Title: Threads of Eternity
Author: Amy Fortuna (amyfortuna@yahoo.com)
Pairings: Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan, Anakin/Amidala
Rating: R
Archive: MA, all others please ask.
Warnings: Character death. But not your typical death story here, not at all.
Feedback: Please! I'm *so* nervous about this one....
Summary: Love beyond death, vision beyond life, and duty that continues after death.
Notes: I've been working on this story, on and off, for about a year and a half. I wanted an explanation of how Anakin could turn to the Dark Side and how Obi-Wan could miss the clues so easily. So, this story specifically contradicts some things already known about Episode II. I intend it to be that way.

Many thanks to kimberlite, who helped beta this story and who probably never expected to see it finished. :)

----

"Time-
shimmery cloth
woven out of
free threads
of eternity...

Time-
will soon vanish
wear and tear
breaking the threads
setting them free...

Time-
seize the moment
has never meant
so much now
in your arms...

Time-
distant vanishing
failing frail existence
your kiss
my freedom...

Time is a simple robe
woven from threads of eternity
and in your love-embrace
I find my own destiny
enclosed in your eternal warmth..."

----

Obi-Wan sat on the stone wall that formed a railing above the waterfall near Naboo's palace. In the distance he could hear the sounds of celebration; it was near the end of a day of parties and parades. Above him the clouds danced their color-changing waltz in the last brilliant light before the night. It was a sight to bring joy to any heart.

Any except his. Obi-Wan could not keep the memories from flowing through his mind again and again. The last words that should have been for him, and instead were given to Qui-Gon's latest pet project, the "Chosen One," rang in his ears as though he were hearing them for the first time again.

Absorbed in his reverie, he did not hear the quiet footsteps approaching from the direction of the palace. He started as a hand touched his shoulder.

"Forgive me for disturbing you, Knight Kenobi," Depa Billba said, sitting down on the smooth stone beside him. Obi-Wan raised his head, acknowledging her presence with a nod. She looked into his eyes before continuing, insuring that he was paying attention to her.

"It is difficult, is it not, to be thinking about a young charge before you have even had time to come to terms with...all that has happened?" she said, softly.

Obi-Wan merely looked at her.

"The Council has determined that you need some time to come to peace with your master's death before you take the Skywalker child as your official padawan. So we have decided to give you the next three days before we leave Naboo, as yours to do with what you will." She held up a hand as he began to protest.

"This is customary," she continued, "for all who have lost their masters to death. For you, who have just taken life in the service of the Jedi, lost your master, and taken a padawan, this time is especially needed."

Obi-Wan glanced up in some surprise; the last thing he'd ever expected the Council to do was care.

"What about Anakin? What will he do while I-" he paused, not sure how to say it.

"While you come to terms with your master's Departure?" she answered. "It would be my privilege to care for him. He seems a bright child, to me, at least."

Obi-Wan did not smile, but the burden on his heart lightened; for the first time in days he felt like a human being again.

"Thank you," he whispered.

Depa smiled softly and placed her hand over his in a comforting gesture.

"I cannot truly say I know what you are going through, Obi-Wan. All I can say is that I do not know what I would do if I lost Mace; my master, my friend, my lover."

She caught his look as he flinched unconsciously.

"I thought so. Obi-Wan, there is no shame in love -- would that you could have had the chance to tell your master."

Obi-Wan turned to look at her, tears hidden deep in his eyes.

"I had hoped that after I was knighted..." his voice trailed off.

"And you'll never have that now," she said soberly. "Release it to the Force, Obi-Wan, and put your regrets aside. Remember that we care for you and you have a padawan to teach now."

She released his hand.

"In three days, Obi-Wan, we will see you again."

She stood, smiling briefly, and walked back to the palace. Her white robes faded from view as Obi-Wan turned back to look over the waterfall again.

******

Obi-Wan spent the rest of the evening in meditation and sleep, trying not to dream of That Moment again. In the morning, he woke mostly refreshed from quiet sleep.

That day, he walked down to the hanger, and set out to retrace the path they had followed a few days ago, fighting the Sith. At the door, he paused, half-afraid for a moment, then resolutely pressed the button to open the door. The space behind was, of course, empty.

Obi-Wan retraced their steps, figuring the patterns of the fight in a way he had not been able to do as a participant. He could see now that if they had been more unified, they could have fought harder, quicker, and soon would have won without nearly the dreadful cost.

For the moment, he laid aside just what the cost had been and continued farther into the bowels of the city of Theed. At the place where the Sith had knocked him off the catwalk, he hesitated a moment, then leaped, Force-assisted, down one level where the rest of the fight had been played out.

Spurred by a sudden impulse, he raced to the end of the walkway as fast as he could. He reached the walls just as they closed, skidding to a stop outside the first one.

"That was foolish and proved nothing," he said to himself, but inwardly he felt slightly relieved, knowing there was no way he could have gotten closer.

As he waited for the phasers to change, he looked around, trying to keep his eyes away from where Qui-Gon had knelt in meditation. He glimpsed a security panel off to the side and wondered why he hadn't noticed it before. That would have been one of the ways he could have --

No. Don't think it, he told himself. Don't blame yourself.

