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"Qui-Gon, have you any idea what time it is? Why aren't you in bed, and what do you want?" Xan's sleepy tones slurred over the audio connection.

"Has Obi-Wan's presence already been announced via the gossip chain and registered in the Temple register?" A yawn kept the Councillor from replying immediately. Qui-Gon tapped an impatient finger against the desk.

"Xan? Has it?"

"I believe it has. I sincerely doubt anyone is discussing him at this particular hour, however."

"Then I've a favor to ask you. Don't list his rank in the records, hmm?"

"Don't list his rank?" Xanatos sounded incredulous. "This is the pressing emergency you had in the middle of the night? Data entry?"

"It's not been listed, has it?"

Silence met that question. The screen flickered, with a scowling Xanatos coming into view. "Posted or not, Obi-Wan's rank can't be much of a mystery for anyone capable of coherent thought--which excludes former Padawans so rudely awakened by pushy former Masters. Kenobi is too young to be a Master, and he hasn't a braid, so he's obviously not a Padawan. No one needs to look it up in the records to figure that out."


The councillor sighed. He paused to rub irritably at one eye as the other drifted closed. "Of course it's listed. I do recall it correctly; his Council knighted him before he left. Qui, what are you up to?"

"Up to? Nothing."

"Then you're checking up on my thoroughness and attentiveness to detail again. Master, your obsessive tendencies are truly annoying at times." He squinted at the chronometer. "Two thirty-three is definitely one of those times, as it happens to fall in the middle of my sleep cycle." "Would the Council object to my acclimating Obi-Wan to our world?"

Another yawn, followed by a deeper scowl. "I can't see why we'd object, unless you plan to start awakening the other Council members as well. Someone needs to help Obi-Wan, and you're not on active duty right now so you're as good a choice as any. But what has this conversation to do with your not wanting Knight Kenobi's rank in the files?"

"Good, good." Qui-Gon beamed at him. "I'll begin taking him about, showing him things in the morning. Thank you for your help, Xan. My apologies for waking you."


The connection was severed abruptly--a sure sign that Qui-Gon Jinn plotting something. Reaching a long finger, Xanatos flicked the key that would terminate his end of the conversation as well. Only then did he allow himself a slow, satisfied smile, followed by a low chuckle.

"That was what a certain green troll and myself intended all along for you to do," he whispered at the now-silent screen. "So nice of you to cooperate." He spared the screen a parting mock glare. "But you're not the least bit sorry for awakening me."

With that, Xanatos went back to bed, well-satisfied with the conclusion to the events of the day.

* * *

Obi-Wan awoke slowly, flexing his stockinged feet beneath the covers and feeling warmer and safer and more secure than he had in months. Drawing a deep breath, he rolled over and just lay there for a few minutes, absorbing how good it felt to just be alive. Breakfast scents wafted from the kitchen, he could hear his Master moving about in the common area, and all was right in his world. He'd obviously been allowed to sleep in, which meant that the day would be long and lazy, with kata practice and perhaps some quiet discussion about their next mission.

Obi-Wan's eyes flew open as he remembered the scenario that he was thinking about was long gone. Memory returned with a blow that was almost physical in its shock: he was no longer a Padawan, no longer in his own familiar Temple, and the man moving about in the next room....

Flinging back the covers, Obi-Wan leaped to his feet and looked about frantically for his clothing. It took him a moment to realize that he was still in them. His robe was folded neatly on a chair beside the bed, with his belt laying across it. His boots stood safely beside them.

/My lightsaber!/ he thought, panic welling in his heart. /I didn't see it last night. Where--/

There it was, on the desk. Bounding across the room, he snatched it up and fastened it to his belt. His brain scarcely registered the presence of the object sitting next to it, glimmering in the sunlight. Obi-Wan had turned away and was reaching for his boots when he realized what he'd seen, but not seen. Turning back slowly, he stared at a second lightsaber sitting on the desk. /That's mine./

He stared harder. Yes, it was his. Same plain design, same metallic sheen. Reaching out, he poked it with a finger. It rocked gently in its cradle, the metal beltloop clicking gently against the casing. He dared to pick it up, settle it properly in his hand. The handle fit snug against his palm, his fingers taking their usual position to wrap around it securely. He couldn't resist thumbing the button to activate it. A familiar blue blade sprang forth, thrumming up his arm. He made a couple of experimental passes before shaking his head mournfully, turning off the weapon, and replacing it carefully in its cradle. The lightsaber he left behind felt smaller and less substantial--much as he'd felt as a junior Padawan. It was a weapon he'd designed whene his dreams of becoming a Knight had still shone in innocence and ignorance. It belonged to his childhood; he preferred to carry his Master's weapon now.

/Mine, not mine, used to be mine. My own was melted down in that pit on Naboo last month, along with a lot of other things inside of me,/ he thought sadly. /That one over there belonged to someone who belonged to that man out there./

Gathering his boots and sitting back on the bed to pull them on, Obi-Wan finally took the time to look around the room. /This used to be mine, too. Some of it, anyway, and it feels the same as my quarters at home. Weird./

The furniture was the same, but beyond that and the saber, the room seemed stripped of all personality. The Padawan who had lived here had long since gone. Except for the saber, hadn't this Qui-Gon Jinn held onto anything that had belonged to his Obi-Wan? It wasn't exactly a question an intruder could ask over breakfast.

Fastening his boots, Obi-Wan reached for his cloak and was grateful for the full night's rest he'd been given. He felt a little better, though his stomach roiled at the thought of encountering the man he knew was waiting for him beyond that door. He remembered this Qui-Gon talking the night before, vaguely remembered being steered inside these rooms, but beyond that Obi-Wan's overstressed brain had simply shut down. What had this Qui-Gon said? For that matter, what had Obi-Wan said or done? /What sort of fool did I make of myself last night? I remember crying in from of him. Gods. Some knight you are, Kenobi./

The answers to his questions lay on the other side of the door. Unable to escape the prospect of facing this Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan slung the cloak about his shoulders. /Come on, sooner started, sooner finished and out of this Master's hair, one way or another./

Running his fingers through his own hair, Obi-Wan took a deep breath before all but slinking from the bedchamber. His gaze immediately went to the tall man standing before a painfully familiar antique desk, thumbing through an assortment of memory wafers. The long limbs were encased in the familiar Jedi robes, the profile was exactly as it should be with its high forehead and crooked nose. Gray-streaked hair flowed over broad shoulders, and for a moment, Obi-Wan stood frozen and stared. Yes, this was his Master and yet, something vibrated in the man's aura that hadn't been there before. Puzzled, Obi-Wan reached out to it, poked it tentatively with his Force-sense.

/What is that?/

He hadn't time to analyze it, as Qui-Gon turned in that moment and commanded Obi-Wan's full attention. The smile he offered was warm and relaxed. It crinkled the corners of his blue eyes, making Obi-Wan feel as if this man were truly happy he was there. Somehow, it only increased Obi-Wan's anxiety, as though this Qui-Gon knew something Obi-Wan did not.

"Good morning," came the familiar baritone. "Did you sleep well?"

Offering a nod and a formal half-bow, Obi-Wan murmured, "I slept very well. Thank you for letting me use your room, Master. I apologize for intruding; I didn't mean to be an inconvenience."

Qui-Gon didn't answer immediately. He was too startled at the elegant formality his visitor offered, as well as the assumptions behind the cultivated tones. Last night's frantic conversation had offered no hint of this wonderful voice. The other, younger Obi-Wan's way of speaking had been pleasant to listen to, but it had offered nothing like this splendid delivery. Qui-Gon also knew that the urbane elegance was very much at odds with the worried, almost panicked expression in those green eyes.

Slowly and deliberately tucking his disks into one of the desk's mnay cubby-holds, Qui-Gon said, "Obi-Wan, you're not an intruder; you are my welcome guest. You seem to have forgotten that I invited you up here. And you're certainly not an inconvenience. Pointing a weary young man at a bed really is not all that taxing a chore."

He smiled at Obi-Wan, but the Knight remained frozen in the doorway, still staring with that worried expression. /Hmm. Try again. Smaller words, perhaps?/

"You are here because I asked you to come here," Qui-Gon tried again. "I'm happy to do anything within my power to help settle you in this world." Locking gazes with the younger man, Qui-Gon sent reassurance rippling through the Force. "Do you understand?"

Obi-Wan frowned and thought about that a moment. "Then... Council is allowing me to stay?"

"That's right. Isn't that what you wanted?"

Looking puzzled, the young knight nodded.

"Then it's good that you're staying, though one would hardly know it from your expression." Qui-Gon considered for a moment. "How much of our conversation do you remember from last night?"

Standing a little straighter, Obi-Wan tucked his hands into his robes and focused on the wall several inches over Qui-Gon's head. The knight now looked as though he were addressing the most senior, most difficult member of the Council.

"I remember leaping over your head, Master. Please allow me to apologize for my reaction to your presence."

/Am I intimidating him?/ Qui-Gon wondered. /I don't mean to. Gods, what a confusing young man. What am I doing to provoke these strange reactions?/

Obi-Wan seemed rooted to the space before the bedchamber door. Qui-Gon considered inviting him to sit down, but thought his guest would only refuse the invitation. /For now, let him remain where he is./ Only a moment before, Obi-Wan had looked ready to bolt. Qui-Gon could sense humility warring with apprehension, along with what seemed to be embarrassment over what had happened the night before.

"It was a most impressive leap, Obi-Wan. No apology is necessary." His guest didn't seem inclined to comment, so Qui-Gon took charge of the conversation.

