Cards on the Table

by Emila-Wan Kenobi

Feedback: Oh, give it to me baby ...

Archive: M_A. Others please ask. Also archived at

Category: Romance, First-Time, mild Angst

Pairing: Q/O

Rating: NC-17

Summary: Always in motion is the future.

Disclaimer: George Lucas is da man. He owns everything. We just play.

Author's notes: Thanks first to Mali and 'lion Flame for the betas. Any mistakes remaining are the Will of the Force.

The sabacc deck as described in Star Wars Expanded Universe materials such as the West End Games RPG resources, etc., can be mapped to the traditional Tarot deck, with a few exceptions. I have tried to make Esmi's predictions jibe with what a Tarot reader might say, given the cards that appear. However, if you are an expert Tarot reader and take issue with my interpretations, I will simply have to hide behind artistic license and my own darn ignorance about the subtleties of that ancient art. *G*

"Learn your fate!" a voice croaked. It emerged from a bundle of brightly colored rags in the corner outside the tapcafe -- the table nearest the alley and the industrial-sized garbage bin. She -- or he, it was hard to tell -- must have been a friend of the owner; she clearly considered the spot her own, and had set up a star-sprinkled cloth and various bright fetishes upon the circular tabletop. "The cards know all! All!"

Obi-Wan Kenobi and his master, Qui-Gon Jinn, had been about to choose the cafe for their midday meal. Now Obi-Wan lowered his head and quickened his step, pretending he didn't see or hear the scrofulous-looking character. Bad enough they'd spent all morning trying to make sense of the Dkanian's economic and political squabbles; he and his master needed peace and quiet to restore their energies before returning for several more hours of the same. Obi-Wan reflected that if he never saw the Corporate Sector again he would die a contented man.

He had to use every bit of his training and reflexes not to ram into Qui-Gon's back as his master stopped and cast a local coin onto the table. The creature (Obi-Wan could see now it was a female of some sort, with a bird-like face and bristly fur) trilled a short series of musical notes and patted the table. "Sit down, good sirs, sit down. Let Esmi tell you what Divine Fate has in store for you."

Qui-Gon moved to sit, and Obi-Wan touched his elbow. It was all he could do not to grasp his master's arm and tug him away, but that would hardly be seemly. "Master, we only have a short time --" he began.

"Padawan." Qui-Gon turned and gave him a patient smile. "Sit. This won't take long, and it's always wise to listen when Divine Fate is speaking."

Obi-Wan lowered his voice. "I hardly think Divine Fate would have such a ... colorful spokesperson," he grumbled.

The creature cackled. "Esmi may be old, but she is not deaf, not deaf. Here, youngling. Let me open the locks on your mind and your heart. Two cards. Two cards, and if you don't want to hear more, you owe me nothing. Here, take back your coin." She slid the coin toward Qui-Gon, who waved it away with a polite gesture. She nodded and trilled a few notes. A prehensile tail tipped with sky-blue fur emerged from under the table and snagged the coin. It disappeared beneath the colorful rags.

Obi-Wan still hesitated. Qui-Gon lifted a brow at him, smirking slightly, and Obi-Wan shot him a _look_ before sitting down. The garbage bin reeked. A buzz of insects reached him over the clatter of utensils at the other tables. Despite all this, the smell of cooking was beginning to make him salivate. He looked around, but the food servers appeared to be ignoring their table deliberately. _Marvelous._

The creature had randomized a deck of what looked like antique sabacc cards and had begun laying them in a star pattern on the table.

"You are a Ryn, are you not?" Qui-Gon asked kindly. "I've never had the good fortune to meet one of your people before."

She trilled the series of notes again, her version of a laugh, Obi-Wan decided. "Very good. Not many have heard of us. So few of us left, so few."

Qui-Gon nodded. "A people without a home. And yet you hold fiercely to your traditions."

"It is all we have left. Ah, here you are, youngling." She lifted the two cards in the center and turned them over.

"The Three of Sabers," she pronounced. "The card of heartbreak, betrayal, and loneliness." She gave Obi-Wan a penetrating stare, but he kept his face impassive. She would get no help from him in her little game. The faster this finished, the faster he could eat. She turned over the other card. "The Ace of Flasks. The creative and destructive force of romantic love." She closed her eyes as if to concentrate. "These battle each other. I believe your heart is pained greatly by a love unrequited, perhaps ... perhaps unreturned."

Obi-Wan said nothing. He stared at the cards and told himself not to react. Was this not the very problem that kept him awake at night? He loved Qui-Gon, had done for years, and the man knew it but said nothing. The one time Obi-Wan had tried to speak of it, Qui-Gon had literally turned his back and walked away. That had been years ago, and Obi-Wan had buried his feelings so deep that now they only came out in dreams.

He looked up when Qui-Gon pushed his chair back and prepared to stand. His master seemed upset, at least to Obi-Wan's familiar gaze. "We thank you for your time, but we must be going," Qui-Gon said politely. "Obi-Wan...."

"No," Obi-Wan blurted. After all, Qui-Gon had insisted they sit down and play along with the creature's scam. "I'd like to hear more." He took out a coin of his own and put it on the table.

Qui-Gon frowned, but settled again into his chair and nodded at the Ryn.

