Title: For Better, For Worse|
Fandom: Star Wars TPM (Slash)
Summary: A twist at the ending of "Episode I" and the consequences
Series: yes - it's another take of the events depicted in the follow-up "For Better, For Worse II"
Spoilers: a few for Episode I (is there anyone who hasn't seen it yet?)
Category: POV, Romance, AU
Disclaimer: the characters in this story belong to good old George Lucas. No copyright infringement is intended.
Archive: M/A; my website (http://www.user.xpoint.at/e.lebic/default.htm); Haven-Of-Fic please
Notes: Big Thank you to Martina for the beta, all remaining faults are mine! This story is dedicated to Phil who asked me to let Qui-Gon live for once - comments and feedback are, as always, gratefully received and very much appreciated.
Italics indicates telepathy
FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE
Red laser beams swishing into an impenetrable wall right in front of my eyes, my Master engaging the Sith again, dancing a treacherous tango, every step doomed to failure, averted by years of practice and Jedi steadfastness - one moment, one single moment in which age triumphed over experience, one moment in which a life was taken, and another fell to the helpless rage of bloodshot anger.
I heard myself scream, then saw - as if from some viewpoint above, how I charged the Sith, barely seeing the laser walls withdrawing, coming close enough to them to almost singe my clothes and skin. I was beside myself. It was scary - I can't remember having ever felt this way - betrayed and furious at the same time. I should have been with my Master - he ought to have had me by his side - and yet he had left me behind.
I only briefly touched upon the possibility of his having thought I'd make it -that he'd believed I would be fast enough - Qui-Gon Jinn knew me far too well to miscalculate my powers and skill. He was a hard and demanding Master and though he'd often stretched my patience and strength to their limits he had never before overestimated me.
Sith damn his protectiveness! And yet it was a curiously warm sensation - to have someone want to give their life for you - not that I thought too much about it, my mind was focused on my enemy, as focused as I've ever been - I was engrossed in every detail of his face and though he almost killed me I was sure - from the very moment of our first clash of sabres after his hitting my Master - that I would destroy him.
No one, not even the most powerful Sith would triumph over me and my Master - I wouldn't permit anyone to steal my lifeblood from me twice. Retelling these moments, sifting through the darkest and deepest agony of my life, it surprises me to say that I knew - the moment that Qui-Gon was mortally wounded -that he was more than I had ever dreamed he could be.
That was when my heart set out and my body, my training and my mind, a power of determination that no one can possibly image took over. I was led by an overwhelming instinct to avenge my Master, my never-to-be lover - and
The Sith fell.
And so did I. I fell to my knees beside my Master, the man I loved and there was nothing left to do but to listen to his breathless words, giving him a promise to take in his grave. I think I was crying, but I couldn't say for sure. I was transported too far away from my body, drowning in a flood of grief so deep and endless I might never have come back - had it not been for Ani.
I didn't know then that he had blown up the droid control ship, I had no idea he had ever stirred from the oh-so-safe hangar where Qui-Gon and I had left him -and then he was before me - and his voice called me to my duties.
"Almost. His heart's still beating, though very faintly. There's no more we can do."
It cost me so much to say these words, it was as if I were tearing my heart and soul to shreds pronouncing them - and yet I did it. I allowed the unmistakable truth to sink in, to settle in a body and mind still weak from exertion and battle and I swallowed tears I had no right to shed. Not in front of a little boy who was to be my apprentice, not in front of a child who'd lost his guardian.
"I can help."
I looked up, stunned, my eyes and face probably full of hope though I knew I mustn't indulge, mustn't let myself suffer more than I would - for many days, weeks, maybe even years.
The boy looked astonished himself, he must have simply expressed his wish to do something, and though he had to know he was as powerless as I was, as helpless in the view of death as even the greatest Jedi is.
"He'll be one with the Force. There is no death, there is the Force."
I didn't believe it and neither did he. We stared at each other for what seemed like eternities, though it weren't more than a few seconds.
"He can be saved. He must be. Call a healer. I'll stay with him."
