By his third year on Tatooine the sandstorms don't catch him by surprise anymore. He has learned to anticipate them before they even gather. It's the slight tingling in the air that heralds them and makes the fine hairs on his arms stand on edge.
From the rocky crag, Obi-Wan's gaze strays into the distance, over dunes and rubble stretching before him, all the way to the horizon. Once again, he listens to the silence, an eerie stillness that already carries the wailing and screeching of the wind. Then he starts the descent, swift and concentrated, carefully measuring every step, since the rubble is treacherous, full of loose gravel and hidden crevices. The last thing he needs is a broken ankle and several days out under the open sky until a group of Jawas finds him, sunburned and almost completely parched. He must be cautious. Persevere, stay healthy and keep a clear mind, not for himself but for Luke.
Despite its dangers, the desert seems like a friend, grim indeed, and demanding, but steadfast. When the ghosts of his past are gnawing on his sanity it is the desert which holds him in the here and now. Roaming through the barren lands soothes his wounds. Numbs. Heals. While he finishes the thought he smiles and almost recognises Qui-Gon's voice in it. Don't lose yourself in your fears, Padawan. Mind the moment.
He misses the sound of that name more than he can say. Padawan. So consoling, so gentle.
Upon his return to the hut, the first dusty eddies are already dancing. Cocoons of loose, hard grass slither over the rocky ground, rise and fall in the play of the freshening gusts. One of them follows Obi-Wan into the building. He crouches and examines the brittle netting of leaves and twigs. Rough. Withered. He could toss it into the fire later, or release it back into the desert in the morning. The latter, he thinks, and the quiet knowledge that this lesson ? respect and fondness for even the slightest things - couldn't be learned from Qui-Gon, but only by way of war and exile, saddens him. This is how far you've come, Obi-Wan, searching for enlightenment and friendship in a meagre bundle of tinder.
In the darkness of his habitation, the hours are melting away. His body might be tired, but his mind is working overtime; flooded by scraps of memories that are passing him by, running free, in wild abandon. Some of them strike him as cruel, others as merely bizarre. He yearns to end the chaos, yearns for lucidity, for perfect peace. The Force is still in him and around him, but he doesn?t dare open up to it. Not yet. The last time he did it, he felt the other Jedi dying too distinctly. Small bright lights, adrift in the whispering flow of the universe, snuffed out and extinguished, flame after flame.
The anguish had almost overwhelmed his soul, then. One day and one night in which he had screamed into the desert, only one breath away from giving up. Peace. There is no death, only the Force. In that case, come, Force and take me. Push this human shell over the precipice. Devour me, my guilt, my pain and let it dissolve in you.
Maybe, he had to come this close to the abyss to realise that he is the one who has to linger, to guard and to keep the end of lights from becoming eternal darkness. To preserve hope for the generations to come. The very hope that had died with Anakin but was reborn in Luke.
For every star that fades, the cosmos gives us a new one, Padawan.
Wisdom that can't be measured in truth. Obi-Wan lies completely still, but in his heart he whispers these words, again and again like a mantra, until the words dispel the pictures and Qui-Gon's voice drowns out the wind.
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