When the phasers changed, he walked through and managed to clear four of the six beams before they closed again. This time he stared straight through the red walls, deliberately replaying his memories of Qui-Gon's fight with the Sith.

Qui-Gon had been undone by a move no Jedi would ever have used. The Sith had played dirty, first by knocking Obi-Wan off the catwalk, then by bashing Qui-Gon's face.

No, it had not been a fight according to the dictates of the Code, but then, what fight was? Obi-Wan remembered how the creature had clouded the Force, like dirt in clear water, and shuddered. That thing was better dead -- it was irredeemable.

The phasers cycled again, and Obi-Wan moved through the last two, out into the open area. He glanced down into the melting pit, where he had hung so precariously, and remembered his crushing despair combined with determination.

And That Place. The floor was clean, no trace of blood remaining, but Obi-Wan knew precisely where it was, knelt down, and felt chills go through him as he remembered the last words spoken here, the last words he would ever hear spoken by his master until they were both in the Force together and all confessions could be made.

Pain swept through him as he thought of the words Qui-Gon had said, but he crushed it down, thinking of the tone, the trusting confident tone, they had been said in. That voice from his master was worth more than a thousand I love yous from another's lips -- there was perfect peace and confidence in Obi-Wan there. Those words were not a punishment, but a blessing.

Obi-Wan laid his hands on the cold concrete where his master had lain.

"I promise you, Master," he whispered. "I will train him." Then he sank into a light meditative trance, feeling the emotions swirling in the room. He caught his own fear and denial, heavy in the area, but nothing of Qui-Gon, no fear, no terror, nothing except a kind of...peace.

This day had been a profitable one; there was acceptance now in Obi-Wan's heart.

Acceptance, not serenity. Not yet.

----

Obi-Wan spent the next morning meditating in the gardens of the palace, letting his mind be filled with the beauty of the planet Qui-Gon's death had saved.

Later that day he went to talk with some of the citizens of Naboo, some who had lost family in the fight for freedom, some who had been put into camps to await certain death.

Children gathered around him, Captain Panaka's young daughter among them, and told lisping stories of what it had been like in the prison camps, living in terror, not knowing whether their Queen had abandoned them, or even if she was alive or dead.

And there, in the prison camps, their mothers had told them tales of the great Jedi, the ones who could command armies with a mere look, who carried swords of pure flame, who could pull objects across the room with their eyes.

Needless to say, the children were ecstatic at the idea of meeting Obi-Wan Kenobi, who laughed inwardly at their childish wonder, but nevertheless told some tales of his own, and played with them.

That evening Obi-Wan lay on the roof of the palace, staring up at the night sky, wondering about the vastness of the universe in general sleepy sense, wondering if in all those stars anyone mourned for Qui-Gon Jinn, out of all the people he had met and saved.

He went to bed late that night, mind bent on something other than his own loss.

----

The next morning dawned under a light rain which ended just after dawn, just enough dampness to make the grass wet and a rainbow smile in the sky. Obi-Wan, looking out from the palace, at a bit of a loss about what to do, felt a great desire well up in him to go down the waterfall, and wander in the green fields that day.

He made his way through the rain-soaked gardens to the edge of the falls, where he had been sitting two days earlier, cast about a bit, and found a steep trail leading under the waterfall to the valley floor.

A long scramble down broken rocky steps, a quick duck under the waterfall's edge, and Obi-Wan was down the falls, and out of the city of Theed. He turned back to look at the morning sunshine glinting in the waterfall, alight with thousands of rainbows in the sun. Far below the sight of the city, the water looked wild and free, unharnessed by any hand except nature itself.

"Beautiful," he whispered, the damp breeze caressing his hair like a lover's hand. For the first time since, well, since, he felt himself smiling spontaneously. Such beauty could not fail to charm the saddest of hearts.

And there in that moment, there was serenity in his heart. Qui-Gon was dead, but there was still beauty in the universe, and one day they would meet again.

Obi-Wan smiled, turned to move away from the river, and stopped dead still, silent in absolute shock. There, standing before him, looking as healthy as Obi-Wan himself stood his dead master, Qui-Gon Jinn.

----

The world went gray, and Obi-Wan closed his eyes, certain he was going mad. When he opened them, Qui-Gon was still there.

"M...aster," he whispered brokenly, "But you're dead."

Qui-Gon smiled, holding out his hands. "Feel them, do these feel like dead hands to you?" he asked.

"No," Obi-Wan said, trying the experiment, reaching forward to touch Qui-Gon's palm with a tentative finger. "But how...?"

Qui-Gon grasped the hand attached to the finger and reeled Obi-Wan closer, very slowly. "Wait, just a moment," he said. "I greet you from the other side of death, and all you can say is 'how?'"

Obi-Wan laughed and drew nearer. This was his master and no mistake.

Qui-Gon smiled, teasing. "No 'hello, how are you, Master?' Nothing else?"

Obi-Wan looked up at his master, eyes gone soft. They were so close now that he could feel the warmth of his master's body. "Well, there was something I never told you..."

