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Stranded and Discovered - Part 1 of the Trilogy of Being Forceless.
"Sir, we have to drop out of hyper-space to maneuver around this asteroid belt."
"Do as you need to," Qui Gon Jinn replied. He turned back to his student. "It won't add much to our trip. We'll be home soon." He laid a hand on Obi Wan's arm.
The younger man nodded, leaning back on his bunk.
They had been away from Coruscant too long this time and their last mission had been hard on both of them, pushing them past their limits. They needed the peace and calming vibrations of the temple to heal.
"Obi Wan, we'll be there soon enough. Be calm." Qui Gon sat on the end of the bunk facing his padawan.
"Master...." he started.
"Padawan, I know this last mission was hard for you, made you doubt yourself and your place in the Force, but you will find your connection to it again." He patted the younger man's leg in a soothing way then stood up. Or tried to.
The ship rocked, sending both men to the floor. Sirens and flashing lights cut the silence. The men looked at each other, those sirens meant there was a hull breach somewhere and they were needed to help. They hurried into their pressurized suites, each making sure the other was in properly.
Qui Gon checked the readout beside the door to see where the breach was. "We have to get to the bridge, that's where it is." Obi Wan nodded and they left their safety.
Obi Wan Kenobi pulled the dead pilot from this seat, taking his place to activate a shield to seal the front view screen while his Master checked their positions and plotted a place to land. The younger man sent out a distress signal while powering down the drive engine until they were down to their lowest power level but still moving.
Qui Gon reached around the younger man to lay in a new course. "It's the nearest habitable planet but we'll have to be careful, they have a primitive race."
"Just so long as it isn't here."
The ship landed away from the people they picked up on the scan. It also crashed, hitting a large rock outcropping and flipping over onto it's side.
Obi Wan was the first one conscious. He checked himself for injuries, his lost connection with the Force coming back to haunt him now, his connection to his own body severed. When he looked for injuries, he found he had a broken leg and many small bruises to add to the psychic ones he already carried. He groaned in pain, noticing a few new bruises as he let out his breath.
He turned to look for his Master, his friend. Qui Gon was laying on his side, his body at an
irregular angle. Obi Wan slowly pulled himself over to the injured man, swearing lightly as the pain flourished with each movement. "Master," he said softly. There was no answer, not even a moan. "Qui Gon, you have to get up." There was a moan this time, but it was weak. "You have to get up now. I can't move you until you're awake and we need to get away from the wreck in case we were spotted." He shook the older man's shoulder gently, getting his hand slapped in the process. "At least you're awake," he muttered as he pulled himself closer, passing out when he hit his broken leg on a twisted piece of metal that cut into the exposed shard of bone.
Qui Gon Jinn rolled and looked at his young student, and groaned. He immediately started to heal his own injuries using the Force to make it go faster, finding his center and going to it, mapping his injuries. When he finally came back, Obi Wan still wasn't awake. "Oh, well, it's not the first time I've carried him," he said slowly as he stood, grabbing the back of a chair to get his balance. "I dislike head injuries." He slowly shuffled his way across the uneven decking to his friend. "Now if only you aren't that badly hurt we'll be fine." He kneeled down, picking up Obi Wan as he had so many times before and slowly carried him outside the ship to lay him on the rough grass. He fell to his knees beside him and laid a hand on his leg, checking the injury with a short flow of the Force against the torn muscles. He frowned at the damage he perceived, turning the injured extremity slightly to look it over. He swore softly, the sound bringing the younger man back. "Good morning."
"If you say so," was the tired reply. "How are you?"
"Better off than you are." Qui Gon sat down, resting his back against a rock. "Your leg's
"I'll have to set it."
"It can wait until we're safely hidden."
"I'm not so sure of that."
"I am. I can hear rustling near by. It sounds like someone searching." Obi Wan tried to get up, but failed and fell back onto the grass groaning at the extreme pain and the bright flashing colors it started in his vision. "We need to move."
"And you need to heal." Qui Gon looked around, trying to find an answer to their current
dilemma. How was he going to move the severely injured young Jedi with his own injuries? The older man sighed as he stood up, looking and "looking" around for other sentient beings nearby. He smiled, sitting back down, holding onto the ground until it stopped spinning. "There's no one nearby, nothing bigger than a harmless herbivore." He looked over the broken leg, gently probing it. "I need to set it soon so I can start it healing."
"After we get away from the ship and hidden, Master."
"Stubborn," Qui Gon accused him.
"And you're not?" Obi Wan snorted. "No, the great Master Jedi is never stubborn or sick. He's always right and gentle and ......." He stopped and laid his head back down. "Never mind. I'm sorry."
Qui Gon decided the compromise would be the most pleasant alternative at that time and
employed his famous patience to get the younger man to agree. "I understand and you're right, we do have to get moving. It looks like it's going to be dark soon."
"Yes, sir," Obi Wan said as he tried to stand up. "Just let me get to my feet. There should be some caves just on the other side of the rocks that we hit. That's why I got down here instead of nearer to the coast."
"Maybe there's a cave we can use then." He politely braced the younger man, helping him to stand. "Why don't I get you to a cave, set your leg, then come back and scavenge for useful items like food and blankets?" He helped the younger, stubborn, man hobble off in the direction of the shattered rocks.
They made it into a cave, Qui Gon gently setting Obi Wan against a wall. He levered
himself down next to his student, sitting next to the injured leg. "This is going to hurt."
"Then leave it," came the surly reply, clouded with pain from the short walk.
"I could knock you out first," Qui Gon offered, but Obi Wan shook his head and bit his lip, looking for all the world like a naughty five year old. "If you're ready..." A nod and the leg was reset with a snap and a scream. Mercifully Obi Wan passed out again before Qui Gon had to put the bone back inside his leg. He never felt it being wrapped, his master extending the Force to make it heal faster, or even the kiss on the cheek before his master left him to go salvage the wreck.
Obi Wan woke up, confused, in a cave. He wasn't sure how he had gotten there or why he was in pain or where Qui Gon was, or even why he was so thirsty. He looked around, trying to see into the darkness, trying to find the man who always helped him through anything. When he couldn't find anyone or anything he did as he was taught at the temple.
He tried to go inside himself, tried to find the calm spot that let him touch the Force, just as he had been taught. Nothing happened and the formerly quiet spot was now clouded and walled off from his touch. He looked around, confused, seeing the unfamiliar cave. "Where am I?" he asked out loud. Then the scariest thing of all the that had happened so far occurred, no one answered him.
He had never really been alone before. At the temple he had always had the other children
there. Once he became a padawan, he was always beside, or at least near, Qui Gon. Now he was out of touch with the Force and alone. Doubly alone. For as long as he could remember he had felt the gentle mental touches of the older Jedi Masters or those of the other students. He had never been alone before, not even in his own mind.
Obi Wan tried to get up again, grunting at the pain in his leg. He did as he was taught, accepting and welcoming the pain as a messenger then forgetting it. He braced himself on the, wall and got to his feet. When he was steady, he started for the opening of the cave, going in search of the person who made his life complete.
Obi Wan hobbled into the remains of the ship. Qui Gon hadn't been outside so he must have succumbed to his head injury again. He used the stick he had found to move things out of his way so he wouldn't have to step over them and stumbled through the ship, eventually finding his master out cold, laying across a shelf in the small infirmary section.
Obi groaned and moved closer to the prostrate man, tapping him first with the stick, just in
case. When all he got was a groan, but no movement, the younger man sighed and said, "I know Masters Yoda and Windu said we were going to be tested throughout our lives, but this is a bit much. Even for a Master Jedi." He looked at his Master, a wicked smile coming across his face. He was in no shape to lift the older and heavier man to the floor, but he could trip him and let him fall again, hopefully catching his head before it got hurt worse. That would teach the older man to get complacent and leave him alone.
He judged the distance he would have to be at and used his impromptu crutch to knock Qui Gon's feet out from under him. He had judged the distance correctly but had forgotten about the part his leg would have to play. The weight of the older man drove him to the floor, screaming at the pain it brought to his leg. He managed to hold off the blackness, barely, and stay conscious. This time. He couldn't wait until his master was better healed, there was no way they could do this without the other.
It had been a week since they had crashed. They were almost out of food from the ship,
none of the scanners worked, so they couldn't find out what was edible and nutritious or
poisonous. Adding to that, Qui Gon's head injury didn't appear to be getting any better. He had spent too much of his energy trying to heal Obi Wan's leg, ignoring his own injuries.
Qui Gon still had to be woken up every few hours, just in case he wouldn't wake up at all.
Doing so meant Obi Wan didn't get very much sleep, all the time sitting up to watch his friend and mentor sleep.
It was mid-day now, Qui Gon was meditating at the mouth of the cave, trying to center
himself to learn about their location. He turned at the restless sounds of his young pupil, who was trying to nap but couldn't find a position that didn't hurt his leg. "You should come try to meditate with me," he said quietly.
His answer was an outraged bark of laughter.
"It would help you calm down, Obi Wan, something you need to do for you to rest enough to heal," was the quiet admonishment.
Obi Wan hobbled out, his improvised brace giving his still injured leg more strength. "Why? I can't feel or hear the Force anymore. What good would meditating do me?" He stomped out of cave, going to the stream he had found a few days before.
Qui Gon traced him by the disturbance his anger caused in the Force, torn between letting
him work it out and going after him. "I don't want to be here alone either, and I would much rather be dead than shut out," he muttered as he got up. He brushed his pants off as he walked after his student. He stopped at the rocks, just in the younger man's sight. "It will come back to you, Padawan."
"No it won't and don't call me that."
"Why? It's who and what you are." Qui Gon moved closer, sitting on a rock near the despondent person. "It's who you've been since you were thirteen."
"I'm not anymore and nothing is going to change that." He tried to get up, but the gentle
hand on his arm stopped him. He looked up into the worried face, the deep eyes that he had been able to get lost and found in before. Now all Obi Wan saw were his failures and aloneness reflected back. "I ... let me go please."
"Why? So you can go stomping off to sulk some more?" He laughed lightly. "Oh, you have a lot to learn still if you think that's the Jedi way of dealing with this."
Obi Wan pulled himself away angrily. "I don't have to deal with that anymore." He strode out of the clearing. "Neither do you."
Qui Gon sat there, stunned. He didn't know what had shocked him more, the anger or the fear coming off his friend. Right now, he didn't have a clue as to how to deal with this and wished it was someone else stuck there.
