With Eyes Skyward
To Yearn for Impossible Things
His master was reading over something in the datapads, while Obi-Wan sat, watching him. The ship vibrated around them as the cooling systems rebooted, and Obi-Wan managed to tear his eyes away from his master to look at the walls. Bare and cold. He clenched his fingers and stifled a sigh.
It had been several weeks since Qui-Gon had taken Obi-Wan as his padawan. Part of him could not believe that this was real. When Qui-Gon had refused him, Obi-Wan felt crushed. He had such high hopes, from when he was much younger, his abilities highly regarded by his teachers, and his own expectations led him to perform above and beyond. When it seemed like all those bright hopes led only to the life of a farmer, Obi-Wan felt shattered. Part of him still did.
He often had dreams, of life outside the temple, abandoned, forsaken, the aspirations of the past dimmed and tarnished by the harsh present. He would wake and spend a long time recovering his bearings, trying to convince himself that he was a padawan now, and fight the fear that all of this was just a vision, an illusion. A heavy weight had settled on his chest, on his heart, and somehow refused to lift, even after so many weeks. He would try to breath and his chest would constrict like a vice clamped over his lungs.
His friends had noticed that Obi-Wan had gotten quieter ever since he returned to the Temple as Master Jinn's padawan. Master Yoda noted the same. Obi-Wan could not articulate why. In his heart, of course, he knew; he could never quite face the other padawans without feeling out of place. The Force pitied him, perhaps—his disappointment with himself had been all-consuming, and there were times when Obi-Wan had wondered if life was even worth living now—and when he was granted a second chance to become the Jedi he aimed to be, it still did not change the fact that he had not been good enough to be accepted the first time around. He felt like he cheated somehow, or was otherwise granted a gift he did not deserve. Perhaps Qui-Gon thought the same, for while the noble Jedi had accepted Obi-Wan as his padawan learner, he never seemed to accept Obi-Wan himself. Their relationship was uncomfortable, with Qui-Gon behaving professionally, only speaking to Obi-Wan on topics of missions or Obi-Wan's education. For Obi-Wan's part, he did not dare approach Qui-Gon unless his master approached him first. He was too aware of the great favor Qui-Gon did for him.
And so now, with Qui-Gon studying the details of their current mission, Obi-Wan was afraid to ask his master anything. He knew this should not be so, if only because as a youngling, he had seen how other padawans had eagerly questioned their own mentors about missions and events. They cracked jokes, occasionally poked fun, and their masters would smile and laugh and joke right back. Qui-Gon never smiled at Obi-Wan. And Obi-Wan never had the nerve to express his sense of humor. He wholeheartedly believed that, should he step out of line even a little, Qui-Gon would no longer want him.
Assuming that he truly does, even now.
Obi-Wan stifled another sigh. His master put down his datapad.
" Obi-Wan, this is actually much more delicate than I first assumed." His master began. " Two races are having disagreements about territories, both claiming cultural and historical rights. When we arrive, I want you to carefully study the process, and not get involved. I will handle all of the mediation."
" Yes, Master." Obi-Wan nodded, straining to please. His master rose from his chair.
" Territories are especially difficult to mediate when historical and cultural arguments are thrown in." Qui-Gon continued. " Neither party wants to compromise. We will therefore have to take this step by step. It will not be an easy matter."
An alarm beeped. They were about to leave hyperspace. Obi-Wan followed his master to the cockpit, where the two Jedi strapped themselves to the seats as the ship prepared to enter normal space. With a shudder, the stars streamlined into white, and before them was a green planet, lush with vegetation. Qui-Gon increased the shields so they could enter the atmosphere without burning the ship. They descended under the white clouds that covered the land. Obi-Wan watched as the white wisps passed by their ship.
The entire trip had been silent.
" This is Elbatha Air Traffic Control. Please state your identity and purpose." The comm transmitted in heavily-accented Basic.
" This is Qui-Gon Jinn from the Jedi Order." His master replied. " We were invited to Elbatha by King Darbath."
A burst of static followed this. " Master Jedi, please maintain your altitude at this time. We will inform you when you can land."
" Copy that, Air Traffic Control."
The comm fell silent. His master slowed the aircraft to a stop. Obi-Wan could see the small buildings below, woven between thick vegetation. There was apparently heavy air traffic at this moment, as dozens of ships were flying about around them, most of them descending to landing pads below. He wanted to remark on how inefficient the air traffic control was, but held his tongue. He was not comfortable enough with his master to be so free with him.
Presently, the comm came back to life, announcing that they can land. The King was below, waiting to greet them. He was a strange species, with doe-like eyes and bird-like feathers for hair. His body was faintly translucent and Obi-Wan could see his internal organs and skeletal structure. He was dressed in dark clothing that had a gel-like quality, though it was opaque. Upon seeing the two Jedi, he bowed his head in greeting.
" Welcome, noble Jedi." He said with the same kind of accent as the voice over the comm. " Your arrival brings much delight and relief to us."
Qui-Gon seemed unhappy with this. " Before we move on, Your Highness," He said to the King, " I wish to clarify one thing. We are not here to help one party defeat the other. Our goal is to settle the dispute without resorting to violence, and to make arrangements that are fair and just."
" Of course." Said the King. " It was not my intention to make such assumptions, Master Jedi. I, too, aim to maintain the peace, and that was my priority for calling you here. I have no expectation of favoritism or bias."
" Then we are delighted to help." Qui-Gon bowed then, prompting Obi-Wan to bow as well. When the King's dark eyes turned to Obi-Wan, his master continued, " I am Qui-Gon Jinn. This is my padawan learner, Obi-Wan Kenobi."
