Obi-Wan sighed, opening a single eye to see the now familiar presence of his master in front of him.
The force ghost was hovering there, waiting impatiently for Obi-Wan to give him his attention the way Qui-Gon was wont to do.
“You’ve become much better at meditating,” Qui-Gon noted. “I remember when you were young you struggled.”
Obi-Wan shrugged in acknowledgment, he had been a child, a teenager with too much energy who was still learning how to work through his emotions. He had learned, eventually. By the end of his apprenticeship he’d been capable in that, though it seemed Qui-Gon was less inclined to remember that Obi-Wan was not still the struggling thirteen year old he had once been.
“You were a bright child. So very… light. There was a reason Yoda did what he did, a reason he chose you.”
Obi-Wan frowned, he knew now about the subtle strings that had been pulled to set him and Qui-Gon on their path together, but he certainly hadn’t known then. It had been a difficult to realize that the Grandmaster that he’d looked up to his entire life had used Obi-Wan like a piece on a dejarik board.
Obi-Wan knew the reasons now, could accept that Yoda was not perfect, and had loved Qui-Gon enough—had been attached—that risking and sacrificing Obi-Wan had been worth it to the older Master.
“You needed a responsibility, a tie to the Order.”
Qui-Gon tilted his head in the way that had often meant he thought Obi-Wan had missed the objective and needed to look deeper. It was a gesture Obi-Wan had been very familiar with. “I needed far more than that.”
Obi-Wan frowned, because Qui-Gon had that same look about him that he’d often worn just before he’d done something Obi-Wan considered deeply unwise.
“Master Yoda and I have been speaking. We believe we might have a plan.”
“A plan,” Obi-Wan repeated, he could feel a deep uneasiness building in his chest. “You and Yoda have come up with a plan. A plan for what?”
Qui-Gon just smiled. Obi-Wan knew this smile too. It was the I follow the will of the Force smile. The trust me, I know best smile—that didn’t actually mean that Qui-Gon knew best, just that he thought he did.
It had landed Obi-Wan in trouble more often than Obi-Wan could count, but Obi-Wan had never died, so Qui-Gon had always seemed to consider that a satisfactory result, no matter what else might have happened.
“When one becomes one with the Force there are… many things a person can do that would otherwise be impossible.”
Obi-Wan frowned, because that sounded ominous, and Obi-Wan felt a twinge of uneasy.
“What exactly is this plan?”
Qui-Gon smiled. “You saved me, Obi-Wan. Yoda and I think you can do it again.”
Obi-Wan didn’t know what plan Yoda and Qui-Gon had cooked up, but he suddenly knew, without a doubt, that he was once again just a piece on the dejarik board.
“You won’t know what’s going on, but you don’t need to worry. I’ll be there to keep you safe.”
Obi-Wan felt a moment of horror, and then the Force was screaming around him, swelling up around him like a wave, crashing around him, pulling him into it’s depths. He was drowning, drowning, drowning.
He knew nothing at all.
Vader was on the bridge of his ship when it happened.
For one blinding, terrifying moment, he felt the bond he shared with his old master vanish. The bond was fragile from Obi-Wan’s constant attempts to sever it, only strong enough to assure Vader that Obi-Wan was still alive, hiding somewhere out there in the galaxy.
And now it was gone.
It shouldn’t have mattered, if anything, it should have given him cause to rejoice. Yet Vader couldn’t feel anything like joy, all he felt was that old, familiar fear of losing his master rise up, followed by the now constant rage that had taken root in his soul.
Someone dared take his Master from him? His Master was his, even if only his to destroy.
Then, just as suddenly as the bond had disappeared, it was back.
Weak, fragile, and for the first time in years slips of emotion slipping through from the other side.
Vader froze, uncomprehending.
His master—former master—had shields of kyber. And yet now Vader could sense him, fear, confusion, loss.
Vader felt a moment of hesitation, was this a trap? His former master was clever, too clever by half for Vader to consider anything less than dangerous.
But the bond was open. Vader was stronger than Anakin Skywalker had ever been, but he couldn’t resist.
He had barely nudged his way through the bond when Obi-Wan was latching on, fear and confusion and need pouring through.
Something was wrong. Strange. It was so clearly Obi-Wan. Vader would know the feel of Obi-Wan in his mind in any condition. Except there was something almost incoherent about the sense of Obi-Wan
It was a trap. It had to be.
Vader had never let that stop him before, and it wouldn’t stop him now. He had only grown more powerful since the last time he’d seen his Master.
He could handle anything his master might think to do.
