It's finally updated!
I'm sorry if the grammar is horrible or if the language is too formal and stilted… and also if the story is moving forward too quickly. I've had some trouble getting the story to flow the way I want it to (i.e. I fail miserably). Review and tell me what you think!
OLD AUTHOR's NOTE
Hello all readers!
It seems like my old author's note is gone. I don't know why as I haven't edited anything… *sigh*
Anyway. School is burying me in work. This story is NOT abandoned. I have written at least two more chapters and am in the process of editing them. But I won't be able to upload anything until after the next two project deadlines (I simply don't have the time necessary to finish editing).
We're also looking for internships for this coming spring and that takes a lot of time as well…
Like I said in the last author's note: this story is finished. But it's an old version. That version has been finished for almost two years now. But I'm no longer happy with that version and am rewriting it. That's why it takes such a long time.
I hope some of you are still willing to continue reading when I start uploading again… over six months between updates is not okay, after all.
And this time, I really mean it. (I underestimated how much work being a 3D student would be, but I won't make that mistake again.)
Obi-Wan fell back against his bed with a huff. It had been a lot harder than he expected to see their faces again. The faces of the three persons he loved more than anything else in the universe. His family. He resisted the urge to bury his face in a pillow as he felt his cheeks redden. This was the first time he had allowed himself to call them that to himself. Feeling love towards them was one thing. To put a label on that love was another.
The Jedi were supposed to regard the Temple and all of the Jedi as their family and home, but Obi-Wan had never been able to do that. Bant, Garen and his other friends felt more like cousins than siblings if he was to think of them as relatives at all. Qui-Gon, however, had started out like a tall, terrifying –in a good way-, master that inspired respect and awe from others even if he intended it or not. But that person had soon transformed into something else. Obi-Wan could now truthfully say that there was nothing he wouldn't do for the older man and that the universe would feel much colder without him. In short: Qui-Gon had become to Obi-Wan what Obi-Wan felt toward Anakin. A surrogate father that in many ways was so much more than any biological father could ever be. Home was where Qui-Gon was and without him, he would be lost.
Obi-Wan flopped over onto his stomach, burying his face in the soft mattress. Qui-Gon had poked at his shields so many times during the day that he could swear he felt a bruise beginning to form on the exposed area.
He understood the good intentions and concern behind that action, but even his master should be able to tell when enough was enough.
To be fair, Qui-Gon probably didn't realize that he had made even half of those probes as they seemed rather erratic and subconscious in nature. But just because many of the probes were subconscious, Obi-Wan's conscience felt it prudent to rap him smartly over the head and proclaim that he shouldn't keep anything, however insignificant or universe-shattering from his master. Even the simplest of bonds were made in trust, and Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon's training bond ran a lot deeper than the average.
Oh, dear Force. Bonds.
Obi-Wan felt blood drain from his face. While Qui-Gon's bond had been healed and was now whole again with only the ghost of the ragged and torn ends left as a faint overlaying image, that was only natural as neither of them had fully wanted to let that bond go when Qui-Gon died.
But the training bond he had shared with Anakin had been severed in the more natural way, with consent from both sides. That cut had been clean and easy. Obi-Wan didn't know if Anakin knew that they had begun forming another bond almost immediately after the first was severed. That new bond had the markings of family. Even when Darth Vader had stared at him hatefully, that bond had still been there.
Obi-Wan screamed in despair. If their family bond was still in existence even with one of them as a Sith, that could only mean that Anakin wasn't completely dead. He hadn't imagined things. There had been a flash of blue in those eyes, evidence of a soul that desperately tried to fight the darkness surrounding it. Looking for any hint of light; that anyone cared enough about him to see his frantic struggle. And the one who had seen had ignored it. Rationalized him away.
Tears burned in his eyes and flowed down his cheeks. He had abandoned his son. Just as Qui-Gon had abandoned him. The circumstances were different, true. But in the end, they had both abandoned the very persons who needed them the most. Oh, Anakin might have felt that he needed Padmé more than his master as she undoubtedly was his soulmate, but Obi-Wan had been his last hope as the dark side swallowed him whole.
The young man on the bed curled up in a ball, shut his eyes and wept for all that was lost.
Obi-Wan opened his eyes and blinked uncomprehendingly at the ceiling. Someone had pulled a thin blanket over him. That could only mean that he had either passed out or fallen asleep sometime during the hours of agonizing pain. Feeling his master's steady, sleeping presence from across the small room he suddenly felt ridiculous for not realizing who that someone had been. He wondered what had woken him and sat up, prying through the semi-darkness of the room. There was nothing in sight that could have caused a noise or a disturbance big enough to wake him from what he was sure had been a deeply exhausted sleep. It was very silent. Even Qui-Gon's gentle breathing didn't break the tranquillity of the room.
