Chapter 1 - Breaking the rules
"Padawan, you're late."
At the clipped words, the sweaty, disheveled teenager stopped short. It was obvious that Obi-Wan had been trying to sneak back into his own room before he was missed, trying to keep whatever he had done over the past few hours a secret, trying not to get caught out after curfew - without success.
Flushing a deep shade of pink, the boy stood there, bowing his head, his gaze darting this way and that, looking everywhere and at everything but Qui-Gon Jinn. At least Obi-Wan had the good sense to look ashamed.
"Where have you been, Padawan? It's an hour past curfew." Qui-Gon's voice was sharp and cold, deliberately so. His Learner could not be allowed to think that he could break the rules with impunity. This was happening too often of late.
Chewing on his lip in nervousness, Obi-Wan said softly, "It will not happen again, Master."
Qui-Gon folded his arms hard across his chest as he looked down at his Learner. He could feel his own frown cutting into his skin, his mouth tight with frustration, as he glared at the wayward boy. He could not let it pass, not this time.
His words were abrupt, all dramatic effect. "Indeed it will not."
Obi-Wan shrank back, his young shoulders slumping down as the whip-sound of Qui-Gon's voice cut the air. Glancing nervously at him, his green eyes flicking back and forth between the floor and Qui-Gon's hard blue stare, Obi-Wan seemed about to speak but then must have thought better of it. He just nodded and stood there, swaying slightly. He looked very tired.
For a moment, Qui-Gon glared at the teen, his eyes boring into the boy with the fierce displeasure of an irate Master - all severe anger and emphasis. It was expected that a Jedi Master would set a stern example of discipline and decorum whenever his hardheaded apprentice appeared to be breaking the rules. And, although Qui-Gon was known to have broken a rule or two, his young student needed to learn the difference between following the will of the Force and following his own selfish desires.
Qui-Gon was concerned; it was more than just a simple broken rule or two. Obi-Wan had been slacking off in his studies lately, and frankly seemed to be exhausted most of the time.
Qui-Gon should have pushed harder to find out what was going on before this but it was not too late. Or so he hoped.
"It is not just the curfew, Padawan. Your focus has been sorely lacking the last several days. Unacceptably so. It cannot go on."
The boy looked positively mortified. "Master, it won't. I'm sorry that I haven't been performing up to your standards. I'll try...." He stopped for a moment, realized what he was about to say and then turning away, he murmured, "I'll do better. I promise."
Relenting, Qui-Gon reached out, resting his hand on the teen's slight shoulder, and squeezed gently in an effort to show that he was willing to listen. He said softly, "Obi-Wan, you know you can come to me with any problem. You don't have to face whatever it is alone. In fact, you should not."
He paused, hoping that his Padawan would accept the opportunity to tell him what was wrong but Obi-Wan just stood there, stubbornly silent, his head bowed.
When the silence grew and still Obi-Wan said nothing, he drew in a deep breath and let it out. Apparently, their relationship wasn't as strong as he had thought. He ignored the blossom of pain with that realization. He would deal with his own feelings later.
For now, he could only see to Obi-Wan's future; here he would not be some doting guardian, but a strict and steadfast teacher. Letting go of his Padawan, he said bluntly, "As your Master, I'm here to guide you on your journey towards Knighthood, not drive you there with a heavy hand and harsh punishment. But I will do what I must if you continue this way."
Without turning, Obi-Wan just nodded. "Yes, Master."
Qui-Gon tried one last time. "Can you tell me what is troubling you?"
The boy stood there for a moment, still and silent, and then, as if coming to a decision, shook his head. "It's... it's nothing, Master. Nothing I can't handle." He twisted around, glancing at Qui-Gon with over-tired eyes, and then said distinctly, "It's private."
"I see." But, of course, he didn't see at all. Privacy could mean many things, anything from the simple foolishness of over-late nights in the Archives joking with his friends to underage drinking to sexual activities.
Force help him, he hoped it wasn't the latter. He'd had the Talk with Obi-Wan several months ago when it became clear that several of the female Padawans were looking at the boy with decided interest. He had watched his Learner for signs of trouble but there had been none. Obi-Wan had been totally oblivious to the opposite sex and Qui-Gon had relaxed his guard after a while. But if the teenager had suddenly discovered females....
"Padawan, privacy is allowed only when it does not interfere with your duties as a Jedi. You know this."
He drew himself up, his Master face set and stern. "The Order has rules that you must follow if you are going to continue to be a Jedi." Obi-Wan looked startled at that, as if he hadn't considered the possibility of his actions, and then blinked rapidly, fighting at his weariness and losing. "I know that it may seem that the Order is strict when it comes to attachment but there are good reasons for it. And you, as a Padawan Learner, are obliged to follow them."
"Attachment?" Exhaustion leaching into his voice, Obi-Wan said, "I don't understand. It isn't like that... well, I suppose it could be but..." He stood there a moment, swaying in the half-light, his face still full of confusion. "Attachment?"
With a heavy sigh, Qui-Gon gave up. It was obvious that the boy was not thinking clearly and was almost stumbling around. He would get nothing more out of Obi-Wan this night. But tomorrow he wanted a full account, privacy or not.
"Enough, Padawan. Unfortunately, I have an early morning appointment with Master Windu. We will continue this discussion after your classes. Be here at fifteenth hour." The boy blinked again at that, and then nodding sleepily, he shuffled halfheartedly into his room and closed the door.
Qui-Gon's frown deepened, pulling at his skin; a headache began to pulse behind his eyes. Rubbing absentmindedly at the pain, staring at the shut door, he thought again about the increasing fatigue and mistakes that Obi-Wan had been making lately.
He should have seen it sooner, confronted the boy before things began to go awry. He knew that he drove Obi-Wan hard. He was an outstanding Padawan, strong in the Force and intelligent. He would likely be a great Jedi Knight someday but in order to attain his full potential, Obi-Wan needed to go beyond the everyday in training, to reach new heights where others might be content to accept the ordinary.
Shaking his head, Qui-Gon had to admit that Obi-Wan pushed himself harder than any Master would do, sometimes unrelentingly so. It was a flaw that they were both working on, how to balance the need for work with the joy of play.
Until recently, Qui-Gon had thought that it had been going well. They had shared more than just training; he had thought they had a solid and increasingly warm relationship. Obi-Wan seemed to be relaxing and learning to enjoy his old Master's unexpected and sometimes humorous remarks on the foibles of foolish, sentient behavior. His young charge had shown him how to open up and let his old heart ease into the promise of long and satisfying years of friendship and trust.
