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

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

The Masters and Knights went out into the front room and made themselves comfortable. Qui-Gon sat in the middle of the floor, about equidistant from the others. He would be the one of the focal points for this search.

Before him, Jayden Hunter knelt, arranging his mind in easy-to-follow patterns. He had been the one to study and learn what bits of information had been stripped from the Sith spacecraft, not that much of any value had been recovered. It would seem the Sith were accustomed to dealing with one another face-to-face rather than via messaging. No communication equipment had been found on board, so there were no files to root through. No notes, no instructions, just a few containers of foodstuffs, a list of ports and a list of names.

That Cord Random's name appeared on that list was expected. That both Obi-Wan's and Qui-Gon's name also appeared was disturbing in the extreme. It made Qui-Gon wonder which names made it on that list first. Was the Sith looking for himself and his Padawan when he came to Naboo, or was he looking for Erac and Cord then? The assumption had been that Anakin Skywalker was the reason for that attack, but perhaps that was only a by-blow of the true goal. It would seem that many assumptions should be called into question, now.

Qui-Gon pushed these thoughts aside, seeking his center. He twined his fingers together and opened his mind to Jayden. The Knight reached out and joined him with practiced ease, fitting neatly against the edges, not reaching for places he was not welcome, filling the space between them. Qui-Gon sighed his contentment, relaxing into the connection he had long given up to teach his Padawan.

Jayden reached toward Teril, joined to her, weaving about her center like a wraith of light, twining their thoughts in a playful dance. Teril reached for Felias, their connection snapped into place with a forceful attraction.

//Lovers?// Qui-Gon inquired.

[[Yes]] the group responded, sharing the joy. Qui-Gon basked in it, let his pleasure at their love flow back through them. Felias threw a web of that joy to Arjet, drawing him into the chain of joining. Now they need only close the circle to begin their work.

Qui-Gon turned a bit to face Arjet. Unnecessary, but he smiled at his friend who waited to be bound up in his mind. Closure would be given to Qui-Gon as a gift after his long absence. He felt this in the warp and weft of minds around him.

He spun a fine thread of gossamer love between Arjet and himself, strengthened with sparks of welcome and peace, until they were bound. //Captives// they all giggled at the idea. //If the Council knew about this ... //

They laughed at his clumsiness within their joining. It had been so long since he truly melded his thoughts with another, even on this surface level, that his interaction was inelegant.

[[Still. Soon. Be still.]] they patiently soothed him.

He obeyed their urgings, let the Moment take him, let their connection seal them as close as any beings ever could be and still have hope of future separation.

The web of connection shone like starbursts behind his eyes, all the information he and Obi-Wan had gathered swirled out of his private mind and into the shared thoughts between himself and the others. Jayden similarly fed his information. A flash of logic, then laughter, correlations were drawn, the puzzle pieces fitted together with lightening quickness. Information from missions and sources Qui-Gon hadn't heard about drifted in, were sorted and put together. He did his share, smiling, laughing, THINKING freely for the first time in years ... drifting on the web of acceptance and peace.

The Force welled up in them all, surging into the patterns and concepts they shared, guiding them to insight, foresight, knowledge. Bits of information were highlighted, drawn to the front of their consideration. Hooded figure, Coruscant skyline, soft carpets ... three memories torn from Darth Maul's mind by Qui-Gon's Padawan. //Who?//

[[Student your student you must remember Obi-Wan Kenobi. Shh, be still ... ]]

//Who? What?//

[[Be calm, beloved. Be calm remember know him he is not here now he is outside the moment join the Moment with us ... ]] Joy washed through Qui-Gon once more and soothed his confusion. The star maps were discarded, unusable with the information they now possessed. Likewise the list of ports. That left the memory of a skyline, one that Obi-Wan believed to be on Coruscant.

[[Find this place, search it out find it and we'll have him. Sidious Sidious]]

Now their thoughts flew apart, looking for a name, a circumstance, a place in the Future where such knowledge might be confirmed. The Moment spread possibilities out before them, the theoretical path of the future. [[Obi-Wan Obi-Wan Obi-Wan]]

He would find the information, that person with that name would be their guiding light to finally move against [[Sidious Palpatine Sidious Sidious Palpatine]]

//What?// Qui-Gon cast about, looking, trying to remember ...

[[Let go let it go let go NOW!]]

Qui-Gon reeled as his mind released contact with the others. He fell back flat on the floor, vaguely recognizing that the others similarly tumbled off-balance. "I'm sorry," he croaked.

"It wasn't you," Teril gasped. "I lost Jenji that time."

"And Swed," Jayden panted. "I lost Swed." The words carried a deep despair in them.

"What does this mean, Arjet?" Qui-Gon demanded.

"What did you hear? What was the Moment saying there at the end ... It was confused, I couldn't make it out," Arjet turned over on the sofa, reaching out for Qui-Gon's hand.

Qui-Gon stretched his arms out, touching Arjet, needing the physical contact after such close mental connection. "I heard Obi-Wan's name ... I was seeking a possible future and I heard his name clearly, then Sidious ... "

"That can't be right. I heard 'Jenji Jenji Jenji' but I couldn't think what that meant ... " Teril protested.

They looked at Jayden and he nodded. "There was no harmony ..."

Qui-Gon closed his eyes, focusing sharply down into the memory. He could hear them all now ... all three names circling in the Moment. "No, there was no harmony ... a note was missing from the chord. We were ... incomplete in some way."

They drew together on the beanbag chairs, all touching one another until the buzz from their sudden disconnection eased off. "We shall see the Council together, Arjet. I fear we will have to ... mislead them on certain points."

"Well, they've never suffered from that before," Arjet grinned. "But first there is your Padawan to deal with."

Qui-Gon's eyes darkened considerably. "No. He's far too young."

"He's not, Qui-Gon. We've waited as long as we can. Longer than we should have. You brought him here. You knew what that meant when you did it. If he's to fulfill his promise, the lessons must begin now, immediately." Arjet would not be swayed. "Isn't this what we've been working towards?"

"I don't know what you've been working towards, but it's not the same thing I'VE been working towards," Qui-Gon replied hotly.

"Come on, Quigs. You're not going to tell me you've actually spent all this time preparing him to be a good and faithful Jedi, have you?" Arjet chuckled. "I know you better than that."

Qui-Gon paced around the sofa, hands folded into sleeves. "No. I can't say that I have been. But if you think Obi-Wan is some ... stars-blessed savior of us all, you've lost your mind."

Arjet intercepted Qui-Gon's orbit and drew him into a hug. "No. Not that. But he is the one we've been looking for, waiting for all these years. I know it as well as I know your name, Master Jinn. So do you."

Qui-Gon looked to the others, found nothing but agreement in their eyes. Teril laid a hand on his arm. "He's the one, Qui-Gon. We need to help him do what he must."

It was true, but a truth he did not want to accept.

"Not liking a thing never made it any less so, Quigs. C'mon, he's gonna do it anyway! We might as well help him out a bit, make it easier on the lot of us," Arjet smiled.

Qui-Gon closed his eyes, reached for the truth of Arjet's insistence. "It's all changed now, Arjet. He's not just some kid I'm gonna teach to save the galaxy anymore. I know him, love him, need for him to live, however I can get it. I can't rely on some ancient prophecy for that. I can't even take your word for it. I have to know it for myself!"

"You do know it, Qui-Gon. We all see that the boy is ready. Why can't you?" Jayden was all but whispering.

"I see it. I know it. I don't like it. I wish it wasn't true so I could just ... I don't know," Qui-Gon collapsed onto a sofa, drawing his knees up to his chest. "I'm afraid I'll fail him the way I failed Xanatos. I'm ... afraid."

He felt the energies of his friends gather about him, leeching the emotion away, defending and protecting him from it's corrosive effects. He sighed in relief. "Thank you. Yes, you are right, all of you. I need to know that I will not loose him because I can not protect him."

