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Caffeinated Consciousness

Chapter Text

 Find A Way

 

 

 

Chapter Track: "I Don't Want To Talk About It" - Rod Stewart





Two weeks after Qui-Gon's accident, Sören and Dooku were over his house. A schedule had been worked out where every three to four days, Dooku or Sören and Mark would come over to check on him, bring him food and prepare a few days' worth of meals that could be easily heated in the microwave, and do some household chores including tend the garden and clean the catbox. Today, on August twentieth, Dooku had brought Sören along, and they were cooking together in the kitchen. Qui-Gon reclined on the couch watching TV as they worked, as he couldn't quite sit at the table yet, but it was well enough because he didn't really feel like watching them banter. Even though Dooku and Sören weren't technically an item, the chemistry between them made Qui-Gon miss Obi all over again.

And then, when food was in the oven, Dooku and Sören came out with tea. Dooku poured Qui-Gon a cup and gingerly handed it to him; Qui-Gon mumbled his thanks.

"As you know, the semester starts in a few days," Dooku said.

Qui-Gon nodded. "I'm not medically cleared to drive, but I can go to work if I take it easy. I feel bad asking you for more favors, but I'll need a ride to campus and back since it's less strenuous than taking public transit and having to walk..."

Dooku nodded. "That's why I brought it up, Qui-Gon. I can take you until you're able to drive again."

"Ugh." Qui-Gon made a face, thinking about his totaled van. "I'm going to have to buy a new vehicle... I'll need a ride to a car dealership too."

"You let us know," Sören said. "Although..." He and Dooku looked at each other. "I'm wondering if you're even going to be allowed to drive, legally, once you're medically cleared for it."

"Well, I mean." Qui-Gon frowned. "They didn't arrest me at the hospital -"

"They'd need bloodwork with your alcohol level, and if you had any bloodwork done the lab results can take a few weeks to get back. Former med student here. So just because you haven't been arrested for DUI doesn't mean you won't be." Sören made a "tsk" noise.

"Shit." Qui-Gon sighed. "I really hope that doesn't happen -"

"I do," Dooku said sharply. "And you know how I feel about the police in this country. But yes, Qui-Gon, actions have consequences. Healing broken ribs, buying a new vehicle, that's easy. An arrest record is a bit harder to escape -"

"Oh here we go again," Qui-Gon groaned. "It's been two weeks, Teach -"

"I don't care if it's been two years." Dooku glared. "You. Could. Have. Died. You. Could. Have. Killed. Someone. Your wife was killed by a drunk driver, and you celebrated her birthday by drunk driving. Two weeks after the fact I'm still baffled, even shocked, by what the hell you were thinking - or rather, that you weren't thinking at all."

"No, I wasn't thinking, you were absolutely right. I was so blinded by grief that I could only feel, without that balance of logic. Which isn't an excuse. I fucked up, and I feel bad..."

"Not bad enough." Dooku put his tea down, leaned back in the chair, and folded his arms. "What you did was, quite frankly, suicidal. And telling me that what you did was done in a haze of grief doesn't convince me that it's not. I know that almost six years after losing Tahl, it still hurts. I know that you're still hurting over Obi. But there's other people in this world who care about you and would be absolutely devastated if something happened to you. And when I say 'other people', I mean me."

"Me too," Sören said softly. Dooku and Sören looked at each other, and Dooku patted his knee; Sören rubbed Dooku's knee in return. Their gaze held for a moment before they looked back at Qui-Gon, faces stern.

Qui-Gon felt himself getting choked up. Wanting to hide, burning with the shame of what he'd done... and also feeling like he didn't deserve their caring. "I..." Qui-Gon blinked back tears.

"Qui-Gon." Dooku's own eyes were too bright. "As you know, we are only ten years apart in age, but since I met you as one of my students decades ago, I've felt paternal towards you. You are..." He took a deep breath. "The closest thing I've ever had, or ever will have, to a son. I think of you as my son, and..." His voice trailed off, his jaw quivering. Sören took his hand and made soothing noises.