Perhaps it had been going too well. Perhaps Obi-Wan had taken his attempts at strengthening their relationship to be permission to dismiss the rules of behavior that guided all Jedi. Perhaps the boy thought that this plea of privacy, of this unspoken secrecy, would be accepted without question.
If so, Obi-Wan was in for a very large surprise.
With that thought, he deliberately turned away from his Learner's closed door, shuffling into his own room. It had been a long day, he was tired, and tomorrow might prove to be just as turbulent.
As Qui-Gon tried to settle into sleep, his mind continued to gnaw at the problem.
He often told Obi-Wan that anticipation was only distraction, that the Living Force demanded that Jedi live in the moment. The future was only a possibility and they should not worry about what was to come. But he had to admit that he sometimes did not follow his own advice - especially now.
Yes, Obi-Wan was having problems with his training at the moment. All of this concern about the boy's trustworthiness, all those unwanted thoughts circling like vulture-rats around a bloodied feast, were nothing but his own insecurity speaking.
He was just a foolish old man worrying about the last apprentice he would ever have.
Obi-Wan was a joy to teach most of the time, but he did push the limits and some days he was hard-pressed to keep up with the boy's exuberance. A younger man might have been able to match the energy of a teenager but Qui-Gon knew that he was approaching a time when he would not be able to function well in the field and would have to curtail the usually-exhausting missions. It would not be soon. But it was coming.
As gritty fatigue sank into his bones, not for the first time, Qui-Gon wondered if he was getting too old for this sort of thing.
That absurd and unwelcome thought kept hovering just outside his reach and the harsh scrub of hand across beard and throbbing temple did not help. But he knew it was the way of all things - the natural order of life. Time passed and the young replaced the old.
The bed suddenly seemed as hard as stone. Those long, long years of service weighed him down and the ache in his chest at the disappointment of Obi-Wan's privacy issues didn't help. He felt every moment of his almost fifty years.
It didn't help that tomorrow was Qui-Gon's Naming Day, but that incidental tick of the eternal clock was nothing to the problem of his Learner's well-being and apprenticeship.
With a low growl of frustration, he lay there, staring up into the blackness of his room - thinking about his failures with Obi-Wan, what he should have done and had not, what inadvertent mistakes he made with his apprentice, his own selfish desires to do what he thought was right at the time. The miasma of potential betrayal and the long fall of pride into despair hovered just out of reach. The ache behind his eyes did not help.
It was all too familiar.
This was how it had been for years after Xan's treachery - the whisper of past hurts growing, his foolish mind spiraling into grief, the pain and lament of his own blindness staining his every thought. Even the smallest of mistakes and the affectionate camaraderie of those around him seemed to be an affront to his loss.
He would not do this again.
Tomorrow, he and Obi-Wan would sit down and discuss it, openly. No secrets, not between them. He would make it clear that the boy's training came first, before privacy or attachments or whatever else was causing him to falter. Then they would have a long discussion about Jedi rules and expectations.
He would make sure that his Learner understood. Obi-Wan would be a Jedi Knight, even if he had to force the boy into compliance, even if it killed Qui-Gon to do so. Nothing would get in the way of Obi-Wan's knighthood. Nothing.
Chapter 2 - Discovery
It was noisy at Dex's. Midday meal was always the busiest time at the diner but Qui-Gon was glad for the distraction. The arguments of the two Bothans behind him, the soft words that only lovers can make from the couple in the next booth over, raucous laughter at the bar and in one corner, someone enjoying Dex's soup a little too energetically - all these things gathered into a white sound that would have been jarring to most beings but Qui-Gon found it soothing. Even the droids scampering about, with trays full of food and sloshy drinks, were a welcome diversion.
He would have happily remained there among the noise, enjoying his food and the wash of Living Force energy that came from the frenetic pace of the beings around him, but he was not alone. Mace Windu, one of the foremost Jedi on the Council, and sometimes Qui-Gon's ally but more often his most aggressive adversary on that august body, had insisted on coming along. To help him celebrate, he said.
Qui-Gon was beginning to wonder if it wasn't to make his life even more difficult than it already was.
Ordinarily, he would have welcomed the company. Mace could be quite entertaining at times, with his subtle humor and inventive ideas about downtime. They had known each other since before Xanatos's departure from the Jedi Order and they were, in reality, friends - well, friends as long as the Mace left his Council persona in the Council Chambers.
He had to admit, though somewhat reluctantly, that it was not entirely Mace's fault that he was impatient and annoyed. He hadn't slept well and when he came out of his room for breakfast, ready to talk to Obi-Wan about their schedule for the day, the boy had already left. A short note stating that he would be back by fifteenth hour as ordered had done little to mollify Qui-Gon's sour mood.
But Mace had not helped.
Their business meeting had gone much longer than anticipated. It became clear early in the first hour that some of the mission reports would need further clarification - with addendums and the inclusion of such detailed minutia that it would drive even Jocasta Nu into hiding.
Much to his dismay, Qui-Gon had been volunteered for the task. Master Windu, in that clipped monotone of his, had gone on to explain exactly why he had been chosen. Apparently, according to the infinite wisdom of the Jedi Council, it was the roguish behavior of one Qui-Gon Jinn that had caused some of the problems in the first place and he should be the one to clean up the mess.
Much as he had protested, it did him little good. Windu had been adamant. He had also been forthright and rather sarcastic, much to Qui-Gon's further annoyance.
By the end of the session, Qui-Gon was hard-pressed not to say something that might have been cause for more reprimands. But for once, his age lent him wisdom and he walked out of the meeting, seething but silent.
Surprisingly, that was not the end of it. Mace must have been feeling guilty about berating him so much on his Naming Day. Instead of leaving him to spend the rest of the day alone in quiet meditation, the Councilor insisted on accompanying him to lunch and paying for it as well. It was a generous thought and gracious. Qui-Gon could not say no.
And so here they were; he was trying to relax into some semblance of muted enthusiasm while Mace finished up the last faint remnants of a large slice of Yyegar sugar cake. Watching the Councilor hunt down the final few crumbs, for a brief moment, Qui-Gon wondered if the man had had an ulterior motive for coming to the diner - besides celebration, of course. Dex's desserts were legendary.
As Mace leaned back, looking very much like a felinoid up to its whiskers in blue milk, he said mildly, "How is Obi-Wan doing?"
"He's fine." The sharp retort had been almost instinctual.
