Bonds of Choice 9.99:
Left Hand of the Light: Jedi Light

by Fur and Fantasy
NC-17 for M/M
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

The journey home from Reptha seemed to take forever. The Fortnight Gannet limped along at a fraction of its capabilities, hampered as it was by the Sith Infiltrator it towed in its wake. Obi-Wan had remained at the controls, minimizing flight time as best he could, anxious to get his passengers to the safety of the Jedi Temple at Coruscant. Corubia had improved with rest and meditation and Qui-Gon had begun to get a handle on his battle wounds, for which Obi-Wan offered repeated thanks to any deity who might be interested. Master Rue Torlamin, though ... her situation was no less ugly and worrying for the passage of time.

Though Obi-Wan had devoted the hours in transit to thought and study of his situation, he had arrived at no new revelations. He had dumped more stimulants into his system than was strictly healthy. The hyper energy that buzzed through his body had not been conducive to ordered reasoning, much less constructive planning for the immediate issues onboard the Fortnight Gannet, both living and dead. The fact that a Sith corpse was in the cargo hold and was the least of his problems struck Obi-Wan as surreal in the extreme.

It was late afternoon, dirtside, when Obi-Wan finally made it to Coruscant. He was given clearance to land in one of the smaller hangars at the Temple. He lowered the entryramp and rubbed his eyes. His head ached from too much thought and too little sleep. There was a collection of techs headed towards the Sith craft. A small parade of healers came in to collect Corubia and Qui-Gon. He checked that Qui-Gon was comfortable and went to meet the trio of Masters who waited in the hangar.

He bowed low to them. "Good day, Master Windu, Master Paje, Master Gallia. I am afraid Master Torlamin is in rather a bad state. It is quite beyond me." He handed them a datachip of his written mission report.

"Take us to her," Master Windu commanded.

Obi-Wan turned to obey, leading the way to her quarters onboard. He released the lock and stood aside. The door slid open and Master Torlamin leapt out in a fury, having long since freed herself of her bonds. She turned on him, reached and froze in her tracks. Obi-Wan could clearly perceive the other Masters holding her with the Force.

"I see what you mean, Padawan. Why don't you go see to your Master, get some rest? I'll come speak to you about this later." Master Paje smiled at Obi-Wan.

"Yes, Master." Obi-Wan bowed low once more and went to collect his and Qui-Gon's things.

Obi-Wan carted everything down to the shared quarters and cast about for something to do. Qui-Gon would still be with the medics and Obi-Wan was way too buzzed from the stimulants to try and sleep yet. He decided to take a walk down to the mid-level indoor gardens to see what trouble he could stir up.

Although he had lived with artificially created and/or severely restricted gardens his whole life, Obi-Wan could never quite get used to them. In his early days as a trainee, it had just been a fiddly sense of something not right about the situation. Then, when he was thirteen and a newly-made Padawan and coming into a closer relationship with the living Force, Qui-Gon had taken him into the palace gardens on some mission or another.

He had fallen to his knees in wonder, feeling the life of all the plants around him sinking down into the earth and weaving into the Force. He only realized he was weeping when he felt Qui-Gon wipe the tears away. The memory of that moment burned like a living thing within him every time he came into any garden of any sort.

Mid-Garden was the one he most often frequented when he needed to think. The Lower Gardens, where the Trainees ruled, was no place for rest. The Abrath Gardens, while full of music and light, was a place for joy, not contemplation. Of the dozens of gardens, this one was the least artificial. That was by virtue of the fact that every plant here was a creation of artifice, a little bit of irony that appealed to Obi-Wan. The 'garden' was actually a massive chamber that had been given an extreme makeover in the way of interior decorating. Everything was done in miniature. Trees were dwarfed in small clay trays, tiny flowers made carpets of color, sweet grasses were often the tallest thing about. Above him the sky-dome was at perpetual twilight to prevent the plants from growing too quickly and ruining the illusion.

Everything here was forced into a space too small, a shape unnatural, struggled to be free and was beautiful because of it. Mid-Garden suited Obi-Wan just fine.

The only sounds were that of tiny streams rushing over small stones. The footpath wandered back and forth, leading a meandering path through knee-high forests and delicate-looking footbridges. Here and there a particularly elegant example of plant life was given a sort of display, crammed into a picturesque rock crag or perched on a ledge. Some trees were in bloom, others in fruit or torpor. Each was a work of art created from restrictions and training of the most rigorous sort. Obi-Wan had once suggested to Qui-Gon that this should be called the Padawan Garden, but his master hadn't seemed to understand.

Just as well. It had taken Obi-Wan a long time to really begin exploring that thought anyway.

He followed the path around, trying to walk off some of the jittery energy that had brought him home. He paused to examine an evergreen of particular elegance when a sound caught his attention. It took him a moment, but he finally realized he was listening to the low rhythmic cadence of inexperienced swearing. He set off to investigate.

Obi-Wan was surprised to find it was one of the Trainees with whom he'd had some association. Sayjil Mrakul was one of the more promising students in the ranks. Her specialty was ecology, particularly in regards to plant life. Obi-Wan helped her with her language studies as his schedule permitted, with an eye towards her probable future as a Padawan. The artificial twilight gave an odd cast to her silvery skin, highlighted her frustrated expression and the energy with which she swayed upon the bench swing. She was pounding on her lightslate and muttering scatological references as to its probable origin. Suddenly she thumped the slate down and began another line of muttering. "Anger leads to hate. Calm, still water. Breathe. Calm, still water."

"Hi Sayjil," Obi-Wan said.

She whipped around on the seat, nearly tipping herself off the swing. "Padawan Kenobi! I didn't hear you come up!"

"And I didn't hear anything I shouldn't have. What's got you so worked up?"

She handed him the lightslate. "I can't work this stupid thing out. Is it a poem or what? Maybe I'm translating it wrong."

Obi-Wan took a look at it. There was an original text of verses in Jegardish, which Sayjil had been trying to translate into Basic. "Oh, already studying for Level Ten finals? I don't think it's going to work like that, Sayjil. The Jegardians are very ... poetic folk. This isn't a poem per say, but it isn't going to translate directly. Plus, you need the right tune to make it work out."

"Why do so many cultures insist on SINGING everything?" she groused.

"I don't know. Why do we insist on speaking? It's just a difference in communication. Actually, you've come pretty close to the meaning here, you just need to re-arrange things a bit." He typed one-handed as he spoke. "We'll just make a line break here, add a syllable there, hmm. Okay, let's try this."

He sat down next to her and drew her onto his lap. She almost protested, but didn't quite. It was an intimacy she eschewed in most other people, seeing herself as too old for such treatment. At the ripe old age of nine standards, she only allowed Obi-Wan to hold or carry her as she had been in years past. Perhaps this was because he accepted and respected her intelligence and maturity in other ways. She read over his re-work and nodded. "Okay, I'll buy that for now. Show me how it's supposed to work."

"Not now. I'm too tired. Come find me some other time and I'll help you. Come on, walk with me and I'll show you a thing ..." They stood and Obi-Wan took the lead. "What brings you to the Mid-Garden this late at night?"

"I'm hiding, of course. Same as you."

*I must be more tired than I thought if a Trainee can read me that easily.* Obi-Wan mused. "Of course. Well, I'll show you a better hiding place than the swings. I know a place where no one goes."

He led her down a tiny side path that he had spent most of a day sculpting into the layout of the Mid-Garden. At the end of it was a minuscule clearing where resided a large stone. Upon the stone were three trays in which resided a trio of fruit trees. One, a crabapple, stood as proud and full as an ancient forest grandfather. The small apples were in perfect scale with the size and shape of the tree, creating the illusion of a regular sized apple tree in fruition.

The second was a mesocherry in a more extreme style. A single branch, gnarled and angled, gave the appearance of a lone survivor upon some storm-lashed cliff side. The blossoms were palest cream, with brilliant red and purple edges.

The third was still rooting, not yet shaped by the tools of dwarfing and soil deprivation. Obi-Wan ran his fingers lightly over it's leaves, studied it from all angles. He still could not decide what shape to give it. Time still to decide. No need to rush forward and make mistakes.

"Obi-Wan, this isn't a secret place. Everyone knows about these," Sayjil said.

"What?" Obi-Wan turned back to her. "You must be mistaken, Jil."

"No, really. Master Tega brought the botany class down here two weeks ago, to see how plant modification is done without the Force. He showed us these, particularly." She pointed at the mesocherry. "He said this one was important, because it shouldn't be able to survive dwarfing without help, yet it flourished and gave fruit."

Obi-Wan gave the cherry tree a good, hard stare. True, he had never seen a mesocherry used in this manner before, but it wasn't all that difficult to see what problems it would have and how to fix them. He'd just liked the flowers. *Maybe this is something special ... or ...* "Is there anything wrong with them?" he asked.

"No. I think they're beautiful. I wanted to try to do this, but I have to finish my project in the lower gardens first," she explained.

"Hmm. Are you still trying to get a pure strain of green saderias? Because I thought of something that might help you. I meant to send you the files before I left, but things got a little hectic," Obi-Wan explained.

