Title: The Game of Death
Summary: Ummm... You'll have to read it to find out.
Category: Angst, Hurt/Comfort.
AN: This is the second story I ever wrote. I don't quite know where this is going yet or how we're going to get there. I'm just going to take this one step at a time, but I reckon its going to be a long ride.
Qui-Gon Jinn cracked open one eye lid. His room was still dim with the last vestiges of the night, but by now a faint glow was painting the far wall in a warm golden light.
Dawn. The start of a new day.
The Jedi stretched his tall frame, grunting as several joints popped and cracked
Qui-Gon chuckled. Getting older, he thought wryly, before rolling out of bed to start his morning routine. But barely had he gone two steps towards the 'fresher when noises from the kitchen drew him to a surprised halt. It seemed that one of his morning duties would not be necessary today.
His apprentice was already awake.
Qui-Gon stepped out into the main living area and smiled at the sight of his Padawan puttering about the kitchen, apparently gathering breakfast.
"Could it be," Qui-Gon teased, "that the notorious Obi-Wan Kenobi awakens before sunrise? Should I contact the High Council at once?"
Obi-Wan turned, blue-green eyes sparkling with a merriment that completely ruined his mock glare. "Is there a problem, Master?" he asked, folding his arms across his chest.
Qui-Gon smiled at the familiar stance before answering. "Yes, its only just dawn and you're up and about," he retorted. "Is there a Sith Lord in your room?"
Qui-Gon only just ducked the cushion that came flying at him from behind.
"I doubt if you would sleep much better, Master," Obi-Wan resumed his tasks in the kitchen as if he had never done such a thing as aim a cushion at his Master's head, "considering what day it is."
Qui-Gon sobered at once. Of course he remembered what day it was. This was the day that his Obi-Wan took one step nearer to becoming a Knight. It was the day he set off on his first solo mission.
Just a simple escort duty, the usual task reserved for Padawans on their first mission alone, but quite an important one.
Increasing in pirate activity on the space lanes meant travellers grew nervous. So nervous, it seemed, that a certain Senator Belar had requested a Jedi presence to accompany him back to his homeworld.
Enter his Padawan.
Ever serious about his duty, Obi-Wan had spent most of the previous evening gathering all the information he could on Senator Belar, along with every conceivable threat between here and their destination.
This activity had continued until even Qui-Gon decided enough was enough and insisted that his Padawan get some food and rest.
"You should make use of the shower and change, Master," Obi-Wan's voice drew him from his reverie. "I'll get our breakfast ready."
"Although," he tilted his head thoughtfully as he picked up the kettle, "I really ought make you do it this morning. You'll need the practice unless you can find some other poor soul prepared to get your breakfast ready over the next week in my absence."
"With your dubious culinary skills, Padawan, it would be a welcome relief."
Another cushion mysteriously flew in Qui-Gon's direction.
"For that," Obi-Wan said. "I should contact Master Yoda. A week on his stews should give you a healthy appreciation for what you have."
Qui-Gon folded his arms. "I lived for weeks on Master Yoda's stews once, Padawan, as you should well remember."
"Then you should agree more fully with what I'm saying."
Qui-Gon laughed and conceded the point. "That I do, Padawan," he said as he disappeared back into his room. "That I do."
An hour later both Master and Padawan stood on the windswept landing platform that accommodated Senator Belar's transport.
As they waited for the Senator to arrive, Qui-Gon cast an eye over his apprentice. To every one else Obi-Wan would seem calm and composed-even a little intimidating with his arms tucked into the sleeves of his robe and the heavy frown of concentration between his brows.
But Qui-Gon knew better. He could feel the undercurrents of the Force and knew how nervous his Padawan was. Of course, even without the Force, he knew Obi-Wan.
It was not so much the fact of leaving his Master's side that would make him nervous. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan had been separated many times on previous missions and Jedi were taught from an early age to be independent. But it was the first time the sole responsibility of a mission had rested squarely on the twenty-one year old's shoulders, and Qui-Gon knew that Obi-Wan would worry greatly about getting everything right, about not letting Qui-Gon down. And if anything went wrong Obi-Wan would blame himself.
Qui-Gon gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head. Obi-Wan worried far too much for his taste. He sometimes had too little regard for his own worth and abilities. Qui-Gon remembered how shocked his Padawan had been when the Council had suggested that he was ready for his first mission-
Qui-Gon caught a flicker of movement out of the corner of his eye. An air taxi was approaching at a fast clip, winging its way towards the landing platform. The Senator was arriving.
Obi-Wan drew a long, steadying breath.
"Ready Padawan?" Qui-Gon asked.
"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan replied, squaring his shoulders. "Though, I just can't help feeling that there's something amiss."
"Nervous perchance, Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon's lips quirked teasingly.