"Then get on with the job so you never need fear of his needing help from anyone," Arjet smiled.

The others left the secret lab, leaving the instruction of Obi-Wan to his master, and the teacher of them all, Arjet Paje. Though the group didn't stand much on formality, that which they chose to embrace they protected vigilantly. Their own traditions said Arjet must teach these lessons. Their own traditions would be observed.

Obi-Wan shifted on his cushion, uncomfortable under the eyes of his Master and Master Paje.

Arjet spoke first. "What is the nature Dark Side, Obi-Wan?"

Obi-Wan considered that question. It was one that was so often asked in the Temple, he had assumed for years that there was no answer. There was much instruction on what led to the Dark Side; fear, hate, suffering, anger, greed, lust, passion, these were the emotional forces that led to acts of the Dark Side. Murder, abuse, torture, lies, thievery, the wanton destruction of living things, injustice, war, the list went on and on. But none of these things WERE the Dark Side. Merely symptoms of its influence, as a cough and fever were symptoms of illness.

"Same question, different words. Through what mechanism is the Force defined as Light or Dark?" Arjet asked.

Eech, if that was supposed to be any simpler, Obi-Wan was ready to plead ignorance. But he thought about it. The Force was too multifaceted, too complex to be anything other than a single, continuous flow of existence. Was it logical, then, to assume it was literally divided, one side Dark and one side Light? Well, perhaps on a purely theoretical, philosophical level, but training with Qui-Gon had taught him that philosophy and reality were often at a wide remove from one another. Moreover, it had taught him that motivation and intent put much of life into a shade of gray.

If there was no dividing line in the Force, then there was no literal Dark Side. Of course, that meant that there was also no Light Side but that was a reality he felt prepared to accept. He knew the Force, knew what touched and guided his life with such strength and joy. Whatever name they might give it, he was certain of that entity. So through what mechanism ...

"The Force has no inherent partition, light or dark. Therefore, the 'color' of the Force must be defined by some outside entity. Since the only defining entities I am aware of are those beings who can sense and use the Force, it must be those beings who make that definition. Being that our will is the tool we use to manipulate and seek control of and with the Force, it must be our will that creates the definition of 'color,' through the mechanism you allude to. I believe that mechanism would be intent, motivation."

Obi-Wan watched the young master, saw for the first time all the physical tics he had. His strong fingers twisted and yanked, methodically, from one sleek plate of hair to another. He threw a glance at Qui-Gon, trying to discern whether this was a good sign or bad and was surprised to see his master tugging at his beard. He looked down at his hands, realized he'd been picking at his cuticles and chuckled, schooling his hands to rest upon his knees.

"You understand, of course, that speaking those words outside these rooms would probably get you in quite a lot of trouble, yes?" Arjet continued.

"Yes, Master."

"Then I know your teacher well enough that I will assume you have the good sense to keep it to yourself."

"Yes, Master."

"So then, as you say, the Dark Side does not objectively exist. What does that mean, for you, your Master, for what you know of me and mine?" Arjet inquired.

Obi-Wan thought again before speaking. "What I know of you is little, outside of rumor and reputation," he finally hedged.

"Assume it is all true. Assume that I really DID kidnap the Crown Prince of wherever and leave him dangling some thirty feet above the palace courtyard, suspended by a fine, strong wire through his abdomen where he could scream out his pain and guilt until he was cut in two. Assume I planned and did that. What does that mean, exactly? Do not those very acts imply that I have certain Dark Side leanings?" Arjet's eyes were hard, razor sharp and unyielding.

Obi-Wan had no trouble believing he had done just as he said ... and yet ... "If there is no Dark Side, then it is easy for you to do that and other things like that, and remain first a Jedi, servant to the Light."

"Correct again. You've done well with this one, Master Jinn."

Qui-Gon smiled. "Always with your help, Master Paje."

"Another question, then, Padawan. Has your Master ever hit you?"

Obi-Wan was a little startled at that. "Yes, of course."


"In sparring, in formal punishment. Never in anger or vengeance," Obi-Wan specified. A flash of movement caught his eye and he brought his hand up in a circular motion, blocking the slap Qui-Gon had aimed at him.

"And yet you stopped that blow. Why is that?" Arjet continued, as if nothing unusual had happened.

"I didn't deserve to be struck, Master Paje. It is my right to defend myself from abuse," Obi-Wan returned his hand to his knee.

"And if we made it clear to you that you DID deserve to be struck?" Arjet inquired archly.

Obi-Wan simply tucked his hands into the small of his back, saying "Lessons are what I most crave, Master Paje."

"And get them you shall. So we know that the Dark Side does not exist, therefore pain and torture, murder and punishment, fear and loathing are all equally parts of the Force, as are peace, contentment, love, kisses, rewards ... are you following me?" Arjet's voice grew sharp.

"Yes, Master."

"Good. They are all part of the Force. Not just the Light or the Dark. But what then is going on with Master Torlamin? What, then, did you feel in that Sith when you fought him? What was that? Surely it wasn't the Force you know and embrace every day? Was it?" Arjet was laying a pattern of words very carefully now.

"Yes. It has to be. If there aren't different sides to the Force, then that must have been some part of the Force I do not yet understand," Obi-Wan said.

Arjet knelt down before him, brushing his cheek with the back of his hand. "And you said he was too young. You need me, Qui-Gon, when your good sense takes it's leave of you."

Qui-Gon simply bowed. Then he asked a question of his own. "So, why do we teach every Trainee, every Padawan, hell, the whole GALAXY that there is a Light and a Dark side to the Force?"

'Um ... " Obi-Wan knew what he wanted to say, but needed an example. "Like the 'midichlorians' thing? Because it's easier for children to think of a little creature inside them, making them feel the Force, than to simply have to accept that this is the way things are?"

Arjet looked shocked. "You know about the midichlorians?"

Obi-Wan shrugged. "I stopped believing in them when I passed cellular biology. That was the same year I stopped expecting gifts from the Snow Spirit."

Qui-Gon chuckled. "Not that it ever made you quit sneaking presents into my rooms."

Arjet stood and paced to the caterer, got a cup of tea for himself and Qui-Gon. Obi-Wan stayed where he was, the formalities of lessons having long uprooted any pangs of unfairness at the situation from him.

"And so, if she isn't touching the Dark Side, because the Dark Side doesn't exist, what exactly is Torlamin up to?" Arjet asked.

Obi-Wan decided he could play along with this little game quite nicely. "Why, she's touching the Dark Side, of course."

"Hmmm," Arjet replied.

"Padawan," Qui-Gon intoned warningly.

"No, really. She must be. I mean, no, the Dark Side doesn't exist as a reality, any more than, apparently, the Light does ... but it exists as an idea ... the Ideas that make the Jedi what we are." Obi-Wan stopped, his head spinning with the concepts that were crystallizing within him.

"Go on," Qui-Gon urged, breath catching in his throat.

"Master, I know you haven't been ... settled ... about my last punishment. Will you tell me why?" Obi-Wan countered.

Qui-Gon drew a deep breath and sat down on the sofa. "Well, because I was in a position where I had to do something I did not want to do. More than that, I had to do a thing I find disgusting and wrong."

"Why didn't you just refuse me? Why not simply say I was forgiven and send me off to my rooms?" Obi-Wan pressed.

"You were well within your rights to request what you asked of me. It was no less your due that I should give it you, unfalteringly."

"And what about the fact that you have never once physically punished me of your own accord? That alone indicates that you would not have it between us, given your choice. But when I have asked you for it, you have given it. I have seen you defy the Council, the Senate's laws, whole planetary governments on less. Why not defy me as well?" Obi-Wan kept his eyes on the floor. He didn't really want to see whatever emotions might be welling up in his master just now.

