Post-RoTS: Where there is life, there are all shades of hope. (Slash - Obi-Wan/Qui-Gon)
After the delivery of the child, Obi-Wan finds himself treating his exile like any other mission.
Find shelter, water, food. Gather material supplies, forage for bedding, furniture and cloth.
Build and fix, clear and dig and he does this until everything is finished, until a serviceable home has been rendered from practically nothing except sand and sweat. He isn't proud of this achievement -- Jedi aren't supposed to feel pride in their efforts, for this way leads to arrogance -- but he's happy it's all done, for now he can begin the work he'd been sent there to do.
Unfortunately, that work consists of precisely...
Nothing except listening to sand storms howl through the darkness, nothing but watching as shimmering heat rises off endless wastes, nothing but hearing Anakin's howls of rage and pain echoing in his head every minute of every miserable day.
It's approximately two months into his exile when Obi-Wan dully realizes he'd forgotten to kill Anakin as he lay screaming in the ashes, or at least make absolutely sure he was dead.
It takes another month to realize that this was entirely on purpose.
That's the day Obi-Wan starts to meditate in earnest. Perhaps not so much meditation as grueling sessions of self-punishment, or as some Masters liked to call it: "productive reflection."
Hours upon hours are spent on inward searching, a subconscious race in circles against himself, complete with tormenting memories that refuse to fade with time. Instead, the images grow sharper until the actual events seem as though they were little more than a fuzzy holographic program compared to the waking nightmares he lives through now.
Aching to clear his mind, Obi-Wan ignores his body. He finds his physical self deteriorating, hands shaking every time he dares to open his eyes and look at the ravaged reflection in a nearby mirror, which is nothing more than a bit of broken solar panel he foraged from a faraway dump.
Slowly, he begins not to care.
Washing is a waste of water, eating a waste of time and Obi-Wan starts to feel the universe shrink around him until he feels claustrophobic even while standing in the middle of the wastes, twenty-thousand square hexameters of emptiness surrounding him.
He is utterly alone and for the first time in his life, Obi-Wan begins to yearn for a true communion with The Force.
It's right and natural to wish for this, he thinks ominously, until a shimmer of Force appears in a dusty corner of his hovel and berates him in a familiar voice.
"Ever impatient, aren't we, Obi-Wan?"
It's Qui-Gon Jinn, sitting on the ledge Obi-Wan occasionally uses as a bed. For a brief second, Obi-Wan wonders why a Force spirit would bother to sit down, but that minor consideration fades when he realizes who is talking to him.
Qui-Gon. Master. Friend and once upon a time ...
"It's good to see you again," he says politely. Hoarsely, as his mouth is dry from lack of water. "Master," he adds as an afterthought, since it's been many years since he's called anyone 'Master.'
"It's just Qui-Gon now," the spirit corrects. An appraising look is sent his way. "You're a mess, my friend. Why aren't you taking care of yourself?"
Obi-Wan blinks. So much for the dead to speak about self-preservation, he thinks, somewhat maliciously, and is annoyed to hear Qui-Gon's misty laughter filling the hut.
"Your temperament hasn't changed in the slightest. You're still as cynical as ever. I'm afraid this will make my job harder, but we have time."
"I'd say we do," Obi-Wan replies evenly, the hair on the back of his neck bristling. This definitely isn't the reunion he'd hoped for after all those years of yearning to see Qui-Gon again. "Bunches of time. Endless days and nights of time. An eternity, perhaps."
Qui-Gon frowns. "Not an eternity. I didn't come back in order to live forever, Obi-Wan."
"What did you come back for then?" He's sorry the moment the bitter words leave his mouth, but it's too late to take them back. Too late for sorrow of any kind now. "To correct the mistakes of the past?"
Qui-Gon rises and for a moment he looks much taller than Obi-Wan remembers. "No, Obi-Wan. I've come to bring balance to the future."
"Ah, then you're the Chosen One, I presume," Obi-Wan spits and suddenly the world grows very small again, choking him as it closes. "How unfortunate we didn't know this before we anointed Anakin as such. What troubles we'd have saved ourselves, don't you think, /Master/?"
The spirit's mouth twists with sorrow. "Please take care of yourself Obi-Wan. You're my last hope."
He disappears before Obi-Wan can truly rail at him. Instead, he's left alone to pound the wall with his fists as any ordinary fool might, one who'd never been trained as a Jedi, shouting obscenities and leaving trails of red behind as his skin tears and his hands start to bleed.
He remembers the old words of Sharhet, a Force master from the far ancient times before there were Jedi ... or Sith.
"And that day will come when the living shall envy the fortunate dead, who exist forever in the Force, happy in their demise ..."
Obi-Wan goes to bed that night for the first time in weeks, dreaming clear dreams of Coruscant before the end came, of the temple and the babes, all bright and full of laughter.
Of his own training, of hours sitting in the library, sometimes busy, sometimes bored, but often spent staring at the great black door leading to The Forbidden Works, a collection of Sith writings available only for perusal by members of the Jedi Council.
As a padawan, he wondered what was in there, why an ordinary Jedi should avoid what were nothing but words. When he ascended to knight, he became too busy for curiosity and by the time he reached the Council, the Sith were no longer confined to crumbling books, thus his interest in what lie behind that door dimmed until all was gone.