"I'll tell you again what I told you last night, if I may?" He held up a hand to forestall the next apology he sensed was coming. "I don't mind repeating myself, and you were exhausted. Anyone would be, after undergoing a mindsweep. I was."

Obi-Wan looked startled. "You, Master?"

"Yes. Certain mission events had to be shared in vivid detail some years ago." Qui-Gon suppressed a shudder. "I know how traumatic an experience it is, so please don't feel that you need to apologize for anything you said or did last night."

"Yes, Master."

Qui-Gon nodded his approval. "We'll discuss matters further over breakfast." Rather than wait to see if Obi-Wan approved--which he probably did not, given the tension in his frame that said he still wanted to bolt out of the Master's quarters and probably out of his life as quickly as possible--Qui-Gon led the way into the small kitchen. He was fairly certain that Padawan training, if not simple manners, would demand that the young knight follow him.

"Everything is ready. If you'll just sit here, I won't be a moment." Pulling out a chair, he gave Obi-Wan little choice, short of refusing outright to sit down.

"Master, I should go...."

/So we're going to try outright refusal, hmm?/ Halting abruptly in the entrance to the kitchen, Qui-Gon turned, drew himself up straighter, and nailed Obi-Wan where he hovered near the chair he'd been assigned. "Why should you go? Do you have somewhere else to be?"


"Are you so eager to be free of my company? My reputation as a tyrant has reached you already?"

"No, Master! It's just that--"

"Then I would be very grateful if you'd sit down and have some breakfast with me, Obi-Wan Kenobi," Qui-Gon said kindly, lowering his voice and letting some warmth sneak in. "A meal is always better with good company. After that, I hope you'll let me show you around this world."

Qui-Gon hesitated as the impact of his words seemed to bring the worry in those green eyes to even greater heights.

I would be pleased to introduce you to some of the knights and key staff members," the Master explained hurriedly. "Everyone will have all sorts of questions to ask you, and the initial encounters might not be nearly as intimidating if you have a guide." He dreaded his next question, but knew that it needed to be asked. "Would you prefer another guide?"

Obi-Wan's green eyes went wide at the fear of rejection flashing so briefly in Qui-Gon's blue eyes. The Force trembled with it as well, and just for an instant it was as though there was a training bond between the two of them: Obi-Wan could feel and read this Jedi's emotions as clearly as had read his own Master's.

"NO!" Dropping abruptly into the chair with an impact that made it rock sideways on two legs, Obi-Wan swallowed hard. Not for the world would he hurt the man standing before him; certainly not over something so harmless as breakfast.

"No," he repeated more softly, shrugging almost frantically out of his cloak so that the sleeves didn't trail into whatever fare Qui-Gon would offer. "I'd be happy to eat with you. And I would be grateful for your instruction and guidance through your world. I'm sorry, I didn't understand. I didn't want to impose."

Sidling closer, Qui-Gon dared to lay a hand on the young knight's shoulder. "You could never be an imposition, Obi-Wan. I want to do this. Will you let me do this?"

Obi-Wan felt open concern and genuine affection flowing through the Master's touch, just as Qui-Gon intended him to feel. Obi-Wan didn't remember one of the things he'd said during the mindsweep, but Qui-Gon did: "When my Master touched me, I could feel how he felt about me."

Bowing his head, Obi-Wan instinctively leaned into Qui-Gon's touch. Massaging gently, Qui-Gon braced his hip against Obi-Wan's shoulder for a moment. Dropping his shields slightly, he sent calm reassurance, and waited.

/He's not feeling impatient or irritated,/ Obi-Wan thought, startled. /He really doesn't seem to mind that I'm here, or that he's saddled with showing me around./

"Are you hungry?" Qui-Gon asked after a long moment of silence had passed, and the muscles beneath his fingers had begun to relax, just a little.

A hesitant nod.

"Silly question. I know that Xanatos is a lousy host, and he wouldn't have fed you yesterday. That's at least two meals missed." He gave that shoulder a proprietary pat. "Let me get our breakfast. It's simple, but it will fill the empty spots."

He headed off into the small food prep area, and Obi-Wan could hear the clatter of dishes being pulled out.

"I'm not much of a cook," Qui-Gon called back from the kitchen. "But I can manage a few things well enough."

"I know," Obi-Wan answered softly.

The Master brought a six-grain cereal with honey, thayla berries and tea. Setting them before Obi-Wan, he watched the knight's brow furrow, his fingers tense into fists where his hands had settled on his thighs. The Master took his seat opposite the young man.

"Is something wrong?"

It was plain that his guest wanted to answer, but reticence won out, and he shook his head.

"What is it, Obi-Wan? Please, tell me?"

The answer was softly mumbled. "Masters shouldn't serve Padawans."

/But you're no longer a Padawan./ The reply sprang instantly to Qui-Gon's mind. Realization of what Obi-Wan meant dawned in the next moment, and he was very glad he'd not spoken aloud.

/Gods, he doesn't even think of himself as a knight! If ever I needed any confirmation--and I didn't, not really, but it's good to have it nonetheless--this proves beyond any doubt that he was knighted before he was ready. Poor boy, there's nothing positive about his rank for him. When you dream all your life of becoming a Jedi Knight, there should be nothing but joy on the day you finally surrender your Padawan braid and take your place with the other Knights. How terribly sad, how terribly tragic that he's never known any of that joy. I want to change that. I will find a way to change that./

Qui-Gon nodded and carefully modulated his tone to hide his anger at Obi-Wan's previous world. "But there's nothing wrong with a host serving a guest, or a friend bringing a dish to a friend, is there?"

He could see the frantic scrabble in Obi-Wan's confusion as the young man struggled to mentally align himself with either category. Offering a soft chuckle, Qui-Gon added sweetener and cream to his tea.

"I'm not a Master who requires constant service, Obi-Wan, nor do I object to serving a Padawan on occasion. And now that you have my offering in front of you, whether you approve the delivery or not, would you care to eat it?"

Hastily picking up a spoon, Obi-Wan poked at the cereal and nibbled at a bite.

"As for a few other things you may wish to know..." Pushing back from the table, Qui-Gon stretched his legs before him and sipped his tea. "Late yesterday, Coucil decided to welcome you into our Temple and to make you part of our Order. While they've certainly assigned you your own quarters by now, you'll stay close to me until you've acclimated to this universe and are comfortable living here. If you have questions or curiosities about anything, I'll answer them."

"Yes, Master."

Was it Qui-Gon's imagination, or was Obi-Wan relaxing, just a little, as he explained? /Good... That would mean he's flexible and capable of changing directions quickly--when he's decided the situation warrants it. But Force help me to move him if he's decided otherwise. I sense that he's every bit as obstinate as I can be./

What Qui-Gon knew wasn't his imagination was the way Obi-Wan was staring at him in between pushing his breakfast around in his bowl, and whenever the Knight thought that Qui-Gon wouldn't notice. Obi-Wan had taken only a few bites of the food set before him. That didn't bother Qui-Gon nearly as much as did the staring; sooner or later, Obi-Wan would settle and his appetite would return. Sooner or later, would he also stop staring holes through his companion?

"Padawan, do you mind if I ask you a question? What do you see when you look at me?"

"Um. I see..."

Qui-Gon could feel the inner argument Obi-Wan was having with himself: should he answer honestly, or apologize for staring in the first place?

"I see my Master," he finally answered, but didn't seem inclined to explain further.

"Is that a bad thing?"

Obi-Wan shook his head. The Force shivered with a fair amount of solace, as well as an underlying sorrow. "I am glad to see you... looking so well."

/As opposed to very messily dead, I assume. How very discretely you phrase it, young one. I must be aware of what you don't say, as much as the meaning of the few words you do actually get out./ "Then please, feel free to stare all you want, Padawan."

Was it his imagination or did his newest charge just relax an infinitesimal bit more at that permission? Yes, the shoulders seemed not quite so tense.

/So,/ thought Qui-Gon, /it's not necessarily a bad thing for Obi-Wan to have his Master back in whatever way I may provide, just as it's not necessarily a bad thing for me to have my Padawan return to me? Force willing, I think we both may be able to work with that./

Setting his empty mug aside, Qui-Gon leaned forward and braced his arms on the table. "The first order of the day is to visit Stores and get you outfitted."

The spoon halted in its determined rearrangement of the now-soggy grains in the bowl. "Outfitted, Master?"

The blue eyes twinkled with amusement. "I'm sure that you'll agree that a change of clothing is a pleasant thing to have upon occasion. And something else for sleeping, perhaps? Even a few toiletries?"

"Yes, Master. You're right, of course. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and attention to my oversight." Obi-Wan returned to embarrassed scrutiny of a thayla berry not yet mashed into helplessness.

"We take care of our knights in this world, Obi-Wan," the older man offered gently, "and you are one of us now."

Qui-Gon rose, collecting his bowl and coming around the table to where Obi-Wan had finally succeeded in reducing the hapless berry to a purplish stain in the mush that was once cooked grains. He paused to run a reassuring hand across Obi-Wan's back, ending with a slight sqeeze to the far shoulder in a non-threatening sort of hug. Before Obi-Wan could react, Qui-Gon withdrew his hand and pulled the dish out from under the destructive efforts of the spoon.

"You're not going to eat this, so let's move on. But you'd best eat with me tonight, or I'll think that you're objecting to my culinary expertise."

The reproach was softened by a grin, and Qui-Gon bumped Obi-Wan with a companionable elbow as he turned to take the dishes away. "At least drink the tea. That, I can make properly."

