"This doesn't seem to be the wisest course of action at this time," Obi-Wan argued doggedly. "We are not any closer to curing Qui-Gon's condition."
The amount of reprimand that a Jedi Master could convey with a raised brow was quite astonishing to Obi-Wan. "You are still Jedi and they need assistance. You will leave tomorrow, Padawan." Master Mace Windu's use of his title reminded Obi-Wan that he had overstepped his boundaries and the communications signal abruptly blanked, cutting off the picture of that darkly severe face. With the call finished, the hotel's communications droid hesitated for the prescribed time for further instructions then trundled out of the room on its rollers.
In frustration, Obi-Wan turned to face Qui-Gon, ignoring the droid's departure. His Master had initially participated in the conversation but finally moved out of the broadcast area, leaving his apprentice arguing with the Council's representative. The loose posture and the slight smile as Qui Gon relaxed in a chair irritated Obi-Wan. "This *is* insanity, Master. You must see that."
"I see that my obstinance is transferring itself to you. In all my years as a Jedi, I've never seen an apprentice argue with a Council decision." Qui-Gon appeared delighted at Obi-Wan's stubborn insistance that their mission to purge his Master of the demon infection was more important than any agricultural plight.
Expelling his breath in a frustrated sigh, the younger Jedi straddled the elder's lap, soles of his feet reaching the ground, their hips touching. "Don't tell me you never defied the Council as a Padawan."
"Mmmmmm. Master Yoda never placed me in such an - extreme - situation as my condition has placed you. My experiences as a Padawan were comparatively tame." In mild apology, Qui-Gon clasped one of Obi-Wan's wrists with callused fingers, raising the wrist to his mouth, snuffling at the delicate blue veins so close to the surface of the skin, as if he smelled the scent of blood through the epidermal layer.
"Why aren't you frustrated?" Obi-Wan needed to understand his Master's ease.
"The Council is trying to protect you--I can accept their concern." A lengthy pause followed, as Qui-Gon failed to finish that thought. Instead, he became enraptured, licking the wrist's tender flesh. His broad tongue stroked beyond the wrist, running from mid-forearm to end in the palm of the hand, tickling slightly, leaving a cool path of drying saliva.
Obi-Wan realized his Master's attention was rapidly becoming distracted from the conversation. Wrapping silky brown hair in his fist, he firmly pulled. "Protect me from what? They're hardly protecting me from you. We'll still be together."
The pressure on his skull succeeded in its objective. Qui-Gon let his fangs graze caressingly on the wrist but he didn't break the skin and resumed speaking. "They are protecting your Knighthood, giving you opportunities to advance your training. It is a rare privilege for an apprentice to have such responsibility and with the elliptical tilt to its orbit, the world will be perfect for me. Fifteen hours of blessed dark every day."
"This mission won't protect my Knighthood if I fail. I've hardly used my aptitude for healing plants in years. It's not even a responsibility that the Jedi should have. I don't see what I can do that the Agri-Corps specialists couldn't." Qui-Gon ignored Obi-Wan's statements, opening his mouth wide over the thin wrist, warming the skin with moist breath, his tongue lapping delicately now. "Why aren't you aggravated? We need to find a cure. This mission may take days or even weeks."
"I need to consider what to do next. Since I will only be supervising, I will have free time to research. It's actually surprisingly thoughtful of Mace to find us this mission." Considering the conversation ended, Qui-Gon slid his hands swiftly up Obi-Wan's supple back, clearly intending to untie the band covering his throat.
The explanations hadn't lessened Obi-Wan's annoyance. Irritated, he yanked his body off Qui-Gon's lap. "If this mission is so perfect for us, maybe we'd better get started. I'll arrange transport." With those defiant words, he snatched his cloak, swirling it in the air before settling it on his shoulders, heading out the door and to the space port. Qui-Gon watched the lean grace of his apprentice's stride, spine erect, body tense. Even from the back, he loved viewing Obi-Wan's body, the brownish hair bound in a curving ponytail, the sculpted muscles, the tight buttocks and firm thighs, the athletic beauty of his flowing walk. Accepting Obi-Wan's need to sulk with displeasure, Qui-Gon smiled again and stretched back in the chair. They would have several days trapped on a space ship with little to do.
He could wait.