Obi Wan came in just after dark that night, bringing with him a group of berries tied up in
his tunic. He set them down before heading back to the edge of the cave.
"Wait," Qui Gon called softly.
Obi Wan leaned against the opening. "I'm not leaving again. You're still not well," he said
"Neither are you." Qui Gon got to work setting out the berries, sorting them out some.
"Are they all edible?"
"They were this afternoon."
Qui Gon shook his head at the stupid risk but didn't say anything, knowing it would only cause problems that he couldn't deal with right then. "Come eat. You need to so you get better."
"It's not healing any more," he said quietly, coming back inside. He sat on the other side
of the fire, letting his injured leg stretch out. "It's not getting any stronger and neither of us are healing very well."
"I have a theory about that," the older man started slowly. He didn't want to spook the younger man into another escape situation. "We're not fully adapting to being here."
"You're not as one with the Force as usual?" Obi Wan nibbled on a clustered berry as he watched Qui Gon choose his next words.
"That is also true but there are also vitamins and minerals our bodies need that we may not be getting here with our sparse diet." Dancing around the subject was a necessity in this case so he wouldn't hurt Obi Wan, who still wasn't reconnected to the Force.
"Do I need to go hunting for some animal? Search for a new source of food?"
Qui Gon shook his head. "No, although that is something that we should think about soon." He smiled across the small fire. "I don't know about you, but I'm tired of the dried rations and these berries aren't going to do it for much longer."
The small joke brought a light smile to Obi Wan's face, then it disappeared. "Are we on R-97? That forbidden planet?" Qui Gon nodded. "So then, we might not be rescued at all. It could be ruled that rescuing us would affect and change the native population too much, right?"
Qui Gon thought about his answer carefully. He didn't want to upset him further, but he couldn't lie. "I don't know. The Jedi Council could rule that way or could decide to wait for a while so they can carefully plan an attempt so as to avoid the natives."
"So we're going to be here for a long time no matter what the decision is." His tired shoulders slumped. It was quite obvious that he didn't want to be stranded here, but then neither of them did.
"Obi Wan, we'll get by," he said as he reached around the edge of the fire to pat the young man's injured leg. "Jedi are trained to survive, even if you never realized it before. Everything you've, we've, learned so far is applicable here, just in a different way." He looked down, seeing the berries. "Take the food you brought in tonight. How did you know they were edible?"
Obi Wan shrugged, but looked up. "They were just the ones that stuck out for some reason. It was like every time I looked in their direction, they caught my attention." He shrugged again. "I didn't see any signs that meant other animals had eaten them, but I knew they were safe. Somehow."
Qui Gon smiled. "I knew the Force hadn't left you yet. That may have been the most instinctive use of it ever seen, but you used it nonetheless." He clapped the younger man on the shoulder. "I'm very proud of you."
Obi Wan smiled slightly under the praise. "If it was, then I wasn't aware of it."
"Ah, but the Force moves in mysterious ways, as a certain member of the Council says."
Obi Wan shook his head and looked down. "I found some other berries also," he said, opening his tunic pocket.
Qui Gon picked one up gently, holding it between his thumb and forefinger, and brought it closer to the soft firelight. "Hmm. I've never seen anything like it. Did you notice any animals near it?" He felt an irrational hint of fear at touching the berry but he brushed it aside. Nothing as innocuous as a berry could hurt them, outside of being poisonous.
"I sat and watched for a few hours but only saw one, that small six-legged furry creature
you thought would probably be edible. It ate one then staggered off to lay in the middle of a clearing." Obi Wan shrugged. "It looked healthy and calm until it got eaten."
"The permanent cycle of life." Obi Wan nodded and Qui Gon laughed. "Well, I was right, it's edible."
They shared a laugh before going to their separate beds. Qui Gon laid back and got comfortable, re-centering himself within the Force. He sent his awareness through the living strands of the Force, searching for the familiar minds of the other Jedi.
[Brothers, sisters, can you hear me?]
He could feel a few tenuous touches, one very familiar to him that he concentrated on bringing closer.
[Mace, hear me.]
The touch got just a little bit more firm.
[We were in an accident, need assistance, stranded R-97]
Obi Wan moved some, making some noise, breaking his concentration so he lost the contact. He couldn't be sure if the message had gotten through or not.
Qui Gon rolled over and took up his most fascinating new hobby - watching his distressed student relax into the dream realm and become one with life again, one with his master and the Force.
Mace Windu snapped out of his trance, sitting up suddenly. "They live," he whispered. Ten sets of eyes focused on him. "Master Jinn, I just heard from him. He's on R-97." There was an indrawn hiss from someone in the room.
"Possible it is not," Master Yoda said, breaking the silence. "Felt them go, we did."
"What we must have felt was the crash." Master Windu shifted. "How do we get them home? That planet's forbidden to all."
"Impossible it is." Yoda tapped his staff on the floor. "Off limits that is, go we can not."
The other members of the council looked between the two most powerful members, not sure what to do.
A strange noise woke Qui Gon. He quickly searched the cave for anything new or unusual.
Nothing, but then the noise came again. A low moan came from the other pile of coverings.
Then an arm thrashed out, knocking an unlit stick from the firepit. Qui Gon moved around the empty firepit, getting close enough to grab the searching hand. He moved closer, pulling the slender body closer to his.
Obi Wan clutched the soothing hand holding his, instantly snuggling into the hard and gentle body to calm his nightmares. Qui Gon smiled as his best and closest friend tried to bury his nose next to the heart he made beat.
They settled back into sleep, comforted for the first time since they had hit that planet.
Obi Wan woke strangely comfortable and at peace. He opened an eye to look around. He
couldn't find his master, but that wasn't new, Qui Gon usually got up first and went out to bathe in the stream nearby. When he tried to get up, he found himself held fast, but even that didn't bother him for some reason. He looked down, expecting to see some animal's arms around his waist, but instead saw the sight he had only dreamed of. Another person's arms around him, comforting him by holding him close. Obi Wan smiled, not realizing it really, and tried to roll over, but the arms stopped him.
"Stop it," came the muttered command. "Comfortable, feel nice." Then a quiet snore came again.
Obi Wan took stock of his position. His master and friend was holding him tightly against his body, he couldn't move or he would wake the older man up. How had that happened? Should he wake him up or let him sleep? If Qui Gon woke up clutching him like a security blanket, wouldn't he be embarrassed? Shouldn't he move to save his master the knowledge of how they had ended up?
Obi Wan tried to pry the hands off his stomach, but they moved of their own volition, one up and one down. The top hand started to stoke in soothing circles meant to calm him down some. The lower hand was closer to his lower abdomen now and was also rubbing in circles, but the movements were not meant to calm. The younger man figured out, after a few more tries at moving, that he was stuck there. But why had Qui Gon moved over to him? They had had to share tighter spaces before and neither had held the other like this. He felt a soft breath on the back of his neck and turned his head, seeing those precious eyes open now. "Are you awake?"
Qui Gon nodded and pulled back some, giving him some space but not releasing him. "How are you feeling?"
"Fine, good in fact. I was wondering what brought you over here last night, though."
Qui Gon laughed as he squeezed Obi Wan briefly. "You were having nightmares while I was trying to contact some other Jedi."
"Did you?" His face turned hopeful, almost pleading him to say yes.
"Yes, but I'm not sure if they heard me. We're too far away for myself alone to reach Coruscant. I felt Master Windu's mind, but I'm not sure if he got the message or not." He shrugged then let the younger man go. "I'll keep trying for as long as we're here."
"If only..." Obi Wan didn't finish the statement. It was hopeless to wish he wasn't still cut out off from the Force, there was nothing he could do about it.
"You'll get it back and we'll contact them together, soon." He moved some errant wisps of hair back into place. "Let's go bathe then we'll think about hunting today."
Obi Wan nodded so they got up and left the cave.
Master Mace Windu paced the main lecture hall; the older Padawans were there for an ethics lecture from him and he needed to bring his mind back to them, not to his worries. It had been almost a month since the tenuous contact. The fighting between himself and Yoda was getting fierce, disturbing really. He turned his outer focus to the class and set the first problem, one his old friend had faced many times. "All right. Here's a real example of what you'll be forced to deal with if you become Knights. Your appearance on a planet was planned, as an emissary of peace. You are there to stop an incipient civil war by creating a truce between the three warring factions. It seems one of them is in league with the dark side, one is firmly being victimized, and one had been trying hard to stay out of it until they were brought in by attacks aimed at them. Who do you contact first?"
"Are we assuming we're Knights with Padawans or are we alone?" one blue skinned student asked.
"Very good question Kal Shan. You're Knights with Padawans."
"We should go to the one that is only fighting back, the one that wanted to stay neutral."
"How can you be sure which one that is?" another student asked. "He said seems to be. First impressions can be wrong and we could be working with the dark side."
"In this case, couldn't the dark side be the right side also?" asked another student.
"Never," shouted another from the back of the room.
"But appearances can be deceiving. What appears to be someone working for the dark could just be someone who's more interested in how their people come out of the war than how everyone does."
"Very good," Master Windu said. "That is a good point. Evil and self-interest can be confused easily. But the question remains, who do you approach first?"
"I would let all them know and ask for them to meet me in a neutral location that I had picked," one female student said. She stood up when nodded to, pushing back her long braid. "By treating each equally, then we maintain our neutrality and show them that we only want to help end it, not participate. If one doesn't want to meet there, then I would arrange to speak with that leader personally first, then meet with the others at the meeting spot so I could bring both his and my points to the discussion. That would help me maintain objectivity."
"That's a well thought out response, but how would you gauge what your role should be?" Mace asked.
"I would spend a day or two talking to people on all sides of the argument, as many as possible so I could filter out propaganda and half-truths if possible." She shrugged. "Even if I had to go in discreetly, there are still means of talking to people and getting information without seeming to ask."
"Very well thought out, Shi Tel. You may sit." She nodded then sat back down. "These are the sort of things you must be prepared to deal with, as have other Master's before you. Once you land on a planet for a mission, you need to gather your facts quickly to make strong and correct decisions on how to precede. No one will tell you how to do your mission; the closest you'll get to that is a contact person from the Council in most cases. Quick and decisive critical thinking is *imperative* to your success and continued existence in most of these cases also." He turned to look at the wall of maps behind him. He could put the present question to them, many of these students were the clearest thinkers and planners they had ever trained. "All right, here's another problem. Say you have two Jedi stranded on a forbidden planet. You know they're alive because one of them has contacted you through the Force." Master Windu had to stop and turn to face the class to get the exclamations calmed down. "This is a hypothetical people, calm down." He gave them a few seconds to regroup. "Now, what would you do?"