"Yeah, still getting that problem in the third generation. I'll figure it out, though. But any help you could give would be hot," she replied.

"Okay, I'll send it to you. And when you get that done, come let me know. We'll start you on this little guy," he pointed to the unaltered tree. "It's a Buriberry. I don't know if you like benburi, but this is what you make it out of."

"Benburi's my favorite! But won't we need permission from whoever owns these?"

"Nah. They're mine. You can have that one if you want it. Come on. We'll go down to the Common Room and get some benburi. Then YOU are going back to the crèche. It's far too late for you to be out wandering around," Obi-Wan scolded.

"Good thing I'm not unaccompanied then, huh?" she grinned.

"One day, Sayjil, they're going to catch on that you need a tutor about as much as I do ... then your night time excursions will come to an end."

"Not if you show me how you used to sneak out of the crèche."

Obi-Wan leaned down for her to get up onto his back. "If you can't figure out something that simple maybe you do need a tutor."

"It has something to do with the skylights, doesn't it?" she badgered.

"Not telling!" Obi-Wan set out for the Common Room, visions of benburi dancing in his head.

"Seven your desires are and seven wishes too."

Arjet Paje had never been so wholeheartedly sick of a poem in his life. Rue Torlamin had been muttering that poem nonstop for the better part of an hour. He was sick of her. Sick of the sight, a Jedi Master being pulled apart slowly from within. More than that, he was sick of the feel, the struggle he could sense through the Force.

She had touched the Dark, pulled back, but couldn't resist the urge to go back for more. Over and over he hauled her back, beat her down, imposed shields over her mind, sometimes battled physically with her, for her, trying to ground her in the Moment, the Light, the place she was needed and wanted by so many.

Trying and failing. Not doing. He had to admit it. Nothing he had employed had helped in the slightest. Well, she wasn't lashing out at everyone anymore, but that had more to do with the reaction-inhibitors more than anything else. He had slowed her reflexes to the point that her movements were about six seconds slower than normal. It was enough. Now it was easy to get her down and keep her down.

Now she wasn't attacking everyone around her with alternating use of the Light and the Dark. That was pretty much where the improvements ended.

Corubia, however, was doing much, much better. He'd go spend some time with her. She, at least, was hanging on to her Center with both hands, working through tests and exercises with focused determination. Arjet thumbed the lock of the padded cell and stepped outside. "Cord, listen, try to start her on the Pearl Drop meditation. If she carries on with the Sevens for much longer, I'm going to have to sedate her further."

The young knight nodded solemnly. He had been brought in on this little operation at the last moment. Arjet had wanted to test him further, give him a little more feel-out before bringing him into the Group, but then Torlamin had to go 'round the bend. Ah well, if not one thing, then another.

Just then a mass of energy slammed into his left side, from behind. He whirled, expecting an attack. Instead, he got a sheepish look from a small, cute boy. He had a Padawan braid ... sort of. Must be that Skywalker child he'd been trying to sneak a look at. He bowed solemnly to the boy.

The boy returned the bow and continued past to Cord. "I'm done with my classes for the evening, Master. Is there something I should be doing?"

Just then a strong wave of inky darkness washed over them, through them, sent them to their knees. Arjet was the first to recover. He helped Cord up. "Do you see what I mean? This has got to stop."

Anakin stood closer to his Master. "What WAS that? It felt ..." the boy gestured with one hand, at a loss for words.

*As well he should be.* That was one part of this thing that usually surprised those unaccustomed to it. The Dark Side was just as seductive as the Light, but on different levels. While the Light encouraged peace, serenity, connection, calm, the Dark inspired voracious appetite, violence, frenzied longing, xenophobia, heated aggression. *The difference between lovemaking and rutting,* the analogy leapt to his mind once more. But powerful rutting, dominant and victorious. Glorious debasement of the self, one that was reducing a serene Jedi Master to an angry beast. A beast in the grip of drives and desires with which she had long parted ways.

"We will speak of it later, Anakin. For tonight you may spend your time as you will. I have work here that must be seen to," Cord said.

"Can I stay with you? I want to see what that was. It felt ... almost good. Not really, but pretty close ..." Anakin licked his lips once, eyes darting back between the senior Jedi.

"No, Anakin. You should not be here. What you felt was dangerous, something you needn't deal with. If you have nothing you would prefer to do, I can send you to be looked after by one of the senior Padawans. I believe Padawan Kenobi is unoccupied at the moment. Perhaps he needs some help with some translation or another." Cord made this sound like the threat it was.

"Yuck, no. I'll find something to do," Anakin announced.

"Keep your comm link with you. And don't be late for dinner," Cord called to the figure now dashing down the hall.

Arjet chuckled, then sobered. "You really MUST keep him from this place. He's seen too much for one so young, as it is. Until he is further trained, he has no protection from ... that. Promise me, now, Cord. You really haven't seen anything yet."

Cord nodded his agreement and Arjet headed for the lifts.

Corubia was with Master Teril Ar'thapa. Teril's Padawan, Jenji was seated outside the door, keeping watch. She stood and bowed as Arjet approached. "How's it going?" he asked.

"Pretty well. They sent me for food about an hour ago, things were starting to look more or less stable. How's Master Torlamin?" Jenji inquired.

"Well, she stopped trying to break things anyway. Stabilizing, I suppose might be the best way to put it. Too soon to tell, really."

Jenji turned to unlock the door. "Good luck."

Master Teril Ar'thapa looked up from her place on the floor when Arjet entered the room. "Hey. She's doing fine. A little confused, very shaken, but pretty much intact. She's doing Blue Star meditation just now. Everything looks good, almost normal. I guess it hasn't really hit her yet, what's happening."

"Go on to bed, Ter. I'll take it from here." He leaned against the wall and folded his hands behind his back.

"You need some sleep too, Arjet," she reminded him.

"Yeah, I'll go when Jayden gets here. He came in a few hours ago, but I sent him to rest. Then I'll shift Corubia over to Cord and let Jayden deal with Rue. I don't want that Skywalker child anywhere near Rue at all. He felt the eddies of the Dark today and reacted ... well, it wasn't good, anyway. Cord didn't seem to really register the dangers. It didn't scare him the way it should have," Arjet rubbed his eyes and sighed.

"You think bringing him in was a mistake," Teril correctly assessed.

"We didn't have a choice. Mistakes get made when there are no alternatives. He saw, actually fought, a Sith. How could we not explore that?" Arjet went to the side table for a cup of tea.

"But he had nothing. Not even after that near-disaster with Anakin's coma," Teril pointed out. "We'll probably get more out of Padawan Kenobi."

"I know for a solid fact that Quigs' Padawan will give us something more useful than that ... Knight," Arjet censored himself. "I have my suspicions about that one. Did you read his reports from his doings on Naboo?"

"Yes, of course. Several times," Teril assured him.

"Didn't you notice a rather glaring omission from his details of the battle?" Arjet pressed.

"Well, not the first time, no. But that was because I had no basis for comparison," Teril replied. "Now that I've seen Padawan Kenobi's reports, though ..."

"So I'm not the only one who finds it a little odd that there is no mention of the Sith's capabilities in psychic combat?" Arjet raised an eyebrow.

"Well, yes, that is a bit odd, but that wasn't what I meant. There's a time discrepancy, for one thing. For another, he gives so much detail to the situation, almost a play-by-play. I've never been able to recall pitched battles that clearly. Padawan Kenobi mentions something in his report about using Cord's technique for splitting that double-bladed saber in two. It's strange that there would be enough detail in that kind of account for Kenobi to be able to learn and use a maneuver from it," Teril explained.

"Yes. Very strange," Arjet agreed. "I think this situation bears much watching."

"I heartily agree, Master Paje. It isn't a good thing that he's working with us now. I'd sooner have Obi-Wan down there, to be honest. Cord's just too ... Jedi. Far too Jedi to trust with this kind of work," Master Ar'thapa bluntly informed her peer.

"Well, I didn't know that until it was too late, did I?" Arjet snapped. He took a deep breath. "I'm sorry. That was out of line."

"Don't worry about it. You're too tired, getting cranky. If you keep fueling yourself with caffeine you're going to make yourself ill," she pointed to the cup.

"It's not for the caffeine. I need the tannins."

She nodded, not believing. "Cut this one short. She's getting tired, too. Like I said, she's okay. But listen, I think she's hiding something. Maybe she'll confide in you."

Arjet waved one hand, which could have been agreement or negation and poured another cup. Teril left with a sigh.

He sat down on the edge of the side table and waited for Corubia to come out of her trance. He monitored her progress through the Force, poked around for any signs of a secret, a place that might be hiding something. He found a particularly strong patch of shields but nothing else out of the ordinary. Finally her eyes fluttered open.

"Good evening, Padawan Nall."

"Good evening, Master Paje." Corubia stood and bowed. Her eyes showed strain but she was otherwise well. A long moment passed, then Corubia came to join Arjet at the side table. She dropped to her knees beside him.