Frowning, Obi-Wan turned his gaze inward and immediately spotted a tiny ball of misery that wasn't his own at the back of his head. He followed the faint trail to its source and blinked in surprise. Anakin was still awake and clearly unhappy.
Obi-Wan hopped off the bed and hunted for his boots as quietly as he could manage, all the while keeping an eye on Qui-Gon so he wouldn't wake the man unnecessarily.
It was not until he was out in the corridor that he realized the significance of what he had felt. His steps faltered for a moment, but years of caring and practice propelled him towards his former padawan. If he could feel Anakin in his head, then that meant that at least one of the bonds were reforming themselves. If the family bond had been broken by his travel, of course. Otherwise it would still be intact but dormant. He sighed. This was a complication he had not counted on. If Yoda or Mace picked up on something unusual, he would most certainly have an even harder time trying to conceal everything from the council. Much as he loved them, he also knew that they would undoubtedly do more harm by following their curiosity rather than what their sensibility told them. How long could he hope to keep them in the dark about his apparent impossible travel through time? Would that even be fair?
Obi-Wan stopped in front of the doors to the mess hall, feeling Anakin's presence on the other side. He probed the room quickly before stepping close enough for the doors to open. There was only Anakin, Jar-Jar and the two trusty droids inside. The gungan was sprawled in a boneless manner in a chair, snoring loudly. Obi-Wan snickered mentally. That one wouldn't easily wake up.
His eyes then fell on Anakin. The small boy sat huddled in a golden red blanket with the Naboo royal emblem embroidered in shimmering thread. He was shivering slightly.
"Is something the matter, Anakin?" Obi-Wan asked gently.
The boy hesitated for a second. "Yes… no… I'm cold. Padmé was here earlier and talked a bit, but it didn't help very much."
Obi-Wan nodded and waited for the boy to scoot over slightly before sitting down beside him.
"Nothing really feels like it will ever be right again… or warm… when you're separated from your parent for the first time." He smiled teasingly, "especially when you jump headlong onto a starship from a desert planet."
Anakin's eyes had gone round from this admission and he burrowed into the older man's side more snugly and contemplated how to voice his thoughts before deciding on the direct approach.
"How did you know that Obi-Wan?"
Obi-Wan blinked. Great. Well done, Kenobi.
"Ah, let's just say I lost someone who was very dear to me… besides, I'm positive I would feel like that if I and Qui-Gon would ever get separated. Completely separated."
"As in if the Jedi decided you couldn't be his apprentice anymore?"
"Something like that. What you said probably would devastate me beyond repair."
At that, the young boy had the cheek to poke him in the ribs.
"It's good then that I'm good at fixing things, isn't it, Obi-Wan?"
Obi-Wan could not resist laughing and tousling his boy's hair. If only Anakin knew, if he only knew that he in fact had been what had saved Obi-Wan.
"Yes. I'm fortunate to have you."
A comfortable silence settled around them as they sat looking at everything and nothing, enjoying each other's company. Obi-Wan had gently placed his arms around the boy's shoulder and was beginning to nod off as Anakin spoke up again.
"Hmm?" was all that he managed in reply.
The boy took a deep breath, apparently mustering courage for whatever he wanted to say.
"Thank you for sitting here with me. It doesn't hurt as much anymore. It's like I've known you all my life and that I can trust you to take care of me like mom did… not that you would ever replace her, of course… but…" he trailed off, obviously feeling embarrassed and a little guilty that he had come close to renouncing his mother not even a day after they had separated.
"Anakin", Obi-Wan couldn't help it. A huge grin broke out on his face as he felt warmth spread through him and he hugged the small body with the arm he already had draped across the boy's shoulder. "I understand, thank you."
A highly confused but very proud Jedi Master found them in the morning, sleeping sprawled all over the sofa, with identical smiles on their lips.
Obi-Wan folded his hands nervously on the impeccable front of his Jedi robe, trying to give off a sense of serenity and calm. They were less than an hour from Coruscant now and Anakin was growing clingy even though he obviously was very curious as well.
"No", Obi-Wan said for the umpteenth time. "Please do not cling, Anakin. There will be time for us to talk later."
Blue, worried eyes met his.
"But what if I'm not accepted?"
