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Growing Pains

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Obi-Wan Kenobi was drying his hair when he exited the communal showers off of the training rooms, which is probably why he didn’t see the older padawan until he ran smack into him in the doorway. He bounced off the larger body and landed on his butt on the floor, trying to catch his breath.

" Why don’t you watch where you’re going?" asked an irritated, unfamiliar voice.

" I’m sorry," Obi-Wan said hastily, "I didn’t see you – " He looked up apologetically and then stopped and stared open-mouthed at the padawan looking down at him. Irridescent black ringlets surrounded blue-tinged skin, catching and reflecting the light like mini-prisms, and he didn’t think that he had ever seen anyone more beautiful in his life. Especially when the older boy stopped glaring at him and smiled.

" It’s all right – I expect that you couldn’t see with that towel over your face. Here – let me help you up." He held out his hand and pulled Obi-Wan easily to his feet. "Are you all right?"

Obi-Wan smiled ruefully. "Nothing hurt but my pride."

" Padawan Kenobi, isn’t it? I saw your practice earlier – very impressive."

Obi-Wan shrugged, "For a junior padawan, I suppose. Nothing to compare with the Seniors, of course."

" I disagree. I think you’d give any number of Seniors a rough time of it." The Senior Padawan smiled and held out his hand for a handshake. "Padawan Telerin Mikos."

Obi-Wan shook the offered hand. "Padawan Mikos, I’m sorry – "

" Telerin, please. And may I call you Obi-Wan?"

" Of – of course," Obi-Wan stammered. "I’d be honored."

Sedik entered the room and glanced over at him. "Obi-Wan, are you still in here? You’d better get moving – you’ve got a class in ten minutes. If you're late again, Master Jinn will have your hide."

" Right." Obi-Wan dropped the hand he had been holding. "Nice to meet you, Telerin."

He hurried over to the cubicle where he had stored his clothes, unaware of the appraising look he was getting from the older Padawan. Sedik, however, was aware of the focus of Telerin’s attention and frowned slightly as he began stripping to take his own shower. He didn’t say anything until Obi-Wan had left the room, then turned to look at Telerin.

" You seemed very interested in my friend."

Telerin smiled, pulling off his robe and hanging it in his cubicle. "I am. Very interested. Young Kenobi is quite an attractive young man."

" The operative word there being ‘young’," Sedik said sternly. "He’s not even sixteen yet, Telerin."

" I like young," Telerin said with a smirk. "And he's so sweet and unspoiled."

" And he’d better stay that way."

" That sounds so – protective. Is he yours, then?"

" I don’t rob cradles," Sedik said shortly. "He’s my friend. And no one hurts my friends."

Telerin pretended to open his eyes wide at that. "Why Sedik! I don’t intend to hurt him. I’d just like to know him better." Then his eyes narrowed. "Or do you plan to stop me?"

Sedik hesitated. He had heard gossip about Telerin's romantic pursuits, rumors among his age mates that had never amounted to enough to bring Telerin before the Council on charges. But rumors weren't proof.

" No," he said brusquely. "But if you hurt him in any way, you’ll answer to me. Do I make myself clear?"

" Crystal," Telerin said coolly. He watched Sedik enter the showers, a speculative look on his face. Despite what he had said to Sedik, he really wasn't interested in the younger boy. Telerin bored of partners easily, and inexperienced youngsters were the most boring of all. Still, it would be a challenge to see if he could seduce young Kenobi from right under the sanctimonius Sedik's nose. And Telerin had never yet turned down a challenge.

During the weeks after that first accidental meeting, it seemed to Obi-Wan that he was constantly running into Padawan Telerin. It didn't seem like the older padawan was deliberately seeking him out, just that he would happen to be leaving the dining hall when Obi-Wan entered, or he would be passing in the corridor when Obi-Wan changed classes. Telerin would smile and nod as he passed, sometimes saying hello to him. Obi-Wan was flattered that the other boy remembered his name and returned the greetings warmly.

One day the Senior Padawan stopped by his table at lunch to congratulate him on a recent sparring match. Obi-Wan caught the envious looks from several of the other padawans at the tables around them, it made him feel proud that Telerin had singled him out. However, when the Senior had left the table, Bant spoke up.

" I don't like him."

Startled, Obi-Wan looked over at his friend. "Why?"

The Calamarian girl shrugged. "I don't know exactly. It's just - he's too much. Too pretty, too nice - too interested in you, Obi-Wan. The other day - when he accidentally ran into you after class - I saw him waiting in the hallway for your class to get out."

" You did?" Obi-Wan asked, pleased. "So what's wrong with that? I'm flattered that he was waiting to see me."

" Yeah, but why didn't he just wait outside the door and come up to you, instead of pretending to just pass by?" she asked.

" Maybe he's shy."

One of the other girls sitting with them snorted. "Telerin? Shy? He wasn't even born shy. And I'd watch out if I were you, Obi-Wan. He's got a reputation."

Oddly enough, that peaked Obi-Wan's attention even more. He had never known anyone with a reputation. "What kind?"

" For breaking hearts. I've heard that he's the real reason that Sreva left the Jedi - Telerin seduced her and then dumped her when he got bored. She was so upset that the healers had to sedate her. A month later, she went home. And she wasn't the first. Padawan Jerris went into a decline - his master took him off planet for five months till he got over it."

Obi-Wan frowned. "Are you certain? I mean, we all know how exaggerated rumors get."

Bant sighed. "Obi-Wan, for once, would you try not to see both sides and accept that he may be trouble?"

" Not unless I see proof. Jerris and Sreva may have been having other problems."

Bant turned to Sedik who had been silent the whole time. "Sedik, Telerin's in your age group so you probably know him better than we do. Will you talk some sense into Obi-Wan?"

Sedik gave Obi-Wan a troubled look and then looked back at Bant. "Obi-Wan's right. Most of the stories are nothing more than gossip, and he's never been brought up on charges."

Bant gave him an angry look. "But what if he's just like they say? Obi-Wan's not old enough to handle this sort of thing!"

Obi-Wan glared at her. "I'm older than you, Bant!"

" Chronological years, Obi-Wan, Bant said with a trace of smugness. "Calamarians mature at a faster rate than humans. I've already had my first spawning cycle and you can't even say the word 'sex' without blushing."

" Hush!" Obi-Wan looked around to see if anyone else had heard her. "Would you stop that? Besides, I don't see what age or maturity have to do with this."

" A lot," Sedik said. "And Bant's right - you should be careful with anyone who seems to want to get so close to you."

Obi-Wan rolled his eyes. "Fine, fine! Why don't I just head back to the creche while you grown-ups take care of everything? Besides, I don't even know if he's interested in me in that kind of way. He's only said hello a couple times."

" Will you just be careful, Obi-Wan?" Bant asked. "Because I don't want to have to run that creep through with my saber."

Everyone laughed at the ferocity of the usually tranquil Calamarian and the conversation turned to other topics. But Obi-Wan couldn't quite still the feeling of curiosity and anticipation that coiled inside him, and he found himself looking forward to the next time that he and Telerin met.

"Hi, Obi-Wan."

Obi-Wan swung around, surprised to see Telerin waiting for him in the nearly empty corridor. He had been finishing up a lab experiment and so it was later than usual, and he certainly hadn't expected to see anyone waiting for him.

" Hi," he said weakly, the echo of what his friends had said the previous day at lunch echoing in his ears. "I – um – hi."

Telerin smiled and stepped closer. "I was waiting for you. I hope you don’t mind."

" Waiting – for me?" A pair of padawans passed by, giving them a curious look, so Obi-Wan started walking down the corridor towards the lifts. Telerin fell into step beside him.

" I never get the chance to talk to you alone. It seems that you’re always surrounded by friends." Telerin smiled teasingly at him. "You’re a very popular young man."

Obi-Wan smiled back, his heart warming at being called "young man" instead of "kid". "What did you want to talk to me about?"

" You."

" Me?"

" Of course. I’m interested in learning all about you."

Obi-Wan flushed with pleasure. "There’s nothing special about me."

" You’re wrong," Telerin said, and he reached out to run a finger down Obi-Wan’s cheek. "You’re very special."

Obi-Wan gaped at him, open-mouthed, and then he heard some of the masters coming down the corridor from the other direction. Telerin pulled back his hand, reluctantly it seemed to Obi-Wan.

" I’ve got to go," Telerin said softly. "But I still want to talk to you, learn more about you. Meet me in the padawan lounge after dinner this evening?" Obi-Wan nodded wordlessly. "Great. See you then."

And as Obi-Wan watched the older boy walk down the corridor, nodding politely to the masters as they passed, he could hardly breathe with the wonder of being special to someone.

Obi-Wan stared blindly at the padd before him, his mind far away, thinking about the previous night. He and Telerin had talked for hours, so long, in fact, that he had barely made it back to his room before curfew. He flushed a little as he thought about that. When he had told Telerin that he had to leave, the older boy had looked so surprised that Obi-Wan had stammered a lie about homework that needed to be finished rather than admit that he had such an early curfew. Telerin had caught his hand, teasing him about running off to meet a lover, and had seemed reluctant to let him go.

Obi-Wan smiled at the memory. Telerin had been so attentive, so interested in everything he had to say. Not like his friends. Sure, they listened to him and were interested in him, but they also loved to tease him. And they all seemed to be growing and maturing at leaps and bounds while he remained a gangly runt. No, worse than that. A gangly virgin runt.

