In Which Fox Meets Emu's Challenge, by Fox.
I am not now, nor have I ever been, George Lucas.

It wasn't that Qui-Gon was a selfish man. Far from it. Nothing he did, nothing he said, was ever meant to bring him any personal glory. He knew he was good at his job, but he traded on the Order's reputation, rather than his own. When he was out in public, he wore his cowl up; it mattered that he was a Jedi, not that he was Qui-Gon Jinn. He could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times in his life he'd taken a course of action for reasons motivated by anything other than concern for another individual.

But sometimes, he thought, as he launched into a third set of pull-ups on the high bar in the gymnasium; sometimes, selflessness went too far. Sometimes, it skipped right over stoicism and skidded perilously close to martyrdom. DammittohellsoftheSith -- he'd apparently taught Obi-Wan too well. Remember the less fortunate, Padawan. Use your gifts to benefit others, Padawan. And look where it'd gotten him. He felt a cramp begin to flare up in his side; he'd been breathing badly. He relaxed his arms and let himself hang freely from the bar, dropped his head so his chin rested on his chest, and inhaled slowly. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Damn. Damn. Damn.

Well, he'd eat his belt before he'd go to the ceremony. He didn't care what anybody thought of him for it. The fault was his own; he'd raised a padawan whose personal code had no room for flexibility of interpretation. And the unkindest aspect of this was that it seemed on track to cut deeper and hurt longer than his previous folly, the padawan whose personal ethics had no room for the Code. Where he had failed with Xanatos, he had overcompensated -- and now it had cost him Obi- Wan. Qui-Gon felt his breath shape itself into a bitter laugh. Could the one be the Force's way of punishing him for the other?

It wouldn't be much to celebrate, anyway, of course. Those who were attending the ceremony were doing so only out of courtesy. Everybody, even those who knew none of them personally -- even small children, for skies' sake -- knew that Obi-Wan was bonding to whatshisname as a favor. No, Qui-Gon scolded himself sternly, gritting his teeth and pulling his weight up to the bar again. Not as a favor; Obi-Wan was bonding to whathisname (to Kellet, you idiot; denial will get you nowhere -- to Kellet Windrunner) to save whatshisname's life. (Kellet. Kellet. Kellet.) Everybody knew the details of Windrunner's debt to the Hutts; everybody knew Obi-Wan had risked his own life to save his childhood friend, going essentially unarmed into a lair where the Force would do him little good; and everybody knew that Windrunner had been at death's door, to coin a phrase, when Obi-Wan had succeeded in getting him out. Obi-Wan had forged a hasty bond between Windrunner and himself to facilitate the healing process; without the bond, Windrunner's mind, his essence, would very likely have shut down before Obi-Wan could even plot the coordinates of his jump back to Coruscant. Windrunner wouldn't have died, but he couldn't have been said to have been living in any meaningful sense. Everybody knew Obi-Wan had done the right thing.

Turned out nobody knew anything. "A healing bond?" the physician who received them had exclaimed. "I should say not. This man was near death, you know -- he hadn't just stubbed his toe."

"That makes a difference, does it?" Qui-Gon had asked.

"Makes a difference?" the healer echoed. "Bet your boots it makes a difference. Bonds formed in adversity, you know, high stress, medical emergency, they're guided by the Force. And their tenacity is inversely proportional to the patient's chances of survival without them. A healing bond is just a quick little nothing, you know -- it's for taking care of cuts and bruises."

Obi-Wan had shut his eyes. "Are you saying what I think you're saying?" he asked.

"Depends what you think I'm saying. Which is this: if you initiated a bond between yourself and that man behind the curtain, I'll be a son of a mynock if it's a paltry healing bond. Possible it's a very strong bloodbond, depending on his health before the Hutts got hold of him, but I'd say the odds are good you're looking at a lifebond here."

"What?!" Qui-Gon couldn't restrain himself. Obi-Wan still hadn't opened his eyes; he was leaning against the wall, hitting the back of his head against it repeatedly.

"A lifebond. There are some injuries, illnesses, you know, that only a lifebond can cure. So if a patient is lifebonded, the mate is the only hope."

"And if he's not ..." Obi-Wan began.