And oh, it was proper tea. Tea made to such careful, painfully familiar specifications that it made Obi-Wan want to weep. His Master's touch with the blending and steeping--always an art form--obviously extended to this world as well. Obi-Wan sipped at the dark, fragrant liquid, stared into the cup, and rolled the familiar, sweet taste across his tongue. This, for some reason, his traitorous stomach welcomed, even if the cup was wrong. The tea should be in the grey-flecked mug Obi-Wan himself had picked up on Qelan, and across the table should be a chipped and stained relic that Qui-Gon had picked up Force knew where--

"You like my tea?"

Startled, Obi-Wan pulled his gaze from the depths of the cup. "Yes, Master, very much."

The smile that answered his statement was genuinely pleased. "It's not everyone that appreciates a good cup of tea. I think we're going to get along very well, indeed."

Obi-Wan was startled to feel a small smile of his own forming in answer. It felt strange. How long had it been since he smiled? The muscles felt peculiar as they moved--

"Are you finished there? If so, let's go get the basic knight kitting from Stores and make sure that you have everything to make your Temple life comfortable. I'll introduce you to Master Santros. There's a bit of a knack to getting around him," Qui-Gon confided in conspiratorial tones. "He seems to regard everything allocated to the Jedi as his own personal stock until its actually out of his hands, so you have to know just how to ask for something to make him let go of it--and enough of what you want to make the asking worthwhile. Some of the Padawan consider it to be a game of negotiating skill; they're forever comparing scores."

The voice was cheerful and relaxed. The words began running together as Obi-Wan closed his eyes and allowed himself the sheer luxury of simply hearing Qui-Gon's voice once again. Alive. In the moment. Not as part of a recorded file from years before Obi-Wan's birth or from a day long gone, but here and now. He could feel the aura of his Master, could feel the familiar vibration through the Force. It was a gift he'd never even dreamed of feeling again. No matter what happened, Obi-Wan would cherish this memory always. He'd asked for just a few more minutes with his Master, and the Force had granted this childish wish so completely that Obi-Wan dared not waste even a heartbeat.

"Come on, let's be off." Another pat on the shoulder was his only warning before Obi-Wan's hood was being pulled up over his head in a gesture of playfulness.

Rising to his feet, Obi-Wan shrugged properly into the voluminous material and shoved back the hood in unconscious rebellion. He did want to see where he was going, this morinng. When he looked up, Qui-Gon was waiting in the open doorway.

"This way, Padawan. Our adventures are beginning."

Feeling somewhat braver and more optimistic than he had since the day Anakin Skywalker had come into his life, Obi-Wan followed his new Master.


Qui-Gon swept out the door, with Obi-Wan his usual two steps behind and one step to the left, pacing along with the humble gravity that a Padawan should display. Striding along with his usual enthusiasm, not to mention lengthy steps, Qui-Gon set a pace that swiftly brought them to the vertical lifts. The doors opened at his touch and he entered with equal speed, then turned to face Obi-Wan from within the confines of the small transport. One eyebrow raised in question, and Obi-Wan increased his speed to practically leap inside, feeling the doors close just behind him.

"Now, Master Santros is an interesting fellow," Qui-Gon imparted while the lift dropped dramatically into the Temple from the Masters tower. "He's a good Jedi, with a good heart, but a bit critical of the younger knights. Feels they don't have the proper respect for the goods that the Order provides them with. They don't take proper care of their supplies, they ask for more than they need, they squander Jedi resources..." Qui-Gon intoned in a sonorous voice, ticking off each sin on his long fingers. "Ergo, getting what you need has been elevated to something between an art form and entertainment. You'll see."

The grin that accompanied this briefing was reassuring, but Obi-Wan still felt anxious about what was to come, from the coming confrontation with the guardian of the dry goods, to meeting those who rightfully resided within the Temple, to facing his entire life in a new world. The only reassuring thing in his life at the moment was the solid man beside him, who seemed to feel kindly toward him, even if Obi-Wan was a charity case. Did this Master pick up pathetic life forms as his own Master had? Like Jar-Jar, was Obi-Wan another life form in need of assistance and coddling?

/Oh, Force, yes./ Obi-Wan sighed inwardly as the lift slowed to a graceful stop, and the doors swooshed open.

The Collector of Pathetic Life Forms grinned down at him in anticipation of the combat to come. "Just follow my lead, and we'll have you properly outfitted shortly."

Qui-Gon went only a few steps before stopping so abruptly that Obi-Wan would have smacked into his back, had he not been just far enough to the side to avoid doing so. Turning, Qui-Gon snagged Obi-Wan's cloaked shoulder and pulled gently.

"Will you come up here, please? Save the formalities for formal occasions. You're going to give this old man a pain in his neck from having to talk over his shoulder all of the time if you stay back there."

"You're not old, Master."

/Neither are you, Padawan, but you act as though you're ancient,/ groused Qui-Gon to himself.

"After surviving Xanatos as a Padawan, I have every right to feel ancient," he growled, deflecting Obi-Wan's determined return to serious formality. "Here we are, and I hear Santos is in."

They stopped before an archway opening into a cavernous room with a huge domed ceiling, much like that in which a dragon would dwell, with a variety of storage bins and shelving taking the place of piles of treasure and plunder. A shrill, irritated male voice was holding forth somewhere within, and two Padawan burst out of the door, clutching small packages and clearly close to exploding with suppressed laughter.

"Good cadging, Lereth?" Qui-Gon asked one of the young men, who skidded to a halt before him.

Lereth grinned up at the tall Jedi. "He's feeling particularly put upon, Master Qui-Gon, but I got what I needed and a spare belt besides."

"Well done. Gart?"

"I just got a pair of socks," came the gloomy pronouncement.

Not about to loosen his hold on his package, Lereth poked his friend in the ribs with his elbow. "Told you I was the ruler of wheedling!"

"Only today, and only because you sweeged him off before I had a chance."

"Poor excuses," laughed the more successful Padawan. "And it's not my fault; he was krelly before we got here." Lereth's gaze swung toward Obi-Wan. After a moments scrutiny, he frowned. "Do I know you?"

Obi-Wan opened his mouth to answer, but found no words forming. He bowed to the Padawan in greeting, hoping some vague answer would come to his astonished mind soon. Where Obi-Wan came from, Padawan never presumed to sweege a krelly Master. Or any Master, for that matter. The bow was not the right move, however, judging from the reception. Both Padawans gave Obi-Wan a narrow look, clearly convinced that some intruder was among them.

"This is Obi-Wan Kenobi," Qui-Gon rescued him. "He's newly come to this world, and I'm showing him about. Show some respect, you two."

"Uh... Yes, Master Jinn." The two bobbed into hasty bows, clearly mystified by this request. "Greetings, Jedi..."

"Kenobi. Obi-Wan Kenobi."

"Didn't we have a Padawan Kenobi a while back?" Lereth ventured. "Wasn't your Padawan named--"

Qui-Gon stepped forward a half-step, a protective move that brought him closer to the silent newcomer at his side. The action was not lost on the other Padawan.

"C'mon Lereth," Gart interrupted, yanking his companion toward the lift. "Gotta take your stuff back, and you've got a lot of gloating to do. Welcome, Obi-Wan," Gart added, bowing properly, first to Obi-Wan and then Qui-Gon.

Master and Knight watched the two Padawans head toward the lift, heard the resumed muttering and complaining as they departed.

"That should jump-start the rumors." Qui-Gon sighed. "I suppose that I should have explained...."

"I'm sorry, Master. It's my fault. I should have--"

"What you should do is stop apologizing." That large hand was back on his shoulder, sending warmth and reassurance through Obi-Wan once more. "Word of your presence will get around by this afternoon, and we'll have no more awkward moments. Those two are young yet, with much to learn. Though Gart is showing much promise. Good lad, that one."

The warm hand on Obi-Wan's shoulder turned him firmly to face the door into the cavernous lair of the swueeged Santros.

"Time to have some fun, Padawan." He grinned, then pushed his charge through the doorway.

"Santros! Master Santros, where are you?" Qui-Gon bellowed into the room, listening with satisfaction to his voice bouncing off of the ancient walls.

"Stop that shouting!" The answering bellow came immediately. "Just you stop that! No need for such a carryin' on in here. I've enough noise to listen to, what with 'give me this' and 'I need that' and 'that's not enough, I want threes,' all day long without you adding to it by roaring like a draigon."

A small, wizened Master stumped out of a cubby in the corner. His silvered hair curled about overlarge ears, and he sported a scowl that--judging by the depths of the lines around his mouth--had clearly been in place since before Obi-Wan was born. Small bright eyes swept over Qui-Gon, brittle accusation in the glare that greeted him.

"And you want something, hah? The great Jedi Master come to demand. And who is this? I don't know you. What'dya want?"

"This is Obi-Wan Kenobi, Master Santros. He's newly come to our world, and has brought nothing with him."

"Yer own Temple too cheap to fit y'out then? And why should we bear the expense? Send home fer it." The man turned away and busied himself for a moment tidying a shelf before spinning back toward them, eyes narrowed in deeper irritation. "He's who? I'll tell you that Obi-Wan Kenobi, this one is *not*. I knew that young snart well, so I did. And I know he's gone, same as you know, Master Qui-Gon."

"He is our Obi-Wan, as Obi-Wan would have been. This one is from another universe. Arrived through magical means, courtesy of the Pesca. As he didn't expect to be coming here, he has nothing but what he's standing up in, Santros, and no means to get back. Would you have him running around in rags, then? I really don't think a change of clothing is that much of a luxury, nor too much to ask for him."

"The Pesca. Hah. Strange folk. Always makin' some carry-on over there. Magic, y'say? Well, I've seen enough not t'argue it."

