spirits

Warning: The following story contains a m/m relationship.

Disclaimer: all hail the mighty Lucasworld.

Pairing: Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan (of sorts)

Rating: PG-13

Category: angst

Summary: It is the Festival of the Lost Souls and Obi-Wan, now Jedi Master, remembers Qui-Gon. Strange things happen within the week leading up to the Festival. It was originally intended for Halloween , but then again RL took over with a vengeance.

Url: personal homepage, MA archive

Acknowledgements: happy belated Halloween, folks.

Title: Spirits and Souls.

It was a warm afternoon. Sunlight streamed down, turning everything into gold. There was a slight breeze that cooled the skins of the initiates practising on the exercise mats and rustled through the red-yellow leaves of the molaris trees. Pale-winged butterflies drifted up and down with the air eddy. The Jedi welcomed these delicate butterflies, believing them as souls of the dead.

One such butterfly, its wings tinged with blue, alighted on the table in Obi-Wan Kenobi's study room. It startled the Jedi Master from his inner peace meditation. But he smiled, watching the tiny butterfly flap its thin glowing wings.

"You seem to have lost your way," Obi-Wan said, gently tipping a writing quill next to the placid insect. The long feelers twitched and the butterfly crawled onto the quill. Quietly, not wanting to scare it, Obi-Wan carried the stick over to the window and flicked it slightly. The butterfly immediately took to the air.

Obi-Wan watched the butterfly disappear into the distance. Butterflies? Souls of the dead? His heart, which he thought had gone dead, began to beat slowly, painful. He rubbed his face, feeling the weariness seep into his bones. He was twenty-nine but he felt as if he had aged beyond his physical age. He listened to his heart, his brows drawn together unconsciously.

In a few days, it would be the anniversary of Qui-Gon's death. It also coincided with the Festival of the Lost Souls. In a few days, he would allow the memories return and pierce his heart with bittersweet pain.

At first, everyone treated him with extreme care, as if they were afraid that he would shatter into million pieces. Weeks after the cremation, the Knights and Padawans walked around him, their expressions well-schooled. Conversations were careful, gentle, kind. Even young Anakin behaved as if his Master would go berserk any second. Yet, he kept the pain to himself and for the past four years, he channeled all the sorrow into one single festival, one single day. The pain did ease away but occasionally, in the darkness of night, it would come back in phantom shapes, haunting him. Whispering his name, caressing his skin.

Everyone knew that Qui-Gon was not only his teacher but his lover as well. They were found out before they left for Naboo. At first, there was outright objection from the Council members but Master Yoda finally relented, allowing them to remain together.

Then Qui-Gon was dead.

Obi-Wan blinked away the tears, frustrated with the show of weakness. Anakin might just walk in and see his young Master crying away like a child. With a soft oath, he stared into the distance, seeing Coruscant bathed in sunlight.

All across the city-planet, citizens would be leaving palm-sized shrines near their windows or doors. From the richest of the administrators to the poorest of the slum dwellers, people stuck to their ancient beliefs, bringing their spirit shrines and lighting tiny candles in honour of the spirits who would throng the physical plane for a week before going back to Hell. Offerings would be made in the forms of sweet rice, glutinous dumplings or simple water. There were more elaborate feasts for the spirits; the rich would put roast birds or fresh fish to placate the lost souls.

He had once laughed at these offerings and Qui-Gon had drawn him aside, rebuking him softly.

"Master?" Anakin's voice alerted Obi-Wan and the Jedi Master quickly straightened, assuming the mask of the stern teacher.

"Yes, Anakin?"

The boy was grown. Now eleven, he was rapidly out-growing his clothes. The Padawan stood near the door, holding a tray with freshly brewed tea. His blonde hair was cut short, spiky after a shower. His padawan braid curled next to his right ear. As Obi-Wan observed his student closely, Anakin would soon grow taller, stronger. Already his lithe form and agility had gained praise from the lightsaber trainers. Furthermore, his mind was sharp and inquiring; he loved solving questions and riddles. Best of all, Anakin liked challenges.

His first challenge was his lightsaber. Anakin constructed his weapon, using his Force insights and his nimble hands. Obi-Wan found himself secretly pleased when the boy showed him the lightsaber. It worked perfectly.

