Notes: Well the light saber wielding plot bunnies finally caught me and this is the result. My first Star Wars slash story. I have a sequel in mind, too. Many thanks to sa and Virg for the quick betaing, and sa for giving me the title.

Afterthoughts

By Wolfling

It is time.

After two decades of hiding, two decades of patient waiting my chance at redemption has finally arrived.

A chance to make up for my mistakes. A chance to help restore the balance.

The balance. What, really, do I know of the concept? My life has not been truly in balance since the day *he* was killed.

He. Qui-Gon. My Master.

My soul.

It has been thirty years since he died and I still feel his loss as if it was yesterday. I've never really adjusted to his absence; even now I still turn around and expect to find him there, to see his smile, hear his voice, feel his touch.

I often wonder if he had survived, if things would have turned out differently. He always saw things more clearly than I did, often more clearly than even the council. Or maybe "clearly" is the wrong word. Maybe it simply was he saw things more optimistically, saw their bright promise and then proceeded to do all that he could to see that fulfilled.

It was certainly the case with me. He always had faith in me, even when I didn't have faith in myself. And those times occurred more often than I like to admit in the early days of my training. His belief in me allowed me to believe in myself. I never would have completed my training if it wasn't for him.

He had the same belief in the young Anakin. He saw the boy's potential where the council saw only danger. And my feelings were even more conflicted, I'm sad to say, with jealousy coloring my reactions, jealousy that this boy would usurp my place at my Master's side. My place in my Master's heart.

Such thoughts were beneath both of us, and I thank the Force that I came to terms with it before it was too late. I would have never forgiven myself if it had still been between us when he died.

As it was the ghost of those feelings continued to haunt my relationship with young Anakin, never allowing me to interact with him with the same ease that my Master had. And I have no doubt that contributed to what happened.

If my Master had lived to take Anakin on as his apprentice, the boy would've had someone who believed in him fully, who would have refused to settle for anything less but the fulfillment of his greatest potential. Anakin may have very well become the greatest of us all, just as my Master had foreseen for him.

Instead the boy got me, with my ghosts of grief and guilt, and the council who could never quite forget their original assessment that Anakin was dangerous. Those who should have been his greatest supporters and teachers all had their doubts about him and sensitive as Anakin was he had to have known that.

Was it any wonder then that when his world crashed down around him and he faced his greatest temptation that he fell?

I promised my Master as he lay dying that I would train Anakin, be his Master as Qui-Gon had been mine. That I did not live up to the responsibilities of that promise remains my greatest failure... and my greatest shame. The worst day of my life was the day my Master died. The second worst was the day I had to cross light sabers with my apprentice, though he followed another path and was my apprentice no longer.

I couldn't save him and so it was my duty as his Master to end his threat. And I failed at even that.

The days following that battle were the lowest of my life. I was filled with despair as I watched what my failures had let come to pass. The government toppled and changed, others of my kind hunted down and killed, our very way of life being wiped out.

I could not bear to see that happen, but there was nothing I could do to stop it. So I did the only thing I could to maintain what sanity I had left. I withdrew into myself and waited to die.

And I am sure that is exactly what I would have done if not for...

What do I call it? A visitation? An intervention? A miracle? I do not know what would be the best term for it was all of those things.

As I sat in my small shabby rented room, with my legs crossed and my eyes closed patiently waiting for death to claim me I heard a voice I had never dared hoped to hear again.

"Obi-Wan."

I remember the sheer disbelief I felt, along with the despair, knowing that when I opened my eyes I would discover I had not heard what I thought I had heard.

I opened my eyes.

There, standing before me smiling, was my Master.

For a long moment all I could do was stare, unable to speak, unable to move. I was afraid if I did either he would disappear. So I just sat there. And stared.

Qui-Gon's smile widened as he watched me watching him. "You look like you've seen a ghost, my friend."

I licked dry lips. "M-Master?" I asked, my hand reaching out towards him without conscious thought.

Only to have it caught in my Master's, his grip strong and warm.

Real.

I closed my eyes again for a moment, savoring his touch as my hand clutched convulsively at his. I wanted to move forward and embrace him but I couldn't force myself to move.

And then I didn't have to as he was the one who moved, stepping closer and pulling me up into a strong embrace.

That felt real too.

It was more than my overtaxed emotions could handle and I felt myself trembling, on the verge of breaking down and weeping hysterically. I clutched at my Master's robes in a white knuckled grip and buried my face in his shoulder as I struggled to regain some semblance of control.

Qui-Gon just held me and waited with the patience he had always shown me. That, more than anything else, helped me calm down, find my center. I took a deep breath and raised my head, meeting his eyes for the first time in almost ten years.

His gaze was warm and full of affection, holding nothing of the reproach or disappointment I had feared.

Which contrarily made my guilt all the stronger.

"I'm sorry Master," I whispered lowering my eyes as I spoke. "I failed you."

I heard him sigh and then one hand was under my chin, gently forcing me to lift my head and look at him again. "The fault is not yours alone Obi-Wan. Do not take more blame than is your due."

I tried to look away at that but the hand on my chin prevented me. "I was his teacher. It was my responsibility, *he* was my responsibility."

"Did the two of you exist in a vacuum then? There were no other influences in his life?" The blue eyes staring into mine seemed to be looking into the deepest reaches of my soul.

"No, of course not," I answered. "But I-"

My Master continued implacable. "And did you try to warn Anakin? Show him the consequences of his choices right and wrong?"

