Merry Christmas. A Christmas oneshot I thought of the other day. Obi-Wan's first snow, with lots of Daddy!Qui fluff stuck in there. This could fit into my other fic, The Silent Song, but can be read on its own. Prepare for adorableness.
Dedicated to all my Silent Song readers. I'll update that story in a few hours.
Qui-Gon Jinn sweeps down the wide entryway to the Jedi Temple like a looming storm front; icy cerulean eyes narrowed in a frown, he presents a terrifying black hole of smouldering temper in the Force. His cloak flows in a seamless wave over his shoulders, the rough cloth darker than regulation issue simply for maverick's sake, and is somehow a perfect metaphor for his presence itself. The fabric billows in the wind of his passage like clouds swelling with rain; each clack-clack of nerf-hide boots could very well be a crack of thunder, and his irises – usually as calm and clear as a summer sky – skewer every padawan that gives him more than the cursory glance with a gaze that throws sparks like lightning.
Padawans leap out of Qui-Gon's path, mere frightened baby thranctills darting back from a predator's prowl. Muffled curses sound in the swathe of destruction he leaves behind him as the several of the more daring Knights mumble their displeasure – only to have their words drawn off in squeaks as Master Jinn throws burning glances over his shoulder. Perhaps if Qui-Gon's Force presence was not such a miasma of spitting flames, he would have paused in contrite apology several times; as not once, but twice, unfortunate Initiates that are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time burst into tears as the maelstrom-cold aura passes them. Crèche masters drop on one knee to comfort children – not a few attempt to skewer the Jedi master's retreating back with accusing glares. Unfortunately, the barbs bounce off Qui-Gon's armoured mental shields like glass to granite.
Master Ali-Alann of the Dragon Clan is one of the uncommon ones who simply shakes his head at his fading old friend in consternation before diverting his full attention to calming his dozen traumatised charges. Confronted with a wailing carcophony and many, many stubby flailing limbs, Ali-Alaan does not notice when one of his smallest initiates slips away into the shadows after the brooding master, tiny booted feet moving soundlessly over the smooth floors as only one accustomed to silence can.
The young boy reaches out with a wavering tendril of the Force and wraps it securely around the blazing signature of the tall stormy one who stalked past him, minutes previous. He does not know why he feels he should do so, but the warm wind of the world whispered in his ear, and he is undeniably curious. Master Yoda always said that "marvellous, the curiosity of a child is," and so by following that sad master, he isn't being naughty at all. He is fulfilling his duty as a Jedi.
Grinning at his own perceptiveness, the boy toddles determinately onwards, towed by the Force-link like a small asteroid by the gravity of a star.
With a sigh of weariness, Ali-Alann finally succeeds in nudging his crèchelings into two orderly lines. Tapping each initiate on the head, he ticks off a mental checklist of names…and comes upon an empty space at the very end of the line, next to a sniffling Garen Muln.
Very, very slowly, Ali-Alann rises from his crouch and rubs at his face tiredly. "Obi-Wan," he groans, as if the name is a blessing and curse combined. "Not again."
Qui-Gon's ceaseless pace only lessens when he turns a corner and finds himself of a sudden in open air. One of the Temple's lesser-known outdoor gardens spreads itself out before him in a patchwork of harlequin and sable, sapphire and scarlet, magenta and ochre. The glass of the greenhouses are misted with life, succulents and plants in need of a warmer climate coiling unhindered within. The whitewashed, wintry sky of Coruscant arches far overhead, allowing daylight to pierce into this small, fragile cloister in the heart of the Jedi Temple.
The Living Force is vibrant here. It seeps into the afternoon air, heady with the fragrance of a hundred thousand winter blossoms, crisp with cold and wholly new, like a mountain breeze never before breathed by living being. Qui-Gon pushes the cowl of his cloak back and tilts his face upward to meet the weak rays of the sun, relishing the apricity on his skin. Sharp air rushes into his lungs, as the Force sings anew in his veins, calming the fury in his heart and the resentment that had simmered under a mask of calm before the Council, a mere standard hour previous.
When certain shreds of emotion prove difficult to expel entirely, Qui-Gon drops to his knees in the sweet-scented grass, seeking the calmness of meditation.
Breathe. In. Out.
Master Yoda's growled reprimand still claws its way to the surface of his thoughts, and he feels renewed shame at the way he had retorted like a youngling, immature, so unlike the title of Jedi Master he holds–
Anger, shame, resentment, fear, frustration; each fall into the celestial river of the Force like rock from the misted shores, smoothed into pebbles by the timeless current, weathered away until they dissolve into the warm tide of his breath, wave upon wave of peace breaking over his head in the stillness of the air about him.
