Title : Awake/Aware
Author : Saathi
Mail : StarsingerSaathi@c...
Rating : PG-13
Pairing: Um. Obi-Wan/Qui-Gon, sorta. Just go with it. Category : Angst, H/C, something.
Date : 5/22/03
Archive? Ask me, it's yours.
Website : http://skip.to/Saathi (hopefully, it'll all be up and running soon...)
Disclaimer : Despite my eternal vendetta against Lucas, and my repeated mutters of "will not write Ep 2 fic... will NOT write Ep 2 fic... (etc)", I wrote an Ep.1/Ep.2 fic. But that doesn't mean I have the legal rights to anything int the Star Wars universe. Suing me is ridiculous, because I'm a po' art major.
Summary - Between Episode 1 & Episode 2, Qui-gon does the disembodied voice thing, and Obi-Wan becomes aware of a lot of things he probably wishes he knew before.
The boy is fascinated by the nightlife of Couscant. Not the upper levels, with their sleekly polished Senators in their even sleeker speeders - though, to be fair, the padawan is still endlessly fascinated by any high-powered vehicles. No, he enjoys the lower levels of the city-planet, where the sunlight is so heavily filtered that there is little by way of determining the difference between night and day. Despite this, there is a different feel to the crowds Below during the night, something in the way they move and speak and fight and con, and brawl.
Anakin revels in it.
Not in the way any other adolescent would, either. He doesn't surreptitiously indulge in any of the vices available Below; he has shown only a passing academic interest in the ideas of drug, and drink, and company of exotic lovers. Strange in its own way, this lack of attention to all the things frowned on by the Order. Someone as rebellious, as strong-willed and precocious as Anakin has always been, would have sunk into all the temptations offered Below, and long since risen above them again, a stronger Jedi for the trial.
Instead, it is something indescribable about the lower level that draws him. Something in the bizarre mix of species, personalities, and intentions found there. It is a feel in the air, an odd tinge to the Force-currents, the glint in onlookers' eyes as they recognize Jedi.
The Dark side has stronger currents in these places, but nothing threatening to anyone with Jedi training. It is in sunnier places where you do not notice the shadows until you've already slipped into their chill. Down Below, you are aware of the darkness inherent in its nature, so it is all the more difficult to be taken unawares by it.
So. It is not the Dark Side calling to the Padawan, nor vice. When pressed, Anakin will shrug and say, "The atmosphere is clearer. People's minds are different." And, in a way, it is true.
Obi-wan opens his perceptions to the press of thoughts from the crowd. At first, it is deafening, like the first notes from an orchestra warming up, before all the instruments swell together on one note. But, after a few wincing moments, his mind picks out groups, arranging similarities, until he discerns the common thread among all the people Below... His thoughts arc across the planet, winding through narrow alleyways and through venting systems with encampments of unemployed drifters... And, in a moment, this thread connects all of Below, across Coruscant, with echoes from other planets reaching thin tendrils towards him...
Obi-wan reels, staggering but catching himself before the slight stumble could be noticed; he follows his Padawan though the crowd. Anakin turns, waiting for his master to draw near.
"You felt it, didn't you?" The boy has light in his eyes; a small note of delight that it wasn't just him that felt these interconnecting eddies in the Force.
Obi-wan nods. It was... intriguing. All civilians in the Republic were similar, their minds focused on what was best for themselves, their family, their people. More themselves than others, though. Which made relating to them fairly easy. Find their personal goal, and do your best to help them on their way while gaining what is needed for the overall good.
Politicians were difficult; their goals, the needs of the people they officially represented, the needs of the people they unofficially represented, and the needs of the Senate - all layered on top of one another, sometimes conflicting. The people Below, however, had very narrow goals, usually to just live another week. They schemed and conspired just as furiously and cannily as any politician, but their minds were simpler.
This was the eddy: simple ends, all trapped in lower income areas. A microcosm of the society that functioned Above. A thing unique to the poorest levels of every city, across the galaxy. All of the society distilled, with its starker and seedier aspects open to any onlooker. These areas may be dirtier, louder, more dangerous in obvious ways, but they were more honest about their natures than Above.