"I can not. I will not. Your training is the very thing that will make you a Jedi, something that you need, something you want so badly that it is as natural as breathing. As your Master, I have given oaths, made promises to you that I will never falter or fail in training you. To deny you any part of your training simply because it would make me unhappy to give it to you ... that would be the grossest sort of negligence. It puts my comfort and peace before your training, a thing I will not do. I will not say 'I deny you your right to choose. I deny you your place as my Padawan. I deny the laws and rules and codes and formalities that make us Jedi, that define our existence and our lives. I do so merely because it would pain me to obey those laws.' To be defiant under those circumstances would only bring destruction to you. And to me." Qui-Gon finished quietly.

"Well, Master Paje, I'd say that was the Light Side right there. Essence defines existence. The reasons, motivations behind a thing are what makes an action, feeling, decision light or dark. It is the being who touches the Force, who channels it through themselves and their desires that makes the Force light or dark. Torlamin is touching the Dark Side because she has become Dark within." Obi-Wan held that idea at arm's length for a quick inspection. "And I have not."

"Indeed. You have not and she has. Your intentions are pure, while hers are tainted. Good enough for now. For conversational purposes and to keep ourselves from slipping around ... others ... you should know that we still use the terms 'Light Side' and 'Dark Side'. And eventually you will gain lessons in why these terms are fairly apt. But for the nonce, call yourself ready to help us with Torlamin and Corubia, as much as can be expected of a Padawan." Arjet went to the wall near the holovid and took a picture down. Behind it was a little hidey-hole from which he drew a small box. "You probably didn't notice these before, which would be a good thing as far as I'm concerned. Qui-Gon stopped wearing his, for various reasons, when you became his student but I wouldn't be surprised if he took it on again."

Nestled in the box were several plain, gold rings. They gleamed in the twinkling lights, about a dozen of them in various sizes. He took one from it's place in the black velvet lining and approached Obi-Wan. "You're still a Padawan, with all that it means. You will still be learning, taking much harder lessons than you had any cause to expect in this life or any other. But you are capable. That much is clear. Would you be one of us, though you do not yet know all that we do and all that we are?"

Obi-Wan considered it. "You are doing the most difficult work the Order has to offer, aren't you?"

"Yes. We have lost many of our members of late. One of us has gone into hiding, taking her Padawan with her, because of an incident that occurred recently in connection to our research. You may lose your home here at the Temple. You may lose your name and your face. You may lose your life. You may lose ... " here Arjet turned a careful eye towards Qui-Gon, then returned his gaze to Obi-Wan. "You may lose all that you hold sacred and dear. Or you could save it all. Only through joining us do you have even a chance of effecting that salvation."

Obi-Wan held his hand out to Master Paje. Master Paje regarded it carefully, then passed the ring to Qui-Gon, breaking his own traditions.

Qui-Gon accepted with mute gratitude, kneeling before Obi-Wan. "Bear and bind you, Noble Warrior of the Force, to the law of this never-ending circle." He held the ring close for Obi-Wan's inspection. Not gold, as Obi-Wan had first thought, but something else, some kind of stone he was not familiar with. As Qui-Gon gathered light up from the room, concentrated it within the ring, Obi-Wan could see that it was clear, crystal clear with a double-helix running through it. The helix was of sharp contrasts, darkest ebony and snowy white, twisted, touching, infinitely connected within the ring. The light dissipated and the ring returned to the dull gold, hiding its secret most effectively. "Knowledge before Power."

After a moment, Obi-Wan realized that this was the oath he was asked to take. "Knowledge before Power." Qui-Gon slid the ring onto the smallest finger of Obi-Wan's right hand.

Then Qui-Gon did a very strange thing. He bowed forward, placing his forehead on Obi-Wan's knees. Arjet came closer, made a gesture towards Obi-Wan's left hand, then to Qui-Gon's head. Confused, Obi-Wan placed his hand on Qui-Gon's hair. Something glittering and cold bloomed behind his eyes, stark in it's sudden reality. Qui-Gon jerked under his hand, cried out, then stilled.

"On his life you are taken to us. On pain of his death you will not turn against us."

Obi-Wan nodded, eyes clenched tight against the icy spike within his mind. "I swear," he gasped, understanding little.

Then it was gone. Replacing it was a soft and pure compulsion to stay well within the lines that defined the Jedi way, the Light as he understood it, lest his Master pay the ultimate price for his failing.

Qui-Gon's arms were around him. "It's temporary, just while I'm your master."

Obi-Wan nodded, accepting though he did not truly understand why such a thing had been done to him, to Qui-Gon. "Thank you, my Master. I will protect you."

"I know you will, my Padawan, even if there was no oath to bind you."

Arjet was touching Obi-Wan's shoulder then. "Padawan Kenobi, this is something from my personal files. I think you will find it ... most enlightening." He held out a datachip, which Obi-Wan accepted with a nod. "Qui-Gon, I must go see to Torlamin. I'll need your help in about an hour, down in the cell blocks. Can you be there with your Padawan? We should do this before we see the Council," Arjet was somewhere near the door.

"Yes, Arjet. I'll see to it," Qui-Gon replied absently. "I'll have to feed this one first."

"Of course you will. And I think I'm just going to go claim someone else who needs feeding," Arjet exited the lab whistling a merry tune.

Corubia dropped her packs on the bed in her new room. Master Paje was moving into his bedroom in their new quarters. It turned out that Arjet Paje had never been assigned permanent quarters, so peculiar was it for him to be on Coruscant at all, much less in the Temple. Lrakin Rilka had given them quarters meant for a Master/Padawan pair, just in case everything went as planned. If it did not, another move would be needed anyway.

Corubia had not been able to make herself go to her rooms for her personal belongings. She made a mental note to ask someone to bring them to her. All she had with her were the things she had taken on her last mission. They took almost no time to put away. A rumble in her stomach reminded her she had not eaten in a long time, and she headed out to the kitchen.

Arjet was waiting by the caterer, waiting for his ever-present tea to be delivered. Corubia locked her knees, overriding the urge to kneel, hoped it was not noticed.

Arjet raised an eyebrow, curious. "Still having some impulse-control problems?"

Corubia chuckled ruefully. "It seems as though I am."

"Is there something I can do to help with that?" he inquired.

"Maybe if you tied this stuff back so I can see your eyes. You have very kind eyes ... " Corubia reached out to push his hair back further.

"That sounds like a deal to me. I'll get a tie while you get some lunch for us. We need to prepare for the testing tomorrow." He headed for his rooms.

"I thought I already passed the tests you set," Corubia scrolled through the menu listings.

"Yes, well, those were to see if you were mad or Dark. Now you'll be tested on your current standing. Padawan Kenobi and Master Jinn will be brought into this, I'm sure, considering their involvement with the situation. It was suggested that we recall her first Padawan, but it does not seem to me that she had much influence in his life. Indeed, it begins to look like she never had a hand in anyone else's life." Arjet held a blue ribbon out to Corubia. "Would you?"

"Yes, Master Paje. And no, she didn't seem to have much of a social circle. She didn't stop me from having friends, but I think she wanted to try." Corubia gathered Arjet's strait plates of hair back in a topknot, not unlike the one Master Jinn so often wore. She smiled. *I'm going to have to tell Obi-Wan that we have matching Masters now. That is, if he actually BECOMES my master.* A few twists and a knot, and his hair hung back neatly. She stepped back to survey her handiwork. "Well, it's serviceable, but it's not really you. I'll have to think about this."

"I liked it how it was," Arjet groused.

"You look like a kid, how it was."

"Part of my charm. Maybe I should frost it, give me a little distinguished gray. What do you think?" He tugged at a loose strand, then pushed it away.

