Afternoon Fic: The Dragon General (Part Seven)

Part One

Part Six

“Where’s your Padawan?”  Mace demanded, when he stepped into the Hall of Healing.

The Chief Healer informed him that Tahl had lost her sight, but she would heal.  She was a strong woman, and a formable Jedi.  Blindness was not going to stop her.

“I no longer have one.”  Qui-Gon answered distracted, his gaze not leaving Tahl, who was at the moment still asleep.  He looked tired and worn, the years showing through the grey streaks in his hair, and lines etched into his skin.

“You had one just a few short weeks ago.”  His tone dropped, indicating he wouldn’t tolerate being lied to.  Mace had known Obi-Wan was too good for Qui-Gon.  He was sure the young Initiate could learn much from him, but his gentle nature, deep connection to the Unifying Force, and Dragon nature, would contrast with Qui-Gon’s staunchness in doing what he thought was right.

“He didn’t have the strength to be a Knight.”

“What does that even kriffing mean?”  Mace snapped, before taking a calming breath, only to get annoyed when he noticed the Jedi wasn’t even paying attention.  “Jinn stop mooning over Master Tahl and look at me while you’re explaining what you did with a thirteen year old boy!”

Qui-Gon turned towards Mace snarling at him.  “He left.  He decided the situation on Melida/Daan was more important than Tahl’s life.”

“You mean he decided, as a Jedi, that the many outweigh the one?”  His voice was calm yet deadly.  “Follow me.”  He made his way to the entrance, only to pause when Qui-Gon hadn’t moved.  “That wasn’t a request!”

Master Jinn was actually surprised that there was a section of the Temple he didn’t know about.  The garden was beautiful, filled with trees, a flowing river, and boulders to climb.  Sun streamed from the open skylights, it was filled with the Living Force.  It was amazing he had never seen or felt it.

“Make this quick,” he demanded.  The doctors expected Tahl to gain consciousness and he didn’t want her to wake up alone in the dark.  Trying not to think about the fact his Padawan was likely sleeping alone in the dark.   He shook his head, it was Obi-Wan’s choice.

“Oh this is personal Qui.”  Mace turned on him, his expression hard and difficult to read.  “This isn’t a formal inquisition by the Council.  I’ll let Koon at you later, as that is one pissed off Kel Dor.”

He stared at his friend in confusion.  “Why would you care about my Padawan.”

“But he’s not yours now is he?”  He stalked around his friend, biting back the growl that wanted to escape. “You left him on a planet that is in the midst of a century old civil war.  Told him that there was nothing the Jedi could do, you Mr. ‘I will do what I have to do because the Force calls me and kriff the Council’.”

“I am not in the wrong here.  He is supposed to obey my orders…”

“You.”  Mace interrupted and poked him in the chest. “Are supposed to train him, not demand obedience.  You are supposed to take care of him, not abandon him.  You are supposed to put your Padawan first, not your girlfriend!”

“She needed medical treatment, and he wouldn’t leave.”  Qui-Gon pushed back, starting to get angry.  “What was I supposed to do?”

“A million things besides leaving behind a thirteen year old alone on a war torn planet,” Windu snarled.  “Lets see.”  He began pacing slightly, in an agitation that Qui-Gon had never seen in his friend. “You could’ve dropped Master Tahl off at the doctor, came straight to the Council to tell us the situation, then demanded to go back to pick up your Padawan.  You could’ve, oh I don’t know, comm us while in flight back to the Temple, to inform us of the situation and another Jedi could’ve been sent out to check on your Padawan.  Hell, you could’ve simply told your Padawan to continue monitoring the situation, made sure he had his Lightsaber, and that he understood you were coming back.  But no, because he disagreed with you, and in your ultimate I’m right and never wrong mindset, you decided to strip him of his only defense and told him he didn’t deserve to be a Jedi.  And why?  Because your attachment to Tahl was more important than your loyalty to your Padawan.”

“He can’t just decide who we help or what missions are more important!”

Mace had enough, and in a blink of an eye the Dragon towered over the other Jedi.  Before Qui-Gon could react, one of the massive paws scooped him up, claw holding him upside down, twenty or so feet in the air.  “How very hypocritical of you Master Jinn.  Do you know how many times you stood in front of the Council, and I quote ‘It was the will of the Force that I had to help some group of people or save some pathetic lifeform.  I did what was right, and will not curtail the mission when the Force leads me to go off script’.”

“You will put me down!”  Qui-Gon sent a force push to the creature.

“What, you think you’re some form of Jedi, waving your hand around like that.”  Mace rolled his eyes.  “Are you sure you want me to put you down?”

“I demand it!”

He dropped him, only to catch him in his other paw, just before he landed.  Then dumped him on the ground.  “Right now Qui-Gon, you’re lucky I’m a Jedi first, a Dragon second.  You put in harm’s way another Dragon, because of your carelessness and the Dragon in me wants blood.”  His large head leveled down, showing off it’s teeth.

“Obi-Wan is a Dragon?”  He stared at his old friend in shock.  He had known about Mace since they were kids.  His attachment to the Living Force, gave him an insight that there was something different about his crèchemate.  How the hell did he not sense it Obi-Wan?  “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Would that have made a difference?”  Mace settled down, still glaring at his crèchemate.  “He’s more important to you now that he’s a Dragon?”

“I would’ve … ”  Qui-Gon huffed, throwing his arms in the air.  “He’s nothing like any Padawan I’ve had.”