"Your tea, Master." Anakin bowed slightly. He began to pour the fragrant beverage into the cup. "I also got these sticky sweet rice balls from the kitchen. The cooks made too many of them apparently …" He grinned, blue eyes twinkling mischievously even as he placed the desserts onto a clean plate.

"Thank you," Obi-Wan nodded gratefully and picked up a rice ball. He was about to bite into it when he thought he heard his name.

Obi-Wan.

He looked around, frowning. "Did you say anything, Anakin?"

Anakin shook his head, indicating 'no'.

Obi-Wan shrugged it off and savored the rice ball, tasting the smooth bean paste in his mouth. But for some strange reason, his heart trembled like a small caged bird.

The pace of the festive celebrations picked up as the week progressed. The Jedi kitchens were busy with the preparation of the edible offerings, making stack after stack of sweet cakes and dumplings. Later, the offerings would be given free to the poorer citizens of Coruscant.

The number of butterflies seemed to increase as well. The creatures found their way into everywhere; the classrooms and the Council chambers were invaded with small droves of yellow-winged butterflies, causing a great amount of amusement amongst the Jedi.

Obi-Wan knelt on the meditation mat, clearing his mind. His sleep pattern was disturbed last night; he thought that he heard his name again. Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan.

He closed his eyes, feeling the sense of disquiet stir within him. It was odd but … but he swore that he had heard his Master.

Something tinkled. It sounded like the delicate tones of a wind-chime.

The young Master's head snapped up. His eyes widened. There was no wind-chime in his quarters.

His ears were not playing tricks on him. It sounded like a wind-chime, sounding as if it was moving in a slight breeze. The only thing was that there was no breeze.

Obi-Wan got up to his feet, gasping at the surge of memories. Wind-chime. The ceramic ornament, hand-crafted and light as an egg shell, hanging near Qui-Gon's study window. Qui-Gon smiling at him, eyes aglow with love as they gazed at the wind-chime.

"No … " He whispered to himself. "My mind is easily tricked by illusions."

Yet … the sounds belonged unmistakably to a wind-chime.

Obi-Wan.

This time, his skin prickled. He could feel something in the room.

"NO!"

He gathered his robes and headed resolutely for the door, tears brimming in his eyes.

Obi-Wan.

"Leave me alone!" Obi-Wan found himself saying. "Go away." He growled softly even though his heart said 'no' and wept inwardly.

*****

The night was balmy. Coruscant's citizens lit the small votive candles and brought out the plates of food, placing them next to the clay shrines. In every home, in every window, dots of light flickered as people began the Night Chants that signified the start of the Festival. This was the night where the souls and spirits moved about, returning to their families and friends.

Obi-Wan drew his robes about him as he made his way into his bedroom. Anakin was already fast asleep.

Earlier in the day, Anakin had noticed his Master's tired face. The Padawan was concerned, more so when Obi-Wan evaded his queries, refusing to answer.

Let the boy worry, Obi-Wan mused with a mixture of cynicism and resignation. He is getting too inquisitive for his own good. He is almost like me …

The memory rushing back into his mind was bittersweet. Qui-Gon responding impatiently when he persisted with his questions. He was only fourteen then. Qui-Gon had given him a glass-filigree firebird for his birthday. It was a beautiful gift, the bird spreading its wings of glass feathers. It was also quite extravagant and he wanted to know where Qui-Gon had acquired it. He asked and asked until Qui-Gon snapped at him, telling him to act like a responsible fourteen year old. He was stung by the reprimand of course.

He had placed the glass firebird on the main bookshelf in his bedroom. He took personal delight in waking up every day to the shimmering of those transparent wings. It reminded him somewhat of Qui-Gon.

Obi-Wan.

The voice again.

Obi-Wan frowned and chose to ignore it. He stepped into his bedroom, squaring his shoulders. The voice was an illusion. In fact, the Festival of the Lost Souls was an illusion, designed to trick the gullible and foolish.

He removed his robes, turned ---

And saw the glass firebird … on the floor.

It was broken.

Shock coupled with horror ran through his body and he flung himself onto his knees, touching the shattered wings of the ornament with shaking fingers. The fine beak had fallen off and the sunburst wings crumbled in his hand. There were simply glass shards everywhere …

Obi-Wan.

His name.

He took one last look at the broken glass bird. Then, he stood up.

Obi-Wan.

A hint of urgency could be felt.