"I think not. So, how do you want to prepare for these tests?" Corubia turned to the caterer and gathered up their provisions. She set the table for their meal and Arjet followed with the tea.

"We'll begin with some mental exercises and work from there. Now, tell me what you know about the Pearl Drop cycle of meditations."

Corubia began her explanation around bites of sandwich. Soon they were embroiled in a debate on the subject. *Now I know what Obi-Wan's had all this time. Lucky boy. I think this might work out after all.*

Unbidden, her thoughts turned towards the reason she was where she was. The memory of Torlamin's Darkness, the moments when that ichor had reached out for her mind from her master. A second later, she was clinging to the toilet bowl, losing her lunch. Master Paje was there beside her, stroking her back as she vomited. His low voice crooned "It didn't happen. You're still with us. You are a Jedi, you didn't break. I am so proud of you."

He went on in this vein as she broke down and cried. He held her, murmuring reassurances and hoping fervently that Qui-Gon was having an easier time with his student.

Obi-Wan had requested and been granted time to look over the data Arjet had given him before their appointment with Rue Torlamin. The more he read, though, the less he liked what he learned. He had expected, perhaps, more philosophy or thought-provoking questions from the enigmatic Master Paje. What he got was ... more information than he really wanted to know. Not about the Dark Force, or those associated with it. At least, not directly. What he had was a piece of his Master's past. A piece of Qui-Gon Jinn.

He put his lightslate aside and lay back on the cool tile. He had gone off to hide himself on a balcony near Corubia's rooms. Ex-rooms, he reminded himself. For years it had been the hiding place he most relied on, knew he would either be left alone or in the company of friends he trusted. Now he wished it wasn't quite so secluded. He sighed and picked up the lightslate, starting the files again, setting the slate to read them aloud to his poor, shocked mind. Arjet Paje's voice drifted out to him.

"Personal address to Padawan Kenobi, from Master Paje. I hope you're sitting down. If not, you might want to get comfortable. This is a short story, but an ugly one. One you might not have heard before. Looking over these files, I realize there are some gaping holes, so I'm going to try to fill them in here, give you a little background to work from. I hope ... I most sincerely hope what you learn here will not be too difficult for you to bear. It was almost too difficult for me to bear, but then again, I was there at the time and ...

"Ahem. Your master, Qui-Gon Jinn had a student named Xanatos. I can't tell you his last name, because honestly, we don't know. I know he took the last name Fendle after a time, but ... there's a lot we don't know about Xanatos. A lot we might never know. Anyway, your master, my friend, Qui-Gon had been working with me for some time, studying the nature of the Dark Side, writing and researching the subject almost exclusively since his first Padawan passed her trials. It came to our attention that there was a child, a human boy in the crèche that might benefit from our intervention.

"Qui-Gon went to interview the child, play with him, see how we might help. To this day I wish I had made the time to go myself. Skies how I wish that. He, Xanatos, he was a real charmer, even at that age. Young, almost too young, just turned ten and nothing would do but that Qui-Gon take him as a Padawan. I went to see him for myself, later. I understood why Qui-Gon wanted him. I was ... cautiously in favor of the pairing.

"No. That's wrong. I ... encouraged him. I think I might have influenced him too strongly. I know I did. I told him that the boy had almost no chance of completing his training with anyone other than a member of our merry band. I told him we could handle anything the kid threw at us. I told him I'd take care of the situation if things went badly. Promised him that. It's a promise I fully intend to keep, as soon as I lay hands on the slimy little bastard. That's Xanatos, not your Master. Anyway, with one thing and another, Qui-Gon and Xanatos were bonded and I sort of hung around to help when I could.

"Things seemed to be going well. Argh. I can't lie to you. I can not hide behind the words I would give to almost any other. Half-truths will do you no good. Things were dangerous almost from the start. Qui-Gon was being somewhat ... unorthodox in his training of Xanatos. You see, the boy had a great deal of fear in him, much anger and resentment at the Order for having taken such control of his life. In truth, I think we would have done him a greater service to simply not train him at all. He was not suited to this life. He was not one to be a Jedi. But Qui-Gon, philosopher that he was, believed he could train the boy up in a new way, teach him to use his copious energies as strengths, rather than tamping them down and moving them into new areas. I told him that if anyone could handle the situation, it was us. We knew the chances weren't good, but went ahead anyway, cobbling together new exercises, new techniques for the boy.

"Strangely enough, this seemed to work. Slowly, with much care and looking after, Xanatos lost his fears, lost his anger, became a calm and useful member of the Order. We thought we had succeeded, found a new way to make Jedi. A new breed of Jedi, we called it. Foolish. I know now, WE know now that the traditions of the Order are there for a reason, that the thousands of years that have gone into their making can not be overruled by a couple of upstart anomalies, no matter who. They can not be denied or altered by any of us. What we did was foolhardy and wrongheaded. We learned a hard lesson. It is one thing for an individual to learn how to work within the rules, the laws of the Order and then choose to move outside of those boundaries. Quite another to never learn those rules at all.

"It was not intentional. We ... he honestly thought he was doing what was best for the boy, training him in the best way he knew how. I don't want you to get the impression that Xanatos had nothing of the sort of training you have received. For the most part, your training has been identical, as far as I know. Only here and there, deeper inside, would you find the differences. And the differences would all lie in Xanatos' motivations.

"If you have this message, you've already learned how important motivations can be.

"So Qui-Gon and Xanatos were sent on a mission, one to test the Padawan, preparatory to his formal Trials. I still don't know what Yoda had them doing on that stupid little mudball. All I know is that Qui-Gon called for help and I went. By the time I got there it was much, much too late. The damage had been done and it was a miracle that Qui-Gon got out alive. Some were not so lucky.

"Read the reports from that mission. I'll be honest, I wrote most of them and signed Qui-Gon's name. No one much cared at the time. All anyone cared about was that Qui-Gon's Padawan had turned to the Dark Side. All anyone cared about was blaming your Master. It wasn't his fault. The fault was mine. I taught him what he used, encouraged his use of them and he listened to me. Believed in me and what I had taught him. If you ask him, he'll tell you it was his own pride he was listening to. He'll tell you he failed as a Master, as a Jedi. Nothing could be further from the truth. He would never have taught Xanatos what he did, had I, a senior Master with far more experience than he, not assured him with all my knowledge and logical persuasion that it would be well to do so.

"Anyway, read the reports, listen to my personal logs. Draw your own conclusions, as I'm sure you would do without my permission. Then try to understand this: we never found Xanatos. He escaped with very few leads, none of them fruitful. This knowledge has haunted your master for all the days and years since then. The whole incident changed him from the man I knew then to the man you know now. The change was not totally for the better.

"The work you have joined yourself to will be defined by far more laws than the more normal works of the Order has. You will be expected to obey and abide by them at all times. One of those laws is that no one, NO ONE! below the rank of senior Padawan is to be introduced to the ideas we work with. In fact, you are the youngest to be taken among us and that only because you are ... quite extraordinary, to say the least. Still, you should read and listen. You must. I hope you are frightened by what you learn, for all that fear is a negative emotion. I hope it scares the socks clean off you. This is the power of the Dark Side."

Obi-Wan shut the lightslate off. He'd heard the rest and didn't think he had the stomach to listen to it again. Not yet. A moment's rest and he'd continue. Maybe. Obi-Wan didn't really think he could stand to hear them again. Some of the personal logs were verbal. Most of the ones that were ... he couldn't be absolutely certain, but he'd be willing to wager that the person weeping in the background was his own Master. Qui-Gon Jinn, weeping as if his heart had been broken.

It probably had been.