"I have a few questions," a male student said, standing up when recognized. "Do we know their condition? Are they in immediate danger, or about to run out edible foodstuffs? Are they someplace hospitable or hostile? Could we get to them, without breaking the laws and codes?" He ran out of steam so sat back down.
"Those are just a few of the things you have to consider, Kar," Mace reminded him. "What about the Council? What was the last information we had on them? Their ages could also become a consideration. If one is older, he or she might have troubles adapting for their stay."
"There are other things also, sir," Shi Tel said, standing up. "We would also have to consider why the planet was off limits. Could we breach it without causing or getting into trouble for that reason? Someplace like the forbidden Spice planets would be more difficult than, say, a primitive cultured planet. We might be able to maneuver around a primitive culture, but could be seriously harmed by a substance on a Spice planet as some are addictive. There would also be the reason that they crashed, and how injured they are. By the time we got there, would they still be living?" She sat back down.
"There is all that and more," Master Windu answered her. "There is also the fact that the contact can't be confirmed because it was so tenuous and went to only one person where as the crash was felt by all. Some politicking could also come into play; what if one of the Council members didn't want them rescued, was against any attempt for whatever reason?"
The class was quiet for a second, then a normally shy female humaniod padawan stood up.
Master Windu knew she was back here now because her Master had died and she was being given a chance to recover before looking for another. "Mal Sin?"
"Sir, since this is a hypothetical, we could come up with many answers, but none would be
appropriate without more information." She cleared her throat and looked down. "There is a legend, from when the temple first began, that Jedi could come together and strengthen a link, letting all in it know the contents. It is said to be powerful enough to reach all others no matter where they are. If something like that could occur again, then we would know more and be better able to plan an action." She sat back down.
"That legend is so old and no one knows if it's true," Mace said, resuming his pacing. "Even if it was, it would probably be dangerous. Would you know where it was written, how it was accomplished?" He had forgotten about the legend, but it was the best hope they had at that moment to know what was really going on. He would make sure she was placed with a good teacher. He decided to risk the Council's ire and at least work on a rescue attempt. "If we could find it to prepare ourselves to join in such a manner, it would be on a volunteer basis; it would be too dangerous to do otherwise."
A number of the students, including Mal Sin and Shi Tel stood up. "We volunteer," was
He smiled and dismissed class, knowing they would find out how to do it or die trying.
Qui Gon walked around the edge of the rocks where his student usually went to think. He
found the young man laying on the ground, eyes open, staring at the sky. He reached out a
tendril of the Force to see if he was meditating and hit a wall that shouldn't exist in a Jedi's mind. He hurried over, worried beyond belief. "Obi Wan," he said, getting closer.
The young man rolled his head to the side, smiling at him. "I feel it."
"The Force?" Obi Wan nodded, but Qui Gon was suspicious. "How?"
"Those other berries freed me," he sighed then rolled over, falling face down into the river.
Qui Gon Jinn did something that no one would ever expect from him, he lost his famously
cool and distant temper. He pulled his student out of the river, swearing at him in a language he knew the younger man would understand. "Why do you do this to me? Take all these stupid risks? Tell me Obi Wan, why?"
"Missed it," came the quiet reply. "I couldn't be alone anymore."
"The Force? You missed it that much? Enough to risk your life eating a berry that could have killed you? One that you didn't know what it would do?!?" He shook his student then let him drop to the ground. "I could have helped you if you would have come to me, I know how to do it, to reconnect you to the Force when you're ready." He sat down heavily next to the younger man, pushing aside his injured and slowly healing leg so he wouldn't sit on it. "Why couldn't you trust me to help you?" he whispered, checking over the younger man to make sure he was still alive.
"Had to do it myself," came the quiet reply. "Not enough to let you do it."
"I had to do it," Obi Wan said, opening an eye to look over at him. "You couldn't do it for me or help me. It had to be me."
Qui Gon leaned over, bringing their faces very close. "That is the *stupidest * thing that has come out of your mouth in over three years and you know it." He took a deep breathe, calming and steadying himself. "Your pride could have killed you."
"Knew what I was doing."
"Of course you did. You ate something that could have been poisonous. You let your want
guide you to a place where you could have been killed. You ignored the facts about what might happen if you got more ill than I could treat." He was getting mad again, so he stood up. "Get up."
"I'll be there in a few minutes."
"Yes, sir," Obi Wan said obediently, a little too calmly, bracing his bad leg against the rock as he stood.
They walked back to the cave, Qui Gon leading, still upset, and Obi Wan following placidly along like some domesticated animal.
Qui Gon rinsed out the cloth again, replacing the now dry one on Obi Wan's forehead. The berry had induced a fever, along with some other complications he didn't care to think about right at that second. He smoothed the new cloth down, taking care to not drip any of the water into the eyes that were swollen shut.
He pulled out the last of the medicine they had saved from the ship, looking it over again to see if anything in it might help. The answer was the same, nothing there could or would help him. If he used the Force it might overload the younger man's mind, disabling him permanently, but it might just be the only chance he would have to save the younger man's life. He had to try.
Qui Gon carefully centered himself, finding and moving into the spot he created where he and the Force met and joined. This was risky, for both of them, but he knew he couldn't survive here alone. Even more telling, he didn't want to. Obi Wan might be his source of most frequent irritation and arguments lately, but he was a best friend and mate to him always. He couldn't let him go, not without a fight. He laid a gentle hand across Obi Wan's cheek, letting some of his energy dissipate into the younger man. He could feel the energy slipping in, propping up the failing strength of the young Jedi. He had been right, this was the only way.
He slowly let his mind enter that of Obi Wan's, joining them. He quickly found the damaged connection to the Force, moving in to heal it. //You have to help me here, it's a trauma blockage,// he told his student.
//Can't,// came back the quiet answer. //Go 'way.//
//No.// He examined the blockage, seeing the problem. //Why are you afraid of it?//
//Not. Conquered that long ago.//
//Obi, you have a block here because you're afraid of something that you saw. Tell me and it'll go away.//
Qui Gon found himself back in his own body, shoved out of the hurting and injured mind. He opened his eyes, moving to let his blood flow return to unused muscles. "Stubborn."
Obi Wan laughed and rolled away from him. "We've had this discussion before." He closed his eyes, going back to sleep.
Qui Gon frowned down at Obi Wan, sure he had been in the right spot. Now all he had to do was rejoin the younger man's mind to fix it, without his help. He re-centered himself and went back to his trance state, merging once again with the fragile mind.
He quickly found the injured door over the connection then pushed on it, letting the images from it form in his own head. He could see the nightmare, the same as from the last few nights, now come true.
//Obi, you've already dealt with this, you live like this now. Nothing else can ever take the Force away from you again.// He didn't feel an answer, so he removed the doors, watching as they reformed instantly. //Answer me Padawan. Now.//
//Leave it alone.//
//You know I can't do that. Why is this still here?//
//Because it is.//
//But you've dealt with this. You *are* living exempt from the Force. This can't really hurt you anymore.// Qui Gon tried to push the doors out of the way again, but they came back and shut harder. //Obi, you.... we need to talk. Wake up and talk to me.// Qui Gon went back to his body and waited. Soon, Obi Wan sat up and looked at him. "We need to discuss that, it's the only way it will go away," the Master said.
"I don't know what...." Obi Wan shook his head, not saying anything else and leaned back against the cave wall.
"Tell me what happened," Qui Gon prompted gently. The most important thing was to get him to work this through. Then the connection could be re-forged and they could call the temple to go home, where they could get better; they both could get healed back at the temple. "What brought this blockage on?"
"The creature on Demerin was psi. It sent me all these doubts, worries, and images before it tried to eat me." He shrugged, pulling a blanket around him to ward off the chill. "It tried to make me forget who and what I was before it sent feelings of being helpless and alone."
"You might have been at the time, and that was my fault, but you're not alone. Not really and not ever."
Obi Wan laughed, a little sourly. "Oh, I wouldn't say that. I can't feel you or hear you. I can't hear anyone else, nothing, not an animal or another lifeform." He swallowed. "I am alone. Now and from now on." He laid back down. "I'm one cause you can't fight for, can't save." He rolled away.
Qui Gon rolled Obi Wan over and merged their minds together again, startling them both at the ease. //See, not alone, worth fighting for,// he sent as he broke through the barriers again, standing in the way of them reforming. Obi Wan thrashed around, trying to sever the contact, but he couldn't succeed. Where he had been weak and away from the Force, Qui Gon was stronger than ever, connecting and reconnecting him.
//No,// Obi Wan sent, trying to force Qui Gon away from his locked up thoughts. There were things in there he didn't want the older man to know. //Not there.//
But it was too late, Qui Gon had seen his most private thoughts, his most secret desires. Obi Wan could do no more than lie there and hope his Master didn't realize what he had found, but even that was a futile hope.
//How long?// Qui Gon asked him through their merge.
//What?// Obi Wan tried to play dumb, pretend, but his Master knew and sent laughter through their link. //That? I don't know. It crept up on me. I've only known, recognized, it for a few months, since you rescued me on Demerin// He closed his eyes, laying an arm across them. //Leave it and me alone now please.//
"Not a chance," Qui Gon said softly. He moved closer, removing the arm. "We have to talk, Obi Wan."
"I know it's not appropriate, but...." He was cut off by a gentle finger across his lips and a
soothing mental touch. //You don't mind?//
//That your fears of being alone center around me? Not at all. Why should I mind? You saved me from my aloneness and I saved you too many times from yourself.// He smiled. //No, I don't mind at all. I have the same feelings.//
Obi Wan was startled, but he searched the now open mind, finding the same feelings there. He smiled, opening an eye. //So now what?//
"Now, we work on your connection to the Force, young man. We also talk, to each other not at each other, then we decide what to do." He patted the soft, still warm, cheek gently. "But for now, you need to sleep the effects of the berries off." He started to get up, but Obi Wan stopped him.
"If you want." He settled himself more comfortably, smoothing the blankets around his student. "Sleep and I will watch over you."
It was almost a week later before Obi Wan was fully reconnected to the Force. During that time, while he had rested from the effects of the berries, Qui Gon had not been more than twenty feet away from him the whole time; comforting, talking, tending to him. The older man had eased his fears, made him realize what he wanted and needed were the same thing. They had worked on many of their problems together, agreeing that the other was the way they were and no amount of hoping would change them.