For such a little child he was surprisingly calm, his voice was firm, and even the emotion it betrayed, the turmoil and fear were so well suppressed they remained almost silent and unnoticeable. His eyes were pleading though, and that is why - no matter what anyone else believes - that is why I left him to guard my Master's almost dead form and went in search of a medical droid.
I knew there was no way Qui-Gon could be saved. And somehow I was sure Ani knew it too. What I never thought of was that the boy could have a plan, a notion, an instinct - whatever it was, can never be completely found out now.
I was ignorant of what passed in the few minutes it took me to meet the Queen and ask her to send the droid. I felt no tremor in the force, no indication of anything unusual happening. I guess that even if I had sensed something I wouldn't have bothered too much. My mind was racing, my head thrummed, and my body was aching, as if my heart had been clasped in a searing grip and was being burned with every step I took, every moment that passed after my Master's death.
I was so sure of his death that I - but I'm going too fast. I will have to relate what happened after I had found the Queen, after I had requested the droid - what I saw when I returned to the place where Qui-Gon had fallen.
It seemed so natural - at first. Ani was sitting there, my Master's head in his lap, his hand resting on the heart that had to have stopped beating by then and his head resting on the cold forehead.
I went to kneel beside him, to tell him to get up, that someone would be here any moment - but when I touched him, his skin was clammy, and his pulse racing. I wanted to pull him away, but he held on to Qui-Gon and I felt a change. Suddenly he looked up, met my eyes and I felt, more than heard him say: "I don't feel it anymore."
That was when my Master's Force signature palpitated softly again, whispering in the edges of my mind, finding its way to the not-yet-severed training bond.
How I understood I'll never know, but Ani was weak and I pulled him away, against his resistance and protests. The medical droids appeared just then and I screamed at them - what I can't say, something unintelligible I'd say - but they got the meaning somehow and while one of them lifted Ani and carried him off swiftly, I turned my attention on my Master and waved the droid to my side.
I laid my hand on Qui-Gon's heart, replacing the boy's and feeling a slow, but steady beat, the wound that had almost cost him his life already beginning to heal. I poured as much of my own Force energy in the healing process as I could while concentrating on placing a protective shield around my Master's mind, knowing that his own shields were too weak to withstand even the slightest disturbance - even if accounted for by a single stray thought.
The Force must have led me, of that I'm sure, as I can't remember how in the galaxy I thought of all the things to do, of all the ways of touching Qui-Gon's mind, stimulating his brain and helping him pump the blood through his veins. He had been so close to death that he was still in grave danger, any false move could mean losing him forever.
But I knew I wouldn't fail. I would summon the energy and faith my Master needed to survive. I would protect him against all odds, and I would triumph over death. Ani had given me the key, opened the door for a future, a new beginning. He had saved the man I loved and I would make sure that whatever sacrifice he'd made wouldn't be wasted.
I don't remember much of the days and nights that followed. My mind was not my own, my breath was Qui-Gon's, as was my heartbeat, we were in symbiosis as I healed the tissue, wove it together in the intricate pattern of sound flesh in minute detail, as far along the path of oblivion as one should ever go.
If I had taken one step too many, lost myself in my Master only a moment too long, I wouldn't have lived. Balance came from a raw strength that bore the last reminiscences of a Force signature I had felt before but was at a loss to place. A lingering shadow of power ebbed away as I worked to close the gap between life and death, restoring my life as I restored Qui-Gon's.
I neither slept, nor ate, nor moved. I must have lain somewhere close to my Master, for I always felt his body, the warmth of his breath on my cheek, sometimes I brushed his chest or touched his hair in a moment of forlorn longing, when the magnitude of my task seemed too overwhelming to bear.
I noticed nothing and no one - I couldn't have acknowledged anyone's presence had I seen them - but one day - I was told later that it was about three weeks after that fateful duel - I woke.
Yes, I woke. As if I had slept. It was strange, a sensation of suddenly returning to an unknown place, a reality long since forgotten. When I opened my eyes I stared into a round little face, so worried and anxious and yet smiling at me. "ANI!"
He started crying and flung himself at me, hugging me and sobbing into my tunic. I put my arms round him, still at a loss as to what I had done to deserve such a commotion on simply waking up, I held him till his tears ebbed away and he stopped shaking.
