* * * * * * *
Everyone else had left.
The flames had died down, after burning steadily for hours.
Finally tiring of standing, Obi-Wan, newly made Jedi knight, sat on the bottom of the steps and rested his chin in both hands, staring into the curling wisps of smoke as they floated to the top of the pavilion to dissipate, taking the last of his Master's essence with them.
He had sent Anakin to bed earlier, surprised and relieved when the handmaiden Padme -which is who she was, when she wasn't the Queen - had come to get him, promising to see him cared for.
It was a necessary peace that he sought. Losing his Master so suddenly, so painfully, had thrown his world into a tailspin. He had been what and where he wanted to be, and now he was someone else and somewhere else in his life and he hadn't had time to lay the past to rest.
Not that it could be done so quickly, but he had to make a start.
A scuffle of leather on stone, and some one cleared his throat behind him.
Turning his head, he half-stood, not wanting to appear disrespectful to Qui-Gon, sitting so casually at his pyre.
At the top of the steps was the Queen's Captain of the Guards, his hands in front of him, holding something small and dark.
"I'm not sure what to call you." The man offered a half-smile. "You are a Jedi now, right?"
He answered, pain welling in him as he admitted it. He was a Jedi, and Qui-Gon had not been there when he received the honor that was as much his Master's achievement as his own.
"Just Obi-Wan will do." Standing all the way he took a couple of steps up to meet the man.
Hesitantly the Captain proffered the item he was carrying.
"Your Master left this with the Queen the night before we landed on Naboo. He requested a court favor; that it be given to you if he - died, and returned to him if he did not."
"Really?" Taken aback, Obi-Wan did not reach for what he held. A small box, perhaps six inches wide and eight long, several deep, it was carved from wood, darkened by years.
"The Queen was honored by the request. She knows how seldom a Jedi invokes that right."
"I've never heard of it being done."
Any Jedi could request a personal favor from a ruler, and that ruler was bound by tradition to do whatever they could to fulfill it, within the limits of their powers.
Of course, Jedi did not ask for things outside of the Code.
For Qui-Gon to have asked this, it must have been terribly important to him.
Extending his hands, Obi-Wan accepted the box, schooling his expression to neutral.
"The Queen has given orders that you are to be left alone here as long as you wish." The Captain said softly as he turned to go.
"Thank you." The young Jedi said, aware that his voice was shaking. "I will thank your mistress myself later."
"She said to tell you that it is not necessary. You have already made a great sacrifice for our people. If there was more we could give you, we would."
He paused, turning his head to look back at the young man, who was watching him steadily, hands holding the box lightly.
"Queen Amidala also said to tell you that if there is anything you want, you have only to ask."
Feeling his throat close, Obi-Wan could only nod, although he wanted to scream. There was nothing he wanted. Nothing anyone could do for him or give to him that would make up for what he had lost.
But being rude to this man, who was going out of his way to fulfill his duties with kindness, would serve no purpose.
The box was heavy in his hands though he could tell objectively that it did not weigh so much.
With an aching heart he resumed his seat, this time with the box resting on his thighs and leaning back slightly to watch the last of the smoke as it climbed in a graceful spiral.
Breathing deeply, opening himself to the Force around him, trying, without admitting it to himself, to feel some remnant of his Master in it, he waited until it was completely gone and the embers merely glowed softly, providing little light and no warmth.
Finally, feeling that the rest of the planet had gone to sleep, although he knew that wasn't the case, he turned his attention to the box, setting it squarely on his drawn-up knees and running his fingers over the top.
It was familiar in a vague way. Just another of the little bits and pieces his Master had kept on the shelves of his quarters. Obi-Wan had never seen it moved or opened and only recognized it because he'd been made to dust those shelves - using no more than the Force - more than once, as an exercise.
The idea that it might have been more important to his Master than he'd realized made him sad, thinking that there had been so much still to learn. They had been together for nearly fifteen years, and some of it...
Inhaling deeply to get past the lump in his throat, Obi-Wan resolutely turned his thoughts away from that path and stilled his hands on the box.
With another deep breath he opened it.
And blinked, vision blurring, staring at the first thing he saw.
His fingers trembled, though he denied it, as he lifted the curled piece of ribbon, faded and worn, perhaps by fingers rubbing it?
Just as they had that night....
Closing his eyes, he let the memory fill him, carried away by the power and beauty of it.
"An important night for you, Obi-Wan." His Master's voice had been gentle and teasing, standing before him, his large hands brushing imaginary wrinkles from his Padawan's white ceremonial tunic.
"Yes, Master." Answering obediently, the younger man hoped that his nervousness did not show. He kept his hands clasped behind his back while Qui-Gon pinned a length of ribbon, light blue and feathery at the ends, to his collar. It was the traditional color for boys, girls wore a green on this night, signifying their connection with the land and birth.
After a minimal amount of fussing Qui-Gon stepped back, his hands still on Obi-Wan's shoulders, clasping lightly.
"It felt like this night would never arrive, didn't it?" He was smiling warmly. "I remember waiting, it seemed like the days actually went by more slowly the closer I got.
"Were you nervous, Master?" Obi-Wan ventured the question hesitantly. His Master seldom spoke of the past, because of the other apprentice he had taught, the one Obi-Wan had never mentioned.
"Terrified. But I was also very, very excited." Giving his shoulders a squeeze, Qui-Gon released him and turned to gather their cloaks. "We don't want to be late, Padawan."
Following down the corridor, Obi-Wan reflected on the night to come. He had been looking forward to it for a long time, years, really. Most apprentices did. Aside from being chosen by a Jedi to be trained, this was the most important day in his life so far.
When Qui-Gon had picked him there had been a ceremony. He had watched with round eyes as his Master had cut a lock of his own hair and then shivered when Qui-Gon's fingers tickled his neck, cleverly braiding it to Obi-Wan's hair until the two were one, inseparable.
That sensation had stayed with him in the intervening years, occasionally sneaking up and catching him unawares, the feel of Qui-Gon's skin on his, the warmth of his body close.
He and his Master parted at the door of the great room, Obi-Wan to join the others taking part in this year's ceremony and Qui-Gon to accept a drink from the host and join the small group of Masters and Jedi gathered to watch the proceedings.
The academy great room was well named, for it stretched the length of breadth of the building, large enough to hold four Council Cambers.
And any number of Apprentices, Padawans, and Jedi, when the occasion called for it.
Tonight there were several hundred, including support staff and family for some, who all pressed closer as the group of young people was herded onto the stage, where they milled for a moment before settling, like the good Jedi they would one day be, raised in patience.
To some it might have seemed that the ceremony itself was anticlimactic, after the days of cleansing and preparation for it. Obi-Wan was the third of three humans being presented tonight, and waiting was hard for him. But he saw his Master, standing a little to the right of the main crowd, his arms folded, hands tucked into his sleeves, watching him with quiet, glowing pride, and it gave him the strength to continue waiting.
Then it was his turn, and he was at the front of the stage, the headmistress of the academy, Master Shelargh, putting her hand on his shoulder.
"Gathered beings.... again we present one of our own, who has reached his age of maturity with the dignity and grace we love to see in our young ones."
There were ritual words that would be spoken over the group as a whole, but she always found something to say about them all individually as well.
He stood tall and proud, listening to her, his eyes on Qui-Gon, who watched him with the same intensity.
Did his Master know what he planned?
Did he know that Obi-Wan had been planning it almost since he was old enough to understand this ceremony?
Trained as an apprentice nearly since birth, self-control had been stressed in his upbringing.
It was made clear to apprentices as soon they hit puberty, whenever that happened for their particular race, that they were expected to control the new urges sexual maturity brought right along with all others, and abstain from acting upon them.
The reward came later, when they reached the age of maturity for their race, which, in the case of humans, was usually twenty-one, depending on the planet of origin and the amount of contact between the apprentice and birth family.
Having passed his twenty-first birthday two months ago, Obi-Wan was included in this year's ceremony at his Master's recommendation.
Snapping his attention back to the headmistress, he was embarrassed to realize that he had been lost in his thoughts and hadn't noticed that the ceremony was ending.
With her hands raised, golden robes flowing, she waved a charbox that oozed scented smoke, blessing them in the manner of her people.
"The path before you is long and hard, but now you walk it as adults, with the rights and responsibilities reserved for such."
There was a hushed murmured echo of her final words that filled the great room, quietly voiced by hundreds.
"May the Force be with you in your choice."
Then it was over. Apprentices, newly-made adults, filed off the stage, some smiling, some looking nervous. Obi-Wan thought that he must be one of the latter.
Many had people waiting for them, some had people who had been waiting for years, for them to achieve this honor before engaging in a physical relationship.
Stepping off the stage he paused, looking around while others passed him.
Qui-Gon was several yards away, watching the crowd. Music had begun playing and several couples were dancing, as the mood struck them.
Granted a moment to observe his Master unawares, Obi-Wan tried to see him through new eyes, the eyes of an adult - but he saw what he had always seen; the man who had raised him, comforted him, cleaned his wounds and dried his tears.