Just then she gave a startled chirp. The sabacc card had gone into flux, transforming itself as it was designed to do at random intervals. "The Mistress of Flasks," she said softly. She placed a hand, surprisingly warm and comforting, on Obi-Wan's arm. He felt a spark of Force power from her, nothing like he would feel from his master, but tangible all the same. She probably had just enough Force sensitivity to tailor her words to her audience; or perhaps she really did have an untrained prescience she could bring to bear with the help of the cards' inspiration.

She was looking at him now with tears in her eyes. "Yours is a deep and spiritual love, a love of infinite patience, asking nothing in return. I sense within you a oneness with the Divine, a communion with all life, all life. You have a holy heart. You must trust your feelings."

Obi-Wan blinked. He willed himself not to look at Qui-Gon. This Ryn female was beginning to make the hairs on his neck stand on end, but he didn't know if it was some personal power she had, or if it was only the import of her words.

She turned over two new cards. "The Nine of Staves, and Endurance." She smiled. "You believe you must be strong. You feel you must defend your heart with wary persistence lest you be hurt, but these cards tell me you are stronger than you think. Do not despair. You have hidden reserves of strength."

She turned over another pair. "Ah," she said softly. "What was, the Ten of Sabers, and what will be, the Five of Flasks." Her spiky brow furrowed. "I do not see happiness for you, at least in the short while. These cards speak of moving away from a kind of momentary sadness into true grief and despair." She closed her eyes again. "You have been feeling unloved, unwanted, perhaps even martyred on the altar of unacknowledged passion. But your self pity will pale in light of the burdens you will be called upon to bear, your regret, your regret -- and bitter failure."

Qui-Gon shifted. "I think that's enough," he said quietly.

Obi-Wan's heart had begun to beat faster. There was truth in her words; he could _feel_ it. "No, go on," he said urgently.

She, too, seemed caught up in the story she was weaving. She quickly turned over another card, one which sported a grinning death's head. "This represents your Self, the card called Demise. Never fear," she looked up and gave them what appeared to be her species' version of a smile. "It is rarely a true death, but tells us only of endings, endings and beginnings." She turned over another card. "This represents your Other. Your lover, perhaps, or someone else who will be important in the time to come. He is the Eleven of Sabers -- unruly and hard to control -- no, wait, he is changing! ... The Commander of Staves! Cocksure, arrogant, adventurous, charming, passionate, reckless. Most reckless. He will come into your life during a time of great upheaval, when one phase of life is ending, and another beginning."

She turned over the next to last card. "This is the future." She looked at it a moment, and shook her head slightly.

"What?" Obi-Wan urged.

"With the other cards I have seen, I might even expect ..." She shook her head. "But no, that is not for me to say. No, not for me to say."

"Please." He realized he was gripping the edge of the table, and forced himself to relax.

"I do not usually share with people such burdensome truths. The cards are speaking to me of something terrible. Perhaps ... perhaps you do not want to know."

"I can take it. Tell me."

She gazed at him for a moment. "This is the Ten of Staves," she said slowly. "This man is burdened, yes, burdened, loaded down with care, and struggling with heavy responsibility. Taken together with the Five of Flasks we have already seen, this tells me your life will not be a happy -- no, wait, they change again!"

The card began to flux. They all watched it, waiting. "I have never had three transformations in one reading," she whispered.

Qui-Gon had remained silent through the last few moments. Obi-Wan wondered if he believed the old Ryn's predictions, and if so, did it bother him at all. Obi-Wan himself felt an odd sort of detachment. He had known his life as a Jedi would be hard. This was only confirmation of what Qui-Gon and the other masters had taught him from childhood.

The card resolved itself. "Demise," Obi-Wan said, feeling as if he might laugh. Could his life according to Esmi get any worse?

She took his hand. "This card is at the center of your fate. Appearing twice, it can only mean a true death. I believe ... it is possible that your lover will be the one to die. Do not ask me how I know this, I only feel it to be true. I am sorry, sorry." Her eyes filled with lavender tears.

Obi-Wan looked at her, stunned. _Qui-Gon, dead._ It hardly seemed possible that someone so alive, so dear to him, could cease to exist. His stomach knotted just thinking about it. It took every bit of his will not to look at his master. "Is there ... is there anything I can do? Surely this is not fixed. The future is always in motion."

She patted his hand. "Perhaps the last card will show us a way out, yes, a way out. It is the wild card. It can change everything."

She turned it over. It was the Idiot. Obi-Wan gazed at it, uncomprehending. "What does that mean? That I am a fool?"

She trilled. "The Idiot is Fate's simpleton, yes, but not in a foolish or stupid way, no, not stupid. I believe this means you must have faith. You must live in the moment. Trust in the Divine, and wait, wait. That is all you can do."

In his peripheral vision, Obi-Wan saw Qui-Gon quirk the corner of his mouth slightly. "Good advice," he murmured.

"I don't believe it!" Esmi cried.

"I beg your pardon?" Qui-Gon said.

"A fourth transformation!"

They watched as the Idiot faded and flashed, and in a moment a new card appeared. "The Nine of Cups. Ah!"

"What does it mean?" Obi-Wan asked dryly. "Something dire?"

