Obi-Wan reached out, trying to regain his hold on the elevated rings when Qui-Gon ignored his plea and rushed forward. Seeing the motion out of the corner of his eye, Obi-Wan missed the ring, and two more directly below it.

Staying calm, he reached out into the Force, still hoping to regain his balance. He had just managed a precarious balance when the Force slipped away again, tilting crazily around him. Once more, he balanced out, and Obi-Wan was glad that Qui-Gon was not interfering; rather letting him deal with the unexpected situation.

However it had just slipped from his grasp when Obi-Wan recognized a sudden torrent of emotion from the figure below. For one last moment, the world was right side up around him, before everything spun out of control.

*

When Qui-Gon moved forward, even after Obi-Wan's wishes to the contrary, he was focused as much on the emotions within, than on the movements around him. Seeing Obi-Wan slip, his heart seemed to stop and he made himself moved faster.

He let out a relieved breath when Obi-Wan appeared to catch himself. It was a split second later when he felt the currents of the Force surrounding Obi-Wan shift and swirl in every which direction. He could hardly breathe, fighting against the emotions that sought to tear from his chest.

Although it felt like time was slowing, Qui-Gon knew it had been mere seconds since he had started walking toward his apprentice. Qui-Gon had every belief that Obi-Wan would be able to control his fall. He froze, unmoving; relief flooding from him when again Obi-Wan regained his balance.

That relief was short lived, however, when Obi-Wan lost control. Qui-Gon dropped his shields, reaching out toward Obi-Wan through the Force. The emotions he had been hiding behind his shields, not yet having let the go into the Force surged outward when his shields fell.

He watched, shocked as Obi-Wan began to toss randomly as he fell, Qui-Gon's own efforts to use the Force to steady him, only compacting the problem. The eddies of the Force continued to shift in every direction, working against every effort made by both Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan.

Qui-Gon's horror grew when he realized that the Force wasn't responding, and there was nothing to stop Obi-Wan's descent. Only the hard, metal floor lay below him.

Thrown into motion, Qui-Gon ran toward his Padawan. The room was long enough that Qui-Gon was still two steps away when Obi-Wan hit the floor with a ominous thud.

Qui-Gon skidded to a halt beside Obi-Wan, dropping onto his knees. He didn't breathe until he heard Obi-Wan take a ragged breath, and slowly open his eyes.

"Ma-Master?" Qui-Gon fought the urge to close his eyes as Obi-Wan gasped out the word.

Shaking his head, Qui-Gon placed a finger over Obi-Wan's mouth. "Don't try to talk, Obi-Wan."

Obi-Wan shook his head, Qui-Gon could tell he was fighting the urge to cough. Brushing his hair back with one hand, Qui-Gon rested the other on Obi-Wan's chest. He could feel his apprentice's ragged breathing through the touch. Reaching out into the still turbulent Force, he tried to direct a healing energy into Obi-Wan.

*

Obi-Wan tried to raise his hand, to bat Qui-Gon's away, but didn't have the energy. Squinting, he managed to focus his eyes on his Master's face; his head was throbbing. "Ma-Master . . ." He tried to take a deep breath, but pain tore through his chest and stomach. He only succeeded in coughing for several moments afterward.

When his vision cleared, although the pain continued to burn through him, he looked up at his Master. Qui-Gon paled, and Obi-Wan realized that the moisture he felt on his chin was blood. He tried to lick suddenly parched lips. "'m sor-sorry."

Qui-Gon shook his head, rough jerks from side to side. Obi-Wan blinked, certain he couldn't possibly be seeing tears in the other man's eyes. He had never seen Qui-Gon cry before. When he was younger he doubted his Master could cry, and wondered if he would ever see it. He felt a droplet land on his forehead, and knew his answer. Funny thing was, now that he was witness to it, he hated it.

He felt the warmth of another wave of healing energy fill him. Yet at the same time, he could feel a tug from another direction. It was as if the Force itself was whispering in his ear.

Obi-Wan smiled faintly; he felt warm, the pain fading.

*

Seeing the ghost-like smile on his Padawan's face, Qui-Gon felt out along the Force. "No!" he cried, following the snaking tendrils that were enveloping Obi-Wan. Fighting it, he redoubled his efforts to tie Obi-Wan to him.

"'s 'kay," Obi-Wan managed to say, the faint smile replaced by a sad look.

