Wayward Sons

by Tenshi

Though my eyes could see I still was a blind man
Though my mind could think I still was a mad man
I hear the voices when I'm dreaming
I can hear them say

Carry on my wayward son
There'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry no more


Tatooine had been Obi-Wan's idea to begin with. It was what anyone else would have called luck, or even simple chance, but Obi-Wan was a Jedi and did not hold with such ideas. Part of it was Jedi training; part of it was that when couched in terms of fate or destiny, the events of his life were a little easier to swallow. He had known very little about the planet when it had lit up under his fingertips on the Naboo starship's navacomputer, but he knew without question that it was the obvious answer.

And it was again.

He had few pleasant memories of the planet; most of his time there years ago had been spent wrist-deep in hyperdrive entrails, or scanning the horizon. He had supposedly been waiting for his master, but as the burning day subsided into smoky twilight, his thoughts had turned more and more to the elusive dread that preyed on the edges of his consciousness. He began to regret his choice of the planet. At the time, he thought that Jedi did not indulge in regret.

Now he knew that was untrue. A Jedi knight of the Republic simply had no time to reconsider choices made. On Tatooine again with the second sun following its sister to the horizon, Obi-Wan Kenobi found himself with time as his only company, and little else besides regret to occupy his days.

From the window of his small dwelling, Obi-Wan watched the sky turn purple and gold, the suns blurring into one. Tatooine had a beauty, he had to admit. He had not yet been there long, but already he had watched the sky at twilight and dawning enough to find comfort in the puddles of shadow that spread like ink across the Dune Sea. He found himself looking forward to the sunsets.

One more day gone, dying into shadow around his humble, overlooked corner of the galaxy.

When he first found it, the hovel was little more than a ruin. It had once been a shelter for the Dune Sea vaporator monitoring crew, rendered obsolete when the Hutts reorganized the Vaporator Collective into small, easier-to-threaten independent operations. It had been in considerable disrepair when he happened on it, but it was not too far from the Lars homestead, and out of the way of any common paths. He had spent most of his time working to make the place livable, repairing the secondhand household moisture recycler he bought from a junk dealer in Mos Eisley, and trying his very damndest not to think too hard about why he was there.

Which presented a problem when he ran out of things to do. He tilted his hands to the window, trying to catch the last rays of sunlight on his current distraction. His power generator was a humble thing, and he was not inclined to put undue stress on it for something as trivial as light to mend his tunic by. When the daylight at last failed he kept working, blindly navigating the needle through the burned edges of fabric, trying to weave the severed fibers back into a cohesive whole.

The metaphor was not lost on Obi-Wan Kenobi. It seemed he was always being handed things half-finished and already broken at some fundamental point, and asked to make them whole again. It was as though the thousands of dead Jedi lying cold and unmourned across the galaxy were a vast, unraveled rift, and Obi-Wan had only a needle and thread, and a boychild not yet a month old, to mend it.

Mind not completely on a task that should have been trivial, his finger slipped. The needle jabbed deep into his skin and Obi-Wan, who all this time had been breathing and thinking and swallowing past pain unspeakable, finally lost his patience.


The tunic-- needle, thread, lightsaber burns and all-- crashed with a satisfying smack into the cool adobe wall, slithering down into a defeated heap on the dusty floor. And Obi-Wan put his face in his hands and fought off the overwhelming feeling that some other Jedi, any other, would be better suited to this.

There aren't any others, Obi-Wan.

"You think I don't know that?" Obi-Wan shot back. "If only you--" Obi-Wan stopped short. His head came up, his hand to the lightsaber lying on his bedroll. The small room was empty, lit only by the cold distant stars. Obi-Wan's heartbeat pounded in his ears, and he began to doubt what he thought he had heard.


Silence. Obi-Wan stood, fighting off conflicting emotions, trying to swallow with a throat that had suddenly gone dry. He turned off external distraction-- the stabbing pain in his left forefinger, the womp rat stalking around the dune a dozen yards outside his hut-- and focused on the whisperings of the Force. "...Master?" He waited, hardly daring to breathe, to even think.

