The sound of scuffling drew Qui-Gon from his bunk, idly pushing his hair back from his face. He found a tense stand-off between two factions on the ship, and between them, a youngling who seeped desolation like an oozing wound in the Force. Jedi Jedi Jedi the Force whispered, clearer than it had been to Qui-Gon in years. The Force had always been his ally, had not forsaken him even when he fled Coruscant hurting and bewildered after the betrayal of his beloved Padawan. Had not abandoned him even through the long years of his isolating depression. And now the Force surged in his ears, in his heart; this boy - this boy was something special.
Qui-Gon waded forward, and the more experienced miners quailed back. Anyone who had survived more than a year on Bandomeer knew Qui-Gon by sight. He might not carry a lightsaber any more, might not name himself Knight, but Qui-Gon had been and always would be a Jedi Master, and he required no ally but the Force to ensure that his point was made. His protection of the weakest in society was well known, and there was no question he would step in on the youngling’s behalf.
“There’s no trouble here I hope?” Qui-Gon asked quietly, resting his hand lightly on the boy’s narrow shoulder.
“N - no trouble Jedi,” one of the roughnecks promised, and they melted back into the shadows and alcoves from which they’d come.
“You alright lad?” Qui-Gon asked the youngling, and the boy nodded bravely, a clear lie but one the boy desperately wanted to believe. “You have a name then?” he asked gently, steering the boy towards his own quarters.
“O - Obi-Wan,” the boy stammered, “Obi-Wan Kenobi.” Jedi the Force purred, all but enveloping the boy in love. Thin shoulders eased slightly, and Qui-Gon swallowed.
“And what brings you to Bandomeer?” Qui-Gon asked, although he had a fairly good guess. Desolation swept back over the boy, and he curled in on himself.
“I - I couldn’t find a Master,” the boy said quietly, his tone and bearing the very definition of heartbroken. “I - I know I’m supposed to be a Knight,” Obi-Wan said more fiercely, straightening up and jutting out his chin defiantly. “I know I am. But - but none of the Masters wanted me,” he said, defeat creeping back into his tone.
“They said - they said I’m too angry, too aggressive,” Obi-Wan confessed. “They said I - I wouldn’t be a good Jedi.” He looked up again, that same fierce belief burning in his blue-green eyes. “But I know Master, I know I’m meant to be a Jedi, and I’d be a good one, I would.”
It was said with a child’s unfailing certainty, and the Force echoed Obi-Wan’s conviction. He would be a Jedi, one of the very best. The Force tugged at Qui-Gon, and he fought for half a breath, then knelt, studying the young face that peered back at him. No, Qui-Gon told himself despite the Force’s insistence. The boy was deemed dangerous by those who knew him far better than Qui-Gon did, he would not fail another Padawan. Best he simply help the boy accept his future.
“Being a Knight isn't the only way to be a Jedi,” Qui-Gon said gently but firmly, and Obi-Wan nodded, the faint glimmer of hope dying in his pale eyes. The Force keened its displeasure, but Qui-Gon refused to give in. He was content in the AgriCorps, and in time, the boy would learn to be content as well.
Qui-Gon repeated that lie every time their paths crossed, right up until Obi-Wan asked to die for him, begged for a quick and explosive end rather than the slow death of being denied his dream. Thirteen years old was far too young for such determination, Qui-Gon thought. He freed them another way, and carried his trembling boy up into free air. Obi-Wan sobbed quietly, more certain than ever he was doomed to exile.