Rough chapter, only read over it one or two times. I'll go back later though. Hope you all enjoy it!
Of Waking Dreams
He turned from the view port, a sour taste in his mouth.
I really don't want to go there.
Obi-Wan leaned back further and let out a hiss when the skin on the back of his neck came into contact with the cold glass. Obi-Wan turned, his breath catching as he stared at the steadily approaching planet. From so close, he could see how far the desert had encroached.
Only the capital states remain green.
He didn't know how he knew that the small patch of green could be divided into three large states, but he did. He also knew that there had been at least eighteen larger, farming states that had surrounded them that were now apparently barren. He felt his brow furl.
How…do I know this?
The distraught padawan squeezed his eyes so he could no longer see the golden orb. The familiarity – or rather Obi-Wan's confusion over why some parts of him were no longer familiar to him – was terrifying. He had never heard of this planet Felamore, or whatever it called itself, before. So why did his heart beat so wildly with anticipation and dread in his chest? Obi-Wan turned from the planet, rubbing fiercely at his eyes. Force, he wished he could just go to sleep! His mind was so tired, even if his body was not. If he could only enjoy the mindlessness of unconsciousness for a few hours, Obi-Wan was sure everything would seem so much better.
He dropped his hands from eyes and gasped. His quarters were gone, replaced by a wide desert that stretched out before him. Obi-Wan blinked hard against the sight – but it remained.
'It's a memory. My memory.'
Fear jolted across his spine at the sound of the Other's voice and Obi-Wan turned, almost against his will, and found himself face to face with him.
'Would you like to see?'
The other smiled a cruel smile, reaching for him even as Obi-Wan shrank from the transparent hands.
His foot slid as he stepped from the last bits of thinning grass to the brilliant, golden sand. The sand beneath his feet gave way as he strode across it purposefully and he adjusted his steps accordingly. In his arms, his small nephew perked up, staring at the wide expanse of desert from behind his pacifier.
With bright, curious grey eyes over full, rosy little checks and a crown of black curls, Nor seemed almost unearthly in his beauty. He watched, fascinated, as his nephew drank in his surroundings. He did not need to pay attention to his footing – there were no rocks here and even if there were, he knew the desert paths like the back of his hand.
He knew that this was a new sight for his little Nor. Few found beauty in the encroaching desert and even fewer wished to visit. The environmental technology had stalled its advance – and would keep the sands at contained indefinitely if his people could stop warring long enough to use it consistently.
Of little matter, he thought with some annoyance, once I win this mundane war I will drive the deserts back. Let it have what little ground it could take for now.
The little boy in his arms twisted to look at him, pointing out at the towering dunes that were coming ever closer with each step he took.
"Enh?" He had no idea what his nephew was squeaking to him, so he just nodded and smiled an appeasing smile. That seemed good enough for Nor, for the little boy let out a happy giggle and returned to watching the sands around them as they trekked even deeper into the wastes.
His comm. was vibrating violently against his free hip, as it had been for the past few hours but he ignored it, choosing instead to bop the toddler on his other hip. Nor giggled happily, his little chubby hands gripping at his cloak as he trilled with each bounce.
Cute kid, he thought as he ran a gentle hand through soft curls, seriously cute.
Finally, when he was slick down to his underclothing with sweat and grime, he stopped his trek. He dropped his pack from his shoulder and rummaged around in it before pulling a blanket from within it. It had a trio of playful Gizka lovingly embroidered in one corner and Nor's name in traditional script at the other end. He could still remember the tireless hours his little sister had spent with her needlework, the blanket spread over her enlarged belly.
For my own little Gizka, she would say with a happy little laugh, her face glowing with maternal love. He could never understand why she didn't just find the baby's gender - Lia-anni had insisted on it being a surprise, picking the most neutral baby color their culture had available. An almost disgustingly bright yellow.
