If There Was a Time

Pamela Thalner
June 1999

Disclaimer: The characters are George's. The concept is mine. He wouldn't want it anyway. In regards to the lyrics, "If There Was a Time" is (c) 1994 Warner Brothers, and the lyrics were used without permission.

Author's notes: Blame this one on my muse. The first glimmer of an idea came to me while I was washing dishes this morning; the rest was clinched while I was listening to Harem Scarem (progressive-hard-rock-Canadian-band) on the way to my parents' house, hence the title. The lyrics seemed really accurate. And, yes, there is some slashy (read: homoerotic) suggestion contained within, but nothing outright. Have I rambled enough? Sorry. Here. Story. Read. Please?

Feedback is welcomed at hutch @ jazmer.com.

I try to talk to the clouds but they spill out the rain
Now I'm truly convinced they've got nothing to say
Well I am alone, is there something wrong with my brain
Now the weeds are on fire and they're burning away

One final caress: the barest touch of his Master's fingertip against his cheek, and then Qui-Gon Jinn was dead.

Obi-Wan let out a sob, leaning forward until his forehead was pressed to Qui-Gon's own. The gesture was useless; yet, while he still cradled his Master's warm body, he could deny the truth for a little longer.

Had it only been moments ago that he had been battling the Sith Lord; that he had lost himself in the grip of emotion, the desire for revenge so strong it sang like a physical need within him? It felt like years; no, centuries.

The pure rage was gone now, leaving him an empty shell. Emptier than ever, he felt, without Qui-Gon's vibrant presence in the Force. The mindtouch he had known and accepted without question for the better part of twelve years had fled, left nothing but a void behind.

He's gone. Some part of Obi-Wan's mind finally made that thought break into his consciousness. He stood, hefting the curiously light body with Force-assisted strength. The Jedi Council would have to be contacted. Plans would have to be made; arrangements dealt with.

He didn't want to deal with any of it. He didn't want to do anything but weep, but he knew that his tears would not bring Qui-Gon back, no matter how many he shed. So he forced himself to find his way back to the upper levels of the Palace, to inform the Queen of the battle's outcome.

Most of all, he buried the tiny voice within him that jealously wondered why his Master had spoken only of Anakin with his last words.

Last time I checked I'm at thirty-four sins
Another won't matter 'cause I'm never gonna win
Hoping now I'm on a road that I can change
Cause I'll change

The other battles had been successful, of course. The droid army had been defeated by the timely intervention of the Naboo fighters; the Queen and her security force captured the Viceroy and his co-conspirator, who were even now being held in a high-security cell to await the arrival of a prison ship. Though Gungans had died in the field, many more survived to tell the tale, among them Qui-Gon's pet "pathetic lifeform", Jar Jar. Obi-Wan could even tolerate the annoying mannerisms of that creature, if only because they reminded him of Qui-Gon's propensity to accept in friendship the unusual and sublime.

The Queen decreed a day of mourning for the fallen; the Gungans were laid to rest in the manner of their people, and Obi-Wan was given leave to prepare Qui-Gon's body for a proper burning.

He tore himself away from the administrivia as soon as possible, desperate to be alone. Though Master Yoda and the rest of the Council offered their condolences - and he knew that they truly felt the loss of Qui-Gon's wisdom and skill - he knew, too, that they could never truly understand what a treasure had been lost. They had not appreciated him; not the way Obi-Wan had.

The body was laid out in a cold room several levels belowground, in a section of medical rooms. Obi-Wan dismissed the Naboo who had been assigned to help him, all but snarling at one young woman who only thoughtfully suggested that he might not want to be alone with the dead body. When she blanched and then swiftly exited the room, he wilted into a chair.

"Master," he whispered into the still air. "I was wrong. I'm sorry."

The air remained still. Of course there was no answer, no gentle but stern reprimand. Nor would there ever be again. Obi-Wan would be his own master now; his own and Anakin's.

Heavy-hearted, he rose to begin his task.

If there was a time when I needed to pray
That the cold wind blows away
If there was a time when I needed a place
To wipe the guilt free from my face
If there was a time for mercy in my life
It's right now

The Naboo night was bright with all the stars of the galaxy, it seemed; as if every world in the Republic had lit up in mourning for Qui-Gon. If Obi-Wan looked up, he could see them through the open roof of the rounded building in which he sat. But he did not turn his gaze skyward; he could look nowhere other than directly ahead of him, where flames crackled on an open pyre, consuming Qui-Gon's body by slow degrees. Though the fire was brilliantly hot, he stared anyway.

"What will happen to me now?"

Anakin's voice disturbed him from his reverie, and he turned his head to look at the young boy. Seeing the guileless, innocent eyes, something sparked in him. Had he been wallowing in his grief so much that he hadn't considered anyone's pain beside his own?

"The Council have given me permission to train you," he replied, thinking back for a moment to Master Yoda's stubborn, reluctant allowance of that fact earlier that day. "You will be a Jedi. I promise."

The boy's eyes searched his own, as if that answer were not enough; then, with a soft sigh, he looked back at the pyre. Obi-Wan touched a reassuring hand to Anakin's shoulder. He knew the boy had become attached to Qui-Gon in an adoring, hero-worship type of way. Their relationship would be more formal, as was proper for a Master and an Apprentice, but there was no reason they could not be friends as well. If nothing else, they had the mutual memories of Qui-Gon to build on for the beginning of a friendship.

