Lullabye

He was staring at the ceiling. Obi-Wan wasn't sure, at the moment, which ceiling it was, whose room he was in, or even which planet or ship he was on. He didn't want to know. If he extended his awarness beyond the ceiling he would realise that beside him, the bed he was lying on was empty.

It was a wholly bare ceiling. Very little about it could capture one's attention, but he tried hard. He focused, concentrated, and when that began to falter he searched for something to see in it. Faint lines from whatever substance had created the ceiling could be seen, if one looked close enough. He knew his eyesight showed him less there was to see than had he closed his eyes and used the Force. The Force would have shown him every line, crack, and faint spot in the entire ceiling.

The Force would have shown him the emptiness beside him. Within him, too.

So he focused his eyes on the ceiling. The light was fading and soon he would have to choose another distraction. He wasn't sure, but he believed there were no lights in this room to switch on, to create an artifical glow by which to study the ceiling. Perhaps there was; he dared not move to search for one.

He dared not move his head.

It wasn't supposed to hurt like this. He tried to cut off the thought, but it pried its way inside his mind, fighting past the palisades into his awareness. It did hurt. And thinking that made him remember why it hurt. He turned his head.

There was nobody there.

Obi-Wan rolled onto his stomach and pillowed his head on his arms. It wasn't the most comfortable position to sleep in, but he was hardly sleeping anyway.

For six days -- or so he thought, it might be seven or five -- he had not slept. He'd meditated, he'd sat with Masters Yoda or Bartri or Delin, he'd read the words of the "Morrisate" over again. But the words of the Jedi both past and present failed to soothe his heart. Wise philosphies designed to teach and enlighten, failed to remove the aching inside.

His mind understood what death was. His heart only knew his Master was gone.

He buried his face and surrendered himself to another night of emptiness and pain. Perhaps he was no true Jedi, if he could not even move past this. He wanted to scream at the emptiness -- you never told me it would hurt. You never told me you would die. The calm, apathetic words would come at him again, he knew, and he would feel as if he should be able to let this go. But the grief was too invasive and it would not let him free.

He should be able to let this go. His Master was not really dead, he was merely one with the Force. It was a state of being which Obi-Wan himself could achieve at times, through his meditations and certain exercises. A state where the mind itself turned off and there was nothing, but the Force.

But whenever he tried now, he found nothing but emptiness, a missing voice in his heart and mind, and a missing body at his side.

A hand touched his shoulder, and Obi-Wan tensed. He hadn't even felt anyone enter the room, so who-- He rolled over, and cried out.

"Shh, Obi-Wan," his Master said.

Obi-Wan ignored him and sat up, throwing himself forward into the insubstantialness that should have been there. Qui-Gon caught him.

Obi-Wan said nothing; there was no longer any need to ask or demand any of the things he'd told himself he needed to hear, just one more time before he could release his Master into the death that had claimed him.

He felt Qui-Gon holding him loosely, and Obi-Wan made no attempt to move, afraid suddenly that any motion might disrupt whatever had allowed his Master to be here. He felt Qui-Gon's hand on his head, then a soft, bemused, beloved voice was in his ear.

"You must sleep, Obi-Wan. There is much to be done, still."

"I know. I'm sorry - I can't. I've tried, I've tried everything. But I can't sleep without you." He had tried everything, even asked the local healers for something that would make him sleep. But nothing had worked. Every time he closed his eyes, he felt everything that was gone.

Qui-Gon tightened his embrace briefly, then let go of him, placing his hands on Obi-Wan's arms. Qui-Gon looked at him, sternly, but with a softness that Obi-Wan had seen in his Master's eyes for years, every time Qui-Gon had looked at him. "Lie down."

"But--" he wanted to stay there, stay there forever. If he moved away, Qui-Gon would leave again.

Qui-Gon touched his face; his hand was already growing more indistinct. Obi-Wan stifled the urge to grab it. "Lie down."

Obi-Wan swallowed, and did so. He lay on his back, but as his Master's request he closed his eyes. He felt Qui-Gon's hand light on his chest and took a shuddering breath. "Master...."

"Shh. You must sleep, Obi-Wan."

Faintly, Obi-Wan protested again. "I can't."