With a mental curse, knowing full well that his friend was not likely to miss the frustration in his voice, Qui-Gon deliberately turned away, glancing around as if interested in the denizens of the diner. He knew that Mace wouldn't be fooled but it gave him a few moments to try and smooth out the abrupt frown now pulling at his skin. The headache was back as well.
The truth of the matter was that he didn't want to see the questions in the Councilor's eyes. He wasn't ready to talk about it just yet. And he certainly did not want to talk to anyone in any official capacity. That would only lead to more problems.
From behind him, sudden laughter ran a shrill counterpoint to the murmurs in the room, but Qui-Gon didn't even flinch. Instead, he put on his most neutral mask, trying to feign calm disinterest.
Mace was talking again, probing for more information. His dark eyes boring into Qui-Gon's own, he said calmly, "I had expected for him to come along. I would have thought you would welcome his company."
In fact, Qui-Gon had planned on having dinner with Obi-Wan at Dex's, just the two of them, Padawan and Master, to celebrate the day. He had wanted it to be a treat for his young Learner. The boy loved to go to the diner and he had thought that they could relax into each other's company, not talking about Jedi rules and regulations but of happier things. Celebrations and the pleasure of surprises.
But that was before last night.
"He has classes right now. I will see him later." He said it indifferently, as if it didn't matter at all. Then, pointing to the now-spotless plate, he forced a smile onto his face, hoping to divert attention away from the conversation about Obi-Wan and leave as soon as possible. At this point, meditation was a siren's song; Qui-Gon needed to center himself badly. "Mace, they have droids to clean the plates. If you want more dessert, just ask for it. I won't tell the Council... this time."
Mace was not fooled for one moment. Staring at him, openly suspicious, he said, "Is there something wrong with Obi-Wan?"
His own eyes narrowing, Qui-Gon looked askance at the Councilor. As he tried to think of an answer that would not lead to more questions and possible disaster, he leaned back casually in his seat, brushing at the remaining crumbs of his own lunch. The barest hint of annoyance clouded his voice. "Why do you ask?"
Mace was watching him very carefully, taking in every little nuance of his reaction, much as Qui-Gon tried to hide it. "You changed the subject. Abruptly."
Speaking in that calm, irritating way that he had whenever he was delivering bad news or else lambasting those rogue Jedi who actually followed the will of the Force, the Councilor reminded him, "Kenobi's probation has been over for almost three months. As far as I am aware, since then, he has behaved himself as befitting a Jedi Padawan. No trouble, no fighting, following the Code to the letter, excelling in his studies. Am I mistaken?"
Qui-Gon sighed out his concern. With Obi-Wan, he doubted the problem was something simple or even amusing. The teen was passionate in his desire to become a Jedi Knight but he could be led astray if he thought the reason was sound.
But he was also a serious, thoughtful student, more so since his probation. His Learner had lost something of his childhood in the last year, not unexpectedly, but Qui-Gon found that, in some ways, he missed the boy in the man he was becoming.
Whatever the cause, Qui-Gon knew he needed to discuss it with someone. His own experiences with Padawan Learners had had mixed results and he didn't want to misstep with Obi-Wan, not after the tragedy of his last apprentice. "Is this Mace talking or Master Windu of the most high Council of the Jedi Order?"
One dark eyebrow went up in surprise. "Would it make a difference?"
Rubbing at his forehead to ease the headache still trapped inside his skull, he admitted, "It might. I won't talk to the Councilor. If it were off the record, however..." When Mace sent him a sympathetic look, Qui-Gon decided to take a risk. Shrugging, he said, "I could use a friend's advice."
Mace thought about it for a moment, seeming to weigh his Council obligation against his inclination to help. "As long as it doesn't affect the running of the Order or interfere with Kenobi's duty to the Jedi, I don't see why I can't. But if it will be potentially detrimental to the Order, I won't be able to overlook it, Qui-Gon."
"It's nothing like that."
Leaning forward, frowning and concerned, Mace said, "Then what is the problem? I thought the Melida/Daan affair had settled him down. He almost lost his place in the Order with that debacle." He stopped a moment, clearly evaluating what he had heard of Obi-Wan's actions in the last few months. "It would seem that he has been working hard to regain the trust of the Council and yours. What has changed?"
Until recently, Qui-Gon would have agreed with him. There had been little indication of anything wrong other than the boy's distracted weariness. Even the ever-energetic rumor mills had not yielded one unfavorable whisper about his apprentice.
"I don't know. Lately, he's been coming back to our quarters exhausted and, the last few nights, past curfew. When I asked him what the problem was, he said it was private. He wouldn't tell me anything else." Qui-Gon didn't even bother to keep the worry out of his voice.
Shrugging, Mace seemed almost relieved, as if he had expected far worse. "Sounds more like he's caught up in some kind of intrigue; perhaps a girl has been taking up his time. He's of the age."
Exasperated, Qui-Gon snapped back, "He's only fourteen, Mace. That kind of intrigue shouldn't come along for quite some time."
Mace looked at him as if he had lost his mind. "Why not? Xan was already intriguing with several Padawans by the time he was Obi-Wan's age. And getting into far worse trouble."
"Obi-Wan is not Xanatos." The deep growl of denial brooked no discussion.
Jabbing one finger in Qui-Gon's direction, his voice emphatic and very stern, Mace insisted, "Just as long as you remember that."
Caught by surprise at the blunt remark, he could only stare at the Councilor for a moment before the old memories came back, flashburning through his mind - the heated arguments, the ozone-whine of a saber sweeping down towards his head, the smell of melting flesh, the churning boil of acid as Xanatos leapt to his death.
It had only been six months since that appalling suicide but still the razored rush of grief haunted him. He should have recognized Xan's problems somehow in the beginning, stopped the cycle of hatred before it had begun all those years ago. He should have been a better Master to his young apprentice, a better example of what was expected of a Jedi. He should have known - somehow.
He tried to shake off the remembrance. But it would seem that knife-edge of guilt was still as sharp as the day Xan had turned on him, still cutting him in a way that blinded him to the realities of this moment. He had thought it was all behind him now that Xanatos was dead; he had thought that he had let it go, but apparently not.
The sickening realization that he was starting down that path of blame and burden again only made him more determined to put it behind him. Wallowing in grief was not the way of the Jedi and certainly not the way a Jedi Master should behave. He would not do this. Obi-Wan deserved better than some old fool of a Master ignoring him for his own pain or, more importantly, believing the worst of the boy because of past experiences. He would not.