"That is irrelevant right now, young one." Obi-Wan smiled. "Right now you should focus on the present and perhaps go talk some with Padmé. She will be far busier than either Qui-Gon or I once we land."
Seeing yet another protest forming, he knelt down but refrained from touching the boy.
"Listen, Ani. Whatever happens, you will be able to talk to me and see me whenever you want." He looked away for a moment, not quite trusting his voice. "But there is a possibility that you will not be able to see Padmé again for quite some time." Making a small motion towards the disguised queen, he continued. "And she looks like she would like to talk some more with you."
Anakin squirmed a bit but cast a longing gaze in her direction.
"Really." Obi-Wan answered the unspoken question with a chuckle. "Off you go." He tousled the boy's hair briefly and then stood up. He hoped that he would manage to calm his own nerves in the respite he got from sending Anakin in Padmé's direction.
He failed miserably. Of course, it didn't help much when Qui-Gon was trying to burn a hole through the back of his head with his steady gaze.
By the time the elegant ship touched down on the landing platform, Obi-Wan was decidedly frazzled but also very annoyed. From the now puzzled looks his master sent his way he also looked, at the very least, stern.
A light breeze made their cloaks billow a little when the landing platform was lowered. The Supreme Chancellor Valorum and Senator Palpatine were waiting for them. As they made their way towards the welcoming party, Obi-Wan noticed that Palpatine looked distinctly peeved at not being alone to welcome them, but he hid it well. Had he been alone an assassination had undoubtedly occurred and Palpatine would find a way to worm his way out of any suspicion that might fall on his person. Obi-Wan couldn't help but frown heavily at the man as they walked together towards the ferrying shuttle. The Sith Lord seemed surprised at this and scrutinized the padawan even as he spouted platitudes and empty promises.
Obi-Wan was almost beyond caring and only managed to let Anakin leave together with the queen's entourage when he recalled his words to Anakin.
"That man is a sneaky opportunist."
The comment was spoken so close that Obi-Wan started in surprise. He hadn't noticed his master creeping up beside him.
"But you should stop staring at him in that hostile way, padawan. He hasn't done anything serious yet."
The admonishment almost set Obi-Wan off in a true rage that would no doubt get him kicked out of the Order.
"Is that so, master?" he snarled and whipped around to meet the older man's stern gaze. "How can you be so sure?"
Qui-Gon looked taken aback by the vehement reply and put up his hands in a calming gesture.
"Peace, Obi-Wan. I am quite sure that we would sense if he had any insidious agenda that would threaten anyone in the party." he said feebly.
A sharp laughter was the answer he got as the younger man almost doubled over.
He didn't really say "insidious" did he? Oh Force, he did.
He unfolded his arms from his cramping stomach. "Insidious, master? Really?" this was all he could manage before setting off again, howling with laughter.
"Well I don't understand what I said that could possibly be so funny, padawan." Qui-Gon sounded put-out. "But in any case, it is high time for us to report to the council."
Getting no reply but hysterical laughter, Qui-Gon rolled his eyes, took his padawan by the cuff of his robes and gently but firmly dragged him towards their speeder.
Anakin was beyond bored. He was quite ready to give in to his childish impulses and lie down on the floor and bawl with fatigue. Padmé had gone somewhere on an errand for the queen that he couldn't accompany her on and Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon was holed up in that intimidating temple that loomed over the simple building he sat in, waiting.
Padmé. Anakin smiled as he shifted around in the big couch trying to find a comfortable position. The girl's smile made him warm and he didn't miss his mother as much whenever she was near. Come to think of it, Obi-Wan also had that effect on him.
It was amazing that two such important persons could find time to bother themselves with him: a simple former slave-boy. Anakin still couldn't believe it even though he tried. Every instinct he had, be it beaten into him or not, screamed at him that he wasn't even worthy of being in their company. Yet they didn't seem to dislike him in the least, but went to great lengths to ensure that he was as happy as he could possibly be with the current situation. Qui-Gon also tried his best, but the man kept himself more at a distance now that the younger ones were fighting for Anakin's attention.
They were actually, actually fighting for his attention. Well, Anakin amended. Maybe not fighting physically, but Obi-Wan and Padmé almost seemed jealous of each other when Anakin chose to be with only one of them. But they both told him that they didn't mind and that he should spend more time together with the other person. It was as if they thought Anakin was too small to be able to love both of them at the same time. And he really wished Qui-Gon wouldn't stay distant but be as he had been on Tatooine. Because he also liked Anakin a lot. He could feel that. According to Obi-Wan that was one of the many talents he had with the Force.
