want you to keep grieving this way?"

Qui-Gon stood and walked over to his former apprentice. "You made her a promise and yet you fight it every step of the way!"

"You don't know what you're talking about," the Knight bit out.

"Don't I?" Jinn asked, his voice quiet. "Or was it someone else that was there when Tahl died?"

If looks could kill, Qui-Gon Jinn would have been lying on a funeral pyre. "Shecould have been saved and you refused to do anything to help her!"

"A fact I live with every day," Jinn admitted.

Obi-Wan pointed to himself, ignoring his masters reply. "And I paid the price having to live with a cold hearted ba…." The younger Knight trailed off not wanting to visit that time again and yet knowing that this was a discussion they had never had.

"Bastard," Qui-Gon finished for him in a soft tone. "I was indeed that. And because of how I dealt with Tahl's death, I didn't see what was going on with you and Palpatine. I lost myself in my grief over the death of the woman I loved and in the process, I almost lost you as well."

He placed a hand on the younger man's arm, not sure the action would be welcomed. When Obi-Wan didn't pull away, he continued, "You've been pretending for the last three years that you're fine, that you're over her. But we all know differently. You have thrown yourself into mission after mission, and when you have downtime you throw yourself into taking care of your child: a child who looks so much like her mother minus the color of her eyes."

"I can't lose anyone else," the younger man admitted, his voice just barely above a whisper. "I feel the pain of her absence every single day. The place she occupied in my mind is barren. I reach for her through the force sometimes forgetting that she isn't there anymore, only to find that Jamiyan has extended herself to fill that void somehow knowing what I'm looking for. She's three and a half years old for force sake!"

He shook his head in disgust. "I'm not blind you know," he said in a deceptively quiet voice, before continuing a little louder, "I see the pity in everyone's eyes: a widower who has lost his wife and has to raise his daughter on his own. So I imitate someone whose life is what everyone wants it to be. I laugh when I'm supposed to, I joke when it's required, I do what everyone expects because it keeps them happy." He raised his eyes to look at his master. "For four years I thought you were dead and unlike you, Siri isn't coming back. I can't go through that again."

He threw his hands in the air in frustration as he moved away from the wall. "My own padawan thinks he has to take care of me and keep me out of trouble. How backward is that? I'm supposed to be the one he can count on, the one who teaches and takes care of him!"

"I can remember a young man who did the very same when I couldn't take care of myself. You healed a broken man's heart, padawan. You helped me learn to live again after Xanatos' betrayal and after Tahl's death. So I can understand Anakin's actions perfectly. You aren't the only one who has lost. When you both thought me dead, Anakin grieved too, only he took that grief and turned it into something else: he took care of you as he's doing now. When Siri died, he lost a woman who he came to love as a sister. The Lars and I lost a surrogate daughter while the Whitesuns lost a friend. If you think you've been able to hide all of this from Anakin, you are sadly mistaken. That young man thinks that if he doesn't keep watching out for you, then he's going to lose you too. Not death per say, but something much worse. Your padawan is not someone who can let go easily despite appearances."

Obi-Wan listened with rapt attention as his master laid it all out in the open. Swallowing, he asked, his voice sounding like the youth he had been when seeking direction from a man who he somehow thought knew all the answers, "So, what do I do?"

Taking a seat on a cushion a few feet away, Qui-Gon force pulled another one over to lay before him. Motioning to the pillow, he invited the young man to sit down across from him. "You must find the peace you need, the peace you deserve before you face Palpatine again…or else all is lost." Jinn replied, his voice serious and sure in its wording.

"What have you seen?" the younger man asked.

"You will fall if you do not let go of what you fear to lose most," his master replied. Looking upon the man he had raised, Qui-Gon said in a gentle voice, "Whether you realize it or not, little one, the events of the past have fractured you. Caught up in the bustle of life, you have not yet allowed yourself time to heal."

Upon hearing the long ago term of endearment, Obi-Wan glanced at his mentor, taking in the changes the years had wrought. "What kind of Jedi am I if I can't live up to what I was taught?" the Knight asked in a quiet voice.

"That, my padawan, is when you trust in the Force. For only in the Force will you find the strength to fight, and to heal. Apart from it you can do nothing, but in and through it, you can do things you never imagined." His master's words were so sure, so confident; it almost felt as if the Force itself were speaking through him.

Hesitating several minutes, Obi-Wan finally acquiesced and did as his master bade, feeling a pull from the force unlike anything he had ever encountered before. Closing their eyes, Qui-Gon followed his apprentice into the Force, helping him to let go of the past, of the grief of losing his wife, something the Knight fought and tried to hold onto only to realize that letting go didn't mean forgetting the woman he had loved…still loved, but letting go of the hurt her departure had left behind.

With the aid of the force, Qui-Gon also helped him to deflate the fear he had of losing the family who had taken him in after his mentor's forged death, as well as the self-deprecation of ever having touched or trained in the dark side. Lessons were learned and taken to heart; now the Knight only needed to act on them. Taking over and distancing the young man from his mentor, the Force led the Knight to finding his way in mentoring his young protégé, helping him to realize that Anakin's unconventional training was the will of the Force and as such the Light had always been with them, guiding them. Once Jinn was certain that events had been dealt with and not just hidden away, he stepped back as an observer. Watching as the Force continued to heal the wounded soul of its elder Chosen.

Hope you enjoyed! :)