The head administrator of the United Farmers of Moonberries met the two Jedi at the space port herself, ignoring the normal procedure to have an assistant or a droid escort them to her office. Her presence and the unhappiness in her eyes revealed both the desperation experienced by the entire planet and also their relief that the Jedi Council responded to their pleas. With a planet almost entirely shrouded in darkness, resources were limited. Their economy was saved when the first batch of moonberry wine was stomped from the harvest, sealed into vats, aged, tasted, aged some more, savored and exported to become one of the most expensive luxury items in the galaxy. The planet had quickly gained respect among Republican citizens with the wealth to satisfy any luxurious desire. Now the moonberries were dying, slowly wilting over the years; the harvests were smaller and smaller, the wine losing its subtle essence that spoke to the connoisseur of a mysterious moonlit rendezvous.
The first Agri-Corps team failed, the second, and finally a third. The soil was probed, tested for deficiencies or unhealthy bacteria, the weather conditions examined for any variations, the plants themselves analyzed with every piece of scientific equipment yet designed, even a few not intended for vegetable life. The Agri-Corps admitted defeat.
Now Obi-Wan stood between the furrows of plants, barely a man, only halfway through his Jedi training, the last hope of a planetary economy. Qui-Gon and Varella were talking. She was explaining the history and importance and problems of the moonberries again, explanations she had already given on the ride to the fields, in the way of people who can say nothing more, but say it repeatedly to stress its importance. Qui-Gon's voice was low, soothing, reassuring that she had utilized any avenue, every resource in her quest to solve her planet's tragedy. Obi-Wan barely registered the growing pleasure in her voice, her blossoming response to someone who wasn't scared and didn't blame her.
"Yes, Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon's attention turned immediately to him.
"I think it would be better if I was alone for a while. I need to concentrate, meditate."
That warm hand, resting on his shoulder. "Call me if you need anything. I will settle our gear into our quarters." Qui-Gon spoke again to Varella as he sank to the ground. The words he ignored, though the tone was clear. Worry that he hadn't simply waved his hands and performed a miracle, leaves unwithering, berries regaining their deep purple color. Few understood the ways of the Jedi. The steps moving away, their sound muffled in the soft dirt. More encouraging noises from Qui-Gon.
Then there were only the moonberries.
"She was flirting with you." Obi-Wan was tired to his bones, after an eternity of meditation with only an inkling of an answer. That atrocious dinner, making polite conversation while Qui-Gon sipped wine and Varella preened at his Master, hadn't improved his temper.
"I believe I am considered a reasonably attractive man, Obi-Wan." Qui-Gon was mildly amused at the sight of his apprentice, striding around the room in that state beyond tiredness, when the body craves rest but is too energized to relax. Obi-Wan yanked Qui-Gon's cloak from him, hanging both up with jerky motions, and sat on the bed to unstrap his boots.
"And you found her an attractive woman," he accused.
"Reasonably, yes." Qui-Gon knelt before Obi-Wan, removing his boots, massaging the arch of his sore feet. "But not as beautiful as you."
"Ha. Flattery won't make me forgive you." Despite his dark tone, Obi-Wan was softening, responding to the capable hands easing the aches caused by too many hours of sitting cross-legged in the dirt. The leather of his boots never seemed constrictive until he had tried to rise and discovered his feet had fallen asleep. He had to roll on his back to unlock his legs before being able to stand.
"Truth isn't flattery." Qui-Gon sensed the damage his apprentice had done to his own circulation when he limped in from the fields, but Varella was present and Obi-Wan was too proud to diminish the reputation of the Jedi by revealing such insignificant pains. Rolling the wool socks down his calves and off his feet, Qui-Gon gave even his toes attention, stretching each digit.
"You let her think the fangs were natural." He was angered again at the memory of Varella's tentative touch on Qui-Gon's cheek when she had made that inquiry, though his accusation was lessened by the increasing huskiness of his voice. His Master's hands were guiding one foot in a circle while the other massaged the tenseness from his calf. In bliss, he laid back on the bed, arms falling over his head.
"My condition is a private matter. It seemed easier for her to assume all my people have fangs." Qui-Gon rose over Obi-Wan, encouraging him to scoot further up the bed, so their bodies no longer dangled over the end.