"Yes, my Obi-Wan?"

And Obi-Wan gasped it out. "I love you," he whispered, voice rough as gravel.

A harsh intake of breath from Qui-Gon. "There was something *I* never told you either - that I feel the same, Obi-Wan. I love you too."

Naturally as breathing, their lips met in a soft, gentle kiss. Their first. Years of longing were sweetly spilled out into that caress. When they broke apart, both were flushed and breathing harshly.

"You returned from the dead just to tell me that?" it was Obi-Wan's turn to tease.

"If I had, it was worth it," Qui-Gon said, his arms still around his former padawan.

"*Are* you dead?" was Obi-Wan's next question. "Not that it matters at the moment, but I'd like to know I didn't achieve serenity about your passing for nothing."

Qui-Gon laughed again. "Yes, Obi-Wan, I am dead. I was killed anyway. But such things are so relative."

"I must return to my first question, then" Obi-Wan said, finally moving out of Qui-Gon's arms, not releasing his hand though. "How?"

"Obi-Wan, my padawan," Qui-Gon's voice was soft. "Sometimes Jedi who die with unfinished business are granted leave by the Force, in times of greatness, to return. For a reason I don't know, I have become one of them. I am, Obi-Wan, the Dead that Walks."

"Master...I don't understand," Obi-Wan said.

"Apparently, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said, "I have been given a certain amount of time, to be used at any time now or in the future on any planet, to do my best to correct what my death may have destroyed."

"I still don't understand," Obi-Wan said. "Can you stay with me? Or will the Force snatch you away at any moment?"

"Probably the second option, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon answered, "though that's not what I'd choose."

"Nor I," whispered Obi-Wan, holding Qui-Gon's hand ever tighter. "Shall we - can we...return to my rooms? Please?"

"Oh, eager youth," Qui-Gon sighed. Then his expression turned mischievous. "Why wait 'til then?"

Obi-Wan smiled, and pulled his master down, sealing their mouths together. Qui-Gon's arms went around him, so familiar and yet new at the same time.

Obi-Wan marveled that he could kiss and hold the same person who had just days ago lain dead in his arms. During their kissing, clothes managed to fall away, landing haphazardly on the grass. Glancing around between their kisses, he noticed that there was not a soul in view over the green plains. The tall grass would also be a shelter, he thought, laying their assorted clothing over the ground in a moment when they realized comfort might be a desired thing.

They collapsed together, Obi-Wan underneath, still kissing, hands roaming over warm flesh.

"How long I've wanted this," Obi-Wan whispered, breaking off their kiss to flick his tongue against Qui-Gon's ear. Qui-Gon smiled through a gasp.

"I've loved you so long, couldn't tell you before," he whispered back.

"Tell me now. Tell me again and again forever," Obi-Wan said, lying back against Qui-Gon's discarded robe.

And Qui-Gon did. Pressed a gentle kiss to Obi-Wan's forehead, "I love you." Soft kiss to lips, tongues sliding together for a glorious instant. "I love you."

Hand stroking down Obi-Wan's body, over the expanse of scarred golden skin, down to the hard thigh, lightly brushing the erection that leaped to meet his hand. "I love you."

Obi-Wan lifted his hand, sliding it over Qui-Gon's loosened hair and across a shoulder, down to his hand, twining their fingers together. "As do I love you," he said in return.

Another kiss, this one long and deep, Obi-Wan sweetly exploring Qui-Gon's mouth with a questing tongue. Their hands broke apart and went wandering over skin again; Qui-Gon's fingers lingering on Obi-Wan's dark specks of nipples. Obi-Wan gasped, arching into the touch, his own hands tracing a path down Qui-Gon's back to the smooth buttocks.

"...love you," Obi-Wan whispered harshly, breath short. Their lips met again, Obi-Wan pulling his master fully on top of him. Their erections met, and they gasped into each other's mouths, desire focusing and exploding in a pinpoint of passion.

Afterward, they lay together silently for many minutes, too exhausted to move, reveling in the feel and warmth of the other. Obi-Wan's hand lazily petted Qui-Gon's hair, fingers catching on the mussed strands. Qui-Gon's lips moved against Obi-Wan's hair, soundlessly mouthing I love you over and over.

At last Obi-Wan spoke. "Master," he said, "Do you know how long you have to stay here, or at least how many times you get to be here as you are now?"

Qui-Gon raised his head and smiled sadly. "I do not know, Obi-Wan," he said. "I come to this plane as the Force directs, and even in death I am not privy to the secrets of balance. I can only watch as the events of the universe unfold, and, sometimes, amend them."

Obi-Wan sat up. "The Force seeks balance, as I have been told." Qui-Gon nodded. "Then I gather you are sent here because your being here makes the Force closer to balance."

"That would be so," Qui-Gon said. "But I can only be here as I am and have been. There are others, some long dead, who I have met, who may return in many forms, a very few who may even be reborn." He paused, and looked deep into Obi-Wan's eyes, riveting him with these words.