"And if he's not, and someone initiates a bond, that's the bond they're going to get," the healer said, nodding. "Like I said. These aren't like other bonds. They keep going until they're full, so to speak. It's a bit like forcing a flower, rather than planting it and nurturing it and waiting for it to grow. You know about gardening?"

Qui-Gon snarled and struck the wall. Obi-Wan spoke. "But once such a bond is formed, is it the same as a regular bond?" he asked. "I certainly hadn't planned to create a lifebond with Kellet Windrunner. Can this bond be severed, once he's well?"

The healer gave a snort. "Not if you want him to survive, it can't. Bad enough trying to sever a regular lifebond -- folk get awfully sick, and they're never really whole again. Severing a bond, you know, it undoes the benefits the bond had ... had accrued, so to speak. So when a bond is created for the purpose of healing an injury, severing it sort of re-does that injury. This one -- Windrunner? -- yeah, he gets well, and you sever the lifebond, he'll be dead in a day and no mistake."

"Well, that would have been helpful to know," Obi-Wan said. "Why isn't this something everybody knows?"

"Don't blame me," the healer said, raising his hands. "We don't count on folk initiating bonds with wounded people all on their own. That's our job. And when they do, you know, it's often unconsciously, just a little healing bond, nothing you'd notice. Or a fellowbond, where it never hurts to have one more."

"We were planning to lifebond," Qui-Gon said between clenched teeth, gesturing between himself and Obi-Wan. "What are we to do now?"

The healer puffed air through his cheeks. "I'd say you're in a bit of a fix, gentlemen."

And a bit of a fix was what it was. After much contemplation and meditation and railing and cursing and gnashing of teeth, Obi-Wan had admitted that he couldn't in good conscience sever the inadvertent bond and let Windrunner die just because the physicians hadn't bothered to educate the Order on the nature of healing bonds. Qui-Gon couldn't very well insist that he sever the bond anyway. Decency demanded at least a brief ceremony commemorating the bond. Qui-Gon refused to attend. He chose to work out, instead, channeling his anger into something productive.

When Qui-Gon returned home, Obi-Wan was already there, sitting on the sofa, elbows on his knees, head in his hands. Obi-Wan looked up and raised an eyebrow. Qui-Gon returned the level gaze for a moment, then swung the door closed and went to drop his satchel in the bedroom.

Obi-Wan followed him and leaned against the doorjamb. "Everyone asked for you," he said.

"Everyone knew I wouldn't be there."

"Still." There was a long silence. "Qui-Gon, we --"

Qui-Gon flung his towel over to the corner and turned to glare at Obi-Wan.

"It's no use blaming me, you know."

"Isn't it?"

"I couldn't let him die, Qui-Gon. I may never see him again, but I couldn't kill him. I shouldn't have been able to live with myself, and neither would you." Qui-Gon stomped back out to the living room, and Obi-Wan kept following him. "But it doesn't mean anything, this bond. It's nothing. You and I can still --"

Qui-Gon sat heavily on the couch. "You're lifebonded to a stranger. How in the worlds can you and I form a bond? He'll always have something I won't."

Obi-Wan knelt next to him and took his hand. "He won't have anything. We can forge a bloodbond, and pay the lifebond no mind."

"A bloodbond."

"Our bond will be as strong as we make it, Qui- Gon," Obi-Wan said. His face was open; he hid nothing. "We don't need some formal thing in order for our bond to be true. Do we?"

Qui-Gon cocked his head and squeezed Obi-Wan's hand. "I suppose we don't," he allowed.

"If I say I shall love only you forever, what does it matter if I have a bond with someone else? The Force isn't with Kellet anyway -- he won't make any demands on the bond. He can't even feel it." Obi- Wan held Qui-Gon's hand in both of his, pressed a kiss in it, laid his head in the palm. "I'm sorry to have hampered our plans, Qui-Gon, but they needn't be ruined. Bloodbond with me. Please."

Qui-Gon sighed and felt his foul mood waning. His lips twitched and his eyes crinkled into a smile as Obi-Wan lifted his head. Qui-Gon nodded to the spot next to him on the couch; Obi-Wan rose and sat. Qui-Gon traced one of Obi-Wan's eyebrows with the tip of a finger. "I will," he said.

