Obi-Wan could not believe that this was happening to him. On the other hand, he should have expected the Force to interfere at some point. It had always done so. It had interfered after Qui-Gon had refused to take him as a Padawan, it had interfered after the incident on Melida/Daan and it had interfered on countless other occasions. So why was he surprised that it had interfered now? Now, after Qui-Gon had thrown him aside to train the so called Chosen One. Granted, he would have been made a Knight one way or the other – he was the first Jedi that had killed a Sith and only a full-fledged and ready Knight would mastered such a feet – but Qui-Gon had still humiliated him in front of the whole Council. And afterwards? Well, the man had not even had the decency to apologize or to at least come to talk to him. Obi-Wan had even waited and stayed at his former Master’s sick bed until he was recovered enough. And once Qui-Gon’s condition was stable and he had regained consciousness, the ginger haired male had waited for the long haired Master to come and talk to him, maybe even to claim the braid or to apologize. But nothing happened and at one point Obi-Wan had been sick of waiting and he had taken every mission he could get his hands on. Not once staying at the temple for more than one or two nights and even then only when Qui-Gon and his Padawan Anakin Skywalker were not there.
But Obi-Wan would not be Obi-Wan, when the Force did not throw him the Order’s infamous maverick right at his feet. And he meant that quite literally. He had received a distress call on his way back to the temple and like the helpful soul he was, he had immediately followed it. Of course he had contacted the Council and informed them about his delayed arrival, but then he had landed on this strange tropical planet with the ever wet climate.
It was there that he found the ship that emitted the distress call. The ship had looked damaged and with extreme caution had the ginger haired Knight approached the vehicle. Only once he had figured out that there was no threat, had Obi-Wan entered the ship and he would have turned tail and ran away upon the sight that greeted him there, had his limbs still obeyed his orders. In the ship, lying on one of the cots, was no one else but Qui-Gon Jinn. There had not been even the smallest of traces that Anakin was nearby – not even in the Force – and Obi-Wan had figured that the man must have travelled alone. The young Knight had cautiously and silently stepped forward, but it would not have made any difference if he had made noise like a wounded bantha, for the long haired male had been knocked out pretty well. It had taken the younger male a few moments to realise that Qui-Gon was way too pale for his liking, also was his chest rising faster than normal. It was then that all the Jedi’s training kicked in and he had examined the situation further. Qui-Gon had caught a nasty little virus as it had turned out. Usually nothing life-threatening if taken care of, but stranded on some tropical planet with a damaged ship and probably already too ill to think coherently made it hard to get any treatment.
Obi-Wan had then tried to contact the Jedi temple, after he noticed that his ship would not start either. Plo Koon had explained to him that it was due to the planet’s magnetism. Once a year the magnetism would get too strong and therefore influence all kind of technology, droids, lightsabers and ships included. Or in other words, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon would be stuck on this Force forsaken planet for quite some time. Thankfully the magnetism had been in the process of rising, so that his communicator had still worked at this point. That and thankfully Obi-Wan had once taken on the lesson on ‘survival in wilderness without any aid’. A lot of his age mates had laughed at him because of this, but Qui-Gon had encouraged it. And now Obi-Wan was glad he did attend the class.
He had used the limited amount of time to converse with the healers and develop a plan of how to take care of the ill man. In the end they had decided that it would be better to search for a relatively safe location and move the ill Jedi there. The man healed better when he was surrounded by nature directly and not caged in a sterile room of the ship’s metal. That and the air was definitely fresher.
So Obi-Wan levitated the almost unmoving form of his former Master out of the damaged shuttle and then into a small cave he had found nearby. It would protect them from weather, wild animals and other possible enemies. A fire was already burning happily and only when the older man – who had a high fever and was mumbling and moaning nonsense by now – had settled down, could Obi-Wan breathe out a sigh of relief. The young Knight had packed up all the things he would need and he was more than prepared for a long, strenuous and restless few days. Either until the long haired male had recovered enough for them to leave the cave or until help could be sent...
Taking care of the older Jedi was even worse than Obi-Wan had anticipated and it was not even the Master’s fault. It was the feverish dreams, the pleading and the begging calls that kept Obi-Wan on his feet during day as well as night. The man was desperately calling for his Padawan and even though Obi-Wan wasn’t one anymore, his presence seemed to calm the ill male greatly.