The strong arms that had shielded him when he was in danger, had held him when he was hurt and had pushed him away when he needed to go out on his own.
They had always been the same, those arms, that man, those eyes that smiled at him or frowned at him but always loved him.
The past wasn't important, except that it had brought him to this present.
Turning, Qui-Gon greeted another Master that Obi-Wan vaguely recognized, and as he smiled and exchanged handclasps with him and Obi-Wan took another minute of introspection before taking that next step into his future.
When he had told Master Qui-Gon that he wanted to participate in this ceremony, not long after his twentieth birthday, he had expected his master to tease him a little, or to try to discover who his choice would be. Not that it was required, but most of the participants would celebrate this night by taking a lover for the first time. It was traditional, the reward for their years of good behavior.
Perhaps his Master suspected and had not asked because of it? Or, more likely, he had been politely giving his Padawan some privacy to make this very important decision.
It had never occurred to Obi-Wan that Qui-Gon would refuse him. For a Padawan to choose his master - or her master - was rare, but not unheard of. If it did not lead to a lifetime commitment, as he wanted, then at the very least it would add a new level to their bond, and he would have a memory to treasure.
Taking a deep breath, he stepped forward, into the crowd, which seemed to part around him, and watched as the master Qui-Gon spoke to touched his Master's shoulder. Qui-Gon turned, looking mildly startled, and then his eyes opened wide and he faced Obi-Wan with a glimmer of hope shining in them that warmed the younger man's heart.
"Master." Obi-Wan started, and then he faltered, his voice failing him. Overwhelmed by the moment, he could only stare, eyes pleading, hands at his sides.
The third man took his hand from Qui-Gon's shoulder and stepped away, ducking his head a little, smiling a little.
"Yes, Padawan?" Qui-Gon spoke firmly, as if he were overcompensating, trying to keep a quiver from his voice, something the student had heard before.
"Master, I -" Stunned, Obi-Wan found that, now that the moment was here, he couldn't say the words, though he had practiced them aloud many times.
Both hands going to his shoulder, he fumbled with the pin of the ribbon, nerves getting the better of him, and then Qui-Gon's hands were covering his, holding them, pressing them down, stilling the movement.
"Obi-Wan." He said his name so tenderly, with such emotion. "Are you certain? You do not want someone - younger?"
That tiny bit of vulnerability in his Master's voice tipped the balance. Hands steady, Obi-Wan freed the pin and offered the ribbon to his master with both hands.
"My first night as an adult, and I want to spend it with you." he answered firmly. They weren't the ritual words, but they were his words and close enough.
Enclosing the smaller hands in his own larger ones, Qui-Gon closed his eyes just long enough to take a deep breath, and then opened them as he answered.
"I am honored, Obi-Wan Kenobi, to spend First Night with you."
Turning his hands over, Obi-Wan watched as his Master pinned it to his own shoulder; smiling softly, Qui-Gon ran his fingers down the length of it and he shivered, reaching for him.
"I thought you might say no."
"Never, Padawan." catching his hands in his own, Qui-Gon pulled him a step closer.
Knowing that Qui-Gon was a private man, reserved even in small company, Obi-Wan didn't try to kiss him. Instead he took that last step forward and laid his head on the broad shoulder with a sigh, smiling, smelling his Master as he was hugged close.
There was a smattering of applause around them and Qui-Gon chuckled, his mouth close to Obi-Wan's ear.
"I think they approve."
"As long as you're happy." The apprentice answered, sliding his own arms around the lean waist and hugging back, feeling Qui-Gon begin to sway with the music.
Happiness had never been so tangible.
The sounds of the room quieted as people paired off, sometimes in groups of more than two, depending, and the music was soft, friends and family taking their own partners to dance, the evening settling to its purpose.
They stayed for a while, dancing in slow motion, scarcely moving, Obi-Wan letting Qui-Gon determine their motion. Then, at last, his Master pulled away, and his eyes were wet and he was smiling.
"I had no idea." he shrugged, tilting his head. "How long have you planned it to be this way?"
"Since the first time I saw you?" Obi-Wan replied playfully, then sobered and gave a straight answer. "I do not know. I thought about it, and there was no question, just a certainty that felt like the Force itself. It was always supposed to be you."
"Then we should go." Tugging at his hands, Qui-Gon brought them to his mouth and kissed the backs of them in turn.
Obi-Wan gasped, the beard tickled and he felt like he could fly.
"Yes." He gasped, suddenly having trouble getting enough air into his lungs.
Without fanfare they left the great room, and made their way to Obi-Wan's quarters.
Qui-Gon's rooms were bigger, of course, but this was Obi-Wan's night and he had made hopeful preparations, and his Master allowed himself to be led, looking bemused.
Opening the door, Obi-Wan paused before stepping inside.
"I wanted you to know - if you had rejected me, I would have come back here alone tonight. There would have been no other."
Gently pushing him into the room, Qui-Gon shut the door behind them and looked around.
The sleeping couch was covered in blankets and furs and pillows. There was a tray of fruit kept cold with a freezer pack and a bottle of wine.
And a scattering of small candles, an archaic but romantic touch.
"And will there ever be an other?" He asked, his voice low and hoarse, pulling Obi-Wan into his arms, a little roughly.
"Never." Thrilled to say the words, to make that vow, the younger man returned the embrace, just as rough. They kissed, mouths meeting at first with pressure and then with tenderness, then hunger took over.
"Never- " He gasped again as Qui-Gon scooped him into his arms and carried him over to the couch. He could feel his Master using the Force to bolster his own strength, to carry him with such ease, and it made him quiver inside.
Laid down, he propped his head up and watched, eyes wide, as Qui-Gon undressed, leaving his clothing on the floor where it fell, little piles of crumpled fabric leading to the bed until he stood beside it and Obi-Wan reached for him.
"Patience, Padawan." Qui-Gon teased, fingers running lightly over the thin white tunic, making him shiver again.
"Yes, Master." He gasped. It was becoming harder and harder to breathe, and there was a fire burning in him, he wanted out of these clothes and against that body.
As if sensing his need Qui-Gon did not tease, but undressed him reverently, each new bit of flesh revealed kissed or stroked or suckled, until Obi-Wan was nude and writhing, Qui-Gon hovering over him, kissing him deeply, encouraging the younger man to drink him down.
"What do you want?" The whisper broke through Obi-Wan's haze and he stopped his movement, panting, staring up at Qui-Gon, seeing the blackness of his Master's eyes nearly obscuring the blue.
"Everything." He answered, moving against him, pulling him yet closer. "You, Master."
Qui-Gon's hands came up and framed his face, holding it tightly, making him meet the darkened blue eyes.
"I will give you anything you desire, Obi-Wan. But you must use my name, at least this night."
"Master?" Not understanding, Obi-Wan fought to regain control of his body, which was overwhelming his thoughts.
"Say my name, Obi-Wan, Just my name."
The words were breathed over his lips and his Master called on the Force to hold them both still, suspended in this moment.
Closing his eyes and breathing a sigh, Obi-Wan obeyed.
The man dropped his head and sucked hotly at the pulse that pounded in the young man's neck and the next words were a moan.
"Qui-Gon. Love me..."
"Always, Obi-Wan. As long as I live..."
There was kissing, and Qui-Gon tasted every inch on his apprentice's shivering, shuddering body. When he pulled away some time later, Obi-Wan's throbbing member falling from his lips to pulse hungrily on his flat stomach, the younger man reached for him and turned to his side at the same time, wrapping his Master's arms around him and pushing back into his groin insistently.
"Yesss...." Qui-Gon muttered darkly, hands kneading, caressing, one finger trailing down the dark crack that beckoned. "What we both want."
Entry was achieved in measured increments, Qui-Gon petting him and whispering in his ear as he convinced his unaccustomed body to adapt to this intrusion. Words of praise and devotion that helped as much as the Force did in letting him take that part of his Master into himself.
"So beautiful. Such a part of myself. I had feared this day would never come, Obi-Wan, and yearned for it. You had the courage to come to me when I could not come to you and I will thank you for the rest of our days, I will worship you for the rest of our lives together..."
"Part of you, am I." Obi-Wan heard himself whisper back, when Qui-Gon's stomach was pressed close to his back, the older man wrapping himself around the younger as far as he could reach, surrounding, supporting him.
"Part of me, you are. And I you." The words were gulped, hungry for air.
He gave Obi-Wan plenty of time to become used to the sensation of being filled, but after a while even a Jedi Master had to move, and he did, at first sliding only an inch or two at a time, but then, as Obi-Wan groaned and pushed back into it, moving more, and faster.
The pleasure built in the Force and spilled over into them and soon there was a rhythm and Qui-Gon was pressing his forehead to the back of Obi-Wan's neck, gasping out his name with each deep thrust, and the arm around Obi-Wan's waist tightened while the other hand slid lower to pull at his erection, a touch rough in passion.
"Obi-Wan." He gasped, and then grunted. "Obi-Wan. Come, Padawan. Come for me. Give me that gift. Come."