He turned at the movement and frowned. Corubia braced herself for a blow or a sharp word, then felt her heart skip a beat when he dropped to his knees before her. She stared. He stared back. She blushed. He grinned. "I am not as Torlamin was. Not in any way. Anything she might have told you about me was pure conjecture and rumormongering. Now, either you're going to treat me like you treat the other Masters and your friends, or think of some other solution to this issue in our association."

Corubia smiled, staring at the floor. "Torlamin conditioned me to be afraid of you. I think I'm starting to understand why. She didn't want me to trust you at all."

"Well, the trust thing can be worked around. For now, any time I see you doing something that I don't like, I'm going to do it right back at you until you stop. Now, I know you and Master Jinn have been friends for some time. Can you treat me as you treat him?" Arjet flipped his long strawberry blond hair back out of his face.

"I believe so," Corubia grinned, relaxing at last. "Though you might not like it after a while. I have a tendency to say exactly what's on my mind."

"I think I can live with that," Arjet assured her. "So, how are you feeling?"

"Calm. Tired. Uh, am I in trouble? I mean, I ... uh ... what did Obi-Wan tell you?" She scrubbed at her eyes with a dirty sleeve. Weariness was etched upon her features.

"I haven't spoken to him yet. I expect he's in the infirmary with Qui-Gon," Arjet explained.

Corubia laughed, a harsh sound. "Right. I'll lay you cookies to credits he's off hiding in some garden or another. I bet he doesn't see Qui-Gon until they release him, if not later."

"Why do you say that? I was under the impression they were quite ... close. Taken with one another," Arjet replied.

"Oh sure, no question about that. Taken. At least." Corubia laughed again. "Have you spent much time with Kenobi?"

"No, not really," Arjet admitted. "Am I missing something?"

"He's my best friend, don't get me wrong. He's just a little ... intense. Demanding. To be honest, if he wasn't gone so often, we might not be as close as we are anymore. He demands a lot of himself ... tends to expect the same from everyone. One of the expectations, of course, is that everyone be as impervious to pain as he is. I've never seen anyone with a pain threshold like that," she stood to fetch a cup of tea for herself.

"And? Qui-Gon doesn't? He doesn't like to see his Master in pain?" Arjet encouraged her.

"No. It's nothing like that. He'd just never know that his master might need or want someone with him. You heard about what happened last time Obi-Wan ended up in the infirmary?" she asked.

"Internal bleeding, I think. They said Obi-Wan just ignored it for hours, then cussed a blue streak about bothering Qui-Gon when he took him to the medics."

"Right," she said, as if that explained everything.

"I'm not sure I follow."

"Okay, say you needed to go refill this teapot. Which you do, by the way. Do you need me to go with you, make sure you're okay, make sure you have all the support you need?"

"No. I can handle the teapot just fine," Arjet assured her.

"Okay, so a couple broken bones or whatever, to Kenobi it's just a pot of tea. That goes for everything, by the way. Go tell him to build a bridge out of toothpicks using nothing but the Force. He'll do it, I guarantee. And he'll never consider that you might be a shade unreasonable for telling him to do it. Then yell at him for doing it right. He'll just stand there and take it. I doubt he'll even register anything like surprise or hurt. Rather, he might feel hurt, but he won't do anything but ignore it. Won't protest." She held the teapot out. "Any more than you would register it a challenge to fill the teapot or an insult if I thanked you for doing so."

"Walk with me, please. I'd like to hear a little bit more about this one." Arjet unlocked the door and coded his security clearance for Corubia. She seemed at ease speaking about her friend, perhaps she would relax enough to talk about herself. "What about Qui-Gon? Won't he ask where Obi-Wan is?"

"Doi. And Obi-Wan will say 'Down in the Abrath listening to the Senblossoms.'"

"And they're both OKAY with this?"

"Apparently," she shrugged.

"What about when Obi-Wan needs something? What about when Qui-Gon has to take care of him or something? How do they deal with that?"

"Badly, for the most part. Kenobi gets cranky and Qui-Gon gets flustered and comes around my place rooting for answers. I always recommend fulfilling the daily allowance of Benburi, which seems to work. If those two ever start actually TALKING, this Order's going to get rocked. They're devastating now, even with the gap in communication. Imagine what they'd be like, coordinated." Corubia dialed for Medzelac tea, but Arjet canceled the order in favor of Trebal.

"Tannins," he intoned with authority.

"Bad for my scales," she argued.

"Good for my attitude."

"Tannins," she agreed.

"And what keeps you and Rue from being a devastating team? You both have skills that mesh nicely," Arjet segued.

Corubia sighed. "I used to think it was me. For a long time, I figured it HAD to be me. Then I noticed something: Master is terrible at using my abilities to the good. There are days when I think she's forgotten the last eight years or so."

"And what did you do to correct this?"

"Do? Hey, that sort of thing falls squarely into the arena of 'Somebody Else's Problem'. I can't help it if she doesn't appreciate what she's got." They returned to the holding cell and settled onto the sofa.

"What is your responsibility?"

"Doing as I'm told. Obey, obey, obey. Achieve, achieve, achieve. Pass the Trials, then more of same." She shrugged. "Pretty simple. If my orders are poorly thought out, well, what's a girl to do?" She sighed melodramatically. "I just wish I knew what I was supposed to be doing. I know you think I might have touched the Dark, but I didn't."

"No, you've proven that pretty conclusively. How about Master Torlamin? What do you remember happening?"

She stared down into her cup, thinking. "We were standing there, waiting to see what would happen. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon were doing ... something to get ready for a fight. I don't know what, really. Then we felt ... it. A shadow in the Light. At least, the three of us shielded against it. Master ... I felt her do something, like she was trying to ... taste it, I think."

"Then what happened?"

"Well, the boys went out to fight that Sith. They were slinging the Force around pretty much at will and he was returning in kind. I had to keep reinforcing my shields to keep my center ... but Master didn't. And we didn't go to help them. She just stood there, kind of swaying ... and getting more remote. I lowered part of my shields, tried to touch her mind, reached out through our Bond ... it was like ... she was being ravished, and loving it." Corubia shuddered.

"And then?"

"I called out to her, tried to say 'What should I do?' I saw Obi-Wan go down and Master ran out towards him. I thought she was going to help him, then she ..." Corubia looked away, fell silent for a long moment.


"She tried to kill him. I'm serious. He had to pull a couple of dirty tricks before I got there. I mean, for a second I stood there, I was looking at her running to him, lightsaber ready and I was trying to strengthen our link so we could fight the Sith. Then she swung on him and ... it was like all this anger and hate and pain and animalistic fury just welled up and burned her away. I think I screamed, it was all pouring down our bond like tar, trying to get to me ... I tried to let go, shield up, block it off ... then it stopped." She swallowed convulsively and looked Arjet in the eye. "Can you keep a secret?"

"Usually. It depends on the secret," he hedged.

"Yeah, I guess it does. Well, I guess telling you won't hurt anything. You'll figure it out sooner or later. The Bond broke. I'm not bonded to Master anymore. The Bond ... constricted, I guess is the best way to put it. It tried to narrow down, keep that Darkness from passing through, reaching me ... then it got too thin and just snapped. And you know what? I was glad." Corubia sighed. Tears were welling in her eyes, but she looked too tired to care much.


"It took me a lot of meditating to figure out. But listen ... you know how the Bond makes us trust each other? How it makes us so close? Well, that's gone and I'm able to think about her a little more clearly now. I wouldn't trust her with a plant." Corubia let the tears go, not sobbing, just giving in to one more indignity.

"Okay. I think you've had enough for now. Why don't you lie down and get some sleep? I have to lock you in, but you can call me if you need anything. I can't release you until I speak to the Council. Do you want to go back to your rooms, or what?" Arjet leaned over and rubbed her arm.

"Um, maybe I could stay with someone else for a couple days? Maybe Kenobi has someplace to put me?" she wiped her face on her sleeves again.

"Yeah, I'll check on that for you. Come on, lay down. Sleep," he Suggested, glad to see her slip easily into unconsciousness. That would take care of her for a few hours.

That would give him enough time to rest a while and do a bit of research.

Qui-Gon was resting on the couch when Obi-Wan came into their rooms. "Hello, my Padawan. The healers said to tell you that you did a commendable job with my wounds."

"Thank you, my Master, but I'm sure it was mostly the medical unit. How do you feel?" Obi-Wan moved to check his master.

"Oh, a little stiff. The ankle turned out to be the worst of it, really. My shoulder itches like a demon, but it's not too bad. I really thought I'd had it that time."

"I noticed. Don't make me threaten you like that again, okay?" Obi-Wan settled his hands on Qui-Gon's shoulder and began a gentle massage.

"So, where were you?" Qui-Gon stretched his neck and relaxed into the gentle pressure on his sore muscles.

"Helping one of the Trainees. I'm so full of stimulants, I'm humming." He held his hand out for Qui-Gon's inspection. He could not hold it still.

"You're exhausted, Koatel. You've got sleep deprivation shakes," Qui-Gon took the shaking fingers between his hands, petting them. "You've got to go to sleep, Padawan."