Sliding behind Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon settled his hands on his charge's shoulders, warm and protective. "The Council has verified his identity, and given him leave to join our Order. He's one of us, now."

The glittering glare swept over Obi-Wan again before the supplies Master grunted assent. "Can't have him embarrassing the Order, now can we? Full Jedi, are ya? Not growin' then?"

"I don't believe so, Master," Obi-Wan ventured softly.

"And yer not overlarge. Come here. We'll find something that fits."

Obi-Wan took an obedient step forward before Santros could haul him where he wanted him. "I'm afraid this uniform is borrowed, Master. I don't know from whom, but I would like to see it returned. The cloak, as well."

"So you've nothing but your skin, are y'sayin?"

"I've my boots," Obi-Wan offered hesitantly. "My lightsaber, my supply belt, and a cloak. Somewhere."

Qui-Gon looked sheepish. "I"m afraid that I tossed the cloak into the recycler, Padawan. It was rather... charred."

"Charred?" Santros questioned.

"The Laird of Pesca and I were caught in Skantine fire," Obi-Wan explained.

"Hmph. Whatever that might be." Santros busied himself pulling down folded bits of clothing, which he then shoved at Obi-Wan. "There. Y've two uniforms and a cloak. That'll see ye covered."

"Now Santros, let's let him have a little comfort?" Qui-Gon coaxed. "A few unders? And what of socks? And a new belt?"

A deep sigh was Santros's answer. With great reluctance, he moved to another part of the cavern, only to turn and gesture them sharply over to where he stood.

"Take these, boy. You want them, you do the carrying. Here," he snapped, piling more folded fabric on top of the uniforms in Obi-Wan's arms. "Unders. A belt." This was looped about Obi-Wan's neck. "Socks. Two pair."

"Two pair?" Qui-Gon sounded more than incredulous, approaching scandalized. "Come now, Santros. The lad needs more than two pair."

"Two it is, and two it will be. One for washing and one for wearing."

"Santros--" Qui-Gon growled, but Obi-Wan interrupted gently.

"Master, he is correct. I can wash socks, and he's been far too generous as it is. I cannot thank you enough for your generosity, Master Santros." As far as he was able without dropping that which he'd been loaded down with, Obi-Wan bowed toward the cranky man.

"And what if your socks get wet and you want a change?" Qui-Gon demanded. "What then?"

"They dry, Master. On a dry planet, it takes only about four hours inside the boots. It can take up to twelve hours on a damp one, but that's all right. No Jedi ever died of white, wrinkled toes."

"All right. All right!" sputtered Santros. "Here." More socks were stuffed at Obi-Wan. "Can't have y'walkin' around squishing. it's just not fittin'."

"No, this is far too much, Master," Obi-Wan protested. Qui-Gon made a sound that might have been a strangled moan. "Please, you must take half of these back."

"Back? BACK?" Obi-Wan thought that the silvery eyebrows would shoot right off the man's face, they shot up so fast. "Yer tellin' me to take something BACK?!"

"You've been very kind, but I really don't need all that much," he protested. "I don't want to be a burden my first day in this new world. I can manage on two pairs of socks."

Santros gave a screech. "I give y'the socks and the socks you'll take. Don't know a boy yet that can't knock the toe out of a sock in less than a day. Or wear 'em till they're rank. You take them socks, and you change them regular, you hear?"

"Yes, Master Santros," Obi-Wan murmured, sounding most sincere. "I thank you for your kindness and your advice. Have you a little something I might use to wash them?"

Santros turned to stare at Qui-Gon in open astonishment. "He wants to wash them himself?"

Qui-Gon looked extremely serious. Unusually serious. Nearly severe. Except for the laughter in his eyes. Obi-Wan knew this look, and it either boded great trouble ahead or it meant that his Master was trying to keep up some pretense of Masterly control. The amusement through the Force informed him that it was far more likely that Qui-Gon was about to dissolve into laughter.

"Obi-Wan comes from a very traditional Order, and that seems to include independence in all things. Yes, he wants to wash his own socks." Qui-Gon barely got the last word out before a fit of coughing claimed him.

"He wants to wash his socks..." Santros murmured as he turned away. "Never heard the like before."

He disappeared back into the shelves and reappeared with another armload of things. "Here's washing powder for yer socks, an' an extra cloak. Couple more tunics. You'll be training, and I don't want you running around sweaty or letting something new washed rough-dry on your back."

Obi-Wan was beginning to vanish behind the stack of supplies in his arms, and Qui-Gon intercepted the next item zeroed in on the knight's nose. "Have you a carrier we can stack this in, Santros?"

"Of course, of course. Want it back though. Today. Not next week. And I don't want to see you toting meals from the hall in it, either."

"Thank you for your kindness, Master." Obi-Wan was using those dulcet tones again, the ones Qui-Gon swore would have made anyone give him him anything and be happy doing so. "I will return your carrier as soon as I've found my quarters."

"Found yer quarters? You are new-come, then. Have y'sleep gear?"

"No, Master Santros, but if you could spare a pillow, I can use my cloak as a blanket."

"Council never tells me anything I need to know. You'll take a blanket. No, two. Bedsheets should be in your quarters, but all good lads need a heavy blanket or two. Sleep gear."

More items came flying his way. "Here. No beard on ya, so you'll need this to keep the fuzz off, and teeth brush and cleaner. Nice teeth. Keep 'em clean, now."

"Thank you, Master Santros."

"And here, a box for all that."

"Master, look." Obi-Wan held up the case containing the teeth brush and clear, showed it to Qui-Gon. "I've heard of this, but have never actually seen one before. Isn't it well-designed?"

Qui-Gon did a double-take at that one. Surely Obi-Wan wasn't from a temple that was that primitive? He sounded like a neglected slave, rather than a Padawan. What manner of Order was this? And then he met Obi-Wan's eyes over the proffered storage case. A shine of amusement obscured the humble sincerity that had been evident just a second before.

/The lad is laughing... He's acting this out, playing it up deliberately!/ Fighting a smile, Qui-Gon tried to assume an appropriately respectful expression as he scrutinized the case. "There's good workmanship there, no question. And durable. It'll hold up for many years of service in the field."

"You should have it, Master. It's too grand for me."

"I have a storage case of my own, Obi-Wan. You keep it."

"No, really, it's too fine for me. I really shouldn't take anything I don't need, anyway."

"Don't need?"

"I can manage without quite well, Master. Could just wrap the brush's bristles in something. Leaves are fine, if we're sure they're not toxic in some way." He turned to return the box to Santros, with an expression of combined seriousness, earnestness, and just a touch of wistful regret.

"Wrapped in LEAVES?" Santros choked. "Why did... Never heard such a thing--"

"If I don't, then the bristles get lint in them from being stored in my belt pouch, and then they taste like leather oil. It's... rather unpleasant." He frowned, only to brighten once more. "But leaves work well. Or a bit of cloth. Have you an old sock, one that I could cut up?"

Santros shoved a small toiletries box into Obi-Wan's hands and backed away.

"You'll take everything I give you, and be quick about it!" he snapped. "What sort of Order did you come from, anyway? Did they even feed you?"

"Of course, Mas--"

"Not enough. Yer too thin by half. You feed this Padawan, Qui-Gon. You hear me?" He turned away, rummaged in another bin and returned with a double handful of energy bars and a boxful besides. "You take these, and eat if meals are late. You you run out, you come see me. Hear?"

"Master Santros, really, this is too much--"

"Nonsense. I'll tell you when it's too much. You just ask your Master if I won't."

"Could I have some of those, Santros?" Qui-Gon asked quietly.

"No. Some of what?"

"The energy bars?"

"No. You're not growing any. Least-wise, you shouldn't be. You've grown too much as it is. And you'll not steal his. Now, what else could you need, Obi-Wan?"

Darting down this aisle, and into that bin, the Stores keeper added item after item. "Data slate? You've got one? No? Y'do now. Here. Memory wafers, extra soap. You'll need soap. Hmm, what's in here?" He studied a box of green cubes. "Tents? You'll need a tent. They'll send you out, sure as birds sing."

"No, a tent, really, I don't need that," Obi-Wan protested, looking almost desperate.

"You come see me when you do, then. I'll hold it here. Extra cloak. Nice 'n extra long. You can grow into it."

"Umph," was all Obi-Wan could manage as more essentials were flung his way. Qui-Gon deftly relieved him of the latest stack, freeing Obi-Wan's arms for more.

"Travel kit, two commlinks, repair tools." Santros disappeared around another shelf unit, still muttering. "Ah! Handsome lad like yourself, you'll need these."

He grinned as he threw a small packet at Obi-Wan, and the effect of a smile on the usually scowling face was rather startling. Tearing himself away from that image, Obi-Wan looked at what he'd caught.

"Disposable conception preventors?" he read the labeling. "I--I don't think I'll need these. Certainly not right now."

"Keep 'em with ya. You never know what'll come up."

"I don't think that will come up for some time," he continued protesting.

Qui-Gon looked sharply at his newest charge. /Does he know what he just said? Oh, there's much more to this boy than he shows on the surface./

Santros peered at him. "Ya do know how they work?"

"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan answered hastily, color touching his cheeks.

"Ya had those sorts of classes and those thingies in yer Temple, then?"

"Yes, but they... the... thingies... were wrapped differently." Shifting the other items in his arms, Obi-Wan bent to actually examine what he held in his hand. "These look easy to open. Ours were wrapped in foil. To open them you practically had to gnaw on them like a rat. They tasted bad. It was most discouraging."