Idly, he wondered what it would be like to kiss Telerin. The older padawan had a nice smooth mouth, a beautiful mouth, but Obi-Wan couldn't help but think that it must be strange to feel someone else's mouth pressed against his. And what about their noses? Wouldn't they bump against each other when they kissed? That didn't sound in the least bit romantic - and neither did that open-mouth kissing thing that his master had explained to him when giving The Talk. The thought of someone else putting their tongue in his mouth made Obi-Wan shudder, and he knocked his padd onto the floor.

" Padawan Kenobi?"

Obi-Wan looked up, startled, and saw that the entire class was staring at him, some of the younger ones giggling behind their hands. Master Freft, the physics instructor, was scowling at him with his hands on his hips. Obi-Wan swallowed hard.

" Yes, Master Freft?"

" Are you back with us, Padawan? Or do you wish to be excused for the remainder of the class so that you may continue your daydreaming?"

Obi-Wan flushed. "No, Master Freft. I mean, yes, I'm back with you, Master Freft. Sorry."

" Very well." Master Freft turned back to the class. "If you'll go to page 157 on your padds, you'll see a detailed description of the lab that you will be performing this afternoon..."

Obi-Wan retrieved his padd and dutifully found the page, and for the rest of the class managed to keep his attention on the padd and not on the feelings that he found both fascinating and frightening. Feelings that he admitted he needed help in understanding.

" Master? Do you have a few minutes?"

Qui-Gon looked up from the padd he was studying with a smile for his apprentice. "Of course, Obi-Wan. I'm just studying some notes from our last mission. What may I do for you?"

Obi-Wan hesitated. "Um – remember the talk we had a couple months back?"

" We’ve had a lot of talks, Padawan. Could you be a little more specific?"

The young man flushed. "It was about – um – things."

Qui-Gon thought in amusement that the boy’s words hardly illuminated the issue, but the blushes and stammering told him that Obi-Wan was referring to The Talk. "Of course. You had a question, Padawan?"

" Um – several questions, Master. If you don’t mind – if you have the time – "

Qui-Gon set down his padd. "That sounds like it could take more than a few minutes. Why don’t you make some tea and I’ll finish up here, then we can sit on the couch and talk."

Obi-Wan nodded and disappeared, looked both relieved and apprehensive, and Qui-Gon repressed another round of inner amusement. He wondered if he had ever been this nervous about sexual issues when he was a padawan and then chuckled out loud. No, he had been just plain terrified, especially after his master’s less than comprehensible discussion of the facts of life. He put away his work, straightened his tunic, and sallied forth to deal with another session of The Talk.

Obi-Wan was pouring the tea when Qui-Gon entered the common room of their suite and the master Jedi waited until they were both settled with their cups before he broached the subject.

" So, Padawan, you have questions? Something that I need to cover again or explain in more detail?"

Obi-Wan flushed bright red and said, hastily, as he put down his cup, "Oh, no, Master! Your explanation of the – the physical aspects of – um – things was perfect."

Qui-Gon took a sip of his tea. "Maybe not if you can’t even say the word ‘sex’. And, come to think of it, I haven’t noticed either the amount of laundry or water usage increasing. Have you been practicing the self-pleasuring techniques I told you about?"

Obi-Wan looked like he wanted the floor to open up and swallow him. He pulled his legs up against his chest, wrapping his arms around them. "Yes, Master," he muttered, looking anywhere but at his master.

Qui-Gon recognized his padawan's instinctive defensive posture and reached out to touch the boy's cheek gently. "Obi-Wan. There is nothing to be embarrassed about. Sex is a very natural part of every physical being’s life."

Obi-Wan sighed. "I know, Master, but talking about all this with you – it makes me feel funny. I suppose I'm just weird or - or backward or something, because most of it still sounds pretty disgusting to me."

Qui-Gon chuckled and shook his head. "You're not weird, Padawan. I imagine that just about every padawan who's had The Talk has felt the same way."

" Even you, Master?"

" Especially me," Qui-Gon said dryly. "My master gave me The Talk when I was fifteen. I suppose that he was trying to give me the usual birds and bees analogies only, not being familiar with those species, he adapted it to fit the Dagobah life-forms." He shuddered. "I had nightmares for months about snakes and tree-sloths." Obi-Wan laughed at that and Qui-Gon gave him a mock-glare. "Laugh if you will, Padawan, but I took a personal oath of celibacy following that Talk."

Obi-Wan laughed again, and Qui-Gon was relieved to see that the boy was relaxing. "So what happened, Master?"

" Master Terila - only she was just a fellow-padawan at the time and a good friend of mine. Three years into my attempt to become the oldest Jedi virgin, she got fed up with me, knocked me down on the sparring mat, and proceeded to kiss me into unconsciousness." He smiled wistfully at the memory. "Needless to say, my oath of celibacy didn't last long after that."

" A good friend?" Obi-Wan said casually, studying his knees again. "Is that so important? I mean, does it have to be a good friend?"

Qui-Gon studied his apprentice for a moment, seeing that they were getting to the heart of the matter. "I think it's important, although not everyone feels the same. My first lovers were good friends and have remained so even though we are no longer lovers. I know that some young people take the first partner they can find, as if virginity were a disease to be cured of as quickly as possible. But no matter how many lovers you have over your lifetime, you will always remember the first. And I think that should be a joyous memory, not one of shame or sadness."

" Do you - do you think that I'm too young to have - a lover?" Obi-Wan traced a finger over his kneecap, not looking towards his master.

Qui-Gon suppressed his first inner response of 'yes, you're still a baby!' and said, carefully, "If you still think that sex sounds disgusting then, yes, I'd have to say that you're too young. It should be something that you want to do, not something you think you have to do."

" Not all of it sounds disgusting, Master," Obi-Wan said, not looking up but a slight flush coloring his cheeks. "Kissing sounds like it would be fun."

" Even open-mouthed kissing?" Qui-Gon said, teasing his padawan. "As I recall, when I described that just a few months ago, your response was - and I quote - 'ewww!'."

Obi-Wan looked up indignantly. "Master! That was months ago. I'm a lot older now."

" Ah," Qui-Gon said, nodding sagely. "That explains the gray hairs around your temples." As his apprentice picked up a small sofa pillow and thwacked his master, Qui-Gon threw his hands up in laughing surrender. "I yield, Padawan! So, who's to be the recipient of this new-found maturity - or is that too personal a question for your old master to ask?"

Obi-Wan flushed again, uncurling his legs but clutching the pillow against his chest. "That’s one of the things that I wanted to ask you," he began, hesitantly. "How do you know if you're in love?"

Qui-Gon drew in a deep breath. "That is not an easy question to answer, Padawan. Everyone experiences love differently - and we have many ways of loving people over our lives."

Obi-Wan sighed. "I've listened to my friends and to some of the other padawans, and they all go on and on about the person they love. And let's not even discuss the way Bant acted during her first spawning urges last year." He rolled his eyes in a dramatically put-upon look.

" How do you feel about this person, Obi-Wan?"

" I feel fine, only - different. When he looks at me, I get this funny feeling in my stomach – kind of nice but also kind of scary. And sometimes it feels like it's hard to breathe. And - and sometimes I think about kissing him." Obi-Wan flushed and ducked his head again. "That makes me feel all tingly inside but I like it. Although that tongue thing still sounds pretty gross."

Qui-Gon chuckled. "Well, Padawan, it appears to me that you have strong feelings for this friend of yours, but whether they are love, lust, or a momentary infatuation is something that only you can tell. If you are uncertain, then give it time and the truth will surface."

Obi-Wan sighed. "Yes, Master."

" You have other questions, Padawan?"

" How can I tell how he feels about me? I mean, if he likes me in that way."

" There's no definite way to tell, but most sentient beings send out signs that they're interested in some fashion. You need to observe him around you and others to see if he acts in any way different with you than with any of your other friends. Touching you for no reason, standing close to you, or flirting with you are all indications of interest. Or you can take the direct approach and just ask him if he’s interested."

Obi-Wan looked at his master, horrified. "I couldn't do that! What if he doesn't feel the same way? I would be so embarrassed that I'd never be able to face him again!"

" Perhaps, but Sedik seems to be a pretty level-headed young man. I don’t think he’d be offended."

Obi-Wan's head jerked up, his eyes widening. "Sedik? Why would you think it's Sedik I was talking about?"

It was Qui-Gon’s turn to look surprised. "Forgive me, Padawan. I didn’t mean to pry – or to embarrass you. It’s just that Sedik’s your best friend and I would be surprised if you didn't have a crush on him."

" It's not Sedik." Obi-Wan looked back down at his hands. "But you think it’s just a stupid kid's crush."

" I don't think anything of the sort, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said gently. "But I also know that it is common for people your age to fall for someone older - their master, a favorite teacher, older friends."

" And you think this is a passing fancy, something I'll get over," Obi-Wan said flatly.

" Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said, taking one of the boy’s hands. "Whether or not your feelings pass, they are very real to you and I would never imply that they were not strong or take them lightly. And I will always be here for you when you need to talk."

Obi-Wan nodded, flushing a little. "Thank you, Master." He hesitated and then said, "So it would be all right if I were to date? I’d have your permission?"

" That would depend," Qui-Gon said, sitting back on the couch and mentally bracing himself for what he had a feeling was going to be an even tougher talk. "If you decide to start dating, we need to discuss new rules."