"Yeah, not right now, okay? I'm still pretty strung out here ... too tired to sleep," Obi-Wan continued his massage. "Master, something is terribly wrong with Master Torlamin. She attacked me, twice now. Corubia was doing pretty bad there for a while, but she seems to be doing a little better. And I looked over the rest of my files. I think the Council knew there was something wrong with Rue Torlamin a long time ago. I think you knew it, too. What is happening, here?"

Qui-Gon put his hands on Obi-Wan's, stilling them. "I expect one of the other Masters will be along to explain all this to you. It would be better if you rested so you can help us. I'm very proud of you, you know. You defeated the Sith, perhaps got enough information to find the other one and that is not to be ignored. But there are more immediate problems we must deal with."

"Yes, Master."

"Come, I must rest as well. Let us go to my room, Koateleu. We will take our rest together." Qui-Gon slipped his arm around Obi-Wan's shoulders and leaned on him as he limped to his bed.

"If it please you, I should prefer to rest alone. We really mustn't make a habit of this, Master," Obi-Wan murmured.

"You're right, of course. In time, I'll argue the point with you. For now, though, I'll bow to your wisdom."

Qui-Gon fell asleep almost before his head touched the pillows. Obi-Wan went to his bed and sat down, scrubbing his fingers through his hair. He needed a shower, change of clothes, but his midnight oil was coming to an end at last. He tugged his boots off. *I'll just lay down for a second, then go get that shower.*

Obi-Wan woke to the doorchime and slipped from his bed to answer it before Qui-Gon awoke. The crono informed him that he and his master had slept well into midmorning. Good. Qui-Gon would need that time to catch up on the energy his healing had taken. When Obi-Wan opened the door, Master Arjet Paje stood in the hallway, hands tucked into his sleeves. Obi-Wan bowed to him. "Good day, Master Paje."

"Good day, Padawan Kenobi. I wanted to speak with you about what happened on your mission and a few other matters. May I come in?"

"Of course, Master. Would you care for some refreshment?"

"Some tea would be nice. Where is Master Jinn?"

"Resting. I'll just make sure he'll stay put while we talk." Obi-Wan went to the caterer and dialed for tea. While he waited, he enhanced his master's sleep state with a slight touch on the Force.

"I suppose I should begin by apologizing," Paje said, settling onto the sofa.

Obi-Wan brought the tea over to the low table, poured and said nothing. He sat down on the other end of the sofa.

"We, not the Council, another group entirely, had concerns that this might happen. What do you know about me, Obi-Wan?" The elder Jedi fiddled with his cup and kept his eyes on his own boots.

"Well, rumors mostly. It is pretty well accepted that you brought about the death of a corrupt prince from Erupu a few years ago. And there are other stories, of course. In the area of information-gathering you are said to be rather, ah, ruthless." Obi-Wan folded his hands in his lap to keep himself from biting his fingernails.

"You've grown up hearing I am an assassin and a torturer." Paje's voice was flat and matter-of-fact. His strait stawberry blond hair hung down in his face, hiding his eyes. In that moment Obi-Wan realized that Master Paje was actually a very young-looking man. Round cheeks, full lips, tan skin and a powerful build. When he looked back up, Obi-Wan saw a hint of laughter in his pale sea-green eyes. His hands were smooth, strong and seemingly incapable of being still.

"Yes." Obi-Wan confirmed.

"And yet you do not ask me if the stories are true."

"No, Master Paje. I do not."

"I see. Why is that?"

Obi-Wan cleared his throat. "Well, I suppose it is because we have bigger problems on our hands. If they are true, I suspect you have Master Torlamin well in hand by now. If they are not, then we will have to find someone capable of dealing with her. I have no idea where to hire that kind of help."

Master Paje actually laughed at that. "Rue Torlamin is indeed well in hand now. A great deal of the thanks is to you, Obi-Wan. Do you know what it is we are now dealing with, in her case?"

Obi-Wan shook his head no. "I hoped she might have gone mad."


"Yes. The alternative is ... horrifying to say the least. Especially considering what it might imply for the Council and it's actions in the past. My past. The past of my friend as well."

Master Paje looked down at his boots again. "The truth then. She has touched to the Dark Side and her mind snapped during the contact. She toyed with dangerous thinking for too long. Her life, her place in the Jedi are probably forfeit, as well may be the future of her Padawan. Corubia Nall is handling the news as well as can be expected. I will do all I can to guide and protect her. This was not her doing."

Obi-Wan nodded in agreement.

"The Council is well aware of the problems this has all caused. Why they ignored our warnings when she asked for Corubia as her Padawan I will never understand. But ignore it they did and now they leave it to us to repair the damage it has caused. You have a question?" Paje asked.

"Yes, Master Paje. 'We' whom? I'm afraid I have a dislike for pronouns with mysterious antecedents." Obi-Wan leaned forward to get a cup of tea for himself.

"Please, call me Arjet. This is really not the time for formalities. The Jedi have long stood to combat the forces of the Dark Side. You may have learned a particular rule of engagement in your tactics classes. 'Know your enemy.' Well, some of us have made it part of our life to do just that.

"Many people believe the Sith are the only thing we need worry about, since they are the only Dark Siders to use the same type of training we do. Nothing could be further from the truth. You know about your Master's previous Padawan, yes?" Arjet waited for Obi-Wan's nod. "He was one of our attempts to save someone from the pull of the Dark Side. Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes we fail. That time we failed. I sincerely hope that this time we do not."

"But that doesn't answer my question, Arjet. Who is 'we' ?" Obi-Wan mangled grammar to get his point across.

"Ah, I see what you mean. Well, we're a mixed lot. A few of the High Potentials are with us and some others. Myself of course. Master Erac, before he died on Naboo. Yoda helps out now and again. I believe you knew Knight Rendian Elan when he was teaching in the crèche. Oh, the knights, yes. Well, Jayden Hunter and Felias Tradian. Um," Arjet let his eyes drift off towards the kitchenette.

"Teril Ar'thapa and Qui-Gon Jinn." Obi-Wan supplied.


"And Torlamin knew about you."

"Yes. There are more than a handful of us, more than I've named here. For various reasons, many of our number are not ... active. The elders of us are in hiding, more or less. It is the younger who carry the weight of the work, for now."

"My friend Swed is Jayden Hunter's Padawan. Master Ar'thapa apprenticed Jenji. And Qui-Gon took me on just after the disaster with Xanatos." Obi-Wan watched Arjet carefully.

The Master showed no signs of shock. "You're quite good at that."

"Working things out? I do well enough." Obi-Wan smiled.

"And there was a three-year gap between Xanatos and yourself, Obi-Wan."

"But he took me on with the same knowledge that he took on Xanatos. He knew all along that I might turn to the Dark Side and that he would be blamed for it if I did." Obi-Wan sipped at his tea, unable to meet Arjet's eyes.

"All Masters take all Padawans with that knowledge. It was never a realistic consideration with you, Obi-Wan. That's part of the reason why we decided he should have you. Master Yoda fought us, after a time, on that one but finally even he had to concede the point. There was no other Master fit to train you, not to mention one or two other factors. One of lower intellect would only hold you back. One of less activity would fail to keep you busy, bore you. One of lesser moral standards could ruin you completely. One of stricter Code interpretation might have never seen your Potential to fruition out of narrow-minded thinking. And then there was your particular attributes to consider." Arjet turned his cup between his hands, deciding how much to tell and how much to hide.

"Qui-Gon suffered terribly after the failure with Xanatos. Even though he knew of the possibility, he really believed he had succeeded with the boy. It was Yoda that saw the hidden flaw and his plan that exposed the irreparable weakness. Qui-Gon needed someone who would not be so ... well, bad for him. We needed someone faithful, resilient, mild of temperament, high in capability and with a bent towards caretaking. Qui-Gon needs an awful lot of looking after, recently."

"I noticed," Obi-Wan smiled. "I like taking care of him. It makes me feel like I'm doing something worthwhile with my life, not just waiting around to take the Trials."

"And that was another thing to recommend you for him. He had things to offer you that could be found in no other. Your Potential frankly scared the socks off most of those available to take a learner at the time. He was fearless ... I wish you could have seen it. The fact is, you two were just about made for each other. You just mesh well. Some people are like that. It took us a while to convince him that you needed him as much as he needed you, but once we got the point across he was absolutely unstoppable.

"The others, Teril and Jayden have found similar relationships possible with their students. The Order generally take a great deal of interest in the trainers who are allowed to work with the High Potentials. I believe it is because the three pairings were given a great deal of thought, consideration, much testing, before they were formed." Arjet held out his now empty cup and Obi-Wan filled it.

"And it's just coincidence that almost everyone in my training group was taken on by someone in your little club, right? What about Corubia? Why didn't you find a Master for her? I know she and Torlamin got along, but they were nothing like Jenji and Ar'thapa. What happened?" Obi-Wan forced himself to sit back in the seat.