"Stupid arrangement. Wrecked the mood, didn't it? Naw, just pull here, and yer ready."

"Thank you, Master Santros." Obi-Wan hastily shoved the protectors at Qui-Gon, lest more detailed instructions follow. Uncertain of what to do with them, Qui-Gon stuffed them into Obi-Wan's newly-aquired socks.

Santros rubbed his hands together. "Now what more can we get for ya? Comfy clothes, bit o' scent to wear of a night out?"

Obi-Wan hesitated, and then dared to ask, "Would you happen to have a tea mug?"

"A what?"

"A mug that I could use. I left mine...behind."

"And ya want one that's yours, and yours alone." Santros nodded and trotted off to a different corner. "I can see that, young man. It's a private thing, is a man's drink. What ya want? Big or little, tall or short? Handle, no handle? Metal, synth, glass, styrene? Color?"

Obi-Wan hesitated a moment more, obviously considering the questions, and then nodded, decision made. "Tall, medium in size. Handle. Ceramic. Gray or blue, if possible. It's all right if it's chipped."

"Hmph. Quiet fellow, then. Can tell a bit about a man by his cups. Good choice."

A ceramic mug was produced and pressed into his hands. It was blue, with an intricate design edged round the top, and a handle large enough for his hands without being awkward. It wasn't chipped. Yet.

"Thank you, Master. It's just what I'd hoped for."

"Glad it pleases ya. Bit of tea to go with it? Nah, never mind. I'll take care of the rest. Where should I send this lot?"

"We don't know where his quarters are yet, so send it all to my own," Qui-Gon interjected.

"This is all for *him,* isn't it?" Santros's accusatory glare was back.

Qui-Gon glared right back. "It's all too small for me, Santros. I'd look silly in his things. Answer your own question."

"I suppose that's true enough. All right then. I'll have it there shortly. And you need anything else, you just ask me, Obi-Wan Kenobi." He paused, studying Obi-Wan with a critical, but far from hostile, stare. "Ya turned out a'right. Fine, strong lad. Don't know how you made it back, Padawan, but welcome." Turning to Qui-Gon, he sniffed disapprovingly. "Lad's got manners, Qui-Gon. Don't ruin them with your own. Now be off. I've work to do."

The two Jedi took the hint and headed out of the area, edging past the large pile of clothing and gear that had accumulated for Obi-Wan beside the door.

"How did you do that?" Qui-Gon hissed as they left. "That was brilliant!"

"The man simply wanted a bit of respect, Master. Let him feel like the giver for a change. I just offered a bit of humility and relinquished control over to him."

Qui-Gon chuckled. "If you had been any more humble, we'd simply have swept you under the mat and have been done with it."

"Everyone wants something, Master. We just have to find out what it is and supply it. Master Santros wants respect."

"That wasn't respect, that was a performance worthy of a professional actor," Qui-Gon protested. "Brilliantly played. Think it would work for me?"

Obi-Wan looked up at the tall man beside him, then slowly shook his head. "No, Master. I'm sorry, but no. You're too strong and far too regal to be pathetic."

"Then you are now responsible for all our acquisitions from Stores, my Padawan."

"I always was, Master," Obi-Wan replied softly.

That earned him another hug. Entering the vertical lift, Qui-Gon neglected to relinquish his hold on his charge.

"'No, it's too fine a teeth-cleaner case for me,'" the Master mimicked. The laughter won out then, and Qui-Gon surrendered to suppressed mirth. "Leaves? Padawan, I shall have to watch you. You've a wicked sense of humor, and you're a fine actor, too."

He was pleased to see Obi-Wan smile in response to his good-natured teasing. "Thank you, Master. I'm glad to have gotten it right."


"We've another stop to make," Qui-Gon announced, once the lift had settled. Leading the way through a maze of corridors, he further explained. "This time each week, I usually look in on a class of Initiates practicing their katas. They probably still think I'm on sabbatical and so aren't expecting me, but I'd like to stop by, if you don't object?"

"Of course not," Obi-Wan said quickly. Object? How could he object? He was following in the Master's wake, there only because Qui-Gon wished him to be. Interferring with his day was unthinkable, and spending time doing anything with this man was proving most welcome; he'd go wherever this Qui-Gon wished.

The Initiate's wing hadn't changed at all. It was graced by the same all-too-bright, wide corridors, with the same enthusiastic Padawans-to-be pounding through them. Obi-Wan suspected it had been so for thousands of years, and would be so for a thousand more. Spiky haircuts were everywhere, along with clomping boots, Initiate-gray robes that many were growing into, much giggling and whoops of laughter. The Force swirled with young enthusiasm, creating a boiling mental pot that a Jedi could only relax into; there was no fighting it, but then who would want to fight such bright, innocent enthusiasm? Privately, Obi-Wan thought that there was entirely too much energy to be contained by any one structure. The Initiates thrived on it, but it took a special mindset to wade through it once one was grown.

When Obi-Wan had been among such bright souls at his own Temple, whenever a Master had appeared in their midst, all giggling and most energy had been stilled. Into that stillness had always stolen some nervous twitching, stares, and hopes against all hope that the great visitor would notice them, would bestow a glance or a touch, a word of advice--something, anything--to indicate that he or she approved of something, anything. /We tried so hard, and were so seldom rewarded for our dreams./

Obi-Wan now understood that most of the Masters visiting were simply tending administrative duties rather than looking for a new Padawan. If he'd known that at the time, it would have made all such encounters much less stressful. As it was, he remembered all too well his anxieties over never having caught the eye or the attention of any Master until Qui-Gon Jinn had followed him into the locker room after his sparring with Bruck Chun. There, he'd been lectured and berated; the experience had been a far cry from his dream of being claimed as the man's Padawan. What it had taken Obi-Wan many years to realize was that being ignored until that moment hadn't meant that he was lacking; everyone was ignored. What it had meant was that the Masters were wise enough to never single out individual Initiates and, through their attention, set them apart from their peers. Arrogance and jealousy would have followed down that path, but such was just one more thing Obi-Wan wished he had understood then.

Qui-Gon wove his way through the seething mass, with most of the Initiates pushing past and ignoring them. Those who did not grinned with delight up at the Master, who offered smiles and nods but did not pause on his way. No one spoke, nor did they slow their headlong hurtling... wherever it was that these Initiates were hurtling.

Qui-Gon strode through the the neverending, always confusing corridors to complete the journey at last by ushering Obi-Wan through a set of heavy doors leading into a gymnasium. A wave of deja vu swelled inside of Obi-Wan--it seemed that he'd spent half of his life in cavernous halls like this one, sweating and straining to perfect his gymnastics, his katas, his sparring technique. Gymnasiums were the same all over the Temple; only the ages and ranks of the users varied. The same sweaty smells as he had encountered at home assaulted his nose, the same slapping of bodies on mats came to his ears. Over there were the same bleachers scattered with the same spectators--a mixture of young and old. He belonged to this Order now--hadn't the Council said so? All he had to do was take his place on some mat in some other gymnasium, learn the ropes, the rings, and... play.

Anticipation shivered through him, and Obi-Wan was startled to discover that he actually looked forward to doing just that. No matter what else had happened in his life, he knew that he was capable of such play. He knew what he was capable of physically, had depended upon his extensive skill with muscle and Force and saber far too often to not know what he was capable of. Casting a slanted glance at Qui-Gon, he wondered if the older man would ever consider sparring with him. Perhaps it was too much to ask; he didn't even know if this Qui-Gon could handle a lightsaber. Perhaps this universe was so peaceful that the weapon had a merely ornamental function.

Perhaps this Qui-Gon was on permanent sabbatical and retired from active duty? If that were so, Obi-Wan would mourn what had been in the other world, and what might have been in this one, had things been just a little different. Obi-Wan had always taken joy in movement, in pushing his body to do its best whether in competition or in battle, and the intricate dances he'd shared with his Master had been one of the best things about their relationship. He thought that Qui-Gon had enjoyed them, too.

"Master Qui-Gon!" a delicate-looking little boy exclaimed, abandoning his warm-ups and running up to the Jedi to throw his arms around his hips--as far as the boy could reach. "You're here!"

"I am indeed, Bacque." A long arm wrapped him in a hug. "How are your Force lessons coming?"

"I can move a cup, and I can make Force fingers. I ran one up Tweel's back and he *itched*. Can you do that?"

"Indeed, I can. I've made many a Padawan itch."

"Yeah? Well, Master Hask says that it's really rude if I don't warn Tweel that I'm practicing so he can do it to me, too. Are you gonna teach us another kata? The tree one was wizard, I really feel like a tree when we do it. So will you teach us another one?"

"Bacque!" a third voice intruded. Obi-Wan turned to see that a slender, regal Master had joined them. Dressed in the blue robes of a teacher, she had the exotic silver fur and feline features of the M'rew. "Welcome home, Master Qui-Gon." Her voice was almost a purr, but her pointed ears twitched in annoyance as she turned her gaze on the small boy still hovering at Qui-Gon's side. "Bacque, return to the mats and finish warming up."

"Yes, Master." The Initiate bowed to Qui-Gon. "Thank you, Master." Trotting off to do as he'd been told, Bacque grinned back over his shoulder at the tall Jedi. He obviously wasn't afraid of the needle-sharp claws his teacher usually kept sheathed.

"Good morning, Talitha." Laying a hand on Obi-Wan's shoulder, Qui-Gon stepped so close that the knight was enfolded in the Master's robes. "Obi-Wan Kenobi, meet Master Talitha Hask."

