"But over all things brooding slept
The quiet sense of something lost."
- Lord Alfred Tennyson, In Memoriam
Later, he was never sure how long he sat there with his Master's body in his arms. Time lost any meaning for him, and those minutes or hours (what did it matter?) were nothing more than a blur to him.
He did remember placing Qui-Gon's hands over the wound in his belly, sparing himself the sight of that gaping hole. His Master's face was serene and relaxed in death, his body too slack and heavy against Obi-Wan.
"You're cold, Master," Obi-Wan muttered anxiously, though he knew quite well it did not matter anymore.
The young Jedi realized that he would have to leave soon, find someone and make some sort of official report about what had happened. However, he could not force himself to put aside his terrible burden and do so. Not yet. Alone with his fallen Master, he could delay the inevitable moment when the reality of his loss would hit him. He knew he would be buried beneath that knowledge, so for just a little while he spared himself the pain.
Finally, he sighed heavily, knowing the moment was at hand. He could put it off no longer. He had a responsibility beyond his own grief and it was not the Jedi way to shirk any duty - no matter how unpleasant or painful it was. Cautiously, he lowered Qui-Gon's still form to the floor, arranging his body carefully. It seemed vitally important to be gentle, but he could not say why.
"I'll be back, Master," he whispered, touching his fingertips to that cool face one more time.
For a moment, he contemplated carrying Qui-Gon's body with him, but in the end he rejected the idea. It was not a question of strength; he could easily draw on the Force for that. But he had no idea of what waited for him beyond that chamber and he would not risk any further indignities to Qui-Gon's body. He would have to settle for coming back for his Master. It would be the last time he would have the honor of doing so.
He got to his feet and attached Qui-Gon's saber to his belt. The weight of it felt heavy and uncomfortable, serving as a bleak reminder of his guilt and his failure. The saber thumped against his leg as he walked, making a slight sound that nagged at Obi-Wan's nerves.
As he stumbled through the various levels, he began to feel curiously and blessedly numb. Obi-Wan started making a mental list of what had to be done. It was just enough to distract him and he was grateful for the reprieve. He was quite sure there were protocols to be observed, procedures that must be followed. There would be things to do, and he was the one who must do them. Qui-Gon Jinn was certainly not the first Jedi to die in the line of duty.
That thought made him catch his breath, stop in his tracks.
Forcing himself to breathe and move again, Obi-Wan began walking and concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other again and again.
Don't think about Qui-Gon, he ordered himself. Keep your mind on what must be done and on doing it correctly.
At last, he sensed movement ahead. Life forms - human. That was good news at least.
"Sir!" A young Naboo guard's eyes went wide when Obi-Wan lurched into the corridor.
"Palace?" Obi-Wan gasped, suddenly feeling light-headed. "Secured?"
"Yes, yes," the young man answered. "Are you all right? Are you hurt?"
Obi-Wan blinked at him, overcome with a wild and unnatural urge to laugh. Hurt? His pain went so far beyond hurt that he could not express it. But he knew the guard would not understand and the young Jedi did not want anyone to doubt his sanity just now. It would be hard enough to endure their pitying looks when they learned -
"I'm fine," he answered shortly. An expedient lie, he thought. "Please, I need to speak to Captain Panaka."
The guard merely stared at him. "Captain Panaka?" the young man asked in a rather dazed voice. Then his expression cleared and a look of purpose came over him, his arm coming up as if he meant to throw it around Obi-Wan's shoulders in support.
Nimbly, Obi-Wan stepped away. "Captain Panaka," he repeated, giving the guard a not-so-subtle reminder. Obi-Wan knew he could not bear to be touched. Not yet. Not here. Not by anyone.
"Oh yes, of course," the young man mumbled. "Come with me." Obi-Wan saw the guard look past him, a frown gathering and his mouth opening to speak.
"Please, it's urgent," Obi-Wan said, cutting off the words before they could be uttered. He was not ready for the question he saw in the man's face, not prepared to speak the words just yet. Speaking them would make them real.
With one last puzzled look down the corridor from which the Jedi had emerged, the guard motioned. "This way."
Following the guard with slow, careful steps, Obi-Wan could see signs that a battle had been fought. The fact that it was a Naboo he had encountered told him that they had won the day. Obi-Wan tried to pretend that meant something to him, but could not quite muster up enough belief. Maybe later he would begin to care and find something to celebrate in the victory, but not now.