"We did find someone. The Council did not allow our choice to take her on. So did Torlamin, blast her. At the time I was rather fixed on getting you and Qui-Gon together. Corubia came up for consideration, but I never thought Torlamin would ... I didn't even know she was looking for another Padawan." Arjet looked down. "If anything, I thought she might try for you. Certainly there was no interest expressed in Corubia before it was made very clear to Torlamin that she would not have you. And when she did ... I was caught by surprise, on several points."

Obi-Wan considered that in light of what he had learned from his files. "Who would have been Corubia's teacher?"

"Oh, come now, Obi-Wan. You can work this one out for yourself, can't you?" Arjet made a little toasting gesture with his teacup. "Why, I would have. And now, finally, I get my chance. Now that a certain amount of stubbornness has been allowed to wreck havoc on too many lives, I will get to say 'I told you so'. It's not nearly as satisfying as one might think. Especially in a case where one so precious might have been caused much damage."

"I don't know. She's pretty resilient in the area of trauma shock," Obi-Wan opined.

"Yes, that's true. She is. Still, there are some tests yet to run and I think you might do well to help us run them. Do you agree that this might be for the best?" Arjet was deadly serious.

"It would keep Corubia from feeling accused, anyway."

"If we call on you to test, would you be willing?"

"Of course, Master Paje."

"It will not just be Corubia we test. I want you to understand that. Torlamin is not a lost case ... well, officially she isn't. We have a duty to try and save her, though I personally think there isn't much to be done with her. There are many things yet to try, some of which require the strength of many to effect. It may bring stress to your weakest places, though I rather doubt it. At least, I'll try to keep any discomfort to a minimum." Arjet's eyes now held something in them that made Obi-Wan believe that every single horrifying story about him was true.

"I know the name of my Weakness, Master Paje. And I know it can be defeated as long as I do not try to face it with my strength alone." Obi-Wan wrapped his right hand around his upper left arm.

"When your Master awakens, please have him contact me. We'll both need to make reports to the Council before we can go any further. I'll want to speak with him before that report is made. And now, if you'll excuse me, I must go and speak to other friends. I asked Corubia where she wanted to stay. She doesn't want to be in her quarters for obvious reasons. She asked if she could stay here with you and Qui-Gon."

"I will give him the message. She will be more than welcome here for as long as it takes us to heal her."

"Thank you. Padawan Kenobi. And your confidence is reassuring." Arjet put his cup down and stood.

"Corubia can handle this. It is possible that she has already handled worse." Obi-Wan stood to see his visitor out.

"Yes, I suppose that's true. But I meant your confidence in yourself. It is good to see you improving so well. Good day." And the door slid shut behind him.

"Ow ow ow. Shit," Obi-Wan swore, tugging his innermost shirt off. "How did I miss THAT?"

"Good question, Padawan. You didn't feel it?" Qui-Gon was leaning against the bathroom wall, balanced on one foot. His other ankle was still a bit tender.

"Nah. I think I felt something on the way home, but ... it doesn't look too bad." Obi-Wan twisted his body around, looking at the palm wide burn from a couple of different angles. "It trashed those robes for sure, though." Obi-Wan picked up a washcloth and soaped it up under the tap.

"Here, let me help," Qui-Gon slid up onto the counter and took the cloth from Obi-Wan. He cleaned the wound as gently as possible, then covered the burn with his hands. "Just try to hold still."

Obi-Wan relaxed under the familiar feel of his master healing a lightsaber burn. This one was deeper, not like what he occasionally received in practice sessions. This one had been given with purpose. He blanched, looking at the placement. A few inches to the left and the blow would have spilled his guts all over the desert sand. Obi-Wan shuddered at this realization.

It wasn't often that Jedi engaged in true saberfighting. There weren't many weapons like a lightsaber, so learning to defend oneself from an opponent who bore one had become more tradition than anything else. Obi-Wan had used his skills with a slingshot more often than he had his dueling technique. But learn and learn well did each and every Jedi, how to disarm and kill anyone armed similarly to themselves. Generations had spent hours and years learning skills that they had never used in a real-life situation. Centuries of tradition and expertise had gone into the techniques taught to everyone who bore the title ''Jedi". All with the thought that, should the Sith rise again, whoever faced them would be ready. Or, should one of their own turn to the Dark Side, he could be cut down and destroyed by the warriors of the Light.

And now it occurred to Obi-Wan that he was the final product of all those years of training. Everything known by the Jedi, everything they stood for, collectively and as individuals, had come together in his action of defeating Darth Maul and imprisoning Rue Torlamin. In his mind he could no longer call her 'Master'. That spoke of her as a true and faithful Jedi, which she clearly no longer was. And the fact that he had not really needed his 'saber at all was truly ironic. He wondered if he would have been touched at all, had he used his preferred weapon. Then again, what foreknowledge had been available indicated that he might not have survived, had he used his lightsaber.

*Paradox of prophecy. And I guess I'll never know the answer to that particular puzzle.* Obi-Wan smiled to himself. *I'm just grateful to have my skin more or less intact.*

"There, all done," Qui-Gon pulled his hands away from Obi-Wan's side. The skin was pink and touchy, but whole once more. Obi-Wan dusted bits of charred skin away and undressed for a shower.

The shower was long overdue. He hadn't felt like bathing when he came in and the urge had only decreased as weariness set in. It wasn't until Master Paje left that he realized he was still in his filthy uniform and probably carrying a rather strong odor. Then Qui-Gon had awakened and Obi-Wan had helped him finish up healing his shoulder. Finally, though, the warm water flowed over him, washing away salt and sand, not to mention substances of an unknown origin that he'd just as soon not think about.

When he stepped out, Qui-Gon handed him a towel.

"Did you just stand there and wait to do that?" Obi-Wan squeaked.

"Yes. Well, no. I also wanted to do this." Qui-Gon held out a bottle of rose oil.

"Master, if you wanted a massage you needn't stand and wait for me to bathe. I would have done it before I came in here," Obi-Wan took the bottle from his master and gestured for the door.

Qui-Gon led the way to Obi-Wan's room, saying "I wait as I will, young Padawan."

Obi-Wan bowed his head, "Yes, Master." He set the oil down on the bedside table and knotted the towel more firmly about his waist.

"What are you waiting for?" Qui-Gon asked.

Obi-Wan shrugged and reached out to undo Qui-Gon's tunics. "I just thought you might like to lay down."

"It would be a very difficult thing to give you a massage if I was lying down."

Obi-Wan jerked his hands back as if burned. He shook his head slowly, eyes going round in consternation. Qui-Gon would not be swayed. He put on his most stern expression and pointed to Obi-Wan's bed. The younger man knew that resistance would be pointless. He drew on his memories of Qui-Gon's skills as a masseuse, wonderful experiences to the last, and wondered what had brought all this on.

He stretched out on the bed and relaxed under the careful ministrations of his master's hands. When no explanation was forthcoming, he gathered his courage and whispered "why are you doing this?"

"Because you just saved my life and the lives of countless trillions all over the galaxy, from what I can tell. I think having a real live human being see to your hurts is the least that should be offered to you." Qui-Gon found a particularly achy place under Obi-Wan's right shoulder and began using light touches of the Force to relax the knots.

"Please, Master. There is nothing wrong with me that some deep meditation and sleep won't fix. Besides, surely you have better things to be doing." Obi-Wan realized that his master was only indulging his student and tried to rise from the bed. If Qui-Gon had been wanting something ... but no. There was none of the fire in his eyes that Obi-Wan had come to associate with desire.

"I do not. And neither do you. Don't make me pull rank just to be nice to you." There was honest pleading in Qui-Gon's voice that could not be simply brushed aside.

Obi-Wan settled back down. With every touch, he thought of all the things he should be doing. Despite his master's words, there was much that needed seeing to. Their laundry needed to be sent out, he had promised to help in the Temple library when he came back on planet, something had to be done about returning the Kho'la'bo. It was sitting in the corner. Obi-Wan hadn't wanted to touch it since the battle. He'd thought to leave it on the Gannet, but made himself carry it as far as his rooms, perhaps trying to prove something to himself. The fact that it and not his lightsaber had struck the fatal blow against the Sith had been sitting wrong with him for hours now, but he hadn't had the time to analyze the feeling. He needed to meditate on that as well. His stomach drew up in knots when he remembered that he should have told Qui-Gon to call Master Paje by now. Perhaps he thought Obi-Wan had touched the Dark Side. Would he know it if he had?

Qui-Gon stopped his massage suddenly. "You know, you're not even trying to relax. Tell you what, let's just get something to eat instead. You're too wired up for this to have any effect."

Obi-Wan sighed and got up. "Let me get some pants on and I'll put something together for us."

Obi-Wan had soon made himself busy in the kitchenette. The Master just boosted himself up onto the countertop and watched the flurry of activity. He wondered if Obi-Wan was aware of the fact that he was quite naturally using the Force to enhance his every motion. *Probably not, which is a good thing,* he decided. Obi-Wan kept throwing looks his way, then started cooking even faster, muttering all the while. It took Qui-Gon a few moment's concentration to realize his student was chanting 'stupid, stupid, stupid' as he worked.