He drew away and brushed his eyes with his sleeve, smiling, his eyes startlingly blue in the pale face with the red blotches left by his crying.
"Of course. I...where am I?"
It was only then I finally realised I was not lying in my bed, not even in my quarters to be exact.
"You're in the infirmary. You've been."
He stopped abruptly, turning away, as if ashamed - and Queen Amidala appeared in the doorway.
"I'll talk to him Ani."
He nodded and left at once. The smile the young woman gave me was most intriguing - it was at the same time happy and full of worry, as if what she had to say were going to be unpleasant. I returned her smile best as I could, but as it elicited only a slight furrowing of her brow I gave up the attempt.
"You've been, well, out for the past three weeks."
I remembered then. The fight, the Sith, my Master close to death, a promise I made, seeing Ani, leaving in search of the droids, finding the boy.
"What did Ani do?"
"I'm not sure. He doesn't know himself. The medical staff said he'd been drained - but not physically, only emotionally, and psychically. I.we.he says he can't feel the Force anymore. That's all I can tell you."
"Yes. He - you were with him until yesterday morning, when your heart seemed to be unable to take the strain. I gave orders to separate you from your Master. He did well enough without you, he's breathing regularly and though he's still being monitored he's out of danger. He'll be woken from his artificial sleep when you're ready. We thought it best he wake with you by his side."
"You gave us quite a scare. None of us slept much. Ani was beside himself. He mumbled something about not wanting to lose either of you."
I smiled. The Queen furrowed her brow again.
"You need to get some more sleep and eat. I'll arrange for a change of clothes to be brought to you and the medical droid will make a routine check-up once more. Then you can welcome your Master."
She bowed and left. That was when it occurred to me that I hadn't doubted Qui-Gon was alive. It seemed as if I were subtly aware of every breath he took. And my body decided just then to start making itself heard. I can't remember having ever felt this leaden and beat. How I managed to get up and take a shower is beyond my understanding, and with what resource of strength I took up the spoon and swallowed the gruel they put before me.
I slept a lot for some days. I knew Qui-Gon was healing and that I was most certainly not in the condition to face him. I had to be able to take care of him, explain what had happened. And feeling as giddy and weak as I did I wasn't exactly suited for the welcome committee.
Ani visited me almost daily. He didn't say much, just sat at my bedside -sometimes he showed me pictures of Naboo, once he brought me a present from the Gungans - some wet, slimy thing that wriggled itself out of its water tank one night and disappeared somewhere in the palace.
We didn't talk about what had happened. I knew all he seemed to know. He was still as puzzled as I was as to the how and what. After a week I was sufficiently rested to get up and walk about and that was when I ran into Master Yoda. He had been sitting on the windowsill in front of the infirmary and I almost jumped when I opened the door to see him smiling at me.
"Good to see you it is. Waited for you I have. Walk with me you will."
What could I do but bow and acquiesce? He was on the Council and I was -whatever. As we hobbled along (I was still not exactly in best form) the corridor he gave me the answers to some of my questions.
"Saved Qui-Gon, the boy did. Lost his power in the Force he has. Unforeseen this was. Fulfil the prophecy he will not. But chosen, he was."
"Does that mean the Council has proof he was the Chosen One?"
"Yes. Bring balance to the Force, he will not."
"He - are you trying to tell me he's given up his gift, his future to save Qui-Gon?"
"Telling you I am. Not trying. There is no try. Remember your lessons you should."
He was teasing me. Realisation dawned. He treated me with so much good-humoured playfulness.
"Surprise for you I have."
"It's a pleasant one?"
"Think so, I do. But - wait you must. Present your Master must be."
I dared not ask. My knighthood? Why would the Council grant me my knighthood? For fighting a Sith - probable, but, I couldn't help but find it unlikely.
"Seen your Master, you have?"
"Not yet. I was told he had not been woken. That it should be me who greeted him and that it was necessary for me to."
"Healthy you are. Explain you need not. Official it will be made."
"Official? I'm afraid I don't quite understand."
"Bonded you are. Not felt it, you have?"