She cackled happily. "No, no. I think it is the answer to your problems. Live in the moment indeed, indeed. This," she pointed to the card, "is the card of pleasure. In your case, sexual pleasure I think." She mused for a moment, her eyes closed. At last she opened them and fixed a glittering stare upon Obi-Wan. "The cards change ... change, yes. The future spirals from this point in time. Today, today! I believe if you can get your reluctant lover into bed, you might be able to avoid the fate your cards have laid out for you both. But it must be soon."

Obi-Wan blinked. "Into bed?" He stole a glance at Qui-Gon. His master was not looking at him, but had stood abruptly as if to leave. Qui-Gon's mouth was pressed into a firm line. _He knows it's him,_ Obi-Wan thought helplessly. _He knows I love him, and he won't even look at me._ Pain stabbed through him, and he had to take a deep breath to steady himself.

"Wait, good sir," the old Ryn said. She took Qui-Gon's hand and tugged at it. "A reading for you as well?"

"If that is an example of your predictions, I fear I must decline," Qui-Gon said steadily. He put his hand on Obi-Wan's shoulder. "Come, Padawan."

Obi-Wan rose to stand beside his master. The old Ryn was busily randomizing and dealing the cards. "Two only," she said. "For you, two for free."

"I really don't --"

"You see?" she said brightly, turning over the middle two cards. "Two of Sabers, and Balance. What can that mean? You seek balance in all things. You are committed to honesty, fairness, ethics. But this commitment has led you to deny your true feelings. You believe to allow your heart free rein would lead to imbalance, imbalance. You keep another at arm's length, but your very avoidance may be causing the condition you fear."

"I do not need to listen to this," Qui-Gon muttered. He turned and began to walk away. Obi-Wan rose and followed, but reluctantly. He really wanted to hear what Esmi would say next.

"The Nine of Staves," she shouted after them. "You think you are protecting another, but the Six of Coins turns everything upside down, upside down! Knowledge becomes ignorance. Power becomes weakness. Serenity becomes suffering. Love becomes death, death!"

Qui-Gon stopped walking. He turned very slowly, his face a mask.

"The Four of Cups and the Eight of Staves," she said excitedly, waving the cards at him. "If you are ready to stop withholding your affection then you can move toward a great discovery, a great discovery. And here, the past -- the Seven of Flasks. You have been living in a fantasy world without trying to make it a reality. But the future, the future -- it is the Idiot. You must learn to be spontaneous. Indulge yourself. Live in the moment!"

Qui-Gon bowed his head slightly, acknowledging the statement. Obi-Wan stared at the two of them. Most of the people on the pavement outside the tapcafe had stopped to stare at two people having a shouted conversation over the heads of dozens of the midday diners.

"Here, here. The Two of Staves is your Self. Powerful, charismatic, creative, a channel for the energy of the Divine Fate, not bound by rules but guided by instinct. And this is your Other, the Nine of Coins. This one has discipline and self control, self control. A high minded person, one who will not give in to base instincts. This one can be trusted, with your money, your heart, your life."

Qui-Gon slowly walked back until he could speak to Esmi without shouting. "And what is my future with this person?" Qui-Gon asked softly. His face held a look of ... to Obi-Wan it seemed like wonder and agony mixed.

She turned over another card and trilled excitedly. "The Two of Flasks. Romantic and sexual attraction. I think you will be joined together in close partnership and commitment, perhaps even marriage. Any hurts will be forgiven. A strong bond will be forged between you."

Obi-Wan realized he was holding his breath. He let it out as Qui-Gon asked, softly, "What about the last card?"

"The wild card. This illuminates the others, supports them, or helps redefine them if need be, need be. Shall I see what it says?"

He nodded. "If you will."

She waited expectantly. With an amused air, Qui-Gon took another coin from his pouch and placed it on the table.

She turned over the last card. "Ah, the Queen of Air and Darkness. She represents the mystery of the Divine Will. When you are at peace, passive, she will guide your unconscious self. You must quiet your mind and trust your inner voice. Then you will understand what you must do."

Qui-Gon stood stock still for a long moment. Passersby brushed against him, and after a while the faces in the cafe turned to their own business. Obi-Wan could read nothing from his master. A transport rumbled across the leaden sky. The smell of carbon exhaust from the ground vehicles made Obi-Wan unaccountably hungrier. His stomach rumbled.

Qui-Gon reached into his pouch and pulled out a fistful of coins. He stepped forward and placed them on the table. "You have a gift, Esmi," he said, and touched her hand. "Thank you."

"It was my pleasure, my pleasure, Master Jedi."

Qui-Gon tilted his head, clearly startled at being recognized. After a moment he grinned, something Obi-Wan saw very rarely. He nodded, then turned and walked away. Obi-Wan fell into step behind him, almost running to keep up with the long strides.

They walked in silence for a long time. Obi-Wan found it hard to concentrate on his surroundings. His heart was too full of something he felt might be fear. He wasn't sure; it had been a very long time since he had been truly afraid. But now his heart pounded, his stomach churned, and his knees felt as if they might not hold him up much longer.

"Master?" he asked tentatively.

"Yes, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said without breaking stride.

