I... don’t have a reason for this one. it’s been sitting in my drafts for months so here we go.
Pale tiled floors, shining from regular cleanings and scattered with a few mismatched rugs in warm, rustic tones, each one made from different fibers and threads, each one showing signs of wear.
A long window, curtained over with sheer fabric that still permitted the light of dawn to suffuse the room. It filtered lazily over the furniture, just as mismatched and well-loved as the rugs, and the less tidy kitchen, a grey pot still spattered with an orange sauce left absent-mindedly on the stovetop.
A pair of boots discarded sloppily in the small space before the entry door. Large, mud-spotted, scuffed — Qui-Gon’s, abandoned in a fit of sarcastic humor when he kicked them off the afternoon before, returning at last from a months-long mission.
A book, an actual paperbacked edition with edges made soft by use, by fingers lovingly and unthinkingly caressing the ridges and the binding, lying on the side table next to the coziest chair — Obi-Wan’s, deliberately set aside late last night when he realized he’d been reading much longer than he’d meant to.
Now, just after dawn, it was not surprising that the Master was the first to wake.
Qui-Gon exited his own room and paused in the common area, drinking in the familiarity, eyeing the book with knowing amusement. He went to the window and with what some of the crankier Masters would have called flagrant laziness, waved his hand and let the Force gently part the curtains.
It was not much brighter without them; they were sheer as it was and the smoggy vista this morning did not allow for much sun.
Still, sunshine was sunshine, polluted or not, and Qui-Gon relaxed as it washed over him, barefoot and still wearing his nightclothes under an old robe that had grown so ratty he had cleaned it and resigned it to the realm of comfort clothing.
He looked at the book again and smirked, shaking his head; as he walked past it towards the other door in the room, he ran a finger over the cover, feeling the ridges of the embossed title. Still, he thought, no excuses. I warned him we’d begin today with meditation. He can sleep in tomorrow.
“Obi-Wan,” he said, and opened the door to the boy’s room, a smaller and more cramped version of his own.
The light was greyer, here; the sunlight didn’t quite cross the threshold, and the solar-lamp on the desk was unlit. Shadows played with his eyes for a moment, and then Qui-Gon focused on the form on the bed, folded messily in the soft white sheets, curled on one side with one arm tucked beneath the pillow and the other dangling off the side of the bed.
“Obi-Wan,” he said again, cheerfully speaking with totally unnecessary volume. “Good morning.”
Snorting quietly, Qui-Gon approached the bed, reaching down to ignite the lamp as he did.
Golden light spilled out, and Obi-Wan’s soft golden-red hair burned like fire in response. Still, he slept on, his face turned towards his pillow and the sheets half-covering his cheek and nose.
“Padawan,” Qui-Gon said, exasperated now. “Good morning.”
He tugged on the braid that he had helped retie less than twelve hours ago, and Obi-Wan’s head twitched on the pillow as he was pulled, but the boy didn’t even blink.
“Star’s sake,” mumbled Qui-Gon, and pulled harder.
Obi-Wan’s whole head turned, his neck limp and unresisting at that mild tug, and the stark white face with its closed eyes and slack lips stared upwards, completely still.
Qui-Gon’s soul felt like it had lurched right out of his body.
He collapsed on his knees on the bed, kneeling over his apprentice, hands moving to frame the pale face and finding cool, stiff skin without a trace of the grouchy blush the poorly rested teenager would have given him any other day.
Frantic, Qui-Gon’s hands searched for a puff of warm breath from the open lips, for a heartbeat from the chest, for a pulse in the limp wrist that still dangled inches from the floor.
But there was nothing.
Qui-Gon shook his head wildly, lifting Obi-Wan’s head from the pillow, trying to make him sit up. The boy rolled limply in his arms and hung there like a rag doll, his face pressed against his Master’s overly worn robe, unknowing and uncaring of how awkwardly he was being held.
“Obi-Wan,” Qui-Gon tried to say again, but this time it came out stretched and broken, wavering like a child’s uncertain attempt at handwriting. More of a moan than spoken word. “Obi...Obi-Wan? No, no, no no no...” Begging, denying.