Qui-Gon let out a sob, then. Things with his own blood family had been strained since his older brother took his own life. He and Dooku had been quite close before Tahl died, and one of the nice things about the last few months was falling back into friendship with him again, after drifting apart in his grief and self-imposed isolation. He'd missed Dooku, lectures and all, and here and now the truth was lay bare: Dooku was, as his old mentor, the father figure he'd never had. The disappointment and disapproval from Dooku over his recent fuckup hurt worse than judgment from anyone else because of that. And yet, finally hearing this be acknowledged, even if it took the fuckup to lay it out, gave him a sense of relief and gratitude even as he continued to twinge with shame and guilt.

"I don't entirely know what I believe these days about the metaphysical," Dooku said, his voice shaking, "but I can't shake the feeling that you were my son, my blood, in a past life, somehow, and that we found our way back to each other... and if that is the case, nobody is allowed to take you away from me. That also means you, yourself."

That felt intuitively right to Qui-Gon. He didn't entirely know what he believed either, though Mark's existence was proof there was more to reality than what most people thought... and at the mention of past lives, he thought about the conversation he'd had with Sören where Sören had mentioned he was an Elf in a past life and he and Mark had been together back then. Something about Dooku bringing up a possible/probable past life, and Sören and Mark's acknowledgment that Sören had been Mark's lover a long time ago, felt strangely connected - gears were turning in the back of Qui-Gon's head. But he was too emotional to poke at it much beyond that, right now. Maybe later.

"I don't know what you want me to say," Qui-Gon said. "I've said I'm sorry countless times now... considering this isn't the first time you've lectured me since the accident." Not even the fourth or fifth. "Though it's the first time you've mentioned why you feel so strongly."

Dooku picked up his mug of tea. "I'm not very good with feelings, Qui-Gon."

Qui-Gon snorted and sipped his tea, giving Sören a pointed look. No shit.

Then Sören said, "Hi Not Very Good With Feelings -"

"Sören." Dooku gave him a murderous look. "That was uncalled for -"

"On the contrary, we needed a moment of levity right about now." Sören patted him, grinning. "Though, seeing you in dad mode, I don't know. It's kind of cute." Sören bit his lower lip and crinkled his nose, looking down.

Dooku's face flushed.

Oh, will the two of you JUST FUCK ALREADY. If Qui-Gon's ribs weren't still recovering, he would have flung a pillow at them. Now it was his turn to glare, raising his eyebrows at Dooku as if to ask when are you going to tell him with his mind.

Dooku narrowed his eyes back at Qui-Gon as if to say don't start that again and sipped his tea.

"I can promise you that I won't do it again," Qui-Gon said finally. "I'm likely not out of the woods yet emotionally..." He sighed, thinking of Obi, wherever he was. Hoping Obi was OK. "But I won't do anything that stupid again."

"You had better not."

Then Fernando trotted out with a chirp. He came over to Sören, who was usually the cat's favorite guest, but after taking a sniff at Sören's outstretched hands he walked away with his nose in the air and came over to Qui-Gon.

"Huh, that was interesting. Usually he likes you," Qui-Gon said, gently stroking the cat as the cat got beside him on the couch.

"He probably smells my kitty." Sören sipped his tea.

"Oh... you and Mark finally got a cat together?"

Sören nodded. "We adopted a ginger tabby kitten to be friends with Snúdur. You should come see him!"

Qui-Gon loved cats, and just the idea of a kitten made him melt. But he was still feeling sad and not much for socializing - just the rotating visits from Dooku, Sören and Mark every few days to help him around the house had been almost too much. "In a few weeks perhaps -"

"No. Soon. A few days. Kittens grow fast, he won't be this tiny forever, and you really need to see this tiny, cute ginger kitten we took home." Sören gave him a look. "Besides, I don't think it's good for you to be all..." He made a vague hand gesture. "Alone and shit."

"Indeed." Dooku's lips quirked. "The kitten is worth visiting."

"So whaddya say?" Sören pulled out his cell phone and hit a few buttons; Qui-Gon saw from across the room he had the calendar open. "It's Monday, you want to come over for dinner on Thursday night? See the baby? I'll come pick you up."