Now that Obi-Wan had spoken, he had no idea what he'd meant to ask. _Do you love me?_ seemed far too risky. _Would you mind terribly having sex with me?_ far too desperate.

"Where are we going?" he blurted instead.

"Back to the conference center. I fear we spent too much time with Esmi, and we will have to skip midmeal or be late."

His empty stomach protested again. "But aren't you hungry?"

Obi-Wan found himself picked up bodily and shoved against the wall of an alleyway. Qui-Gon held him there, looking fierce and wild. They both breathed a little faster than usual from their brisk walk. Qui-Gon's gaze traveled from his eyes to his mouth and back again. "I _am_ hungry," he said, his voice almost a growl. "I have been starving for years."

"Master?" Obi-Wan swallowed convulsively and tried to subdue the arousal that had begun to burn between his legs.

Qui-Gon leaned down until his face was only millimeters away and Obi-Wan could literally feel the heat coming off him, smell his sweat. Qui-Gon leaned closer still, his beard scraping against Obi-Wan's cheek, his breath hot on Obi-Wan's ear. "If I taste what I crave," he whispered roughly, his lips brushing the lobe of Obi-Wan's ear, "we will never make it back to the afternoon session."

Obi-Wan felt completely overwhelmed, pinned against the wall by large hands that had played such a prominent role in his fantasies. His body reacted so strongly to the touch and the warm, moist lips against his ear, he thought he might faint. Instead he turned his face, greatly daring, and tried to brush his mouth against Qui-Gon's.

Qui-Gon drew back abruptly, letting Obi-Wan drop back to his feet. Obi-Wan closed his eyes for a moment, humiliated. Could he have misread the situation so badly? Surely the implication had been there ...

Qui-Gon brushed his hands against his tunic as if to straighten it. He gave Obi-Wan a keen glance. "The sooner we get through with the negotiations, the sooner we can discuss ... things."

"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan said. Qui-Gon started down the pavement again, and Obi-Wan took his place next to him, trying to steady his pulse and stay upright on knees suddenly turned to pudding.

They had no more opportunity to speak alone until late into the night, when the feasting was done and the social machinations of the delegates settled into drunken somnambulance. At last the Negotiations Liaison gave them leave to rest. They made their way in silence through the vast convention complex to their quarters, a spare, utilitarian room with two small sleep couches, a cramped 'fresher, and an antiquated entertainment unit.

Obi-Wan found himself growing aroused again as he followed his master through the deserted corridors. He had set the memory of the alleyway aside for duty's sake, but now he remembered the heat and softness of Qui-Gon's lips against his ear, and his pulse quickened.

Qui-Gon hung his cloak as Obi-Wan shut and door and keyed the locking sequence. His master turned. Obi-Wan stared up into Qui-Gon's impossibly blue eyes and let out a gusty sigh.

Qui-Gon reached out a hand, brushed the backs of his fingers against Obi-Wan's cheek. "Padawan...." He hesitated, then let his hand drop. "I think we need to meditate on what we heard today from Esmi."

Obi-Wan heard himself make a strangled sound. He cleared his throat. Qui-Gon had turned away and was stripping off his outer tunic. His movements were casual, as if everything were quite normal and he had not just twelve hours earlier intimated that he was willing to fulfill Obi-Wan's every fantasy.

Obi-Wan took a deep breath and let it out, finding as much calm as he could. "I think I need a shower first, if you don't mind," he said, smiling tentatively. "A really, really cold one."

Qui-Gon turned again and _looked_ at him. A tingle went down Obi-Wan's spine. The only word for that look was "predatory." But all Qui-Gon said was, "Don't be long."

Obi-Wan nodded and headed for the 'fresher. He'd been joking about the shower, but he supposed if he and Qui-Gon were going to make love -- Force, even the thought of it made him weak-kneed -- he'd better take the time to prepare himself as best he could. He turned the spray on, scalding hot, and scrubbed himself pink. The soap here smelled pleasantly of pulp-fruit and sweet spices. He cleaned himself inside and out, the stimulation of it nearly bringing him to climax. He slicked his hand with more soap and finished the job with a few hard strokes, clutching at the smooth metal wall as he spilled his seed into the flowing water. He felt his master's surprised lust over the link, and quickly shored up his shields, which had faltered as he reached completion. He refused to feel guilty. After all, it wouldn't do if he went to his master so wound up that he came all over himself at the first touch of those large, capable hands.

He shut off the spray and grabbed a towel, scuffed his hair dry, ran the cloth over the braid which he hadn't bothered to untie. He slung the towel around his waist and went into the bedroom. Qui-Gon was visible on the balcony, kneeling in classic meditation pose, bare except for the loose linen shorts he wore to sleep. His hair was unbound, flowing around his broad shoulders like a veil. Though Obi-Wan had seen Qui-Gon this way countless times in their journeys together, the sight never failed to move him. Always before, he'd had to stifle his feelings. This time he gave them free rein. Obi-Wan took a moment to admire the view, then went outside and knelt, close but not touching. His master's serenity in the Force called to him, and he fell quickly into a light trance. The muted roar of traffic and street sounds made it seem almost like the Temple. Only the smells -- carbon exhaust and the exotic soap -- told him he was still on Dkania.

