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Gift Beyond Price

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Naboo was to blame, of course. And Qui-Gon should have realized that sooner because somehow, everything circled back to those days, hours, seconds, on Naboo.

But that nearly dying in that cold reactor room beneath the palace would lead here? To the back corner of Dex’s diner, drinking caff at first hour in the morning in “civilian” disguise, in the company of Anakin and Padmé Naberri?

And at last, after three long years of only fuzzy commcalls and five-minute layover meetings – Obi-Wan.

Here in the flesh, and Qui-Gon was aware of his former padawan in a way he’d never been before – /no, be honest, Jinn. Never allowed yourself to be./

From the moment Obi-Wan had appeared at that ridiculous party, Qui-Gon couldn’t stop watching him. The bright copper hair was shoulder-length now and the face more handsome, if that were possible, and while Obi-Wan had not gained noticeable height or weight, his body-presence felt settled, in the way of a being who has grown fully into their skin and themselves.

Those factors would have been bad enough. But feeling Obi-Wan’s much-missed Force-presence again – oh that was bliss. The sense of him had run – was still running – over Qui-Gon’s skin like tiny warm fingers, tickling, teasing. Arousing. Qui-Gon had been half-hard most of the night, and at his age.

Now, listening to his old padawan regale Anakin and Padmé with tales of the galaxy, that wonderful, cultured voice curling in Qui-Gon’s ears and the man himself sitting close enough to smell, only several decades of Mastery was keeping Qui-Gon’s facade of serenity intact. Something was going to break, and soon.

Qui-Gon had a sneaking hunch that it might be him.

“But how did you get that solved? Convince them?” Anakin asked, sliding an elbow across the table, and Qui-Gon had pity on him and rescued his cup. The boy was still wide-awake despite the long day and the late hour, still running on the thrill and honor of being allowed to escort the former Queen Amidala, and soaking up every word Obi-Wan had to say.

Every word on everything – the topic didn't matter. It was as neat a case of hero-worship as Qui-Gon had ever seen. Some-when during that painful, hazy period between not dying and actual consciousness staying with Qui-Gon for the longer haul, Obi-Wan and Anakin had become friends.

What happened?”

Mace eyed him with that expression of weary but vast amusement that Qui-Gon saw rarely these days, and only ever in private. “Your Code-adhering padawan outmaneuvered us, that's what happened, and as nicely done of a job as I've seen. He'll be the best negotiator we've had in years, Qui. He couldn't possibly have gotten that from you.”

Qui-Gon gave him a look. “Very funny, Mace.”

Mace just snorted. “He asked to speak privately with Yoda. When they came back out, Obi-Wan’s braid had been cut.”

He – what?”

Ohh, yes. Of course we were going to knight him, he’d killed a Sith, for Force sake, but it’s the principle of the thing.

Then the new Knight bows to the Council, thanks us for taking young Skywalker as an Initiate, marches back to your bedside and refuses to be budged. And tells us that he'll accept a mission when the Force directs him to, and not before.” Mace leaned back in the visitor's chair and crossed his arms over his chest. “About the only times he moved were to eat and spend time with Skywalker. And maybe sleep, occasionally. He is every inch your Padawan, Master Jinn.”

Force help him, but Qui-Gon had never been so proud before in his life.

The real revelation, though, had come in a conversation with Anakin, after Obi-Wan had left the Temple.

Obi-Wan said I should keep you company when I'm not in classes and stuff,” Anakin said, clambering up to plop himself on the side of the bed. His outer tunic sported a dark streak that Qui-Gon suspected was mechanical grease. “He said it was important.”

Qui-Gon also suspected that he was going to hear the phrase “Obi-Wan said” rather a lot. “Important, is it? How so?”

Anakin shrugged. “Somethin' he saw, I think. Like he saw my mom – ”

Obi-Wan had had visions about Shmi Skywalker?