"I have heard this as I have spoken with the Dead-That-Walk, recently there has been a reborn one who has left their ranks to walk the soil again. I believe him to be Anakin."

Obi-Wan looked away. "I am sorry I said that he was dangerous, if his coming means great good things for the Jedi."

'It means a realignment is in order," Qui-Gon said. "The balance is too far off; drastic measures are being taken to restore it."

"Looking at all the evil in the galaxy, I cannot help but say that it's about time," Obi-Wan said, smiling then.

The subject was dropped as they stood and gathered their clothes together, each helping to dress the other, often teasing.

As the sun shone overhead, marking the Naboo noon, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon made their way up the stairs to the city of Theed. In Obi-Wan's rooms, they continued their talk, and discussed no matters of balance and death now, only their love, and their vows that would surpass death itself.

And as the afternoon waned on into evening, and evening into night, they made love again, and Obi-Wan fell asleep wrapped in Qui-Gon's arms.

But the next morning he was not there. Obi-Wan woke up with a vague sense of loss, and then remembered that Qui-Gon could not always stay beside him, for he was "alive" only temporarily, as the Force willed it.

After rolling out of bed, Obi-Wan padded over to the window to look out. Passing the desk, he glimpsed a piece of paper that had not been there yesterday lying on it, and picked up the heavy palace stationary, obviously usually used for note-taking, and read what was written on it, in Qui-Gon's familiar smooth writing:

My dearest Obi-Wan,

My body shall be like the wind on the seashore. I will be closer than the breeze to you. I promise I will rescue you when the darkness is too much; I will be there when the waves threaten to destroy you. This is no typical lover's vow; I will show you what love is like after death; that the strength of it cannot be broken, that the silence of it cannot be shouted down, that the eternity of it cannot be wrested from me.

I shall caress you in the night and hold you in invisible arms in the day. There shall be no shadow that falls upon you that I shall not also feel. There shall be no sorrow you experience that I shall not also experience. This I vow to you because I love you and because I left you too soon.

And one day in eternity we shall be together forever. Words cannot say how much I long for that day.

Forever yours,

Qui-Gon

Obi-Wan glanced up from the paper to feel the gentle breeze brush against his shoulder, reassuring him that what Qui-Gon had said on that paper was truth.

----

Years went by and Obi-Wan saw his master only once, when he lay in a dark cell without a ray of hope, awaiting only death for himself and his padawan in the morning. Keys rattled outside, and he sat up startled. He could only see a dim shadow in the hallway and could only hear a low-whispered voice. "Love, take this and escape," it said. "It is not yet your time to die."

Obi-Wan got up on shaking limbs and retrieved the keys to the cells, sparing only a whispered "Master," and a soft kiss to the fingers that passed the keys through the bars. Then Qui-Gon was gone from his sight, and as silently as possible Obi-Wan began to work to free himself and Anakin.

The only people Obi-Wan told about Qui-Gon's reappearances were Mace, Depa, and Yoda. And of them, only Yoda knew anything of the Dead-That-Walk, and he knew very little.

But for most of the next ten years, there was only Obi-Wan, love-vowed to a dead man, wondering in the silence of the night whether he had made promises he could not keep. At times like that, he would read Qui-Gon's letter over and over, whispering to the quiet dark his fears and longings, sure somehow that he was heard.

Anakin's training went smoothly for the most part. He and Obi-Wan developed an easy rapport and a well-developed working bond. They quickly grew fond of each other, though the affection never went farther than friendship: Obi-Wan was devoted body and soul to his master, and Anakin, well, showed quite a bit of interest in letters from Naboo.

So when Amidala was re-elected in Anakin's nineteenth year and requested Jedi to oversee the ceremonies, Anakin, who had somehow become a favorite among many Council members, asked that he and his master might go, and it was granted swiftly.

And on Naboo, while the Queen and the Jedi Padawan flirted and courted, Obi-Wan made his way back down the falls to where his master had met him.

He was not disappointed; a tall figure was waiting there, holding out his arms.

After the laughter, kisses, smiles, and sweet excited words all newly-reunited lovers share, Obi-Wan asked the simple, loaded question, "Why do I get to talk to you now?"

Qui-Gon instantly went sober. He took one of Obi-Wan's hands in both of his, gently. "I came to warn you," he said. "Watch Anakin carefully."

"What?" Obi-Wan laughed. "Next you'll be telling me, 'the boy is dangerous!' I assure you, nothing's wrong with Anakin. He's an almost perfect padawan."

"So was Xanatos," Qui-Gon said, letting go of Obi-Wan's hand and tucking his arms into his sleeves.

"There's no Darkness in Anakin," Obi-Wan said, a bit heatedly.

"'Hard to see, the Dark Side is,'" Qui-Gon quoted. "And I see more than you do, love. Beware of him."

Obi-Wan shook his head. "I just find it impossible to believe that my padawan hides any darker design than an intention to bond with Amidala! He's excellent in everything - far better than I was. He has a large circle of friends, and even Mace Windu approves of him. I'd sooner mark myself a candidate for Darkness," he continued with a wry grin, "I that spend most of my time longing for a dead man!"