But now he dreams of this door, dreams of it this night and the next.
It grows closer, an inch at a time, blacker than the Tatooine skies at full sunset. The screams of dying Jedi fade as the entryway gets nearer, the smell of blood and smoke disappearing until he can sense nothing but this great, dark door looming before him.
"It is unlocked," a voice says, somewhere in his head.
He makes no move to touch it.
"It has many answers you seek."
He continues to do nothing but stare.
"It is our only hope!"
Sharply, and Obi-Wan's eyes snap open, the dream ended. The first fierce rays of sunlight are rising over the sandy horizon, already reflecting hotly off the walls of his hovel. Most mornings this would bring a sigh of exhaustion from him, but not today.
Today, Obi-Wan thinks he has energy to spare.
Energy enough for a new, and improved, lifetime.
The next time Qui-Gon's spirit appears, Obi-Wan is ready for him.
More ready than he's ever been for anything in his life.
Washed and dressed neatly, his beard trimmed and hair combed, Obi-Wan looks at least a shadow of his former self. He takes the meditation pose in a freshly laundered robe, sensing Qui-Gon's presence nearby ... waiting.
When he appears, Obi-Wan is perfectly serene. "Thank you for coming, Qui-Gon. I apologize for my lack of control during our previous encounter. As you well know, the learning never ends. Shall we begin our training?"
"Is that what Yoda told you it was?" Bemused. "I don't know if I'd call it 'training' persay. I wouldn't presume to train a fellow master anyway."
"Show me, train me, instruct me ... we don't have to quibble about semantics," Obi-Wan replies graciously. "This is a fabulous power you've learned and I'm curious about it."
The spirit's expression falters, almost imperceptibly. "Curious ..."
Obi-Wan nods. "Very curious. For, upon further reflection, I can't ... for the life of me, if you'll excuse the pun ... figure out how you discovered this, how shall I put it, rather unnatural secret of returning from the dead. Even after a thousand generations of Jedi have never attempted such a thing. Nor has there been anything written about it, nor discussed in theory, not in all the time I've been studying which, dare I say, have been quite a few years now." He smiles, feeling the corners of his mouth turn up sharply. "So tell me, Qui-Gon, exactly who taught you this amazing trick?"
Qui-Gon's spirit stares at him for a long moment, until his own sharp smile is showing. "A Sith Lord, by the name of Plaugius, who is a fellow Force spirit I encountered in the netherworld. It is his method -- he is the one who discovered the secret."
Outside, a sand storm begins to howl.
Obi-Wan's smile tightens. "And why, dear Master, would a Sith give a Jedi such a powerful gift?"
"Because he wishes revenge on the apprentice who killed him, who happens to be Palpatine, or, as he is also known, Darth Sideous."
"Indeed. So we are the tool of the Sith now?"
"We are the tool of balance now, Obi-Wan." Sharply. "Within this balance there is no Jedi and no Sith. The one -- the child -- you will end up training will be the first of a new order, one that combines the best of both sides of the Force. An order where there is a place for passion as well as a place for peace."
"A place for passion," Obi-Wan muses. "I remember a certain Master who once told me there could never be any passion in a Jedi's life, beyond one's passion for saving the oppressed and protecting the free. No matter how I begged to differ -- and Force knows how I begged him -- he wouldn't budge on this particular rule."
And he does remember those conversations. Remembers them all too well.
"You were too young, too impressionable," Qui-Gon replies quietly. "It would have been to your detriment if we had ... given into our feelings for one another."
For one another ...
Like a flower opening, something inside of Obi-Wan blooms at these words, as a desert after the rains. He would have thought himself too old, too set in the ancient Jedi ways after his decades of training, yet here with Qui-Gon's ghost before him, even if half-Sith turned ...
"Do you believe in passion now, Qui-Gon?"
There is hope there, a very un-Jedi like longing and for the first time since his arrival on this cursed planet, Obi-Wan hears nothing except the sharp beating of his own, selfish, heart.
Qui-Gon's spirit can't touch him, but a whisper of Force brushes against his lips, making them tingle.
"I believe in honesty," the spirit intones. "I also believe in letting go of what is no longer useful. The rules of the Jedi are no longer useful to us. The heart -- our feelings -- have always been what have counted in the end."
Obi-Wan isn't so sure of that, but for the first time in his life, he decides that a well-timed omission of truth isn't exactly the same as lying.
He thinks this might be a good policy to stick to from now on.
"We have many years to look forward to together, Obi-Wan ... my Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon says soothingly. "Let us not waste a moment. We have so much to discover. Together."
Another tendril of Force, this time touching him all over and Obi-Wan shivers as he nods. "I am ready ... Master."
"Just Qui-Gon," the spirit laughs, as Obi-Wan shuts his eyes, breathing hard and losing himself in the sort of touches he's always wanted, but never known. "Let there be no master, except the Force."
"Except the Force," Obi-Wan breathes heavily, as the raging sands outside swirl high enough to obscure the blazing light of two relentless suns -- the bringers -- and destroyers, of life.