She purred a welcome at him, her eyes closing and her lips curving upward slightly. Obi-Wan gave a formal bow and purred back. Murmuring a few words in M'rew, he complimented her lovely fur and her voice. Her whiskers twitched. Qui-Gon's eyebrows shot up.

"You speak M'rew?" Master Talitha demanded, in her own tongue.

"One of my creche Masters taught us a few words, and I visited your beautiful planet once."

Looking at Qui-Gon, she switched back to Basic. "By the Force and Basta herself... I'd heard the rumors, Qui, but never dreamed...." Her slanted eyes slid back to the younger man, assessing and judging. "This is your Obi-Wan, then?"

/HIS Obi-Wan?/ The knight in question blinked. /What does she mean by that?/

A heavy hand smoothed down the back of his head. "This is him. I'm showing him about. We've just been through one of Santros' interrogations. I thought your class would be a good place for us to wind down."

She laughed softly, glanced at her clutch of twelve Initiates. "Wind down. Only you could call it that, Qui." Reaching out a paw, she stroked Obi-Wan's cheek and switched back to her native language. "Welcome to our Temple, Jedi Kenobi. May your naps before the fire be warm, and your lives be long."

He nuzzled against the paw, returning the traditional, formal M'rew greeting. "May your furr always shine, and your stalkings prove profitable."

She cast a bemused smirk at Qui-Gon before returning to her eager class. Leaning closer, with his arm still around Obi-Wan's shoulders, Qui-Gon murmured, "I think you've just been adopted as one of her kitlings, and have won her over for life. If you ever need a favor, she'll probably be happy to oblige."

"Just because I spoke to her in M'rew?"

"Because you cared enough to learn the language and its customs in the first place."

He pondered that for a moment. "I liked M'rew. Their language is full of mental images, and it was clean and warm and dry."

"The cats do enjoy their creature comforts." Qui-Gon chuckled. "Xanatos enjoyed our stay on M'rew as well, if I recall correctly. But then, Xan has always liked his creature comforts."

The words could have been a criticism, but they were spoken with such affection and warmth that Obi-Wan was left with no doubt that Master and former Padawan were still on good terms. /I'd like to know their history in this world,/ he acknowledged. /But then, I'd like to know so much..../

Obi-Wan found himself leaning almost unconsciously against the tall Jedi. He was so close, he could easily inhale the Master's familiar spice scent. He enjoyed basking in his Master's warm hand on his shoulder and the heavy arm across his back; in the rise and fall of the broad chest, and the hair caressing his cheek. Qui-Gon was so... alive, so present, and so much *with* Obi-Wan in that moment, it was almost as if they were alone rather than standing in a gymnasium about to instruct a group of eight-year-olds in basic kata form.

Qui-Gon was leaning against him, too, bracing most of his weight on one leg, his muscles strong and firm where they lay against Obi-Wan's. The sheer physical power and presence of the man, not to mention his calm, attentive mood, helped relax Obi-Wan. All in all, it was shaping up to be a most enjoyable morning.

Sliding a reluctant hand down Obi-Wan's back, the Master silently warned his companion that he was about to move. The moment Obi-Wan shifted his own weight back, against the Master's hand, Qui-Gon stepped forward to address the Initiates waiting so eagerly for his words of wisdom.

Obi-Wan didn't hear those words; he was too busy shaking his head slightly and trying to analyze what had just happened. Qui-Gon's touching him had been an encounter in silent communication, certainly, but Obi-Wan had felt cocooned in a kind of caring he'd never experience before. His own Master had cared, certainly--Obi-Wan knew that, regardless the man's habitual distance--but that caring had never been expressed in any sort of physical gesture. The odd hug, yes. A few words of affection over the years, yes. But for Qui-Gon to have tucked his Padawan beneath his arm, to have leaned against him and shared a moment of what Obi-Wan could only describe as peaceful affection? /Never. It simply would not have happened./

And there was another thing... This Qui-Gon maintained his shields at a lever much lower than Obi-Wan could ever remember Qui-Gon's having been. Whether this Master was doing so in an effort to reassure his guest, or if it were a natural state, Obi-Wan didn't know.

"Would you like to learn a new kata?" the Master asked the group.

"Yeaaaaah!" they answered as one, sitting crosslegged before Qui-Gon and staring up at him, all devotion and eagerness.

"Very well." Turning, he slipped off his cloak, unfastened his boots and shed his outer tunic. Including Obi-Wan with a smile, he asked, "Would you like to help me teach them 'Keeping Still'?"

Obi-Wan considered a moment. And then, "Yes, Master."

His own eagerness suprised him, but wasn't a kata just a step away from sparring? It felt natural and right to line up beside Qui-Gon, to fold his cloak and tunic beside the Master's and join him on the mat.

Very much taking the new Knight's expertise and knowledge for granted, Qui-Gon didn't bother conferring with Obi-Wan, but returned to addressing the class. Taking his place behind the Master, Obi-Wan waited for him to turn, for the exercise to begin.

"Today's kata is called 'Keeping Still.'"

Master Hask smirked again. Obi-Wan could practically hear her mental snort: keep still this group of Initiates? Qui-Gon Jinn had great expectations of his teaching ability. As for Qui-Gon himself, he appeared to be ignoring her.

/I've seen him work miracles before,/ thought Obi-Wan. /He just has to work twelve little miracles in here today./

"You've learned about the Force and how it flows," the Master said, starting to break down a complex philosophy. "When you force something, you're using masculine energy; when you go with the flow of something, you're using feminine energy. You're all learning to use both, yes?"

Twelve sincere nods.

"Good. I want you to envision Force-flow as being a mountain. A mountain just sits there, very still. All movement has come to its normal end. The kata Obi-Wan and I are going to teach you will let you feel like that mountain; very still, with a quiet heart."

Obi-Wan stepped up beside the Master, whose expression said, /Your turn./

"It's not easy to quiet your heart. Some Jedi have taught that, in order to be quiet, you have to stop moving. There is the end of movement, and the beginning of movement; this kata shows a Jedi when to keep still and when to move forward. You do the kata--that's the movement part. And then you meditate--that's the keeping still part. You compare how the two feel."

"We'll show you the kata," said Qui-Gon, turning to Obi-Wan. "The meditation is up to you."

Knowing when to start wasn't a problem. Locking his gaze into Qui-Gon's, he clapped his hands in unison with Qui-Gon, then placed them solidly against the Master's. Planting his bare feet, he dug his toes into the mat and centered over his spine; the Force flowed up his back, across his shoulders, and through his hands into his companion. Qui-Gon returned equal energy, and through that flow Obi-Wan could feel every nerve fiber in his back that mediated movement throughout his body.

With backs straight and balance absolute, the two Jedi began the kata, flowed in mirror image with each other. Calmness flooded Obi-Wan, ending the restlessness he had felt since arriving in this world. His individual struggle and tumult dissolved in the Force-flow, granting a truer peace of mind.

Qui-Gon spoke softly beside him, still instructing the little ones. "Be still and let go your individual turbulence--all of your worries. Be still and find the peace of mind necessary...." /Necessary to understand this universe and its people, to act in harmony with them, with my fellow Jedi, and with my Master,/ Obi-Wan thought in unison with Qui-Gon's voice, seeking to apply the lessons of the kata.

"Whoever acts from that deep level of stillness makes no mistakes, little ones."

Peace. Stillness. Calm. Contentment. *That* was what felt so different about this Qui-Gon, and what had so bewildered Obi-Wan when they'd first met in the common area. It was the reason why this Master's shields were so low; they needn't be higher, Qui-Gon wasn't intent upon forcing anything away from him. He was settled in the flow of the Force, had found true peace of mind. /How did he manage that?/

Stretching into the kata, Obi-Wan reached for his own stillness.

"The heart thinks constantly," Qui-Gon continued, moving closer to Obi-Wan. They moved together now, no longer mirror images of each other.

/The Force knows that I haven't stopped thinking for months,/ Obi-Wan reflected, finding comfort and self-forgiveness in the movements. He looked at his reactions objectively, without judgment. /I've thought endlessly about Qui-Gon's death, my own pain, my fears about having to train Anakin when I don't know the first thing about training anyone. I can't change what hurts me so deeply, but.../

"You can control the movements of your heart, the direction of your thoughts," Qui-Gon told the Initiates. "Focus on the here and now. All thinking that goes beyond that only makes your heart sore. Right now, in this moment, is where you need to be."

/Gods, Master... You were right./ Smiling to himself, Obi-Wan opened himself a bit more to the Force-flow and dropped his shields a bit lower to sneak closer to Qui-Gon. /This moment is pretty good./

Settling both feet on the mat once more, Obi-Wan stilled his toes as the second part of the kata began.

"Keeping the toes still means stopping before you've even begun to move," instructed Qui-Gon. "You are still at the beginning."

"The beginning is a time of few mistakes," Obi-Wan interjected. Qui-Gon looked startled at the comment, but nodded agreement. When Obi-Wan dared to continue, he looked pleased. "In the beginning, you're still innocent. Still in harmony. You haven't been distracted or influenced by your own wants and desires--like worrying about passing your next hyperspace navigational quiz or wanting a Master to choose you...."

He winked at the Initiates, who giggled and exchanged conspiratorial glances. Obi-Wan slid his hand over Qui-Gon's, up across his forearm; they were standing so close, and moving closer, that Obi-Wan had no other choice if he wished to remain true to the kata. Qui-Gon didn't seem to mind.

"In the beginning," said Obi-Wan, "the Force flows freely, and you see things intuitively as they really are. You can see the right way, when your toes are still."

"The trick is," Qui-Gon murmured, taking up the tale once again. "Keeping your calves still."

