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Demons of the Dark 7: The Proposal

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Qui-Gon rested on the bed, his head propped on one arm, watching Obi-Wan sleep. At the Academy, bright daylight would have been shining through the windows at this time of the morning. Here, with the planet's tilt in relation to its sun lengthening the nights, it was blissfully dark. Only a spectral glow from the moon and stars illuminated the room.

Despite the lack of light, Qui-Gon could see the pale features of his apprentice as he slumbered peacefully. His improved night vision, one facet of his demonic transformation. He stroked his fingers through Obi-Wan's short hair, gently enough not to wake his Padawan.

Handsome, devoted Padawan. Creature of light. Steadfastly true companion. The Padawan who only yesterday willingly donated his healing energy and blood to save his Master's life. The Padawan he'd almost drained last night in a fit of possessive rage.

He stared at his own hand, the fingernails once again long. No longer the rebellious but serene Jedi Master. Creature of dark. Creature of sharp fangs and pointed nails. Creature of insane urges and wild moods. Meditation helped, but not enough. Even the serenity of the Force wasn't enough to control the beast inside, the beast who attacked when threatened. He’d killed without compunction to protect his Padawan and acknowledged with despair that he would kill again if forced.

More and more, Qui-Gon found himself meditating on Obi-Wan, using his Padawan's loyalty as an anchor. Focusing on the soul who would risk everything to save his own. He found peace in the sanctity of such devotion.

A rapping on the hotel door disturbed his musing. Qui-Gon was off the bed, his cloak covering his naked body, opening the door before the sound could disturb Obi-Wan's sleep. His mother stood in the hallway, Fra-Zon leaning against the wall behind her.

"Mother." The greeting was formal as Qui-Gon stepped into the hallway, shutting the door behind him.

"Qui-Gon." She was clad in a leaf-green dress, her hair still dark and long, the wrinkles betraying her age seemingly more pronounced this morning. Her hands were clasped together in front, twisting with anxiety. "I had hoped we could talk more. There is still so much I wish to know about your life."

"Obi-Wan is sleeping." Qui-Gon hesitated, wishing to send her and his brother away, but knowing that their conversations yesterday were too brief. "Let me dress and we can go somewhere."

Sei-Lona was surprised and concerned. "He's still sleeping? Is he all right?"

The door opened behind him. Obi-Wan peered out, bleary-eyed and tousled, only his leggings covering his body, arms wrapped around his own chest as if to protect himself from a chill in the temperature-controlled hotel. "Master?"

A shocked gasp from Sei-Lona, as she noted the newly enlarged puncture wounds and the faint trace of blood on his throat. "You didn't drink from him?"

"Mother, this isn't your concern."

"You should at least clean the wound," Sei-Lona fussed, moving around Qui-Gon's tall body to take Obi-Wan by the arm, guiding him back into the room and toward the sink in the fresher.

Obi-Wan shot Qui-Gon a questioning glance as he was guided away, verifying that the other Jedi accepted his mother's interference. Sighing, Qui-Gon allowed Sei-Lona to take charge of his apprentice, strolling over to gaze out the window. Fra-Zon came to stand beside him, chuckling.

"This amuses you?" The dryness of his question signified that Qui-Gon didn't share the humor.

"You're learning what it's like to have a mother."

"I was raised by the Knights and Masters at the Academy. I am not unfamiliar with parental concern," was the curt retort.

"Several Knights caring for many children, those children all of the same age, being cared for new Knights every few years as they advance in their studies…it's not the same as having one set of parents." Dressed in a severely simple dark brown jacket and trousers, a glimpse of a white shirt appearing between the jacket's lapels, Fra-Zon turned to rest his shoulders against the window.

Qui-Gon was surprised by his knowledge. The childhood raising and training practices of the Jedi weren't secret, but few citizens of the Republic bothered to explore the Order's practical details. "You've studied the Jedi."

