Title: Seen
Author: A Gentleman of Virtue
Summary: Obi-Wan feels the loss of Qui-Gon's advice as he tries to make some sense of what he felt during the events of TPM. Romance ahoy.
Author's Note: I'm discontented with Lucas's attribution of age to characters. I fail to see the point in casting a thirty year old (be he ever so HOT) to play an eighteen year old. So for my purposes, characters are the same age as the actors who portray them. Obi-Wan is thirty, Anakin is eleven, Amidala is seventeen and Qui-Gon is fifty-whatever.

"You have decided to remain on Naboo," observed the Jedi Councilor Mace Windu, pausing at a particularly picturesque point on the walkway overlooking the waterfalls below the Theed palace.

"If the Council does not object," Obi-Wan replied respectfully. "I have no stomach for wandering just now, and the boy is taking the loss of his mother and home hard. It seems to me that we both need somewhere we can be quiet, somewhere to rest and study and learn to care for one another."

"The Council does not object," Windu announced. "On the contrary, we consider your decision to be very wise. It is better to stay in one place and learn to live with grief, than to go from place to place trying to escape what cannot be outrun."

Obi-Wan bowed his head in acknowledgement of Windu's praise, but his expression when he raised his head again was bleak and distracted. Windu studied him with some concern.

"You have suffered a great loss," he began carefully. "The death of one's master is always very painful, and I know that your bond with Qui-Gon Jinn was extraordinarily strong. To be so completely severed from him must be very difficult."

"Please," Obi-Wan said quickly. "I have thought about his death, and I feel sure that I understand my Master's actions. And understanding them, I cannot be pained by them. I am at peace in this matter, Councilor Windu."

Windu stood for a long moment, staring down at Obi-Wan, weighing the obvious sincerity of his words against the worn, weary look of his young face. Clearly something was pressing heavily on Obi-Wan.

"You are confirmed a Knight," Windu began again, turning to walk slowly on. Obi-Wan fell into step beside him. "You know that, had he lived, Qui-Gon would have continued to guide and advise you, though he no longer had the authority of a Master over you."

"I know that is customary," Obi-Wan said quietly.

"Indeed. It is also customary for a Knight to spend some years in looking about him, trying out his skills, before taking on the burdens of training a Padawan of his own."

"I made a promise. Anakin is my responsibility and I won't let him pass to someone else," Obi-Wan said, stopping abruptly on the pathway.

"I don't ask you to," Windu reassured him, frowning. "I only point out to you that you are burdened beyond others of your rank and age. Master Yoda and I offer ourselves to stand in the place of Qui-Gon Jinn. If you need help or advice, you may come to us." Clearly, whatever was troubling Obi-Wan was not open for discussion just now, but hopefully it would be in the near future.

Obi-Wan bowed deeply, keenly aware of the honor done to him. Members of the Jedi Council did not routinely interest themselves in the progress of every newly made Knight, let alone offer themselves as personal mentors.

His real mistake, Obi-Wan told himself after Windu had said his farewells and swept majestically away, had been in failing to get Qui-Gon's advice while he still could. Although Obi-Wan had had boundless respect and admiration for his Master, he had also been completely at ease with him -- as he must, training and studying, eating, washing, and sleeping within arm's reach of the man for almost twenty-five of Obi-Wan's thirty years. There was no subject too delicate for Obi-Wan to seek Qui-Gon's advice on.

But from the time Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan had first arrived at the Theed palace on Naboo, till Qui-Gon's death a few days later, there had never seemed to be a moment for the Padawan and Master to talk quietly together. Now, in retrospect, Obi-Wan convinced himself that there had been multitudinous opportunities for him to explain his difficulties and plenty of time for Qui-Gon to show him the swift straight path out of his confusion. Obi-Wan spent inordinate amounts of time mentally playing out those never-had conversations, providing Qui-Gon's words as well as his own.

On the royal starship, after they had made their escape from Naboo, while the injured ship limped laboriously towards Tattoine. He should have taken Qui-Gon to one side and spoken right then.

Master, I seem to be getting distracted in the most foolish way. When we attacked the guard droids in the street outside the Theed palace, I was fine, I understood that our mission was to secure the young queen. All the time I was fighting, I kept her in the corner of my eye. Then, when the droids were down, you guided the queen and her handmaidens out of the thoroughfare into the shadow of an archway, and I watched the street while the queen decided what to do.

'We are brave, your majesty.' The words, the voice that said them, seemed to drop down into the well of my heart. I turned my head, caught the briefest glimpse of her dark eyes beneath the edge of her veil. After that, the queen was no longer the mark for my eye; she was only the black ground against which burned the slender flame of the handmaiden's scarlet robe.