“ – but it’s okay, Obi-Wan took care of everything and Mom’s safe on Naboo – ”

Wait, Obi-Wan had encouraged Anakin’s attachment?

“ – and I can con-, con-, I can just think about Jedi stuff now.”

And like a hard blow to the head, there it was: shouting out – fairly screaming – the truth that Qui-Gon realized he himself had been too blind – too obsessed – to see.

Jedi children were cautioned from the creche upward to beware of attachment. But Anakin was the furthest thing from a normal Jedi child.

/Oh, Obi-Wan. I was in no way exaggerating when I said you were a far wiser man than I./

The worry about his mother gone, Anakin had quickly become far happier of an Initiate than Qui-Gon had frankly expected, soaking up the ways of the Jedi like water on dry sand and with much less difficulty than Qui-Gon had feared, given the boy's traumatic background.

Several Council members were still irritated about that, amusing Qui-Gon no end.

Now, sitting with Obi-Wan next to him and the former Queen Amidala – right now just the young woman Padmé – across from him, Anakin was clearly having the time of his twelve-year-old life.

Obi-Wan opened his mouth again and stopped, and a faint hint of color touched his cheekbones, to Qui-Gon's bemusement. Coupled with his non-Order clothing – what Obi-Wan had dryly called his “'hide among the masses' togs” which were actually in alarmingly flattering shades of blue – the effect was disturbingly attractive.

More than disturbing, in fact: Qui-Gon's body reacted – again, still – like it hadn't since his own early twenties, prickling with energy and arousal. The boy he'd trained had grown into a man so stunning Qui-Gon almost didn't recognize him.

“I'm … not actually sure I should tell you that, Anakin,” Obi-Wan said slowly.

“Obi-Wan!” Anakin protested. “You can't stop now!”

“Really, Ser Kenobi, that's not at all fair,” Padmé added, with a smile and some teasing stress on the honorific, at ease in the anonymity of a Naboo Guards uniform. “You should finish what you've started.”

~Master? Help?~ Obi-Wan's eyes sought Qui-Gon's in appeal, and Qui-Gon was hard-pressed to hold back his smile.

~A box trap of your own making, Padawan,~ he sent, amused, and privately delighted yet again by the fact that his tradition-loving former student still refused to unravel their training bond. ~Your guard is down.~

~Well, I know that. I admit my idiocy. Can I blame it on being finally home?~

Home. On Coruscant and in-Temple. Rotated in for a rest period and some light teaching duties. Home while Qui-Gon was as well, for this time. Home, where Qui-Gon could be quietly proud and a bit amazed at this superb knight he'd had some little hand in shaping.

He had fought his own awareness of Obi-Wan for years. He would not – would not, in the name of the Force and everything he believed in – countenance the slightest whisper of sexual influence on his padawan, regardless of the padawan's own feelings about it. When Obi-Wan had left, Qui-Gon had still been able – just – to see him as only that padawan.

But the child had morphed entirely into the tested, proven Knight, and the last of Qui-Gon's defenses had crumbled without trace. There'd been no choice but to fall, helplessly and hard, for the Light-filled, beautiful man his apprentice had become.

~Qui-Gon?~ The query touched with concern.

He'd been silent too long. Qui-Gon blinked. ~You may blame it on whatever you wish. It won't get you out of the trap, though.~ And who was he talking about here – Obi-Wan or himself?

~Thank you ever so much,~ Obi-Wan sent back, droll and resigned.

*

The aircab ride back to the Temple, pressed thigh to thigh with Obi-Wan in the small space also occupied by a still-chattering Anakin and a sharp-eyed Padmé, was possibly the most exquisitely refined torture Qui-Gon had ever endured.

Padmé was shown to the room reserved earlier for her, one of those kept available for non-Jedi guests, and a suddenly-sleepy Anakin was seen off to the Initiate wing. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan turned together for the other residential towers, but when Obi-Wan would have turned again, Qui-Gon touched his arm. “Aren't you coming home?”