Yet it was truly painful for the ginger haired Jedi to watch the Master so weak and needy. He only got to know the independent and strong Qui-Gon Jinn, maverick of the Jedi Order and great swordsman. Now however, Qui-Gon needed to be feed, needed somebody to help him drink and it was a tiring job to wrap blankets around the shivering form only to unwrap the man again when he was overheating. But the absolute worst was, when Obi-Wan had to help the man relieve himself. The only sanctuary was that the taller male’s body functions, well... worked, but the former Padawan learner still had to assist, as well as holding the heavy and large man up. At short, it was highly unpleasant. Then again, it must have been unpleasant for the tall man as well, when he had taken care of a sick or injured Obi-Wan. And the ginger haired Knight had been both quite often during his Padawan days.
Qui-Gon was tossing restlessly on his makeshift bed again, the blankets pushed down to his hips. He had also startled to mumble incoherent words and phrases again.
The young Knight tossed his own blanket away with a sigh, before he got to his feet and started to walk towards his patient. He silently asked the Force how long this torture would go on, while grabbing a wetted washcloth, with which he dabbed a sweaty chest. After a few moments, the larger man’s tossing ceased and feverish blue eyes opened and blinked up at Obi-Wan without really seeing him.
“Padawan...” the man croaked and it was obvious that his voice had been used quite a lot.
“I’m here Master,” he wasn’t the man’s Padawan anymore, not since the Jedi Master had humiliated him in front of the whole Council, but he couldn’t help himself. Apparently some of Qui-Gon’s teaching had imprinted himself on Obi-Wan, because the young Knight hated it when someone around him suffered, which is why he pretended to be the person the long haired man asked and pleaded for.
The Knights few uttered words, immediately showed effect. Qui-Gon calmed down and a shaky hand reached up. Obi-Wan took the larger hand in his own and then laid down next to the sick man and moved them, so that Qui-Gon’s head was resting on his chest. Almost immediately a large hand reached up shakily and fisted in beige tunics.
“Padawan,” the man coughed, “Obi...”
Obi-Wan’s fingers – that had massaged his patient’s scalp – stopped their ministrations. Too shocked was he at what his former Master had said. Had he truly meant that or was it just another fever induced speech? Hesitantly he reached forward and laid his hand on the other’s forehead. The fever was not as high as he had thought it was. Actually, it was almost completely gone, which meant that it would not cause any kind of hallucination.
“Right here my former Master,” Obi-Wan eventually replied. He knew that the older male was still awake, his breathing was not yet slow and relaxed enough.
“Glad,” the tall man rasped out, his blue eyes briefly looking up, “thought... lost.”
“Lost?” the ginger haired Knight asked.
The older man hummed, he was on the verge of falling asleep again, “After... hurt,” he did not come further, for sleep once more claimed his tired mind and exhausted body.
His companion did not share the same luxury. His mind was wide awake now. What had Qui-Gon talked about? The former Padawan was completely sure that the man had not talked in feverish delusion... and he had said something about lost and hurt. So, could it be? Had Qui-Gon been referring to their latest mission as a Master-Padawan team? If so, then why did he mention it now? Why not come sooner to Obi-Wan? Perhaps it had been the guilt or the tall Jedi had feared that his former Padawan would not listen to him... or perhaps he had just not the courage to speak his mind. But why should he have it now? It all didn’t make sense and the Knight knew that he would not find an answer until Qui-Gon would give him one. Not that that was likely to happen. For one, the man had to recover first and then, Obi-Wan feared that his old Master would just return to avoiding him at all costs. That’s what he always does after all.
With each day, Qui-Gon was getting better and his body stronger again. He even had proper waking periods now, which the man used to relief himself or to eat and drink anything his younger companion could provide him with. Thankfully Obi-Wan was a skilled survivor and able to find all kinds of varies of food, be it fruits and other plants or sometimes even flesh from a captured animal. Whatever it was, Qui-Gon would eat it without complaining which was at least something.
Then again, the two Jedi had not talked much since that fateful night a few days ago. Obi-Wan had not found the courage yet to ask what his former Master had actually wanted to say and Qui-Gon himself did not seem in the mood to have a real conversation. Until one stormy night that is.