"He is the Chosen One," was all Qui-Gon would say further on the subject. Then his somber expression faded into a smile, and he reached for Obi-Wan's hand. "Now let's see if we can't do something about that longing of yours." And Obi-Wan went laughing into Qui-Gon's arms and the matter of Anakin was forgotten.

Very late that evening, when the moon of Naboo was about to set, but before Obi-Wan retired, Anakin danced joyfully into their shared suite, laughing as he told his master how he and Queen Amidala had confessed their love to each other.

Obi-Wan, disturbed more than he'd let on by Qui-Gon's words, watched Anakin carefully for any signs of fear or anger or hate, but could discern none at all. In fact, Anakin's behavior was perfectly normal, for a young man who was deeply in love. Obi-Wan dismissed Qui-Gon's warning with a silent shrug.

The next three years flew by, and at the age of twenty-two, as one of the youngest padawans to take the Trials, Anakin Skywalker, former Tatooine slave boy, became a Jedi Knight.

Anakin's Knighting ceremony was attended by nearly all the Jedi who were on-planet. Congratulations poured in from almost every place the team of Kenobi and Skywalker had visited on their diplomatic travels. It seemed that everyone in the galaxy was fond of the blond determined boy Anakin had been, and the strong brave Knight he had become.

Amidala sent Anakin a long letter at his knighting, which, the blushing Knight explained to Obi-Wan, was her formal proposal to him. The date was set for their marriage in it, he said, and he would be so pleased if his master could be a witness to the union.

Obi-Wan consented gladly, and they went to Naboo a couple of weeks later. But that time when Obi-Wan walked down the stairs to the meadow, there was no Qui-Gon. It was a very disappointed Obi-Wan who returned later that day, watching Anakin and Amidala's preparations for their wedding with some jealousy.

But several days later, when the marriage actually took place, Obi-Wan was smiling again, happy for his former apprentice.

The morning of the wedding, Chancellor Palpatine arrived with an entourage of what seemed like thousands. Anakin, who had met the Chancellor several times, and been impressed by his cheerful friendliness, welcomed him, but Obi-Wan stayed aloof - his impression of the Chancellor would always be colored by those days after his master's death, when the only thing the Chancellor had done was "commend his bravery," not a word about his loss.

A foolish dislike, Obi-Wan told himself, but he could not free himself from it.

Obi-Wan was called back to Coruscant almost immediately after the wedding. Arriving home, he glanced around his rooms, and realized that, though Anakin was a knight now, he had not yet removed his things from Obi-Wan's rooms. Obi-Wan shrugged and made a mental note to talk to Anakin about it in a month's time, when the newly-weds' honeymoon would be over.

Resuming his teaching duties, Obi-Wan spent the next two weeks in lonely busyness, longing for some friend to talk to, or someone to kiss. But of Qui-Gon there was no sign; Obi-Wan began to wonder if his Master had abandoned him.

So one evening alone in his rooms, when he heard the familiar crackle of "call-incoming," Obi-Wan eagerly allowed it access and switched on the holoviewer. Anakin was on the other side, face gray and weary.

"Master!" he said. "You have to help me!"

"What is it, Anakin...are you well?" Obi-Wan asked; there was nothing that could cause him distress on his honeymoon, was there?

"Yes, Master...but, oh..." Anakin's voice trailed off, and Obi-Wan waited while Anakin gathered his composure.

"Master, Jabba the Hutt has officially taken Tatooine as his own."

Obi-Wan was confused: what did Tatooine have to do with anything?

"They say there is a bloody civil war going on there at the moment; the Jawas and Tusken Raiders don't like the idea," Anakin continued.

Obi-Wan suddenly recalled that Anakin was from Tatooine and his mother was still there.

"Oh. Anakin."

"Master, I have to go there. My mother may be in the thick of the fighting, Mos Espa is so close to Jabba's lair."

Obi-Wan was shocked. Surely the boy - young man - wouldn't just run off to Tatooine on a fool's mission without the approval of the Council?

"Please, Master," Anakin pleaded. "Just talk to the Council for me. Something horrible is going on, I know it is. It could mean my mother is..." he trailed off, tears in his eyes. Obi-Wan nodded.

"I'll talk to them, Ani," he said. "But I can't promise anything. You know the Council. Until I contact you again, you do not have permission to go to Tatooine, you know that."

"Yes, I know," Anakin said, clenching his fingers. "Please, Obi-Wan, I need your help. Please, don't let my mother..."

"I'll do all I can, my padawan," Obi-Wan said. Then he cut the connection.

Shmi Skywalker, he thought. That was his mother's name, Qui-Gon had said.

He placed a call to the Council.

----

"They say no, Anakin," Obi-Wan said to the small figure of his former apprentice several hours later. Anakin's shoulders dropped.

"Master! No! I have to go!" Anakin exclaimed. "She could be dead! She could be badly hurt, and I promised her I'd see her again! I promised!"

"Anakin, you cannot go into the middle of an Outer Rim civil war. We have no jurisdiction there."

Anakin's face suddenly twisted. "I'll go anyway," he said and cut the connection.

