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One More Time, With Feeling

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          Qui-Gon Jinn had watched the infinite sadness that was Obi-Wan Kenobi’s life. Helpless. Unable to offer even a comfort until the action and betrayal was all and far over. His padawan was so strong, so compassionate and kind and enduring. How much of that endurance was used in Qui-Gon’s attempt at a padawanship? Obi-Wan had been so good but so fearful of him, of disappointing him. All he had wanted was his approval. He had saved Qui-Gon to at least some extent, just as Master Yoda had foreseen, but Qui-Gon feared the cost was too much. Just something else Obi-Wan had to endure.

          He awoke in the halls of Healing, Vokara Che staring down at him intently.

          “What?” he croaked. “How?”

          “You collapsed talking to Master Windu and Master Yoda,” an achingly familiar voice explained. He shifted and Tahl Uvain came into view. His heart softened more than he thought possible. He had really missed her.

          “Tahl,” he whispered, and he was surely smiling at her, how could he not?

          “Yeah doofus,” she huffed and rolled her eyes. “They called me.”

          “Did I win?”

          “Win what?”

          “The argument, surely I was arguing with Mace and Yoda,” he pointed out. It only made sense for him, specifically.

          “What do you think?”

 

 

       ***

 

Obi-Wan isn’t even eleven when Qui-Gon finally approached him. But Qui-Gon finally was ready. He made sure of it. He was better with people, doing his best to heal relationships and reaching out. Many other jedi had looked at him with curiosity and even wariness, especially in the case of Master Windu because well, he knew Qui-Gon and knew him well. This behavior was probably strange to him. And then, abruptly, he didn’t. It was rather bizarre, he supposed, his sudden change in behavior and desire to better himself in a way that he had so adamantly refused the first time. But he wanted this right this time and there was only one person he wanted to share that with.

The master was so excited, he would have come sooner. He didn’t want to seem too desperate though. Qui-Gon kept an eye on his up and coming padawan and tried to ignore Master Yoda’s sniggers whenever their paths crossed. Last time, Obi-Wan had done something that no one else could, he helped him get better. Helped heal him. But the cost was so great. It had cost the boy something of himself and by the time Qui-Gon had realized it, it had been too late. The damage was done, not only to Obi-Wan but to Qui-Gon’s habits and way of doing things. This time, he would be better beforehand. Obi-Wan would still help him, change him, shape him and all the things he had done before, but it wouldn’t be like last time. It would be better this time. He would do better this time.

He had help. He had backup. No longer was the jedi so bitter and isolated, hurt and betrayed by his former apprentice. Oh, the pain was still there. Even though it had been so long in Qui-Gon’s mind since Xanatos’s betrayal; it had even been years since his body knew it, in this time and age. But with the mix of time and space and mindfulness, the pain was still as it was the first time.

Qui-Gon reconnected with his old padawan, Feemor, to try to mend broken bridges. It had been a difficult series of conversations, as it had been years since Xanatos fell to the darkside and Qui-Gon had made his ill-timed and regrettable announcement of repudiation. His first padawan had spent a lot of time trying to get over what Qui-Gon had done to him, and since his old master decided to show up out of the blue to apologize, it was difficult to comprehend. It took a lot more time than Qui-Gon wanted to admit. But they were making progress. Feemor was still wary and suspicious of him, something Qui-Gon tried to make it clear that he understood, but they were doing better.

He talked more with his brother padawan, Rael. He would just leave it at the fact that it was interesting.

Painfully, reluctantly, Qui-Gon had even reached out to his former master. He knew what was happening, what path his master was going down. He tried very hard not to see the way Master Dooku had gone after Obi-Wan and Anakin for the years in the war, trying to kill them, or worse, in Obi-Wan’s case, tried to convert him to his side.

The mere thought of it had been ridiculous.

But there was a chance, so early in the game, to help him. Qui-Gon didn’t know when Master Dooku started slipping. It certainly had not been when Qui-Gon himself had died, he was fairly sure, but that this point, perhaps he could change him. Or at least, help shift things.

Dooku was a lot of things and many people could say a lot of things about him, but he rather did care quite a bit for his padawans.

It was always just in such a strange way.

Qui-Gon could definitely use that.

And he did. He spent so much time being better, for the future, for Obi-Wan, for himself, for the galaxy. And honestly, Qui-Gon didn’t realize how good it would feel, to better himself. To release the constant bitterness and butting of heads with those around him. Forgiveness: it had certainly helped. If not for others, it certainly had helped him. Less of eating him up inside.

Finally, finally. He felt ready.

 

***

The creche master assistance stared at him as if he has two heads, while Qui-Gon repeats his request. He had come up to the clan housing with renewed confidence, ready to move and to ask and make that next step. Not again would his padawan live the next few years worrying he wouldn’t be chosen.