Obi-Wan groaned at that. "More rules, Master?"

Qui-Gon raised an eyebrow. "If you have a problem with adjusting to new rules, Padawan, then perhaps you are not yet mature enough to date."

" No, Master," Obi-Wan said hastily. "I can handle new rules."

" Very well. First rule: I need to know whom you are dating. And I want to talk with your prospective dates before I allow you to go out with them."

Obi-Wan looked at him, appalled. "You are going to check out my dates?"

" Yes. And if I say that you may not go out with a person, then that is the final word on the subject. I will not be arbitrary in my decisions, but no amount of pleading, wheedling or sulking will make me change my mind."

He paused and glanced over at the young man sitting on the couch, his face reflecting dismay and rebellion. "It is to protect you, Padawan. However much you may resent my interference, you will acknowledge that I have been around a great deal longer than you and I have learned that not all is what it appears."

" You don’t think I’m mature enough to trust my judgment."

Qui-Gon knew that his apprentice was unhappy but he couldn’t afford to spare the boy’s feelings. "Not in this matter. As you get older, as you develop more experience dealing with other people, then you will be able to make these decisions on your own. For now, you must trust me."

" Yes, Master," Obi-Wan said, just barely refraining from pouting. "Any more rules?"

" Yes. Your dates will pick you up here and before you leave, I will know where you are going and when you will be back."

" Master!" Obi-Wan protested. "A lot of my friends meet their dates somewhere else – in the Padawan hall, or at the holovid theater, or – or wherever."

" You are not your friends, and their master is not your master," Qui-Gon said firmly. "While you are my padawan, you will follow my rules, not those of your friends. Is that clear?"

" Yes, Master," Obi-Wan said unhappily.

" And, of course, your curfew will still apply."

Obi-Wan groaned. "But Master! No one else in the entire Temple has to go to bed as early as I do!"

Qui-Gon suppressed a smile. "I beg to differ with you, Padawan. The children in the crèche have a much earlier bed time." He stood up, heading back towards his work area to continue reviewing their last mission.

" But Master! It’s not fair!" Obi-Wan complained.

Qui-Gon paused in the doorway and looked back at the apprentice, raising his eyebrow. "I don’t recall ever promising you fair, Padawan. I do promise swift and certain correction for breaking curfew, no matter who is with you at the time." Seeing the young man blanch at that, he relented a bit and said, "However, I’m certain that allowances can be made for later curfew on date nights."

Obi-Wan’s face lit up at that, going from sulking to gratitude in a second. "Oh, thank you, Master!"

Qui-Gon chuckled again, amused by the emotional ups and downs of teenagers. "Any more questions, Padawan?"

Obi-Wan shook his head. "No, Master. May I – may I go out tonight, Master?" At Qui-Gon’s questioning look, he said hastily, "Not on a date, Master. Just a few of my friends getting together in the Padawan hall."

Qui-Gon nodded. "Of course, Padawan." He paused again and then said, "Obi-Wan, your birthday is in a week. If you would like, I can get you passes to the new show at the Arts Center."

Obi-Wan sat up straight on the couch, all trace of his previous sulk gone. "Really, Master? That would be wonderful! Everyone in Temple has been talking about it and no one can get tickets."

" Senator Valorum has promised me passes on any night except for the opening night. And don’t worry, Padawan – I won’t inflict myself on you and your friends," he added humorously.

Obi-Wan grinned at him. "Thanks, Master. I’ll check with my friends and let you know."

Qui-Gon nodded. "In that case, Padawan, you might as well get out of here. I’ve got a mission briefing to finish –and you have friends to impress."

The following day, when Obi-Wan came out of his mid-day class, he looked around for Telerin but didn’t see him anywhere. Instead, he heard Sedik’s laugh and rounded the corner to find the older boy talking with some of his age-mates, comparing notes about a class. He looked up with a ready smile when Obi-Wan approached, and the apprentice felt an answering smile appear on his face.

A funny feeling warmed his stomach, different from the way he felt when Telerin looked at him, and he wondered again why his master had thought that it was Sedik that he was interested in. He looked at Sedik critically, acknowledging that his older friend was good looking enough but no where near as spectacular as Telerin. And he was fun to be with but he didn't make Obi-Wan feel light-headed when he looked at him like Telerin did. And Obi-Wan didn't lay in bed at night, his stomach twisting in knots wondering if he would see Sedik the next day - the idea alone made him grin as he shrugged off his master's perplexing words.

" Hi, Obi-Wan! Ready for lunch?"

Obi-Wan nodded, feeling a little shy among the Senior Padawans, but they all smiled pleasantly at him as they finished their conversation. Sedik promised to meet up with them later and then flung a casual arm around the younger boy’s shoulder as they headed towards the dining hall.

" I’m famished – I think I could eat a whole Bantha and not even mind the smell," Sedik declared.

Obi-Wan laughed at that. "Rough morning? How’d your Astrometrics exam go?"

Sedik rolled his eyes and released Obi-Wan to press the button for the lift. "Let’s not talk about it. I figure I have about two days of life remaining. Then Master will have the test results and the poodoo will hit the fans."

Obi-Wan grinned. "So – what do you want to do with these precious last moments of life?"

Sedik gave him a wary look. "Oh, no, Obi-Wan! Whatever prank you have in mind, leave me out! My only hope is to grovel and beg for mercy – which I won’t get if I’m already standing in the corner with a sore butt."

Obi-Wan managed a mock offended look. "Sedik, you wound me! I don’t spend all my time getting into trouble."

" Good thing, too – for the sake of Master Jinn’s arm if not your own butt." The lift arrived at the level of the dining hall and they exited. "So what did you have in mind?"

" Have you heard about the show at the Arts Center next weekend? Master says he’ll get tickets for me for my sixteenth birthday present if I’m interested."

" If you’re interested?" Sedik snorted. "It’s only supposed to be the most amazing light and sound show ever! Master Jinn must know some important people if he can get tickets to that."

Obi-Wan shrugged. "Senator Valorum is the show’s sponsor, and I think he and Master were an item when they were younger."

" You’re lucky. The only people my master’s friends with are stuffy historians and a couple of Corellian pilots."

" Really?" Obi-Wan said, impressed as he tried to picture Master Irina trading drinks with Corellians. "I would think that they would be interesting to hang around with."

" Not when you get sent outta the room when they start talking about the good stuff," Sedik said with a grin. "And it must be really good, because from what I understand, Master was wild during her early knighthood."

" Does it ever make you feel funny, thinking about your master being with someone like that?" Obi-Wan asked curiously.

Sedik nodded. "Yeah. And not just my master, either. I stayed in my room for almost a week after she gave me the Talk. I think she thought I was – experimenting," he said, grinning conspiratorially at Obi-Wan, "but I was really too embarrassed to go outside our suite. Anytime I saw someone in the corridors, I would think about them having sex and I’d turn bright red and start stammering. And one day I met Master Yoda in the hall, and I thought, ‘surely not Yoda’." His grin widened. "He looked right at me, reading my mind, and said, ‘Dead I am not, yes!’ I thought I would die on the spot!"

Obi-Wan burst into laughter, leaning against a wall for support, and Sedik chuckled at the memory. "Gods, Sedik! I wouldn’t be able to look him in the face after that!"

" Yeah, well, it helps that Master Yoda is so short that I don’t have to look him in the face very often." He leaned on the wall next to Obi-Wan and grinned at his friend. "You, on the other hand, see him all the time since he’s your Grand-master. Try not to think about him having sex the next time he visits."

Obi-Wan snorted. "Great! Now that’s the first thing I’m going to be able to think about. Thanks a lot!"

" Anything for a friend," Sedik said sweetly, giving Obi-Wan his wickedest grin.

" So – you interested in going to the show?"

" Sure. If I’m not dead or grounded." He gave Obi-Wan a sideways look. "Actually, I’m surprised that you’re not asking Telerin."

Obi-Wan looked at Sedik sharply. "You mean, on a date?"

Sedik shrugged, not meeting his eyes. "You two have become rather friendly, lately. All those meetings in the Lounge after dinner to talk."

Obi-Wan flushed but said, "I meet you and Bant and Reeft there, too."

" It’s not the same," Sedik said dryly.

Obi-Wan frowned. "You don’t like Telerin, do you?"

Sedik sighed but looked up, meeting Obi-Wan’s eyes directly. "No, I don’t," he said frankly.

Obi-Wan was surprised to find how much that hurt. "Are you jealous? You think he’ll become my best friend instead of you?"

" No, I know that you have better judgment than that."

" Well, thanks for that! You seem to be the only one who thinks that I have any kind of common sense."

" I didn’t say that," Sedik said, a smile quirking up his lips.

" It isn’t funny," Obi-Wan said sharply.

" No, it isn’t," Sedik said soberly. "Obi-Wan, I just don’t want to see you get hurt. You’re a really nice kid, and – "

" I am not a kid!" Obi-Wan snapped. "Everyone treats me like a child – you, my master, Bant – everyone but Telerin!"

" And don’t you think there is a reason for that? Think, Obi-Wan, with your head and not your heart. You’re only sixteen and he’s probably the first person you’ve ever had a crush on. I really think that you should – grow up a little more before you start dating."