----

The rest of that story was soon all over the Galactic news. Obi-Wan followed the story with a terrified heart. Anakin had flown a small fighter to the Tatooine system, arriving in a blaze of fury. He had killed several warriors on both sides of the conflict in his haste to get to his mother.

It had been too late. She was dead, her throat cut by one of Jabba's minions, who was ruthlessly destroying all of Watto's property. She had been raped, several times, violently, before her death.

Now Anakin was pursued by both the Jawas and Hutts, with a price on his head, he had violated the Code and needlessly wasted life, and the Council universally condemned him.

Obi-Wan, grief-struck, called Anakin, trying to get through the space static, but Anakin would not take his calls. He had holed up on an uninhabited planet for fear of his pursuers and allowed no communications.

Using every diplomatic spying skill available to a Jedi Master, Obi-Wan wrangled his location out of the comm. signal, and raced to the planet Kerida.

After landing his small airship in the area Anakin's signal corresponded with, Obi-Wan got out of the ship and glanced around, knowing his arrival had to have been noted by Anakin.

All too soon, the dirty figure of Anakin appeared from behind a small hill, walking toward Obi-Wan.

"Anakin!" Obi-Wan yelled over the wind. "Come home! Don't do this, you'll be caught!"

"If you can trace me, you mean, others can too, right?" Anakin said, voice hoarse. "Who cares? I've ruined my life anyway."

"No! It's not too late, Ani, you can still be redeemed..." Obi-Wan said, his voice trailing off as Anakin got closer to him. A pale, dirty, broken figure of a man stared at him from Anakin's familiar blue eyes.

And in sudden horror, Obi-Wan realized that Anakin had fallen, completely, to the Dark Side.

"Padawan! No! You can't do this!" Obi-Wan exclaimed, hair flying in the sharp wind. "You're better than this!"

Anakin drew his lightsaber out of his belt and turned it on, the green light shining like a sickly parody of Light. "You might as well have killed my mother yourself - you and the damned Council! It's your fault she's dead!" He took several steps toward Obi-Wan, who stood stunned, not believing that his former apprentice would actually hurt him. Until Anakin slashed across his arm, burning it. Then elemental responses took over and Obi-Wan drew his own saber, pale blue flickering in the sunlight.

Anakin wasn't in practice, or the fight would have been over soon. As it was, they fought up the hill, twisting, turning, backing up, rushing forward, slashing, jumping, leaping.

So absorbed in the silent fight that neither noticed where fate was leading them, they fought to the very edge of a cliff, and Obi-Wan realized suddenly that below was a sea of fire, that in fact they were fighting on the edge of a volcano.

Anakin apparently didn't realize that fact, or maybe he wanted the fight to end, some trace of good left in him not daring to break his master's heart by forcing him to kill his apprentice. However it was, Anakin took a step backward, avoiding Obi-Wan's slash-cut to his side, and tumbled, eyes wide, into the volcano, landing roughly on a ledge a few steps down.

Obi-Wan knelt on the edge of the volcano, ignoring its rumblings - that was his padawan in there.

"Anakin, give me your hand!" he said, reaching out and down. Anakin reached back up, trying to use the Force to steady himself. Too late.

With a muffled roar, the volcano exploded, the bit of ground Obi-Wan was kneeling on was swept into the pit, and the last thing Obi-Wan felt was heat and pain, burning, burning. So painful, the endless heat of years coalesced here. As he fell past Anakin, he felt, too briefly, the sweep of his padawan's fingers against his, trying to catch him in his turn.

Then there was only heat, rushing through his body, and complete silence.

----

He felt before he opened his eyes: soft cloth against his cheek, warmth and a feeling of peace. A gentle breeze stirred his hair. He felt very young and exhausted, like a child after a hard day.

"Obi-Wan," the voice was like a caress against his skin. He opened his eyes, not at all surprised to find he was lying in Qui-Gon's arms, on green grass under sunlight.

"Master," he whispered, and snuggled closer. Then looked up. "Am I - are we...?" he said, not sure how to say it.

Qui-Gon's laugh was a gentle puff of air against his hand. "Yes, my Obi-Wan, we are."

A few more moments of sweet reunion, and Obi-Wan remembered. He sat up. "Where's Anakin? What happened?"

Qui-Gon sat up with him, drawing him back against his chest. "I don't know."

"We should find out - how can we do that?" Obi-Wan said, getting to his feet. Qui-Gon followed.

Closing his eyes, Obi-Wan reached out for the Force signature of his padawan. The horror and fear that Anakin was feeling momentarily overwhelmed him, and suddenly he saw Anakin, unconscious, lying on the small ledge poised above the volcano, mind wandering in a dark maze.

"He's not dead," Obi-Wan whispered, taking Qui-Gon's hand and sharing the scene with his master.

"But we can't help him, unless the Force sends us there," Qui-Gon said back.

Then the scene shifted, and Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon saw the dim forms of humans running up the hill, picking up Anakin's limp form. They chattered in a strange language for several moments, then loaded his body into their ship.