The fire was happily burning near the mouth of the cave. Obi-Wan had moved it the previous day and with the aid of the Force, in order to protect it from the nearing rain. Qui-Gon had been awake then too and he had watched with a mixture of interest and boredom. It was clear that the man was almost dying of boredom. He was not allowed to go outside – Obi-Wan had forbidden that – and he could not focus enough to properly meditate. As this man’s former Padawan and as a fellow Jedi, it would have been his duty to offer assistance, but something stopped him from doing so. He himself was not sure what it was, he only knew that it was quite persistent and since Qui-Gon did make no move to ask for assistance, he did not help. Instead he had chosen to stand near the cave opening and he watched the beautiful spectacle of Mother Nature. This was also a part of the Force, but most people had forgotten about it or just learned to ignore it.
The thick rain was steadily drumming on leaves and the ground, the wind was playing with the crowns of the trees and lightning lightened up sky every now and then, while thunder was the lightning’s ever loyal companion. It was truly beautiful. Obi-Wan could have watched this spectacle forever. It was always something special, especially since a lot of planets – like Coruscant – possessed a weather program that controlled the weather and stopped storms from even happening. Not to imagine what would happen to the city planet should this program ever break down. The people would probably go insane with fear of the unknown might of nature and the Living Force.
“It’s magnificent, isn’t it?” a deep baritone voice suddenly sounded behind him. Not that Obi-Wan hadn’t felt the man approach him in the first place.
The Knight in question slightly turned his head to look over his shoulder. “Yes it is,” he eventually replied.
Qui-Gon looked healthy enough to fool any normal healer, perhaps even a few healers from the temple, but he couldn’t fool his former Padawan. He was just a shade too pale for the younger male’s liking. That and almost unnoticeable tremors were running through his body, but especially through his legs.
“You should sit down, or at least lean against the wall,” he pushed himself away and therefore offered the taller man his place near the cave entrance. To his surprise, the long haired male actually listened for once and sat with his back against the stones on the ground to Obi-Wan’s feet.
The Knight nodded in satisfaction and turned to look after the fire, when he was stopped by the other’s voice, “Is my presence so hard to bear that you always walk away?” His voice was filled with pain.
“I was just going to look after the fire,” the younger male replied without losing his calm. He had gotten very good at hiding his true feelings in the last months.
Midnight blue eyes looked after him with doubt hidden in their depths, but the Master did not say another word. He watched silently how his former Padawan threw a few more sticks into the bright orange flames. The fire sizzled for a moment, but was slowly drowned by the sound of rain. After he had done his little task, Obi-Wan slowly moved back to the other Jedi and decided to sit opposite of him, also leaning against a damp cave wall.
Neither male said a word. The tension could have been cut with a blunt knife, but they both did not know what to say. The fact that Obi-Wan had diplomatically avoided the older male’s previous question, did probably not help either.
“Are you alright?” Obi-Wan eventually asked. He had seen the older man’s flinch, even though the man had tried to hide it.
“You don’t look like it though,” the ginger haired Knight said.
Qui-Gon just shook his head, “Why?”
An elegant eyebrow was raised, “Well, because you are still recovering from a serious illness I suppose.”
The Master grimaced, “No, I meant to ask why you have taken so much care of me?”
The second eyebrow met the first one, “Why shouldn’t I? We are both Jedi after all.”
“From experience I can tell that half of what you have done for me, another fellow Jedi would not have even dreamt of.”
Obi-Wan shrugged nonchalant, “You WERE my Master, at some point in the past at least,” he didn’t say more.
Qui-Gon had no immediate reply to that, which is why the two companions found themselves once more sitting together in silence, with the harsh storm and the dancing flames keeping them company. “I suppose I was,” the ill man began slowly and it took the Knight a moment to figure out what he was even talking about, “but I guess that I was not a really good one.”
That small sentence caught the Knight’s full attention. His mind wouldn’t come up with any words right now, but at least his focus was solemnly on the other male.
Qui-Gon was refusing to look at him, instead his blue eyes were caught by something on the ground, probably just a small stone. “I mean, no good Master would have denied a Force willed bond, no true mentor would have abandoned his student because of a disagreement – not even when another Jedi’s life was on the line – and no sane teacher would have blamed his apprentice for the wrongdoings and darkness of his previous one.” Could it really be happening? Was this really Qui-Gon sitting in the half dark right in front of him? Or perhaps Obi-Wan was the one ill now and he was hallucinating. Yes, that had to be it. His mind was producing a picture of Qui-Gon naming all his shortcomings during their time together. It was just too good to be true.