Suddenly, anger filled Obi-Wan like an inward pouring of molten lava. It pulsed in his veins, gave him courage to speak out. "I don't believe in spirits and souls. I don't believe in the Festival of the Lost Souls. Go away!"

The wind-chime music floated around him tenderly.

"Stop it!" Obi-Wan barked, breaking the fragility cruelly, smashing the beauty as if he was destroying glass filigree. "Go away!"

Obi-Wan.

The rage drained away and Obi-Wan shook his head, fighting against the hot tears threatening to spill down his face.

"Why? Why are you tormenting me? Please go away … Don't torment me anymore. "

Obi-Wan.

The wind-chime music came back, filling his bedroom like a crystal stream. It was louder this time, swirling all about him like drifting leaves. Obi-Wan felt something. The purity of the spectral music, its sweetness, caused the tears to flow unrestrained.

"Just leave me, Qui-Gon. I need to get on with my life."

His words were hurtful. The music stopped abruptly.

Obi-Wan.

"I love you but you are dead. Please don't do this to me anymore. I have Anakin to train now and he depends on me for guidance."

Silence. Obi-Wan could only hear the faint Night Chants in the air. " …ai ai fei sah …The souls walk the earth tonight …"

The voice was gone.

*****

Anakin woke up early. He did his toilet and went through his morning exercise, toning his body. Later, he prepared breakfast for himself and his Master. Master Kenobi was late. Usually, the serious-looking man would be meditating when Anakin got up from his bed.

The youth looked out of the window. It was the end of the Festival. He could already smell the burning of the offerings. In a way, he was almost glad. The Festival of the Lost Souls was a time where he tried to be extremely careful around his Master. Master Kenobi would become withdrawn and uncommunicative, hardly smiling at all. Anakin knew that the Festival happened to share the same day with the death anniversary of Master Jinn; that Master Jinn was someone who was very close to Obi-Wan's heart.

He padded silently to Master Kenobi's bedroom and found the door slightly ajar.

Odd, he thought and peered in.

His master was asleep. Sunlight lanced through the open window, covering Obi-wan's face with a layer of dusky yellow. In repose, Obi-Wan looked younger than his twenty-nine years. Young, without the lines of worry marring the smooth face. There was a very light dusting of soft hair around his chin but to Anakin, Obi-Wan asleep reminded him strongly of a child. Innocent. Without any care in the world.

A blue figure stood over Obi-Wan.

At first, Anakin almost yelled to wake his master. However, as he looked closely, the blue figure was that of a tall man, framed with long hair. It had long flowing robes. It was also transparent. Anakin could see through the body. It was a disconcerting feeling.

The figure turned slightly and Anakin gasped.

Master Jinn. Master Qui-Gon Jinn.

The noble features were undeniably those of Qui-Gon. Moustache, beard, the face. The crooked nose. Those blue eyes, now glowing faintly with an inner light.

As Anakin watched, speechless, the Force-spirit of Qui-Gon Jinn bent down and drew a large hand across Obi-Wan's brow. It was a surprisingly gentle gesture. Those eyes were sad, imbued with a sense of longing. The large hand reached out again, curving on Obi-Wan's cheek.

Anakin thought that he heard a sigh as the spirit watched his former apprentice sleep. Then, the lad quietly left, deciding not to disturb Qui-Gon. Sometimes, spirits and souls need to be alone with their most intimate kin.

*****

The plate of glutinous dumplings was left on the table when Obi-Wan finished his meditations. Anakin must have prepared breakfast in the morning; the pot of tea rested on the burner, kept warm by the constant heat. The boy had gone for his lightsaber training with Master Windu who had also taken interest in his well-being.

Obi-Wan stifled a yawn. He had overslept but he woke up, refreshed. He had dreamed last night, of Qui-Gon standing next to him, his expression tender.

He sat down, pouring himself tea. The dumplings were cold with hard skins. Yet, he ate, grateful for sustenance.

The voice and the wind-chime seemed to have disappeared. The quarters felt normal without the hint of any spectral intrusion.

Something fluttered on his right sleeve. It was a yellow-winged butterfly; it was tiny like most of its kind. Obi-Wan gazed at it, drawn by its transient beauty.

Soul or no soul, he mused and brought it to the window. But it is still free.

The released butterfly beat its wings, floating on the air currents. Obi-Wan smiled, walking back to his study. As he slipped into the room, a voice -- a familiar voice -- whispered his name.

Obi-Wan.

=finis=