The smile he received was bittersweet, one corner of Fra-Zon's mouth crooking upwards. "Yes. I used to wonder about you. What it was like for you, being a Jedi. What it would be like if we met. I made up these fantasies in my mind. You'd be this wise, older brother. You would instinctively understand me. We would instantly bond and become great friends. I had a dozen different daydreams. Sometimes you would search me out or I'd go to Coruscant and knock on the door of the Jedi Academy. Sometimes we would meet by accident."

Qui-Gon stared out the window, surprised at the revelation of this self-assured man as a lonely little boy. He had assumed his brother was ambitious and determined, given the success of Jinn Enterprises, but not vulnerable. Dawn was finally beginning to break, a soft stream of light creeping around the buildings. “I didn’t realize. Family…” he paused to rephrase, “Jedi are not trained to think of our families.”

“I learned that from my reading. It hurt, to know you probably never thought of me. Were trained to not even wonder. But it didn’t stop me from wanting to meet you. I imagined you would be the Jedi to break the mold. You would the one Jedi who would insist on meeting his family.”

Internally, Qui-Gon flinched. 'Rebel' was a label placed frequently on him, but he'd never even thought to question the Council's dictates on family. Masking his discomfort, he said only, “I find this honesty unusual after your actions yesterday.” Qui-Gon could hear the faint lilt of his mother’s voice in the background and Obi-Wan’s muted replies. His mother was fussing. Odd thought, to have a mother fussing. The Knights and Masters were concerned and caring, but independence and self-reliance were instilled in the Jedi from an early age. The image of one of his teachers fretting over any student aside from the very youngest children was incomprehensible.

“I want you to understand. I do hope we may be friends, but I have to protect Mother first. She's been my responsibility since Father died. You may be a danger to her now.” The momentary vulnerability was gone, the persona of the successful businessman firmly in place. Fra-Zon had made his choice when he'd lied to hide Sei-Lona's location. Childish dreams were relegated to the past.

The voices were replaced by the steady drone of water running. Sei-Lona stepped into the room, stopping Qui-Gon's reply. "He needs to eat. He's very weak."

"Breakfast then. I think a restaurant rather than room service, if Obi-Wan is strong enough." Fra-Zon cast a wry glance at the disheveled furnishings, drawing attention to the mayhem of broken furniture left from Qui-Gon's rage.

Qui-Gon flushed as his Mother's eyes followed Fra-Zon's. "I must arrange passage off-planet. I shall meet you later."

"Let me take you." At Qui-Gon's surprised glance, Fra-Zon added, "I have a ship. It's nicer than any berth on a transport you'll be able to purchase. Mother would like to spend more time with you. Wouldn't you Mother?"

Her hands lifted toward Qui-Gon in a mute plea. "Please, Qui-Gon."

Torn between the uncomfortable desire to escape the conflicting feelings his family engendered and the realization that his Mother may possess more information on the demons of Valon, Qui-Gon equivocated, "I must talk to Obi-Wan. We hadn't definitely decided whether to return to Coruscant or risk Valon again."

"Then you couldn't arrange passage off-planet anyway, could you? We can all talk over breakfast. Mother and I will wait in the lobby." Taking his assent for granted, Fra-Zon placed one hand on their mother's elbow and escorted her from the room as she gave Qui-Gon a last, beseeching look.

Qui-Gon let them leave without contradicting Fra-Zon. Lifting a chair that had been laying on its side, he carried it to the corner of the room and sat down, away from the window and the emerging sun. He could tolerate the light but preferred to avoid it. He understood Sei-Lona. She'd never wanted to give her first-born to the Jedi; that was his Father's decision. She was desperate to connect with her oldest son, despite his savage state. He could only guess Fra-Zon's willingness to offer transport originated from a need to fulfill Sei-Lona's wishes while keeping her protected. He was too weary to decide what to do now. Valon or Coruscant. With his family or without. Instead of deciding, he would sit and wait.