"Huh?" One of the Initiates shook his head. "If my toes and my calves are still, how can I move?"

"Patience, little one. Your leg cannot move independently; it depends on the movement of your body. You must think, not in terms of literal movement, but in terms of your heart's movement, your mind's movement. Your master must be your mind and the will of the Force--not your own mental turbulence."

Breaking out of the kata, Qui-Gon stepped back and nodded for Obi-Wan to continue. The knight knew what was coming; he remembered this demonstration clearly from his own Initiate days. Outwardly oblivious, he flowed on in the exercise.

"Think of those legs as symbolizing your mind working in connection with the Force," Qui-Gon lectured. "If you walk in harmony with that connection and stay in the moment, you will never have a more powerful master. You will flow easily, as Obi-Wan does through his kata. But if your mind moves independently and tries to be its own, turbulent master--"

With a gesture, Qui-Gon froze Obi-Wan's leg in place. The Knight's body, however, tried to continue through the kata.

"Umph!" he grunted, hitting the mat and slapping it hard to shock the watchers. As one, the children gasped in horror. Obi-Wan rolled to minimize what was already a gentle impact--he'd been ready for what Qui-Gon had done--but it was still an effective visual for the students.

"You will fall," Qui-Gon said simply. Reaching down, he offered Obi-Wan his hand. A quick hug was bestowed, and then Qui-Gon asked, "What did you just learn?"

"If I listen to my own turbulence instead of the Force, I'll be swept along and invariably take the wrong path," said Obi-Wan. His eyes told Qui-Gon that he knew all too well that this was what he'd been doing over the past weeks. "Even though I may stop myself somewhere along that path, the consequences of my actions will flow long after that. No Master can save me from the consequences of my own thoughts and reactions, so it's best to center in the here and now, to still my mind, and to trust in the Force."

With the merest gesture from Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan flowed back into the kata, picked up where he'd left off.

"As you can see, you flow into stilling the mind. You can't force a restless heart to be still, else you smother your emotions and suffocate your ability to connect with the Force." Standing before the class, Qui-Gon admonished. "When you practice this kata and meditate afterward on what it made you feel, try not to force the results."

"But I want to be calm like you say to be, Master Qui-Gon," one child piped up.

"Calmness will come naturally out of your inner peace. Just do the kata, listen to the Force in your meditations, and it will come."

Finishing the kata, Obi-Wan knelt before the Master in acknowledgement of the lesson. A broad hand rested on his head, ruffled his hair.

"Well done indeed, Obi-Wan. Thank you for your help." He bowed, indicated the lesson was at an end. "Jedi Kenobi and I will leave you to learn the actual kata now. We go in peace. May the Force be with you."

Master Hask took over the class, while Obi-Wan followed Qui-Gon off of the mat.

"I think I understand now," Obi-Wan murmured, shrugging into his tunic and boots.

"Understand what?"

"Tranquility. It doesn't mean being at peace with the details of the day--like if you've fallen into a muddy riverbed and are caked in it, and it itches, but you've got ten leagues and two nights to go before you'll get to any water that can do any good. It means generally accepting life as a whole. If I could do that, then peace and tranquility would be there all of the time, inside of me, and what happens outside wouldn't matter."

He was gathered into a tight hug. "You understand perfectly, my Padawan."

Obi-Wan emerged from the hug with a goofy smile on his face and much warmth in his heart. /He's called me Padawan about five times this morning. I guess it's habit and nothing more, but it's still feels so good. I hope he keeps doing it./

Shrugging into his cloak, Obi-Wan happily took up his place at the Master's left shoulder and two paces back as they exited the gymnasium. That earned him a slight scowl, which made him pace quickly to walk at Qui-Gon's side as he'd asked earlier. /Yes, this is a good moment to be in./


The afternoon passed pleasantly, with Qui-Gon treating Obi-Wan to lunch in the Initiate's commisary.

"I come here as often as I can," Qui-Gon announced, ushering Obi-Wan through the line and encouraging him to sample whatever fare he wished. The Master towered over the Initiates, who all called greetings and grinned up at him as if he were a frequent visitor in their world.

"That's good an' that's good..." a young Initiate behind Qui-Gon told him and his friend, all but climbing up on the railing to point out his choices. "But stay away from the purple stuff. Nobody knows what it is yet, or where it's from."

Obi-Wan took the Initiate's advice, happy to see several familiar items on the menu that were not only served in his home universe, but which he also enjoyed.

"The food's better here than in our section of the Temple," Qui-Gon revealed in a low voice. "I'm also far less likely to be asked awkward questions about my latest mission, or what the Council said to me when last I reported to them when I eat here. Of course, the Initiates also gather round and ask for stories, so you'd best be prepared to entertain the Padawans-to-be if you follow my example."

"I've plenty of stories, Master." Obi-Wan followed the older man to a corner table.

"I hope to hear them all one day."

They ate in peace, if not quiet. Secretly, Obi-Wan was glad they weren't visiting the central dining center; he didn't think he was ready to be introduced to the other Masters and their Padawan, much less field the questions his presence would have generated. By now, he suspected that the gossip chain would have informed everyone of his arrival. It was far more peaceful to be here, among youngsters who didn't care who he was, where he'd come from or where he was going. Qui-Gon's sensitivity to his mood was startling; the man seemed to understand Obi-Wan without his having to ask or explain a thing. It was unique to have a companion--much less a Master--who seemed to keep his needs and insecurities in mind. Obi-Wan knew all too well that Most Masters didn't have the time or the inclination to cosset newly arrived knights. 'Welcome to the Temple, here's your room. We're sure you'll be just fine and, by the way, check for your mission assignment in a few clicks,' was about all he had actually hoped for, and that from the quartermaster. If he'd hoped for anything.

Pushing aside his tray as Qui-Gon finished his own meal and began surveying the room, Obi-Wan plunged into saying something he had felt needed to be said for at least the last two hours. "Master, how can I thank you for your kindness?"

"Hmm? What kindness?" Puzzled blue eyes met his.

"This...." Obi-Wan spread his hands. "Your taking care of me, explaining things to me, watching out for me. I've never known such kindness before--never needed it before, I suppose. It's... a unique experience and I just wanted to say thank you. Is there something I can do for you in return?"

Qui-Gon's eyes grew solemn. Reaching out his hand, he covered Obi-Wan's hand and spoke softly, with an almost urgent intent. "You can be happy here, Obi-Wan. You can tell me if there's something I can do to help you be happy."

He shook his head. "I can't think of anything, Master. You've done it all."

That won him a chuckle. "I've scarcely begun, Padawan. I've done nothing but show you a small part of your new home."

/Home.../ Obi-Wan liked how that sounded. Part of him had even begun believing that this could be home for him.

"Come, Obi-Wan. There's much more to see."

* * *

Qui-Gon led him back into the main Temple, pointing out landmarks and information kiosks at every level.

"I think I can find my way around now," he said with some confidence, following Qui-Gon into the lift.

"Where do you wish to go next, then?" Folding his arms, Qui-Gon indicated that Obi-Wan should push the buttons instructing the conveyence where to take them.

"The meditation gardens, I think."

"We have many gardens, none of which are centralized. What do you have in mind?"

"Do you have anything like the Room of a Thousand Fountains?" Obi-Wan asked.

"Yes, but that's reserved for Masters and the Council. Still...." Qui-Gon considered for a moment. "I think level six may have what you're looking for."

Obi-Wan touched the required button, and they were off. A few clicks later, and he was walking with Qui-Gon down a cool, quiet corridor. Only a few Jedi wandered here. They moved silently, their hoods raised and their heads bowed. The narrow corridor fed into an indoor garden larger than any Obi-Wan had seen before. Stepping off of the usual tile, his boots touched grass. It smelled fresh and clean, so alive that Obi-Wan longed to take off his boots and sink his toes into it. To feel the living Force in each blade and stay there for a time.

Trees were everywhere--old and peaceful ones, as wise as the Masters who walked beneath them. They watched and listened, absorbed all that might be thought or felt beneath them. Stretching to the sky, they reached for a greenhouse roof.

"It's for protection only," said Qui-Gon. "Fresh air constantly circulates, and we pull back the canopy for ten hours a day, so that they can feel the warmth of the sun, the wind through their branches and the rain on their leaves. They're most grateful, as you can see."

"What about the birds?" asked Obi-Wan, catching sight of an abandoned nest cradled in the heart of a weeping willow.

"They're welcome as well. There are many more here in the spring. We offer materials for their nests, food for their young. Many of the same pairs return, year after year. It's a bit difficult to meditate after the chicks hatch, however."

Obi-Wan laughed softly. "I'd imagine so."

A small animal with dappled fur and a plumed tail darted acros an overhead branch. Settling on its haunches, it chittered at the two Jedi, daring them to walk beneath its tree.

"We ask safe passage, little one," said Qui-Gon. The creature scolded all the louder. With a sigh, Qui-Gon offered stepped closer to the tree and offered a slight bow. Reaching up a finger, he stroked carefully between the thing's beedy little black eyes. "Will you allow us to walk beneath your tree?"

It drooped and then dropped as if drunk under the Jedi's ministrations. Only when it was sprawled across the limb, its small, clawed paws lax and a silly smile on its thin face, did Qui-Gon return to Obi-Wan's side.

"*That* is a lerril," he announced, taking Obi-Wan's elbow and urging him forward before the thing woke up or changed its mind. "They're somewhat greedy for affection. If you don't acknowledge their territory and their magnificence, they're liable to attack you."


"Leap at your head and continue to complain. Their claws are sharp, if small."

"And you let them live here?"