....I can leave, if now's a bad time.

"No!" Obi-Wan said, reaching out into the darkness as though a Force-whisper was something that could be grabbed and detained. "Wait!" He tried to fight off the thought before it could form, but it slipped out anyway, if even inside his own mind. Don't leave me alone again.

And his Master laughed. Quiet somewhere inside Obi-Wan's skin and yet still filling up the dark corners of his hovel, warm and real and no memory. You have never been alone, Obi-Wan. And you are not now.

Obi-Wan sat down hard on his bunk. When Master Yoda had said he would be training to commune with his fallen master, Obi-Wan had been picturing something far more austere: visions, perhaps in meditation, or dreams. He was not prepared to be laughed at as though he was a seventeen-year-old padawan who had overloaded the crystal in his lightsaber. Again.

You had better do something about that. Those are the only trousers you've got.

Obi-Wan looked down at the bright smear of blood across the fabric of his pants, and put his injured finger to his mouth. "I'm not exactly sure what I'm supposed to say, here," he mumbled around it.

You've had plenty enough to say to me in the past fifteen years. Obi-Wan could not place exactly where his master's voice came from. At times it seemed as though Qui-Gon Jinn was standing next to him and invisible, and then sometimes his voice was only an echo through the open window, a murmur of the Force inside his mind. Why so silent now?

Obi-Wan studied his finger to make sure it had stopped bleeding. "I didn't know you were listening."

So I noticed. His master's voice was wry. It wasn't always flattering.

"I could have used your help, you know." Some detached part of Obi-Wan's mind was stumbling to keep up with the fact that he was speaking to a man long dead, long loved, and long missed, and not only that, but they were arguing. "I needed you."

You seem to have done all right.

"All right?" Obi-Wan stood up and flung out his arms, indicating everything from the hot ash and lava burns on his discarded tunic, to Padme and Anakin's son in the care of strangers, to a temple in ruins, to the whole dark-shrouded galaxy turning outside the window. "How is this all right?"

You're still alive.

There was rebuke there, and Obi-Wan heard it. Qui-Gon was never the type to scold outright; he just had a way of making whatever Obi-Wan just said seem selfish and shortsighted. His arms fell to his sides, he lowered his head. "Sorry."

He could almost sense the smile. Sorry you're alive? Rather overdramatic for you, Obi-Wan. I didn't bring you up to think that way.

"Yes, well," Obi-Wan bent down to pick up his tunic. "I've had a rough few years. Master."

I'll say. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get through to you? I never met anyone so single-minded. The more he talked, the more Qui-Gon's voice solidified, so that now Obi-Wan could not imagine that someone walking by his front door would not hear the Jedi master. When someone's dead, he's dead, isn't he?

"Well you were," Obi-Wan retorted, defensive and slightly peevish. "I mean, are." Obi-Wan floundered for a moment in verb tense. the words came quickly, long-practiced, repeated to himself almost hourly in those first grieving years of his knighthood. "Had I been holding on to hear you again I only would have lost myself in regret. In the past." He looked down at the tunic in his hands, and ran his thumb over the half-mended saber-burn through the sleeve. "'There is no hope to be found in looking backwards'. You told me that once yourself."

You didn't have to obey me quite so hard. Only when Yoda told you it was possible was I able to so much as get a dreaming whisper through to you. Qui-Gon would have raised his eyebrows then, leaning in to be on eye-level with his padawan. For a Jedi master, you do a remarkable impression of a brick wall.

"I didn't think it was even possible." Obi-Wan knotted the thread in his tunic and pulled the offending needle free. "As much as I might have liked to, I didn't have the luxury of indulging myself in fantasy. I had too many other things to do." And there was a rebuke there as well, a name unsaid between the two of them. Obi-Wan shrugged his tunic onto his shoulders, and the ash burns showed dark on the fabric, like bloodstains.

Qui-Gon Jinn did not answer. Obi-Wan fumbled with the tie belt and eventually gave up, letting his tunic hang open. The silence settled heavily around him, and Obi-Wan was suddenly afraid Qui-Gon's voice would not return. "...Master?"

