Anakin tossed a twig into the stream and watched as it settled, ripples from its impact quickly erased as the movement of the water caught it, carried it slowly downstream. The day was sunny, with not a cloud in the sky. A warm breeze ruffled his hair, and sounds of the air moving through the trees added a soothing whisper to the peaceful afternoon. It was as close to peaceful perfection as one could wish. And Anakin was bored to tears.

For the first time ever, Obi-Wan hadn't ordered that he practice any katas, and he didn't have any assigned meditations to perform. He thought it was pretty cool that his Master had given him a whole afternoon to himself, but that was before he realized that all he could do in this place was stare at the vegetation. Obi-Wan had known, of course. He could be really rotten that way, Anakin reflected angrily, peeling the next twig before he launched it into the stream.

So here he was, all on his own, exploring a new world by himself for the first time, and it was horrible. He'd have welcomed a lecture in Drysslen tentacle history at this point. Geez, even the stream was slow. The water was probably bored, too.

Sighing deeply, he tossed yet another twig into the water in irritation, an action that won a small smile from the huge, transparent figure sitting beside him on the bank of the stream. The breeze did not touch the man's hair, nor did it ruffle his cloak.

"It's rare that a Jedi on a mission has any quiet time to himself, Anakin," said the ghost of Qui-Gon Jinn. "You should cherish the moment, not wish it would pass as quickly as possible."

Anakin grimaced. "Cherish this? Cherish what? I've seen it all already. I've memorized it all already. That bird has been singing the same song all afternoon. My butt is numb and my mind is numb and I'm so booooooreeed! It would be all right I'd brought some data-books to read, or had some parts to work on. But just sitting here doing nothing -- that's hard."

"You'd be sitting and doing nothing in the parliament chamber if the Dalkoids hadn't thought you too young to witness their talks."

One shoulder twitched in a half-hearted shrug. "That's different."


"Then I'd get to watch you whisper things to Obi-Wan, and watch how he reacted to them. He's fun to watch; I learn a lot." The boy flopped back into the grass with an exaggerated sigh of suffering to stare up into the sky. Cloudless. Unchanging. Boring.

"You could take this time to work on sensing the Living Force, Ani."

Rolling over onto his side, the padawan stared up at his transparent companion. "Master Qui-Gon, what did you mean when you said that my Master had a lot to learn about the Living Force?"

"Hmm? When did I say that?"

"When you first brought me to Coruscant. In the Council chamber. When you said he was ready for his trials."

"I don't remember saying that."

"Well you did. You said he was headstrong and had much to learn about the Living Force, and that there was little more he could learn from you. Why couldn't you teach him about the Living Force?"

The Jedi looked vaguely uncomfortable. "Obi-Wan and I had had a slight disagreement about whether to listen to the Living Force or the Unifying Force on the way to Naboo. We were hearing different messages from the Force relating to the same problem, and I though he should listen to the Living Force. That's how that thought came up."

"So does he need to learn about the Living Force or not?"

"No, Ani. He most definitely does not. That afternoon I was trying to convince them to let me train you, was trying to find a way around their reservations. Some things were said that were not entirely accurate. I meant no disrespect or slight against Obi-Wan."

"So you didn't mean it?"

"I did not. I was opening negotiations with the Council at that time, laying a foundation to argue for your being accepted as a padawan. I hope that Obi-Wan understood that."

"I don't think he did, Master," Anakin said doubtfully. "He looked awful upset. And he was angry later, when you wouldn't listen to him on the landing platform."

Qui-Gon fell silent for a moment, his expression distant and somber.

"Water under the bridge, Ani," he said finally. "Like your twigs there. The moment has passed, and we've all been carried forward like a leaf in the stream."

Anakin sighed and flopped back on the grass. "So my Master's okay with the Living Force?"

Qui-Gon nodded patiently.

"Is he still headstrong? He's still learning from you, isn't he? That's why you whisper to him, isn't it?"

"Anakin...." It was an uncomfortable topic, one focused on painful memories, and one he'd sooner let pass undissected by his young inquisitor. Qui-Gon bought time by shrugging out of his cloak, bundling it up, and setting it behind him. Lying back with his head braced on it, he joined Anakin in staring up at the sky.

Anakin stared not at the sky, but at him. Qui-Gon could feel it even without looking. Sighing, he realized that the boy simply wasn't one to forget a question once it had been asked. "Let me tell you a story."

"Oh wizard! That'd be good. Your stories are the greatest." Rolling over onto his stomach and clearly grateful for the reprieve from his restful afternoon, Anakin braced his chin on his arms and waited.