He’d do anything—
Obi-Wan was twenty. Twenty. Young, healthy, a few years at most from Knighthood, which was only the beginning. He was strong and well-trained and he had laughed when Qui-Gon left his boots on the floor last night and shaken his head, saying he was going to stay up and read and have to deal with that eyesore in his peripherals all evening, and he’d smiled when Qui-Gon reached over to tug on the Padawan braid and added a casual, paternal caress of the thumb across the freckled cheek as he did, and —
“Obi-Wan, wake up,” he begged his Padawan, pulling the boy closer, bowing his own head down to touch the slumped shoulder. “Please come back. I don’t understand. I don’t — Obi-Wan. Please.”
The words devolved into hyperventilating breaths, which turned into ragged sobs, which turned into... a blur.
A comm call. Someone asking him to breathe. Hands separating him from his Padawan. Someone he didn’t know casually moving the boots out of the way, as if they didn’t matter, as if they weren’t there so Obi-Wan could laugh at them again. Being led to the Halls. Questions being asked of him. Condolences being offered. Again and again. And again.
“A heart problem,” a distant voice saying. “Insignificant enough that it wasn’t picked up on. We think he had a startling vision, or a bad dream, and his heart-rate spiked but his breathing didn’t match it.”
“A small heart problem,” they said.
“Rare,” they said.
“Might never have caused problems, except...” they said.
“I’m so sorry,” they said.
But nothing they said was making anything make more sense, nothing they said was making reality any less nightmarish.
Obi-Wan was twenty.
He was supposed to wake up grumpy and meditate with him, he was supposed to make the tea because he liked to make the tea, and he was supposed to laugh about the boots while Qui-Gon teased him about his book.
He was not supposed to go into cardiac arrest in his sleep because his heart and his lungs weren’t working together as they should have.
He was not supposed to die.
“I would have felt it,” he heard himself say weakly. “I would have sensed it.”
“We’re not all-knowing,” Mace’s voice said heavily. Had he been talking to Mace? He supposed he must have been, but then he stopped caring and tuned the rest of the conversation out.
Then Qui-Gon was standing in the common area again, fixated on the book, well-loved, gently used, waiting patiently on the side table next to the coziest chair — because Qui-Gon preferred the sofa or the floor cushions, and because Obi-Wan liked to cross his legs and dangle them over the arm and he had been doing that since he was thirteen and lonely and still bearing bruises from when he’d been kidnapped and enslaved when he should have had a Master to protect him, and so that chair was Obi-Wan’s, really, just his — and the book was waiting and waiting and it was going to wait forever.
And that did it.
The boots, shoved aside, unremarked.
The book, waiting innocently on the table.
Obi-Wan was gone, and wouldn’t be coming back. Despite the dawn, despite the chair that was understood silently to be his, despite the promises of early meditation, despite the affection in the touch across his cheek, despite the boots waiting to be smiled at, despite the book waiting to be read again, despite a Master’s protection — a Master’s love —
Obi-Wan had been stolen away again, this time for good, and everything, everything was as ashes.
Qui-Gon stood rooted to the spot and watched the night pass and a new dawn creep up on its heels, hoping for golden light that would chase away some of the cold.
But the light was grey this morning, and he was alone.
Qui-Gon blinked aching eyes, feeling dried tears across the lids as he did. The lights hurt, and he groaned, turning away.
A face slid into view above him as at the same time two gentle hands held his head still, examining his face, and Qui-Gon froze, staring up at the person holding him.
He tried to speak, but he couldn’t, his throat swollen and throbbing from abuse.
“Shhhh,” said Obi-Wan, his face pinched with concern. “Go back to sleep, Master. You’ve been drugged. It’s almost over. I’ve got you. The Healers say you’ll be all right. Go back to sleep.”
Qui-Gon reached up, straining impossibly just to make his shaking hand obey him, and felt his callused fingers glide across the young, sun-freckled cheek, felt warmth and saw a dimple appear as Obi-Wan smiled down at him.
“Shhh,” said Obi-Wan again. “You’ve been dreaming something awful, I think. Nobody has hurt you, Master, you’re all right.”
“So...are you,” Qui-Gon rasped, his voice thin and unfamiliar to his own ears.
A strange look crossed the boy’s face, like realization and confusion all at once. Still, he nodded, and lowered his head down to rest his forehead briefly against his teacher’s. “I’m all right, Master. It was only a dream.”
18 notes · View notes