Obi-Wan imagined Qui-Gon smiling indulgently and saying teasingly, 'Well, I come from the coastlands, where it isn't considered a crime for a man to lose his head over a beautiful woman. But you, my cold, city-bred Padawan, I never realized you had a heart to lose. This is a cause for celebration.' Then Qui-Gon would grow serious and clasp Obi-Wan's lean shoulder in his wide powerful hand. 'But today is not the day for it. Let's wait till we get Queen Amidala safe to Couresant, and then we'll see if we can't get permission for you to speak to the brave little maid herself.'

But Obi-Wan had not spoken to his Master during the flight to Tattoine. Nor later, when Qui-Gon came back to the stranded ship with the hard-won machine parts. He should have dragged Qui-Gon down from his saddle and told him that his Padawan was in urgent need of tutoring.

Master, if I was in trouble before, when all I had of her was the sound of her voice and a glimpse of her eyes, I'm lost now. Padme. I turn her name over and over in my mouth, feeling it like a soft, deep kiss. I saw her walk out onto the harsh sands of Tattoine after you: small and slender as a child, straight and sure as a soldier, her little head crowned with a redundancy of glossy coils and plaits, and still a tail of hair fell down to her hips. Surely, acts which are merely dutiful in us, who have sabers and the strength to wield them, must be the very highest courage in someone like Padme, with nothing but her own resolution to armor her.

As for the queen, I'm afraid I've conceived a fair dislike of that young woman. She is cold and arrogant; she presents an impressive exterior, but seems to be without substance. I disapprove of the casual way she risks her handmaiden in the midden of a spaceport. I come from just that kind of gutter and I have no illusions about the welcome offered to anything that looks fresh and clean and unspoiled. But I know you thought her order as inappropriate as I did, and that you guarded Padme from any attempted indignity.

Now Qui-Gon would be less amused. He would admit that the girl was beautiful, self-possessed, and charmingly considerate of others. But Obi-Wan's duty was to deliver the queen and her attendants to Couresant without intruding himself on their attention any more than was necessary. Furthermore, although there was nothing unfitting in a relationship between a queen's handmaiden and a soon-to-be Jedi Knight, no matter how low or rough his origins, it was not Obi-Wan's place to approve or disapprove of the queen's actions. In allowing himself to dwell on these ill-conceived emotions he was endangering the welfare of both the queen and the girl he claimed to care for. Then, to soothe the sting of the reprimand, Qui-Gon would chide Obi-Wan gently, saying, 'Well, gods know this has been long enough coming, I've watched for it since you weren't much higher than my elbow. I suppose it was bound to be troublesome when it finally happened.'

But Obi-Wan had let Qui-Gon ride away from the ship without talking to him. There was time and opportunity on the journey to Couresant; however, Obi-Wan had decided to wait until they reached the quiet sanctity of the Temple. Once they got there of course Qui-Gon had been swept up into a round of meetings with the Jedi Council, wrangling with them over Anakin's future. Besides, by then Obi-Wan's feelings had undergone a revolution; his need for guidance was urgent, but he quailed at the thought of having to explain himself to anyone.

For pity's sake, Master, help me. Am I mad? Am I deluded? Are my feelings for Padme nothing but vanity and appetite? When we stood on the landing pad and the queen emerged from her ship - I felt as though I had been blind and suddenly, for the first time, I could see.

She isn't some richly dressed doll that we've carried to safety here. She's a battlestandard which we, unknowingly, have delivered to the field of combat. Her robes, her paint, her tortuously elaborate hair; she is a living icon. Her face, white as death, is the fortification against which the weakness and indecision of others will crash and break. The Trade Federation is outclassed, outweighed, and outgunned; they just don't know it yet.

Padme. I suppose she was there too - all six handmaidens were in attendance. But I couldn't tell her from the others; all robed alike and with their heads modestly bowed before the gaze of strangers.

Explain me to myself. Love, I know, does not turn in a day. If I love Padme, then I am only dazzled by the queen's power. If I love the queen, and at this moment I feel torn apart by love for her, then all I feel for Padme is lust.

Heavy hearted Obi-Wan imagined Qui-Gon's sorrowful and disappointed response. 'Padawan. This is not fitting. The Council hands down no laws to govern our hearts; we are expecting to rule ourselves, sternly and decently. If you are torn between these two women, then you love neither. Turn away from them both and look to your vows as a Jedi instead. If you cannot discipline yourself in this test, you will have little chance when faced with the trials for knighthood.'

Obi-Wan closed his eyes, turned his head away from the pain of this self-conjured reproach. Then his eyes opened again, lit by the possibility that Qui-Gon might in fact have answered very differently.