Obi-Wan shivered as he slipped into an empty alleyway.
Ever since he’d woken up a few days ago, on the desert planet of Tatooine, with no clue how he’d gotten there—he’d gone to sleep in the cuddle pile in the creche and woken in the desert—everything had been strange. He’d been running and hiding from what felt like everyone and everything.
The Force seemed to be trying to tell him something, but he didn’t understand what it was trying to say. Normally he’d go to his creche master or Master Yoda, but neither of them were available.
He wanted to be back at the temple, safe with his clan mates, where he could hide away from the darkness of his dreams in the soft warmth of the cuddle pile.
Everything was wrong. Strange, confusing, dark. And there was no one for Obi-Wan to turn to.
“You must hurry, Obi-Wan.”
Except for the ghost that was haunting him.
“I am hurrying,” Obi-Wan told him quietly. Feeling silly for talking to a ghost he didn’t think anyone else saw.
Obi-Wan did not like the ghost, no matter how kindly the ghost smiled. Obi-Wan knew, somehow, that the ghost was behind Obi-Wan’s situation. He didn’t know how he knew that, he just knew.
Obi-Wan had tried to escape the ghost at first, but there was very little he could do to run from a ghost that could apparently appear anywhere it pleased.
So for now Obi-Wan was following it’s directions as long as it led him in the back direction. He just had to make it to Coruscant, surely one of the masters would know how to get rid of the ghost.
And the darkness. They’d know what to do about that. The whole galaxy felt dark, but worse, there was a darkness in his mind, tugging at him constantly, trying to wrap itself around him, like a hug but wrong.
He scurried down another street, feeling strangely exposed despite the large cloak he’d found to wrap around himself.
Obi-Wan froze as two men in white armor entered the street ahead of him.
The need to run was almost overpowering, a fear he didn’t fully understand screaming through him. He froze where he stood eyeing the blasters in their hands warily, knowing somehow that these two would shoot him.
He wanted to go back to the Temple.
One of the armored figures moved closer to him, hands on his blaster. “Take off the cloak.”
Obi-Wan bit his lip, trying to build up his courage as he slipped the cloak off him. The first armored figure grasped the cloak, looking at it carefully as though it might tell him something important.
The other raised a comm to their helmet. “There’s only a child, Lord Vader.”
The one holding the cloak looked up. “The cloak belongs to a traitor.”
Obi-Wan felt his eyes widen at that. “I found it! It’s not mine.”
The one who had been speaking into the comm was listening to something, before nodding and putting the comm away. “Come with us, Lord Vader wants to see you.”
Obi-Wan glanced around, hoping the ghost was around. He may not like the ghost, but at least the ghost was somewhat familiar.
The ghost wasn’t there. Go figure.
He tried to remember what his classes had taught him about talking to Lords. He was pretty sure he was supposed to bow, but there were so many different types of bows and he was only an initiate, not even a senior initiate yet. He didn’t know all the bows yet.
The darkness seemed to be growing stronger and he shivered, the cold seemed to be burrowing into his skin.. “Can I have the cloak back?” he asked, tentatively.
The figure holding the cloak froze, turning and Obi-Wan could feel his incredulousness in the Force.
“It’s cold,” he explained earnestly. “I want to make a good impression on the Lord, and I won’t if I’m shaking.” If he made a good impression, then maybe this Lord would help him get home back to the temple.
Obi-Wan was smart enough to recognize that as a no.
He followed behind the two figures, noting that the regular civilians ducked their heads and scurried to the sides of the street.
He’d always known that the Temple was not like the rest of the galaxy, that it was safe and warm, but what he’d heard of the rest of the galaxy hadn’t sound like this. It hadn’t sounded like anything he’d seen so far.
He hadn’t thought the galaxy was this dark.
He could see a figure up ahead, tall and imposing, covered completely in black armor.
Obi-Wan shivered, slowing down. He didn’t think he wanted to get closer.
The tug in his mind, the darkness, it was a person.
“Keep moving.” One of the white armored figures nudged him, and Obi-Wan stumbled a little, he could hear his own breathing, too loud as it echoed in his ears.
The figure in black was striding forwards and Obi-Wan found his feet freezing, terror freezing his limbs.
If Obi-Wan thought his own breathing had been loud, it was drowned out by the mechanical click and hiss of this figure’s perfectly even breathing.
The escort that had taken his cloak held it out. “Lord Vader, we’ve brought the child.”
The dark figure ignored the soldier, and Obi-Wan knew, somehow, that behind his mask that Lord Vader was staring at him.