Breathing out his doubt, Qui-Gon said distinctly, "I do remember that."
"I wonder sometimes." Mace sent him a sharp look, probably seeing all the signs of guilt and remorse that were surely mapped across Qui-Gon's face. But instead of acknowledging his sorrow, the Councilor just ignored it. His old friend knew him very well. "Obi-Wan may have had problems with his poor choices in the past, but they were always based on compassion and the need to help others. If nothing else, he is a little too enthusiastic. I could never say the same for Xan."
As Qui-Gon looked away, out into the soothing clamor of the diner's crowd, Mace just huffed regret. "He was my friend for a very long time but, in the end, he chose greed over the Jedi Order. And he had always longed for power, even as a child. It cost Xan everything. I can't see that happening with Obi-Wan."
Qui-Gon shook his head slowly. "Nor I."
"Yet Obi-Wan does have a tendency to fall headlong into rash decisions and, when confronted with the situation, he is rather stubborn about it - just like a certain Jedi Master I know." Mace stared at him, pointedly, as if daring him to disagree.
Qui-Gon could have argued but instead he shrugged at the accusation. Besides, it was useless when Mace was right anyway. Both he and Obi-Wan were stubborn, sometimes ill-advisedly so, and it had gotten them into disagreements with one another when a softer approach would have worked with far less discord. Again, it was his fault. He was the master after all and should be the example, not the crux of the problem.
Pressing his hand absentmindedly against his temple, trying to will away the still-aching headache, he felt both very old and very concerned. He had done so much wrong with Obi-Wan. From the very beginning, he had kept the boy at arm's length and it had caused problems with Obi-Wan's confidence and his ability to trust him. The Melida/Daan fiasco had only deepened their difficulties, putting their partnership on shaky ground.
The doubts had faded over time. Obi-Wan's unfailing drive to prove himself worthy during his probation and Qui-Gon's own determination to put things right had made their relationship strong and steadfast - until now.
Now, all the old doubts had returned with a vengeance. "I must admit, my friend, that sometimes I have misgivings." Shifting uncomfortably, he frowned down at the table and then straight into Mace's concerned eyes. "It is my flaw, I know. For some reason, I can't seem to strike the right balance with him. I'm either overly-strict or not... enough." Almost ashamed, he murmured, "He takes everything I say to heart."
Thoughtfully, Mace nodded. "It's very clear that he wants to please you. Almost too much so, in my opinion."
Much as he wanted to agree, he couldn't help but rush to Obi-Wan's defense. "Padawans are supposed to obey their Masters."
The Councilor skewered Qui-Gon with a glare of unblinking skepticism, something that he had deliberately cultivated in the years since he had become a member of that most august body, the Jedi High Council. Mace said bluntly, "Obey yes, but he's too attached. He seems to absorb your every word and think it Force-guided. It's unhealthy."
Qui-Gon drew himself up, his eyes boring into the steady gaze of his friend, daring him to disagree. "I am his teacher." But when Mace just sat there, one dark eyebrow raised in challenge, refusing to back down, it was Qui-Gon who capitulated. "Besides, he didn't obey me on Melida/Daan."
"And he paid for it."
Accepting the rebuke, Qui-Gon nodded slowly. "Yes, I know. He has been doing better. Until this problem, I thought that we were in balance at last." Lifting his hand to ease the ache that still pulsed behind his eyes, he said, "But now..."
Mace seemed to understand and, more surprisingly, sympathize. "Perhaps you should talk to Yoda. He's has a fondness for young Kenobi. He might be able to ferret out why the boy is having problems." With a knowing gleam in his dark eyes and the faintest ghost of a smile on his face, he said lightly, "And Obi-Wan might tell him things that he would be embarrassed to tell you."
Sending back a mock glare, knowing that Mace was trying to reassure him and failing miserably, he said, "I'll..."
From the hidden depths of the kitchen, the sharp, unexpected clash of breaking dishes exploded outward, shattering the conversations of a dozen beings into surprise and silence. Curses, both profane and inventive, seemed to fly into the stillness that followed. It was very clear that the owner was not pleased.
As the customers' queries and speculation as to what was going on behind the scenes grew in volume, the rapid barrage of accusations in the Besalisk's deep voice and the sharper tones of his head waitress could be heard above the chaos. The off-key clatter of crockery only added to the noise.
The door slid open and Dex was backing away from the cooking area, his four hands waving in annoyance. He wasn't paying any attention to the customers as he roared, "You'll have to clean it all up. The kid isn't back yet with the nerfsteaks and I..."
The huge cook stopped dead when he turned toward the booths and spotted Qui-Gon sitting there. His massive hands rubbing nervously against the messy apron, his eyes flicking toward the back door as if he were expecting someone and dreading it, Dex stood rooted to the spot.
It was odd. Usually the Besalisk welcomed them with open arms, even in the midst of an apparent labor dispute.
Trying to put him at ease, Qui-Gon said calmly, "Hello, Dex."
That seemed to bring him out of his stupor. His jowls swaying as he quickly glanced behind him, Dex frowned and then deliberately smoothed out his concern. But his face was as friendly as a skittish womp-rat about to be eaten by rancor beasts or a guilty Besalisk with something to hide.
Pulling out a rag, he began to wipe at his hands, appearing to clean them thoroughly. "Master Jinn, Master Windu, what are? how long have you been here?"
Qui-Gon pointed to the now-spotless plate and then at Mace. "We were just finishing up. It would seem that Master Windu has a weakness for your desserts."
The Councilor shot him a look of pure annoyance, saying calmly, "I appreciate the finer culinary arts."
Dex wasn't listening. His eyes kept flicking toward the back door and his hands were knotted in the scrap of cloth. "Sorry, Master Jinn but I'm very busy." He quickly nodded toward the kitchen. "With the staff. I have to get back before she ruins me."
"Is there any way we can help?" Qui-Gon could feel the concern rolling off the Besalisk.
With alarming swiftness, all four hands came up, palms outward, warding off the idea of Jedi help. The cleaning rag was forgotten as it fell to the floor. "No, no, I don't need..." Then he stopped, frowning. He must have seen Qui-Gon's reaction because, in the next moment, his hands lowered and he seemed to be flustered. As he bent down to pick up the dirty cloth, his eyes flicking toward the back entrance, he said hoarsely, "No problem. I'm sure you have more important things to do at the Temple. Don't let me keep you."
Qui-Gon was alarmed now. The cook was never this rude without good reason. "Dex, is something wrong? You seem on edge."
