Note: This piece was originally intended to be a part of a piece much larger in scope. But, the rest of it is having trouble happening and I really wanted to get this out there, since it's been sitting on my hard drive for nearly two years now. In the future, I may to the thing that this was to be a part of, but for now, enjoy and review! ^_^
When he awoke in the morning, just like every
morning, he knew exactly how long it had been. This particular morning,
it had been three months, six days, and five hours. It was always
plus five hours because that was when the computer sounded his wake up
Thirteen-year-old Obi-Wan Kenobi decided to let the alarm sound for a full minute before he moved to turn it off, just to make the time different for once. When he finally rolled out of bed and went to the computer panel across the room, he was another minute further away from that other world he had lived in.
The world where she was still alive.
The realization that Cerasi was dead still left him numb and confused, as though such a thing was utterly preposterous. His mind told him routinely that this wasn’t a normal reaction, but it was how he reacted nonetheless. After all, he wasn’t a normal boy, but a Jedi Padawan.
Yes, a Jedi Padawan. That was what he had to keep telling himself. He had to be committed to his path, otherwise the Council would never take him off probation. Qui-Gon would tell him, day in and day out, that they would be certain of it in time and before long they would tell him he was just a Padawan and that he needn’t worry about it, but he found himself frustrated by it anyway.
Obi-Wan figured it was just exactly that frustration that the Council was keeping an eye on.
Absently, he pulled his tunic on over his head and ran his hand through his short, spiked hair to make himself presentable. As he checked himself in the mirror, his hand met his short Padawan braid behind his right ear and he paused.
“I think you should keep it, it looks good on you and no one else around here has anything quite like it. Makes you look unique.”
Obi-Wan’s eyes flickered to the side of his image in the mirror. For an instant he saw a whip of copper hair and two green eyes staring out at him. Startled, he whipped his head around to face her but…
… She wasn’t there. Her voice had rang so clearly and she wasn’t there. She was dead.
It was a preposterous situation.
“A team simulation?”
“That’s right,” Qui-Gon answered, setting down his usual morning glass of Lhorfruit juice, “Reeft, Bant, Siri, and you. Masters Yoda, Windu, and Gallia will be present to observe.”
Obi-Wan sighed around his bite of biscuit but didn’t say anything in response to the news. Instead he swallowed and looked back up at his Master. “When?”
Qui-Gon chose to address Obi-Wan’s hesitation instead. “Yoda will simply be there to observe the initiates and Mace has heard of more than one instance of equipment failure lately that he wishes to investigate for himself.”
“And Master Gallia?”
“Officially, I’m not supposed to say why she is going to be there,” Qui-Gon said. Then noticing the mild chagrin of his Padawan, he allowed a slight, conspiratorial smile. “But unofficially… it concerns a rumor you’ve probably heard? Hmm?”
Obi-Wan didn’t respond in the way Qui-Gon had hoped. The Master had hoped for some form of dawning realization, but instead the boy merely poked at the remainder of his breakfast with his utensil, seemingly to avoid Qui-Gon’s gaze.
“I haven’t really been privy to the rumor mill lately, Master,” the boy mumbled a response.
The tables had turned. Now Qui-Gon was the subject of a dawning realization and he sat back in his chair, allowing himself a sigh in mild frustration. It seemed to the Knight as though it was contagious in some way. Perhaps he was too far removed from childhood; perhaps he had forgotten what it was like to be singled out by other children who simply didn’t understand any better.
Or perhaps he simply didn’t understand. It was possible. After all, he had never been put on probation by the Council. He didn’t really have an understanding of the kind of label that would bring on one so young. And so, he couldn’t give any sage advice.
But at least he could make Obi-Wan understand that he wasn’t totally alone.
Qui-Gon leaned across the table and placed a reassuring hand on Obi-Wan’s shoulder. The boy looked up at him, eyes weary with the long effects of silent, mild confusion.
“I don’t have any answers,” Qui-Gon told him, “but I don’t have any worries about your status as my Padawan. I know it’s frustrating, I feel it in you day by day. The only thing I can tell you is to be patient. And I’m going to keep telling you that until you listen to me.”