Starting to thrash in the tight grip, feeling his Master slip a leg over his and use it to hold him in place, Obi-Wan shuddered and bucked. It was happening, he knew it was, though he didn't know how he knew.
The hoarse command that his Master repeated, a whoosh of hot air on his sweaty skin with each thrust growing harder and deeper, pushed him to an edge he had never dreamed existed.
"Come." Qui-Gon grated, pushing himself harder, reaching for the Force, using it to bind them tighter. "Come."
The power gathered around them and Obi-Wan swore he felt it enter him, a sizzling bolt of need, and then Qui-Gon's hand tightened on him and Qui-Gon's cock was thrust deep inside him and he shuddered, and screamed, and obeyed.
He heard a short, hoarse roar and it wasn't until after he could breath again, panting desperately, that he realized it had come from his Master, and that he was speaking still, a soft, concerned whisper right above Obi-Wan's ear, which made him shiver again.
"Obi-Wan? Love, are you alright? How do you feel?"
"Like I want to do it again." He sighed, shifting in the arms that held him. Qui-Gon's hand still cradled his softened cock and it felt good, and safe and right, to lie in his arms that way.
A deep chuckle greeted those words and then Qui-Gon moved away, just enough to let himself slip free, before turning the younger man over and pulling him close, holding him tenderly, one hand stroking through his short hair. Raising a hand, Obi-Wan grasped the older man's free hand and returned it to his groin, molding the long fingers around his soft member. Then he sighed and nuzzled his face into Qui-Gon's neck, into the tangled, sweaty hair, and closed his eyes, blissful. Qui-Gon's large, powerful hand held him warmly.
The chuckle came back, and lasted longer, but Qui-Gon only shifted to pet his back instead of his head with the other hand, and kissed his neck tenderly.
"Rest now, Padawan." He crooned, wrapping them both in a cocoon of Force-generated softness. "When you wake up we can do it again, if you like."
"Every day of our lives." Obi-Wan had said, realizing that he was getting drowsy and wondering vaguely if Qui-Gon had anything to do with it.
"Every day for the rest of our lives." Whispering the words into the night breeze, Obi-Wan shifted, startled to realize that he had been sitting lost in memory for an unknown length of time. The ribbon fluttered in his fingers and he raised it to his lips, closing his eyes.
He had never known that Qui-Gon had kept it. Never thought about it, really.
Blinking again, he pinned it to his cloak with shaking fingers and lifted out the piece of parchment that lay next in the box.
Padawan - though you have been more than that to me - you have
been everything to me for all of our time together - that was what
you were first. Padawan, student, apprentice. It wasn't long before
you became son, brother, friend, but the night you became my lover
was the most important of my life, eclipsing even my own ascension
to knighthood. I treasured the gift you gave me every day of our lives
together and was blessed with the knowledge that you did as well. To
thank you feels small and insignificant, but that is a mouth to laugh at the sky and found himself speaking to the darkness instead, the simple two-dimensional photo held lightly in his hand.
"It wasn't that funny, Master, and it is cruel of you to tease me when I can't respond in kind..." His smile was wide but his eyes could no longer hold the tears and they began to fall, dripping down his face as he remembered.
"Selebia Prime." The Pilot-Captain had announced as the world they approached came into view on the screen. "Not a place I would willingly visit - I'm glad they have that secret technology so I don't have to actually land."
"Your assistance has been appreciated." Standing behind the man Qui-Gon had flashed a secret smile at Obi-Wan. "Remain in orbit until the scheduled time. We won't be able to communicate from the planet, of course, but it will be reassuring to know that you're here."
"Of course, Master Jinn." With a nod the man pointed to a light on his panel that was flashing. "That means they are ready for you. As soon as I drop the shields you will be taken. I suggest you prepare yourselves."
"Yes, of course." Qui-Gon said, turning to Obi-Wan. "Better to do this here than in our quarters, I think. Strip off, Padawan, and let's begin this mission."
The matter-of-fact words made Obi-Wan groan, but he did as he was told, removing his clothing and hanging it neatly in a provided alcove, then standing nude beside his master, willing his body to behave itself.
"Control, Padawan." He could tell by the twitch of Qui-Gon's lip that he was amused, but the younger man wasn't seeing anything funny in this situation. After several months of grueling, demanding missions they had been scheduled to take a leave of absence - and planned to simply spend some time together, relaxing - and then this mission had been assigned at the last moment. It was one that could not be turned down, as Qui-Gon had been requested specifically, despite their relationship.
The opportunities to explore the sexual side of their bonding had been few and far between and Obi-Wan was a healthy young man with a healthier sex drive - frustration was beginning to become a problem.
"Ready." He said shortly, wishing it hadn't sounded snappish. Qui-Gon nodded at the Pilot and they watched as he pushed the button. A warm sensation of tingling, and then the next thing Obi-Wan knew he was standing on a small dais in front of a crowd of naked, greenish humanoid people.
At least a hundred of them. And the weight of their gaze was more than physical.
Although he had been warned, actually feeling the pressure of their minds against his shields was at once invigorating and terrifying.
How was he supposed to protect his mind in this atmosphere?
Half-turning, he let his mind reach for his Master's and drew it back just in time, as the first few people in the crowd shifted and stared at him directly.
He'd read the briefing, they had discussed, but actually experiencing it was something else entirely. To distract himself while Qui-Gon went through a tedious and elaborate introduction process, he mentally reviewed what he knew.
A powerfully telepathic race, the Selebians had taken a different route with their abilities than other telepathic races; namely, they felt everything should be out in the open and 'inappropriate' thoughts were unacceptable.
There was no privacy and a sense of self was actively discouraged. Mental activity was held in the highest regard and physical was scorned.
Sex was strictly regimented, ritualized, and never engaged in for pleasure.
The rules were very strict, which is why they were so careful about aliens.
Because the only purpose for sex was procreation, it was restricted to men and women of reproductive age who had been matched by the branch of the planet-wide government that regulated these things.
Unable to remember the name of it right offhand, Obi started to turn to his Master, who had stopped speaking, but then realized that he couldn't even ask with his mind.
Any miniscule break in their shields would lead to a mental invasion he could barely imagine and was frankly terrified of experiencing.
It had been so long since he was locked in his own head, with only his own thoughts for company, that he felt almost dizzy with it.
Slightly sick to his stomach, he met Qui-Gon's questioning gaze, directed at him from the corner of a blue eye, from behind a screen of long hair, with a tiny, firm nod.
He was fine.
He could handle it.
"We have prepared special quarters for you." The greeting Ambassador said, gesturing that they could leave the dais. Falling into step two steps behind his Master, Obi-Wan bowed his head as he walked, wishing for the hod of his cloak. Knowing his own reaction to the sight, he didn't dare look up and see Qui-Gon's butt, but he knew it would be flexing and firming as he walked, and just the memory of it was distracting him from his continued efforts to shield himself.
What was he going to do when he slept? Would they have to take turns so they could shield each other, seeking privacy in their dreams?
Led into a large, bland building that looked more functional than anything, they walked up several flights of stairs, which made him think about another aspect of the Selebians.
So tightly wound into their mental lives, they were still unwilling to give up their physical beings and so conveniences that discouraged physical health were not allowed.
Walking was the common mode of transportation, though long-distance transporters had been developed. Being able to speak mentally with literally anyone on the planet made communications devices obsolete, and long-distance foot travel safe.
Help was never more than a thought away.
When the rare selebian ventured off-planet, it was usually as a competitor in one of the many Republic sports competitions.
They were sought-after competitors, their skill and grace and power much admired.
But the exposure to aliens often made them ill - too many 'wrong thoughts' and not enough mental contact to keep them healthy.
There were several doors off a long plain hall, and their guide opened one, gesturing at it while visibly wincing.
Qui-Gon stepped aside for Obi-Wan to enter and the minute he stepped across the threshold he felt it - the relief.
His mind was free!
The thousands of mental voices that had been pressing upon it were now gone.
It was such a relief that he almost staggered, but somehow managed to keep his feet and make it to one of the two beds, where he stretched out and closed his eyes. Which flew open a moment later as he realized he had no sense of his Master's presence, either.
Watching as Qui-Gon came in and closed the door, he sat up and reached for him, wanting - needing - reassurance that this didn't mean something was wrong between the two of them.
"No, Padawan." His Master's voice is tight and he can hear the frustration in it. The shielding is even harder, he realized, when you've got to talk to them.
"Of course, I'm sorry. I was just worried." He offered a lopsided grin that silently acknowledged his own foolishness. "To not hear you..."
"They've established a psi-shield in the room, so we can sleep in peace. The Selebians participate in mass lucid dreamings and we don't want to be sucked into that."
"They provide this for all alien guests?" When Qui-Gon duplicated his pose on the other bed he felt rebuffed.
"If we're shielded..." He started, but Qui-Gon rolled to his side and glared at him.
"You think they would not know the minute we stepped out the door, Obi-Love?" His warm, rich voice was slightly teasing. "You must try to keep your thoughts on our mission, until we are safely off this planet."