If I went down on my knees, would it all be in vain?
But for now I'll believe 'til there's some better way
Well my pages turn 'til I've got nothing to say
Now the days with no dawn are coming of age

Obi-Wan procured new clothes for Anakin the next morning. Jedi tunics would comprise the majority of his wardrobe for the next several years, so he knew it would be easier to introduce the boy to them now. He also found a barber to clip Anakin's hair into the proper Padawan style, leaving one lock long at the back for a pigtail and one short lock behind the right ear for what would eventually become a braid. Normally, Masters cut their new Padawans' hair themselves, but Obi-Wan didn't trust himself with the scissors; his memories of Qui-Gon performing the same ritual shook him substantially and he had to excuse himself.

I loved you, Master, he whispered to the bright morning breeze. What in the world compelled me to keep my mouth shut, my heart closed?

He knew what it was. He'd been embarrassed and afraid. Sure that his feelings would be seen as nothing more than an adolescent crush, he'd hidden them behind a wall of silence. Hidden them well, it seemed, for Qui-Gon had never said a word or raised an eyebrow in question. Over time, Obi-Wan had convinced himself that his feelings were nothing more than the crush nearly every Padawan felt for his or her Master; he'd taken lovers when the opportunity arose, but the encounters never felt fulfilling in any way.

Now, of course, it was too late. He would have given anything to take back the moments before Qui-Gon's death, to stop his Master from blindly charging in after the Sith Lord; surely there could have been some way to delay Qui-Gon until they both could have attacked the Sith again. The scene played over in his head, as if he were watching a hologram; there, he could have blocked that blow that sent him flying down several levels; Qui-Gon would have knocked the Sith off the catwalk and onto another, and they both would have gone in after him--

"Master Obi-Wan?"

Obi-Wan turned at the sound of Anakin's voice. The boy's hair was newly sheared, and he looked distinctly uncomfortable in the new Jedi outfit. Obi-Wan forced a smile, putting the useless ruminations aside. "You look just right for the celebration parade," he commented, reaching out to ruffle Anakin's hair.

Last time I checked I'm at thirty-five sins
Another won't matter 'cause I'm never gonna win
Holding on to a ghost that I can't save

Much later that evening, after all the confetti and trash left behind by the parade had been cleaned up, the celebratory Gungans had returned to their home, and the inhabitants of the city of Theed had dispersed, Anakin and Obi-Wan stood on the steps of the palace to await the arrival of the transport which would return them to Coruscant. They had made their goodbyes to Queen Amidala only scant minutes earlier; there had been honest regret in her eyes as she bid farewell to Anakin with a sweet hug and kiss, and when she expressed to Obi-Wan her sorrow at Qui-Gon's loss, Obi-Wan thought he glimpsed tears.

He had to move on, he thought with a heavy sigh. If he continued to dwell on the memories, on the regrets and thoughts of how Qui-Gon's death could be prevented, he would be useless for training Anakin. If only... if only I'd said something before.

"Master, sir." Anakin pointed up at the heavens. The contrail of an interstellar craft was visible high in the stratosphere.

Obi-Wan nodded to Anakin. "That's our ride. It should be down here quite soon."

Anakin gazed upwards for a moment longer, then shifted his gaze to Obi-Wan. "Can I ask you something?"

"Certainly." Obi-Wan sat down on the steps, lowering his eyes to Anakin's eye-level.

"You miss Master Qui-Gon, right? That's why you're thinking about him all the time?"

Obi-Wan's eyes narrowed slightly. The boy was perceptive, moreso than he'd thought. "Yes, I do," he replied honestly. "He was my Master since I was thirteen years old."

"Did you love him?"

Obi-Wan's breath caught in his chest. He forced himself to breathe, but he could not meet Anakin's eyes anymore. Turning to look at the courtyard, he nodded. "I did. I still do."

Anakin's voice had changed somehow, subtly, the inflections just a little different, when he spoke again. "He misses you."

"What?" Obi-Wan looked at the boy again, startled.

"He... he loved you, too." Anakin blinked suddenly and shook his head. "I - I felt it somehow," he said, obviously fighting to express a concept he wasn't quite sure of.

"It's all right. I understand." Obi-Wan let loose a deep breath, feeling for the first time that the tight grip on his heart, the one that had been there since Qui-Gon's death, had somehow eased. "Master Qui-Gon has moved on," he said softly. "He is one with the Force now. That's how you felt him."

Anakin nodded acceptance of this explanation. As Obi-Wan leaned back on his elbows, looking up at the stars, he closed his eyes and breathed in, slowly, then out again, the rhythm akin to that of his meditative breathing.

And he felt the Force around him, seeking its way in and through him as it had not since his first uttered denial of Qui-Gon's demise. He had abandoned himself somehow, lost himself in the darkness; he was equally aware now that only that knowledge so simply uttered by Anakin could have freed him.

The caressing wind that blew lightly through his hair could have been Qui-Gon's fingers; the rustle of the breeze in the trees might have been the sound of his Master's robes as he turned swiftly. He thought he heard his voice, in the moments before the roar of the transport's engines drowned out all other sound; and Obi-Wan felt the empty place inside him fill up again.

As long as the Force was with him, Qui-Gon would never be truly gone.

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this page last updated on 18 january 2003