For a moment, Qui-Gon wasn’t sure his words would have the effect he desired. But, after a moment, Obi-Wan’s eyes brightened somewhat and a small smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. Qui-Gon smiled too and it had an amplifying effect on the boy until they were both sharing a quiet chuckle.
“I’ll try and… I’ll do that, Master.”
“That’s all I wanted to hear.” Qui-Gon looked from side to side quickly, then leaned further across the table and lowered his voice. “Adi’s going to be there to observe Siri.”
And dawn finally came to Obi-Wan. “Oh,” he said simply, “okay. Best not to interfere with that, then.”
Qui-Gon nodded in mock agreement. “Best not,” he said, “and it’s best we go and prepare. The simulation is in thirty minutes.”
“Th… Thirty minutes?”
Hurriedly, Obi-Wan shoveled the rest of his breakfast into his mouth and chugged down the remainder of his juice. “Let’s go, then,” he said, standing and picking up his dishes.
Shaking his head in amazement at the apparent mood swing, Qui-Gon followed suit and the two of them left the Temple mess.
Obi-Wan knew there were several pairs of eyes
on him, but he couldn’t help but fidget slightly with his lightsaber.
He crawled his right hand up and down the tube absently as he tried to
tamp down his nerves and find his focused center.
The room was one of the longer, more rectangular shaped of the lightsaber training rooms deep in the pyramid that was the Jedi Temple’s base. The floor was padded and everyone in it was barefoot. A set of markers had been laid out, defining a circular space at one end of the room and a long, narrow pathway down the center of the other half of the room. In the middle of the circle was a structure, about four feet high, of large, padded blocks.
Reeft, Bant, and Siri were there as well, each of them also waiting for their instructions. Every once in a while, they would exchange some whispers or words. Obi-Wan decided to follow suit, hoping that it would calm him a bit. He wandered in Siri’s direction.
“So, big day, huh?” he said, attempting small talk.
Siri looked at him with that why-is-it-relevant look that was always her trademark. She said nothing.
“Well, anyway,” Obi-Wan continued, “good luck.”
“Jedi don’t need luck,” she responded.
“Everyone needs…” The words caught in his throat as he suddenly remembered the last time he had been a part of an exchange almost exactly like it. “Everyone needs luck,” he sighed.
Siri looked at him, obviously puzzled for a moment, before she regained her perfect composure. “Whatever,” she said, dismissively.
Obi-Wan decided that that could have gone better. His center was further out of focus now and as he wandered away from Siri he found he had to work to bring it back. All the while he felt the eyes of all the elder Jedi present upon him.
Mercifully, Master Anoon Bondara finally entered the room, hands clasped behind his back and his thin Twi’lek head tails swaying behind him as he walked. The four students all lined up before him and bowed respectfully.
“This exercise is about spontaneity,” the lightsaber master told them, “there will be times when you will find yourselves in unexpected situations, with unexpected allies, and no time to come up with a plan to achieve whatever your objective might be. This is why you four were not told of this exercise until this morning.” He turned to the rest of the room, indicating that the students should follow his gaze. “Your objective is to retrieve the token at the top of that structure at the other end of the room. The simulation will end when one of you picks it up. You will be timed. The markers outline a terrain; imagine it to be what you will. If you step outside the markers, you are to stop and be inactive for five seconds before rejoining the simulation. Also, if you are hit by any of the training lasers, you will stop for five seconds. Do you understand the rules?”
“Yes, Master Bondara,” the four students responded in unison.
Bondara nodded and moved to the side of the room, outside the markers. “Stand ready,” he instructed and the students all lit their lightsabers and dropped into fighting stances, “begin.”
At Bondara’s command, the four students all began advancing down the narrow section of pathway defined by the markers. They went two-by-two, Reeft and Siri in the lead followed closely by Obi-Wan and Bant. Training probe droids came at them, firing shots of relatively harmless laser. Deftly, they deflected the shots with their lightsabers, their pace slowing somewhat as they formed a rough defensive formation.
Obi-Wan focused on the probe droids as they closed in. As one came close, he batted it out of the air with a backhanded stroke of his lightsaber. Feeling a pang of warning in the Force, he spun on the ball of his foot and deflect another blast, but was an instant too late. The probe droid got off a shot which landed only centimeters from his left foot. Instinctively, he backed off from it and reeled backward slightly. His right foot stepped just outside the markers.