"So Anakin's not dead? But what happened to him?" Obi-Wan said.

"The Force will reveal that," Qui-Gon said. "Whatever it is, it probably hasn't happened yet."

They watched together as the ship flew toward Coruscant, watched as Anakin was carried out, still unconscious, watched as he was laid in a dark cell and left there to wake alone.

"The beings that took him were agents of evil, I know it," Obi-Wan stage-whispered to Qui-Gon.

"Yes, because they took him into -" Qui-Gon broke off as a dark figure, deeply cloaked and hooded, entered the room where Anakin was just awaking.

"So, the Jedi prize," the figure said, addressing Anakin.

Anakin tried to move, but could barely sit up. "What have you done to me?" he said, raising a weak hand to his head.

"Your master's dead, you killed him, you know that," the figure continued, not seeming to notice Anakin's words at all.

"No," Anakin whispered. "No, Obi-Wan, my master, I didn't mean it." He paused, turning his head away. "What have I done?"

"Turned to the Dark Side, it seems," the figure said. "Embrace it, young one, it is your destiny." The figure took the hood off, revealing a dark twisted, but still familiar, face.

"Chancellor Palpatine!" was exclaimed by both Anakin and Obi-Wan.

"I thought it was," Qui-Gon said, slipping an supportive arm around Obi-Wan's waist as they continued to view the scene playing out in their minds.

"Yes," Palpatine said. "Let me explain your situation to you. You have been cast out of the Jedi, you are widely known to have "turned," as the Light-idiots say it, and are presumed dead."

The look of horror on Anakin's face told its own tale as Palpatine approached.

"Prepare to learn the true meaning of fear," the dark Chancellor declared. "You will serve me, or you will die."

----

"Amidala!" Obi-Wan called out to the young woman sitting on a bench in the gardens, hand over her barely protruding belly. "It's Obi-Wan!"

She turned with a stunned look on her face. "I thought you were dead!" she exclaimed.

"I am," Obi-Wan said. "But that doesn't matter now; I've been sent to warn you. You are in great danger. Anakin is no longer Anakin, Jedi Knight, he has instead become an agent of the Dark Side. A Sith."

Amidala leaped to her feet. "What?" she said. "How do you know?"

"I saw the transformation myself," Obi-Wan said. "He has turned. Completely. And his master's first command to him was an order to kill you."

"No!" Amidala's face crumpled; her hands went up to cover her eyes. "Anakin would never hurt me!"

"I thought the same, your Highness, until he drew his saber against me," Obi-Wan said. "Come, quickly, we must get you away from here. You are in great danger."

She submitted to Obi-Wan's pulling hand. "Where do we go?" she asked.

"Do you have friends who can keep you safe until you deliver the children?" Obi-Wan said, pulling her along in his wake toward the palace.

Amidala gasped in a breath. "Bail Organa. He's a family friend on Alderaan." She paused. "The children?"

"You're carrying twins, Amidala," Obi-Wan said, letting go of her hand long enough to open the door and half-shove her inside ahead of him.

"Twins?" she said, amazed. "I hadn't even thought, how did you know, it's only been three months...?"

They ducked into an anteroom next to the door, and Obi-Wan handed Amidala a comlink. "Call your handmaidens, you'll need to do a switch."

"Right," Amidala said, breathing in.

It was amazing how quickly the handmaidens responded. For all they looked pretty, they knew what to do in every emergency, including, apparently, the case of "villain after the Queen."

Before three hours went by, Amidala and her entourage were loaded onto a small starship, destination revealed only to the pilot. Obi-Wan and Amidala sat next the pilot, watching carefully for any incoming ships.

They got away from the surface without any trouble, but the pilot noted a large dark ship flying in as they left.

"Remember the Sith's ship, the Infiltrator?" Amidala said to Obi-Wan, watching on the viewscreen. "That's a duplicate of it, if I'm not mistaken."

Obi-Wan nodded. "Yes." He took a deep breath. "I'm not sure how long I'll be able to stay with you, so if I suddenly disappear, don't be alarmed."

"If this is your destiny, you will fulfill it," Amidala said.

----

Obi-Wan, much to his own surprise, never did disappear from Amidala's side and return to Qui-Gon. If it were not for a sudden lack of interest in food, and a feeling of utter lightness at times, he would have thought he had never died at all. Amidala and Bail Organa also stated that sometimes they could almost see right through him, though at other times he looked solid.

The twins were born five months later, almost a month early, but strong and healthy. In all that time, Anakin had not caught up with them. Or maybe he was not trying to, Obi-Wan thought.

He had watched the torture of Anakin by Palpatine with tear-filled eyes, wincing as the young Jedi stood firm for as long as possible. It was a simple thing that finally broke Anakin in the end -- the suggestion that his wife was unfaithful to him, and unfaithful with Obi-Wan, at that.

After that, it had been an easy thing for Palpatine to command Anakin to kill Amidala.

And the look of tortured resolve on Anakin's face had almost killed Obi-Wan all over again.

----

"Obi-Wan!" Sabe called to him as he came up the steps of the Organa palace one summer afternoon about a year after the twins' birth. "They've found us! They've found us!"