The Force. Anakin rolled the word around in his head lazily as he watched Jar-Jar make a fool out of himself yet again. It was nice to finally be able to put a name on the thing that had always been with him. His solace in the harsh universe he had known all his life. The Force. The. Force. The force... the Force. Anakin giggled. It really sounded funny in some combinations.
The Jedi's were more awesome than he had ever imagined. A frown marred his otherwise cherubic face. But even though Qui-Gon was amazing and all that, Obi-Wan was amazing-ler. Anakin didn't understand how, but he knew that the younger Jedi and he shared something very special. When he felt Obi-Wan's presence (and all he had to do was reach out just so) he felt a warmth akin to that he felt around his mother. He was afraid to lose that if he failed the Jedi entrance-exams... or whatever they chose to call them.
Anakin fidgeted some with the sash that was tied around his waist, holding his tunic closed.
He really didn't know what to do if he should lose Obi-Wan. The man had become so very important to him. He recalled the talk they had had the first night onboard the ship and shivered and knew he couldn't live without Obi-Wan. Or Padmé. Oh, maybe he could live as in the technical breathing and functioning, but he was fairly sure he wouldn't live.
Immediately he felt guilty because he realized he didn't feel that way about Qui-Gon. Life without that man would be very difficult and sad, but he would still exist as a person.
If he failed his tests, then he might lose Obi-Wan. Possibly Padmé as well. He was afraid to become nothing again. Just a number, a meaningless name among many. A slave once again. And without them there he wouldn't even have his identity anymore.
He abruptly shook his head.
Come on, Anakin. You're nine. This is far too deep thinking for your age.
Oh yeah? Came a mocking voice in his head. Since when have slaves ever truly been children?
Anakin stared morosely at the air in front of him. He had to make the tests. He just had to.
"Easily scared this boy is?"
Yoda's words bore into Obi-Wan painfully as though the jab was directed at him and not the young prospect waiting nervously even now.
"No", Obi-Wan cut in, not caring that he should defer to his elders and wait until his master had finished speaking. "He isn't easily scared but he is lost and frightened because everything is new."
Yoda raised an eyebrow. "Certain of this, are you?"
"Yes" was the stubborn answer.
"How so sure can you be?"
Obi-Wan felt Qui-Gon's incredulous stare but ignored it, checking that his shields were in place and tried to form a good answer. He would gladly take the lecture later if he could make the Council less hostile to Anakin this time around.
"I am sure of this as I have sensed the boy's feelings and mind for myself, master."
At the sceptical looks he was given from all directions, he bristled. "He shines in the Force like a supernova, masters. Surely you all can sense there is no darkness there?!" he snapped.
"Mind your tone, padawan Kenobi" Mace Windu barked.
"Yes master Windu", Obi-Wan bowed.
"It is not his current presence in the Force that we are worried about", the dark-skinned man continued, somewhat placated. "It is his future that is shrouded."
"And will continue to be so if you all keep on holding on to your ridiculous view that anything that sounds remotely suspicious is dark!" Obi-Wan accused heatedly.
Mace was abruptly cut off as Yoda leaned forward on his gimer stick. "Continue, young padawan."
Obi-Wan blinked at the smaller creature, disbelieving. He had anticipated to be berated, lectured, even put on probation of some sort. But not this.
"Er.." he cleared his throat and tried again. "Masters. If you meet a very young former slave boy with hostility that he can easily feel given his high sensitivity in the Force, then he's going to become just what you fear, if nothing else but as a sort of self-defense mechanism."
Mace glared at him. "Then how are we to 'meet' him as you so nicely put it?"
"Peace, master Windu", Qui-Gon found this moment a good one to intervene and try to stave off the storm. "Let him continue."
"Meet him with the respect he deserves. He is old, yes. But he is not dark. He is not selfish. He is just a bit insecure and misses his mother terribly." Obi-Wan noticed that Deepa Bilaba and Mace were about to cut him off yet again and hurriedly continued, almost blurting out his words in his haste, losing some of the elegance of his otherwise so carefully enunciated words. "Which is also very normal in a boy that age who is suddenly wrenched from the place he has known all his life. He will always miss his mother, but the pain will fade to some degree. We cannot put him under the same restrictions as everybody else. He must be allowed to have some contact with his mother or otherwise be allowed to attach himself to one of us as a surrogate. A connection like that, the feeling it invokes cannot be unlearned. If we forbid him to feel it, his future might indeed be dark."
Mace snorted. "And who would he attach himself to? You perhaps? Do not think that we have not noticed your and master Jinn's somewhat unorthodox bond."