Qui-Gon shook his head. He spoke, uncaring of the plea he knew was in his voice. "Don't leave me."

*

"Ne-never leav' you," Obi-Wan replied, not quite managing to shake his head.

"Obi-Wan . . ." Qui-Gon's voice was an empty whisper, all the while Obi-Wan could feel the familiar energy of his Master surrounding him.

Knowing that he might not have another chance, Obi-Wan managed what courage he could. "Lov' you, Ma-Master." His eyes dropped closed, but he forced them back open. The shocked look on his Master's face, however, caused him to look down. "'m sorry."

His eyes had just dropped closed again when he heard what sounded like a low wail. Obi-Wan opened his eyes, just in time to be pulled into Qui-Gon's arms. He gasped softly against the jolt of pain, but tried to ignore it. For the moment, he simply wanted to enjoy the feeling of being in Qui-Gon's arms.

Obi-Wan felt Qui-Gon rocking him slowly, and a single tear slipped free from his eyes. "Mast'r?"

*

Qui-Gon pulled back just far enough to stare into hazy blue-green eyes. He managed a deep breath. Gently, he wiped away the tear and tried to smile, failing miserably. "Don't be sorry," he whispered.

He could feel the pull of the Force on Obi-Wan, and even as he fought against it, felt him slipping out of his grasp. Instead, he turned his gentle manipulation of the Force, buffeting Obi-Wan from the worst of the pain that he could feel, through their link, tearing at his body.

/Master?/ Obi-Wan spoke through their bond.

Qui-Gon closed his eyes for a moment, tears burning the backs of them. Opening them, he was hit with a sense of how little time was left, and found himself trying to memorize every line of the beloved face he held. "I love you, too, my dearest one."

He watched Obi-Wan blink slowly, a warmth filling his eyes. /You love me?/

He nodded, unable to speak for a moment. "I'm so sorry, Obi-Wan. If I had only told you what was bothering me . . ."

Obi-Wan shook his head. /I understand./ He was silent for a moment. In the silence, the two simply stared at one another, taking what opportunity was left to them. /I was just too scared to tell you./

When Obi-Wan gasped suddenly, Qui-Gon strengthened his hold on the Force around them. Fear, as unfamiliar as it was, curled in Qui-Gon's stomach. "Just breathe, Obi-Wan."

Obi-Wan nodded, his eyes clouded with pain. Knowing time was short, Qui-Gon pressed a kiss to Obi-Wan's forehead. More moisture leaked out onto Obi-Wan's cheeks at the gentle touch, and Qui-Gon kissed his cheeks also, wiping away the tears.

He rested his forehead lightly against Obi-Wan's. "I love you, my Padawan. Please never doubt that." Tears fell from his eyes, wetting his beard. Not closing his eyes, he pressed his lips to Obi-Wan's, sharing one first and final kiss.

/I will be with you, my love./ Obi-Wan's words through their bond were becoming slow and slurred. /Just look to the Force and feel me there./

Qui-Gon could only wonder at the strength in his Padawan. As to what warmth the Force might provide, after the body he held grew cold; however, he didn't speak his thoughts. "With every sunrise, for all the light you've brought back to me. I shall miss you, until we're together again."

Obi-Wan gasped, struggling to breathe and keep his eyes open. /Don't forget me?/

Qui-Gon gasped sharply. "Never. How can I forget part of my soul?"

Instead of replying, Obi-Wan began to shake in his arms. Qui-Gon could feel the insistent pull of the Force that Obi-Wan was fighting to stay with him. Closing his eyes, he held him close and pressed a kiss to the top of Obi-Wan's head. His heart broke as he tried to force words past unwilling lips. "Just let go, my love."

"I love you," Obi-Wan the whispered words slow and pained, but clear. /Be happy and safe, my Qui-Gon./

As the words echoed along their bond, Qui-Gon could feel Obi-Wan slipping away. He watched as the blue-green eyes that he loved to watch, in laughter or tears, dulled and slowly closed. A finally ragged breath pulled from Obi-Wan's chest, and suddenly the pain was gone.

The room was eerily quiet, save the rasping sobs as Qui-Gon held Obi-Wan's body to him. "Good bye, my heart," he whispered, hoping that somewhere, along the Force, Obi-Wan heard it as well.

End

Return to Beginning