More than ever, he knew he was on the right path. Even the delay in having his heart's wish did not bother him. The Force knew the proper times and seasons for everything, if only one could bring one's self to wait with patience and calm. But now ... now the waiting was over. He knew with a Jedi's sense of inevitability that he would become Qui-Gon's lover, and so much more.

Qui-Gon opened his eyes, and Obi-Wan did the same. His master's gaze smoldered, and he felt himself growing aroused again, slightly breathless with anticipation. Qui-Gon's hand rose to cup his cheek, his thumb caressed the bristles -- he'd forgotten to shave. No matter. He closed his eyes and leaned into the touch, smiling blissfully. Qui-Gon's hand was trembling.

"I felt what you were doing in the shower," Qui-Gon said roughly. "Were you taunting me?"

Obi-Wan rubbed sensuously against the palm that held him. "Maybe," he teased.

Without warning Obi-Wan found himself on the floor, his master's body covering him, long legs entangled with his, one hand tweaking a nipple, the other jerking away the towel from between them. Qui-Gon's mouth descended on him, wet and hot, tongue demanding entrance. Obi-Wan tried to return the kiss but felt his tentative efforts subdued by Qui-Gon's almost frantic explorations, punctuated by soul-deep groans that shot straight to Obi-Wan's groin. His penis, foreskin already stretched to the limit, throbbed with a sharp ache. He arched and ground himself rhythmically against the taut flesh of Qui-Gon's abdomen, panting and moaning incoherently. He could feel an answering hardness pressed hot against his thigh through the linen of Qui-Gon's shorts.

The mouth left him and fastened on his other nipple, the one that hadn't been pinched into a throbbing hard knot. He cried out, his back arching completely off the floor.

Qui-Gon scraped blunt nails down Obi-Wan's sides, leaving faint marks that burned and added more fire to Obi-Wan's already molten nerves. "Turn over," Qui-Gon demanded.

Obi-Wan obeyed, settling his body atop the meditation mats and pillowing his head on his arms. His penis and nipples pressed into the rough weave of the mat, stimulating him further. He whimpered with need.

Qui-Gon slid out of his sleep shorts and settled on top of Obi-Wan, nipping roughly at his neck and shoulders. "You don't know how difficult it's been to hold myself in check," he murmured. "Knowing you loved me, telling myself I had no right to you. Force, I want you!" He bit down hard on Obi-Wan's shoulder blade.

Obi-Wan stifled a shout. He'd never imagined being bruised could feel so erotic. Qui-Gon sucked on the bite, then lapped at it with his tongue. The juxtaposition of cool wetness and burning heat fried Obi-Wan's senses, and he could do nothing but moan.

Qui-Gon's mouth traced a path down his back, biting and licking the whole way, and settled at the base of his spine. Without stopping, Qui-Gon parted Obi-Wan's cheeks and ran his tongue down the cleft, on down past the perineum to the taut scrotum. Obi-Wan gasped at that wet, warm tongue made its way back up, teased at his opening, then jabbed inside.

Qui-Gon swarmed back up his body to nip at his ear again. "I hope you don't mind it a bit rough. I'm not sure I can make this as gentle as it should be, and I don't think we have anything for lube." Qui-Gon's thick penis rubbed against his cleft as his master's hips rose and fell urgently. The tip stabbed briefly at his opening, then slid past to poke hotly at his testicles. Obi-Wan gasped, partly in arousal and partly in pain. He opened his mouth to answer, but moaned instead as Qui-Gon began sucking a mark onto his shoulder blade.

Without stopping his assault on Obi-Wan's shoulder, Qui-Gon shifted to rest his weight on one elbow. He shoved a finger into Obi-Wan's mouth. After a moment's hesitation, Obi-Wan realized what was needed and wet the finger with a liberal amount of spit. Qui-Gon shifted again, and the finger penetrated Obi-Wan's body, sliding past the unstretched muscle and deep inside. That _did_ hurt, and a flare of alarm colored Obi-Wan's arousal.

"Not so fast," Obi-Wan gasped. Then: "Aaaaaggghh ..." as the finger found his prostate. It was almost too intense to be borne.

"I can't wait any longer," Qui-Gon panted. "I want to be inside you."

"I ... uh...."

Qui-Gon shifted once more, and something blunt and inexorable pushed at Obi-Wan's opening, breaching the first ring of muscle. It _hurt._ Obi-Wan squeezed his eyes tightly shut and fought the sting of tears.

"Open to me," Qui-Gon urged roughly, pushing another millimeter.

Obi-Wan tried, but the muscles in his back began to spasm as well. Soon he felt as if his whole spine had knotted in pain. He let out an involuntary cry, his body instinctively pulling away from the invasion. Qui-Gon's penis slipped out and rubbed against his thigh.

"What's wrong?" Qui-Gon demanded, tone somewhere between concern and impatience. He stroked Obi-Wan's lower back in circles, soothing.

Obi-Wan panted, trying hard to keep his emotions under control. He took a deep breath, berating himself. Qui-Gon was finally giving him what he'd craved for years, and he discovered he couldn't take it. His master must be finding him a terrible disappointment. He realized he'd lost his erection. He buried his face in his folded arms. "I'm sorry," he muttered, miserable and humiliated. "Just ... let's just forget it, all right?"