The scowl etching into his wattled skin, his huge body half-turned away from the Jedi, Dex sputtered, "No, it's nothing. I'm very busy and..." But the whine of an opening door and the soft sound of a young familiar voice stopped the conversation cold.
As the boy stumbled into the diner, his hands overfilled with supply boxes, he panted out, "Dex, I have your nerfsteaks. Where do you want.... Master?" Obi-Wan Kenobi stood there, swaying with fatigue, staring at Qui-Gon Jinn.
For a moment, no one said a word. Even the other diners seemed to understand that this time was meant for silence. Everyone was staring at the young Jedi or the scowling Master.
Even from a distance, Qui-Gon could see the grimy leggings and scuffed boots of his apprentice, the twisted braid, beads of sweat on the young boy's face, the way the boxes trembled in his hands. The fluster of not knowing what to do was clearly written in Obi-Wan's green eyes.
Then the boy blinked and a spasm of guilt swept across his face before the stoic facade dropped into place. Head held high, Obi-Wan said, "Dex, I'll put these in back and then I believe I will be leaving... with Master Jinn."
To say that Qui-Gon was furious was an understatement. The boy should have been in class at the Temple, not standing here covered in dirt and other noxious stains, sweating and shivering with fatigue; he should certainly not be delivering supplies for Dexter Jettster. Obi-Wan had lied to him again.
Instead of venting his ire, Qui-Gon was all stone, letting nothing of the fusion-heat of his anger show through. Moving out of the booth, he slowly stood up and stared for a heartbeat at his wayward apprentice.
His voice ice-sharp and so cold that it seemed to fill the room with frost, Qui-Gon growled out, "Wait here when your task is completed, Padawan Kenobi."
The boy flinched back, his liquid eyes filled with dread and the certain knowledge that he had made a very great mistake. Blinking rapidly as if to hold back tears, he looked very much like a trapped skritmouse. But he must have seen that there was no sympathy in Qui-Gon's wintry glare. Nodding once, with shoulders slumped in regret, he turned, silent and alone, and walked back into the kitchen.
"Master Jettster, a word, if you please." If anything, the temperature in the room plummeted further; the cold in Qui-Gon's eyes could have frozen a planet.
Dex merely shrugged nonchalantly, two of his hands lifting in apology and a third pointing toward the back of the diner. "My office, then?"
A sharp nod and both Jedi followed the Besalisk into a cramped room filled with 'pads, bits of broken crockery, and half-opened boxes. Grunting in annoyance, Dex swept off one chair, tumbling datasheets onto the floor - a waterfall torrent of white flimsiplast - and then he collapsed into the seat. In the small alcove, there were no other places to sit that were not covered with junk. "I can't tell you anything, Master Jinn."
Grinding out the words, trying not to throttle Dex in his fury, Qui-Gon said chillingly, "Why not? It would appear that Padawan Kenobi has been working for you for some time." He stared pointedly at the cook. "Without permission of the Jedi Order, or my consent."
Dexter just shook his head, frowning up at the Jedi. "He said he needed the credits."
"Why? The Order gives him everything he needs." Qui-Gon tried to keep the frustration out of his voice, without success.
"I can't say. I promised him I wouldn't tell." Dex waved one of his hands in the air, trying to make a point, and his eyes were sympathetic. "He's a good kid at heart. A little intense at times but I saw no reason not to help him out."
If anything, the explanation just made Qui-Gon angrier, with Dexter and with Obi-Wan. How the Besalisk could not see that this was a very serious infraction was beyond him. He stepped forward, over the layers of flimsiplast and trash, and leaned forward. "This isn't a game. He's deliberately disobeyed me. After all the trouble he's been in. It's not.... he will have to suffer the consequences of his actions."
Dex just shook his head, his voice quiet and sure. "It isn't what you think."
Drawing himself up, standing there tall and straight and frustrated, Qui-Gon crossed his arms over his chest into immovable stance and said in a voice as cold as frozen nitronium, "You have no idea of what a Padawan must face. The discipline, the sacrifices. He was supposed to be in class; he was required to be so. Instead I find him here, earning credits for some mysterious private reason instead of focusing on his duty."
Qui-Gon bowed his head for a moment, trying to keep the heartbreak from tearing his throat to shreds. "He's broken his word to me." Closing his eyes against the pain, he murmured, "Again."
When Dex tried once more to defend the boy, Qui-Gon waved him off. "Enough. You've helped him quite enough."
He turned away, leaving a sputtering Besalisk in his wake, and stalked out of the office.
Mace followed close behind and grabbed at his arm to slow him down. "Probation does not seem to have had any impact on him, Qui-Gon. A few months and again he's in trouble. It does not speak highly of his commitment to the Order."
Stopping abruptly, Qui-Gon swung around and said clearly, "Councilor Windu, I know you mean well, but it is my problem and mine to rectify. I will talk with my apprentice and mete out his punishment."
The Councilor drew back, looking his friend straight in the eye, calm and cool, reminding him, "Master Jinn, I can't overlook this."
"Let me handle this." Qui-Gon stood there in the narrow hallway, boxes and garbage piled high around him. Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, he tried desperately to find his center amidst the chaos. "Mace.... it may be something simple. You don't know. I don't know." When the Councilor started to protest again, he said, "I promise that if it does need to come before the Council, I will do so."
Mace bowed his head in acknowledgement. "Very well. I will rely on your discretion. But if you need help, you have but to ask."
With a curt nod, Qui-Gon turned back, stepping out into the diner's main eating area. There, by the door, a penitent and subdued Padawan Learner stood. Sweaty, grimy and disheveled, the boy looked tired - and so young. But he pushed that thought aside.
He didn't look back to see if Obi-Wan was following.
The ride back to the Temple was long and very, very silent.
Chapter 3 - It isn't what you think but what you know.
Obi-Wan was stumbling by the time they got back to their quarters. From the look of it, he had worn his oldest clothes to the diner, a pair of leggings and a shabby undertunic. They were even more noxious on closer examination. Apparently, he had been digging into antique machinery from the splotches of oil stains on his knees and there was dried blood on his sleeve, hopefully from nerfsteaks and not from some untreated injury. His hair was dark with sweat.
Standing in the common room, looking at his obstinate and foolish Padawan, Qui-Gon fought hard to keep from feeling any sympathy for the boy. After all, Obi-Wan had disobeyed him, not something to be taken lightly and as yet, he had heard no word of apology or even an explanation - not that it would have mattered. It was possible that the intimidating presence of Master Windu had kept Obi-Wan from saying anything or perhaps it was the cold silence of their journey to the Temple. But now that they were alone, there would be a full accounting of this.