He would wait for Obi-Wan to shower and dress. He would wait for his light.

************
Fra-Zon's promise was accurate; his ship was better than any berth on a purchased transport. Designed for his personal use, the ship was small and fast, the crew efficient and respectful. From the luxuriousness of the furnishings, the Jedi presumed that Fra-Zon met occasionally on board with potential clients, impressing them with the discreet elegance and obvious wealth.

Coruscant had been the final decision during breakfast, Obi-Wan arguing passionately that the Jedi healers should hear Sei-Lona's information. The trip to Coruscant had proved more pleasant than Qui-Gon anticipated. He alternated his time between meditation and long conversations with his Mother. On the evening of the second day, Qui-Gon found Obi-Wan in their stateroom, sipping a glass of the moonberry wine, staring out the porthole. The bottle and another glass sat on the table. “Master.”

“Obi-Wan, Mother said that you wished to eat in our room tonight.” Qui-Gon glanced around their quarters, noting only the wine.

“I ate earlier, Master. You had a good conversation with your mother?"

"Yes. You were correct to insist we should travel with Sei-Lona and Fra-Zon. I am more and more convinced that my transformation was deliberately triggered. Her information on the demons simply doesn't correspond with my experience. Or with Fra-Zon's."

"It's good to know that my instincts are sound."

"I taught you too well in the art of persuasion." He traced one finger down the smooth line of Obi-Wan's jaw.

"I wanted to be alone tonight because I have something to discuss with you. I can only hope I will be as persuasive a second time.”

Obi-Wan’s nervousness was well disguised, but Qui-Gon could see the revealing signs. Fingers clenched a little too hard on the stem of his glass, the faint worry in his eyes. “You know you can discuss anything with me, Padawan.”

Setting the glass down, Obi-Wan took Qui-Gon’s hands into his own. “I would like to soul-bond with you, Qui-Gon.” He gripped harder at Qui-Gon’s reflexive action to separate their hands. “Listen to me. I have given this matter a great deal of thought.”

“No amount of thinking can overcome the fact that you are too young and I am too dangerous, Obi-Wan. I have been selfish enough with your devotion and love.”

Sighing, Obi-Wan brought Qui-Gon’s hands to his lips, kissing the knuckles. The Padawan had anticipated this reaction. He had to hope logical arguments would overcome Qui-Gon's objections. “Master, from what your mother says, your transformation is physically complete. It is only the strength of your mind that has saved you from madness." Obi-Wan's words were blunt. The time for dancing around the truth was past. "The strength of your obsession for me."

Qui-Gon was unnaturally calm. "And you believe a soul-bond would help this obsession."

"Yes. You would no longer wonder what I thought. You would no longer doubt my love. You would never have to fear another's interest in me."

"A soul-bond may not even work, Obi-Wan. The partners must be perfectly compatible."

Obi-Wan kissed the palms of Qui-Gon’s hands. "Not to be vain, Master, but we are one of the best Master/Padawan teams the Jedi have seen in decades. We have demonstrated our compatibility and effectiveness for many years. And as lovers…as lovers, I cannot believe that anyone else has ever experienced the heights of ecstasy that we achieve." Obi-Wan's eyes blazed with past memories of the primal sensuality they shared.

"Obi-Wan - " The Padawan could see both the desire and the denial in Qui-Gon's eyes. He was going to reject the suggestion.

Obi-Wan pressed his fingers gently on Qui-Gon's lips to stop the words. "No, Master, don't refuse. Not yet. Think about it. I've never told you how I felt, when I woke on Valon, tied up, stretched out on a table." Obi-Wan laid down on the table in their quarters, as if duplicating the experience. The table was only long enough to fit his body and head. His legs dangled off the edge and he propped one boot on a chair to balance himself. "I tried not to be, but I was frightened. Disoriented from an unknown drug. Then you were there. My Master, whom I have trusted and loved for so long. But your eyes were wild, maddened with passion and lust."