The Council had sent Xanatos on his first solo mission as a senior padawan. Qui-Gon had objected on the grounds that his apprentice was not ready, emotionally or skills-wise, but Yoda had been adamant, and unusually cutting. The meeting had ended sourly, and Xanatos had boarded a Service Corps transport barely five minutes later, leaving his master to fume in silence.
A small sigh escapes Qui-Gon's lips as forces himself to relax out of a frown. He may not approve of the Council's decision, but he will have to accept it, and wait for his padawan to return. The Force will provide a solution.
With one last, deep, centering breath, Qui-Gon opens his eyes–
–to find two enormous grey-blue irises staring intently into his own.
Years later, he would tell his colleagues that he had simply straightened his spine reflexively. Such a revered and skilled Jedi master as Qui-Gon Jinn could not possibly have jolted backward onto his behind and sprawled onto the grass in a wild effort to get away from those gigantic cerulean eyes.
The two Jedi regard each other warily for a moment, one standing, the other half rising off the ground, their gazes blitzing a lightning strike in the Force in the plane of their stares, two and a half feet above the ground.
A pause. And then the moment has passed, Qui-Gon rights himself and rearranges his cloak into proper order. The wet grass soaks through the knees of his loose trousers as he kneels facing this pint-sized apparition.
"Hello there," he says gently, softening his voice so as not to scare the little thing.
The boy does not reply. He twiddles his soft boot-tips in the blades of emerald green, and tilts his head in critical examination of the Jedi master before him. His hands hang loose at his sides.
Qui-Gon stares back coolly, analysing without emotion, as he was taught to do. The child cannot be more than three standard years old, and even then exceedingly small for his age. A glorious crown of spiked earthy hair adorns the little head, two and a half feet above tiny boots. The smooth strands seem to dance in shades between russet and gold, like autumn over very neat, white tunics of snowy winter. A wandering initiate, then.
"Young one, where is your crèche master?" The words flow out of his lips like water out of its natural source. A textbook question; but Qui-Gon is rather surprised at the warmth of his own tone.
The boy seems to consider this for a moment, and then jabs a finger off in a random direction, presumably towards his clan dormitories. An adorable pout accompanies this motion, and a hint of a furrowed brow that would no doubt cause many a lady to swoon in the distant future.
A breath of wind around them drops the temperature by a few degrees. A shudder seems to run up and down the short length of the boy's frame. With a start, Qui-Gon realises the child has no cloak to warm him in the chill winter air. Another, closer inspection reveals that his hands are balled into fists against the cold, suppressing shivers with an admirable application of training for one so young.
A sigh. There isn't really much of a choice in a situation like this. "Come here," Qui-Gon mutters resignedly. The initiate beams a smile that flashes brightly in the innocence of the Force, like the first bright rays of dawn streaking the velvet night sky with sapphire silk. And then he cannonballs into Qui-Gon's stomach in what can only be described as a tackle-hug. Qui-Gon gives a miniscule grunt as the wind is knocked out of him, and wraps a fold of his cloak around the youngling, who snuggles deeper, seeking warmth in both the embrace and the solid Force signature.
The child's mind brushes across Qui-Gon's mental shields like an ephemeral whisper, the curious exploration of a young sapling tasting the new air around it for the first time. The thoughts are strangely quiet, observant, but eager to meld into the Force, to dance the endless paths of starlight between this dimension and the next, to gasp in breathless wonder over every glowing moth and every fragile leaf that drifts into tiny hands, to grasp the moonbeams of evening and weave them into the loom of time, the warp and weft of the Unifying Force that flows around and in and out of him all at once, a thousand versions of the same child that clutches the fabric of Qui-Gon's tunics–
With an effort, Qui-Gon pulls himself out of the dizzying vortex of the Force, rubbing away the spots behind his vision as he struggles to remain focused here, in this present moment. Inquisitive grey eyes blink up at him, like the small clouds that edge a larger storm, heralds of passing rain.
"Unifying." The word slips unbidden out of his lips. He glances back down at the boy, who remains very, very still. "You are an enigma, young one."
Something about the way the child wriggles suggests that he takes that as a compliment.