He grunted his annoyance out, inwardly, stepped outside the markers, and focused on his center once again while counting out five seconds. He rejoined the simulation just as the other three were entering the circular area and he noticed Bant counting out a five second wait from a laser that had managed to make its way through her defenses. He advanced into the circular area, deflecting blasts and cutting down two droids, and rejoined the formation just as they reached the structure.
“Cover me,” Siri said, back to the short tower as she deactivated her purple lightsaber and turned to find handhold on the structure.
Obi-Wan remained where he was, directly behind Siri’s back, deflecting blasts and droids alike as she climbed. Bant and Reeft moved around the tower to cover Siri from other directions.
Siri was atop the tower quickly and plucked the token from the top, thrusting it into the air.
“End,” Bondara called to the computer to which the probe droids all responded by halting their actions and zooming off to their standby ports around the room. The three students who still had their lightsabers lit deactivated them and stood down.
Suddenly, from the gallery above the room, a laser shot spat forth. It caught Siri in her right shoulder and she reeled backward in surprise, losing her balance on the tower and falling to the mats below.
At the sound, Obi-Wan spun around. His eyes found Siri’s falling form and for an instant, she was replaced by a copper-headed girl dressed in blues. He froze, unable to react as she hit the water of the fountain.
No… the mats. As she hit the mats.
“Hey!” Siri exclaimed, picking herself off the mats and turning in the direction the shot had come from. Reeft and Bant looked in that direction as well, confused looks on their faces.
Garen was perched atop the ledge outlining the gallery, a mock energy blaster in hand set to a low setting. “Gotcha,” he exclaimed with a wink as Siri, Reeft, and Bant all looked at each other in puzzlement. “Spontaneity, remember?”
Bondara was moving forward, preparing to say something when there was the thump of a small but hefty object hitting the mats. Everyone turned to it.
Obi-Wan’s lightsaber had fallen from his lax grip and was resting at his feet. Blankly, he stared at Siri.
“Obi-Wan?” Bant asked in concern.
From his place outside the markers along the edge of the room, Qui-Gon came forward and joined Obi-Wan as Master Bondara turned a puzzled gaze at the Padawan.
“Obi-Wan, what is it?” Qui-Gon asked, placing his hands on the boy’s shoulders and kneeling down in front of him.
“I… don’t know,” Obi-Wan responded quietly, but blankly.
Qui-Gon looked into Obi-Wan’s eyes, accessing the Force in their bond. Gently, he pushed against it, trying to sense what the problem was.
Strangely enough, he could sense nothing at all from the boy. Obi-Wan was a complete blank.
“I don’t sense anything from you,” Qui-Gon said, confounded. Deciding on a course of action, the Knight stood back to his full height and turned to the three Council members in the gallery above. “Masters, my Padawan is ill. May I have leave to take him to the healers?”
Yoda nodded down to Qui-Gon. “To the healers you may take him,” he said.
Qui-Gon bowed his thanks and steered Obi-Wan toward the door to the training room by the shoulders. Obi-Wan wriggled out of his grasp after a few steps and returned to where he had ended the simulation to retrieve his lightsaber, the blank look still on his face. Then, he followed Qui-Gon out of the room.
It had taken a mild Force suggestion, but Obi-Wan
was finally asleep. Qui-Gon took a moment to cover the boy with a
blanket before stepping outside the tiny room of the Healing Ward to confer
with the waiting Mace Windu and Yoda. He had spent the past hour
conferring with the healers only to have them tell him what he already
knew; that what was afflicting Obi-Wan was nothing ill in body or Force.
“The healers tell us there is nothing physically wrong with the boy,” Mace stated.
Qui-Gon shook his head. “And nothing is affecting him through the Force either,” he said.
“Explain you can?” Yoda asked.
“Yes,” Qui-Gon responded, “Obi-Wan is suffering from a malady of the soul, Masters. He carries a pain he has yet to release.”
Mace turned and regarded Obi-Wan’s sleeping form through the doorway. “I sense no pain from him,” he said, a confused tone in his voice.
Yoda likewise regarded the boy, then he closed his eyes and felt what he could feel though his deep connection to the Force. He sighed audibly and his ears drooped slightly. “Buried deep it is within him. A great pain it is. Carry it he does rather than release it.”
