For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
- Traditional Rhyme
In the Queen's space yacht, on the way back to Naboo, Qui-Gon asked Obi-Wan if he'd like to engage in a little sparring. To pass the time. To limber up, body and mind. To let Anakin watch.
It was the last that made Obi-Wan's hackles rise, but by that time Qui-Gon was giving him that look that said he knew exactly what Obi-Wan was thinking, but he wasn't going to say anything, was just going to wait while Obi-Wan said to himself all the things that had been said a hundred times. Things that he knew. Things he could, these days, master about himself without external prodding.
Ready to take the trials. His Master had said that. If Obi-Wan was angry about anything, he knew, it was that he'd just said it. As though it was nothing much at all.
A stupid thing to be upset about. As stupid as not wanting to potentially appear less than perfect in front of this wide-eyed child, this barrel of energy and questions.
So Obi-Wan said, "Yes, Master," and accepted the hand to heave himself to his feet, and helped move barrels and bales around a little until they had enough space to make a go of it.
He'd thought Anakin might ask questions. He'd thought Qui-Gon might talk while they sparred, taking the opportunity to deliver a dissertation. But as they squared up opposite each other in the small space, Qui-Gon pointed at a spot out of the way, on top of a cargo box, and said to Anakin, "Sit. Watch." And then ignored him.
It was familiar enough to make Obi-Wan smile a little, as he let his fingers grip and settle around his lightsaber. Qui-Gon, drawing his from his belt, lifted an eyebrow.
They thumbed the weapons on, and the time for levity passed. They ran through warm-ups first, two-person katas designed to centre the mind and balance the body, establish the space of what was to follow. Halfway through the second iteration, Qui-Gon changed his strike mid-swing and Obi-Wan met it, falling easily out of the kata and into a counter-attack.
Obi-Wan could feel the Force in the hold; the space, the objects in it, himself, Qui-Gon. He could feel Anakin's interest pique as the boy recognised the shift in rhythm, from choreographed to improvised. The sizzle and splash of lightsabers became irregular - at least to anyone who was only listening with their ears. To Obi-Wan the rhythm was still audible through the Force, and he let it guide him, following it as he struck and parried and struck again. Following it... losing it.
Qui-Gon's lightsaber crackled a breath away from his wrist. "You are disarmed," he said, blandly.
Obi-Wan huffed half a breath, took a fraction of a second to resettle himself as Qui-Gon said, "Again," and they flickered back into motion.
In the Force, Anakin's attention was fixed, focussed like a beam of light. Avid. A series of high attacks - Qui-Gon taking advantage of his height - masked a low slice, and they paused again, Qui-Gon's blade just short of Obi-Wan's knee. "You're hit. Again."
Obi-Wan rolled his shoulders back, bringing his 'saber up into guard. The Force could be reached for, but it came easier when surrendered into. Let it go; the sensation of the fine bones in his wrist turning the blade; the sense of Anakin following what was happening; his own frustrations, expectations, desperations; let it go.
When it came it was imperceptible and shocking, every taste he'd had magnified and redoubled. A clarity like deep water and thin air, even his thoughts barely moving under his power.
He saw what would be, and it was: a sliding block of a high strike, with a flick that left Qui-Gon still recovering, blade high, and Obi-Wan spun about in a reversed thrust --
-- and they paused, Qui-Gon's elbows still lifted, Obi-Wan's lightsaber not quite touching his tunic at his lower-right ribs.
"You're dead," Obi-Wan said.
Qui-Gon looked down. "Yes," he said. "I am."
They stepped back, returned to guard. The clarity had gone, and Obi-Wan felt almost rattled, but it drained out of him as quickly as it had come. He was not impatient.
"Again," Qui-Gon said.
At his first close contact with a Sith, Obi-Wan felt--
Oh, there was curiosity, and fear, and excitement, and a taut readiness gathering in him. He felt it all, but it did not affect him.
He knew then that it was true: he was ready.
All else had been brushed aside. It was only them in the Force; them, their igniting lightsabers, and the strangeness that was this red and black warrior. There was a moment - half a breath - and then Obi-Wan launched into battle.
It was a struggle he could see, but only half see, the Force with him but not in him. But it could not be seized and he could not wait - the moment was now, and he must live in it, and living meant fighting, for the malice and violence came off this thing so palpably that Obi-Wan did not need the Force to feel it.
So he fought, his blood beating, his blade flickering, imbued enough, feeling enough, feeling his Master beside him, moving with him as much as he could.
