Padawan Jinn put a bandaged foot out of bed, the floor a shock of smooth cold under newly regrown skin. It didn’t hurt to ease himself out from the sheets – what ache was left was inside, a stain on his heart that could not be reached by bacta.
He lay down on the ground, face pressed to the plating, metal slick against thigh, hip and shoulder, and he tried to absorb peace through his skin. If only he were not a boy. If only he were a fallen seed, lying on deep soil, quiet in the night, awaiting the sun. But there was no soil on Coruscant – only dirtier and more desperate levels of emptiness. And it was never dark. The tiny sliver of his window was full of dizzying brilliance, as comforting as burning magnesium.
Leather scuffed against carpet, and a shadow paused outside his door.
Please go away.
He deserved punishment – deserved more punishment in fact than the silk and cream of that voice seemed to promise. He saw no point in protest, or anything else.
The door opened, and brightness haloed the sword-like form of Master Dooku. Qui-Gon was no coward, so he turned his head slightly and met the black depths of his master’s gaze. It was cool, but concerned. “I feel your despair, Padawan. You and I must talk.”
The elegant gesture of a long arm invited Qui-Gon into the common room. He obeyed, dimly grateful to Dooku for not coming further in and invading the only space in the universe which was his own.
When he had sat on one of the delicate, carven chairs, Yan Dooku returned and put into his hands a porcelain cup of hot, sweet tea. Looking down at the tawny surface of the liquid, surrounded by his Master’s fine things, he felt rough, coarse, utterly out of place.
“Young man,” Dooku said, leaning over him, slender fingers on the back of his chair, “I am deeply angry with you.”
“I didn’t want to kill him.” Qui-Gon had to make a long journey in his mind before he felt himself capable of answering and even so it felt blasphemous, as if he was no longer worthy to speak. “I tried not to.”
“That, my dear child, is precisely the point.” The look was accusing and protective, falcon-fierce, “I am angry because you hesitated.” White fingers grazed the air above Qui-Gon’s partly healed cheek, “Your reluctance almost cost your life.”
Flash of memory, like the hail of blaster fire – the disorientation and near innocence in the slaver’s eyes as he was run through. Qui-Gon hunched against the nausea of that recollection. “But I don’t see why his life was worth less than mine.” The Living Force had streamed about them both – victor and victim – and Qui-Gon had felt the passing of something unique, irreplaceable. Infinitely valuable, and – because of him – broken beyond repair. There must have been another way and I failed to find it. The Force could not have wanted this….
Brushing back the sleek sable of his hair, Dooku straightened, his look of sympathy fading into sternness. “Qui-Gon, you will not find many Masters honest enough to say this, but if you cannot kill without remorse you will be useless to the Jedi Order.”
Qui-Gon breathed in. The ultimatum was as refreshing as snow on his swollen face. He admired the straight talking honesty of his Master – an integrity that others sometimes took for cruelty. “You must decide, Qui-Gon. A Jedi knight must kill. Do you still wish to be a Knight?”
And it wasn’t, after all, as if he had any choice – he was created to be a Jedi, he could no more chose not to than an oak tree could chose to be a rowan. “I do, Master.”
Dooku sighed, took Qui-Gon’s hand and helped him to his feet. “Then go back to bed, Padawan, and in the morning I will arrange for you to take a lesson in death.”