Obi Wan sat at the edge of the stream, staring down at the water, waiting for Qui Gon to meet him. Over the last few months, his leg had healed mostly but it was still sore and weak. Qui Gon had ordered him to stay while he went back to the wreckage for something. Obi Wan smiled and looked up at the sure footsteps of his Master coming around the rocks. The sun glinted off his hair, adding highlights, making him glow. "Find it?"
Qui Gon smiled back, taking off his top in the heat and splashing some water across his gently muscled chest as he sat down. He nodded and handed over the bag. "This was yours when we first met." He smiled as he watched as his student opened his bag. "It was your training diary, I thought it might help you now, getting back to where you were."
Obi Wan nodded as he set it aside, away from the water so it wouldn't get wet or stepped on accidentally. "Thank you. I had forgotten you still carried it." He smiled. "Do you think I'll have many problems getting my connection back?"
Qui Gon shook his head and shifted so he was facing the younger man. "No, I think you'll
come back at around the same place you left, skill wise and all. The only problem you might experience is with your meditations, which I will help you with. You haven't been out of it for that long." He smiled, holding out his hands. "Are you ready?"
Obi Wan nodded, taking the offered hands, clutching them tightly as the sensation of them
merging again came rushing back. He closed his eyes against the dizzy feeling, smiling slightly as Qui Gon mitigated it. They traveled together, going far into the younger man's mind, quickly hitting the spot he had constructed when he was young to connect to the Force. Qui Gon let him lead, watching him as he stepped back into the glowing lights he had always imagined and imaged the Force to be.
The physical reactions were instant. Obi Wan started to shake, shuddering with the power that he had lost touch with for so long. His eyes watered and his mouth went dry at the slight pain, the small fears coming forward.
//Calm yourself. I'm still here,// Qui Gon sent to him where he stood surrounded by the light. //You have nothing to fear, it's the same as it was before we went to Demerin, nothing has changed in the Force nor will it anytime soon.//
Obi Wan steadied himself, gathering the Force back into himself, reconnecting with it, accepting it as part of him.
Qui Gon pulled back out, some. He didn't leave the younger man's mind fully, knowing it was too soon. He watched as Obi Wan calmed and smiled.
"It's back." He tested the connection. "Just like it had been."
Qui Gon smiled and ruffled the short hair. "I knew it would. You need to trust me more." He closed his eyes, connecting to the Force also. "This is the most natural you will ever feel the Force, Padawan. Nowhere else is it this untouched, this pure. Savor it and remember it always."
They merged more again, Obi Wan wanting to experience it through his Master who always had a very different view of the Force. Qui Gon was more in touch with the living part of the Force, the life energy that flowed from the beings around them while he was more in touch with the whole Force. It was good to see how the other felt it, it would help them become closer, understand the other better. Obi Wan could feel the energy coming from each plant, from the stream, from the small fishes that swam in the stream. He floated on a cloud of bliss, caught up in the feelings. He could feel his Master tasting it through him, catching the whole spectrum of the Force.
They sighed in unison as they laid back onto the grass to savor the Force, the feeling filling
them with peace.
It was a while later, almost sundown, when they felt the touch of another Jedi through the Force. Qui Gon sat up suddenly, smiling. //Master Windu, how are things at home?// he sent through their minds, making Obi Wan smile and sit up again.
//You two have sparked more debate in Council than any other master/padawan pairing in
history, but I believe you broke your own record this time.// The relief in his voice was evident. //Hello young Padawan, I see you're feeling better.//
//Yes, Master Windu, Qui Gon helped me reconnect today.// He smiled over at his Master. //It is truly amazing here.// Obi Wan let some of the feelings from the Force flow over.
//Truly peaceful. I'm glad because you're going to have to stay there for a while longer. Just until we can work out a rescue plan and execute it without Master Yoda's permission.//
//Master Yoda wants to leave us here?// Qui Gon asked, shocked. //Why?// Why would his
Master want to leave him here?
//Because. He won't give another reason. It should be soon, but not very soon. Probably within the next few months or so.//
//We'll be fine here. There are plenty of plants, some edible,// he turned to look at his padawan, //some not.// He smiled, getting a reciprocal one from Obi Wan. //There are numerous animals around and the native population isn't close to us right now. We can make do for some time as it's what appears to be the hot season.//
//Good. I'm glad to hear it. We need to work out some times for you to do this so I, and any other interested parties, can get in touch with you.//
//Every five days be all right?// Obi Wan asked. //That shouldn't stress out Qui Gon so much but would give you a chance to get things done there.//
//You are becoming a strong Jedi, Obi Wan, with much knowledge.// Mace Windu told him. //Five days would be fine. Now on to other matters. How are you doing that?//
//We merged,// Qui Gon said, shooting Obi Wan a cautioning look. //Earlier, when my student had found out that some berries aren't edible by trial and error, I merged with him. It's become easier, more easily slipped into, each time it's attempted.//
//But how did you accomplish it the first time?// They could hear a sigh. //Some of the students, I, and a few chosen Masters have tried and tried, but have been unable to merge.//
Qui Gon thought, replaying the time for Master Windu. //That's how it happened. I was
concerned, had to do it to save his life. I touched his face, then started to drain off some energy, bringing us to an equal point. After that, I slipped in through his almost non-existent shields and entered his mind.// He shrugged, silently asking Obi Wan if he had anything to add, to which he got a head shake in reply. //Obi Wan doesn't remember much of it, he was ill at the time.//
//Maybe that's it then, the shielding or ego or something similar is blocking us. We'll keep trying as no one else has felt your mental touch.//
//I could try and hear them,// Qui Gon offered. //Or we could really.//
//If you could, it would help you here immensely. Master Yoda is adamant about leaving you both there. It's about to split the Council. I have to go, Master Yoda this way comes. Be at peace brothers and be safe.//
//You also,// came the joint reply, Qui Gon severing their link with Mace Windu so he could
leave. He searched around, finding a few other minds he knew, talking briefly with them, the strength of both their minds letting him make it all the way home easily.
The two Jedi watched as the first representative of the native beings they had encountered
brought down a game animal, getting gored in the process. Obi Wan turned and looked at Qui Gon, seeing his indecision.
"We have to help him, he'll die otherwise. We can always erase our presence from his memory if we need to."
Qui Gon nodded so they went down into the valley, moving quickly to the fallen man. Qui Gon healed the man while Obi Wan watched for any others to come their way. When Qui Gon stepped back, Obi Wan went with him. They watched as the man got up, looking around in confusion then turned back to the animal, taking out his crude knife to start splitting the animal up, Obi Wan making careful mental notes about what he took and what he buried. When the native man was well away, the walked slowly back up the gentle slope to their former hiding place.
"It seems," Obi Wan said, "they eat all the animal but the intestines and the lungs. He took everything else, including the heart."
"Yes, so would seem. I searched his mind while he was unconscious. Just before he got gored, he was thinking about how lucky he was going to be because he was going to be getting," Qui Gon stopped for a second, his distaste clear on his face, "the reproductive organs since it was his kill. His thoughts said it was a rare treat."
Obi Wan shuddered and hunched his shoulders some. "I'm sorry, you can have that part. I won't fight you over it at all." They shared a laugh as they went off to plan how to hunt without being seen.
Obi Wan brought in the first finding of his hunting, already cut up with his light saber. "Food," he said.
Qui Gon uncurled from his meditating position to come over, building the fire up while Obi Wan wrapped the meat in leaves they had found the day before. He laid them next to the fire, covering them with some ashes to insulate them and allow the pieces of meat to cook faster.
Qui Gon motioned him away from the smoke, toward the sleeping blankets they had moved the other day. "The natives are close, but not very. We should be safe here." Obi Wan nodded as he sat down on his bed. "We'll just have to be a little more careful, some could be out scouting at times or hunting."
"I'll be careful. I kept listening to the Force while I was waiting for the animal." Qui Gon
nodded. "Tonight we need to merge again."
"Yes, we do, but we also need to get together first. We need to erect some sort of shielding so Master Windu and the others can't get that far down in our minds again."
"It was most embarrassing to have him read me like that," Obi Wan said, ducking his head. "When?"
"It should be soon." Qui Gon held out his hands. "It will take hours for the meat to cook."
Obi Wan took his hands, closing his eyes. He laid himself bare to Qui Gon, letting him into his mind. He felt the small nauseating feeling that meant they were joined again, each time getting weaker, and let it go also. //Hi,// he told the older man.
//Silly,// his Master accused him. //Work now, play later.// This brought a smile from Obi Wan, but they got down to constructing a shield over their joined minds.
Obi Wan was checking the shielding for leaks when he bumped into part of Qui Gon's mind, accidently entering it. //Sorry,// he sent. Qui Gon was silent, not even asking him to leave. Obi Wan tried to back out, but kept bumping into memories, wishes, hopes, desires in the process. He came across some that made him uncomfortable, but he missed the one the older man was trying to hide, until he ran the wrong direction to get out. Obi Wan drew in a deep hiss of breath, letting it out slowly, backing out of the memory. He started to apologize, but Qui Gon stopped him. //Do you really want that?// Obi Wan asked.
//Yes, and so do you, if you would look in the right place. I heard your dreams last night. They were quite ... explicit in their intent.// He opened his eyes to see the light blush. //Don't worry, I wasn't trying to pry. You grabbed my hand during the night so I got it through our contact.//
//I'm sorry. I just don't....// The needless apology was stopped by a gentle hand on his face.
"I told you that was not necessary. Not to me and not to us. I never meant for you to find that, at least not until you were ready." He shrugged as he leaned over, looking the younger man in the eyes. "It is no shame to feel that way."
//I know, but...// "I don't know if that's what I want or not," Obi Wan concluded.
"I know, that's why I was waiting to bring it up." He smiled kindly and they got back to the work of getting home.
Soon enough, the pair could feel the other Jedi at the temple merging with them. They discussed how to rescue them, how the pair were living, and how things were going on the forbidden planet.