Obi-Wan threw his arms around Qui-Gon's shoulders, dropping kisses on his neck and face. "I'm so glad," he groaned, and truly, his relief was evident. "I love you."

"And I love you," Qui-Gon said, returning Obi- Wan's embrace. "Now. Let us attend to this in a timely manner. I've no wish to run onto any more obstacles."

Obi-Wan tensed, but Qui-Gon smiled as he kissed him, and Obi-Wan ruefully hung his head. "I am sorry," he repeated.

"We shall fix that," Qui-Gon answered.

Obi-Wan grinned and hopped to his feet, pulling Qui-Gon after him. "Come on. It won't take much. We'll nurse the bond to full strength and have the ceremony as soon as they'll let us. Come on."

Qui-Gon raised an eyebrow. "Race you to the Council chamber," he said.

And they were off.

Obi-Wan ran as fast as he safely could, but the cycling of the energy shields was too quick for him. He skidded to a halt with just one layer of the barrier between himself and the core, where Qui- Gon was fighting the beast with every scrap of his strength. Obi-Wan bounced on the balls of his feet, anxious for the door to slide away so he could join the battle; he hated standing uselessly aside when there was something important he could be doing.

The thing, the Sith, was very good. It spun and leaped, flipped and twirled, parried and attacked again immediately and still found time to snarl, to mock Qui-Gon with its (Obi-Wan was forced to concede this) greater agility. It wielded its two- bladed saber with enviable grace. Qui-Gon was a formidable bladesman, but he appeared to be overmatched. Obi-Wan twitched impatiently.

And then it happened. Qui-Gon raised his saber over his head in an attempt at a downward slash on the shorter Sith; in three short instants, it had parried the blow with its blade handle, brought that handle down and up again to connect with the bridge of Qui-Gon's nose, and stabbed him with the red blade through the chest.

Obi-Wan screamed. Qui-Gon fell. The Sith paced back and forth, waiting, like Obi-Wan, for the last door to open. You're next, my lad, it seemed to say. Obi-Wan felt his lip curl. The thing had no idea what it faced in him.

The door opened and Obi-Wan rushed forward, fighting blindly and well. He pressed his advantage; the Sith pressed its own. He cut its weapon in half. He kicked it; it kicked him. He could tell, peripherally, that he was fed by anger, fear, and aggression, but he didn't care. He glared at the creature over their crossed blades and knew he had never felt such hatred.

The Sith knocked him into the chute with a judicious application of the Force; Obi-Wan grabbed a nozzle and held on. The Sith kicked his lightsaber after him and struck the rim of the chute a few times with its own blade, creating a shower of sparks over Obi-Wan's head.

Oh, now you're just showing off, Obi-Wan thought. And nothing burns me up more than a show-off. He concentrated; he felt the Force rush through him; and in one movement, he'd leaped out of the chute and over the Sith's head, called Qui- Gon's lightsaber to his hand, and sliced the Sith in half at the waist. He watched it fall backwards into the chute.

Obi-Wan ran to Qui-Gon's side and dropped to his knees, lifting Qui-Gon's head into his lap. "It is too late," Qui-Gon was saying.

"No!" Obi-Wan protested, reaching to lay a hand on Qui-Gon's chest -- but even as he spoke he knew, with terrible certainty, that Qui-Gon was right. This wound was beyond his ability to heal. Obi-Wan's voice caught in his throat.

"Obi-Wan. Promise ... promise me you'll train the boy."

"Yes, Master." The boy. This is what you think to speak of as you lie dying? Obi-Wan thought, furiously, helplessly. As though his own lungs were trying to absorb Qui-Gon's injury, Obi-Wan could scarcely breathe.

Qui-Gon reached up to brush a tear from Obi-Wan's cheek. "He is the chosen one. He will bring balance."

Obi-Wan could do no more. He grasped Qui-Gon's hand as tightly as he could and let the tears flow. He had an idea he rocked back and forth.

"Train him!" Qui-Gon whispered. Then his muscles went slack, his eyes closed, and Obi-Wan couldn't feel even the faintest of breaths on his wrist in front of Qui-Gon's mouth. He bent over the lifeless body and wept bitterly. He cursed the day he'd ever met Kellet Windrunner.

Comments always welcome!