"At last," Obi-Wan said. It had been a waiting game they were all playing, and if Amidala's death had not lurked at the end of it, he would have wished it hurried up.

"How much time do we have?" Amidala's voice was steady, as she clasped little Leia in her arms, holding tight to her.

"About two hours, I'd guess," the technician who had cracked the codes of the Infiltrator duplicate to tell them the ship was on its way to Alderaan said.

"Obi-Wan," Amidala said, a sudden resolve filling her voice. "Take Luke and go!"

"Where?" Obi-Wan said.

"Anywhere!" Amidala answered. "Somewhere safe from Vader."

She turned to Sabe, handing Leia to her. "Hide her," she said.

Sabe and Obi-Wan looked at Amidala, whose hair was falling loose around her, floating in the wind. In the dying sunlight she looked too beautiful to live. "Please!" she said. "If I have to die, at least my children will live."

Sighing, Obi-Wan picked up Luke from his cradle. "Farewell, beloved of Anakin," he said. "Never doubt he loved you. Everything he did was done with passion."

"And now he's going to kill me, with passion I don't doubt," Amidala said, her mouth twisting in a wry smile.

Obi-Wan smiled back at her. "Death is not the end," he said. "I know this for certain. Greet Qui-Gon for me."

"Indeed I will," Amidala said. "Now. Hurry."

"Goodbye," Obi-Wan said, shifting Luke to his shoulder. He raced for a transport, seeing at the same time, Sabe running in the opposite direction toward the underground passageways.

----

It would make too long a tale to say how far Obi-Wan wandered among the stars with Luke or the adventures he had, trying to keep the child alive. For while he wandered, the Temple fell to the Sith, the Chancellor seized power, and Darth Vader killed Amidala, Queen of the Naboo, on the steps of the palace of Alderaan.

At last he found himself on Tatooine. The civil wars had died down, and once again the planet was involved in an uneasy truce. He brought the battered transport down for a landing outside Mos Espa and made his way into a small tavern.

Someone who looked a lot like Anakin stood at the bar, talking avidly to the bartender.

Obi-Wan looked through the crowd at the man. There was no way it could have been Anakin himself, for he had been so disfigured by fire and torture that he was no longer even recognizable. Perhaps it was someone related to Anakin.

"Ah!" the man said, turning to him as he walked up. "A human in this world! Not a slave!"

"No," Obi-Wan said. "I'm not a slave."

"What are you doing here, then?" the man asked. "Shady something or other, maybe?"

"Not really," Obi-Wan said.

"I believe you," the stranger said. "About as far as I can throw you, but there! You're human, I'll buy you a drink."

"Thank you," Obi-Wan said, already beginning to like this man.

"I'm Owen, by the way," he said.

"I'm --" Obi-Wan paused. "Ben. Ben Kenobi."

"And who's this?" Owen said. "Don't try to fool me, I know you're carrying a baby, though can't for the life of me figure out why. Yours?"

"No," Obi-Wan said, and then without thinking, "this is Luke Skywalker."

"An abandoned child?" Owen asked.

"Rather," Obi-Wan said.

"Attached to him?" Owen asked.

"A little," Obi-Wan said.

Owen smiled. "Well, this atmosphere can't be good for him. Let's get out of here, I'll take you home for that drink."

Obi-Wan nodded and followed Owen out of the bar.

----

"Oh, he's so adorable!" Beru couldn't stop gushing over Luke. Owen had introduced his young wife, and she had taken Luke to her like he was water in the desert.

"We can't, you know, have children," Owen told Obi-Wan in an aside. "She loves kids, though. Would take in fifty a week if she could."

"He was abandoned?" Beru said, turning to Obi-Wan.

"Kind of," Obi-Wan answered. "His parents are dead. I could not refuse to take him."

"Do you really want to keep him?" Beru lifted Luke in her arms. "Because if you don't --"

"Beru!" Owen said.

She smiled at her husband. "Come on. We can support him. And you know I've always wanted children."

Obi-Wan considered it for a long moment. "If you want him," he said at last, "you can have him."

Beru smiled brightly. Owen smiled too, just a little.

"With certain conditions," Obi-Wan added.

----

Obi-Wan threw himself down on the small bed of the tiny cabin out in the wilderness of Tatooine. He was pledged to watch over Luke, for Amidala. And he was doing so as best he could. At least if Vader wanted to find him, Luke would most likely be safe.

More than anything, he missed Qui-Gon. Missed the freedom of death. He did not need to eat here and could not be killed again, since he had already died once, but wanted to be home, in Qui-Gon's arms.

"Qui-Gon," he whispered. "Come to me, can you come to me?"

Closing his eyes, he focused on fading from the visible world. "Qui-Gon," he said again.

"I'm here, love," a familiar voice said.

"It seems I come to you now," Obi-Wan laughed, opening his eyes in the green field of death. Then he went gladly into Qui-Gon's arms, knowing that when it was time to return to Luke, he would be sent.

"All the threads are being woven together," he said, and kissed Qui-Gon.

END