"When Obi-Wan was about fifteen, he and I were sent to a planet much like this one. Falka had just joined the Republic and their people based their lives around the cycle of nature," Qui-Gon explained. "They raised livestock and planted crops, slaughtered and harvested by a strict schedule. We were there to watch over that schedule, to help organize the harvest and ensure that they had enough to eat through the winter. What they didn't have, they would purchase from other members of the Republic with our help.

"Ick. More plants and nature. That sounds horrible boring. Did you have to watch them butcher stuff? And cut it up? That's gross."

Qui-Gon ignored the peppering of questions. "I'm getting there."

"Yeah, I know: 'Be patient, padawan.'" He scowled. "Okay, I'm listening."

"There was no mud, no ice, no sleeting rain on Falka. It was relatively pleasant there, not unlike this planet. Obi-Wan worked beside the clanspeople in the fields while I visited the farms, assisting the clan leaders with the animals. We compared notes at the end of every day, noting what had been accomplished and how much remained to be done. The days were long and the labors intense, and we were grateful to return to rest in the evenings. We ate a simple meal with the clan leaders and retired to bed to get what I thought was plenty of sleep until sunrise, when the cycle would begin again.

"Much to my dismay, Obi-Wan seemed to grow more and more tired as the days passed. He lost weight and circles appeared beneath his eyes. I could feel his weariness and his worry through our bond; I attributed it to the time he was spending in the fields. Perhaps he wasn't drinking enough water, perhaps they weren't feeding him properly. But when I questioned him, he denied that any of this was the problem. 'I'm just tired, Master. I'll be all right.'

"He wasn't all right. His condition worsened until it began keeping me up nights. I worried that he had fallen ill, for he obviously looked unwell even though he denied feeling anything other than tired. I wracked my brain, trying to imagine what was causing this decline. Could it be some parasite in the water affecting him but not me? Was he sick and not telling me because he didn't want us to abandon the mission?

"One particular moonlit night, I was turning my concerns over in my mind as I watched my padawan sleeping quietly beside me in our cabin. Obi-Wan was at least sleeping peacefully -- or so I thought, until he slowly sat up and very carefully slipped out of bed, taking great care not to disturb me. I wanted to ask where he was going, but something stopped me before I uttered a word. Perhaps I could find answers better by watching than speaking. Bundling his clothes together, Obi-Wan retired to the small 'fresher. A few minutes later, he reappeared, fully dressed, only to slip out of our cabin and into the night air. Mystified, I waited a moment for him to move far enough away not to sense my activity. Then I got dressed and followed him."

"He was sneaking out?" The child stared at him with delighted horror at this tale of disobedience. "What was he doing? Was he sneaking off to meet somebody or something?"

"Quite a few somebodies, as it happened. I followed Obi-Wan through the moonlight as he hiked back to the fields, the same ones he and the clan had finished working days before. They'd finished harvesting the maize; now the tall stalks stood waiting for the thresher that would soon tear them down. Those stalks would lie fallow the winter, through the next spring and summer. Would not be replanted until the following season. Their work was done for the cycle; so why was Obi-Wan returning here?

"He carried a basket in his arms and moved slowly through the stalks, as if searching for something. Periodically, he would reach up to touch one of the dying leaves. He simply walked, touching this stalk and that, with no particular pattern that I could discern. I now had a fair idea of why he was tired and I knew where he was going, but I still had no understanding as to why"

"He was getting up at night to look at plants." The scorn of this comment was clearly amplified by his current dissatisfaction with the pastoral boredom of the afternoon. "That's really weird. And kinda dumb. Why was he out patting bushes in the dark?"

"I asked that question as well. And to find the answer, I needed to get closer. The breeze rustled the dry leaves, shielding my presence from Obi-Wan as I walked slowly after him. Cloaking myself through the Force, I crept closer to him until I could see what he was doing. He was examining each stalk carefully in the moonlight for something. When he found the something -- and he did, quite often -- he'd snick off the stalk and place it carefully into his basket. None of this made any sense. It was time for me to ask.

"'Obi-Wan,' I said, laying a hand on his shoulder gently, not wanting to startle him. 'What are you doing?'

"He gave a yelp and managed one of his magnificent Force-leaps backwards, whirling in mid-air and coming down in the field with his lightsaber drawn and lit. The basket tumbled between us and he stared at me over the blue blade. 'Master,' he breathed before dousing the saber and offering a sheepish smile. 'I'm sorry, Master. You startled me.'