It was the opportunity Qui-Gon had been waiting for. Too bad the timing was so lousy. *Why are his revelations always so inopportune?* Now would be the moment he could see exactly what was going on with his Padawan's emotions, see what was fueling this debilitating sense of worthlessness that had taken such strong root in his Koateleu. Qui-Gon stood and took the spatula from Obi-Wan. "Go meditate. You're all wound up and I need you to relax." He said this as harshly as he could and carefully watched Obi-Wan's reactions.

An emotion-spike of shock, then anger which was promptly squashed and replaced by guilt. "AHA!" he Pajed, then handed the spatula back to Obi-Wan. He hopped back onto the counter and crossed his arms, grinning broadly. "Your fishcakes are going to stick."

Obi-Wan reached out through the Force to flip them, refusing to take his eyes off his master. "Master, will you please explain that 'AHA'?"

"Umm, maybe. Yes, I think I will. Eventually. Mind lunch." Qui-Gon's grin broadened and he allowed himself a quiet chuckle.

"I thought I was supposed to be meditating," Obi-Wan pointed out.

"Plenty of time for that later." Qui-Gon went to the caterer and started flipping through the juice selections. He was on the verge of relieved giggles, a thing he doubted Obi-Wan would appreciate.

"Master, please, I don't feel like doing the twenty questions to enlightenment bit. Just lay it on me so I can get to the mind-bending contemplation part while I slice the fruit, okay?" Obi-Wan's mouth snapped shut.

Shockangerguilt. Just like that. Qui-Gon sighed in relief, tried to reign his excitement in. "I saw it. I don't believe it, but I see it and you're going to see it and Arjet will say 'I told you so' and I'll never be more glad he did. Fishcakes, Obi-Wan. I swear. How can you do the multiple levitation-Suggestion-movement-balance patterns if you can't cook lunch and talk at the same time?" Shockangerguilt. Qui-Gon shook himself mentally. He could see that the exchange was taking it's toll on Obi-Wan, so he waited until lunch was safe in the warm box before he began his explanation. Obi-Wan had a solid grip on his emotions by then, sitting safely at center. He'd probably decided his master had gone mad and was waiting for some sort of rescue to arrive.

Qui-Gon settled himself into a kneeling pose and waited for Obi-Wan to take a lotus position before him. "Padawan, it has long been my concern that you are somewhat emotionally ... unstable. Are you aware of the instability you labor under?"

Obi-Wan traced the pattern of his tattoo with one finger, considering. "For a long time I thought ... I was pretty sure there was no way I was supposed to be a Padawan. It seems a little strange, knowing what I know now. And really, if I had thought about it, I would have realized I was on par or ahead of the Trainees I was grouped with. I never checked my grades much, didn't compare them with the others, but I know I didn't fail any classes I took. My records ... I was passing classes and lessons at quite a clip as a Trainee."

"You continued to do so as a Padawan. Lessons I was prepared to spend months and years instructing you on were mastered in weeks. The more I showed you, the faster you learned. I was ready for you to be a quick study, I knew your background. Still, it was something of a surprise to watch you swallowing up my lifetime of experience in a matter of years, I must say. Well, maybe not that, I still have SOME things to teach you," Qui-Gon grinned. "But I know you were not aware of what was happening. Tell me about your inner feelings."

It was a question Qui-Gon had not often asked his Padawan. Of all the Masters Obi-Wan knew, Qui-Gon afforded his student the most privacy. He did not constantly call Obi-Wan to account for his feelings unless they represented some danger to the younger man. "My feelings ... it's hard to explain. I know you must think I've been struggling under the weight of low self-esteem or something, but that's not really true. I know the name of my Enemy. It is "Unworthy". That doesn't define my existence though. When I'm working, when I have something I need or want to be doing, you know I never falter or waver with self doubt."

Qui-Gon nodded his agreement.

"It's only when I'm not doing anything, if I'm alone or bored that I feel that way. Sometimes I think about the life I lead and it seems like there is nothing else in the universe that I could ever want more. Then there are times when I think about myself, the things I wish I was and it all changes around somehow. I feel like I have so much left to do before I count. I'm between worlds, not really Jedi, not really citizen, just a Padawan, which you have to admit isn't much in the Order. I ... there are times when I just can't imagine having any value whatsoever, Master."

"And you felt that just now, when I spoke harshly to you, yes?"

"Well, yes. Yes, I did. Now, objectively, I would say that there is no reason for me to have felt that way. You gave an order and made a couple of really lousy jokes, but nothing DIRE. You weren't upset with me, I could have felt it if you were," Obi-Wan's eyes had been fixed on the floor, but were starting to dart back and forth. "I mean, I can usually tell what you're feeling, even if I'm not trying. It's just there. You're always calm, mind and heart just as still as a frozen pond. I can't remember you ever being angry AT me. In fact, I can't remember you actually feeling ANGRY."

Obi-Wan's fingers were tracing his thumbnails, one side, then the other. "I've felt people get angry. Politicians, folks on missions, the civilians around the Temple and so forth. It seems so ... chaotic. You've never been like that. You lose your cool, get sad, maudlin, indignant, like that ... but I've never made you angry. I never realized that before. Not even that 'righteous indignation' most Masters get instead of angry." Obi-Wan put one finger in his mouth and chewed thoughtfully for a moment. "And I felt it again, after I spoke sharply to you. I felt stupid and worthless for having been so disrespectful towards you." Obi-Wan stilled his hands once more and turned an expectant look towards his master.

Qui-Gon smiled, proud of his student's ability to be mindful of his own feelings. "Correct. To my knowledge, I have never been angry with you. Exasperated and tried beyond all patience, yes, to be sure. But never angry. And yet you responded to my suggestion and jokes as if I had injured you in some way, purposefully. Then a moment later you were just as angry at yourself for something else, then a moment later you were back to worthless. Did you happen to pay attention to the pattern your emotions took?"

Obi-Wan centered himself. He rested his hands on his knees and touched finger to thumb, letting time fall away as he calmed his thoughts. It was almost reflex at this point in his training to be able to look back on his actions, study his course of thought and reaction, match them to the corresponding emotion.

He remembered Qui-Gon's words, the tone and his own shock at being spoken to that way. Then anger at Qui-Gon for being so rude, for speaking harshly when gentleness would have served as well. There. Right there. Guilt. A swelling in the chest, poisonous, killing the anger in a wash of self-depreciation for feeling anger, much less wanting tenderness for himself. He had used that guilt to stop the craving for affection, kindness or any number of things he felt he would never, never deserve. Hard on the heels of that guilt came the hollow call of unworthiness, that comfortable ache that let him know he had survived whatever pain he had felt.

Except that there was no pain.

"I was angry at you, then guilty for being angry. No, more than that. Guilty for feeling that you were wrong to be harsh with me, as well. That old anger leads to suffering thing ... I guess that's true," Obi-Wan whispered.

"No, Obi-Wan. That's something different. This is not a question of how emotions can lead to the Dark Side. This is more about your own needs and expectations and how to see that they are fulfilled. It is my opinion that you are not emotionally fulfilled. The first thing is to find out what you want." Qui-Gon was trying to lead Obi-Wan gently, slowly. He wished he could just hand the whole thing to his student, but then the lesson would take many times longer to learn. It wouldn't be quick, no matter how they did it.

"Do you mean, big picture, what do I want? I have no idea."

"No, this isn't 'big picture' time. More like, right then, what would have been easier to take? What would have made you WANT to go meditate, rather than feeling shocked and angry then guilty?" Qui-Gon directed his gaze towards the window, letting Obi-Wan pause and consider what might be a totally new subject for the young man.

"If you hadn't spoken roughly. It surprised me. It was a little upsetting, although I shouldn't have been upset. You were just a little more forceful than usual, is all ... "

"Stop. I do not want you making excuses for me or explaining away why you should not feel what you felt. It is what you felt. That is the end of it. If you do not like feeling that way, we will change what we need to for you to feel a way you would like to feel. But do not make excuses for people who hurt you. You have more important things to do with your mind."

"Yes, Master."

"That's lessons for now. I want you to go back to your most basic concentration techniques, making yourself more mindful of your emotions again. Controlling them has become second nature to you, of that I am very proud. However, you have developed this habit with anger and I'd like to see you work on it.". This was as much a part of Obi-Wan's training as his lessons in diplomacy. Qui-Gon was inwardly grateful of the fact that Obi-Wan would carry out his orders to the letter out of pure instinct at this point, even if didn't understand the whys behind it all just yet.

"Yes, Master."

"Also, I'd like for you to make special note if at any time you are doing something perfectly well, but for some reason think you ought to be doing better. In fact, I want you to check with me if at any time that happens. Understood?"

"Yes, Master."

"Good. Now, go put some clothes on so we can eat before the fishcakes get gooshy." Qui-Gon got up to set the table.

"I forgot to tell you, but Master Paje came by earlier. He wanted you to contact him," Obi-Wan brought their postponed lunch to the table.

"I'll call him when we're done eating. Likely, we'll need to make our report soon."