He spread the blanket on the ground evenly, careful to keep as must sand from getting onto it as possible and then gently set his nephew down. The little boy cooed happily, his little hands grasping at the familiar blanket happily. He quirked a grin as Nor waved his hands up in down in a display of true infantile joy.
He ran a gentle hand over a chubby belly and up across full checks before cupping the toddlers head affectionately. He stroked the curls for a few moments; allowing himself to take in every detail of his nephew, bask in the pure love and trust that those grey eyes shown with as they stared up at him.
And then he left.
Only when his feet were once again on blood red soil and surrounded by struggling, bone-white grass did he flip his buzzing comm. open. Almost instantly the infuriated voice of his brother-in-law was roaring across the clearing. He watched in blatant amusement as a flock of Hezacks took to the sky screeching, startled at the sound.
"Where is he, you deranged bastard?"
He tsked, lighting a slender orange cigarette as he watched the circling Hezacks. "Really, Selim, that's not really the way you should talk to someone when you want something."
Gods, he really hated easterners.
"I swear to Shin's bones, if you've hurt him-"
"Brother!" The hysterical voice of his sister was suddenly echoing around him. "Please! Please, brother! He's just a baby!" He could almost taste her tears, she was so despondent.
He sighed wearily, bringing a hand up to rub at his forehead, ignoring the way the smoke burned his eyes. "Truly, Lia-anni, you have no one to blame but yourselves. I will admit, perhaps Selim more so, but honestly – you knew so much better."
"Please, please, brother! He is not even two cycles! Please, return him! I beg of you!" He felt his patience snap.
"Enough." His voice was like iron, lashing out from him and whipping the sands around him up violently. "Your son is one with the desert now."
"You wouldn't dare." Selim's voice was harsh, his breath an almost pant. "Not to the scion of the kingdom."
"Come now, let us not play that card. We three know so much better then that."
Dead silence met that remark.
"You wouldn't dare." His voice was hollow. Despite his words, he knew Selim knew it as the truth. "Your cup-"
"-is not full? Perhaps, but yours is bone dry my dear, dear King." This was truly out of his hands – truly it was. "You have taken what is mine – and I always, always, get what is mine. Isn't that true, dear sister?"
The broken sounds of her sobs echoed eerily out of the comm. With a yawn he flicked it off and made his way to his speeder, throwing the unit onto the dash as he dug out the cooler that held his lunch. Politics always made him hungry.
From his seat, Qui-Gon sighed, staring out the view port at the slowly approaching planet. His drink was untouched, with only the cool condensation against his hand to remind him that it was there at all. He could not shake this feeling of dread, the feeling that the innocent enough looking planet was going take something from him.
It was ironic, considering how badly he had wanted to be freed from the Temple. Now that he finally was off Coruscant and had a new mission the only thing he wanted was to retreat to his quarters and lock the door, Obi-Wan in toe.
Obi-Wan Kenobi. The boy had come into his life with the delicacy of a bantha in a china shop. There was no part of his life that remained untouched by the boy's presence in some shape or form. It was frightening and in its own way humbling, how quickly he'd become attached. Qui-Gon was distinctively aware, even without both Mace and Yoda reiterating it for him, that such bonds as the one he had with Obi-Wan were growing increasingly rare within the Order.
Somehow he knew that should he loose Obi-Wan now it would be a hundred times worse than Xanatos. Despite how that day on Telos had colored every action that came after or before it, Qui-Gon still had close to ten years with his former Padawan. Ten years of memories and experiences, good and bad.
To loose Obi-Wan before they had even the chance to form a month's worth of anything would be a blow that the Jedi honestly didn't know if he could come back from. A dark hand was placed on his and if Qui-Gon had been a lesser man he would have jumped. Instead he simply turned to look at his mission companion.
Tahl, a dear friend that had been in the same clan as him and thus been in almost every class with him through their Initiate years, had been assigned to accompany him. She'd had business on Felamore no more than two years ago and as the political situation hadn't changed too much, was considered the foremost expert they had on the Felamoraes, outside of Mace.
