Title: Inner Strength
Author: kaly
Homepage: Kalynn's Fan Fiction
Rating: PG
Archive: m_a, okeb, others please ask first
Classification: angst, short story, songfic
Series: First in the Inner Strength series (all sections are together on my webpage, URL above)
Warnings: Angst; AU

NOTE: This story is an AU - alternate universe - I know what happened in the JA books, I own them all. This is a different idea about how things might have happened. If you aren't interested in going against canon - don't read this story. As a work of *fiction* this has nothing to do with JA, only the characters of Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon in a stituation I thought might be fun to explore. thanks ~kaly

Summary: Qui-Gon finds himself drawn to a suffering little boy.

Feedback: Please? This is by far the most unusual story I've attempted, and it just sorta came to me at a very, very late hour. So, please let me know if it was worth losing those hours of sleep.

Notes: First, yep this is songfic in a minor way. This story was inspired by the first few parts of "You'll Be In My Heart" by Phil Collins. And I know very little of how the Jedi are trained when they are young, but it's only a minor issue (I think) in this.

Disclaimer: Um, I won them playing sabbacc? Didn't think so. Dang it. Okay, great George, they are yours. "You'll Be In My Heart" written by Phil Collins and distributed by Disney. Mee-sa no own the Mouse, either. Mee-sa maka no monies.

Thanks to holly for agreeing to beta read my songfic - gushing and yelling in all the right places :-)

Inner Strength

Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn was walking through the Jedi Academy, near the area where the newest and youngest Jedi trainees lived. It was late in the artificial sleep cycle of the building, and the corridors were empty and silent.

As he walked, he was focused intently on an upcoming mission that he was to embark on early that morning. However, his concentration was broken when he heard a small noise.

Although the sound was barely audible, it tore him from his thoughts in a way he couldn't explain. For a moment, he reached out through the Force, searching for the source of the disturbance.

Qui-Gon blinked slowly. He was sure he must be mistaken. Having traced the sound, he discovered it to be too far away for him to possibly have heard, especially considering how focused he had been.

However, before he could dwell on the matter, he heard the noise again. A choked sob reached out to touch the corner of his mind.

Walking without thought, Qui-Gon followed the sound to its source, only to come face to face with a closed maintenance room door. He pushed the door open, curious about who or what had led him there. He could see very little in the dark room. What little light filtered in from the hallway merely succeeded in casting odd shadows on the walls.

Still, his senses assured him that what he sought was indeed there. When he stepped into the room and closed the door behind him, he felt as much as heard the occupant's attempt to remain silent and hidden.

"Hello?" Qui-Gon called out quietly.

Qui-Gon didn't want to startle the small boy he could just barely see. The child was pressed tightly into the far corner. He had his arms wrapped around his knees, which were pulled up to his chest. The boy, Qui-Gon realized, could be no older than five years old.

Another small whimper, similar to that which first attracted his attention tore from the boy. Again, Qui-Gon wondered how he might possibly have heard the faint noise. Shaking his head, he walked over and kneeled in front of the sniffling boy.

Come stop your crying
It will be alright
Just take my hand
Hold it tight

Qui-Gon could easily feel his unease and was careful to surround the child with peace through the Force. When he felt the boy calm somewhat, he placed a hand on his chin, raising his face to view.

His stoic heart softened at the sight of shining tears framing the large green eyes. He blinked, surprised both by the strength of the Force within in the boy and the instant connection he felt to him. Almost of its own volition, his thumb brushed across the small cheek, wiping away past tears.

"What is wrong, little one?" he asked in a low, soothing voice.

The youth hiccuped, taking a struggling breath as he fought the tears. He looked up into Qui-Gon's eyes, still scared, and tried to press himself further into the corner. Qui-Gon lowered his hands, and shifted his legs beneath him so that he sat cross-legged in front of the child. He rested his hands on his knees. "Okay," he said softly, "what if you tell me your name?"

Unsure eyes looked up again at Qui-Gon, eyelashes blinking fast. "Obi-Wan," the boy said quickly, as much a rush of air as a word.

"Obi-Wan," the Jedi Master repeated. Qui-Gon was unsure how to proceed, as he had rarely dealt with the youngest children. However, he also felt he couldn't leave the child to seek a teacher.

"Why do you hide, Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon asked gently, no recrimination in his voice.

Obi-Wan's shoulders shook, and Qui-Gon could see that he was worried he would be in trouble for sneaking off. Eventually, the child licked his lips nervously, replying in a small voice, "I miss my mother and brother."

Obi-Wan sniffed softly, and lowered his gaze to stare at the floor. Qui-Gon knew that some students were able to remember their families, and found himself silently wondering about the circumstances of this one's acceptance into the Academy.

He also knew they watched the young students very closely, so as to avoid one of them stumbling into an area they weren't allowed or safe, and was curious how this one had managed to slip away.

"How is it that you came here tonight, Obi-Wan?"

The boy shrugged. "I just did. I thought maybe no one would mind."