Suppressing a shiver at hearing his favorite endearment, the younger man simply nodded, and laid back on the bed.
The air was slightly chilled and he had to pull a blanket up. In a way he regretted covering his nakedness, but it did cut down on the possibility of becoming aroused.
It seemed that his body thought that if he were naked, and Qui-Gon was naked, and they were in the same room together - much less a room with a bed! - they should be joining physically.
He was faintly relieved when his Master followed suit.
"Tell me about Timmolin, Master." The friend of his Master's youth was now a governor on the regulatory board of Selebia and had specifically requested Qui-Gon to negotiate this dispute.
"Does he know about us?"
"Yes. I could not come here without telling him, and embarrass him that way. I am honored that he still requested me, and allowed you to come as well."
"Would you have come without me?"
Sitting up again, Qui-Gon studied his apprentice until Obi-Wan became apprehensive. Then he slid one arm beneath the blankets and lifted them.
"Is your control up to this, Padawan?" he asked, and there was a tremor in his voice that made Obi-Wan answer firmly.
"I would have come without you, but my resentment would have made me useless in the negotiations."
Qui-Gon answered while Obi-Wan climbed into bed beside him cuddled gratefully.
"I think Timm realized this. And I think he's in a position where he doesn't know whom he can trust. So he accepted by requirements."
Taking a deep breath, Obi tried to release the tension that was seeping into his body, and it worked, mostly.
"Do you need some help sleeping, Padawan?" Hearing his title and not the endearment he craved, the younger man nodded grudgingly. He wasn't going to be able to sleep on his own like this.
"Sleep, then." Touching his face lightly with his fingertips, Qui-Gon concentrated the Force to push the command through the screen of the mechanical psi-shields. Immediately Obi-Wan felt his eyelids grow heavy and allowed them to slip shut.
"Thank you, Master." He whispered before sleep took him, hoping dreamily that Qui-Gon knew it was for the closeness he offered and not the sleeping-spell.
The next four days were an agonizing exercise of control for the Padawan. Sitting through countless meetings and debates, trying to keep his mind shielded while still reading the ones that discussed and debated. With Qui-Gon withdrawn from him, alone in his own mind for the first time since they had bonded during his First Night ceremony.
Unable to touch his Master either mentally or physically. Unable to even look to him or at him for fear of offending their hosts, who would read more into it than he intended, or maybe not as much.
The third night he went to bed alone, as Qui-Gon was still out of the room talking to his old friend. Sleep came swiftly, sustained mental effort was more exhausting than the most strenuous physical activity, but he woke promptly when the older man entered the small room and sat heavily on the second bed.
Qui-Gon dropped his head to his hands and rubbed his face forcefully.
"What?" Propping on an elbow, Obi-Wan voiced his worry in that single word.
"The maids." Qui-Gon said, his voice raspy.
"What about them?" He was confused.
"They reported to the comptroller of relations that we only used one bed last night.
"It offended them and they've requested reassignment." Straightening with an effort, Qui- Gon shrugged broad shoulders and sat his hands in his lap.
"Master.... " Unsure of what to say, the younger man mouthed awkward words. "I, I'm sorry."
"I should have anticipated this." His Master shook his head and leaned over to slowly take off his boots. "I thought we were protected in this room but I begin to see it's more of a protection for them than it is for us."
"So I can't even sleep next to you? We could just mess up the second bed." Unhappily grasping at straws, Obi-Wan wasn't surprised by the headshake that negated that idea.
"I promised Tim that I wouldn't try to deceive anyone. If we embarrass him then his position would be in danger and I can't risk that. This planet needs him and his slightly more enlightened views."
"Slightly." Obi-Wan grumbled, turning over and pulling the pillow over his head so he wouldn't have to hear his Master undress. Unfortunately his imagination was already on the train. "Master -" He tried to keep his voice even but heard the catch in it, not emerging from his hiding place or turning to look at Qui-Gon. "I'm not sure I can do this. Perhaps it would be better if you sent me back to the ship. It would surely be easier for you."
"No." There was a warmth on his back and Obi-Wan shivered, feeling his Master's hand stroking tenderly. "To be unable to touch you, unable to hear your thoughts - and have you out of sight as well? I would be doomed, beloved, frantic with worry before an hour had passed. I know this is hard for you..." Gingerly Obi-Wan began to turn over, relieved when he wasn't stopped, "Harder for you than it is for me, I think, because I have experience to fall back on..." Keeping himself covered, the younger man stared up at his Master and tried very hard to not ask for anything with his eyes, just wanting to look at him without anyone watching, without being judged. "But know that you are here because I need you to be." Qui-Gon had let his hand slip over the smooth flesh as Obi-Wan moved and now stared at it, slightly brown against the creamy white of Obi-Wan's bare flesh. "I need to know you are real, beloved."
The endearment was his undoing. Obi-Wan felt his hands twitch and then he was reaching for his Master, who leaned toward him. The older man allowed only a touch of their lips before pulling away.
"Thank you." Obi-Wan whispered when Qui-Gon pulled away, tongue tasting his lips hungrily.
The only answer he received was a look of longing that warmed him, and then Qui-Gon settled onto his bed, not to sleep, but taking a meditation pose. Having already done his time in meditation for the day - longer than usual, of course, in this environment - Obi-Wan again turned away and tried to sleep.
Some time later he was still half-awake and restless, and felt rather than heard Qui-Gon's gentle touch on his back and then his mind, commanding him to sleep, and he accepted it gratefully, wishing that he could return the favor.
On the morning of the fifth day it became apparent that he should have, as Qui-Gon looked haggard and over-tired. Hiding it well, he walked tall and spoke with his customary powerful eloquence to the people they met, but Obi-wan could see it. Though their shields were closed tightly to everything, he could fee l it.
At the last meal break for the day they were sitting across from each other at a table, by themselves, staring at their plates, when Timm and another Selebian that Obi-Wan recognized from the meetings. Hastily he stood, gathering his cloak in both hands, deliberately hardening his shields, and stood silently by while Qui-Gon greeted them properly.
Timm looked anxious - Obi-Wan wasn't sure how he had decided that, what the clues were, but it felt right. The Force was still there, still available to him, he just couldn't contact it directly without opening his mind, and apparently there were things he didn't need to be in touch with it to do. So at least he had learned something from this painful experience.
"Master Qui-Gon." Obi-Wan had once been told - by another Master, who had laughed as he told it - that his Master's nickname in the academy when he was young had been 'Jinny', but this being certainly wasn't going to use it. Timm seemed to be having trouble speaking at all. "A question has been raised..."
Standing with his hands casually clasped as if they were in his sleeves, eyes steady, Qui- Gon regarded his old friend neutrally.
"We've had reports that you and your apprentice have flagrantly disregarded the laws of this planet and behaved in a manner that would contaminate our world."
Now Obi-Wan remembered this man and it took everything he had to suppress a shudder.
Rinlinthon. Comptroller Rin. The comptroller of relations, who governed sex and reproduction.
A hard, fast glance was shot his way and he knew the man sensed his reaction although he'd done everything he could to hide it.
"We have not." Qui-Gon stated simply, and Obi-Wan's thought flew against his will to the brief kiss they had shared two nights before. That wasn't enough to break the rules, was it? Would they be allowed that much, being aliens and here to help? But if they embarrassed Timm that would be enough for the Comptroller to discredit him....
"I do not believe you. You shield your minds so tightly you must be hiding something." The Selebian said angrily. It washed off of him in waves. They were not a people that denied emotion, they just controlled it better than most. Emotion was reserved for mental contact, not the rude low levels of actual speech.
"We shield so tightly because it is not our way to share our thoughts with others." The Jedi Master answered calmly. "When we do allow another into our minds, it is a private and personal experience."
"You hide behind your words."
Spreading his hands, Qui-Gon still spoke calmly, though Obi-Wan could see the tension that made the muscles tight across his shoulders and neck.
"I have nothing to hide, but my life is not open for your judgement."
"Qui-Gon." Timm spoke again. "He has requested a Verification."
The Master stood still, listening with his body.
"Without it you will be imprisoned and the negotiations will be canceled. No Jedi will ever be allowed to set foot here again."
Inhaling sharply, Obi-Wan forced himself to be still and not do anything to upset the situation.
"A Verification is an extreme invasion of privacy." Qui-Gon spoke in measured tones. "What guarantee do I have that you will limit yourselves to our personal activities of the past few days alone? There are secrets I keep for the Code and the Council that I cannot share. And the Senate will not allow you to hold us."
"If you break the laws of this planet they have no choice." Rin snarled. "You will be properly tried and sentenced. A Refusal of Verification carries a life sentence."
Silently Obi-Wan struggled with himself. He had to be quiet, be still, be strong, trust in his Master. It was a tortuous effort to not reach for Qui-Gon, for reassurance and to offer his support in return.
Clasping his hands again, Qui-Gon tilted his head slightly to the side.