Because he would be chosen.

Qui-Gon wanted no one else.

“You want to know where the class is for Obi-Wan Kenobi? Are you sure?” the creche assistant asked again, as if pushing him to rethink the options. Qui-Gon couldn’t help but frown and the assistant straightened up, shifting backwards.

Qui-Gon sighed and nearly rolled his eyes. This was taking far too long and even though technically he had time for this, he wanted to get this done. He wanted his padawan back at his side, with this time being better than before. Starting in a way that wasn’t so…him. “I have never been more sure in my life,” he insisted and he was fairly certain that he had never spoken such truer words.

“Uh…okay. Today they are in the Archives.”

“Thank you, I hope to see you soon, master,” he turns to leave, striding towards the library. He doesn’t actually want to see the master again; that exchange ended up being far longer than he wanted.

Jocasta Nu’s stare was suspicious but glimmering with mild amusement as if she knew exactly what was going on with him or something. He paid her little heed. He quickly scoured the Archives for his initiate. It was getting mildly frustrating, as he seemed to find everyone else except the youngling he was actually searching for. But, eventually, he did find him, tucked in a corner with a couple of regional and galactic conflict textbooks scattered around.

That was a bit worrying.

“Hello youngling,” he greeted softly, walking up. The redhead startled, surprised as his head shot up towards Qui-Gon, a bit round.

“Afternoon, master,” he says, trying to get up to bow respectively. Ugh, he was so cute.

“No need for that,” Qui-Gon assures with the warmest, most amused smile he could muster. It really wasn’t that hard. Oh, he missed this. “May I sit?”

Obi-Wan nods. “Of course, master. Can I do anything for you?”

Qui-Gon shrugs as he lowered himself to the floor near the youngling. “You aren’t where I was told you’d be.”

Obi-Wan’s face flushed as he glanced down and bit his lip a little, his fingers entangling with one another, uneasily. “I like science, but I wanted to avoid Bruck.”

Okay, that tracked. Qui-Gon definitely recalled a student that Obi-Wan had some sort of rivalry or something with when he was younger. It had caused… plenty of problems in the future…er past…whatever. He glanced down at the books, not quite recognizing any one of them specifically. He tried to hide his sad frown. “So, you hid in old military tactics?”

Obi-Wan hesitated. “I…I dunno.”

“It’s alright, youngling. You can tell me anything, I would not tell a soul.”

“I feel like it will be important,” Obi-Wan whispered, pulling a book closer to himself and looking down at the stacks and books surrounding him. “Not just lightsaber fighting.”

“Like large conflict,” Qui-Gon confirmed. A shiver seemed to scream down his back. This was… this was strange.

Obi-Wan nodded. “I want to help as many people as I can.”

“To protect them,” Qui-Gon agreed. How had he not seen this the first time around? This was just… so like him. Always trying so hard. To help people. To protect them. To save as many lives as he could. To serve others in any capacity he could. “Do you think something will happen?”

The boy hesitated again, his brows furrowing as he swallowed, something about him clenching, a pulse like he wasn’t sure how he felt. “Focus on the present,” he replied instead.

Qui-Gon’s mind froze. That sounded much too familiar on what he would consistently tell Obi-Wan the first time. His mouth ran off with him in an automatic answer. “Do not center on your anxieties on the future.” He paused as his brain caught up with him. Because that wasn’t all there was, was it? It wasn’t just focus on the present, it wasn’t just do not center on anxieties. Because that wasn’t all the problem. That wasn’t everything. Not thinking of the future at all was often what got him in trouble. “But do not discount your feelings either. They do you credit,” he added, intently, trying to catch Obi-Wan’s gaze, as if that would convince him in this singular moment.

Obi-Wan glanced at him, almost curious and all Qui-Gon could muster was a smile at him. “Do…do you think something will happen?”

Qui-Gon thought about this for a moment. Things were always happening, but he figured the boy meant more on a galaxy-wide level. Like the Clone Wars, his mind whispered. “I believe the future is always in motion,” he decided. “But my gifts are in the realm of the living force. You would probably know better than me – you appear to have quite the gift in the Unifying Force, don’t you? What do your feelings say?”

“I think something big is going to happen. And I should prepare…” Obi-Wan drifted off as he glanced up, towards the way down the hall. “But I suppose I shouldn’t worry too much either. Because…the Force…it…it’s the Force.”

Qui-Gon chuckled. “I understand little one.”

There was a moment of brief silence as the two of them didn’t quite know what to say at that point. It wasn’t a displeasing silence, but he needed to move along; his heart, his head, they all needed to know. Things needed to keep moving. “My name is Qui-Gon Jinn.”

Obi-Wan nodded and smiled softly. “I know, master.”