When Qui-Gon finally spoke with Arjet, he was struck by how tired his friend looked. He'd probably been awake for a day or so, but showed no signs of slowing. "Hi Quigs. Glad to see you up and about. I was hoping you'd stay out a little longer."

"You look like you're the one who needs sleep, Arjet. But, sorry to say, my condition is sufficient to face the Council, so you'll have to get it together and arrange to be there when they call on me."

Arjet sighed and looked at something beyond the vidscreen. "Yeah, okay. I-uh-wondered if you might be ready to come back into active service yet? I told Obi-Wan about the Group, so that's not a factor anymore."

Qui-Gon scowled. "I thought we had an understanding about that."

"Well, I had an understanding, and you had one, but I don't think they were the same understanding. I kept my end of it as long as I could. Look, things aren't going well. That Cord Random's a mess and his Padawan's worse. Young, undisciplined, poor instincts for this kind of work and ... he bears watching and I can't deal with him AND Torlamin right now. Not to mention Corubia's state ... I need your help, Master Jinn." Arjet sagged a bit and rubbed his eyes.

"Yeah, okay. I get it. Besides, if Obi-Wan knows about your work already I won't be able to keep him away from you. New information draws him like ... similes fail me." Qui-Gon checked the crono. "Get a good dose of tannins and be ready to deal with the Council. And I think Obi-Wan and I have some information about the Sith you might find interesting."

"Bless you, Quigs. Information is one thing I'll never turn away." Arjet smiled. "Why don't we all get together and go over this before we deal with the Council. We'll probably have to give them an enemy they can understand. Again."

"No, this one they should get right away. Sith. Arjet, Obi-Wan killed a Sith." Qui-Gon felt his stomach waver at the thought. *I wasn't there to protect him. *

"I know. He brought the corpse back with him and the Sith's ship. I'm just looking over what the techs found there. Maybe we should go over that, put it together with what you and Obi-Wan found out. I was going to save the autopsy for later, but if you're serious about coming active again ... " Arjet raised an inquiring eyebrow.

Qui-Gon's stomach wobbled again. "Yeah, might as well go for the gusto. Elbow-deep in someone else's innards is NOT how I wanted to spend my afternoon."

"Oh, come on Quigs. It'll be fun!"

"This must be some use of the term 'fun' that had escaped my notice."

Obi-Wan followed Qui-Gon towards one of the lesser-trafficked areas of the Temple. They walked slowly, mindful of the fact that Qui-Gon was still limping slightly on his damaged ankle. When asked, Qui-Gon had told his student they were going to the 'inner sanctum' and refused to elaborate. They wore clean workout clothes and near-identical grim expressions. Obi-Wan had been incredulous at the idea of performing an autopsy on the Sith. Qui-Gon had countered by asking just why Obi-Wan had brought the body home in the first place.

"Well, I was kind of running on empty there, just following my instincts ... oh."

"Yeah, 'oh' is right. You were being guided by the Will of the Force, Padawan," Qui-Gon smiled.

"But I wasn't even TRYING!" Obi-Wan wailed.

"There is do or do not. There is no try," Qui-Gon quoted. "Since you 'did', I can find no fault with the fact that it took no effort on your part."

"You do have a point there," Obi-Wan admitted.

They reached a nondescript door in an out-of-the-way corridor. Qui-Gon pressed his thumb to the lock and said "Verify me."

The door slid back, revealing a small, empty room. They entered, holding their arms away from their sides. The door closed behind them. A small camera descended from the ceiling, scanning them from all sides before stopping to hover at eye level with Obi-Wan. "Name," it requested.

"Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi."

"Voice Print."

"Verify me."


Before he could ask just where the heck they were supposed to go, a panel on the wall slid back, revealing a lift. Qui-Gon entered and Obi-Wan followed. The descent was rapid, ending at the head of a catwalk crossing over the Temple storage rooms. A long ladder-climb up and through a hatchway ended the journey as they emerged into a poorly lit room. Obi-Wan blinked in the low light, taking in strings of glittering chiplights. From the shadows came the voice of Master Arjet Paje.

"Welcome to the Dark Side."

A cold hand closed around Obi-Wan's heart before Qui-Gon snorted. "Do you never tire of that joke?"

"Nope. Kinda makes you regret thinking of it, huh, Quigs?" Arjet led them into a better lit room.

Obi-Wan's eyes widened as he entered a world he had never suspected to exist within the neatly ordered walls of the Jedi Temple. Old sofas used to the point of terminal comfort lined the walls. Enormous cushions and pillows were arranged for maximum lounging and conversation. The biggest holovid unit he had ever seen dominated the far wall. The other walls were decorated with posters, paintings, quotations penned by an uneven hand ... several hands, in several languages. One corner was a mess of data accessors. Vidscreen, dermal feed, hardcopy printer, enline to the Temple Library and, wonder of wonders, a patch-through to the Virtual Galacnet. A catering unit, supplied from skies only knew where delivered a pot of cav to the hotplate, though no one was waiting for it. A timer dinged and began counting down above the unit. *Cav on time-release. I've died and gone to ... take your pick of paradise. This is IT.* Obi-Wan looked around for a mug and went to fetch himself a cup of liquid energy.

"Obi-Wan, there are some people you need to meet. Some of them you already know. I won't swear you to secrecy, but I'm sure your discretion can be trusted, or I miss my guess." Arjet let the way through a low doorway beside the catering unit. "As I told you, we're officially unofficial ... but then again, I'm unofficial in the extreme, so I guess you were expecting this."

"Actually, no. You managed to catch me by surprise," Obi-Wan admitted.

The next room was a laboratory that seemed to have grown into being, rather than designed. Beyond that, another room was filled with Jedi at work, for all that they slouched, lounged or dangled from any number of improbable positions. More sofas and cushions were here, as well as recliners, beds, pallets and meditation mats. A plethora of blankets, furs and pillows formed a thick detritus layer on the floor. There were several doors leading off in all directions, as there had been in the lab. Obi-Wan had the peculiar sense of being in the middle of a rabbit warren, or perhaps a maze of some sort.

A yoga mat was being used by a Knight Obi-Wan recognized. Rendian Elan. Jenji and her master, Teril Ar'thapa were sitting cross-legged on a tabletop, passing hardcopy files back and forth. Swed and Jayden Hunter were curled up in a nest of velvet beanbag chairs, having apparently fallen asleep as they read over files on a lightslate. An unfamiliar face hung upside down by her knees, dangling from the upper reaches of a bunkbed.

"Headache again, Felias? Well, come on down here and meet Obi-Wan," Arjet said.

The woman executed a flip and landed shakily, a hand to her head. "So this is the one that kept Qui-Gon from us! Well, never mind, it was all for the best. Knight Felias Tradian, at your service. Though my services are going to be meager at best until this headache goes."

Obi-Wan bowed to her.

"Accessing again?" Arjet asked, concerned.

"Nah, just on my fifth day of no sleep, and not an end in sight," she explained.

"Maybe I can help," Obi-Wan offered. Pain lines were creasing her forehead and he felt compelled to offer assistance. "Dispelling exhaustion symptoms is one of my specialties."

"You're more than welcome to try," she said, coming to kneel before him.

Obi-Wan threw a glance at Qui-Gon, who merely nodded for him to continue. He was acutely aware that he had never tried to heal anyone but his Master before. Qui-Gon wasn't stopping him, though, and neither were the others. The room had gone quiet, and Obi-Wan focused his thoughts on the task before him.

He settled his hands into the thick gray locks that framed her face, opened himself to the Force and began carefully reading her system. Fingertips traced her angular features, narrow lips, seeking tension or pain signatures. He located one, a knot of stresses behind and under her eyes. Gentle pressure applied just so and it relaxed.

Felias sighed in relief, but Obi-Wan continued his search, rubbing tiny circles over scalp and neck, seeking any other sources of discomfort. There, in her spinal column, a subluxation putting pressure on the nerves. He took her head gently in his hands and popped one way, then the other.

"Ahhh! Yes!" Felias smiled up at him.

"You'd better get some rest, though. Let that set before you do anything too strenuous," Obi-Wan advised.

"Yes. Go get some sleep in the back room. I'll bring you up to speed before you go take your shift with Torlamin. By the way, who's with Corubia?" Arjet asked.

"Yoda. I asked him to keep an eye on her so I could be here," Jayden said, yawning and stretching. "I haven't seen Obi-Wan in a long time, but I knew him of old." He reached over and shook his Padawan. "Swed, look who's here."

Swed opened one eye, surveyed the newcomer and rose slowly. Obi-Wan gave his old friend a careful once-over. Willowy now that he'd grown into his height, Swed's features were fine, looking as if he were slightly undernourished. In all the years they had been friends, Obi-Wan had never seen his friend look well-fed, though he ate like a Hutt. His body was of the whipcord-and-bone variety, uncommonly strong and graceful, even for a Jedi. With skin as pale as cream, eyes and hair black as jet, it was easy to see why Jenji had so often used him as a subject in her artwork. He was a peculiarity, as humanoid Padawans went, in that his hair hung long, brushing at his jawline. The reason was that members of his subspecies had hair as sensitive as whiskers and cutting it would have stunted the sensory input he received from that quarter.