"I will submit myself to Verification, with an agreement that I will be probed no further than the past five days."
Instantly Rim smiled, an unpleasant expression not just because of the multitude of teeth his mouth held.
"Good. The two of you will follow me now."
"I submit myself." Qui-Gon repeated. "I am responsible for the actions of my apprentice and so you do not need him."
Pausing, Rin turned.
"I have read your customs and records, Jedi. He passed his manhood ceremony over a year ago in your terms. He is considered an adult in your society. He will submit to Verification or suffer the same consequences you would."
"Yes." Obi-Wan spoke quickly, not wanting Qui-Gon to make this decision for him or go through this alone. "With the same stipulation."
"We go." Timm looked distinctly unhappy, and Qui-Gon wasn't looking at him at all.
The department of procreation had a Verification Chamber - there were two large stones in it that looked for all the world like altars, but with heavy webbed straps attached. Obi-Wan shuddered at seeing them but lie down obediently and breathed carefully as he was strapped down. It was a terrifying sensation, more so because he was blindfolded and couldn't even see his Master. Feeling smothered and claustrophobic, he couldn't restrain a gasp of fear after they had been left lying for some minutes.
"Master?" Hating the way his voice shook, muffled by the heavy cloth over his head, he had to have that small reassurance, that Qui-Gon was still there, alive and well...
"I am here, Padawan. Breathe deeply. Center yourself in the moment....
As Qui-Gon talked him into a semblance of calm he became aware of other sounds. The room was filling, he could tell by the way the air pressure changed. Eventually he could breathe again and Qui-Gon's soothing voice trailed off.
"I am sorry, Master." He whispered, not sure if it would be heard.
"You have done nothing wrong, Padawan." Qui-Gon's voice throbbed with certainty.
"We begin." Timm's voice, very close. Then a hand touched Obi-Wan, on his thigh, cool and smooth. "Open your minds, do not fight it..."
It was a massive effort, and once again Obi-Wan found himself fighting for air. It felt like his body was imploding under the pressure of these minds.
They filled his head, surrounded it and there was a real, physical sensation to this attack. Whether or not he had agreed to it, they had been coerced, manipulated by the Comptroller of procreation, and this was not being done of his free will. No matter how hard he tried he couldn't make his mind relax and accept them easily.
"Master..." A moan fell from his lips as thoughts were pulled from him, thoughts and memories and desires. Fears and worries and wants.
Like taffy, they were painfully drawn from his mind, it felt like they oozed from his eyes and nose and mouth and ears and he gagged and choked on the sensation.
"Obi-Wan!" Qui-Gon's voice shook with his own effort, but snapped through the air between them, hitting him, stinging like a whip. "Breathe!"
With a great whooping gasp he sucked in air, and then found that it helped, to concentrate on the mechanics of filling and emptying his lungs, distracted him on the reason for the necessity.
Each memory was visible to him, like watching a holoshow, for nanoseconds before it was gone, and he mourned each one in passing, wondering if they were still there, somewhere, or if they had been taken for good.
The previous five days passed in a flash and then, suddenly, he was seeing himself and his master, as they had been before they came here - that last night on the transport ship.
They had made love hungrily, fiercely, knowing it would be the last time for weeks to come. On his back, on his stomach, he had given himself to Qui-Gon twice, making his Master weak with pleasure and celebrating his ability to do so with charming arrogance as the Jedi had collapsed beside him, protesting weakly and laughing softly.
That memory stretched...and then slammed back to him, to be followed by all of the others, each one hitting him as if it had physical presence, hitting his head so hard it rocked back and forth helplessly.
He was dizzy, and nauseous and heard himself whimper, but cut it off with an effort. It wasn't something Jedi do.
After what seemed like eons of pain it was over, and he slumped on the table, only the restraints holding him there, not hearing the hiss of hydraulics as they were removed. Suddenly without support he began to slide to the floor, finding that he had no muscle control, but then he was caught in strong arms and held against a strong body and he breathed a sigh of near-silent relief as warmth enfolded him.
"I've got you, Padawan." His Master murmured. That was all the apprentice needed to hear. Closing his eyes, he let his body remember how to breathe on its own and slipped into a quieter place where his head didn't pound so much, not event thinking about what the Selebians wold make of this embrace.
"Obi-Wan. Padawan. Wake up, let me see your eyes." A gentle hand, roughened with calluses, stroked his forehead, spreading warmth and love. "Wake up, my love, and look at me. Obi..."
Blinking, surprised o find himself back in their room, he immediately covered his eyes with his hands. "Ow - the light burns..." "I know, I know, the pressure of the Verification bruised your mind. I think you've got a minor case of retina burn." A cool, soothing cloth was placed over his eyes after Qui-Gon gently pried his hands off. "It should be healed in a day or two."
"Master..." He didn't know what to say. "What did they do? It feels like they actually ripped out pieces of my brain!"
"I wasn't aware that the process worked like that, but essentially they did. They gave them all back, of course, but we were in no way prepared for that."
Hearing the lingering weariness in that voice Obi-Wan reached for Qui-Gon, grabbing a sleeve, and tried to pull him to the bed, but he resisted.
"We passed the Verification, but the rules haven't changed. There is nothing I would like more at this moment that to hold you - but I cannot." So saying, he pulled his arm from the apprentice's grasp and Obi-Wan felt him move away. "Lie back and rest your eyes. It's okay to go to sleep again if you want to."
"Will you be here?" Trying to sound strong, he just barely made coping.
"I won't leave you alone."
"Are you okay?" Feeling guilty that he had yet to ask, Obi-Wan turned his head toward the sounds his Master was making as he got ready for bed.
"I have a headache the size of a Ton-Ton." There was a deep chuckle that made Obi-Wan feel better despite himself. "I didn't fight as long as you did, so that seems to be the only side effect in my case."
Now that he thought about it, his head hurt, too.
"Nothing you can do for it?"
"The damage isn't real, Obi-Love. It's psychosomatic. The pain is real enough, but there's nothing that we can heal. It would take a telepathic mind-healer to fix it."
"So it's all in our heads." Sighing, he pondered that. "I think we should have been better warned. What were they looking for anyway?"
"My best guess?" The other couch sqooshed a little as Qui-Gon laid down.
"Anything they could find. It was intended to embarrass us with a loss of control, embarrass Jedi overall."
Silently agreeing, Obi-Wan was quiet, waiting to see if his Master wished to rest or continue speaking. The next words answered that question for him.
"I am sorry, Padawan, but I must rest to ease this pain. I suggest you do the same, and we will talk in the morning."
"Yes, Master." Lying back again, he curled in on himself, feeling very lonely and small. A small warmth at his back made him shift, and, sensing it, he realized that Qui-Gon was comforting him as much as he dared, using the Force to tenderly stroke his back with warmth, an effort that surely was not helping his own headache, and the apprentice sent himself to sleep quickly, not wanting to linger and enjoy the unique caress if it was hurting his Master.
The next day they were wakened by a knock on the door. Groggy, eyes still smarting, watering when opened more than a slit, Obi-Wan watched his Master answer it.
Timm came in and he looked moderately more happy than usual, though that was hard to judge. Realizing that it was painful for him to enter the psi-shielded room, the apprentice tried to return the courtesy by getting up. It took an effort, and a little push from the Force - he thougd. He sounded awkward, without the instant backup of his mental powers. "No one ever responded to a Verification that badly before."
"How many non-telepaths have you performed it on?" Qui-Gon asked and Obi-wan had to resist this time. He wanted to hold his Master, and be held. It was painful, to stand away from him like this.
The Selebian noticed the movement and gave him an expression that equivalent of a human smile. Because of the telepathy facial expression was rare among these people and Obi-Wan found that he wanted to stare, but instead he returned it almost shyly.
"Very few." Timm admitted, then he spoke to Obi himself. "You do not have to restrain yourself so firmly in my presence. The Verification proved that you have exerted maximum effort to control your desires. In truth, many were impressed at your level of control in the face of such an overwhelming biological imperative."
Looking from Timm to his Master, unsure what his response should be, the apprentice couldn't act.
Qui-Gon was studying Timm with warily.
"Did the Verification board decide anything else?"
Emanating absolute waves of contentment and friendship, the Selebian answered slowly.
"There would have been a decision made yesterday, after the Verification, but there was some conflict about the proper response. Because we have had so little experience with aliens, everyone was startled by the strength of your emotional connection, and the importance of the physical relationship to it. We've decided -" he held up one hand when Qui-Gon would have spoken, "- that although it is a poorly designed system by our standards, it is as powerful in its own way as our racial connection - to a lesser degree."
"So you've decided we're not making this up out of purient interest." The Jedi master nodded, and Obi-Wan just kept looking from one to the other. He thought he understood what they were saying, but it sounded too easy.
"So we can act normal again?" He said it hopefully.
Shaking his head, Timm directed his answer to Qui-Gon.
"The Verification Board now understands, but this knowledge will take some time to spread among the populace. In a few months the concept will have taken hold and other Jedi may not be subjected to the same restrictions that you are. In addition, the Travel Board has been petitioned by several families who wish to allow their children to be tested as Jedi."