"'Yes, I see that. What are you doing?'

"'Oh no, the basket--' Obi-Wan suddenly dropped to his knees. He carefully began combing the shadowed ground, carefully collecting his bits of leaf and stalk, returning them to the container with care.

"'Obi-Wan, what are you doing?' I repeated.

"'They can't stay here, Master. They'll die.'

"'Who will die? The plants? They've fulfilled their cycle. It's their time to die.'

"'No, not the plants, the little ones. I can't leave them here.' He knelt beside the basket now laying beside us and offered me a small stalk. 'Look. They're inhabited. They're all inhabited.'

"Turning the dry stalk over in my hands, I held it up to the moon and peered at it. A cocoon clung to the fragile growth, woven of gossamer silk and protecting a caterpillar that had hidden itself away with every hope of emerging as a butterfly the next spring.

"'They'll all die when the thresher comes,' Obi-Wan explained. 'All of them. I can't let that happen, Master. I just can't.'

"'And you've been coming out here nights, wanting to save as many as you could?' My voice was as tight as his was as I ran a finger over the hard cocoon, feeling the soft thrum of the Living Force from the tiny, sleeping body transforming within.

"Obi-Wan must have interpreted my quiet question as condemnation of his efforts, or at the least criticism of his sneaking out without telling me. He seemed to withdraw, and I could feel his sadness.

"'Yes, Master. I know it's a foolish hope, but--'

"'Hope is never foolish.' I placed the stalk carefully in Obi-Wan's basket. 'Come. We'll search together.'

"The moon climbed high, only to sink in its path as the night wore on. We worked silently side by side, combing row upon row of the rustling maize stalks until dawn crept over the tops of the trees circling the fields. Obi-Wan's basket was full, but so was the field. Still. Pausing at the end of the last row, he shielded his eyes from the sunrise and surveyed the remaining fields.

"'There are too many,' he whispered. 'We can't save them all.'

"'Nothing is impossible,' I replied, sliding my arm across Obi-Wan's shoulders when he shivered in the chill morning, settling him protectively beneath my cloak. 'As long as the stalks still stand, there is hope. Come, Padawan. Let's break our fast and see what can be done to save your friends. Hope is lost only if we make no effort at all.'

"I approached the clan chieftain that morning over breakfast, handing him one of the cocooned stalks and explaining our concerns. He was not particularly delighted over being presented with insects at breakfast, but as we were the Jedi, he did at least listen.

"'My Padawan wishes to save the caterpillars in their houses,' I told him. 'All of them, if possible. I appeal to you and your clansmen for help.' Bowing, I awaited his reply.

"He stared at the stalk and turned it between his fingers. Obi-Wan stood behind me silently, too young to have a voice in the discussion and unable to vote in the outcome -- as was I, for we were not members of the clan.

"'They live in the maize by their choice,' said the chieftain, 'and by their choice, they die. It is the way of things. We have honored the caterpillar's sacrifice throughout the ages, and we have mourned their loss. But it is the way of things. There are always those that hatch in the spring, so some live and some do not. They choose their own fate, Master Jedi.'

"His gaze settled on Obi-Wan, who was all but weaving on his feet from fatigue. 'You want these creatures to live?'

"'Yes, chieftain.'


"Obi-Wan glanced at me for guidance. 'Tell him what you're feeling,' I urged though the bond.

"My Padawan's eyes filled with tears. Not wishing to dishonor me or the chieftain, he brushed them away and stared at the ground.

"'Tears from a Jedi?' the chieftain said, incredulous. 'For a creature that chooses its death?'

"'But they don't choose death, sirrah,' Obi-Wan dared to defend. 'They're small and helpless and ground-bound, but they still have a dream.' He looked into the basket filled with silence and possibilities, and I knew that Obi-Wan saw their hopes in every silken thread. 'They want to make it through the winter, the same as what you and your clan want. They ready themselves for the winter, just as you do, so they can be ready when the warmth and sun return. Next spring, when the ice melts and your world comes back to life, they want to creep out of their homes and stretch their wings and be alive, just as you stretch your arms and welcome the sun. They want to fly, like your children want to play. It seems unfair that they won't get a chance to do that, just because they chose the wrong field to weave their cocoons in.'

"In his mind's eye, along with the caterpillars that had munched their way up the maize leaves, my Padawan was seeing himself as he'd been -- a small, scrawny initiate, unable to catch the eye of any master and despairing of ever getting the chance to realize his own dream of flying as a Jedi. I'd chosen him, finally. Had given him the chance to see his dream of becoming a Jedi come true.