Obi-Wan turned his gaze away from the scar-faced mechanic he had been observing, arching an eyebrow at his Master. "Possibly."
Qui-Gon laughed, but despite his teasing he did respect his Padawan's instincts. He did not sense that anything was amiss himself, but he was not particularly skilled in prescience. His was the Here and Now.
Reaching out he laid a hand on Obi-Wan's shoulder. "Just be on your guard and do your best, my Padawan, then not too much can go wrong." he gave the tense shoulder an encouraging squeeze. "I have every faith in you."
Obi-Wan visibly relaxed under the praise. He looked up at Qui-Gon, his ever changing eyes awash with gratitude. "Thank-you," he said softly.
The moment was broken when the air taxi landed and the Senator disembarked with several of his aides in tow.
Qui-Gon dropped his hand from Obi-Wan's shoulder and tucked it back into his sleeve, morphing back into the impassive Jedi Master as Senator Belar spied them and strode over, fine robes flowing gracefully. "Greetings, Jedi," he said as he came before them.
Both Jedi bowed. That done, Qui-Gon stepped back to allow Obi-Wan control of the meeting.
"Greetings, Senator Belar," Obi-Wan began graciously. "I am Jedi Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi and this is my mentor, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn."
"Ah , yes, Padawan Kenobi," Belar said after acknowledging Qui-Gon. "You are the Jedi who is to escort me back to my homeworld, yes?"
"That is correct, Senator," Obi-Wan answered.
"Good," the Senator nodded approvingly, seemingly unconcerned by Obi-Wan's young age. "I for one will feel better to have you around. All this recent pirate activity has me a little edgy to say the least"
Obi-Wan smiled slightly. "I will do everything in my power to serve and protect you, Senator."
Belar laughed, pleased. "Very well, I am ready to leave when ever you are, Jedi Kenobi." He turned and nodded to Qui-Gon. "Master Jinn."
Qui-Gon bowed in return as the Senator walked away having watched the proceedings with approval. He returned to his Padawan's side as Obi-Wan shouldered his pack.
"May the Force be with you, Padawan," he said by way of farewell, meaning it with all his heart.
Obi-Wan gave him a quick smile, his mind already on the task ahead. "May the Force be with you, too, Master." He then turned and walked away, straight and tall and without hesitation.
Qui-Gon watched him go, heart full of conflicting emotions. Proud but sad. Happy but aching. He wondered distantly if this was how a parent felt when their children took their first steps into the world without them. He was going to miss Obi-Wan sorely and the feeling only served to remind him of the long, lonely years ahead when Obi-Wan would need him no longer and leave his side for good
But that was the way of things, Qui-Gon reminded himself. And it couldn't be changed. He would have to shed his selfish attachments, no matter how much he wanted this time to last, and let Obi-Wan go on to find his own path without him.
Obi-Wan's Knighting was an event Qui-Gon both looked forward to and dreaded. And this day drew it one step nearer.
By now Obi-Wan had mounted the ship's ramp and in a few strides he had disappeared from Qui-Gon's sight. The last of the Senator's aides had followed and the ramp began retract.
With a sigh Qui-Gon turned to leave. Time to return to the Temple and the duties that waited for him.
He had not gone two steps when a heart wrenching cry ripped through his mind.
But no answer came back. The bond had become suddenly muted. Dim and clouded. Obi-Wan was still there, Qui-Gon could tell that in a heartbeat, but the sudden fogginess told him that something was very wrong.
His Padawan was unconscious.
The Jedi Master spun round, lightsaber hilt flying to his hand as he charged back towards the docked ship-just in time to see the entire vessel explode into a searing mass of destruction..
Thunder assaulted his ears, shaking the very ground beneath his feet. The sudden onslaught of heat and light knocked him backwards, searing his disbelieving eyes. But he could not close them. Could not shut out what was unfolding before him. The sight would be burned into his mind's eye forever.
Hunks of red hot metal screamed through the air like the molten rain of hell. But nothing screamed louder than Qui-Gon's heart in that moment as all of his connections to Obi-Wan suddenly snapped and fell dead. Not even the buzz of unconsciousness remained with him.
Qui-Gon staggered, wavering on his feet as if the world had collapsed. Pain and emptiness was all he knew.
Another explosion rocked the platform, completely destroying what little remained of the Senator's ship. Fresh waves of heat and shrapnel sheared through everything in the vicinity.
A large hunk of the super heated metal struck the dazed and staggering Master in the shoulder, knocking him to the ground with the force of a speeding swoop . His head impacted violently with the permacrete and the whole nightmarish world began to fade.
The last thing Qui-Gon remembered before unconsciousness took him was the sight of the gaping hole in the landing platform. A hole where the Senator's ship had once stood containing the most precious thing in his life.