The Unifying Force surges once more, gently, like an aftershock to an earthquake, and Xanatos's pale features swim before Qui-Gon's eyes, but ridged on that high cheekbone lies a circled scar, like a broken ring of trust, branded onto that once-young skin–
Qui-Gon snaps open his eyes, unaware that he had clenched them shut in the first place. There is a dull ache in his chest, just above his heart. He feels emptied, like the tiny dried fish they sell on Corellia, sucked dry of all life and moisture. A vision of that clarity has not been shown to him in decades.
Unexpected heat in his heart.
A glance down finds the boy using one soft hand to stroke the tunics just to the left of Qui-Gon's sternum, the Force flowing through the tiny fingertips like water from five conduits. The current is no more than a trickle, but the subtle influx of light thaws his frozen blood , soothes his nerves, and anchors him firmly in the Force once more.
One small palm reaches up and attempts to clamp over his mouth. Qui-Gon falls silent not because speaking is difficult – the child's hand is barely large enough to fit over his lips, in any case – but because there is something infinitesimally compassionate in the manner with which the young boy tends to him. Indeed, those adorable baby-blue eyes are narrowed in concentration, staring that the hand that is methodically smoothing away the hardness in the Jedi master's heart. After a moment, a pink sliver appears from between his lips as he sticks out his tongue in concentration.
This must be an instinctive action on the boy's part to protect, to nurture. Qui-Gon opens his mouth again, only to snap it shut. The rule on attachment could fall into Sith-spawned hell for all he cares right now. This is rather – dare he say it – cute.
The initiate continues the stroking motion for a while longer, then – seemingly satisfied with the result – he removes his other hand from Qui-Gon's mouth, gives the tunics one last pat, as if congratulating Qui-Gon for a job well done, and sits back with a huff.
Gathering his wits, Qui-Gon dips his head in gratitude. "Thank you, young one. My name is Qui-Gon Jinn; what should I call you?"
A flicker of something crosses that rounded face; the first hint that not everything is as well as it seems. With some perturbation, Qui-Gon observes the child's features smooth over with a mask of emotionless diplomacy. He had expected a simple answer in return, and it is only now that Qui-Gon realises he has not heard one spoken word from the child. Perhaps he is shy?
A hand reaches towards the nearby flowers, one that had once been chubby, but is now just beginning to lose its baby fat. Qui-Gon leans over to allow the child to trace faltering, newly-learnt Aubresh letters on the wet earth.
"Obi," Qui-Gon reads quietly, tasting the name. "Obi."
Obi twists round in his arms and grins widely at the older Jedi, all trace of the shadow gone from his beaming features.
"Well, Obi," Qui-Gon says conspiratorially, "I'll wager it is well past the hour for the crèchelings' afternoon nap, hmm?" With a swift motion, he rises to his feet, swinging Obi up into his arms. Obi giggles soundlessly into the broad shoulder, barely clinging on. But Jedi younglings make light of dangers such as these; the Force itself cradles them.
Shaking out his damp cloak with one arm, Qui-Gon pivots on a heel to go…
…and the first white flake falls onto the wet grass before him, an icy six-pointed flower resting on the silver-limned edge of a single blade.
Qui-Gon tilts back his head and watches as the Coruscanti skies rain stars of purest crystal, each with a beautiful, unique pattern, produced at odds of one to infinity, but existing all the same. Quite similar to the Jedi; each serve the Force differently, and yet all united under the Order. Qui-Gon allows a smile to break the frozen mask that had covered his face since the Council's decision.
"Midwinter," he murmurs, as if to himself. Midwinter. The one day of the year in which the Coruscant weather systems schedule the annual snowfall. Far, far above, the orbital satellites must be angling their mirrors, allowing a complex system of relays to kick in and activate the gradual payload of ice crystals that must have been forming over the past few weeks within the massive storm control network.
And as a result, ephemeral snowflakes float serenely through the atmosphere, washing away pollution and aircar exhaust to ride a breath of wind into the outdoor gardens of the Jedi Temple, where Qui-Gon stands, a crystal in the Living Force, resounding with the hundreds of millions of snow crystals falling around him.
The warm weight slips out of his embrace as Obi squirms beneath the circle of his arms and drops to the ground, immediately stuffing himself into the sheltered gap between Qui-Gon's boot and cloak edge. There he remains for a moment, face half-pressed into the older Jedi's knee, glaring warily at the carpet of white gradually forming around them. The faintest frisson of fear wafts into the Force around them, as crimson as firework-sparks.
The snowfall grows heavier, white curtains of radiance cascading around them.