"There is no try," I responded, Yoda's teachings automatically coming to my lips. And wasn't that the problem? I had "tried", I hadn't "done".

There was a moment of silence then Qui-Gon said, "Yoda's words aside, there are times that you can do all that you can and yet still fail."

I thought about that, but much as I wanted the absolution such a belief would give me I couldn't accept it.

Qui-Gon saw that in my expression and sighed. "You always were stubborn," he told me with fond exasperation. Then, in a quieter voice, "If you feel you need my forgiveness Obi-Wan, you have it."

That single soft-voiced comment was enough to open the floodgates on my emotions and I started trembling again. Qui-Gon pulled me back into his embrace and I again buried my face in his shoulder, knowing there was no way I'd be able to rebuild my shattered control this time.

I have no idea how long I stood there cradled in my Master's arms as I poured out the horror and guilt and grief that I had been carrying with me for what seemed like forever. Qui-Gon said nothing, just held me. It was more than enough to comfort me -- it was something I had thought I'd never feel again.

When the emotional storm finally ended I didn't feel anything but empty. And maybe a bit relieved. Succeed or fail, I was done with it all. This life was at an end. My Master's presence proved that.

Didn't it?

But the look in Qui-Gon's eyes belied that belief.

"No!" I cried in denial. "I can't -- you can't ask me to!" I didn't know whether to push him away for even thinking of asking or pull him closer so he couldn't disappear, so I just stood where I was, in the loose circle of his arms.

Though his expression was sympathetic Qui-Gon's answer was implacable. "You can, Obi-Wan, and you must."

"I *can't*!" I denied, hearing my voice crack. "I've done all that I can, taken all that I've can. I have no strength left. Any more will destroy me!"

"Amidala is pregnant."

The words were like a splash of cold water or a slap to the face.

"Does he know?" I asked quietly.

"Not yet. But he may find out. Amidala will need protection. As will the children."

"Children?"

Qui-Gon nodded. "She is carrying twins."

In my mind I pictured young Anakin as he was before the Dark Side twisted him and then I pictured him as he was the last time I saw him. I pictured two innocent defenseless lives and what would happen to them if they were discovered. I could not stop the shiver.

My Master laid his hand on my shoulder. "They will need protection," he repeated. "And they will also need a teacher, when it is time."

No. Not again. Not after what I allowed to happen to Anakin. "I can't," I moaned, shaking my head in denial. How could he ask that of me?

A hand brushed my cheek gently. "I said the same thing once," he said quietly. "You taught me how wrong I was."

Xanatos. My Master's first apprentice who had turned to the Dark Side. Of course Qui-Gon knew what he was asking of me, knew better than anyone.

"Just because you lose one does not mean you will lose them all, Obi-Wan. The only way that will happen is if you refuse the attempt."

I knew my Master was right and mutely nodded my acceptance. I could feel my shoulders slumping as the weight of this responsibility settled heavily on me.

"How long?" I asked. How long would I have to wait? How long would I have to carry these burdens? How long before I saw him again?

Qui-Gon merely shook his head. "That I do not know. Time is... is different for me now," he said uncustomarily fumbling.

I nodded, then looked away. "A long time I think," I said softly.

"Yes." His answer was just as soft.

I felt myself tensing as I somehow sensed that our time together was coming to an end. My Master sensed it also and pulled me as close to him as he could, holding onto me so hard I knew there would be bruises.

I didn't care, I was too busy holding onto him just as tightly. Then Qui-Gon pulled back slightly, just enough to be able to bring our mouths together.

The kiss was tender, passionate, wild and desperate; I poured all of my feelings for my Master into it and I could sense him doing the same. Things that we couldn't find the words for, things for which words were inadequate, all were shared and understood in that kiss.

We finally parted, both of us panting for breath and staring at each other... And then he started to fade.

"I miss you," I said. 'I love you,' I thought.

He smiled, though his eyes were sad and reached out to touch my cheek one more time with fingers quickly growing insubstantial. "I will be waiting for you Obi-Wan," he promised seriously. "I *am* waiting for you."

"I know," I whispered and then he was gone.

I sat in that little room for another day, gathering my strength for what was to come. Then I went out and did what I had to do.

This time I would not fail in what my Master asked of me.

The years since that day have not been easy but the children have been protected and have grown strong. I have kept an eye on them from afar and bided my time, knowing that the Force will lead them to me when they are ready to be taught. Patience, never one of my strong suits, has been learned and mastered.

And when the time weighs heavily on my hands I pull out the memory of that visit with my Master and his promise. Knowing that he is waiting for me makes my own waiting easier to bear.

But now, finally, the waiting is over. Anakin's and Amidala's son has come to me with two droids, two very familiar droids. If that was not sign enough he called me by name. Obi-Wan.

I have been simply "Old Ben" for so many years my real name sounds... I don't know. Not wrong because that is who I am and who I will always be. But it is strange to hear it again.

I take the boy back to my home and watch as he fixes the droid that was damaged. The droid that, though there is no way he could possibly know it, his father had built.

I blink and for a second it *is* his father standing there, tinkering away as he used to love to do. The image is so strong I have to close my eyes.

In my self-imposed darkness I feel a ghostly hand clasp my shoulder reassuringly. Suddenly I am calm.

This is it. The time has come.

"You know Luke, you're about the same age your father was when he fought in the clone wars."

"No, my father never fought in the clone wars, he was a navigator on a space freighter."

It has begun.

****

End