Embarrassed by his lack of emotional control, something he'd been fighting to regain since his captivity, Obi-Wan continued with his task. He placed the letters on top of the items inside his duffel and tightened the cord. Setting the pack on the floor, he neglected to notice the fact that he hadn't clasped the flap shut.
Swyer watched the young Jedi as he tried to behave nonchalant, as if everything was as it had been before. Pushing away from his position inside the doorway, he took a step forward. "Are you ready?" His tone was gentle in light of the scene he has walked in on.
Obi-Wan's eyes met his but he didn't speak. Instead he gave a slight nod.
"I know that Master Windu didn't agree with your silence during your time of recovery, but he understands your reasons for not wanting your mentor to know."
Obi-Wan bit the inside of his left cheek as his eyes turned down to look at the floor. "If Qui-Gon had seen what happened, he never would have let me out of his sight again." Releasing a deep sigh, Obi-Wan turned his head to the side and looked up for a moment before looking at the man who had helped to rescue him. "And yet I'm not so certain that that's a bad idea."
"I'm not sure what the Jedi consider a job well done, but believe me when I say that you did do well. Your mentor is proud of you, Obi-Wan. You read it yourself."
"It's been two years. Two naming days have passed. A lot has changed."
"Not so much. I'm sure Master Jinn is the same as he's always been. Although, perhaps a bit more weary than two years previous but that's to be expected considering the circumstances." The commander studied the young man before him. "As for you, you're still the same kid who came over that hill amidst exploding devices and blaster fire cutting through the air as if he didn't even notice. Being a prisoner of war will change a person, and yet in you I can still see the young man from before. In everything you've been through, you've just forgotten how to let go and be yourself."
Obi-Wan rubbed a hand over tired features before replying, "Thank you, but I don't feel the same."
The commander shook his head and held up a hand. "It is I who should be thanking you. Because of your quick thinking, coupled with your selfless sacrifice and your training, I am able to go home to my family."
Obi-Wan frowned slightly, his voice taking on an edge of sternness as he replied, "That was something you should have done the first time around."
Swyer grinned. "I know. But being a father myself I couldn't in good conscious allow your master to think the worst let alone go through the loss of a child. I had to do what I know he would have done for me. It's an unwritten code between fathers."
Obi-Wan started to say something when Master Windu made his presence known. "He's right, Obi-Wan. You did what you were trained for and you did it well." Mace smiled, something Obi-Wan rarely – if ever – saw the master do. "I can't wait to see Qui-Gon's expression when he realizes your home."
Feeling better but still a slight nervous, Obi-Wan shouldered his pack and bade farewell to the Commander. Turning toward the hatch, he straightened his tunic and followed the Jedi to the ramp.
Qui-Gon walked slowly down the corridor keeping his stride in step with the elder master at his side. Yoda had happened upon him on the terrace outside the Council chambers. The patio was larger than most and its position near the top of the Council spire offered an unobstructed view of the city. Knowing what was currently occupying the Jedi's thoughts and wishing to distract him, Yoda asked him to accompany him to the Temple hanger bay to greet a dignitary that the Jedi would temporarily house until the Senatorial staff prepared the proper accommodations.
Knowing he would be drug into a political conversation, Qui-Gon had declined the invite declaring that he had other things he needed to tend to. The look on the elder's face quickly stilled his protests and he now found himself escorting him to the docking bay.
Having reached their destination, Qui-Gon and Yoda stood side-by-side (just inside the docking bay entrance) watching the shuttle set down upon the durasteel surface below. Allowing an exasperated breath to escape, Qui-Gon shifted his stance while failing to notice the amused look his grandmaster sent him.
"Nervous are you? Fidgeting like a youngling you are."
"Hmph, a youngling I am not, master, but wonder I do why my presence is needed here at all."
"Learn that soon enough you will." Yoda replied, ignoring Qui-Gon's attempt to mock him.
The hatch to the ship opened, and the flight crew immediately walked down to perform status checks on the ship. Soon after, a man in military garb descended the plank and paused at the bottom just as he would have stepped down. Turning to look back at the transport, he spoke to someone inside.
