Note: Written in reaction to JA6 - maybe wish fulfillment. Thanks to my kind and honest Master, 'lion Flame, who never fails to help me. This is dedicated to you.
Yoda walked even more slowly than usual. This conversation was not one he wanted to have. The young man didn't look up, remaining in the traditional meditation pose, eyes closed, though the ripple Yoda felt in the Force told him his approach had not gone unnoticed. This one probably even knew who it was that had come to see him after his three-day vigil.
His clothing, while clean, was ragged, and his feet were bare. His red-blonde hair was long enough to flop down beside his face. He looked like an overgrown street urchin. But he had sat in Petitioner's Court for three days without food or water. He had earned the right to speak.
"Why you have come back, you will tell me."
Obi-Wan Kenobi's head came up, the blue-green eyes considering him from the depths of a pain that didn't belong to one so young. "I was wrong. Desperately, stupidly wrong."
"You were, yes."
Kenobi flinched, but held to his purpose. "I need to apologize to Master Jinn."
Yoda scribbled on the flagstones with his stick for a bit, then sighed. "Fear you have given up your rights, I do. Make him see you I cannot."
Obi-Wan met his eyes then, buffeting him with the agony his words had summoned. A few ragged breaths, and then a deep bow to touch his forehead to the ground. Without rising, he said, "Please, Master Yoda. I have already ruined my life. I owe Master Jinn an apology. I understand he has no obligation to forgive me, and I will leave if you tell me to go."
Yoda studied Obi-Wan's thin figure, eloquent of the last two years of war he'd seen on a world where the young and the adults seemed determined to exterminate one another. A war in which he had participated. One in which the boy had seen all his young friends die. Yes, he had grown up. The most difficult way. At last, Yoda nodded. "I will ask. Wait here."
Obi-Wan tried to wait patiently, the way Master Jinn had taught him. It was hard, though. To his knowledge, he had never injured anyone quite so badly as he had his master, and he dreaded facing him how. But he must if he were ever to have a night's peace, a night without that look on Qui-Gon's face haunting him - the face of betrayed trust. If Obi-Wan were ever to have any kind of life after this, he had to try to tell Qui-Gon he was sorry and offer whatever the other man wanted as a penance.
He knew he had tears on his face, the first he'd wept since leaving the Jedi. Hearing the door open, he wiped his face quickly and stood up, hoping.
"What do you want, Kenobi?"
Looking Qui-Gon full in the face, Obi-Wan waited until the older man seated himself on a stone bench, then knelt in front of him. The master's calm, disinterested gaze made him look away. Of course. Why should Qui-Gon care now?
Obi-Wan cleared his throat and began. "I have come to apologize, Master Jinn. I practically forced myself on you as a padawan, and then I betrayed you for a cause unbecoming to a Jedi. Worst of all, it had more to do with hormones than ideals, though I honestly thought at the time that I believed in the cause."
He cleared his tight throat. "I have not come to seek forgiveness, which is undeserved, but to close this issue between us so I can decide...what to do. Where to go. I have come to ask if there is any way I can make it up to you before I leave you in peace."
There was a long silence. At last, Qui-Gon said, "I accept your apology." He stood up.
Obi-Wan gasped as the knife went in. That was it? He had expected to be yelled at, berated and advised to go to the Dark Side. This simple, flat statement was no more than he deserved. He bowed deeply, then struggled to his feet. Well, nothing more to be said. Trying to remember the way to the exit, he swallowed, determined not to let the sobs that shook him cause him to make a single sound. His pain was his own, and he'd no right to inflict it on Qui-Gon Jinn.
"Stop," came the command. Obi-Wan halted, surreptitiously wiping his face again. "I thought you wanted to make it up to me."
Nodding, Obi-Wan turned, eyes directed toward the ground. "I do."
"Come with me."
Following the tall figure he'd sometimes believed he'd never see again, the only human being who had ever loved him, Obi-Wan wondered where they were going. Perhaps they'd let him work in the laundry or the kitchen. Instead, they went to Qui-Gon's quarters. Home. Oh, please, Obi-Wan thought, it's going tear out my heart to see this. 'Shut up,' he ordered himself. 'You've lost the right to self-pity.'
