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Can't return to who I was before

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Obi-Wan raises his lightsaber, not to guard, but to surrender. He could draw the fight out longer, and maybe he should. He’s a distraction, here to occupy Vader’s attention so the twins and their smuggler friend can escape.

He doesn’t extend the fight.

In his last act, he is petty, denying Vader—Anakin—Vader the opportunity to beat him in a true fight, and he is selfishly leaving this next battle in someone else’s hands.

It is, he believes, a fitting way for him to meet his end.

#

Obi-Wan blinks.

Do Force Ghosts have eyes?

Above him is a model of the Core Worlds. It’s an odd thing to see upon waking up. Upon dying? He rubs his eyes and—

He stares at his hands. They’re small. There are no thick veins, standing tall as the skin around them shrivels and withers. There are no sunspots, no dark tan from the harsh climate on Tatooine. He touches his chin. His skin is smooth, not even a hint of a bristle. The hair on his head is short.

He bolts upright as his heart pounds dangerously fast in his chest. This, at least, is familiar, the jolt of adrenaline spurring him into action. But he doesn’t look around and see his troops. He doesn’t even see the dilapidated hut he’s called home since his self-exile.

His bed is too small. No. It should be too small. If he were an adult, his feet would hang over the edge. But this bed contains him easily. He is too small.

He draws one breath and then another, conquering his fear before it can disturb the others. Once his thoughts have quieted, he realizes where he is. The Temple. The Initiate dorms. He’s in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant and it sings with life. No, not just the Temple. The Force itself is humming, alive in a way he thought was only a distant memory.

If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

Those are the words he threw at Vader. They were bluff or taunt, a pitiful last stand. But they were a fool’s words, and the Force has made it clear Obi-Wan is a fool. Because he’s a child again, brought back to the beginning.

Why?

Perhaps it is a lesson in arrogance. He was convinced his destiny was to be a Jedi Knight. In secret, he dreamed of being a great one. Instead, his failures stacked one upon another. He failed to save Qui-Gon, failed to save Anakin, failed the Order and the galaxy itself. Is this a lesson in accepting the will of the Force? Should he quietly accept the decision to ship him off to the AgriCorps?

Or maybe it’s a lesson in selflessness. Does he become Qui-Gon’s padawan and ensure the man survives Naboo and can be the master Anakin deserves? If it is…Obi-Wan will not heed this lesson. Naboo and Maul, it is years away, and despite his new body, he is tired.

No, he will follow the path originally laid out for him. With his hands buried in the dirt, he will find peace.

#

When the other initiates wake up, Obi-Wan follows, neither the fastest nor slowest amongst them. He doesn’t talk. No one thinks it’s odd, nor do they try to lure him into conversation. He has a vague idea of when he is but despite living through these events before, he doesn’t know exact details. His memory isn’t quite as efficient as a droid’s.

After morning mediation, his clan attends morning meal together in the dining hall. Obi-Wan walks through the line, tray in hand, and tries not to stare too long at all the food on display. Living on Tatooine made even the frugalist Jedi seem as though they led a decadent life. He ate meat he was better off not identifying, chewed suspect plant matter, and swallowed bugs whole rather than shudder through crunching them between his teeth.

He sustained himself with the Force whenever he could which kept him alive but only by the barest definition of the word. No wonder he was out-matched by Vader. He was malnourished, out of practice, and he didn’t have any fight left in him. Anakin was always seeking to prove himself better than Obi-Wan. Light-hearted competitions over who could kill the most droids in a battle and spars which weren’t quite as friendly as they should have been.

Their duel on Mustafar wasn’t light-hearted. And their confrontation on the Death Star hadn’t been much of anything, not even a last stand. Does that timeline still exist? If it does, did Luke and Leia escape? Did they meet up with the Rebellion? Have they found a way yet to win?

His heart aches for Bail, a dear friend dead along with the rest of his planet. Obi-Wan thought he’d never feel the pain he did after Knightfall. Until Alderaan. Because of course, one horrifying genocide wasn’t enough for his lifetime. He needed to live through two.

A sharp elbow brings him back to the present.