"That's not possible! I never...I couldn't!"
It was most confusing. It was true that I felt my Master deep inside, that it seemed he was closer to me than ever, but I hadn't thought it was - a bond.
"A life-bond it is. Not know how it happened I do. Done it is. Mind it you will not."
With these prophetic words he left me and I returned to the infirmary and walked straight into the room adjoining to mine, where I knew Qui-Gon was sleeping. I told the droid on duty there to wake my Master up.
It wasn't long before his eyes opened. I've never noticed how blue they were or how much I had missed gazing into their depths. This pleasure wasn't for me to indulge for long, as my mind seemed to implode, then explode and a thousand questions tumbled on top of me, forcing me to steady myself on my Master's bedside.
I must have cried quite loud, as the droid dropped whatever it was holding, and the clattering of metal on the tiles somehow helped to clear my head a little.
Forgive me, Padawan. I didn't mean to scare you.
Qui-Gon's soft mellow tone echoed in my head, almost like a whisper.
I'm too tired to talk and the training bond is so strong I thought I might as well give it a try...ah...you know what I mean.
It worked without my even concentrating. I just thought and - there -I was talking to my Master. Incredible. This had to be a life-bond.
A life-bond? What's all this, Padawan?
I shook my head and took a chair to sit beside him. This was going to be one long day, at least I knew my throat wouldn't be dry from explaining.
It turned out that Qui-Gon had a notion of almost everything that had passed. I shared my memories with him, so easily in fact that some of my more private 'ideas' slipped along with them, travelling on our new-formed bond. I couldn't shield myself properly, I had heard that life-bonded need to take time to develop their shields, that they can't just lock the other out as that would involve dreadful pain. So I hoped that my usually so perceptive Master wouldn't pick up the stray thoughts that shouldn't have escaped.
You love me?
How could I have fancied he'd be so weak he'd ignore it? All I could do was nod. It was embarrassing to think of such a mishap. I had guarded my feelings for years, not even realised what they entailed, then, when I figured it out, I had no time to sort them out and now, when I might have taken the time to get to terms with all the implications and the possible consequences I, my mind to be exact, blurted it all out.
I love you too.
Now - this was something I hadn't been prepared for, it was unexpected and - I'd be a liar if I said that I didn't grin foolishly and grasped the hand that Qui-Gon extended. He pulled me towards him and - need I detail this kiss? I couldn't describe it. It was wrapped in a feeling of completion and love that can't be expressed in words.
I sat with Qui-Gon the whole evening, and at night we slept in each other's arms. He had healed well enough to leave the infirmary a few days later and as we strolled hand in hand towards our quarters we met Ani and the Queen, well, to be honest, we almost fell over them. They had been slithering on the marble in one of the big halls, muffling their laughs as best they could so as not to attract any unwanted attention to the Queen's undignified behaviour.
"Master Qui-Gon! Obi-Wan!"
Ani just stared at us, his grin spreading from one side of his face to the other. Qui-Gon and I hadn't discussed the gift the little boy had given so willingly, but when I saw him kneel down and open his arms to catch the whirlwind speed of the child I felt the wave of gratitude that swept over me and took my breath, just as it touched both Ani and Amidala although neither of them was Force sensitive.
"I'd like to talk to you alone, Ani, sometime."
"Sure, Master Qui-Gon, sir."
He disentangled from my Master's arms and flung himself at me, laughing out loud when I swept him off his feet in a bear hug. I owed him more than I could ever express, but I was sure I'd be able to pay him back one day. An idea already dawned.
Excellent, love. We'll ask Yoda for a little vacation and drop by.
I grinned, then set Ani back down.
"We need to be gone. We've got an appointment with Master Yoda."
I still grinned, turning back once more to say: "Enjoy yourselves."
Both Amidala and Ani burst out laughing, then began their little sliding game again.
It's good to see the Queen's got some spirit in her, she's a born leader -but at fourteen she shouldn't be forced to live an adult's life.
She's got Ani round now, I doubt she'll be very dignified when he's near.
I'm glad they're both so happy, after all they had to go through.
Qui-Gon squeezed my hand as we reached the door to Yoda's quarters.