Obi-Wan couldn’t bear to hear his best friend say any more. Sedik thought he was a baby, just like all the others did. His heart felt as if someone had run a saber through it and he thought he would never be able to breathe again. It hurt every time he tried to draw in a breath, and he just knew that he would start bawling if he stayed there another minute. And right now, he couldn’t bear the thought of Sedik seeing him cry.

" You just don’t like him, that’s all," he snapped, stopping abruptly in the doorway to the dining hall. "You know, I’m not very hungry today. You go ahead without me. I'll just head back to my room for a bottle and a nap."

He turned on his heel and hurried down the corridor, ignoring the voice calling his name, and ran up the stairs to the living quarters, not wanting to risk meeting up with anyone in the confined space of the lift. All he wanted now was to lock himself in his room until the pain in his heart went away. He figured that a hundred years just might do it.

Qui-Gon looked up from his desk in the common room as a padawan-shaped blur burst through the suite and into the bedroom used by his apprentice. "Obi-Wan?"

There was no answer and he got up, heading towards the door that had slid shut behind the young man. "Obi-Wan, what are you doing back at this hour? I thought you were going to eat with your friends – and then you have afternoon classes." There was no reply and he tapped on the door. "Obi-Wan?"

" Go away." The voice was muffled but the pain that came across their bond was sharp. He hesitated between wanting to give his growing apprentice the space he needed and wanting to soothe the boy’s pain, then knocked again.

" Obi-Wan, please open this door and talk to me."

" I can’t. Please, Master, just go away."

Qui-Gon hesitated and sighed, turning away from the closed door. It hurt him to leave his padawan in pain like this, but Obi-Wan was no longer a child and he couldn’t force his confidences. He walked towards the kitchen to fix them both some lunch, only to be sidetracked by an insistent buzzing at the door.

He opened the door and smiled at Sedik, then noticed that the young man looked pale and worried. "Sedik? Is something wrong?"

" Is Obi-Wan here?"

Qui-Gon nodded gesturing towards the closed door. "He’s in his room, but I expect that he’ll come out once he smells lunch cooking. Would you like to join us?"

Sedik didn’t appear to hear him. The senior padawan walked over to the door and tapped on it hesitantly. "Obi? It’s Sedik. May I come in? I think – I think we need to talk."

" I don’t feel like talking right now." Obi-Wan’s voice sounded muffled and sulky.

Sedik knocked on the door, louder this time. "Stop acting like a child, Obi-Wan!"

" Why? It’s what I am, isn’t it?"

Sedik heaved a put-upon sigh. "I didn’t mean it like that! Now open up this door so we can talk."

" I don’t want to!"

Sedik let out a frustrated growl and kicked the door in frustration, surprising Qui-Gon who had never before seen the young man display a bit of bad temper. "Obi-Wan Kenobi! You are the most stubborn, most infuriating – " He swung around and stomped out of the suite, leaving Qui-Gon staring after him, perplexed and dismayed.

He went to Obi-Wan’s door and tapped. "Go away!" came a cross voice from the other side.

" It’s me, Padawan. May I come in?"

There was a resigned sigh. / / Oh, all right, Master. It’s not locked./ /

Qui-Gon opened the door and found the boy sitting cross-legged on his bed, a pillow clutched to his chest. His cheeks were dry but his eyes were red, so tears were imminent if not already shed.

He crossed his arms and said, quietly, "You didn’t treat Sedik very nicely just now." Obi-Wan just shrugged at that, not meeting his eyes. "Did you two have a fight?"

" Not exactly," Obi-Wan said, his voice sounding rough. "I – he doesn’t like one of my new friends."

" Oh." Qui-Gon studied the downcast face. "Sedik is a pretty good judge of character. There might be a reason that he doesn’t like this person."

" There isn’t," Obi-Wan said hotly. "It’s all just rumors! Telerin’s really nice, and he doesn’t treat me like a child! He’s the only one who doesn’t."

Qui-Gon frowned. "Padawan Mikos? I’ve heard some stories about that young man, and I have to agree with Sedik. This Telerin isn’t the kind of person that I want you to have for a friend."

Obi-Wan’s head jerked up. "But Master! None of it’s true! He told me all about what happened, and it’s a lot of lies and jealousy! Even Sedik is jealous of him!"

" Padawan, there is more here than just jealousy. Is this the young man that you were thinking about dating?"

" Yes, Master."

Qui-Gon shook his head. "Then I’m sorry, Padawan, but I cannot allow you to date Telerin Mikos."

" But Master!" Obi-Wan protested hotly.

" But nothing, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said firmly. "If the young man would like to come talk to me, I am willing to listen, to give him a chance to convince me otherwise. I won't ask you to stop meeting him in public, but you are not to be alone with him and you are not allowed to date him."

Obi-Wan jumped up from the bed and said angrily, "This isn’t fair! You don’t even know him!"

" Enough, Padawan," Qui-Gon said sternly. "If you cannot control your emotions any better than this, than you had better spend the rest of the day here in your room. Meditating and seeking to understand what those of us who are older – and wiser – than you are trying to teach you."

" But – "

" Do you understand me, Padawan? Or do I need to reinforce your restriction with a warm backside?"

" No," Obi-Wan muttered.

" No, what?"

" No, Master," Obi-Wan said with a put-upon sigh.

Qui-Gon drew in a deep breath, summoning patience and reminding himself that his padawan would not be a teenager forever. "Very well, Padawan. I will bring you dinner later." Hearing a mutter from his padawan, he turned back and said sharply, "You have something else to add, Padawan?"

" No, Master."

" Good." Qui-Gon made his retreat, hearing the sound of a young body flinging itself down on the bed in a huff. He had no doubt that tears would follow but hardened his heart to the misery coming across the bond. He knew that Obi-Wan was not really in pain, just unhappy, but it didn’t help much.

He sat down on the couch and rubbed his temples wearily, groaning when the door chime sounded again. Recognizing his master’s Force signature, he called out, "Come in, Master."

The diminutive Jedi master entered the common room and took in the sight of his former padawan, sitting on the couch and looking as if he had been through a grueling battle. His ears twitched and his eyes twinkled a bit.

" Feeling well you are not, my padawan?"

Qui-Gon sighed. "It’s nothing that strong pain medication and, oh, about 5 or 6 years won’t cure."

" Ah. Acting like a teenager is young Kenobi then," Yoda said with a knowledgeable nod.

" And then some. He is feeling very sorry for himself since I nipped a youthful romance in the bud." Qui-Gon got up and fixed them some tea, serving his former master before settling back on the couch again. He saw that his old master was looking thoughtful, watching him with those sharp eyes that missed very little, and steeled himself for a lecture.

Instead, he was surprised when Yoda said in a soft voice, "Padawan, remember your own adolescence do you?"

Qui-Gon rolled his eyes. "Little hope I have of ever forgetting any moment of it, between you and Mace telling Obi-Wan everything I did."

Yoda ignored that. "Trouble you were, yes. Always better you knew than anyone else."

" Well, Mace would say that hasn’t changed," Qui-Gon said dryly.

" Time there came when had to let you make mistakes I did." Yoda’s eyes met his directly. "Pained me deeply, yes. Hurt for you I did. Protect you from own mistakes I could not."

Qui-Gon dropped his eyes to his tea cup and drew a deep breath, understanding that Yoda was talking about him and Obi-Wan as much as about him and Yoda. "It didn’t keep you from wanting to protect me."

Yoda smiled. "My padawan you are. Protect you always I wish to do. Impossible it is now. Impossible it was when a child you were."

" Not for lack of trying on your part, Master," Qui-Gon said ruefully but with great affection. "Not to mention all the times you took your stick to me to reinforce your lessons."

" Point I am making, Padawan. Easy on you I was not. Here for you I was."

Qui-Gon reached out to lay a hand on the diminutive master’s knee. "I know, Master. I always knew."

" Know it Obi-Wan does as well. Firm you must be. Firm he needs you to be. Easy it will not be – for either of you."

Qui-Gon nodded but he sighed as he closed his eyes and leaned back against the couch. "I know, but it doesn't make it hurt less. I can feel him in there, crying his heart out, and I just want to hold him close like a little boy and make him feel better. But I can't. In his mind, I'm part of the problem. And part of me wants to tell him to love whomever he wants, but part of me knows that this other boy is trouble and that he will break Obi-Wan's heart, given half the chance."

Yoda nodded sagely. "Difficult to see the path to choose. Make the right decision you will."

" I'm glad you have such confidence in me," Qui-Gon said dryly. "Because right about now, mine is at low tide. And when I think I have years of this to go through..." He sat up and glared at his master. "It's all your fault, you know, but I swear that no matter what tricks you try to pull on me, I will never take on another apprentice. I'm getting too old for this."

Yoda snorted. "Why think you that taken another padawan I have not? Wore me out you did."

Qui-Gon chuckled at that and got up to make some more tea. Through the bond he could feel that his apprentice had fallen into an exhausted sleep and he smiled to himself. Hopefully, the next day would be better. And hopefully there would not be any more battles with his padawan tomorrow.

Obi-Wan sat curled in a chair in the padawan's lounge, ostensibly reading the padd in his lap. In reality, he was surreptitiously watching the doors to the lounge, waiting to see if Telerin would come this evening - and also nervously watching to see if any of his friends came in. The last thing he needed was anyone, particularly busy-body Sedik, telling his master that he had been seeing the other padawan.