"Really. Yes, it's a very private condition. No one knows but you, me, some Valona, your brother, and a few hundred Jedi. No, with all the rumors flying around the Academy, probably a few thousand Jedi. By now, the story has even circulated to Jedi stationed on the outer worlds. We must protect your privacy." The dryness showed his unhappiness wasn't alleviated. "If we can't tell her the truth about you, maybe she should realize the truth about *us*." With his legs on each side of Qui-Gon's hips, he reversed their positions. His lips locked to one spot of his Master's neck. He sucked fiercely on the tender flesh, using lips, tongue and teeth. Without fangs, the mark wouldn't have deep punctures, but his white teeth would leave an obvious love bite. Their hips bumped and subtly ground against each other, but Obi-Wan's full attention fastened on his appointed task to visibly claim his Master.
"Obi-Wan, my love," Qui-Gon groaned, releasing the ponytail to bury his hands in the short hair. "Is this what it feels like for you?" The perception of possession was only that - a falsity demanded by Obi-Wan and allowed by Qui-Gon. In normal days, it might have been an equal struggle. Both were powerful, Qui-Gon with the advantage of height and experience, Obi-Wan the edge of youth and stamina. With the increased demonic speed and strength, Qui-Gon could easily flip Obi-Wan and assert his dominance. Instead, he took no action, ceding control. Obi-Wan's young, lean form, holding him down, hands pressing his shoulders into the mattress, the touch of their skin impeded by too many clothes, that exquisite mouth drawing on his neck.
Obi-Wan ignored the question. He couldn't have compared the two experiences. Nothing was better than when his Master drank from him, the absolute knowledge that Qui-Gon sustained his own life from Obi-Wan's veins. His essentialness to his Master's very existence. When sex accompanied the drinking, his emotions were ripped apart with an intensity that made him want to cry and howl with the pleasure and the pain.
Arching back, Obi-Wan sat up. Any previous brands with other lovers were accidental. He'd never timed how long it took but figured he had succeeded in leaving an extremely clear sign. The gentle rotation of their hips together continued as Obi-Wan undid his sash, freeing his tunics, tossing both to the floor. Qui-Gon's eyelids were half-closed, pupils dilated as he absorbed the vision of male beauty above him. He was aroused both by Obi-Wan's emotional need to dominate and his physical perfection.
"I want to be in you. No," the Padawan quickly negated, "I have to be in you. It's my turn."
Qui-Gon answered by loosening his own sash and tunics, pushing down his trousers, frantically removing his boots as Obi-Wan scrambled off the bed, almost tripping as he tried to simultaneous yank off his own trousers and walk across the room to rummage in their possessions, finding massage oil. Qui-Gon waited on the bed, his legs bent up and back. Soothing the oil onto his own aching erection, Obi-Wan licked at his lips as gazed at his Master. He had loved Qui-Gon for so many years. The sight of his Master prepared to receive him, willing, compliant, shook him to the inner reaches of his soul. Stroking himself, he delayed as long as possible, teasing both of them with the wait, knowing by the hands strangling the pillow behind his head that his Master was enjoying the sight. He was torn between a slow, ecstatic loving, driving Qui-Gon to plead with him to finish, and a fierce desire to possess, to slam into that responsive form.
Finally, he succeeded in both, beginning slowly, stretching Qui-Gon with gentle oil-slick fingers, carefully ensuring that his Master was prepared. Slipping in, his tempo was easy, hips moving in a smooth lingering beat as he penetrated the narrow channel. Then Qui-Gon clasped one of his hands, bringing the wrist to his mouth. With one fang, he made a small gash on the sensitive flesh, Obi-Wan momentarily wincing in pain then sighing in pleasure as his blood spilled into Qui-Gon's mouth. His body in Qui-Gon's body; his blood in Qui-Gon's mouth. The suckling on his wrist increased and he sped his hips in time with the rhythm. The gash was tiny but enough of his blood slid out of Qui-Gon's mouth to stain his lips, drops sliding through the beard and into the long hair, disarrayed on the pillow.
His free hand battled with Qui-Gon's over possession of Qui-Gon's cock, taking turns to aggressively pump the formidable length. As he neared climax, Obi-Wan conceded, needing his other hand to balance himself, bracing on Qui-Gon's chest as all sensation focused on the rough thrusting of his hips, the rapidly driving motions, the blood flowing out his wrist. He spilled himself into Qui-Gon, shuddering, his entire body shaking with the force of the explosion. He heard Qui-Gon's answering growl, experienced the splash of semen on his abdomen, and collapsed limply to the bed, falling to one side of his Master.
Too exhausted to protest, he allowed Qui-Gon to cover his wrist with both hands, sending healing energy into the wound.