Qui-Gon sighed. "If you insist."

"I do." Sören looked at Dooku. "You want to come over then..."

Dooku shook his head. "I don't want to overwhelm the small creature with too many people around at once." His lips quirked again as he sipped his tea, and Sören restrained a grin. Qui-Gon wondered what that was about, if they had some private in-joke. "I can visit another evening, though, perhaps, thank you."

"Jæja, you better."

"I must admit I was a bit worried I'd see less of you after the wedding. It's been nice to continue to be included in your life, such as agreeing to come along with me today," Dooku said.

"You're my best friend. I wouldn't just abandon you, Nico." Sören squeezed Dooku's knee; Dooku rested his hand on Sören's again and their eyes met, another one of those too-long glances before Sören bit his lower lip and looked away.

Oh for fuck's sake, you fucking idiots. Qui-Gon cleared his throat loudly and when Dooku's brow furrowed, murder in his eyes again, Qui-Gon said, "Sorry, wrong pipe," before taking another sip of his tea, glaring back at Dooku over his mug.


_


On Thursday evening, Sören picked up Qui-Gon. It was Qui-Gon's first trip in a vehicle since coming back from the hospital, and though Sören drove slowly and cautiously, they hit a few bumps and potholes that made Qui-Gon cry out, and Sören apologized profusely.

Qui-Gon had been in the vicinity of Mark's house before, as it was near a park with a pond that Qui-Gon liked visiting, but this was his first time actually visiting the house itself.

Mark Lowry lived in a one-story two-bedroom house on a quiet tree-lined street. There was a small garage on the house, which had light grey siding, a darker grey roof, and reddish brick corners, with large paneled glass windows. The house was ringed by well-maintained shrubbery. The door was wood, with an oval glass floral design in the center. At the door was a welcome mat that said COME BACK WITH A WARRANT. Qui-Gon chuckled at it.

"We're a shoeless house," Sören said, kicking off his Doc Martens at the door. Qui-Gon also removed his footwear.

He heard Huan bark, and then Mark opened the door before Sören could get out his keys. He took Sören into his arms and gave him a quick kiss, then gave Qui-Gon a curt nod - Mark still hadn't forgiven him yet for driving drunk. But he also was letting Qui-Gon into his home, so that was something. "Come in," Mark said.

Qui-Gon would have stooped to pet Huan - and Snúdur, who had come out for pettings - if he wasn't still recovering from broken ribs. Huan trotted ahead of them, excitedly barking and wagging his tail. Qui-Gon took a moment to admire the inside of Mark's house, which had an open plan living room, kitchen and dining area. There was a brick fireplace in the living room, which was done in neutral black and white, with splashes of color from a few of Sören's paintings - and some more unusual decor. Qui-Gon grinned at the framed KISS albums, the KISS poster, and an electric guitar that was actually hanging on the wall. It looked familiar but he couldn't place it. Mark saw him noticing it and said, "Ah, that's a replica of George Lynch's guitar from Dokken's 'In My Dreams' video." He gave a sheepish little laugh.

Mark's war harp was in a part of the living room near a workspace with Sören's art supplies and his latest work in progress on an easel. Nearby there was a large shelf unit filled with vinyl records, and a record player with an elaborate sound system. Near that was Mark's other musical equipment, and another shelf with various rock paraphernalia - Qui-Gon grinned again at the KISS action figures. The surreality that this was Maglor, the ancient Elf written of by Tolkien, with a collection of KISS action figures made Qui-Gon laugh a little until his ribs started to hurt. Sören gently steered him towards the black couch. "Sit," Sören said.

"Can I get you anything?" Mark asked.

"Water's fine," Qui-Gon said. "Where's the kitty?"

It was that moment when Obi walked out. Qui-Gon's jaw dropped.

"H-hello, Qui." Obi shifted his weight from one foot to the other. Looking more delectable than he had any right to in jeans and a light blue T-shirt.

"Obi. What... what are you doing here."