“Quit lingering.” Bruck’s sneer is familiar and almost calming. There was a time Obi-Wan thought this was the worst the galaxy could throw at him. He almost wants to wrap himself in Bruck’s childish taunts and insecurities. Instead, because Obi-Wan’s still standing as if his feet are frozen in carbonite, Bruck elbows him again. “Trying to memorize what food looks like?”

Obi-Wan allows himself a smile. It isn’t a child’s smile, innocent or even fond. It’s a twist of his lips, bitter like the regrets he brought back to the past with him. “There’s hardly a need to do so. It isn’t as though I’ll starve in the AgriCorps.”

Bruck stands there, open mouthed, shock leaking into the Force. Obi-Wan steps neatly around him and fills his tray before he finds a quiet corner to sit in. He eats everything without tasting any of it.

He wonders how long he has until he’s re-assigned. If he doesn’t fight with Bruck, will he stay here until his thirteenth birthday? Does it even matter?

#

He sits through his classes and idly takes notes but doesn’t pay any particular attention. As soon as the day’s learning blocks are done, he disappears into the archives. It’s free time and most initiates take advantage of the training salles. Before, Obi-Wan would have been with them. But he doesn’t need fancy lightsaber skills to coax a dormant plant to grow and take root.

Embarrassingly, he doesn’t know much about farming. The first time he lived his life, he was resentful of his fate. He poured his focus into lightsaber training under the mistaken belief that the Jedi wanted warriors. Even once it was clear he was bound for the AgriCorps, he took no steps to enlighten himself.

He embraces his fate this time around. He selects primers on the variety of farming the galaxy holds; hydroponics, aquaponics, geoponics, aeroponics. He finds detailed compilations of staple crops and, as he browses, a fascinating article on agriculture as a method of terraforming.

He burrows in the archives with his treasure trove and reads. He doesn’t surface until a polite throat clearing draws him out of a dissertation on the six types of hydroponic farming.

A fond smile brightens Master Nu’s eyes, but she turns her lips down as if trying to appear stern. “Initiate Kenobi, while knowledge is food for the soul, it is not food for the stomach. You need to attend evening meal.”

Obi-Wan casts a forlorn look at the cozy corner he’d made for himself, plush seating serving as a fortress for him. At least he can bring his datapad with him. Master Nu can’t keep him from reading while he eats. He stands to acknowledge her words, and she escorts him toward the exit. “What are you studying? I can assist you with finding additional materials.”

“Farming.” The coals of old shame smolder, but Obi-Wan doesn’t allow them to grow into flames. There’s nothing shameful about discovering the will of the Force. Perhaps, there is shame in his resistance and reluctance, but he is past those both now. “They will provide training in the Corps, but I want to build as much of a foundation as I can before I begin my service.”

Master Nu’s frown overtakes her face. “I know Master Jinn was harsh in his refusal, but you are not yet thirteen.”

“The Force spoke to me.” Obi-Wan tucks his hands into his sleeves. “If I come tomorrow, you will assist me in finding more advanced material?”

“Of course.”

Obi-Wan bows as he offers his thanks and then he heads to the dining hall. He passes through the line, accepts what the droid on duty thinks is best for him, and settles down with his plate and his tablet propped up in front of him. He tunes out everything around him as he reads.

Farming is fascinating. He hasn’t given much thought to food during his life. He grumbled about ration bars like the rest of the army, he would politely sample everything during diplomatic missions, and toward the end, he mostly stopped eating all together, but he didn’t think about it.

Reading now…this is life at his fingertips.

No wonder Qui-Gon was always bringing plants back to his quarters. Obi-Wan reads up on a spindly plant which is sentient enough to act as an alarm system. He absently puts something in his mouth.

There is a “super tuber” on Yavin IV, a root vegetable with sufficient nutrients for most humanoid species to live on it and nothing else. There’s an entire directory of these “super” crops; different depending on the species and their dietary needs. Obi-Wan holds the blueprint to galaxy-wide peace in his hands and—

He’s chewing on his fork.

He stabs something on his plate and sticks it in his mouth so his chewing has a purpose.

#

Obi-Wan pays little attention to his classes. He’s learned all this material before. It’s imperative he add new knowledge to his memory. Of course, there is book learning and there is practical application, and Obi-Wan knows the importance of both.

There will be time to get his hands dirty once he is in the AgriCorp, but like he told Master Nu, he wants a foundation. There is a sense of urgency, from himself he believes, not the Force, but it urges him to action. Learn, do, gather as much information as possible so he can do the most good.