Something flashed across Obi-Wan's face. “I've – been assigned rooms, finally, I'm told, or room, anyway … ”

/Ohh no you don't. Not when we're finally this close./ “Assigned but not confirmed, yes. I am aware, but your things have not been moved. So you'll come home – unless you wish your privacy now?” /Please say no …/

“No, no, I'd rather have your company actually, but you – ”

“That's settled, then. Come, we can argue about it in the morning, if you like.”

“It's already morning.” But that was definitely relief on Obi-Wan's face this time.

The lift that arrived for them was empty, a rarity as the Temple never completely slept any more than Coruscant itself did. It was the first time they'd been alone all night and Qui-Gon gripped his own elbows, hidden in his sleeves, lest he grip something else. /Not yet. Not yet./

“Why, may I ask, have my things not been moved?” Obi-Wan's voice broke the silence.

“Because you did not request it, and neither did I.” Qui-Gon met his former padawan's gaze and held it. Followed the whisper of the Force and let some small fraction of his feelings loose into the bond, at long long last.

And watched Obi-Wan's eyes widen. And brighten, and his lips part. And the wash of feeling returned to Qui-Gon was, was –

The corridor between the lift and his, their, quarters had never been so long.

The moment the door slid closed and locked behind them, Qui-Gon rounded on him. “You planned this.”

“Me?” Copper-blond eyebrows rose, but Obi-Wan offered no resistance as Qui-Gon walked him back against the wall. On the contrary. “It's you who's been watching me all evening, Master mine.”

“Which. You. Planned.” Hands braced on the wall on either side of Obi-Wan's shoulders, Qui-Gon leaned close, his body singing with anticipation, with need.

Obi-Wan shook his head. “Hoped,” he said softly. “Until a few minutes ago, I had almost nothing but hopes and dreams. You've hidden from me all these years.” A wry smile, touched with mischief. “A clue anywhere along the way would have been nice, you know.”

“You were my padawan,” Qui-Gon growled.

“And I was quite painfully aware of that,” Obi-Wan said, low and vibrant, all teasing vanished. His hands slipped around Qui-Gon's waist and the touch seared, right through four layers of cloth. “But I haven't been for three years now, and that's more than long enough.”

Obi-Wan's head tilted up and his shields came down, completely, and the surge of joy and desire and longing hit Qui-Gon like a punch to the chest. “Kiss me, Qui-Gon.”

Qui-Gon kissed him, tasting that lush mouth at last. Warm and half-sweet, half-bitter with too much caff and too little sleep, and entirely Obi-Wan.

It ripped a groan from him, that taste, and he pressed closer and Obi-Wan's hands were in his hair, pulling him closer still, mouth open like he'd eat Qui-Gon alive if given the ghost of a chance.

Arousal roared through, the blind ravenous need to rip every stitch of clothing off Obi-Wan's body and claim every last inch of that wonderful skin. Qui-Gon caught it, fought it. Throttled it back but only just, shuddering with the effort to master it, master himself.

He pulled away from Obi-Wan's mouth despite the other man's grunt of protest, and pressed their foreheads together, panting; they both were. All he smelled was lust and Obi-Wan, which did nothing good for his control.

“Force,” Obi-Wan said, breathless, wrecked. “You didn't have to stop.”

Qui-Gon swallowed. “Unless you want our first time to be right here against this wall, yes I did.”

“Oh. That's – ” The fingers still tangled in Qui-Gon's hair pulled until Qui-Gon could focus on Obi-Wan's eyes, dark with passion and glee. “That's – not actually a reason to stop.”

“Bed,” Qui-Gon managed. “Soft sheets. Where I can take my time and make you moan.”

Obi-Wan swallowed this time, Qui-Gon heard it, and then his former padawan smiled like a man pursued who had finally gotten his pursuer exactly where he wanted him. “Okay, yes, that's a reason.”