It would not happen again.
Staring sharply at Obi-Wan, he realized that something else was missing, beside the usually clean tunic and tabards; it was the lightsaber that the boy had so carefully crafted only months earlier. He hoped that his apprentice was not unwise enough to leave such a weapon behind at the diner but with all the unpleasant surprises of late, it was entirely possible. Qui-Gon's indignation rose sharply.
"Padawan Kenobi, your willful disobedience and the obvious disdain you have for my instruction does not speak well of your commitment to the Jedi or to me as your teacher." The boy flinched again, his eyes clouding with hurt as he bowed his head in silence. "At the moment, I believe that we both need some time to reflect on this episode. You will clean up and make yourself presentable. Then you will return here for a full explanation of your actions."
Still gazing at the floor in an obvious attempt to avoid angering him further, Obi-Wan nodded and started to turn away toward the 'fresher but stopped when Qui-Gon demanded, "Padawan, before you go, I see that you are not wearing your lightsaber. Where is it?"
At that, the boy looked up, startled and frowning. In a rough whisper, he said, "In my room, Master."
"You didn't take it with you to the diner?" Qui-Gon was appalled. A Jedi always had his lightsaber with him. It was his life, as he had often told his apprentice, and could make the difference between success and deadly failure in combat.
"No, Master. I didn't think I... should." But Obi-Wan hesitated when he saw Qui-Gon's face. "No, Master."
"I see." Trying and failing to keep the dismay out of his voice, Qui-Gon ground out, "We will discuss this as well when you return. Now go."
And Obi-Wan fled.
For a moment, Qui-Gon stood there, frankly astonished at the turn of events over the past few hours, and then, with a weariness deep in his bones, he sat down abruptly on the couch. One hand scrubbing at the headache that had blossomed into needles of pain behind his eyes, the other gripping the edge of the seat with unsettled strength, he frowned at his Learner's closed door.
He did not know what to make of this. His apprentice could be misguided and very energetic in his views but this was just madness.
Growling deep in his throat, he realized that he had failed the boy somehow, in a way completely different from Xan, but still he had let Obi-Wan flounder. The Learner follows the direction of the Master by choice but it is the Master who must lead - a symbiotic relationship that, when in balance, is a joy and thoroughly satisfactory to both parties. But they were no longer in balance.
Where had he gone wrong? More importantly, what did he need to do now to correct the error?
Taking a deep breath, Qui-Gon leaned back, deliberately loosening his clenched hands, and closed his eyes. Seeking to free his mind of questions and doubts, he sank uneasily into meditation and tried to let the calm clarity of the Force guide him. Anxiety over past mistakes and the trepidation of the future would not aid him here. He needed to find a way to help his apprentice regain his balance and bring them into accord once again. He would settle for nothing less.
It was the odd rustling sound of flimsiplast that finally pulled Qui-Gon back into the now. Feeling calmer than he had felt in quite some time, he opened his eyes to find his Learner standing before him.
Obi-Wan was clearly nervous, his teeth biting at his lower lip, and he kept shifting his weight. He had showered and changed back into the proper clothing of a Padawan with tunic, polished boots and, on his belt, the requisite lightsaber - thankfully attached. With the exception of the somewhat disheveled braid and a large unwieldy something tucked under one arm, he looked very much the polite, serious student of months past.
Qui-Gon gestured for the boy to sit beside him but Obi-Wan just shook his head. Pulling out the clumsily-wrapped bundle, he thrust it into Qui-Gon's hands. "This is for you, Master." Then, stepping back, he gestured toward the package, and said softly, "Open it."
It felt odd in his grip, fluid but also heavy and awkward. Putting it down on the couch beside him, he looked up at his apprentice with concern, but Obi-Wan just stood there, waiting with some anxiety. The boy's eyes were grey with worry.
"What is going on, Padawan?" But his apprentice shook his head and pointed to the bundle.
It was obvious that Qui-Gon would get nothing more from his Learner until he opened the blasted thing. So, drawing in a deep breath, centering himself for whatever surprise or disappointment waited beneath the flimsiplast, he grabbed onto the bundle and tore it open.
Out tumbled dark brown cloth, soft and warm and incredibly pliant, so finely woven that it seemed like water under his hand. Taken aback, he lifted the rich material up, shaking it out a bit and realized in an instant that it was a cloak, large enough for him to wear. He had always had problems with the Quartermaster in Stores; the cloaks were never long enough but this seemed to be just right.
He was stunned. Obi-Wan had given him a gift for his fiftieth Naming Day. He had defied his Master for this? What was the boy thinking?
He must have had a look of complete bewilderment because, at first, Obi-Wan sent him a tentative smile. But when Qui-Gon didn't smile back, just stared at him in consternation, the boy's face fell and his narrow shoulders hunched down. Obi-Wan looked as if he had failed at something of importance and didn't know what to do next.
"Padawan, who is the cloak for?" Although he thought he knew the answer to that question, he had to know the truth. He had made far too many errors in judgment already and another could only make things worse between them.
Blinking rapidly, awkward and unsure, Obi-Wan said, "You, Master. It's why I've been so tired lately and why I was at Dex's. I've been trying to earn enough credits to buy you a Naming Day gift."
Qui-Gon said nothing, waiting patiently for him to finish his story.
When he didn't interrupt the boy, merely listened to his reasoning with a grave, focused interest, Obi-Wan seemed to ease a bit, his face smoothing out as he faced his mentor. His hands, however, betrayed his inner fears, his fingers clenching and unclenching in edgy anxiety, pulling at his tunic hem and then smoothing it flat again.
The way his narrative seemed to gather speed with every word was another telltale sign of the uncertainty in Obi-Wan's heart. Qui-Gon could see that the boy was determined to tell the whole truth. That took courage.
"It was harder than I thought it would be." Obi-Wan shook his head, glancing down at the brown fabric draped so inelegantly across Qui-Gon's legs and then back up to meet his Master's stare. "The cloak was more expensive than I had planned and I wanted you to have it so I've been working extra hard so I could pay Dex off. He loaned me the credits because I had to buy it ahead of time so that I could give it to you today." He turned somber again. "I'm sorry the surprise got ruined, though."
Qui-Gon tried not to show it, but he was horrified. Obi-Wan had missed classes, had defied his instructions, had risked his censure to buy him a gift. All this for a Naming Day?