Qui-Gon smiled faintly, and touched a shaking shoulder. "Your teachers wouldn't want you to be in pain, Obi-Wan." He continued to project soothing emotions toward the boy, adding quietly, "Especially not alone."

"But no one else feels like me," Obi-Wan tried to explain, the strong words bursting forth suddenly. He had looked up to meet Qui-Gon's gaze as he spoke. Chewing on his lower lip, he waited a moment before again lowering his eyes and dropping his voice to add, "We're not supposed to be afraid or sad. Master said so."

Qui-Gon's heart softened even more at seeing the small face speak of more grown up responsibilities. Trying to ease the boy's mind, Qui-Gon asked, "Would you like to tell me about your family?"

Green eyes again filled with tears, and looked to Qui-Gon. The sight caused the Jedi to worry he had only upset the child further. "No one ever asked me that," Obi-Wan said eventually in a shaky whisper. The boy's eyes reflected his wonder that someone might ask, and Qui-Gon found himself overwhelmed by the feeling.

Qui-Gon held out an arm. "Come, young Obi-Wan, you're freezing sitting there in only your night clothes."

I will protect you
From all around you
I will be here
Don't you cry

Obi-Wan looked at the offered hand for a moment, but soon found himself snugged on Qui-Gon's lap. The Jedi's cloak was wrapped around his shivering shoulders.

Qui-Gon brushed the sandy hair, not yet cut, away from Obi-Wan's face. "What do you remember that makes you so sad, little one?"

The young boy closed his eyes, pressing himself against Qui-Gon's warmth. The Jedi Master was shocked by the images the boy projected toward him. A city in flames, people fleeing the destruction in every direction, but being cut down.

"There was an attack," the boy said a moment later, his eyes still closed.

It was rare for any Jedi pupil to remember much of their life before, much less in such detail that Qui-Gon found himself witnessing. To be able to project the memories was practically unheard of at any age.

Instead of pushing, Qui-Gon waited until the shaking boy was ready to go on, merely holding him close as another cry filled his throat. He could easily sense the trembling emotion within Obi-Wan, and wondered how no one else had managed to see what lay within him.

He continued to hold the boy tightly, rocking back and forth ever so slightly as the tears streamed down the flushed cheeks. Qui-Gon could sense the absolute truth in the memories as the child was again able to speak. "Strange aliens attacked our city. My mom tried to hide us."

Qui-Gon could feel Obi-Wan's lower lip trembling, and a sob ripped through the boy's chest as the memories continued to flood from him. He pressed his face into Qui-Gon's tunic, his eyes closed tightly.

"They found her and Corin, but they didn't find me." Remaining silent, Qui-Gon wondered if the child had hidden himself in the Force unknowingly.

His patience and silence were rewarded when Obi-Wan sniffed and swallowed audibly. "I hid, and then the others came. They brought me here."

Qui-Gon felt his own emotions stir at the pain in Obi-Wan's voice. "How long ago was that?" he asked, managing to mask his own emotion.

Following a loud sniffle, it was a very small voice that replied. "A year."

The Jedi held onto the boy firmly, and closed his eyes. He couldn't imagine the raw talent required to mask such pain from the other Masters. The child had taken his pain and memories to be weaknesses and buried them deeply, never having the chance to accept the loss.

He was broken from his thoughts when the child's voice, ever-small and laced with breaths gasped around tears, asked, "Why did they find them and not me?"

For one so small
You seem so strong
My arms will hold you
Keep you safe and warm.

Qui-Gon shook his head. He could easily tell the boy that it was simply meant to be. Yet he knew there was no answer to the question, not that might balm the boy's wounded spirit. Obi-Wan felt guilty simply for surviving. Again, Qui-Gon was awed by his inner strength.

Instead of speaking, he surrounded the tiny boy with a blanket of caring, and something akin to love. None since his failed apprentice had managed to move so deeply inside his heart. Certainly none so quickly.

Sometime later, Qui-Gon felt the shuddering tears dissipate into soft hiccups, and looked down to find him asleep in his arms. He marveled at the sight of innocence on the boy's features, as if simply speaking of the horrible events eased the memory.

For a time, he was content to simply watch as the boy slept in his arms. Qui-Gon was unable to explain the bond he felt with the young student, or how he had found him in the first place.

Eventually, he rearranged Obi-Wan in his arms, and stood carefully. Qui-Gon left the dark room and carried Obi-Wan back toward the sleeping rooms. He was impressed by Obi-Wan's ability to escape the watchful eyes of the teachers.

Something inside told him that he would one day grow into a mischievous student. The kind that was a challenge, while still the greatest delight to train.

He placed Obi-Wan in his bunk, touching his forehead softly, trying to give what comfort he could. He then tucked the covers in around him. With a final look at the sleeping boy, he turned and left the room.

Qui-Gon still had a mission to ready for, his transport leaving within a matter of hours. However, he made a promise to himself to speak to the teachers regarding this rather remarkable student.

This bond between us cannot be broken
I will be here
Don't you cry.


Series continues in Inner Fire Kalynn's Star Wars Fan Fiction Index