Arjet got his wish. The story of Xanatos, his final mission as a Jedi, the breakdown, the turning, the attempted murder, the horrible, horrible aftermath of the fight, the chase, losing him in the outer rim, all of it. Obi-Wan was deeply frightened, deeply upset by what he now knew. He drew himself up into a lotus pose and began his meditations. The first step would be to release those fears to the Force. The second would be re-pledging every oath he had ever taken as a Jedi Learner, beginning with the Code and working his way through every guideline and law he could think of. He checked the angle of the suns, making sure he still had time before he must meet his master.

Obi-Wan briefly wondered if Qui-Gon would look any different to him. He drew in a breath, released it, pushing all fear out of himself and into the Force. He gathered himself, found his center easily, almost reflexively and began building his own citadel against the darkness that had so undone his Master's second apprentice and almost claimed Qui-Gon himself.

*I will never hurt you that way, my Master. Never.*

Qui-Gon hated the detention center. It was, bar none, the most sterile, ugly place he had ever been in. The thick walls and near-subliminal white noise did nothing to block the echoes, signatures left in the Force from what had happened in this place. Things that were happening again. Obi-Wan walked silently at his side, hands behind his back as if he'd been asked a question and was waiting permission to answer. His eyes took in everything. Qui-Gon was sure he was using his other senses to analyze his surroundings. A door opened and closed somewhere down a hall still before them and a single, keening moan was heard for a moment before it was cut off once more.

"Hmm." Obi-Wan said.

Qui-Gon shivered.

Cord Random appeared around the corner, being pushed backwards by a not-very-serene-looking Arjet Paje. Arjet was hissing imprecations, accusations that were easily heard by the nearing Master and Padawan. "I have told you once already. You are not to be down here without supervision from one of your shepherds. Your apprentice is not to be down here at all! Anakin!"

At that summons, the small blonde boy pelted around the corner and took his place next to Cord.

"Both of you will go to the Council Antechamber. Both of you will wait for us to arrive for our report. Neither of you will go anywhere else or speak to anyone until I have given you leave to do so. Is that understood, Knight Random?" Arjet's glare all but dared him to be defiant.

"Yes, Master Paje," Cord murmured. He took Anakin by the hand and led him past Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan.

Qui-Gon sighed. "Was that really necessary, Arjet?"

"You're damn right it was," Arjet growled. "Come on, we need to get started."

Qui-Gon fell in step beside Arjet, trying to ignore the twinges in his still-healing ankle. He looked back once to double-check that Obi-Wan followed. Arjet led them to one of the side-rooms, not one of the holding rooms proper. Gathered there was Master Ar'thapa, Knight Hunter, Knight Tradian, Jenji and Swed. They were sitting properly on the various chairs and sofas, looking for all the world as if they were about to enter into pitched battle. Qui-Gon sighed again. "Obi-Wan, go sit with the other Padawans," he instructed, taking a seat near the door.

Arjet stood before them all, ready to begin. "We will be working with Torlamin more deeply now. It will require all skill and delicacy. It will be dangerous, potentially deadly to someone without absolute control of themselves and their skill. For this reason, the Padawans will remain here, excluded from this session."

It spoke well of their training that no apprentice raised a protest.

"The rest of you will serve as my anchors while I work. When I have done what I can, Qui-Gon and I will go to the Council and make our report. Hopefully, we will return with good news. While we are gone, Obi-Wan will stay with Master Ar'thapa and not leave her supervision until Qui-Gon fetches him." Arjet fixed each individual with a steady look until he had received an acknowledgment of assent. "Torlamin is in the observation room. Let us go there now."

Qui-Gon gave Obi-Wan a reassuring smile before standing to leave with the others. Although his Padawan looked somewhat surprised, he returned the smile immediately.

Arjet unlocked the observation room door and led the way in. Torlamin had stopped screaming, was curled up in a corner of the room. Her hair was wild, eyes tired but defiant. She seemed to have herself under some kind of control, but of what duration Qui-Gon could not tell. *She looks like nine different flavors of hell,* he thought.

Her eyes fixed on him and he felt, almost SAW the attack before it came. Painful whipchords of inky blackness tore at him. He moved swiftly, cutting through them with Light energy of his own. Torlamin growled once and subsided.

Arjet looked back at him. "Good. She'll not hurt you, now."

Qui-Gon shook his head in disbelief. Just days ago he had worked with this woman, brought a mission to success with her help. Now she was near-feral, mentally and emotionally shredded by the battle being fought within her. Pure madness was claiming her, that much was clear. "Arjet, are you sure? We're Jedi, not magicians ... "

"We have to try. Duty demands the fullest effort," Arjet reminded him.

"I accept that, totally, but we can't go in there and unbend the road, you know. She's taken a path and we can not unmake that," Qui-Gon sighed and shook his head. "I think this is an exercise in futility."

Arjet made no reply, nor did any of the others. They ranged out in a semicircle around her, Arjet seated closest and directly in front of her. "Rue, good day. We've come to try and help you. Will you let us?"

She snarled.

Qui-Gon knelt down, centering himself, opened his mind to Arjet's touch, letting his strength be guided by the other Master. He felt the low-grade jolts as the others also surrendered to their leader. Qui-Gon could not clearly see what Arjet was doing. It was as if he watched from a distance and through the hazy lens of Arjet's mind. But by watching the captive woman, he could see that the action was having effect. Her eyes began to clear, she sat more naturally and her mouth relaxed from the snarl it had adopted. Then Qui-Gon felt the tug of Arjet's thoughts and answered them.

//What can I do?//

<<Help me. Hold this ... >>

Qui-Gon saw what it was that needed shoring up. Some part of Torlamin's memory had become so twisted that reality and fantasy had blended into a nightmare montage of fear and suffering. Arjet had erected a thin wall of shields, a block on her recall that might make her a little easier to deal with. Qui-Gon withdrew control from Arjet and began working on those shields. Around him, he felt similar work being done by the others, some anchoring Arjet, others carrying out tasks to heal or repair the mind they worked in. After a long moment he showed his project to Arjet. He received a sense of approval and was shown another repair to effect. This was more difficult. Somewhere Torlamin had dreamed up incidents between herself and Obi-Wan that could never have possibly happened. Pitched battles, sexual encounters, scenes of bloody abuse with her as aggressor, victim, helpless onlooker, paying customer.

Qui-Gon's gorge rose as he simply undid the chemical signatures that had created those memories. He unmade them at the most basic level, that they might never be seen or heard of again. Except in his own mind. He had seen, he knew ... perhaps he might have to always remember. Again his stomach rebelled. He felt the comfort of the others swaddle him in love and gentleness, soothing his revulsion, putting her mad thoughts at a remove from his own, giving himself distance from their violent reality.

He pulled his mind away then, brought himself under control behind mental shields. He looked down, realized that his hands were shaking. "I forgot it was so hard," he heard himself whisper into the otherwise silent room.

"It's okay," Arjet murmured, as if speaking out in his sleep.

After a moment Qui-Gon extended himself back into the torn and broken mind of Rue Torlamin, began checking and re-checking the places of healing as Arjet directed him. After a long moment, they stepped back to look.

A sigh of disappointment escaped Qui-Gon's lips.

"It's the best we can do," Arjet admitted. A touch of mourning colored his words.

"It won't hold. She doesn't want it to. See, she's already fighting against the blocks," Teril pointed out.

It was true. Although there was no malice in her, no desire to attack, Rue Torlamin had already sensed the fact that changes had been made to her mind. She looked up at the others. "Hello."

Arjet bowed to her. "Hello."

"Is there something wrong? I don't feel well. My mind feels ... wrong," her voice was raw, bitter, on the edge of accusation.

Arjet put on his most bland expression. "Master Torlamin, you have been ... in touch with the Dark Side for some long time now. It has affected your ... I'm sorry. It has affected your sanity. We have had to take drastic measures, alter and remove parts of your memories, block off other ideas and concepts from you. We are only trying to help, honestly. You are in grave danger."

"Where is my Padawan? Bring her to me now," Rue demanded, panic lacing her words.