He was just as much at fault. Had he misjudged this boy so badly that he was seeing treachery in every youthful mistake? Had he seen a generous heart and thought it tainted with selfish purpose? If so, it was not Obi-Wan's balance at stake but his own.
"Obi-Wan, is this your explanation?"
Ducking his head in shy agreement, Obi-Wan looked at him with the beginnings of hope in his eyes. Apparently, Qui-Gon's reluctance to stop his tale or to instantly punish him for disobedience had had a calming effect on his apprentice. "Yes, Master. You are always having problems with getting the right size cloak. You're very tall so I got one that is extra long. It's made out of septspider silk and bantha wool so it's soft." Gazing down at the spill of cloth under Qui-Gon's hand, he said, "I.... I hope it fits."
And then the anxious energy that had sustained Obi-Wan through his long speech drained away. He was suddenly swaying with weariness. The dark circles under his eyes and the way his shoulders trembled in his effort to stay upright alarmed Qui-Gon. Reaching out, he pulled the boy toward him and gestured to the couch. "Obi-Wan, please sit down before you fall down."
With a grateful sigh, Obi-Wan fell forward and slid, almost boneless, into place beside Qui-Gon. He looked like he needed a week's worth of sleep.
Ordinarily, Qui-Gon would have sent the boy back to bed immediately, but they needed to clear this up. There could be no more secrets between them. He had already been wrong on so many levels that he refused to let this go on for one moment longer.
Putting one hand on Obi-Wan's thin shoulder, he squeezed sympathetically and said, "Padawan, I don't understand. Why did you think you needed to buy me anything, especially something so valuable?"
Biting his lip again, Obi-Wan said softly, "I know you've been worrying about what happened on Melida/Daan. I should have listened to you then but I was sure I was right and you were wrong and I just kept going." Frowning down at his hands, the boy seemed caught in remembrance. "When you took me back even though the Council was not happy about it, I was so grateful. I wanted to show you how much I appreciated your teachings and I tried to be the best Padawan any Master could have wanted. But you were so distant and distracted."
His eyes flicked toward Qui-Gon's own for a moment before he bowed his head again, the anxiety showing in his pale cheeks and in the way his fingers pulled at his tunic, twisting the cloth into wrinkled clumps. "But things just kept getting worse. There was Telos and Xanatos dying.... the way he did. You got so quiet afterwards and I know you tried your best to teach me. But sometimes the sadness just came through." Obviously hesitant at revealing so much and risking a rebuke, Obi-Wan's story trickled to a stop.
Qui-Gon was dazed. He had no idea that his own problems in accepting Xan's death had affected Obi-Wan so much. The boy rarely showed anything but a smiling face and obedience, never a complaint or even the hint that something might be wrong - until now.
That was going to change.
Putting his arm around his apprentice, Qui-Gon pulled him close. Obi-Wan looked up in surprise and then leaned in, enjoying the warmth.
"Padawan, I'm sorry. I didn't realize." He couldn't quite keep the guilt and husking sadness out of his voice. How much had he missed, how much had he not noticed while he was trying to come to terms with Xan's death?
He felt Obi-Wan's shrug underneath his hand. "It's all right, Master. I know that you didn't do it on purpose. It's just that I'm sorry that I made things worse." But the boy had gone back to twisting his tunic's hem, his worry clear in the way he pulled at the cloth, how he kept looking at Qui-Gon and then shifting away.
As Qui-Gon gently pulled the fabric from young hands, the boy stilled abruptly and bowed his head. "Padawan, I'm supposed to be taking care of you, not the other way around." The flash of green eyes disagreed with him but Obi-Wan remained silent; he must have known that he would never win that argument. "When you grew more and more tired, I was concerned but I should have said something sooner. Much sooner."
Still worrying his lip, his Padawan curled inward, looking even more guilty, and very young. His skin was almost translucent with fatigue.
Hesitantly and with much bewilderment, Obi-Wan tried to explain, "I thought I could handle the work here and at Dex's, but I wasn't getting enough sleep and I kept making mistakes. Then you'd get upset and I wanted to stop but I'd already promised Dex. I couldn't go back on my word, could I?"
Scrubbing at his eyes, Obi-Wan's confusion and frustration at the circumstances shone through the exhaustion. "I knew it wouldn't be long before it would all be finished so I kept going, thinking it was just a few more days. But you found out about me coming in late and I couldn't tell you. I'm sorry, Master. I didn't know what else to do." He looked away, down at the dark chocolate puddle of cloth that he had worked so hard to buy and one that had cost him dearly in time and anxiety. "It started out with one small thing but just kept getting worse and worse. I couldn't see any way out."
Qui-Gon nodded slowly. "It happens, sometimes, even to Jedi with years of experience. A small error in judgment that becomes two and then many. Overwhelming the senses until it seems impossible to escape the trap."
Pulling his apprentice close for a moment and then releasing him, he gazed down into apologetic eyes. But he wanted there to be no mistakes this time. Putting all the strength of command into his voice, he said, "That is why I want you to tell me when you are having trouble. I am your teacher, your guide to help you find your path. I can't help you if you hide things from me."
Obi-Wan ducked his head in agreement. "I know, but I wanted it to be a surprise. It was your Naming Day gift and I thought it would be more fun that way." Huffing in annoyance, he said bitterly, "Fun. It didn't turn out exactly as I had planned."
Sending a grateful smile toward the young apprentice, Qui-Gon said softly, "It is a gift that I will treasure all the more for your hard work."
The boy sent back a pleased grin. "I know that you've been wanting something that fits. I thought it would help. During the missions. It's waterproof and warm."
"It was a very thoughtful thing to do. Thank you, Obi-Wan." And he meant every word. His Learner had a generous heart, and while it could lead him into trouble at times, it was all the more precious for being unselfish and compassionate. He would make a very fine Knight one day.
Obi-Wan leaned back, yawning and half-closing his eyes as he slumped against Qui-Gon. Sleepily, he smiled to himself as he remembered, "Working at Dex's was harder than I thought it would be, Master. I kept making mistakes." He gave a little, embarrassed laugh. "My first day, I slipped on some oil and my lightsaber fell into the rsdakpot full of grease. I was a mess and I got a bunch of fried bits stuck in the handle. Took a long time to get out." He gazed up at Qui-Gon, looking worried as he said, "That's why I didn't take my saber with me after that. I was afraid I'd ruin it forever."