“Of course not!”  Mace leaned his head on one of his paws.  “He’s better than any of the others you had.  Feemor wasn’t really a Padawan, so I’m not insulting him.  Obi-Wan is drenched in the light, isn’t a spoiled brat, has a kind and considerate soul.  You kriffed up, and you know it.”

“He’s stubborn and wouldn’t listen to reason!”

“Really?”  Qui-Gon was always amazed how high that eyebrow could go up in human or Dragon form.

“What now?”  He asked though he was already plotting how fast he could get back to Melida/Daan.  Maybe he should take Obi-Wan to Alderaan afterwards, he would like the hills to play in as a Dragon, he knew Mace did.

“Well Plo Koon is already on his way to Melida/Daan, along with Yoda.  They are going to figure out what they can do about the Young.  The very idea of children trying to stop the adults from fighting is horrifying.   The Council should’ve done something sooner, but we got too wrapped up with Senate missions.”  The Dragon sighed, lately there seemed to be just too much going on, so many needed their help, and there were so few of them.  “I know Obi-Wan well enough that he will take you back as a Master, but things have to change.   You know about us Dragons, and our needs, but don’t treat him like a pathetic life form you picked up.”

“How did you even find out what was going on?”

“Well your Padawan is smarter than you.”  Mace chuckled, head shaking lightly.  “He had the Young break into the communications department, sliced into the system and sent a message to the Council.  So we already knew you were an idiot when you showed up.”

Qui-Gon couldn’t help laughing, that quickly turned to tears.  “I’m terrified Mace.”

“You already abandoned him on a war torn planet, what worse can you do?”

“Don’t even.”  Qui stood and reached out, palm up until the larger snout landed into it.  He then leaned forward until his forehead touched the Dragon.  “I promise to do better.”

“It’s not me you need to say that to…”

‘And you know he did do better.’  Mace gave him a soft sad smile.  ‘He made sure the Dragon had time to roam and play, but there were times he still followed his own path dragging Obi-Wan behind him, putting him in dangerous situations.   He cared for Obi-Wan, never doubt that, but the two would’ve been better as friends, then Master/Padawan in the long run.   Actually, I had always thought once Kenobi was Knighted, their relationship would improve.   He learned a lot from Qui-Gon, never doubt that.  Your Master is formable negotiator, tactician, and can plot his way out of insane situations, but sadly he learned that by the time he was fifteen.’

‘What happened to Master Tahl, I don’t think I’ve met her.’  Anakin was curious about the woman that held Qui-Gon’s heart.

‘When she woke up from her injuries and found out Qui-Gon left Obi-Wan behind she let him have it.’  He smiled at the memory.  ‘She was a good Jedi, but sadly we lost her a few years later.  After her death, Qui-Gon almost or did, depending on who you talk to, fell to darkness.  It was Obi-Wan’s light that saved, and steadied him … but it was just one more thing he had to face as a young Padawan.’

‘Then I showed up.’  Anakin wiped his own tears.  

‘You are not the cause of Qui-Gon’s actions.  Obi-Wan has never blamed you.’  Mace pointed out, making sure the teenager understood.

‘No, but I blamed him for Qui-Gon’s actions, I guess I still have a lot to learn.’  Anakin stood, giving the Master a bow.  ‘How about a mission to a big forest planet so he can go play.  I notice he eats better when in Dragon form.’

‘Bad side effect of being dragged off on side adventures, learning to live on ration bars or what’s at hand.’  Mace shook his head, it was a bad habit they were still trying to break the Knight out of.  ‘Padawan Skywalker, the problem here is not that you care for Qui-Gon, nor that you see him as your hero.  The problem is the anger you used against Knight Vos, and your Master when they don’t live up to your expectations.  I told you this story so you understand where they are coming from, but also to showcase what damage an unhealthy attachment can do.  You need to work on this anger, and I’m going to request to your Master that you spend time with me for meditation when you’re in the Temple.  I get your anger, Skywalker, I watched my parents murdered and hacked for parts.’

Anakin’s eyes went wide.  ‘How did you not hunt them down and kill them?’

‘I would be no better than them.’   He stepped back, and in a blink the Dragon sat before him.  

‘I still want that ride.’  Anakin grinned at him.

‘Don’t even think about it.’

“The sad thing, it wasn’t until we faced Dooku at Geonosis that I finally had that epiphany moment.”  Anakin shook his head, his robot hand clenching.  “Master Obi-Wan told me to hold, we were stronger as a team.  I ran ahead, and got my ass handed to me.  Obi-Wan had to fight him alone, and when he was injured I was going to prove that I at least can save my master.”

“What happened?”  Wooley asked, he hadn’t been at Geonosis.

He held up his mechanical arm.  “I lost my arm, and Yoda had to save both of our asses.  All because I ran ahead.  As I laid there, my head on his leg, I couldn’t help the laughter.  Later, I apologized for being a hormonal angsty teenager.”

Rex laughed openly.  “What did he say?”

“He gave me a pointed look, told me to use protection and not doing anything stupid.”  That got all the men laughing.  “I sputtered trying to tell him I met about Qui-Gon and the anger I felt that he couldn’t save him.  He pulled me into his arms, said he knew and … ” He choked up for a moment.  ” … told me he loved me.  Then the night before I went to escort Padmé back to Naboo, he handed me protection.  The bastard is such a little shit.”

“Not little.”  Boil pointed out, with a wicked smirk.

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