Qui-Gon was shocked by the next words his friend spoke. "You have no Padawan, Rue Torlamin."

Torlamin's eyes widened with shock, then unfocused as she searched within herself. "She's ... dead?"

"No, Master Torlamin. Your bond was severed when you embraced the Dark Force. You know a bond of the Light can not bear such stresses," Arjet spoke low and slowly.

"No. No, you've done something to her, something to us! Bring her to me! I demand the bond be re-forged!" Anger welled up in Rue's soul, a burning, hateful creature. She struggled, tried to release it to the Force, finally doing so after a long moment's battle.

"No, Master Torlamin. Not until we are absolutely certain that it would be for the best," Jayden spoke up.

The even stares of all five Jedi drove this insistence home. For a moment Torlamin wavered on the edge of acceptance. Then one tear rolled down her face and she tumbled into a pit of deep despair. Arjet sighed and rose from his seat on the floor.

"Well, it's better than it was, but ... " Felias shrugged.

"It's nowhere near to being good enough. And I don't know if we can do any better with her." Arjet shook his head.

"What do we do, then?" Qui-Gon asked.

"Well, the others go get some rest. You and I go to the Council and ask them to grant us the powers of the Left Hand."

Qui-Gon sucked in his breath. "You can't be serious. We haven't asked for that since ... "

The sentence didn't need to be completed. The last time the Left Hand was granted against anyone, it had been against Qui-Gon's own student. They stopped in the hallway, watching him struggle with the concept.

"No, you're right. It may well come to that. Best to be prepared," he finally agreed.

Arjet stepped close, pulling Qui-Gon into a strong hug. "Thank you, my friend. I know this is not easy for you. It seems that nothing ever is, in your life."

A soft kiss brushed across Qui-Gon's brow. "It is the Will of the Force. It must be accepted," he sighed. Suddenly he felt quite rung out, ready for a nap. "Come on, we'd better head on up to the Chambers."

"Yeah, fastest started, soonest done," Arjet agreed, keeping a companionable arm around Qui-Gon's shoulders. After a moment the embrace was reciprocated.

"Teril, do see that Obi-Wan eats. He has missed a lot of sleep and tends to lose his appetite when he's tired," Qui-Gon requested.

"Sure, Quigs. No problem," the other master assured him.

As they made their way to the lift, Qui-Gon began ordering his thoughts for the meeting ahead.

Sunset had well begun by the time Qui-Gon and Arjet stood before the Council. *Time flies when you're having fun.* It was hard to believe that just three days ago his biggest concern was how to avoid eating Sand Slugs at the evening meal. Well, no, not true. Three days ago he'd been living in dread that a Sith Lord would cut his Padawan down in battle. Somehow that all seemed very far away, now. Arjet kicked him in the ankle, bringing his attention back to the matters at hand.

"How feel you, Qui-Gon?" Master Yoda asked.

"Well enough, Master. My wounds are healing nicely. I'm sure with a little more rest, I'll be right as rain," Qui-Gon replied with a bow.

"Hmmm." The green Councilor replied. "And you, Arjet? How goes it?"

"Not well, I'm afraid. We've been working on this non-stop for the past day and ... our efforts have been largely wasted. The subject, Rue Torlamin, has not responded well to our attempts to bring her back to a calm center. We have achieved periods of clarity, sleep, been able to speak to her on a few occasions, but have been unable to effect what I might consider to be a cure. Masters, we're not even close. The training bond between herself and Padawan Nall has been severed for almost two days now. I'm afraid something must be done about that, as soon as possible," Arjet put on his bland expression again.

A round of looks passed through the Council chamber. They all knew of Corubia, some had helped to train her in areas where Torlamin had been ... unfit to say the least. "She must be seen to immediately," Master Windu announced.

"It must first be proven that Torlamin is not going to be able to resume her duties," Adi Gallia reminded them all. "We can't simply act on the word of your little lapdog all the time, Yoda." Here she shot a look at Master Paje.

"Correct, you are. A test, there must be. Proven, your assertions must be, Master Paje," Yoda agreed.

"What would you suggest, Masters?" Arjet settled his hands deeper into his sleeves, a sign that he was trying not to yank on his hair.

"Let us decide on that ourselves, Master Paje. What have you to add, Master Jinn?" Master Gallia turned towards him.

"I do not believe we will succeed in bringing Master Torlamin to the Light once more. Having some experience on that subject, I ask that we be granted the powers of the Left Hand in her case," Qui-Gon fought another frantic skirmish with his stomach as he said the words.

"Do you really think that will be necessary?" Mace asked, concerned.

"I do. And if it is, we will not want it to be a matter of public record, will we?" Qui-Gon quirked a smile at them all.

Another round of looks passed through the chamber.

"She has no way to escape the Temple, Qui-Gon. Why do you ask this of someone in your power?" Master Bilba wanted to know.

"Because, Master, I do not believe her to be in anyone's power, least of all her own. We may have her contained at this particular point in time and no one the wiser. But if it became general knowledge ... I'm sure you don't want this to become an Order-wide issue. You know how ugly those can get." Qui-Gon drew himself up even straighter, squaring his shoulders.

"So you want us to give you permission to execute her? That's your solution?" Mace was doing his enigmatic bit.

"And I'm asking you to give us that permission with the agreement that no inquiry will be made as to the circumstances of her death. Let us handle this. You don't want to be involved here," Arjet informed them.

"The life of a Jedi Master into the hands of the shadows, Arjet? You would make yourself judge, jury and executioner all at once?" Adi shook her head, disbelieving.

"Why not? I've been your executioner for years, I might as well get some say in who lives and who dies for once," Arjet sniped back. "Besides, it wouldn't just be me. It would be all of us, the group working together."

"Shadow Jedi doing shady work," Adi grumbled.

"It's what we were brought together for and you know it. You needed a free hand to do your dirty work and now that free hand is well and truly dirty. What's a little more blood between friends?" Qui-Gon shot in her direction.

The Council sat in silence for a long moment, considering his words. It was true. When the idea of a formal study of the Dark Side first arose amongst the Jedi, a certain type of Jedi was sought out to make that study. Not only were the original members the most intelligent, most quick-witted, most loyal and most cunning of the Order, but they were also the odd ducks, the shady dealers, the 'unspoken' members who were sent on less than honorable missions in less than legal circumstances. As much as the group had been set up for academic work, it had essentially become a stable of Operatives who could be trusted to do anything at any time, so long as they could be convinced it was the most expedient path to Justice. Arjet had really begun to change all that when he came to head the group and yet the fact remained that he was the finest assassin the Order had ever seen.

The left hand doing what the right hand never really wanted to know about. That the tradition regarding execution of a Jedi was called the Ceremony of the Left Hand was not without its own irony. Indeed, amongst the Councilors, members of the Group were often called Shadow Jedi or the Order of the Left Hand. Both were fairly accurate, as far as that went.

"This all depends on what is known once the Test is complete. Should Torlamin fail the test, we will see to Corubia first. Should she fail, you may do with her as you will," Mace finally granted.

Qui-Gon sighed with relief.

"Now, on the matter of the Sith ... " the dark-skinned Master continued.

"I'm sorry, but we've just not had time to work on that problem. Groundwork has been laid, but we are far from solid answers. There have been more pressing issues," Master Paje was in full force.

"I see. Well, I suppose that's to be expected. So then ... would you like to tell us why Cord Random and Anakin Skywalker have been in our anteroom all evening?" Mace asked.

"It has become evident that Knight Cord Random can not be taken into the Group. His master was none of ours and his time working with Erac did little to prepare him for our project. His instincts are poor, his mindset unwary, his philosophical viewpoints incompatible. Also, he has no fear, and not in the great Jedi tradition. Fear may lead to anger, but it's also a pretty good indicator of a dangerous situation. Without it, he is crippled to us. Without it, he endangers his Padawan by exposing him to volatile situations a child should never see," Arjet was vehement.