"There are no Selebians at the Jedi Academy." Qui-Gon said. "There never have been."
"But now there could be."
Thoughtfully Obi-Wan spoke up.
"Their mental powers could make them very strong Jedi, Master."
"Yes, Padawan." His Master agreed, still seeming concerned. He gazed at Timm for a long moment. "There is something more."
With no sign of nervousness to warn of it, he suggested something that by human standards was unacceptable.
"Because of the strength of your bond, we invite you to participate in a procreation ritual. It could be scheduled for any time during your visit."
"We cannot 'procreate'." Qui-Gon said flatly. Again Obi-Wan tremored with the need to touch him. Their inability to have children had never been addressed before and he wondered, for the first time, if this was something that his Master desired. But he was in his fifties, surely if he had wanted them he could have had them with a previous lover? Female Jedi of many races sought to bear the children of their brothers-in-arms, knowing that they would only be tied down for a year at most if the child qualified for the academy. And the children of two Jedi were almost guaranteed to be talented in the Force.
Then it occurred to him that Qui-Gon might actually have a child, or more. Perhaps even as old as Obi-Wan himself, and had simply not mentioned it.
"No, love." Quickly his Master stepped to him, putting a hand on his shoulder to calm him. It was the only time they had touched since that first night, with the exception of after the Verification, when Obi-Wan had been in no condition to appreciate it. Now his body responded almost violently, that small touch bringing him to instant, painful arousal. With a quiet chuckle his Master ran his eyes down his youthful form, but didn't change the subject. "That has never been one of my goals. You need not worry that you've taken that from me, or that there is anyone else to challenge your place in my heart."
"I'm sorry." The younger man said softly. "Got me by surprise."
Watching them with interest, Timm brought his hands together in a soft slap.
"This is what we wish to experience. This depth of emotion - it is rare for us to experience it. We ask that you share."
"Would it be anything like the Verification?" Obi-Wan asked with trepidation. Before Timm could answer Qui-Gon did.
"No. We will not do it. You understand that this is a private thing for us, not to be shared? We have let you invade that privacy once already, and I won't do it again."
"Qui-Gon, are you sure?" The Selebian asked, sounding concerned. "It would give my people something to think about."
"We've already given them something to think about." The hand on Obi's shoulder slid to the back and his neck and massaged lightly, drawing a sigh.
"Do you agree, Obi-Wan Kenobi?" Timm turned his attention to the younger man as if the Master wasn't even there.
"I am an obedient Padawan." He said firmly. "If my Master says no, then no is my answer as well."
"Timm, we have been friends for many years, despite the differences in our cultures." Releasing Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon stepped closer to his friend, footsteps scarcely heard even on the stone floor, he moved so lightly. "I trusted you and came when you called for me, and I trust you now to make your people see that we cannot do this. There is no crime to be committed this time, and I will react badly if any others from your government get involved."
"Yes." Reaching out a hand, Timm patted Qui-Gon's shoulder lightly. "I will see that they understand. The talks should proceed now that your innocence is a matter of record."
"That would be - a good thing." Breaking into a smile, Qui-Gon mentally teased at the edges of his Padawan's mind, which made Obi-Wan look away quickly as his body responded. The lack of the past few days was making him overly sensitive.
"We resume after firstmeal." With no more than that Timm left the room, no doubt strained by the time spent in the shield.
"Well." Sounding bemused, the Jedi Master turned to his apprentice.
"Well indeed." Obi-Wan replied, eyes avidly devouring the tall, strong frame. His body was waking up, headache gone.
"Despite the changes in circumstance, Obi-Wan, I still do not think it wise to indulge." Sounding disappointed himself, Qui-Gon moved away.
"Master...." Sucking in a breath, the younger man exhaled slowly, resigning himself to the situation.
"An embrace." Suddenly, moving faster than humanly possible, Qui-Gon was behind him, wrapping his arms around him. "One embrace, Obi-Love, and we must stop there."
"Thank you." Breathing the words softly, he leaned back into the wall of warm strength that cradled him. With his hands covering Qui-Gon's where they closed over is waist, eyes closed, and his head on the taller man's chest, he relaxed, it felt like, for the first time since they arrived. Dropping his shields easily, letting all the love and lust he felt flow into his Master's mind, receiving an equal measure in return.
If he had turned around - if he had touched that mouth with his own, or offered his body with abandon - they would have been lost. But this warm, safe embrace, frustrating as it was, was everything he needed and just enough that they could handle it without losing control.
"Just hold on." He whispered and felt Qui-Gon's arms tighten, felt the beat of the big man's heart against his back. "Hold onto me."
"Always." The whisper made him shiver, too close to his ear and he decided that words were not needed here, so remained silent.
It was possible, with the help of the force, to stay in the same position for an incredibly long time without muscles stiffening or cramping, but they weren't given the opportunity to test this theory because eventually Timm came for them and they returned to complete the negotiations in a way that would allow them to leave.
"Finally." Dropping the last of his clothing while his Master stepped into the cleaning stall on board the cruiser that had brought them, Obi-Wan quickly cleaned up, a Padawan's duty, gathering the clothing and tidying the closet-sized room. The stall was scarcely large enough for his Master, there was no way they would both squeeze into it. Space was sometimes limited in space, he had learned. At least on some ships, and this was a rather old one, though beautifully maintained. And the Pilot-Captain had anticipated their needs and given them a room with a large double bunk, though it didn't hold much else.
Thinking about the ship and the pilot and the mission was a needed diversion from his Master's tall, powerful form visible though the door of the cleaner. He didn't know what kind of control his Master was exerting, but he didn't look at all aroused, and Obi-Wan had been half-hard for the last four days of the negotiations, desire flaring every time Qui-Gon touched him or even passed close by. It had been a relief to not worry about offending their hosts, but he had gotten tired of the knowing looks and various facial expressions his lust had brought to the faces of the Selebians. Half of them seemed fascinated and the other half repelled, but they were all willing to stare at his body, which had the fortunate side effect of killing the whole thing.
Stepping out, skin glistening and tinged pink, Qui-Gon stepped past him to the bedroom, swinging his body to avoid touching him, and Obi-Wan released the breath he'd been holding, scrambling into the cleaner himself.
Pausing in the low doorway, Qui-Gon turned back and smiled at him, looking completely in control, his dark blue eyes laughing gently at his apprentice.
"Take your time, Padawan." He said, a small smile lighting his lips. "I will be waiting."
The words caused a shiver down the younger man's spine, and he turned the cleaner on with a quick twist of his hand, meaning to rush. But then the words settled into his head and he thought. Maybe he wants a minute alone. This has been as hard for him as for me, even if he does not show it the same way.
Other thoughts intruded while he slowed and scrubbed under the radiant beams, taking the time to clean himself fully, as much of himself as he could reach.
I want to go to him as clean as I can possibly be. This deserves some time, and effort.
The most comforting part of it was knowing the truth had been spoken.
He will be there when I'm done.
The room light was dimmed to about half-power, which made him smile. Crawling onto the bed beside his Master, he propped himself up on his elbows and watched as Qui-Gon began working out of the light trance he'd been in. The smile widened as the dark blue eyes opened and met his own.
"Padawan." His voice was deep and rough and Obi-Wan knew that he'd been releasing all the constraints he'd put on himself during their time on Selebia Prime.
"Master. Going for romance tonight, are we?" One hand gestured at the dimness of the room.
"No." A chuckle. "An old man's vanity - perhaps you won't notice the wrinkles if the light isn't good."
"Hmph." Scolding, Obi-Wan squirmed over his Master's body until he could straddle him, sitting up and caressing his broad chest. "Like I ever noticed them before."
They were both hard and ready now, dripping and throbbing and Obi-Wan wasn't prepared to wait any longer than he already had. Shifting again, he brought their groins together and started moving, thrusting gently. It felt so good his eyes threatened to roll back in his head and he couldn't restrain a moan.
Qui-Gon's hands on his hips urged him on, but when he was close they closed tightly, stopping the movement and he protested, wriggling.
"No, let me come, Master...I need it so badly..."
Without a word Qui-Gon called on the Force to help him and flipped them both over easily, the landing gentle on the thin mattress, sliding down Obi-Wan's taut body, placing sucking kisses at random, and then taking the younger man's straining organ deep into his throat, sucking hard. Without enough air in his lungs to scream, all the apprentice could do was moan and thrash as his body found relief and Qui-Gon swallowed it all down.
Collapsing, feeling like his limbs were made of rubber, Obi-Wan gasped, unable to move for the moment.
"Qui-Gon. Master. Please..."
As always, his Master knew what he wanted, the need to hold him, and sprawled back up kissing his neck and face, chuckling.
"I know that wasn't enough for you, but maybe it will give me a chance to keep up..." He teased, nudging his own heavy hardness into Obi-Wan's thigh.
Without a thought the smaller man rolled in his Master's arms, offering himself before he'd even gotten his breath back.