You have sharp eyes, Padawan, but your heart sees further. It takes more than paint and finery to make a queen, and the very greatest rulers live to serve. Keep your eye on your lady love, whatever she chooses to call herself, though gods know I can't see what good it will do you in the end. You'll be a Knight yet, and fit to speak to anyone in the galaxy, but still she's a queen and you came out of a spaceport slum.

But did Qui-Gon know? That was the question. If he had, wouldn't he have taken pity on his tormented Padawan and told him the truth? But no, Qui-Gon had no reason to, because Obi-Wan had never spoken. He had kept his confusion hidden, betraying himself only by a couple of uncharacteristic criticisms of his master. Tangled in his own bad judgement, he had little sympathy for Qui-Gon's ill-advised championship of the boy Anakin.

Couresant and the journey back to Naboo were torture. Obi-Wan never knew from one hour to another where his heart was going to fling itself next. Sometimes the queen was compelling, as when he escorted her to the Senate. At other times, on the flight to Naboo, she was meaningless, a white faced puppet with nothing to animate her. If the queen shone, Padme was in eclipse; on the way to the Senate he had once again been unable to distinguish her from the other five handmaidens. But if the queen seemed to him a rigid graceless doll, then Padme was sure to be there, radiant and regal through to her small bones.

By the time they had threaded their way through the high Gungan marshes to the sacred place, Obi-Wan was numb from emotional exhaustion. He was almost ready to throw himself on Qui-Gon's sleeve and beg for help. Of course, it was possible that Qui-Gon wouldn't have been able to help. It was possible that Qui-Gon, like Obi-Wan, still hadn't figured it out.

To Obi-Wan, Padme was shining and the queen was in shadow. There was no way that the Gungan were going to be won over by the queen's haughty announcement of an alliance. Obi-Wan glanced at Qui-Gon and saw from his dour expression that he too had little hope for the queen's success.

"I am Queen Amidala; this is Sabe, my decoy and loyal bodyguard."

Padme stepped forward, the world turned over, and the fragments that were Obi-Wan Kenobi fell back together. He sank to one knee, ignoring the bulbous face of the Gungan standing above them, his gaze fixed instead on Amidala's kneeling figure. Something under his heart started to shake and then to tremor upward into his throat. He stifled the threatening laughter, but turned, wide-eyed and grinning, to meet Qui-Gon's sparkling gaze.

No, Qui-Gon hadn't known. He could mask any emotion except humor, and his eyes and face glowed with high spirits and a trace of rueful chagrin. Two young girls, with some paint and spangles, had tricked a Jedi Master and Padawan Knight-in-Waiting.

Obi-Wan broke the lock of his eyes on Qui-Gon's, looking back to Amidala. He and Qui-Gon would talk later; or rather, he would talk and Qui-Gon could try to get a word in edgewise.

It was her; all along it was her. I couldn't see that, I couldn't reason it out, but I could feel it. When she was Queen Amidala I loved the queen, and when she was Padme I loved the handmaiden. My heart could always see her.

She is the most wonderful woman, isn't she? She is everything: brave and gentle and cunning and beautiful. What a Jedi she'd make. But she couldn't be more perfect than she already is.

Maybe Qui-Gon would laugh with him, slapping Obi-Wan's shoulder in his enjoyment of the rich joke that Obi-Wan's heart had played. But maybe he would have listened quietly, regretfully, till Obi-Wan came to the inevitable truth. Padme, if the queen's permission could be won, was within the grasp of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi Padawan, and almost Knight. But Amidala, Queen of Naboo, was as distant as a high small star.

Obi-Wan would never know for certain how Qui-Gon would have reacted. The long postponed talk was put off again, both men perhaps intending to wait till the Trade Federation was put to flight and the queen returned safely to her throne. But by then, it was too late. Qui-Gon was dead and Obi-Wan was left to guess what advice his master would have given him.

There was only one course of action that Obi-Wan knew for certain that Qui-Gon would never have counseled. No matter how he tried, Obi-Wan could not imagine his Master saying, in kindness or in cruelty, 'Stay here in Theed. Though the girl is out of your reach and always will be, stay here. Live from day to day, from one crumb of comfort to another. Perhaps today Sabe will come with a message that the queen has expressed some interest in the welfare of the Jedi Obi-Wan. Perhaps, in a week or two, the queen will care to walk by the training place and stop a moment to speak with the Padawan Anakin, and you will stand behind him, silent, but devouring the sight of her. Stay here; keep your heart sick and bleeding, and give yourself no chance to put aside her memory and accept the deep love that Anakin holds ready to give to you.'

Master. I pray the gods that wherever your spirit resides you are spared the sight of the fool that you've trained. I can't seek your advice now, and even if I could, I wouldn't. Because the one thing you'd counsel against, is the thing I have chosen to do.


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