He spends an afternoon in the kitchen garden. He sits amongst the herbs and spices, breathes in their scent and attempts to distinguish their signatures within the Force. He has little success. The Living Force was always Qui-Gon’s strength, not his own. His chest pinches with a familiar pain at the thought of his master. But then, there’s the cool balm of relief. Qui-Gon is alive. He isn’t Obi-Wan’s Qui-Gon, and he never will be, but he’s alive and that’s enough.

One of the kitchen droids gives Obi-Wan a basil plant and a nudge out the door. Obi-Wan carries it to evening meal with him. He places the potted herb on his tray and scans the dining hall. His agemates are here, some senior padawans, a scattering of knights. There are even a few masters as well.

Qui-Gon is one of them, his Force signature familiar but aching in the Force. If Obi-Wan remembers his childhood correctly, he was recently rejected, quite publicly and thoroughly, by Qui-Gon. Should he allow his pride to keep him from speaking to his mentor again? Should it keep him from learning what Qui-Gon is uniquely suited to teach?

Obi-Wan squares his shoulders and approaches where Master Jinn and Master Tahl eat in companionable silence. Master Tahl is the first to notice him. Her eyes are bright and seeing. Obi-Wan sketches a formal bow and hopes it hides his reaction to seeing her alive and well.

Qui-Gon is the next to notice him. The air around him chills as he turns his full disapproval on Obi-Wan. If he was still a youngling, Obi-Wan would wilt beneath it. With years of experience, Obi-Wan weathers the stare. His countenance stays cool and collected, even as he aches and rages deep within himself.

“Master Jinn.” Obi-Wan greets him with an even deeper bow.

“Initiate Kenobi. I didn’t expect to hear from you again.”

I held you as you died. You tasked me, with your final breath, to train Anakin. I did as you asked. I know I failed but, please, don’t turn me away. Fear, insecurity, none of those are useful to him. He releases them into the Force. With senses honed by war, he’s aware of the attention they attract, all the gawkers eager to see him humiliated again and the concerned gazes of his friends.

“I understand why you would expect as such, and I would like to preface a bold request with the promise not to repeat a question which has already been answered.”

Qui-Gon’s curiosity is almost as heavy as his irritation. He wears them both openly so that even an initiate, as Obi-Wan is supposed to be, would be able to pick up on them. “A request?”

“You are an expert in the Living Force. Given where my future will take me, I would like to request your tutelage in the time leading up to my departure from the Temple. I have begun extensive reading on the subject, but there are concepts better understood through doing and seeing.”

Master Tahl’s attention is motherly, concerned and a little proud. Qui-Gon is a riot of emotion. Carefully controlled, of course, and he releases his feelings to the Force as he sorts through them. “You ask for my training after I have declined to take you as a padawan?”

There’s snickering behind him, and Obi-Wan is sure many of the onlookers are eager to see him lose his temper or burst into tears. Instead, Obi-Wan tips his chin up in a show of quiet strength. “Teaching is not the same as accepting a padawan learner. I believe we will be an agreeable match.”

Qui-Gon can’t help his laugh. “Oh?”

“You are a master who does not want a padawan, and I am an initiate who does not want a master. You can teach me without concern for fear of attachment or worry at leading me on. And I can learn from an expert before I begin the next stage of my journey.”

“This is unorthodox.”

A smile tugs at Obi-Wan’s lips. “As I said, Master Jinn, an agreeable match.”

Master Tahl laughs, bright and amused, nothing like Qui-Gon’s earlier derision. “I like you, little one. Come, sit.”

“Thank you for the offer, Master Tahl, but I wait for Master Jinn’s response. I have behaved poorly in the past by pushing myself at him when I was unwanted. I will not do so again.” Obi-Wan meets Qui-Gon’s gaze evenly. “One word from you, Master Jinn, and I will not bother you again, I swear. But if you are willing, I would like to learn from you.”

Qui-Gon strokes his beard. “You are well-spoken. Unusually so. Did Master Yoda put you up to this?”

“No, master.” Obi-Wan balances his tray on one hand and reaches into his robes for his tablet. “You can see the texts I’ve downloaded if you require proof of my sincerity.”