Amusement gushes into the Force. Qui-Gon's chuckle turns into a muffled laugh that sends spikes of ice-cold air through his lungs. He had forgotten what little exposure Jedi younglings have to the outside world – it is quite likely most have never seen rain before. "Obi," he murmurs gently, crouching down on one knee beside the boy, "This is snow. It will not harm you. And," he adds with a touch of sternness, "a Jedi faces his fears."
With one hand occupied with clutching the last two feet or so of Qui-Gon's cloak around himself, Obi looks somewhat like a baby Ewok. The wide, round eyes certainly help in forming the image. Qui-Gon feels his lips twitch into the ghost of a grin as Obi reaches out with his free hand and allows a fat feather of snow to daintily alight on his palm.
Impossibly, Obi's eyes widen even more when the powdery white stuff explodes in a puff of white as he wraps his fingers around it.
And in a streak of cream tunics in white, Obi is out from under Qui-Gon's cloak and into the nearest small snowdrift. Qui-Gon mutters a curse, annoyance sparking in the Force, and darts after the wayward initiate, only to find the boy slippery as an eel, frolicking like an ecstatic gorgodon pup in the growing hillocks of snow.
"Come…back…here…bratling…" The words are punctuated by gasps of exertion as Jedi Master battles through boot-grasping wetness after the tiny snow-covered Initate that Force-tunnels through the thickening mantle of white, mouth open in silent laughter. The older Jedi does not find it as amusing – if the boy were his apprentice, he would have tanned his hide by now.
Soon, Qui-Gon's cloak is sopping, and a wide area churned into slush by boots and Force-pushes. The tall Jedi skids to a halt at the centre of the garden, freezing in place at the sudden lack of sound. When the quiet continues, Qui-Gon straightens out of his crouch, worry adding itself to his annoyance. His fingers have long grown numb from pawing through snow, but Obi is cloakless, and no doubt soaked through. It would be a simple thing for hypothermia to lock the small limbs in place and prevent Obi from reaching the surface…
A shuffle of snow behind him; Qui-Gon whirls, cloak flying in a circle behind him, to find nothing. The Force whispers a warning. Confused, he pivots on his heel–
And a fluffy white something erupts in a Force-leap out of a snowdrift like a ballistic missile, colliding with Qui-Gon's face. He feels arms lock around his head as his boots slide on the wet grass, and of a sudden the world tilts and he careens backwards to crash into a very soft and very cold substance.
In the short silence as the snow settles, Qui-Gon cracks open one eye to find Obi bouncing blissfully beside his head, covered in snow from gold-russet hair down to soggy booted toes, waving his arms haphazardly, and mouth hanging wide in a soundless shout of delight. Qui-Gon bites back a groan, runs a hand over his aquiline features, and brushes the snow-crystals out of his hair. Somehow, though, he cannot hold on to his anger, or to his annoyance. They slip out of his grasp like oil, leaving pure water behind. Through the gap between two fingers, he watches Obi bend over him in interest, laughing azure eyes narrowing in suspicion.
Qui-Gon confirms that suspicion by grabbing Obi's wrist in a gentle grip and flipping the child over him and face-first into the snow.
All-out war ensues, with lengthened dunkings in drifts and Ataru backflips over Force-borne snowballs, of which the younger of the pair proves surprisingly adept.
The clack-clack of a gnarled gimer stick sounds gently in the corridor beyond, and a glowing gold-green eyes playfully observe the uncommon sight of a fully-ranking Jedi Master scything through the snow with one of the youngest initiates. A wrinkled mouth widen in a smile. "Hmmph. Good for both of them, this is," he mutters, as if sharing an inside joke with the Force itself. Shaking his head and chuckling deep in his throat, the smallest, and yet greatest Jedi of the Order turns back the way he came.
A long, long time later, the two warriors call a truce to their war. In the peace that follows, the Force sings gently, and somehow, Obi ends up on Qui-Gon's shoulders, hands folded on top of the long-haired head. Together, they gaze up into the fiery watercolours of the Coruscanti sunset. The snow is still falling, but only stray flakes now, the last of the year. Obi reaches out to catch the last of them in his fist, letting the snowmelt drip into Qui-Gon's already waterlogged locks.
And when dusk passes, the night sky forms a cloak sewn with a million jewels of every colour.
And as for Obi – Obi-Wan, the initiate reminds himself sternly, like the crèche masters told him to before – extends a hand towards the heavens, where the music of the spheres hums a lullaby, each star an individual voice. He glances down to find Qui-Gon staring up at him with a weary, yet calm gaze. Obi returns the small smile, and turns back to face the stars. He decides he rather likes Qui-Gon.