"I'm staying with Mark and Sören for awhile."

Sören nodded. "After we found out he was staying with Anakin, Mark went ballistic, we went to the coffee shop next time Obi was on and Mark insisted he take the other bedroom for a bit."

Mark came back with water for Qui-Gon, and ginger ale for Sören and Obi.

Qui-Gon remembered the little smirk Dooku had at Sören's reference to the "ginger kitten we adopted", and Sören's own grin, like they had been expressing amusement at a private joke. "You tricked me," Qui-Gon said, glaring daggers at Sören.

Then he heard a tiny "mew", and looked down and saw there was in fact a small orange tabby kitten walking towards him.

"No, not really," Sören said. "We do actually have a ginger kitten now, as you can see. It was just a funny double meaning."

"So, what's his name?" Qui-Gon said, melting at the kitten who hopped up on the ottoman for pettings.

"Piparkökur." Sören smiled. "We call him Pip for short." Sören cackled. "Mark didn't want me calling him Kök or Kaka for short."

Qui-Gon spat his water. His ribs were hurting again from laughter, and Obi laughed too. Then Sören gestured for Obi to sit; Obi took one of the armchairs, near Qui-Gon but not sitting on the couch next to him. Mark took one of the other armchairs and Sören sat on Mark's lap, with Mark putting his arms around Sören.

"Dinner will be about ninety minutes roughly," Mark said.

"Ooh, what is it?" Qui-Gon asked.

"It's a lasagna." Mark looked at Obi. "He asked me to make it since Garfield was coming over."

"That's a name I haven't heard in a long time," Qui-Gon said, looking at Obi over his water. Not since the beginning of their relationship. Qui-Gon didn't know whether to laugh or cry, or both.

"I told them about that," Obi said. "I still can't believe you called me Odie when we first met."

Sören snickered. "That's bloody awful."

"Yeah. What can I say? I got a bit flustered and tongue-tied in the presence of such beauty." Qui-Gon gave a small, wistful smile before he took a sip of his water.

Obi sighed, and Qui-Gon sighed too.

"Well... we have an hour and a half to burn, so if you want to watch something, I'm open to suggestions," Mark said.

"Oh! Can you put on Rattle and Hum?" Sören asked.

Sören got up from Mark's lap and waited while he put on the DVD of U2's Rattle and Hum, then Sören sat back down on Mark's lap. Huan lay at their feet and Pip purred away in Sören's arms, with Snúdur reclining on the arm of the chair getting pettings from both of them. Mark's sound system on the flat-screen TV was amazing, and Qui-Gon felt nostalgic for what had been one of his favorite bands in the 80s. He also felt old when Obi said in a hushed voice, "Wow, this was before I was born..."

Once again, that reminder of their age difference, and this time feeling a little prickle, wondering if Obi's rejection of his proposal had anything to do with that. The rejection came roaring back to his mind through the latter half of the concert documentary, and when it was over and time for dinner, Qui-Gon was glad to have an excuse to get up and go to the bathroom to wash his hands, needing to splash cold water on his face, trying not to break down crying.

On the way back from the bathroom Qui-Gon lingered. The bathroom was between the two bedrooms, across the hall from each other. One, which Qui-Gon assumed was the guest room, had light grey walls and the same neutral black-and-white decor as the living room, with a large window and hardwood floors, a few small plush rugs here and there. There was a futon against the wall and Qui-Gon recognized some of Obi's belongings - he didn't look too moved in, like he was indeed staying temporarily. The other bedroom had black walls, a king-sized bed with a gauzy black canopy curtain, black bedcovers. Ornate candelabra on the walls, fairy lights around the canopy curtain, candles and lanterns around the room, with mahogany William and Mary style furniture. Hardwood floors, red Oriental throw rugs. The room smelled faintly of incense, like it had been burned recently. There was a small stereo in the room as well, and a bookcase that had some old-looking books and a few interesting objects, pottery mostly, a stained glass box, and what looked like a crystal ball. All in all it was a very dramatic-looking room, the sort of room that felt like Mark and Sören. Qui-Gon grinned again when out of the corner of his eye he saw a heap of four stuffed animals - a unicorn, two bunnies, and an Eeyore doll - seated at a miniature tea set on one of the dressers.

