A/N: I was thinking this story was too angsty, but you guys convinced me! After a hiatus where I didn't know where to go with the story, I finally got to working on it. Hope it's not disappointing, the writer's block was a bit hard to lift, but I tried my best :) Thanks to all for your reviews, they make me very happy!
With Eyes Skyward
The Past Affects the Present
The healers assured Qui-Gon that the boy was just unconscious, and even though they did not put the collar on, his condition did not worsen past the mild fever. It was likely because Qui-Gon was shielding him, the healers said, and warned him not to stray too far from his padawan. The Force collar fizzed when they picked it up, broken despite all logic. They looked wordlessly at one another and seemed to silently agree not to fetch another one.
Obi-Wan was a Jedi initiate, and for all his temper and childish impulsiveness, he had been calmer than most children his age. Still, seeing the child so still looked so wrong. Only very sick children looked like this.
I seek the lonely and abandoned, for I know what it is to be forsaken.
Yoda hovered in as Qui-Gon contemplated his student.
"How fares he?" Asked the Grand Master.
"Stable, supposedly," Qui-Gon turned to him, "Whatever that means."
"Hm. Weakened, his Force presence has."
"I don't know what to do," Qui-Gon sighed. "This Anvalan..." He looked at the elder Jedi, wondering if perhaps Yoda's nigh-millennium-long life had put him across circumstances like this. "It spoke, briefly, when Obi-Wan was awake. There doesn't seem to be a good way to reason with it."
Yoda reached out a hand to press on the sleeping boy's forehead. "Hard to say, it is," He murmured, "In this galaxy, many things, there are, and more still, we are finding. Sense, I do, that elsewhere, the answers lie."
"Elsewhere?" Qui-Gon asked.
"Hm," Yoda nodded grimly, "Beyond the Jedi Temple."
Qui-Gon blinked. "I cannot leave him here," He exclaimed.
"Then bring him, you must," Yoda moved back, "Or lose him, we all will."
Most of the work was being done by the other masters, making Qui-Gon feel inept, but then he could not leave Obi-Wan's side without the child's fever spiking so it was probably just as well. Obi-Wan sat in a hoverchair similar to Yoda's, watching the proceedings with a tired face. Tahl knelt near him to provide comfort that Qui-Gon was too anxious to give himself.
"It's going to be alright," She told him, "We will see to the bottom of this, whatever it takes."
Obi-Wan nodded, but Qui-Gon could tell the boy was not encouraged at all.
"None of this is your fault," Tahl told the boy seriously, "Alright?"
The boy nodded again.
The woman rose to move to Qui-Gon's other side as the child continued to stare despondently at the activity in front of him.
"What's wrong with you?" Tahl hissed under her breath, "You were a far wiser master with Xanatos."
"What are you talking about?"
"You need to take your own advice," She went on, "This whole situation wasn't Kenobi's fault, but I'll bet my head and neck that it's likely yours. Don't give me that look," She glared, "You think the boy would have been running off following echoing voices on his own if he felt comfortable enough to approach you in the middle of the night?"
Qui-Gon rubbed his face.
"Now I won't pretend that there's a simple solution to this, but I can be reasonably certain that keeping him at arm's length isn't going to help," She looked once again at Obi-Wan before glancing back at Qui-Gon. "If the boy dies this is your last chance, Jinn."
Qui-Gon sighed. "He's not going to die."
"No, but I know what you're thinking," She snapped, but was careful to keep her voice low, "You need to stop feeling sorry for yourself. Obi-Wan's not just the present, he's the future. You're letting Xanatos kill him." She released a sigh of frustration.
"Don't you think I know all this?" Qui-Gon exclaimed, equally annoyed.
"Your foolishness was tolerable when you weren't killing anyone, Qui," Tahl shook her head, but left his side.
One of the other Jedi Masters, Ki-Adi Mundi, headed toward him.
"The ship is ready," He told Qui-Gon, "You're to depart within fifteen minutes, and you have a half-hour window to enter hyperspace afterwards." He turned to Obi-Wan. "How are we doing, young one?"
Obi-Wan's eyes were curiously glassy as he looked up at the elder Jedi. He said nothing.
"We best get going," Qui-Gon murmured, moving a hand to feel the boy's forehead. Slightly on the warm side, but not very hot.
"Best get him on the ship," Said Ki-Adi, "Get him settled."
Behind him, Yoda watched silently. Obi-Wan lowered his eyes, avoiding everyone's gaze. Qui-Gon watched him for a moment in concern, but if the two of them were to talk at all, it was best done on the ship, away from everyone else.
"Come," He pushed the hoverchair, "We better board."
He saw the white-clad lady, Anvalan, except she was in a dark room, sitting on a jade bed. Around her were glowing crystals, and she seemed to be meditating.
"I know you are there," She said without opening her eyes, "And I know what you are thinking."
Obi-Wan wondered at first if she was talking to him, but it turned out there was a figure standing behind the crystals, who stepped out at her beckoning. It was a Jedi, a tall Miraluka whose eye sockets were hidden behind a headdress that extended over his forehead. His hood was up, and he swept his robes forward as he approached.