Obi-Wan's eyes narrowed in thought. Mace and Yoda obviously suspected something. They just went about it in different approaches and angles.
"Masters", Qui-Gon interjected smoothly. "With your permission, I would like to submit Obi-Wan for the trials." He put an encouraging hand on his padawan's shoulder. "I cannot teach him anymore and I believe him ready."
"So you could free yourself to become young Skywalker's master?" Mace asked, astonishment written clearly on his face.
"No", Qui-Gon replied. "Obi-Wan is well and truly ready."
Obi-Wan felt a small probe from Qui-Gon and hesitantly dropped his shields somewhat. What trickled over was a strong sense of approval and love and he almost choked, blinking back tears. How could he have been so stupid all those years ago... or now... to ever think his master abandoned him?
"I", he croaked. "Master Yoda, Master Windu. May I have a private audience with you?"
Because his shields were lowered, he could feel Qui-Gon's surprise and faint suspicion and cringed inwardly.
Yoda rapped his gimer stick against the floor. "Without your master you wish to see us, hmm?"
Obi-Wan inclined his head.
"Very well. This meeting is adjourned for now to be reassembled in fifteen minutes." Mace said firmly and held Qui-Gon's gaze for a fraction of a second longer than necessary as the man seemed reluctant to leave his padawan alone even as the rest of the council slowly filed out of the room. But with a final rustle of his robe and a flick of his hair, Qui-Gon went as well.
Great, Kenobi. What have you gotten yourself into now? Obi-Wan berated himself and shifted nervously on the spot, transferring his weight from one leg to the other.
A sharp pain to his calves tore him back to the present and he glared down at Yoda who had walked up to him and proceeded to whack him with the stick.
"Drop your shields, you will."
The command was firm and Obi-Wan stared at his beloved master in horror. They knew. Or they suspected something. He felt like kicking himself. With all the yelling he had done, they probably thought that he had turned to the dark side.
His hesitation earned him another sound whack to the leg.
"Drop them now you will. And stop altering your Force signature as well."
He immediately obeyed and felt how his face once again took on a weary look. Older and sadder. He saw the change take place in the reflection of their eyes. In the startled and saddened expressions of their faces.
He hadn't aged physically, but he had allowed them to see his real age. The real Obi-Wan Kenobi.
"Dear Force, Obi-Wan. What has happened to you?" Mace breathed after a few moments of stunned silence.
Obi-Wan clutched at his robe, not sure what to answer.
"So true, the bond is." Yoda stated with his ears perked up in attention.
Mace made an impatient gesture. "Don't bother with the honorific, Obi-Wan. It is quite clear you are a master yourself."
A glance was shared between the older Jedi as Obi-Wan continued to clam up.
"We don't need to know everything, but we should like to know the basics, if that helps?"
Obi-Wan sighed and ran a hand through his too short hair. He could do basics. He hoped.
"I am not the age I seem."
Mace snorted. "That much is obvious. But I suppose you mean you are the age your expression shows."
"Yes", came the amused reply. The younger Mace was just like the Mace Obi-Wan knew in the past future. Maybe he had been there all along but hadn't deigned show it to Obi-Wan until he thought him ready. Huh. That certainly explained things. "As you have correctly sensed, there is already a bond between me and young Anakin."
"A bond of family and a bond of training", Yoda nodded and startled Obi-Wan.
"Yes master. I did not know the second bond had reformed?"
Yoda merely raised an eyebrow.
There was silence for a few minutes before Mace cleared his throat, clearly uncomfortable.
"Am I to understand we denied Anakin the treatment you spoke of and pushed him towards the dark?"
Obi-Wan squirmed a bit and stared fixedly out the windows at the passing speeders and setting sun, refusing to answer.
"No more", Yoda decided. "Trials are not needed. Young Anakin's master you are to be."
At this, Obi-Wan incredulously snapped his gaze to the small Jedi.
"Master", he began. "I do not understand."
"Nothing to discuss there is. Say nothing we will. Will of the Force this is."
With those words, Yoda sealed the conversation and made a sweeping but precise motion with his left hand and the doors to the chamber slid open; admitting a worried Qui-Gon who sped in and immediately went to his padawan, seeking to know if he was alright.
Later he would wonder how he had failed to notice the expression that was on his padawan's face the moment there was a crack between the doors, gone the next instant... or rather, how he could dismiss it so easily. But his frantic worry for the young man had effectively reduced his capability to think rationally. In one thing Qui-Gon Jinn was certain: his and Obi-Wan's bond was far more than a simple training-bond. He hoped the boy knew that.