Qui-Gon blinked, listening for a reply. Seconds later, he remembered to breathe.

/Master?/

Holding onto his apprentice even tighter, Qui-Gon nodded, even though he knew Obi-Wan couldn't see it. /I'm here. I'm so sorry, my Padawan./

/Hurts./ The word was accompanied by a harsh gasp. /Skies, it hurts./

Qui-Gon took a deep breath, trying to release his emotions. At the same time, he sought to soothe the tattered edges of his Padawan's mind. The tattered edges he had caused.

/Is that better?/ he asked a few moments later, hoping to have helped dull the pain. He recognized the signs of psychic shock, he could only hope it he could mend the damage he had caused.

Obi-Wan took several deep breaths, before nodding almost imperceptibly. /Better./

/Just keep breathing, Obi-Wan. Steady breaths./

He felt Obi-Wan's hand move, to tangle in his robe. /Why?/

/Obi-Wan?/

He felt Obi-Wan cringe, and pull back into his own mind. /Why did you push me away?/

Qui-Gon sighed, guilt settling on his heart. /I thought it was for the best. I am sorry, Obi-Wan./

Qui-Gon grew alarmed, as he felt Obi-Wan moving farther and farther away. His voice along the link, too, was faint. /'m tired, Master./

/Obi-Wan? Stay with me, Padawan./ His voice was harsh, but he couldn't help it. He only hoped Obi-Wan would respond to his Master tone. /Hold on, Obi-Wan./

Fumbling in his robe pocket, Qui-Gon grabbed his com-link. Somehow he managed to summon the healers, while still holding onto Obi-Wan with all of his strength.

/Master?/ Obi-Wan's voice echoed along their bond. /'m gonna sleep now./

Qui-Gon threaded his hands through Obi-Wan's hair. /No! Talk to me, Padawan./

Obi-Wan's response, when it came, was so quiet, Qui-Gon doubted what he was hearing. /Love you, Master./

Tears leaked from the edges of Qui-Gon's eyes. Holding Obi-Wan close, he cursed the healers silently. /I know, my heart./ Qui-Gon managed a shuddering breath. /I'm so sorry./

/Don't be . . ./ Obi-Wan's eyes fluttered open, and he almost smiled. /My fault./

"No!" Qui-Gon's cry echoed both through the bond and in the room. /Never, my love. Never./

Obi-Wan's eyes fell closed, and Qui-Gon pressed a kiss to his forehead. Obi-Wan's presence in his mind was growing fainter and fainter, until he worried he was lost to him. /I shall love you, my Obi-Wan, forever./

/Forever./ He heard Obi-Wan repeat the thought, followed by a brief touch along their bond.

Qui-Gon latched onto that touch. /Stay, Obi-Wan. The healers are near./

However, he could feel Obi-Wan's presence slipping away ever so slowly. /My time to rest, I think, Master./

/It is not your time, my heart./ Qui-Gon paused, and softly touched Obi-Wan's lips with his own. /I love you./ He knew he was pleading. He didn't care.

When Obi-Wan didn't reply, his chest started to shake. /Obi-Wan?/ More silence, interrupted only by Qui-Gon's gasping breaths. Leaning forward, he began to rock Obi-Wan slowly. /No, no, no . . ./

*

The healers arrived, several moments later, only to find Qui-Gon hunched over his apprentice. One having passed on into the Force. The other was clutching him, unresponsive except for his continuous denials.

"No . . ."

The End

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