"Many years have I been here," Anvalan stated, still not looking at her visitor, "Yet you are the first to come here. I had wondered when you will arrive."
"I come on behalf of my order," Said the Jedi, "We need your help, fair one."
"Of course you do. When mortals seek to wield the power that is the Force, trouble is inevitable," Anvalan finally opened her eyes to look at him. "Power requires great wisdom to use."
The Jedi bowed his head a little. "The Dark Ones rise," He told her, "We were founded with the intention of maintaining peace and harmony in the galaxy, but the same weapons we use to preserve can also be used to destroy."
"Such is the way of all things. It will always be thus."
"If chaos takes the galaxy, your haven here will be affected too."
Anvalan's expression became distinctly condescending. "You think you know so much about the galaxy," She raised her hand, and a crystal, pulsing and blood-red, floated to her hand, "There are many parts of the galaxy, and many forms of life, many powers beyond what you call the Force, and many entities that are neither living nor dead. What proof do you have, that anything that extends beyond this place should affect it?"
"A rogue has come by your place already, and with her brought me."
"Ah, but you only came because I allowed you to," Anvalan hovered the stone in front of her, gazing into it, "As did the rogue. This is not a place that one can find by simply seeking." She turned to him. "I will tell you what I told her. If you wish for my aid, or indeed, the aid of those like me, there is a price to pay."
The Jedi frowned a little. "How would I know that she has not already paid her price and bought your services?"
"That is simple," Said Anvalan, "I have no need to double-cross. The only reason either of you were able to make your way here is because I have one desire, and once that is fulfilled, all welcome shall be withdrawn. As it is," She paused, "You are in a better position to pay than she."
Master Qui-Gon's face was very blurry, and Obi-Wan blinked rapidly to clear his vision. His master looked worried.
"M-Master?" Obi-Wan shifted weakly. Why was he so tired?
"We're in hyperspace. How are you feeling?"
He felt like he could sleep forever, and even as he thought, his eyes fell closed. A warm weight on his arm roused him again.
"Padawan, I want you to try to eat something. Do you think you can do that for me?"
Eat? Obi-Wan was not very hungry.
Leave me alone. He was so tired. He did not even want to be a good padawan anymore, he just wanted to sleep in peace. Why did Master Qui-Gon care anyway? None of this matters in the end. It was not like Master Qui-Gon would ever be pleased, or satisfied; he was always going to be disappointed, so why bother trying? Still, he tried to sit up, but his mind slipped away as if he were attempting to climb a glass hill.
"It must be lonely, living here," Said a young boy, looking around at the glowing crystals, "Dost thou live here all alone?"
Anvalan gazed into the distant caverns, the glowing crystals obscured by shadows. "Yes," She said quietly. "Here, the universe is my companion."
"'Tis dark," Said the boy, "The crystals only giveth so much light."
"The light we see can only be so bright, and can blind us from the Truth. The light inside," The white-clad woman looked at him, "Feels no limits of the physical world, and does not blind, for it is Truth itself."
The boy looked at her despondently, before fading.
Obi-Wan blinked. Had he fallen asleep? He had not realized. There was a bowl of steaming broth on a tray balanced on a stool. His master was kneeling by the bed.
The man shook his head. "Why have you gotten so feeble?"
"Don't be absurd, it's not your fault, child. Come on, let's see if we can get some food in you."
"There is a boy, a boy I seek, whose name I do not know. He is a child of the Force, like you, and perhaps the Order claims him. I want him, that is all. That is my price. Bring me this child, and I will aid you against the darkness and ensure the Light prevails for all time."
"Come on, Padawan," Master Qui-Gon broke into the murmured words, "Sit up."
Obi-Wan did so, feeling exhausted, but he accepted the spoonfuls of broth, his mind still half-dreaming and completely forgetting the prior protests. A large hand covered his forehead between swallows.
"Your fever is nowhere near high enough to make you delirious," His master murmured, baffled. "What are you seeing?"
"Hm," Obi-Wan did not have the strength to answer.
A young woman stepped to Anvalan with a cloak.
"I know you claim to be impervious to temperature," Said the woman with a bright smile, "But humor me. I feel chilly just looking at you."
"You are a compassionate one," Anvalan sighed, letting the other wrap a cloak around her, "Hard to believe you are a Jedi."
"Now, do not go insulting my Order," The woman smiled a little sadly, "We do not all succeed in achieving our values, but at least we make the effort."
"True." Anvalan looked at her sadly.
"You have been looking at me like that ever since you saw me," The woman exclaimed.
"You cannot fool me, White One." The woman adjusted the cloak so it spread better on Anvalan's shoulders. Covering her white robes, the cape looked very drab. "You have this sad look in your eyes, as if you see a dark future ahead for me. I will not survive this battle, will I?"
Anvalan was silent.
"'Tis fine," Said the woman, stepping back, "We do not get to choose our deaths. That is the way of the Force. We come to the galaxy when we are needed and when we are not we are disposed of."