He caught sight of the other boy leisurely entering the lounge and instantly straightened up, pulling his robe back into place from where it had gotten rucked up in the chair. He watched as Telerin made his way around the room, stopping to say hello to friends, before he finally reached Obi-Wan and dropped into the chair across from him.

" Hello, Obi-Wan." Telerin's smile faded and he looked at Obi-Wan in concern. "You look terrible. What's wrong?" He reached out to take Obi-Wan's hand in his.

" Everything," Obi-Wan said with a sigh, grateful for the sympathy in the other boy's face. "Sedik and I had a fight."

" About me?"

Obi-Wan nodded. "Then my master took his side, said that I wasn't supposed to see you anymore. I couldn't come last night because he restricted me to my room. I was lucky that he let me come tonight. I told him that I was meeting my other friends."

Telerin pretended to be distressed by this. "Oh, Obi-Wan! I didn't know that being my friend was going to get you into trouble. I should go - you don't need any more problems."

Obi-Wan clutched his hand, keeping him from walking away. "No! You're my friend, no matter what they say! I won't give you up because of stupid rumors."

Telerin let himself be pulled back into the chair, giving Obi-Wan a wistful smile. "I had hoped that we were becoming more than friends."

Obi-Wan blushed at that. "We are. I mean, I'd like us to be."

" So would I," murmured Telerin, leaning closer so that his lips almost brushed Obi-Wan's. Then he pulled back, shaking his head. "It's impossible. They won't let us be together."

" Maybe if you came with me to talk to my master?"

Telerin shook his head. "No. Your master is a fair man, and if there was any proof of what I've been telling you, then I know he would believe me. But there isn't. It's just my word against theirs."

" Then what can we do?" Obi-Wan asked anxiously. "I don't want to stop seeing you."

Telerin reached out to touch Obi-Wan's cheek affectionately. "Thank you for trusting me like that, but I don't see what we can do except to give in to them - except - " He hesitated, then shook his head. "No. I can't ask you to do that."

" To do what?"

" We could meet away from the Temple. At one of the clubs in the city."

Obi-Wan shook his head. "My master said that anyone I date has to pick me up from our rooms. I'd be in serious trouble if I left the Temple like that."

" And I don't want to get you into trouble." Telerin sighed. "Still, I would have liked to have danced with you, just once."

The sigh and the words got to Obi-Wan, and he flushed as he pictured the two of them dancing close together. And maybe Telerin would kiss him. "Okay," he said. "Just once. When?"

" Tomorrow night."

" Tomorrow?"

" We don't dare wait any longer. They may try to separate us more permanently - any day, you or I could get sent on a mission." Telerin smiled wryly. "They like to do that - try to make us forget about the ones we love. That's what Jerris' master did to us. Your master will, too, if he has the chance."

" All right. Tomorrow. What time and where?"

" Meet me outside the Temple gates at tenth hour. I'll have an air-car."

Obi-Wan hesitated. "It'll be hard to get out then. My master will be home - he won't let me leave - "

Telerin tried not to scream with vexation. Really, this Kenobi kid was becoming a bore, he thought with disgust. If it wasn't for the fact that he never gave up on a challenge, he would have dropped the boy right then and there, and he couldn't quite control his temper as he said, shortly, "Then sneak out! Sith Hells, Obi-Wan, haven't you ever sneaked out of your rooms at night?"

Obi-Wan flushed, certain that Telerin would think he was a child. "It's all right. I'll find a way."

" Good." Telerin raised Obi-Wan's hand to his lips, kissing the back of it and then turning it over to nuzzle the palm. It made Obi-Wan feel funny and uncomfortable. Then Telerin released his hand and said, "You better leave before someone notices and tells your master."

Obi-Wan nodded reluctantly and left the room, and Telerin sat back in his seat, smiling to himself. One of his friends sat down in the chair that Obi-Wan had just been occupying, giving the other young man a curious look. "You've been spending a lot of time with Kenobi lately. What's up with that?"

Telerin grinned. "Just doing a little gambling - and it's about to pay off."

And across the room, from a shadowed table, Sedik watched with a deepening frown.

Qui-Gon watched his padawan pick at his dinner with concern. For the third day in a row, ever since Qui-Gon's ultimatum, the boy's appetite had been non-existent and his attitude had been listless. While Qui-Gon didn't think that the boy would starve, he hated to see Obi-Wan suffering like this.

" Obi-Wan, would you like me to cancel my plans for the evening? We could go out to watch a holovid together?"

Obi-Wan looked up at him, confused. "What plans, Mater?"

" Master Mace's party," Qui-Gon said patiently. "I told you about it days ago, but I'll tell Mace that I can't make it."

Obi-Wan had just about decided that there was no way that he could sneak out past his master and was almost relieved. He would just call Telerin and tell him it was impossible, that they would have to find another way to be together. Now he was thrown back into the dilemma.

" No, Master - I'll be fine," he said, feeling wretched and not meeting his master's eyes. "I'm just going to study and go to bed early. You go on to Master Mace's party.

Qui-Gon frowned, sensing that something was not quite right. He cast out a probing thought but Obi-Wan was tightly shielded. "All right, Padawan. But if you need me, don't hesitate to call."

" Yes, Master."

After his master finally left - after checking on him twice while he studied in his room - Obi-Wan found that he couldn't sit still. He paced back and forth in the common room, biting the end of his braid and checking the chrono every few minutes. His stomach was churning at the thought of disobeying his master - and the consequences should he get caught - but he desperately wanted to be with Telerin. He wanted to taste his first kiss, to know what all the fuss was about. And he was tired of being treated like a child by everyone. He would just do this one time, and then, no matter what, he would always have a beautiful memory to look back on.

He took a look in the mirror and made a face. Dressed in his padawan clothes, he looked mall and insignificant. Not like his master, who looked so regal and commanding in his robes, or Bant who looked so competent and healing in her soft blue healer's robe, or even Sedik who looked like a Senior Padawan should look in his robes. Obi-Wan just looked like a child playing at Jedi.

He slipped into his master's room, looking in the storage closet where they kept things that they sometimes needed for their missions. He remembered that on their last mission, he had worn an outfit just like most of the Couruscant youth wore, allowing them to meet their contact anonymously. He pulled it out of the closet and held it up to his body. Yes, it still fit. He hadn't grown in the past few months - which was part of the problem.

Carrying the outfit back into his room, he showered and changed into the tunic and tight leggings, then tried to pull on the matching boots. Wouldn't you know, he thought in disgust - the only things that had grown were his blasted feet. He pulled on his regular boots and studied himself in the mirror. Well, he was no Telerin, but he thought that he would do all right.

Noticing that it was now fifteen minutes to tenth hour, he grabbed his robe and flung it around himself to hide his civilian clothes, then quickly left the suite and hurried towards the Temple gates.

As he hurried, he didn't think to look behind him and so he didn't notice that he was being followed...

Telerin was waiting for him outside the gates next to an air-car and he smiled when he saw Obi-Wan. "Obi-Wan! I was afraid that you had changed your mind - that you weren't coming."

" Sorry to be late," Obi-Wan said breathlessly. "I had to change first." He pulled open the concealing robe. "Its this okay?"

Telerin smiled. "Perfect. You look beautiful."

" Really?" Obi-Wan asked naively.

" Really. But you had better keep that wrapped around you till we get to the club so no one will notice."

They got into the air taxi and Telerin gave instructions to the driver. Obi-Wan looked out the windows, fascinated as always by the sheer volume of lights and traffic, and the way the planet glowed at night. He rarely got a chance to see this, usually when coming back late from a mission when he was in no condition to appreciate it, although Qui-Gon had taken him out to dinner and one of the museums for his birthday the previous year. Thinking of Qui-Gon made him feel guilty so he resolutely turned off that thought and turned to his companion.

" Where are we going?"

" One of the clubs that I like to go to," Telerin said, lifting his hand to brush against Obi-Wan's hair. "The music is wonderful and they don't charge too many credit for the drinks."

" Drinks?" Obi-Wan said anxiously. "But I'm underage. They won't let me drink."

Telerin pulled out a plastic square and handed it to Obi-Wan. "With this they will."

Obi-Wan stared at the plastic card as if it would bite him. He had never seen falsified identification cards before, and he couldn't believe that the holo on it would fool anyone into thinking that he was eighteen. The butterflies in his stomach started doing katas and he thought for a panicked moment that he should just tell the droid driver to turn around and take him back to the Temple.

And then Telerin was leaning closer, murmuring in his ear, "I can't wait to dance with you. I'll bet that you're a good dancer, too - you're so graceful and fluid when you're sparring."

Obi-Wan smiled at that comment. "You think so?"

Telerin smiled. "Yes. And I imagine that I won't be the only one thinking that. I'll have to fend the competition off with my 'saber."

Obi-Wan laughed and then the air taxi was stopping. Telerin got out and helped Obi-Wan out, then paid off the taxi while Obi-Wan stood on the pedestrian walk and stared anxiously at the club they stood outside of.