It's the honesty that Anakin loves. All of the society and its intricate workings, open to a trained eye. Very much like a machine - every purpose and reaction clear, precise. 'It functions, and this is how, and this is what it does.' Perfect to study, perfect to immerse one's mind within, before attempting to comprehend all the elegant, convoluted diplomacy of Above. And, like all complex machines, not as sleek and aesthetically pleasing as the richer citizens would like it to be.
But Anakin is fascinated by it.
Obi-wan looks at his Padawan with a trace of bemusement. The boy felt that, was drawn to it instinctively. A concept that complex when described verbally, was naturally understood through this boy's attunement to the Force.
Qui-gon was right about Anakin. This is only the latest proof, and Obi-wan anticipates more to come in the future. Each time, however, it is always slightly unsettling as the boy's mind turns corners you'd never even suspect were there, always arriving at a conclusion far earlier than others had. Little leaps of Force-found intuition that were unerring unless it was something Anakin was emotional about.
The emotional aspect was the crux of the matter, really. Obi-wan, along with the other Masters training the boy, had made every attempt to curb Anakin's ever-passionate nature, but to no avail. His subconscious - which, in most Padawan learners, was tapped and investigated (but never truly controlled, of course) until it actually augmented their relationship with the Force - kept plaguing Anakin at night, in his dreams. Occasionally during meditation, Anakin would see almost-visions of his mother, in pain, sometimes dying...
His focus would be scattered for days afterwards.
Obi-wan guided him through all the exercises, using tendrils of his own energies to calm the tempest of emotions within Anakin's thoughts. Improvement showed, slowly but steadily, and the academic side of Temple life seemed to give the most help.
As soon as Anakin had to interact and cooperate with others on some task, his personality would flare and get in the way of any further progress. He seemed to resent anyone acting as a mentor or authority towards him - his awareness of his own natural proficiency with the Force lending him a certain measure of arrogance and overconfidence.
This was a rare thing, however, symptomatic of a larger problem that hadn't affected his abilities. Yet. Obi-wan kept discreet watch at all times, in case the root of the difficulties asserted itself.
But, most times, Anakin was a wonder to behold. The kind of Padawan every Master longed for (if they were being honest with themselves) or at least envied good-naturedly. He was a prodigy, only held back by those young years when he should have started his training but hadn't yet been found. He'd made up for that time, though, and exceeded many expectations.
Anakin was fifteen now, and had the kind of delight in his abilities that Obi-wan remembered fondly. His own confidence had settled, matured, and it seemed a long time ago when he'd battled that demonfaced Sith alongside his own Master.
And killed him, beside Qui-gon's dying body.
In the dark of his own room (it used to be Qui-gon's and, as most of Obi-wan's few possessions were already there; Master Windu had simply told him that the rest of his things should be moved in, and that Qui-gon's belongings were his, if he chose...) Obi-wan meditates quietly.
He is impassive, his face smoothed of any weary or time-worn lines. And he allows the grief (the sadness the despair the loneliness the denial the rage the pain...) to engulf him, slipping around his mind like a cloak. He wears one of Qui-gon's robes now, and in deeply introspective moments like this, he can sometimes smell his late Master's scent on them, no matter how many times it had been in the `fresher since Qui-gon wore it last. Obi-wan feels the emotion fully, prodding its sore edges like one tongues a split lip. He knows this emotion well, inside and out, and knows its source, and its end.
Jedi are not emotionless beings. They feel deeply, more so than some can imagine. Fear, anger, hate... and yes, even love, are not shunned, as it seems.
It is allowing such things to rule one's judgment and actions that is considered wrong. For a minute and a half, many emotions raged within Obi-wan, and he killed another being because of this weakness.
Perhaps, Obi-wan thinks, if I had not buried my emotions for so long, I would not have been carried away by them. It is a funny thing, to think that he had repressed anything while a Padawan. His own nature at the time was similar to Anakin's present one, but less self-absorbed.
However, one does not love lightly when a Jedi, and love for one's own Master? Obi-wan had not allowed it to consciously exist.
Love exists whether or not you allow it to.