The scene unfolding before him effectively gained Qui-Gon's attention drawing it upwards toward the opening. Mace stepped out and once he was in step with Commander Swyer, the two walked toward the Jedi awaiting their arrival.
Eyebrows drawn in question, Qui-Gon said, "I thought you had a few more stops that needed to be made before you returned; you said there were a few more leads." His tone demanded an explanation.
Offering a bow of greeting, Mace rose back to a standing position and held up his hands in supplication. "Hold up, Jinn. We're here because we've received good news."
The two were quickly caught up in conversation, failing to notice the third figure that had descended the ramp. Stopping a short distance away so not to intrude in the lively debate the two were currently engaged in, the youngest of the group waited patiently.
Yoda watched the young one walk toward them and smiled. Without notice by the two nearest to him, he hobbled over to greet the newcomer. Obi-Wan watched the Master and when he was within distance, he knelt to his level.
"Good to have you home, young one. Impossible your master has been to live with since your disappearance."
A reluctant smile graced the padawan's lips making the master's heart glad that he could still lighten the young one's heart. Green eyes studied the young man closely. "Much healing has been done, but sense more to come I do."
The left side of Obi-Wan's lips lifted into a half smirk before nodding in agreement. He knew better than to try to fool the elder into thinking he was completely well.
The tap of a stick against his elbow regained his attention. "How feel you?"
"I am glad to be home. But there is a weight upon me that has yet to release its grasp."
Yoda placed a clawed hand over one of the Padawan's. "When face it you do, released it will be." When the young one nodded his acceptance of this, Yoda continued, "Help you we will."
Silence abruptly surrounded them and the two looked up. Obi-Wan stood, his satchel still secured on his shoulder and his eyes resting on Master Yoda. When he looked up, his gaze met that of his mentor.
Qui-Gon's mouth opened and closed several times but nothing came out. He took a step forward and in doing so, stumbled in his surprise and shock. Before he could fall, he found himself caught and steadied.
Obi-Wan dropped his bag not noticing that he hadn't completely closed the latch and hurried forward to steady his master. Qui-Gon's gaze keenly took in that of his padawan. Everything looked the same except for the change he noted in the young one's eyes and the more mature look that graced the boy's features, an expression of having seen too much too soon. A hand appeared at the nape of the padawan's neck pulling him forward. Not caring for Jedi protocol or the fact that others were silently watching, Qui-Gon embraced his student.
Surprise caused Obi-Wan to stiffen slightly before relaxing into the arms that held him. Qui-Gon had never really been openly affectionate. He knew the older man found it difficult to show or voice his feelings when it came to their familial relationship, yet he knew how his master felt and made sure that his mentor always knew of his knowledge. Leaning into the embrace, he said, "I'm following orders, Master. I came home."
Releasing him, Qui-Gon held him at arms length to better make sure the young man was all right. What his eyes found in his parental search was a new bead toward the end of his padawan's braid. Grasping it between two fingers, he gently twirled it. "You've passed your trial." He looked up to meet the young one face to face. "You've been promoted."
"Master Windu placed it on before we left for Coruscant."
"Another step closer, my padawan."
Qui-Gon released the braid, pride showing within a gaze that was just a bit too moist. Looking down for an instant to avoid the too knowing eyes that were watching him, he saw a bundle lying scattered on the floor, its beginning flowing from the open top of the satchel. Curious, he stooped down and picked one up; opening it he saw his own handwriting. Obi-Wan knelt next to him. "I received each and every one. They gave me a reason to keep fighting, and ordering me to come home at the end of each one didn't hurt matters any."
Qui-Gon laughed in spite of himself, and picking up the bundle he carefully handed it to his apprentice who in turn replaced it in his satchel securing the flap.
- the end -
Then two years later
Autumn leaves all around
A ship landed in the hanger
And he fell to the ground
And out stepped a captain
Where his boy used to stand
Said Master I'm following orders
From all of your letters
And I've come home again
He ran into hold him
And dropped all his bags on the floor
Holding all of his letters from war
Bring him home
Bring him home
- Mark Schultz (Letters from War)
Note: Once again I took the liberty of replacing a few words (i.e. car to ship, pulled to landed, driveway to hanger, she to he, her to his, mom to Master, her to him) to fit the Galaxy Far, Far Away.
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