“But why?” Mace asked. “Surely, his Jedi training-”
“Masters, I believe his Jedi training is exactly the problem in this case.” Yoda and Mace both looked at Qui-Gon with incredulity, beckoning him to elaborate. “The source of his sadness is Cerasi, the girl who died in his arms on Melida/Daan.”
The two Council members picked up on what Qui-Gon was suggesting immediately. “Qui-Gon, you know that a Jedi is not to know love,” said Mace, “the Code forbids it.”
“Exactly,” Qui-Gon retorted, “he wasn’t prepared for it. It blindsided him completely.” He sighed and crossed his arms over his chest. “He never had time, Masters, before you put him on probation, to be the boy he needed to be. He feels the Council’s eyes on him at all times and so he adheres to the Code with alarming zeal. He is trying to be a Jedi in every sense of the word.”
“Then he should learn to release his pain,” Mace told him, rather sternly.
“How can he when he is not allowed to acknowledge it? The Code gives him no answers.”
“Hmm. Agree with Qui-Gon I do,” said Yoda, “a Jedi the boy may be. But a boy nonetheless. Hard to see are his true feelings while buried thus. To reveal them we must allow if whether or not he is to be a Jedi we wish to know.” He nodded up at Qui-Gon, both hands resting on his gimer stick. “When Obi-Wan awakens, speak with him I will.”
Obi-Wan floated out of sleep slowly some hours
later. As his eyes flickered open, he was met with the green form
of Yoda standing on one of the chairs next to his bed. As soon as
he recognized who it was, he immediately sat up, pushing off that sleepy
fog that had surrounded him.
“Master Yoda,” he exclaimed.
“Hmm,” Yoda responded, “sleep well you did?”
“Y… Yes and no, Master.” Obi-Wan avoided Yoda’s gaze and fidgeted slightly. “This is about what happened at the end of the exercise, isn’t it?”
“Master Yoda, I don’t know what happened to me. I… I’m… I don’t know what to say.”
Yoda shook his head. “Unimportant that is. The issue, your training is not. Seen it we have. Act like a Padawan you do. What felt you when Siri Tachi fell?”
Obi-Wan took a deep breath and closed his eyes, trying to remember the end of the exercise as clearly as he could. “I felt… nothing, Master,” he finally stated.
“Nothing felt you? React in that way one does not when nothing one feels.” Obi-Wan looked up at Yoda with puzzlement on his face. “Not what feel you,” Yoda said, pointing to Obi-Wan’s head, then he gestured to the open air, “what feel you? Look deep.” Still, the boy looked at Yoda without understanding. So, Yoda reached over and placed his three-fingered hand on top of Obi-Wan’s. “At issue your training is not. A Jedi Padawan you are. But also a boy.”
Obi-Wan was silent for several long moments, contemplating his hands, neatly clasped in his lap, Yoda’s resting on top. Finally, he spoke and his voice wavered as he did. “I feel sorrow, Master.” He began in a whisper but his voice grew to normal speaking volumes slowly as he spoke. Also tears began to grow in his eyes in response. “It’s so deep. I don’t want to feel this way, but I don’t know how to stop it. It was the same. It was the same way that she died. She was killed because she believed in life above all things. I… I miss her.”
Qui-Gon had appeared at the door some time ago and was watching the two of them intently. Yoda turned to him and nodded once. This was all the permission Qui-Gon needed. He entered, crossed the room in two large strides, and placed himself on the bed with a firm hand on Obi-Wan’s shoulder. Yoda sighed, reaching into the Force and searching for a moment before saying anything.
“A great sorrow it is,” he said, “but unaccompanied it is by anger or hate. There is no Dark Side here. Finished is this probation. A Jedi Obi-Wan is.”
Silently, Yoda hopped down from the chair and ambled his way out of the room. Qui-Gon, meanwhile, placed his other hand on Obi-Wan’s other shoulder and drew him close.
“Let it go, Padawan.”
With a shudder, Obi-Wan took a breath and released it, sobbing into his Master’s shoulder and finally releasing the floodgates that held back his sorrow. Qui-Gon waited patiently as the boy cried out his pain, feeling it through their bond. Slowly, it began to ebb away into the Force.