One of Qui-Gon's hands drifted down Obi-Wan's body. "You were so scared, yet so beautiful. A sacrifice to the mad craving that was overwhelming me."

"If we soul-bonded, I wouldn't have to tell how I felt. You could just remember." His voice was soft and low, drawing Qui-Gon into the erotic web he was weaving.

Qui-Gon began loosening Obi-Wan's clothes, his tunics and belt falling open to hang over the table. The neckband which hid the fang marks on Obi-Wan's strong throat was removed, reverently placed on a chair. He stood between the parted legs, pulling off his boots. "But then you could also remember how I felt, how inappropriate my yearnings were. Lusting after my own apprentice, a man I should be protecting…"

The words trailed off as Obi-Wan took advantage of Qui-Gon's position to arch his hips, rubbing their groins together. "Nothing is inappropriate between us, Master." Obi-Wan locked his legs around Qui-Gon's hips and the two thrust gently in unison. Their breath hissed out, eyes bound together by an invisible thread of shared longing.

Obi-Wan slid his leggings down his hips and thighs, pushing the fabric into Qui-Gon’s hands. Qui-Gon obeyed the silent command, breaking away from Obi-Wan to pull the fabric the rest of the way off.

“Master, pour the wine on me. Drink from my body.”

With trembling hands, Qui-Gon reached for the bottle. Clasping the neck, he hesitated and spoke, “Do you think you can seduce me into taking advantage of you? I won’t soul-bond with you.”

“Pour the wine, Master. Taste my skin and the sweet taste of grapes.” Obi-Wan leaned forward, burying his hands in Qui-Gon’s hair, holding his head steady while kissing him, long and hard. He whispered into Qui-Gon’s ear, “I can only imagine what the taste of myself is like, if I taste as good as you do. If we soul-bonded, I would know. And you would know how much pleasure I receive from your touch.” Obi-Wan released his hair, relaxing back on the table, waiting for Qui-Gon’s reaction.

Shakily, Qui-Gon poured the wine, the scarlet liquid coating the white skin of Obi-Wan’s chest, flowing off his skin to soak into the tunics. Qui-Gon licked at the wine, beginning with the small pool collected in the hollow of his throat. “Wine, warmed by your skin,” he murmured. He paid special care to the beads on Obi-Wan’s nipples, laving the hard brown points until Obi-Wan was whimpering with unabashed delight.

He worked his way down Obi-Wan's flat, hard chest, tasting the flavor of moonberries grown during the darkness of the night. He replenished Obi-Wan's abdomen with another draught of wine. The layers of tunics became drenched with red fluid. Obi-Wan kept his body flat on the table, his hands above his head, bound by invisible manacles. He propped one foot against Qui-Gon's broad shoulder, and his Master turned his head to nuzzle the anklebone and high arch. Obi-Wan's toes flexed spasmodically, expressing the pleasure that radiated throughout his body.

Qui-Gon filled his mouth with wine before bending to savor Obi-Wan's erection, Obi-Wan's leg pressing against his own hip as it rested on Qui-Gon's shoulder. At the ambrosial combination of wine and pre-cum, Qui-Gon's hand clenched on the bottle, his demonic strength shattering the glass. Surprised, he dropped the bottle and jerked back but Obi-Wan moved just as swiftly, rising up to grab Qui-Gon's hand and examine the damage.

"A few small cuts, easily healed."

"Not with the Force," Qui-Gon immediately instructed. "Not by you. You have not recovered your full strength. I'm sure this ship contains basic medical supplies."

"Very well, but at least allow me to clean the wound."

Obi-Wan's deferential acceptance surprised Qui-Gon but the Padawan's action made him groan, disbelieving his own eyes as Obi-Wan brought Qui-Gon's hand to his mouth, carefully licking away the flow of blood as well as the trace of wine. His tongue flickered over the palm, the tapering fingers, the pad of muscle at the base of the thumb.