The Noorian gave him a questioning look and Qui-Gon reprimanded himself mentally before giving her hand a gentle pat. "I am sorry, was I broadcasting too loudly?"
"No," she gave him another curious look, "But that fact that you are at all is questionable. You are truly worried about your padawan, then?" He nodded mutely, turning to glance once more outside the view port.
Tahl was one of his oldest friends and yet he had told her little outside what the Council had chosen to brief her on. It was not that he did not want her here, that was not it all. Qui-Gon enjoyed the time he spent with fiery woman, especially as it had most likely been a good five years since they had had a mission together.
But he did not know if Obi-Wan was capable of handling Tahl's more…abrasive quirks. He had no idea how the brash woman would react to Obi-Wan's 'possession' and frankly, he did not want to.
"I was devastated to hear that he was ill," Tahl said after a moment of silence, watching him out of the corner of her eye. "Did the Healers say what they were hoping to find on Felamore to heal his, er, condition?"
Qui-Gon almost rolled his eyes at his friend's obvious attempt a fact finding. "We're not too sure of the details quite yet."
The other Jedi glared at his short answer before scoffing and folding her arms with a huff, her nose wrinkling in a way that Qui-Gon had always found adorable. A genuine smile quirked his lips before falling away once more. Tahl would always be the same, regardless of if she was five or thirty eight. It was comforting, at least, to know that some things hadn't changed completely.
"I must admit, I was gobsmacked to hear you'd taken another apprentice. Didn't think it was really true until the Council meeting." He gave her a sharp look at her tone and Tahl had the good grace to blush. "Er, I mean, I just thought…with…you know…him…you'd not take another one." Qui-Gon's scowl grew darker. "I mean, I just thought that you'd tell me yourself. Come on, Jinn! We shared the same crèche together."
She'd managed to put a fair amount of outrage into that last past and Qui-Gon shrugged and stared down at his drink. "I would have told you, Tahl, you're one of the few remaining members of my clan mates. It was just-"
"You got busy." Tahl finished with a dejected sigh, blowing a stray piece of her bangs from her face. "Fine, I'll let it go this time. But do try and drop me a line when the kid gets Knighted. I might just like to attend, you know, just for kicks." She finished dryly.
"I mean, I sent you a fifteen minute long video message when I took my new apprentice – and brought her over to meet you. But that's alright; you can keep your secrets. I understand that men need to have them."
"Of course, I'm not really that important. I've only known you for ninety percent of your life, hey, there's no need to count that. Not really, I mean, I understand and all-"
With a groan Qui-Gon let his head fall to rest against his forearm, cold drink pressed against his forehead. Normally he was all up for Tahl's twisted sense of humor, but right now he was too exhausted and too worried. She fell silent next to him. "I am sorry, Tahl. It just all happened so quickly and Obi-Wan fell ill right away, I would have told you as soon as things calmed down."
A cool hand was pressed against his neck and he opened a single eye to find her smiling down at him. "I'm just jerking your chain, Qui-Gon. You know that. But I'll be merciful seeing how you've managed to exhaust yourself quite nicely."
"How gracious of you." He muttered, before closing his eyes once more. A thought struck him almost immediately afterwards and he sat up, turning to look at his friend with a puzzled look of his own. "Speaking of padawans, why did you choose not to bring yours with you?"
"Hm? Oh, Bant will be just fine on her own for a little bit. I often leave her behind, I work better on my own sometimes." Qui-Gon couldn't help but frown disapprovingly at the flippancy with which she spoke.
"Taking a padawan is serious business, Tahl. You cannot simply pick and choose what missions you take her on."
The Noorian looked at him like he was crazy. "That's exactly what it means. I'm her master, Qui-Gon. What I decided to do with my own padawan is my business."