"Ah, love." With both hands Qui-Gon rolled him the rest of the way to his stomach, tucking a flat cushion beneath his hips to raise them. "Is this what you want?"
"Yes." He gasped, already hardening again. It had been so long. Days of being taunted with his Master's naked body, unable to even think about what he wanted it to do to him, what he wanted to do to it... "Yes. Master, now."
The laughter was gone from Qui-Gon's voice as his slid himself home, Obi-Wan's body now recognizing the invasion for the loving one it was. The older man did not say anything, just opened his shields to his apprentice so the younger man would know and fully understand, what this meant to him. Supporting himself over Obi-Wan on both elbows, panting harshly, eyes closed against the vision beneath him, he shuddered silently, fighting the desire to release himself immediately.
Realizing the battle his Master was fighting with his body, Obi-Wan lay still, not even moving to relieve the ache he felt as his cock swelled against the cushion. Instead, he spoke, words that he hoped would be soothing as well as enticing.
"Master. I love you. To feel you like this, in me and surrounding me...it makes me feel safe and protected and whole. "
Qui-Gon's words grated out on a laugh.
"You love to torture me, don't you, Padawan?"
"No, Master. But I love to love you. If we were not Jedi I would tie you to my bed and never release you. Keep all of your beauty for myself. Never to share it with another soul."
Qui-Gon shuddered and groaned at that and finally began thrusting.
"You're - the - beautiful - one." He ground out between lunges. His large hands strayed to Obi-Wan's back and clung there as he lowered his head, forehead pressed to his apprentice's shoulder blade, breath hot on his tingling skin. "Oh gods."
"So good." Obi-Wan answered desperately, ready to come again, needing to come again. "Master..."
"Yes." With a lurch Qui-Gon grasped his hips and pulled them both back, Obi-Wan to his knees, and slid a hand around him to grasp his erection, holding it tightly, a tiny bit rough, the way he always did when he was very excited. It made Obi-Wan want to scream with pleasure, he loved it best when his self-contained, reserved Master let all of that go and was just one with him, with one goal in his talented mind - to drive them both insane with joy.
Humping back into the thrusts, Qui-Gon's hand pulling at his cock, he was lost to anything but the reality he inhabited. If he was to live forever in a moment, this was the moment he would choose. Qui-Gon pulled him up farther and then he was straddling his Master's bent legs, spread across them, spread wide and pulled back, his head falling back heavily on Qui-Gon's shoulder, lifting and falling with the rhythm his Master set until it all coalesced into a spark of heat that engulfed them both at the same instant, flaring outward like a nova.
Lying still, unable to do much more than suck air, Obi-Wan felt another chuckle at the back of his neck and the sensation made him squirm.
"What?" he demanded though he didn't have the air to spare.
"Anyone the least bit sensitive felt that." Rolling one last time, Qui-Gon settled on his back, draping Obi-Wan over him, using the Force liberally to augment his quivering muscles.
Laughing breathlessly, Obi-Wan agreed, cuddling close, holding and being held.
"The Selebians wanted to feel it." He grinned, kissing the chest under his cheek. "Perhaps now they have."
The two of them lay in the embrace for an untold amount of time, until Obi-Wan shifted, trying to hide his renewed arousal from Qui-Gon, at least for a few more minutes, but his Master merely groaned and lifted his head to look down at him.
"I'm too old for this." He announced, smiling.
"Ah, sorry?" Obi-Wan tried to minimize it. "It's just been several days, Master, and -"
"Hush." Pulling his up for a kiss, Qui-Gon spent a leisurely time exploring his mouth, territory he already knew well, until he knew it as well as he did his own, and only then did he release him. "Come up here."
With both hands he urged Obi-Wan to straddle him, across his chest, bringing his member within reach of Qui-Gon's open mouth and eager tongue. When his Master's hands curved around his hips, fingers stroking gently, urging him closer, he moaned softly, looking down at him, the long hair splashed around Qui-Gon's head on the light-colored bedclothes, the dark eyes gleaming up at him.
"Come, Obi-Wan. Let me give this to you."
"Yes, Master." He grinned and then moaned again as he was licked and suckled gently. Qui-Gon's hands worked on his hips, caressing warmly and helping him to a rhythm. Eventually Qui-Gon tilted his head up and shifted for better position, bringing his legs up, opening his throat to take all of Obi-Wan's generous length down it. By now the apprentice was reduced to moaning and shuddering, his eyes closed, head tossed back, the long braid of his status clinging stickily to his shoulder and neck as his hips worked slowly, thrusting in and out of that hot cavern that sucked at him.
Qui-Gon's mouth worked around him, sucking at him hungrily and the tension grew in his body until it sang with need. The long fingers that petted and directed him worked their way around until they were stroking over the entrance to his body, which was wet and oozing the remnants of the earlier lovemaking, hot and sticky, providing enough lubrication for a finger to be inserted easily, then two. Seeking inside, they made him moan more deeply and lift higher on his knees, trying to get the most from both sensations. His Master was too busy to speak to him, but he could feel the waves of love rolling from the older man into him, carried on the Force itself, saturating him with his Master's emotions. That more than anything, more even than the sight that met his wide-opened eyes - Qui-Gon's nostrils flaring as he breathed around the shaft in his mouth, the tight roll of his shoulders as he held himself up, the way his hair tangled and got into his eyes, making him look somehow stronger and sexier - it was the love he felt that made him let go and come, jerking helplessly, Qui-Gon's hands supporting him as he shuddered, lowering him gently when his muscles transformed to water.
"Master-!" he gasped, unable to believe the strength of the sensations that kept rolling through him.
"I've got you, love."
The words were repeated, and again, and again - full of love and touched with humor.
"I've got you."
"You had me, too." Turning the photo - a truly ancient form if reproduction, only practiced in a few special places now - he studied them from every angle. Timm stood on Qui- Gon's left and Obi-Wan to his right. The Selebian was giving his races' version of a smile, but neither of the Jedi looked happy. The strain of their days on that planet showed clearly on their faces, the lines in Qui-Gon's brow pronounced.
They had made love twice more that night, his Master treating him to another powerful release before finally managing to revive himself, which had made him laugh with quiet delight, and happily offer himself to Obi-Wan the second time. Obi-Wan enjoyed being taken by his Master so much that they seldom traded roles, but that had been one of the rare nights when the older man's body had cooperated and gave him enough for another round, while Obi-Wan collapsed after his fifth orgasm, so completely wiped out that he slept a solid ten hours, which made Qui-Gon tease him further.
Setting the photo beside the note, he stared for a moment at the next item - a small, carefully folded packet of old cloth, perhaps blue once, now curled at the edges and browned with age.
His hands shook as he carefully unfolded it, a few threads dropping free, making his eyes tear up again.
The bundle of herbs was dried and had crumbled into a mass of green flakes piled around a few brown twigs. Lifting a pinch to his nostrils, he sniffed it and then sneezed, the scent bringing back a sharp, stark memory;
The only time he had ever seen his master cry.... of course, he himself hadn't been entirely aware at the time...
"NO. No, no, no, no - I will not let this happen, this cannot happen..." Qui-Gon's voice had rumbled painfully in his ears and Obi-Wan tied to pull away, to hide his head from the pain that was chasing him. It came in the form of lights and sounds and touch...even Qui-Gon's so gentle touch made him shriek helplessly, ashamed, in agony. And that touch was no longer so gentle, though no less caring.
Large hands shook him, pulled his head around, the braid tangled in thick fingers that tugged on it mercilessly.
"Obi-Wan! Look at me! Look at Me, Padawan! You must pay attention, you must listen to me, stay here with me..."
"never leave you, Master..." The crumpled, sweating, smelly figure, bedded on fragrant boughs cut from nearby trees, twisted and reached for him, clever hands tightened into scabbed claws clutching at him, leaving streaks of bright blood on his cream-colored tunic as the scabs broke and bled anew.
"Here, Obi-Wan, drink this, please, I made it for you, it will help..."
A cup held to his lips gave off a nauseating scent and his throat, raw and sore, with something noxious dripping down the back of it already, closed at the thought of swallowing whatever Qui-Gon held. Pushing at it weakly, he closed his mouth into a thin line and felt his lower lip crack. Thirsty, he lapped at the blood, but again refused the cup, pushing with all of his strength, trying to make Qui-Gon take it away.
"no, no, Master, don't make me...."
"Please, Obi-Wan, please..." Opening his eyes, surprised to find his sight blurry, the younger man reached for his Master's face, drawing his fingers over the features, feeling the wetness there, the warmth. In a moment of lucidity granted by the fever he remembered where they were and what was happening.
"Master? Am I sick?"
They had been called here to deliver a message from the Council to the ruler of this planet, he couldn't remember the name of it - a message too important to be carried by anything other than a Jedi's mind. They had delivered the message but been caught by a group of local rebels while attempting to leave. With their ship destroyed, being chased by possibly hundreds of armed men, they had fled on foot into the forests, which were hot and damp and dark, the canopies of the trees preventing light from reaching the floor, the ever-present dampness preventing the wood from burning.