//Well, it sounds like you two are getting by all right,// Mace said. //Maybe we should leave you there for a while longer.//
Obi Wan shuddered. //Please don't joke about that. If the natives get much closer we'll either have to move or hide in here all the time.//
//Padawan, calm down. I'm sure that won't happen.// He smiled. //Besides we could always make the cave appear to be solid if they come looking or make them ignore the opening.//
//There is that, but won't that only work a few times?// Mace asked. //I know you two have run into the native population already, having seen it in your mind last time, but you probably should minimize contact with them if possible.//
//We've been watching out for them, Master Windu// Qui Gon answered. //Both of us have been very careful about staying away from them. Except for that one time, we've not seen them nor have they seen us.//
//Very good.// The merge weakened a little. //We must go, it's tiring for us to do this for too
long.// The Coruscant merge left their minds.
Qui Gon pulled his and Obi Wan's mind's under their shield, just in case someone in the merge was still around. //Now then, I believe we need to talk.//
//About us, Padawan, don't try to evade the issue.//
//I'm not, I'm trying to think about what you said before we talked to home.//
//About not knowing if that's what you want?// Obi Wan nodded, shifting slightly closer. //If I asked you right now, what would you say that you wanted?//
//Besides to be at home?//
//Yes, Obi, besides that.//
//I don't know. I know, feel somehow, things will be fine once we're home, but I'm not sure about what to do now.//
//How do you feel it? Is it like a premonition? A vision? Is it a feeling, some instinct?//
//An instinct would probably be closest to what I feel.// Obi Wan was quiet for a few minutes. //I'm not sure, here, what I'm doing. It's like I'm in some sort of trial and I'm failing because I don't know what to do next.//
//Next would be to survive and to do what feels natural.// Qui Gon shifted. //The Force can lead you to many things, but only you will know if it is natural for you. That is the mark you must measure all actions against.//
//So, if it feels right to me, I should do it?//
//As long as it won't hurt someone or yourself, yes. Why?//
//I want to abandon my robes for now. To be wearing them here seems a little too much, too strained.// He smiled. //Besides, they're hot and get in the way when I hunt.//
Qui Gon smiled slightly. //If that makes you feel better, I won't complain.//
Obi Wan got this mischievous glint in his eye. //You mean that if running around naked like the native population felt right, I could do it and you wouldn't complain.//
Qui Gon laughed, hugging the younger man lightly. //Well, I wouldn't complain, but when the sun hurts your skin, I would make you take care of it yourself. I'll not be going out to find herbs to cleanse your back just because you felt like running around unclothed.//
//But, Qui Gon, what if I couldn't reach a spot?// The younger man's smile widened just a little. //Wouldn't you take care of me then?//
Qui Gon got serious. //Obi Wan, I will always take care of you. No matter what you do to
yourself. Never doubt that.// He broke the link and got up, walking out of the cave and down to the stream.
Obi Wan watched him go, confused. He didn't know what he had said to upset his master, but whatever it had been he needed to go fix it. He got up, walking slowly out of the cave to their thinking spot. He found his friend laying on his back, watching the stars. "May I sit with you?"
Qui Gon nodded, but didn't speak.
"How have I upset you?" Obi Wan asked softly after he had gotten comfortable on the grass.
"You haven't, not really. I've been remembering the myriad of rules I have to follow about you." He rolled onto his side. "Even if we both wanted to be together, we couldn't."
"Because I'm a padawan, right?" Qui Gon nodded. "What would happen?"
"You would get a new master and I would lose my place at the temple," Qui Gon said softly.
"No," Obi Wan said, getting up. "That I couldn't let happen. I would leave first."
"That is not an option. It is an automatic response. The joining tends to be harmful for both. We can get close, but not tied together that way." He swept a hand through the water, making little ripples. "Just like the waves in the water are our lives. We leave one ring to go to another and only a few know of the us at the center ring. For Jedi, we must leave the center ring closed, otherwise it is harmful to us. To be to close to another, especially another Jedi, leads to problems that arise when one gets injured or killed. Or even worse, when they go far away due to an assignment. That link is then broken and both are injured in the snapping."
"Because the joining is a bond. One stronger than the master/padawan bond, but more complete in it's scope. As you can feel me now, a lover who was a Jedi could feel everything about me. My heart beating, my breaths, everything."
"That would be distracting in a fight," Obi Wan admitted, "but, aren't there also advantages?"
"It was written that a bonded pair can never be defeated, one being able to draw from another in times of need."
"That would save one when it was needed, right?"
Qui Gon nodded. "But if one was tempted to the darkside, the other would follow readily where their mate led. That temptation alone is why it was outlawed. There is no provision for extreme circumstances or another out clause to the law." He played in the water again, sweeping his hand back and forth through it. "It is seen as better to break it early than to let it grow and flourish."
"So, then even if it happened, as soon as we got back, we would be separated." Qui Gon nodded. "That would be cruel to both of us," he said quietly. "I understand and I accept your decision on this," Obi Wan said, getting up. "I'm going for a walk. I'll be back before you sleep."
"Supper," Qui Gon reminded him.
"Save me a piece or two," he replied as he walked off into the twilight.
"I'll be here when you're ready," he told the night sky. He got up, going back to the cave.
Obi Wan walked back into the cave and sat down, facing his friend and teacher. "You're right, we can't," he said quietly. "I'll not push."
Qui Gon smiled sadly but nodded. "It would be for the best." He handed over some of the meat. "Food?"
"No, thank you. I'm not hungry, not really." He went to his bed to lay down. "I'll eat it in the morning." He closed his eyes, pretending to be asleep.
Qui Gon shook his head as he rolled the younger man over. "That's not an appropriate response from you, turning your back on a problem isn't the way we handle things."
"Can we talk about this on the morrow?" Obi Wan asked. "Today has been a bit much and I'd like to think for a while." He smiled. "Nothing against your cooking either, but I would rather not eat tonight."
"All right. Whatever you want. When you're ready to talk, I'll be here." Qui Gon moved to his own pile of bedding. "Good night, pleasant dreams." He rolled away from the young man and closed his eyes.
Obi Wan watched his Master rest for a while before sitting up. He wanted to not think about what he had seen in his mind earlier, but the images kept popping up and showing him all he would be missing, just because of some very stupid rule. Why should the Council say who is an appropriate mate and who isn't? Obi Wan was sure that these circumstances must be looked upon as truly out of the ordinary, surely they would see that and would let them continue with each other. Maybe there was a special exception that his Master didn't know about, but he doubted it. His knowledge was almost encyclopedic in matters of the Temple laws, learned from his many breakings of them. He lay back down, unsure of what was going to happen know but knowing he wouldn't fight it. If it happened he would fight for them but he would not fight the coming bond.
Qui Gon watched as his padawan splashed in the river, trying to get clean in the diminishing stream. "The hot season must not be over yet," he said as he sat down on the bank. "If the river dries up too much we should consider moving."
Obi Wan stopped, looking down. "It's easier to get the fish now." He touched one as it swam past, heading upstream. "It may be their mating season."
Qui Gon thought about it. "I've heard many fish do act that way on such occasions." He looked at his student. "Have you ever wondered why?"
"Because they want to be in that one special place to mate?" He splashed himself one more time, getting out to sit beside his Master. "I've heard it was instinctual so maybe since it was safe for them then it'll be safe for their offspring."
"Very well thought out." He patted the sun-warmed shoulder. "You've been out here much, you're getting a tan."
"It's not harmful as long as I don't get too much." He shrugged, moving just a little, then stood, opening his pants to pull out the wet thing he'd been sitting on. "These are too loose. This keeps happening." He handed the fish he found over to his master. "Looks like I don't have to hunt tonight."
"No, you don't. I had actually planned on doing the last check of your leg tonight instead." He wrapped the fish in his tunic, putting it beside him. "We'll eat well tonight, but that is a most unusual means of catching supper."
Obi Wan smiled. "Hey, I'm not the one that designed them." He looked down at them. "If we were home, I'd be requesting a new pair. These are about worn through."
"We can see if we can't make due. Maybe some hides." He looked around, trying to think of one. "That tall herbivore maybe? It's got enough skin for three or four pairs." He smiled, shielding his eyes as he looked up. "You need to keep a set of clothes for when we're rescued."
He nodded. "I already have it saved. Neatly rolled and still pressed. I had just washed them before we crashed." He looked around. "Speaking of the herbivores, there's a pair of them mating in the field." He walked that way. "Would it be wrong to watch?"
"No, have at it. It's an important lesson in the cycle of life." He watched the firm step, happy that it was that way again, then stood, going to fix their meal. His student still had no idea how to cook these things.
Obi Wan stayed downwind from the animals, watching as the two males clashed with their tusks. He winced as one was gored and the other headed for the female. She tried to run but the male caught her, mounting her from behind. She struggled so he bit her neck, goring her shoulder with his tusks. He shuddered as he thought of the human equivalent. He was glad humans weren't as rough with each other. He backed away slowly, silently, not wanting to make his presence known, but froze when he sensed one of the natives watching from the other side of the clearing. He watched as the other man walked slowly toward the pair, ignoring them to take the injured one. He threw his spear, hitting it deftly then moved to the other side of it, rubbing it's smell on his body so he wouldn't be noticed by the poorly sighted animals. He dragged the animal away, going back into the brush.
Obi Wan listened as he cut it up, hearing what little he took. He waited until the primitive warrior had left, going over to gather some of the left overs that they could use, including the skin and a few of the sharper bones. He was sure Qui Gon could use them. He headed back to the cave, carefully watching to avoid the hunting party.
Qui Gon looked up as his padawan entered the cave. "I thought you said you weren't hunting."
"I wasn't. I came across one of the natives who was. He left this behind because they couldn't use it right now." He handed the items over. "I thought you could carve something useful out of the bones and we could use the skins." He sat down across from the fire. "Maybe make something to steam the meat over the fire. The leaves give the meat a bad taste."
Qui Gon tested the strength of the hide. "Very good quality. We might be able to do that and maybe fashion some clothes out of it." He laid it aside, looking over the bones. "Yes, I think we could use this." He smiled at his student. "I'm sure you'll learn how to carve soon enough." Obi Wan smiled. "As you wish." He flipped the wrapped fish, waving his fingers in the air to cool them. "I see these are doing well."
"They tend to cook quickly." He moved closer to the fire. "How much was left?"
"Quite a lot. He only took a side. They might come back later though." He shrugged. "I didn't take enough to be conspicuous."
"Very good, nice reasoning." He set them out a bundle of fish each. "Eat now, we'll try to work on the merging later."
"Because we've been very far apart in it. The closer we've been mentally the easier it is to reach home. Maybe tonight we can talk to Yoda." Obi Wan snorted. "I'm sure he has his reasons, we simply need to find out what they are." He took a bite of the fish, grimacing at the flavor. "Must not be edible this season."