"I was under the impression that, once embraced, a Jedi could not be released from the Shadow," Adi raised an eyebrow of inquiry.

"He has not been embraced. And we aren't shadows, Councilor. I tried to introduce him to our line of work, but he proved unable or unwilling to follow our simplest rules. I will continue to work with him on the subject Anakin Skywalker, but he will not be allowed to work with us further. That is my final word on the subject." Arjet threw a glance at Qui-Gon.

"I quite agree," Qui-Gon nodded solemnly.

Master Yoda stroked his chin thoughtfully. "Our decision that is not. Grateful we are to be informed of your choice. Go then and rest. In your rooms remain until tomorrow evening, then to the Testing arena come. Arrange for Torlamin to be brought, you will."

"Yes, Master," Arjet and Qui-Gon spoke in unison.

"May the Force be with you," Master Windu said, dismissing them.

They bowed and beat a hasty retreat.

Arjet turned his steps towards the antechamber but Qui-Gon put a hand out to stop him. "Do you need any help with that?"

Arjet flashed him a grin. "The day I need help with an upstart Knight and a Padawan Learner is the day you're putting me on my pyre, Old Man."

"Old Man? Look who's talking!" Qui-Gon shot back. "I'll just go get Obi-Wan and lock us in for the duration."

"Have fun," Arjet smiled. "Call me if you need anything."

Waving his agreement, Qui-Gon set off to collect his apprentice.

Arjet took a deep breath before stepping into the anteroom, preparing himself for battle. For all that he needed no help, he was certainly going to be careful in this exchange. The Chosen One, young Skywalker may be ... but no future was set in stone. Anakin's future was more clouded than most, making him a volatile and dangerous element in the already unstable mix of Jedi working near the edges of the Dark. That Cord Random hadn't seen these dangers, or had chosen to ignore them only proved that he could not be allowed even an inch of leeway with the group.

When he entered the anteroom, Cord was sitting on one of the benches. Ani was huddled in a corner playing with what looked to be a coil of wire. "Knight Random?"

"Good evening, Master Paje," Cord replied miserably.

Arjet glanced at Anakin, then back at Cord. "Would you ask your Padawan to wait outside, please?"

Cord nodded. "Ani, if you please, a little privacy? Just outside, now. Don't wander off." Padawan Skywalker bounced to his feet, bowed to his elders and disappeared through the doorway.

"I presume you've had some time to think about your actions?" Arjet began.

"Yes, Master Paje."

"By disobeying our laws, you have endangered yourself and, more importantly, your Padawan. I can not forgive such action. We of the Group may choose to involve ourselves in the Dark, but free choice is not an option available to an apprentice. A Padawan is sworn to follow where the Master might lead. It is the position of myself and my associates that no junior Padawan may be led down this path for this very reason. Once a person becomes involved with the Dark, it will always dominate their destiny," Arjet winced at the twisting of that particular bit of wisdom. It was too true to be anything but painful.

"I can't understand what it is you're so upset about. She was sedated, offered no threat, Anakin was only finishing up his math lessons in the waiting room. Why is that so wrong?" Cord demanded.

"It is wrong because I told you to not allow him near her. The situation with Torlamin is akin to a combat situation. You disobeyed orders under fire. If your Master was here, I'd send you off for corporal punishment, for all that you are a knight now. Suppose we had been wrong about her condition? You might have been killed. HE might have been killed. You brought great danger to us all," Arjet tried to put his feelings into words. It was difficult, trying to voice reasoning that had so long been with him that it had become second nature.

"What will become of us, Master Paje?" Cord whispered.

"You will remain here at the Temple where you can be watched and helped if you need it. As far as you can be spared from field duty, you will not be sent on missions. I will advise the Council that your dealings with Torlamin have made you unreliable for the nonce. I will try to have you assigned to some position here on Coruscant, and some member of the Group will be available to you at all times," Arjet informed him.

"House arrest, then? What do you hope to accomplish with this?" Cord inquired.

"I'm trying not to take you up to the West Tower and put an end to your threat, young Knight. Have you forgotten what I am?" Arjet gazed at him through slitted eyes. "Only the fact that your Padawan has been through enough trauma for one year keeps me from killing you tonight. You are officially unstable, summarily tainted and only long work in the Light will prove to me that you are otherwise. We take NO chances, Cord Random. We have NO compunctions when it comes to removing a threat to ourselves and our loved ones. I am personally responsible for the fact that you became involved in this at all. I am, therefore, personally responsible for the effects of that involvement. I will stop at nothing to see my duty done."

Cord opened his mouth, then closed it, bowing his head. Arjet reached out to him, searching for any sign of defiance or anger. To his relief, there was none. Only confusion and a bare hint of fear. He sighed. "Take your Padawan home. We will see to your duty assignment day after tomorrow."

"Yes, Master Paje. Thank you, Master Paje," Cord stood and bowed, hiding behind the rote responses. They stepped into the hallway and Cord beckoned to Anakin. "Come along, Padawan."

Anakin stood from the place he had occupied while they spoke. "Master Paje? I made this for you ... " The boy held out a small figure made of twisted wire. A tiny bird with beads for eyes. "If you pull the tail, the wings work."

Arjet smiled as the bird obediently flapped for him. "Thank you, Anakin. If it pleases you and your Master, I shall see about getting you clearance to the machining room day after tomorrow."

"Thank you, Master," the young boy bowed solemnly.

"Thank you again, Master Paje," Cord bowed over the top of the child.

He watched the pair retreat from his presence and forced his worry from his mind. Hopefully these measures would prove to be enough, as they had in the past. Hopefully, this would be the beginning of a strong Master/Padawan pairing, one the Order could be most proud of.

Arjet sighed. *Don't make me regret this, Cord. If you do, you'll pay in blood.*

During their walk back from Master Ar'thapa's rooms, Qui-Gon had been unusually silent. He offered no information on the Council meeting and Obi-Wan was strangely reluctant to ask, here in the hallways where anyone might overhear. Somehow, he was also reluctant to touch his master's mind, preferring to leave him in peace except for the occasional sending of comfort and support.

Upon entering their rooms Qui-Gon checked for messages, read over one then switched off the vidscreen. Qui-Gon settled onto the sofa and fixed his eyes on the window. Obi-Wan cast about for something to do, then decided to simply be there for his master. He knelt down beside the coffee table, centered his thoughts and relaxed. If Qui-Gon needed him, he would be here waiting.

A long moment passed, then Obi-Wan broke it, asking "What did Master Paje have to say to you?"

Qui-Gon sighed, passed a hand over his face and looked at his apprentice. "Master Paje took it upon himself to put some heavy demands on the Council. They agreed, under certain restrictions. We've been assigned to help him run some tests regarding Corubia and Torlamin. We'll be starting with them tomorrow and the Council asks that we remain here, more or less, until then."

"You are helping in the test as well?" Obi-Wan asked.

"Yes. There will be a little falsehood entered into the Council Records, according to the message I just received. Officially, you are to be tested for 'signs of the Dark Side', whatever that means. Again, officially, I informed the Council that if they questioned your integrity they questioned mine. They chose to also question mine. Of course, this led to a bout of debate as to the manner of testing, which I saw no point in involving myself with. More fodder for the 'Qui-Gon Jinn, Maverick Jedi' legend," Qui-Gon punctuated this with an editorial snort. "Anyway, that gives us a leg to stand on when it comes to enlisting the help of the Council with these proceedings."

"And will Corubia be staying with us?" Obi-Wan had meant to gather some bedding for her. There was plenty of space in his room for her belongings.