Qui-Gon cast him a startled glance. "This is their home, Obi-Wan. They were here first, and we are the intruders who built walls around them, many years ago. If we're going to fence them in, it's only fair that we respect their needs."

/That's a different way of looking at it,/ Obi-Wan acknowledged. "On Coruscant, we'd have just relocated his kind."

"Your Jedi would never have shared his world or learned to interact with im? His kind would simply be shunted aside?"

"I'm afraid so, Master. On the Coruscant I knew, at least."

"Lerrils live only on Coruscant," Qui-Gon commented. "There are no others like him anywhere in this universe. What value has the living Force to your Jedi if they refuse to live side-by-side with all life?"

Obi-Wan hesitated before answering. "Master, I think that 'my Jedi' may have lost their way a very long time ago about a great many things. Our Force application is outward, rather than inward most of the time. We use meditation, but it's a morning and evening activity, or merely a grounding, coping exercise than the way of life it appears to be in your world. We use to Force to heal, to guide us in battle, to help defend those in need, but we do not teach those outsideo of the Temple to use it. I've never heard of it being used to cohabit peacefully with a native lifeform.

"Some, like Yoda, try to Far-see using the universal Force, but even his efforts are frustrated most of the time. 'Hard to see, the future is....'" Obi-Wan thought for a moment. "I know that my Master was a master of the living Force. He had much empathy for creatures like your lerril, and was forever bringing them home to heal and then release them back into their native habitat. For the most part, though, he used his powers in negotiation, to help bring peace to warring planets, to influence and to guide those less fortunate in our world. He was a man of great compassion, and he helped save many lives, but the majority of them were what our culture had already decreed sentient. Those who were not... tended to get trampled where I came from.

"I saw my Master communicate with other life forms, much as you just did, but not on Coruscant. Coruscant has been dead to the living Force for a very long time. The focus of my world is money and greed, with the Jedi trying to act as a fulcrum against that. Does that make sense?"

Qui-Gon's brow furrowed. "It makes a very sad sense, Padawan. Your world is missing out on a great many things."

"Yes, Master. It is. Perhaps you can understand why I'm not missing much of my world."

They continued down the path unmolested by further chittering. Obi-Wan couldn't resist touching the leaves of various trees, basking in the soothing calm they projected. The air was breathable here, the atmosphere peaceful. This sort of connection was what he needed, what he wanted. What had been lacking in his own life. He felt comfortable here, with Qui-Gon and among the growing things. No conversation was needed and no tests were pending. To just exist this moment was enough.

"This garden is part of a meditation level, not far from my quarters," Qui-Gon said softly. "You're free to come here any time."

"Thank you for showing me. I'll probably visit as often as I can."

They wandered in companionable silence for a few more clicks until Qui-Gon asked, "Is our Temple entirely foreign to your own, as well?"

"Your main building, library, and the Council chamber is the same," he said. "The medical center is in the same place, and your quarters are in the same tower as at home, Master. Beyond that, this Temple is more sprawled."


Obi-Wan nodded. "My Coruscant is one big city, which is a major reason why most of our animals and vegetation are all but extinct. Those that still exist have been shunted into nature domes."

Stopping in the corridor, Qui-Gon stared down at him. "Those, I assume, are artificial constructs housing life that was once natural to the planet?" Off of Obi-Wan's nod, Qui-Gon continued heatedly. "I am convinced now that your Order is dead to the living Force."

"It's not the Order's fault," Obi-Wan protested. "There are millions of citizens on Coruscant alone, and only ten thousand Jedi throughout the entire galaxy."

"TEN THOUSAND?" Qui-Gon nearly shouted, and several Masters turned to stare. Turning away from the annoyed glances, the Jedi spoke more quietly. "So few? How can this be?"

"Well, how many do you have?"

"At least ten times that. Two thousand on Coruscant alone, with many more Temples spread throughout the galaxy."

"And Force users throughout the populace as well?"

Qui-Gon nodded. "Parents teach children, and there are civilian Temples established. The Force is part of everyone's life, here. We're all connected."

"It's not that way where I come from. We don't teach the populace any use of the Force because they're not really interested. Or they're afraid of it. Depending on the species and the world involved, they tend to think of us as sorcerers or sages. Your Senate answers to the Jedi here, but in my world, the Jedi serve the Senate. The Chancellor sends us wherever he will."

Qui-Gon looked confused. "How can someone who is not Force sensitive know what will bring peace out there? How can he or she know which Jedi to send?"

"Considering the missions my Master and I were sent on, I don't think anyone has ever thought to ask such a thing." Obi-Wan closed his eyes, feeling a weariness that was soul-deep. "I wish they had. Chancellor Valorum is a good man, but sometimes...." He rubbed the bridge of his nose as if to rub out the memories. "Sometimes the Jedi are sent into situations that make me wonder how any of us manage to survive. The Force seems so far away, sometimes."

Strong arms wrapped around him. He was cradled against a barrel chest that was solid and blessedly real, while long fingers combed through his hair. "I'm so sorry, Obi-Wan."

He stiffened beneath that touch, only to will himself to relax in the next moment. Qui-Gon waited it out and just continued stroking, let the sorrow and compassion he felt flow past his shields to wash over his charge. /Calm... calm.../ said those emotions, and Obi-Wan listened. Sliding his arms around the taller man, he released the harsh memories into the Force. They were the past; this man and his affection, his support, were the present. Nothing was as blissful as feeling Qui-Gon touch him, and nothing felt so safe as the garden where they stood. Obi-Wan had the feeling that if he'd needed Qui-Gon to stand there all night and do nothing but stroke through his hair, the Master would have done it.

/How can anyone care this much for a stranger like me?/ Obi-Wan wondered. Taking a deep breath, he stepped out of the embrace, regardless he wished he could stay there forever. "Thank you, Master."

Sunlight danced over Qui-Gon's shoulders, setting off the silver streaks in his hair. His blue eyes were calm and steady as they regarded Obi-Wan. "I'm glad that you're well away from that universe, Padawan. Are there other worlds in your universe as barren as Coruscant?"

"Some are. Some aren't." Obi-Wan gathered his robe about himself, began wandering the path again. "They're self-governing, so they're free to do as they will."

"I see. And what they will is to destroy?"

"Sometimes, yes. Unfortunately. Our history is very different from yours."

"It is, indeed. Come, let me show you something."

Making his way through the garden, Qui-Gon led Obi-Wan back onto the granite tiles and down another hallway, which dead-ended at an ornate wooden door. No modern creation this, its hinges looked dark with age. Brushing his hand across Obi-Wan's forehead, Qui-Gon said, "Close your eyes."

He did so. He heard the door creak open, felt warm air waft across his cheeks.

"Allow the Force to guide you inside, Obi-Wan."

It was a simple exercise. Reaching out with his senses, he passed the door and walked into the chamber. The wood itself had a living presence in the Force--swirling colors that held a heavy maturity, welcoming him into the chamber it guarded. Qui-Gon follow after. Wherever they were, the Force surrounded the two Jedi easily, to the point that it teased Obi-Wan's closed eyelids and danced inside his mind. The door creaked closed behind them, entombing him and Qui-Gon in what felt like a womb of Light. The sound of delicate chiming caressed Obi-Wan's physical senses, complimenting his Force sense.

"Open your eyes." Qui-Gon's spoke in only a whisper, but the sound still echoed around the chamber.

He opened his eyes to see that the Force-dance behind his eyelids was echoed in the room itself. Dancing rainbows of light surrounded Obi-Wan, caressed his skin and his sight. It touched him everywhere, flashing across his face and over his hands when he raised them to the light. Bright blues and deep greens, rich reds and playful orange made him laugh aloud tilt back his head to look up and up and up, to find the source of the light.

Hundreds of prisms dangled from the ceiling of the transparent-domed chamber. Swinging in the breeze, they touched and tangled in the sunlight, dancing an intricate dance. As they touched, they sang, connecting through light and sound. Sunshine streamed through the dome, dancing across the prisms to explode through them in a neverending parade of color and music.

"It's beautiful," Obi-Wan whispered.

"It's like the Force," said Qui-Gon, coming to stand beside Obi-Wan and looking up to survey the rainbows. "The prisms themselves are physical and visible, penetrating matter and space, just as does the Force. At the same time, part of their light is invisible to us, but there nonetheless. We can sense it, just like the Force."

Bringing up his hand, Qui-Gon let a rainbow play across his palm. "On a universal level, you and I are living in one of these spectrums--perhaps in the blue universe, or the green." He traced the colors with his finger. "Perhaps you came from the red universe, into this one. We all live in a prism of time and eternity, Obi-Wan." With a sweep of the hand, Qui-Gon indicated the entire dome. "Welcome to a prismed world of unending possibilities. The Force has truly blessed you, for you've stepped into a new beginning."

"Yes, Master. It has."

The warmth in Obi-Wan's voice made Qui-Gon look down at him, only to discover the younger man wasn't looking at the prisms nor at their rainbows. Obi-Wan smiled up at him--a smile containing such beauty and light that Qui-Gon's heart skipped a beat. The green eyes were unshadowed, their hope unmistakable. This was no shattered Knight, come to beg for healing and a place within their Order. This was a soul on fire, knowing his place in the universe and ready to act in it. This was a strength and a beauty Qui-Gon had never seen in his Padawan, all revealed in the power of Obi-Wan's smile, the laughing delight in his eyes.

In deliberate immitation of a certain Master now dead, Qui-Gon lifted one hand to stroke down Obi-Wan's cheek. Tracing the trail of long-dried tears. "Welcome to my world, Obi-Wan."

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