And, when it had no opportunity left to flower, all chances at being fulfilled skewered on a double-ended saber blade, it - and Obi-wan - reacted violently. Now, years later, Obi-wan still has to address that chain of decisions and repercussions within himself, echoes of past events still having an effect on the present.
Every now and then, loneliness, longing for the complementary presence of Qui-gon, and grief would wells up again, and Obi-wan must face it. He lets himself feel the emotion to its depth and breadth, explores its nuances, and passes through it towards a higher measure of peace.
When he surfaces from meditation, his muscles are stiff from prolonged stillness. His face is crackly, dried out in long streaks where tears must have run. His body's natural reaction to such soulsearching.
There is a voice, still familiar, in his mind.
"Ah, Obi-wan, if only your reach did not so exceed your grasp."
Obi-wan's eyes shoot open, catching a faint bluish shimmer across the room before his eyes focus. Then, nothing but an empty room. "Master?"
His voice cracks, hoarse and tired; it sounds old even to his own ears.
"Yes?" Qui-gon sounds as kindly patient as ever.
"I...why... how...?" Obi-wan's words stumble out, falter, then stop. It is not unheard of for deceased Jedi to reappear, or be heard. Once, when very young, he glimpsed a Twi'lek Jedi talking to a glowing blue form, and had recognized it as her late Master.
He never expected to speak to Qui-gon again. Despite the possibility of it occurring, he was shocked at the reality.
"I hear you every time you use the Force," Qui-gon replies. Every day, then. "And every time you do this exercise, I feel you calling to me. I have always answered. This is the first time you've been able to hear me reply."
"Oh." Obi-wan feels very young, very inexperienced all of a sudden. He does not know what to do with such a gift.
"I almost wish you could bring me back by such sheer will."
"What have I to wish for? And why would I wish it? I am what I would be, whenever my life ended. I am what you will be, when your life ends."
"But..." Obi-wan has no real protest to this, nothing to argue with. "Why wish it, if you would?"
"Now that I understand... a great deal more than I did, I know what I did not about you. I had always worried that your affection for me had simply grown out of a child's adoration. It was a boundary I would not cross, a thing so innocent that I would never take advantage of..."
"It wasn't, you know."
"Yes. I know, now, that your feelings for me had long lost any innocence." Qui-gon's tone was sly, affectionate. Obi-wan flushed, knowing better than to hide his fleeting chagrin. "Yes, I do know that your dreams have lingered past my death. Don't be ashamed..."
"So you knew that I loved you."
"Always. I knew you better than you knew yourself; I probably suspected before you did."
"And you..." Obi-wan does not know how to finish that question, so he simply opens himself to Qui-gon's presence, and lets his mentor find the query without words.
"Yes. I loved you. I still love you, Padawan." There is an almosttouch on his cheek, like wind, but quieter, less fleeting. "I was not agreeable to the idea, at first. Love is... a tricky thing when you deny it. When I finally admitted it to myself, it became simpler. I loved you, but would not act on that love until you were a Jedi Knight, wholly independent of me. And, if your love held through that final test of maturity, I would know it was right to act."
"Oh." Obi-wan lets out a long breath. Some echo of the hurt he had felt when Qui-gon had told the Council that he was ready to be on his own finally faded. Qui-gon may have been pushing him away, but not so that he would stay away.
The almost-touch is back, threading through his hair, and he can feel a warm sensation around him, almost as if he were being enfolded in Qui-gon's arms. He feels drowsy, realizes that sleep has been creeping up on him stealthily since waking from the meditation.
"Love you, Master," he whispers, curling up on the pallet and into the ghostly embrace. There is a press of intangible lips on his temple, and the light brush of a beard along his hairline. Then, he sleeps, the scent of his master thick in the air.
He wakes, alone, without the presence on the edge of his mind. He sends a message to Anakin, telling him to meet him at one of the hangars; they will return to the lower levels today, to test the bounds of Anakin's awareness.
Obi-wan realizes that the cloak wrapped around him still smells faintly of Qui-gon. He rises to prepare some food for his morning meal, and vows not to wash the robe again. Something tells him that if he called again, Qui-gon would return, without fail.
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