But Qui-Gon just shook his head and cautioned, "Padawan, you must take your saber with you at all times, even at the hazard of fried bits. It could mean the difference between you coming back to me alive or not coming back at all."
With all the solemnity of a vow, Obi-Wan said, "Yes, Master. I promise." Then, as he blinked several times and tried without success to suppress another yawn, he turned back into the warmth of Qui-Gon's shoulder and settled in. "Dex was fair but he expected a lot and he always gave me the messiest jobs. Claimed I was small enough to get into the cracks."
Qui-Gon knew better than to laugh but he could not resist smiling slyly and raising one eyebrow in mischief. "That would explain your appearance today. Digging into cracks. With your vast experience, perhaps you could help the Temple cleaning droids with those hard-to-reach places."
The boy was bristling as much as any fourteen-year old could do while fighting sleep. "Surely you know I'd only do something like this for you!" But then sheepishly, he realized, "Oh, you were teasing me."
"You would be invaluable." Qui-Gon managed to look serious and amused at the same time.
But Obi-Wan saw through the jest, just as Qui-Gon had known he would. The boy had a very dry wit. Shaking his head at his Master, he said softly, "I'm sorry I ruined your Naming Day."
"Padawan, it is not ruined." His arm tightened around Obi-Wan and they sat there for a few moments in silence, Qui-Gon relaxing into the thought that this might just be the catalyst for a deeper understanding between them, that his Padawan's generous heart held the key. But he had one last thing to teach before sending the boy off to bed.
"Obi-Wan, the cloak is beautiful and I appreciate the gift but it is only a material thing. There is something more important that I had hoped to receive on my Naming Day."
Thinking about it for a moment, his apprentice asked quietly, "What is it? You never mentioned anything else."
Smiling down into that earnest face, Qui-Gon reached over and lifted Obi-Wan's red-gold braid. "You have chosen to learn the ways of the Force and the Jedi code under my guidance." His fingers felt along the twists of hair and down to the colored threads that marked the noteworthy achievements in the boy's short life. Letting the thin plait go, he asked, "Do you know what the braid symbolizes?"
Obi-Wan was too tired to give him more than a startled flash of confusion at the change of subject. But he answered with all seriousness, "That I am a student of the Jedi Order. That I have a Master to teach me what I need to know to become a Knight. That he keeps me from going to bed when I need to."
At that, Qui-Gon did chuckle, his low rumble answered in the boy's own soft laugh. "That is the smallest part of it, Obi-Wan. A braid is woven with three strands, symbolizing the student, the Master and, although the Council would have you believe the third part is the Jedi Order, it is not. It is the Force itself flowing between the student and teacher, binding them together. As we are bound."
Obi-Wan settled in, nodding sleepily as he listened to the wisdom of long experience.
"It is not a material thing that I would cherish as a Naming Day gift but the focus of your time and energy in following the Force and doing what is right and honorable." Qui-Gon's large hand brushed through Obi-Wan's short Padawan cut, a sweeping warmth that whispered of affection and the promise of treasured tomorrows. "I hope one day to cut off your braid at the Knighting ceremony and hold it in my hand and know, in my own small way, I helped you to become the Jedi I know you can be."
Closing his eyes, Obi-Wan murmured, "I will do my very best, Master."
Qui-Gon smiled down at the drowsy boy and shook his head at the path his own misguided assumptions had taken him. Foolish man to see avarice in compassion and willfulness in generosity. "I know you will. But sometimes, you need to understand that even a Master can be blinded by doubt. Misunderstandings might arise and be compounded by silence. I am just a man, even though I follow the Force in all things, and sometimes I make mistakes."
The words were getting more slurred every moment but still Obi-Wan was awake enough to grin as he leaned on Qui-Gon's shoulder. "Are you sure? About the mistakes part?"
A huff of amusement and then he turned serious. "Yes, very sure, Obi-Wan. I hope that we will both learn from this experience."
He could feel Obi-Wan's half-stifled yawn against his arm and the way his apprentice was fast melting towards sleep. He knew that he should move the boy to bed and let the exhaustion fade with rest but he had to admit that he was enjoying this moment of warmth, this gentle accord between them.
"I'm sorry, Master. About the secrets. I won't do it again." Obi-Wan was whispering so quietly that Qui-Gon had to lean in to hear.
The trust so freely given, such a precious thing.
His hand swept through Obi-Wan's soft hair again, a silent benediction to the boy so willing to sacrifice for him. "I know you won't, young one. And I promise to you that I will see beyond my own failings..." As his apprentice shifted slightly, a wordless protest, Qui-Gon chuckled in amusement, smiling down at him and said, "You need to accept that I have them just as I must accept that I am sometimes wrong. I should not believe the worst without just cause."
Obi-Wan sighed into his Master's self-condemnation, a brief, weary nod to the resolute conviction in Qui-Gon's voice.
Picking up the braid's end, Qui-Gon felt the silky smoothness of it, all the hope and promise in a plait of hair, and then laid it carefully along his Padawan's tunic, patting it into place, reminding the boy of their pledge to each other and to the Force.
His Learner was too tired to do more than give a little quirk of his mouth, and instead breathed out, "I'll never cut it, Master, even to trim off the ends. I know the other Padawans do, but I won't." And then he was quiet, except for the gentle rise and fall of his chest as he finally fell asleep.
Leaning over, Qui-Gon unclipped the saber from Obi-Wan's belt and laid it aside, and then lifted his gift, his soft cloak to cover the boy. It was enough to sit there quietly, enjoying the harmony of the moment even as his apprentice burrowed into the warmth.
He knew that tomorrow would bring reality back into focus. He would need to apologize to Dex and there was the problem of discipline for Obi-Wan's disobedience. No matter that some might say that he should overlook the indiscretion; he could not. He would be doing a disservice to his young charge and Obi-Wan would expect no less. But since he had also erred in judgment and assumptions, they would share in the penalty, binding them together even as the braid was bound among the three of them - Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and the Force.
He also knew that he would never forget this Naming Day. He had received a wondrous gift - not the warm and luxurious cloak that Obi-Wan had given him, but a true gift from the Force itself in the person of one young Padawan Learner. He would hold that realization in his heart until the end of his days.
But for the now of this moment, Qui-Gon merely sat there, enjoying the untroubled sighs of youthful slumber as he said softly, "It is enough to know that you will do your best. Sleep well, my Obi-Wan."
Original cover by Diane Kovalcin. HTML formatting copyright 2006 TheForce.Net LLC.