Locking Qui-Gon's eyes with his own, Obi-Wan said, "The taste of your blood is salty, coppery. Does my blood taste different now that it sustains your life? Sweeter? More fulfilling?"

Qui-Gon could only moan and close his eyes, trying to suffocate the wicked temptation to drink from Obi-Wan, his fangs aching with the denial of his insatiable yearning. He’d drunk the blood protein mixture concocted by the Jedi healers only a few hours ago, but it was never as satisfying as the pure flavor of his Padawan. "You dreamed this up before we left the planet, didn't you? You never cared about taking Sei-Lona to the Jedi healers. You want the Council's assistance to ensure the successful creation of the soul-bond."

His free hand tangling in Qui-Gon's hair, Obi-Wan brought their faces together. Qui-Gon's eyes reluctantly opened to see his Padawan's determination. "I'm fighting for both of us, Qui-Gon. Someone did this to you, someone who has probably studied Valona genetics for decades. The Jedi healers can't help us. Only the bond. Soul-bond with me, Qui-Gon." Obi-Wan's legs wrapped around Qui-Gon's hips, urging him to step closer.

Qui-Gon shivered as he moved in response to Obi-Wan's command, his hard shaft rubbing the entrance of Obi-Wan's body. "We must find whoever did this. His plans must be stopped. No one else must suffer."

"We will. After we bond, when we are stronger." Ripping at his Master's clothes, Obi-Wan freed Qui-Gon's cock before digging his heels into his buttocks, encouraging him to thrust, desperately needing his Master to fill his body, to claim him once more.

"Stronger…" Forgetting his words, Qui-Gon thrust, finding Obi-Wan already prepared, easily accepting the intrusion, a sign of his careful planning. "My weaknesses…" He started a steady rhythm, slowly pulling out before shoving back into the warm passage. Focusing on his thoughts was difficult but he managed. "The sunlight…the blood…"

His arms wrapped around Qui-Gon's shoulders, his buttocks on the edge of the table, Obi-Wan devoted his entire body to the physical act of love, matching Qui-Gon's lazy speed. "The sunlight is an inconvenience, no more. You will learn to cope. You will always have me for blood." He gasped at a particularly hard thrust, struggling to continue. "But your strength…I shall have your strength. Your power. You are so powerful, Qui-Gon."

Obi-Wan's willingness to live his life at Qui-Gon's side and his unabashed admiration of his Master was more heady than an aphrodisiac. Qui-Gon stopped thinking, stopped arguing. As Obi-Wan chanted, “your power…your power,” Qui-Gon simply responded, gripping his Padawan’s hips fiercely. He planted his boots firmly on the decking, accelerating his pace, using every bit of his strength to drive himself deeper and harder into Obi-Wan’s receptive body. Obi-Wan buried his head into the curve of Qui-Gon’s neck, warm breath moistening Qui-Gon’s firm flesh as he pleaded for more, his hands delving underneath Qui-Gon's clothes to caress silken flesh.

The savagery of the mating couldn’t be maintained for long. With a final last moan from Obi-Wan and a hoarse gasp from Qui-Gon, they climaxed, shuddering in unison. Obi-Wan felt Qui-Gon’s seed filling his body as saw his own creamy fluid spray on Qui-Gon’s tunics. Qui-Gon remained standing, cuddling Obi-Wan, as they panted, reassuring kisses from each landing on random patches of flesh.

Reluctantly, Obi-Wan detached himself from Qui-Gon’s embrace, his hands cupping Qui-Gon’s face, stroking the short wiry beard. His legs unlocked from Qui-Gon’s hips, dangling limply. “We must soul-bond, Qui-Gon. We must. We belong together forever.”

“In the morning, Obi-Wan. You’ve made it impossible to think now.”