A hand brushed through his hair -- growing out, now, though of course it wasn't yet noticeable. Not unless one saw the freshly cut hair where once a braid had grown. Otherwise, he still looked... felt... like his Master's apprentice.

He took another deep breath, and tried to relax. Qui-Gon was right, he *did* have to sleep. Eventually; surely a few more minutes talking with Qui-Gon couldn't hurt? More, he amended. Surely nothing could hurt more....

"You haven't been able to let go."

The words weren't the accusation Obi-Wan heard in the other Masters' voices, though accuse they did not mean to do.

"I'm sorry," he whispered.

"Do you remember our lessons, Obi-Wan?"

It was an absurd question. Obi-Wan felt sure he could forget nothing. That was the entirety of his pain, in fact. He cold not forget. But he nodded; Qui-Gon wasn't asking to be foolish.

"Everything in its own time, Obi-Wan. Even this. You can accept this. You must, or you will not make it."

"I know. I know," Obi-Wan replied, knowing the words he'd been taught. Jedi knew these things, they desired the possession of nothing. They accepted, they endured, they sought for nothing of their own. They obeyed the will of the Force and accepted the Force as the only Reality. Everything else was just crudity of form, a distraction of the mind.

Obi-Wan could repeat chapter and verse of every text which explained. It didn't help him let go of his Master. It didn't erase his grief.

But he found that he was relaxing. Perhaps it was his Master's presence, a reminder that he *was* never truly gone. Perhaps it was simply his presence, which had never failed to make Obi-Wan feel better, regardless of the situation.

He opened his eyes. "Master."

Qui-Gon smiled. "Yes, Obi-Wan?"

He swallowed. "Thank you," he whispered.

Qui-Gon nodded. "Can you sleep, now?"

"I... perhaps." He wasn't sure. He would still wake up alone, and he would still have to spend the next few hours knowing that if he woke before dawn, there would be no one else there.

But he felt almost relaxed. He felt silly, asking, but he found himself asking anyway. "Would you please...."

But he didn't have to ask. He rarely did, Qui-Gon always told him he could read Obi-Wan's eyes as clearly as, if not moreso, he could understand each intonation of his voice. "Close your eyes, then."

He did so, feeling faintly childish. The feeling vanished as he heard his Master's voice singing softly.

/Remember everything I told you, keep it in your heart like a stone./
/And when the winds have blown things round and back again/
/what was once your pain will be your home./

/All around the table, white haired men have gathered,
/spilling their sons' blood like table wine./

/Remember everything I told you, everything in its own time./

/The music whispers you in urgency/
/hold fast to that languageless connection./
/A thread of known that was unknown and unseen, seen/
/dangling from inside the fifth direction./

/Boys around the table, mapping out their strategies;/
/Kings all of mountains one day dust./
/A lesson learned, a loving god, and things in their own time/
/in nothing more do I trust./

/We own nothing, nothing is ours/
/not even love so fierce it burns like baby stars./
/But this poverty is own greatest gift./
/The weightlessness of us as things around begin to shift./

/Remember everything I told you, keep it in your heart like a stone./
/And when the winds have blown things round and back again/
/what was once your pain will be your home./
/Everything, in its own time./

/Everything, in its own time./

Obi-Wan woke to find the sunlight peeking through the slats of the shutters. He rolled over, and found the bed empty. Reflexively he felt out for Qui-Gon; the tendrils of the Force recoiled as he remembered. He was alone. Qui-Gon was gone.

He rose, then, and went to sit in meditation.

In the quiet, he heard the words repeating again. The wind rose, and fell, and with it Obi-Wan found a sliver of peace, once more. He heard Master Yoda's voice, from a lesson long before. Luminious beings are we, not this crude matter. Force, not flesh, is what we are. See this before you with your mind -- it is not real. What is beyond, that which sees, that which feels, that which exists when the mind has ceased its thought, in meditation, that is real. Everything, it is. Nothing, it is. That which the mind and body desire, is as fleeting as the mind and body, themselves.

Words which meant so little when one was in pain, Obi-Wan now recalled with clarity. He began to think of them, repeat their meanings in his mind. But then the wind touched his face again with the barest impression on his skin, as had his Master's hand when he had gone.

He turned towards it, searching, fleetingly. Then he stopped. The wind died.

And Obi-Wan released it. He smiled.

He bowed from where he sat and whispered, "Thank you."