Sunk in meditation, this time Obi-Wan took the precaution of laying flat on his back in the furrow. His arms were on the ground so his fingers could connect with the earth. Varella had come and gone several times. Her steps penetrated his mind but he didn't acknowledge her presence and she respected the Jedi too much to question his actions.
A heavier trend. Qui-Gon's distinctive smell, the rustle of his cloak. "Obi-Wan, you should eat." Strong arms that wouldn't accept being ignored, cradled against a warm body, fruit of some variety waved in front of his nose before being placed against his lips. He chewed, not recognizing the flavor. "You can't exhaust yourself, caring for me and these plants." The scolding, loving tone in that voice. Obi-Wan smiled and drifted out of the meditative trance, leaving his eyes closed. He didn't need to see anything. He knew everything he needed to know from the brogue in his Master's voice.
"I think I'm very close to an answer, Master. And I like caring for you."
"I'm glad you do." A crisp vegetable this time. "You shouldn't have spent your energy healing the love bite."
Obi-Wan yawned as he chewed. "It seemed very childish this morning. You didn't even wake, you were sleeping so heavily."
"I would have liked bearing your mark." A rough beard, rubbing on the side of his face. "But I'm glad to not hurt Varella."
"And I like wearing yours." The honesty surfaced without Obi-Wan's conscious intention.
"Is that why you won't permit me to heal the marks of my fangs? I thought your concern for my exhaustion a little odd, considering how strong I've become."
Obi-Wan conceded the truth with a happy hum. He knew his Master was smiling above him, could picture that rare grin before his concern returned. "You can't heal every moonberry on this planet. You don't have the strength. No man does. Can I help?"
Obi-Wan laughed, still half-dazed, weak from blood loss, dizzy from too much meditation. "You may have healing energies, Master, but you couldn't even keep an airplant alive. I've never seen a man less in touch with nature."
"We all have our strengths." Qui-Gon's dryness took no offense at that accurate shot. Obi-Wan hid his grin, directing it to the ground.
"Go back to your research, Master. Find your Mother. I can do this alone."
"Yes, oh powerful and mighty Obi-Wan. As soon as you finish all this food."
Obi-Wan didn't protest, chewing and swallowing, thinking of the texture of fresh fruits and vegetables. All different colors throughout the galaxy, some crisp, some pulpy, some tart, some sweet. Satisfied, Qui-Gon left him.
In meditation, Obi-Wan usually fixed on his own calm center, locating the eye of the storm. Instead, he opened himself to the world. He absorbed the smell of the dirt, the moonberry scented breeze. He felt the taut, shiny surface of the berries, the slight furriness of its leaves. The colors of the world, the brown earth, the purple berry, the green leaves, the clear water drops remaining from irrigation sprinklers.
Every cell of his body was filled with the world. Then he sunk into the moonberries themselves. Through the surface of the berries, he saw the small seeds inside the berries, the edible flesh, the juice that would make such sweet wine. The exterior of the leaves, the veins tracing through them, the flow of nutrients from the earth, the water, even the sunshine contributing to the growth of the berries.
He immersed himself even deeper, to the cellular level, understanding processes explained in biology texts by becoming part of them. The world was Obi-Wan and Obi-Wan was the moonberries.
"Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan." The concerned brogue was almost frantic, vigorously shaking him. He was only Obi-Wan again, his connection to the earth severed.
"Obi-Wan." Qui-Gon sighed in relief. He'd been trying to wake Obi-Wan for several minutes, never having seen any Jedi so entirely tranced in meditation. "Obi-Wan, you've been meditating almost ten hours."
"Weren't you aware?"
"Master." His hands clenched on Qui-Gon's shoulders, fingers splaying to cover as much surface as possible. "Please, drink, drink now."
"Are you insane? You need food and proper rest." Qui-Gon's horror amused Obi-Wan. Their roles were truly reversed. He tugged on the resisting muscles, rising up from the ground to nuzzle at Qui-Gon's throat.
"Please Master, please. I need it so. I need it now. Here. On the ground. Drink from me." Strong white teeth nipped at Qui-Gon's neck, signaling what he desired.