For a second, Obi-Wan looked as if he would to argue, but he allowed himself to be coaxed to the bed, watching as Qui-Gon stripped off the remainder of his clothes. Qui-Gon slipped into bed, Obi-Wan's head naturally resting on Qui-Gon’s chest as his Master’s arms cradled him to his large body.

As he fell asleep, Qui-Gon thought he felt Obi-Wan bring his hand to his lips, soft kisses falling on the small cuts, the last drops of blood licked away by a warm tongue.

*******

Qui-Gon was gone when Obi-Wan awoke in the morning. They had been lovers for only weeks, but Obi-Wan had already grown accustomed to the comforting heat of Qui-Gon’s body, waking when the disappearance of its presence registered in his dreams. After a brief shower, he dressed in clean clothes and sought his Master, eager to finish their conversation.

Obi-Wan located him in the ship’s dining area, but his wish was frustrated when he saw Fra-Zon and Sei-Lona eating breakfast. He gave Qui-Gon a brief kiss to say good morning, ignoring the rapidly disguised displeasure in Fra-Zon’s eyes. Qui-Gon was sipping a cup of tea, an action that Obi-Wan realized was more out of stubborn pretense than any real need for food. Obi-Wan served himself from the buffet before sitting at the table with them.

Sei-Lona was telling stories as she delicately nibbled, amusingly fond remembrances of Qui-Gon’s father and Fra-Zon’s childhood, seemingly believing she could reunite her family and make up for the lost years by bringing the past to life for Qui-Gon. Obi-Wan had seen the pattern develop during their time in space. Qui-Gon would be polite and attentive to his mother. Obi-Wan was convinced that Qui-Gon did enjoy hearing her tales and a part of him missed never having a family life. But ultimately, he would subtly turn the conversation, raising questions about not just the childhood he might have had, but the history of his family and their connection to the demons of Valon.

The comm unit discreetly pinged and Fra-Zon reached over to the unit to accept the signal. The pilot impassively noted, “We are receiving a communications for Madame Jinn.”

“Very well, patch it through.”

The face of an elderly man appeared, his hair silvery white, his body slightly stooped with age but radiating the calm power of someone accustomed to authority. Obi-Wan recognized the man’s unconscious awareness that his words would be heeded. Qui-Gon and Fra-Zon both shared that confidence, a sense of assured dignity that Obi-Wan was learning to project during diplomatic negotiations.

“Sei-Lona, after all these years…it is so good to see you.”

“And to see you again, Father.” Unable to respond with a hug, Sei-Lona clasped her hands in front of her. “You received my message?”

“Yes.” Sei-Lona's message must have been comprehensive, as he asked no questions. The confidence wavered for a second, a slip that only a trained negotiator would catch. Obi-Wan wondered if Qui-Gon saw it. “I don’t understand what has happened but bring them to me. Bring my grandsons to me and I will try to help.”

The eyes, of course, Obi-Wan realized distantly. All their eyes were the same brilliant blue. He could see only a trace of the grandfather and the mother in the sons. The shape of the eyes and the eyelashes. Sei-Lona's husband, their father, dominated in the genetic arena, bequeathing his sons their height, sheer physical size, the strong nose and tilted smile.

"Yes, Father. We will come to Valon."

"Then we shall meet again soon. Contact me when you arrive." His words were brief, as if acknowledging that long-distance communication could little help to resolve this dilemma. He reached out with one hand, his image disappearing from the screen.

"Why can he help?" The tone in Fra-Zon's voice was edgier than Obi-Wan had previously heard him use toward his mother. "You said he worked for the government."

"Please, Fra-Zon, understand."

"Understand what?"

"He did work for the government. For the Council of Ministers. He was in charge of the Ministry of Science and Technology."

"And oh, let me guess. A premiere expert in genetic research, exploring the demon problems."