He frowned when he thought of Smokey, who he'd been sleeping with at night since Obi gave it to him at the hospital. He felt like he was going to need to return the kitten doll at some point, probably sooner rather than later.

He realized, on his way down to the dining area, that he was looking at the bedrooms for a reason. Over the years since Tahl's death, Qui-Gon had visited the idea of moving out of his house more than once. He had resisted because he was attached to the house and the neighborhood it was in... the garden he kept. Yet, he felt haunted, even after he'd finally gotten around to removing most of Tahl's things from the house, and the feeling had intensified the last two weeks that he'd been homebound. Moving somewhere else in town still sat badly with him, but redecorating the house might be the change he needed.

He thought about that as he sat down to dinner, admiring the wooden finish of the kitchen. He wondered how much of a pain in the ass it would be to have a wall taken out to give him an open plan living, kitchen and dining area. Just the thought of repainting seemed like a herculean effort right now.

There was a garden salad to go with the lasagna - the lasagna was half-sausage, half-eggplant. There was also fresh bread; Mark broke bread and handed Qui-Gon a piece. Somehow that felt symbolic, when their eyes held.

"You're family," Mark said, confirming it was an important act for him. "Remember that."

"That means I get to do this to you." Sören dipped his straw into his ginger ale and spat ginger ale at Qui-Gon. Obi laughed, clapping.

"Behave," Mark said to Sören.

Sören blew ginger ale at him too, which resulted in Mark blowing ginger ale at Sören.

"Children," Qui-Gon said.

"Says the guy who, I don't know, drove drunk a couple weeks ago," Mark said.

"Et tu, Marcus? I've already gotten endless lectures from Dooku."

"You deserve it. Fucker."

Sören snorted, and Obi shook with silent laughter. The hilarity of an ancient Elf calling him "fucker" was not lost on Qui-Gon and he couldn't help laughing a little as well, shaking his head.

"Wow," Obi said with his mouth full. "This bread is really good. Is it lembas?"

Qui-Gon's eyebrows shot up, and he looked at Sören, then Mark. "Does he..."

"He knows, yeah." Mark sighed. "It's kind of hard to live with someone and keep that a secret, especially when I usually unglamour when I'm at home, force of habit." Then Mark took a deep breath and Qui-Gon watched as Mark's hair lengthened, and he glowed a little, silver eyes iridescent. Obi's jaw dropped, until bread fell out.

"I'm still not used to the transformation," Obi said.

"Anyway, it's not lembas," Mark said. "It's just regular bread. With a garlic spread."

"I can't believe it's not butter," Sören said.

Mark facepalmed - now it was his turn to laugh - and he put his bread down. "Jesus Christ, Sören, don't even with that right now." At the look Qui-Gon gave him, Mark explained, "Inside joke, background story is stuff you probably don't want to know about."

"We used butter as lube once," Sören said.

"Sören, I said they probably don't want to know -"

"Like they don't know we fuck."

Mark laughed harder. "You're incorrigible."

"Takk."

The dinner conversation wended its way towards school starting next week, and Obi was both nervous and excited about his first semester. Qui-Gon was relieved to know Obi was still planning on going through with attending college, though he supposed he shouldn't have been too surprised since Obi was staying with two professors and Mark and Sören would likely get on his case if he didn't. Obi was doing as much of his coursework online as possible, as part of the accommodations for the anxiety and overstimulation that came with being autistic spectrum. He would have to go to campus sometime for some things - notably when he had Sören's classes - but a lot could be handled over the Internet, which Obi was grateful for. He was still feeling intimidated enough that he was stimming more, just even talking about it, and Sören quietly got up and brought out Obi's fidget spinner. Anakin had taken the one Qui-Gon had gotten him; Sören and Mark got him a new one.

After dinner Obi offered to do the dishes, and Sören said, "No, I got this. You go... sit in the living room." He glanced at Qui-Gon and said, "You too."