I'm not going anywhere.

Obi-Wan tried not to appear too relieved.

I was thinking of what to say. I'm certain I owe you any number of apologies, I'm just not sure how best to begin. There was a pause. Being dead doesn't automatically make one all knowing, unfortunately.

"I'm not asking for an apology, master. I never have."

Maybe you should.

Obi-Wan sighed. "It would do no good for anyone at this point. I know this..." He looked at his hands, at the frayed hem of his tunic, "is not what you had in mind."

"I'm still sorry, Padawan."

Obi-Wan started, looking up. His room had no active illumination source save the one window to his right, and yet his shadow was a faint shape on the wall. The room glowed with blue light from no discernable point of origin. "Master?"

"Working on it." Not in his mind that time, but behind him. "This is difficult." The light pulsed, attempted to coalesce, and failed. "Ugh."

"I think I'm getting a headache," Obi-Wan said.

"You're not the only one." There was a pause. "It's been nearly twenty years... Sad to say, I'm afraid I've forgotten what I look like."

"You've forgotten what you--" Obi-Wan could not even finish. The images came to his mind unbidden, thousands of memories of his master's face, his hands. He remembered the silver-streaked hair as it had looked sliding between his own younger hands, Qui-Gon's profile against the Coruscant sunrise, the sweep of his arm and green lightsaber fire in the final stage of a training kata.

"Ah! That's good," Qui-Gon, or the uncertain blue light in Obi-Wan's room, said. "Hold on to that."

"Why?" Obi-Wan said in tones of deep suspicion, putting the backs of his knees to his sleeping couch, afraid he was going to need the support. He was not certain he was ready for this. "What are you going to--"

And Qui-Gon Jinn was standing in the middle of his bedroom.

Obi-Wan was very glad he had moved when he did, as his knees utterly failed him, and he landed hard enough on his sleeping couch to jostle the lightsaber and utility belt still lying there.

"Where did you-- oh, there you are." Qui-Gon took a step closer, and the blue light he was made of washed over Obi-Wan like water. "H'm. I admit I'll never get used to the beard, though I suppose it suits you, but I didn't think you were quite so short as all that."

Obi-Wan tried to say several things at once and had no real success with any of them. Force light flickered off the ends of his master's hair, and he was only slightly less transparent than a comm hologram. But for all that he was still Qui-Gon Jinn, tall and keen-eyed, his robe swirling to the floor as surely as any other object influenced by gravity.

"Not bad," Qui-Gon said, not noticing the discomfiture of his erstwhile apprentice, and looking down at himself. "Thank you for your help on that, Obi-Wan. I couldn't quite manage to do it on my own. It should make training you easier." He folded his arms and smiled. "Not very likely to ignore me like this, are you?"

Several moments passed as he waited fruitlessly for Obi-Wan's answer, and finally Qui-Gon said, "Padawan. Unless you particularly want to look like a gooberfish-- and I don't know why you would, as it's hardly flattering-- it might be advisable for you to shut your mouth."

Obi-Wan's jaw closed with a snap. "I am not," he said, rather tetchily, "a Padawan." He stood up, which was probably a mistake, as his knees were still wobbly and even as a force-ghost, Qui-Gon had every inch of his former height. As Obi-Wan had learned from his own padawan sometime around the latter's seemingly endless growth spurt; it was difficult to be assertive to someone's chest. "and if you'll pardon me Master, you've had fifteen years to get used to yourself; I've hardly had that many minutes."

"Forgive me," Qui-Gon said, with a slight bow that might not have been entirely serious. "Master Kenobi."

"You're making fun of me." Obi-Wan said. "It's not an easy thing to accept, you know."

"You'll not learn it any younger." Qui-Gon turned, his eyes following Obi-Wan as the Jedi brushed by him and busied himself with his power generator, usually patient hands needing something to occupy them. "If you are to learn this art at all, and I daresay you had better, it would be best if you got over whatever case of corporeal hiccups your brain is having."