"It is not disposal," Anvalan reached out, "I would just miss you. Few mortals have I encountered whom I see such value. The galaxy will be a darker place without you."
"Ah, the galaxy is dark all around, save for a few bright points," The woman laughed, completely at ease with what amounted to her death sentence. Obi-Wan could see why Anvalan liked her so much, "And when one winks out there is another to fill in. That child the Council promised you will brighten your years so much you will quite wish him gone, I think, especially when he hits his teens."
Anvalan laughed at this.
"Why do you want him so much?" The woman asked. "I know that you long for a child, but you are very particular in this case."
Anvalan turned away. "I saw him once, when he reached out. He is a bright soul, incorruptible, but those around him," She shook her head, "He has a master who neglects him, might even abuse him. I wish to spare him this fate."
"Oh?" The woman frowned. "'Twould be simpler, to simply warn the Council. We do not practice neglecting our young, this you ought to know."
"No, but neither do you encourage attachments," Anvalan pointed out, "And the wounds inflicted require those to heal. At this point, any warning will be of little use, as is warning you." The woman smiled a little at this. "Far better to pull him out completely, and rewrite his destiny into one of hopefully brighter days."
"Quite a conflict, you are," Said the woman, "You who maintain that Light and Dark each have their place, but even you, the powerful Anvalan, err towards light, no?"
Anvalan smiled. "Light and Dark each have their place, but I never said I was neutral."
Then there was some kind of alarm, and the room they were standing it flickered with many colored lights.
"Destiny beckons," The woman smiled, and the two grasped each other briefly before the Jedi slipped away, leaving Anvalan to gaze sadly after.
When Xanatos got sick, he complained a lot. He would make a fuss, whine or pout, and ultimately never relent until he got what he wanted, whether it was a tissue box that was slightly out of reach or some kind of soup or food that would make him feel better.
Obi-Wan was quiet even on the Monument when they were on their way to Bandomeer, primarily wondering why Qui-Gon was there, and otherwise just accepting of the care that was offered, possibly even a bit discomfited, really. He was quiet now, and it was a bit striking how different he was from Xanatos. Xanatos was always demanding attention, demanding care. Obi-Wan just withdrew into himself, and it pained Qui-Gon. He did not exactly appreciate all the whining from his former student, but at least Xanatos had trusted him enough to annoy him. Children should not just silently suffer on their own. It looked too much like abandonment, neglect.
He wanted to talk. He wanted to talk to Obi-Wan, about everything, their relationship as master and apprentice and exactly what that entails—Qui-Gon was certainly not going to baby Obi-Wan, but there had to be lines drawn and they never were, partially because Qui-Gon had not known where to put them himself. He still did not. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan was too tired to even eat, let alone have a discussion with his master about how things were going.
It was clear though, that the lines had to be different from what they should have been for Xanatos. Obi-Wan was…not Xanatos. He was not really Feemor either. Xanatos had been self-absorbed, Feemor had been mediocre and satisfied with being average. Obi-Wan had gone from doing very well in his initiate days to being an almost-reject. It was a powerful blow that would likely never be remedied, but it did need to be balanced, somewhat, just as Xanatos' excellence had to be balanced by humility Qui-Gon never gave him the opportunity to learn.
He's going to give up on you, Xanatos sang cheerfully, And why not? His life is forfeit. It's either you or the farm, and you are always in your own little world. Hopeless hopeless hopeless.
Surely not. Obi-Wan was too young to have such dire thoughts.
How do you think he found Echo?
How did Obi-Wan find Echo? Tahl had been glaring scathingly at him in the hangar, but one of her remarks stood out to him. Was it true that the boy sought for her on his own because he was afraid of Qui-Gon? And what, precisely, was Echo echoing? Obi-Wan had said he had to speak, and she would somehow materialize due to sound…what was Obi-Wan saying, and who was he speaking to?
There was one time…the master searched in his memory. He was speaking to Tahl…over the comm. The Force pulsed, and he had turned around to see his padawan at the door, staring at him. Obi-Wan had looked confused when Qui-Gon asked if the boy had done that, but what was the child doing at the door? He had been staring at Qui-Gon…was he trying to get his attention?
Force confound it all, He wished Obi-Wan would just be forthcoming like a normal child. All this guesswork, he was no mind-reader, he could not tell what the boy wanted if the brat did not ask! Since when was asking questions suddenly something so insurmountable for the boy? He certainly never seemed to have that issue before becoming Qui-Gon's padawan, from disobeying his orders to outright defiance. A simple question should not have been so difficult.
Why would he ask you, Master mine? Xanatos chuckled nastily, The first thing he asked you for was so hard to obtain that he had to offer his life for you to give it. How many lives can one boy risk, to ask for more things from you? He's never asking for anything ever again.
Qui-Gon rubbed his nose in dismay as he watched the now sleeping child. Obi-Wan was so young, too young to even go on three quarters of the missions Jedi were sent on. The bowl of broth sat on the stool, cooling, most of its contents intact.
He's never asking for anything ever again.
When Xanatos was sick, he complained a lot.
It was a bit of a shock to realize Obi-Wan will never complain, and it was all his fault.