"How close he had come to having the thresher of time scatter his own dreams. And here he was now, trying to save the caterpillars so that their own dream might come true.

"'The circle of life is never-ending,' I thought, 'and we are all connected. No matter what the chieftain decides, the caterpillars Obi-Wan has already saved will get the chance to fly. And their young will fly in turn, and some of those will escape the fields to greet another spring. His touch will linger on this planet forever.'

"'They just want a chance, chieftain,' Obi-Wan repeated. 'It hurts me to see them die in mid-dream,' he concluded, already regretting the deaths that the chieftain's rejection of his petition would bring.

"Frowning, the chieftain rose abruptly and bent past me to hand the stalk with its precious passenger back to Obi-Wan. Clapping his hands, he commanded the attention of his advisors, stood up straight with his arms crossed, and glowered.

"'Today we will not harvest as planned,' he announced to all those present. 'Today the clan will harvest a different crop.' His work-roughened hands pulled the basket of cocoons away from Obi-Wan. Tipping the basket toward those who watched him in bewilderment, the chieftain showed the haphazard collection of bits of vegetation and small cocoons. 'Today, we harvest promises and dreams to carry us through the darkness. The threshers will not attend the fields until every cocoon has been found and preserved. The whole of the clan will search the maize fields and gather these sleeping dreamers, and we will make room for them in our storehouses until spring, when they awake. Let the search begin now and continue until every dreamer is found.'

"Stepping down from his seat of power, the big man smiled and ruffled Obi-Wan's hair on the way by. 'Your dreamers will be safe, my friend.'

"Snatching up a carrying sack as he passed by the wooden tables, he lead the clan out into the sunlight. Obi-Wan stared up at me, his mouth open and his eyes wide. Traditionally, no one under the age of sixteen was allowed to address the chieftain, much less advise him.

"'Why--' he began.

"'Because you are Jedi,' I replied as word spread throughout the clan. We watched as whole families began moving toward the fields. 'Or perhaps because your caring made him care as well.'

"We never knew what moved the chieftain to rule as he did. He was true to his word; it took an extra three days, but the fields were not mown down until every cocoon had been found and saved. At the end of those three days, one end of the rough-hewn storehouse saw a gigantic stack of stalks waiting peacefully for spring to return.

"Obi-Wan was grinning from ear to ear when the work was finally done. He'd even managed to get a few hours' sleep as his anxiety had eased, but only a few as the fields called him as strongly as they came to call me.

"We left the planet exhausted but happy. Seven Falkan moons later, the chieftain sent a message to Obi-Wan; the hatching had begun, the butterflies were emerging from their cocoons. Could the one who had engineered their rescue be on hand to witness their release?

"Obi-Wan stood where you and I stood in the Council chamber and petitioned Master Yoda himself. Permission was granted easily, which is a good thing as I believe Obi-Wan was prepared to resign as a padawan rather than miss the release of his dreamers.

"We made the journey with much anticipation. We were welcomed and feted, and just before sunset, we were invited to step inside the storehouse, where Obi-Wan gasped to see the hundreds, if not thousands of butterflies covering the pile of stalks. Some were trying out their wings, flitting haphazardly across the room. Others were still emerging, wicking clean their feelers and antennae. Still others hadn't yet emerged at all. I stood and watched as Obi-Wan wandered around the room, choosing his steps carefully in order to avoid stepping on any of the colorful little creatures.

"'Look, Master,' he breathed, holding up his arm so that I might see the family of butterflies that had landed on his arm. At least three species of the insects shifted there -- a rainbow of moving color in perfect peace.

"His eyes met mine, and he seemed dazed. 'I'm responsible for this,' came the thought through our bond. 'I tried, and it happened.' He was, indeed, responsible for this. He'd saved all of these small lives, every one within the storehouse. It was a heady lesson for someone so young, but one I knew he would remember for all his days; one person could make a difference: one padawan had made a difference.

"We emerged carefully from the storehouse, gently brushing off Obi-Wan's dreamers, as the chieftain still called them. We closed the door quietly, and then Obi-Wan slung his arms around me and I hugged him just as tightly. Huge drums were brought forth and there was much celebration that evening. Obi-Wan slept deeply and peacefully that night with his back snug against mine in the same cabin we'd shared before.