It didn't look anything like he thought it would and he swallowed down a surge of disappointment. From the outside, it looked a little tawdry and the music was loud enough to hear outside. Telerin took his arm and led him inside, past a bored looking doorman who didn't even glance at their ID. Once inside, it was almost impossible to hear anything that his companion said so he allowed Telerin to lead him over to the bar where the older padawan ordered drinks for them. Obi-Wan sipped at his cautiously, trying not to make a face at the sharp bite of the alcohol in the drink, and looked around him. This would probably be the only time he'd get inside a club like this - especially when his master found out - so he was determined to see everything that he could. There was a crowd on the dance floor, gyrating to the music that was little more than a bass beat with shrieking synths blaring out something like a tune, but the dancers didn't seem to care what the music was. He blushed slightly when he saw how closely some of the couples were dancing but then there were others that were dancing so far apart that they almost seemed to be alone.

" Drink!" Telerin shouted over the noise, gesturing towards the glass in Obi-Wan's hand. "Good!"

Obi-Wan smiled hesitantly and took another swallow, choking a little as it burned its way down his throat. Telerin tried not to betray his impatience; he had counted on at least getting two of those drinks into Obi-Wan before he led him onto the dance floor, but now it looked as if he would have to change his plans. For a moment, he was irritated with the brat and sourly thought that it was unlikely that this whole game was going to be worth it. Kenobi was probably as uptight in bed as he was with every thing else. Well, once he got what he wanted tonight, he could dump the kid and take up with someone who really knew how to have fun for a change.

He pasted on a smile when Obi-Wan glanced over at him anxiously and decided to try to loosen the younger man up on the dance floor. Holding out a hand, he gave the boy his most appealing smile. "Dance?"

Obi-Wan smiled widely at that and Telerin grudgingly admitted that the kid looked nice enough when he smiled that way. He took the younger padawan's hand and led him out onto the floor, into the middle of the crowd. It wouldn't be easy to talk here, to seduce Obi-Wan with words, but the crowd would force them to dance close and keep Obi-Wan from running away from him. He took the younger man into a loose embrace, swaying with the rhythm of the music, and willing himself to patience.

Obi-Wan relaxed in his companion's loose embrace. He felt a little claustrophobic with the crowd all around them, instincts honed by past situations screaming a warning to him. He ignored the voices and let himself relax more, leaning his head against Telerin's shoulder. He could feel the approval in the older boy's embrace as he tightened his hold slightly, and Obi-Wan let out a sigh of pleasure. This was what it should be like, he thought, dancing close to the one you loved, feeling the warmth of their body near yours and the beat of their heart under your ear. He smiled dreamily and closed his eyes, letting the rhythm of the music move him.

The music changed to something harder and more driving, and he felt Telerin's arms tighten even more around them. Now they were pressed tightly together and he tried to pull back a little, uncomfortable with this sudden intimacy, but Telerin's arms were locked around him and he couldn't get free. Telerin had turned his head and was muttering something against his ear, something that Obi-Wan couldn't hear clearly but that sounded like "beautiful" and "want you". The feeling of something cold and wet in his ear made him jump and he realized with disgust that Telerin had stuck his tongue in his ear.

" Telerin - " he protested, trying to pull away. "Stop - I don't like that."

Telerin wasn't stopping, not when his goal was so close, and not when a little finesse would no doubt overcome the younger boy's virginal qualms. He kissed Obi-Wan's neck, nipping at it. "Can't stop, Obi-Wan. You're so perfect, so sweet. I need you."

" I - no - " Obi-Wan's struggles became stronger. "Please don't - "

Telerin pulled Obi-Wan's squirming body closer, determinedly using every persuasive touch he could think of to get the younger boy to co-operate. "Please, Obi-Wan? Please? Just one time - before they separate us? There are rooms in back - we can be together - I want you so much - "

He tried to kiss the squirming youth, his kisses landing on the edges of Obi-Wan's mouth and his cheek, his mouth wet and hard against Obi-Wan's skin. And Obi-Wan thought desperately that it wasn't the least bit romantic, and he wanted it to stop right now. And when the other boy slip a hand down his back and squeezed his butt, the shock he had been feeling switching immediately to anger.

" No!" He shoved hard, pushing the other boy away from him with a Force enhanced push, and watched Telerin go sprawling on his bottom.

" You little tease! I'll teach you to play with me!" Telerin snarled, his face twisted with rage, and Obi-Wan wondered why he had ever thought that the other apprentice was attractive. And he realized with chagrin that his master had been right, and so had Sedik.

Obi-Wan braced himself for retaliation, ready to fight to protect himself while he desperately hoped that someone would call the authorities even if it did get him into trouble, but suddenly there was a larger figure standing on the dance floor between them, light saber in hand, looking for all the world like an avenging god.

" I believe that Obi-Wan said 'no'," Sedik said in a voice that would cut titanium. "Do I need to call the Temple authorities and have you charged with assault and attempted rape?"

Telerin snarled but recognized that he had lost this fight. That didn't mean that he had to like it - or the way that Obi-Wan was looking at Sedik right now. "Fine. Take your little friend home and tuck him in his crib. And Sedik? That little ice prince isn't worth wasting your time on. I doubt that he'd put out for anyone."

Sedik smiled at him coldly. "That's a matter of opinion." He turned to Obi-Wan, extinguishing his saber, and held out his hand. "Come on, Obi. I've got an air taxi waiting outside."

Dumbly, Obi-Wan let Sedik lead him outside and push him into the taxi and heard him instruct the driver to drive to the Temple. Reaction suddenly hit and he collapsed limply against the seat with a gasp that made Sedik turn towards him anxiously.

" Are you all right, Obi-Wan? He didn't hurt you, did he?"

Obi-Wan shuddered. "It was horrible, Sed," he muttered, grateful when the other boy pulled him into a comforting hug. "I thought that kissing would be different - romantic and sweet. But it wasn't like that at all! He - he stuck his tongue in my ear, and he slobbered all over my neck and face. It was disgusting."

Sedik smiled at the vehemence in the younger boy's words. "Oh, Obi - it doesn't have to be like that. Not with someone you care about. I'm just glad that he didn't try anything else."

Obi-Wan managed a shaky laugh. "No. You arrived in the nick of time. My hero."

Sedik chuckled at that. "I'm no hero. You were doing just fine on your own. All I did was - persuade Telerin to accept your decision."

Obi-Wan shuddered, clutching Sedik's robe and burying his face in the older boy's shoulder. "I never want to hear that name again," he said, his voice muffled by the material. And then he looked up, his eyes damp with painful tears. "He was just playing with me, Sedik. You were right all along. He didn't really love me."

" I wish that I had been wrong, for your sake," Sedik said, his voice low and solemn. He settled Obi-Wan's head back against his shoulder, stroking his hair soothingly. "I'm sorry, Obi-Wan. You deserve better than that."

Obi-Wan relaxed for the first time that evening, grateful for the comfort his friend offered. Half-asleep, he thought that it was too bad that it was Telerin that had taken him out, not Sedik. The kisses might have even been nice if it had been Sedik doing the kissing. Except, of course, that Sedik thought he was still a child and wouldn't even want to kiss him.

He realized that the air-car had pulled up in front of the Temple and sat up abruptly, realizing that the worst of the evening was not over yet. He still had to face his master.

Qui-Gon was at the comm when Obi-Wan entered their rooms and his first words were, "Thank the gods!" as he crossed the room to enfold Obi-Wan in his arms. Obi-Wan's arms went around his master and he clung tightly, relishing the warm strength that surrounded him and moved across their bond.

" Are you all right, Padawan?"

Obi-Wan nodded his head against his master's chest. "I'm fine, Master. A little shook up, but fine."

His first anxiety relieved, Qui-Gon pushed him back to arm's length, holding Obi-Wan by the shoulders and frowning. "And just where were you, Padawan? I was worried about you so I came back here early. When I didn't find you here, I had half the Temple looking for you."

" Sorry, Master," Obi-Wan said contritely. "I didn't mean to worry you." He drew in a deep breath. "I left the Temple. With Telerin. He took me to a dance club in the Pleasure district. I - he gave me a false ID and I used it to get into the club. And - and I had a drink, too, only it was horrible so I didn't finish it. Then we danced, only he was too close and I didn't like it, but he wouldn't listen to me when I said 'no'. So I knocked him down. And then Sedik kept him from trying to beat me up. And he brought me home. Sedik, I mean, not Telerin. And you were right about Telerin, and I'm so very, very sorry I was a brat."

Qui-Gon blinked, trying to make sense of the words tumbling out of his padawan's mouth. He was certain that he was developing another headache. "Slowly, Padawan. And I think that we had better sit down."

Obi-Wan obediently settled on the couch, meeting his master's eyes frankly. "I deserve to be punished, Master. I kept seeing Telerin, even when you told me not to. Plus everything else."

Qui-Gon sat down on the couch next to him. "Why, Padawan?"

Obi-Wan flushed and looked down at his hands. "He - he was nice to me, Master. Really nice. Everyone else treated me like a child but he - he talked to me like I was his age, and he said nice things. I thought - I thought he really liked me, that he wanted to be with me. But all he wanted was sex."

There was a new maturity in that young voice, and Qui-Gon ached at the sound of it. His boy was growing up so fast, and there were so many things that would hurt him, destroy that youthful innocence. He knew it, knew that it was inevitable. But that didn't mean that he had to like it.

" I'm sorry, Padawan." he said gently. "You'll find that there are some people like that, and some that are serious about their feelings for you. I hope that you'll find more of the latter kind, but life gives us no guarantees."

Obi-Wan nodded soberly. "I understand, Master."

" Good. And I'm also glad to see that you understand that I'm going to have to punish you, Padawan. You broke several rules tonight, and I think that a spanking is called for."