It was not enough. They were holding their own, but that was all. A hefty boot in Obi-Wan's ribs - the breath knocked out of him and gravity pulling him down - was an admonition that he knew to be deserved. More was required; not he needed to do more, but more needed to come through him. Even as he ran back towards the knotted conflict, Obi-Wan let the frustration fall away from him.
It caught up with him as he came to a skidding halt, the way barred by a sizzling wall of energy. He watched Qui-Gon compose himself, knew he should do the same. But before he could master it, the barrier fell, and they all sprang into action; a short sprint before Obi-Wan was cut off again.
Emotion spiked through him, and he let it. Did not quell it, but let it pass through, piercing him and passing away into nothingness. In its wake was nothing. Not peace, but... a moment.
A moment, watching his Master and the Sith, when Obi-Wan saw what would be, and it was: Qui-Gon's high strike met by a sliding defence that flicked the blade back high, even as the Sith spun about, his reverse blade digging back --
-- and crisping the edge of Qui-Gon's tunic as he took a half-step back, a violent skew to his torso, wrists rolling together to bring his lightsaber down and across, and the Sith had to leap away.
Obi-Wan blinked, and his vision cleared. The Force enfolded him, and he moved forward even as the barrier disappeared before him. There was clarity, and a blurring. All was one, no difference between the steps he took, and the flip of the Sith's tunics as he turned.
All was one; the walls, the floor, his hands, his Master's. The Sith's two-bladed attack was simply another element in his own destruction, Obi-Wan not so much avoiding it as he was simply not present for it. Obi-Wan's blade sheared through the Sith's body as Qui-Gon's swept the head from his shoulders, and they were one, and in that chamber death reverberated.
Disorienting, it lingered still, this absence of self. Faded, removed itself into the background, but lingered even when Obi-Wan became aware of a hand on his shoulder, and Qui-Gon's voice saying, "Now you are a Jedi."
He had not needed to be told. It was true.
The Queen gave them the use of a tower of the palace in Theed. Obi-Wan wanted to make jokes about Jedi Masters only feeling at home a long way off the ground. He'd been oddly ebullient since the fight. That was one reason he was keeping his mouth shut in this meeting.
He wasn't the only one - with the happiness, not the silence. The majority of Theed and a fair number of planetary and galactic ring-ins were partying in the streets, and not being at all quiet about it. The noise drifted up to the open windows of the tower, and occasionally the light of a firework splashed the ceiling.
There were four of them in the room, Master Yoda and Master Windu, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. They had been speaking of the Sith; believed extinct, conclusively proved otherwise.
Always two, Master Yoda had said. There was the possibility that the one they had faced - the one they had killed - was the Master. Obi-Wan didn't think so, but he said nothing. He suspected everyone in the room didn't think so.
Either way, it was a cold and sobering thing to be faced up to, if not tonight, then soon. The Sith at large in the galaxy. A shadow cast over everything they did.
But now the topic had fallen. There was a pause. Yoda and Mace exchanged glances, before Yoda broke it, saying, "A Knight you will be made, Obi-Wan."
He bowed his head. There was a thrill of satisfaction in him, but no surprise.
"And Anakin?" Qui-Gon said beside him, which was also no surprise.
Obi-Wan looked up again, but there were no glances exchanged, not a pause, before Master Windu said, "We cannot train him, Qui-Gon."
In the corner of Obi-Wan's vision, Qui-Gon's hands were on his knees. His voice was steady as he said, "We cannot afford not to."
"Too old, he is," Yoda insisted. "Too settled his mind."
"We have just finished agreeing," Qui-Gon said, serene as ever, "that the Sith are once again a power in the galaxy. The boy has talent. The Force is stronger with him than with any I have encountered - that we have encountered. He will be trained, mark my words. If not by us, then by them."
There was no particular emphasis to the words, but still they seemed to echo in the room. Obi-Wan's chin came up, and he glanced over to Qui-Gon, who was watching the Masters. He had not even considered that possibility.
"Kenobi." Obi-Wan turned back to face Master Windu, who was watching him steadily. "You have spent time with the boy. What is your opinion?"
His opinion? It was so unexpected that Obi-Wan felt a moment of something akin to disorientation. It passed quickly. He was aware of his Master's - his soon to be ex-Master's - eyes on him. The silence was impatient, full of the sounds of revelry.
Obi-Wan did not let himself be rushed. He considered the question. His opinion of Anakin. Small, but larger than life. Disturbing. Impulsive. Lacking in control. Comparing him to a Padawan learner of his age was almost impossible, so many differences existed. So many years of his life had passed. So much of him already set into a shape not conducive to being a good Jedi.