There was an illness rampaging among the native population here, and it seemed that he had it. People under the age of thirty were the most susceptible and he tried to smile, thinking that Qui- Gon was not in danger...
"You won't get sick."
"But you're sick, you're sick, oh gods, Obi-Wan, let me help you....please take this."
"Can't." He whispered, and realized that talking hurt really badly. And the Force was oddly quiet, not responding to his calls at all.
"Please." Qui-Gon was crying. Suddenly Obi-Wan understood, but it slipped away as another bout of agony tore through him. Fresh wounds broke out over his unclothed body, weeping viscous fluid and poisoning the flesh around them. Consciousness dropped away, leaving him alone in a dark chasm of pain.
The next thing he knew he opened his eyes again, blinking up through a reddish blur that might have been blood, and Qui-Gon was rocking him tenderly, cradling him in both arms and stroking his fiery face with one hand.
Unable to answer, he gasped and writhed, hurting inside and out.
"Here - let me..." When Qui-Gon's lips descended on his he accepted it even though it hurt, opened his mouth when his Master's tongue probed between his own cracked and bleeding lips, swallowed convulsively when his Master allowed a little bit of liquid to dribble from his mouth to Obi-Wan's. It tasted nasty, thick and overly-sweet, but he accepted it as a part of the kiss, trying with weak arms to pull his Master closer.
That had gone on, he found out later, for nearly three days. For three days his Master held him, fed him the medicine he brewed from local plants, and soothed him as best he could using his hands and the Force that wouldn't answer Obi-Wan.
For three days his Master had ignored his own needs, not eating or drinking, not leaving him for more than a few minutes at a time to hunt the plants and bring water from the stream, using his lightsaber to heat the concoction in a metal cup that had been in his pack when they fled, while the ones that hunted them thrashed around them and Qui-Gon hid them with the Force.
When he had finally woken up, to stay awake for more than a few seconds, Obi-Wan had been stiff and sore and very weak, but miraculously alive. The combination of herbs to fight the fever and the Force to fight the disease itself had wrought a miracle and he had lived, eventually undamaged. But he hadn't spoken for another day at least, his throat and mouth too sore to do more than accept the liquids and love his Master's mouth offered regularly.
"Master?" He could speak, at last, and there were so many things he needed to say.
The dark blue eyes stared down at him, and he saw that Qui-Gon knew those things, and he saw as well that his Master had pushed himself well beyond his limits. Caked with mud and blood and filth, his hair clubbed back starkly, tied with a bit of vine, Qui-Gon Jinn looked as if he'd been as sick as his Padawan.
"Are you well?" Obi-Wan asked, startled by his appearance, so unlike his normally fastidious Master.
"I am better than I have ever been, Obi-Love." Taking a sip of cooled, boiled water, Qui-Gon bent to kiss him, dripping it into his mouth slowly. Closing his eyes, the younger man swallowed gratefully, feeling it begin to ease the tortured tissues.
"Slowly." This time Qui-Gon used the cup, holding Obi-Wan's head up and feeding it to him in tiny sips.
"Thank you." Lying back, catching his breath, the apprentice clutched at his Master with one hand because to use two was too much effort.
"I should be thanking you." Leaning over him, Qui-Gon brushed a kiss over swollen eyelids. "For staying with me. I could not bear to lose you, Padawan."
"I'm not going anywhere." Obi-Wan muttered, then let himself relax slightly. There was a tearing sound and he turned his head without lifting it to see Qui-Gon ripping a neat piece of cloth from his inner tunic, which was the cleanest thing they had. There were other pieces missing.
Dipping it into the cup of water, he gently cleaned Obi-Wan's features, doing his best to not cause any pain, skipping over the crusted scabs and scrubbing just a little bit at the dried blood around his bruised mouth.
"Hurts." Obi-Wan muttered.
"You should be able to use the Force again now that the fever is gone." Qui-Gon continued to clean him. "When you're stronger we'll go to the stream to bathe."
The Force had come when he called it this time and his usual talented control over his body with it. By the next morning he had been feeling strong enough to eat the something scaly that Qui-Gon killed and cooked for them, and then, carried in his Master's strong arms, he was taken to the stream and bathed like a baby, which, oddly enough, did not bother him at all, as long as his Master was the only one that saw him this way.
Clumps of dried scab and hair drifted away on the cold current and he shuddered as the water in their still pool was tainted brown and red, thinking of what his body had been doing for these past days and what his Master had sat and held him through.
"I've always known you love me." He said as they lay close together that night. Qui-Gon thought that soon someone would come looking for them, sent by the Council, who didn't like losing their Jedi. "But I've never seen it more clearly than I do now."
Kissing his forehead, Qui-Gon nuzzled at a small bald spot where hair had fallen out. His braid was safe, though, and that made him smile as much as the caress. His arms tightened around the younger man and his words ruffled the hair around the bald spot.
"Would that I never have to show it to you this way again."
They had been retrieved two days later, and it had been another four before he felt well enough to resume physical relations. There had been an added measure of tenderness from his Master, as if nearly losing him had made him all the more aware of how much he loved him.
Refolding the cloth over the herbs, Obi-wan set it aside on the stairs and then saw that there was one more thing in the box. Another letter, this one looking like it had been written recently.
Lifting it, he used the sleeve of his tunic to dry his eyes so he could read it in the fading light, he saw that his hands were shaking and hesitated.
Should he read these, his Master's last words to him, now? Or save them for later, when he might need them more?
He would never need them more. He needed to understand.
Lifting it, he let his eyes travel over the handwriting, remembering a dozen notes over twenty and more years - mundane, everyday, stupid little notes written because his Master preferred to write things down sometimes and not feed them into a computer.
Which made his lover strangely happy. To have this in his hands, not just a recorded message, it meant something to him. Strange, but comforting.
Dear Padawan -
We've already covered that bit, I know. But there are
other things I have not told you, and I pray you will not
hate me when I do. This was the only way I could find to
live with the situation...although perhaps 'live' isn't the word
I should choose. I know I have been distant, and difficult,
and, yes, more stubborn than usual these last few days. There
was a reason for that, love. I knew.
Gasping suddenly, Obi-Wan forced himself to read the sentence again. And again. The pages crumpled in his hands as he tightened them unhappily.
I knew. Although farseeing is not my gift, it came to me months
ago, and I saw not my own death, but yours. It caused me such
pain that I could barely look at you for a day, and then I realized
that I had been given two great gifts in my life. The first was your
love, which came from you, and the second was the chance to save
you, which came from the Fates. I could have done no less. When the
fields cycled and I ran ahead - ran away from you - I did it knowing
that I would be struck down. That I would die at the hands of a Sith
apprentice. It mattered not, because you would live. I know not now
what my last words to you will be, but as I write this letter you sleep
in the bunk beside me on the Queen's cruiser as we approach Naboo.
We just finished making love and you sighed my name as you came,
and made me smile at the sheer joy in your eyes. I feel it in your mind
as well and it gives me courage. I know that, no matter what the future
brings, saving you is the best thing I have ever or will ever do. Greater
than finding the boy. Greater than becoming a Master. It is the way I
can truly prove that I love you. By giving you the life you are meant to
I know you grieve. Wherever I am know that I miss you as well.
Your life lies ahead of you, and the task of Anakin should be enough to
keep you occupied until the pain fades. Perhaps then you will find
another - though I am greedy and do not wish you to share your love
and your body with anyone else, I want your happiness more than my
own and so hope you will find someone with which to do both. And
when your time is up, I will be waiting for you. In whatever comes next.
Rest now, Obi-Wan Kenobi. My work is finished, but yours is just
beginning. Listen to the Force and always - always, Obi-Wan - remember
you are deeply loved.
The last word wavered before his eyes and Obi-Wan realized that he was crying again. This time he let the tears come, cursing Qui-Gon through them, hating him, for that one moment, for making that decision for him, but then thanking him, promising to use his gift well.
By the time the tears stopped it was dawn, and he was empty, cleansed. The fire had burned out and there was nothing left but a few cooling ashes. Using both hands he carefully gathered a few and sprinkled them over the contents of the box, neatly repacked, and then closed it tucking it into his robes, close to his heart. He could carry it there for a day or two, until the hurt wasn't so bad, and then he would move it to his bed, perhaps.
Eventually it would make it to his desk, and then a shelf in his room. If he traveled - and he would - he would not leave it behind, ever. It was a part of his Master, and so a part of himself, never to be left behind or forgotten.
One of the Queen's guards was waiting outside the pavilion when he emerged, and the man kindly led him to a small bedroom, not the one they had shared before. He slept for the first time since the battle, to wake in time to prepare for the celebration between the Naboo and the Gungans.
On the steps, watching the parade, Anakin beside him, looking far too young in his new clothes and wearing the barest beginnings of his Padawan braid, Obi-Wan felt the weight of the box on his chest and found a smile, thinking how much Qui-Gon would have enjoyed the noise and ceremony.
He tried to enjoy it for both of them.