“Also,” he continued, “no good Master would have humiliated his beautiful and talented Padawan in front of the whole Council by saying that he would take on a new one.”
At this moment a lightning bold illuminated the sky and the forest. The light even reached inside the cave and Obi-Wan saw a single tear drop escape midnight blue eyes. As if in trance he followed the tear’s path down the other’s cheek until it silently fell to the ground. It was soon followed by more tears and a part of him that the Knight had thought he had buried deep inside of him suddenly flared back to life. It didn’t really surprise the ginger haired male, for that certain part of him had been awake quite a lot during the past few days, namely always when Qui-Gon had been in a lot of distress. The instinct to soothe, to protect and to love was growing stronger with each drop of salty fluid that was flowing unbidden and unasked. And eventually, the Knight just gave in.
In one fluid motion, he was kneeling right before the taller male, who looked so miserable and small right now – almost vulnerable – and he took two larger hands in his own. Glistening blue eyes slowly looked up and met compassionate blue-green ones.
“You WERE a good Master. You have taken on a Padawan nobody else wanted, you have taken the anger in that boy and replaced it with love and you gave that boy a shelter and a home and somebody to love and to trust. You taught me almost everything I know today, you shaped me into the man and Knight that I am today. Of course you had your shortcomings, but every Master has those, even Master Yoda or Master Windu. Besides, you are only human and this is probably the best about you. You are not afraid to show it.” He watched how midnight blue eyes gazed at him with so much love and longing that it just had to hurt. “So stop blaming yourself for things that you cannot change, things that are long since in the past. Look into the future instead, or better yet, just stay in the here and now, where your focus should be.”
Qui-Gon closed his eyes and leaned forward until his forehead was resting against slim yet strong shoulders. He took his hands out of Obi-Wan’s and fisted them into the Knight’s tunics, while Obi-Wan engulfed the older male into a tight hug. It was then that the Jedi Order’s maverick lost all the control that was left.
The ginger haired Knight felt how the cloth of his tunic became wet while his former Master literally sobbed into his shoulder. This was not how he had imagined his talk with Qui-Gon to go and this was certainly not the man he had gotten to know during his apprenticeship. Now that he thought of it, he had never seen Qui-Gon cry at all, not even when Tahl had died and she had been the man’s true love. Had he truly blamed himself this hard for his words and actions? It seemed so.
Obi-Wan was not sure how long they sat there. It was hard to tell with the sky being darkened by clouds and without the needed concentration to ask the Force. At one point however, Qui-Gon had calmed down again, yet he had not moved from his position.
“Master?” Obi-Wan asked unsure and carefully.
There was a shaky exhale against his neck, “I would ask you for your forgiveness, but I do not deserve it. I do not deserve you and your compassion. I do not deserve your braid and I do not deserve to be called your Master... not after everything I did to you.”
Obi-Wan didn’t let go of the older male, he actually tightened his hold. “It is not for you to decide what you deserve and what you do not, especially when it is my decision.” The words escaped harsher than he had intended, but he needed their meaning to get across.
“Obi-Wan,” he began, but the younger Jedi interrupted him. “No, now you listen. I have not forgiven you... yet. Not this soon, not just like this. I can never forget either, it is a part of me and as such it will remain; a part that will hopefully help me to become a good man. But most importantly, I am willing to try, if you are as well... but if you quote Master Yoda now and tell me that there is no try, I am going to hit you, hard.”
There was a hesitant little chuckle against his neck and it was more than the young Knight could have hoped for. It meant that Qui-Gon was not fully broken. “I am willing if it is your wish... even though I still do not think I deserve it.”
“Maybe you don’t do now,” Obi-Wan agreed, “but who knows what the future brings?”
Obi-Wan knew that the following weeks and months even, would be hard on him and on Qui-Gon too. Undoubtedly Anakin would be influenced as well, which only meant that they had to have a closer look on him, not that the boy got the false ideas or something. But Obi-Wan was also confident that they could overcome their shadows, together or perhaps alone, that would remain to be seen. It would be a lot of work, there will undoubtedly be harsh words and heated arguments and there still are a lot of questions that needed to be answered, but they could take one step at a time. They had all the time in the galaxy after all. That and the Force was with them, in good times and in bad once as well.