After all, the stars are so much closer up here.
It is the hour most would have departed the concourses for evening meal when they leave the secret garden at last, both chilled to the bone and gloriously, utterly happy. Obi slumbers in Qui-Gon's steady hold, arms sneaking contently upwards to wrap around Qui-Gon's neck. The Force seems to dance around the small form, warming him as much as the older Jedi's cocooned embrace. The snowflakes line both their hair with starlight.
As they approach the Healers' Halls, Qui-Gon reflects grimly that he is probably in for a tongue-lashing.
A welcome blast of hot air greets him as he crosses the threshold. Master Vokara Che turns at the change in the Force, and stabs him in place with a fiery stare that would likely burn the hide off most padawans. Qui-Gon bows serenely instead, hugging Obi to his chest as he does so, completely uncaring that he drips snowmelt onto the floor.
"Master Jinn," she says, dangerously low. Her long blue lekku twitch like tentacles.
"Master Che," Qui-Gon replies ineffectually, straightening out of his bow. Obi snuffles in his sleep and gives an explosive little sneeze.
Master Che zeroes in on the symptom like a hawk on its prey. "Are you possessed, Master Jinn?" she hisses, stalking over to examine the child. "What have you two been doing? Dancing in the snow? He could have caught a kaleidoscope of ailments, hypothermia, lost a finger–"
Qui-Gon shifts Obi in his arms so the healer can test his temperature. "Now, I don't think it would have come to that–"
"Oh, when do you ever think?" she snarls scathingly, whisking them both into a room and wrapping them in a thermal blanket. "You're shivering too, bantha-brained barve." When Qui-Gon opens his mouth to reply, she nails his tongue to the roof of his mouth with single look, and growls, "Sit. Sit. Wait for my return. Someone will bring dry clothes to you."
Qui-Gon settles on the edge of the bunk, unconsciously shifting Obi in his arms so that the child would be more comfortable. The warm bundle slumbers on, angelic features relaxed. Qui-Gon knows the fragile peace will be shattered soon, but he simply exhales a breath and waits, resting in the moment.
The door hisses open to admit a very bedraggled Master Ali-Alann.
"Qui." Ali-Alann stops and takes a calming breath. "Do you have any idea how long we were searching for that boy?" he whispers, as one accustomed to holding conversations in the presence of sleeping children.
"I would hazard a guess at an hour?" Qui-Gon mutters, lips twitching.
"Three," Ali hisses. "Three hours of constant worry and mind-melting agony and now I get word he was playing in the snow with you."
Qui-Gon has the decency to wince. "…My apologies, Ali."
"Have you not a sensible–"Ali-Alann cuts himself short when he catches sight of Qui-Gon's irises, which are clearer and far less stormy than in the afternoon. He clears his throat. With Qui-Gon looking at him quizzically, Ali reaches for Obi, who is already mostly dry. "Never you mind. He needs to be back in the crèche."
With some reluctance, Qui-Gon stands and hands his charge over to the crèche master. Obi clings to Qui-Gon's tunics for a moment longer, mumbling in his sleep, before settling into the new embrace. Qui-Gon pushes down a pang of loss.
Ali-Alann raises one perceptive eyebrow and grins at his old friend. "He's got you wrapped around his little finger already, old friend."
Qui-Gon settles back onto the bunk, frowning. "I hardly think so."
"Goodnight, Qui," Ali chuckles, already striding away.
"Wait." The word tumbles out of Qui-Gon's mouth against his will. As Ali-Alann halts at the doorway, Qui-Gon sweeps over to him and leans over Obi, who is still lost in dreams of purest white. Qui-Gon lays a hand over the smooth brow. "Thank you, little one," he murmurs quietly, smiling at how Obi leans into the touch. "You have been a great friend to me today."
And then Obi is gone, whisked away to the crèche. He is replaced by Master Vokara Che, who thrusts warm tea in Qui-Gon's direction and leads in a droid with an armful of fresh clothing.
Qui-Gon takes a sip of hot Sapir tea and centers himself, resting alone in this new moment, burning brightly, like a star without its planet.
Attachment fades into the Force, like the snow covering the outdoor gardens in a glistening mantle. By morning, it is as if it never existed.
Thank you very much for reading. A merry Christmas to you all. Please drop me a review. I would like to say I could send you cookies for each one, but unfortunately Obi-Wan has eaten all of them.