"Morning came, and with it came the release of the dreamers. Once again, Obi-Wan and I stood in the middle of the storehouse. Outside, the clansmen were chanting and working together to unseam the latticework holding together the peat roof of the storehouse. Sunlight streamed into the storehouse, setting the dreamers' wings to flaming light. Touched by spring sunlight for the first time, the summons they felt was powerful. Brilliant blues and reds, greens and purples shimmered as they answered the ancient call of sun and sky.

"Standing behind Obi-Wan, I wrapped my arms around him and pulled him tightly against me as the moving carpet of light and life lifted slowly from their bed of seven moons. His fingers dug into my arms as tiny wings brushed our hands and touched our cheeks.

"'Thank you for the waiting and the warmth,' that touch said. 'Thank you for this flight, and for life.'

"Obi-Wan's tears splashed down on my wrist as his dreamers fluttered up in a solid cloud of color. Up into the spring sky they flew, chasing sunbeams and the breeze. A few stayed behind, circling us in enthusiastic benediction before flitting up and finding the way out.

"All too soon, it was over. And yet, it would never be over. Later that day, the chieftain informed us that a tradition had been born; the cocoons would be gathered and preserved with the harvest each year. A release would take place each spring, and all of this would be done in memory of my dreaming padawan.

"And so it has been on Falka for the past fourteen years, and so it will be this year as well,' Qui-Gon concluded his story with a smile. 'So you see, Anakin, Obi-Wan is well connected to the Living Force, regardless what I said before the Council that day."

//Meesa goin' home.... // Obi-Wan thought wearily in Jar-Jar speak, only to give a half-grimace at the memory of the Gungan's voice in his mind.

Argumentative dignitaries and windowless chambers filled with heat and hostility were finally left behind. Sighing, he sank down onto the bunk and surveyed the small cabin. The chill sterility of this spacer's cabin was a welcome refuge. It wasn't much, but it was clean and quiet and would see him and his padawan safely home to Coruscant. And there was no over-weaned ego or formal attire anywhere near it. That alone made it a treasure. Obi-Wan knew that Anakin was off exploring the ship, finding his own treasures as they leaped into hyperspace.

Removing his boots, Obi-Wan sat them aside. Straightening, he ran a hand through his hair and glanced at an object sitting on the bunk-side table. //That wasn't there before. Where did it come from?//

Frowning slightly, he picked up the small square terrarium that seemed to have materialized out of nowhere. Turning it in his hands, he peered at the interior and was startled to recognize the stalk and its passenger settled safely within on a bed of dry grass.

//A cocoon? Here on this ship in the outer edges of nowhere? The captain would never have brought this in here,// Obi-Wan thought. //He complained about dust on our boots. He'd have fits over bugs.//

But yet, here it was. A single tiny cocoon, clinging determinedly to a leaf of... Obi-Wan squinted into the terrarium. //Is that maize?//

"Falka has just finished its harvest," a deep voice spoke in Obi-Wan's mind.

A shiver ran up his spine. //This can't be....//

On impulse, he removed the top and stuck his nose inside the container, the better to inhale the scent of the grass. Closing his eyes, he breathed in the scent of fresh rain and Falkan hay, and all but choked on the memories. Only one man shared those memories ignited within him many years ago on a planet two light-years away, and that man that man was dead. And yet, Obi-Wan sat in a cabin inside a ship traveling through hyperspace on its way back to Coruscant... a cabin that he knew had been barren of everything when he'd stepped inside it. Everything, including a terrarium containing a very familiar, specific, special life form. A butterfly to be, perhaps even the descendant of one of his and Qui-Gon's original rescued dreamers.

Turning the lid of the terrarium in his hand, Obi-Wan was startled to see three initials carved there, in a childish scrawl, as though by an unpracticed hand that had once wielded a small carving knife in the Initiates Tower: QGJ.

Closing his eyes on a sob, Obi-Wan reached out with no little need and desperation to touch the space in his mind and his heart where a beloved bond had once dwelt.

"Master, are you there?" he whispered into the silence. "Master, please... please be there."

"You have only to ask." The faintest whisper of a familiar voice came back to him, born on the jagged remains of that bond. "You know that dreams can come true, my Padawan. And that all dreamers will wait for spring."

"Yes, Master. I do," he whispered through his tears and summoned a wobbly smile before tracing the cocoon softly with one finger.

Replacing the top of the terrarium, Obi-Wan settled it carefully inside his travel bag. It would find an honored place in his quarters. When spring finally came to Falka, he would petition the Council to let him and his own padawan witness the release of the dreamers, including the one he'd been gifted this day, to be loosed into the swirling rainbow of wings in flight.

There was always hope and a dream that his Master would be there, too.


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