And then there was Jenji herself. "Hey kid. Glad to see you finally made it," she greeted. Shorter than Obi-wan by a good six inches, her body was nonetheless similar to his, compact, well-muscled and well-maintained. Her skin had darkened somewhat, making the contrast between her violet eyes and green stripe of hair all the more striking, exotic.

Though she was older than Obi-Wan by three standard years, and Swed by four, they had been more or less on equal footing almost from the beginning. It suddenly occurred to Obi-Wan just how close to being Knighted his two friends were. Now that he thought about it, Swed was probably here at the Temple waiting for the Council to declare his Trials. Obi-Wan began to wonder just how equal his footing was with his elder friends.

They came over to exchange hugs and thumb-clenches. "Come on, we'll show you around. Arjet said he had something he wanted to talk to Qui-Gon about, so we'll be thrown out of here soon anyway." Jenji hooked her arm through his and tugged him through yet another door.

"Thrown out? Why?" Obi-Wan asked.

"Because we're Padawans, duh," Swed replied. "They let us help some, because of our Masters, but, well ... "

"We can't choose for ourselves yet whether or not we want to do this, so some stuff we can't do at all. You have to be autonomous before you can play," Jenji explained.

"And what are we now?"

"Heteronomous. They still make the rules and we still follow them. It's not as bad as it sounds. We get a lot more leeway than anyone else our age," Swed looked Obi-Wan up and down. "You must really be coming along fast to be brought in so young."

"I don't know. Probably. You know me. I never know what's going on in my training," Obi-Wan shrugged.

"Yeah, that's what you get for being so goal-oriented, Obi. So is it true? Did you really whack that Sith?" Jenji asked.

Obi-Wan swallowed loudly and looked at the floor. "Yeah. I had to. Qui-Gon went over the side of the canyon and ... I didn't have a choice."

Swed and Jenji pulled him in for another hug. "Poor Obi. Always getting the fuzzy end of the lollipop. And poor Qui-Gon, too. Just his luck to be on the mission when Torlamin went foomp. The Council should be dragged out and ... well, someone should really try to do something about them," Jenji declared.

"Nothing to BE done for them. They serve their purpose," Swed reminded her.

"Whoa, guys. Those are some pretty strong words, there," Obi-Wan pulled back from them.

"You'll soon see what we mean, Obi-kid. But that's not what we wanted to show you. It's cartoon time," Swed pushed Obi-Wan down onto the beanbags in front of the holovid and went to the catering unit for supplies.

"Cartoons? Like, for children?" Obi-Wan asked incredulously.

"Nah, like for us. You'll like it. I promise," Jenji picked up the remote. "We'll show you the rest of the place later."

Swed returned with popcorn and drinks. Soon they were absorbed in the mindless slapstick comedy that gamboled about the holovid. They howled with laughter at the heroes, threw popcorn at the villains and tried valiantly to make Obi-Wan understand the basic plotline. He laughed and threw right along with them, though a basic problem with the premise nagged at the more logical portions of his brain. Finally he gave up and just enjoyed.

Which might explain why Qui-Gon's mouth dropped open with shock when he came to fetch them.

The theme music was blaring and all three Padawans were bouncing to the tune, shrieking the lyrics at the top of their lungs. "Mamma had a Chicken! Mamma had a Cow! Daddy was proud, he didn't care how!"







The music cut out abruptly, leaving Qui-Gon to shout into the now-quiet room. "WHAT ARE YOU ... ahem. What are you watching?"

Obi-Wan blushed from head to toe. "Uh, Cow and Chicken?"

"A program on animal husbandry?"


"I see," Qui-Gon grinned, meaning he didn't. He looked pleased to see Obi-Wan fooling around, though. "I hate to interrupt, but if you think you can handle the culture shock, I could use your help with some research. All of you are needed, in fact."

Jenji switched the Holovid off with a grumble and they followed Qui-Gon back into the lab. "Yuck," she correctly assessed.

Obi-Wan had to agree. Darth Maul had not gained any beauty points by being halved and frozen. Arjet had on a pair of microsight goggles and was carefully inspecting the edges of the cut. "Come here, Padawan Kenobi. I want you to have a look at this and tell me what you think."

Obi-Wan pulled on a pair of micros and came over to look. The exposed flesh was not cauterized, as one would expect from a lightsaber cut. Rather, it seemed to have simply parted at the cellular level, allowing the Kho'la'bo to pass through. Or some such. There was almost no trauma to the tissue, as if it had grown this way and simply stopped. Or ...

"That's not possible," Obi-Wan breathed.

"Actually it is. We might be able to explain it if we knew what he was, but ... we're missing a lot of data here," Jayden explained.

"What's our best guess?" Obi-Wan asked, reaching for a slide and a scalpel.

"Aesthetically speaking, maybe Zebrakian. That's pretty doubtful, though. Hell, the DNA test came back part TaunTaun, so whatever the hell he is, it's funky." Obi-Wan pushed his goggles back to look at the hardcopy Swed brought him.

"What's this?" Obi-Wan pointed to a chemical signature. "I know this from somewhere."

Jenji came and took the pages, then began searching on one of the datasets on a nearby table.

"Swed, see if you can find ... "

"Regenerative properties in Zebrakians, TaunTauns etceteras, etceteras, I'm all over it, boss."

Qui-Gon was hanging over his shoulder as he slid the tissue sample under the chemical scan. "Scratch that, Jenji. I see what it is. Look for all reported research on genetic melding in clone subjects," Obi-Wan called.

"Roger, Roger."



//What are you doing?//


//Oh yes. I had forgotten ... well, let me know if you find anything interesting. Um, did you pick anything ... useful out of Maul's mind?//

**This is an abdominal sample, Master.**

//Before he died.//

**Oh. Yeah, one or two things. Maybe you could try to make sense of them?**

//Show me.//

Obi-Wan turned from the chemical scanner and took Qui-Gon's head between his hands. He called up the stolen information from two days before and made very clear projections into his Master's mind. They were next to nothing. Two star maps, poorly labeled. One name, Darth Sidious, with a few snatches of a face, a robe, a phrase or two spoken. The view of a Coruscant skyline, along with a strong surge of many chaotic emotions. That was all.

//Thank you.// Qui-Gon stepped away to let Obi-Wan continue his work.

Go to Part 1         Part 2         Part 3         Part 4         Part 5         Part 6         Part 7         Part 8         Part 9         Part 10         Part 11         Part 12         Part 13         Part 14         Part 15         Part 16         Part 17         Part 18         Part 19         Part 20         Part 21         Part 22         Part 23         Part 24        

Bonds of Choice 9.99: Left Hand of the Light: Jedi Light

NC-17 for M/M
Het Level is None
Slash Level is Slash Smut Level is Low
Femslash Level is None
Herm Level is None

85 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Closed-Unfinished
Written December 14, 1999 by HiperBunny

Setting: Star Wars Episode 1

Primary Races: Human

Contents: Slash (M/M). Alternate Universe, Angst, Fraternization

Pairings: Obi-Wan/ Qui-Gon

Notes: This story went through more betas and readers than ... comparisons fail me. Bear with me, here, mmkay?

Large piles of gratitude to Rauhnee, without whom this series would have remained a smart-assed remark on an obscure mailing list. Her dedication to seeing this series spread far and wide continues to amaze and humble me. And humbling the Bunny is no mean feat.

Love, thanks and healing vibes to kriski, who beta'd from her sickbed, provided some excellent lines and even got her co-workers to aid and abet her slash-side activities. You are strong in the Force, my Padawan.

A heartfelt gracias to PadaWhine Mre, the most feisty and tenacious spellchecker and grammar-wrangler known to man or beast. Your gut reactions are worth their weight in gold. Your in-depth commentary sustain me in my darkest hours. (You know, the 48 hour period surrounding post-time.)

Welcome and a dose of bigboocoothanks to MrsHamill, who beta'd, added good words, used a cock-ring metaphor regarding character development and STILL managed to get the hamster cage cleaned. I think the Force is strong in your blood as well, dear lady.

Thanks to Karen, who assures me things are being tidied up nicely and resolutions are occurring at a reasonable rate.

Thanks also to Gloriana for being willing to have a go at this monster. Sorry about the timeframe thingy. Get you on the next one, okay?

Many questions about motivations and character behavior have been asked of me lately. Herein are many of the answers. Not ALL the answers, mind you. A girl has to keep SOME secrets. I would like to mention that I now have a sign above my desk which reads "Clean Up Your Old Mess Before You Make A New One" and am trying to abide by this rule.

**Obi-Wan's Telepathy**
//Qui-Gon's Telepathy//
<<Kourt Crowe's Telepathy>>
[[Group Telepathy]] (I swear this makes sense in context.)

Blurb: Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon begin to deal with the aftermath of the battle on Repta. Kourt Crowe gives lessons and makes an acquisition. Many questions are answered, new questions are asked.

Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.

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