Standing in the living area where Qui-Gon indicated, Obi-Wan waited while the older man disappeared into his former student's old room. He came back with a full padawan outfit and held it out to Obi-wan. "Go shower and dress, then come back here."
"I thought you wanted to make it up to me."
Without further protest, Obi-Wan did as he was told, gulping the shower water gratefully after three days without moisture and weeping his heart out. This was so bad. He'd never imagined this sort of cruelty. To make him put on the clothing of the Jedi and then expel him from the Temple? Perhaps it would be public expulsion? 'Give me strength,' he begged the Force. 'I broke his heart, I could see it then and I see it now. I must let him take his revenge.'
When he came out of the shower, having left his ragged clothing in a pile in his old room, Qui-Gon asked him, "You lost your shoes?"
Feeling a flush rise in his cheeks, Obi-Wan stared at the floor. He was dangerously close to overload, but he managed, "Someone needed the boots more than I did."
"I see." Qui-Gon crossed to sit in his high-backed chair. He pointed to the floor before him. "Kneel there."
Obedient despite the dizziness than had begun creeping up on him, Obi-Wan waited for Master Jinn's judgment, still unable to meet the older man's eyes.
Presently, there was the sound of a wooden box opening and closing. There was a shiver in the force as Qui-Gon touched Obi-Wan above and behind his right ear. What the Sith? One very large hand came down on Obi-Wan's bent head, not hard, but gently.
"I, Qui-Gon Jinn, take you, Obi-Wan Kenobi, as my Padawan Learner. Rise up forgiven, receive your lightsaber, and resume your walk toward Knighthood with me."
Stunned, Obi-Wan raised his eyes, side-tracked for a moment by the sight of his lost braid in its former place, beads and all. Accepting the lightsaber, the familiar weight of it, the connection to the Force it fostered, the restored padawan knew he was more fortunate than he deserved to be. Qui-Gon's eyes were bright with tears unshed, and that, finally, broke Obi-Wan's control.
Two years ago, Obi-Wan would have flung himself into Qui-Gon's arms. But now he only covered his face and sobbed, trying not to make noise. His master put long arms around him, and held him close, stroking his overlong hair. "Oh, Obi-Wan. I have forgiven you. Now you must learn to forgive yourself."
Pushing back to hold Obi-Wan at arms' length, he smiled, a sight the padawan had never thought to see again. "I missed you. But we can catch up later. You were out there for three days without food. Would you care to eat here or in the main hall?"
Swallowing hard, accepting his master's handkerchief, Obi-Wan consulted his inner self. At length he said, "I had thought all my pride was dead, my Master. It ought to be. But I'd rather eat here, if you don't mind." 'I might well burst into tears the first time someone asked me where the Sith I'd been,' he reflected.
"As you wish. But there is one more thing." Reaching down with both hands, though Obi-Wan knew touching was not necessary, Qui-Gon re-formed their training bond. The immediate side effect was that Obi-Wan felt cloaked in his master's love and care. He truly was forgiven.
Still kneeling there, Obi-Wan found a question. "Why didn't you publicly expel me from the Temple? I remember seeing it done once."
Qui-Gon shook his head. "Officially, you have been on an assignment. The Order does not technically know that you ever left. The Force suggested you would return." He stood up, drawing his padawan with him. "In any case, I would never publicly humiliate you."
'Like I did to you,' Obi-Wan thought. He followed Qui-Gon into the kitchen, automatically seeking out the plates, utensils, and huge glasses full of water and ice.
"Padawan," Qui-Gon said.
"Master?" Seeking out Qui-Gon's beloved face, he found a smile to give the man who had rescued him from his own folly.
"Look forward, not back. Do you understand?"
"Yes, my Master." Obi-Wan bowed. How he had missed saying that. Doing that. At last, at last, he was where he belonged. "I will remember."
"Oh, and a haircut. That - mess - won't do at all."
"Yes, Master." Obi-Wan sat down to eat, and grinned. "Haircut. Right away."
"And Obi-Wan, a mere boy would never have come here and offered to make things right. You have returned to us a man. I've never been more proud of you than at this moment."
If his voice was a little rough, they both chose to ignore the fact.