His master was silent for a long time. The hand continued to rub warm circles on Obi-Wan's back, and he felt himself relax minutely.

"Obi-Wan?" his master said softly.

Obi-Wan looked up. He saw a much different look in Qui-Gon's eyes now -- the compassionate, patient look Qui-Gon reserved for the most pathetic of lifeforms. Obi-Wan's cheeks felt hot. Could his humiliation get any worse?

"Talk to me," Qui-Gon said.

Obi-Wan closed his eyes. "I knew it might hurt, but I didn't realize ..." He sucked in a breath, then blew it out. "Give me a minute, and we can try again." He worked to relax his rebellious body.

Qui-Gon was silent a long time.

Obi-Wan finally gathered the courage to open his eyes again. The look on Qui-Gon's face was unreadable, but if Obi-Wan had been forced to guess, he'd say his master was _frightened._ His chest rose and fell with a deep, shuddering breath. "You've never done this before," Qui-Gon stated flatly.

Obi-Wan shrugged. "I only ever wanted you." _And now I've ruined everything,_ he thought.

Qui-Gon's brow furrowed. "Have you ever done ... anything?"

Obi-Wan buried his head again. "I'm sorry," he said, his voice muffled.

Qui-Gon's hand withdrew, and through slitted eyes Obi-Wan watched him rise slowly to his feet. Qui-Gon crossed the room to the washstand and braced himself against the low table with both hands, feet apart, one knee bent, head bowed so that the curtain of hair obscured his face. His penis stood out from his body, engorged and dark red. His chest rose and fell in a series of deep breaths.

Obi-Wan got to his feet tentatively, and when Qui-Gon did not look up, he retrieved his towel and padded over to his bed. He slung the towel into the hamper, then drew on his sleep shorts, still watching Qui-Gon. He had begun to feel angry. Surely he had nothing to be ashamed of. Surely his lack of experience could be remedied, if Qui-Gon cared to teach him. It seemed his master did not.

Qui-Gon straightened. He released the table, picked up the pitcher, and poured some water into the bowl. He dashed a double handful into his face. He dried himself with a towel, then dipped a washrag in the water and very thoroughly cleaned his penis. By the time he was done, his erection had begun to flag.

Obi-Wan pulled back the blanket and sat on the edge of his narrow bed. He picked up a datapad and pretended to make notes about the evening session. His fingers shook. This was all wrong. He had _known,_ with absolute conviction, that he would be Qui-Gon's lover. Now. Tonight. What a time for his prescience to fail him, he mused bitterly. He hoped Esmi's predictions had been equally faulty.

Qui-Gon dropped the washrag into the hamper and shook his head. "Force!" he said as if to himself. "A twenty-four-year-old virgin. I didn't know they existed, except in legends."

The remark stung. Obi-Wan tried to sound flippant, but he couldn't keep the misery and hurt from husking his voice. "Perhaps I could ask Esmi if there's a troupe of traveling freaks I could join up with."

Qui-Gon's head turned sharply. Obi-Wan looked away from that penetrating gaze. Qui-Gon came over and sat beside him. He took Obi-Wan's chin in his palm. The touch of Qui-Gon's hand, cold from the water and warm with the man's own strength in the Force, sent a shudder through Obi-Wan. Qui-Gon drew his face up. Their eyes met. This close, Obi-Wan felt as if he were diving into the bluest sea cove on Senali. The datapad slipped out of his hand and fell to the floor, unheeded.

"I'm sorry," Qui-Gon said softly. "I didn't mean to insult you. I just ... I was caught by surprise. You're so beautiful, and I know you've had many offers."

Obi-Wan closed his eyes. "But never the one I was waiting for."

"You honor me," Qui-Gon whispered. "More than I could ever deserve."

Obi-Wan felt a puff of warm breath, and then Qui-Gon's lips, soft and gentle upon his own. This was nothing like the earlier kisses. There was no aggression, no roughness, not even the touch of tongue or teeth. It went on and on, a physical caress and a wash of infinite care and patience through their shared bond. Obi-Wan felt the ice in his heart begin to melt. Perhaps he would get his wish after all.

The kiss ended, and Qui-Gon ran his fingers lightly along Obi-Wan's shoulder, tracing the path of bite marks. "I'm sorry I was so rough with you," he said huskily. "I didn't realize ..."

"I'm not. Sorry, I mean." Obi-Wan smiled, feeling embarrassed. "It was a surprise ... and a revelation."

"What, that I could be so ... uncontrolled?" Qui-Gon's fingers never stopped caressing him. Obi-Wan felt himself becoming aroused again.

"That, and that I liked it."

Qui-Gon raised his brows. "Hmm. Well, I assure you, I rarely allow anyone to see that side of me."

"I know." Obi-Wan did know. Qui-Gon had let his hair down, figuratively as well as literally. Obi-Wan felt a flush of pleasure at knowing Qui-Gon had trusted him so much. He put his hand on Qui-Gon's thigh, tremendously aware of the quiescent penis that was slowly coming back to life a few inches away. "And I'm glad."


Obi-Wan smiled shyly. "But, I must admit, it wasn't anything like I imagined it would be."