And yet... he was strong in the Force. Powerful, even. He would never be an average galactic citizen. Always something special. And the idea of facing him as they had faced the Sith was chilling: that boy, become a twisted being, twisting the Force and the universe simply by existing.
Should he be a Jedi? Perhaps not. But no one deserved a dark fate, if it could be avoided.
Finally, Obi-Wan said, "He should be trained."
Hard to tell how they took his view. There was never anything to see on the hard mask of Master Windu's face and Yoda, when Obi-Wan glanced his way, was inscrutable as ever.
Eventually, the ancient Master sighed. "Then train him you shall, Qui-Gon Jinn. Anakin Skywalker as your Padawan you may take."
Qui-Gon bowed, his hands still on his knees. "Thank you, Master Yoda."
"And we will require your experience on the Council," Master Windu stated, "in the dark times to come."
Obi-Wan felt a small jolt of surprise, and a greater one of pleasure. He smiled, glancing at Qui-Gon, who of course looked neither surprised nor pleased. He merely bowed again, and said, "It would be an honour."
Yoda drummed his gimer stick against the floor. "Then finished here, we are. Better things to do tonight we have, hmm?"
Obi-Wan walked with Qui-Gon through the halls of Theed Palace - though "saunter" might be a more apt description. He did not begrudge the more casual pace, especially not tonight. Every time they passed a window, the sounds of celebration reached them anew, but Obi-Wan was in no hurry to get down there.
Truth be told, he was enjoying this moment. They walked side-by-side, together as they had been, and yet not. The past was alive here, and the future, but the moment was not eclipsed by either.
"The moment," he murmured, aloud.
"Don't tell me you're going to start trying it out now," Qui-Gon responded lightly.
Obi-Wan smiled. "Better late than never."
"An ancient and wise Jedi maxim, that one." He stopped, and Obi-Wan stopped with him, turning to face him. Qui-Gon laid a hand on his shoulder, an easy smile on his face. "Well done, Obi-Wan."
It covered so many things, and warmed him so much, that all Obi-Wan could do was bow his head in acknowledgement and response. But then he smiled, looked up again, and said, "We both have a reason to celebrate tonight, Master."
"True," Qui-Gon allowed, letting his hand drop. "You will have to celebrate for both of us, however."
Obi-Wan realised which door they had stopped outside. "You're not coming down to the party?" he asked, redundantly.
"I have a new Padawan whose training is already uncomfortably late in beginning," Qui-Gon replied, folding his hands into his sleeves. He smiled, crookedly. "You were trial enough, and you'd been softened up by Yoda before I ever got to you."
You will be made a Knight, Obi-Wan Kenobi, he reminded himself, and gave Qui-Gon a smile. "Rather you than me," he said. "I will - ah - see you tomorrow morning then, I imagine."
"Or tomorrow afternoon," Qui-Gon agreed, tilting his head. "It sounds like quite the party."
Obi-Wan smiled more sincerely, and bowed. "May the Force be with you, Master."
Qui-Gon bowed in return. "And with you, Obi-Wan."
Obi-Wan turned away from his Master, and walked away down the corridor. Alone. More alone, somehow, than he had ever been before.
But this was, he supposed, descending the grand, sweeping staircase at the heart of the palace, what he was now. A Jedi Knight.
Ready or not, it was going to take some getting used to.
Drawing in a breath, Obi-Wan stepped out onto the terrace. He was almost dazzled by fireworks, bubbling up like a fountain from the piazza below. There were squeals and shouts and peals of laughter, and a line of people went clattering past him, trailing ribbons and song.
They were alive tonight, and free. He was alive tonight.
"There you are." A voice beside him, not far away, female and known, and Obi-Wan turned towards it. She was dressed too simply to be the Queen, and when he really looked closely now, he could tell the difference. "I was starting to think you would be cloistered up there all night," Sabe said, drawing closer. She carried, Obi-Wan noticed, a goblet in each hand, full of liquid that caught the light. She offered him one.
He smiled, and turned to face her, and took it from her hand.
In the Moment by dee
All stories are works of fan-fiction by Dee. "Fan-fiction" means that she does not own any of the core creative concepts and characters, but she does heap adulation, appreciation and awe upon those people who do hold the intellectual property rights to those concepts and characters. Further, any instances of real people are fictional, and the author does not wish to suggest any truth should be attached to the actions, emotions and words attributed to them in these fictional stories.