Qui-Gon accepts the tablet and flips through the titles. He hums quietly to himself. “You have a focus on the rehabilitation of desert planets.”

“The lack of natural water makes it an interesting challenge. I know I am not yet ready for that level of difficulty, but it is something to aspire to.” Obi-Wan braces himself for another rebuke, for allowing his pride and ambition to get the better of him again.

Instead, Qui-Gon shifts over to make a space next to him on the bench. “If I am in the Temple, I will attend evening meal, and you may tell me what you’ve learned and ask me questions. We can discuss more depending on your progress.”

It’s better than the rejection Obi-Wan feared, even if he can sense Qui-Gon’s doubt. He rejected Obi-Wan because he found him lacking, and his opinion hasn’t changed. Obi-Wan will change it. Not for the purpose of becoming Qui-Gon’s student again, but he will give the man a reason to think warmly of him before he leaves.

He places his tray on the table and then moves his basil plant so it rests between them. “I know how to read sentients’ Force signatures. Will you help me do the same with plants?”

Qui-Gon hesitates for a moment. Did he doubt Obi-Wan’s commitment? Or perhaps this is more intimate than he was hoping for. But Qui-Gon gathers his resolves and gives Obi-Wan a curt nod. “Close your eyes.”

Obi-Wan obediently shuts his eyes.

“You can feel the sentients around you. They’re bright spots in the Force, even when they aren’t Force sensitive. They bustle. They brim with life but, more than that, with possibility. Plants are quieter. Their existence is simpler with fewer directions to branch out in. You have to quiet the world around you and focus in order to find them.”

It’s difficult. Master Tahl’s curiosity pulls Obi-Wan’s attention. Across the room, he senses Bant, just as curious but also concerned on his behalf. There are a cluster of senior padawans who wonder why Qui-Gon wastes his time with Obi-Wan. And then there is Qui-Gon himself. It takes all of Obi-Wan’s self-control to keep from wrapping himself in Qui-Gon’s Force signature and damning the rest of the galaxy.

This new life is a lesson in selflessness and atonement. He will learn the Force’s lessons, no matter how harsh they are. He filters out the sentients around him. It leaves the world duller at first sight. But then he spots the curl of light, nothing as blazing as those in the Temple, but there nonetheless.

Hello there, he thinks.

The basil plant unfurls one of its small leaves.

It’s not time for that yet. Qui-Gon says.

The Force vibrates with Obi-Wan’s excitement. It isn’t the same as having their training bond, but that’s Qui-Gon’s voice in his head. Under Qui-Gon’s gentle nudging, the basil plant curls up again. When Qui-Gon withdraws, Obi-Wan does as well.

“You must be careful,” Qui-Gon cautions. “Many plants are susceptible to your thoughts. They will respond to your encouragement whether it is in their best interests or not. The Corps will teach you to accelerate the growth process. I will teach you control.”

Obi-Wan inclines his head in deference to Qui-Gon’s guidance. “Yes, master. Thank you.”

“That is enough for today.” Qui-Gon pulls back, creating an unbreachable distance between them both physically and in the Force. He exchanges a look with Master Tahl, and his eyes pinch at the corners. “You may eat your meal with us.”

Obi-Wan doesn’t want to strain their hospitality. He eats as quickly as he can and doesn’t engage them in conversation. As soon as he’s done eating, he can curl up with his datapad and continue to read.

“There’s an exhibition tomorrow,” Master Tahl says. “Are you attending?”

Qui-Gon bristles like a quilled boar. Obi-Wan chews and swallows to give himself time to weigh his words. “I am not. I am not foolish enough to believe there will be no danger in the Corps, but saber training isn’t the best use of my remaining time at the Temple.”

Master Tahl seems surprised at his resolve and then sad. “You’ve given up on finding a master?”

“I listened to the Force which I should have done from the beginning. My path lies elsewhere. I hope you enjoy the demonstration.”

“We won’t be attending,” Master Jinn snaps, cold and aloof again.

We may not be,” Master Tahl says with a sharp look. “However, I will be.”

Obi-Wan doesn’t want to be in the middle of their argument. He’s already given Qui-Gon enough reasons to dislike him. He slips a roll and a piece of fruit into his pocket, clears his tray, and disposes of it so he can leave.