“You do?”

“Yes… you’re a bit of a legend around the creche.”

“Is that so?” Qui-Gon couldn’t quite keep the bitterness out of his voice because would it? Would it be that Xanatos would continue to haunt everything in his life? Even after his former padawan’s death, it seemed like that’s what all people thought of when it came to him. “Because of -.”

“You’re fighting style, sir.”

That took him off guard. “My…what?”

“Your style!” Obi-Wan chittered then flushed as he realized himself and tried to calm down his excitement. “You’re so big and tall but your main style is Aratu which is mostly known for smaller folk, like Master Yoda.”

Qui-Gon stared at him for a moment and then smiled. He was not expecting that. “Do you want to know a secret?”

Obi-Wan perked. “I would never tell a soul,” He vowed, seriously.

Qui-Gon laughed. “I use Ataru because no one expects it. My master’s preferred style was Makashi and I wanted to surprise him.”

“Did it?!”

He laughed again. “Oh yes. For certain.”

“What about you, initiate? Have a favored form?”

“I do like Ataru,” Obi-Wan admitted shyly.

“I hear a but.”

“I also have a pull towards another,” he added, almost ashamed. Qui-Gon’s browns furrowed in curiosity. Already? Perhaps because of the changes Qui-Gon himself had changed to well, himself, it meant there had been other changes too, ones he had not intended, when it came to others. “Bruck says it’s stupid since all the initiates learn it, but no one wants to learn it further.”

“Shin-Cho?”

Obi-Wan shook his head. “Soresu.”

Qui-Gon just kind of grinned, knowingly. Oh, he kept being unable to contain himself. Yes, things were changing. Some things, it seemed, perhaps, weren’t particularly bad. If things went according to plan, of course Qui-Gon would still teach Obi-Wan Ataru but this time, there would definitely be more. “That seems to fit you.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re a protector,” Qui-Gon explained, softly and kindly. “Soresu is all about defense and protecting. Good in combat against blasters. And when mastered, it can defend against any other style.”

“I didn’t know that,” he confessed.

“If you like Ataru and Soresu, you should study both. It is a good idea to work on both defensive and offensive form,” Qui-Gon noted, and he was absolutely serious. In the future, Obi-Wan was an amazing warrior, despite not actually wanting to fight so much.

          The boy nodded. “It seems kind of obvious when you say it like that. And a good idea.”

          “OBI-WAN KENOBI!”            

          A teacher passed their little nook but unfortunately spotted the two of them and stopped, backtracking, shaking her head. “Ugh, I’ve been looking for you forever. Class is over! Does your chrono not work?”

          Obi-Wan’s head ducked. “My apologies, ma’am.”

          “It is my fault, Master,” Qui-Gon cut in as he met her eyes. He tried to keep his vague irritation to a minimum and under wraps. He would have liked to spend more time with Obi-Wan but, he supposed, classes and such were a must. “We have been involved in a riveting conversation.”

          “Riveting conversation,” the teacher replied flat and disbelieving as an eyebrow raised on her face as she couldn’t quite wrap her head around that any conversation with him – or, perhaps anyone his age – could be so interesting. “What could be so riveting about a conversation with a ten-year-old?”

          “Lightsaber forms and the nature of the Living vs Unifying Force and it’s role in a jedi’s walk of life,” Qui-Gon quickly responded with a bright and charming smile.

          She just sighed and shook her head in some kind of defeat. “Come initiate Kenobi. We are late,” she grumbled, hauling Obi-Wan to his feet. He followed her quickly and readily, nearly already on his feet by the time she began to speak.

          “But my books-,” he murmured as he glanced back at his stack. Qui-Gon’s eyes followed down to the neat pile as well as his heart swelled. Whether it was a good or bad way, he wasn’t entirely sure. He knew, at least partially, what the readings were about, and it was not something he was looking forward too.

          “I can get them checked out and sent to you,” Qui-Gon promised.

          “It’s okay, master. I just wanted to put them away, so Master Nu didn’t have to.”

          Qui-Gon’s heart was practically screaming. Such a bright and sweet and happy child that turned into the sarcastic, competent, and sassy negotiator in the future. He wondered if his boy would turn out similarly this time around, with things changing. “Don’t worry, little one, I’ll make sure it is done,” he assured.

          Obi-Wan smiled softly as he followed his teacher, turning to keep attention. All Qui-Gon wanted was to reach out and never let go. “Thank you master! I liked talking with you!” Obi-Wan grinned as he waved back at him.

          “I look forward to our next,” Qui-Gon smiled.

          The boy beamed brightly and disappeared down the hall.

          Qui-Gon got to his feet and stood there for a good two minutes before he realized.

          He had forgotten to ask him to be his padawan.