Obi Wan tasted his. "Mine's fine." He handed it over, taking his Master's to check it. "So's yours." He watched Qui Gon taste his, again making a face. "I'm guessing that fish is bad." He shook his head. "You may have an allergy to them."
"It might just be the season. Maybe the mating urge taints their flesh with chemicals." He waved at them. "Have at it. I'll go forage for some nutritious roots." He started to scratch.
"I'm sure you will," Obi Wan said, setting down his bundles. "Lay down. Let me get the
antihistamine for you." He rummaged in the medicines, pulling out the small bottle. He handed over a tablet, watching as the older man took it. "Lay there and I'll be right back." He took the sack he'd woven last week, going out to find his Master some roots. When he got back, he found the older man asleep. He stopped to smile down at him, relaxing his emotional shields now that he knew he was asleep. "Sleep now, I'll make you some tea when you get up," he said quietly. He set his sack down, going back to eating his fish.
Qui Gon sighed as he woke up, looking around their cave and admiring the patterns the light was creating on the walls. "Obi?" he called, pushing himself up. When he didn't get an answer, he frowned and stood, heading out to the edge of the cave to look around. He found his padawan sitting on the ground, looking down into the shallow valley between them and the stream. "What's going on?"
"I'm watching the funeral procedures," he said quietly, pointing. "One of their hunters just died. That's the sixth one in three days."
"They may be experiencing some sort sickness." Qui Gon sat down beside his friend, clutching his shoulder for balance. "We should at least make a foray down there tonight while they sleep to see what's going on."
"I'll try to sneak up on someone tonight while they fish," Obi Wan said quietly. "Are we helping them?"
"We should, but I'm not sure we should interfere."
"What if we brought it, Master?" Obi Wan asked, turning to look at him. "Are you feeling well? You look pale."
"I'm fine, just a reaction from last night I'd guess." He patted the younger man's shoulder and stood. "We'll do what we can without interfering. It's the best we can do with the rules we have."
"Should we inform the Council when we call tomorrow?"
"We should, but I know what they'll say." Qui Gon sighed, heading back toward the caves. "I'm going to go rest, my head's hurting. Try and hunt for a while if you'd like, Obi Wan, just no more of the fish please."
"Yes, Master," he said calmly, turning back to watch them light the funeral pyre.
Obi Wan closed his eyes, searching for the minds from the temple on Corousant, sighing in relief when he heard them. //Master Windu, we've got a problem. Qui Gon's fallen ill of some local fever that's taken most of the local's down. I have no idea how to treat him.//
//Kenobi, stay calm. We have a healer in this link since it's been so long since our last discussion. What symptoms is he having?//
//Fever, generalized sleeping but it's not very deep. Lots of sweating.// He rang a cloth out, putting it back over his master's dripping forehead. //He's been having nightmares also. Strange, shifting visions of colors that he doesn't understand. At first we thought it was something we may have brought with us that mutated with the locals but I think it's something from here now.//
//All right, the healer said to give him something to reduce his fever. Do you have anything like that?//
//We're about to run out of it. I've been making it for him for the last few days.// Obi Wan stopped as his own dizziness started again. //Sorry, momentary lapse of concentration. I've found a local equivalent and I've been using that to spare our left-over medicines.//
//Good. And how are *you* feeling?//
//Not that well,// he admitted, //but I'll live. I'm not so sure about Qui Gon at the moment.//
//We've scheduled a rescue for soon, and I'll make sure there's a healer on board. How much has this affected the locals?// Mace Windu asked.
//They're down by almost two-thirds, either sick or dead. The only ones who aren't ill are the smallest children and we can hear them crying from their camp a good ways away. Most of the mothers are already affected and most of the men are dead. The teens are holding out longer but while I've been watching, they've been known to drop where they stood and die.//
//We'll figure it out. Keep your mind open to ours for a solution. Just hang on for a little while longer, Obi Wan, we'll come for you soon.//
Obi Wan nodded, dropping out of the merge to cough, grimacing at the pale green phlegm that he brought up. "I just hope it's soon enough," he whispered, leaning over to check on Qui Gon.
Mace looked around at the members of the Council, frowning at Yoda. "They're both ill. The boy tried to hide his condition but there's no way he could have known how deeply into his mind we are."
Master Yoda tapped his cane. "Go we do not."
"We will go, it has been agreed by the majority," another Council member said quietly, her voice sounding like it came from underwater. "The only question remains about the natives. If the boy was right and only the youngest children are going to survive, should we not do something?"
"I feel a responsibility," Mace admitted. "Especially if the boy's right and it was something they brought with them."
"It's been *months*," a pale green male member of the Council said. "I doubt it was something they brought. That defies the laws of germ theory. It's been too long."
"Then it's a natural thing?" the female member asked, curious sounding.
"The children may well be absorbed by another tribe."
"They've not mentioned seeing any other bands," Mace reminded them. "We could scan from orbit to see if there are any and somehow move the remaining children closer if need be."
"That would be an interference."
"We must *not*!" Yoda said forcefully, tapping his stick again. "Forbidden it is."
"You'd let them die?" Mace asked in shock.
"No, but interfere we must not."
"Why?" Mace shifted to look at him. "Why can't we interfere in this circumstance? It's clearly an emergency and one that the law makers have not thought of. *We* don't even have laws to cover this and nothing close to it. You've been adamant since I got that first contact to leave them there, I'd like to hear a reason."
"Reasons I have, know them you may not." Yoda stood up. "Interfere we must not." He walked out of the Council's chambers, and everyone was silent.
Mace cleared his throat. "That's a most unusual occurrence. Does anyone else have any ideas?"
The female member raised her hand. "If we can conclude that there are no other peoples on the planet, I would feel no shame in suggesting that the children be fostered into a similar environment. There's a research station on another planet that we could possibly bring them too."
"I like her suggestion," the pale green member said, nodding his oversized head. "If there are other people, we could easily drop the children off and watch to make sure that they discover them and no harm comes to them."
Mace nodded. "Those sound like reasonable alternatives. Anything else can be dealt with once we're there." He looked at the pale green member. "Would you like to accompany us to find out about this disease? You're the best of the healers with strange germs."
He shrugged. "As the Force wills, but I would at least like samples."
Mace smiled then stopped and held up a hand as he felt a tentative mental contact. //Qui Gon?// he sent, easily pulling the other members of the Council into the link to strengthen it. //Are you better?//
//Barely,// he sent weakly, just able to be heard. //But I fear my padawan's worse than I am. He's breathing badly. How much longer do I have to do this?//
//Not much. We're leaving tonight and it's six days travel time.// He heard a sigh and recoiled from it. //Can you hold out that long?//
//I hope so. He's so weak, I can't even touch his mind.//
//Just do the best you can. We'll be there soon.// Mace shut down the link, looking around the room. "Did anyone else just get what I did?"
"Yes, and their personal bond could cause trouble," the female member said quietly. "Do we follow the rules? They don't cover this situation."
"It's written so there's no exceptions. But Kenobi is old enough to make his own decisions and is known to be headstrong. I seriously doubt any force was applied." Mace leaned back in his chair. "We'll examine this problem once their back. It may just have been a matter of survival for them, and it may be too deep to separate."
"Then, we have a problem." He stood up. "I need to pack some equipment." Mace bowed. "I'll report as I can." He walked out of the Council Chambers, heading for Yoda's personal accommodations, knocking politely on the door. "Master Yoda?" he called when he didn't get an answer. The little green troll-looking creature opened the door to look up at him. "There's been a development that you should know about, especially since you were Qui Gon's teacher." He was let in and sat down on one of the floor pillows, the only furniture in the main room outside of tables. "I just was contacted by Qui Gon. His padawan's sick now too, but we found evidence of a deeper bond."
"Seen I have, but not that. Focused?"
"It could have been, or it might be unfocused forever," Mace admitted. "We won't know until we're closer. Is this why you objected?"
Yoda sighed. "No. The future seen I have. Destroyed we are, Qui Gon's student kills all."
"No, the other. Picks up one he does, the child will kill us all he will." He sighed again. "Restrict this we must."
"Do you know the child?"
"The One he is, the Balancer. A slave boy, not yet ten." Yoda tipped his head. "Sith he will become."
Mace hissed, shifting to get more comfortable. "I see. Where does Qui Gon find him?"
"On a mission. On Naboo a creature he finds, later the boy he finds. The boy is the trouble."
"Then we'll keep him from any missions to Naboo."
"Destined they are. Die Qui Gon will and the boy destroys all."
Mace snapped his fingers. "The trade situation that's just starting on Naboo?" Yoda nodded, heaving another sigh. "Then we'll not send them. I doubt they'll be strong enough to go anyway, not with how sick they sounded."
"Asked for they will be."
"Then I'll go." Mace stood up, looking down at him. "I'll find him and do something about it if the situation comes up." He got a nod so left the quarters, heading for his own.
"Fix them you cannot," Yoda said softly. "Written it is."
Qui Gon rolled over, nudging his student gently to wake him. "Obi, come on, get up. You have to wake up." His padawan groaned but didn't move. "I just talked to Mace, they'll be here in a week."
"Will we live that long?" Obi Wan moaned, rolling over to try and empty his stomach again, but nothing would come up. His head fell back down on top of the clothes he was using for a pillow, his eyes closing. "Wake me when they get here, Master."
"I will," Qui Gon said, pulling himself up. He took a deep breath and reached for the bucket of water from the river that it had taken him an hour to get, pouring out a little into the wooden cup he had carved. "Water?" he asked, holding it out. When he didn't get an answer, he nudged the young man again. "Come on, you have to drink."
"Later," Obi Wan muttered, not moving. "When I can see again."
"All right." Qui Gon sipped the water slowly, eyes closing as the warm water flowed down his throat. "I think it was the fish," he said gently.
"I'm not that bad of a cook."
Qui Gon smiled. "No, this isn't food poisoning, but the fish may have been tainted. Some sort of protection while they mated." Obi Wan shifted so he dipped some more water out. "Come on, you have to drink or you'll die before they get here." He rolled the young man over, not letting out a physical wince at the limp body or the loss of weight. "Here," he said, pulling the young man up against his chest to feed him the water. "Drink."
"You're warm," Obi Wan whispered after drinking most of the cupful. "Why can't I be warm?"