Qui-Gon and Obi went into the living room area. Qui-Gon could see Mark and Sören at the sink - for a minute Qui-Gon wondered if Mark would come out to the living room but it became apparent that Mark was giving them their space, and it then became apparent that was the main purpose of being asked to dinner, it wasn't just simply so Qui-Gon could meet their new kitten, adorable that he was, playing with a jingle ball on the floor.

There was a long awkward silence and finally Qui-Gon broke the silence. "How have you been? Besides all of the worrying about school."

Obi shrugged. "OK, I guess. You?"

Qui-Gon sighed and looked down.

"Yeah." Obi nodded. "I figured."

"When do you want Smokey back?" Qui-Gon asked.

"You can keep him for awhile."

"Like how long is awhile."

Obi shrugged again. "Probably at least another month or so. When I move out of here into a studio, I don't want him to get lost or something in the running around..."

"Yeah." Qui-Gon sighed.

Then Mark did step into the living area, giving them a disapproving look. "Mkay, so the two of you... need to talk about some stuff." He folded his arms.

"I don't know what there is to talk about," Qui-Gon said. "Things have been over for a month -"

"Oh no." Mark shook his head. "If it was well and truly over, you wouldn't be here right now."

Qui-Gon bristled at that. "Well, I can't bloody drive right now, so yes, I am stuck here as a captive audience, and I wouldn't want to be rude asking to be driven back so soon after dinner. But what's done is done. I just have to accept it that Obi doesn't love me anymore -"

"You're wrong." Obi glared at him. "I still love you, Qui. You could have died a couple weeks ago -" And he let out a sob, and broke down crying.

Qui-Gon's stomach sank even as his heart soared. Tears came to his own eyes. He was relieved to hear the admission of love... and even more than knowing how much pain his bad decision had caused Dooku, knowing it hurt Obi too was like a knife.

"Do you know how much of a wreck I was after I saw you in the hospital? No, of course you don't. It's a good thing Mark and Sören came to get me that day at work because Anakin gave me so much shit about crying. I..."

"Well, if you still care, you have a funny way of showing it, considering you left without saying a word to me and then when I came to see you at work and ask how you were, you told me to go away." Tears quietly rolled down Qui-Gon's cheeks. Mark stepped back into the kitchen area. Qui-Gon couldn't help staring a little as Mark walked off, his hair at its true length all the way down to his thighs, still taken somewhat aback by the casual unglamouring.

"I left because I couldn't take seeing you in so much pain. Pain that I'd caused."

"I won't lie, Obi. It hurt that you said no to my proposal. But that wasn't a dealbreaker for our relationship. I could have lived with you saying no."

"See..." Obi took a deep breath. He tried to pull himself together. Mark quietly stepped in to hand Obi water and then stepped back out. "I didn't know that."

"Of course not, because you left without talking to me first." Qui-Gon felt the sting of it - almost angry.

"I left because I freaked out. Like I said, I felt like I fucked everything up by saying no, I couldn't deal with seeing you all... hurt. But no, I didn't know that saying no was all right, especially when you were getting reactive."

"I wouldn't say it was all right, per se, but we would have survived. Gotten past it."

"It's just." Obi sighed. "It's like I told you. Everything was moving really fast. I didn't know if you were wanting to get married soon -"

"Oh god. You mean you took the proposal literally? Like 'do you want to marry me right now'?"

"Sort of kind of? I knew it probably wouldn't be, like, immediately the next day or even next week, but not a lot of time passed between Sören and Mark's engagement and their wedding -"

"If I might?" Now Sören stepped in. "We're the exception, not the rule. A lot of people have engagements for months, sometimes longer than a year, before they get married. We wanted July twentieth, after the proposal happened, because it's a significant date for us."

Mark's arms came around Sören from behind. "The anniversary of our first time."

Sören looked up at Mark and Mark leaned in to steal a kiss. Mark squeezed him and went back to the kitchen. Sören lingered.

"And I mean, even if it was a few months out," Obi said, "we haven't been together all that long, and there was just so much happening. The shit with Anakin, the move..."