"Ah." Qui-Gon smiled, too. He kissed Obi-Wan again. "And what did you imagine, love?"

Obi-Wan shrugged, secretly thrilled at the endearment. "You are always so serene, so calm. When I allowed myself to dream of it, I imagined our lovemaking would be ... romantic, slow, gentle ... perhaps even ritualistic."

"It can be that way, if that's what you want."

Obi-Wan looked up at him. "I just want to please you." Feeling suddenly shy, he lifted his hand and traced Qui-Gon's lips with his fingers. "Teach me how to please you."

Qui-Gon closed his eyes and rumbled low in his chest. Something inside Obi-Wan rejoiced at the way such a simple touch could affect his powerful master. Qui-Gon grasped the hand that touched him and kissed Obi-Wan's fingers, then captured Obi-Wan's mouth again, exploring slowly, lingering until they were both breathless. Qui-Gon's tongue emerged and stroked Obi-Wan's lips. Obi-Wan felt himself opening to his master like a flower to the sun, seeking warmth and light. Their tongues touched, mated, slid wetly over and around each other. Obi-Wan had never imagined a kiss could set him on fire clear to his toes, but in a few short moments he was moaning continuously and fighting to keep from coming in his shorts.

Obi-Wan's hands sought contact, stroking Qui-Gon's flanks and thighs, straying close to the shaft that once more jutted eagerly from between his master's legs. His own penis was trapped in his sleep shorts, straining to break free.

Qui-Gon broke the kiss with a groan. "Lie back."

Obi-Wan obeyed, throwing his arms above his head and spreading his legs, offering himself completely and without reservation. He knew now there would be no more pain. Qui-Gon would take care of him. Qui-Gon would teach him, and love him, and possess him in every way. Obi-Wan shuddered at the thought, and arched his body, craving touch.

"Force help me," Qui-Gon grumbled, staring at him. "You're a natural submissive."

Obi-Wan drank in the sight of his master, eyes hooded, lips slack and sensual, hair flowing over his shoulders and down to a firm chest, rosy nipples shockingly erect. Qui-Gon bent and buried his face in Obi-Wan's groin, breathing deeply and nuzzling the aching shaft. Obi-Wan gasped, feeling orgasm already approaching with that first touch.

Qui-Gon pulled away and moved up until he had settled on top of Obi-Wan, one elbow bearing most of his weight. He gazed into Obi-Wan's eyes for long minutes, his fingers idly stroking a turgid nipple. Swiftly he dropped his head to Obi-Wan's exposed armpit, nuzzling and licking. Obi-Wan gasped, shocked by the eroticism and sensuality of the act and the greedy sounds his master made as he systematically drove Obi-Wan completely out of his mind with lust.

Obi-Wan's hips swiveled restlessly. The crown of his penis had worked its way past the waistband of his shorts; each thrust gave him just enough friction to keep him on the knife edge of completion. Slick droplets leaked steadily from the opening, pooling on his belly.

Qui-Gon's hand slid down and steadied his hip in an iron grip. "I want you to be still. Can you do that for me?"

Obi-Wan gulped and nodded, responding automatically to his master's tone of command. He forced himself not to move as Qui-Gon slipped the shorts down over his legs and tossed them aside, freeing his aching penis to pulse in the cool air.

Qui-Gon bent and very slowly lapped the moisture from Obi-Wan's abdomen, his tongue swirling firmly so as not to tickle. He lifted Obi-Wan's heavy erection aside so that he could clean beneath it. Even that clinical touch to his penis made Obi-Wan want to writhe and shout, but he willed himself to stillness. His whole being seemed to vibrate in time with his wildly beating heart.

Qui-Gon let go of him and rose up to kiss him on the mouth again. He drew back and smiled, stroking Obi-Wan's braid. "You're being very good."

"Anything for you, Master."

Qui-Gon closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them, they shone with unshed tears. "Do you trust me?" he whispered roughly.

"With my life."

Qui-Gon kissed him again, urgent and hard. "I'm going to make it good for you," he said roughly. "Turn over."

Obi-Wan did as he was told. His nerves were so sensitized that even the soft sheets felt like sandpaper against his nipples. Qui-Gon's lips caressed him with nips and kisses, touching each enflamed mark as he worked his way down Obi-Wan's spine. The touches were too gentle, and Obi-Wan fought the urge to arch up against that mouth. Qui-Gon's hands grasped the mounds of his hips and spread him open, and all at once that tongue was lapping at his opening again, lingering with hot, slow caresses. Obi-Wan couldn't help himself; he let out a long, loud groan of overwhelmed pleasure.

Qui-Gon stopped. "Don't come," he warned sternly.

Obi-Wan stifled a groan into his pillow. He didn't know how he would be able to obey. He took a deep breath and sank himself into the Force, into a half-trance state where he could detach himself from his body. He had used this technique before to isolate himself from pain and injury, now he found another use for it, as Qui-Gon's tongue breached his opening and drove him to the brink of madness.

He lay absolutely still, nerves and soul on fire, while Qui-Gon used his tongue to stretch and stimulate him. He had never in all his many fantasies imagined that the human body could feel this level of pleasure. He wondered how he would survive it when Qui-Gon finally entered him, filled him. Another soul-deep groan escaped him at the thought, and Qui-Gon drew back. "Are you ready? I want to be inside you, but I don't want to hurt you. Be very certain."