"It's just how the fever's making you feel," Qui Gon soothed, rubbing through the wet hair. "A few more days and we'll be fine." He didn't get an answer so he laid his student down, covering him lightly with the hide Obi Wan had gotten them a few days before they fell ill. "You rest, I'll watch," he said, slipping down into his own bedding, falling asleep again.
Mace Windu walked into the cave where he could feel his brethren, stopping when he saw them curled around each other. He waved the healers in quickly, kneeling down to help them separate the two men. Qui Gon murmured his name and opened his eyes, blinking at him. "Relax, friend, we're here." He looked over at the young man lying next to his friend, wincing as he saw the pale flesh and sweat dripping off him. "Is he living?"
"Barely," the healer said. She looked up then down at Qui Gon, then back up at him. "Their bond's been keeping both of them alive." She whistled sharply and her helpers came in to lift them. "Let me get them to our medical facilities while you gather their things and investigate the wreckage." She followed the litters out of the cave, heading for their shuttle.
Mace quickly gathered everything he could see into a bag, tossing it over his shoulder as he
walked out. He didn't want to get sick too and they still didn't know what had caused it. He met the other Council member by the stream, kneeling down beside him. "Their water source?"
"It's the only one close by." He picked up a dead fish, pointing at the discoloration on it's scales. "That's the sickness. It's a bacteria. Not one that we know of yet." He wrapped the fish in a bag of the water, putting it in his box before standing up. "How were they?"
"Kenobi's very ill, he almost looked dead. Qui Gon woke up when I tried to move him." The other Council member nodded. "The healer said their bond is what's kept them alive."
"We'll investigate it back on Coruscant. I don't know what we'll have to do." He patted Mace's shoulder. "Come, I need to get this to the healers so they can find a cure. Then we'll investigate the wreckage and the village."
"You do the wreckage, I'll do the village," Mace said, heading in the opposite direction. "I want to know if there's a change."
"I will call," the other Council member called back with what sounded like a laugh. "You'll be the third to know."
Mace walked into the village after checking for sentient minds. He could hear snuffling noises from one of the tents so headed that way, the vibrations of the Force telling him most of the living were in there. Inside, he found two thin boys and what must have been all the infants in the village. He knelt down beside them, touching the two boy's heads to see if they still lived, covering the one that did so he could get warm. One of the infants called out to him and he looked down at her, smiling. "Hello," he whispered, picking her up. "You must be the only Force-active native on this planet." He looked up as someone outside screamed, backing into the shadows in case whomever walked in and found him. When no one walked in, he carefully put down the infant, heading out to where he could feel the other living person. He stopped as he saw a pale, very sick woman panting and crying. He walked over, touching her head. "Rest," he whispered, pushing her just a little. He looked down at the infant screaming between her feet, wincing as he caught sight of the blood and tissue covering it. "Oh, no." He mentally called out to the healers for instructions then cut the infant's umbilical cord and made sure it could breathe, wrapping it in his cloak. He turned as someone walked in, nodding down at the infant in his arms.
"She just delivered him." He turned back to the mother then turned back around, heading to the tent with the other children. "This way," he said quietly. "There's nothing we can do for her."
The healers followed him, stopping to check on the one other life-form they could feel was still living, carrying her so that they were all together in the same tent.
Mace looked across the screen at the other Council members. "We found the contamination, it's bacterial. Both of our Jedi are getting stronger but neither has awoken yet." He took a deep breath. "We have no other tribes on this planet that we can find and sixteen survivors, all but two infants. What would the Council have us do?"
Yoda stood up and walked over in front of their screen. "How young?"
"Most are under a year. One of them is male and around twelve and the other is female and a few years older, just starting the change into womanhood."
Yoda shook his head. "Take them you cannot."
"Leaving them here isn't really an option either," he reminded. "Two teens can't take care of fourteen infants, if they even live. They're sicker than the children. Their mothers must have filtered the bacteria to them when they fed them." He rolled his shoulders. "What would you have us do? Oh, and one of them can use the Force, she called out to me."
Yoda shrugged and walked back to his seat. "Ignore me you will."
"Can we put them down at the research station?" a member off screen asked.
"We could, has anyone gotten in touch with them?"
"Not yet," the voice said. "We can do that in a while, it's almost daytime on their planet."
"Go there they shall."
"All of them?"
"We know not about this child."
"She's very young, not even a year. And she seems to talk to animals, something that would help her greatly."
"Train her we will not," Yoda called.
Mace shrugged, looking at the other members of the Council. "You'll discuss and tell me?"
"As soon as we have a decision. Keep us informed of the two Jedi's progress." The screen went blank.
"Of course I will," Mace said, getting up to head over to the medical beds. "Now all we have to do is to get them to agree to not separate you two." He brushed over Qui Gon's clean hair, moving it away from his face. Obi Wan shifted closer on his bed, but there was no other change.
Obi Wan woke up to a bright light, and immediately tried to turn away from it, his hand coming up to bat it away. His fingers were caught so he squinted up into the light. "Qui Gon?"
"No," Mace's voice whispered gently near his ear. "He still sleeps. Can you see?"
"Just a light," he said calmly. "Is this normal?"
"We're not sure. The bacteria that caused the illness mutated somehow once it met the fish's flesh."
"Qui Gon's allergic to the fish," he said slowly. "He had a reaction that night."
"That's why he's less ill than you are," Mace said, smiling at the healer as she walked in. "Qui Gon's allergic to the fish."
"So he only got the tainted water and not the tainted flesh?" Mace and Obi Wan both nodded. "That explains a lot then." She leaned down, looking into Obi Wan's eyes. "Can you see anything?"
"Bright light. Like those underwater fishes that hunt with a light to attract it's prey."
"That's fine, I'm sure it will recede," the healer said softly, touching his forehead. "Back to sleep, Padawan, so you can both heal." Obi Wan drifted back into sleep and she turned to look at Mace. "Still haven't told them?"
"I was going to tell Qui Gon first, get his opinion on how it happened."
"We know how it happened," she said firmly, putting her hands on her hips to glare at him. "It's all that mental bonding they've been doing to talk to you." He looked away. "And it's happened here too. A few of the Masters have bonded together."
Mace shook his head. "I'll leave you to figure out what to do about it," he said and with a small bow he left the infirmary.
She looked down at the patients, gently touching their minds to add strength to their bond.
"There, just a few more days and we'll be home," she whispered. She was startled when a hand gripped hers. "Qui Gon, you're awake," she said, trying to stay calm. "Would you like some water?"
He nodded, opening his eyes to look at her. "Answers," he croaked.
"Of course, just as soon as you're *both* better." She smiled at the wince. "I think you've beat all estimates this time," she said, leaning down to kiss his forehead before handing him the cup that had been sitting beside them. "The whole Council's actually worried about what to do with you."
He shook his head. "I tried," he whispered, sipping gently at the straw.
"I know," she soothed. "Obi Wan's just too stubborn for you to ignore that long." He laughed, choking as he inhaled some of the water. "Shh, just rest. He was awake a few minutes ago and worried about you. You need to heal so he will." Qui Gon handed back the cup. "Sleep, Qui Gon Jinn," she whispered, touching his forehead. "I'll protect what's yours." She walked out of the infirmary, directly into Mace's chest. "He was awake, drank a little, and now he's sleeping."
Mace nodded. "As long as they're both healing." He stepped back from her, twitching his robes so they laid straight. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," she said with a small grin. "I'd hate to be the one in the middle." She winked and walked past him, heading for her own cabin.
Mace snorted. "I wish, but that's not what we have." He thought about going back into the infirmary but decided against it, going to his room to meditate instead.
Mace Windu faced off to the rest of the Council, bowing to show his respect. "I have news. The infection has cleared their bodies, we're just waiting on them to wake up." He looked toward the two Masters that were looking into the bond problems some of the groups of the merge had started to have. "Their bond is focused and just lacks completion, but it is too deep to sever without permanently injuring one of them, probably Qui Gon."
Yoda sighed. "Why? Did this he did?"
"He tried to fight it, I went into his mind, with his permission, the last time he was partially awake and checked his memories. He even warned his Padawan that it wasn't right and was against the codes. They both fought it as hard as they could but under the circumstances it kept growing without them knowing."
"Sever them we must."
"If we do, Qui Gon may not live," Mace reminded him. "Or if he does, it's not likely that he'll wake again."
"Dangerous it is," Yoda said firmly. "All must be broken."
"Master Yoda," one of the other Council members said respectfully, "I have read of your vision of the future. We have nullified it already. Even if the bonded ones are allowed to continue, it would not hurt us. In truth, it might actually help them."
"Wrong it is."
"We know that," Mace said, his voice verging on frustration. "Why?"
"Gone we will be." Yoda stomped his stick on the ground. "Seen I have!"
"Your vision of the future may be what would have happened," Mace said, rubbing his chin. "The future changes with each event, even when the Force shows it to us. If we could find a way to look into the Force to see what was going to happen, I'd be a lot more comfortable ordering a good Jedi's death." He looked at Yoda. "Can you do that?"
"Seen already I have."
"Yes, but that was before they crashed," the other Council member pointed out. "The Force acted to make them land on that planet, and to get ill. There must be a reason."
"Look again, I will, but promise I cannot."
"That's fine." Mace nodded to him. "I wish she had stayed. We have one Jedi that would know already." He didn't like talking about their missing friend, it still hurt, the loss was too fresh from the incident at Naboo.
"Gone she is," Yoda reminded him gently. "Gone she will stay."
"Yes, I know." Mace walked over to his seat. "What about the other bonds?"
"They are not dangerous," the Council member in charge of that problem said, standing up. "Most can easily be broken. Between a few of the older Padawans it's already too late. The bond took over and worked it's will on them."
"There must be a reason behind the bond," a female member of the Council said. "As far as we can tell, if the bond works as suggested, then it would make the Jedi less open to the dark."
"True," Mace admitted, "but not all of the bonds will be as deep."
"Then we should judge each one."
"I think that was tried," the Council member in charge of the problem said. "We cannot tell if any of them are dangerous to the Jedi involved."
The main door opened and a slim young woman walked in, bowing to them all. "They're awake and mostly coherent. Obi Wan has since slipped back into sleep, but it is a natural, restful one. We believe they're out of danger."
"And their bonds?" Mace asked hopefully.
"Stronger but still hidden from them." She shrugged at the dirty look some of the Council
members shot her. "I'm sorry, but it is hidden from them. It's masquerading as their training bond."
Yoda heaved a great sigh and got out of his seat, shambling out of the Council's chambers. "Try I will."