I nodded and we entered. I had expected to see the whole Council and I wasn't disappointed. Everyone was there, nodding to acknowledge our presence. They sat in a circle, and in the middle of it was a low bench adorned with soft green cushions.
"Sit down, you should. Accepted, life-bond must be. Ask questions, we will."
We both nodded in unison. It was wonderful to feel Qui-Gon so close. Though our relationship hadn't passed the barrier of the physical yet we were one in mind and spirit - and we were only slowly learning to maintain a little distance. Still, it hadn't been uncomfortable to share every thought. There was not much we were reluctant to share and in our situation hesitation hadn't been possible anyway.
It was a long afternoon. We were bombarded with questions and we must have answered all of them to the entire satisfaction of the Council, for Yoda informed us after only a few minutes of quiet contemplation among the members that our life-bond was accepted unconditionally.
Surprising, isn't it?
We'll see whether we're really talking about a bond between Master and apprentice here - Yoda said there was to be a surprise for me.
I don't know, it's just a feeling, and their accepting our life-bond without preamble, yes, I know there was nothing they could've done, but.
"Stop whispering you should. Surprise we have for you, Padawan Kenobi."
I stood on an instinct and Yoda nodded.
"Guessed it you have. Knight we will make you. Deserved it you have. Won against the Sith you have. And saved your Master you have."
"I, I can't take credit for saving Qui... my Master's life. Ani did."
"Saved him you have. Saved him Anakin has. A Jedi Knight you will be. A future, the boy will have."
"You foresaw his death?"
"Foresee his doom I did."
I shivered. It seemed as if Ani's selfless gift had prevented him from a fate worse than even Qui-Gon's death could have been.
I perfectly agree, love.
I felt Qui-Gon's hands on my shoulders. Warm skin, the energy of life seeping through the rough cloth of my tunic.
"Accept the responsibilities of a Jedi Knight you do?"
"Relinquish your Padawan status you do?"
"Sever the braid you will, Master Qui-Gon?"
"Yes, and in so doing I release my apprentice into knighthood."
Moments later, my Padawan braid dropped into Qui-Gon's hand. I felt no loss. I had thought I'd have nowhere to turn to once I was a knight. I had known it would entail leaving my Master and living, fending on my own. Our relationship would have changed, we'd have had no training bond and would have been further apart than I had cared to even think of. Now - all these fears had vanished. I had lost my Master, and gained a lover instead.
"Welcome to the order you are, Knight Kenobi."
"And I'm honoured to be a part of the order, Master."
We were released from shaking hands not all too long after. Yoda accompanied us to our quarters.
"Beautiful night this is. Plans you have I believe."
"I have requested a ship from the Queen. We have some business, some private business we would like to take care of before we."
"A holiday you can have. Tell me where you go you will?"
"We would like to give Ani the one thing he wants most in the world. We, I owe him more than I can ever repay."
"Understand you I do. May the Force be with you." He chuckled. "Enjoy the night you will - I trust."
Was he always that good at embarrassing people?
You've never seen him when he's in good humour, love.
And I'm not sure I want to.
But he was right about one thing.
And that would be?
That we'll enjoy this night, how about a hot bath?
As long as we're sharing it I have no objections.
It was a wonderful night. And so were those that followed. We've been together for almost twenty years now. It's hard to believe how time flies when you're happy. Though we've faced abominable creatures and dangers beyond description we shared moments of bliss throughout all of the bad times. A few months ago we found out who Darth Sidious was - Senator Palpatine - who would've thought it?
We fought him - all the Jedi together - he had grown extremely strong and we almost lost - but our belief in the Force saved us - and the galaxy, I might add.
Ani and Amidala have two children. Twins - and what rascals they are. They are both strong in the Force, a new generation of Jedi. Qui-Gon and I are their godfathers, and I can say that they enjoy being with us - and it's not because we pamper them, because we don't.
I'm doing my best to tell a story here, love.
We pamper them, and we spoil them. And you enjoy it just as much as they do.
A little, how about...hey, since when can you read my mind?
Ever since we bonded, love, care for a 'nap'?
(Everything I Do) I Do it for You