"Speaking as another non-neurotypical person," Sören said, which sounded funny and adorable in his accent, "we tend to be creatures of habit. We do better when we have a sort of routine, or at least when things are predictable. Big life changes are stressful for neurotypical people but they seem to be even harder for us, throwing everything out of whack."

"Yes," Obi said, nodding vehemently. "That's it, exactly."

"So something like getting married, which... just planning a ceremony, perhaps a honeymoon, never mind all the legal implications... that's a huge deal. A huge life change, and when you haven't been with someone that long..."

"Exactly. And..." Obi swallowed hard. "My parents got married young, shotgun wedding because my mom was pregnant, and they're divorced. They rushed into things and I worry about making the same mistake they made. And their divorce was such a pain in the ass with all the red tape and everything. I love you, Qui. I want to be with you. But I need, like... more time. At least a few more months before I can decide something like that. Can we just be for awhile?"

"We can." Qui-Gon felt another wave of tears coming on, relief, gratitude, as well as pain - Obi rarely spoke about his family, and Qui-Gon wondered now just how much of a sore subject this was, how much his parents' unhappiness and divorce had affected him. He guessed quite a lot.

"All right, good," Sören said. He called to the kitchen, "Hey Mark, I think they pulled their heads out of their arses..."

"Well, there is one more thing." Qui-Gon's eyes met Obi's for a moment. "I would ask you to come back home with me. I don't want you to think I'm asking you because I'm laid up and can't do much right now, it's because I miss you..."

"I understand," Obi said.

"Nico would still want to come by to help," Sören said. He grinned. "And lecture you."

Qui-Gon made a noise. "He's going to lecture me for the next decade, probably."

"It's cute you think it would just be a decade." Sören rolled his eyes.

Qui-Gon ugly laughed at that; it hurt. "You know him too well."

"As you know..."

The imitation of Dooku's accent and basso made Qui-Gon double over. "Ow, ow, fucking ow." Qui-Gon moaned in pain, wincing. Pip mewed with concern and came over, batting at Qui-Gon's pant leg.

"Awwwwwwww, kitty wants to help," Sören said.

"Fernando misses you," Qui-Gon said, looking at Obi again.

"I miss him too. And you. Even if you were a fucking asshole drinking and driving." Obi rolled his eyes. "You better never do that again."

"I swear to you, I won't."

"As far as moving back in... this weekend?"

"That's fine. That'll give you time to pack. Oh and... you probably already know this, but..."

"As you know," Sören muttered, making Qui-Gon laugh again.

"Stop that," Qui-Gon wheezed, twinging. The innocent face Sören gave him made it worse. When Qui-Gon calmed down he said, "I'm under doctor's orders to take it easy, which means..."

"I figured." Obi nodded.

"I also totaled the van so between not being medically cleared to drive, and not having a vehicle -"

"And probably getting your license suspended once your bloodwork gets back to the police," Sören said.

"Well, I've taken the bus before," Obi said. "I can walk."

"I feel bad," Qui-Gon said, "but..."

"Qui? Can I... can I hug you? I've been wanting to do that since you walked in but I've worried with your ribs..."

"Gently."

Obi came over and joined him on the couch, and hugged him gently. Then they shared a sweet, gentle, lingering kiss. Mark and Sören stood together, watching, and applauded when they pulled apart, breathing harder.

"There," Sören said. "Fucking finally."

"I..." Qui-Gon took a deep breath. He felt a little ashamed that he'd been annoyed when he'd first gotten there, feeling tricked into it. "Thank you for intervening, both of you."

"After thousands of years alive, my home is apparently the Dr. Phil show. This is my life now," Mark said, with a little eyeroll. "But, you know. Like I said, you're family."

"You guys will have to come for dinner, when I'm a bit more healed up."

"Jæja, we can start going on double dates again," Sören said.

Obi took Qui-Gon's hand and squeezed. Just that little bit of physical contact made Qui-Gon ache, wanting Obi for dessert. But it was enough, right now, just to be next to him. To be together again.