Obi-Wan took a deep breath before bowing the same way he would to one of the Masters in the temple. “Lord Vader.”
The figure didn’t answer, even as Obi-Wan straightened. Obi-Wan kept his head down, trying to peek up through his eyelashes as subtly as he could. “What’s your name?”
Obi-Wan swallowed. “Obi-Wan Kenobi, sir.”
There was a spike of undefinable emotion in the Force. It was dark, Obi-Wan could tell that much, almost foreign. A wanting, a need that had twisted unrecognizably.
Beside him one of the armored soldiers stiffened.
The Force rang with a dozen different warnings, none of which Obi-Wan could understand.
“How did you come to be here, Obi-wan?”
“I don’t know, sir. I was in the Jedi Temple, and then I woke up—”
The world twisted around him, the Force screaming, screaming, screaming, and Obi-Wan was FALLING, water coming closer and closer, everyone he knew dead, dying, cast in shadows that hid them from even themselves, the light was being extinguished all at once—
A blaster was coming up and Obi-Wan moved before he even recognized what his body was doing, diving for the ground. Blaster fire passed just above his head and he could feel the heat of him, he rolled, but there was no more blaster fire. He poked his head up to see both white-armored soldiers hanging in the air, their hands around their throats.
Lord Vader had a hand up in front of him, as though he was choking an invisible neck, he was radiating hatred, menace pouring off of him.
Obi-Wan’s gaze turned back to the two soldiers, the Force around them fading in and out as they choked though they were—
“STOP!” he screamed, turning back to Lord Vader, all of his own terror fading away, these men were going to die if Obi-Wan didn’t do something. “Stop, you’re going to kill them!”
Lord Vader’s hand didn’t drop, but the choking sounds stopped as Lord Vader’s head turned to look at him.
“They tried to kill you.”
Obi-Wan opened his mouth, but the words got caught in his throat. They… they had. It had all gone so fast, but that was what had happened. It had almost gotten lost, mixed with Vader’s reaction to his almost death and the… the what had that been a vision? A memory?
It didn’t matter. These men weren’t supposed to die. They weren’t.
“Don’t kill them, please.”
The whole world seemed to freeze, Vader staring at him and Obi-Wan staring back into that black mask.
Vader turned back to the two soldiers still hanging in mid air. “No one is to touch Obi-Wan Kenobi, he is now my charge and is exempt from any previous orders you may have received.”
Obi-Wan frowned, the Force was twisting around Vader again, dark and strange, moving from him to twist around the two soldiers. Obi-Wan didn’t understand.
Force, he wanted to go home.
Lord Vader’s hand dropped to his side and the two men fell to the ground.
Obi-Wan’s feet moved without his permission, and he ran to one of the men, reaching out carefully to help the man up.
The man had torn his helmet off as he gagged onto the ground. Obi-Wan grabbed the cloak that had fallen, offering the edge of it so the man could wipe at his face.
The man looked up at him, staring at him as though he’d never seen anything like Obi-Wan before, a spark of life entering dark brown eyes. His face twisted in what looked like pain, the scar around his eye catching Obi-Wan’s attention, important, like so many things that Obi-Wan didn’t understand. “Are you okay, sir?” he asked quietly.
“General.” The word came out a strangled whisper, as the soldier grabbed at Obi-Wan’s hand where he held the cloak. “You’re alive.”
Obi-Wan frowned, the title the man had given him slipping across his skin like a familiar weight. He turned back to Lord Vader. “He’s confused, I think he needs a healer. You must have hurt him.”
Obi-Wan glanced at the second soldier, a man that must have been the first soldier’s brother for how similar they looked, who was staring at Obi-Wan with wide eyes.
“Are you okay?” Obi-Wan asked the man.
“Leave us,” Vader commanded, before the man could answer. “Ensure that everyone knows that Obi-Wan is not to be harmed.”
Obi-Wan protested. “They need a healer.”
Vader waved a hand at the two men. “You heard him, see yourselves to a medic.”
Both men stiffened, nodding curtly, giving Obi-Wan a final glance before they moved away.
A pang of grief hit Obi-Wan and he didn’t know why, as he watched the two leave.
Once they were gone he turned back to Lord Vader, the man who had saved Obi-Wan’s life by almost killing two men, who had claimed Obi-Wan as his charge.
The terror was sinking back into his bones.
“I want to go home,” Obi-Wan whispered. “I don’t know how I got here, but I just want to go back to the Temple.”
Vader didn’t answer, walking slowly around Obi-Wan, observing him. “There is no temple, Obi-Wan. The Jedi and their Temple has Fallen.”