Obi-Wan drew a deep breath and nodded. He hadn't expected anything less. He stood up and moved over to the chair where Qui-Gon usually sat when he administered spankings, dropping his pants without being ordered to do so for once. Qui-Gon settled the young man over his lap, making sure that Obi-Wan was secure, one hand soothingly circling his back.

" All right, Padawan. What's this spanking for?"

" For continuing to see Telerin, even when you told me not to."

Qui-Gon smacked the firm backside before him several times. "From now on, Padawan, I expect you to respect and obey my decisions. If I say that you may not see a person, I don't want to hear arguing, whining, or temper tantrums - and disobeying me will have dire consequences. Do you understand me?"

" Yes, Master," Obi-Wan gasped as the hard hand made a circuit of his backside.

" What else, Padawan?"

" For leaving the Temple grounds. And being out past curfew. Owww!"

Qui-Gon smacked him several times, hard. "You are never, ever to leave Temple grounds without permission unless you have a very, very good reason. What if something had happened to you? If you were injured, it could be days before we tracked you down. And there are slavers in the city - if you fell into their hands, we'd never find you."

" Sorry - Master - "

" You do that again, and you'll be so sorry you won't be able to sit for a month. Do you hear me, Padawan?"

" Y-yes, Master."

" And as for curfew." He spanked Obi-Wan several more times. "I don't set curfews arbitrarily. You are a growing boy, and you have a hectic enough life as it is. I can't always control circumstances when we are on missions, but when we are at home, I want you on a regular scheduled. And you need proper rest. I won't have you falling asleep in class or doing poorly in your studies because you didn't get enough rest. Am I understood?"

" Y-yes."

" What else, Padawan?"

" I - I don't know."

" Well, how about the ID? You may not have gotten it, but you used it and you knew that it was illegal. We are Jedi, Obi-Wan. We do not bend laws to suit us. Do you understand me?"

" Y-yes, Master!"

" And then there's the drinking." He smacked the reddening backside again. "Drinking underage is, again, illegal, and not something that I will put up with from you. Too many young people are lost because of the side-effects of drinking. I won't have you become one of them."

" Y-yes, Master," Obi-Wan sobbed. His backside felt as red and hot as fire, and he could have sworn that the heat off it could warm their rooms.

Qui-Gon continued to spank him, going over the whole area again, and by the time he stopped, Obi-Wan was sobbing hard. The master Jedi rubbed his hand soothingly over his apprentice's back, murmuring reassuring words until the sobs lessened. "All over, Padawan. And I don't think that you'll make that mistake again, will you?"

Obi-Wan couldn't talk between his hitching sobs, so he just shook his head as he slid to his knees on the floor, leaning his head against his master's legs while he tried to recover and tug his pants back up over his sore backside. He felt his master gently tug on his braid and allowed Qui-Gon to pull him up into a hug, burying his face against his master's shoulder while he sobbed out his pain, both from the spanking and from his disappointment. Qui-Gon rubbed his back soothingly, as he always did after a spanking, silent but supportive, and Obi-Wan was ashamed of the way he had treated his master over the past week. He decided that from now on, he would be the best padawan ever - a vow that would have made Qui-Gon laugh if he had known of it.

" Better now, Padawan?" Qui-Gon asked gently.

Obi-Wan nodded reluctantly, not wanting to leave the comfort of his master's lap, and stood up. "The corner, Master?"

" Not this time, Padawan," Qui-Gon said, observing the shadows under his padawan's eyes. "You're exhausted and need your sleep. And I have something else in mind."

Obi-Wan sighed and tried not to make a face. "Meditations, Master?"

" No, I have something different in mind. You're always saying that we treat you like a child. Which we don't, but since you can't seem to remember exactly how children are treated, the rest of your punishment will be to spend three hours every afternoon for the next month helping with the younger children in the creche. The primary care group, I think."

Obi-Wan groaned at the thought of dealing with four and five year olds every day. "I think I'd rather have corner time."

Qui-Gon smiled. "I know."

Qui-Gon opened the door and smiled at Sedik. "I'm sorry, Sedik. I’m afraid that Obi-Wan isn’t home right now."

" I know, Master Jinn. I saw him in the gardens with the Primaries. That's why I came here now. I'd actually like to speak with you, if I may."

Qui-Gon raised an eyebrow but stepped aside and gestured for Sedik to enter. He took a moment to appraise the younger man, noting that he was dressed in his best tunic and cloak, that his boots shone like glass, and he had attempted to subdue the turbulent short curls. A corner of his mouth quirked as he realized that the padawan was deliberately trying to present a good appearance and the probable reason.

He gestured towards the couch and Sedik sat down on the edge of it, sedately folding his hands on his lap. Recalling how many times he had seen the two boys sprawled at different ends of the couch, Qui-Gon had to suppress another grin.

" May I offer you some tea?" he asked, sitting down in the chair across from Sedik.

" No. Thank you." Sedik cleared his throat, looking a little uncertain about how to begin.

Qui-Gon decided to try to help the boy out by starting the conversation. "I'm glad you came by, Sedik. I haven't had the opportunity to thank you for going to Obi-Wan's rescue last night."

Sedik flushed slightly. "It was nothing, Master Jinn. Obi-Wan had the situation pretty much under control - he just needed a little reinforcement." He paused. "Obi-Wan's a good person, with strong principles - you would have been proud of the way he handled Telerin."

Qui-Gon nodded gravely. "Thank you, Sedik, and I am proud of him. I'm just puzzled as to why he would let this young man lead him on like he did. If you and I could see through Telerin's intentions, then the fact that Obi-Wan didn't concerns me."

" Master Jinn, have you ever seen Padawan Mikos?"

" I had the dubious pleasure of meeting him and his master before the Council this morning to discuss this situation." He didn't add his own satisfaction with a Council decision for once - Padawan Mikos and his master were being sent to Hoth while Obi-Wan's friend Garen had been recalled home. Qui-Gon sincerely hoped that the ice planet would cool Telerin's libido.

" Then you know that he's beautiful," Sedik said simply, but Qui-Gon could hear a hint of pain in the admission. "Probably the most beautiful young man in the Temple."

" On the outside, perhaps, but his character is anything but beautiful."

Sedik smiled ruefully. "Obi-Wan's too young to make that distinction yet, although he may have learned to be more wary now. And when a beautiful older padawan courts you like Telerin courted Obi-Wan - well, I'd be surprised if Obi-Wan didn't fall for him." The older man watched the emotions that passed over the younger man's face - affection, sorrow, resignation - as Sedik continued. "And perhaps Obi-Wan is right about us treating him like a child. I didn't take it seriously until it was too late to stop it."

Qui-Gon tilted his head and asked, curiously, "And just how would you have stopped it?"

" By dating him myself," Sedik said simply. He met the master Jedi's eyes directly and honestly. "I've been in love with Obi-Wan for a long time. I was just waiting for him to grow up enough for me to do something about it." A sad smile tugged at a corner of his mouth. "I didn't expect that it would happen so soon - or that I wouldn't realize when he was ready."

Qui-Gon sighed. "I wasn't ready for him to start dating, either. And, since we are being completely honest here, I'll admit that you were the first one I expected to come courting Obi-Wan."

Sedik gave him a rueful smile. "Better late than never, I suppose. Then I have your permission to date Obi-Wan?"

Qui-Gon held up his hand. "Not so fast. Just because I expected you to be the first doesn't mean that I'd immediately give my permission. I want to know just what exactly your intentions are, Padawan Sedik. Obi-Wan has already had a rough start dating-wise and I don't want to see him hurt again."

Sedik sat up straighter and nodded seriously. "I don't want to see that either, Master Jinn. I've already told you that I love Obi-Wan, and that I've been in love with him for quite a while. If I was going to - to take advantage of him, I wouldn't have waited for him to be mature enough, and I wouldn't have come to see you today to ask your permission."

" Then Obi-Wan didn't tell you that was one of my rules? That I expected anyone he dated to get my permission?"

Sedik shook his head. "I haven't even asked Obi-Wan out yet. I wanted your permission before I approached him, especially after Telerin." He drew in a deep breath. "As for my intentions - all I can say is that I want to make him happy. I promise that I will never deliberately hurt Obi-Wan, physically or emotionally. I'll never ask him to do anything that he's uncomfortable doing, or pressure him in any way. If it's a month or a year before he even lets me kiss him, then I'll wait patiently till he's ready." With a rueful smile he added, "No matter how much it may kill me to do so."

Qui-Gon had studied the younger man's face while he talked and now he nodded. "Very well, Sedik. You have my permission to ask Obi-Wan out."

Sedik's face lit up and he stood up as if unable to contain his joy. "Thank you, Master Jinn! You won't regret it - I promise!"

Qui-Gon chuckled. "I hope not, although the thought unleashing the two of you on the Temple as a couple makes me shudder. Now get out of here. Go find Obi-Wan and ask him out before someone else tries to steal him away."

" Yes, Master Jinn!"

Sedik hurried out of the room so fast that Qui-Gon half-thought he wasn't going to wait for the doors to open. He laughed softly and went to the comm center, putting in a call to the Senate.

" Val? It's Qui-Gon. About those tickets for the Arts Center..."

