Content Warnings: Someone dies (suicide).
Summary: Why is Qui-Gon Jinn always picking up strays?
Archive: Do not archive without permission.
Disclaimer: This Universe and all it contains are George Lucas's. No money has been received for this, a work of fiction.
Author's Notes: Someone made a comment somewhere at some time about how Qui-Gon is constantly picking up strays (eg. Jar Jar, Anakin) and they wondered why. So I decided to try and explain why.
Please note that I generally have nothing to do with the Star Wars fandom (I just watch the movies and read the occasional book), so I don't know if the ideas contained in this story have been used before or are inaccurate. If I have made some mistake somewhere (either about Star Wars or in spelling or something), please don't hesitate to correct me.
"Why, Master? Why do you insist on helping everyone?"
"I have seen what happens when you don't."
Qui-Gon Jinn shivered and tried to settle back into a meditative state. Failing, he finally gave up and moved to stand at the great window of his cold, stone-walled room, looking out across the great rainforest that characterised this area of the planet Acari.
He'd been sent here for a change of pace. At twelve he remained one of the Jedi's most promising youngsters, but Coruscant had been beginning to grate on his nerves, fraying his concentration. It was all right within the tranquillity of the temple, but he couldn't hide in there forever, and outside... Billions of lives intruded on his consciousness, and the strain had been starting to show.
But Acari had helped. He had found his centre again, pulled himself back into his focus of calm. He was leaving for Coruscant tomorrow, hopefully ready this time for anything the city-world could throw at him.
He had thought he was ready, but now he was uneasy; something was wrong, he could feel it. Not in the Force, no, this was deeper than even the Force. A feeling deep and raw that kept nagging and nagging.
Movement outside: a man, human, leaving the great stone building from a side door three stories below and just to the left of Qui-Gon's position. The man's light brown robes flapped despondently about his ankles and his entire body telegraphed defeat - Qui-Gon could see it in the slumped shoulders, in the torn, hesitating step. He could feel it in the Force.
The boy ran from his room, racing single-mindedly through the corridors, dodging Jedi and Padawans without seeing them. Something was wrong. Something was wrong and he had to make it right.
He fled the building, out into the forest, following a trail of despair.
One of the great canopy trees had fallen recently, leaving a gaping wound in the foliage overhead and indiscriminately applying full-scale damage to many of its neighbours. But already seedlings were beginning the battle to take over the fallen giant's place. Death was balanced by life, just as it should be.
It was here that Qui-Gon found the man: he had clambered onto the fallen tree's trunk at the base and was kneeling facing towards the path of destruction. He wasn't someone Qui-Gon really knew, only a face the boy had seen at meals or in the corridors.
Moving closer so that he was just below the man, Qui-Gon asked hesitantly, "Master Jedi?"
The man looked down at him, and there were tears glistening on his cheeks. "Go away, boy," he said with tired harshness.
Qui-Gon didn't budge. "Can't I help?" he asked hopefully.
With a short, bitter laugh, the man said, "Only if you are a god, boy."
"I don't understand." Qui-Gon was beginning to regret the impetuousness that had brought him here without one of the older and wiser Jedi. He wasn't at all sure he was going to be able to handle this.
The man was shuddering, his head flung back to stare blankly at the sky. When he finally spoke, his voice was bleak. "I am just like this tree, you know. Just one individual, but when I fell I took a lot of innocents with me."
"Sir?" Qui-Gon still didn't understand.
The stare was transferred to him, black eyes boring into him and through him as if he didn't even exist. "I killed her."
Qui-Gon's eyes widened. "Who?" he asked softly.
The man shook his head wearily. "I never knew her name." He still stared at the boy with wild eyes, looking through the boy at a face only he could see. "I killed her and I never even knew her name."
"Tell me," Qui-Gon invited quietly as he attempted to project comfort.
"I was on a mission, an important, urgent mission, and I passed through a market-place. She caught me by the arm and she..." His voice caught. "She asked me - begged me - to help her. She knew she was going to die and she knew that I could help her. But I was too busy," he spat, his voice full of self-loathing. "I told her that I would come back, and then I left her behind. I didn't even ask who she was." He shuddered. "And then I came back. I found her dead, dead in a pool of her own blood." His voice became a brief whisper. "Her face haunts my dreams. I could have saved her life. if I had just paused to help she would still be alive. But now she's dead and it's all my fault. I killed her."
"You didn't!" Qui-Gon protested.
The man shook his head in regretful disagreement and looked down at his hands on his knees, clasped together so tightly that his knuckles were white. "I killed her," he repeated, "as surely as if I had cut her down with my lightsabre." He turned back to Qui-Gon, and his eyes were completely blank now, which was somehow far more frightening than the wildness. "And I found the man who killed her and I killed him to. And the others. I killed all of them." His voice was calm, as though he were expounding a mathematical theory rather than admitting to murder. "I killed so many people today, all because," his voice cracked, "because I didn't stop to help." He buried his face in his hands and wept.
Qui-Gon paused uncertainly, very out of his depth, shifting awkwardly from foot to foot, then asked hesitantly, "Sir-"
The man flinched away from the sound, staring at the boy with crazed, tear-swollen eyes that were even worse than the blank ones had been. They were the eyes of a man with everything to lose and nothing to gain.
"Promise me, boy," the man demanded. "Promise me that if you ever have the chance to help someone, you will help them, no matter what the price."
Held frozen in the grip of the man's haunted eyes, Qui-Gon didn't just hear the question, he understood it, at a bone-deep level. It was almost as if possible futures swirled before his eyes, showing his choices and their consequences. He knew that if he promised it would mean increased difficulties and dangers as he turned from his mission, however briefly. He understood that it could even kill him. He knew what this promise would mean, just as he knew that he would never fail to keep it if it was in his power. And he also knew that making the promise was the right thing to do.
He stood straighter, meeting the man's eyes firmly. "I promise."
The man watched him a moment as though gauging his sincerity, then sagged slightly. Relief? "Thank you, boy," he whispered hoarsely. "Her death was not completely in vain, then." He sighed tiredly, but looked almost normal, as though he had accepted what had happened. "Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to be alone for a while."
Qui-Gon hesitated, then nodded and slowly turned and walked away. He hadn't gotten thirty metres away, though, before an odd premonition made him turn back.
The man had a deactivated lightsabre in his hands, held under his chin. Qui-Gon knew with ghastly certainty what was about to happen and that he couldn't stop it, but still he ran for the man.
"No!" he cried desperately, but he was too late.
The man switched the lightsabre on almost idly, uncaring about what was going to happen. The lightsabre blade sliced straight through his brain, and his body fell from the tree-trunk, a worthless sack of cells stretched across crushed seedlings, the again-quiescent lightsabre tumbled from the lifeless grasp.
Shock froze Qui-Gon in place a moment - he had never seen anyone die before! - then horror forced him forward to stumble to his knees at the body's side. He reached out a shaking hand to close the eyes - vacant, they were, and almost... at peace. As though the man had found a small piece of the absolution he hadn't thought he deserved.
Qui-Gon laid his head on the dead man's chest and wept.