Obi-Wan opened his mouth to protest, he’d been there just days ago, everything had been fine.
Except, deep in his chest he could feel that grief, that grief he hadn’t been able to explain, as though some part of him had known that the Jedi were gone.
His eyes burned with tears. Now that he could recognize the grief, it was almost impossible to contain it.
“What is going to happen to me, now?” Were they going to kill him, like they’d killed all the other younglings strewn across the ground, blaster fire and the signs of a lightsaber through their chest, council chambers littered with younglings. He blinked the strange images away, a tear slipping free from his eyelashes to streak down his cheek.
Vader froze. “This time, it will be me who will take care of you.”
Obi-Wan didn’t think he wanted this dark figure, radiating hatred, anger, fear—so much fear—to take care of him.
He wanted to run. To return to the isolated desert of Tatooine and fade away, to become another memory for the sands to strip away.
“You must stay, Obi-Wan. This is the plan.” The words echoed in his mind, familiar and foreign.
Obi-Wan didn’t like this plan. Didn’t understand this plan. Why could no one so much as ask him if he was willing.
Why was he always a dejarik piece to be sacrificed?
Obi-Wan swallowed down a sob, his own thoughts didn’t make sense to him anymore.
Vader was circling him again. “You have the presence of another on you. Someone I haven’t sensed in a long time.”
“I don’t… I don’t know what you mean.”
Vader didn’t seem to hear his answer, still circling slowly, footsteps heavy and loud, each step a demand to be seen and heard.
The name meant something, everything seemed to mean something though, and Obi-Wan was just lost.
The Force was building around him, neither dark nor light, just power.
The ghost from earlier appeared between Obi-Wan and Vader.
“Let me go, Anakin. You don’t know what power you are—”
Vader interrupted the ghost easily. “It was you who did this. I can sense your touch on him, yours and Yoda’s.”
“I will protect him, Anakin. I won’t let you hurt him.”
Vader scoffed. “You will protect him? You’re nothing more than a relic of a bygone age, a ghost with no power.”
Obi-Wan shivered, remembered drowning, the ghost staring down at him with that smile that meant ‘I follow the will of the Force’ that said ‘trust me, I know best’, and Obi-Wan had only ever been a sacrifice for other people’s happiness, had always been the price that was paid for someone else’ attachment. That hadn’t changed.
“You don’t understand the power I wield, the dark will never provide you such power.”
“You think what you did was light?” Vader’s voice had not changed in intonation, but the sense of vengeful glee still slipped into the tones of the words.
Vader stepped forward, hand coming up into that same claw-like gesture of before. “You’re a fool, Qui-Gon Jinn. How should I thank you, for giving me back what was mine, for making him so perfectly vulnerable?”
“You will not hurt—” The ghost’s words cut out, hands going to his neck, eyes widening in shock.
Obi-Wan felt his own mouth fall open. He didn’t think that a ghost could be strangled.
He stepped back again, wanting to put as much distance between him and both ghost and monster.
“It would be a mercy to extinguish you, to wipe you from existence. But then you wouldn’t see the consequences of what you’ve done.” Vader stepped forward, the ghost struggling against air as though trying to flee. “You never deserved Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn. And now you will never have him again. You gave him to me twenty years ago, and you’ve given him to me again. Obi-Wan Kenobi is mine.”
Obi-Wan took another step back, he wanted to run, but there could be no escape from a man who could contain even a ghost.
He just wanted to go home.
Except, if what Vader had said earlier was true, there was no home, not for him.
The ghost was still choking. He was not cut off from air, Obi-Wan realized, but somehow from the very Force that he was a part of.
“You will exist, but as nothing more than a specter, Qui-Gon Jinn.” Vader waved his hand, and the ghost vanished immediately
Obi-Wan took a fourth step back as Lord Vader turned toward him.
“Come, Obi-Wan.” Vader turned away. “You’ll have much to learn, if you’re to stay by my side. There is much to do, you and I.”
Obi-Wan hesitated, but there did not seem to be much choice. He stepped forward, stumbling a little over his feet as he went.
Lord Vader’s hand caught his arm, keeping him from falling before pulling him close so that Obi-Wan was carefully positioned against his side it was a position Obi-Wan had seen Masters and Padawans take in the temple, but it brought none of the comfort he’d always imagine the position would bring.
“Don’t worry, Obi-Wan. Now that I’ve found you again, no one will hurt you. No one will take you from me, not again.”
Obi-Wan believed him.
He just wasn’t sure that was a good thing.