" A delight to meet you, Padawan Kenobi." The King said amiably to the boy. Obi-Wan, not sure how to reply to this, simply bowed again. This seemed an acceptable response, as his master made no comment, and neither did anyone else.
" Come, I am certain that your trip has tired you." The King said to Qui-Gon. " I have had rooms prepared for your convenience. In the morning, we will meet with the representatives of Valcria and will describe the situation."
" Thank you, Your Highness."
A servant stepped forward to show the two to their rooms. Qui-Gon went forward, with Obi-Wan following two steps behind. Qui-Gon used the walk to converse with the servant, asking more personal questions that would not reveal anything about what the Jedi came to do here. They arrived to their quarters, where Qui-Gon ordered Obi-Wan to go in and start unpacking while he continued to speak to their guide.
Obi-Wan took his master's bag and went inside obediently. The rooms were fairly spacious, and there were actually three bedrooms, not two, linked to a common area. He set the bags down and started unpacking. Some datapads, a map of the planet, a spare commlink, a water bottle, and some spare clothes. He laid the clothes on the couch, one pile for himself and one pile for his master. The datapads he kept in the bags themselves. The map, commlink, and water bottle he placed on the table.
His master came in.
" I have to read over some things first." He informed the boy. " Go shower and meditate for an hour, and go to bed." The tall man then walked to the desk and chair on the far side of the room, and used his telekinesis to lift the bag with the datapads to him. He turned on the lamp that was on the table.
" Yes Master." Obi-Wan rose. He was hungry, but he dared not voice it. Earlier, on the flight, Qui-Gon had mentioned that he did not feel up to eating, but asked if Obi-Wan was hungry. Obi-Wan had sheepishly said that he was fine, which Qui-Gon had accepted. The padawan now regretted that response, for now his hunger was almost painful.
Would it be so hard? Obi-Wan reproached himself. Qui-Gon was stern, but he was not cruel, and it was not as if Obi-Wan was doing anything wrong by asking for a quick meal. He could even suggest that he go out himself to request food, if Qui-Gon was not up to eating, that way no one would bother his master. He looked at the older Jedi, whose back was now turned to him, and tried valiantly to summon the courage for such a simple plea.
His master seemed untouchable, immovable. Obi-Wan was afraid.
" Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon turned around, frowning at his padawan's lack of movement. " Is something wrong?"
" N-no, Master." Obi-Wan hurriedly bowed. " I will go shower."
Qui-Gon looked puzzled, but he nodded and instantly turned back to the datapads. Obi-Wan turned around and picked up his pile of clothes—his hunger was not important, after all. Plenty of people were able to survive without dinner. He started walking towards the bedrooms, but then stopped. He had wanted to put his clothes in his room, but was now faced with the awkward position of choosing the right one. Obi-Wan turned to his formidable master, the question pulling at his lips. Which room do you want, Master? But the question seemed too stupid, too inane. He set his pile of clothes down without speaking. After he showered and meditated, maybe his master would then pick a room, and then Obi-Wan would just choose one of the remaining two.
In the refresher, Obi-Wan stared at himself in the mirror. He had the very beginnings of a padawan braid, such that he could not see it in the mirror. In his minds eye, however, he could picture it. He clenched his teeth and wondered if he will ever feel like he deserved it. The thought wearied him, and he found his motions, as he undressed, slow and tiring. In contrast, he showered quickly, before he even felt warmed by the water, and he went to the common room to find his master still bent over his datapads.
Obi-Wan settled in the far corner of the room and shut his eyes to meditate as his master had ordered. He opened himself to the Force. It swam about him eagerly, as usual. He tried to dispel anything that troubled him, but there was nothing to siphon off to the Force. There was just a vast emptiness inside him, numb and dark, but strangely calm.
A Jedi must be calm and collected. Obi-Wan thought. Though there was still a heaviness over his heart, he felt mellow. No anger. No passion.
He let the numbness inside him grow. There was nothing—nothing in him and nothing around him. Dimly he saw images from his childhood, the classes with Yoda, the pride at being a Jedi Initiate, with such dear friends like Garen and Quinlan and Bant. What childish naivety had filled him back then, but those days were so joyous and carefree! He could barely believe that life had been his, once upon a time.
" Obi-Wan," His Master called, " It has been an hour. You may go to bed."
Obi-Wan stood, his legs aching from being in the same position for so long. His Master had turned halfway around, entering something on the datapad in his hand. Obi-Wan glanced at the three bedrooms. It did not seem like his Master had selected a room.
He had no choice. " Master?"
" Yes, Obi-Wan?" His master responded without looking up.
Obi-Wan felt completely idiotic. " Um…which bedroom will you be in?"
" Oh." His Master looked up and considered the three bedrooms. " They all look the same. How about you go to that one." He pointed at the room furthest from the door.
" Yes, Master." Obi-Wan bowed, before gathering his clothes to deposit them in the room. The intelligent part of him concluded that Qui-Gon chose this room for its safety, with it being furthest from any potential intruder. The self-doubting part wondered if Qui-Gon was trying to hide Obi-Wan away. Maybe it was a mix of both.
At least Qui-Gon did not seem upset about the stupid question, and Obi-Wan had his answer. He placed the clothes on a small chair in the room without turning the lights on and shut the door behind him, before crawling into bed. He stared with wide eyes into the darkness, wondering if he was dreaming right now.
After a while, he heard his master shower before withdrawing to the room right next to his. Obi-Wan's eyes remained open.
They stayed open for a long time.