Her eyes darted away from Fra-Zon's, and sought Qui-Gon's. At the neutral blankness she found, her eyes shifted back to Fra-Zon. "Yes."

"All these years…why didn't you tell me?"

"For the same reason that I waited so long to tell you of the demons." Her hands rested on his arm, adding a physical plea to her words. "I hoped you were safe. I hoped it didn't matter."

"And when I appeared, Mother? Why didn't you tell me?" Qui-Gon's voice lacked Fra-Zon's wounded sensibility.

"Everything happened so fast. And I…"

Qui-Gon rested his hands on top of his mother's, their size dwarfing hers. "You were scared, scared that he might know more than he should."

"No!" she protested. "I never thought that Father might have been involved. He was trying to eliminate demons, not create them. I was scared… that I was responsible. It was well-known, his personal interest in discovering the secret of the demons. He was an important person, all those years ago. When I fled, who I fled with…many would have known…"

Fra-Zon jerked his arm out from under their hands. "And when I went to Valon, proclaiming my heritage, I was an easy target for whoever's been researching genetics, wasn't I? A gift from the gods, a half-Valona for scientific testing. Hiding things might be the Valona way, Mother, but it isn't mine. You should have warned us a long time ago."

Sei-Lona merely flinched at the accusation, unable to deny that walking away from the past hadn't created a perfect present and future. The past and all its troubles remained, a festering wound waiting to be resurrected. She bowed her head as Fra-Zon stalked out.

Tentatively, Qui-Gon slid his arms around his mother's frail form. She went gratefully into the embrace, her head resting on his shoulder. For only the fourth time in his adult life, Qui-Gon hugged his mother.

"This isn't your fault, Mother. This isn't your fault. You did your best for your children. This isn't your fault," he murmured, stroking her hair, as she trembled with fear and regret.

Obi-Wan twitched nervously, feeling like an interloper invading their privacy, but not wanting to disturb the tableau. Qui-Gon's eyes met his over the top of Sei-Lona's head. "We'll go to Valon, Mother. Grandfather will help and everything will be fine."

"Master, Coruscant would be better for the soul-bond." Obi-Wan muted his voice, not wishing to sound argumentative, but needing to protest the change in plans. "Together we would be stronger to face whatever might happen on Valon."

Qui-Gon's hand left Sei-Lona's hair to hold Obi-Wan's across the table, their fingers interlacing. Sei-Lona's face stayed buried in his chest. "But if he can cure me, you wouldn't have to sacrifice yourself."

"It's not a sacrifice, Master. I would have asked you to bond with me after my Knighting."

"If all goes well, you still can. And I can accept, as a person worthy to share your life."

Dazed, Obi-Wan shook his head. Could Qui-Gon truly believe this old man, this veritable stranger, could help, or was he desperately grasping at any possibility so he could avoid taking further advantage of his Padawan? Even if Qui-Gon was cured, they couldn't resume their prior relationship. Having tasted Qui-Gon's passion, Obi-Wan would starve if relegated to his proper student role for the years until his Trials. Obi-Wan had faced that truth, even if Qui-Gon hid from the knowledge.

Whatever Qui-Gon's beliefs, the determination in his eyes was plain. They would risk Valon before Qui-Gon would allow the formation of a soul-bond. Though he despaired, Obi-Wan had no choice but to accept.

"Yes, Master. I will ask the pilot to make the course change." And probably bear the responsibility of persuading Fra-Zon too, when the pilot checked with the ship's owner for approval. He freed his hand and rose, as Qui-Gon gave a gentle smile in appreciation.

It was the morning for unhappy exits, Obi-Wan thought as he walked out of the dining area, leaving behind Sei-Lona and his Master. It felt wrong, to walk away from Qui-Gon, even if only temporarily. But whatever happened on Valon, Obi-Wan knew his Master would need him. And when he did, Obi-Wan would be there, be at Qui-Gon's side, supporting him, protecting him, loving him.

~ The End ~