The sharpness in her tone led him to believe that this was not the first time she'd had this conversation. In the three months she'd taken on Bant Eerin, Tahl had left the Mon Calamari at the Temple four times. It was almost unheard of for something like that to be done so many times outside of direct Council order. And Tahl was right, it was not his place to say anything. But Qui-Gon was her friend, so he was going to say it anyway.
"She's not a pet, you can't just leave her behind when it gets too much for you to handle." He could see by the way her face froze that he'd nailed it on the dot. For as outgoing and amazing a Jedi Tahl was, she had a tendency to find outs of situations that made her uncomfortable. And she usually found it to, along with whatever path that would be to put her at the least risk of being hurt in any shape or form.
"Oh and I suppose you are the perfect character to be handing out padawan raising advice." Her striped iris widened in horror almost the instant the words had left her mouth. Qui-Gon had gone completely rigid, staring at her in mute shock and betrayal. "Oh, Sith! I didn't mean that, Qui-Gon! I really didn't. It's just…having an padawan is so much different then what I thought and the Council is paying so much attention-"
"They always pay attention to padawan linkings, especially if it is your first one." The older Master's tone was icy. He tried to let the anger go, but he was finding it incredibly hard to. He knew the words were the truth. And he had known she hadn't meant to say them the moment they'd escaped her lips. Being a Jedi was good for something, even if he didn't already know the woman. But she had thought them. Qui-Gon brought his hand up to wipe his mouth and tried to think of something to say – anything to say – that would communicate while he was still reeling a bit, he had already forgiven her. It was his own Master, Dooku, who had told him that friendships were a double edged sword. "It's just Bant is one of Obi-Wan's best friends. I had thought that you were bringing her and-"
"You hoped she would help keep his mind of his illness. Force, Qui-Gon I'm sorry. I honestly didn't even know they were friends."
That surprised him and Qui-Gon looked up at his dear friend for a moment, his own nervousness and fear temporarily gone. Her dark complexion was troubled as she stared down at the patterns carved into the metal below them. This time it was he who laid a comforting hand on her own.
"You must reach out to her more, Tahl. There wasn't a story that Obi-Wan has told me about his childhood that did not involve Bant Eerin. But she is a shy girl and you must be patient and work with her. I know it's intimidating but you have to get to know her, deeply, or else you can never work as a Master-Padawan team."
Tahl looked somber for a few moments and then shook her head grimly. "She's so damn smart. I don't even know how I'm supposed to talk to her. She isn't like the other kids. She's practically an adult."
"Practically being the key word here. She needs you and you will need her. You can't truly understand how beneficial this kind of partnership-"
"Said the man who swore he would never take another." Tahl muttered darkly.
Qui-Gon sent her an irritated look but decided to simply talk over her words and prove himself the better man, er, Jedi. "-until you experience it. Yes, it can end…badly, like mine. But it can also be a chance for so many great things. Many view claiming an apprentice the Jedi equivalent of having a child."
"Jeez, Qui-Gon, you sound like you're writing a brochure or something. Calm down, I already claimed one didn't I?"
"Perhaps I should ask the elder Masters to make you a packet of them, perhaps then you'll finally learn some manners." Qui-Gon snapped back with a slight growl, the corner of his lips quirking up. Almost instantly a lopsided grin took Tahl's face.
"See, I knew if I was just annoying enough I could get you to smile." Qui-Gon could have hit her.
"You idiot, don't you -" Qui-Gon stopped mid-lecture, staring blankly at the bar in front of them. Tahl looked from him to the bar across the way and then to him again, a deep frown on her face. And suddenly Qui-Gon was on his feet and in the hallway, leaving a stunned Tahl staring after him in confusion.
There ya go. Eight pages for the eighth chapter. Jeez, I think I'm clever. Please review. As always, I love to hear your favorites of the chapter. Anything stick out in particular?
Teaser for upcoming chapter:
"You are not Obi-Wan."
A grim smile, then; "No, I'm not.