Mace nodded for the healer to go on. "Does Qui Gon realize at all?"
"He thinks they've gotten very close but he's wary of the bond itself. He knows it's wrong."
"Good. I'll go talk to him." Mace stood up, walking out of the room also. He strolled down the halls, calming himself before he met with his old friend again. He smiled as he saw him looking at his student, a mixture of love and annoyance on his face. "Your allergy saved you from becoming that bad, old friend, I'd give him thanks next time."
Qui Gon looked up at him. "Then it wasn't something we brought?"
"No," Mace said, hopping up to sit on the end of his bed, arranging his robes appropriately. "It was a bacteria that was present on the fish and in the water." He smiled at the grim nod. "He actually was much sicker, but he did take good care of you."
"As he always does." Qui Gon looked the other Jedi over. "What? You're not here for niceties?" He rubbed his forehead. "I've become surly, excuse my behavior. I'm as bad as he is when he first wakes up." He shot a glare at Obi Wan, who rolled over with a smile on his face.
"That's what I wanted to talk to you about." He took Qui Gon's hand. "The way we merged minds has affected us all. Many of us on this end have bonded to each other." The other Jedi stilled, staring at him in shock. "As have the pair of you."
"I tried to keep him at a distance." Qui Gon's shoulder's slumped then refirmed. "Do as you must to break it."
"It's not been decided. Your case is one that one of you would die without it. It's also
complicated by a vision Yoda had of the future, which we may or may not have negated."
"In it, you found a boy, a very strong boy, and you demanded the right to train him, even
dropping your Obi Wan for him." Qui Gon shook his head. "You said he was ready for the trials. In the end, you died and left him to train the boy and he went bad. Through no fault of your padawans, either one of them, but because he was a slave for almost ten years. His mind was harmed by his life experiences so he turned to the dark and ended up killing us all."
"Master Yoda is looking as we speak. Some of the other bonds may be broken but yours is the deepest we've had yet. It touches each of you in ways that you're not even aware of yet."
Qui Gon nodded. "We will do as we must."
"As will we. Though I will miss playing games with you if you die." He stood up. "When your padawan wakes up, tell him for us and then see if you can't find out more about your bond. Masters Ki and Shala are both investigating the bonds." He bowed and walked out, heading for Yoda's room. He tapped on the door. "May I come in?" The door opened and he walked in to sit in front of the little Jedi. "Have you seen?"
"Try I have, do I cannot." Yoda sighed. "Blocked it is. Up are they?"
"Yes, Qui Gon's awake and he knows now. He's going to investigate the bond himself and tell the Council members investigating it what is going on."
"Lie he will to have it broken."
"I know, as do they. This is the one area where Qui Gon can be expected to follow the code to the letter." Mace rolled his shoulders. "Is there anything we could do to help you see easier?"
"Force wills it," Yoda said, giving him a small smile. "Sleep you should. Long the day will be tomorrow."
"Very true." Mace stood and bowed. "I bid you good night then." He walked out, heading for his own quarters. As he laid down on his bed, he considered the past and the bond he and Qui Gon had almost shared at one time.
Qui Gon rolled onto his side as his padawan started to wake up again. "Obi Wan, wake up, we need to talk." He sat up as the green eyes opened, staring at him. "Yes, we live, but we have to discuss something." His student sat up, simply looking at him. "We're bound, Obi Wan. They're going to have to do something about it."
"I know." When he got glared at, he added. "I did hear Master Mace earlier. As I did your mind." He pulled his feet up under him, taking the steaming cup the attendant gave him. "Bless your reading of the Force," he sighed, taking the first drink. The attendant walked away laughing. "I think this is one of the things I missed most."
Qui Gon smiled at him. "As did I, Obi Wan, you aren't a nice person in the morning without it."
"True." He sipped some more, looking at his Master. "I knew about the bond while we were sick. I kept getting your dreams before I fell truly ill." He finished the cup of tea and put it aside. "What will they do?"
"They'll have to sever it."
"Seen I have not," Yoda said as he walked in. He tapped his walking stick a few times. "Bound you may remain." He looked them over. "Well again?"
"Mostly," the attendant said, pushing Obi Wan back down. "They're supposed to be resting. Especially if someone's going to tear into their minds and rip them apart soon." He looked down at Obi Wan. "The healer has demanded that you rest. You can hold this talk later."
"Just don't use the bond," Qui Gon warned him. "The more we use it, the stronger it will get."
"Too strong it is already," Yoda told him, making him nod. "Die you will."
Qui Gon paled but nodded again. "As the Force wills." Obi Wan started to sit up and protest but he glared at him. "This can not be allowed to go on, Padawan. It will be fixed."
Yoda shook his head. "Stubborn you always were. Fixed it may never be." He smiled, wavering as he started to get a vision. "Fixed it will be. Found the boy was and fixed he was." He nodded at the attendant. "Master Mace?"
"Is at home," he said lightly. He bowed to Yoda. "These two need to sleep, Master Yoda, if they are to be well. You can come back in the morning."
"Yes, so I shall." He walked out, stomping his stick on the ground as he walked. "Seen I have, all right everything is again." The door closed behind him.
"Well," the attendant said, looking at Qui Gon. "Sleep or be sedated."
He obediently laid back down. "Yes, sir."
"Good. The main Healer over your case will be here later. She'll be able to tell you more." He walked away, going back to his other duties and a pile of paperwork.
Qui Gon waited until they were alone. "Obi Wan?" he asked quietly, getting a snore in response. He smiled and closed his own eyes, falling quickly into a restful sleep.
Mace Windu looked up in shock as he felt someone touch his arm. He looked over to find Yoda beside him. "You've seen?" he asked, sitting up to turn on the light and to look at him. "Was it fixed?"
"Fixed it is, found the boy was and fixed." Yoda tapped his stick a few times. "Separate them we cannot. Checked I have and deep it is. Knows even the padawan does. Stubborn Qui Gon is."
"Of course," Mace said with a smile. "Have you ever known him to be otherwise?" Yoda shook his head. "Then we'll leave it?"
"Suggest it I would. Talk to him you will and make sure you are."
"Of course." He bowed to the older Jedi, who turned and walked out. Mace got out of bed, heading for his robes.
"Sleep you will, middle of the night it is," Yoda said over his shoulder as he left the quarters.
Mace smiled as he climbed back into bed, falling into a gentle sleep again within minutes.
Qui Gon faced off against the Council, bowing to them. "I will honor your will even though I do not understand it in this case."
Mace sighed in frustration, this had gone on too long. "Qui Gon, there's no reason for your bond with your student to be broken. It's not something we could break even if there was a need so it's a good thing he's accepted it."
"All the others..." He was cut off by another Master, a female one.
"Mal Sin and Shi Tel's bond is not broken," she reminded the Council. "It is thought that Shi Tel would hold Mal Sin steady from the loss of her Master." Mace nodded. "Mace's own is unbroken, as he is part of them." Qui Gon looked up in alarm. "Their's is much lesser than yours and was created by the excessive joining they and Kar did to hear you."
"Kar does have a very ... interesting mind," Mace said with a smile. "Both of the young women's minds are very open to me at most times, but Mal Sin is doing much better now." He looked at Qui Gon. "As you can see, we're judging each one on it's merits. Your's with your padawan seems to offer the most benefit of all of them. Take heart, Qui Gon, it may just burn up one day and leave you separate."
Qui Gon nodded, leaving the council room, leaving Obi Wan standing there. "If I may?" he asked. He was given permission. "Are there some works we could study on the bonds? Or possibly talk to the other new bond members? Just for my own piece of mind when things start to go wrong."
Mace nodded. "As you need me, I'll be here. As for works, we've not found a single one unless they've been locked up in the room with the other old tablets from the Ancient Times that we're forbidden to get into."
"Yes, Master Mace. Thank you. I'll call on you if I have need of help." Obi Wan turned and walked out, following the mental swearing to their quarters. "This isn't that bad," he said from the doorway, letting the door shut behind him. "It could be much worse, you could have to live in my mind first thing in the morning before I've had my tea." Qui Gon stopped, turning to stare at him. "Thank you, I didn't know you knew some of those words." He crossed his arms, studying his master. "Why does this bother you?"
"Because it's not right. I didn't know those words until this morning though."
Qui Gon turned to look at him. "And what?"
"Is there another reason?"
"No, just that one."
"Ah, I thought it might have been who you were bound to." Obi Wan sat down on the couch. "It may not seem right but the Force has dictated to us that it will be. You've always made me mindful of listening to it."
"Don't be impertinent."
"I'm sorry, Master, but sometimes you need me to be impertinent and stubborn to clarify your thinking." He stood up, heading for his room. "When you're ready to talk to me and figure out what we'll be doing to keep our privacy, come get me. I really am still tired."
"Obi Wan, what we have is wrong." He watched his padawan change course, heading for the door. "Where are you going? I thought you wanted to sleep."
"I do, but I'm going to ask to be reassigned to a new Master, it's obvious you're not going to be able to handle both parts of this." He had to stop and lean against the wall as his mind was flooded with information, feelings and thoughts mostly. "Please don't do that," he groaned, letting the pain flow back into the Force like he had been taught. He looked at his Master. "You have to decide, Qui Gon. I'm happy with the way things are, you're starting to sound like me now."
Qui Gon stopped moving, staring at him in shock. "We are sounding like each other." He sat down on a nearby chair. "That was my thought about having you reassigned."
"And those are my insecurities, but we cannot let them rule us." Obi Wan walked over to sit across from him. "I know you don't want this but it's done. The Force has willed that we are going to be connected and watched to make sure that neither of us turn toward the dark." He picked up the end of his braid to play with. "We'll just have to find a way to deal with this." He looked up, seeing the indecision in the light eyes. "Master, we have to deal with the reality. Our bond is strong enough to change our personalities. You've picked up my swearing habit and I've picked up your peace. We have to work out the rest."
"Then we shall," Qui Gon said after a soothing breath. "We shall start working on that tonight. Go take your nap, Obi Wan." He looked at his student. "We'll deal with this as it happens. Starting back with the fighting."
"Yes, Master," he said, heading into his room. "Yell if you need me."
"Oh, I'm sure you'll know," Qui Gon said softly, relaxing into the chair, falling into a sudden, healing nap as his student did.
voracity is the author of 67 other stories.
This story is part of the series, Former Zine Stories. The previous story in the series is The Plan.. The next story in the series is Dreams.
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