Maybe later Qui-Gon would recall how they actually got to his bedchamber but now it only mattered that they were there and mostly naked, a final yank ridding Qui-Gon of boots and pants in one go before Obi-Wan shoved him onto the bed and followed him down. The full shock of skin on skin, cock against cock, ripped another groan from him and he arched, rubbing, twisting; locked his arms around Obi-Wan and heaved them over.

Obi-Wan laughed up at him, open-mouthed and beckoning, then stopped laughing as Qui-Gon kissed him hard, tongue fucking into that mouth like he wanted to fuck into Obi-Wan's body. Obi-Wan's fingers bruised his shoulders and scraped down his back, hot spiky pleasure blooming, before they reached his arse and dug in, teasing at the cleft.

Qui-Gon shuddered and tore their mouths apart, and bit into Obi-Wan's shoulder, marking him, reveling in Obi-Wan's moaning gasp, in the hungry need shivering through Obi-Wan and the Force and stabbing deep into Qui-Gon’s belly. Qui-Gon shoved his hips down, meeting Obi-Wan's answering thrust, and Obi-Wan crooked his legs behind Qui-Gon’s knees, locking them together.

Yes,” Obi-Wan snarled, and the last of Qui-Gon's restraint snapped.

Lost, drowning in Obi-Wan's skin, in Obi-Wan's need and his own, in love and lust and the thick musky smell of them together. Hunting rhythm, losing it, finding it as they rubbed together, nothing but cocks and hands and mouths, desperate and graceless and so, so good, until Obi-Wan heaved them over again with a surge of Force and then it was perfect, hips' motion in tandem like a flawless kata, a dance, the ultimate spar, the Force singing, raw power crackling around and through them –

Too intense, too much. Obi-Wan cried out and froze, hands clenching painfully in Qui-Gon's hair, jerked spasmodically and froze again, and the shattering pleasure roaring through the Force took Qui-Gon over with him, blind and breathless.

Reality crept back slowly, in the guise of Obi-Wan's not-inconsiderable weight sprawled across Qui-Gon's chest, and a warm mouth and tongue moving in tiny kiss-licks along his neck, just below his beard. Utterly content, Qui-Gon sighed and tilted his head, encouraging.

~Qui-Gon?~

Hmm, no, not yet …

The mouth paused, and that wasn't what he wanted at all.

“Qui-Gon.”

Reluctantly, Qui-Gon opened his eyes.

“Hello there,” Obi-Wan said softly, taking his weight on his elbows now, fingers caressing Qui-Gon's scalp. “So. Safe to assume that you enjoyed that?” The deep emotion thrumming through the Force belied the flippancy of the words.

The man was a glorious mess and Qui-Gon drank him in, the tangled hair and sated eyes, swollen lips. And the bite mark on his left shoulder in the shape of a human's mouth, dark and livid.

Contentment shattered in an instant.

“Qui-Gon? What is it?”

Appalled, Qui-Gon freed a hand and feathered fingertips over the ugly contusion, urging a tiny drift of Force there, to begin healing.

Obi-Wan sucked in a breath and peered down at himself. “Huh. Never even felt that.”

“I'm sorry. I – lost control,” Qui-Gon admitted, unable to stop looking at the heavy, accusing bruise. That he could have done such a thing – “I – ”

“ – Hey.” A finger tapped against his cheekbone. “It's rude to try and take back a gift, you know.”

Qui-Gon blinked, derailed, and fell into Obi-Wan's gaze, bright and serene, still blue-gray waters he could drown in.

“A gift,” Obi-Wan repeated, soft and utterly serious. “That you trust me that much, to lose control and know that I'll catch you, that you're safe with me. That you … ”

There was no finishing that. They were Jedi, and a thousand years of Code said they could not.

Qui-Gon reached up and brushed Obi-Wan's face with two fingertips, ignoring the way they trembled; wound them into hair where once there had been a padawan braid, and pulled Obi-Wan down and kissed him.

*