Then suddenly there was Captain Panaka, the young queen - the real one, he noted vaguely - at his side.
"Obi-Wan?" the girl asked. Her eyes were sharp and took in every detail as she studied his face. "Master Qui-Gon?" she asked, dread in her voice.
"Gone," Obi-Wan answered flatly. He could say no more.
She would have spoken, but he shook his head and she nodded once to show that she understood. "Captain Panaka, please show Padawan Kenobi to the medic."
"I'm not hurt," Obi-Wan replied curtly. "Please..." He heaved a sigh. "First, I wish to know what the situation is."
"The Trade Federation droids are down, sir," Panaka reported.
"Good," Obi-Wan replied. That certainly made things easier.
"The boy was amazing, from what I've heard," Panaka added with a half-smile.
"Boy?" Obi-Wan asked in bewilderment.
"Anakin Skywalker," Queen Amidala answered. "He was responsible for destroying the Federation's main ship."
"Oh." Obi-Wan hardly knew what to say to that startling news. Thoughts of the boy had been pushed from his mind but now his promise to his Master rose up and demanded his attention.
Another issue to be resolved.
"All right then," the Jedi murmured more to himself than anyone else. "I must..." For a moment, his voice failed him. "I must contact the Council, let them know..." He glanced at Panaka. "Have communications been restored?"
"Yes," Panaka replied. "Come with me and I'll make sure you get in touch with the Temple."
"Thank you." Obi-Wan nodded once at the queen and then followed the captain.
"I'll have Anakin sent to you," Amidala called out.
Obi-Wan stopped and turned. "Uh...all right...thank you," he said rather uncertainly. And what would he do with the boy? It was yet another problem he did not want to face.
He tried not to look as he saw the faces turn toward him as they made their way to the communications room. Everyone knew that two Jedi had arrived by now, and he could see awareness settle on their faces as they took in his grim expression.
"Here," Panaka said.
Obi-Wan moved past him, but as he brushed by, Panaka's hand came out. "Padawan Kenobi," Panaka said. "I'm sorry."
"Yes, thank you," Obi-Wan mumbled and moved away.
A moment later, he was put through to Coruscant. "I need to speak to either Master Yoda or Master Windu. It's of the utmost urgency," Obi-Wan said to the unknown voice that answered the Temple comm. He did not have the personal comm codes for any of the Council members; perhaps Qui-Gon had been in possession of them. Once more his mind had raced round to the bitter heart of the matter, despite his best efforts to shy away from it.
"Very good," the voice replied as the screen flickered to life at last.
A moment later, Mace Windu's face appeared. "Kenobi?"
"Master Windu," Obi-Wan said. "Naboo is secure - the Federation droids are no longer operational and the leaders of the Federation have been detained." Business first, he thought.
"Very good," Windu replied. Then he asked softly, "Master Qui-Gon's status?" The words were cool and professional, his tone was not. Genuine worry in that distinguished voice and the sound of it thawed Obi-Wan's heart just a bit.
"Dead, sir," Obi-Wan answered as succinctly as he could. The less he had to say, the better.
For a moment there was nothing but silence on the other end and then Mace Windu gave one short nod. "Understood, Padawan Kenobi." Falling back on the formalities gave them both comfort. "Are you injured?" The dark eyes were sharp.
"No sir." At least he did not ask if I'm all right. I would have had to lie.
"Very well then, Padawan," Windu said. "I'll inform the Council. You are to wait there for further instructions." He paused and then added quietly, "Have the Naboo help you prepare Master Qui-Gon for the rituals. Every honor will be given."
The two shared a brief look of understanding and Obi-Wan terminated the communication. Then he turned to see Panaka standing there with three more guards and a large hovercart behind them.
"Sir?" Panaka asked. "We thought we'd..." His voice trailed off but Obi-Wan knew what he offered.
"Thank you, Captain," he replied. "I'll show you the way."
Obi-Wan was grateful for the captain's kindness and foresight. He took them to where his fallen Master was waiting, and tried to accept the fact that he was alone. He had lost something on Naboo that could never be regained.
Master... The title echoed endlessly in Obi-Wan's mind. Never had that simple word meant so much.
As he walked behind the hovercart bearing its terrible burden, Obi-Wan held his head high, kept his expression composed.
I'll not forget my promise, Master.
It was all he had left to offer.
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