Qui-Gon exited the transport with weary steps. It was still night here on Coruscant, and the lighting in the hangar was dimmed, reflecting his own diminished mood. Despite his physical exhaustion, Qui-Gon entered the lift and pressed the button for the floor where his favourite garden was located.
Except for the artificial lights, which illuminated Coruscant's night, coming in through the tall, dark-glassed windows on one side, it was dark in the garden. Qui-Gon had visited the spiny little bush often enough that he no longer needed to see to find his way. The bush was set far back from the path, close to the inside wall of the Temple, in an area that others rarely traversed. Besides Qui-Gon, perhaps only the gardeners knew the bush was there, and Qui-Gon wasn't even sure about them. He had come across it several months ago when, wounded in both soul and body, he'd been seeking a private place to meditate and heal.
As Qui-Gon approached, he became aware of a scent he hadn't noticed during his last visit. He carefully brushed one hand over the spines, and came in contact with something soft - a flower! Smiling to himself, he bent his head and inhaled the sweet florid odour. When his lungs were filled, he exhaled and knelt down, then reached out to the Force, establishing a connection between himself and the flower. Marvelling at the delicacy of its signature in the Force, he gradually extended his awareness to the little bush.
The Force signature of the bush was no longer muted, but normal, and there was even a touch of enthusiasm there, which cheered Qui-Gon's exhaustion away. In the grey light of the approaching dawn, he could also see that the bush wasn't so little anymore. It had grown upwards and outwards since he'd been away, and its branches were more upright now. Qui-Gon smiled, echoing that enthusiasm, and rejoicing that he'd been able to help it.
There was the slightest of tremors in the ground beneath his knees, a rhythmic whispering in the air around him, and Qui-Gon glanced to his left just in time to see the dark outline of a humanoid come handspringing towards him. He ducked, and the boy sailed over his curved back to land on his other side with a squeal of surprise.
"I'm sorry," the boy said, dropping to his knees. "I didn't think anyone else would be here, this early in the morning."
"It's all right," Qui-Gon replied.
"Are you working on this bush?" the boy asked.
"Just checking its progress, now," Qui-Gon replied, reaching out again to stroke one of the flower's large petals. He couldn't remember if it had been the oddly diminished Force signature of the bush which had caught his attention first, or the uneven way in which it had grown. The bush had not sported any of the aromatic flowers, which were typical for its species, and the growth of some of the branches had been stunted. In contrast, many of the other branches had been starting to go wild, sprouting excessive growth in every possible direction.
"I wish I were a plant sometimes," the boy blurted out. "Then everything about me that's not Jedi-like could just be ... pruned away. One quick snip and it'd be gone."
Qui-Gon regarded the boy thoughtfully and waited. After a moment, the boy explained, "Master Yoda says I'm too impatient. And reckless."
I wonder why, Qui-Gon grimaced inwardly, remembering the handsprings.
"I came here to meditate about it, but ... it'd be faster to just cut it all away."
"If you cut something away, what is left?" Qui-Gon asked, looking back to the bush. The spotlight above it came on, and he could see that the flower was a bright coppery colour. There was also a second one on a lower branch, which was just opening from its bud.
"What do you mean?" the boy asked. As he moved, the light caught his hair, and Qui-Gon noticed that it had some coppery highlights of its own.
"These flowers weren't here several months ago," Qui-Gon said. "Part of this bush was growing wild, so I did some pruning. A few quick snips - just as you said. And what was left?"
"Not much?" the boy guessed.
Qui-Gon nodded. "Later, I installed this spotlight, to encourage the bush to grow in the right direction. And when I saw that some of the branches still needed help, I bound them to this pole to help them stay upright. The bush also needed water and fertilizer, and above all, time to develop enough to flower. There's more to gardening than just pruning. Growing takes time, just as much time as becoming a Jedi."
He didn't mention that the constant care he'd lavished on the bush had also been good for himself, giving him something to focus on besides his own wounds. As the plant had grown, the hurts had healed as well.
"Oh," said the boy, plucking at the hem of his tunic. "I guess it was a stupid wish, then. It's just that I want to be a Jedi so badly!"
"Not stupid," Qui-Gon replied. "Just ... impatient."
The boy sighed. "I know. I guess I'd better get on with my meditation, then. Will it bother you if I go over there by that tree?"
He thinks I'm one of the gardeners, Qui-Gon realized in amusement as the boy stood up. He glanced down to his belt where his lightsaber hung, never having considered it as a gardening implement before, and saw that his forearm had been covering it the entire time. Thoughtfully, he glanced back to the boy. And yet, what is a Jedi master but a gardener of padawan souls? A little trimming of bad habits here, a little support in the right direction there, and - always - encouragement to strive towards the light. The principles of growing things are the same, whether they are bushes or boys.
Moving his eyes back to the flower on his spiny little bush, Qui-Gon found himself considering the boy's impatience to become a Jedi and the way he was trying to resign himself to a slow growing season when he obviously wanted to leap from seed to harvest. The Force tugged at his heart with a silent roaring of rightness, and he knew that it was time to work on the boy as he'd worked on the bush, to lavish him with daily care, to help him grow upwards and outwards, and eventually bloom into knighthood.
Getting to his feet, Qui-Gon called out, "Wait."
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