"No. She has been 'ordered' to stay with Master Paje. I argued the point, saying she would be most welcome here, but the Council wants her 'in hand' as quickly as possible. Well, I think Arjet will have a few surprises for them on that quarter, anyway." Qui-Gon smiled.

"And Rue Torlamin?"

"She's being seen to. What we're really doing is trying to establish her fitness as a Master, or lack thereof. I am deeply concerned about what we are dealing with in her. What she did was not even mostly from insanity. She may have turned against us, irredeemably. If there is even the slightest bit of good left in her, we will try to save her. I fear there is not." Qui-Gon's smile disappeared with these words.

"Has Corubia seen her?"

"Not yet, but she soon will. One of the deepest and most powerful bonds Torlamin had was with her Padawan. It is gone, shattered by her turning. Corubia seemed more relieved than anything and I don't blame her for a second." Qui-Gon shuddered at the thought of being bonded to a darksider. He remembered clearly the ache that came when his bond to Xanatos had shattered under the strain of conflict. Even more clearly he recalled that the break had been a relief. He had no longer been connected in any way to the evil his student had become.

He realized he had closed his eyes only when he opened them. Obi-Wan was wiping his tears away, drying them from his cheeks and beard. "Master, it will not happen."


"It will not happen again. Not with me. I swear it. I would sooner die than to hurt you, abandon you for something as stupid and revolting as that kind of evil." Obi-Wan spoke earnestly.

"I never thought you would. And I think you would sooner lop off your own arm than give me so much as a paper cut."

The fact that Obi-Wan simply nodded at this opinion made Qui-Gon's heart ache. He gave so much, so willingly. Perhaps his student had no concept of taking for himself, or even accepting a gift. *I should be doing more to teach him. I know it's been rare for me to show him that kind of care. I doubt if anyone else has, either.* And yet he hesitated. He had been just that indulgent with Xanatos in the beginning, before it was apparent that such love would be abused. One look at Obi-Wan sitting so still, so patient, pushed all such considerations out of the realm of reason.

So still. Qui-Gon realized what he was seeing for the first time. Obi-Wan sat, in Upward Lion pose, not a fidget to be found. "Obi-Wan?"

"Yes, Master?"

"Stand up. Give me Warrior Pose."

Obi-Wan stood fluidly, jumped his feet shoulder-width apart and held his arms out, palms down. He shifted his placement and balance and stood perfectly still. Even the rise and fall of his breath was so slow as to be nearly imperceptible.

"Just hold that." Qui-Gon said. It was a command his Padawan had often struggled with. He had occasionally managed to get his perpetual motion under control, but it usually took long bouts of practice and meditation before the stillness would win out over movement. Only in battle did immobility and stealth come naturally to Obi-Wan.

Now the boy was as still as a sculpture.

Qui-Gon reached out through his link to Obi-Wan, seeking entrance to his thoughts. Obi-Wan let the shields he held fall away. No resistance, no struggle. That alone gave Qui-Gon pause. He cast about to find what had brought these changes in Obi-Wan. Finding them, he withdrew to his own mind.

"You read your records again?"

"Yes, Master."

"And it influenced you that much?"

"I know you can count on me to be sufficient as your partner, Master. All my records, everything Master Paje says, everything you say tells me that this is true."

"Tree pose."

Obi-Wan shifted into that stance.

Qui-Gon continued his interrogation. "And this knowledge did what for you?"

"It stilled my fears. Even if I am personally unworthy to be with you, even if I am spiritually unworthy for the job I have been allowed to have, I know I have been trained to be sufficient to the task." Obi-Wan paused, breathed calmly. "Now I believe my thoughts are closer to being stilled, though they are not quite so yet, Master."

"Indeed they are not. I must watch this closely, Padawan. It is important in your development. You still think yourself less than you are. You MUST learn a way to get beyond your Enemy. Still, you accept your own ability, which is a good thing. You also imply that you believe we will serve together in the long term and are allowing yourself to become accustomed to the idea." Qui-Gon would have been blind, deaf and dumb to miss the sharp intake of breath, and the slow curling of index finger over thumbnail that occurred with this announcement. He was relieved, he found, to see that little tick occur. "If indeed you are comfortable with the idea of being my partner after you pass your Trials, I would be most honored. And it would save me one HELL of an argument with the Council."

"They want us working together, then?"

"Depending on how this whole Torlamin thing turns out, they will probably order me to begin persuading you. I'd hate to get into that argument again. I'm glad it may be possible to avoid it. It will be possible to avoid it, yes?"

Obi-Wan shrugged.

"Do you want us to be together?"

"I have never been apart from you, how would I know if it would be better or worse?" Obi-Wan was frank with Qui-Gon.

"You mistake yourself, Obi-Wan. You have been very much apart from me and more often than you think. I want you to meditate upon that while I rest." Qui-Gon took on his instructing tone with these words.

"Yes, Master."

Corubia stared down through the observation window into the holding cell deep in the Jedi Temple. Her master was down there, clothed in loose pants and shirt, binders securing her wrists. Ex-Master she reminded herself. Rue Torlamin looked quite a bit worse for the wear, livid bruises on face and arms. "Why did you do that to her?"

Master Paje was standing next to her, back to the observation window. "We didn't. She's almost totally out of control. When we removed any opposition from her vicinity, she ... I don't know how to describe it. She turned her use of the Force against herself. She's heavily sedated now ... aware of her surroundings, but not lucid enough to use her abilities."

Corubia nodded. "I can't feel her. I reach out to her and she's not there. No Bond, no identifiable signature in the Force any more..." She turned her back to the window, went to a small table where a pot of cav sat ready. Arjet joined her for a cup.

"She's still in the Force, Corubia. The difference is that we can not see into where she is. Her spirit is joined to the Dark Side and lives there now. If you tried, you could still reach her mind, but I don't think you'd like it. When she's awake, lucid ... it's pretty ugly. I think the madness has started to recede and she's starting to get a handle on how to use and control the Force again, but only through the veil of Darkness that surrounds her. She's certainly getting better at hurting herself." He sighed and rubbed his hands over his eyes.

"I have a plan ... one you could help me with, if you are brave. It is still possible that she could come back to us. I have heard stories, seen cases where those who turned against us came back, through love of some other person, someone they valued more than themselves. Mothers rescuing their own children, Knights protecting lovers or friends, or someone they partnered with ... we've saved several like this. It is possible that Rue Torlamin might come back to us if she needed to help you. You're the closest thing to family she's got." He settled himself down into one of the chairs, waiting for her to choose.

Corubia picked at a loose scale on her arm while she considered this. "I don't think it would work out, Master Paje. You're talking about external relationships. Whatever there was between Master Torlamin and myself was destroyed when the Bond between us snapped. It's just ... gone. I look at her, I recognize her and remember all the time we spent and how much I cared about her, but beyond that ... it's just memories. As if we were friends a very long time ago, but not very good friends and a long time has passed."

Master Paje folded his hands in his lap. "I was afraid of that. It has ever been so between a Master and Padawan. Closeness and trust during training, then a clean break. I have always been glad of that mercy. The friendships I have with those I trained were built out of mutual respect and the choice to care for one another, rather than the feelings of trust and companionship that the Force creates with the Bond. But in this instance, I could wish it were otherwise."

Corubia went to look down on Torlamin once more. The pitiful figure below was beginning to move, slow, painful motions as she drew herself into some semblance of a Reclining pose. Corubia reached out, tried to touch the thoughts within that mind, then sighed with relief. "She's trying. Trying to still her thoughts, touch the Light. I will do what I must. I will help you however you think I can, Master Paje. But you must also help me. There is no way she is in any condition to continue my training. Please help me find someone who can."

"Of course, Padawan Nall. It is my honor to so help you." Master Paje stood and put his cup aside. "Come now, there is yet much to do before the testing tomorrow."

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 Dark

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

78 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

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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