The eroticism of Obi-Wan pleading to be drained was irresistible to the demon. Qui-Gon pushed him flat, as Obi-Wan dug the top of his head into ground, allowing easy access to the vulnerable curve of his throat. Qui-Gon unclasped the neckband, his fangs ripping into the silken skin. The warm red blood poured freely and Qui-Gon drank greedily, savoring the essence that fulfilled not only the needs of his body, but of his soul. His warm, beautiful Padawn, so open and responsive, so giving, satisfied his raging lust for dominance.
Obi-Wan returned to a semi-trance, filled with nature, with the world, the dirt, the moonberries, the sensation of fangs at his throat, blood surging in his veins, veins tracing the berries' leaves, the suckling noise made by his Master's mouth filling his ears. He was nature and the world, but now overlaid with the scarlet haze of animal life, of Qui-Gon's energy and draining passion.
A discordant sound interrupted his reverie. Opening his eyes, he saw Varella standing over them. The night was dark but enough light shone from the round orb of the moon to reveal his Master thirstily quenching himself on the elixir of Obi-Wan's life.
She backed away and fled. Not an observance he intended, but an outcome he would accept. He was Qui-Gon's and Qui-Gon was his. No one would separate them.
Varella was distant but calm as she accepted the data crystal from Obi-Wan. Whether she realized something unnatural had happened, or assumed all of Qui-Gon's race drank blood, no one asked.
"I've made notes, diagrammed the disease, explained how it is attacking the plants. With this information, the Agri-Corps specialists should be able to cure it. I've sent a certain level of healing energy through the plants. It will help sustain them but I don't have enough power to kill the infection throughout all the fields."
"I don't understand, Jedi Kenobi, why Agri-Corps could not find the disease." She was reserved in her questions, torn between happy delight to have them leaving the planet and fear that they would go and the answers would be insufficient. Her eyes flicked nervously between Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon.
"It's activated by sunlight, weakening the plants when they are primarily dormant during the daylight hours. The Agri-Corps specialists did most of their research during the night hours, since the berries grow more actively then. Or in the laboratory, where the disease wouldn't show at all. You might try covering the plants as much as possible. Restriction of sunlight should slow the disease."
"A disease that selective, that secretive…."
"Yes, there can be little doubt that it was deliberately designed and manufactured. I would suggest you start researching any representatives from other wine-growing planets who visited your world before the berries started sickening. Probably at least six months before."
She bowed. "Not only the farmers but also the people of my world thank you, Jedi Kenobi. Your information has saved us. I know Jedi don't take gifts, but please, let me give you a crate of moonberry wine as a gesture of our appreciation."
"The Jedi live to serve." He bowed respectfully in return, not protesting the gift. Qui-Gon would appreciate the wine.
Qui-Gon spoke for the first time. "Now, if we may have a ride to the space port, we will leave."
"Yes, I will arrange it immediately." She bowed again, scurrying to leave. No matter how beneficial Obi-Wan's actions, the head administrator didn't show the respect of seeing him to the space port. An assistant could drive them.
As they waited, Obi-Wan spoke. "Then you know where to go, Master?"
"Yes, Obi-Wan. I've been pretending to be a bureaucrat."
"A bureaucrat, Master?" That profession seemed hopelessly mundane for a great Jedi warrior.
"Truly, the universe lives on data and records, Obi-Wan. I've used the computer system in Varella's office to uncover every piece of public information about Jinn Enterprises and quite a lot of private information. Employee records, income tax records, import and export purchases records, shipping records, and most importantly, property tax records."
"Property taxes?" His apprentice was confused by that relevance.
"Jinn Enterprises owns or leases an administrative office and a warehouse on almost every important trade world and even a few houses for their travelling buyers or valued clients to use. Fra-Zon's personal residence. And curiously, a small house on an extremely unimportant world. A world like this one, frequently shrouded in dark."
Obi-Wan saw the connection immediately. "A world that a Valona might find comforting, since they normally live at night."
"Yes. Even more curiously, Fra-Zon sold the house two weeks ago. To a fake subsidiary company."
"So he owns it, but he's trying to hide that fact."
"Yes. Again, he's an intelligent man being stupid." Qui-Gon mused.
"Or - " Obi-Wan hesitated to voice the possibility.
"Or he's drawing me into a trap. I know. But together, together we will be fine. I must know if my Mother lives in this house."
"Yes, Master." Qui-Gon drew his Padawan to him, and they kissed lingeringly, tongues meeting, Obi-Wan's lightly tracing the sharp fangs, as they stood in the moonlight at the edge of the moonberry fields. Together they would prevail.