For a long time Obi-Wan did not answer, rotating the unresponsive charge handle. "I wasn't prepared," he said, and any being that was not of the Force would have been hard put to hear him. "Not to lose you. Not like that." He switched the wires, tried the power switch again. No response. "No knight in the history of the Jedi had taken a padawan so quickly after his knighting. And yet I never thought of that. I only thought of following your last request of me." Obi-Wan's fingers trailed over the battered surface of the unresponsive generator. "...does no one have last words for me? Must they always be of him? Hope of him. Trust in him. Faith in him." His fingers curled, rapping his knuckles slowly on the housing. "Is there no faith in me worth speaking of?"

Qui-Gon said only, "Obi-Wan."

"I have no idea why this isn't working," Obi-Wan said aloud, looking up at his master and laughing a little in a distant sort of way. He gestured vaguely at the generator. "Anakin could have fixed it in no time, of course. Tell me I was hopeless with machines. that I was better off... with..." Obi-Wan simply stopped talking, and put his face in his hand.

How long he stood there he was not certain, but the darkness deepened around him, and the glow of his master's presence cast the shadows into sharp relief as Obi-Wan stood, one of two last living Jedi, and swayed against the tide of his grief.

And then, so familiar that at first Obi-Wan did not realize what it was he was feeling, Qui-Gon Jinn's hands folded around his Padawan's shoulders, and pulled him into his arms.

"If you give up hope, Obi-Wan, then you will have been defeated for the only time in your life." Qui-Gon lifted a hand that Obi-Wan could see through, and yet still felt when it came down to rest against his face. "On you rests the fate of the Jedi, and it is an unfair burden. But you do not, and will not, bear it alone. unless you choose to."

Obi-Wan only said, "I'm tired."

Qui-Gon smiled, the one Obi-Wan remembered all too well, the one that usually meant something awkward to explain to the council. "There will be rest for you, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Nothing and no one could deny you that. but training you still need, if you are to take a second Skywalker for a student."

"Training?" Obi-Wan echoed, lifting his head.

Qui-Gon spread his hands, and blue light lapped up the adobe walls. "Obi-Wan. You have a lightsaber in your keeping for a boy not even old enough to speak. How long will it be before he is able to wield it? Seventeen years? Eighteen? You'll be older than I was when I fell. Do you think, as you are, you will be able to keep up with him then?"

Obi-Wan felt the weight of future years settle on his shoulders and he shivered, a darkness stretching uninterrupted before him. He already felt old beyond mere years, a relic of a time long lost. "No."

"Always focusing on your anxiety, Obi-Wan." His phantom master's chiding tone was fond, the same Force-pressure that could levitate an object or flip a door switch became a pair of hands and ten fingers and one well-remembered lightsaber callus. "Don't give up, we've hardly started."

The blanket on Obi-Wan's modest sleeping couch rippled backward; there was firm pressure from the hands on his shoulders.

"But first, you must sleep. And I mean that. No staring at the ceiling, no circular meditation, no getting up and pacing the room, no thinking maybe you should take a walk down to the Lars homestead to peer in the windows and make sure Luke is still breathing. let me worry about that."

Obi-Wan staggered; sparse, restless sleep for too many nights seemed to catch up with him all at once. "I can't let my guard down, there's too much at risk--"

"I am your guard," Qui-Gon said. "And I do not need to sleep."

Obi-Wan found himself sprawled in his blankets without quite knowing how he got there, delicious heaviness in his limbs, for the first time since the fall unafraid of the faces he would see in his dreams. "I suppose...for a few hours..." Obi-Wan did not finish the sentence, his body going limp, lines that threatened to become permanent smoothing away from his face.

"Sleep, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said, his form fading until he had need for it again. "Do not dream of the past."

And Obi-Wan did dream, images and faces not yet formed, a galaxy shot through with light and darkness and the beauty of perfect balance. He dreamed, and Luke dreamed, and Qui-Gon kept his vigil, while the moons rose and the desert planet turned, patient, expectant, not without hope.


b i s h o n e n i n k