Obi-Wan sagged wearily onto a bench, relieved that the half-dozen children in his charge had found something to occupy their interest for the moment instead of using him for a wrestling partner. It was supposed to have been story time, but the minute he sat down on the ground with the six wriggling bodies around him, he had known it was a mistake. Before he could even finish reading the first page, he had been pounced upon and a tickling match had ensued - with the children being the definite winners. Now he knew why adults always stood up when they talked to children instead of getting down on their level - superior height was the only advantage he had over the little monsters.

He had finally convinced them to let him up and had sent them off on a scavenger hunt through the gardens, then dragged his weary body over to the bench. Sitting back with his eyes closed, he waited for the first sound of disaster while he took a short nap. He smiled ruefully - Master Qui-Gon had been right. He wasn't a child anymore - he simply didn't have that much strength and energy.

A soft laugh from nearby caught his attention and he opened his eyes wearily to see what new disaster awaited. Sedik was standing in the doorway watching him with a look in his eyes that made Obi-Wan sit up straighter.

" Hi," he said, feeling a little awkward. He hadn't seen Sedik since the older boy had left him at his door the previous evening, and he was still embarrassed that Sedik had had to come to his rescue. Added to that was his new knowledge of his feelings for the older padawan and his sudden awareness that he must look a mess after having been ravaged by the children. "Were you looking for me?"

Sedik smiled and nodded, crossing to sit next to him on the bench. "I wanted to see how you were doing, after last night and everything."

" I'm fine," Obi-Wan said hastily then, as his quick movement sent a painful reminder through his body, he added, "Well, mostly fine."

Sedik laughed at that and reached out to take Obi-Wan's hand in his. "I'm glad that you're okay. And I wanted you to know that I was proud of the way you took care of that idiot Telerin."

Obi-Wan felt a tingle run through him, starting at the hand that Sedik was still holding and running through his entire body. "You - you were?"

" Uh-huh. No one has the right to touch you or kiss you like that, not if you don't want them to."

" They don't?" Obi-Wan was half-aware that he sounded like an idiot but his brain seemed to have stopped working. His brain, his whole body, seemed to be unaware of anything but the hand holding his. His eyes were locked on Sedik's mouth, watching him form words that seemed to slowly penetrate his brain, until one sentence caught his full attention.

" You went to see my master just now? Why?"

Sedik smiled and lifted Obi-Wan's hand to kiss the back of it. "To ask his permission to ask you out."

Obi-Wan's hand tingled from the touch of soft lips on his skin and he managed to croak, "My master said yes?"

" Your master said yes." Sedik leaned closer, his face solemn and his eyes fixed on Obi-Wan's. "What do you say, Obi-Wan?"

" Yes," Obi-Wan whispered, leaning closer and closing his eyes. "I say 'yes'."

The kiss was nothing like what he had expected, not the least bit strange or awkward, and it seemed that their noses knew exactly where to go. Sedik's lips were sweet and warm, clinging slightly to his own before releasing him. He found himself staring at a face that was both familiar and strange, and he knew that he was smiling like an idiot but he didn't care.

" So - was that okay or was it disgusting?" Sedik asked teasingly, and Obi-Wan laughed as he remembered his remark from the other night.

" It was okay," he said. "Just don't put your tongue in my ear. That was disgusting."

" Then it'd be okay if I kissed you again?"

In reply, Obi-Wan leaned over and kissed Sedik himself, and the second kiss was even better than the first. In fact, if it hadn't been for the giggling from somewhere nearby, he would have said that it was perfect. He pulled back from the kiss and turned his head to see six little faces watching him with giggling amusement.

" Sith Hells," he muttered and felt Sedik's silent laughter shaking his body. "Did everyone find the items I told you to look for?" Five heads solemnly shook no and one nodded yes, then changed her mind. "Then go look for them, okay?"

" You just wanna be 'lone with Pad'wan Sedik," said the little girl, the one that Obi-Wan had earlier earmarked as the leader of this little band of terrorists. Then, with glee, she turned to her friends and began chanting in an irritating sing-song voice, "Obi's got a boyfriend! Obi's got a boyfriend!"

As the others picked up the irritating chant, Obi-Wan wondered if Sedik's love for him would include helping him strangle six bratty kids and hiding their bodies. A semi-hysterical wail from the young man sitting next to him made him look at Sedik to find the other padawan laughing so hard that tears ran down his cheeks. Sedik. His boyfriend.

Obi-Wan found himself grinning from ear to ear. "Yeah. I do, don't I?"

And he decided that, bratty kids not included, growing up wasn't such a bad thing after all.

Qui-Gon groaned as his padawan came into the living room in a different set of clothes for the third time that night. "Obi-Wan, how many times do you plan on changing clothes? Sedik will be here to pick you up any minute!"

" I know, Master, I know. I'm just trying to find the right thing to wear."

" That one looks fine, Padawan."

Obi-Wan frowned, glancing down at his clothes. "Fine? That's it? I wanted to look really nice for our first date. Maybe the first outfit - "

" No!" Qui-Gon said quickly. "This one looks more than fine. It's wonderful. It's perfect."

Doubtfully, Obi-Wan said, "I could wear the second tunic with the first pants - "

" Obi-Wan, if you don't stop, you'll end up wearing nothing but your boots. Now settle down."

The buzzer sounded and Obi-Wan swung around, startled. "He's here! Gods, I'm not ready - "

Qui-Gon intercepted Obi-Wan's dash for his room. "You're fine, Padawan. Trust me - Sedik won't care what you're wearing, but he'll get a little upset if you leave him standing in the hallway all night."

" Right. Of course." Obi-Wan drew in a deep breath and opened the door. The smile that lit up Sedik's face when he saw the younger man relieved Obi-Wan's fears and he found himself smiling back.

" Hi," he said shyly.

" Hello, Obi-Wan. You look wonderful."

Obi-Wan's own face lit up at that. "You really think so? I mean - come in. Please."

Sedik stepped into the room, bowing politely to the Master Jedi. "Master Jinn."

" Padawan Sedik." Qui-Gon looked at Obi-Wan. "You've got the passes, Padawan?"

Obi-Wan checked his belt-pouch. "Right here, Master."

Qui-Gon looked at Sedik and the senior padawan held out a padd. "The name of the restaurant that we'll be eating at before the show, Master Jinn, and their comm-number."

Qui-Gon accepted the padd, glancing at it and nodding in approval. The restaurant was a nice one with a good reputation. "Very well. Now, the show ends at the tenth hour and, since it's only a short distance away, I'll expect you to have Obi-Wan home by half-past the eleventh hour."

" Master." Obi-Wan was pink with embarrassment, certain that Sedik would have second thoughts if Qui-Gon kept treating him like a child. "Please."

Sedik didn't seem to be embarrassed in the least, nodding at Qui-Gon's words. "Yes, Master Jinn. I'll have him home on time, and I'll take good care of Obi-Wan."

" Who is in the room with you two and can take care of himself, thank you very much."

Sedik turned his head and grinned at the younger padawan. "I know, Obi. I've still got the knot on my head from where you clobbered me in 'saber drills."

" Well, if you'd just learn to duck," Obi-Wan said, mollified. He hugged his master quickly, brushing a kiss over his cheek and whispered, "Thank you, Master" before he let him go. Obi-Wan followed Sedik into the corridor and Qui-Gon heard both of them talking excitedly about the show as the door slid shut behind them.

He heaved a sigh of relief and collapsed back on the couch, wondering if he would survive his padawan's dating years intact. It hadn't been this frantic with his other two padawans, had it? Or was he just conveniently forgetting that part?

He picked up a stocking that had somehow been discarded in the common room and carried it into Obi-Wan's room, which looked like a natural disaster of some kind had hit it. He was certain that every item of clothing that Obi-Wan owned had been strewn over every surface and wondered how the boy expected to sleep that night. Then he smiled; more than likely, Obi-Wan would be too lost in dreams of love to notice anything, much less the mess in his room. Nevertheless, he intended to have a talk with his Padawan the next day about leaving his room in this condition.

He set down the stocking and wandered back into the common room, picking up a padd and settling down on the couch to do a little light reading. But after a few minutes he set the padd down.

It was too quiet.

He had gotten accustomed to his padawan being around in the evening: studying in his room, on his way in or out with his friends, and the study sessions when he and his friends took over the common room. The sudden silence was overwhelming and, for the first time, he realized that this was only the first of many changes to come. Changes that would lead to his apprentice growing up and leaving him forever.

The door buzzer pulled him out of his sudden depression and Qui-Gon went to the door with a heavy heart. He found Mace standing outside, his hands folded into his sleeves, and the other man smirked at him. "I take it from that woebegone look on your face that the little bird has taken his first solo flight from the nest?"

Qui-Gon was not amused by his friend's teasing. "If you've come here to gloat, you can just go back home."

" Actually," Mace said, pulling a bottle out of his sleeve. "I've come bearing gifts to ease your troubled soul."

Qui-Gon took the bottle and studied the label. "Alderaan brandy? Why, Mace - are you trying to get me drunk and take advantage of me?"

Mace grinned. "Will it work?"

Qui-Gon laughed, his heart suddenly feeling light again. "Probably. Come on in."

Yes, Obi-Wan would grow up and be on his own someday, but in the meantime there was the Moment to live in with lessons to teach and to learn, and companionship to be shared.

Not to mention prime Alderaan brandy...

End of Part 7


Sedik and Obi-Wan, artwork by Drifting Willow

Sedik and Obi-Wan