"Want it," Obi-Wan panted. "Want you. Please."

"All right, then," Qui-Gon said, and kissed his flank. "We still need something for lube. Here." Qui-Gon grasped Obi-Wan's hips and turned him onto his side, then crawled up beside him and tucked himself against Obi-Wan's back. He lifted Obi-Wan's leg and positioned it with the knee up, foot braced on the bed behind Qui-Gon's legs, leaving room for Qui-Gon's hand to insinuate itself between Obi-Wan's thighs and settle hotly on Obi-Wan's penis; Qui-Gon's erection nestled between Obi-Wan's cheeks. Obi-Wan felt open and utterly vulnerable. He raised his arms over his head and grasped the headboard to brace himself, then took a deep, steadying breath as Qui-Gon's hand began to move, stroking his straining erection firmly from root to tip.

"Oh, Force, Master," he moaned. Nothing had ever felt so good, and he feared he wouldn't be able to hold out another second.

"It's all right, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon murmured, and placed a tender kiss over the mark on Obi-Wan's shoulder. "Let go now. Come for me, love."

With a shout, Obi-Wan did so, his whole body going rigid, knuckles white where he clung to the headboard. Qui-Gon's hand pumped him for a few seconds longer, then began to gather his ejaculate and spread it over Obi-Wan's opening. Obi-Wan's body was still shaking with aftershocks when one of Qui-Gon's thick fingers impaled him, stretching him. But this time he was more relaxed and it felt right, and wonderful, and when another finger joined the first he realized he was pushing back against it, groaning for more, his penis still erect and wanting. Qui-Gon rubbed against something deep inside him and Obi-Wan cried out, "Yes ... yes ... oh, yes!"

Qui-Gon's voice was rough with passion. "You tempt me beyond bearing," he said, and grazed his teeth over the nape of Obi-Wan's neck. "I want to make you mine forever."

"Oh, now, Master. Now," Obi-Wan begged. "Claim me."

"Force, yes," Qui-Gon muttered. His hand scrabbled between Obi-Wan's thighs, gathering more lubrication, and he surged upward, guiding his penis into position. The slick, swollen crown rested hotly against Obi-Wan's opening, then pressed inside, breaching the first ring of muscle. Qui-Gon paused, panting against Obi-Wan's back. "Tell me if I hurt you. I don't want to hurt you. Oh, Force, you are so hot, so tight. Open for me. Open for me."

"Yessss," Obi-Wan hissed, and arched back to impale himself further. It burned, but it felt good, too. He felt his master's pleasure sparking across the bond and opened himself wide, both physically and mentally. All at once Qui-Gon was fully inside him, filling him in a way he'd never imagined, not just physically but through the bond, which seemed to grow and pulse like a living thing within the Force. For a long moment they stayed that way, frozen, as they tried to adjust to the overwhelming sensation of being one flesh, one mind, one heart. Obi-Wan sent his love flowing across the bond like a bright stream, and he felt his love returned, deeper, tinged darker with a trace of sorrow. Obi-Wan understood then why his master had refused him, had held back. And he knew without doubt now Qui-Gon felt Obi-Wan's joy, and forgiveness, and his utter disregard for their differences in age and rank and experience.

"Oh, how I love you," Qui-Gon whispered shakily. He rolled his hips, pressing even deeper into Obi-Wan's body, as if he might sink himself wholly within the other man until they truly were one in all ways.

"Love you, Master," Obi-Wan said, fighting tears. He realized a burden he hadn't known he was carrying had been lifted. The feeling of foreboding that had grown over the past year and more was entirely gone. "It will be all right now. It's all right," he said shakily. He supposed he would never know how or why their coupling had changed the course of the future. He only knew it had. He sent a silent thanks to Esmi, and then all thought was forgotten as Qui-Gon gently, slowly pulled back and began thrusting.

Nothing existed for Obi-Wan then but light, and heat, and the bliss of being filled, impossibly full, touched more deeply than he could have ever imagined. He was paralyzed by pleasure. Qui-Gon reached between his legs and began to stroke his erection in time to his thrusts, which grew more and more frantic. Obi-Wan braced himself against the headboard as Qui-Gon began pounding into him, squeezing and pulling his aching shaft, groaning loudly with each thrust until at last he uttered one loud, agonized cry and shuddered, his hand contracting almost painfully around Obi-Wan's penis. A gush of liquid heat filled him, and with a shout Obi-Wan came again, the orgasm ripping out of him in one great, roaring flood that washed over him and dimmed his mind almost to unconsciousness.

He came back to himself when Qui-Gon pulled out of him, pulled him down and around to settle onto that broad chest. Obi-Wan could do no more than lie there, bones turned to liquid, and sigh.

"I hope that was a good sigh," Qui-Gon said, his voice low and soft and terribly amused.

"I love you," Obi-Wan said simply.

Qui-Gon kissed the sweat-spiked hair on top of his head. "And I love you. Sleep now, Padawan."

"As long as I don't dream of sabacc," Obi-Wan muttered.

Qui-Gon's chuckle was the last thing he heard before drifting off.